Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Birthday Definitions

not exactly Tolkien Trivia, but a lot of fun..!

New Definitions.

This is something the Washington Post does as a competition.

Take any word from the dictionary,

alter it by adding, subtracting or changing one or two letters, and supply a
new definition. Or add two words together to make a new one, or
alternatively come up with a new definition for a real word.

(put the original words underneath so that those who don't have English as a
first language can follow it a little easier.)

here are some of the winners.

Sarchasm: The gulf between the author's sarcastic wit and the reader who
doesn't get it.

(sarcasm + Chasm)

Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really
bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's, like, a serious

(karma + Armageddon)

Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very high.

Foreploy: any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of
obtaining.. *cough* family board *cough*

I've been thinking about a few LOTR-related ones for Frodo & Bilbo's
birthday. Seeing as our good professor was a Philologist. I thought he
wouldn't mind...

Anominous - slightly scary looking stranger/unknown figure in the
shadowy corner of an inn or on a horse.

(Anonymous + ominous)

Berthday when hobbits eat too much at Bilbo's party.

Followship - "Mordor, Which way Gandalf? Left or right?"

Pipweed - Pippin's secret stash!

Drag-on - when the mind-games with Smaug just won't come to an end..

Complany when everybody in the group (*cough* Boromir *cough*) has a
different idea as to what to do with that dratted piece of gold.

See if you can come up with any more.

Posted on TORn as part of Bilbo & Frodo's 2004 Birthday celebrations.

Two Birthday Mathoms for Frodo

Happy Birthday to my beloved hobbits, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. Thank you, Professor, for giving them life.

In honor of Frodo I chose two of my poems that (I feel) best say what's in my heart. (Don't worry, tornsibs, these are relatively true to canon. There's no way I could post the poem that reveals my true gift to them, delivered September 22, 1423.)

Can You Hear Me?
By Elanor the Fair

I don't know how to say this,
But I know that I must try,
For the things that I hold in my heart
Are more than I can hide.

You left when I was very small,
I've no memories, it's true,
But Dad brought back from Gondor
A likeness drawn of you.

I don't know what artist drew it,
From what memories or place,
But each time my dad would look at it,
A smile would touch his face.

You're standing on a balcony,
The wind is in your hair,
Your eyes shine with an Elven light,
But there's also sadness there.

It's that sadness, Sir, that troubles me,
That makes me need to say,
There's not a day that passes by
That I don't feel that way.

I've read the Red Book many times,
And memorized some parts.
I've walked with you down roads so dark
I thought they'd freeze my heart.

I've wept beside my dad when he
Held you on Mt. Doom,
And I've wept to hear his stories
As I sat across the room.

I guess the thing I want to say
Sounds so very small,
But, thank you, Master Frodo.
Thank you, Sir, for all.

I wonder, can you hear me?
Are you still on that far shore?
Or have you left confines of earth
In peace forevermore?

The mallorn tree is tall now,
My dad's been gone a year,
And I need for both of you to know
You'll not be forgotten here.

(White Gull)

Wishes of a King

Did you know I thought of you today
When dawn's light graced the skies?
I remembered how you used to wake
With sorrow in your eyes.
I wished that I could share the pain
Of hopelessness and fear,
But you alone were chained by doom
And I just could walk near.

Did you know I thought of you today
‘Neath noon's un-shadowed glare?
I remembered how you used to warm
Your face in sunlight fair.
I wished that I could free your soul
From weight of evil night,
But you alone could bear that dark
And I just lead in light.

Did you know I thought of you today
At eve in starlight dim?
I remembered how you used to walk
Dark paths however grim.
I wished that I could take the road
Your feet were cursed to roam,
But you alone could tread that path
And I just call you home.

Do you know I look for you each day
Through palantir's clear eye?
It heals my heart to see your joy,
In Aman, where white gulls fly.
I wish you'd know I'll ne'er forget
Your sweet life sowed the field
Where white tree flowers once again
And I just reap the yield.

(White Gull)

First posted on TORn for Bilbo and Frodo's birthday celebrations 2004 by the author: TORnsib White Gull.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Geste a little more....

another extract from the Ballad of Beren and Luthien

This is a spectacular moment, full of terror and excitement. During this part of the story, Beren, disguised as a wolf, slinks into the halls of Angband, to steal the silmarils from Morgoth's crown...

Morgoth sleeps after a battle of words, wit and song with Lúthien desguised as a bat. But Oh! as our hero levers one silmaril from the crown, his blade breaks and flicks at Morgoth, thus awaking him! Alas, rather than flee, Beren's greed prevails, and he tries to take another...

About him sat his awful thanes,
the Balrog-lords with fiery manes,
redhanded, mouthed with fangs of steel;
devouring wolves were crouched at heel.
And o'er the host of hell there shone
with a cold radiance, clear and wan,
the Silmarils, the gems of fate,
emprisoned in the crown of hate.

Lo! Through the grinning portals dread
sudden a shadow swooped and fled;
and Beren gasped—he lay alone,
with crawling belly on the stone:
a form bat-wingéd, silent, flew
where the huge pillared branches grew,

Then comes Carcaroth, the Red Maw, the Werewolf of werewolves who attacks Beren...

I don't know if you remember a few weeks ago I posted some information about Anglo-Saxon traditions. A warrior was expected to take on the wiles of a wolf: its bravery, its cunning, its wild nature, its hunting spirit, and even, if you were so fortunate, become so like a wolf that you were transformed into one.

I always find it fascinating that Tolkien used a wolf as his disguise here.

What grabs you about the poem? How does it compare with the story in the Silmarillion?

Just a brief comment on last weeks portion from one of the poem's biggest fans:

"The description of Lúthien has been too often and too justly praised to encourage the mere commentator in intruding".

You can read the rest of C.S. Lewis' review at the beginning of the book of "the Lays of Beleriand" if you wish to know more.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

A little bit of Figwit history.

Ataahua's Anniversary mathom!

Somewhere around this date three years ago, I finally took the plunge and registered on TORN and made my first post, after lurking for about a year. And what what it that finally tipped me from lurker to poster? An OT thread about the best scores in Minesweeper, if you will.

And mine's currently 146 seconds on expert, BTW.

Anyhoo, lacking any creative spurts to write something new for an anniversary mathom, I dug around in my files and found this little gem - a bit knocked around the edges and gleam's got a tad dull, mayhap, but it does mark a special time on TORN's boards: the creation of Figwit!

This was at the time when a couple of radio announcers in Christchurch, NZ, had stumbled onto the Figwit Lives! site, and then proceeded to TORN and started reading out the 'odd' nicknames of the posters here. A mild and humorous outbreak of online hassling began from us, and, well .... this little parody script came to my mind (with the made-up names of James and Chris for the radio announcers).


MoreFM (James): "Well it's just gone 8.10am and we have two very special guests here by telephone. You may remember yesterday we spoke with Bret MacKenzie, a kiwi actor in The Lord of the Rings who was on-screen for all of three seconds and who now has an international following of fans. Well on the telephone now we have the two people who started this fanclub for Brett - Arwenelf and individual!"
inDUH: "That's inDUHvidual, James."
James: "Kinda a stupid name, isn't it?"
Arwenelf: "Yeah, and 'James' is sheer genius."
James: "ANYWAY, where did the name 'figwit' come from?"
inDUH: "Well, I was watching FOTR..."
James: "FOTR?"
inDUH: "Fellowship of the Ring - try to keep up James. So I was watching FOTR and at the scene of the Council of Elrond, Frodo stands up and makes this grand statement - 'I will take the Ring' - and I was thinking how great the scene was when it then flicked over to these Elves looking at Frodo, and one of them was this kiwi actor who is GORGEOUS. And my thoughts at the time were, 'Frodo is grea...WHO IS THAT!!!' F-I-G-W-I-T. Get it? And the name stuck."
Chris: "You know what I heard while you were talking? 'Geek geek geek geek FOTR geek geek geek geek Elrond geek geek geek geek I will take the Ring geek geek geek geek WHO IS THAT geek geek."
Arwenelf: "Say it loud and say it proud: We're geeks."
Chris: "So when did you last get a date? 1990?"
Arwenelf: "So when did you last see daylight, radio boy? How is that pasty white skin of yours?"
James: "So anyway: three seconds on screen is enough for you two to swoon over a guy with pointy ears?"
InDUH: "Not just us - we've managed to drum up a fanbase of hundreds for Figwit. It's a lot of fun and I'll bet that Bret never thought he'd become internationally famous for dressing as an Elf."
Chris: "Internationally famous? Among you and your three friends?"
Arwenelf: "That's funny, coming from a guy whose only friend is a Tickle Me Elmo doll."
Chris: "How'd you know about that????"
Arwenelf: "The Internet is everywhere, baby."
InDUH: "Hey James, we were wondering if you could get us in touch with Bret - we'd love to talk with him."
Chris: "You'd love to touch Bret? You're gonna stalk him now?"
James: "Actually we have a surprise for you: Arwenelf and inDUHvidual, we have Bret MacKenzie on the telephone right now! Say hello to your Figwit!"
(stunned silence)
Brett: "Uh, hello?"
(unintelligible screaming and swooning over the phone)
James: "I think they're happy to hear you, Bret."
Chris: "Or someone's murdering them with a pencil."
(snatches of "omigod omigod omigod" and "weloveyou!!!" and "bouncy bouncy thunk thunk thunk" can be heard amidst the screaming)
Bret: "Okaaay. Wow look at the time - gotta go." (hangs up)
James: "Are you girls still breathing between the screams?"
(Two 'thunks' can distinctly be heard, then absolute silence)
Chris: "Best fun I've had since James got his nose stuck in the microphone."
James: "Bite me, Elmo-boy."

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded b*****d with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final excerpt, by Ufthak.

For those who do not know who Figwit is: check out (I'd recommend the Hate-Mail section if you're looking for more things to tickle your funnybone.)

First posted on TORn main message board by Ataahua some time in the early annals of LOTR movie internet fandom, and reposted for her TORniversary on 16/09/2004

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Woses - and other Races in Middle Earth

This could get controversial... I'm just thinking out loud here. (Mostly anyway) and I will say as a disclaimer something that I should put at the beginning of all my posts really. LOL. And that is that I can often express views that are not actually my own, just for the sake of exploring the subject to it's full extent. I do *not* think that Tolkien was racist. I'll say that now! But I do think that the subject is worth exploring, for the sake of understanding those who believe he is, and for ourselves to learn more about the books we love.

And with that said, let's get on.


This post was inspired by Gramma's BS this morning.

The Woses fascinate me. I suppose because they are mysterious, and one of the things that drew me to Archaeology in the first place was the chance to explore the mysteries of our ancestors and the way they lived.

I don't know if Tolkien was a subscriber to Creationism or Evolutionism.. (or neither!) But from his description of the Woses, and other stuff that he says about the different kinds of men, there is a hint of Victorian Evolution Theory in his work.

Many in the 19th/early 20th C believed that man's brain was constantly expanding/evolving, and that earlier man (I'm not talking about other species of hominid ancestors but actual Homo Sapiens Sapiens like us) was less man-like in all its ways than we are.

The World of Middle Earth, encyclopedia describes the different races in steps like this:

The Woses, communicating by drum beat, and living so in tune with the wild that they are seen as ghosts by those men who have since forgotten how to do the same, fit into the catagory of stone-age men. (The Dunlendings and other kinds were also of this early kind though of a more advanced type then Woses, say mesolithic or even Bronze-Age). Then you have the Breelanders and Beornings. And then the Eorlingas, taller and more 'noble' yet still seeing glory in battle.
And then the great men of Numenor such as Aragorn and the men of Gondor and Arnor, who have a longer life as well as a mind tuned more to the things of science and literature than to war.

I can see where the writer of the encyclopoedia got his interpretation from. No one could doubt that the men of Rohan find glory in battle..

At that sound the bent shape of the king sprang suddenly erect. Tall and proud he seemed again; and rising in his stirrups he cried in a loud voice, more clear than any there had ever heard a mortal man achieve before:

Arise, arise Riders of Theoden!
Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter!
spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,
a sword-day, a red-day, ere the sun rises!
Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!

With that he seized a great horn from Guthlaf his banner-bearer, and he blew such a blast upon it that it burst asunder. And straightway all the horns in the host were lifted up in music, and the blowing of the horns of Rohan in that hour was like a storm upon the plain and a thunder in the mountains.

and that the men of Numenor seek higher things than that.

"War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Numenor; and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty and her present wisdom. Not feared, save as men may fear the dignity of a man, old and wise." Faramir - the window to the west TTT

But I don't think that Tolkien was meaning to say that the Woses were any less intelligent than the Gondorians/Eorlingas. Far from it, when Ghan-buri-Ghan meets Theoden, we see that though he is not so good at Westron (often - as any tourist in a foreign land will know from experience - bad language is confused for bad intelligence) he is far more clued up about what is going on than Theoden is.

Still, I've often wondered what Tolkien meant exactly by giving different races different levels of greatness...
I know some who would see that as racism, but even if Tolkien was saying there were different levels of man (and I do not really think he was), I am sure it wasn't racism. It was just the generally held view at the time because of limited understanding of Evolution. Even now Archaeologists battle to demonstrate that the earliest civilizations (eg the builders of Stone Henge) were just as intelligent and able as we are in the 21st century. For example an article appeared in the Telegraph last saturday beginning with:

"[many] Archaeologists assume a smooth progression in human development from primitive hunter-gatherers to sophisticated city dwellers. But this cosy theory has been undermined by the work of [amongst others] a professor of engineering."

So if that is still a struggle now, we can hardly object to earlier generations mistakenly believing the same thing as many still do today.


The Woses built amazingly beautiful stone statues at Dunharrow (or at least the impression is given that they were the ones involved in building them). ""

That gives the same impression of longevity in the land as you get in Western Europe where such decorated standing stones are commonly found. And again, until very recently it was believed that each new culture was a wave of immigration - or invasion - from another land. That still may be true, but some are suggesting it was far more complicated than that.

One of the things I like about Tolkien's story is the hints of what came before that are scattered all over it. Think of the remains of the watchtower at Weathertop, or the great statue of a Gondorian king whose head, wreathed in flowers gives Frodo such joy at the crossroads to Minas Morgul.

But as in LOTR - where the Numenorians became the Gondorians, and before that were the Edain the earliest men (see bottom) - there is a sense that the more recent things are just a continuing of that which came before.

- - - - - - - - - -

On a slight aside (if you'll pardon me) as an example of how the 'cultural evolution' theory is changing, the article I mentioned describes something wonderful. At Newgrange in Ireland is a circular structure built about 1000 years before Egypts great pyramid, predating any city in western Europe by about 2000 years. A single shaft was carefully constructed there so that the light of Venus would penetrate into the central chamber once every eight years giving the engineers who designed it a calendar so accurate that it can be beaten today only by the use of atomic clocks.

Not only that, but there has recently been discovered a 'Megalithic Yard' (mega-lithic means 'big stones') that is a measured length used in building stone age structures that seems to be the same in all the sites throughout Europe. It is equal to 82.96656cm. It is believed that it was measured using a pendulum (though it was beyond me how you converted time in to distance... I'm sure the book the article was based on tells you nicely). You didn't have to count the number of pendulum swings, you just had to recite a poem say to it.

Remember those poems you used in the playground? "Eeny meeny miny mo, catch a baby by the toe, if it squeels let it go, eeny meeny miny mo." Well, it is now believed that that particular poem - at least the eeny meeny miny mo bit, is a left-over from one of the earliest forms of language in the world. (awesome huh?)

But anyway, someone had the bright idea of taking a tenth of a megalithic yard, and making a cube out of it (just like we make a litre by making a cube of 10cm x 10 x10). And found that the volume they ended up with was equal to 1.005 pints! In fact, comparing it to earlier measurements of pints gets even more accurate results. Henry VII (1485-1509) pint was closer to the megalithic pint than it was to the modern one - with a difference less than on part per 1,000. Not only that, but the pint in Elizabethan times in 1601 was identical to the Megalithic one.

Then they checked it against other measurements from around the world. The Spanish vara is very close to a megalithic yard. 1,000 Japanese shakus fit 366 megalithic yards with an accuracy of 99.8%. Ancient Egypt's standard measurement was the "Royal Cubit" and the Great Pyramid was built using a measuring wheel that had a circumference of one Mesalithic Yard, and a diameter that was half a royal cubit. And in the Indus Valley (in India), the earliest form of measurement was a gaz which is as close to a megalithic yard as to make no difference..

Isn't that amazing?!

- - - - - - - - -

back to Tolkien then..

So, we have the Woses, the original inhabitants, then in come the Dunlendings - perhaps - who are then driven out by the arrival of the men of Rohan and the war that took place at that time. Of course the men of Numenor (who became Gondor and Arnor) had already arrived, but they entered from outside and were seen as closer to elves. Indeed there is a lovely passage in the Silmarillion, if ONLY I could remember where, which says something like 'in those days men and elves were much alike'

Ahh I have found it!

"In those days Elves and Men were of like stature and strength of body, but Elves had greater wisdom, and skill and beauty; and those who had dwelt in Valinor and looked upon the Powers as much surpassed the Dark Elves in these things as they in turn surpassed the people of mortal race...[and they] were allies and held themselves akin, and there were some among Men that learned the wisdom of the Eldar, and became great and valiant among the captains of the Noldor. And in the glory and beauty of the Elves, and in their fate, full share had the offspring of elf and mortal."

To me that says that men were on a parr with the dark elves who had not moved westward following the call of the Valar, and those who became the men of Numenor became greater still through drawing close to the Noldor - the High Elves. And all men, Woses to Gondorians are all descended from the same Men who first rose as the Second Children of Eru.

So here is the answer. Tolkien isn't saying that different men are on different levels. He is saying that man has it in him to become great, as those who drew near to the Noldor did. They grew apart from their fellow men through their deeds, not through an intrinsic superiority. That is a very suitable message for a Myth. Which indeed is what this whole Middle-earth saga is. We can all become greater than we are.

And no one could doubt that Tolkien felt the glory of the ride of the Rohirrim, or that the reader too is stirred and thinks of great things as they read it. Indeed it is one of my personal favourite passages! Their glory in battle is a good thing, not an inferior thing, even though he does suggest that it is better for men to hold on to what they fight for, rather than revel in the fighting itself.

I once met a lady who said that the more she delved into LOTR the more concerned she became of its racist content, and though she would still read it to her children, there were passages that she believed she would have to sit down and explain to them, or even renounce. This made me a little sad, because I was sure that she was seeing something that isn't there. Now I know that if she had delved deeper, she would have seen that the racist concept was purely superficial and due to bad interpretation..

Let me leave you with what Ghan-buri-ghan says on the matter.

"Wild Men are wild, free, but not children,' he answered. 'I am great headman, Ghan-buri-Ghan. I count many things: stars in sky, leaves on trees, men in the dark. You have a score of scores counted ten times and five. They have more. Big fight, and who will win?'"

And from what we know of Tolkien's love of trees, leaves, and stars.. Indeed from his various writings we could say that he loved these more than anything else. So we see here that he admired the Wild Men perhaps even more than any other, because they could count what others see as un-numberable.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Beren and Lúthien

Because it's what we're all here for really..

A very different kind of Tolkien-Zen moment.

My friend just posted this little taster on his Blog. Oxford Inklings He says it contains his all-time favourite quote of the 20th Century. That's quite a claim. Here is what he says about it:

The Geste of Beren and Lúthien.

This wonderful epic poem is the core work in the Tolkien corpus. It may be read in it's entirety in "The Lays of Beleriand" available in Hard or Paperback at any bookshop. Why the core work? On the headstone of the Tolkien grave at Wolvercote are two words from his whole life's work: "Beren & Lúthien".

"A king there was in days of old:
ere Men yet walked upon the mould
his power was reared in cavern's shade,
his hand was over glen and glade.
His shields were shining as the moon,
his lances keen of steel were hewn,
of silver grey his crown was wrought,
the starlight in his banners caught;
and silver thrilled his trumpets long
beneath the stars in challenge strong;
enchantment did his realm enfold,
where might and glory, wealth untold,
he wielded from his ivory throne
in many-pillared halls of stone.
There beryl, pearl, and opal pale,
and metal wrought like fishes' mail,
buckler and corslet, axe and sword,
and gleaming spears were laid in hoard —
all these he had and loved them less
than a maiden once in Elfinesse;
for fairer than are born to Men
a daughter had he, Lúthien."

The first 22 lines (of 4,223) of The Geste of Beren and Lúthien
by J.R.R. Tolkien

Well I just thought it might be nice to ponder it and compare it to other slices of epic poetry or prose in Tolkien's works. The silver trumpets theme is appearing again. And it reminds me a lot of the dream Frodo had about a man with an emerald star on his forehead. And the poem that Sam recites about Gil-Galad. (Or maybe the tale that Strider tells them in the wild on Weathertop).

What do you notice about it? And what interests you?

Why is it my friend's favourite quote? In his own words:

Lúthien... can only be a thing of beauty to me. "A daughter had he, Lúthien"... the greatest line in English Literature. (I know, I have a daughter)!

Don't know why, but that touched my heart!

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

An explosive Tolkien Trivia Time

Well hello people, here I am back from holiday (that's Vacation to you American types). And what is the first thing on my mind? Well, apart from scrolling through all the posts of the past two weeks to sample Gramma's Today In Middle-Earths - boy do I love my BS! - it is of course, our old friend:

Tolkien Trivia Time

(For those of you unfamiliar woth T.T.T. where have you been?! hehe. Don't worry, it's fairly self explanitory. If you get to the end of this post and still have no clue what one is, you are welcome to accost me with a rather large soggy kipper. Fair do's?)

Todays T.T.T is somewhat erm.. controversial. I hope you don't mind, but I am in a mischievous mood today!

The Bridge of Khazad-Dum - and other Classical Nasties

Any of you heard of a wonderful hero called Horatio? No, I'm not talking about the gentle, quiet philosopher friend of Hamlet (he of "Alas poor Yoric, I knew him Horatio" fame). I am talking about someone even more antiquated.. Let me take you on a magical mystery tour back to the yellowed mists of Ancient Rome.

Thomas Babington Macaulay - a 19th Century eccentric - wrote an epic series of poems called Lays of Ancient Rome full of Classical passion and the sort of military campaigns that stirred the blood of every young schoolboy in the 1900s: no doubt inspiring their playground games and, in the case of a certain would-be professor, an aweful lot more!

Lars Porsena of Clusium
By the nine gods he swore,
That the great house of Tarquin
Should suffer wrongs no more.
By the nine gods he swore it,
And named a trysting day,
And bade his messangers ride forth,
East and west and south and north
To summon his array.

Very exciting isn't it. Lars Porsena was the evil baddie of early Roman history. He was an Etruscan General who threatened the fledgling Roman city before the empire was more than a wee twinkle in the Senate's eye.. fighting, sacking and plundering his way all the way to the shores of the Tiber (the river beside which Rome was built). His name filled every Roman heart with dread in much the same way that Hannibal would do centuries later, or Hitler or Osama Bin Laden does today. He was the Bogeyman of the 6th Century BC.

Are we feeling suitable shudders and the suchlike? No?

Well let me expand it a little more for you.

This man, this evil wicked Etruscan plunderer may well have been; almost certainly will have been; part of the inspiration for another literary baddie: see if you can guess who.

Back to the battle:

As the Great Prize - the Eternal City itself - lay all but defenceless before them, the battle hardened troops gazed across to the river anticipating more tasty slaughter and ruin. But a quick-thinking Roman Consul had other ideas. He had spied a way to save his people.

The plan was simple. The only bridge over the Tiber was barely wide enough for one man to pass at a time.

So, a handful of men could hold the bridge long enough for it to be cut away beneath them. As these valiant soldiers plunged to a watery death, they would have the consolation of knowing that they had fulfilled every Roman mother's deepest desire for her son: that he would give his life to save his Nation.

However, so tough and frightening was the challenge - remember the Etruscans had already sacked every town and city for miles around - that at first only one man was brave enough to accept it.


And as he ran foreward, in a mirror of a later story we all know so well, two others cried out that he would not stand alone, and ran to add their swords to the flash of his own.

It was this 'dauntless three' who alone faced the Etruscan host as it approached the bridge. It was these three who slew the ablest champions that Lars Porsena could throw at them.

As the bridge started to fall, Horatio's two companions made it back to shore as he covered the retreat. For him, there was no escape. Valiantly out in front, he could do nothing except prepare to meet his end. Exhausted, wounded, and weighed down with armour, Horatio plunged beneath the surface of the Tiber.

A stunned calm fell upon Rome and her enemies:

No sound of joy or sorrow,
Was heard from either bank;
But friends and foes in dumb surprise,
With parted lips and straining eyes,
Stood gazing where he sank;

but wait!

...And when above the surges,
They saw his crest appear,
All Rome sent forth a rapturous cry,
And even the ranks of Tuscany
Could scarce forbear to cheer.

Yes! Horatio lives! Swimming back to the Roman shore, his feat of daring and courage momentarily united the warring sides in admiration and awe.

Who knows how long it was before the invaders' sentimental feelings gave way to bitterness? But what is clear is this:

Horatio's courage saved Rome.

According to Macaulay, to immortalize the event, 'they made a molten image,/ And set it up on high, / And there it stands unto this day / To witness if I lie.'


Macaulay drew his great poem not from his admittedly fertile imagination, but from the Roman 'Histories' themselves.

But, look around the ruins of Rome today, and you will search in vain for the statue of Horatio...

Detailed and reliable chronicles of the sixth century BC, describe how the Etruscan armies swept irresistibly upon Rome and overwhelmed it. Within hours, those inhabitants of Rome who survived the onslaught were forming long, miserable columns of refugees, leaving their 'eternal' city. Lars Porsena's name is scattered all over these documents. But what of Horatio?

Sadly, there is nothing. The myth of his epic stand on the bridge over the Tiber was invented after Rome had become a great Empire when it was decided they needed a past of sufficient grandure to match their current status.

By the first century AD Romans were too proud, and too intoxicated with their new weath and power to ever believe that a mere Etruscan had sacked their precious Rome!

The Horatio story, you see, reflects not history, but how a later generation of Romans needed to see their ancestors.

in the play I, Claudius two Roman Historians, Livy and Pollio argue over the Horatio story. Debating what History is, and what it should be used for. Livy claims that the role of history is 'not the uncovering of the Truth, but it is of halting the moral decline by providing idealised role models to the young and of dignifying the present through association with a glorious past.'

Pollio however, manages to get Claudius' support for the rival view that the historian's ultimate duty is to the Truth.

So which is the 'Truth' in our case? Put yourself in Middle-Earth for the moment. Did Frodo when writing his part of the Red Book, change the events in Moria from hapless defeat, followed by a retreat to the relative safety of Lothlorien? Did others who later copied out the original book embellish the story, finding it impossible to believe that with such a Hobbit-legend as Gandalf with them the Fellowship could ever have been defeated? Or has the original story come down to us in the way it 'actually' happened?

Either way, one thing is clear, in his school-time studies of Classical poetry and history, Tolkien was at least in part inspired by the valiant Horatio and his 'last stand' on the bridge of the Tiber. I wonder how he felt when, in later life, archaeologists discovered that Macaulay's poem was not true to the events?

- Originally posted on TORn main message board on Wednesday, 8/9/2004 at 15:48 by Amatire

Hares, Chaucher, and Tolkien Trivia

I'm off on vacation today, but I was so fascinated by what I was reading last night, that I dreamt all night about posting a T.T.T about it!

So here it is:

Michel Delving.

There are two Delvings in the Shire. Little Delving and Michel Delving. Michel - pronounced Mickle not Michael - is a fascinating word IMHO. It is so typically Middle-English. But more on that later...

As with many placenames in the UK, there is a pattern that Tolkien has decided to follow.

Near Salisbury plain and Stone Henge, there is a glorious collection of villages that always tickle my funnybone.

-Upper Wallop
-Middle Wallop
-Nether Wallop
-(which is an Army Air Corps base, any budding terrorists in our ranks might like to know.. *winks*)

There are some familiarly Hobbitish names, like Nobottle, Stank End, Maggot's End, Wetwang, Compton Pauncefoot, and some that match almost exactly, like Chetwood, Clee, Bree, Archet, Bagginswood, Buckland, in the UK and many more. Just showing how much Tolkien really did delve into English history for that distinctly Shire-ish feel.

(Incidentally, if you want a giggle, there is a fabulous pair of websites here and here chronicling some of the wierdest and funniest placenames in the UK).

But he also used different types of placenames for different places. Chetwood, Archet and Bree for example are both derived from Ancient Briton - Celtic to you and me. Showing that the Hobbits of the area around Bree were earlier settlers than the Hobbits of the Shire. This fits with the history that we know of Hobbits, because they travelled west from beyond the misty mountains (where Smeagol dwelt) towards the sea by incriments every few hundred years. The last known slide westward of this type of course is Elanor Gardner and Fastred settling on the Tower Hills at "Undertowers" (a typically modern English name, which reflects in many ways the names given to places in America and Australia and other colonies inhabited by the English).

But I digress...

What then is so interesting to me about Michel? Is it a humerous name? Well, no not really. But it always piques my attention because it is such a rare Middle-English word. Very few people know what it means, or have ever heard it outside a placename context.

Here the fact that it is twinned with Little Delving should give some clue as to its meaning. (Delving of course is fairly self-explanatory. To Delve being 'to dig', and the suffix -ing is an Old English word ending that meant "People of" or "family of" and was adopted as a general adjective ending later on).

Michel means "a batch, a handful of, or a lot of something, or a great deal of something" It seems to have the connotations of being a lot of little things..

It is found in a very ancient English saying that my mother and grandmother loved to quote at me:

"Many a Michel (Or Mickle) macks a Muchel (or Mochel)"

Which means: "Many little things put together make a big/large thing."

And it is used to intice people to take small steps towards a big goal.

Michel Delving therefore is a large collection of small hobbit holes. (You will also see this name at Mickleburg which means Great City and is a mannish rendering of the name Belegost which was one of the Dwarf Cities in the Blue Mountains. In that case, Mickle is a rendering of Muchel which means "great" not Michel. But the two words seem to have been interchangable by Chaucer's time. The Encyclopedia of Arda has Michel translated as Muchel or 'great' But that is not what the word originally meant, although it is too close to it to split hairs over - and it sits nicely with the pairing together of Little and Michel Delvings).

That isn't the only reason why it always makes my ears prick up when I hear it. It is also found in an interesting folk song (one of very few that England has managed to keep hold of that posess mythologies from the Anglo-Saxon times). The song is about a Hare, and touches on the subject of Hare Coursing, which has been practiced since the Bronze Age in Britain.

Two hounds would be set on a Hare and the spectators watch to see who runs out of steam first. Contrary to popular belief it isn't a method of catching hares, in fact it is considered a loss if the hare does not manage to escape unscathed - although the dog that caught it is no doubt rewarded for his agility. It seems that they simply found it fascinating to watch these three lean animals ducking and diving each other and changing course in mid-run.

The song is more recently connected with witches or wise women, and it denotes the Anglo Saxon concept of people taking on the properties of animals or even turning into one. A man would wish to take on the ways of a Wolf, or a Bear (remember Beorn in the Hobbit?) And a Woman's aim was to take on the ways of a Hare. (Perhaps the concept of mad march hares - they really do act very strangely in the breeding season - was seen to relate to a woman's cycle and fertility?).

I am sorry to say that I have been unable to unearth the exact lyrics for the song. But to show how old and commonly known the song once was, - and the saying - you can find a part of it in the Wife of Bath's Prologue in Chaucer's Cantabury tales, written in Middle English.

"Now wol I dye, I may no lenger speke. --
But atte laste, with muchel care and wo,
We fille acorded by us selven two"

(I said to him)
"Now will I die, I will no longer speak",
But at last, with much worry and grief, We came to an agreement"

The original song lyrics were an enchantment to turn a woman into a hare, and to warn the persuing man that he shall not catch her. In many ways it was a courting song. They go something like this:

"But so an you chase me,
Shall I vanish from thee,
I'll take upon the guise of hare,
and shall escape with michel care,
I'll take upon the guise of hare,
And shall escape with michel care."

Thus, whenever I see Michel Delving, I always think of hares....

Well, that might not have been so exciting to others of you, but consider this. Tolkien spent much of his time working on a way to provide a mythology for England to replace the one we lost. So much of Anglo-saxon tradition was wiped out with the Norman invasion in 1066. But in many places little bits of it remain, and the Hare Coursing song is one such fragment. I am sure Tolkien would be pleased to know that it is still remembered through his work.

- Originally posted on Main Discussion Board on Saturday, 21/8/2004 at 12:47 by Amatire