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Re: CHAT: Tolkien (was Re: fantasy)

From:Ed Heil <edheil@...>
Date:Thursday, November 25, 1999, 17:49
I was aware of Tolkien's distaste for elves as diminutive fairies, but
not of any particular distaste for pointy ears.  The otherwise
well-researched Tolkien FAQ at makes no mention of any
statement of Tolkien's about disliking pointy-eared elves; if he ever
made such a statement, one would have thought somebody would have
noticed and mentioned it here in the FAQ.

2) Did Hobbits have pointed ears?

  Only slightly.  Tolkien described Bilbo thusly for purposes of
illustration in a letter to Houghton Mifflin (c. 1938):

    I picture a fairly human figure, not a kind of 'fairy' rabbit as
some of my British reviewers seem to fancy: fattish in the stomach,
shortish in the leg.  A round, jovial face; ears only slightly
pointed and 'elvish'; hair short and curling (brown).  The feet
from the ankles down, covered with brown hairy fur.  Clothing: green
velvet breeches; red or yellow waistcoat; brown or green jacket;
gold (or brass) buttons; a dark green hood and cloak (belonging to
a dwarf).
                                                      Letters, 35

The Annotated Hobbit cites this letter and includes a reasonable
illustration based upon it.  [Note that Tolkien's use of the word
"elvish" here refers to the elfs of popular folklore, who were often
pictured with pointed ears.  The Elves of Middle-earth (except for
the Silvan Elves in The Hobbit) were at the time of this letter known
to only a few people.]

References: Letters, 35 (#27);
            Annotated Hobbit, 10 (Ch I, note 2).

Contributor: WDBL


1) Did Elves have pointed ears?

    They were evidently somewhat pointed; more so that human ears, at
any rate.  The only place this matter is addressed directly is in The
Etymologies, published in _The Lost Road_.  There, the following two
entries for the element 'las' are given [Q == Quenya, N == Noldorin]:

  Las (1) *lasse  'leaf': Q lasse, N lhass;  Q lasselanta
    autumn',  N lhasbelin (*lassekwelene),  cf. Q Narquelion [ KWEL
    Lhasgalen  'Greenleaf' (Gnome name of Laurelin).  (Some think
    is related to the next and  *lasse  'ear'.  The Quendian ears
    more pointed and leaf-shaped than [human].)

   Las (2)  'listen'.  N lhaw  'ears' (of one person), old dual
    -- whence singular  lhewig.  Q lar, lasta-  'listen';  lasta
    'listening, hearing'  --  Lastalaika  'sharp-ears', a name,
    cf. N  Lhathleg.  N  lhathron  'hearer, listener, eavesdropper'
    ( < *la(n)sro-ndo ) ; lhathro  or  lhathrando  'listen in,
                                                  (The Lost Road,

Some have rejected the conclusion on the grounds that these entries
were written before LotR was begun and therefore may not apply to it.

It is thus significant that the element 'las' retained both its
meanings, as is shown by examples in LotR itself, such as Legolas
('Green leaf') (TT, 106, 154), 'lassi' (== "leaves") in Galadriel's
Lament (FR, 394), and Amon Lhaw (Hill of Hearing) (FR, 410).

References: FR, 394, (II, 8), 410 (II,9);
            TT, 106 (III,5), 154 (III,8);
            Letters, 282 (#211);
            The Lost Road (HoMe V), 367 ("The Etymologies").

Contributor: WDBL



Grandsire, C.A. wrote:

> Ed Heil wrote: > > > > Grandsire, C.A. wrote: > > > > > > > > It is, knowing how Tolkien despised the pointed ears of the
> > of > > > the folk view. He said it enough to consider that giving pointed ears
> > > Elves in LotR is not a good idea, if only to respect his memory. > > > > The rest of your points are well taken, but I don't think I've ever > > heard of Tolkien saying even once, much less repeatedly, that he > > despised pointed-eared elves. Can you support this? > > > > Not right now, but the article I had read had references to some > letters of Tolkien where he said how he despised the common view of > elves as delicate, small and pointed-eared creatures, as well as the > small, insect-winged fairies. Well, maybe "despise" is too stong a word, > but at least there is some evidence that he didn't like the pointed ears > (other people should be able to inform you better than this, as I don't > have the article right now, it must have stayed in France). I don't > think he really despised pointed ears as such, but he certainly found > them useless ornaments that reminded people too much of the common > "childish" fairy tales which have nothing to do with LotR. > > -- > Christophe Grandsire > > Philips Research Laboratories -- Building WB 145 > Prof. Holstlaan 4 > 5656 AA Eindhoven > The Netherlands > > Phone: +31-40-27-45006 > E-mail: