May 5 2013, 4:03pm
Yay, some humans in Middle Earth!
The Edain seem to have the greater part of suffering during their time in Arda. According to Tolkien, compared to the Elves, the Edain are less wise, are assailable by sickness, by decay of the body, by old age, are easily slain by illness and injury and less easily healed (as a bonus, the Edain also possess less beauty than the Elves – whatever that means).
1. So does this suffering have a purpose?
I think as humans, we often feel we have to believe that our sufferings have meaning. It's a way of dealing with them and avoiding despair. However, I, personally believe that suffering both in RL and ME does have some purpose. In RL this is a huge question involving philsophy, theology, psychology. In the context of Arda, I assume that the reward is in the mysterious next life
2. Are the Edain supposed to grow in wisdom and empathy, and bring this increased understanding to their part of the making of the Second Music? Will their spirits which have grown in such a way become Ainur, or Ainur-like? Are the themes that are to be sung by the Edain in the Second Music to teach the present Ainur in any way?
Yes, I think so, both individually and collectively, wisdom and empathy increase through their sufferings. The Edain, thus, bring something unique to the Second Music, which neither the immortal Elves nor the divine Ainur can bring or probably even imagine. It does all feel like a bit of an experiment on Eru's part to me- "well, if I make that group like that, they can tell me what that is like and if I might the other group differently, then they can tell me what that, in turn, is like" The Edain can also tell the Ainur and possibly even Eru, their experiences of being tempted or corrupted by evil
3. If suffering can be a pathway to empathy and wisdom, why is the lifespan of the Edain so short? (Hearken back to “just getting good at being a human being.”)
Good question! Because that empathy and wisdom is not just for that individual, but to be shared with others to increase the overall wisdom of a given people? Since mortals go on experiencing suffering, even if they gain something from it, to have to experience this over a very long life would be hard?
4. The Eldar have a lot of unflattering names for the Edain (the sickly, the night-fearers, the self-cursed, the heavy-handed). Are these sobriquets they’ve given the Edain out of the Wisdom of the Eldar, or out of the Insecurity of the Eldar? They know (because the Valar told them) that the Edain come from Eru, so why all the name-calling?
Oh, definitely the insecurity of the Eldar! They did the same with the dwarves, didn't they. I have to admit that I always found Tolkien's Elves somewhat hypocritical about a lot of things. Name calling and scorn for the weak are not the signs of a wise, benevolent "super race" IMO! The Eldar find it very difficult to cope with the idea that they are not the only "intelligent" , non-Ainur people. I think it comes as a shock to them and they do not like the thought that these "inferior" beings could be as well-loved by Iluvatar as themselves. They probably feel that they have enough to deal with in fending off Morgoth and dealing with the sons of Feanor, without the possibility of being superseded by people they feel are less worthy than themselves. I guess the Eldar feel assailed on all sides
5. No Vala comes to help the Edain. Why? It’s said that it’s just naturally more difficult for the Edain to hear the messages of the Valar through things like rivers and the land (as the Eldar do)… so wouldn’t they need extra help? Did the Valar learn from their mistakes from their treatment of the Eldar (do they even realize they made mistakes in bringing the Eldar to Aman?), or is this just another instance of their isolationism and neglect? It seems quite the paradox that the Edain might most need guidance from the Valar, but are cut off from it.
You would think that the Edain would need extra help, wouldn't you? The Valar do not show themselves as being all wise at this stage of ME history and before. Now, I think they adopt a "hands off" approach, possibly in part because, as you say, they realise that compelling the Eldar to go to Aman has not worked out that well and left and open field for Morgoth.
Here in the Silmarilion is where we Edain finally gain a foothold. Up until now, it’s been the god-like Ainu and
their teachers’ pets the super-race of the Eldar. But all of us on this thread are Children of the Sun (unless some of you are hiding something), and the text may turn more real, more vivid, and more urgent at this point, despite the briefness of the chapter.
6. Does the introduction of the Edain make the Silmarilion more real for you? More personal?
Hee hee! teacher's pets! Yes, it does feel a bit like that at times, doesn't it? Yes, the coming of the Edain does help, partly because the time spans for the Elves are just impossible to relate to. I've just been reading Chapter 13- there seem to be about 800 years of relative peace while the Noldor settle down and Morgoth quakes in his dungeons because of the sun. Makes the "We've had peace for 400 years" speech in AUJ look a little foolish! Having more manageable life spans etc does help. Also, as you may have gathered, the Eldar are not my favourite race in ME!
"Beneath the roof of sleeping leaves the dreams of trees unfold"