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The Darkening of Valinor - thoughts on the chapter

Brethil
Half-elven


Apr 9 2013, 2:46am


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The Darkening of Valinor - thoughts on the chapter [In reply to] Can't Post


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So sorry for the very long delay. Real life has gotten pretty hectic, but thankfully the Reading Room has been plenty busy of late. It's actually been a nice change to see it so active Smile Thanks for posting the discussion Ardamire! Hope life has been good as well as hectic for you! It has been brisk about the RR lately which is wonderful.

Well, now onto the chapter - one of my favorite, if more for it's textual history rather than the finished text itself. I'll speak to that a bit, but I'll try to mostly stick to the published text. The chapter begins with Melkor running off and the Valar in pursuit of him. It's mentioned that Melkor is still able to change his form "or walk unclad." Was there ever really any chance then of catching him? I don't think so, between still possessing the same abilities as the Valar (travelling unseen) coupled with a well planned strategy of misdirection, heading south instead of north. Plus he has the advantage of the (naive?) Valar simply not comprehending what his cardinal intentions were.

He comes to forgotten regions in the south where Ungoliant dwells. It is said that she was once in the service of Melkor before disowning him to become her own master. It is then said that she took the shape of a monstrous spider. So what is Ungoliant? She's obviously not just a spider. Some sort of Maia would be my guess. I don't think that seems very inspired, though. Any other ideas?
Tolkien himself calls her "Ungoliante the primeval devourer of light, that in spider-form assisted the Dark Power" (Letter #144). In the published Sil he says she "took shape" as a spider of monstrous form. So clearly as you say Ardamire she is not simply a natural or giant arachnid, but something that simply chose to take that form. What is she? In Ainulindale we read that the Valar first entered a dark and undeveloped Ea and Melkor coveted it, after setting great fires; "He (Manwe) called unto himself many spirits both greater and less, and they came down into the fields of Arda and aided Manwe..." About her in Chapter 8 we read "The Eldar knew not whence she came; but some have said that in ages long before she descended from the darkness that lies about Arda, when Melkor first looked down in envy upon the Kingdom of Manwe, and that in the beginning she was one of those he corrupted to his service." So her existence dates back to the time when the Valar first came into Ea, surrounded by darkness. Tolkien writes in Letter #200 that the sprits such as the Maia "were self-incarnated, if they wished; but their incarnate forms were more analogous to our clothes than to our bodies, except that they were more than are clothes the expressions of their desires, moods, wills and functions." She can choose her shape according to her mood and intent, and came out of the darkness surrounding the Creation, a time when greater and lesser spirits were called forth; so I do believe she is one of these first Maia who chose to enter Arda and assist in the work of Manwe before becoming corrupted by Melkor. Her initial form was undoubtedly different than the shape she became known for, and 'fixed' into - considering that her natural offspring retained that arachnid body through the ages.

Melkor visits her and here the published text differs wildly from Tolkien's manuscript. He has an entire conversation between the two of them. Ungoliant is told to be ravenously hungry, so Melkor feeds her gems to strengthen her so that she's strong enough to do his bidding. Then notice this little twist in Melkor's words: "...and if thou art still hungry when we meet again" (italics mine). He means for them to part ways, not go to the Two Trees together. That will come into play later.
It's said that in Valinor there was no winter, but that the seasons are at the bidding of the Valar. Yavanna especially is described as in charge of the "times for the flowering and the ripening of all things that grew." What do you think of this cycle? I do like the more fantastical nature of, well, nature in the early years. Even with the advents of the Sun and Moon later the world is changing more and more to be like the world we know today. I like that the change is subtle and begins so early in history.
For the fulfillment and continuation of life there MUST be a cycle of flowering and fruiting; but it means more than that. When I read this part of how the Valar clothed themselves in the vestment of the Children, and ate and drank and feasted - I see the almost innocent and child-like nature of the Valar, in imitating the beloved Firstborn by harvesting, eating and acting as they do. And as Tolkien points out all the different levels of Creation appeared to envy each other somewhat - its a bit touching to see the almighty Valar wanting to be like the Children and be able to fully enjoy the everyday pleasures of life. This particular feast is almost 'fey', in the sense that the Manwe was trying to heal all the ill-will and sundered relationships among the Noldor, and everyone is present and involved, without a thought to what things might be happening just outside their happy celebration. In their innocence they are so vulnerable.
Finwe doesn't attend the feast, and Feanor decides to withhold the Silmarils from the eyes of the Elves and Valar. What do you think of these decisions? Obviously, they're bad in hindsight, but without that knowledge, do you think they were wrong choices? I think they're both wrong due to pride in both Finwe and Feanor. Many tragic circumstances could have been averted if pride were not such a vice to our characters. Tolkien says that 'the fall of the Elves comes about through the possessive attitude of Feanor and his seven sons to these gems." So true, that the pride of Feanor, his emotional distance from the rest of the Elves (even his own family) and his need to possess the Silmarils are the heart of so much suffering. The fact that he locks them up in an iron box is like a metaphor for the immovable nature of his heart at that point in his life, and also his fear of losing what he values so highly and is so precious (preciousssss) to him. I also note he does not dress like everyone else, for the feast, but more like for a funeral. And the funeral isn't far away, as Finwe's own pride in refusing to come ultimately costs him his life.
Melkor then travels with Ungoliant to the Two Trees, destroys them, and then scurries away in her Unlight to Formenos and the Silmarils. Tolkien's version, though, has Ungoliant destroying the Trees as a cover for Melkor. He didn't enter into Valinor until after she destroyed them. He goes to the Ring of Doom and defiles it before heading off to Formenos: a location that he hadn't told Ungoliant about. He didn't want her with him while getting the Silmarils, and didn't actually intend to meet up with her again at all. But she overtakes him on the way so that they end up there together anyway. Which version do you prefer? Which do you think is stronger? I prefer the "separated" version, because it demonstrates more clearly Melkor's and Ungoliant's selfishness. I also like that they're more antagonistic towards each other, rather than the tag-team they're portrayed as in the published version
.
I have to say I rather like the published version of them 'in tandem" (with Melkor thinking he is in total control) because of how scared even Melkor is when Ungoliant swells to enormous size after draining the Two Trees - sort of like he has a tiger by the tail. I like the fact that even the most evil of beings can be frightened by something; it makes Melkor a more complete and real character for me. I like the way they work together with each having their own separate agenda, and that even though Melkor has an intellectual 'plan' about revenge, the more base power of raw hunger is scarier than he is and produces a monster even he could not foresee.
Well, that's all for this chapter. Thanks for reading, commenting, or lurking. Feel free to mention anything I skimmed over. Smile I love the evocative picture of Tulkas beating the air in the darkness, all alone...such a picture of helpless grief.Thanks Ardamire! Looking very forward to everyone's thoughts on the chapter!


Hell hath no fury like a Dragon who is missing a cup.

Subject User Time
**Silmarillion discusion, Chapter 8: Of the Darkening of Valinor** Ardamírë Send a private message to Ardamírë Apr 8 2013, 10:48pm
    I'm not convinced Hamfast Gamgee Send a private message to Hamfast Gamgee Apr 8 2013, 11:14pm
        Guards Ardamírë Send a private message to Ardamírë Apr 8 2013, 11:27pm
            Even the sentries on holiday AGAIN? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Apr 9 2013, 10:46am
                I hadn't even thought of that! Ardamírë Send a private message to Ardamírë Apr 9 2013, 5:33pm
                    That's why I thought the feast feels "fey" Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 9 2013, 6:27pm
                        I think it's a combination Finwe Send a private message to Finwe Apr 9 2013, 7:53pm
                            Ultimately I think its a combination as well Finwe Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 10 2013, 12:45am
                                Morgoth's Ring Finwe Send a private message to Finwe Apr 10 2013, 2:01am
                                    Ice Pillars Ardamírë Send a private message to Ardamírë Apr 10 2013, 2:09am
                                        You could be correct Finwe Send a private message to Finwe Apr 10 2013, 2:20am
                                            Yes, definitely somewhere! Ardamírë Send a private message to Ardamírë Apr 10 2013, 2:54am
                        Possibly overconfidence? CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Apr 9 2013, 7:56pm
                            overconfidence and naivete? telain Send a private message to telain Apr 13 2013, 12:17am
    The Darkening of Valinor - thoughts on the chapter Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 9 2013, 2:46am
        "the primeval devourer of light" noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Apr 9 2013, 11:17am
            True N-W-M, and in addition... Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 9 2013, 4:49pm
                What we know, and don't know, about Ungoliant noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Apr 9 2013, 9:57pm
                    Mulling on Ungoliant Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 10 2013, 12:02am
                    Ungoliant Finwe Send a private message to Finwe Apr 10 2013, 2:14am
                        True - she comes from darkness it seems, in either version Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 10 2013, 2:25am
                        Philosophical and in-world-theological problems? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Apr 10 2013, 6:32am
                            The sprits called forth, such as Ungoliant Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 10 2013, 2:06pm
                    *applause and guffaws* CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Apr 11 2013, 9:06pm
                    don't read this post after dark... telain Send a private message to telain Apr 13 2013, 12:46am
    My thoughts Finwe Send a private message to Finwe Apr 9 2013, 7:31pm
        One more thing Finwe Send a private message to Finwe Apr 9 2013, 8:10pm
            I often think that too. CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Apr 9 2013, 8:51pm
                Ungoliant and the sometimes puzzling Valar behavior Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 9 2013, 10:48pm
            well elostirion74 Send a private message to elostirion74 Apr 10 2013, 12:58pm
                You and I agree Finwe Send a private message to Finwe Apr 10 2013, 3:59pm
                    The Valar and Ungoliant elostirion74 Send a private message to elostirion74 Apr 10 2013, 9:42pm
                        The timing of Ungoliant settling in Avathar Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 11 2013, 5:47pm
                            Sounds plausible! I like the idea of Ungoliant the elf-stalker // noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Apr 11 2013, 9:02pm
                                Yes she might have quite a resume...! (And discretion and Valar...hahahah!) Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 11 2013, 10:01pm
                            agreed! things are "taking shape" telain Send a private message to telain Apr 13 2013, 12:56am
                                Very good point Telain about other spirits "out there" Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 13 2013, 2:08am
                                    clothes really do make the Maiar telain Send a private message to telain Apr 14 2013, 11:07pm
                                        Very true on Primordial Fear Telain Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 16 2013, 12:29am
    a few answers elostirion74 Send a private message to elostirion74 Apr 10 2013, 12:39pm
    Some answers CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Apr 11 2013, 9:29pm
        Good points Ardamírë Send a private message to Ardamírë Apr 12 2013, 2:39am
            I have a (partial) defence of Feanor - which I'm preparing as part of discussion of next chapter... // noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Apr 12 2013, 7:56am
                Your ideas on Feanor Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 12 2013, 11:43am
            just was reading the chapter last night Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Apr 12 2013, 10:18am
                What an interesting idea! // noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Apr 12 2013, 11:21am
                Ungoliant is almost a bad Bombadil CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Apr 12 2013, 1:05pm
                    Her unending hunger Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 12 2013, 1:10pm
                        Yes, her hatred is fascinating too CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Apr 12 2013, 1:20pm
                            I really like this - she consumes the reaminder of her goodness Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 12 2013, 1:35pm
        so why is everyone so nuts over feanor? Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Apr 16 2013, 3:06am
            Feanor had a good image consultant in his author CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Apr 16 2013, 3:59am
            He's an unlikeable artist squire Send a private message to squire Apr 16 2013, 4:09am
                Artists and stereotypes CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Apr 16 2013, 4:45am
                    "King of Planet Unreasonable" noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Apr 16 2013, 11:17am
                        question about form... Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Apr 16 2013, 11:23am
                            I started the next chapter... noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Apr 16 2013, 12:08pm
                                hurrah! Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Apr 16 2013, 12:15pm
    Melkor & Ungoliant are like Frodo & Sam CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Apr 11 2013, 9:31pm
        Wow interesting dark parallel Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 12 2013, 2:43am
            Could this be chapter 1? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Apr 13 2013, 4:43pm
                True, it could be a starting point, but the feel would definitely change Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 13 2013, 7:20pm
                    I agree, it wouldn't fee do mythical. Also, Eru would be much more distant. // noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Apr 13 2013, 8:04pm
                        It links up with you great thread about his writing process... Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 13 2013, 9:47pm
                    The Sil was not really ready for prime time in the late 1940s squire Send a private message to squire Apr 14 2013, 12:19am
                        To do with how Tolkien imagined the Sil, I think noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Apr 14 2013, 10:39am
                            It's a complex proposition, following Tolkien's process here squire Send a private message to squire Apr 14 2013, 3:16pm
                                Well, if The Hobbit is any indication CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Apr 15 2013, 1:35am
                                    who looks likely to be Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Apr 15 2013, 1:47am
    maciliel-thoughts Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Apr 15 2013, 3:56am
        Wonderful - thank you! sador Send a private message to sador Apr 15 2013, 2:45pm
            thanks, sador Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Apr 15 2013, 2:51pm
        Intentional descent, or accidental? CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Apr 16 2013, 12:43am
            "Y' get accustomed to th' smell." squire Send a private message to squire Apr 16 2013, 1:12am
                ...and if it smells troubling today noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Apr 16 2013, 11:22am
                Tolkien's villians - can we deduce any general points? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Apr 16 2013, 1:51pm
    ungoliant boldog Send a private message to boldog Apr 15 2013, 9:54am
        A brief appearance in each book noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Apr 15 2013, 1:53pm
            And the mosters Beren fought with on his way to Doriath. // sador Send a private message to sador Apr 15 2013, 2:37pm
                Imagine leaving Ungoliant out of the Chapter! noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Apr 15 2013, 8:37pm
                    Ungoliant from Arda Reconstructed CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Apr 16 2013, 2:07am
                        Melkor killing the Trees extends the tale Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Apr 16 2013, 2:43am
        Me too CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Apr 16 2013, 12:25am
    Late for the party sador Send a private message to sador Apr 15 2013, 2:35pm
        The forgotten wife CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Apr 16 2013, 12:35am
            the sad fate of indis, and the rulership of the noldor Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Apr 16 2013, 1:10am
            the ruler of the noldor -- high queen galadriel Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Apr 16 2013, 1:12am
        Indis & Finwe Ardamírë Send a private message to Ardamírë Apr 16 2013, 1:48am
    Gollum/Ungoliant Finwe Send a private message to Finwe Apr 15 2013, 9:29pm
        Good points CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Apr 16 2013, 12:13am

 
 
 

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