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Old 09-01-2010, 05:43 PM   #81
Nerwen
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Silmaril

Quote:
Originally Posted by tumhalad
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Originally Posted by Nerwen
Which neatly settles the question of whether the author ever meant it to be a stand-alone work, doesn't it? Obviously, he didn't.
Obviously? I'm not entirely convinced about that. It is clear that he put most of his effort into finishing this story, as opposed to the other more hopeful ones, toward the end of his life. And he didn't write it happily, or with a sense of hope, as I said. Although he could have done so if he had felt so inclined.
Let me quote you again, tumhalad:
Quote:
CoH is not set in this world at all; it is a world wherein hope itself is futile because there is no God; indeed, one is almost tempted to agree with Morgoth and say that there is "Nothing" beyond the void. For all the characters in the story know, this is perfectly true. We think we know better because we have the Silmarillion, which says that Eru created the world, etc, but once again I'm not certain CoH should be read through that prism.
1. Tolkien was a deeply religious man. While I certainly don't think his work is just a Christian allegory, I would highly doubt he'd write something overtly athiest as a stand-alone work.

2. We "think" we know better? Um... it does rather appear to be set in the same world as the rest, doesn't it? You know, names, places, and all that? If you think Tolkien meant it to be set in a separate world, one with a different background as regards history, the nature of the supernatural, etc. then I rather think the burden of proof is on you.

Once again, I'm not saying the book can't be read, or doesn't work, on its own. What you're saying here actually goes considerably beyond that:
Quote:
Originally Posted by tumhalad
Now, I think there are better readings and worse readings, by no means are all "equal". In this case, to completely diss the novel's major thematic, emotive energy in favour of a kind of reading that at best seeks to mitigate or at worst ignore the utter defeat and nihilism of it is, I think, fatuous.
"Fatuous". I see. You know, I could find some equally colourful ways to describe what I consider to be your leaps of logic (see above)– but heck, that's not how I play, my friend

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Originally Posted by davem
Many people do live desperate, pointless lives, devoid of hope & purpose
And many people– almost all people, in my personal experience– don't. I don't. Thus, a world without hope altogether does not and cannot convince me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Just because the stories are set in the same world doesn't make one of them less true - or even dependent on each other. And it certainly doesn't mean we should see one of them as untrue if read alone.
But davem, that's not what I said. I say that I find the story of the Children of Hurin more satisfying if read as part of the greater story. This is partly because of the general richness of the background, the sense of past and future history, and partly because for me a tale of total despair, presented as the last word on life, the universe and everything, does ring essentially false. (Once again, this is my temperament and my experience of life, neither of which we get to choose, I think.) For me, both these considerations make the "in context" version more real, and thus more emotionally affecting. I also think that the story is in its turn an integral part of the greater work, which would be diminished without it. Again, just my reaction.

Now, look, guys, I don't have a problem with anyone who prefers to read it as a stand-alone work. What I am disputing is that a.) this is an inherently "better" reading, b.) that it's what the author intended, c.) that reading it in the context of the Legendarium necessarily "cheapens" or "disses" it, and d.) that wishing so to read it is a sign of weakness or moral failing (or– in tumhalad's words, is "fatuous"). I don't know if you all intended this last, but that's kind of how it's coming across.

Can't you see this is a matter of personal taste, and nothing more?
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Old 09-01-2010, 08:22 PM   #82
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Also, since having an overall happy(ish) ending does not erase individual suffering– what's the problem? I quite agree, for instance, that Turin & Co. had no way of knowing Morgoth would be eventually defeated. Therefore I don't see why reading the whole thing– or reading CoH with the rest in mind– somehow "invalidates" Turin's anguish.

My guess– though this may be way out, and possibly offensive, for which I apologise in advance– is that the answer perhaps lies in what some of you imagine is taking place in the minds of people reading it the "wrong" way. I mean all this talk of "shoving it into the world of LOTR to 'make it fit in'", of people having a "determination to see it as simply part of a greater tale where good wins out & everyone lives happily ever" of the in-context reading being "easier on the reader". It is my belief that in saying this you're attributing "bad" (as you see it) motives to other people which aren't necessarily there.

Once again, you are all free to read any book any way you like. If you don't like one of the author's concepts, why, then, reject it. One is not obliged to take a writer's whole philosophy onboard, anyway. I never do.
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Old 09-01-2010, 09:16 PM   #83
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What Usually, this is a kind of boxing bag for some critics, who perceive this as a kind of existential flaw in Tolkien's mythos. All the same, does CoH afford a sense of "unresolvability"? As I wrote in my last post, I'm drawn to the idea that CoH is in some ways not merely a backdown from but a moral repudiation of the doctrine of "eucatastrophe". When the story ends, Hurin knows that his wife "had died" in his arms. No more is said, and no more need be said.
How is the plight of the House of Hurin any different than the House of Feanor? The dire consequences of Feanor's oath lasts into a third generation (if you consider Celebrimbor to be the grandson of Feanor). Maedhros commits suicide, Maglor ruefully roams the shores of the Belegaer for eternity, and the rest of Feanor's sons die in battle as traitors and kinslayers (including infanticide). Maedhros and Maglor's sorry ends happen concurrently with a eucatastrophic event: the coming of Eonwe and the armies of Valinor and the final defeat of Morgoth. The House of Feanor's doom is no less dismaying than that of Hurin or Turin. The only difference is that CoH is a bit more developed, and follows the formula of a Greek tragedy more consistenly than in the case of the House of Feanor, although there is certainly hamartia in the making of an unbreakable vow, and anagnorisis, the sudden awareness of the tragic hero's folly, in the final actions of Maedhros and Maglor.

Contextually speaking, the fall of the House of Hurin is completely compatible with the long defeat of the Elves. Just as Hurin is forced by Morgoth to watch the hideous doom against his family unfold, so too did Morgoth chain Maedhros by the wrist atop Thangorodrim for many years. The Valar, the angelic intermediaries of Eru (whose hands-off attitude towards his creation is completely at variance with the Judeo-Christian god of the bible), simply do not interact with Middle-earth save for extraordinary circumstances. The Valar's seeming indifference causes untold suffering for nearly an entire age of Middle-earth, and Hurin's family, just like countless other families, are left to the diabolical whims of Morgoth, including captives the Dark Lord released to cause further pain to both those he had freed as well as the relations they returned to.

Therefore, to say that CoH is incongruous or better as a stand-alone tale separate from the rest of the history of the 1st Age is spurious. Hurin valiantly cries out, "Day shall come again!" seventy times as he hewed down trolls. Unfortunately, the day that dawned came too late for Hurin and his family, but that does not mean that he was not prescient in what he said. Very few prophets live to see the outcome of their revelations.
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Old 09-01-2010, 10:26 PM   #84
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How is the plight of the House of Hurin any different than the House of Feanor? The dire consequences of Feanor's oath lasts into a third generation (if you consider Celebrimbor to be the grandson of Feanor). Maedhros commits suicide, Maglor ruefully roams the shores of the Belegaer for eternity, and the rest of Feanor's sons die in battle as traitors and kinslayers (including infanticide). Maedhros and Maglor's sorry ends happen concurrently with a eucatastrophic event: the coming of Eonwe and the armies of Valinor and the final defeat of Morgoth. The House of Feanor's doom is no less dismaying than that of Hurin or Turin. The only difference is that CoH is a bit more developed, and follows the formula of a Greek tragedy more consistenly than in the case of the House of Feanor, although there is certainly hamartia in the making of an unbreakable vow, and anagnorisis, the sudden awareness of the tragic hero's folly, in the final actions of Maedhros and Maglor.

Contextually speaking, the fall of the House of Hurin is completely compatible with the long defeat of the Elves...The Valar, the angelic intermediaries of Eru (whose hands-off attitude towards his creation is completely at variance with the Judeo-Christian god of the bible), simply do not interact with Middle-earth save for extraordinary circumstances. The Valar's seeming indifference causes untold suffering for nearly an entire age of Middle-earth, and Hurin's family, just like countless other families, are left to the diabolical whims of Morgoth, including captives the Dark Lord released to cause further pain to both those he had freed as well as the relations they returned to.

Therefore, to say that CoH is incongruous or better as a stand-alone tale separate from the rest of the history of the 1st Age is spurious.
I pretty much agree with all of this, but I would reiterate a difference between the LOTR and CoH again: while it is certainly true, and clear, that neither Eru or the Valar intervene much in Middle-earth, the narrative of the Lord of the Rings is nonetheless resplendant with a sense of providential purpose. This is something that is not only lacking in the Children of Hurin, but the possibility of it is mocked by Turin, and the conversation between Hurin and Morgoth ends ambiguously. The wider Silmarillion too is repleat with much suffering, of course, but the Valar are nonetheless shown to be active participants in thought or deed. In the novel, the Children of Hurin, they are distant, amourphous and almost entirely unkown entities, especially to humans. For example, when Turin asks Sador where his deceased sister ends up, he has no answer. Now, we know that the Valar don't either, but the point is that neither Sador nor anyone else has any authority to turn to. In the Lord of the Rings, by contrast, characters appear to have faith. Turin has no faith. Sador has no faith, precisely because there is nothing to have faith in, except the drive to defend one's family and House. This is, after all, Turin's motivation throughout the novel. There is a diabolical force to the north, with which his people are at war; Turin perceives it as his duty to defend his family and the free realms against it. Unlike Frodo, he is not on a divine quest, and unlike Feanor, he has not held personal recourse with the Valar. As Morgoth asks Hurin: "Have you seen the Valar? Or measured the power of Manwe and Varda?" to which Hurin replies "I know not." He guesses, perhaps, that should they will it they could protect him and his family, and he asserts the primacy of Manwe, but Morgoth scoffs at this, and names himself the Elder King.

For all Hurin knows, and for all we should care, Morgoth is telling the truth. Manwe doesn't deign to intervene until the very end of the war, when the Noldor are utterly defeated and Hurin and his family have all died. Yes, the War of Wrath constitues a eucastraphe, an underserved episode of grace. But still, I'm uncomfortable with the notion that we should be complicit in it. As Nerwen pointed out, it is completely acceptable to see the suffering of Turin's family in the context of a final victory against Morgoth without diminishing it. However, I think where I'm getting at is that CoH, in its novelistic form, seems to undermine this construction; it seems to make eucatastrophe gratuitous. Now, I'm not saying we should take this interpretation because our own lives are bleak and nasty; I don't have such a life either, but I am saying that to my eyes the text itself seems to lend weight to such an interpretation. Now, we then have the issue of interpreting it along side its peritexts, the Silmarillion and the Lord of the Rings.

Should we then, treat Middle-earth as a kind of ontologically consistent history? Or should the novels absolutely stand on their own? Well, I think a balance is required. Certainly, CoH is set in the same world, as Nerwen points out, in so far as names, places and people are familiar. But it is this qualitative difference, this much terser, less aesthetic use of langauge that characterises CoH that worries me. It is entirely unlike either the LOTR or the Sil. It brings to bear its own style, and thereby its own unique tone and atmosphere. How is this to be understood?
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Old 09-02-2010, 08:56 AM   #85
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I pretty much agree with all of this, but I would reiterate a difference between the LOTR and CoH again: while it is certainly true, and clear, that neither Eru or the Valar intervene much in Middle-earth, the narrative of the Lord of the Rings is nonetheless resplendant with a sense of providential purpose. This is something that is not only lacking in the Children of Hurin, but the possibility of it is mocked by Turin, and the conversation between Hurin and Morgoth ends ambiguously. The wider Silmarillion too is repleat with much suffering, of course, but the Valar are nonetheless shown to be active participants in thought or deed. In the novel, the Children of Hurin, they are distant, amourphous and almost entirely unkown entities, especially to humans...

... However, I think where I'm getting at is that CoH, in its novelistic form, seems to undermine this construction; it seems to make eucatastrophe gratuitous. Now, I'm not saying we should take this interpretation because our own lives are bleak and nasty; I don't have such a life either, but I am saying that to my eyes the text itself seems to lend weight to such an interpretation. Now, we then have the issue of interpreting it along side its peritexts, the Silmarillion and the Lord of the Rings.

Should we then, treat Middle-earth as a kind of ontologically consistent history? Or should the novels absolutely stand on their own? Well, I think a balance is required. Certainly, CoH is set in the same world, as Nerwen points out, in so far as names, places and people are familiar. But it is this qualitative difference, this much terser, less aesthetic use of langauge that characterises CoH that worries me. It is entirely unlike either the LOTR or the Sil. It brings to bear its own style, and thereby its own unique tone and atmosphere. How is this to be understood?
I agree with many of your points, T2. CoH is very bleak, without redemption and lacking in providence. However, taken in context with the overarching storyline -- and this is why I have emphasized the necessity of CoH remaining within the overall tale -- isn't the story of Hurin/Turin the antithesis of their kinsmen Hour/Tuor? Particularly in the case of the cousins Turin and Tuor. Tuor implicitly follows the directives of the Valar (even though his message to the prideful Turgon is ignored, to the utter ruin of Gondolin), while through Turin's arrogance, Nargothrond is destroyed. Bitterness, pride and folly follow Turin through the choices he makes, and his line ends abruptly; whereas Tour accepts his mission and through him the great line of Middle-earth heroes spring. We see the positive and negative effects of human nature and faith within the divergent plots.
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Old 09-02-2010, 08:58 AM   #86
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Silmaril

One thing that has occurred to me in reading through the recent discourse here, is to what extent it is fair to say that Tolkien always considered CoH as a part of the "The Silmarillion" and not as an independent story. Obviously, I think, you cannot divorce it from the wider Legendarium (and I would consider anyone who attempted such an endeavour to be a fool). At the same time, however, "The Silmarillion", as it stands, is not really a single tale, but a compendium of related tales. It is somewhat like the Bible, in that respect, the Bible being a collection of books (a library) rather than a single book.

It's more complicated than just saying "The Silmarillion" is just a library of tales, however. Like the Bible, there is a single story throughout, and unlike the Bible, it is the work of a single human editor, who was specifically interested in following a specific story. It is worth noting that I am not speaking of "The Silmarillion" here as the 1977 volume published posthumously, and including "The Ainulindalë," "The Valaquenta," etc. Rather, I mean the "Quenta Silmarillion," considered as a single narrative tale. "The Silmarillion," then, considered as a single narrative, is really the story of the Silmarils, the story of the Noldor, the story of the House of Fëanor, and the story of Morgoth. It intersects with the stories of the House of Húrin, of Gondolin/Eärendil, of Beren and Lúthien, and so forth... but these other stories are, for "The Silmarillion" really only chapters, and not fully considered tales in their own right.

From the point of view of "The Silmarillion," the real chief characters of "The Lay of Leithian" are Celegorm, Curufin, and Morgoth--they are the continuing characters of the previous chapters, who are now jointly spited by the interloping lovers. From the perspective of "The Silmarillion," Beren and Lúthien only start becoming really important AFTER they have the Silmaril--in other words, when they become entangled in the Doom of the Noldor, and avenge Thingol's killers, and thus set up Doriath for both the creation of the Nauglamír and the revenge of the Sons of Fëanor--and the deaths of Celegorm, Caranthir, and Curufin.

What about the love story, however, of the Man and the Elf, and the doomed romance of death and inevitably sundered destinies and the eucatastrophe of Mandos bending Lúthien's doom? This barely plays from the perspective of the main narrative in "The Silmarillion," because it is not the point there.

I think this difference of focus is even stronger with CoH, because CoH features even fewer of the main players of "The Silmarillion" story, and is an even more insignificant chapter in that narrative. The Nirnaeth, which is the biggest "Silmarillion" event in CoH is given a separate chapter and treatment in "The Silmarillion," and within the context of the wider work, is not really seen as a part of the story of Húrin so much as of Maedhros.

And after that? Well... Nargothrond falls, and Morgoth eventually loses his new prototype weapon, after having proved its effectiveness--and Glaurung will soon be replaced by Ancalagon and the winged dragons anyway, so perhaps it's best that he was put out of his misery by Túrin. It's only once Túrin is dead, and Húrin can then be released, that Morgoth starts getting what he's looking for: the approximate location of Gondolin, the other shoe falling for Thingol having taken the Silmaril.

My point is not that CoH--or "The Lay of Leithian," or the Gondolin/Eärendil saga, for that matter--is insignificant in and of itself, nor that "The Silmarillion" can go on without it. No story can go on as if some of its chapters, in which the plot is advanced, were not written. My point, however, is that the emphasis on what is more broadly "important" changes depending on whether one is following the story of the Silmarils in the chapter on Túrin, or whether one is following the tragic tale of the Children of Húrin from beginning to end. In the former, it is crucially important that Nargothrond fall and Húrin be broken to Morgoth's will. In the latter, the emphasis is on Túrin and Nienor, and their own, personal tragedy. Morwen is of very little consequence to "The Silmarillion" narrative--she is too far from the main events to really matter as the source of crucial action--but in CoH, she is at its very heart, and it could not be understood without her.

I have one last point before I end, and since my copies of the HoME are boxed away somewhere in my van, I cannot offer any proof of what I am about to say, so bear with the possible misremembering. However...

As far as my memory goes, the Fall of Gondolin, the Lay of Leithian, and Turin and the Dragon are the oldest components in the Book of Lost Tales, the first "Silmarillion." "The Book of Lost Tales," by itself, is a more compartmentalised account than the "Quenta Silmarillion," and the focus is much more on the individual tales than one the broader arc. What is more, we really only have these three tales in their later Lost Tales form, and not in the very germ of story-thought in which they were conceived. Knowing the source of "Beren and Tinúviel" in Tolkien's own marriage, and more strongly of "Turin and Glómund" in the Finnish Kallevala, it seems to me entirely possible that these three tales were NOT, in origin, conceived as part of a cohesive whole--possibly part of a related mythology, but that is several steps from the united tale of "The Silmarillion."

I think, if I am right here, that this original conception of these tales as independent, and less as part of the cycle, gives them a tenser relationship with the rest of "The Silmarillion" than, say, "The Account of the Sun and Moon." Tolkien continued to work on larger, "independent" accounts of these tales from the 1920s through the 1950s, the same period that saw the formation of "The Silmarillion" largely as we know it. This gives us the abortive tale "Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin," the text of CoH as we have it, and poetic accounts of both Túrin and Leithian.

In short--if I can be short--there is a back-and-forth between inclusion in "The Silmarillion" and their own stand-alone qualities, which goes back through their whole history of creation, and is, I think, quite deliberate on Tolkien's part. From this, I hardly think it is legitimate to either separate the tales totally from this context, or to attempt to examine them exclusively within this context. Depending on the situation, and the need or the desire, either or both approach is valid.
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Old 09-03-2010, 05:48 AM   #87
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Silmaril

Quote:
Originally Posted by Formendacil
In short--if I can be short--there is a back-and-forth between inclusion in "The Silmarillion" and their own stand-alone qualities, which goes back through their whole history of creation, and is, I think, quite deliberate on Tolkien's part. From this, I hardly think it is legitimate to either separate the tales totally from this context, or to attempt to examine them exclusively within this context. Depending on the situation, and the need or the desire, either or both approach is valid.
Form, that's sort of what I've been trying to say, though you put it more clearly and elegantly than I could.

What I've been specifically arguing against is the claim that this particular tale is so radically different from the rest of Tolkien's work that it can only be properly understood out of context... even that it is somehow "wrong" to keep the rest in mind while reading it.

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Originally Posted by tumhalad2
It is entirely unlike either the LOTR or the Sil. It brings to bear its own style, and thereby its own unique tone and atmosphere. How is this to be understood?
They all have their own unique tone and atmosphere. I'd guess this story seems so aberrant to you only because you're reading it out of context, and then thinking about how the rest of Legendarium looks without it. Er... does that make sense?

Quote:
Originally Posted by tumhalad2
However, I think where I'm getting at is that CoH, in its novelistic form, seems to undermine this construction; it seems to make eucatastrophe gratuitous.
Weellll... if you wish to, I'd say you could argue this for the whole Quenta Silmarillion, at least to some extent. My reaction on reaching the end has never been, "Oh, well, at least the good guys won in the end! What a lovely story!" So much of it concerns sadness, loss and destruction, and Húrin and family are hardly the only characters whose lives end in despair (see Morth's examples). Not to mention that the final victory against Morgoth comes at tremendous cost.

What seems to be the sticking point for you, as far as I can work out, is this:
Quote:
Originally Posted by tumhalad2
(...)The wider Silmarillion too is repleat with much suffering, of course, but the Valar are nonetheless shown to be active participants in thought or deed. In the novel, the Children of Hurin, they are distant, amourphous and almost entirely unkown entities, especially to humans.

(...)unlike Feanor, he has not held personal recourse with the Valar.
Okay, so the rebelling Noldor have absolute personal certainty that the Valar exist. (Proof rather than faith, really.) However, as the rebels have explicitly put themselves beyond their help, and as, apart from Ulmo, the Valar seem to be pretty comfortable with this state of affairs (really, what do you mean, 'active'?), I'm not clear how much of a comfort it would be to them, or why they would have any more reason to believe things would turn out all right in the end.

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Yes, the War of Wrath constitues a eucastraphe, an underserved episode of grace. But still, I'm uncomfortable with the notion that we should be complicit in it.
??? "Complicit"? Meaning...?
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Old 09-04-2010, 03:47 AM   #88
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Form

What I've been specifically arguing against is the claim that this particular tale is so radically different from the rest of Tolkien's work that it can only be properly understood out of context... even that it is somehow "wrong" to keep the rest in mind while reading it.


Okay, so the rebelling Noldor have absolute personal certainty that the Valar exist. (Proof rather than faith, really.) However, as the rebels have explicitly put themselves beyond their help, and as, apart from Ulmo, the Valar seem to be pretty comfortable with this state of affairs (really, what do you mean, 'active'?), I'm not clear how much of a comfort it would be to them, or why they would have any more reason to believe things would turn out all right in the end.


??? "Complicit"? Meaning...?
To take your points here in reverse order: The Children of Hurin is not about the Noldor at all, it is primarily about the struggles of humanity in a blighted world. The Noldor have reason to think the Valar will not intervene, yes, but the Men of CoH did not participate in the Kinslaying. Furthermore, they die and go where they know not whither: in other words, they don't have any answers. Yes, the book is set in Middle-earth; yes, there are elves. But once again, there is no guiding star, there is no "chance, if chance you call it", no providential assistance. It is therefore an atheistic world, in the sense that the gods are so absent as to remains practically redundant. How do Men cope in such a world? That is the question CoH seems to be asking, and we are never afforded a complete answer. LOTR is set in a qualitatively different place: divine assistance is available to the faithful, and to those who have been awarded a special part to play.

I am not claiming that CoH can only be understood "out of context". I'm arguing for a more nuanced understanding of the the context of Tolkien's work in the first place; a wider understanding that encompasses the very different worldview postulated in the Children of Hurin. I'm not saying CoH and LOTR are diametrically opposed, but as Davem has noted in the past, they contain starkly contrasting approaches to the canvass of Middle-earth.

In the Mieville thread, Puddleglum posted a quote from the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth dialogue found in Morgoth's Ring:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Puddleglum;
There is the thing that men call "Hope", an expectation of good which has some foundation in what is known. Elves call this "Amdir" which signifies "looking up"

But there is another thing, which is founded deeper. "Estel" that is called by elves, meaning "Trust". If we (elves and men) are indeed the Eruhin, the Children of the One, then He will not suffer Himself to be deprived of His own, not by any Enemy, not even by ourselves. This is the uttermost foundation of "Estel".
This seems to encapsulate the theology that underpins the Lord of the Rings. Although Eru is never explicitly mentioned, Gandalf is confident that there is some force working for good that drives events so that Frodo is meant to possess the ring. As Davem asked in the first post in this thread:

Quote:
Originally Posted by davem;
Is Garth right? Is this work a reflection of Tolkien the Somme veteran, while LotR, it could be argued, is the work of Tolkien the Catholic? LotR presents the orthodox Catholic view, that God is watching over us all, & that while there may be suffering & loss, in the end God will bring good out of evil, & that, in the end, 'All shall be well, & all shall be well, & all manner of thing shall be well'. CoH seems to present a vision of a world where God won't - where he doesn't actually care enough to bother

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Old 10-04-2010, 10:52 AM   #89
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I agree that the omission of any mention of Turin's return from Mandos (whether to slay Ancalagon at the War of Wrath or to slay Morgoth at the Dagor Dagorath) changes the feel of the story dramatically.

I'm not sure what other choice CT had, though, as Tolkien never settled on a final version of that bit. I think it was a matter of the original Turin story being incompatible with the universe of Arda as it developed, with Turin and Nienor becoming Valar, as the Doom of Men became a central element of the legendarium (as it wasn't in the Book of Lost Tales era, where 'Turin and Nienor become Valar and Turin kills Morgoth' came from) -- but Tolkien wasn't willing to discard the conception of his return in some form at least.

In a way, Tolkien thoroughly changed his views of the role of Men in relation to Elves in the final fate of Arda. In the early texts it's said that the fate of Men after the end of the world is not spoken of in the prophecies of Mandos "save of Turin only, and him it names among the Gods"; but later that is changed to it being said that Men will participate in the Second Music of the Ainur, and the fate of Elves is not spoken of. And then there is some discussion in Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth about Men healing Arda in the end.

Essentially, the role Turin was meant to play (as representative of Men in the end of Arda's evils) became both irrelevant and impossible with later developments in the legendarium. So I'm not sure there was really any better solution than to leave the matter entirely out of Children of Hurin -- though it does seem crucial to his story.

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Old 10-05-2010, 05:29 PM   #90
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Gotta say I've never understood the point of view which holds that LOTR ends on a "hopeful note"...the Elves have departed Middle-earth and taken with them all that remains of the light of the Eldar, the power of the Rings to preserve and inspire is gone, the Dwarves are still dwindling, Gondor is restored but explicitly only for a time and as a lesser reminder of past glories, the Hobbits have retreated even further into their realm and into their hopless parochialism unable to appreciate even the heroes in their very midst, the Ents have no Entings...in short, the Age of Man has begun, which is our own age. Having fallen so fully for the enchantment of Middle-earth (which you would have had to have done to reach the end of LOTR at all) that is the most depressing part: that world is gone, replaced by our own, and in particular by the 20th century.

Sure individual characters have happy endings, but on the whole things look really bleak. Sauron is gone, but we know from history and precedence that something will be back to replace him, as he replaced Morgoth. And sure, it won't be as 'bad' but neither is there anything as 'good' left to confront him: Aragorn is the last of his kind; Arwen is the last of her kind; Frodo has left Middle-earth; Sam can no longer go adventuring; Merry and Pippin are old soldiers reliving their past glories for an increasingly amused progeny.

Sorry if I'm a bit of a downer. (Get it: Downer? )
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Old 10-11-2010, 01:20 AM   #91
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Sauron is gone, but we know from history and precedence that something will be back to replace him, as he replaced Morgoth
Up until this moment, the world as it was known was at the risk of total enslavement to an evil of mythological proportions, or even total annihilation. You might say the sword of Damocles was removed from the world; surely that ought to improve the overall quality of life.
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Old 10-12-2010, 04:39 PM   #92
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Up until this moment, the world as it was known was at the risk of total enslavement to an evil of mythological proportions, or even total annihilation. You might say the sword of Damocles was removed from the world; surely that ought to improve the overall quality of life.
Not sure Tolkien would've agreed with you on this one. More to the point, I'm not sure I can agree with you on this one: there are still enough nukes on the planet to obliterate all human life, what, 100 times over? Ecological destruction, climat change anyone? Tolkien never thought that there was any 'real' danger of a Sauron enslaving the world, but used Sauron to encapsulate what he saw as a very 'real' and human threat to the world. Those threats are still around and, if anything, even worse than when Tokien wrote LotR 60 years ago.
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Old 10-12-2010, 10:10 PM   #93
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Not sure Tolkien would've agreed with you on this one. More to the point, I'm not sure I can agree with you on this one: there are still enough nukes on the planet to obliterate all human life...
I think here you are mistaking what Tolkien was addressing in LOTR. Tolkien did not believe (nor was he trying to say) that the "Good Ending" was only possible when all evils were finally removed for good and all. In that case, fairy stories (as he used the term) would be impossible.

Instead he wrote ("The Last Debate", Return of the King)
Quote:
If the ring is destroyed, then Sauron will fall... and so a great evil will be removed.
Other evils may come... Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set,

uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till.

What weather they will have is not ours to rule.
Tolkien's story was essentially about (from the view of) Hobbits. The "Good Ending" of Tolkien's story was that, as Frodo said, "I Tried to save the Shire and IT HAS BEEN SAVED."

There was sadness mingled in, but that adds richness to the good that was gained. It is human nature to appreciate more that which costs more. Tolkien understood this and folded it into his story - from one end to the other. It makes the story MORE meaningful and full, not less.

Recall what else Gandalf said at The Last Debate
Quote:
If Sauron regains the ring, his victory will be so complete that none can forsee the end of it while this world lasts.
That was the danger - a Tyrant worse than Hitler, Stalin, Genghis, Atilla Nero, and all the others rolled into one - a Tyrant who not only has demonic power, but one with immortal life. One who would stiull be holding us under his boots even today.

Remembering that the story is from the vantage of the Hobbits, Tolkien sums up the GOOD ENDING in Frodo's words to Sam in this way ("Grey Havens")
Quote:
You are my heir: all that I had and might have had I leave to you. You have Rose, and Elanor; and Frodo-lad will come, and Rosie-lass, and Merry, and Goldilocks, and Pippin... You will be Mayor as long as you want, and the most famous gardner in history;

You will read things out of the Red Book, and keep alive the memory of the age that is gone, so that people will remember the Great Danger and so love their beloved land all the more.

And that will keep you as busy and happy as anyone can be, as long as your part of the story goes on.
And with that sentence, Tolkien gives us HIS version of "and he lived happily ever after."

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Old 10-13-2010, 11:12 AM   #94
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Hey man, I'm not saying anything so daft as, "LotR doesn't have a happy ending" as it most palpably does. I'm just disputing the premise of the book review that begins this thread that "The Children of Hurin" is diametrically opposed to LotR along simplistic binary lines of "hoplessness" vs "hope" -- I just don't see LotR as ending "hopefully" in the sense that we are presented with a world that is now going to get better and better (which is, I think, the false sense of the book that the reviewer is working from) in opposition to CoH in which the reviewer sees a more 'realistic' view that the world will, at best, stay pretty much the same in terms of good and evil...which is what I see at the end of LotR. You are right, Sauron the super-baddie, the one who is as bad as all the worst human tyrants put together, he's gone. But soon, so too will Aragorn be gone (the epitome of all good humans), Galadriel, Elrond, Frodo, Bilbo, Gandalf are leaving too...so the superbad and the supergood are gone leaving just the bad and the good. The situation is the same, only diminished.
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Old 11-20-2010, 01:11 PM   #95
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LOTR didn't end good. It's not a waht you'd call a "happily ever after" story. I mean, I love the end, but the characters might not.
In Children of Hurin the ending is pure dramatic irony. It does fit the story very well, though. Turin's doom is anready planned out. The most interesting thing there is that everyone knows a little more about Turin than he knows about himself.
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Old 01-18-2011, 05:46 PM   #96
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Form, that's sort of what I've been trying to say, though you put it more clearly and elegantly than I could.

What I've been specifically arguing against is the claim that this particular tale is so radically different from the rest of Tolkien's work that it can only be properly understood out of context... even that it is somehow "wrong" to keep the rest in mind while reading it.

They all have their own unique tone and atmosphere. I'd guess this story seems so aberrant to you only because you're reading it out of context, and then thinking about how the rest of Legendarium looks without it. Er... does that make sense?
I do not conted CoH can only be read out of context, or that it is 'wrong' to do so. Of course all the works have their own unique tones, and no, I don't believe the story seems aberrant merely because I'm not reading it in context; I am, but even within the context of the larger 'legendarium', I find that it contrasts quite markedly, for the reasons I have outlined.

Please demonstrate to me, in some textual way, how exactly you think the metaphysics of CoH and LOTR are similar? Or are they similar only in terms of the "larger context"? I don't understand your point. How does the "larger context" make CoH consistent with LOTR, and why should it even be expected to do so? Is it because there really is suffering in both, but in the end good comes of it? Perhaps that is true of LOTR, but it is manifestly not of the story of Turin. No 'good' comes of it at all.

So, I want to be clear.

-CoH is part of a larger story arc.
-It can be read as part of this larger story arc. Of course
-How does this diminish the metaphysical, aesthetic, tonal, and qualitative difference between it and LOTR, whether it is read as part of the Silmarillion or not? Specifically?
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Old 01-18-2011, 07:31 PM   #97
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*sigh* Unfortunately, after the lapse of several months, I no longer have all the arguments posed on this thread at my fingertips, but I'll do my best.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tumhalad2 View Post
I do not conted CoH can only be read out of context, or that it is 'wrong' to do so. Of course all the works have their own unique tones, and no, I don't believe the story seems aberrant merely because I'm not reading it in context; I am, but even within the context of the larger 'legendarium', I find that it contrasts quite markedly, for the reasons I have outlined.

Please demonstrate to me, in some textual way, how exactly you think the metaphysics of CoH and LOTR are similar? Or are they similar only in terms of the "larger context"? I don't understand your point. How does the "larger context" make CoH consistent with LOTR, and why should it even be expected to do so? Is it because there really is suffering in both, but in the end good comes of it? Perhaps that is true of LOTR, but it is manifestly not of the story of Turin. No 'good' comes of it at all.

So, I want to be clear.

-CoH is part of a larger story arc.
-It can be read as part of this larger story arc. Of course
tumhalad, wasn't your position that it wasn't and it couldn't? I'm not clear why you feel it necessary to roll your eyes at this.

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Originally Posted by tumhalad2 View Post
-How does this diminish the metaphysical, aesthetic, tonal, and qualitative difference between it and LOTR, whether it is read as part of the Silmarillion or not? Specifically?
tumhalad. I cannot be bothered re-reading this entire thread, but to the best of my recollection you, and davem, were arguing that CoH belonged outside the rest of Tolkien's creation, and ought to be read separately, not as part of the larger story– that it fact reading it in context would "cheapen" it. Therefore it would seem you thought it made a difference. Nice about-face.

Anyway, my purpose here was to argue that it is at least equally valid to read it as part of the whole. Furthermore, I was talking about the legendarium as a whole at that point, as I think we all were. If you can't understand my point about context... well, I'm at a loss, because it seems a very simple one to me.
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Old 01-18-2011, 07:41 PM   #98
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I will roll my eyes if I wish. Thanks.

Apparently I have not been clear enough. I argue that it can be read "out of context" or "in context". Clear?

I have never argued it belongs out of the rest of the creation. I argue it contrasts on many points with other aspects of it.

Perhaps we agree more than you think. Yes, it can be read in context. Whatever. I don't care, and I'm not interested in that. I'm interested in the story, and whether you read it in context or not, how it contrasts with LOTR in particular.

I have not about faced, nor have I contradicted my argument. If you think I really have, show me a quote.

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Old 01-18-2011, 08:12 PM   #99
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Quotes? Okay, here you go.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tumhalad
I think CoH is cheapened if it is merely perceived as a part of a greater story
Quote:
Originally Posted by tumhalad
Quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nerwen
Which neatly settles the question of whether the author ever meant it to be a stand-alone work, doesn't it? Obviously, he didn't.
Obviously? I'm not entirely convinced about that.
Quote:
Originally Posted by tumhalad
We think we know better because we have the Silmarillion, which says that Eru created the world, etc, but once again I'm not certain CoH should be read through that prism.
Quote:
Originally Posted by tumhalad
Now, I think there are better readings and worse readings, by no means are all "equal". In this case, to completely diss the novel's major thematic, emotive energy in favour of a kind of reading that at best seeks to mitigate or at worst ignore the utter defeat and nihilism of it is, I think, fatuous.
Good enough for you?

Incidentally, before you get angry– please recall that I stated repeatedly on your "CoH film" thread that I was not interested in starting up this debate again. I'm not– I got bored with it long ago. I replied to you only because you specifically, not to mention rather aggressively, demanded a reply. Now you've had it. Enough.

EDIT:X'd with tum's self-edit.
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Old 01-18-2011, 08:23 PM   #100
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Originally Posted by Nerwen View Post
Quotes? Okay, here you go.


Good enough for you?

Incidentally, before you get angry– please recall that I stated repeatedly on your "CoH film" thread that I was not interested in starting up this debate again. I'm not– I got bored with it long ago. I replied to you only because you specifically, not to mention rather aggressively, demanded a reply. Now you've had it. Enough.

EDIT:X'd with tum's self-edit.
Those quotes do not demonstrate that I argued in favour of exclusively reading CoH out of context of the legendarium. They merely show that I was interested the way different readings might yield certain outcomes.

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Old 01-18-2011, 08:25 PM   #101
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1420!

tumhalad, please calm down. I'm sorry if I've hurt your feelings– and yes, I'll admit I do quite enjoy baiting you. I don't really mean any harm by it, though. (However I am probably often the first to respond to your posts simply for time-zone reasons.)

Anyway, since other people may want to continue the topic, I suggest you delete those last two paragraphs before one of the mods closes the thread. They usually do when things get this heated.

~Nerwen, Internet Bully.

EDIT:X'd with tumhalad again.
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Old 01-18-2011, 08:28 PM   #102
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Okay, lets agree to get along then

It is evident we have different ideas about things, but that's okay. In future, and I am trying to be as friendly as possible here, please desist "baiting" me. I don't appreciate it, and I'm not sure why you do it. That way, I'm less liable to reply in turn, and our disagreements are less likely to end in me getting frustrated and annoyed at you.

Other than that, your ideas are always interesting and thought provoking

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Old 01-18-2011, 08:47 PM   #103
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tumhalad2 View Post
Okay, lets agree to get along then

It is evident we have different ideas about things, but that's okay. In future, and I am trying to be as friendly as possible here, please desist "baiting" me.
We-ell, I'll try...
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