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Old 02-19-2019, 08:38 AM   #1
denethorthefirst
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What If: The Noldor never leave

While reading the SIL and browsing the forum, I have always wondered how the story would have played out if the Noldor had made the decision not to leave Valinor. Maybe Feanor has a slightly different personality. But whatever the reason, they stay put. What would happen? In the story the actions of the Noldor are painted in a rather negative light and they are scolded by the Valar. But what exactly did the Valar expect and how would they respond? If the Noldor never leave then Melkor will quickly overrun Beleriand and the rest of Arda. He will completely annihilate or enslave the Sindar and Nandor in Beleriand and even Doriath would not be able to hold out forever if there are no Noldor to save them ... hundreds of thousands dead, a genocide of epic proportions essentially ... how will those elves, arriving en masse in the Halls of Mandos, ever forgive the Valar and their inaction? In a way, the staying of the Noldor would lead to a rift between Elves and the Valar and strife too, just a strife of a different nature.
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Old 02-19-2019, 09:23 AM   #2
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A potentially relevant quote from Morgoth's Ring:

"But, if we dare to attempt to enter the mind of the Elder King, assigning motives and finding faults, there are things to remember before we deliver a judgement. Manwė was the spirit of greatest wisdom and prudence in Arda. He is represented as having had the greatest knowledge of the Music, as a whole, possessed by any one finite mind; and he alone of all persons or minds in that time is represented as having the power of direct recourse to and communication with Eru. He must have grasped with great clarity what even we may perceive dimly: that it was the essential mode of the process of 'history' in Arda that evil should constantly arise, and that out of it new good should constantly come. One especial aspect of this is the strange way in which the evils of the Marrer, or his inheritors, are turned into weapons against evil. If we consider the situation after the escape of Morgoth and the reestablishment of his abode in Middle-earth, we shall see that the heroic Noldor were the best possible weapon with which to keep Morgoth at bay, virtually besieged, and at any rate fully occupied, on the northern fringe of Middle-earth, without provoking him to a frenzy of nihilistic destruction. And in the meanwhile, Men, or the best elements in Mankind, shaking off his shadow, came into contact with a people who had actually seen and experienced the Blessed Realm."

So without the Noldor rebellion, Morgoth would not have been "kept at bay". Here we see a more pragmatic characterisation of Manwė than the somewhat naļve image that might otherwise be thought of. The Noldor rebellion produced good.

In this counterfactual, it seems that if the Valar had done nothing then many Elves would be been killed or enslaved, but this quote suggests that Manwė was concerned that if the Valar had intervened directly at that time the provocation against Morgoth might have had an even worse outcome, perhaps the destruction of Arda itself.
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Old 02-19-2019, 12:45 PM   #3
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But if that was the case, why was Manwe not willing to communicate that clearly to the Noldor (or their leadership)? Just meet them and say: "Yes Feanor, you are right, Melkor must be punished and the Silmaril regained. But outright war could destroy a lot of Middle-Earth, so it would be best to just besiege and contain him for a while and whittle away at his power - just wait awhile while I muster the volunteers for the mission, we are all on the same page here." ... was that so hard? All that followed, especially the kinslaying, is as much a failure of the Noldor as it is a failure of the Valar in my opinion. Where were they during that battle?

In your quote Tolkien wrote that Melkor, confronted with the full might of Valinor, could have reacted with destructive rage. I do not believe that Melkor had it in him to enact catastrophic damage on that scale. And if he could, why did he not do so after the arrival of the Noldor? Wasnt his situation after the arrival of the Noldor almost comparable to a full on assault from Valinor? After all, the Noldor managed to destroy all his armies and they even banged on his door! And yet he did not react with "nihilistic rage". Maybe because he was no longer able to alter the geography of Arda to that effect. You may mention the sinking of Beleriand as a counter-argument, but in my opinion the damage that was done to Beleriand during the War of Wrath was probably as much due to the invading valinorean armies and their superior power as it was to Melkors forces. Or I am wrong and maybe Melkor could have annihilated all the Elves and the whole of Beleriand during the arrival of the Noldor and he chose not to do it because he felt secure and safe in Angband? Maybe he knew that, no matter how many armies the Noldor defeat in the field, that they never would possess the necessary power to break the gates of Angband.

And after all, the Noldor almost won, even as late as 472 F.A.. Maybe just a few Vanyar legions and a few Maiar would have made all the difference. Given all that, I actually find it rather hard to believe that, maybe a few hundred years after the flight of the Noldor, none of the Maiar rebelled and just said: "F... it Manwe, I“m going to Middle-Earth to help the Elves, better late than never, thats my job after all, you can stay here and sulk on your throne.". At least thats what I would have done.

Be that as it may, the passive stance of the Valar, their inaction in the face of imminent genocide, still strikes me as extremely petty and hypocritical. If they just went in, before Melkor could infuse Beleriand with his power, maybe Beleriand could even be saved and would not have suffered such extensive damage. Instead they were perfectly fine with sacrificing all the Elves (all the Sindar, Nandor and Avari) in Middle-Earth, just to punish those pesky Noldor. The Valar could just as well have said: yes, the Noldor are in the wrong, but it is equally wrong to punish the Sindar and Avari for the evil deeds of the Noldor; we will punish the Noldor in due time but still protect the Moriquendi. If i was an Elf in Middle-Earth, say one of the Nandor, ruled by a peaceful Lord and far removed from any politics and suddenly my home gets destroyed by a marauding horde of orcs and trolls I would have actually felt betrayed by the Valar and refused a "return" to Valinor just for that one reason.

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Old 02-20-2019, 04:54 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zigūr View Post
A potentially relevant quote from Morgoth's Ring:

"But, if we dare to attempt to enter the mind of the Elder King, assigning motives and finding faults, there are things to remember before we deliver a judgement. Manwė was the spirit of greatest wisdom and prudence in Arda. He is represented as having had the greatest knowledge of the Music, as a whole, possessed by any one finite mind; and he alone of all persons or minds in that time is represented as having the power of direct recourse to and communication with Eru. He must have grasped with great clarity what even we may perceive dimly: that it was the essential mode of the process of 'history' in Arda that evil should constantly arise, and that out of it new good should constantly come. One especial aspect of this is the strange way in which the evils of the Marrer, or his inheritors, are turned into weapons against evil. If we consider the situation after the escape of Morgoth and the reestablishment of his abode in Middle-earth, we shall see that the heroic Noldor were the best possible weapon with which to keep Morgoth at bay, virtually besieged, and at any rate fully occupied, on the northern fringe of Middle-earth, without provoking him to a frenzy of nihilistic destruction. And in the meanwhile, Men, or the best elements in Mankind, shaking off his shadow, came into contact with a people who had actually seen and experienced the Blessed Realm."

So without the Noldor rebellion, Morgoth would not have been "kept at bay". Here we see a more pragmatic characterisation of Manwė than the somewhat naļve image that might otherwise be thought of. The Noldor rebellion produced good.

In this counterfactual, it seems that if the Valar had done nothing then many Elves would be been killed or enslaved, but this quote suggests that Manwė was concerned that if the Valar had intervened directly at that time the provocation against Morgoth might have had an even worse outcome, perhaps the destruction of Arda itself.
Please correct me if I'm incorrect here, but this post implies that Manwe conspired to drive out the Noldor in order to fight Morgoth "over there" instead of "over here." Therefore, the entire Silmaril affair, including his asking Feanor for them at one point, was contrived just to drive Feanor into rebellion.

The analogy isn't perfectly symmetrical, but this reminds me of the old theological argument that, if Judas was born already predestined to betray Christ, he was one of the most tragic figures in the Bible.
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Old 02-20-2019, 05:18 AM   #5
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I don't know, really. That's just what Professor Tolkien wrote in the third part of Notes on motives in the Silmarillion. It's hard to say whether it was "true" or if it was just what Professor Tolkien considered as a rationalisation for the narrative choices he had made.

(This is sort of intended to respond to denethorthefirst as well.)
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Old 02-22-2019, 04:23 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by denethorthefirst View Post
While reading the SIL and browsing the forum, I have always wondered how the story would have played out if the Noldor had made the decision not to leave Valinor. Maybe Feanor has a slightly different personality. But whatever the reason, they stay put. What would happen? In the story the actions of the Noldor are painted in a rather negative light and they are scolded by the Valar. But what exactly did the Valar expect and how would they respond? If the Noldor never leave then Melkor will quickly overrun Beleriand and the rest of Arda. He will completely annihilate or enslave the Sindar and Nandor in Beleriand and even Doriath would not be able to hold out forever if there are no Noldor to save them ... hundreds of thousands dead, a genocide of epic proportions essentially ... how will those elves, arriving en masse in the Halls of Mandos, ever forgive the Valar and their inaction? In a way, the staying of the Noldor would lead to a rift between Elves and the Valar and strife too, just a strife of a different nature.
I think you're being unfair to the Sindar here. Elu and Melian won the First Battle. With absolutely no warning, they were set upon from a direction they'd never considered dangerous - Silm Chapter 10 makes it clear that evil creatures came from the east and south, not from the north, until Morgoth returned. They not only defended their heartlands, they utterly crushed one of the two hosts that came against them (and gained a vital influx of population in the bargain). The western Orc horde was 'victorious', true - but they only drove Cirdan onto the defensive, not to his doom.

And then Melian set up the Girdle, which we're told would stand unless one with greater power than her showed up. That's specifically one - the text doesn't allow for multiple enemy Maiar to team up against her. You might say that Sauron was stronger than Melian - but, well, a) he never managed to break in when he had the run of Beleriand after the Sudden Flame, and b) Melian is a Maia of Lorien, and dreams are a powerful subject in Tolkien (see: Olorin).

From the text we have, Doriath would have held out indefinitely unless Morgoth himself came to fight. And there is no indication that the Blackheart would do so unless forced. He was too afraid of injury, such as he had already suffered from the Silmarils and Ungoliant. Morgoth knew he was trapped in that body, and didn't want to risk the sort of harm that could come from placing himself on the front lines.

The real change, I think, would come not in Beleriand, but far to the East. Assuming Men still awoke, Morgoth would be able to focus far more on corrupting them, which would give him a rapidly-breeding army of fanatics that the Valar were afraid to touch. We saw how Sauron turned Men against Valinor at the end of the Second Age; how about an Unholy Crusade commanded by the first Dark Lord himself? Given that Morgoth doesn't care in the slightest what happens to his minions, I'm sure he'd take a stab at it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andsigil View Post
Please correct me if I'm incorrect here, but this post implies that Manwe conspired to drive out the Noldor in order to fight Morgoth "over there" instead of "over here." Therefore, the entire Silmaril affair, including his asking Feanor for them at one point, was contrived just to drive Feanor into rebellion.
I think you're misjudging this a little. Manwe's understanding of the Music doesn't seem to have been 'here are the things which will happen' (otherwise, y'know, the Death of the Trees would surely have made an impact?); it's more the certain knowledge of something everyone else has to take on faith: that 'he that attempteth [to alter the Music] shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.'

Manwe didn't know that the Noldor would rebel. He didn't know that they would cage in Morgoth, that he would break that cage, that Luthien and Beren would retrieve one Silmaril and the Mariner would return it to Valinor. What he knew, with absolute certainty, was that whatever happened would ultimately turn to Good.

And come to think of it, we actually see the precise moment the Elder King realised this applied directly to Feanor's actions:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silm 11
But at that last word of Fėanor: that at the least the Noldor should do deeds to live in song for ever, he raised his head, as one that hears a voice far off, and he said: 'So shall it be! Dear-bought those songs shall be accounted, and yet shall be well-bought. For the price could be no other. Thus even as Eru spoke to us shall beauty not before conceived be brought into Eä, and evil yet be good to have been.'
... and to go back to the original post: the Noldor as a whole aren't 'scolded' by the Valar (though Feanor absolutely is). They are warned, and in every particular those warnings are correct.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silm 9
'Against the folly of Fėanor shall be set my counsel only. Go not forth! For the hour is evil, and your road leads to sorrow that ye do not foresee. No aid will the Valar lend you in this quest; but neither will they hinder you; for this ye shall know: as ye came hither freely, freely shall ye depart. But thou Fėanor Finwė's son, by thine oath art exiled. The lies of Melkor thou shalt unlearn in bitterness. Vala he is, thou saist Then thou hast sworn in vain, for none of the Valar canst thou overcome now or ever within the halls of Eä, not though Eru whom thou namest had made thee thrice greater than thou art.'

...

'Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains. On the House of Fėanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also. Their Oath shall drive them, and yet betray them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue. To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever.

'Ye have spilled the blood of your kindred unrighteously and have stained the land of Aman. For blood ye shall render blood, and beyond Aman ye shall dwell in Death's shadow. For though Eru appointed to you to die not in Eä, and no sickness may assail you, yet slain ye may be, and slain ye shall be: by weapon and by torment and by grief; and your houseless spirits shall come then to Mandos. There long shall ye abide and yearn for your bodies, and find little pity though all whom ye have slain should entreat for you. And those that endure in Middle-earth and come not to Mandos shall grow weary of the world as with a great burden, and shall wane, and become as shadows of regret before the younger race that cometh after. The Valar have spoken.'
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Old 02-22-2019, 08:24 AM   #7
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I think you're misjudging this a little. Manwe's understanding of the Music doesn't seem to have been 'here are the things which will happen' (otherwise, y'know, the Death of the Trees would surely have made an impact?); it's more the certain knowledge of something everyone else has to take on faith: that 'he that attempteth [to alter the Music] shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.'
I admit that it's more than possible that I've misjudged this. Yet, that (out-of-character) passage which Zigūr quoted, from Morgoth's Ring is a little difficult to reconcile with the (in-character) passages from The Silmarillion:

Quote:
"But, if we dare to attempt to enter the mind of the Elder King, assigning motives and finding faults, there are things to remember before we deliver a judgement. Manwė was the spirit of greatest wisdom and prudence in Arda. He is represented as having had the greatest knowledge of the Music, as a whole, possessed by any one finite mind; and he alone of all persons or minds in that time is represented as having the power of direct recourse to and communication with Eru. He must have grasped with great clarity what even we may perceive dimly: that it was the essential mode of the process of 'history' in Arda that evil should constantly arise, and that out of it new good should constantly come. One especial aspect of this is the strange way in which the evils of the Marrer, or his inheritors, are turned into weapons against evil. If we consider the situation after the escape of Morgoth and the reestablishment of his abode in Middle-earth, we shall see that the heroic Noldor were the best possible weapon with which to keep Morgoth at bay, virtually besieged, and at any rate fully occupied, on the northern fringe of Middle-earth, without provoking him to a frenzy of nihilistic destruction. And in the meanwhile, Men, or the best elements in Mankind, shaking off his shadow, came into contact with a people who had actually seen and experienced the Blessed Realm."
No?
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Old 02-22-2019, 10:31 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Andsigil View Post
I admit that it's more than possible that I've misjudged this. Yet, that (out-of-character) passage which Zigūr quoted, from Morgoth's Ring is a little difficult to reconcile with the (in-character) passages from The Silmarillion:

No?
... nope. Not to me, rather. My reading of the combined passages is this:

-Manwe, unlike most of the Ainur, understood that all evil will turn to good in time. (Morgoth's Ring)

-When confronted by Melkor's evil, he at first conceived of the prospective good as a deliberate, joint effort between the Eldar and the Valar. He therefore counselled that the Noldor should remain. (Silm 9 - 1)

--Remember that previously, the big 'turn to good' moments have mostly been by the active participation of the Valar. The demiurgic wars of creation were made right when Almaren was built. The wrack of the Lamps brought about Yavanna's creation of the Trees. Melkor's dominion led to Varda's creation of the new stars, the awakening of the Eldar, and ultimately Melkor's captivity. Yes, there are small things, like the formation of ice and snow, but in the grand scale, 'evil should constantly arise, and that out of it new good should constantly come' had been about Melkor breaking things, and the Valar restoring them better than before.

-When Feanor's reply reached Manwe, he had a moment of revelation: sometimes, the turn to good was not his to shape. He had tried his strategy, but - for the first time - a people not under direct Melkorian influence had defied him. His world-view didn't change, but his understanding of it did. (Silm 11)

--He tells us this directly. The songs of the Noldor will be 'beauty not before conceived' - ie, not only the Noldor, but the Valar themselves had no conception of the heights the rebel Eldar could reach.

-The Doom of Mandos is in another mode, and comes from a different mind. While Manwe is contemplating the Good to come, Mandos is thinking of the Evil that has already been done, and the Evil that yet will come of it. He says as much, in direct reply to Manwe's comments about 'evil yet be good to have been'. And yet remain evil, the Doomsman bluntly points out.

It's easy to imagine Manwe and Namo arguing over this during their councils, with the Windlord inclined to forgive everything because It'll All Come Right, and Namo arguing for longer and longer incarceration for dead Noldor so It Doesn't Happen Again. And then Ulmo shows up and berates the both of them for not doing anything about that advancing Numenorean fleet...

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Old 02-22-2019, 03:28 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
It's easy to imagine Manwe and Namo arguing over this during their councils, with the Windlord inclined to forgive everything because It'll All Come Right, and Namo arguing for longer and longer incarceration for dead Noldor so It Doesn't Happen Again. And then Ulmo shows up and berates the both of them for not doing anything about that advancing Numenorean fleet...
Just wait till they have to divide the budget...


But seriously. The idea that ultimately all will come to follow the Plan may be a reconciliation of free will in a predestined world or of bad people in a good world, but it doesn't make bad things good. There's gotta be some responsibility and accountability in the moment regardless of "The Plan" in the distant future. I think I agree with Mandos here, even though I don't think most things the Noldor did in their exodus were evil.
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Old 02-23-2019, 05:39 AM   #10
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I think you're being unfair to the Sindar here. Elu and Melian won the First Battle. With absolutely no warning, they were set upon from a direction they'd never considered dangerous - Silm Chapter 10 makes it clear that evil creatures came from the east and south, not from the north, until Morgoth returned. They not only defended their heartlands, they utterly crushed one of the two hosts that came against them (and gained a vital influx of population in the bargain). The western Orc horde was 'victorious', true - but they only drove Cirdan onto the defensive, not to his doom.

And then Melian set up the Girdle, which we're told would stand unless one with greater power than her showed up. That's specifically one - the text doesn't allow for multiple enemy Maiar to team up against her.
How likely is it that Doriath on its own, without the help of the Noldor to occupy and distract Morgoth, would have been able to oppose the power of Angband? Morgoth completely crushed all the elven Kingdoms in Beleriand, the Noldorin Realms and the Falas under Cirdan. He achieved total victory. At the end of the First Age his army was so big that the entirety of Anfauglith could not contain it and the War of Wrath lasted for 42 years (!). Yes, Melian was powerful, but, given all that, I do not know how believable it is that Doriath on its own was powerful enough to achieve what all the Noldorin Kingdoms could not, how Doriath would be able to withstand something that even the Host of Valinor took several decades to overcome.

And we know that Morgoth left Angband at least once (to visit Hildorien). So if he deemed it absolutely necessary, he was quite ready to leave his fortress. The question is: how important would Morgoth deem the destruction of Doriath? We are talking about the most powerful and most populous Kingdom of the Elves in Arda, the pinnacle of elven civilization (and the closest approximation of Valinor) in Middle-Earth. How would Morgoth be able to tolerate the existence of hundreds of thousands of elves, living in harmony, contradicting and opposing everything he stands for? If there are no Noldor to distract him, then destroying that Kingdom would be his top priority. His massive ego simply would not allow the continued existence of such an obviously superior civilization (and the existence of another king) right in front of his doorstep. If Morgoth had achieved total victory in Beleriand outside of Doriath (that is, defeated the Falathrim/Cirdan in West-Beleriand and the Nandor and the Dwarves in East-Beleriand), he would in my opinion eventually leave Angband to tear down the Girdle of Doriath. Eventually his ego and his lust for destruction would overpower his fear, especially if he had achieved total victory in the rest of Beleriand and therefore would have no reason to really be afraid of anything. It may take him a few hundred years, if he is really cautious, but it would only be a matter of time. Yes Morgoth was afraid of combat, but I do not think that tearing down the Girdle would be a question of combat at all, or would require any physical activity for that matter. It would purely be a contest of sorcery, between the will of Morgoth and the will of Melian, a contest that Morgoth, well protected by Balrogs, Dragons, Trolls and multitudes of Orcs, would eventually win.

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Old 03-03-2019, 05:32 PM   #11
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And we know that Morgoth left Angband at least once (to visit Hildorien).
Even Tolkien wasn't certain about that; elsewhere in Morgoth's Ring he raises the idea that it was Sauron, not his boss, who handled the Corrupt The Newborn Men job.
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