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Old 02-23-2007, 03:00 PM   #281
Raynor
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Concerning the drowning of Numenor by the valar: from what I read in HoME V, this was the manner in which things went only in the first sketch of the story, the first and the second variant; in those variants, the numenoreans cruised with their ships in the air, Melkor could come, if only by Shadow, to Numenor, Numenoreans could come close to Tol Eressea (even the kings could come to Valinor), the life length of the numenoreans was due to the light of Valinor, which they could enjoy and began to want more, and so on. These are obviously very early materials, which were later discarded. Begining with the revision of the second variant, Numenor is sank by Iluvatar. I am not sure how to explain Tolkien's pen slip in that paragraph, by writting about something which, as far as I can tell, he discarded. I guess regressing to the childhood memory of the Atlantis complex has its downsides ....
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Well, it may be he could not or would not - but isn't he omnipotent?
True, however Tolkien states that Eru guarantee the acts and choices of the valar, their free will which later translates into the basic reality of Ea, making specific refferences to the evil of Melkor.

In Osanwe kenta we have the unati, rules which will not be broken by anyone while the creation lasts; I would hold that this is one. In The Lost Road, Elendil also talks about laws, which cannot be changed, and rules, to which exceptions exists. While Eru may bring exceptions to rules, by his own will the laws will be upheld; in his case, this won't affect his options much, seeing that Tolkien states he can transform even his punishments into divine gifts.

In the Ainulindale, it is stated that even the evil of Melkor is part of the whole - and that his most triumphant "notes" are woven into a more solemn patern. Removing evil would mean making this particular creation less whole. It is also stated that the splendour of the End of Arda amazed the Ainur.
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Fine but this a) assumes Eru = the Christian God
Seeing that Tolkien applies Christian percepts when discussing Frodo I don't see the problem.
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b) leads us to ask exactly how destroying all the Numenoreans equates to 'forgiving everything'?
You are changing the scope of my statement; forgiveness is to be acted by humans so as to atone for their sins. I don't know how Eru treats sins. One orthodox concept, which I think it is "shared" by the elves concerning Arda remade, is that all Men will enjoy a pleasant existence (forgiveness of all sins - I don't know the greek name, only heard it once, it almost broke my tongue).
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Ok, please present the context from which you derive that children like cruel justice.
I guess I am left to comment on this on my own. It is nowhere near clear that children enjoy cruelty, no matter what it accompanies, be it justice or not. I would hold this to be esspecially true since their desire for justice comes out of innoncence.
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As Child & SPM have stated, this act of Eru's causes a serious problem for some readers, as it does not sit with his stated attributes of mercy & compassion.
However, it seems that no other better way is possible in the circles of this world. All in all, this is the best solution possible to that situation. I won't repeat how I consider denigrating Eru, if we can't see something better to be done.
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You are both coming at it from entirely different perspectives, in which personal beliefs play a major part.
The problem is that certain perspectives contradict what information we have about this world/work. As far as I can tell, his work is in consonance with the spirit of morality, humanity and spirituality. As such, this is not just about our personal opinions, but also about the relation of his works to these values.
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Old 02-23-2007, 03:03 PM   #282
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May I be so bold as to suggest that the reason that this thread is generating so much more heat than light is that that there are those, myself included, who consciously or subconsciously see some of the comments being made here as a veiled accusation against the character of the God in which they believe. Conversely, I think it possible, and please forgive me if I am misinterpreting, that those who choose not to believe as I and others here do see the same kind of accusations made against them for not believing.

Now I am not trying to turn this thread away from Tolkien discussion and into theological debate, far from it. But this is the syllogism I see being hashed and rehashed here:
  • Major premise: Tolkien intended his portrayal of Eru to be like the Christian God
  • Minor Premise: Eru is either cruel or capricious (because of the destruction of Numenor)
  • Conclusion: The Christian God is either cruel or capricious (because of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah)
Now any student of logic can see the fallicies in this syllogism, but that's not really the point. The point is that neither side of the debate likes seeing their ox being gored, even if its under the veil of discussing ostensibly Tolkien-related topics. Thus, passions are roused that don't really make for enlightening and good-natured debate.

Anyone who's been around this forum for awhile knows exactly where I stand. And I have counter-arguments on the side I have chosen that I have not seen posted here. But I will not post them, because no matter how passionate I am about my beliefs (and I am, let me assure you), I don't believe that this is the space in which to do so. Whoever wants to carry on with me on this topic can do so in PMs, e-mails, or chat.

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the issue that I see as far more interesting is whether, and if so how, those of us who feel uncomfortable with Eru's actions here can reconcile that with our appreciation of the overall work.
I second Saucy's motion here, well said.
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Old 02-23-2007, 03:24 PM   #283
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Major premise: Tolkien intended his portrayal of Eru to be like the Christian God
As I pointed out earlier; the Atlantis myth from which Numenor likely comes from is not attributed to the Judo-Christian God so we cannot deduce any opinions on said Deity from the Numenor story. We here have two conflicting things; an overall idea of the supreme being, and Tolkien's desire for an Atlantis story.

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The Christian God is either cruel or capricious (because of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah)
This has got me thinking. It has always seemed to me that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was due to the people of those cities being incredibly blasphemous and what not. Then one looks at Numenor; they were (at Sauron's prodding) worshiping Melkor. Weather or not this was the main reason for the destruction of Numenor or not, I do not know, but I think it was probably one of the larger straws that eventually broke the camel's back, so to speak.

I do not tend to think of Eru equaling YHVH, but being, if not inspired by, at least an attempt to portray some aspects of him. The Bible being so vast and having, to use a Rabbinical phrase, so many faces, any aspects that get emphasised by a writer are immediately argued away by arguments for other aspects. Tolkien, I like to think, probably didn't want the haste of arguing. Tolkien (neither J.R.R or Christopher) were (or are) the biggest brains on the planet and we cannot expect them to know everything about YHVH, so creating a character inspired or intended to represent or however you want to say it, by him is a difficult process to go through. They probably left things unsaid about him in order to avoid confrontation or controversy.

If I've said some of this before, I apologise.
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Old 02-23-2007, 03:25 PM   #284
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Originally Posted by davem
This is not a case where an 'objective' interpretation can ever over-ride a subjective response. As Child & SPM have stated, this act of Eru's causes a serious problem for some readers, as it does not sit with his stated attributes of mercy & compassion. It is an act which many readers find unpleasant, yet those same readers love the world Tolkien has created - its just they feel that Eru is the wrong God for that kind of world - as if the real God of Arda has been kidnapped & replaced by some vengeful psychopath.

And so, we return back to the beginning - if Eru didn't exist, & the world was basically a polytheistic one ruled over by the generally decent & well-meaning Valar who get things right most of the time but occasionally cock things up big time (like trying to destroy the invading Numenorean fleet & going a bit too far & accidentally drowning the Island) it would be fine - but bring in an 'all wise, all powerful, benevolent & loving' God who also wreaks havoc & mass slaughter & the problems start...
Eru's actions aren't really a problem for me. Why? Well despite Eru being entirely alien to my concept of what our own God might be like, it doesn't stop me accepting Eru as the god of another world, which Arda is - it's a creation in a book and not in any shape or form real (news - Hobbits don't really exist ). And Eru and his actions are consonant with what we're told about Eru as he creates the world, even as he creates what comes before the world. He's not like any God I know, this Eru also creates evil in the shape of Melkor, he's quite capable of doing things which seem 'bad' to my eyes. So smiting down a load of innocent kiddies isn't entirely out of character; it's part of his mystery, he's omnipotent so he can do it if he really wants to, and he's not a 'nice' character.

I think why so many people have a problem with Eru is that we love Tolkien's created world so much we believe everything about it must be perfect - and that includes the god of this world, who we firmly and rightly want to be beyond question, beyond doubt. We don't want Eru to do things like drown innocent children in Numenor! Despite the fact that I can accept it's consistent with his character as presented in the books, I still don't like what he does, I can find no justification for it beyond it being consistent with a god who would create Melkor (and allow Melkor to do what he wants, sing what he wants and then go on to create a world with innocent, organic beings within it, knowing that it will be tainted by Melkor). I want Eru to be beyond reproach but he isn't.

EDIT - and having seen what Thenamir has put prompts another thought or two...

Firstly, how interesting it is that some people who have encountered moral problems with the actions of the 'traditional' interpretation of the Christian God also have problems with the actions of Eru. It's that whole "But he killed innocent people! How can we call that just?!" that has led so many people out of the traditional church and into other faiths or none at all. And furthermore, how interesting it is that we don't just give up on Tolkien in the same way as the god of his world is like the traditional God we have turned from (cruel, to our minds) - I'd suggest that it's that Tolkien's Eru is just a character in a book that we can accept him as he is in the context of the book, or can just ignore him and think about the 99.9% of good stuff.

Secondly - no disrespect intended there! Just being honest. Now can we even say that a god like Eru is like the God known by all Christians anyway? No. So many Christians are like me and can only accept a wholly good God - anything beyond that is simply an act of nature or an act of evil (though there would be divisions over whether evil comes from other humans or from some devil figure).

Thirdly - the danger is that when you have people with strong faith who for some reason have come to associate Eru with their own God, that when you criticise Eru, they assume you're going after God. This is not the case. I see Eru as just words in a book, nothing more, so do bear that in mind when I talk about Eru.
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Old 02-23-2007, 03:30 PM   #285
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
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Don't ruin our dreams.

I think that Lal has an interesting point there: Eru and YHVH seem to be similar in some aspects but in the end they are from two different places. I have, however, always through of Eru as not so much a silent character in that he does nothing, but more that he does stuff but doesnt say anything. Bilbo finding the Ring, Smeagol falling over the crack of Doom, Bilbo's Birthday cake not exploding*, that kind of stuff could be argued as the silent acts of Eru. (We could go into long detail about these, but let's not).


*Sorry, I liked the idea.
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Old 02-23-2007, 03:48 PM   #286
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That's the thing. It's all so ambiguous. I disagree Eru can be found in these things but I aint going to fight over it unless you want me to.

I think it's testament to Tolkien's skill as a writer that he simply cannot be pinned down to one meaning or interpretation. Just imagine how dull his work would be if he'd said "Alright, it's a Christian/WWII/English allegory*. Get used to it reader!" Why! He'd be like Lewis! Now I know a lot of you like Lewis (I'm not that keen, his life story is far more interesting, though Aslan is cute) but let's be honest, he's not got quite the fan cult that Tolkien has, has he?

*delete as appropriate.

Tolkien took the concept of the melting pot of the mind to its ultimate degree, and melded so many things into his work. That's why we argue so much about it. Let's not stop!
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Old 02-23-2007, 04:06 PM   #287
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Originally Posted by Lal
Now can we even say that a god like Eru is like the God known by all Christians anyway?
Two issues, both raised before:
- Tolkien applied Christian percepts to interpreting and commenting on LotR
- how could two transcendent realities differ?
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Originally Posted by Lal
I still don't like what he does, I can find no justification for it beyond it being consistent with a god who would create Melkor (and allow Melkor to do what he wants, sing what he wants and then go on to create a world with innocent, organic beings within it, knowing that it will be tainted by Melkor).
Interesting. Can you reconcile your own positions?
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Originally Posted by Lal
If the world was 'perfect' then there would be no need for inspirational figures such as Gandhi or the Dalai Lama. There would be no need for scientific endeavour or even education and we could all lie around on our chaise longues eating chocolate tangents for eternity. There would be no need for Art as the world would be so perfect why would we need to express any joy or sadness in it. And there would be NO Tolkien!

Darkness is essential to the creation of satisfying Art, without it there is no plot, we merely have a succession of thoroughly nice chaps and ladies being thoroughly nice to one another. A bit like one of those manufactured Disney stories about pretty princesses endlessly marrying handsome princes - the only way to increase the excitement is to increase the bling. Or those awful platitudes expressed on 'inspirational' posters that you used to get in the workplace. Poetry would all be like greetings cards and music would all be bland manufactured non-threatening pre-teen boyband pap. If you look at all the great pop and rock music it is there purely because of suffering and struggle - The Beatles wanted to break free of the limited expectations set on them and did it by becoming musicians. Art is the same - there would be no Pre-Raphaelites had they not been struggling against the establishment, and remember there would be no work by Tolkien to even discuss had he not suffered in his youth - he'd probably simply followed his father into banking.
It seems that you consider(ed) Melkor to be quite good for the Creation!

As a matter of fact, I quite like your point that evil will bring about Gandhi or the Dalai Lama. There is an interesting concept in the catholic religion, felix culpa, the happy sin that would bring about a great saviour:
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Originally Posted by Introduction to Western Humanities -- Baroque & Enlightenment, Kansas State University
Easter Sunday in the Christian calendar is the day on which the Resurrection of Jesus from the Crucifixion (on Good Friday). The day in between is Holy Saturday, and is also the occasion for a mass specially designed for the occasion. In the Latin version, which was in use in the Catholic Church almost universally until the early 1960s, one of the lines in this mass is: O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem. We might translate this "O blessed sin [literally, happy fault] which which received as its reward so great and so good a redeemer."
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Old 02-23-2007, 04:31 PM   #288
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Originally Posted by Raynor
Two issues, both raised before:
- Tolkien applied Christian percepts to interpreting and commenting on LotR
- how could two transcendent realities differ?
You're discussing this with a Universalist. So of course I am going to tell you that are limitless transcendent realities. I have no problem with there being even limitless interpretations of Christian transcendent realities, nor with limitless interpretations of Eruist transcendent realities. That wasn't perhaps what you expected, but that's where I come from and possibly why I can accept Eru for what he is within that context.

About Tolkien applying Christian concepts to interpreting LotR - I think he did indeed apply some in retrospect*, but as for the actual drafting, I think rather he was most careful not to put specifics in there.

* And that's interesting in itself - as he took his place as mere reader alongside us, interpreting his own work. It's also not uncommon. Philip Pullman does much the same, pondering the 'meaning' of his own work and often making contradictory statements. Makes you wonder about the whole business of being creative...is it all just a psychological outpouring of influences?

On to Melkor...I think the text is clear that he came from Eru. It's possibly a difficult thing to accept if you have a particular view of your own God as being absolutely Good, but note, this idea is consistent with Catholicism, so is quite possibly actually the way Tolkien saw things in reality. And it's not a difficult thing to accept if you simply step back and view the work dispassionately (i.e. by not thinking of your own 100% Good version of God as you read).

Melkor being who he is and stemming from Eru makes the whole thing hang together. It does not make you question why Eru decided to create a flawed world, makes events like Numenor possible. It's also much more interesting from the writer's point of view - he was able to 'let rip' with horror and evil in this creation, and likewise, to contrast it with genuinely meaningful forces of Light. And what's more, it enables the writer to do things like have Numenor destroyed and not have his own sense of morality brought into question by readers - this was the action of a created God who himself created Melkor so does not have to be restricted to doing just the nice and fluffy kinds of things.
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Old 02-23-2007, 04:53 PM   #289
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I have deliberately avoided speaking about YHVH because I don't believe
much light can be shed on Tolkien's creation by reading it in the light of the Bible. The Secondary World must be self contained & not dependent on the Primary - it may reflect aspects of the Primary but it is not an allegory of it.

One can only accept the events & characters of the S.W. as events that happened in, & characters who inhabit, another reality, one which is bound by its own rules & I attempted to demonstrate that applying the rules of this world to the S.W. is bound to lead to confusion - admittedly I have done that in a very roundabout way.

The only approach which is likely to work is to simply read the stories as far as possible without judgement & allow them to work on you as they will....

Or to put it another way, this has, imo, gone as far as it can & I can't sustain anymore interest in it.

So, unless someone manages to come up with some interesting new angle on things to draw me back in I shall leave you all to it now.....
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Old 02-23-2007, 05:10 PM   #290
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That wasn't perhaps what you expected, but that's where I come from and possibly why I can accept Eru for what he is within that context.
What does it mean you accept it? That you think what he does is good? Or that a transcendent being can err? Or can it do actual evil?
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About Tolkien applying Christian concepts to interpreting LotR - I think he did indeed apply some in retrospect*, but as for the actual drafting, I think rather he was most careful not to put specifics in there.
In retrospect? He was writting in his letters as early as, arguably, 1951, that "myth and fairy-story must, as all art, reflect and contain in solution elements of moral and religious truth (or error), but not explicit, not in the known form of the primary 'real' world." The famous letter #131, the preface to the Silmarillion.
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It's possibly a difficult thing to accept if you have a particular view of your own God as being absolutely Good, but note, this idea is consistent with Catholicism, so is quite possibly actually the way Tolkien saw things in reality.
Compare this to: "Now can we even say that a god like Eru is like the God known by all Christians anyway?". Aren't your statements contradictory?
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Melkor being who he is and stemming from Eru makes the whole thing hang together.
How does the whole thing hold together, if you state that "he is not 'nice'" but he is repeatedly depicted as good, and that considering him bad is the root of evil? Please explain.
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Old 02-23-2007, 07:23 PM   #291
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In answer to Saucy's question, I do not find that the compassion and kindness of Eru is incompatible with the story of the downfall of Numenor in the Akallabęth.

To quote something I said a long time ago in a wholly different thread on a barely related topic,
Quote:
Originally Posted by A Much Younger Thenamir
When an all-wise, all-powerful, and all-compassionate Ilúvatar who has your best interests in mind says to you "Don't go there," then it isn't self-actualization, or rugged individualism, or even free-thinking to go there anyway -- it is probably suicide.
If you have laws, you have sanctions or penalties for breaking that law. To say that Eru Ilúvatar is not loving or compassionate because He enforces the rules He lays down is a fundamental fallacy. He didn't make rules for sport, or to prevent men from receiving good things, or to rain on their parties. The Ban was there for their good.
He warned,
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And he sent messengers to the Dúnedain, who spoke earnestly to the King, and to all who would listen, concerning the fate and fashion of the world....it is not the land of Manwë that makes its people deathless, but the Deathless that dwell therein have hallowed the land; and there you would but wither and grow weary the sooner, as moths in a light too strong and steadfast.
He gave signs,
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out of the west there would come at times a great cloud in the evening, shaped as it were an eagle, with pinions spread to the north and the south; and slowly it would loom up, blotting out the sunset, and then uttermost night would fall upon Númenor. And some of the eagles bore lightning beneath their wings, and thunder echoed between sea and cloud
He even slew some of them, which was then unheard of,
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the lightnings increased and slew men upon the hills, and in the fields, and in the streets of the city
He did everything that he could do short of blunt coercion to get them to choose the right way. When they *chose* to listen to Sauron instead of Eru, to violate the Ban of the Valar, then Eru set the consequences (the sanctions of penalties of the law) in motion. Those who saw what was coming and took heed, Amandil and Elendil and all their company, and were saved from the destruction.

RE: Denying their free will. It has been said here that by killing them Eru is effectively removing their free will. That is quite correct. He allowed them to exercise their free will right up until the time that they violated his command. Just as we do -- we don't arrest criminals *before* they commit the crimes. But once they cross that line, the authority (whether it's Eru, a Shire bounder, or your local policeman) steps in to stop you, apprehend you, and remove your freedom to act further.

When you have an incorrigible child, you take away his free-will to act by putting him in his corner or his room, or perhaps you give them the child's "death penalty", a good spanking, in hopes that you can change his will, his self-destructive direction. When you have an incorrigble adult criminal, you take away his free will to act by either jailing him or executing him. When you have an incorrigible nation, as an omnipotent and all compassionate deity, you could possibly jail them, perhaps put up some kind of barrier around Numenor so that they cannot infect the rest of the world. But then you will have generation after generation, getting (as humanity generally does) worse and worse, going from lesser evils to greater ones, even if it's just amongst themselves. Or you can execute them -- bring the civilization to a screetching halt.

How, you ask, is this not cruel? Which is the more cruel, to allow countless thousands of lives to be born, live in evil and misery, and die?
Quote:
they were become quick to anger, and Sauron, or those whom he had bound to himself, went about the land setting man against man, so that the people murmured against the King and the lords, or against any that had aught that they had not; and the men of power took cruel revenge.
Quote:
they came no longer as bringers of gifts, nor even as rulers, but as fierce men of war. And they hunted the men of Middle-earth and took their goods and enslaved them, and many they slew cruelly upon their altars.
Quote:
in that temple, with spilling of blood and torment and great wickedness, men made sacrifice to Melkor that he should release them from Death. And most often from among the Faithful they chose their victims
Or to prevent that inevitability and forebear that future misery by cutting off and cauterizing that festering and rotted piece of the world forever? Remember, Eru is not a fallible man who can, as sometimes happens in our legal systems, convict and execute the wrong person -- He can see the inevitable results of inaction. What you *don't* do is allow intractible evil to forever interfere and trample down the good. At some point, the arm or leg has to be amputated in order to save what remains. Honestly, I don't understand the problem here.

Re: Killing innocent children. Children will be raised by their parents to follow in their footsteps. The evil is not that the children were playing at pretending to be orcs, it was that the parents didn't stop them. You cannot ignore the upbringing of children in how they will turn out -- as the twig is bent, so grows the tree. With Sauron there to continually egg them on, the entire society would go from bad to worse, or else end up destroying themselves. Were the parents killed and the children allowed to live (the dream of every angst-ridden teenager), they would only grow up with the memory of their parents' instruction, and rise up again in rebellion.

Lastly -- I have been mentally goaded into making this post against my better judgement. I feel that this post will change no minds, that it has said nothing really new. I've said all I want to say on this subject, and will gladly hear the rebuttals and counter-arguments which will come whether I like them or not. I am not so self-deluded that I think I have all the answers here. I will hear what has to be said, and will consider it thoughtfully. But I will not tilt at windmills.
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Last edited by Thenamir; 02-28-2007 at 12:55 PM. Reason: Removing a gratuitous and quite unnecessary insult.
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Old 02-24-2007, 05:15 AM   #292
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Thenamir, only problem with your analysis is that Eru's only action was to take the Undying Lands away from the mortal world - the destruction of Numenor and the flooding of the west of Middle-earth (something we don't think about - how many people died there?) was consequential.

The other problem is that Eru didn't send any signs or warnings, the Valar did all this. The 'Rules' were also laid down by the Valar, not by Eru.

I always find it quite interesting that these people in all these ages have no Rules laid out for them, nobody to tell them what to do, they must figure it out for themselves. Only the Elves of Valinor have any kind of Rules, and we're only assuming that as fact because they live close to the Valar; it may in fact be that they too have no rules. Compare that with the Bible where God is extremely active, handing out rules and regulations like there's no tomorrow (heh, a kind of cosmic nanny state ) and sticking his oar in all over the place; Christians (and Jews and Muslims) have clear boundaries so it's fair enough if they get smote or a plague of boils inflicted on them or whatever. The people of Arda don't have that.

The only instance where a Rule is set is the one set by the Valar on not going to the West. And let's face it, it was a pretty stupid thing for the Valar to do, to allow men and Elves to live so close to one another and expect the mortals not to be intrigued by the possibility of endless life, anyone would be. These kinds of conflicts are common place in fantasy and sci-fi: Eloi and Morlocks in HG Wells, Inhabitants of Gormenghast Vs Villagers/Bright carvers, Muggles and Wizards... So, a Rule had to be set, but it wasn't likely to hold that long, Men being the intelligent, curious beings that they are.

And on the children of 'evil' parents - there is absolutely no reason that children will automatically follow in their parents' footsteps. Otherwise we would be doing unspeakable things to the offspring of killers and criminals today; case in point, the children of serial killers Fred and Rose West are often interviewed about the horrors they saw and were forced to take part in (worse than what Sauron had his followers do!), and one of the results of that is that they are even more determined never ever to follow that kind of path. So I'm afraid that saying the kids of the Black Numenoreans would have followed in their footsteps simply does not wash. I refuse ever to accept this as a justification and I refuse to accept that Tolkien, a devoted father before all else, would have even contemplated this.

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Originally Posted by Raynor
What does it mean you accept it? That you think what he does is good? Or that a transcendent being can err? Or can it do actual evil?
I mean that I can accept all kinds of different beliefs as they are presented - I can understand them and see how they work without having to believe them myself. Some things that one god may do may not be in accordance with my own moral code but I can still see them as being consistent with that particular faith or belief. Eruism may not be for me but this does not stop me from seeing how it works, in much the same way that although I don't follow Islam I can see completely how it works.

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Originally Posted by Raynor
In retrospect? He was writting in his letters as early as, arguably, 1951, that "myth and fairy-story must, as all art, reflect and contain in solution elements of moral and religious truth (or error), but not explicit, not in the known form of the primary 'real' world." The famous letter #131, the preface to the Silmarillion.
A comment about the 'reasoning' behind his writing is very different to the kind of textual analysis he was carrying out in response to letters from his readers who were responding to the text on the page. I'm talking about where he has a letter from someone saying "Oooh, Gandalf reminds me a bit of...." and Tolkien responds to that in much the same way as we respond to one another in discussion about the printed text. Tolkien's thoughts as he drafts are different - but even then he is not prevented from acting as a reader in response to his won work. That's what writers do - critically examine and edit their work in the draft, and frequently respond to it by noticing other meanings they had not thought about.

Actually, that's an interesting quote as it is Tolkien saying that any kind of moral truth must never ever be explicit and must not be able to be compared to the 'real world'.

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Compare this to: "Now can we even say that a god like Eru is like the God known by all Christians anyway?". Aren't your statements contradictory?
No. Not all Christians see God in the same way. Many see God as entirely Good, a God who only does the nice things like give hope and courage and make kittens etc. Many see God as more involved also in the bad things such as war and death and destruction. Example: my ex-catholic grandmother told me God would smite me down for this that and the other, whereas my evangelistic great aunt was full of tales of how God was forgiving and gentle and evil was the work of bad people, nothing to do with God. Eru is not the kind of God a lot of Christians know today.

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How does the whole thing hold together, if you state that "he is not 'nice'" but he is repeatedly depicted as good, and that considering him bad is the root of evil? Please explain.
That's because he is omnipotent. It's humans who decide what is nice and pretty and cuddly (our kind of good) - morally correct (a god's kind of good) according to an omnipotent god is not necessarily the same thing. Gods are beyond our humble ideas of 'nice'. So, to me, it's not 'good' that Eru creates Melkor, but to Eru it is indeed 'good' as it's just the way things are, and if he's omnipotent then his creating Melkor must also be 'good'. Maybe it helps if we have good for humans and Good for gods - to distinguish them?
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Old 02-24-2007, 06:31 AM   #293
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I mean that I can accept all kinds of different beliefs as they are presented - I can understand them and see how they work without having to believe them myself.
So, if I may ask, does that basically mean that you understand and "tollerate" this work, but you do not consider it compatible with morality?
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A comment about the 'reasoning' behind his writing is very different to the kind of textual analysis he was carrying out in response to letters from his readers who were responding to the text on the page. I'm talking about where he has a letter from someone saying "Oooh, Gandalf reminds me a bit of...." and Tolkien responds to that in much the same way as we respond to one another in discussion about the printed text. Tolkien's thoughts as he drafts are different - but even then he is not prevented from acting as a reader in response to his won work. That's what writers do - critically examine and edit their work in the draft, and frequently respond to it by noticing other meanings they had not thought about.
This seems to me as a logical fallacy of argument from ignorance. The fact that Tolkien didn't put in the drafts all his thoughts (and we don't even know all his drafts) doesn't mean that we should restrict our judgement of the mechanism of his writting strictly to what appears in the drafts. This interpretation ignores the great importance spirituality had for Tolkien, it enforces a chasm between stated intention and actual work, with no _single_ positive proof, while at the same time unwarrantly denigrates Tolkien, by implying a certain dishonesty on his part.
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Actually, that's an interesting quote as it is Tolkien saying that any kind of moral truth must never ever be explicit and must not be able to be compared to the 'real world'.
That's erroneous reasoning; not explicit does not mean or imply impossibility of comparison.
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Maybe it helps if we have good for humans and Good for gods - to distinguish them?
But is good different only due to our limited knowledge, or are we talking about two incompatible types of good?
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Old 03-01-2007, 03:03 PM   #294
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But is good different only due to our limited knowledge, or are we talking about two incompatible types of good?
I think it goes without saying that there is a single standard for morality, whether it is Eru's or man's. The difference is that our access to information is limited, we cannot see all the facts. We are forced to make decisions based on incomplete (but hopefully sufficient) information. This means that we will occasionally come to wrong conclusions, we will make mistakes, we may take wrong actions, even if our intentions are good.

Eru is not under this limitation -- He has all the facts (both of actions and intentions), he has perfect wisdom, and therefore is able to render flawless decisions (and therefore judgements), decisions which may seem cruel or random to our flawed and incomplete perspective. It is not an issue of quod licet jovi, non licet bovi (loosely translated "what is permissible for the gods is not permissible for men") -- it is a matter of the complete versus the partial, the perfect versus the flawed.
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Old 03-17-2007, 01:52 PM   #295
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
There is the distinct danger too that if one person strongly associates Eru with God (their God) then when someone comes along and criticises or puts an alternate view it is sometimes seen as Blasphemy! (the ! is important) and they will be Offended. But people have every right to question a character in a book, no matter what anyone else associates with it.
There is always a temptation to read more into that which one likes well than that which the author intended. Perhaps it's inevitable. It's not necessarily a bad thing if the reader is aware of it.

It's a separate issue however to propound an alternate view compared to the stated nature of a character. In the case of Eru, part of that nature is transcendance and monotheistic deity. Quite simply, that is how Tolkien describes Eru. Therefore, the characteristics of a transcendant monotheistic deity adhere to this character. That there are many similarities to the Judao-Christian God comes therefore as no surprise. However, there are differences, and those are well worth studying .... so long as they really are there rather than being unexamined constructs (and opinions) of our own minds that we bring to the topic.
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Old 03-23-2007, 12:25 PM   #296
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That there are many similarities to the Judao-Christian God comes therefore as no surprise.
Which would include wiping out mankind in the Flood, and nuking Sodom and Gomorrah, and directing the Israelites to commit genocidal massacres.... So why is the Akallabeth so different?
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Old 03-24-2007, 01:41 PM   #297
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So, [Eru is a]very boring character, & the reason I think he's best left out. The Valar are interesting because they're flawed, make mistakes & produce drama. Yet they themselves are too powerful when the story turns to focus on individual people in Middle-earth & have to be removed to the background.
At the risk of beating a dead horse, I really must protest such a reductive reading of the character Eru.

Eru, being transcendant deity, is a fundamentally different type of character than any other. By definition, Eru cannot be flawed and make mistakes and produce that kind of drama.

To want or expect Eru to have done so is like asking the Sun to function like a planet. If one were to expect all heavenly bodies to exhibit the characteristics of planets, then there would be no light source for those heavenly bodies that really are planets, nor a strong enough gravitational pull to hold the planets around the sun.

Just so, Eru is the center of gravitation and light source, for the entire story. To miss this basic fact of Tolkien's creation is to have a somewhat povertystricken experience in one's reading of The Silmarillion. There are things about the story one simply will not comprehend.

The sequence of the creative process, interesting as it is, doesn't tell us as much as that which the mature author chose to include in the mature product.
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Old 03-24-2007, 02:34 PM   #298
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Hard to make a God...

I think the fundamental difficulty in creating an UNFLAWED being/deity/whathaveyou, is that the author is not unflawed, is not pure, not holy, not omnipotent, omniscient or omnipresent...It's really difficult to create a character with whom you share NONE of the attributes.

Just a thought...I'll shut up now...As you were...
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Old 03-24-2007, 04:14 PM   #299
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It's perhaps worth remembering that Tolkien set out to recreate the Atlantis-myth- the essential datum-point of which is the sinking of the island and the death of its inhabitants. For Tolkien to have ended it otherwise would have been to write a different story. As it is he's far more merciful than Plato, since he posits survivors; and goes to great length to assign a general guilt to the nation.

This last is perhaps a significant point. The ancient world-view, not only in the Old Testament but also in the classical world, was concerned with national gods and their placation; the fortunes of the people as a whole depended on the deity's pleasure or displeasure. When Jeremiah rants that the destruction of Israel was punishment for its sins, he's certainly not claiming that every Hebrew child was a sinner, but rather that the aggregate sins of the people had reached a tipping-point, so that YHWH had withdrawn his favor and protection. Before you call this 'primitive,' remember that sophisticated Athens executed Socrates for largely the same reason: he was held indirectly responsible for an act of sacrelige which was believed to threaten the safety of the state.

This sort of collectivism is I think inevitable in Tolkien's mythological mode, where peoples often stand in for characters. The Doom of Mandos destroyed a lot of Noldor (and Sindar and Men) who weren't even born at the time of the Kinslaying.
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Old 03-24-2007, 05:43 PM   #300
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Originally Posted by William Cloud Hickli
This sort of collectivism is I think inevitable in Tolkien's mythological mode, where peoples often stand in for characters. The Doom of Mandos destroyed a lot of Noldor (and Sindar and Men) who weren't even born at the time of the Kinslaying.
Accepted....but we don't think in 'mythological mode'. We are 21st century readers with a 21st century perspective. The problem is, we could accept Morgoth or Sauron indulging in mass slaughter because that's the kind of thing the do - they are 'evil' & slay indiscriminately. Eru is supposed to fall into the other camp.

LMP's statement that Eru cannot be flawed makes the whole thing so much more difficult - we are required to accept that an omnipotent, omniscient deity will commit an act of horrific destruction without even questioning it. Eru did it so it is 'good'. But what standards are we applying - what constitutes 'good' - is it whatever Eru does? If so then Eru could go around hurling thunderbolts at all & sundry, good, bad, old, young, black, white & it would be 'good' simply because Eru does it. Yet no reader would accept that. The reader can only accept that Eru is 'good' if his behaviour conforms to some objective standard of 'good'. But does Eru's destruction of Numenor conform to this standard?

EDIT

Edit removed because not everyone watches The Catherine Tate Show & it seems they didn't get the joke.

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Old 03-24-2007, 06:53 PM   #301
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At the risk of beating a dead horse, I really must protest such a reductive reading of the character Eru.

Eru, being transcendant deity, is a fundamentally different type of character than any other. By definition, Eru cannot be flawed and make mistakes and produce that kind of drama.

To want or expect Eru to have done so is like asking the Sun to function like a planet. If one were to expect all heavenly bodies to exhibit the characteristics of planets, then there would be no light source for those heavenly bodies that really are planets, nor a strong enough gravitational pull to hold the planets around the sun.

Just so, Eru is the center of gravitation and light source, for the entire story. To miss this basic fact of Tolkien's creation is to have a somewhat povertystricken experience in one's reading of The Silmarillion. There are things about the story one simply will not comprehend.

The sequence of the creative process, interesting as it is, doesn't tell us as much as that which the mature author chose to include in the mature product.
I think you misunderstand what davem is saying. He says that he doesn't need Eru to be there for the story to be satisfying, and he's entirely free to say that, as it's just a criticism of a piece of literature. I'd be quite happy with a few less Elves with names beginning in F (or indeed a few less Elves anyway, certainly less pathetically wimpy female Elves and a few more who do something, like Luthien or Aredhel). I'm allowed to say that. And davem not liking a character doesn't mean he does not comprehend things about the story or has somewhat less of a reading experience - that's an incredibly loaded statement to make.

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It's perhaps worth remembering that Tolkien set out to recreate the Atlantis-myth- the essential datum-point of which is the sinking of the island and the death of its inhabitants. For Tolkien to have ended it otherwise would have been to write a different story. As it is he's far more merciful than Plato, since he posits survivors; and goes to great length to assign a general guilt to the nation.
It's interesting that the myths of Numenor and Atlantis also share a sense of mystery - we find ourselves asking why this happened, a question to which we can come up with a range of decent answers, but when we ask about drowned innocents we get stumped. In the case of Numenor, we at least know that Eru did it, and we can at least say he did it "because he can" - and say that this is just part of his own mystery and omnipotence.
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Old 03-24-2007, 08:57 PM   #302
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... as 'creator' [Eru] seems more of an artist - his great concern seems not to be that what is produced be good in any moral sense, but rather that it be 'beautiful'. To the extent that morality comes into it at all it seems to be Eru's annoyance with Morgoth's attempted spoiling of his 'opera'.
This view is based on a misunderstanding. All that is Good is of a piece. Before Evil enters creation, a thing that is beautiful is by definition good. It is only after evil enters creation that this harmony is ruined with such dissonances as beautiful evil and ugly good. Tolkien expresses this universal truth with an aesthetic pallet rather than a moral one; the truth he expresses does not change because he uses a different pallet.
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Old 03-25-2007, 01:35 AM   #303
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But does Eru's destruction of Numenor conform to this standard?
No one has been able to come up with a better solution to the Numenorean problem. So, as stated previously, I fail to see the point of the critique.
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Old 03-25-2007, 02:23 AM   #304
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No one has been able to come up with a better solution to the Numenorean problem. So, as stated previously, I fail to see the point of the critique.
'Better' does not equal 'best'.
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Old 03-25-2007, 02:54 AM   #305
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'Better' does not equal 'best'.
But surely you understand that if nothing is better than this, then it is, by definition, the best.
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Old 03-25-2007, 05:18 AM   #306
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But surely you understand that if nothing is better than this, then it is, by definition, the best.
But surely you understand that you haven't proven that nothing was better than this. I'm sure that in the sixties many people could not think of a better way of doing complex mathematical calculations than by using a slide rule. Calculators are now known to be better. Just because one cannot think of a better way to do 'x' does not make the way that is used the 'best' - just the 'best' one can come up with at the time.

But the point is we are dealing with an Omnipotent, Omniscient being here - & one who is supposed to be both good, merciful & compassionate.
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Old 03-25-2007, 05:27 AM   #307
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But surely you understand that you haven't proven that nothing was better than this.
But you are unwarrantly shifting the burden of proof (and I and others have done 'our' part, by showing those other variants achieve less), since it is you who criticises the adequacy of this.
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Just because one cannot think of a better way to do 'x' does not make the way that is used the 'best' - just the 'best' one can come up with at the time.
As in others threads, I witness the hope that something will somehow pop up that will contradict Tolkien's statements. Until then, your critique is baseless.
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Old 03-25-2007, 05:35 AM   #308
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But you are unwarrantly shifting the burden of proof (and I and others have done 'our' part, by showing those other variants achieve less), since it is you who criticises the adequacy of this.
Yes, because it is inadequate

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As in others threads, I witness the hope that something will somehow pop up that will contradict Tolkien's statements. Until then, your critique is baseless.
No, I was offering a perfectly logical critique of your statement.
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Old 03-25-2007, 05:49 AM   #309
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Yes, because it is inadequate
An opinion contradicted throughout this thread, if you care to re-read it.
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No, I was offering a perfectly logical critique of your statement.
The story and the author state that He is good; nobody found a better alternative to his actions. Unless you come up with some evidence worth discussing, I will refrain from simply repeating the conclusions of this thread and wait for better times in this thread too.
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Old 03-25-2007, 01:04 PM   #310
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Tolkien The language of Myths

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Originally Posted by davem
Quote:
Originally Posted by William Cloud Hickli
This sort of collectivism is I think inevitable in Tolkien's mythological mode, where peoples often stand in for characters. The Doom of Mandos destroyed a lot of Noldor (and Sindar and Men) who weren't even born at the time of the Kinslaying.
Accepted....but we don't think in 'mythological mode'. We are 21st century readers with a 21st century perspective. The problem is, we could accept Morgoth or Sauron indulging in mass slaughter because that's the kind of thing the do - they are 'evil' & slay indiscriminately. Eru is supposed to fall into the other camp.

LMP's statement that Eru cannot be flawed makes the whole thing so much more difficult - we are required to accept that an omnipotent, omniscient deity will commit an act of horrific destruction without even questioning it. Eru did it so it is 'good'. But what standards are we applying - what constitutes 'good' - is it whatever Eru does? If so then Eru could go around hurling thunderbolts at all & sundry, good, bad, old, young, black, white & it would be 'good' simply because Eru does it. Yet no reader would accept that. The reader can only accept that Eru is 'good' if his behaviour conforms to some objective standard of 'good'. But does Eru's destruction of Numenor conform to this standard?
Well, I guess William Cloud Hickli actually knocked the right door. What davem says here is true, we are 21st century readers and Tolkien was 20th century writer. But the Elves, Men, Dwarves, Hobbits... are not 20th or 21st century beings. Middle-Earth is a world which does not have the modern or postmodern views on things, it is a mythical world. And people in the "mythical age" or how should I call it, all the cultures in past times of our Earth, had their myths that reflected reality in their understanding of it. And this is how Middle-Earth works, like a mythical world. The people back then didn't have that understanding of God as we have now - so their tales were quite generalized, as William Cloud Hickli said. This is for example the mentioned (and to Akkallabëth quite similar) tale of Sodom and Gomorrah - from our modern, also New-Testament-based view of the Christian God, it does not seem fitting for God loving its creation to wipe out whole city including even little children (and this is what makes it difficult for many people to accept the "drastic tales" of the original Hebrew Bible). But the point of that story lies elsewhere, and it is that the only one who was not wicked was saved - Akallabëth shows something very similar. The main thing is to realize that every tale has its context in the age in which it is presented, and understanding it depends on taking the viewpoint of people living in that age. I am not speaking now of simple reading the story for pleasure - we can enjoy the tale just by reading it; I think we all can read tales from, let's say, Greek mythology and not thinking about if it makes sense ("But Olympus was not that high", "But the Earth isn't flat"). But when we start digging deeper into it, we will ultimately hit some obstacle which wouldn't fit with our 21st century point of view. And here we have only two options: say "This is nuts, the story is silly, it does not make sense, we all know the Earth isn't flat" or try to look at the story from the point of its time. And the Akkallabëth, though it does not have any "real" background in the world (sorry to those who believe ME really existed back then ), is written in the language of myths, so we have to accept it. "The whole island was destroyed, with all its men, women, and children" - total destruction, you have commited crime, the crime that is so great that it has impact on the whole nation. Saying "And everyone died, only the little children were taken by Elendil who collected them from all the homes" or something like that will totally destroy the point of the story. The motive of the story is Trespassing, no Repentance, Punishment.

This does not, by any matter, discard the point that Lalwendë and others have raised here, that Eru as an omni-creator and omni-ruler does ultimately have the right to do this if he wishes. But as davem correctly said, Eru is presented as good, not evil, and so if we want to preserve the logic of his character, we must take the story this way - as a myth, and not bother about whether even little children died there. We are 21st century readers, but I doubt the people in Middle-Earth thought about it like we do, they are not 21st century people. The point it would have for the inhabitants of the Middle-Earth would be a tale of Gift, of misusing it, of greed and many others... and warning for the Men not to do this again.
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Old 03-25-2007, 01:24 PM   #311
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Its interesting. We read The Illiad & The Oddysey (& Gilgamesh & Mahabharata if it comes to that) as tales of Man 'at the mercy' of the gods, who are temperamental, tetchy, selfish & pretty juvenile. Eru is the God that the inhabitants of M-e have, & they must make do.

One could, I suppose, read the OT in the same way - YHVH is hardly always kind, tolerant & compassionate. Yet we live (in the West at least) with 2,000 years of Christianity in our psyches & because of this we 'expect' a God who is loving, self sacrificing, compassionate - one who would not behave in such an 'Old Testament' fashion. Christianity has shaped our perception of how 'God' is supposed to behave, so we (Christian or not) will judge Eru by that standard, & in the destruction of Numenor he does not.

Hence, the only thing we can do is to put aside this idea of 'equivalence' & simply accept Eru for what he is - not good or evil, but a 'force' of nature, conscious, directing, ultimately in control, but not the God of Christianity by another name.
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Old 03-25-2007, 02:09 PM   #312
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
To read LotR from a 'secular' perspective makes the display of courage far more moving [than punishment avoidance]. Imagine there is no eternal reward, that Frodo is giving up everything for others knowing that there is nothing beyond the life he is sacrificing, no healing in the West, because going into the West is simply to die. Not Tolkien's intention, certainly, but still a possible reading - does that make it more or less affecting?
Note: "than punishment avoidance" is my phrase to summarize davem's previous point; I think it's accurate.

This is indeed more affecting than mere motivation to avoid God's punishment. However, a yet deeper motivation in Frodo is depicted in LotR: love of the Shire. This is significant.

That which davem describes is the Northern ideal; the Norse idea, I suppose you could say: sacrificing all even though there's nothing to be gained by it, because it's the right thing to do, the honorable thing. Yet Frodo's motivation was not mere honor, but love. Again, that is significant, and is a way through which Tolkien trumped the Northern ideal with something even higher.
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Old 03-25-2007, 02:18 PM   #313
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That which davem describes is the Northern ideal; the Norse idea, I suppose you could say: sacrificing all even though there's nothing to be gained by it, because it's the right thing to do, the honorable thing. Yet Frodo's motivation was not mere honor, but love. Again, that is significant, and is a way through which Tolkien trumped the Northern ideal with something even higher.
Yes, his actions are selfless. Which is the point. Long before the end of the Quest Frodo has no hopes of returning home, or of achieving anything for himself at all. It strikes me that whatever happens after the Grey Havens is outside the story, which ends with Frodo leaving the 'world'. Whether he 'dies' & ceases or dies & passes to another 'state' is not something the story takes up - rightly in my opinion, as it would make the whole of LotR just 'part' of a story of which the end is missing & it would thus feel 'unfinished' , rather than a 'complete whole'.
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