Mar 25 2011 3:27pm

LotR re-read: Appendices

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien The Appendices to The Lord of the Rings take up more than a quarter of my paperback edition of The Return of the King (excluding the index), which, alas, makes me feel only a tiny bit better about the ridiculously long time it took me to read, annotate, outline, and post about them.

After the jump I give a quick overview of how I felt about each Appendix this time around; point out some of my favorite story-like bits; comment on some random facts that interested me; and offer up my personal bedrock beliefs about what happens to everyone post-canon. Spoilers, obviously.

The Appendices Generally

Overall, I found the Appendices harder going than I expected. This is partly because I don’t usually read them in their entirety, but go through looking for post-canon nuggets, and partly because of the way Appendices A and B are split. For some reason, I had a very hard time getting oriented in overall history as to much of the stuff described in Appendix A, “Annals of the Kings and Rulers,” and kept wanting something more like A & B combined. I think the main problem was that I was seriously fuzzy on the Second Age when I started re-reading the Appendices, for absolutely no good reason. Of course, when I got to Appendix B, it turned out that I’d managed to puzzle and place everything on my own and now it felt redundant; but I’m still not convinced that Appendix A was presented optimally.

As for the other Appendices...well, I read them, really I did. Even the bits about how various Elven letters should be pronounced. But I got far, far less out of them than Appendix A. Appendix C is the family trees, about which I have literally nothing to say; I have a single note to myself about Appendix D, the calendar. Those who find those Appendices interesting are invited to share their enthusiasm.

Appendix E, “Writing and Spelling,” was by far the hardest slog for me; I don’t read phonetically and have enormous difficulty with instructions of the “pronounce this letter like the sound in the middle of this word” type, with which this Appendix is rich. Appendix F, “The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age,” might have been more interesting to me before The Silmarillion and its discussion of the origin of many of those peoples. And the conceit that LotR was translated from a different language by Tolkien, while central to his concept of the thing, is entirely not a part of my experience of the book: so the section “On Translation” does less than nothing for me.

Story-Like Bits I Particularly Enjoyed

I don’t plan to discuss these in great detail, but I did want to highlight some of the more narrative bits in Appendix A. I’d love to hear what else people liked.

Oh, as a preface: some of Appendix A appears to be directly “translated” from the writings of a Fourth-Age person or persons, presumably out of one of the Red Book’s iterations (in several places it’s obviously a hobbit, but one version of the Red Book was heavily annotated in Minas Tirith, so theoretically other sections could be by Gondorians). At least in my copy, they’re only marked by surrounding quotation marks, which seems to be expecting a good deal of the reader’s memory to recall the discussion about sources all the way back in the Prologue and then jump to “this bit was written by a character and not Tolkien (I guess).” Also, I can’t really discern a pattern regarding which bits are quoted; some of them are obviously a way of getting hobbit-POV into the text, and some look like Tolkien’s way of suggesting things without committing to them (“At the Grey Havens dwelt Círdan the Shipwright, and some say he dwells there still, until the Last Ship sets sail into the West.”), but others are otherwise indistinguishable from the straight-up history that surrounds them.

* * *

The first major story-like bit that I took note of was the Kin-strife, the war over the throne of Gondor prompted by the new King being the son of a Northern woman. This interested me partly because people kept referring to it in comments and I remembered nothing about it, and partly because it was an example of “pure,” i.e., unmingled, blood not being better. The new King, Eldacar, “added the fearless spirit of the Northmen” to “the lineage of Gondor,” and “was handsome and valiant,” while the usurper was “haughty and ungenerous” and “cruel.” (For what it’s worth, this was from one of the quoted bits per above.)

Also, I got very excited for a bit when it appeared that perhaps the Corsairs were descended from those on the wrong side of the Kin-strife, but no, it’s people from Harad.

As a postscript to this, the Appendix notes (not in quotation marks) that

This mingling did not at first hasten the waning of the Dúnedain, as had been feared; but the waning still proceeded, little by little, as it had before. For no doubt it was due above all to Middle-earth itself, and to the slow withdrawing of the gifts of the Númenóreans after the downfall of the Land of the Star.

Which I think we’ve referenced before, but it’s worth pointing out again. I think it’s unfortunate that we don’t get more of these qualifications of “pure blood!!!” in the text of the story proper, though.

* * *

I enjoyed the story of the downfall of the North-kingdom for a few reasons: I entertained myself contemplating the motives of the temporarily-ruling Steward, Pelendur, who advised Gondor to reject the claim to the throne of Arvedui, the eventual last King of the North-kingdom. I liked Eärnil, the king who was given Gondor’s crown but sent help to Arvedui anyway, and the Lossoth, the Snowmen of Forochel, who had no use for Arvedui’s jewels but, again, helped him anyway. And of course the Witch-king stuff is great. (But here’s an example of my finding Appendix A difficult, in that the story of the downfall of the North-kingdom and the defeat of Angmar is split between two sections, the one on the North-kingdom and the one on Gondor.)

* * *

Whether because of the nature of the people, or because the stories are less fragmented, I have proportionally far more cool story-bits from the section on the House of Eorl. I mean, this is tiny, but look at it:

Fram . . . slew Scatha, the great dragon of Ered Mithrin, and the land had peace from the long-worms afterwards. Thus Fram won great wealth, but was at feud with the Dwarves, who claimed the hoard of Scatha. Fram would not yield them a penny, and sent to them instead the teeth of Scatha made into a necklace, saying: “Jewels such as these you will not match in your treasuries, for they are hard to come by.” Some say that the Dwarves slew Fram for this insult. There was no great love between [the people of Eorl] and the Dwarves.

Yeah, I should think not.

Or there’s Helm Hammerhand: striking Freca dead with one blow after an exchange of insults; besieged in Helm’s Deep, stalking through enemy camps “like a snow-troll”; dying still upright on the Dike; “Ever after the white simbelmynë grew there most thickly, so that the mound seemed to be snow-clad.” Or Folca, who “vowed to chase no wild beast while there was an Orc left in Rohan,” and then promptly died from the first boar he hunted after the Orcs were destroyed. I don’t think I want a really large amount of this kind of stuff, but in small doses it’s great.

* * *

The war between the Dwarves and the Orcs who’d taken over Moria is very story-like and a section I remember fondly from prior reads. But what particularly interests about its aftermath is the behind-the-scenes look at Gandalf pondering how to remove Smaug as a potential weapon for Sauron, just as Thorin introduced himself and said he felt “bidden” to find Gandalf. And then, of course, there’s the other very narrative bit that describes Gandalf talking to Frodo and Gimli in Minas Tirith after the Ring’s destruction: the image of Dáin “standing over the body of King Brand before the Gate of Erebor until the darkness fell” has always caught my imagination.

Random Bits I Wanted to Comment On

In more or less page order:

The Appendices refer the reader in several places to The Silmarillion, which of course was published posthumously. Does anyone know who added these references? Unless it’s not actually to the published volume but to the idea of the forthcoming one.

* * *

There’s a note that the eleventh King of Númenor, Tar-Minastir, sent a great force to the aid of Gil-galad. I don’t know much about the fight against Sauron in Middle-earth before the downfall of Númenor. Does anyone have a reference, probably in the Tales of Middle-earth?

Also, it’s kind of boggling to think of how power levels have fallen: Sauron had already made the One Ring when he surrendered to Ar-Pharazôn rather than fight an uncertain battle; then is just barely defeated by the Last Alliance while wielding the One Ring; and now in the Third Age, the remaining free peoples can’t let him regain the One Ring because they would be utterly unable to match him. (Indeed, I think part of my ridiculous befuddlement about the Second Age is that I was subconsciously resisting the idea that Sauron had the Ring when he went to Númenor. Yeah, it was really important now, but not so much then.)

* * *

I seem to recall that someone previously identified the Wainriders as modeled on a specific historic incident, but I can’t put my finger on it now. Anyone? (Regardless, I presume no equivalent to the Dead Marshes resulted in our history, at least in the level of creepiness.)

* * *

I was perpetually confused about the status of Osgiliath, so for my own reference: it was finally ruined and abandoned in 2475 when the uruks first appeared (a dozen years after Sméagol obtains the One Ring, more than five hundred years before LotR starts).

Also, the White Tree doesn’t die until the twenty-first Steward does, in 2872, about 150 years before the main story, which I found vaguely surprising.

* * *

I like that Boromir and Faramir had a strong sibling relationship; yes, Faramir should have realized that he deserved better, but at least they had that comfort between them.

* * *

We’ve talked at length about the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen before, so I’ll just mention here that Arwen is said to reign as “Queen of Elves and Men”; I wonder if that’s basically a courtesy title? The Elves of Middle-earth seemed to be doing just fine without a monarch to that point.

* * *

Appendix B starts with a note that “The Third Age came to its end in the War of the Ring; but the Fourth Age was not held to have begun until Master Elrond departed.” My reaction was, “the end of the Third Age and the start of the Fourth Age are separated by two years? That seems suboptimal.” However, it appears that “came to its end” doesn’t actually mean “ended,” since the timeline proper refers to the end of the Third Age as the day Elrond and the others leave from the Grey Havens.

* * *

My only note on Appendix D, the Shire Calendar, is that the hobbits dance in the Party Field on April 6, which Appendix B confirms is the date the mallorn first flowered, though the hobbits no longer remember precisely what the date signifies. Also in Buckland they blow Merry’s horn and then have bonfires and feasts on the anniversary of the travelers’ rousing the Shire.

* * *

My main reaction to Appendix E is that I will never be able to pronounce Elvish languages, even if I didn’t read by word-recognition and thus have a horrible time sounding out words, because: “spelt as much like Latin as its sounds allowed”? “C” is pronounced “k” and “dh” is pronounced “th”? Okay then. (I have no idea how widespread knowledge of Latin was in the U.K. at the time Tolkien was writing. I was in high school in eastern Massachusetts in the early 1990s, and my school didn’t offer it, though at least two of the expensive private schools in the area did.)

* * *

As far as Appendix F, “The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age,” my only notes are about the Orcs. They are said to have no language of their own, which ties into the idea of them as second-rate copies*, and also don’t value communication with each other: “these creatures, being filled with malice, hating even their own kind, quickly developed as many barbarous dialects as there were groups or settlements of their race, so that their Orkish speech was of little use to them in intercourse between different tribes.”

*Sauron did create the Black Speech, but even he couldn’t make it the universal tongue of his servants.

My principal reaction to the section “On Translation” is that Tolkien seems to have made things very difficult for himself. I hope he enjoyed it.

What Happens After

This is really what I used to read the Appendices for, and probably still will in the future.

Pippin and Merry become heads of their families, marry and have children (oddly, Pippin’s marriage and first child get entries in the timeline, but Merry’s do not), spend time with Éomer in Rohan at the end of his life and in Gondor at the end of theirs, and “were laid in Rath Dínen among the great of Gondor.”

Aragorn dies in 1541 Shire Reckoning (S.R.) at the age of two hundred and ten. No date on the birth of their son and heir Eldarion, who is “full-ripe for kingship” at this time; I do wonder how long he had to wait and how old he was.

In 1482 S.R., when Sam was 102, the timeline says,

Death of Mistress Rose, wife of Master Samwise, on Mid-year’s Day. On September 22 Master Samwise rides out from Bag End. He comes to the Tower Hills, and is last seen by Elanor, to whom he gives the Red Book afterwards kept by the Fairbairns. Among them the tradition is handed down from Elanor that Samwise passed the Towers, and went to the Grey Havens, and passed over Sea, last of the Ring-bearers.

Frodo would only be 114 at this point (Bilbo was 131 at the Grey Havens), so yes, of course Sam went, and of course Frodo was there to be reunited with him. (Bilbo would have been 192, so probably not.) You are entirely free to believe otherwise if you like, but you’re not going to convince me, so don’t even try.

Gimli becomes Lord of the Glittering Caves and lives out his life in Middle-earth doing great works in a place he loved above all others, which I think is maybe my favorite of the Fellowship’s lives after. Legolas settles with other Elves in Ithilien and makes the land beautiful again. And then, at Aragorn’s death in 1541 S.R., Legolas sails over Sea, and according to “one of the last notes in the Red Book”**:

We have heard tell that Legolas took Gimli Glóin’s son with him because of their great friendship, greater than any that has been between Elf and Dwarf. If this is true, then it is strange indeed: that a Dwarf should be willing to leave Middle-earth for any love, or that the Eldar should receive him, or that the Lords of the West should permit it. But it is said that Gimli went also out of desire to see again the beauty of Galadriel; and it may be that she, being mighty among the Eldar, obtained this grace for him. More cannot be said of this matter.

Of course he went. And Frodo would have been 173 and Sam 161 at this point, so it’s less certain that they were reunited with Legolas and Gimli, but while they’re not immortal, they are in Valinor and it’s not that much longer than the Middle-earth hobbit record for unassisted longevity (130), I decree that they’re still there and happily reunited. (I never did the math before and don’t think I’d had an opinion on whether they all met again. This decision may not have the same down-in-my-bones certainty as that Sam went and saw Frodo again and that Gimli went, but I’m pretty happy with it all the same.)

**Weirdly, this bit is not in quotation marks, nor are any other bits of the section on Durin’s folk, even when it seems like they ought to be (the conversation with Gandalf, for instance). I’ve giving up on understanding this.

So what do people think about these what-happens-after bits? I think they certainly couldn’t go in the text proper because they’d wreck that bittersweet perfection of an ending. But does anyone feel that having these happier bits (well, except for Arwen) explicit on the pages, at least for those who read the Appendices, undercuts the ending or is otherwise dissatisfactory? Not me, I love them (I’ve mentioned my weakness for long drawn-out endings in which we visit all the characters for gossip), but I can imagine how someone might have that feeling, or prefer to do their own extrapolating as to the sweet that remains, or might even just feel oppressed at all the pages that are left. Chime in, everyone, do.

Kate Nepveu was born in South Korea and grew up in New England. She now lives in upstate New York where she is practicing law, raising a family, and (in her copious free time) writing at Dreamwidth and her booklog.

Sharat Buddhavarapu
1. Sharat Buddhavarapu
I like the bit about Legolas and Gimli. I think they both belonged in Valinor, Gimli because of his devotion to Galadriel.
2. DailyRich
It was always my impression that the hobbits who went to Valinor were indeed immortal once setting foot there. That was their reward for their service in bearing the Ring, and I don't recall anything specifically saying they were simply being allowed to live out their final days there.
Hello There
3. praxisproces
I echo DailyRich's comment above. First because Valinor is not really part of our world; second because the whole point is that Frodo is seeking some kind of transformation of his physical form to cure his lasting wounds and repair the diminishment brought about by bearing the Ring.
Kate Nepveu
4. katenepveu
DailyRich @ #2, ConnorSullivan @ #3, I'm not trying to convince you. But my reason for thinking this is this bit from Appendix A:

"And Sauron lied to the King (of Numenor), declaring that everlasting life would be his who possessed the Undying Lands, and that the Ban was imposed only to prevent the Kings of Men from surpassing the Valar."

I read that as saying that presence in Valinor isn't sufficient to grant immortality. 

I'm also assuming that as the Valar cannot confer immortality upon humans because death is Eru's gift to them, they cannot confer it on any mortal, but admittedly that is only extrapolation.

But, seriously, not trying to convince you!
5. JoeNotCharles
My favourite part of the appendices is actually in the Language section - the revelation that the name of the Brandywine river is actually a trilingual pun.
Azara microphylla
6. Azara
My first copy of The Lord of the Rings was a one-volume 1970s UK paperback, which left out all the Appendices except for the bit about Aragorn and Arwen, so I was delighted to get a hardback which had them all. I loved the narrative parts, and the extra detail about what was going on elsewhere during the period covered by the main narrative.

The one thing that confused me was the whole business of the last ships to sail into the west. Arwen says, as Aragorn is dying, " There is now no ship that would bear me hence"; reading that in isolation, I had assumed that all the elves were gone at that point, but then when I read the rest of the appendices I saw that Legolas and Gimli sailed after that. I suppose that, in terms of a chronicle from the hobbits' point of view, it makes sense that there is no clear record of when the last ships sailed.
7. Laura Matthews
I always read that Sauron lie as meaning (in reverse) if you defied the Ban you wouldn't get eternal life. If you were authorized to get there, you'd get everlasting life. So Sauron was telling the truth up to a point, although breaking the Ban would revoke the effect.

Frodo Lives.
A.J. Bobo
8. Daedylus
I've never tried to read the Appendices, so I didn't even realize that there's much information about what happens after. Wow. Learn something every day.

After reading this summary, I like Sam's ending. He's always been the real hero of this story to me. I think he earned both a good, happy, simple life with a family as well as a place across the sea. I'm going to imagine Frodo standing there to meet him.
James Whitehead
9. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
Thanks for taking the time to do the reread; very well done.

I believed that Gimli went with Legolas & that as they've gone to the 'undying lands,' aging isn't an issue anymore. 'Course, after reading Kate's response above, I'm not so sure. ;-)

I loved the bits with Moria & the Dwarves & Orcs; where Thorin gets his name. I, like you, also liked the little bits of 'historical detail.'

Funnily enough as I reread the Appendices I started wondering what would be in the new Peter Jackson movies. ;-) Not sure if this is a taboo subject but my mind explodes at the stories that Jackson can pull for the two Hobbit movie parts.

@Azara, Arwen chose Luthien's choice & became mortal to wed Aragorn. There are no ships left to take her over because she cannot go. I think that makes Elrond's grief that much more understandable. He will not see Arwen again until the Dagor Dagoath & the end of days when all is unmade.

10. MendraMarie
I also love the what-came-after bits of the appendices.

Also, if the Silmarillion references aren't JRR Tolkien original, in preparation for the Silmarillion's eventual publication, best guess would be that Christopher Tolkien added them in. He's been the main editor/literary estate caretaker for his father's work, if I understand it correctly.
12. (still) Steve Morrison
Mortals who passed over sea were still mortal; Tolkien said so explicitly in his letters. The most direct statement is a paragraph from letter #246:

‘Alas! there are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured’, said Gandalf (III 268) – not in Middle-earth. Frodo was sent or allowed to pass over Sea to heal him – if that could be done, before he died. He would have eventually to ‘pass away’: no mortal could, or can, abide for ever on earth, or within Time. So he went both to a purgatory and to a reward, for a while: a period of reflection and peace and a gaining of a truer understanding of his position in littleness and in greatness, spent still in Time amid the natural beauty of ‘Arda Unmarred’, the Earth unspoiled by evil.
Andrew Mason
13. AnotherAndrew
The one thing that confused me was the whole business of the last ships to sail into the west. Arwen says, as Aragorn is dying, " There is now no ship that would bear me hence"; reading that in isolation, I had assumed that all the elves were gone at that point, but then when I read the rest of the appendices I saw that Legolas and Gimli sailed after that.

Didn't Legolas build his own ship, though? I think the regular passenger service had ended by then.

Regarding the Silmarillion references; I am sure they were there before it was published. I think they are story-internal, and relate to the Silmarillion, the ancient Elvish book, with which the original readers of the Red Book would surely have been familiar.
j p
14. sps49
I thought the Corsairs were descended from Castamir's supporters, although in a small enough number that they were eventually subsumed into the general populace (that and, being Eeevil, hastened the withdrawal of their Gifts of long life, etc.).

And I liked the note that Umbar was originally the main Numenorean seaport, and later, under Sauron's influence, they threw down the monument to Ar-Pharazon's landing there, and, yes, all of that other cool stuff.
15. Stefan Jones
I did't read the Appendices until my last read-through of the trilogy, about ten years back. I thought they were great, and looking forward to reading them again in a month or so. I read The Silmarillion a few years back so it will make even more sense this time.

One thing that made my head pop: It's really pronounced "Suza" (with a mark over the z), not Shire, and Sam's name is really more like "Bam." What-what?!?!? At the time I couldn't have been more surprised if JRRT went on to say that hobbits had prehensile tails and 3" long canines.
16. Leof Godwineson
The Silmarillion was already in existance at the writing of The Hobbit. Tolkien hoped that Rayner and Unwin would eventually publish it. He kept working on it all his life. The published version is primarily the way it was when the Lord of the Rings was published, within what Christopher Tolkien liked and disliked (he left out some important things that were published later, and who knows what is unpublished.)

Throughout the Second Age, Numenoreans sailed to Middle-earth and built port-cities. Towards the end, as the Numenoreans turned from Eru to worship Sauron, the Elf-friends (worshippers of Eru the Creator) settled in the "north-west of Middle-earth" which included not only Arnor and what was left of Gondor, but also Umbar and points further south. The Black Numenoreans (Sauron worshippers) were more widely distributed and are 'behind' many rumors of evil kings and oppressors from the dim mists of our history. (yes, our history. Third Age ending roughly 4,000 years ago using the age-chronology of (was it Bede or Nenius?) known to Tolkien)So yes, the Corsairs are descended of the Numenoreans, but the split goes back to the Atalante, and not so much the Kin-strife.

Please learn phonics so that you can read more deeply. Tolkien cannot be wholly understood in any hieroglyphic mode.
17. Ian P. Johnson
@15: Actually, the pronunciation of the Shire is, in English, "Shire". It's just that the hobbits at the time of LotR didn't speak English. They spoke Westron, which was supposedly the language that Tolkien "translated" LotR from. The word for "the Shire" in Westron was indeed "Sûza", which was translated into the English word "Shire". Other bits of Westron info: the word for "hobbit" is actually "kuduk", and this is closely related to the Rohirric word "kud-dukan" (hole-builder). Tolkien chose to represent Westron by Modern English in LotR, and Rohirric with Old English. That's where we get the Rohirric "translation" "holbytla" for the word "hobbit".

Also, DH is not pronounced "th". It's pronounced "Ă°". That's basically the pronunciation of the "th" sound at the beginning of the words "these" and "those", also known as the "soft th". But "Ă°" is the IPA symbol for that sound, as opposed to "?", which is the "th" sound in "thistle". So the city Caras Galadhon would be pronounced like
18. Jazzlet
"(Regardless, I presume no equivalent to the Dead Marshes resulted in our history, at least in the level of creepiness.)"

Not in creepiness no, but Belgian and French farmers still unearth the lost dead of the First World War, and I would guess that the Dead Marshes are explicitly based on Tolkien's war experiences.

I know that on first reading I found the matter of who left for Valinor, when, rather confusing as I took the 'there are no ships left to take me' from Arwen literally, rather than a different way of saying 'I made my choice and so now no ship can take me'.

"the image of Dáin “standing over the body of King Brand before the Gate of Erebor until the darkness fell” has always caught my imagination."

Me too, I loved that in the end the relationship between the peoples of the Mountain and the Lake was so solid.

Thank you again Kate, I have enjoyed this whole series enormously.
Mari Ness
19. MariCats
Gimli, Sam, Frodo and Bilbo are all still alive in Valinor, Tolkien's quotations, suggestions and letters to the contrary. Just because.

Plus, Valinor is sort of a fairyland, and time runs differently in fairylands - we did see that in Fellowship of the Ring when they visited Lothlorien, so this would be the same sort of thing, except more intense.


And yes...Tolkien assumed and hoped that the Simarillion would be published either with or shortly after The Lord of the Rings. He found that he had to rewrite bits to make it fit with The Lord of the Rings, which led to rewriting other bits, which led to rewriting other bits...this sort of thing happens although rarely on this large of a scale.

Thanks muchly for this reread; it's been great.
James Enge
20. JamesEnge
Tolkien actually mentions, obliquely, the rejection of an early version of The Silmarillion in the foreword to the 1960s "revised version" of LotR.

It LotR] was begun soon after The Hobbit was written
and before its publication in 1937; but I did not go on with this sequel, for I wished first to complete and set in order the mythology and legends of the Elder Days, which had then been taking shape for some years. I desired to do this for my own satisfaction, and I had little hope that other people would be interested in this work, especially since it was primarily linguistic in inspiration and was begun in order to provide the necessary background of 'history' for Elvish tongues.

When those whose advice and opinion I sought corrected little hope to no hope, I went back to the sequel...

There might be something about this in Humphrey Carpenter's collection of JRRT's letters, too, but my copy got dropped into the volcano of time at least three ages of the world ago.
21. Aerudaer
While I can't speak for how common it was then, my normal public high school here in Texas still taught four years of Latin, as well as four or five other languages, when I graduated in 2002. Granted the high school was 4,000 students so we could have more unusual classes, but I can't imagine it was too rare back then.
22. EmmaPease
Did Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam get to Valinor or only as far as Tol Eressëa, the Lonely Isle?

Also if Gimli went did he die? Dwarves are not mortal in the same way as men and do not have the gift of Eru to men.
23. nerd
I think you have to have done graduate work in some philological discipline to really get "On Languages". The"textual history" of LOTR is hilarious. In an extremely British and donnish way.
24. birgit
In the Akallabeth, the Valar say that humans don't become immortal if they go to Valinor.

In German multi-volume editions the appendixes are a separate volume.

In Germany, some schools teach "old languages" (Latin and Greek), while others teach "new languages" (English, French). At my school, one could choose between English - French, English - Latin, and English - Latin - French.

Appendix B: The Third Age2340 Isumbras I becomes thirteenth Thain, and first of the Took line. The Oldbucks occupy Buckland.
2683 Isengrim II becomes tenth Thain and begins the excavation of Great Smials.

Something must be wrong with that chronology.
When I first read the language appendix, I didn't understand why Tolkien couldn't just decide which letter stands for which sound. When I read it again after phonetics lessons at university I understood the alphabet. It's exactly how a phonetician would construct an alphabet used for different languages.
jon meltzer
25. jmeltzer
The "As told in the Silmarillion/Akallabeth" references were in the original text, and drove all of us looking for More!Of!This! crazy as we waited for JRRT to finish those books (and George R.R. Martin fans think _they_ have it bad now :-) ) .
jon meltzer
26. jmeltzer
@24: Editing slip. Hammond and Scull, in "LOTR: A Reader's Companion", note that Tolkien originally wrote "tenth Thain of the Took line".
Mari Ness
27. MariCats
@EmmaPease -- The story of Earendil has something about mortal feet never touching Valinor, which I guess means that Frodo, Bilbo, Sam and Gimli only made it to the Lonely Isle.

However I am ignoring this - and the little bit in the Akallabeth and what Tolkien wrote in his letters, because of course all four of them ended up in Valinor and they are living forever and forever in fairyland. I can't believe all of you are believing Tolkien and his other writings on this point, just because he's the writer :)

(Plus, I have decided that the whole time runs differently in fairyland absolutely applies here so they might still be mortal just living a very, very very very long time which means they are still alive now.)
28. a-j
Re: knowledge of latin.

In pre-WWII England, latin was a set subject in just about every private school and a qualification in latin was a prerequisite for becoming a student at Oxford, so Tolkien would be expecting his readers, especially those who would read the language appendices, to have at the very least a basic knowledge of latin, and probably of ancient greek as well.

Oh, and everyone's immortal over the sea as any fule kno.
Andrew Mason
29. AnotherAndrew
Galadriel says 'Maybe even thou shalt find Valimar.' I can never remember the difference between Valimar and Valinor - which I don't think is explained in LOTR anyway; you have to read The Silmarillion to discover it - but if I remember rightly one is part of the other, so there Galadriel seems to be holding out a hope that Frodo will get further than Eressea.

I agree with all those who say that even if Frodo is mortal - it would not be good for him to be wholly deprived of the Gift of Men - that doesn't mean he isn't alive now. Partly because time passes differently in fairyland, but also partly because long life may be part of the gift Arwen gave him. Even elves do die - though death means something different for them, and they can come back from it - but they have a very long life before that. So Frodo can have a long life, though when he finally dies he will pass beyond the world.

As for the Silmarilion references, I never found them puzzling. The Silmarillion had not been published when I first read it, and I had no idea he planned to publish it; I took them just as references to an otherwise unknown ancient elvish book, no more puzzling than references to otherwise unknown ancient elvish cities, like Gondolin.
30. HelenS
The whole "hobbit = kuduk" thing threw me as well. I'm sorry, Sam and Ham are NOT Ban and Ran, Frodo is NOT Froda, etc. It's partly that I loved the language of the Rohirrim SO MUCH, and didn't want to accept that as just being a sort of faux-Anglo-Saxon equivalent of whatever the hell they did speak. (Presumably "holbytla" was actually something that sounded more like "kuduk.")
31. birgit
I can never remember the difference between Valimar and Valinor

Valimar is a city in the the land Valinor. Many Valar live in Valimar. The Two Trees were on a hill near Valimar.
32. Dr. Thanatos
I loved the appendices; when I first read Tolkein in the 60's this was the only backstory we had, and we lived for the story behind the story: who was Earendil? What was Gondolin? What was the deal with the Two Trees? Imagine the excitement in college when the Silmarillion was published---which is why I can't understand comments in the Tolkein Professor's class that "people don't like the Silmarillion because it's hard to read and there's too many names and places."

A few comments:

Kate, there were several White Trees, from the one burned by Sauron at the beginning of the War of the Last Alliance, through a few that died during the Third Age . The date reference, if I recall correctly, stated that this was the time the Tree died and no seedling could be found, so it was left standing "until the King returned."

I don't remember any specific correlation between the Wainriders and any historical incident, but I would suggest either the attack of Attila and the Huns, or various waves of Cossack attacks into western Europe...

The business about everything powering down is well taken; remember the quote at the end of the Silmarillion about things passing from the high and mighty to the mundane being the fate of Arda Marred; Sauron distributed his power among his servants and dissipated himself. Part of the long slow story of the second and third movements of the Music which must end with magic and supernatural power being withdrawn from the world so it can be left to Men; the end of the Third Age was a mop-up job with the Wizards, High-elves, dragons, Balrogs, stray Maia, large spiders, and various other Faerie creatures withdrawing from the world .

@1 Sharat, I always like the ending of the story being the departure of Legolas and Gimli together...the symbolism of the healed rift between the Children and the Dwarves being a sweet place to end things. I picture them living in a nicely decorated stone cottage by the seaside. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

@2 Rich et al, regarding mortals traveling to the Blessed Realm. It's said in many places that Valinor is deathless because the Deathless dwell there; it's not a property of the land. Earendil couldn't return to mortal lands after landing there-but he was half-elf. Tremendous evidence that you don't get immortality by sailing West. Having said that, Frodo lives, Sam lives, Bilbo lives, Elvis headlines nightly in the Valimar Cafe with Nienna doing her famous Janis Ian cover act as an opening, and Smeagol got screwed .

@6 Azara, I wonder if "The Last Ship" is a metaphor; Cirdan dwells at the Havens until the Last Ship sails just like Feanor stays in Mandos until Hell Freezes Over.

Regarding the Umbarians and Corsairs and the Kin-strife: I found it ironic that there was a high prizing of "pure blood" Numenorean status and we saw in Denethor, Faramir, and Aragorn the nobility and wisdom that characterized the Numenorian genome; however what was passed by was the cruelty and arrogance of the later Numenorean kings that also manifested in the pure-bloods that were on the wrong side of the Kin-strife. You can't take the benefits of being Numenorean without accepting the downside as well...

Once again, thank you Kate for leading us through these readings and giving us the stage to think out loud and have some fun along the way!
Tim May
33. ngogam
I think "On Translation" is the single weirdest thing about The Lord of the Rings, & I suspect nearly everyone misses it. I know I did, the first few times I glanced through the appendices.

It's not so unusual, in producing a translation (whether actual or fictional) to say "The main language of the text will be treated as if it were English, and others left untranslated". It's only a little odd to translate transparent names like "Rivendell". But when one comes across a completely unfamiliar word in a translation, one can usually assume that this was the actual word used in the original language. All Westron names and words found in TLotR, by contrast, are translations which are supposed to stand in the same relation to English as their originals do to Westron.

And I can see Tolkien's logic, but it's still extremely weird to write a book full of characters with made-up names which are notionally not their actual names but made-up translations of their original, made-up, names. Has anyone else ever done this? I'm not aware of it in any of Tolkien's imitators, even those who made their own languages. For that matter, has this ever been done in an actual translation?*

I once did a search-and-replace on a text file of TLotR to see how it would read in an "alternate translation" that preserved the "original" forms. "When Mr. Bilba Labingi of Laban-neg announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday..." Unfortunately (?) it turns out we don't really have enough of them to do the job - I can't even finish that sentence, because I couldn't work out what to do with "Hobbiton". (Compared to that, even "the Sackville-Labingies" seems like a comparatively minor mismatch.)

* There is a school of Sinological translation that uses obscure or neologistic English terms as specific translations for Chinese terms which are otherwise difficult to translate; for example rendering ? (yue), a particular type of sacred mountain, as "marchmount". But I don't think even they did anything comparable to making Frodo Baggins out of Maura Labingi.
34. HelenS
Not quite what you meant, but I remember seeing an English version of Anna Karenina that was called Anna Karenin, presumably because English doesn't use different endings for husbands' and wives' last names. Why in God's name anyone who couldn't handle different endings on names would tackle a Russian novel in the first place is beyond me. (Incidentally, the first time I read Anna Karenina -- not the Karenin version, probably the Garnett translation -- I remember thinking that surely Dolly and Kitty were English versions of the names, and what on earth were they really called? but in fact English nicknames were in vogue in Russia at the time.)
35. AmandaF
I always got the impression that "On Translation" was a retcon - he was stuck with British-sounding Hobbits because he wrote The Hobbit without (I think) at first intending it to be an outgrown of his mythos, but his mythos seeped into the background of the story - and then he had to continue in that vein, doubtless troubled by the question of how all these deeply English Hobbity words got into his world? And so tinkered with it until he had a plausible "translation" of what Westron and the Hobbitton dialect thereof would have been if they were an organic outgrowth of what became The Silmarillion.
36. pilgrimsoul
Thanks, Kate! I love reading the Appendices, but I admit they were heavy going at first. The backstory helped me understand a lot of the references in the story and gave the main story more depth and resonance. But to stop and explain all that during the main action would surely have slowed things down to an unaceptable extent.
I believe the Wainriders might have been Samartians who lived in what is now Southern Russia.
37. Gorbag
FWIW, it's helpful to read a bit of Gothic history - that is, the history of the Gothic-speaking tribes in the Black Sea region and during their dealings and invasions of various parts of the Roman empire - as a key to understanding the Gondorian history in the Third Age.

That's because JRRT was fluent in Gothic, not just in Old English and Old Norse. As it happens, I've tried my hand at learning Gothic, and the Northmen's names he gives - Vidugavia, Vidumavi, Vinitharya - are modeled on Gothic, if they are not actual Gothic names themselves.
38. HelenS
Ooh, interesting, Gorbag! Pretty much everything I know about Goths comes out of some of Gillian Bradshaw's historical novels (which I recommend).
39. Dr. Thanatos
Gorbag@37, I did not know that. Everything I know about goths comes from people with black makeup...would that tie in with mongol invaders from the east being wainriders?
40. JohnnyMac
HelenS @38, please allow me to strongly second your recommendation of Gillian Bradshaw's historical novels. She is the rare historical novelist who can give the reader sympathetic characters who are NOT modern Americans or Brits wrapped up in togas or chain mail.

As I recall, her novel dealing with the Goths (among many other things) is "The Beacon at Alexandria". Some of her other titles (just off the top of my head): "Island of Ghosts", "Render Unto Ceasar", "The Sand Reckoner", "Wolf Hunt" and "The Alchemy of Fire". All very good reads.
41. peachy
Yep, Beacon is the Goth-y one. Someday I'll sit down and really read - not merely refer to on occasion - Wolfram's History of the Goths... been on the shelf for years, taunting me.

Love the Appendices, especially the historical ones; and agree that the section detailing the war between the dwarves and orcs is especially good. We only get hints of it in the trilogy - somewhat more in The Hobbit (and of course The Silmarillion)- but the dwarves are capable of taking a really serious dislike to people who annoy them. (If there's one thing you can say about the peoples of Middle Earth - they know how to hold a grudge. The long lifespans of some of the races doubtless contributes to this.)
Soon Lee
42. SoonLee
Another thumbs-up for the Appendices. It adds versimilitude (it fits as part of a historical chronicle) and I adore the little nuggets of backstory & what-came-after.

I'm firmly in the camp of Frodo & the others remaining mortal. Going to the West is part their last great adventure and part reward for their deeds. They get to live out their days in the West, if not in joy, at least contented, and (especcially for Frodo) free of pain.

My favourite bits of the Tale of the Ages are the tragedy of the Numenoreans, the history of the North Kingdom (fighting the long defeat indeed) and the history of Durin's Folk.
43. Gorbag
Dr. Thanatos @ 39, I don't think he was specific. The Huns were horsemen, the Magyar were horsemen, the Sarmatians were horsemen, the Scythians were horsemen, the Mongols were horsemen ... everyone on those particular plains were horsemen, for survival if nothing else ... and in consequence, some of them used wains to transport their families and tents ... I'm not sure just how the Mongols would've transported their yurts, because I have this nagging doubt about them using wains - single-axle drays, if you must ...

And pilgrimsoul @36, Sarmatians were just one of a large group of Iranian-dialect speaking tribes - Scythians were the best-known tribal grouping - in the Aral Sea-Oxus River-Black Sea region from roughly 800 BC to 400 CE. A large group of Sarmatians reportedly wound up under Roman supervision in the Danube region, somewhere north-east of Italy and north-west of Greece, as far as I know.
James Hogan
44. Sonofthunder
Mm, just wanted to say...I always loved the appendices - even when I was 13! The appendices were actually my inspiration to pick up the Simarillion(my Christmas present to myself when I was 16). I love history so much(considering getting a degree in it but went the engineering route instead..) and Appendices fulfill my backstory cravings. Good stuff. I don't have any linguistics background(very rudimentary Latin knowledge), but I do so love reading the Translation section anyway, as it has the feeling of being written by a master of the craft.

And again, wanted to thank you for your series on this book!! I'm much looking forward to doing a re-read myself, but my book is currently a few thousand miles away from me. Been loving this!
45. (still) Steve Morrison
Christopher Tolkien translates the Gothic names in Unfinished Tales (note 6 to the section on Cirion and Eorl):

It is an interesting fact, not referred to I believe in any of my father’s writings, that the names of the early kings and princes of the Northmen and the ÉothĂ©od are Gothic in form, not Old English (Anglo-Saxon) as in the case of LĂ©od, Eorl, and the later Rohirrim. Vidugavia is Latinized in spelling, representing Gothic Widugauja (‘wood-dweller’), a recorded Gothic name, and similarly Vidumavi Gothic Widumawi (‘wood-maiden’). Marhwini and Marhari contain the Gothic word marh ‘horse’, corresponding to Old English mearh, plural mearas, the word used in The Lord of the Rings for the horses of Rohan; wini ‘friend’ corresponds to Old English winĂ«, seen in the names of several of the Kings of the Mark. Since, as is explained in Appendix F (II), the language of Rohan was ‘made to resemble ancient English’, the names of the ancestors of the Rohirrim are cast into the forms of the earliest recorded Germanic language.
46. pilgrimsoul
It's been a lot of fun having the re read. I want to thank Kate once again and bid fare well or Namarie to the cyber friends I have made here.
I'll miss you guys.
Bill Reamy
47. BillinHI
It has indeed been a long, strange (fun!) trip through this re-read and I certainly want to add my thanks to Kate and all the posters who have made it so enjoyable for me.

I have always loved the Appendices for the pre-history and especially the afterstories, as I always want to know what happened after the Big Ending. Frodo lives! As do Sam, Legolas, Gimli and the rest...
48. Dr. Thanatos
I just thought of a good analogy for the question of what happens when you sail West.

Air Force One is the President's plane. Climbing on board Air Force One does not make you the President . Similarly, the Undying Lands are wherever the Undying live; moving there does not make you Undying Normandy Aman awating the Last Battle .

Nevertheless, Frodo/Bilbo/Sam/Che live, and I've got tickets for the big Janet Joplin/Jim Croce show tonight at the Valimar Cafe...
49. Evan H.
The Elves of Middle-earth seemed to be doing just fine without a monarch to that point.

In The Hobbit, the wood elves had a king.
50. Evan H.
IMHO, the hobbits who went over the sea were immortal for as long as they wanted to be. I feel totally certain of this, even if Tolkein himself denied it. If wearing a ring can make you live for centuries, then going to Valinor definitely can--and without any "thin and stretched" feelings, either.

Being all spiritually healed, I'm sure that at some point they would move on to the next thing, but not until they good and felt like it.
51. Dr. Thanatos
I believe that it was Tar Minaster who said "it's good to be the king."
James Whitehead
52. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@49Evan H., don't forget about Gil-Galad; last of the Noldorian kings.

It was mentioned above but I would like to echo how the Appendices inspired me to read the Silmarillion as well. I wanted to find out about all those people & places hinted at. I mean what was that place called Gondolin as mentioned by Elrond & why where there 'fruitless' victories?

Tolkien's little snippets & hints whetted my appetite for the 'old stories' as the hobbits called them.


PS - @Dr Thatos, too funny. ;-)
Kate Nepveu
53. katenepveu
Hey everyone,

JoeNotCharles @ #5, that Brandywine pun is the kind of thing that makes me hope Tolkien was enjoying himself with the incredible contortions this translation idea resulted in.

Azara @ #6, "left out all the Appendices except for the bit about Aragorn and Arwen"--urgh! How vexing! And we spent a lot of time talking about ships and Arwen back in "Many Partings", which you may find of interest.

DaedylusSL @ #8, I'm delighted to have informed you that there is actual story in the Appendices!

AnotherAndrew @ #13, it makes sense that the references to The Silmarillion would be story-internal, thanks.

sps49 @ #14, no, the Corsairs once were the descendents of Castamir, but not now: "The second and greatest evil came upon Gondor in the reign of Telemnar, the twenty-sixth king, whose father Minardil, son of Eldacar, was slain at Pelargir by the Corsairs of Umbar. (They were led by Angamaitë and Sangahyando, the great-grandsons of Castamir.) . . . Telumehtar . . . in 1810 took Umbar by storm. In that war the last descendants of Castamir perished, and Umbar was again held for a while by the kings. . . . But in the new evils that soon befell Gondor Umbar was again lost, and fell into the hands of the Men of the Harad."

Leof Godwineson @ #16, hmm! I see that Umbar was a stronghold of the Black NĂșmenĂłreans who later led the Haradrim, though the Haradrim were apparently an existing society by then. But yes, I'd missed the footnote about Umbar, so thanks. (Though I doubt I will be able to completely re-train my brain to entirely different way of reading at this late date, so I guess I'll just have to suffer with an incomplete understanding of Tolkien.)

Ian P. Johnson @ #17, yes, I know it was a particular version of "th" that "dh" is supposed to represent, but you know, in the grand scheme of things, which sound was less relevant to me than "what?!"

Jazzlet @ #18, you're welcome, and still finding WWI dead now, really? Eep.

MariCats @ #19, I am bang up with ignoring authorial intent when one wants, truly. And the fairyland time-scale point is an excellent one, well done.

Aerudaer # 21, four thousand students! My high school had probably no more than six hundred. OTOH Chad (spouse) took Latin in a class of one in his rural high school, so obviously there is much variation across the U.S. at least.

EmmaPease @ #22, I'm still of the opinion that location doesn't change anyone's fundamental qualities and dwarves do die of old age, so eventually, yeah, I think Gimli died.

nerd @ #23, I am tickled pink to hear that the textual history bits are hilarious to those familar with the genre, truly.

birgit @ #24, "exactly how a phonetician would construct an alphabet used for different languages" -- I wasn't trying to doubt its plausibility, just remarking only my inability to cope.

jmeltzer @ #25, "The "As told in the Silmarillion/Akallabeth" references were in the original text" -- oh, no! Yes, that must've been immensely frustrating, especially since there is basically nothing about Morgoth in the Appendices, huh?

a-j @ #28, I suspected as much re: Latin & Oxford, but I didn't know about non-University-going people.

Dr. Thanatos @ #32, right, I noticed the several White Trees, I just thought the last one would've died a lot earlier.

ngogam @ #33, "On Translation" is really amazingly, incredibly weird, and quite frankly just for the amount of _work_ it must've involved I hope no-one else has done it!

AmandaF @ #35, there's a long thing about the translation issue in Shippey's _Road to Middle-earth_, I think; I'll pull it out tonight and take a look. But IIRC it really wasn't a retcon.

pilgrimsoul @ #36, yes, I agree about the backstory, with the exception of Aragorn & Arwen.

Gorbag @ #37, thanks! My world history is really terrible, so I appreciate the pointer.

peachy @ #41, "If there's one thing you can say about the peoples of Middle Earth - they know how to hold a grudge." -- yes, actually, that really does motivate very large chunks of Middle-earth history, doesn't it?

Sonofthunder @ #44, you're welcome!

pilgrimsoul @ #46, BillinHI at @ #47, thanks to you too; two more posts, movie & then final thoughts.

Evan H. @ #49, yes, the wood-elves had a king, but there wasn't a monarch claiming to be ruler of *every* Elf in Middle-earth for quite some time.
Peter Schmidt
54. PHSchmidt
I have touched on this theme once before but - perhaps death is a gift in part because it enables grudges to eventually be forgotten.  Imagine being undying, yet maintaining continuity of personality. Seems to me immortals must have fantastic memories, or else they would become different people over time, as early memories "aged out" and their personalities morphed into something new at their loss.

Elrond certainly evidences very specific memories of LONG ago, as do Gandalf and Galadriel.  So the memories remain fresh, and the grudges endure with them.

Men die, and eventually it is hard to get worked up over ancient wrongs.  So we have the possibility to move forward - even if we often lapse into new wrongs.
Soon Lee
55. SoonLee

...for I wished first to complete and set in order the mythology and legends of the Elder Days, which had then been taking shape for some years. I desired to do this for my own satisfaction, and I had little hope that other people would be interested in this work, especially since it was primarily linguistic in inspiration and was begun in order to provide the necessary background of 'history' for Elvish tongues.When those whose advice and opinion I sought corrected little hope
to no hope...

The above from the Foreword. Tolkien himself approached this (this whole Middle Earth historical translation) as a linguistic exercise of sorts.

I expect most readers would be happy with the story alone which is why the sections on translation & pronunciation were relegated to the appendices; it's a lot of non-essential ephemera interspersed with story nuggets the most important of which is IMO the Tale of Aragorn & Arwen. Not surprising that many (most) readers bounce off them.

By the way, thank you Kate, for this most pleasurable re-read. And thanks too to fellow commenters. It's been great fun.
56. Jerry Friedman
I'd been looking for this and am very disappointed to be late because the blog moved!

Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam are dead in "this" world; they're alive in Heaven. That's the Whole Point of the NĂșmenor story and is touched on at the end of "The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen". Death is Eru's gift to men, and in the Christianity that lurks behind LotR, the human destiny of salvation—if all goes well—is better than immortality in Middle-earth or anything else would be; it's being in the presence of God. They may not have died till they felt like it, as EvanH says, but they died.

Wikipedia says, "He put the end of the Third Age at about 6,000 years before his own time". The citation is to Letters, 221. So it's not Bishop Usher's chronology, but it's much closer to that than to geology.

What I find interesting in the family trees is the complete separation between upper and lower classes, till the "rise" of the Gamgee and Cotton families, anyway. (And will Sam's children and grandchildren marry hobbits from families that didn't rise with them?) Also, I've wondered whether you could estimate the populations of the two classes from the incidence of inbreeding.

The most bizarre linguistic moment may be the etymologies
of the days of the week. They went through some evolution from Adûnaic (Sindarin root plus English-from-Latin suffix?) to Westron, the English translation of which makes them end up sounding like our names of the days. I like the Shire calendar, by the way, though only two main holidays and only a day or day and a half off on weekends sounds a bit industrious.

Biggest disappointment: Merry and Pippin die and are buried down south, not in the Shire. But I love the Appendices and have reread them many times—though without sufficiently noticing the parallel between Helm in the snow and the snowy simbelmynĂ« on his mound, so thanks again, Kate. And yes, we longed for the Silmarillion, which took forever to come out.
Kate Nepveu
57. katenepveu
Oops, I missed a few comments here.

PHSchmidt @ #54, unquestionably the really impressive grudges held by some Elves was a big contributor to much of the grief in the First Age stories in _The Silmarillion_. If Feanor's children had died rather than *kept* *pursuing* their oath, for instance . . .

SoonLee @ #55, thank you!

Jerry Friedman @ #56, thank you for the observation about the family trees; I should have noticed the class separations. And it hadn't occurred to me to see Merry & Pippin's tombs being in Gondor as a disappointment, though I admit that as a materialist in the philosophical sense graves are not something of personal importance to me.
58. Sjoerd van der Weide
I'm a bit late: I missed the blog being moved and was dreading some mishap... Thankx, Kate!

@#38 & 40: third!
59. Andophil
Thanks for the read through.. I know I'm a bit late but just found this on tor. You've inspired me to read again, and fill the inevitable gaps. I've recently read silmarillion and unfinished tales and haven't read tlor for some time but will now. You've put a lot of effort into this and I loved it!

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