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The Elvenking and the Wood-elves

MirielCelebel
Rivendell


Jul 6 2014, 1:31am

Post #1 of 24 (657 views)
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The Elvenking and the Wood-elves Can't Post

For some time now I have been working on a nonfiction work in which I analyze both Tolkien's masterpiece and Peter Jackson's adaptations. I don't like to call it a compare and contrast piece because I think that simplifies something much more complex. Both art forms (book and film) are two very different mediums and ways to express ideas. They should be different. I have mentioned this project before and a few might remember, but I would like to present some ideas that inspired me (over time, not all at once- don't worry :) This first snippet is about Thranduil and his people. I hope you enjoy and please, comments (good and bad) are greatly appreciated.


The Elvenking and the Wood-elves
Although fans of Peter Jackson’s films know Thranduil as the father of the favorite character Legolas from The Lord of the Rings, he is unnamed in Tolkien’s original text, known simply as the Elvenking. The Wood-elves of Mirkwood are far different than their Rivendell counterparts. In fact, I have not even given the Rivendell elves a section in this chapter because although they are enjoyable and they comfort Bilbo on his short rest, they do relatively little to advance the plot of the story. The Wood-elves and their king, however, play a greatly important role. The narrator warns us that they are different from their kindred in the West and that they are “more dangerous and less wise” (H167). I once skimmed through a book which was aimed as an introductory to Tolkien’s works for those not familiar with the intricate details of his stories and was appalled to find that the author referred to the Wood-elves as evil. They are certainly not so and the narrator even makes an effort to stress that they are “not wicked people.” When Thorin and his Company come to the Woodland Realm as prisoners, the situation looks bleak but the reader knows that Bilbo is still free with his magic invisibility ring and it is here that we see his true burglar nature come through as we discussed earlier. Their hindrance of Thorin’s quest was just the motivation Bilbo needed to become a true burglar and test his abilities before putting them to work against Smaug.
We are aware of two weaknesses of the Elvenking and his people which greatly affect the Company; one such weakness is the Wood-elves’ distrust of the outside world and the other is the Elvenking’s lust for white gems and treasure. The Elves jump to conclusions too fast and believe the dwarves mean them harm when they approach them in the dark forest. Dr. Corey Olsen argues in his book Exploring the Hobbit, that if the Wood-elves “knew more and showed more wisdom and less suspicion, there would be no reason to imprison Thorin or his followers”[1] and indeed this is true. But on the other side of this argument, if they had not imprisoned the dwarves, Bilbo would have not had a second opportunity (following his interaction with Gollum) to test his burglary skills. It is also important to remember that these elves, more so than the elves of Rivendell, love nature and feel a certain connection with the natural world. According to history, the dwarves were the result of the disobedience from a lesser deity against Ilúvatar, so perhaps the Elves viewed them as a violation against nature. Either way, their general distrust of strangers is responsible for their rash action to imprison the dwarves.
The great weakness of the Elvenking is treasure, more specifically “silver and white gems” (H168). The ironic part of this weakness is that it is not so far different from the weakness of Thorin. He too desires the riches under the Lonely Mountain. In fact, we can go even further in comparisons by saying that both dwarves and the Wood-elves live underground. While most of the elves live in the surrounding woods and in the trees, Thranduil himself lives beneath the earth. These two leaders are not so different from one another but their distrust of each other leads to terrible consequences and almost war at the foot of the Mountain. It is only fitting that after Thorin Oakenshield falls on the battlefield, it is the Elvenking who lays the Elvish blade Orcrist at his side beneath the mountain. This is perhaps one of the most powerful images in Tolkien’s writing, matched only by Thranduil’s son, Legolas, who departs over the seas with Gimli. The animosity and redemption between these two races is played out beautifully into the complex narrative.


[1] Olsen, pg. 168
Note on reference: H=The Hobbit

"The Road goes ever on..."

Writing Bliss


Otaku-sempai
Half-elven


Jul 6 2014, 3:37pm

Post #2 of 24 (396 views)
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Thorin's silence [In reply to] Can't Post

One wonders why Thorin didn't try the same story that he used in Goblin-town: Claim that he and his companions were traveling to visit their kin in the Iron Mountains. True, it didn't work with the goblins, but--face it--the Great Goblin was not about to let the company leave no matter what they said. It was a credible story and (in the book at least) the Elvenking did not seem to immediately recognize Thorin. Even when Thranduil did know who Thorin was, the story would have been plausible.

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


MirielCelebel
Rivendell


Jul 6 2014, 6:33pm

Post #3 of 24 (364 views)
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You know, I thought the same thing [In reply to] Can't Post

when I first read it. I honestly believe Thorin's pride is to blame. His hatred for the elves made him say "I don't need to tell you any of business!" (No matter how childish that may sound). Would it have made things go differently? Maybe but it certainly proved Bilbo worthy to be in the company so that at least was a positive of the Mirkwood experience.

"The Road goes ever on..."

Writing Bliss


IdrilLalaith
Rivendell


Jul 6 2014, 10:02pm

Post #4 of 24 (377 views)
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Interesting [In reply to] Can't Post

I like the comparison of Thranduil and Thorin. You should play up their similarities. Maybe that's why there's so much conflict between them--they're too similar.


In Reply To
According to history, the dwarves were the result of the disobedience from a lesser deity against Ilúvatar, so perhaps the Elves viewed them as a violation against nature.


It seems unlikely that the Elves of Mirkwood would have known the origins of the Dwarves. That knowledge would have had to come from the Noldor or from the Dwarves themselves. Elves may have dismissed the stories of the Dwarves regarding their own origins. I don't think there's much evidence of the Elves of Mirkwood interacting with the Noldor. Not enough to bring this us as a reason why the Elves dislike the Dwarves, IMO.

TolkienBlog.com


Hamfast Gamgee
Gondor

Jul 13 2014, 11:11pm

Post #5 of 24 (286 views)
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I think the main reason for distrust between Dwarves and Elves [In reply to] Can't Post

Are from the events in the later chapters in the Silm as is even mentioned in the Hobbit. And the estrangement following the Balrog in Moria.


IdrilLalaith
Rivendell


Jul 14 2014, 4:27am

Post #6 of 24 (278 views)
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I always wonder [In reply to] Can't Post

How likely is it that the Elves of Mirkwood would have known (or cared) about the Nauglamír incident? I think it's much more likely that the Balrog's awakening made Elves mistrustful of Dwarves. Legolas even references it before he sings the song of Nimrodel.

TolkienBlog.com


Darkstone
Immortal


Jul 14 2014, 9:28pm

Post #7 of 24 (275 views)
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I bet... [In reply to] Can't Post

...it has something to do Bilbo's mithril shirt. Obviously, like the Nauglamír, the Dwarves changed their mind about delivery. It seems to be part of an overall pattern of Non-Delivery of Merchandise. Dwarves seem to just love scamming Elves!

Never trust a Dwarven internet sales site!

******************************************
"We’ve heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true."
-Robert Wilensky


IdrilLalaith
Rivendell


Jul 16 2014, 4:24am

Post #8 of 24 (245 views)
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Interesting! [In reply to] Can't Post

I never really thought about the mithril shirt in that way. I forgot that it was made for an Elven prince. I guess I just assumed that the dragon attacked before it could be delivered. How convenient... Tongue

TolkienBlog.com


Otaku-sempai
Half-elven


Jul 16 2014, 1:32pm

Post #9 of 24 (249 views)
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Bilbo's Mithril Shirt [In reply to] Can't Post

The shirt wasn't necessarily made for an Elven youth. It might have been intended for a Mannish prince instead (the son of Girion?).

EDIT: I take it back. Upon review of the book, the statement is given as fact and not supposition!

'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 16 2014, 1:36pm)


IdrilLalaith
Rivendell


Jul 19 2014, 6:33pm

Post #10 of 24 (222 views)
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That begs the question [In reply to] Can't Post

For what Elf-child was that mithril shirt made? Elrond's children were certainly full-grown. There's no evidence that Círdan had children (plus it seems unlikely that Mithlond would be dangerous enough to warrant such a shirt). Galadriel and Celeborn didn't have any children (and Lórien was well-guarded then anyway). It must have been Mirkwood, then. Unless it was a "lesser" unnamed Elf who ordered it.

That leads me to a larger question--what to Elves export that they could afford a mithril shirt? I have to re-read the Hobbit, but IIRC there's little talk of exports from Mirkwood--just imports.

TolkienBlog.com


Otaku-sempai
Half-elven


Jul 19 2014, 6:57pm

Post #11 of 24 (222 views)
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Leggy? [In reply to] Can't Post

We can speculate that the mithril shirt was intended for a young Legolas or perhaps a sibling (we just don't know if Thranduil sired any other children). Did Legolas have a brother or sister who died young? Perhaps as a victim of the perils of Mirkwood?

There are a few possible exports for the Mirkwood Elves: Exotic woods; wood-crafted items; porcelain; longbows; spidersilk cloth; jewelry; herbs; fruit; nuts; fish; salted foods; pelts; decorative feathers.

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


IdrilLalaith
Rivendell


Jul 20 2014, 9:43pm

Post #12 of 24 (200 views)
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Seems likely [In reply to] Can't Post

Which could point to an age for Legolas. It seems like too much speculation to suppose that Legolas had siblings--there's simply no evidence.

Excellent points regarding exports. The building up of wealth isn't typically something Tolkien discusses, but I agree that your ideas make sense.

TolkienBlog.com


Otaku-sempai
Half-elven


Jul 20 2014, 9:49pm

Post #13 of 24 (201 views)
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Oh heck... [In reply to] Can't Post

We don't even know the name of Thrandui's queen--much less if she is alive and well at the end of the Third Age. However, if the mithril shirt was intended for a small Legolas, it was probably crafted at least one thousand years earlier.Movie-books give Leggy a birth-year near the beginning of the Third Age and they might not be too far off.

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


Laineth
Rivendell

Jul 21 2014, 3:36am

Post #14 of 24 (193 views)
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Legolas... [In reply to] Can't Post

… Personally, I think he was born in the later half of the Watchful Peace, making him c. 600 or 700 (Tinw's essay is a great source; and that quote about oak trees still fits, as most have a lifespan of 200-400 years (source)).

As for the mithril-coat, we have no way of knowing when it was made. Gandalf says that mithril was only found in Moria, but as Gimli and the dwarves make Aragorn gates of mithril and steel, there has to be some more available. If the coat was for Legolas, it would be very interesting to know why he never got it!


Cirashala
Grey Havens


Jul 21 2014, 5:41am

Post #15 of 24 (201 views)
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actually, Celeborn and Galadriel had at least one daughter [In reply to] Can't Post

as Galadriel's daughter Celebrian was Arwen's mommy Tongue

But I would deem it more likely that the shirt was made for one of Thranduil's offspring, possibly Legolas (unless he sired other unnamed children, which is entirely possible).

IIRC, in the books/appendices Thranduil had a decent amount of gold and gems, and since he never acquired an elven ring to protect his realm he seemed a bit more bent on acquiring more wealth in order to compensate for that particular slight/shortcoming. We know they had a trade agreement with Laketown, and since he had Dorwinion wine in his cellars we know his people at least trade as far as the sea of Rhun, which is quite a distance in ME.

I would imagine that the forest, when it was healthy, could produce quite a bit of tradeable goods. Oak trees were prolific, as Legolas mentions seeing many an oak grow from acorn to ruinous age in LOTR. So nuts may be one export. hithlain (elvish rope) could be another (we know Lorien elves made it, and the Silvan population in Lorien are distant kin of the forest realm Silvan elves), as well as high quality fabrics, jewelry possibly, etc (if there was a gold source nearby- not Erebor, but another, or a trade agreement in place for gold bullion that could be crafted once it arrived then sold). The forest would likely give them nuts, seeds, animal hides/furs, leather and leather crafted things (armor, belts, scabbards, quivers, etc), antlers, quality oak and maybe other hardwoods, berries/wine made from wild berries perhaps (I've tasted huckleberry wine, and I don't care for wine in general but others with me who do like wine liked it).

But out of those things I mentioned above, I could see animal hides and good quality hardwood to be the most likely export, and possibly jewelry and woven silks and other high quality or embroidered fabrics, in terms of being the most profitable.

And Thranduil's father, and possibly Thranduil himself, came originally from Beleriand, where they dwelt in Doriath (at least in some versions of Tolkien's writings- he wasn't terribly consistent with all his elvish refugees). They had to cross the Blue Mountains, and the Misty Mountains, and there are some mountains to the south of the present realm's location. And where there are mountains (and the Anduin being fed from mountains- they originally settled down in the southern parts of Mirkwood), gold can very well be found.

Precious metals are often found either in streams through gold panning that have their source in mountains, or in mines in the mountains. Tectonic activity and the pressure occurring where plates push up against each other (hence mountains) tend to have a higher concentration of them than elsewhere- which is why gold in the US has been found in Alaskan mountains, the Sierra Nevadas (California gold rush 1849), and the Rocky Mountains (Pike's Peak or bust), as well as Central America (mostly mountainous), but not much was found on the east coast when North America was first settled by European immigrants (the east coast doesn't have mountains nearby- the Appalachians are quite a ways inland).

Hope that answers your question Smile



(This post was edited by Cirashala on Jul 21 2014, 5:41am)


HeWhoArisesinMight
Rivendell


Jul 21 2014, 8:32pm

Post #16 of 24 (197 views)
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'Made in Mirkwood' [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
There are a few possible exports for the Mirkwood Elves: Exotic woods; wood-crafted items; porcelain; longbows; spidersilk cloth; jewelry; herbs; fruit; nuts; fish; salted foods; pelts; decorative feathers.




These are interesting possibilities for an Elvish export trade, but I wonder if the inherent value in Elvish goods was that they were made by Elves, rather so much the product itself. Mirkwood might have been a place where you could gather exotic herbs and some specialized wood/lumber, but it seems to me that there were places where you could get fruits, nut and fish much cheaper and in greater quantity. In fact, it seemed food was very scarce in Mirkwood; if we go back to The Hobbit and see how hard it was for the Dwarves and Bilbo to find anything to eat -- much less drink -- there (they caught a few squirrels that tasted horrible). I would imagine the fish would be poisonous as well given the spell on the rivers. (Aside: Mirkwood would probably have provided great lumber if not for the spell put on the forest by the Necromancer/Sauron. So we have to take into account the Necromancer as a "negative externality" that drove down the quality and brand recognition of Mirkwood products).


Now, silks might be a very special and expensive product that the Mirkwood Elves could profit greatly from. However, I don't know whether the climate of Mirkwood was conducive to producing the raw materials necessary to make porcelain or if there were large enough mammals for pelts; the Mirkwood deer could be an exception, but maybe other large mammals were there. I doubt there were large quantities of precious rocks in Mirkwood, but the Elves themselves might have not mined raw gems, but may have instead processed them.


This brings me to my initial point: Maybe Mirkwood wasn't a place for finding raw materials (and the evidence from the books seems to support this theory), but the Elves processed or manufactured high-quality goods. So to stamp something "Made in Mirkwood," meant that it was a very expensive good. Similar to the toys made in Dale.


My best guess about wealth-building in Mirkwood is that those Elves were manufacturers, which is why they imported so many raw materials. They then sent back finished goods. Of course, this is not "canon" and isn't mentioned anywhere in the legendarium, however I don't think such an inference is off base. Wouldn't it be cool to have weapons or clothes that were made in Mirkwood?




Otaku-sempai
Half-elven


Jul 21 2014, 9:07pm

Post #17 of 24 (177 views)
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The Wood-elves' Realm vs. Mirkwood proper. [In reply to] Can't Post

I presume that the creatures and plants of the Woodland Realm are more wholesome than those of the rest of Mirkwood. I also assume from the evidence of The Hobbit that the Wood-elves usually used trade and barter rather than money. The Mountains of Mirkwood were infested with dangerous creatures, but they were probably the source for a number of minerals and precious metals.

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


Laineth
Rivendell

Jul 22 2014, 2:10am

Post #18 of 24 (167 views)
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Hello [In reply to] Can't Post

First of all, this sounds like a great idea. Are you using materials that are not LotR or TH, like UT? If you are, we get some great background information on Thranduil.

While it says Thranduil's greatest weakness is treasure, he is actually the most level-headed one:


Quote
But the king, when he received the prayers of Bard, had pity, for he was the lord of a good and kindly people; so turning his march, which had at first been direct towards the Mountain, he hastened now down the river to the Long Lake. - Fire and Water

And:

"Fools!" laughed Bard, "to come thus beneath the Mountain's arm! They do not understand war above ground, whatever they may know of battle in the mines. There are many of our archers and spearmen now hidden in the rocks upon their right flank. Dwarf-mail may be good, but they will soon be hard put to it. Let us set on them now from both sides, before they are fully rested!"

But the Elvenking said: "Long will I tarry, ere I begin this war for gold. The dwarves cannot pass us, unless we will, or do anything that we cannot mark. Let us hope still for something that will bring reconciliation. Our advantage in numbers will be enough, if in the end it must come to unhappy blows." - The Clouds Burst


So I don't think we can really compare him to Thorin (at least in this sense) as he really acts quite the opposite way.


IdrilLalaith
Rivendell


Jul 22 2014, 3:26am

Post #19 of 24 (159 views)
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I actually misspoke [In reply to] Can't Post

I knew Celebrían was Celeborn and Galadriel's daughter. I actually meant to say that they didn't have any young children at the time.

Thank you for the thorough answer! That all makes sense.

TolkienBlog.com


Ithilisa
Bree

Jul 22 2014, 9:51am

Post #20 of 24 (141 views)
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You make some great points about possible exports. But I have some questions. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
...since he never acquired an elven ring to protect his realm he seemed a bit more bent on acquiring more wealth to compensate for that particular slight/ shortcoming.




What did Thranduil know about the rings? Did all elves know about the location of the Three Rings? I had thought they were kept secret by the ring bearers, which would mean at that time only Galadriel (and possibly Celeborn), Elrond, Cirdan, and Gandalf would know where they were located. If he knew who possessed them, I could see him feeling slighted, but if the identities of who bore them (and therefore which elven realms benefited from their power)was a secret known only to the ringbearers, there might be another motivation for him to acquire wealth.


HeWhoArisesinMight
Rivendell


Jul 22 2014, 5:16pm

Post #21 of 24 (129 views)
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The Wood Elves realm... [In reply to] Can't Post

seems rather small on the map of ME. I was never really sure of its boundaries. Would the borders be the Mountains of Mirkwood to the South, Forest River to the North, River Running to the East and there is an unnamed spur of River Running to the West?


I am not sure whether Thrandruil claimed all of Mirkwood (formerly Greenwood) as his domain. During the Necromancer's rule, I would argue although Thrandruil might have made claim to the entire forest, the Necromancer controlled the southern portions from Dol Goldur. After Sauron's fall, maybe Thrandruil reclaimed the entire forest and returned it to Greenwood the Great. If that is the case (ruling before and after the Necromancer), Greenwood would have extensive natural resources. If it is just the small domain I outlined above, don't think that would be the case and the Elves probably thrived off manufacture rather than raw goods...


Nevertheless, your point is taken. Smile


Cirashala
Grey Havens


Jul 22 2014, 5:26pm

Post #22 of 24 (135 views)
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rings [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, he knew that he didn't have one, but that there were three in existence. And likely the three would be in the hands of leadership, not common folk. So it wouldn't take much deduction from there to figure out at least closely who has them. He would probably think either Galadriel or Celeborn, Cirdan, and Elrond (or that Elrond's was lost when Gil-galad fell). I doubt he knew that Gandalf had one- few did.

With four elven realms in ME, his being one, it wouldn't take much logic to figure out that the other three were likely the ones that had them.



Otaku-sempai
Half-elven


Jul 22 2014, 8:46pm

Post #23 of 24 (125 views)
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The Woodland Realm [In reply to] Can't Post

At the most conservative guess, Thranduil's domain would have extended from the east bank of the Forest River to the Eaves of Northern Mirkwood. A more general estimate might include everything north of the Elf-path. At the end of the Third Age, it included everyting north of the Old Forest Road and the Mountains of Mirkwood.

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


Ithilisa
Bree

Jul 22 2014, 9:01pm

Post #24 of 24 (160 views)
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3 rings, 4 realms [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh, that explains it how he would know. Thank you. I'd been reading Unfinished Tales lately and forgot the number of Elven realms had dropped so low by the Third Age.

 
 

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