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cirdaneth
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Post Legolas in Hollin
on: February 28, 2010 10:59
“But the Elves of this land were of a race strange to us of the silvan folk, and the trees and the grass do not now remember them: Only I hear the stones lament them: deep they delved us, fair they wrought us, high they builded us; but they are gone. They are gone. They sought the Havens long ago.”
This is one of the great misinterpreted paragraphs in Lord of the Rings. Assumptions are made on the modern wide-ranging meanings of the words. Among them are that Legolas is claiming to be a Silvan elf, that his folk never met the elves of Eregion, that all the elves of Eregion sailed West, and that Legolas must have been born after they left.

Now Tolkien preferred to use words in very specific ways, in the original sense where possible, and my thought is that we need to look closely at the following:

race
strange
folk
havens

and there’s a cleverly omitted comma that gives one sentence a double meaning.

What do you think?
starofdunedain
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Post RE: Legolas in Hollin
on: March 01, 2010 06:52
Hmmm, I never assumed that they hadn't met the elves in Hollin or that even Legolas was born after they were gone.
I did think that he was of the silvan. But I guess I'm wrong?
I thought some of the Mirkwood elves were silvan in origin?
And I'm not sure what you mean by a double meaning?
Should there be a comma between race and strange?
Iavas87
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Post RE: Legolas in Hollin
on: March 01, 2010 10:35
Well, we know that Oropher and Thranduil led their Sindar followers East "before the building of Barad-Dûr", which began at around 1000SA, though we do not know how long before. The Noldor founded Eregion in 750SA, and it was destroyed 1697SA. Prior to their founding their respective realms, both the Sindar and the Noldor who remained in Middle-earth following the War of Wrath dwelt in Lindon and likely occasionally wandered throughout Eriador.

Save for those Sindar of Nevrast that took Turgon for their Lord and lived in Gondlin, the majority of Sindar of Beleriand owned Thingol as their Lord, and after the atrocities committed by the Sons of Fëanor, they were likely to have developed an even greater dislike for that particular family of Noldor than even Thingol had during his reign. They may have accepted Gil-Galad (of the line of Fingolfin or Finarfin, depending on which version you subscribe to, but definitely not sympathetic to Fëanor and sons) as high king throughout the Second Age, but I presume that this acceptance did not extend to Celebrimbor (son of Curufin, despite the fact that he renounced any association with his father and uncles following their overstay at Nargothrond), especially after he became fast friends with the Dwarves of Moria and later accepted Annatar (i.e. Sauron in disguise) against the wisdom of Gil-Galad, Elrond, and Galadriel. Given the similar style of Thranduil's later dwellings in the northern Mirkwood to Menegroth, I find it highly likely that Oropher and his kin were originally from the realm of Doriath, or at least greatly admired it, so the above-mentioned suppositions for the attitude toward Celebrimbor and the Gwaith-i-Mírdain probably applied to them.

Taking all that into consideration, I think that Oropher and the rest of the Sindar that chose to 'go native' and merge with the Silvan populations East of the Misty Mountains probably avoided Celebrimbor and company, especially after the latter founded Eregion and began their dangerous tinkering with rings of power under the tutelage of Annatar. So, even if they only crossed the Misty Mountains after Eregion was founded, it is unlikely that they passed through that realm, instead taking the High Pass or traveling along the coast until they reached the later Gap of Rohan going through Hollin.

We have no idea how old Legolas actually is. From his words about oaks and acorns and the comparatively childlike youth of old Aragorn and Gimli, we can suppose that his age can be measured in centuries. However, it is still quite possible that he was born well after his father came to Mirkwood and his people merged with the Silvan elves there. Indeed, it is equally possible that Thranduil married one of those Silvan elves, and Legolas was raised as a Silvan elf in body, mind, and soul, never leaving the Greenwood nor visiting other Elven settlements, especially West of the Mountains. Even Lórien is only known to him from song, not from experience, despite the fact that there was much contact between the two realms before the founding of Dol-Guldur and the awakening of the Balrog (1050TA and 1980TA, respectively), after which the Mirkwood (née Greenwood) elves moved north to escape the growing shadow.

So, I find it likely that Legolas was born well into the Third Age in Mirkwood and was raised as a Silvan Elf of that realm (if, indeed, any differentiation was made, save for the partitioning of wine), and rarely if ever left it until 3018TA. Thus, for him and the rest of the Silvan Elves that had never crossed the Misty Mountains, the Noldor of Eregion were a strange race (with burning eyes and fell knowledge, no doubt), known only from songs that probably did say that those people sought the havens, though they probably meant that the survivors of Sauron's attacks fled to Mithlond for safety, not necessarily that they crossed the Sea (or were allowed to by the Valar, who were believed even by wise Galadriel to still bar the way West to the primary motivators amongst the exiles).

I'm not sure which comma you mean, though. =\

[Edited on 1/3/2010 by Iavas87]
Elthir
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Post RE: Legolas in Hollin
on: March 02, 2010 05:48
I think there's a difference between interpreting a passage as it stands, and interpreting the same passage after possibly 'plugging in' factors gleaned elsewhere.

That said, I find it reasonable enough to interpret the passage in question, alone as it stands, as Legolas including himself among the Silvan Elves. Or why would this much not be a reasonable enough interpretation?

And if we go beyond the passage itself, I also find no real reason to think that the Silvan Elves of Mirkwood or Lórien, at least, were ever in Eregion. These East-elves were already east of the Misty Mountains before Eregion was founded.
cirdaneth
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Post RE: Legolas in Hollin
on: March 02, 2010 07:14
My main beef is with the published 'Legolas experts' who use this paragraph in particular to support their own pet theories about him and his family. We can never have complete answers but if we're going to speculate we need to look more deeply as Elthir and Iavas have. So here's my two pennyworth.

Race: defined as a group descended from a common ancestor. Well that's sensible enough. The Elves of Eregion were Noldor as we know, and Legolas is not.

Strange: originally meant different or foreign. So not necessarily spooky or eccentric, and a stranger was someone different but not necessarily unknown. Of course some strangers were very strange indeed in the modern sense, and that's presumably how we came to use it that way. The same fate has befallen 'outlander' meaning foreigner (German:auslander) which has fallen out of use and left us with 'outlandish' i.e. eccentric.

Silvan: simply means 'of the woods' (Latin: silva, a wood)

Folk: are simply the people who occupy a particular area and share a common culture, and as today's British folk and American folk they may not share ethnic origin.

So Legolas includes himself among the Silvan folk but doesn't mean he is ethnically a wood-elf. He declares the elves of Eregion are strange, but doesn't mean they have never met any. His father and grandfather certainly did, but briefly and uncomfortably at best, as has been pointed out.

There is a lot of information in UT on Amdir and Oropher and their decision to found their own kingdoms east of the Misty Mountains. It's a complicated picture, but basically, the wood-elves lived a simple rustic life, and were very vulnerable to evil forces left over from the First Age. A group of Sindarin warriors offering protection and technology would be very welcome. The earliest kingdoms of the human race were formed this way.

Haven: a safe place. Tolkien's havens are not all maritime. Imladris was also a haven and indeed many of the Noldor of Eregion fled there when Sauron overran Eriador.

Now for the missing comma. Tolkien could have put a comma after the word 'only' in the second sentence, but by omitting it the sentence can mean two things at once:-

Only I (Legolas) hear the stones lament them:

I only hear the stones (and nothing else) lament them:

The comma would have restricted it to the second meaning only. Clever old Tolkien eh?
PotbellyHairyfoot
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Post RE: Legolas in Hollin
on: March 03, 2010 08:18
If I remember correctly, Oropher, and Thranduil had a policy of keeping their Mirkwood elves away from the more warlike Noldorian Elves that settled in Eregion, even going so far as to move deeper into Mirkwood in order to stay isolated from them and the other elves that came from Beleriand.
When the Elves of Mirkwood contributed to the forces of the Last Alliance, the went into battle with littl armour and lessor weaponry than the other Elves of the Alliance, as the king so disliked the Noldor that he refused the offer of better weapons and armour. This resulted in the Mirkwood elves sustaining far heavier casualties than the rest of the Last Alliance.

It isn't surprising to have Legolas state that the Eregion Elves were strange to his sylvan people as that was due to a deliberate policy set in place by his father and grandfather. Both meanings of strange could be considered correct as; due to their isolation the Mirkwood Elves didn't know much about and also; they lived a different, technologically less advanced way of life or culture.

I also don't find it surprising to have Legolas consider himself to be of the sylvan folk, as he had likely lived all of his life amongst them and his father was their King. That is no different than the children of US immigrants considering themselves Americans.

Elthir
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Post RE: Legolas in Hollin
on: March 04, 2010 09:46
It was said (in one essay) that Oropher moved due to the Dwarves of Moria, and that he also resented the intrusions of Celeborn and Galadriel in Lórien. This is gleaned from The Sindarin Princes Of The Silvan Elves. However...

... there's an alternate history, from note 14 to The Disaster of the Gladden Fields, also in Unfinished Tales, where Oropher moves due to rumours of the rising power of Sauron.

I don't know which text was written later than the other, but in the former text (as I referred to them), it was also said the Silvan Elves desired to meddle in the affairs of the Noldor, Sindar, Dwarves, Men or Orcs, as little as they might, but Oropher knew that Sauron had to be dealt with. It's noted that the host of the Silvan Elves (in connection to the Last Alliance) were ill-equipped with armour or weapons in comparison with the Western Eldar; and also that they were independant: '... and not disposed to place themselves under the supreme command of Gil-galad.'

Thus their loses were more grievous than they need have been, and Oropher rushed forward at the head of his most doughty warriors before Gil-galad had given the signal for the advance.

The 'note 14 history' is relatively brief with respect to details here: Oropher joins the Alliance and was slain in the assault upon the gates of Mordor. Thranduil returns with the remnant of the army.
Hercynian
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Post RE: Legolas in Hollin
on: March 13, 2010 06:55
I have bookmark tabs throughout LotR and that passage is one of them. It is once again, IMHO, Tolkien contrasting his Silvan with his Imperial (Noldor) Elves. As stated above, O and T (Legolas's father, grandfather) wanted the silvan, "rustic" life, thinking it the best way to be Elven, i.e., before the intrusions -- however well-meant -- of the Valar. Yes, I believe Legolas was Mirkwood-born, and, therefore, only dimly aware of the paradigm/philosophy/lifestyle battle between Silvan and Noldor and why his father and grandfather chose the silvan way as purer. Sure, he might have heard of these differences. But when he comes across the ancient scraps of ruins with the Fellowship, the issue solidifies and rushes to the fore in his mind.

As far as what Tolkien through Legolas is saying, I believe they are commenting on the ephemeral nature of empires and great civilizations. As I've said elsewhere, I know very surely that Tolkien was onto what later anthropologists post-Margaret Mead began to say, namely, Is any form of civilization-technology the right way for humanity? Aren't the gains eventually swamped by the costs? Don't empires/civilizations always just burn out, accomplishing things that only later imperialists admire? Tolkien was fiercely anti-Industrialism -- and it's only a few mental steps backwards until you are wondering just what we've really gained by leaving the Garden of Eden.

No, IMHO, Tolkien is wistfully, even humbly asking what meaning there is to great civilizations. Legolas is loading this basic question into his head, but due to his Silvan, Zen-like coolness, doesn't go to such extraordinary philosophical wordiness as I have just done.... He's just waxes mystical-poetic and then drops the subject -- as would a pre-Columbian Mayan who might have stumbled upon the ruins of his ancestors' imperialism but instinctively knows what a mistake it was.
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