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Old 04-24-2008, 08:23 AM   #1
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Bows of rain

It was another of those odd weather nights - it was raining yet the sun was shining, and all was aglitter as the sun sparkled off all of those tiny little liquid mirrors. And then I saw it, as I'd hoped that I would, that tall band of colour reaching from earth to sky in a defined arc.

And that got me to wondering: Are there rainbows in Middle Earth? If so, are these occasions where Varda is flirting with Ulmo, or some trisection of Varda, Manw and Ulmo? Are they used as signs from above, as in Moses' Book of Genesis where God uses the rainbow to signify his promise not to flood the earth again? If rainbows happen, what, in Middle Earth, does a rainbow mean?

Are they simply for the beauty of it all, as another snub to Melkor, or is there a pot of Dwarven gold at the spot each touches the ground?
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Old 04-24-2008, 09:19 AM   #2
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Maybe they are somehow connected to Goldeberry?
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Old 04-24-2008, 10:33 AM   #3
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Or, maybe, Arien flirting with Ulmo?
Or then just some water-orientated vala wanted to make beautiful things.

I'm not sure if I've actually read about other rainbows than those of Cirith Ninniach, which probably had no other significance but to make the place look prettier.

However, Melkor seemed to be afraid of all kinds of optical phenomena, so maybe the existence of rainbows might be considered due to the valar trying to scare him. Given also the several meanings of rainbow in this world (peace, hope...), it being a "sign from above" wouldn't sound that far-fetched.

I remember once toying with the idea (I'm not sure if I read it somewhere or invented myself) that the rainbows had something to do with the Straight Road. After all, in several mythologies they were some kind of paths between the dwellings of gods and humans.

Beautiful photos, alatar!
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Old 04-24-2008, 03:16 PM   #4
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Silmaril

One remark just for your interest. It's uncanonical, and I am not saying anyone should believe it, or not even that I would promote it, Eru forbid. But it may be interesting for this discussion, I think, to mention it. The idea was in the LotR RPG made by the Iron Crown Enterprises (if anyone is interested, I think it was done in early 90's, if ever, the particular volume was called "Over the Misty Mountains" or something like that).

Anyway, there was a (non-player) character of a Maia who was a servant of Varda, she was named Kalamr (i.e. "light-jewel") and she was the personification of Rainbow. It is said there that she was a "light-spirit" and she had always either the form of rainbow, or the form of a young girl, generally dancing in the place where the rainbow touched the ground. She could simply "jump" between places far away from each other (possibly by the rainbow?) if on both places there were both light and water in the air. "Legends tell of places where the stars shone so bright that the rainbow appeared even at night". It was said that she usually "with childish joy flickers from a tear in clouds over the Misty Mountains to another, which floods the Shire with sunshine, and then back to the flow of rain lashing Mirkwood. Wind, rain, raging elements cheer her up. She dances everywhere she comes, and spreads rainbow light, as long as the sun shines through the rain drops in the air." Her role in the story was that she could take with her anyone who touches her, and she carried the heroes of the story to Anduin:
"...her voice, clear as bell-sound. 'Should I take you on the road through the sky? Around the sun and the clouds? With the wind and the birds? I will take you to Anduin! Take my hands!'"

I think this "Rainbow spirit" was very Tolkienesque and if it were an option for how to explain rainbow in M-E, I won't see a problem. But if so, then I could maybe see this Maia with the dual-nature of serving both Varda and Ulmo (or at least a little bit, given the undeniable, and even emphasised, connection with rain), and overall her character reminded me of Goldberry quite a lot (which could have been intentional) and also of Vna (see Valaquenta). Of course, the interpretations of rainbow can be many, also, as it was mentioned, simply as something like a sign (a variation of Varda's sign of Valacirca to Morgoth?) or just a normal effect of water (and light), like the snow or rain itself. But as I said, I thought you might like reading about that, and eventually it could also bring you to some new thoughts
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Old 04-24-2008, 03:18 PM   #5
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the rainbows had something to do with the Straight Road.
I'm sure there was something about that in the BoLT.
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Old 04-25-2008, 05:07 AM   #6
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I'm sure there was something about that in the BoLT.
Yes, in a way - Orom's Rainbow Bridge from Valinor to the Great Lands, but "living Men may not tread the swaying threads of Ilweran and few of the Eldar have the heart", so I don't think it can be quite compared to the Straight Road. And it was not mentioned elsewhere but in the Hiding of Valinor.
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Old 05-15-2008, 12:44 PM   #7
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Anyway, there was a (non-player) character of a Maia who was a servant of Varda, she was named Kalamr (i.e. "light-jewel") and she was the personification of Rainbow.
Very interesting. Wonder how many other hybrid "children" exist in Arda, meaning beings that intersect two or more magisteria of other Valar. Aule and Varda = meteorites?

In the later days of the Third Age, Saruman takes for himself the title of Many Colours, and this is not seen as a good thing. This breaking of the white light (i.e. as when light passes through a prism), which is what happens to create a rainbow, is considered to be leaving the path of wisdom.

Would then a rainbowic being be necessary on the side of good, or is it clear that I'm reading way too much into this?
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Old 05-15-2008, 02:34 PM   #8
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I never thought about that Alatar. They always seemed to be on the "good" side to me.

Anyway, wouldn't that make all water and crystals bad (as they refract light). And I'm sure Tolkien alsways portrayed those in a good light (no pun intended, seriously!).
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Old 05-16-2008, 02:33 AM   #9
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Very interesting. Wonder how many other hybrid "children" exist in Arda, meaning beings that intersect two or more magisteria of other Valar. Aule and Varda = meteorites?
Possibly? (Although Varda could make this herself. Only Aul could help with giving some worth to the famous meteoritic iron...

Quote:
Originally Posted by alatar
In the later days of the Third Age, Saruman takes for himself the title of Many Colours, and this is not seen as a good thing. This breaking of the white light (i.e. as when light passes through a prism), which is what happens to create a rainbow, is considered to be leaving the path of wisdom.

Would then a rainbowic being be necessary on the side of good, or is it clear that I'm reading way too much into this?
Nah, I wouldn't think so. It is not that rainbow would be something bad by itself (the rainbow over Cirith Ninniach did not mean that Tuor was entering Mordor!), simply just in the particular case that Saruman actually broke the originally white light - the one color he was "appointed" with - into many colors, and Gandalf's interpretation of white light broken referred also to what Saruman did, not to rainbow by itself, that much seems clear - let's not read too much to it. It's easy to try to read something that isn't there.
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