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Old 05-21-2002, 02:45 PM   #1
Mithadan
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Tolkien The significance of the destruction of the Ring

In one of his Letters, Tolkien comments that the Lord of the Rings began as a sequel to the Hobbit and ended up as a conclusion to or completion of the history related in the Silmarillion. With the end of the Third Age, the time of the Elves comes to a close and the domination of Middle Earth by Man begins.

Yet there may be greater significance to the manner in which the Ring was destroyed in connection with bringing the Silmarillion to a close. The first three Ages of Middle Earth (and the time preceding) were mythical in nature. The Valar lived physically in Arda until the fall of Numenor and their influence continued through the Third Age via the Istari. Throughout the first three ages, evil incarnate dwelt in Arda in the form of Morgoth, then Sauron. Of course, the Elves dwelt in Arda. With the destruction of the Ring, these mythical times draw to a close and the mundane world of Man "begins".

The destruction of the Ring, in its simplest form, brings the mythical times to a close via the defeat of Sauron. But the manner of its destruction may relate to why the time of myth ends. Consider that Gandalf warns that if Sauron retrieves the Ring, his victory will be fast and so complete that none could see the end of Sauron's power in Middle Earth. Why is this so? Couldn't the Valar return to put their upstart cousin in his place? The implication is that they could or would not.

The history of the first three ages and the time preceding them is one of mythical conflict. Morgoth (Melkor) enters the world and vies with the Valar for its domination. He is forced to retreat but later counter-attacks and forces the Valar to withdraw to Valinor. When the Elves wake, the Valar assault Utumno and defeat Melkor, imprisoning him in Mandos. Upon his release, he foments the Rebellion of the Noldor and the Battles of the First Age follow. Morgoth is defeated but Sauron is left behind to war against the Elves and contrive the destruction of Numenor. The Last Alliance defeats Sauron temporarily but he arises again in the Third Age where he is assaulted by the White Counsel but escapes to gain power and inhabit Mordor.

Throughout all these events, the Valar and Elves combat "supernatural" evil in physical conflict, often with disasterous results to the stuff of Middle Earth. However, at the end, the Fellowship is formed, at the counsel of the Elves and the representative of the Valar (Gandalf) and the mythical races are represented in the Fellowship. But then a momentous event occurs. The Fellowship is broken and two men (Hobbits) set out alone. They possess a blade of mythic origin (Sting) and a magical lamp which, after Cirith Ungol, are of no use at all. Through an effort of will and bravery, these two men (and a third, Gollum) succeed in doing what the armies of the Valar and the Elves had never done. The mythic evil incarnate is, at last defeated and ejected from the world. And then, having acheived mythic stature themselves, these two men leave the world themselves to live out their days in the West.

Is there a significance in the fact that Sauron was destroyed by the actions of two men working alone? Yes, Elves and Gandalf and Dwarves were involved in other battles during this time, but their actions were a mere sideshow to the really important effort of Frodo and Sam. Despite the best efforts of the Valar and Elves, mythic evil had never been ejected from Middle Earth before. Can it be that Sam and Frodo's lonely victory was necessary? Could it have shown that Man was at last prepared to ascend to its dominant position? Could it be that only Man could defeat the evil incarnate (with the incidental effect of ending the mythical times) and if they failed Middle Earth would have been doomed to either dominance by sauron or the alternative of physical destruction by the forces of the West (perhaps this is what Gandalf meant)?
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Old 05-21-2002, 04:14 PM   #2
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Okay, to start down a side road right off the bat...

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The destruction of the Ring, in its simplest form, brings the mythical times to a close via the defeat of Sauron.

Couldn't the Valar return to put their upstart cousin in his place? The implication is that they could or would not.
Aside from this statement at the very end...

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Middle Earth would have been doomed to...physical destruction by the forces of the West
I would speculate that perhaps the powers of the Valar were starting on their predicted wane.

However, I have a hard time believing that they would have allowed Sauron to dominate the earth, and they probably would have done something very drastic about it, hoping that some part of humanity would survive.

It could also be that it was necessary to have humanity destroy the Ring because of the Valar's repeated reluctance to utterly remove their opponents. It took them a long, LONG time to finally rid the world of Melkor. Who knows how much damage Sauron could have done if they had chained him in hopes of accomplishing his cure. He may have followed the path of his master and pretended regret and sued for pardon. Once he got it, well off he goes to wreck more havoc on the world.

It might also be a matter of giving up on one thing and trying something else. Direct confrontation of the enemy with equal "supernatural" power had not worked. So the Valar decided to try persuading Men to fight for themselves. The destruction of the Ring was the refusal on the part of humanity to use the greatest supernatural weapon they could obtain. This destruction ended the usefulness of the visible "supernatural" for humanity and the mythic age ended.

In a more overall view, I think that the destruction of the Ring was the act that showed that the Dominion of Men, a dominion planned in the very beginning by Iluvatar, had begun. It was part of the plan from the beginning for the mythic age to end and the "mundane" age of mankind to begin. The destruction of the Ring was something of a declaration of independence (if you'll allow me to use the expression) from former reliance on the "supernatural" Valar and Elves. The mark that mankind could defeat evil in its own way. A way that was more effective than anything that the "supernatural" had been able to accomplish.

There, I hope that makes sense.
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Old 05-21-2002, 04:39 PM   #3
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Good topic! Very well thought out! I'm impressed. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

and yes Kuruharan, it makes total sense.
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Old 05-21-2002, 06:41 PM   #4
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Good, I was afraid that I had rambled a bit too much.

A brief expansion (explanation) on my statement about the waning powers of the Valar.

It could be argued that the first indication of the waning of the Valar was their refusal to do anything directly against the fleet of Numenor. Instead of stopping the Numenorians themselves they called on Iluvatar and waited for him to do something about it. After this event they did not directly intervene in the affairs of the world afterwards. They sent the Istari, but that was indirect and it was the end of their involvement in the world, or at least their visible involvement.

Their repeated failures to eradicate evil perhaps disheartened them, which could be the reason why their powers started to wane.

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Old 05-21-2002, 07:21 PM   #5
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You may be answering your own question, Mithadan [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] .

My impression is that by the time of the fellowship, the elves were already turning inward, and obsessed with the 'fading' (ie. caught up in a cultural nostalgia that was leading to stasis and extinction). The foretold hearing of the call of the sea by Legolas was perhaps symbolic of the fact that 'the time of the elves' was drawing to a close, as was Arwen's choice of mortality and her marriage to Aragorn.

The dwarves also had reached a plateau of cultural development - their yen for craft and 'delving' inevitably leading to the exhaustion of the earth, and the greed and conflict arising from diminishing resources. Gimli's description of how the dwarves would manage the glittering caves - barely touching the rocks, simply illuminating them as if they were a kind of museum - and the failure of Moria, may be examples of this.

The Maia too are "on the way out" by the end of LotR. Gandalf was merely a temporary returner to Middle Earth, and Saruman the eventual victim of of his own evil (Tolkien's recurrent "evil defeating itself" theme), and the others (Radagast etc.) had already surrended any meaningful influence.

The Valar are not referred to in depth in LotR, but even by the time of the final defeat of Morgoth seem to have lost any great impetus to action - for all their great host, it is Earendil that makes the telling contribution. The restoration (or re-creation) of the Silmarils (to air, water and fire) seems to represent a closing of their age, and the return of Melian to Valinor symbolises the end of their active association with the sub-created races.

Only the windlord and the eagles seem to retain an active and vibrant participation - indeed, their contribution at various times is crucial.

The Ents are play a similar positive role, but a melancholy akin to the 'fading' is already present, as more and more of them become, in effect 'just' trees. And the absence of the Entwives seems to prevlude anythin other than a gradual devolution.

Indeed, everything else seems to represent closure and completion - Aragorn's "fulfilling", or lifting, of the ancient oath on the Paths of the Dead etc. - and so, as you say, it is men and hobbits that strike the decisive blows that eventually end the conflict.

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Is there a significance in the fact that Sauron was destroyed by the actions of two men working alone? ... Can it be that Sam and Frodo's lonely victory was necessary? Could it have shown that Man was at last prepared to ascend to its dominant position? Could it be that only Man could defeat the evil incarnate (with the incidental effect of ending the mythical times)... ?
Erm - yes, yes, yes and ... yes. I think [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

Peace [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

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Old 05-21-2002, 07:35 PM   #6
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Kuruharan brought up a good point about the Valar allowing Illuvatar to deal with the Numenoreans and not taking an active hand, other than sending the Istari in the third age. Then combine that with the fact Gandalf returned under the authority of a higher power, and it seems as though it was Illuvatars will that men finally take their stand without the "supernatural" aid, and begin their time of dominance.
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Old 05-21-2002, 09:43 PM   #7
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Interesting discussion, Mithadan. Does anyone appreciate the tragic irony that the Halflings are included in the family of "Men" and are the chosen race to bring about the downfall of Sauron. Yet Tolkien strongly implies that the "half-men" of the Third Age have diminished and existed only in the hidden fringes of the present world?

I always supposed that after the death of Aragorn, the promises, treaties, and rights granted to the Hobbits gradually were forgotten or rationalized away as "true men" expanded their dominion throughout Middle Earth. (there are many precedencies for this theory, you'll agree.)

So in a way; the "Dominion of Man" meant the fading of the Halflings, too. Except they had no mythical land to the West to retreat to.
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Old 05-21-2002, 10:27 PM   #8
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So in a way; the "Dominion of Man" meant the fading of the Halflings, too. Except they had no mythical land to the West to retreat to.
Good point.

In a way it might represent humanity losing touch with its past. A past that may not have ever existed in quite the way that it is remembered now. Or maybe a romanticized view of the past would be a better way to say it. That would give the ideal a mythic quality.

Although, admittedly my idea may be off base.

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Old 05-21-2002, 10:49 PM   #9
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Tolkien

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Only the windlord and the eagles seem to retain an active and vibrant participation - indeed, their contribution at various times is crucial.
A though which occurs to me is to ask how much Ulmo ceases to participate in world events. It states specifically in the Sil. that he never abandons Middle Earth; I've wondered for a while whether he continued to meddle--discretely--in the its affairs after the rest of the Valar withdrew. Witness the reluctance of various evil things to cross many of the bodies of water.

Just a thought. Otherwise, I must find myself in agreement with the author of the thread.
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Old 05-21-2002, 11:16 PM   #10
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Mithadan -- You have given us a thoughtful and thought provoking post.

I agree with what you and others have said concerning the Valar. From our perspective, at this end of history, we know the Valar will increasingly withdraw from Ea, and Eru will become more central in the mind of Man. In Morgoth's Ring, Andreth the Woman and Finrod the Elf state that Eru may actually enter into Arda at some future date to bring about healing. The withdrawal of the Valar and the dimming of their power is a necessary prelude to this involvement by Eru, in the same way that the diminishing of the Elves is required for Man's dominion.

I also want to allude to what Birdland said about hobbits. Mithadan's statement seems to assume that hobbits, as exemplified by Frodo and Sam, are the true embodiment of the new mankind in this shift of ages. Like Birdland, I am not certain of this.

Yes, I know JRRT said hobbits are a branch of mankind, but their ways differ sharply from the central line of humanity, as represented by heroic cultures like Gondor and Rohan. Aragorn and Faramir are concerned with military matters, the establishment of right order, and building the foundations of a just kingdom.

Compare this with the Shire. At the outset, hobbits are childlike, inquisitive, and capable of learning, but basically unaware of wider evils or what we call political realities. Most critically, hobbits have not historically killed one another and rarely engage in military exploits. Frodo's path to Mordor is not the military heroism of Aragorn, but rather one of obedience and suffering coupled with moral insight and growth. None of this seems to be terribly in tune with the fourth age. And, just as Birdland implies, you don't see many hobbits around today (plus they have shrunk in size) which makes one wonder how the new age treated them.

Where does this leave us? There are, I think, at least three ways of viewing hobbits and their relation to Man.

First, we could say hobbits represent one side of human nature, while heroic Man represents another (local government vs. a just kingship, lower classes vs. aristocrats, childlike wonder vs. mature accomplishment), and we can not become full humans until we integrate the two. In this scenario, the hobbits pass away because, at least symbolically, they and the heroic men merge to create a new humanity.

Secondly, you could take the view that Frodo, Sam and the hobbits are transition figures: they represent the childhood of mankind which must pass away, just as the Ringbearers pass away, so the true human Aragorn can usher in a new adult age. Just as Birdland said, this assumes hobbit culture will be destroyed, much like the diminishing of the Elves.

There's a third possibility. You could argue that the hobbits begin as children, but, during the Ring quest, grow to maturity, with their culture and awareness evolving into something much closer to that of Man. Frodo's spiritual growth, Merry and Pippin's new political and military sense, and the recognition of evil as seen in the Scouring of the Shire--all these could point to maturation.

Some of this comes perilously close to allegory which Tolkien detested. And I am still not certain which view makes the most sense. The optomist in me votes for the third one where the hobbits evolve and have a better chance of defending at least something of their culture, but my pessimistic side points to number two. Like Birdland, I have a sinking feeling that, with the passing of Aragorn, hobbit culture may have gone the way of Elves, Ents, and oliphants.

sharon, a saddened child of the 7th age

[img]smilies/confused.gif[/img] [img]smilies/confused.gif[/img]

[ May 22, 2002: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
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Old 05-31-2002, 01:12 PM   #11
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Sting

"I am in fact a hobbit in all but size." --J. R. R. Tolkien

I think Tolkien still thought of mankind as embodying the various races. Since in his letters to Christopher (when Christopher was in the field) he sometimes referred to bad men as Orcs, I don't see why he would not refer to good men as hobbits or whatever else seemed appropriate to him at the moment.

Just a thought. Yes, the age of men had come, but look carefully (Tolkien seemed to say) and you may see something else underneath the surface.

One other thought, regarding the Hobbits, that I believe Tolkien in his Catholicism would not have considered farfetched:

Unless you become like little children, you shall not see the kingdom of God.

I think one could argue that "becoming like little children" includes a sense of trust and simplicity. Without diminishing the maturity and responsibility and grandeur of Frodo and Sam, they also both lived in simple trust; Frodo in Gandalf; and Sam in Frodo and Gandalf, and in goodness in general. (Witness Sam's revelation when he sees the star glimmering in the west over the Ephel Duath; it renews his steadfast faith, and he goes on in spite of the gloom.)

Aragorn and Gandalf both chose to trust in simplicity (embodied in Frodo and Sam) even while they conducted their complex duties.
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Old 05-31-2002, 02:29 PM   #12
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Aragorn and Gandalf both chose to trust in simplicity (embodied in Frodo and Sam) even while they conducted their complex duties.
Very well said!
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Old 06-01-2002, 12:14 AM   #13
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Ring

As Men had dominion over their own fate, I feel that it is a critical point that the destruction of the ring was not a destruction of the mythological, but rather a triumph over its negative allure, mirrored in the desire for dominance and power. You could say that the ring drew its power from the baser instincts of human nature (one reason it had no influence over Tom Bombadil, as he had no desire for power in the first place). Since it's predicted that man is to participate in the next song, the mending of Arda, it makes sense that man would first have to be able to 'mend' their own faults. Something they would uniquely have the capacity to do, however unlikely, as masters of their own fate, theirs a blank slate in the original song of Arda.

If the Valar intervene in the affairs of men, they will tie men back into the original song, by which they themselves are bound.

I suspect the next song is going to sound like Stravinsky, with many discords and sudden shifts of tempo, and unexpected glory.

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Old 06-03-2002, 08:10 AM   #14
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Sting

Maril,

(Sighs) I so prefer Tchaikovsky. But I think you are right.

I definitely think you are right here:
"You could say that the ring drew its power from the baser instincts of human nature (one reason it had no influence over Tom Bombadil, as he had no desire for power in the first place)."

And the idea that men would have to mend their own faults: interesting; but to me, all the more telling that in the end, "mending their own faults" still took help from Eru. According to Tolkien, in the end, it was Frodo's mercy, not his willpower, that finally allowed the ring to be destroyed through Gollum...

"mercy triumphs over judgement"...

You could say that, in the song that Frodo sang as he continued his quest, there was enough mercy woven into it, that the mercy was sung back to him in the end.

Grace & peace, --mark12:30
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Old 06-03-2002, 01:29 PM   #15
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Ah, you're speaking to someone who loves the sheer unpredictable madness of Stravinsky. But in my orchestra, I was the only one. [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]

I believe we're saying the same thing: there isn't a difference between men mending their own faults and Eru. You could say that that blank slate was also within the song, just as silence exists between the notes. Without that silence, the song doesn't exist, and cannot shift or change, whether to mend or be made worse.

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Old 06-01-2009, 03:03 PM   #16
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While browsing through the dusty sub-basement of this Barrow, I came across this thread from many years ago, and something caught my eye.

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Originally Posted by Marileangorifurnimaluim View Post
If the Valar intervene in the affairs of men, they will tie men back into the original song, by which they themselves are bound.
Our long lost Marileangorifurnimaluim makes an interesting point here, one that I failed to notice during the first go around. In the chapter Of the Beginning of Days, in The Silmarillion, Tolkien discusses Eru's Gift to Men, stating that "he willed that the hearts of Men should seek beyond the world and should find no rest therein; but they should have a virtue to shape their life, amid the powers and chances of the world, beyond the Music of the Ainur, which is as fate to all things else; and of their operation everything should be, in form and deed, completed, and the world fulfilled unto the last and the smallest."

I have discussed this quote many times on these boards and it is, in fact, one of my favorites from The Silmarillion. What Marileangorifurnimaluim seems to suggest above is that the destruction of the Ring (by Men albeit with help from others) is the final act needed to move Middle Earth "beyond the Music of the Ainur" and if Frodo had failed, the mythic times would have continued, perhaps eternally, in a dark and evil fashion, or otherwise brought about the destruction of Arda and The Final Battle (which some say Tolkien ultimately rejected) per the Music of the Ainur.

I thought this thread might be worth a second look.
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Old 07-21-2017, 01:16 PM   #17
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I dredged this up out of the archives from years ago. My last post and the questions it presented went unanswered, so I am re-awakening this thread for another try.

In addition to what I suggested above, I have a bit more to add. Again, Gandalf stated that if Sauron recovered the Ring, there would be no foreseeable end to his reign. This implies that the Valar would not intervene and match Sauron with force to overthrow him.

I and others have argued before that the Valar's failure to intervene during the Second Age and later was a function of their concern about the harm such a war would wreak upon Middle-Earth and its inhabitants. This is why they "would not" act directly.

Is it possible that the reality was that they "could not" act? Could they have been prohibited from acting against Sauron, by Eru or perhaps by the Music? When they sent the Istari to Middle Earth the Wizards were sent as Men in form and were either prohibited or unable to match Sauron's force with force. The implication is that Sauron's defeat had to be accomplished by Men with a little aid from Elves, Dwarves and Gandalf, or not at all. Could "fate" have prohibited the Valar from acting?
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Old 07-21-2017, 01:37 PM   #18
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Good thread!

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Originally Posted by Mithadan View Post
Is it possible that the reality was that they "could not" act? Could they have been prohibited from acting against Sauron, by Eru or perhaps by the Music? When they sent the Istari to Middle Earth the Wizards were sent as Men in form and were either prohibited or unable to match Sauron's force with force. The implication is that Sauron's defeat had to be accomplished by Men with a little aid from Elves, Dwarves and Gandalf, or not at all. Could "fate" have prohibited the Valar from acting?
It is said in the UT Istari essay that it was with Eru's consent, that they sent members of their order incarnate to Middle-earth to direct the fight against Sauron, not to do Middle-earth's work for it.

If the Valar with force acting to overthrow Morgoth in the First Age was not a violation of the Arda version of the Prime Directive, why would the war against his lesser lieutenant be so?

I think the ban of force was indeed of the Valar themselves for the purposes of, as you said, protecting the land and people of Middle-earth, as well as removing the 'fight fire with fire' temptation from the Istari. That idea could have been 'from Eru', but put into the heart of Manwë when making such momentous decisions. Middle-earth already had Sauron and the remaining Balrogs to deal with as incarnate angelic spirits; too powerful for Eru's children to deal with. Why introduce the window for another Sauron, lording his divine status over weaker beings? The fact that the ban was a wise move is seen in Saruman, of course. Being chained in his real body watered him down to a manageable threat for Men (with help from the Ents, naturally). Imagine a Saruman free to revel in his powers and use his own might to face Sauron. I see the outcome as the same as Saruman gaining the Ring. If he had defeated Sauron, he would simply have replaced him.
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Old 07-21-2017, 05:37 PM   #19
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Great thread, keep bumping it!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
The fact that the ban was a wise move is seen in Saruman, of course. Being chained in his real body watered him down to a manageable threat for Men (with help from the Ents, naturally). Imagine a Saruman free to revel in his powers and use his own might to face Sauron. I see the outcome as the same as Saruman gaining the Ring. If he had defeated Sauron, he would simply have replaced him.
And speaking of Saruman, that's exactly history repeated - everything that was said about battles against Morgoth and futile hope of his repentance, all of it. A good mythical force, the Ents, battle the evil mythical Saruman head-on. And they even win. But they believe him incapable of further menace and set him free. But he still causes menace, just on a smaller scale. Interestingly, Frodo argues for forgiveness and hope of redemption again, and it's the "evil will kill evil" that does the job: Saruman's mistreatment of Wormtongue finally went a step too far.


I thought about the meaning of "the age of Men" and the transition to the Fourth Age for a long time now, and I came to a slightly different conclusion on my own. I blame globalization. During the War, many hidden (e.g. Maiar) or forgotten (e.g. Ents) forces revealed themselves. Even men of difference races came to know each other better - or at least learn about each other's existence. Things that were once stories become facts (e.g. Oliphaunts). Secrets are uncovered, and not so easily forgotten anymore. This comes as an unfortunate but necessary consequence to Aragorn's rule. When peoples live separate, scattered lives, they do not remember the same things, or rather certain things are forgotten quicker based on what is more relevant to them. The Rohirrim might have remembered Hobbits on their own, because of their legends about Holbytla, and the Druedain, because they are their neighbours; but even their neighbours Dunlendings would have had much less reason to know and remember either, and would forget both sooner - they would return to being myths or secrets of the world. However, with the Numenorian kingdom stretching from northern Arnor to southern Gondor, (probably) having ties with Erebor and Mirkwood and Dale/Laketown, everything is known. Aragorn announces that the forests belong to the Druedain, and his entire kingdom now knows about Druedain. He announces that no Man may step over the Shire border, and everyone knows about Hobbits. Those legends that do not die or leave stop being legends. The act of bringing them into consideration and awareness in itself strips them of mythical quality. Even something as simple as Men of different races: they seem strange and foreign to each other at first, but how long, how much mingling, until they come to know each other well enough to stop being awed by the differences? The desire to protect all the forgotten forces, and the rapid spread of information, is what strips those forces of mystery. These people are slowly becoming like us, too knowledgeable to impress. "You saw tree-giants? That's old news, my great-uncle even talked with one! They're called Ents, and they look after trees. Everyone knows that." Or, "You saw a ghost? Our King Aragorn the Great lead a whole army of ghosts to defeat the corsairs! Everyone living between the Paths of the Dead and the Sea will tell you what they look like."

The obvious counter-argument is the references to all the nameless things that are "older than the Balrog, Sauron, etc.". So it seems like not quite all the secrets were uncovered yet, but will they still retain their mythical quality, or will they become oversized pests, or even die out on their own? More importantly, though, I want to ask if there are any good forces that remained asleep and did not rise in that was against Sauron. It seems like both good and evil mythical forces have exhausted themselves out in that war, leaving only the things that take no sides but their own.

And of course now I also think of the other type of counter-example. In contrast to a legend (or even something unknown altogether) rising out of stories to become a known being, Radagast the Brown starts high and then gets progressively more treeish. I don't think he'll go as far as that, completely apathetic and unmoving. But neither will he be a figure known to many people. He has all the potential of becoming a legend of the Fourth Age: a man who does [insert fantastical nature-related thing], who maybe is glimpsed now and again by mortal men, but who seems to be immortal himself, and the scholarly Men would know mentions in some old manuscripts of the Wizards and of Radagast who asked the Eagles to help. So who knows, maybe the Fourth Age will not be as bare of legends as the picture I first painted.


Those thoughts aside, this thread is more about how the Ring's destruction is related to "the Age of Man". I don't know, I haven't really linked the two events in my mind. For me, hobbits and Men are different enough not to lump them together, and in my mind globalization was the explanation I stuck to for years. But just to think: the Valar didn't do much to help in the war that ended the Second Age. At least when Sauron came back they sent the Istari, but more like to inform the races of Middle-earth of the danger they are facing and to motivate them to fight. Why didn't they intervene in the Second Age? It seems the main difference is that Second Age Sauron resistance knew who it was going against, whereas Third Age people had to be reminded of old powers and convinced to fight them as opposed to wait them out.

While destroying the Ring at the hands of two (three) Middle-earthians is symbolic of ME residents taking over the responsibility for their world, I would not link it with the dominion of Men. In fact, it might have been the last mythical deed done from the perspective of Men: to most of them, hobbits were at best a legend! And only afterwards the aureole of myth fades.
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Old 07-23-2017, 02:47 PM   #20
William Cloud Hicklin
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Tolkien was almost certainly familiar with Gildas' De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, 'On The Ruin and Conquest of Britain', and this is what the 6th-century monk had to say, in part:

Quote:
After [Magnus Maximus' departure for the continent with the Roman legions], Britain is left deprived of all her soldiery and armed bands, of her cruel governors, and of the flower of her youth, who went with Maximus, but never again returned; and utterly ignorant as she was of the art of war, groaned in amazement for many years under the cruelty of two foreign nations—the Scots from the north-west, and the Picts from the north.

The Britons, impatient at the assaults of the Scots and Picts, their hostilities and dreadful oppressions, send ambassadors to Rome with letters, entreating in piteous terms the assistance of an armed band to protect them, and offering loyal and ready submission to the authority of Rome, if they only would expel their foes. A legion is immediately sent, forgetting their past rebellion, and provided sufficiently with arms. When they had crossed over the sea and landed, they came at once to close conflict with their cruel enemies, and slew great numbers of them. All of them were driven beyond the borders, and the humiliated natives rescued from the bloody slavery which awaited them. By the advice of their protectors, they now built a wall across the island from one sea to the other, which being manned with a proper force, might be a terror to the foes whom it was intended to repel, and a protection to their friends whom it covered. But this wall, being made of turf instead of stone, was of no use to that foolish people, who had no head to guide them.

The Roman legion had no sooner returned home in joy and triumph, than their former foes, like hungry and ravening wolves, rushing with greedy jaws upon the fold which is left without a shepherd, and wafted both by the strength of oarsmen and the blowing wind, break through the boundaries, and spread slaughter on every side, and like mowers cutting down the ripe corn, they cut up, tread under foot, and overrun the whole country.

And now again they send suppliant ambassadors, with their garments rent and their heads covered with ashes, imploring assistance from the Romans, and like timorous chickens, crowding under the protecting wings of their parents, that their wretched country might not altogether be destroyed, and that the Roman name, which now was but an empty sound to fill the ear, might not become a reproach even to distant nations. Upon this, the Romans, moved with compassion, as far as human nature can be, at the relations of such horrors, send forward, like eagles in their flight, their unexpected bands of cavalry by land and mariners by sea, and planting their terrible swords upon the shoulders of their enemies, they mow them down like leaves which fall at the destined period; and as a mountain-torrent swelled with numerous streams, and bursting its banks with roaring noise, with foaming crest and yeasty wave rising to the stars, by whose eddying currents our eyes are as it were dazzled, does with one of its billows overwhelm every obstacle in its way, so did our illustrious defenders vigorously drive our enemies' band beyond the sea, if any could so escape them; for it was beyond those same seas that they transported, year after year, the plunder which they had gained, no one daring to resist them.

The Romans, therefore, left the country, giving notice that they could no longer be harassed by such laborious expeditions, nor suffer the Roman standards, with so large and brave an army, to be worn out by sea and land by fighting against these unwarlike, plundering vagabonds; but that the islanders, inuring themselves to warlike weapons, and bravely fighting, should valiantly protect their country, their property, wives and children, and, what is dearer than these, their liberty and lives; that they should not suffer their hands to be tied behind their backs by a nation which, unless they were enervated by idleness and sloth, was not more powerful than themselves, but that they should arm those hands with buckler, sword, and spear, ready for the field of battle; and, because they thought this also of advantage to the people they were about to leave, they, with the help of the miserable natives, built a wall different from the former, by public and private contributions, and of the same structure as walls generally, extending in a straight line from sea to sea, between some cities, which, from fear of their enemies, had there by chance been built. They then give energetic counsel to the timorous natives, and leave them patterns by which to manufacture arms. Moreover, on the south coast where their vessels lay, as there was some apprehension lest the barbarians might land, they erected towers at stated intervals, commanding a prospect of the sea; and then left the island never to return.

No sooner were they gone, than the Picts and Scots, like worms which in the heat of the mid-day come forth from their holes, hastily land again from their canoes, in which they had been carried beyond the Cichican valley, differing one from another in manners, but inspired with the same avidity for blood, and all more eager to shroud their villainous faces in bushy hair than to cover with decent clothing those parts of their body which required it. Moreover, having heard of the departure of our friends, and their resolution never to return, they seized with greater boldness than before on all the country towards the extreme north as far as the wall. To oppose them there was placed on the heights a garrison equally slow to fight and ill adapted to run away, a useless and panic-struck company, who slumbered away days and nights on their unprofitable watch. Meanwhile the hooked weapons of their enemies were not idle, and our wretched countrymen were dragged from the wall and dashed against the ground. Such premature death, however, painful as it was, saved them from seeing the miserable sufferings of their brothers and children. But why should I say more? They left their cities, abandoned the protection of the wall, and dispersed themselves in flight more desperately than before. The enemy, on the other hand, pursued them with more unrelenting cruelty than before, and butchered our countrymen like sheep, so that their habitations were like those of savage beasts; for they turned their arms upon each other, and for the sake of a little sustenance, imbrued their hands in the blood of their fellow countrymen. Thus foreign calamities were augmented by domestic feuds; so that the whole country was entirely destitute of provisions, save such as could be procured in the chase.

Again, therefore, the wretched remnant, sending to Agitius, a powerful Roman citizen, address him as follow:—"To Agitius, thrice consul: the groans of the Britons." And again a little further, thus:—"The barbarians drive us to the sea; the sea throws us back on the barbarians: thus two modes of death await us, we are either slain or drowned." The Romans, however, could not assist them, and in the meantime the discomfited people, wandering in the woods, began to feel the effects of a severe famine, which compelled many of them without delay to yield themselves up to their cruel persecutors, to obtain subsistence: others of them, however, lying hid in mountains, caves and woods, continually sallied out from thence to renew the war. And then it was, for the first time, that they overthrew their enemies, who had for so many years been living in their country; for their trust was not in man, but in God; according to the maxim of Philo, "We must have divine assistance, when that of man fails." The boldness of the enemy was for a while checked, but not the wickedness of our countrymen; the enemy left our people, but the people did not leave their sins.

For it has always been a custom with our nation, as it is at present, to be impotent in repelling foreign foes, but bold and invincible in raising civil war, and bearing the burdens of their offences: they are impotent, I say, in following the standard of peace and truth, but bold in wickedness and falsehood. The audacious invaders therefore return to their winter quarters, determined before long again to return and plunder. And then, too, the Picts for the first time seated themselves at the extremity of the island, where they afterwards continued, occasionally plundering and wasting the country
Thereafter follows the well-known tale of Vortigern's fatal invitation to the Saxons.

What one takes away from this is that a population -here, the Britons- which is dependent on outside help to come save it will never be free of the depredations of their enemies: they have to learn to stand up for themselves. This, I suspect, was the thinking of the Valar (< Tolkien).


----------------------

NB: Gildas has been unfairly criticized for getting the sequence of wall-building wrong, but in fact he was right: the "turf wall" was not the Antonine, which Gildas probably had never heard of, but the original erection of the wall under Hadrian, which archaeologists tell us was an earthwork for most of its length. The rebuilding in stone occurred under Severus. Of course, Gildas was completely wrong in dating both erections to the late fourth century!
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