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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room: Er...: Edit Log


Feb 8 2018, 6:27am

Views: 3007

I'm uncertain whether your phrase "unaffiliated Maiar" is meant to refer to the notion of Ainur who were neither Valar nor Maiar (what I called "unaffiliated Ainur" in previous posts), or to the concept of Maiar who "went native". If the former, then I return to the quote from the Valaquenta in my first post in this thread, which I think is unambiguous that there were spirits in Eä that were neither Valar nor Maiar. If the latter, then I confess I'm not sure what your objection is from a lore standpoint, as I think I have been fairly thorough in citing sources as a basis for my speculation. I'll try to explain my reasoning in a bit more detail, though.

Melian and Radagast are both known to be Maiar and both could be described as having "gone native", though in different ways. Melian left Valinor and eventually became a queen among Elves who failed to reach Aman while Radagast devoted himself to animals to the point of neglecting his mission as an Istar (UT, The Istari). I don't think there is any reason to assume they were the only such examples of this. On the contrary, the Valaquenta says of the Maiar that "[t]heir number is not known to the Elves, and few have names in any of the tongues of the Children of Ilúvatar; for though it is otherwise in Aman, in Middle-earth the Maiar have seldom appeared in form visible to Elves and Men." I think the meaning here is clear that there were a significant number of Maiar in Middle-earth (in forms not visible to Incarnates) and that this is the reason why only a small percentage of Maiar were known to have names.

As for Bombadil, Tolkien did not issue a "prohibition" on attempting to classify him. If we look at the famous "enigma" quote in context, Tolkien is discussing Bombadil's role as a literary construct, not a component of the Secondary World (Letters, no. 144):

There is of course a clash between 'literary' technique, and the fascination of elaborating in detail an imaginary mythical Age (mythical, not allegorical: my mind does not work allegorically). As a story, I think it is good that there should be a lot of things unexplained (especially if an explanation actually exists); and I have perhaps from this point of view erred in trying to explain too much, and give too much past history. Many readers have, for instance, rather stuck at the Council of Elrond. And even in a mythical Age there must be some enigmas, as there always are. Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally).

It is important to take note of Tolkien's statement that many such enigmas do, in fact, have answers as to their place in the Secondary World. Tolkien elsewhere (not in the context of Bombadil) referred to the concept of having an answer but not explicitly sharing it as "my subcreator's right ... to leave the question a 'mystery', not without pointers to the solution" (Letters, no. 153). Nowhere in any of this does Tolkien forbid his readers from attempting to puzzle out the answers themselves. Whether or not Bombadil is one of the cases where Tolkien had an answer in mind remains one of the outstanding questions surrounding the character, however.

I'm not sure how Tolkien's Catholicism is relevant here since he did not consider himself obligated to reproduce Christian theology verbatim or to entirely avoid ideas that are contrary to it. He touched on this in Letters, no. 131:

In the cosmogony there is a fall: a fall of Angels we should say. Though quite different in form, of course, to that of Christian myth. These tales are 'new', they are not directly derived from other myths and legends, but they must inevitably contain a large measure of ancient wide-spread motives or elements. After all, I believe that legends and myths are largely made of 'truth', and indeed present aspects of it that can only be received in this mode; and long ago certain truths and modes of this kind were discovered and must always reappear.

And again in no. 153 (emphasis in the original):

We differ entirely about the nature of the relation of sub-creation to Creation. I should have said that liberation 'from the channels the creator is known to have used already' is the fundamental function of 'sub-creation', a tribute to the infinity of His potential variety, one of the ways in which indeed it is exhibited, as indeed I said in the Essay. I am not a metaphysician; but I should have thought it a curious metaphysic – there is not one but many, indeed potentially innumerable ones – that declared the channels known (in such a finite comer as we have any inkling of) to have been used, are the only possible ones, or efficacious, or possibly acceptable to and by Him!

'Reincarnation' may be bad theology (that surely, rather than metaphysics) as applied to Humanity; and my legendarium, especially the 'Downfall of Númenor' which lies immediately behind The Lord of the Rings, is based on my view: that Men are essentially mortal and must not try to become 'immortal' in the flesh.† But I do not see how even in the Primary World any theologian or philosopher, unless very much better informed about the relation of spirit and body than I believe anyone to be, could deny the possibility of re-incarnation as a mode of existence, prescribed for certain kinds of rational incarnate creatures.

The dagger in that quote indicates a footnote which reads:

Since 'mortality' is thus represented as a special gift of God to the Second Race of the Children (the Eruhíni, the Children of the One God) and not a punishment for a Fall, you may call that 'bad theology'. So it may be, in the primary world, but it is an imagination capable of elucidating truth, and a legitimate basis of legends.

Anyway, I hope that clarifies my position a little. Sorry for this response getting out of hand!

(This post was edited by Eldorion on Feb 8 2018, 6:40am)

Edit Log:
Post edited by Eldorion (Gondor) on Feb 8 2018, 6:29am
Post edited by Eldorion (Gondor) on Feb 8 2018, 6:31am
Post edited by Eldorion (Gondor) on Feb 8 2018, 6:31am
Post edited by Eldorion (Gondor) on Feb 8 2018, 6:34am
Post edited by Eldorion (Gondor) on Feb 8 2018, 6:40am

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