Tolkien and Telepathy

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Fettamir 02/Mar/2007 at 11:41 PM
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'Soon Celeborn and Galadriel and their folk would turn eastward, and so pass by the Redhorn Gate and down the Dimrill Stair to the Silverlode and to their own country. They had journeyed thus far by the west-ways, for they had much to speak of with Elrond and with Gandalf, and here they lingered still in converse with their friends. Often long after the hobbits were wrapped in sleep they would sit together under the stars, recalling the ages that were gone and all their joys and labours in the world, or holding council, concerning the days to come . If any wanderer had chanced to pass, little would he have seen or heard, and it would have seemed to him only that he saw grey figures, carved in stone, memorials of forgotten things now lost in unpeopled lands. For they did not move or speak with mouth, looking from mind to mind; and only their shining eyes stirred and kindled as their thoughts went to and fro.' RoTK;Ch.VI;Many Partings

What do we know about Telepathy in Tolkiens Lore?  We see in this passage that Gandalf, Celeborn, Galadriel, and Elrond all had telepathic powers.  Do we know the extent of those powers?  Do we know of any other races or beings that had this ability?  What other passages in Tolkiens works suggest the use of this power? 

If Maiar and Elves are shown to have this ability, should we not think that greater beings, the Ainur, for example would also have this power, and at a more advanced level?  I'm wondering if this is how the Ainur actually may have communicated with one another.  Questions, questions questions...

geordie 03/Mar/2007 at 12:54 AM
Hugo Bracegirdle Points: 20570 Posts: 14087 Joined: 06/Mar/2005
I can think of another couple of examples from LotR: we know that Galadriel examined the minds of the Fellowship on their arrival in Lothlorien; and Gandalf examined that of Pippin after his foolish encounter with Sauron in the Palantir. And Gandalf tells Pippin that Denethor can, if he bends his will thither, read much in the hearts and minds of men.

Tolkien wrote an eight-page essay; very detailed, called Osanwe-kenta 'Enquiry into the Communucation of Thought' which was published in the Elvish Language magazine Vinyar Tengwar no.39 [July 1998].

The essay is quite involved; but here's the gist as I see it. All minds have the ability to 'receive and transmit' as it were, but not all mind have the same power to do so. The Valar have great power in this way; though, having entered into Time, their powers are not now what they were before they entered Time. Also, the bodies reduce the power to communicate by thought. In incarnates such as humans, there is a double barrier, as it were, because there are two bodies involved.

It's an interesting essay, including [if I read it correctly] something on 'foresite' and 'forecasting' [Tolkien crossed out the word 'predicting' and wrote in 'forecasting' in his typescript] which I take it includes Aragorn's abilities to occasionally glimpse future events: as he does at Helm's Deep ['leave now, or not one of you will be spared' - his warning to Saruman's army]

And his foresight while talking of Arwen to Elrond at Imladris when he was a boy of twenty. 'But lo! Master Elrond, the years of your abiding are running short at last, and the choice soon be laid upon your children, to part either with you or with Middle-earth'.
[App A]

It would be nice to think that his last words to Arwen ['Behold! We are not bound forever to the Circles of the World, and beyond is more than memory'] are also based on foresight; but if so, it seems it was not one shared by Arwen.

Magradhaid 03/Mar/2007 at 07:13 AM
Imp of Umbar Points: 7957 Posts: 8204 Joined: 13/Sep/2008
Another example of telepathy in LotR is Gandalf telling Frodo to take off the Ring when he was on Amon Hen; Sauron was "the Eye", and Gandalf was "the Voice". As for sanw-centa, there's a link to it in full at link ... I don't know if she has permission to reproduce it, though.

<Ulmo edit: Link removed due to unverifiable legality of the content.>
geordie 03/Mar/2007 at 08:39 AM
Hugo Bracegirdle Points: 20570 Posts: 14087 Joined: 06/Mar/2005
I don't know if she has permission to reproduce it, though.

Looking at that site [I don't know who runs it, Tyrhael, you say 'she' but I can find no clue as to identity on a first glance] I'd say she doesn't have permission to use it. Nor the other pieces of Tolkien's writings which she puts up on the page, all of which are copyright.

But she feels that under copyright restrictions she's allowed to put up the whole of the Ainulindale. I don't thnk that's so - even if she's working to an idea of 'no more than 10% of a work can be used' then this is stretching the point a _lot_ in my opinion. Reproducing up to a tenth of an entire book can hardly be called fair use - can it? And what is the purpose of the site? Hardly to teach or inform.

[The images she uses are probably protected by copyright too]
Endril 03/Mar/2007 at 12:09 PM
Healer of Imladris Points: 9193 Posts: 9362 Joined: 15/Jan/2006
geordie: Isn't telepathy the ability to transmit information through mind signals from one subject to another? If this is true, then reading minds doesn't involves this ability at all so Tolkien didn't used it. By this, the ability of the elves is not telepathy but just another mysterious power of the eldar.   
Fettamir 03/Mar/2007 at 12:20 PM
Apprentice of Minas Tirith Points: 339 Posts: 89 Joined: 02/Jan/2009

I have found another passage from Tolkien that suggests the use of Telepathy.

In Numenor all journeyed from place to place on horseback; for in riding the Numenoreans, both men and women, took delight, and all the people of the land loved horses, treating them honourably and housing them nobly.  They were trained to hear and answer calls from a great distance, and it is said in old tales that where there was great love between men and women and their favourite steeds they could be summoned at need by thought alone.  UT; A Description of Numenor

So here we have suggestion than Numenorean men and women had the ability to summon their steads with mind alone, and their  horses could receive this mind thought and understand.  Wow, this widens the scope of beings in Tolkiens' works that have this ability.  On another thought, who says the Rohirrim are the Horse Lords,  It looks like the Numenoreans were quite enamoured with and intergerated horses into their culture as well. Reading%20Optional 

geordie 03/Mar/2007 at 01:58 PM
Hugo Bracegirdle Points: 20570 Posts: 14087 Joined: 06/Mar/2005
Isn't telepathy the ability to transmit information through mind signals from one subject to another? If this is true, then reading minds doesn't involves this ability at all so Tolkien didn't used it. By this, the ability of the elves is not telepathy but just another mysterious power of the eldar.   

Legolas - Fettamir has already given an example of telepathy in the original post. So Tolkien does use it in his books. The other examples I give are also related to telepathy; but in each of these cases, one of the two minds involved has not been trained in the use of telepathy.
Nurbor 06/Mar/2007 at 08:07 PM
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Just for clarification Legolas what you are thinking of with Telepathy is the power known as Telekinesis, or the ability to move/lift/float objects with one's mind.  The definition of Telepathy is the communication by minds with some means other than sensory perception. 

However I would like to note the fact that if one is able to use something such as telepathy, that would be considered one of the "extra" senses which is an ability each living being has the potential for, but only a few ever learn of.

Endaewen 07/Mar/2007 at 01:46 PM
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Another example would be from The Council of Elrond in Rivendell when Gandalf says to Frodo that he had been able to read much from his mind and memory (I don't have the books with me at the moment so I can't give an exact quote).