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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
my ears are burning


Oct 22 2013, 12:55pm

Views: 134
my ears are burning [In reply to] Can't Post

tolkien describes them as having slightly leaf-shaped ears. which is an elven trait. which i find interesting.

But I wonder if Tolkien necessarily stuck to this idea, concerning Hobbits, or Elves.

warning: do not operate heavy machinery while/if reading the following

One reference comes from a letter, the other from a linguistic document called Etymologies [entry LAS1 and LAS2] written about the same time as the letter [the linguistic document is generally dated from the later 1930s to early 1940s] -- and I note that this entry was 'essentially' written again after The Lord of the Rings was published [see Words, Phrases And Passages, LAS- and SLAS-]...

... in which the formerly direct statement on Elven ears [being more pointed and leaf-shaped than human ears] no longer appears. In this later text a possible relationship between leaf and ear/listen words still exists, but no longer the direct statement as to why this is stated, which, in my opinion, then leaves it open as to who [within the story, or Tolkien as translator] thinks there is a possible relationship, and why.

Of course, not being a trained linguist myself, I could be wrong about something here, but moving possibly blindly onward...

... in other words, the revision [a later look at the same words, but in a different text, as Etymologies had been abandoned by this time] leaves things more open in my opinion.

If so, I note for example that it is said that Galadriel's name later became altered to Galadhriel -- not in Lorien or by those who knew her, however. In other words, this is a later 'internal' confusion from those not well enough acquainted with Galadriel or Lorien to know the truth [that her name did not actually contain the 'tree word' galadh]

So who is it that thinks there might be a relationship between Elvish leaf and ear/listen words? A fictive scribe in Gondor who had never met an actual Elf? Possibly Tolkien as the fictive translator, who would be well aware of the modern idea of Elves with pointed ears?

JRRT made a point to note that the Eldar, which word he translated as 'Elves' in the book, never had wings [The Return of the King Appendices], and I would say he did so as 'Elves' might bring with it certain misleading modern images, especially in the 1950s perhaps. Granted, he doesn't remark either way about ears here.

I have little doubt that when Tolkien wrote this letter and Etymologies he imagined his Elves with leaf-shaped [and more pointed] ears [than Men], and Hobbits with leaf-shaped ears as well -- again at this time however -- but for instance I also have little doubt that in The Book of Lost Tales [even earlier] his Elves were much shorter than they were later to become, and were reincarnated by being reborn as children.

I don't think JRRT wanted the ear detail, with respect to his Quendi, to be as certain as he once expressed it however.

As for Hobbits, if they certainly have leaf-shaped ears in Tolkien's own illustrations, which were published by him, then I think this notion must be accepted. However the way hair falls over the ear might make it look more pointed than it really is, and I'm not sure [when we consider this factor] that this trait is certain. I'm just wondering if JRRT was necessarily locked in to this idea by his own drawings.

Tolkien did publish a relatively detailed description of Hobbits in my opinion [as subjective as that is, I admit], but he never put the leaf-shaped Hobbit ears in print however.

(This post was edited by Elthir on Oct 22 2013, 1:00pm)

Subject User Time
Where do hobbits come from? Kalimac Send a private message to Kalimac Oct 21 2013, 12:22pm
    Eru Elthir Send a private message to Elthir Oct 21 2013, 1:28pm
        Relationship to humans Faenoriel Send a private message to Faenoriel Oct 21 2013, 1:37pm
    It does seem a bit uncharacteristic that Tolkien has no backstory for them (as far as I know).// noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Oct 21 2013, 8:24pm
        Yes, odd CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Oct 21 2013, 9:33pm
            I’ve got a theory Kalimac Send a private message to Kalimac Oct 21 2013, 9:55pm
                Lost in translation CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Oct 21 2013, 10:36pm
                    Another thought... cats16 Send a private message to cats16 Oct 21 2013, 11:55pm
                        Really enjoyed this fresh perspective, especially resetting the clock. CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Oct 22 2013, 12:17am
                            Thank you. Glad it threw a different perspective out there :) // cats16 Send a private message to cats16 Oct 22 2013, 3:28am
        It's not as uncharacteristic as all that squire Send a private message to squire Oct 21 2013, 11:23pm
        Because they're the humans of the story Faenoriel Send a private message to Faenoriel Oct 22 2013, 7:35am
    From the East Otaku-sempai Send a private message to Otaku-sempai Oct 22 2013, 12:05am
    i believe Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Oct 22 2013, 2:59am
        my ears are burning Elthir Send a private message to Elthir Oct 22 2013, 12:55pm
            Oddly, I have it the other way around. squire Send a private message to squire Oct 22 2013, 6:14pm
                Yes that's... Elthir Send a private message to Elthir Oct 22 2013, 8:45pm


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