Let the Hobbit Happen "Click Here"

Search the Web

	                        TOLKIEN FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS LIST (part 1 of 2)

	  	     Questions numbered thusly:  1)  are in their final form.
	  	     Questions numbered thusly:  1]  remain unrevised.
	  	     Sections/questions marked:  *   have been revised since the last
	  	                                 **  are new since the last release.

	  	                          Table of Contents

	  	     I. Changes Since the Last Release (*)

	  	    II. Acknowledgements

	  	   III. Note on References and Conversion Table

	  	    IV. Commonly Used Abbreviations

	  	     V. Frequently Asked Questions

	  	      A) Tolkien And His Work
	  	        1) Who was J.R.R. Tolkien anyway?

	  	        2) Were the languages presented in _The Lord of the Rings_ real
	  	        3) What does it mean when people (or Tolkien himself) speak of him
	  	          as having been the "editor" of _The Lord of the Rings_ ?
	  	        4) How thoroughly realized was Tolkien's fiction that he was the
	  	          "translator" of _The Lord of the Rings_ ?
	  	        5) Why is Tolkien's work, _The Lord of the Rings_ in particular,
	  	          so difficult to translate (into other languages of our world)?

	  	        6) Did the events in _The Lord of the Rings_ take place on another
	  	          planet or what?
	  	        7) Was the northwest of Middle-earth, where the story takes place,
	  	          meant to actually be Europe?
	  	        8) Was the Shire meant to be England?

	  	        9) What were the changes made to _The Hobbit_ after _The Lord of
	  	          the Rings_ was written, and what motivated them?

	  	      B) Hobbits
	  	        1) Were Hobbits a sub-group of Humans?
	  	        2) Did Hobbits have pointed ears?
	  	        3) When was Bilbo and Frodo's Birthday?  To what date on our own
	  	          calendar does it correspond?
	  	        4) Was Gollum a hobbit?

	  	      C) Elves
	  	        1) Did Elves have pointed ears?

	  	      D) Dwarves
	  	        1) Did Dwarf women have beards?

	  	      E) Istari (Wizards)
	  	        1] Who were the Istari (Wizards)?
	  	        2] Of the Five Wizards, only three came into the story.  Was
	  	          anything known about the other two?
	  	        3] What happened to Radagast?

	  	      F) Enemies
	  	        1] What was the relationship between Orcs and Goblins?

	  	      G) Miscellaneous
	  	        1] Who or what was Tom Bombadil?
	  	        2) What became of the Entwives?


	  	                     CHANGES SINCE THE LAST RELEASE

	  	        There have been no changes since the release of 1996/07/08.



	  	  The following individuals made suggestions and contributions to these
	  	  FAQ lists:

	  	  Wayne.G.Hammond@williams.edu  (Wayne Hammond Jr)
	  	  Aelfwine@erols.com  (Carl F. Hostetter)
	  	  paul@ERC.MsState.Edu  (Paul Adams)
	  	  wft@math.canterbury.ac.nz   (Bill Taylor)
	  	  cpresson@jido.b30.ingr.com (Craig Presson)

	  	  simen.gaure@usit.uio.no     (Simen Gaure)
	  	  abalje47@uther.Calvin.EDU (Alan Baljeu)
	  	  sahdra@ecf.toronto.edu (SAHDRA KULDIP)
	  	  sherman@sol1.lrsm.upenn.edu (Bill Sherman)
	  	  markg@mistral.rice.edu   (Mark Gordon)
	  	  hunt@oils.ozy.dec.com  (Peter Hunt)
	  	  rrosen@cesl.rutgers.edu (Robert Rosenbaum)


	  	                          NOTE ON REFERENCES

	  	        There is a certain amount of cross-referencing among the questions
	  	  on both the FAQ and the LessFAQ lists.  Any questions so referred to are
	  	  specified by the list, section, and question number.  Thus, the first
	  	  question in the Hobbit section of the FAQ, "Were Hobbits a sub-group of
	  	  Humans?" would be referenced as (FAQ, Hobbits, 1).  Note that the
	  	  section "Tolkien And His Work" is referred to merely as "Tolkien" and
	  	  the section "General History of Middle-earth" is referred to merely as
	  	  "General".  E.g. the question "Who was J.R.R. Tolkien anyway?" is (FAQ,
	  	  Tolkien, 1) and the question "What exactly happened at the end of the
	  	  First Age?" is (LessFAQ, General, 1).

	  	        Sources for quotations have been provided in the form of volume
	  	  and page numbers; the specific editions utilized are listed in the next
	  	  paragraph.  For those occasions when the proper edition is not available
	  	  (and the conversion table below is not applicable) the page numbers have
	  	  been roughly located according to chapter, sub-section, or appendix,
	  	  whichever is appropriate.  For example,  RK, 57-59 (V, 2) refers to
	  	  pages 57-59 of Return of the King and further locates the pages in
	  	  chapter 2 of Book V.  PLEASE NOTE the distinction in the case of _Lord
	  	  of the Rings_ between *Volumes* and *Books*.  LotR is comprised of three
	  	  Volumes (FR, TT, and RK) and of six Books (I - VI), which are the more
	  	  natural divisions of the story into six roughly equal parts.  There are
	  	  two Books in each of the Volumes.  Other sample references are below.

	  	        References to _The Hobbit_ are from the Ballantine paperback (the
	  	  pagination has been the same since the 60's.  All other references are
	  	  to the HM hardcovers.  Sample references follow:

	  	        Hobbit, 83 (Ch V)  ==   Hobbit, chapter V

	  	        RK, 408 (App F, I, "Of Men", "Of Hobbits")  ==
	  	                               p 408 in Part I of Appendix F, the sections
	  	                                        entitled "Of Men" and "Of Hobbits"

	  	        Silm, 57 (Ch V)  ==  Silmarillion, chapter V  (BoLT and _The
	  	                                Annotated Hobbit_ treated similarly)

	  	        UT, 351 (Three, IV, iii)  ==  Unfinished Tales, Part Three,
	  	                                        Chapter IV, sub-section iii
	  	                                      (the Biography treated similarly)

	  	        Letters, 230 (#178)  ==  letter number 178.

	  	        RtMe, 53-54 (3, "Creative anachronisms")  ==
	  	                                   The Road to Middle-earth, in Chapter 3,
	  	                                       sub-section "Creative anachronisms"


	  	        In _The Atlas of Middle-earth_, Karen Wynn Fonstad provided a
	  	  Houghton-Mifflin-to-Ballantine conversion table, which is reproduced
	  	  below.  The "table" is actually a set of formulae by which HM page
	  	  numbers may be converted to Ballantine page numbers via arithmetic
	  	  involving some empirically determined constants.  Since these are
	  	  discrete rather than continuous functions the results may be off by
	  	  a page or so.

	  	  [NOTE: in the Fall of 1993, Ballantine issued a new edition of the mass
	  	  market paperback of LotR in which the text has been re-set, thereby
	  	  changing the page on which any given quote is located.  Thus, the
	  	  following table will no longer work with the latest printings, which may
	  	  be identified by the change in the color of the covers (the pictures are
	  	  unaltered): in the previous set of printings all the covers were black;
	  	  in the new set FR is green, TT is purple, and RK is red.]

	  	        HM Page            Subtract            Divide By            Add
	  	     -------------         --------            ---------          -------
	  	     FR 10 to 423             9                  .818                18
	  	     TT 15 to 352            14                  .778                16
	  	     RK 19 to 311            18                  .797                18
	  	     RK 313 to 416          312                  .781               386
	  	      H 9 to 317              8                 1.140                14
	  	     Silm 15 to 365          14                  .773                 2

	  	  Reference:  Atlas, p. 191 (first edtion), p. 192 (revised edtion)


	  	                         COMMONLY USED ABBREVIATIONS


	  	        JRRT          J.R.R. Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
	  	        CT, CJRT      Christopher Tolkien (son; editor of most posthumous

	  	        A&U, AU       George Allen & Unwin (original British publisher)
	  	        UH            Unwin Hyman (new name for A&U c. 1987(?))
	  	        HC            HarperCollins (purchased UH c. 1992; current British
	  	        HM            Houghton Mifflin (American publisher)

	  	        M-e           Middle-earth
	  	        SA            Second Age
	  	        TA            Third Age
	  	        SR            Shire Reckoning

	  	  Middle-earth Works:

	  	        H             The Hobbit
	  	        LR, LotR      The Lord of the Rings
	  	        FR, FotR      The Fellowship of the Ring
	  	        TT, TTT       The Two Towers
	  	        RK, RotK      The Return of the King

	  	        TB, ATB       The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
	  	        RGEO          The Road Goes Ever On
	  	        Silm          The Silmarillion
	  	        UT            Unfinished Tales
	  	        Letters       The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
	  	        HoMe          History of Middle-earth
	  	        BLT,BoLT      Book of Lost Tales
	  	        Lays          The Lays of Beleriand
	  	        Treason       The Treason of Isengard
	  	        Guide         The Guide to the Names in the Lord of the Rings
	  	                                        (published in _A Tolkien Compass_)

	  	  Other Works:

	  	        FGH           Farmer Giles of Ham
	  	        TL            Tree and Leaf
	  	        OFS           On Fairy-Stories
	  	        LbN           Leaf by Niggle
	  	        HBBS          The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, Beorhthelm's Son
	  	        SWM           Smith of Wootton Major
	  	        SGPO          Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Sir Orfeo
	  	        FCL           The Father Christmas Letters

	  	  Reference Works:

	  	        Biography     J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography; by Humphrey Carpenter
	  	                      (published in the US as Tolkien: A Biography)
	  	        Inklings      The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles
	  	                      Williams, and Their Friends;  by Humphrey Carpenter
	  	        RtMe          The Road to Middle-earth;  by T.A. Shippey
	  	        Scholar       J.R.R. Tolkien, Scholar and Storyteller: Essays in
	  	                      Memoriam; edited by Mary Salu and Robert T. Farrell
	  	        Atlas         The Atlas of Middle-earth;  by Karen Wynn Fonstad



	  	  1) Who was J.R.R. Tolkien anyway?

	  	        John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Englishman, scholar, and storyteller
	  	    was born of English parents at Bloemfontein, South Africa on Jan. 3,
	  	    1892 and died in England on Sept. 2, 1973.  His entire childhood was
	  	    spent in England, to which the family returned permenantly in 1896
	  	    upon the death of his father.  He received his education at King
	  	    Edward's School, St. Philip's Grammar School, and Oxford University.
	  	    After graduating in 1915 he joined the British army and saw action in
	  	    the Battle of the Somme.  He was eventually discharged after spending
	  	    most of 1917 in the hospital suffering from "trench fever".  [It was
	  	    during this time that he began The Book of Lost Tales.]

	  	        Tolkien was a scholar by profession.  His academic positions were:
	  	    staff member of the New English Dictionary (1918-20); Reader, later
	  	    Professor of English Language at Leeds, 1920-25; Rawlinson and Bosworth
	  	    Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford (1925-45); and Merton Professor of
	  	    English Language and Literature (1945-59).  His principal professional
	  	    focus was the study of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) and its relation to
	  	    linguistically similar languages (Old Norse, Old German, and Gothic),
	  	    with special emphasis on the dialects of Mercia, that part of England
	  	    in which he grew up and lived, but he was also interested in Middle
	  	    English, especially the dialect used in the _Ancrene Wisse_ (a twelfth
	  	    century manuscript probably composed in western England).  Moreover,
	  	    Tolkien was an expert in the surviving literature written in these
	  	    languages.  Indeed, his unusual ability to simultaneously read the
	  	    texts as linguistic sources and as literature gave him perspective
	  	    into both aspects; this was once described as "his unique insight at
	  	    once into the language of poetry and the poetry of language" (from
	  	    the Obituary; Scholar, p. 13).

	  	        From an early age he had been fascinated by language, particularly
	  	    the languages of Northern Europe, both ancient and modern.  From this
	  	    affinity for language came not only his profession but also his private
	  	    hobby, the invention of languages.  He was more generally drawn to the
	  	    entire "Northern tradition", which inspired him to wide reading of its
	  	    myths and epics and of those modern authors who were equally drawn to
	  	    it, such as William Morris and George MacDonald.  His broad knowledge
	  	    inevitably led to the development of various opinions about Myth, its
	  	    relation to language, and the importance of Stories, interests which
	  	    were shared by his friend C.S. Lewis.  All these various perspectives:
	  	    language, the heroic tradition, and Myth and Story (and a very real
	  	    and deeply-held belief in and devotion to Catholic Christianity) came
	  	    together with stunning effect in his stories: first the legends of the
	  	    Elder Days which served as background to his invented languages, and
	  	    later his most famous works, _The Hobbit_ and _The Lord of the Rings_.

	  	  References: Biography; Letters; RtMe (esp. ch 1, on philology);
	  	              Inklings; Scholar.

	  	  Contributors: WDBL, Wayne Hammond Jr


	  	  2) Were the languages presented in _The Lord of the Rings_ real

	  	        Most certainly they were, especially the Elven languages Sindarin
	  	    and Quenya.  "[These were] no arbitrary gibberish but really possible
	  	    tongues with consistent roots, sound laws, and inflexions, into which
	  	    he poured all his imaginative and philological powers..." (Obituary,
	  	    in Scholar, p. 12).  Furthermore, they were both derived from a
	  	    "proto-Elvish" language, again in a linguistically realistic manner.
	  	    [Sindarin was the "everyday" elvish language while Quenya was a kind
	  	    of "elf-latin"; therefore, most Elvish words in LotR were Sindarin.
	  	    Examples: most "non-English" (see FAQ, Tolkien, 4) place-names on the
	  	    map (e.g. Minas Tirith, Emyn Beriad) were Sindarin, as was the song
	  	    to Elbereth sung in Rivendell; Galadriel's lament was in Quenya.]

	  	        The language of the Rohirrim *was* a real language: Anglo-Saxon
	  	    (Old English), just as their culture (except for the horses) was that
	  	    of the Anglo-Saxons.  (It was, however, not the "standard" West Saxon
	  	    Old English but rather the Mercian equivalent (RtMe, 94).)  Most of
	  	    the other languages in LotR were much less fully developed: Entish,
	  	    Khudzul (Dwarvish) and the Black Speech (the language of Mordor, e.g.
	  	    the Ring inscription).  Adunaic, the language of Numenor, developed in
	  	    1946 while he was finishing up LotR, was said to be his fifteenth
	  	    invented language.

	  	  References: Biography, 35-37 (II,3), 93-95 (III,1), 195 (V,2);
	  	              Letters, 175-176 (#144), 219 (footnote) (#165), 380 (#297);
	  	              RtMe, 93 (4, "The horses of the Mark");
	  	              Scholar, 12 (Obituary).

	  	  Contributor: WDBL


	  	  3) What does it mean when people (or Tolkien himself) speak of him as
	  	    having been the "editor" of _The Lord of the Rings_ ?

	  	        The fiction Tolkien sought to maintain was that _The Lord of the
	  	    Rings_ (and _The Hobbit_ and the Silmarillion) were actually ancient
	  	    manuscripts (written by Frodo and Bilbo, respectively) of which he was
	  	    merely the editor and translator (a situation identical to much of his
	  	    scholarly work).  He never stated this directly but it is implicit in
	  	    the way in which many sections of LoTR outside the story are written.
	  	    Thus, the Prologue is plainly written as though by a modern editor
	  	    describing an ancient time.  Other examples are the introductory note
	  	    to the revised edition of _The Hobbit_, the Preface to _The Adventures
	  	    of Tom Bombadil_, and parts of the Appendices, especially the intro-
	  	    ductory note to Appendix A, Appendix D, and Appendix F.  Most inter-
	  	    esting of all is the Note on the Shire Records, where Tolkien further
	  	    simulates a real situation by inventing a manuscript tradition (the
	  	    suggestion was that Frodo's original manuscript didn't survive but
	  	    that a series of copies had been made, one of which had come into
	  	    Tolkien's hands).

	  	        This entire notion was by no means a new idea: many authors have
	  	    pretended that their fantasies were "true" stories of some ancient
	  	    time.  Few, however, have done so as thoroughly and successfully as
	  	    did Tolkien.  The most effective component of his pretense was the
	  	    linguistic aspects of Middle-earth, for he was uniquely qualified to
	  	    pose as the "translator" of the manuscripts (see FAQ, Tolkien, 4).

	  	  References: introductory note to _The Hobbit_ (precedes Ch I);
	  	              FR, Prologue, Note on the Shire Records;
	  	              RK, Appendix A, Appendix D, Appendix F;
	  	              ATB, Preface.

	  	  Contributor: WDBL


	  	  4) How thoroughly realized was Tolkien's fiction that he was the
	  	    "translator" of _The Lord of the Rings_ ?

	  	        Very thoroughly indeed.  The scenario was that "of course" hobbits
	  	    couldn't have spoken English (the story took place far in the past --
	  	    see FAQ, Tolkien, 6); rather, they spoke their own language, called
	  	    Westron (but often referred to as the Common Speech).  Tolkien "trans-
	  	    lated" this language into English, which included "rendering" all the
	  	    Common Speech place-names into the equivalent English place-names.
	  	    The object of the exercise was to produce the following effect: names
	  	    in the Common Speech (which were familiar to the hobbits) were
	  	    "rendered" into English (in which form they would be familiar to us,
	  	    the English-speaking readers); names in other languages (usually
	  	    Sindarin) were "left alone", and thus were equally unfamiliar to the
	  	    hobbits and to us.  Since the story was told largely from the hobbits'
	  	    point of view, that we should share their linguistic experience is a
	  	    desirable result (especially for Tolkien, who was unusually sensitive
	  	    to such matters).

	  	        In portraying the linguistic landscape of Middle-earth he carried
	  	    this procedure much further.  The main example was his "substitution"
	  	    of Anglo-Saxon for Rohirric.  The "rationale" was that the hobbits'
	  	    dialect of Westron was distantly related to Rohirric; therefore, when
	  	    hobbits heard Rohirric they recognized many words but the language
	  	    nevertheless remained just beyond understanding (RK, 65 (V,3)).  Thus,
	  	    Tolkien attempted to further "duplicate" hobbit linguistic perceptions
	  	    by "substituting" that language of our world (Anglo-Saxon) which has
	  	    (more-or-less) the same relation to English that Rohirric had to the
	  	    hobbit version of Westron.

	  	        There were many other nuances in the intricate and subtle linguis-
	  	    tic web he devised (always, he carefully explained, in the interests
	  	    of "reproducing" the linguistic map of Middle-earth in a way that
	  	    could be easily assimilated by modern English-speaking readers). Thus:

	  	      a) Archaic English roots were used in those Common Speech place-
	  	        names which were given long before the time of the story (e.g.
	  	        Tindrock, Derndingle; see Guide).

	  	      b) Some of the Stoors (who later settled in Buckland and the Marish)
	  	        dwelt in Dunland at one time (Tale of Years, entries for TA 1150
	  	        and 1630 (RK, App B)); the men of Bree also came from that region
	  	        originally (RK, 408 (App F, I, "Of Men", "Of Hobbits")).  "Since
	  	        the survival of traces of the older language of the Stoors and the
	  	        Bree-men resembled the survival of Celtic elements in England"
	  	        (RK, 414 (App F, II)), the place-names in Bree were Celtic in
	  	        origin (Bree, Archet, Chetwood) (see also Guide).  Similarly, the
	  	        names of the Buckland hobbits were Welsh (e.g. Madoc, Berilac).

	  	      c) Among hobbits some of the older Fallohide families liked to give
	  	        themselves high-sounding names from the legendary past (an example
	  	        of hobbit humor).  Tolkien "represented" such names by names of
	  	        Frankish or Gothic origin (Isengrim, Rudigar, Fredegar, Peregrin).

	  	    These matters and much else is explained in detail in Appendix F.

	  	  References: RK, Appendix F;
	  	              Letters, 174-176 (#144), 380-381 (#297);
	  	              RtMe, 88-89 (4, "Stars, shadows, cellar-doors: patterns
	  	                    of language and of history").

	  	  Contributor: WDBL


	  	  5) Why is Tolkien's work, _The Lord of the Rings_ in particular, so
	  	    difficult to translate (into other languages of our world)?

	  	        Because his interest in, skill with, and love of language are man-
	  	    ifest at every level and indeed in almost every word of LotR, thereby
	  	    producing a result difficult if not impossible to duplicate.

	  	        The previous question describes how Common Speech names were
	  	    "rendered" into English.  The Guide to the Names in _The Lord of the
	  	    Rings_, Tolkien's instructions for translators, does attempt to
	  	    address this.  In it he goes down the list of names in the index and
	  	    specifies which should be translated (being Common Speech) and which
	  	    should be left alone.  It would require skillful translation to get
	  	    even this far, but that would only be the beginning.  Reproducing the
	  	    other linguistic intricacies described in the previous question would
	  	    be well-nigh impossible; for example, Rohirric would have to be
	  	    replaced with some ancient language whose relation to the language of
	  	    translation was the same as that of Anglo-Saxon to modern English.

	  	        On another level, there is the diction and style of everything
	  	    said and told.  The language used has a strong archaic flavor; it is
	  	    not an exact recreation of how Anglo-Saxon or medieval people actually
	  	    spoke but rather is as close an approximation as he could achieve and
	  	    still remain intelligible to modern readers.  This was not accidental
	  	    but rather was deliberately and carefully devised.  (See Letters,
	  	    225-226 (#171)).

	  	        There were, moreover, variations in the style in which characters
	  	    of different backgrounds spoke the Common Speech ("represented" as
	  	    English) (e.g. at the Council of Elrond, FR, II, 2; see also RtMe
	  	    90-93).  There were variations in the style of individual characters
	  	    at different times (RK, 412 (App F, II)).  There was even an attempt
	  	    to indicate a distinction between familiar and deferential forms of
	  	    pronouns (which doesn't exist in modern English) by use of the archaic
	  	    words "thee" and "thou" (RK, 411 (App F, II); for an example, see the
	  	    scene with Aragorn and Eowyn at Dunharrow, RK, 57-59 (V, 2)).

	  	        Finally, there was Tolkien's poetry, which was often far more
	  	    complicated than it appeared, and which in many cases is very probably
	  	    untranslatable.  (The extreme case is Bilbo's Song of Earendil, FR,
	  	    246-249 (II,1); T.A. Shippey has identified five separate metrical
	  	    devices in this poem: RtMe, 145-146).

	  	  References: RK, Appendix F, 57-59 (V, 2);
	  	              FR, "The Council of Elrond" (II, 2), 246-249 (II,1);
	  	              Letters, 225-226 (#171), 250-251 (#190) [on the Dutch
	  	                    translation], 263 (#204) [on the Swedish translation];
	  	              RtMe, 90-93 (4, "'The Council of Elrond'"),
	  	                    145-146 (6, "the elvish tradition").

	  	  Contributor: WDBL


	  	  6) Did the events in _The Lord of the Rings_ take place on another
	  	    planet or what?

	  	        No.  Tolkien's intention was that was that Middle-earth was our
	  	    own world, though his way of stating this idea was somewhat unusual:
	  	    he spoke of having created events which took place in an *imaginary
	  	    time* of a real place.  He made this fully explicit only in Letters,
	  	    but there were two very strong indications in the published _Lord of
	  	    the Rings_, though both were outside the narrative.

	  	        The first was in the Prologue.  It is there stated: "Those days,
	  	    the Third Age of Middle-earth, are now long past, and the shape of all
	  	    lands has been changed; but the regions in which Hobbits then lived
	  	    were doubtless the same as those in which they still linger: the
	  	    North-West of the Old World, east of the Sea." (FR, 11).  Since no
	  	    other reference is made to this matter either in the Prologue or in
	  	    the main narrative, it makes little impression on most readers, but
	  	    is clear enough once pointed out.

	  	        The second was in Appendix D, which presents lore on calendars in
	  	    Middle-earth.  The discussion begins as follows:

	  	         The Calendar in the Shire differed in several features from ours.
	  	      The year no doubt was of the same length (*), for long ago as those
	  	      times are now reckoned in years and lives of men, they were not very
	  	      remote according to the memory of the Earth.

	  	         (*) 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 46 seconds.
	  	                                                         (RK, 385 (App D))

	  	    The quote is clear enough in and of itself, but that the year length
	  	    specified in the footnote is the precise length of our own year must
	  	    surely remove all doubt.

	  	    There follow excerpts from three letters wherein the matter is
	  	    further discussed.

	  	          'Middle-earth', by the way, is not a name of a never-never land
	  	      without relation to the world we live in ....  And though I have not
	  	      attempted to relate the shape of the mountains and land-masses to
	  	      what geologists may say or surmise about the nearer past, imagina-
	  	      tively this 'history' is supposed to take place in a period of the
	  	      actual Old World of this planet.
	  	                                                       Letters, 220 (#165)

	  	          I am historically minded.  Middle-earth is not an imaginary
	  	      world. ...  The theatre of my tale is this earth, the one in which
	  	      we now live, but the historical period is imaginary.  The essentials
	  	      of that abiding place are all there (at any rate for inhabitants of
	  	      N.W. Europe), so naturally it feels familiar, even if a little
	  	      glorified by the enchantment of distance in time.
	  	                                                       Letters, 239 (#183)

	  	      ... I hope the, evidently long but undefined, gap(*) in time between
	  	      the Fall of Barad-dur and our Days is sufficient for 'literary cred-
	  	      ibility', even for readers acquainted with what is known or surmised
	  	      of 'pre-history'.

	  	          I have, I suppose, constructed an imaginary *time*, but kept my
	  	      feet on my own mother-earth for *place*.  I prefer that to the con-
	  	      temporary mode of seeking remote globes in 'space'. However curious,
	  	      they are alien, and not lovable with the love of blood-kin.  Middle-
	  	      earth is ... not my own invention.  It is a modernization or
	  	      alteration ... of an old word for the inhabited world of Men, the
	  	      _oikoumene_ : middle because thought of vaguely as set amidst the
	  	      encircling Seas and (in the northern-imagination) between ice of the
	  	      North and the fire of the South.  O. English  _middan-geard_ ,
	  	      mediaeval E.  _midden-erd_, _middle-erd_ .  Many reviewers seem to
	  	      assume that Middle-earth is another planet!
	  	                                                       Letters, 283 (#211)

	  	    The footnote in the first sentence of the last-quoted excerpt offers
	  	    a fascinating insight:

	  	          (*) I imagine the gap to be about 6000 years: that is we are now
	  	              at the end of the Fifth Age, if the Ages were of about the
	  	              same length as S.A. and T.A.  But they have, I think,
	  	              quickened; and I imagine we are actually at the end of the
	  	              Sixth Age, or in the Seventh.
	  	                                                       Letters, 283 (#211)

	  	    A final note is that not only is the place our own world but also the
	  	    people inhabiting it are ourselves, morally as well as physically:

	  	      ... I have not made any of the peoples on the 'right' side, Hobbits,
	  	      Rohirrim, Men of Dale or of Gondor, any better than men have been or
	  	      are, or can be.  Mine is not an 'imaginary' world, but an imaginary
	  	      historical moment on 'Middle-earth' -- which is our habitaion.
	  	                                                       Letters, 244 (#183)

	  	  References: FR, 11 (Prologue);
	  	              RK, 385 (Appendix D);
	  	              Letters, 220 (#165), 239, 244 (#183), 283 (#211).

	  	  Contributors: WDBL, Carl F. Hostetter, Bill Taylor
	  	  Send corrections/additions to the FAQ Maintainer:

This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings, it is non-profit making, non-income taking, and is in no way affiliated with Tolkien Enterprises or the Tolkien Estate. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, articles, and other promotional materials are held by their respective owners and their use is allowed under the Fair Use Clause of the Copyright Law.