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Magic in The Hobbit and LOTR

Transferred from Religion

Ardo Wrote:
A Very Good Day/Evening To All...

As long as the creation of this Thread was suggested, I thought I might take the opportunity to go ahead and "kick off" some ideas on the subject for the bouncing back and forth biz...

In my own opinion, there definitely IS the presence of "Magic" in these stories -[ although Tolkien himself seemed to disdain that term itself - as, to his mind, it had connotations of "the conjurer's tricks" ]
- But, fortunately, the stories are not "sugar-coated" or over-lathered in an overabundance of "fantastical" magical happenings, but there is a well-proportioned "sprinkling" of magical occurance throughout the stories, none the less...

Let's just start with "The Hobbit" ---
Right off the bat, we are admonished that, concerning hobbits in general :
[ "...there is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary, everyday sort..." ]
Sort of a "heads-up" to the reader - this is not going to be the kind of fantasy where the "Laws of Reality" are circumvented at every turn - hobbits are NOT lephrachaun-like creatures who can appear and re-appear at will - and they can't just "think or wish something and have it be so" ...

On the other hand, that description of Gandalf's fireworks - it sounds like there has to be some sort of magic
involved in their creation [ and well, Gandalf IS a wizard, after all ] ...For even in our far-advanced, techno-wonder, modern-day world, it would be darn near impossible to re-create fireworks of the same exquisite beauty and complexity as they are described in [ H ] & LOTR -[ except, of course, in the CGI - Special Effects form ] ---

I'm afraid I'm just warming up right now, I'll have to return with some further thoughts on all this...

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lorien
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Re: Magic in The Hobbit and LOTR

The most magical thing I found in the books was the Ring itself but only in its early stages. Even in the revised Hobbit, the ring was only a "magic" ring that rendered the wearer invisible. When someone put it on they disappeared but but that was all and they did not enter that strange "between life" zone that became important later on. It was simply a "magic ring". In fact it remained just that throughout the beginning of LOTR. When Bilbo put it on for the last time, it was just a disappearance act with no strange visions--at least they were not mentioned. And the same when Frodo put it on at Tom Bombadil's house and at the Prancing Pony, which I think were the only two times he put it on before Weathertop. There were hints that it was exerting an influence but they were not that strong (the movie made the influence stronger so that Frodo, and even Bilbo, were more attracted and attached to the Ring).
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Re: Magic in The Hobbit and LOTR

The opening of secret doors was also magic in both books. The opening of the back door to Erebor in The Hobbit (and the map showing them how as well) had elements of magic. In the LOTR the door to Moria. They needed the proper alignment of celestial objects and "magic" words to work. Though Gandalf did open the door to Moria, I don't think that really required a wizard.
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Re: Magic in The Hobbit and LOTR

Good Afternoon/Evening, lorien ---
 
And, thank you so much for moving this Thread to its own spot on the boards! I really appreciate this!
 
I see you have already gone onto the Ring - and everything you mentioned about it ( as it relates to [ H ] )
I concur completely with...The Ring, at least with Bilbo and his adventures, is almost a "Magic Toy", more than anything else -
 In "The Hobbit", what we mostly hear about is the Ring's power of invisibility that it bestows upon the wearer, and of the usefulness in its employment in various situations to aid Bilbo in acts which would have been nigh-on imposssible to accomplish, otherwise...
I've got more to add to this budding Thread - but gotta come back later to do it... Ardo
 
P.S. --- Although opening those doors to Moria did not necessarily require the presence of a wizard, it did still require saying aloud the "Magic Word"...
 
  
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Re: Magic in The Hobbit and LOTR

And Now, To Continue On Already Yet ...
 
^^^^^ Still dealing almost exclusively with "The Hobbit" ^^^^^
       >>> sort of a quick "run-down" <<<
 
Talking troll's purses...
And, even the trolls themselves, turning to stone at the first light of day sounds like something you might be more likely to find in a more "traditional" Children's Literature Fairy-Tale ( although,  I assume Tolkien may have "gotten the idea" for this occurance from some serious study of its origins in Norse Mythology - it still smacks of that kind of "magical happening" you tend to find in the more familiar kind of kid's books of Fairy-Tales, many of course, which also had a basis in those same Ancient Myths and Folklore, etcetera )....
 
There is Gandalf using his "Magic"  to effect geat flashes of light and to create burning pine-cone "grenades" to drop down on the heads of the goblins and the wargs ( when The Company is all "treed" by their adversaries on the eastern side of the Misty Mountains )...
I would think that magic has to be involved in some way, here - unless you want to propose that Gandalf carries about with some kind of a "James Bondian" type staff, with hidden compartments filled with various kinds of combustible trajectories and also carries with him at all times his little bag of incendiary potions and powders...( but I prefer to think "magic" )...
 
More To Come, of course...
 
  
 
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Re: Magic in The Hobbit and LOTR

>>> CONTINUATION OF THE "RUN-DOWN" <<<
 
"Magic" Swords ---
 
Although the swords ( such as Orcrist, Glamdring and even Sting ) are not exactly as "magical" as some other swords you might find in some other stories (  I'm not even sure if this has happened in other stories, but I think there are cases of magic swords flying through the air and winding up in their owner's hands - and stuff like that - or a case where the sword makes its bearer "invincible" and so forth ) [ there are cases in
"The Hobbit" & LOTR where a sword might seem to make its owner "practically invicible" or "virtually invicible", although a lot of that has to do more with the "bearing" of the owner and his own strength and courage -etcetera - perhaps that is also the case in some of these other stories themselves ] ...
 
Just by virtue of Orcrist and Glamdring even having "names" to begin with imbues them with a magical aura.
And then, they have the quality of shining on their own, even in the dark, should there there be the presence of evil and danger nearby...
 
I get the impression, too, that although these particular swords will not "perform" by themselves -
in the proper hands - in the hands of someone who is "worthy" of their posession, they might prove to be much lighter and easier to handle  -no matter how actually heavy they might be { although, considering the
great skills of those ancient, "High Elves" who forged these swords - and whatever magic they might have used in their making, or left imbued in their qualities, it would also seem quite likely that these swords might prove "marvelously light" in their handling, to begin with... ( think of mithril,for instance ) } ---
 
Well, I've got lots more examples to go yet, but maybe I should stop here, so as not to be too much of a hog on the subject all at once, and in case others might want to chime in with some other examples...
I'll be back anyway, of course...   Ardo
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Magic: a few definitions.

The Free Dictionary http://www.thefreedictionary.com/magic

mag·ic (mjk) noun

1. The art that purports to control or forecast natural events, effects, or forces by invoking the supernatural.

2.a. The practice of using charms, spells, or rituals to attempt to produce supernatural effects or control events in nature.

b. The charms, spells, and rituals so used.

3. The exercise of sleight of hand or conjuring for entertainment.

4. A mysterious quality of enchantment: "For me the names of those men breathed the magic of the past" Max Beerbohm.

adj.

1. Of, relating to, or invoking the supernatural: "stubborn unlaid ghost/That breaks his magic chains at curfew time" John Milton.

2. Possessing distinctive qualities that produce unaccountable or baffling effects.
tr.v. mag·icked, mag·ick·ing, mag·ics

To produce or make by or as if by magic.

[Middle English magik, from Old French magique, from Late Latin magica, from Latin magic, from Greek magik, from feminine of magikos, of the Magi, magical, from magos, magician, magus; see magus.]

_____________________

Merriam-Webster

1 a: the use of means (as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces.
b: magic rites or incantations

2 a: an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source.
b: something that seems to cast a spell : enchantment

3: the art of producing illusions by sleight of hand.

_______________________

magic

noun

1. supernatural, Supernatural occurrences or feats.
2. An illusion performed to give the appearance of magic or the supernatural.
3. A ritual associated with mysticism.
4. A cause not quite understood.

Magic makes the light go on

1. Something spectacular or wonderful.

_____________________

Wikipedia:

Magic may refer to:

* Magic (paranormal) anything that is not naturally explainable by any laws of nature.
o Magical thinking
o Folk magic, traditional systems of magic
o Magick, the magical system of Aleister Crowley and Thelema
o Witchcraft, the use of certain kinds of supernatural or magical powers
* Magic (illusion), the art of entertaining audiences by performing illusions and tricks
o Street magic, sleight of hand, etc.

_________________________

In an Anthropological sense, James Frazer gives us a complex definition/ analytical structure for Magic in his "The Golden Bough." This work was consulted by JRRT, and he quotes it in some of his Letters, though I am not certain how much of Frazer's thought is later subsumed into the Middle-earth corpus.

http://books.google.com/books?id=fgqFhakZ_RMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=magic#PPR23,M1
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Re: Magic: a few definitions.

[ Edited ]
A Synopsis for "The Hobbit"
A (non-exhaustive) List of Magical Situations/ Persons/ Devices

1. Gandalf, to the hobbits, is a figure of magic himself, a professional practitioner, a titled "wizard." As such, Gandalf does magical things: creates the self-fastening studs (shirt, collar, or sleeve studs, I presume? H. p. 19, pb ver) that he gave to the Old Took; creates and successfully launches grand fireworks, instigates "adventures" among the staid and stolid hobbits -- something magical in itself given their "respectability," and dis-inclination to traverse the limits of the normal.

2. Magical musical instruments of the Dwarves that seem to disappear when not needed?

3. Magical properties of exotic music to work upon the moods of the listeners, seen in both dwarvish and elvish songs. Bilbo, temporarily under the spell of the Dwarves' music, can even empathize with the Dwarves, take on (for a moment) their own Dwarvish attitudes and feelings towards craft objects and wealth.

"As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and a jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves." (H. p. 28 pb ver)

Elvish music, in Rivendell, likewise, has the power to transport and fill with wonder the minds of mortal Men and hobbits.

4. Magical ring of Thror NOT mentioned in "The Hobbit," but added later for LotR and "The Quest of Erebor." This dwarvish ring, based on a Nibelungelied original, helps attract/ accumulate gold. Bilbo's ring may also have this wealth accumulating function.

5. Power of the Runes: see the Magical Moon and Star letters of the Dwarves' map. Runes in themselves were often (in real life ancient history) considered magical.

6. The Troll's purse anti-theft voice, is a great example of magic. Supposedly inanimate objects, like harps, tea kettles, cauldrons, swords might have voices and some sort of thinking persona behind that voice. Sometimes these are explained as "spirits" being trapped within inanimate objects.

Traditionally, trolls caught out in sunlight turn to stone. Here we may also see magic in Gandalf's ability to alter and cast his voice so that he can sound like any of the trolls. A wizard's trick!

The Dwarves and Gandalf also put magical spells of hiding upon the Trolls' gold that they leave cached near the Troll-hole, apparently these spells are efficacious, as the gold is still there when they travel back to the Shire and pick it up.

7. The Elvish swords of Gondolin are clearly magical, acting as early warning devices with their anti-goblin glows. There is even a situation of potential "personification" for Glamdring -- it glows extra bright with glee at killing the Great Goblin: "He took out his sword again, and again it flashed in the dark by itself. It burned with a rage that made it gleam if goblins were about; now it was bright as blue flame for delight in the killing of the great lord of the cave. " (H. p.73, pb ver.)

Earlier, in "The Silmarillion," Tolkien (following the example in The Kalevala) has a talking sword that speaks to its bearer, Turin Turambar.

8. Gandalf's wand is also a magical device in itself, acting as a focus for his power, and a convenient lamp that apparently requires no batteries, it may also be able to generate stunning blasts of a lightning-bolt-like energy capable of killing. (see H., p. 110, pb ver.)

9. Gollum's ring of luck and invisibility, in the first version Hobbit, is a grand device of magic; later, in the second version, as The One Ring, it becomes a supremely important device of the highest and most potent of magics.

The ring, in both versions, confers luck and invisibility; does it also accumulate gold for Bilbo the way the Dwarf Ring in Germanic Myth could? In LotR we learn more about the Dwarves, and their 7 rings all acted as "gold attractors." Certainly Bilbo never lacks for wealth after he returns home, though he does give most of it away.

10. The Riddle Game may be magical, at any rate it was viewed as sacred, a binding trust whose magical power to enforce its own rules was highly respected in the Nordic/ Germanic tradition. Even Gollum hesitates to invoke the wrath of the Riddle Game by violating its conditions/ regulations. Rumplestiltskin's tale is a good example of the binding nature of a Riddle Game, even though he thinks the Lady has cheated, he must abide the decision of the game.

"He [Bilbo] knew, of course, that the riddle-game was sacred and of immense antiquity, and even wicked creatures were afraid to cheat when they played at it." (Hobbit, p. 86, pb ver.)

10. Talking animals -- Spiders, dragon, eagle, ravens, thrush; and the remarkable (though mute) animal servants (sheep, dogs, and ponies) of Beorn.

11. Beorn and his descendants, as shape-shifters of the bear totem, are highly magical creatures.

12. The hidden Dwarf door, set to a celestial phenomenon as part of its opening mechanism, is another magical device.

13. The Dragon possesses a magical "Worm's Tongue" of his own (compare his smooth, illusion building phrases with those of Grima and Saruman in LotR) that has considerable power to enchant and confuse its listeners. Earlier, in The Silmarillion, another dragon uses its speech and evil-eye to paralyze its victims (see Tale of Turin Turambar). Smaug also revers, and delights in riddles. The "magic" of speech is also revealed here when Bilbo, partly from the knowledge of his hobbit education in fairy/ adventure tales, and partly by luck (from the ring?) hits upon the correct formulae of speech to mystify and "enchant" the dragon, allowing him [Bilbo] to gather vital information about the Dragon, and insuring his [Bilbo's] own initial escape from the reptile.

14. Power of Curses and Blessings: In many fairy tales, curses and blessings can have an active, real impact on the characters and events. Does Thorin's deathbed blessing upon Bilbo effectively remove his earlier curses delivered at the gates of Erebor? Taking an oath by one's beard was also viewed as potent magic and quite binding in medieval Europe and the Islamic empires. Cursing the beard of a foe was also a strong device of magic.

"By the beard of Durin! I wish I had Gandalf here! Curse him for his choice of you! May his beard wither!" (H. p. 261, pb ver.)

Words of blessing/ guidance are also given by the Elves to help insure a successful expedition. (Later, Gandalf in LotR, will even lay the blessing words of "guard and guidance" upon the head of the pony Bill!)

15. The magic of Foresight/ Premonition: This form of magic is highly evident in LotR, but does it show up in "The Hobbit?" I think I recall a few such examples, but I can't find supporting quotes for them just now. Anyone else remember any examples of true foresightedness in the pages of "The Hobbit?" Doesn't Elrond do a bit of foretelling?

16. The concept of "Luck" as a form of magic: Bilbo frequently "trusts" to his luck when he engages his often hostile environment. As with Lief "the Lucky" Ericksson, luck was considered to be a real force in the ancient world, and men would preferentially follow a "lucky" leader. As Bilbo's luck becomes evident in his own tale, even the Dwarves begin to respect him for this trait, and view him as a leader. When the Dwarves send Bilbo into the bowels of Erebor for the first time, he accepts the lonely, dangerous mission with the following statement: "Perhaps I have begun to trust my luck more than I used to in the old days" (H. p. 203 pb ver.) He also refers to himself, in riddling talk with the dragon, Bilbo boasts: "I am Ringwinner and Luckwearer; I am Barrel-rider," indicating that he knows that the Ring is somehow connected with his sudden increase in Luck. (H. p.213, pb ver.)

Message Edited by Dagor on 06-14-2008 03:40 PM
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Re: Magic: a few definitions.

[ Edited ]
18. Pipe-magic: Ah, it just occurred to me that there is at least one more magical art that makes its appearance in "The Hobbit:" smoke-ring blowing. Bilbo is himself fairly adept in this art, and justly proud of his ability. "Then Bilbo sat down on a seat by his door, crossed his legs, and blew out a beautiful grey ring of smoke that sailed up into the air without breaking and floated away over The Hill. 'Very pretty!' said Gandalf. 'But I have no time to blow smoke-rings this morning.' " (H. p. 18, pb ver)

"He [Thorin] was blowing the most enormous smoke-rings, and wherever he told one to go, it went -- up the chimney, or behind the clock on the mantle-piece, or under the table, or round and round the ceiling; but wherever it went it was not quick enough to escape Gandalf. Pop! he sent a smaller smoke-ring from his short clay-pipe straight through each one of Thorin's. Then Gandalf's smoke-ring would go green with the joke and come back to hover over the wizard's head. He had quite a cloud of them about him already, and it made him look positively sorcerous." (H. pp 25-26, pb ver)

This gives us the magical "remote" control of a detached substance... Telekinesis!

Message Edited by Dagor on 06-14-2008 06:55 PM
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Re: Magic: Hobbit List

[ Edited ]
Ah, a few more examples that may show the working of magic in "The Hobbit":

19. The magic of the Elven Path through Mirkwood protected travelers who used its course and did not leave the track. Elvish magic?

20. The dark and harmful magic that lay in the waters of the black stream, and threw poor Bombadil into a lengthy coma.

21. The magic that closed the gates of the Elven King's mine-like palace.

Message Edited by Dagor on 06-15-2008 04:09 PM
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Re: Magic: General Research Questions

What does the term "magic" mean, how is it used by JRRT, and what examples of magic actually occur in the various texts?

Did JRRT have a systematized, conceptual understanding of "magic," like that found in the analytical work "The Golden Bough" by Frazer, or did Tolkien simply use individual instances of "magic" to enliven his narratives with no underlying principles and concepts to be inferred?

What kinds of magic do we find in Middle-earth, who can practice magic? Are there mortal Men acting as wizards, sorcerors? Are there any hobbit witches/ warlocks/ or shamanic practioners?

How does the use of magic in these narratives impact the books, further the plotlines?

Is there more magic in "The Silmarillion" than in Tolkien's later works? Is there more magic in "The Hobbit" as compared to "The Lord of the Rings," or vice-versa?

Sigh, I think I see some long hours of research ahead, especially looking into "The Letters" for any direct explanations of "magic" as JRRT interpreted it...
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Re: Magic: a few definitions.

Hello Dagor ---
 
As usual, you have given us about two tons of mental matter to contemplate here... I feel like I could use a little "magic" myself, right now - perhaps some assitance from Gandalf himself, in order to be able to fully discuss ( in its entire scope, as you have presented it ) in a comprehensive manner, this new Thread, with all its ramifications...
 
Considering those definitions - Tolkien disdained the term "Magic" by itself, as he felt that word had those connotations of illusions and trickery...
I think maybe his favorite defintion [ for the "magic" that we do find present in his stories ]
would have been something like:
[       SUPER      ]  ---  [    N ATURAL   ] ---
 
Where whatever "magical" forces and happenings we might happen to find in Middle-earth was simply an accentuated feature of  its own natural state...
But also, as the stories seem to come almost straight out of some [ unspecified ] Ancient Age of Northern European Lore & Mythology [ replete with its "flora and fauna" of Elves, Drwarves, Trolls, Dragons, etcetera ]
 - a place where [ in the "Mind's-Eye" ] these extra-ordinary, magical occurances are already accepted as a "given",  the conditions for that "Willing suspension of disbelief" for accepting these the presence of magicalness in the stories is given an extra "push" ( for the reader )...
 
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Re: Magic: a few definitions.

Good Afternoon Dagor { & Everyone } ---
 
Just a couple of comments on some items on your ( non-exhaustive ) List of Magical Situations/Persons/Devices ---
 
Concerning Item [ # 2 ] ---
This always seemed to be a bit of an odd little mystery, maybe even an inconsitency in the story, to me -
[ how the Dwarves had produced all these instruments ( some of them quite large ) from out of their luggage - but then afterwards, we never hear anything about them again  ] ---
I had never really considered the "Magic" aspect of this little puzzle - I always assumed that arrangements had been made ( prior to their re-embarking on the journey East ) for these instruments to have been left behind - in some sort of "storage" ( possibly to be picked up later ) - or even having been sold or traded for supplies in preparation for the trip.    { I'm also going on the assumption that, at the time of Bilbo's departure on his Adventure, the atmosphere in the Shire was more "trustworthy" in general - and that there far less
"shady characters" hanging about - and that such an arrangement could have been made in a safe and equitable manner } -- I even sort of pictured some of these instruments eventually having wound up over at the Michel Delving Museum ...
Of course, this kind of arrangement does seem less likely in light of the high value that must have been attached to these instruments { some of them being Family Heirlooms, perhaps? } --- especially one like
Thorin's golden harp...---
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Re: Magic: a few definitions.

"Couple Of Comments" - Continued...
 
Item [ #7 ] ---
That "Talking Sword Of Turin Turambar" ( that you mentioned ) sounds like something more akin to those
"other" kinds of Magical Swords I was talking about, found in other places than either [ H ] & LOTR...
I was tempted ( in my earlier post ) to mention "Singing Swords" and such ( when I was giving examples of these "other" kinds of magic swords )  although the main
 "Singing Sword" I know about - I only once saw in a Daffy Duck cartoon ...{ although, it was probably a pastiche of ( and was referencing to ) some "genuine" Singing Sword story } ...
 
Ardo
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Re: Magic: a few definitions.

Alright I'd like to break Magic in Tolkien down into categories. Just for clarity.

1: Inhabitants

2: Spiritual acts

3: Items

4: Spells

Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Ents, Wargs, Dragons, Nasguls, Ect.. 1
Swords, wallets, rings, musical instruments, Ect.. 3
Fireworks, smoke rings, Exploding pine cones, Sauraman's storm calling, Ect.. 4

Iffy ones are like Galadriel's mirror the mirror is a 3 but the using of it could be considered a 2.
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Re: Magic: a few definitions.

One more comment cocerning Magic Swords ---
Specifically, "Orcrist" and "Glamdring" ---
 
Doesn't it seem like there had to be some awfully old goblins running around in those goblin-tunnels, if they were so immediately able to "recognize" those swords, Orcrist and Glamdring [ "Biter" and "Beater" to them ]
for what they were - and even to recognize the different "personalities" of these two swords [ which had first been forged and used ages before that point in time ]?
Does this mean that goblins/orcs are "immortal" in the same sense as elves?
Or is this more attributable to the goblins having a heightened awareness of their own "Collective Memory"?
 
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Re: Magic: Hobbit List

22. The "Fairy-Ring" defenses that protect the feasting-grounds of the Wood Elves by reducing all intruders to a state of deep repose are yet another blatant example of magic in "The Hobbit."

Something that intrigues me here is the strong similarity between the Black River's magic and the magic that defends the Fairy-Rings: both produce sleep, both leave their victims dreaming of food, but otherwise they are unharmed. Now, since the dwarves and the hobbit were on the verge of starvation, maybe this explains the similarity of their food dreams? But, at any rate, the mechanisms of action are the same, sleep. We know from the context that the Fairy-Ring sleep is a magic controlled by the Wood Elves, so, is the similar magic of the Black River, the Enchanted Stream, also an indication that its source is to be found among the elven practitioners of magic? Is the Black River, and its magic supposed to be viewed as the southern-most frontier barrier of the Wood Elves' realm, an attempt to seal off the influence of the sorcerous Necromancer who lives far to the south?

Alternatively, I suppose we have at least two or three other possible sources for the river-magic:

1. something left over from the Elder Days, a trick of Morgoth's or some potent lieutenant.
2. something instigated fairly recently in the Third Age by the Necromancer himself.
3. something inherent in the waters of the river itself that is independent of the elves, Morgoth's ancient evils, or the Necromancer.

_____________________

Concerning "The River of Enchantment in Mirkwood"

Does its magic have anything to do with The Necromancer?

In The Hobbit, The Necromancer ensorcels the southern portion of the woods, while the northern sections seem free from his influence, but still are wild, dark and dangerous. So, I think that the northern half of Mirkwood may have some left-over "problems" (like the spiders) from the First Age, remnants of the spite and ill that came with the Great Darkness before the Sun. Possibly something connected with Morgoth?

Maybe the enchantments of the river go back that far, into The First Age, or maybe even further back, and are a result of the first struggles between the Valar and Morgoth (when he was still Melko) and the Elves had not yet awakened? But, did Mirkwood/ Greenwood the Great exist then, did the Enchanted River go back that far in time?

But, sticking with "The Hobbit" and The Necromancer: what is the geographical source of this river anyway? It falls from the Mountains of Mirkwood (pp 76-77, Atlas of Middle-earth), and maps show the Enchanted River running out of the north side of these mountains. This would seemingly protect the springs or feeder-channels of the Enchanted River from direct pollution by the Necromancer who was some 300 miles to the south at Dol Guldur.

From data taken only from "The Hobbit," it seems that Gandalf suggests that The Necromancer's effective sphere of influence was restricted to the southern 1/2, or even just the southern 1/3 of Mirkwood, going no further than the waist-constriction of the forest, The Bight of Mirkwood. At the time of Bilbo's journey, there were Woodmen living as far as 100 miles south of the Old Forest Road, the main path that Bilbo and the Dwarves never saw. (see map of Wilderland, hardback version Hobbit, end paper) While still being in a contested zone, a true frontier, and as such a perilous place, I do not think that Men would be living in a zone fully controlled, or even heavily influenced by The Necromancer. Radaghast and Beorn live just 25 to 50 miles north of the Old Forest Road, and they would not stay in an area under the sway of The Necromancer, would they? Then, the Mountains of Mirkwood are about 50 miles north of the Old Road, and the Elf-Path used by Bilbo and the Dwarves is yet another 50 miles further north of the Emyn Duir, the Mountains of Mirkwood.

Also, I keep coming back to the statement that The Enchanted River seems to carry only one effect: the magic of extra long, extra deep sleep. Is this sleep-potion in the dark forest river something Sauron would devise? I think he would provide a simple, poisonous river -- you drink it, you sicken, you die. This river just puts you to sleep, and even allows happy dreams of feasting for Bombur, no torturing nightmares.

I believe the source, and cause of the Enchanted River's sleeping potion is likely to have nothing to do with the direct black magics of The Necromancer, or even some left over poison of Morgoth. I think such "sleep-producing," or otherwise enchanted streams come from deeper, fairy tale roots, and Tolkien just picked up the idea from his early readings of the Folk Stories of Northern Europe. Certainly the Greek Classical tradition, with which Tolkien was very familiar has a "sleep" river, Lethe, The River of Oblivion, from which we get our word "lethargy," drowsy, sleepy, forgetful. But, I also seem to recall that the idea of a River of Sleep shows up in several Germanic tales. I'll see if I can find the Nordic example (I am just barely remembering one such), maybe from the old Brothers Grimm material.

So far in my investigations, I keep coming back to the issue of similarity in the magic of the Enchanted Stream and the Fairy-Rings. Perhaps this alone is sufficient to settle the question in favour of the Elves? When Bilbo, and then Thorin leap into the Wood Elves' Ring to beg for food, both of them fall into a deep enchanted sleep, and Bilbo, at least, follows Bombur's lead, he dreams of food! "'Good heavens! he has gone like Bombur,' they said." ("The Hobbit," p. 164, hb) Bombur, fully immersed in the river's sleep enchantment, gets a full dose of the magic, Bilbo and Thorin are put less deeply to sleep for merely entering the Fairy Ring.

At this point in my "magic" studies, I am definitely "leaning" toward seeing the Enchanted River as being an Elven defense of their roadway and southeastern border. But, I suppose it could still be an independent phenomenon, one whose sleep-potion magics the Elves later copied for their Fairy-Ring defenses?
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Dagor
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Re: Magic: Who can practice?



TiggerBear wrote:
Alright I'd like to break Magic in Tolkien down into categories. Just for clarity.

1: Inhabitants

2: Spiritual acts

3: Items

4: Spells

Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Ents, Wargs, Dragons, Nasguls, Ect.. 1
Swords, wallets, rings, musical instruments, Ect.. 3
Fireworks, smoke rings, Exploding pine cones, Sauraman's storm calling, Ect.. 4

Iffy ones are like Galadriel's mirror the mirror is a 3 but the using of it could be considered a 2.




Tiggerbear, I think your categories work well, I especially like your "#1 Inhabitants," an attempt to figure out exactly who has access to the power of working magic in Middle-earth may be very profitable in understanding how Tolkien viewed magic. Apparently, from some of the Letters, JRRT connected magic with certain classes of people, especially the elves, maiar, and valar. But, especially in "The Hobbit," the dwarves also practice some magic -- so JRRT was never really consistent in this scheme (see Letter #131, pp 143-161, esp. p. 146 "I have not used 'magic' consistently..." ) The one point that does seem consistent in this regard, even in "The Hobbit," is the lack of magic practitioners among the Mortal Men and their cousins, the Hobbits. In LotR, I think we have some examples of humans engaging in magic, especially the dark arts (the Black Numenoreans like the High Nazgul, seem to have been regarded as sorcerors even BEFORE they were given their rings of power). But, even in LotR, I can recall no instance of a Hobbit ever being a witch, a wizard, or a sorceror. In LotR, the magic of the dwarves seems also to be forgotten, with the possible exception of the gates of Moria (built with elvish assistance in the Second Age). So it seems that by the time he got well into LotR, JRRT was becoming more consistent in restricting real magic to just the elves, maiar (good maia like Gandalf, bad maia like Sauron), certain classes of "spirits," some "en-fleshed (barrow-wights, ents Old Man Willow, etc) the valar and, of course, the anomalous Tom Bombadil. Even the magical "healing" power of Aragorn, when he defeats "The Black Breath" of the Nazgul, is subsumed under "elvish magic" in the following way:

"Anyway, a difference in the use of 'magic' in this story is that it is not to be come by by 'lore' or spells; but it is an inherent power not possessed or attainable by Men as such. Aragorn's 'healing' might be regarded as 'magical', or at least a blend of magic with pharmacy and 'hypnotic' processes. But it is (in theory) reportedby hobbits who have very little notions of philosophy and science; while A[ragorn] is not a pure 'Man', but at long remove one of the 'children of Luthien'." (Letter # 155, p. 200)

Here, JRRT says that Aragorn can work magic, but only by virtue of his being partly elvish and partly of maiar descent through his distant ancestor, Luthien Tinuviel.

It might be interesting -- in looking at the LotR material -- to see if we can find any "inconsistencies" in this system whereby Mortal Men, and hobbits, are excluded from the practice of magic.
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Dagor
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Re: Magic: a few definitions.

[ Edited ]

oldBPLstackdenizen wrote:
One more comment cocerning Magic Swords ---
Specifically, "Orcrist" and "Glamdring" ---
Doesn't it seem like there had to be some awfully old goblins running around in those goblin-tunnels, if they were so immediately able to "recognize" those swords, Orcrist and Glamdring [ "Biter" and "Beater" to them ]
for what they were - and even to recognize the different "personalities" of these two swords [ which had first been forged and used ages before that point in time ]?
Does this mean that goblins/orcs are "immortal" in the same sense as elves?
Or is this more attributable to the goblins having a heightened awareness of their own "Collective Memory"?
A.W.





Hmm, I seem to remember that one of the Goblin Kings who was responsible for starting the Dwarf-Goblin Wars around Moria, might have been some 300 years old by the chronologies JRRT supplied, I'll see if I can find that material. But even a 300 year old Goblin would scarcely be able to remember the days of Gondolin's Fall, thousands and thousands of years in the past. Perhaps, when JRRT was writing "The Hobbit," he had not yet decided WHEN the action was taking place, perhaps the thousands of years between Bilbo's tale and Gondolin's Fall had not yet been decided upon? Maybe JRRT was thinking that just a few generations had elapsed between the two events? Or maybe he just added the Gondolin blades without clearly thinking about the difficulties of time?

LOL, you are right, Ardo, one way to get around this problem without granting "elvish immortality" to the Goblins, is to invoke the principal of "Ancestral Memory!"

Alternatively, maybe, in their free time, the Goblin lore masters kept the tales of the Old Feud with the Elves ever fresh in the minds of each new generation, molding the minds of the impressionable imps by teaching them the horrors of the past wars with the terrible Elves and their magical blades?

Of course, maybe one aspect of the magical swords was the ability to proclaim their own identity to their foes? Real magic!


_____________

Hmmm, just occurred to me that the two swords may not have been that long out of circulation? Does Tolkien ever imply that they were used in the First Age, then "lost" all that long time until Gandalf and the Dwarves liberated them from the Trolls? Maybe a long line of Elven warriors passed these blades down from age to age, using them frequently against the succeeding generations of the Orcs? Beats me....

Message Edited by Dagor on 06-17-2008 01:02 PM
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Re: Magic: Two Types in Middle-earth?

Technolgy vrs "True Magic"

On another Tolkien site a friend, Stormrider, has asked: "How do you think the Elves and Dwarves were able to put this kind of magic into action?"

This is a vitally important question! I've dipped in The Letters to get an idea as to just "how" JRRT thought magic might work in Middle-earth, and it seems a complex situation. On one hand, there is the idea that "magic" is not magical at all. It is simply "technology," and only seems "magical" to those who do not understand the engineering and science that is being used. Both The Hobbit and LotR are largely narrated from the perspective of the "rustic," ignorant hobbits (not stupid, just not particularly well-versed in the lore of the bigger world about them). So such things as Galadriel's Mirror, The One Ring, or Sting's ability to flash blue flames in the presence of Orcs are seen as "magical" by the hobbits, but may simply be technologies to the Elves/ Maiar. Our "seeing-eye" doors might seem highly magical to the hobbits, and maybe such things as the Wood Elves' closing gate represent nothing more magical than an infra-red beam and a code to keep those without a pass from opening the doors. A magnetic tab worn on one's person could be sensed by the gate so that the individual elves (who had their tabs) could pass, but Bilbo could not.

The Rings of Power, and such items as the Palantiri, Silmarils and the Elven blades seem to be further examples of "scientifically" engineered products, made by a superior technolgy requiring engineers like Feanor and Celebrimbor and the ringsmiths. If we, or the hobbits could understand the science apparently behind such artifacts, they would become explainable, natural objects and so lose their "magical" quality. I think this is what Galadriel was trying to explain when she said to Frodo and Sam that she did not understand what they meant by the term "magic," and that there were, in her mind at least two kinds of such "magic," that produced for "domination," and that produced for benign purposes.

On the other hand, Tolkien in Letter #155, pp 199-200, seems also to be setting up a system whereby only certain classes of sapient beings have access to a genuine "magic" that probably is not at all technology oriented. Here we have the "magic" of Tom Bombadil that seems to emanate from his own person as a part of his own nature. He does "magical" things because he is himself "magical," he has not simply taken courses in "advanced science" in order to have access to a higher technology. He creates things, influences his environment and the people/ creatures about him by direct mental action -- his thought, his SONG (like Eru's song and the Ainur's) has the power to alter the physical world.

So, I think, at this point in our discussion, I see Tolkien presenting us with these two different types of magic -- high technology, which in a sense is not really magical at all; and direct personal power that is inherent in certain beings and does function as a truly magical phenomenon. This "true magic" is something that cannot be reduced to books of spells or formulae like chemistry, it is something that cannot be taught. You are born with it, or you will never attain it:

"Anyway, a difference in the use of 'magic' in this story is that it is not to be come by by 'lore' or spells; but is an inherent power not possessed or attainable by Men as such." (letter #155, p. 200)

In this sense, only beings with a high "spirituality" would have access to performing "real" magic. It might be interesting to see how consistently JRRT applies this axiom -- are there any instances of Mortal Men/ hobbits, practising true magic? How does Aragorn's "true" healing magic, where he defeats The Black Breath, stack up here? Are the Nazgul, some of whom were considered sorcerors BEFORE they got their Rings, able to practice true magic, or were they just using the high technology type of "magic?"

While Frodo bears The Ring, he seems to have access to powers that are supernatural for a hobbit, but the Ring is a bit of technology, not an inherent true magic? But, does it enhance Frodo's inherent "true magic" ability, especially when he starts "true dreaming" about the future? This element of magical foresight seems to continue in him long after the Ring has been destroyed, as when he seemingly, correctly predicts the gender and names of Sam's first several children.

LOL, left with more questions than answers at this point!
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