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Old 06-30-2013, 03:27 AM   #1
PaigeStormblood
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Could Eru change the very laws of nature if he wanted to?

Hey guys curious question regarding Eru. Since he is the creator of all there is and ever will be does he even have a limit to what he could potentially do if he willed it? I.e could he even change the very laws of nature and physics if he felt the need to do so seeing as he is the creator or are there something's even the Almighty can't have power over?
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Old 06-30-2013, 05:15 AM   #2
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I suppose at a basic level the answer has to be yes since an omnipotent creato has to be omnipotent however I don't know if he coukd change thee rules in something already created without destroying it is another thiing.though ... depends a bit on the changes.... like it is easy to dye whit cloth another colour but to change a dark colour light tou have to bleach it at potentiall damage the structure..

There was some discussion, I think on a thread started years ago on Music and magic, that suggested that because music was the essence of Arda's creation it could be used to create changes in Arda ~ magic effectively. I'd need to look it up but things like Felagund's song against Sauron, Galadriel singing of leaves of gold..but that is bending not breaking the rules maybe
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Old 06-30-2013, 11:54 AM   #3
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Originally posted by Mithalwen:
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I suppose at a basic level the answer has to be yes since an omnipotent creato has to be omnipotent however I don't know if he coukd change thee rules in something already created without destroying it is another thiing.though ... depends a bit on the changes.... like it is easy to dye whit cloth another colour but to change a dark colour light tou have to bleach it at potentiall damage the structure..
I can imagine this leading to a discussion on the creation of the Dwarves. One instant, they were objects created by Aule, who had his hammer raised and ready to destroy them in subservience to Eru; the next instant they were living beings with consciousness, cowering in fear from that very hammer. Eru had violated his own natural laws to give them life. One has to wonder if, in that same moment, Eru had taken that life back again, whether the Dwarves would have been destroyed by their loss of life, or if they would have gone back to the mindless automatons that Aule built them as at the start?
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Old 06-30-2013, 01:07 PM   #4
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It also touches on whether creation is conceived of as a single defined action or a continuing organic process...there is a fantastic debate available on you tube between the British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Dr Richard Dawkins. Lord Sacks says that he does't have a problem with evolution since it just means that God is a gardener not a mechanic. If Eru is seen as a gardener then changeas in growth and development is part of the plan. If he is an engineer change necessitates a redesign.
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Old 06-30-2013, 04:40 PM   #5
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The Fall of Númenor might be considered a pretty substantial alteration in "natural law". We see an island overturned in response to actions of its inhabitants, and a simultaneous removal from the physical world of an entire "continent" when Valinor was transferred to what amounted to a separate plane of existence or dimension.
Also, there was the exchanging of mortality to the reverse that was apparently done to Tuor, a Man.

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One has to wonder if, in that same moment, Eru had taken that life back again, whether the Dwarves would have been destroyed by their loss of life, or if they would have gone back to the mindless automatons that Aule built them as at the start?
I would say the latter, since they already "lived" before having the Fire. Being bereft of it should have left them in the same state as previously.
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Old 07-01-2013, 07:41 PM   #6
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Whether God (Eru) can change the past is one question. Another is whether God is capable of doing evil.

Basically the general religious position is that God in theoretically omnipotent and can do anything he wants to. But there are things that God just doesn’t want to do. Therefore practically God is not omnipotent. God does not break his own rules.

God is limited by his own will.

God may also be limited by logic. He can’t make one plus one equal three. At least theologians in general try to be logical which would be pointless if God does not follow the rules of logic.
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Old 07-01-2013, 08:08 PM   #7
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Whether God (Eru) can change the past is one question. Another is whether God is capable of doing evil.
That's getting a bit afield from the purpose of this thread, but if one examines "evil" in Tolkien's Arda as being defined "morally reprehensible", or "sinful", I would say no. Eru as Creator would also be the author of Morality, and thus "evil" would have to derive from a refusal to acknowledge and obey his authority.

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Basically the general religious position is that God in theoretically omnipotent and can do anything he wants to. But there are things that God just doesn’t want to do. Therefore practically God is not omnipotent. God does not break his own rules.
By those standards though, I think Eru demonstrates his omnipotence in instances like I cited. The destruction of Númenor and the giving of immortality to Tuor were both unnatural acts, in that they would seemingly not have been accomplished without his direct intervention.
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Old 07-02-2013, 07:22 PM   #8
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By those standards though, I think Eru demonstrates his omnipotence in instances like I cited. The destruction of Númenor and the giving of immortality to Tuor were both unnatural acts, in that they would seemingly not have been accomplished without his direct intervention.
But Tolkien leaves it questionable in both cases how much one is even supposed to give fictional belief to his account of the destruction of Númenor or the giving of immortality to Tuor.


In Morgoth’s Ring, “Myths Transformed”, I, Tolkien declares:
It is now clear to me that in any case the Mythology must actually be a ‘Mannish’ affair. (Men are really only interested in Men and in Men’s ideas and visions.) The High Eldar living and being tutored by the demiurgic being must have known, or at least their writers and loremasters must have known, the ‘truth’ (according to their measure of understanding). What we have in the Silmarillion etc. are traditions (especially personalized upon actors, such as Fëanor) handed on by Men in Númenor and later in Middle-earth (Arnor and Gondor); but already far back – from the first association of the Dúnedain and Elf-friends with the Eldar in Beleriand – blended and confused with their own Mannish myths and cosmic ideas.
In later writings the same idea occurs at odd places, that the Silmarillion tales and connected stories as they appear in the writings are often not accurate as written.

So the tale of the downfall of Númenor is in error when it claims that the Earth was only made spherical at that point in its history. The Earth had always been spherical.


As to Tuor, the published Silmarillion only claims (bolding by me):
But in after days it was sung that Tuor alone of mortal Men was numbered among the elder race, and was joined with the Noldor, whom he loved; and his fate is sundered from the fate of Men.
Tolkien also says in The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, letter 153 (bolding by me):
Tuor weds Idril the daughter of Turgon King of Gondolin; and ‘it is supposed’ (not stated) that he as an unique exception receives the Elvish limited ‘immortality’: an exception either way.
Here Tolkien points out clearly that the information about Tuor’s supposed immortality is not actually stated in the text. In short it is only what would now be called a legend.

You might as well claim that the accounts in the Bible of Enoch and Elijah being taken to heaven by God without facing death proves God’s omnipotence. But the Bible also does not actually say any such thing. It is only readers who infer it. And later creators of legend.

The fictional Eru is omnipotent not because of anything he actually does in Tolkien’s account, but because Eru is obviously a fictional version of the God whom Tolkien worshipped in real life who is said to be omnipotent. But theologions limit this God’s omnipotence, reasonably so I think. See http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11251c.htm for Omnipotence as defined and discussed by the Catholic Encyclopedia. Or see Wikipedia’s discussion at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnipotence . You may also find http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnipotence_paradox of interest.

PaigeStormblood’s original question can only be answered, as much as can be answered, by getting into theological philosophy which considers such things.

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Old 07-08-2013, 11:38 AM   #9
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I am not going to join with any long discussion regarding this question, I believe the only and best evidence we have is what has been already mentioned, and I side with Inzil. Eru seems to abide by the laws of the world, or even more, he actually seems to let the world abide by the laws set by Valar in their stewardship (such as the Ban on Noldor). At the moments when the laws of the world need to be drastically altered, such as destruction of Númenor (and I disagree with jallanite's interpretation, but whichever the case, it still is undeniably such a big change that Eru needed to be consulted) and creating the Straight Path, Valar ask Eru and he responds. The second alteration of that calibre that I know of is, with a questionmark, the sending of Istari (there is a note in the "Istari" essay in the Unfinished Tales that Manwë *perhaps* asked Eru for permission to send the Istari). At that point (in the Third Age), the Valar already are also more on the side of Eru on the scale of intervention with the world: they basically don't intervene at all. I would phrase it the way that during Third Age, one of the "natural laws" is also that Valar are not anymore directly intervening with the world. I would argue that it actually becomes exactly such an unchangeable law just like the fact that things fall down when dropped and so on.

Eru actually, from the beginning, is a rather unintervening creator - a deist creator, if you will. He lays out some theme in the beginning (perhaps we could say, basic set of rules in which things may function, i.e. the basic unchangeable laws? Some mathematical types would certainly say that, such as if G. Leibniz got Silmarillion into his hands and was supposed to write his Theodicy based on it in regards to Eru), but the Valar are the ones who create based on it. He gives life to it, and as we see with Aulë's Dwarves, he sustains the life (we could presume also that he sustains the world). But he does not really do anything else, except for the few dramatic occassions where really the highest power is necessary to intervene, such as the case of Númenor.

But Eru does not change the laws of the world, normally. It says nothing about whether he could or not, though. So it is not about the potential to do something. Tolkien's tale does not speak, at all, about Eru's potential. We can only conclude based on

If I were to answer this, I would copy Inzil: Based on all evidence, Eru probably is (meant to be) omnipotent, but he actually seems to have decided not to intervene with his creation very much. That is also one of the "natural laws" of Arda. Obviously, since it is set by the creator himself. If he breaks these laws, it's a very rare occassion (I really think Mr. Leibniz would have been even happier with Silmarillion instead of the Bible, since the discussion of the creator's potential is far more straightforward in the former).

Speaking of which brings me to one final remark. As much tempting as it is, let's be careful not to confuse Eru with (Judeo-Christian) God, since even though the parallel is obvious, you cannot obviously put an equation there, and already such mistaking of terms can lead to different conclusions. (Actually, I slightly suspect the author of the first post of such "confusion in terms", but I may be mistaken and it's merely an inquiry applying the famous "god's potential" question to Eru, which would be actually good question; I am however very much aware of the confusion of terms in jallanite's posts, so let's be careful about it.) I think the similarities show better on a deep level on some specific occassions, but the general picture remains very different: overall, the Biblical God is defined by intervening, and acting in very personal manner, Eru in general shows these aspects only rarely and is closer to the idea deistic of god who creates, sets the rules, winds up the clock and then leaves his creation alone. (Of course, that is disproved on closer look by realising the fact that he probably acts continually to sustain the life of all creatures, such as in the abovementioned tale of the Dwarves. But again it is questionable whether Eru sets "rules for life" and lets it go - the basic law being that from now on every Dwarf born, as much as human, is a living being from start - or if he needs to "renew" this life with every new creature born, "breathe life" into every new generation again or else the Dwarves would again fall into nothing, or if he even - as some theologies maintain about the Judeo-Christian God - continually "is present", to keep the world sustained, keep the living creatures breathing every single moment. From superficial reading of the Silmarillion, though, I think it seems even as if Eru didn't do even the former, just created the world in the beginning and that's it.)
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Old 07-08-2013, 07:29 PM   #10
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… and I disagree with jallanite's interpretation …
You don’t indicate what you disagree with. I only cited Tolkien for what I posted. Do you disagree with what Tolkien wrote?

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I would phrase it the way that during Third Age, one of the "natural laws" is also that Valar are not anymore directly intervening with the world. I would argue that it actually becomes exactly such an unchangeable law just like the fact that things fall down when dropped and so on.
Not quite. The sending of the Istari was an attempt to intervene directly in the world. Your attempt to rephrase it as against “natural laws” fails.

Obviously the Valar are no longer allowed to intervene so directly as they did at the end of the first age, but to claim they did not intervene at all goes against what Tolkien wrote. And even at the end of the First Age the Valar apparently did not intervene directly, but sent over Elves from the Undying Lands under the command of Eönwë, presumably no longer allowed to fight Morgoth directly as they did earlier in the First Age.

Even in Tolkien’s account in The Book of Lost Tales Manwë himself apparently did not take part in the expedition from the Undying Lands at the end of the First Age.

It appears that the Valar are increasingly forbidden from intervening directly, until in our own time, they are essentially forgotten altogether, unless either Manwë or Tulkas is to be equated with St. Michael.



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If I were to answer this, I would copy Inzil:
So you say that Tolkien’s interpretation of his own creation is wrong, that you prefer Inziladun’s. I disagree. I prefer Tolkien’s as an interprevation of Tolkien’s writing.

Quote:
As much tempting as it is, let's be careful not to confuse Eru with (Judeo-Christian) God, since even though the parallel is obvious, you cannot obviously put an equation there, and already such mistaking of terms can lead to different conclusions. (Actually, I slightly suspect the author of the first post of such "confusion in terms", but I may be mistaken and it's merely an inquiry applying the famous "god's potential" question to Eru, which would be actually good question; I am however very much aware of the confusion of terms in jallanite's posts, so let's be careful about it.)
I say that according to Tolkien’s writing Eru is simply the Judea-Christian God fictionialized. One might also identify him with Allah, Ahura Mazda or Vishnu. This is not confusion as you pretend.

The God of the Old Testament is also not shown to intervene greatly until it comes to the time of Abraham and his descendants. Tolkien recognizes a Fall of Man to be identified with the Biblical story. Then there is the flood, an account comparable to the Fall of Númenor, but separate from it. Presuming that Tolkien accepted the interpretation of the Catholic Encyclopedia and many other commentaries on it, Noah’s flood would not be a universal flood, but only a local flood. See http://www.catholic.org/encyclopedia/view.php?id=4737 . So there would be no reason to mention it from the viewpoint of Gondor or Arnor, if it occurred in the Third Age or earlier. Tolkien may have imagined it as occurring later.

The Valar are explained by Tolkien, in letter 131:
One the side of mere narrative device, this is, of course, meant to provide beings of the same order of beauty, power, and majesty as the ‘gods’ of higher mythology, which can yet be accepted – well, shall we say baldly, by a mind that believes in the Blessed Trinity.
This explains why the Valar perform events which in in Jewish, Chistian, and Muslim myths are performed by God without help. But the Biblical accounts have God sometimes speaking in the plural, presumably speaking to others of the heavenly host, so that it is not clear that God is to be imagined as creating everything simply through his own word.

If one wants to differentiate Eru from the Judeao-Christian God one need only point out that Tolkien’s creation is performed in very different time span and in a different order without any stated connection with the Sabbath day. But Tolkien does not seem to feel that this mattered. And in any case, he later decided that the Silmarillion creation story was only Mannish legend, that the Sun and Moon were actually as old as the Earth.

None of this has any connection to the question of omnipotence raised by PaigeStormblood. But if you wish to bring in natural law, being in ages in which Middle-earth lay under the sunless sky with flourishing vegetation and perhaps seasons, or bring in the Lonely Isle which according to legend was an island which was made to float on the waves, or bring in the making of the Sun and Moon from a fruit and a flower. These miraculous happenings are not considered by you to prove omnipotence.

That Saruman used force against Men and seemingly combined the lineage of Men with Orcs also indicates that not all deeds performed by wizards are equally unnatural.
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Old 07-08-2013, 08:36 PM   #11
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None of this has any connection to the question of omnipotence raised by PaigeStormblood.
All right. That question was:

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Hey guys curious question regarding Eru. Since he is the creator of all there is and ever will be does he even have a limit to what he could potentially do if he willed it?
Here's what seems to me a succinct answer, from the Elves of Eressëa to the Númenóreans.

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'The Doom of the World,' they said, 'One alone can change who made it.'
The Silmarillion Akallabêth

I repeat my belief that the occasional bending of the Rules by the One is a reminder he is the only real "random" element in Arda.
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Old 07-09-2013, 02:38 AM   #12
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All right, jallanite, I think I see your point, at least according to Eru=YHWH. I did not consider that, but you are right. I think we radically differ in the view of the things, especially what is "natural", so the arguments would be invalid in both ways since we are coming from different perspective. The way I understand it (stated very simply, but I think it should sum up the main differences in your perspective from mine, correct me if I am wrong), you see Arda as the early ages of our world, hence Eru=God (or whichever highest power there is), and hence also natural laws of our world=natural laws in Arda.

So basically, it is that if you wanted to say "okay, Eru is YHWH", then you have to basically end up with saying "for some reason, in the beginning, he did not act the way he acts now." And that's right, of course, if you look at the biblical story "chronologically", YHWH indeed does not really intervene in much bigger ways than Eru until Abraham.

But, just to further elaborate on what I intended to say in my last post (and that concerns also the view what are "natural laws", where we differ), I, on the other hand, wasn't speaking about our world at all, I am focusing only on the tale as it is in Simarillion, LotR etc. I know that Tolkien intended the tale to refer to the past of our own Earth, and I am all with it, but in the same way the biblical story also isn't literally from our world and yet it is, but it is "only" a tale (but if that's a matter of belief, let's not start about it, but that is where I am coming from. That way, it's better to concern oneself only with the story, since that way there can be no conflict). The point is what both of these want to say about the gods they speak about, and in that, they differ.

It doesn't matter to the Silmarillion what kind of "natural laws" are there, they are set by the story itself. If, according to Silmarillion, islands can float or animals can speak, and people are not that much surprised by that, that is still "normal" (not, obviously, completely everyday, but it is not apparently considered "breaking the very laws of the universe", because in Middle-Earth we can kind of count on enchanted swords and talking animals being present, which in our world would be considered by an average modern person to be "breaking the natural laws").

For me, the so-called "natural laws" are, in the universe where we have a central creator and laws-of-the-universe-maker figure, the laws that are set by the highest power and are not possible to be broken, unless the highest power in question makes an exception. And that is undisputably Númenor, that is (possibly, if Manwë really did ask Eru for permission) the Istari, and it is also the growing retreat of Valar from the world. "Natural laws" in our world are that stones fall down when dropped, that swords do not glow with goblins around, and actually very likely also that goblins themselves don't exist. "Natural laws" in Arda would be that stones fall down when dropped, that Elves fade with time and leave Middle-Earth and so do Valar.

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You don’t indicate what you disagree with. I only cited Tolkien for what I posted. Do you disagree with what Tolkien wrote?
No, but I do not take that as any proof that Arda wasn't flat. It is your conclusion based on Tolkien's remarks. He does not say "Arda was never flat, point." He says "the tales are legends transformed by Men". Right. I agree with that. But in my interpretation, Arda was still flat originally, since the tale very much indicates that. I do not have any other indication elsewhere that would say "no, it wasn't". The tale has been twisted by tradition, but who can say in which aspects?

So, it isn't that I prefer Inzil's interpretation to Tolkien's. What a blasphemy that would be! (Sorry, Zil ) It is that I prefer Inzil's interpretation of Tolkien to your interpretation of Tolkien.
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Old 07-10-2013, 05:45 PM   #13
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I repeat my belief that the occasional bending of the Rules by the One is a reminder he is the only real "random" element in Arda.
Define what you mean by random. When one of Tolkien’s Hobbits, or one of Tolkien’s Elves, or even one of Tolkien’s Men flips a coin, does it not randomly come up heads or tails? Similarly with other events in Middle-earth that one would call random?

That you say only Tolkien’s Eru is really random in Tolkien’s universe suggests to me that random does not mean what you think it does. In Tolkien’s legends he does not present Eru as randomly deciding that Tuor’s fate should be or what should be done about the problem of Númenor?

Your reminder I find nonsense.

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But in my interpretation, Arda was still flat originally, since the tale very much indicates that. I do not have any other indication elsewhere that would say "no, it wasn't". The tale has been twisted by tradition, but who can say in which aspects.
Yes, “the tale” indicates that. But is the tale true, within Tolkien’s writing on the first two ages of Middle-earth?

Tolkien writes in Morgoth’s Ring, “Myths Transformed”, I:
This descends from the oldest forms of the mythology – when it was still intended to be no more than another primitive mythology, though more coherent and less ‘savage’. It was consequently a ‘Flat Earth’ cosmogony (much easier to manage anyway): the Matter of Númenor had not been devised.
Later in the same discussion he writes:
At that point (in reconsideration of the early cosmogonic parts) I was inclined to adhere to the Flat Earth and the astronomically absurd business of the making of the Sun and Moon. But you can make up stories of that kind when you live among people who have the same general background of imagination, when the Sun ‘really’ rises in the East and does down in the West, etc. When however (no matter how little most people know or think about astronomy) it is general belief that we live on a ‘spherical’ island in ‘Space’ you cannot do this any more.
There are two mentions you can’t find. And others follow. Not looking doesn’t make an argument.

Tolkien then starts work on a model for a new version of the Silmarillion material in which the World has always been round and is coeval with the Sun. But he finds this difficult to maintain and eventually abandons this as a fully told version. But the Silmarillion (and Akallabêth) is still to be explained as stories by Men in which until the downfall of Númenor the world was flat.
Interestingly Tolkien’s second version of “The Drowning of Anadúnë” (from Sauron Defeated [357–87]) tells the story from a Mannish point of view in which the world was always spherical.
Note 2 by Tolkien to his “Athrabeth Finrod Ah-Andeth” (in Morgoth’s Ring)is one example of Tolkien openly presenting a spherical world from the beginning. Tolkien remarks in this note:
Arda or ‘The Kingdom of Arda’ (as being directly under the kingship of Eru’s vice-regent Manwë) is not easy to translate, since neither ‘earth’ nor ‘world’ are entirely suitable. Physically Arda is what we should call the Solar System.¹¹ Presumably the Eldar could have had as much and as accurate information concerning this, its structure, origin, and its relation to the rest of Eä (the Universe) as they could comprehend.


The traditions here referred to have come down from the Eldar of the First Age, through Elves who never were directly acquainted with the Valar, and through Men who received ‘lore’ from the Elves, but who had myths and astronomical guesses of their own. There is nothing here that seriously conflicts with present human notions of the Solar System, and its size and position in the Universe.
In short, no Flat Earth in Elvish tradition. It’s just a story in his imagined Silmarillion in Tolkien’s fictional creation.

See also the beginning of “The Song of Durin” in the chapter “A Journey in the Dark” in The Fellowship of the Ring (emphasis mine):
The world was young, the mountains green,
No stain yet on the Moon was seen,
No words were laid on stream or stone,
When Durin woke and walked alone
.
In Tolkien’s Silmarillion material of any date the Dwarves awake in Middle-earth long before the first rising of the Moon. Tolkien here is writing what he imagined really happened according to his outline in “Myths Transformed”.

Quote:
So, it isn't that I prefer Inzil's interpretation to Tolkien's. What a blasphemy that would be! (Sorry, Zil ) It is that I prefer Inzil's interpretation of Tolkien to your interpretation of Tolkien.
You don’t mention my interpretation of Tuor being given an Elvish lifespan. Presumably then you actually accept one of my two rejections of Inziladun’s supposed proofs of Eru’s omnipotence. I have more fully indicated why I believe Tolkien’s own writings about his works, writing which you appear to have forgotten about or have not read. Thus, yes, by your words you blaspheme. Note I don’t use the word blasphemy. You do. I think that word is quite unfitting. Tolkien isn’t a God and blasphemy does not mean what you seem to think it does.

Your interpretation does not convince me at all when it entirely ignores Tolkien’s texts which conflict with it, texts which make a distinction between the supposed preserved Mannish Silmarillion and what really happened.

Tolkien himself indicates some of what aspects chiefly bothered him, the flat earth aspect. He says so plainly.

In The War of the Jewels, “Part III: The Wanderings of Húrin”, “IV: Of the Ents and the Eagles”, Christopher Tolkien remarks:
In Yavanna’s following words beginning ‘I lifted up the branches of great trees …’ B has ‘and some sang to Eru amid the wind and the rain and the glitter of the Sun’; the last words were omitted by S on account of the implication that the Sun existed from the beginning of Arda.
From this which I have cited and from other passages it is plain to me that Tolkien intended his Silmarillion to be legends of the First Age as distorted by Men.

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Old 07-10-2013, 07:11 PM   #14
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Although Jallanite should never consider a career in politics or customer service, he has, in his brusque manner, reiterated Tolkien's later views on ME's mythic cosmogony. Here, Tolkien refers to the 'straight road' to Valinor and the separation of the mortal plane and the Undying Lands:

Quote:
J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 135, 24 July 1971
This general idea lies behind the events of The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion, but is not put forward as geologically or astronomically 'true'; except that some special physical catastrophe is supposed to lie behind the legends and marked the first stage in the succession of Man to dominion of the world. But the legends are mainly of 'Mannish' origin blended with those of the Sindar (Gray-elves) and others who had never left Middle-earth.
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Old 07-10-2013, 08:16 PM   #15
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The passage from the letter quoted by Morthoron seems to me to reflect the idea that Men in Middle-earth did not, in fact know about the Straight Road, or the means by which Elves found it.
However, another quote from the same letter says:

Quote:
The 'immortals' who were permitted to leave Middle-earth and seek Aman - the undying lands of Valinor and Eressëa....set sail in ships specially made and hallowed for this voyage....They only set out after sundown; but if any keen-eyed observer from that shore had watched one of these ships he might have seen that it never became hull-down but dwindled only by distance until it vanished in the twilight; it followed the straight road to the true West and not the bent road of the earth's surface.
Clearly, a special circumstance beyond "nature" in Arda had removed the Undying Lands from the physical plane. That much is certain, though the specifics of the situation would indeed logically have been a matter of dim legend to the majority in Middle-earth.
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Old 07-27-2013, 12:32 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
Clearly, a special circumstance beyond "nature" in Arda had removed the Undying Lands from the physical plane. That much is certain, though the specifics of the situation would indeed logically have been a matter of dim legend to the majority in Middle-earth.
It is not certain that removing the undying lands from the physical plane was “a special circumstance beyond ‘nature’” unless we have set forth a complete set of rules that comprehend all of nature. Tolkien does not provide any such complete set of rules for the world he writes about and we have none for the real universe either. What we have are apparent norms, by which for example people cannot fly by their own power.

That at one period anyone could reach the undying lands by sailing west and after the destruction of Númenor only Elves can, for the most part, is simply data about Tolkien’s fictional world, and indicates nothing about whether the accessibility of the Undying Lands was either natural or unnatural.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle which points out differences in the understanding of miracles, some seeing them as acts beyond the laws of nature and others seeing them as acts within the laws of nature, and many dubious that any so-called miracles ever occurred.

Now whether an other-dimensional gateway (to use science-fictional terminology) in the mid-Atlantic to allow access to the Undying Lands was supposed to be natural, using laws of nature not known to us, or is supposed to be unnatural, a breaking of the laws of the universe, is not stated in Tolkien’s text.

Tolkien in originally writing The Book of Lost Tales imagined a simple flat-earth cosmology. This appeared in the original Hobbit (in 1937) which stated in chapter 8:
In the Wide World the Wood-elves lingered in the twilight before the raising of the Sun and Moon; and afterwards they wandered in the forests that grew beneath the sunrise.
In 1966 Tolkien changed this to a version in which the cosmology fits our universe with no late “raising of the Sun and Moon”:
In the Wide World the Wood-elves lingered in the twilight of our Sun and Moon, but loved best the stars; and they wandered in the great forests that grew tall in lands that are now lost.
The late “raising of the Sun and Moon” now becomes only a feature of the incorrect supposed Mannish Silmarillion text.
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Old 07-27-2013, 05:02 PM   #17
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I agree that a once flat world and the Sun and Moon as hailing from the Two Trees was ultimately intended to be seen as reflecting Mannish distortions.

In my opinion this was Tolkien's answer to his problems. I think he realized he didn't have to rewrite the Silmarillion [Myths Transformed abandoned texts], but rather revise the textual history, or transmission of the texts, and point to 'point of view' and confusion. Bilbo wouldn't necessarily try to correct the ancient texts, even if Elrond told him the 'more correct' Western Elvish perspective in person.

But the idea of the Silmarillion as the result of Elfwine faithfully translating information from Eressean Elves was 'out' -- and transmission through Numenor and the Mannish kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor [and Bilbo] was in.

In the case of Numenor, in my opinion Tolkien's brief note about The Drowning of Anadune [sometime in the 1960s Tolkien wrote upon an envelope that contained the Drowning of Anadûnê]...


Quote:
Contains very old version (in Adunaic) which is good -- in so far as it is just as much different (in inclusion and omission and emphasis) as would be probable in the supposed case:
(a) Mannish tradition
(b) Elvish tradition
(c) Mixed Dúnedanic tradition

JRRT, Sauron Defeated

... makes it a 'later text' than it really is, so to speak. Ok I realize 'which is good' isn't exactly saying that this text is now 'ratified' and ready to be published, but from my point of view why not, as I think Tolkien knew it could fit -- as it was -- right into his new scenario as it concerned the Silmarillion [note The Adventures of Tom Bombadil on both Elvish and Numenorean sources]. And The Drowning of Anadune throws a new light on Akallabeth, which seemingly becomes the 'mixed' tradition. Enough people only read the latter however, and thus have little reason to question its implications once they have 'a once flat world' in their heads.

The Lord of the Rings, to me, seems like a mix. Perhaps this is due to Tolkien questioning his old mythology before The Lord of the Rings was 'fully finished'...


Quote:
'(...) Also, apparently influenced by the preference his friend Katherine Farrer expressed in the autumn of 1948 for the 'Flat World' version of the Ainulindale over the 'Round World' version, Tolkien, for a time at least, seems to have decided to retain the cosmology of the world being originally flat as it was in The Fall of Númenor. In addition, some new material needed to be added to the story of Númenor to take account of various matter introduced in The Lord of the Rings.


Christopher Tolkien thinks that a note his father wrote many years later explains how he regarded the different accounts: The Fall of Númenor relates 'Elvish tradition', The Drowning of Anadûnê 'Mannish tradition', and the Akallabêth, which draws on both of the others, 'Mixed Dúnedanic tradition' (Sauron Defeated, pp. 406-7)'.

Scull and Hammond, Reader's Guide p. 674



Bombadil seems to speak of a flat world -- but then again, how many first time readers think so? What does Bombadil really mean if the reader doesn't have the idea of a once flat world already present to help interpret what he says?

In my opinion Treebeard seems to speak of an early age with the Sun [when he describes the early days with the Entwives] -- although I have read at least one other interpretation that maybe he might be speaking of events after the Sun rises. There is also the poetry about Durin and the Moon already quoted, and I believe Tar-elenion used to cite something in Galadriel's song.

I could find no certain reference to the World being made round in The Lord of the Rings, rather we have [if I recall correctly] the Change of the World, which need not refer to a flat world becoming round I think. Although there are some references -- can't remember how many at the moment -- to a seeming early time of Twilight, although one would have to look at each individually I guess.

The revision to The Hobbit is quite notable I think, as Tolkien arguably thought that that reference was hard to interpret in other ways than the Elves existing before the actual Sun. I'll add that in the Elvish version of the Awakening [see War of the Jewels], the Sun existed before the Elves awoke.

I'm not sure there was ever going to be two Silmarillions, but in my opinion there are two accounts of the fall of Numenor -- the 'remaining' [third] account would seem to be wholly Elvish, but it's possible this version wasn't 'necessary' as the Elvish point of view of the world as a 'hanging apple' is clear enough in the Mannish account [world was always round]. I don't think we can also adopt the early Fall of Numenor as the Elvish account for the new scenario, at least as it is; and in any case to me, Tolkien's brief note only refers to The Drowning of Anadune, the mannish version.

Some might say 'but the Mannish account was supposed to be garbled about certain things' and I would agree -- but not, I think, about what the Elves of the West taught the Numenoreans concerning the shape of the world -- if that was supposed to be garbled as well it would confuse things overmuch, and in any case it is not one of the purposed confusions that Christopher Tolkien refers the reader to [like confusing the Elves with the Powers].

Sorry about the rambling. Anyway, yes I agree
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