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Old 02-19-2009, 06:45 PM   #1
Kuruharan
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Question Can anything good come from Men?

I'm pondering how the goodness of humanity in Tolkien seemed to be directly related to their level of elvishness. Humanity (or parts of it) did begin their westward migration on their own but other than that I am hard pressed to think of an example of acts in humans that are considered virtuous to some degree in Tolkien that are not informed in some way or another by elven culture.

In large measure in Tolkien humanity is actually an evil race, or at least fights on the side of evil. It only seems to be contact with the elves (and maybe to some extent the dwarves) that humanity learned virtue.

I can think of hobbits as being one example of a "good" Mannish culture that developed (more or less) in absence of elvish influence...but even with them (at least among the ones that were held up as examples of virtue in the stories) elvishness was the standard that they strived for and admired.

Is humanity in Tolkien capable of developing virtue on its own or must it be received from the other races of Middle earth?

Can anything good come from Men?
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Old 02-19-2009, 06:55 PM   #2
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In large measure in Tolkien humanity is actually an evil race, or at least fights on the side of evil. It only seems to be contact with the elves (and maybe to some extent the dwarves) that humanity learned virtue.
...
Can anything good come from Men?
Can anything good come from anyone else?
Nothing much happened with the elves that refused the summons, and the more the elves followed the Valar, the greater they became. For example, the Teleri learned shipbuilding and those sorts of things from them, while the Noldor went to Valinor and it was there that they learnt most of what they knew. When they returned, they spread their knowledge.

The Dwarves were created by AulŰ and so were most likely instructed by him anyway.
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Old 02-19-2009, 08:51 PM   #3
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Well, I can think of at least one cultural group of Men that were mostly 'good' and appear to have been little influenced by Elves: the Rohirrim. Even though their homes for long years were in Rhovanion, relatively near large settlements of Silvan Elves in Mirkwood and Lˇrien, they seem to have had little contact with them and instead regarded them with fear and awe.
Of course, in later years they were much enriched by the Men of Gondor, themselves elevated in knowledge and culture by virtue of their ancestral ties with the Eldar of the First Age, but they were already disposed to aid the West against evil even before then, as the Ride of Eorl shows.
The Rohirrim were not nearly as 'high' as the Gondorians even in the latter's fading years, a warrior culture to be sure. Their behavior couldn't really be considered 'elvish' (the killing of Freca by King Helm "Hammerhand" comes to mind), but they were at heart friendly to ideals that would set them apart from the Easterlings, Men of Harad, and others who don't seem to have any redeeming qualities (at least any visible to the reader).
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Old 02-20-2009, 05:35 AM   #4
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Well, I can think of at least one cultural group of Men that were mostly 'good' and appear to have been little influenced by Elves: the Rohirrim. Even though their homes for long years were in Rhovanion, relatively near large settlements of Silvan Elves in Mirkwood and Lˇrien, they seem to have had little contact with them and instead regarded them with fear and awe.
Of course, in later years they were much enriched by the Men of Gondor, themselves elevated in knowledge and culture by virtue of their ancestral ties with the Eldar of the First Age, but they were already disposed to aid the West against evil even before then, as the Ride of Eorl shows.
The Rohirrim were not nearly as 'high' as the Gondorians even in the latter's fading years, a warrior culture to be sure. Their behavior couldn't really be considered 'elvish' (the killing of Freca by King Helm "Hammerhand" comes to mind), but they were at heart friendly to ideals that would set them apart from the Easterlings, Men of Harad, and others who don't seem to have any redeeming qualities (at least any visible to the reader).
Not so sure. The Rohirrim, if I am not mistaken, were presumed to have some connection to the First-Age Edain, even though a small one. Faramir said something like that, unless I am mistaken?

As for the second part of your post: here I think is another problem. We don't know what it would have been like if for example the Haradrim were on good terms with Gondorians, for example if they were in place of the Rohirrim. There is this question of the possible connection of Rohirrim to the Edain, however, connection or not, the Men of Dale, the Dunlendings, the Haradrim, the Easterlings... all were still Men, just some of them stopped on the journey earlier and some later, during the journey to Beleriand. Breelanders were also just "normal Men", and they were being quite nice. Even though, on the contrary, it was mostly the "lesser Men" of Arnor who joined the WK (men of Rhudaur), but people like the Breelanders seemed still good.

But overall - yes, generally, it seems that Men had a tendency to evil rather than to do good. Of course: Arda Marred. Because of Morgoth's intervention from the very beginning, everything was heading towards a sort of decay. Think N˙menor, think the overall progress of things in M-E... The only thing that could help it was always some "injection" of something good from the West.
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Old 02-20-2009, 09:03 AM   #5
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Can anything good come from anyone else?
Nothing much happened with the elves that refused the summons, and the more the elves followed the Valar, the greater they became. For example, the Teleri learned shipbuilding and those sorts of things from them, while the Noldor went to Valinor and it was there that they learnt most of what they knew. When they returned, they spread their knowledge.
True, but the Avari never were associated, as Men were, with immediately falling into evil when they were left to their own devices. Elves on the whole seem to have an innate instinct to the good that Men lacked. Ex. The Elves fled from Melkor and feared him in their earliest days while Men worshiped him.

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Even though their homes for long years were in Rhovanion, relatively near large settlements of Silvan Elves in Mirkwood and Lˇrien, they seem to have had little contact with them and instead regarded them with fear and awe.
The Rohirrim and related peoples had extensive contact with the dwarves in their past, though.

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but people like the Breelanders seemed still good.
Now the Breelanders are an interesting study because they were of Dunnish stock way back in their day. The Dunlanders are explicitly mentioned as fearing and shunning the elves and being shunned by them in turn.

I suppose the long years of being in Arnor may have wrought the change in them.
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Old 02-20-2009, 09:59 AM   #6
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Not so sure. The Rohirrim, if I am not mistaken, were presumed to have some connection to the First-Age Edain, even though a small one. Faramir said something like that, unless I am mistaken.
I believe the quote is something along the lines of the Rohirrim being 'kin from afar'. They (and the Men of Bree and Dale) apparently came from the same stock in their origin as the Edain, but lacked the direct contact and influence of the Eldar that elevated the latter to their higher state. They may have met with Silvan Elves occasionally, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence that the Elves had much influence on them.

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As for the second part of your post: here I think is another problem. We don't know what it would have been like if for example the Haradrim were on good terms with Gondorians, for example if they were in place of the Rohirrim. There is this question of the possible connection of Rohirrim to the Edain, however, connection or not, the Men of Dale, the Dunlendings, the Haradrim, the Easterlings... all were still Men, just some of them stopped on the journey earlier and some later, during the journey to Beleriand. Breelanders were also just "normal Men", and they were being quite nice. Even though, on the contrary, it was mostly the "lesser Men" of Arnor who joined the WK (men of Rhudaur), but people like the Breelanders seemed still good.
But why were the Rohirrim already friendly toward Gondor and aiding it in war, even though free of any oaths or bonds to them, if not because of some innate 'goodness' or nobility? Their remote kinship to the Edain may have been a factor, but then, doesn't it seem that those who made the journey westward during the First Age (whether making it all the way into Beleriand or not) did so because of some quality that set them apart from the other Men in the East and South?
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Old 02-20-2009, 11:13 AM   #7
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Elves on the whole seem to have an innate instinct to the good that Men lacked. Ex. The Elves fled from Melkor and feared him in their earliest days while Men worshiped him.
Orome a Valar was the Elves' first contact with a higher power; Morgoth was Man's first contact.
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Old 02-20-2009, 02:31 PM   #8
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Orome a Valar was the Elves' first contact with a higher power; Morgoth was Man's first contact.
That's true, although Morgoth was aware of the Elves before the Valar discovered them.

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For by after-knowledge the wise declare that Melkor, ever watchful, was first aware of the awakening of the Quendi, and send shadows and evil spirits to spy upon them and waylay them.
It is curious that Melkor didn't personally go to investigate.
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Old 02-20-2009, 11:27 PM   #9
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Okay, it seems that we've more or less exhausted a discussion of the possible exceptions to the general inference that Men tend to be evil unless they have some kind of experience with the Eldar, direct or indirect.

I'm curious: why is contact with the Eldar so crucial?
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Old 02-21-2009, 05:34 AM   #10
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Okay, it seems that we've more or less exhausted a discussion of the possible exceptions to the general inference that Men tend to be evil unless they have some kind of experience with the Eldar, direct or indirect.

I'm curious: why is contact with the Eldar so crucial?
Well, once again, I would say that it was not the contact with Eldar per se, it was rather the contact with Valar, or rather "with the Light from the West". The Eldar were the best "medium" through which this light might come (meaning, of course, those who have seen the Light, in some way). I think that is told quite obviously at some moments of the Silmarillion.
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Old 02-21-2009, 05:12 PM   #11
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Okay, it seems that we've more or less exhausted a discussion of the possible exceptions to the general inference that Men tend to be evil unless they have some kind of experience with the Eldar, direct or indirect.

I'm curious: why is contact with the Eldar so crucial?
I think Faith is the key element. The ability of Men to walk a righteous path in Middle-earth seems to be closely related to how much they are able to put their faith in Eru's divine plan. The friends of the Elves are better able to do this, because they become enlightened by the Elves. The High Elves have had direct contact with the Valar and have been taught about the goodness of Eru. But Men may only learn of the Valar indirectly, so naturally they have a harder time accepting the ideas of Faith, Belief, Hope. Notice how the "good" men of N˙menor are called "The Faithful" and the King Returned is named "Hope". These are the seminal virtues of "good" men. Despair is always associated with those who go astray. Often this despair comes from the fear of Death.

Yet, remember, the Men of Tolkien's Middle-earth are simply Men. We are the Men of Middle-earth, and we have the same tendencies as the ones we are reading about. I don't think we are naturally evil or disposed toward evil (at least I try to believe that), but all men are faced with choices and have the freedom to choose between good or evil. Those who keep Faith in something greater than themselves, some inherent goodness in the universe, an afterlife, a merciful God - something - these people are more naturally disposed toward "good". Those who despair or turn inward, those who give up hope of any inherent "good" in the world, those who distrust the divine plan - these people are pushed towards selfishness, bitterness, evil. I'm not saying faith in the divine plan is the only path to righteousness, but it does generally help people, and people generally will end up putting their faith in something (or someone) to keep hope alive in them. As Jackson Browne sang: "Everyone I know, everywhere I go, people need some reason to believe."
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Old 02-21-2009, 05:34 PM   #12
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Yet, remember, the Men of Tolkien's Middle-earth are simply Men. We are the Men of Middle-earth, and we have the same tendencies as the ones we are reading about. I don't think we are naturally evil or disposed toward evil (at least I try to believe that)
I'm not sure I agree with that.

Humanity in Tolkien's world, barring instruction from the elves do seem to all fall into evil, or at least be classified as such. The Edain did move westward, not consciously seeking the elves, but trying to escape the influence of Morgoth. Unfortunately, their numbers compared to the population of humanity at large do not seem to have been very large.

In humanity's defense it must be said that they were not allowed to develop in a vacuum but had Morgoth's malign influence on them almost from the moment they awakened.
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Old 02-21-2009, 08:33 PM   #13
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Selador, I don't think it's quite as clear cut as that. Consider the words of Aragorn in response to one of the hobbits bemoaning the passing of Gandalf in Moria - "It's hopeless now!" Aragorn says, "Then we shall have to do without hope."

But there's something we're overlooking here, at least in terms of the First Age. The Three Houses of Men that came furthest west: Haleth and the others, tended toward honor, goodness, nobility and all the rest before they ever met an Elf. How does that fit into this theory of ours that meeting the Eldar was so critical?
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Old 02-21-2009, 09:51 PM   #14
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But there's something we're overlooking here, at least in terms of the First Age. The Three Houses of Men that came furthest west: Haleth and the others, tended toward honor, goodness, nobility and all the rest before they ever met an Elf. How does that fit into this theory of ours that meeting the Eldar was so critical?
That's what I was getting at. And I still wonder: what was different about the Edain that induced them to seek the West in the beginning, whereas the other races of Men stayed in the East and served Morgoth? They had doubtless been in communication with Silvan Elves before starting the journey, but I don't know that had much overall effect on them.
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Old 02-21-2009, 10:54 PM   #15
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Gandalf's death was devastating blow, littlemanpoet, but even despite Aragorn's words, I don't think that all Hope truly died with Gandalf. Or, perhaps it can be said that Hope can always be reborn. There are many more passages which show the vital importance of Hope to the quest, but I think those are really tangential to this topic.

You are right, though, it is always dangerous to speak in generalities, and I did not mean to suggest that it was all clear cut. It is not to me, anyway. In general, however, it is apparent that Elves did have a positive effect on Men, and this seems to be attributable to indirect divine influence. Tolkien wrote in a letter to Milt Waldman (Letter #131 from Humphrey Carpenter's book):

But Sauron dominates all the multiplying hordes of Men that have had no contact with the Elves and so indirectly with the true and unfallen Valar and gods.

Similarly, Morgoth's and Sauron's influence did obviously have a corrupting influence on Men, in general, but I do not think this meant that all men were doomed to be evil as a result.

And when it comes to generalizations, if we generalize history, isn't it just inevitable that we view Men as evil? That is, if some men take to evil and so try to dominate other men, history will always involve conflict of man against man, even though many men are trying to be "good". And History will always be warlike, even though many men may be peace-loving and only trying to defend themselves. And isn't that in fact the very way Man's history has unwound?

Kuruharan, what do you think it is in particular that Elves are able to do to change Men's evil ways?
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Old 02-22-2009, 08:48 AM   #16
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I think the premise of this thread is somewhat flawed.
Men were second in time but, as I understand it,
not in innate goodness or badness. Men and elves
could be viewed, if you will, as variant
"experiments" by Iluvatar. Men's rockier start seems to
be more by the way of less favorable circumstances of their
origins vis-a-vis the elves (far more influenced by Melkor
then the elves beginnings. Such an essential moral equivalency
of men/elves seems implied by Iluvatar's withholding dwarves
from life until after both elves and men.

And in Letters #180
Quote:
In this mythological world the elves and men are in
their incarnate forms kindred, but in relation of their 'spirits'
to the world represent different 'experiments', each of which
has its own natural trend, and weakness...Mere change
as such is not represented as 'evil': it is the unfolding of the
story and to refuse this is of course against the design of God.
But the Elvish weakness is in these terms naturally to regret the
past...Hence they fell in a measure to Sauron's deceits: they
desired some 'power' over things as they are...to arrest change,
and keep things always fresh and fair.
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Old 02-22-2009, 01:33 PM   #17
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But there's something we're overlooking here, at least in terms of the First Age. The Three Houses of Men that came furthest west: Haleth and the others, tended toward honor, goodness, nobility and all the rest before they ever met an Elf. How does that fit into this theory of ours that meeting the Eldar was so critical?
Well, that is one thing to consider, though it just means - I believe - simply that the Men were not utterly wicked by their dispositions. They could strive for something more out of their own, but again, cf. what I said above, the contact with the West was in some way helping and healing.

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That's what I was getting at. And I still wonder: what was different about the Edain that induced them to seek the West in the beginning, whereas the other races of Men stayed in the East and served Morgoth? They had doubtless been in communication with Silvan Elves before starting the journey, but I don't know that had much overall effect on them.
This is why I said it was not about Elves, but about the Light. I don't consider Silvan Elves much different from the Men who remained in the East, maybe only save for the fact that they met OromŰ anyway, and, well, they were simply Elves (older race remembering the younger world, the people of the Stars, with a different fate). But in general, I don't think the Silvan Elves might have given the Men much in this sense of making them better (in this "moral sense") - they could only teach them to speak etc. (As we know they did.)

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You are right, though, it is always dangerous to speak in generalities, and I did not mean to suggest that it was all clear cut. It is not to me, anyway. In general, however, it is apparent that Elves did have a positive effect on Men, and this seems to be attributable to indirect divine influence. Tolkien wrote in a letter to Milt Waldman (Letter #131 from Humphrey Carpenter's book):

But Sauron dominates all the multiplying hordes of Men that have had no contact with the Elves and so indirectly with the true and unfallen Valar and gods.

Similarly, Morgoth's and Sauron's influence did obviously have a corrupting influence on Men, in general, but I do not think this meant that all men were doomed to be evil as a result.
However, this I agree with - that is more or less what I said earlier.

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I think the premise of this thread is somewhat flawed.
Men were second in time but, as I understand it,
not in innate goodness or badness. Men and elves
could be viewed, if you will, as variant
"experiments" by Iluvatar. Men's rockier start seems to
be more by the way of less favorable circumstances of their
origins vis-a-vis the elves (far more influenced by Melkor
then the elves beginnings. Such an essential moral equivalency
of men/elves seems implied by Iluvatar's withholding dwarves
from life until after both elves and men.
And this is also a very good point Definitely.
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Old 02-24-2009, 12:26 AM   #18
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Kuruharan, what do you think it is in particular that Elves are able to do to change Men's evil ways?
I think there are two different things operating. The first one is that elves do seem to be more predisposed to goodness (whether that be due to something within or because they were better protected and instructed in the days of their race's infancy is a matter of debate). The second thing is the elvo-centrist paradigm of the books themselves. It must be remembered that all of Tolkien's works are written from an elven or at least elven inspired point of view. This is sometimes a very subtle but always foundational aspect of Tolkien's works. It is clear in some places, like the instance cited by Tuor that Tolkien himself saw and understood flaws in the elven worldview but such things don't creep much into the books themselves.

How does this relate to humanity and the topic at hand? Elves saw themselves as being the natural instructors and examples to humanity and thus the more elven like the particular group of humans the more "good" they were. And, naturally enough, the elven-like (or elven-lite) humans thought the same thing of the elves and thus carried this tradition on down through the ages.

But, on the other hand, it is also true that humanity's interactions with the elves *did* elevate Mankind above what they could have been on their own, especially with the constant influence of Morgoth pulling upon them.
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Old 02-24-2009, 10:39 AM   #19
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I can imagine a series of conversations between various folk of Middle Earth.

One elf (call him Finrod) to another (call him Daeron): "We know we're good for them."

Daeron to Finrod: "They know we're good for them."

Later, Finrod to Beleg: "You know we're good for you."

Beleg to Finrod: "You know you're good for us."

Later, Beleg to Turin: "They're good for us and you know it."

Turin to Beleg: "They're good for us and they know it."

Later, Turin to Mim: "They're good for us and they know it."

Mim to Turin: "They think they're good for you and you believe it."

Later, Mim to an Easterling: "Those Elves think they're the best thing since sliced pie."

Easterling to Mim: "Those Elves are good for nothing but trouble."

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Old 02-24-2009, 09:04 PM   #20
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I think there are two different things operating. The first one is that elves do seem to be more predisposed to goodness (whether that be due to something within or because they were better protected and instructed in the days of their race's infancy is a matter of debate). The second thing is the elvo-centrist paradigm of the books themselves. It must be remembered that all of Tolkien's works are written from an elven or at least elven inspired point of view.
I don't think anyone could argue against the fact that the Elves were better protected and instructed than were Men. I also think it may be true that they were by nature better disposed to be "good", although I am not certain. The Silmarillion (Of the Beginning of Days) tells us that Elves have the "greater bliss in this world", while Men "would not use their gifts in harmony". So maybe Elves just know right from wrong more naturally than Men? I don't know.

Of course (it suddenly occurs to me) the Silmarillion is ostensibly a translation of Arda's history as recorded by the Elves. Tolkien may well have been writing their bias against Men into the descriptions in the text. The Noldor, at least, proved that Elves themselves were capable of terrible evil.

But I think you are mistaken, Kuruharan, when you say that all Tolkien's works were elvo-centric. I think he was referring only to the history of the Elder Days - the Silmarillion. I am sure that he describes Lord of the Rings as anthropocentric.
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Old 02-24-2009, 09:56 PM   #21
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But I think you are mistaken, Kuruharan, when you say that all Tolkien's works were elvo-centric. I think he was referring only to the history of the Elder Days - the Silmarillion. I am sure that he describes Lord of the Rings as anthropocentric.
By elvo-centric I didn't necessarily mean that the story was (purportedly) written by elves from an elven perspective. I meant it in a more encompassing way to include people writing under the influence of elvish culture and mores and largely looking to elvish culture as the source of their inspiration. The Lord of the Rings qualifies on that score.
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Old 02-24-2009, 10:30 PM   #22
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Also elvishcentric in that LOTR is sort of a bookend to
those elves returning to Middle-earth in the First Age
to fight Melkor and leaving it after the Third Age with
the definitive defeat of Morgoth's lieutenant Sauron.
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Old 02-25-2009, 11:04 AM   #23
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Now I step out on a limb. The people of Haleth and Beor and the other clan whose name I don't recall, were of northern stock. The Eorlings were of northern stock. The Breelanders were of northern stock. The Beornings were of northern stock. The Men of Dale were of northern stock.

The Dunlendings, Haradrim, and Easterlings were .... not of northern stock.

It can safely be argued from the tales spun by Tolkien in regard to each of these people groups, that if you're a northerner and a human, chances are you have a disposition tending toward goodness, and contact with Elves or lack of such contact does not obtain. That is, it doesn't matter if northerners have contact with Elves or not; they'll still most likely not be evil. So this tells me that Tolkien's system has it such that northerners have some special quality that the other people groups lack. What is it, and why does Tolkien single northerners out as somehow more capable of withstanding the onslaught of evil?

Take this one step further. The Numenoreans were descended from a combination of Elves and the northern people groups. Those that settle in Umbar, the furthest south of any, descended into evil. Gondor, in the middle, has a middling history of both good and bad: they withstood Sauron but had the kinslaying and other such evils. The people of Arnor did have some groups that fell to the sway of evil in Cardolan and Rhudaur, so it could be said that these are exceptions to the rule of northerness - but so is the Witch Kingdom of Angmar an exception to the rule of evil being southern; so these can be considered the dual exception that proves the rule.

There you have it: why are southerners prone to evil and northerners likely to be good, Elves or not Elves?
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Old 02-25-2009, 11:38 AM   #24
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There you have it: why are southerners prone to evil and northerners likely to be good, Elves or not Elves?
Considering that Angband, Utumno and Carn Dum stood in the North, the theory can hardly be accepted. Dol Guldur was not much to the South either.

The Breelanders were close kin to Dunlendings and to Men of the White Mountains - the people who provided all the Dead of Dunharrow. The Hillmen of Rhudaur who fought for Angmar were likely their kin as well.

I can't see any North-South pattern here.
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Old 02-26-2009, 05:58 AM   #25
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I don't think this can be dismissed quite so easily - in terms of Men.

Angband and Utumno were established as the mythical reason for cold. I'm a little vague on Carn Dum, but was that not associated with the Witch King? And Dol Guldur is Sauron's northernmost outpost, and it is in the south end of Rhovanion.

Obviously, when dealing with maps, there will be some fluidity, but the basic pattern holds. Again, why the special status of northern Men in Tolkien's legendarium?
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Old 02-26-2009, 12:39 PM   #26
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Because Beowulf was northern...

Or, maybe it's because, in general, faerie lies to the north, or at least lingers longer there. Dol Amroth no longer hosts elves. Edhellond is deserted. But to the north, are Rivendell, Thranduil's halls, Lorien, The Shire, Evendim (who denies it is enchanted? Just look at the map!) and Mithlond. Elves wander in the woods near the Shire, and roam between Rivendell and The Tower Hills.

And let's not forget Tom Bombadil and Goldberry. It just feels different near the Shire.
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Old 02-26-2009, 12:50 PM   #27
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This whole north/south thing is really odd, because the Elves have traditionally associated the North with evil (when you go through the cardinal directions it's supposed to go West, South, East, North because North was the seat of Angband).

About the best correlation I can make is because evil was such an obvious and strong presence, some of the Men (the first ones to move west) reacted to it, and continued to live in the North in opposition. In the south it had a more subtle presence and thus was able to ensnare more Men. Or, those Men who did not react against Morgoth had to move in south, because all the good lands up North were taken by those good-for-naught Elves and Elf-friends.

Maybe that was enough to set up a pattern that generally speaking perpetuated itself over the generations.
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Old 02-26-2009, 03:46 PM   #28
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Truly, to me it seems so that in the North, there is the "throne of all evil", ever since Angband was there. The outposts come and go, even Mordor is established somewhere simply because it's far away enough from the Elves. Had Mordor not been possible to reoccupy and had the White Council not driven out of Mirkwood, Dol Guldur might have become next in the line of "evil realms". But it was the North, where Varda

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sil, Chapter 3: Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor
high in the north as a challenge to Melkor she set the crown of seven mighty stars to swing, Valacirca, the Sickle of the Valar and sign of doom.
The North was important, and despite the fact that Melkor was driven away, one can never get rid of the feeling that there is the place where the axis of the world lies (now I am intentionally phrasing it like that, so that you can read it metaphorically).
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Old 02-26-2009, 04:39 PM   #29
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I don't think anyone could argue against the fact that the Elves were better protected and instructed than were Men. I also think it may be true that they were by nature better disposed to be "good", although I am not certain. The Silmarillion (Of the Beginning of Days) tells us that Elves have the "greater bliss in this world", while Men "would not use their gifts in harmony". So maybe Elves just know right from wrong more naturally than Men? I don't know.
Well, they're meant to be more bound to the Music, and as the music comes from Eru, then this would make them intrinsically more "good".

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There you have it: why are southerners prone to evil and northerners likely to be good, Elves or not Elves?
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Considering that Angband, Utumno and Carn Dum stood in the North, the theory can hardly be accepted. Dol Guldur was not much to the South either.
I think that actually here the answer is staring us in the face:

Melkor= Master of harsh climates.
Harsh Climates= Evil.

So I would presume that Morgoth had more influence through his "marred earth" in such areas with harsh climates.

I suppose though, that this idea would work better with elves, as they are more tied to the earth itself, but we never hear of the Southern and Eastern elves that may have existed so we can't know much about this.


And following on from that (forgetting that Valinor is in the West), the people in the West would naturally be more "good" because of the power of Ulmo (closer to the Sea- he also has power over other non-"poisoned" waters, but it would seem that he can keep water "good" when it is nearer to him).


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The people of Arnor did have some groups that fell to the sway of evil in Cardolan and Rhudaur, so it could be said that these are exceptions to the rule of northerness - but so is the Witch Kingdom of Angmar an exception to the rule of evil being southern; so these can be considered the dual exception that proves the rule.
Well, there is also the idea that in each side there always is a little of the other- just look at the evil that happened in Valinor. Simple Yin and Yang:



There is also the idea that there was a "Divine calling" to the West, and all those that were destined to the West answered the summons.




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This whole north/south thing is really odd, because the Elves have traditionally associated the North with evil (when you go through the cardinal directions it's supposed to go West, South, East, North because North was the seat of Angband).
MAybe after the initial stronghold in the icy cold North was completed, evil had to move to the next best, which would be scorching hot (another of old Morgy's specialities)
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Old 02-27-2009, 08:30 AM   #30
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Perhaps we should be differentiating between "Temperate northern" (England, Beowulf) and Arctic Northern (the grinding ice ).

Perhaps also we should be differentiating between real north, and, what seems like northern to them southrons (Rohirrim came 'from the north', but are the banks of Anduin really all that far north?)
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Old 02-27-2009, 11:16 AM   #31
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I think there are two more aspects to "why north".

First, the Celtic and German people groups (throw in Finnish because of Tolkien's preferences) are northern and western. Therefore, in a meta-story sense, he's writing from the perspective of all the mythologies he studied by way of his linguistic/philological pursuits. Thus, the Germanic and Celtic people groups have a bit more going for them. The entire legendarium has as its subject northern Men, Elves, and Dwarves. Since it's about them and from their pov, it makes sense that Tolkien would make them more prone to virtue (as it were).

Second, it's interesting to me how Tolkien's legendarium - myth, really, compares and contrasts to the ancient mythologies, northern and otherwise, with which he was familiar. In point of fact, I don't think there are any myths that have the villainous evil deity in the north (there may be one or many, but I don't recollect them). There is, however, in many of the primary myths with which we are these days familiar - - Mayan, Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek/Roman, etc. - - an interesting correlation to the north, in that the primary deity is understood to be at the north, literally at the north pole, and is associated with the ancient sun god, be it Ra, Saturn, Quetzalchoatl, or whoever. That Tolkien has his northern power be evil is at odds to most of these, but there's one exception: Lucifer in the Hebrew "mythos", written by one Isaiah. The description of Lucifer matches that of Saturn, Ra, etc. in other cultural myths except that Lucifer is evil, like Morgoth.

I realize the second point strays a little bit from the "from Men" bit, but I'm attempting to dig up original causes at a story/myth-writing level.
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Old 02-27-2009, 11:54 AM   #32
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Second, it's interesting to me how Tolkien's legendarium - myth, really, compares and contrasts to the ancient mythologies, northern and otherwise, with which he was familiar. In point of fact, I don't think there are any myths that have the villainous evil deity in the north (there may be one or many, but I don't recollect them). There is, however, in many of the primary myths with which we are these days familiar - - Mayan, Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek/Roman, etc. - - an interesting correlation to the north, in that the primary deity is understood to be at the north, literally at the north pole, and is associated with the ancient sun god, be it Ra, Saturn, Quetzalchoatl, or whoever. That Tolkien has his northern power be evil is at odds to most of these, but there's one exception: Lucifer in the Hebrew "mythos", written by one Isaiah. The description of Lucifer matches that of Saturn, Ra, etc. in other cultural myths except that Lucifer is evil, like Morgoth.
Actually, the North is - sometimes - associated with the place of evil, with some northern cultures, simply because it is cold and dark. But that is not a rule, of course, as you say.

Nevertheless, the idea with Lucifer occured to me before as well. I think it is very likely that Tolkien was thinking of this one. Indeed, the verses in Isaiah 14
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For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
fit for Morgoth perfectly, I think.

Just as a side note, though, as you mentioned it - the original mythos does not come from Isaiah and in fact, it fits those "god in the North" patterns. Isaiah was intentionally using a myth, at that time well-known among the common folk (possibly as common as let's say King Arthur nowadays) of this "Heylel" (meaning "Bright One" or "morning star", indeed Lucifer, as translated from Greek into Latin and further into lots of other languages) called "son of Shachar" (also "morning star" or "dawn", or rather, the darkness just before dawn), who both were gods in the Canaanite pantheon, and in the Canaanite pantheon, the North was once again the seat of gods - so, in our terms, again Valinor, not Angband. And even Isaiah, when using this mythos, was not speaking of the North as of evil: he was just metaphorically speaking of the guy (the Babylonian king) who was usurping the throne (and thus, the place of god) for himself.

Nevertheless, even though the mythology itself (nor Isaiah when using it as illustrative example) was not depicting the North as evil, but rather the opposite, it's the reading of it that matters, and I believe Tolkien might have gone with the parallel of Lucifer = evil usurping the throne in the North = Angband. I find it very likely that at least a bit of inspiration was here, indeed.
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Old 02-27-2009, 03:27 PM   #33
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With regards to the idea of the chief deity in a number of mythologies being from the north (which I can't corroborate), in one sense Melkor was the chief deity of Middle-earth, since he worked so much of his evil in the land itself. All too often the good Valar seem to be doing nothing but sitting on their kiesters in the West; the only Vala who seems to do the same sort of "power running through the land" is Ulmo calling through his waters (and incidentally, he's the one who got most involved in the Exiles' and Men's affairs).
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Old 02-27-2009, 04:41 PM   #34
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With regards to the idea of the chief deity in a number of mythologies being from the north (which I can't corroborate), in one sense Melkor was the chief deity of Middle-earth, since he worked so much of his evil in the land itself. All too often the good Valar seem to be doing nothing but sitting on their kiesters in the West; the only Vala who seems to do the same sort of "power running through the land" is Ulmo calling through his waters (and incidentally, he's the one who got most involved in the Exiles' and Men's affairs).
Yep whatever else can be said about He Who Arises In Might at least he got things done unlike his generally lazy brethren.
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Old 02-27-2009, 05:44 PM   #35
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With regards to the idea of the chief deity in a number of mythologies being from the north (which I can't corroborate), in one sense Melkor was the chief deity of Middle-earth, since he worked so much of his evil in the land itself. All too often the good Valar seem to be doing nothing but sitting on their kiesters in the West; the only Vala who seems to do the same sort of "power running through the land" is Ulmo calling through his waters (and incidentally, he's the one who got most involved in the Exiles' and Men's affairs).
Indeed. After all, Morgoth said something of that sort to H˙rin.

And Ulmo was cool
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Old 02-27-2009, 08:44 PM   #36
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Yep whatever else can be said about He Who Arises In Might at least he got things done unlike his generally lazy brethren.
The same could be said for Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Mugabi, and bin Laden.
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Old 03-01-2009, 01:23 PM   #37
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Old 03-03-2009, 02:59 PM   #38
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Well, the North = Evil, contrasted with Northern Men = Good, was I think something of an accidental artifact of the development of Tolkien's geography. As he shaped the Third Age and its lands, necessarily it had to spread out east and south of Lindon/ancient Ossiriand, because north and west were taken. But the strain of 'goodness'; ie Eldar and Edain, were firmly associated with Beleriand and therefore what became the northwest corner of the inhabitable lands. Once you've postulated that Goodness maintained itself in Lindon and its eastern outpost Rivendell, and that the Edain's kin lived along their line of march east of the Ered Luin, then you wind up with the native Edainic Men and the returning Dunedain so situated.

(Of course, T was also 'calquing' upon Europe, where the barbarian waves have always flooded in from the limitless east and to a lesser extent the south. Vikings of course don't count, in Tolkien's mind)

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I also think it may be true that [Elves] were by nature better disposed to be "good",
Remember, it was an essential ingredient in Tolkien's conception that Men had 'fallen', whereas Elves were unfallen. Men were tainted with Original Sin, while Elves were not: what this means is not that Elves were incapable of wickedness (duh); but rather that Men from the time of their subversion by Satan/Melkor are particularly susceptible to the temptations of evil; that it takes an effort of will for Men to be good.
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Old 03-03-2009, 03:37 PM   #39
Tuor in Gondolin
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Remember, it was an essential ingredient in Tolkien's conception that Men had 'fallen', whereas Elves were unfallen.
But does this include the Noldor? Weren't they essentially
"fallen" by taking the Oath of Feanor and refusing to
renounce it before leaving Aman? Btw an interesting
analogy would make Melkor=the Garden of Eden snake
and Feanor=both Adam and Eve (which would no doubt have pleased his
humongous ego.
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Old 03-04-2009, 10:51 AM   #40
littlemanpoet
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Such an Oath as Feanor spoke did in fact mean that he and his sons Fell. Any who made themselves part of that Oath may likewise be considered to have Fallen. So yes. On the other hand, you have Finrod Felagund and Fingolfin who did not make themselves part of the Oath, but took upon themselves the ban of the Oath out of loyalty to their kin. Very sacrificial and noble, but just as deterministic (since that's what oaths do) to their eventual demise.
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