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Middle-earth poll

30th April 2015 (12:58)

Because i'm curious about people's opinions on certain contentious items of Middle-earth canon, here's a poll! (Plus a few silly questions for light relief.) Please feel free to skip questions if you don't know or don't have an answer, or reply in comments if your answer would start, "Well, it's more complicated than that..."

(Note: the second responsse to the extramarital sex question was supposed to be 'Very, very, VERY rarely. It's not normal at all." rather than copying the last bit of the previous answer. Unfortunately I can't seem to edit it now it's posted.)

Poll #2009775 Middle-earth poll

Tolkien's poetry:

I love it
I hate it
Some of it is good, other bits are regrettable

What was Galadriel's role at the Kinslaying of Alqualondë?

She stayed out of it altogether
She fought for the Noldor against the Teleri
She fought for the Teleri against the Noldor
She fought, but for neither and/or both sides

When did Amrod die?

At the burning of the ships at Losgar
At the Third Kinslaying at the Havens of Sirion

How large was the Host of the Noldor that Fëanor and Fingolfin led back to Middle-earth?

Tens of thousands
Hundreds of thousands

How do you prefer to eat fish?

Fried with potatoes
Raw and juicy
Some other fancy way of cooking it
I don't eat fish

How many Balrogs are there in Angband?

Hundreds, if not thousands
Seven powerful ones, and a whole host of 'lesser' ones

Do those Balrogs have wings?

Some do, some don't
They have wings but they can't fly

In the First Age, are humans generally bigger and stronger than elves?

Yes, that's why the elves valued their help so much against Morgoth
No, elves are stronger, tougher and entirely more awesome than humans.

Do elves have extramarital sex?

No, it's psychologically or even physiologically impossible for them to do so
em to do so
They do, but they strongly disapprove of it and claim they don't
They have pretty much the same attitudes as modern Western people do
They're very relaxed about the idea and generally have open relationships.

While digging your garden, you unearth a Silmaril. What do you do?

Wear it on a necklace
Wear it on a headband
Wear it in an Iron Crown
Give it to your fiancé(e)'s father
Feed it to your dog
Lock it away in a deep, well-protected vault
Throw it away
Wait with happy anticipation for the Sons of Fëanor to come and visit your house


Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 30th April 2015 18:51 (UTC)

This is to explain my own answers to the poll:

1. I think his poems are highly variable in quality, but (especially in the context of the Silmarillion) I do have a soft spot for the Lay of Leithian.

2. Given that Tolkien himself couldn't make up his mind about her role, my preference is to make it complicated. I think she started out fighting on Fëanor's side, out of naive enthusiasm, but was horrified at the sight of innocent civilians being cut down in the crossfire and either put down her weapons, or switched sides to defend them.

3. I'm torn. The Losgar story is probably canon in the sense that it was Tolkien's final idea, but it seems like pointless nastiness to make Fëanor look even worse than he did before. I suspect that in HoMe-CV Amrod will survive, though perhaps be a bit singed around the edges...

4. I reckon there were about 100,000 Noldor in total before they headed off into exile, with 30,000 following Fëanor, 60,000 Fingolfin and 10,000 staying behind with Finarfin. In that sort of ballpark, anyway.

Two hundred ships with 150 people in each of them works; and Gondolin had a population of one-third of Fingolfin's host plus lots of Sindar, and was able to send an army of 10,000 to the Fifth Battle.

5. Fish and chips! Gollum would hate me.

6. Again, I split the difference and suggest there were seven powerful ones - immortal Maiar - and an emergency breeding programme of hundreds of lesser Balrogs who were basically just fiery shadow-demons, and scores of them were killed at the Fall of Gondolin.

7. Balrogs definitely can't fly since all recorded cases of them being killed involved them falling over cliffs (or into fountains)!

8. I'd say that yes, they are bigger and stronger on average. Elves are faster and more dexterous and have greater skill due to centuries of practice; but a naturally talented human warrior like Húrin or Túrin or Tuor could defeat most elves in single combat.

9. Here I think that canonically, elves are pretty much asexual apart from a brief period after their marriage; but I'm happy to accept sexy elves in fanfic...

10. Nothing good comes of trying to keep a Silmaril for yourself.

Posted by: Garth St.Claire (Garth St.Claire)
Posted at: 30th April 2015 21:51 (UTC)

Good answers, but I disagree on the Galadriel fighting for Feanor one. Not because I think Galadriel is too "pure" or "good" to kill Teleri, but simply because I think she hated Feanor too much to fight for him. To me she did not even follow Feanor, she just wanted to go to Middle Earth and have her own kingdom.
She might have fought if she saw/thought Fingolfin, his sons or her brothers in danger.
The idea of her fighting for the Teleri is very nice but it makes her standing among the Noldor afterwards a bit awkward...
Even with Galadriel being Galadriel, you don't want one of your leaders being someone who might turn on you. This might explain why she didn't actually get her own kingdom in Beleriand, despite her ambitions.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 1st May 2015 11:11 (UTC)

I think Galadriel's story is broad enough in the books that you can interpret it multiple ways.

The way I prefer to think of her is that pre-Exile, she was (as I said before) naive but enthusiastic; and I think she agreed with Fëanor's ideas ("No oaths she swore, but the words of Fëanor had kindled in her heart") but had an entirely personal dislike of him that wasn't entirely rational - though doubtless based on an instinctive understanding of his character flaws.

As such, I can actually see her thinking at first that stealing the Teleri's ships was a clever idea, and the right thing to do - while simultaneously being angry with Fëanor for messing it up. If she'd been in charge, she'd have sneaked in and been away with the ships before the Teleri even noticed; but Uncle Fëanor is a stupid, arrogant, blundering oaf who thought he could just walk in and take the ships, and when that didn't work turned to violence. Idiot.

I do think Galadriel feels enormous guilt later on - I think that's why she goes to stay with Melian rather than take a kingdom for herself, and then refuse the pardon of the Valar to stay in exile. To me, that strongly implies she did something she was deeply ashamed of at Alqualondë.

I think it works neatly, and is good psychology, if her crime was not 'just' participating in the Kinslaying, but realising that if she'd been High Queen of the Noldor, she'd have given the same orders as Fëanor did. She can't just blame him - whom she dislikes - for the slaughter; she has to accept that the same flaws that led him to that crime lie within her too.

That's a horrifying discovery for her; and it's why she decides she must not accept a position of responsibility or rule over others until she's spent a few centuries learning more wisdom and insight from one of the Ainur.

What I imagine her actually doing at Alqualondë, for the record - whether this will find its way into HoMe-CV is an open question - is being part of the Noldor army under Fingon that heard the sounds of fighting and thought the Teleri were attacking them. Being wise, she quickly realised what had actually happened, and that's when her initial reaction was to think Fëanor had the right idea but messed it up. But then I imagine her seeing some horrible sight - maybe a Noldo mad with battle cutting down an unarmed Teleri civilian - and reacting with revulsion at the situation, and at herself for her earlier thought that this was a good idea.

After that, I picture her trying to get civilians to safety; or maybe setting herself in a doorway or passage leading to where some Teleri families had taken shelter, and fighting back any Noldor who try to get past her. So she's "fighting for the Teleri", but not in the active sense of leading a force against her own kindred, but in trying to prevent a (further) massacre.

As such, I don't think the other Noldor would regard her as a traitor (well, maybe the less wise and more aggressive Sons of Fëanor might, but no-one else), though they might resent her for making them ashamed of their own actions, by doing the right thing when they didn't.

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 1st May 2015 18:01 (UTC)

Fish and chips for me, too.

Doesn't it specifically say the Balrogs flew to rescue Morgoth from Ungoliant? Or is this something else Tolkien changed his mind about?

I guess Durin's Bane would have been one of the Seven, then? (Possibly the last one?)

I think Elves are... physically capable of having extramarital sex, but it would be so horrific a concept to them that only the most perverse or insane of them would ever consider it. (My interpretation of Tolkien's intent...) It would be about as rare as one hooking up with a dwarf. (Looking in your direction, Peter Jackson.)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 1st May 2015 19:10 (UTC)

Doesn't it specifically say the Balrogs flew to rescue Morgoth from Ungoliant?

No. It says they 'passed over Hithlum', which could be interpreted to mean they flew over it, but also that they just travelled through the land very quickly. (As in "they rode over the plain".)

Somewhere in HoME there's a reference to "a Balrog and two Dragons" escaping from the War of Wrath and hiding in Middle-earth.

only the most perverse or insane of them would ever consider it.ie, Maeglin...

I'd actually say that it's less likely than an elf/dwarf relationship, if we assume (as I think we should) that dwarves have fëar given to them by Ilúvatar, that are just as good as a human or elven soul. To an elf, Tauriel shacking up with Fili would be no more, and no less, disturbing than Lúthien shacking up with Beren.

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 1st May 2015 20:55 (UTC)

Well, we have at least three examples of elf/human unions (Lúthien/Beren, Eärendil/Elwing, Aragorn/Arwen), but no examples of elf/dwarf unions (or dwarf/anything else unions, for that matter). I think it's doubtful dwarves could even procreate with other races, not being true "children of Ilúvatar."

Posted by: L'Ignota (lignota)
Posted at: 2nd May 2015 01:51 (UTC)

Yes, but how much does Tolkien really tell or show us about the Dwarves? Not a lot, and most of that is filtered through Elvish or Hobbitish point of view. He never said Dwarves couldn't have relationships or reproduce with other races. :P

I tend to think that Tolkien probably didn't intend for Elves and Dwarves to hook up, but I'm happy reading or writing a lot of things in fanfiction that Tolkien didn't intend, such as same-sex relationships, non-evil Easterlings and Southrons, or women taking a more active part in events than he acknowledges.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 2nd May 2015 11:24 (UTC)

I agree - both that Tolkien never said definitively that dwarfs couldn't marry other races; and that there's a line between "the canon he probably intended" and "variations that I'm happy to read about in fic".

Note that Tolkien's dwarves love music, appreciate beauty and can fall in love (even if Gimli's love for Galadriel is platonic). They're not really the dour, gruff, drunken, Scottish-accented oafs of later representations, even if they inspired them.

Posted by: L'Ignota (lignota)
Posted at: 2nd May 2015 13:44 (UTC)

Yes, absolutely.

Posted by: salazar_quinn (salazar_quinn)
Posted at: 2nd May 2015 00:11 (UTC)

Because I get needlessly uptight about such things - I voted that Elves are taller and stronger but not more awesome. Definitely not more awesome. Partially *because* of being faster and stronger.
But I don't want anyone to ever have cause to think I'm not Team Hildor forever.

Posted by: L'Ignota (lignota)
Posted at: 2nd May 2015 01:53 (UTC)

I was thinking the same thing -- that my vote is for taller and stronger but not more awesome.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 2nd May 2015 11:20 (UTC)

My intro text specifically said that quibbling about the wording was welcome! :)

Though on that note I did ask if humans were bigger and stronger, not taller and stronger. What I had in mind was broader shoulders and more muscle mass, compared to tall but lithe-and-slender elves.

Bear in mind that the record for Balrog-slaying is held by a human! (Tuor 5, Ecthelion 4, Glorfindel 1, Gandalf 1) :)

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