Human Innovations That Might Surprise/Puzzle the Elves

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
So, one of the things that the Hosts discussed earlier this season was that human inventiveness (specifically in regards to labor/time-saving devices) might actually surprise the Elves. So I am working on a collection of these that might be presented to the hosts.

The Bow-Drill


Used in its simplest form to start fires, but also to drill holes back when rotary motion was hard to come by. Similarly:

The Push Drill


Utilizing a flywheel to maintain rotational motion (yes, this could be built in the stone age).

Once metal is in the picture, you can do stuff like Bow Lathes.



Or Spring-Pole Lathes.

 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
How do the Elves create fire? Or do they just have the lamps?
So, there are a number of early methods of fire generation that don't involve spindles, including fire boards and flint (which can be struck without metal, it's just more difficult).

And, of course, fire is not the necessity to Elves that it is to humans.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
So, there are a number of early methods of fire generation that don't involve spindles, including fire boards and flint (which can be struck without metal, it's just more difficult).

And, of course, fire is not the necessity to Elves that it is to humans.
Was Legolas asked to try małe the fire at Carathras? Do not remember this?

I think more in behavioral inventions:
counting 1-2-3 to sychronise actions among a group, counting steps to reach a location at might, using poems repeated several times for the same reason or to make sure sometimes is cookied or baked ready.
Being content when sometimes just works but far from perfect, placing functionality over beauty/aestetics, categorising and subcategorising everything possibile, even peoples characters and kinds of actions. Roleplaying an action on advance, training an action on advance. Reconstructing a past action from clues, making assuptions about other's motives, questioning oneself's motives.

Using methaphors is every day speach, comparing everything to everything, prioritising at any action, geting bored fast with anything, a love for briefness and simplicity in speach, especially under duress (elves can be brief too, but much more seldom).
Citing references of old sayings of important sages as arguments in a discussion, mistrusting one's own intuition, talking to oneself to remind oneself of someting or when doing someting difficult when no one is around, dividing actions and processes on simple units/steps in steps to remember, labour division in mass production, making and selling and carrying half-ready made things for later postproduction/completion, involving in messy, toilsome/stinky and distructive processes which have nothing artistic about them Luke making wood tar, retting plants or making dyes (actually chemistry). Breaking thinks to understand them.

Deconstruting and overanalysing anything - even an elvish song asking questions like, Why? How? How long? What for? How does that even make any sense? Was he stupid? ;-)

Thinking in generations - starting someting for someone else to finish, carrying on/finishing someting someone else has started.

And team sports with taking scores, not just for fun, and singing in canons, everything that requires time sychronisation in a group, where the group and learning and training to act as one unit is more important the the individial achievement or the artistic outcome. (But here the most surprising things for elves would be the relative shortness of the songs and the repetitive elements in them).
I think also on thinking someting a part of a whole, beyond such basics like half, or a quater.
Like 3 ouf of 10, or 5 out of a 100. Also thinking in propabilities, adding a margin of error, having a backup plan, double and triple-checking things, asking others to check your work to make sure it is done right (elves are not prone to mistakes in making things, and each thing is for them also an artistic expression of the author. Being asked to double check someting by a human when not in a teacher-pupil relationship would let them puzzled imho at its first occurence.)
Impatience with "pointless" things and actions.

Physical inventions:
Stamps, roll stamps, repetitive patterns using the exact same element/pattern over and over again. Making pots or set of pots with the same pattern combination as before. Using a certain design for a time when its fashionable, dismissing it, even when liked by oneself, when it is "out of fashion". Copying designs of others exactly when they are fashionable.

I could imagine scene when an elf comes to visit a friends while the latter is stamping empty yet unfired pots (made by anothet human) and while talking the elf is given a stamps to stamp anothet pot while speaking - so to not waste time -and so he learns to appreciate how creative one actually can get using ready made patterns on a prefabricated pot, not making everything from scratch. And maybe the stamp he is given is the "gemma" (engraved precious stone) that he himself has given a predecessor of said friend as a thankyou gift and for which the man has found a usefull application.
 
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Haerangil

Well-Known Member
They knew flintstones... and they lit fires, they knew beacons , fireplaces, hearths and ovens.
But , maybe elves just quietly sung or spoke to dry wood to convince it start burning.

We also know Elves have a curious dislike for wheels, or at last wheeled vehicles. They know quite some technology, they are smart enough to understand it... but they seem to be near-autistic when it comes to actually inventing or using anything more sophisticated than a watermill, loom, spinning-wheel, crane or a big wooden or stone structure. They'd never get into finemechanics or electronics. I was actually surprised to see Tolkien once thought they had some kind of organ or maybe water-pipe instrument (a hydraulis?).

I wonder... do they have wood-lathe machines?

Tolkien has an obsolete Quenya word for "lathe", "terendl", but i am not convinced it refers to woodturning.
 
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Odola

Well-Known Member
They knew flintstones... and they lit fires, they knew beacons , fireplaces, hearths and ovens.
But , maybe elves just quietly sung or spoke to dry wood to convince it start burning.

We also know Elves have a curious dislike for wheels, or at last wheeled vehicles. They know quite some technology, they are smart enough to understand it... but they seem to be near-autistic when it comes to actually inventing or using anything more sophisticated than a watermill, loom, spinning-wheel, crane or a big wooden or stone structure. They'd never get into finemechanics or electronics. I was actually surprised to see Tolkien once thought they had some kind of organ or maybe water-pipe instrument (a hydraulis?).

I wonder... do they have wood-lathe machines?

Tolkien has an obsolete Quenya word for "lathe", "terendl", but i am not convinced it refers to woodturning.
I think elves would consider any "shortcuts" in the artistic process as detrimental. They are both skillfull and have time enough to make "slow art" and "slow technology" (think today's: "slow food"). They could even consider the potter's wheel as unnecessary and be into more free sculpturing altogether. They would make any part of any pattern by hand and be completely able to make it exactly like the other one if they wanted to, but would choose not to, as their art seems more organic and less repetative, and there is no flower, leaf or snow flake exactly the same in nature.

They seem also not to be very much into strategical thinking, so I do not think they would be into "chess" type games also. I think being stategic comes from humans limited time, limited skill and limited resources, so this forces humans into prioritising which also makes them valued fighters even if weaker and less skilled than elves - they intrinsically know how to use their limited resources for the greatest possible effect and how to avoid unnecessary "waste" of time and effort - which elves do not seem to mind very much per se.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Yes, a pottery disc along with spiked harrows, roper-wheels, wool winders or bow-drills possibly are tools the elves would have no need for and be curious about, but the Haladin totally could have them.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Yes, a pottery disc along with spiked harrows, roper-wheels, wool winders or bow-drills possibly are tools the elves would have no need for and be curious about, but the Haladin totally could have them.
I though potter's wheel a bit later still for the Haladin?
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
They seem also not to be very much into strategical thinking, so I do not think they would be into "chess" type games also. I think being stategic comes from humans limited time, limited skill and limited resources, so this forces humans into prioritising which also makes them valued fighters even if weaker and less skilled than elves - they intrinsically know how to use their limited resources for the greatest possible effect and how to avoid unnecessary "waste" of time and effort - which elves do not seem to mind very much per se.
This is an understandable conclusion to draw, because Tolkien doesn't talk about strategy a lot. But he does talk about it in the Nirnaeth and Fingolfin and Maedhros coordinate a pincer movement during the Dagor Aglareb. So in SilmFilm, the Elves do have concepts of strategy. We've shown it in a number of places, and we've even used a chess-like game as backdrop to conversations between Thingol and Mablung.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
This is an understandable conclusion to draw, because Tolkien doesn't talk about strategy a lot. But he does talk about it in the Nirnaeth and Fingolfin and Maedhros coordinate a pincer movement during the Dagor Aglareb. So in SilmFilm, the Elves do have concepts of strategy. We've shown it in a number of places, and we've even used a chess-like game as backdrop to conversations between Thingol and Mablung.
Thingol? Interesting. The only strategic thing I remember him doing was trying to get Morgoth to resolve the "Beren probem" for him. That is "strategy" for sure, even if not very sophisticated. Would he enjoy a chess-type game?

Even so, the goal and approach would be different - I do think. A human would play to maximise the gains and minimise the losses, and would be aware of the need to control the latter ones and to avoid a "Pyrrhic victory" - a gain which "might cost too much" or can result in a future loss - and an elf might be - like Feanor - easier lost in his pursuit of his end goal to lose sight of the losses he is risking. Also a human would adjust his play to his assumption of his opponents' character and his anticipated future moves and not just try to show off his own skill.

Paradoxically, a human, as a mortal being, is used to the idea of having to lose his life in the end no matter what, which makes him more ready to takes risks, if he sees it necessary, but being aware of own's own vulnerability he usually wants his risk controlled, if somehow possible.

(But it would be fun watching Tuor trying to teach Glofindel how to play a human game).
 
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Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
Thingol? Interesting. The only strategic thing I remember him doing was trying to get Morgoth to resolve the "Beren probem" for him. That is "strategy" for sure, even if not very sophisticated. Would he enjoy a chess-type game?

Even so, the goal and approach would be different - I do think. A human would play to maximise the gains and minimise the losses, and would be aware of the need to control the latter ones and to avoid a "Pyrrhic victory" - a gain which "might cost too much" or can result in a future loss - and an elf might be - like Feanor - easier lost in his pursuit of his end goal to lose sight of the losses he is risking. Also a human would adjust his play to his assumption of his opponents' character and his anticipated future moves and not just try to show off his own skill.

Paradoxically, a human, as a mortal being, is used to the idea of having to lose his life in the end no matter what, which makes him more ready to takes risks, if he sees it necessary, but being aware of own's own vulnerability he usually wants his risk controlled, if somehow possible.

(But it would be fun watching Tuor trying to teach Glofindel how to play a human game).
I dunno; I thought the Elven perspective would be to preserve what they have and not squander things on a futile gamble, as shown in Turin's argument with Gwindor (also with Elrond and Galadriel using their Rings to preserve their realms). The strategy in Nargothrond implemented by Curufin was to make Nargothrond secret and use stealth, while Turin has no patience for that approach and leads the militarization movement, which leads to the Fall of Nargothrond. Also compare with Hurin's decision to send every fighting man to the Nirnaeth, which left the women and children (and the elderly) to the mercy of the Easterlings.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
I dunno; I thought the Elven perspective would be to preserve what they have and not squander things on a futile gamble, as shown in Turin's argument with Gwindor (also with Elrond and Galadriel using their Rings to preserve their realms). The strategy in Nargothrond implemented by Curufin was to make Nargothrond secret and use stealth, while Turin has no patience for that approach and leads the militarization movement, which leads to the Fall of Nargothrond. Also compare with Hurin's decision to send every fighting man to the Nirnaeth, which left the women and children (and the elderly) to the mercy of the Easterlings.
Has Turin not spend his adolescence in Doriath? He was not socialised into manhood by adult human men as far I do remeber? There was a discontinuity between his childhood's upbringing and adolescence which seemed to have left him unbalanced and confused about which outlook on life he should follow.

So Turin is not a good example of a man here imho if it comes to having learned human self-restaint and self-control.
Inpatience is an understandably human trait, as is exaggerated activism.

About Hurin - he might have expected all of them to die anyway if they lose, so maybe he wanted to maximise the chances that they do not. Or it could have been dishonourable for those men that would be to have been left behind.
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
Has Turin not spend his adolescence in Doriath? He was not socialised into manhood by adult human men as far I do remeber? There was a discontinuity between his childhood's upbringing and adolescence which seemed to have left him unbalanced and confused about which outlook on life he should follow.

So Turin is not a good example of a man here imho if it comes to having learned human self-restaint and self-control.
Inpatience is an understandably human trait, as is exaggerated activism.

About Hurin - he might have expected all of them to die anyway if they lose, so maybe he wanted to maximise the chances that they do not. Or it could have been dishonourable for those men that would be to have been left behind.
And yet Tuor is much better at self-restraint/self-control despite not being socialized among adult humans. In Turin's case the confusion doesn't last for very long and by the point he gets to Nargothrond he's followed his father's ideas on the human approach.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
And yet Tuor is much better at self-restraint/self-control despite not being socialized among adult humans. In Turin's case the confusion doesn't last for very long and by the point he gets to Nargothrond he's followed his father's ideas on the human approach.
Oh, Tuor was, he has been given up by his mother at birth to elves, but he returned among humans at sixteen - so he has been initialised into manhood by men - he has been forced to learn self-restaint and self-control as a slave. So we see the effect of a stable childhood followed by a challenging adolscence having a good effect on a young man's socialisation while vice versa, which seems to have a confusing effect on humans.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
but they seem to be near-autistic when it comes to actually inventing or using anything more sophisticated than a watermill, loom, spinning-wheel, crane or a big wooden or stone structure.
Have overseen this one before.
Spnning wheel? No, a beautiful golden or amber distaff and a spindle with a precious stone whorl with a nice spell engraved on it - and you can spin while walking or even riding, who would fight with something such cumbersome like a spinning wheel as an elleth (I myself spin with a spindle sometimes, have even 3-D printed one done, have not yet mastered the wheel myself, but I have tried different ones out on diverse spinning meetings ;-) ) Spinning wheels are for quantity and speed, but in the Middle Ages still threads spun on wheels were considered of lower quality and could not be used as warp threads, only those spun on the old (more like: "ancient") good hand spindle were considered good enough for that. Doubt any elleth would bother with such a heavy and ungracefull technology like a spinning-wheel - which is stationary, and limiting - it is fast, - but not as fast as any swift skilled elvish fingers can be if wanted. The most I can imagine for elleth to have would be a small charka wheel to spin cotton
- even if a small fast rotating cotton spindle is as good enough for that, too.
.

But a big heavy spinning wheel with treadles?

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Compare against that the simple elegance of this:
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Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Yes, i know of distaffs, but JRRT glossed gnomish and elvish words for spinning-wheel, so i conclude he possibly thought elves have them. I am unsure if they are ever mentioned in the stories though...
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Yes, i know of distaffs, but JRRT glossed gnomish and elvish words for spinning-wheel, so i conclude he possibly thought elves have them. I am unsure if they are ever mentioned in the stories though...
Hobbits would have them in the 3rd age.
But I cannot imagine Galadriel taking one up a tree, even a portable folding one.1625673936291.png
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
On

Like as not, one could be assembled on a tree flet without too much difficulty.
Very flat and stable flet with not much wind (this could be charmed to be still perhaps) but the noise of it would not be easy on fine elvish ears imho. It is a kind of "white noise" kind of sound.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Maybe not on a flet, but what about High-elves in Tirion or Formenos, or Vinyamar.I believe the Noldor would be the most likely "technical-elves" to have such things, in contrast to the Sindar or Silvan.
 
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