Thread: The Gift of Iluvatar to Men
The Gift of Iluvatar to Men, or Mortality, or Death, or The Seeking Beyond, has always interested me since I first read about it in the Silmarillion. I had trouble understanding it at first, but as I read and reread the books, I started to understand, both the concept itself and the conflict it created between Elves and Men. Even now, 30 years after I first started reading JRRT, I'm still groping with the concept of the reason for it.
Eru made the Elves immortal, His Elder Children, to the delight of the Valar. They would be together through the Ages of the World after their Awakening, and not die. But Men would be mortal, and live for a relatively short time compared to the Elves, and then die and leave the Circles of the World. The Elves and the Valar don't understand the reason for this, and neither do Men. The Elves don't "die" even if they are killed: their spirits go to the Halls of Mandos in Aman, and after a time they can be reborn: Feanor is still in the Halls, Finrod was reborn in Valinor, and Luthien was offered the chance but turned it down. But the spirits of Men go to separate Halls in Mandos and then leave the World forever: Beren lingered there until Luthien came.
I honestly think that Iluvatar made it easy for Men when he made them mortal: They get tired of life, since their bodies aren't designed to last longer than about a hundred years or so. The Numenoreans were given a longer lifespan, but again their bodies weren't designed to last longer than that. Men were designed for "planned obsolescence" of a sort, while the Elves and the Valar were part of the Essence and Life of Arda itself. Yes, the Elves and the Valar live forever, but it even says in the Silmarillion that eventually the Valar themselves will get tired of living forever and want to die.
Personally, I would rather stay mortal myself. Yes, the world is a wonderful place despite everything that's wrong with it, but eventually my body will wear out, and I believe that there is a life of a sort after death. Call it Heaven, or Hell, or Limbo, or the Afterlife. Even Earendil was weary of the world but chose to be immortal for Elwing his wife. And at the end of the Third Age, Elrond grew weary of Middle-Earth and departed into the West. King Elessar himself willingly gave up his life at the end and died peacefully, and was afterward joined by Arwen.
What choice would you make, if you could, and why?
call it a experiment..
i want to see or feel or sense is there life after death
For this example, I give you the Ringwraiths.
As Gandalf explains to Frodo, the Great Rings don't convey more life to their bearers. The Men who wear them merely continue to exist until every moment is torture. Or as BIlbo said to Gandalf: "I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter spread over too much bread." The Ringwraiths became enslaved to the Rings they wore, but I think it can also be said that they became trapped in this world by the Rings, unable to leave. They finally died when the One Ring was destroyed, while the Witch King was killed by Eowyn and Merry because he was supposed to. (We can talk about Doom in another thread.) I like to think that, even as evil as they may have been, they were happy and actually relieved whey they were finally released from their slavery.
Whichever gift was given, I think one would always wonder about the other's gift and in times of trouble or contemplation wish he or she could have the other. To leave the circle of the world when life was unbearable would seem a good thing to the elves, whereas, to be allowed to continue age after age might seem the perfect thing to say a hobbit or man when they want to cling to a life they know and enjoy with the people or Hobbits dear to them and not be curious or perhaps be afraid of what would come after leaving.
For me it would depend...
If I were one of the first-born elves who went through the darkness after the awakening, at the very beginning of time, when I could experience the brilliance of the two trees, the countless sparkly items made by my people, where everyone respects one another as well as the ground they live on, where there is no hidden mystery of a higher power, as you live aside them in their majestic city.......then I might be interested in a life of immortality. Granted I definitely would not have become a Vanyar, most likely following with the Noldor for a life of adventure.
However, keep in mind, mortality is considered "Illuvatars gift towards man," not their curse. To me, this implies Eru understood the weariness many of the elves were experiencing. So, if you gave one of your races immortality, then see they realized it can get old, then why give the second-born the same fate? Why not try the opposite?
I can definitely understand how mortality can be a gift. And maybe that explains why man is man; they understand they don't have all the time in the world, so they do what they think needs to be done. Unfortunately this often leads to acting irrationally and screwing eachother over to reach the top.
So if we could choose what era to be born in, I think I might go with immortality. Though now that I think about, I might not choose the elvish race. I'll have a taste of whatever Bombadil got a hold of...
Some of the more reputable Vampire story Authors (Anne Rice) discusses this in her novels. The Deathless can become bored with life and simply destroy themselves (In the Sun usually), funny that its the Sun which ultimately dispatches the life of a Vampire, the total opposite to the Eldar, yet the same as the creatures of Morgoth. I would imagine that just like us, it would depend on the standard of life the individual Els lives which denotes the state of mind they are in. The Nolder's slow defeat and virtual permanent state of war during the 1st & 2nd age must have effected their mental health. Its seems that the lengthening of life for the Dunadain had an adverse effect on the Numenorians, there fear of the afterlife, or lack of it seems to Wax the more long lived and powerful they became.
yes, I should like to know just what it was that Tom Bombadil had for a fact. He married Goldberry, the daughter of the River Woman who herself might have been a naid or a part of , an embodiment of the very river itself. So where did such creatures come from and were they too immortal. Was Tom?. Just think, had little Priscilla not named her favorite doll Tom Bombadil and asked daddy to put him in his story we should not spend hours wondering and pondering this man with the huge legs and loud color scheme to his clothes. But, immortality can only be appreciated when circumstances are favorable I think. To suffer day after day in say mental torment or great physical pain and anguish would be a tough row to oe if immortal. Still, it would be nice to know you would not be 'gone' one day whether you liked it or not. Just goes to show that Illuvatars thoughts were not necessarily the thoughts of men and elves! What he said was a gift was not always that to the created.