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Old 08-21-2014, 10:16 AM   #1
Zigūr
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Individual sacrifices at the end of each age

Hello everyone,

Here's something that I've been contemplating recently. In the struggles of Arda, many sacrifices were made. Is it a recurring device that at the end of each age, a certain individual or individuals had to make a personal sacrifice to bring about the circumstances of the end of the age?

First Age: Eärendil - sacrificed his freedom (?) to plea for aid from the Valar against Morgoth, thus becoming the evening star for the rest of time.

Second Age: Gil-galad and Elendil - sacrificed their lives to slay (yes, slay) Sauron (albeit temporarily) and end the terrible war against Mordor.

Third Age: Frodo - sacrificed his mind to destroy the One Ring.

What do you think? I'm most dubious about the Eärendil one. I don't think my lore on the great Mariner is quite up to scratch. I feel like something ought to be said about Elwing as well.
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Old 08-21-2014, 10:36 AM   #2
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Hmm. I don't know that I would place Eärendil's sacrifice on the same level as that of Gil-galad or even Frodo. His heart was with Men, but to remain with Elwing he chose to be numbered among her race. Spending the rest of his time in Arda as an air-traveling sign of hope for the good guys doesn't really seem that bad.

As far as others go, the sacrifice of Gandalf should not be forgotten. He of course, willingly gave his physical body so that his companions could escape, and the Ring would be saved for the moment. I think he had less assurance that his sacrifice would ultimately lead to a positive end than did Gil-galad and Elendil, or Eärendil, which to me makes it more poignant.
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Old 08-21-2014, 11:00 AM   #3
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A lot of characters sacrificed something in LOTR, Boromir sacrificed his life for Merry and Pippin, Aragorn willingly sacrificed years of his life in the wilds to become a Ranger, Sam sacrificed his comfortable life to follow Frodo, each sacrificed something for the Greater good, as people do in war time. Those who refused to sacrifice something came to a sticky end. Denethor refused to sacrifice his pride, as did Saruman.
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Old 08-21-2014, 11:25 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
Hmm. I don't know that I would place Eärendil's sacrifice on the same level as that of Gil-galad or even Frodo. His heart was with Men, but to remain with Elwing he chose to be numbered among her race. Spending the rest of his time in Arda as an air-traveling sign of hope for the good guys doesn't really seem that bad.
Well... there's this sad thing that Eärendil and Elwing weren't really together, despite their sacrifices. And even if Elwing had the ability to turn into a bird to greet Eärendil, all she could do was fly to him, and all he could do was watch her fly towards him, but never really land in his arms. Add this sad so-near-yet-so-far thing of the husband and wife, not to mention the fact that they would never be true parents to their children, and coupled with the original premise that in his heart he was with Men, and I think this is a noble sacrifice that shouldn't be belittled.

Frodo sacrificed his sanity, Gil-galad his life (or a huge portion of it), but Earendil (and Elwing) sacrificed their happiness as a family.
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Old 08-21-2014, 01:47 PM   #5
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The sacrifices you mention seem to me to be part of the last word in these chapters. Elendil and Gil-galad took out Sauron at the expense of their own lives, but Isildur kept the Ring and he died. The army of Elves and Men led by Maia took out Melkor, but the gift to the Edain not only uplifted the race, but brought with it its own problems. In the end Nśmenor became like a place where most of the Men were on roid-rage. I use steroids here because they were basically super-men even at the end of the 3rd Age. And at the end of the 3rd Age even though Sauron is destroyed and Frodo broken, the result is that Elves become ever more distant, so distant that they take up mostly at the abode for the immortal.
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Old 08-21-2014, 02:07 PM   #6
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Firstly, I think it's not as important to know what the heroes lost as it is to know what they risked. The decision to put something dear on the line is in this case, I believe, more telling than the actual outcome. Earendil risked his own life, his family, and to some extent the fate of Middle Earth - no big thing, right? - when he sailed into perilous, unpassable, unknown seas that no one has been able to penetrate before. The fact that he hasn't sailed to his doom is his luck, but he put everything on the line to do what he believed was the right thing. That ought to count. Frodo didn't sacrifice his sanity. He lost his sanity, but he didn't sacrifice it. He didn't really willingly give it up in the name of the Quest. That happened as a kind of side-effect. However, he risked a lot more than that, and so did Sam. When Sam realizes in Mordor that even if they get to Mount Doom, that is the end, and still goes on - I think that's a much more significant sacrifice and risk. I know it's a matter of semantics, but I believe it makes a difference.

Secondly, individual sacrifices of great importance are made during times of great peril. Such times - and sacrifices - occured in the middle of Ages as well, they are not solely present during the end of an Age. However, the changing of an Age always followed a great victory or defeat or a bit of both, a great change that involved individual and collective struggle. So the logical chain is not Turning of an Age --> Individual Sacrifice, but Perilous Times --> Individual Sacrifices, partially due to which --> The Wolrd is not annihilated, and --> A New Age Begins.

Lastly, returning to your actual question about the recurring device. I'm not much of a fan of the Second Age and do not know much of the back history behind the War of the Last Alliance and etc., but the First and Third Ages definitely involved one individual sort of taking the brunt onto himself at the very end. There are multiple people who make sacrifices, multiple people who do their share - even do a lion's share, but since the work is so big it can take a heck of a lot of lions - but there's one who makes the final shove to pull it through, putting everything he holds dear on the line.
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Old 08-21-2014, 08:41 PM   #7
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I'm not much of a fan of the Second Age and do not know much of the back history behind the War of the Last Alliance and etc.
Ah I love the Second Age! Especially the relative mystery of it, and the misguided utopianism of Celebrimbor and his people, and shadow that lay upon much of Middle-earth at that time. I always think of the Second Age as a twilit age for some reason because of the state of things in Middle-earth.

Thanks everyone for some interesting responses. Yes I thought it was a bit doubtful, and some sacrifices were definitely intentional while others weren't. I suppose what tends to distinguish the Second and Third Ages from the First furthermore is that in each of those someone had to physically do something to end it (kill Sauron, drop the Ring into the Fire). Could someone be said to have done the same at the end of the First?

Here's a thought, after the fall of Angband when Sauron came to Eönwė's camp (and of course Maedhros and Maglor too) was Morgoth still there in chains, or had he already been transported to Valinor for execution? What technically ended the Third Age - Morgoth's defeat, his execution or his banishment into the void? Was he still around briefly in the Second Age? Largely technical questions of no great import I realise, but curious ones. I suppose the Third Age didn't end until the keepers of the Three passed over Sea, did it?
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