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Grondmaster says Valedhelgwath posted:
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For the first assignment we will be covering The Ainulindale, the Valaquenta, and Chapter 1, the Beginning of Days.

I will post an intro plus character list later as my ISP kindly cut me off as I was about to post the one I had just prepared, thus losing it in cyberspace.
Overview
The three opening chapters are concerned with how Eru (Iluvatar) created the Ainur (Holy Ones) from his thought, and with their aid created Ea, the earth and heavens. Under Eru's guidance, the Ainur created a Great Music from which the world was born. Many of the Ainur then left their homes in the Timeless Halls and entered the world, becoming the Valar and the Maiar.

These opening chapters tell how these spirits built the world, and how it was created to be a home to the Children of Eru, the Firstborn (elves) and the Followers (Men). One of the Valar, Melkor, desired to dominate and bend this world to his own will, however, and these chapters tell of his battles with the other Valar.

These chapters also give some insight into the Valar themselves, showing them to be like aspects of nature, and describing the domain over which their powers lay. In this, Tolkien appears to have amalgamated Christian beliefs of One God with the Pagan beliefs of many nature deities.

Names and Places

Eru (Iluvatar) The One God.
Ainur The Holy Ones, created from the thought of Eru with the Flame Imperishable.
Valar The greater of the Ainur who entered Ea.
Maiar The lesser of the Ainur who entered Ea.
Aratar A term for the eight most powerful Valar.

The Aratar
Manwe. King of the Valar, Husband of Varda, Brother of Melkor. Domain, Air, sky, wind, weather, sight, wisdom.
Varda (Elbereth). Queen of the Valar, wife of Manwe. Domain, Light, stars, insight.
Ulmo. King of the Sea. Domain, Water, sea, rain, streams.
Aule (Mahal). The Smith, Master of the Earth, Husband of Yavanna. Domain, Non-living earth, crafts.
Yavanna (Kementari) Mistress of the earth, Giver of Fruits, Wife of Aule. Domain, Living earth, plants.
Namo (Mandos) Keeper of the Dead, Lord of the Halls of Awaiting, Brother of Nienna and Irmo. Domain, Spirits, death, passing.
Nienna. The Weeper, Sister of Namo and Irmo. Domain, Conscience, grief, pity, suffering.
Orome (Aldaron) The Huntsman, Master of the Wild, Husband of Vana, Brother of Nessa. Domain, Nature, forests, wild animals.

The Lesser Valar
Vana. The Ever-young, Mistress of Flowers, Wife of Orome, Sister of Yavanna. Domain, Youth, birth, renewal, flowers, song.
Tulkas. Champion of the Valar, Husband of Nessa. Domain, Valor, laughter, loyalty, hardiness.
Nessa. Mistress of Celebrations, Wife of Tulkas, Sister of Orome. Domain, Joy, celebration, happiness.
Irmo (Lorien) Dream Master, Lord of Visions, Husband of Este, Brother of Namo and Nienna. Domain, Spirits, dreams, desires, love, peace.
Este. The Healer, Mistress of the Fountains of Renewal, Wife of Irmo. Domain, Renewal, healing, rest, peace.
Vaire. The Weaver, Wife of Namo. Domain, Time, fate, tales, memory.

The Enemy
Melkor (Morgoth) The Unmaker, the Nameless, the Great Enemy, Brother of Manwe. Domain, Fire, cold, crafts, materiality.

Maiar of note
Ilmarie the handmaiden of Varda.
Eonwe the Herald of the Valar and Captain of the Host.
Osse the servant of Ulmo.
Uinen servant of Ulmo, wife of Osse.
Melian servant of Vana and Este. Wife of Elwe (Thingol)
Olorin servant of Irmo and Nienna. Said to be the wisest of the maiar, he later became the Istari, Gandalf.
Sauron servant of Aule, he was corrupted by Melkor.
The Valaraukar corrupted spirits of fire that became the Balrogs.

Places of Note

Ea The World, includes Arda and the Heavens.
Arda The Earth. This is composed of the continents Middle Earth (Endor) and Aman, which are separated by the Belegaer Sea. The Encircling Sea surrounds all this. There are other continents too, but they have no part in this story at the moment.
Middle Earth This is the land in which the Hobbit and LotR is set. At this time it also extends West beyond the Blue Mountains into Beleriand.
Aman These are the Undying Lands. Valinor (the home of the Valar) occupies much of Aman, and the two names are often interchanged, although there are parts of Aman outside of Valinor.
Halls of Mandos These are the Halls where Mandos gathers the spirits of the dead, and leaves them to sit in quiet contemplation. They are situated in the far west of Valinor.


[Edited on 11/11/2002 by Valedhelgwath]
Questions for discussion.
Just to get the ball rolling,
1) In what ways do the opening chapters compare with Christain and Pagan beliefs?
2) As spirits of nature, how do the eight Aratar differ from the lesser Valar?
3) In terms of nature, how can Melkor's character be seen in the world and how would it be percieved?
4) What do you understand to be happening within the three themes of the Great Music?

Feel free to raise your own questions and discussions.
I think it is interesting that Tolkien has the Valar because he is a Christain and the Valar are like the traditional groups of pagan dieties. I think that Tolkien uses them to say that a one god can exhist with pagan dieties.
Tolkien was, by all accounts, very deeply christian. however tried to remove this from his books entirely (a few traces are to be found I think......where? hmm not sure! maybe when Aragorn is saying grace......?) which makes sense as the Sil is meant to be myth, not christian (Its not the arthurian legends!).
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"(i)t is involved in, and explicitly contains the Christian religion. For reasons which I will not elaborate, that seems to me fatal. Myth and fairy- story must, as all art, reflect and contain in solution elements of moral and religious truth (or error), but not explicit, not in the known form of the primary 'real' world."

If you take Illuvatar and the Ainur then sure they look just like god and the angels and in many respects they are. for example, the ainur do not have the power of gods, they cannot create and are forbidden to dominate. There is also no worship in any form of the Ainur, only cries for help. (later after Sauron influences the numenorians, shrines and temples are put up, but to the faithful these are seen as evil)
Yeah they also look like Pagan deities, but combining with the "One God"? I dont think so. If the closest parralel is with pagan deities then why mix it with the idea of a christian god as well? i.e The Greek gods had an overall creator too, called Kronos. If the Ainur are pagan it seems more likely that Illuvatar is more like Kronos.
So, I kinda like to think of the Ainur as Angels (with the Maiar as lesser angels) and Illuvatar as a Kronos figure. 9which can, I guess, also be viewed as the same Christian "God"
basically i'm saying I think its not really Pagan and if you say its a Christian influenced pantheon, then it can only be so on a very subtle level. It did not ever cry "christian! christian!" to me, just merely suggested it. which on the whole is the best way.

p.s i got the quote from elsewhere on the site. Its from Tolkien letters!

[Edited on 1/11/2002 by Cirdan]
That was a very interesting post, Cirdan, I also love that quote from Letters. Let me attempt to explain furthur what I meant to say in my ill-written post: rTolkien's Ainur are similair to pagan dieties because they represent things similiar to (but not identical, they have no direct parellels in, say, Greek mythology) what other gods of more well-known mythology represent. That is not to say that they are pagan. I think it is going too far to label the Ainur as Christian or pagan, for two reasons: r 1): that would not fit the world of Arda, because there are no pagans or Christians in ME, or in Valinor, etc. They do not directly worship the gods, except for the hints you pointed out, and so they cannot be described as having religions. Though it is interesting that Gandalf uses the word 'heathen' in RotK, when he reprimands Denethor. r 2): Christianity is not the only monothestic (one-god) religion, though it is probably the most widely known. I had not considered Kronos, that is another good point you made. Yes, Tolkien was a Christian, but if people of other religions, say, Hinduism, read this book, they might think the Ainur are like Hindu Dieties. My point is that just because Iluvatar is 'the One God', it doesn't mean that that labels him as a Christian One God.r What my original point is: Tolkien's creation of the Ainur is unique and surprising because they can be accepted by different people of different religions. Tolkien was a devout Christian, and his beliefs will come into the story, but he was also a philologist, and studied and loved pagan writings, and I think the Ainur is a good balance between the two. Thank you for reading this long post.
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Grondmaster says Valedhelgwath posted
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Good points both of you.

What Tolkien wrote is obviously fictional, his own world and his own inhabitants. As such it cannot be compared directly with Christianity or any other religious belief, because it is not supposed to be any one of them in particular. However, with regards to Tolkien's background, I believe he took ideas from different religions, melded them together and then added his own ideas around this core.

Iluvatar is like the One God figure found in monothestic religions (or as you mentioned a Kronos figure). This could be reflected in a Christian view for as Cirdan mentioned, the ainur cannot create life and are not worshipped. Worshipping false idols was a sin in christain faiths too.

The ainur do have many shared characteristics of the many pagan religions, however. They have power over nature and emotions, time and spirits. Early shamens would see a volcano and believe it to be a deity at his forge, fear the gods that made the earth shake, and appease the being that made the waves move before they went to sea. They did not have our understanding of nature, so explained such things in terms of deities.

Creation is fundamental to most faiths too. In the West, readers may compare these opening chapters to the opening pages of the Bible. God is creating the world. A great similarity... but there the similarity ends. Iluvatar did not do it in seven days, and he did not do it alone. Here Tolkien has borrowed from other faiths, mixed, and added his own input.

And like Samwise pointed out, although in the West we can see a Christian god, people of other faiths might also recognise elements of their own faith. This is not too surprising either really. For all of the wars fought in the name of religion, most of them are fairly similar at a basic level. They are primitive man's way of explaining what he could see occurring around him.
Sounds pretty accurate to me Val! and Samwise, equally persuasive arguement. Essentially I believe Tolkien was creating a classical creation myth. Something that all people could realte to and understand. I dont think there was any serious intention for it to draw parallels with other established religions, Just that through its recognisability as a "creation myth" we naturally start to draw an allegory from it. like "hey! these guys look just like .....! and they must be........!" and so on! The only influence that religion may have had on the book is a natural infusion of Tolkiens own morals and beliefs on the story. A good book to read on the subject would be "finding god in Lord of the Rings" (sorry postAuthorIDs name I dont remember!) which looks at the influences on Tolkien that christianity and north european mythology (to a lesser extent in this book) have had, and how they are naturally represented in LotR's.
Here's another quote I found in "the Letters"
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There are no "Gods", properly so-called, in the mythological background in my stories. Their place is taken by the persons referred to as the Valar (or Powers): angelic created beings appointed to the government of the world. The Elves naturally believed in them as they lived with them.

I thought that quote was quite appropriate to the discussion Happy Elf Smilie
Hi Grondy. Welcome to our little group.

That is how I see the differences between the Aratar and the other Valar myself, but you worded it so much better than I could have done. And yes, I see Melkor as being all those angry forces of nature that primitive man would have had to contend with. Although terrifyingly destructive, however, like Eru said to Ulmo, it is those destructive forces that make the world more beautiful... frost turning water into ice crystals etc. Melkor was said to be the most powerful of the Valar at first. I think this is perhaps due to him having an input into the domains of all the other Aratar, giving different perceptions to their own great works.
I agree with Cirdan on a number of points.

I also do not think that there was any expressed intent by the Professor to make this "world" of Middle-earth a Christian or pagan world. I am a Christian so I see a lot of similarities to the Bible and the opening of The Sil. I know absolutely nothing of pagan beliefs, except Greek mythology, and I only know the big stuff there.

I believe that Tolkien created Middle-earth [I think we can all agree on that!] While he was writing The Hobbit & LOTR I am sure that in his own mind he had questions come up as to why certain events happened in the story. So he decided to "begin at the beginning"...write about the world (ME) from the beginning. Some writers with epic worlds (Terry Brooks' Shannara, Robert Jordan's Randland from Wheel of Time ) just start their stories in the middle of existence of the world. Tolkien wanted his readers to have more, so he created the world of Middle-earth from nothing.

From Tolkien: The Authorized Biography: [bold emphasis mine]
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"May you say the things I have tried to say long after I am not here to say them." G.B. Smith's words were a clear call to Ronald Tolkien to begin the great work that he had been meditating for some time, a grand and astonishing project with few parallels in the history of literature. He was going to create an entire mythology.

The idea had its origins in his taste for inventing languages. He had discovered that to carry out such invention to any degree of complexity he must create for the languages a 'history' in which they could develop.


But I also think that religion (or better yet, morals) are not absent from Middle-earth. And that is the direct effect from Tolkien's christianity. If we were talking about LOTR, we could ask "Did serving in WWI effect LOTR?" Of course it did! A person's life experiences is the fabric of their being. So Tolkien's beliefs came through in his writing.

BTW:
Finding God in The Lord of the Rings
Kurt Bruner, Jim Ware
ISBN: 0-8423-5571-5

It is almost a study of Christianity in LOTR. I have not read it, but it does seem interesting.

Michael
Great post, Val! And good quotes, Cirdan and Bain_Diamondhands! A word that springs to mind in connection to this is one that Cirdan used earlier when we were discussing Tolkien's Basis in another thread, and that word is 'subconcious'. Tolkien subconciously put bits and pieces of his beliefs and experiences (like what Bain said about WW1) into his writing, because that is what writing is about. You might also want to read Letter #212 titled 'Drafts' in THE LETTERS OF JRR TOLKIEN compiled by Humphrey Carpenter. It is far too long to quote, but sheds a lot of light on Tolkien's conception of the Ainur.
Nice! Like a well oiled thing!

You all seem to agree that though Tolkien was influenced by both christianity and pagan beliefs, he didn't copy them. Me too. My favorite paralell in this respect is humans being as a sponge absorbing paint(experiences) and then leaving marks on a paper, but in a different pattern.
Kronos isn't comparable to Eru. Kronos was the first who originated from Chaos, but Eru was always. Also Kronos wasn't the central being in the universe. In this respect Eru is more similar to Christian God. (Sorry, if I got something wrong, but I don't like Greek mythology since I was forced to read it in school).
Ainur are more similar to the pagan deities than angels. Angels didn't make any things on their own - like sea, plants, animals etc. But Ainur can't create beings that think their own thoughts. That is different in them.
Eru is portrayed as an ideal being. Ainur are not perfect. Melkor wanted to rule everything. Tolkien is explaining his thoughts why the world is not perfect. That is a fundamental question to me also.
Fast Asleep Smilie Goodnight!

[Edited on 2/11/2002 by orange]
Welcome, orange! I like what you said about Kronos. Actually I don't find him the ideal being at all, and he wasn't the greatest, because he was overthrown by Zeus. I don't find Eru as being the ideal being really, either, because he just is. He is neither good nor evil. Atleast that's the feeling I got.
I think you had something interesting going with your parellell of humans and sponges. Could you elaborate on that a bit, because I'm not sure I understand it.
I looked it up and there is no similarity between Kronos and Eru. He wasn't even the first being... Not that it matters much.
I think Samwise is right about Eru. Melkor was a created from part of his mind after all.

Sponge thing: Tolkien during his life soaked up different experiences. We are able to see his experiences in his works. I think Tolkien created Eru in many ways similar to his understandig of christian God. But Eru is not equal to christian God.
There have been some interesting points raised so far. Thank you for your input.

Because we are limiting ourselves to a week for each assignment, let's have a look at some of the other questions I raised:-

As spirits of nature, how do the eight Aratar differ from the lesser Valar?

In terms of nature, how can Melkor's character be seen in the world and how would it be perceived?

What do you understand to be happening within the three themes of the Great Music?

If any of you have other questions concerning the work covered by this week's assignment, feel free to ask them. You all feel comfortable with who is who, and what is occuring in these chapters?
Because I may be away for a few days, I have just posted the notes for Assignmeent 2 a little earlier than I had intended doing incase I don't get back before the weekend. I intended this first assignment running for a few more days yet, so please feel free to continue your discussions here.

I hope any first time readers here are enjoying what they have read so far.
Were the eight Aratur responsible for creating the new world and filling it with plants and critturs, while the lesser Valar were responsible for filing the shells of the first and second born with their attributes to enable them to become independent beings once they awoke?

I think Melkor's character can be perceived in the world via such natural events as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, postThreadIDal waves, and storms with fierse winds, deluges, and lightening that disrupt the landscape and the lives of the people who have to endure them.
I think in the begininning Eru gave a greater portion of his though to the certain Valar and that is what makes them the Aratar and what makes them mightier than the others. But here is a question: it says in the Silmarillion that Manwe could not comprehend Melkor because he could not comprehend evil. But Eru can comprehend evil because he made Melkor, and if he communticates through Manwe, why can't Manwe also understand evil? If you get my drift. Oh, and thanks for defining the sponge orange, it is a great analogy.
You're partially right with the Aratar question, Samwise, but I was looking for something else too. I'll leave that one for the time being for the others to have a crack at.

Your own question is a good one, and hopefully some of the others will be able to input an answer too. It is true that Manwe could not comprehend evil, and because of this, he could not understand why Melkor was motivated to do the things he did. It is also true that he was in communication with Eru, but I don't believe this communication would necessarily mean Manwe would have to understand the mind of Eru. In a simple analogy, Manwe is like someone who phones up an expert on a help hotline to get a problem sorted. Although he is talking to the expert, he will only be receiving guidance rather than full understanding.

It's like in this world today. There are some evil people out there who commit some really bad deeds. People like ourselves read about these deeds in the newspapers, or watch them on TV, but we don't really understand what motivated that person to commit the deed in the first place. I think this is perhaps how Manwe is with Melkor.

I think also, for all their wisdom and power, the Valar are somewhat naive. At first they did not live in a world populated by millions of people, each with different emotions. They would know each other and that would be the extent of their experience. Also, and this refers to my own question about the differences between the Aratar etc, they are very focused in their function/domain. The Aratar are mainly concerned with the physical forces of nature; the skies, stars, earth, sea, forests, time etc. It is the lesser Valar who are more concerned with emotions such as joy, youth, love, valour, dreams etc.

Manwe was concerned with the sky, the wind, clouds, birds etc. That is what he would have understood. Melkor wanting to dominate Eru's Children and destroy the world was an alien concept to him.

It all leads to another question, of course. Did Eru understand evil? If so, did he create Melkor to be evil from the start, and if so, why?
Wonderfully put, both Grondy and Val. The world would definetely not be the same without Melkor. I think that Eru was not thinking of evil when he created the Valar. Yet in the themes of the Song, he realises that Melkor is the most powerful. Maybe it leads to this: power corrupts=evil. It certainly seems to be a theme in LotR.
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The world would definetely not be the same without Melkor.
I get the impression that the world the Valar were creating was very symetrical, everything having its own place etc.... something like those fancy gardens you see at those stately homes like Blenheim Palace. The wars with Melkor broke up the coastlines, smashed mountain ranges and distorted this symetry however. On one hand it ruined the beautiful picture the other Valar had in mind, but on the other hand, nature's own natural wild beauty was enhanced.

I'm not sure how much of this Eru had planned from the beginning. It was obviously not Melkor's aim to make the world more beautiful by his actions, but in the Great Music, Eru took Melkor's themes and wove them into a design of his own. I think it was this reweaving of the musical themes that turned Melkor's destructive intent into the final beauty that was eventually created.

Melkor was probably needed, and indeed created, to stir up the other Valar and to prevent everything becoming too symetrical. If so, being created to be at odds with the other Valar would perhaps give Melkor higher ambitions than the others, and being alone, set aside from the others, might be the catalyst for his evil nature.
I have a little question of my own: the places in these two chapters tend to confuse me. So did the names of the characters in the beginning, but thanks to Val's wonderful explanation I get that now. One question left for me to be solved: what is the difference between Arda, Valinor and Middle-Earth? And then other places, like Mandos, are mentioned. What are they? And about the map at the back, is that a map of Arda, or of Beleriand? It confuses me a lot!!

Sorry to interrupt the discussion... Smoke Smilie
No problems, Tommie. I have editted my initial post to include these places.

Basically, Arda is the Earth, and it is composed of continents and seas. When first made it was flat, but later in the book it is remade and becomes round (but we'll come to that in later chapters).

Middle Earth and Aman are two of the continents. There are others as well, but for the time being these are the important two. Middle Earth, you already know from the Hobbit and LotR. Aman is off to the West and is home to the Valar. Valinor is part of Aman, and that is the part in which the Valar actually live. You might also know this as the Undying Lands.

Beleriand is part of Middle Earth and comprises all of the land West of the Blue Mountains. The map in the back of the book is of Beleriand. Although it is part of Middle Earth, the only part you will be familiar with is Thargelion and Ossiriand. By the time of LotR these are the only parts of Beleriand left, and are known to you as Lindon (Grey Havens). You will have to read further, however, to discover what happens to the rest of Beleriand (Severe erosion? Rising sea levels? War?)
Aaaahh! Thanks Val! It's all getting a lot clearer in my little head now! Thumbs Up Smilie
I don't think that Eru would have intentionally created Melkor with an evil streak so that he would disrupt the creations of the other Valar thereby giving nature its untamed beauty, because if that's what he originally wanted he could have just created all the Valar in such a way that their designs would not be too symetrical.

(Philosophical question: If the world had always been symetrical and we had grown up with it being that way, would we necessarily think that asymetry is more beautiful?)

I think Melkor, like Lucifer, went bad from jealousy and though jealousy is inherently evil - I don't think that Eru created Melkor with this characteristic, it is just the by-product of an intelligent mind since the self-conscious mind is capable of any thought conceivable. Smoke Smilie I agree with Val's statement here that Melkor being set aside from the others could have been the catalyst for his evil nature.

Another parallel with Christianity can be seen in that when God created the earth it was perfect, but Adam and Eve eating from the tree of knowledge (intelligence - not initially intended for our lesser minds) resulted in sin, which resulted in the chaos that came after the fall of Eden i.e. thorns on roses, ferocious creatures and violent storms - all beautiful in some way but also terrible.
Melkor, intelligent enough to think for himself, but unable to cope with his feelings, resulted in jealousy (sin), which resulted in his efforts of destruction (chaos), but Eru being the ultimate power was able to harness these negatives into something beautiful by creating a new and more powerful theme and incorporating it with Melkor's.
Hi Arwen. Welcome, and thanks for joining in.

A nice argument there about how Melkor acquirred his evil nature. I like the parallel to the Garden of Eden too. In a way Melkor did act like the serpent, giving the Noldor knowledge they should not have had, like the serpent encouraging Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge.
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(Philosophical question: If the world had always been symetrical and we had grown up with it being that way, would we necessarily think that asymetry is more beautiful?)
If you had been brought up surrounded by beautiful landscaped gardens, where everything was in place, the lawns neatly trimmed, the hedges and bushes all in line and symmetrical, the wild countryside might appear very unkempt and ugly. However, I believe these gardens look good because they are not the norm. If everywhere was like them, after a while things would seem boring. It is nature's randomness and stark contrasts that make it so beautiful. The opportunity of cresting a hill and not knowing what lies beyond, whether it be a forest, a lake, another hill etc, is something that the Valar were not creating without Melkor's intervention.

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From Of the Beginning of Days

In the overthrow of the mighty pillars lands were broken and seas arose in turmult; and when the lamps were spilled destroying flame was poured out over the Earth. And the shape of Arda and the symmetry of its waters and its lands was marred that time, so that the first designs of the Valar were never after restored.

Yes, very good argument about Melkors nature, Arwen, I had really never thought about it that way before. And I like Val's answer to your philosophical question. Myself, I think that part of human nature is to want things to be different, but we also tend to be more comfortable in places that are like the ones where we grew up. So my answer would be both yes and no. rSo based on what Arwen was saying about Melkor being intelligent to think for himself, do you think that Eru worked through the other Valar more than he worked through Melkor?

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Grondy says Valedhelgwath posted
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So based on what Arwen was saying about Melkor being intelligent to think for himself, do you think that Eru worked through the other Valar more than he worked through Melkor?
That one has had me stumped for a few days, Samwise. I'm not sure really. Reading over how he reacted to Melkor's discord during the Great Music, however, I would say the other Valar were working in the direction Eru had initially envisioned, while his display of anger at Melkor indicates he was not happy with what Melkor was doing.


Saying that, he personally wove new themes into his music to incorporate and harmonize the disharmony that Melkor was creating. With reference to your actual question then, I believe taking all the Ainur as individuals, he probably spent more time and effort working through Melkor than any other individual Valar, but much of that time was perhaps repairing damage rather than achieving goals.
I find that the Silmarillion is more repressentative of the celtic religions or even greeco-roman(Pagan is the wrong statement as this is the worship of the sun and the moon). I see Melkor as being an evil deity as you often find evil deity in the ancient religions. The Eru is basicly a repressentation of the heavens and the mother godess combined as in greek mythology the Titans fathers of the gods were the ofspring of the sky and the mother earth, when Kronos was born he cut the penis of his father the sky of in order to escape from his mothers womb seperating the sky from the earth forever. Not exactly the same but simularity's are there with the timeless halls being seperated from arda, with also the fact that theese were in turn sepperated from each other by the Ainur, children of the Eru.

Have to go but I will be back to ramble on about the Ainur!

[Edited on 7/1/2003 by Ross]
I had the opportunity of doing some in depth courses on Christianity, and based on what I have learnt, these are the things that I found rather similar as compared to the Silmarillion.

First of all, as we all know, Tolkien described Eru as the creator of all things and that he was the one divine being that knew all and controlled all things. Needless to say, the Christian faith is based on one true God. This is not the only basis for arguing that his tale was based on the Christian faith however.

When Eru gave to each of the Ainur a portion of the flame imperishable, and subsequently Melkor searching the void in an attempt to find and obtain more of the flame, leading into Gandalf saying to the balrog that he is a servant of the secret fire at the bridge of Khazad-dum, it showed a striking similarity to the biblical interpretation of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit in the bible is described as several things. The Hebrew word used in most of the Old Testament, when refering to the Holy Spirit, is "Ruach", which means wind/breath. This also signifies life, as in the breath of life. When Eru created the Ainur, he gave to each part of the flame. Think of it as giving each of the Ainur the breath of life.

Now we talk about fire. In the story of Elijah, when Elijah offered a sacrifice to God in front of all the other pagan priests to demonstrate His power, God sent down a flame from heaven that consumed the offering. In the book of Acts in the New Testament, on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit first came down and filled the people, it came as a tongue of flame that appeared on every person's head. This very same Holy Spirit that was called the breath of life earlier manifested later as a flame.

In the process of creation, the breath of life was needed. And Tolkien called it the flame imperishable. Now we can choose to read it as a force or power of some sort, since Melkor sought after it. But later we read that Melkor could not find in the void the flame because it was with Eru. This reads like the book of John, which says in the first chapter "In the beginning the Word was with God, and the Word was God". Now we know in that particular case, it was talking about Jesus. But we also know in the Christian faith, there is the concept of the Holy Trinity, which means that the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit makes up what is called the "Godhead", or simply put, God.

Furthermore, we cannot consider it simply as a force because Gandalf was a servant of the fire, and it would be incorrect to say that someone was a servant of a force (being an energy that does not have a will). Hence it would be right to say that Eru WAS the flame imperishable... which would make it similar to the Christian concept of God and the Holy Spirit are one and the same. It would also show that when the flame was given to empower the Ainur, it is exactly the same principle as when Jesus gave each of the believers on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit to empower them to do His work.

It is also mentioned that Eru chastised Melkor when he sought to make his own music, saying that whatever other tune he made which he thought was separate from Eru was in fact part of the plan of Eru, since Eru was the creator of all music. This is exactly the same as the Christian belief that all things are according to the will and plan of God.

Tolkien's wonderful use of music as the key in creation also displayed Christian beliefs and ideology. In the beginning, the main activity that the Ainur did was making music. It is later mentioned at the end of Ainulindale that no greater music shall be made till the end, when all creations of Eru, including the Children of Illuvatar shall sing the greatest music ever. In Christianity, heavenly hosts of God are constantly making music to praise God. God loves and desires the making of music for His praise, seen in many instances especially in the case of King David, who managed to have the presence of God constantly on the ark of covenant manifested as a blue flame as a result of praise and worship through singing 24 hours a day. It is also believed by Christians that at the end of days, believers will all join in the great chorus in heaven to praise God.

In a certain way, Tolkien calling the elves his children is similar to God calling the Jews his children in the beginning, later accepting even Gentiles if they believe. In Christianity, believers will have everlasting life, likened to the immortality of the elves.

The characteristics of Melkor is almost the exact same interpretation of Lucifer. The main characteristic (and fault) is the same. Pride.

The Hall of Mandos is basically an interpretation of the judgement of God, but then again since Tolkien was a Catholic, it most likely was derived from the concept of Purgutory.

It is important to note however, that Tolkien was attempting to create a story worthy of being called a myth that belonged to the English culture. Hence it was meant to be a purely fictional piece of work. Tolkien was not attempting to write Christian literature. He was writing a story. But his strong beliefs and convictions in his faith has undoubtedly caused him to create a world that had such strong similarities, and to write about divine beings as he envisioned them to be.

Hope I wasn't too preachy and that anyone reading this would be able to understand it. Trying to explain it at 1.30 in the morning is challenging indeed! Tongue Smilie
Wow Erkenbrand, that was certainly not preachy! You made some excellent points, I admit it will take my awhile to fully digest your post. Big Smile Smilie

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It is also mentioned that Eru chastised Melkor when he sought to make his own music, saying that whatever other tune he made which he thought was separate from Eru was in fact part of the plan of Eru, since Eru was the creator of all music. This is exactly the same as the Christian belief that all things are according to the will and plan of God.


It's interesting you mention this, because I find the same thing to be true in the Norse and Old English texts I read, such as Beowulf. I think that one of the reasons the world of Arda rings to true is because Tolkien was able to weave this sense of pre-destination into his story. And yet, I also find much emphasis in taking action, that things can be altered-(Gandalf) All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
I find this theme a lot in the Silmarillion, the Doom of the Noldor cannot be altered, and yet the actions of the Noldor, like the Kinslaying, could have prevented it.
I just have to say once again how much I love your post, Erkenbrand, I'm glad you've found the discussion group. Big Smile Smilie
That is quite a post Erkenbrand. Thankyou for sharing it with us. I have always seen similarities between Tolkien's work and Christianity, but there are many obvious differences too. I guess JRR was attempting a blend of several religions in an attempt to create something new.
I retrieved the missing outline and first questions for this assignment.
I'm currently reading the Silmarillion and reading this Discussion Group as sort of a guideline. I wish to restart some discussions here and I hope the readers of the Silmarillion on PT would join in.

There is a mention in the opening chapters about Arda reaching its full potential in the end as seen by Eru. What are we exactly talking about? This is what Val said during our chat session a couple of days ago :

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The true potential of Ea was the vision Eru had without the interference Melkor played
So it's final form is the mended, unmarred world


Comments please.
To an extent, this question goes beyond where the Silmarillion takes us, but the End is the culmination of Ea. This is not meant as a termination so much as a triumph, following after the Last Battle in which all evil is supposed to be defeated. All the wounds of Ea are supposed to be healed (the dwarves are supposed to help Aule in this task) and Ea will display the perfect realisation of the Ainulindale. Men are then supposed to go and join Eru and the Ainur in the singing of the Second Great Music.

At this point the fate of Ea and the Elves is unclear, but many of the elves fear, and I believe, that Ea then ends, and ceases to exist (like a beautiful flower after it blooms). In this theory the Elves get to experience immortality while on earth, but it is Man who's Gift is true immortality.
Better late than never, right? I'm probably going to save the rest of the Discussions for later, as it's getting kind of late (which for me means the suns almost risen.) I still don't understand people who find the Ainulindale boring, but I guess it's their loss; if you can't handle seven pages of text I've no sympathy for you.

I admit the distinction between the Aratar and the lesser Valar is one I have trouble comprehending. It's certainly a qualitative one but seems like it should be more than just "the Aratar are more powerful." Maybe in the terms of the Ainulindale they can be thought of as "first chair" for their respective sections, though as someone with no musical background I really can't say what that might imply. It does seem to me that there's more collaboration between the Aratar than between them and the "lesser" Valar. Perhaps this is inevitable as theirs tend to also be a more fundamental domain; interaction between Manwe and Ulmo and/or Aule is inevitable since they govern three of the classical "elements" that constantly interact with each other. I tend to think of the Councils of the Valar as something in which the Aratar do all or most of the speaking while the other Ainur take notes. I find it interesting that Vaire is given dominion over fate and yet is not one of the Aratar.

I think the knowledge that Tolkien was not just Christian, but Catholic, is very illuminating in terms of the Silmarillion, though it is by no means a "Christian allegory" along the lines of Narnia. Thus I tend to think of the Ainur as the Catholics view the Saints, which explains some of the correspondence to pagan deities (most of it is explained by their being primal figures associated with the primal world.) It helps to remember that angels are considered Saints as well, as with Michael (whom I usually equate with Manwe, as each are first in their respective ranks,) and Gabriel (whom I usually equate with Eonwe because of their mutual association with heraldry, though this becomes difficult in light of another view of mine.) The prominence of Varda and Mary within their frameworks seems pretty clear to me as well.

In general, I tend to think of the relationship between Valar and Maiar as analogous to that between seraphs and cherubs: of the same basic substance, but fundamentally different magnitudes. Of course, that makes the Eonwe/Gabriel parallel hard, since I'm pretty sure Gabriel is one of the seraphim. As always, I leave most of the parallels to those with a better knowledge of Catholicism than me.

I pretty much agree with Arwen and Erkenbrand on the nature of Melkors "Fall." He represents not the expression of an evil inherent in Eru (who might be said to be incapable of evil since all of Ea is his creation and his to do with as he pleases, evil be here defined as something counter to the will of the proprietor,) but the supreme example of free will in the closest thing to independence anything relying on the Flame Imperishable for existence can be. It seems natural then, if not wholly inevitable, that such a creature will desire, sooner or later, to be wholly independent in a way it can never be; that it is impossible does not eliminate the desire. Thus Morgoth exists in a pitiable state, as his victory is even less possible than that of the Eldar over him. They may have some hope of a superior force to overthrow Morgoth, but Morgoth himself has no hope of such allies against Eru.

My view, as I've elsewhere stated, is that while Morgoth, as an aspect of his creation, is comprehensible to Eru, Manwe can't comprehend him because his nature is inherently different than everything Manwe is or knows, and no hint of it can be gained from his knowledge of the Music because that is Erus creation, and Morgoth utterly foreign to Erus nature and therefore the Music. It's not a matter of experience as Manwe could interrogate Morgoth 'til the end of time and his understanding of him would never increase; to Manwe Morgoth is a non-sequitur

A final note to Erkenbrand: I can't believe I missed the link between the Flame Imperishable and the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It's right up there with missing Egwene Al'Vere=Guinevere not hitting me until Lord of Chaos. Guess I'm just slow.
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I find it interesting that Vaire is given dominion over fate and yet is not one of the Aratar.

Can't react to it all right now, but this statement is incorrect. Vairë just makes tapestries of everything that happens in Arda, and hangs them to the walls of Mandos's Halls. That's all that's mentioned about her.

No one of the Ainur has dominion over fate, fate is locked inside the Music of the Ainur, with Eru's intervention now and then.

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A final note to Erkenbrand: I can't believe I missed the link between the Flame Imperishable and the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It's right up there with missing Egwene Al'Vere=Guinevere not hitting me until Lord of Chaos. Guess I'm just slow.

That's applicability; that's how you see it, but that doesn't necessarily mean the author saw it like that as well. I don't know bout Jordan, but JRRT always denied that his works were allegorical.

Btw Egwene = Guinevere ?? Wt..., never even considered that.
You're description of Vaires role, or her execution of it, makes tons more sense that my initial impression (what I get for not paying attention to "lesser" Valar, I guess.)

I don't think Erkenbrand or I intended to say the Flame Imperishable was an allegory (we all know how Tolkien felt about those, though I still say the whole WWI/Europe/WWII/America vs. Last Alliance/Eldar/War of the Ring (II)/Men thing is just so blindingly obvious.) For one thing, the Flame Imperishable never gives us any indications of consciousness; it's not a "person" of Eru, but an aspect of him.

And yeah, I can't say much since I"m so slow myself, but sure; look with whom she starts out. You can pretty much pick any Arthurian character you want, including the man himself and his sword, and sooner or later it shows up in WoT, though the relationships are like if Mallory went on a three day bender before doing a revision. If it's not Egwene, who is it? It's just that that name is mangled more than any of which I can think so it's hard to spot. If you say the whole name fast it's clear as day.
I wonder whether JRRT had Schopenhauer's "will to live" in mind with his "Flame Imperishable".

It always seemed rather ridiculous to me that Melkor sought it, as if it were an artifact or anything. Melkor never understood the subtleties of what Eru had in mind.
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It always seemed rather ridiculous to me that Melkor sought it, as if it were an artifact or anything


I think Melkor's ambitions far exceeded his own power and it is his own knowledge of these limitations which drove him to do many of the things he did. By this I mean he craved the power to create life, which only Iluvatar could do, and knowing he could not do so, made him bitter against the life that did exist. It was from the Flame Imperishable that life was created, so it was this that he first sought. When he could not find the Flame in the Void, he began twisting and mutating the Children when he found them. Ultimately he spread his own being into every atom of Middle Earth (Morgoth's Ring) in a bid to control Elves and Men.

But yes, I agree with you Miruvor, it was rediculous him seeking the Flame as its source is Iluvatar himself.
Morambar posted...

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I still don't understand people who find the Ainulindale boring, but I guess it's their loss; if you can't handle seven pages of text I've no sympathy for you.


I start crying by paragraph 4 - the writing is so beautiful, how can anyone not be emotionally moved by it?

Maybe it is the images the writing creates for me. Tolkien entwines images of creation and of gods familiar to many of us without it becoming just a rewriting of the Bible. It is obvious to me that he uses he own beliefs and knowledge but without sermonising. After all, if you can't write about what you know and feel what can you write about? Tolkien doesn't write about religion, he just uses it within context. And for me, that works.

I want to read the Sil again soon but I promised myself I would read LotR again first. Now I am wavering....