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Old 08-26-2006, 12:52 PM   #1
Lalwendë
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Pipe Thuringwethil

I've just dragged up an old thread here. Why? I was looking at a design for a Sim based on the character of Thuringwethil and got to thinking what a fabulous costume this would make (no time for Oxonmoot though ).

Anyway, reading this old thread it seemed to dismiss the idea that Thuringwethil was a vampire of the form that could transform from bat to human (as in the Dracula story). However, my opinion is why wouldn't Tolkien draw from that source? He was known to be an avid reader of fantasy and sci-fi and I'm sure that Dracula can't have escaped his attention. As anyone else knows, tales of vampires are incredibly attractive and that image of the vampire is one etched on our minds ever since Bram Stoker wrote his novel.

Looking at the Sil:

Quote:
He turned aside therefore at Sauron's isle, as they ran northward again, and he took thence the ghastly wolf-hame of Draugluin, and the bat-fell of Thuringwethil. She was the messenger of Sauron, and was wont to fly in vampire's form to Angband; and her great fingered wings were barbed at each joint's end with an iron claw. Clad in these dreadful garments Huan and Luthien ran through Taur-nu-Fuin, and all things fled before them.
Beren seeing their approach was dismayed; and he wondered, for he had heard the voice of Tinuviel, and he thought it now a phantom for his ensnaring.
and:

Quote:
By the counsel of Huan and the arts of Luthien he was arrayed now in the name of Draugluin, and she in the winged fell of Thuringwethil. Beren became in all things like a werewolf to look upon, save that in his eyes there shone a spirit grim indeed but clean; and horror was in his glance as he saw upon his flank a bat-like creature clinging with creased wings. Then howling under the moon he leaped down the hill, and the bat wheeled and flittered above him.
The 'skin' of Thuringwethil is clearly a bat-like shape, and it must also have fit human/elf form if Luthien was able to wear it and be so well disguised. I don't see much here to detract from the 20th century image of the vampire - a human form with bat wings.

Thuringwethil also means 'Woman of Secret Shadow'. A reference to vampires, in modern myth, not having shadows?

I think Tolkien was like a lot of us and was inspired by that image of the scary vampire. And there's plenty of info here to inspire a cool costume too.
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Old 08-27-2006, 02:35 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwende
The 'skin' of Thuringwethil is clearly a bat-like shape, and it must also have fit human/elf form if Luthien was able to wear it and be so well disguised. I don't see much here to detract from the 20th century image of the vampire - a human form with bat wings.
Since Draugluin evidently didn't have human/elf form, I don't think Thuringwethil necessarily had to. She maybe roughly had the same size, in order for Lúthien to fit in, and the rest is left to 'the arts of Lúthien' - however we may exactly picture this.
Given the few information we have about her (your two quotes are all we have, if I'm not mistaken, so we don't even know how she died!) we seem to be quite free to imagine her in whatever way we want.
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Old 08-27-2006, 06:39 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Macalaure
Since Draugluin evidently didn't have human/elf form, I don't think Thuringwethil necessarily had to. She maybe roughly had the same size, in order for Lúthien to fit in, and the rest is left to 'the arts of Lúthien' - however we may exactly picture this.
Given the few information we have about her (your two quotes are all we have, if I'm not mistaken, so we don't even know how she died!) we seem to be quite free to imagine her in whatever way we want.
I don't know if Luthien had the ability to alter her form though, even her mother Melian had to 'fix' into an elf shape in order to marry Thingol, so I'm not so sure we could even say that she may have inherited any ability like that.

I could see though that the 'skin' of Thuringwethil may have been of a shifting, mercurial nature as Tolkien seems to describe it that way. Firstly he says "vampire's form" which suggests a human shape, then "bat-like" which might be a form which would merely suggest a bat and then finally "bat" as Luthien in this 'skin' is in the air. This is actually very like the mercurial nature of the vampires of 20th century literature, so maybe it was the 'skin' which could change shape rather than Luthien?

It would have been funny if Thuringwethil had battled Gandalf as then we would have had an additional Balrog style debate to get our fangs into.

Actually, could Balrogs also have possessed the ability to alter their form?
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Old 08-27-2006, 08:32 AM   #4
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Good to see this topic brought up again, Lal, as there is always room to expand upon previous discussions.

I will be back later with more (not much time these days for online stuff), but for now I pass on this idea: Are winged creatures in Tolkien more often associated with the dark side?

Angels traditionally had/have wings, but I don't think the Ainur did/do. Or the Valar. My Silm is shakely, so I could be wrong, but would Tolkien omit this simply to give his mythology a more independent status or did he tend to ascribe wings to evil creatures? Other than the Eagles, who of course are winged (comes with the genes), how did Tolkien treat wings? Were they something to be feared? Crows were nasty spies. Is there something about flying that inspires fear or at least great discomfort?

For a costume, I can envision a little something in black leather, svelte, with a few assessories to complement the metal claws. Hold the ugly face unless you're really going for authenticity. And while Oxonmoot might be a bit tight, Hallowe'en might fit the schedule more plausibly.
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Old 08-27-2006, 09:45 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Bęthberry
Are winged creatures in Tolkien more often associated with the dark side?

Angels traditionally had/have wings, but I don't think the Ainur did/do. Or the Valar. My Silm is shakely, so I could be wrong, but would Tolkien omit this simply to give his mythology a more independent status or did he tend to ascribe wings to evil creatures? Other than the Eagles, who of course are winged (comes with the genes), how did Tolkien treat wings? Were they something to be feared? Crows were nasty spies. Is there something about flying that inspires fear or at least great discomfort?
There are the Eagles in LotR & The Sil, but there are also gulls, & a couple of ravens & a thrush in TH on the good side. Most birds are on the 'good' side. Apart from the Crebain & some flies with the eye of mordor on them, I can't think of any natural flying creatures that are evil. It is only 'monsters' like dragons, Thuringwethil & the Fell Beasts which can fly & are 'evil' - & one assumes they were bred to be so.

There are many more four-(& two-) legged & wingless creatures on the side of evil.

As an aside, Angels weren't always depicted with wings, & where they are shown as having them it is symbolic of their role - they move (as 'messengers', angeloi) between heaven, symbolically 'above', & earth, symbolically 'below' - hence in the 'vertical' plane.

Valar & Ainur were originally akin to the Pagan gods - very few of whom had wings (only Mercury springs to mind), so its not surprinsing they are wingless.
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Old 08-27-2006, 08:11 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by davem
Apart from the Crebain & some flies with the eye of mordor on them, I can't think of any natural flying creatures that are evil. It is only 'monsters' like dragons, Thuringwethil & the Fell Beasts which can fly & are 'evil' - & one assumes they were bred to be so.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lal
Neatly leaving Balrogs out of it due to not having wings, that's still a substantial amount of winged beasts that are on the side of darkness, especially given their size and potential for damage. . . . So maybe Tolkien did indeed associate most large winged beasts with evil. Certainly unnatural or supernatural winged creatures, as vampires, dragons and fell beasts were, unlike the Eagles.
Perhaps the clue does not lie in wingedness per se but in unnatural wingedness or wingedness of gigantic proportions. The first might be seen as a kind of worshipping of false mechanical power, a denial of an animal's proper sphere and an appropriating to themselves the power and agency that four limbed critters should not have. The second might be related in that it defies laws of gravity. Just how big would a dragon's wings have to be to lift him? What size of muscles and weight of bone?

In contravening a natural order lies at least the beginning of taint.

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Originally Posted by Macalaure
the rest is left to 'the arts of Lúthien' - however we may exactly picture this.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rune
I think the skin change is of a magical sort more than just simple disguises. I cannot say how Luthien and Beren transform into these creatures, because it is not told. But "magical" skin change is not an unknown thing. In alot of the old legends and in Norse Mythology you see this happen and are never told exactly how it is done.
This takes us into the conflicted territory of elven 'magic' versus 'elven art.'

But I really ought to take a peek at The silm references myself. The very fact of having the phrase "vampire form" suggests that the author of The Silm assumed his readers would understand the word. Otherwise, why not simply say "bat form"? It's sort of like having your cake and eating it too.
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Old 08-27-2006, 10:23 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Bethberry
Angels traditionally had/have wings, but I don't think the Ainur did/do. Or the Valar. My Silm is shakely, so I could be wrong, but would Tolkien omit this simply to give his mythology a more independent status or did he tend to ascribe wings to evil creatures? Other than the Eagles, who of course are winged (comes with the genes), how did Tolkien treat wings? Were they something to be feared? Crows were nasty spies. Is there something about flying that inspires fear or at least great discomfort?
Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
There are the Eagles in LotR & The Sil, but there are also gulls, & a couple of ravens & a thrush in TH on the good side. Most birds are on the 'good' side. Apart from the Crebain & some flies with the eye of mordor on them, I can't think of any natural flying creatures that are evil. It is only 'monsters' like dragons, Thuringwethil & the Fell Beasts which can fly & are 'evil' - & one assumes they were bred to be so.
Neatly leaving Balrogs out of it due to not having wings, that's still a substantial amount of winged beasts that are on the side of darkness, especially given their size and potential for damage. I seem to remember reading a letter of Tolkien's where he associated planes with bad things, possibly written during WWII to Christopher? Wasn't he a bit worried about him having joined the RAF? So maybe Tolkien did indeed associate most large winged beasts with evil. Certainly unnatural or supernatural winged creatures, as vampires, dragons and fell beasts were, unlike the Eagles.



Quote:
Originally Posted by bethberry
For a costume, I can envision a little something in black leather, svelte, with a few assessories to complement the metal claws. Hold the ugly face unless you're really going for authenticity. And while Oxonmoot might be a bit tight, Hallowe'en might fit the schedule more plausibly.
That might indeed be more suitable for Hallowe'en as I think I'd look less like one of the Ainur and more like a DFS sofa. It could be an easy costume for anyone with goth outfits left from a mis-spent youth (or indeed in current wardrobe rotation). The claws could be those pointy finger ring thingys that are like long silver claws.
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Old 08-27-2006, 11:04 AM   #8
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I think the skin change is of a magical sort more than just simple disguises. I cannot say how Luthien and Beren transform into these creatures, because it is not told. But "magical" skin change is not an unknown thing. In alot of the old legends and in Norse Mythology you see this happen and are never told exactly how it is done.

In the Volsunga Sage (Vřlsung Saga) Fafnir turns into a dragon after killing his brother out of greed. In other stories we are told how the god Freya posses a swan skin, wich enables her to become a swan and fly. Or how ordinary people puts on wolf skins and becomes a wolf (or werewolfs).

So I am kind of agreeing with Macalaure
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Old 04-28-2018, 01:55 PM   #9
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It was always my impression that Thuringwethil was simply a Maia of Melkor, obviously less powerful than the first (Ungoliant, Gothmog, Sauron) or second tier (the Balrogs), maybe on par with the Boldogs. The "Bat" was simply the form she chose, nothing more, nothing less. Tolkien may have been inspired by vampire-folklore, even Sauron has a brief stint as a vampire in the First Age, but Tolkien only borrowed some characteristics and outward appearances. Neither Thuringwethil nor Sauron were "Vampires" as we commonly understand them and as they appear in modern horror fiction. I also think that such "vampires" wouldn't fit in Tolkiens world, it just feels completely alien to Middle-Earth, but thats just my feeling.

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Old 04-29-2018, 12:08 AM   #10
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Quote:
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.
Quote:
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.

hS
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-
Quote:
"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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Old 04-29-2018, 03:31 AM   #11
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Anyway, reading this old thread it seemed to dismiss the idea that Thuringwethil was a vampire of the form that could transform from bat to human (as in the Dracula story). However, my opinion is why wouldn't Tolkien draw from that source? He was known to be an avid reader of fantasy and sci-fi and I'm sure that Dracula can't have escaped his attention. As anyone else knows, tales of vampires are incredibly attractive and that image of the vampire is one etched on our minds ever since Bram Stoker wrote his novel.
[...]
The 'skin' of Thuringwethil is clearly a bat-like shape, and it must also have fit human/elf form if Luthien was able to wear it and be so well disguised. I don't see much here to detract from the 20th century image of the vampire - a human form with bat wings.

Thuringwethil also means 'Woman of Secret Shadow'. A reference to vampires, in modern myth, not having shadows?

I think Tolkien was like a lot of us and was inspired by that image of the scary vampire. And there's plenty of info here to inspire a cool costume too.
It seems that Thuringwethil was an incarnated Maia, i.e. she was completely bound to her form/hroa and no longer able to leave or change it. After her "death" Luthien then simply skinned her body like a hunter would do with a big animal. Luthien then wore the fur and the head of Thuringwethil like a fur-coat. If we take a bit of acting, absence of harsh daylight and Luthiens "magic" into account, then its altogether plausible that she was able to fool the Orc-Guards or some Boldog-Captain at Angbands Gates that she was Thuringwethil. Yes, its still a bit of a stretch, but its a mythic tale after all.

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Old 04-29-2018, 04:46 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by denethorthefirst View Post
It seems that Thuringwethil was an incarnated Maia, i.e. she was completely bound to her form/hroa and no longer able to leave or change it. After her "death" Luthien then simply skinned her body like a hunter would do with a big animal. Luthien then wore the fur and the head of Thuringwethil like a fur-coat. If we take a bit of acting, absence of harsh daylight and Luthiens "magic" into account, then its altogether plausible that she was able to fool the Orc-Guards or some Boldog-Captain at Angbands Gates that she was Thuringwethil. Yes, its still a bit of a stretch, but its a mythic tale after all.
Lúthien could fly in vampire form, so it is clearly more than a mundane disguise- but see my last post re:shapeshifting in folklore and Huinesoron's with the quotes from the Silmarillion and Lay of Leithian.

I think it pretty clear that Lúthien actually transformed, using "the bat-fell of Thuringwethil" as a basis. Could Thuringwethil herself shapeshift at all? Hard to say, but possibly implied. Does that mean she had a humanoid form resembling the conventional modern idea of a "vampire"? Highly unlikely, I'd say.
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Old 04-29-2018, 05:39 AM   #13
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Well, one could also interpret the "Lay of Leithian" that Thuringwethil wore some kind of elaborate flying apparatus that Luthien then took off her and used for herself ... that would be a somewhat technical explanation but one that would fit with what we know about Arda. The description of the "garb" ("iron nails") seems to point in that direction. Luthien can't change or "transform" (as you put it) her form/hroa no matter how powerful she is, it is not in her nature. So she either took Thuringwethils flying apparatus OR she skinned Thuringwethil and wore her fur. How she would be able to fly while wearing a fur with wings is a bit less believable, but maybe she worked some kind of spell, that would certainly be in her power.
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Old 04-29-2018, 06:28 AM   #14
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Well, one could also interpret the "Lay of Leithian" that Thuringwethil wore some kind of elaborate flying apparatus that Luthien then took off her and used for herself ... that would be a somewhat technical explanation but one that would fit with what we know about Arda. The description of the "garb" ("iron nails") seems to point in that direction.
I think the point against that idea is the lack of any similar 'apparatus' described in the books. Surely, if such a rig was available, Morgoth (and later, Sauron) would have made some use of it in their wars against the West.
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Old 04-29-2018, 06:52 AM   #15
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Well, one could also interpret the "Lay of Leithian" that Thuringwethil wore some kind of elaborate flying apparatus that Luthien then took off her and used for herself ... that would be a somewhat technical explanation but one that would fit with what we know about Arda. The description of the "garb" ("iron nails") seems to point in that direction. Luthien can't change or "transform" (as you put it) her form/hroa no matter how powerful she is, it is not in her nature. So she either took Thuringwethils flying apparatus OR she skinned Thuringwethil and wore her fur. How she would be able to fly while wearing a fur with wings is a bit less believable, but maybe she worked some kind of spell, that would certainly be in her power.
Ah... Okay, denethorthefirst, I've got to say that- respectfully- I totally disagree with this interpretation, don't think it fits at all with "what we know about Arda" (flying machines? Since when?) and am honestly not sure where you're getting these rules about what characters can and can't do. (I think you may perhaps have fallen into the "Tolkien Trap" of believing the "rules" of the Professor's sub-creation to be more finalised and absolute than they actually were).

Anyway, as I said before, shapeshifting which is magical, yet relies on a skin, cloak etc, is very common in folklore worldwide and (I'd say) does fit with the "dark fairytale" quality of the story in question.
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Old 04-29-2018, 07:23 AM   #16
denethorthefirst
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Well, the Numenoreans are supposed to have Airships and Rockets (HOME 9) and a lot of the Silmarillion actually feels a bit like Science-Fiction when you read between the lines ... the decline in Arda is also technological, the Third Age is medieval and primitive compared to the First and Second Age. But that was not what i meant when i wrote that the "flying apparatus" would "fit" Arda. I meant that this interpretation believably explains how Luthien can "transform" (as you put it) herself and fly even though she does not possess the ability to change her hröa. Luthien is an elven woman and Elves are (like the Dwarves, the Humans, the Orcs, etc.) Incarnates that are bound to their body/hröa and are not able to change them. We may mock the tendency of the Fandom to invent and establish "rules" but that is one of the few hard laws of Ea, established by Tolkien himself in his writings. But: the "rules" can be handwaived away in this particular instance, because the whole Luthien-Beren-tale is (like the rest of the Silmarillion) mythological in nature, embellished and expanded upon by later generations. Over the centuries the tale grew with every generation until Luthien took Thuringwethils fur and actually flew away. Its not meant to be taken altogether literal. The Silmarillion is supposed to be the mythology of Middle-Earth and not an historical account.

Last edited by denethorthefirst; 04-29-2018 at 08:40 AM.
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