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Old 10-06-2017, 09:17 PM   #1
Balfrog
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The Archangel Michael in Middle-earth

I think this is deserving of a thread of its very own.

So a couple of important dates (arising in different years) whose significance doesn't really get talked about relate to Gandalf's departure from Middle-earth and Tom Bombadil's rescue of the hobbits in the Barrow. These are both:

September 29th

Namely the Christian festival day of 'St. Michael and All Angels'. This selection according to Ms. Seth has immense symbolism. Her latest essay brings out into the open a whole new layer of meaning to the Barrow episode that she believes scholars have overlooked.

https://priyasethtolkienfan.wordpres...d-fairy-story/

Ms. Seth draws a parallel of Tom casting out the Wight from his home and the Archangel Michael driving out the Devil from heaven. In English folklore this is supposed to have happened on the 29th September. The deduction is that there exists an underlying sub-structure to this part of the story. She claims many aspects of English folklore and tradition relating to Michaelmas are subtly incorporated into the episode, which she happily points out. Apparently even a 'blackberry tart' served at the Prancing Pony - had a deeper meaning!
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Old 10-06-2017, 11:05 PM   #2
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Somehow I can't make the mental analogy between Tom Bombadil and Michael the Archangel. But it is an interesting connection.
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Old 10-08-2017, 11:43 AM   #3
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An interesting idea, but I think it's a faulty comparison.

Considering Tolkien's own deep Christian value system, were Tom meant to be analogous to Michael, there would not be so much about his portrayal which was so open to interpretation. I have spoken before about the duplicitous nature of Tom Bombadil, and about how I believe he was Tolkien's commentary on the duality of nature being both a source of great beauty and also mystery and danger.

Were Tolkien attempting to use Tom as a surrogate for a figure in Catholicism, I simply don't feel the depiction would be so hazy and open to interpretation.
It's true, of course, that he has many characters who are morally complex - but the religious authorities of his world are not so. They are good and do good, and those who err are definitively punished.
Bombadil doesn't really fit that category.
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Old 11-10-2017, 12:22 AM   #4
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Aaron

Considering Tolkien's own deep Christian value system, were Tom meant to be analogous to Michael, there would not be so much about his portrayal which was so open to interpretation.

How much do you think the date of September 29th is open to interpretation? Do you think it's of zero significance when it comes to Tom?

I view that possibility as remote. Especially as there are two separate occurrences of this date which can be linked to 'angels'. Tolkien, in my mind must have had a reason.

If September 29th is a fluke, it also means all the other points Ms. Seth brings up that are associated to Archangel Michael's special day - are also coincidences. This is then getting to be a real stretch. Moreover we might then assume that all the books' 'special' happenings on: March 25th, Christmas Day and Mid-years Day also possess Christian symbolism by complete 'accident'. That is getting to the point of being simply unbelievable.

Now according to Ms. Seth's latest essay, the reason why Bombadil is linked to St. Michael has a lot to do with our world's local folklore. Ms. Seth starts to reveal this connection with respect to the Celtic god Lugh in her latest essay. Note that Bombadil has not been stated to be the Archangel himself as per Christian doctrine just the source of legends about him in England somehow carried through from Tolkien's mythical era to our world.

This new essay is located per the thread: Celtic Roots and Infrastucture in Book I
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Old 11-10-2017, 06:33 AM   #5
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This ley-line connection theory by Seth is nothing but coincidence-driven conjecture. One might as well make an association between the "St. Michael ley line", Lugh, and anyone driving the M3-A303 stretch, which also goes through "Bombadil country."

I appreciate the fact that Ms. Seth writes about Tolkien, but I've seen better deductive reasoning from Kardashian viewers and disaffected college protestors.
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Old 11-11-2017, 04:43 PM   #6
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Old 11-11-2017, 05:16 PM   #7
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Ha ha. Nice!

His next line was "Don't you crush my lilies!"
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Old 11-12-2017, 07:49 AM   #8
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It seems to me that Manw, Tulkas and onw all possess a degree of comparability with the archangel Michael, or at least fulfil comparable roles at certain times.
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Old 11-12-2017, 08:04 AM   #9
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It seems to me that Manw, Tulkas and onw all possess a degree of comparability with the archangel Michael, or at least fulfil comparable roles at certain times.
Perhaps. And maybe Varda?

Bombadil, though: I don't see it.

I know Balfrog introduced the caveat about having 'evidence' apart from the Sept. 30 date of Tom saving the hobbits, but I think it's worth noting that the date fluctuated in early drafts of the story, according to HOME. If Tolkien really intended for that day to be significant, I wouldn't think that would have occurred.
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Old 11-12-2017, 09:42 AM   #10
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Perhaps. And maybe Varda?
The more I think about it, the more I question my own connection (Manw, Tulkas, onw). I was thinking of this in comparison to Michael casting out Lucifer, but nothing quite like that happens in the tale of E:
1. Melkor left the Timeless Halls (comparable to Heaven, perhaps) to enter E of his own volition.
2. Tulkas drove Melkor into the Void (either Space or Nothingness); hardly the same as being cast out of the bliss of Heaven and falling to Earth.
3. Melkor fled Aman (another place comparable to Heaven) of his own volition.
4. Someone (Tulkas? onw? Mandos?) cast Morgoth into the Void after his trial and execution following the War of Wrath. Again, not a Heaven-to-Earth transition.

Thus even those examples don't really fit. The other roles of Michael in Catholic tradition, accompanying souls to judgement, weighing souls and guarding the church, don't seem to fit terribly well with anyone either, although I suppose the roles related to souls have perhaps a limited correlation with Mandos. Yet why should they? I've always had the impression that Professor Tolkien did not wish for the Christian elements of his work to be too overt and literal, but rather thematic.
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the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism. However that is very clumsily put, and sounds more self-important than I feel. For as a matter of fact, I have consciously planned very little (Letter 142)
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Old 11-12-2017, 01:09 PM   #11
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The more I think about it, the more I question my own connection (Manw, Tulkas, onw). I was thinking of this in comparison to Michael casting out Lucifer, but nothing quite like that happens in the tale of E.
Even though the events in Tolkien's legendarium don't match those in Judeo-Christian mythology 1:1, I think Manw qualifies as, shall we say, Ilvatar's champion against Melkor, the one to challenge Melkor's dreams of domination with the words "Who is like God/Eru?", and Varda with him.
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Old 12-07-2017, 11:09 PM   #12
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Andsigil

Yes the author points that the Michael ley line was not even 'discovered' in Tolkien's time. Rather she has focused on the ancient connections of St. Michael to Oxford that Tolkien likely knew about.

My deductive reasoning concludes that the rest of your post is hardly worth the bother of replying to.


Inziladun


I believe the day in question is September 29th. Tolkien seems to have been groping for a plot early on. At what stage the 'quarter days' idea came to him is unknown but it is not necessarily at outset.


Zigr, Inziladun, Pitchwife

Our view of how the Archangel Michael physically looks have perhaps been tainted by Renaissance artists. I have a feeling that Tolkien's ideas would not have been in sync.

We all know the angelic beings of TLotR namely the Wizards came in the form of old men. Nevertheless Tolkien described them as near enough to incarnate angels.

Gandalf the Grey was portrayed himself as bent and aged hardly epitomizing our stereo-typical angel. So I would not scoff at the idea of Bombadil being an 'angel' himself. The author of the article does point out at that appearances can be deceptive.

Besides, astute scholars such as Professor Gene Hargrove have proposed Tom is one of the Valar. Hargrove thinks he's Aule while others have suggested Tulkas and even Manwe. Again such scholars see beyond the physical and our own inner vision of what the supposed 'majestic' Valar ought to look like.

Anyway Ms. Seth kicks the can down the road. At this point she is just considering the possibility of an allegorical affiliation of Tom to the Archangel without coming to a verdict.

I think perhaps the point is being missed in that Tom is from the essay's viewpoint, an ancestral being from which much of the folklore and fairy tales of the British Isles originates. Not that he is actually one of those mythical or biblical beings. If this hasn't registered maybe another more careful read is in order.
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Old 12-11-2017, 06:11 AM   #13
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Okay - Michaelmas. I was all ready to point out that literally every day is a Catholic saint day, but the Quarter Days argument is convincing. The four Quarter Days are:

-Christmas Day, December 25th - the Fellowship leave Rivendell.
-Lady Day/Annunciation, March 25th - the downfall of Sauron. (Also traditionally New Year's Day.)
-Midsummer Day, June 24th - Mid-Year's day is when Gandalf wrote his letter at Bree in 3018; in 3019, it was the day of Aragorn and Arwen's wedding.
-Michaelmas, September 29th - in 3018, the hobbits escape the Barrow-Downs (but why would they want to leave?! ) and meet Aragorn in Bree. In 3021, the White Ship sails.

As well as being Christian festivals, the Quarter Days are the days for hiring new servants and settling accounts. It's worth noting that the events of all four days can be interpreted as this:

-Departure of the Fellowship, meeting with Aragorn: 'hiring servants', ie, new people join the quest.
-Fall of Sauron, Aragorn's wedding, the White Ship: 'settling accounts', ie, people receive their rewards.

Bombadil rescuing the hobbits from the Barrow kind of spans both, in that he shows up 'unexpectedly' (having already said farewell), and then promptly pays the hobbits for their time (). It doesn't have quite the same metaphorical level of detail as the other examples, though.

Michaelmas is certainly the most crowded of those days, with a lot going on. And you know what, I can kind of see the Archangel Bombadil argument. Specifically, Michaelmas 3018 is a transfer of protector-ness. It opens with Bombadil as a magical figure, casting down the enemy and giving out rewards - a very 'Hobbit-tale' method of protection. By the end of the day, though, we've not only passed out of the Shire-lands - we've passed into a new type of protection. Aragorn isn't a bombastic, singing mage who can crush everything that stands in their way; he's a far more realistic character, who will nevertheless give his life for Frodo if needs be.

(Incidentally, the fact that Frodo is buried in a tomb only to rise again the next morning right at the cusp of his entry into Middle-earth proper just might have some religious antecedents... )

So you know what? Yes, it seems plausible that Tolkien deliberately drew on religious concepts to build his world, just like he did linguistic and archaeological ones (it's a barrow, folks...!). But that doesn't mean that 'Tom Bombadil === Archangel Michael' holds true across the entirety of the character, any more than 'the Sindar must live in Wales because Sindarin was inspired by Welsh' does. (And if you don't think I could rattle off a whole list of Welsh-connections with the Sindar... ^_^)

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Old 12-20-2017, 01:09 PM   #14
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I think it also worth pointing out that Tolkien rejected the notion of an allegorical interpretation of his work. Of course, he was referring to those who thought LoTR was an allegory for WWII. But given his stated dislike for allegory in all forms I'm not sure why that would apply any differently to an overtly religious interpretation of his books.

Instead, Tolkien preferred "applicability," which lay, he believed, with the reader. Meanwhile, allegory was the "purposed domination of the author" over the reader.

Personally, I find myself somewhat annoyed by overly religious interpretations of Tolkien's stories. No doubt, there is Christian symbolism in some facets of the books. But I do not believe that the Professor set out to create an overtly religious work.

Instead, he drew on his own background of culture and history (along with the culture and history of England and northern Europe) to create Middle-Earth. That necessarily included elements of Catholicism and Christianity more broadly. There is nothing surprising in that, Christianity has been associated with Western culture for so long that even non-religious people inherently understand referrences to it. Tolkien used imagery that resonanted with him and that he knew would resonate with his (almost entirely) Western readers.

The literal catalogue of religous books available on Amazon that were written to capitalize on the popularity of the franchise notwithstanding, I found LoTR to serve as my introduction to Humanism (or Hobbitism?). After all, Frodo doesn't take the Ring to Mordor because some god tells him to do it - he does it because he loves his people and his home and wants to save them. Sam doesn't risk his life and future to go with Frodo because some holy book tells him to do it - he does it because he is devoted to Frodo.

Some of the elves may have more cosmic motivations, but most of the humans and Hobbits in the books do good because it is good. They do it without hope of profit, recognition, or even of success. They do right because it is right - not because of some hope of reward or fear of some enternal punishment. I found it inspiring as a child and still do today.


All of that said, I think Bombadil makes a poor analogue for Michael. Gandalf or even Glorfindel would probably be a better choice.

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Old 12-21-2017, 04:44 AM   #15
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My deductive reasoning concludes that the rest of your post is hardly worth the bother of replying to.
Yes, the vastness of your deductive reasoning.
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Old 01-14-2018, 02:42 PM   #16
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Huinesoron

Outstanding post!



Marlowe221


"I think it also worth pointing out that Tolkien rejected the notion of an allegorical interpretation of his work. Of course, he was referring to those who thought LoTR was an allegory for WWII."

From an overall standpoint that certainly seems to be the case.


"But given his stated dislike for allegory in all forms I'm not sure why that would apply any differently to an overtly religious interpretation of his books."

There is considerable doubt about this. Particularly from the eminent Tom Shippey (see J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the 20th Century). Shippey diplomatically questions and refutes Tolkien assertion - especially in certain circumstances. I think it's long overdue that such a doubt spreads to the fan-base.


"All of that said, I think Bombadil makes a poor analogue for Michael. Gandalf or even Glorfindel would probably be a better choice."


The author quite rightly points out that very little is known about the Archangel. That is especially true when it comes to appearances. Our views of what the Archangel Michael looks like are probably tainted by medieval and renaissance art. In any case what we do know of Tolkien's mythology is that of the good guys, such beings of angelic origin veiled their majesty in M-e as they saw fit. Indeed the Istari do not come across at all as 'angelic' in appearance when not 'in-action'.

If we set aside 'looks' Bombadil makes a better fit than either Gandalf or Glorfindel. Because:

(a) It is Tom that is in action on St. Michael's Day
(b) It is Tom that defeats a demonic spirit on this day
(c) It is Tom who casts out the evil spirit from the land in an analogous manner to the devil being cast out from heaven
(d) The spirit is told to depart to barren lands in a analogy of the devil being cast into hell.
(e) It is Tom that recalls the souls of the hobbits in an analogy of Michael's apocryphal role as weigher and recaller of souls.
(f) It is Tom's feet that is alluded to be on the foot of the devilish corpse-hand.


Very simply put, Glorfindel or Gandalf simply do not accomplish what Bombadil does on September 29th. However I would like to hear the substance behind your reasoning.
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Old 01-19-2018, 10:14 AM   #17
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Marlowe221


"I think it also worth pointing out that Tolkien rejected the notion of an allegorical interpretation of his work. Of course, he was referring to those who thought LoTR was an allegory for WWII."

From an overall standpoint that certainly seems to be the case.


"But given his stated dislike for allegory in all forms I'm not sure why that would apply any differently to an overtly religious interpretation of his books."

There is considerable doubt about this. Particularly from the eminent Tom Shippey (see J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the 20th Century). Shippey diplomatically questions and refutes Tolkien assertion - especially in certain circumstances. I think it's long overdue that such a doubt spreads to the fan-base.
Does Shippey provide any evidence from the writings or letters of Tolkien himself to support his assertion that the Professor intended any religious allegory in his fiction? What is the basis for his knowledge? Did he interview Tolkien?

Or is it just, you know, his opinion?

My basis for arguing that there is no allegory at all is the well known Forward, written by Tolkien himself, that appears in virtually every modern printing of the Lord of the Rings.

In it, he states "I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author."

Perhaps there are published letters of Tolkien to the contrary (I have not read most of his published correspondence). But in the absence of such, I see no reason not to take him at his word.

Otherwise, we are basically asserting that Tolkien either didn't know his own mind or was outright lying to the reader when he wrote what I have quoted above. I am not comfortable doing that in the absence of supporting documentary evidence.

There is no doubt that Christian symbolism (or at least symbolism with parallels in Christian lore) appears in the Lord of the Rings and Simarillion. But symbolism and allegory are not the same thing by any means. And at any rate, it may be impossible to determine whether Tolkien's use of any particular symbol was intended to actually be a parallel to Christianity, as it is used in the story. It might be and it might not.

That said, there are parallels to other philosophical and religious traditions that a reasonable person could find in the Lord of the Rings. Take Hinduism for example. Gandalf could be seen as a parallel for Krishna, the avatar of the god Vishnu. Krishna is basically a god-made-man who takes mortal form and guides his people against their enemies through his wisdom rather than shooting death-rays from his fingertips.

Sound familiar?

Of course, I'm not saying that Tolkien intended Gandalf to be an allegory for Krishna or Vishnu. As far as I know, there is no evidence that Tolkien had any real knowledge about Hindu myth or canon. But a reasonable person with a background in Hinduism might connect those dots because of the "varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers" that Tolkien was talking about in his Forward.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of Christian Tolkien fans out there who seem to think that because they see Christian symbolism in the Lord of the Rings, and Tolkien was a devout Catholic himself, that therefore all the symbolism they see MUST be intentional. It MUST be a direct call to Christian myth/lore. It MUST be allegorical.

In my opinion, that is a mistake. Especially when the author himself tells you that no allegory was intended.

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"All of that said, I think Bombadil makes a poor analogue for Michael. Gandalf or even Glorfindel would probably be a better choice."


The author quite rightly points out that very little is known about the Archangel. That is especially true when it comes to appearances. Our views of what the Archangel Michael looks like are probably tainted by medieval and renaissance art. In any case what we do know of Tolkien's mythology is that of the good guys, such beings of angelic origin veiled their majesty in M-e as they saw fit. Indeed the Istari do not come across at all as 'angelic' in appearance when not 'in-action'.

If we set aside 'looks' Bombadil makes a better fit than either Gandalf or Glorfindel. Because:

(a) It is Tom that is in action on St. Michael's Day
(b) It is Tom that defeats a demonic spirit on this day
(c) It is Tom who casts out the evil spirit from the land in an analogous manner to the devil being cast out from heaven
(d) The spirit is told to depart to barren lands – in a analogy of the devil being cast into hell.
(e) It is Tom that recalls the souls of the hobbits – in an analogy of Michael's apocryphal role as weigher and recaller of souls.
(f) It is Tom's feet that is alluded to be on the foot of the devilish corpse-hand.


Very simply put, Glorfindel or Gandalf simply do not accomplish what Bombadil does on September 29th. However I would like to hear the substance behind your reasoning.
So what about September 29th/St. Michael's Day? Do you have any evidence that the encounter with Tom and the Balrog being on that day was intentional by Tolkien? If you don't have any evidence that it was, your assertions rise only to the level of speculation, at best.

As for the rest of your list, you may see Tom's actions as analogies for those of Michael's or other biblical characters, and you are free to do so. But I would refer you to my response above concerning allegory versus applicability.

And who said anything about how Tom looks? I certainly didn't. I don't think Gandalf the Grey would look much like an angel in any event.

But Gandalf fulfills the traditional role of the angel in most of their (very few) biblical appearances - messenger for the god(s) and motivator of mankind. Tom doesn't do that. Tom dances around, sings apparent nonsense songs, picks flowers for his wife, and rescues the hobbits from their own inexperience with the wider world. He is clearly a supernatural figure of some kind, at least from the hobbits' point of view. But an angel equivalent?

And Tom recalls their souls? From where? Please quote me the passage where that happens or the passage where the hobbit's souls left their bodies. He breaks the wight's spell on the hobbits - but I don't see how you get from that to recalling some souls from... somewhere.

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Old 02-16-2018, 08:25 PM   #18
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We would all like to believe Tolkien's thoughts on 'allegory' per TLotR are truthful. But there is considerable doubt. He was after all of human stock and should not be deified. Off the top of my head I can think of at least two times (both on important matters) that he squarely contradicted himself. One of these is on 'symbolism' (see Letters #142 & #203).

Professor Tom Shippey has spent far more time studying Tolkien's works than we have and is probably (after CT) the leading authority on the Master. He quotes many of Tolkien's letters within his publishings and is thus more acquainted than you (as admitted) or me for that matter. Moreover as a professional philologist his mind is almost certainly more attuned to Tolkien's way of thinking than ours. In his 'Author' book he devotes eight pages to the discussion of 'allegory' and 'applicability' and per my reading - pulls apart the 'myth' of Tolkien's supposed aversion.

In any case as far as Ms. Seth's prognosis she has not claimed (yet) Tom is an 'allegory'. Indeed she has kicked the can down the road. A careful read of her voluminous essays has shown us evidence of Tom being many things other than just an 'angel'. From her work, this invention who supposedly has many newly uncovered faces representing mythical/legendary beings associated to the locale of ancient England might have been considered to 'symbolize' the Archangel Michael for just one of those faces. Thus that doesn't mean that Tom is allegorical. This may be a case of 'applicability'. But that is my current reading, and we will have to wait for Ms. Seth's view in her final summation as she has promised to one day deliver.

As to:

"And Tom recalls their souls? From where? Please quote me the passage where that happens or the passage where the hobbit's souls left their bodies. He breaks the wight's spell on the hobbits"

An inference: just as it not explicitly stated that the Wight cast a spell on the three younger hobbits or that Tom breaks it.

Perhaps it worth asking oneself what did Tolkien mean by "the Gate is open"?
or why is Merry's memory displaced by an 'out-of-body' death moment; and why does Tom state:
"You've found yourselves again"? What found who? or perhaps better put: what part of you found you?
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