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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    It’s been a staple of fantasy illustrations for decades on end: elves with pointy ears, sometimes mildly Vulcan-like, sometimes sticking out like seven-inch stiletto heels. Sadly, thanks to Peter Jackson, the craze has recently spread to hobbits and even to dwarves.

    Of course Tolkien never described any of the races of Middle-Earth with pointed ears, but somewhere in the generations since it became de rigeur. When did this start, and why?

    The earliest D&D items I have are two paperback pamphlets: the TSR Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rulebook (the “Red Book”) from 1981, and Dungeon Module B1: In Search of the Unknown, from 1979. Both of these feature artwork (for want of a better term) with elves showing unmistakably pointed ears. Did those illustrators throw that in on their own, or were they drawing on some earlier convention?

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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    Quote Originally Posted by Palanan View Post
    Of course Tolkien never described any of the races of Middle-Earth with pointed ears, but somewhere in the generations since it became de rigeur. When did this start, and why?
    Well...with Tolkien. At the very least. He described Hobbits as

    I picture a fairly human figure, not a kind of 'fairy' rabbit as some of my British reviewers seem to fancy: fattish in the stomach, shortish in the leg. A round, jovial face; ears only slightly pointed and 'elvish'; hair short and curling (brown). The feet from the ankles down, covered with brown hairy fur. Clothing: green velvet breeches; red or yellow waistcoat; brown or green jacket; gold (or brass) buttons; a dark green hood and cloak (belonging to a dwarf)
    That's from Letter #27 incidentally. So Tolkien did in fact describe at least one race of Middle Earth with pointed ears. And then immediately terms it "Elvish". So it seems to me Tolkien pictured his elves with pointed ears as well.
    Last edited by Razade; 2018-01-02 at 05:13 PM.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    EvilClericGuy

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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    Professor Tolkien describes them as pointy and elfish. That would imply that the pointy and elfish properties of the hobbit's ears are not one in the same. I would look at that as evidence, the professor of linguistics did not intend for elf ears to be pointed.

    elfish also means slim and light.
    Last edited by archon_huskie; 2018-01-02 at 05:45 PM.
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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    Quote Originally Posted by archon_huskie View Post
    Professor Tolkien describes them as pointy and elfish. That would imply that the pointy and elfish properties of the hobbit's ears are not one in the same. I would look at that as evidence, the professor of linguistics did not intend for elf ears to be pointed.

    elfish also means slim and light.
    Sure, could mean that. Tolkien also says in the Etymologies that they're "more pointed and leaf shaped than human ears". You can find it in the Lost Road and other Writings.

    So the notion that Tolkien never described any race as having pointed ears (hobbits with their Elven shaped, pointed ears) or Elves (leaf shaped pointed ears) is false. As to where pointed ears came from in the first place...no idea. Tolkien's at the very least an early guess. Most certainly where Dungeons and Dragons got their idea from.

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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    Quote Originally Posted by Razade View Post
    Sure, could mean that. Tolkien also says in the Etymologies that they're "more pointed and leaf shaped than human ears". You can find it in the Lost Road and other Writings.

    So the notion that Tolkien never described any race as having pointed ears (hobbits with their Elven shaped, pointed ears) or Elves (leaf shaped pointed ears) is false. As to where pointed ears came from in the first place...no idea. Tolkien's at the very least an early guess. Most certainly where Dungeons and Dragons got their idea from.
    One hundred years older than that, at least. In this painting from the mid 19th century, at least one of the fairy creatures has pointed ears, the bald one sitting with the short white beard. It's easier to see with the full resolution version. I found other examples while googling as well. Here's a detail from a painting from a couple decades later. So elves and fae with pointed ears is much older than Tolkien.
    Quote Originally Posted by Calanon View Post
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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    1. Hendiadys is a thing.
    2. This is a drawing by Tolkien. Take a look at the visible part of Bilbo's ear, which looks a bit different from human ears to me. https://img.thedailybeast.com/image/upload/d_placeholder_euli9k/dpr_2.0/c_limit,w_585/fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/galleries/2012/09/20/tolkien-can-draw-who-knew-7-beautiful-hobbit-illustrations-photos/hall-at-bag-end-art-of-the-hobbit_aijtv5
    Last edited by Vinyadan; 2018-01-02 at 06:13 PM.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ravens_cry View Post
    One hundred years older than that, at least. In this painting from the mid 19th century, at least one of the fairy creatures has pointed ears, the bald one sitting with the short white beard. It's easier to see with the full resolution version. I found other examples while googling as well. Here's a detail from a painting from a couple decades later. So elves and fae with pointed ears is much older than Tolkien.
    Never said it wasn't?

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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    Pointy ears in general might have a "double" origins. In the middle ages, you often find them in church decoration, sometimes for devils, sometimes for monstrous little creatures with the function of scaring the evil away. Both probably come from old pagan images of animal gods, like Pan and fauns, or Cerumnos. In the meantime, there also were popular traditions about humanoid creatures with animal traits that didn't have anything to do with heaven or hell. These might very well have been translated into those pointy heared flower fairies and elfs.
    There also is the "telltale" detail that is important in fairytales, something that must allow the hero to recognise the guest as otherworldly, in spite of his apparently plain looks: horns, pointy ears, goat feet, a tail, hidden by shoes, cloaks, or hats.

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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vinyadan View Post
    Pointy ears in general might have a "double" origins. In the middle ages, you often find them in church decoration, sometimes for devils, sometimes for monstrous little creatures with the function of scaring the evil away. Both probably come from old pagan images of animal gods, like Pan and fauns, or Cerumnos. In the meantime, there also were popular traditions about humanoid creatures with animal traits that didn't have anything to do with heaven or hell. These might very well have been translated into those pointy heared flower fairies and elfs.
    There also is the "telltale" detail that is important in fairytales, something that must allow the hero to recognise the guest as otherworldly, in spite of his apparently plain looks: horns, pointy ears, goat feet, a tail, hidden by shoes, cloaks, or hats.
    Aye. Also Fairies/Elves were popular during the Victorian era (Tolkien was alive during this time) some art depicts them with pointed ears. Arthur Rackham was an illustrator who lived from 1867-1939. Search Arthur Rackham Elves.
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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    You can come up with all the evidence you like, but it's still Peter Jackson's fault. Not content with making the six worst films in cinematic history, he had to ruin all the rest of fantasy for everyone forever too. String him up.
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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    Quote Originally Posted by Razade View Post
    Never said it wasn't?
    When something exists at least one hundred years before the example, it's hard to call something a 'very early' example, I guess is my point.
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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aedilred View Post
    You can come up with all the evidence you like, but it's still Peter Jackson's fault. Not content with making the six worst films in cinematic history, he had to ruin all the rest of fantasy for everyone forever too. String him up.
    If you're referring to the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, you are really wrong. Those aren't the 6 worst films in cinematic history. They aren't even the 6 worst films in Peter Jackson's filmography. He's made some awful films.

    Seriously, I have no idea how he got the money to make the LotR movies. The only explanation is that he sold his soul to Satan. There was a behind-the-scenes interview with the producers when the first movie was in theaters. They said they went into Jackson's office to talk about some details after they had already signed contracts and they saw the posters of his previous movies on the wall and looked at each other and said "Oh God! What have we done?"

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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    If you're referring to the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, you are really wrong. Those aren't the 6 worst films in cinematic history. They aren't even the 6 worst films in Peter Jackson's filmography. He's made some awful films.

    Seriously, I have no idea how he got the money to make the LotR movies. The only explanation is that he sold his soul to Satan. There was a behind-the-scenes interview with the producers when the first movie was in theaters. They said they went into Jackson's office to talk about some details after they had already signed contracts and they saw the posters of his previous movies on the wall and looked at each other and said "Oh God! What have we done?"
    Yes, that's incredible. I saw Bad Taste and kept wondering, "how the heck did he get out of the B-movie splatter zone... with an overfunded colossal trilogy?!"

    Apparently, he made it twice. First when he bought the rights to make the movie. Then when he found two production houses interested in the project.

    And he managed to put both care and restrain in the LotR movies, avoiding the excesses that killed both Hobbit and Gorilla for me.

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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    The Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson films were definitely labours of love. There's some things I'd change personally, but they obviously were films crafted with care and attention to detail to create a living feeling world, much like the books that inspired them.
    The Hobbit . . . not so much.
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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    On another note, Christmas elves are usually depicted as having pointy ears too. For whatever reason, even divorced from myth and Tolkienian fantasy, pointy ears just seem to be part of the cultural idea of what an elf is.
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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ravens_cry View Post
    The Hobbit . . . not so much.
    I think Peter Jackson's original plan was to make the Hobbit as two movies, which probably would have worked. Not sure if he changed his mind or if the studio changed it for him, but turning it into a trilogy always meant there was going to be a lot of filler, and it showed.

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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    Now that I think of it, I was guess Shakespeare. Imagine "A Midsummer's Night's Dream": you're putting on the play and you want the crowd to know Puck, Titania, & Oberon are fairies. The costumes have to be practical but distinct from the humans. Wild clothes work but pointed ears would be easy enough along with the clothes to get across the illusion.
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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    I think Peter Jackson's original plan was to make the Hobbit as two movies, which probably would have worked. Not sure if he changed his mind or if the studio changed it for him, but turning it into a trilogy always meant there was going to be a lot of filler, and it showed.
    The studio changed it for him. I'm not sure what they were expecting to accomplish, but they basically strongarmed him into making it a trilogy or getting kicked off the project entirely.
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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    By all accounts, PJ came onto the Hobbit so late that he had to get shooting *right away* so much so that he had a second unit under Andy Serkis. They started out shooting lots of footage that could be used more or less anywhere because they didn't know for sure what their films were actually going to be like. I think Andy Serkis said in an interview they had no idea what they were doing for quite some time.

    that said, looking at Return of the King, it's pretty easy to see PJ's love of over-producing, and his failure to make his added material mesh with the original, so I'm not letting PJ off that easily.

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    Default Re: When Did Elves Get Pointy Ears?

    Elves were originally beings of the fey that possessed an "otherworldly" nature. They were "not-quite human" in that once you started looking, some details were off. Pointed ears were a sign of a fey being.

    The only reason I know this is that I was obsessed with the Authurian Mythos in all of it's forms during my early years. Even twenty years later I can still tell you most of the knights and their stories. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was one of my favorites as an example of Justice and Mercy living side by side in the same action.
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