“I came from the end of a bag, but no bag went over me”

The opening line of The Hobbit firmly belongs to the treasury of best-known book openers in literature. “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit”. This short sentence invites readers into a whole new world full of  interesting places, charismatic characters and glorious deeds. Both in the world of Middle-earth and outside it this very hobbit-hole becomes the starting point of dangerous journeys and exciting adventures. So what exactly is this dwelling of a hobbit?

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What’s in the spelling?

As the manuscripts of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings made their ways to the publishers in their respective time, Tolkien faced an unexpected problem. All of the instances of Dwarves or dwarvish and elvish or elven were corrected to Dwarfs, dwarfish, elfish and elfin to coincide with the standard dictionary spelling. Tolkien had a lot of issues with those corrections, and in the present reflection I am going to look into the example of Dwarves.

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Mirror, mirror on the wall. On Sauron’s appearance.

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.

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In the hot light of the Sun.

In Tolkien’s universe various notions can have special significance, which sometimes shows in small details and aspects. The concepts of light and darkness are deep and far-reaching: sometimes they are not a mere background for a story, but a very important player in the events of Middle-earth. In the present reflection I am going to look into the matter of sunlight and its influence on the dark powers of Middle-earth.

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The mystery of Tom Bombadil.

Mysteries are something that in many ways appeals to humans: the unknown is always intriguing. In the world of Arda there are some unresolved mysteries that inspire a lot of questions. Even in such a detailed and thought-out world not everything was explained by Tolkien, so these lacunae often offer a great freedom for speculation. One of the greatest mysteries of Arda is Tom Bombadil.

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A drink of energy.

Alongside common and rather familiar to us food J. R. R. Tolkien’s stories sometimes feature provisions not very typical of our world. Apart from being the means of nutrition, they also have potent powers, like, for instance, lembas. The waybread of the Elves is able to revive one’s powers even after a small bite. There is also a drink with similar qualities, and that is miruvor.

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Those who know.

The world of Arda is full of fascinating characters and creatures not found in other tales or mythologies or, in any case, not in the same form J. R. R. Tolkien envisioned them in his books. Owing to a well-developed system of languages, it was possible for the Professor to use precise words in his invented tongues, for example in Quenya or Sindarin, to name those characters whose identities it was not always possible to render accurately in English. In a letter Tolkien mused that he was “under the difficulty of finding English names for mythological creatures with other names”. He did it so as not to shower his readers with “a string of Elvish names”, but some interpretations were false, according to Tolkien himself. One of the most interesting examples of this is Istari or the Wizards.

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