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*Silmarillion Discussion: Chapter 5, "Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalie", Part 2 -- The Great Teleri Compromise and a Guided Tour…*

weaver
Half-elven


Feb 23 2013, 9:18pm

Post #1 of 11 (502 views)
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*Silmarillion Discussion: Chapter 5, "Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalie", Part 2 -- The Great Teleri Compromise and a Guided Tour…* Can't Post

Just when they were about to hang up the “welcome to Aman” banner for the Teleri, Osse strikes again. When the island ship reaches the Bay of Eldamar (aka Elvenhome), Osse makes a fuss, and begs Ulmo to "stay the voyage" of the Teleri.

Ulmo grants Osse his wish, and Osse roots the floating island in the Bay. This is done in part because Ulmo was against the Elves being summoned to Aman in the first place.

The rest of the Valar are not too happy about this. Neither is Finwe. First, because he spent a lot of time convincing Ulmo to bring the Teleri to Aman, and second, because the one guy he really wanted to see – Elwe -- didn’t even board the island ship.

Even though not everyone is happy, the island-ship is not moved again, and becomes known as Tol Eressea, the Lonely Isle. The Teleri make it their home, so they can live under the stars, but still see Aman. A consequence of this is that they develop a different language than that of the Noldor and Vanyar living in Aman.

Meanwhile, the Vanyar aren’t entirely happy with their accommodations in Aman. Though the Valar gave them their own place to live, filled with radiant flowers, they wanted land with a view of the stars. So the Valar, good hosts that they are, make a gap in the mountain walls of the Pelori (the mountains that defend Aman). This pass is called the Calacirya (the Pass of Light) because through it the light from paradise shines out and reaches the Lonely Isle. Here is how Tolkien describes it:

“Then, through the Calacirya, the Pass of Light, the radiance of the Blessed Realm streamed forth, kindling the dark waves to silver and gold, and it touched the Lonely Isle, and its western shores grew green and fair."

Where the light touches the Lonely Isle, the first flowers east of the Mountains of Aman appear.

The Pass features a deep green valley that leads down to the sea, within which is a high green hill, called Túna. On the west side of this hill, the light of the Trees in Valinor falls, and on the east side it looks toward the Lonely Isle, the Bay, and the Sea. Here is how Tolkien describes this:

“Upon the tower of Túna the city of the Elves was built, the white walls and terraces of Tirion; and the highest of the towers of that city was the Tower of Ingwe, Mindon Eldaliéva, whose silver lamp shone far out into the mists of the sea. Few are the ships of mortal men who have seen its slender beam.”

The Vanyar and Noldor live in Fellowship in this city, and because they love the White Tree of Valinor, Yavanna makes them a lesser image of it, which does not shine on its own. This tree is called Galathilion. It is planted in the courts of the Tower of Ingwe, and it has many seedlings. One of these is transplanted to the Lonely Isle, which is called Celeborn, and from it comes Nimloth, the White Tree of Númenor.

Discussion Questions and Musings for you to pick from...

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?

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

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?

4. For divine beings, the Valar and the Maia are pretty human at times, aren't they? They continue to second guess each other, give into persuasion, change their minds and avoid confrontation. And later, we’ll see that the Noldor have all kinds of conflicts, emotions, and problems of their own.

It strikes me that Tolkien idealizes his settings, and the physical attributes of his characters, but their motivations and actions are closer to the human condition. Do you agree? Other thoughts on these musings?

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

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

Do you like the imagery here? I find these passages very moving in some ways – do you?

Tolkien will refer to Tuna and Tirion many times in the Sil -- does he give us enough to go on here to be able to recall these places or have some kind of emotional resonance with them when he does bring them up again?

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?

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

In this section, we get the introduction of the White Tree of Numenor…for me, when I first read the Sil, the references to people, places and things I’d encountered in LOTR were very helpful because they gave me a place to land in the middle of all of the new things Tolkien was pouring out at me. Anyone else find this helpful?

And of course, if I found something in the Sil that I remembered being mentioned in LOTR, I went back and looked it up and had a lot of “aha” moments, when I realized, for example, what the heck Galadriel was singing about in her lament. That added a new level of delight, as a reader, which I appreciated. Would you say this is one of the key things that sets LOTR apart from other fantasy tales?

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? Any comments on the way Tolkien weaves the Sil into LOTR and LOTR into the Sil?

Next: Noldor Casting Call for rest of the Sil...


Weaver



CuriousG
Valinor


Feb 24 2013, 12:32am

Post #2 of 11 (254 views)
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Of islands and where to live [In reply to] Can't Post

Oops! Sorry, I answered your first post without reading this one, creating overlap.

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?
Loneliness never has a good connotation, and naming them this way initially makes me think they are wretched places. They don't turn out to be so, and can be quite vibrant habitations, but the name never sounds good. It puzzles me why he chooses "lonely" since he knows the feelings that word arouses. Yes, one can look at a flat horizon and see an island on it and think the island looks lonely, but what else comes to mind? And, aren't there other attributes to these places that don't concern their isolation? Erebor could have been "the gold mountain" or "the thrush hill," or Tol Eressea could have been "the twin-peaked island" or "the island of waterfalls" (just making those things up). Why emphasize their solitary so much?

2. Osse causes trouble again! What is with this guy? Why can’t he just let the Teleri go?
Not only is he a minor rebel, he's a stubborn rebel. And he comes across as rather selfish. Is he thinking about what's best for the Elves, or himself? What role does Uinen play in all this?

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?
Those are my questions too!

4. For divine beings, the Valar and the Maia are pretty human at times, aren't they? They continue to second guess each other, give into persuasion, change their minds and avoid confrontation. And later, we’ll see that the Noldor have all kinds of conflicts, emotions, and problems of their own.

It strikes me that Tolkien idealizes his settings, and the physical attributes of his characters, but their motivations and actions are closer to the human condition. Do you agree? Other thoughts on these musings?

The Valar seem ideal and alien in the Ainulindale and even the Valaquenta. But now they're starting to seem more human, as you point out. I think it started with Orome discovering the Elves and the Valar being smitten by them. They stop being lofty world guardians and instead develop emotional entanglements with the Elves, revealing more of their personalities. At this part of the book, I envision the Valar as children, waiting impatiently at home for their new pets (Elves) to arrive so they can play with them and enjoy them. It seems that it's part of that child-like enthusiasm that blinds them to their later problems with the Noldor and Melkor. I don't consider it a bad change for the Valar, but it's significant.

Is the divine being acting in human ways found in other mythologies? What about in fairy stories, Faerie stories, or fantasy tales?
I would say "yes" in every religion and mythology. It's more the exception that divine beings remain divine and idealized. I suppose if a human is telling the story, sooner or later the object of the story gets humanized, even gods and angels. I've read some obscure fantasy stories where divine beings never got around to acting human, and as a reader, I never really could figure out what was going on, so I've forgotten everything about the stories except that they didn't make sense to me. I think the trick is for story tellers to make the divine beings lofty enough to seem non-human while still having enough human-seeming traits that we can understand them. Never an easy balance.

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

Do you like the imagery here? I find these passages very moving in some ways – do you?

Yes! I only wish there were day tours of Tirion or more description of it since I want to learn more about it. It seems a great compliment to Turgon later that Gondolin is a sort of reincarnation of it. One particular aspect of Tirion that I like is that it basks in the light of the Two Trees on one side and is open to the starlit sea on the other. How's that for having the best of both worlds? What remains a bit of a mystery to me is that its highest tower is the Tower of Ingwe. Is it renamed after the Vanyar left? And what exactly are we to make of "Few are the ships of mortal Men who have seen its slender beam"? I thought the only Men who saw Tirion were the invading Numenoreans. What ships is Tolkien talking about? Or is he trying to make it seem remote in a fairy tale kind of way, similar to his description of the Vanyar: "few among Men have spoken with them"?

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

In this section, we get the introduction of the White Tree of Numenor…for me, when I first read the Sil, the references to people, places and things I’d encountered in LOTR were very helpful because they gave me a place to land in the middle of all of the new things Tolkien was pouring out at me. Anyone else find this helpful?

Oh, yes, it was very gratifying. I read The Hobbit first, then LOTR. For just one example, to be able to trace the history of Orcrist, Glamdring, and Sting all the way back to Gondolin, which was based on Tirion, helped bind the whole history of Middle-earth together for me.

And of course, if I found something in the Sil that I remembered being mentioned in LOTR, I went back and looked it up and had a lot of “aha” moments, when I realized, for example, what the heck Galadriel was singing about in her lament. That added a new level of delight, as a reader, which I appreciated. Would you say this is one of the key things that sets LOTR apart from other fantasy tales?
Yes, many inferior fantasy stories attempt to fake the depth of history that Tolkien developed for his world, which makes me appreciate his accomplishment that much more. It's not easy to create all the layers that he did, and he made them interesting too. That made the Sil a good read, and then made rereading LOTR that much better for the "aha" moments you describe. It gives a better sense of Galadriel's life to understand "ere the fall of Nargothrond or Gondolin I passed over the mountains." Okay, the two hidden cities that were inspired by Ulmo, Vala-friend to the Noldor, and built by her brother and cousin, and that endured longer than any other Noldor realm and recalled the best of what Noldor craftsmen could do. Those cities! If you never read the Sil, she's just listing a couple of meaningless names. To read the Sil, you realize that a lot of things you've skipped over before can have great meaning underlying them, so you tend to read everything Tolkien writes more carefully.

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? Any comments on the way Tolkien weaves the Sil into LOTR and LOTR into the Sil?
Well, as long as he avoided Jar Jar Binks, I'm forever in his debt. Funny that you bring up Star Wars, because a friend referred to the 3rd prequel as "George Lucas's checklist" to prepare for the three original movies, and while it was more than that, it certainly felt like sitting through a checklist at times. I don't view the Sil as a checklist, however. Most of the stories carry their own weight. Whatever the parallels between Beren & Luthien and Arwen & Aragorn, the former is a story in its own. So is Turin Turambar. There's also a unique flavor to the Sil where the Elves take the initiative over and over again, creating great ports and cities and jewels in Valinor and new realms in Beleriand, leading the war against Morgoth, and shaping history overall. The Elves in LOTR have none of that dynamism: "they attempted nothing new, living in memory of the past." (Appdx B) The comparison leaves me disappointed with Third Age Elves, wishing they could reclaim their past glory and not accept fate as a dwindling people, yet it also sets the two stories profoundly apart.


elevorn
Lorien


Feb 25 2013, 6:42pm

Post #3 of 11 (232 views)
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lists, names and more stuff to remember... [In reply to] Can't Post

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?

Lonely in certain instances simply means that it stands alone. Erebor is a place that jumps to me as simple way of describing the geography. In the case of Tol Eressea, I tend to think that it is in fact a lonely place compared to the rest of Valinor. It’s like that person shut out of the party.

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


Like a child with his toys he just can’t give them up. He has found a people that will listen to him and that he can teach and impress with all sorts of knowledge and power. Not to mention the fact that Osse is quite a rebel and in some case may wish for dominion over the elves, even if it is in a simplistic fashion.

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?


Perhaps less political than more of a recognition that they were wrong to ask them to come in the first place, so they just said okay we brought you almost, if you really want to come the rest of the way we can. The Valar don’t outvote each other in most matters. They listen to one another and kind of do their own thing. Besides didn’t they already have enough elves to play with?

4. For divine beings, the Valar and the Maia are pretty human at times, aren't they? They continue to second guess each other, give into persuasion, change their minds and avoid confrontation. And later, we’ll see that the Noldor have all kinds of conflicts, emotions, and problems of their own.


They wrestled with Melkor for quite a long time and many times they ended up second guessing themselves. It seems like this has become a habit out of fear of making a mistake. It connects them to Arda with their “human” characteristics.

It strikes me that Tolkien idealizes his settings, and the physical attributes of his characters, but their motivations and actions are closer to the human condition. Do you agree? Other thoughts on these musings?


A created being will be as it was created, and since everything was created by the same being, those characteristics will be in whatever form they can be. Human acts exist in many far flung places where there are no humans.

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


I am reminded that some of the greek gods were pretty humanlike at many times, and not necessarily in a good way.

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


Do you like the imagery here? I find these passages very moving in some ways – do you?


I love it, and some of the artwork I have by Nasmith really bring out these places in my mind.

Tolkien will refer to Tuna and Tirion many times in the Sil -- does he give us enough to go on here to be able to recall these places or have some kind of emotional resonance with them when he does bring them up again?


For me it depends on how recently I have read the SIL, and this section in particular. I could always use more though because I love the way Tolkien paints a word picture.

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?


It’s a confusing allusion to me. Light had changed by the time Earendil came along, so I usually ascribe that saying to some sort of nautical reference of fancy. Something nice an old mariner woulfd have told himself in Tolkien’s world.

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


In this section, we get the introduction of the White Tree of Numenor…for me, when I first read the Sil, the references to people, places and things I’d encountered in LOTR were very helpful because they gave me a place to land in the middle of all of the new things Tolkien was pouring out at me. Anyone else find this helpful?


It helps, and at the same time the repetition of names muddles my mind at times. Celeborn especially, That guy just never could have an original name that sounded good could he?

And of course, if I found something in the Sil that I remembered being mentioned in LOTR, I went back and looked it up and had a lot of “aha” moments, when I realized, for example, what the heck Galadriel was singing about in her lament. That added a new level of delight, as a reader, which I appreciated. Would you say this is one of the key things that sets LOTR apart from other fantasy tales?


It feels old. Everywhere there is work from some forgotten age. It just makes me read harder and harder to try to imagine these places at the heighth of their time. I really wish there were more written in the legendarium, more stories are simply mentioned and not fleshed out. I wish the SIL contained the history of Numenor in a more complete form, and on from that, the stories of Elendil in Gondor and Arnor.

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? Any comments on the way Tolkien weaves the Sil into LOTR and LOTR into the Sil?


I think Tolkien masterfully does this. There may be a few holes, but to me he saves himself because he always saw his point of view as a historian and not the actual creator of this. The holes or mistakes are due to poor records and not a forgetful author. Lucas does not even come close, and I don’t think he really ever tried.



"clever hobbits to climb so high!"
Check out my writing www.jdstudios.wordpress.com


Escapist
Gondor


Feb 25 2013, 7:13pm

Post #4 of 11 (232 views)
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answers for questions that need them [In reply to] Can't Post

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?
>>> Lonely can mean so many different things. Taken in context, I would guess the name is fitting because the lone mountain stands apart from a mountain range and similarly, the lone isle stands apart from any other nearby isle. It reminds me of a saying I heard in China, that every lake must have a tower ... but I am not sure this applies across all cultures and situations.


2. Osse causes trouble again! What is with this guy? Why can’t he just let the Teleri go?
>>> It sounds like Osse was a representative of many people sharing a common wish.


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?
>>>There are limits to how far anyone can impose their whim on another.

4. For divine beings, the Valar and the Maia are pretty human at times, aren't they? They continue to second guess each other, give into persuasion, change their minds and avoid confrontation. And later, we’ll see that the Noldor have all kinds of conflicts, emotions, and problems of their own.

It strikes me that Tolkien idealizes his settings, and the physical attributes of his characters, but their motivations and actions are closer to the human condition. Do you agree? Other thoughts on these musings?
>>>I think Tolkien chooses to dwell on the most beautiful things and sometimes the most beautiful things may be certain emotional dramas.

Is the divine being acting in human ways found in other mythologies? What about in fairy stories, Faerie stories, or fantasy tales?
>>>I would expect the divine to be capable of reaching beyond human limitations of all kinds but at the same time, not wholly unlike human.

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

Do you like the imagery here? I find these passages very moving in some ways – do you?
>>>To be honest, I find that "a picture is worth a thousand words" often specifies my feelings for long descriptive paragraphs about scenery only.

Tolkien will refer to Tuna and Tirion many times in the Sil -- does he give us enough to go on here to be able to recall these places or have some kind of emotional resonance with them when he does bring them up again?
>>>I think that for me, it is not a place in and of itself but the events that happen there and people that dwell there that make it memorable and emotionally resonant.

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?
>>>It feels a little bit like a label, but it does excite my imagination which then wants to fill in missing details with other stories I have heard about humans entering the world.

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

In this section, we get the introduction of the White Tree of Numenor…for me, when I first read the Sil, the references to people, places and things I’d encountered in LOTR were very helpful because they gave me a place to land in the middle of all of the new things Tolkien was pouring out at me. Anyone else find this helpful?
>>>Those elements of the Silmarillion that appear in LOTR were easier to remember than the rest for me.

And of course, if I found something in the Sil that I remembered being mentioned in LOTR, I went back and looked it up and had a lot of “aha” moments, when I realized, for example, what the heck Galadriel was singing about in her lament. That added a new level of delight, as a reader, which I appreciated. Would you say this is one of the key things that sets LOTR apart from other fantasy tales?
>>>I like the connections in the songs. It is one of the elements that contributes to the re-readability of LOTR. Every time I read it I find more connections to make.

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? Any comments on the way Tolkien weaves the Sil into LOTR and LOTR into the Sil?
>>>Well, it would be a detraction to focus on those dots that don't fit the story (but leaving them out is not the best since they add some mystery and credibility). There are certainly multitple stories happening at once, but it may be too confusing to handle them all at once with the same level of emphasis.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 27 2013, 12:39pm

Post #5 of 11 (250 views)
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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)


Mixel
The Shire

Feb 28 2013, 11:45pm

Post #6 of 11 (203 views)
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Silmarillion's actuality [In reply to] Can't Post

The first quote suggests that some events in Silmarillion did not occur as they are written. Is this view only restricted to geological events, or does it apply generally?


telain
Rohan

Mar 1 2013, 12:36am

Post #7 of 11 (201 views)
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and thank you for those answers! [In reply to] Can't Post

In particular, I like your connection between "sunderings" and loneliness. Loneliness invokes longing, which as we have discussed previously in this chapter, is a particularly quality seemingly in no short supply in Arda/Middle-earth. I see the dual meaning as well -- simply a descriptive term indicating the 'singular' quality of an object (e.g., a single peak, a single island, etc.,) but the added emotional aspect is quite evocative.

I also (as someone who teaches physical geography from time to time) really enjoyed your take on some of the stories in the SIlmarilion being myths meant to "explain" the changes in the world over time. We can explain catastrophic geologic events with things like the Wars of the Powers, uncomfortable cold and grinding ice with Melkor's meddlings, and "moving islands" with Osse's occupations.

Perhaps one of the things that I like most about Silmarilion is the mythic quality of it. I am intrigued by myth and legend; by how people who did not always know what was happening around them explained local and world events. For this reason, I might give Silmarilion a bit more leeway than I would give other works. I'm not not so concerned that things don't fit. I was just reading about the myth of Mithras today and honestly it doesn't make sense -- but that is part of the charm! Of course it doesn't make sense, I am not a person of the time and place where the myth was born; I am reading the myth in its ultimate complete wholeness and absolutely out of context. That's a bit how I see SIlmarilion. It doesn't have to be perfect -- nay! for me it shouldn't be perfect. That makes it seem less like a "written" story (or set of stories) and more like a "found" incomplete collection of myths, legends, stories, and imagined conversations. So thank you, FarFromHome -- and weaver--, for the inspiration!


CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 1 2013, 1:20am

Post #8 of 11 (231 views)
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Myths, floods, and physical geography? [In reply to] Can't Post

If you teach physcial geography, can you shed any light on flood myths? I saw something on TV once that there are flood myths (Noah's Ark-style) all around the world. That alone doesn't mean there's anything behind them, because there are myths about flying people and talking animals around the world too.

There was some speculation that a catastrophic flood could have happened that rose sea levels worldwide, possibly an inland sea above sea level bottled up by a rock wall that collapsed in an earthquake, making a giant whoosh when it spilled. It would be cool if there was some fact behind those old stories.


telain
Rohan

Mar 1 2013, 11:55pm

Post #9 of 11 (223 views)
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a very dim light! but a light nonetheless [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting! And yes, I think I can speculate wildly on that (or perhaps not so wildly...)

It's not my specialty by any stretch of the imagination, but I can tell you that evidence exists for at least one North American "megaflood". During the waning years of the last Ice Age (~15,000 years ago, take a few thousand) it seems the ice dam that contained Glacial Lake Missoula burst and hundreds of cubic miles/kilometres of water poured out over much of what is now western Montana, Idaho and eastern Washington state -- producing such attractively named features as the "scablands". PBS's Nova had a segment on it : http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/megafloods-of-the-ice-age.html

Fairly strong evidence exists for this one event, but given the pronounced glaciation over the rest of North America and the Eurasian continent (and in alpine regions of even more tropical areas), I imagine several of these events likely took place over several thousand years. It seems very likely that people living near areas at the edge of continental glaciations during the at the end of the last Ice Age, if they would have witnessed an event like this, would have seen these events as hugely catastrophic (indeed, we would, too!) and would have written or spoke of it into the "myth and legend" cycles of their people.

It might not have been an ice dam, either. Continental glaciers build up ridges of sediment at their edges (moraines) -- ridges which might hold in glacial meltwater until erosion, earthquake, or some other event weakens the ridge and again the meltwater would flow out onto the flat plain once inhabited by the receding glacier.

(Now, the teacher in me is at full force -- I promise to be brief!) It makes sense that people would be living near (within several hundred kilometers) the edges of glaciers -- glacial soil is usually very fertile. Depending on how hospitable the climate was near the end of the Ice Age in any particular area might account for why/how people may have witnessed such catastrophic events.

Of course, there are also volcanic eruptions and earthquakes that might account for catastrophic flooding as well! But that's for next class!


sador
Half-elven


Mar 3 2013, 10:40am

Post #10 of 11 (201 views)
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Late answers [In reply to] Can't Post

1. Lonely Mountains, Lonely Isles…they may be one of a kind, but why does Tolkien choose to call them Lonely?
The Lonely Isles aren't one of a kind.
I assume they are far from any other landmarks - a sort of beacon, or haven, or enchanted otherworldly place.

Does he use that term for any other spots in Aman or Middle Earth?
Not that I remember.

How does that descriptor impact your impressions of these places?
After too many uses, it becomes tedious. Or like a Led Zeppelin soing.

2. Osse causes trouble again! What is with this guy?

Well, according to the Valaquenta, he was troublesome from the beginning.

Why can’t he just let the Teleri go?
You know - there is one Maia who really cares about the elves, not just as playthings - and you criticse him? Just why?

Also, according to most of Tolkien's drafts, Ulmo was against inviting the elves to Valinor to begin with. It is only reasonable for his vassal to share this regret.

3. Is the creation of the Lonely Isle a political compromise?
Why political?

What are the ramifications of Osse and Ulmo’s actions in choosing to root the Island in the Bay?
For one thing, someone learns to build ships.

Why don’t the Valar just outvote these guys and move the Island?
They could try. Good luck to them!
And after all, the Valar didn't really care.

4. For divine beings, the Valar and the Maia are pretty human at times, aren't they?
Like any gods of politheistic myths. That's where the fun comes from.

5. Do you like the imagery here? I find these passages very moving in some ways – do you?
Not especially.

Tolkien will refer to Tuna and Tirion many times in the Sil -- does he give us enough to go on here to be able to recall these places or have some kind of emotional resonance with them when he does bring them up again?

Not enough for me. But different people react differently.

What about the reference to mortal men in connection with Tirion – does it make you curious as to who those lucky guys will be?

Lucky? Think of the poor boy who was marooned in The Sea-Bell!

Does the introduction of the human element impact your perceptions of this place in any way?
Frankly, it sounds unbelievable. Maybe a residue from an earlier stage of the Sil-myths.

6. In this section, we get the introduction of the White Tree of Numenor…for me, when I first read the Sil, the references to people, places and things I’d encountered in LOTR were very helpful because they gave me a place to land in the middle of all of the new things Tolkien was pouring out at me. Anyone else find this helpful?
On my first reading, I hardly understood the Sil at all. My second reading was with Foster's Guide to Middle-earth, who spelled out the connections for me. Only later, I got to make new connections for myself.

Would you say this is one of the key things that sets LOTR apart from other fantasy tales?

Yes. (That was an easy question!)

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... Does Tolkien manage to avoid this trap, for you?

Not entirely, and he never wrote most of the Sil into proper stories, like he did with Turin.
But yes, it does stand on its feet for itself.

Any comments on the way Tolkien weaves the Sil into LOTR and LOTR into the Sil?
Not at the moment.



CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 3 2013, 2:29pm

Post #11 of 11 (232 views)
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Enlightening--thanks!// [In reply to] Can't Post

 

 
 

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