The concepts of hope and courage permeate the tales written by J. R. R. Tolkien through and through. They are vital and, I do not think it will be an exaggeration to say, central to his narratives. There are many examples of how hope and courage make a big difference, help characters achieve almost the impossible and thus influence the course of events dramatically. In this special reflection for Tolkien Reading Day 2021, whose main theme is Hope and Courage, I would like to look at how hope helped Sam Gamgee lead Frodo and himself through the perils of Mordor to the final destination of their deadly quest.
The Elves of Arda are often envied by mortals because of their immortality. However, having different fate, the Men cannot possibly understand all the possible disadvantages of continual living until the end of time. The Elves have their own sorrows which only intensify as the years go by — the fact which has a considerable influence on the Elvish attitude to life.
Now, feeling the way become steep before
his feet, he [Frodo] looked wearily up; and then he
saw it, even as Gollum had said that he would:
the city of the Ringwraiths.
(Two Towers, p. 388)
On descrying the dreadful citadel of the Nazgûl, Frodo cowers in terror at the sight: Minas Morgul, the formerly beautiful Minas Ithil, instills great fear with its uncanniness. In the long years that the Ringwraiths had been holding it, they turned Minas Ithil into the place reflecting their own unsettling eerie ghostliness. It is thus no wonder that Minas Morgul is one of the creepiest places in Middle-earth.
In his tales J. R. R. Tolkien stated that Fëanor was the greatest of the Noldor in all features of his personality: body, mind, hands. Even though tainted by his arrogant, proud, fierce character and evil deeds, Fëanor’s talents were undeniable, and he made a great contribution to various aspects of Elvish culture. One of the fields which Fëanor was especially gifted in was languages.
J. R. R. Tolkien was a gifted philologist: not only did he know his subject exceedingly well, but he also had an innate ability to understand and perceive tongues. Language matters are tightly interwoven into Tolkien’s tales, and they, as the Professor himself stated, were “fundamentally linguistic in inspiration” (Letters, № 165). Thus, it is only natural that Arda had its own talented linguists, and they were the Elves.
In J. R. R. Tolkien’s world of Arda names bear a great significance. Characters, objects or places are called what they are for a reason, and that is rarely a coincidence: names accurately describe the nature of whatever or whoever they were given to. The healing plant athelas is no exception.
‘And you, Ring-bearer,’ she said, turning to Frodo. ‘I come to you last who are not last in my thoughts. For you I have prepared this.’ (Fellowship of the Ring, p.495 ). The parting gift from Lady Galadriel to Frodo was a small crystal phial filled with the light of Eärendil’s star. Little did the Hobbit know then the potency and power of the gift and how helpful it would be to him and Sam on their dark road.
The Firstborn Children of Ilúvatar, Elves, are fair and wise, possess great knowledge and supreme skills in crafts, are gifted in creating new things and versed in lore. All of these are native to their nature and being. Another aspect of Elvish essence that makes them very different from other dwellers of Middle-earth is their special outlook on life based around hope.
Pronunciation of words in real and invented languages can be of various kinds: in some tongues words are pronounced in the same way they are spelt, but in others there are entire systems with reading rules of different degrees of complexity. In some cases the way a word is spelt versus the way it is pronounced can be divided by a yawning gap. Some languages have special marks above or below letters to indicate certain peculiarities in their pronunciation. J. R. R. Tolkien’s invented languages Quenya and Sindarin are no exceptions. Read more