Here You Will Hear Many Songs and Tales

The point of this project is to follow Frodo’s journey mile-by-mile (also, exercising). This is fairly easy to do since Tolkien tracked everyone’s movements with minute detail. However, in some cases, he enters a montage where a portion of the Fellowship’s journey is covered in a sentence or two.

After leaving Rivendell, he almost immediately enters into such a passage where 200 miles are covered in a sentence. Since that gap must be filled with something, I’ve been taking a look back at their time in Rivendell, which, due to the nature of the project, I had to skip.

And so we have just covered the dinner and a star-struck Frodo’s meeting with Gloin. Now, for a bit of dessert, Elrond and Arwen lead their guests into the Hall of Fire.

“Here you will hear many songs and tales – if you can keep awake. But except on high days it usually stands empty and quiet, and people come here who wish for peace, and thought. There is always a fire here, all the year round, but there is little other light.”

This was not the first time Tolkien used such a place in his writings, and harkens back to the Cottage of Lost Play from The Book of Lost Tales. Written in 1916 and 1917, it tells part of the story of Eriol, a mariner who travels to Tol Eressea.

The Cottage itself was inhabited by Lindo and his wife, Vaire, both Elves (or as Tolkien originally called them, Gnomes). They welcome Eriol into their cottage and gave him a quick tour (sort of). One of the rooms was called The Room of Log Fire. It was for the telling of tales.

Lindo, Vaire, a bunch of happy children, and Eriol sit down to eat a meal and Eriol tells the Elves a long tale of his journey so far. But then it was time to retire for some more storytelling.

The way Tolkien writes about this is pretty nutty. I’ll give a couple of passages. Before they sat down for dinner, Eriol heard a gong and his face was “filled with happy wonderment.” Seeing that, Vaire explained:

“That is the voice of Tombo, the Gong of the Children, which stands outside the Hall of Play Regained, and it rings once to summon them to this hall at the times for eating and drinking, and three times to summon them to the Room of the Log Fire for the telling of tales.”

But the nuttiness is just getting started. Lindo added:

“If at this ringing once there be laughter in the corridors and a sound of feet, then do the walls shake with mirth and stamping at the three strokes in an evening. And the sounding of the three strokes is the happiest moment in the day of Littleheart the Gong-warden, as he himself declares who has known happiness enough of old; and ancient indeed is he beyond count in spite of his merriness of soul. He sailed in Wingilot with Earendel in that last voyage wherein they sought for Kor. It was the ringing of this Gong on the Shadowy Seas that awoke the Sleeper in the Tower of Pearl that stands far out to west in the Twilit Isles.”

Anyway, they all enter the room at the three gongs. They were surrounded by many differently sized children holding many differently sized candles. At one end of the room was the “red glow as of a big fire.” Vaire explained that it was “tale-fire blazing in the Room of Logs; there does it burn all through the year, for ’tis a magic fire, and greatly aids the teller in his tale.”

While in Lord of the Rings, the Elves break into song in the Hall of Fire, at least on this night in the Room of Log Fire, the Elves tell stories of the old days and of the island they now live upon. On other nights, of course, there is song. For example, on the fourth night of Eriol’s visit, “Meril fared there amid her company of maiedens, and a full of light and mirth was that place; but after the evening meat a great host sat before Ton a Gwedrein, and the maidens of Meril sang the most beautiful songs that island knew.”

The Room of Log Fire was known by a few names (of course), just as the Cottage of Lost Play was also known as Mar Vanwa Tyalieva. It was also the Room of the Tale-fire, the Room of Logs, and Ton a Gwedrin (How much Gwedrin do we got in here? A ton a Gwedrin!). It was in this room that Eriol learned what would later be known as the Quenta Silmarillion. Most commonly, it’s just called “the Tale-fire,” and though Vaire claims it’s some sort of magic fire, it really just seems like a place to kick back, relax and listen to some Tolkien.

The Room of the Tale-fire was abandoned when Tolkien ditched the framing of the story telling, deciding instead to just tell the tales himself, rather than through the various Gnomes like Littleheart. But, as with many things he abandoned, bits are found throughout the legendarium.

A Few Notes

  • Nutty? Yes. But if not for Tolkien, we would not have: “Gozer the Traveller – he will come in one of the pre-chosen forms. During the rectification of the Vuldronaii, the Traveller came as a large and moving Torb! Then, during the third reconciliation of the last of the Meketrex supplicants, they chose a new form for him – that of a giant Sloar! Many Shubs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Sloar that day, I can tell you!”
  • This past Saturday, I took a 10 mile hike to visit a single 15.5 million year old petrified tree. I took mostly film photos of it, which will be posted at some point on my Flickr account, but here’s one from my phone:

GPSe-00002

  • I am counting the 10 miles hiked toward this project, which basically means that I didn’t have to use the elliptical machine Saturday or Sunday – a boon since on Sunday, I could barely move. The hike was about four miles longer than we thought it would be, and I clearly need better hiking boots. Or just hiking boots.
Camera: Imperial Savoy || Film: Kodak Ektachrome 160 Tungsten (expired 12/1994)

Camera: Imperial Savoy || Film: Kodak Ektachrome 160 Tungsten (expired 12/1994)

About the Photo
Cottage of Lost Play? Who knows.

The photo was taken along Route 66 in Dagget, California. I’ve been by this place a few times and just love the roof. It’s absolutely pointless and perfect.


  • Day 110
  • Miles today: 5
  • Miles thus far: 550 (97 from Rivendell)
  • 370 miles to Lothlórien
  • 1,228 miles to Mt. Doom

Today’s stopping place: Book II, Chapter 3. Encamped along the western foothills of the Misty Mountains. Sixth night out from Rivendell. December 30 – Yule 1, 3018TA. (map)

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6 thoughts on “Here You Will Hear Many Songs and Tales

    • It’s the Columbia as it is in Central Washington. Usually it looks more like a lake here, but a dam was about to break and they had to lower the water level to about where it was in the 1940s. I wish they’d just leave it like this, but then, I really hate dams.

        • It was actually a lot different. For one, the gorge wasn’t there. That was created 15, 000 years ago in the big glacial floods.

          At the time of the lava flows, 15 million years ago, the land was a swamp of some kind. The logs had to be on water (I think) to become petrified within the basalt. This particular one seems to have been turned on end.

          When the floods came through, the water tore away the loose basalt revealing the petrified wood. Well, some of it. Most of it is still under ground.

          I could be wrong about some of this, but this is all I can remember.

          • Cool! Thanks for putting a more accurate picture in my head. And wow, I hadn’t heard of the Missoula Floods before either. Just looked them up on wikipedia. The earth is amazing.

        • Also, if you’ve not heard of the Missoula Floods, look then up. I had no clue about them before moving to Washington. Totally blew mind.

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