Minas Tirith Forums Create a New Topic  Reply to this Topic
profile | register |
search | faq | avatars | citizens
donate | about | library
  This topic is comprised of pages:  1  2 
Minas Tirith Forums » Lord of the Rings » How many steps to the top of Orthanc? (Page 1)
Author Topic: How many steps to the top of Orthanc?
The Flammifer
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11407
posted      Profile for The Flammifer   Email The Flammifer   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Gandalf speaking:
quote:
...on the pinnacle of Orthanc, in the place where Saruman was accustomed to watch the stars. There is no descent save by a narrow stair of many thousand steps…
IS GANDALF EXAGGERATING? []
Orthanc was 500’ in height.

From: East Bight | Registered: Jun 2014  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Aiwrendel
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 965

posted      Profile for Aiwrendel   Author's Homepage   Email Aiwrendel   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Where did you read the height was 500 feet? Quote, please.
From: Chicago USA | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Snöwdog
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 15

posted      Profile for Snöwdog   Author's Homepage   Email Snöwdog   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Yeah, quote please. []

( [] [] will answer his own question so no other deviations from that question or attempts at discussion will be accepted by said [] [] )

[ 09-19-2014, 04:13 PM: Message edited by: Snöwdog ]

From: In the Shadows of Annuminas | Registered: Aug 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Flammifer
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11407
posted      Profile for The Flammifer   Email The Flammifer   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
From Two Towers, The Road to Isengard
Chronicler describing Orthanc:
quote:
...but near the summit they opened into gaping horns, their pinnacles sharp as the points of spears, keen-edged as knives. Between them was a narrow space, and there upon a floor of polished stone, written with strange signs, a man might stand five hundred feet above the plain.
[] []
From: East Bight | Registered: Jun 2014  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Snöwdog
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 15

posted      Profile for Snöwdog   Author's Homepage   Email Snöwdog   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
I knew you were going to quote that line. So it might be 500 feet high. []
From: In the Shadows of Annuminas | Registered: Aug 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Flammifer
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11407
posted      Profile for The Flammifer   Email The Flammifer   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
No you didn't! And I KNEW you would take issue with it!! ALL authorities agree (except Snowdog) that Orthanc was 500 feet tall.

This is quite clearly Tolkien's way of telling us that Orthanc was 500 feet in height.

My original question was for the sound of mind. I repeat:
quote:
...on the pinnacle of Orthanc, in the place where Saruman was accustomed to watch the stars. There is no descent save by a narrow stair of many thousand steps…

IS GANDALF EXAGGERATING?
Orthanc was 500’ in height.

[] []

[ 09-17-2014, 05:41 AM: Message edited by: The Flammifer ]

From: East Bight | Registered: Jun 2014  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Gollum Gollum
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11392

posted      Profile for Gollum Gollum   Email Gollum Gollum   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Maybe there are round stairs in Orthanc...?
 -

From: Cave in the Misty Mountains | Registered: May 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Flammifer
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11407
posted      Profile for The Flammifer   Email The Flammifer   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Whether a "round" (spiral) or zig-zag stairway would make no difference as each step would have to be x inches in height (the riser). Or, each "step" would take you x inches closer to the top.

So how many steps would be needed to reach the 500' pinnacle?

ps if more canonical source is needed to ease your soul in Letter 210 Tolkien states, "The tower was 500 feet high.” [] []

[ 09-17-2014, 06:12 AM: Message edited by: The Flammifer ]

From: East Bight | Registered: Jun 2014  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Hamfast Gamgee
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 5528

posted      Profile for Hamfast Gamgee   Author's Homepage   Email Hamfast Gamgee   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Coincidentally, does anyone else think that this building ere.
https://sp.yimg.com/ib/th?id=HN.607987006546248120&pid=15.1&P=0
Does look remarkably like the Tower of Orthanc!

From: Bagshot Row, Hobbiton, The Shire! | Registered: Sep 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Flammifer
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11407
posted      Profile for The Flammifer   Email The Flammifer   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Surprisingly yes it sure does Hamfast. Except for a large height differential and it were made of “dark black rock” it would be very very close indeed.

And to answer my own original question:

IS GANDALF EXAGGERATING when he says “many thousand steps?
quote:
”...on the pinnacle of Orthanc, in the place where Saruman was accustomed to watch the stars. There is no descent save by a narrow stair of many thousand steps…”
Orthanc was 500’ in height. The average riser of a step (today’s) is seven & three-quarter inches. A 500’ building would have approximately 645 steps – not “many thousand”, although it may have seemed more like “many thousand” to Gandalf as he was being force-marched up to the pinnacle.

So the answer is “Yes!” Gandalf WAS exaggerating.

Can anyone come up with any other Gandalf exaggerations?
[] []

From: East Bight | Registered: Jun 2014  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Snöwdog
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 15

posted      Profile for Snöwdog   Author's Homepage   Email Snöwdog   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Hmm... I did actually. []
[] , I'll ignore your blatant provocation, and put your questionable sanity (unless it's self?) analysis aside, you are saying that Tolkien contradicts himself when he writes (as Gandalf)...

"There is no descent save by a narrow stair of many thousand steps…"

and when he writes (as narrator)...

"but near the summit they opened into gaping horns, their pinnacles sharp as the points of spears, keen-edged as knives. Between them was a narrow space, and there upon a floor of polished stone, written with strange signs, a man might stand five hundred feet above the plain"

So... being a thousand steps to gain 500' is quite excessive, the question is really 'was Tolkien exaggerating?'

So, what part did Tolkien get wrong? The height? Or the number of stairs? Maybe they are very small Hobbit steps? Maybe something the editor should have picked up? Or can he even be wrong since he was creator and author of this world? []

Hamfast, if it were made of black stone, then maybe. But as it stands, no.

[ 09-17-2014, 06:08 PM: Message edited by: Snöwdog ]

From: In the Shadows of Annuminas | Registered: Aug 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Flammifer
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11407
posted      Profile for The Flammifer   Email The Flammifer   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Hmm… Well if you did actually know the height of Orthanc, why ask me for a canonical source if you knew the answer beforehand? Just being Snowdog I guess?

Nevertheless, NO! to ALL of your Tolkien and editorial suppositions!
As usual you have sidestepped and averted the question and taken it into an area not intended.

The question was AGAIN: Did Gandalf exaggerate the amount of steps? The answer is YES!

And give us a break with the “Hobbit steps” PLEASE! Orthanc was built by the Dunedain and the steps would be normal height. (Even if they WERE ½ height we’re still a long ways from “many thousand steps”.)

NO! Tolkien got nothing wrong. Gandalf was prone to braggadocia and hyperbole on occasion, and that’s part of what we love about his personality. [] []

From: East Bight | Registered: Jun 2014  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Snöwdog
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 15

posted      Profile for Snöwdog   Author's Homepage   Email Snöwdog   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Well, if you are going to answer your own question, why put it out here for any sort of discussion in the first place?
From: In the Shadows of Annuminas | Registered: Aug 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Aiwrendel
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 965

posted      Profile for Aiwrendel   Author's Homepage   Email Aiwrendel   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
“...many thousand steps...” makes no sense for a 500 foot tall structure.

If the risers were 2 inches in height there would only be a "few" (3000) thousand steps. Even with a landing every 12 vertical feet that required 3 “steps” (footfalls) to traverse there would only be 3125 footfalls (steps). But I think Tolkien meant stair treads when he wrote “steps”. Also, 2-inch risers are shallow steps to the extreme and an incredible waste of materials.

Is there no question about the height of Orthanc? Are we 100% sure it's 500 feet? Is there no other Tolkien authored documentation addressing the height? Just wondering.

So either Tolkien made a mistake (which I highly doubt) or Orthanc is taller than 500 feet. Or maybe the Dúnedain built an Escherian Stairwell in Orthanc. []

Hmmm. Gandalf exaggerating is not something I would have thought of but I guess it’s the best explanation I've yet heard.

From: Chicago USA | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Flammifer
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11407
posted      Profile for The Flammifer   Email The Flammifer   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
SnowdogAfter several days it appeared that no one was particularly interested in attempting to tackle the problem, so I gave my answer just have it on record for those who might be interested.

You did not seem to be interested. Your main thrust (as is occasionally your wont) was to divert, transform and find a “hole” in the question. Which you did not!

Cheers [] []

[ 09-18-2014, 07:57 AM: Message edited by: The Flammifer ]

From: East Bight | Registered: Jun 2014  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Flammifer
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11407
posted      Profile for The Flammifer   Email The Flammifer   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Aiwrendel I don’t quite follow your thinking of the height of a step. As Orthanc was built by the Dunedain, and they were taller than the average man, say 6’ 4” it would make no sense whatsoever to have a step riser less than 7.75 inches. (Even were they but 6’ tall). Even were the risers ½ that we still only have about 1200 steps total (which as you say is a complete waste of material, not to mention the discomfort of the Men taking 1200 baby-steps to reach the top. And a stair tread is simply the part of the step that is stepped on, not the riser.
quote:
Is there no question about the height of Orthanc? Are we 100% sure it's 500 feet? Is there no other Tolkien authored documentation addressing the height? Just wondering.
I mentioned above 2 sources for the height of Orthane:
“...but near the summit they opened into gaping horns, their pinnacles sharp as the points of spears, keen-edged as knives. Between them was a narrow space, and there upon a floor of polished stone, written with strange signs, a man might stand five hundred feet above the plain.”
and: Letter 210 Tolkien states, "The tower was 500 feet high.”

I love those Escher drawings… clever… but ??

I think that Gandalf was mistaken or exaggerated (who can blame him being herded up several hundred steps under guard?); but if we must find a culprit for this particular incongruity maybe we could blame it on Frodo!? As Tolkien was simply the translator of the Red Book of Westmarch, and it can be assumed that Frodo (possibly with Sam’s help) probably wrote this part of LOTR, which I think he called “The Downfall of the Lord of the Rings and the Return of the King”. (I may be corrected on this.)

Cheers [] []

From: East Bight | Registered: Jun 2014  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Flammifer
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11407
posted      Profile for The Flammifer   Email The Flammifer   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Aiwrendel
There are also several non-canonical sources that state that Orthanc was 500’ in height:
Several internet sites state so, (although these can be taken with a grain of salt).

Karen Wynn Fonstad in her Atlas of Middle- earth says:
“As Orthanc was over five hundred feet high . . .”

Robert Foster in his Complete Guide to Middle-earth says:
“The top of Orthanc, a flat floor inscribed with astronomical figures, stood 500 feet above the plain of Isengard.”

J.E.A. Tyler in his Complete Tolkien Companion says:
“It stood within the Ring of Angrenost, and was constructed from four pinnacles of hard, glossy black stone, welded into a single tower five hundred feet high.”

The only “if” here is Fonstad’s “over five hundred feet”. She is probably talking about the quote from TT, bk. 3, ch. 8 which states “…four mighty piers of many-side stone were welded into one, but near the summit they opened into gaping horns . . .Between them was a narrow space, and there upon a floor of polished stone . . .” etc. So the “over 500 feet” would include these “horns” which would rise above the 500 foot observation floor.

Hope this helps. [] I haven’t found any more authentic “Tolkien” quotes beside the two mentioned above.

From: East Bight | Registered: Jun 2014  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Hamfast Gamgee
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 5528

posted      Profile for Hamfast Gamgee   Author's Homepage   Email Hamfast Gamgee   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Well, it looks like the tower of Orthanc to me and I even pass under the building at times [] Heck, it even has a little platform at the top were I can imagine Saruman passing spells upon Londoners underneath. Or perhaps that is left to Boris Johnson. Though I do confess it isn't made of black rock. Probably made of something from Poland I expect. Actually, is Orthanc the tallest building in Middle-Earth? It does seem very tall. Though would Barad-dur be taller? I lean towards Orthanc been taller as it was made by Numenoreans in the second age and everything was a bit grander then. Though there was that building mentioned in the appendixes which was built as a monument to Sauron's defeat by the Numenoreans at the end of the second age, but it was hinted that Sauron might be able to destroy Orthanc if he had the opportunity by Gandalf.

[ 09-18-2014, 03:39 PM: Message edited by: Hamfast Gamgee ]

From: Bagshot Row, Hobbiton, The Shire! | Registered: Sep 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Gollum Gollum
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11392

posted      Profile for Gollum Gollum   Email Gollum Gollum   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
Probably made of something from Poland I expect.
[] [] Why do you think so? I mean, I'm really interested. I have no idea what the "world" thinks of things from Poland, so I'd be really grateful if you explained to me why you mentioned it. []

quote:
Does look remarkably like the Tower of Orthanc!
I like the idea []

quote:
So... being a thousand steps to gain 500' is quite excessive, the question is really 'was Tolkien exaggerating?'
I think Snöwdog hit the nail on the head. I don't like the idea of Gandalf exaggerating - it just wouldn't do. But Tolkien, no matter how much we like him, made many mistakes - and this might be one of them. "Many thousand steps" is a beautiful structure, so he put it there, not realising it didn't make much sense. []
From: Cave in the Misty Mountains | Registered: May 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Galin
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 4975
posted      Profile for Galin   Edit/Delete Post 
Maybe we don't need to get so mathematical here? Menegroth 'The Thousand Caves'... really that exact number? But from the Elf-child's tale mingled with counting lore: '144 was for long [the Elves'] highest number, so that in none of their later tongues was there any common name for a greater number' War of the Jewels

So maybe Menegroth means 'many, a whole lot of caves'. If we apply this anyway... at the moment I'm not sure everything else agrees with this statement, actually.

In any event, here's some various dictionary references with etymological thingies...

quote:
'... from P.Gmc. *thusundi (cf. O.Fris. thusend, Du. duizend, O.H.G. dusunt, Ger. tausend, O.N. usund, Goth. usundi); related to words in Balto-Slavic (cf. Lith. tukstantis, O.C.S. tysashta, Pol. tysiac, Czech tisic), and probably ultimately a compound with indefinite meaning "several hundred" or "a great multitude"...'

Old English þusend, from Proto-Germanic *thusundi (cognates: Old Frisian thusend, Dutch duizend, Old High German dusunt, German tausend, Old Norse þusund, Gothic þusundi).

Related to words in Balto-Slavic (Lithuanian tukstantis, Old Church Slavonic tysashta, Polish tysiąc, Russian tysiacha, Czech tisic), and probably ultimately a compound with indefinite meaning "great multitude, several hundred," literally "swollen-hundred," with first element from PIE root *teue- (2) "to swell" (see thigh).

[and in some modern dictionaries at least the definitions include...]

'a great number or amount.' informal [usually in plural]: an unspecified large number


Used to translate Greek khilias, Latin mille, hence the refinement into the precise modern meaning. There was no general Indo-European word for "thousand."

And Westron pre-dates Indo-Eruopean, so maybe Tolkien just used 'thousand' in a historic sense to translate Gandalf's Westron.

So perhaps Gandalf means: a lot!

[ 09-19-2014, 12:38 PM: Message edited by: Galin ]

Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Snöwdog
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 15

posted      Profile for Snöwdog   Author's Homepage   Email Snöwdog   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
So perhaps Gandalf means: a lot!
it's funny you bring that up Galin. Back when I first read that passage, that was what I thought. It was (is?) quite common to use "thousands" as a vague reference to meaning 'many' or some large uncountable number. Tale-wise, there was no need to know exactly the actual number of steps from the ground to the top. It was considered to be a lot of steps.
From: In the Shadows of Annuminas | Registered: Aug 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Flammifer
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11407
posted      Profile for The Flammifer   Email The Flammifer   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
And so we get back to the original question – Whew! (Apologies for the fisticuffs for my part. This isn’t the forum to engage in personal squabbles.)
Which was “is Gandalf exaggerating” when he said “many thousand steps”?

I agree with Snowdog and Galin that Gandalf meant “a lot”.
Wesbsters New Universal Dictionary defines “lot”: as “a great number or amount; as, we saw a lot of wild ducks”.
Merriam-Webster: “a considerable quantity or extent”.

It’s good to see a few taking the blame away from Tolkien and putting this “lot” on Gandalf, (should I say slight “exaggeration” – No I won’t, no I won’t.) [] []

From: East Bight | Registered: Jun 2014  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Aiwrendel
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 965

posted      Profile for Aiwrendel   Author's Homepage   Email Aiwrendel   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Thank you Galin *bows* for getting me off my mathematical horse and back down to Middle Earth. I neglected Tolkien’s style of writing, his linguistics skills, and the fact that the story was written about an age long before ours.

There’s just too much 21th century engineer in me sometimes. []

From: Chicago USA | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Gollum Gollum
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11392

posted      Profile for Gollum Gollum   Email Gollum Gollum   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
Hail Galin! The one who definitely understands Tolkien better than anyone else here. In fact, better than all other citizens taken together.


More about the word 'thousand' in Slavic languages, based on an etymologico-historical [was that correct?] dictionnary:
quote:
TYSIAC [Thousand] '1000, plenty, an unspecified multitude'. An all-Slavic word, inherited from *tysat '1000', which came from PIE *tūs-k'mt-. Cf. German Tausend, Lithuanian túkstantis, Latvian tukstuots.

The structure of the PIE word was two-element:
1) the PIE *tūs [] pre-Slavic *ty, which is also found in the verb *ty-ti, Pol. tyc (to grow fat)
2) PIE *k'mt- [] pre-Slavic *set/*sat, which is an alternant of 'sto' [hundred] (cf. latin centum).
So, the original structural meaning is 'a fatten hundred'. The changes in meaning went: 'somthing greater than 100' [] 'many hundreds' [] '10 hundreds'.

So yes, I agree that Tolkien used 'thousand' in the historical sense.

quote:
Back when I first read that passage, that was what I thought.
[] And you just forgot to mention it, didn't you? [] This reminds me of my grandmother and her favourite I-knew-this-would-happen! phrase...
Of course none of us, save Galin, thought about it.

[ 09-20-2014, 06:37 AM: Message edited by: Gollum Gollum ]

From: Cave in the Misty Mountains | Registered: May 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
The Flammifer
Guard of the Citadel
Citizen # 11407
posted      Profile for The Flammifer   Email The Flammifer   New Private Message   Edit/Delete Post 
quote:


Back when I first read that passage, that was what I thought.
________________________________________
And you just forgot to mention it, didn't you? This reminds me of my grandmother and her favourite I-knew-this-would-happen! phrase...
Of course none of us, save Galin, thought about it.

Uh, what about the original OP? []

** Feeling lost and forgotten ** []

From: East Bight | Registered: Jun 2014  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Create a New Topic  Reply to this Topic Minas Tirith Forums » Lord of the Rings » How many steps to the top of Orthanc? (Page 1)
This topic is comprised of pages:  1  2 
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic       The Red Arrow!       Admin Options: Make Topic Sticky   Close Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic

About  ~ • ~  Contact  ~ • ~  Minas Tirith  ~ • ~  F. A. Q.  ~ • ~  Help

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.6.1