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Unleashing the beast


Mar 13 2013, 5:55pm

Views: 686
Unleashing the beast [In reply to] Can't Post


1. Melkor was kept chained in the halls of Mandos, and in solitary confinement. What do you imagine that was like?

Excellent question that never occurred to me before. My assumption is the Valar expected him to spend his time in silent contemplation of his descent into evil ways, hoping he'd see the light and go back to being the good Ainu he was before his Fall. But I expect the reverse happened: he remained bitter and resentful, and like Saruman in Orthanc, gnawed the ends of his old plots, awaiting revenge of some kind. It would also make sense to keep him isolated, or he'd torment and perhaps pollute the souls of Elves in Mandos. Nevertheless, Mandos is the jailor. Did he have any chats with Mandos? Or did Nienna visit, hoping to find the best in him, or Manwe? Arm-wresting with Tulkas? Otherwise, I think he just plotted and planned and scoffed at the thought of redemption.

2. The Valar apprently believed in punishment rather than reform; would a different approach have made any difference? Were the Valar capable of "capital punishment"? Would another more reform-minded approach worked, or was Melkor beyond help?

I think they didn't intend punishment and hoped that the solitude would reform him. As I allude above, maybe visits by other Valar could have been counseling visits, though I doubt they happened. The Valar a new at dealing with a captured criminal and didn't know what to do with him.

As Manwe debated the fate of Melkor, Nienna aided Melkor in his defence, while Mandos (shockingly) remained silent.

3. Why does Nienna aid Melkor in this way?

Nienna is given to pity and understanding, and she's a softie. I can't imagine what role she would play in Valar wars against Melkor, unless as field nurse, but not as combatant. She wanted to see the good in Melkor, and there was probably a little spark of it left buried deep, though it was inconsequential.

4. We have seen so far in The Silmarilion that Mandos can be maddeningly vague -- why does he choose to say nothing now? Does he think he's offering a not-so-subtle hint, or does he actually not know what Melkor is up to?

Great point. There should be some responsibility of a prophet to speak up and save his people from going down the wrong road, but Mandos never sees it that way. I wouldn't buy the argument that he needed to let Fate take its course, because everyone here has free will and nothing is completely predetermined, so speaking up wouldn't have disrupted the plan behind the Great Music. But possibly his utter silence is meant to be a warning, or he doesn't really know what Melkor would do, or he knows the other Valar well enough, particularly Manwe, that they can't be dissuaded from mercy for Melkor.

5. Is Tolkien suggesting (like many modern crime dramas and police procedurals) that one must know -- or be -- a little evil in order to recognize it? What does this say about Ulmo, Tulkas, and the Vanyar (or is suspicion something else entirely?) Why do they suspect Melkor of deceit?

Another great question. I think Manwe is both naive and unwilling to permit the division between Valar to persist. He's the ruler and needs to keep the peace and the tribe together, and that means seeing the best in Melkor even if it's missing. Also, they were similar in the beginning, so seeing evil in Melkor means worrying that it exists in you too.

Manwe doesn't strike me as the wisest of the Valar. I think Ulmo is wiser and sees through Melkor's deceit. For the Vanyar and Tulkas, I think they have good gut instincts about who is trustworthy.

6. Melkor's evil seems to stem from envy -- what is the difference between envy and admiration? How does envy become so negatively charged and why does it inherently spell doom in this story (and many, many others)?

I'd say there's a great gulf between admiration and envy. Admiration is a positive feeling where you appreciate the good qualities in someone else. It's a nobler sentiment. Envy is related to greed and selfishness where you feel you must have what someone else has, and it's baser and compulsive. It comes from a negative feeling that you don't have enough, that it's unfair someone else has more, and you're going to settle some score through immoral means to get what the other has, or at least hate them for having it. Like the old commercial "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful."

Melkor chooses to teach his knowledge and skills to the Noldor over the Vanyar (who still do not trust him), and over the Teleri (a people he believes are not worthy of his teaching). Given what we know of the Noldor's interest in understanding the world and crafting things, this seems to makes sense. Melkor also, falsely, takes credit for teaching Feanor all he knows, though Feanor hate for Melkor exceeded any of the Eldalie.

7. Without staying too far into future chapters, why does Melkor take credit for Feanor? Why doesn't Feanor protest?

I've never been sure of the reason for this. A ploy on Melkor's part to provoke Feanor and sow discord?

8. It seems to me that the actions or protestations of some key people are missing in this chapter (more on that subject later). What were the Vanyar, the Teleri, and Aule -- the one who first taught the Noldor -- doing during all of this?

The Vanyar seem pretty passive, like a heavenly choir adoring the Valar on cue but doing little else. The Noldor are certainly the doers of the three tribes. I'll give Melkor credit for choosing them well as his instruments. The Teleri seem insular and unconcerned with other matters. Aule is hard to figure out. Did he and Melkor spend male bonding time together in the smithy and exchange trade secrets? Yet it seems to me that Varda and Yavanna should have been suspicious of Melkor, and if they were, it didn't seem public.

A Coda

If you haven't read Voronwe_the_Faithful's post and article (above), I strongly urge you to do so. Our current chapter, it appears, is rather thin for a reason. I, for one, would have loved to learn more about the society of the Valar and the Eldar, to understand better the actions of certain people -- especially once prominent female characters, and to have a fuller, more complex Silmarilion than the one resting on my coffee table.

In the Foreword, Christopher Tolkien describes the creation of the Silmarilion and his father's variations of form and focus: poetry and oral tales, mythology and philosophy. The following questions deal with this topic. I apologize for straying out of chpater bounds and for introducing material that has likely been hashed, re-hashed, and hashed again, but I felt it belonged here.

i. Why did Christopher seek to standardize this text? Was it the publishers? His view of what the audience wanted or could handle? Do you think the chapters of the Silmarilion are cohesive? (i.e., did Christopher achieve his goal?) Or would you rather have seen the collection of annals, poems and tales that lay scattered about the Tolkien residence? Would it have been charming, or too difficult, to read in that format?

My guess is that Tolkien fandom was underestimated at the time. It was already clear that literary critics disdained Tolkien's works as beneath them, so why publish for them? The audience appeared to be people who loved The Hobbit and LOTR and wanted SOME backstory, but not all of it, so we got the condensed version. I suppose there were other constraints such as how much time and energy he could put into it, and the frustration of welding together many disparate and contradictory sources his father left behind. If he assumed his audience wanted a sort of synopsis instead of a deep plunge, that would explain his approach. The deep plunge came later when it became clear The Sil wasn't enough, so HoME etc followed. Or maybe there were limitations imposed by his editor/publisher.

On the whole I think he succeeded. I found the laster books showing all the sources rather frustrating at times. You can see 4 different versions of the same story, with details unique to each, and Christopher will admit himself it wasn't clear which version his father felt took precedence, or if some merger had been intended, or if his father just remained indecisive. Wading through the forest of repeititions, indecisive speculations, and mostly unpolished and choppy writings robs me of the pleasure of reading Tolkien's polished prose. So I would say he did a good enough job most of the time. Yet reading what Ardamire posted about the backstory of Miriel is a tragic loss to the book, in my opinion, since it could have been much richer.

Subject User Time
Silmarilion Discussion, Chapter 6: "...and the Unchaining of Melkor" 2 of 2 telain Send a private message to telain Mar 11 2013, 4:42pm
    Unleashing the beast CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Mar 13 2013, 5:55pm
        how well do we really know Melkor? telain Send a private message to telain Mar 16 2013, 11:02pm
            Melkor Choice and naivete of the Valar Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Mar 17 2013, 1:38am
                Melkor's dark music and Nienna's healing telain Send a private message to telain Mar 17 2013, 11:34pm
                    Pride and pity CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Mar 18 2013, 12:49am
                        I get your thoughts CG! Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Mar 18 2013, 1:19am
                    Some thoughts on Nienna and Olorin and pity Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Mar 18 2013, 1:12am
                        I'm always learning something new here CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Mar 18 2013, 2:04am
                            Clueless? Hardly! Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Mar 18 2013, 3:15am
    My thoughts Finwe Send a private message to Finwe Mar 14 2013, 7:07pm
        how did Aule get in this chapter? Oh, yes... telain Send a private message to telain Mar 16 2013, 11:39pm
            The whole "Knowledge- good or bad?" question elaen32 Send a private message to elaen32 Mar 17 2013, 10:28am
    my thoughts Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Mar 16 2013, 12:30am
        Free will Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Mar 16 2013, 4:40am
            then how does this apply to the gift of men? Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Mar 16 2013, 11:09am
                It's not easy for us Mortals to see it as a gift, is it? Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Mar 16 2013, 3:45pm
                    as you've described it.. Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Mar 16 2013, 4:06pm
                        Scratching head, flipping though text- Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Mar 16 2013, 4:49pm
                            I think the "gift" is not connected to "free will". Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Mar 16 2013, 9:40pm
                                Did not intend to imply control Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Mar 16 2013, 10:13pm
        Feanor is a pit of smouldering coals... telain Send a private message to telain Mar 16 2013, 11:52pm
    Hello all, my first post about Sil, but I have been following :) Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Mar 16 2013, 2:01am
    Late answers sador Send a private message to sador Mar 18 2013, 7:35am


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