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I want to know if any creatures similar to a phoenix appear in Tolkien's Legendarium (Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit) universe?

By "similar to a phoenix" I mean a creature that has some of the abilities of a phoenix in other mythlore, such as:

  • Can set itself on fire or is immune to fire.
  • Can be reborn.
  • Is a bird or similar (not reptilian like dragons).

I think that the closest creatures to this description are dragons (I haven't read other books than The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings), but If you know of anything closer I will pleased to hear about it.

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    I can't say for certain (which is why this is a comment rather than an answer), but given that Tolkein's works were deliberately modelled on Norse myth (and English Catholicism), and the Phoenix is (IIRC) of middle-eastern origin, I doubt it. – evilsoup Jan 28 '14 at 11:49
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    Gandalf springs to mind, but he scores only one out of three. – Mr Lister Jan 28 '14 at 12:38
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    @MrLister Two out of three, if you count his nickname of "Gandalf Stormcrow". – Avner Shahar-Kashtan Jan 28 '14 at 16:56
  • Mmm, I haven't thought in Gandalf like that :D – PhoneixS Jan 28 '14 at 17:23
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    And he is a "servant of the Secret Flame", so... – Avner Shahar-Kashtan Jan 28 '14 at 17:50
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No, there isn't.

We don't meet as many fantastical creatures as you might expect. You've got Men, Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, Orcs, and Trolls, but they're not "creatures".

There was the Balrog ("The Shadow and Flame"), but there was no indication that it resembled a bird in any way.

Gandalf was "reborn", but the Istari took on the shape of Men.

There were the giant eagles. They're birds, but except for being giant and able to speak there didn't seem to be anything otherworldly about them.

Beyond that you've got some giant spiders, a dragon or two, the nasty flying creatures the Ringwraiths rode, and...that's about it. (Well, there's some stone giants, and the watcher in the lake, and a barrow wight, and the restless dead. But no phoenixes.)

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    I feel like this answer rattles off several creatures that are "fantastical," then contradicts itself by saying there aren't many. Can't one consider giant spiders, dragons, the fell beasts the Nazgul rode, Balrogs, giant talking eagles, trolls, elves, dwarves, hobbits, and orcs a numerous amount of "fantastical creatures." Not to mention fighting mountains/thunder giants, an old curmudgeon of a mountain that won't let the Fellowship pass (Caradhras), the creature in the lake by the gate outside Moria, Ents, Wizards, the living trees in the old forest, Barrow Wights, etc. – FoxMan2099 Jan 30 '14 at 4:11
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    "Not many" when compared to, say, something by Piers Anthony. – Wrathchild Jan 30 '14 at 13:40
  • But "many" when compared to something like "A Tale of Two Cities" or "A Farewell to Arms" – FoxMan2099 Jan 31 '14 at 3:44
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    This is "Science Fiction & Fantasy". I would expect in the works discussed here fantastical creatures would be the norm. – Wrathchild Jan 31 '14 at 13:50
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    But what of the Ents? – Robotnik Apr 29 '14 at 9:02
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The only Phoenix associated with Tolkien is actually outside his work:

In 1914 Tolkien stayed at his Aunt's farm, called Phoenix Farm, in Gedling. While the farm has now been demolished, it is said that it was there that Tolkien wrote this poem that in the end led to the Lord Of The Ring (src: TolkienLibrary.com review of "Tolkien's Gedling, 1914: The Birth Of A Legend, a book about Jane Neave and Phoenix Farm")

Tolkien made a drawing of the farm

As @evilsoup observed in the comment, it would be VERY surprizing to see an Eastern (Middle East and Asia) mythical idea in a work almost exclusively drawing on Norse myth where things like Phoenixes didn't exist.

  • I think the same as @evilsoup and you, but it isn't so strange that writers mix myths from different cultures. – PhoneixS Jan 28 '14 at 17:29
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    @PhoneixS - that's the thing about LOTR. Tolkien very explicitly was NOT "mixing myths" - he was creating the missing Anglo-Saxon myths, heavily based on North ones. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 28 '14 at 17:45
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Short answer would be no, but many people forget that Tolkien made allusions to many unnamed creatures outside of known classifications. Morgoth bred ,,monsters of diverse kinds" and some unspecified monsters appeared from side effect of his malice flowing into the world during the Spring of Arda, as for the classification of sapient races: we have elves, dwarves, men (Druedain may be special subspecies of mankind as they appear to be very much like short, neandertal-like people, possibly connected with the myths about woodwoses), halflings, orcs, trolls, ents, mysterious Stone Giants, then come different ,,non-humanoid" beings of high intelligence that could be considered semi-sentient: wargs, giant spiders, dragons, Great Eagles, werewolves, possibly bat-like vampires, even more vague nameless things gnawing the world, Watcher in the Water, there are also typical non-intelligent beasts like flying fell beasts also called hell-hawks, besides that there are various undead beings and evil spirits and ,,other things hostile to men and elves" as Middle Earth is ,,full of strange creatures beyond count", there is also very ambiguous and possibly just legendary case of ogres mentioned in The Hobbit along with references to creatures living underground in goblin caves of which even they didn't know about:

,,He could not swim; and he thought, too, of nasty slimy things, with big bulging blind eyes, wriggling in the water. There are strange things living in the pools and lakes in the hearts of mountains: fish whose fathers swam in, goodness only knows how many years ago, and never swam out again, while their eyes grew bigger and bigger and bigger from trying to see in the blackness; also there are other things more slimy than fish. Even in the tunnels and caves the goblins have made for themselves there are other things living unbeknown to them that have sneaked in from outside to lie up in the dark. some of these caves, too, go back in their beginnings to ages before the goblins, who only widened them and joined them up with passages, and the original owners are still there in odd corners, slinking and nosing about." There is also this thing:

,,...mounted upon a black horse, if horse it was; for it was huge and hideous, and its face was a frightful mask, more like a skull than a living head, and in the sockets of its eyes and in its nostrils there burned a flame" and again reference to dark creatures of unknown origin:

,,And there were murmured hints of creatures more terrible than all these (orcs and trolls), but they had no name.").

So in a way we know there is no explicit mention of unicorns (though Mearas are pretty magical and could form a substitute, in Aman there were apparently all kinds of life forms that live and ever lived in Arda together with quite unique species that were never seen outside of the Blessed Realm, also some otherwise ordinary animals are enhanced and raised to higher level given special powers by the Valar), phoenixes, basilisks (unless there were some reptiles, ,,creatures of the older world" like fell beast steeds of Nazgul that could resemble one) and all that typical stuff from myths (though in early drafts Book of Lost Tales there appear mermaids or local version of those, known as Oarni spirits of the sea that were probably lesser than Maiar serving Ulmo or something else entirely fairy creatures that later were simply forgotten by Tolkien in more refined version of stories of that Goldberry the River Daughter might be a leftover) in no way we can say that Middle Earth or rather world of Arda lacks mystery or is as well known as most would think.

  • Interesting answer about the creatures from Tolkien. In the last paragraph you said ... no explicit mention of unicorns. and ... also some otherwise ordinary animals are enhanced and raised to higher level given special powers by the Valar), phoenixes, ..., the primary question was about phoenix not unicorns so, they are phoenix or not? – PhoneixS Jun 13 '14 at 11:13
  • The last paragraph was a generalization about mythical animals that in modern fantasy often appear but are not seen in Tolkien works, while in the same time he left us an open possibility for expanding the ,,bestiary". It is a ,,fact" that other unnamed creatures exist: ,,For all living things that are or have been in the Kingdom of Arda, save only the fell and evil creatures of Melkor, lived then in the land of Aman; and there also were many other creatures that have not been seen upon Middle-earth, and perhaps never now shall be, since the fashion of the world has changed." – fantasywind Jun 15 '14 at 16:54

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