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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
'Of the beginning of days,' and 'Of Aule and Yavanna,' General discussion

Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Aug 30 2009, 3:32pm

Post #1 of 11 (585 views)
'Of the beginning of days,' and 'Of Aule and Yavanna,' General discussion Can't Post

Does exactly what it says on the tin, any points about those two chapters which I haven't covered, please feel free to discuss them here! And with that I am finished for the moment. On to 'Of the coming of the Elves,' now that's a good chapter for next week.

Tol Eressea

Aug 31 2009, 3:54am

Post #2 of 11 (466 views)
I really like... [In reply to] Can't Post

the phrase "...and new-made green was yet a marvel in the eyes of the makers...". And wondered, hey is this the first time the name of a(ny) color is given!? (Leaving out the metallic 'colors')
But noooo...in Valaquenta--Yavanna is said to be robed in green; Ulmo wears (silver) and (shadows of ) green; Nessa dances on green lawns. (proving yet again that my learning style is not of the *see it* type!)
No doubt I will continue to obsess over the *timeline* issues present in The Sil. Crazy

And...thanks for leading this week's discussion Hamfast Gamgee.


Sep 1 2009, 12:02am

Post #3 of 11 (450 views)
In your own words [In reply to] Can't Post

To help fix the Valar in our minds, create any scenario, and say how each would behave. It might be your workplace, your school, a party, a shopping mall, a desert island, a wedding, a funeral, a birth, a hurricane--no limits.

The list:


Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Sep 1 2009, 2:46am

Post #4 of 11 (429 views)
Oddities (including a "Thou" comment for Pryderi) [In reply to] Can't Post

Both of these chapters are good examples of how Christopher Tolkien used his father's writings in the published Silmarillion but not necessarily in ways that his father envisioned.

Well over half of "Of the Beginning of Days" was actually moved from the final version of the Ainulindale and used here instead. Of the rest of the chapter, only a small part of it was actually part of what was the first chapter of the final version of the Quenta Silmarillion. The rest was taken from the Annals of Aman.

As for "Of Aule and Yavanna" that short chapter is truly an invention of Christopher's (and/or of Guy Kay's) but using his father's own writings. The first portion, regarding the Dwarves, is taken from a text entitled "Of Aule and the Dwarves" which was enclosed in a paper wrapper bearing the words Amended Legend of Origin of Dwarves. It is closely associated to what was Chapter 13 in the later Quenta, "Concerning the Dwarves" (one paragraph actually comes from the chapter). This material was meant by Tolkien to be included much later in the Quenta Silmarillion. Pryderi will be interested to know that the only specific editorial alteration that Christopher mentions is that his father was in doubt as to whether to use "you" or "thou" and that though his father settled on "you," Christopher changed it to "thou."

As for the section on the Ents, it comes from a completely unrelated document called Of the Ents and the Eagles. This a late text and there is no indication that Tolkien ever had any intention including it anywhere in The Silmarillion. Christopher (and/or Guy Kay) simply combined it with the material on the Dwarves to create a new chapter. One interesting editorial change is that there was a statement about the trees singing to Eru in "the glitter of the sun" that indicates that at the time that Tolkien wrote this text, his intention was that the Sun existed from the beginning of Arda. Christopher removed that statement.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'



Sep 1 2009, 7:11am

Post #5 of 11 (432 views)
Just a short one [In reply to] Can't Post

I haven't read all of HoME by now, but I remember no instance of Aule and Yavanna ever working together, or even disagreeing. In Morgoth's Ring, in the fascinating debate of the Valar about Finwe and Miriel, Yavanna directly contradicts her husband, saying "My lord Aule errs..."; and in the published Silmarillion, when Yavanna asks Feanor for the silmarils (to revitalise the dying Trees), it is Tulkas who supports her, while Aule argues for letting Feanor decide for himself.

Also I note that Saruman was a disciple of Aule, and his contempt for Yavanna's choice (Radagast) is unveiled when he tried to coax Gandalf into joining him. Any meaning to this?

Another important point (raised by Dreamdeer) is Aule having a subcreative urge - like and even before Melkor.
And if you are correct, and the Aule-Yavanna strife has reprecussions throughout history - do we see here a Marring of Arda completely unconnected to Morgoth and his taint? Or do you think that Aule's attempt to subcreate without being authorised, and his and Yavanna's acting behind each other's backs, was a side-effect of Melkor's rebellion during the Music of the Ainur?
And what do you make of Manwe's part in this chapter?

Thank you, Hamfast, for an intriguing and provoking discussion!

"Maybe we cannot guess within a narrow count of days the hour appointed" - Yavanna.


Sep 1 2009, 4:23pm

Post #6 of 11 (412 views)
The Wound in the Earth [In reply to] Can't Post

I see the rift between Aule and Yavanna (and my theorized subsequent wound in Arda) as a side effect of Melkor marring the music. Melkor's innovations put ideas in Aule's head. Others near Melkor in the music faltered or forgot their original tunes. They didn't necessarily all become evil, but some of them slipped up for a few notes.

The marital wound itself could have closed and healed if Melkor's forces hadn't immediately infected it. But there they were, looking for an opening.

As for Manwe, he's doing the best he can with what he knows. I don't think he supports one consistently over the other. He takes Yavanna's part regarding ents, but follows Aule's lead to let Feanor decide.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Sep 2 2009, 9:39am

Post #7 of 11 (431 views)
That is indeed interesting. [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you for explaining it. It seems that thee and thou must have lost their charm for CT over the decades. There are no instances, so far as I can see in "Children of Hurin". This seems to me to change the tone at least of Turin's final exchange with Gurthang and it changes more than tone, to me, in Gwindor's deathbed scene. I have always assumed that the thees and thous in those two exchanges were JRR's. Can you correct me?

Actually I have a rationale for this change in CTs mood (If indeed the change I notice does exist). JRRs conceit was that he was a translator of source texts into "modern" English. I cannot remember the exact year of publication of the New English Bible but it was within a few years of JRR's death I think. Prior to that publication, in Christian communities at least, we were all exposed to archaic "biblical" language at school if not at church and JRR could justifiably assume that his intended audience was familiar with it. Moreover I think he could have taken the view that it was one, albeit perhaps small, part of "modern" English. Anyone attending school or church in recent decades will not have been similarly exposed to that archaic language and CT may now take the view that it can no longer be thought of as a part of "modern" English since young, and not so young, people are entirely unfamiliar with it. I think I may have posted something like this before so I 'm sorry if I am repeating myself but anyway I'd be interested in your views.

Thanks again,


Sep 2 2009, 10:06am

Post #8 of 11 (418 views)
My Thee and Thou post (and an apology). [In reply to] Can't Post

Firstly the aplology. I am off for ten days holiday on Friday morning and may not find the opportunity to make a specific post on Squire's two chapters. If I am silent that will not mean I have given up on this project because I intend to get back to weekly postings on my return. I expect my next post to be the week after next and to be late! Perhaps I will include any comments on Squire's chapters then.

Ok. There are no Thees or Thous in "Of the Beginning of Days" that I could find but "Of Aule and Yavanna" is full of them and I could find no instance of a singular "you" either. Both Squire for internal reasons and Voronwe for external ones have suggested above that "Of Aule and Yavanna" is an interruption to the general development of this part of the Sil. Perhaps the personal pronouns (or lack of them) adds some minor confirmation of this. What do you think?

I now seek some enlightenment. "Of the Beginning of Days" has a number of constructions like "It is told that....". This seems like an interesting tense and I don't know what it's called. It is obviously(?) some sort of present tense but the conjunction of the past participle of "to tell" with the present tense of "to be" looks unusual to me although the meaning is entirely clear and I have seen the construction often enough elsewhere to be convinced that it is entirely "correct". Any ideas?

That's it for now.


Sep 2 2009, 2:37pm

Post #9 of 11 (427 views)
You could be right [In reply to] Can't Post

Unfortunately, although Christopher often speculates about why his father did certain things, he rarely explained his own decisions. I'm not big on trying to read his mind and figure out why he did things that he did not explain himself (something which a number of reviewers of my book have criticized me for).

I will definitely be having more to say about those scenes with Gwindor and Gurthang that you mention, once we get to the chapter on Turin.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'



Sep 2 2009, 5:30pm

Post #10 of 11 (428 views)
That's an interesting thought... [In reply to] Can't Post

... about the use of 'thee' and 'thou'. JRRT was actually involved in one of the modern English Bible translations, the Jerusalem Bible, which has a more attractive use of language than the NEB. This is what Wiki says about it -
'The translation itself uses a literal approach that has been admired for its literary qualities, perhaps in part due to its most famous contributor, J.R.R.Tolkien (his primary contribution was the translation of Jonah).'


Sep 3 2009, 1:14pm

Post #11 of 11 (438 views)
Some thoughts on your "interesting tense" [In reply to] Can't Post

I believe what you have noticed are a number of examples of the passive voice - a construction that allows the natural subject of the sentence to be left unmentioned. It's a way of keeping things vague and impersonal, I think, and is surely something that adds to the effect of Tolkien's style of writing in these chapters. I suspect that once again you've noticed a pattern in the use of language that tells us something beyond the simple grammatical explanation.

The effect of all these passive constructions - "it is said", "it is told" - is to suggest that the person who is reporting this story is not speaking from his own knowledge but is (presumably) writing things that he has heard from unspecified others. I think it's a way of reminding us that none of this is certain, that it's all legend and myth with no guarantees that it "really happened" in the way it's told. I noticed quite a few "they say"s as well when I was looking for the passive contructions that you'd pointed out. I think that is another way this same effect is created. There's no "omniscient author" here, no eye-witnesses, no claim on the part of the writer that he knows all this of his own knowledge. He's reporting the oral traditions that he has heard, nothing more.

You also mention that these constructions are in the present tense, which again tells us something about the way the story is being told. It seems that the writer has heard these stories himself, and that they are still being told at the time of writing. He's not Tolkien the modern author - he would have to write "the Elves believed", or at least "it was said", if this was written from the perspective of now.

There are drawbacks to using the passive voice, as style guides often warn. Here's a quote from the Wikipedia article on the passive voice: "If you want your words to seem impersonal, indirect, and noncommittal, passive is the choice, but otherwise, active voice is almost invariably likely to prove more effective."

I think there is a sense of the noncommittal in the way these chapters are told. It may be intended to give us a sense of distance and uncertainty, but I do wonder if it is one of the reasons these stories seem rather dull and impersonal. (I guess that's also linked to your observation that there are plenty of second person pronouns only in the short episode of Aule and Yavanna - in that one story, we do get a bit of personal interaction between characters, and for once a few sparks fly!)

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


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