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What if the Blue Wizards came to Middle-earth twice?

MerlinEngine
The Shire


Apr 22 2021, 8:03am

Post #1 of 14 (1663 views)
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What if the Blue Wizards came to Middle-earth twice? Can't Post

I've always assumed that the two accounts of the history of the Blue Wizards were mutually exclusive, namely that they either arrived to Middle-earth with the rest of the Istari in the Third Age or that they arrived in the Second Age. But then I came across a YouTube video about the Blue Wizards that suggests both accounts may be true. The idea goes that they first came to Middle-earth in the Second Age, did what they were sent to do, and after Sauron was defeated, returned back to Valinor. When the defeat tuned out to be temporary, they were sent back to Middle-earth, along with three more of their order, to deal with Sauron again. However, this time, they were ultimately unsuccessful.
My question is, is there anything in the text that disputes such an interpretation of events? And, what do you think about this reading?


squire
Half-elven


Apr 22 2021, 12:15pm

Post #2 of 14 (1625 views)
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It seems to go against everything we know about Tolkien's methods [In reply to] Can't Post

To ask if "there's anything in the text that disputes such an interpretation" is to assume there is only one 'text' that we would be referring to. But as we know, the unpublished narratives and notes of the Prof are a series of texts that often conflict with each other, or that add or subtract information from our understanding of the presumed history of Middle-earth as an imagined world.

In the case of the Blue Wizards, the understood reading of the conflicting notes, from the 1950s and 1970s respectively, has always been that Tolkien changed his mind about the fates of the two. In the earlier telling, they arrived with the other three, disappeared into the East, and were ultimately ineffective in the struggle to defeat Sauron. In the revised version they arrived much earlier than the others and went East where they embarked on a long-term and large-scale project to subvert Sauron's domination of those vast lands.

The revision is clearly a response to Tolkien's doubt, after long reflection, that the West could have resisted Sauron in the Third Age had the Dark Lord actually had full control of the resources of all of Eurasia (or its equivalent in terms of Middle-earth). So the BW become the agents for disabling some of that strength, to make The Lord of the Rings a more plausible story within the terms of the larger world that Tolkien had increasingly invented, especially as he later developed the Numenor story and the Second Age annals.

Now, could we dispute this interpretation and say that Tolkien was wrong about his own story? That seems hard. Whose story is it if not his?

Could we say that Tolkien, in his revised account, forgot to include or consciously omitted the first success of the Blue Wizards and their return to Valinor, prior to their return in the next Age? We can't prove a negative, but nothing in his careful methods of outlining his backstories would encourage such a reading, in which he becomes devious and mysterious in a note written to himself.

Are there other instances of agents of Valinor commuting back and forth to the Middle-earth as needed? (Not including the tribes and nations of Elves whose travels are the basis of the First Age tales, but in the sense of special messengers). Not in this sense. Gandalf dies and is sent back, but in the same body and with the same identity and consciousness. Glorfindel dies in the First Age and is reborn, later to return to Middle-earth, but he did not go from Gondolin to Elvenhome as a living Elf with a sense of completed mission, as in this proposal - nor was he any kind of special messenger in his first worldly incarnation. Now Sauron, a 'messenger' of Morgoth rather than Manwe, does in fact go back and forth, so to speak, but we know this because Tolkien goes to great lengths in his notes to explain just how and why this happens - exactly opposite to this suggestion regarding the Blue Wizards. In short, when something so extraordinary happens, Tolkien makes a note of it.

And finally, there is the common sense answer that the entire reason the Blue Wizards' mission was changed is to account for a vast geopolitical game whose consequences play out over four or five thousand years of history in the Second and Third Age. It contradicts the need for such a change to suggest that the repurposed Blue Wizards "did what they were sent to do" in just the first millennium or two and returned in triumph to Valinor after the Battle of the Last Alliance.



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MerlinEngine
The Shire


Apr 23 2021, 1:02pm

Post #3 of 14 (1559 views)
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Wrapping [In reply to] Can't Post

So let me get this straight, and please allow me a bit of simplification, you're basically saying that:
  1. You believe that the revised story, contained in Tolkein's notes, is correct, whereas the first account is obsolete and wrong (didn't happen). Claiming that this wasn't the case would be saying Tolkien is wrong about his own story.
  2. You take the stance that, given Tolkein's careful methods, it is likely that he would not have forgotten to include something or would not consciously omit anything, even if we're talking about his notes, letters or other "unpublished" material.
  3. There is virtually no commuting between Middle-earth and Valinor, and it doesn't make sense that the Blue Wizards would be an exception to this.
  4. You think it's common sense that the story of the Blue Wizards was changed to make it fit better with the outcomes we see in later stories and that they could not have had a great enough impact if they were there for just a couple thousand years.
Please feel free to correct me on any of these points, this is just basically what I'm getting from your reply.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Apr 23 2021, 2:14pm

Post #4 of 14 (1555 views)
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The Evolution of Tolkien's Legendarium [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
So let me get this straight, and please allow me a bit of simplification, you're basically saying that:
  1. You believe that the revised story, contained in Tolkein's notes, is correct, whereas the first account is obsolete and wrong (didn't happen). Claiming that this wasn't the case would be saying Tolkien is wrong about his own story.
  2. You take the stance that, given Tolkein's careful methods, it is likely that he would not have forgotten to include something or would not consciously omit anything, even if we're talking about his notes, letters or other "unpublished" material.
  3. There is virtually no commuting between Middle-earth and Valinor, and it doesn't make sense that the Blue Wizards would be an exception to this.
  4. You think it's common sense that the story of the Blue Wizards was changed to make it fit better with the outcomes we see in later stories and that they could not have had a great enough impact if they were there for just a couple thousand years.
Please feel free to correct me on any of these points, this is just basically what I'm getting from your reply.


This is mainly in response to your point #1: Tolkien often revised his writings, sometimes even making radical changes to previously published material. We see this in The Hobbit where he revised the account of how Bilbo acquired Gollum's ring and escaped from the tunnels beneath the Misty Mountains. Another famous example is Tolkien's later thoughts about Galadrel and Celeborn that contradict the published accounts in The Lord of the Rings[/ihe]. Most notably, Celeborn goes from being a Sindarin prince of Doriath to a Telerin Elf of Alqualondë. Would you have us believe that he is somehow both?

In the case of the Blue Wizards, neither account is published canon; both only appear in his posthumously released papers. I do see them as contradictory to one another, though the YouTuber does present an interesting argument.

Note that J.R.R. Tolkien's name is spelled correctly in this post.

#FidelityToTolkien
#DiversityWithFidelity

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Apr 23 2021, 2:19pm)


squire
Half-elven


Apr 23 2021, 6:07pm

Post #5 of 14 (1544 views)
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It's hard to make absolute 'rules' about Tolkien's inventions. [In reply to] Can't Post

That's nicely summarized - thanks for the response. Even given some simpification, I'll refine your summary in just a few places:

1. It's not that I believe the second story is correct and and so the first one is incorrect. You might say I believe the first story was correct from the 1950s to the 1970s, and the second story was correct as far as Tolkien's known thoughts went, from the time of its writing until he died. I would never say the Blue Wizards only had one history; I would always include the existence of both stories in any discussion about them, noting only that one came later and replaced the other in the timeline of the author's invention.

And I make this rather pettifogging rule for myself because Tolkien never published either note, but did discuss the first story with his fans in some of his letters. Had he ever had to actually publish an account of the Istari, who can say that he wouldn't have returned to the long-standing first story, with its accompanying creation myth and poetry fragment as found in Unfinished Tales, rather than with the less symmetrical and contrived-seeming second? Or that he might not have come up with an even more involved story - for instance, the one the YouTube poster invented?

2. Yes, he was quite conscious of the scope of his legendarium and the importance of consistency - not the same as completeness, about which he was much more forgiving of himself.

3. "It doesn't make sense" - but Tolkien regularly broke his own rules and made new ones when he wanted to. We judge his material against what we know, but it's foolish to decree absolutely what could or could not happen in Middle-earth.

4. I do think it's common sense that the story of the Blue Wizards was changed to make it fit better with the outcomes we see in later stories. I'm not convinced the change was necessary, but Tolkien evidently was because he did it.



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Elthir
Grey Havens


Apr 23 2021, 10:22pm

Post #6 of 14 (1532 views)
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the other side of this coin [In reply to] Can't Post

Just to add . . .

I'm not sure the idea under discussion necessarily replaced the earlier idea -- on the back of the very same paper of the note used for the linked video, Tolkien wrote a description (dated "probably 1972", see Unfinished Tales) in which, as I read it anyway, all five wizards arrive in Middle-earth at the same time. Part of this note reads [this follows a brief description of the five]:


Quote
"Now these Maiar were sent by the Valar at a crucial moment in the history of Middle-earth to enhance the resistance of the Elves of the West, greatly outnumbered by those of the East and South."


These late notes get separated -- this one was published in Unfinished Tales while the one in the video was published in The Peoples of Middle-Earth -- at least in part because Christopher Tolkien hadn't deciphered all the notes when UT was put together and published.

Thus, the "UT side" is more legible Smile and in my opinion agrees better with Appendix B.


Also, the notion of these two wizards being blue is earlier than the idea found in a letter [my summary of part of letter 211, dated 1958]:

Tolkien -- doesn't know colours (doubts they had distinctive colours) -- doesn't know anything clearly about the "other two" -- thinks they went to distant land, fears they failed, and suspects they were founders or beginners or secret cults and magic traditions outlasting Sauron's fall.

And unless there's something "blue" later than 1958 waiting to be published . . . Smile


(This post was edited by Elthir on Apr 23 2021, 10:34pm)


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Apr 24 2021, 12:34am

Post #7 of 14 (1524 views)
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There were Jutes on both sides. [In reply to] Can't Post

Wilt thou learn the lore that was long secret? If so, follow Dunadan of North Arnor and peruse Tolkien's scholarly work, which may reveal how he approached such narrative problems.


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


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squire
Half-elven


Apr 24 2021, 2:35am

Post #8 of 14 (1510 views)
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Jutes alors! [In reply to] Can't Post

Your link goes to your 2008 post "Glorfindel and Hengist" in a thread about Glorfindel. But the link in that post, the words 'something interesting' which evidently point us to an additional discussion of the subject by dna (later known as dunadan of north arnor) is dead. It goes to the lost archives of the old TORn boards and bounces back to the current boards.

Can you summarize how it relates to this thead? The mention of Hengist and your josh about Jutes suggests dna had something to say about Glorfindel's deft transitions from Elvenhome or Valinor to the Great Lands. Might that relate to the Blue Wizards' possibly passing back and forth from Valinor to Middle-earth twice in two Ages?



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Apr 24 2021, 8:48am

Post #9 of 14 (1484 views)
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One thing about them been blue [In reply to] Can't Post

Is that could one have been light blue and one dark blue? Like the two rowing teams in Oxford and Cambridge.


Elthir
Grey Havens


Apr 24 2021, 3:46pm

Post #10 of 14 (1476 views)
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coming unblued [In reply to] Can't Post

According to the 1954 description they were both "sea blue"

According to a 1958 description however, Tolkien -- doesn't know their colours and doubts they had distinctive colours . . .

. . . and in all texts (published so far) that date after 1958, Tolkien refers to them as the "other two" . . . or doesn't call them blue in any case.

Granted there isn't a pile of texts here, dating after 1958, but . . .


MerlinEngine
The Shire


Apr 26 2021, 7:28am

Post #11 of 14 (1365 views)
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Rules and the rest [In reply to] Can't Post

@Otaku-sempai "Would you have us believe that [Celeborn] is somehow both [Sindarin prince of Doriath and a Telerin Elf of Alqualondë]?"

I'd have you believe nothing, believe what you want. :) Semantics aside, this is a valid point and it just goes to show that generalization in interpretation can fail us when it comes to Tolkien. As Squire later wrote: "it's hard to make absolute 'rules' about Tolkien's inventions." But in my defence, I wasn't taking about a general approach to making sense of Tolkien's texts, rather about this specific instance.

"Both [accounts] only appear in his posthumously released papers."

One is included in the Unfinished Tales; but I get it, that's hardly the same level of "published cannon" as LOTR. Though I think you'll agree that we can't make the basis for separation between what is and what isn't canon the state of publication. That would make the first edition of The Hobbit canon, and moreover, also the Unfinished Tales and even those parts of The Silmarillion which Christopher himself admitted he didn't quite get right in the published version.

Typos sometimes creep in, what can I say[/ihe].

@Squire, whereas I wasn't convinced of most of your points before, I quite understand them now, and agree with them on most counts, particularly with point 1. I also find interesting the distinction between consistency and completeness, something which hadn't really crossed my mind. And of course, when it comes to absoluteness, there's no period with Tolkien. I used to think I had Tom Bombadil all figured out as a kid, but now I'm old and "wise" and much less fun, and I enjoy his enigmatic nature for what it is.

@Elthir "I'm not sure the idea under discussion necessarily replaced the earlier idea." So, you're saying the version in the Unfinished Tales fits better with the rest of the story, making the first account a tad more likely from this angle? (Because I notice that below you seem to dismiss this version in favour of later texts when discussing the colour of their robes.

@N.E. Brigand I'm sorry, but you've lost me there. But if you’re indeed directing our attention to Glorfindel, this may have a bearing on the Blue Wizards also, for if I understand correctly, they arrived with him in version 2.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Apr 26 2021, 2:06pm

Post #12 of 14 (1350 views)
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Still Posthumous. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
"Both [accounts] only appear in his posthumously released papers."

One is included in the Unfinished Tales; but I get it, that's hardly the same level of "published cannon" as LOTR.


And Unfinished Tales was compiled and edited by Christopher Tolkien years after his father's death. My point still stands.

#FidelityToTolkien
#DiversityWithFidelity


Elthir
Grey Havens


Apr 26 2021, 10:30pm

Post #13 of 14 (1342 views)
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four texts [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
( . . . ) That would make the first edition of The Hobbit canon, and moreover, also the Unfinished Tales and even those parts of The Silmarillion which Christopher himself admitted he didn't quite get right in the published version.


For me, canon is author published work, including the first edition Hobbit.

Since you mentioned it Wink



Quote
@Elthir "I'm not sure the idea under discussion necessarily replaced the earlier idea." So, you're saying the version in the Unfinished Tales fits better with the rest of the story, making the first account a tad more likely from this angle?


I'm saying we can't tell which late version is later (thus my "necessarily"). Both late quotes are on different sides of the same paper . . .

. . . so which side is later?

And the side given in Unfinished Tales -- if it is later -- appears to say all five wizards came to Middle-earth at the same time. I'm not sure if that makes the account more likely or not, but in any case it would agree with Appendix B, the time of arrival being the Third Age.



Quote
(Because I notice that below you seem to dismiss this version in favour of later texts when discussing the colour of their robes.



Which text do you mean by "this version" here? For clarity perhaps, the version I'm indicating with respect to "what [might have] replaced what" is a very late text, and neither of these late texts refer to "blue" wizards.

And my comments regarding coming "unblued" are based on two different descriptions, one also published in Unfinished Tales, The other being a letter dated years later.

None of these are author published of course, but it anyone wants to give more weight to later ideas (at least published so far), then Tolkien not knowing the colours is later.


(This post was edited by Elthir on Apr 26 2021, 10:41pm)


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Apr 30 2021, 4:56am

Post #14 of 14 (1082 views)
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Wry Nuada. [In reply to] Can't Post

Sorry for the obscurantism. I suspect but don't remember for sure if it was dna who referred on TORN to Glorfindel as a "wizard" because of these texts, but what I had in mind was actually one of two ideas he proposed on TORN and then didn't include in his J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia articles on the subjects, only for other scholars, unaware of his posts here, to make the same points years later. One was that Toklien may have had Nodens in mind when writing some of his descriptions of Oromë, an idea later taken up by John Rateliff. The other, more relevant here, was that Tolkien analyzes his own character or characters of Glordindel in much the same way that he discusses Hengest. Andrew Higgins lately touched on the same notion. And thus to generalize from that point: I've noticed particularly as I belatedly dip into Tolkien's essays on Beowulf published in 2014 that he has a lot to say in his medieval scholarship about how authors work, and I was only suggesting that it might be worth MerlinEngine's time to research what Tolkien says there about, say, episodes that repeat with different outcomes. Although in this instance, I think your interpretation above is likely correct.


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
Discuss Tolkien's life and works in the Reading Room!
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How to find old Reading Room discussions.

 
 

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