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Thread: Namo and Elven Sprits

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I would be greatly interested in the thoughts of other PT members regarding how you think Namo would return the spirits of the Eldar, released from Mandos, back into the Elven community. Are they reborn as babies within their original family unit? Do they simply reappear in Valinor aged the same as when they died? What do you think?

Because reincarnation is not held in any Biblical writings, it says somewhere ' for it is given for all men to die once and then the resurrection' something like that, I am sure they would have simply at a place and time specified by him reawakened themselves the way their were before they were slain or whatever.

We should be looking to Tolkien's writings to an answer to this before the Bible, I think. Here's a passage from Morgoth's Ring which explains it: "A hastily written manuscript on small slips of paper, entitled 'Reincarnation of Elves', seems to show [Tolkien's] reflection on the subject… In this discussion he referred in rapid and elliptical expression to the difficulties at every level (including practical and psychological) in the idea of the reincarnation of the fëa as the newborn child of second parents, who as it grows up recaptures the memory of its previous life: 'the most fatal objection' being that 'it contradicts the fundamental notion that fëa and hröa were each fitted to the other: since hröar have a physical descent, the body of rebirth, having different parents, must be different, and this must be a condition of pain to the reborn fëa.    He was here abandoning, and for good, the long-rooted conception… Of rebirth as the mode by which the Elves might return to incarnate life: from his scrutiny of the mythical idea, questioning its validity in the terms he had adopted, it had come to seem to him a serious flaw in the metaphysic of Elvish existence. But, he said, it was a 'dilemma' for the reincarnation of the Elves 'seems an essential element in the tales: 'The only solution,' he decided in this discussion was the idea of the remaking in identical form of the hröa of the Dead… (Tolkien, Morgoth's Ring 363)" It seems then that Elves such as Glorfindel were given a 'copy', as it were, of their old bodies.

Yes Fornad, and I see the conundrum for Tolkien.  Of course another example of this must be Beren and Luthien returning from the dead.  I kind of have in my minds eye the return of Gandalf's spirit to a seemingly upgraded body after his penultimate battle with the Balrog.  Its interesting that his description of the death  "Stars wheeled overhead and everyday was as long as a life-age of the earth"  as though time was inconsequential through the rebirth process.  Perhaps this is a look in to how Tolkien really felt about death rturn.

Huzzah Fornad!

And just to add, later Tolkien would again reject his old and long-held idea, that reincarnated Elves were reborn as Elf-babies...

 

[My father here discussed again the idea that Elvish reincarnation might be achieved by 'rebirth' as a child, and rejected it as emphatically as he had done in the discussion called 'Reincarnation of Elves', X. 363-4; here as there the physical and psychological difficulties were addressed. He wrote that the idea 'must be abandoned, or at least noted as a false notion, e. g. probably of Mannish origin, since nearly all the matter in the Silmarillion is contained in myths and legends that have passed through Men's hands and minds, and are (in many points) plainly influenced by contact and confusion with the myths, theories, and legends of Men' (cf. p. 357, note 17) (...)'] 

 

The revised idea was: the fea of an Elf [the term fea roughly translates as 'spirit'] contained an exact imprint of the hroa [roughly 'body'] -- a memory so precise and complete that a new but exact copy could be made from it by the Valar. So the body was 'new' but in all ways like the old hroa.

 

'... so powerful and precise that the reconstruction of an identical body can proceed from it.'

JRRT Morgoth's Ring, 'The Converse of Manwe and Eru' and later conceptions of Elvish Reincarnation
 

 

In another thread here (titled: 'How could Sauron be killed' found in General Discussion) there seemed to be the suggestion that Elven reincarnation was a rare thing, but if so (if I read that opinion correctly) I would rather say that a reincarnated or 'reconstituted' Elf was not unique or rare, as this was the normal mode of Elves returning to incarnate life. 

 

 

 Their death - by any injury to their bodies so severe that it could not be healed - and the disembodiment of their spirits was an 'unnatural' and grievous matter. It was therefore the duty of the Valar, by command of the One, to restore them to incarnate life, if they desired it. But this 'restoration' could be delayed by Manwe, if the fea while alive had done evil deeds and refused to repent of them, or still harboured any malice against any other person among the living. 

JRRT, Glorfindel II

 

I got the feeling (in that thread about Sauron) that returning to Middle-earth was being mixed with returning to physical life -- but while returning to Middle-earth itself might have been rare enough, this is distinct from simply returning to physical life. And as far as returning to Middle-earth before the removal of Aman...

 

'They 'normally remained in Aman'. Simply because they were, when rehoused, again in actual physical bodies, and return to Middle-earth was therefore very difficult and perilous. Also during the period of the Exile of the Noldor the Valar had for the time being cut all communications (by physical means) between Aman and Middle-earth.'

 Author's commentary, note 3, Athrabeth Finrod Ah Andreth


  

It is perhaps notable that JRRT had Glorfindel ship back to Middle-earth in the Second Age, after the Noldor had been allowed back Oversea (except for Galadriel), but before Aman was removed from the Circles of the World (according to Glorfindel I Glorfindel had actually sailed with Gandalf, but this was apparently rejected in Glorfindel II).

Wow Glorindal and Gandald journeying together. What a wonderful trip that would be. Also they have one great thing in common, they both elimitated spirits of fire, died and returned, I think the only ones, Interesting.

That is a good point Fornad. The reason I mentioned it is that from deep study of the scriptures and as well Tolkien's letters, other writings, I often spot something obscure or in your face in which it is clear that ideas used by the professor are derived from the Bible. And from what I gleaned Tolkien in the end, no matter what mythology he might borrow from or invent himself, in the end they never flew in the face of what he devoutly believed the Creator did or would do.

I found a very absorbing and detailed paper on the net -Death in Tolkien's Legendarium by Amaranth-(v) you can find it by googling just that and he explains things in a readable way. It was interesting that he nixed the idea of the elves who were immortal only as far as the history and the destiny of the earth were concerned, not eternal, coming back as babies. He in my opinion made them half way between the angels he really believed in and what he invented. The angels are spirit, but coming to our earth they 'clothe' themselves as it were with different bodies to suit the mission. They though are eternal and the elves are not. And usually only those with a mission to still fulfill ever came back to middle-earth. So it was almost a non issue except for unusual circumstances.


 

This is all true however I spent some time reading and realised that as a rule (seemingly) the spirits of all Elves are held in Mandos for a period of time (judged by Namo) and released back into the Undying lands, not into Middle Earth. There are references in the Silmarillion regarding Finrod and his brothers meeting in the gardens of Lorien after their bodies were destroyed in the wars with Melkor. Perhaps the blessed gardens were there as a sort of soft introduction back into life. If so how wonderful for the Elves who were destroyed because of the dark lords. Also there is a reference regarding Feanor, whose Spirit has been with Mandos ever since his disastrous self destruction. This is mentioned as though it's unusual that a spirit should spend so long in the wide halls of Mandos without being released once judged.

Leelee wrote: '(...) And from what I gleaned Tolkien in the end, no matter what mythology he might borrow from or invent himself, in the end they never flew in the face of what he devoutly believed the Creator did or would do.'

 

In 1954 Tolkien explained to Peter Hastings (here somewhat edited by me for brevity):

'Reincarnation may be bad theology (...) as applied to Humanity (...) But I do not see how even in the Primary World any theologian or philosopher, unless very much better informed about the relation of spirit to body than I believe anyone to be, could deny the possibility of re-incarnation as a mode of existence, prescribed for certain kinds of rational incarnate creatures.'

JRRT, Letters 

 

Tolkien defends reincarnation for Elves.

 

 

Leelee wrote: '(...) The angels are spirit, but coming to our earth they 'clothe' themselves as it were with different bodies to suit the mission. They though are eternal and the elves are not. And usually only those with a mission to still fulfill ever came back to middle-earth. So it was almost a non issue except for unusual circumstances.' '''

 

 

I can't agree at all points with this Amaranth article Leelee, as the article currently states:

 

'Normally, the reincarnated Elf remains in Aman. Only in special cases is the Elf sent back to Middle-earth, generally because he has some task yet to complete there. 'Therefore, if they dwelt in Middle-earth, their bereavement of friends and kin, and the bereavement of these, was not amended. Death was not wholly healed.' (Tolkien, Morgoth's Ring, 365).

Amaranth-(V) article

 

 

... and the part I have italicized above is not to be found on page 365 of Morgoth's Ring however, and seems to be the opinion of the person who wrote this article. In note 3 to the Athrabeth Tolkien notes that the Elves 'normally' remained in Aman because the journey back to Middle-earth was perilous (before the removal of Aman), and...

 

'They 'normally remained in Aman'. Simply because they were, when rehoused, again in actual physical bodies, and return to Middle-earth was therefore very difficult and perilous. Also during the period of the Exile of the Noldor the Valar had for the time being cut all communications (by physical means) between Aman and Middle-earth.'  JRR

 

And in any case, according to a later text -- later than the one the Amaranth page refers to in the above quote -- Tolkien notes... 

 

'When they were re-embodied the could remain in Valinor, or return to Middle-earth if their home had been there.' 

JRRT, Last Writings, Glorfindel I

 

For myself I see no great reason to draw this distinction (in the thread) between Middle-earth and Aman, as thousands and thousands of Elves were reincarnated, and all Elves in potential -- living in physical bodies was the normal mode of life for Elves, and reincarnation the normal mode of their existence; outside of a given Elf choosing not to be reincarnated, for example.

 

Finrod being re-embodied is not unusual, but rather usual -- and all the more notable since he was one of the Rebel Noldor like Glorfindel, both banned from physical return to Aman.

Great Galin. Pretty much as it exists in my mind. Reading and thinking about this topic reminds me of the heart breaking chapter "Of Beren & Luthien" from the pages of the Silmarillion. In this section Luthien sings of the trials of the Men and Elves of Middle Earth under the dominion of Melkor, her tears washing over the feet of Mandos, as she sat at his feet. Never before had this Valar felt raw pity for the children of Illuvatar, and they say never will again. Mandos was judging the spirits of the Man Beron and the Elf Luthien after their Death in the Eldest Days following their daring deeds against the First Dark Lord. Their judgement within the halls of mandos was complicated and interesting as rules of reincarnation are spelt out and ultimately overlooked by both Valar and by Eru himself. Lots to learn in this chapter in regards to returning spirits.