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7 Regal Facts About the Elves of Middle-Earth

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Happy birthday, J.R.R. Tolkien! The author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings novels was born on this date in 1892. Let's celebrate with a few facts about Middle-earth's elves.

1. THE HOBBIT WAS AN AFTERTHOUGHT.

Elves were roaming Middle-earth long before Bilbo Baggins was even a twinkle in Tolkien’s eye. Tolkien is most famous as a novelist, but his first love was language, and the elves were pretty much an excuse to make up imaginary tongues. He started with Quenya (one of the Elven languages) around 1915, the year he finished his degree from Oxford and joined the military for World War I.

2. THE SILMARILLION DIDN’T DO SO WELL AT FIRST.

Tolkien collected his elf mythology in a sprawling, scholarly book that would eventually be turned into The Silmarillion. He sent the book off to his publishers, who took a hard pass. One publishing house complained about the elves’ “eye-splitting Celtic names.” Tolkien handled the rejection well, and promised to consider “a sequel or successor to The Hobbit,” and everyone knows where that led. He never did get the book published within his lifetime, but after his death, his son Christopher managed to get it in print.

3. GALADRIEL IS ARWEN’S GRANDMA.

Illustration by Greg and Tim Hildebrandt via Flickr // CC-BY-ND 2.0

You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but Galadriel is really, really, really old. Based on Tolkien’s hundreds of pages of elf history and mythology, fans estimate she’s over 7000 years old. Galadriel married the elf Celeborn (more about him in a moment) and gave birth to a daughter, Celebrían. Celebrían went on to marry Elrond. The couple had three children: the twin boys Elladan and Elrohir, and their younger sister Arwen.

4. CELEBORN WAS ORIGINALLY NAMED TELEPORNO.

By the time The Lord of the Rings novels rolled around, Tolkien’s catalog of elf languages had expanded. The writer created complete dictionaries and grammars for two primary languages, Quenya and Sindarin, and laid the foundations for many others. In early writings, Tolkien described Galadriel’s husband using his Quenya name, Teleporno, which means “silver tree.” The author later decided to go with the Sindarin version, although we can’t imagine why. 

5. THERE IS AN ELVISH WORD FOR “BUTT.”

Tolkien was serious about his languages, and he put so much work into them that they can be read and spoken. Fans teach Elvish language classes, organize linguistic societies, and produce scholarly works on the subject. Others make it their business to learn rude words in Quenya (and thank goodness for these people). The word, by the way, is hakka, which literally translates to “hams.”

6. TOLKIEN’S ELVES MAY HAVE BEEN ALLEGORICAL.

Tolkien was a devout Roman Catholic, and he imbued Middle-earth with all kinds of religious themes. Biographer Humphrey Carpenter reported that Tolkien intended his elves to be a symbol of purity, of the human race before it fell from grace in Eden. The elves were Tolkien’s ideal people: noble, insular, and monogamous.

7. TOLKIEN NEVER HEARD OF TAURIEL.

The nimble wood elf Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, does not exist in Tolkien’s novel. All of Tolkien’s works were incredibly dude-heavy, and Jackson and his writing partners felt the story would benefit from having at least one lady in it. They brought Cate Blanchett's Galadriel into The Hobbit for the same reason.

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TASCHEN
Everything You Need to Know About Food in One Book
TASCHEN
TASCHEN

If you find yourself mixing up nigiri and sashimi at sushi restaurants or don’t know which fruits are in season, then this is the book for you. Food & Drink Infographics, published by TASCHEN, is a colorful and comprehensive guide to all things food and drink.

The book combines tips and tricks with historical context about the ways in which different civilizations illustrated and documented the foods they ate, as well as how humans went from hunter-gatherers to modern-day epicureans. As for the infographics, there’s a helpful graphic explaining the number of servings provided by different cake sizes, a heat index of various chilies, a chart of cheeses, and a guide to Italian cold cuts, among other delectable charts.

The 480-page coffee table book, which can be purchased on Amazon for $56, is written in three languages: English, French, and German. The infographics themselves come from various sources, and the text is provided by Simone Klabin, a New York City-based writer and lecturer on film, art, culture, and children’s media.

Keep scrolling to see a few of the infographics featured in the book.

An infographic about cheese
TASCHEN

An infographic about cakes
Courtesy of TASCHEN

An infographic about fruits in season
Courtesy of TASCHEN
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YouTube/Great Big Story
See the Secret Paintings Hidden in Gilded Books
YouTube/Great Big Story
YouTube/Great Big Story

The art of vanishing fore-edge painting—hiding delicate images on the front edges of gilded books—dates back to about 1660. Today, British artist Martin Frost is the last remaining commercial fore-edge painter in the world. He works primarily on antique books, crafting scenes from nature, domestic life, mythology, and Harry Potter. Great Big Story recently caught up with him in his studio to learn more about his disappearing art. Learn more in the video below.

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