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In Middle-earth, Elves are bound to the world and will live as long as it lasts. Men are of course mortal, as are Dwarves, Hobbits, Eagles, Trolls, Orcs, Ainur (so it would seem), and, most importantly, foxes. In the early stages of the Ringbearer's Quest, one fox comes across the sleeping Hobbits far from where Hobbits tend to sleep. He finds it rather odd, and we get a peek inside his head for a short monologue.

My question is, do Foxes count as sentient beings of Middle-earth? Are they something more akin to the Eagles, being a representative of a Vala in the wide world?

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    This doesn't exactly answer my question. I'm asking if foxes count as either a Free People or a representative of the Valar (like Eagles).
    – Legoman
    Dec 19, 2018 at 16:40
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    The other question (and its answers) show it's not clear whether the fox is actually senient and therefore that any sub-questions can be happily duped off.
    – Valorum
    Dec 19, 2018 at 16:42
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    Also, extrapolating about all foxes based on this one is going a bit far, isn't it? Dec 19, 2018 at 16:51
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    What to you mean that Ainur are mortal? As far as I can tell, they are no more mortal than elves and maybe less so. Dec 19, 2018 at 17:39
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    @M. A. Golding Respectfully I disagree. Eru being all powerful, it stands to reason that he defined literally everything in Middle-earth, including morality. If he is the writer of the rules of morality, he basically cannot break them, as no matter what he says what goes and what doesn't. Also, he is not obligated to "fix' Morgoth, punishing him for his unspeakable crimes is just. Also, why wouldn't he have fixed him in the first place if he was going to at the end? Also, all of the prophecies and such are written out by Tolkien, so as close to "canon" as anything can get & worth considering.
    – Legoman
    Dec 20, 2018 at 0:00

1 Answer 1

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Probably not. There are several reasons.

First, Tolkien never names them as such. In fact, there's only that one passage in the entire work that even suggests that foxes are intelligent, and it only suggests it -- it doesn't say so. (Personally, when I read it I took this to be anthropomorphizing an animal's reactions so that we could understand it. And, doubtless because it better flowed with the story than a more scientifically or philosophically correct explanation.)

Secondly, Tolkien is not writing a D&D rulebook, so, while he had thought about these things in great depth, he does not write everything he knows in the books. Nonetheless, the general categories of beings seem to be:

Ordinary mortals: Men, Hobbits. They live; they die; they leave the world and will definitely sing in the final Music of the Ainur.

Elves: They are bound to the world and will live in it until its end. Their bodies can die, and they can spend a long time in Mandos, but eventually they will be reborn in some fashion. Wash, rinse, repeat. After the end of the world, they will probably also join in the Music.

Dwarves: They live once (modulo Durin), go to Mandos, and then? The Elves don't know. The Valar haven't said (if even they know). But the Dwarves believe that they, too, will sing in the Music. So they're basically another race of mortals.

Ents, Eagles: Apparently these are plants and animals inhabited by spirits called by Yavanna and Manwe, respectively. It's unclear what the spirits are -- maybe very junior Ainur? -- and hence it's unclear what happens to them after death. But it is clear that they are special exceptions to the natural world, and this is shown by their forms: Walking trees (more-or-less -- not like anything else, anyway) and giant birds that can carry a full-grown human. To count foxes in this category, I think you need either a canonical statement or, at least, that the foxes be distinctly different than the ordinary fox-in-the-chicken-coop kind. We have neither.

Orcs, Trolls, Dragons, Wargs -- these are apparently all natural people or beasts corrupted (of "made in mockery") by Morgoth to the point where they are separate species. There is no information on what happens to them after death.

Ainur (Valar, Maiar, Balrogs): Like the Elves, they are bound to the world and will stay there until the end of the world when they presumably will rejoin the Ainur in the Music. They can't be killed, but they can be diminished by the consequences of their own evil actions. In their natural state, they can embody themselves as readily as humans change their clothes, but if they diminish themselves through evil that ability can diminish or be lost entirely. There seems to be no end to the extent they can diminish themselves, but there is no reason to think they can end themselves entirely.

Now we have foxes. As far as we can tell, they are mortal like humans, but there is no evidence that they will join the final Music nor that one of the Valar made them by calling spirits to inhabit them. (Either could be, of course, but I don't believe there is anything in the Canon to support the idea.)

Finally -- though it's only Entish lore -- there's:

Learn now the lore of Living Creatures!

First name the four, the free peoples:

Eldest of all, the elf-children;

Dwarf the delver, dark are his houses;

Ent the earthborn, old as mountains;

Man the mortal, master of horses:

This suggests that foxes were not widely held to be one of the "free peoples".

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  • Balrogs and Morgoth were both heavily implied to be permanently killed, were they not? Also, the Entish lore forgot Hobbits, so that's not completely accurate anyway. :-D
    – Legoman
    Dec 20, 2018 at 0:07
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    @Legoman: First, Morgoth is explicitly stated not to have been permanently killed -- after the defeat by the Valar at the end of the First Age "Morgoth himself the Valar thrust through the Door of Night beyond the Walls of the World, into the Timeless Void; and a guard is set for ever on those walls." The Valar and Maiar are "contained and bounded in the World, to be within it for ever, until it is complete." They can be killed, perhaps, but they do not die and pass out of the world. Finally, Hobbits are humans. (Tolkien states this somewhere.) They die and pass out of the World.
    – Mark Olson
    Dec 20, 2018 at 1:59
  • For Morgoth, I was referring to the prophesied battle at the end of time where Turin slays the Great Enemy.
    – Legoman
    Dec 20, 2018 at 2:40
  • @Legoman Prophecies are best counted as evidence only after they prove to be true. Anyway, while killing an embodied Morgoth may well diminish him, there's no evidence in the canon that killing an immortal's body does more than disembody the spirit. That death may make the spirit subject to Mandos, or it may diminish it, perhaps even leave it unable to take shape again -- as seems to have happened to both Sauron and Saruman.
    – Mark Olson
    Dec 20, 2018 at 3:08
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    @Legoman The Second Prophecy of Mandos shouldn't be taken as (in-universe) fact. It doesn't appear in the Silmarillion, and I give it about as much credence as I do the idea that Aragorn is a Hobbit (as was his precursor Trotter in early LotR drafts) or that Eönwë is the son of Manwë. It's from an entirely different conception of the universe, and hints at being a rather liberal borrowing from the Norse concept of Ragnarök and not something that fits cohesively with the rest of the later writings.
    – chepner
    Dec 20, 2018 at 4:37

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