Look, we love Lord of the Rings over here. We can’t get enough of it. Long before the movies, LOTR laid the groundwork for pretty much every fantasy story written ever since. Then the movies came along, and they were incredibly awesome. But…not everything is perfect, and despite being an amazing story, the Rings trilogy has some problems. It’s a big, complex world with a whole lot of characters, people, and plots all intertwining – and eventually, there’s just not enough explanation for things that happen. It’s a beautiful world that could really use a few more rules for what happens.
We’re going to talk about two different LOTR issues. The first types of problems are those with the movies: yes, the movies had to cut down on some things and shorten or combine plots. They did a really good job, but along the way some important stuff was missing, things that were explained a bit better in the books, which you may be wondering about if you only saw the movies (no shame).
The other kind of issue is the issue that Tolkien himself created when he didn’t really explain the world very well, or skipped on some plot points, or just didn’t guess that people would be memorizing everything he wrote nearly a hundred years later. Some things are explained in extra books like the Silmarillion (oh yes, we’re going there), and some things really aren’t explained at all. We’re gonna tackle all of it, so let’s get started!
25 How Did Rivendell Know About The Hobbits?
In Fellowship of the Ring, one of the most exciting scenes is the chase to Rivendell, where Aragorn carries a sick Frodo in a race against the Ringwraiths to cross the river into the elven city of Rivendell. The movie made the wise decision of having this be a chase scene where everyone is riding horses in a last desperate push to reach safety. They are caught just in time by an elven rider who turns out to be Arwen, and eventually saves them.
But this raises the big question: How did Elrond and the elves know that Aragorn and the hobbits were coming? They didn’t exactly send a messenger ahead of them to warn anyone. If Gandalf had come back by that time, he would have tried to help them himself. Elrond didn’t have a Palantir around and there was no sign that he could sense them coming. So how did Arwen know to come, exactly?
No good explanation is given. In the books, the story works much better (yes, we’re getting started on the book comparisons early). The hobbits take weeks to reach Rivendell, giving plenty of time for Elrond to become aware and send out search parties, including the elven lord (not Arwen) who comes by to pick them up. Even Gandalf is back by that time and helps conjure the river that sweeps away the Ringwraiths. But when the movie squeezes all the time together, it doesn’t make sense.
24 The Three Elven Rings
This isn’t so much a gaping plot hole as it is a giant plot thread that no one ever talked about. In both the world of the books and movies, it is known that the three Elven rings are some of the most powerful around (the dwarven rings never really get discussed at any point, sadly), but that they are hidden away. Lore fans know that this is because the Elven rings were meant primarily to preserve or protect and that showing their power could attract Sauron. But the question remains, if the Elven rings are hidden away, then who has them?
The movies never explicitly talk about this…at all. After being mentioned briefly, the Elven rings are ignored, except for a few brief visual clues and some vague lines. People who really, really care will notice that Elrond wears one of the rings on his hand, which is why he’s involved in all the super serious council meetings. Most obviously, Galadriel wears another one of the rings, although it’s not fully discussed in the movies – that’s how she protects Lothlorien from invasion (not just six elves with bows). At the very end, you can also spot that Gandalf is wearing one of the rings, which he was given by the Elven shiplord when he first came to Middle-Earth.
Unfortunately, none of this is discussed or laid out in any way, which is disappointing, because it could have been an interesting little side plot for people who wanted to know more about the lore.
23 Why Is The One Ring So Powerful?
Yes, we know that the One Ring is the most powerful, because everyone tells us that, over and over again. But no one ever really explains why. Like, literally why Sauron’s ring is the most powerful, and how it happened. Even lore fans must admit that the official explanation isn’t very good at all. Sauron pretended to be a nice guy for a few centuries and learned the hidden Elven craft of making magic rings, which the elves themselves had only recently invented.
But what is never explained is just how Sauron made his own super secret special ring the best of them all. He not only made it more powerful than any of the other rings but also somehow managed to connect it to the rest of the rings so he could dominate or corrupt them. That’s a lot of skill for a newbie to pick up and do better than any of his masters! And keep in mind, Sauron was never especially known for his skill in crafting or his mastery of Elven arts (among the Maiar, that would be Saruman and Gandalf, respectively).
So again we ask, how exactly is the One Ring so powerful?
We geekily propose the theory that Sauron used his necromancy skills to impart a great portion of his spirit into the ring – something the story indirectly confirms – which is what made it better than the other, soulless rings. But someone should have at least explained that like we just did!
22 Yes, Bombadil Is Missing
Those who both read the books and watch the movies have relatively little to complain about. However, to tie the story together so neatly, the movies had to ditch long portions of the books and pretend they never happened or happened magically off-screen at some point. There are whole side stories, encounters with ancient peoples, explorations of cursed mines, and many other things that vanish from the movies. Most of that is fine – but we have a problem with Tom Bombadil missing.
For those who don’t know, Tom Bombadil was a nature spirit in the form of a singing old man who comes across the hobbits before they even get to Bree. The hobbits are lost in an evil forest (which Middle-Earth has many of), and he rescues them. There’s a whole extended stay at his house with his water spirit wife, and it’s a bit silly but also quite important to the story. Some important things about the Ring are explained, it gives Gandalf the time the story requires to be locked in a tower, and – perhaps most importantly – it is only with Bombadil that the hobbits find the ancient blessed daggers in the barrow of a wight that are the only things that can hurt the Witch King – which gets really important a couple books later. We understand why they skipped all this, but it also caused some problems.
21 Yes, We’re Gonna Talk About The Eagles
The old joke of LOTR, in both movie and book form, is: Why didn’t the eagles come in and save the day. If Gandalf could ride them to escape Saruman’s tower and to go rescue Frodo and Sam while Mordor was busy exploding (AND to save Gandalf after the battle with the Balrog, although this is mentioned less often), why couldn’t the Eagles have helped in other ways? Why couldn’t they have flown to Mordor immediately with Frodo and Gandalf on their backs and plopped the Ring into Mount Doom?
The answers to this are pretty lame. People talk about how the Ringwraiths were guarding the Mordor skies, or how the eagles were too proud to help anyone very often, but none of it is especially convincing. And it doesn’t explain why Gandalf couldn’t have asked the eagles to send messages at a few crucial points in time while they were already carrying him (to be fair, in the books he did try to do this a couple of times). It’s a classic deus ex machina that really doesn’t hold up when you think about it. Remember, just around 50 years ago the eagles were willing to take part in an all-out war with a bunch of random armies, so why are they so cagey about helping save the world here?
20 Why Is Sauron Just A Giant Eye
Yeah, we’re going to be especially obvious here. Sauron is a big eye. He’s just, like a super big red fire-eye on top of a tower, and the image is so iconic we bet a lot of you didn’t even think about it very much. So, why is he an eye, exactly? Not to diminish the reputation of evil lords everywhere, but it’s a pretty lame thing to be. All Sauron can do is look really hard in places, and that’s not much of a superpower.
It’s explained, in bits and pieces, that Sauron used to have control over his body until he went to deceive the people of Numenor (Aragorn’s fallen homeworld, an ancient island). The vengeance visited on him there destroyed his body, and left him…well, as a spirit. You see, Tolkien mostly used metaphor to describe Sauron wandering his halls as a fearsome ghost, and the metaphor was most often a “watching Eye.” The most the books ever hint at is a glint of red at the top of his tower (and that the Eye is the symbol of Sauron's army), but the rest is left to your imagination.
So when the movies came along, they, of course, turned Sauron into an actual giant eye, when it was really just a reference to the only powers he had left. Lucky for us, the giant eye looks really cool, so we’re not sure this is a total loss.
19 Cheating With Magical Daggers
Let’s focus on the ringwraiths for a little bit. The rules seem to be that people who perish under dark influence can be controlled by Sauron in some kind of spirit form. The chief among these are the nine Nazgul, the Ringwraiths who were once great men that chose the nine rings of power – now under control of the One Ring, of course. All that is known by LOTR fans, along with the Tower of the Moon where they live and the prophecy of how the Witch King perishes and all the rest of it.
The tricky part comes when the Nazgul attack Frodo when he is on the run with Aragorn toward Rivendell. They stab him with a cursed dagger that slowly turns him into a wraith himself, and….wait, WHAT? So, the Ringwraiths, or at least the Witch King, have magic daggers that can turn anybody into wraiths if they are stabbed in the heart? Why don’t we hear more about this? In fact, this is never really mentioned again. Why isn’t the land spotted with lesser wraiths who all got daggers in their hearts when they got in the way of the Ringwraiths? Anyone? No? We don’t know either.
18 Who Is Recruiting That Balrog, Anyway?
Everyone remembers the Balrog. It’s the great big flaming, smoking demon in Moria that, as we are told, dwarves accidentally uncovered in their digging for mithril, which all makes sense if you are a huge LOTR nerd. The big question is, “Where did the Balrog come from?"
Why was it there in the first place? Does it just spring up out of nowhere?
The answer is, “No, not exactly, but good question!” You see, the Balrogs were ancient Maiar (the same angelic race as the wizards) who visited Middle Earth way back when and were either enslaved or seduced by Melkor, who was Sauron’s super evil master. They manifested as great big fire demons, who attacked the high elves who moved to Middle-Earth. Eventually, most of the Balrogs seemed to have been defeated.
Except, there’s one great big Balrog has somehow appeared in old dwarven mines to attack everybody. It makes no sense at all. Even if some Balrogs are left alive, which could be possible, why did they come out at this time? There appears to be no immediate connection between them and Sauron except for the general evil thing. So how did the Balrog know how to attack, or why, or when? A little bit of story here could go a really long way.
17 How Aragorn Was Connected To The Elves
As you may have noticed in the movies (and mostly in the books), Aragorn is deeply connected to the elves, and that it’s never really explained. This is primarily a movie problem, and it’s deeply connected to the plot, so we’re a little unsure why more people don’t complain about this big hole: Aragorn knows the elves, falls in love with one, appears to know a bunch of them, and he’s the only man who acts this way. Surely the story should have explained how this happened!
Well, it doesn’t. Not in the movie anyway. In the books, it is slowly explained that Aragorn was basically an orphan, one of the last men of Numenor (which, as you may remember, Sauron destroyed through trickery). Elrond essentially raised him, which is why is he has so many elf friends and fell in love with an elven woman…who, uh, is sort of his step-sister and great, great, great grand-aunt at the same time, we guess.
It may be all very weird, but it does provide a cool backstory for Aragorn that is sorely missing in some versions of the story. And it explains why Aragorn knows some of the stuff he does, like magic herbs and how to seduce elven princesses.
16 Are Faramir And Gandalf Connected?
Even in the movies, there is a definite connection between Gandalf and Faramir, the unliked son of Gondor who was passed over when it came to exploring the vision that had visited them – which Boromir fulfilled, to everyone’s unhappiness. There is a brief scene where their father refers to Faramir as a “wizard’s pupil,” which raises a lot of questions.
Some of the answers are explained in the books. Faramir wasn’t even close to being a real wizard, but Gandalf had visited Minas Tirith a lot, and Faramir was the kid who always tried to help him out. As a result, it’s suggested that he was intuitive and empathic, able to sympathize with Frodo and manipulate him at the same time, as we saw when Frodo betrayed Gollum at Faramir’s behest.
But the full connection between Faramir and the wizards is never explored or explained. At the end of the day, he’s just a guy who is smarter than the average human and has a lot of respect from Gandalf, who think the old virtues of the kings passed on to Faramir more than any of the others. We would really like a bit more explanation about Faramir, and if he really was connected to any magic in the world. Maybe it is good enough that he falls in love with Eowyn, but a happy ending isn’t the same thing as a good backstory, and things are a little lacking here.
15 Why Didn’t The Elves Fight, Well, Everyone?
Tolkien more or less had a good rule about the elves: They were super powerful, but only a few of their race was left on Middle Earth, and they were primarily concerned with protecting their borders and not much else. That explained a lot. But in the movies, they make a point of Elrond and Galadriel offering direct help to the humans, including a battalion of elven soldiers who appeared at Helm’s Deep to fight, where they did an incredible job of holding off the orcs.
The problem is that the elves were never supposed to be doing that stuff. The whole reason they didn’t get involved in human battles is because they were under pressure from other attacks by Sauron (plus that whole border-protection thing). Basically, if the elves could afford to send one battalion, why weren’t they sending forces all over the place? Especially when they were so good at fighting, and apparently had the warriors to spare. What about even more important battles at Minas Tirith and similar places? Suddenly poof, no more elves. Seems like thousands of years of fighting experience doesn’t go very far, especially when confronted with a real crisis. Wait, we’re getting an idea of why the elves are a dwindling race, these days.
14 Those Huge Time Gaps
The problem with Lord of the Rings is that things take time. Okay, we need to be specific. Remember in Fellowship of the Ring, when Gandalf went off to research the Ring? Or when the ringwraiths showed up at Hobbiton looking for Frodo? What about when the whole team spent their days in Lothlorien?
You see, the problem with all of that is that it takes a lot of time. Remember, even Gandalf on a magic speedy horse took days and days to go from one place to another relatively close by place. Traveling took a lot of time! So in reality (by which we mean the books, although even there it’s not all clear) when Gandalf first left to research the Ring he spent years and years away, while Frodo was wandering around town like everything was fine. The ringwraiths in turn took years to hunt down Hobbiton, although in the movie all this happened in around five years.
Many other events take months or weeks to happen when you may have assumed they happened within minutes. This really gives Middle-Earth some weight in the stories. Lothlorien cheats a little because Galadriel makes time go slower there (or makes the forest live in a different time entirely, it’s not entirely certain). But even here months pass before the team moves on. This actually makes LOTR make more sense, on the whole.
13 Just What Happened With Gandalf’s Demise?
Gandalf’s passing happened in both the movies and the books in almost exactly the same way, with the same wording, and it was Gandalf describing it both times. But what happened really? We don’t know. We don’t have a clue. We know that he fell fighting the Balrog and chilled on the mountain top for a while before…what?
Did he go back in his angelic form for a while and have visions of time?
If so, how did he become reincarnated again? He seems to have been “sent back” but by whom? There are a lot of options here. If he really perished, how did he stay on the mountain and need an eagle to rescue him?
Perhaps most puzzling, how did he get stronger? Why did coming back to life make him the superior wizard? Was it some sort of promotion? When Gandalf the White talks, it’s like his past life is a distant memory, and he’s almost a new person. How did that happen? Why does he feel like a different person, and why does he still have all the same goals and friendships in mind? Remember, the eagles and Shadowfax treat him like the same person with the same loyalties. And if he perished and came back, why didn’t Saruman, or the other Maiar who pased? As you can see, there are a lot of questions here.
12 How Gimli And Legolas Became Friends
We know it makes for a good running joke – all the stuff between Gimli and Legolas. It was a good choice for the movies, and they play basically the same role in the books: A bit of lighthearted banter among two people that hate each other (why the elves and dwarves hate each other is a different story filled with lots of history and the complicated theft of precious jewels).
But that’s also why it doesn’t really make sense. We see Gimli and Legolas being a bit unfriendly to each other – that’s great. After all, they are both on the same team, they know the stakes, they are willing to put ancient feuds behind them for now – but it’s still hard, so they do have some issues. However, throughout the first two books we see that they magically change from being almost enemies to being super close friends. All it took was a few jokes and…uhh, slaughtering a bunch of bad guys?
Look, it’s nice to believe in the power of friendship. But Legolas is literally the prince of an elven kingdom that stole and starved Gimli’s father about 60 years ago, which really isn’t that long for dwarves! It’s gonna take more than a few battles and some bro humor to overcome that. Still, at least it’s inspiring.
11 How Did Eowyn Stay Disguised?
Eowyn has a bit of a problem in Return of the King. First, she wants to go off and fight with Aragorn and win glory in battle and fulfill some sort of majestic nihilist destiny. Second, she can’t do any of that, because she’s related to the King of Rohan, and she’s a woman, and no one allows her to come along to the battle at Minas Tirith.
So, as we know, Eowyn decides to disguise herself, Mulan style, and ride off with the army. But this isn’t a fairy tale, and this doesn’t make any sense. The movies don’t really make it clear how long it takes to travel to Minas Tirith, but in the books it takes weeks, if not months, to make the journey. Sure, the main characters occasionally catch a glimpse of Eowyn, but all they see is a scared young boy in armor, so they don’t realize what’s going on. But Eowyn had to spend all that time sleeping, eating, and bathing with the army. Not even Mulan could keep that all up for so long, especially in the ancient Nordic culture of Rohan.
If Eowyn really did manage to stay disguised all that time and never yelled at Aragorn for all the crazy adventures they had on the way there, she deserves even more credit. Fighting the Witch King was probably a walk in the park.
10 Why Didn’t Gandalf Defeat Everyone?
Is Gandalf the White powerful, or weak? It’s entirely unclear. Both the books and the movies treat Gandalf as exactly powerful as he needs to be for any moment in the plot. One chapter/scene, he’s throwing Aragorn and Legolas across the forest. Another chapter, he’s exhausted and dumb and lets Pippin steal the Palantir. A different time, he totally owns Saruman with barely a wave of his hand, but then in the next book, he can’t even fight the Witch King (who used to just be a human, remember) without his staff exploding and him almost perishing.
So no one really has any idea how much the guy can lift.
Gandalf doesn’t really have a power level. He seems to be more powerful on a horse, but that’s about the only data we’ve got. If he really had any juicy power, there would be about a dozen things the wizard would have done. That includes fighting those giant elephants, contacting Frodo mentally (as we have seen, all wielders of Rings can do), helping Aragorn tame the deceased, and giving Faramir some very much needed advice. Sure, he’s more powerful now than when he was the Grey (or at least, he’s got some new lungs), but we don’t have any idea how powerful that is. Just accept it.
9 Why Are The Palantirs Evil?
Gotta love some Palantirs. These are a collection of ancient crystal balls created by the magic arts of men (a little like the rings and the elves). When people look into them, they can see the past, present, and future, but all jumbled up and weird, so only powerful, magical people can control a Palantir. So far, so good.
Fast forward a bunch of years, and the Palantirs have been all lost or broken due to various cataclysms. Only a few remain. Saruman got one because it was in Isengard. Gondor has always had a secret one (or at least Minas Tirith recovered one from a nearby city, depending on how you read events). Sauron got one from taking over the city that would become known as Minas Morgul. Those are…all the important ones.
The big problem with using them in the story is that Sauron has somehow corrupted the Palantirs so they are naturally drawn to him. If you look in one, you tend to get sucked up to the big old Eye and get either tricked (like what happened to Denethor) or daunted (Saruman appears to have been a bit…persuaded, and Pippin goes insane). But no one explains how this happens.
How does Sauron have the power to corrupt all Palantirs just by having one? None of the other Maiar can do that. You could say it was the power of the Ring, but he lost the Ring – that’s sort of the point of the whole story. We need clarification, please.
8 Wizards And Weather
In Fellowship of the Ring, the fellowship had just gotten started and were climbing mountains like it was their job. Then they ran into problems, namely a bunch of ravens (which we’re leaving alone for now) and a giant snowstorm (which is the important bit). The book strongly hints that Saruman is behind it. The movie makes it very clear that Saruman is summoning this storm that makes the passes impassible and ensures that the only way forward is through the mines of Moria.
So, wizards can control the weather. Cool! But no one ever does it again. Think about it. Why didn’t Saruman summon an ice storm to slow down the Rohan, or hold back the Ents? Why doesn’t Gandalf, who is even stronger than Saruman as the White, create a storm to hold back ringwraiths or help the bazillion battles he’s a part of? You can’t just reveal a power like this without wondering, “Okay, why don’t they use it here – or here?” And there’s a lot of heres.
To some credit, Sauron and Galadriel both appear to be able to sort of control the weather in their lands. But they never send out weather to actively fight their enemies, unless you count Sauron’s shadow clouds, which is pretty lame compared to a huge blizzard.
7 That Weird Witch King Prophecy
The Witch King lived as a necro-dude apprentice to Sauron for thousands of years. One day an elven Lord made a prophecy that the Witch King would perish, but not by the hand of man (fun fact, this elf was Glornfindel, the same elf who in the books saved Frodo and Aragorn and the rest when they were running to Rivendell).
The problem with this very cool prophecy stuff is that most people assume it is fulfilled by Eowyn, who obviously declares that she’s not a man and then blasts the Witch King to nothingness. Err….let’s look at this a little closer though. First, Eowyn’s big ploy is to stab the Witch King in the face with a totally normal Rohan sword that had no special qualities.
Either the prophecy is doing a whole lot of work here, or this doesn’t make much sense.
Second, Merry comes stumbling up right before this and stabbed the Witch King in the leg. You may remember that the hobbits came across magic weapons that were specially designed to destroy the Witch King, which is why the stab worked so well. Granted, Merry is male, but he’s not exactly human. So, does this mean it was Merry who actually eliminates the Witch King according to the prophecy? Was it both together? So many questions.
6 Gollum’s, Uh, Plan
Gollum spends most of the story being kicked around, tormented, and despised by pretty much everyone in the story. It’s a little sad. He also ends up basically saving the world with a well-placed bite and never gets recognized for it, so we guess it’s sometimes just a Gollum life. However, he does have a nasty streak, and when leading Frodo and Sam into Mordor, he makes plans with his alter ego to get them eliminated.
It’s…uh, it’s a really bad plan, guys, especially considering how much importance the story puts on it. Gollum wants to lead them along a secret passage into Mordor, which is guarded by the giant spider Shelob (who is sort of part spirit, thanks to her spider goddess ancestor, but that’s just a fun fact). Gollum sort of worships Shelob, and believes that she will easily devour the two hobbits when they try to move through her tunnels. Then, Gollum thinks he can steal the Ring from Frodo’s….uh, corpse stuff.
It’s a really stupid plan. Why wouldn’t the sentient Shelob recognize the Ring? How did Gollum know he could find the remains of Frodo without disturbing Shelob? Or that the Ring wouldn’t be devoured? The Ring loves to escape, what if it had gotten discovered by an Orc? We know Gollum is essentially an addict desperately after a fix, but we don’t see how anyone could expect this plan to work.
5 How The Ring Keeps On Persisting
The One Ring is famous for being…well, indestructible. It seems to have a will of its own, and always turns up in the worst places possible. There’s even a suggestion that the Ring ditched Gollum on purpose and hooked up with Bilbo because, well, it wanted to see the world. Most of the talk around the Ring is how it can’t be thrown away or cast into the sea because it will always turn up again.
The problem is that this makes no sense. Okay, so you can’t destroy the Ring. But Sauron needs it now, so why not toss it into the sea for a few centuries? At least that would give everyone a fighting chance! But even if you think that would be too dangerous, you have to wonder just what keeps the Ring from being destroyed. Sure it was forged in the fires of Mount Doom, but what does that mean? Doom is just a fiery volcano. It doesn’t seem to be anything special. Why is this Ring so impervious? If it is so corrupting, why don’t they just seal it away for an era, like so many other treasures in this world have been sealed away?
The problem is that being thoughtful and careful with the Ring doesn’t make a good story. So everyone says, “Well that wouldn’t work.” But we have no evidence to think that.
4 How Can The Ents Beat Saruman?
Saruman is very good at what he does. What he does is mostly raise hybrid orcs, burn everything down, and speak in an enchanting voice. But we know he can also throw wizards across the room, summon blizzards, and see the future. So how again did the Ents defeat him?
First of all, Saruman should have known the Ents were coming. He’s a wizard with a crystal ball, come on. Second, he didn’t even bother to fight the Ents at Isengard. The books talk about the Ents facing poisons and flame traps, but Saruman himself never summons a blizzard, calls his army, or tries to blast any trees away from his tower. Why didn’t he use the ring he had created (which Gandalf saw) or ask Sauron to send a flying ringwraith to help? Why not any of those things and more?
The fact is, Saruman had a bunch of powers he didn’t even try to use. He just holed up in his tower and decided to give up (even in the books, the hobbits note that it was surprising how easily he was defeated, and wondered if something else was going on). The battle is pretty awesome because we can see him being totally surprised by the Ent attack and overwhelmed by a surprise force that won the day. But that still shouldn’t have happened. Saruman should have been much harder to defeat, even if there are a few super trees after him. And seriously, there’s no secret back way out of the Isengard tower? That’s just poor planning for everyone.
3 Wait, Is Aragorn A Necromancer?
It sure seems like it. Let’s go for the historical side first: Isildur was Aragorn’s ancestor. He was good at two things: Leading humans to defeat Sauron, and making incredibly stupid decisions. When we meet him, he’s all out of Saurons to defeat, and is getting possessed by the Ring he decided not to destroy. But in Isildur’s good days, he asked a tribe of mountain men to aid him in the battle.
The mountain men agreed, and they broke their oath by staying behind and out of the war.
This broken oath leads to a curse by Isildur, which was something to the effect of, “You gonna regret this, even if you perish.” Aragorn fulfills this curse by going there and summoning the mountain men’s ghost to his side, which is how he defeats the evil hordes at Minas Tirith.
There are two combined explanations for this, and they don’t make sense together. One is that Isildur, a man with no magic powers whatsoever, really did curse the mountain men by yelling really loud, and it was so strong it forced them from the grave thousands of years later. The second is that Aragorn has a latent power of his own (something basically confirmed via various clues) and was able to raise the deceased himself, via his own will. The books even note how dangerous a necromancer Aragorn would have been if he had seized the Ring for himself. But there’s no other information, so the full truth remains a beguiling mystery.
2 How The Hobbits Survived Starving In The Wilderness
Aha, yes, LOTR fans, we know what the answer is here. The hobbits survived in endless wastelands because they had lembas bread to eat, which are elven honeycakes with magic powers that allow people to keep on going, like forever.
The big problem with this is that magic food isn’t a thing in Middle-Earth. All other foods depend on real biological requirements, as we see in multiple eating scenes all over the place (Tolkien occasionally likes to talk about food, a lot). What we’re saying is, if there was mystical energy-giving food somewhere, the hobbits would have found it when preparing for Bilbo’s birthday. Elrond would have given the fellowship some before they set off. Gandalf would have taught someone how to make it on their journey so they didn’t starve.
And if you just assume that the elves had magical powers of cooking, well, they don’t show it in any other way. And it’s never explained: Do they grow magic seeds? Do they brew magic honey? Do they say a chant over the bread when it’s cooking? No one knows. It’s just magic bread. It’s even more disappointing because so many other things are fully explained in the story, but this one really important part gets totally ignored. It’s one of those ongoing deus ex machina plots that really deserves more explanation.
1 Just Why The Dunedain Lived So Long
In the movies, we know that Aragorn is really long-lived, but it’s never really explained how, except that he’s very, very special. Aragorn is one of the Dunedain, the ancient rangers who roam by the coast of Middle Earth and protect the normal Englishy people from all the fantasy stuff. They are actually descended from the ancient people of Numenor. To make a really long story a little shorter, Numenor was a kingdom settled by Elrond’s brother who chose to be human instead of elven (again, long story). The people of Numenor were especially awesome and had very long lives for men. Then on day Sauron came along, newly enhanced with the power of the Ring, and enchanted them all by donning a beautiful appearance and basically saying, “Hey, let’s be super evil, everyone. Okay?”
Numenor got super evil, and as punishment, it sank into the sea. The few refugees settled on Middle-Earth, and eventually dwindled into the Dunedain. Aragorn is the lineage of the king, which is why he has a right to the throne of men, etc.
More interestingly, this also explains why Aragorn is in his 80s in the story.
He is both blessed to be the heir of Numenor, and has distant elven blood in his veins. That actually makes Elrond and his sons distant relatives, and uhhhh, Arwen is his great great great great great grandmother? We’re sure that’s okay. Right?