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Minas Tirith Forums » Reference Material » Classification of the undead and the dead (Page 1)
Author Topic: Classification of the undead and the dead
Ulairë Gordis
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What say you if we try to classify the "otherwordly" beings of Middle Earth?

Here is my first attempt:

1.The Undead, the Faded - with a physical body (hröa) present, but invisible (remaining in the World of Shadow)
1a. Ringwraiths
1b. Wraiths (victims of the Morgul blades)
1c. Faded Elves, the Lingerers.

2. The Ghosts of the Dead, the Unbodied - naked spirit (fëa) without a body (hröa) -
2a. Men-ghosts (of Dunharrow, Helm's ghost, etc)
2b. Elven ghosts: the Houseless

3. The fëar of the Dead housed in some bodies not their own, or in objects.
3a. Houseless Elves "housed" unlawfully in living bodies of Elves and Men - "possession"
3b. Houseless Elves (or other naked spirits)"housed" in dead bodies (not their own) - Barrow-wights
3c. Some spirits "housed" in stones - Silent Watchers of Minas Morgul and Cirith Ungol
3d. Some spirits "housed" in animal bodies - werewolves (and wereworms?)

Please, don't just criticize it - but do propose another classification that seems better to you []

Edit: added "the Unbodied" to 2.
Edit: added "the Faded" to 1.
Edit: added "3d" to 3.

[ 04-11-2008, 04:58 AM: Message edited by: Ulairë Gordis ]

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Amárië
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How morbid. []

Looks good to me, though, actually.

Would re-embodied Elves need their own category? They're alive, but different...

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Eluchil
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IMHO, you need to clarify these two :

3b. Houseless Elves (or other naked spirits)"housed" in dead bodies (not their own) - Barrow-wights
3c. Houseless Elves (or other naked spirits) "housed" in stones - Silent Watchers of Minas Morgul and Cirith Ungol

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Ulairë Gordis
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quote:
How morbid.
To each his own. [] Some prefer to classify Elves, I know...

quote:
would re-embodied Elves need their own category? They're alive, but different...
I have omitted them - just because they were fully alive with hröa+fëa. Do you think they should be included?

quote:
IMHO, you need to clarify these two :

3b. Houseless Elves (or other naked spirits)"housed" in dead bodies (not their own) - Barrow-wights
3c. Houseless Elves (or other naked spirits) "housed" in stones - Silent Watchers of Minas Morgul and Cirith Ungol

Yes, this is the least certain part of it.

We know that Barrow Wights were "evil spirits from Angmar and Rhudaur -App. A" that were sent (by the Witch-King - UT) to inhabit the barrows after the Plague of TA 1636. The last Prince of Cardolan (whose barrow it had been) was dead in TA 1409. That means that the Men buried in the tombs were already long dead, their fëar likely long gone. Only their bones remained and the wights "stirred" the bones.
quote:
There was victory and defeat; and towers fell, fortresses were burned, and flames went up into the sky. Gold was piled on the biers of dead kings and queens; and mounds covered them, and the stone doors were shut; and the grass grew over all. Sheep walked for a while biting the grass, but soon the hills were empty again. A shadow came out of dark places far away, and the bones were stirred in the mounds. Barrow-wights walked in the hollow places with a clink of rings on cold fingers, and gold chains in the wind.’- LOTR
In the House of Tom Bombadil

The wights had physical manifestation, it seems, were able to interact with the living, move things around etc.

Were Angmar spirits those of Men or Elves? - we are not told. I tend to favor the latter, but the former is also possible. I even saw people argue about them being Maiar, but I don't believe it. Thus I tried to remain vague.

About the Watchers - it is my speculation.I will have to return to it later, sorry, no time now.

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Tuor
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quote:
1b. Wraiths (victims of the Morgul blades)
1c. Faded Elves, the Lingerers.

I'm not so sure there is much concrete proof on the nature of these beings.

I don't know that there is really much of a difference between a Lingerer whose body was consumed by the spirit and a spirit unhoused due to injury. Both fear are unhoused and both reject the Mandos' summon if they are still in Middle-earth.

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Ulairë Gordis
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Tuor: Here are quotes to prove that the Lingerers have faded, invisible, but physical bodies, while Houseless have no bodies at all. Only the Houseless are called the “Unbodied”

quote:
It is therefore a foolish and perilous thing, besides being a wrong deed forbidden justly by the appointed Rulers of Arda, if the Living seek to commune with the Unbodied, though the houseless may desire it, especially the most unworthy among them.
Here is about the difference:
quote:
Thus it may be seen that those who in latter days hold that the Elves are dangerous to Men and that it is folly or wickedness to seek converse with them do not speak without reason. For how, it may be asked, shall a mortal distinguish the kinds? On the one hand, the Houseless, rebels at least against the Rulers, and maybe even deeper under the Shadow; on the other, the Lingerers, whose bodily forms may no longer be seen by us mortals, or seen only dimly and fitfully. Yet the answer is not in truth difficult. Evil is not one thing among Elves and another among Men. Those who give evil counsel, or speak against the Rulers (or if they dare, against the One), are evil, and should be shunned whether bodied or unbodied. Moreover, the Lingerers are not houseless, though they may seem to be. They do not desire bodies, neither do they seek shelter, nor strive for mastery over body or mind. Indeed they do not seek converse with Men at all, save maybe rarely, either for the doing of some good, or because they perceive in a Man's spirit some love of things ancient and fair. Then they may reveal to him their forms (through his mind working outwardly, maybe), and he will behold them in their beauty. Of such he may have no fear, though he may feel awe of them. For the Houseless have no forms to reveal, and even if it were within their power (as some Men say) to counterfeit elvish forms, deluding the minds of Men with fantasies, such visions would be marred by the evil of their intent. For the hearts of true Men uprise in joy to behold the true likenesses of the First-born, their elder kindred; and this joy nothing evil can counterfeit. So spoke Ǽlfwine. –Morgoth’s Ring, The later Quenta Silmarillion.p 224,225
The quote is in fact even longer: please have a look at the previous page. I think here the case is clear.
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Ulairë Gordis
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Eluchil: “3c. Houseless Elves (or other naked spirits) "housed" in stones - Silent Watchers of Minas Morgul and Cirith Ungol”
This is indeed the most hypothetical part of the classification, likely needing modifications.

Let us summarize what we know (and it is not much).
quote:
They were like great figures seated upon thrones. Each had three joined bodies, and three heads facing outward, and inward, and across the gateway. The heads had vulture-faces, and on their great knees were laid clawlike hands. They seemed to be carved out of huge blocks of stone, immovable, and yet they were aware: some dreadful spirit of evil vigilance abode in them. They knew an enemy. Visible or invisible none could pass unheeded. They would forbid his entry, or his escape.
Hardening his will Sam thrust forward once again, and halted with a jerk, staggering as if from a blow upon his breast and head. Then greatly daring, because he could think of nothing else to do, answering a sudden thought that came to him, he drew slowly out the phial of Galadriel and held it up. Its white light quickened swiftly, and the shadows under the dark arch fled. The monstrous Watchers sat there cold and still, revealed in all their hideous shape. For a moment Sam caught a glitter in the black stones of their eyes, the very malice of which made him quail; but slowly he felt their will waver and crumble into fear.

I think the quote implies that they were some sorts of spirits trapped in the stone statues. What sort of spirits? Maybe mannish spirits trapped in ME by Sauron? Maybe houseless elves? But they seem not so strong as the Barrow-wights…
The Silent watchers were a sort of alarm system in Minas Morgul and Cirith Ungol. They could identify trespassers, both in the Spirit world and in the World of Light, make a sort of power barrier to them, give an alarm by cries, they could “become uneasy”.
quote:
Gorbag: `See here – our Silent Watchers were uneasy more than two days ago, that I know. But my patrol wasn't ordered out for another day, nor any message sent to Lugbúrz either: owing to the Great Signal going up, and the High Nazgûl going off to the war, and all that. '
It seems they couldn’t really communicate with their masters (not even with the nazgul) and tell exactly what was wrong. Alternatively, maybe they could, but with the nazgul so busy, nobody bothered to ask them for a day or two. Likely the latter: as finally Gorbag’s patrol was sent up the stairs.
What do you think?

[ 04-08-2008, 05:18 AM: Message edited by: Ulairë Gordis ]

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Amárië
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quote:
I have omitted them - just because they were fully alive with hröa+fëa. Do you think they should be included?
Well, perhaps as a sort of sub-category?

You're right that they're fully alive, but they're a bit different than just your regular 'living-for-the-first-time' Eldar.

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Ulairë Gordis
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quote:
Well, perhaps as a sort of sub-category?

You're right that they're fully alive, but they're a bit different than just your regular 'living-for-the-first-time' Eldar.

If I include them, I will have to change the title of the thread, and I don't know how. []

Then I think they need a special category, maybe along with incarnate Maiar.
Something like that:

4. Fëar housed in visible material bodies (hröar)
4a. Self-incarnate Valar and Maiar
4b. Re-embodied (by Eru) Maia -Gandalf
4c. Re-embodied (with the help of the Ring) Maia - Sauron
4d. Re-embodied in Mandos Elven fëar - Glorfindel, etc.
4e. Re-embodied in Mandos (exceptional case) Mannish fëa - Beren

No, I don't really think all this belongs to my classification... []

[ 04-08-2008, 03:25 PM: Message edited by: Ulairë Gordis ]

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Roll of Honor Varnafindë
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quote:
If I include them, I will have to change the title of the thread, and I don't know how.
You edit the first post.

But I don't think they need to be included.

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Ulairë Gordis
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Thanks! []
I definitely prefer to leave them out. If I include them, then why leave out the most common cases: ordinary Men, Elves, orcs, Ents and beings like boldogs, werewolves etc... It will grow too big.

Now that I think on it, werewolves should probably be included. But how to define them? []
"some spirits housed in animal bodies - werewolves and wereworms"? What do you think?
Anyone knows what exactly IS a wereworm?

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Amárië
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A person who turns into a worm at the full-moon? []
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Ulairë Gordis
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I think "worm" here means dragon. []
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Amárië
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I know.

I was being flippant. []

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The Dread Pirate Roberts
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If a werewolf is a wolf that gets possessed by an evil spirit, then maybe a wereworm (or dragon) is a reptile (dinosaur-sized) that gets possessed by an evil spirit.

BTW, the DPR likes flippant... []

[ 04-10-2008, 12:20 AM: Message edited by: The Dread Pirate Roberts ]

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Eluchil
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And what about a spirit who took the shape of a worm ? we have one such example, in any case ...
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Ulairë Gordis
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Which one do you mean?
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Eluchil
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Glaurung (taking the shape of or contained in) :
quote:
In the passage in NE (p. 118) describing the eyes of Glaurung when Niënor came face to face with him on the hill-top, the words 'they were terrible, being filled with the fell spirit of Morgoth, his master' contain an editorial alteration: the manuscript reads 'the fell spirit of Morgoth, who made him' (cf. IV.128). My father under­lined the last three words in pencil, and faintly and barely legibly at the foot of the page he noted: 'Glaurung must be a demon [??contained in worm form].'

Grey Annals.


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Ulairë Gordis
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Thanks,Eluchil, that quote is new to me.

Hmm... So perhaps at Glaurung's first unsuccessful performance he was just a young dragon, but then Morgoth used his body to house a spirit? What spirit then? a Maia?

Normally Maiar were able to incarnate themselves and didn't need to possess bodies of others. But maybe it was too difficult to turn into something really big and scary, like a dragon... Sauron would have loved to do it, I think, when fighting Huan, but it seems there were some limits in shape-shifting.
What do you think?

But Smaug seems to be just a normal dragon - an animal, doesn't he?

[ 04-11-2008, 04:59 AM: Message edited by: Ulairë Gordis ]

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The Dread Pirate Roberts
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Even in a fantasy universe, conservation of mass has to apply. When a Maia spirit incarnated, it had to draw mass from the stuff of Arda. When it shifted shape quickly, as Sauron did while fighting Huan, it is unlikely it would have the time to gather more mass. Given time, however, could a Maia draw more mass to itself and animate it? I don't know. I don't think we know the process well enough to do more than speculate.
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Tuor
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Ulaire,

I understand that Tolkien was trying to make a distinction between the two, but it just doesn't fit with the foundational principles of Tolkien's Secondary world. There is a fea and hroa. The fea is a spiritual existance. Hroa is a physical existance. If the body does not interact with the physcial world, then it does not exist.

His world is one of dual existance, yet he's trying to create a third. The need to do it is clear. Sauron could not prevent an unhoused Mannish fear from leaving this world. This is one of the primary rules. Yet the Nazgul and ghosts are humans without physical bodies that are able postpone their 'doom'.

The Nazgul and ghosts, like Orks, are just inconsistancy's that need to be overlooked.

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Ulairë Gordis
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Tuor,
quote:
Sauron could not prevent an unhoused Mannish fear from leaving this world. This is one of the primary rules.
I agree. But the keyword here is unhoused. The Nazgul clearly were not houseless. They have never died, they still had (their original, their very own) physical bodies that with time had become invisible, faded, much like the hröar of Lingering Elves. Thus Mandos had no reason to call them before they died.

quote:
The Nazgul and ghosts, like Orks, are just inconsistancy's that need to be overlooked.
No, they are not inconsistencies, IMO. For the Nazgul see above. Wraiths faded from a Morgul knife were much like the nazgul - not dead, but simply faded. So again - no summons from Mandos were issued.
As for the bodiless ghosts of Dunharrow, it was their unfulfilled oath (likely made in the name of Eru, like later Eorl's oath to Cirion) that binded their fëar to ME, not Isildur's curse. Not Isildur, but Eru himself had postponed the Gift until the oath was fulfilled.

We have no proof that Sauron could bind an unhoused Mannish fëa and keep it from Mandos by his power. He could do that with Houseless Elves, but then again they DID refuse the summons of Namo on their own volition. Thus all these "unidentified" spirits housed in dead bodies, animals, stones etc, were most likely Houseless Elves, never houseless Men.

The only exception might be the binding of the Witch-King fëa after March 15 and before March 25, when the Ring was destroyed. It seems the WK didn't depart to Mandos straight away when he lost his hröa, but was "rendered impotent", became a ghost retained in ME by his Ring – until it held its power.

DPR, I think you are right about the conservation of mass issue. []

[ 04-11-2008, 05:06 PM: Message edited by: Ulairë Gordis ]

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Tuor
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quote:
I agree. But the keyword here is unhoused.
If you are going to determine if something is unhoused or not, then you must first define "housed".

A body is physical and exists in the physical world. Nazgul aren't just invisible, their bodies do not exist in the physical world. Once you go beyond simply being invisible, you have entered a dimension that does not exist in Tolkien's "Spirit and Flesh" secondary world.

If someone does not have a firm understanding of the meaning of hroa and fea, then I can see why the inconsistancy of a non-existant body isn't seen as an issue.

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Ulairë Gordis
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quote:
If you are going to determine if something is unhoused or not, then you must first define "housed".
I would define it as “having a material body (visible or invisible) that can interact with physical objects”. In the case of nazgul they still had the bodies they were born with, only faded.
“Unhoused” or “Houseless” I would define as fear with no body. One can become houseless only after death.

quote:
A body is physical and exists in the physical world.
Not in Tolkien’s world. In Tolkien’s universe a physical body can exist almost entirely in the Spirit word (Nazgul, wielders of the One or Nine) exclusively in the World of Light (most of “normal” creatures) and in both words simultaneously (Calaquendi Elves, maybe also Maiar).

quote:
Nazgul aren't just invisible, their bodies do not exist in the physical world. Once you go beyond simply being invisible, you have entered a dimension that does not exist in Tolkien's "Spirit and Flesh" secondary world.
Nazgul exist in Tolkien’s world, don’t they? Thus it is not only “spirit and flesh” secondary world. []

quote:
If someone does not have a firm understanding of the meaning of hroa and fea, then I can see why the inconsistancy of a non-existant body isn't seen as an issue.
Tuor: are you saying that Tolkien himself didn’t have a firm understanding of the meaning of hroa and fea, thus his secondary word is full of inconsistencies that only you (with your better understanding of the author's ideas) are able to pinpoint?
[] []

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Tuor
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quote:
Tuor: are you saying that Tolkien himself didn’t have a firm understanding of the meaning of hroa and fea, thus his secondary word is full of inconsistencies that only you (with your better understanding of the author's ideas) are able to pinpoint?

I am saying that what you are reading are unpublished texts. I am also saying that Tolkien was attempting to deal with a problem that he knew existed in his texts. As I pointed out earlier, there are problems in other areas too. One glaring example of this are the existance of Orks.

Orks exist because they are in the stories. There's no real explanation for them based on the 'theology' of Tolkien's secondary world. Nazguls and ghosts exist, but there is no real explanation for them based on the 'theology' of Tolkien's secondary world.

In no other place is there any thought of an alternative level of physical existance. I'd say that in this case, Tolkien was just talking (or in this case writing) out of his butt. The fact that Tolkien didn't really have a grasp of the nature of the existance of the Nazgul is apparent in the different ways it is described.

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