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Letter #131 Discussion: Of Elves and Men
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Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 22 2013, 6:32pm

Post #1 of 109 (672 views)
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Letter #131 Discussion: Of Elves and Men Can't Post

Greetings Fellowship of the Room!

In this second selection of discussion points about Letter #131, we can touch on some aspects of the tales themselves, and how JRRT's philosophies impact parts of the stories: in this case, the relative fates of Elves and Men.

I have set up these points in two posts, to keep the discussion easy to follow.

Enjoy! I look forward to sharing all of your insights and ideas!

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!








Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 22 2013, 6:33pm

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Of Elves and Men: Doom and Falls [In reply to] Can't Post

**The envy of the Elves for the Gift of Men: a literary inversion, as the 'superior' race envies the second-born, weaker race. "The Doom (or the Gift) of Men is mortality, freedom from the cycles of the world. Since the point of view of the whole cycle is the Elvish, mortality is not explained mythically: it is a mystery of God of which no more is known than that 'what God proposed for Men is hidden': a grief and envy to the immortal Elves." But is the implication here that the Fate of Men is sweeter than the immortal life within the circles of the world - or is he saying that that the lure of the Unknown, as seen by the Elves, is enough in itself in a curious and seeking mind to inspire the envy that they feel?



**Some parallels to be found between the fall of the Elves and the fall of Numenor? The Elves, in becoming obsessed with fading, change and potential loss, "became sad, and their art (shall we say) antiquarian, and their efforts really a kind of embalming - even though they retained the old motive of their kind..." Later he says about Numenor: "They became thus in appearance, and even in powers of mind, hardly distinguishable from the Elves...their long life aids their achivements...but breeds a possessive attitude to these things...The desire to escape death produced a cult of the dead." It seems both people wished to avoid their coming fate, and to hold on to the past, 'embalming' it: metaphorically with the Elves and literally with Numenor.

What do you think of these ideas?

Another parallel I see is the lack of understanding of the Valar for the 'Children of God', having dire short-term consequences. The Noldor are brought to Aman with the best intentions, yet the Valar seem to not comprehend their restlessness; Men are given Numenor, but as JRRT says of their first fall from grace, "First acquiescence, obedience that is free and willing, though without complete understanding."

A lack of understanding between the divine and the Children of God in both instances? How could they have achieved this understanding? Based on what we know of JRRT's theological views, is it even possible?


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!








Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 22 2013, 6:38pm

Post #3 of 109 (447 views)
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Of Elves and Men: Fading [In reply to] Can't Post

**Crucial facets of the legendarium: the essential fates of Elves, and reflection on the fate of Men. In particular one point of commonality: fading.

From the Letter: "The doom of the Elves is to be immortal, to love the beauty of the world, to bring it to full flower with their gifts of delicacy and perfection, to last while it lasts, never leaving it even when 'slain', but returning - and yet, when the Followers come, to teach them, and make way for them, to 'fade' (bold by me) as the Followers grow and absorb the life from which they both proceed." Fading is a concept which we see repeated later in LOTR:

"Yet if you succeed, then our power is diminished, and Lothlorien will fade, and the tides of Time will sweep it away. We must depart into the West, or dwindle to a rustic folk of dell and cave, slowly to forget and to be forgotten." (FOTR: The Mirror of Galadriel)

"And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings." (FOTR: The Shadow of the Past)

"But to the wizard's eye there was a faint change, just a hint as it were of transparency, about him, and especially about the left hand that lay outside upon the coverlet." (FOTR: Many Meetings)

"He may become like a glass filled with clear light for eyes to see that can." (FOTR: Many Meetings)

I'd like to discuss the concept of fading in JRRT's legendarium, and how it relates specifically to the fates of Elves and Men. Both can 'fade', as we see from the fates of the Nine and the influence of the Rings given them by Sauron. Yet Elves, it appears, are 'meant' to fade in a sense of retreating, yet being bound to the world for its duration; Men and Hobbits are not 'meant' to fade, and their fading is a physical one.

Keeping in mind JRRT's philological focus, as well as his unswerving attention to detail in every word, is he (for literary purposes) using the same term for two different outcomes? Or is the use of the same word significant here, with Elves and Men (and their subgroups) being of one biological family (Letter #153)?
Do you think it relates to his literary perception of the dual worlds, the 'real' world and the 'faery' world; or of a more real-world cultural idea of life and afterlife?

Or something else entirely?


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


Sep 22 2013, 9:21pm

Post #4 of 109 (419 views)
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Easy? [In reply to] Can't Post

"I have set up these points in two posts, to keep the discussion easy to follow."

What's this, making things in the RR easy? Hey, I want a challenge here, not be spoon-fed. I propose you rewrite things in iambic pentameter AND write them backwards. The RR is NOT for sissies.


CuriousG
Valinor


Sep 22 2013, 9:57pm

Post #5 of 109 (434 views)
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"Doom" was the drumbeat by the Moria orcs [In reply to] Can't Post

Not that that means anything, or maybe it does and I'm not sure what.

Good stories need tension, and JRR bases his spiritual legendarium on a profound dissatisfaction with one's fate. The grass is always greener on the other side, isn't it? Men want Elvish immortality, and Elves want to the Gift of Men to escape Arda. It almost seems childish, doesn't it? "Whatever I have isn't good enough. I want the toys that other kid has." Though I would say that the Elves don't go to such destructive lengths in seeking human fate as the mortals do in struggling for immortality and seem more refined in their melancholy but dignified acceptance their destiny and lack of choice in it.

Those reactions can be reversed, of course, when you think of Aragorn and Arwen. He faces death willingly and serenely, but she finds it "bitter to receive," and her bitterness doesn't seem fleeting.

Those are my general observations. I really like your question about if Elves' innate creativity makes them seek the Unknown, since creativity usually means reaching into the Unknown and pulling something out of it into the known world for everyone else to see and appreciate. Did they yearn for "the other fate" not entirely because they wanted to leave Arda, but because they just couldn't help being so curious about what lay beyond it? (If they'd follow the implied advice of my avatar, a little ice cream goes a long way in allaying the frustration of unsated knowledge.)

One of the things that makes Arda interesting is that no one has all the answers (except taciturn Mandos). The Valar are wise, but there's plenty they don't know, and it seems like they have a sort of paralysis when they don't have all the facts and can't see all the outcomes. Which may be a mild excuse for why they don't intervene more in M-earth.

When they do summon the confidence to take action, they have no problem wiping the floor with Morgoth, but they made a couple big goofs in the migration of the Eldar to Valinor and creating Numenor as a gift to the Edain. All races grope in the dark to figure out Eru's plan, even the angelic powers in the Great Music, who were closer to the Core Truth than anyone else. I'm not sure that the Elivsh migration and Numenor creation were mistakes in themselves, and it may be fairer to say that the long-term management of the consequences of those decisions was the real problem. Could the Valar have done more to contain the unrest of the Noldor in Valinor, maybe getting Feanor a life coach instead of letting him sprial downwards? Could they have sent teachers to Numenor to explain, "Look, this is how it is, and you need to get a better perspective on things or this island is going to turn into the seafloor."

I think that's why Eru is distinct from the Valar in profound ways. They are his children, learning as they go. He's got all the answers. Tolkien is able to have an omniscient single god opposed to some well-intentioned but occasionally bumbling angels, sort of a yin and yang. Eru seems to *want* Valar, Elves, and Men to trust their better instincts and learn through their mistakes rather than be spoon-fed (hmm, didn't I mention that already?). That view conforms with many religions and seems a natural fit for life in the real world where we wonder why things sometimes go right, and sometimes go very wrong despite everything we thought we were doing right.


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 22 2013, 11:32pm

Post #6 of 109 (410 views)
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(*gets out hammer and nails*) [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
"I have set up these points in two posts, to keep the discussion easy to follow."

What's this, making things in the RR easy? Hey, I want a challenge here, not be spoon-fed. I propose you rewrite things in iambic pentameter AND write them backwards. The RR is NOT for sissies.




Point taken ... I shall construct some nice high hurdles tonight. So look for some grueling obstacles tomorrow. And remember: you asked for it! WinkLaughLaugh

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!








Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 22 2013, 11:56pm

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No satisfaction... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Not that that means anything, or maybe it does and I'm not sure what. You are quite right - and the sound of a deep sort of kettle drum does sound like that...but a very effective spelling isn't it? **(NB: It also makes a pretty kickin' video game, or a name for a very spicy dip...."pass the Doom Dip and the Mylanta...thanks!")

Ahem. back to topic....you are so distracting CG. I will take a break from making those hurdles for a minute.

*****Good stories need tension, and JRR bases his spiritual legendarium on a profound dissatisfaction with one's fate. *****The grass is always greener on the other side, isn't it? Men want Elvish immortality, and Elves want to the Gift of Men to escape Arda. It almost seems childish, doesn't it? "Whatever I have isn't good enough. I want the toys that other kid has." Though I would say that the Elves don't go to such destructive lengths in seeking human fate as the mortals do in struggling for immortality and seem more refined in their melancholy but dignified acceptance their destiny and lack of choice in it.

All your points are wonderful (as per your usual) but that bit I starred above is such a lynchpin emotional and philosophical state that unite the Firstborn and the Followers isn't it? And its one we, as reads, can readily comprehend too. As far as destructiveness though - while Men seem to break up the barroom with their brawling (as it were) the Elves might be quiet and dignified about it, but there is the small matter of those pesky Rings that got made in response...so it seems each race rather picked their own poison?
Those reactions can be reversed, of course, when you think of Aragorn and Arwen. He faces death willingly and serenely, but she finds it "bitter to receive," and her bitterness doesn't seem fleeting. I wonder here if (Aragorn's basic nobility of spirit aside) its easier to give up what you haven't had already. Arwen has had so much time and been Firstborn her whole life...so the sacrifice means a lot to her, whereas Aragorn as grown up knowing the day of reckoning would come.

Those are my general observations. I really like your question about if Elves' innate creativity makes them seek the Unknown, since creativity usually means reaching into the Unknown and pulling something out of it into the known world for everyone else to see and appreciate. Did they yearn for "the other fate" not entirely because they wanted to leave Arda, but because they just couldn't help being so curious about what lay beyond it? (If they'd follow the implied advice of my avatar, a little ice cream goes a long way in allaying the frustration of unsated knowledge.) That's exactly why I wanted to bring that up; we get a glimpse of that endless curiosity reading about how the Elves woke up the trees to talk (that can't have been fast, or easy, and who thought of that - to even try to wake them up. The intense wanting to KNOW, to find out, to interact...its there underneath the ageless exterior. Even back to Feanor, who alone figured out how to trap the light of the Trees. (Oh dear...was ice cream the answer the whole time...?) I feel like that boundless inquiry would have maybe made them a bit batty in regards to this mysterious fate of Men: that no matter what they do, they don't get an answer to. (Even after asking Mandos, which is usually *so* helpful...Crazy )

One of the things that makes Arda interesting is that no one has all the answers (except taciturn Mandos). The Valar are wise, but there's plenty they don't know, and it seems like they have a sort of paralysis when they don't have all the facts and can't see all the outcomes. Which may be a mild excuse for why they don't intervene more in M-earth. Yes I think you may have a point here too - like when Numenor invades, they don't want to act without Eru because I don't think they understand what's happening entirely or what Eru would choose: the Children of God are HIS children, not the Valar's, so they don't have all the answers and they don't want to make a mistake, like destroying something that originates with the Divine (which relates a bit back to that lovely philosophy we got thanks to Terazed: in contemplating the creations of Eru, the Valar may be honoring Eru; and perhaps feeling the inverse applies as well, explaining that call for help.)

When they do summon the confidence to take action, they have no problem wiping the floor with Morgoth, That's true: when it comes to 'one of their own' they seem much more secure in their footing don't they? but they made a couple big goofs in the migration of the Eldar to Valinor and creating Numenor as a gift to the Edain. All races grope in the dark to figure out Eru's plan, even the angelic powers in the Great Music, who were closer to the Core Truth than anyone else. I'm not sure that the Elivsh migration and Numenor creation were mistakes in themselves, and it may be fairer to say that the long-term management of the consequences of those decisions was the real problem. Could the Valar have done more to contain the unrest of the Noldor in Valinor, maybe getting Feanor a life coach instead of letting him sprial downwards? Could they have sent teachers to Numenor to explain, "Look, this is how it is, and you need to get a better perspective on things or this island is going to turn into the seafloor." That's what I'm not sure about - *could* some sort of understanding be reached, without Sauron messing about? Or is the gifting of the island, in sight of the borders of the Immortal Lands, the Pandora's Box opened, and the resolution inevitable?

I think that's why Eru is distinct from the Valar in profound ways. They are his children, learning as they go. He's got all the answers. Tolkien is able to have an omniscient single god opposed to some well-intentioned but occasionally bumbling angels, sort of a yin and yang. Eru seems to *want* Valar, Elves, and Men to trust their better instincts and learn through their mistakes rather than be spoon-fed (hmm, didn't I mention that already?). That view conforms with many religions and seems a natural fit for life in the real world where we wonder why things sometimes go right, and sometimes go very wrong despite everything we thought we were doing right. And maybe by giving faces to the 'wrong goings' at times it makes it more easy for us to identify with?


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!








(This post was edited by Brethil on Sep 22 2013, 11:57pm)


Na Vedui
Rohan


Sep 23 2013, 2:23am

Post #8 of 109 (412 views)
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Feanor's life coach - LOL! [In reply to] Can't Post

But in a way, they did - her name was Nerdanel. Unfortunately, he stopped listening to her. And I think by the time they'd figured out he needed a professional, Feanor would have given him (or her) the bum's rush down the front steps when he turned up!


Terazed
Bree

Sep 23 2013, 4:40am

Post #9 of 109 (403 views)
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God is love or love is God [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
**The envy of the Elves for the Gift of Men: a literary inversion, as the 'superior' race envies the second-born, weaker race. "The Doom (or the Gift) of Men is mortality, freedom from the cycles of the world. Since the point of view of the whole cycle is the Elvish, mortality is not explained mythically: it is a mystery of God of which no more is known than that 'what God proposed for Men is hidden': a grief and envy to the immortal Elves." But is the implication here that the Fate of Men is sweeter than the immortal life within the circles of the world - or is he saying that that the lure of the Unknown, as seen by the Elves, is enough in itself in a curious and seeking mind to inspire the envy that they feel?


Why don't we start out by going back in time to look at the origins of the concept immortals envying mortals. I am going to go back to a quote from the very ending of Wagner's Ring that did not make it into the final opera. Wagner's Ring is all about immortal God's struggling to become mortal and coping with death. In fact almost all of Wagner's mature operas have someone cursed with immortality trying to become mortal. Back before Wagner concluded that only music could express the true meaning of his work he tried out several different ending monologues. I will quote the Schopenhauer ending.

The scene is analogous to Frodo in the crack of doom in which Brunnhilde has mounted her warhorse and is about to ride into the fire to destroy the Ring and give the world a new birth. Brunnhilde, even though she is just a teenage girl, had started off as a powerful god. She was not just a valkyrie but she was also "Wotan's will", practically his other half. She came into contact with the mortals Siegmund and Sieglinde and from them she gains the first stirrings of human love and compassion. She is moved to disobey her father Wotan to try to save him from himself. He is forced to punish her by taking away her immortality. He also puts her to sleep on a rock condemned to marry the first man to come across her and to become an ordinary housewife. As a mortal she is able to experience human love to the full but it comes at a price of loosing her power absolutely. Before the ending she is beaten to a pulp by one man who drags her off to another to be raped. She is then dragged in front of everyone and made a laughing stock (remember this is a teenaged girl). She finds out that everyone she has ever loved has betrayed her. She is tricked in to betraying the man she loves most to his death. In the end it is in her hands that the fate of the world lies. She discovers in suffering of mortality a true understanding of compassionate love:


Quote
I depart from the home of desire, I flee forever the home of delusion; the open gates of eternal becoming I close behind me now: to the holiest chosen land, free from desire and delusion, the goal of the world's migration, redeemed from reincarnation, the enlightened woman now goes. The blessed end of all things eternal, do you know how I attained it? Grieving love's profoundest suffering opened my eyes for me: I saw the world end.


The romantics had an interesting view of love. They felt that all love would fade with time. Death was the only way to avoid the fading. In the novels of the period you might see lovers in the heat of their passion talking about death. It may be strange to us but it made sense at the time. This is the reason why. This brings me to my first point about why the immortal elves may envy mortals. The downfall of the aesthetic life is the loss of one's humanity. Emotions such as love eventually fade away. Herman Hesse is terrific in 'Siddhartha' in pointing out the aesthetic life vs the sensual life and the benefits of both. The fading the elves may fear may be the loss of their emotions.

Let me go back a little bit further. This time I will stop at 'The Essence of Christianity' by the philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach. In this work Feuerbach stands religion on its head. His theory was that in religion humans placed their highest subconscious needs. In effect man created God in his own image, not the other way around. Instead of saying God is love it should be love is God. It is an atheistic book but it was extremely influential in its day. For our purposes it set up a whole slew of works in which the gods were envious of and needed humans and not the other way around.


Quote
In the consciousness of the infinite, the conscious subject has for his object the infinity of his own nature.


This is a quote from Feuerbach. It is couched in a philosophic language but it is identical with Tolkien's concept of what an elf is (also the istari, Bombidil, etc). They are representations of human nature made infinite.


(This post was edited by Terazed on Sep 23 2013, 4:43am)


CuriousG
Valinor


Sep 23 2013, 12:39pm

Post #10 of 109 (396 views)
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A diamond (ring) is a girl's best friend [In reply to] Can't Post

Or in Brunhilde's case, it seemed her ring was the only friend left to her. Thanks for elucidating Tolkien's context with so much information on Wagner, the romantics, and other leading thinkers of that epoch, Terazed! I'm really learning a lot from your posts.

Brunhilde's story is as tragic as they come. She was struggling not just with the immortality/mortality dichotomy, but the nuances of mortal life and the detailed losses of her previous status.

Doesn't the immortal/mortal conflict go all the way back to first the written records? There's Adam & Eve, and before that, Gilgamesh. The Gilgamesh story was so compelling that it was rewritten by hand for centuries, enduring the fall of various civilizations. The fact that he never achieves immortality didn't seem to dissuade readers from wanting to follow his journey.

Thinking in Tolkien terms, individuals among the races can act outside of their cultural mindset. Luthien, as far as we know, never thinks twice about becoming a mortal. She wants to be with Beren, as simple as that. Arwen makes the same choice, but is conflicted about it. Earendil, on the other hand, asked Elwing to choose mortality along with him, but deferred to her desire to remain Elvish to redress the loss of Luthien to the Elven race. Isn't it odd that Earendil would choose mortality when his Numenorean descendents perverted their entire civilization to gain it back?

Was the lust for immortality confined to Numenor? The Men in Beleriand don't seem too concerned about it. In Rohan, Theoden is content with the thought of dying and going to the halls of his ancestors.

What is missing in Tolkien's consideration is the perspective of the Valar, maybe because they're remote figures to begin with. They are bound to Arda like the Elves, but they don't fade, and while they're curious about Men's fate after leaving Arda, they don't envy it. They're the most well-adjusted bunch.

Also lacking is the perspective of the Ents. They can be killed like Elves and fade like them, and they also don't seem to die of old age. Yet Treebeard's only lament seems to be that the Entwives are lost and there are no baby Ents. Is he curious about Men's fate? Does he grow weary of the world and want a release from it?

Dwarves are equally unspoken for in the mortality dilemma. Are they content with the belief that they'll die and be reassembled in Aule's halls? If so, they seem well-adjusted too, as are hobbits, whatever they believe.

I suppose Tolkien didn't want too many competing perspectives on mortality to muddy the waters, and chose Elves and Men as the lens to view both sides of the issue and keep it to two sides.


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 23 2013, 7:04pm

Post #11 of 109 (374 views)
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More great philosophical connections Terazed [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

Quote
**The envy of the Elves for the Gift of Men: a literary inversion, as the 'superior' race envies the second-born, weaker race. "The Doom (or the Gift) of Men is mortality, freedom from the cycles of the world. Since the point of view of the whole cycle is the Elvish, mortality is not explained mythically: it is a mystery of God of which no more is known than that 'what God proposed for Men is hidden': a grief and envy to the immortal Elves." But is the implication here that the Fate of Men is sweeter than the immortal life within the circles of the world - or is he saying that that the lure of the Unknown, as seen by the Elves, is enough in itself in a curious and seeking mind to inspire the envy that they feel?



The romantics had an interesting view of love. They felt that all love would fade with time. Death was the only way to avoid the fading. In the novels of the period you might see lovers in the heat of their passion talking about death. It may be strange to us but it made sense at the time. This is the reason why. This brings me to my first point about why the immortal elves may envy mortals. The downfall of the aesthetic life is the loss of one's humanity. Emotions such as love eventually fade away. Herman Hesse is terrific in 'Siddhartha' in pointing out the aesthetic life vs the sensual life and the benefits of both. **The fading the elves may fear may be the loss of their emotions.

I think that is absolutely spot on. I think when JRRT describes the Elves becoming weary (like the butter scraped too far) of the world, united with the passionate love for that world, they face that loss, that joy in life and both Creation and sub-creation. And being giving the physical bond to Arda with Immortality their only choice is to watch the fading of their creations and the things they have made, with the inevitable rise of Men.

Since their 'fading' is one of retreat, they become spectators to the changes wrought by time and by another race, whose priorities and choice are much different than theirs - wringing dry that last bit of beloved connection to the physical world. Here then is the rationale for the 'stern counsel' perhaps, to sail West and not to linger...before these events can happen: the relative 'death' before the fading, as the Romantic era notions you described would phrase it.

Yet of course sailing, even to the Blessed Realm, still means giving up the world while it is still green. A hard choice.



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!








Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Sep 23 2013, 11:15pm

Post #12 of 109 (359 views)
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Too busy for a proper reply... [In reply to] Can't Post

but, Aragorn also made a similar choice. He released his spirit from his body, at will, so that he did not descend into madness and dishonor. I always thought that was strange, but perhaps memory, as the focus of the Men, as mortals, had the same compulsion for the Elves? The Elves sought to 'live', as it were, in the memory, while Men accepted the loss. Maybe Men held on to the memory, but Elves, able to 'walk/live in their memories'(I think Legolas did it? The books are not before me at the moment.) were more obsessed with the preservation of the object, itself, over the 'memory'? Perhaps Men had a thing or two to teach the Firstborn?

Interesting points, but I will have to re-read all these excellent posts in detail, before I comment further.


Terazed
Bree

Sep 24 2013, 12:37am

Post #13 of 109 (356 views)
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The sacred and the ordinary [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Doesn't the immortal/mortal conflict go all the way back to first the written records? There's Adam & Eve, and before that, Gilgamesh. The Gilgamesh story was so compelling that it was rewritten by hand for centuries, enduring the fall of various civilizations. The fact that he never achieves immortality didn't seem to dissuade readers from wanting to follow his journey.


Yes you are right. There are two ways among many to think of Brunnhilde's story that correspond to Tolkien's statements in letter 131:


Quote
Myth and fairy-story must, as all art, reflect and contain in solution elements of moral and religious truth (or error) but not explicit, not in the known form of the primary 'real world'


In her story which I dissected out and reduced to its basic components is the story of a god who chooses to become mortal and experience human suffering. In the end that god chooses to sacrifice herself to give others a new birth. This of course is the story of Christ. One might not see it on first reading and buried in the Ring Cycle it is much harder to spot. Wagner buries all throughout the Ring Cycle the Christian message but "not in the known form of the primary ' real' world. There are dozens of other examples in his Ring and his other works.

The second part has more to do with my previous quote

Quote
'In the consciousness of the infinite, the conscious subject has for his object the infinity of his own nature

but also applies to Tolkien's related quote:

Quote
but the elves are there (in my tales) to demonstrate the difference. Their 'magic' is art, delivered from many of its human limitations: more effortless, more quick, more complete.


I emphasized that Brunnhilde is a typical teenage girl for a reason. Her story is also a prototypical story of a normal girl's psychological maturation from self centered and self important girl, to a mature woman experiencing love, to a self-sacrificing mother. I could put together the same type of dual story line for Wotan, the other hero of the Ring, who is the most prototypical middle aged man undergoing a midlife crisis there is. Yes they are gods and when you encounter them in the Ring Cycle you think of them and treat them as gods, but underlying is the story of an ordinary human being resembling ourselves. This is what makes the master myth writers and story tellers whose stories remain throughout history.

It is also why C.S. Lewis thought that the Ring Cycle is what introduced him to religion.

I didn't get a chance to show how Tolkien does the same. I would quickly point out the the ring bearer is a hobbit.


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Sep 24 2013, 2:40am

Post #14 of 109 (373 views)
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What is 'fading'? [In reply to] Can't Post

What really does it mean 'to fade'? I am puzzling out a few ideas here.

'Fade' as in 'Losing strength'

Did they really lose strength? I know that they were lessened in numbers by the constant wars and voyages to Valinor, but were they really becoming less powerful as individuals? Was this part of Eru's plan? Did they physically become weaker as the time of Men came closer?

The society might be in decline, but taken as individuals, I think not. I do not favor this explanation

'Fade' as in 'Lessening in glory of brightness'

They were fading and becoming less important as a power factor in ME. The were becoming less imposing, and thier strength could no longer besiege Sauron, as they had Mogoth in Angband. They were being eclipsed by Men and other factors, but not lessening, only becoming comparatively less as Men became stronger.

In this view the measure of their power was not lessened, but they became less important to the fate of ME. They no longer had the numbers to act as a force of arms, and, technically, were not supposed to stay in ME.(If you interperet the pardon of the Valar as a command)

They could also have been lessening because of a shift in ME itself. The same political factors were not present in teh Third Age as they were in the first two. The Elves did not hold the fortresses of ME. Men dominated the Lands, and were more susceptible to evil. They did not have the geo-political advantages or numbers that they once had. Sauron had a greater start in power, Moria was infested, this was not the world of the Second Age. They couldn't just march with an army to challenge Sauron without any strategic advantages.

The Ulari could also be termed to 'fade' by this definition. They were eclipsed by Sauron and dominated by his will. The world had changed for them, with their friends and kingdom gone. Where else could they go?

I would love to continue this comparison of the RW and Elevs!


Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Sep 24 2013, 1:59pm

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Dimming the music [In reply to] Can't Post

This is just my impression of the fading built over the years reading and rereading these books - it’s not based on anything concrete. (Think of me as the"forest" person in the group. I'll think about the forest, those with much more knowledge than me can teach me about the trees!)

The Valar and the elves knew and appreciated the music of creation. They understood it for what it was and had, I’m guessing an individual and personal relationship with the music. That personal relationship led to new and different ways of expressing themselves. They experimented - some creating beauty out of the original material, some creating dissonance.

For me, the fading comes from that loss of the true and vibrant colors of the original music. After a time, too much was done to it, too many hands had reworked it, like children with finger paints, until it got to a point where all the colors were mixed into that weird Torrit Grey paint that is all colors and no color.

The dissonance colored the rest of the world, tarnishing it, making it less than beautiful. For the elves, this led to war and loss. The innocence of the world and the simplicity of that original music was lost. It reminds me of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. For years, the impression of Michangelo’s work was of muted colors. The chapel had been in constant use for hundreds of years, thousands of candle hours being burned in the chapel below. The restorations at the end of the last century revealed vibrant colors and a beauty that no one imagined. Use had faded the color, sullying it with soot. So too, the years of strife and war and conflict have sullied the innocence of the elves.

The fading comes from knowing too much. In the movies, this was shown beautifully on Legolas’ face after Gandalf and then Boromir died. Elves don’t “get” death the way men do, so watching Legolas deal with the ending of a life close to him was telling. A little bit of the light went out of his eyes. Think about the crush of days and experiences the elves lived through. After a time, all those memories and experiences become stronger than the original music. The vibrancy fades. They have seen too much for too long.

As with Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, the quest for knowledge, the use of the music, led them away from the purity of the original creation. From the time they chose to experiment, they started to dim what was given to them. Eru is perfection, all other things must be less and the farther away they move with their own creations from the original, the dimmer it gets.

“Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 24 2013, 3:52pm

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In light of the Romantic philosophy... [In reply to] Can't Post


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but, Aragorn also made a similar choice. He released his spirit from his body, at will, so that he did not descend into madness and dishonor. ...Aragorn departed while life was still 'green' and still full, and also departed from Arwen: in the ideal as Terazed put forth connecting these ideas with a (latent?) sort of Romanticism it makes sense, and also I think highlights the vast difficulty of the decision, if by definition the way to preserve memory *before* it decays is to leave life at its fullest - prior to decay, madness and dishonor. I always thought that was strange, but perhaps memory, as the focus of the Men, as mortals, had the same compulsion for the Elves? The Elves sought to 'live', as it were, in the memory, while Men accepted the loss. Maybe Men held on to the memory, but Elves, able to 'walk/live in their memories'(I think Legolas did it? The books are not before me at the moment.) were more obsessed with the preservation of the object, itself, over the 'memory'? Perhaps Men had a thing or two to teach the Firstborn? Potentially...I was actually watching TTT for a bit last night (it was on network TV) and of course I had to watch Aragorn's entombment scene (so powerful.) What occurred to me as I watched Liv portray Arwen's struggle to comprehend the loss is the Pandora's Box metaphor that came up upthread with CG. Here we have an Immortal struggling to cope with mortality on a very personal level: is her struggle with the concept and with the loss, or with the relative loss of her own previous life? Had she never known immortality, would that have changed her grief about Aragorn's choice? And the inverse in Numenor, having sight and the oh-so-almost grasp on Immortality(as they saw it) yet not actually having it...is that experience, bas-relief of Arwen's what changed them forever, and made it impossible for them to simply accept their own fate? In both cases, is it a box once opened, and the contents seen, that changes the perceptions forever? Interested in more of your ideas! Smile


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!








Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 24 2013, 4:03pm

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And Men come into the equation... [In reply to] Can't Post


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The fading comes from knowing too much. In the movies, this was shown beautifully on Legolas’ face after Gandalf and then Boromir died. Elves don’t “get” death the way men do, so watching Legolas deal with the ending of a life close to him was telling. A little bit of the light went out of his eyes. Think about the crush of days and experiences the elves lived through. After a time, all those memories and experiences become stronger than the original music. The vibrancy fades. They have seen too much for too long.

I completely love the metaphor you are using here Ioreth! And this bit above seems to me to tie into the Song as well - with the 'knowing too much' and the changing of the world, with Death suddenly around everywhere, Men are the vector of that change. It is their fragile mortality I think that, in your sense of knowing too much, and the excellent and touching idea of the light fading in an Elf's eyes watching death, may contribute to that weariness and fading of vibrancy and joy. Certainly the Elves were exposed earlier to other Mortals - the Dwarves - but not only do they live longer, die much less easy - they do it all in maximal secrecy. And this also follows the Song, as it is not the Dwarves who are the followers described by Eru, but the Edain. And then, self-fulfilling: as more Elves leave the shores of Arda, there is less of their present vibrancy, their life and subcreative force, at work. Harder every year for those that stayed!

As with Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, the quest for knowledge, the use of the music, led them away from the purity of the original creation. From the time they chose to experiment, they started to dim what was given to them. Eru is perfection, all other things must be less and the farther away they move with their own creations from the original, the dimmer it gets. A built in part of Eru's plan? With their mandate and their native desire to subcreate and change, that in itself changes original creation. A sense of inexorability in the Song - in that sense, the 'Fate' notion of the tales?


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!








Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 24 2013, 4:08pm

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In her story which I dissected out and reduced to its basic components is the story of a god who chooses to become mortal and experience human suffering. In the end that god chooses to sacrifice herself to give others a new birth. This of course is the story of Christ.

Having just mentioned Aragorn's choice of death versus lingering (and holding onto life and worldly kingship) I can see a distant and deeply resonant idea of the Christ tale in that choice. Too far removed to be allegorical, and I might be reaching, but I feel like its there. Some similarity to Wagner's buried metaphors?



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!








(This post was edited by Brethil on Sep 24 2013, 4:09pm)


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 24 2013, 4:14pm

Post #19 of 109 (310 views)
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I'm picturing a Talk to the Hand... [In reply to] Can't Post

scenario here Na Vedui!

I do wish we knew a bit more about Nerdanel. She seemed to be a good choice for Feanor *before* things got out of hand. But maybe his internal visions eclipsed her - like the sun shutting out the moon?

One of those people I'd like to see more 'words' from.

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!








Lightfoot
Rivendell


Sep 24 2013, 8:23pm

Post #20 of 109 (287 views)
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Interesting post [In reply to] Can't Post

It seems to me that the elves regret their immortality because of their memories. They are cursed by remembering the perfection of the beginning. As time continued they saw what was once beautiful degrade and disappear - what seems like yesterday to them was many hundreds of years ago to the other races. And as such the other races forget the elves' deeds and labors from ages past. The elves fought the long defeat, if you will. No matter what they did or tried evil always returns and all that they have done seems useless when compared to the present. Also the land itself changed- the perfection that they so loved was sullied and broken. Their strongholds were over run and their monuments obscured by the sands of time. Also many of their friends were killed in battle or sailed West and so they were left in ever dwindling numbers. Even if they were to befriend men (or hobbits or dwarves) they would outlive them and then the elves would be burdened with the sorrow of loosing more people that they loved. Sounds depressing right?

Now men on the other hand- Well they get to live a nice lifespan- not to short and not to long. Because of their mortality they live life to the fullest. They don't know any different so they just love and accept what they have calling it perfect even if it is not. They have no time to waste lamenting the passing of time or being depressed. Instead they go out have fun accomplish something ( or try anyway) and then they die. That's it. The end. I think I would be envious too if I were an elf.

And then these blessed men try to throw away their gift and try to be immortal. ( That's when the elves decide that men need a psychologist and avoid all further contact if possible.)

Faithful servant yet master's bane,
Lightfoot's foal, swift Snowmane



noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Sep 24 2013, 9:00pm

Post #21 of 109 (305 views)
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There seems to be a point about faith in here (but I can't work out what it is) [In reply to] Can't Post

The ultimate fate of Men is unknown to anyone , whereas the elves know quite a bit about what waits for them chez Mandos.

So Men are being asked to have faith that Eru has something appropriate in mind. That's a big ask, and the Enemy takes advantage of this several times during the story.

Is this meant to reflect on the problems of faith (or lack of it) in real life? Or something else ?

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!"


Terazed
Bree

Sep 24 2013, 11:59pm

Post #22 of 109 (304 views)
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'The Makropulos Affair' On dimming the music [In reply to] Can't Post


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I felt death grabbing me. It wasn't so bad. You are all here as if you weren't here. You are things and shadows. To die, to go away... It's all the same. Alas, one should not live so long. If only you knew how easy your life is. You are so close to everything. Everything has meaning to you. Everything has a value for you. You are so happy. Stupid coincidence lets you die early. You believe in humanity, in greatness and love. You could not ask for anything more. But in me life has halted. Jesus Christ! I can go no further! This terrible loneliness! Krista, it is all in vain, singing or staying silent . You grow tired of goodness. You grow tired of badness. Earth becomes boring. Heaven bores you. And you feel you soul die within you...I don't want it anymore. Here, take it. Nobody wants it? Krista dear, I took your boyfriend. You are beautiful, you have it! You'll be famous! You'll sing like Emilia Marty!


Your statements on music are interesting. It brings to mind the ending of the Czech opera 'The Makropulos Affair' by Leos Janecek (1925). The principal character is Emilia Marty. She is beautiful. She is the great singer of the age. She also has peculiar blunted emotions. None of the other characters can understand what interest she has in a will that has been in probate for the past 100 years nor how she knows so much about the life of someone dead 100 years. At the end of the opera we learn that her real name is Elina Makropulos. She is 337 years old. Her father was an alchemist in the employ of the Holy Roman Emperor. He had made a potion of youth for the emperor but the emperor didn't trust him and made him try it out on his daughter. It looked like the potion didn't work as she was unconscious for a week. The emperor had him executed. He gave her the formula for the potion before he died. She had lived under aliases since but usually as a singer. She gave the formula to her son 200 years latter but never had a chance to tell him what it was. It is in his papers that the formula is. Emilia realizes that the potion is wearing off and is trying to find the formula to make the potion again. When she finally gets a hold the formula she realizes that she does not want it.

The quote above is her final lines in the opera. It sounds a bit like your comments about the fading of the colors of the original music. It also strikes me how like the elves, she turned to music and art to live out her long existence. She also talks of how the world and how people fade and are like shadows. She talks of how good and bad fades and how heaven fades.

I don't think the opera was performed in England when Tolkien was writing his works but I do know the play on which it was based was performed in England in the 1920s.


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 25 2013, 2:06am

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Faith then and now [In reply to] Can't Post


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The ultimate fate of Men is unknown to anyone , whereas the elves know quite a bit about what waits for them chez Mandos. So Men are being asked to have faith that Eru has something appropriate in mind. That's a big ask, and the Enemy takes advantage of this several times during the story.

Is this meant to reflect on the problems of faith (or lack of it) in real life? Or something else ?




JRRT says of faith, "In the last resort faith is an act of will, inspired by love." Is that what he is paralleling here? That the Men in the legendarium were beset by the faith-breakers Morgoth and Sauron, sapping their will; and that Men today are beset by things that break will and faith and dim love as well, under different guises?

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!








Na Vedui
Rohan


Sep 25 2013, 3:05am

Post #24 of 109 (272 views)
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Wow [In reply to] Can't Post

"But maybe his internal visions eclipsed her - like the sun shutting out the moon?"

I like this image!


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 25 2013, 4:03am

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What really does it mean 'to fade'? I am puzzling out a few ideas here. That is why I posed the question, I think on both levels of Men and Elves, and in a physical and spiritual sense, it has meaning. The question is, what meanings, and do they apply to both races? (We can leave Dwarves out: Dwarves do not fade; which has always made me see it is a primary Spirit function.)


They were fading and becoming less important as a power factor in ME. The were becoming less imposing, and thier strength could no longer besiege Sauron, as they had Morgoth in Angband. They were being eclipsed by Men and other factors, but not lessening, only becoming comparatively less as Men became stronger.


Well phrased idea Rem. This fits very well with the description "The doom of the Elves is to be immortal, to love the beauty of the world, to bring it to full flower with their gifts of delicacy and perfection, to last while it lasts, never leaving it even when 'slain', but returning - and yet, when the Followers come, to teach them, and make way for them, to 'fade' (bold by me) **as the Followers grow and absorb the life from which they both proceed."

It would seem that JRRT saw Men, the Followers, as exactly that 'eclipsing' force, absorbing life (in terms of creative force? Touch with the land itself?) and remaking that which the Elves had subcreatively changed to their liking and need.

The Ulari could also be termed to 'fade' by this definition. They were eclipsed by Sauron and dominated by his will. The world had changed for them, with their friends and kingdom gone. Where else could they go? Very interesting characterization here. Both the pleasures of life taken. On a purely 'physical' plane, do you read it as a transformation - the survival of their fea without hroa - or it is deeper? Symbolically, the ultimate loss of faith perhaps?

I would love to continue this comparison of the RW and Elves! Its quite a topic...Wink


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!







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