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Of Man

Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Jun 24 2020, 11:23pm

Post #1 of 13 (2584 views)
Of Man Can't Post

That is Man the species as opposed to Man the gender. The latter discussion could get a bit complex and is maybe better left for another day. Anyway, what of the contribution to Tolkien's tales of the mortal folk. not as magical or as strong as Elves or even possibly Dwarves, but the one species that relates to us. For example take age. At the start of Lotr we have species such as Hobbits or Dwarfs not to mention Elves that age much slower than us. Frodo was considered young at 55. Gimli a whipper snapper of a Dwarf at 80. But later on when we get to Rohan we do met with people that have a similar life-span to us. Also in some ways Men have their strengths been more numerate and have a great variety. Some are good, noble and triumphant like Aragorn, some good but less triumphant, some are weak and some fearful and of course many do serve overlords of evil. And can be evil themselves. But overall, they do make a positive contribution to Tolkiens tales.

Tol Eressea

Jun 26 2020, 1:52pm

Post #2 of 13 (2389 views)
Different groups of Men [In reply to] Can't Post

The Men of Numenor have different life spans than those of Rohan or Dale. Do we know the life spans of the Woses? The Haradrim or the Easterlings?

Very biblical in the idea that initially the life spans are long then begin to dwindle.

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Jun 26 2020, 2:44pm

Post #3 of 13 (2384 views)
Mortal Lifespans [In reply to] Can't Post

Presumably, the lifespan of the Edain was closer to that of other Men before the Númenóreans were granted greater longevity by the Valar. The Line of Elros probably gets an additional boost from their elven heritage.

Mannish lifespans in general would doubtless vary due to local conditions of climate, diet, level of health care and medical knowledge, etc. And there is the separate question of life expectancies.



Jun 27 2020, 9:22am

Post #4 of 13 (2320 views)
Lifespans [In reply to] Can't Post

Elros Tar-Minyatur lived exactly 500 years, and those of his line had similar lifespans, although none lived quite as long. Ordinary Númenóreans (such as Erendis) tended to live 200-300 years.

According to Tolkien Gateway, the lifespan of the Drúedain is "shorter than most Men". The citation is to The Peoples of Middle-earth.

Hêlâ Auriwandil, angilô berhtost,
oƀar Middangard mannum gisandid!


Jun 28 2020, 11:29am

Post #5 of 13 (2205 views)
Why include Men (Tolkien's capital M)? [In reply to] Can't Post

How nice to come by and see a post that could start discussions in several interesting directions.

If I may, perhaps I'll say what the effect is for me of having Men* in the tales.

Firstly, I think it's quite a subtle effect. By the time we meet any Men in The Hobbit, LOTR or Sil. we're several chapters in, and acclimatized to the cheery fictional company of hobbits (or the more remote-feeling Valar and elves in the case of the Sil.) So I don't get a shock of cultural recognition when Men turn up. Probably the stories couldn't work if that were true - who would stick through many chapters of aliens doing incomprehensible things for impenetrable reasons? (The Sil. is a bad enough slog as it is Wink )

The needs and motives of hobbits, elves dwarves etc. don't seem all that hard for me to understand -- I can interpret them as needs and motives which could drive Men.

Nor do I think, reading The Hobbit, LOTR or Sil. that the stories are mostly driven by special abilities (or limitations) that characters have because they are not Men.

So would Middle-earth without Men be like a fish without a bicycle? Why do I think Tolkien included Men? Of course maybe he just wanted to, or they seemed to fit or something. But what the inclusion of Men adds for me is a sense of the other kinds of creatures fading away into fairytale and folk-lore as cultures of Men take over. I don't think I could get that from the stories if Tolkien had replaced all the Men with some other kind of fantasy creature.

*As HG did, I'm capitalizing M in 'Men' to be that kind of human creature in Middle-earth, not 'males'.

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


Jun 29 2020, 2:02am

Post #6 of 13 (2155 views)
I see two ways to look at Men in these stories [In reply to] Can't Post

One is that Men represent us, the modern readers, experiencing a world of supernatural, magical, or enchanted sentient races. They are the visitors to Tolkien's famous 'Faerie', land of the fairies aka elves and the rest of the gang from ancient myth, romance, and folk-tale.

The other is that Men are just one aspect of the human spirit and sensibility, the more domestic or mundane one, and that the other races of the Free Peoples can be read as being other aspects of humanity, embodied in coherent and distinct 'races': Elves for the aesthetic or spiritual, Dwarves for the earthy and technical, Ents for the natural and animalistic, and Hobbits for the childlike and innocent (as for orcs and trolls - insert your best characterization here).

It is notable that all these people can communicate freely, conduct trade and intercourse, and even, in select cases mate and bear fertile children. From their dialogue and self-presentation, it's hard not to conclude that they are not all equally "human" - that is, that they are not all "Men". So Man, the Mannish race in Tolkien, becomes simply an aspect of humanity, and not even the aspect that the author expects us to identify with. Most readers, I find, adopt the hobbits as their alter egos in Middle-earth, with that 'innocence and childishness' (above) being most equivalent to our feelings should we ever be thrust into the world of Faerie (see interpretation #1 at the top).

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Jun 29 2020, 2:27pm

Post #7 of 13 (2129 views)
Bravo! I note that if we think in way #2... [In reply to] Can't Post

Bravo, squire, I enjoyed reading that.

Thinking about your way-of-thinking #2 (in which Men, elves, hobbits, dwarves etc. are each a different "aspect of the human spirit and sensibility") it's then satisfying to note that the Downfall of the Lord Of The Rings and the Return Of The King is achieved by those aspects working together. That includes not only the contributions made deliberately by elves, Men, dwarves, etc. but the unintended contributions of the negative aspects of humanity (as represented in this scheme by characters such as Saruman and Shagrat, Gorbag and Gollum).

My thought having read way-of-thinking #1 is that many other fantasy writers have made that explicit - people from our world visit Narnia (or Elidor, or many other worlds) and turn out to be or have some missing ingredient needed in the fantasy world. But nobody from 'our world' ends up in Middle-earth in an equivalent way. Through-the -lookingglass or Through-the -wardrobe visitors are also handy for exposition, because they plausibly need explanations for much that readers need to know. Hobbits form Middle-earth's nearest equivalent, I suppose they are certainly usefully clueless about the world outside the Shire.

Hobbits perhaps seem more familiar than they would if really encountered. I think you're right, squire, about the child-like aspects of hobbits being important here. Also it's partly, I think that those of us who've already read The Hobbit think we're already Hobbit-friends when we stat LOTR If we haven't, then the vaguely Victorian world of The Shire is perhaps more familiar to the audience than the mostly Medieval men of Rohan or Gondor. I mean 'familiar' both in terms of our own culture, and what literature Tolkien might have expected his initial readers to have read (Nineteenth-century authors such as Austen, Elliot, Dickens and so on having perhaps figured more in their reading than Beowulf or the Germanic or Norse epics). Maybe that's why we don't need to wait for the appearance of Men at Lakeland or at Bree to see someone we recognize.

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

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Jun 29 2020, 2:36pm)


Jun 29 2020, 10:20pm

Post #8 of 13 (2083 views)
some further thoughts on differentiated lifespans [In reply to] Can't Post

It’s often the case that Tolkien links straying from or ignorance of enlightenment with a decline in lifespan or an underlying relatively short lifespan to begin with. The rise and fall of Númenor is the classic example, with its sequel in the waning of the Dúnedain in exile – “the slow withdrawing of the gifts of the Númenóreans”, as it is described in Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings.

In addition, the experience of the Edainic ancestors of the Númenóreans indicates that their lifespans had already moved ‘out of sync’ with other Men, as attested in The Silmarillion (“Of the Coming of Men into the West”): the “years of the Edain were lengthened, according to the reckoning of Men, after their coming to Beleriand…”. And the manner of the death of Bëor is also particularly interesting: “Bëor at the last relinquished his life willingly and passed in peace”. Not only is Bëor’s lifespan considered by his people as unusually long (thus the epithet ‘the Old’), this is directly associated with his exposure to the West, via the Noldor and linked in turn to the graceful ‘surrendering’ of life associated with the early Númenóreans and which was so markedly lacking in the King’s Men.

A pre-Beleriand ‘baseline’ for human lifespan is the subject of the ‘Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth’ (Morgoth’s Ring) – a set piece written in 1959, after the publication of The Lord of the Rings. Here it is written that the loremasters of the Edain believed that their ancestors had once been possessed of long life or had possibly even been deathless, but had been bereft of this “by the malice of Morgoth.” Finrod struggles with the immortality information (I’ve always interpreted him written as being politely sceptical). Nonetheless, there is a clear distinction made between a Paradise Lost moment followed by a (re)lengthening of lifespan after the emigration to Beleriand. This is underscored by Andreth, when she notes that Bëor, his son Baran and grandson Boron all lived into their 90s, and that this was in direct contrast to the immediate pre-Beleriandic experience of the Edain: “Our passing was swifter before we found this land”. Again, there is a correlation between the durability of hröa and allegiance to the West.

The above implies that those Men who remained east of the Ered Luin remained shorter-lived by comparison, even if they had not been corrupted by Morgoth. It may also imply that the Easterlings of Beleriand, who had only been in Beleriand for one generation by the time of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad and who were at any rate largely worshippers of Morgoth, were similarly short-lived.

A final note on an interesting exception to the rule. It has already been remarked in this thread that the Drúedain were a short-lived people compared to other Men. This was despite the allegiances of the Drúedain of Beleriand, who were “much loved” by the Eldar (Unfinished Tales). A fine example of lifespan and enlightenment being unentwined, at last. Indeed, ironically it was the Drúedain of Númenor who first foresaw the downfall of their adopted homeland, as far back as the reign of Tar-Aldarion, more than 2,000 years before the Akallabêth. Short-lived they may have been but in their own way they had sensed the decline of Númenor and its future disastrous split between Elendili and King’s Men. As featured in Unfinished Tales, the last of them sensibly evacuated once Ar-Pharazôn had brought Sauron to Númenor in ‘captivity’.

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Jun 30 2020, 11:44am

Post #9 of 13 (2075 views)
Men as Eru Iluvatar's wildcards [In reply to] Can't Post

We should definitely remember to discuss the role of Men in the fulfillment of the Divine Plan (the one in Tolkien's fictional universe, of course).

So as not to exclude anyone who has not read the Silmarillion, I'll start by saying that it starts with a creation story. The god Eru Iluvatar and some divine assistants ('the Ainur') make The Music. This performs the world into existence -- not only its beginning, but much of how things will unfold in the future. The performance of The Music does not go without a hitch, however. One of the assistants, Melkor, adds his own ideas. These disrupt the performance, and result in a world that (an inhabitant of Middle-earth can't help but notice) contains chaos, strife, cruelty and other defects. Rather than attempt to correct this directly, Eru Iluvatar makes a further creation - the Children of Iluvatar (a.k.a the elves and Men). These creatures have the task of helping to heal the world. Of these two kinds of 'Children', Men have a specific and unique power (Tolkien calls it 'virtue', using an old sense of that word) with which to do this work:

“Therefore he willed that the hearts of Men should seek beyond the world and should find no rest therein; but they should have a virtue to shape their life, amid the powers and chances of the world, beyond the Music of the Ainur, which is as fate to all things else; and of their operation everything should be, in form and deed, completed, and the world fulfilled unto the last and smallest.”
Silmarillion Ch 1 - Of the Beginning Of Days (my italics)

What this gives Tolkien in Lord of the Rings is a fictional world in which fate and free will are two forces shaping events in different ways. However, it seems from the above that free will is exclusively Mannish .

Tolkien and his LOTR characters do not spend a lot of time trying to work out what is fate and what is free will. For one thing, I doubt lots of philosophising would improve the stories, and for another it's probably hard for characters to tell. But I think to would be difficult not to see both fate and free will swirling around the Bagginses, and the Choices of Master Samwise (So 'Men' must include hobbits for this purpose, for all the derision I expect you'd get for suggesting to a Hobbiton Inn that hobbits are Men).

And here's an Aragorn example -- after the funeral of Boromir, where Aragorn is working out whether to try to catch up with Frodo and Sam, or to rescue Merry and Pippin.:

“‘Let me think!’ said Aragorn. ‘And now may I make a right choice, and change the evil fate of this unhappy day!’

TT _ The Departure of Boromir

I think he means what he says literally. Everything has been going wrong that day, with the feeling of Powers At Work. But Aragorn's taking seriously the possibility that his next choice will be both free and fate-busting. Therefore he stops, considers carefully and hopes, or wishes (or, if you prefer, prays) that he will choose wisely, and make a choice that disrupts their current evil fate.

(I should say that of course I am nowhere near clever enough to have thought up all this by myself. I'm reflecting on what I learned in Prof. Verlyn Flieger's essay The Music and the Task: Fate and Free Will in Middle-earth, from her book Green Suns and Faerie, Essays on Tolkien.)

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Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Jul 8 2020, 8:32am

Post #10 of 13 (1767 views)
Hobbits and such [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, we can relate to Hobbits as they do share many of our characteristics, but Tolkien or the narrator in the Hobbit does make it clear that they are not us, so perhaps later on he felt the need to add Men just so that the world is not totally alien. And I suppose that he never had the heart to have many really nasty Hobbits or Elves so for those he needed to have Men for the nastier side of Humanity!


Jul 24 2020, 12:19am

Post #11 of 13 (1242 views)
Very nice, squire. [In reply to] Can't Post

Regarding summation #2, this feels "right" to me, and I wonder if this is intentional on Tolkien's part. Is he illustrating different aspects of Man? Not being Catholic myself, is this an exposition of his faith?

Tol Eressea

Jul 27 2020, 3:34am

Post #12 of 13 (1212 views)
exposition [In reply to] Can't Post

I am Catholic and wonder if you've been exposed to any anthropological theology (or theological anthropology Tongue).I doubt that JRRT would have divided characteristics up so neatly among different races; in fact, I think one point he makes is the power to change.Rather a mystery like the concept of the Trinity.
#2 has a lot of explanatory power.

"I shall not wholly fail if anything can still grow fair in days to come."


Sep 1 2020, 4:05am

Post #13 of 13 (1010 views)
“He is a man, and that for him and many is sufficient tragedy.” [In reply to] Can't Post

Though spoken of Beowulf, this quote made before the “The Hobbit” was published, seems to me the premise on which Tolkien created the Men of Middle-earth (not as a gender, but as a people). I see in them lament for their fragility, their temporary and largely temporal existence; except, perhaps, should reputation afford them endurance against fading memory.

The other peoples of Middle-earth, each with their specialness, reinforce this lament, even if their lives were not any longer than the natural lifespans of Men: Hobbits for instance lived about as long, though were culturally wise enough to know that adulthood—perhaps now speaking chiefly of gender—doesn’t take hold of men until midlife. Certainly, as someone else mentioned, Hobbits were Tolkien’s analogue of Man of his day.

Just my thoughts on the question, late as usual.

(This post was edited by SirDennisC on Sep 1 2020, 4:19am)


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