The new start of The Fall of Gondolin describes these lamps as capable of sending forth a blue light 'from a flame imprisoned in white crystal.'
I suppose one could interpret 'flame' in a sense other than fire, or I guess you mean the lamp wasn't lit by traditional fire, but in any case, for myself, emphasis on for myself, this is an example of where I would rather not look beyond the explanation of Elvish magia.
I believe the Feanorian lamps were originally conceived at a time (1917-1921) when light was a much more tangible substance, which collected like dew in pots. In this conception the Noldor made gems, and they glowed a bit of their own fire. Perhaps the Feanorian lamps used particularly bright gems and magnified this brightness even more with elven magic? While the idea of light as a water-like substance did not survive the Feanorian lamps did, so in my opinion it is a combination of elvish magic and glowing gems (also made by elvish magic).
Well, maybe Cur has the best one, for it might be true, i never noticed anything about that subject until he came along with it. Well done Curufinwe! And maybe they run like he said, but what about The rock thing i said about, like a spark going to flame on a hunk of copper rock? Well, maybe we might get some clear answers like Cur's
Well to my mind Curufinwe's answer appears to essentially be: Elven magic, since he ultimately attributes the making of the jools to Elven magic as well as some measure of arguable enhancement of brightness.
I have no quibble with that of course; and yes in The Book of Lost Tales the Noldoli made many gems, for instance: crystals 'did they make of the waters of the springs shot with the light of Silpion', and amber and chrysoprase and topaz, garnets and rubies...
'... and to each they gave a heart of fire.'
Also in early writing, certain Noldoli had [noted in the early tale of Turin]: '... lanterns of strange fashion, and they were of silver and of crystal and a flame of a pale blue burnt forever within, and this was a secret and the jewel-makers among them alone knew it nor would they reveal it to even Melko...'
The early description of gems made by the Gnomes goes on in even more detail, but compare to the much briefer, much later account, at least that given in QS anyway: 'In Valinor they first contrived the fashioning of gems, and they made them in countless myriads of many kinds and hues; and they filled all Elende with them, and the halls of the Gods in Valinor were enriched.'
Of course there is more description when it comes to Feanor's skill, where he could make gems 'greater and brighter than those of the Earth' and so on.
While the idea of light as a water-like substance did not survive the Feanorian lamps did,...
Can you reference the text behind this statement Curufinwe?
At the moment I don't recall Tolkien dropping the idea of light that could be gathered like water in vats or wells. For example in the constructed Silmarillion it's said: '... and the dews of Telperion and the rain that fell from Laurelin Varda hoarded in great vats like shining lakes, that were to all the land of the Valar as wells of water and of light.'
This still seems to hail from Tolkien's relatively later work on the Elder Days, at least.
Just like Galin! Great job, and also, this "Magic" may have been heavily, and i say heavily with the work of the Valar. So if Varda(for instance) could create magnificent Stard, and if the Vanyar, and Noldo could create much lesser on their own, then they could almost do something closer yet much smaller then a star of course. so the Silmarils, or little lamps of the Vanyar for instance, in my opinion, only electricity could be replicated by the light of Eru or the Valar, so therefore the history of the lamps
You're right Galin, Light as a water-like substance did survive. I just remember it being much more detailed and prevalent in the Lost Tales. Are there any references to water-like light that is not from the trees?
I don't think that the lamps used "real" fire, since they never went out. I think it is just a bit of magic the elves use.
Not that I recall at the moment Curufinwe, as far as later, specific references to a liquid light, any that aren't associated with the Two Trees anyway, but that doesn't necessarily mean there isn't anything...
... my memory isn't what it used to be
I did write a longer post [with citations] about the external evolution of the lamps. The description of the lamps from the early Book of Lost Tales is interesting, as well as the description of what happens upon their destruction [Melko had made the pillars out of ice]...
... however I was seemingly automatically 'logged out' when I posted, and so lost that post! Not the first time it's happened here but I don't always remember to copy and paste before hitting 'save post'.
Anyway, while descriptions from The Book of Lost Tales are interesting, as they don't necessarily reveal Tolkien's mind decades later [even if we have later brevity versus earlier, more in depth descriptions] I'm not going to look them up again today and type them again here...
... but I do recall that in The Annals of Aman -- thus a much later source than BLT [and which was used by Christopher Tolkien, in part, to construct the 1977 Silmarillion], it's said that Varda filled the lamps with 'hallowed fire'.
So not regular fire, as you say.
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