the mithril-vest

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the mithril-vest

Post by Norc on Thu Nov 07, 2013 6:55 am

i've come to think of something lately. the mithril vest given to frodo from bilbo, the one he wears in LOTR, that was on of the things bilbo got from the dragonhord, when they were all pimped up. Bilbo never knew how much it was worth etc. etc. but! i remember in the book it said the vest (since it fitted a hobbit) must have belonged to a young elvish prince. now. this is what i stopped and thought about. how many young princes (not princess) have we got in middle-earth? and who is closest? my guess is that the vest somehow long ago belonged to legolas, he's old, but he is younger than most elves (although his age is never stated). might the vest have belonged to Legolas? and why would thranduil give it away? what are your thoughts on this?


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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Tinuviel on Thu Nov 07, 2013 7:10 am

I don't think Mithril was really the Wood-elves style, if anything I think it'd be a Noldorin prince who once had it made, that or Tolkien just was being vague and had nothing really in mind when he said that.

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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Norc on Thu Nov 07, 2013 7:33 am

maybe not the wood elves, but definitely thranduil's style. also, the elves reproduce really slowly, so there can't have been many young elvish princes at the time.

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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Eldorion on Thu Nov 07, 2013 7:53 am

Too tired to write up a full post so I'll leave a few thoughts here in bullet form.

  1. When Tolkien first wrote The Hobbit there was no such character as Legolas, so it couldn't have been his original intention. However, looking at it from a story-internal perspective, it's certainly possible the mithril vest was made for Legolas. However...
  2. Even if it was made for Legolas, he probably didn't wear it, unless the Elves traded the vest back to the dwarves once Legolas (or whoever the prince was) outgrew it. But I've always interpreted it as undelivered goods, like the spears of King Bladorthin.
  3. We have very little to go on regarding the royal family of Mirkwood. However, given that they were there for thousands of years, it's certainly possible given what we know about Elven reproduction from The Silmarillion and HOME that there were many generations of the family. Legolas himself may well have had kids. We don't know how he is, remember.
  4. We also don't know how many Elven realms there are in Middle-earth. During the heyday of the Lonely Mountain in the Third Age, there was Lindon and Rivendell west of the Misty Mountains (no princes there; the Sons of Elrond might count but they were too old by then).
  5. East of the mountains there's Mirkwood and Lorien. Lorien was ruled by a king Amdir (aka Malgalad) who died in the War of the Last Alliance and was succeeded by his son Amroth. Amroth was unmarried and thus almost certainly childless (as per Elven custom), and in any event abdicated and was succeeded by Galadriel and Celeborn before the establishment of Lonely Mountain.
  6. Galadriel and Celeborn had one child, their daughter Celebrian (in the commonly accepted version of their tale; see Elthir's Galadriel thread for the whole story), but she was born in the Second Age and is thus also disqualified as the identity of the unknown Elven prince.
  7. At this point it might be looking like a pretty safe bet that the vest was made for either Legolas or a relative of his. However, this is where that whole not knowing how many Elvish realms there were thing comes up. Beyond the northwest of Middle-earth, our knowledge of realms and peoples is extremely sparse.
  8. But! There is one candidate, which is Dorwinion, the source of the Elven-king's wine in The Hobbit and almost certainly home to an Elven population of its own. Dorwinion was located near the inland sea of Rhun, down the River Running from Erebor. Michael Martinez has an interesting essay on this.
  9. We can't say if this was intended by Tolkien, and really we can't even be sure that he had any specific figure in mind when he mentioned old elf-princes. But it is fun to speculate about. Smile
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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Eldorion on Thu Nov 07, 2013 8:09 am

I had a look in my copy of The Annotated Hobbit and Doug Anderson does not address the elf-prince question. The annotation for that section contains a note about mithril and when the word was inserted into The Hobbit.

Next step is digging out The History of The Hobbit, of course. John D. Rateliff makes the observation that the original draft of the passage reads "a small coat of mail, <wr>ought for some elf-prince long ago", but was changed to "for some young elf-prince long ago". Rateliff says this may suggest Tolkien originally conceived of the Elves of The Hobbit as being noticeably smaller than humans (as they are in folklore and in The Book of Lost Tales), and that he changed the passage to explain why Bilbo could wear the coat. This change also removes ambiguity over whether Tolkien was referring to a prince in the sense of the son of a King, or a (sovereign) prince in his own right.
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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Norc on Thu Nov 07, 2013 8:18 am

thank you for that long response ^^ i appreciate it. i can't write an equally thorough responce since i am currently at school, but i hadn't thought if Dorwinion. But we don't know wehter or not they had a royal family. i think we can safely say we know too little about Legolas to say anything for certain. we don't know his age for instance, which is kinda crucial. To me thouhg, Legolas is old, but i don't think he was in the first war of the ring (that one with Isildur and all) and the whole Smaug business and dale, how many years after is that? Thranduil may also have asked the dwarf to build it for him, for his son. i don't think it was thranduil's, he's much older. a timeline might have been good here Razz

but yeah, tolkien probably didn't think anything of it when writing, other than having an exuse for a very small elvish mithril vest. but i kinda like the thouht.

maybe thranduil used it as paymetn Shrugging i've always thought that it wasn't just thrain and thror and all of them who became greedy, i think the elven king too. As Lee Pace says, he doesn't really care what other people think of him, he just wants what he wants. also in the book i always got the impression that this was a bling-loving elf Very Happy so i wouldn't but it past him to use a family heirloom with great affection value as payment for something.

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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Eldorion on Thu Nov 07, 2013 8:47 am

The War of the Last Alliance (the one with Isildur Wink) took place in the final years of the Second Age, which places it nearly 3000 years before the events of The Hobbit.  Thranduil's father, Oropher, died in that war, and the kingship of Oropher's realm was taken up by Thranduil immediately afterwards.  So we know that Thranduil was born in the First or Second Ages, but we don't know if Legolas was alive before Thranduil became king.  I've never "felt" that he was that old, but my perspective is undoubtedly skewed due to there being a picture of Orlando Bloom on my first copy of The Two Towers. Laughing

Anyway, Durin's Folk lived primarily in Moria until after the awakening of the Balrog.  They fled in Third Age 1981, so almost two millennia after the defeat of Sauron, though he'd been kicking around as the Necromancer for at least 800 years by that point.  King Thrain I founded the Kingdom Under the Mountain in TA 1999, but it is abandoned by Thorin I (not the Oakenshield) in 2210 since most of the Dwarves were gathering in the Grey Mountains.  After being driven out of the Grey Mountains by dragons, the Dwarves split, with some returning to Erebor and others going to the Iron Hills.  Thror re-founds the Kingdom Under the Mountain in 2590 and remains there as King until Smaug arrives in 2770.  The dwarves of Erebor then start wandering again.  The Hobbit takes place 171 years later, in 2941.

(And yes, I did have to look some of that up, but only to confirm the precise dates!)

Of course, all of this doesn't answer the question of when the mithril coat was made.  I've always assumed, as I'd imagine most people do, that it was a relic of the golden age of the Kingdom Under the Mountain during the time of Thror.  If so, however, this would mean that the coat couldn't be more than about 350 years old, which doesn't necessarily sound "long ago" on an Elven time-scale.  But there was no such thing as the "Third Age" when Tolkien first wrote The Hobbit, much less any of the detailed timelines in the LOTR Appendices, so this is one of those problems that one runs into when trying to do detective work in Middle-earth.

It's possible that the coat was made during the first Kingdom Under the Mountain, or really at any other point in the history of Durin's Folk, especially if one likes the hypothesis that it was delivered and then traded back to the Dwarves.  But this gets increasingly deeper into the realm of speculation.

NB You're welcome for the long response.  I really like this sort of stuff, even if I don't spend as much time on lore as I used to. Very Happy
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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Norc on Thu Nov 07, 2013 9:48 am

thank u for the timeline ^^ not sure it made me any wiser, but, for one thing, i don't think Legolas was old enough during the war of the last alliance, so idk.. maybe it was made because of the war? as a kinda present? because why would a child need that? if not for fun Shrugging and i assume thranduil was present at the war.. if he wasn't indifferent to that too (it is stated i think if fotr or somwhere, that the mirkwood elves wheren't that bother with stuff hapening outside the borders in the later years)

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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by halfwise on Thu Nov 07, 2013 12:29 pm

If it was Legolas's mithral coat, wouldn't he have said something when he saw Frodo wearing it? Suspect 

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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Mrs Figg on Thu Nov 07, 2013 1:05 pm

I think it was part of the Dwarven treasures, made by them for an Elven Prince but perhaps never delivered as Eldo said. But it was given to Thorin when he was Young and then lost when Smaug took the mountain. In the scenes of the battle of Azkabanthingie (in AUJ)Thorin is wearing the vest. But thats a PJ fabrication but it would explain why Thorin would be attached to it and want to give it to Bilbo as a gift.
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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by halfwise on Thu Nov 07, 2013 1:17 pm

Thorin can't have been wearing the same vest in the Battle of Azkabawhatsit because he was full-grown. Dwarves are bigger than hobbits. It would fall down to Bilbo's knees!

I'm not sure even PJ would make it the same vest, perhaps one of a similar style?

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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Mrs Figg on Thu Nov 07, 2013 1:50 pm

could be they were made for Dwarven and Elven princes.
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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Norc on Thu Nov 07, 2013 2:04 pm

Mrs Figg wrote:I think it was part of the Dwarven treasures, made by them for an Elven Prince but perhaps never delivered as Eldo said. But it was given to Thorin when he was Young and then lost when Smaug took the mountain. In the scenes of the battle of Azkabanthingie (in AUJ)Thorin is wearing the vest. But thats a PJ fabrication but it would explain why Thorin would be attached to it and want to give it to Bilbo as a gift.
i didn't know this, but if the vest belonged to a young thorin it makes some sort of sense.

and lego not pointing it out, well, that was the second thing i was gonna bring up, after the what if, but i think the main reason for it is because PJ hasn't thought of it and Tolkien didn't remember it or think it important.

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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Amarië on Thu Nov 07, 2013 2:24 pm

"Long ago" could be really long ago. I imagine the mithrill shirt was a show off your wealth and look pretty-clothing rather than actual armor. But it could be both, of course.

Does blood and sweat stains wash out easily? That would be a clue to its primary use. Wink

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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Lancebloke on Thu Nov 07, 2013 4:50 pm

Wasn't Khazad-Dum where Mithril was mined? I don't remember the Lonely Mountain ever having been linked to the metal. If so, wasn't Khazad-Dum founded by Durin the Deathless in the distant past.... as in Years of the Tress distant past. I assume they would have found veins of Mithril for a long time so maybe we could be look at first age here. Therefore could it have not been for any realm of Elves from then onwards.... which is a lot of potential princes.

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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Eldorion on Thu Nov 07, 2013 6:10 pm

Yeah, pretty sure Khazad-dum was said to be the only place in Middle-earth where mithril was mined. Presumably the Dwarves brought as much as they could manage with them when they abandoned Moria, though.

I've always figured that the mithril coat was made during the golden age of the Kingdom Under the Mountain, as it's part of the hoard that demonstrates the wealth of the Mountain and why Smaug was attracted to it, but I suppose there's nothing to suggest that the coat wasn't made much earlier and then later brought to the Mountain.
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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Lancebloke on Thu Nov 07, 2013 6:18 pm

That is the assumption I made since Moria's wealth was built on Mithril. Didn't they have a special relationship with the Elves of Eriador because of that?

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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Thu Nov 07, 2013 6:22 pm

Yeah Hollin was an elvish settlement- if memory serves during the War that culminated in the Last Alliance (I think- Lore check!) the dwarves shut the gates of Moria when the elves retreated there, as they thought the risk of opening the gates and letting the enemy in was too great- its one of the big events in the elves/dwarf fall out. Hollin got wiped out, and presumably a lot of elves got slaughtered trapped outside the West Gate.

Leogolas laments the elves of Hollin when they are there, but he seems to find them hard to understand as the trees and grass dont remember them, but the rocks do.

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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Elthir on Thu Nov 07, 2013 6:25 pm

There's no mithril in the films anyway... but 'meethreel' pronounced wrongly wrong.

yes I went there and this time it is about my subjective version of accuracy

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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Eldorion on Thu Nov 07, 2013 6:34 pm

Hollin got wiped out in the War of the Elves and Sauron, nearly two millennia before the Last Alliance.  PJ conflates the two conflicts in the FOTR prologue though, so maybe that's what you were thinking of Petty. Pokey Tongue

I'm not sure where the part about Elves being slaughtered before the West-gate of Moria comes from, though.  I can't find any reference to Elves either entering or being shut out of Moria in a quick overview of the "canonical" material, but one version of the "Galadriel and Celeborn" tale in UT states that Celeborn (and, possibly, Galadriel) fled the destruction of Eregion via Moria before settling in Lorien for a time during the Second Age.
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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Thu Nov 07, 2013 6:38 pm

PJ conflates the two conflicts in the FOTR prologue though, so maybe that's what you were thinking of Petty.- Eldo

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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Eldorion on Thu Nov 07, 2013 6:39 pm

It's stated numerous times that the gates of Moria were shut during the sacking of Eregion, but there's nothing in the Appendices or "Of the Rings of Power and Third Age" about Elves being trapped on the wrong side (unless I'm missing something). Shrugging And there is a reference in UT, however questionable its canonicity, to Eregionian refugees being admitted to Moria, which frankly makes more sense to me.
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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Thu Nov 07, 2013 6:44 pm

I'm sure there was a political thing came up as a result of it and the dwarves shut the doors on retreating elves- just cant remember where I read it. scratch Wonder if its in Letters?

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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Eldorion on Thu Nov 07, 2013 6:46 pm

The whole Elf-Dwarf rivalry thing was established in the First Age not long after the two races first encountered each other, but Eregion and Moria was supposed to be the beautiful exception to that tension (cf. Letter 131), so I'm not sure why the Dwarves of Moria would turn on their friends like that.
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Re: the mithril-vest

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Thu Nov 07, 2013 6:47 pm

If memory serves they feared the orcs would pour in too.

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