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The Silmarillion discussion: Of the Beginning of Days


Jan 14 2013, 4:29pm

Views: 2070
The Silmarillion discussion: Of the Beginning of Days Can't Post

I hope no-one minds me starting on the next Chapter?

So far we've discussed The Silmarillion discussion: Ainulindale and then The Silmarillion discussion: Valaquenta - those threads are still open for further comments if you missed the original discussion.

Following the usual pattern, I'll summarize some points in the chapter which stand out for me and suggest some topics for discussion. But I'm not at all in charge, so please feel free to raise any points that interest you or questions you have - its often interesting how differently different readers respond. It would be a pity if the conversation were restricted to just those things which strike the thread-starter!

Lastly - please do consider starting the next chapter yourself (when we have finished discussing this one!). Or a later one. I expect to be flagging rather after this....

Ainulindale ended with a war between the Valar and their enemies. The Valar, are a group of gods who have agreed to carry out the programme that an ultimate God (Eru, or Iluvatar) has for the world of Arda. But one of the gods, Melkor, has rebelled and at the end of the first chapter things seemed to have reached a stalemate or at least strong headwinds- "for as surely as the Valar began a labour, so would Melkor undo it or corrupt it." In Valaquenta, we broke off for a dramatis personae, and now we resume an account of this contest.

The Valar are reinforced by a new member, Tulkas, and are now able to drive Melkor out to "the outer darkness". This gives the Valar an opportunity to bring "order to the seas and the lands and the mountains" and to plant seeds and populate the world with animals. They also raise two mighty lamps at the far north and south of Middle-earth to illuminate things. However, this "springtime" does not last, because Melkor first secretly re-enters Arda and builds up his forces, then counter-attacks, catching the Valar by surprise while they are having a post-creation feast. The resulting destruction is colossal, including the breaking of the lamps. While the Valar are able to drive Melkor back into his stronghold, they are posed with a dilemma. They are eagerly awaiting the arrival of "the Children of Iluvatar" - elves and men - which are to be created directly by Iluvatar, or at least to "come forth" at a time which is unknown to the Valar. Fearing that further conflict would disrupt that plan, the Valar resort to partition. They "departed and went to the Land of Aman" and fortify and Melkor-proof the region of Valinor. A section of the chapter is given to describing Valinor. Most especially, The Valier Yavanna makes two trees which produce a glowing dew, one silver and one gold. "In seven hours the glory of each tree waxed to full and waned again to naught; and each awoke once more to life an hour before the other ceased to shine". This gives Valinor a 12-hour day. The excess glowing dew "Varda hoarded in great vats like shining lakes" (I guess this makes her Middle-earth's first VAT collector Smile).

Middle-earth remains mostly under the control of Melkor, and lit only by the stars. Some of the Valar, especially Ulmo, Yavanna and Orome visit Middle-earth at times and are a sort of war party in that they "ever urge the Valar to that war with his [Melkor's] evil dominion that they must surely wage before the coming of the firstborn".

The chapter ends with a discussion of
"the Children of Iluvatar" - the elves who are bound to the world of Arda (but who are practically immortal while it lasts); and men who die and depart "whither the elves know not. ...Yet of old the Valar declared that Men shall join in the Second Music of the Ainur [i.e. a further creation of worlds and universes, like that described in Ainulindale]".

So some starter questions and comments (to reply to or ignore completely as you will!)

How long do you think all this is taking? "Time" seems to be a slightly different concept before the trees start "the count of days". But events at least do happen in sequence - one of the main characteristics of the passage of time. I've been imagining that the Valar and Melkor duke it out for aeons of geological time, so that the history of Arda rather resembles the history of our Earth as understood by geologists (except that Arda is being overtly shaped by supernatural forces). But that is an inference on my part - one could also envisage a much shorter period; what do you think?

I can't figure out he physics of those lamps - seems a bit worrying that things grow best at the equator (i.e. furthest away from the light source). Probably a minor error, but I'd be interested in any theories that would make this come out right!

It already seems to be a theme that evil always regroups and comes back? Do you agree? Anyone want to relate that to Tolkien's writing and thought more generally?

The first-time reader is not to know whether this episode has a lot of plot significance later, or whether it could theoretically have been cut, with the Valar establishing Valinor at the outset. There is a sense of things not really being resolved - the Valar/Melkor war has reached a cold-war phase rather than being endless cycles of creation and prompt destruction.

Yet again the Children of Iluvatar are mentioned, but their arrival seems no closer. What effect does this have for you? Rising tension? Pleasant anticipation? Impatience?

Writing style - we jump forwards at points and seem to get a description of Valinor as the Eldar remember it. At other points we are getting the story that the Eldar must have heard at one remove (or more).

...and just to recap, those are starter points; let the conversation go where it will (or even, "where it should")!

Subject User Time
The Silmarillion discussion: Of the Beginning of Days noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 14 2013, 4:29pm
    a lamp theory :), returning evil, and beautiful trees hanne Send a private message to hanne Jan 15 2013, 2:47am
        2 trees CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 16 2013, 2:59am
    Time and Valinor elevorn Send a private message to elevorn Jan 15 2013, 3:58pm
        Lamps, regrouping evil and selfish Valar noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 15 2013, 8:29pm
            yes, it does elevorn Send a private message to elevorn Jan 15 2013, 8:43pm
                When you put it that way, it is a hole CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 16 2013, 2:21am
    Inevitable evil Mim Send a private message to Mim Jan 15 2013, 10:35pm
        Is evil logical or intuitive? CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 16 2013, 2:08am
            logical and intuitive? telain Send a private message to telain Jan 16 2013, 4:50pm
            The reader knows evil when they see it Mim Send a private message to Mim Jan 17 2013, 11:38am
                The next chapter is underway ! noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jan 24 2013, 9:42pm
    Even immortal elves can't escape Death and Taxes (VATs) CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 16 2013, 2:53am
        Nature is violent... Otaku-sempai Send a private message to Otaku-sempai Jan 16 2013, 3:59pm
            TV nature specials CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jan 16 2013, 7:42pm
    Very late answers sador Send a private message to sador Feb 4 2013, 3:23pm
        Very welcome answers: I don't think "late" is a problem! // noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Feb 4 2013, 3:32pm
        Secretly an Ent? CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Feb 4 2013, 7:37pm


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