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 Nazgûl firmly belong to the category of the most terrifying characters in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium. Many a reader have undoubtedly had their dreams haunted by Sauron’s evil servants: their appearance is enough to chill one’s blood. The Lord of the Nine is especially powerful and horrifying. Fear goes before him and, when gathered together under their leader, the Nine are a true terror. As it was often the case with Tolkien, the Professor used several names in reference to the Lord of the Nazgûl, all of which reveal various traits of his personality. Today we are going to look at the title of the Witch-king of Angmar and what it can tell us about its bearer.
J. R. R. Tolkien never seemed to choose words accidentally. He was careful when assigning references to characters or places to convey various shades of meaning that might not be obvious straight away. It is also the case with how the Professor used the word sorcerer and its various derivatives in his books.
Among the characters who happened to have Sauron’s ruling One Ring in their possession, Bilbo Baggins stands out as one of the most resilient to the corrupting effects of the Dark Lord’s terrible creation. Among the key aspects of his unyielding stoutness are Bilbo’s character, attitude and behaviour.
Sauron should be thought of as very terrible. The form that he took was
that of a man of more than human stature, but not gigantic.
In his earlier incarnation he was able to veil his power
(as Gandalf did) and could appear as a commanding
figure of great strength of body and supremely
royal demeanour and countenance.
(Letters, № 246)
Readers of The Lord of the Rings are well aware of Sauron’s being the chief menace of the Second and Third Ages after the capture of Morgoth and the War of Wrath. What is rather obscure, though, is what the great Middle-earth adversary looked like. In his writings and letters Tolkien gave a few clues concerning the looks of Sauron, leaving all the rest to his readers’ imagination.
Being the chief villain of the Second and Third Ages, Sauron sparks numerous questions concerning his motives. How did he become the evil figure we know him to be? Why did he run the risk of transferring a great amount of his inherent power into the One Ring knowing that it could lead to his destruction? Let us look at his downfall and motives through Tolkien’s own stories and letters.
…Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower, which suffered no rival,
and laughed at flattery, biding its time,
secure in its pride and its immeasurable strength.
(Two Towers, p. 192)
Just like Angband in the First Age became the citadel of Morgoth — the embodiment of evil and the Dark Lord’s tyranny in Middle-earth, so did Barad-dûr rise to fill its place in the Second and Third Ages as the fortress of Sauron. In many ways the Dark Tower of Mordor, built by once Morgoth’s most trusted lieutenant, became the descendant of Angband, sharing traits with it, but also being the reflection of Sauron’s own power, character, ambitions and evil. Read more
Among many powerful notions in the world of Arda few are more potent than music and language. Music is the essential element of Arda, its heart and soul, as the world was created and shaped by the majestic Music of the Ainur. And it was the word of Ilúvatar — Eä! — that brought the created vision to life. Read more
In the letter sent to Allen & Unwin in reply to a cat-breeder, who wished to use names from The Lord of the Rings to name her cats, Tolkien famously said: “I fear that to me Siamese cats belong to the fauna of Mordor….” (Letter 219). It is hard to tell whether the Professor’s comment referred only to the cats of this particular breed, or expressed his general attitude towards felines, but cats in Tolkien’s literary works are presented mostly in a negative light. Read more