10 Misconceptions of Tolkien's Work

@Sanguine collects the top ten misconceptions about LOTR.



1) Legolas’ hair:

Tolkien never actually described Legolas’ hair. People just assumed that Legolas’ hair was blonde because of the movies, when in fact it was probably black. The only time it was mentioned was at night when Legolas was said to have a ‘dark head’. Peter Jackson thought Legolas’ hair was blonde since in The Hobbit Thranduil’s hair was described as golden. But the truth is, Tolkien wrote The Hobbit before he has fully decided on what his elves would be like. It was after The Hobbit was written that Tolkien decided that his Sindar would be dark of hair, and Legolas comes from a Sindar line (though his values and traditions are Silvan). The Vanyar are the only elves with blonde hair.


NOTE: Galadriel is a Noldorin elf but she has golden hair with silver strands due to her grandmother being Vanyar.




2) Child-sized OR child-like:

Child-like hobbits have been circling around from fanfiction to fanfiction for years. Most people are under the impression that since hobbits are the size of young children they must act like them too. Nope! Hobbits come of age at 33, and Frodo was 50 in Lord of the Rings, so why do people keep on having him act like a young child? Granted, hobbits age differently, but the only hobbits who should act a little childish would have to be Merry and Pippin- Pippin, because he was still in his ‘terrible tweens’, a hobbit’s twenties, and Merry, because he was just eight years older than Pippin.



3) Large hobbit feet:

Tolkien never discussed the size of hobbit feet. The quote used to describe them is "their feet had tough leathery soles and were clad in a thick curling hair, much like the hair of their heads" and barely anything else is said about them. Illustrations in different books have portrayed the hobbits with big feet. The only hobbits said to have big feet were the ‘ProudFEET!’



4) The Eagles could have taken the ring:

This is something that is discussed often, but barely anyone understands it. The Eagles were commanded, directly by the Valar, not to intervene. The Eagles were also incredibly conspicuous- they would have been captured instantly. Sauron had Fell Beasts and many archers, not to mention that the Eagles could not fly long distances without getting exhausted.



5) Giants in Middle-Earth:

Tolkien write of giants in The Hobbit, but describes them in such a way that it is up to the reader to decide whether or not they are real or figurative. Peter Jackson chose to take the writing of them as ‘literal’ but The Hobbit was written before Tolkien decided what he wanted to do with Middle-Earth. Thus, The Hobbit cannot be considered a trustworthy source on the subject of giants.

There are a total of six mentions of giants in Lord of the Rings: four in Fellowship of the Ring, one in The Two Towers and another one in Return of the King. Many of those who study Tolkien’s work have come to the conclusion that Tolkien meant Ents when he mentioned giants, as indicated by Samwise Gamgee in Fellowship of the Ring:

“'All right,' said Sam, laughing with the rest. ‘But what about these Tree-men, these giants, as you might call them? They do say that one bigger than a tree was seen up away beyond the North Moors not long back.'”



6) Túrin Tarumbar was blind:

This misconception has two origins: one from a misunderstanding with a Wikia page, and the other from a passage in the book. The Wikia actually got its misinformation from the quote in The Children of Húrin:

'Can I not, can I not, Mablung?' cried Túrin. 'But why not! For see, I am blind! Did you not know? Blind, blind, groping since childhood in a dark mist of Morgoth! Therefore leave me! Go, go! Go back to Doriath, and may winter shrivel it! A curse upon Menegroth! And a curse on your errand!'

The blindness mentioned is clearly metaphorical, but many do not see it as such. They think it’s a literal blindness, that the plague that took his sister’s life also took his sight. But no, Túrin was not blind. How else would he have slain Gaurung?



7) Lord of the Rings is an allegory for WWII:

Many people believe that since Lord of the Rings was written around the time of the war, it must be in some way connected. This is not true. The reason why Tolkien downplayed all of the fighting in Lord of the Rings is because of the war, and he didn’t want Lord of the Rings to be a war story.


In the forward to the first edition of Lord of the Rings Tolkien said:

“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned – with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”


And in my copy, the second edition, I found that he said this:

“As for any inner meaning or ‘message’, it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical. As the story grew it put down roots (into the past) and threw out unexpected branches: but its main theme was settled from the outset by the inevitable choice of the Ring as the link between it and The Hobbit. The crucial chapter, ‘The Shadow of the Past’, is one of the oldest parts of the tale. It was written long before the foreshadow of 1939 had yet become a threat of inevitable disaster, and from that point the story would have developed essentially the same lines, if that disaster had been averted. Its sources are things long before in mind, or in some cases already written, and little or nothing in it was modified by the war that began in 1939 or its sequels.”



8) Grelvish:

This is something that new comers to the Tolkien fandom get wrong. They search for a quick way to learn Elvish and poof! This wonderful site of phrases comes up, called Grey-Company Elvish. But this is not real Elvish.

The Grey-Company is a role-playing site that simplified Tolkien’s Elvish so they could use it for a role-playing community. It was modified so that it followed English grammar rules, and they added in their own words for a broader vocabulary, sometimes omitting Tolkien’s words while they are at it.



English: My friend

Grey-Company: Mellonamin

Tolkien: Mellon nin



9) The Eye:

This misconception is one of my favourites, purely because of how wrong Peter Jackson got it. There is no Eye as such; it’s purely metaphorical in the books. When Gollum was captured and held in Mordor he said Sauron had four fingers, but that was enough. When Frodo felt Sauron watching him he called it an Eye.


“In fact with every step towards the gates of Mordor Frodo felt the Ring on its chain about his neck grow more burdensome. He was now beginning to feel it as an actual weight dragging him earthwards. But far more he was troubled by the Eye: so he called it to himself. It was that more than the drag of the Ring that made him cower and stoop as he walked. The Eye: that horrible growing sense of a hostile will that strove with great power to pierce all shadows of cloud, and earth, and flesh, and to see you: to pin you under its deadly gaze, naked, immovable.”

- The Passage of the Marshes, page 630 (this is in the version that is only one book)




10) The Tengwar on Sting:

In the movies there is Tengwar inscribed on the blade saying “Maegnas aen estar nin dagnir in yngyl im” ("Maegnas is my name, I am the spider's bane"). These words never appeared in the books, for Sting is just a knife (though to a hobbit it would be a sword). Tolkien described the knife as plain with a leather sheath. It receives its name after Bilbo uses it against the spiders in Mirkwood, and only after that could it be considered a ‘spider’s bane’ though it is not ever thought of as that.


Is there any thing people get wrong about your favourite books?

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