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Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin, part 4: The Gates of Gondolin:
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Brethil
Half-elven


Dec 23 2013, 1:27am

Post #1 of 53 (560 views)
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Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin, part 4: The Gates of Gondolin: Can't Post

Apologies for the lateness, I was unavoidably and unhappily detained.

I want to open with a quote that I love from this section, of Tuor seeing Gondolin, nestled in the snow: "And so entranced was he that for long he could look at nothing else; for he saw before him at last the vision of his desire out of dreams of longing."



** As they progress through the gates, it appears like they travel through time, and towards the pinnacle of creation - (with perhaps one exception).... from wood and nails to the Golden Gate and the Diamond crown set upon it.
What are the some of the metaphors you see here in this progression, in the journey from Wood to Gold?
The notes suggest a more biological and tree oriented stepping up versus the created Gates. Why do you think this was not utilized? Which do you prefer and why?
Similarities between Minas Tirith and Gondolin? What other images strike you?
And the potential exception to the progression in the Gates: Maeglin's Gate, the Gate of Steel, wrought after he returns from the bloody Nirnaeth Arnoediad. It is quite different thematically than the rest: a later addition as well, demoting the Golden Gate to penultimate. How does it reflect on Maeglin, eventually the betrayer of Gondolin, that this gate was his creation:
'No wall stood there, but on either hand were two round towers of great height, many-windowed, tapering in seven storeys to a turret of bright steel, and between the towers there stood a mighty fence of steel that rusted not, but glittered cold and white. Seven great pillars of steel were there, tall with the height and girth of strong young trees, but ending in bitter spikes that rose to the sharpness of a needle; and between the pillars were seven cross-bars of steel, and in each space seven times seven rods of steel upright, with the heads like the broad blades of spears. But in the centre, above the midmost pillar and the greatest, was raised a mighty image of the king-helm of Turgon, the croen of the Hidden Kingdon, set about with diamonds.'
And before the Nirnaeth the Golden Gate, with Laurelin as its symbol, was the last gate...what a contrast between them. A symbol as well of the change wrought by that conflict, far-reaching in so many ways?





'Speak not ill-boding! If the messenger of the Lord of the Waters go by that door, then all those who dwell here will follow him. Lord of the Fountains, hinder not the messenger of the Lord of the Waters!'

Then Voronwe and all who stood near looked again in wonder at Tuor, marvelling at his words and voice. And to Voronwe it seemed as if he heard a great voice, but as of one who called from afar off. But to Tuor it seemed he listened to himself speaking, as if another spoke with his mouth.
Not the first instance of the use of the voice: (examples here) but perhaps one of the clearest in intention. Is the transparency of the device due to the tone and antiquity of the Sil and the close presence of Ulmo, or do you feel that it more reflects an evolution in the way JRRT portrayed the proximity of the divine throughout the later works?


** Here we also get a glimpse of Ecthelion, transfixed by Tuor's cloak. Another option, as stated in notes, was for the cloak to disappear once the message was delivered...this cloak also seemed to hide Tuor and Voronwe. A forerunner of the cloaks of Lorien, which serve Frodo and Sam: in a purely literary sense of an early idea, or do you think a more literal sense, as something perhaps learned by the Elves of Lorien from Ulmo?



** In the notes we read the the uilos of the Silver Gate are the same flowers as the simbelmyne that the Rohirrim grow on the graves of their fallen. So the tradition the Men of Rohan hold dear was an older tradition in Gondolin. This strikes me as a herald of that timeless, united history of Middle-earth. Thoughts?



** Now that they have arrived, what are your general thoughts about the journey of Elf and Man, Voronwe and Tuor? Is it similar or different to other journeys JRRT writes about? I have never felt somehow that Voronwe gets the appreciation he deserves for both acceeding to take Tuor, and the hardships they faced. What are your thoughts?


Have an idea relating to the world of JRR Tolkien that you would like to write about? If so, the Third TORn Amateur Symposium will be running in the Reading Room in March, 2014. We hope to see you there!





nandorin elf
Bree

Dec 23 2013, 7:16pm

Post #2 of 53 (386 views)
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Some answers [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, I've never posted in the Reading Room before so I hope I'm doing this right. Here goes...
Tuor's is probably my favorite story from the Sil. I love how his journey is expanded on in the UT especially passing through the gates.
As the gates get more and more ornate, it's like the outer "mundane" world is falling away and Tuor is entering another world where the past still lives. It reminds me of Sam's reaction to Lothlorien. I like the build-up the way it is.
Good catch on Maeglin's Gate replacing the Golden Gate. Turgon's crown taking the place of Laurelin seems like a physical representation of the changes in Turgon. He used to listen to Ulmo but now he listens only to those who tell him what he wants to hear. He has set himself up as the ultimate object of reverence. I know it's called Maeglin's Gate but I think Turgon approved of it whole-heartedly.
I like the mention of simbelmyne. It's one of those little details that adds authenticity to Middle-earth.
I, for one, love Voronwe. He risks his life by agreeing to lead Tuor when all he wants is a quiet life far from the perils of the north. I like to think he survived the fall of Gondolin. Then, again, I usually like the sidekicks better than the heroes. I do think their friendship is an interesting contrast to Turin and Beleg or Gwindor. Unlike his cousin, Turin refuses to take the advice of his friends to their mutual destruction.
Thanks for some great questions, Brethil. Smile


Brethil
Half-elven


Dec 23 2013, 11:04pm

Post #3 of 53 (366 views)
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Nice to see you Nadorin Elf! [In reply to] Can't Post


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Well, I've never posted in the Reading Room before so I hope I'm doing this right. Yes you are! Glad you came in to post!
Tuor's is probably my favorite story from the Sil. I love how his journey is expanded on in the UT especially passing through the gates.
As the gates get more and more ornate, it's like the outer "mundane" world is falling away and Tuor is entering another world where the past still lives. It reminds me of Sam's reaction to Lothlorien. I like the build-up the way it is.
I like it too, one reason I was happy to take this section. Your description is great and brings out the contrast from what is more primitive to more ornate, the closer one gets to the real ancientness of Middle-earth in the rise of the Elven culture and their rich symbols. And it gives a real sense of the *age* of the Elves, in the way each gate represents an age to them and they have such time and wide scope of thought to make gates - even gates - have so much meaning.

Good catch on Maeglin's Gate replacing the Golden Gate. Turgon's crown taking the place of Laurelin seems like a physical representation of the changes in Turgon. He used to listen to Ulmo but now he listens only to those who tell him what he wants to hear. He has set himself up as the ultimate object of reverence. I know it's called Maeglin's Gate but I think Turgon approved of it whole-heartedly. Another great point Nandorin - and we see here the worry of Ulmo, that this creation will be too loved and valued greater than life, which perhaps we can see as Laurelin - if Turgon did approve such a creation. Which makes perfect sense that he did...I have every faith that in this jewel of his heart he would have overseen every detail. What a shift it marks if so, that out of fear of the loss of Gondolin he would supplant Laurelin, and cold hard merciless defense becomes the ultimate gate.


I like the mention of simbelmyne. It's one of those little details that adds authenticity to Middle-earth. I know - that layering that we see as readers, yet the races and characters may not even know. It lends an air of antiquity to LOTR when it is mentioned doesn't it? It was many years of reading all the works for me to sort of integrate those little details in the historical sequence, I think because I read LOTR first and in such detail (repeated detail) that mentally I had to make room for the ideas in Sil and UT that are so much older, chronologically.


I, for one, love Voronwe. He risks his life by agreeing to lead Tuor when all he wants is a quiet life far from the perils of the north. I like to think he survived the fall of Gondolin. Then, again, I usually like the sidekicks better than the heroes. I do think their friendship is an interesting contrast to Turin and Beleg or Gwindor. Unlike his cousin, Turin refuses to take the advice of his friends to their mutual destruction. Especially in JJRT's work, the sidekicks make the heroes possible in so many ways - that idea I think so important to him, that without the mundane and small the high and noble cannot exist. True that the Elven companions if these cousins are both so worthy, yet the relationships take such different turns based on what the Men choose. I too feel another contrast between the cousins here, even though Turin might have had such an inner and physical heroic nature his trip with Voronwe may not have ended very well....

Thanks for some great questions, Brethil. Smile Thanks back Nandorin Elf! So pleased you are enjoying it!


Have an idea relating to the world of JRR Tolkien that you would like to write about? If so, the Third TORn Amateur Symposium will be running in the Reading Room in March, 2014. We hope to see you there!





Mikah
Lorien

Dec 24 2013, 4:47am

Post #4 of 53 (386 views)
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My perception of Tolkien imagery... [In reply to] Can't Post

So I thought for a bit regarding your question of the symbolism of the Gates of Gondolin. The progression on the gates is most interesting:: Wood, Stone, Bronze, Iron, Silver, Gold, and finally Maeglin's Steel gate. I notice the advancement of the gates from primitive to more complex. I relate this as symbolism of advancement and achievement. As the work and craftsmanship progresses I notice a movement from the more primal in nature to the more refined. I find the gates to be especially emblematic in regards to the Golden Gate being usurped by the Steel Gate. In lore and literature Gold often represents power, prestige, kingship, and achievement. We notice here that the Steel Gate supercedes the Gold Gate. Steel oftentimes represents aggression and inflexibility. Steel is a metal wrought for war. I believe that this is a representation of Turgon's attitude after Nirnaeth Arnoediad. I believe that he now truly understands the threat that he has hidden himself from.

I find it interesting that it was indeed Maeglin who conceived this design. It would not be inappropriate to apply the meaning of Steel, the aggression and inflexibility that it often represents, to Maeglin himself. These are definitely adjectives that could be used to describe him. A gate constructed by the son of the greatest blacksmith in Middle-Earth would be imposing indeed. I personally believe that with the construction of Gondolin, the only way it could possibly fall would be through treachery. Interesting that it was Maeglin who would cause this downfall, isn't it?

Now is it possible I am reading too much into this? You betcha! These are just my thoughts....

I am so much in agreement regarding Voronwe. He is completely under-rated. I have always thought that Gwindor was too. Ah! Another similarity between Tuor and his cousin! Sheesh will they ever end? They both have under-rated side-kicks! Oops, back to the question. You have to admire not only Voronwe's courage, but his loyalty to both Turgon and Ulmo. He agrees to this venture when he knows that the road will be hard and the outcome most uncertain.


cats16
Valinor


Dec 24 2013, 5:37am

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Through the gates [In reply to] Can't Post

Mikah wonderfully said what I was about to attempt, in regards to the symbolism of the gates. The Steel Gate seems very cold and disheartening, in a way. The word 'tower' is used multiple times in this section, although it feels more akin to the description of the Towers of the Teeth at the Black Gate. They are imposing, and give off a much different vibe than the first six Gates. Very interesting, indeed, that Maeglin is the one who leads to the downfall of the Hidden City.

Truthfully, I have a somewhat difficult time picturing the Gates leading toward the city in my mind. Minas Tirith comes to mind, definitely, but this seems so much bigger and spread out. After the 4th/5th gate (somewhere in there), it is mentioned that the slope became quite steep. Other than that, I don't recall any notable mentions of the changing land (there are a few minor ones, but nothing that aids in creating a fuller mental image). Perhaps this lack of imagery does make the place seem bigger than, say, Minas Tirth. Just a thought, however.

The note on uilos is so sweet. It really does make Middle-earth come alive in a beautiful way. I love how something so small and (to the narrative) insignificant connects the lands of Beleriand to eastern ME in later Ages. I really cannot wait to re-read LOTR again after reading UT, Sil, etc. So many references to the ancient days will have much more meaning; and, I'll know to connect something as small as simbelmyne in Rohan to uilos seen by Tuor entering Gondolin. So beautiful.

The trust between Voronwe and Tuor really fascinates me. Voronwe risks his life, and brings a Man to the Hidden Realm, not knowing with absolute certainty that it will end well. For Tuor, it's the trust that Voronwe will not only lead him to Turgon, but do so quickly, quietly, and in a way that they live to tell the tale. Also, I think this journey is a testament to the manner in which Ulmo is revered by those in Beleriand. Both Voronwe and Tuor (as well as Elemmakil and Ecthelion) respect and trust the will of Ulmo immensely (and without question), carrying out his plan for aiding the Noldor against Morgoth. One does not second guess the Lord of Waters. Tongue

We could (and will) say that each of the Unfinished Tales should've been finished; but, I think this one really would have been a treasure had it been completed. CT doesn't seem to have any guess as to why his father never came back to it. Ah, well. I'll be saying the same about The Mariner's Wife without a doubt.Wink


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Dec 24 2013, 5:56am

Post #6 of 53 (374 views)
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A few thoughts (more later, after sleep) [In reply to] Can't Post

I just love this part of the tale! Shame it wasn't finished.... My favourite parts would have to be the confrontation of Ecthelion and Tuor. 'Lord of the Fountains!! Hinder it the messenger of the Lord of the Waters!!' Chills!!' The messenger of the LotW trumped the LotF, just how powerful is Ulmo?',This question begs me to ask.

The ascent is another favourite part of mine. The ascent of materials is interesting. The walls are all similar,IIRC, just the gates are different. I can't imagine a wood wall any more than a solid gold one, but I could be wrong. The ascent must have been breath taking, and calculated to awe any visitors. I like the ideas ofmleacing the world behind, as that was what Gondolin was about, recalling Tuna and Valinor. The ascending grades seem to become more and more rare, less earthbound, and more refined. I wonder what similarity between the original city in Aman and the copy was? Was it to divide social strata, or lift one out of the mundane to the presence of the gods?

The replacement of the last gate would seem poetic. No longer gold and sigiled by Laurelin, it is headed by steel and man. It seeks to fence out danger, but seems to fence in the occupants in a net. Cut off from the gold enlightenment, they are away from the good counsel that is without. Even when they break free to the Nirneath, they return and brood in a steel cage. Tuor had to break through hat isolative barrier, and I can sense a chill in the air as he passes the new gate to see Turgon, the atmosphere is different, and slightly poisonous. Evil had been breeding in the shadows here, waiting for the right time to sprout.

The name of the last wall is suggestive. Maeglin's wall. The last line, the key to the city's heart. He though he had it, and lusted for Idril, but he was wrong. Though he did betray the city, he did not possess it, just a small part, and it was undermined(literally!!).

Call me Rem, and remember, not all who ramble are lost...Uh...where was I?


Mikah
Lorien

Dec 24 2013, 2:41pm

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Maeglin's Wall [In reply to] Can't Post

I too had difficulty picturing a couple of the gates. I did an internet search to see artist's interpretation of the gates, especially the Stone and Steel gates. The interesting thing regarding the Steel gate is that there are various depictions of the gate, but the one thing they all have in common is how cold and imposing this gate was. In short, these artists all saw the same exact traits in this gate that you do, Cats. In direct contrast to the Gold Gate this one is completely impersonal, lacking any warmth. I hate to say it, but with the many towers as you mention, it almost reminds me of a prison and it borders on the disturbing.

This is truly magnificent imagery and I too wish it would have been finished.


(This post was edited by Mikah on Dec 24 2013, 2:45pm)


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Dec 24 2013, 5:14pm

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More thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post

I notice that Tuor doesn't speak until Voronw defends him. He really is more active and important than I gave him credit for on my first read. It really shows he is more than a plot device to get Tuor to Gondolin. He is a good character in his own right, and a support to Tuor. Funny how the heroes never go solo. They always have a 'Sam' to lean on.

The description on the gate guards is very nice. As one who appreciates armor, heraldry, and martial uniform, I like it a lot. The beauty of martial prowess. I may be more like a Boromir here than Faramir, but they do make a pretty sight.

Ah we have come to the end, too soon. If one story was to be finished, I might pick this one. The tale is so epic, and Gondolin merely a beautiful reflection in song. I finditinteresting that the place of the Fountain was to be described. This is the Fountain that was to be formed by Luthien's tears. How does this connexion to Beren and mortals influence Ecthelion?

Call me Rem, and remember, not all who ramble are lost...Uh...where was I?


Brethil
Half-elven


Dec 24 2013, 7:10pm

Post #9 of 53 (344 views)
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Gate thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
So I thought for a bit regarding your question of the symbolism of the Gates of Gondolin. The progression on the gates is most interesting:: Wood, Stone, Bronze, Iron, Silver, Gold, and finally Maeglin's Steel gate. I notice the advancement of the gates from primitive to more complex. I relate this as symbolism of advancement and achievement. As the work and craftsmanship progresses I notice a movement from the more primal in nature to the more refined. I find the gates to be especially emblematic in regards to the Golden Gate being usurped by the Steel Gate. In lore and literature Gold often represents power, prestige, kingship, and achievement. We notice here that the Steel Gate supercedes the Gold Gate. Steel oftentimes represents aggression and inflexibility. Steel is a metal wrought for war. I believe that this is a representation of Turgon's attitude after Nirnaeth Arnoediad. I believe that he now truly understands the threat that he has hidden himself from.
I find it interesting that it was indeed Maeglin who conceived this design. It would not be inappropriate to apply the meaning of Steel, the aggression and inflexibility that it often represents, to Maeglin himself. These are definitely adjectives that could be used to describe him. A gate constructed by the son of the greatest blacksmith in Middle-Earth would be imposing indeed. I personally believe that with the construction of Gondolin, the only way it could possibly fall would be through treachery. Interesting that it was Maeglin who would cause this downfall, isn't it?

Now is it possible I am reading too much into this? You betcha! These are just my thoughts....

Reading in too much?! Not possible! Wink
I liked too the way that JRRT expressed the inflexibility of the new gate - he writes 'steel' over and over, stressing that point so many times, and uses the description 'cold' as well, in a way that the other gates are not described as. And the contrast of the warm gold of Laurelin and the icy white, pointed steel...compelling. And it strikes me too that this gate is the only gate meant to cause harm, to tear and impale: the others are barricades but have no integral harm.
I agree too Mikah, great point about the son of one of the greatest Elven smiths - the hand of Eol still in the mix. Like the hand of Feanor as well, still around in Beleriand.
I am so much in agreement regarding Voronwe. He is completely under-rated. I have always thought that Gwindor was too. Ah! Another similarity between Tuor and his cousin! Sheesh will they ever end? They both have under-rated side-kicks! Oops, back to the question. You have to admire not only Voronwe's courage, but his loyalty to both Turgon and Ulmo. He agrees to this venture when he knows that the road will be hard and the outcome most uncertain. Yes, we need a Voronwe appreciation thread!!!! Cool


Have an idea relating to the world of JRR Tolkien that you would like to write about? If so, the Third TORn Amateur Symposium will be running in the Reading Room in March, 2014. We hope to see you there!





Brethil
Half-elven


Dec 24 2013, 7:19pm

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Notes on Gates and layers... [In reply to] Can't Post


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Mikah wonderfully said what I was about to attempt, in regards to the symbolism of the gates. The Steel Gate seems very cold and disheartening, in a way. The word 'tower' is used multiple times in this section, although it feels more akin to the description of the Towers of the Teeth at the Black Gate. They are imposing, and give off a much different vibe than the first six Gates. Very interesting, indeed, that Maeglin is the one who leads to the downfall of the Hidden City.
Yes, the tower image plus the steely description really gives that watchtower feel doesn't it? Plus I note his seven-x-seven schematic in the layering of the bars. The reuse of the seven number, Biblically symbolic of perfection...but in this rather false idol a very intriguing use. I wonder if this makes sense, but I tend to see that here as JRRT's assessment maybe, of the gate and its folly - that against the powers of darkness, you think 'perfect' steel will save you? And as it is the seventh gate, even more so, that they built into a false sense of security?
Truthfully, I have a somewhat difficult time picturing the Gates leading toward the city in my mind. Minas Tirith comes to mind, definitely, but this seems so much bigger and spread out. After the 4th/5th gate (somewhere in there), it is mentioned that the slope became quite steep. Other than that, I don't recall any notable mentions of the changing land (there are a few minor ones, but nothing that aids in creating a fuller mental image). Perhaps this lack of imagery does make the place seem bigger than, say, Minas Tirth. Just a thought, however. How much do you think Minas Tirith (seven layers...just saying) may have been influenced by Gondolin and its legacy?

The note on uilos is so sweet. It really does make Middle-earth come alive in a beautiful way. I love how something so small and (to the narrative) insignificant connects the lands of Beleriand to eastern ME in later Ages. I really cannot wait to re-read LOTR again after reading UT, Sil, etc. So many references to the ancient days will have much more meaning; and, I'll know to connect something as small as simbelmyne in Rohan to uilos seen by Tuor entering Gondolin. So beautiful. Exactly how I felt Cats when I reread that part!!!!

The trust between Voronwe and Tuor really fascinates me. Voronwe risks his life, and brings a Man to the Hidden Realm, not knowing with absolute certainty that it will end well. For Tuor, it's the trust that Voronwe will not only lead him to Turgon, but do so quickly, quietly, and in a way that they live to tell the tale. Also, I think this journey is a testament to the manner in which Ulmo is revered by those in Beleriand. Both Voronwe and Tuor (as well as Elemmakil and Ecthelion) respect and trust the will of Ulmo immensely (and without question), carrying out his plan for aiding the Noldor against Morgoth. One does not second guess the Lord of Waters. Tongue Wow great point here, about how this journey underscores the importance of Ulmo, especially in the mind of the Elf.

We could (and will) say that each of the Unfinished Tales should've been finished; but, I think this one really would have been a treasure had it been completed. CT doesn't seem to have any guess as to why his father never came back to it. Ah, well. I'll be saying the same about The Mariner's Wife without a doubt.Wink Yes we will...Sly


Have an idea relating to the world of JRR Tolkien that you would like to write about? If so, the Third TORn Amateur Symposium will be running in the Reading Room in March, 2014. We hope to see you there!





Brethil
Half-elven


Dec 24 2013, 7:58pm

Post #11 of 53 (337 views)
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Hills and steps... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I just love this part of the tale! Shame it wasn't finished.... My favourite parts would have to be the confrontation of Ecthelion and Tuor. 'Lord of the Fountains!! Hinder it the messenger of the Lord of the Waters!!' Chills!!' The messenger of the LotW trumped the LotF, just how powerful is Ulmo?',This question begs me to ask. So true and for those of us many Ulmocentric readers (as Plurmo rightly puts it) it really resonates doesn't it? Of course the water courses througnb the fountains, so their connection is there ... is that why Ecthelion can see the images in the cloak I wonder?

The ascent is another favourite part of mine. The ascent of materials is interesting. The walls are all similar,IIRC, just the gates are different. I can't imagine a wood wall any more than a solid gold one, but I could be wrong. The ascent must have been breath taking, and calculated to awe any visitors. I like the ideas ofmleacing the world behind, as that was what Gondolin was about, recalling Tuna and Valinor. The ascending grades seem to become more and more rare, less earthbound, and more refined. I wonder what similarity between the original city in Aman and the copy was? Was it to divide social strata, or lift one out of the mundane to the presence of the gods? Absolutely true on the progression, and as well as materials it speaks to me of 'time'. Both in the eras of the gates materials and the sense of having that much time, to devote to an entry and a gateway...to tell a story with the really most utilitarian of things and make it legendary. Great question, as to how similar they might have been. Tuna is described as being on the green hill, so I assume the layers and steps came to them naturally. He built Nevrast that way too, with layers and steps. So my guess is you are right, and have picked on up the similarities between the places in the construction of the Ardaic age.

The replacement of the last gate would seem poetic. No longer gold and sigiled by Laurelin, it is headed by steel and man. It seeks to fence out danger, but seems to fence in the occupants in a net. Cut off from the gold enlightenment, they are away from the good counsel that is without. Even when they break free to the Nirneath, they return and brood in a steel cage. Tuor had to break through hat isolative barrier, and I can sense a chill in the air as he passes the new gate to see Turgon, the atmosphere is different, and slightly poisonous. Evil had been breeding in the shadows here, waiting for the right time to sprout. Simply perfect way to phrase that Rem Angelic

The name of the last wall is suggestive. Maeglin's wall. The last line, the key to the city's heart. He though he had it, and lusted for Idril, but he was wrong. Though he did betray the city, he did not possess it, just a small part, and it was undermined(literally!!). How true...and in Ulmo's plan., the real heart of the city I think was Idril (and Tuor and their baby) and that he never did possess or fence in. He lost that right under his nose to the enemy that came through his very gate!!!!Fantastic point.


Have an idea relating to the world of JRR Tolkien that you would like to write about? If so, the Third TORn Amateur Symposium will be running in the Reading Room in March, 2014. We hope to see you there!





CuriousG
Valinor


Dec 24 2013, 8:07pm

Post #12 of 53 (361 views)
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Where are the pearly gates? [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh, that was cheeky, wasn't it?

Thanks for leading this chapter, Brethil, AND for organizing the UT discussion to boot! I really appreciate your insights into this chunk of the Tuor story, because I confess it's my least favorite part when reading it solo. I get impatient and think to myself, "Egad, when do I get past all these repetitive gates and see the real city!?" And then I never do, alas, so reading this as part of a group puts it into a better perspective.

I suppose my impression is worsened by the last gate, Maeglin's, which I find disturbing and disheartening, to echo the sentiments of Mikah and Cats. I'm sure it's meant to be, because Maeglin was another Feanor, admirably talented but personally twisted, so a creepy gate would befit him.

What jumps out at me is the sort of symbolism that ought to be a wake up call. Let's say in the real world a country changes its national flag from a dove to a mushroom cloud. Wouldn't there, or shouldn't there, be a chorus of voices raised in outrage that they've chosen not just the wrong symbol, but a catastrophic replacment? Our buddy Maeglin has done just that, elevating industrial creation over an image of a Valinorean Tree, hence the artificial gaining precedence over the divine. And of course loving too well the work of thy hand and the devices of thy heart and forgetting where the true hope lies... Hmm, didn't I hear a warning about that once, or am I the only one who reads the cancer warnings on cigarette packages?

Clearly Tuor has his work cut out for him when he bumps up against that last gate. I suppose you could say that Ulmo was too late in all of this, and if he had judged Turgon's heart and the political climate in Gondonlin better, he would have sent his prophet sooner and not doomed Tuor to be a Cassandra. But I'll give them both points for trying.

What is really nice about this passage is that it satisfies my tourist's desire to see the handiwork of the Noldor, about which much is said in general and lofty terms, but not in specifics. (There was a taste of it in Vinyamar too.) Otherwise, we don't get a look at Noldorin art and architecture in detail. That they put so much variety into the gates that nobody is supposed to ever see is fascinating. (The pragmatist in me wonders what hundreds of guards are doing sitting by the inner gates when no one is supposed to get past the outer one.)

Yes, Voronwe should get more appreciation. I find it a big gap that he disappears from the story after their arrival. Shouldn't he and Tuor have remained friends? Wouldn't he be godfather to Earendil and babysit him on weekends, telling him stories about the Sea to ignite his heart? Shouldn't he help lead people to the Mouth of Sirion since he knows the way? There was a lot of potential left for him, and I'd like to think he came to a better end than Turin's Elf-buddies did.

The journey to Gondolin is arduous, and the fact that they are in a barren Dry River and run out of food at the end reminded me of Frodo and Sam crossing Mordor on their quest (and with their cloak). Tuor & Voronwe encounter the same suspicion that Frodo runs into in Lorien and with Faramir, and Aragorn does in Rohan, when you think they should be welcomed but have to deal with semi-hostile bureaucrats instead. Did Tolkien ever feel automatically welcome anywhere? One wonders. I suppose as a semi-orphan and South African immigrant, he must have felt out of place in England, which should have welcomed him home, but his mother would have had to go through Customs officials, Immigration, etc, before they could settle in, and maybe that left its mark.


Brethil
Half-elven


Dec 25 2013, 4:02am

Post #13 of 53 (329 views)
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Discussing Voronwe's home movies... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Oh, that was cheeky, wasn't it? Your usual blend of egregiously cheeky agreeability. Wink

Thanks for leading this chapter, Brethil, AND for organizing the UT discussion to boot! I really appreciate your insights into this chunk of the Tuor story, because I confess it's my least favorite part when reading it solo. I get impatient and think to myself, "Egad, when do I get past all these repetitive gates and see the real city!?" And then I never do, alas, so reading this as part of a group puts it into a better perspective. Thank you for the thanks! I can only imagine how JRRT would have lovingly detailed Tuor walking through Gondolin, and told of the moment when he first sees Idril. That would be amazing to read, but alas we can only imagine it. Glad the discussion forum helps along with the read; as always the thoughts of our Fellowship are a welcome addition and I always get a new perspective myself.

I suppose my impression is worsened by the last gate, Maeglin's, which I find disturbing and disheartening, to echo the sentiments of Mikah and Cats. I'm sure it's meant to be, because Maeglin was another Feanor, admirably talented but personally twisted, so a creepy gate would befit him.
What jumps out at me is the sort of symbolism that ought to be a wake up call. Let's say in the real world a country changes its national flag from a dove to a mushroom cloud. Wouldn't there, or shouldn't there, be a chorus of voices raised in outrage that they've chosen not just the wrong symbol, but a catastrophic replacment? Our buddy Maeglin has done just that, elevating industrial creation over an image of a Valinorean Tree, hence the artificial gaining precedence over the divine. And of course loving too well the work of thy hand and the devices of thy heart and forgetting where the true hope lies... Hmm, didn't I hear a warning about that once, or am I the only one who reads the cancer warnings on cigarette packages?

I love your phrasing here, dove to lethal cloud. Fantastic. I suppose in some ways we can chalk this one up to Melkor/Morgoth and the marring: that fear of loss and war has permeated deeply. I think Ulmo foresaw it all along, just based on Gondolin's merits, but that can't have helped. It sounds like in this context the Nirnaeth may have been Beleriand's WWI, the 'war to end all wars' and shocked the world with its violence and loss. It seems to have changed Turgon enough to allow this Gate to guard his creation from the frightening world.
Clearly Tuor has his work cut out for him when he bumps up against that last gate. I suppose you could say that Ulmo was too late in all of this, and if he had judged Turgon's heart and the political climate in Gondonlin better, he would have sent his prophet sooner and not doomed Tuor to be a Cassandra. But I'll give them both points for trying. I guess I take that message more lightly...it feels like Ulmo is doing the right thing, and I truly think he cares for Turgon. But I think the ending was a forgone conclusion here, perhaps from the first vision that Ulmo gave Turgon, and then having presented him with the perfect site as well. NO discredit to Ulmo here, just that I think he knew that Turgon would not be able to lose is dream a second time, even in one immortal life...but if he could make his dream for Men and Elves work, that's ultimately what mattered.

What is really nice about this passage is that it satisfies my tourist's desire to see the handiwork of the Noldor, about which much is said in general and lofty terms, but not in specifics. (There was a taste of it in Vinyamar too.) Otherwise, we don't get a look at Noldorin art and architecture in detail. That they put so much variety into the gates that nobody is supposed to ever see is fascinating. (The pragmatist in me wonders what hundreds of guards are doing sitting by the inner gates when no one is supposed to get past the outer one.) How true! I can only wish that more of what JRRT saw in his head in this respect made it into print. Yes that hundreds of guards bit...I suppose if you are living forever, and there are lots of you in a peaceful and safe city that has no video games, you need stuff to do.

Yes, Voronwe should get more appreciation. I find it a big gap that he disappears from the story after their arrival. Shouldn't he and Tuor have remained friends? Wouldn't he be godfather to Earendil and babysit him on weekends, telling him stories about the Sea to ignite his heart? Shouldn't he help lead people to the Mouth of Sirion since he knows the way? There was a lot of potential left for him, and I'd like to think he came to a better end than Turin's Elf-buddies did. I agree. I think you have the potential to write some Voronwe appreciation fanfic CG, you are off to a great start already. I'd like to read all about Voronwe's many home movies, shown on that Feanorian projector he carried in his pack.

The journey to Gondolin is arduous, and the fact that they are in a barren Dry River and run out of food at the end reminded me of Frodo and Sam crossing Mordor on their quest (and with their cloak). Tuor & Voronwe encounter the same suspicion that Frodo runs into in Lorien and with Faramir, and Aragorn does in Rohan, when you think they should be welcomed but have to deal with semi-hostile bureaucrats instead. Did Tolkien ever feel automatically welcome anywhere? One wonders. I suppose as a semi-orphan and South African immigrant, he must have felt out of place in England, which should have welcomed him home, but his mother would have had to go through Customs officials, Immigration, etc, before they could settle in, and maybe that left its mark.I think you may have touched on something here CG. He was an immigrant himself, and had to move around with only his mother after his father passed away. Plus during his military service he would have seen so many checkpoints and had so much red tape and bureaucracy to deal with maybe that seeped into his tales? Many of the points about travelling - like how Voronwe knows the danger zone near the crossing - feel very 'wartime France' to me. Staying low, hiding in hedges, curling up with only a cloak and a rucksack, and rations...it all does speak of all his experiences. Great catch. Cool


Have an idea relating to the world of JRR Tolkien that you would like to write about? If so, the Third TORn Amateur Symposium will be running in the Reading Room in March, 2014. We hope to see you there!





CuriousG
Valinor


Dec 25 2013, 2:25pm

Post #14 of 53 (316 views)
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The build-up [In reply to] Can't Post

Welcome to the Reading Room, Nandorin! Your name is just begging me to tease you somehow. So, how many centuries did it take you to find the RR, and what did you see along the way? Run into any wild Avari?

Anyway, nice comparison to Sam and Lorien. I think it was important to readers that the Fellowship doesn't just stumble on Caras Galadhon right away, or that would take away the mystique that is built up in getting there over a couple of days. Tolkien seems to be doing the same thing here.

I wonder if it's any coincidence that in both instances, the travelers have to move upwards? Maybe not, since rivers have to flow downhill, so tracing one's path means going uphill (Gondolin), and if you live in trees like Elves do, you have to climb ladders to get to see them (Lorien). Accident or not, there is the feeling that you're passing through a layered world, getting more sophisticated as you go, and making you anticipate the next step, while leaving the mundane world behind, as you put it. In a more macro view, that's a double action taking place, since readers have already left behind the mundane world to enter Middle-earth, and here we go finding that within this fairy tale, there's an ever more fairy-like realm.


Mikah
Lorien

Dec 25 2013, 4:29pm

Post #15 of 53 (343 views)
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Well said... [In reply to] Can't Post

What jumps out at me is the sort of symbolism that ought to be a wake up call. Let's say in the real world a country changes its national flag from a dove to a mushroom cloud. Wouldn't there, or shouldn't there, be a chorus of voices raised in outrage that they've chosen not just the wrong symbol, but a catastrophic replacment? Our buddy Maeglin has done just that, elevating industrial creation over an image of a Valinorean Tree, hence the artificial gaining precedence over the divine.

I am going to agree with Brethil here, this is a very well made point. There is something so macabre and sinister about this gate sitting amidst such beauty. I am at a loss to see how a stranger would make it this far through the Gates of Gondolin. Why is this gate necessary? It seems as though it is making a statement and Curious George has put into words the potential meaning of this statement. Is this gate a symbol of Turgon's paranoia after the Battle of Unnumbered Tears or is it a symbol of the influence that Maeglin holds over the King? As CG points out were there voices of protest? I understand that Gondolin was not a democracy and Turgon's word was law, but were there not others who the King trusted for advice? Perhaps Maeglin's grip was firmer on King Turgon than I had previously recognized.

I also wonder if Morgoth's taint over Middle Earth was at work here as well. Perhaps his shadow was cast across Gondolin as it was the rest of Middle Earth. I have always found King Turgon's method of executing prisoner to be most unsettling as well. He has them thrown over a cliff...such a violent death for such a civil people. We know that this was how Eol was put to death and I am assuming others were as well. Voronwe tells Tuor that "in that hope alone I have been willing to guide you, and if it fails then more surely shall we die than by all the perils of wild and winter." This leads me to believe that it was not Eol alone who met such a fate. Clearly Voronwe feared this, as much as the threat as dying in the wilderness.

Is King Turgon becoming more rigid over the years? I have always found the sentence in the Silmarillion regarding Idril's thoughts on Eol's execution fascinating. "But Idril was troubled, and from that day she mistrusted her kinsman." Interesting. It seems as though something disquieting was happening with Turgon and the last thing he needed was the influence of Maeglin.


CuriousG
Valinor


Dec 25 2013, 7:45pm

Post #16 of 53 (333 views)
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Capital punishment and context [In reply to] Can't Post

I certainly agree with you about executions in Gondolin appearing as a barbarous act in an otherwise sublime society. With Eol the sentence was deepened by Turgon's desire for personal revenge over his sister's death, but what about the people who might stumble upon Gondolin? You're right that the death sentence for those who come too close seems unduly harsh, and the characters take it seriously, so it has to have been something enforced. Also disturbing is that the Edain had faithfully served the Noldor, dying in their wars which they hadn't started, but they weren't welcome in Gondolin. Elemmakil tells Voronwe regarding Tuor:

"...as one of alien kin that has dared to enter, I should slay him -- even though he be friend and dear to you."

And I thought Thingol was the only small-minded racist in Beleriand!

That climate is in contrast with Huor and Hurin not only being allowed to live in Gondolin, but even being allowed to leave. It's hard to reconcile the policies here and what constitutes an exception.

On the other hand, I think fairy tales are full of royal executions, and I wonder how much Tolkien thought he was confined by the genre. If you write a fairy story, readers expect it to have the attributes of one, and you're stuck with princesses in towers, dispossessed boy-heirs to thrones, and kings executing people. Does anyone know if Tolkien felt strongly about capital punishment in the real world one way or the other?

Turgon seems in most ways an admirable ruler, but Aragorn was perhaps the ideal one, and it's significant that he didn't execute Beregond and showed him mercy instead. Maybe, as you say, it can all be attributed to the shadow of Morgoth corrupting Turgon. There were no executions in Valinor, so the Elves had to learn the concept somehow.


Rembrethil
Tol Eressea


Dec 25 2013, 7:57pm

Post #17 of 53 (333 views)
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An observation on Ecthelion... [In reply to] Can't Post

He was Lord of the Fountain. According to CT, there was a note in the story of Beren and Luthien that as the eagles carried both of them away from the gates of Angband, they flew over Gondolin. As Luthien wept, her tears fell, giving rise to a fountain. It was supposed to be included in the published Sil, but was inexplicably left out.

How do you think that this link affects Ecthelion's attitude toward the relations that would spring up between Tuor and Idril?

Call me Rem, and remember, not all who ramble are lost...Uh...where was I?


nandorin elf
Bree

Dec 25 2013, 8:33pm

Post #18 of 53 (333 views)
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High Elves? [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it is very disturbing that Turgon is throwing people off a cliff or killing them on the spot if they happen to find their way in. I get that Gondolin has to be kept secret for their own safety, but that seems rather violent. Feanor threatening his half-brother was considered so shocking and now they are okay with doing whatever it takes to remain hidden. The Noldor have fallen so far from the peace of Valinor. I do wonder when they started executions and where they got the idea.
Thingol, Turgon, the SoF...the closer you look at them the more the veneer of perfection breaks down.
Turgon's paranoia seems to really set in after the Nirnaeth. I think it's important to remember Hurin and Huor were let go before then. The disaster of the Nirnaeth was probably the catalyst for increasing Gondolin's isolation. After seeing first-hand what Morgoth could do to them despite the best laid plans, he cut them off from the rest of the world. At the same time, it's almost like he was in denial thinking "if I can't see Morgoth, he can't see me". As if pulling into their shell could protect them for ever.


Mikah
Lorien

Dec 26 2013, 12:46am

Post #19 of 53 (330 views)
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Extreme punishment? [In reply to] Can't Post

Good question CG regarding Tolkien's personal philosophy regarding capital punishment. It would indeed put a lot of this in context. I have read many biographies and letters of his and do not remember the subject being broached. I do remember in "The Fellowship of the Ring" that Gandalf tells Frodo not to be too quick to deal out death or punishment in the name of justice. The exact quote escapes me, as I am much more familiar with the lore of the First Age. I wonder if Gandalf's philosophy is a reflection of Tolkien's? If that be so, then he was definitely making a point regarding the corrupting influence of Morgoth.

Nandorin Elf points out how far the Noldor have fallen Reading NE's post I realize that it really is shocking how we can go from the banishment of Feanor for the threat against Fingolfin to Noldorin King's throwing people off of cliffs. I am trying to think of the first execution, was it Eol?

Thingol, Turgon, the SoF...the closer you look at them the more the veneer of perfection breaks down.

Point well made here Nandorin Elf. Discussing these passages in this manner really does bring to light the subtle (and not so subtle) chinks in the armor, doesn't it? It is funny how it did not reveal itself so much in my own personal studies.


CuriousG
Valinor


Dec 26 2013, 1:54am

Post #20 of 53 (338 views)
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Gandalf's quote [In reply to] Can't Post

When Frodo says Gollum deserves death, Gandalf replies:

"Deserves it? I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement."

I personally think Tolkien is speaking through Gandalf here, because the wizard is lecturing the hobbit on the topic, isn't he? Gandalf could have avoided a death-penalty debate by making shorter, more Gollum-specific statements like, "He will meet death soon enough," or "I would have killed him, but I felt pity for him," or any number or things that don't give a mini-expose on philosophy.

I did some googling, and though my search was by no means exhaustive, I didn't find anything attributable to JRR Tolkien and capital punishment, only other forums like ours where people quote Gandalf, but not Tolkien himself. Maybe Tolkien said something in Letters? Otherwise, we're trying to guess his thoughts by what his characters say.


Brethil
Half-elven


Dec 26 2013, 4:42am

Post #21 of 53 (338 views)
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Some musings [In reply to] Can't Post

I am intrigued by the direction of the discussion, gang! I did some research to see if there are any overt statements; as Mikah says, there are no outright points made but some things are suggestive.

We have, as you point out CG, the well known quote from Gandalf to Frodo, about Gollum:

"Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that time comes, the pity of Bilbo will rule the fate of many - yours not the least." (FOTR, The Shadow of the Past)


In Letter # 192 he addresses this passage directly: "Is it possible for the good, even saintly, to be subjected to a power of evil which is too great for them to overcome - in themselves. In this case the cause (not the 'hero') was triumphant, because by the exercise of pity, mercy and forgiveness of injury, a situation was produced in which all was redressed and disaster averted. Gandalf certainly foresaw this. See Vol. I p 68-9. Of course, he did not mean to say that one must be merciful, for it may prove useful later - it would not then be mercy or pity, which are only truly present when contrary to prudence. Not ours to plan! But we are assured that we must ourselves be extravagantly generous, if we are to hope for the extravagant generosity which the slightest easing of, or escape from, the consequences of our own follies and errors represents. And that mercy does sometimes occur in this life."

So the feelings of Gandalf's heart are not to be taken at all pragmatically: it seems the intent is JRRT's definition of true Mercy and Pity, action in defiance of the intellectual or merely political. Gandalf functions on a higher plane here, with his Istari soul ... and I think has authorial insight, potentially.

In Letter #246 he further discusses the morality of failure and how it relates ot the application of Mercy: "Frodo indeed 'failed' as a hero, as conceived by simple minds: he did not endure to the end; he gave in, ratted. I do not say 'simple minds' with contempt: they often see with clarity the simple truth and the absolute ideal to which effort must be directed, even if it is unattainable. Their weakness, however, is twofold. They do not perceive the complexity of any given situation in Time, in which an absolute ideal is enmeshed. They tend to forget that strange element in the World that we call Pity or Mercy, which is also and absolute requirement in moral judgement (since it is present in Divine nature). In its highest exercise it belongs to God. For finite judges of imperfect knowledge it must lead to the use of two different scales of 'morality'. To ourselves we must present the absolute ideal without compromise, for we do not know our own limits of natural strength (+grace), and if we do not aim at the highest we shall certainly fall short of the utmost that we could achieve. To others, in any case of which we know enough to make a judgement, we must apply a scale tempered by 'mercy': that is, since we can with good will do this without the bias inevitable in judgemenst of ourselves, we must estimate the limits of another's strength and weigh this against the force of particular circumstances."

Here we get the repeated idea that was expressed in the passage from #192, in that the highest level of generosity should be expressed towards others, while stating that the moral standard that we hold ourselves to should be the highest possible - I believe since he attributes that to the Divine (which all living things contain at minimum the spark of, he does not deal in Absolute Evil) it is his perception that this double standard is the human way of expressing the inner divinity. It seems like this is where he has Gandalf acting, morally.

So... can these ideas be put together to suggest that JRRT *may* have believed that:

- capital punishment is perhaps a lack of understanding of the 'complexity of any given situation in Time': a concept that relates it seems to the noumenal and divine (as Terazed has so eloquently written about), free of Time and aware of the true pattern of creation, different to our own perceptions which are necessarily limited by our mortal perceptions and limitations of Time.
(Interesting here how this relates to the Firstborn, who are still bound by Time but less so than Men are. Potentially then, is capital punishment more of an abberation among Elves than Men?)

- it is potentially a failure on two levels: the first level of not attempting to exercise, upon the self, 'the highest ideal without compromise', which is the equation above (in Letter # 246) is Pity or Mercy, and is also thus defines as ultimately belonging to God and thus perhaps equals this highest of personal standard of conduct.

- on the second level, how the judge administering the penalty has perhaps not estimated the strength of the accused (or indeed the guilty) versus the circumstances. And as he says in #246: "We are finite creatures with absolute limitations upon the powers of our soul-body structure in either action or endurance. Moral failure can only be asserted, I think, when a man's effort or endurance falls short of his limits, and the blame decreases as that limit is closer approached." In this equation either inherent weakness (ie: Gollum) or overwhelming circumstances (perhaps Eol?) would make the blame and potentially the judgement less harsh.

Curious to know what your thoughts are. Angelic

Have an idea relating to the world of JRR Tolkien that you would like to write about? If so, the Third TORn Amateur Symposium will be running in the Reading Room in March, 2014. We hope to see you there!





(This post was edited by Brethil on Dec 26 2013, 4:44am)


cats16
Valinor


Dec 26 2013, 6:20am

Post #22 of 53 (293 views)
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The Seventh Gate [In reply to] Can't Post

Great idea to look at artwork, Mikah. It's funny that you mention that the seventh gate almost reminds you of a prison--that's the way I imagined it, too. I didn't bring it up the first time, but the thought stayed with me. I wonder, would Gondolin qualify to be considered a police state? We don't get any insight about the political/cultural/social aspects of the place, so there is no way of knowing the general climate of the population. Was there a resistance movement (at any point)? Is that why there are so many guards at each gate--not only concerned with invaders from Angband, but trouble from within? At best, it would be both, considering the lengths taken to ensure Gondolin's secrecy (from Morgoth) abroad.

I have not yet read BoLT, so perhaps some of this becomes more apparent after that text (or not?).


Mikah
Lorien

Dec 26 2013, 7:25am

Post #23 of 53 (295 views)
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Police State? Hmmmm [In reply to] Can't Post

The seventh gate erected as a device to keep people in as well as out? That is something that I had not considered until now. Even when I mentioned that the gate reminded me of a prison, I really had not thought about it. But it is certainly a thought worth pondering...and I will! We know at the very least Idril did not approve of Turgon's barbaric form of punishment. It would stand to reason if she did not agree with it, then there are probably others who did not agree with it as well.

Police state?? On many levels, you bet it is. There is no getting out of there, regardless of your feelings toward Turgon or Gondolin. In many respects it is a prison...a lovely prison perhaps, but a prison nonetheless. Eol certainly looked at it that way. After all he chose death over spending the rest of his days there. Even if there were those who felt ummm...restricted in Gondolin, I daresay there probably would not be too many complaints, given the mode of punishment. What are your thoughts?

I wonder what Idril's thoughts toward Turgon was during all of this. I find it interesting that she devised a way to escape Gondolin if the need arose, but at no point seemed compelled to tell her father. Any thoughts on this?


Mikah
Lorien

Dec 26 2013, 7:29am

Post #24 of 53 (281 views)
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I do have thoughts on this... [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi Brethil, This is a most compelling and complex question. It deserves more time and thought than I have at this moment. I read your post to my hubby as well...and he became very philosophical regarding itl. I will post after work tomorrow when we can give your musings the respect that they deserve!


cats16
Valinor


Dec 26 2013, 8:08am

Post #25 of 53 (281 views)
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Restriction [In reply to] Can't Post

I find your thoughts on Idril quite compelling. As you said, if she did not approve of Turgon's actions, then surely many others had come to similar conclusions much earlier. The quote from Idril (in one of your posts upthread) is a great one, and gives insight into their relationship at this point in time. I'm still sorting out my thoughts, but it's interesting to me that throughout all of this, Turgon is the High King of the Noldor in Beleriand. It seems strange, in a way, that the High King leads the most isolationist of all the Elven realms (perhaps one could argue Thingol is the most isolationist, but Turgon's capital punishment policies and all of the things we've spoken of in this thread hint at Turgon being the most active in his isolationism).

Turgon is obsessed with security--made evident by the Seven lavish gates and aggressive "border patrol" guards. One of the major themes of the Elves in Middle-earth is the idea of "fading" that comes up in many conversations. In Turgon's case, I think that this fading is more of an 'invisibility cloak'. He wants Gondolin to not exist in the minds of everyone else (Morgoth, Men, and even other Elves, it seems). I think Gelmir and Arminas's words hint at this when they encounter Tuor. The Hidden Realm may or may not exist, they say, and even if it does, they have no idea where it lies. It seems like Tuor would have had the same chance of finding Gondolin without Voronwe as he would have had trying to reach the shores of Valinor alone (okay, maybe Ulmo would argue against this analogyAngelic)

I didn't organize my thoughts as well as I would have liked, here. I'm still very interested with respect to Idril and Turgon. And, although I didn't address Eol by name, I think your conclusion about 'not too many complainers in Gondolin' is how I see it, too. It's interesting that, as you say, it's quite a lovely place...despite, in many ways, being a prison. I wonder what the city itself looked like? Was it as over-the-top as the gate system? (Although, I suppose Tuna is the best comparison)

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