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Minas Tirith Forums » Library Council of Minas Tirith » Which (if any) of the inhabitants of Arda had pointed ears? (Page 2)
Author Topic: Which (if any) of the inhabitants of Arda had pointed ears?
The Laurenendôrian
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A post that I have been meaning to make for a while is that there are several cases of people mistaking Men for Elves, which one would imagine wouldn't happen if there were a straightforward physical difference such as altered ear-shape.

quote:
"This is strange in you, Voronwë," he said. "We were long friends. Why then would you set me thus cruelly between the law and my friendship? If you had led hither unbidden one of the other houses of the Noldor, that were enough. But you have brought to knowledge of the Way a mortal Man – for by his eyes I perceive his kin. Yet free can he never again go, knowing the secret; and as one of alien kin that has dared to enter, I should slay him – even though he be your friend and dear to you."
~ Unfinished Tales

Also in UT are the references to Men thinking that the Wizards were Elves, (e.g. Gandalf = 'staff elf'), while they were in human bodies; surely not a mistake that would be made so often if one had but to glance at ear-shape?

Finally, I am currently reading the Letters, and was intrigued by this passage:
quote:
The Númenóreans dwell within far sight of the easternmost 'immortal' land, Eressëa; and as the only men to speak an Elvish tongue (learned in the days of their Alliance) they are in constant communication with their ancient friends and allies, either in the bliss of Eressëa, or in the kingdom of Gilgalad on the shores of Middle-earth. They became thus in appearance, and even in powers of mind, hardly distinguishable from the Elves – but they remained mortal, even though rewarded by a triple, or more than a triple, span of years.
~ Letter 131, "probably written late in 1951"

I can imagine that Men would by living in an elvish manner take on a somewhat 'elvish' quality, but I find it absurd that this would involve their ears changing shape.

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cian
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Eitheladar posted: "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."

Etymologies is a 'pre-LOTR' document yes, and represents an 'earlier linguistic scenario' even -- but from a timewise perspective alone we are well past BOLT, and there is indeed overlap with LOTR draft material.

Moreover, it is very interesting (I think!) to note Elvish words published in LOTR itself. The Etymologies mythic ear 'detail', given (as is) in a parenthetical digression, is in regard to the related Elvish roots LAS1 & LAS2 -- from which generally derive 'leaf' and 'listen' words.

We have evidence of the same 'root relationship' in the published LOTR. We note, for examples, published lassi 'leaves', and Gandalf's lasto 'listen' (imperative).

The question that comes to (my) mind is, what would Tolkien have 'answered' if someone had asked about this seeming relationship in the Eldarin tongues? Why indeed would 'leaf' and 'listen' words be related in derivation? Perhaps this 'just was' ... or maybe there was some mythic point behind it (pun intended!)?

We know (so to speak) what the 'answer' was at one ... ahem ... point, back when Tolkien was writing the entry. As far as we currently know, Tolkien did not repeat this in a post LOTR text. That said, to my mind it seems 'pure Tolkien' for JRRT to 'deal' with this detail so. He doesn't describe leaf shaped ears 'in story', as an author might, but is the 'evidence' still there in some fashion? What about Amon Lhaw for another example (Tolkien seems to have added root SLAS- [S-LAS] into the mix)?


Eitheladar posted: "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."

Hmmm []

Tolkien knows the general 'popular' image connected with the word 'Elf'. He doesn't have to worry about folk thinking his Quendi are diminutive of course, and he takes the time to 'mention', in some way, that they did not have wings.

~~~

Regarding mistaking Elves for Men: assuming for the moment that Etymologies applies, the distinction as described between Elves and Men may exist in a broad comparison.

It's arguable at least, that X man might have somewhat leaf-shaped ears despite being a man, or may have 'more' pointed ears compared to another man -- are this man's ears distinguishing enough to easily determine his race? or are there other details to possibly suggest race in any event, in a given scenario (if indeed one was trying to specifically determine a being's race in the first place).

And the argument for possible 'long hair' explains itself I think []

A 'story-telling' perspective: if Tolkien conceived of his Elves as having (generally) more pointed and leaf-shaped ears than Humans, would he yet have some character say something like: I can tell by your 'ears' you are X or Y (?)

Possible of course, I suppose, and maybe that's not the best theoretic example! but I think there were other distinctions more fitting to (choose to) note within heroic fairy story, and I think the Prof would agree (pure opinion obviously!).

Of course none of my above 'proves' anything really, and is not intended to. Just my thoughts on the matter today []

¤

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Imbëar
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Cían,
I remember the evidence of lhaw and lhas - it seems to be the most evidentiary.

However, my response is two-part:
first, are modern human "ears" shaped like "ears" of corn? And what of the gross similarity between "ear" and "[h]ear"?
Secondly, perhaps the comparison between "leaf" and "hearing" in Tolkien's works has to do with the "audible sound" of the wind as it sighs or otherwise rouses the leaves.

These are my stock replies, of course.
I would love to see them deconstructed.

Imbëar

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Eitheladar
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Note also that JRRT himself wrote, in that controversial etymology entry, "Some think...". Who are those some he never made clear - it looks as if he was not sure himself.
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Galin
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In the recent publication Parma Eldalamberon 17 Tolkien looks at the Elvish word lassi. One of the most often quoted passages on Quendian ears is from (around) the late 1930s, in Etymologies (found in The Lost Road, The History of Middle-Earth Volume V), and goes in part...

quote:
LAS1- *lassë leaf: Q lasse, N lhass; Q lasselanta leaf-fall, autumn, N lhasbelin (*lassekweene), cf. Q Narquelion [KWEL]. Lhasgalen Greenleaf (Gnome name of Laurelin). (Some think this is related to the next and *lassê ear. The Quendian ears were more pointed and leaf-shaped than Human).

LAS2-
'listen'. N lhaw 'ears' (of one person), old dual *lasu -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, eavesdrop'.

OK, that's an 'oldish' look. Now however we have something post-Lord of the Rings, from Words, Phrases and Passages, posted here to compare with the older Etymologies entry...

quote:
Q lasse 'leaf' (S las); pl. lassi (S lais). It is only applied to certain kinds of leaves, especially those of trees, and would not e.g. be used of leaf of a hyacinth (linque). It is thus possibly related to LAS 'listen', and S-LAS stem of Elvish words for 'ear'; Q hlas, dual hlaru. Sindarin dual lhaw, singular lhewig.

lasse 'leaf'.

Comments? Obviously the description and the comparative statement to humans does not appear here, but what do you think about what is here?

Also I have yet to read PE17 in full, so there may be more, but I thought I would see if anyone had any comments on this section at least.

[ 09-18-2007, 02:08 AM: Message edited by: Galin ]

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Mithcoriel
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I assume most of us imagine elves with pointed ears, and men and dwarves without. That's the common picture, and many works that were inspired by Tolkien (e.g. the game Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games, be they pen and paper or on the computer, various fantasy books..) have gotten stuck on the pointy-eared "Tolkien elves", abandoning the classical picture of the fairy-like elf. So this is pretty baffling, the idea that Tolkien might not have considered the Eldar to have pointy ears at all. [] []

quote:
A post that I have been meaning to make for a while is that there are several cases of people mistaking Men for Elves, which one would imagine wouldn't happen if there were a straightforward physical difference such as altered ear-shape.
Where do people actually mistake men for elves? You mean like when it says a person was as fair as an elf etc.?
I can think of a lot of cases where I read that a person was first perceived to be an exceptionally beautiful human, until the narrator saw the pointed ears. But I don't think any of those were in Tolkien's works. They were in fanfictions or stories inspired by Tolkien..
Still, though: If the ears aren't that easy to see, surely that could still happen? Especially if, like in the movie, the ears are just pointed, not like in some other designs, where elf ears are as long as one and a half fingers or longer and as wide as two fingers or what have you.

quote:
...for by his eyes I perceive his kin...
I'd like to know what elf eyes look like then, if they're clearly so different from men.
But then, elves seem to have an unusual way of looking at eyes anyway. I thought I once read somewhere that Tolkien's elves didn't have adultery cause they could tell by a person's eyes and the way a person spoke that they were married.

quote:
I can imagine that Men would by living in an elvish manner take on a somewhat 'elvish' quality, but I find it absurd that this would involve their ears changing shape.
Add to that: what about all the half-elves who chose to be men. Did their ears morph from pointed to round? Did Arwen's ears do that? What about before they made their choice?
Or maybe they just become mortal humans with pointed ears.

But the fact that what species they are depended entirely on their decision and no morphing is mentioned, would actually suggest that elves and men were pretty much physically identical. []

quote:
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.
Hm, haven't read the description, but what if he meant it along the lines of: "Okay, you may imagine my elves like traditional elves, but they do NOT have wings, and they're tall." meaning the rest of the characteristics fit?

But, frankly, I have to say. [] No offense to Tolkien or anything, but I always thought it was rather unimaginative that many fantasy authors, claiming to "invent new races", just make a bunch of humans of different sizes, hair cuts, ear shapes etc and then pretend they're something completely different. If his elves didn't even have pointed ears (yeah, I know, it would be a small change, but it was something), then really, they're homo sapiens, period.

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Tigranes
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Concerning the possible mistaking of humans for elves, or ther seemingly missing distinction between the two: In a world where both races occur, people would have learned to distinguish between them pretty quickly. Even minor pysical features can be a cue if ou know what to look for.
For example, aboriginal Australians, some South Indians, and black Africans all have dark skin. They are also all human, with all the basic features. Yet to a good observer from outside, or a member of any of these groups, they look wildly different.

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Galin
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quote:
I'd like to know what elf eyes look like then, if they're clearly so different from men.
Tuor seemed to know Voronwe was of the high folk of the Noldor by the piercing glance of his eyes, and it was said that the eyes of the Elves that had dwelt in Aman impressed those of Middle-earth by their piercing brightness, for which reason the Sindar often called them Lechind 'flame-eyed'.

But in Middle-earth that applies to the returning Noldor of course. I wonder if the eyes of other Elves were somewhat brighter still than Men (in general, and maybe at least in some measure notable to Elves?), but in Of Dwarves And Men (a relatively late text), it is generally noted (note 47) that the folk of Hador could not easily be distinguished from the Eldar -- not while their youth lasted anyway.

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Michael Martinez
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There are no stories where Tolkien distinguishes between Elves and Men on the basis of ears. The case for "the beardlessness of Elves" was much stronger than the case for the pointy-eared Elf even before a text was published that explained Elvish males only grew beards in their "third cycle of life".

Most likely, the etymological point was a passing idea and Tolkien never developed it further. There are many examples.

Remember -- he merged several disparate mythologies to create Middle-earth. He simply borrowed elements and ideas from one generation of stories to create the next, and that means many things "fell away" (as Christopher Tolkien put it) and thus should never be considered part of the Middle-earth of The Lord of the Rings.

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