The topic of death is one of the most important pillars that Tolkien’s mythology is supported by. He used different approaches to explore death in his writings, careful to show various aspects of this delicate topic. Escape from death as a notion was one of the most important purposes of fantasy and fairy-tales in Tolkien’s view. He calls it the Great Escape in On Fairy-Stories. “Fairy-stories provide many examples and modes of this—which might be called the genuine escapist, or (I would say) fugitive spirit” (1), Tolkien writes. But this perspective, this need for the Great Escape, is human. What if we walk in Elvish shoes for a while and look at death from their point of view?
Mortals’ attitude to Faërie and being there defines the nature of their experience in the Otherworld. Arrogance, impudence, importunity or inner evil, though unwitting at times, can lead to various degrees of disaster. What is the best way to approach Faërie then? There is a character in Tolkien’s writings who shows how mortals can visit the world of Elves happily, enjoy the experience and become enlightened by it. It is Smith from Wootton Major. Read more
“Faërie is a perilous land, and in it are pitfalls for the unwary and dungeons for the overbold”.
J. R. R. Tolkien (On Fairy-Stories)
When it comes to Faërie, mortals must exercise great care in dealing with it. While the land of eternal life and plenty presents a desirable destination for many, it is not fit for earthly beings, save for a temporary abode or occasional visits, most likely for a special reason and with a seal of approval from Faërie inhabitants themselves. Read more
Food made by the Elves has traits that cannot be found in Men’s victuals: usually it possesses especially refreshing or invigorating qualities. When the Fellowship was leaving Lothlórien, the Elves brought a lot of gifts to them, including some food: Read more
There are various places around Middle-earth, and very often we see that the dwellers of a certain land and the land itself are a good match for each other. There can be observed a particular interdependence between an area and its inhabitants, but is it the land that shapes the dwellers or vice versa? Read more
Music has always possessed the air of mystery around it. Enjoying a long history and a special charm of its own, the harp is, probably, the most enigmatic instrument ever played by people. The harp has often been ascribed magical qualities which are reflected in various myths, legends and tales featuring this ancient instrument. Though several races in Tolkien’s Middle-earth are mentioned as playing the harp, it is the Elves who are mostly associated with it: an otherworldly thing in its own right, the harp perfectly emphasises the Elves’ fairy nature. Let us begin the journey into the enchantment of the harp by looking into the tales and legends of old. Read more
One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters.
(Two Towers, p. 203)
Aragorn’s words to Pippin on returning a Lórien brooch to the Hobbit reflect one of the fundamental concepts of the whole Tolkien Legendarium: it is dangerous to become unhealthily possessive of something as it can lead a character to either death, or moral downfall, or both. Fëanor grew proud and possessive of the Silmarils and turned into a rebel, who led himself and his people into dire perils and the wrath of the Valar. Morgoth became addicted to Arda in his desire to control it, and dissipated his powers only to be reduced to a pitiful, weakened state. The One Ring ensnared the wills of most of those taking it into their possession and changed them beyond recognition. Inability or, in some cases, unwillingness to disentangle from all these treasures when necessary caused the ruin of many characters. Read more
Beautiful she is, sir! Lovely! Sometimes like
a great tree in flower, sometimes like a white
daffadowndilly, small and slender like. Hard as
di’monds, soft as moonlight. Warm as sunlight,
cold as frost in the stars. Proud and far-off as a
snow-mountain, and as merry as any lass
I ever saw with daisies in her hair in springtime.
(Two Towers, p. 357)
All roads are now bent
Over the course of Ages, the Sea in Arda was becoming an increasingly impenetrable obstacle on the way to the Blessed Realm. Having gone the whole way from being a passable border between two continents to the realm of confusing waters and magical islands, the Sea turned into the border between two worlds within different planes of the universe.