Tracing the Arkenstone

A Tolkien Fan-theory Essay

What follows is an examination of Tolkien’s famous Arkenstone of Thrain, the Heart of the Lonely Mountain from his book The Hobbit. I wrote this in March of 2005; having recently graduated with an English degree and having time on my hands, I joined a Middle-Earth themed online forum where commenters posted in the personae of denizens of Tolkien’s world in the Fourth Age. Thus the viewpoint of the narrative is that of a Dwarf named “Trumpkin Mahalul” (my character), addressing other Dwarves, and all the references to Tolkien’s works are treated as though Actually and Historically True. I have pruned it slightly for relevance.

Whence came the Heart of the Lonely Mountain, the Arkenstone of Thrain?

What do we know about the Heart of the Mountain, gentle-dwarves and ladies of the Khudzul?  It was found by the children of Durin beneath the Lonely Mountain, and it shown with its own inner light, as even the hobbits attest in the Red Book of Westmarch (p. 201).  It was cut and fashioned by Dwarven hands after it was dug from the mountain, but the internal fire was native to its crystal.  It is said that when Thorin II, Oakenshield returned to the Mountain, (he with whom the stone was buried at last), the only light visible in the great hall of the dwarves when the dragon had fled was from the Arkenstone.  The Hobbits’ records also relate that it took all light that fell upon it and changed it into ten thousand sparks of white radiance shot with glints of the rainbow—the sort of flowery writing a Hobbit would use, of course, but not inaccurate.  The Hobbit was by his own account drawn by its enchantment.  Baggins also states that there could not be two such gems, … in all the world.  More on this later.

When King Thranduril of the Elves of Mirkwood gazed upon the Arkenstone it is said that he stood up in amazement, although in his long reign his eyes were used to things of wonder and beauty.  This qualifies the Arkenstone as a very wondrous jewel indeed.  What kind of a stone must it be to raise an Elf-king, even a lord of the Green Elves and not of the great Eldar, to his feet by the unveiling thereof.  This response has been seen before.

Among the Sindar of Beleriand there was held for a time another jewel so beautiful.  It is said that it was brought to Thingol of Doriath out of the Iron Crown by the work of Beren Ermabwed, at the cost of his hand and of his life.  Beren brought it as dowry for the hand of Luthien Tinuviel whose lay the Elves so often sing, and the tales of the First Age and the Lost Tales of the Elves say much more on these things.  Later it passed into the possession of the Dwarves of Nargothrond for the making of the unhallowed Nauglamír or Nauglafring from the gold of Mím, chief among the Noegyth Nibin who cursed his hoard at his death.  More tales surround that one gem than all others, and even now its radiance can be seen as Eärendil shines in Kheled-zâram at our eastern gate.

In the records of the Eldar’s Elder Days, it is said that the Three Stones of Fëanor even in the darkness … of their own radiance shown like the stars.  But at the same time, they rejoiced in light and received it and gave it back in hues more marvelous than before.  It is also said of their substance that like the crystal of diamonds it appeared, and yet was more strong than adamant, so that no violence could mar or break it within … Arda, that is, within this world beneath the heavens.  Also is it recorded among the Lost Tales (at The Coming of the Elves) that when that jewel-smith of Kôr made the first of the Silmarilli, that it shown with its own wizardous radiance in the uttermost dark; and he set it therein and sat a very long while and gazed at its beauty.  Men and Elves, a Vala and Maiar, have in turns beheld and desired these most beautiful of jewels.  Even our own fathers from Tumunzahar (named Nogrod by the Elves of Doriath) coveted the one they set in Dwarven (though long before, Elvish) gold.  But from the days when the Silmarilli were lost at the breaking of the world, no other gem has burned thus with its own fire, and none has forced an Elf-lord to his feet, but the Arkenstone of Thrain.

But the Arkenstone was cut and fashioned by the dwarves, according to Baggins’ record, who had dug it from the heart of the mountain.  Thus it is apparently not a Silmaril, as these were unbreakable and, by extension, uncuttable.  But look at this:  among the Lost Tales it is told that the body of a Silmaril was of such perfect glass as [Fëanor] alone could make to contain the light of the Trees of Valinor.  Thus the crystal is of a perfect and hardened glass, unmarred by the violence of this world.  But how do we re-temper steel, but with fire?  And what does our weak and ordinary glass do when fire consumes the room?  It melts.  The longer the glass is immured within the fire, the softer it becomes, the more of its shape is lost.  Even the perfect glass of Fëanor may be weakened by fire, given enough heat, and enough time.  It is told in the last chapter of the Records of the Elder Days that after the battle that overthrew the Enemy in Thangorodrim, the two sons of Fëanor who yet lived sought to steal the last of the Silmarilli from the camp of the Valar, but their claim upon them was lost, and the hand of Maedhros who incited the theft was burned by the one he took for himself, as was his brother’s hand who cast the third Silmaril into the sea at last.  But of Maedhros is written that, being in anguish and despair he cast himself into a gaping chasm filled with fire, and so ended; and the Silmaril that he bore was taken into the bosom of the earth.  Thus we are given a Silmaril dropt into fire beyond that of any dragon, or of ANY forge of Elves or Dwarves.  The fire within assuredly protected it in part form the fire without, but not utterly to my mind.  The crystal was changed, and the stains of evil hands were burned away.  There were from the fall of the Hells of Iron to the founding of the Kingdom of Erebor more than an Age—to be precise, the Second Age.  It was thirty-four hundred years, and twoscore and one, from the loss of the Stones of Fëanor to the war of the Last Alliance that ended the Second Age.  Thereafter were a score of centuries, less one year, before Thrain I was crowned first as King Under-the-Mountain, and it was in his days that the Arkenstone was found.  In sum it is fifty-four centuries and twoscore years from the loss of Maedhros in the fire to the finding of the Arkenstone of Thrain, and while there is no record of where Maedhros fell, all Khazad know of the treasure of Erebor and where, in Thorin’s Tomb, may still be found the Heart of the Mountain.  Let no one desecrate the King’s tomb for even such a stone!

Yet I propose that even so, the Arkenstone that lies on Thorin’s breast beneath the Mountain is older than the mountain itself.  Fifty-four hundred and forty years may have demeaned its perfect tempering, that the Dwarves who found it in latter years might cut it to their own hearts’ vision, but the fire in its heart was still that true fire from beyond the world:  mayhap when the Western Lands were lost and Elvenhome was sundered from the mortal shores, (and from all mortal ships save one, and that Eriol’s), the Silmaril itself upthrust in the place where it had fallen—or the place to which the streams of the earth had carried it—and as the Meneltarma of the Númenoreans sank below the sea, the Lonely Mountain of the Dwarves rose up where Maedhros fell, and at its heart the Arkenstone shone in the darkness, the Silmaril of the Khazad.

— Trumpkin Mahalul

[References as follows:

Tolkien, J. R. R.  The Hobbit or, There and Back Again.  Houghton Mifflin: Boston.  (1966. etc.)  Not at Home; A Thief in the Night.

            —–      The Fellowship of the Ring.  Houghton Mifflin: Boston.  (1954, etc.)  Prologue I:  Concerning Hobbits.

            —–      The Return of the King.  Houghton Mifflin: Boston.  (1955 etc.)  Appendix A, III:  Durin’s Folk; Appendix B: The Tale of Years (Chronology of the Westlands).

            —–      The Silmarillion.  Christopher Tolkien, ed.  Del Rey / Ballantine: New York.  (1977 etc.)  Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor; Of Beren and Lúthien; Of the Ruin of Doriath; of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath; Akallabéth.

            —–      The Book of Lost Tales I.  Christopher Tolkien, ed.  Houghton Mifflin: New York.  (1983 etc.)  The Coming of the Elves and the Making of Kôr; Gilfanon’s Tale:  The Travail of the Noldoli and the Coming of Mankind.

            —–      The Book of Lost Tales II.  Christopher Tolkien, ed.  Del Rey / Ballantine: New York.  (1984 etc.)  The Tale of Tinúviel; The Nauglafring; The History of Eriol or Ælfwine and the End of the Tales.

            —–      The Lays of Beleriand.  Christopher Tolkien, ed.  Del Rey / Ballantine: New York.  (1985 etc.)  The Lay of Leithian.]

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