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What degree of sentience do Tolkien's animals have?

thatlldo
Registered User


Jul 5 2013, 4:10am

Post #1 of 20 (484 views)
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What degree of sentience do Tolkien's animals have? Can't Post

We know that...

* There are some animals that seem more 'special' than other animals, like Huan and Shadowfax.
* Some animals talk out loud, particularly in the Hobbit. Spiders, birds.
* Some animals think to themselves... maybe? A fox at the beginning of the Fellowship of the Ring 'thinks' to himself "There is something mighty queer behind this." Tolkien notes that the fox was quite right but never found out any more about it, one of my favorite lines of the book. :)

So!

Do all animals have that "fox like" degree of cognitive process? Do only some of them have it? What determines if they talk 'out loud'?

Who can communicate (and how fully?) with the animals that don't talk in human speech? Elves are described as having a knack for it, and Rangers are also described as being able to "understand the languages of beasts and birds." Can we then assume that pretty much all critters do have languages?


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Jul 5 2013, 4:23am

Post #2 of 20 (276 views)
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mae govannen! [In reply to] Can't Post

 
hi thatlldo, mae govannen! thanks so much for posting such a great question to the reading room. : )

i think, regarding sentient animals, we have to separate the hobbit from lotr and the sil. he wrote the hobbit as a separate thing, in a very fairy tale like manner.

once he had produced and published lotr he himself said that things were a bit of a mess, continuity-wise, with the tone and many details. he had thought of a hobbit re-write (which never happened).

so, for me, things like talking purses aren't "real" in middle-earth, they're more amusing ways of telling the story. sort of the way we do it.

we do have sentient birds in lotr and sil, so that's fine in the hobbit.

i think the fox in lotr was a bit of a tone throwback to the hobbit, and was really just a fanciful way of narrating the story. i don't think, in middle earth, that particular fox was sentient. i love the line too, but i deem it "author-speak" rather than a depiction of how that world works.

having just read the beren and luthien chapter, i've been thinking a lot about huan. he seems to have sentience, regardless of how many times he spoke, and even before he spoke. i had a fleeting thought that huan was a maia who had chosen to enter arda in that form, to fulfill a particular part of the song. but then that didn't seem to jibe with orome "giving" him to celegorm. i don't think a maia in whatever form would ever be a thing to be "given."

so... were there lots of sentient dogs in valinor? or is huan a special case? we know manwe's eagle's are a special breed, and are many.

cheers --

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


Elizabeth
Valinor


Jul 5 2013, 7:26am

Post #3 of 20 (267 views)
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Good question! [In reply to] Can't Post

I believe that all animals, even in the primary world, "think to themselves" more than we give them credit for. A fox, for example, would be well aware of the habits of the other species in his neighborhood. He would be aware of hobbits and their habits, and perfectly capable of being surprised when they violated expectations.

Talking out loud in Common Tongue, however, is a different matter. The Hobbit is a kids book, and kids are accustomed to talking animals. LotR, on the other hand, is aimed at a much more mature audience. So, Shadowfax understands Gandalf (perhaps from his body motions more than his speech), and no animals actually talk. Since Jackson is "elevating" the age expectation of his Hobbit movies, it remains to be seen which animals (spiders, birds, a dragon) will talk and how.

I hope to be writing a paper on this soon for the "amateur symposium", so I don't want to say too much! Watch this space!








(This post was edited by Elizabeth on Jul 5 2013, 7:31am)


wildespace
The Shire

Jul 5 2013, 9:31am

Post #4 of 20 (242 views)
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Mammals in real world also "think" to themselves [In reply to] Can't Post

If you have observed animal behaviour you have undoubtedly seen how animals can react to something, pause, and maybe show indecisiveness. They do, in a certain way, think to themselves. Not using human words, obviously, but something does go on in their minds. I think a fox, who was used to hobbits staying indoors, or close to home, at such hours, would have felt some confusion or reaction, and Tolkien just put it in human words for the reader's enterntainment.

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Lothwen
Rivendell


Jul 5 2013, 10:03am

Post #5 of 20 (253 views)
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The wargs [In reply to] Can't Post

Does anyone know how much intelligence the wargs were supposed to have?As Maciliel says,

Quote
i think, regarding sentient animals, we have to separate the hobbit from lotr and the sil. he wrote the hobbit as a separate thing, in a very fairy tale like manner.

However, I wondered whether they still had some form of knowledge and understanding, or were they just transport for the orcs in LotR and Silm?

'There lie the woods of Lothlorien!' said Legolas. 'That is the fairest of all the dwellings of my people. There are no trees like the trees of that land. For in the autumn their leaves fall not, but turn to gold.'


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Jul 5 2013, 12:18pm

Post #6 of 20 (231 views)
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what do we mean by "sentience"? [In reply to] Can't Post

 
maybe we should pin down what we mean by "sentience." does it mean they can talk? or does it mean that, they don't necessarily have to talk, but they reason in just the same way and with just the same facility as humans?

i wholly agree that all animals (all mammals at least, and all birds), even in our world, have self awareness. they have instinct to help shape their choices (as do we), but they certainly do have and do exercise the right to choose.


i can't wait to read your animal paper in the symposium, elizabeth! : ) i am quite the animalphile (kelvadil would be an apt moniker).


cheers --

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Jul 5 2013, 12:19pm

Post #7 of 20 (221 views)
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entirely [In reply to] Can't Post

 
entirely agree with this, wildespace. well-said.


also, chiming in that i just love the fox. : ) i'm terribly fond of foxes in general.


cheers : )


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Jul 5 2013, 12:27pm

Post #8 of 20 (221 views)
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good question [In reply to] Can't Post

 
good question, lothwen (and lovely name, btw : ) ).


i think dragons and wargs and eagles are special categories of animals in middle-earth. dragons and eagles in particular (and i wonder if they aren't foils for one another, light and dark sides of the same moon?). they speak, reason with the highest intelligence, and pursue goals not just in alignment with their own desires, but working with other "rationals." glaurung (i find this +most+ interesting), after the sack of nargothrond, held command there, with a contingent of orcs to do his bidding.

wargs, in the hobbit at least, seem to be in this same category. --- but --- i've already defined (at least for me) that the hobbit is sketchy material from which to draw conclusions about non-human animal sentience. so perhaps in lotr / sil reality, they are more akin to very intelligent, non-human animals.

also, i wish to put a word in for the sentient, non-human animals that exist in our main world. creatures like whales, dolphins, many parrots, great apes, chimpanzees and bonobos.

these creatures are highly intelligent, and some even seem to have what we call "language." certainly, many of them have been taught to use ours. incredible. so the fantastic does indeed walk and fly amongst us even now, and not just in ages long past of middle earth.


cheers --

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo

(This post was edited by Maciliel on Jul 5 2013, 12:28pm)


Elthir
Gondor

Jul 5 2013, 12:28pm

Post #9 of 20 (229 views)
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talk talk [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it is suggested, at least, that Gwaehir spoke to Gandalf when bearing him to Lorien, and given that talking beasts are found in 'Bilbo's tale' -- The Hobbit -- in my opinion the reader would have little cause to think this must have been a conversation between minds.

That said, it seems Tolkien himself was a bit unsure...


Quote


(4) What of talking beasts and birds with reasoning and speech? These have been rather lightly adopted from less 'serious' mythologies, but play a part which cannot now be excised. They are certainly 'exceptions' and not much used, but sufficiently to show they are a recognized feature of the world. All other creatures accept tham as natural if not common.

But true 'rational' creatures', 'speaking peoples', are all of human/humanoid form. Only the Valar and Maiar are intelligences that can assume forms of Arda at will. Huan and Sorontar could be Maiar -- emissaries of Manwe*. But unfortunately in The Lord of the Rings, Gwaehir and Landroval are said to be descendants of Sorontar.'




This text [Myths Transformed, text VIII, Morgoth's Ring] is basically an 'orc text', and here (at least) Tolkien seems to conclude that Orcs are beasts, and their talking 'was really reeling off 'records' set in them by Melkor'. And...


Quote
The same sort of thing may be said of Huan and the Eagles; they were taught language by the Valar, and raised to a higher level -- but they still had no fear [the elvish word fear being akin to 'spirits' here -- Elthir]




It might be added however, at least in my opinion, that this was not necessarily Tolkien's conclusion regarding orcs, and I think not necessarily his ultimate conclusion about beasts. JRRT was thinking with the pen here, and there is at least one other note that seems to say something different -- like Text V [same section] for instance, which suggests Huan may be one of the Maiar, and thus would have a fea.

And for myself, I don't see why Gwaehir couldn't be both a Maia and a descendant of Thorondor, as long as two Maiar who had chosen bird form are involved [thus, not a Maia mating with a regular beast]. In other words, I'm not sure why Maiar can't have descendants, if Melian [for instance] can have Luthien by marriage with an Elf.

Tolkien also suggests that orc-formed Maiar can have offspring, although admittedly I don't remember if he necessarily meant 'with each other' as in Maia with Maia, as opposed to Maiar-orcs mating with beasts.


(This post was edited by Elthir on Jul 5 2013, 12:36pm)


Lothwen
Rivendell


Jul 5 2013, 3:25pm

Post #10 of 20 (198 views)
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Thanks Maciliel! [In reply to] Can't Post

I kind of thought the reasoning behind dragons and eagles, were that they are from Morgoth and Manwe, respectively. The Wargs, at least intelligent ones as are in TH, then didn't fit. Were they unintelligent then? But as you say, if one thinks of them (dragons, eagles, wargs) as all in the same category, then it makes more sense.

'There lie the woods of Lothlorien!' said Legolas. 'That is the fairest of all the dwellings of my people. There are no trees like the trees of that land. For in the autumn their leaves fall not, but turn to gold.'


Brethil
Half-elven


Jul 5 2013, 3:27pm

Post #11 of 20 (191 views)
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Oh! That sounds exciting Elizabeth! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

I hope to be writing a paper on this soon for the "amateur symposium", so I don't want to say too much! Watch this space!




(rubs hands) Can't wait to hear your expanded thoughts! A fascinating topic really, especially in JRRT's work.

Coming soon!- The first TORn Amateur Symposium, starts Sunday 21st July in the Reading Room. Closing date for essay submission Sunday 14th July, but even if you don't submit, join us for some interesting discussion on some different and personal ways of looking at Tolkien's work.







Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Jul 5 2013, 3:31pm

Post #12 of 20 (189 views)
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an interesting wrinkle [In reply to] Can't Post

 
is that neither manwe nor morgoth nor any other being other than eru can create life, something that posesses the holy fire, and is independent.

so, talking or not, morgoth could not have created dragons from scratch as beings unto themselves. he could possibly create them as automatons, programmed with his thinking, to respond to variables in the world to his liking.

but that commanding power should end with his destruction, so perhaps the dragons should have ended when he was removed from arda. but, he infused his power into middle earth itself (the marring), so perhaps that is why dragons and trolls and orcs survive on without him.


cheers --

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea

Jul 5 2013, 3:35pm

Post #13 of 20 (194 views)
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Me too [In reply to] Can't Post

I started working on an essay for the symposium, on this particular topic, as well. I look forward to seeing your views on this!


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Jul 5 2013, 3:40pm

Post #14 of 20 (174 views)
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fantastic : ) [In reply to] Can't Post

 
so look forward to reading it, rembrethil. : )


cheers --

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


Brethil
Half-elven


Jul 5 2013, 3:58pm

Post #15 of 20 (165 views)
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Wonderful news Rembrethil! // [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I started working on an essay for the symposium, on this particular topic, as well. I look forward to seeing your views on this!


Coming soon!- The first TORn Amateur Symposium, starts Sunday 21st July in the Reading Room. Closing date for essay submission Sunday 14th July, but even if you don't submit, join us for some interesting discussion on some different and personal ways of looking at Tolkien's work.







wezan
Registered User

Jul 6 2013, 9:37pm

Post #16 of 20 (165 views)
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Sentience in Middle-earth [In reply to] Can't Post

--Sentience in Middle-earth--

Is the conception of Tolkienís cosmos underlain with an equivalent of the Renaissanceís Great Chain of Being? Or what is the hierarchy of the powers in Tolkienís world and what does each power owe to the powers above and the powers below. Where do human fall in this ranking and what do they owe to those above them and those below them and where does sentience fit into this possible system and its possible obligations?

These are the questions I have wondered about for a long time. I am not sure these questions can be answered and getting there would require a boat load of research, so mostly these questions remain in an armchair-theoretical state for me.

What makes Ardan hierarchies so interesting is that the higher powers have imprinted the world with their influence long before elves or humans arose. They were in original conception creatures of spirit and will, who could, if they chose, manifest themselves in matter either non-living matter, mountains, natural forces like wind and water, or they could incarnate themselves into living things. Across deep-time these collective experiments of the Valar and Maiar contributed to the shape and disposition of the lands and creatures of Arda and eventually Middle-earth.

This means the Middle-earth has a very long history of strange living anomalies, of creatures that have been born of intentional and unintentional, good and bad, tampering by the powers. Some of these tamperings creating descendents that still inhabit the lands of middle-earth. These hybrid forms have hybrid natures and so make them difficult to classify with respect to sentience or in their ability to have moral and ethical thinking--even if they have attributes like language which we might associate with sentience, they might not have the mental architecture to qualify as sentient creatures.

This brings on the difficult question of where does sentience fall within this postulated hierarchy, where and how does Middle-earth metaphysics make the division between being a person and being an animal? Where is the dividing line? What are the attributes that make for the dividing line and an even more basic question--Is there a dividing line? I think these are all issues and questions that interested Tolkien. His hybrid forms have much to show us about how we might approach these complex issues in his fiction and also in our own lives.

I am very interested in contemporary dialogues about animal rights and also of how scientific discoveries about mind, self-awareness and consciousness are adding new perspectives to these old questions.

--More Later. Wezan


Lothwen
Rivendell


Jul 7 2013, 11:59am

Post #17 of 20 (114 views)
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Ah, the complications... [In reply to] Can't Post

Now that you mention it, I remember that with Aule and his Dwarves, which of course blows my dragon/eagle theory even more. Laugh


Quote
but, he infused his power into middle earth itself (the marring), so perhaps that is why dragons and trolls and orcs survive on without him.


This could be; it does seem pretty logical.

Thanks for answering my questions,
Lothwen Smile

'There lie the woods of Lothlorien!' said Legolas. 'That is the fairest of all the dwellings of my people. There are no trees like the trees of that land. For in the autumn their leaves fall not, but turn to gold.'


noWizardme
Grey Havens


Jul 7 2013, 3:59pm

Post #18 of 20 (86 views)
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I'm looking forward to that paper, Elizabeth :) // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimŽ I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Fredeghar Wayfarer
Lorien


Jul 8 2013, 3:59am

Post #19 of 20 (79 views)
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Wargs [In reply to] Can't Post

Wargs definitely had more intelligence than other animals. In The Hobbit, they speak in their harsh, growling language (which presumably only Gandalf understood). In LOTR, a group of wargs attacked the Fellowship outside the Walls of Moria and seemed to be there with purpose, not simply hunting for food. And the fact that they allow the orcs to ride them implies some sort of partnership, unless they're simply well-trained.

It's never stated outright by Tolkien but I always assumed that the intelligent, speaking animals had some sort of spirit within them. Wargs could have been descended from the Werewolves of the First Age, spirits in wolf-form. Similarly, I assume that the Eagles were either Maiar or lesser spirits in eagle-form sent as messengers of Manwe.


Otaku-sempai
Half-elven


Jul 8 2013, 2:36pm

Post #20 of 20 (78 views)
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The Warg attack in FotR [In reply to] Can't Post

The bodies of the Wargs that attacked the Fellowship outside Moria disappeared with the dawn, suggesting that they were not true Wargs, but Werewolves instead. If anything, they probably possessed an even higher degree of intelligence than 'normal' Wargs.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Jul 8 2013, 2:38pm)

 
 

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