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Old 01-21-2017, 01:28 PM   #1
Balfrog
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Elementals

The fourth and last part on Ms. Seth's series about Goldberry is now available.


https://priyasethtolkienfan.wordpres...17/01/16/3579/


At the beginning, there's a lot of incidental type information – but her basic belief is that Tolkien linked his mythology into our world's legends. In doing so he included the 'elementals' described by the 16th century alchemist commonly known as Paracelsus – citing Tolkien's knowledge of them and him.

There's much good information out there on the Internet about Paracelsus' writings and his belief in spirits inhabiting the four building blocks of the Greek mythological world – earth, air, fire and water. In any case she proposes the stones of Hollin along with Trolls were prime examples of Tolkien's inclusion of Paracelsian elementals into TLotR.

To my knowledge, I haven't seen this proposed before on this site or by established scholars – except in the briefest manner. It seems that the core evidence is a Tolkien letter about Trolls which ties in with medieval mythology that elementals possess no souls. This in turn links back to Goldberry by the way of the once wildly popular tale of Undine – a water elemental who attained a soul by marriage (which she already covered in Part II),

The evidence is scant – but there again there really isn't much written on Goldberry. One thing is for sure and that is Ms. Seth kept her promise in her Introduction at the beginning of the four part series. Certainly she has looked at Goldberry in a completely different manner to others. Her suggestions appear quite plausible – but there again that is my personal opinion.
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Old 01-21-2017, 01:49 PM   #2
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Hm. I'm inclined to discount this just based on a couple of items.

Quote:
Quite rightly the reader is entitled to be a little perturbed. Here we have the unusual situation of a rambunctious wrinkly old man cohabiting with a beautiful young maiden who exhibits a degree of worrisome servility.
I am not 'perturbed', nor do I find any evidence of 'worrisome servility' at play there.

Goldberry actually corrects Tom when he's ready to feed the hobbits the first night, telling him they hadn't had a chance to wash up.

Quote:
To make matters worse, comic relief was added of the strangest kind in belittling the power of the Ring.
I don't see that scene as 'comic relief', but rather a revealing statement about Bombadil: he, though a part of the physical world, is able to distance himself from it spiritually to an otherwise unseen extent. And as is made clear later at the Council of Elrond, Tom could still not keep the Ring in Sauron's despite indefinitely.

The sight of Tom's blue eye looking through the Ring has to me just been a symbol of Tom as Sauron's opposite, in a way. Tom, I think, had that in mind for Frodo particularly, though his motive for doing it is admittedly obscure.

Really though, the author of the piece seems to misread some elements of the book to the extent that I question her conclusions about the material.
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Old 01-21-2017, 09:19 PM   #3
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earthlings

I'd like to comment on a small error in Ms. Seth's citation of The Creatures of the Earth. While I approve of her decision to note its possible relevance, her statement that Tolkien "labeled 'earthlings' as: 'Beasts, Creatures and Monsters'" does not accurately reflect the contents of that text. A quick glance at Parma Eldalamberon 14 (pages 5-8 are Wynne and Gilson's analysis, with p. 9-10 the actual documents) shows that Tolkien split his hierarchy into eight categories: (A) Elves or Fairies, (B) Ūvanimor / monsters, (C) Earthlings, (D) Fays, (E) Children of the Gods / Valar and their folk, (F) Children of Men, (G) Beasts and Creatures. C does not equal B + G*; I'll summarize the rest of the text for those without (since it's currently out-of-print).

B (Melko's folk) is further subdivided into Qenya words for demons, goblins, balrogs, ogres of the north and south (smaller cannibal giants), and trolls; demons and balrogs are said to be "probably an evil form of D." C consists of wood-giants, mountainous-giants, dwarves, and pygmies. D has fays of the meads, the woods, the valleys, the mountains, and the rivers, though the last unfortunately has no Qenya name provided. E contains the Mānir and Suruli (etc.), with Tolkien saying there is "very little distinction between these and D." Tolkien then presents the hierarchy as E, D, A, F, C, G, [B] so that the Children of Men "thus occupy the middle place in the seven orders."

A separate "Valar" chart is presented afterwards which expands upon D and E subdivided between the elements of Air, Earth, Water, and Fire. Six types are listed for Water: wingildi, oarni (oaritsi), nenuvar, aïlior, ektelarni, and capalindi. In their commentary on p. 7, Wynne and Gilson link the last four to lily-pools, lakes/ponds, fountains, and springs (respectively). Wingildi and Oarni show up in BoLT's The Coming of the Valar alongside the Falmaríni (missing in this "Valar" chart but attested elsewhere), said to be "the spirits of the foam and the surf of ocean." More can be said on the Wingildi and Falmaríni, but neither seem applicable to Goldberry.

If anything in The Creatures of the Earth seems relevant, rather than earthlings I think one might wonder about the unnamed river-fays in D, or the aïlior (presumably fays of lily-pools). I'm not comfortable stating that I think Tolkien classified Goldberry as a river-fay according to his Creatures of the Earth chart, but I do wonder whether he had his earlier Paracelsian nymph ideas in mind as inspiration, even if not the only bones in the soup.

Regarding the note Ms. Seth cites about Tolkien abandoning the concept in Scheme D that mermaids = Oarni in order to have them be "earthlings, or fays? — or both", my first idea is to wonder whether this might be interpreted as shifting from friendly sea-spirits who love/rescue Earendel to being associated with rocks/shoals/sandbars that their associated fays might lure sailors into. "Enchantment of his sailors" in that same note certainly brings sirens and their dangers to my mind.
----

*However, in their commentary on p. 8, Wynne and Gilson compare Creatures of the Earth listing nautar 'dwarves' under Earthlings to "a rejected outline for the Tale of Nauglafring" which classifies Nautar/Nauglath as Úvanimor. They point out that "The designation of Nautar as Úvanimor 'monsters' can be compared to the notion of Paracelsus that dwarves are monstra born of the pygmies or gnomes." Compare also how Úvanimor are said to be "monsters, giants, and ogres ... bred from the earth" in I:268 (Gilfanon's Tale), and how Orcs are said to be "bred by Melko of the subterranean heats and slime. Their hearts were of granite" in II:159 (The Fall of Gondolin).
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Old 01-21-2017, 09:50 PM   #4
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I just can't help but feel, once again, as if trying to "categorise" Bombadil and Goldberry misses the point somewhat; I've always felt like the point was that they can't easily be slotted into a Valar-Maiar-Elves-Men-Dwarves-etc. system. I think it's very possible to argue that there are ambiguous spirits in the texts, but that's the thing – their nature is unclear. They might be spirits, memories, "imprints", all sorts of fantastical things. Trying to pin them down as "elementals" and so on seems a bit too hard-and-fast to me, and seems to want to demolish those "unseen vistas" that are an important part of the text and the thematic content: we're not Eru, and some things in Eä are beyond our understanding or even our possibility of knowing. I'm not saying "don't look for answers"; I'm saying that sometimes answers don't exist and their non-existence is actually part of the argument of the narrative.

On the other hand I think this might be useful for considering influences upon the text and possible avenues of interpretation - the "Tolkien studies" side, rather than the "Middle-earth studies" side, as Michael Drout would put it.
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Old 02-11-2017, 11:52 AM   #5
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"I am not 'perturbed', nor do I find any evidence of 'worrisome servility' at play there."

I suspect Ms. Seth's remark was directed at Goldberry using a term of address for Tom as "Master". And no less than thrice – capitalized each time. Something you obviously missed.

In this day and age – a wife calling a husband 'Master' will be deemed by many as servile. However Ms. Seth left it to the reader to decide how much servility by specifically qualifying it as: 'a degree of servility'


As to:

"To make matters worse, comic relief was added of the strangest kind in belittling the power of the Ring.

I don't see that scene as 'comic relief' "


The hobbits themselves describe part of the Ring episode with Tom as being “comical”. Thus quite reasonably - the reader is entitled to think in the same manner.

"Really though, the author of the piece seems to misread some elements of the book to the extent that I question her conclusions about the material."

Hope you can appreciate that there are other points of view to your critique. An open-minded reader ought to be able to understand that. After refuting these (frankly unwarranted) criticisms – my suggestion is that you take another read of TLotR and also take time to digest Ms. Seth's essay more carefully. Who exactly is guilty of mis-reading? I'll happily engage in further debate – if you so wish.



Tyr

I consulted with Ms. Seth on the “small error” and she totally agrees and much appreciates your gracious way of pointing it out. PE 14 is as rare as hen's teeth – unfortunately her source turned out to be unreliable – and she is grateful for your input. The essay has been updated (hopefully satisfactorily) but essentially its thrust remains unchanged.

I did ask her if she had a view on:

"Regarding the note Ms. Seth cites about Tolkien abandoning the concept in Scheme D that mermaids =*Oarniin order to have them be "earthlings, or fays? — or both", my first idea is to wonder whether this might be interpreted as shifting from friendly sea-spirits who love/rescue Earendel to being associated with rocks/shoals/sandbars that their associated fays might lure sailors into. "Enchantment of his sailors" in that same note certainly brings sirens and their dangers to my mind."

Her opinion was that she understood your feelings – but in her mind it was difficult to equate mermaids as creatures of the sea with them also being, in a sense, coastal 'earthlings'. She felt her argument was valid and justifiable because of Tolkien's rare use of the term 'earthlings' and where it was used in an unmistakable sense – it was within a hierarchy of types of being.
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Old 02-11-2017, 01:04 PM   #6
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"I am not 'perturbed', nor do I find any evidence of 'worrisome servility' at play there."
"Worrisome servility." Heavens, no!

Good Lord... I'm surprised Seth didn't start calling things "problematic" and complaining that there wasn't enough "engagement" or "outreach" done by Tom, or any of the other banal cliches through which all things are politicized now.
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