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Thread: Passing Time In Loth Lorien

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Ive just re read the section in TLOTRs where the company are leaving Lorien in their Elvish Boats. I find the conversation regarding how time passes, or doesnt pass in Caras Galadhon to be incredibly interesting. What are your thoughts on this.... Sam notices that he thinks the company has lost time whilst in Lorien. I think its Frodo who thinks that despite feeling they had been there much longer that time had actually stood almost still in the outer lands whilst they were in Lorien. Honesly Tolkien was so ahead of his time, this section is like a mind bending time travel episode from Doctor Who or Star trek! Im interested in what other readers think.

I have actually thought of this several times, but to me it is natural and proper,,for the Elves, and especially those in Imladris and Lothlorien, though it is not mentioned about this place but you get the same sense, well I believe that Illuvatar embued each of his high creations the Elves with certain anointings and some of that came with them on their journeys. To me The Blessed Realm was always out of time, and so this anointing if you will also to an extent came with them and so wherever they lived, that hallowed place they called home on Middle-Earth would attend them, they would be in part out of time, apart from time within themselves and the company would notice this immediately. Even the way the moon and trees and such were described to me seemed under this anointing if you will. I loved the feeling

I see this rather llike the garden of Eden embodied with that same feeling of being out of time, since Adam and Eve were meant to live forever , therefore time would not mean much and nothing in essence would change.


I believe it was because of the elven Rings, Elrond and Galadriel used them to make Imladris and Lothlorien an elven refuge in ME. Time in ME passes too quickly for the elves. The passing of time is different in Valinor, which was created to suit the elves and be their home. But the details... I don't remember the details here. Galin? Anyone?

Thanks for the confidence Amarie! I agree that Rivendell and Lothlorien are little attempts at recreating Aman, in a sense, but I think the opinion of Legolas represents Tolkien's opinion -- that time does not tarry ever, but change and growth is not the same in all places.

Not to take away from the beauty of how Tolkien crafted a timeless experience in Lothlorien, or the various ways in which one could characterize Lorien as being timeless, but Legolas is still ultimately correct I think, and his words even seem to echo what Tolkien ultimately landed on...

... originally Tolkien played with actual time differences in Lothlorien, but he revised this for the slowing of the effects of time rather. That is, time in both Aman and Lothlorien was actual time and the same measure as in Middle-earth, but as Legolas basically notes -- change and growth -- or effects of time, were not a constant everywhere. 

In a sense one could say that time has slowed, as the effects of time are related to actual time of course; although for a mundane example, no one today would likely say that time has been slowed by adding preservative to a piece of wood, to keep it longer from decay.


 In any case we see that the effect of such a land is quite profound on the characters in the book!


As a great holiday might seem to go by so fast, or a few minutes might seem like hours in other situations, the perception of time can vary greatly, and I think Tolkien delves into this nicely with the perception of the Hobbits, even though ending with the perhaps more mundane truth revealed by Aragorn (or especially The Tale of Years). Looking behind the scenes...

Tolkien now also introduced the Shire Reckoning, and reached the chronology of The Tale of Years: the Company cross the Silverlode on 16 January 1419, and leave on 16 February. Marquette MSS 4/2/17, headed 'New Time Table allowing 30 days sojourn in Lothlórien' with an added note 'which seems less long than it is (in traditional way)' includes an entry:

'The Coy. [Company] stays in Lórien for many days. They cannot count the time, for they do not age in that time, but outside in fact 30 days goes by.' In Scheme a similar note says:' They cannot count the time, for they themselves do not age or only very slowly. Outside in fact about 30 days passes.'

This was one of the effects of the Elven ring worn by Galadriel. Bilbo had commented on a similar inability to reckon time in Rivendell, where Elrond also wore an Elven ring.'

Hammond and Scull, The Lord of the Rings, A Reader's Companion 


I think that's why the Moon isn't 'noticed' once the Company reaches the heart of Lorien, a nice touch given that the phases of the Moon are often used to note the passing of time.


And even if all agree that Tolkien gave up actual time difference here, there are yet arguably interesting ways to consider time in Lothlorien -- for possible example (although hard to describe in any event): perhaps being in Lorien might have been like living in the present -- but yet somehow living in the past 'at the same time' as well.

Great comments Guys. Time is truly hard the fathom, perhaps the Elven rings power was to actually "Bend" time.  This is a very modern thought re String theory, Relativity and the like.  I think in another life the Professor would have made a great Scientist.....

Lovely! Thank you, Galin. It was the "preservation" effect I was searching for rather than actual tick-tock time.  

(And if there is one thing we have learned from dr. Who it is that time is like a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff. Wink Smilie )

Well  I have read in Catholic writings, somewhere, it is foggy to me, the sense that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and when it refers to Jesus being slain before the foundation of the world and other places you get the sense that Tolkien transferred these snippets and others into the before time, in time and outside of time thing, a sort of beginning of all things, the way things were then in the ages of Middle-Earth and that which was to come or that which always was from the beginning. The elves seemed to be imbued from on high as it were in some places and in the elves that magic , I don't know any other word that allowed this to exist in certain situations on Middle-Earth. Really I cannot explain it properly and have never quite fathomed this, but without getting into religion, it would seem that this sense of all three was present in John Ronald's writings, even if unconsciously.

Interesting Lee Lee.  I think a good example in TLOTRS of this theory is both Sam and Frodo's attempts to describe what they are seeing and feeling when they are looking out, surveying the country from the outskirts of Lorien from West to South (I think) and catch a view of Gol Dolgur.  From memory they state that perhaps they are actually seeing another time, in the same place.  Sam as usual hits the nail on the head in his simple, but apt statements...

I had not even thought of that Brego, that is brilliant. Often just the simple observations put into simple words was deeper and mlore satisfing to me than even the wisdom of the elves. That is whyJohn Ronald said that Sam was a hero or the hero, he was the ordinary man as it were just living and making his way the best he could and thereby enriching the world.

In the conversation on the River it is Frodo who says perhaps '... we were in a time that has elsewhere long gone by' in reaction to Sam's observations about the Moon. However Legolas essentially corrects Frodo, and Frodo then says: 'But the wearing is slow in  Lorien.'


With respect to Frodo's reaction to Legolas' statements, Verlyn Flieger (A Question of Time) suggests that: 'Frodo is not persuaded and sticks to his notion of an actual time difference between Lorien and the rest of the World.' I have a different opinion here: Frodo also says 'rich are the hours, though short they seem' -- which Flieger agrees is about perception (seem), but to my mind this slow wearing speaks to effects of time, not actual time. In other words; I think Frodo gets it now, or agrees with Legolas at least, even though one normally equates actual time with the wearing of things.


Flieger then characterizes Aragorn as taking a 'middle position, reconciling both views' (that of Frodo and Legolas) 'He agrees with Legolas that time has indeed passed, but explains to Sam and Frodo that they have experienced it like Elves rather than like Men.' With that much I agree, but I think Aragorn confirms Legolas' view and incorporates it (as it deals with perceptions) to explain Sam's confusion.


In one seemingly ultimate note Tolkien even wrote: 'Better to have no time difference' but Flieger notes that Sam still does see the Moon in the final text, and that Tolkien left the debate in even though he had (again seemingly) removed any actual time difference -- thus Flieger writes that the reader must wonder why Tolkien put in the debate at all, adding: 'Tolkien's theme, if not his plot, needed two kinds of time, however that was to be managed.'


She then goes on to try to explain this, but more generally I think Tolkien preserved the debate at least in part because it gave him a chance to philosophize about time and perception, and expand a bit upon the 'timeless' quality of Lorien.


Even if JRRT had decided that Sam and Frodo were to be technically wrong, they were to raise points about Lorien that were good to raise from another perspective. Tolkien's land of Faery was going to be like other fairy-realms in that time distortion was to play some part, but in his work it became more of a philosophical part -- one explained through confused or variant perceptions, as mortal and immortal walked under the preservation power of Galadriel and Nenya -- rather than one of actual, measurable experience.


Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter, which Tolkien knew I would say, actually dealt with a 'different time' in the realm of the Elves  -- Tolkien tried this, but he couldn't make it work to his satisfaction. He realized that time didn't actually need to stand still, it only needed to seemingly do so, and his themes could be served. 

Too true lee lee. Legolas also has interesting thoughts on time. I find his brief conversations with fangorn especially heart warming.