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While we're talking about the First and Second Ages...
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Pallando
Lorien


May 2 2007, 5:07pm

Post #1 of 49 (457 views)
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While we're talking about the First and Second Ages... Can't Post

Something that has always puzzled me is the naming of M-E as the "Dark Years" during the days of Numenor. The sun and moon had already risen, so the "Dark" must be metaphorical. Or not. Sauron showed he could keep at least some small area sun-free for a time - but continents for an age? Seems likely just being under his dominion would make things seem pretty dark to all formerly free persons. From the Silmarillion's AKALLABETH

"...and the Lords of Numenor set foot again upon the western shores in the Dark Years of Men, and none yet dared to withstand them. For most of the Men of that age that sat under the Shadow were now grown weak and fearful."

What were those "Dark Years"?

P



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(This post was edited by Ataahua on May 2 2007, 9:28pm)


Curious
Half-elven

May 2 2007, 5:25pm

Post #2 of 49 (180 views)
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It could have been literally dark. [In reply to] Can't Post

After all, Mirkwood and Mordor and the vast networks of tunnels under the Misty Mountains are literally dark in LotR. Metaphorical and literal tend to blur together in Tolkien's fantasy.


Pallando
Lorien


May 2 2007, 8:02pm

Post #3 of 49 (168 views)
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It seems hard to imagine... [In reply to] Can't Post

that after all the "activity" involving the sun's and the moon's creation, first without an orbit, (more like the sun is parked in the garage for the night), then (presumably after someone told Tolkien about Copernicus) we had orbits and other celestial changes that brought the sun and moon into their proper motions. It seems to have become particularly important to Tolkien that he get his cosmology/astronomy right, he implies in his Letters (if memory serves)... and which LR seems to confirm with all the thought put into the proper "running" of the moon.

I agree with the notion of the ambiguity in what little we could call "technical" in LR, but I believe he grew - particularly after WW-II and up to publishing of LR - desirous of not wanting to appear to be out of sync with current "science" even though he disdained it on the surface. "Blur" may be a good description of some of that.

But back to the literal darkness it seems you believe possible: How could we have sunshine at daybreak in Westernesse and simultaneously stars in the sky in Middle Earth?

P


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Curious
Half-elven

May 2 2007, 10:42pm

Post #4 of 49 (153 views)
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Mirkwood is always dark. [In reply to] Can't Post

So is Moria. So is Mordor, it seems, once Mount Doom became active again. There are many ways to block the Sun, and the stars, for that matter.


ringhead91
Rivendell


May 2 2007, 11:54pm

Post #5 of 49 (150 views)
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i think it's a metaphor... [In reply to] Can't Post

like how the Middle Ages are called the Dark Ages, I think Dark just means the same thing in The Silmarillion as it does in that case; that there wasn't enlightened thinking (among men) and that they were under Sauron's sway, not that sky was literally dark

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.



WonderBroad
Lorien


May 3 2007, 2:33am

Post #6 of 49 (130 views)
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re: [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
like how the Middle Ages are called the Dark Ages, I think Dark just means the same thing in The Silmarillion as it does in that case; that there wasn't enlightened thinking (among men) and that they were under Sauron's sway, not that sky was literally dark



I agree that it's a euphemism for dangerous, hopeless, unstable and frightening times.


Pallando
Lorien


May 3 2007, 5:49am

Post #7 of 49 (125 views)
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Possibly at times... [In reply to] Can't Post

...but I was speaking of darkness from lack of sunlight. Are you saying there was no sun or there were just dark places? I could name as many places that would likely be bright most days and starry most nights (the Shire, the Havens, Forochel).

I'm trying to see if anyone has any reasons to believe the Dark Years were called such for other than metaphorical reasons. Naming Mordor and Moria doesn't make the argument any clearer. He**, Moria is underground! Of course you knew that! ;)


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Curious
Half-elven

May 3 2007, 6:00am

Post #8 of 49 (133 views)
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Consider what Treebeard said [In reply to] Can't Post

about some parts of Fangorn Forest:

" I do not doubt there is some shadow of the Great Darkness lying there still away north; and bad memories are handed down. But there are hollow dales in this land where the Darkness has never been lifted, and the trees are older than I am."

Does Treebeard mean that those hollow dales are literally dark, or metaphorically dark, or both? I think the metaphor is certainly there, but those hollow dales could also be literally dark, in much the same way that Mirkwood is literally dark. I don't think that the Sun failed to rise or shine its light. But there are many ways to block the Sun.


Pallando
Lorien


May 3 2007, 6:06am

Post #9 of 49 (123 views)
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What I'm hearing ... [In reply to] Can't Post

Is perhaps it's because of both ...all the literal darkness Curious points out, that exists in much of Southeast M-E which is likely the cause of the depression people of the remaining land must feel - even if the sun is shining.

Consnssus seems to be metaphorical.


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Curious
Half-elven

May 3 2007, 3:23pm

Post #10 of 49 (131 views)
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Metaphorical at least, but that doesn't rule out [In reply to] Can't Post

some form of literal darkness created by blocking out the Sun. For the sake of completeness, let me also note the Paths of the Dead in LotR as yet another dark dwelling hidden from the Sun, and an example of how men lived in Middle-earth during dark times.


Pallando
Lorien


May 3 2007, 11:01pm

Post #11 of 49 (114 views)
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Some considerations... [In reply to] Can't Post

regarding the dark *places* that are named (Mirkwood, Moria, et al), presumably they're to help justify the reason the Second Age in M-E is called the Dark Years, which is the question here...most of the them were not dark in much of the Second Age and yet dark in the Third. This doesn't do much to answer the question. But these ideas have given much to help get closer to the answer.

First, some considerations that might dispel why the examples of physical darkness might have not had much to do with it.

Consider Mirkwood. We do know "Greenwood the Great" it was called first and a pleasant wood it was. The Hobbits called it such when they lived in the vales of the Anduin, well into the Third Age. In fact, the first shadow of Mirkwood began not until the times the Wizards first appeared.

When maybe a thousand years had passed, and the first shadow had fallen on Greenwood the Great, the Istari or Wizards appeared in Middle-earth.



Moria of course is underground (and dark by its nature), but was quite likely an exciting and growing place during the Second Age. The Second was the beginning of the age the Dwarves really started to delve Moria in earnest. So they likely wouldn't consider the times dark:

[In year 40 of the Second Age m]any Dwarves leaving their old cities in Ered Luin go to Moria and swell its numbers. [brackets mine]

The Dwarves seem to have had a banner Age with the Second. After the end of the First Age the power and wealth of Khazad-dum was much increased;

[As far as the darkness from Fangorn, what effect would that have had on men such that an Age be called Dark. None I think. ]

But here there's more telling in this story above than about the Dwarves:

The power of Moria endured throughout the Dark Years and the dominion of Sauron, for though Eregion was destroyed and the gates of Moria were shut, the halls of Khazad-dum were too deep and strong and filled with a people too numerous and valiant for Sauron to conquer from without.

So, Sauron is conquering. And although this part of the story is about the Dwarves, it conveys important information regarding the Second Age. Sauron is on the move - before he is "captured" and taken to Numenor for "safe keeping" - but only for a few lives of men (2-3?) then falls into the ocean and loses his ability to "appear fair" again - ie, no face, no hands, no body just a metal cover with points on top. And a ring.

...he [Sauron] was taken in the midst of his mirth, and his seat and his temple fell into the abyss. But Sauron was not of mortal flesh, and though he was robbed now of that shape in which he had wrought so great an evil, so that he could never again appear fair to the eyes of Men, yet his spirit arose out of the deep and passed as a shadow and a black wind

It is an interesting question whether this spirit had the gold ring, for it had already been made.

So I think we're coming closer to it. It's Sauron's actions before he went to Numenor, confident in the absence of the might of the three Houses of Men who were now gone to Numenor, and the discovery by the Eldar that Sauron is really into the dominion of all of Middle Earth! Sauron now knows that the Elves know and so he looses his Armies to waste Eregion, kill Celebrimbor and other Elves, and NOW darkness (metaphorically) begins to permeate most of the land. All the High Elven Lords are gone (except for Gilgalad, the last, I think), and the slaying of Celibrimbor sets the tone for the time that follows in the Second Age. The Dark Years have begun. And they didn't even miss him when he left for Numenor. Well, maybe he left some orcs and Balrogs around to 'keep the peace'.

P_II




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Curious
Half-elven

May 4 2007, 2:19am

Post #12 of 49 (113 views)
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We don't know much about Greenwood in the Second Age. [In reply to] Can't Post

We know it was free of Shadow for the first thousand years of the Third Age, but I don't think that clarifies what it was like after Sauron rampaged across the land in the Second Age. We do know that Moria was closed after Sauron's triumph, as you note. I think we also learn somewhere that the Brown Lands were first devastated, and the entwives likely wiped out, after Sauron's triumph in the Second Age.

My point is simply that in LotR, darkness has a literal element, as well as a metaphorical element. I never really thought about this until you posed the question, but I am simply noting that darkness can be literal as well as metaphorical. It is easier to cite Third Age examples than Second Age examples simply because we know very little about life in Middle-earth during the Dark Times. And by the way, that is another possible metaphorical meaning of Dark Times -- it could also refer to the fact that we just don't know much about those times.

But I don't know whether the Dark Times were literally dark; I'm just saying we don't know that they weren't.


Pallando
Lorien


May 4 2007, 2:34am

Post #13 of 49 (103 views)
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I'll buy that. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
We know it was free of Shadow for the first thousand years of the Third Age, but I don't think that clarifies what it was like after Sauron rampaged across the land in the Second Age. We do know that Moria was closed after Sauron's triumph, as you note. I think we also learn somewhere that the Brown Lands were first devastated, and the entwives likely wiped out, after Sauron's triumph in the Second Age.

My point is simply that in LotR, darkness has a literal element, as well as a metaphorical element. I never really thought about this until you posed the question, but I am simply noting that darkness can be literal as well as metaphorical. It is easier to cite Third Age examples than Second Age examples simply because we know very little about life in Middle-earth during the Dark Times. And by the way, that is another possible metaphorical meaning of Dark Times -- it could also refer to the fact that we just don't know much about those times.

But I don't know whether the Dark Times were literally dark; I'm just saying we don't know that they weren't.



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squire
Valinor


May 4 2007, 4:16am

Post #14 of 49 (140 views)
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What was the first "Great Darkness"? [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien’s references in the early part of The Lord of the Rings to a long-ago “Great Darkness”, and to a dire “second darkness” that may come in the near future, are somewhat ambiguous. At some times he is referring to the mythical time of the early First Age; at other times to the first reign of Sauron over Middle-earth in the late Second Age.

This is important, because these references guide a reader’s understanding of the danger that a victory by Sauron presents to the Free Peoples during the War of the Ring. In particular they foreshadow (ha ha) the actual darkness at the climax of the story, in the form of the unnatural cloud cover that completely blocks the sun for many days and enshrouds the West before Sauron’s first assault on Gondor and Rohan. Naturally we wonder if the earlier “darknesses” were similarly literal, with day become night – or were they only metaphoric, representing the crushing of the freedom and sprit of the people in past times.


Specifically, the question is, in the Second Age, was Middle-earth under Sauron’s rule covered with a shadowing darkness that blotted out the sun?

First let’s look at the references to earlier “darknesses” that occur in the first parts of LotR:


'Ah!' said Gandalf. 'That is a very long story. The beginnings lie back in the Black Years, which only the lore-masters now remember. If I were to tell you all that tale, we should still be sitting here when Spring had passed into Winter.

'But last night I told you of Sauron the Great, the Dark Lord. . . . That name even you hobbits have heard of, like a shadow on the borders of old stories. Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again . . . And already, Frodo, our time is beginning to look black. The Enemy is fast becoming very strong. . . . [He] still lacks one thing to give him strength and knowledge to beat down all resistance, break the last defences, and cover all the lands in a second darkness. He lacks the One Ring. (Fellowship, I.ii)


I think somehow we all remember Gandalf’s words here from our first reading: the terms “the Black Years” and “a second darkness” sound so scary. It implies that Sauron has won once before, and that this coming war is a repeat of an earlier history that was not at all happy. This emphasizes his strength and importance, and lets us know that this is not a new enemy, but one who has returned. And what does “cover all the lands” mean? It sure sounds thorough. At this point, Gandalf is very vague as to when this all happened, but it was obviously a very long time ago.

At the end of Fellowship, Tolkien warns us of the coming “Great Darkness”; and if we remember this phrase by the time we’re well into The Two Towers, we may notice that Treebeard uses the phrase four times, while talking about times long past:


Here ends the first part of the history of the War of the Ring.

The second part is called THE TWO TOWERS, since the events recounted in it are dominated by ORTHANC, the citadel of Saruman, and the fortress of MINAS MORGUL that guards the secret entrance to Mordor; it tells of the deeds and perils of all the members of the now sundered fellowship, until the coming of the Great Darkness. (Fellowship, II ending)


'Aye, aye, something like, but much worse. I do not doubt there is some shadow of the Great Darkness lying there still away north; and bad memories are handed down. But there are hollow dales in this land where the Darkness has never been lifted, and the trees are older than I am.’
‘Elves began it, of course, waking trees up and teaching them to speak and learning their tree-talk. They always wished to talk to everything, the old Elves did. But then the Great Darkness came, and they passed away over the Sea, or fled into far valleys, and hid themselves, and made songs about days that would never come again.’

‘For these Isengarders are more like wicked Men. It is a mark of evil things that came in the Great Darkness that they cannot abide the Sun; but Saruman's Orcs can endure it, even if they hate it.’
‘But Trolls are only counterfeits, made by the Enemy in the Great Darkness, in mockery of Ents, as Orcs were of Elves.’ (Treebeard, in Two Towers, III.iv)


So here is more information about a past “darkness” – but depending how attentive we have been to the history of the world at this point, we may or may not understand that Treebeard is talking about the First Age – not the same as the so-called Second Age “Black Years” that Gandalf mentioned. And the Enemy here is Morgoth – not Sauron. On the other hand, “Great Darkness” sounds more literal than the “Black Years”, and Treebeard specifically implies that there was no sunlight then. So now, whether or not we have figured out the differences in past Ages and Enemies, we have been introduced to the concept of a very evil time when there was, quite literally, no light.

Now in the third book, a vast dark cloud emerges from Mount Doom in Mordor, crosses the sky from east to west, and blanks out even the setting sun from the regions of Middle-earth where the war is to be fought. This has a tremendous effect – among other things it allows the orcs to fight in the open, and depresses morale among Men. It makes literal the ongoing metaphors of “darkness of spirit” and “the shadow”; Sauron imposes actual darkness on the world.

At the sunrise I shall take you to the Lord Denethor again. No, when the summons comes, not at sunrise. The Darkness has begun. There will be no dawn.' (Gandalf, in Return of the King, V.i)


It's no coincidence that during this time there are two references to the “Dark Years” of Sauron’s first conquest of Middle-earth:


‘…the King of the Mountains swore allegiance to him in the beginning of the realm of Gondor. But when Sauron returned and grew in might again, Isildur summoned the Men of the Mountains to fulfil their oath, and they would not: for they had worshipped Sauron in the Dark Years. (Aragorn, in Return of the King, V.ii)

Remnants of an older time they be, living few and secretly, wild and wary as the beasts. They go not to war with Gondor or the Mark; but now they are troubled by the darkness and the coming of the orcs: they fear lest the Dark Years be returning, as seems likely enough. (Elfhelm, in Return of the King, V.v)


Can this dark cloud that “covers all the lands” be a repeat of what happened in ancient days, as Gandalf foretold back in Bag End? Is this what it was like during the “Black Years”? I think we are right to wonder. But I think that is all that Tolkien was going for: a sense of wonder, or its doppelganger, horror.

For it is quickly made clear that this cloud is only a temporary device. It cannot last – and it was not meant to last – longer than is needed to win the war. These remarks do not seem to support the idea of a permanent cloud darkening Middle-earth for the foreseeable future under a new reign of Sauron:


'But if you live after the Darkness, then leave Wild Men alone in the woods and do not hunt them like beasts any more.(Ghan buri-Ghan, in Return of the King, V.v)

But it was no orc-chieftain or brigand that led the assault upon Gondor. The darkness was breaking too soon, before the date that his Master had set for it: fortune had betrayed him for the moment, and the world had turned against him; (in Return of the King, V.vi)

And in fact, the darkness passes sooner than expected, blown away by a change of weather and fate. Yet when Faramir, standing in bright sunlight a few days later, foresees Sauron’s coming victory, he uses almost the same metaphor Gandalf did when talking about Sauron’s first victory (“cover all the lands in a second darkness”):


‘It may be that only a few days are left ere darkness falls upon our world, and when it comes I hope to face it steadily; but it would ease my heart, if while the Sun yet shines, I could see you still. For you and I have both passed under the wings of the Shadow, and the same hand drew us back.'

'Alas, not me, lord!' she said. 'Shadow lies on me still. Look not to me for healing!’ (Faramir and Eowyn, in Return of the King, VI.v)


From these examples both of episode and language, how should we understand the physical state of the world under Sauron in the Second Age? What, and when, were the “Black Years”? Was the “first darkness” that Gandalf refers to literally without sunlight, as during the siege of Gondor and in Treebeard’s memory of Morgoth’s “Great Darkness”? Or is the expression metaphorical, as Faramir’s usage seems to imply?

Let’s break down the Second Age a bit more precisely. Here is the timeline from the appendices in The Lord of the Rings:

The Second Age

These were the dark years for Men of Middle-earth, but the years of the glory of Númenor. Of events in Middle-earth the records are few and brief, and their dates are often uncertain. (LotR, Appendix B)



c. 500 Sauron begins to stir again in Middle-earth.
c. 1000 Sauron, alarmed by the growing power of the Númenoreans, chooses Mordor as a land to make into a stronghold. He begins the building of Barad-dûr.
c. 1600 Sauron forges the One Ring in Orodruin. He completes the Barad-dûr. Celebrimbor perceives the designs of Sauron.
1693 War of the Elves and Sauron begins. The Three Rings are hidden.
1695 Sauron's forces invade Eriador. Gil-galad sends Elrond to Eregion.
1697 Eregion laid waste. Death of Celebrimbor. The gates of Moria are shut. Elrond retreats with remnant of the Noldor and founds the refuge of Imladris.
1699 Sauron overruns Eriador.
1700 Tar-Minastir sends a great navy from Númenor to Lindon. Sauron is defeated.
1701 Sauron is driven out of Eriador. The Westlands have peace for a long while.
c. 1800 From about this time onward the Númenoreans begin to establish dominions on the coasts. Sauron extends his power eastwards. The shadow falls on Númenor.
2350 Pelargir is built. It becomes the chief haven of the Faithful Númenoreans.
3261 Ar-Pharazôn sets sail and lands at Umbar.
3319 Ar-Pharazôn assails Valinor. Downfall of Númenor. Elendil and his sons escape.
3320 Foundations of the Realms in Exile: Arnor and Gondor. The Stones are divided (II, 54). Sauron returns to Mordor.
3429 Sauron attacks Gondor, takes Minas Ithil and burns the White Tree. Isildur escapes down Anduin and goes to Elendil in the North. Anárion defends Minas Anor and Osgiliath.



Although the “editor” here says the times of the entire Second Age were “dark years” for Men in Middle-earth (specifically in comparison to the Men of Númenor), it seems clear that the first third of the Age did not involve Sauron’s personal influence – at least not in such a way as to involve a physical dark cloud. Sauron was just emerging as an evil power in those years, and furthermore he was fair to look upon when he chose.

In the second part of the Age, Sauron’s plans for domination involve feigned charm and the seduction of the Elves. A dark cloud would be counterproductive! He finally forges the One Ring, and war results. He invades Eriador from Mordor, but loses. If at this time he spread a dark cloud over the West in order to facilitate his war, the annals don’t mention it. I admit he might have! In any case, after he lost and retreated, surely such a cloud must have been dissipated or withdrawn.

In the last part, from 1800 on, Sauron sticks to the East. The West (where the Elves live, by the way; more so than Men, evidently) “have peace for a long while”.

So in the West, at least, a dark cloud blocking the sun and moon seems not to be a characteristic of the weather for, arguably, most of the 3400-odd years of the Second Age. The two imaginable exceptions are the times of open war between Sauron and the West: 1693-1701 and 3429-3441: 20 years in the course of three millennia.
Here is some additional information about the Second Age, from the chronicles of Númenor in The Silmarillion:


In the Great Battle when at last Morgoth was overthrown and Thangorodrim was broken, the Edain alone of the kindreds of Men fought for the Valar, whereas many others fought for Morgoth. And after the victory of the Lords of the West those of the evil Men who were not destroyed fled back into the east, where many of their race were still wandering in the unharvested lands, wild and lawless, refusing alike the summons of the Valar and of Morgoth. And the evil Men came among them, and cast over them a shadow of fear, and they took them for kings.

Then the Valar forsook for a time the Men of Middle-earth who had refused their summons and had taken the friends of Morgoth to be their masters; and Men dwelt in darkness and were troubled by many evil things that Morgoth had devised in the days of his dominion: demons, and dragons, and misshapen beasts, and the unclean Orcs that are mockeries of the Children of Ilúvatar. And the lot of Men was unhappy. (“Akallabeth”, in The Silmarillion)


This covers the first part of the Second Age discussed above, from the beginning to roughly 1000 when Sauron arose. The evil Men of Morgoth’s reign who survived the cataclysm, returned to the East, and used Morgoth’s arts to dominate and oppress the uncouth tribes who still lived there. Sauron was not involved. The “darkness” for Men that resulted is obviously metaphoric and stands in contrast to the “light” of Valinor. No dark clouds are necessary for Gandalf’s term “The Black Years” to apply perfectly. Note especially the difference in tone for these years as experienced by the Men in Numenor:


Thus the years passed, and while Middle-earth went backward and light and wisdom faded, the Dúnedain dwelt under the protection of the Valar..

For the Dúnedain became mighty in crafts, so that if they had had the mind they could easily have surpassed the evil kings of Middle-earth in the making of war and the forging of weapons; but they were become men of peace. (“Akallabeth”, in The Silmarillion)

After the great War around 1700 in the western lands, the Men of Númenor re-entered Middle-earth. Here is what they found:


And the Dúnedain came at times to the shores of the Great Lands, and they took pity on the forsaken world of Middle-earth; and the Lords of Númenor set foot again upon the western shores in the Dark Years of Men, and none yet dared to withstand them. For most of the Men of that age that sat under the Shadow were now grown weak and fearful.

Then the Men of Middle-earth were comforted, and here and there upon the western shores the houseless woods drew back, and Men shook off the yoke of the offspring of Morgoth, and unlearned their terror of the dark.

And Sauron hated the Númenóreans, because of the deeds of their fathers and their ancient alliance with the Elves and allegiance to the Valar; nor did he forget the aid that Tar-Minastir had rendered to Gil-galad of old, in that time when the One Ring was forged and there was war between Sauron and the Elves in Eriador. Now he learned that the kings of Númenor had increased in power and splendour, and he hated them the more; and he feared them, lest they should invade his lands and wrest from him the dominion of the East. But for a long time he did not dare to challenge the Lords of the Sea, and he withdrew from the coasts. (“Akallabeth”, in The Silmarillion)

So here, on the western shores of Middle-earth, where Sauron is not active since his defeat in Eriador in 1701, Men still live “under the shadow” and have a “terror of the dark”. Sauron dominates the East, and shrinks from war with Númenor. It seems clear that the “Dark Years of Men”, at least for the Men who live in the western parts, are only metaphorically Dark.
Unfortunately there are few descriptions of landscape and weather in the Second Age to confirm these suppositions. One that might have some meaning in this regard comes at the end, when the great armament of Ar-Pharazôn lands at Umbar and marches on Mordor:

And men saw his sails coming up out of the sunset, dyed as with scarlet and gleaming with red and gold, and fear fell upon the dwellers by the coasts, and they fled far away. …when the King of the Sea marched upon Middle-earth. … he sat him down in the midst of the land, and the tents of his host were ranged all about him, blue, golden, and white, as a field of tall flowers. (“Akallabeth”, in The Silmarillion)


The picture of the sunset, and even more the colorful image of the war-pavilions like bright flowers in a field, certainly suggest that as Sauron prepared for war with Numenor, he had not managed to darken the skies or hide the sun.
One last closer, a hangover from our last discussion of this topic: it seems unlikely the Númenoreans would have built an observatory at Isengard had the sky been permanently darkened by Sauron.

By the way, the “Great Darkness” that Treebeard remembers was in fact a permanent night, created by Melkor/Morgoth when he destroyed the original Lamps of the World, but sustained by the Valar when they withdrew to the far West and lit only their part of Arda with the new light of the Two Trees. The rest of the world lingered in a dim starlight for ages:


But as the ages drew on to the hour appointed by Ilúvatar for the coming of the Firstborn, Middle-earth lay in a twilight beneath the stars that Varda had wrought in the ages forgotten of her labours in Eä. And in the darkness Melkor dwelt, and still often walked abroad, … whatsoever was cruel or violent or deadly in those days is laid to his charge.

… it was by the power of Ulmo that even under the darkness of Melkor life coursed still through many secret lodes, and the Earth did not die; and to all who were lost in that darkness or wandered far from the light of the Valar the ear of Ulmo was ever open (“Of the Beginning of Days”, Silmarillion I)


While the Lamps had shone, growth began there which now was checked, because all was again dark. But already the oldest living things had arisen: in the seas the great weeds, and on earth the shadow of great trees; and in the valleys of the night-clad hills there were dark creatures old and strong.

But in the north Melkor built his strength, and he slept not, but watched, and laboured; and the evil things that he had perverted walked abroad, and the dark and slumbering woods were haunted by monsters and shapes of dread. … And in that dark time Melkor bred many other monsters of divers shapes and kinds that long troubled the world; and his realm spread now ever southward over Middle-earth. (“Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor”, Silmarillion III)


Brrr . . . It is interesting that Tolkien felt constrained to explain that Yavanna put all the plants in a state of suspended animation, since they would otherwise have died from lack of light. Quite a literal approach to mythology (comparable to her concern for microbes) and another indirect argument against any kind of sustained dark cloud cover for Middle-earth during the years of Sauron’s Second Age domination, even if that was mainly in the East.

What does it all mean? I think Tolkien was waxing a little too eloquent or enthusiastic with Gandalf’s “cover all the world” remark in Chapter II of the first book. That strikes me as the most deceptively literal of all the characterizations of the Second Age’s “Black Years” or “Dark Years”. A close second is Elfhelm’s remark, that seems to suggest that the dark cloud of Mordor will likely be as permanent a feature of the new “Dark Years” as one likely was of the old ones.

Far more important to Tolkien was the idea of Sauron later in the story reproducing by “artificial means” the original “Great Darkness” of the First Age, in imitation of his master’s original domination of the world. The teaser at the end of Fellowship makes this quite plain; not that most readers would get the reference since it precedes the Treebeard sequence. As with everything else in the Third Age, the world has wound down a bit since the original age of Demigods and Heroes: a magical volcanic smoke cloud has to make do for what was originally accomplished by extinguishing the sun!

Unfortunately the strength of Treebeard’s informative language about the first “Great Darkness” is all too easily confused with Gandalf’s warnings about a reprise of the “Black Years” of yore. Face it, when you’ve learned the entire mythology and you think about it, shouldn’t Gandalf really have said it would be a “third darkness”?

[Don’t even mention, as I haven’t, the short period of total darkness between Morgoth’s poisoning of the Trees and the rise of the Sun and Moon! “Fourth darkness”, anyone?]

Critics have dissected The Lord of the Rings to show how, when Tolkien began to write it, he had little or no idea that the events in it might be lineally and chronologically connected with the “Elder Days” of the existing Quenta Silmarillion. Furthermore, he had only just invented Númenor, as yet another mythology, a few years earlier. It was only as LotR took greater shape that Tolkien began to pull the entire “legendarium” together, and denoted the various epic matters he had collected as the “First”, “Second”, and “Third” ages of the world. His interest in Sauron’s activities during the Second Age was never great – the point was only that, as we saw, this War was his second attempt at world domination.

My conclusion? It is not inconceivable that Tolkien himself mixed up one Great Darkness with another, one literal, one metaphorical. So ultimately it is only an uncharacteristic, “first draft” kind of confusion of verbal imagery that has led us to wonder if Sauron somehow kept all of Middle-earth in some kind of literal darkness for three thousand years. The very idea, seen in the light of day (so to speak), could not have been further from Tolkien’s intent.



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Curious
Half-elven

May 4 2007, 5:55am

Post #15 of 49 (131 views)
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Very impressive. But [In reply to] Can't Post

one of your assumptions is that living in Darkness can only be literal if (a) the Sun does not exist or (b) the Sun is blocked by a vast cloud. But what if men are reduced to the level of orcs, so that they live in darkness as orcs do? Or if they are not orcish themselves, what if they so fear the orcishness in others that they are forced to live in permanent hiding in the shadows of the world? Or what if they fade into the ghostly Shadow World? Or what if they literally cannot see the light?

The men who became the Shadowhost lived in shadow even when they were alive and worshipped Sauron, and then later faded into the Shadow World. At least some of the men who served Sauron and Saruman were reduced to the level of orcs, bred with orcs, and presumably lived like orcs, shunning the light of the Sun. The trees and giant spiders of Mirkwood live in permanent shadow. In hollow dales of Fangorn the "Darkness has never been lifted." Shelob not only lives in a cave, but vomits darkness.

In the earlier Great Darkness mentioned by Treebeard, the elves who did not pass away over the Sea "fled into far valleys, and hid themselves." It wasn't just the absence of light that marked that earlier Great Darkness, for when elves first awoke, and when they awoke the ents, they lived openly under the stars. Instead it was the fleeing to far valleys and hiding that marked that Great Darkness.

Thingol and his people, for example, built a vast cavern in which to hide, in a deep forest protected by the Girdle of Melian, which trapped intruders in shadow. In effect, they created their own darkness and shadow for protective purposes. Other elves -- the Avari -- may have fallen under the influence of Morgoth and become orcs, living, of course, in darkness even after the Sun arose in the sky.

Thus in the Second Age, when "Men dwelt in darkness," it could literally mean that men dwelt in dark places, fearing the Sun, much as Gollum learned to do in the Third Age. Even those men who had not been reduced to the level of orcs might be so "weak and fearful" that they chose to live in dark places, rather than out in the open.

There is also the Shadow of the mind that overtook Faramir and Eowyn and other victims of the Black Breath, as well as Denethor, in a different way. Turin, to, referred to a shadow or blindness that pursued him, and may have pursued all of his family. Eyes may be open and yet not see the light -- and in Middle-earth, at least, that may have a literal meaning.

And there is the fading into Shadow that nearly captured Frodo after his wound from the Morgul Blade. Putting on the Ring puts Frodo into the Shadow World, a misty plane of existence existing along side our own. Frodo nearly became a wraith living permanently in that Shadow World, and other humans, including the Nazgul, have literally become wraiths or wights living in a Shadow World.

Elves, too, may be doomed to fade into the Shadow World if they remain in Middle-earth. Even the hobbits may, in the long term, be doomed to survive by becoming more and more elusive, dwelling in permanent hiding, not fading like the elves, but literally living in the shadows of the world.

Tolkien has given us many examples of how the characters in his fantasy can literally live in Shadow despite the fact that the Sun continues to shine. The cloud of darkness created by Mount Doom may be the most spectacular example since the rising of the Sun, but is hardly the only example of how creatures either choose or are forced to literally live in Shadow.


squire
Valinor


May 4 2007, 1:43pm

Post #16 of 49 (109 views)
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Inside a dog [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
one of your assumptions is that living in Darkness can only be literal if (a) the Sun does not exist or (b) the Sun is blocked by a vast cloud. But what if men are reduced to the level of orcs, so that they live in darkness as orcs do? Or if they are not orcish themselves, what if they so fear the orcishness in others that they are forced to live in permanent hiding in the shadows of the world? Or what if they fade into the ghostly Shadow World? Or what if they literally cannot see the light?

I think we have to be careful here in distinguishing "literal" from "metaphorical" description. Tolkien's entire imaginary universe is in some senses a metaphor for our real world, and by that reading, every action and description in Middle-earth can never be "literal" if by that we mean "realistic". Still I would say that a darkness of the soul is meaningfully different from the darkness of being in a place where there is no light to see by, such as at night, in a cave, or under a cloud so dark it blocks the shining sun.

The question I wanted to try to answer was Pallando's: whether Middle-earth in the Second Age was continually in the second state across the breadth of the land in night and day time, as certain passages in LotR seem to hint. Your excellent examples of the ways that darkness can dominate men's experience of Middle-earth, taken from all three ages of Tolkien's tales, are primarily lists of manifestations of the first state, sometimes physically expressed in environments of natural darkness, which give the images greater imaginative power.

Most of your examples of literal darkness within which Men may have dwelt are localized - woods and caves - rather than so general that the entire Age might take the description Black Years or Dark Years from them. Men to live must grow crops or graze stock in the open air, and cannot have spent their lives under cover for three millennia.

But your examples of metaphoric darkness, such as the influence of the Shadow of Evil on Men's souls, are right on target and in agreement with my own conclusions about the state of Mankind during those years.

Some of your ideas, however, seem a bit exaggerated or misdirected.

when "Men dwelt in darkness," it could literally mean that men dwelt in dark places, fearing the Sun,

Tolkien mentions that the Men who encountered the Numenoreans in the latter part of the Age ceased to fear the darkness. This suggests that they had feared the night, when orcs were free to roam. That doesn't seem consistent with your suggestion that those Men may have been like orcs and feared the Sun and so lived in dark caves or woods.

Eyes may be open and yet not see the light -- and in Middle-earth, at least, that may have a literal meaning.

This goes too far, I think. Your image is of tens of thousands of Men wandering middle-earth, blind, their eyes blank like Oedipus, tapping the ground with a stick to find their way. Even Sauron might have found that mode of world domination a bit impractical.



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Curious
Half-elven

May 4 2007, 2:27pm

Post #17 of 49 (122 views)
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Men may fear the darkness, yet still live in shadows and caves. [In reply to] Can't Post

That is where the men who became the Shadowhost lived, after all, when they served Sauron. Frodo often traveled by night to escape detection, even though he was no friend of the darkness.

And as for men not seeing the light, how would you describe the lives of Denethor, who sees the world through Sauron's eyes, or Hurin after his capture, who sees the world through Morgoth's eyes, or Turin, who repeatedly acknowledges a mist across his sight and memory? Yes, perhaps these are metaphorical uses of the word shadow, but in Tolkien's world metaphor and literal blur, so that Turin, for example, literally does not see Beren for who he is when he kills him. And we also know from LotR that Gollum and the Orcs see the elves in a very different light from the hobbits. Even Boromir sees Galadriel differently from the rest of the Fellowship. There is a sense in which this is metaphorical, but also a sense in which it is literal, as when Gollum is literally burned by elven rope and cannot eat lembas despite the fact that he is starving for food. In Middle-earth, at least, physical perceptions are literally affected by the state of a person's soul -- and so if there is a shadow across that soul, there can also be a literal shadow across that person's eyes.

One more set of examples comes to mind. The Balrog carried his shadow with him. So did the Nazgul. The cry of the Nazgul literally made Frodo go temporarily blind. On the other hand, Gandalf and Glorfindel carried light with them, and Aragorn and Elrond were able to lift the shadow from the eyes and souls of the Nazgul victims.

I think we agree that the Great Darkness of the Second Age did not consist of a vast cloud blotting out the Sun -- except perhaps in Mordor itself, especially when Sauron had revealed himself but had not yet been captured by the Numenoreans. My point has always been that there are many forms of Darkness and Shadow in LotR and The Sil, and that the Great Darkness can refer to all of those variations on a theme. Although Darkness and Shadow at the very least has a metaphorical meaning, Tolkien managed to give it an endless variety of literal manifestations as well. So the Darkness of the Second Age could be literal, even if it does not mean the Sun does not exist or is blocked by a vast cloud.


(This post was edited by Curious on May 4 2007, 2:30pm)


Pallando
Lorien


May 5 2007, 9:58pm

Post #18 of 49 (93 views)
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The same rock is being pushed very hard... [In reply to] Can't Post

in opposite directions. Both are very impressive arguments.

Curious seems to propose that literal darkness is the key to the fear that arises when men (used generically to include all 'clean' races) speak of "darkness".
* men reduced to the lives of orcs
* men forced to live in the shadows of hiding
* "faders" assuming, those who fade don't like light
* Shadowhost (?? - that's a new one - must be out of HoME)
* Entish shadows of trees and valleys
* First Age 'protection' shadows like the caves of Menegroth or Nargothrond, tho not mentioned specifically.


And then we start to get a little far out even for C - like Frodo with the ring on, other wraith worlds, Balrogs as intrinsic shadows and even Boromir minding his own business in Lorien.

Some of these are a bit far fetched for even metaphorical darkness I think, but C can find a sunspot and call it dark I've learned here ;).

But in fact C is making a really an important point: that Tolkien is enamored with shadow and darkness and uses them extensively as a parallel to evil. As he points out, it is everywhere you look if you look hard enough (and have a liberal enough definition to go
with it). I don't think this point has been appreciated for its extensiveness until now.



Squire also put a lot of effort into finding all those references to darkness and tying them together. The "Great Darkness" is a well done compilation. (The man has gotta be the world's fastest typist or is mighty speedy with the <ctrl> key)

To understand squire's darkness, we need to first understand the early light of Arda/Middle Earth.


The first light in Arda came from the building of the two lanterns Illuin and Ormal by the Vala Varda. There was enough light to germinate Yavanna's seedlings and create a beautiful green Arda (pre-Middle Earth). Note that the geography was much different than what we now know now as M-E - in fact, the world of Arda was flat, so the light of the lanterns could permeate all lands quite easily:

"Then the seeds that Yavanna had sown began swiftly to sprout and to burgeon, ..."

Great trees there were, and Ents, probably. Arda was at first beautiful when it was finally completed by the Valar; trees made by Yavanna she loved so much she wanted them to be forever unassailable, ie, un-choppable , but Manwe disallowed that.

But after a time, Melkor destroyed the lanterns and turned the world dark, and this was the start of the first darkness - the "Great Darkness". This must have lasted a fair time because because the lands changed and growing things began to decay in a way that was slowly taking hold over a now Middle Earth-to-be without light. And more importantly for this discussion, it hit Fangorn particularly hard as their herdsman - first and still the oldest living thing in M-E - and not too happy with this turn of events.

Note that in the LotR the Great Darkness was referred to almost always by Ents because first, this was a literal darkness (the lanterns were no more) and second, their environment was put to ruin and began to decay. Darkness fell over all of Arda, but hit especially hard on M-E-to be whose light from the lanterns brought life and nourishment. Arda was now "Marred" forever and the "Spring of Arda" was over.


So now the Valar are back at work and the geography (topology) of the world had to be changed. Great seas and mountains were put in place to isolate the Valar in Valinor in an attempt to keep Melkor out.

But soon Yavanna brought light back into the world.

"...there awoke in the world the Two Trees of Valinor. "

There was light again and the possible ending of the "Great Darkness". And the light, though dim in M-E (or Middle Earth, which I'll now refer to as our area-to-be), pushed back the rottenness and the trees became stronger, though some dark trees still kept the light away. Fangorn is specific on this. The world was still flat, but there was now the Pelori Mountains and a large ocean separating Middle Earth, though dim or dark, was at least livable. And now, when the Elves came, the Valar chained Melkor and put him in Mandos where he could do no harm for awhile. And Orome guided Elves who desired across the sea to Valinor where they lived in bliss. So now we have the light from the two trees.

But not long after his three age lock-up Melkor was released, he and Ungoliant, mother of Shelob, killed the two-trees and the
world was dark again. Fangorn may still consider this part of the Great Darkness. Tolkien is not clear on this.

But in any event, it was not dark long enough for the world to start to rot again (we assume), and Eru (we also assume) made the Moon and then the Sun, which rose with the first step of Fingolfin onto another topologically changed Middle Earth - a spherical one now with a revolving Sun.

And that was the beginning of the permanent light in most places of the world. The Great Darkness is now a thing of the past tho it is not laid-out anywhere that I am aware of.

But to clean up a few loose ends, there is one proper reference post-first age that is described:

'Like the Old Forest away to the north, do you mean?' asked Merry'...
[Fangorn replies:] ' I do not doubt there is some shadow of the Great Darkness lying there still away north;

and bad memories are handed down.

NOTE: this is not the Great Darkness itself as explained, but the shadow of it from old rotten times. Also note this use of Darkness is also capitalized.

There are few common (uncapitalized) references to which squire alludes and they appear to be something entirely different and purely metaphorical. For example,

'And the Numenoreans answered: 'Why should we not envy the Valar...'.
'It became a grief to them only because coming under the shadow of Morgoth it seemed
to them that they were surrounded by a great darkness, of which they were afraid;

Here the later Numenorean kings' are metaphorically surrounded by Morgoth's "great darkness" thus fooled by Sauron that they deserved eternal life. (Morgoth's dark icon was used in Westernesse as the god of darkness to be worshiped by Sauron's acolytes). But still a metaphor for the fear of dying.

.....

When squire quotes Gandalf using the terms "Black Years" below I think the editors mean "Dark Years" as below (Second Age). There's no consistency for any other meaning I think.

[Said Gandalf:] 'That is a very long story. The beginnings lie back in the Black Years, which only the lore-masters now
remember.'

But his description of the future

"...our time is beginning to look black..."

is a description Gandalf often made to show what life would be like if Sauron won the ring. It may be metaphorical, or it may be his clouds covering M-E, but Gandalf's foreknowledge only tells him it will be DARK for all if Sauron obtains the ring. But I agree with squire (if agreement it is) that Gandalf is also harkening back to the Second Age when (and only when) Sauron covered M-E in darkness metaphorically, as I related in the earlier post.

The text at the end of the first book cited by squire tells of:

'...the deeds and perils of all the members of the now sundered fellowship, until the coming of the Great Darkness.'

This comes from the editor's comments written at the end of the first book. I would guess that these editors wouldn't know from "Great Darkness". This statement is not written in the subjunctive "may come", therefore we can expect it to come. It no doubt refers to the "day without dawn".

...

At this point squire quotes every reference to "Dark" or "Darkness in the book. Rather than agree or disagree with squire's massive polemic I'll just summarize the important named or formal darknesses as I understand them and assume the rest to be metaphorical as Curious has done. In chronological order:

1. "Great Darkness": Literal. During the time of Arda when the two towers were knocked down by Melkor
2. "Dark Years": Metaphorical. Time in the Second Age when Sauron went to war against Celebrimbor and the elves.
3. "great darkness" or "darkness": Literal (but not world-wide). The day without dawn.
4. "darkness": Subjunctive: If Sauron were to have won the ring.


These are the three real and one potential (above ground) darknesses possibly seen in the full life of Arda/Middle Earth that I can put together with help from C and squire.

[After all this I hope I didn't forget one.]

P_II



__________________________________________
For I also am a steward. Did you not know?


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


May 5 2007, 10:32pm

Post #19 of 49 (94 views)
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Shadow Host? [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting summary. One note:


In Reply To
* Shadowhost (?? - that's a new one - must be out of HoME)


I think Curious is referring to LotR not HoMe: specifically to the Dead Men of Dunharrow that Aragorn summons to drive off the Corsairs in RotK.

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Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Apr. 30-May 6: Post-Tolkienian Fantasy Art.


Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


May 6 2007, 12:08am

Post #20 of 49 (94 views)
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Perhaps the real answer is far more simple. [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien clearly believed in the Dark Sucker Theory. Sauron created dark, Shelob vomited dark, dark (which is heavier than light), remained in the hollows of Fangorn...it all makes perfect sense!


*runs away*

Silverlode

Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interim is
Like a phantasma, or a hideous dream:
The genius and the plan thus inspired
Depart me and I, entering a room,
Find myself on the threshold, stand still
And wonder what I came to do there.


(This post was edited by Silverlode on May 6 2007, 12:08am)


Pallando
Lorien


May 6 2007, 12:36am

Post #21 of 49 (89 views)
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I just re-read "The Passing of the Grey Company"... [In reply to] Can't Post

And still couldn't find reference to it. Maybe it's somewhere else. I just don't remember it.

Also your use of the flaccid term "Interesting": Say what you think, friend!

Pallando

But thanks for checking it out.


__________________________________________
For I also am a steward. Did you not know?


Pallando
Lorien


May 6 2007, 12:39am

Post #22 of 49 (79 views)
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Ah yes - that must be it!. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Tolkien clearly believed in the Dark Sucker Theory. Sauron created dark, Shelob vomited dark, dark (which is heavier than light), remained in the hollows of Fangorn...it all makes perfect sense!


*runs away*



__________________________________________
For I also am a steward. Did you not know?


Curious
Half-elven

May 6 2007, 1:01am

Post #23 of 49 (94 views)
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It's used later, when Gimli and Legolas [In reply to] Can't Post

tell Merry and Pippin about their adventures.

"Alas! I had heart only for myself,' said Gimli. Nay! I will not speak of that journey.

"He fell silent; but Pippin and Merry were so eager for news that at last Legolas said: I will tell you enough for your peace; for I felt not the horror, and I feared not the shadows of Men, powerless and frail as I deemed them.

"Swiftly then he told of the haunted road under the mountains, and the dark tryst at Erech, and the great ride thence, ninety leagues and three, to Pelargir on Anduin. Four days and nights, and on into a fifth, we rode from the Black Stone, he said. And lo! in the darkness of Mordor my hope rose; for in that gloom the Shadow Host seemed to grow stronger and more terrible to look upon.'"


Curious
Half-elven

May 6 2007, 1:17am

Post #24 of 49 (90 views)
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What about the remnants of the Great Darkness? [In reply to] Can't Post

" I do not doubt there is some shadow of the Great Darkness lying there still away north; and bad memories are handed down. But there are hollow dales in this land where the Darkness has never been lifted, and the trees are older than I am."

Also what about this statement of Treebeard's:

"'Then when the Darkness came in the North, the Entwives crossed the Great River, and made new gardens, and tilled new fields, and we saw them more seldom. After the Darkness was overthrown the land of the Entwives blossomed richly, and their fields were full of corn.'"

This capitalized Darkness seems to refer to Morgoth in Angband during the First Age when the Sun shone. Is it literal or metaphorical?

I won't belabor my point about literal darkness referring to more than the absence of the Sun or a great cloud blocking out the Sun. I've made my argument; either it works for you or it doesn't.


(This post was edited by Curious on May 6 2007, 1:20am)


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


May 6 2007, 2:31am

Post #25 of 49 (69 views)
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It's evil! Don't touch it! / [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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