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silmarillion chapter discussion -- "of tuor and the fall of gondolin"
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Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Aug 4 2013, 10:27pm

Post #1 of 82 (772 views)
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silmarillion chapter discussion -- "of tuor and the fall of gondolin" Can't Post

 
Are We Ruled by Fate, or Do We Forge Our Own?

Gondolin is the last great elven kingdom to fall. In the preceding chapters, Doriath, Nargothrond have been devoured, and the sons of Feanor are disposessed of their realms and wander with woodland kin. Gondolin has been untouched up to this point, and had even been given a direct warning by Ulmo himself, hundreds of years before, as well as now, when its doom was nigh.

Fate comes to its climax with Gondolin's fall. It was decreed that none of the elven kingdoms would survive. So, was Ulmo's effort doomed from the start? If the city itself could not have been saved, could its people have been, if they had followed Ulmo's counsel, as brought to them by Tuor? Was Turgon's heart hardened against Ulmo's urgings because he had grown proud, or because fate turned his heart against all sage words?

While you're pondering that, take this short test....

Which Character in the Silmarillion Are You?

Then come back.


You back? Good.



What Does this Quiz Have to do with this Chapter (Besides the Obvious)?

This isn't just any old quiz that I cobbled together. The questions and the personality profiles come from a genuine psychology test (enneagram). You can ruminate over whether an enneagram or a Meyers-Briggs test truly shines a light on personality and motivation, but take it at face value that this is a "real" test. So, I read each personality profile, and tried to think of what Silmarillion character I thought was its match (you may not agree).

So, you've taken the test. Did you feel the personality profile matched you? Were you more inclined to lend it credence if you discovered you were a Luthien or a Beleg (probably more universally admired characters)? Or were you less inclined to consider the results if you discovered you were a less-admired character, like a Maeglin or a Miriel? If your profile was flattering, did it have a positive effect on you? Did you, upon seeing "your" good qualities in print, feel a flush of pride or satisfaction? If that is so, were you then more likely to give a fair hearing to any negative qualities your profile gave you?



No, Really, What Does this Quiz Have to Do with the Silmarillion, and the Chapter?

Here you are. You are "cogito ergo sum." You are a rational creature, who can make decisions, based on any number of factors. How much freedom do you have, truly? And, whatever freedom you have, how much do you willingly abdicate, because someone tells a grand, flattering tale of your character, and implies that you can gain wisdom or good fortune from it?

Does a personality test have any validity, by itself? Or does it gain power when we cede it power? Perhaps the test said that you were someone who enjoyed helping others. Did seeing it in black-and-white make you want to behave like what the tea leaves told you about yourself? Or are you rebelling against the whole thing, because no silly test can rule you?

We humans are funny creatures. There is scientific evidence that we are inflenced by names -- by our own and by others'. All things being equal, we'd probably prefer our comley, intelligent, funny, kind partner to be named something other than "Dumbo." We could call our sons and daughters "One," "Two," "Three," but we generally call them by names that have meaning in some way. Sometimes parents name their children for etymological meanings behind a name, sometimes they just like the sound of the name. But, even if it's just for the "sound," that's +still+ an assessment of how neutral phonemes are assessed in social, aesthetic, etc. ways. We have expectations of those phonemes, and we know others have expectations (though, sometimes they may differ -- someone might love the name "Emma" but someone else might think it old-fashioned).

So why are we reacting to perceptions (and +perceived+ perceptions)? We are ceding some of our freedom to these perceptions. They would not have power over us, if we did not grant it.



Fate in the Silmarillion

In the Silmarillion, we have to accept that fate is real, because Tolkien, as the author-god, has said it is so. It operates in all of Arda, and Elves and Maiar and Valar are subject to it. But not, all the time, the Edain.

Tuor, as a mortal, is supposedly not bound by fate. His race (our race) can bend or break fate. So did he have a chance of pursuading Turgon to abandon Gondolin? Did he have a chance because Ulmo's message, given to a human, made him believe he could have a hand in Gondolin's future? If Ulmo had given the same message to an elf, would it have stood no chance, because elves are not makers of fate?

How much freedom do the Silmarillion characters have? How much do they percieve they have? Does that perception influence reality?

Are they (we?) just puppets in a vast play of Eru's? If so, what's the point of making choices? Can't Maeglin just say, "I'm not really to blame -- I was fated to do it" when he meets up with Namo in the Halls of Mandos?




More thoughts later.


I look forward to reading your perceptions of this post, which I was in no way fated (or wholly unwilling) to write.



cheers --

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo

(This post was edited by Maciliel on Aug 4 2013, 10:31pm)


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Aug 5 2013, 9:39am

Post #2 of 82 (469 views)
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Predictions and prophecies [In reply to] Can't Post

That's a very clever and though-provoking discussion starter. I have several opinions, since you ask Wink

I think its important to distinguish between predictions and prophecies. Prophecies I see as having some supernatural basis, as opposed to the insight-based predictions. I feel a sense in which a prophecy reveals a future which is already set. I see that as in contrast to a prediction, which makes a probabilistic statement.

We are used in real life to predictions - non-magical assessments of which future events are likely (in someone's opinion). Some people can make very accurate predictions thanks to their knowledge, insights, skills and so on. Their predictions might seem magical to someone who does not share their abilities, and cannot work out how the prediction is reached. For instance, a tutor predicts that a certain student will flunk the exams unless he or she works harder: this entirely predictable result (to the tutor) can be a BIG surprise to the student!
In some circumstances, predictions can become self-fulfilling. For example, a convincing prediction that there will be a shortage of petrol (gasoline) could lead to widespread panic buying and so (ironically) be the sole cause of a real petrol shortage.
Personality tests, like the one you linked to, are based on either whim, or (if they are research-based, like Myers-Briggs) they are based on prediction. The system looks at my responses to the questionnaire, compares me to lots of other people the researchers interviewed, and then makes the assumption that if I am like them in lots of ways, there is a good chance that I will also resemble that subset of people in other ways. A bit like features on Amazon or Spotify etc. which try to predict, further things you'd like to try.

Mixed up in this, as you say is the subject's reaction to the test result: I remember reading about a study where researchers set up an end-of-pier horoscope machine. The machine was gave out personality profiles *flattering ones), but had actually been rigged to give them out randomly. Researchers caught up with people who used the machine & asked them how accurately it had described them. They thought it had done very well, probably because it is agreeable to have nice things about yourself confirmed!

Lastly, I’d like bring in blessings and curses. These I see as a supernatural effort to cause the recipient to have a better or worse future. The distinction I see is that a prophecy neutrally reveals a predestined future, whereas a successful blessing or curse would change the future (or at least, be believed to change the future).
I will immediately agree that it could be very difficult to distinguish in practice whether a statement is a prediction or a prophecy or a blessing/curse. At least in a wold like Middle-earth where prophecy is real, how are you to know whether the predictor/prophet has any genuine supernatural ability? or if thay definately could be making a prophecy (they are Mandos, say), is a particular statement a prophecy, or just general chat?

If the future is fated/doomed/predestined, we get into all kinds of trouble, as you mention. I have a nice example involving a pub. In The Council of Elrond, Gandalf reports his escape from Saruman, and then his efforts to catch up with Frodo and party. Reaching the Prancing Pony, he discovers from Butterbur that the Hobbits have met with Aragorn, and is so delighted that he exclaims:

Quote

“May your beer be laid under an enchantment of surpassing excellence for seven years!”



Notice that Gandalf seems to be doing something here - intervening magically in the quality of the beer now and for a period in the future. He does not appear to be announcing a prophecy about the future (“the beer is destined to be excellent for seven years”). It does not seem that the beer was always destined to turn out well - it reads that the beer will be good now that Gandalf has placed his blessing upon it. The future has been changed into a settled form, apparently.

Returning from the War of the Ring, Gandalf and the hobbits call in on Butterbur again, and we find that Tolkien has not forgotten about the beer. Butterbur says:

Quote

“Not but what my beer’s good, Gandalf. It’s been uncommon good, since you came in the autumn of last year and put a good word on it.”


So, while it is hardly a major one of Gandalf’s feats, he clearly has done (or is thought to have done) something magical, and something which is affecting beer which was still unbrewed when he was last in Bree.That is, he has magically affected the future.

Tolkien is, as usual, not interested in discussing mechanisms. And perhaps that is just as well. Philosophical problems follow if some part of the future is now destined to work out in a certain way - even if it is only “beer brewed in the Prancing Pony will turn out excellent”. If the future is predestined, what becomes of free will? What happens, one wonders, if Butterbur et al decide to do the experiment of deliberately making some particularly bad beer? Does it turn out excellent anyway? Do the brewers somehow become unable to brew badly, deliberately or accidentally? Is the business somehow now immune to regular bad luck, such as the poaching of the head brewer, or a bad harvest of hops? Or has Gandalf magically altered the probabilities that all will go well with the brews, without eliminating the possibilities of incompetence or deliberate sabotage? Yet again, maybe the whole thing is psychological - everyone is convinced that the beer is now magically good, even if Gandalf was merely speaking everyday good wishes, rather than a magical blessing. After we’re finished here, maybe we should slip down to the Pony for a blind tasting?Wink And yet again, was Gandalf really only making a prediction but making it sound like a magical intervention? The “prediction” theory would run as follows - based on what he knew of the Pony’s staff, facilities and track record, Gandalf felt it was likely that the Pony’s beer was going to go through a good period anyway. No magic involved, just a skilled statement about what looked likely. But a Wizard does like to keep up the mystique...

To add to the fun - could Gandalf have enchanted the beer if, say, Mandos had already prophesied that it would be bad? Something would presumably have to give - magical future-changing or magical-future-setting. What happens if, after Gandalf's blessing, a grumpy Saruman on his way to the Shire is denied lodging at the Pony and gets his revenge by cursing the beer to be terrible? Is that still possible? In which case the future of teh beer wasn't really fixed at all?

Similar mechanistic and philosophical problems pop up wherever a fixed future is revealed by prophecy (or created by supernatural forces). For example, Gandalf tells Frodo that Bilbo was “meant” to find the Ring - presumably as part of a divine plan to see it destroyed. But that implies a whole lot of events needed to be set up - for example, in order for Bilbo to find the Ring, he had to agree to set out with the dwarves. Before that, Deagol had to find the Ring, and Smeagol to kill him for it - and so on. If this is all part of a divine or magical master plan, then what becomes of the free will of the characters? Did Bilbo, for example, only appear to have the choice of staying at Bag end rather than rushing off after Thorin &Co. and setting off on his adventure? Moreover, without free will, what right do we have to make moral judgements? If Smeagol murders Deagol and then becomes Gollum as part of a divine plan to destroy the Ring, can we blame Smeagol morally, any more than we can applaud Bilbo morally for not killing Gollum when he has a chance? Clearly this creates a complex problem for someone wanting to explore the mechanisms of fate, prophecy and free will in fantasy world (or indeed in real life, should one believe that such things operate here).


Welcome back macilie!

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Aug 5 2013, 1:15pm

Post #3 of 82 (447 views)
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predictions, blessings, prophecies and self-fulfilling prophecies [In reply to] Can't Post

 
(thanks, nowime : ) )

i think gandalf, in your example, is providing a blessing to butterman's beer, a magical invocation, which might have fought with a curse by saruman, if he made a magical invocation that "may your beer be exceedingly bad for the next seven years." in perhaps a similar way as when gandalf and the balrog were trading spells on opposite sides of the door in khazad-dum.

yes, prophecies are different creatures. but not all prophecies are finalities, even in tolkien's world. the mirror of galadriel shows what has been past, what is, and what may yet be. there's the understanding (and discussion) that what frodo chooses to do can change the outcome.

the doom of mandos could be either a curse (a punishment from the valar for the actions of the noldor) or a fixed prophecy. nothing the elves (or anyone) can do can change the outcome -- at a certain level, presumably... for, if it is possible that the outcome is fungible, then ulmo trying to guide turgon to abandon gondolin could have been successful. if not, then ulmo's efforts would have been preordained to be unsuccessful, so why would he, a vala, even try?

and idril's inspiration to build that massive tunnel under the plains is quite interesting (as is her project management ability to keep that whole thing secret -- while i was reading that passage, i was getting visions of "the great escape" -- where did all that undertilled earth go? did the elves bring it up to the surface in their pockets, and secretly release it in the elven gardens, like the prisoners of stalag 17 did?).

is idril just a smart and foresightful elf? or did she get some sort of message from ulmo? did turgon let her in on the secret of ulmo's original message, because she was his heir? i don't get the sense that ulmo singled her out for any special message. i think she was relying entirely on her elven gifts, which makes what she did even more impressive. her part is rather glossed over, which is a shame, because it took incredible foresight and thought, as well as impressive planning and leadership, to pull that whole enterprise off, and to lead her people to safety.

there's also the category of self-fulfilling prophecy. time paradoxes might be considered a flavor of that. you're given a vision of the future. you commit an action to prevent that future from happening, but it is your precise action that triggers that future.

1. eru tells morgoth (much earlier!) that none of what he does is enough to change eru's vision. that morgoth's very actions will, in the end only enhance and trigger the unfolding of eru's grand plans.

2. mandos speaks the doom of the noldor.


a. are either of these a prediction, based on the way the laws of arda work? (like, if you jump off a tall box, you will fall, because.... gravity.)

b. or are either a fixed prophecy? like... "things could have been different, theoretically, but they won't be, because of this magical ability i have to see the future."

c. or are either an unfixed prophecy? there's either room to change the entire outcome (like with the future in galadriel's mirror) or room to change components, even though the overarching theme or final result won't change?

again, ulmo is taking action... on his own initiative? enacting (fated?) to take on the will of eru to get turgon and idril together? does he see that manwe won't take pity until these two races come together in the bodily forms of elwing and earendil? the doom of mandos says...

"Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains. On the House of Fëanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also. Their Oath shall drive them, and yet betray them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue. To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever. ..."

honestly, this sounds less like a proclamation of fate than a curse by the valar. "the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains." rather a prediction along these lines... vally tells her sister, eldy... "i prophecize that if you don't do my homework for me [i.e., do what i want you to do] that you will get punched in the arm by me." as if vally had no choice about punching eldy.

the valar had a choice, and this is a punishment they chose for the noldor (+not+ just the feanorians, which makes it seem extra vindictive). they were given the right to judge and rule the children of illuvatar by eru. so they are within their rights. but it seems rather punitive and harshly authoritarian.

so, the valar could have chosen to act another way. but they didn't. and perhaps it can be said that they exercised their punishment through fate -- their ability to game the system so that the effect of free will on outcomes was wholly negated or radically diminished. there are two visions of fate possible here --

1. that the actions of the feanorians and the noldor trigger some sort of web of fate, of which the valar are aware, and they only speak it aloud

2. that the actions of the feanorians and the noldor anger the valar and they (of free will) pass a judgement that forces a certain outcome, which they can do because of their angelic powers (the vally / eldy example)


cheers --

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo

(This post was edited by Maciliel on Aug 5 2013, 1:19pm)


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Aug 5 2013, 3:22pm

Post #4 of 82 (426 views)
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There's also an author in the mix... [In reply to] Can't Post

...perhaps more prominently than he'd have wished in the reconstituted drafts which make up the Sil. That is, we can't tell whether any fate/prophecy devices which look a bit clumsy would have been finessed if had JRRT got the whole work finished for publication.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


CuriousG
Valinor


Aug 5 2013, 6:42pm

Post #5 of 82 (426 views)
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Quick 1st answer [In reply to] Can't Post

No time at work to delve into these great mysteries of life (it's a mystery to me why I even come to work some days), but I took the quiz, and was NOT happy to be called Turin/Miriel, though I will hold the test-maker blameless in this and all that may come after. Though I do like the enneagram test; it's quite accurate with me (a 4 and 5 mix with a dash of 1). Speaking of how things sound, I was initially turned off by the enneagram test years ago when a friend recommended it. It sounded like some flimsy New Age or occult thing, just from the appearance of the word. Had someone called it the Myers-Briggs or the Brighton-Allson test, it would have sounded so authoritative and respectable. We definitely associate sounds with subjective perceptions. Even screen names. I think "Maciliel" makes it seem that you have an Elvish personality, whereas if your name were "Grzulgbuz," I'd expect you to exhibit orcish behavior, at least for 1st impressions. (I can see a new sock puppet in gestation here; should keep my mouth shut.)

More on fate later, if I am fated to write about it, or if you care to predict that I will, or if Wiz will prophecy that I won't. I statistically project that if I spend too much time on TORN at work, I will be looking for other work.

On a side note, I just typed TRON instead of TORN, and I wander if excess time spent on TORN leads one to be sucked into the computerverse of TRON? Oh, the perils of posting.


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Aug 5 2013, 7:15pm

Post #6 of 82 (411 views)
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delightful first answer : ) [In reply to] Can't Post

 
i was hoping people would post their results with the quiz, and not just because i'm curious (hey! we share some phonemes!).

i wanted also to explore the possible dichotomy between the names associated with the quiz, and the explanatory personality profile.

so... one might be pleased with the description of the profile, or think that it's a good assessment. but slap the name of a character that one isn't fond of on top of it, like a orc tooth on top of a sundae... well, then....

so, aside from the dichotomy, there's the notion that

1. turin / miriel might actual have core personality traits that are quite admirable (and some less so)... and those may have been more palatable in their beginning state than they came to be after they went through the crucible of fate, arda marred, chance, choice.

2. seemingly very different characters listed as having similar personality traits. of course this assigning of character to a "real" personality profile (meaning, i didn't make it up) is all my own invention (the assigning, i mean).

but, for those of you who have taken the test or looked at the possible results.... take maeglin / galadriel for example.

both are +extremely+ goal-oriented, and they seemed to be a strong match for other elements of the personality profile. so, assuming they possess many of the same core personality traits, look where they went. how much was the result of fate, how much was chance, how much was choice?

cg, yes... i had a similar reaction when i learned of the phrase "enneagram test." it also seemed gimmicky and new-agey to me.

i find screen names here to be interesting. i'm delighted that many follow in tolkien's etymological footsteps and researched root meanings behind the morphemes. i get a lot of enjoyment in assessing the elvish meanings behind the sindarin and quenya names on torn. but i don't assume that all people do this; many might just accept someone named "fealoki" as "fealoki," rather than knowing or caring to know that that name means "spirit of a/the dragon."

and if we know what these names mean, then does it also affect our perception of the user? why would a user choose that name? why is it meaningful?

a name can function +sort+ of like a fate -- it carries the combined perceptions of cultures, and might make it harder (or easier) for an individual to pursue a path.

cg, if it helps any, my result is finrod / aredhel. finrod is admirable, but i'm not crazy about aredhel, but i did not want to adjust the test to suit my fancy. i'm a little torn on question #2, and answering slightly differently gets me feanor / haleth. both personality descriptions (finrod / aredhel and the one for feanor / haleth are good core descriptions of me).

i admit, if my result were "finrod / name-of-fantastic-female-character-yet-to-be-discovered-in-tolkien's-unpublished-writings"), i would be much more pleased. and i'm the one who constructed the experiment!


cheers : )


.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


CuriousG
Valinor


Aug 5 2013, 7:48pm

Post #7 of 82 (413 views)
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PS. Why are you STILL in the Grey Havens? [In reply to] Can't Post

Telain still has no avatar, and you clearly can't afford a free boat. I fear that people you like you two are being marginalized by the TORN society. Is there no economic equality here, no largesse for the disadvantaged? Have you run through all your money in Lindon so that you're forced to eat your pony? Where's Ulmo to spirit you away when we need him, or even some deus ex machina eagles?


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea

Aug 5 2013, 8:00pm

Post #8 of 82 (410 views)
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Hmmmm.......... [In reply to] Can't Post

That test, though I do not usually buy into stuff like that, did pretty well in my case. Good job!

I am an Eöl/Nerdanel, just saying if you guys are curious.


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Aug 5 2013, 8:10pm

Post #9 of 82 (405 views)
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i rather [In reply to] Can't Post

 
+like+ being in the grey havens.

partially because it's a new place on the torn posting milestones. partially because it's not very well illustrated in tolkien's writings. and partially because i was the one who suggested we needed "grey havens" as a posting milestone. : ) i feel wonderfully pleased to have made a contribution, however indirect, to the board.

another reason --

while i'll be happy to explore tol eressea and valinor.... honestly, after the visit i'd want to return to middle earth... paradise is a great vacation, but there is work to be done on the mainland.... people to defend, wrongs to right, and adventures to be had.

what are you and your lazy kippers doing on tol eressea? spending your day eating salt water taffy? come on, lad --- there's work and adventure to be had on the mainland. get your kippers back here!

re telain.... i've done my best. i devoted an entire thread to it, to no avail.


cheers : )

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


elostirion74
Rohan

Aug 5 2013, 9:02pm

Post #10 of 82 (418 views)
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some answers [In reply to] Can't Post

Good questions!

I think Tuor did have a chance of persuading Turgon to leave Gondolin. And Ulmo´s help obviously encouraged him to believe that he actually could achieve something important and had a significant role to play. But it all depends on how Turgon reacts to Tuor´s advice, if he is able to humble himself or able to part with his own home and the city he and his followers have built. If Ulmo had given the same advice to an elf, I think the elf would have just about the same chances of influencing Turgon, since Turgon primarily would recognize the messenger by the tokens he or she presented, but I think there´s another factor involved as well. Since Tuor was the son of someone Turgon already had met and cared for, it´s more likely that he would listen to his message than if it had come from an unknown elf who wore the same tokens.

All of this means that the impact of the choices and decisions of Elves and Men in Arda depend on how the same actions and words are received and understood by others, just like in our world. The main difference lies in the fact that the weight of a bad inheritance seems heavier and more powerful than in our own and the consequences of showing pride seem to be nastier than what we see in our own primary world.

Maeglin seems to be both rash and to act on his own negative impulses, when he could have shown more restraint or turned his love for Idril into something else (sublimation). It´s clearly shown that he has emotional motivations for his actions, which make them plausible, but at the same time I believe, and I think we are meant to think, that he could have acted differently. The people who tell his story are people who are trying to make sense of what happens in hindsight, like we all do, which is why I believe they entertain the idea of his nature as being a fruit of the Kinslaying.

The perceptions that the characters have of their own freedom definitely influences their reality. Turin seems to strives so much to avoid his possible fate that it ultimately overtakes him: if you act to avoid fate you might unwittingly seal your own fate by the same act. I find it significant that Túrin takes the name "Master of doom", which seems to be a sign that he tries to convince himself that he is somehow invincible, a very foolhardy thing to do. Since he ultimately wants to be a self-made man, not dependent on anyone else, he refuses the opportunities he is offered of being forgiven if it means he has to abide the laws of other rulers.

I think there´s no doubt that Fëanor does have several real choices in life - although I think he hardly had an opportunity not to pursue a life as an artist without feeling deeply unfulfilled and frustrated. It´s his possessive attitude towards the things he makes and his decision not to acknowledge that part of the origins of his creations come from the work of others which is the start of his downfall. Add to that his inflated confidence about what he is actually able to achieve, and he starts a self-destructive spiral where he ends up being consumed by his own desires and hatred when he believes he is able to master and use them to his own benefit.


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Aug 6 2013, 11:49am

Post #11 of 82 (375 views)
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Ulmo's powers, intentions and limits [In reply to] Can't Post

Ulmo certainly goes to a lot of trouble to get Tuor to Gondolin, and with impressive credentials. So it's perhaps a bit of a surprise (and perhaps a surprise to Ulmo too) that Tuor's warnings are officially ignored. Of course, the warnings do have consequences: Tuor's status, as well as his own merits help him to marry Idril. Some Gondolinians, (Idril most importantly) do believe the warnings, hence the secret escape route which saves some of them. And of course, Tuor is a maddening rival to Maeglin, and that contributes to Maeglin's betrayal of Gondolin.

Thinking about prophecies and inevitable futures:

Setting up Tuor as the messenger

I'm remembering the discussion we had back in Ch 15 which led to Brethil's idea about "prophecies with wiggle room" For those who weren't there or don't remember, a summary was:

Quote
"perhaps ulmo was not more specific about the bearer of the warning from nevrast because he couldn't be certain it would be tuor. the edain have such a hard time understanding the messages of the valar to begin with."
maciliel

...

"...by not providing all the information the circumstances can 'happen' without resistance and the ultimate goal achieved (and true, Ulmo not being able to see all ends.). It also will give verisimilitude to the event when it does actually transpire, as it has that air of 'prophecy'. (Reminds me of how Dune's Bene Gesserit operate a bit, by seeding prophecy to serve their aims later on, and the vagueness of it giving them wiggle room.) "

Brethil

...

"It would allow prophecies to co-exist with chance and free will, rather than turning life into a sort of rail shooter, where one is guided along inexorably by destiny/fate and the only player options are whether you get to the next level and how much you score.

It would absolutely make sense for Ulmo to set up multiple options from bringing the news to Gondolin, so that something works out even if one of his intended heroes has a freak gardening accident, and another takes up hairdressing rather than hero-ing.

Later, all the options that didn't work out tend not to be remembered - certainly not once everything has been reduced to a tale. So, Ta-Da!, it looks like it always had to work out just the way it did work out. "

noWizardme




The message is officially ignored
(well it's probably gone into a dodgy font, like this part of the post... Not sure why that happened ---DOOM, obviously Wink)

Was Ulmo expecting that? Possibly not - he's not Eru and so he can't guarantee that he'll get his way. So therefore he can be surprised.
An alternative reading was that he knew it was going to happen - maybe the best he could do was to save some of the citizenry. Or maybe the ignored warning has the effect of sorting the Gondolinians roughly into those who deserve to be saved and those who don't (with some errors on both sides, presumably: worthy citizens who stay and to their defensive duty or don't make it to the tunnel; unworthy citizens who are good at saving themselves.)

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Aug 6 2013, 11:55am

Post #12 of 82 (375 views)
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A thought about DOOM [In reply to] Can't Post

Not my original thought - pops up in Prof Shippey's Road to Middle-earth:

"Doom" has an antique meaning of judgement or decision made by an authority. This is the sense we get here in LOTR:


Quote
'Then I will declare my doom,' said Faramir. 'As for you Frodo, in so far as it lies in me under higher authority, I declare you free in the realm of Gondor...'


So "the Doom of the Noldor" could be a "doom" in the sense of a judicial judgement, as well as being doom in the sense of fate.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Aug 6 2013, 12:04pm

Post #13 of 82 (372 views)
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i think this fits the words of namo better [In reply to] Can't Post

 
upthread, i was exploring the idea that the words of namo (the doom of mandos) was not a prophecy, but a punishment.

i reread those words for this chapter (check out my "vally / eldy" example), and it does not read like a prophecy to me, but a declaration of punishment. and a pretty horribly harsh one, at that.


cheers --

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Aug 6 2013, 12:21pm

Post #14 of 82 (366 views)
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Certainly at least part-punishment [In reply to] Can't Post

For example, the way back to valinor is blocked to the Noldor because of what the Valar do.

I was thinking of your points up thread - but failed to make clear how it was supposed to lead on from that Blush

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Aug 6 2013, 12:33pm

Post #15 of 82 (370 views)
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i think it's more than part-punishment... [In reply to] Can't Post

 
[e]"Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains. On the House of Fëanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also. Their Oath shall drive them, and yet betray them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue. To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever. ..."


i think it's all about punishment, and judgement. i don't think this a prophecy (meaning, without the volition of the utterer). i think this is pure volition by the valar.

and they are within their magisterial rights to make a judgement. i just have a lot of disrespect and revulsion for the willingness of the valar to cruelly punish those who had no guilt in the kinslaying. the valar are also angry that the noldor (the non-kinslayers) leave valinor. and why? they were there at invitation. they weren't slaves. they weren't prisoners. so much of the misery of the first age can be laid at the feet of the valar.


cheers ---

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea

Aug 6 2013, 5:06pm

Post #16 of 82 (364 views)
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Some general thought on the chapter. [In reply to] Can't Post

Someone did a great comparison of Tuor and Turin, in a previous Chapter Discussion. Adding a bit to that....

Tuor is taken in by Elves, but is captured by the Easterlings. He is enslaved for three years, but makes his own escape.

In contrast, Turin is not specifically stated to have been enslaved, as such.

Perhaps this humbling experience drove a bit of hauteur out of Tuor, that remained in Turin?

Immediately after this, it is stated that Ulmo chose Tuor for his instrument.

Did this imply a failure of his plans, in Turin? It is stated/implied that Ulmo aided him.

There is also a similarity to Beren's story, in his manner of life before his departure.

Then it is stated that his manner of departure, via the Annon-in-Gelydh, made it invisible to Man, orc, or Morgoth.

Does this imply that Morgoth was watching him? Or sent the Easterling in to capture him? Did he fear him, as he saw what Turin could do?

Then you have the sign of the swans. How did Tuor interpret this correctly?

Then you have the "CURSE of Mandos" This would seem to lend credence to the interpretation given above, as a punishment rather than fate.

He urged Turgon to go to the Sirion's mouth. Did he hope to reconcile them with the Valar? Did he think that he could persuade the m to return to Valinor?

The next thing that catches my attention is this, Morgoth is said to bend his will upon Gondolin. We have had a lively discussion on the meaning of this, in the case of Turin and his fate.

What do you think that this means in this context?

Then you have another similarity to the CoH. Glorifindel's grave is reminiscent of Turin's.

Perhaps this is the reward for a hero who had defied the Valar, but achieved a feat to redeem themselves? Also it is said that his grave lasted UNTIL the world was changed, but Turin's AFTER it was changed, what up here?
I'm a bit miffed that Fingolfin was left out though...... :(

Great points all!!!!

I need more time to read them all, but I am sure they are great.


elostirion74
Rohan

Aug 6 2013, 6:13pm

Post #17 of 82 (350 views)
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it sure sounds very much like a sentence/punishment, but I think it could be seen just as much as a prophecy [In reply to] Can't Post

It´s a very interesting question, thank you for a great list of varieties as to how we might perceive the workings of fate in one of your posts further up!

Both curse and prophecy is used to describe the doom of Mandos throughout the Silmarillion, though, so it could be interpreted as both as a prophecy and a punishment/sentence.

Certainly the words used are very harsh and sounds like a sentence - I dislike the judgemental tone and how the wrath of the Valar seems from the words to be laid on the House of Finarfin as well, despite not having taken part in the Kinslaying. However I don´t blame the Valar for being very angered by the Oath of Fëanor and the Kinslaying itself.

However there are some other factors that I think would be useful to consider here, concerning Mandós himself. What is the nature and role of Mandós? Can our understanding of his nature give us a better understanding of the meaning of his words and the workings of fate in The Silmarillion?

It appears that Mandós has a particular knowledge and awareness of what will happen in the future and has happened in the past. From the Valaquenta: "He forgets nothing and he knows all things that shall be, save only those that lie still in the freedom of Ilúvatar".
In light of these words one might see most of Mandós words to the Noldor as due to his knowledge and awareness of future events and the workings of fate, as a stern prediction of what the Oath of Fëanor and the Kinslaying will lead to. One might still argue that how these things come about are due to the actions and misjudgements of the various princes of the Noldor themselves (as well as those of other men and elves that are involved in their struggles).

Many of the key characters of the Silmarillion are offered chances of repenting, getting a second chance, making different choices that might mitigate or change their fate, but they cannot escape the consequences of their actions once they decide - often again and again - to listen to their own greed or pride.

I find that the Oath of Fëanor, the actions of several of his sons and how the sons of Fëanor continue to hold on to the oath and pursue it are much more to blame than the anger of the Valar for many of the things that happen. The Kinslaying and the burning of the ships at Losgar also sow dissension and estrangement among the different houses of the Noldor and leave them vulnerable to the lies and deceits of Morgoth and none of these are the work of the Valar.

Consider for instance how the words of Celegorm and Curufin embitter Eöl to the effect that he tries to kill his own son, but kills Aredhel instead and how Eöl´s subsequent death is one of the major factors in the darkening of Maeglin´s heart. Consider the same brothers´ involvement in creating a shadow of fear in the people of Nargothrond, turning them away from Finrod. Consider how the rash words of Caranthir increases the division between the house of Finarfin and the house of Fëanor, even when Maedhros and Fingon tries to breach the gap between them. And the list could go on. The choices of Thingol and of Túrin and those of Turgon also contribute to the fall of the the last realms of the Noldor and all of them are down to their own pride, greed or decisions to close their ears to warnings or the need of people from outside. Especially Túrin and Turgon´s choices and motivations and how these affect their own fate and that of the people around them are very clearly and adequately described and explained IMO.


Brethil
Half-elven


Aug 7 2013, 2:22am

Post #18 of 82 (350 views)
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Tardy to the party... [In reply to] Can't Post

...after a very busy work week! Thank you for posting such a unique way to approach the topic! AngelicCool

TEST:

That test is very neat BTW, and thank Fealoki for us for crafting such a thoughtful and creative bit of insight!

I am a Feanor/Haleth BTW!

For myself, I was quite happy with the names I saw...and I found the descriptions uncannily accurate (like wise for me the others were not, when I looked them all over. So it feels quite a good fit and not random.) Does it appeal to vanity maybe, to see names one might feel a rapport with? Yes. I would also say it is a compliment to your test, as maybe the flattery comes from the existing identification with these characters (that would be my case, Haleth being one of my all time favorites, and also having a fondness for Feanor.) My only thought might be, if one shared the qualities say, of Miriel, perhaps that persona might not be displeasing?

GONDOLIN and FATE:

My answer to Gondolin's fall is that it was *ultimately* fated, yet its method of loss is not. More importantly it WAS foreseen. I think Ulmo's bit in the adventure is successful, as Idril and Turgon produce Earandil; and as the world needs him to, Earandil ends up at the shores of the Western sea. I think if Ulmo could have saved them all, he would have; he did try. But the choice is Turgon's, and he has fallen prey to what Ulmo feared - he loves too dearly the creation of his hands and his heart and cannot leave it.

The Elf kingdoms, in line with the plan of Eru (thus defined as fate), must recede and make way for the dominion of Men. But I think the ever active Ulmo tried to both weave circumstances (not fate - more like manipulating the odds) to move Arda towards what it needs, and what can combat brother Morgoth (whom he knows so very well.) So I see here in the specifics of the fall of Gondolin:

- Vision
- Planning
- Intuition (as Ulmo cannot foresee what Men will do, but he can make predictions and judgment calls)
- Concerted action...
...and on Turgon's part, a choice.

As opposed to fate. So I think the conclusion may be foregone, but the mechanics are a matter of choice and foresight of the players involved.

I think Turgon may not have been convinced by anyone to leave: the mere fact that Ulmo warns Turgon against the very thing that does happen indicates that it is a strong possibility that it CAN happen. I think Ulmo has seen it as one of many options, within the Song, of how things could happen. What may have been difficult for another Elf is impossible for Turgon: to leave that city modeled after the life the Noldor had enjoyed in the Blessed Realm. So maybe Tuor was the best hope, as you point put, being a Man and maybe able to shape things in a way Ulmo cannot see - perhaps that is the hope there.

That maybe by tossing a wild card into the mix the outcome that Ulmo has seen may change?

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








elostirion74
Rohan

Aug 7 2013, 2:12pm

Post #19 of 82 (330 views)
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a question [In reply to] Can't Post

Excellent analysis, especially of Ulmo's role!

With Turgon already having been yearning for Túna prior to the building of Gondolin, I agree that it would seem very unlikely that he would leave a city modelled on it. However I wonder if the decision to isolate themselves/turn a deaf ear to the sorrows of the world outside the Encircling Mountains could have closed off Turgon's last chances of listening to Tuor's warning. Or is it more probable that the increased indifference of the rulers of Gondolin towards the sorrows/voices of the world outside just was a natural reaction from their side to be able to lead their specific way of life (in secrecy and with an increasingly dangerous world outside their borders)?


Brethil
Half-elven


Aug 7 2013, 4:51pm

Post #20 of 82 (321 views)
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Thanks Elostirion! And I think you are spot on here [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Excellent analysis, especially of Ulmo's role!

With Turgon already having been yearning for Túna prior to the building of Gondolin, I agree that it would seem very unlikely that he would leave a city modelled on it. However I wonder if the decision to isolate themselves/turn a deaf ear to the sorrows of the world outside the Encircling Mountains could have closed off Turgon's last chances of listening to Tuor's warning. *** Or is it more probable that the increased indifference of the rulers of Gondolin towards the sorrows/voices of the world outside just was a natural reaction from their side to be able to lead their specific way of life (in secrecy and with an increasingly dangerous world outside their borders)? ***




I think you've hit upon it there Elostirion - in the beginning I don't think the intention or the sense was to be quite so cut off...but over time that sort of 'falling asleep' (*thanks Telain!*) in their comfort zone, harkening back in the days of the encircling arms of the Valar, leads to exactly what you say: the natural and evolved reaction to the desire to keep their specific way of life.

So I agree with your point: with the progression of time Turgon may have simply lost all desire or ability to give up that way of life and - essentially - keep living in a less than ideal way.

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








CuriousG
Valinor


Aug 8 2013, 8:36pm

Post #21 of 82 (305 views)
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Doom and pragmatism [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm reminded of Watership Down, where Fiver had an intense foresight at the beginning of the book that their warren would be destroyed by men and they had to escape. Holly later related to the survivors that the Chief Rabbit had thought Fiver might just be seeking attention, or he might be right, but what was the pragmatic thing to do? People die in an evacuation: they get lost, they run out of food, they get attacked by enemies. You can believe that a bad fate will happen to your home, but also believe the alternative to fleeing is just as bad, so you might as well try to weather the storm in familiar surroundings and hope for the best.

That seems to be Turgon's mentality, in addition to his pride and isolationism. We as readers are of course like people watching a horror movie screaming at the characters: "Get out of there now!" But we're sitting at home telling someone else to leave everything behind and take their chances, not doing it ourselves.

While that may make sense for Turgon, what doesn't make sense is his view of the future. He was immortal, so he wouldn't be thinking "We'll stay here for the rest of my lifetime, i.e., another 50 years." He was committing them to stay in Gondoling *forever* while he knew from eagle reports that Morgoth's power got stronger and stronger. Did he really think he could hold out for thousands of years, or was he betting that the Valar would come to the rescue sooner or later, even though his missions to get their aid had all failed? If Idril asked him to predict Gondolin's future after he refused Ulmo's advice, what would he have foreseen for them?

Another consideration is that maybe divine aid can backfire. Ulmo directly helped Turgon find Gondolin and hid his people when they migrated there. Manwe's eagles helped protect the city. Ulmo showed his concern for Turgon by sending him Tuor. Was Turgon Valar-pampered into thinking the gods would always be looking out for him? That's a bit of a stretch, but possible.


CuriousG
Valinor


Aug 8 2013, 8:55pm

Post #22 of 82 (310 views)
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Crimes and punishments [In reply to] Can't Post

On my first read, I was confused by "doom" because I took Mandos' words to be entirely punitive. I thought "doom" was a fancy way of saying "we damn you." I still consider it pure punishment and not a bystander merely commenting on what they saw in a crystal ball. Mandos wanted all those harsh things to happen.

I'm not usually one to stick up for the Valar, but the Noldor had a choice here, and free will seems to always be at the other end of the scale from locked-down fate. Finarfin chose to repent along with a following, and they were pardoned by the Valar and able to go back to living in Tirion as if nothing had happened. So the other Noldor, even those guilty of the Kinslaying, could have done the same. There seems a certain immaturity about the Noldor at this point, as if nothing bad can happen to them. And when you think of real-life parents prophesying about the dangers of the world imperiling their teenage kids, the teenagers rarely listen because they feel indestructible like the Noldor did.


Brethil
Half-elven


Aug 8 2013, 9:30pm

Post #23 of 82 (303 views)
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Pride and choice ... [In reply to] Can't Post

... mixed with doom and (un) pragmatism

It seems that Turgon's had simply become too proud, and too attached to the city to leave it...and with Maeglin agreeing in the wings (telling Turgon what he wants to hear). Interesting that Turgon has the clarity to regard Tuor for his innate value, and allows him to wed Idril : in that sense he still remembers and trusts Ulmo's counsel. But when it comes to the city (we read Tuor was 'enthralled' by it, and he was a Man who had never been to Tirion) I simply don't think Turgon could bear to leave it.

You are right - its not pragmatic especially to an Immortal. I would like to think that maybe without Gondolin he thought life was worthless - but the question arises, did he really think it could fall? It appears not, as he seemed to think it could withstand Morgoth himself. And I bet Maeglin was right there reassuring him that was the case.

Is there a Tolkien topic that you have wanted to look into more deeply, and write about your thoughts on it? If so, we'd like to hear from you for the next TORn Amateur Symposium- coming in November. Happy writing!








noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Aug 9 2013, 12:09pm

Post #24 of 82 (297 views)
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"Leave Gondolin and go +where?+" [In reply to] Can't Post

Agreed- It's not altogether clear where the Gondolinians are to go to have a better chance. And the lone survivor of Turgons diplomatic missions to Valinor has just returned. Maybe it looks like its best to hope for the best, or make your final stand at your own front door if you must.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Aug 9 2013, 12:16pm

Post #25 of 82 (300 views)
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A chapter fought over by two prophecies [In reply to] Can't Post

I was thinking that this chapter is bounded by two sets of prophecies: one set of Ulmo ones about helping the elves; other that make us feel its pretty likely the city will fall.

Against that background we have a romance, a betrayal, a battle and a daring escape. I find I'm once again missing the more novelistic approach of The Lord of the Rings, which would give us more insight into character, as well as detail.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"

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