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Old 02-02-2007, 08:35 PM   #1
Aiwendil
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Silmaril Silmarillion - Chapter 07 - Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor

This is, in a sense, the final ‘preparatory’ chapter of The Silmarillion. With Feanor’s making of the Silmarils and the sowing of discontent among the Noldor, the stage is set for the great drama that follows. As such a chapter, ‘Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor’ is fairly short and not high on action (much like the two preceding chapters).

In this chapter we are finally introduced to the title ‘characters’ of the book. We are, after all, reading a story called the ‘Silmarillion’, ‘Of the Silmarils’; but until now no indication has been given of what the Silmarils are. Here, though, their importance is emphasized right away; we are told that no impure flesh may touch them lest it be burnt; Varda hallows them; Mandos foretells that the fate of Arda is bound up with them.

I called the Silmarils ‘characters’, and in a sense I think that they do have that function in the book. But their role as such is not as clear, I think, as the role of the Ring as a character in LotR. The Silmarils and the Ring are interesting to compare; both are objects of great power, the desire for which causes people to commit misdeeds. But it strikes me that the Silmarils are much more passive. Whereas the Ring has desires of its own and has real agential force in bringing those desires about, the Silmarils appear to have no will, only power. Does anyone else see a connection or contrast between the Silmarils and the Ring?

The early hatred between Feanor and Melkor is shown in this chapter. I find it interesting that his enmity was apparently mutual from the outset. Feanor is one of the few Noldor who never listens to Melkor’s counsels, and indeed shuts his door in the face of the most powerful ‘dweller in Ea’. Melkor similarly seems to have an innate hatred for Feanor.

Disaster looms over the seemingly perfect and paradisial land of Aman in this chapter. How does this come to happen? One agent of the evil going on here is obviously Melkor, who is largely responsible for the discontent among the Noldor. It seems that another source of strife is the tragedy of Miriel’s death, which sets the stage for the conflict between Feanor and his half-brothers. Is Feanor himself a third source of the strife? In the previous chapter’s discussion, I noted that I often misread the text as saying that ‘the Secret Fire’ was kindled in Feanor. It strikes me that perhaps this was a fortuitous mistake and that Feanor was somehow endowed with his own creative powers, for good or for evil, beyond what was normally given to the Children of Iluvatar.

The textual history of this chapter is rather simple; it evolved through the successive rewrites of the Quenta Silmarillion, beginning with the ‘Sketch of the Mythology’. It was part of the chapter ‘Of the Silmarils and the Darkening of Valinor’ until the 1950s revisions, when that chapter was expanded and split. It’s worth noting that the details and subtleties of the Noldor’s unrest developed gradually. For example, in the earliest ‘Lost Tales’ mythology, the House of Finwe had not yet been invented, so the whole element of tension between Feanor and his brothers is absent.

Additional readings:
HoMe I – ‘The Coming of the Elves’ (for the first account of the making of the Silmarils) and ‘The Theft of Melko’ (for the unrest of the Noldor)
HoMe IV and V – the ‘Sketch of the Mythology’, ‘Quenta Noldorinwa’, and 1937 ‘Quenta Silmarillion’ contain successive stages of the chapter.
HoMe X – contains post-LotR revisions
HoMe XII – ‘The Shibboleth of Feanor’ contains some late thoughts on the strife between Feanor and Fingolfin and tells how all this drama affected Quenya phonology.
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Old 02-06-2007, 03:54 PM   #2
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An interesting point is that it's the first chapter where there is any substantial dialog between the Elves. Previously, all we've really had was a few quotes from Finwe and Miriel, and a good chunk of Aule/Yavanna/Manwe dialog. Here we begin to move from the more detached "history book" style into something approaching normal storytelling.

The hint of "some shadow of foreknowledge" attributed to Feanor is interesting. We now know that something bad is just around the corner.

Fingolfin's forgiving nature ("I will release my brother") is also of interest to me, as - even though it's more explicit in a later chapter - it sets the stage for what's going to happen shortly.
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Old 02-06-2007, 06:21 PM   #3
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For Fëanor began to love the Silmarils with a greedy love, and grudged the sight of them to all save to his father and his seven sons; he seldom remembered now that the light within them was not his own.
Quote:
...now they grew proud and jealous each of his rights and his possessions...

This, and some things in subsequent chapters, made me think of Thorin Oakenshield. There seems to be a reoccurring warning in the tales about the danger and harm that can come from an inappropriate attachment to things.

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Old 02-06-2007, 07:23 PM   #4
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I meant to ask in my last post but forgot: does anyone have a real idea of the size of the Silmarils? I originally thought they were something along the size of a palantír because of the references to the light within them. But if Fëanor "would wear them, blazing on his brow" that's not possible. The size of a really large diamond perhaps?

Edited to fix a typo.

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Old 02-07-2007, 01:02 PM   #5
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Well Beren was able to hold one pretty much enclosed in his hand, so they're not particularly enormous.
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Old 02-08-2007, 01:25 PM   #6
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Texadan makes a really good point. I've often wondered about the size of the Silmarils.
To go off on a bit of a tangent - I don't know if any of you have ever watched the original 1933 King Kong, but in that film the ape really varies in size from scene to scene, in what seems a deliberately symbolic move.
I always had a similar feeling with the Simarils. Depending on what episode I am reading, their size varies in my mind's eye. In the Beren/Luthien episode, I imagine the Silmaril they regain as about the size of a large pomegranate or even a small cantaloupe melon...but when Feanor wears all three on his brow, they cannot be bigger than plums.

Does anyone else have that feeling of the Silmarils changing in size?
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Old 02-08-2007, 02:21 PM   #7
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I've always imagined the Silmarils to be fairly large - just small enough for Beren to enclose one in has hand, but not much smaller. It does sometimes seem that their size is different in different scenes (something I've also noticed in King Kong). But to me this suggests that people's perceptions of them may change, not the Silmarils themselves. A bit like the Ring, it seems to me - though, again, the Silmarils come across (to me at least) as much more passive.

It strikes me that the weight of the Silmarils need not have had the same proportionality to their size as with gems we are familiar with. Indeed, their apparent weight may have fluctuated as well. So I see no particular problem with Feanor wearing them even if they were fairly big.

mhagain wrote:
Quote:
An interesting point is that it's the first chapter where there is any substantial dialog between the Elves. Previously, all we've really had was a few quotes from Finwe and Miriel, and a good chunk of Aule/Yavanna/Manwe dialog. Here we begin to move from the more detached "history book" style into something approaching normal storytelling.
A good point. There actually seems to be a rather gradual transformation over the course of the first half or so of the book, from the theological to the mythological to the historical. This chapter (or perhaps the previous one) is where we first seem to have real characters in the usual sense.
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Old 02-08-2007, 05:53 PM   #8
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You know, I just had a flash memory of the galaxy in "Men in Black". I suppose the Silmarils could have an appearance something like that, small in appearance but when looked into encompassing a lot of space.
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Old 02-09-2007, 08:15 PM   #9
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Feanor is one of the few Noldor who never listens to Melkor’s counsels
It's true he didn't listen to them directly but he did listen to them when they came in a round-about way through his own people. He wasn't proof against the lies, he just didn't like or trust Melkor. One wonders why, when a relative was repeating rumor, he never said, "This sounds a lot like what Melkor was saying."
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Old 02-13-2007, 11:52 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
I called the Silmarils ‘characters’, and in a sense I think that they do have that function in the book. But their role as such is not as clear, I think, as the role of the Ring as a character in LotR. The Silmarils and the Ring are interesting to compare; both are objects of great power, the desire for which causes people to commit misdeeds. But it strikes me that the Silmarils are much more passive. Whereas the Ring has desires of its own and has real agential force in bringing those desires about, the Silmarils appear to have no will, only power. Does anyone else see a connection or contrast between the Silmarils and the Ring?
Yes, I wish I had my book at hand, as I seem to recall it saying that the Silmarils had life in them. They're are also similarities between the ring making era and the setting in which the Silmarils came about, though not I don't believe that is the sort of response you are looking for. The Silmarils were created at a time when the Noldor had been learning their skill and art from Melkor. And yet Feanor went off alone and created them. The rings were created at a time when the Noldor had been learning their skill and art from Sauron, and yet Feanor's grandson, Celebrimbor, went off and created the elven set of rings, secretly.

Aiwendil, I too have made the connection between Feanor and the imperishable flame. It is also worth noting that both Feanor and Melkor are described in terms of flame or fire. While Melkor seems to be obsessed with the lack of it, Feanor possibly has too much? At any rate, I do wonder is this might have something to do with Melkor's antipathy toward the elf.

It is also surprising how the art of the elves appears to surpass that of the Valar. I believe it is mentioned in this chapter or the last, regarding the quality of gems created. But alas, I have not my book. And Feanor in particular seems to blurr the distinction between, creator and created, and challange the role of supremacy.
************
Here is the quote I refered to.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Of Feanor and the Unchaining of Melkor
...and he (Feanor) it was who, first of the Noldor, discovered how gems greater and brighter than those of the Earth might be made with skill.

Last edited by Hilde Bracegirdle : 02-17-2007 at 07:09 PM. Reason: added quote
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Old 02-13-2007, 02:56 PM   #11
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Very interesting, Hilde. Just thinking, it says somewhere (1951 Letter?) that the Elves role was to make/devise/create, and here we see Feanor as being the ultimate fulfilment of that role.

Another thought:

In Arda Marred, is it possible that everything made/devised/created is - in the longer run - doomed to cause trouble of some kind? I would certainly think so. From that perspective, the whole saga of the Silmarils can function almost as a "morality tale". Does one avoid doing anything, in the knowledge that bad will eventually come of it (as my old Gaffer would say)? Or does one accept the nature of Arda Marred and do one's best (or at least attempt to) in spite of it? Moral dilemma city!!!

Yet another thought:

Aman is often said to be representative of "Arda Unmarred". Does that make my "morality tale" hypothesis invalid, or is Aman - perhaps - not as "Unmarred" as it woulk like to be? Or did an element of the "Marring" creep in while Melkor was there?

All very interesting.
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Old 02-14-2007, 09:14 PM   #12
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I think perhaps the marring of Aman is in the Valar themselves. It seems to me that they reached a perceived perfection and crouched there. When the Children of Ilúvatar awoke did the Valar try to carry blessings and some of that perfection to the eastern continent? No, they called the elves to them and their perfection. And what did they do when the rest of the world became suddenly very imperfect? They built mountains and walled themselves in.
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Old 02-15-2007, 11:38 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mhagain
In Arda Marred, is it possible that everything made/devised/created is - in the longer run - doomed to cause trouble of some kind? I would certainly think so.
I had to think about that one, and though it is tempting to say that this might be the case, when I consider the creation of Lothlórien for instance, it doesn’t seem necessarily to follow that rule of thumb. Still this does seem to suggest that things created outside the original thought of Ilúvatar, no matter how beautiful or apparently ‘good’ they might be, run the risk of setting things off balance somehow. Especially, when they are created for less than generous purposes.

Perhaps the marring crept into Aman with both Melkor and the elves. The agent may very well be linked to pride inherant in both.

Texadan, I wish I could respond to your last post, as I don’t think that the Valar intended to totally ignore the rest of Arda. I need to bring my book to work more often, so I can back myself up!
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Old 02-17-2007, 06:39 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Texadan
I think perhaps the marring of Aman is in the Valar themselves. It seems to me that they reached a perceived perfection and crouched there. When the Children of Ilúvatar awoke did the Valar try to carry blessings and some of that perfection to the eastern continent? No, they called the elves to them and their perfection. And what did they do when the rest of the world became suddenly very imperfect? They built mountains and walled themselves in.
Ok, I don't think that this string of passages directly relates to your evaluation of the Valar's behavior, but it does soften the edges I think.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Valaquenta
“Nonetheless Ulmo loves both Elves and Men, and never abandoned them, not even when they lay under the wrath of the Valar.”
Quote:
Originally Posted by Of the Beginning of Days
“And in that time of dark Yavanna also was unwilling utterly to forsake the Outer Lands; for all things that grow are dear to her, and she mourned for the works that she had begun in Middle-earth but Melkor had marred.”
Quote:
Originally Posted by Of the Beginning of Days
“And Oromë tamer of beasts would ride too at whiles in the darkness of the unlit forests....”
This curious bit immediately precedes the move to Aman. A benevolent motive perhaps. The emphasis is mine.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Of the Beginning of Days
“In the confusion and darkness Melkor escaped, though fear fell upon him; for above the roaring of the seas he heard the voice of Manwë as a mighty wind, and the earth trembled beneath the feet of Tulkas. But he came to Utumno ere tulkas could overtake him; and there he lay hid. And the Valar could not overtake him, for the greater part of their strength was needed to restrain the tumults of the Earth, and to save from ruin all that could be saved of their labour; and afterwards they feared to rend the Earth again, until they knew where the Children of Iluvatar were dwelling, who were yet to come in a time that was hidden from the Valar.
This is all well and good before Men showed up, when Melkor was causing his mischief, but what about after Melkor was chained, and later when Men arrived? Might the mighty ones still have been enjoying their prolonged breather?

***********************
But back to the Silmarils! This is the quote I was thinking of earlier.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor
Like the crystal of diamonds it appeared, and yet was more strong than adamant, so that no violence could mar it or break it within the Kingdom of Arda. Yet that crystal was to the Silmarils but as is the body to the Children of Iluvatar: the house of its inner fire, that is within it and yet in all parts of it, and is its life.
I suppose that the word 'life' and just how it is meant here could be argued, but again notice how the mention of fire crops up again. I have come to equate fire with life. If that inner fire is life, it is interesting to note that it came from the light of the trees, and and the 'body' was made made by a non Valar figure.

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Old 02-18-2007, 12:35 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Texadan
I think perhaps the marring of Aman is in the Valar themselves. It seems to me that they reached a perceived perfection and crouched there. When the Children of Ilúvatar awoke did the Valar try to carry blessings and some of that perfection to the eastern continent? No, they called the elves to them and their perfection. And what did they do when the rest of the world became suddenly very imperfect? They built mountains and walled themselves in.
Myths Transformed tells us that the valar attacked at the first right moment - any sooner, their action might have caused total annihilation.
Quote:
Morgoth... had to be fought, mainly by physical force, and enormous material ruin was a probable consequence of any direct combat with him, victorious or otherwise. This is the chief explanation of the constant reluctance of the Valar to come into open battle against Morgoth...The whole of 'Middle-earth' was Morgoth's Ring... Unless swiftly successful, War against him might well end in reducing all Middle-earth to chaos, possibly even all Arda... the dilemma of the Valar was this: Arda could only be liberated by a physical battle; but a probable result of such a battle was the irretrievable ruin of Arda.
...
This appearance of selfish fainéance in the Valar in the mythology as told is ... I think only an 'appearance', and one which we are apt to accept as the truth, since we are all in some degree affected by the shadow and lies of their Enemy, the Calumniator.
...
The last intervention with physical force by the Valar, ending in the breaking of Thangorodrim, may then be viewed as not in fact reluctant or even unduly delayed, but timed with precision. The intervention came before the annihilation of the Eldar and the Edain. Morgoth ... had in fact been weakened [by war]: in power and prestige (he had lost and failed to recover one of the Silmarils), and above all in mind. He had become absorbed in 'kingship', and though a tyrant of ogre-size and monstrous power, this was a vast fall even from his former wickedness of hate, and his terrible nihilism.
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Old 02-18-2007, 10:44 PM   #16
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Texadan wrote:
Quote:
I think perhaps the marring of Aman is in the Valar themselves. It seems to me that they reached a perceived perfection and crouched there. When the Children of Ilúvatar awoke did the Valar try to carry blessings and some of that perfection to the eastern continent? No, they called the elves to them and their perfection. And what did they do when the rest of the world became suddenly very imperfect? They built mountains and walled themselves in.
And Raynor:
Quote:
Myths Transformed tells us that the valar attacked at the first right moment - any sooner, their action might have caused total annihilation.
I don't think that the quote from Myths Transformed entirely refutes Texadan's point. For one thing, it seems to be speculation rather than a straightforward statement. For another, it concerns only the timing of their final attack on Morgoth. Texadan makes a broader point about their governance of Arda. After the Battle of the Powers, why did the Valar not cast down the Pelori and extend the bliss of Aman to Middle-earth? With the exceptions of Ulmo and Orome, and notwithstanding the quotes that Hilde gives, they appear quite insular and isolationist. I too wonder if this attitude may have been a misstep on their part.
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Old 02-19-2007, 01:11 AM   #17
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It can only be a speculation since this alternative didn't happen. However, to sustain this strategy, Tolkien also said about Manwe (same text, bold emphasis added):
Quote:
Even so, and on the grounds of the stories as received, it is possible to view the matter otherwise. The closing of Valinor against the rebel Noldor (who left it voluntarily and after warning) was in itself just. But, if we dare to attempt to enter the mind of the Elder King, assigning motives and finding faults, there are things to remember before we deliver a judgement. Manwe was the spirit of greatest wisdom and prudence in Arda. He is represented as having had the greatest knowledge of the Music, as a whole, possessed by any one finite mind; and he alone of all persons or minds in that time is represented as having the power of direct recourse to and communication with Eru. He must have grasped with great clarity what even we may perceive dimly: that it was the essential mode of the process of 'history' in Arda that evil should constantly arise, and that out of it new good should constantly come.
Quote:
After the Battle of the Powers, why did the Valar not cast down the Pelori and extend the bliss of Aman to Middle-earth?
I don't think that the bliss of Aman can be extended; as explained in the Akallabeth, this bliss stems from the very presence of the Valar; this extension would have meant, for one thing, that at least some of them would have to be in constant travel from Aman to M-E, or that they should be sundered from their kin for various periods of time. Even more importantly, their continuous presence on M-E would have been a challenge to Melkor's domain which he could not have ignored; as such (continuation from previous quote):
Quote:
One especial aspect of this is the strange way in which the evils of the Marrer, or his inheritors, are turned into weapons against evil. If we consider the situation after the escape of Morgoth and the reestablishment of his abode in Middle-earth, we shall see that the heroic Noldor were the best possible weapon with which to keep Morgoth at bay, virtually besieged, and at any rate fully occupied, on the northern fringe of Middle-earth, without provoking him to a frenzy of nihilistic destruction.
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Old 02-19-2007, 02:52 AM   #18
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As I've said before making Middle Earth 'blissful' would have made the lot of mortals unhappy because it would have the same effect as them going to the undying lands.
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Old 02-19-2007, 02:09 PM   #19
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Raynor wrote, quoting Myths Transformed:
Quote:
But, if we dare to attempt to enter the mind of the Elder King, assigning motives and finding faults, there are things to remember before we deliver a judgement. Manwe was the spirit of greatest wisdom and prudence in Arda. He is represented as having had the greatest knowledge of the Music, as a whole, possessed by any one finite mind; and he alone of all persons or minds in that time is represented as having the power of direct recourse to and communication with Eru.
Certainly Manwe (and all the Valar) had wisdom and knowledge far beyond that granted to mortals. Does that mean that all their actions and decisions must be beyond reproach? Certainly not. Tolkien himself, in the "Notes on motives in the Silmarillion" text that you quote (MT VII), seems ambivalent on the matter of censuring the Valar. He says a little later in the text:

Quote:
The last effort of this sort made by the Valar was the raising up of the Pelori - but this was not a good act: it came near to countering Morgoth in his own way - apart from the element of selfishness in its object of preserving Aman as a blissful region to live in.
In MT VI he also censures Manwe:
Quote:
Manwe must be shown to have his own inherent fault (though not sin): he has become engrossed (partly out of sheer fear of Melkor, partly out of desire to control him) in amendment, healing, re-ordering - even 'keeping the status quo' - to the loss of all creative power and even to weakness in dealing with difficult and perilous situations.
So we see that Tolkien did consider the actions of the Valar capable of being judged, and indeed that their 'selfish' isolationism and maintenance of the status quo may have been mistakes.

Quote:
I don't think that the bliss of Aman can be extended; as explained in the Akallabeth, this bliss stems from the very presence of the Valar; this extension would have meant, for one thing, that at least some of them would have to be in constant travel from Aman to M-E, or that they should be sundered from their kin for various periods of time. Even more importantly, their continuous presence on M-E would have been a challenge to Melkor's domain which he could not have ignored
I was talking about the period after the Battle of the Powers, when Melkor was a captive in Mandos. With Melkor defeated, it seems to me that the Valar could have taken up again the governance of all of Arda. Why not return to Middle-earth, or at least go among the Elves and teach them, rather than sundering them? I'm not saying that what the Valar did was necessarily wrong or without reason, but I do think that it's a valid question.

As for whether the bliss of Aman could have been extended over all of Arda, we can only make uninformed guesses. However, it is worth remembering the Second Prophecy of Mandos in this connection (from QS in HoMe V):

Quote:
Then Feanor shall take the Three Jewels to Yavanna Palurien; and she will break them and with their fire rekindle the Two Trees, and a great light shall come forth. And the Mountains of Valinor shall be levelled, so that the Light shall go out over all the world.
So at least at one point (circa 1937) this was considered a possibility, if only in a kind of Messianic sense.
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Old 02-19-2007, 09:47 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by hewhoarisesinmight
As I've said before making Middle Earth 'blissful' would have made the lot of mortals unhappy because it would have the same effect as them going to the undying lands.
Sorry, I seem to have gotten us off of Chapter 7. But I didn't say that Middle Earth should be made "blissful". I said that the Valar's "...[summoning] the Quendi to Valinor, there to be gathered at the knees of the Powers in the light of the Trees for ever" (Chapt. 3) instead of helping them to grow and thrive and protect themselves where they were, and bettering Middle Earth in the process, was a symptom of, or, better, a mechanism for, the marring of Aman. Tolkien hints at this in the same paragraph "From this summons came many woes that afterwards befell."
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Old 02-20-2007, 12:44 AM   #21
Raynor
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With Melkor defeated, it seems to me that the Valar could have taken up again the governance of all of Arda.
But should they? Arda was the place where the Children of Eru were supposed to come; the main purpose of the valar in Ea was to create it and keep the wheels rolling. The Eruhini were not their main responsibility, esspecially as they didn't know what they were, what purpose they served. The Ainulindale states that Manwe was the foremost weapon of Eru against Melkor in the second theme. Myths Transformed states that:
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Nonetheless the breaking of Thangorodrim and the extrusion of Melkor was the end of 'Morgoth' as such, and for that age (and many ages after). It was thus, also, in a sense the end of Manwe's prime function and task as Elder King, until the End. He had been the Adversary of the Enemy.
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The Valar 'fade' and become more impotent, precisely in proportion as the shape and constitution of things becomes more defined and settled.
The valar have limits to their responsibilities; going beyond them doesn't spell well for them or anybody.
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