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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
***Favorite Chapters – Of The Voyage of Earendil and the War of Wrath (Silmarillion)
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Feb 16, 7:55pm

Post #26 of 38 (414 views)
Subject [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
In short, what is Elwing’s real role in this story cycle?

Also the all-important genetics. She was the granddaughter of Luthien and great-grand-daughter of Thingol and Melian, meaning that the Half-elven would get the blood of Sindarin royalty and the Ainur as well as the Noldorin/Hadorian Earendil mix.

No One in Particular

Feb 17, 2:15am

Post #27 of 38 (384 views)
Cross my heart [/fingers crossed behnd my back] [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
1) I think that quite a bit of this is due to ones interpretation of Oaths. It is a very conservative interpretation that once sworn one can never under any circumstances break it and it will bind you for ever, there is an argument that whilst of course one shouldn't swear and break Oaths willy-nilly one can look at an oath which was sworn in madness and say 'well, that was just silly, I'm not going to stick to that one,' as I think that Maglor was hinting. In fact, I can't see anything wrong with Maglor's argument that the Oath says not that they can't buy there time or even whilst technically claim the Silmarils they can allow others whom have laboured in their recovery to share it for a while. But truth to say, I can't find any evidence that side from Maglor that any of the others, even Maeodhras really wanted to, the Silmarils seemed to gain some kind of desire from the soul, not disimilair to the Rings of power later on,

Feanor and his sons called on Eru, and named the Valar as witnesses. They (the sons of Feanor) seemed to be of the opinion that breaking the oath would have rather more disastrous consequences than just the shame of breaking your word or your reputation suffering. Smile

In fact they seemed of the opinion that the Everlasting Darkness would be their fate if the Oath was broken. What is the Everlasting Darkness? No clue, but it sounds like something that might be a little on the unpleasant side.

By the end Maglor and Maedhros were soul sick with all the evil deeds they had perpetrated in the name of the Oath and the Silmarils; apparently Maglor a little more so than Maedhros, since he was willing to risk either breaking the oath or putting it off, so to speak, and Maedhros had to talk him into making the attempt to steal them.

Either way, they were of the opinion that there would be real consequences to the oath breaking, and we have no reason to think they're wrong.

While you live, shine
Have no grief at all
Life exists only for a short while
And time demands an end.
Seikilos Epitaph


Feb 17, 4:03am

Post #28 of 38 (370 views)
Yes, of course. [In reply to] Can't Post

Although that in itself does not refer to "this story cycle" - the Quenta Silmarillion - but to the future cycles, of Numenor and of the Third Age.

However, in this specific story, genetics do add an important thing:
Tuor is already descended from the Three Houses of Edain - he belongs to the House of Hador, while Rian was of the House of Beor, and Hareth (his grandmother) to the House of Haleth.
He also represents two of the three hosts of the Eldar: the Vanyar through Indis, and the Noldor.
But unless Elenwe had Telerin blood (which she might have - I do not recall if anything is mentioned of her lineage) - that great host is not represented by Tuor alone; so being three quarters Sindarin, Elwing brings that group to Valinor too.

In that case, the Maiar part of her lineage is quite suggestive - did the Ainur need to come as supplicants and pray for deliverance, too?

Thinking about things I don't understand


Feb 17, 11:08am

Post #29 of 38 (353 views)
Thanks squire! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks squire for covering an epic chapter (in several senses of the word, probably). As predicted, I didn't have much to offer this week, and so so I'm glad that others did. One parting observation from me is that when I dipped into this chapter before the discussion started I discovered something a little interesting - I liked not the archaisms, and now suppose that they seemeth less unwieldy to those upon whom the book has had a chance to cast its spell. I suppose that's another aspect of something that has often been a helpful feature of the 'favourite chapters' approach -- that by tackling chapters out of order we sometimes see things we might not have noticed by reading conventionally.
As usual, I should remind people that out threads go ever on and on - it's OK to add further responses after it's officially someone else's week to do their favourite chapter. But do also support the current week's chapter once it is posted!

And if anyone wants to take a turn at starting a discussion about their favourite chapter of the SIlmarillion, Hobbit or LOTR, it's just a matter of putting yourself on the schedule over here Nobody's permission is needed, and no qualification or quality other than enthusiasm is required. The project is open to everyone who is willing to start a discussion for the week.

"Yes, I am half-elven. No, it does not mean that I 'have one pointy ear' "
Sven Elven, proprietor of the Rivendell convenience store.


Feb 17, 1:49pm

Post #30 of 38 (340 views)
The voyage [In reply to] Can't Post

G. Do we know much about these Enchanted Isles and Shadowy Seas, and how they work – and why the Silmaril specifically defeats them?
Not exactly; however, one supposes the Silmarils, as the last remnant of the Light before the Sun and the Moon, can overcome the shadow which is supposed to cloak the Isles from the normal, everyday light.

How does this particular voyage West to Paradise compare with other such voyages that Tolkien describes in his writings?
Which? Roverandom and the Sea Dog?

How does it compare to real-world episodes or legends of ancient or medieval Europeans sailing west over the Atlantic?
Well, this seems a secularized version of the tale of St. Brendan - no fasts or Christian festivals. And Tolkien was most definitely inspired by that legend.

H. Does the Silmarillion really work as genre fiction with as much of the “heigh style” (Tolkien’s own self-effacing term, from his letters) as it has?
Well, it is effectively a genre of one book.
It works for me, but I doubt that I would bother to tackle it, if not for the more popular books.

Do his later more novelistic expansions, which were written after LotR taught him the keys to success and are published in Unfinished Tales and Children of Hurin, seem to help things?
For me - not really. They are far more readable, but only cover a very small part of the canvass.

And could this chapter particularly, with its heavenly setting and interactions, ever be made more digestible by any kind of rewrite or expansion?
I cannot guess.

I. The Valar do debate and discuss their roles as guardians and gods elsewhere in the book, so it’s not like Tolkien has a rule that that kind of thing isn’t allowed in this Elven (or is it Mannish) chronicle. So why skip past it here, at the dramatic climax of a heavenly story that’s been building since the theft of the Jewels and the exile of the Noldor?
I expect they realized this was the time al last. Perhaps they were waiting for a messenger to summon them.

J. Does this fictional mythic tale of the Voyage of Earendil have any resonances with the Christian story?
Answered already by others.

Thinking about things I don't understand


Feb 18, 1:14pm

Post #31 of 38 (309 views)
The Battle of Britain, writ large [In reply to] Can't Post

K. Since the battle that follows is all-out war between “the hosts of the West and of the North”, and Morgoth’s armies are said to be “great beyond count”, is there any suggestion here that Morgoth’s unpreparedness is what defeated him? Could he have survived the attack of the Valar’s army if he’d been ready for it somehow?
This is an interesting suggestion. We really do not know anything about this battle to comment one way or the other; but Tolkien really does imply that - perhaps to emphasize Morgtoh's hubris.
However, I never thought the Valar could not defeat Morgoth, but rather that they were afraid of the consequences for Arda, or else they did not consider the Children worthy of the redemption - which might be another point of Earendil's mission.

L. Does this ring a bell with you as it does with me?
Gandalf, in the Council of Elrond, about folly being the good guys' cloak; also in The Last Debate (IIRC), when he said the Sauron weighs all in his scales of malice, but it will never occur to him that the Ring will be thrown away.
Who was the critic who pointed out that Sauron's failure was one of imagination? For some reason, I think it was Lewis.
It is not quite the same - pity and resisting temptation are different phenomena. But as far as the Evil folk are considered - this is a similar failure.

And was it rung on purpose?
Probably Tolkien really believes that.

Could we find if this phrase predates or postdates the writing of The Lord of the Rings?
I suppose we could; but I haven't got HoME here with me.

M. Based on this possible connection, in what large-scale ways are the plots of the Quenta Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings linked – or not – via the magical talismans and the hopeless quests to use them to defeat the Dark Lords?
Well, we can suspect Divine Providence in LotR quite a lot - in the Silmarillion it is explicit and above board.

N. Can anyone tell if the “host of the Valar” – the phrase used repeatedly for the good guys – means that the Valar themselves engaged in combat on the field? Or is the host just the large body of Elves identified as mustering in at the beginning of these chapters? If the former, why wasn’t it over before it began? If the latter, how could an army of Vanyar and unexiled Noldor win so easily when the armies of exiled Noldor and their allies could almost never beat Morgoth’s gang?
I doubt that the Valar themselves took place - otherwise, why would Eonwe be the commander-in-chief?
However, I strongly doubt that the Elves were able to defeat Morgth by themselves. Perhaps a few other Maiar participated? Or could the Valar helped by controlling the weather, etc.?
I don't think Tolkien ever really imagined this war in full.

O. Why the heck does Morgoth wait until his entire land army is utterly destroyed before he unleashes the flying dragons?
We see what happened when Ancalgon was felled from the sky. Perhaps Morgoth did not want to risk complete annihilation of his realm (I know, in Myths Transformed Tolkien wrote that Morgoth became a complete nihilist - but I see no sign of this in The Silmrillion).
Also, it is possible that the winged dragons were not yet entirely ready, and let loose just as a last throw of desperation.

P. How and why does Morgoth’s ignominious capture and imprisonment echo his first one, after the last time the Valar got medieval on him at the beginning of the Silmarillion? (To start with, they use the exact same magical chain to tie him up! Huh?)
The chain was probably used on purpose; although I wonder who kept it when Melkor was unchained, if indeed the Valar trusted his word?
But he was not to get a second chance. Fool me once, etc.
For Sauron, however, it was the first time! Well, I guess every evil overlord deserves one opportunity of pulling the wool over the Valar's eyes.

Q. If this is when Beleriand sank, during the battle, how did the Noldorin exiles, Earendil’s people and the colony run by Cirdan, etc., dwelling on the old western shores, manage to survive long enough to sail west as related in the coming section about the aftermath?
Perhaps they were forewarned? The battle took fourty-two years, so I suspect they had the time to relocate South.

Thinking about things I don't understand


Feb 18, 2:49pm

Post #32 of 38 (313 views)
Conclusion [In reply to] Can't Post

R. Are they right to tie themselves up in such an unlikely knot? Why can’t they take the Valar’s word for it that Iluvatar will not hold them to their oath, especially since doing so makes everything much simpler going forward?
The Valar did not give their word; as a matter of fact, Maedhros and Maglor only spoke to Eonwe, who couldn't promise a thing.
The whole point is that they are left on their own with their Oath.

What is the real point of the Oath of Feanor in the Quenta Silmarillion?
It is the most important motive driving the narrative.

S. Highly unlikely, is my reaction … um, I mean, highly mythical. More directly: how well does the story blend realistic-seeming narrative details (“disguised themselves”… “crept into the place”… “they prepared to die”) with a larger storyline that defies credibility and seems justified only in terms of playing out a classical tragedy where things just have to happen a certain way?
It makes the reader identify with the sons of Feanor rather than Eonwe.

T. “Thus it came to pass” that the three Silmarils were set forever in the Air (Earendil’s), the Water (Maglor’s) and the Fires of the Earth (Maedhros’). Is the story right that this is what was meant to happen to the three Silmarils?
Well, I haven't heard the Music...
It was said in a previous chapter that Mandos prophecied the fate of Arda was locked in them, so this might be a fulfillment of that prophecy.

U. Is there meant to be a connection here with the similarly elemental Three Rings of the Elves in the Third Age: Air, Water, Fire?
Not really; why do you think the Ring of adamant is the Ring of Water? Or that the Silmaril of Maedhros is that of Fire rather than of Earth? It just doesn't work.

V. What do you think of the story that Maedhros’ Silmaril was transported underground to Erebor, the Lonely Mountain to the East, where it was found by the Dwarves and called the Arkenstone?
It's just a theory Tolkien might have held in passing; I don't think it went anywhere.

W. In The Lord of the Rings, Galadriel is presented as an unrepentant rebel in exile, one who had yet to earn her right to return to Elvenhome. Gildor, when he meets Frodo in the Woody End, says he and his folk are ‘Exiles’ who have simply yet to return home as their kindred did long before. So how well does Tolkien negotiate the change in tone and theme for his ending to the Quenta Silmarillion, caused by the fact that he later wrote up two more Ages of the World in which Elves play large parts in the mortal lands of Middle-earth?
He didn't. I don't think he ever got around to rewriting this part after 1930, so he never had the chance.
And I think adding the Second Prophecy of Mandos wouldn't have helped, however much Tolkien envisioned it as the coda.

X. What are Morgoth’s “lies” that are the basis of all the evil that lurks in the hearts of Men (and Elves)?
For one thing, the separation between Elves and Men.

In Reply To
Well, this concludes my discussion of this, the last chapter of The Silmarillion. Thanks to all who dropped in and added your thoughts and comments!

Thank you, squire!

In Reply To
For fun, I’ll close with this oldie but goodie drabble, inspired by the final image of the story:

It's a really nice one - I don't recall reading it before. Thank you!

Thinking about things I don't understand


Feb 19, 10:24pm

Post #33 of 38 (292 views)
Doesn't seem like it fits. [In reply to] Can't Post

That Tolkien never wrote the stories is not surprising considering he never even reached fulfillment on the rewriting of the Fall of Gondolin.
Even if he had done so, would the stories of Eärendil really belong in the Silmarillion?
Obviously yes, because they are integral to the final fate of the Silmarils and the defeat of Morgoth.
Then also no, because much of the Silmarillion concerns Elves, while much of the Eärendil stories would have been from the perspective of this mortal mariner discovering the 'magic' msytery of the Elves and their history, (Him beeing the proxy for the reader)

So I wonder if Tolkien had reached a point where he wanted to start writing about Eärendil, would he have found his original concepts still fitting?


Feb 19, 10:40pm

Post #34 of 38 (292 views)
Do we have time scope for the War of Wrath? [In reply to] Can't Post

From the rising of the Sun to the beginning of the war there is some 500 years.
How long is there from the beginning of the war until Morgoths defeat?

Can't be too long. We know Elros is born before, becomes king of Numenor and dies some 500 years old much of which seems to have been spent on Numenor.


Feb 19, 10:52pm

Post #35 of 38 (289 views)
Both the Silmarils that ended up in the ocean and in the Earth ought to be considered loose cannons [In reply to] Can't Post

As Gandalf I think puts it, there are older things than Sauron in the deep places of the world.

But maybe like with Carcharoth they would just burn whoever tried to lay a paw or a tentacle on them, and so would never come to surface again.


Feb 20, 1:46am

Post #36 of 38 (278 views)
D.N.A. up above says the War of Wrath was 42 years long. [In reply to] Can't Post

That presumably is given in one of the Annals in History of Middle-earth.

It's typical of Tolkien's work on the Silmarillion, I think, that he would build a specific time line for the First Age, in much the same way he laid out the map, to ground his sequences of events in some kind of realistic framework.

But as we see in reading this chapter, not to mention the others, there are no numbered dates at all in the narrative as he and/or Christopher decided to present it in what we have as the published Silmarillion.

squire online:
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Feb 20, 1:49am

Post #37 of 38 (279 views)
I think they only burn bad people [In reply to] Can't Post

The Silmarils are taken from Morgoth's crown, and there's no mention of anyone getting hurt in the process. Maybe they were and it's a detail left out, but I don't think they harmed good people. Beren wasn't burned, nor were the Dwarves who set it in the Nauglamir. Nor was Dior, or Earendil, or Elwing, etc.


Feb 20, 6:02am

Post #38 of 38 (271 views)
In the narrative, there are quite a few dates [In reply to] Can't Post

As a matter of fact, enough for Robert Foster (in his Guide to Middle-earth), to construct a fairly accurate timeline of all events up to the Fall of Gondolin, being just one year off, and having a couple of minor mistakes - due to the lack of clarity whether the Sun rose on year 0 or year 1.
However, this part of the Silmarillion was never re-written after Tolkien came up with the concept of the Annals.

When Christopher (and Guy Kay) constructed the published Silmarillion, they incorporated the material from the Annals into the Quenta, resulting in a single narrative; there was no real need or place for the exact dates of the War of Wrath, which is a mythical tale, out of ordinary history.
I do not know why they decided not to add a Tale of the Years appendix (like in LotR).

Thinking about things I don't understand

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