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Old 04-23-2010, 05:07 AM   #1
Eorl of Rohan
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Couldn't Niniel and Turin have worked it out?

.
One of my favorite features in Barrow-Downs is the ever-changing quotes on the top right corner, and today it showed this passage:

Quote:
NINIEL, THINKING TURIN IS DEAD:
"Farewell, O twice beloved! A Túrin Turambar turun ambartanen: master of doom by doom mastered! O happy to be dead!"
This reminded me, what if Niniel knew that Turin was just out cold and not dead? Would she have killed herself regardless?
I know that she was pregnant (and thus her hormones might have added to her impetuousness),
but couldn't Niniel the Tearmaiden pause and assess her situation?
I mean, brother marries sister in lots of cultures (especially in royal families, to keep the bloodline pure),
And I suspect that Niniel didn't receive much of ethical or moral sermons on sexual purity from Morwen while on the road;
Even if she did, nowhere on Silmarillion does Eru or the Valar state: "thou shalt not marry thine own brethren".
Why would it be a sin? It would be weird, but not Oedipal marry-your-mother weird. Besides, isn't suicide/infanticide sinful as well?

Don't you think Niniel and Turin might have worked out a viable solution other than double-suicide to this tangled web of deceit,
if Niniel realized in time that Turin was unconscious but still alive? Somehow overcome this, together?

I know that I'm a sucker for happy endings, but I cannot help but wonder whether Niniel would've killed herself she knew Turin lived.
I understand her jumping off a cliff in her despair at her husband's death and the shock of what she found out,
But what would Niniel and Turin have done if Niniel knew Turin was alive? (I assume filing for divorce wasn't an option, but still.)

.

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Old 04-23-2010, 09:52 AM   #2
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I mean, brother marries sister in lots of cultures (especially in royal families, to keep the bloodline pure).
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Originally Posted by Eorl of Rohan View Post
Even if she did, nowhere on Silmarillion does Eru or the Valar state: "thou shalt not marry thine own brethren".
Yes, royalty in the 'real world' often married their close kin, but at least in Europe, that was mainly a result of their practice of arranging marriages between their offspring and that of other thrones, in order to increase their influence. Over time that led to a lot of shared genetics in royal houses. However, I don't think they commonly consorted with such close kin as brothers and sisters.

In Tolkien's world, such intermarriage seems to be strictly taboo, even without an 'official' decree from the Valar. We see it in the Eldar, with Maeglin:

Quote:
....he loved the beauty of Idril and desired her, without hope. The Eldar wedded not with kin so near, nor ever before had any desired to do so.
The Silmarillion Of Maeglin

And the Dúnedain in Númenor, who took many of their laws and customs from the Elves:

Quote:
But Pharazôn took [Míriel] to wife against her will, doing evil in this and evil also in that the laws of Númenor did not permit the marriage, even in the royal house, of those more nearly akin than cousins in the second degree.
The Silmarillion Akallabêth

So there are two examples of close marriages being disallowed, and both those instances merely regard first cousins.

Incest between immediate family would have been an even greater horror to those in Middle-earth, at least those of the 'enlightened', in the west.

It seems clear that it wasn't the thought of Túrin being dead that drove Níniel to madness, but the knowledge the she was carrying his child.

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Originally Posted by Eorl of Rohan View Post
Why would it be a sin? It would be weird, but not Oedipal marry-your-mother weird. Besides, isn't suicide/infanticide sinful as well?
I don't claim to be an expert on the matter in the real world, but generally the taboo would stem from the knowledge that the genetic mixing would result in birth defects and unhealthy descendants. I don't see why that would be different in ME.

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Don't you think Niniel and Turin might have worked out a viable solution other than double-suicide to this tangled web of deceit,
if Niniel realized in time that Turin was unconscious but still alive? Somehow overcome this, together?
I don't think either could have dealt with the horror they felt. Think of Níniel's words:

Quote:
O happy to be dead!
She wasn't mourning Túrin; she envied him, that his anguish had ended.

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Originally Posted by Eorl of Rohan View Post
I know that I'm a sucker for happy endings, but I cannot help but wonder whether Niniel would've killed herself she knew Turin lived.
I understand her jumping off a cliff in her despair at her husband's death and the shock of what she found out,
But what would Niniel and Turin have done if Niniel knew Turin was alive? (I assume filing for divorce wasn't an option, but still.)

.
I think she would have done the same, if Túrin himself had tried to stay her. The thought of carrying the child to term would have been unbearable to her, and suicide the only option. She's really the one I have the most pity for in the whole sorry tale, not Túrin.
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Old 04-23-2010, 10:26 AM   #3
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Aw. I was hoping against hope that there was no reference about taboo of marriage between close kinds in Tolkien's works, but I guess that's dashed.
I should have liked to dream of a possible happy future for Turin and Niniel.
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Old 04-23-2010, 11:38 AM   #4
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I mean, brother marries sister in lots of cultures (especially in royal families, to keep the bloodline pure),
Really? The only example I can think of where this has happened is ancient Egypt and I believe I've heard that even there, the extent to which this was a normal practice has been somewhat exaggerated. But of course there may well be other examples I'm not familiar with.

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Besides, isn't suicide/infanticide sinful as well?
No one committed infanticide in the story.

As for suicide - personally, I've never understood why this is so widely considered sinful or immoral. Tragic, certainly, but how is voluntarily ending one's own life sinful? However, that's just my view; I expect Tolkien would have agreed that it was sinful. One does wonder what he thought the 'correct' response would have been on both Nienor's and Turin's parts.
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Old 04-23-2010, 11:43 AM   #5
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There is certainly a knowledge of keeping bloodlines pure in Tolkien especially with the Dunedain where the purer houses in Gondor are the longest lived and their lifetime is less than those of the North because of mingling with lesser stock. Of course in the real world inbreeding is much more likely to cause a diminishment in health and mind.
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Old 04-23-2010, 12:35 PM   #6
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Aw. I was hoping against hope that there was no reference about taboo of marriage between close kinds in Tolkien's works, but I guess that's dashed.
I should have liked to dream of a possible happy future for Turin and Niniel.
Probably that can't be helped. You see, the story was basically meant to be tragic from the beginning till the end. But that said, I don't think it's a reason to despair - there are many other stories from Middle-Earth and basically all of them end up happily! (And that is even if somebody dies... my belief is that all of them end up happily. At most, there is the general sadness like e.g. the departure of the Elves, but that's something different, not tragedy.)

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As for suicide - personally, I've never understood why this is so widely considered sinful or immoral. Tragic, certainly, but how is voluntarily ending one's own life sinful? However, that's just my view; I expect Tolkien would have agreed that it was sinful. One does wonder what he thought the 'correct' response would have been on both Nienor's and Turin's parts.
I wonder too. The point is, I think he would say that under their own circumstances this was probably the logical and inavoidable conclusion. Of course in our Primary World he would have a different point of view (from the point of view of his faith at least the one that amendment is always possible), but that's probably a lot outside the scope of what he wanted to portray here: a complete tragedy, well in tune with all the old tragic tales (all the ancient Greek fate-bound Oidipus-like guys or Kullervo from Kalevala, who had essentially the very same fate).

As for suicide being seen as sinful: there is a very good logic behind it, in my opinion, and I am saying that as a person whose close friend had actually commited suicide. The main underlying point would be that it is not just your personal problem and decision. It is ultimately an utterly cowardly and selfish deed, thinking that "with being dead, I don't have to worry about anything anymore". But it's not only about oneself, but also about the other people who knew that person, and who are still left here living their lives. That friend of mine wiped out all knowledge of his existence, like throwing away things from his home and erasing all files from his computer, making it seem as if he never existed. But to all those people who knew him, of course, it was not as easy as that to just forget that he existed. Namely his parents. The point is, there is a certain network of people around everybody and he is in some way responsible to them. This is further emphasised also by the classic religious explanation of suicide being sinful because your life is not ultimately yours to take because it also was not you to give it to yourself in the first place. The general explanation (and I think shared by more religious worldviews, and in my opinion not impossible to adapt even by non-religiously thinking people) is that you are born here, which is not just a random privilege, but it puts you in a certain situation with certain responsibilities. (And from this point, you can start thinking about basically everything in this world in a different perspective, I am not going to start on that here, you can surely imagine on your own.)
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Old 04-24-2010, 07:21 PM   #7
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No one committed infanticide in the story.
Niniel was pregnant when she committed suicide; that's technically an infanticide.
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Old 04-24-2010, 07:49 PM   #8
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Technically, I don't think it is. But that's a discussion we probably don't want to get into here.
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Old 04-24-2010, 09:31 PM   #9
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Suicide is sinful because all deliberately self-destructive practices are sinful. A righteous man recognizes his life and health as gifts from God, which he would never willfully spurn.
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Old 04-26-2010, 08:45 AM   #10
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Niniel was pregnant when she committed suicide; that's technically an infanticide.
Words sometimes have specific meanings. Like patricide means 'killing Patrick.'

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Originally Posted by obloquy View Post
Suicide is sinful because all deliberately self-destructive practices are sinful. A righteous man recognizes his life and health as gifts from God, which he would never willfully spurn.
I was thinking about this. Those who stood beside Húrin, providing a rear guard so that Turgon could escape, knew that they were about to die. Standing, their task was to slow the advance of Morgoth's hordes. Sense would dictate that they flee, but they didn't. Not only had they made oaths to their King, but some may have known that they were sacrificing themselves so that there would still be a tomorrow, and one day, Morgoth's realm would fall.

Niniel, knowing now that her child was Turin's, may have believed that her child, being in the line of Hurin (not half, but from both sides), would allow Morgoth to continue his tortuous game with the next generation of this sorrowful family. In her despair, but also, like her family, in defiance of Morgoth, she sacrificed herself and the life of her child to thwart the Dark Lord's plans.

Who knows what life this child would have had? Thralldom? A Dark Child under Morgoth, used as a weapon against the Free Elves and Men?

Does this sanction suicide or homicide? Not in the least. This was a special person in special circumstances.

Didn't see anything proscribing suicide in Arda. Tolkien, being a Christian in our world, had other beliefs outside his created world. And it is believed that his God is a god of love and grace, which all surely need, even those like Niniel.
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Old 04-26-2010, 09:53 AM   #11
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Words sometimes have specific meanings. Like patricide means 'killing Patrick.'


I was thinking about this. Those who stood beside Húrin, providing a rear guard so that Turgon could escape, knew that they were about to die. Standing, their task was to slow the advance of Morgoth's hordes. Sense would dictate that they flee, but they didn't. Not only had they made oaths to their King, but some may have known that they were sacrificing themselves so that there would still be a tomorrow, and one day, Morgoth's realm would fall.

Niniel, knowing now that her child was Turin's, may have believed that her child, being in the line of Hurin (not half, but from both sides), would allow Morgoth to continue his tortuous game with the next generation of this sorrowful family. In her despair, but also, like her family, in defiance of Morgoth, she sacrificed herself and the life of her child to thwart the Dark Lord's plans.

Who knows what life this child would have had? Thralldom? A Dark Child under Morgoth, used as a weapon against the Free Elves and Men?

Does this sanction suicide or homicide? Not in the least. This was a special person in special circumstances.

Didn't see anything proscribing suicide in Arda. Tolkien, being a Christian in our world, had other beliefs outside his created world. And it is believed that his God is a god of love and grace, which all surely need, even those like Niniel.
Discussion of sin is obviously done in the context of our own world and its religious tenets. Whether Tolkien passed these beliefs along to his creations, I do not know. Was suicide sinful in Middle-earth?

Sacrifice and suicide are patently different beasts, separated by the motives which precipitate their advent. On one hand, a willingness to pay the ultimate price in furtherance of some righteous goal, or in protection of another, ennobles the act. On the other hand, suicide accomplishes only the cessation of emotional pain for the deceased, often leaving far more grievous emotional pain in its wake. It can thus be characterized as selfish and cowardly. Again, from a religious standpoint, the argument might be made that a more righteous man would turn to God for, if not relief from woe, strength to overcome it.
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Old 04-26-2010, 11:27 AM   #12
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Just for those who wondered whether marriage between siblings was practiced legally in the Ancient world,it did only im Ancient Edypt,particularly in the Hellinistic and Roman period,of which we have many racords.

In the rest of antiquity,when practised it was considered immoral and sinful(see the case of Caligula).

For more information check:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incest#History
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Old 04-26-2010, 12:54 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by alatar View Post
Words sometimes have specific meanings. Like patricide means 'killing Patrick.'


I was thinking about this. Those who stood beside Húrin, providing a rear guard so that Turgon could escape, knew that they were about to die. Standing, their task was to slow the advance of Morgoth's hordes. Sense would dictate that they flee, but they didn't. Not only had they made oaths to their King, but some may have known that they were sacrificing themselves so that there would still be a tomorrow, and one day, Morgoth's realm would fall.

Niniel, knowing now that her child was Turin's, may have believed that her child, being in the line of Hurin (not half, but from both sides), would allow Morgoth to continue his tortuous game with the next generation of this sorrowful family. In her despair, but also, like her family, in defiance of Morgoth, she sacrificed herself and the life of her child to thwart the Dark Lord's plans.

Who knows what life this child would have had? Thralldom? A Dark Child under Morgoth, used as a weapon against the Free Elves and Men?

Does this sanction suicide or homicide? Not in the least. This was a special person in special circumstances.

Didn't see anything proscribing suicide in Arda. Tolkien, being a Christian in our world, had other beliefs outside his created world. And it is believed that his God is a god of love and grace, which all surely need, even those like Niniel.
Well, interesting thought in any case, but I think eventually not a right one. If Nienor was really thinking that way, then I would call her behavior foolish. Because that is a totally twisted logic. It is the same as when some people make suicide as to avoid the "cruel world". The fact that the child could be used as a "weapon" by Morgoth could be a good reason if Nienor had a proof of that, but she didn't. If she was thinking about it, like you say, rationally, then she jumped to conclusions and gave up a bit too soon.

But I don't believe she was thinking that way. I think she was just desperate and acting mainly irrationally, overwhelmed by despair. I don't think she was in the mood to spin any complicated theories. "I am doomed, we are all doomed, we are all cursed, Túrin happy to be dead, wish I were dead too" - quite easy train of thought turned into a deed. Nothing unusual there.

As for seeing suicide as sinful in Middle-Earth, though, I would still assume Tolkien holding it as sinful even in Middle-Earth. Well, "sinful", I haven't seen much of a definition of "sin" in Middle-Earth, but certainly something rather wrong and something normal healthy and sane people would not do. Look at what Gandalf tells to Denethor. "The houses of the dead are no place for the living" is his greeting to him - meaning obviously both him and Faramir, you can easily see the general opinion behind it.

Quite plainly it is said here:

Quote:
"Authority is not given to you, Steward of Gondor, to order the hour of your death," answered Gandalf. "And only the heathen kings, under the domination of the Dark Power, did thus, slaying themselves in pride and despair, murdering their kin to ease their own death."
Okay, you have the "almost-Church terminology" here ("heathen kings"), but obviously a person who wants to commit a suicide is likened here to somebody under the domination of the Dark Power, slaying himself "in pride and despair". So Gandalf says it actually in a rather radical way.

That said, this is not exactly the same as the case of Nienor. It is given by the basic logic of the tale those people are present in. Nienor's is ultimately dark and ends badly. Denethor could have seen the day of victory and, had he overcame his pride, even see quite happy days of bringing his Stewardship to fulfilment. However, one important point I would like to raise here is that the tale never concludes these stories with any grim notes condemning those people. It is not that Narn or the Red Book would tell the people of Middle-Earth "do not commit suicide" and making examples of Denethor and Nienor and Túrin (and Maedhros, although he was an Elf, so maybe somewhat different rules apply), they just portray suicide as a desperate tragic act, implying logically that it should be avoided, but not saying that it is anything deserving any further punishment: the talk of punishment is completely out of the scope of these stories. Obviously, as also any existence after death is completely out of scope and is utterly different from the life before it (shown in the fact that it is portrayed as uncharted and alien, but at the same time with affirmation of personal continuity and with the view towards the last Great Music. I must note here that I like it, because Tolkien's image of post-mortal life is, in a way, here lot more sober and "more Christian" than many latter, esp. medieval Christian depictions, in avoiding the overspammed images of post-mortal life. Maybe the people in Middle-Earth had in a way still just too clear contact with the divine - having basically eyewitnesses among themselves - to avoid the massive creations of images of post-mortal life, in contrary to our world. Although we are talking about the West here again, who knows if some Easterlings or Southrons didn't have their own invented mythologies).
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Old 04-27-2010, 08:47 AM   #14
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Sacrifice and suicide are patently different beasts, separated by the motives which precipitate their advent. On one hand, a willingness to pay the ultimate price in furtherance of some righteous goal, or in protection of another, ennobles the act. On the other hand, suicide accomplishes only the cessation of emotional pain for the deceased, often leaving far more grievous emotional pain in its wake. It can thus be characterized as selfish and cowardly. Again, from a religious standpoint, the argument might be made that a more righteous man would turn to God for, if not relief from woe, strength to overcome it.
Well explained. In your opinion, when Faramir, Denethor II's son, went to bar the passage of the river, was this attempted suicide? Or sacrifice? Wasn't his motive to gain his father's respect (finally), or find an end to his despair? When Eowyn, 'spurned' by Aragorn, went into battle to seek death, was this not attempted suicide? Her motive was to end her (what she thought was) a caged in, just above the dirt and reek inglorious life.

Both had suffered losses, were in fantastic situations - well, of course - meaning that these days weren't like most others. Faramir had been under the Shadow as well. Both tried 'death by orc' as the means, and were unsuccessful in their attempts. Do we think poorly of them? Any talk of their 'sin?'

Niniel was in the same situation as the two examples above, and happened to choose a more effective method.

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Well, interesting thought in any case, but I think eventually not a right one.
Wouldn't be the first time...

Quote:
If Nienor was really thinking that way, then I would call her behavior foolish. Because that is a totally twisted logic. It is the same as when some people make suicide as to avoid the "cruel world". The fact that the child could be used as a "weapon" by Morgoth could be a good reason if Nienor had a proof of that, but she didn't. If she was thinking about it, like you say, rationally, then she jumped to conclusions and gave up a bit too soon.
She was in the state of despair, having lost her husband/brother, and knew how bitter the lives of the Children of Hurin were. How could she think that, were she to go somewhere (where?) and bear her child, that this child would not be subject to the same bitterness, if not more so?

Quote:
But I don't believe she was thinking that way. I think she was just desperate and acting mainly irrationally, overwhelmed by despair. I don't think she was in the mood to spin any complicated theories. "I am doomed, we are all doomed, we are all cursed, Túrin happy to be dead, wish I were dead too" - quite easy train of thought turned into a deed. Nothing unusual there.
Agreed. I just added the 'Dark Child' idea as it could have been an interesting contrast to the scions of Huor.

Quote:
As for seeing suicide as sinful in Middle-Earth, though, I would still assume Tolkien holding it as sinful even in Middle-Earth. Well, "sinful", I haven't seen much of a definition of "sin" in Middle-Earth, but certainly something rather wrong and something normal healthy and sane people would not do.
Most of Turin's actions fail those tests.

Quote:
Okay, you have the "almost-Church terminology" here ("heathen kings"), but obviously a person who wants to commit a suicide is likened here to somebody under the domination of the Dark Power, slaying himself "in pride and despair". So Gandalf says it actually in a rather radical way.
In law, I think that there is a distinction between 'crimes of passion' and those that are premeditated. Niniel did not build herself a pyre and make a big spectacle.

Quote:
However, one important point I would like to raise here is that the tale never concludes these stories with any grim notes condemning those people. It is not that Narn or the Red Book would tell the people of Middle-Earth "do not commit suicide" and making examples of Denethor and Nienor and Túrin (and Maedhros, although he was an Elf, so maybe somewhat different rules apply), they just portray suicide as a desperate tragic act, implying logically that it should be avoided, but not saying that it is anything deserving any further punishment: the talk of punishment is completely out of the scope of these stories.
Agreed. Count in those lists those mentioned above who sought death yet did not find it at that time.

If Turin will be present at the Dagor Dagorath, complete jerk that he was, won't there be any grace for poor Niniel?

Pity those lost who wander down that dark road...
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Old 04-27-2010, 09:16 AM   #15
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Just to toss in my two cents, I would venture to say that a key element in suicide, as Tolkien presents it, is the matter of pride and/or despair that Gandalf mentions. Both Nienor and Denethor killed themselves in despair. Éowyn actively sought death (and kept on seeking it) in despair, until her despair was healed. I get a feeling that Faramir felt more frustration than despair, that it seemed that nothing he could do, short of dying, would win his father's approval.

But in Tolkien's world, one would have a hard time always defining the willful ending of one's life as the "sin" of suicide. The Númenoreans, blessed with long lives, were supposed to surrender the gift of life and accept the Gift of death when the time came. Evil often resulted when persons refused to die and lingered beyond their appointed time. In the broad sense of suicide being the willful ending of one's life, then Aragorn committed suicide when he accepted the Gift. But Tolkien doesn't present this in a negative light, rather as something natural and expected. Although Arwen is upset by it, Aragorn isn't; there is no element of despair on his part. But his lying down and dying is as deliberate an act as Nienor jumping off the cliff. Tolkien, I think, had a clear personal sense of a natural order of life and death, and despair and excessive pride goes against that order, perverting it.
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Old 04-27-2010, 09:24 AM   #16
obloquy
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I agree wholly with Ibrin. My explanations were intended for Aiwendil, who had heard that suicide is sinful, but never understood why. They have little bearing on Middle-earth.
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