Miscellaneous Items and Objects of Note are things of properly referenced and justified things of interest in Tolkien canon.


300px-The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug - Packing the Dwarves

The Dwarves in barrels

Barrels were used by the Elves of Mirkwood to ship items such as apples, wine, and many other foods. They were shipped back to their origin when emptied via a brook that ran down the middle of the Mirkwood Elves' fortress, where they were pushed into the brook via a portcullis, and then finally float along the Forest River.

Barrels are only mentioned in The Hobbit, when Bilbo Baggins freed the Dwarves from the dungeons by using the Ring to open up the locks of the cells that held the twelve Dwarves while the Elves enjoyed a feast. He went, still wearing the Ring, and found twelve barrels, put some straw in them, and sealed them up. Then the Elves pushed the barrels, which they believe to be empty, into the brook. Bilbo, being unable to go into a barrel himself, grabbed onto the last barrel and held on the bottom, using it as a "life ring". Later, he pulled over another barrel and used the two barrels as a raft. After a meal, the barrels were tied up into a raft, pushed by Elves and finally end up near Lake-town, where they were hauled back to shore by men. At this point, the barrels containing the Dwarves were opened by Bilbo. Thorin, Fíli and Kíli and many of the Dwarves took a while to get back to normal, due to slightly leaky barrels and lack of air. A number seemed only half alive.[1]

Flags and Symbols

There were several flags in Middle-earth;

Friendly Nations

Elvish Nations

Nations of Men

  • The emblem on the banners of Elendil and his heirs was six-pointed stars.
  • Gondor had a white tree on a gray background.
  • The prince of Dol Amroth also had a flag that carried the image of a white ship like a swan on blue water.
  • Rohan's flag was green with a white horse and red-gold icons.[3][4]

Nations of Evil

  • The forces of Morgoth used a field of sable, emblazoned as a symbol.
  • Saruman used a black flag with a hand (the White Hand of Saruman) as his symbol.
  • Mordor's flag was long, large and black, with the Eye of Sauron at the center. The Corsairs of Umbar also used this flag.
  • The Haradrim used a red banner with a black snake on it.[3][4]
  • The Easterlings wielded a banner of red with gold trimmings, and had a silver snake.



Clocks were a form of timekeeping technology of the Shire folk; the Hobbits.

They were very important part of Hobbits every day life [5] as Hobbits had to keep a schedule of when to have their multiple meals or when setting up appointments with others. The hobbits used the term 'o'clock' in the Shire reckoning of time. Clocks were considered a sign of comfort in Hobbit life, and apparently found in every hobbit hole.[6]

Bilbo Baggins kept a clock on the mantelpiece above his fireplace which he and others often placed letters.

Despite the ingenious nature of the technology it has apparently not moved beyond the Shire.

It is said that Hobbits did not understand or like machines more complicated than a forge-bellows, a water-mill, or a hand-loom though they were skilful with tools; but whatever reason clocks were an exception.

Clocks first appear in The Hobbit, but also referenced throughout The Lord of the Rings by the Hobbits.

The mantel clock is a rare bit of modern used technology found in the Middle-earth legendarium appearing to be more advanced than tools and machines that many other races were known to use. It appears anomalous and a bit anachronistic to the technologies used outside the Shire. But it also a plot-tool that helping ground Hobbits into more contemporary everyman characters that young readers can better relate to.

John Rateliff notes in The History of the Hobbit;

Like the Britain of Geoffrey of Monmouth and Aegidius of Ham, Bilbo’s world is full of anachronisms, from policemen on bicycles to mantle clocks; in this The Hobbit resembles works like Dunsany’s ‘The Bird of the Difficult Eye’ and ‘The Long Porter’s Tale’ (both in The Last Book of Wonder [1916]) more than, say, the neo-medieval romances of William Morris.



Matches were a Hobbit tool used to light pipe-weed in their clay smoking pipes.


Matches were not commonly used outside of the Shire. They are said to never have caught on with Dwarves, who only used tinder-boxes. On long journeys tinder-boxes would be more practical as tinder is more readily available; Hobbits tended to run out of matches when they needed them most.

When Bilbo was lost in the Goblin-caves he tried to feel in his pockets for any spare matches but couldn't find any at all - but he realized that the striking of matches and smell of tobacco would have exposed his position to the Goblins.

After leaving the Misty Mountains; the Dwarves had needed Gandalf to light a fire after they lost their tinder-boxes. They commonly use tinder-boxes and had never really took to using matches.

Behind the scenes

The matches are a rare bit of modern used technology found in the Middle-earth legendarium appearing to be more advanced than most races who use flint and tinder. As with clocks, they appear anomalous and a bit anachronistic to the technologies used outside the Shire.

John Rateliff notes in the The History of the Hobbit:

Chapter VI observes that 'Dwarves have never taken to matches even yet' (DAA.159). Whether this line, and the relatively modern touch of Bilbo’s pocket-matches in Chapter V (DAA.116), would have survived in the 1960 Hobbit, had the Fifth Phase reached so far, is an unanswerable question; at any rate, they survived unchanged through the third edition changes of 1966. In real world matches predate fireworks something that Gandalf has introduced to the Shire. As they are based on similar technology it may be possible that matches were introduced to the shire by Gandalf as well.

Narrators and Anachronisms

Express train

The narrator of The Lord of the Rings which is supposed to be Bilbo, Frodo, or later Sam Gamgee compares to dragon fireworks movement to an 'express train', as an analogy (this reference is even in mentioned in the index). It would have to be assumed that later 'editor' (I.E. concept of J.R.R. Tolkien as an "editor" of original documents) would have to be choosing a real-world analog as an 'translation' from the original 'Westron' text.

As this line shows, The Hobbit’s trademark mix of the familiar and the strange is perhaps at its strongest in this chapter: references to pop-guns, trains, tea-parties, and familiar names for days of the week lie alongside wizards, dwarves, dragons, and hobbits, just as the ‘Wild Wireworms of the Chinese’ is juxtaposed against the Battle of the Green Fields and the goblins of Mount Gram. Tolkien had good precedent for his mentions of tobacco and tomatoes;† even the Brothers Grimm allowed potatoes and contemporary coaches into their folk-tales. Some of the so-called anachronisms, however, are nothing of the sort; it is the narrator, not one of the characters in the story, who compares the scream welling up inside Bilbo to a train-whistle, just as in The Lord of the Rings it is again the narrator who compares the noise made by the firework dragon to an express train rushing by (LotR. 40).[7]


In the third edition of 1966, Tolkien changed the tomatoes to pickles (see pp. 777 & 786) but let the tobacco stand, despite having used the less specific ‘pipeweed’ in the sequel. A devoted rather than a heavy smoker himself, Tolkien once recorded an amusing dialogue in praise of tobacco called ‘At the Tobacconist’s’ for the Linguaphone Institute.[8]
Tolkien incorporated one of the changes that first appeared here into the third edition of 1966 (DAA. 41), where tomatoes did indeed become pickles. This change has been the subject of much debate; see, for example, Shippey’s The Road to Middle-earth (expanded edition, page 69), Anderson’s Annotated Hobbit (DAA. 41), et al. The general consensus has been that ‘tomato’ was removed as foreign to the time and place, though this did not prevent Tolkien’s including tobacco earlier in this same chapter, or potatoes in Bilbo’s garden in The Lord of the Rings (LotR. 34), or, for that matter, coffee in the same sentence.† More likely, Tolkien (a keen gardener) thought it too early in the year for tomatoes and simply decided that preserved goods like pickles were more likely to be found in Bilbo’s larder that early in the year. † Although an Old World plant (being native to Africa), coffee as a drink dates from early modern times and was unknown in Europe before the sixteenth century, first appearing in England in 1652, about the same time (circa 1650) that tea arrived in England, having made its way westward from Asia..[9]


  1. The Hobbit, Chapter IX: "Barrels Out of Bond"
  2. The Silmarillion
  3. 3.0 3.1 The Lord of the Rings
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Complete Guide to Middle-earth
  5. 'About a couple of hours after daybreak,' said Sam, ‘and nigh on half past eight by Shire clocks, maybe. J.R.R. Tolkien (2009-04-17). The Lord of the Rings (p. 655). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
  6. I wonder how many breakfasts, and other meals, we have missed inside that nasty clockless, timeless hole?” Tolkien, J.R.R. (2009-04-17). The Hobbit (Kindle Locations 3707-3708). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
  7. The History of the Hobbit, pg
  8. The History of the Hobbit, pg
  9. The History of the Hobbit, pg

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