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The Silmarillion discussion: Valaquenta



noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 7 2013, 12:58pm


Views: 3197
The Silmarillion discussion: Valaquenta

Administrative announcement for now - discussion will start further down this thread, once we get going!

I'd be happy to kick off the discussion of this chapter. It will, in effect be the first time I've read it, but as I see it that is not important. I think the "thread-starter" has to act like a chat-show host, starting things off & perhaps interjecting to hep things moving along. I do not think he or she does not need to be the resident expert on the chapter we're discussing. Obviously it helps if people are not shy (I am not very shy Blush ), as we are not going to get to the end of the book unless there are a reasonable number of volunteers....

"You offer it to me freely? I do not deny that my heart has greatly desired this." ....If this is your's favorite chapter, or you are bursting to lead it & disappointed that I got there first, please do let everyone know by posting a reply on this thread this week (i.e. beginning Monday 7th January 2013)- I'm very happy to stand down and take my turn in a later chapter; I really will not feel at all hurt :)

If everyone's reaction is rather "You cannot offer me this chapter! Don't... tempt me noWizardme! I dare not take it," then I plan to post a starter post by next Sunday, 13 January 2013. That also gives participants a little while to start reading, so that the discussion can start smoothly (always a relief to teh person posting the first post, I think!)

Understand, I would begin this thread from a desire to do good... If through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine, I'm sure the moderators will step in Wink.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 7 2013, 1:35pm


Views: 1694
No turning back

No, noWiz, you would gain a power too terrible to behold, and all would love you and despair, including the mods.

(Really enjoy your humorous use of Tokien quotes!)


telain
Rohan

Jan 7 2013, 2:43pm


Views: 1621
I look forward to your discussion post...

... especially your fabulous use of quotes!

I agree with your statement that one need not be an "expert" on a particular book or chapter. Sometimes the most fascinating questions and ideas come from those who haven't studied a thing to death.

Now, where is my copy of Silmarillion...?


telain
Rohan

Jan 7 2013, 2:45pm


Views: 1620
thank you!

...for the impromptu beginning of a Silmarillion discussion. I am very much looking forward to it!


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 7 2013, 2:54pm


Views: 1637
link to our earlier discussion of Ainulindale

Telain - just to make sure you caught our discussion of Ainulindale here:
http://newboards.theonering.net/forum/gforum/perl/gforum.cgi?post=557418#557418

Not too late to contribute, if you (or anyone else happening by this thread) have missed Ainulindale! No need to start at Chapter 2


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 7 2013, 3:24pm


Views: 1616
Experts definitely not needed!

Everyone should feel comfortable contributing their views, and I hope no one feels intimidated by others who have a deep knowledge of the background for them. I think that background can enrich the conversation and shouldn't shut down anyone.

What makes for a good discussion is a variety of viewpoints, lots of questions from everyone, and agreeing to disagree when we do. Maybe the only thing that makes a poster feel undermined is if they post something factually wrong, such as saying Galadriel is the daughter of Feanor or whatever. People often jump in quickly to correct things like that, but not to be punitive, just to make sure that the conversation doesn't go astray.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 7 2013, 4:36pm


Views: 1631
A note on book "Arda Reconstructed" by Voronwe the Faithful

Our very own Voronwe the Faithful authored this book in 2008. If he's not able to join our discussions, I bought a copy, so I'll try to insert things where relevant.

I should have added comments from his book into the Ainulindale coverage, since he notes that parts of the original work of that name appeared elsewhere in The Sil. I'll try to keep up in the future.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 7 2013, 4:39pm


Views: 1597
"DO keep up, Samwise Gamgee!" :)- Nah, you've been great//

 


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 7 2013, 5:22pm


Views: 1657
Oops, I seem to have started....

Sorry about this - no sooner had I volunteered (and given others a chance to volunteer also) but I had a bit of unexpected free time. I began to make some notes, and well, one thing led to another. And you thought: "noWizardme is never late, nor is he early, he posts precisely when he means to." Darn, will my credibility ever recover? Smile

So what seems to be happing is this. I've skimmed through the chapter and some questions and discussion topics spring out. So it seemed that I might as well put them up for discussion right away! I plan to go back and read with more close attention, and post any further thoughts that come to me (if they seem any good..).

So, here goes: Valaquenta

This, the second chapter, is stylistically an extreme contrast to its two neighbours. It is preceded by Ainulindale, (link to our recent discussion - never to late to post to it!) in which the ultimate god Eru (aka Iluvatar) creates a group of under-gods (the Ainur). Together they create the universe. Some of the Ainur decide to dwell in the world, and become known as the Valar. But there is already discord – Melkor, one of the Ainur has become rebellious. The Ainulindale ends with a struggle under way between the Valar, who are trying to execute Eru’s project for the world on the one hand, and on the other hand Melkor, who has his own ideas. Lots happens in that chapter - I imagine New Line wincing at the CGI budget. Valaquenta is followed by Quenta Silmarillion in which the struggle between the Valar and Melkor resumes. By contrast, Valaquenta has no action at all - it is basically a lists and descriptions of:
• the Valar (who mostly come in pairs – a male Valar and a female Valier. But the term for a mixed-gender bunch of them is “Valar”)
• the Maiar (servants and helpers of the Valar)
• their enemies – chiefly Melkor (who is like a Valar but not counted as one because he rebelled) but also his helpers/servants. Balrogs and Sauron (names familiar from Lord of the Rings) are among these.

Not much work for the special effects department here, then. Weta, you may take a day off, but you WILL be busy.

So, to possible discussion points:

How did you feel the first time you ever arrived at this chapter and discovered it was a long list? Personally my reaction was some dismay Crazy. I find the information fairly indigestible in this form, and worry that I’ll have to get it all straight in my head if I’m to understand the rest of the book. Perhaps my feelings about complex lists were influenced by a zoology course I once did, in which I was trying to learn the taxonomy of the mollusks. I did not find it interesting Unsure. I plodded on until I got to the page headed “boring bivalves” – this seemed like such an appropriate metatext right then that I started sniggering & felt it best to leave the library….

I see JRRT as being deliberately antique here – I can’t think of many modern books which would include a chapter like this, in this style, and in this place. But perhaps you disagree – please say, if so! More likely, this kind of information would now be relegated to an appendix, and perhaps we would have a scene in we are introduced to those characters we need to know right now – The Council of Elrond is a scene in Lord of the Rings that meets this kind of need. In that chapter, we meet Boromir, Gimli and Legolas for the first time; meet Elrond for the first time (unless we’ve already read The Hobbit) and get enough of a look at these characters to draw our preliminary conclusions about them. We also meet a couple of “extras” who take no further part in the tale. We don't get a list of the attendees (perhaps just as well in case it began to look like the minutes of a committee meeting "present; Lord Elrond Halfelven, Gandalf the Grey.... Apologies; Lady Galadriel" etc.)The only modern thing I can think of which is like Valaquenta, is the TV commentary as the teams in a sporting fixture run out onto the pitch. Perhaps that is not an unreasonable parallel, given that they’re about to contest the destiny and structure of the very world itself in Quenta Silmarillion. Recasting Valaquenta as dialogue between football commentators would either be amusing, or literary hooliganism (or both) – anyone want to try?

While inflicting long lists on your readers may not be a very modern thing to do, I think there are several examples in my (very limited) knowledge of old stories. I would be interested to get covering fire (or indeed receive bombardment) from people on this forum who know more ancient literature and agree, disagree or have other contributions to make to this idea. A few examples for now:
• my wife studied classics and found it difficult to love a chapter in Homer’s Illiad which is basically a list of the ships setting out to Troy.
• The Bible has lists of people who beget other people.
• I think I recall skimming a long account of which Knight of the Round Table unhorsed which other one at a tournament (I am probably thinking of John Steinbeck’s translation of Mallory which I enjoyed many years ago. But I no longer have a copy).

So, I think, ancient readers/listeners were not adverse to hearing/reading/studying/memorizing lists. I also have a theory about it. I imagine Homer being sung, recited or read to people who might trace their ancestry back to these semi-mythical heroes. So, telling the tale in Ithaca, say, you’d better include those ships (“A shout out to those brave boys from Ithaca!”). New Testament writers, I think, were eager to prove that Jesus is of the House of David (in order to demonstrate his eligibility to fulfill prophecies about the Messiah, I believe I read). So my idea, for what it is worth, is that lists are often provided for extra-literary agendas. Assuming you agree with me, does JRRT have an agenda here other than giving us information we as readers need to progress with the story? For example, does a full listing seem appropriate given that it is quite likely what his literary models of ancient texts would do.

I note that (at least in my edition) we get the lists as “flat” prose – paragraphs: no tables, nested bullet points, organization charts or other modern typographical/infographic devices to aid comprehension. Nor do we get an ancient “rhyme of lore” such as the one Treebeard updates so as to include Hobbits in the Ents’ taxonomy of living things, or the “seven stars and seven stones and one white tree” one which Gandalf mutters while transporting Pippin to Minas Tirith. Such rhymes seem a reasonable way for mostly-pre literate cultures to memorize Valaquenta-like information, so perhaps would be in keeping with the genre (unlike nested bullets). Or do the Elves not need to memorize lists of Valar in elvenschool, since their elders met the gods personally? (Athiesm, come to think of it would probably be pretty impractical for the Noldar….). Has anyone (including JRRT) tried to cast Valaquenta in this form? Would anyone like to try?? As an alternative suggestion for a game, anyone fancy a competition to come up with the best mnemonic for the names of the Valar?

How do you react to authors deploying so much invented terminology (Tolkien specifically, other authors for comparison)? Apart from all the names (and some characters have more than one name); at this point in the book the reader must already remember the concepts of Valar, Valier, Maiar, Arda… Is that risky (you might give up) or do you like it, or does it not bother you? In my view, the Lord of the Rings is given a lot of depth and solidity by the fact that JRRT had already worked a lot of this Silmarilion material out. So he could give offhand references to a great, hidden body of lore, to great literary effect. Here is that lore, then. Other authors, perhaps impressed by LOTR, have tried this too. My personal example of it getting out of hand is Frank Herbert’s Dune story. To my mind at least, he overdoes the unexplained made-up names for things and the “quotations” from “lore”which start his chapters become annoying. The whole thing looks too much like a literary device. Yes, Mr Herbert, I accuse YOU of making up the “lore” and names to try and give your world that Tolkien-like patina of deep time and constant use. I mean “Making up” in the sense that I struggled to believe it, and nearly missed out on a good story (it would be pretty ridiculous to object to making up the story in Dune in the usual sense – "what, no giant sand worms; I thought they lived in Norfolk?!"). Do you agree that this is a somewhat risky literary device? Any examples of it going well/badly for you as a reader? How close to the wind does Tolkien sail, do you think? Or, given that he may have had little expectation that we’d ever be reading Valaquenta, is this a moot point (or a criticism to aim at his editors, for not providing additional scaffolding?)

The Valar have gender, but we’re told in Ainulindale that they can alter their appearance like clothes and similar comments are made in Valaquenta. Do you reckon they are stuck being male/female, as humans are? Or is that just part of the appearance they choose to display to the Eldar - i.e. they are in reality beyond gender. If so (or not so) is that relevant? Gender is obviously massively significant to humans and various writers of science fiction and related literatures have fooled around with it as a way of exploring issues about gender equality or lack thereof (and writing a good story). Getting of subject a bit here, probably, but my favourite example would be Ursula LeGuin’s “Left Hand of Darkness”, about a world where people are neuter for most of the month, before entering a brief fertile period in which they become male or female. They cannot predict which it will be this month, and so it is common to experience maleness, femaleness, motherhood and fatherhood all in one lifetime.

The Valar come in pairs and are mostly married (a male Valar and a female Valier). Is that significant? No extra marital affairs (as far as I am aware) like those which propel many plots in a greco-roman myth. Also, they are not an incestuously intermarrying family group as in some myths – they were all created by Iluvatar, but they appear to be things he made or thought up, rather than his children in a biological sense. Is that significant – for example is JRRT removing sexual issues such as incest and affairs which he might have found unsettling or unpleasant in other myths and did not want to include in his own? Or, are the Valar setting up models of certain kinds of family groups for the Eldar to copy?

Melkor is not married, and is without female equivalent. Is this significant?
Potentially it is a serious point. At the risk of reducing this towards the level of Masters of the Universe, there’s no Mrs Melkor to steady him down; also no svelte femme fatale character for Peter Jackson one day to put in a skimpy costume as Melkorina, Goddess of Evil (for all Testosterone Tower devotees on this forum to love and despair).

OK - so missing from this so far are definitely:
  1. Any commentary on the content of the lists, rather than the idea of having a chapter of lists and some of its high-level structure
  2. Any discussion of the language
  3. And much more besides (that is where YOU come in!)
Have at it! Smile


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 7 2013, 5:34pm


Views: 1605
...and well, one thing led to another... (not for serious readers)

 "One thing led to another": a common problem in Middle-earth, as elsewhere:

Quote
"It's like this Mr Aragorn, sir. I was polishing Grond and I said; 'fine bit of work, that, I bet it would even knock down the Gates of Minas Tirith!'
'No it will never!' Sez he.
So I sez, 'well what if we just wheel it up to the Gates and give 'em a teensy little bang, just to see? Then we can wheel it away before they answer the door! '
So we sets out with it, not meaning any harm mind, but blow me if the whole lot of them don't see us leaving Minas Morghul and tag along. So before we knows it they're all there and shouting 'Grond!...Grond!..Grond!...', and you lot are in there chucking bits of masonry, and me and the lads get a bit, well, over-excited. Really sorry about the mess, Mr Aragorn: you don't think you could just prop the gates back up and no-one would notice?"



Ardamírë
Valinor


Jan 7 2013, 5:50pm


Views: 1607
I have that book as well.

Excellent read. I'll try to use it as much as possible as well.

There's a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall and the bells in the steeple, too.
And up in the nursery an absurd little bird is popping out to say coo-coo (coo-coo, coo-coo).


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 7 2013, 8:16pm


Views: 1591
Great post! ; mnemonic

I am at work so can only dash off a hasty reply after fiddling with mnemonics over lunch.

Aule >
"Ow! I hammered my thumb on the anvil! ("ow" being 1st syllable)

Lorien >
Lorien, snorien, I'm gonna nap and dream

Mandos >
Mandos mandates your fate

Manwe >
Whee! We're up in the clouds! [this one's weak]

Nienna >
Think St Catherine of Siena: saints had sad lives

Orome >
"Roams" the world with his hunting company

Tulkas >
(Just sounds so macho)

Ulmo >
Ulmo, underwater

Varda >
Varda-Starda

Yavanna >
Yavanna-Savanna (plants and animals)

"Uncle Tulkas made Morgoth's nose a very yucky olfactory lump." (first letter of each name)

The other Valar are "filler wives" that no one needs to remember, though they'll probably turn me into a frog and fill the garden full of snakes in revenge. And Morgoth is in a class of his own, the bad boy. Since Hollywood bad boys are often attractive to women, I guess Melkor has a good female fan base and doesn't need a sidekick like "Evil Lynn."



squire
Half-elven


Jan 7 2013, 9:09pm


Views: 1592
"The Valaquenta underneath the bough, a squishy chair, Corvoisier, and thou, lurking beside me in the Reading Room."

A. How did you feel the first time you ever arrived at this chapter and discovered it was a long list?
I don’t remember much about the first time I read the Silmarillion in 1977, except for my overall feeling of piqued disappointment that it was not at all comparable with The Lord of the Rings in style. But I have always accepted the Valaquenta for what it is: a list, as you say, but with that peculiar Tolkien-ness to it whereby a list, or annal, or entry in a Tale of Years seems to grow feet in the writing and begin to toddle off into a new story right before our eyes. I saw and see nothing wrong in introducing a list of gods and goddesses at the beginning of a book of semi-mythology. What has always upset me about this chapter in general (I’ll have specific complaints later on) is that the Quenta Silmarillion doesn’t deliver what the Valaquenta promises: some significant action and interaction in the main narrative by most of these deities. Eventually I found out why this is so, but for a long time it really ticked me off.

While I think you’re right that Tolkien is trying to emulate an ancient style of mythical narrative, I would note that a lot of historical novels these days have a “Cast of characters” page or five at the beginning of the book. I wonder which author first did that?

B. I note that (at least in my edition) we get the lists as “flat” prose. Nor do we get an ancient “rhyme of lore”. Has anyone (including JRRT) tried to cast Valaquenta in this form? Would anyone like to try??
Good points about the style being rather flat for a mythological accounting, and about the idea of it being in verse. I have several responses.

One, I would say it’s actually kind of chatty or coy at times, when it attempts to give real personalities to these beings.

Two, I’ve read many a classic text from Rome or Greece wherein the original is in verse, but the translation is in prose due to the translator’s choice not to attempt an artificial style to which modern English-speakers are not accustomed.

Three, I don’t like the conceit that Tolkien “translated” his Middle-earth fiction (beyond the undeniable degree to which he himself pretended he had done so). I would prefer to say here that Tolkien himself loved writing poetry, but usually for the purpose of exploring verse forms, rather than as an actual way to tell the stories he wanted to tell. For example, his two longest poems (The Lay of the Children of Hurin and The Lay of Leithian) were never completed and he also wrote out both stories several times in prose of varying styles. There are examples of poetry in the Lord of the Rings where my reaction is that I wish he’d written them out in full, but clearly he only wanted to give us a fragment to evoke a heroic oral culture. In short, he had no inclination or need to (re)write the Valaquenta either as verse or with some kind of coherent style, and so he never did.


There is a lot more to be said about style in this regard, and his earlier attempts to write this section of his mythology, but I’ll let it go for now at least.

You also open up a HUGE can of worms regarding the role of oral formulae in preserving cultural memories in the context of a race of immortals! Again, I’ll let it go for now…

C. How do you react to authors deploying so much invented terminology (Tolkien specifically, other authors for comparison)?
I think you hit it pretty close to the mark when you note that Tolkien’s Silmarillion material was not written to be background for The Lord of the Rings, but for its own purposes. As he himself remarked, it was old when he began drawing on it for his epic, not just within the story but also in the time of his own life. So he could pick and choose what to use and what to leave out in order to create the proper blend of adventure and atmosphere. I admire Dune, but I know what you mean when it seems that the entire universe, literary quotes and all, were made up on the spot to gussy up the story. The question of languages is similar, obviously, since with Tolkien the two concepts were inextricably blended: when he needed a word or a name, he had a vast framework of “Elvish” language to draw upon so that the result sounds right, not arbitrarily exotic or “fantasy-ish”.


Now, with the Valaquenta, as you say, we are reading the very “lore” to which occasional references are made in the much better-known Lord of the Rings. And so reading it seems to beg the question: what is this? Is it first-person testimony? Is it a translation? Did the writers know the Valar personally, or hear this information from some who did? Did the Valar talk easily about themselves to the first Elves, and if so what was the style of their discourse? What is it about a person or a state that seems to require a very high degree of formality in rendering their presentation or their speech – especially for us who live in a (comparatively) very informal world? Which is sillier – the Valar being presented to us readers as semi-Olympian, semi-Biblical demigods, or the Valar coming across as big goofy human beings like the rest of us? Which presentation is more likely to make us take an interest in the drama of their existence on Middle-earth? I don’t think Tolkien ever really resolves this dilemma (and so he never really uses them in his stories, as I note above).

D. The Valar have gender, but we’re told in Ainulindale that they can alter their appearance like clothes and similar comments are made in Valaquenta. Do you reckon they are stuck being male/female, as humans are?
I think it’s clear, or at least I read it so, that they are indeed “stuck” with male or female as their intrinsic natures, no matter what physical form they assume in appearing before the Children of Eru. The relevant quote is:

But when they desire to clothe themselves the Valar take upon them forms some as of male and some as of female; for that difference of temper they had even from their beginning, and it is but bodied forth in the choice of each, not made by the choice, even as with us male and female may be shown by the raiment but is not made thereby. But the shapes wherein the Great Ones array themselves are not at all times like to the shapes of the kings and queens of the Children of Ilúvatar; for at times they may clothe themselves in their own thought, made visible in forms of majesty and dread. (JRRT, The Silmarillion, “Ainulindale”)

So, when they choose to appear human, they must be male or female because that is who they are in spirit, not just body. But they can also appear in other, more supernatural forms, as is appropriate for gods.


I liked that LeGuin story – very memorable. But the gender concepts that interest LeGuin (who is a huge Tolkien fan) are way out of Tolkien’s range, I think.

E. The Valar come in pairs and are mostly married (a male Valar and a female Valier). Is that significant?
It is significant, and not in a good way, I think. I can defend Tolkien’s preferences in these matters all I want, but in the end I do feel he was a bit of a prude in his writing. There is sex and passion to be found in his stories, but even in the midst of the most torrid writing he can manage he is keeping cold control over the entire affair. The interesting thing about the Valaquenta, or about the Valar in general in this mythology, is that his earliest drafts were a lot more chaotic and messy in the family sphere: nothing crazy like incest or affairs, mind you, but at least there were more brothers and sisters and sons and daughters in the accounting. (See the first volume of HoME for details). They were more like Eru’s extended family, and less like a bunch of neighbors who all live on the same heavenly suburban street.

F. Melkor is not married, and is without female equivalent. Is this significant?
One would like to say that as the most powerful Vala he incorporates male and female qualities equally. But there is nothing about that. He is also called the “brother” of Manwe, but little comes out about the meaning of that relationship. I think Tolkien thought up Melkor first as a Satan character, and only later worked him into the more complete list of Valar who help to make and run the world. And Satan is more about being God’s opposite, rather than about being a guy or a girl.


I am horrified by the idea of Melkorina, as I’m sure Tolkien would be. You’re right about the pneumatic tendencies of today’s comic-book fantastists, which long ago reached self-parody. I’d like to point out that Melkor gets his comeuppance from Elbereth early on in the story, and later gets wrapped around the finger of the Mother of all Evil Mothers, Ungoliant, who is probably Tolkien’s answer to your need for heaven to have a villainess.

Any commentary on the content of the lists, rather than the idea of having a chapter of lists and some of its high-level structure?
Any discussion of the language?
Not for now. But this was a great start! Thanks for pitching in!



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 (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 7 2013, 9:18pm


Views: 1635
An org chart for the Valar

I find it easier to cope with information visually, so I made this org chart. That seems easier to understand now.

I've attached it as a PDF file. Or there's a big copy in image format (.png) over here: https://dl.dropbox.com/...ar%20org%20chart.png
Attachments: valar org chartSMALL.pdf (36.1 KB)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 7 2013, 9:35pm


Views: 1603
...this forum is world enough?

Thanks, Squire!


Quote
You also open up a HUGE can of worms regarding the role of oral formulae in preserving cultural memories in the context of a race of immortals! Again, I’ll let it go for now…

Aw, go on, open the can! Just to see the worms spill. Worms are fun.

For everyone: I should have added a further question: what do we know or suspect of the history of this section's composition? Was it clearly meant to end up in its current place in the tale and in its current form, or was that a post-JRRT editorial decision (and if so, do you think the editors got it right?)

PS -only joking about "Melkorina" (as you probably realized). But you make me feel sorry for Mr Morgoth already. Maybe he was lucky at cards - Poker nights with the Balrogs? That would be "red-hot poker", presumably)



Eldineth
Registered User

Jan 7 2013, 11:11pm


Views: 1601
First of all...

I would like to apologize for my english. I'm not a native speaker, and I have a hard time with vocabulary and spelling.
I have been following TheOneRing forums for a while, and I usually don't post many things, but I couldn't resist to this. The Valenqueta is what actually got me on The Silmarillion.

"How did you feel the first time you ever arrived at this chapter and discovered it was a long list?"

I really enjoy Tolkien's descriptions at this chapter, though I don't think they are completely necessary. Some valar and valier do not play important roles on the later history of Middle-Earth (Nessa or Námo, for example), but their descriptions make a more complete picture of things like distribution of power and "duties" were at the beggening of the world.
When I got to Valenqueta I also gave Tolkien much more credit for his detailing (what I particularly like).

"How do you react to authors deploying so much invented terminology?"

I have nothing against authors who use invented terminology, after all, we are not reading a science book and they are trying to describe things that don't exist in our "world". The problem is when the author uses to much invented terminology and don't explain it meanings or origins, he just throws the terms on you and hopes you'll memorize them.
In Tolkien's case, I think that he explains well most of the terms he uses, mainly in The Silmarillion. When I first read LOTR I felt like at some points he used invented terminology and didn't explain them enough, but more than half of those terms are explained at The Silmarillion.
And I'll not compare Tolkien to other authors, that would require a proficiency in English that I don't have.

"The Valar have gender, but we’re told in Ainulindale that they can alter their appearance like clothes and similar comments are made in Valaquenta. Do you reckon they are stuck being male/female, as humans are?"
At my point of view, being male or female is in their personality. Is something like this: I believe that a valar or valier appearance is a reflection of their personalities, and so are their gender. But I don't know if their personalities are immutable, so I can't say if they can change their gender.

"The Valar come in pairs and are mostly married (a male Valar and a female Valier). Is that significant?"
Hm. Maybe. The fact a character is married or not can show us if he is the kind of person who likes "sharing". But I can think in another meaning right now.

"Melkor is not married, and is without female equivalent. Is this significant? "
As I said before, it can mean that he does not like to sharing power, and do not listen to others advice. Like he was "omnipotent".
And I laughed with your Melkorina theory! Laugh


Ardamírë
Valinor


Jan 7 2013, 11:21pm


Views: 1559
I agree with Squire about the Melkorina

That role is basically fulfilled in Ungoliant. At one point Melkor is even afraid of her! I'll say no more, though, until we get to that chapter. Smile

There's a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall and the bells in the steeple, too.
And up in the nursery an absurd little bird is popping out to say coo-coo (coo-coo, coo-coo).


Mim
The Shire

Jan 7 2013, 11:29pm


Views: 1572
I think this is where I gave up on my first reading…

...but I was only about 9 so maybe you can forgive me! The second time around it was much easier to digest. In some ways it continues the biblical feel. The Bible does have its fair share of lists of names and who fathered who and who did what, as you mentioned.

At the beginning of my degree I did a module about the tale and the oral tradition. Lists and things are very common in the oral tradition and one theory which I found fairly convincing is that it forms the basis of a repetitive form. You list the names, establish a piece of information about the character and then you repeat that character with that piece of information and it makes it easier for the listeners to remember the characters over the length of the telling and it makes it easier for the teller to remember all the names when he’s telling the story. Well that’s just a bit of a tangent, but that could be an explanation of the existence of lists in classical literature. Tolkien obviously doesn’t do that. Perhaps the list would have seemed less out of place if he had.

Or perhaps he intended to. We do have to remember that this is not, perhaps, exactly how Tolkien intended this information to be presented. Maybe we can hypothesise that this may have ended up in a similar type of verse to Tree beards. Personally, I think that might have gotten a little off putting as well.

As to invented terminology, I think that that can work really well for an author or it can go really badly. I think there are several authors who do it very successfully. In A Clockwork Orange for example, the made up terminology, the made up language is in part what makes it so successful. It’s one of the most interesting elements of the book. The Harry Potter books are also successful because they create such a vivid imaginary world with it’s own set of terminology. An example of where it was less successful for me would be something like The Hunger Games, where the terms were often too obviously rooted in our own language. I think that’s the key to success when you’re making up sets of terminology, the terms have to be both totally alien and totally believable. Linguists often use things called “nonse” words to test how we understand language and it’s generally concluded that we are capable of detecting words. The key to creating a good nonse word is creating a word that seems linguistically possible. Tolkien, I think, succeeds in always creating words and languages that the average reader will consider linguistically possible. That means that they don’t grate and we can incorporate them into out vocabulary easily.

Another thing I would say about inventing terms is that it is something that is fairly common in works written for children. I think this is because children are more imaginative linguistically, or rather their word bank is less closed off. A child will more readily accept a made up term because as far as they know, it might not actually be made up. This may be part of why Tolkien’s work has had to so often face off against the criticism that it’s childish.

There’s a lot I could say about the gender thing, but I think that might be reading more into the text than is actually there. I think when you get into issues of sex the whole situation becomes very unclear. Tolkien’s work certainly doesn’t contain a whole lot of it. I think he just didn’t find that side of things very interesting. He creates neat couples perhaps in part so he can get on with writing about what really interests him.
This is a bit rambly, so I might revise it when I get a chance.


acheron
Gondor


Jan 8 2013, 12:27am


Views: 1554
the Secret Fire

(I am in the process of moving, and my copy of the Silmarillion has already made it to the new house, so I don't have it with me. In any case...)

From what I recall, in the Valaquenta, Tolkien changes the term "Flame Imperishable" (in the Ainulindale), to "Secret Fire". They both refer to the power of creation that lies with Eru alone; you could even take it as a reference to the Holy Spirit. Aside from providing a connection between the Silmarillion and Christianity, the idea that true creation only comes from Eru is plot-significant at a couple points: Melkor cannot create his own creatures though he tries, and neither can Aule. Not to jump ahead too much.

The switch from describing the main adjective of the power of creation from "Imperishable" to "Secret" is interesting, though I don't know if it means anything. Presumably it is both eternal/"imperishable" and secret.

It is also here that the first-time reader finally understands Gandalf's reference in Khazad-dum. (Setting aside any first-time readers who are starting with the Silmarillion!) He is a servant of the Secret Fire: like Jake and Elwood Blues, he is on a mission from God.

For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much -- the wheel, New York, wars, and so on -- while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man, for precisely the same reasons. -- Douglas Adams


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 8 2013, 1:56pm


Views: 1535
The Shadow of Your Posts

Thanks everyone - I for one am really enjoying this discussion. What I wanted to do here was to bring together and react to some of the many excellent points made so far. "Shadowing your posts" see?.....OK, the things I do for a on on a chapter title.....

Yes, the Valar seem a fairly civilized and dignified lot. We don't seem to have gods for mostly-harmless-wild-abandon (like Pan or Dionysius, say). It's more the College Fellows dining than the student body with their drinking games, pranks and the impromptu invention of the most excellent sports such as "Blindfold Bicycle Jousting" to put a number of them in the Minor Injuries Unit by the end of their evening

OK, I'm convinced by the argument that the Valar choose male or female and then are stuck like that - potentially interesting, as perhaps we get an insight into what JRRT feels is naturally masculine or feminine. Similarly, I am looking forward to Ungoliant, to see how JRRT handles a female villain. My intentionally ridiculous comment about "Melkorina" seems to have led us into some interesting territory. I should say that I personally don't think Middle-earth would be improved by being more "pulpy" ("Fifty Shades of Gandalf the Grey?" Noooooooooooooooooo!!!!) But thinking about "pulpy" fiction and imagining the ridiculous B-movie "Melkorina" portrayed as a kind of evil Deja Thoris led me to realize: Tolkien was writing during the same period as Edgar Rice Burroughs (first published 1912) and H P Lovecraft (first published 1917). Quite likely these authors had no influence on Tolkien whatsoever (unless the Tolkien historians here know otherwise?), or whether that leads us anywhere.....

Classification mania - yes, Tolkien could have gone a lot further than his list of Valar and descriptions. I'm thinking of various interests of my children over the years; Teletubbies, Thomas the Tank Engine, Power Rangers, Pokemon.... Shows with a cast of discrete characters, each with a distinct and never-to-grow-or-vary personality, associations with an element, colour, favourite object, weapon or attribute. Evidently that kind of thing appeals quite widely (and also must be a great aid to potboiler writing processes). Moving out of the word of modern fiction, one could cite the elaborate list of Christian Saints (with their attributes, feast days, patronages etc.). Instead of something that sounds like it is churned out of a database or Top Trumps game, we do get some nice thumbnail sketches.

Made-up words: yes, I think it is a good point that Tolkien was professionally very well equipped to make up feasible-sounding "English" words. As opposed to thinking of something phonic with lots of low-frequency letters in it in a rather lame attempt to be outlandish. Perhaps that reduces the risk that we "catch him out" inventing stuff. As opposed to, say, some of the names of Star Wars characters - some of which are so odd that they give rise to the game that your Official Star Wars name is a combination of a car you've driven and a medicine you've taken (e.g. "Zantac Mondeo"). Moreover, Tolkien was given to puzzling out what his names meant and how a character or thing would "go" with that name. I'm not a Tolkien-philology-scholar (any present, please do speak up with insights into the names in this chapter!) but I wonder whether he was getting the names right for the subconscious mind of his reader- so that subconsciously we get the feeling that "you do know my name, though you don't remember that I belong to it." And so it seems right already and we're not just required to take the author's word for it that "I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me!" I wonder what Tolkien's works are like to read in translation to a language far away from English and its North European sibling languages: translation into Japanese, Korean or Chinese, say? There, this effect ought to break down (unless you translate the names to restore it). If we should have any multi-lingual readers able to say, I'd be most interested.

The sea - does seem to have a special place (once more). It needs two Maiar for it's different characters, and is hated by Melkor because it won't do what he tells it. Going back to an earlier conversation some us had about character alignments, Melkor is all for systems and order - provided they are HIS order. The idea of throwing some big waves at your sea wall just to see if he could get one over the top would appeal to Osse, I think. The sea wall might be demolished as a consequence, and he'd be all "Ooops!" . Whereas Melkor would be inflicting damage out of spite, or as part of a plan. Not too surprising that he didn't take over allegiance of the sea Maiar for long...

Artificing and hubris - we're told that Aulë is most like Melkor; they have a joint love of creating things. But (as raised in the Secret Fire) post above, that brings risks of wanting to push your art too far, or get too wedded to what you've made. While we're to understand that Melkor has recruited several Maiar, the only named defector is Sauron, who defects from Aulë. I'm a aware of two places in chapters to come where the temptations and frustrations following from creativity come up big-time. To avoid spoilers, I shall say just "dwarves" and "simarils". We should be sure to give this theme a good discussion in due course, but I suggest we want to wait for a later chapter, when we can bring in more examples without spoilers?

Do you see any other themes first surfacing here, which we'll want to not and discuss later?


Well, that devoured my lunchtime most pleasurably! Best wishes from cloudy Oxfordshire. No sign of a plume of smoke from the direction of Wolvercote Cemetry; so if the good Professor is turning in his grave in wrath about Melkorina etc., he can't be rotating fast enough for combustion!


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Jan 8 2013, 4:32pm


Views: 1511
That makes me quite happy!

For reasons I need not go into, I'm not posting much on TORN these days, but I'm pleased to see you and Ardamírë and perhaps others using my book to add to the discussion. And I might chime in here and there.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


telain
Rohan

Jan 8 2013, 6:12pm


Views: 1489
just posted there... and thank you!//

 


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 8 2013, 6:34pm


Views: 1481
Eldineth, I would never have guessed from your post that you were not a native English speaker! Well-written post.! //

 


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 8 2013, 6:36pm


Views: 1498
Nice mnemonics, curiousG //

 


Eldineth
Registered User

Jan 9 2013, 1:11am


Views: 1483
Thank you, noWizardme!

I'm trying my best to make my english at least understandable! Smile

Now, talking about the Sea. We can not deny it's importance, after all, it's told on The Valaquenta that Ulmo actually is the third most powerful valar (after Manwe and Morgoth, of course). And, in my opinion, Ulmo has intervened in the courses of Middle Earth even more than Manwë. But I'm afraid if I say more I'll be giving some spoilers.

Also, I would also like to say that I agree with what Mim said about the structure of this chapter. The Silmarillion was never finished by Tolkien, and may be he did planed to put the Valar's descriptions in a lore's verses structure.


(This post was edited by Eldineth on Jan 9 2013, 1:13am)


Gwenhwyfar
The Shire

Jan 9 2013, 6:33am


Views: 759
Hello! I'm new here and am quite happy to find that I managed to arrive when an electronic Silmarillion-reading party is getting started!

How did you feel the first time you ever arrived at this chapter and discovered it was a long list?

I actually didn't define the Valaquenta as a "list" the first time I read it (when I was 14 or 15), and I was grateful for the concise presentation of information to which I could return when I needed to look somebody up. Perhaps this was because my best friend (the person who started me on The Hobbit & LOTR) gave me advance warning not to expect The Silmarillion to be the same novel-like kind of book. In fact, she described it as "a history book for elf children to study." While that definition might be debatable, it made the book comprehensible to me.



I note that (at least in my edition) we get the lists as “flat” prose This also makes sense if one looks at the Valaquenta as a reference book for little beginner-level elf students. I always imagined it as a sort of summary document that was derived/adapted from more complicated songs and legends that the the grown-ups would know. (This textbook approach comes with an added bonus: an excuse to imagine all the strategies adorable elf kids could employ when trying to get out of doing their homework!)


How do you react to authors deploying so much invented terminology (Tolkien specifically, other authors for comparison)? Tolkien was the first author who did this that I read. I loved the intricacy of his world and languages, but I've been disappointed with most other authors who attempt such things. Primarily, when I'm displeased with an author's invented vocabulary, it has been because I felt that they were unoriginal and simply emulating Tolkien (whether consciously or not). I was particularly irked by Christopher Paolini's YA Eragon series. For example, his map contained places called "Melian" and "Beirland" and he had a character named "Arya" (she was an elf princess/love interest, of course). He also used real Old English to provide vocabulary for his "ancient language" which held magical properties. Now, why is it ok with me for Tolkien to apply Old English to the language of the Rohirrim but not for anybody else to make similar use of it? Tolkien didn't invent Old English, yet I still decided that Mr. Paolini was "trying too hard to be Tolkien." Is it simply that Paolini isn't a very good writer (which is probably true regardless of his language usage)? Your question made me realize that I haven't encountered any invented-language-intensive books written before Tolkien's writings were published and therefore I can't help comparing any such book to his. This may or may not be fair, so I'd love to hear about earlier language-makers if anyone has suggestions. It could be (probably is) that Tolkien is better at inventing languages than any other author, but I've read and enjoyed lots of medium-quality yet original fantasy but this is seldom the case when word-invention takes the forefront. I now wonder whether I'm excessively picky (or have had bad luck finding the right books) or if all the middle-quality language inventors are overwhelmed by the magnitude of Tolkien's lingusitic imagination?


The Valar have gender, but we’re told in Ainulindale that they can alter their appearance like clothes and similar comments are made in Valaquenta. Do you reckon they are stuck being male/female, as humans are? I agree with squire. Tolkien seems to have regarded gender as an essential part of a person's personality, so it's unlikely that the Valar he imagined would ever feel "stuck" in their gender or wish to change it even if they could.


The Valar come in pairs and are mostly married (a male Valar and a female Valier). Is that significant?
Melkor is not married, and is without female equivalent. Is this significant? I like what Eldineth said about Melkor being a non-sharing person. While this goes a good way toward explaining his evilness, he isn't the only unmarried Vala mentioned. Nienna, who "dwells alone" is my favorite character in the Valaquenta (anybody Gandalf wants to hang out with must be pretty coolCool). The difference is that she cares deeply about others and shares their griefs. Melkor in his self-isolation is willing to impose his will on others but not to receive any advice, friendship, etc. Nienna seems like his opposite. She shares in a primarily receptive way; since she "does not weep for herself," she needs to hear, absorb, and learn from the sorrows of others if she is to have any power at all. Her job is to comfort and strengthen people who are hurting, so she would be useless if she couldn't take in other people's pain. I wonder if -- in the plan where Melkor never turned evil -- he and Nienna were meant to be paired?


beren_boy
Registered User

Jan 9 2013, 10:01am


Views: 721
On Lists...

The first time I read the Sil as a 14 year old I pretty much skimmed over this part once I realized it was basically just a list of characters.
Later as I develop a (not unrelated to Tolkien) interest in archaeology and ancient history I started to really appreciate what Tolkien was doing.
The Valaquenta is in many ways really reminiscent of the ancient King Lists of civilizations such as the Egyptians, Babylonians and Hittites. The prose style is also strikingly similar to that of early civilizations.
It would be interesting to go back and have a look at the dates that those ancient texts were being translated, and to compare them to when Tolkien was writing the Valaqunta. As a philologist he would undoubtedly have been aware of these ancient texts and it strikes me that his employment of this style could be an attempt to root his mythic prehistory into an authentically ancient 'real world' style.


squire
Half-elven


Jan 9 2013, 11:23am


Views: 695
Neat idea about Nienna and Melkor

It's as if you've identified those two as being too female and too male to be able to benefit from a conjugal relationship. The bachelor and spinster Valar? "I've just never met anyone who... you know..."

But surely it's the other non-married Vala that Nienna should have hooked up with: Ulmo. He too has an immense capacity for sympathy, and in fact that becomes his defining characteristic in the Quenta Silmarillion, in which he takes a more forward role in helping the Elves and Men than almost any other of the Valar. In fact after the story developed, Tolkien had to rewrite the original description of Ulmo to detach his more destructive nature as the elemental god of the oceans and transfer that role to Osse.

Nienna and Ulmo could never get past the potato/potahto, garden/underwater but-where-would-we-live thing. I think Melkor was always meant to be alone because of his fated role as the Rebel. And I think when he wrote the Silmarillion and the Valaquenta Tolkien deeply believed that only a male personality could fulfill such a dynamic and original role. It wasn't until his later middle age that he began to conceive of women as independent and self-generating actors, leading to such brilliant female creations as Galadriel, Eowyn, and Erendis.



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 (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


acheron
Gondor


Jan 9 2013, 1:30pm


Views: 690
List of kings

Interesting note comparing it to ancient lists of kings. Tolkien also did something similar again with a list of the rulers of Numenor. (Published in Unfinished Tales.) It's more in list form than the straight prose of the Valaquenta (at least as published), though each ruler gets at least a sentence if I remember right.

For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much -- the wheel, New York, wars, and so on -- while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man, for precisely the same reasons. -- Douglas Adams


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 9 2013, 1:50pm


Views: 704
Evil bachelors

Another consideration is that Sauron and Morgoth were both extremely self-centered. Any marriage to a female would at best be an alliance where they shared a mutual desire to enslave the world. Even then, as Gandalf told Saruman about the Ring, only one could wield that power. If your goal is total domination, you wouldn't brook any rivals, including a woman sitting next to you on a throne. Probably the Melkor/Ungoliant story is illustrative of how doomed those relationships would be.


The Gardener
Registered User

Jan 9 2013, 4:46pm


Views: 678
Male - Female - and Melkor

I first read the Silmarillion in the early 1980’s and wasn’t disappointed because I always saw it as a way of getting more background to LOTR rather than as a new story. I read LOTR in the early 1960’s probably before some of you were born!!
I was interested in your comment about the “gods” being in male/female pairs No Wizard. This is surely a reflection of Tolkien’s own strong belief in the importance of such partnerships. The way he waited until he was old enough to approach his Edith and then married her. Visit their grave at Wolvercote here in Oxford to see the way he linked his marriage with the Lay of Beren and Luthien. I would also say that once again you can see his strong Catholic faith emerging.
Re- reading it I was fascinated by the way he used the description of their various responsibilities to glory in the beauty of the world almost as if he wanted to personalise all these things so that their glory is even more fully expressed.
I know Tolkien did not like anyone trying to make direct links between his stories and his faith but I cannot fail to point out that his Lady of the Stars is clearly a hint at the way Catholics (and I am one by the way) think of Mary.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 9 2013, 5:43pm


Views: 647
"obsidian bunker" and other matters...

Welcome Gwenhwyfar and Beren_boy! Nice to have you along.

I notice I'm getting a lot of answers to the questions I posed in my starter. Which is great - but I hope everyone realizes that there is no set agenda: please do raise any discussion topic relevant to this chapter; don't restrict yourself to answering the initial questions !

I think CuriousG has nailed why Melkor ends up single! Quite agree, he's not about to share his obsidian bunker with any equal.(Don't know whether he really has an obsidian bunker, but it's so nice to say "obsidian bunker", especially out loud, that I'm going to imagine one until proved otherwise).

I thought it was interesting that Gwenhwyfar was speculating on what fate was lined up for Melkor if he had not turned evil.: Did Eru have a plan for Melkor (and the others)? Did he plan all along that Melkor would turn out evil because a bit of evil is cosmically necessary in some way? Or did he not have any particular plan, and the Valar end up as gods of this or that according to their own talents an inclinations? I guess that brings up the very big issue of fate/divine plan versus free will in the Tolkien Universe. Perhaps someone would like to start a separate thread tackling the subject more generally ("Bilbo was meant to find the Ring" etc.) It probably can't be settled, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be fun to discuss.

Made up Language: Gwenhwyfar says "I was particularly irked by Christopher Paolini's YA Eragon series." Me too - not only the fantasy-by-numbers map and place names, but also because it seemed like too obvious a Tolkien/Star Wars mash-up to me (Princess carrying valuable item is perused by evil forces. Princess is captured but spirits item away. Item found by farm boy with dreams. Farm boy finds someone who can explain just enough about the item, and proposes quest. Meanwhile evil forces looking for item trash Farm Boy's house and kill his Uncle, thereby removing any remaining motivation to stay home rather than set out on quest... Remind you of anything?) Nothing wrong with making your own flavour of fantasy soup (to borrow an analogy of Tolkien's) but, personally speaking, it doesn't end well for me if my first reading of a book is overshadowed by thinking "Author, I see what you are doing there!" I tend quickly to conclude "these are not the stories you're looking for."

Gwenhwyfar, your idea of "the Valaquenta as a reference book for little beginner-level elf students" caused me to realise there is a difference between the Sil and some other works.I was thinking that in other works Tolkien has the conceit that there is a real Middle-earth book on which he's based his story. If I recall, the Hobbit is supposed to be based on Bilbo's writings, whereas the Lord of the Rings is taken from further accounts written by Hobbits. Similarly, Tale of Aragorn and Arwen is supposed to have been written by Faramir's grandson Barahir. We don't get any similar in-world view for the Sil, so are left to imagine who the Middle-earth Mallory (or Christopher Tolkien) might be, collecting these old tales up, trying to decide what is canonical, and putting it all in order. . Had the book been published in JRRT's lifetime, I wonder whether he would have added a bit of meta-story like this? As an alternative to putting the Sil in Elrond's library, as an elf manual, it could also be part of a fourth-age literary flowering in Gondor: having an elvish Queen and a King descended from Isuldur might create a lot of interest in the old tales... It's probably what is known on this forum as an Utterly Untestable Theory (or UUT).

I like Beren-boy's List of Kings idea. Yes, that is very much what this is.

Lastly, I just saw The Gardener's point about Varda/Elbereth perhaps being inspired by some elements of the Catholic view of Virgin Mary - it would be interesting if you would elaborate!


Mim
The Shire

Jan 9 2013, 5:49pm


Views: 658
No evil women

Or perhaps Tolkien struggled to envisage a female character being evil enough to match them. Ungoliant is something of an anomaly but I think we generally speaking see that the more evil a race the less women it has. We see, comparatively, quite a few female elves and quite a few female Hobbits. On the other hand I don't think its ever even suggested that there are any female Orcs or any females of any of the evil classes.


DanielLB
Immortal


Jan 9 2013, 6:04pm


Views: 653
There was also Thuringwethil

But again, she cannot be compared to other dominant "evil" male characters.

Other notable mentions to more stubborn/angry/bitter/cunning/devious female characters include Lobelia, Erendis and Queen Beruthiel. That's all I can think of. And they don't come anywhere near the evil of Morgoth.


Rostron2
Gondor


Jan 9 2013, 6:19pm


Views: 624
How did you feel the first time you ever arrived at this chapter and discovered it was a long list?

I recall my first encounter with this chapter, and found myself already taking notes! I've always looked at this chapter and some others as a reference book, like a Dictionary to pull down off the shelf when I find something elsewhere in the more complete story narratives that needs explaining. In a lot of ways, I think it really was Tolkien's style and intent to have such a reference volume, but like some authors, he had his own way of 'filing' things, and each of us has our own system. In my won writing, I often have a separate reference writing that I go back to when my gray matter gets tired.

I like your analogy to introducing the players in a game.

So, long story short, I read it to absorb the basics, and then bookmark it. I still need to go to that set of bookmarks. When I someday get it on my electric wonder device, that will be even easier. Who knows, my daughter may someday be able to touch the electronic page and little reference bubbles will appear in the way Shakespeare has annotated editions like the Riverside, to guide people through the arcana.

You're right, Tolkien was being a bit antique in his approach to things. Even his sentence structure doesn't scan under modern spellcheckers! Books are just a lot more streamlined in their structure today.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 9 2013, 6:22pm


Views: 645
Females at large

Presumably there must be SOME female orcs, biologically speaking, I mean? :)

I was thinking that we tend to meet female characters when the action goes to habitations. So we don't meet any dwarven ladies, either.


Plurmo
Rohan

Jan 9 2013, 6:31pm


Views: 643
Arien and Galadriel

Were the best candidates for the evil female. Arien rejected Melkor and Galadriel rejected the Ring. Even then I think Tolkien used almost every component there is to female evil in his stories without ever having to reference to it as such, sparing himself and his works of much ill-informed, destructive and irrelevant criticism.


Mim
The Shire

Jan 9 2013, 7:10pm


Views: 628
Sure...

But even when Frodo and Sam are in Mordor, there aren't any female orcs hanging out at the campfires. So where ever they are, they are very much outside the narrative


Mim
The Shire

Jan 9 2013, 7:18pm


Views: 643
Female evil...

I find wording it like that interesting. Perhaps you didn't mean it that way, but perhaps there is something to the idea that male and female evil are coded differently. If it's said that male and female evil are different then its more possible to consider Tolkien's female characters as evil. However, I think that opens the door to just the kind of criticism you're talking about. I just found your use of that specific wording interesting.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 9 2013, 8:13pm


Views: 652
Sorry, I'm probably dragging you off subject...

Lack of lady-orcs in Mordor might seem odd - will happily speculate why if that would entertain, but I think that might detract from your point (and would aldo drag us off the subject of this thread). Sorry- before i muddled things, I think you were remarking on the comparative lack of evil female characters, in the Tolkein universe and wondering whether it was significant?


telain
Rohan

Jan 10 2013, 12:53am


Views: 627
Amazorcs?

we really don't get a complete description of ALL the orcs in Mordor, do we? Perhaps Sam and Frodo simply didn't walk past the Amazon-orc regiments... ;)


telain
Rohan

Jan 10 2013, 1:26am


Views: 641
Varda, not starry-eyed for Melkor; on being a single Vala/ier


Quote
With Manwë dwells Varda, ... she came to the aid of Manwë; for Melkor she knew from before the making of the Music and rejected him, and he hated her, and feared her more than all others Eru made.


Ah, unrequited love...

So Varda's rejection instigates Melkor's revenge on the rest of creation? That old chestnut...

There may be dozens of reasons why Tolkien has few acknowledged evil female characters but some things that a few different posters have said so far makes me think:

- no obviously evil race has acknowledged female characters except for Ungoliant/Shelob. This suggests that all or at least many spiders are female in Tolkien's world/mind. Ever-so-slightly disturbing.

- the female characters that are good are quite powerful (Galadriel, Varda, Eowyn), while those that are nasty/cunning seem far more petty (LobeliaS-B, for one.)

On being a single Vala/ier

- there is certainly a rather "interesting" undercurrent to many of the relationships Tolkien sets up. Many people who remain single until later in life are either rather disturbed (Eol comes to mind) or have quite a "difficult" time finding an appropriate mate (Turin? among others). This undercurrent seems retroactively applied to the Valar; all the married ones are more or less "normal(?)" while Melkor goes off the deep end, Ulmo lives in the deep end:

Quote
Ulmo's voice is as deep as the deeps of the ocean which he only has seen.

and admittedly doesn't like to "clothe himself in a body in the manner of his peers." Nienna is quintessential sadness.

Something tells me Tolkien didn't like being alone.


telain
Rohan

Jan 10 2013, 1:38am


Views: 596
Mandos: Hand of Fate

Makes me think of an old B (C?) movie amusingly reprised by Mystery Science Theater: 3000 called "Manos: Hands of Fate"

and great job on the mnemonics! I am still trying to think of one for Manwë, but he is a bit stubborn isn't he?

on the filler-wives: Oromë's horse (Nahar) and horn (Valaróma) were described before Vána -- and neither Vána nor Nessa really do anything but run around and make flowers bloom (which is no bad thing, but really, Tolkien, you couldn't come up with anything else?)


Gwenhwyfar
The Shire

Jan 10 2013, 2:48am


Views: 639
No beards, but . . . .

Perhaps Frodo and Sam did see lady orcs, but they're all just really ugly so no one appreciated their girlish charms? Crazy

Regarding The Valaquenta: Shipping Edition, I guess another way to think about it would be to ask what motives guide Tolkien's single people. squire, I thought about Nienna/Ulmo, but (largely for reasons you mentioned) decided it wouldn't work. Since there are nine Valar, it seems that Eru's Plan A would have to have at least one single person. There could be a Nienna/Ulmo pairing, a Nienna/GoodMelkor pairing, or all three could be single (as they were in Plan B). There was an impediment to stop the Nienna/Melkor ship from sailing (one of the parties turned evil), but none to prevent Nienna and Ulmo from marrying if they wanted to.

I think Ulmo is most suited to be the "odd man out" as it were. If Plan A was for GoodMelkor to be in charge, it makes sense that maybe he was meant to have a wife. After all, Manwe (who got Melkor's originally-intended job) and Varda seem to need each other in order to do their best job ruling.

Ulmo reminds me of another bachelor whose personality inclined him to a solitary life of wandering around and listening to people: Gandalf. It's quite hard to imagine a Mrs. Mithrandir, even if she were awesome, also a Maia, tough, shared his compassion, liked long walks in the wilderness, etc. Gandalf liked people and was willing to spend time with others (particularly hobbits), no matter how grumpy he may have seemed. It's just that to do his job properly, he had to go poking around secret corners of the world where there wouldn't always be room for two. He was "wisest of the Maiar," but Saruman was given a position that outranked him, possibly because Gandalf wouldn't have been suited to staying in one place and being findable like leaders generally ought to be. Saruman's reasons for staying alone seem more Melkor-like, since somebody could have lived in his tower with him quite comfortably, if he had wanted a companion. (As long as it isn't Wormtongue.)

Returning to Ulmo, could it be that he just wasn't suited to the top leadership position, even though his sympathy and knowledge would have made him good (maybe even best) at it? I saw some discussion of why Ulmo wasn't given the top job, in spite of the high regard Tolkien affords water in his works, by CuriousG and others in the Ainulindale thread. I wonder if the answer lies somewhere amidst Tolkien's philosophy of leadership. His good leaders tend to reluctant and/or active; to be otherwise is often a flaw. For instance, Theoden was not doing his job properly when he stayed in his hall, but he was a good king when he got up and rode around looking after his people's well-being. Contrast him with Denethor, who was way too comfortable in his position and tended to send other people out to do things instead of riding out himself. Aragorn's personality seems suited to wandering around as a Ranger, but he wanted to get married. He never seemed very interested in being king for the sake of pomp and being in charge (which did hold appeal for Denethor and Saruman), but he was willing to do it because he realized he had to for the good of Middle-Earth. Likewise, Gandalf took on the job of being the White Wizard only when it became clear that nobody else was capable of doing it and it needed to be done.

Notable leaders who go against this pattern include Galadriel and Elrond, who are good and have fixed dwelling places. Both traveled a lot at earlier points in their lives, but eventually settled down to look after Lothlorien and Rivendell. Galadriel is and Elrond was married, so maybe that's why they can be more stationary than other "good" leaders?

So, here's a question: What is Tolkien saying about leadership, wisdom-from-solitude, and marital status? It seems to me that, in Tolkien's world, the wisest people (i.e. those who would make the best leaders) are disqualified from taking official power because of their peripatetic ways and are also not eligible to marry BUT that people who do occupy such positions should marry someone who complements them (e.g. Manwe couldn't see as far without Varda).


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 10 2013, 4:36am


Views: 591
Beware the lonely

Good point; I think Tolkien repeats that elsewhere, such as with Melkor in the Ainulindale:


Quote
He had gone often alone in the the void places seeking the Imperishable Flame... But being alone he had begun to conceive thoughts of his own unlike those of his brethren.

We learn this just before he creates discord in the Great Music.

On the other hand, Bilbo and Frodo were loners and heroes of the book. Gandalf was a loner too. But I still think you're right that Tolkien didn't see solitude as good for mortals; Ulmo and Nienna are a different breed.

It gets a little more complex because Eol had servants, "silent and secret as their master," so he wasn't technically alone before Aredhel, but alone at his social level, I suppose. And Bilbo and Frodo had friends among their younger relatives, but significantly, no friends their own age that we know of, so they were alone in their generation group.

Gollum, of course, won the grand prize for being a loner, and look how he turned out.

(PS to noWiz: thanks for leading this chapter, and sorry I haven't given a proper response to your OP, but just too busy from work to do more than pop in here and there.)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 10 2013, 4:38am


Views: 589
Yes, I always think Elves call out to Varda the way Catholics do to Mary.//

 


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 10 2013, 4:38am


Views: 599
Your English is terrific! //

 


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 10 2013, 4:53am


Views: 585
The "V" Chapter--get ready for "F"s; and, more on Olorin

When we get to the Noldor family tree, get ready for all the names that begin with "F." In this chapter, we have a biblical deluge of "V's:

Valar
Valier
Varda
Vana
Vaire
Valaquenta
Valaroma (which makes me think "Perfume of the Valar")
Valinor
Valimar
Valaraukar
And the chapter ends with the Void. (Don't forget the "v"'s in Iluvatar and Yavanna.)

*******

Douglas Kane notes in Arda Reconstructed that Chris Tolkien mistakenly omitted a little more about Olorin that was originally meant to be in this chapter, for us Gandalf-lovers who never get enough: "He was humble in the Land of the Blessed; and in Middle-earth he sought no renown. His triumph was in the uprising of the fallen, and his joy was in the renewal of hope."


Gwenhwyfar
The Shire

Jan 10 2013, 5:30am


Views: 647
Hmmm


Quote
On the other hand, Bilbo and Frodo were loners and heroes of the book. Gandalf was a loner too. But I still think you're right that Tolkien didn't see solitude as good for mortals; Ulmo and Nienna are a different breed.

It gets a little more complex because Eol had servants, "silent and secret as their master," so he wasn't technically alone before Aredhel, but alone at his social level, I suppose. And Bilbo and Frodo had friends among their younger relatives, but significantly, no friends their own age that we know of, so they were alone in their generation group.



That's a good point. Maybe I was wrong to focus on marital relationships. Perhaps the better way to describe it would be "voluntary family relationships." While Bilbo and Frodo didn't marry, both invited others to live in their hole, so I don't think I would call them "loners" -- at least not in the sense that we've been discussing. Bilbo chose to take Frodo into his home as Frodo would later choose to invite Sam and Rosie to live with him. It might be significant that we do get personal relationships among the Valar communicated in terms of who chooses to live with whom. ("With Manwe dwells Varda.") We don't really know whether or not the Valar are sexual beings, so maybe "marriage" was just the closest term Tolkien could think of to communicate "relationship between people who choose to share their lives with each other."



The Gardener
Registered User

Jan 10 2013, 10:40am


Views: 607
Surely Orcs are a construction of Sauron?

Since Orcs are a construction of Sauron, or a perversion, I assume that they are not capable of reproduction and so could possible be thought of as neither male nor female, simply orcs


The Gardener
Registered User

Jan 10 2013, 10:57am


Views: 686
M for Bad?

Listening to something on Morte D'Arthur made me wonder if Tolkien chose M words for baddies Melkor and Mordor and Morgoth for example because of this work. Of course, there are exceptions like Sauron.


Mim
The Shire

Jan 10 2013, 1:29pm


Views: 642
The reserves

They were the secret weapon, but Sauron never got a chance to use them.


Mim
The Shire

Jan 10 2013, 1:35pm


Views: 667
Perhaps...

But they are referred to specifically using male pronouns. I think Tolkien did intend them to be male. I honestly don't think there's ever a very satisfactory explanation of where orcs come from. We get the story of them as corrupted elves, but if that is how the race was created we don't ever get told how it perpetuates itself. I think there are some specific references to orcs being bred to be a certain way, which would imply fairly standard reproduction, but we never see any orc children or orc females. Like I said before, I think how orcs reproduce is something that exists outside the text.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 10 2013, 2:55pm


Views: 703
Married gods and single heroes

That seems to hit the nail on the head - Tolkien seems determined to marry off his gods (that is, he does this far more than the needs of his plot seem to dictate, including making up "filler wives"). By comparison, The Hobbit and LOTR are full of bachelors, widowers, and males whose romantic status is never touched upon. For example, if Legolas or Boromir or Thorin Oakenshield has a picture of his love to sigh over during nights camping in the wilderness, it is not important enough to the story to relate.

While the Valar seem very deliberately paired-off, I'm quite sure if we can say that LOTR and Hobbit have single males "far more than the needs of his plot seem to dictate". Two reasons might reduce WAG-count. Firstly, Tolkien is from a time and society where ladies would usually be strictly non-combatants, and kept away from physical danger where possible. Secondly, single people are often a staple for stories - one less tie to keep them at home ("Goldberry is waiting"), and the opportunity to introduce a romance sub-plot for them. Indeed, the "romance breaking out during the quest" sub-plot is now hackneyed enough to prompt Evil Overlord Rule #98:


Quote
"98. If an attractive young couple enters my realm, I will carefully monitor their activities. If I find they are happy and affectionate, I will ignore them. However if circumstance have forced them together against their will and they spend all their time bickering and criticizing each other except during the intermittent occasions when they are saving each others' lives at which point there are hints of sexual tension, I will immediately order their execution."
http://www.eviloverlord.com/lists/overlord.html


Also, I agree that LOTR needs lots of strong relationships, but that romantic relationships aren't the only ones strong enough for his purposes. For example, from a plot point of view, Frodo needs to be accompanied by someone who will never desert him no matter what. That can be his loyal gardener-batman-friend Sam as compellingly as it could have been is loyal wife/girlfriend.

Perhaps one difference is that the gods can either do their stuff at a distance, or at least be magically back home for tea. So married life is less of a handicap to their role in the plot?

Amazorcs! Love it. Wink My own guess is that JRRT did not need to consider the problem of orc family life for his story, & so did not work anything out. We're left free to imagine. So the Uruk-hai as an equal-opportunity horde is an arguable solution (who's to say what is under all that armour? ). So is the idea that Orcs are sterile clone troopers and new batches must be hatched- or something similar - as required. There is a "hatching scene" in Peter Jackson's film to suggest that is the line his script-writers went for. Or we could posit that orc-girls are a downtrodden domesticated lot at home, well away from the army encampments of Mordor. Or there are many other solutions, I expect.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 10 2013, 3:42pm


Views: 653
when do you want to start the next chapter?

The discussion of this chapter is still bubbling along nicely, but at some point we'll want to move along to the next chapter. How soon, do you think? And who is willing to set up a thread & write a starter post to get discussion going?


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Jan 10 2013, 4:16pm


Views: 648
You assume wrongly...


In Reply To
Since Orcs are a construction of Sauron, or a perversion, I assume that they are not capable of reproduction and so could possible be thought of as neither male nor female, simply orcs



If Orcs were purely a construction of Sauron's then you might be right. However, they were fashioned from corrupted and magically perverted Elves (and possibly Men as well). I see no reason to doubt the existence of female Orcs, especially in light of Gollum's habit of feasting on goblin young during the period when he was dwelling beneath the Misty Mountains.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring


Eldineth
Registered User

Jan 10 2013, 4:25pm


Views: 626
Wait...

Didn't you mean Morgoth?
In anyway, before everything, orcs were elves and elves do have gender. It's hard to imagine a female orc pregnant for example, because we are used to "girlish" females.
But see, dwarfs were a creation of Aulë and still there are female dwarfs. They are not exactly "girlish", but they are females yet.


Eldineth
Registered User

Jan 10 2013, 4:26pm


Views: 626
Thank you!

 


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 10 2013, 4:37pm


Views: 629
Young goblins as a gollum-snack; good point. Though just to be awkward....

...if you wanted to stick with the asexual orc theory, you could imagine that Gollum is sneaking around snatching young goblins shortly after they emerge from some magical cloning ooze (or whatever). Maybe they don't hatch full-size....

I expect that neither theory can be completely ruled out, & we have to take our picks...

Shocked "asexual orc theory" was not something I ever expected to find myself publishing to the Internet Smile


Eldineth
Registered User

Jan 10 2013, 4:56pm


Views: 625
Good point.

I think you and NoWizard, together, have said everything I wanted to say about marriage between characters.
Most of heroes are lonely, and that's because they can not just settle, they have to make things happen.
But the leaders that don't actually act and are more kind of a "mentor" usually get married, though this is not Saruman's case.


(This post was edited by Eldineth on Jan 10 2013, 4:58pm)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 10 2013, 5:59pm


Views: 623
Orc sex

I hope that title isn't offensive, but it's what we're talking about.

I can't remember where, but I think it's in The Sil, when Melkor is stirring up trouble in Middle-earth, that Tolkien says "and orcs bred like flies." I'm pretty sure that's what he says, but as everyone's observed, he steers clear of mentioning sex, has few female characters, and we never see or hear any dialogue quoted from a female dwarf, so my conclusion is that lady orcs exist and have babies, but Tolkien didn't feel like writing about them.

He also avoids describing pregnant women. Elves make babies, but we never read anything like, "And many lady Elves who were heavy with child died on the Grinding Ice (or the flight from Gondolin's fall, etc)."


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 10 2013, 6:11pm


Views: 650
You probably just greatly increased the number of hits this thread will get from search engines :) //

 


Gwenhwyfar
The Shire

Jan 10 2013, 7:54pm


Views: 640
Orc domesticity


Quote
my conclusion is that lady orcs exist and have babies, but Tolkien didn't feel like writing about them.



I agree. I've always thought, particularly since Tolkien was in a real war, that he invented orcs because he needed an enemy that could be unequivocally evil and not very person-like so that his heroes could be unequivocally right to fight and kill them. The closest encounter a hobbit (the species of protagonist with whom the reader can most closely identify) has with a human enemy is the scene in Ithillien when a dead warrior from the south prompts Frodo to wonder about him as a person, why he left home, and if he would have preferred to stay there. (Apologies -- my book is in another state or I would give the exact quote!) That passage seemed so achingly personal to me, I wondered if it was an echo of Tolkien's own emotions during WWI. While I don't believe LOTR is an allegory of either world war, it seems impossible that somebody who experienced war could keep his thoughts about it from shaping the way he invented a war in his fiction. No real war can be satisfactory if it involves human enemies because most humans (even if they are required/persuaded to follow an evil leader, such as Hitler) are not 100% evil. Tolkien's sympathy for Gollum -- who had a tiny but real chance at redemption & joining the good guys -- and this nameless warrior from the south indicates that, to him, the concept of war that goes "They may not be totally evil but we have to fight them anyway because they are attacking us" is a very troubling one. I think Tolkien's love of old poems and sagas depicting glorious warfare was at odds with his compassion for real people. So -- much as he did when, unsatisfied with the "moving" of Birnam Wood in MacBeth, he created Ents -- I think Tolkien's dissatisfaction with real warfare prompted him to make a world in which glorious fighting was actually possible.

In that case, thinking too hard about orc families with wives and children would invalidate their purpose. I think biological reproduction must be happening, but that the thought of orc babies would have been unbearable to an author who positioned their species as an enemy whom it is always acceptable to kill. No people in Tolkien's world start evil, even if they become very evil later by their own choices; the fact that orcs are ruined elves allows that rule to still apply: they started out good but were pushed past the point where they could possibly be redeemed. Innocent orc babies who've never hurt anybody (even if they grow up to do so) would upset the concept, so that's why I think Tolkien didn't want to think about them.


(I hope I didn't get too far off topic!)


(This post was edited by Gwenhwyfar on Jan 10 2013, 7:56pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 10 2013, 10:08pm


Views: 619
Great point: "really evil of heart" = incompatible with babies

Great post Gwenhwyfar.
My copy is on a different continent to you, I think. But by the magic of the Internet, I can help you out! Your quote is from Two Towers (of herbs and stewed rabbit), and is also one I found really moving:

Quote
It was Sam's first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that be could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man's name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would really rather have stayed there in peace..."


The passage is all the more effective for being a momentary interlude before Sam is disturbed by the ongoing battle- in particular, the enraged Oliphaunt.


Rostron2
Gondor


Jan 10 2013, 10:23pm


Views: 600
I just don't think

Tolkien's strength was in writing about women, women's issues, or romance. He came from a generation and a time where women were really secondary citizens. His female characters of any importance were all unique archetypes. Eowyn is the only human that seems more on the mold of a more modern woman, trying to find her own path in life, yet still stuck in the traditions of her people of glory and war. Galadriel is the councillor, the wise matriarch; and Arwen barely exists in the books, but it's clear she probably had a lot of influence on Aragorn, the man she loved. She no doubt worked behind the scenes to help him, it's just not detailed.

So, as an author on romance and sex, Tolkien barely shows up.


Gwenhwyfar
The Shire

Jan 10 2013, 11:41pm


Views: 642
Yay for electronic magic!

Thank you, noWizardme -- that is the quote I needed! Of course it was Sam's moment -- that makes sense (if I'd thought about it) because Frodo had been damaged by the Ring enough that by this point Sam was best able to serve an "everyman" role. I agree that the moment's brevity is significant; maybe Tolkien was implying that, when good folk get swept up into wars, the violence of the environment prevents them from following their empathetic impulses or taking such trains of thought further?

It is also striking that the narrator is our source of information about Sam's feelings here, rather than anything Sam himself ever says out loud. Maybe he just didn't have the words.


The Gardener
Registered User

Jan 11 2013, 6:48am


Views: 647
Wow! I did start something there!

What a fascinating discussion started by my idea that orcs were asexual. I think I must agree however that I was wrong, although the idea of orc females doesn't fit with mine or Tolkien's ideas of the female much does it? I think with many of you that Tollkien hadn't really worked t his one out. It would have been much better if he had left out that bit about young goblins and then I could stick to the idea of them being asexual.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 11 2013, 1:27pm


Views: 652
Sam vs. the Valaquenta (stylistically I mean)

In writing terms that quote from Sam in Ithlien contrasts just as much as can be from the style of Valaquenta. Perhaps we have thoughts about the contrast and the effect it has on us as readers?

As Sam looks at the dead man in Two Towers we get the narrator inside Sams head. i think thats partly not to destroy the pace of things: there's no time for him to soliloquise before the Oliphaunt is upon them. And, I suspect, we're seeing an image that Sam is doomed to replay mentally and reflect upon many times in later years. Such is often the lot of combat veterans; I agree it is tempting to see this asree ting Tolkiens own war experience. Having the narrator tell us what Sam is thinking allows Tolkien to collapse that initial moment into the later reflections. The words used to describe Sam's thoughts are simple, and the sentence structure modern. Its only one of the voices JRRT uses in this chapter. What actually snaps us back to the present moment is a commotion and Damrod (one of Faramir's company) shouting

Quote
"Ware! Ware! ...May the Valar turn him aside. Mumak! Mumak!"

A very different way of speaking! Its also one of the only three times the Valar are mentioned in the story itself. (Hooray for the search function on eBook readers!)

As we've already discussed, Valaquenta is more like something from a textbook. And the language is deliberately antique. No narrator is there as a direct point of view when, say, Melkor ...

Quote
...descended upon Arda in power and majesty greater than any of the other Valar, as a mountain that wades in the sea and has its head above the clouds and is clad in ice and crowned in smoke and fire...
(Ainulindale)

The writing is vivid and visual here, but we feel like we're being given a traditional image of a long-ago event, rather than witnessing it direct.


telain
Rohan

Jan 11 2013, 4:29pm


Views: 566
"light-years" away from the subject, but...

... I'd like to bring up a "nature of evil" possibility from another (gasp!) sci-fi/fantasy tradition: Star Trek.

In one episode of Deep Space Nine (I believe it is "The Abandoned") a child from a race of genetically-engineered soldier/killers (sounds like orcs, yes?) is accidentally brought aboard the Federation space station. Due to accelerated growth the child matures, but even with the "care and feeding" from the forces of good the child/young adult exhibits the characteristics of a born killer.

This could be a good analogy for the orc reproduction question: beings so twisted and "engineered" that they have no other outcome but to be evil -- even as children.

I agree with many here who suggested Tolkien was a bit prudish on the subject (and maybe just had the good sense or good taste not to discuss the reproductive habits of orcs?), but also with the idea something so universally(?) good, the having and raising of children, could also be applied to something so desperately evil would undermine the very evilness of the thing.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 11 2013, 4:47pm


Views: 539
I meant "the word 'valar' appears only 3 times in the text ( not inc. appendices)" //

 


telain
Rohan

Jan 11 2013, 4:51pm


Views: 568
the importance of being social

I think we've got something here. Loneliness is somewhat of a state of mind (rather than "married" or "not married"), and perhaps Tolkien was trying to highlight the unnaturalness of characters who:
A) rejected relationships with other people, and/or
B) made no attempt to reach out to others in a positive way.

"Solo" characters like Bilbo, Gandalf, and even Valar like Ulmo and Nienna, certainly lead/led interesting -- sometimes extraordinary -- lives, but they did not become twisted or evil. Yet there is something different about the courses of their lives as compared to married characters (or characters that are entrenched in family/social relations). I wonder if Tolkien was saying something about the not-necessarily-bad way marriage ties people down? Would Bilbo or Frodo have gone on their adventures if either had been married? Would Ulmo or Gandalf have risked what they did to help the peoples of M-e if there was one person in their lives that they were more focused on?

In fact, if I were to expand this a bit further... (oh, why not?)

If the Ring is a character and if one's relationship with the Ring becomes all-encompassing (to the point of points A & B above) then is that the crucial turning point to evil? Is that why it is so important for Sam to be on the journey to Mordor with Frodo? To be a positive relationship to counter the isolation and self-centredness that the Ring encourages? If Denethor's wife had still been alive, would he have driven himself mad with use of the Palantir?


Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Jan 12 2013, 5:29am


Views: 568
*mods up* //

 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Xanaseb
Tol Eressea


Jan 12 2013, 1:01pm


Views: 572
Ok, this is just me quite at random entering the world of the Reading Room, but..

... 'The Enemies' are grouped separately in the org chart, with no link to Eru/Illúvatar, should they not have a line to Eru aswell? Eru created the Ainur, some turned evil, but nevertheless.

--I'm a victim of Bifurcation--
__________________________________________

Join us over at Barliman's chat all day, any day!
__________________________________________


(This post was edited by Xanaseb on Jan 12 2013, 1:05pm)


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 12 2013, 5:23pm


Views: 539
I see what you mean

On the other hand, thinking of this as an "org chart" are the Enrmies still working for Eru, or have they left to form their own start-up Smile?


Xanaseb
Tol Eressea


Jan 12 2013, 8:58pm


Views: 517
Ah! of course. Sorry, thought the lines meant that they came about -by- Eru ;) //

 

--I'm a victim of Bifurcation--
__________________________________________

Join us over at Barliman's chat all day, any day!
__________________________________________


telain
Rohan

Jan 13 2013, 11:42pm


Views: 549
every time I see "org chart", I read "orc chart!"//

 


hanne
Lorien

Jan 14 2013, 1:18pm


Views: 544
Fab discussion! Valar Rhyme for Hobbit Children

This has been a wonderful discussion; I've really enjoyed everyone's take.


Only have something to contribute re the menemonic (sort of). Like you, I carefully drew a "family tree" and table of who ruled what powers, thinking I was bound to need it later – and nope. Only a handful ever showed up in stories or had stories about them. And naturally, I remembered those ones because there are stories about them!


But the mnemnomic seemed a fun exercise to try, so I started to imagine that the Valar were more involved than we think. Here's an attempt at something for little hobbit children to memorize in the Fourth Age :)


Gandalf was Manwe's: airy Eagles bringing aid.
Aragorn was Este's: healing hands on Gondor laid.
Frodo was Lorien's: seeing visions sleeping, waking.
Sam was Yavanna's: all things green and growing making.
Merry was Nessa's: unquenchable summer cheer.
Pippin was Vana's: the ever-young finds hope, not fear.
Legolas was Ulmo's: singing of the ocean wave.
Gimli was Aule's: Earth's treasures he freely gave.
Boromir was Orome's: his horn rang brighter far than any.
Bilbo was Nienna's: his pity ruled the fate of many.
Bombadil was Tulkas's: cheery, strong and set apart.
Arwen was Vaire's: weaving time with patient heart.
Elrond was Mandos's: prophesizing fate and doom.
Galadriel was Varda's: giving light to those who roam.

Sauron was Melkor's: their enemy of woe and hate.
Against him, these fourteen united: strove to mend marred Arda's fate.


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 14 2013, 1:26pm


Views: 515
Excellent! //

 


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 14 2013, 1:56pm


Views: 542
Truly beautiful and excellent--thanks for posting it.//

 


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 14 2013, 4:31pm


Views: 539
Ready for the next chapter?

I started a thread here: http://newboards.theonering.net/forum/gforum/perl/gforum.cgi?post=561725#561725


hanne
Lorien

Jan 15 2013, 2:43am


Views: 505
thank you both - am happy you enjoyed! //

 


sador
Half-elven


Jan 17 2013, 12:51pm


Views: 496
You still have Bolg Azog's son. //

 


sador
Half-elven


Jan 17 2013, 12:54pm


Views: 473
Out of which, only two are clear references.

"The Battle of the Valar" at the end of The Ride of the Rohirrim could be a place name, if we did not know otherwise.

A riddle: apart of Varda and Orome, Manwe is also mentioned in The Lord of the Rings. Where?


sador
Half-elven


Jan 17 2013, 12:56pm


Views: 480
Mods up.

From time to time you pop in - and are thrice welcome!


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 17 2013, 1:09pm


Views: 511
"The Elder King"

Though that's not much of an answer, because I can't remember where. It's something that I suspect Elves would say, so Gildor in the Shire or someone during the Council of Elrond. Just guesses for now.


sador
Half-elven


Jan 20 2013, 4:27pm


Views: 480
Still within a fortnight of your post...

Both some comments and some answers:


In Reply To
Some of the Ainur decide to dwell in the world, and become known as the Valar.


The Maiar are also Ainur. And I suspect only the lesser Ainur which are alligned to one of the Valar received that name - so there might very well be some Ainur in Arda who have come as free agents. Yes, of course I have the old merry fellow with the silly boots in mind.


In Reply To
who mostly come in pairs – a male Valar and a female Valier. But the term for a mixed-gender bunch of them is “Valar”


As far as I understand, the singular is "Vala", and is gender-neutral. Valier is a group of female Valar. It's just the bias of a male-dominated society which uses for a mixed-gender bunch the masculine form.

How did you feel the first time you ever arrived at this chapter and discovered it was a long list?
Well, my initial reaction to the whole book was dismay. The translation of The Lord of the Rings I've read at first had no appendices, and I really could make nothing at all from The Silmarillion. I somehow finished it, without being any wiser than I began.
Only after discovering the appendices, and Foster's Complete Guide to Middle-earth, I could tackle it for the second time, treating it as a study in some esoteric lore. With that approach, I've actually found the Valaquenta very helpful, and the realisation that quite a bit of the information is not necessary for the rest of the book (for instance, checking Nessa in Foster's Guide) was pretty encouraging. Blush


In Reply To
I can’t think of many modern books which would include a chapter like this, in this style, and in this place.


Scholarly books might.
And printed versions of plays are often preceded by a list of the Dramatis Personnae.


Quote
In that chapter, we meet Boromir, Gimli and Legolas for the first time; meet Elrond for the first time


Well, we've met Elrond a chapter before, and learn nothing of Gimli but his family. But that's just niggling.
More to the point, Elrond has been talked of several times before - so he's not like Legolas or Boromir, a new, strtange character foisted upon us all of a sudden.


In Reply To
Recasting Valaquenta as dialogue between football commentators would either be amusing, or literary hooliganism (or both) – anyone want to try?


I've looked it your profile, and noticed that you are Brittish. That's imprtant, to know what football you are talking about.
But no, I'll skip that one, thanks.


In Reply To
my wife studied classics and found it difficult to love a chapter in Homer’s Illiad which is basically a list of the ships setting out to Troy.


Book II! That's right - it isn't very entertaining. Perusing a map of ancient Greece might help you get a feel of the economic and political background of the Trojan War - but yes, I can feel her frustration.


In Reply To

The Bible has lists of people who beget other people.

Once again - these are needed to either establish lineage (something you need to follow closely in the Silmarillion), or to explain the map of the Near East.
But indeed - not the best reading material for a layman, or a schoolgirl (my daughter had to chew a few of them just recently).


In Reply To
I imagine Homer being sung, recited or read to people who might trace their ancestry back to these semi-mythical heroes. So, telling the tale in Ithaca, say, you’d better include those ships (“A shout out to those brave boys from Ithaca!”).


That too. Nice idea!
But I'm not sure how many of the people of the late Dorian period could actually trace their ancestry to Mycanaean heros?


In Reply To
New Testament writers, I think, were eager to prove that Jesus is of the House of David


But that's just the list at the beginning of two books. Those lists appear a lot in the Bible - long before that time.

does JRRT have an agenda here other than giving us information we as readers need to progress with the story? For example, does a full listing seem appropriate given that it is quite likely what his literary models of ancient texts would do.
Emphatically yes.

I note that (at least in my edition) we get the lists as “flat” prose... rhymes seem a reasonable way for mostly-pre literate cultures to memorize Valaquenta-like information, so perhaps would be in keeping with the genre.
Yes, it is odd. It looks as if Tolkien was trying to write this as a monograph, rather than a rhyme of lore.

Or do the Elves not need to memorize lists of Valar in elvenschool, since their elders met the gods personally?
I always think of this as a "translation" from an Exilic work, for the benefit of the Numenoreans, Dunedain or even Hobbits.


In Reply To

Athiesm, come to think of it would probably be pretty impractical for the Noldar.

Is Athiesm about practicality? Shocked

As an alternative suggestion for a game, anyone fancy a competition to come up with the best mnemonic for the names of the Valar?
Oh - Isee some good efforts were made!


How do you react to authors deploying so much invented terminology (Tolkien specifically, other authors for comparison)?
I haven't seen anyone do it as successfully as Tolkien. But then, how many had wasted so many years on this kind of invented mythology?

Is that risky (you might give up) or do you like it, or does it not bother you?
Yes, but I'm used to it.


In Reply To

In my view, the Lord of the Rings is given a lot of depth and solidity by the fact that JRRT had already worked a lot of this Silmarilion material out. So he could give offhand references to a great, hidden body of lore, to great literary effect.

I fully agree.


In Reply To
Or, given that he may have had little expectation that we’d ever be reading Valaquenta, is this a moot point


I think he did hope it would be.

The Valar have gender...
Too long for me by now. I will continus it tommorow.















Etarre
Registered User

Jan 22 2013, 10:17pm


Views: 475
Doesn't it bother anyone else...

Don't know if it's too late to post, but I was reading the conversation way back and had some thoughts -

Doesn't it bother anyone else that far more of the 'important Valar', the Aratar, are male than female? And that quite a few of the Valar are 'filler wives' as someone else put it in a post further back? (sorry, can;t remember who). Perhaps Tolkien didn't see it that way and saw Este as equal to Lorien, etc. Varda and Yavanna and Nienna are certainly important, but Tolkien makes it clear that Manwe, Aule and Ulmo are the three 'lords' of the Valar. I know they are not really male female etc and just choose that form but still, energies I would consider more female such as the sea and the earth are male here. I love Tolkien, but as I get older I wonder if I 'should' be bothered by the lack of female energies in his books.

Then again, perhaps we just have to realise the energies Tolkien's talking about are beyond gender, and are just emodied as so in myths and stories to make them easier for us to comprehend.

I really love the Valar rhyme. I personally would swap Frodo and Bilbo and put Frodo with Nienna as he went through so much suffering and grief, and yet had pity, and Bilbo was an adventurer and story-teller with visions and dreams. This Hobbit's going to write it down and keep it!

Finally, does anyone know of any beautiful Valar fan art? I tried drawing some myself but I don't think it did it justice

Etarre x


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 22 2013, 10:26pm


Views: 472
Post away- we have no "last posting date" :) //

 


squire
Half-elven


Jan 23 2013, 2:08am


Views: 582
A picture of the Valar in all their might and glory? Got it. It ain't beautiful, but it is fan art

Regarding illustrations of the Valar, I agree that it's odd that most Tolkien artists seem to dodge the challenge of showing the Valar in full pantheistic ensemble. This link goes to my answer to a similar discussion a few years back, where I posted the one image I've ever found.



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 (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 23 2013, 4:57pm


Views: 490
Pre-feminist Tolkien

Welcome to the Reading Room, Etarre!

I think we've all mostly come to accept that Tolkien wrote in a pre-feminist era where he didn't see the need to balance the genders. Or maybe out of audience concern, he didn't think a gender-balanced account would be accepted. He is certainly criticized quite frequently for his male bias. I figure we just have to live with it. It can be mitigated that Varda is revered by the Elves more than any other, including Manwe, who was the #1 Vala. That allows for some flexibility in calculating power balances.

Another consideration is that though Tolkien tends to not have many female characters, the ones he writes about the most are all strong-willed. It's a long list of them: Melian, Luthien, Haleth, Idril, Galadriel, Morwen, Aredhel, and many more. There are the filler wives among the Valar, and later "the wife of Dorlas" who's just a footnote and doesn't even merit a name, it seems, but when a female character gets truly developed, they are not damsels in distress. Even Luthien could have been traditionally made the damsel in distress, but she's at least an equal partner in the tale, and maybe more than equal to Beren.

I'm not sure we can project current perspectives on past authors and ever be satisfied. One could fault Tolkien for having no gay characters and no positive non-Caucasian characters (the Easterlings usually seem primitive and often treacherous compared to what seem like good, white Europeans). Or one could criticize his writings for being too Christian--does he give other religions equal consideration, and what about atheists and agnostics? Or the reverse is possible: isn't he betraying his Christian roots by have a monotheistic god delegate power to a bunch of heathen gods who rule the world, and isn't that an affront to devout Christians? For me, I just accept that he had his own world view that isn't the same as mine, but isn't overly offensive either.

I read my first book by Hemingway last summer, The Sun Also Rises, and his insulting remarks about Jews made me never want to read him again, and I'm not Jewish, even though I understand he was not alone in his anti-Semitism at the time; Fitzgerald was rather repulsive about them in The Great Gatsby. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness depicted Africans as little more than monkeys. Tolkien could have been a lot worse!


noWizardme
Valinor


Jan 27 2013, 2:54pm


Views: 498
There's a lively discussion of Orc origins on this thread: http://newboards.theonering.net/forum/gforum/perl/gforum.cgi?post=562557#562557 //

 

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....
Feel free to meddle in the affairs of noWizardMe by agreeing or disagreeing (politely...) with my posts! I may not be subtle, but at least I'm usually slow to anger...


sador
Half-elven


Jan 27 2013, 10:11pm


Views: 628
Actually, Bilbo.

In his poem of Earendil, in 'Many Meetings'.

And another interesting fact - Orome is mentioned twice!
Theoden is compared to him as he charges to the Pelennor Fields, but Denethor also mentions 'the Kine of Araw', one of which contributed the horn which was last wielded by Boromir. Araw is another name of Orome.

I miss this place. Hopefully I'll be back next week. There's quite a lot to catch up with, seemingly.