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Flying Ships

Elskidor
Rohan

Nov 14 2013, 7:14pm

Post #1 of 12 (348 views)
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Flying Ships Can't Post

I was reading this little article here, and started to wonder why and where are all these flying wonders?

http://askmiddlearth.tumblr.com/post/46311910626/vingilot-and-flying-ships#permalink-notes


“they achieved only ships that would sail in the air of breath. And these ships, flying, came also to the lands of the new world."

I always thought Final Fantasy was the Airship creator, but it seems Tolkien had this in mind too. But if men created ships that could fly where were they in the third age? And if they figured out how to create contraptions like this, then one could imagine the other seemingly easier things that could have been created, and probably would have existed in the third age too.

Was this idea later changed and scrapped?


Elthir
Gondor

Nov 14 2013, 8:02pm

Post #2 of 12 (200 views)
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an idea flying out the window? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Was this idea later changed and scrapped?



I think so.

If my memory is correct here, the notion was never specifically 'rejected' -- but it was also an early-ish idea that never seemed to surface again in later [externally later] accounts.


Meneldor
Grey Havens


Nov 15 2013, 2:55am

Post #3 of 12 (164 views)
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I've also seen references [In reply to] Can't Post

to Numenorean ships that travelled the seas without sails or oars. My best guess is that JRRT borrowed those concepts from tales of a technologically advanced Atlantis.

I wonder if these ideas were conceived about the same time that he was writing about the mechanical troop carrier dragons at the siege of Gondolin.


They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.


Otaku-sempai
Half-elven


Nov 15 2013, 2:31pm

Post #4 of 12 (152 views)
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Moorcock''s 'Elric Saga' [In reply to] Can't Post

I seem to remember that fantasy writer Michael Moorcock also made use of the concept of magical ships or boats that coiuld sail on earth, air or water. I think that Elric had to summon and control air elementals in order to propel such a vessel.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Nov 15 2013, 2:38pm

Post #5 of 12 (134 views)
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Edgar Rice Burroughs did it too. [In reply to] Can't Post

His flying ships in his Barsoom series were a bit more technical sci-fi though.....

Call me Rem. Rembrethil is a lot to type!!


noWizardme
Grey Havens


Nov 17 2013, 11:29am

Post #6 of 12 (104 views)
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Oh you'll never get to heaven/ on a 747... [In reply to] Can't Post

Your reference says:

Quote
In volume 9 of the Histories of Middle Earth Tolkien says something interesting. Once the Valar sunk Middle Earth and Aman was removed from Arda, the Straight Road would require ships to lift from the curved surface of the world, right? Well, some men thought that by building flying ships they too could sail this Straight Road. But Tolkien says “they achieved only ships that would sail in the air of breath. And these ships, flying, came also to the lands of the new world." If this detail survived to the final version of Middle Earth, then I’m really not sure why we don’t see flying ships all over the place, unless the knowledge of how to build them faded over time.


I think a fuller version of the quote explains the problem. It is:

Quote
For upon the Straight Road only the gods could walk, and only the ships of the Elves could journey; for being straight that road passed through the air of breath and flight and rose above it, and traversed Ilmen in which no mortal flesh can endure; whereas the surface of the earth was bent, and bent were the seas that lay upon it, and bent also were the heavy airs that were above them. Yet it is said that even of those Numenoreans of old who had the straight vision there were some who did not comprehend this, and they were busy to contrive ships that should rise above the waters of the world and hold to the imagined seas. But they achieved only ships that would sail in the air of breath. And these ships, flying, came also to the lands of the new world, and to the East of the old world; and they reported that the world was round.
(Evernight, in a 2011 discussion of this :http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=362930#362930
My bolds, to show (as the Mythbusters day) "Thar's yer problem".


So I'm presuming that "the new world" is unclear writing - not too surprising in an unpublished note, of course! I think "new world" means Americas, Australia, New Zealand etc. or their equivalents, not that these ships reached Valinor.

Anything else would stand a whole pile of stuff on its head- during the First Age, after a squabble with some of the Elves (the Noldor), the Valar put up magical defences which, for example, foil ambassadors sent from Gondolin.
Earendil's vessel gets through, perhaps because he's got a Silmaril. And also because Tolkien really wants him to get through, and maybe because the Valar have had enough of the squabble too by then.
In the Second Age, the human ("men") mariners of Numenor are forbidden to sail to the utmost west, and when they do this anyway, the world is changed so that, as your reference says, conventional vessels would circumnavigate rather than get to Faerie.
The end of the Third Age has some unconventional vessels (such as the one on which Gandalf, Frodo, Elrond and Galadriel depart, and the one constructed by Legolas later). These do make it to Faerie but by highly unclear magical or miraculous means. It may be that you need the supernatural power of the Valar or Eru here, and it is way beyond yer common or garden level XXX wizard.
Parenthetically - if one was in a dinghy watching Frodo et al depart, I wonder what you see? Literally "flying"?



One can imagine some Gondorian aircraft circumnavigating early in the Third Age, and that the knowledge - like building Orthanc grade walls, for instance -was lost as Gondor declined.

Parenthetically again - the lost, more advanced past seems to be a common fantasy theme. I wonder why?

Or if you prefer, make aircraft post Third Age technology (there's a vague notion that the world of Middle-earth continues on to become our current world). So Captain Eowyn VI in her trusty Fourth Age Airship Spirit of Ithilien, if you will - but I'd assumed she'd fly west and discover the Middle-earth equivalent of America, not Tol Eressa. Just check out her long-suffering "the armchair navigators I have to deal with..." look when I suggested it:
http://emporioefikz.tumblr.com/...-sixailesphotography Says it all, really.

But there's a convincing argument (in that 2011 discussion) that this is all beside the point in an important way:

Quote
Tolkien was trying to project a pre-industrial mythology, from the perspective of an industrial host culture (his, that is). He toyed again and again with the limits of technology that would have been available to supernatural divine beings. See, for instance, his early drafts on the siege of Gondolin with its dragon-tanks; or his first conceptions of Numenor with long-range artillery and dreadnoughts! Each time he pulled back, rejecting the "useful" in favor of the "beautiful" or more mundanely, the "traditional".

From his point of view, we could ask why Zeus did not develop his thunderbolts as hand-held weapons that all the Gods of Olympus could wield. The answer is, that there is no answer - such a utilitarian, technological, response was impossible within the thought of ancient Hellas. Although an equivalent response was within Tolkien's thought, he deliberately blocked it so he could speak to what he thought was one of the universal demands of myth - that it transcend worldly devices.

Vingilot, of course, may not be thought of as simply a ship that can fly, any more than Apollo's sun-chariot was actually pulled by flying horses. Vingilor is a metaphor for a heavenly body, inexplicable to mortals. When Earendil returns to the earthly airs in his "ship" to combat Ancalagon, it is notable that when the dragon falls, he destroys an entire mountain range - that is not a mere flying lizard and by association, Vingilot was also not just the primitive version of a fighter-bomber!

As far as the Valar's military needs are concerned - why would they need aerial ships to fly, drop bombs, and withdraw from battle? If I remember, they managed to destroy or reshape an entire continent without any particular tools besides their own divine powers.
Squire, http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=362905#362905


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!"


Demosthenes
Sr. Staff


Nov 17 2013, 2:17pm

Post #7 of 12 (123 views)
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That's correct [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I seem to remember that fantasy writer Michael Moorcock also made use of the concept of magical ships or boats that coiuld sail on earth, air or water. I think that Elric had to summon and control air elementals in order to propel such a vessel.


Elric of Melnibone` (published 1972) featured a ship that could sail on land and water and which was fought over by the elemental god of the sea, Straasha, and the elemental god of the earth, Grome.

The Chronicles of Corum also feature flying ships (though more a creation of advanced technology than of magic), and I guess you could extend it to Hawkmoon as well. But then the whole thing is inter-related (Eternal Champion business and all that).

TheOneRing.net Senior Staff
IRC Admin and Hall of Fire moderator


squire
Valinor


Nov 17 2013, 3:38pm

Post #8 of 12 (116 views)
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"If one was in a dinghy watching Frodo et al. depart, I wonder what you see?" [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien answered this interesting question in one of the last of his published letters:
The 'immortals' who were permitted to leave Middle-earth and seek Aman – the undying lands of Valinor and Eressëa, an island assigned to the Eldar – set sail in ships specially made and hallowed for this voyage, and steered due West towards the ancient site of these lands. They only set out after sundown; but if any keen-eyed observer from that shore had watched one of these ships he might have seen that it never became hull-down but dwindled only by distance until it vanished in the twilight: it followed the straight road to the true West and not the bent road of the earth's surface. As it vanished it left the physical world. There was no return. The Elves who took this road and those few 'mortals' who by special grace went with them, had abandoned the 'History of the world' and could play no further part in it.- JRRT, Letter 325, July 1971. (bold by squire)

Elsewhere, though I cannot find it just now, he writes a remarkable description of the view from one such ship (whether Frodo's or anothers I can't remember): something about looking down and seeing the seas in which the ship sails becoming transparent. Through the clear waters the passenger sees the actual world's ocean, further and further below, curving away to the west while the ship continues to sail "straight" into heaven and on towards Elvenhome. It's a remarkably literal interpretation of his long-held idea that there is a "straight road" to heaven that simply ignores the curvature of the globe. It illustrates nicely one of Tolkien's characteristic compromises between the more "primitive" cosmologies of Man (and Elf) whereby the world is a flat surface and his own inescapably modern knowledge of the physics and geometry of the Galilean universe.

I think this latter passage might be in HoME V, "The Lost Road and Other Writings", where Tolkien's 1930s ideas about what would become the Numenor myth are first fully developed. But it could be in HoME IX, "Sauron Defeated", which picks up the same themes in Tolkien's postwar (and post LotR) exploration of Numenor via "The Notion-Club Papers".



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.

(This post was edited by squire on Nov 17 2013, 3:47pm)


noWizardme
Grey Havens


Nov 17 2013, 6:11pm

Post #9 of 12 (102 views)
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So an observer in a pursuit vessel would indeed seem to see the the elven ship rise up out of the water on a shallow trajectory and fly away [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Tolkien answered this interesting question in one of the last of his published letters:
The 'immortals' who were permitted to leave Middle-earth and seek Aman – the undying lands of Valinor and Eressëa, an island assigned to the Eldar – set sail in ships specially made and hallowed for this voyage, and steered due West towards the ancient site of these lands. They only set out after sundown; but if any keen-eyed observer from that shore had watched one of these ships he might have seen that it never became hull-down but dwindled only by distance until it vanished in the twilight: it followed the straight road to the true West and not the bent road of the earth's surface. As it vanished it left the physical world. There was no return. The Elves who took this road and those few 'mortals' who by special grace went with them, had abandoned the 'History of the world' and could play no further part in it.- JRRT, Letter 325, July 1971. (bold by squire)

Elsewhere, though I cannot find it just now, he writes a remarkable description of the view from one such ship (whether Frodo's or anothers I can't remember): something about looking down and seeing the seas in which the ship sails becoming transparent. Through the clear waters the passenger sees the actual world's ocean, further and further below, curving away to the west while the ship continues to sail "straight" into heaven and on towards Elvenhome. It's a remarkably literal interpretation of his long-held idea that there is a "straight road" to heaven that simply ignores the curvature of the globe. It illustrates nicely one of Tolkien's characteristic compromises between the more "primitive" cosmologies of Man (and Elf) whereby the world is a flat surface and his own inescapably modern knowledge of the physics and geometry of the Galilean universe.

I think this latter passage might be in HoME V, "The Lost Road and Other Writings", where Tolkien's 1930s ideas about what would become the Numenor myth are first fully developed. But it could be in HoME IX, "Sauron Defeated", which picks up the same themes in Tolkien's postwar (and post LotR) exploration of Numenor via "The Notion-Club Papers".


Now stuck inside the quotes box with you, I'll add: Many thanks for posting that, Squire. So an observer in a pursuit vessel would indeed seem to see the the elven ship rise up out of the water on a shallow trajectory and fly away (we in the pursuit ship are following the curvature of the Earth, they are not).


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!"

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Nov 17 2013, 6:12pm)


squire
Valinor


Nov 17 2013, 7:24pm

Post #10 of 12 (99 views)
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Probably not [In reply to] Can't Post

Because it would be dark out! "They only set out after sundown". That's why magicians perform in front of a black drape, you know! Now you see it -- now you don't.

This is one of things I dislike about the brilliantly lit sunset scene in the last of the New Line films - it goes against Tolkien's own sure instincts for how this kind of thing needs to be played:
...the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew, and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth; and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore glimmered and was lost. ... But to Sam the evening deepened to darkness as he stood at the Haven; and as he looked at the grey sea he saw only a shadow on the waters that was soon lost in the West. There still he stood far into the night, hearing only the sigh and murmur of the waves on the shores of Middle-earth... - LotR VI.9

More generally, although we can imagine a scenario of a mortal trying to follow the Elves to the West and observing the magical transition along the Straight Road (as could Tolkien, if he could imagine a passenger looking back down), I can't imagine who in Middle-earth would have the ability/courage/cojones to "pursue" a "specially made and hallowed" elven ship. To use a Britishism of Tolkien's day, such a thing was just not done.



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.


noWizardme
Grey Havens


Nov 17 2013, 8:43pm

Post #11 of 12 (82 views)
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But what if the pursuit ship has searchlights … ( in a Ian Holm/ Bilbo voice )" oh, I suppose you're right" [In reply to] Can't Post

I suppose you're right Smile
Scientists, you see: get +rudely+ focused on the science…

Or alternatively (and also in an Ian Holm as Bilbo voice) you could say "yes, but…that's not the point"
That would be right too …and then I could ask you how The Gaffer's home brew was, anyway?

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!"


FarFromHome
Valinor


Nov 18 2013, 1:04pm

Post #12 of 12 (83 views)
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Sticklebacks! Where is that boat? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm sure squire's right. Trying to use all your newfangled modern equipment wouldn't help. Even if it wasn't dark, there are plenty of mists and fogs at sea. And a strategically placed grey rain-curtain would be sure to get in front of your searchlight and reflect all the light back at you. If not, and you did keep a bead on the ship, most likely it wouldn't take the Straight Road after all - you'd have "broken" the effect by trying to find out how it was done (to paraphrase Gandalf's warning to Saruman).

Then at some later moment, when you'd stopped looking... it could still happen! You have to take myths on faith in the end.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings


 
 

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