Thread: Thuringwethil
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Old 04-29-2018, 12:08 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Huinesoron
There is no indication in either text that the vampires (Sauron, Thuringwethil, or Luthien) ever take a non-bat vampire form - on the page. But there do seem to be hints that they can. The bat-fell is repeatedly described as 'raiment', ie, clothes; moreover, Luthien has to take steps to counter its evil effects, lest it drive her to 'dreadful madness'. This could be purely the fact that it's the skin of an evil creature (and the same is said of Draugluin's fell, which we have no indication is anything other than his skin), but it gives us space to wonder.

The next indicator is the description of Thuringwethil herself: she 'was wont to fly in vampire's form to Angband'. That suggests that she had another option - and Morgoth kind of supports this. (I know, I know - who looks to Morgoth's words for evidence?!) He is very clear that Luthien should remove her 'form and raiment false' - two separate items. Yes, it could be poetry - but it could also indicate that she had to use the transformative power of the bat-fell, and then take the thing off

Another point: when Morgoth's power removed Luthien's bat-raiment, it 'slowly shrank and fell'. Fell is obvious, but shrank? Unless we are to assume Morgoth's word has dessicatory powers, I think the logical assumption is that it also earlier grew to cover Luthien - and that indicates some kind of innate enchantment, not merely a flayed skin.
Finrod and company didn't wear their enemies' skin: they took their weapons and armour, and tied the Orcs' hair into their own. But for the rest, they used face-paint to darken their skin, and enchantment to change their appearance. Shape-shifting by what could almost be called sympathetic magic - using just enough of the creature you want to become to support the change - is the clear pattern here. (Also: Professor, what exactly do 'hideous' ears look like? Do you just... have a thing about ears?)

So: there is at least some support for the idea of shapeshifting vampires. But what form do they shift into? For that, we have absolutely no evidence. The simplest conclusion might be that a 'vampire' is actually anyone who has worn a bat-fell long enough to be driven to evil madness by it (shades of the Nazgul here, which could be evidence in support), but on the other hand, that isn't exactly Morgoth's style. On the other other hand... the only forms of shapeshifting fully attested in Middle-earth are a) Ainur (mostly Sauron), and b) elves wearing their enemies' kit and using magic to disguise the rest of them. If we want a shapeshifting vampire, then the most 'canonical' form she can take is a woman who dons batlike raiment and flies from Taur-nu-Fuin to Angband, darkening the moon and striking terror into the hearts of Elves and Men.

What Tolkien is using here is a very common myth/folklore motif- the idea of magical shapeshifting that requires a material component, typically something worn, such as a skin, cloak, helmet, belt etc. This has been mentioned further up the page, but only in connection with Norse myth, whereas it's actually pretty much universal. He seems to employ it in the usual way, too- I don't see any reason to doubt that the "vampire's form" referred to is the bat-like shape resulting from such a transformation.

In support of this, "Vampire" can be short for vampire bat- that is, the real-world animal. This usage can be found in most dictionaries, and was more common formerly- even in the last place you might expect to find it-
"I have not seen anything pulled down so quick since I was on the Pampas and had a mare that I was fond of go to grass all in a night. One of those big bats that they call vampires had got at her in the night..."
Bram Stoker, Dracula.

The speaker is comparing the death of his horse, victim of a mundane vampire bat, to that of Lucy, unbeknownst to him the victim of a supernatural, undead vampire (Dracula himself, as a matter of fact). Dramatic irony, and all that. But it shows both usages co-existing in the same novel. Not, of course, that it is simple as Lúthien or Thuringwethil or Sauron transforming into a copy of a real-world vampire bat- the descriptions are clearly of something larger and more monstrous- but to me it indicates the "bat-like creature" could be enough in itself to account for that word "vampire".
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