Tolkien’s books missed some things.
Wait, you say. Isn’t that heresy? Didn’t Tolkien create the most comprehensive fantasy world known to mankind?
I haven’t read widely in the fantasy genre, but as far as I know, no one has come close to approaching the depth and breadth Tolkien achieved with Middle-earth. He covered everything.
Except, he didn’t.
What am I talking about? Have I gone mad?
(Possibly, but that’s a story for another time.)
If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, you probably know Middle-earth inside and out. It might pain you to admit it, but there are some holes, niches in the world that Tolkien didn’t fill in.
I think that’s a good thing.
- No author can cover everything—it’s humanly impossible
- Leaving things out adds an air of mystery, allowing our imaginations can fill in the gaps
Plus, it gave me a topic to write about [grin]
This isn’t a comprehensive list—just a handful of things I noticed we never learned about Middle-earth.
1. The names of the other two wizards***
I love the scene in the first hobbit movie, where the company is riding through the forest during a downpour and Bilbo complains about Gandalf’s apparent lack of wizarding skills. Gandalf defends himself and mentions other wizards, five in all.
Naturally, Bilbo questions him, and Gandalf tells him of Saruman and Radagast. Then he reaches the other two and his memory rebels against him, leading to the line, “You know, I’ve quite forgotten their names.”
A humorous moment for Middle-earth fans who get it, and also convenient…because the other two wizards never appeared anywhere in Tolkien’s writings except for a passing mention.
If you’re the curious type like me, you might wonder about the nameless wizards. What were their specialties? Their names? Why didn’t they show up? What did they contribute?
Coming up with your own answers makes for great self-entertainment.
2. Tom Bombadil’s origins
Tom Bombadil is an enigma. Who is he? Where did he come from?
Theories abound, but the truth is, we don’t really know, something Tolkien might have intended. In any case, good ol’ Tom is a fascinating character, despite playing a minor role in the book and never appearing in the movies.
To me, those characters are the fun ones. We’re given plenty of hints about Bombadil, and the hints only bury us deeper in the nasty mysterieses, preciousss.
3. Where the Entwives went
The first time I read Lord of the Rings, I was sure the chapter Scouring the Shire would be Merry and Pippin’s search for the Entwives. Imagine my surprise when I read it. The book ended with nary a mention of where the Entwives had gone.
Makes it hard not to feel sorry for Treebeard. Poor guy. His desire to locate the Entwives was such a key part of the book that it’s rather surprising Tolkien didn’t bring it up. Maybe he forgot, or maybe he meant to keep us—and Treebeard—forever wondering.
For all we know, the Entwives wandered far into the barren lands east of Rhun and built a huge forested city for themselves.
4. What Gandalf and Tom Bombadil talked about
This one has always fascinated me. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the quote is from near the end of the chapter Homeward Bound, where Gandalf says,
“But if you would know, I am turning aside soon. I am going to have a long talk with Bombadil: such a talk as I have not had in all my time. He is a moss-gatherer, and I have been a stone doomed to rolling. But my rolling days are ending, and now we shall have much to say to one another.”
Wow. Talk about intriguing. Gandalf has been around the block a few times, and even though we don’t know the details of all his travels, it’s a safe bet he had some epic talks.
What conversation could possibly top that?
What did they talk about?
Let the guessing abound. If you’re really keen on knowing, invent a cool answer yourself. (I’m still working on that.)
We Can’t Know Everything
Gandalf might say something along the lines of, “Some things aren’t meant to be told.”
Still, it makes you wonder. What are the answers?
We may never find out—unless someone uncovers previously unknown writings by Tolkien, which would be awesome—but it’s fun to play the guessing game.
Which one of these would you want answered the most? Have you noticed any other areas Tolkien didn’t’ cover? I would love to hear your thoughts.
***Edit: Forgive my ignorance, but apparently Tolkien DID name the other wizards, as a few people have kindly pointed out. I stand corrected—and slightly embarrassed.
P. S. Please don’t sue me for lack of proper geek education. I promise to do better.