Monday, February 1, 2010


So, about a week ago now, I got an interesting letter from Brazil pointing out some mistakes I'd made in MR. BAGGINS. I'm always glad to get errata, especially since I lost all the saved email I'd received containing errata when the old computer went wonky a few months back.* It's even better when it's not a passage where I'd spotted a problem myself. In this case, my correspondent, Rodrigo Bergamaschi de Azevedo, pointed out three potential problems, all clustering in the discussion of Chapter IX and relating to the wood-elves and Elvenking.

First, he points out that when on page 407 I talk about Galadriel and FInrod's father, Finarfin, I state that "some of [his] children were golden-haired because of his Vanyar wife". In fact, it's Finarfin's mother, not his wife, who came from the Vanyar. So the point stands, but I've placed the intermarriage at the wrong point; it shd be one generation further back.

Second, in the line "neither a Light-elf (Vanyar) nor a Deep-elf (Noldor) but a Sea-elf (a Sindar, one of the Teleri of Middle-earth)", there's a slight disconnect between the singular Light-elf, Deep-elf, and Sea-elf with the parenthetical forms, which are plural. Obviously the sentence needs to be recast somewhat, and since I prefer the sound and appearance of the more familiar plural forms (Vanyar/Noldor/Sindar) over their less well known singular equivalents (Vanya/Noldo/Sinda) I'd rephrase it along the lines of "neither a Light-elf (one of the Vanyar) . . ." &c

Finally, the most interesting point is something no one else had pointed out to me before. On page 410 I stated that Thingol was "one of the original elves, the very first generation (said to number one hundred and forty-four) to awaken at Cuivienen, the elven Eden". In fact, as Rodrigo points out, this cannot be the case. His reasoning is twofold. First, we know that Thingol has a brother, who replaces him as leader of the Teleri after Thingol's ensnarement by Melian.** But the first elves to awaken were all of a generation: without parents, how can there be siblings?

Actually, I don't think this objection nullifies my suggestion, since we have the example of the Valar, all of whom belong to a single generation, that individuals created at the same time can still be "brothers" or "sisters". If Manwe and Melkor, Mandos and Lorien and Nienna, Orome and Nessa, why not Elwe and Olwe?.

But Rodrigo's second point is unassailable: that the original 144 elves all come in 72 mated pairs, with each awaking beside his or her mate (cf. HME.XII.420-424). And since it's a crucial part of Thingol's story that he met and married Melian, then obviously he could not have been of that first generation. Which raises the whole question of what happened to those original Awakened, and just how vast a span of time would have been needed to generate what must have been many generations of the whole vast elf-host of those who departed on the journey west and those who stayed behind.***

So, Thingol is definitely one of the patriarchs of Cuivienen, but not quite as primeval as I suggested. Good catch, Rodrigo.


*i.e., all the errata I had not yet listed on my website -- the geniuses at the Apple Store, where I took the old laptop to be fixed, erased all my stored e-mail without telling me they were going to do that. Live and learn.

**in fact, he has two, since at a very late date (circa 1959?) Tolkien added a younger brother, Elmo, to Elwe and Olwe -- mentioned, I think, only once (page 350) of HME.XI: THE WAR OF THE JEWELS.

I find this one of Tolkien's occasional unfortunate namings, like Tirion upon Tuna -- he cd not have known about Sesame Street and Tickle-Me-Elmo, but still for me the name has 'hick' associations, most memorably demonstrated from Gygax's use of it in T1. Village of Holmett for the names of the two ranger brothers pretending to be the local dim-wits, Elmo and Otis (Elmo's sole line of dialogue is "My brudder Otis gave it to me!").

***The true answer, I suspect, is that this myth of the 144 is a v. late (again, circa 1959) addition which Tolkien did not take very seriously or bother to work out the larger implications of -- though he did show it to Clyde Kilby, so there was at least the potential of its fitting into The Silmarillion as he saw it at the time (summer 1966).


Troels said...

I don't think that the story of the first Elves should be taken seriously even from within the legendarium. Christopher Tolkien introduces it in 'The war of the Jewels' saying that

'On one copy my father wrote (and similarly, but more briefly on the other): "Actually written (in style and simple notions) to be a surviving 'fairytale' or child's tale, mingled with counting-lore".'

It is, in other words, highly doubtful that this legend is 'true' within the legendarium.

However, the idea that the first fathers wake alongside their spouses is repeated with the Dwarves and is, as I see it, likely to have been true also for the Elves regardless of this legend, and so the argument, while weakened, may still be valid.

In the face of the evidence, however, the best we can say is that we do not know whether Elwë was one of the original unbegotten Elves that awoke at Cuiviénen.

Ardamir said...

Hello John,

if you have lost the e-mail addresses of those who have sent in errata, maybe you could ask them to send it in again, here at your blog.

Ardamir said...

The point that Thingol could not have had any brothers had he been of the first generation has been made before on Tolkien discussion boards.