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Old 03-08-2009, 04:33 PM   #1
Pitchwife
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Inevitability of death (revisited)

OK, this is my first attempt at necromancy, conjuring up a dead thread from the underworld.
I just stumbled over davem's old thread 'Its about death, the inevitability of death' (http://forum.barrowdowns.com/showthread.php?t=5898), a truly fascinating read. One aspect that activated my little grey cells was this:
Quote:
The Undying Lands are the most 'unnatural' of all places. In nature birth, growth, maturity & death, evolution from state to state, is the natural process.
Indeed, within the circles of this world as we know it every living thing (even plants) feeds on the death and decay of other living things; which makes me wonder: supposing that nothing ever dies and decays in the Undying Lands, what do trees and other plants in Aman grow on and draw nourishment from? (To give the question a slightly absurd twist, are we to suppose that Huan lived on a vegetarian diet before being given to Celegorm and migrating to Middle-Earth?) Did the Professor really think this through?
But there's more to it. I don't have Morgoth's Ring at hand to check (as usual), but somehow I got the impression from it that Aman was the last remnant of Arda Unmarred in this world, the only part of the world not tainted by Morgoth (or at least the thing coming closest to AU), and that death and decay were introduced into the world by the Marrer. I may be mistaken in this (in which case I would gladly see my misconception demolished), but if I'm not, AU would have been a stranger world than we can imagine - a world in which nothing ever would have died, except for Men???
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Old 03-08-2009, 04:56 PM   #2
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I'm afraid there's a blatant answer to your question and that is that the prof had no idea of those kind of things modern biology tells us - or didn't bother about thinking of them in relation to his mythology; they are not something to concern a person writing a mythology anyway.

But the world "after the fall" looks like familiar post-books of Moses-world where the humans have fallen to the primordial sin and everything's different from the paradise that once was... Maybe decaying had no part in the natural renewal of the nature in the West?
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Old 03-08-2009, 06:22 PM   #3
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I'm afraid there's a blatant answer to your question and that is that the prof had no idea of those kind of things modern biology tells us
You don't have to study modern biology to realize the importance of decay and biological recycling; the slightest interest in gardening will shove it into your face, and every human being who has ever tilled the soil has known about it from experience ever since the neolithic revolution.
You're right, of course, mentioning the Fall and primordial sin in this context. For me, as a non-Christian, the dream of a pre-Fall paradise without death (and its possible restoration after Judgment Day?) is one of the most fascinating, as well as one of the most puzzling, aspects of Christianity. Judging from his writings on Aman, I get the impression that JRRT somehow shared this dream (even though he criticized the Elves for trying to realize it within the Fallen World of Middle-Earth). On the other hand, from everything else he wrote I get the impression of somebody who had a very close, personal, emotional and realistic (whatever that may mean) relationship with nature as we know it; and I just don't know how to fit these two aspects together (or, what is the same, I wonder how they fitted together in his mind, if he was at all conscious of the problem).
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Old 03-08-2009, 06:39 PM   #4
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Very interesting thread. What if we posit that none of the beings or entities or artifacts or anything else is actually 'physical?' What if they are more energy-like than matter-like? Maybe this is why Aman would be deadly to those mortals that were tied to the physical world - elves could leave and pick up their physical husks at the door, at will, maybe.

Don't have the equations in front of me either, but what if we could remove 'time' from every physics/mathematical description of the world? Yes, I know I'm just throwing words up into the air, hoping that when they land there's some order to them.

As this question relates to Creationism, I've always found it somewhat amusing the pretzels that must be twisted to allow for Adam, Eve and other animals and plants to live - to consume and release energy - yet not allow for any decay in Paradise's Garden.

Ah, without E. coli, many things not named 'rose' would smell just as sweet.
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Old 03-08-2009, 07:28 PM   #5
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I myself have wondered about certain contradictions in a truly "deathless" Valinor. The Ainur and Elves may reproduce little or not at all, but what about the flora and fauna? It seemed an odd thing to me, until I remembered that Melkor marred the Music even before Ea was created. If Ea, and Arda, are indeed the Music made manifest, precisely as it was sung, then it never was "perfect." Melkor's attempts to make it wholly his own after the Ainur entered Ea certainly made things worse, but as Men were also a part of the Music (and presumably their Gift as well), then I would think death has always been a part of the world made from the Song. Tolkien did also make it clear that Valinor itself was not really deathless, but that the presence of the immortal Powers gave the place its apparent lack of death and decay. The very power that makes Aman seem immortal and unchanging would present a danger to mortals (as the flame that attracts moths also kills them, as I believe was noted in the Akallabeth). Men, especially those who strayed from their belief in Eru, feared death, and thus anything that seems to have what they can't -- eternal physical life -- is seen as being perfect. Aman appears to be a paradise, but for those who live there, it's really a gilded cage. The Elves and Ainur cannot die and leave the circles of the world, as Men do (Elves because they were made that way, the Ainur because they are bound to remain within Ea until its end), and Tolkien did say that before the end, even they would grow weary of life and its burden. So you really have two sides that eventually will envy and covet what the other has, immortality and death.

Well, that's how it all seems to me, at any rate.
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Old 03-08-2009, 07:40 PM   #6
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Quote:
Tolkien did also make it clear that Valinor itself was not really deathless, but that the presence of the immortal Powers gave the place its apparent lack of death and decay. The very power that makes Aman seem immortal and unchanging would present a danger to mortals (as the flame that attracts moths also kills them, as I believe was noted in the Akallabeth).
This could also relate to Luthien's speeded up
life caused by wearing a silmaril.

And did Valinor have seasons? Without them I'd think it would
be relatively uninteresting, like living (long-term) in a boring
climate like Hawaii. I'd much prefer somewhere like Minnesota
or Argentina to Hawaii climate wise, especially if you're there
elfwise for milennia.
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Old 03-09-2009, 11:16 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Pitchwife View Post
Indeed, within the circles of this world as we know it every living thing (even plants) feeds on the death and decay of other living things; which makes me wonder: supposing that nothing ever dies and decays in the Undying Lands, what do trees and other plants in Aman grow on and draw nourishment from?
I don't have time to check this up or elaborate much on it, but I think it's a misconception that nothing ever died in Aman. I believe the Elves hunted even in Aman, and that there were predatory animals doing what predatory animals do too. Probably no flesh-eating maggots, centipedes, leeches or cockroaches though, I should hope. No, everything just passed very slowly and gracefully, if I remember correctly, and there were no disease or deformation - much like in Plato's world of ideas everything was in its ideal state. You couldn't find a single discolouration on a green leaf even if you searched all your life for one. There certainly were seasons though, and crops such as wheat was cultivated and presumably cut down and processed too.

I remember reading somewhere that the natural life of say a flower or a bee would also be much prolonged in the hallowed Aman compared to the outside world however, and that a mortal man would seem to whither away very quickly compared to other things in hallowed Aman, although his life wouldn't actually be cut short.
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Last edited by skip spence; 03-09-2009 at 11:48 AM. Reason: Added a few things I initially forgot
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Old 03-09-2009, 11:51 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Tuor in Gondolin View Post
And did Valinor have seasons? Without them I'd think it would
be relatively uninteresting, like living (long-term) in a boring
climate like Hawaii. I'd much prefer somewhere like Minnesota
or Argentina to Hawaii climate wise, especially if you're there
elfwise for milennia.
As for this (and I will use it to illustrate what I think about the whole matter concerning changes in Arda), I think that there won't be much of a change like this. Or, all right, it might (perhaps somebody might serve with a quote mentioning something like how beautiful were Yavanna's garths in spring, and they turned gold in the autumn or things like that? At least Lórien in M-E had its own beauty in various seasons, and we know it was already half-way through to the realms beyond the Sea), but I find it likely that there will be places like Ever-Snowy, Ever-Spring, Ever-Summer etc., which will be just the same whenever you'd return to them. Just think of it: no real change, that's why Valinor is perfect, and now let's forget the idea "always the same, how dull" and just remember some place which you liked to go to when you were small and you'd wish that it remained the same until now. ("Oh, they built these new houses down the street, they do not fit the place at all." or "They cut down these trees that were there, I remember we were climbing one particular oak as kids, and it's no longer there.") I believe this was the ultimate thought of Tolkien's behind this, also when you compare it to all he says about the changes in the countryside (like in the foreword to LotR).

Also, there is no doubt the platonism-affected branch of Christian philosophy involved (still quite strong in the Catholic church of his era). The ideal of the Ultimate Unchangeable beyond the changing phaenomena of this world is clearly sticking out of Valinor and the way the whole world works. In relation to the above, it actually seems to me that it is needed that there is a Forest of Ever-Spring as well as Forest of Ever-Autumn somewhere in Aman, to serve as an image, or as the basic "archetype" or even "blueprint" of all the forests in M-E at the various times, when they look different in every season.

However, there is one thing I find even more likely. I think it is not inevitable that there will be really no change at all even in the "ideal place" as Valinor is. Not even unthinkable that there will be spring, summer, autumn, and winter in the forests of Valinor, for example. I actually think that it is far more logical that there was spring, summer... etc in Valinor (at least in some places; surely there were at least several places of Ever-Summer around there). However, these would be most likely cyclical and always returning, every year at their proper times, switching all possible kinds of weather, but obediently returning according to the pre-defined pattern to the state of the beginning once again. This is also a thing common to the cosmologies of many especially early and ancient cultures (and it's preserved in some religions, in the current European-cultural context it doesn't work as well anymore with the "linear" religions like Judaism and following Christianity, which brought the image of the history as linear), which take the time as "cyclic" and you have the year as, in fact, a repetitive pattern which is always the same and unchangeable (and that's why such emphasis is put on things like equinoxes or solstices, especially things like winter solstice marking the destruction of the old and the beginning of the new year, completely fresh. That's why any changes of the pattern would be deadly - even such a thing as eclipse is something pretty unnatural and means that some evil force probably tried to eat the Sun).

Otherwise. I find alatar's note of thinking beyond the matter to be very interesting. I have been thinking about something similar, but rather of the sort: how do we know that bacteria etc. existed in M-E? I find it even inappropriate to think of that; just when reading the books, one gets the feeling (or at least I get the feeling, but I believe others do as well, as it seems really obvious to me) that the matter is really the way it looks, no complicated thinking of cells or about the fact that when you eat bread, it's made of some miniature organisms that also died. Horse is a horse, lion is a lion, just the way they look they also are - they are nothing more, but also nothing less - but quoting the popular verse from Isaiah, no problem to imagine that in the optimal state, they are all going to eat straw.

The really interesting thing is - as Pitchwife put it very well so that it actually hit me when I read it - that the only thing that is supposed to die in Arda are Men. But it's not really the death as we imagine it when we hear this word: and in this, I think Tolkien is actually very, very, very good and surpasses the conservative pattern of maintaining his world unspoiled and unchangeable. Because, along with this, we realise that it is not the world of Arda which is the center of it all. Men are only guests in that world, so the death is really nothing unusual for them. It is only moving to somewhere else (and only Ilśvatar knows, it may be that this step of being in Arda did not really mean that much after all!). The way Tolkien puts it, I would almost dare to say: and now, after you have read the stories of Tśrin and cried for poor his family, and read the story of Aragorn and his achievements, you can forget it all, because it's not the world of Men after all, and they are all going to go beyond the Circles of the World. And it matters only for the Elves, who are bound to Arda, and for the Powers, who are even more tied to the world than simple mortal Men.

EDIT: Ha, crossed with skip. True what you say.
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Old 03-09-2009, 09:49 PM   #9
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In the essay Aman (Myths Transformed, Morgoth's Ring) it is said there were:

Quote:
'... a great multitude of creatures, without fear, of many kinds: animals or moving creatures, and plants that are steadfast. There, it is believed, were the counterparts of all the creatures that are or have been on Earth, and others also that were made for Aman only. And each kind had, as on earth, its own nature and natural speed of growth.'

'... all those creatures that were thither transplanted or were trained or bred or brought into being for the purposes of inhabitation in Aman were given a speed of growth such that one year of the life natural to their kinds on earth should in Aman be one Valian Year.'
In this text 1 Valian Year = 144 Sun Years. I take this to mean that one year of growth for a newborn puppy, for example, will take 144 years in Aman (thus a Man would live out his whole life in less time). And that if a dog usually lives 15 years in Middle-earth, it will live 15 Valian Years in Aman. It could not get sick, for it was also said: 'For in Aman no creature suffered any sickness or disorder of their natures; nor was there any decay or ageing more swift than the slow ageing of Arda itself.'

It's noted that the Valian Year was assigned by the Valar for their own purposes, and was '... related to that process which may be called the 'Ageing of Arda'. For Aman was within Arda and therefore within the time of Arda (which is not eternal, whether Unmarred of Marred). Therefore Arda and all things in it must age, however slowly, as it proceeds from beginning to end. This ageing could be perceived by the Valar in about the length of time (proportionate to the whole of Arda's appointed span) which they called a year; but not in a less period.' After the section above concerning the speed of growth of the creatures of Aman, it was said...

'For the Eldar this was a source of joy, for in Aman the world appeared to them as it does to Men on Earth, but without the shadow of death soon to come. Whereas on Earth to them all things in comparison with themselves were fleeting, swift to change and die or pass away, in Aman they endured and did not so soon cheat love with their mortality. On Earth while an Elf-child did but grow to be a man or woman, in some 3000 years, forests would rise and fall, and all the face of the land would change, while birds and flowers innumerable would be born and die in loar upon loar under the wheeling Sun.'


I might be wrong, but I interpret this to mean that there was death in Aman, but it did not 'so soon' cheat love and etc, as the rate of growth and change was in better accord with the Elves. Full context of the essay is best in any case. As Legolas noted after leaving Lorien, time was constant, but growth and change is not the same in all places (or something like that, referring to his words as the Company spoke about Lorien due to Sam's confusion).
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Old 03-10-2009, 12:22 PM   #10
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Thanks to everybody for some interesting and inspiring posts up to now, and special thanks to Galin for clarifying quotations!

As for seasons, I'd think there can't have been any in Aman during the age of the Trees - at least if we stick to the old, 'classic' Silmarillion cosmology and assume that the Sun didn't exist before the death of the Trees (strangely, this would mean there can have been no seasons in Middle-Earth, either, at that time!). The blossoming and fading periods of the Trees seem to have been pretty regular, at least Tolkien doesn't tell us anything about seasonal variations as far as I've been able to discover (having consulted HoME X in the meantime). After the death of the Trees and the making of Sun and Moon it seems probable that Aman would have been subject to seasonal change like the rest of the world, and being caused by the same Sun, their seasons would be of the same length as ours.

There remains, however, the question of death in Arda Unmarred. As Ibrin has pointed out,
Quote:
Melkor marred the Music even before Ea was created. If Ea, and Arda, are indeed the Music made manifest, precisely as it was sung, then it never was "perfect."
But was death part of Eru's original design, the theme of the Music, before Melkor added his dissonances? There's a tiny bit of dialogue in the Athrabeth:
Quote:
[Andreth:]'Many of the Wise hold that in their true nature no living things would die.'
'In that the Eldar would say that they err,' said Finrod,
but he gives no reason why. However, it just occurred to me that, if Eru had planned from the beginning that Men would finally inherit Arda from the fading Elves, he may have planned for all living things to age and die in a time span that would be in accord with the lifetime and temporal perception given to Men, as it was for the Elves in Aman.
(Obviously, this idea runs counter to Legate's point that Men are only guests in that world and probably not meant to feel at home there. Hmmm... I need some more time for reading and thinking. Enough for today.)
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Old 03-10-2009, 01:20 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Pitchwife View Post
As for seasons, I'd think there can't have been any in Aman during the age of the Trees - at least if we stick to the old, 'classic' Silmarillion cosmology and assume that the Sun didn't exist before the death of the Trees (strangely, this would mean there can have been no seasons in Middle-Earth, either, at that time!). The blossoming and fading periods of the Trees seem to have been pretty regular, at least Tolkien doesn't tell us anything about seasonal variations as far as I've been able to discover (having consulted HoME X in the meantime). After the death of the Trees and the making of Sun and Moon it seems probable that Aman would have been subject to seasonal change like the rest of the world, and being caused by the same Sun, their seasons would be of the same length as ours.
Well, that's an interesting question - whether seasons did exist or not before the Sun and Moon. Remember, plants and trees did grow even in M-E earlier than Sun and Moon have been made, Yavanna had put down the seeds and they started to grow. One has to remember that it was not the light that helped the plants to grow, obviously we have to forget the photosynthesis and all the things which we are accustomed to.
So, what was happening to the trees in M-E without light? They just grew, kept growing, and eventually, when they were old enough, they died. All right, one can imagine that. But what then? Did they happen to grow any fruit, seeds, whatever, without light? Now that is one question. I would think it possible. But the images of blossoming trees in the darkness are really weird, are they - well, but on the other hand, it seems very Elvish, doesn't it?

But if so, were also the trees dropping their leaves in autumn? And anyway, if we accept the premise, then you see, you had to have seasons, even without the Sun and Moon. No contradiction in the Star Ages of M-E.

And even beside the trees, what about short-living plants? Those which last only one year, for example? Were they just there forever, and only with the coming of the Sun and the Moon they changed into one-year plants? Isn't it also possible that they grew, for example for one year, and then withered, because of let's say some of their "inner timing", not dependant upon Sun or such things?

Because, you see what happens if you say that they did not: you make the Sun and Moon the things that caused the plants to wither fast and grow fast. Not sure if that's the right thing to claim.

Also, how comes the plants, in this state, would be immortal, whereas the animals would probably age normally?

It would be the best if anybody could provide any quotes concerning this topic - but at least for myself, I can't think of anything.
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Old 03-10-2009, 03:30 PM   #12
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An interesting thing I read about recently was the discovery of an ancient temple complex in Eastern Turkey. This was far, far older than anything previously discovered. Stonehenge was built around 2,000BC, around the same time the Egyptians were building. This discovery has been dated at 10,000BC, when mankind was still a hunter-gatherer culture. That they were building a huge temple must mean they were also reliant upon agriculture.

Archaeologists link this to the origins of the Biblical story of Eden and the Fall. Before agriculture, this part of the world was lush, green and plentiful, but after, it became dry and infertile. Humans in the area suddenly had a hard life, tilling the soil to get a crust to eat. Just as in Genesis it says Man must live from the soil after the Fall.

Anyway, you can Google it to find out more - it's fascinating. Eden existed, it was the world of the hunter-gatherer, and agriculture was 'the fall' which resulted in endless toil.

This idea of 'Eden' is a strong draw for us if we think about Valinor, a place of plenty, of little or no toil, of wandering happily in the woodlands. But is that idea also one we can reconcile with hunting, killing animals and skinning them for food and clothing? Can we imagine the Elves doing this? Hunting is a very visceral thing. If we imagine the alternative, that Elves were veggies or vegans, it would also mean they would have to toil - apparently you can just about grow enough wheat on an allotment to grow half a dozen loaves of bread, so a huge population of veggie Elves would mean a lot of trees cut down.

Or did they just not eat? Even given that they are fantasy creations, it requires a huge suspension of the sense to think they would not eat enough to require significant farming or hunting.

Or did they not breed? They must have done. Tolkien states that Elves love to have children and that they only do not when they live in warlike, difficult conditions, which we are led to believe simply do not exist in Valinor.

Or is Valinor a kind of limitless, shifting place, expanding to provide ever more 'Lebensraum' for ever more Elves? Is that possible? If not, then whichever way I look at it logically, there's a distinct whiff of something dystopian about the place.
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Old 03-11-2009, 12:43 PM   #13
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This is getting rather complex, so, one thing after the other:

1. Seasons
If I remember my astronomy correctly, seasons are caused by the tilt of the Earth's axis, which makes the two hemispheres receive more or less sunlight in longer or shorter periods at different points of our orbit around the Sun. I guess you can explain seasons in a geocentric Flat World model by having the Sun move around the Earth at varying distances - but no Sun, no seasons.
How did plants in Middle-Earth grow without sunlight? Intriguing question... To be sure, Nogrod did well to remind me early in this thread that Tolkien was creating a mythology (not writing science fiction), and any attempt to make it agree with modern science is bound to run into problems sooner or later (as the Professor found out himself). Hence, Legate, your idea of things being 'just the way they look' (no cells, no microbes, no photosynthesis) does have a certain charm. On the other hand, Arda is supposed to be our world, and I can't help thinking that the plants and animals must have been more or less of the same kind as ours.
Anyway:
Quote:
you make the Sun and Moon the things that caused the plants to wither fast and grow fast. Not sure if that's the right thing to claim.
I don't see why not. Leave alone the Moon, but I seem to remember several statements by Tolkien (not that I can find a quote right now) saying that all things in Middle-Earth changed swifter in the Age of the Sun. Remember Letter no.131 to Milton Waldman:
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A marked difference here between these legends and most others is that the Sun is not a divine symbol, but a second-best thing, and the 'light of the Sun' (the world under the sun) become terms for a fallen world, and a dislocated imperfect vision.
2. Hunting, Gathering and Agriculture
We know that the Elves practised agriculture. The Silmarillion mentions the fields of Valinor, gold beneath the tall wheat of the Gods, and the feast during which Melkor and Ungolianth killed the Trees was a harvest festival.
We also know that they hunted. Celegorm, for example, was a great hunter who often followed Orome's horn in Valinor - not just for a pleasant ride, I suppose (remember Huan!). In Middle-Earth, Thranduil's folk in Mirkwood hunted as well, see The Hobbit.
And we certainly know they did breed in Valinor! Finwe's children were born there, and their children too. Laws and Customs among the Eldar tells us, however, that the Elves had few children, and those mostly early in their married lives, so I don't think they had an over-population problem.

3. Death and Arda Unmarred
This is still the question that puzzles me most and made me start/revive this thread in the first place. I think I've finally found a quotation myself that demolishes my initial misconception (from the Athrabeth, Finrod speaking):
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'For you speak of death and [Melkor's] shadow as if they were one and the same; and as if to escape from the Shadow was to escape also from Death.
But these two are not the same, Andreth. So I deem, or death would not be found at all in this world which he did not design but Another. Nay, death is but the name we give to something that the has tainted, and it sounds therefore evil; but untainted its name would be good.'
So it seems that death (or something like it) was part of Eru's original design after all - and we're all free to try to imagine what death untainted would have been like. Anyway, I take it Finrod is talking about death in general, not just the death of Men, but that may be just me - sorry, Legate, I find the idea of a world where nothing dies but Men rather chilling. Wouldn't it be even harder to accept and come to terms with death in such a world than it is in ours? To quote two lines from our German poet Günter Eich (my translation):
Who would want to live without the comfort of trees?
How good to know they, too, partake of dying!
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Old 03-11-2009, 02:53 PM   #14
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If I remember my astronomy correctly, seasons are caused by the tilt of the Earth's axis, which makes the two hemispheres receive more or less sunlight in longer or shorter periods at different points of our orbit around the Sun. I guess you can explain seasons in a geocentric Flat World model by having the Sun move around the Earth at varying distances - but no Sun, no seasons.
How did plants in Middle-Earth grow without sunlight? Intriguing question... To be sure, Nogrod did well to remind me early in this thread that Tolkien was creating a mythology (not writing science fiction), and any attempt to make it agree with modern science is bound to run into problems sooner or later (as the Professor found out himself). Hence, Legate, your idea of things being 'just the way they look' (no cells, no microbes, no photosynthesis) does have a certain charm. On the other hand, Arda is supposed to be our world, and I can't help thinking that the plants and animals must have been more or less of the same kind as ours.
You see, the problem is - Arda is supposed to be our world, yet at the same moment, it is not really our world. Just because there are some things that work differently - some quite obvious ones. One really cannot take it for granted that Arda is our world, because there are conflicts. But I agree that it is also not good, especially when Tolkien emphasises that so strongly, that Arda is not our world. I think what may help us is some middle road: just taking it that Arda is this world in some other Age, but an Age when - note! - many things were different. Of course: continents had different shapes etc., but also, when trees could grow without light. I leave that to the biologists among us, simply put, if one of them wanted to deal with that, he could say that the trees eventually adapted to the sunlight and the chorophyle and whatever stuff inside them accepted the function of permitting photosynthesis, whereas before that, it did not have as much meaning, and the trees grew just based on something else, now one may start speculating about catching some rare vapors from the air with the leaves etc., just it proved later far more energetically advantageous to gain the benefit from the Sun. Or whatever you like.
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Old 03-18-2009, 06:49 AM   #15
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So it seems that death (or something like it) was part of Eru's original design after all - and we're all free to try to imagine what death untainted would have been like.
Well, I believe the main difference would be that Morgoth's shadow wouldn't be cast upon the *perception* of death - that is, Men wouldn't fear it, but they would embrace their destiny and continue their designed path, outside Ea (something which the Elves too would come to envy in time).
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Anyway, I take it Finrod is talking about death in general, not just the death of Men
I believe not, I think Findor was specifically talking about Men, since they were a named target for Morgoth, who wanted to have them as his slaves, through fear and manipulation.
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Old 03-23-2009, 05:05 PM   #16
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Well, I believe the main difference would be that Morgoth's shadow wouldn't be cast upon the *perception* of death
My thoughts exactly. Death untainted would be neither terrifying nor repulsive. Finrod in the Athrabeth, once again:
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[...] to love the body and yet scorn it, the carrion-disgust: these things may come from the Morgoth, indeed.
You're right about the context of my earlier quote, of course: both Finrod and Andreth are primarily concerned with the death of Men. Yet, to me Finrod's words or death would not be found at all (my emphasis) sound like he has something larger in mind.

I would have liked, at this point, to delve a little into the theological implications of death as part of Eru's design (death as the Gift of Ilśvatar vs death as 'the wages of sin'), but discovered that this has already been discussed at length and brilliantly here: http://forum.barrowdowns.com/showthread.php?t=11971 Talk about re-inventing the wheel...

Anyway, I think we have to consider that the Children were introduced into the Music with the Third Theme, after Melkor had already spread discord; so their very nature, as designed by Eru, was a reaction, on Eru's side, to Melkor's initial marring of the Music.
(Side-thought: did Eru create the Children in Melkor's despite? That is, did He, being aware of Melkor's obsession with matter and his desire to dominate it, deliberately create beings consisting of a union of fea and hroa - matter and spirit - , knowing that whatever Melkor might do to their hroar, he would never be able to completely dominate their fear?)

P.S. to Legate:
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Arda is this world in some other Age, but an Age when - note! - many things were different
I'd like to emend this to this world in an imaginary (or imaginable) Age, when many things were different from the way we know them to have been in the true past of our world (rather unelegant, but more precise). - Don't get me wrong: while it can be fun to speculate about the biology and other sciences of Arda, my peace of mind certainly doesn't depend upon it. Actually, I subscribe to everything you said about scientific explanations in the 'Enchantment or advancement' thread. I'm quite happy to accept trees growing (and even blossoming) without light as a given fact; and if they have to be explained somehow, I prefer a mythologic explanation ('they grew in the dark because Yavanna made them for the dark') anytime to a mock-scientific explanation ('they used a different kind of chlorophyll that enabled them to photosynthesize starlight').
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Old 04-08-2009, 02:28 AM   #17
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I would have liked, at this point, to delve a little into the theological implications of death as part of Eru's design (death as the Gift of Ilśvatar vs death as 'the wages of sin'), but discovered that this has already been discussed at length and brilliantly here: http://forum.barrowdowns.com/showthread.php?t=11971 Talk about re-inventing the wheel...
I would certainly encourage you to do so . A board where a topic is discusses in one, and only one, thread, is pretty much a dead board
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Anyway, I think we have to consider that the Children were introduced into the Music with the Third Theme, after Melkor had already spread discord; so their very nature, as designed by Eru, was a reaction, on Eru's side, to Melkor's initial marring of the Music.
As far as I know, this is one of the main themes of discussion on most Tolkien boards. My personal position is that correlation does not mean implication. Though the appearance of the Eruhini was correlated with Melkor's actions, I strongly believe that the former originates purely in Eru's primary/initial intention. The purpose of the Children in creation, especially that of Men, is to take governance over Arda, to be, more or less, in the central spot of all the Universe, with everyone else fading into the background. If the purpose of Men is to replace everyone else as central players, then Melkor himself couldn't have been their source cause, since it means that by a rather unplanned action he determined the fate of valar and maiar, to a very fundamental degree. Eru excludes such a posibility, that anyone could alter his designs in his spite.
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Old 04-12-2009, 06:45 PM   #18
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You're right, of course, to insist on Eru's absolute freedom at any given point. However, as he introduced the Children into the Music after Melkor's discord, I like to think he may have adapted his design of their nature so as to counter the effects of the discord and enable them to fulfil his purpose in a world marred in the making. Or maybe not - if he knew what Melkor was up to all along, he didn't need to adapt his design. But this is touching on the problem of divine providence vs free will, which is another can of worms.

As for re-inventing the theological wheel, as you've so kindly encouraged me to do, the crux of the biscuit is this:
Christian theology (at least the Catholic tradition I was raised in) tends to regard death as 'the wages of sin' - i.e. a lamentable consequence of the Fall, to be redressed by Christ's incarnation/crucifixion/resurrection (hence 'death, where is thy sting'); implying that if Adam & Eve had not sinned and fallen, they might have lived forever.
(Genesis itself is sort of ambiguous about this question; on the one hand, we have
Quote:
you are dust, and to dust you shall return
(Gen 3:19 - God proclaiming judgment on Adam after the Fall); on the other hand (Gen 3:22-23):
Quote:
Then the Lord God said, 'See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever' - therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden
According to this, God banished Adam & Eve to prevent them from gaining immortality - which seems to mean they didn't have it before.)

For Tolkien, however (as far as we can judge from his writings), death was something completely different, namely 'the Gift of Ilśvatar': meaning, as I understand it,
1. part of the nature of Men as designed by Eru, regardless of any sin they may have committed, and
2. something that may have been tainted, but untainted its name would have been good (see above); which I take to mean that even if it's been tainted, it's still the best way for Eru to achieve the good he has in mind for Mankind.
To me, none of this sounds like orthodox Christianity. Now we know that Tolkien himself claimed LotR to be a thoroughly Christian book ('consciously in the revision', etc.) - which makes me wonder whether
a) there's any kind of loophole in Christian theology that allows for Tolkien's view of death to be considered as orthodox, or
b) this is a case of the truths of his heart prevailing over the truths of his faith.

(Athrabeth, with its story of the Fall of Men and preview of the Incarnation, looks like a late attempt by the Prof to make his mythology conform to the Christian tradition; but while it's certainly an interesting and touching piece of writing, I'm not sure that he was quite satisfied with it himself - or why else would he have said that parts of it sound like parodies of Christianity?)
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Old 04-12-2009, 07:51 PM   #19
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1. part of the nature of Men as designed by Eru, regardless of any sin they may have committed, and
2. something that may have been tainted, but untainted its name would have been good (see above); which I take to mean that even if it's been tainted, it's still the best way for Eru to achieve the good he has in mind for Mankind.
To me, none of this sounds like orthodox Christianity. Now we know that Tolkien himself claimed LotR to be a thoroughly Christian book ('consciously in the revision', etc.) - which makes me wonder whether
a) there's any kind of loophole in Christian theology that allows for Tolkien's view of death to be considered as orthodox, or
b) this is a case of the truths of his heart prevailing over the truths of his faith.
One thing that should probably be noted about Tolkien's comment about the LotR being a consciously Catholic work in the revision is that this comment does not claim to apply to the Silmarillion, which is where the Creation of the World and the Fall of Man has its recounting. As far as the LotR is concerned, these two subjects are left pretty much untouched. And as far as those two subjects go, they were written, and little changed thereafter--especially the Music of the Ainur, back in the Book of Lost Tales era.

Of course, it is also true that Tolkien saw LotR as part of a cohesive legendarium with the Silmarillion, but it strikes me as a bit unfair to look for the same sort of theology in both works given the different times in which they were written. While it is true that the Silmarillion was substantially continued after the completion of the LotR, it was mostly a rewriting of what had already been written, and the few radically new parts (that aren't expansions of old tales, such as the Narn i Chķn Hśrin) ARE, in fact, typically attempts to reconcile the old Silm with a new, different, worldview. The "Athrabeth" is certainly the main theological attempt, but I think it could be argued that the attempted cosmological changes involved in the Melkor essays included in Morgoth's Ring (HoME X) could be considered in the same light, though their focus is more on reconciling with a different physical worldview--that of the round world.

It is interesting, perhaps, that this revision to reconcile with a round world (the "real world") coincided with an attempt to reconcile with a Christian world (again, for Tolkien, the "real world"). I think it is also worth noting that while these changes proved to be almost too much to handle for the Silmarillion, there is really very little about them that would not be manageable for the LotR, barring perhaps a bit of the Appendices--meaning that the LotR is, in at least one sense, fundamentally reconcilable with the "real world"--Christian and round.
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Old 04-13-2009, 04:18 AM   #20
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Or maybe not - if he knew what Melkor was up to all along, he didn't need to adapt his design.
Well, I'd like to go with this idea tbh, since it is coherent with the concept of the all-knowing, all-powerful god.
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Christian theology (at least the Catholic tradition I was raised in) tends to regard death as 'the wages of sin' - i.e. a lamentable consequence of the Fall, to be redressed by Christ's incarnation/crucifixion/resurrection (hence 'death, where is thy sting'); implying that if Adam & Eve had not sinned and fallen, they might have lived forever.
...
a) there's any kind of loophole in Christian theology that allows for Tolkien's view of death to be considered as orthodox
The original sin is also viewed in another way: felix pecata, the happy fault, that will require the presence of Christ.
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"O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem," "O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer."
a line from the traditional Western Rite hymn of praise intoned by the deacon during the Easter Vigil. This was also invoked by theologians, such as Thomas d'Aquino, to explain how a greater good can be brought through the existence of evil. Tolkien too in his Letters shows a similar view:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Letters, p. 76
All things and deeds have a value in themselves, apart from their 'causes' and 'effects.' No man can estimate what is really happening at the present sub specie aeternitatis. All we do know, and that to a large extent by direct experience, is that evil labours with vast power and perpetual success – in vain: preparing always only the soil for unexpected good to sprout in.
I think this is the joining point of the two views on death. Tolkien took liberty in exploring the subject of death from another angle, but maintaining the basic principles, humans predestined to die by design no matter what, and the situation of humans born in sin is a pre-condition for something much greater (the coming of Christ in christianity which is uniquely important not just for humans but for all creation, and the fulfillment of the role of creation in Ea through Men and their gifts).
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Old 05-01-2009, 05:51 PM   #21
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the Silmarillion, which is where the Creation of the World and the Fall of Man has its recounting
Creation, yes; Fall, no (unless you include Adanel's story in the Athrabeth). All we are told about the prehistory of Men in the published Silmarillion are vague rumours about a shadow the Edain sought to escape - as is to be expected from the elvo-centric perspective of the work.
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And as far as those two subjects go, they were written, and little changed thereafter--especially the Music of the Ainur, back in the Book of Lost Tales era.
Not quite so. Remember, this thread is about Tolkien's attitude towards death, especially the concept of death as the Gift of Ilśvatar - of which, IIRC, there is little trace, if any, in BoLT. (Actually, BoLT has some very curious and rather primitive ideas about the post-mortal fate of Men - including, unless my memory deceives me, those damned by Mandos being ferried to Angband for torture; not to forget the post-mortem deification of Tśrin and Nienóri and Tśrin's role in the Last Battle, which survived to reappear in several later stages of the Legendarium.)
Unfortunately, I don't own the relevant volumes of HoME, so I can't pinpoint when the idea of the Gift first appeared. When was the first version of the Ainulindale after that in BoLT written, and does it contain anything of the sort?

Anyway - while I admit that I've taken a rather diachronic approach in my arguments, I don't think I've been unfair to Tolkien. The concept of death as the Gift is present (though not prominent) in LoTR - Appendix A, The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen:
Quote:
For if this is indeed, as the Eldar say, the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive.
So my questions do pertain to LotR, not only to the Silmarillion and later writings.

You're right, of course, about the intention of Athrabeth and the late essays in Morgoth's Ring. Whether or not the Silmarillion would have been improved by the changes Tolkien projected is a question of taste - I, for one, prefer the making of the Sun and Moon from the last blossom/fruit of Telperion and Laurelin.

Quote:
the "real world"--Christian and round
No comment.

Raynor: Felix peccatum and felix culpa - yes, of course; but felix mors???
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the coming of Christ in christianity which is uniquely important not just for humans but for all creation[my emphasis, Pw], and the fulfillment of the role of creation in Ea through Men and their gifts
Please elaborate.
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