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Old 11-24-2006, 02:40 PM   #1
Aiwendil
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Silmaril Silmarillion - Chapter 04 - Of Thingol and Melian

A very short chapter, if an important one. The fact that Elwe remains in Middle-earth will of course have significant repurcussions later in the story.

The meeting of Elwe and Melian in some ways prefigures the meeting of Beren and Luthien – note, for example, the mention of nightingales. But we have here also the strange element of the ‘spell’ laid on Elwe; they stand there for ‘long years’ and the trees ‘grew tall and dark before they spoke any word.’ It’s an unusual and, I think, very striking image.

I’ve always wondered about Melian’s motivation here. To her is always attributed a great power of foresight. Did she intentionally lure Elwe to her? Did she perhaps have some knowledge of the later importance of the Sindar in the history of Beleriand? Or was their meeting as much a matter of chance on her part as on Elwe’s? We learn in Tolkien’s essay ‘Osanwe-kenta’ that the act of conceiving and bearing a child tends to tie a Maia to a single physical form. It is therefore a very significant decision on Melian’s part to wed an Elf.

The story of Thingol’s meeting with Melian first entered in the ‘Book of Lost Tales’ phase and was retained more or less unchanged thereafter. It was only in the 1950s revision, though, that it was given its own chapter. This is in itself an interesting decision, considering its brevity.

Additional reading
‘Osanwe-kenta’ in Vinyar Tengwar 39
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Old 12-09-2006, 11:18 AM   #2
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I'll post a proper response rather later, but for now, a minor point.

It's always seemed to me rather significant that Melian entranced Elwe at Nan Elmoth, where Eol would later entrap Aredhel. On one level, it seems that the role of "enchantress" turns to one of "enchanter", though there are of course more major differences between the liaisons, particularly Melian's semi-divinity.

But I wonder if anyone else finds this place and parallel interesting?
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Old 12-21-2006, 06:58 AM   #3
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More in-depth now.

My first thought is that this seems more of a poem than a chapter. If much of the Silmarillion is the bardic remebrance of wars and "toils in the north", then this forms a brief lyric interlude. You can imagine it being composed by Daeron.

Or perhaps by Melian herself, skilled in "songs of enchantment"? But I think I prefer the idea of Daeron.

I had forgotten that Melian was "akin" to Yavanna. It is a strange word to use, implying that this mere Maia has some blood-relationship to a Vala; a relic of the sexualised, "Classical" Ainur, of whom Melian is the only remnant in the published Silmarillion.

"He then forgot utterly all his people and all the purpose of his mind." Driven by "desire", Elwe becomes an irresponsible love-hero, like Amroth, and leaves behind kingship. Is this reprehensible or moving? Both, I suppose.

The silence of the meeting, which Aiwendil highlighted, is crucial and beautiful. "She spoke no word".

I like to romantically suppose that a spell was upon Melian as well as Elwe; that this was a chance-meeting, not an entrapment by Melian with the aim of providing a haven for the Elves...after all, she left Middle-Earth after her husband's death.
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Old 02-16-2011, 08:09 PM   #4
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I also think that Melian wouldn't deliberately enchant and entrap someone. I think she was as much enchanted as Elwe. The long years of silence have a mystical air about them. *They probably comunicated with thoughts, though. Somehow. But I doubt that they said much even like that.* When I first read this passage, it seemed to be a crazy exageration of their love - who'd be able to stand rooted to the spot for years? But then I thought that it might be more symbolical than literal, even though I can't describe the idea at the moment. I'll think it over and go into it deeper.

This might be a little off topic, but if Melian really tied herself to that physical form, how did she go into Valinor after the fall of Doriath? As a spirit who will have no body ever again?
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Old 02-16-2011, 08:52 PM   #5
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I also think that Melian wouldn't deliberately enchant and entrap someone. I think she was as much enchanted as Elwe. The long years of silence have a mystical air about them. *They probably comunicated with thoughts, though. Somehow. But I doubt that they said much even like that.* When I first read this passage, it seemed to be a crazy exageration of their love - who'd be able to stand rooted to the spot for years? But then I thought that it might be more symbolical than literal, even though I can't describe the idea at the moment. I'll think it over and go into it deeper.

This might be a little off topic, but if Melian really tied herself to that physical form, how did she go into Valinor after the fall of Doriath? As a spirit who will have no body ever again?
By boat.
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Old 02-16-2011, 08:56 PM   #6
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I also think that Melian wouldn't deliberately enchant and entrap someone. I think she was as much enchanted as Elwe. The long years of silence have a mystical air about them. *They probably comunicated with thoughts, though. Somehow. But I doubt that they said much even like that.* When I first read this passage, it seemed to be a crazy exageration of their love - who'd be able to stand rooted to the spot for years? But then I thought that it might be more symbolical than literal, even though I can't describe the idea at the moment. I'll think it over and go into it deeper.
Maybe it's not literal, maybe it felt like time slowed down. OR maybe long, long ago the elves could go for long periods of time without eating. Maybe Iluvitar decided to have some fun, but eventually gave up.

Oh yes, maybe, maybe, maybe! I have so many questions...
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Old 02-17-2011, 06:28 AM   #7
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Maybe it's not literal, maybe it felt like time slowed down.
Probably this is true.

I was thinking what could it symbolize, if anything. What I came up with was that they understood each other without words. Also, their whole life their relationship didn't change, and it was as if they were still standing in Nan Emloth.

(yeah, that's a bit of a stretch)
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Old 02-18-2011, 06:16 PM   #8
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It must have been literally years, why else would Olwe abandon his brother? Unless the Elves decided to abandon for all eternity anyone they didn't see for a couple of hours.
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Old 02-18-2011, 06:19 PM   #9
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It must have been literally years, why else would Olwe abandon his brother? Unless the Elves decided to abandon for all eternity anyone they didn't see for a couple of hours.
It could have been that they were away for actual years, but not necessarily that they didn't move all that time.
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Old 03-07-2011, 03:53 PM   #10
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Melian and Thingol's meeting is mentioned again in The Ruin of Doriath. What do you think of this passage compared to this chapter?

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Upon Doriath a heavy change had fallen. Melian sat long in silence besibe Thingol the King, and her thought passed back into the starlit years and to their first meeting among the nightingales of Nan Elmoth in ages past; and she knew that her parting from Thingol was the forerunner of a greater parting, and that the doom of Doriath was drawing nigh.
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