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text 2017-08-17 01:28
Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : II. Of Aulë and Yavanna
The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien,Ted Nasmith, Christopher Tolkien

Valanar to me seems almost a Garden of Eden, but Ilúvatar proves rather more benevolent than Yahweh.  Rather than a forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge we have the creation of life.  Which by Christian standards and morals strikes me like the larger transgression.  So Aulë so desired Children to pass on his knowledge to that he formed the Dwarves, and Ilúvatar shows compassion in the face of Aulë's demonstrated humility, awarding the Dwarves a place in the world.  Even if that place comes after a long hibernation so that the Elves can still be the First.  I guess the crime in Eden could be considered Pride, a sin Aulë debased himself against.

The Seven Father of the Dwarves are laid to rest, to reawaken once the children of Ilúvatar come forth.  Perhaps most interestingly is the Dwarven belief of the afterlife, where they go to their maker's halls, and to serve beside im in the remaking of the world after the Last Battle.  While clearly different, it brings to mind Valhallah and Norse concepts of the afterlife.

An odd, and perhaps uncomfortable tension exists between Aulë and Yavanna.  The husband and wife have different passions, his of the working of stone and metal, she of the growing things.  Both of the Earth, but with profoundly different relationships to it.  I can't tell from the wording if Yavanna deliberately withholds her blessing or if because they were birthed without her presence they will have no love for her works.  Regardless of the intent of her words... there's some marital strife.  I feel like Aulë is a little blase, but he has a point as well, whereas Yavanna holds to this idealistic but limited world view.  The world, and song, of Ilúvatar is not one of pure harmony, but one of distinct melodies growing, changing, and at times, conflicting with each other.  Aulë may have been tactless in his remark that his children will need wood, but he spoke only the truth... and not only for that of the Dwarves.

As almost an afterthought, we get mention of what become the Ents and the Eagles.  Yavanna is excited by these spirits, the kelvar and the olvar, that will serve as nature guardians.  But says "only the trees of Aulë will be tall enough."  That is, the Eagles will make their homes in the mountains while the Ents will serve as Tree Shepherds in the forests.  It possesses a fitting symmetry, and the origins of the Ents is one that I've been curious about for some time.

Source: libromancersapprentice.blogspot.com/2017/08/silmarillion-blues-quenta-silmarillion_15.html
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text 2017-08-13 04:58
Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : I. Of the Beginning of Days
The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien,Ted Nasmith, Christopher Tolkien

In the early days, while the world was still being formed, a powerful spirit came to the aid of the Valar against Melkor, driving him off with his "wrath and laughter."  And thus did Tulkas the Strong come to reside among he Valar and become one of their number.  It also earned him the life-long enmity of Melkor, but let's be honest if you can face down Melkor, earning his enmity isn't exactly a huge surprise or challenge.

Melkor's retreat to regroup and fortify gives everyone else some breathing room, and the Valar take it as an opportunity to tend to the world and bring life and beauty to it.  Two mightly lamps are built, blessed, and set to the North and South (Illuin and Ormal), spreading light across the land.

Illuin: Lamp of the Valar by Ted Nasmith

Then after their labors, they celebrated and rested.  Since no one bothered dealing with Melkor in this time, well, we know where this is going.  While the Valar shaped the world, Melkor was seeding spies among the ranks.  As his stronghold grew in size and fortification, the land around suffered from a blight signaling his presence.  He then attacked before the Valar could track him down and shattered the two lamps.

In the aftermath, the Valar retreat from Middle Earth for the Land of Aman on the westernmost borders of the world, where they raised the Pelori and established their own fortified domain.  There they accomplish works, tending the lands around the Pelori, and bringing into being the two Trees, Silver Telperion and golden Laurelin.  The trees brought light to the realm, waxing and waning in opposing cycles like the sun and the moon.  Blessed trees are a core part of Middle Earth, but none so much as these two, that after an attempt by Melkor to see them destoryed, become the Sun and the Moon.


That Middle Earth did not fall completely to the Shadow before Iluvatar brought forth the Elves and Men is largely thanks to Ulmo, who alone resided outside of their walled garden and ensured that life grew even in the dark places of Middle Earth.  Small measures were made on occasion, largely by Yavanna and Orome, but for the most part I cannot help but feel the Valar failed to fulfill their duty.

The Quendi (Elves) and Atani (Men) are brought forth, beings in a Song not understood by the Valar.  The Valar are not set above the Elves, being instead fellow children of Iluvatar.  Of the two races, the Elves have the closet relationship with the Valar, more of the Earth, destined to walk the world until it dies, and with their purpose after the World's end left secret.  The Men are given curiosity and short lives, destined to join in the Second Music of the Ainur, and remind the Valar of Melkor.

Source: libromancersapprentice.blogspot.com/2017/08/silmarillion-blues-quenta-silmarillion.html
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text 2017-08-12 18:33
Poems
Bilbo's Last Song - J.R.R. Tolkien

Are usually not able to fill a full book alone. However, the illustrations add more to the volume and make it a complete work. They are beautifully done. Now I need to go re-read the end of Return of the KIng to track down this poem there, cause I don't remember it at all.

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text 2017-08-05 17:16
Silmarillion Blues : Valaquenta
The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien,Ted Nasmith, Christopher Tolkien

In which the Elves (Eldar) tell us about the Valar and Maiar.

Remember last week when I paraphrased a Bible verse?  Well, we get some Book of Genesis here.

In the beginning... Iluvatar created the Ainur, who made his Music and set forth to fulfill the visions of Earth and Iluvatar's beings within.  Which, we've already covered, so let's keep going into the nitty gritty of pantheons and numerology.  Or at least lightly brush up against them.

Of the Valar, the "angels" and the Ainur on Earth we go from less exciting "beings without sex but their own gender determination" to two nicely matched sets of seven Lords and seven Queens (plus Melkor of whom they don't like to speak).  The Ainur are often viewed as gods, and are at the very least, the intermediaries that are most likely to have any impact on one's life.  They preside over different areas of the Earth, in a manner familiar to Greek mythology, including Manwe and Varda residing in halls in the tallest tower on the highest mountain in all of Earth.

We've already met Varda, or at least her stories and her blessing, under the name of Elbereth.  Elbereth of the starlight and who's essence burns the evil creatures of shadow that are encountered in the Quest of the Ring.

The Valar will come up again, and for the most part I'll have to check their names against an index when they do.

Meanwhile, let's touch in on the Maiar.  I've called the Valar/Ainur angels... which does generally apply, especially if we're looking at a monotheistic world religion.  In that set up the Maiar would be a lesser chorus of angels.  But with Iluvatar existing largely outside of the sphere of Middle Earth interactions, the Valar are half promoted into the deities of a polytheistic world religion with the Maiar as demigods (we'll get to the Istari later).  The Maiar took a more direct hand in the mortal world, dwelling on land, sea, and forest.  We'll be reading more of them going forward.

Lastly, we come to Melkor.  I said this last week, and I'll say it again, he is serious business.  He's not just greatest of the Ainur, but he is enough to stand against the collective Valar, through his own might and through the Maiar that flocked to his banner.  Of those that were drawn to Melkor, one name stands out, that of Sauron, also known as Gorthaur the Cruel.  If Melkor stands as a Lucifer analog, then Sauron is his chief lieutenant roaming the world.

Source: libromancersapprentice.blogspot.com/2017/08/silmarillion-blues-valaquenta.html
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text 2017-07-29 01:17
Silmarillion Blues : Ainulindalë
The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien,Ted Nasmith, Christopher Tolkien

In the beginning was the Song, and the Song was with Ilúvatar, and the Song was Illúvatar.

Please forgive me the paraphrasing, and regardless of my atheist status, no disrespect is intended.

waves on an empty sea, mountain rising in the distance

The thing is, I cannot read Ainulindalë without thinking of the Bible.  This is going to sound super weird, but I used to read the Bible in church because I was bored out of my mind during the sermon.  Plus one of my college English classes did some readings so I have an Oxford Study Bible living on my shelves with all my folklore, religion, and mythology texts.  I find study of religion, myths, and folklore fascinating, and I don't separate out popular modern religion from those of days past.

Instead, the above paraphrasing is a deliberate invoking of a well known Bible verse to draw attention to mythology parallels within Middle Earth.  And we see many parallels, from the angelic chorus, to the creation of a world for peoples with Free Will, and to the dissension and fall of the greatest of the angels.

The main players are Ilúvatar (the Creator), the Ainur/Valar (angel analogs), and Melkor (the dissident).  Also of note is Melkor's brother, Manwë, who serves as a counter balance of sorts.  That being said, as a counter balance he's not very impressive.  He has almost the entire host of the Valar behind him and barely keeps Melkor in check.  To me the interesting part is Ilúvatar's handling of Melkor, taking his dissonance and making it part of the song.  It doesn't solve the problem, but it shows a balance of sorts.  Even without Melkor there would be strife in the world he created for the Elves and Men, but by having Melkor interfering there becomes greater opportunities for heroism to offset the villainy.

It should be to no one's surprise the role of music in the creation of Middle Earth.  Music is an anchor of all Tolkien's stories and the races within.  So it makes sense that the world itself is literally a musical composition.

One last thing before I wrap this up.  This is probably just me, but this little bit really reads like gender determination as separate from sex characteristics. 

 "But when they desire to clothe themselves the Valar take upon them forms some as of male and some as of female; for that difference of temper they had even from the their beginning, and it is but bodied forth in the choice of each, not made by the choice, even as with us male and female may be shown by the raiment but is not made thereby."

I am certain that Tolkien was not thinking about even the concept of transgenderism or gender determination as distinct from sex.  But I find it interesting when these concept appear in older, non-related, literature.

Source: libromancersapprentice.blogspot.com/2017/07/silmarillion-blues-ainulindale.html
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