a Tolkien Podcast

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Episode 13: Tolkien Fanfiction Culture

    This episode Jude and Stef talk to Dawn Walls-Thumma, founder of the Silmarillion Writers Guild and author of a fascinating survey on the culture and practices of the Tolkien Fanfiction community.

Dawn’s Socials
Twitter: @DawnFelagund
Silmarillion Writers Guild
Dawn’s Personal Page

Show Notes
Join Athrabeth’s Discord!

Works Referenced This Episode
Walls-Thumma, Dawn (2019) Data on Tolkien Fanfiction Culture and Practices (1st Edition)

Episode 11: The A-Neigh-zing Horses of Middle Earth part 2

From the noble Mearas of the Rohirrim to the dark mounts of the Black Riders, we close out our Horsey series with some of the most notable steeds of Middle-earth

Episode 10: The A-Neigh-zing Horses of Middle Earth part 1

What started as a joke about ranking of all the horses of Middle-earth as a palate cleanser for Stef after so many episodes about souls and eschatology, has turned into two of our best episodes, courtesy of Stef’s unbridled enthusiasm for hoses and Tolkien! Enjoy this first in our two part series on the Horses of Middle-earth!

Episode 9: Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth part 2: grief and partings

In the conclusion of first episodes on the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, we cover the second half of the conversation, discuss the Tale of Adanel, and give our final thoughts on this amazing piece. We also talk about our recent trip to New York to attend the Tolkien and Inspiration symposium at the Morgan Library!

Episode 8: Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth part 1: death, faith and hope

Part 1 of our first foray into the work that gave our podcast its name, Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth! We meet the our interlocutors and dive into this fascinating exploration of death, faith, and hope in Middle-earth.

Episode 7: Thought Transmission and Elven Resurrection

Part 2 of our discussion of souls, eschatology, and the elven afterlife examines the properties inherent to fëa, including thought transmission, and then we discuss elven resurrection!

Episode 6: Hröa and Fëa

Part 1 of what is currently planned to be a 3 part discussion of souls, eschatology, and the elven afterlife, culminating in a discussion of our podcast’s namesake essay, the Athrabeth! This episode we’re laying the groundwork with a lot of terminology which Stef definitely enjoyed, and an overview of the various kinds of incarnates in middle-Earth.

Episode 6 Extras: Quotes

Below are the full versions of the quotes read or referenced in Episode 6, and their sources.


Then Ilúvatar spoke, and he said: ‘Mighty are the Ainur, and mightiest among them is Melkor; but that he may know, and all the Ainur, that I am Ilúvatar, those things that ye have sung, I will show them forth, that ye may see what ye have done. And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.’

The Silmarillion, Ainulindale



The wedding of his father was not pleasing to Fëanor; and he had no great love for Indis, nor for Fingolfin and Finarfin, her sons. He lived apart from them, exploring the land of Aman, or busying himself with the knowledge and the crafts in which he delighted. In those unhappy things which later came to pass, and in which Fëanor was the leader, many saw the effect of this breach within the house of Finwë, judging that if Finwë had endured his loss and been content with the fathering of his mighty son, the courses of Fëanor would have been otherwise, and great evil might have been prevented; for the sorrow and the strife in the house of Finwë is graven in the memory of the Noldorin Elves. But the children of Indis were great and glorious, and their children also; and if they had not lived the history of the Eldar would have been diminished.

The Silmarillion, Chapter 6, Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor


But Ilúvatar spoke again and said: ‘Even as I gave being to the thoughts of the Ainur at the beginning of the World, so now I have taken up thy desire and given to it a place therein; but in no other way will I amend thy handiwork, and as thou hast made it, so shall it be. But I will not suffer this: that these should come before the Firstborn of my design, nor that thy impatience should be rewarded. They shall sleep now in the darkness under stone, and shall not come forth until the Firstborn have awakened upon Earth; and until that time thou and they shall wait, though long it seem. But when the time comes I will awaken them, and they shall be to thee as children; and often strife shall arise between thine and mine, the children of my adoption and the children of my choice.’

The Silmarillion, Chapter 2, of Aüle and Yavanna



In summary: I think it must be assumed that ‘talking’ is not necessarily the sign of the possession of a ‘rational soul’ or fea7
The Orcs were beasts of humanized shape (to mock Men and Elves) deliberately perverted / converted into a more close resemblance to Men. Their ‘talking’ was really reeling off ‘records’ set in them by Melkor. Even their rebellious critical words — he knew about them. Melkor taught them speech and as they bred they inherited this; and they had just as much independence as have, say, dogs or horses of their human masters. This talking was largely echoic (cf. parrots). In The Lord of the Rings Sauron is said to have devised a language for Them. The same sort of thing may be said of Huan and the Eagles: they were taught language by the Valar, and raised to a higher level — but they still had no fear.

The History of Middle Earth vol 10: Morgoth’s Ring, p410

Episode 6 Extras: Etymologies

Episode 6 Extras: Etymologies

As promised in episode six, here is the (mostly quenya) etymologies of the various terms used in the episode. I will provide a link, where possible, to Eldamo, the best resource for deconstructing elven vocabulary and my primary tool in this guide. I will attempt to be consistent in my notes, giving the roots and derivations but i may wander a bit. Caveat Emptor.

A note about diacritics:

Tolkien used a number of different diacritics over his vowels. I will highlight the two he uses specifically in Quenya.

  • ó – called various the acute or circumflex, this denotes that the vowel should be lengthened.
  • ö – i refered to this as an umlaut in the episode but its proper name is diaeresis, and tolkien uses it to remind the reader that this vowel should be pronounced and not skipped over or elided.


Quenya, noun. pl. fëar

Glossed as "(indwelling or incarnate) spirit, soul", as opposed to a soul or spirit whose natural state is not in union with a hröa, such as ëala (being, spirit) or maiya (angelic spirit).

The primitive elvish root from which the root is derived, √PHAY originally had the meaning "radiate, send out rays of light" and only later was changed to “spirit”. The Eldamo page on the root has a nice writeup about the change, and makes the interesting point about how the derivitives of the root, including fëa, all originally had this first meaning, but were changed to the new one, tho retained some sense of "radiance" thereafter.


Quenya, noun. pl. hröar

Unlike fëa, which really only ever had a single version, hröa, which translates roughly to "body" specifically the flesh and physical form, went through a number of different evolutions. The first form of this word was hrón, based on the primitive elvish root √SRON. In the course of the writing of Laws and Customs of the Eldar (specifically between manuscripts A and B) this was changed into hrondo, which shared the same root. By the time he was done with manuscript B however, Tolkien once again changed his mind, and this time somewhat more substantially. Hrondo was to become hröa, and now the root from which the word was derived changed as well, into √SRA(W) meaning "body, flesh", where √SRON had meant the somewhat more general "flesh, substance, matter". Despite the shift in meaning, notes indicate that in all cases √SRA(W) replaces √SRON. Additionally unlike fëa, hröa has an intermediate derivation in primitive elvish: srawā meaning "body". (the rules by which the sound shifts change srawā into hröa is not, at the moment, relevant)

As to its meaning, in the Athrabeth Tolkien described hröa as being "roughly but not exactly equivalent to ‘body’". The vocabulary notes at the end of Morgoth’s Ring take pains to emphasize it is the body of "an incarnate being". How exactly it is not equivalent to a body, but is specific to an incarnate being is something thats not elaborated on in any of these texts.


Quenya, collective name.

Glossed consistently in Morgoth’s Ring and Vinyar Tengwar 39 as "Incarnate(s)" or "Incarnate Beings", it refers specifically to the children of Eru for whom the union of a body and soul (hröa and fëa) was their natural, unmarred state of being. It is derived from the primitive elvish mi-srawanwe, meaning literally "put into flesh".

Mi- means "in" and through a sound transformation hröa becomes -rroa- but the last part of the word is "obscure" according to eldamo.


Quenya, noun.

Literally translated meaning "the One" but used to mean "God", this word is derived from the primitive elvish root √ER meaning "one, single, alone". There’s something fairly poignant and illuminating about this choice of etymology Tolkien made, as the english word is of obscure origin.


Quenya, Name.

A name for god translated as "Father of All" or "All-Father" (hey Tolkien, your nodic fanboy is showing). It is a compound of the quenya words ilúve "all" and atar "father".


Quenya, noun. pl. ainur

This word has one of the more interesting etymologies we’ve got here. The word means "holy one, spirit" and specifically refers to the order of beings who helped Eru with the creation of the world. The word appears to be derived from the primitive elvish root √AYA(N) meaning “blessed; treat with awe/reverence”, HOWEVER in War of the Jewels we are also told it is derived from an entirely different language called Valarin, the language of the Valar, specifically from their word ayanūz, of which it is a cognate. The root √AYA(N) may or may not have been influenced or derived from this valarin word.


Quenya, noun. pl. maiar

Glossed variously as "anglic spirits" or "spirit", this word has two possible roots, √MAG “good (physically); to thrive, be in a good state” and √MAY “excellent, admirable, beautiful; make [art]; suitable, useful, proper, serviceable; right”.


Quenya, noun. pl. ëalar

Composed of the elements ëa- "to be, exist" and the active participle suffix -ila, in a footnote on a late revision of the Quenta Silmarillion, Tolkien defined ëala as "’spirit’ (not incarnate, which was fëa… ëala ‘being’." (MR165)


Quenya, noun.

We didn’t actually mention this one in the episode, but we made reference to it. Fana glosses to “raiment, veil; (bright) shape or figure; bodily form of an angelic spirit”. We get this word primarily from a document called "Word, Phrases and Passages", written on and off between 1955 and 1960 and published in Parma Eldalamberon 17 in 2007. It was composed in responses to fan demands for clarifications about the names, words and other linguistic details, but in classic Tolkien fashion he never was satisfied with it and it never actually got published.

The word itself is derived from the primitive elvish root √PHAN meaning “cover, screen, veil; white, (light white) shape; shape, vision” and its use in this sense apparently was owed to the faint radience the valar’s physical forms had.

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