Tolkien Gateway


Ron Miller - Lindion.jpg
"Lindion" by Ron Miller
General Information
Other namesfays, brownies, pixies, leprawns
Locationsmeads, woods, valleys, mountains
PeopleNermir, Tavari, Nandini, Orossi
MembersSacha, Tethil, Tinfang
Physical Description

Sprites, or fays, were creatures only mentioned fleetingly in the earliest versions of the tales of Arda and linguistic writings of the Eldar.[1][2]


[edit] Characteristics

The sprites and fays were part of what apparently was a three-fold division of the lesser Ainu spirits: sylphs (spirits of the air), sprites (spirits of the earth), and water spirits:[1]

About them fared a great host who are the sprites of trees and woods, of dale and forest and mountain-side, or those that sing amid the grass at morning and chant among the standing corn at eve.

...their number is very great: yet must they not be confused with the Eldar, for they were born before the world and are older than its oldest, and are not of it, but laugh at it much, for had they not somewhat to do with its making, so that it is for the most part a play for them.

The poem An Evening in Tavrobel mentions tiny, gleaming spirits that appear dancing[3] alluding to sprites or fays.

[edit] Names and divisions

While "sprites" and "fays" seem to have been the most common names for these creatures, other names were also used: brownies, pixies, and leprawns.[1]

A basic division of four groups of sprites and fays, with their Elvish names, are given as follow:

  1. Nermir: "fays of the meads";[1][4] Gnomish nermil: "a fay that haunts meadows and riverbanks"[2]
  2. Tavari: "sprites of trees and woods",[1] or "fays of the woods";[4] Gnomish tavor: "a wood fay"[2] (Qenya tavar, tavarni "dale-sprites", root TAVA;[5][6] the plural noun tavárin, nominative of tavārin "fay(s) of the woods"[7][8])
  3. Nandini: "fays of the valleys";[1][4] Gnomish nandir: fay of the country" (Qenya nandin)[2]
  4. Orossi: "fays of the mountains"[1][4]

In a poem appear the oromandi, "wood-spirits".[9]

Some other mentions of fays seem rather to be referring to individuals:

  • Ailinóne, a fairy who dwelt in a lily on a pool[5]
  • Nardi, a flower-fairy[5]
  • Sacha, a fire-fay[2] (Qenya Sáya)[2]
  • Tethil, a fay who dwelt in a poppy[2] (Qenya Tetille)[5]
  • Tinfing or Tinfang, the flutist (surnamed Gwarbilin, Birdward); a fay[2]

[edit] Commentary

Based on etymological information, linguists have suggested that Tolkien intended "the wood-fays to 'use' the forest as their home", and that such forests were watched or guarded by the fays.[7]

[edit] Other versions of the legendarium

Sprites and fays are not mentioned in the later versions of the legendarium. Many of the classes of beings referred to in The Book of Lost Tales were superseded by the concept of the Maiar, which were not introduced until the reworking of the Annals of Valinor into the Annals of Aman.[10]

Tolkien had said that as a child (and his children in turn) he always disliked "flower-fairies and fluttering sprites with antennae", a tradition that he traced back to Michael Drayton's Nimphidia, the Court of Faery, which he considered "one of the worst ever written".[11]

[edit] Portrayal in adaptations

1995-8: Middle-earth Collectible Card Game:

The Warrior Ally card "Lindion the Oronín", portraying a unique character, is given the following description: "The fays of the mountains pipe melodies that harmonize with wind and weather, pleasing to the ears of all creatures aloft on wings", apparently inspired by the Orossi (see above). Lindion is playable at the site Stone-circle in the region Old Pûkel Gap.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, "III. The Coming of the Valar and the Building of Valinor", p. 66
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 J.R.R. Tolkien, "I-Lam na-Ngoldathon: The Grammar and Lexicon of the Gnomish Tongue", in Parma Eldalamberon XI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, and Patrick H. Wynne)
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien; Christina Scull & Wayne G. Hammond (eds), The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, "Once upon a Time and An Evening in Tavrobel", pp. 284-5>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, Index
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 J.R.R. Tolkien, "Qenyaqetsa: The Qenya Phonology and Lexicon", in Parma Eldalamberon XII (edited by Carl F. Hostetter, Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, and Patrick H. Wynne)
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, Appendix: Names in the Lost Tales – Part I
  7. 7.0 7.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, "Early Elvish Poetry and Pre-Fëanorian Alphabets", in Parma Eldalamberon XVI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, Patrick H. Wynne, Carl F. Hostetter and Bill Welden), p. 80
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Early Qenya and The Valmaric Script", in Parma Eldalamberon XIV (edited by Carl F. Hostetter, Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, Patrick H. Wynne, and Bill Welden), p. 10
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, "A Secret Vice", pp. 215-6
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Two. The Annals of Aman: Notes [on Section 1]"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien; Verlyn Flieger, Douglas A. Anderson (eds.), Tolkien On Fairy-stories: Expanded edition, with commentary and notes
Legendary Races of Arda
 Animals:  Dumbledors · Gorcrows · Hummerhorns · Pards · Swans of Gorbelgod · Turtle-fish
Dragon-kind:  Great glow-worms · Sea-serpents · Spark-dragons · Were-worms
Evil Races:  Ettens · Giants · Gongs · Half-trolls · Hobgoblins · Ogres · Snow-trolls · Two-headed Trolls
Fairies and Sprites:  Dryads · Leprechauns/Leprawns · Mermaids · Sylphs · White cow
Other:  Badger-folk · Great beasts · Lintips · Mewlips · Nameless Things · Spectres
Individuals:  The Hunter · Lonely Troll · Man in the Moon · The Rider · River-woman · Tarlang · Tim