Assignment 1

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Assignment 1

Post#1 » Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 am

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.

[u]The Aratar [/u]
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.

[u]The Lesser Valar [/u]
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.

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

[u]Maiar of note [/u]
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.

[u]Places of Note [/u]

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.
nn[Edited on 11/11/2002 by Valedhelgwath]

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Assignment 1

Post#2 » Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 am

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.

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Post#3 » Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 am

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.

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Post#4 » Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 am

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!).
"(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!nn[Edited on 1/11/2002 by Cirdan]

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Post#5 » Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 am

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"
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 :happyelf:

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Post#6 » Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 am

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.

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Post#7 » Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 am

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]
"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.

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.


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Post#8 » Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 am

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.

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Post#9 » Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 am

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.
:fastasleep: Goodnight!nn[Edited on 2/11/2002 by orange]

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Post#10 » Thu Jan 01, 1970 12:00 am

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.

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