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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
The Silmarillion discussion: Of the Coming of the Elves

CuriousG
Valinor


Feb 1 2013, 5:34am

Post #1 of 23 (1595 views)
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The Silmarillion discussion: Of the Coming of the Elves Can't Post

Chapter outline:
  • Confronted with the widening of Melkor's power, Yavanna whips up the Valar to defeat him so the Elves can be born safely.
  • Mandos calls the war talk to a halt with a prophecy that the Elves will be born in darkness and will love the stars, which prompts Varda to create new, bolder stars to welcome their arrival.
  • The Elves are born by Lake Cuivienen.
  • Orome discovers them by hearing them singing and reports back to Valinor.
  • The Valar defeat Melkor (at last!) and imprison him in Mandos.
  • Ingwe, Elwe, and Finwe go to Valinor as tourists and come back to inspire their kindred to journey there.
  • Orome leads them toward Valinor, getting as far as Beleriand.
  • We learn of the differences between the three great kindreds of Elves.

Little questions:
Why do you suppose the other Valar don't make their own trips to M-E? Don't they all have a personal stake in it?
Why does Orome get no dialogue?

What's Melkor been up to?
  1. He fashioned the Misty Mountains to hinder the riding of Orome (though only if he was going east/west).
  2. Melkor has corrupted beasts and spirits: "the evil things that he had perverted walked abroad, and the dark and slumbering woods were haunted by monsters and shapes of dread."
  3. Orcs: the wise of Eressea believe Orcs were made from corrupted Elves. Also, they "had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Iluvatar" (a polite way of saying they have sex). "And deep in their dark hearts the Orcs loathe their Master, whom they served in fear, the maker only of their misery. This it may be was the vilest deed of Melkor, and the most hateful to Iluvatar."
>>Why do you think Melkor was nibbling around the edges of the Elves and kidnapping them a few at a time? Why not enslave them all at once? They weren't exactly a fighting force.


Recurring Tolkien themes:
1. Music, light, stars, trees, water

Tokien seems happiest and at his most creative when he writes about these themes, and he weaves them together in unexpected ways. Music created Arda and its people, Yavanna's song created trees of light, and Varda created stars from the water/dew of those trees of light. Nice cycle, huh? The Elves who never reach Valinor still benefit from seeing the stars made from its Two Trees.

Next Elves awaken by a body of water, and they are discovered by Orome because of their singing. Some are frightened by the deceits of Melkor but most are drawn to the light of Aman in his face--the same light in the Two Trees and the stars.

The Elves love the stars as their first sight, and their first sound is water, which remembers the Great Music.

2. Grudges

Melkor never forgives the Elves for being the cause of his downfall. (Just as Elves and Dwarves never forgive each other, and Gollum hateses a certain thief forever.)

3. Melancholy and decline
These first Elves are "stronger and greater than they have since become; but not more fair..." Their beauty exceeded all other beauty from Iluvatar, "and sorrow and wisdom have enhanced it." This is our first introduction to Elves, and already we collide with the bittersweet news that they become weaker over time, and it takes sadness to make them more beautiful than their progenitors. Do you ever wonder (like me) why Tolkien can't just make everyone happy for a little while?

Did I miss any other themes?

More questions:
Varda creates the constellations of Orion and the Big Dipper as omens to daunt Melkor. What effect does this connection to our own world have on you? Do you react with, "Cool! That's our world!" or "Hmm. I liked it better when this was a fantasy place in another time that I could escape to." ?

Tolkien calls Varda's new stars "the greatest of all the works of the Valar since their coming into Arda." Do you agree? I vote the Trees as greatest.

The Valar don't find Sauron and many other creatures of Melkor. How do you react to this: do you think they should have and are at fault? Or was Melkor just fiendishly clever in hiding things from people who don't really understand deceit?

Ulmo is the leader of the faction saying that the Elves should be left in Middle-earth to improve the land, but the Valar decide they love the Elves too much to leave them so far away, and that it's too dangerous to leave them overseas. Mandos says, "So it is doomed," and we're told "From this summons came many woes that afterwards befell." If you were there, wouldn't you get more information out of Mandos? Doesn't this sound like a warning that no one is heeding? And if he understands it himself, doesn't he owe it to his kindred to warn them of the consequences? Aside from that, do you agree with Ulmo that the Elves should have been left in Middle-earth?

Why are the Noldor called "the Deep Elves?" To me, "deep" means philosophical, or a highly complex personality. Are the Teleri and Vanyar shallow in comparison? (This isn't meant to be provocative; I've never understood this word usage.)

Last
Is this a chapter you come back to, or is one read enough? (I personally come back over and over.)


CuriousG
Valinor


Feb 1 2013, 5:55am

Post #2 of 23 (443 views)
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Brief comment from "Arda Reconstructed" [In reply to] Can't Post

Christopher switched endlessly back and forth between sources in constructing this chapter, leaving me as dizzy as Douglas Kane.

Key point; If we're confused about the origin of Orcs, it's because JRR never made up his mind and left contradictory writings about them. Sometimes they were just corrupted Elves, sometimes they were Melkor's created mockeries of Elves. I think each reader is free to choose their own origin since there is no definitive account.


elevorn
Lorien


Feb 1 2013, 4:15pm

Post #3 of 23 (369 views)
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birth and other questions fo Elves [In reply to] Can't Post

Little questions:
Why do you suppose the other Valar don't make their own trips to M-E? Don't they all have a personal stake in it?
Perhaps they are weary fo dealing with all the mess of Melkor. they know he's out there, they've worked really hard on building up Valinor. Maybe they don't want to leave it. Hard to say for sure, but each seems to return to the element they are connected to and only concern themselves with the best of their work.


Why does Orome get no dialogue?
I have no idea, maybe there was little to be said as they were still learning each others language and there was no record of what was said.

What's Melkor been up to?
You pretty much summed it up. He was ordering his minions, digging deeper holes, teaching Sauron, doing some really strange biological experiments. I kind of view him as a Dr. Frankenstien of sorts. Making different things out of different parts and coming up with terrifyling creatures as a result.
  1. He fashioned the Misty Mountains to hinder the riding of Orome (though only if he was going east/west).
  2. Melkor has corrupted beasts and spirits: "the evil things that he had perverted walked abroad, and the dark and slumbering woods were haunted by monsters and shapes of dread."
  3. Orcs: the wise of Eressea believe Orcs were made from corrupted Elves. Also, they "had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Iluvatar" (a polite way of saying they have sex). "And deep in their dark hearts the Orcs loathe their Master, whom they served in fear, the maker only of their misery. This it may be was the vilest deed of Melkor, and the most hateful to Iluvatar."

>>Why do you think Melkor was nibbling around the edges of the Elves and kidnapping them a few at a time? Why not enslave them all at once? They weren't exactly a fighting force.
If he takes them all at once, which apparently there were tons of them, and yet we only get what, four names or so, he will have no way of sowing seeds of discord. He was very good about looking ahead to see what he could do with small lies and deciet as a way of hurting the Valar. Also, he wanted them to suffer and see what he could do to them in the twisting of that race. I go with the elves from Orcs theory. He wanted the elves to see what mockery he could make of them. Also there may have been the thought of terrible reprisal were he to enslave the entire race. Perhaps he feared Illuvatar would become involved if he did such a thing.

More questions:
Varda creates the constellations of Orion and the Big Dipper as omens to daunt Melkor. What effect does this connection to our own world have on you? Do you react with, "Cool! That's our world!" or "Hmm. I liked it better when this was a fantasy place in another time that I could escape to." ?

I like that it is tied to our world. Makes the escape a little easier for me to make when I dive into Tolkien's world.

Tolkien calls Varda's new stars "the greatest of all the works of the Valar since their coming into Arda." Do you agree? I vote the Trees as greatest.

I have to agree that the stars are the greatest, no one can cut them down or blot out their light.



The Valar don't find Sauron and many other creatures of Melkor. How do you react to this: do you think they should have and are at fault? Or was Melkor just fiendishly clever in hiding things from people who don't really understand deceit?
I think they lost focus and only dealt with Melkor, they seem to fail at this several times though. There is a lot of grace given to him.

Ulmo is the leader of the faction saying that the Elves should be left in Middle-earth to improve the land, but the Valar decide they love the Elves too much to leave them so far away, and that it's too dangerous to leave them overseas. Mandos says, "So it is doomed," and we're told "From this summons came many woes that afterwards befell." If you were there, wouldn't you get more information out of Mandos? Doesn't this sound like a warning that no one is heeding? And if he understands it himself, doesn't he owe it to his kindred to warn them of the consequences? Aside from that, do you agree with Ulmo that the Elves should have been left in Middle-earth?
Mandos is like "Debbie Downer" he's got good information, but man he can ruin a party. At the same time, I would have definitely been asking questions, but he has the feeling that you can ask him, but isn't talking.

Why are the Noldor called "the Deep Elves?" To me, "deep" means philosophical, or a highly complex personality. Are the Teleri and Vanyar shallow in comparison? (This isn't meant to be provocative; I've never understood this word usage.)
I don't understand the usage either. I think they are all on the same level, though the Vanyar seem a bit shallow and cowardly to me, they just leave and never come back, tehy don;t really do anything until Earendil calls for aid. Its just hard for me to see the Vanyar as great when they don't do anything. The Noldor mine and create and build and conquer, the Teleri rule and make kingdoms and build really fancy boats. But the meaning of "Deep Elves" is a bit foreign to me.

Last
Is this a chapter you come back to, or is one read enough? (I personally come back over and over.)

I come back trying to figure out who is related to who and how and why its important. One of the confusing aspects to me is how many elves there are, are they born, do they just wake up? How did they get there? When did they start marrying and making little elves? How many of them just woke up? Who taught them how to make clothes and all that stuff?



"clever hobbits to climb so high!"
Check out my writing www.jdstudios.wordpress.com


Asger
Bree


Feb 1 2013, 6:57pm

Post #4 of 23 (371 views)
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>>Why do you think Melkor was nibbling around the edges of the Elves and kidnapping them a few at a time? Why not enslave them all at once? They weren't exactly a fighting force. [In reply to] Can't Post

I think Melkor was short of competent people. It must be a hard 24/7 job torturing elves into corruption, and he only had those high-and-mighty dark maiar, some corrupted spirits and mindless beasts, until the Orcs were created.

"Don't take life seriously, it ain't nohow permanent!" Pogo
www.willy-centret.dk


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Feb 1 2013, 7:34pm

Post #5 of 23 (358 views)
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I'm enjoying seeing these brief comments from AR [In reply to] Can't Post

I hope others are as well! Keep 'em coming. Smile

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


telain
Rohan

Feb 2 2013, 8:34pm

Post #6 of 23 (338 views)
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great post! I hope my answers measure up... [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you, CuriousG for an informative and thought-provoking discussion. Now, let's see, where to begin...

Little questions
In the previous discussion, someone mentioned that Manwe, Varda, and Ulmo really don't create sentient things (except for, now, Manwe's eagles) so perhaps they aren't that invested. Aule's dwarves won't come about until after the Elves and Humans awake, so -- again -- perhaps he isn't that invested. But this seems like a very poor argument and it is striking that the only Valar to put in the effort are Yavanna and (apparently mute) Orome. I did notice that Tulkas says:

Quote
'Nay! Let us make war swiftly! Have we not rested from strife overlong, and is not our strength now renewed?'

Perhaps it takes the Valar a long time to recover...

Why do you think Melkor was nibbling around the edges of the Elves and kidnapping them a few at a time? Why not enslave them all at once? They weren't exactly a fighting force.
If i could answer this with a question: "How many Elves were born at Cuivienen? And secondly, "How many evil spirits are we talking about?" It's not that I am hoping Tolkien would have supplied with numbers, its just that I have no concept of what a "great host" is, nor how many dark shadows Melkor has at his disposal. Perhaps the numbers were not in his favour...

Music light, stars, trees, water...
I agree with you -- I always love the ways in which he describes these things and how they are interwoven into the fabric of the world. To answer another one of your questions here: I love the fact that the constellations are recognizable (I even sometimes look at Orion and smile to myself), because this means that the beauty and majesty that Tolkien describes either used to be in our world, still is in our world, deserves to be in our world in the future. I prefer fantasy to be recognizable; it makes reality seem that much more beautiful -- even magical (in the good, Elvish, arty way...).

stars, trees, or something else Honestly I cannot decide! I love them all and every time I think I have a favourite, I think: "But [trees, stars, flowers, etc.] are pretty great, too." But I do love trees. And stars. I'll stop now.

melancholy and decline Sometimes Tolkien does frustrate... but then that is one of the reasons he is so compelling a storyteller. In answer to your question: Yes, I would like it very much if someone could just be happy," Unfortunately, those don't often make compelling stories. I wonder if his rationale for giving this rather miserable fate to the Elves, is to give them that flaw that makes them more interesting. We can't have a "great host" of nearly perfect, wise, beautiful (and more or less immortal) beings roaming around! Though I do tend to think that description faintly describes the Vanyar, which is why I think Tolkien had them leave M-e. This leads me to...

Mandos, "The Vague"
Yes, I would have liked to ask him some questions, and although I think he relishes being the mysterious type, I'd like to think Nienna or someone else could have gleaned a bit more information from him. These Elves, after all, are Iluvatar's Firstborn. I also don't think the Valar were particularly thorough searching Melkor's realm. Shouldn't they have known that he would be so deceptive? I sometimes get the impression that the Valar are like a bit absent-minded. Or perhaps as Tulkas indicated above, they are simply overworked...


noWizardme
Grey Havens


Feb 3 2013, 6:06pm

Post #7 of 23 (342 views)
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Doom and Deepness and Damned, sexy orcs [In reply to] Can't Post

Mandos ties my brain in knots

I think Mandos' "Doom" is an interesting theme here. In Valanquenta, we're told that Mandos:


Quote
...knows all things that shall be, save only those that lie still in the freedom of Iluvatar.

Which means he knows something between everything and nothing (depending on how much freedom Iluvatar has, or decides to use in practice). Personally, I'm interpreting this as he knows how things will currently work out, unless Iluvatar changes his mind on anything. So any pronouncement Mandos can make must come with a disclaimer. Even so it would impose some pretty definite limitations on free will in Tolkien's universe, you would think. For example, maybe the Ring is doomed to be destroyed at the end of the Third Age whether Frodo fails to do it at the last minute (as happens) or whether it goes wrong earlier on. So if Frodo were nabbed by the wrights or never left the Green Dragon, for example, would it have worked out that the Ring gets destroyed some other way? Why bother with the hassle of fighting evil yourself when you can safely leave it to some other poor sucker {underlined text added at edit}?. Hmmm- that could get quite deep, philosophically.

But no wonder the Mandos learns to be circumspect - people would endlessly bother him for stock picks, otherwise.

When the Valar are meeting and trying to decide whether to summon the Elves to Valinor, Mandos only says "So it is doomed" - which is wonderfully oracular, delphic and unhelpful. Does he mean "this is what Iluvatar wishes"? Or "I can see this is what the meeting will resolve (darned stupid idea though it is)"? (or even something like "So, WE are doomed"?) It seems to end the debate however; which Mandos, presumably could predict before saying it... Oracles: always tie my head in knots.
Certainly, as the book (and CuriousG in his starter post) notes:


Quote
"From this summons came many woes that afterwards befell".

In the discussion of the previous chapter. we've noted a possible laziness or selfishness about the Valar - they have decided to partition Arda into a good bit, which they control and a Melkor bit, which isn't so well-maintained, rather than taking on the improvement of the whole estate . Then they love the Elves, so of course want them to come to the good bit. So maybe they take Mandos' words for support of their scheme rather than seeing that its much more ambiguous than that. (which his a bit ironic, because Mandos presumably knew before speaking that they would take his words as support....) But, tracking back towards the sticky swamp of oracles, and destiny and logic: can you even ask Mandos "what would work out better - for us to bring the Elves here, or support them in living in Middle-earth?" If Mandos knows "all things that shall be", how can there be alternatives that would lead to different outcomes?

Curious G asks: Why are the Noldor called "the Deep Elves?"
My guess is that its because they end up with a deep knowledge of things. Which leads them to suffering and distress as well as pleasure. So "deep" (with connotations of "towards the darkness" as well as "large volume") is maybe a good name. Calling them the "crafty elves" would not sound so good, because of multiple senses of crafty!

Damned, sexy orcs
Shocked- woah, hold on: note that important comma, and recall there's a technical sense of "damned" Angelic

Back in the Valanquenta discussion, a theme grew up (starting about here ) about orcish reproduction. Well, this chapter seems to settle it ("For the orcs had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Iluvatar"). Which means there are orc females and orc sex and orc babies around. Rather than just being of mytheo-biological interest (or good for an "eeeew!" factor) it brings us back to a great and serious point made by in the Valanquenta thread by Gwenhwyfar

Quote
"I've always thought, particularly since Tolkien was in a real war, that he invented orcs because he needed an enemy that could be unequivocally evil and not very person-like so that his heroes could be unequivocally right to fight and kill them. ... No real war can be satisfactory if it involves human enemies because most humans (even if they are required/persuaded to follow an evil leader, such as Hitler) are not 100% evil. [Note] Tolkien's sympathy for Gollum -- who had a tiny but real chance at redemption & joining the good guys ...

In that case, thinking too hard about orc families with wives and children would invalidate their purpose. I think biological reproduction must be happening, but that the thought of orc babies would have been unbearable to an author who positioned their species as an enemy whom it is always acceptable to kill. No people in Tolkien's world start evil, even if they become very evil later by their own choices; the fact that orcs are ruined elves allows that rule to still apply: they started out good but were pushed past the point where they could possibly be redeemed. Innocent orc babies who've never hurt anybody (even if they grow up to do so) would upset the concept, so that's why I think Tolkien didn't want to think about them.

[I've quoted this only in part: the full text of this post can be found here ]


Poor orc babies- damned already at birth? Are they doomed to be evil no matter how they try otherwise (or if, say, brought up by a group of kindly elves)? If so, Melkor has corrupted a race in perpetuity, so very much "the vilest deed of Melkor, and the most hateful to Iluvatar"

Maybe that is why Melkor doesn't kidnap the Elves en masse - perhaps that would be too much for Iluvatar and the Valar to take, rather hands-off htough they seem to be at this stage.


Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....
Feel free to meddle in the affairs of noWizardMe by agreeing or disagreeing (politely...) with my posts! I may not be subtle, but at least I'm usually slow to anger...

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Feb 3 2013, 6:08pm)


CuriousG
Valinor


Feb 3 2013, 6:31pm

Post #8 of 23 (311 views)
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Elves and the bad guy [In reply to] Can't Post

I appreciate all your comments, particularly those on why Melkor didn't enslave all of the Elves at once. Don't upset Daddy Eru with mass slaughter, or he'll come to your room! And it's fertile ground to think that Melkor would have preferred that the Elves cause trouble among the Valar rather than eradicating them or capturing all of them. There's no end to his malice.

I wonder myself why Tolkien gives us a richly textured history of the Noldor and Sindar, and virtually nothing on the Vanyar. Maybe he just ran out of ideas? One could say that the Noldor had flaws, and you need flaws to be interesting and have plot and conflict, so having no flaws, the Vanyar provide no grist for the writing mill. But I'm not sure the Sindar have flaws, unless pacifism and a tendency to shun authority are flaws, but I don't think so, those traits just make them easy prey..

Regarding where do baby Elves come from, one curiosity is that Elwe and Olwe are brothers. So where are their parents? Were they both lost to Melkor's kidnappers? But Mandos, Nienna, and Lorien are siblings and have no more parentage than any other Valar, so possibly Olwe and Elwe are related in the same non-reproductive way. (Now I wonder who gave birth to TORnsibs...)

It's said of the Elves that "they began to make speech," so that's something they learned on their own somehow, presumably without going through the stages we assume humans had of grunting and pointing before figuring out words and grammar. Maybe speech is inborn knowledge to them, a start-up gift from Iluvatar, along with all the other things like cooking and making clothes.

How many were there? Tolkien gives me the impression of thousands, but he's quite noncommittal about numbers. Later on in The Fifth Battle, Turgon shows up with 10,000 soldiers, and I remember how that struck me on first read how rare Tolkien gives any statistics. "Lots!" doesn't quite satisfy, but I suppose it allows the imagination to fill in the blanks. What do others think about the original number of Elves: hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, millions?


CuriousG
Valinor


Feb 3 2013, 7:02pm

Post #9 of 23 (374 views)
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Valar and Elves [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for your replies, Telain, and yes, they certainly do measure up.

Aule would get my vote as someone who ought to be traipsing around Middle-earth along with the other two. Wouldn't he be concerned with mountains, hills, anything that's solid land that Melkor may have twisted? Wouldn't he be able to smash down the Misty Mountains after Melkor raised them to hinder Orome? Shouldn't he take long walks with Yavanna in foreign lands to keep the romance alive?

Re: constellations. So far we have 2 votes in favor of them being recognizable. I'm divided myself. I like looking at the Big Dipper and thinking, "Ha! Varda put that there to herald Melkor's doom," and in that context, it looks scary, scarier as a Sickle than a cup. But I don't like going down the road of comparing Tolkien's world to our own and figuring out which continent is Asia or Africa, etc, so maybe I just need to stop at the stars.

I should clarify that I meant the Two Trees of Valinor, not trees in general vs. stars. I consider the Two Trees to "outshine" (sorry) Varda's stars as the greatest work of the Valar because in themselves (born from song and giving light to a vast land) they are simply awesome, and the fate of the world is tied up with them.

It seems that the fundamental flaw of the Elves is sadness, and of Men it's pride and treachery (okay, that's two). You're right that if nothing was ever wrong, we'd have a happy photo of pretty people that would never change, one glance would be enough. That's probably why most of us can't figure out the seemingly flawless Vanyar, or why Ingwe qualifies as High King of the Elves, all of them, unless it's his near-perfection. In a way the Vanyar seem like wasted potential, and I'd like to know more about them. But that might be intentional on Tolkien's part since it puts some mystery in the story, the same way I wondered all through LOTR who had the other two of the Three Rings.

Mandos seems to speak and reveal the future when Manwe tells him to, and this seems a big enough matter for Manwe to want to know what the cryptic remark meant. Maybe it was cryptic enough that Manwe wasn't concerned by it, or maybe the Valar were so ecstatic to have the Elves come live with them that they weren't going to pay attention to "Debbie Downer," or maybe they were absent-minded in the same way they were in letting some of Melkor's minions escape them.


CuriousG
Valinor


Feb 3 2013, 7:56pm

Post #10 of 23 (325 views)
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Of Elves and Orcs--more info [In reply to] Can't Post

In talking about Orc reproduction, I finally found the source of "Orcs multiplying." Since pagination can vary, it's 6 pages into Of The Rings of Power and the Third Age and talks about Sauron's rise:


Quote
...he gathered again under his government all the evil things of the days of Morgoth that remained on earth or beneath it, and the Orcs were at his command and multiplied like flies.

I don't take that to mean they bred in the same anatomical fashion that insects do, but they are able to breed copiously somehow, and that is from Orcs giving birth to Orcs, not fresh recruits of hapless Elves being corrupted.

Then In the Sindar, the Orcs' origin seems to contradict what we learn in this chapter:

Quote
Whence they came, or what they were, the Elves knew not then, thinking them perhaps to be Avari who had become evil and savage in the wild; in which they guessed all too near, it is said.

That doesn't seem "near" to guessing that they were captured Avari who were twisted into Orcs in Melkor's dungeons, more like they became wild on their own while sundered from civilization. So, given Tolkien's contradictions, or the ones presented to us by Chris Tolkien, we'll never know for certain.


CuriousG
Valinor


Feb 3 2013, 9:12pm

Post #11 of 23 (392 views)
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Mandos and his secrets [In reply to] Can't Post

Prophecy comes up a lot in Tolkien's world, and you raise a good point about how predictable things are, in general or in detail, and if people are left with free will. Mandos can be specific when he wants to be. In Of the Sun and Moon, he says "To me shall Feanor come soon." He says that with certainty, and doesn't appear to be conjecturing that Feanor's personality is ultimately self-destructive, so he'll probably die soon somehow. Hence Feanor has no free will in the matter and is doomed to do what he does. Or I suppose he had an alternative possibility of falling off a cliff by accident, but I don't think the text implies that.

Huor's prophecy to Turgon is reasonably definitive and specific: "from you and from me a new star shall arise." That seems to mean that Earendil taking the Silmaril into the sky was 100% certain. Well, in retrospect it's clear. I had no clue on first read and had trouble keeping Huor and Huan separate.

A less high and mighty oracle was Malbeth the Seer. One of his prophecies had the sort of unhelpful ambiguity that delphic types are known for. When naming Arvedui as as last king of Arnor, Malbeth says "a choice will come to the Dunedain" determining Arvedui's fate, but of course he gives no indication what that choice will be. But when Aragorn quotes Arvedui about the Paths of the Dead, Malbeth is much more definitive that an heir of Isildur will return to successfully summon the Dead. Making sense only half the time is better than being Cassandra and having no one believe any of your forecasts, I guess.

Other predictions I perused are usually more helpful than "So it is doomed," and they often leave open an alternative. In the Tale of Aragorn part of Appdx A, there's even a marital spat between two soothsayers over who's right about the future. Dirhael doesn't want his daughter to marry a man he forebodes will die soon, while his wife, Ivorwen, foresees that if they are wed, "hope may be born for our people" [i.e., Estel/Aragorn]. Gandalf foresees that Frodo "may become like a glass filled with light" [italics mine both times], so Frodo's fate isn't sealed.

But asking Mandos to spill the beans at this point is like saying the Eagles should fly the Ring into Mordor--it ruins the story. I still want to shake it out of him, or tell him to keep quiet if he doesn't have anything noncryptic to say. On the other hand, everything seems so happy-ever-after with Melkor in jail and the Elves coming to the Blessed Realm, the pot needs stirring up.

As for deciding whether to fight evil yourself or let fate take care of it, isn't the latter what a lot of people do? "Don't bother yourself; it will work itself out."

Concerning "Orc love," I can't get past the "eww!" factor myself.

Thanks for the reply!


telain
Rohan

Feb 5 2013, 4:32pm

Post #12 of 23 (276 views)
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doomed by doom? [In reply to] Can't Post

I always find discussions of prophecy, destiny, fate, doom, etc. really interesting... and frustrating! Especially with the complicating "free will" factor.

Perhaps I am not the only one, but I also get hung up on the neutrality and/or negativity of the word "doom". I usually see it as "ill-fated" or even "ruinous", but sometimes I read it simply as "destined."

With the concept free will I am even more unsure -- is Mandos really predicting what will happen, or is he simply saying what the rest of us reading the story are thinking? If it was Eru's intent that Arda be the home to his Children, then Is it really going to turn out well that the Firstborn are called to live with the Valar? (Especially considering relations with Melkor have, well, deteriorated, and the fact that though enslaved he is still "in the world"? I mean, you can't introduce a supreme evil and enslave him and think that will actually be the end of it, can you?) Sometimes I find the soothsayers and prophets in stories are far less enigmatic than they are cautious or practical. Sure, they usually are somewhat pessimistic, but then that it just another word for realist, right? In a sense, then I am reiterating the point about how predictable things are when people do have free will, just from a slightly surreal angle...

Furthermore, I think some things are predictable, but to a certain point -- usually having to do with the scale (time and space) of the prediction involved. In our example from this chapter the scale is quite large, so the prediction can be quite vague. Mandos can know something isn't going to go well, but he doesn't have to know exactly how. The sheer number of ways it can go wrong leads one to suspend precision for a general sense "this just isn't right." Other predictions can be more precise as well because there are specific people involved (Turgon, Arvedui, Frodo, etc.,) rather than an entire group or race.

I predict I will have lunch soon (very small time and space scale, so accurate prediction possible!)


sador
Half-elven


Feb 11 2013, 12:16pm

Post #13 of 23 (232 views)
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Answers at last [In reply to] Can't Post

Now that the discussion for the next chapter is up, I can tackle this one...

Why do you suppose the other Valar don't make their own trips to M-E?
Why bother? Too much trouble, not enough fun.

Don't they all have a personal stake in it?
Not really.

But this goes with the wider question of whether the Valar were not neglecting their charge - in effect, whether Melkor's lies were not, in a fashion, true (I guess they must be in order to take root).
Do you consider this a flaw, or a feature, of Arda's theology? Could this explain the question you've asked in Main, as to why there is no Vala-based cult?

Why does Orome get no dialogue?
Most of the Valar don't - not even the Queenly Varda!
As a rule, the Valar don't speak; they declaim. The only exceptions are the last chapter, and Tulkas, which always seems like the dullard muscleman.
In one of Tolkien's late writings (which didn't make the cut - much to Voronwe's chagrin), the Valar do actually engage in a debate, regarding the fate of Miriel and the second marriage of Finwe. But this is an exception as well, and might actually be the reason Christopher Tolkien and Guy Kay felt it was incompatible with the tone of the rest. Who knows? They don't tell.

Why do you think Melkor was nibbling around the edges of the Elves and kidnapping them a few at a time? Why not enslave them all at once?
I never really asked myself. Thank you for raising this question!
My first impulse was to say that Elves, before having diminishd, were not so easy to catch. But I've read some of the other responses, and I really like the idea that as evil cannot really create anything, Melkor left some free on purpose. He surely did that with Men.

The Elves who never reach Valinor still benefit from seeing the stars made from its Two Trees.
Would they not benefit more from proper light?
Perhaps not, for the sun heralded their decline. But this is a case of the Valar hoarding the light for themselves.
Do you think this is the true history of the Elves - one of neglected children?

The Elves love the stars as their first sight, and their first sound is water, which remembers the Great Music.
And is controlled by the one Vala (Melkor excepted) which never forgot them.
But perhaps this is because water remembers the Great Music? Ulmo might know less of Eru's plans than Mandos, but the vision resonates with him like it does with no others - and he never forgets neither Elves nor Men.

Melkor never forgives the Elves for being the cause of his downfall.
What do you think he would do otherwise? I'm not even sure Gollum would do otherwise had he been driven only by desire for the Precious and not by hate.
And by the way - there are absolutely no indications of Dwarves hating Ents for the massacre at Sarn Athrad, are there? Gimli seems utterly clueless regarding their very existence.

This is our first introduction to Elves, and already we collide with the bittersweet news that they become weaker over time, and it takes sadness to make them more beautiful than their progenitors.
This is the doctrine of the slow decline of the generations.

Do you ever wonder (like me) why Tolkien can't just make everyone happy for a little while?
There'e the end of The Hobbit, Farmer Giles of Ham and Leaf by Niggle. Also Roverandom.
Isn't that enough?

What effect does this connection to our own world have on you? Do you react with, "Cool! That's our world!" or "Hmm. I liked it better when this was a fantasy place in another time that I could escape to." ?
I never went for astronomy, so it doesn't really matter.
It's fun to imagine Middle-earth as based on our earth; but with Myths Transformed, one gets the feeling that Tolkien took it too seriously.

Tolkien calls Varda's new stars "the greatest of all the works of the Valar since their coming into Arda." Do you agree? I vote the Trees as greatest.

Well, the stars lasted.
I still think the sun is actually greater - but I suspect Tolkien was harking back to the Book of Lost Tales version, in which the Valar themselves were afraid of the sun, having fashioned it without understanding what aterrible source of energy they had unleashed.


The Valar don't find Sauron and many other creatures of Melkor. How do you react to this: do you think they should have and are at fault?
They seem to just be eager to return back to the light and joy of Valinor, right? Not quite interested in doing a thorough job of it.

Or was Melkor just fiendishly clever in hiding things from people who don't really understand deceit?
Sauron was clever enough himself to hide, thank you.
Actually, I doubt that Melkor ever provided for a rainy day. He always seems to underestimate his adversaries.

If you were there, wouldn't you get more information out of Mandos?
I would try; but he wouldn't divulge any.

Doesn't this sound like a warning that no one is heeding?
No; like an authorial comment.
I'm not sure that the word "doom" has such negative connotations for the Valar as for us mere mortals.

And if he understands it himself, doesn't he owe it to his kindred to warn them of the consequences?
No. He has his knowledge from Iluvatar, and speaks only at his or Manwe's bidding.
And what would his warning help? To change the doom? This would be betraying his trust.

Aside from that, do you agree with Ulmo that the Elves should have been left in Middle-earth?
Who can tell what would have happened otherwise? Many of the Valar's decisions in the first chapters are open to questions, but it is wrong to blame all the woes that befell afterwards on any single one.

Why are the Noldor called "the Deep Elves?" To me, "deep" means philosophical, or a highly complex personality. Are the Teleri and Vanyar shallow in comparison?
I think that's exactly what Tolkien meant.
And yes, as far as we know - the other kindreds are more shallow.

Is this a chapter you come back to, or is one read enough?
Neither more nor less than the average.

Thank you for this discussion! I have another comment to add to a post below - but want to check a book at home first. Hopefully tomorrow.



noWizardme
Grey Havens


Feb 11 2013, 2:35pm

Post #14 of 23 (211 views)
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late thought about stars, and links to real Earth [In reply to] Can't Post

Astronomy seems to be one of the few connections between Middle-earth and our real world. "The sickle" gets mentioned on the LOTR. I believe Tolkien took some care over the phases on the moon, so that they would be observed consistently by the various member so the Fellowship once it had split up. Also, there is the "red star" which Frodo sees while waiting for the Fellowship to set out from Rivendell - that might be Mars . (Or, it might be something to do with Sauron, or Frodo's subconscious; and those of us who (like me) have a tendency to search for literal explanations also need to remember that ambiguity is one of Tolkien's tools in passages like this.)

I wonder whether there is an interesting contrast - Tolkien leaves the "real-Earth" astronomy in, but edited out the geography - I read in another thread that Bilbo originally claims to Thorin &Co that he is brave enough to go to China (to fight the were-worms); but that this real-Earth reference was later edited out.

If there is something in it, I wonder what it means....

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....
Feel free to meddle in the affairs of noWizardMe by agreeing or disagreeing (politely...) with my posts! I may not be subtle, but at least I'm usually slow to anger...


noWizardme
Grey Havens


Feb 11 2013, 2:38pm

Post #15 of 23 (231 views)
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Oh, the next chapter disscussion HAS started... [In reply to] Can't Post

For those either "watching" this thread, or coming to it in future times, the next chapter discussion is here.

Which does not mean that it'd too late to post on THIS thread, if you have more to say....

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....
Feel free to meddle in the affairs of noWizardMe by agreeing or disagreeing (politely...) with my posts! I may not be subtle, but at least I'm usually slow to anger...


telain
Rohan

Feb 12 2013, 4:25pm

Post #16 of 23 (193 views)
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Middle-earth and Real-earth [In reply to] Can't Post

I wonder, too, about Tolkien's use of Real-earth to write Middle-earth. Here, I bring up the oft-referenced Tolkien distaste for allegory (which, truthfully, he really can't get too far away from). Real-earth places in the stories -- like Bilbo fighting were-worms in China -- might lead more people to look for allegory. (Bilbo in China -- great image!)

Editing out Real-earth places also gives more licence to play with geography (and thus, identity). Tolkien may have wanted us to equate some aspects of Gondor with the civilization of the Romans (or even Egyptians), but I do not get the sense he wanted us to believe they were the Romans. (Nor the Rohirrim as the ancient Celts or Vikings, or Hobbits ancient Britons, etc.) Using astronomy is actually quite brilliant now that I think about it, because it places Middle-earth on Real-earth, but it allows an imaginative use of geography to fit the story. If Bilbo had actually said "China", then we'd be busy figuring out which race was which Real-earth people and debating why parts of the Middle-earth story don't fit Real-earth history or geography.

Astronomy also has a bit of the mythic/mystic about it (yes, I know it is a real science and I am not confusing it with astrology) but there is nonetheless a connection between the two that -- in my mind anyway -- further draws Middle-earth into the realm of fantasy/myth instead of legend/history.


sador
Half-elven


Feb 12 2013, 9:33pm

Post #17 of 23 (207 views)
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As far as I remember, not exactly. [In reply to] Can't Post

In the footnotes, Kane quotes Charles Noad as stating that this was the very first chapter that was created by combining different sources; before that, Christopher Tolkien preferred the approach of taking the last version of each chapter and presenting it with a comprehensive commentary.

I haven't read Noad myself, but I once came across his appraisal of Arda Reconstructed; a link in that eesay sent me to another online source, in which he summarized his impressions from hearing Guy Kay speak about the making of The Silmarillion. I searched for this, and couldn't find it today - the traces led to a discussion in LotRPlaza which seems blocked for non-members.

Anyway, if my memory serves, Noad reports Kay as claiming to be the one who persuaded Christopher that his approach was impractical; and to show the advantages of his approach, he constructed the third chapter (this one) using different sources, which was lauded by all (I remember not understanding who were "all").

If I remember correctly, this account implied that this chapter was basically constructed by Kay, with perhaps only moinor corrections. The only other part Christopher attributes to him in person (the bits from The Lay of Leithan in the chapter regarding Beren and Luthien) also gives the impression that Kay pushed more in the direction of an ecletic text, striving for better cohesiveness and consistency rather than aiming at an accurate reproducing of any basic text - while Christopher was the more conservative voice.
All this is the merest speculation, of course; but this is the type of discussion I miss in Arda Reconstructed. I know Kane was criticised by some for his taking liberties in calling to question some of the editorial decisions (and quite often disagreed with him myself); but at the end of the day, I think he was over-modest rather than the opposite, and felt himself inadequate to tackle the real big questions. In one place he states that since Christopher never explained how he chose between different versions, he will try to provide the reasons by himself - but always locally, not daring to go after the truly big game of guiding principles.


Anyway, that's a side-note. Another one: if my memory serves, and Of the Coming of the Elves was originally the third chapter of the whole work - this indicates that Of Aule and Yavanna was indeed added at a later stage (another of Kay's ideas, perhaps?); but also that the Ainulindale (as published in 1977) was not written yet; in the later Silmarillion (HoME vol. 10) the Valaquenta is not a separate work but the first chapter, followed by a part of Of the Beginning of Days. I assume that making it a separate work was a later-stage decision, as well as taking a part of the Ainulindale and adding it to the first chapter - a decision Kane is puzzled about.
If my guess is correct, this is another case of the confidence Kay brought to the project, that the editors may move bit and pieces around in the interest of the book.


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Feb 13 2013, 2:41am

Post #18 of 23 (302 views)
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Some corrections [In reply to] Can't Post

While you are remembering correctly that Noad reports Kay as having been the one to suggest that they construct a single text from the different sources, rather than the the mini-HoMe approach that Christopher initially had planned (and begun), with different versions and commentary, and that this was the first chapter that this approach was taken on, Noad does not report that Kay claims to have actually been primarily responsible for creating this chapter. Noad, however, speculates that Kay had a greater influence on the creation of the text overall than is commonly known, or acknowledged by Christopher. Kay apparently refuses to discuss the subject any further.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


sador
Half-elven


Feb 13 2013, 5:12pm

Post #19 of 23 (165 views)
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Thank you! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Noad, however, speculates that Kay had a greater influence on the creation of the text overall than is commonly known, or acknowledged by Christopher.

In a way, your own books supports Noad's speculation - by proving him wrong! I remember your citing Noad as making the claim that the late Quenta was by far the main source of the published Silmarillion, and arguing that on the contrary, your analysis showed that The Annals of Aman and The Grey Annals were as important a source, if not more important.
According to what you've written, such an eclectic construction of the book clearly fits more with the approach Kay suggested, rather than the one Christopher begun with (and from various comments scatterred throughout HoME, seems to have second thoughts about abandoning) - supporting Noad's own thesis.





Aside: as you see, your book has given me much food of thought, for which I haven't thanked you yet; I do so now, apologising for the delay.


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Feb 13 2013, 7:00pm

Post #20 of 23 (168 views)
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Food for thought is good! [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm glad to hear that you have found AR to be stimulating. I found your earlier comments about the lack of speculation interesting. While I am some sympathy for your point of view, I do think that there was a limit to what I could or could not say (and as you know, some very important people in the Tolkien scholarship community felt that as it was I far exceeded that limit).

I do tend to agree with Noad's speculation about Kay's participation, particularly given the fact that Kay went on to have such a successful career as a fantasy writer himself, where as Christopher's demonstrated strengths seem to be more in analysis and commentary. However, only the two of them really know the truth, and neither are talking about it, or are likely to do so (although perhaps Kay will decide to be more forthcoming some day).

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


CuriousG
Valinor


Feb 15 2013, 1:51am

Post #21 of 23 (155 views)
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Answers to answers [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for all your excellent observations, as usual!

Do you consider this a flaw, or a feature, of Arda's theology? Could this explain the question you've asked in Main, as to why there is no Vala-based cult?
I find it personally frustrating that the Valar aren't greater activists. The story wouldn't be as good if they intervened constantly, but even so, I could use a little more intervention from them. Though as for cults, or religions in general, I don't think their inactivity would turn off too many followers. There are certainly many cults where the less their god(s) answer their prayers, the more fervently they pray.

If Tolkien wanted his "gods" to sit on the sidelines, that is valid, but I would say it's a flaw in his writing that he doesn't give us more convincing reasons for their behavior. A lot of people have this same question. I'm not suggesting this literally, just on the fly, but suppose he said Melkor hexed the other Valar to be frozen for a thousand years. That would be an explanation we could accept. At one point US policy in Vietnam was "to save this country from destruction, we must destroy it." The Valar seem just as irrational with, "to save Arda from destruction, we must do nothing."

Do you think this is the true history of the Elves - one of neglected children?
The Elves do seem neglected, but Men fare far worse. You don't see the Valar out looking for them or leading them to paradise.

And by the way - there are absolutely no indications of Dwarves hating Ents for the massacre at Sarn Athrad, are there? Gimli seems utterly clueless regarding their very existence.
Good point. But I'm not sure the other Dwarves knew who killed off their kin. They may have later found the corpses at Sarn Athrad, and the gold in the river was a giveaway, but it seems only a small remnant of the whole force made it to the mountains, and the Ents killed off all of them, leaving no witnesses. Overall, the fact that no one in the Third Age knows about Ents makes them seem about as vigilant as the Valar as guardians, which isn't a flattering comparison.

There'e the end of The Hobbit, Farmer Giles of Ham and Leaf by Niggle. Also Roverandom. Isn't that enough?
No, sorry. :)

Who can tell what would have happened otherwise? Many of the Valar's decisions in the first chapters are open to questions, but it is wrong to blame all the woes that befell afterwards on any single one.
True. Anything could have happened had they all stayed in Middle-earth. There could have been Kinslayings there and fights over other things. And Melkor probably would have killed off the Two Trees and darkened Valinor anyway. Oh, Doom, how do we escape thee?



sador
Half-elven


Feb 15 2013, 2:04pm

Post #22 of 23 (144 views)
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"It needed a week's answer, or none." [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, I see I need to explain my earlier comment about your extra restraint in AR. I will expand on it later - at least I hope to.


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Feb 15 2013, 3:51pm

Post #23 of 23 (874 views)
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I'm always interested in what you have to say! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire

 
 

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