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Letter #131 Discussion: Some Races in the Drama
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Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 30 2013, 2:30am

Post #1 of 75 (917 views)
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Letter #131 Discussion: Some Races in the Drama Can't Post

In this week's installment of discussion points on JRRT's Letter #131, I want to bring the focus onto some of the actual races and beings in the early part of the legendarium: the Valar and the Free Folk. In addition, I would like to explore a question about the origins of Man in Middle-earth.

These discussions continue to be a great wealth of insight, and I (expectantly) look forward to more of the same. If anyone needs to gain a copy of the Letter, it is contained within Carpenter's The Letter's of J.R.R.Tolkien. There are various spots elsewhere to find it as well.

Enjoy!

Just who are the Valar?


**JRRT mentions the role of the Valar and how they play into JRRT's world view along with the theological connection to the classical legends, as well as to his own faith: "On the side of mere narrative device, this is, of course, meant to provide beings of the same order of beauty, power, and majesty as the 'gods' of higher mythology, which can yet be accepted - well, shall we say baldly, by a mind that believes in the Blessed Trinity."

We have discussed the successes, motivations and failings of the Valar in a purely character and literary sense here throughout the Silmarillion and RR discussions; there have been great discussions that produce some visceral and varied opinions. Did JRRT have a purpose in some of these studied weaknesses: can the Valar and the Creation of Ea be accepted by the Christian mind (and to the minds of other monotheistic faiths) in JRRT's view because of their frailties and lack of perfect judgment, in contrast to and serving to underscore the ultimate wisdom of Eru Illuvatar, thus maintaining a theology which (though populated with divine personalities) is ultimately monotheistic? Or, do you see their varied personalities and choices as functions of literature and characterization, the art of the author versus a theological statement?

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 30 2013, 2:32am

Post #2 of 75 (535 views)
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The Genesis of Races in Middle-earth [In reply to] Can't Post

**Let us discuss JRRT's approach to creating races, and the degree of human archetypes we see in the Races of ME. He touches on it while explaining that the the Silmarillion is not anthropocentric: "Men came in inevitably: after all the author is a man, and if he has an audience they will be Men and Men must come into our tales, as such, and not merely transfigured or partially represented as Elves, Dwarfs, Hobbits, etc."

Later in the Letter, he says, "...and a recurrent theme is the idea that in Men (as they now are) there is a strand of 'blood' and inheritance, derived from the Elves, and that the art and poetry of Men is largely dependent upon it, or modifed by it. *Of course in reality this only means that my 'elves' are only a representation or an apprehension of a part of human nature, but that is not the legendary mode of talking."

Do you think this attitude of not merely transfiguring humans is what aided in his creation of races that feel so 'other', so unique, and yet so accessible to the reader? Or, as a reader, do you see the Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits more closely akin to different aspects of humanity as represented by the Free Folk, in the 'not legendary' mode?

Interesting choice of words used by JRRT - 'that is not the legendary mode of talking'. What do you think he means there?

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 30 2013, 2:35am

Post #3 of 75 (507 views)
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The looming East: Our Eden? [In reply to] Can't Post

**Some points of the Fall of Men - two falls, if one keeps score. "The Downfall is partly the result of an inner weakness in Men - consequent, if you will, upon the first Fall (unrecorded in these tales), repented but not finally healed. Reward on earth is more dangerous for men than punishment! The Fall is achieved by the cunning of Sauron in exploiting this weakness. Its central theme is (inevitably, I think, in a story of Men) a Ban, a Prohibition." He says of the Numenoreans, "Their reward is their undoing - or the means of their temptation." Do you agree with the idea that - as inevitable as a Fall - a Ban plays into the human story?

[And is THAT why we can't have nice things?!]

He refers here to the 'first fall' - unrecorded but JRRT implies it having occurred at some point within the legendarium's universe, since it is repented for and yet remains unhealed. Perhaps this is the darkness that the Edain, led by Beor, are fleeing when they are found by Felagund:

'A darkness lies behind us,' Beor said; 'and we have turned our backs upon it, and we do not desire to return thither even in thought. Westwards our hearts have been turned, and we believe that there we shall find Light.' (Silmarillion: Ch 17: Of the Coming of Men into the West.)

Men fleeing the East, fleeing their starting point..and throughout the Middle-earth world, 'The East' becomes a source of the unknown, of dangerous and sometimes unspecified enemies. The Blue Wizards go there, to fates unknown; no one seeks the tidings of the wind from East; Men flee it, seeking Light. So can this land of menace, of implied danger and darkness, be the Eden of the legendarium: a fair garden where Men awaken to life, only to have land and Edain corrupted by the intrusive Morgoth, offering tainted knowledge...a symbolic guise of the Serpent?

And the journey West, seeking Light...which, as JRRT describes it: "As far as all this has symbolical or allegorical, Light is such a primeval symbol in the nature of the Universe, that it can hardly be analysed. The Light of Valinor (derived from light before any fall) is the light of art undivorced from reason, that sees things both scientifically (or philosophically) and imaginatively (or subcreatively) and says they are good - as beautiful." So as Men travel West, putting their first Fall behind them and seeking - not Immortality, but 'art undivorced from reason'.

Does this equation work, or not? If so, what do you think of this, both as a journey of Man and as a definition of Paradise?


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!








squire
Valinor


Sep 30 2013, 2:56am

Post #4 of 75 (527 views)
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Well, shall we say it baldly? [In reply to] Can't Post

I've never seen the question of the Valar posed quite that way. Can the Valar be 'accepted' by Christian, Jewish, and Muslim readers? Speaking for myself, I think the Valar and Eru have to be taken as literary creations, rather than as theological cannon fodder to retain monotheistically-inclined readers. And as literary creations they rate about a C-. Except, maybe, Ulmo: B-.

Tolkien aspired to write a literary epic that included a theogony along the lines of other real-world epics. But I don't think he was really writing for anyone but himself when he created his gods and goddesses who contradictorily served an even greater One God - as evidenced by his confession in this letter about the awkwardness he felt in trying to write about a pagan pantheon that he as a believing Catholic could 'believe in.'

Tolkien was fascinated by the idea of sub-creation, and thought deeply about it. But we don't have to, since we are not the sub-creators, but the recipients of the result. If Tolkien had loosened up and let go, the Silmarillion might have been as lively as the Lost Tales were, and as the Iliad and the Odyssey and the Eddas are. Not that the Silmarillion is entirely dull, but the 'gods' keep their distance in an odd and unsatisfying way; to my mind they are one of the weakest aspects of the entire project and I attribute that to Tolkien's own inability to separate his author role from his reader role.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Sep 30 2013, 3:59am

Post #5 of 75 (544 views)
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There is more than one interesting word choice. [In reply to] Can't Post

Race vs. Species and Legendary vs uh... Historical(?)

Tolkien refers to different “races” in Middle Earth. That, presumably, means that they are all the same “species”. We think of race as a difference in geographical origin, physical characteristics, ethnicity, etc. But think of that in terms of the the “races” of ME. Was he saying, just by his word choice, that they are all of the same species? Elves, Dwarfs, Men all from a common ancestor, evolving into “races”. He tells us the story of how each came to be, so why pick the word “race”?

Two things come to mind - one is what Brethil has already mentioned - JRRT was trying to get at the legends of prehistory. He wanted to tell us “how we got here”. So all his beings inevitably remind us of Man. The origin stories of each Race in ME could be thought of as the evolution of each race, with the natural selection coming not from the pressure of each experimental new being in nature but of the experimentation of the Valar.

It’s my opinion that he was referring to, with that quote about “mode of talking”, his intention in creating a pre-history for England. I think he still had that on his mind. He makes the distinction in the letter between his “elves and dwarfs” and those of the bedtime stories, fairy tales and legends of the time. Those representations are merely stories told to children - his are meant to be seen as a true prehistory of the race of Man. He wanted people reading his work to realize that when he referred to Elves and Dwarfs, he didn’t want them to be bogged down by preconceptions of Snow White’s dwarfs or Shakespeare’s elves. He was creating them anew and giving them qualities that would explain how we, as Man, came to be.

The other is something more related to what I see as a thread of “truth” that he weaves through the stories - there is beauty, courage, intelligence and strength in all of us, each in varying degrees but present nonetheless. By creating beings that seem to have a commonality, he allows for different “races” to have more of one quality or a distinct deficit of another. He plays on these strengths and weaknesses to set up his conflict, but at all times, at least to me, he comes back to that common factor. We could all be Thorin, with the inherent love of riches, putting our lives on hold waiting for a time when everything was “as it should have been” all along. We could all be Bilbo - comfortable enough in our Hobbity life but with that little itch to do something more. We could all be one of the Elves, existing day-to-day but never really going anywhere. We relate to a dwarf or one of the elves because we see a little bit of us in them. And we can be warned or inspired because of that relation.

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


Bombadil21
Bree


Sep 30 2013, 11:17am

Post #6 of 75 (515 views)
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I concur [In reply to] Can't Post

I've always felt that the "Lost Tales" mythology 'uses' the Valar to greater effect - it allows them fuller agency and is less restrictive according to "those who are good" versus "those who are evil".

For example, as John Garth writes in his fantastic book about Tolkien's early creative journey, "Tolkien's pantheon is quirky and assymetric...the battle god Makar and his sister Measse are anomalous. Their court hosts a perpetual battle in which Measse urges Makar's warriors to blows or revives them with wine..."

It is this kind of playfulness which is extirpated from later versions of the mythology, making the dichotomy between Melkor and Manwe absolute and irreconcilable. Any shades moral ambiguity amongst the Valar are lost. I would attribute this to Tolkien's attempt 'have his cake and eat it', as it were: to revive something of the glory of the Pagan pantheon while retaining a strictly Christian moral aesthetic headed up by a grouchy, domineering and ultimately superfluous overlord - Eru. I don't think he ever succeeds in this and the confusion of moral systems is never resolved within the legendarium.


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Sep 30 2013, 1:57pm

Post #7 of 75 (482 views)
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From an aesthetic literary stance... [In reply to] Can't Post

I would agree with what has been said. The instruments that he has employed are not perfect, far from it. The choices in creating his pantheon were not the 'best' if we considered the aim of great literature. However, I can appreciate them personally.

I suppose that I like more clear cut good vs evil stories. I don't like a TV show/ book/ story where the hero that we are supposed to root for, is as morally ambiguous as the villian that we are supposed to hate. It's just a personal preference, and I realize that it is a bit naive and idealistic, but I really prefer a hero that takes the moral high road. I think that LotR does that very well, people may mess up and fail miserably, but the true evil stays on one side. LotR and the Sil are very different animals, however.

Whereas LotR deals with men, Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbits, with the odd wizard, the Sil is Elf and Vala centered. 'Not like the race of men, are the immortal gods'. I can appreciate Tolkien's struggle to create a morally acceptable and consistent theology. He wanted to give life to another version of his faith, but wanted to keep it separate and unmingled, so as not of conflate the two. He wanted to be true to his own beliefs, while writing of the beliefs of others, and had an irresistible moral compass. I think that squire's comment on the union of the writer/reader inside of Tolkien is closest the truth. he wanted to wrote a storythat he would enjoy reading, and evaluated his writing by the critical measure of himself! We can only be hankful that he allowed himself to enjoy enough of the Silmarillion to fet it to where he did! Bad literature we might say, but great character.

Once Tolkien introduced the Valar as 'gods', he created a million problems for himself. He wanted to keep Eru as the ONE, but have the action on he side of the Valar. He wanted to divorce power from authority, if only indirectly. He wanted the sweep of the pagan epics, wih the colorful deities and their struggles, without the polytheism invoked. He was in he inexhorable cake eating situation. The race of the Ainu is also more removed from us than Elves, or any other free people. They are higher species, of more power and knowledge, but, alas, still imperfect. With great power comes the possibility for gigantic mistakes. They 'gods' then, as imperfects would need, by necessity to make these mistakes over the vast history of Arda, but still they retain their authority and power. I think that is what we dislike, these supremely powerful beings, who just give up. They don't even seem to try to do anything, and as the flawed being we know them to be, they don't even try to lash out in power to reassert their position. Instead they take an impossibly steep moral mountain, and vow to not interfere. They are either perfect or flawed, and Tolkien couldn't decide which, or how to reconcile it with his personal faith.


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 30 2013, 3:16pm

Post #8 of 75 (468 views)
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Great point Squire [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

Tolkien was fascinated by the idea of sub-creation, and thought deeply about it. But we don't have to, since we are not the sub-creators, but the recipients of the result. If Tolkien had loosened up and let go, the Silmarillion might have been as lively as the Lost Tales were, and as the Iliad and the Odyssey and the Eddas are. Not that the Silmarillion is entirely dull, but the 'gods' keep their distance in an odd and unsatisfying way; to my mind they are one of the weakest aspects of the entire project and I attribute that to Tolkien's own inability to separate his author role from his reader role.




I very much like how you have put this Squire. Within the sort of dual nature of the pantheon seems to be built in that measured sense of control, of perhaps hesitating in embracing or fully ascribing to the polytheistic, that limits the scope and fuller development of them as literary figures? One of the things about the Sil is certainly that 'distance' you describe. It leaves one wanting more 'life' from the pantheon - with Ulmo and perhaps Orome being the most fully fleshed of them - and as they were the more Arda-centered demigods, I wonder if their characterization came a bit easier to JRRT; a little less of the Mount Olympus and more of unearthing proto European, soil-based neo-mythical tales?

But I don't think he was really writing for anyone but himself when he created his gods and goddesses who contradictorily served an even greater One God - as evidenced by his confession in this letter about the awkwardness he felt in trying to write about a pagan pantheon that he as a believing Catholic could 'believe in.'

Very much why I posed the question - as I find his use of the pantheon interesting as a bit of the study of the author himself - that statement of, "-well, shall we say baldly..." in the Letter always seems a bit abashed? self conscious? when I read it.

Great to see you BTW. 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 30 2013, 3:25pm

Post #9 of 75 (466 views)
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Beautifully phrased Bombadil! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
It is this kind of playfulness which is extirpated from later versions of the mythology, making the dichotomy between Melkor and Manwe absolute and irreconcilable. Any shades moral ambiguity amongst the Valar are lost. I would attribute this to Tolkien's attempt 'have his cake and eat it', as it were: to revive something of the glory of the Pagan pantheon while retaining a strictly Christian moral aesthetic headed up by a grouchy, domineering and ultimately superfluous overlord - Eru. I don't think he ever succeeds in this and the confusion of moral systems is never resolved within the legendarium.




And like the Elves, having one's cake and eating it may be the author's temptation here!

I think there is a wavering balance between fully embracing the pantheon and its subcreative polytheism and keeping his own beliefs distant yet intact enough to 'pass down' to later generations - as I think he pictured the dovetailing of the legendarium by using the retreat of the Valar to leave myths and legends in place, ultimately with Eru at their pinnacle. Yet within the tales itself, as you point out, Eru remains a bit superfluous (excellent wording) and so removed as to be deus ex machine himself (ironic!) brought out to dispense divine gifts at opportune moments.

I agree, I don't think it is ever fully resolved; which is why it makes for insight into the author (pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...)

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 30 2013, 3:44pm

Post #10 of 75 (471 views)
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Races and perspectives [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To


Tolkien refers to different “races” in Middle Earth. That, presumably, means that they are all the same “species”. We think of race as a difference in geographical origin, physical characteristics, ethnicity, etc. But think of that in terms of the the “races” of ME. Was he saying, just by his word choice, that they are all of the same species? Elves, Dwarfs, Men all from a common ancestor, evolving into “races”. He tells us the story of how each came to be, so why pick the word “race”?
Two things come to mind - one is what Brethil has already mentioned - JRRT was trying to get at the legends of prehistory. He wanted to tell us “how we got here”. So all his beings inevitably remind us of Man. The origin stories of each Race in ME could be thought of as the evolution of each race, with the natural selection coming not from the pressure of each experimental new being in nature but of the experimentation of the Valar.


That's a great point about the use of the word 'races'...he states that Elves and Men are biologically one species...Dwarves are another matter. So I wonder then, if what he is getting at with the uniting term is the races = Children of God. In that sense it would remove them from the other 'critters' we have arising: the Orcs, the darker Maiar and subcreative spirits that descended into Arda (presumably creating such lovely things as giant spiders and dragons)?

It’s my opinion that he was referring to, with that quote about “mode of talking”, his intention in creating a pre-history for England. I think he still had that on his mind. He makes the distinction in the letter between his “elves and dwarfs” and those of the bedtime stories, fairy tales and legends of the time. Those representations are merely stories told to children - his are meant to be seen as a true prehistory of the race of Man. He wanted people reading his work to realize that when he referred to Elves and Dwarfs, he didn’t want them to be bogged down by preconceptions of Snow White’s dwarfs or Shakespeare’s elves. He was creating them anew and giving them qualities that would explain how we, as Man, came to be.

Absolutely - I do think that the 'legendary mode of talking' is that part of him that wanted *his* Elves and Dwarves to be quite different than the cartoonified, or the Gnomish ideal for small creatures in hedges (so to speak). I wonder too, of the point about the difference of the Elvish sensibilities in modes of talking are a sign of his duality while writing...as Bombadil said, having the cake and eating it too: one voice as the 'recorder' and reporter of legend, and the other voice the creator, the author?
The other is something more related to what I see as a thread of “truth” that he weaves through the stories - there is beauty, courage, intelligence and strength in all of us, each in varying degrees but present nonetheless. By creating beings that seem to have a commonality, he allows for different “races” to have more of one quality or a distinct deficit of another. He plays on these strengths and weaknesses to set up his conflict, but at all times, at least to me, he comes back to that common factor. We could all be Thorin, with the inherent love of riches, putting our lives on hold waiting for a time when everything was “as it should have been” all along. We could all be Bilbo - comfortable enough in our Hobbity life but with that little itch to do something more. We could all be one of the Elves, existing day-to-day but never really going anywhere. We relate to a dwarf or one of the elves because we see a little bit of us in them. And we can be warned or inspired because of that relation. The literary mode that the races can call to certain aspects of humanity. And I agree, in very different races, I suppose the overlap may still be there, in the sense of identifying with more than one group? Which I think may speak to his ability to draw representations of 'peoples' that feel quite real to us. They also have the ability I think to polarize the audience - with readers being able to identify strongly with one or another of the groups (as we see in the fandom itself.) Inspiring: how true Ioreth!


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 30 2013, 3:59pm

Post #11 of 75 (464 views)
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The problems with pantheons [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I would agree with what has been said. The instruments that he has employed are not perfect, far from it. The choices in creating his pantheon were not the 'best' if we considered the aim of great literature. However, I can appreciate them personally. Agreed Rem!


Once Tolkien introduced the Valar as 'gods', he created a million problems for himself. He wanted to keep Eru as the ONE, but have the action on he side of the Valar. He wanted to divorce power from authority, if only indirectly. He wanted the sweep of the pagan epics, wih the colorful deities and their struggles, without the polytheism invoked. He was in he inexhorable cake eating situation. The race of the Ainu is also more removed from us than Elves, or any other free people. They are higher species, of more power and knowledge, but, alas, still imperfect. With great power comes the possibility for gigantic mistakes. They 'gods' then, as imperfects would need, by necessity to make these mistakes over the vast history of Arda, but still they retain their authority and power. I think that is what we dislike, these supremely powerful beings, who just give up. They don't even seem to try to do anything, and as the flawed being we know them to be, they don't even try to lash out in power to reassert their position. Instead they take an impossibly steep moral mountain, and vow to not interfere. They are either perfect or flawed, and Tolkien couldn't decide which, or how to reconcile it with his personal faith. All great points above. I do see the incomplete reconciliation here, especially in the incidents when the Valar seem almost childlike and incapable of decisive action. The ancient polytheistic pantheons had elements of that too, but without a 'higher' and parental authority their actions are more complete (even when flawed) and within their character depths. Almost like dancing with versus without a net. The netless performance may reflect more peril, and may lend versmilitiude to choices made; whereas the all-knowing net perhaps restricts the cardinal choices and makes for a lack of true jeopardy? (And that having cake and eating it metaphor just never gets old does it?) Laugh


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!








Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Sep 30 2013, 6:29pm

Post #12 of 75 (449 views)
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I think it's good the Valar aren't allowed too much of the blanket [In reply to] Can't Post

Or else the lesser beings would be left with nothing but a corner. Perhaps we could have been told more about the deeds of the Valar before Elves and Men came... but afterwards? They should be left in their lofty aloofness, from where they can give sense of distant greatness and mysticism to the tales more close to mortal lands.

Also, I've never liked the pagan European gods... they're disappointing, because they're nothing but humans with more power. But the Valar function as a doorway to another reality, or more like they're objects brought from another reality, and whom the Elves can look and talk with about that great Other place where the great Other being dwells. And then the Elves in turn fulfill the same role for the mortals, by being objects brought from another time and place and mindset, and in their faces we see the light of that mysterious place.

But every word you say today
Gets twisted 'round some other way
And they'll hurt you if they think you've lied


Brethil
Half-elven


Sep 30 2013, 9:24pm

Post #13 of 75 (455 views)
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Valar and Otherness (and Hello Faenoriel!) [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Or else the lesser beings would be left with nothing but a corner. Perhaps we could have been told more about the deeds of the Valar before Elves and Men came... but afterwards? They should be left in their lofty aloofness, from where they can give sense of distant greatness and mysticism to the tales more close to mortal lands. Also, I've never liked the pagan European gods... they're disappointing, because they're nothing but humans with more power. But the Valar function as a doorway to another reality, or more like they're objects brought from another reality, and whom the Elves can look and talk with about that great Other place where the great Other being dwells. And then the Elves in turn fulfill the same role for the mortals, by being objects brought from another time and place and mindset, and in their faces we see the light of that mysterious place. Descending to Men in distance from Eru...fitting to the ultimate view of a rather distant Eru lost in time and myth. I like your equation of Elves:Men as Valar:Elves. The Elves were a flawed set of teachers - and on their turn so are the Valar. The link to the mysterious Other-ness being the minds of Manwe and Mandos...neither of which is sharing any of those mysteries any time soon.


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!








Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Oct 1 2013, 12:35am

Post #14 of 75 (431 views)
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Hi to you! [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not an expert on Roman-Catholicism, but the Eru-Valar-Eldar-Men link reminds me of people praying saints to act as mediators between them and God - as opposed to a direct connection of prayer between every individual human and God.

*waits for someone to correct her horrendously incorrect assumptions*

But every word you say today
Gets twisted 'round some other way
And they'll hurt you if they think you've lied


Brethil
Half-elven


Oct 1 2013, 1:00am

Post #15 of 75 (432 views)
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(*lights flaming torch*)... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I'm not an expert on Roman-Catholicism, but the Eru-Valar-Eldar-Men link reminds me of people praying saints to act as mediators between them and God - as opposed to a direct connection of prayer between every individual human and God.

*waits for someone to correct her horrendously incorrect assumptions*





Except of course you are perfectly right. The saints in Catholic doctrine (among others) are considered to immediately enter the presence of God upon death, and are therefore both removed from the living yet accessible to them in prayer. (All those years of catholic school: pays off.)

Indeed, exactly as you say, in very similar relationship of Arda, the Valar and Eru; with the dynamic of 'appealing' going from Arda to Eru. But not so much back the other direction; like silent saints the Valar don't pass much information or intent back the other direction. The function of faith in the metaphor...

(*puts out torch*) So we shan't be burning you this night Faenoriel. Maybe next time.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!








Lightfoot
Rivendell


Oct 1 2013, 2:01pm

Post #16 of 75 (420 views)
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The Valar as guardian angels (sort of) [In reply to] Can't Post

To me the Valar appeared almost as guardian angels, which as a Catholic would have been totally acceptable to Tolkien. In Catholic belief God created a race of purely spiritual beings before the creation of man. They were divided in to 9 different choirs and given different jobs in a sense. A guardian angel was given to each human with the responsibility of protecting that person from harm, assisting him in times of temptation, and helping him attain heaven. These beings were given special abilities if you will ( for instance they were invisible, practically could read your mind so as to help you, could travel anywhere instantaneously, were immortal, and plenty of other things too) So just how does this relate to the Valar? Well it would not disturb Tolkien's belief in a single supreme being if the Valar had been created by Eru just like the angels had been created by God and given their power directly from him. In a sense they would not be "gods" at all - just exceptionally powerful beings who were responsible for protecting/ guiding Middle Earth. I am pretty sure that to be classified as an god you are supposed to have no beginning ( if you did then somebody is more powerful than you are and so you probably aren't a god after all). Eru had the ability to supersede the Valar when necessary ( to preserve the world from imminent destruction or major catastrophe) and was still closely watching over their actions. The same concept applies to a Catholic belief in guardian angels.(Sort of like a grown up giving kids a responsibility and then watching them to see how they cope with it.)

Anyhow this is probably a whole lot of gibberish, but it makes sense to me...

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



Lightfoot
Rivendell


Oct 1 2013, 2:04pm

Post #17 of 75 (419 views)
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No need to correct [In reply to] Can't Post

You have it spot on! Although it might not hurt to add that people don't have to use the saints as mediators- they can if they want to or the can pray to God directly. Basically you have several different ways to appeal just to maximize your chances of success.

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



elostirion74
Rohan

Oct 1 2013, 7:50pm

Post #18 of 75 (401 views)
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I agree almost wholeheartedly.. [In reply to] Can't Post

with you, Fäenoriel! Once you´ve given much attention to the Valar/gods, there will be very little room for the lesser beings in the story and besides keeping the gods in the distance makes them more interesting. I also think Tolkien manages to find a very good balance between the gods and the lesser beings in his myth: in the early stories even up to the great migration of the Elves there´s plenty interesting stuff about several of the gods and also on their relation with their creator and the created world itself. After that the lesser beings take centre stage most of the time, which is only natural.

Unlike you I still find the pagan European Gods interesting at times, especially in some of the early mythic stories (about Prometheus for instance), but when all is said and done, it´s the destiny of the human heroes within the stories that provides most of the interest, not the contribution of the Gods.


elostirion74
Rohan

Oct 1 2013, 8:33pm

Post #19 of 75 (397 views)
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well [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree that the Valar should be taken as literary creations.

However I´m slightly confused by your seeming admiration for the treatment of the Norse and the Greek gods and gods who are very actively involved.

Is it for instance the gods and their functions and personalities/attributes that make the Iliad or the Oddysey interesting? Or is it mainly the fates of the human heroes within the stories and the particular creatures/dangers they encounter? Most of the time the Greek gods are just moving the odds perceptibly this way and that, interfering constantly in the story with simple motivations of revenge and jealousy. How interesting are these kind of properties in gods, when the same attributes can just as well be shared by any of the human heroes within the story?

The Norse gods are slightly different and can be quite interesting in themselves, but it´s worth noting that in the Norse myths there´s often hardly room for anyone else but the Gods and their biggest adversaries. The role that Men and other creatures play is often marginal.

Tolkien´s universe by comparison seems like a more diverse and balanced universe, where there´s room for specific stories and focus on selected gods, but where the lesser beings occupy most of the attention with the hint of the influence of other powers in the background. The fact that the gods keep their distance I attribute to Tolkien´s specific view on free will and a different view of the role of the lesser beings within the created world compared to Norse and Greek myth. It makes the stories less action-packed, but it makes the interplay between different forces much more interesting to investigate and much less obvious than when you have very active gods IMO.


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Oct 1 2013, 10:37pm

Post #20 of 75 (404 views)
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The pagan gods can be interesting [In reply to] Can't Post

but to me they don't really deliver their full potential. Perhaps it's because I'm used to associating religiously themed fiction as something with heavy weight social, political, ethical and philosophical discussion. But especially the Greek tales often come off more like the pop corn entertainment of the era, if not even the erotic fiction/outright porn... which they probably were, too. I'd just want more from deities and spirituality.

Surely there is lots of especially psychologically interesting elements in those stories. So perhaps I'm just not cultured enough to appreciate them... especially as my knowledge on the matter is limited.

Though I pledge my full love and loyalty for the story of Hades and Persephone. Evil

But every word you say today
Gets twisted 'round some other way
And they'll hurt you if they think you've lied

(This post was edited by Faenoriel on Oct 1 2013, 10:42pm)


Brethil
Half-elven


Oct 2 2013, 12:36am

Post #21 of 75 (385 views)
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Angelic metaphor [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
To me the Valar appeared almost as guardian angels, which as a Catholic would have been totally acceptable to Tolkien. In Catholic belief God created a race of purely spiritual beings before the creation of man. They were divided in to 9 different choirs and given different jobs in a sense. A guardian angel was given to each human with the responsibility of protecting that person from harm, assisting him in times of temptation, and helping him attain heaven. These beings were given special abilities if you will ( for instance they were invisible, practically could read your mind so as to help you, could travel anywhere instantaneously, were immortal, and plenty of other things too) So just how does this relate to the Valar? Well it would not disturb Tolkien's belief in a single supreme being if the Valar had been created by Eru just like the angels had been created by God and given their power directly from him. In a sense they would not be "gods" at all - just exceptionally powerful beings who were responsible for protecting/ guiding Middle Earth. I am pretty sure that to be classified as an god you are supposed to have no beginning ( if you did then somebody is more powerful than you are and so you probably aren't a god after all). Eru had the ability to supersede the Valar when necessary ( to preserve the world from imminent destruction or major catastrophe) and was still closely watching over their actions. The same concept applies to a Catholic belief in guardian angels.(Sort of like a grown up giving kids a responsibility and then watching them to see how they cope with it.)

Anyhow this is probably a whole lot of gibberish, but it makes sense to me...




Makes a lot of sense Lightfoot!

I think here you have worked out an excellent and very real-world solution to how to balance the role of the Valar and the Catholic faith of the author. So in this equation the preservation of monotheism is still quite intact, despite JRRT calling the Valar 'gods' (small letters!).

Their subcreative powers come directly from Eru and have their origins in Eru's song: all true. And the supersession - though it does not come into play often, in preserving free will - is obvious in the relationship when the Valar call upon Eru for help at the landing of the Numenoreans.

The ultimate power of Eru to grant exceptions too, fits in this schematic quite nicely. (Though as Bomabdil pointed out, always from a distance - maintaining the distinction between 'gods' and God.

He does at one point relate Morgoth to Satan in the sense of an early fall: the chief Angels in their ranks, so to speak.

I think this way of looking at the balancing between literary goals and faith may go quite a long way in clarifying perhaps what some of his process was, and 'who' the Valar might have been in his world view.

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


Oct 2 2013, 12:45am

Post #22 of 75 (447 views)
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Free will [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I agree that the Valar should be taken as literary creations.
However I´m slightly confused by your seeming admiration for the treatment of the Norse and the Greek gods and gods who are very actively involved.
Is it for instance the gods and their functions and personalities/attributes that make the Iliad or the Oddysey interesting? Or is it mainly the fates of the human heroes within the stories and the particular creatures/dangers they encounter? Most of the time the Greek gods are just moving the odds perceptibly this way and that, interfering constantly in the story with simple motivations of revenge and jealousy. How interesting are these kind of properties in gods, when the same attributes can just as well be shared by any of the human heroes within the story?
The Norse gods are slightly different and can be quite interesting in themselves, but it´s worth noting that in the Norse myths there´s often hardly room for anyone else but the Gods and their biggest adversaries. The role that Men and other creatures play is often marginal.
Tolkien´s universe by comparison seems like a more diverse and balanced universe, where there´s room for specific stories and focus on selected gods, but where the lesser beings occupy most of the attention with the hint of the influence of other powers in the background.
***The fact that the gods keep their distance I attribute to Tolkien´s specific view on free will and a different view of the role of the lesser beings within the created world compared to Norse and Greek myth. *** It makes the stories less action-packed, but it makes the interplay between different forces much more interesting to investigate and much less obvious than when you have very active gods IMO.




Very important concept there, the maintaining of free will and how, though Fate exists in a very macro-scale, on the micro-scale of the individual free will and choice must always exist.

Curious here Elostirion - do you possibly see the obvious presence of the Valar in the early First Age as a statement about the Elven-dominated Sil having a bit more fate about and less free will - with a change to more free will occurring with their withdrawal and the rise of Men later on - having to do with the fates of the races? Or simply a maturing of the world in more of a literary sense on JRRT's part?

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


Oct 2 2013, 12:11pm

Post #23 of 75 (367 views)
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Thanks for the approval! [In reply to] Can't Post

It made sense in my head but I was not sure that others would agree!

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



Brethil
Half-elven


Oct 2 2013, 12:31pm

Post #24 of 75 (363 views)
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Thanks for the insights! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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

Oct 2 2013, 7:20pm

Post #25 of 75 (363 views)
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I find the Valar utterly fascinating [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you for your question! I appreciate very much that you´re responding by asking questions :)

In the sense that Men are not subject to the music of the Ainur, which is "as fate to everything else", one might say that the more Men start to dominate the scene, the greater the space assigned to free will, or perhaps one could also call it "the x-factor". By this I refer to how it´s part of the general make-up of Eä that Men´s role in this world is actually somewhat of a mystery, even to the Valar.

Primarily, though, I see the obvious presence of the Valar in the early parts of the First Age as a statement about Tolkien´s interest in creation and sub-creation and his focus on the relations between the gods/angels and the created world. So much of the early parts of the Silmarillion relates to the original design for the world and its unfolding and the Valar´s part in securing that this design could be accomplished. It also relates much to their part in trying to understand and further what they deem is Eru´s purpose with the world, including the role of the Elves. Sometimes they succeed for a brief time, sometimes they retreat to think and sometimes they make seemingly flawed judgements based on the best of intentions.

Perhaps all of this sounds rather pretentious. All the same I find the Valar utterly fascinating, because of all the ideas and the philosophy that is involved. Consider for instance how Manwë and Ulmo understands their own creative kinship and how they both work to aid the Elves throughout the First Age, but in very different ways. Or consider Yavanna and her creation of the Two Trees and how Varda uses part of that creation to make new and brighter stars. The co-operation and interdependence between the Valar in their creative work makes them interesting compared to Gods who squabble and bicker and rarely ever see beyond their own narrow vision.







SmileSmile

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