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Old 12-18-2018, 03:46 AM   #1
Huinesoron
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Question Transmission theory - what if it's ALL true?

There are four main transmission theories mentioned in Tolkien's work:

-The Lost Tales, told to Eriol/Aelfwine by the elves of Tol Eressea, and written down by him in the Golden Book of Tavrobel.

-The Downfall of the Lord of the Rings..., Bilbo's Translations, a volume of Hobbitish commentary and genealogy, and some Gondorian history, all bundled together as the Thain's Book copy of the Red Book of Westmarch.

-A vision of the fall of Numenor, as fictionalised in the Notion Club Papers. We know the Great Wave was an actual dream-vision of Tolkien's, and we also know he wrote multiple stories about mentally time-travelling to Numenor (see: The Lost Road).

-Numenorean versions of the Quenta Silmarillion and associated documents, per Myths Transformed.

The Translations from the Elvish project I believe spent a while arguing over which version to follow, but what if they're all true? What if Tolkien was working from four different sources?

-The Numenorean texts could well have been bundled with the Red Book. Either they took the place of Bilbo's Translations, or - my preferred option - Bilbo the poet mostly translated the epic poems: Leithian, the Narn, and a Lay of Earendil that covered the Fall of Gondolin through to the War of Wrath.

-The timeline fits!
--Tolkien finds the Golden Book, written in Old English, at Great Haywood in 1916/17. He begins his translation work, writing out the Lost Tales.
--He finds the Red Book in the mid-to-late 1920s. The first thing he translates is some of the poems - perhaps Bilbo's Westron features some kind of highlighting of names (like Egyptian cartouches) which allows him to easily spot 'Tinuviel' or 'Turambar'.
--Following the Beleriand chain, he jumps to the Numenorean texts and tries to translate the Quenta Silmarillion. He ends up re-translating it over and over throughout his life.
--In the '30s, perhaps looking for something easier, he works on 'There and Back Again', written in Bilbo's familiar style.
--In 1937 he sets to work on the 'Downfall of the Lord of the Rings', but struggles initially with the differences between Frodo's and Bilbo's writing. The more Elvish bent of the 'Downfall' helps him get to grips with the similarly-Elvish Quenta, however, so both continue to improve.
--In the late '30s, he has a vision of travelling back to Numenor, and attempts to write pieces of it down; the Lost Road is the first effort, followed by the Notion Club Papers in the '40s, and later direct retellings of the Adunaic stories he saw.

The best/most bizarre aspect of this? It means that the Lost Tales are the most accurate history of the First Age. You thought Beren and Luthien fought Sauron? Nope, that's a Numenorean Faithful retelling meant to link their enemy to the Dark Lord. They actually fought a giant cat. What can you do?

Actually, Beren is the place where this kind of falls apart. Beren in the Lost Tales is an elf, but Aragorn - who grew up with Beren's great-grandson - tells us that he was mortal. Except... the Red Book is specifically noted to include Gondorian corrections, including the addition of the tale of Aragorn and Arwen. Could it be that they simply added that section in wholesale, for the Gondorian market? It definitely fits...

The other issue, still with Beren, is the Lay of Leithian. The poetic Narn matches the Lost Tales version pretty well, and the Lay of Earendil was never translated, but the Lay of Leithian is a retelling of the later, Numenorean-Quenta story, not the original Eressean Tale. What do we conclude?

-More Numenorean meddling. Kind of unsatisfactory, and would they really muck about with the poetry?
-The Lay is actually a late text (Arnorian?), following the Numenorean account. But then why would Elrond keep it alongside the First Age Narn?
-Tolkien mistranslating or filling in a missing chunk. But surely we can trust Tolkien to be a faithful translator!
-Or... maybe no-one really knows the story properly. Doriath was pretty sealed-in, and Elwing was pretty young when she left; if no-one who actually knew her grandparents survived, maybe the Eressean version is garbled. And while we're at it: who wrote the Lay? My pet theory is that it's Mr Namedrop himself, Tinfang Gelion the definitely-as-good-as-Daeron. That would mean it was written in Ossiriand (beyond the Gelion, hence the name), and probably based on a lot of guesswork and creative interpretation. Beren specifically is noted as not being very sociable after his return.

So it all just about works.

Why go into all this? Because I just love the idea that all the talk of finding the most realistic version of Tolkien is completely wrong - that the 'true' story is the utterly bonkers Lost Tales account, with its colour-coded elves, giant cats, dwarves who are incarnations of time, and Melkor being chased up a big tree.

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Old 12-21-2018, 05:20 PM   #2
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Well if the legendarium is true, that means a lot of cool things happened. Also we'd probably be able to find evidence of numenor under the ocean.
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Old 12-24-2018, 06:49 PM   #3
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I haven't really thought through all the details, but I like this theory. I've always liked to believe everything Tolkien wrote could be considered "canon" and the inconsistencies are due to translating from different sources.
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Old 01-02-2019, 07:18 AM   #4
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Well if the legendarium is true, that means a lot of cool things happened. Also we'd probably be able to find evidence of numenor under the ocean.
Slight topic shift, but sure: if the entire body of the Legendarium comes from genuine historical documents, what non-documentary evidence would we expect to find?

1. The Changing of the World. A massive event like the sinking of Numenor and the world being made round would leave a huge scar on the planet. Something like, maybe... the mid-Atlantic Ridge? Is this where Iluvatar spliced the new, spherical world together?

STATUS: CONFIRMED.

2. Multiple humanoid species in the fossil record. In addition to H. sapiens, Tolkien would lead us to expect a gracile elvish form (though these might be tricky to find, immortality being what it is), a more robust Orcish form, and a diminutive Hobbit/Dwarf form. And, what do you know: there are multiple rugged hominids in the fossil record (notably Neanderthals), and at least one half-sized species (Flores Man, nicknamed Hobbits). There's even evidence of Neanderthals cross-breeding with humans - the half-Orcs of Saruman.

STATUS: CONFIRMED.

(We wouldn't expect to find trolls, of course - they turn to stone in sunlight. Dragons could be found, but they mostly lived in Beleriand - pardon me, Broseliand - which is under the North Atlantic. On which note...)

3. Evidence of sunken lands in the North Atlantic (ie, Broseliand). Legends of this kind abound, for instance the Lowland Hundred of Welsh myth. Notably, however, both the shallows around the Isles of Scilly (off Cornwall) and the English Channel itself were once above the sea. It might even be possible to connect Scilly to one of the Broseliandic islands (Tol Fuin, for instance), except for the next point.

STATUS: CONFIRMED.

4. The relocation of the British Isles in Saxon times. The Golden Book is quite clear on this: Britain, including such locations as Warwick and Great Haywood, was over in the Undying Lands until about the 500s AD. Which seems problematic, given how well attested the Roman ownership of the islands is.

Or... is it? Mapping the locations in the Golden Book, we find that they're all in the west of Great Britain. Clearly, the elves crashed an Eressea made of Ireland, Wales, and south-west England into a more slender island that was already there; the 'Roman' evidence from those parts is actually Elvish. As a bonus, this explains why the Romans never bothered to invade Ireland: it didn't actually exist at the time.

STATUS: CONFIRMED.

5. Memory of a land of bliss across the Western Sea. How many do you need? The Irish, the Greeks, there's no end of these stories. The Slavic heaven was located 'far away beyond the sea, at the end of the Milky Way' - a perfect description of Valinor.

STATUS: CONFIRMED.

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Old 01-02-2019, 07:34 AM   #5
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2. Multiple humanoid species in the fossil record. In addition to H. sapiens, Tolkien would lead us to expect a gracile elvish form (though these might be tricky to find, immortality being what it is), a more robust Orcish form, and a diminutive Hobbit/Dwarf form. And, what do you know: there are multiple rugged hominids in the fossil record (notably Neanderthals), and at least one half-sized species (Flores Man, nicknamed Hobbits). There's even evidence of Neanderthals cross-breeding with humans - the half-Orcs of Saruman.
I think Neanderthals are closer to Dwarves. I mean, are Tolkien's Orcs really "robust"? I think of them (apart from Sauron and Saruman's specially-bred soldier-Orcs) as undersized and wretched.

I associated burly Orcs more with things like Warhammer and WarCraft.
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Old 01-02-2019, 08:02 AM   #6
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I think Neanderthals are closer to Dwarves. I mean, are Tolkien's Orcs really "robust"? I think of them (apart from Sauron and Saruman's specially-bred soldier-Orcs) as undersized and wretched.

I associated burly Orcs more with things like Warhammer and WarCraft.
You may be right.

In which case, Homo naledi is probably the Orcs. ^_^

And if you don't like that one, I'll go with 'their subterranean dwellings make preservation unlikely'. ^_~

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Old 01-02-2019, 08:51 AM   #7
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gandalf85 wrote: I haven't really thought through all the details, but I like this theory. I've always liked to believe everything Tolkien wrote could be considered "canon" and the inconsistencies are due to translating from different sources.

I think Tolkien certainly wanted a multi-perspective legendarium, but creating such a thing is an art in itself, and glomping everything together (admittedly an over simplified description here, for brevity) ignores this.


While I find this fun and interesting to think about as a what if, in the end I can't accept this view of the legendarium. For me it turns something I find important, and something I think Tolkien found important, into a haphazard, unconsidered heap of inconsistencies -- and possibly a mountainous heap when one really starts paying attention.
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Old 01-10-2019, 10:37 AM   #8
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I think Tolkien certainly wanted a multi-perspective legendarium, but creating such a thing is an art in itself, and glomping everything together (admittedly an over simplified description here, for brevity) ignores this.


While I find this fun and interesting to think about as a what if, in the end I can't accept this view of the legendarium. For me it turns something I find important, and something I think Tolkien found important, into a haphazard, unconsidered heap of inconsistencies -- and possibly a mountainous heap when one really starts paying attention.
This is certainly a valid point, and to address my own idea critically, the Legendarium of the Book of Lost Tales changed repeatedly during the writing of it. So to adopt this approach in practice, you'd first need to conjure up a consistent 'canonical' BoLT - which Tolkien never wrote.

But... I still think that treating all Tolkien's writings as authentic ancient texts opens up a wealth of possibilities. To return to Beren, this setup gives us three wildly differing accounts of his romance with Luthien - the version told on Eressea, the poem held by Elrond, and the Numenorean account of the Quenta. Christopher Tolkien has done an admirable job of showing how and why the story developed between them - but as fans, I think there's immense potential in asking why, in-universe, the story was changed in these ways.

Is the Eressean version an aberration, heavily bowlderised for the children at the Cottage of Lost Play - one in which the tricky subject of elf-mortal relationships is sidestepped? Or did Elrond and Elros conspire to create a fictional, mortal Beren, to give themselves a link to the First House of Men? Have the Eresseans obliterated any mention of werewolves - or have the Numenoreans injected Sauron into a tale that he had no part in, to justify their wars against him? Or are these differences not deliberate, but a failure in transmission, with the stories actually being different reconstructions from the rumours out of Doriath and Ossiriand? (And that, in turn, would tell us about the mindsets of the people doing the reconstructing...)

Don't get me wrong - I will always stand by the 'canonical' Legendarium as the best, and if theorising about anything in it, 9 times out of 10 I'll be talking purely about that. But sometimes it can be fun to look at things from a different angle - the very multi-perspective legendarium you describe.

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Old 11-30-2019, 12:05 PM   #9
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Some interesting points and conjectures.

The making of a flat earth into a round earth would not have been possible without much deformation of the earth's crust. That would leave far more scars than just a couple of mid-ocean ridges. It would have seriously distorted geography and destroyed many things both man-made and natural. If you peel an orange and then try to spread the peel flat on a surface you cause the peel to tear, but you also rely on the peel's natural flexibility in adapting to the new shape. Without that flexibility and ability to stretch or compress, the tears would have to spread fractally over the entire surface. Making a round earth flat is the reverse of that and similarly requires both tearing and stretching and compression. Maybe the crust of the earth has that flexibility (or would briefly have been given it by Manwe), but suppose the foundation of your house suddently grows or shrinks by some millimetres, what then of the rest of the house? It will probably lose some stability. The closer you get to the polar regions, the greater the deformation. If you get a chain of buildings collapsing across the world, that would surely leave some memory in history or archaeology.

Furthermore, a flat earth opens many physical problems, such as how that can be reconciled with our understanding of gravity.

I thus propose that that never happened. Maybe the Earth was always round but people didn't realize it. What maybe did happen was that Arda was previously on the earth's surface and was removed to some other location. This would have required other lands or seas to have been created to fill its place. Maybe there was once more land in what is now the Atlantic?
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Old 11-30-2019, 08:43 PM   #10
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Furthermore, a flat earth opens many physical problems, such as how that can be reconciled with our understanding of gravity.
I don't see that in itself as a barrier. Our understanding of physics is based ultimately on our observations and extrapolations from therein. What we have never encountered is (obviously) not reflected in our models of the universe. Doesn't mean it can't happen, or doesn't exist. Our model of reality is only true until we encounter something in reality to contradict it; the lack of the encounter does not yet prove the infallibility of the model.

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The making of a flat earth into a round earth would not have been possible without much deformation of the earth's crust. That would leave far more scars than just a couple of mid-ocean ridges. It would have seriously distorted geography and destroyed many things both man-made and natural. If you peel an orange and then try to spread the peel flat on a surface you cause the peel to tear, but you also rely on the peel's natural flexibility in adapting to the new shape. Without that flexibility and ability to stretch or compress, the tears would have to spread fractally over the entire surface. Making a round earth flat is the reverse of that and similarly requires both tearing and stretching and compression. Maybe the crust of the earth has that flexibility (or would briefly have been given it by Manwe), but suppose the foundation of your house suddently grows or shrinks by some millimetres, what then of the rest of the house? It will probably lose some stability. The closer you get to the polar regions, the greater the deformation. If you get a chain of buildings collapsing across the world, that would surely leave some memory in history or archaeology.
Hmm. Is there any mention of catastrophe anywhere else in ME except for Numenor itself when the Straight Road was closed?

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I thus propose that that never happened. Maybe the Earth was always round but people didn't realize it. What maybe did happen was that Arda was previously on the earth's surface and was removed to some other location. This would have required other lands or seas to have been created to fill its place. Maybe there was once more land in what is now the Atlantic?
Interesting idea. What if it's the other way around - Valinor was removed from the round planet and ME remained?

If I may be forgiven for ignoring physics for the benefit of fantasy fiction, what if neither place was removed in the physical sense but was instead removed to a parallel existence, in a "Mists of Avalon" or Doctor Who type of way? Two worlds, physically superimposed but existing in different planes of reality.
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Old 12-01-2019, 05:32 AM   #11
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I don't see that in itself as a barrier. Our understanding of physics is based ultimately on our observations and extrapolations from therein. What we have never encountered is (obviously) not reflected in our models of the universe. Doesn't mean it can't happen, or doesn't exist. Our model of reality is only true until we encounter something in reality to contradict it; the lack of the encounter does not yet prove the infallibility of the model.
Granted.

I think that the changing of a flat earth to a round earth would not have been possible without some change in the laws of physics. So anything that happened before that change need not be explainable with our present understanding.

This raises the interesting perspective of what it is like to live in a place where the laws of physics suddenly change.


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Interesting idea. What if it's the other way around - Valinor was removed from the round planet and ME remained?
Sorry, that is what I meant. My fingers were faster than my brain.

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If I may be forgiven for ignoring physics for the benefit of fantasy fiction, what if neither place was removed in the physical sense but was instead removed to a parallel existence, in a "Mists of Avalon" or Doctor Who type of way? Two worlds, physically superimposed but existing in different planes of reality.
I guess that this is more or less what Tolkien had in mind (even if maybe he wouldn't have seen it that way). The question though is, what precisely does it mean when two worlds exist in parallel and there are some sort of portals between them. Is this parallellism physical or is it metaphorical?

Some scientists believe there may be wormholes in space-time meaning you can somehow get from one place to another through such a wormhole.

Some scientists believe that the laws of physics and mathematics were created, or came into existence, at the Big Bang. There may thus be other universes, created in their own big bangs, where totally different laws apply.

Now just imagine if there was a wormhole from our universe into some other such universe. If you went through such a wormhole you would transition to some other set of laws. In reality that would probably be the end of you as the atoms and molecules that hold you together in this universe might well do something totally different in that other universe (or the concept of atoms might not even exist). But suppose somehow that didn't happen ....
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Old 12-01-2019, 06:18 PM   #12
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It is likely that a universe where Planck's Constant is slightly different would be very... uncomfortable for those traversing your hypothetical wormhole.

As an aside, an old friend of mine is firmly convinced that all of the changes mentioned in Morgoth's Ring were, in fact, what Tolkien intended. In other words, Ea was always round, Orcs were not corrupted Elves, etc. If asked, he would expound upon how the mythologies would have been revised to accommodate these changes.

I do not recall how my friend came down on the "transmission" methodology that Tolkien would ultimately have settled upon. In my view, Tolkien himself never decided. If you look, one can find hints that JRRT had never even completely rejected the Aelfwine/Pengoloth idea
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Old 12-01-2019, 10:32 PM   #13
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As an aside, an old friend of mine is firmly convinced that all of the changes mentioned in Morgoth's Ring were, in fact, what Tolkien intended. In other words, Ea was always round, Orcs were not corrupted Elves, etc.
I can't say "all" the changes -- or rather, I won't necessarily say all the changes, given the complexity of the matter -- but concerning these ideas, I agree.

Or one could argue, for instance, that Tolkien's world was both once flat, and always round, depending upon a given tradition.


Quote:
If asked, he would expound upon how the mythologies would have been revised to accommodate these changes.
If asked, I would rather blather about how certain notions were to be saved -- by altering the transmission theory and making the Legendarium a multi-perspective collection.

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I do not recall how my friend came down on the "transmission" methodology that Tolkien would ultimately have settled upon. In my view, Tolkien himself never decided. If you look, one can find hints that JRRT had never even completely rejected the Aelfwine/Pengoloth idea
As far as I recall (at the moment [!]), Elfwine "sailed" after the later 1950's phase, to be, in my opinion, slowly replaced by the Bilbo/Numenorean tradition.


Ramble Alert


In 1962 a Numenor element is ultimately published in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil: "...No. 14 also depends on the lore of Rivendell, Elvish and Nśmenorean, concerning the heroic days at the end of the First Age; it seems to contain echoes of the Nśmenorean tale of Tśrin and Mim the Dwarf."

And in The Lord of the Rings (revised edition in the 1960s), Bilbo becomes part of the transmission of texts dealing with the Elder Days -- not only through Tolkien's newly added "Note On The Shire Records", but also in a new statement found in Appendix A, The Return of the King.

Also, here's an interesting revision I think: Quenta Silmarillion (the LQ2 text): "Of their lives was made the Lay of Leithian, Release from Bondage, which is the longest save one of the songs of [the Noldor>] Nśmenor concerning the world of old;..."

Another late note: in note 17 to The Shibboleth of Feanor (written in 1968 or later) it is stated that the Silmarillion is not an Eldarin title or work, but a compilation, probably made in Nśmenor: "... which includes (in prose) the four great tales or lays of the heroes of the Atani, of which "The Children of Hurin' was probably composed already in Beleriand in the First Age..." and concludes (concerning the compiled Silmarillion, and the four great tales in prose, and seemingly the account of Feanor and his making of the Silmarils). "All however are "Mannish works."

Tolkien's parenthetical note above "in prose" is interesting here with respect to The Lay of the Children of Hśrin, as Dķrhaval wrote in verse and his work was said to be rendered into prose -- by Elfwine according to the "older" transmission idea -- but a prose version is now possibly made by an unknown Nśmenórean.

1968 Published in Vinyar Tengwar 48, we find the Synopsis of Pengološ's Eldarinwe Leperi are Notessi: "The following account is an abbreviation of a curious document, preserved in the archives of Gondor by strange chance (or by many such chances) from the Elder Days, but in a copy apparently made in Nśmenor not long before its downfall: probably by or at the orders of Elendil himself, when selecting such records as he could hope to store for the journey to Middle-earth. This one no doubt owed its selection and its copying, first to Elendil's own love of the Eldarin tongues and of the works of the loremasters who wrote about their history; but also to the unusual contents of this disquisition in Quenya: Eldarinwe Leperi are Notessi: The Elvish Fingers and Numerals. It is attributed, by the copyist, to Pengološ (or Quendingoldo) of Gondolin, and he describes the Elvish play-names of the fingers as used by and taught to children."

Pengološ lives on, Bilbo is a new Elfwine "Elf-friend" (among others).

1971: "This general idea lies behind the events of The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion, but it is not put forward as geologically or astronomically "true"; except that some special catastrophe is supposed to lie behind the legends and marked the first stage in the succession of Men to dominion of the world. But the legends are mainly of "Mannish" origin blended with those of the Sindar (Gray-elves) and others who had never left Middle-earth." JRRT, Letter 325

Possibly as late as 1972 Last Writings Note 17: "Here he wrote that the idea [the idea being that Elvish reincarnation might be achieved by rebirth as a child] "... must be abandoned, or at least noted as a false notion, e.g. probably of Mannish origin, since nearly all the matter of The Silmarillion is contained in myths and legends that have passed through Men's hands and minds, and are (in many points) plainly influenced by contact and confusion with the myths, theories, and legends of Men."

So why go there in the 1960s? My answer goes back to a statement from Christopher Tolkien made in Myths Transformed, but just briefly here, I would say that going there saves parts of the older mythology for Quenta Silmarillion, again QS itself existing within a diverse Legendarium.


Total speculation: I'm not sure an Elvish, or purely Elvish Quenta Silmarillion existed. No doubt there were purely Elvish materials in Rivendell, and many songs and stories by the fire and in its gardens and so on. . . and living Elves too of course! And we can see one of Bilbo's works in Errantry/The Song of Earendil -- which differs from a translation of course . . . but in theory, Bilbo could also be responsible for translating "The Awakening of the Quendi" for an Elvish example, even if it's an Elvish fairy tale mixed with counting lore -- something I think Bilbo might like to tackle and make available in the Common Speech.

Seems a Bilbo-ish choice to me, anyway
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