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Some answers from a "mythic" perspective


Feb 27 2013, 12:39pm

Views: 394
Some answers from a "mythic" perspective [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
1. Lonely Mountains, Lonely Isles…they may be one of a kind, but why does Tolkien choose to call them Lonely? Does he use that term for any other spots in Aman or Middle Earth? How does that descriptor impact your impressions of these places?

I guess this whole section is about sunderings - groups of people are being forced to make choices that will divide them for ever - so a name that implies loneliness works as part of the whole emotional context. Later on, the Lonely Isle will appear in a different light (so to speak), but then it may be referred to by other names.

In Reply To
2. Osse causes trouble again! What is with this guy? Why can’t he just let the Teleri go?

I guess what I see happening in this chapter is Tolkien writing a mythological account of the kinds of geological events that really did happen in the early earth. Osse seems to be a kind of "troublemaker god" whose existence explains odd (as opposed to catastrophically bad) things that happened in geological time. There's a little comment in his Letters that seems to suggest this myth-based-on-geology kind of approach:
[After explaining the concept of Aman, including Valinor and Elvenhome, and its inaccessibility after the "bending" of the world]
"... This general idea lies behind the events of The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion, but it is not put forward as geologically or astronomically 'true'; except that some special physical catastrophe is supposed to lie behind the legends...But the legends are mainly of 'Mannish' origin blended with those of the Sindar (Gray-elves) and others who had never left Middle-earth." (Letter 325)
That sounds to me as if Tolkien thinks of the Silmarillion as myths based on half-remembered events (in fact, on events as understood by people who have never even been to the places in the story...) So I wonder if Tolkien was thinking of the way the geography and geology of the earth did change over time, and imagining a mythology to reflect that. Over geological time, islands did form and split away from the mainland, and land masses changed shape, sometimes slowly and sometimes via a single catastrophic event. This could certainly explain how groups of people got separated from their wider group, so that their language and customs would gradually diverge. The island of Britain underwent exactly this kind of change, for example. So perhaps all this moving of islands, and "rooting" them somewhere else could be compared to the parting of the Red Sea, or Noah's flood, as mythic recollections of real geological events.

In Reply To
3. Is the creation of the Lonely Isle a political compromise? What are the ramifications of Osse and Ulmo’s actions in choosing to root the Island in the Bay? Why don’t the Valar just outvote these guys and move the Island?

I guess I think of it as a mythical way to account for a geological 'fact'. A kind of 'Just So Story', really! The Valar, at this point, seem to have decided not to interfere, so whatever the Sea (represented by Osse and Ulmo) causes to happen, they just allow to happen.

In Reply To
Is the divine being acting in human ways found in other mythologies? What about in fairy stories, Faerie stories, or fantasy tales?

Definitely. Tolkien even talks about how this might have come about:
"...Which came first, nature-allegories about personalized thunder in the mountains, splitting rocks and trees; or stories about an irascible, not very clever, redbeard farmer [the Norse god Thor], of a strength beyond common measure...? It is more reasonable to suppose that the farmer popped up in the very moment when Thunder got a voice and face; that there was a distant growl of thunder in the hills every time a story-teller heard a farmer in a rage. (On Fairy-stories)
The Greek and Roman gods were just as human as Thor, and seem to be more a way of "humanising" all the big, inexplicable and scary things in the world, rather than representing divinity as perfection, which seems to have been a later (Judeo-Christian?) idea. Tolkien manages to have his cake and eat it too by having both the perfect and omnipotent but essentially unknown Eru, and also the lesser, human-like "gods" of earlier mythologies.

In Reply To
5. Let’s talk about the very brief descriptions of the Calacirya, Túna and Tirion in this section, which I included above.

"The shining city on a hill" is a concept that American politicians seem to love. It has a kind of mystical attraction, I think. It seems to suggest a vision of peace and beauty that transcends the messiness of ordinary nature - and helps us to understand why those trapped in the sorrows and imperfections of Middle-earth yearn to cross the Sea. I love the description of the way the light falls on the shores of the Lonely Isle - very atmospheric!

In Reply To
What about the reference to mortal men in connection with Tirion – does it make you curious as to who those lucky guys will be? Does the introduction of the human element impact your perceptions of this place in any way?

A nice hint about what's to come... but when we're told that only a "few" men ever see this, I think first of all about Celtic legends such as Oisin and the island of Tír na nÓg, where a hero finds a lost land only after much difficulty (and afterwards can never really go home again), so I'm not sure I'd expect the mortal men who find it to be "lucky guys", necessarily!

In Reply To
6. And how about some musings on how the Sil and LOTR relate to each other, as stories…

I'm not a big fan of the Silmarillion really - I might have liked it better if it had been edited differently, but that's water under the bridge. But to the extent I can get into it at all, it's mostly when I imagine it as the mythology, the cultural background, of the characters in The Lord of the Rings. I see them being inspired by these myths (my favourite is Sam on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol), and that's what gives the stories their resonance, for me.

In Reply To
On the other hand, an author can get too carried away by trying to connect all the dots between past and future, and the story becomes an explanation and not a story, if I can put it that way (“cough” Star Wars prequels). Does Tolkien manage to avoid this trap, for you?

My impression is that Tolkien originally had the idea of keeping things relatively fluid, for example allowing various versions of stories to present slightly different versions of the 'facts' (as real mythologies do, of course). Somewhere along the line he seems to have become much more hung up on "connecting the dots" as you put it, and that may be one of the reasons he never managed to put the Sil into publishable form. Sometimes I wonder if it was the feedback he got after LotR was published, when he realised that people wanted 'facts', definitive answers, and weren't really interested in the more subtle 'truths' that might not always fit with a single set of 'facts'. Whatever the reason, I think if he'd had the time and energy, he'd have connected more dots than he did. Personally, I wish he'd stuck with his earlier conviction (although even in 1971 - the date of Letter 325 that I quoted above - he was still talking in terms of legends that only partly reflect the 'facts' that "lie behind" them.)

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

(This post was edited by FarFromHome on Feb 27 2013, 12:43pm)

Subject User Time
*Silmarillion Discussion: Chapter 5, "Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalie", Part 2 -- The Great Teleri Compromise and a Guided Tour…* weaver Send a private message to weaver Feb 23 2013, 9:18pm
    Of islands and where to live CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Feb 24 2013, 12:32am
    lists, names and more stuff to remember... elevorn Send a private message to elevorn Feb 25 2013, 6:42pm
    answers for questions that need them Escapist Send a private message to Escapist Feb 25 2013, 7:13pm
    Some answers from a "mythic" perspective FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Feb 27 2013, 12:39pm
        Silmarillion's actuality Mixel Send a private message to Mixel Feb 28 2013, 11:45pm
        and thank you for those answers! telain Send a private message to telain Mar 1 2013, 12:36am
            Myths, floods, and physical geography? CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Mar 1 2013, 1:20am
                a very dim light! but a light nonetheless telain Send a private message to telain Mar 1 2013, 11:55pm
                    Enlightening--thanks!// CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Mar 3 2013, 2:29pm
    Late answers sador Send a private message to sador Mar 3 2013, 10:40am


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