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Old 06-22-2003, 09:15 AM   #1
Meela
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Sting Elves and Men: Us now and then?

I have brought this up once before in another topic, but I would like to set it up as a discussion to see what views others hold. I apologise if this has been discussed already.

If Middle Earth is a reflection upon our own ancient world, then the races inhabiting it must share some form of identity with us.
The modern race of men is shown as rather weak, and possibly slightly destructive? Whereas the elves are a race of more perfection... well, they are supposedly better than men, at least.
I have often wondered if the race of men is Tolkien's view on the world of people around him, and the elves are what we should have been or used to be. Perhaps he saw us as he wrote his race of men: society today seems to be rather destructive, ie. pollution and forest destruction, and this is reflected in Lord Of The Rings.
The elves treasure nature and the world around them, and would never dream of cutting down the forests in the way that we do today. Here I am thinking of early Medieval England and before, when the country was covered in vast amounts of forest, and little else. The people may not exactly have been elves, but there was a better relationship with the land. At least, that is what I see.

I do not know where the dwarves or any other species comes into it. All I can offer my opinion on here is the view that we were once a race of elves, or at least Tolkien's ideal race, and now we are like modern Lord Of The Rings men, who are not so ideal.
Please add your opinions or corrections.
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Old 06-22-2003, 09:30 AM   #2
Idunn
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Sting

Take into account that in the Middle Ages, or even earlier, people were also cutting and burning forests to get a land for fields. In my opinion, their deeds were less destructive only due to the fact that they were less in number and didn't have so well-developed technology as we do today. They didn't love nature more or wanted to protect it. To my mind it was lack of tools, nothing more. Nowadays, at least some of us are aware of our apparent harmful influence on the environment and try to do something to stop this deadly process.
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Old 06-22-2003, 10:42 AM   #3
Child of the 7th Age
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Meela,

I don't think Elves (or hobbits) were set up by Tolkien as a pure ideal that we should aspire to. But I also think that an important piece of man was encapsulated in the Elven mode, and another piece in the hobbit mode. I'm not sure where it appears in the Letters but Tolkien clearly stated that both hobbits and Elves reflect a little piece of man's whole essence.

Hobbits, for example, show the power of the everyday small person, someone who's wrapped up in the mundane things of life. Good things to be sure.....family, children, tilling the soil, living in harmony with nature. Yet, in a pinch, and when presented with an urgent need, that same individual has the abiliy to take on an extraordinary task which requires him to show unusual courage. In that sense, man is asked to emulate that aspect of being a hobbit, while staying away from a hobbit's "little" shortcomings such as pettiness, small greed, looking inward, etc.

The same goes for Elves. They certainly represent man's creative side par excellence---art, music, dance. But they too had shortcomings: focusing on the past, becoming embalmers of their world, being hoodwinked by their own creations (as with the Silmarils), perhaps being too isolated, or occasionally turning to the shadow. A reading of the Silmarillion will certainly reinforce the fact that Elves weren't perfect!

In one sense a "perfect" Man can't exist, at least in terms of Tolkien's own philosophy as a Christian. The fall makes that impossible. This is an event which Tolkien even alluded to in his writings on Arda towards the end of his life. See Adanel in Morgoth's Ring.

I've often thought that the ideal to which we should aspire (perhaps not indivudually but as a race)is to take the best of each of Tolkien's people and somehow bring it into a harmonious whole: hobbits, men, Elves, and dwarves. Then discard that which is not right or "true". Not an easy task!
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