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Minas Tirith Forums » Library Council of Minas Tirith » Which (if any) of the inhabitants of Arda had pointed ears? (Page 1)
Author Topic: Which (if any) of the inhabitants of Arda had pointed ears?
The Laurenendôrian
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I thought that this was such a classic question that we should have a thread on it.

Which (if any) of the inhabitants of Arda had 'pointed' ears?

WGW, is this reasonable as a subject line? Should it be reduced to 'Did elves have pointed ears?'

This message has been edited by The Laurenendorian on 08-28-2001 at


From: Taruithorn | Registered: Oct 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
White Gold Wielder
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Perhaps we can discuss the whole pointed ear question here. Elves, Hobbits, Dwarves... Who had'm, who didn't, and why.

I'll think it over and modify the subject accordingly.


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The Laurenendôrian
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Good idea.
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Roll of Honor Gandalf the White
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Is there a quote that actually says that elves ears are pointed? I have never heard of dwarves or hobbits having pointed ears though...
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The Laurenendôrian
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The evidence for hobbits having pointed ears arises out of a letter Tolkien sent to an illustrator. I can't quote it exactly, but he asked for the ears to be drawn slightly pointed. Tolkiens own illustration, in the last chapter of The Hobbit does not seem to give any indication of pointed ears.
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Roll of Honor TheGentleman
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Hobbits have pointed ears in the film - this kinda confused me because I never imagined them to have such shaped listen holes. Is it written anywhere that Hobbits had pointed ears?

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Arra lives in us


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silver0163
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I seem to remember a direct quote about Legolas that said something about his pointed ears.
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Ensa Lucis
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Between humans and dwarves, there is the distinction of height (and facial hair), between humans and halflings, there is the difference in height (and shape?), and between humans and orcs, there is a large difference in appearance and build, and to an extent, diversity.
The main physical distinguishing features that we are told of in the books between humans and the firstborn are more subtle - fairness of face, slight differences in height & build, and perhaps a sort of invisible-but-tangible power. Other than this, elves seem reasonably similar to humans, in fact I seem to recall several people being likened to elves, having been brought up among them. This would suggest that elves do not have pointy ears, because they are likened to humans; that is assuming Tolkien's humans didn't have pointy ears

Regarding other races having pointy ears, I personally never picture dwarves with differently shaped ears - probably mostly because I always thought a helmet wouldn't fit over their heads otherwise
Hobbits are quite extensively described, both in Lord of the Rings, and funnily enough - the Hobbit. I cannot remember any direct reference to pointy ears, although I think if Tolkien had intended to, he would have put shape of ears alongside things like their jovial, ruddy faces or short, rather portly stature.

This message has been edited by Ensa Lucis on 09-04-2001 at


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The Laurenendôrian
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Have you read Nimruzir's theory for humans having pointed ears?

- http://www.minastirith.com/ubb/Forum1/HTML/000224.html

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Roll of Honor Mandin
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Letter # 27

"'fattish in the stomach, shortish in the leg. A round, jovial face; ears only slightly pointed and 'elvish';"

Tolkien, obviously, changed his mind about many times about many things, and it could be the case with this, but it seems that, indeed, both hobbits and elves had pointy ears.
Did the bagrog have wings? I don't think that Tolkien cared a great deal whether the balrog had wings, or whether hobbits and/or elves had pointy ears. Both controversial things would have been mentioned in the books if he had.
He may have enjoyed hobbits and elves having pointy ears, and so sent it along in a letter. They are not in the books, however, allowing us to decide whatever we jolly well wish.


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Roll of Honor Nenya
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I have been thinking on this statement for a while. And it may be the english grammar that is confusing me.
quote:
ears only slightly pointed and 'elvish';

What do 'elvish' refer to? Is it pointy or something else? Is pointy and 'elvish' the same thing or two different? Like you can say "the ball is black and white" which means two different colors.

Can anyone help me in my confusion, please?


This message has been edited by Nenya on 09-26-2001 at


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Earendilyon
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Dragons definitely had pointed ears!! And bunnies ofcourse
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Ecthelion of the Fountain
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I believe somewhere in the opening of The Hobbit that it states they have slightly pointed ears.

As for the 'elvish ears' quote, Tolkien may have been refering to more commonly known fairy tale Elves rather than those of his own creation. Of course, we don't really know if his have pointed ears or not.

I have never really thought of any other race having pointed ears other than Hobbits though.


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Dingalen
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I would interprete 'elvish' in this context only as 'resembling elven ears'. It also makes clear, that Prof. Tolkien intended elven ears to be pointed. Nimruzir (may we escape his attention), gave a very good cite in that respect in the discussion, The Laurenendorian mentioned:

quote:

The elf argument resides in the Etymological stem from Las = 'to listen', but [also] Las = 'leaf'.
See Lasse = 'ear'.
Curiously; this also has the direct statement:
'The Quendian ears were more pointed and leaf-shaped than human.'
[As taken from History Vol. 5 Lost Road and Other Writings.]

'Elvish' in a general context - i.e. referring to elves in fairy tale, mythology, modern fantasy and fantastical art and illustration seems too ambiguous to me. For example in englisch and irish mythology, 'elvish' is used to describe something otherworldly, sorcerous or just plain spooky.
That doesn't fit to a description of Hobbit ears. I do not believe, that Prof, Tolkien with his vision of Middle Earth and his knowledge of mythology would use elvish to refer to cartoon style elves.

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As silent as greenwood the great.

This message has been edited by Dingalen on 09-27-2001 at


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Nimruzir
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Nimruzir (may we escape his attention)

That doesn't fit to a description of Hobbit ears. I do not believe, that Prof, Tolkien with his vision of Middle Earth and his knowledge of mythology would use elvish to refer to cartoon style elves.

I think, as you pointed out earlier in your question of Sidhe -- Seelie /Unseelie [or earlier Liosalfar and Dockalfar] and other comparable historical references to Faery Folk concerning diminishing size as time goes on [especially as seen by the Tuatha De Danann who most resemble later Middle-earth Elves] - which AFAIK was shifted from Lost Tales Elves to Hobbits [cf. 'but they have dwindled, they say, and in ancient days they were taller.' Prologue FotR]. Hobbits seem to be equated here as ancestors of historical Faery Folk, with whom they are confused with -- as explanation.

As per your long hinted desire though, I avoided that discussion and others that you wished.

JRRT made a hodgepodge of the myths for his mythology, all to make it seem more familiar. [cf. Gleipnir/Angainor, Alviss/the Trolls, Tyfring/Angrist and Gurthang, Andvari and his plain gold ring/Silmarils - Nauglamir and the Three Kin-slayings, the tale of Siegfried and the Nibelungs [cf. Noegyth Nibin], the association of Swans with Faery Folk, even some of the Arthurian legends [Sir Erec as one that especially comes to mind], and the list goes on and on -- no surprise.]

Retaining the 'pixie' element of mythology also surfaces in Tom Bombadil from where his origins sprang [aside from the Doll itself].

From BoLT 1
"In the later work there is no trace of any such explanation of the ‘pixie’ element in the world’s population: the Maiar are little referred to, and certainly not said to include such beings as ‘sing amid the grass at morning and chant among the standing corn at eve’."

So, in reality, it does fit hobbit ears.

All in my opinion -- of course.

Out of curiosity Dingalen [and a topic suitable for a private discussion if you like], do you believe that the Biblical Noah story derives from the much older Mesopatamic tale of Ut-napishtam? I do find it curious that the Biblical Noah story omits the Giant Og -- when both Hebrew and Arabic versions retain him. I can only speculate that the removal was done to portray Giants as evil cf. Goliath. I also speculate if the Legend of King Bram loosely applies to Elendil as a retention of a 'tall' king of legendary history or not.
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Sínome Endor maruvan ar hildinya tenn'ambar-metta

This message has been edited by Nimruzir on 09-28-2001 at


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Roll of Honor Marcho Blackwood - MSS
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quote:
Sam pricked up his ears at this.

I found this interesting. I have never thought of a human 'pricking up' his ears. I always see pointed ears on a fox or dog doing this sort of thing, were there is actually some mobility to the outer ear helping them tune in to sounds.

quote:
Wild Men have long ears and long eyes; know all paths.

I know long isn't the same as pointed, but jus to point out that the shape was specifically discussed in LotR.

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Marcho Blackwood, MSS
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Eorl the Young
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Your quotes are interesting, but maybe they're more metaphoric than just that?!

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Forth Eorlingas!


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Dingalen
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No, metaphorical message - he only wants to seriously twist my tail. (He must have a search engine running - entirely for him to pop up when his name is mentioned! Me, teasing him? Man, what do you think I waste my time with? I'm doing my PhD - I do this to relax! Not out some competetive inclination.)

Nice line of parallels you listed. Most sound quite likely. I like the one between the Nibelungs and the Ngoethyn(?) Nibin - especially concerning the treachery of the Petty dwarf Mim in parallel to the deeds of Aleric - and the treasure of the Nibelungs and the cursed gold of Glaurung.

Concerning the hobbits, you made a good point. Only viewed from the position of LotR and the Hobbit their ephemeral nature is not clear. But they are definitely a waning race like the elves (as is also pointed out in the the introductory lines of the first chapter of the Hobbit). Viewed in the light of your explanations, "elvish" as an attribute starts to make (deeper) sense.

Unfortunately, I have never read the mesopotamien myth you are referring to. (As soon as mesopotamien mythology gets too far off the beaten paths of the Gilgamesh-Epos and the myths of Marduk and Tiamat, I am lost).

I believed that the lack of fantastic creatures (giants, dragons, chimeras, etc.) in the bible while they abound in mythological texts of that region was due to the massive re-editing the bible text experienced over the ages with the changes in hebrew religious philosophy.

The theory I favor is, that many of the fantastic elements were deleted in the time of King Manasse - when a significant part of the jewish priesthood fled Jerusalem. Due the whorship of Ashtar favored by the king, the priesthood tried strongly to distinguish the concept of the monotheistic jewish faith from the polytheistic ones. Especially that it would not allow "demi-gods" like giants and dragons to exist parallel to the one true god. The solution would be obvious: Either deny their existence or demonize them.

This message has been edited by Dingalen on 09-28-2001 at


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Nimruzir
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He must have a search engine running - entirely for him to pop up when his name is mentioned!
Since I think this is directed toward me; the answer is no.

[Although placing my name in bold letters did seem to indicate you actually wished me to reply, by grabbing my attention so noticably.]

As soon as mesopotamien mythology gets too far off the beaten paths of the Gilgamesh...
Hmmmm. He is a part of Gilgamesh's history... the old man of the mountain might ring a bell. The Flood story mentioned is interesting. I do hope you can find it somewhere.

...due to the massive re-editing the bible text experienced over the ages.
Ooooooo nasty topic. Re-editing is too light a term I think.

As another speculative query concerning your opinion towards the Elf-queen of historical tales [AKA Rhiannon]. Would you agree that Meril-i-Turinqi is the counter-part in theory to this well-known elf of history?

I have a notion that Meril eventually became Galadriel in time.

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Sínome Endor maruvan ar hildinya tenn'ambar-metta


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Dingalen
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Actually, typing your name in bold letters was a test whether you were still around. You have been ominously silent in the last month.

So you have been brooding on Meril-i-Turinqi. I can hardly remember this name - so it would be nice, if you could drop a hint where you dug it up. Lost Tales? Must be one of these very sketchy draft, you seem to favor.

The figure of the elf-queen is so classical, that Galadriel need not be traced back to any previous characters Prof. Tolkien might have developed. Otherwise you could set Galadriel in line with Melian - both queens by status and by spirit far outshining their royal husbands. What gives you the particular notion, that Meril-i-Turinqi 'became' Galadriel?

I find it difficult to link Galadriel to the elf-queen(s) of irish mythology in character. The irish queens are shrouded in mystery - while the history of Galadriel is straightforward - Galadriel is also less alien ("elvish") in personality than the Sidhe queen. (Should I say christianified? Galadriel is closer to the ideal of a knight's queen (i.e. the virgin Mary) than to the hidden people.

Agreed on the bible. From the way genesis & deuteronomie were rewritten to suit the current philosophy, I am wondering how these people could uphold their faith while at the same time changing core messages of their most important religious texts. But the same thing is happening in our time, too. I am always amazed how modern theologist can flexibly adapt to modern historical or archaeological findings that would have shaken churches just 100 years ago. I read last an interview were a theological historian agreed to the hypothesis that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem (, but that that was just a tale constructed to set Jesus as Messias in the line of David) and not on the 24th/25th or anywhere near new year (a tale to symbolize the new beginning). Didn't even rattle him - while the whole concept of christmas is seriously shaken.

Also I need to point out before any one else does it: We are drifting from the topic. We should be discussing, whether dwarves would havemore or less pointed ears than humans (or something )

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As silent as greenwood the great.

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Dingalen
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What? No interest in pointy eared dwarves? C'mon, people: Pointy ears and long beards go nicely together!

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Roll of Honor Gandalf the White
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No, I don't think beards and pointy ears DO go together You actually thought you could escape Nimruzir in a library topic!?! Your insane!

I think Marcho's quotes are very good. I wouldn't think of something without pointy ears "pricking" their ears...


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The Laurenendôrian
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Tolkien's pictures of Smaug seem to show that he has pointed ears.
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Darmok the Green
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re: Hobbits a waning race - I would expect Hobbits eventually merged with Humans (who they were closest to anyway) and people these days who don't grow to full standard height are the result of supressed Hobbit-genes. []

And there are some people who have somewhat pointed ears (although not sharply-pointed like conventional elves). Of course, the line of Aragorn and Arwen would have brought Elvish blood into the race of Men, which their descendants would no doubt be considered part of.

Would Tolkien have used a waord like 'elvish' to describe, as I put it above, 'conventional elves', rather than elfish or elfin?

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Eitheladar
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I think that, at and after the time of publication of LotR, Tolkien had rejected the idea of pointed ears for both Hobbits and Elves.

It is true that he specified that the Hobbit's ears be 'elvish', but that is not capitalized. Besides, at that time, nobody had heard of "Tolkien's Elves". He certainly meant 'elvish' in the popular, fairy-tale sense. At the same time, though, 'his' Elves might have had pointed ears. As the Etymologies indeed declare, under LAS(1) -

(Some think this is related to the next and *lassë 'ear'. The Quendian ears were more pointed and leaf-shaped than [?human].)

But this entry dates from the late 1930s at the latest. JRRT was still under the influence of the Book of Lost Tales with its gnomes, faeries and whatnot. In The Lord of the Rings or in letters from that period he expresses regret at having chosen 'Elves' to translate 'Quendi/Eldar' - and does his best to remove them from the popular fairy-image that goes with that word.

Tolkien had many chances to describe the physical appearance of Hobbits and Elves. He describes Hobbits in quite great detail in the Prologue to LotR. Nothing is said about the ears. Neither is anything said about Elven ears in Appendix F - though JRRT does see it fit to indicate that they did not have wings, which he thinks ridiculous.
I think that if Tolkien had wanted to preserve the pointed ears for his Elves, he had a great many opportunities to indicate this, just as he kept pointing out their fair voices and faces, their stature, their raven or golden hair, and their bright eyes. I have no doubt that since he did not say anything about their ears, then he did not envision them as anything but 'normal'.

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"My opinions may change but not the fact that I am right."

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