Beards and facial hair in Middle-earth

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Postby MithLuin » Mon Apr 19, 2004 4:20 pm

<BR>Wow, here's an old thread you've found <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0><BR><BR>The funny part is that no one has quoted any description of any character on this thread yet. That is just too funny <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>. <BR><BR>Ok, to be fair, the reference to Stoors in the Prologue has been mentioned, and the reference to Cirdan's beard as well. And we all know about Gimli and Gandalf's beards w/o being quoted at. <BR><BR>I will add the obvious comment that Treebeard has a beard <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0><BR><em>The lower part of the long face was covered with a sweeping grey beard, bushy, almost twiggy, at the roots, thin and mossy at the ends.</em><BR><BR>Of course Theoden has a beard, as well, as was mentioned:<BR><em>His beard was laid like snow upon his knees.</em><BR><BR>And so does Saruman:<BR><em>His hair and beard were white, but strands of black still showed about his lips and ears.</em><BR><BR>Here is the reference to Cirdan:<BR><em>Very tall he was, and his beard was long, and he was grey and old,</em><BR>
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Postby -Rómestámo- » Mon Apr 19, 2004 4:56 pm

A similar discussion occurs in *Did Aragorn have a shaving kit?*.

There are scattered references to Elves with beards in JRRT's early...
SPANÁG- *spangā; Q fanga; T spanga; ON sphanga beard; N fang, cf. An(d)fang [ÁNAD] Longbeard, one of the tribes of Dwarves (pl. Enfeng. Cf. Tinfang 'Starbeard', name of an Elvish piper; Ulfang[Úlug].

[Q=Quendian; T=Telerin; ON=Old Noldorin; N=Noldorin (the Noldorin language was later renamed Sindarin). The Elf Tingfang Warble appears in The Book of Lost Tales.]

The Etymologies, HOME V The Lost Road;
middle...
As they came to the gates Círdan the Shipwright came forth to greet them. Very tall he was, and his beard was long, and he was grey and old, save that his eyes were keen as stars; and he looked at them and bowed, and said: 'All is now ready.'

'The Grey Havens', The Return of the King;

and late writings.
The following etymological note pertains to the name Russandol in the discussion of the name Maitimo in the numbered list of the names of the seven sons of Fëanor (XII:352-53). A marginal note against that discussion provides the detail that Nerdanel "herself had brown hair and a ruddy complexion". A note elsewhere in the papers associated with this essay reads: "Elves did not have beards until they entered their third cycle of life. Nerdanel's father [cf. XII:365-66 n.61] was exceptional, being only early in his second."

"Etymological Notes on the Ósanwe-kenta", (Vinyar Tengwar 41, from ~1960).

The duration of a cycle of life is unknown, but is presumably some thousands of years.

In his painting of *Beleg meets Gwindor in Taur-nu-Fuin*, Beleg (the elf bearing the sword at left) may have a beard (I'm not convinced :wink: ).

I suspect that Men with an Elvish strain might only develop beards later in life (in the Númenórean equivalent of the third cycle of life). It is clear from JRRT's description of the head of the statue of the fallen king (The eyes were hollow and the carven beard was broken, but about the high stern forehead there was a coronal of silver and gold), that high-born Dúnedain could have beards at some stage in their life, but the description of Aragorn ([...] a shaggy head of dark hair flecked with grey, and in a pale stern face a pair of keen grey eyes.) gives no suggestion of a beard.


The notation from Unfinished Tales (given below) may be no more than an oversight by JRRT occasioned by the forgetfulness of age. The alternative is that he planned to amend all previous writings (including already published works) to conform to this late idea.

(For further discussions on Elves with beards, see *Círdan's Appearance*, *Círdan's Beard*,
*Elves and Beards* and *Why is Cirdan so visibly old?*.)
    -------------------------
As mentioned by Khorazir, a late discussion suggests that all elves and men of elvish descent were beardless.
In a note written in December 1972 or later, and among the last writings of my father's on the subject of Middle-earth, there is a discussion of the Elvish strain in Men, as to its being observable in the beardlessness of those who were so descended (it was a characteristic of all Elves to be beardless); and it is here noted in connection with the princely house of Dol Amroth that "this line had a special Elvish strain, according to its own legends" (with a reference to the speeches between Legolas and Imrahil in The Return of the King V 9, cited above).

Unfinished Tales, Page 247.

This is a unique indication that Elves and men with an Elvish strain are beardless. Given that it contradicts previous references to Elvish beards and its late provenance, it may be no more than an oversight by JRRT occasioned by the forgetfulness of age. The alternative is that he planned to amend all previous writings to conform to this late idea. This is unlikely, as published writings (including The Lord of the Rings) suggest that men of high Númenórean descent have beards (the statue of the king at the Crossroads for example (discussed above)). It may indicate that as with Elves, Númenóreans only developed beards late in life.

See *Elves and Beards* and *Do the Stewards of Gondor have Elvish blood?*.
    -------------------------
All dwarves were bearded. From "The Later Quenta Silmarillion" in HOME XI:
§5 [...] For the Naugrim have beards from the beginning of their lives, male and female alike; nor indeed can their womenkind be discerned by those of other race, be it in feature or in gait or in voice, nor in any wise save this: that they go not to war, and seldom save at direst need issue from their deep bowers and halls. It is said, also, that their womenkind are few, and that save their kings and chieftains few Dwarves ever wed; wherefore their race multiplied slowly and now is dwindling.

So as well as the Dwarven women having beards, so too would dwarven children and babies :wink: .

See *Dwarf Women have Beards*

*Female Dwarves - Did they have beards?*.
    -------------------------
The Hobbit tells us that at least Bilbo could not be mistaken for a dwarf as he did not have a beard.

The Prologue to The Lord of the Rings tells us:
The Hobbits of that quarter, the Eastfarthing, were rather large and heavy-legged, and they wore dwarf-boots in muddy weather. But they were well known to be Stoors in a large part of their blood, as indeed was shown by the down that many grew on their chins. No Harfoot or Fallohide had any trace of a beard.

So only one of the three Hobbit kindreds grew any form of facial hair- and the description of Stoor's chin hair as 'down' suggests that NO hobbits ever had proper beards that required them to shave. (*Hobbits/Beards*).
Last edited by -Rómestámo- on Thu Jul 29, 2004 3:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Hobbit_Guy » Tue Apr 20, 2004 12:35 pm

Do you think it was likely that Sméagol and Déagol, being of "a clever-handed and quiet-footed little people... of hobbit-kind; akin to the fathers of the fathers of the Stoors, for they loved the River, and often swam in it, or made little boats of reeds" had 'down' on their chins?
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Postby MithLuin » Tue Apr 20, 2004 1:11 pm

<BR>They actually could have had full beards, since they weren't just part-Stoor, but full-Stoor (or rather, pre-Stoor....) Though, while Smeagol may have been bearded, Gollum was probably not. He had only scant straggling hair left on the top of his head, and is never described as having any other hair on his body. Of course, we assume people have eyelashes and eyebrows, even if not mentioned, but I would think facial hair on Gollum would have been mentioned.
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Postby -Rómestámo- » Tue Apr 20, 2004 1:30 pm

<strong>MithLuin</strong> :<em>They actually could have had full beards</em> [...]<BR><BR>I'm afraid I have to disagree. While chin 'down' is possible on both Sméagol and Déagol, we have no evidence for ANY hobbit or proto-hobbit of any 'strain' or sub-type ever having a <full beard>. The quotation from the <em>Prologue</em> only suggests that full Stoors may have <em>a trace of a beard</em>, which does not mean 'full beard' to me. Thus I would hesitate to ascribe 'full beards' to any variety of hobbit-kind.
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Postby MithLuin » Tue Apr 20, 2004 2:39 pm

<BR>Oh, I guess I should mark wild conjectures as such <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0>. You are right - there is no evidence that Gollum's people did have beards (or anything more than 'down'). I was just speculating that the 'down' seen in the Eastfarthing could be the leftovers of beards, so that Gollum's people could have had full beards, which then dwindled into 'down'. But, like I said, pure conjecture - a bit worse than saying that Eomer has a beard because Theoden does, and it just isn't mentioned.
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Postby Iarwain~Ben-adar » Tue Apr 20, 2004 11:17 pm

I'm surprised no one has quoted <em>The Hobbit</em> which states things rather matter-of-factly,<BR><BR>"They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded Dwarves. Hobbits have no beards."<BR><BR>No one has mentioned it, but Tom Bombadil, whatever he was, also was bearded,<BR><BR>"At any rate he was too large and heavy for a hobbit, if not quite tall enough for one of the Big People...He had a blue coat and a long brown beard..."<BR><BR>Characters in stories are often given beards, particularly grey or white ones, to portray age. A perfect example of this is Théoden. Age is often associated with wisdom, too, thus the old and wise like Gandalf with his long white beard and Fangorn, or Treebeard, with his mossy beard. Bombadil is also very old, yet he also has a youthful vigor which may be why his his beard is brown.<BR><BR>Since Tolkien, to my knowledge, does not mention the facial hair of most of the characters in his stories we can only guess. I could see where one might be inclined to envision Strider with a scruffy beard to accompany the dishevelled appearance described when the hobbits first encounter him at The Prancing Pony. Boromir might be imagined with a short, neatly trimmed beard to distinguishing him as the young heir to the Stewardship of Gondor, where Faramir, the younger brother, might have no beard at all. <BR><BR>These, of course, would be for dramatic purposes. In a movie setting human characters could be given beards for no other reason to further distinguish them from the beardless elves.
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Postby cuivienos » Wed Apr 21, 2004 1:45 am

it would make sense (though it is unsustained) that during lotr that the humans (i.e. aragorn, boromir) would have facial hair during the majority f the story, especially seeing as how boromir rides from gondor too rivendell without a razor <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-tongue.gif"border=0>. but really,they would have beards after being without a shave for so long...
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Postby rowanberry » Wed Apr 21, 2004 10:46 am

Some time ago there was a discussion about the possible beards of the human males in M-E in another MB I visit. There were a couple of guys who had been on long hikes, and talked from experience. They had found it most handy to let their beards grow during the time in the wild, just trim it every now and then, and shave when they got back to the civilization. I think that would be quite logical for the Middle Earth human males as well.
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Postby AtinielofGondor » Sat Mar 11, 2006 11:35 am

Khorazir wrote:In Unfinished Tales there is a short passage where Tolkien describes which races have facial hair, and why. It's part of a discussion about how Elvish descendance can be seen in men. Since the Eldar don't grow any beards, those humans who can claim some Elven blood (like the high-born Númenoreans, and later some of the Dunedain) don't grow facial hair either. So Aragorn doesn't have a beard, nor Denethor Faramir and Imrahil (even though personally I imagine Imrahil to have a mustache, don't ask me why). Boromir is a difficult case. I imagine him with a short beard around mouth and chin. It makes him look more fierce, and also it's said in LotR that he was not as noble of blood as his father or his brother. Don't ask me how that works genetically. <BR>As for the Rohirrim, I always imagined Éomer with a short full-beard. I could imagine growing a beard could be a sign of coming of age for the Rohirrim. But that's just my personal opinion.


I don't think so.
I think that men like Aragorn, Faramir and Denethor have facial hair. The age of Númenór is long ago when these men are born. Perhaps they are clean shaved, because the men of Gondor wear no beard . But this doesn't mean, they have no facial hair. And it doesn't work that Boromir should have facial hair and his brother and his father not. It's genetically impossible.
I have imagined allways rangers like Aragorn and Faramir with beards. And this is not because of the movies. It's possible that they are cleanshaved as King and as Steward.
Btw, I have read the books about 25 years ago.
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Postby rowanberry » Mon Mar 13, 2006 11:26 am

Tolkien may have been a great botanist, but I've always thought that genetics definitely wasn't his strong side. :wink: Of course, one shouldn't go all too scientific with stories like the LOTR, but as a biologist myself, I can't help noticing flaws in the idea that all human men who descended from elves were beardless.

The only way that the Elvish gene (or genes) for beardlessness would for sure have descended from father to son for thousands of years, would have been that it was located in the male-specific Y chromosome. However, in all cases, the elvish inheritance came into the line from the maternal side (Lúthien, Idril, Mithrellas), so this can hardly have been the case. I should believe that the first generations would have been beardless - for example, I would find it hard to imagine a bearded Elrond - but the appearance of that gene(s) can have been quite random in the generations separated from the elvish foremother by thousands of years. If the feature would have been controlled by more than one gene, its appearance might have required the presence of all of those genes.
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Postby AtinielofGondor » Mon Mar 13, 2006 11:37 am

Interesting points, rowanberry! Now it should be clearly, that Men like Aragorn, Faramir and Denethor have facial hair. And there is the possibility, that they are clean shaved, because it was perhaps fashionable in Gondor for men to wear no beard. :wink:
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Postby Arwenslove » Tue Mar 14, 2006 8:23 am

Elves do not have facial hair. Aragorn, having elf in his blood brings me to the conclusion he does not have a beard. I also pict. him w/out one anyways. Elves would would look pretty silly with beards. :rofl:
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Postby AtinielofGondor » Tue Mar 14, 2006 1:46 pm

Yes, Elfes would look pretty silly with beards, but not Aragorn. :wink:
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Postby Tar-Elenion » Fri Mar 17, 2006 8:02 pm

Elves do (or can) have facial hair. Cirdan had a beard (see LotR, Grey Havens. Beleg is depicted with what looks like a beard (see Pictures by JRRT, or Artist and Illustrator). Nerdanel's father had a beard (see VT 41). JRRT said Elves can grow beards, though generally not until their third cycle of life (VT 41) (there is no published info on cycles of life). These have all been noted and quoted earlier in the thread.
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Postby andurilwest » Tue Mar 21, 2006 4:45 pm

Yes, we should follow what Tolkien really wrote as much as possible, before resorting to opinion.
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Postby Cressida » Thu Jan 17, 2008 9:16 pm

Dredging up an old thread, I know, but I recently had a new thought about the eternal question of beards.

The beard on the statue at the Crossroads is generally taken as proof that all kings of Gondor were bearded, at least when they grew older. But what if the statue is of Eldacar or one of his near descendants? Maybe his half-Númenorean heritage showed up as beardedness.

Théoden is proof that a half-Númenorean can grow a beard--assuming Morwen of Lossarnach was Númenorean, anyway, which seems likely since she's supposed to be related to the Dol Amroth family. If Eldacar was bearded, or if he started growing a beard earlier in life than would be expected, that might have been taken by his opponents as the sign that he was going to age faster, like a "lesser" man. It would have fueled their anxiety, and perhaps made it easier for them to gain support.

Obviously, this is pure speculation, since the statue is nowhere identified. And for the record, I think the most likely explanation is that Tolkien simply developed the "beardless" theory rather late in his writing. But this idea might be a way to reconcile the description of the statue with other quotations on the subject.
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Postby Mingbearer » Thu Jan 24, 2008 6:35 pm

Boromir had a beard - because the movie and L. Ron Hubbard said so....
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Postby solicitr » Wed Jan 30, 2008 10:32 pm

I think it's relevant that Tolkien spent all his life (at least until the very end) in a time and place where bearded men were very unusual, even exotic (or ancient)- such that a clean-shaven chin was normative, and a jaw-thatch was a matter for comment. It's resonable in that light to consider that in Tolkien beardlessness is the default: he didn't envision a particular male character with a beard unless he expressly described him so.

As to not shaving in the wild- these hikers are however modern young men in a society that doesn't frown on beards. It isn't necessarily so: in the military troops in intense combat may go a few days without shaving, but they're expected to clean up as soon as the shooting stops, even in the middle of nowhere.* Pith-helmeted explorers like Stanley, Livingstone and Burton managed a clean chin (not lip!) every morning in the bush, even in the Victorian age when beards were common.

While T never describes Aragorn shaving, he also never describes him relieving himself, brushing his teeth or bathing, but I think we should assume he did all three.

*The signal exception was the US Navy's submarine crews in WWII- they were actually forbidden to shave while at sea, because of the very limited supply of fresh water on pre-nuclear boats.
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Postby Cressida » Mon Feb 04, 2008 6:48 am

Solicitr,

I've often thought this was one of the reasons why Tolkien makes his Elves beardless: not only are they all beautiful and good at everything, but they don't even have to bother with shaving!
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Postby AtinielofGondor » Fri Feb 08, 2008 12:18 pm

I can imagine, that it is fashion in Tolkien's Gondor (and Rohan), that men are shaved. But I can't imagine, that they aren't able to grow beards.
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Postby mithrandir111 » Sat Feb 09, 2008 6:10 am

My two pennies (I'm a Brit) :P

For me I picture Boromir clean-shaven and Aragorn with a beard. Boromir was next in line to be steward of Gondor and people saw him in this role whereas Aragorn was a Ranger who travelled the in the wild a lot and I imagine him growing a beard when he spent time in the wild and maybe shaving when he was at Rivendell or another safe-haven for a length of time. I see the majority of the Rohirrim as clean shaven as it say in LOTR that next to the Dunedain they seemed as children (I know this is probably nothing to do with facial hair and more to do with what the Dunedain went through). I also imagine the higher classes of Gondor as clean shaven while the farmers, labourers etc mostly have beards. I don't picture any of the Hobbits as having beards it just doesn't feel right.
By the way I have a beard just in case you weren't interested. :P
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Beards and civilization.

Postby Smeagolofthestoors » Mon Feb 25, 2008 12:05 pm

Now I don't want to start anything, but I just don't see the connection between beards and civilization. The only reason I don't have one is because my wife says it makes me look too old. She's 19, I'm 24, but she says the beard makes me look 40. But, seeing as many of the older civilizations wore beards, (the norse, the Hebrew peoples, &c) I just don't find the culture relevant to depictions. At least not when compared to the enviroment they live in.
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Postby Swordsman_Of_The_Tower » Mon Mar 17, 2008 6:13 am

I actually think of beards or facial hair as kind of "Kingly". I always pictured Eomer, Boromir, Faramir (more because of him being in the wild) and the other lords of men as having either Goatees, or short beards.
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