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Alatar the Wizard
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Giants are mentioned in the Hobbit, in particular when the party is crossing the Misty Mountains.

Does anyone know if J.R.R. Tolkien has commented on them? Has he indicated if they are an official part of his Middle-earth cosmology, or if they are a mere metaphor for the violence of thunderstorms, or perhaps a literary embellishment by the "translator"?

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Hamfast Gamgee
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Well, as a little speculation. They could have just been Trolls. The difference between Trolls and Giants is probably a bit vague. Maybe they where of relation to Beorn? Beorn was big at least compared to Bilbo and so he might well have considered Beorn a giant, but just didn't say it. Or perhaps they where just big men. A man at that time who was, say, 7ft tall might well have been considered a giant, there are examples of that in Norse literature. So I think I'm going for a bit of literary embasselment by the narrator!

[ 01-10-2009, 11:06 PM: Message edited by: Hamfast Gamgee ]

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Mithrennaith
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I've got the feeling it might be worthwhile to go searching in the old threads for interesting discussions of this question.
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Alatar the Wizard
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I did look at one old thread, but no one mentioned if Tolkien had anything to say on the subject. I guess that all we have is speculation.
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Hamfast Gamgee
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Possibly all we have is what Tolkien said in the Hobbit. Giants certainly weren't mentioned in Lotr. I don't know if anything in the History of Mr.Baggins says anything about Giants. We can just make our own judgements. But curiously, Tolkien did say a bit about them in the Hobbit if one thinks about it! []
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Iarwain
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Doesn't he specifically refer to them as storm giants?
The reference may be to the mountains themselves. Giving them people type attributes of warring with each other etc. In LOTR, Tolkien seems to do a similar thing as the company attempt the Redhorn pass. I think the vague reference is about how the boulders seem to be aimed at them etc. The Dwarves certainly treated the mountains as personalities - Carhadras the cruel. The films of course attribute the fell voice on the air at this point to Saruman, but for myself while reading it the threats seem to come more from the mountains themselves. Whether Tolkien was intending this I'm not sure. With Tolkien though, you do get that the peaks of the misty mountains are almost given characters of their own, something that isn't brought out in any of the other ranges, or even the Lonely Mountain.

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Hamfast Gamgee
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Ah, yes, good point, I'd fogotten about Caradhas. Also, Gandalf says in Moria that there are in the world nameless creatures older than Sauron. Now, all right, he was referring to creatures deep underground, but then again the same could apply to those on the tops of mountain ranges!
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The Dread Pirate Roberts
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A quick scan of Letters shows that while writing LotR Tolkien planned to have a Giant: "though there is no dragon (so far) there is going to be a giant." But at another point he makes mention that the word "ent" is Saxon for Giant, so that may be the giant to which he's referring.

That's it for Letters. No time for HoME at the moment. Someone else, perhaps?

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Ulairë Gordis
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IIRC from HOME 6-7, there used to be an evil Giant Treebeard, who kept Gandalf captive in summer 3018, preventing him to return in time to Bag End. Later this role was assumed by Saruman, and Ents, though they did appear later, had become good guys.
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Sam Gamgee
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Hmmm... I didn't know that. I haven't gotten around to purchasing all of HoME yet.
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Roll of Honor Thorin
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John Rateliff discusses giants in The History of the Hobbit. He points out that giants are mentioned several times in Tolkien’s works. They are mentioned in Luthien’s sleep spell (HoME II.19) and are referred to as one of the monster-folk (HoME I.75) Another appears in Farmer Giles of Ham. As others have mentioned, Treebeard was originally planned to be a giant. Some have even speculated that the sighting on the North Moors by Sam’s cousin Hal was a giant. (Perhaps more popularly, many think it was an Ent or Entwife.)

Unfortunately giants are never firmly established. Are they children of Morgoth? Probably not, as Gandalf mentions a “decent” giant blocking up the goblin-hole. They are instead very impersonal creatures, perhaps neutral, often portraying elemental forces (stone-giants, tree-giants) and thoroughly mysterious.

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Alatar the Wizard
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Interesting research! This is exactly what I am curious about.
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Hamfast Gamgee
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I think it quite likely that Beorn was related to Giants in some way or at least had Giant blood in him.
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Iarwain
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Just to correct myself - he does actually refer to them as stone and not storm giants.

Regarding Beorn, Gandalf states they he may have been a decendant of the great and ancient bears of the mountains that lived there before the giants came.
This obviously blows my theory out of the water!
Mountains were there before giants. That will teach me to read more closely won't it.
The implication here is that the giants perhaps drove the original habbitants of the mountains out.

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Hamfast Gamgee
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Hmmmmmm, Gandalf states that he may have been descended from Bears. Doesn't even say if Beorn is descended exclusively from bears. I still think Beorn might have had Giant blood in him. Gandalf is only one character after all. He might have been wrong. Especially with such a vague statement!
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Sarah the Good Witch
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Stone-giants were definitely retconned by the time of LotR. In TH, they would throw boulders in the Misty Mountains during thunderstorms, and some of them were probably "good-hearted" since Gandalf says that he wanted to find one to seal the goblins' cave. Trolls were never always evil and twisted, like orcs.

As for Beorn, he wasn't Hagrid (more like the reverse in terms of rip-offs): he was probably also some sort of retconned lycanthrope were-bear, but more unique than giants since only he and his descendants could turn into bears. He could also seemingly talk to bears, and lived among them at one time, and spoke of going back someday.
During the Battle of Five Armies Beorn grew "to near giant-size in his wrath:" but this doesn't mean that he was part giant. He simply had the magical ability to change into a bear, and was never seen as anything else: he turned into a huge bear, but some bears are huge anyway-- well over a ton.

[ 04-27-2009, 01:09 AM: Message edited by: Sarah the Good Witch ]

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Roll of Honor Thorin
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Beorn is a riddle wrapped in an enigma. Tolkien struggled himself with what exactly he was. Here is a fascinating early draft from the Hobbit:

quote:
No one knows [> Most people disagree] > now knows whether he is an a magic bear with < a marvellous bear with magic < powers of magic, or a great man under an enchantment.

‘Which is he?’ said Bilbo who was becoming very interested: after all he had got to meet the ‘person’ before long.

‘Neither’ said the wizard ‘He is a man [< an enchanter < a man.], one of < the > last of the old men who lived in these parts before the days of dragon. Fr it was in those days

But he is under nobody’s enchantment save his own. He is an enchanter himself, and can be a bear if he wishes. He often does wish, because in the days long ago he was a friend of the great bears of the mountains. The goblins drove them out of.

The History of the Hobbit

It is also of interest that in some notes Tolkien refers to Beorn (or Medwed, as he was called in early drafts) as ‘The Bear.’ Rateliff ties Beorn with the North Polar Bear of the Father Christmas Letters.

Sorry – a bit pressed for time. There is some more, I think, I can get to when I get a chance.

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Hamfast Gamgee
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I think the mystery of creatures like Beorn is something to do with the fact that the Hobbit is mostly set in the wild North-East of ME, in particular the Misty Mountains are rather wild and unknown at that time, so lots of mysterious creaturies or lands can be mentioned that don't necessarily fit with those of the South that the Lotr takes place in.
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