I Have a Question

As my students and I have now made it to Return of the King, their interest in all things Tolkien continues to thrive.  The clear arrival of summer weather is allowing us to enjoy reading in the great outdoors.  While the lack of four walls is allowing my students to have a sense of no boundaries, it also helps them to realize that when they put their minds to something, they can push through any limitations in their lives.

Enjoying Nature

Enjoying Nature

Reading Dwarves

Reading Dwarves

Smile if you love Tolkien!

Smile if you love Tolkien!

A perfect day for reading!

A perfect day for reading!

There also seems to be no limit to the endless questions that my students ask about Tolkien, which is the subject of today’s post.  Today I allowed them to freely interrupt the reading of Minas Tirith to ask as many questions as they liked, with the hope that our fantastic knowledge-base from our fantastic Teaching Tolkien readers might provide them with the answers.  They love to read your responses and have truly enjoyed interacting with our international fans.  Here are some of the Tolkien topics they ponder:

Ori– “If the ring was destroyed and Gollum didn’t die, would he return to his Smeagol status?”

Oin– “Was Shadowfax waiting for Gandalf the entire time he was being transformed from Gandalf the Grey to Gandalf the White or was he anticipating that he would become a white wizard?”

Bifur– “What happens to the Palantir if it were to be placed in fire?”

In response to our great response from reader John Cowan last week regarding other palantirs in Middle-Earth, Bifur also wanted to know “Is Sauron’s power connected to all of the palantirs in Middle-Earth and what does he view through each one?”

Gloin– “What other lands would surround Middle-Earth on a map or is it not connected to anything?”

My students, desperate to know more about the origins of their friends in Middle-Earth also wanted to know if Sauron is equivalent to a supreme leader or dictator of a country.  Some of them joked that in his quest for total domination, he should make signs that say “Sauron for President”, which prompted another question “who is the president of Middle-Earth?”

Balin– “Who was the first inhabitant of Middle-Earth?”

Ori came up with a great question that he asked me and we had so much fun with it that we decided to make a game of it and all respond.  “Ms. Rodgers, if you could be any creature in Middle-Earth, what would you be and why?”  After thinking for a moment,  I said I would choose to be an elf.  Before I could support my answer, he said “I knew you would say that because you have blonde hair like Galadriel and like archery just like Legolas in the movie.”  Amazed at how well my students know me, they all took turns responding to the question.

Balin– “I would be an elf because I already have kind of pointy ears.”

Nori– “I’d be an elf, too, because Legolas is one.  He’s handsome!”

Fili– “I’d pick a white wizard just for the power I would have.”

Ori– “I’d be a hobbit because I like to eat and I already have stinky feet!”

Oin– “I’ll go with the white wizard, too, for the power.”

Thorin– “Any wizard would be cool because I could change from grey to white and get more power eventually.”

Bifur– “I’d want to be a wizard.  I’d be so powerful that I would go to Hobbiton and make a pair of shoes for everyone and make sure they had a proper bathroom with paper towels.”

I know this seems like a really strange response, but Bifur seemed really concerned today about the hobbits’ hygiene habits, asking about what kind of restroom facilities they had and whether paper towels had come to Middle-Earth.  Never ceasing to amaze me with the tangents that their young minds divert to so quickly, they enjoyed entering Gondor today.  Some of my more sympathetic students pitied poor Faramir and struggled to understand how Denethor could show such unfair favoritism towards the elder son, Boromir.  Ori asked if his preferential treatment of the first-born was a normal practice for the people of Middle-Earth or just in Gondor, relating it to some cultures where sons are preferred over daughters and are often made to feel inferior.

As we ended class today, Oin joked, “But Ms. Rodgers, I have 900 more questions!”  While there may not be a limit to the proverbial endless why of a child, please feel free to respond on the blog to any of my students’ questions if you’d like to tackle them or tell us who you would like to be in Middle-Earth and why.  We love to hear from you and are so grateful that we have such wonderful support from so many Tolkien fans and scholars around the world.

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6 Comments on “I Have a Question”

  1. denizb33
    June 4, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    I might have some answers for you!

    If the Ring was destroyed, and Smeagol’s mind wasn’t completely broken, I think he’d continue as Bilbo did – from the moment when the Ring left him. He’d age more quickly and probably start showing every one of his 500+ years!

    I don’t think Shadowfax was waiting (unless perhaps Galadriel sent him a message) – he was simply unwilling to let anyone else ride him.

    Based on what happens to Denethor’s Palantir, I don’t think fire destroys them. I seem to recall Gandalf explaining to Pippin about the fate of the other Palantirs – the one at the havens merely looks West, for instance. I think Sauron only took over the one at Minas Morgul, and swayed the Orthanc one, as well as showing to Denethor only what was guaranteed to make him despair.

    As for the Middle-earth question… it depends on whether you’re a high Elf or not 🙂 They can see further West, and follow the straight path. Otherwise, I think for mortals there’s just ocean in that direction. Gandalf and Aragorn hint at many other lands to the East and South, but they don’t come into this tale.

    The Elves woke first in Middle-earth, by Cuivienen, the Waters of Awakening. The Dwarves had been created, actually, but since their time had not yet come, they were left sleeping (until after Men had woken, I believe).

    As for me, I can’t decide whether I’d like to be an Elf or a Hobbit!

    • hmrodgers
      June 5, 2013 at 2:35 am #

      Thanks so much for your answers! I’ll be sure to share them with my students.

  2. Margaret Dean
    June 5, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    I’d say the first inhabitant of Middle-earth was Tom Bombadil! That’s more or less what he says himself…

  3. Steve Morrison
    June 6, 2013 at 1:11 am #

    Here is some discussion of “who was the oldest inhabitant of Middle-earth?” at the Tolkien Newsgroups FAQ. Speaking of ELves and pointed ears, there is some controversy over whether Tolkien’s Elves had pointed ears at all!

  4. John Cowan
    June 6, 2013 at 3:37 am #

    All palantíri are connected, and Sauron is so powerful that he can affect what users of the others see, probably with the exception of the palantír of the Tower Hills. He can probably see out of any of them as well.

    As I’ve said, the parts of Middle-earth on the map correspond loosely to Europe, so there are analogues of Africa and Asia, what the map calls Harad (Elvish for ‘south’) and Rhûn (Elvish for ‘east’). Around that of course would be the Sundering Sea, corresponding to the eastern Atlantic and western Pacific.

    Originally, when the world was flat, that was all there was except for Valinor in the extreme west. When Númenor fell at the end of the Second Age, however, things changed. The Earth became round, and the “new lands” (the Americas) were created, and Valinor was removed from the Earth. This is explained in the Appendices and in the Silmarillion.

    Sauron is something like a dictator, yes, but he isn’t a human being like dictators here and now. He is an evil angel, someone superior in kind to human beings. Gandalf is also an angel, though incarnated in a mortal body that can age (slowly) and die. Middle-earth doesn’t have a president or other single ruler, any more than Earth has today, although Sauron would like to rule the whole world.

    Who the first inhabitant of Middle-earth is is a question. Of those living today, Treebeard and Tom Bombadil are the oldest, and Tom at least says he is older than the trees, which would include the Ents.

    The colors are an inherent feature of the wizards. Saruman’s color is white, Gandalf’s is grey, Radagast’s is brown, and the other two (who went far to the east) were blue — their names are not given. Gandalf only changes color because he dies (resumes his angelic form) and is sent back in a new human form.

    I assume that everybody in the Shire uses outhouses that are built over pits. In Minas Tirith (but not out in the country) they probably had toilets with water that ran all the time, as the ancient Romans had, but hardly flush toilets. No paper towels or toilet paper — paper would be too expensive and valuable to throw away like that. I don’t think Hobbits would like shoes, unless they were very carefully made, and besides, their soles are much tougher than ours so they don’t really need them.

    I think preference for the eldest son is typical but not universal. Hobbits seem to divide their things among all their children.

    • hmrodgers
      June 6, 2013 at 3:46 am #

      Thanks, John! I knew we could count on you!

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