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**The Ambarkanta** - Of the Fashion of the World, part 2

squire
Half-elven


Mar 11 2010, 2:59am

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**The Ambarkanta** - Of the Fashion of the World, part 2 Can't Post

Continuing our discussion of History of Middle-earth Vol. 4, “The Shaping of Middle-earth”, we are reading Tolkien’s early 1930s essay Ambarkanta, “The Shape of the World”. Yesterday we reviewed the text’s provenance, and learned that the Earth is in fact a globe within the invisible but impenetrable Walls of the World. It is surrounded by Vaiya, the Enfolding Ocean, which is however more like water under the Earth and more like air above the Earth; and we learned that the air of birds and clouds, above Middle-earth itself (not Valinor), is called Vista. Then we found that Ilmen is the clear and pure layer of air above Vista, although it touches the earth in Valinor: the air of the Gods, with the same relation to Vista as the Valar have to the Elves. The stars, sun and moon also traverse Ilmen.



As before, remember you can refer to Tolkien’s sketches when understanding fails. Got it? Good! Let’s read on!


I. Story Time.

From Vista there is no outlet nor escape save for the servants of Manwë, or for such as he gives powers like to those of his people, that can sustain themselves in Ilmen or even in the upper Vaiya, which is very thin and cold. From Vista one may descend upon the Earth. From Ilmen one may descend into Valinor.

A. So the peoples of Middle-earth cannot get beyond the Vista air layer, without Manwë’s aid. Is this because Ilmen is physically too thin to breathe, or too thin to sustain flight, or because it is just plain old forbidden in the same way as Valinor is forbidden, even though it is on the Earth?

B. Eärendil is our most famous example of a Man/Elf who is given the power to traverse Ilmen. Is this a “physical power” – some enhanced function of the body? Or is it spiritual, so that his body becomes like the bodies of the Maia, mere clothes to a vital spirit that does not actually need to breathe?

Now the land of Valinor extends almost to Vaiya, which is most narrow in the West and East of the World, but deepest in the North and South. The Western shores of Valinor are therefore not far from the Walls of the World. Yet there is a chasm which sunders Valinor from Vaiya, and it is filled with Ilmen, and by this way one may come from Ilmen above the earth to the lower regions, and to the Earthroots, and the caves and grottoes that are at the foundations of the lands and seas.

C. How does that work? Since Vaiya is variably like air or water, depending on where it is in relation to the globe, why not have Vaiya actually “wash upon” the Western shores Valinor? Why the need for Ilmen in the chasm, that allows one (one of the Valar or Maiar, of course) to descend down to the lower regions?

D. Are these “caves and grottoes” below the lands and seas any relation to the regions below the Misty Mountains where Gandalf clung to the Balrog? Or is that a completely different scale and physicality?

There is Ulmo's abiding-place. Thence are derived the waters of Middle-earth. For these waters are compounded of Ilmen and Vaiya and Ambar[Note 4; see below](which is Earth), since Ulmo blends Ilmen and Vaiya and sends them up through the veins of the World to cleanse and refresh the seas and rivers, the lakes and the fountains of Earth. And running water thus possesses the memory of the deeps and the heights, and holds somewhat of the wisdom and music of Ulmo, and of the light of the luminaries of heaven.

E. So the “water” of the surface waters of Earth is a mix of Vaiya (the surrounding metaphysical sea/air), Ilmen (supernal air of the Gods on the periphery of Earth and above the mortal air), and Ambar (the earth of the Earth). Wow. What makes it into water?

F. Is there an emphasis here on the primacy of water that emerges from “fountains” – i.e., springs of groundwater – over the vast majority of surface water that is recycled from the atmosphere as rain, etc.? How many fountain sources of groundwater have you ever seen? Did early Man tend to think water came from the ground, or from the sky?

G. Ulmo in the Silmarillion had always seemed to me to speak to the Children via his “Lord of Oceans” personality – and the babbling streams (I thought) got their Ulmo-ness because he kind of sent his signals upstream from the Sea. Here it’s all about ground water percolating up into the hills from way, way below. Which do you like better?

H. Why does Aulë seem to have nothing to do with any of this groundwater stuff?

I. Why do you suppose the seas are salty, in this conception?

In the regions of Ulmo the stars are sometimes hidden, and there the Moon often wanders and is not seen from Middle-earth. But the Sun does not tarry there. She passes under the earth in haste, lest night be prolonged and evil strengthened; and she is drawn through the nether Vaiya by the servants of Ulmo, and it is warmed and filled with life. Thus days are measured by the courses of the Sun, which sails from East to West through the lower Ilmen, blotting out the stars; and she passes over the midst of Middle-earth and halts not, and she bends her course northward or southward, not waywardly but in due procession and season. And when she rises above the Walls of the Sun it is Dawn, and when she sinks behind the Mountains of Valinor it is evening.


J. The stars are “sometimes” hidden. Why only sometimes? I would think they’d always be hidden, since they are above the Earth (or are they?) and Ulmo’s pad is in the watery Vaiya below the Earth.

K. The moon’s “wandering” is clearly a reference to its phases. How does this compare to the account of the Moon’s creation in the Quenta, part 6 (see Sador’s discussion last fall)? There Tilion, the Moon’s steersman, wanders off site because he likes to “hunt” the stars with his bow. Here the wanderings of the Moon are without personality, and seem to be connected to the disappearance of the stars. Which do you prefer in your mythologies: inexplicable Moon movements, or the-Moon-as-person-with-real-wants-and-needs movements?

L. One needn't ask why the Sun doesn’t just shuttle across the sky back and forth, but instead descends below the earth to pass from West back to East. (Hint: see Guillermo's discussion of HoME I.viii, two years back.) But here is a new twist: during its subterranean passage, the Sun “warms and fills with life” the Vaiya. This is presumably the Vaiya that Ulmo inhabits – does he need warmth and light for his sustenance? Does the Sun’s influence in the lower Vaiya have anything to do with Ulmo’s ability to send his watery “positive vibes” up through the veins of the earth?

M. The account acknowledges that the Sun varies its path through the sky according to season – but gives no “mythological” reason for it doing so. Why?

II. Comin’ HoME.


Unlike the first section (and later ones!) these passages rate relatively little commentary by the big C.

Notes.

[Note 4]. Ambar is an emendation but the underlying word is wholly erased (so also on diagram II; written in later on I). [Link to diagrams.]

N. A quick glance at the Silmarillion glossary of Elvish, and the ‘Etymologies’ at the end of HoME V, gives me no real clue what the etymology of Ambar is. The index of the book we’re in, HoME IV, does note that the compound word Ambar-endya means “Middle-earth”. Anyone have any ideas what it means, literally speaking?
O. And how often do we come across “the underlying word is erased” in HoME!!

Commentary on the Ambarkanta

The passage of the Sun beneath the Earth seems to be differently conceived in the Ambarkanta from that of the Moon; for while both pass from East to West through Ilmen, the Sun ‘sinks into Vaiya’ and is ‘drawn through the nether Vaiya by the servants of Ulmo’, whereas the Moon plunges into the Chasm of Ilmen.*

Baffled? I was too. CT is supposed to commenting on the Ambarkanta text we just read, wherein the Sun is pulled through the lower Vaiya every night – but there’s no mention anywhere of the Moon “plunging into the Chasm of Ilmen” that I can see! Where is he getting this idea of a “different conception” from?

Well, CT’s commentaries spread a pretty broad net (as Curious most famously deconstructed in his Lay of Leithian Stanza III discussion!) . The bit about the Moon going into the Chasm is actually in tomorrow’s text! See you then!



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


FarFromHome
Valinor


Mar 11 2010, 11:00am

Post #2 of 10 (716 views)
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Wow, I can't wait [In reply to] Can't Post

to get to 2014 when we're going to actually be having this discussion! I guess this freak wormhole that's opened up in TORn's space-time continuum, or whatever it is, has given me the heads-up to start reading HoMe, anyway...

Of course, since even in 2014 I'll still be clinging to my "this is all mythology anyway" point of view, I can't actually answer any of the "mechanical" questions.

But I like your point about the lack of a mythological explanation for the changes in the sun's movements that cause the seasons. Most mythologies seem to have some story about how or why the sun changes direction at the winter solstice and starts to bring warmth and light again, instead of abandoning the earth forever. Does Tolkien never attempt this theme in his legendarium?

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



squire
Half-elven


Mar 11 2010, 12:02pm

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Oh God above. [In reply to] Can't Post

Um, folks… just checked the date hereabouts. March 10, 2010.

Not good. See, it’s ah… actually March 10, 2014 where “I” am right now. *checks RR HoME discussion links in this post – none working*

Yeah, I think this post is really not supposed to be here. Me neither. Could you all – ah – kind of ignore it? And “me”, while you’re at it? And admins…

o hel, it’s prolly not in their system, because it won’t be for another… dam Cameron’s 4-D fanbord wermhol damn damn godda



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


FarFromHome
Valinor


Mar 11 2010, 12:32pm

Post #4 of 10 (651 views)
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So what did you think of the Hobbit movies? // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



(This post was edited by FarFromHome on Mar 11 2010, 12:33pm)


sador
Half-elven


Mar 11 2010, 2:21pm

Post #5 of 10 (635 views)
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2014? You are an optimist! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

"It will support thee and defend thee from weariness" - Cirdan.




sador
Half-elven


Mar 11 2010, 3:27pm

Post #6 of 10 (670 views)
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The World of Fashion [In reply to] Can't Post

A. So the peoples of Middle-earth cannot get beyond the Vista air layer, without Manwë’s aid. Is this because Ilmen is physically too thin to breathe, or too thin to sustain flight, or because it is just plain old forbidden in the same way as Valinor is forbidden, even though it is on the Earth?
You know, when we were younger, 'Vista' used to be the name of the Microsoft Service Pack. And I could never really get the hang of it!

But I want to ask about the Eagles. This is long before Tolkien ever wrote "Of Ents and Eagles", which was somehow incorporated into Aulë and Yavanna - were they (as conceived at the time Tolkien wrote the Ambarkanta) allowed to traverse Ilmen? I would be facetious and answer that the Eagles of The Hobbit could not, while the Eagles of The Akallabeth could.


B. Eärendil is our most famous example of a Man/Elf who is given the power to traverse Ilmen. Is this a “physical power” – some enhanced function of the body? Or is it spiritual, so that his body becomes like the bodies of the Maia, mere clothes to a vital spirit that does not actually need to breathe?
I would say the latter. As both a Man and a rebel Noldo he is forbidden Valinor; but after he was disembodied his spirit could still soar and fight Morgoth - pretty much like Turin on the Last Battle (note that late writings had Turin slaying Ancalagon rather than Morgoth - see my bickerings with Voronwe at the summer of 2012, after I finally managed to read Arda Reconstructed).


C. How does that work? Since Vaiya is variably like air or water, depending on where it is in relation to the globe, why not have Vaiya actually “wash upon” the Western shores Valinor? Why the need for Ilmen in the chasm, that allows one (one of the Valar or Maiar, of course) to descend down to the lower regions?
Could it be that Vaiya is too thin for even the Maiar? After all, they were also incarnate, and their physical bodies need sustenance. Manwe, Varda and Ulmo could ascend/descend into Vaiya - but could the others?


D. Are these “caves and grottoes” below the lands and seas any relation to the regions below the Misty Mountains where Gandalf clung to the Balrog? Or is that a completely different scale and physicality?
Based on my previous answer - this might be an instance of Maiar needing Ilmen to move through. But Gandalf did end up traversing Vaiya - these are probably the journeys he hinted at in The White Rider.


E. So the “water” of the surface waters of Earth is a mix of Vaiya (the surrounding metaphysical sea/air), Ilmen (supernal air of the Gods on the periphery of Earth and above the mortal air), and Ambar (the earth of the Earth). Wow. What makes it into water?
Chemically?


F. Is there an emphasis here on the primacy of water that emerges from “fountains” – i.e., springs of groundwater – over the vast majority of surface water that is recycled from the atmosphere as rain, etc.? How many fountain sources of groundwater have you ever seen? Did early Man tend to think water came from the ground, or from the sky?
In the Middle-east, Men tended to think water came from the sky, which is why they worshipped the Sky-gods. But perhaps those who worshipped the Earth (which usually tended to be the Great Mother) thought it came from the ground?


G. Ulmo in the Silmarillion had always seemed to me to speak to the Children via his “Lord of Oceans” personality – and the babbling streams (I thought) got their Ulmo-ness because he kind of sent his signals upstream from the Sea. Here it’s all about ground water percolating up into the hills from way, way below. Which do you like better?
It doesn't really matter. As long as the hearers can learn wisdom from it.
Perhaps each would get the message in the fitting way - Elves (and Tuor!) from the Sea, but Men, Hobbits and Bombadil through ground water? Also Dwarves, of course; think of Kheled-zaram.


H. Why does Aulë seem to have nothing to do with any of this groundwater stuff?
According to my previous answer, he does.


I. Why do you suppose the seas are salty, in this conception?
I don't think I can account for it.


J. The stars are “sometimes” hidden. Why only sometimes? I would think they’d always be hidden, since they are above the Earth (or are they?) and Ulmo’s pad is in the watery Vaiya below the Earth.
No; Vaiya surrounds the Earth, and you might see the stars from it.


K. The moon’s “wandering” is clearly a reference to its phases. How does this compare to the account of the Moon’s creation in the Quenta, part 6 (see Sador’s discussion last fall)?
I appreciate your remembering it. Those were the days, eh?


There Tilion, the Moon’s steersman, wanders off site because he likes to “hunt” the stars with his bow. Here the wanderings of the Moon are without personality, and seem to be connected to the disappearance of the stars. Which do you prefer in your mythologies: inexplicable Moon movements, or the-Moon-as-person-with-real-wants-and-needs movements?
I am biased towards Bilbo's Man in the Moon who came down too soon.


L. One needn't ask why the Sun doesn’t just shuttle across the sky back and forth, but instead descends below the earth to pass from West back to East. (Hint: see Guillermo's discussion of HoME I.viii, two years back.)
Ha! You wish.


But here is a new twist: during its subterranean passage, the Sun “warms and fills with life” the Vaiya. This is presumably the Vaiya that Ulmo inhabits – does he need warmth and light for his sustenance? Does the Sun’s influence in the lower Vaiya have anything to do with Ulmo’s ability to send his watery “positive vibes” up through the veins of the earth?
Isn't Arien connected to Varda? My habit of answering RR discussions without properly reading the texts first comes back to haunt me.
Anyway, if there is a Varda connection - then yes. Even Manwe sees further than anyone only when Varda is next to him (re: the Valaquenta).


M. The account acknowledges that the Sun varies its path through the sky according to season – but gives no “mythological” reason for it doing so. Why?

I guess Tolkien simply didn't come up with an answer he was satisfied with.
My guess? Since the extremities of Nature are identified with Melkor, who hates Arien perpetually, he might be struggling against her.


Unlike the first section (and later ones!) these passages rate relatively little commentary by the big C.


N. A quick glance at the Silmarillion glossary of Elvish, and the ‘Etymologies’ at the end of HoME V, gives me no real clue what the etymology of Ambar is. The index of the book we’re in, HoME IV, does note that the compound word Ambar-endya means “Middle-earth”. Anyone have any ideas what it means, literally speaking?
This would seem to be enclosed in Ilmen.
And did you ever notice how it corresponds to the Heavens in the midst of the Waters, in the Biblical account of creation?


O. And how often do we come across “the underlying word is erased” in HoME!!
That's an NEB question.


Baffled? I was too. CT is supposed to commenting on the Ambarkanta text we just read, wherein the Sun is pulled through the lower Vaiya every night – but there’s no mention anywhere of the Moon “plunging into the Chasm of Ilmen” that I can see! Where is he getting this idea of a “different conception” from?
Without the special grace of Varda, Tilion simply can't withstand Ilmen.

And this should be compared to the account of the Sun's creation in The Book of Lost Tales, where the Valar themselves were afraid of the power they have unleashed in the Sun.


Well, CT’s commentaries spread a pretty broad net (as Curious most famously deconstructed in his Lay of Leithian Stanza III discussion!) . The bit about the Moon going into the Chasm is actually in tomorrow’s text! See you then!
I hope the Man in the Moon won't stay up too late!

"It will support thee and defend thee from weariness" - Cirdan.




NottaSackville
Tol Eressea

Mar 11 2010, 4:08pm

Post #7 of 10 (718 views)
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Working on my 2014 posting stats [In reply to] Can't Post

It never hurts to have a few posts "in the bag" in case the new board turns into a stat-eater like the old one did.

A. So the peoples of Middle-earth cannot get beyond the Vista air layer, without Manwë’s aid...

You're kidding, right? The "peoples" of Middle-earth can't even be bothered to check out their neighbors on the ground (See Sauron:Shire, Legolas:Lothlorian, Boromir:Rivendell, Eomer:Lothlorian, Celeborn:Fangorn, etc. for high-profile examples of the geographically-challenged folk of Middle Earth), much less bother about anything above them. It's pure and simple ambivalence that keeps them out of Ilmen. Plus that name sounds like it would give you some disease or something.

B. Eärendil is our most famous example of a Man/Elf who is given the power to traverse Ilmen...

He's just the first guy that tried.

C. Why the need for Ilmen in the chasm...

It's not that the chasm needs Ilmen, its that Ilmen is very elastic, and if it didn't form a continuous band around Middle Earth it'd snap back like a nasty snap-backy thing and just form an oval lump in the middle of the sky.

D. Are these “caves and grottoes” below the lands and seas any relation to the regions below the Misty Mountains where Gandalf clung to the Balrog? Or is that a completely different scale and physicality?

That's reasonable speculation, since, as they were both Maiar, Gandalf and the Balrog could both slide down the Ilmen-lined shaft that formed the pit they fell in. Plus the elasticy Ilmen at the bottom explains why they didn't go splat at the bottom even though the Balrog's wings weren't non-metaphorical-enough to support flight.

E. So the “water” of the surface waters of Earth is a mix of Vaiya, Ilmen, and Ambar. What makes it into water?

It's the music, man!

G. Ulmo in the Silmarillion had always seemed to me to speak to the Children via his “Lord of Oceans” personality – and the babbling streams (I thought) got their Ulmo-ness because he kind of sent his signals upstream from the Sea. Here it’s all about ground water percolating up into the hills from way, way below. Which do you like better?

It's always been clear that the babbling streams, etc. system was bunk. This percolating ground water thing makes much more sense to me.

H. Why does Aulë seem to have nothing to do with any of this groundwater stuff?

Water. Forge. Fire. Should be pretty clear, I'd think.

I. Why do you suppose the seas are salty, in this conception?

Dissolved minerals from the Ambar in the water-making process?

J. The stars are “sometimes” hidden. Why only sometimes? I would think they’d always be hidden, since they are above the Earth (or are they?) and Ulmo’s pad is in the watery Vaiya below the Earth.

That's probably the fatal flaw that convinced Tolkien to drop this otherwise brilliant, air-tight mythology.

Which do you prefer in your mythologies: inexplicable Moon movements, or the-Moon-as-person-with-real-wants-and-needs movements?

I'll take the inexplicable Moon movements - I dislike the idea of the Moon as an actual person watching me at night.


Does the Sun’s influence in the lower Vaiya have anything to do with Ulmo’s ability to send his watery “positive vibes” up through the veins of the earth?

Having been incarcerated during Guillermo's discussion, I'll have to pass on this one.

M. The account acknowledges that the Sun varies its path through the sky according to season – but gives no “mythological” reason for it doing so. Why?

Clearly it's not because the good professor is incapable of thinking up a huge pile of bunk to explain minute details.

The bit about the Moon going into the Chasm is actually in tomorrow’s text! See you then!

How the heck do you expect me to wait 4 YEARS for the answer?

Notta







FarFromHome
Valinor


Mar 12 2010, 1:35am

Post #8 of 10 (723 views)
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This rang a bell with me. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
In the Middle-east, Men tended to think water came from the sky, which is why they worshipped the Sky-gods. But perhaps those who worshipped the Earth (which usually tended to be the Great Mother) thought it came from the ground?



It made me think of all the magic wells, and holy wells, scattered around Britain. There's one called Ladyewell a few miles from where I'm from, that still brings visitors to pray there. According to the stories, it was Christianised in Norman times, but may go back at least to the Anglo-Saxons. I know of similar ones in Ireland too, and they are of Celtic origin.

I guess the idea of water coming up out of the ground must have seemed important and magical to the early peoples of the British Isles. It rains so much there that perhaps the rain was seen as more of a curse than a blessing, whereas the water that bubbled out of the ground and could be accessed whenever you needed it was the work of the gods. All those superstitions about throwing coins into fountains, or making wishes, could come from this same source (no pun intended!), I expect.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



Curious
Half-elven


Mar 12 2010, 3:29pm

Post #9 of 10 (677 views)
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We each deal with the lack of a chapter discussion in our own way. [In reply to] Can't Post

I've started commenting on grammaboodawg's TIME posts on Main. I find that I am still interested in discussing LotR, if not The Sil or HoME.

But maybe I will pick up the Lay of Leithian one of these days.


CuriousG
Half-elven

Mar 12 2010, 5:53pm

Post #10 of 10 (804 views)
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Ulmo sending messages upstream [In reply to] Can't Post

You asked:
G. Ulmo in the Silmarillion had always seemed to me to speak to the Children via his “Lord of Oceans” personality – and the babbling streams (I thought) got their Ulmo-ness because he kind of sent his signals upstream from the Sea. Here it’s all about ground water percolating up into the hills from way, way below. Which do you like better?
It appeals more to my imagination to think of Ulmo in the Bay of Balar, sending and receiving messages via River Sirion. Or even being in the deepest trenches of the ocean and hearkening to the plight of the world via his rivers. The "water percolating up" scenario seems more technical, more reminiscent of plumbing and pumps, and not as primal. So I vote for Ulmo-ness flowing upstream. (As if my vote counts. Wink)

 
 

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