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Old 12-15-2006, 09:05 PM   #1
Late Istar
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Aiwendil is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Aiwendil is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Silmaril Silmarillion - Chapter 05 - Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalie

With this chapter we more or less complete the first part of the Silmarillion – the sundering of the Elves is complete and the stage is set for the drama of the Silmarils. One of the most interesting things to me about this chapter is the ambivalence of the Teleri. First they accept the summons of the Valar and set off for Aman; then (after many of them give up on the journey entirely) they tarry and do not reach the shore in time; they live there for a while and then it is decided that they will be brought to Valinor after all, and many agree; then, at their request, Ulmo and Osse leave them off the coast of Aman instead of bringing them all the way there; but finally, they change their minds again and move to Alqualonde. They seem to be struggling to choose which world to live in – the wild world of shadows and water and starlight or the blessed world of the ‘gods’, of light and knowledge and splendour.

Much of the chapter is taken up by an account of the genealogy of the House of Finwe. I don’t doubt that this is one of the passages that led to the charge that the Silmarillion is like a ‘telephone directory in Elvish’. I certainly see how the multitude of names might be confusing in one’s first reading. However, I’ve always been reminded very much of Genesis by these genealogical accounts – ‘And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech’ etc.

The textual history of this chapter is fairly simple, the final version being the last in a number of revisions of the 1920s ‘Sketch of the Mythology’ text. One interesting point to note is that in the Book of Lost Tales and subsequent texts up to the 1937 ‘Quenta Silmarillion’, it was Osse who decided to fix Tol Eressea off the coast of Aman and not to bring the third kindred of Elves to land; and he did this very much against the wishes of Ulmo and the other Valar.

Additional readings:
HoMe I – earliest version
HoMe IV, V – later pre-LotR versions
HoMe X – final development of the chapter
HoMe XII – some further information on Cirdan the Teleri who stayed in Beleriand in the ‘Late Writings’ section.

Last edited by Aiwendil; 07-08-2007 at 07:48 PM.
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Old 01-09-2007, 02:49 AM   #2
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This is certainly not the most exciting chapter in the book, especially coming after the beautiful blending of fairy tale and myth that is Of Thingol and Melian, and at my first reading twenty-five years ago it may have been the one that frustrated me into setting it down for a few months.

However, there are some parts I like about it: the geographical description of the "continents" proves useful knowledge when the Noldor return to Middle Earth; the image of the Teleri strumming their harps sadly by the sea; the crucial elements of the Trees; the colorful, wonderfully magic description of Tirion; the introduction of the fabled Feanor and his family.

I always find the myth-like "uprooting" of the island and pulling it to the Other Shore and "re-rooting" it there a bit strange. On the one hand it seems like a genuine myth; on the other hand, these myths are supposed to be somehow "real" and that has always stretched my imagination to the breaking point: I can accept it and appreciate it as a myth only--as long-past history, I can't.

Last edited by Břicho; 01-09-2007 at 06:10 AM.
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Old 01-15-2007, 03:42 PM   #3
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Yes, it is not the most exciting chapter but a chapter which is densely packed with information. One I found myself underlining quite a bit.

I found it surprising to learn that “first the Eldar looked in fear and wonder on the Sea there stretched an ocean, wide and dark and deep, between them and the Mountains of Aman.” What I had taken as more or less a genetic predisposition toward the sea, turns out to be a learned love, fostered by Ulmo’s words and music, in order that the Vanyar and Noldor might reach Aman as the Valar had bid them. This, as opposed to the Teleri who “were from the beginning lovers of the water”.

It does seem quite impossible that Tol Eressëa, which was originally far away from any shore, was used by Ulmo to transport the elves on their one way trip from Bay of Balar in Middle-earth, across the sea to Aman. But it is also interesting that it mentions a tale explaining that the Isle of Balar was the eastern tip of the Lonely Isle, which had broken off, and remained stationed in the Bay.

Again the Teleri are splintered, this time by Ossë who persuades the elves of the Falas (the Falathrim), to stay. These become the first mariners of Middle-earth settling in Brithombar and Eglarest, where Círdan the Shipwright (now there’s a familiar name) becomes their lord.

I have many questions after this chapter regarding Elwë. We are told that those still loyal to him, remained behind looking for their friend and kinsman, though they too wish to travel to Aman calling themselves the Forsaken People (Eglath). But when Elwë finally emerges from the trees of Nan Elmoth with Melian (the Maiar), they are amazed to see the difference in him. He seems to be a lord of the Maiar. Elwë was contented to see the light of Aman in Melian, did this same light also satisfy his followers? I think that it must have.

We are also given the beginnings of the lineage of the White Tree of Gondor. And a very special one it is, Galthilion being a lesser version of Telperion. This lends additional weight to the apparent death of that line in Minas Tirth.

One last point before I get back to work… It strikes me interesting that Galadriel has more Teleri blood than any other, having a Teleri mother and a father half Noldor and half Vanyar. She looks Vanyar and acts Noldor perhaps, but seems to become more like the Teleri with age.

Last edited by Hilde Bracegirdle; 01-15-2007 at 03:48 PM.
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Old 01-22-2007, 02:06 PM   #4
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Aiwendil is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Aiwendil is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
I found it surprising to learn that “first the Eldar looked in fear and wonder on the Sea there stretched an ocean, wide and dark and deep, between them and the Mountains of Aman.” What I had taken as more or less a genetic predisposition toward the sea, turns out to be a learned love, fostered by Ulmo’s words and music, in order that the Vanyar and Noldor might reach Aman as the Valar had bid them. This, as opposed to the Teleri who “were from the beginning lovers of the water”.
This is a very interesting observation. The idea of "sea-longing" is so prevalent in Tolkien's works that it is strange to read of Elves fearing the sea. On the other hand, we do have statements that the Teleri loved water from the beginning - for example, in the "Cuivienyarna" in HoMe XI.

I suppose the way to resolve any apparent conflict between the two statements is to say that one can both love and fear something. The sea is a wondrous and potentially terrifying thing - I can readily imagine that on first seeing it the Elves might be filled with both longing and terror.
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Old 01-27-2007, 07:25 AM   #5
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On Galadriel - I see her as very much a Noldorin character, but acting often for the cause of the Teleri - as in the late Tolkien revision where she fights for the Teleri at the Kinslaying.

Notable is the fact that, from the first, the Noldor and the Teleri are clearly supposed to be the best of friends, on the principle of of opposites attracting. "Ulmo hearkened to the prayers of the Noldor...who grieved at their long sundering from the Teleri". They really are each other's kin. It's as if the harmony or disharmony between Noldo and Teler signifies the health of Elven society in general. The Kinslaying is thus something of significance for all Elves, even I suppose the isolationist Vanyar, and we see its roots here in the very affection between the peoples.

The Teleri are more anarchic, it seems to me, than their fellow-Elves. "Teleri" becomes a label, in fact, with far less significance than "Noldor" because of the tendency of the tribe towards cultural fragmentation. This is a clan umbrella that extends over the efficiently organised and sophisticated Sindar, and the wild and unpredictable Laiquendi, for instance.

"Manwe and Varda loved most the Vanyar, the Fair Elves". You have to be astonished at their lack of taste! So shallow, they just go for pretty faces and blondes...

The Noldor, on the other hand. Well. Goodness. Posters above me have already commented on the lyrical beauty and tenderness of the description of the Teleri, but the Noldor still win out for me. Not because of their forges and their association with Aule, far from my favourite among the Valar. But because:

They were changeful in speech, for they had great love of words, and sought ever to find names more fit for all things that they knew or imagined.
The Teleri might be the greatest singers, but I'll bet that the Noldor and greater thinkers about singing; the better poets, more succinctly. Given that Tolkien is to set the Noldor up as his rebels, his fallen angels, maybe even his villains, it shows a remarkable sympathy with them that he allows them the attributes of philology, learning and verbal dexterity.

"They hoarded them [their creations] not, but gave them freely, and by their labour enriched all Valinor." Feanor is to break this rule of largesse, which does little credit to him, I must say.

The "telephone directory" section is actually wonderful in parts, and extremely useful if its epithets are recalled and compared to the later actions of the characters.

Feanor is the alpha-Noldo. Far more than his father, who is the ancestor-king and symbol of his people, the son exemplifies the salient characteristics of the Noldor in their sharpest form.

Fingolfin is the "most steadfast"; an interesting idea. We shall see whether it is borne out later. Certainly he is the "most valiant" of the three.

Now for the paragraph that is my gospel -

The seven sons of Fëanor were Maedhros the tall; Maglor the mighty singer, whose voice was heard far over land and sea; Celegorm the fair, and Caranthir the dark; Curufin the crafty, who inherited most his father's skill of hand; and the youngest Amrod and Amras, who were twin brothers, alike in mood and face.
Celegorm and Caranthir are arranged in a stock contrast. Celegorm is soon mentioned, with the twins, as a hunter. Maglor's epithet prefigures his mysterious fate; "was" could be "is" and still apply in "his voice was heard over land and sea".

Aredhel is linked to the sons of Feanor over her fondness for hunting, but "to none was her heart's love given" - a clause which implies that it could have been in principle, despite their close cousinage. Interseting.

By the end of the chapter, one noticeable aspect is that among the seven sons, if we follow the fairytale layout of one son standing out, that son is actually Celegorm - not an obvious choice as hero of the Silmarillion. But he does stand apart from and above his brothers.

Celegorm went rather to the house of Orome, and there he got great knowledge of all the birds and beasts, and all their tongues he knew.
The whole last paragraph emphasises this skill of Celegorm's, and links him ultimately to a future foe of his, another beast-tamer - Beren. But at this stage it looks like Celegorm is our fairytale protagonist, after his father anyway.
Among the friendly dead, being bad at games did not seem to matter
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Old 01-31-2007, 02:22 PM   #6
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It's very much a "scene-setting" chapter. A pause between two distinct chunks of the Valinorean half of the book. Chunk one is more the "how things came to be" chunk, whereas chunk two is very much the "what happened" chunk. So this chapter takes some time out to pull back a little and describe the current situation before we head into the second chunk.

Regarding the Teleri, in one of the HoME essays it's stated that each of the Teleri and the Noldor viewed the other as really being Avari at heart. It's obvious that the Noldorin viewpoint came from events in this chapter (but not wholly so).

It's also very interesting to see that the three kindreds are as different from each other as Elves are from Men, and as Men are from Dwarves.
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