Mar 3 2013, 5:02pm
1. Why donít people travel from the Lonely Isle to Aman? And how come the Teleri never travel back to the Lonely Isle once they have ships?
A few rather random thoughts
I guess the Teleri couldn't leave the Isle until they learned to make ships. Once they did have ships they chose to migrate to the mainland, but I don't think we're told specifically that they never revisited the Lonely Isle - they do sail the waters of the Bay of Elvenhome where the Isle lies, so perhaps the occasional ship stops for a visit. But I suppose that compared to the mainland it no longer appeals as a place to live. I recall that there are uninhabited island off Ireland's coast, for example the Blasket Islands off the coast of Co. Kerry, that were lived on and farmed for centuries. But once the inhabitants were offered the opportunity of leaving their hard life and living on the mainland, the islands and their ancient way of life was abandoned.
2. Would you like to visit Alqualonde, based on this description? Would Tolkien have made a good travel writer?
It sounds too much like a luxury resort to me! Like all Paradises, it sounds beautiful but just a bit dull. On the other hand, Tolkien describes some other destinations that I'd definitely consider booking a trip to - so I think you could call him a good travel writer, but it's the "adventure travel" that really appeals, rather than the resorts, at least for me.
3. Why are swans so often referenced in Tolkien?
Perhaps he was influenced by the invoking of swans in Beowulf - the sea is called the "swan road", and ships are compared to swans as well. So they have the "glamour" associated with ancient legends. Their elegance and gleaming whiteness seems to fit very nicely into this scenery too.
4. What exactly is living rock?
All it literally means is rock that is part of the earth, as opposed to quarried rock. But I suspect that Tolkien really likes the expression because it implies the "life" of the earth itself.
5. Will the Teleri ever be happy?
Perhaps they're as happy in this chapter as they will ever be, with their swift ships and their pearl fishing. Unfortunately, once you have something as valuable as the technology of those ships, it won't be long before someone wants to take it from you...
7. Middle Earth has mumaks, wargs, giant eagles and talking birds, among other things. How do you think those would stack up whatever creatures live only in Aman? Is Tolkien referencing dinosaurs or something more mythic or fantastic?
To me he seems to be suggesting the differences between the animals of different land-masses. Once the "fashion of the world" is changed and Aman is cut off from Middle-earth, it becomes a kind of Galapagos, you might say. So from the perspective of Middle-earth (which, in Tolkien's original concept, these legends are written from) there could be all kinds of amazing animals "over there" that we will never see. (In the real world, elephants, giraffes and so on were considered fantastical in Europe and Asia for many centuries - specimens would be brought back by adventurers to prove that they really existed. And in fact, Sam thinks the mumak/oliphaunt/elephant is fantastical until he sees one with his own eyes!) All the things you list are in fact pretty much "real", though, wouldn't you say? They are exaggerated, but still recognisably species we know. As for dinosaurs, there's one passage that suggests that there had been dinosaurs in Middle-earth:
"...it was a winged creature: if bird, then greater than all other birds, and it was naked, and neither quill nor feather did it bear, and its vast pinions were as webs of hide between horned fingers; and it stank. A creature of an older world maybe it was, whose kind, lingering in forgotten mountains cold beneath the Moon, outstayed their day, and in hideous eyrie bred this last untimely brood, apt to evil." That's the Witch-king's steed, as described in The Battle of the Pelennor Fields. It sounds a bit pteranodon-like maybe? (By the way, I saw a documentary on TV recently that argued that dinosaur bones might have been the basis for legends of dragons. They showed some evidence for legends of dragons occurring close to areas where dinosaur fossils might have been visible in earlier times. Early people might see an event (a meteor strike, a volcanic eruption) that needs an explanation and, having seen the bones of those mysterious creatures, put two and two together...)
8. Any other comments on this section or the chapter as a whole?
Thanks for doing this, weaver, despite your busy schedule! Much appreciated! (And I didn't notice any nonsensical questions, although I'm not sure I can say the same about my answers...)
They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings
(This post was edited by FarFromHome on Mar 3 2013, 5:05pm)