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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Were the stars really brighter in ME?

Cirashala
Tol Eressea


Feb 5, 11:22pm

Post #1 of 17 (584 views)
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Were the stars really brighter in ME? Can't Post

Going by Tolkien's conceit that ME was a long-ago version of our world's history, I was listening to a rendition of Elbereth a Gilthoniel II on youtube and it got me to thinking about the stars of ME. (The rendition was beautiful by the way-simply stunning in it's vocals. Done by the Tolkien Ensemble).

Now, I know elves have excellent eyesight and all, but do you think that the stars were far brighter than they are now in our world (the real world)? I've been out in the middle of nowhere, Utah (US) on a road trip where the rest area was dark, I lost the coin toss, as it were, and my family camped out in our minivan. My sisters got the front seats, my parents folded the back bench seats over and made a bed on that, and I got stuck squeezed between the middle bench and the front seats on the floor.

Needless to say, I didn't get a lick of sleep and was extremely sore for the rest of the trip (Colorado to California to visit family). BUT I DID get to see the night sky in all its glory Heart SO beautiful!

But even with all the stars that I never knew existed (due to light pollution), it was still pretty stinking dark. So, that begs the question-were the stars bright enough to see and function even in the dark (like how a full moon night might be here)? Or was it elf-eyes that aided them in being able to see and function as a society?

Or was it residual light from the Two Trees in Valinor? Did the light even reach Arda from Aman?

My writing and novels:

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You can also find my novel at most major book retailers online (and for those outside the US who prefer a print book, you can find the print version at Book Depository). Search "Amazing Grace Amanda Longpre'" to find it.

Happy reading everyone!


(This post was edited by Cirashala on Feb 5, 11:24pm)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Feb 6, 6:02pm

Post #2 of 17 (487 views)
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Looking at the First Age through rose-colored glasses [In reply to] Can't Post

I guess I would say Tolkien *wanted* the starlight be brighter back then, so it was. But like your road trip, whenever I've been in remote areas with no moonlight, I have not thought the starlight did anything to illuminate the ground or anything else. Sure, the stars in the sky are pretty, and it's cool to see the Milky Way as more than just a smudge, but for practical matters of actually seeing something at night, no, I don't think they do the job.

It does make me wonder how often Tolkien was outside of light-polluted areas.


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 6, 9:21pm

Post #3 of 17 (466 views)
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Exactly [In reply to] Can't Post

I once tried to walk, by starlight alone, through the country from Granchester back to Cambridge (where I was living at the time). I nearly fell in the river. It was the Rupert Brooke (the pub I’d been to - not the river: that was the Cam). Whether elves would have done that, I doubt.

If we’re taking these “how exactly” things seriously I think it should probably fall under Bellisario's Maxim (https://tvtropes.org/...ain/BellisariosMaxim ) - a plea not to overthink details unnecessary to the enjoyment of a story, and an exhortation to not let the obsession with those unimportant details get in the way of the tale.

Of course, total seriousness is not the only mode - I notice that elves kinda glow in the dark (though probably spiritually, rather than bio-luminescently, or like cyclons, though under different circumstances). Maybe that helps them get around? Or, having walked back home from the pub zillions of times, maybe elves would know their way around blindfold, even after a few pints of Abbot’s Ale? Then again, I suppose Gildor is a Londoner, since he observes that “courage is found in unlikely places”, and Courage is a London brewery. Finding its beer in Cambridgeshire might indeed be unlikely. So maybe, after a visit to an unfamiliar pub, Gildor would become sufficiently distracted by seeing ”the branches stir/across the moon at Granchester” to fall in the River. But I propose not to comb HoME to try and find out.

But then yet again, if we are fantasising about what is fitting for fiction rather than limited by limp and lumpen lugubrious reality, then I really would have fallen in the river that night. And “Elbereth” would probably not have been my exclamation as I went in - I would most like have resorted to something more ...Anglo-Saxon.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


Ataahua
Superuser / Moderator


Feb 6, 9:46pm

Post #4 of 17 (461 views)
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It'd certainly make them easier targets in the dark... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I notice that elves kinda glow in the dark (though probably spiritually, rather than bio-luminescently, or like cyclons, though under different circumstances). Maybe that helps them get around?


...unless they can switch off the glow when enemies might be near.

Angelic

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 6, 10:28pm

Post #5 of 17 (455 views)
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Of course “brighter stars” is also a perfectly workable solution [In reply to] Can't Post

I wouldn’t want to be a Lumentroll about it. Or a Snark Maiden. But wait - that’s another story, by Tove!

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


squire
Half-elven


Feb 6, 10:33pm

Post #6 of 17 (458 views)
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I get the feeling it's the other way around. [In reply to] Can't Post

The "light" of the Elves, whether in their eyes or their bodies or their weapons, is often said to terrify, dismay, or ward off the servants of the enemy.

One thing I remember about Elves and starlight is that several times we're told (I think) that we can see the starlight reflected in their eyes at night. That's always struck me as unlikely, following NoWiz's note about just how dim starlight really is. But of course it's not 'unlikely', it's an indication that starlight in Middle-earth does have a different quality, if not quantity, than in our own more mundane world.

Fairly recently we were talking about the nature of the light that Gildor's company walked in, to the hobbits' eyes in the Shire. My impression was that the light was not given off by the Elves' bodies ('glow in the dark', indeed!) but was falling on the ground around their feet, from a source that was not actually visible in the sky. As if, one might say, they remember what it's like to walk in moonlight, so that they can see where they're going, and the memory becomes real in their immediate vicinity, even on nights when there is no moon to be seen. Definitely a help when getting home from the pub!



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


Lissuin
Valinor


Feb 6, 11:03pm

Post #7 of 17 (448 views)
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"(Let us not be) limited by limp and lumpen lugubrious reality". noWizardme [In reply to] Can't Post

I am taking this as the motto of my next decade, starting now. Many thanks, noWiz.

Am I glowing yet? Angelic


Ataahua
Superuser / Moderator


Feb 6, 11:36pm

Post #8 of 17 (444 views)
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Oh I do like that. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
As if, one might say, they remember what it's like to walk in moonlight, so that they can see where they're going, and the memory becomes real in their immediate vicinity


Shaping reality to their perception - a suitably advanced natural ability indistinguishable from magic.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


CuriousG
Half-elven


Feb 7, 1:40am

Post #9 of 17 (420 views)
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Lissuin, that alliteration would be even better if we could convince him to change his name to Lizardme. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


No One in Particular
Rivendell


Feb 7, 2:25am

Post #10 of 17 (416 views)
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Starlight [In reply to] Can't Post

I have only two point to observe about this; following that idea that this is a remotely historical point in our own world, we can fairly safely assume that the world population is much lower, leading to less pollution, combined with a lack of modern (post industrial revolution) technology, meaning much clearer air, thus better atmosphere for star gazing. Smile

Also, and more importantly, the world was just different back then. With the fall of Sauron and the end of the Third Age, the world changed, becoming less in some hard to define fashion, as the time of Elves ends and the time of Men begins. Possibly the exceeding brightness of the stars was some way a result of how the world was different back in the day.

While you live, shine
Have no grief at all
Life exists only for a short while
And time demands an end.
Seikilos Epitaph


Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


Feb 7, 2:42am

Post #11 of 17 (411 views)
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Favored by Elbereth? [In reply to] Can't Post

The Elves do have a special reverence and fondness for Varda. Perhaps she returns that regard, and the light of the stars about them is enhanced as a blessing from the Star-Kindler.

Silverlode

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.




noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 7, 10:17am

Post #12 of 17 (398 views)
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You could add the effect of 'the night speech of plant and stone'... [In reply to] Can't Post

Maybe I can extend this pretty idea....
Gimli says he can hear 'the night speech of plant and stone'; Legolas hears the stones of Hollin still going on about how life was better in the Second Age (we've all met a few people like that, I expect!) and Gandalf hears the 'slow everlasting groan of over-burdened stone."

For all I know these are only intended as poetic flourishes, but if I'm going to succumb to the fatal attraction of Fan Wonkery [note improved spelling, Ataahua :) ] and not leave the slightest detail be without indulging in a frenzy of speculative overthinking, then I could suggest that Middle-earth is a pretty animist place. Maybe it is much more alive than our world (or characters notice its aliveness in ways that we mostly don't - either works, I think). Perhaps you can tell where the grass or rocks (or river) are because they are in some way alive and talk to you. Maybe, the glow that hobbits sense around elves is not from them but the natural world in reaction to them. Well, I quite like that idea, but of course someone else might find it ....wonky.
(in one or more senses).

Whatever else it does, that theory of course proves nothing 'exactly'. Among the problems we have with this glow thing is that Tolkien restricts us to the observations of the Hobbits - and maybe they are not too bright. The same applies to so many other details, once we run through the (surprisingly small) stock of 'exact' information Tolkien supplied. You can only push pretending to do science or history or use other scholarly tools on Middle-earth a little before you are out of data and into a fictive process, making up more of Middle-earth in ways that of course reflect your own thoughts and wishes. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but of course it readily gives rise to ideas that don't work, don't add to the enjoyment of the story, solve a problem that was best left as a mystery, or are only interesting/ make sense to their creator. And of course, probably no agreement can be reached, and I'm not sure what woudl have been achieved if it were.

For example, someone else can perfectly well ponder 'the stars at night were clear and bright...' [i[]dum, dum, dum, dum - this proves the Shire is Texas!. And of course it is...for them.
Hmm - actually that ideas has some other merits: hold a map of Texas upside down and it looks just like Sam's hat. The Shire-folk have an extreme belief that their land is best in every way, which can seem ....charming... to folk from outside. They are afraid of their geographical neighbour and have constructed an elaborate and expensive border fortification, the ultimate benefits of which are highly debatable. Alternatively, I spelled 'dum' wrongy back there....

Personally, I find Fan Wonkery all too fatally attractive, but also frustrating. And there goes another half an hour....

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 7, 10:59am

Post #13 of 17 (394 views)
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This is an excellent idea... [In reply to] Can't Post

Then we could sing to an old Beatles song:

When we find ourselves in times of wonking*,
We remember CuriousG
With his words of wisdom, to Lizardme

[and now the chorus - all sing along!]

Lizardme, Lizardme, Lizardme, Lizardme,
There may be no answer, Lizardme.

--
* wonking - "refers to a fan's personal theory about a work, designed to resolve inconsistencies or help make sense of the work, but tending only to reveal that the fan is putting way too much thought into the exercise.(https://tvtropes.org/...iki.php/Main/FanWank - but we prefer our own spelling)
And songs are of course much better with referenced footnotes, don't you think Wink Call me 'the credible hulk' - always indicate my sources....

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Feb 7, 11:05am)


noWizardme
Valinor


Feb 7, 11:02am

Post #14 of 17 (389 views)
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..."following NoWiz's note about just how dim starlight really is" [In reply to] Can't Post

...and of course how 'dim' I really was back then, neither taking a torch nor keeping track of the time. Not my cleverest idea.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Feb 7, 2:07pm

Post #15 of 17 (364 views)
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I'm afraid that chorus will play in my head all day, and I'll have to explain random chuckling. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


CuriousG
Half-elven


Feb 7, 2:25pm

Post #16 of 17 (365 views)
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Stars 2.0 [In reply to] Can't Post

From The Silmarillion, we learn that the first stars weren't bright enough, so Varda had to prepare a second batch so the Elves could avoid falling into rivers after they left pubs at night (which was always, since there was no day):

Quote

But at the bidding of Manwë Mandos spoke, and he said: ‘In this age the Children of Ilúvatar shall come indeed, but they come not yet. Moreover it is doom that the Firstborn shall come in the darkness, and shall look first upon the stars. Great light shall be for their waning. To Varda ever shall they call at need.'

Then Varda went forth from the council, and she looked out from the height of Taniquetil, and beheld the darkness of Middle-earth beneath the innumerable stars, faint and far. Then she began a great labour, greatest of all the works of the Valar since their coming into Arda. She took the silver dews from the vats of Telperion, and therewith she made new stars and brighter against the coming of the Firstborn;


I'm thinking more and more that being born in darkness, the Elves had better night vision like animals do vs. humans. We'd need to find one at night and shine a flashlight/torch in their eyes to know for sure. I hope that's not rude.

That passage is a sad reminder that the sun, which most humans enjoy, even as sunrises and sunsets and not just overhead, is a sign of Elvish decline. Tolkien took something that very fundamentally makes humans feel happy and secure and made it into a sign of deterioration for the superior race.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 8, 1:47pm

Post #17 of 17 (324 views)
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Is the difference in the eyes of the beholders? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd be more inclined to put this down to the fact that (as you mention) the elves' vision is so much better than mortals', and considering their origins their ability to see by starlight should be especially good. After all there are plenty of animals even in our own world that are able to see in the dark, even at levels where we can see nothing. In fact the description Squire mentions of the Elves' eyes seeming to reflect starlight reminds me of the way cats' eyes reflect light. Like cats, perhaps, Elves' eyes are adapted to seeing at very low light levels, and even perhaps tuned specifically to see in starlight, the light that they are most associated with. The night must look very different to them than it does to us.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings


 
 

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