Sea-longing

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Postby wilko185 » Sat Oct 12, 2002 9:56 pm

Queen_B, the <a target=new href="http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15464a.htm">Catholic Encyclopedia</a> has this to say (among other things) on the name of Mary:<OL>Here a word has to be added concerning the explanation <i>stella maris</i>, star of the sea. It is more popular than any other interpretation of the name Mary, and is dated back to St. Jerome (De nomin. hebraic., de Exod., de Matth., P.L., XXIII, col, 789, 842). But the great Doctor of the Church knew Hebrew too well to translate the first syllable of the name miryam by star; in Is., xl., 15, he renders the word mar by stilla (drop), not stella (star). A Bamberg manuscript dating from the end of the ninth century reads stilla maris instead of stella maris. Since Varro, Quintillian, and Aulus Gelliius testify that the Latin peasantry often substituted an e for an i, reading vea for via, vella for villa, speca for spica, etc., the substitution of maris stella for maris stilla is easily explained. Neither an appeal to the Egyptian Minur-juma (cf. Zeitschr. f. kathol. Theol., IV, 1880, p. 389) nor the suggestion that St. Jerome may have regarded miryam as a contracted form of me'or yam (cf. Schegg, Jacobus der Bruder des Herrn, Munchen, 1882, p. 56 Anm.) will account for his supposed interpretation stella maris (star of the sea) instead of stilla maris (a drop of the sea).</OL>I take it this means Stells Maris is an "accidental" title for Mary arising after the time of St Jerome (5th century). Still, it's interesting what the maritime association brings up. Eg this twelfth-century prayer from St Bernard of Clairvaux: <OL>If the winds of temptation arise; <BR>If you are driven upon the rocks of tribulation look to the star, call on Mary; <BR>If you are tossed upon the waves of pride, of ambition, of envy, of rivalry, look to the star, call on Mary.</OL>This isn't <i>too</i> far removed from Sam gaining strength and hope in Mordor from the sight of the star of Earendil. For Earendil, Tolkien called on the star/mariner/beacon-of-hope associations of "Earendel", (associated with the planet Venus) that are found in the Old English poem Crist of Cynewulf:<OL>Oh, Earendel, brightest of angels, sent to men above<BR>middle-earth'</OL>Btw, Stella Maris was also a title given to Venus (the goddess, though the association with the planet is interesting), and to Ishtar, "the ancient Goddess of the Sea", apparently represented by the Pole Star Polaris. Mariners rely on the stars for navigation, but the "guiding star" of Earendil is for all sailors in the sea of life.
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Postby Mithramien » Sun Oct 13, 2002 7:27 am

Another great one from Wilko.<BR><BR>I have a few thoughts:<BR><BR>First, I agree with Naias that Tolkien saw the sea as a "margin of the world," though I disagree that this implies that he did not pay attention to it. Margins have incredible psychological significance.<BR><BR>It is interesting to look at the sea's significance in Anglo-Saxon lore, one of Tolkien's core influences. Most Anglo-Saxon mythology states that the sea is indeed the true margin of a lonely little world. Gods lived on land with man, and both were occasionally called to band together to fight off "giants" and monsters that lived beyond the sea, who would come to devastate the earth. The final apocalypse was said to be the final victory of these giants over the gods and men of earth. Not very optimistic. Some scholars believe this paranoia about destruction-comes-from-the-sea to have its origins in the many centuries of devastation wreaked on the Anglos by the Vikings, who would come over in their boats to rape and pillage at will. At any rate, the sea and its far regions attained a certain mystical property, like fate - having the power to steal or grant life, having no rational component.<BR><BR>Note that this is a very different, much older conception of the sea than a Briton should have had by 1940, after a few centuries of Britain basically dominating the world through *conquest* of the sea. You would think the sea would be perfectly mundane, an extension of land, a place to understand and to conquer. But Tolkien's sensibility was much older than that.<BR><BR>There is also obviously a relation to the medieval conceit of the flat world ending beyond the sea to the West - what else could be beyond that point, but God or heaven or some other transcendental realm? My signature actually tries to make that connection - the song of Earendil is clearly a parallel to the journey into Aman from the Grey Havens - crossing the sea at peril to arrive at the "ends of the world" where "ever-foaming billows roll"... Note the terror of the intervening ocean contrasting with the beautiful, yet unspecific and mystical nature of the land found. To the reader, this only increases the notion that the sea as margin is dark and foreboding, and hides from us some unimaginable redemption which only a few mythic figures can achieve.<BR><BR>The picture that accompanies my sig is historical - a portrayal of the medieval belief that you could travel far enough (West, presumably) that you could actually cross the oceans and leave the earthly sphere, to emerge into the heavenly ones. Again, very similar to Tolkien's mystical views of the sea as embodied in Earendil and the Grey Havens.
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Postby Luinnenion » Sun Oct 13, 2002 9:06 am

The first time I saw the sea (aside from high above it in a airliner) was driving along the coast in Izu, Japan. I come from a landlocked state, and biggest body of water I'd ever seen previously was Lake Michigan. It was night as my friend drove and I looked out the window at the Pacific and saw...black. Pitch black. The complete and utter absence of light. From the point where we were to immeasurable miles out, I knew there was no light. No street lamps. No car headlights. No house lights. Nothing. A void.<BR><BR>We drove all through the night and shortly after dawn we arrived at the fishing area my friend wanted to go to. We got on a boat and were taken to a small rock island about a mile and a half, maybe two miles off the shore. As my friend fished, I watched the waves crash against the rock. It wasn't a huge dramatic crash with a lot of spray. Rather the water would quick rush up to a certain point on the jagged side of the rock, and then suddenly just drop down six or seven feet. And then quickly rush back up the rock. It was the most violent expression of water I'd ever seen. I knew that if fell off the rock, the sea would thrust me up against the jagged edge, drop me down and thrust me up again until I was a bloody pulp. I looked out at the sea, and the thought foremost on my mind was that the sea wanted to kill me.<BR><BR>Guess I don't have the heart of a mariner, huh? <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0><BR><BR>I have to agree with some others who have made similar points: I don't Tolkien could have looked at the sea and not be deeply moved in some way. I'm not sure anyone could. But I think the Sea says different things to all of us. Some it frightens, some it beckons, and to some it sings songs. I think it sung a song to Tolkien. The ocean is immeasurably vast, at least from the point of view of a person looking at it. It's vast and immeasurably deep. It's capricious, and beautiful, helping us travel, and killing us, too. I think in many ways, the Sea represents God in Tolkien's writings. Remember that Ulmo was the only Valar who continued to help the Eldar even after the exile of the Noldor, similar to the way that a Christian believes that God is always with us, helping us, even though we may born in sin (as the Catholics believe) or fall into it (the Protestant belief). Morgoth and Sauron fear it and never attempt to make use of it. I could definitely see Tolkien looking at the vast ocean, looking at the beauty and the violence, how it's all around us, and perhaps seeing it as a representation of God on earth. It's similar to the idea of the Sea representing Death, but subtly different, I think...<BR>
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Postby scirocco » Mon Oct 14, 2002 3:54 am

This thread has concentrated mainly on the Elvish "sea-longing", which seems to stem from a love of the Western Sea because of its connection to the Blessed Realm and its association with Ulmo. However, Men also long for the sea; Tuor's flight from Mithrim was inspired by it, although he didn't know it at the time:<BR><BR><i>And Tuor came into Nevrast, and looking upon Belegaer the Great Sea he was enamoured of it, and the sound of it and the longing for it were ever in his heart and ear, and an unquiet was on him that took him at last into the depths of the realms of Ulmo...</i><BR><BR>..and Idril and Tuor's later departure from Nan-tasarinan to the mouths of Sirion, and subsequent building of the ship Earrame, are all attributed to the sea-longing.<BR><BR>This longing passed on to Earendil, Tuor's son. However, Earendil was no languid Teleri piping by the shore; he was of Noldorin descent, and his sea-faring was practical and purposeful: to save the world!<BR><BR>Earendil's descendants, the Numenoreans, were even more pragmatic and less "emotional" in their sea-longing. By the time Earendil's great-great-great-great-grandson, Tar-Aldarion, took the throne, his life and marriage had been pretty much wrecked by his addiction to the maritime life (see the story of Aldarion and Erendis in 'Unfinished Tales'). But while Aldarion was genuinely affected by a desire for the Sea when he was ashore, the longing became more concerned with what the Sea could do for him, where it could take him, and the riches and power it could bring him, as opposed to any great love for it. And eighteen generations later, Ar-Pharazon, the last of the Numenorean rulers, whose domineering mindset can be seen in his self-proclaimed title "King of the Sea", only saw it as an minor impediment to the endless expansion of his power.<BR><BR>So the journey from Tuor to Ar-Pharazon is another of Tolkien's favourite metaphors: Man's loss of respect for the Sea reflects his gradual estrangement from the Elves and the "true" longing for the Sea that they hold dear.
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Postby Queen_Beruthiel » Mon Oct 14, 2002 2:20 pm

Thanks for that interesting info, Wilko, and for the link. <BR><BR>I was trying to remember when Frodo had his first "sea dream" and was convinced that it was in the house of Bombadil. Wrong. It was of course in the house at Crickhollow, on his last night in the Shire. The quote (which I am too tired to type out) is at the end of "A Conspiracy Unmasked". Mith's post above about margins made me realise that Frodo was, in Crickhollow, on the very edge of the world he knew. Crossing the river was significant for Sam, but not for Frodo, who had been brought up in Buckland. For Frodo, the first great step would be passing through the Hedge and into the Old Forest. <BR>In his dream he "seemed to be looking out of a high window over a dark sea of tangled trees". He hears creatures below crawling and snuffling and feels their threat to him.<BR>Then he hears a noise, which he thinks is wind in the leaves but then realises is the sea. <BR><BR>"Looking up he saw before him a tall white tower, standing alone on a high ridge. A great desire came over him to climb the tower and see the Sea."<BR><BR>But he wakes before he can do so.<BR><BR>This dream both reflects Frodo's present fears (the Black Riders) and foreshadows the future course of his life. We feel his fears, aspirations and longings. All his sense are awake in this dream - sight, hearing and smell. And when he wakes up he will be leaving the Shire for ever - for when he returns he will be a different person.<BR><BR>There, I ended up typing a fair chunk of it anyway.
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Postby Armenelos » Sat Oct 19, 2002 10:20 pm

i remember when i was 12 and 13 i used to have to go with my dad and step mom to the gym everyday, and since i was into fitness, i went and swam around in the pool that was for laps. a lot of the time no one else was there but me, and i would find myself just closing my eyes and floating there, sinking in and out of the water, for what felt like eternity. it was the first time in my life that i had ever experienced something so lovely that had nothing to do with possession or lust.<BR><BR>one of my favorite things to do is to walk down to the beach (when i am nearby) and bring a book, early in the morning and lay there and read until the clouds and fogs are gone (i live near Los Angeles).<BR><BR>i think that water is the most beautiful and mystical element in existence, and i'd venture to say that Tolkien might have felt even as i do. it is so wonderous and intoxicatingly fluid and clean (usually).<BR><BR>also, aside from the music of the ainur coursing through the waters of Middle-earth, all evil shunned it, so that it was not defiled and was pretty much the last purity left in Arda. this must have carried some importance. water was in the veins of the earth (see maps in The Shaping of Middle-Earth), and it surrounded it, and held all memories and all knowledge. anyone who desired these things would hear its call.
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Postby misabella » Sat Oct 19, 2002 10:22 pm

from "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin, Louisiana, USA 1899.<BR><BR><BR> The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude. All along the white beach, up and down, there was no living thing in sight. A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water.<BR><BR>. . .for the first time in her life she stood naked in the open air, at the mercy of the sun, the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves that invited her.<BR><BR> How strange and awful it seemed to stand naked under the sky! how delicious! She felt like some newborn creature, opening its eyes in a familiar world that it had never known.<BR><BR> The foamy wavelets curled up to her white feet, and coiled like serpents around her ankles. She walked out. The water was chill, but she moved on. The water was deep, but she lifted her white body and reached out with a long, sweeping stroke. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, warm embrace.<BR><BR> She went on and on. She remembered the night she swam far out, and recalled the terror that seized her at being unable to regain the shore. She did not look back now, but went on and on, thinking of hte blue-grass meadow she had traversed when a little child, believing it had no beginning and no end.
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Postby scirocco » Sat Apr 26, 2003 5:25 am

Another example: Denethor's wife, Finduilas, who was Prince Imrahil's sister, only survived twelve years of marriage in Gondor. Denethor is not to be blamed for her death, <i>...he loved her, after his fashion...</i>, rather, it was Finduilas' dislike of the stone walls of Gondor and her unfulfilled desire to return to the shores of Dol Amroth which were her undoing, and the cause of her death. Not surprising, perhaps, given her Elvish blood: as with Legolas:<BR><BR><i>Legolas Greenleaf long under tree<BR>In joy thou hast lived. Beware of the Sea!<BR>If thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore,<BR>Thy heart shall then rest in the forest no more...</i>
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