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Alas for the wailing of the gulls...

FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 22 2013, 5:05pm


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Alas for the wailing of the gulls... [In reply to] Can't Post

 

In Reply To
...it’s a little more tricky in The Lord of the Rings where Elves like Legolas, who have never seen the Sea, declare that they have always had a “deep-seated longing” for it in its own right, and not just because it represents the passage to Elvenhome.


I'm not sure there's much evidence in LotR for Legolas longing for the Sea in its own right. The "sea-longing" he mentions:
‘Look!’ he cried. ‘Gulls! They are flying far inland. A wonder they are to me and a trouble to my heart. Never in all my life had I met them, until we came to Pelargir, and there I heard them crying in the air as we rode to the battle of the ships. Then I stood still, forgetting war in Middle-earth; for their wailing voices spoke to me of the Sea. The Sea! Alas! I have not yet beheld it. But deep in the hearts of all my kindred lies the sea-longing, which it is perilous to stir. Alas! for the gulls. No peace shall I have again under beech or under elm.’ (The Last Debate)
is surely more about the desire to cross the Sea than merely to look on it. The danger of seeing the Sea (or even hearing the gulls) is that it stirs the desire to leave Middle-earth.

The Elves may be"immortal" , but that doesn't necessarily mean that their story isn't yet another reflection on Death, in my opinion. In fact, I wonder if their immortality isn't just another way of looking at aspects of death, without having the distraction of physical death in the picture. I don't think Legolas, at least, is interested in visiting the sea for its own sake - he's simply become aware of his own Elvish "mortality", that is, the idea that at some point he must leave Middle-earth and go to a "better place". He's torn in two, as (Tolkien suggests) we all are at times, between wanting to be in paradise with those who have "passed over" before us, and wanting to stay in the world we know and love. (It could also be seen as intertwined with the longing for Faerie, especially as it affects mortals - the same metaphor, perhaps, applied at a different level.)

However, I do think Tolkien used the Sea in this way for its aesthetic qualities as well as its status as a barrier between one world and the next (I suppose he could have followed the usual Christian conception of the sky being the division between this world and the next if he'd wanted to). Its restlessness, its apparent endlessness, and its ability to be beautiful and consoling, and yet dangerous and unfathomable, make it a very potent metaphor for the mystery of life and death.

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


Subject User Time
*Silmarillion Discussion: Chapter 5, "Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalie", Part 1 -- Who Goes and Who Stays* weaver Send a private message to weaver Feb 21 2013, 6:03am
    Weaver! sador Send a private message to sador Feb 21 2013, 12:46pm
    Long journeys on a muddy boat elevorn Send a private message to elevorn Feb 21 2013, 7:40pm
        Sea-longing- a personal Tolkien thing? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Feb 21 2013, 10:58pm
            Maybe an early childhood experience FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Feb 22 2013, 10:48am
                I agree elaen32 Send a private message to elaen32 Feb 22 2013, 12:22pm
                    About the gulls FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Feb 22 2013, 2:31pm
                    And welcome to the Reading Room! FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Feb 22 2013, 3:15pm
                        Thanks for the welcome elaen32 Send a private message to elaen32 Feb 22 2013, 6:47pm
    Passage and memory, hope and regret, duty and love. squire Send a private message to squire Feb 22 2013, 3:36pm
        Alas for the wailing of the gulls... FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Feb 22 2013, 5:05pm
            'In Eressea, in Elvenhome that no man can discover, Where the leaves fall not: land of my people for ever!' squire Send a private message to squire Feb 22 2013, 8:08pm
    Home sweet home CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Feb 23 2013, 11:29pm
        Mmm, tuna... FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Feb 24 2013, 5:12pm
    Quick answers - part II sador Send a private message to sador Feb 26 2013, 2:56pm
    Sorry I'm so late to the party Finwe Send a private message to Finwe Feb 27 2013, 7:38pm
        Good observation CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Feb 27 2013, 7:52pm
            Perhaps even Finwe Send a private message to Finwe Feb 28 2013, 2:17pm
    a few thoughts telain Send a private message to telain Feb 27 2013, 8:03pm

 
 
 

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