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I read LOTR again recently and noticed that they mentioned top hats, matches and tomatoes, all items that don't really fit the era. (top hats maybe)

A friend recently mentioned to me that Tolkien regretted including tomatoes in LOTR as they are a relatively newer fruit and not something that fits the time period.

Is there any other time travelling items mentioned in any of JRRT's writings?

Bonus points for any of Tolkien's writings on this topic.

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    Cleverly, most (if not all) of these anachronisms can be explained by Tolkien's in-universe framing device. In other words, they're not anachronisms; Tolkien just used a modern English word in his translation – Jason Baker Sep 18 '15 at 19:55
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    There are potatoes as well as tomatoes. – Mike Scott Sep 18 '15 at 19:58
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    Who says tomatoes are modern?! Maybe they are modern to Europe, but so what? – ThePopMachine Sep 18 '15 at 20:00
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    As dismayed as I am to discover this, it does in fact seem to be Europe. Relevant question: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/22034/… – Dan Sep 18 '15 at 22:00
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    Ah. Europe, then? Europe that us ruled over by the Valar, has crazy orcs and immortal elves constantly ruining each other's shit, cave trolls, balrogs, fire-breathing dragons, an evil overlord Sauron and his rings and ringwraiths, and a weird rogue wizard running around getting up into all the kings' business. But God forbid it has tomatoes. – Misha R Sep 18 '15 at 22:24
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Pop-guns

"Carefully! Carefully!" he said. "It is not like you, Bilbo, to keep friends waiting on the mat, and then open the door like a pop-gun!"
- The Hobbit, Chapter 1: An Unexpected Party

Umbrellas

Frodo [...] escorted her firmly off the premises, after he had relieved her of several small (but rather valuable) articles that had somehow fallen inside her umbrella.
- The Fellowship of the Ring, Chapter 1: A Long-expected Party

And again, also Lobelia:

'"I'll give you Sharkey, you dirty thieving ruffians!" says she, and ups with her umbrella and goes for the leader, near twice her size. So they took her. Dragged her off to the Lockholes, at her age too. They’ve took others we miss more, but there’s no denying she showed more spirit than most.'"
- The Return of the King, Chapter 18: The Scouring of the Shire

Buttoned waistcoats

If Balin noticed that Mr. Baggins' waistcoat was more extensive (and had real gold buttons), Bilbo also noticed that Balin's beard was several inches longer.
- The Hobbit, chapter 19: The Last Stage

Clocks

"If you had dusted the mantelpiece, you would have found this just under the clock," said Gandalf, handing Bilbo a note (written, of course, on his own note-paper).
- The Hobbit, chapter 2: Roast Mutton

Lamps

"Just then I saw the eyes: two pale sort of points, shiny-like, on a hump at the near end of the log... But whether those two lamps spotted me moving and staring, or whether I came to my senses, I don't know."
- The Fellowship of the Ring, chapter 21: The Great River

Golf

He charged the ranks of the goblins of Mount Gram in the Battle of the Green Fields, and knocked their king Golfimbul's head clean off with a wooden club. It sailed a hundred yards through the air and went down a rabbit-hole, and in this way the battle was won and the game of Golf invented at the same moment.
- The Hobbit, chapter 1: An Unexpected Party

Clarinets

Bombur produced a drum from the hall; Bifur and Bofur went out too, and came back with clarinets that they had left among the walking-sticks.
- The Hobbit, chapter 1: An Unexpected Party

Matches

"Raise the Shire!" said Merry. "Now! Wake all our people! They hate all this, you can see: all of them except perhaps one or two rascals, and a few fools that want to be important, but don’t at all understand what is really going on. But Shire-folk have been so comfortable so long they don’t know what to do. They just want a match, though, and they’ll go up in fire."
- The Return of the King, Chapter 18: The Scouring of the Shire

Credit for clarinets and matches to @Richard and his sockpuppet @Buffybot; permission has been given for me to copy this and the other answer will be deleted in 60 days. See chat here and here.

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    There is of course also paper, pens, ink, writing, etc., which are anachronistic in terms of real-world human inventions and development, but not in terms of the in-universe Tolkienite history. A lot of the things you mention here seem to me likely fall in the same category: since Middle Earth had its own history of inventions, there’s no reason they shouldn’t at some point have invented umbrellas and waistcoats, for instance. (Though I agree express trains is probably a stretch.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 18 '15 at 20:04
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    Some of these examples are just illustrative to the modern reader, and do not indicate that these objects actually existed in ME. This is not how the people from ME would have described them. – Jason Hutchinson Sep 18 '15 at 20:29
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    Are umbrellas really that modern? – David Grinberg Sep 18 '15 at 20:52
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    What about gunpowder (which was presumably what was used at the Battle of Helm's Deep) and, of course, fireworks (though both might be considered magical [and, if I recall correctly, Gandalf's fireworks had some behaviors which would require sufficiently advanced technology]). – Paul A. Clayton Sep 18 '15 at 22:28
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There are a number of anachronistic items in Middle Earth

  • The dwarves possess clarinets (invented 1740AD)

Bombur produced a drum from the hall; Bifur and Bofur went out too, and came back with clarinets that they had left among the walking-sticks Dwalin and Balin said: "Excuse me, I left mine in the porch!" - The Hobbit

  • Lobelia owns an umbrella (invented circa 4000BC)

Then there was Lobelia. Poor thing, she looked very old and thin when they rescued her from a dark and narrow cell. She insisted on hobbling out on her own feet; and she had such a welcome, and there was such clapping and cheering when she appeared, leaning on Frodo’s arm but still clutching her umbrella, that she was quite touched, and drove away in tears. - LOTR : The Grey Havens

  • Merry has matches (invented 1826AD)

‘Raise the Shire!’ said Merry. ‘Now! Wake all our people! They hate all this, you can see: all of them except perhaps one or two rascals, and a few fools that want to be important, but don’t at all understand what is really going on. But Shire-folk have been so comfortable so long they don’t know what to do. They just want a match, though, and they’ll go up in fire. The Chief’s Men must know that. They’ll try to stamp on us and put us out quick. We’ve only got a very short time.

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    These references are crappily given: just "The Hobbit", and no source at all for the last one? You're not up to your master's standards! ;-) – Rand al'Thor Sep 18 '15 at 21:22
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If you look at the sentence...

...He took off his party clothes, folded up and wrapped in tissue paper his embroidered silk waistcoat, and put it away. The Fellowship of the Ring "A Long-Expected Party"

We can add Silk and Tissue paper to the anachronistic stuff already mentioned.

Also, according to Wikipedia, embroidery dates to the warring states era of China, thousands of years after LOTR so if you include Waistcoats, that means that the sentence mentions FOUR totally anachronistic elements.


Compare a map of northwestern Middle-earth with a modern map of Europe, north Africa, and western Asia. Obviously one or more catastrophes changed the shapes of lands and seas, mountains and plains, to make the world we know sometime between LOTR and the dawn of history.

So that explains a lot of the anachronistic stuff. It was invented or discovered or developed, lost in the post-LOTR catastrophes, and reinvented, redeveloped and rediscovered thousands of years later.

See also this question and answers:

How did non-native plants find their way to Middle-earth?3

  • 1
    You don't need to date-stamp edits to your answers. – Valorum Sep 21 '15 at 7:46
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    I've taken the liberty of improving the sentence structure. Great answer. – Valorum Sep 21 '15 at 7:54

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