The "Wisdom" Factor

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The "Wisdom" Factor

Post#1 » Fri Feb 17, 2006 6:36 pm

This is another conversation that me and Virumor have had, just a few minutes ago. This actually started with respect to the current poll about the "Wisest" character. Here's the poll (For future references to this thread, when the poll will not exist):

"Wisest" character?
a) Gandalf
b) Galadriel
c) Elrond
d) Finarfin
e) Finrod Felagund
f) Melian

Here's how the conversation went:

(06:03:05) floyd_n_milan: how would you account for one being 'wise' in Tolkien's works?
(06:04:14) Miruvor: understanding of the bigger picture behind events, and able to understand what is necessary and what is not.
(06:04:50) floyd_n_milan: so let's put it in the context of that poll
(06:05:23) floyd_n_milan: Gandalf was wise because he matches your criterion
(06:06:38) floyd_n_milan: ok Galadriel
(06:06:47) floyd_n_milan: what has she done to make her wise?
(06:07:30) Miruvor: well the Sil does not make her very wise at all, but considering the whole Doom of Mandos and unrest of the Noldor..
(06:07:35) floyd_n_milan: indeed
(06:07:46) floyd_n_milan: she'd probably be considered stupid and rash
(06:07:45) Miruvor: yet in the Third Age, she assembles the White Council
(06:07:50) floyd_n_milan: hmmm
(06:08:15) Miruvor: and her ultimate act of wisdom is rejecting the Ring, though Elrond does that without speeching and showing off.
(06:08:35) floyd_n_milan: i think that was more self control than wisdom
(06:08:40) floyd_n_milan: rather
(06:08:51) floyd_n_milan: knowing what she knew about the rings
(06:08:55) floyd_n_milan: and their powers
(06:09:10) floyd_n_milan: it's a given that she must reject the ring
(06:09:19) floyd_n_milan: i see no wise act in it
(06:09:25) floyd_n_milan: just an act of extreme self control
(06:09:38) floyd_n_milan: and it'd the stupidest thing for her to accept the ring
(06:09:54) floyd_n_milan: now
(06:10:10) floyd_n_milan: if it were someone who didn't exactly know what accepting the ring would lead to
(06:10:32) floyd_n_milan: if such a person actually thought about it and decided that it would do him bad and then rejected the ring, it'd be wise, i think
(06:10:58) floyd_n_milan: btw was Galadriel alone responsible for the White Council?
(06:11:05) floyd_n_milan: how much part did Gandalf play?
(06:11:14) floyd_n_milan: apart from being a member?
(06:11:38) Miruvor: Saruman was the Chief of the council, that's all i know
(06:11:43) Miruvor: Gandalf was prolly 2nd in rank
(06:11:48) floyd_n_milan: i think so too
(06:12:50) Miruvor: then, why would Finrod be wise?
(06:12:52) Miruvor: he was merely noble.
(06:12:57) floyd_n_milan: indeed
(06:13:00) floyd_n_milan: i wondered the same
(06:13:23) Miruvor: he was prolly the only one who didn't fall under the 'spell', 'as to speak.
(06:14:43) floyd_n_milan: what about Finarfin?
(06:15:04) Miruvor: he rejected to join the Exile.
(06:15:12) floyd_n_milan: ah yes
(06:15:34) floyd_n_milan: i don't remember what Finrod did
(06:15:46) floyd_n_milan: he was the first to meet men right?
(06:16:56) Miruvor: yeh
(06:17:12) floyd_n_milan: so i guess that was a wise thing to do, befriending men
(06:18:32) Miruvor: he did it more because he was noble, i think.
(06:19:53) floyd_n_milan:
this point could be argued upon, its not really clear what went on in his mind, is it?
(06:20:12) floyd_n_milan: Melian's wise things?
(06:20:38) floyd_n_milan: predicting the doom because of the Silmaril?
(06:21:12) floyd_n_milan: or her use of her powers for the defence of her kingdom?
(06:21:38) floyd_n_milan: again, i think, it would have been plain stupid not to use her powers that way
(06:21:45) Miruvor: she's a Maia for something
(06:21:55) Miruvor: you can't compare maiar with elves or men
(06:22:06) floyd_n_milan: exactly what i was wondering
(06:22:17) floyd_n_milan: so the only one left is Elrond
(06:23:08) Miruvor: well he did know what was going on very well..
(06:23:15) Miruvor: aka the Council of Elrond.
(06:23:19) floyd_n_milan: yup
(06:23:44) floyd_n_milan: i guess he was knowledgeable too?
(06:25:03) Miruvor: yeh, he picked up a few things along the way..
(06:25:38) floyd_n_milan: hmmm would knowledge and wisdom go hand in hand?
(06:25:48) floyd_n_milan: not always i guess
(06:25:51) Miruvor: wisdom is about interpretation of knowledge
(06:25:57) floyd_n_milan: yeah
(06:25:57) Miruvor: and what you choose to do with knowledge
(06:26:20) Miruvor: it usually comes with experience, and age
(06:26:39) floyd_n_milan: of which Elrond had both a-plenty
(06:31:43) Miruvor: Saruman was very knowledgable, but he sat brooding and studying in his tower most of the time
(06:31:51) Miruvor: that's why he lost the bigger picture.
(06:32:03) Miruvor: same with Sauron.
(06:32:33) Miruvor: both weren't wise enough to understand that one always has to expect the unexpected.
(06:32:39) floyd_n_milan: true
(06:32:44) floyd_n_milan: what about Morgoth?
(06:33:42) floyd_n_milan: he was guided too much by his feelings rather than brain
(06:33:54) floyd_n_milan: so much so that he used his brain in accordance with his feelings
(06:34:36) Miruvor: he was not wise, as he did not understand that he could change the Music in Eru's despite.
(06:34:47) Miruvor: no matter what he would do, everything would be set right.
(06:35:02) Miruvor: all his attempts were fruitless, yet he continued like a cosmic version of Don Quixote.
(06:45:33) floyd_n_milan: hmmm so in general
(06:46:06) floyd_n_milan: Elves were wiser than the others because; on their own, they generally knew what the right thing to do would be?
(06:46:13) floyd_n_milan: but that's not a global truth
(06:46:21) floyd_n_milan: especially in the Silmarillion
(06:46:55) Miruvor: because they live longer, + Elves are described as having a tad of the spirit of the Ainur in them.
(06:47:14) floyd_n_milan: that gives them an unfair advantage :P:
(06:47:28) floyd_n_milan: i find it interesting that no human makes it into that poll
(06:48:02) Miruvor: Faramir or Aragorn could be in it.
(06:48:09) floyd_n_milan: yeah
(06:48:21) floyd_n_milan: maybe even Elendil?
(06:48:57) Miruvor: or Tar-Palantir
(06:49:25) floyd_n_milan: i get confused with the 'Tar's
(06:49:27) floyd_n_milan: which one was he?
(06:49:46) Miruvor: the one that tried to return the old values

About the Galadriel comment of mine, here's exactly what I meant:

You are given a glass of some drink you love, but you know is fatal to you. The natural thing to do is to not drink it. This has more to do with self control than wisdom, I feel. Doing otherwise, however, is extremely stupid. I guess this is a kind of no-win situation, where you don't get the credit for something that you did right but get flamed for something that you did wrong. Those poor referees...

Anyway, the point of posting this, is to hear other members' views. I do hope that we get to hear some.

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The "Wisdom" Factor

Post#2 » Fri Feb 17, 2006 8:05 pm

It was self comtrol indeed, but the reason Galadriel made it onto the poll was not because of her rejection of the Ring, but because of her "awareness of the bigger picture", which led her from being a clever but arrogant she-elf to a gentle and far-seeing Lady. As either Mir or floyd said (I can't remember which), wisdom comes with time and experience, both of which Galadriel gained abundantly.

What truly made her wise was the fact that she knew the consequences of stupidity, having tasted the bitterness of it herself. She repented in the end and helped the Fellowship, an act of wisdom which could make up for her rash deeds in the past. The motivation of her actions was now not power for herself or her kindred, but the preservation of goodness in Arda, and that would be the awareness of a "bigger picture", as Mir put it. She had gone from a rather selfish Elf to an Elf that embraced all that was good (including Dwarves!), and in the end she was wise. Well, in the end, almost everyone mentioned was wise, but Galadriel would be considerably wiser than most because she had the bitterness of her own foolishness on her lips every second of every day. That adds to her experience points.

Wisdom and knowledge have also an interesting connection, and I think you two summed it up very correctly. What you do with knowledge decides whether you are wise or not. And it can be argued that in this sense, even a simpleton may be wiser than an intelligent person. For example, some of you may say that Sauron was more intelligent than Samwise, but Samwise was wiser than Sauron.

But back to Galadriel. She had the knowledge of more than three long ages of the world, and though she may not have used her knowledge well in the start, she certainly knew what to do with her brain at the end. If wisdom is knowledge put to good use (as you both say), then I don't see anything against Galadriel being on the poll. True, it would've been a foolish thing for her to accept the Ring, but that issue was more a test of strength than a test of wisdom, so it has no direct relation to our topic here.

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The "Wisdom" Factor

Post#3 » Fri Feb 17, 2006 8:29 pm

In general I agree with Mir (what a shock) who has put his finger on the distinction: generally speaking the difference between wisdom and intelligence is experience (interpretation as well, but one could argue this is a function of experience.) Which is why I think Finarfin is getting a raw deal and have been voting for him every day; he's not wiser than Finrod, but he's still alive at the end of the Elder Days because he had the wit not to follow Feanor all the way down the road to ruin? Sorry, but I can't buy that (though an argument could also be made here that Finrod perhaps recognized the inevitablility of the Exile and his necessary role in it; Finarfin is laregely "the other son of Indis" in the Silmarillion and without Finrod to bring down the walls of Minas Tirith in succor of Beren, no Silmaril to win Earendils passage to Valinor.) In terms of whom I actually think is wisest, again, I agree with Miruvor: you can't compare Eldar to Maiar, as the latter took part in the Ainulindale and therefore automatically have a deeper understanding of how the world works. I opted for Melian initially simply because, while it's hard to say if she's wiser than Gandalf, all the movie fanboys and girls ensure Ganalfs victory. Note that the top three currently are movie characters (though it's notable Melian is, atm, one vote behind Elrond, but Elrond didn't do much in the movies and Melian IS an Aini.)

As far as Int vs. Wis generally, the best illustration I've found is Joel Rosenbergs from The Sleeping Dragon: Edith Bunker, not that smart, but wise as all get out, or the counter example: Richard Nixon. That, and the fact you don't need a high Int to be a paladin. ;-p

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The "Wisdom" Factor

Post#4 » Sat Feb 18, 2006 5:13 am

What a good idea for a thread, Floyd. Well done - it is nice to see discussion as to why people voted in the polls. Maybe we should have a new thread for each poll? Not seen you in chat for ages.

It is a difficult thing, this wisdom thing. I agree it is tied up with experience, and in particular what one learns from ones experiences. I love the reference to Sam. Being a Hobbit he had little experience of the 'wider picture' yet he showed great wisdom which I suppose is why Gandalf chose him to go with Frodo which also shows that Gandalf was wise which is no great surprise since he was a Maia. But then so was Saruman and in the end he wasn't what I would call 'wise'. When did he stop being wise?

I would expect more people to vote for the first three not because they are movie characters but because they are characters in the LOTR which is a more widely read book than the Silmarillion.

And the Poll doesn't decide who is the wisest, it just shows who the voters think is the wisest. This thread is a good way of discussing that.

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Post#5 » Sat Feb 18, 2006 7:17 am

I do not regard Sam as a simpleton. For instance, he had observed Boromir from the very moment the journey of the Fellowship started, and his assertion about Boromir in the Henneth Annûn was spot on.

Of course, he accidentally spoke the name of the Ring, but that was merely a slip of the tongue :
`Yes sir, begging your pardon, and a fine man as your brother was if I may say so. But you've been warm on the scent all along. Now I watched Boromir and listened to him, from Rivendell all down the road – looking after my master, as you'll understand, and not meaning any harm to Boromir – and it's my opinion that in Lórien he first saw clearly what I guessed sooner: what he wanted. From the moment he first saw it he wanted the Enemy's Ring! '

And is this description the work of a simpleton? I think not.
Beautiful she is, sir! Lovely! Sometimes like a great tree in flower, sometimes like a white daffadowndilly, small and slender like. Hard as di'monds, soft as moonlight. Warm as sunlight, cold as frost in the stars. Proud and far-off as a snow-mountain, and as merry as any lass I ever saw with daisies in her hair in springtime. But that's a lot o' nonsense, and all wide of my mark.'

I am not sure why I am defending Sam, as I usually find him an irritating bugger, but what the hey.

She had gone from a rather selfish Elf to an Elf that embraced all that was good (including Dwarves!), and in the end she was wise.

Depends on the version of the story of Galadriel one wishes to follow.

In the version where at the end of the First Age she refused herself to accept the Pardon and return to Valinor, she definitely doesn't look very wise. In the version where she is refused to return, she's left looking like a sad puppy.

I opted for Melian initially simply because, while it's hard to say if she's wiser than Gandalf, all the movie fanboys and girls ensure Ganalfs victory.

The Maia Olórin is described as the wisest Maia in the Sil :
Wisest of the Maiar was Olórin. He too dwelt in Lórien, but his ways took him often to the house of Nienna, and of her he learned pity and patience.

Yet, there is a difference between the Maia and the Wizard; the Wizard had been given the burden of the flesh (although there's a big difference between the White and the Grey here), hence emotions, pain and suffering were able to cloud his judgement. Nonetheless, he never strayed off his path unlike some of his brethren.

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The "Wisdom" Factor

Post#6 » Sat Feb 18, 2006 4:02 pm

That "Enemy's Ring" slip of Sam's may have been subconscieusly a wise move, for it got the book Faramir on their side and food for part of their journey, as well as providing a messenger to let Gandalf know later how they were planning to enter Mordor. Even though that last bit caused Gandalf to 'have a cow'. :elfbiggrin:
'Share and enjoy'

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Post#7 » Sun Feb 19, 2006 5:50 am

Typical of M. Mir to tie up all the loose ends in my post. By simpleton I didn't really mean simpleton. I just meant that in the books (and the movies), the hobbits were more of the innocent kind than the others. They're like little children living in bliss who are suddenly thrust out into a stormy night with no protection and no warmth but the blazing cruelty of reality.

And I know why you were defending Sam even if you don't know it (which I'm sure was a lie).

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Post#8 » Mon Feb 20, 2006 2:36 am

Wisest of the Maiar was Olórin. He too dwelt in Lórien, but his ways took him often to the house of Nienna, and of her he learned pity and patience.

It is for that reason that I voted for Gandalf. In the Silmarillion it says he is the wisest. I think having flesh would increase his wisdom rather than decrease it, for by having flesh he would better understand its limitations.

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Post#9 » Mon Feb 20, 2006 3:58 am

but his ways took him often to the house of Nienna, and of her he learned pity and patience.

Hmm, this sentence could in fact be interpreted in very different ways... maybe an idea for another journal entry.
Give up the Halfring, she-elf...

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The "Wisdom" Factor

Post#10 » Mon Feb 20, 2006 4:57 am

About the flesh problem with Maiar

In case we all forget, I'll just point out that Melian had flesh too when she was living in Doriath. How else would she have been able to bear a child to Thingol?

But I do agree that flesh would increase wisdom. It is an experience, after all.

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