Our Sponsor Sideshow Collectibles Send us News
Lord of the Rings Tolkien
Search Tolkien
Lord of The RingsTheOneRing.net - Forged By And For Fans Of JRR Tolkien
Lord of The Rings Serving Middle-Earth Since The First Age

Lord of the Rings Movie News - J.R.R. Tolkien
Do you enjoy the 100% volunteer, not for profit services of TheOneRing.net?
Consider a donation!

  Main Index   Search Posts   Who's Online   Log in
The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
**LotR Discussion: The Title Page and the Ring Poem**
First page Previous page 1 2 3 4 Next page Last page  View All

N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Oct 15 2007, 3:22pm

Post #1 of 81 (840 views)
Shortcut
**LotR Discussion: The Title Page and the Ring Poem** Can't Post

The title page of LotR is bordered above and below with writing in non-Roman letters: a single row of runes across the top, and a double row of script across the bottom.

When did you first notice this?

Have you ever tried to translate the writing? What does it say?

Why does Tolkien put this text there?

The title page is followed by some copyright material (for which you'll have to make up your own questions) and then a poem:


Quote
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, one Ring to bind them
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.


Why does this poem appear even before the table of contents? How important is it to the plot, really?

Is it a good poem? (Do you like it?)

It’s really two poems, one nested inside the other. How well do they mesh?

Why are there “kings” of the elves, “lords” of the dwarves, and no titles for the men?

The keepers of the Three Rings weren’t all “kings” – why does the poem say otherwise?

The poem is well-known enough to have a (rhyming?) Westron translation – how much about the Rings is known to the world?

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Oct. 15-21 for the Maps, Foreword, and Prologue.


Curious
Half-elven


Oct 15 2007, 5:42pm

Post #2 of 81 (291 views)
Shortcut
My thoughts. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
The title page of LotR is bordered above and below with writing in non-Roman letters: a single row of runes across the top, and a double row of script across the bottom.

When did you first notice this?



Just now, when you pointed it out to me. Seriously, I suppose I must have noticed it before, but I don't remember it.


Quote

Have you ever tried to translate the writing? What does it say?


I just Googled the translation, but I don't want to spoil anyone else's fun by telling you what it says.


Quote

Why does Tolkien put this text there?


As a game for those who shared his interest in made-up languages, I suppose. I'm obviously not one of those people!


Quote

The title page is followed by some copyright material (for which you'll have to make up your own questions) and then a poem:


Quote
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, one Ring to [f]ind them
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.


Why does this poem appear even before the table of contents? How important is it to the plot, really?


Tolkien wanted to draw our attention to it, I suppose, and wanted us to read it. I think it sets up the mystery and the device that drives the plot forward, the Ring, even though in some ways the Ring is not what the story is about. By that I mean most of the story does not directly involve the Ring at all, but instead all the adventures that happen between the Shire and Mount Doom and even a large number of adventures that do not happen between the Shire and Mount Doom, but instead in Rohan and Gondor.

From time to time we are reminded that this is all supposed to be about the Ring, but there's a reason we have to be reminded. For the most part Frodo refrains from wearing the Ring, and Sam only wears it for a brief time. Although the Black Riders pursue Frodo at the beginning of the book, they lose track of him for long stretches even in Book One, and then for the rest of the story move on to other matters. There's always the danger that the Enemy will discover the Ring to maintain the tension, but between the end of Book One and the beginning of Book Six it doesn't happen. When it finally does happen, it happens in an instant, and it is too late for the Enemy to react. And then in Book Six there is a surprising amount of story after the Ring is unmade.

So the poem is an extraordinary diversion, leading us to believe that the One Ring matters, as indeed it does, but perhaps misleading us about how important a role it will play in the plot. And as for the other rings, the Three, the Seven, and the Nine, they play barely any part at all, except for behind the scenes. The Nine were instrumental in creating the Nazgul, but many people believe that the Nazgul no longer wear their rings. The Three are also important, but not in any obvious way. And the Seven are a complete disappointment, either lost or with Sauron, having failed of their purpose.

I like the poem. It is suitably ominous and mysterious. I wouldn't call it a great poem, but it serves its purpose. Its a mnemonic device, really, meant to remind us of the various rings and the races who hold them, as well as the purpose of the One Ring. And I find it quite memorable and mysterious, if not profound.


Quote
It’s really two poems, one nested inside the other. How well do they mesh?


I like the uneven rhyme scheme, too. The two most memorable and most important lines are about the One Ring, and they are set apart in the rhyme scheme, like a chorus. Note my correction, by the way -- it's find them and bind them. And that, in a nutshell, is the dramatic tension in the book. Will the Enemy find the Ring, and if so, will the Enemy use the Ring to bind the free peoples.

Except, of course, that we really know all along the Enemy will not win, even though the characters do not. If we couldn't guess it from the tone of the story, Tolkien gives it away in the Prologue. So again, it isn't really about whether the Ring will be unmade, but how it will plausibly be unmade against what seem like impossible odds, what will happen in the meantime, and what will happen afterwards.


Quote

Why are there “kings” of the elves, “lords” of the dwarves, and no titles for the men?


I suspect Tolkien needed "kings" and "lords" to balance each other, and didn't want to use "kings" twice. In the case of Men, though, he switched the emphasis to the modifier "Mortal." This is important, because Men have their lives unnaturally lengthened by their rings, while elves are already immortal, and dwarves are apparently unaffected in that manner by their rings.


Quote
The keepers of the Three Rings weren’t all “kings” – why does the poem say otherwise?


All of the rings except the One were really made for elves, so the whole poem is inaccurate in that sense. Sauron apparently composed the two lines of the poem found on the One Ring, but it seems unlikely that the rest of the poem was added until Sauron captured the other rings, except for the Three, and distributed nine to men and seven to dwarves.

Whether Sauron added the remaining lines to the poem or not is unclear. Whoever added the remaining lines may have been unaware of the true location of the Three, or may have been purposely misleading others about it. Gandalf knew, for example, but wasn't about to correct the poem. Whether it was purposely misleading or not, it does lead to at least one surprise when we find that Galadriel has one of the rings, and another surprise when we discover that Gandalf has another. So I'll call it some plausible misdirection on Tolkien's part, and perhaps on the part of the unknown fictional author.


Quote

The poem is well-known enough to have a (rhyming?) Westron translation – how much about the Rings is known to the world?


Do we know whether any but the two lines that appear on the One Ring are in fact translations? It could be that only those two lines from the Black Speech are translated, and the others added by people who spoke Common. Who would those people be? Elves might be aware of the lines on the One Ring, through Celebrimbor. They might have made Men and Wizards aware of those lines as well. Or perhaps the poem did not appear until the time of Isildur, when he held the One. Or perhaps Sauron himself devised the entire rhyme as a source of terror, although it seems strange that he would advertise his entire evil plot so blatantly.

At any rate, I don't think Tolkien ever tells us who composes the poem, or when it was composed. It's simply a random piece of lore which might seem unimportant to those who do not know the history of the rings. Tolkien liked to think there were many such pieces of lore in the world, disguised as nursery rhymes and old wives' tales. Only the very foolish and the very wise keep the lore alive, the former as apparent nonsense, and the latter because it matters. Very few people understood the importance of the poem, but the poem itself may have been floating about all over.

Alternatively, perhaps only Gandalf remembered the poem. In fact, maybe Gandalf composed the poem as his own mnemonic device, including the misleading part about the Elven-kings. Do we ever hear anyone else recite it?

Okay, I did look it up and saw that Gandalf claimed the poem was "long known in Elven-lore." That implies that it was not originally in Common, although I'm still not sure whether the elves translated the whole poem from the Dark Speech, or added to the original two lines composed by Sauron. I also get the impression that Gandalf translates it for Frodo on the spot, rather than repeating a poem known to others who spoke Common.


(This post was edited by Curious on Oct 15 2007, 5:47pm)


Morwen
Rohan


Oct 15 2007, 6:56pm

Post #3 of 81 (261 views)
Shortcut
The poem is a "teaser". [In reply to] Can't Post

Have you ever tried to translate the writing? What does it say?

I did, long ago, but I'm afraid I don't remember exactly what it said. I remember I solved it like a cryptogram, using logic rather than the alphabet in the Appendices, and I was very proud of myself for figuring out. The only reason I can think of for Tolkien putting it there is to indulge in his love of languages (and ours). Maybe the mysterious runes inside the cover also add to the feeling of this being a "real" myth, instead of just a story.

Why does this poem appear even before the table of contents? How important is it to the plot, really?

I suppose it's not really important to the plot, but it does sort of pull the reader into the story, and later on, when you get to "The Shadow of the Past" you can say, "Wow! That's the poem in the front of the book" and feel like you discovered a hidden treasure.

Is it a good poem? (Do you like it?)

Obviously, I like it a lot.

It’s really two poems, one nested inside the other. How well do they mesh?

Perfectly, as far as I can tell.

Why are there “kings” of the elves, “lords” of the dwarves, and no titles for the men?

Well, the word elven-king just has a really nice sound to it. Dwarf-king just doesn't have the same ring to it (sorry for the pun). I don't know why the men don't get a title other than "mortal". Also, the hobbit has an "Elven'king" so that word makes a connection for readers who read The Hobbit first.

The keepers of the Three Rings weren’t all “kings” – why does the poem say otherwise?

Maybe because "Elven-king" does have that nice sound. "Elven-king, queen and shipwright" wouldn't fit very well in a poem.

The poem is well-known enough to have a (rhyming?) Westron translation – how much about the Rings is known to the world?


Good question. The hobbits had never heard of the Rings, but they were sort of isolated. Aragorn knew about them, of course, but he grew up in the care of a Ring-bearer. Boromir knew something about the One Ring, and Faramir and Denethor knew more. I don't think most "average" folk in Middle-earth would have known the story of the Rings.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I've heard your anguish, I've heard your hearts cry out
We are tired, we are weary, but we aren't worn out
Set down your chains, until only faith remains
Set down your chains--Jewel


FarFromHome
Valinor


Oct 15 2007, 8:01pm

Post #4 of 81 (252 views)
Shortcut
Setting the tone [In reply to] Can't Post

The title page of LotR is bordered above and below with writing in non-Roman letters: a single row of runes across the top, and a double row of script across the bottom. When did you first notice this? Have you ever tried to translate the writing? What does it say? Why does Tolkien put this text there?

I don't know when I first consciously noticed it, but I think you can't help but get a subconscious impression from it - it sets the look and feel, somehow, of Tolkien. There is a similar pattern of script on the classic covers of The Hobbit, if I remember rightly, so this would be an instant way to link the two together. I don't know about these particular runes and script, but I have occasionally tried to decipher this kind of thing, only to be disappointed to find that they are transliterations of English, and not Elvish or some other "ancient" language at all. So now I don't try - I'd rather keep those "unexplained vistas" unexplained!

Why does this poem appear even before the table of contents?

Well, there is a tradition of putting a quotation, verse or prose, at the start of a book. Normally, though, the quotation is from some other work, not from the book itself. For me, putting this poem in the place of a quotation is one of many subtle suggestions that this isn't "really" a modern work of fiction by a single author, but is part of a large body of traditional legends, poems and tales.

How important is it to the plot, really?

It's important to the plot that the Ring be understood to be part of History, and deeply embedded in the legends of Middle-earth.

Is it a good poem? (Do you like it?)

I do. I think it's very striking and memorable. At this point, it's simply mysterious, but seeing it here means that when we encounter it again in The Shadow of the Past it already has a "history" for us. That helps to make the legendary status of the Ring all the more believable.

It’s really two poems, one nested inside the other. How well do they mesh?

Does this rhyme-scheme have to indicate two poems? I don't know the rules of poetry, but it doesn't really feel like two poems to me, more like one poem with a chorus or maybe with a "turn", like a sonnet.

Why are there “kings” of the elves, “lords” of the dwarves, and no titles for the men?

In a poetic, non-literal way, we seem to be being given the impression of hierarchy - Elves highest, dwarves lower and "mortal" men lowest of all.

The keepers of the Three Rings weren’t all “kings” – why does the poem say otherwise?

It makes a good internal rhyme. And it implies that the Elves are the royalty of Middle-earth.

The poem is well-known enough to have a (rhyming?) Westron translation – how much about the Rings is known to the world?


It suggests to me that this is a well-known rhyme, maybe known only as a nursery-rhyme in the Common speech - and we know that Tolkien often suggests that nursery rhymes and old-wives' tales can tell a great deal more than most people give them credit for.


...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Oct 15 2007, 8:28pm

Post #5 of 81 (268 views)
Shortcut
The nested poem. [In reply to] Can't Post

As Curious has observed, these two lines:


Quote
One Ring to rule them all, one Ring to find them
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them


recited by Sauron on Mount Doom and inscribed on the Ring, must originally have stood alone, and were later used by someone, perhaps an elvish poet, as the framework of the larger poem about the Rings' distribution, because Sauron's original intent was not for Men and Dwarves to receive the Elvish rings.

However, this is not particularly clear from reading the text of LotR alone: "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age", published in The Silmarillion, is helpful in this regard.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Oct. 15-21 for the Maps, Foreword, and Prologue.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Oct 15 2007, 9:03pm

Post #6 of 81 (271 views)
Shortcut
I see what you mean [In reply to] Can't Post

You weren't thinking of the poem's structure but its content.

In fact the poem seems to work well structurally as one poem, although as you (and Curious) say, it could not have been written this way, because the two lines inscribed on the Ring obviously pre-date the history that is related in the rest of the poem.

It's another interesting example, really, of how legends/stories/poems become woven together over time. Somebody has expanded on the original two lines, and embedded them into the later history of the Ring.

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


Curious
Half-elven


Oct 15 2007, 9:17pm

Post #7 of 81 (253 views)
Shortcut
Although Tolkien himself could [In reply to] Can't Post

have written it all at once, then decided to inscribe two of the lines on the Ring, and only later decided that they were all originally elven rings. So we have to distinguish between the fictional history of composition and the real-world history of composition.

Note, also, that Gandalf seems to translate this poem from Elvish for Frodo, but calls it a bit of Elven lore. So again, the poem Tolkien composed in English is presented as a translation of an Elvish poem embedding a translation from the Black Speech. And then of course in the appendices Tolkien tells us that the English poem is yet another translation, this time from the real version of Westron or Common, which is "translated" into English throughout the text of LotR.


Darkstone
Immortal


Oct 15 2007, 9:27pm

Post #8 of 81 (244 views)
Shortcut
Well [In reply to] Can't Post

When did you first notice this?

Kind of hard to miss.


Have you ever tried to translate the writing?

Yup.


What does it say?

Wouldn’t you like to know.


Why does Tolkien put this text there?

It’s a continuation of the title. Kind of a little puckish jab at all those long scholarly titles that are a paragraph and a half long. It’s also part of the conceit that this is a found manuscript. And finally it shows that what is important, at least to the author, is the language.


Why does this poem appear even before the table of contents?

“Once upon a time….” It’s how it all began. As Gandalf says “Out of the Black Years come the words that the Smiths of Eregion heard, and knew that they had been betrayed.”


How important is it to the plot, really?

It’s Tolkien saying “This is what it’s all about: the poetry of language.”


Is it a good poem?

It’s better than a lot of stuff I’ve read.


(Do you like it?)

Sure.


It’s really two poems, one nested inside the other.

Like a pop song, with the main verse and then the chorus.


How well do they mesh?

I bet Andrew Lloyd Webber could break the top 40 with it.


Why are there “kings” of the elves, “lords” of the dwarves, and no titles for the men?

One might look at it as how Sauron looks at the races of Middle-earth. Elves at the top, then Dwarves, then Men. That he doesn’t mention Hobbits gives a big hint right away what his fatal mistake will be.


The keepers of the Three Rings weren’t all “kings” – why does the poem say otherwise?

Well, if you’re assuming Sauron is saying this then he just naturally assumes that the possessors will use the power to make themselves kings.


The poem is well-known enough to have a (rhyming?) Westron translation – how much about the Rings is known to the world?

Probably so well known that its meaning is obscure. There’s probably kids all over Middle-earth chanting the words while jumping rope and playing hopscotch.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Oct 15 2007, 9:34pm

Post #9 of 81 (285 views)
Shortcut
And the writing says... [In reply to] Can't Post

Spoiler up there, just in case someone doesn't want to know!

I noticed the runes and script from the start. It makes a very effective border for those pages (the title page and the page opposite), and brings you into the "otherwordliness" of the story right off. I've been looking for any reason behind Unwin wanting, or approving, the borders, but have had no luck there.

The translation:
Top: dhe lord of dhe rings translat'd from dhe red book
Bottom (literal):
v westmarch bi john ronald reuel tolkien: her'in iz set forth
dh histori vv wor vv ring 'nd dh return vv king az seen bi dh hobbits

Phonetic, of course - with shorthand "dh" for "the" and "vv" for "of the" in the tengwar. "wor" is correct.

Copy information:
Tenth/Ninth/Third Printing (depending on which volume it is)
Copyright ©1965 by J.R.R.Tolkien Heart

Ah, my beloved 2nd edition hardcovers! Notice the lack of publishing information or ISBN: a cataloguer's nightmare. Wink

The poem sets the stage for the story. This is, after all, Lord of the Rings, and here's the Rings we'll be telling you about, folks. I suspect "kings" was selected because it rhymes with "rings", and works far better than "Three Rings for the Elven-rulers" or "Three Rings for Elven queen and kings" (referring to the original keepers, all Elves).

And it reminds me of the athelas poem: a hint of greater things involved, but no one pays attention to it any more than they would the ring-around-the-rosy rhyme. I'm still wondering why Sauron bothered inscribing it in the Ring in the first place - and who wrote it for him?


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Only I hear the stones lament them: deep they delved us, fair they wrought us, high they builded us; but they are gone. They are gone. They sought the Havens long ago."
(Avatar pic: The Calanais stones, Isle of Lewis)

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915


FarFromHome
Valinor


Oct 15 2007, 9:36pm

Post #10 of 81 (235 views)
Shortcut
Yes, the mind boggles! [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien could sit in his study and write "legends" that "evolve" over time the way real legends do - except his evolved in his own mind. That gives him a lot of freedom to change his thinking - and so does his claim that he is only a "translator". As we know only too well from the Beowulf translations, there's a lot of scope for different interpretations to be made even of the very same original text.

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


Menelwyn
Rohan


Oct 15 2007, 10:20pm

Post #11 of 81 (233 views)
Shortcut
answers to some [In reply to] Can't Post

The title page of LotR is bordered above and below with writing in non-Roman letters: a single row of runes across the top, and a double row of script across the bottom.

When did you first notice this? Fairly early on, but I didn't pay much attention to it for a long time.

Have you ever tried to translate the writing? What does it say? I've tried doing the Tengwar parts but didn't succeed with the whole thing. Tolkien uses different symbols to represent different Roman letters from time to time; even the information in the Appendix wasn't sufficient help for me there. There's also a tendency to spell phonetically, which actually makes it even more challenging.

Why does Tolkien put this text there? I guess because he likes his languages and thinks other people do.

The title page is followed by some copyright material (for which you'll have to make up your own questions) and then a poem:


Quote
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, one Ring to bind them
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.


Why does this poem appear even before the table of contents? How important is it to the plot, really? Not sure that it's all that important for the plot. One thought I have is that it lets you know (sort of) who the Lord of the Rings is early on. And you get a sense that the Ring is bad. A reader of the first edition who had also read The Hobbit might have a benign view of magic rings; this gives a sense that the rings may be ominous.

Is it a good poem? (Do you like it?) No strong feelings one way or the other, but I must admit it's the first of the poems that I actually memorized.

It’s really two poems, one nested inside the other. How well do they mesh? Works for me.

Why are there “kings” of the elves, “lords” of the dwarves, and no titles for the men? As Curious said, the key thing about Men is that they are mortal, and it distinguishes them from Elves. Also, the temptation of the rings for Men is immortality, so emphasizing their mortality here hints at that. Not really sure about the kings and lords, aside from an Elf-centric bias.

The keepers of the Three Rings weren’t all “kings” – why does the poem say otherwise? Kings rhymes with rings?

The poem is well-known enough to have a (rhyming?) Westron translation – how much about the Rings is known to the world? Some, but not much. The Elves probably know more than anyone else. I see no indication that any Men other than Aragorn know much about rings other than the One; notably they don't seem aware that the Nazgul are anything other than particularly bad servants of Sauron. (I realize that "nazg" meaning "ring" is in that name, and the name "Ringwraiths" also contains it, but when the Gondorians under Boromir encouter the Wraiths at Osgiliath they don't seem able to identify them, and they don't seem to use either word.) The Dwarves know about their seven although not where they are; they don't seem aware of the bad connections with Sauron's One. The Three seem to be a big secret even among the Elves, aside from their existence.


a.s.
Valinor


Oct 16 2007, 12:31am

Post #12 of 81 (260 views)
Shortcut
"mortal men who are mortal" [In reply to] Can't Post

When did you first notice this?

I wish I could remember if this page is in the paperback copies I first read, but I just can't. So I can't remember when I noticed them...but I also can't remember a LOTR book without them. They seem intricately bound up (no pun intended) with the story, and I know I am supposed to notice them, and I know they are runes of some type.

Have you ever tried to translate the writing? What does it say?


No, I'm an ordinary hobbit when it comes to Tolkien's languages. I rely on translations.

Why does Tolkien put this text there?


To be playful, but also to set the tone that this is an "old" book that is only translated into English.

Is it a good poem? (Do you like it?)

That's two separate concepts. No, it's not a "good poem", as I generally judge poems. As someone already said, it's a mneumonic device to transmit knowledge. Yes, I quite like it.

Why are there “kings” of the elves, “lords” of the dwarves, and no titles for the men?


Further question: why does it really just say "nine for mortal men doomed to be mortal"? I mean, isn't that what "doomed to die" really means? That they are mortal? Why are men specified here as "mortal" anyway? Maybe to point out the contrast between the immortal elves? To make us start thinking right away that there is an essential difference between elves and men (and maybe, based only on this poem, dwarves as well) and it has nothing to do with the lordly nature of the Ring recipients but has everything to do with the mortal/immortal natures of the two?

I'm not sure on first reading this poem I had any idea that elves were immortal, though. I thought it meant those nine specific Ring recipients were doomed to die, and that is somewhat misleading, I think.

The keepers of the Three Rings weren’t all “kings” – why does the poem say otherwise?


Well, because the lore-transmitters, the ones teaching this poem or chant to subsequent generations, didn't really know which specific elves had the Rings, did they? They just knew they were high-ranking elves. And the original language must translate into Westron (and thus English) as "king" rather than something like "royal"?

my two cents.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

"Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love."
~~~Reinhold Niebuhr


Kdgard
Bree

Oct 16 2007, 12:34am

Post #13 of 81 (251 views)
Shortcut
One discussion to rule them all... [In reply to] Can't Post

"Why does this poem appear....": I think the poem is presented first because it sets the stage for everything else to follow, and also because it's memorable. It is important to the plot. The are many themes in LOTR, ranging from friendship, loyalty, good vs. evil, to the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one (apologies to Mr. Spock), and the Verse of The Ring provides the context in which all the other themes in the story are played out. It is the background and the reason why everything else is happening.

"Is it a good poem?": I like it. It's certainly memorable. I read LOTR for the first time in high school and did not re-read it until after the movies started coming out. When I saw the "teaser" poster for the first time, with The Ring and the words "One Ring to Rule Them All", it had been around 16 years since I had last read the story, and yet that poem immediately lept into my brain and right there in the theater lobby I started reciting, "One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them. One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them."

"Why no titles for Men?": As I learned when entering The Hobbit Pride Sweepstakes and the Ode to Bilbo Baggins contest on Sideshow Collectibles' website, it's not always easy to get everything you want to say to fit!! I could be that "Nine for Mortal Kings of Men doomed to die" just throws off the rythym of the poem. I agree with others, though, in that I feel the poet wants to emphasize the mortality of Men and not their titles. I also feel the poem was written after the Nazgul came into being, and this is important because most in Middle Earth have no idea as to the fate of the 3 Elven rings and several of the dwarven rings, but the Nazgul are a testimony as to the fate of the 9 rings of Men.

"Why all Elven kings?": Again, I believe this is because it is a secret to most in Middle Earth who has the 3 Elven rings. It could be that the 3 Elf rings, which Sauron did not touch in their making, were presented to the Elven King. And even though the Kingship doesn't change as often as it does with Men and Dwarves, an Elven King would have an heir and the 3 rings would probably be considered heirlooms to the line of "Elven Kings under the sky". I think that's what the poet is getting at because I doubt that he/she knew that one was entrusted to the keeping of Galadriel and another to that of Gandalf.

Kdgard


a.s.
Valinor


Oct 16 2007, 12:52am

Post #14 of 81 (241 views)
Shortcut
yes, but it could say "Nine for Kings of Men doomed to die" [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I could be that "Nine for Mortal Kings of Men doomed to die" just throws off the rythym of the poem



Which leads me even more strongly to think (as you also point out) that Tolkien wanted to bash us over the head right away with the point that men are mortal. In other words, I don't think he's trying to make us think that the rings didn't go to human royalty; I think he's making a point about human mortality.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

"Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love."
~~~Reinhold Niebuhr


sevilodorf
Gondor


Oct 16 2007, 1:20am

Post #15 of 81 (227 views)
Shortcut
hurried thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post

and feeling outclassed by the depth of answers elsewhere.

Tossing in half thoughts as it is report card time and I have no time for more....

Yes, noticed the runes and elvish script but never translated.

Now that I've seen the translation (thank you Dernwyn) it's obvious that the purpose is to continue the myth that JRRT was translating from a "found" text.

The poem... well, for years this was just about the only one I actually read. This one and the "Seek for the sword that was broken.." It's prophetic and historic. A mnemonic to trigger the older tales of the Dark Times in an attempt to prevent the world from forgetting. Also a warning from the past translated into the languages of ME.... wondering how the Dwarvish version goes...and how long the Entish version would take to recite...

(and though this probably goes in the other thread...) My copy has the drawing of The Hills: Hobbiton across the water by JRRT and is said to be the 67th printing November 1978. This was my second set as the first was the one with psychodeliac cover and it fell completely apart .. I've since discovered duct tape. While my daughter bought me a four volume set with the movie characters a couple of years ago it is the taped and tattered copy I prefer... it opens in just the right places on its own.

Sev's home away from home: http://burpingtroll.com


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Oct 16 2007, 4:07am

Post #16 of 81 (209 views)
Shortcut
"Anyway all this stuff is mainly concerned..." [In reply to] Can't Post

"...with Fall, Mortality,and the Machine." - Letter #131

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Oct. 15-21 for the Maps, Foreword, and Prologue.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Oct 16 2007, 4:10am

Post #17 of 81 (189 views)
Shortcut
Not outclassed at all. // [In reply to] Can't Post

"To prevent the world from forgetting" -- I like that!

I think my first copy was also c. 1978; certainly Tolkien's painting of Hobbiton settled into my memory very early.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Oct. 15-21 for the Maps, Foreword, and Prologue.


Kdgard
Bree

Oct 16 2007, 4:44am

Post #18 of 81 (243 views)
Shortcut
Use of the word "doom" [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi a.s.! Thanks for the comments. You asked, "Why does (doesn't?) it really just say, "nine for mortal men doomed to be mortal"? I mean isn't that what 'doomed to die' really means? That they are mortal? Why are men specified here a 'mortal' anyway?"

I don't think it's a matter of Tolkien bashing us over the head about the fact that men are mortal as you mentioned. It's how the elves view men. Remember that the Verse of The Ring is an elvish poem; granted that Sauron created part of it with The Ring inscription. Part of the issue comes from the use of the word "doom". In the modern day, that word has become equated with something that is automatically bad. If you look in the dictionary, most of the definitions concern a judgement, or a destiny, or Fate which most often has a negative outcome. But there is a more archaic definition that simply says, "A statute or ordinance", and I believe this is the definition Tolkien is using.

Remember that Tolkien started working on The Silmarillion before he set that aside and wrote LOTR. I'm sure as he was writing LOTR, some of his ideas about TS were swirling around in his head. In TS, Iluvatar placed a "doom" on Men that they would die after a certain life-span. You can easily replace the word "doom" with "statute" or "ordinance", and it just shows that Iluvatar is saying, "This is how it's going to be". It does not necessarily have any negative meaning to it. In fact, it's just the opposite. It's referred to as the "gift of Iluvatar". This "gift of death" is very puzzling to the immortal elves. It is a mystery to them as to where men go after they die and depart Middle-Earth. So when the elves are trying to figure out how the different races of Middle-Earth fit into the big picture, they use the "gift of Iluvatar" as a means to categorize Men. Men are the people who are "doomed" to die and go whence they elves do not know.

So, being an elvish poem, I think the elven poet speaks of Men's mortality and "doom" as a way to describe us. To the poet, the elves are the people under the sky. The dwarves are the people in halls of stone, and men are the people with the doom of Iluvatar on them. Hence, that is why I believe he would say, "Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die"....Of course, it could just be that Tolkien thought it sounded cool! Ha, ha.

Kdgard


Beren IV
Gondor


Oct 16 2007, 4:46am

Post #19 of 81 (230 views)
Shortcut
It also REALLY darkens the poem! [In reply to] Can't Post

Bringing death into the poem just sets up for the next line, and gives us the realization that the Rings are evil, or at least, controlled by evil.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Oct 16 2007, 5:06am

Post #20 of 81 (227 views)
Shortcut
Ah, but why the redundancy... [In reply to] Can't Post

of both "mortal" and "doomed to die"? I think that's what a.s. was asking: doesn't "mortal" mean "doomed to die"? Cut the "mortal" and there might be room for specificity about the Men who received the Nine Rings.

By the way, there are some fascinating comments by Tolkien on the word "doom" in the most recent issue of Parma Eldalamberon, the journal in which his linguistic texts are being published; issue 17 presents "Words, Phrases & Passages in The Lord of the Rings", which is a collection of several unfinished lists in which Tolkien tried to define all the non-English words appearing in LotR. See his comments on the words "Ambar, umbar, Turambar" and the root "MBAR". For example, "umbar" means "fate" (see, e.g., "The names of the letters" in Appendix E to LotR), is closely related to the word "ambar", meaning "world", and is also the name for the Quenya letter for the mb sound. Tolkien adds:


Quote
Nonetheless in popular use (not Elvish) in Gondor the common word lambe 'tongue' was substituted, since in Mannish language and thought umbar had acquired a sinister meaning, like our 'doom', or indeed often nearer to 'curse'. [p. 104]


<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Oct. 15-21 for the Maps, Foreword, and Prologue.


Eowyn of Penns Woods
Valinor


Oct 16 2007, 5:53am

Post #21 of 81 (216 views)
Shortcut
*village idiot reporting in* [In reply to] Can't Post

I was considering some word substitution of my own before reading your post.
Nine for Mortal Men meant to die...intended to die...supposed to die...but *haven't* really, as their fate is tied up with the Ring?
It's just a thought, though my ideas don't have much value in these parts. ;)

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Kdgard
Bree

Oct 16 2007, 6:23am

Post #22 of 81 (212 views)
Shortcut
Is it truly redundant? [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi, NE Brigand! Great discussion so far and thanks for your welcome in the next thread! So, I'm not really certain if "mortal men doomed to die" is necessarily redundant. I'll admit that is does kind of sound like it, but consider this:
"mortal men" defines the what, and "doomed to die" describes the why. Yes, by definition, the word mortal describes THAT we are going to die and our spirits do not find their way to Valinor like the elves, but it doesn't explain WHY we are mortal. "Doomed to die" provides the why. Men are mortal because it has been doomed (by Iluvatar) to be so.

Now, I do like a.s.' suggestion that it could have said "Nine for Kings of Men, doomed to die." It sounds good. So, maybe the elven poet is indulging in a little bit of "men-bashing" and feels that men are not worthy of titles such as "kingly" or "lordly". Or it could be that poetically, he/she had already used the words king and lord and did not wish to repeat them. But it could be, as I said before, an attempt to describe Mankind in general. "Nine for Kings of Men, doomed to die" could just refer to those specific nine men. Perhaps mankind in general is immortal and just these nine pour souls are doomed to die. I don't even think "nine for mortal men, doomed to die" refers specifically towards the nine kings who will become the Nazgul. I believe "mortal men" is the description the elves have for all mankind.

We, as humans, take the word "mortal" forgranted because we know what it means. Imagine that you are an elf child and the concept of death is completely alien to you and you hear some elders talking about "mortal men". "Daddy?", you ask, "What does 'mortal' mean?". "Well, son", he answers, "It means he's doomed to die". As I pointed out, the poem was written by elves, for elves.

Again, I will concede that Tolkien might have just thought it sounded cool. But, since he was SO into language, it strikes me as odd that he would be rendundant like that, so that's why I think he might have been aiming for something higher with the words, "Nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die". Then again, maybe I'm grasping at straws here! Ha, ha.

Kdgard


Kdgard
Bree

Oct 16 2007, 6:42am

Post #23 of 81 (195 views)
Shortcut
Interesting [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Eowyn! Thanks for responding to my post. First of all, I think everyone's ideas have value, yours included, so don't be so hard on yourself! Smile I understand what you're saying. Yours is actually the interpretation I've had for years; that the "Nine for mortal men, doomed to die" line refers specifically to the fate of the nine kings who fall under the power of Sauron and become the Nazgul. That may very well be the case. It's just that the question posed as to why men are referred to as "mortal" instead of kings or lords has gotten me exploring the idea that maybe the line meant something else. I expanded on this thought a little more in my next post after the one that you read, which has the subject: "Is it really redundant?", which was an answer to a reply from N.E. Brigand. I don't know if it will make any more sense than my other post though! Ha, ha. Keep sharing your thoughts with everyone, okay?

Kdgard


Curious
Half-elven


Oct 16 2007, 7:16am

Post #24 of 81 (218 views)
Shortcut
Great point about the internal rhyme! [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I suspect "kings" was selected because it rhymes with "rings", and works far better than "Three Rings for the Elven-rulers" or "Three Rings for Elven queen and kings" (referring to the original keepers, all Elves).


Nice catch! In fact, I see internal rhymes in the next three lines as well:


Quote
Three Rings for the Elven-kings ...
Seven for the Dwarf-lords ...
Nine for Mortal Men ...
One for the Dark Lord ...



(This post was edited by Curious on Oct 16 2007, 7:17am)


FarFromHome
Valinor


Oct 16 2007, 7:31am

Post #25 of 81 (200 views)
Shortcut
Maybe it's not redundant at all [In reply to] Can't Post

After all, at this point, as far as we (first-time) readers know, everyone is mortal - so the phrase "mortal men" clues us into the fact that this not the only possibility in the world we're entering. "Doomed to die" may feel like unnecessary repetition, but it introduces the concept of "doom" or "fate" that is going to be so important in LotR. In our world, death is just a fact of life, but in the world we're entering, it's a specific fate. And as we're about to find out, it's a fate that can be (at least temporarily) evaded in a horrible, unnatural way through ownership of a Ring. That is a very important element of the book, so it must have seemed more important than repeating the idea of "king" or "lord", which had already been used for the other races. The important thing about the Men isn't that they are kings, but quite the contrary - it's the fact that they have fallen, and have shown themselves to be the weakest race by allowing themselves to be enslaved by the Rings.

(The above is from Tolkien's viewpoint as the poet, thinking of the best way of introducing his themes to readers who know nothing about his world. If we think about it "story-internally", and put ourselves in the place of the fictional Elves who possibly made up the first version of this rhyme, then the emphasis on mortality still makes sense, because it's the one thing that really sets Men apart from Elves. And if it's become a kind of nursery rhyme sung by human children, it's hiding - like Ring Around the Rosie in our world - a very scary piece of knowledge at its heart.)

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.

First page Previous page 1 2 3 4 Next page Last page  View All
 
 

Search for (options) Powered by Gossamer Forum v.1.2.3

home | advertising | contact us | back to top | search news | join list | Content Rating

This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings, and is in no way affiliated with Tolkien Enterprises or the Tolkien Estate. We in no way claim the artwork displayed to be our own. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, articles, and other promotional materials are held by their respective owners and their use is allowed under the fair use clause of the Copyright Law. Design and original photography however are copyright © 1999-2012 TheOneRing.net. Binary hosting provided by Nexcess.net

Do not follow this link, or your host will be blocked from this site. This is a spider trap.