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text 2017-09-21 00:14
Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : VI. Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor
The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien,Ted Nasmith, Christopher Tolkien

All good things must come to an end.

Things start out quite nicely, with Melkor locked away, the Eldar gathering and enjoying a time of peace.  We even have a love story.

Spoiler: it all ends horribly.

As soon as I read that Míriel could only stand to bear a single child and that Finwë wanted more my first thought was "Well, this is going to end poorly."

steep cliffs under a twilight sky, overlooking the sea

Tolkien enjoys his epic love stories, ill fated or destined for greatness.  And so we have the marriage of Finwë and Míriel, deeply in love and from whom comes perhaps the greats of the Noldar artisans, Fëanor.  Birth is never easy, something that we often forget when it happens behind the closed doors of hospital rooms.  Women undergo intense physiological and psychological changes during pregnancy and at the end of it they suddenly have another life they are responsible for.  Actually, one of the biggest fears I have regarding spawning is that with my baseline neurochemical imbalances (and other factors) I have a deep seated fear of postpartum depression and/or postpartum psychosis.

Míriel bears a son, and "was consumed in spirit and in body; and after his birth she yearned for release from the labour of living."  I can't help but feel intensely frustrated with Finwë expansive grief when his wife says "No more children."  Functionally immortal with their first child yet a babe, they have time (let alone arguments about bodily autonomy and reproductive choice).  In a few decades or more, maybe she would look at her life and reconsider how she felt about bearing another child (or not, and that's OK).  Instead he displays a complete inability to understand the depth that is wife was suffering.  Maybe there was nothing Finwë could do to save Míriel, and the Eldar are a young race with much to be learned about heart and mind.

So Míriel lays down in the gardens of Lorien to rest, and her spirit departs.  I'm still not convinced this is not a deep deep depression and it's repercussions.  A literal "giving up the ghost," but not a deliberate suicide in my interpretation (I realize others do not agree with this assessment).  Meanwhile, Fëanor grows up brilliant, strong, and glorious, creating masterworks of metals and gems, and for a time married to Nerdanel who provided balance to his life and bore him seven sons.

And then, in no particular order, Finwë marries again and Fëanor is decidedly not happy with his stepmother or new brothers, Fëanor largely splits from the family and becomes his own force of driven angst, and Melkor makes parole.

How I summarize what comes next (to see video link you'll probably have to view on blog page):

Manwe is simply too innocent and too good to understand evil, though Ulmo and Tulkas grok what's going on.  Or maybe they're just distrustful and hold a grudge, but that's better than anyone else, so I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt.  In this case, even with Melkor confined to a region, the Valar are showing a depressingly characteristic lack of wisdom or understanding of things beyond their personal and limited scopes.  "But fair-seeming were all the words and deeds of Melkor in that time, and both the Valar and the Eldar had profit from his aid and counsel, if they sought it."

Interestingly, while the Valar and the Eldar, the Noldar in particular, availed themselves of Melkor's knowledge, Fëanor holds a deep seated hatred of Melkor deep enough to surpass any desire or ambition.  “But he lied in his lust and his envy, for none of the Eldalie ever hated Melkor more than Feanor.”  I was surprised by this, I totally expected Fëanor to succumb to ambition based on all the hinting this chapter gave.  I guess his dark destiny still awaits.

Predictions: things will continue to worsen, including in several theoretically preventable ways.

Source: libromancersapprentice.blogspot.com/2017/09/silmarillion-blues-quenta-silmarillion_20.html
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text 2017-09-09 03:21
Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : V. Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië
The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien,Ted Nasmith, Christopher Tolkien

This week, a picture says a thousand words.

The divisions between the Elves partially came down to luck, which I have various grumbly feelings about.  That those who were too far away to hear Ulmo's summons are a sub-classification in terms of Elven standing and lore is a bit snobbish.  Especially since the Valar could have reunited the groups much earlier than they did.

That being said, residing in Valinor and among the Valar wrought changes on the Quendi, so there is reason behind the division between the different groups.  And, while I generally bitch about the Valar failing their duties, even those doing some of them, Ulmo actually does seem to take care of the Elves, including forming an island for the Teleri and their love of the sea.  The Valar variously had their favorites, those inline with their own inclinations.  After all, they are only fallible, so such a human favoritism is almost to be expected.  But to their favorites they impart knowledge, wisdom, and skills, enriching the Calaquendi.

For those in Valinor, there was the White Tree and it's light.  Their love so strong that Yavanna made them their own Tree in it's image, a tree that does not shed light, yet loved none the less.  That tree and it's seedlings, including the white Tree of Numenor, are loved, but loved I feel more for their creation as an act of kindness and affection, and for their resemblance to the White Tree itself.  But remember as well that at this time Middle Earth still exists in a perpetual twilight.  Love and veneration of the White Tree is akin to veneration of the Sun.  It would be stranger if they didn't hold the Tree as sacred.  It also bears remembering that Elves are functionally immortal, so there are Elves who beheld the Light of the Tree at large during the time of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings who remember a time before there was sunlight.  I feel like that's worthy of dwelling on.

Source: libromancersapprentice.blogspot.com/2017/09/silmarillion-blues-quenta-silmarillion_8.html
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text 2017-09-02 03:03
Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : IV. Of Thingol and Melian
The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien,Ted Nasmith, Christopher Tolkien

Considering the significance of the moment covered by this chapter and Tolkien's treatment of epic love stories, this chapter stands out as shockingly short.  Elwë (referred to in the chapter title as Thingol), an was one of the elves to visit Valinor then come back to their people to offer the choice of haven in the Light of the Trees.

And then he comes across the Maia Melian, and that whole plan of residing in Valinor goes out the window.  We've met the Maia before, the name Gandalf probably rings a bell.  Melian brought song to the twilight of Middle Earth.

Beyond inspiring Elwë to abandon the life he convinced what would become a whole subset of his own race to follow, they are the first couple in a lineage of epic love stories that transcend race.  Melian births Lúthien Tinúviel, of Elven song and lore and her marriage to Beren.  The line continues through to Elrond, and then to Arwen who marries Aragon in her own repeat of the trials of Lúthien and Beren.

On the other hand, he devotes a chapter, as short as it may be, to the fact that these two met, fell in love, and that "of the love of Thingol and Melian there came into the world the fairest of all the Children of Iluvatar that was or ever shall be."  That alone indicates a significant weight to their love story.  At the same time, I feel like he sells their relationship a bit short, framing it with their daughter, rather than the significant action their relationship was.

Source: libromancersapprentice.blogspot.com/2017/09/silmarillion-blues-quenta-silmarillion.html
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text 2017-08-27 14:56
Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : III. Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor
The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien,Ted Nasmith, Christopher Tolkien

Wherein the Valar largely avoid doing their job, let things get bad, then scramble to make up for it.

"Through long ages the Valar dwelt in bliss in the light of the Trees beyond the Mountains of Aman, but all Middle-earth lay in a twilight under the stars."

Dwelling in their own private Haven is really not what they were sent to the world to do.  Yavanna moped about, but at least did what she could to protect the life that couldn't grow under the twilight.  Besides that...well, Melkor certainly took advantage of the situation, digging in and fortifying his position.  Most notably we learn about his fortress, Angband, commanded by his lieutenant, Sauron.

Finally the Valar realize maybe they should see about that assignment to prepare the earth for Iluvatar's children?  From this we see the greatest of all works of the Valar since they first came to Arda, that is the making of the new stars.  Not fully bringing light to the world, but bringing some... and this is the only light that the Elves live under when they first come forth.  This profoundly effects their, well religion isn't quite the right word, but perhaps the best way to describe their relationship with the world.  The Elves sing to the constellations, call on the stars and their creator for aid in dark times.

As it so happens, the Valar discover the Elves, the Quendi, in passing chance through Orome hearing their song as he rides through Middle Earth.  Melkor knew of the Quendi first, and had spent shadows and spirits to incite fear and distrust among the Quendi, stealing away those that stray far, so that the Quendi fear that the Hunter had caught them.  See where I start at the beginning with saying the Valar dropped the ball.  But those who had courage and did not flee on first meeting learned that the Hunter was not a thing of darkness.

This all leads to, and is part of, tragedy.  The lesser is that the Quendi are sundered.  Into those who go live with the Valar and see the light of the tree, those who don't, and the order and manner of which they do either.  This doesn't ruin them, but it changes and creates unnecessary divisions that do not benefit the race as a whole.  The greater tragedy is what happens to those whom were lost to the darkness or shadow.  Those were by and large taken into the fortress Utmno, where Melkor twisted and corrupted them, ultimately creating the Orcs.  Melkor cannot create life, but he can remake it.  And so he creates the mortal enemy of the Elves from themselves.

It is the presence of the Quendi themselves that finally stir the Valar to rise up against Melkor, from which he takes insult from, earning the Elves an enduring resentment from him.  The Valar achieved some success, hunting down and binding Melkor, but they failed to fully uncover the depths of his works allowing evil to flourish in hidden caves and his loyal underlings, such as Sauron, to escape.  While Melkor pleads for pardon, none is given, and he is thrown into Mandos "whence none can escape, neither Vala, nor Elf, or mortal Man."

I should probably cut the Valar some slack.  They are new to their jobs.  But at the same time they put off their assignments to create a glorious Haven and revel in it.  They create beautiful and priceless works, that stay locked away from Middle Earth itself.  Only a few of them pay attention to the larger expanse of Arda, and attempt to care for what still lives there.  The Quendi, for whom they were to prepare Arda for, come forth and start their civilization under the shadow of Melkor and are only discovered by the rest of the Valar almost too late.  Were they less fallible, life on Middle Earth would have progressed quite differently.

Source: libromancersapprentice.blogspot.com/2017/08/silmarillion-blues-quenta-silmarillion_27.html
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review 2017-08-25 00:00
The Hobbit: Illustrated Edition
The Hobbit: Illustrated Edition - J.R.R. Tolkien,Jemima Catlin

This has to be at least the fourth or fifth time I've read this delightful book and at least the second time I've read this particular edition, enhanced by the charming illustrations of Jemima Caitlin.

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