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Old 08-15-2014, 11:39 AM   #1
Brego
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Question Talking animals.

So, I was thinking. Can animals in LotR speak? I've wondered this for a while and have a few theories.

In many places the birds are mentioned as being spies, and some of the beasts. The horses seem to be able to understand speech and then there's the fox that comes across the hobbits, and Beorn's animals in the Hobbit, which, it says, he speaks to. Granted, the hobbit is more of a children's book.

Maybe the animals conversed telepathically? With mental pictures and, perhaps, words? My other thought was that in the 'other world/side' that the elves and nazgul live partly in, animals are capable of speech with each other, and, for example, when wearing the ring, you could hear them.

What do you think?
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Old 08-15-2014, 12:29 PM   #2
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In The Hobbit when the wargs trap Thorin and Company Gandalf can understand their language when they are talking to one another.
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Old 08-15-2014, 02:47 PM   #3
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The eagles speak, at least to Gandalf the fox is talking to himself, Beorn as a shapeshifter can speak animal rather than the reverse. Normal horses can be trained to respond to simple commands, Gandalf and Shadowfax, well both are a bit special.
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Old 08-15-2014, 05:54 PM   #4
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Don't forget Roac the Raven; he can talk too (or is it that Thorin understands raven, I forgot)
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Old 08-15-2014, 06:11 PM   #5
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I think it spoke to the Dwarves and to Bard.
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Old 08-16-2014, 05:06 AM   #6
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It did, but the question I was not sure of was if it could talk to them in a human language (for the purposes of this, I'm counting Dwarven and Elvish tongues as "human" since I can't think of a better term) or whether Bard and the Dwarves were merely fluent in Ravenspeak. I was concerned some would call into question his ability to "talk" if it was the latter. I suppose that is silly in retrospect; if Shadowfax and other animals that can merely understand human tongues count, then Roac does.
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Old 08-16-2014, 07:37 AM   #7
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Roac did indeed use the Common Speech, as reported by Bilbo. I would be tempted to place all the talking creatures of The Hobbit and LOTR into the same basket: descendants of animals from Aman, which would explain why they were not very commonplace by the Third Age.
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Old 08-16-2014, 01:58 PM   #8
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Do we consider dragons animals in this scenario? If so them too. I think they're animals of a sort.
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Old 08-16-2014, 02:17 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Belegorn View Post
Do we consider dragons animals in this scenario? If so them too. I think they're animals of a sort.
I wouldn't. Though they share some animal attributes like wings, they demonstrate a consciousness that goes beyond anything seen in horses and such.
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Old 08-17-2014, 08:41 PM   #10
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There are two separate issues here: the first, the anthropomorphic speech in The Hobbit, and second, the speech indicative of Valaric servants.

If you divorce yourself from the rampant animal-speak in The Hobbit and concentrate on The Silmarillion and Lord of the Rings, one is left with only two instances of such speech, and both are tied to the Valar: Huan, the hound of Orome, and the eagle progeny of Thorondor, messenger of Manwe.

Yes, eagles speak in The Hobbit as well, but I believe that is merely in accordance with Tolkien's previously written Middle-earth material. The balance of the anthropomorphic speech in The Hobbit, and particularly the birds speaking selectively to the dwarves of Durin's folk or men of the royal line of Girion (like Bard), are just two of many folkloric motifs that Tolkien used, like so mant building blocks, to construct his tale of Faery (or fairytale, if you prefer), The Hobbit.

Motifs like the talking purse, Beorn's animal servants, and even the grumbling wargs ("My grandma, what big teeth you have!"), are borrowed from previous fairytales, not unlike the dwarvish naming conventions lifted from The Voluspa. They do not connect to the divine in the same manner as in Tolkien's more serious efforts. Therefore, Fatty Lumpkin, Bill the pony, or the wargs, do not speak in LOTR.

P.S. As Inzil mentioned, dragons are a separate case altogether and a reptilic representation of greed and malice, but they too were servants of a Vala, Morgoth, and were spawned with fell spirits inhabiting their massive frames. In addition, of course, talking dragons as a folkloric motif are manifold, and Tolkien himself used such a motif in another fairytale, Farmer Giles of Ham, in which the dragon Chrysophylax was the gabby drake.
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