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Old 02-26-2011, 10:52 PM   #1
tumhalad2
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Fantasy Morality

I've copped a great deal of flack recently for continuing to forward particular views about The Children of Hurin with respect to the rest of Tolkien's legendarium.

In response, here's an article that really gets at the heart of what I'm saying. It raises similar points to my own, but it explains them in different terms and tends to go even further than I was willing to.

This part is particularly interesting:

When Tolkien is at his best, as he is in Children of Húrin and in parts of The Silmarillion, the fate of men (or elves, or dwarves) remains external from them, but this certainly isn’t the case in The Lord of the Rings, where moral agency shifts onto the individual, making him responsible when measuring himself against an external moral system, in this case Tolkien’s often maligned good and evil. Perhaps the genesis of that problem can be seen in Children of Húrin, in which a reader with some experience with philology wonders why such a cruel fate, usually the whim of fickle gods, can befall Túrin Turambar when Eru Ilúvatar is a benevolent creator.


In his discussion of "slave morality" vs. "noble morality" (please read the piece in order to learn what these terms refer to) I was particularly struck by this passage:

One could also accuse this worldview of what Nietzsche refers to as Amor fati, the love of fate, in which the individual comes to accept the suffering and loss he or she experiences as necessary. Where Túrin railed against his fate, Frodo, Aragon and co. seem to fall in line under some form of deontology, the journey to Mount Doom will be long and hard, but it has to be done and that is that.





On Moral Fantasy Fiction
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Old 02-27-2011, 09:12 AM   #2
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This essay didn't make any sense to me. And from what did make sense, I highly disagree. I'm especially bothered by the words "When Tolkien is at his best, as he is in Children of Húrin and in parts of The Silmarillion..." - as if he's not good in LOTR, TH, the rest of The Sil, and others?!

Moreover, I don't see anything wrong with switching style. Tolkien's books describe all kinds of situations, so why not the other type as well?

"The fate of men (or elves, or dwarves) remains external from them, but this certainly isn’t the case in The Lord of the Rings, where moral agency shifts onto the individual, making him responsible when measuring himself against an external moral system, in this case Tolkien’s often maligned good and evil." The fate of men/elves/dwarves still remains external to them in LOTR; and in The Sil+COH they still have their 'moral responsibility'.

"Perhaps the genesis of that problem can be seen in Children of Húrin..." What problem? What genesis? It's saying that COH is spreading some awful thing in JRRT's books! I don't see a problem in COH, but I see one with the author.

"..., in which a reader with some experience with philology wonders why such a cruel fate, usually the whim of fickle gods, can befall Túrin Turambar when Eru Ilúvatar is a benevolent creator." Why doesn't the author actually read COH, then maybe he'll find out why. No, I'm serious! He talks as if COH is supposed to be a fairy-tale with a plot somewhat like Roverandom's (where a real dog is cursed by a wizard to become a toy, and he travels all over the world in order to find the wizard and ask him to change him back). COH is not a light-hearted children's bed-time story. And it's not 'gods', there is only one 'god' involved, and he isn't even a 'god' anymore.

PS: if LOTR is written with a certain style, it doesn't mean that everything has to be.

PPS: Also, I don't think that the style really changes. It's just two different situations, with 2 different characters, and 2 different tasks. The characters act differently, that's all. Are you saying that all characters have to act the same (eg all have to challenge fate, or vice versa)?
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Old 02-27-2011, 12:07 PM   #3
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When Tolkien is at his best, as he is in Children of Húrin and in parts of The Silmarillion, the fate of men (or elves, or dwarves) remains external from them, but this certainly isn’t the case in The Lord of the Rings, where moral agency shifts onto the individual, making him responsible when measuring himself against an external moral system, in this case Tolkien’s often maligned good and evil. Perhaps the genesis of that problem can be seen in Children of Húrin, in which a reader with some experience with philology wonders why such a cruel fate, usually the whim of fickle gods, can befall Túrin Turambar when Eru Ilúvatar is a benevolent creator.

I think this fellow needs to read Verlyn Fleiger's study of Tolkien, The Splintered Light. The fates of men, elves and dwarves differ. Sorry if you've already covered her work elsewhere, tumhalad2, but this fellow hasn't.
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Old 02-27-2011, 01:46 PM   #4
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Maybe by 'fate' the author isn't referring to the same thing as Tolkien calls 'fate'. I think the author means the destiny of each individual from these races.

Either way, though, the essay makes me think that the author didn't really read COH, or any other Tolkien books.
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Old 02-27-2011, 02:19 PM   #5
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This essay didn't make any sense to me. And from what did make sense, I highly disagree. I'm especially bothered by the words "When Tolkien is at his best, as he is in Children of Húrin and in parts of The Silmarillion..." - as if he's not good in LOTR, TH, the rest of The Sil, and others?!
You're right, Galadriel. What we have here is a stuffed-shirt essayist using dollar words he purchased with an English lit. degree, propounding prolix platitudes that are not germane to Tolkien's corpus. Just another post-modernist wanting to afix his literary values to a book (in this case, LotR) and a mythos (Middle-earth) that he misunderstands completely. The gentleman, in his muddled mix of Nietzschean morality and Greek Hamartia, even fails to comprehend why The Lord of the Rings is Tolkien's greatest achievement, and seems utterly confused as to why the book is so influential (a bitter thought that obviously gives him constipation).

I suggest he should read the books a few more times, and then get back with us.
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Old 02-27-2011, 02:57 PM   #6
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I thought some points of the essay quite interesting, in that the concepts of shame vs guilt culture are quite useful and illuminating when applied to the moralit of both Norse literature and of Tolkien's works. Particularly interesting when you get an author steeped in the essence of both cultures (vis a vis his interest in Norse epic and his own Catholic faith).

As for Nietzsche, I have never read anything he wrote himself, only what others have written about him, so I wouldn't like to comment of the validity of the slave/master morality question. However my general impression of Nietzsche is that his morality was very dodgy and elitist.
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Old 02-27-2011, 03:00 PM   #7
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I don't buy the idea that Turin's "fate" is external to him at all: as many things go wrong that are the result of his own actions (the sack of Nargothrond, which is a direct result of Turin's more open style of confrontation) as the result of the curse acting through chance (Beleg's knife slipping as he cuts Turin's bonds). The same goes for the rebellious Noldor: it is not the Doom of Mandos which made the Silmarils burn Maedhros and Maglor, but the evil of their own deeds in getting them.

Indeed, part of the beauty of CoH is that you simply don't know how much of the horrible things that happen are due to the curse, and how much of them are due to Turin himself. If you say it's all one or all the other, the work loses its nuance and subtlety. I don't think that the morality in Silm-era works is necessarily incompatible with that in LotR: the only difference between the two eras is the extent to which the gods got involved in others' affairs.
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Old 02-27-2011, 03:04 PM   #8
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I didn't really understand either one of the ideas, but I can't help to disagree with how the author describes JRRT's books and his conclusions/statements about them. It sounds like the most he read was a brief sumary on the cover page of the books...

Edit: x'd with Mnemo

Mnemosyne, I agree with what you said. Just another point to prove that the author didn't read COH, or understand anything that he read in LOTR (if he read it)...
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Old 02-27-2011, 03:21 PM   #9
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Perhaps the genesis of that problem can be seen in Children of Húrin..." What problem? What genesis? It's saying that COH is spreading some awful thing in JRRT's books! I don't see a problem in COH, but I see one with the author.
I think the author (of the article) is talking about a 'problem' in the moral/philosophical sense, not in the sense of being critical of Tolkien's work.
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Old 02-27-2011, 04:10 PM   #10
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I think the author (of the article) is talking about a 'problem' in the moral/philosophical sense, not in the sense of being critical of Tolkien's work.
I don't really understand how that would work. The way I understood the article was that the change of style is a problem, with COH as the center of it. This wouldn't make sense even if there really was a problem.

In this case the problem is 'Tolkien is being inconsistenet'. I don't see COH as an inconsistency, and I don't see any problem.

Sorry Lalaith, but I also don't see what you're saying either. Can you please elaborate?
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Old 02-27-2011, 04:37 PM   #11
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The author talks about a 'shift' which he says he finds fascinating. I agree that the essay is complex - perhaps, as Morthoron argues, unnecessarily and pretentiously so. But I followed it pretty well as far as the Nietzsche stuff. Certainlly, the author clearly admires Tolkien, so I don't think that fans need to get defensive about it.
I think that the style and tone of Sil and CoH is different to LotR, particularly the Fellowship part of trilogy. This writer seems to prefer the tone of the Sil, that is his right.
Another thing - these are works of literature, not religious tracts, so to discuss conflict/shift/discrepancy within the books is to highlight what is interesting about them, and to praise the range and skill of the author - it is not to attack them. For example, I could write an essay about the shift in tone between the brutal/gothic opening and domestic/romantic ending of Wuthering Heights. This shift in tone makes WH in my opinion a more, not less, interesting novel.
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Old 02-27-2011, 04:42 PM   #12
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I think that the style and tone of Sil and CoH is different to LotR, particularly the Fellowship part of trilogy. This writer seems to prefer the tone of the Sil, that is his right.
Another thing - these are works of literature, not religious tracts, so to discuss conflict/shift/discrepancy within the books is to highlight what is interesting about them, and to praise the range and skill of the author - it is not to attack them. For example, I could write an essay about the shift in tone between the brutal/gothic opening and domestic/romantic ending of Wuthering Heights. This shift in tone makes WH in my opinion a more, not less, interesting novel.
I agree--but I don't think it necessarily follows that, accompanying the stylistic shift, there's a philosophical one.

Or, if it is, I don't think that the philosophical one is the one that the essayist argues for. LotR to my mind is basically the Silm with hobbits. Seeing Middle-earth through their eyes rather than those of the tragically doomed elves gives the whole world and its passing into mundanity a completely different context--not necessarily a different morality.
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Old 02-27-2011, 06:34 PM   #13
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The author talks about a 'shift' which he says he finds fascinating.
But he calls it a problem.

Quote:
Certainlly, the author clearly admires Tolkien, so I don't think that fans need to get defensive about it.
He might admire Tolkien, but he doesn't sound like he knows what he's speaking about.

Quote:
I think that the style and tone of Sil and CoH is different to LotR, particularly the Fellowship part of trilogy. This writer seems to prefer the tone of the Sil, that is his right.
The tone is definitely different, but in my opinion the author doesn't prefer the tone of The Sil and COH, but calls it inconsistent.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mnemosyne
I agree--but I don't think it necessarily follows that, accompanying the stylistic shift, there's a philosophical one.
Or, if it is, I don't think that the philosophical one is the one that the essayist argues for. LotR to my mind is basically the Silm with hobbits. Seeing Middle-earth through their eyes rather than those of the tragically doomed elves gives the whole world and its passing into mundanity a completely different context--not necessarily a different morality.
This makes more sense to me.
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Old 02-28-2011, 10:05 AM   #14
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I don't buy the idea that Turin's "fate" is external to him at all: as many things go wrong that are the result of his own actions (the sack of Nargothrond, which is a direct result of Turin's more open style of confrontation) as the result of the curse acting through chance (Beleg's knife slipping as he cuts Turin's bonds). The same goes for the rebellious Noldor: it is not the Doom of Mandos which made the Silmarils burn Maedhros and Maglor, but the evil of their own deeds in getting them.

Indeed, part of the beauty of CoH is that you simply don't know how much of the horrible things that happen are due to the curse, and how much of them are due to Turin himself. If you say it's all one or all the other, the work loses its nuance and subtlety. I don't think that the morality in Silm-era works is necessarily incompatible with that in LotR: the only difference between the two eras is the extent to which the gods got involved in others' affairs.
On this note, if one gives any credence to the idea that there is a unity in Tolkien's work, I think the final pages of The Hobbit sheds some light on the idea. Doesn't Gandalf say to Bilbo something to the effect of "Surely you'd disbelieve the ancient prophecies just because you had a hand in bringing them about?"

One of the fascinating things about fate/prophecies/doom is the question of whether the one fated/doomed/prophecied is free to end up there or determined... and it's a philosophical question that has been much considered in the western tradition, at least since Christianity got involved with its dual offerings of free will and prophecy.

Obviously, there's a vast difference in mood and outcome between The Hobbit and The Children of Húrin, but I don't know if I'd go so far as to say they have two different takes on fate/prophecy. The difference, as I see it, is chiefly that Bilbo/Dale get a happy prophecy, while Túrin/Nienor/et al get a tragic doom. The philosophical question is whether, the outcomes having been foreseen, those involved had a choice in getting there or not.
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Old 02-28-2011, 10:29 AM   #15
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Obviously, there's a vast difference in mood and outcome between The Hobbit and The Children of Húrin, but I don't know if I'd go so far as to say they have two different takes on fate/prophecy. The difference, as I see it, is chiefly that Bilbo/Dale get a happy prophecy, while Túrin/Nienor/et al get a tragic doom. The philosophical question is whether, the outcomes having been foreseen, those involved had a choice in getting there or not.
I think it's clear that individual choices have an effect on 'doom'.

Bilbo's "happy prophesy" was made possible by his own actions. What if Bilbo had decided to kill Gollum instead of showing him mercy? What if Bilbo had left the Dwarves to their fate when they were captured by the spiders, or imprisoned in the Elvenking's halls? Would that happy ending have come about?

As Mnemo said, contrast that with Túrin. If he had agreed to face Thingol's judgment in the death of Saeros, he would not have left Doriath, because Nellas would have been present to give the truth of the matter and Túrin would have been pardoned. If Túrin had stayed in Doriath, it is difficult to see how Morgoth's curse could have been fulfilled. Morwen and Nienor would have found him there, and the whole sorry outcome need not have happened.

Also, look at the difference between Boromir and Faramir. The former, through his own pride and desire for power, was easy prey for the Ring. His humbler and wiser brother saw the Ring for what it was, and effectively resisted its temptation.

Perhaps "fate" is merely the natural outcome of choices made, not predestined, but all the same known to the Children's creator.
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Old 02-28-2011, 12:12 PM   #16
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Perhaps "fate" is merely the natural outcome of choices made, not predestined, but all the same known to the Children's creator.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ainulindale
. . . the Ainur know much of what was, and is, and is to come, and few things are unseen by them. Yet some things there are that they cannot see, neither alone nor taking counsel together; for to none but himself has Iluvatar revealed all that he has in store, and in every age there come forth things that are new and have no foretelling, for they do not proceed from the past. And so it was that as this vision of the World was played before them, the Ainur saw that it contained things which they had not thought. And they saw with amazement the coming of the Children of Iluvatar, and the habitation that was prepared for them; and they perceived that they themselves in the labour of their music had been busy with the preparation of this dwellling, and yet knew not that it had any purppose beyond its own beauty. For the Children of Iluvatar were conceived by him alone; and they came with the third theme, and were not in the theme which Iluvatar propounded at the beginning. . . . Now the Children of Iluvatar are Elves and Men, the First-born and the Followers . . . .
The Children of Iluvatar come with the third music, but they are not part of the music.

Fleiger argues this means that the Children have free will. The Ainur are said to like the Children because of the very fact that they, unlike the Ainur themselves, are free.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ainulindale
Therefore the more did they [the Ainur] love them [the Children], being things other than themselves, strange and free, wherein they saw the mind if Iluvatar reflected anew. . .
So, what Mnemo said:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mnemo
I don't buy the idea that Turin's "fate" is external to him at all: as many things go wrong that are the result of his own actions (the sack of Nargothrond, which is a direct result of Turin's more open style of confrontation) as the result of the curse acting through chance (Beleg's knife slipping as he cuts Turin's bonds). The same goes for the rebellious Noldor: it is not the Doom of Mandos which made the Silmarils burn Maedhros and Maglor, but the evil of their own deeds in getting them.

Indeed, part of the beauty of CoH is that you simply don't know how much of the horrible things that happen are due to the curse, and how much of them are due to Turin himself. If you say it's all one or all the other, the work loses its nuance and subtlety. I don't think that the morality in Silm-era works is necessarily incompatible with that in LotR: the only difference between the two eras is the extent to which the gods got involved in others' affairs.
Nietzsche is the philosopher known for the line "God is dead". (Whether that is an exact statement, I cannot recall, I'm simply remembering a generally known comment.) So it would be a bit strange to use him to analyse a text which fits into a mytholgoy of Iluvatar without discussing that possibility.
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Old 02-28-2011, 02:23 PM   #17
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As an aside: as Bethberry noted, Verlyn Flieger does argue that the Children of God have free will, yet she seemingly argues this distinction as well: that Elves do not have Free Will in the same sense as Men -- that the decisions of the Elves don't alter external outcome (as they are bound to the Music)! She looks at Feanor's decision concerning the Silmarils and notes: 'I take the operation of free will in this instance to be along the lines of Feanor's in saying ya or nay to Yavanna -- an internal process not affecting events but deeply influencing the inner nature of individuals involved in those events.'

My brevity here does not intend to be unfair to her actual (and full) case in detail however, so I'll refer people to Tolkien Studies VI (in this volume Carl Hostetter also provides some previously unpublished text from JRRT that touches upon the matter).

Also I'm a bit hazy on whether or not she allows for exceptions to that rule (Galadriel when offered the Ring for example), but in any case: I disagree, as do others.

Tolkien once noted...

Quote:
'According to the fable Elves and Men were the first of these intrusions, made indeed while the 'story' was still only a story and not 'realized'; they were not therefore in any sense conceived or made by the gods, the Valar, and were called the Eruhini or 'Children of God', and were for the Valar an incalculable element: that is they were rational creatures of free will in regard to God, of the same historical rank as the Valar, though of far smaller spiritual and intellectual power and status.'

JRRT, from letter 181, probably 1956
In Splintered Light (Splintered Light and Splintered Being, page 53) Verlyn Flieger explains:

Quote:
'In a letter to a reviewer of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien declared that both races were "rational creatures of free will in regard to God" (letters 236). The key may lie in the phrase "in regard to God", suggesting that in the sub-created world God, Eru, who proposed the theme but had the Ainur make the music, is himself beyond and above it. This implies a kind of Boethian concept in which the mind of God encompasses any design perceivable by any of his creatures and is explicit in such statements by Eru to the Ainur, as "no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my respite" (Silm 17)

'(...) This seems to make it clear that in Tolkien's cosmology, which encompasses both fate and free will, the mind of the Prime Mover extends beyond the Creation to leave room for what to earthbound perceivers may appear as exceptions to the rule. (...)'
In 'The Music and the Task: Fate and Free Will in Middle-earth' (Tolkien Studies) Flieger writes:

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The trouble lies not with free will, but with fate. Readers who assume (and most do) that characters in Tolkien's invented world are free to choose, find the opposing notion that they are predestined hard to accept. And the idea that both principles are concurrently at work (and apparently at odds) is a concept even harder to encompass. It is, nevertheless, a concept integral to a mythology whose overarching scheme is that fate, conceived as kind of divinely inspired and celestially orchestrated music, governs the created world -- with one exception. of all Middle-earth's sentient species, the race of Men (including Hobbits) is the only group given the "virtue" to "shape their lives" beyond the scope of this music. In contradistinction, the otherwise generally similar race of Elves, (both races being the Children of [the godhead] Iluvatar) is, together with the rest of Creation, ruled by fate.

As I say I must disagree that Elves only have Free Will in this internal sense, but as this is a longish aside...

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Old 02-28-2011, 04:37 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
Bilbo's "happy prophesy" was made possible by his own actions.

...

If Túrin had stayed in Doriath, it is difficult to see how Morgoth's curse could have been fulfilled. Morwen and Nienor would have found him there, and the whole sorry outcome need not have happened.
Turin's issue is more complicated than Bilbo's. I do agree that it's their choices that lead them towhere they are. However, in Turin's case, it's a curse, not a prophecy, and in Doriath, there is also the power of Melian. Morgoth says: "The shadow of my thought shall lie upon them [Hurin's family] wherever they go, and my hate shall pursue them to the ends of the world." This implies that Morgoth meddled with Turin's fate, not simply predicted it.

About Doriath. I noticed that whenever Morgoth and Melian have a "mental battle", Melian wins, like in this passage: "To her [Melian] often his thought reached out, and there was foiled." Maybe the Girdle would have shielded Turin from the curse as well, if he didn't bring it on himself.


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Perhaps "fate" is merely the natural outcome of choices made, not predestined, but all the same known to the Children's creator.
I'd agree with that, but I think that you also have to take into account the possibility of someone making a 'wrong' choice. Maybe people just can't make 'wrong' choices? I mean, those that would go against fate (good/bad doesn't matter). They still think they choose, but really the choice was made for them (or made to fit them) beforehand.

I think we got a bit off topic with discussing 'fate', don't you? I blame it on all the jumbled up nonesense in the essay.
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Old 03-01-2011, 03:37 AM   #19
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The "problem" the writer refers to is the disjunction between two moral systems, and the incompatability of Turin's life-story, which involves both his own bad choices and the whims of fate, and the universe of the Lord of the Rings, suffused with the presence of a supposedly benevolent creator god. If this god were truly all-knowing (omniscient), all loving (omnibenevolent) and "everywhere at once" (omnipresent) and all-powerful (omnipotent), then surely it follows logically that he would not allow suffering to occur.

This dilemma exists regardless of what Tolkien actually thought about fate and free will; it seems to me that he never really grappled with this issue with regards to his All-Father, Illuvatar. But he seems to have understood something of it at least implicity. Hence we have competing moral views in both LoTR and CoH, whatever their "intra-text" or "historical" associations. In CoH, Eru, as conceived in the Ainulindale, does not, or cannot, be said to exist. Were he omnipresent, omnibenevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent, he would possess the capability and desire to save Turin because he is

1. everywhere at once,
2. has an infinitely good will , and so would under no circumstances allow suffering to occur,
3. would know at all times Turin's whereabout and actions and
4. has no restrictions on his power.

Given these premises, Illuvatar could not logically allow Turin to suffer. That he does so (assuming he exists in Turin's universe) suggests that Illuvatar lacks one of these qualities altogether, and so is not, in fact, an all powerful, all loving god (and is therefore markedly different to the traditionally conceived Christian god). Of course, there are still problems for LoTR because suffering occurs within the framework of that tale as well. But the problem is more obvious and far more immediately present in CoH.

All this presents an implicit critique of the Christian (or rather, the notion of an all powerful monotheistic) god, strange as that may be in Tolkien's work. Illuvatar simply cannot logically exist in Turin's universe, unless he lacks one of the "omni" characterstics described above. He can't really exist in the universe of LoTR either, but the issues there are somewhat different.

In LoTR, Tolkien makes a concious attempt to suggest a benevolent power is orchestrating certain events. Thus, we see a more defined system of morality that exists independant of human beings, who are expected to maintain certain moral standards according to this system. As the essayist writes, "...moral agency shifts onto the individual...". In CoH, Turin is still responsible, to some degree, for his actions, although he is not expected to suffer for the sake of some moral cause. In other words, the world of CoH is far more like our own, in that some suffering has precisely no moral value at all, and occurs regardless. We may say that this is all the "doing of Morgoth", but this still fails answer the question of why Turin would or even could suffer in a world that is nurtured by an all loving, all powerful and omnipresent god. Once again, we are forced to conclude that Illuvatar lacks one of these attributes, contrary to the suggestion of the texts, and is thus a far more limited god, perhaps more powerful that the Valar, but not infitely powerful. If he is infinitely powerful, then we must say that he is not infinitely loving, and is therefore imperfect. In other words, suffering is logically impossible in a world governed by a god who is both infinitely powerful and infinitely loving.

Morgoth's curse exists, to be sure, but as many have pointed out we are never fully aware of the extent to which it actually works, or indeed how it works. Some suffering just happens, because the world is innately cruel, or at least indifferent. That is the similarity that the essayist alludes to with regards to the Oedipus story: Oedipus is not morally responsible for the tragedy that befalls him, at least not fully. To have moral responsibility implies agency and knowledge, and Oedipus, as well as Turin, lack complete moral agency because they lack complete knowledge. How was Turin to know that Nellas would return to Thingol and speak on his behalf? Given the circumstances, one might contend that his actions were justified, and not rash at all.

Constrast this to the situation in LoTR. The characters' decisions take on a moral dimension. The suffering depicted LoTR takes on a moral dimension. That is why it lacks the element of tragedy. Frodo and Sam must suffer because they are doing the right thing, not merely because the world is harsh. Their suffering attains a kind of cosmological meaning, which in turn suggests their lives are guided by providential purpose and design. For all of Sauron's diabolical evil, this is still a much more comforting imaginary world than that which lacks this quality of providentiality.

Still, LoTR does not solve the dilemma described above. God in this world is apparently all loving; he has benevolent intentions and wishes for Sauron to lose his power. However, he is apparently not all powerful, for if this were the case he would logically intervene and destroy Sauron himself (indeed, Sauron would never have arisen in such a universe).

This is the "problem" alluded to by the essayist: "a reader...wonders why such a cruel fate, usually the whim of fickle gods, can befall Túrin Turambar when Eru Ilúvatar is a benevolent creator." In LoTR, a benevolent presence appears to act behind the scenes; in CoH no such force is ever alluded to. A universe with a benevolent god as its creator is a very different one to a universe without such a god, and this is the discrepancy the essayist is referring to. Tolkien imagines alternate cosmologies for his characters to traverse, essentially showing us one where morality is the responsibility of individuals because the universe is the product of a benevolent god. In this universe, individuals can be sure, even certain in some cases, about the 'correct' moral path. The other universe is one where suffering just happens, and might lack meaning or ultimate purpose. Morality still exists, but individuals have less responsibility (not no responsibility) in this world because they have no final and absolute way of guaging right from wrong. They have responsibility insofar as they can discern the right path, but beyond that there is little certainty.

Morality thus becomes an epistemic issue: given that no one seems to have access to divine knowledge or guidance in Turin's world (and thus complete knowledge) all choices and actions are undertaken according to provisional standards. The right path may not be the most obvious one; indeed there may not be a right path in some instances, or there may be many. Turin is not guided by a benevolent god, and so is left with his own provisional experience to guide him through the world at large, an experience that is inadequate, ultimately, and leaves him stranded and dying. That is why the story is tragic: because Turin (and Nienor, and Morwen, and Hurin) are alone and lack the kind of moral certainties that Frodo has access to. Frodo has Gandalf, who tells him that it he was "meant to find the ring", and in some sense also meant to suffer for the sake of its destruction. Turin was never "meant" to do anything: his tragedy is being born into an indifferent world, set upon by a diabolical and monstrous evil and forsaken to face it alone.
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Old 03-01-2011, 08:09 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by tumhalad2 View Post
The "problem" the writer refers to is the disjunction between two moral systems, and the incompatability of Turin's life-story, which involves both his own bad choices and the whims of fate, and the universe of the Lord of the Rings, suffused with the presence of a supposedly benevolent creator god. If this god were truly all-knowing (omniscient), all loving (omnibenevolent) and "everywhere at once" (omnipresent) and all-powerful (omnipotent), then surely it follows logically that he would not allow suffering to occur.
I want to avoid any direct discussion of real-world parallels, but I think that suffering, as joy, can occur as a result of free will. If one is to be rescued from the consequences of every bad decision, what's the point of attempting to do good? This may lead to the age-old question of why good things happen to bad people, but at least in Túrin's case I don't think that's a consideration. The man wasn't by nature evil, by any means, but his pride led him into some evil situations.

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How was Turin to know that Nellas would return to Thingol and speak on his behalf? Given the circumstances, one might contend that his actions were justified, and not rash at all.
I wouldn't judge his actions there to be justified. Understandable, perhaps. Later though, Túrin is explicitly told by Beleg that he was ultimately not held responsible for the death of Saeros, and still his pride kept him from returning to Doriath, which would have made it much harder, at least, for Morgoth's curse to have come to fruition.

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Morality thus becomes an epistemic issue: given that no one seems to have access to divine knowledge or guidance in Turin's world (and thus complete knowledge) all choices and actions are undertaken according to provisional standards.
Actually, there was such a person, and Túrin, unlike any other Man (except Beren), had the opportunity to benefit from her wisdom: Melian. And unlike the later situation in the Third Age with the Istari, it was likely generally known that Melian was of the 'divine' race.
The principal characters in LOTR do have Gandalf's wisdom to guide them, but they, by and large, did not know what Gandalf was, and thus were unaware that his advice was any more weighty than that given by others. They, of their own free will, chose to listen to him. It's notable too, I think, that at least one person in LOTR has Gandalf beside him, and still goes down to ruin as a result of his own actions: Denethor.
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Old 03-01-2011, 08:23 AM   #21
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First of all, I don't understand how the presense or absence of a god makes something (im)moral.

You say that Eru doesn't have one of the qualities you mentioned, because he didn't help Turin. But I think he does. He doesn't point his kids to the right path, but gives them a choice. (And that means more responsibility, in my opinion).

1. Eru knows what is hapening everywhere. You can say that he's literally everywhere, because all the substance of Arda came from him, and is kind of a part of him.

2. He created the world and gave it to his children to play with. He doesn't have to play with them to be a loving daddy (ie god). After he gave them the toy, he doesn't interfere in their game (well, yeah, once - he punished the naughty Numenorians). The children quarrel, make up, fight again, but that's how they learn! It's not like Eru doesn't cera about his children, he just doesn't interrupt their game: it's up to them to sort it out.

3. Remember the words said in the beginning of The Sil about how "bad things" make "good things" even more beautiful? That should answer some questions.

4. Eru doesn't tell his children how to play. That is their choice. He can always stop the game, but he doesn't.

5. I'd say that Eru also loves Melkor. However naughty that child is, he is still his child. So is Sauron. That doesn't mean that Eru approves of what they do.

(These points aren't in the same order as yours. And yes, I consider ainur to be children as well - in a way, they are the 'big ones'.)

You also say that Eru is unlike the God that Catholics believe in. Why? Because he allowed war, tragedy, loss, etc to happen? The "Christian God" allowed JRRT to fight in WW1, so why can't Eru allow wars to happen his world?

Moreover, it's wrong to say that Turin is totally on his own. Melian guided him, but he didn't listen. She was his Gandalf. Frodo could always say no to Gandalf. Bilbo did. Gandalf in a way enforced the choice on whoever it was. Melian left Turin free to choose, and didn't hinder him when he chose what she thought was wrong. That is the only difference.

PS: it seems to me that 'fate' in COH is not the same as 'Eru made it so'. You choose your own fate, even though it is already there. Eru knows about it, but he doesn't make it. You make it. The same is with LOTR!

EDIT: x'd with Zil. What he said make total sense (and I've repeated some of it )
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:27 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by tumhalad2 View Post
The "problem" the writer refers to is the disjunction between two moral systems, and the incompatability of Turin's life-story, which involves both his own bad choices and the whims of fate, and the universe of the Lord of the Rings, suffused with the presence of a supposedly benevolent creator god. If this god were truly all-knowing (omniscient), all loving (omnibenevolent) and "everywhere at once" (omnipresent) and all-powerful (omnipotent), then surely it follows logically that he would not allow suffering to occur.
The "problem" as inferred by said writer is nonsense. Again, Tumhalad, you are taking events out of context in an effort to serve your ongoing proposition, merely rewording your theories in every post you make, but nevertheless ending with the same central thesis. One would think, by your lack of intertextuality, that suffering of an individual only occurs with Turin in CoH, and not throughout Tolkien's entire corpus. Your continuing attempts to divorce Turin's fate from his bad choices and attempting to make them separate issues does not take into account the overall plot and overarching theme of the story.

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Originally Posted by tumhalad2 View Post
This dilemma exists regardless of what Tolkien actually thought about fate and free will; it seems to me that he never really grappled with this issue with regards to his All-Father, Illuvatar. But he seems to have understood something of it at least implicity. Hence we have competing moral views in both LoTR and CoH, whatever their "intra-text" or "historical" associations. In CoH, Eru, as conceived in the Ainulindale, does not, or cannot, be said to exist. Were he omnipresent, omnibenevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent, he would possess the capability and desire to save Turin because he is

1. everywhere at once,
2. has an infinitely good will , and so would under no circumstances allow suffering to occur,
3. would know at all times Turin's whereabout and actions and
4. has no restrictions on his power.

Given these premises, Illuvatar could not logically allow Turin to suffer. That he does so (assuming he exists in Turin's universe) suggests that Illuvatar lacks one of these qualities altogether, and so is not, in fact, an all powerful, all loving god (and is therefore markedly different to the traditionally conceived Christian god). Of course, there are still problems for LoTR because suffering occurs within the framework of that tale as well. But the problem is more obvious and far more immediately present in CoH.
You are reading in a vacuum. How many Elves and Men suffered equal horrific fates in the First Age without the intervention of Eru? The answer is simple, but since you insist on ignoring "'intra-text' or 'historical' associations", it is never apparent to you, and you keep stumbling down the same blind path to an empty well.

Direct guardianship of Arda in the First Age is the sole dominion of the Valar; nowhere in the First Age does Eru interfere with their jurisdiction, whether implied or directly. Elves placed under the Doom of Mandos and those tribes of Men who followed the Noldor, suffer gravely. The plight of Arda is either heightened by the Valar's inaction, or relieved by their direct intercession -- not Eru. Hence, your entire proposition is flawed beyond recall, and should rightly be rejected out of hand. Eru does not become directly involved with matters on Middle-earth until the Valar surrender their jurisdiction to their creator, which is a momentous decision. Eru then destroys Numenor, but like Yahweh of the Old Testament, he allows Elendil and the Faithful to return to Middle-earth after the Great Flood.

In addition, Turin serves as the antithesis to Tuor, his cousin and direct contemporary (who is mentioned in CoH following a path in a different direction than the one Turin takes). Tuor listens and follows the dictates of the Valar (in this case, Ulmo) implicitly and never deviates from the role he has been given. Yet suffering on an epic scale occurs when Gondolin is destroyed because Turgon rejects Ulmo's direct intervention through Tuor. Yet Tuor's faithful service is rewarded, even if his divine message was rejected. Turin, on the other hand, rejects wise counsel (and in Melian's case, divine counsel) at several critical junctures during the exact same time period as Tuor, and he and his family suffer the direct consequences of his willful stubbornness and blind anger.
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:36 AM   #23
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tumhalad, I'll be totally honest here: you're trying to prove utter nonesense with even more nonesense. If you insist on believing that, it's your choice. I think there are enough arguments presented to you to make you see the flaws in your statements. I'm not going to waste my breath anymore trying to convince you.

One very applicable true thingy from a different thread:

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Old 03-01-2011, 11:41 AM   #24
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It seems to me that Eru Iluvatar in no way fails anyone when he doesn't directly intervene to prevent suffering. He gave people all the tools they need to make their own decisions, of their own free wills, when he created them. What people -- any people, be they Ainu, Elf, Human, Dwarf, Hobbit, etc. -- choose to do with their lives is part of their own personal reason for being, to live their lives and not have them lived for them by others, even by Eru. Some people choose to do wrong of such immense proportions, they influence and limit the choices of others, but at some point or another, everyone has a choice, to do or not to do, to be or not to be. If Eru stepped in every single time to make sure there was a "happy" outcome, then what would be the point of free will in the first place?

This essay to me reads like a manifesto from some of the Christian Fundamentalists with whom I'm acquainted, ones who believe that you can just give up free will and then everything you do from that point on is, of course, the result of the dictates of God and therefore not your fault. The absurd egotism of this attitude strikes me every single time these people shove it in my face; after all, if God wouldn't take away a bitter choice from his own son in the garden of Gethsemane, why would he do it for people who just want to be quit of the responsibility of making their own decisions and living with the consequences? This writer likes the seemingly "external" morality of the Sil and such because it appears to remove the personal responsibility aspect and shove everything onto Eru's plate. But that isn't an accurate interpretation, since the entire saga of the Silmarillion is a tale of personal choices, personal morals, and a supreme being who rarely, at most, directly interferes in the free choices of his creations.

Agh, sorry, this is a very hot button topic for me. It's this kind of thinking and this sort of "morality" that has resulted in monstrous abuse being passed on from generation to generation in my family. My belief is otherwise. To quote a recent so-called children's movie, "Destiny is not the path given to us, but the path we choose." I believe it's right.

All my two cents, and very much IMHO.
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Old 03-01-2011, 02:56 PM   #25
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The "problem" as inferred by said writer is nonsense. Again, Tumhalad, you are taking events out of context in an effort to serve your ongoing proposition, merely rewording your theories in every post you make, but nevertheless ending with the same central thesis. One would think, by your lack of intertextuality, that suffering of an individual only occurs with Turin in CoH, and not throughout Tolkien's entire corpus. Your continuing attempts to divorce Turin's fate from his bad choices and attempting to make them separate issues does not take into account the overall plot and overarching theme of the story.

You are reading in a vacuum. How many Elves and Men suffered equal horrific fates in the First Age without the intervention of Eru? The answer is simple, but since you insist on ignoring "'intra-text' or 'historical' associations", it is never apparent to you, and you keep stumbling down the same blind path to an empty well.
I'm not sure why you treat me like such a pariah, is it you prerogative to decide who belongs to the in group and the out group on these boards? You could be nicer.

How many Elves and Men suffer? I imagine many do, and that only makes my point more immediate. Without the intervention of Eru? That's the question I'm trying to tackle in my post. I don't think the essayist was writing nonsense. Why, indeed, would Tolkien write about a fictional world created by a god with contradictory and illogical qualities? He probably didn't actually recognise the Problem of Evil per se, as it is formalised logically, although it is obvious that the nature of evil itself is one of the primary themes of his works.

Suffering does occur in all Tolkien's works, but Turin's suffering is singled out and expanded upon in almost novelistic terms, hence it is an interesting case study. I don't agree with you that the writer is inferring "nonsense", and I don't think Tolkien's internal metaphysics supplies an answer to the problem of evil in his world.

With regards to Turin, Melian has been repeatedly mentioned as some kind of divine authority, and that the difference between her and Gandalf is that Frodo listened to Gandalf's advice whereas Turin rejects Melian's. True, she may be of "divine" stature, but she is not, and she does not claim to speak for, God. While Gandalf does not claim to speak for God explicitly, his words are just one example in LoTR where he (or the text) makes claims about the nature of fate. In LoTR, we are left with the sense that fate is orchestrated by unseen divine powers. There is a qualitative difference between this, and Turin receiving "wisdom" from Melian, or "advice" from Elven messengers, regardless of which Vala they claim to speak for.

The Valar are not omnipresent, omnipotent, nor indeed omnibenevolent, so their perspective, while powerful, is also provisional. Even were Turin to take the advice of the Valar, he would not have moral certainty of his life choices. We might say he would be better off had he chosen listen to the advice of Ulmo, for instance, but we cannot know for certain that his life would have turned out for the better. Frodo can be sure that the purpose of destroying the Ring is the correct one, and that his suffering thereby attains meaning. Events that take place within the LoTR have purpose, they are sanctioned. In CoH, the closest we come to this is the "advice" of the Valar; there is no sense that events are meaningfully orchestrated by unseen benevolent powers.

The Valar are characters in the fiction, powerful characters, to be sure, but temporally and spatially limited, just like the Elves and Men (though to a lesser degree).
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Old 03-01-2011, 03:12 PM   #26
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I thought I'm through with explanations, but it seems I'm not...

The purpose of The Sil/COH: DEFEAT MORGOTH. Plain as that. In COH it expands to AVENGE ME AND MY FAMILY.

Turin has just as much 'right'/choice not to listen to Melian as Frodo has not to listen to Gandalf, and vise versa. The fact that the outcome of Melian's and Gandalf's advice is different doesn't make their roles totally different. Because what you said is that Melian cannot be qualified as a 'guide' (like Gandalf) because Turin didn't listen to her. Look, if a student doesn't follow a teacher's instructions, they're still student and teacher, aren't they?

It's true that Gandalf was sent with a mission, and Melian was just there. Well, it's just like being asked to work vs volunteering to work. The work remains the same.

You are saying that if a god is perfect, he would't allow suffering. But a perfect world isn't one where there is only happiness. It is a balanced world, where you can see the differences. You don't know what happiness is until you compare it with sorrow/suffering/etc.

Turin is just one person out of thousands that suffered in ME. He is sort of special, because his story is even more ironical and tragic than most others. But that doesn't ean that he's the only one suffering. The Narn describes the story in great detail, but Tolkien never singled Turin out the way you make it sound.
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Old 03-01-2011, 03:48 PM   #27
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Suffering does occur in all Tolkien's works, but Turin's suffering is singled out and expanded upon in almost novelistic terms, hence it is an interesting case study. I don't agree with you that the writer is inferring "nonsense", and I don't think Tolkien's internal metaphysics supplies an answer to the problem of evil in his world.
From a standpoint "in-world", Túrin's story would likely have been so well remembered in later times for the unusual elements of Morgoth's curse, and the incest event.
Túrin was singled out for special torment by an incarnate evil power, and thus could be said to have had more of an unjust lot than many, but that didn't preclude avoiding the curse, or at least lessening its impact by embracing a bit of humility and wisdom.

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The Valar are not omnipresent, omnipotent, nor indeed omnibenevolent, so their perspective, while powerful, is also provisional. Even were Turin to take the advice of the Valar, he would not have moral certainty of his life choices. We might say he would be better off had he chosen listen to the advice of Ulmo, for instance, but we cannot know for certain that his life would have turned out for the better.
True, the Valar are themselves created beings and are certainly capable of error. In the legendarium though, is there any instance of one of the Children coming to grief when they did obey personal advice from one of them? As has been noted, Tuor, of his own free will, decided to obey Ulmo and go to Gondolin.
Earlier in the First Age, Turgon listened to the words of Ulmo, founding Gondolin, and leaving behind in Vinyamar items later picked up by Tuor to use in his errand.
In LOTR, those who take to heart the words of Gandalf fare better than those who do not. Think of the differences between the fates of Aragorn and Denethor; Boromir and Faramir. All that isn't just a coincidence.
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Old 03-01-2011, 05:18 PM   #28
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I'm not sure why you treat me like such a pariah, is it you prerogative to decide who belongs to the in group and the out group on these boards? You could be nicer.
I could be. Does that mean you will stop repeating yourself in post after post?

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Suffering does occur in all Tolkien's works, but Turin's suffering is singled out and expanded upon in almost novelistic terms, hence it is an interesting case study. I don't agree with you that the writer is inferring "nonsense", and I don't think Tolkien's internal metaphysics supplies an answer to the problem of evil in his world.
Turin's story isn't necessarily "singled out", Tolkien simply did not have time to expand everything he wished to. He wrote the The Ley of Leithian in over 4000 lines of iambic tetrameter (which he didn't finish, only completing 13 of a planned 17 cantos), but that doesn't mean he wasn't interested in expanding other stories into poetic verse (The Lay of the Children of Hurin, with the same story elements as CoH, is another famously unfinished poem). Actually, he began rewriting the Lay of Leithian again after finishing LotR. To be honest, he never actually "finished" CoH either. He revised it several times, and it had to be compiled by C. Tolkien after his death from various manuscripts. Was it published in the manner JRR wished? That is completely up for conjecture.

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With regards to Turin, Melian has been repeatedly mentioned as some kind of divine authority, and that the difference between her and Gandalf is that Frodo listened to Gandalf's advice whereas Turin rejects Melian's. True, she may be of "divine" stature, but she is not, and she does not claim to speak for, God. While Gandalf does not claim to speak for God explicitly, his words are just one example in LoTR where he (or the text) makes claims about the nature of fate. In LoTR, we are left with the sense that fate is orchestrated by unseen divine powers. There is a qualitative difference between this, and Turin receiving "wisdom" from Melian, or "advice" from Elven messengers, regardless of which Vala they claim to speak for.
If fate is divinely orchestrated in LotR, then the incredibly brave acts of Frodo and Sam are negated, the compassion Bilbo shows Gollum is unnecessary, and the work of Gandalf over a millenia was unneeded. What a useless book.

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The Valar are not omnipresent, omnipotent, nor indeed omnibenevolent, so their perspective, while powerful, is also provisional.
WARNING: REPETITION ADVISORY!

Reread the Silmarillion as many times as you like. Eventually, you will discern that Eru does not take an active or implied part in the governance of Arda after its creation. The Valar, mistake-prone, annoyingly inactive and even criminally neglectful, have sole jurisdiction over Arda. It was their choice to capture Morgoth and hold him prisoner, it was their choice to ignore the near destruction of the Eldar and Edain after Morogth escaped and they banned the Noldor, and it was their choice to imprison Morgoth once and for all after Earendil arrived in Valinor wearing a Silmaril. Additionally, it was their unconscionable decision to ignore the escape of Sauron, which caused much of the agony of the 2nd and 3rd Age. If anyone, the Valar deserve full derision for their inept shepherding of Arda and all the suffering that occurred to Turin and nearly every other character in the books, not Eru. Had they done their jobs properly, we would not be having this discussion, nor would the books be written.

Only when Ar-Pharazon and the Numenoreans were on the shores of the Blessed Realm did the Valar surrended their governance to Eru, and it was only then that he finally interfered in the troubles of Arda. That's the story as written. I don't know how much clearer I can make it. The author of the essay didn't get it, and it seems you don't either. I can't explain it further.
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Old 03-01-2011, 05:20 PM   #29
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In adittion to what I said about Melian

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With regards to Turin, Melian has been repeatedly mentioned as some kind of divine authority, and that the difference between her and Gandalf is that Frodo listened to Gandalf's advice whereas Turin rejects Melian's. True, she may be of "divine" stature, but she is not, and she does not claim to speak for, God. While Gandalf does not claim to speak for God explicitly, his words are just one example in LoTR where he (or the text) makes claims about the nature of fate. In LoTR, we are left with the sense that fate is orchestrated by unseen divine powers. There is a qualitative difference between this, and Turin receiving "wisdom" from Melian, or "advice" from Elven messengers, regardless of which Vala they claim to speak for.

...

The Valar are characters in the fiction, powerful characters, to be sure, but temporally and spatially limited, just like the Elves and Men (though to a lesser degree).
If you see it that way, then you can't say that Gandalf speaks for god either, because he was sent to ME by the Valar, not by Eru.

Can someone please tell me, how does the presence of a god affect morality?
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Old 03-01-2011, 07:40 PM   #30
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The Valar are not omnipresent, omnipotent, nor indeed omnibenevolent

.....

The Valar are characters in the fiction, powerful characters, to be sure, but temporally and spatially limited, just like the Elves and Men (though to a lesser degree).
I'd be careful... this cuts both ways: what's true of the Valar in terms of fallibility is true of Morgoth. And, for what it's worth, from the way it's presented, the Curse on the Children of Húrin is MORE dependent on Túrin's free agency than the Doom of the Noldor is on the free agency of the Elves.
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Old 03-01-2011, 10:19 PM   #31
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Pardon my delay in "asiding" to this aside, Galin. The thread has moved faster than RL allows me time.

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As an aside: as Bethberry noted, Verlyn Flieger does argue that the Children of God have free will, yet she seemingly argues this distinction as well: that Elves do not have Free Will in the same sense as Men -- that the decisions of the Elves don't alter external outcome (as they are bound to the Music)! She looks at Feanor's decision concerning the Silmarils and notes: 'I take the operation of free will in this instance to be along the lines of Feanor's in saying ya or nay to Yavanna -- an internal process not affecting events but deeply influencing the inner nature of individuals involved in those events.'

My brevity here does not intend to be unfair to her actual (and full) case in detail however, so I'll refer people to Tolkien Studies VI (in this volume Carl Hostetter also provides some previously unpublished text from JRRT that touches upon the matter).

Also I'm a bit hazy on whether or not she allows for exceptions to that rule (Galadriel when offered the Ring for example), but in any case: I disagree, as do others.

Tolkien once noted...



In Splintered Light (Splintered Light and Splintered Being, page 53) Verlyn Flieger explains:



In 'The Music and the Task: Fate and Free Will in Middle-earth' (Tolkien Studies) Flieger writes:




As I say I must disagree that Elves only have Free Will in this internal sense, but as this is a longish aside...

I must admit that I deliberately omitted Fleiger's idea about the elves, for several reasons.

First of all, I mentioned her mainly because I wanted to be clear that the distinction between coming with the music rather than being part of the music was not my own idea. I read it in her Splintered Light (revised edition)and felt she deserved the acknowledgement.

Secondly, I'm not completely satisfied I understand why she makes that distinction between elves and men, unless it is to bolster her claims about the nature of splintering and of Light in Tolkien's mythology.

As far as I can see, she bases her idea on this passage:

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Originally Posted by Of the Beginning of Days, The Silm
For it is said that after the departure of the Valar there was silence, and for an age Iluvatar sat alone in thought. Then he spoke and said: 'Behold I love the Earth, which shall be a mansion for the Quendi and the Atani! But the Quendi shall be the fairest of all earthly creatures, and they shall have and shall conceive and bring forth more beauty than all my Children; and they shall have the greater bliss in this world. But to the Atani I will give a new gift.' Therefore 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 smallest.

But Iluvatar knew that Men, being set amid the turmoils of th epowers of the world, would stray often, and would not use theirs gifts in harmony; and he said, 'These too in their time shall find that all that they do redounds at the end only to the glory of my work.'
In reading this passage as excluding the elves from freedom from the music, she appears to dismiss the earlier passage from The Silm I quoted where both of the Children have free will from the determination of the Music.

My guess is that she established her theory before HoMe was published and has not taken any of the new texts into account in her reading of this passage (in the revised edition). I could be wrong, though, as I have not followed her work and that of others in Tolkien Studies.

As you suggest, Fleiger doesn't, as far as I recall, discuss this difference between inner effect and outer events in the instance of Galadriel's gift of the Phial to Frodo.

This does not, I think, discount the existence of free will among men.

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Originally Posted by tumhalad2
In CoH, Eru, as conceived in the Ainulindale, does not, or cannot, be said to exist. Were he omnipresent, omnibenevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent, he would possess the capability and desire to save Turin because he is
1. everywhere at once,
2. has an infinitely good will , and so would under no circumstances allow suffering to occur,
3. would know at all times Turin's whereabout and actions and
4. has no restrictions on his power.
As every parent who has successfully navigated the stormy shoals of their child's adolescence knows, sometimes you have to step aside and, in the true benevolence of acknowleding your child's freedom and adulthood, allow your child to make mistakes and thus suffer. For the benefit of allowing your child to reach maturity, you have to impose a restriction on your own benevolence. It is one of the most difficult lessons of parenting. And how much more this applies to adult children.
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Old 03-02-2011, 03:52 AM   #32
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I'd be careful... this cuts both ways: what's true of the Valar in terms of fallibility is true of Morgoth. And, for what it's worth, from the way it's presented, the Curse on the Children of Húrin is MORE dependent on Túrin's free agency than the Doom of the Noldor is on the free agency of the Elves.
True, Morgoth is just as (if not more, considering his rapid existential decline) fallible as the Valar. I also agree that the Curse is presented as being dependent on Turin's free agency as opposed to metaphysical designs (at least to some degree).

But the point is that Turin's free agency is limited by his lack moral certainty. He does exhibit pride, and repeatedly rejects the advice of friends and those wiser than himself, but we need to bare in mind that as far as Turin is concerned, the advice of others constitutes only marginally better courses of action than his own decisoin. We may fault Turin for rejecting good advice, but we cannot fault Turin for rejecting divine will. Nowhere in the text is it implied that providential forces are at work in Turin's universe, as they are in LoTR.

At this point I need to address another criticism. Given that we know Eru essentially grants the Valar power in Middle-earth, doesn't it follow that all this philosophical wrangling is just insubstantive talk? Well, no. It is true that Eru does give the Valar some kind of temporal authority, but we are never left thinking that he has cut himself off from the world entirely. As far as I understand it, Eru is the Christian god, and therefore must necessarily have certain attributes that the Christian god also possesses. If you argue that he does not possess these attributes, you are in fact admitting that Eru is necessarily imperfect and deistic, something that Tolkien seems not to have intended.

When I say that fate is "divinely orchestrated" I do not mean to discount the obvious free will exhibited by the characters in LoTR. "Fate" as a concept does not define people's individual actions; rather fate is far more obviously at work at a "macro" level. Thus, Bilbo was "meant" to find the ring. Although Bilbo's choices contributed, to some degree, to his being in Gollum's cave, readers are led to understand that his being there was not a coincidence.
"Fate" as understood through LoTR, possesses a benevolent teleological quality that works in tandem with characters' free will. The benevolent providential forces that undeniably suffuse the story in LoTR do not exist at the expense of free-will; they work, literally, in mysterious ways. But it is present.

I made the point that Gandalf is the first to mention that forces other than mere chance may be at work in the case of Frodo's possessing the ring. Given that I had also denied the completely divine authority of Melian and other "angelic" beings, it was pointed out that I can't have it both ways - I must accept that Gandalf also possesses provisional knowledge according to these standards. Indeed he does, but my point was not that Gandalf has a kind of one way cell phone connection to God. He is just the first to make mention of this theme, which is elaborated upon in throughout the novel. The reader is never left to doubt the presence of a benevolent will at work, countering the movements of Sauron in mysterious ways.

I'm not contesting Tolkien's metaphysical explanations; I'm arguing that they are not adequate to just explain away the philosophical issue of the Problem or Evil in Tolkien's works. I've tried to argue that CoH and LoTR present different "moral universes" largely because they present different implicit cosmologies: one in which Eru is effectively present and one in which he is explicitly absent.

Neither work is wholly atheistic or wholly providential; as many have pointed out, divine powers are explicitly present in CoH, and the providential presence is obvious in LoTR. But in each work the emphasis is different.

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Old 03-02-2011, 08:14 AM   #33
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But the point is that Turin's free agency is limited by his lack moral certainty. He does exhibit pride, and repeatedly rejects the advice of friends and those wiser than himself, but we need to bare in mind that as far as Turin is concerned, the advice of others constitutes only marginally better courses of action than his own decisoin. We may fault Turin for rejecting good advice, but we cannot fault Turin for rejecting divine will. Nowhere in the text is it implied that providential forces are at work in Turin's universe, as they are in LoTR.

Why not? What's the difference between that and the advice of wise people? He rejects advice because he is proud, stubborn, etc, but that doesn't mean that COH is immoral! It means that Turin's morals are not the same as we want them to be or expect them to be.


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Given that we know Eru essentially grants the Valar power in Middle-earth, doesn't it follow that all this philosophical wrangling is just insubstantive talk? Well, no. It is true that Eru does give the Valar some kind of temporal authority, but we are never left thinking that he has cut himself off from the world entirely. As far as I understand it, Eru is the Christian god, and therefore must necessarily have certain attributes that the Christian god also possesses. If you argue that he does not possess these attributes, you are in fact admitting that Eru is necessarily imperfect and deistic, something that Tolkien seems not to have intended.

Since when is Eru a mirror image of a Christian God? Tolkien borrowed material from many mythologies and cultures. Eru could be just as well some other god (I don't know that much mythology to discuss this more).


But let's say he is the christian god. Did he abandod the world? No. Like Bethberry said, he didn't competely leave the whole thing to its own devices, but rather watched it without intervening. There is a big difference. He also assigned his underlings (ie Valar+Maiar) to control the situation, so that the whole world won't be destroyed. But they are 'divine humans', if you get my meaning, and also make mistakes. They, unlike Eru, don't know what is ultimately best. Just like the Christian God sends angels, prophets, leaders, etc to help the people when there is trouble.


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"Fate" as understood through LoTR, possesses a benevolent teleological quality that works in tandem with characters' free will. The benevolent providential forces that undeniably suffuse the story in LoTR do not exist at the expense of free-will; they work, literally, in mysterious ways. But it is present.

You can also see fate in The Sil and COH. In COH, Turin with his own actions brings about the curse of Morgoth. In The Sil, we see how characters accidentally, but on their own free will destroy Nargothrong and Doriath, leaving Gondolin the last one standing (making a prophecy of fate coe true). Another example: Elwing flew from Doriath, Earendil flew from Gondolin, they met in Cirdan's Haven's, and together saved the world. I wouldn't call this a coincidence!


Quote:
I made the point that Gandalf is the first to mention that forces other than mere chance may be at work in the case of Frodo's possessing the ring. Given that I had also denied the completely divine authority of Melian and other "angelic" beings, it was pointed out that I can't have it both ways - I must accept that Gandalf also possesses provisional knowledge according to these standards. Indeed he does, but my point was not that Gandalf has a kind of one way cell phone connection to God. He is just the first to make mention of this theme, which is elaborated upon in throughout the novel. The reader is never left to doubt the presence of a benevolent will at work, countering the movements of Sauron in mysterious ways.

Everyone in Beleriand knew that Melian is a Maia. Gandalf kept his true identity as Olorin secret. When Melian spoke, people knew they had a reason to listen, because she knows. Gandalf... well, people knew he's wise, but there are many wise people in ME. Being a wizard doesn't make a difference. He needs to explain that "greater powers are at work", something that those who elian would talk to would understand just by knowing who she is.


Quote:
I'm not contesting Tolkien's metaphysical explanations; I'm arguing that they are not adequate to just explain away the philosophical issue of the Problem or Evil in Tolkien's works. I've tried to argue that CoH and LoTR present different "moral universes" largely because they present different implicit cosmologies: one in which Eru is effectively present and one in which he is explicitly absent.

You are saying that Eru=fate? I don't think so. Eru knows fate, but he doesn't make it.
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Old 03-02-2011, 09:59 AM   #34
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My guess is that she established her theory before HoMe was published and has not taken any of the new texts into account in her reading of this passage (in the revised edition). I could be wrong, though, as I have not followed her work and that of others in Tolkien Studies.
That's what I might have wondered too Bethberry, but her essay was published only recently in Tolkien Studies VI and considers HME, text from PE 17, and even the new material from JRRT touching upon fate and free will -- published in the same volume by Carl Hostetter.

Anyway, the latest Tolkien Studies has a 'reaction' of sorts to Flieger's essay: 'Strange and Free' On Some Aspects of the Nature of Elves and Men Thomas Fornet-Ponse (Tolkien Studies VII).

I just finished reading this essay, and now must disagree with V. Flieger just a bit more than before
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Old 03-02-2011, 03:19 PM   #35
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That's what I might have wondered too Bethberry, but her essay was published only recently in Tolkien Studies VI and considers HME, text from PE 17, and even the new material from JRRT touching upon fate and free will -- published in the same volume by Carl Hostetter.

Anyway, the latest Tolkien Studies has a 'reaction' of sorts to Flieger's essay: 'Strange and Free' On Some Aspects of the Nature of Elves and Men Thomas Fornet-Ponse (Tolkien Studies VII).

I just finished reading this essay, and now must disagree with V. Flieger just a bit more than before
Thanks, Galin, for this--it's certainly something I'd like to read. I wish I could afford the $70 plus international shipping and tax for each volume of TS. I guess I'll just have to check it out of the local uni library.
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Old 03-03-2011, 05:18 PM   #36
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The benevolent providential forces that undeniably suffuse the story in LoTR do not exist at the expense of free-will; they work, literally, in mysterious ways. But it is present.
Is it? Isn't everything we know about Arda from the point of view of the Hobbits ( and through the Elves, in the case of the Silm)?
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Old 03-03-2011, 11:33 PM   #37
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But the point is that Turin's free agency is limited by his lack moral certainty. He does exhibit pride, and repeatedly rejects the advice of friends and those wiser than himself, but we need to bare in mind that as far as Turin is concerned, the advice of others constitutes only marginally better courses of action than his own decisoin. We may fault Turin for rejecting good advice, but we cannot fault Turin for rejecting divine will. Nowhere in the text is it implied that providential forces are at work in Turin's universe, as they are in LoTR.
You insist on mitigating the actual history of Middle-earth by narrowing your focus to "Turin's Universe", as if it exists independently of what else was occurring concurrently in Beleriand. There was, in fact, providential forces at work while Turin was alive. Tuor delivers a message to Turgon (who had already heard the call of Ulmo earlier in the 1st Age and did his bidding at that time). It was folly that Turgon loved too well the work of his hands, and his refusal to follow Ulmo's call led to a catastrophe that far outweighed what happened to Turin's family. So, your insistence on Turin being singled out by Morgoth is fundamentally incorrect, Morgoth had been searching for Gondolin for centuries. All his will was bent toward finding Gondolin and destroying it.

Turin, through Hurin, became entangled in the Doom of Mandos, which was a matter of fate, and a prophesy that the Noldor (and the Edain by association) were doomed by their own folly. Maedhros, who was also captured by Morgoth and hung by his wrist on Thangorodrim, can be seen as a precursor of Hurin's plight. In addition, Hurin was not the only captive Morgoth later freed to work his malice on his enemies. Many there were who were set free after torment and torture, only to be mistrusted and outcasts; however, we never get a fully developed story of their misery.

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At this point I need to address another criticism. Given that we know Eru essentially grants the Valar power in Middle-earth, doesn't it follow that all this philosophical wrangling is just insubstantive talk? Well, no. It is true that Eru does give the Valar some kind of temporal authority, but we are never left thinking that he has cut himself off from the world entirely. As far as I understand it, Eru is the Christian god, and therefore must necessarily have certain attributes that the Christian god also possesses. If you argue that he does not possess these attributes, you are in fact admitting that Eru is necessarily imperfect and deistic, something that Tolkien seems not to have intended.
"we are never left thinking that he has cut himself off from the world entirely"? Really? Eru does not ever interfere with any of the Valar's decisions. None. He does not chastise them for their myriad mistakes. He does not overrule some of their more daft decisions. He allows untold suffering through an entire Age, as the Children of Iluvatar are slaughtered by Morgoth and his minions. If you have any specifics at all regarding Eru interfering at any time during the 1st Age, please produce it now, as I don't believe you will find it.

Eru only returns to Arda at the insistence of the Valar, who then surrendered their power to him. And what does he do? He kills every man, woman and child on Numenor. Eru is not necessarily the "Christian God" in a one-on-one quotient, particularly in his purposeful delegation of power to the Valar in the 1st Age. As I said, if you can offer any insight on Eru working his will in Arda in the 1st Age, then by all means produce it.
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Old 03-04-2011, 04:49 AM   #38
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You insist on mitigating the actual history of Middle-earth by narrowing your focus to "Turin's Universe", as if it exists independently of what else was occurring concurrently in Beleriand. There was, in fact, providential forces at work while Turin was alive. Tuor delivers a message to Turgon (who had already heard the call of Ulmo earlier in the 1st Age and did his bidding at that time).
By "Turin's Universe" or more properly "the moral universe of The Children of Hurin" I refer merely to the textual, as opposed to the "historical" moral context of the story.

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Originally Posted by Morthoron View Post
It was folly that Turgon loved too well the work of his hands, and his refusal to follow Ulmo's call led to a catastrophe that far outweighed what happened to Turin's family. So, your insistence on Turin being singled out by Morgoth is fundamentally incorrect, Morgoth had been searching for Gondolin for centuries. All his will was bent toward finding Gondolin and destroying it.

I don't instist Turin is "singled out" by Morgoth, merely that Tolkien singled out Turin's saga for an extended novel-length treatment. As Christopher Tolkien's commentary makes clear, Tolkien devoted a great deal of his time to the Turin saga after he had finished TLoTR.

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Originally Posted by Morthoron View Post
Turin, through Hurin, became entangled in the Doom of Mandos, which was a matter of fate, and a prophesy that the Noldor (and the Edain by association) were doomed by their own folly. Maedhros, who was also captured by Morgoth and hung by his wrist on Thangorodrim, can be seen as a precursor of Hurin's plight. In addition, Hurin was not the only captive Morgoth later freed to work his malice on his enemies. Many there were who were set free after torment and torture, only to be mistrusted and outcasts; however, we never get a fully developed story of their misery.
All true.


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Originally Posted by Morthoron View Post
"we are never left thinking that he has cut himself off from the world entirely"? Really? Eru does not ever interfere with any of the Valar's decisions. None. He does not chastise them for their myriad mistakes. He does not overrule some of their more daft decisions.
So he is a deistic god?

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Originally Posted by Morthoron View Post
He allows untold suffering through an entire Age as the Children of Iluvatar are slaughtered by Morgoth and his minions. If you have any specifics at all regarding Eru interfering at any time during the 1st Age, please produce it now, as I don't believe you will find it.
So he is not omnipotent? Or is he not omnibenevolent? Which is it? Logically, he cannot be both while allowing suffering to flourish.


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Eru only returns to Arda at the insistence of the Valar,
So Eru's actions happen within time? Is he not omniscient, or does he only "return" after having been summoned by the Valar?

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who then surrendered their power to him. And what does he do? He kills every man, woman and child on Numenor.
Well, he is definitely not omnibenevolent, in that case.

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Originally Posted by Morthoron View Post
Eru is not necessarily the "Christian God" in a one-on-one quotient, particularly in his purposeful delegation of power to the Valar in the 1st Age.
No, perhaps you are right. What is the Christian God, anyway? Have you met him? It is my understanding that Tolkien conceived of Eru as equivalent to Christian God, that was my point. Can somebody contradict me? Am I wrong about this? Did I misread Tolkien's letters?

My point was, assuming that Eru is in some sense codeterminate with the Christian God, what is Tolkien doing thinking up a story like CoH, which lacks any sense of omnibenevolence at work through fate.

Neither CoH nor LoTR conceive of "god" or "providence" in satisfactory ways that account for the logical and philosophical problem of Evil. (Arda would be pretty boring if they did, because there could logically be no suffering). But each text does approach the notion of "providence" differently, and I'm not talking about the contextual stories that sit together with Turin's story.

I understand that Tuor talks to Ulmo, or whatever, but I'm talking about how Tolkien actually writes the CoH itself. The story, it seems to me, deliberately evokes a sense of undirected fate. That is a very different proposition to Gandalf's "you were meant to have it...and that is an encouraging thought..."

Getting back to the original essay, it is clear from having had a look through the rest of the site that the author very much dislikes Tolkien generally. He lauds Michael Moorcock and seems to think that liking Tolkien constitues some kind of mental disability. He gives all the usual misunderstandings and makes Tolkien out to be some kind of freak. Having now read wider, I'm less inclined to give credence to his conception of Tolkien's work.

Still, the question of morality in fantasy is a delicate one, and fantasy seems to be a really ripe place to unpack and examine issues of philosophical import, like moral absolutism (or some version thereof) vs. moral relativism (which seems to be all the craze nowadays.

It is intersting to me that most "hip" fantasy today is all about the "grey" areas, or even a denial of the efficacy of moral thinking altogether. For what it's worth, I think most of these writers get Tolkien wrong from the start, and just assume his depiction of morality is binary and lacking in nuance. As Rosebury writes, Tolkien does display significant "moral courage" throughout his work, and he clearly differentiates between detrimental and ethical behaviours, but Tolkien himself noted that he is not "dealing with Absolute Evil."

Do you think the nihilism of much modern fantasy is actually shared by the people who like and read it? I have no problem with fantasy that depicts colliding worldviews (as in George RR Martin) but some fantasy seems to revel in the depiction of violence as though it is sanctioned because it is no longer fashionable (at least among readers of that type of fantasy, apparently) to discourse in terms of ethical standards.
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Old 03-04-2011, 05:39 AM   #39
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tumhalad2, have you read the book of Job?
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Old 03-04-2011, 06:03 AM   #40
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tumhalad2, have you read the book of Job?
Yes, actually.

The "Poetic Dialogue" aspect of the Book of Job is very interesting. As Bart Ehrman writes "It cannot be overlooked that in the divine response from the whirlwind to Job's passionate and desperate plea for understanding, why he, an innocent man, is suffering so horribly, no answer is given. God does not explain why Job suffers." (God's Problem, 188)

Ehrman argues convincingly that there are many variant conceptions of suffering in the Bible, and that the Book of Job offers one: essentially, that there is no humanly convincing answer, and that we are deserving of no explanation from the Almighty. There are certain similarities between Job and CoH, the least of which is the sense of a cruel, hard world existing at the limits of our understanding.

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