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Old 08-08-2013, 02:44 PM   #1
Galadriel55
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What do you fight for?

Today, with the starting of this thread, I am celebrating my 5555th post anniversary. You are all invited to commemorate the day with me at any given moment, even though the anniversary will only last until my next post. But at least this time I remembered to spend it on something more or less meaningful. Anyways, to open the can of worms...

In the legendarium, there are two main sources of the so called “absolute evil” – Morgoth in the First Age and Sauron in the Third, and perhaps somewhat in the Second. I place Sauron on par with Morgoth because, regardless of their origin and beginning (which have no bearing to this thread), they both end up as the “supervillain” figure at some point.

Next, there are dozens and scores of people who rise, or are lifted up against their will, to battle this absolute evil, be it directly or indirectly. These people all have different thoughts, motives, consequences, and etc. for battling evil. Moreover, some may be said not to be in the battle at all.

I am most curious about your psychoanalyses of different personas and discussions of thereof, but, as an extension of the topic, I decided to open it up to other questions. These are the points I want to touch on:
1. Discuss the motives, thoughts, and rationale behind the fight. Why are the characters battling evil? (Somewhat philosophically) Are they fighting against evil, or are they fighting for good? Is the character fighting for a specific purpose? Bottom line, are they fighting evil, or are they fighting the orc that is standing in front of them? Does the way that they choose to fight reflect any of the above? Etc.

2. Compare/contrast characters and the above information. Does the difference in the “fight” make one of them better than another (as a person, as a character to read about)? Do you think the character deserves the credit that he gets for the fight (either fame or lack of thereof, or changes in reputation)? Etc.

3. Are there any large-scale trends among certain groups of people or time periods (or other divisions)? Is there a reason for those trends?

4. Anything related you can come up with, discussions, disagreements, etc.
While we do have many interesting shades of grey among our Tolkien characters that choose to fight between themselves, this thread should stick to those that fight the “ultimate evil”.

As it is probably expected of me, I will provide a (1) analysis of my favourite character to analyze in such situations (hint hint wink wink), but that will come a bit later in the near future, time permitting. I don’t want this thread to turn into a one-character argument so early on. Instead, I will provide a (1) and (2) Beren analysis.

1. Beren

Very little could be gleamed of why Beren fought before Barahir’s death. I would assume that it was for the same reasons as Barahir’s group in general – a true hatred of Morgoth’s creatures that invaded Dorthonion and a desire to defend their homeland, with the invaders part possibly being stronger than the Morgoth part. When his father and the others are killed, Beren pursues the orcs for revenge. As a “solitary outlaw”, he combats every creature of Morgoth, but does not slay any other living thing (was he vegetarian? What did he feed on?), since the fauna became his friend. If at first it’s not clear what is the overpowering force (hate of Morgoth and the invaders or love of Dorthonion), since his father’s death Beren did not necessarily fight for the good, he only fought the evil. Both ways, though, it seems as though Beren is not striving against Morgoth, but rather against the individual invaders.

Here I will skip in Beren’s story to the part about the Silmaril. He announced the challenge when he gave his oath to Thingol because of his love for Luthien. Right away we can place his greatest deed as something not done purposefully against evil. I won’t say he fought for the greater good either. He’s on a quest for his maiden’s hand, and IMO his oath helps him go on, since he would not back up from it. The question here would be (or my own personal bit of cynicism), what does he actually do except follow Luthien’s lead once the challenge begins? Not much, if you think of it, but at one point he dead seriously wants to give it a try on his own (when he sings Farewell sweet earth and northern sky). Beren shows himself for the first time (yes, I am that cynical about the Lay of Leithian) on their way out, when he faces Carcharoth and loses his hand. Here he is quite desperately trying to escape from Thangorodrim, and it’s only for his and Luthien’s lives that he challenges Carcharoth. All in all, the quest was not so much of a fight against evil as it was a personal quest for the Silmaril. The fight for evil lay in the challenge, the mere fact that someone would sneak up and cut a Silmaril out of Morgoth’s own crown.

The next and last time that Beren battles a representative of the absolute evil is during the Hunting of the Wolf. This Beren does more out of duty than anything else. He is fighting Carcharoth because he is a threat to Doriath standing in front of him, and he has no thought that a blow to the Wolf is an indirect blow to Morgoth.

Now I will proceed to...

2. Beren

I always thought that Beren’s role in the main story is a bit overcredited. Luthien gets the disguises, Luthien disposes of Carcharoth, Luthien tricks Morgoth and casts all of his court into a sleep, and Beren cuts the Silmaril. When looked on from the POV of the rationale behind the fight, the main fight here is in the daring – that certainly deserves whatever praise it got. Overall, too, Beren’s deeds are not so spectacular, and only his daring can be praised. The one part of his story that I think is not praised enough is the very beginning, until he comes to Doriath (which also happens to be the part of his life that I like best – warning: bias).

In conclusion, I do not consider the Quest for the Silmaril to be a fight against Morgoth, and, disregarding that, I think Beren gets too much credit. What he does deserve the credit for is his bravery (but ohhh the lack of actions to match it!) and for his deeds before Doriath, which also happen to be a fight against Morgoth.



I sincerely hope that I have not scared you all away with my long post and analysis – you need not make yours so wordy.

PS: finally I spend an anniversary post on something long and meaningful! Hurray!
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Old 08-10-2013, 12:46 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
Today, with the starting of this thread, I am celebrating my 5555th post anniversary.
First, congratulations

Second; very interesting thread. I don't have much time to post right now, but I would definitely like to amend it in the future. For the time being, let me just add two short comments (ha, ha. Who ever heard that *I* wrote short comments... see? It begins), first on what you wrote about Beren-

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I always thought that Beren’s role in the main story is a bit overcredited. Luthien gets the disguises, Luthien disposes of Carcharoth, Luthien tricks Morgoth and casts all of his court into a sleep, and Beren cuts the Silmaril. When looked on from the POV of the rationale behind the fight, the main fight here is in the daring – that certainly deserves whatever praise it got. Overall, too, Beren’s deeds are not so spectacular, and only his daring can be praised.
I definitely agree about this. To tell the truth, Beren just happened to be "in the right place at the right time" to fight against the great Evil, but his "big deed" wasn't really so special. If I wanted to be provocative, I could say "had Beren's oath involved instead stealing an earring from the leader of a group of highwayman, he wouldn't get such a praise for his big heroic deed". On top of that, it is indeed Lúthien who does most of the work necessary to pass all the dangers on the road and get inside Angband. It is a wonderful credit to her love for Beren, which is probably one of the main points of the story, but as for Beren's heroism, one has to give her more credit for the actual deeds (that's not to say that Beren didn't show similar dedication and also bravery by taking the quest).

Quote:
In conclusion, I do not consider the Quest for the Silmaril to be a fight against Morgoth, and, disregarding that, I think Beren gets too much credit. What he does deserve the credit for is his bravery (but ohhh the lack of actions to match it!) and for his deeds before Doriath, which also happen to be a fight against Morgoth.
And yes. It is obvious that Beren's tale omits the "minor skirmishes in the woods" stuff, which was THE fight against evil ("morally", or how should I say it), but his quest was purely personal. In fact, from the material we have, Barahir should be the one praised more than Beren: here we have a heroic story of a heroic fighter against evil, complete with heroic ending with terrible betrayal.

I think especially the "old legends" suffer a lot from the "looks like 'the good guy in the story', but he is not, he is just a hero"-type syndrome. Another example I just have to point out (mostly just in relation in your point #1) is Túrin. Compared to Beren, his good deeds come to similar kind of stuff - being a guerilla fighter against Morgoth. But in fact, maybe he is even more of a good guy than Beren (even though in general I dislike Túrin, but he has quite a few noteworthy moments). Such as, he is the one who "tames" the originally wild group of random raiders into real fighters of good (AND the first thing he does is not only making them kill Orcs, but first to stop stealing women from local villages, which is another, subtler, but nonetheless important form of "fight against evil"!). Otherwise, Túrin also has the "luck" (in his case, totally) of being thrown into the midst of events where he has to fight back, or die. So it is not really his choice. But I think if we compare the material we have about Túrin and the material we have about Beren, in this respect, I would say Túrin leads. (But of course, he has more "bad reputation points" to compensate for other things, such as killing Mim and Brandir and all that, but that's another angle of view, and I am not going to start an elaboration on that now.)

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PS: finally I spend an anniversary post on something long and meaningful! Hurray!
And once again congratulations
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Old 08-20-2013, 06:13 PM   #3
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First of all, thank you for the congratulations and the response! Both are greatly appreciated!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
I definitely agree about this. To tell the truth, Beren just happened to be "in the right place at the right time" to fight against the great Evil, but his "big deed" wasn't really so special. If I wanted to be provocative, I could say "had Beren's oath involved instead stealing an earring from the leader of a group of highwayman, he wouldn't get such a praise for his big heroic deed". On top of that, it is indeed Lúthien who does most of the work necessary to pass all the dangers on the road and get inside Angband. It is a wonderful credit to her love for Beren, which is probably one of the main points of the story, but as for Beren's heroism, one has to give her more credit for the actual deeds (that's not to say that Beren didn't show similar dedication and also bravery by taking the quest).

And yes. It is obvious that Beren's tale omits the "minor skirmishes in the woods" stuff, which was THE fight against evil ("morally", or how should I say it), but his quest was purely personal. In fact, from the material we have, Barahir should be the one praised more than Beren: here we have a heroic story of a heroic fighter against evil, complete with heroic ending with terrible betrayal.
Very, very, very true. We're thinking the same thoughts here.

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Originally Posted by Legate
(But of course, he has more "bad reputation points" to compensate for other things, such as killing Mim and Brandir and all that, but that's another angle of view, and I am not going to start an elaboration on that now.)
Turin has enough faults without piling Mim onto him as well! :P

But seriously, I think you might be the first one who sees Turin from my perspective. I was avoiding him, but since you brought him up I may as well open the fighting arena.

Turin has two types of "bad moments" - bad character moments and bad luck moments, where he helps Morgoth more than he fights him. Overall, though, I do not find him a bad person, because, although I do not always agree with his actions, I can understand them. He does not do anything evil rationally understanding that it's evil, like the sons of Feanor are wont to do. He is either deceived or crazed, or he truly believes that he is doing the right thing. Despite his unsuccessful and unfortunate attempts, if you look at his intentions, you'll discover that he's a much better person than is seen at first sight. Many times when he ends up destroying his friends and comrades, he was actually doing his best to give Morgoth a fight.

That aside, though, I want to flip through COH looking for some motives. As a child, Turin first loses Lalaith (which he does not link with Morgoth, other than from his parents' words, but it builds up the beginnings of hate in him), then he sees his homeland overrun by Easterlings, everybody he knew either killed or enslaved, then is parted from all of that completely. That, and the disappeared messengers that ended the last ties with Dor-lomin, pushed Turin to take up arms and ask Thingol for men to lead against Morgoth: "for onset against our foe I long, rather than defence". Thingol and Melian convince him to stay at the marches for the time being, but this is a guiding thought for him after he leaves Doriath. And once again, at this stage it is the "wrongs of his kin" that drive the fight.

When Turin starts living with the outlaws, he is "not greedy, and took little thought for himself", but overtime with such company he also stepped down the moral ladder, but still "pity and disgust would wake in him". Nonetheless, most of the time he more or less ignores, and I assume takes part in, whatever foul deeds the outlaws did. At this point he does not really fight Morgoth, or fight anyone really, but just lives - because it's darn tough to just live in circumstances like his. You could even say that he aids evil – but not without a grain of indignant conscience.

Killing Forweg is a very questionable deed, which I can’t assign to any category. It seems as though Turin protected the woman instinctively, but even if he stopped his strike on time to spare his commander’s life I can’t imagine him standing by watching as Forweg did what he came for. It seems as though Turin tries to do justice both for the girl and for the outlaws – he is unwilling to betray them for two reasons: firstly, he will not “buy a favour” on principle, and secondly, he really does consider them his fellows. Androg called the slaying “evil work”, but it was both unintentional (Turin was expecting orcs) and just. It would have been evil to not protect the woman, but it also would have been evil to give her the wolf-heads she asked for, and Turin avoided both paths. Here I think is a rare situation where Turin both showed himself wonderfully and it worked out well, without a tragedy waiting behind the corner.

Turin is a leader in his nature, and wherever he goes he rises to the top with men rallying behind him, be it in Doriath, with the outlaws, in Nargothrond, or in Brethil. When he becomes the captain, the first thing he does is to rebuke his men about their deeds and their (or, rather, Androg’s) inability to see or feel anything noble, and then leads them away to “earn less hatred of our own kind”. Moreover, after Beleg’s arrival, Turin is overwhelmed with guilt and swears not to slay any Men of Elf again. When they talk later, Turin says that he will not part with the outlaws and that he sees goodness in each of them and is trying to cultivate that goodness, despite Beleg’s skepticism about the matter. While this is not a direct fight against Morgoth, he fights Morgoth’s evil just the same within his band; in my opinion, those actions more than level up whatever deeds he allowed the band to do before.

Oh my goodness. I’m only half-way through the book, and with the biggest fish still to come, and I can already submit this as a character analysis essay for my upcoming English class. I will stop here at this stage and say only that so far (and in the future too) Turin has a good sense of good, so to speak, and it’s something that could motivate people to fight, but he doesn’t fight for good, he only hates Morgoth and his minions and fights against Morgoth – not even against evil, but specifically against Morgoth. It is only because he considers some evil deeds to be orc-work and fit for Angband that he puts a stop to them. It’s a hate and an effort that deserves respect.
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Old 08-21-2013, 08:52 AM   #4
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Just a brief note here (going shopping soon):

Not to beat up on PJ again (oh, who am I kidding, it is ) Denethor and his sons are interesting cases of various motivations. While Denethor is more complex then PJ and friends portray, a wise philologist once observed:
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Denethor was tainted with mere politics: hence his failure, and his mistrust of Faramir [note: not the cartoonish movie Faramir] It had become for him [Denethor] a prime motive to preserve the polity of Gondor, as it was, against another potentate, who had made himself stronger and was to be feared and opposed for that reason rather than because he was ruthless and wicked....If he had survived as victor, even without use of the Ring, he would have taken a long stride towards becoming himself a tyrant
Faramir, while motivation is generally seen as uncorrupted, battling evil, also seems to be afflicted with a bit of elvish regret for passing time and past times. Perhaps motivation includes a similar wish to hold time back.

However, Gandalf seems to suggest younger Denethor (before the loss of his wife) was more idealistic, at least relatively.
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Old 08-22-2013, 04:27 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Tuor in Gondolin View Post
Faramir, while motivation is generally seen as uncorrupted, battling evil, also seems to be afflicted with a bit of elvish regret for passing time and past times. Perhaps motivation includes a similar wish to hold time back.

However, Gandalf seems to suggest younger Denethor (before the loss of his wife) was more idealistic, at least relatively.
Personally I read Faramir as someone accepting of the changing nature of history. While I agree that there might be an element of that regret in his nature, the strength of his conviction is such that he is able to accept the irrationality of that regret and understand the "need of our days."
This is why I find him to be such a powerful foil to Denethor, in that he still understood that the war against Sauron was a moral imperative and not simply one of political manoeuvering. Denethor certainly did, like the Noldor, desire stasis: "I would have things as they were in all the days of my life." By contrast, while Faramir may have found Gondor's deterioration (and the spiritual deterioration of Men in general) to be an unfortunate thing, he accepted it as a fact he could not change. Denethor wished that he could change it and was unable to compromise that desire, hence his despair.
Boromir, by contrast, wished to reject the ingrained traditions and revolutionise Gondor. He wished for the Stewards to be Kings, and for himself to be the hero and saviour of Men. I think Faramir is Tolkien's rejection of both of these extremes, Denethor's fatal conservatism and Boromir's dangerous revolutionary fervour.
This is, of course, simply how I read the characters, but I think Tolkien portrays Faramir to us as the best example of the three.
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Old 08-23-2013, 08:39 PM   #6
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Well I'll try my hand at this thread if I may.

I think a good example of someone fighting against evil vs "for good" would be Treebeard.
Treebeard in the book(Vs wishy washy movie treebeard) was very strongly for battling Saruman and called the moot to discuss it and plan.

I don't think he really ever thought too much further than the borders of his forest, though. They take out Isengard pretty handily but It isn't a campaign so much as, how to word this, Pest control? It seems Treebeard had to be pushed pretty far before coming to the conclusion battle was needed. As quickly as they subdued the tower, you could attribute that to Helm's Deep but It seems the ents could've take Isengard pretty early on had they wished.

Again though I think while He's trying to save the forest he doesn't seem to have much worry about middle earth as a whole which makes sense. The ents are of course a doomed race so why bother saving a world they won't see?

This is mostly conjecture on my part and based on memory since I haven't read the books in at least 2-3 years.
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Old 08-25-2013, 04:55 PM   #7
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I can understand what Galadriel55 means by fighting for good and distinguished from fighting against evil, but The Silmarillion does not indicate cases where for Beren there is any necessary distinction between the two.

Or perhaps Beren’s seeking aid from Finrod is such a case, for it leads to Finrod’s death, and Beren seeks Finrod’s aid because of his desire for Lúthien’s hand in marriage, not principally for any desire to fight evil in the abstract, which Galadriel55 also admits.

But Finrod feels himself morally bound by his oath to Barahir, Beren’s father, to aid him in his quest for a Silmaril. Celegorm and Curufin point out that they are morally bound to seek vengeance on any but the sons of Fëanor who find or take a Silmaril. It may be understood that all of the exiled Noldor are understood to have acquiesced to that oath by following Fëanor to Middle-earth. All but ten of Finrod’s Elvish followers forsake Finrod and they alone accompany Finrod and Beren.

Also, does Lúthien have the legal right to take anyone she wishes as her husband against her father’s will? Tolkien says nothing about the power of Sindarin law in this matter, that I recall, but declares that Thingol proclaimed that to make such a request was (legally?) worthy of death, save that Thingol had already agreed to spare Beren’s life.

That Beren “from that time forth he ate no flesh nor slew any living thing that was not in the service of Morgoth” is, as Galadriel55 points out, an interesting point. Does Beren only eat orcs, trolls, wolves, bats, spiders, and the occasional balrog? Does Lúthien share in his dietary preferences?

But Huan is a wolfhound of Valanor in the service of the Noldo Celegorm. Does he also only eat such creatures, presumably mainly wolves?

Would a vegetarian non-hero be considered more moral than a meat-eating hero? Why or why not? Did the Valar eat meat? Did Gandalf eat meat?
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