Brilliant, thought-provoking theories that are debunked, unfounded and pretty much confirmed
I’ve decided to tackle 7 theories constructed by readers of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, that are rather extraordinary in concept and make perfect sense (though some can be disproved or contested).
There are many arguments in discussion around the characters and stories of Middle-earth; but I’ve decided to focus on a few which have struck me the most.
Starting from the impossible and busted arguments to the more plausible ones, here we go …
7. The Arkenstone was one of the Silmarils (Debunked)
If it weren’t for specific quotes that disprove this, the idea behind it is rather wonderful.
After the tumultous events at the end of the First Age, when the War of Wrath brought about the destruction of Beleriand and the alteration of the world, it is not impossible to conceive the idea that the lost Silmaril that fell into the earth found its way into the Lonely Mountain.
Accounting for geological phenomena and tectonic plates shifting over thousands of years, the Silmaril could have “travelled” East and eventually infused itself among the rock at the heart of the Mountain, before finally being discovered by the Dwarves.
The description of the Arkenstone in The Hobbit and that of the Silmarils in The Silmarillion is strikingly similar. However, we are told of the latter that “those jewels could not be found or brought together again until the world was broken, and re-made anew.”
Not to mention the fact that they could not be touched by any mortal hand: “no mortal flesh, nor hands unclean, nor anything of evil will might touch them.”
Considering Dwarves – who are mortal – actually fashioned and shaped the Arkenstone, is a good indicator that they are not one and the same.
It is still a fascinating theory that keeps cropping up every now and then, with new possible explanations for and against it.
6. Gollum killed Frodo’s parents (Unfounded)
It has been debated that Gollum, on his quest to find the “thief” who stole his precious, came upon the hobbit’s parents and killed them.
The idea is appealing and, if proven true, would be the ideal narrative beginning to the Bilbo-Gollum-Frodo story arc.
Here are the facts:
- Gollum was one of the Stoors: the hobbits most associated with water and boating
- Drogo and Primula Baggins drowned during a boating accident on the Brandywine river in The Shire
- When Gollum chased after Bilbo to get the Ring back, he knew only two things about him: Shire and Baggins
- He may have killed the first two hobbits he encountered that had the same surname
- In The Fellowship of the Ring (the book), as Gollum searched for Bilbo, he came to the Brandywine river and turned back.
- Several “witnesses” to Drogo & Primula’s accident say they saw a struggle
So what debunks this rather intriguing theory? There is no conclusive evidence or a quote where Tolkien specifically says it wasn’t Gollum.
According to Tolkien’s Timeline of events, that was the same year Gollum met Shelob for the first time – on the confines of Mordor.
It would not have been impossible for Gollum to travel hundreds of miles from the Shire to Mordor in the span of a year, but it is still a rather far-fetched idea; but no less tantalising.
I believe there was also a quote in the prologue to The Lord of the Rings which says that, after Gollum came out in search of Bilbo and ventured away from the Misty Mountains, he eventually turned back – and therefore never crossed the Brandywine river where Frodo’s parents met their untimely end.
5. Smaug: Deserter from Angband (Doubtful)
We do not know how long Middle-earth dragons live.
In The Hobbit, Tolkien says that they live forever – though no doubt this was more intended for dramatic effect, than a statement of fact about his imaginary creatures.
We can, however, read something interesting towards the end of The Silmarillion.
After the overthrow of the first Dark Lord, Morgoth, his remaining hosts and servants fled towards the East and hid among the shadows.
Could Smaug have been one of the few remaining survivors and made his way towards the Withered Heath in the North, before descending on Erebor thousands of years later?
As captivating as that may sound, Smaug himself states that when he attacked the Lonely Mountain he was “[t]hen I was but young and tender. Now I am old and strong…”
So Tolkien’s dragons may live to be a couple of hundred years old; but taking into consideration the 6000-year gap between the events at the end of The Silmarillion and The Hobbit, is a bit of a stretch.
4. Radagast disguised as Saruman (Plausible)
For further discussion on this theory, see the following post I had written a while back: The Curious Case of Radagast the Brown.
In summary, this is more speculation than a theory in itself.
One night, on the eaves of Fangorn Forest, the Three Hunters become aware of an old man looking at their camp. They are startled and suspect that the hooded figure of Saruman himself has come to spy on them.
However, Aragorn is quick to note that the individual wore no hood, but a hat.
Later on, Gandalf dismisses that he had anything to do with it. Furthermore, their horses had ran away not in fear, as we later on learn, but in joy after meeting up with Shadowfax.
Could the figure have been Radagast – using his skills as a “master of shapes and changes in hues” (Unfinished Tales) to look like Saruman in the enemy’s own territory?
It is definitely worth considering.
3. Wormtongue’s act of cannibalism (Highly Plausible)
As both Saruman and his whimpering servant, Grima Wormtongue, are forced to leave the Shire, the following scene ensues:
Wormtongue halted and looked back at him, half prepared to stay. Saruman turned. “No evil?” he cackled. “Oh no! Even when he sneaks out at night it is only to look at the stars. But did I hear someone ask where poor Lotho is hiding? You know, don’t you, Worm? Will you tell them?”
Wormtongue cowered down and whimpered: “No, no!”
“Then I will,” said Saruman. “Worm killed your Chief, poor little fellow, your nice little Boss. Didn’t you, Worm? Stabbed him in his sleep, I believe. Buried him, I hope; though Worm has been very hungry lately. No, Worm is not really nice. You had better leave him to me.“
-The Scouring of the Shire; The Return of the King
People are divided on this aspect. Did he in fact kill and eat Lotho the hobbit? Is “hungry” a reference to the act of murder (i.e. hungry for murder) or should we interpret it literally?
Up to you to decide …
2. Sauron’s ultimate master plan (Plausible)
Basically, it argued that the Dark Lord’s plan to enslave the people of Middle-earth was ultimately in an effort to eventually offer them as ransom to the Valar and force them to free Morgoth from captivity.
Whilst there is no form of written evidence that this was indeed the case, it makes sense.
At the same time, would Sauron really have wanted his master to return, after having secured for himself dominion over all Middle-earth?
Needless to say, it is a pretty intriguing concept and will no doubt garner much discussion.
1. The Three Strands of Hair: Galadriel, Gimli and Fëanor (Strong Possibility/Confirmed)
A recent argument I’ve discovered, which is absolutely wonderful, may further explain the relationship between Gimli and Galadriel.
In a draft on Galadriel’s history (found in Unfinished Tales), we are told how Fëanor had asked for a tress of her hair after having beheld it “with wonder and delight”.
Thrice he begged with his request, and ever she refused: perhaps seeing the arrogance and pride of his character.
And yet, in what greater way could she have repayed Gimli’s similar request for a single strand of hair – thousands of years later – by actually giving him three?
Not only does Galadriel (an elf) reward a dwarf with his desire, but she also shows her immense admiration towards him.
What she refused to give to the most powerful and gifted of the Elves at the height of her power, she gave to a humble and generous individual: re-strengthening the often strenuous bond between Elf and Dwarf in one of the most moving of scenes in The Lord of the Rings.
Powerful stuff … brilliant.
Have you got anyone other theories that strike you as particularly interesting? Share your thoughts here! 🙂
Copyright of all images belongs to Warner Bros Studios, MGM Studios and New Line Cinema