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Thread: How could Sauron be killed?

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He was a Maia, and was supposed to be immortal, so how was it that Isildur killed him so easily?

Also, how was the Witch-King killed by Eowyn? Weren't the Nazgul supposed to be neither dead nor alive, so how could she "kill" him just by stabbing him?

For both of them, if it was that easy to kill them, how were they powerful and why didn't someone do it before?
We could say the same about Gandalf and Saruman dying from the Balrog and being stabbed.

The Rings gave them the immense power and stuff. It also gave Mortals immortality. (While they owned their Ring)

With the Nazgul; The Rings only made people scared of them, and gave them the power to stick up for themselves. They didn't get killed before for the obvious reasons that they were too strong. They were not Dead nor Alive. They were immortal.

Sauron didn't die, he lost his physical form because he was disconnected with the Ring of Power because the ring took over you and stuff. (Eg: Gollum, but this isn't what happened with Sauron.)
Sauron put part of his life-form in the Ring. When Isildur cut the Ring from Sauron's finger his physical form was diminished; he was then in spirit form with little power remaining. Over the Third Age he slowly regained power, but not to the extent he could take physical form other than maybe, the all-seeing eye. When the Ring was destroyed he lost all power and disappeared in a puff of smoke.

The Witch-king of Angmar's death had been prophesied in the First Age by the earlier Glorfindel: "that no man would kill him". And no man did; it took Eowyn with Merry's distraction to do that deed. Of course I would call him a lich, an undead, no longer alive. He may not be dead, but wouldn't be heard from for a long timd

I think this matter of death, immortality and all that is perhaps not as fleshed out as it could have been , it never seems to make a great deal of sense to me, I always feel something, some explanation is missing. If Illuvatar holds all life within Himself as it were, is in charge of all life, surely he could make an absolute end of let's say Sauron or the Witch King's entire being. It gets so complicated.

And also, this business of we Elves being immortal and yet being able to be slain, that has never made sense to me.I so wish the professor were here and in good health. Just think of all the time he would have had to revise and put right so much that life and time and circumstances prevented him from doing.Sad Smilie

Part of Tolkien modeling his subcreation on Catholic theology allowed him to posit Illuvatar who would not take away an evil creature's being or life on account of his choosing evil.  So Tolkien made those who chose evil in ME like those who choose evil in real life.

The immortality of the elves was somehow tied to ME itself, at least till the End Times which Tolkien only discussed in his notes.  And so while nothing interfered, elves remained as they were without change.  But when evil interfered, they died.  Since Tolkien saw elves as "mankind before the Fall," there is again a lesson in these events.

Gandalf

So, you are saying that all the Elves, as long as nothing interrupted their pristine selves such as an outside evil to strike them down or thought within themselves which caused them to bring forth evil action, as long as these things were absent they were a picture then of man before the Fall. I did not understand this I think. Thank you.

Tolkien mentions what elves represent in his Letters.  I can look up the reference if you do not have a copy.

Gandalf

Dear Gandalf, do not trouble yourself, you are knee deep in papers. Smile Smilie No, I have my own copy of the Letters, I think what may have happened is that at the time I read through them I was also reading LOTR and the Silmarillion in tandem and it was merely too much, an overload and I did not take in a lot. I will carefully read over them again and get some understanding. I think a problem I have is being a Messianic( Jewish) Catholic myself, I tend to have a problem letting go of the teachings and allowing myself to enter into the professor's subcreation . I am a stickler for the absolute truth as i have learned it, as the Scriptures teach and so I automatically take that with me for some odd reason into my reading of the LOTR, why I cannot say. I have not had such a problem in any other works by Catholics. So, the problem is uniquely mine. Thank you for your wisdom.

Sauron and Saruman  were not killed.  Their physical bodies were destroyed.

In the case of Saruman his spirit left his body, went up into the airs like a grey cloud, turned West and was turned away by a wind and scattered East.  Sauron had already spent most of his power on his evil creations and had invested most of his original strength in the ring.  Once the ring was destroyed this portion of his power was destroyed leaving him too weak to manifest himself into a new form.  From memory Tolkien mentioned that his left over spirit simply became stuck in Middle Earth, not powerful enough to trouble anyone ever again.

We need to remember that in the thought of Illuvatar the Maia and Valar were to remain part of Arda until the end of days.  So if there bodies were destroyed beyond recovery their spirits would remain invisible to all except to the most powerful of Elves who could sense them.

I think it is proper enough to say that a being is slain when the physical body is destroyed or hurt beyond repair, and body and spirit are separated. The fate of spirits is one thing, but we can say Glorfindel was slain despite that his spirit did not, and cannot, leave the World, and despite that he was reincarnated.

Aside from what the Elves may or may not represent externally, from an internal perspective the Elves can and do die, and are slain.

Of course adding reincarnation into the mix one could say the Elves are 'immortal' -- they can be slain but they can't escape the world and its time -- so 'immortal' is accurate enough from a given perspective at least -- while the world lasts they cannot 'die' as Men do, as Men leave the World and its time. 

Thank you Brego and Galin. Galin, your mention of the reincarnation thing is what has mixed me up in some sense. Knowing that Tolkien was a purist Catholic, not believing in anything not set down in Magesterium, well then he would vehemently not believe in reincarnation, for the Scriptures says firmly' for it is given to all men to die once and then the resurrection, I am only paraphrasing, but I am sure it is correct. So I cannot imagine him putting any hint of this even into a sub creation. Yet, when one studies the Elves and Sauron you almost get the sense of reincarnation and I confess I am sadly lacking in understanding of the whole dying thing. With the mortals it is basic, you live your allotted years, then you die, leave the circle of the earth and cannot come back. But the Elves,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,it is tiring to me. Smile Smilie

Well Leelee, here are my thoughts and impressions on the matter, and I personally see no conflict at all. Happy Elf Smilie

The elves don't really die, but their bodies and their soul separate and they go swoooosh to the Halls of Mandos and live on there. This is why they are "immortal", they have to live within the world somehow in some form, until the world ends. They can return from the Halls, be "reincarnated" as you say. But it is not explained how this happens and what it takes to be allowed to do so. 

If you are tired of ME, you leave for the the Undying Lands, if you are tired (or robbed) from life you go to the Halls. 

If you remember Miriel, Feanor's mother, her spirit left the body by her body by choice. Not by murder or evil deeds. She could in theory return to her body and continue her life with hubby and son, and they were hoping she would, but she was too worn out and decided to stay.  

Elves are not humans, this is very imortant to remember. Men are not in any way reincarnated in Tolkien's world. And as far as I know, the elves who do return from the Halls, return as they were with all their knowledge. Not as a new person or an animal or anything like that.

The Elves may have a more Norse mythology approach to death, perhaps with a taste of Ancient Egypt (at least untill the world ends), but still nothing of this conflicts with the catholic belief. 

(This is of course how I have (mis)interpreted things, I am sure others have their own views.)

Good example Amarie, re Miriel.

Towards the end of the Sil its stated that Elves, Men and Dwarves will be gathered at the end to create the new, penultimate music of Eru.  I suppose this could mean a lot of things, the re re fashioning of Ea, the cleansing and purifying of it or the total re boot or re start.  To achieve this the Children of Eru must be gathered somewhere....  We know where the Elves are gathered, Mandos, it is mentioned that the Dwarves are gathered in halls set apart within Mandos (arranged by Aule), but that not even the Valar know of Eru's plans for Men.  I believe that Eru has halls appointed for the spirits of Men after they die somewhere else, outside the circles of the world, apart, waiting for the final music and ultimately the end.

To complicate things further the hand over of the Secret Fire is another equation we need to think about.....  That probably is a whole other post.

you are quite right Amarie, this very afternoon Ashley and I were talking about this and he said the very fact that the Elves come back as themselves and not anyone else is not contrary to Catholic belief so i am at peace on the matter, finally. Thankyou so much and to all of you. hugs and while i am at it, strawberry shortcake anyone?

Reincarnation means being born again in a different body.

This is never the case for Men in Tolkien's works, the only Man who ever returned from the dead was Beren, and his soul just returned to his original body.

Though for Elves, it can be argued that Finrod was born again, since the Silmarillion mentions he walked again with his father after his death (with his broken body buried in Beleriand).

Tolkien's Elves were 'reincarnated' into their exact bodies, an exact copy 'remade' by the Powers. Again the correctness of the terminology need not be the issue; call it reconstituted or whatever...

... but Tolkien abandoned Elves being reborn as children, in part exactly because they would then have the same spirit but a new body, and JRRT decided against this. He mused about how to get around this with respect to Durin as well, for instance -- imagining his spirit returning to an uncorrupted body.

I do not have a text of Tolkien on this matter ready to hand.  However, I do know that returning to the same body is not reincarnation at all.  It is resurrection, a return to physical life for some definite purpose.  This is certainly not contrary to Tolkien's Catholic faith, nor unheard of in the history of the Church.  Since these occurrences in elven history are so rare, it can be argued that this is indeed what Tolkien intended they should be.

Gandalf

Thanks Gandalf Olorin, I agree, in the case of the Elves anyway.  Their physical body is inconsequential as their spirit cannot die because Eru made them that way.  Once resting in Mandos and judged to be ready to return by I imagine Namo under governance from Manwe and therefore Iluvatar, the Elf's original body is somehow supplied to be re inhabited by the spirit.  This really does not fit into the definition of reincarnation.

Let's back up a bit: for a long time (decades) Tolkien imagined Elves being reborn as Elf-children, and this was the mode of reincarnation, actual rebirth. 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

 

 

This is Tolkien defending reincarnation to the manager of a Catholic Bookshop in Oxford. In 1954 Tolkien still imagined that Elves were reincarnated by rebirth (different body).

 

It was only later that this mode of reincarnation changed -- see Reincarnation of Elves, published in Morgoth's Ring. Tolkien decided that putting the spirit of an Elf within a new body -- 'new' as in a different body due to having different parents --  would result in a condition of pain, for example.

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.

And a reincarnated or 'reconstituted' Elf was not unique or rare; this was the normal mode of Elves returning to incarnate life.

True Galin, however reincarnation generally means to be reborn into a new body, as a baby totally not related to the old soul.  However Galin I do also agree with you, and well researched re JRRT's comments.

I guess we really need a new word for Elf reincarnation, perhaps just Elfincarnation....

Thank you Galin,I did not know that.

What I find a bit confusing is...do you mean to say that an Elf after reincarnating,looks different but is actually the same person?

Brego: elfincarnation makes sense, but then if you had words like that it would be too simple to guess what the word means...life would get boring!!!!or would it? 

What I find a bit confusing is...do you mean to say that an Elf after reincarnating, looks different but is actually the same person? 

 

I would say that that would be closer to Tolkien's original (or older) idea: in my opinion the reborn Elf would look different because he or she was actually born again of new parents.

That said, I don't recall JRRT going into much detail about this in his early writings, but judging from his later comments and problems with the idea, and the fact that (generally) the Elves were said to be born again into their children in early writings (as early as The Book of Lost Tales if I recall correctly), in this conception I think they must have had different bodies.

 

In Tolkien's revised idea however -- incidentally JRRT definitively rejected the older idea at least twice in writing according to Christopher Tolkien -- the Elves should look identical. They were not physically born again to new parents, but their fear (plural of fea) retained a memory of the body, from which the Valar reconstituted them.

 

In other words Glorfindel of Imladris looked exactly as he did in Gondolin, for instance. Tolkien's description included that the information retained was precise, so I can't think why the new body would not look (and be) exactly like the 'old' one. Ah, found the phrasing: the 'memory' of the body was:

'... 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
 

Ahh, it's lovely to see quotes on this subject, especially about what was rejected. Last time we were discussing elven re-birth/return from the Halls/elficarnation we had none, so it ended a bit up in the air. (And Morgoth's ring is the only HOME book I actually own, I really really need to find time to read...)

But we did come to the conclusion that being born as a new baby into a family raised a lot of questions, perhaps too many. Who would agree to give birth to and nurse and raise this old-person-in-a-new-body? Would they even know they were carrying a re-born child? At what time would the baby remember who he/she is? ..and so on.

To me it just doesn't fit with what I have learned about elven families and I really can understand that this idea was rejected. 

And not that anyone called me on it (which reminds me, where is 'Lord of All' these days), but just to add the citation: from Last Writings, note 17, The Peoples of Middle-Earth

 

[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) (...)']

 

Christopher Tolkien made a mistake in Morgoth's Ring concerning another point about Elves returning to incarnate life, which he later corrected; but in any case I have given the description as found in the later text (just in case anyone wonders when looking at Morgoth's Ring alone).

Galin,

Your quotes confirm me in my use of the term "resurrection" or "reanimation," rather than the very inaccurate "reincarnation."  Your discussion here seems to indicate that this phenomenon occurred rather frequently.  How many of the elves of ME were "resurrected" in this manner?  Unless this happened rather often, it would seem, as I said before, that this was an exceptional grace accorded in exceptional circumstances for a specific purpose.  The names Luthien and Glorfindel come to mind, but no others that I can think of. 

Gandalf

I don't think new incarnation would be limited to Elves being sent back to Middle-earth in any case...

... I would say (for instance) hundreds of Grey-elves who died fighting Morgoth in the First Age could return to incarnate life and remain in Aman. Tolkien appears to be describing things quite generally here in my opinion...

'Elves were destined to be 'immortal', that is not to die within the unknown limits decreed by the One, which at the most could be until the end of the life of the Earth as a habitable realm. (...) 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, Last Writings, Glorfindel, The Peoples of Middle-Earth. 

Wow I'm so ignorant.

This is rather fascinating and it's a bit like the Buddhist cycle of rebirth till one achieves ultimate respite or moksha.I think Amarie raises some valid questions.

I am really interested to know what Tolkien actually meant to do with the Elves,regarding their afterlife.If anyone can tell me what to read,I'll try it. 

I am really interested to know what Tolkien actually meant to do with the Elves, regarding their afterlife. If anyone can tell me what to read, I'll try it. 

 

I think Morgoth's Ring is well recommended here, more specifically (for instance) Athrabeth Finrod Ah Andreth (conversation of Finrod and Andreth) and the author's notes and commentary; and also the section on Elvish reincarnation that I already quoted from above: The Converse of Manwe and Eru and later conceptions of Elvish Reincarnation.

 Morgoth's Ring can be supplemented with the Last Writings section of the later volume The Peoples of Middle-Earth, which includes the Glorfindel texts. For instance, in Morgoth's Ring the idea that the houseless fea was itself allowed to rebuild its hroa from its memory is said to have become JRRT's fim and stable view...

... but the late texts on Glorfindel speak to the reconstitution of the former body by the Valar, and make no mention that the houseless fea could achieve this by itself. For this correction see note 17 to Last Writings.


"... but the late texts on Glorfindel speak to the reconstitution of the former body by the Valar, and make no mention that the houseless fea could achieve this by itself. For this correction see note 17 to Last Writings."Unknown ObjectUnknown Object

As I said, "resurrection," which is by definition an exceptional event, not something that occurs all the time to everyone.  Tolkien was not Buddhist.  If anything was to be reflected in these writings, it would be his Catholic beliefs.

Gandalf

 

As I said, "resurrection," which is by definition an exceptional event, not something that occurs all the time to everyone. 

 

 

I see no real problem with employing Tolkien's own terms in any case, and JRRT himself uses the word 'reincarnation' in author's note one to Last Writings, and uses re-embodied in one of the very late Glorfindel essays, among other terms.

 

Anyway, what do you mean 'not something that occurs all the time to everyone'?

I mean not all elves seem to have been "re-embodied" and sent back to ME.  It seems to me that the Professor was discussing what was necessary for it to occur whenever it did, not that it would occur regularly.

It also seems to me that the whole discussion of this thread regarding Sauron's life and death has got sidetracked into this discussion about the elves.  I am at fault as much as anyone.  But it is interesting.

Gandalf

Thank you Galin.If I ever find those books,I'll definitely read them up.

 For instance, in Morgoth's Ring the idea that the houseless fea was itself allowed to rebuild its hroa from its memory is said to have become JRRT's fim and stable view...

Wow..I would like to see how that happens..mindboggling.

And yes Gandalf I understand what your saying about it being a special favour for a special person like Glorfindel.It seems more rational to not have an entire army resurrected or reincarnated whatever.

So  was Tolkien ever specific?About who got the favour and who did not?


 

I mean not all elves seem to have been "re-embodied" and sent back to ME. It seems to me that the Professor was discussing what was necessary for it to occur whenever it did, not that it would occur regularly. 

 

 

But I'm not sure of the point behind the 'sent back to Middle-earth' part here (as opposed to Aman). That this particular thing might not occur regularly, or at least we have no great evidence of it in any case, seems somewhat beside the point in my opinion.

The Quendi are still being re-embodied and living as incarnate beings within the World and its time. 'When they were re-embodied they could remain in Valinor, or return to Middle-earth if their home had been there.' JRRT, Last Writings, Glorfindel I, 1972
 'When they were re-embodied they could remain in Valinor, or return to Middle-earth if their home had been there.' JRRT, Last Writings, Glorfindel I, 1972
 'When they were re-embodied they could remain in Valinor, or return to Middle-earth if their home had been there.' JRRT, Last Writings, Glorfindel I, 1972
  Tolkien noted o
Tolkien noted: 'When they were re-embodied they could remain in Valinor, or return to Middle-earth if their home had been there.' JRRT, Last Writings, Glorfindel I

Not only special Elves... rather thousands and thousands I should guess; and all Elves at least in potential (outside of certain factors, like some refusing to pass to Mandos after their bodies were slain for instance).
 

Eldamar, Valinor, Tol Eressea were part of the World of course; and generally speaking, a return to incarnate life was the natural mode for Elves, in part because they were fated to remain within the Circles of the World. Turgon alone sent ten thousand Elves to one of the battles in the First Age; thousands must have been reincarnated in Aman, though at this point they were not allowed to sail back to Middle-earth in any case. Tolkien explained...

'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
 

Interesting discussion indecision  Seems like there are quite some Loremasters here too!

Didn't really see the question about the Witch King answered, though (might've missed it), so I'll try to answer it.

"Also, how was the Witch-King killed by Eowyn? Weren't the Nazgul supposed to be neither dead nor alive, so how could she "kill" him just by stabbing him?"


I don't have the book at hand so I cannot quote what it says, but when Merry stabbed him with the dagger he found in the Barrow Wight's tomb (from what I can remember it was made by someone in the North Kingdom and no other blade could have given the Witch King such a fatal wound), he broke some sort of protective spell (or something like that), made him mortal and made it possible for Eowyn to kill him. In the film the Witch King is killed by two regular swords, which is just wrong and undermines the whole character

The interpretations surrounding the death of the Witch-king have been long debated, but for myself I don't think the Wraith was under a spell of protection.

The Ringwraiths do not appear to be exactly as the Oathbreakers for example, who seem to be ghosts with fear as their only weapon, powerful as that was. Yet the 'wraiths' arguably have normally invisible bodies, and were (again seemingly) vulnerable to physical forces... or at least flooding water, and I think they were said (at one point) to have feared fire. 

Although admittedly a line by Gandalf muddles this interpretation somewhat! I think Eowyn's sword, struck lethally, could have taken the Witch-king out of the battle. Merry's part allowed her to do this yes, but not, in my opinion, by removing a protective spell first.

The more time that goes by and the more I read and reread  the body of work concerning  Middle-Earth and all who came onto and left the 'stage' as it were, and the more I read the Letters, well I begin to be convinced about something. If the professor would have had a less hectic life, fewer tragedies and worries about Edith and Christopher and so on, and much more time to devote quietly to the greatest work of his life, in that case I am convinced or heading that way that all this about Sauron and the Wraiths and the Elves would have been worked out much clearer and would have adhered to some sort of more specific principles. But he often , according to him wrote, was disatisfied and began to work backwards to correct things, but much was missed.  So, in his case at least, being mortal and not being able to extned his life a day beyond what was given, he simply ran out of time and strength to finish, really finish what he started.

The interpretations surrounding the death of the Witch-king have been long debated, but for myself I don't think the Wraith was under a spell of protection.

Take a look at this quote from the book Smile Smilie

So passed the sword of the Barrow-downs, work of Westernesse. But glad would he have been to know its fate who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdom when the Dunedain were young, and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king. No other blade, though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.

I think this more than implies that there was at least some sort of spell protecting the Witch King from physical damage. What that might have been, however, I have no idea about.

Well the spell knit (bound together) sinews to will... I don't see that as necessarily a protection from regular swords.

If a being no longer has a connection between will and body (sinews) -- he or she arguably could not 'will' the body to move for example, and I note Eowyn's actions (after Merry's stab) were not exactly described as lightning fast, yet the Wraith does nothing to try to avoid or parry her deadly thrust.

and I note Eowyn's actions (after Merry's stab) were not exactly described as lightning fast, yet the Wraith does nothing to try to avoid or parry her deadly thrust.

That's a very good point, and an interesting observation. But still, judging by the contents of the rest of that passage, I at least am of the opinion that this spell had to be broken in order to kill the Witch King.

I agree, Ringdrotten.  This has been my understanding since I first read LOTR in 1971.

Gandalf

The invulnerable interpretation is a popular enough interpretation it seems, but to note the obvious here, there is no word invulnerable, or protection (or similar), in the actual description cited, and for me the idea opens up a rather problematic door.

Sauron himself had reason to fear Narsil reforged for instance, but not the Witch-king? Could Glamdring or Herugrim not harm the Witch-king in any way because they weren't made like Merry's barrow-blade? I'm not sure JRRT would want questions like these raised.

Granted, at least one statement from Gandalf muddies my interpretation: Gandalf says to Legolas that the wraith (the one Legolas shot at) was a foe that one cannot kill with arrows; but Gandalf may here be talking about being 'killed' in an ultimate sense, as earlier in the tale following the flood of the Bruinen, Gandalf warns that the Nine stand or fall with their Master --  it seems they can be 'taken out', so to speak, but can return until after the destruction of the One.

 

Of course a Ringwraith is not a regular person, but the Witch-king's seeming 'natural state' was invisibility at this point. Yet why should he be invulnerable to Eowyn's sword? or Eomer's, or Imrahil's? I tend to doubt the idea is that he willed himself into a state of protection, or could.

Will governs action: strip the will during a battle and a mere leg wound (that nonetheless acts as the agent of breaking the connection between will and body) can indeed be bitter -- and it proved more bitter than had a seasoned warrior struck the same blow with a different dagger. Or more poetically: no other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it...