Was Narsil bronze?

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sean_q

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Sep 18, 2011, 1:57:18 AM9/18/11
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It isn't easy to break an iron sword...

"I [Elrond] beheld the last combat on the slopes of Orodruin, where
Gil-galad died, and Elendil fell, and Narsil broke beneath him;

If Narsil was that breakable maybe it was bronze. Here's more evidence:

Very bright was that sword when it was made whole again;
the light of the sun shone REDly in it <-----[my caps]

My thanks and acknowledgment to the late Öjevind Lång for pointing out
a reference (in Tom Bombadil's talk) to Middle Earth's Bronze Age
a while ago.

SQ

Steve Morrison

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Sep 18, 2011, 11:19:16 AM9/18/11
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Túrin's sword also broke beneath him, and it was made of
meteoric iron! Possibly Dúnedain are just so tough that
swords break beneath them? ;<)

tenworld

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Sep 19, 2011, 7:45:15 PM9/19/11
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On Sep 18, 8:19 am, Steve Morrison <rima...@toast.net> wrote:
> sean_q wrote:
> > It isn't easy to break an iron sword...
...
> Túrin's sword also broke beneath him, and it was made of
> meteoric iron! Possibly Dúnedain are just so tough that
> swords break beneath them? ;<)->

There isnt anything about meteoric iron that cant be duplicated with
modern metallurgy, but the implication is that magic is involved.
Same with Narsil, it didnt break because it was not strong, it broke
because of the magic associated with Sauron's blow.

Bronze would not be stronger than steel at the same thickness. A good
steel (see Damascus steel eg) with the right metallugy (carbon, metal
impurities) would be a superior weapon.

FL Teacher

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Sep 19, 2011, 9:35:06 PM9/19/11
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"tenworld" wrote in message
news:0c85056b-2d9c-4b21...@s3g2000vbx.googlegroups.com...
Tying this thread to the one asking why Isildur didn't suffer
black-breath-like illness after slicing into Sauron...
Perhaps the magic innate in Narsil created a buffer protecting Isildur, yet
the strain was enough to break apart the enchantment holding Narsil
together.

just a thought,
FLT

Bill O'Meally

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Sep 19, 2011, 9:43:27 PM9/19/11
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On 2011-09-19 20:35:06 -0500, FL Teacher said:
>
>
> Tying this thread to the one asking why Isildur didn't suffer
> black-breath-like illness after slicing into Sauron...
> Perhaps the magic innate in Narsil created a buffer protecting Isildur,
> yet the strain was enough to break apart the enchantment holding Narsil
> together.

And holding Elendil together??
--
Bill
"Wise Fool" -- Gandalf, _The Two Towers_
(The Wise will remove 'se' to reach me. The Foolish will not)

Stan Brown

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Sep 19, 2011, 11:14:30 PM9/19/11
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On Mon, 19 Sep 2011 21:35:06 -0400, FL Teacher wrote:
> There isnt anything about meteoric iron that cant be duplicated with
> modern metallurgy, but the implication is that magic is involved.
> Same with Narsil, it didnt break because it was not strong, it broke
> because of the magic associated with Sauron's blow.

Yes, that's my reading too.

Compare to Merry's sword, which didn't shatter but dissolved. That's
magic, pure and simple. So I think the explanation for Narsil is
equally magical, not metallurgical.

I could be wrong, but my impression is that the Númenóreans were at
least as advanced technologically as say the real-life medieval
period. They would then have had good-quality carbon-steel swords.



--
Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems, Tompkins County, New York, USA
http://OakRoadSystems.com
Tolkien FAQs: http://Tolkien.slimy.com (Steuard Jensen's site)
Tolkien letters FAQ:
http://mysite.verizon.net/aznirb/mtr/lettersfaq.html
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more FAQs: http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/faqget.htm

John W Kennedy

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Sep 19, 2011, 11:28:40 PM9/19/11
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On 2011-09-18 05:57:18 +0000, sean_q said:

> It isn't easy to break an iron sword...

Yes it is. I witnessed one breaking only last week.

--
John W Kennedy
"Those in the seat of power oft forget their failings and seek only the
obeisance of others! Thus is bad government born! Hold in your heart
that you and the people are one, human beings all, and good government
shall arise of its own accord! Such is the path of virtue!"
-- Kazuo Koike. "Lone Wolf and Cub: Thirteen Strings" (tr. Dana Lewis)

sean_q

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Sep 20, 2011, 2:26:40 AM9/20/11
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On 9/19/2011 7:14 PM, Stan Brown wrote:

> I could be wrong, but my impression is that the Númenóreans were at
> least as advanced technologically as say the real-life medieval
> period. They would then have had good-quality carbon-steel swords.

However, Narsil wasn't made by the Numenoreans.

SQ





Mike Scott Rohan

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Sep 20, 2011, 8:13:56 AM9/20/11
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On Sep 20, 4:14 am, Stan Brown <the_stan_br...@fastmail.fm> wrote:
> On Mon, 19 Sep 2011 21:35:06 -0400, FL Teacher wrote:
> > There isnt anything about meteoric iron that cant be duplicated with
> > modern metallurgy, but the implication is that magic is involved.
> > Same with Narsil, it didnt break because it was not strong, it broke
> > because of the magic associated with Sauron's blow.
>
> Yes, that's my reading too.
>
> Compare to Merry's sword, which didn't shatter but dissolved.  That's
> magic, pure and simple.  So I think the explanation for Narsil is
> equally magical, not metallurgical.

Yet Eowyn's sword shattered at the blow. Personally I think that both
shatterings, and Narsil's, were profoundly bound up with the nature of
Sauron and the Wraiths, whose physical form was only a cloak for their
spiritual reality; thus they could armour themselves to some extent,
except against swords imbued with magic of their own. Eowyn's probably
wasn't; Merry's, we are told, was, which might explain the delay in
its dissolution, to make the blow bite deeper. Of course, it could
dissolve in whatever the Witch-King had for blood -- move over, Alien!
-- but it doesn't read that way, no drippings and acrid odour.

Coming back to the original question, I own and have worked on swords
of both bronze and steel of various kinds, and my own novels were much
concerned with smithcraft as magic; so I believe I know something of
the relative properties. Bronze -- the "red metal" of the degenerate
petty Northern kingdom's swords -- varies greatly according to its
thickness, but swords were generally made thinner than with steel,
both because the metal was rarer and harder to work, and because it
tends to weigh more, shape for shape. I have a short thick bronze leaf-
blade which is a real test for the wrist. Thinner ones, though, tended
to bend very easily, much more so than steel; an interesting
archaeological testimony to this is in (I think) Reading Museum, where
a Roman soldier armed with a standard steel glaive has clearly taken
on a Brit with a bronze leaf-blade. The bronze blade, presumably
caught flat on, has literally wound itself around the steel like some
sort of obscene ribbon, rendering both blades useless. One guesses
they both stood staring at this prodigy for a moment, then one would
probably have kicked ihe other in the yarbles and run away. Steel has
never behaved this way; the best steel is proportionately more elastic
than rubber. So it bends, but will break, eventually, as metal fatigue
sets in.

What would make a sword shatter like a mirror, though, as it seems
Narsil does? Really only one characteristic, and that's cold, a very
low temperature indeed. Perhaps that was Old One-Eye's "body
temperature" anyhow.

The Numenoreans were indeed advanced, even to the point of achieveing
flight, Tolkien hints; they would certainly have good steel, as well
as other lost metals like mithril and its alloys.

Hope that's of some interest,

Mike



>
> I could be wrong, but my impression is that the Númenóreans were at
> least as advanced technologically as say the real-life medieval
> period.  They would then have had good-quality carbon-steel swords.
>
> --
> Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems, Tompkins County, New York, USA
>                                  http://OakRoadSystems.com
> Tolkien FAQs:http://Tolkien.slimy.com(Steuard Jensen's site)

derek

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Sep 20, 2011, 8:30:42 AM9/20/11
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On Sep 20, 12:28 am, John W Kennedy <jwke...@attglobal.net> wrote:
> On 2011-09-18 05:57:18 +0000, sean_q said:
>
> > It isn't easy to break an iron sword...
>
> Yes it is. I witnessed one breaking only last week.

I thought so too, but I bet you only saw two pieces. Perhaps it's
just movie-memory, but I'm pretty sure Narsil's supposed to be in
"shards".

derek

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Sep 20, 2011, 8:25:58 AM9/20/11
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On Sep 19, 8:45 pm, tenworld <t...@world.std.com> wrote:
> On Sep 18, 8:19 am, Steve Morrison <rima...@toast.net> wrote:
>
> > sean_q wrote:
> > > It isn't easy to break an iron sword...
> ...
> > Túrin's sword also broke beneath him, and it was made of
> > meteoric iron! Possibly Dúnedain are just so tough that
> > swords break beneath them? ;<)->
>
> There isnt anything about meteoric iron that cant be duplicated with
> modern metallurgy, but the implication is that magic is involved.

Precisely. Though Jack Whyte cleverly theorizes that Excalibur was
meteoric nickel-iron+, which provided the ingredients for stainless
steel.

> Same with Narsil, it didnt break because it was not strong, it broke
> because of the magic associated with Sauron's blow.
>
> Bronze would not be stronger than steel at the same thickness.  A good
> steel (see Damascus steel eg) with the right metallugy (carbon, metal
> impurities) would be a superior weapon.

Surely the implication of the OP was that Bronze would be _weaker_.

JJ

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Sep 20, 2011, 9:05:20 AM9/20/11
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On Sep 20, 1:13 pm, Mike Scott Rohan
<mike.scott.ro...@asgardpublishing.co.uk> wrote:

> What would make a sword shatter like a mirror, though, as it seems
> Narsil does? Really only one characteristic, and that's cold, a very
> low temperature indeed.  Perhaps that was Old One-Eye's "body
> temperature" anyhow.
>
No it wasn't; it was at least red hot: 'And so Gil-Galad was
destroyed'. 'It misseth the heat of Sauron's hand, maybe' (Quotations
from memory!)

sean_q

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Sep 20, 2011, 12:53:17 PM9/20/11
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Thanks for the replies everyone. I'm not claiming that Narsil
was bronze, only that it might have been. Although a bronze weapon
is at a disadvantage against iron, it can still be wielded
with deadly effect by a skilled swordsman such as Aragorn.

Perhaps the first question to ask is whether bronze, a copper-tin alloy
was even used in Middle Earth. We know by a number of references
that copper was known; for instance: "Mithril! All folk desired it.
It could be beaten like copper..."

There is only one mention of tin, where Merry says, "A punch from
an Ent-fist crumples up iron like thin tin."

Bronze itself is mentioned only twice: artifacts found by Tom Bombadil
in a barrow and Faramir's cups or basins in Henneth Annun.

Apparently Narsil was forged in Beleriand during the during the First
Age by the Dwarf Telchar of Nogrod, a famous weaponsmith and artificer
who also made the knife Angrist, which cut a Silmaril from the crown
of Morgoth, and the Helm of Hador later used by Túrin Turambar. [wp]

I don't know my First Age history very well, but it could have been
during Middle Earth's Bronze Age.

This would be a good place to quote Öjevind Lång, replying on July 21,
2009 to my posting "Bronze Age Middle Earth":

> You forgot one passage which, in my opinion, makes it quite clear
> that there was a Bronze Age in Middle-earth. It's from "In the House
> of Tom Bombadil", and I think it is hauntingly beautiful. Tom tells
> the hobbits about ancient times:

> "Kings of little kingdoms fought together, and the young Sun
> shone like fire on the red metal of their new and greedy swords."

SQ

FL Teacher

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Sep 20, 2011, 5:17:33 PM9/20/11
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"Bill O'Meally" wrote in message
news:201109192043274717-omeallymd@wiserrcom...

On 2011-09-19 20:35:06 -0500, FL Teacher said:
>
>
> Tying this thread to the one asking why Isildur didn't suffer
> black-breath-like illness after slicing into Sauron...
> Perhaps the magic innate in Narsil created a buffer protecting Isildur,
> yet the strain was enough to break apart the enchantment holding Narsil
> together.

And holding Elendil together??





No need to have anything holding him together. Narsil acted as an insulator.
Sauron is the high voltage line, Narsil is the electrician's glove.

NYT





Bill O'Meally

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Sep 20, 2011, 7:39:02 PM9/20/11
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But why would a broken Narsil protect Isildur, but an intact Narsil not
protect Elendil?

Bill O'Meally

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Sep 20, 2011, 7:49:36 PM9/20/11
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On 2011-09-20 11:53:17 -0500, sean_q said:
> > You forgot one passage which, in my opinion, makes it quite clear
> > that there was a Bronze Age in Middle-earth. It's from "In the House
> > of Tom Bombadil", and I think it is hauntingly beautiful. Tom tells
> > the hobbits about ancient times:
>
> > "Kings of little kingdoms fought together, and the young Sun
> > shone like fire on the red metal of their new and greedy swords."

Hauntingly beautiful indeed. It's been too long that I have read any
Tolkien. I have been reading George RR Martin lately, and though he
tells a great story, his prose just does not match up to Tolkien's for
its pure beauty.

Morgoth's Curse

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Sep 21, 2011, 4:53:30 AM9/21/11
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On Tue, 20 Sep 2011 08:53:17 -0800, sean_q <no....@no.spam> wrote:

>This would be a good place to quote Öjevind Lång, replying on July 21,
>2009 to my posting "Bronze Age Middle Earth":
>
> > You forgot one passage which, in my opinion, makes it quite clear
> > that there was a Bronze Age in Middle-earth. It's from "In the House
> > of Tom Bombadil", and I think it is hauntingly beautiful. Tom tells
> > the hobbits about ancient times:
>
> > "Kings of little kingdoms fought together, and the young Sun
> > shone like fire on the red metal of their new and greedy swords."

Is this passage truly evidence that the Numenorean swords were
made of bronze? We know that Tolkien was fond of using metaphors and
in this case the "red metal of their new and greedy swords" could
merely mean that the swords were stained with blood.

Morgoth's Curse

Stan Brown

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Sep 21, 2011, 7:40:38 AM9/21/11
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Good point. It was made by the Noldor, who had learned metallurgy
from Aulë. I think we can take it as read that their swords were
even better than Man-made ones.

Stan Brown

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Sep 21, 2011, 7:42:58 AM9/21/11
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On Tue, 20 Sep 2011 08:53:17 -0800, sean_q wrote:
> Thanks for the replies everyone. I'm not claiming that Narsil
> was bronze, only that it might have been.

I don't think even the claim that it might have been is tenable. The
Noldor had a higher level of technology.

Remember also that swords made in Gondolin, at least some of them,
shone brightly in the presence of enemies. (It might well have been
all, since even Bilbo's little knife had that property.) We can
think of steel shining, but nor bronze.

Mike Scott Rohan

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Sep 21, 2011, 8:00:43 AM9/21/11
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On Sep 21, 9:53 am, Morgoth's Curse
<morgothscurse2...@nospam.yahoo.com> wrote:
> On Tue, 20 Sep 2011 08:53:17 -0800, sean_q <no.s...@no.spam> wrote:
> >This would be a good place to quote jevind L ng, replying on July 21,
> >2009 to my posting "Bronze Age Middle Earth":
>
> > > You forgot one passage which, in my opinion, makes it quite clear
> > > that there was a Bronze Age in Middle-earth. It's from "In the House
> > > of Tom Bombadil", and I think it is hauntingly beautiful. Tom tells
> > > the hobbits about ancient times:
>
> > > "Kings of little kingdoms fought together, and the young Sun
> > > shone like fire on the red metal of their new and greedy swords."
>
>         Is this passage truly evidence that the Numenorean swords were
> made of bronze?  We know that Tolkien was fond of using metaphors and
> in this case the "red metal of their new and greedy swords" could
> merely mean that the swords were stained with blood.
>
> Morgoth's Curse

Except that this bronze age seems to have come *after* an age of steel
and much else, if anything a degenerate technology rather than a
developing one. That's why I think Tolkien stressed that the swords
were new, like the little north-kingdoms that arose in the ruins of
the old, but without its resources, supplies, and skills. It seems
they reverted to bronze because they no longer had the skill of
working steel, or perhaps no access to ore or raw metal through trade,
either with other men or dwarves.

Cheers,

Mike

Mike Scott Rohan

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Sep 21, 2011, 8:00:52 AM9/21/11
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Yes -- but aren't both extremes possible, between outer and inner, in
a quasi-demonic body? No normal body can approach red heat, after all,
so there's no saying what Sauron's was actually like. Fire and
shadow, like the Balrog, is the closest guess, and the Balrog could
exist at both extreme heat and cold. If Sairon, pierced, went from one
to the other, that alone could shatter the blade! But that's devil's
advocate stuff; as I said, I think we have to attribute both
shattering and evaporating to different aspects of magic.

Cheers,

Mike

derek

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Sep 21, 2011, 8:59:27 AM9/21/11
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On Sep 21, 5:53 am, Morgoth's Curse
<morgothscurse2...@nospam.yahoo.com> wrote:
> On Tue, 20 Sep 2011 08:53:17 -0800, sean_q <no.s...@no.spam> wrote:
> >This would be a good place to quote jevind L ng, replying on July 21,
> >2009 to my posting "Bronze Age Middle Earth":
>
> > > You forgot one passage which, in my opinion, makes it quite clear
> > > that there was a Bronze Age in Middle-earth. It's from "In the House
> > > of Tom Bombadil", and I think it is hauntingly beautiful. Tom tells
> > > the hobbits about ancient times:
>
> > > "Kings of little kingdoms fought together, and the young Sun
> > > shone like fire on the red metal of their new and greedy swords."
>
>         Is this passage truly evidence that the Numenorean swords were
> made of bronze?  We know that Tolkien was fond of using metaphors and
> in this case the "red metal of their new and greedy swords" could
> merely mean that the swords were stained with blood.

I'd tend to agree. If it were just "red metal of their new swords",
I'd be sure it implied bronze, but "greedy" certainly suggests they're
covered in blood.

derek

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Sep 21, 2011, 9:03:42 AM9/21/11
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On Sep 21, 8:42 am, Stan Brown <the_stan_br...@fastmail.fm> wrote:
> On Tue, 20 Sep 2011 08:53:17 -0800, sean_q wrote:
> > Thanks for the replies everyone. I'm not claiming that Narsil
> > was bronze, only that it might have been.
>
> I don't think even the claim that it might have been is tenable.  The
> Noldor had a higher level of technology.
>
> Remember also that swords made in Gondolin, at least some of them,
> shone brightly in the presence of enemies.  (It might well have been
> all, since even Bilbo's little knife had that property.)  We can
> think of steel shining, but nor bronze.

That "shining" appears to be actual emission of light, not reflection,
so why would steel do it any more than bronze? However, bronze is
certainly reflective enough to be considered "shiny". Bronze was used
for mirrors in bronze-age Greece (and no doubt elsewhere, but I know
of Greek examples).

derek

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Sep 21, 2011, 9:09:33 AM9/21/11
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On Sep 21, 8:42 am, Stan Brown <the_stan_br...@fastmail.fm> wrote:
> On Tue, 20 Sep 2011 08:53:17 -0800, sean_q wrote:
> > Thanks for the replies everyone. I'm not claiming that Narsil
> > was bronze, only that it might have been.
>
> I don't think even the claim that it might have been is tenable.  The
> Noldor had a higher level of technology.
>
> Remember also that swords made in Gondolin, at least some of them,
> shone brightly in the presence of enemies.  (It might well have been
> all, since even Bilbo's little knife had that property.)  We can
> think of steel shining, but nor bronze.

Mike Scott Rohan

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Sep 21, 2011, 7:45:39 AM9/21/11
to
You're right, of course -- "Telchar wrought it in the deeps of
time..." But I think it would still be steel, of some kind. Unless the
elves made swords of lighter metal, mithril maybe, rather as modern
movie swords are made of aircraft aluminium alloys (in Ladyhawke, for
example). But there's nothing to suggest it was so peculiar; and isn't
Boromir's sword described as being "like to Anduril but of less
lineage"? (from memory). If it were of some wholly arcane metal, it
would surely have been mentioned in the description of its reforging.
(Although this is kept almost offhand, admittedly, presumably because
Tolkien didn't want to be seen imitating Wagner's Siegfried.)

Cheers,

Mike
Message has been deleted

Paul S. Person

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Sep 21, 2011, 12:57:25 PM9/21/11
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On Wed, 21 Sep 2011 06:09:33 -0700 (PDT), derek <de...@pointerstop.ca>
wrote:
It's the Elvish technology ("magic") that produces the shining, not
the steel. So you are correct, of course; it is not the steel as such
that shines when enemies are near.

Bronze mirrors were not very good -- hence "through a glass, darkly".
--
"I begin to miss Öjevind."
"I have missed him long since."

derek

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Sep 21, 2011, 2:09:32 PM9/21/11
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On Sep 21, 1:57 pm, Paul S. Person <psper...@ix.netscom.com.invalid>
wrote:

Sure, and silvered mirrors aren't very good as mirrors either when
they get a little tarnish - but they're still shiny. A polished
bronze mirror, no matter how flawed, can do a pretty good job of
dazzling you when it reflects sunlight.

sean_q

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Sep 21, 2011, 3:50:21 PM9/21/11
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On 9/21/2011 3:42 AM, Stan Brown wrote:

>> I'm not claiming that Narsil
>> was bronze, only that it might have been.
>
> I don't think even the claim that it might have been is tenable.

I can't prove it was bronze, but can you support the above by
demonstrating that it couldn't have been?

> The Noldor had a higher level of technology.

Narsil was made by a dwarf, not the Noldor; back in the First Age
and perhaps with some magical properties. We know that the dwarves
can work at least some magic:

There were toys the like of which they had never seen before,
all beautiful and some obviously magical. Many of them had indeed
been ordered a year before, and had come all the way from
the Mountain and from Dale, and were of real dwarf-make.

SQ

Jim Heckman

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Sep 21, 2011, 6:19:33 PM9/21/11
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On 20-Sep-2011, sean_q <no....@no.spam>
wrote in message <oH2eq.35785$OO1....@newsfe02.iad>:

[...]

> Bronze itself is mentioned only twice: artifacts found by Tom Bombadil
> in a barrow and Faramir's cups or basins in Henneth Annun.

To my dismay, I seem to have mislaid my copy of UT. But wasn't one
of the 7(?) gates on the hidden path to Gondolin made of bronze, as
told in the Coming of Tuor to Gondolin?

[...]

--
Jim Heckman

Bill O'Meally

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Sep 21, 2011, 7:02:55 PM9/21/11
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On 2011-09-21 06:40:38 -0500, Stan Brown said:

>
> Good point. It was made by the Noldor, who had learned metallurgy
> from Aulė. I think we can take it as read that their swords were
> even better than Man-made ones.

Sorry Stan, but Narsil was forged in First-Age Nogrod by the Dwarf Telchar.

Steve Morrison

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Sep 21, 2011, 8:40:43 PM9/21/11
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Good catch.

After a little space they came to a wall yet higher and
stronger than before, and in it was set the Third Gate, the
Gate of Bronze: a great twofold door hung with shields and
plates of bronze, wherein were wrought many figures and strange
signs. Upon the wall above its lintel were three square towers,
roofed and clad with copper that by some device of smith-craft
were ever bright and gleamed as fire in the rays of the red
lamps ranged like torches along the wall. Again silently they
passed the gate, and saw in the court beyond a yet greater
company of guards in mail that glowed like dull fire; and the
blades of their axes were red. Of the kindred of the Sindar of
Nevrast for the most part were those that held this gate.
["Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin"]

Stan Brown

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Sep 23, 2011, 6:51:26 PM9/23/11
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On Wed, 21 Sep 2011 18:02:55 -0500, Bill O'Meally wrote:
>
> On 2011-09-21 06:40:38 -0500, Stan Brown said:
>
> >
> > Good point. It was made by the Noldor, who had learned metallurgy
> > from Aulė. I think we can take it as read that their swords were
> > even better than Man-made ones.
>
> Sorry Stan, but Narsil was forged in First-Age Nogrod by the Dwarf Telchar.

Thanks for the correction. I don't think it actually destroys my
main point, though. Weren't the Dwarves, at least at their height,
equal in metalworking to the greatest of the Noldor?

Thomas Koenig

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Sep 24, 2011, 2:47:08 AM9/24/11
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Mike Scott Rohan <mike.sco...@asgardpublishing.co.uk> schrieb:
> Bronze -- the "red metal" of the degenerate
> petty Northern kingdom's swords

I have wondered through this thread - why would bronze be described
as red? Copper, yes, but bronze?

Mike Scott Rohan

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Sep 24, 2011, 9:46:17 AM9/24/11
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On Sep 24, 7:47 am, Thomas Koenig <tkoe...@netcologne.de> wrote:
> Mike Scott Rohan <mike.scott.ro...@asgardpublishing.co.uk> schrieb:
Well, my bronze sword, Scottish-forged, has a definitely reddish
lustre -- much darker than some Thai bronze cutlery I brought back
many years ago, so the aspect seems to change with the alloy. And when
the sun catches the sword on the stairway wall the flash is distinctly
red. Museum swords, where not too tarnished to tell, generally tend to
a darker, redder shade, too.

Cheers,

Mike

Stan Brown

unread,
Sep 24, 2011, 3:45:14 PM9/24/11
to

I don't understand literary color descriptions in general. "The
wine-dark sea"? Unless Homer was familiar with blue wine, or the sea
was red, I don't get it.

And while Tolkien's "red metal" is unique in my experience, I
remember seeing several authors use the phrase "red gold". I'm
sorry, but in the words of Lord Blackadder, "The color of gold ... is
gold."

Taemon

unread,
Sep 25, 2011, 4:41:54 AM9/25/11
to
Stan Brown wrote:

> I don't understand literary color descriptions in general. "The
> wine-dark sea"? Unless Homer was familiar with blue wine, or the sea
> was red, I don't get it.
> And while Tolkien's "red metal" is unique in my experience, I
> remember seeing several authors use the phrase "red gold". I'm
> sorry, but in the words of Lord Blackadder, "The color of gold ... is
> gold."

Well, there is such a thing as red gold... Hey, look what I saw on
Wikipedia: "During ancient times, due to impurities in the smelting process,
gold frequently turned a reddish color. This is why many Greco-Roman texts,
and even many texts from the Middle Ages, describe gold as "red".[citation
needed]"

I think "olive skin" is the weirdest of them all.

T.


Thomas Koenig

unread,
Sep 25, 2011, 5:19:17 AM9/25/11
to
Taemon <Tae...@zonnet.nl> schrieb:

> Well, there is such a thing as red gold... Hey, look what I saw on
> Wikipedia: "During ancient times, due to impurities in the smelting process,
> gold frequently turned a reddish color. This is why many Greco-Roman texts,
> and even many texts from the Middle Ages, describe gold as "red".[citation
> needed]"

So, the swords in question were made from gold. I don't know of any other
gold swords except in Minecraft, but even those don't last very long.

No wonder the petty kindoms fell, if this was their dominant weapons
technology.

Taemon

unread,
Sep 25, 2011, 11:46:48 AM9/25/11
to
Thomas Koenig wrote:

> Taemon <Tae...@zonnet.nl> schrieb:
>> Well, there is such a thing as red gold... Hey, look what I saw on
>> Wikipedia: "During ancient times, due to impurities in the smelting
>> process, gold frequently turned a reddish color. This is why many
>> Greco-Roman texts, and even many texts from the Middle Ages,
>> describe gold as "red".[citation needed]"
> So, the swords in question were made from gold. I don't know of any
> other gold swords except in Minecraft, but even those don't last very
> long.

There was no mention of golden swords.

Anyway, bronze can be red, can it not? Depending on the amount of copper in
the alloy?

T.


sean_q

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Sep 25, 2011, 1:15:31 PM9/25/11
to
On 9/25/2011 7:46 AM, Taemon wrote:

> Anyway, bronze can be red, can it not? Depending on
> the amount of copper in the alloy?

As well as impurities, intentional or otherwise.

SQ

Paul S. Person

unread,
Sep 25, 2011, 1:17:02 PM9/25/11
to
On Sat, 24 Sep 2011 15:45:14 -0400, Stan Brown
<the_sta...@fastmail.fm> wrote:

>On Sat, 24 Sep 2011 06:47:08 +0000 (UTC), Thomas Koenig wrote:
>>
>> Mike Scott Rohan <mike.sco...@asgardpublishing.co.uk> schrieb:
>> > Bronze -- the "red metal" of the degenerate
>> > petty Northern kingdom's swords
>>
>> I have wondered through this thread - why would bronze be described
>> as red? Copper, yes, but bronze?
>
>I don't understand literary color descriptions in general. "The
>wine-dark sea"? Unless Homer was familiar with blue wine, or the sea
>was red, I don't get it.

In the long-departed Days of My Youth, I once read a book on
Spiritualism, written by an "expert".

He suggested that, in the course of time, the human being's senses
become more sensitive, explaining why really subtle things like auras
(IIRC; it could have been spirit guides) only became detectable in the
19th century (Madame Ouspenskaya, IIRC).

One of the "proofs" of this argument was, precisely, Homers' "wine-red
sea", which was alleged to show that man's sense of sight could not
distinguish between red and blue in Homer's time but had become far
more sensitive since them.

As to the phrase itself, presumably, it was a traditional
catch-phrase, quite possibly much older than Homer. Or (in Homeric
Greek, of course) it just fit the scansion better than anything else
the old boy could come up with. Poetry, after all, is rife with such
oddities. Incomprehensible phrases that fit the meter and improbable
rhymes are quite common, indeed, are almost required for the poem to
be considered "art".
--
"'If God foreknew that this would happen,
it will happen.'"

O. Sharp

unread,
Sep 25, 2011, 2:37:06 PM9/25/11
to
Taemon <Tae...@zonnet.nl> writes:

> Stan Brown wrote:
>
>> And while Tolkien's "red metal" is unique in my experience, I
>> remember seeing several authors use the phrase "red gold". I'm
>> sorry, but in the words of Lord Blackadder, "The color of gold ... is
>> gold."
>
> Well, there is such a thing as red gold... Hey, look what I saw on
> Wikipedia: "During ancient times, due to impurities in the smelting process,
> gold frequently turned a reddish color. This is why many Greco-Roman texts,
> and even many texts from the Middle Ages, describe gold as "red".[citation
> needed]"

You don't even have to go back that many years. K's engagement ring, which
came down a couple generations of our family, is gold with a reddish
tinge. When I first took it to get it resized for her, the jeweler
described it as "rose-gold", which evidently is the official designation.

I'm not sure I would want to use Blackadder as a definitive research
source. :)

-------------------------------------------------------------------
o...@panix.com "_Lord Of The Rings_, Baldrick? Of _course_ I've
read it! Some Ring throws a Dwarf into a fire or
something."

Dworkin

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Sep 25, 2011, 3:34:26 PM9/25/11
to
On Sep 18, 7:57 am, sean_q <no.s...@no.spam> wrote:
> It isn't easy to break an iron sword...
>
>    "I [Elrond] beheld the last combat on the slopes of Orodruin, where
>    Gil-galad died, and Elendil fell, and Narsil broke beneath him;
>
> If Narsil was that breakable maybe it was bronze. Here's more evidence:
>
>    Very bright was that sword when it was  made whole again;
>    the light of the sun shone REDly in it <-----[my caps]
>
> My thanks and acknowledgment to the late Öjevind Lång for pointing out
> a reference (in Tom Bombadil's talk) to Middle Earth's Bronze Age
> a while ago.
>
> SQ

In my knowledge the color of a metal's appearance is not only
determined by the color of the metal itself but can also be a
consequence of the surface treatment.
I can not imagine why a warrior would choose a copper alloy over
tempered steel for a sword, unless he is suicidal.
A steel sword may be hardened on the cutting edge by means of a hot
tempering treatment, which improves the toughness after quenching,
but, dependent of the tempering agent, may also influence the color of
the metal surface.
A black sword, for instance, may contain about 0.8 % carbon which
renders it very strong and tough. On etching with nitric acid, this
steel turns black. So there is no need to refer to meteoritic iron,
assumed that the forgers (elves, dwarves, numenoreans) knew how to
prepare steel.
Steel can also turn yellowish or brown under phosphates, bright
yellow under chromates, and personally I have seen it turn slightly
pink under perchlorate. All these agents serve to prevent rusting, so
might be reapplied after rehardening and grinding.
Why did Narsil break? I do not think about a flaw in the steel. When
bent over the wrong axis any steel blade can break.
Still it is tempting to consider if Sauron had special magic powers to
crumble or vaporize steel, like the Wizard King did to Frodo's sword,
even from a distance. It occurs to me that the power of evil is often
associated with iron.
Then why could Sauron, assumed he had wielded his magic to damage
Narsil, be taken by surprise by an enemy and a sword he thought he had
slain?

What did he reach for that brought him into the swing of Isildur?
What was on the cutting edge of Narsil that did not crumble and even
cut through the hide and armor of Sauron?

John W Kennedy

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Sep 25, 2011, 4:01:25 PM9/25/11
to
On 2011-09-25 17:17:02 +0000, Paul S. Person said:
> He suggested that, in the course of time, the human being's senses
> become more sensitive, explaining why really subtle things like auras
> (IIRC; it could have been spirit guides) only became detectable in the
> 19th century (Madame Ouspenskaya, IIRC).
>
> One of the "proofs" of this argument was, precisely, Homers' "wine-red
> sea", which was alleged to show that man's sense of sight could not
> distinguish between red and blue in Homer's time but had become far
> more sensitive since them.

Exploded by linguists long ago. There are languages even today with no
words for colors beyond "light" and "dark", but the speakers of those
languages can perceive colors just as accurately as we can; they just
don't have names for 'em. Even in the industrialized world, there are
differences. Few languages have a word for "pink", and the word
"orange" entered English only a few centuries ago. On the other hand,
Russian has two different words for the color of the sky and the color
of a blueberry, while in Welsh grass and the sky are traditionally the
same color (though, under cultural pressure from English, Welsh colors
are realigning).

--
John W Kennedy
"You can, if you wish, class all science-fiction together; but it is
about as perceptive as classing the works of Ballantyne, Conrad and W.
W. Jacobs together as the 'sea-story' and then criticizing _that_."
-- C. S. Lewis. "An Experiment in Criticism"

John W Kennedy

unread,
Sep 25, 2011, 4:10:53 PM9/25/11
to

That assumption is a big one. Back in 1980, the NJ State Council on the
Arts decided to make one grant do double duty by paying a craft
blacksmith to make swords and then donating them to the NJ Shakespeare
Festival (1963-1990, R.I.P.). Within 24 hours of their delivery, half
had broken, and the rest were bent--the hard way. It seems that swords
are a little more difficult to make than horseshoes.

--
John W Kennedy
Having switched to a Mac in disgust at Microsoft's combination of
incompetence and criminality.

derek

unread,
Sep 25, 2011, 9:04:14 PM9/25/11
to
On Sep 24, 4:45 pm, Stan Brown <the_stan_br...@fastmail.fm> wrote:
> On Sat, 24 Sep 2011 06:47:08 +0000 (UTC), Thomas Koenig wrote:
>
> > Mike Scott Rohan <mike.scott.ro...@asgardpublishing.co.uk> schrieb:
> > > Bronze -- the "red metal" of the degenerate
> > > petty Northern kingdom's swords
>
> > I have wondered through this thread - why would bronze be described
> > as red?  Copper, yes, but bronze?
>
> I don't understand literary color descriptions in general.  "The
> wine-dark sea"?  Unless Homer was familiar with blue wine, or the sea
> was red, I don't get it.

You haven't spent as much time as I have, washing out wine glasses.
Take a glass with just a trace of red wine in it, add a drop of
water. What you get is invariably _blue_. I'm still trying to figure
that out, but I suspect there's a causal relationship here.

> And while Tolkien's "red metal" is unique in my experience, I
> remember seeing several authors use the phrase "red gold".  I'm
> sorry, but in the words of Lord Blackadder, "The color of gold ... is
> gold."

Yes, I've always loved that one. Fantasy writers are completely in-
love with the concept of "red gold" - to the extent that Stephen
Donaldson felt it worthwhile to make "white gold" the centre of his
masterwork.

derek

unread,
Sep 25, 2011, 9:10:18 PM9/25/11
to
On Sep 25, 5:01 pm, John W Kennedy <jwke...@attglobal.net> wrote:

> On the other hand,
> Russian has two different words for the color of the sky and the color
> of a blueberry

I always love these.

English has different words for the color of the sky and the color of
blueberries, too. Blueberries, in my experience, are blue. The sky,
however, may be azure or cerulean. Or red.

And Eskimos (silly, that, since "Eskimos" have a number of different
languages) have 47 words for snow. Of course, you can probably work
out that many in English, too.

derek

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Sep 25, 2011, 9:26:44 PM9/25/11
to
On Sep 25, 3:37 pm, "O. Sharp" <o...@panix.com> wrote:

> I'm not sure I would want to use Blackadder as a definitive research
> source.  :)

Get out! Next you'll be saying I can't rely on Wikipedia.

Steve Morrison

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Sep 26, 2011, 12:20:50 AM9/26/11
to
derek wrote:

> And Eskimos (silly, that, since "Eskimos" have a number of different
> languages) have 47 words for snow. Of course, you can probably work
> out that many in English, too.

Well, that last factoid is questionable, since the Arctic languages
are polysynthetic, meaning they can and do form an indefinite number
of words from any given root. This page has a decent discussion:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/000405.html

Julian Bradfield

unread,
Sep 26, 2011, 4:03:01 AM9/26/11
to
On 2011-09-26, derek <de...@pointerstop.ca> wrote:
> On Sep 25, 5:01 pm, John W Kennedy <jwke...@attglobal.net> wrote:
>> On the other hand,
>> Russian has two different words for the color of the sky and the color
>> of a blueberry
>
> I always love these.
>
> English has different words for the color of the sky and the color of
> blueberries, too. Blueberries, in my experience, are blue. The sky,
> however, may be azure or cerulean. Or red.

The point is so-called "primary colour terms". In English, azure and
cerulean are not primary - anything that is either of those, is also
blue. In Russian, something that we would call "blue" is
(supposedly) necessarily either "sinij" (синий) `deep blue, indigo' or
"goluboj" (голубой) `(light) blue'.
However, the word for blueberry (or other blue berries) is голубика.

Curiously, голубой is transparently derived from the word for pigeon,
and is etymologically just "the colour of a pigeon's (neck?)
plumage". However, like "orange" in English (from the fruit), it's now
seen as a primary colour term.

If anybody's really curious, I could subject one of my Russian friends
to a colour matching test...

derek

unread,
Sep 26, 2011, 9:07:21 AM9/26/11
to
On Sep 26, 5:03 am, Julian Bradfield <j...@inf.ed.ac.uk> wrote:
> On 2011-09-26, derek <de...@pointerstop.ca> wrote:
>
> > On Sep 25, 5:01 pm, John W Kennedy <jwke...@attglobal.net> wrote:
> >> On the other hand,
> >> Russian has two different words for the color of the sky and the color
> >> of a blueberry
>
> > I always love these.
>
> > English has different words for the color of the sky and the color of
> > blueberries, too.  Blueberries, in my experience, are blue.  The sky,
> > however, may be azure or cerulean.  Or red.
>
> The point is so-called "primary colour terms". In English, azure and
> cerulean are not primary - anything that is either of those, is also
> blue. In Russian, something that we would call "blue" is
> (supposedly) necessarily either "sinij" (синий) `deep blue, indigo' or
> "goluboj" (голубой) `(light) blue'.

OK, I see your point (and note your hint of scepticism), but I'm sure
if I disturb the little gray cells a little I can think of more than
one similar example where in English we have two different words where
another language uses only one. Or vice versa.

derek

unread,
Sep 26, 2011, 9:04:12 AM9/26/11
to
On Sep 26, 1:20 am, Steve Morrison <rima...@toast.net> wrote:
> derek wrote:
> > And Eskimos (silly, that, since "Eskimos" have a number of different
> > languages) have 47 words for snow.  Of course, you can probably work
> > out that many in English, too.
>
> Well, that last factoid is questionable, since the Arctic languages
> are polysynthetic, meaning they can and do form an indefinite number
> of words from any given root.

Of COURSE it's questionable! That was rather my point. I was
questioning the idea that Russian has merely two different words for
blue in sky and blueberries (it could be true, it just seems unlikely
to someone who knows a fair bit about English etymology but nothing
about Russian). It's not the sort of thing you can accurately say
about many languages. English is not - if I understand you correctly
- "polysynthetic", but it isn't above creating an indefinite number of
words from any root (that is, we commonly turn phrases into
hyphenations, and then into single compounds - it's a slower process
than German [which I presume _is_ polysynthetic] which would simply
add an entire sentence and drop the spacing). Additionally, I'd be
really surprised if there aren't 47 different local English variants
of words for snow derived from other languages

Paul S. Person

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Sep 26, 2011, 1:02:42 PM9/26/11
to
On Sun, 25 Sep 2011 18:04:14 -0700 (PDT), derek <de...@pointerstop.ca>
wrote:

>On Sep 24, 4:45 pm, Stan Brown <the_stan_br...@fastmail.fm> wrote:
>> On Sat, 24 Sep 2011 06:47:08 +0000 (UTC), Thomas Koenig wrote:
>>
>> > Mike Scott Rohan <mike.scott.ro...@asgardpublishing.co.uk> schrieb:
>> > > Bronze -- the "red metal" of the degenerate
>> > > petty Northern kingdom's swords
>>
>> > I have wondered through this thread - why would bronze be described
>> > as red?  Copper, yes, but bronze?
>>
>> I don't understand literary color descriptions in general.  "The
>> wine-dark sea"?  Unless Homer was familiar with blue wine, or the sea
>> was red, I don't get it.
>
>You haven't spent as much time as I have, washing out wine glasses.
>Take a glass with just a trace of red wine in it, add a drop of
>water. What you get is invariably _blue_. I'm still trying to figure
>that out, but I suspect there's a causal relationship here.

Newton (I happen to be reading his /Optics/ at the moment) would
explain it (if I understand him correctly) by the addition of water
changing the reflectivity (if you are looking at it) or refrangibility
(if you are looking through it) of the wine and/or changing which rays
are being absorbed. He's pretty vague because he has figured out that
it isn't that the rays are bouncing off of the actual surface, but
that leaves ... nothing to be causing it -- that is, some unspecified
property, not related to the surface or the particles composing the
substance, is said to be causing it, but he has no idea what it might
be.

If you are wondering why it can't be the surface, he points out that a
polished glass surface, which is a very good mirror, is, in fact, a
complete mass of defects and only looks smooth because the defects are
so small. If, then, the light bounced off the surface, it would be
scattered by these defects in all directions, while, in fact, it
bounces back and forms a coherent image. And it cannot be the
components because, if the components of a transparent object affected
the light, then that object would not be transparent but, at best,
milky and, at worst, opaque.

Since light is (if I have this right) in current theory (and quite
likely in reality as well, given how well this theory works) a set of
electromagnetic waves, rather than a collection of "rays", presumably
the effect involves a change in some electromagnetic property of the
liquid.

Paul S. Person

unread,
Sep 26, 2011, 1:21:12 PM9/26/11
to
On Sun, 25 Sep 2011 16:01:25 -0400, John W Kennedy
<jwk...@attglobal.net> wrote:

>On 2011-09-25 17:17:02 +0000, Paul S. Person said:
>> He suggested that, in the course of time, the human being's senses
>> become more sensitive, explaining why really subtle things like auras
>> (IIRC; it could have been spirit guides) only became detectable in the
>> 19th century (Madame Ouspenskaya, IIRC).
>>
>> One of the "proofs" of this argument was, precisely, Homers' "wine-red
>> sea", which was alleged to show that man's sense of sight could not
>> distinguish between red and blue in Homer's time but had become far
>> more sensitive since them.
>
>Exploded by linguists long ago. There are languages even today with no
>words for colors beyond "light" and "dark", but the speakers of those
>languages can perceive colors just as accurately as we can; they just
>don't have names for 'em. Even in the industrialized world, there are
>differences. Few languages have a word for "pink", and the word
>"orange" entered English only a few centuries ago. On the other hand,
>Russian has two different words for the color of the sky and the color
>of a blueberry, while in Welsh grass and the sky are traditionally the
>same color (though, under cultural pressure from English, Welsh colors
>are realigning).

The assertion was not that they didn't have the words needed to do so;
the assertion was that THEY COULD NOT SEE THE DIFFERENCE WITH THEIR
VERY OWN EYES. Sorry for shouting at you. I realize that the proposal
is so ludicrous that you naturally took it to mean something other
than what it actually meant.

I very much doubt that linguists have anything to say about this
except, perhaps, to note that, if the colors could not be
distinguished, there would be no need for separate words.

Evolutionary biologists, on the other hand, would surely regard it as
unlikely that human visual perception could develop from not seeing
any difference between blue and red to the point where they could do
so today in so short a time (Homer would have been, what, 800 BC? 2900
years ago?).

Of course, not everyone sees colors the same way. Many forms of color
blindness, as I understand it, exist, depending on just what colors
can and can not be distinguished.

As to the phrase itself, I believe it is simply a catch-phrase, that
is, a description of the deep sea which had become traditional long
before Homer and is used by him (or them, there is, IIRC, some doubt
as to an actual Homer existing) simply because it is expected, not
because it is intended to convey any actual meaning.

Russian also has two different phrases for "Red Square"; if you are
only familiar with one of them, read the Arkady Renko novel /Red
Square/ and you will learn of the other.

At some point I heard an interesting story: in the mid-19th century, a
certain group of workers were given privileged positions. These
workers could tell, by looking a the steel, when it was ready to pour,
something most workers could not do. They could see many more shades
of color than most people could. And it was hereditary: their sons
often had the same trait (their daughters, of course, did not work in
steel mills in the middle of the 19th century).

John W Kennedy

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Sep 26, 2011, 1:41:36 PM9/26/11
to
On 2011-09-26 01:10:18 +0000, derek said:

> On Sep 25, 5:01 pm, John W Kennedy <jwke...@attglobal.net> wrote:
>
>> On the other hand,
>> Russian has two different words for the color of the sky and the color
>> of a blueberry
>
> I always love these.
>
> English has different words for the color of the sky and the color of
> blueberries, too. Blueberries, in my experience, are blue. The sky,
> however, may be azure or cerulean. Or red.

"Azure" and "cerulean" are not basic color words in the way that "pink"
is. We do not object to hearing azure and cerulean things called
"blue", but we only call pink things "red" when we're trying to win an
argument.

John W Kennedy

unread,
Sep 26, 2011, 1:56:56 PM9/26/11
to
On 2011-09-26 13:04:12 +0000, derek said:

> On Sep 26, 1:20 am, Steve Morrison <rima...@toast.net> wrote:
>> derek wrote:
>>> And Eskimos (silly, that, since "Eskimos" have a number of different
>>> languages) have 47 words for snow.  Of course, you can probably work
>>> out that many in English, too.
>>
>> Well, that last factoid is questionable, since the Arctic languages
>> are polysynthetic, meaning they can and do form an indefinite number
>> of words from any given root.
>
> Of COURSE it's questionable! That was rather my point. I was
> questioning the idea that Russian has merely two different words for
> blue in sky and blueberries (it could be true, it just seems unlikely
> to someone who knows a fair bit about English etymology but nothing
> about Russian).

Etymology has nothing to do with it at all; it's a question of the
mental model.

> It's not the sort of thing you can accurately say
> about many languages. English is not - if I understand you correctly
> - "polysynthetic", but it isn't above creating an indefinite number of
> words from any root (that is, we commonly turn phrases into
> hyphenations, and then into single compounds - it's a slower process
> than German [which I presume _is_ polysynthetic] which would simply
> add an entire sentence and drop the spacing).

Neither German nor English is polysynthetic. A polysynthetic language
is one in which it is difficult or impossible to make a clear
distinction between the concepts of "word" and "sentence".

> Additionally, I'd be
> really surprised if there aren't 47 different local English variants
> of words for snow derived from other languages

Mere borrowings aren't the issue at hand, which rather involves words
like "snow", "slush", "sleet", "flurries", "powder", etc..

John W Kennedy

unread,
Sep 26, 2011, 1:59:15 PM9/26/11
to
On 2011-09-26 08:03:01 +0000, Julian Bradfield said:

> On 2011-09-26, derek <de...@pointerstop.ca> wrote:
>> On Sep 25, 5:01 pm, John W Kennedy <jwke...@attglobal.net> wrote:
>>> On the other hand,
>>> Russian has two different words for the color of the sky and the color
>>> of a blueberry
>>
>> I always love these.
>>
>> English has different words for the color of the sky and the color of
>> blueberries, too. Blueberries, in my experience, are blue. The sky,
>> however, may be azure or cerulean. Or red.
>
> The point is so-called "primary colour terms". In English, azure and
> cerulean are not primary - anything that is either of those, is also
> blue. In Russian, something that we would call "blue" is
> (supposedly) necessarily either "sinij" (синий) `deep blue, indigo' or
> "goluboj" (голубой) `(light) blue'.
> However, the word for blueberry (or other blue berries) is голубика.

My mistake. I was trying to think of a natural object that is
unquestionably "blue" in English, and there aren't very many.

John W Kennedy

unread,
Sep 26, 2011, 2:02:20 PM9/26/11
to
I gave you one in the first place: "pink".

tenworld

unread,
Sep 26, 2011, 1:47:09 PM9/26/11
to
On Sep 25, 6:04 pm, derek <de...@pointerstop.ca> wrote:
.
>
> You haven't spent as much time as I have, washing out wine glasses.
> Take a glass with just a trace of red wine in it, add a drop of
> water.  What you get is invariably _blue_.  I'm still trying to figure
> that out, but I suspect there's a causal relationship here.

There is blue pigment in red wine just as there is blue in many
roseblooms even though no one has figured out how to grow a true blue
rose.
Any dark red color must have more tha just the primary red. Since
black is a combo of red-green-blue than yes blue is there in wine.

As for the wine-dark sea, well I often drink wine in a darkened room
and a good red really is as dark as a stormy ocean.

John W Kennedy

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Sep 26, 2011, 2:10:41 PM9/26/11
to
I didn't get the assertion wrong, I merely said that it is proven false.

> I very much doubt that linguists have anything to say about this
> except, perhaps, to note that, if the colors could not be
> distinguished, there would be no need for separate words.
>
> Evolutionary biologists, on the other hand, would surely regard it as
> unlikely that human visual perception could develop from not seeing
> any difference between blue and red to the point where they could do
> so today in so short a time (Homer would have been, what, 800 BC? 2900
> years ago?).

That is also true.

>
> Of course, not everyone sees colors the same way. Many forms of color
> blindness, as I understand it, exist, depending on just what colors
> can and can not be distinguished.

>
>
> As to the phrase itself, I believe it is simply a catch-phrase, that
> is, a description of the deep sea which had become traditional long
> before Homer and is used by him (or them, there is, IIRC, some doubt
> as to an actual Homer existing) simply because it is expected, not
> because it is intended to convey any actual meaning.
>
> Russian also has two different phrases for "Red Square"; if you are
> only familiar with one of them, read the Arkady Renko novel /Red
> Square/ and you will learn of the other.
>
> At some point I heard an interesting story: in the mid-19th century, a
> certain group of workers were given privileged positions. These
> workers could tell, by looking a the steel, when it was ready to pour,
> something most workers could not do. They could see many more shades
> of color than most people could. And it was hereditary: their sons
> often had the same trait (their daughters, of course, did not work in
> steel mills in the middle of the 19th century).

Some people have four types of cone, instead of three. To them, the
"color solid" is a tesseract. They are, in fact, mostly women. If you
know someone, probably a woman, who insists that all color photographs
and television are horribly wrong, she is quite possibly a tetrachromat.

sean_q

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Sep 26, 2011, 3:32:43 PM9/26/11
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On 9/26/2011 9:02 AM, Paul S. Person wrote:

> Since light is (if I have this right) in current theory (and quite
> likely in reality as well, given how well this theory works) a set of
> electromagnetic waves

Photons are quantum objects and exhibit both particle and
wave-like properties.

Does Tolkien's Universe conform to the Quantum Theory?
Or is it Newtonian, or what? This has been debated both here
and elsewhere. For instance:

At first he [Sam] could see nothing. In his great need he drew
out once more the phial of Galadriel, but it was pale and cold
in his trembling hand and threw no light into that stifling dark.
He was come to the heart of the realm of Sauron and the forges
of his ancient might, greatest in Middle-earth; all other powers
were here subdued.

This is wonderfully dramatic writing, but debatable physics.
How can that "stifling dark" be explained; was Sammath Naur
an Event Horizon, or were the walls made of some (near) ideal
blackbody material?

SQ

derek

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Sep 26, 2011, 3:38:24 PM9/26/11
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On Sep 26, 2:56 pm, John W Kennedy <jwke...@attglobal.net> wrote:
> On 2011-09-26 13:04:12 +0000, derek said:

> Neither German nor English is polysynthetic. A polysynthetic language
> is one in which it is difficult or impossible to make a clear
> distinction between the concepts of "word" and "sentence".

Er... like in German ?

> >   Additionally, I'd be
> > really surprised if there aren't 47 different local English variants
> > of words for snow derived from other languages
>
> Mere borrowings aren't the issue at hand, which rather involves words
> like "snow", "slush", "sleet", "flurries", "powder", etc..

Well, that's just silly. Of _course_ "mere borrowings" are important
in this context - without them, English wouldn't be English. The
"mere borrowings" are one of the significant reasons why English will
continue to win out over other choices as the world's most important
"second" language.

The real difference in numbers of words for snow in English and
Inuktitut is more closely aligned to mathematics' concept of
"countable" and "uncountable" infinities.

derek

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Sep 26, 2011, 3:42:31 PM9/26/11
to
On Sep 26, 3:02 pm, John W Kennedy <jwke...@attglobal.net> wrote:
> On 2011-09-26 13:07:21 +0000, derek said:
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> > On Sep 26, 5:03 am, Julian Bradfield <j...@inf.ed.ac.uk> wrote:
> >> On 2011-09-26, derek <de...@pointerstop.ca> wrote:
>
> >>> On Sep 25, 5:01 pm, John W Kennedy <jwke...@attglobal.net> wrote:
> >>>> On the other hand,
> >>>> Russian has two different words for the color of the sky and the color
> >>>> of a blueberry
>
> >>> I always love these.
>
> >>> English has different words for the color of the sky and the color of
> >>> blueberries, too.  Blueberries, in my experience, are blue.  The sky,
> >>> however, may be azure or cerulean.  Or red.
>
> >> The point is so-called "primary colour terms". In English, azure and
> >> cerulean are not primary - anything that is either of those, is also
> >> blue. In Russian, something that we would call "blue" is
> >> (supposedly) necessarily either "sinij" (синий) `deep blue, indigo' or
> >> "goluboj" (голубой) `(light) blue'.
>
> > OK, I see your point (and note your hint of scepticism), but I'm sure
> > if I disturb the little gray cells a little I can think of more than
> > one similar example where in English we have two different words where
> > another language uses only one. Or vice versa.
>
> I gave you one in the first place: "pink".

Good one - but you didn't actually "give" me that until I'd already
made my post. Even if you think you did, and timestamps confirm the
precedence, Usenet is not sequential - my post may well reach you
hours after you put yours on the net, but yours may still be
propagating through the ether when I send mine.

derek

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Sep 26, 2011, 3:45:58 PM9/26/11