The Silmarillion (added material 17/5/02). How should it be approached?

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Postby wilko185 » Wed May 08, 2002 10:58 pm

The Silmarillion is often seen as <a target=new href="http://www.tolkienonline.com/thewhitecouncil/messageview.cfm?catid=27&threadid=5641">a difficult read</a>. Some readers come to it expecting LOTR 2, and are disappointed. There are no central protagonists to follow throughout the story, indeed there is no single story but rather a succession of tales. The book consists of several separate works, the main one being Quenta Silmarillion which is the history of the First Age. But this is book-ended by a marvellous creation myth, and accounts of events in the Second and Third Ages (LOTR being set at the end of the Third Age). <BR><BR>The events are usually highly abbreviated and densely-related. If each chapter were told on the same detailed scale as LOTR, some would approach the same length as LOTR. There is a lack of mediating characters in the foreground (no hobbits!) to the extent of there being little dialogue in many places. The prose-style is quite distant, and is in an archaic King James Bible form. Yet many readers (myself included) love it more than LOTR. It relates the whole glorious history of the Elder Days, to which LOTR seems like a wonderfully detailed epilogue.<BR><BR>"History" is perhaps the key word here. This is not a novel, it is a history book. In the introduction to the Book of Lost Tales (the earliest version of the stories presented in the Silmarillion) Christopher Tolkien (CT) says: "To read The Silmarillion one must place oneself imaginatively at the time of the ending of the Third Age - within Middle-earth, looking back". So what are we actually reading here? If The Hobbit is the light-hearted account Bilbo gave in his youth of his comical adventures, and LOTR is Sam and Frodo's version of their part in the "great events" of the destruction of the Ring, The Silmarillion is the distilled wisdom of the Elder days (written, oral and sung), absorbed by Bilbo the scholar in his years in Rivendell:<BR><BR><i>Bilbo gave to Frodo at Rivendell as his parting gift 'some books of lore that he had made at various times, written in his spidery hand, and labelled on their red backs: Translations from the Elvish, by B.B.</i><BR><BR>The Silmarillion gives the impression of being compiled from various sources, in varying detail, some of whom were perhaps actually there in the Elder days, but mostly second hand. As CT says "The maker of 'The Silmarillion', as he himself said of the author of Beowulf, 'was telling of things already old and weighted with regret, and he expended his art in making keen that touch upon the heart which sorrows have that are both poignant and remote...'". <BR>This effect is not contrived. The Silmarillion stories were worked on and revised throughout Tolkien's life, and exist in many versions which will no doubt often be referred to in this forum, as they are published in HoME. The published Silm is the version CT felt was the best version to put forward as coherent whole, after his father's death, and is often a condensed form of longer tales or poems. The longer versions are wonderful to revel in, but The Sil (for all its imperfections) is and must be the core, central reference text.<BR><BR>The above explanation of the Silm as being Bilbo's translations from the Elvish is "true" within Middle-earth, and is a nice way to appreciate it if you're coming to it from LOTR. But in {our} reality The Silm was in existence long before LOTR (though not in its published form), and it was a product of Tolkien's life, experiences and beliefs. In this thread PstTBG posted some thoughts on the influence of Tolkien's faith on his writing, which I'll repeat here:<BR><BR>____________________________________________________________________<BR><BR>It is often asserted that Tolkien was a Christian author and that his works were Christian works. That assertion is true, but only in a limited sense. Certainly Tolkien was a Christian in his personal belief. That belief had a very real and abiding affect upon all that he did, particularly upon his writing. <BR>"I am a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’ –– though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory."<BR>Yet to call Tolkien’s works Christian without some explanation is to be simplistic and very possibly to convey the wrong idea. He was very careful to not be overtly symbolic in what he wrote. See his forward to LOTR where he disclaims any “larger meaning.” Instead of overt symbols and allegory as one finds in C. S. Lewis’ works, one finds allusions and pictures that remind one of Christian concepts. <BR>Christianity had the greatest affect in Tolkien’s works in the viewpoint from which he wrote. He wrote as one that realizes that there is a Sovereign Deity who created and is in control. That some of His creatures have fallen and that as a result the creation is marred. That there is a hope and a chance of redemption. That there is an evil to be fought in the world, and that the greatest danger of that evil is that it will find a response in one’s own heart. That everyone, no matter how good and how noble, struggles with the temptation to grasp that evil. That pride is the root of evil. That victory is not ultimately achieved by strength of arms. That God may choose the weak and humble to defeat the mighty and thereby demonstrate that victory or defeat is in God’s hands.<BR>Yes, there are elements in Tolkien’s stories that have definite parallels to the Christian Bible. The theme of light versus darkness. The piercing of the darkness by the light. The death and resurrection of the champion. The willing sacrifice of one for the rest of the world. The fall into sin of the greatest of the created beings. <BR>Tolkien’s works inspire one to look for the God of creation and to respond with faith as he did.<BR><BR>For a slightly different treatment of this topic follow this <a target=new href="http://www.theonering.net/features/notes/note10.html">link</a>.<BR><BR>[And here's an essay on <a target=new href="http://www.petersnet.net/research/retrieve.cfm?RecNum=4154">"Tolkien's Catholic imagination"</a>]<BR>____________________________________________________________________<BR><BR>Given below is another little essay, on Tolkien's philological and mythological roots, put together by Novice and myself.<BR><BR>____________________________________________________________________<BR><BR>“I desired dragons with a profound desire,” Tolkien said of his young self. As a child he admired such tales as the Arthurian legends but most of all, according to his biographer Humphrey Carpenter, “he found delight in the Fairy Books of Andrew Lang, especially the Red Fairy Book, for tucked away in its closing pages was the best story he had ever read. This was the tale of Sigurd who slew the dragon Fafnir: a strange and powerful tale set in the nameless North.<BR><BR>When he was about seven he began to compose his own story about a dragon. "I remember nothing about it except a philological fact," he recalled. "My mother said nothing about the dragon, but pointed out that one could not say 'a green great dragon', but had to say 'a great green dragon'. I wondered why, and still do. The fact that I remember this is possibly significant, as I do not think I ever tried to write a story again for many years, and was taken up with language."<BR><BR>Tolkien’s affinity for and love of words and their aesthetic was aroused early in life. As a child he came across the strange names of Welsh destinations on the coal-trucks at railway sidings near his home, and he fell in love with the language. Introduced to Old English at school by way of Chaucer’s <i>Canterbury Tales</i>, he was so attracted to the language that he taught himself Anglo-Saxon using a primer; his first sight of a Gothic word-list “took his heart by storm”. He explored further afield and learned old Norse; he discovered Finnish and worked through the Kalevala, the Finnish national myth and the Elder Edda. He embraced a lifelong fascination with words, appreciating an inherent beauty in certain sound patterns independent of the meaning of the words themselves.<BR><BR>It was inevitable that he would create his own imaginary languages. Animalic was the first childish foray, in which animal names were substituted for English words. By the end of his first terms at Oxford as an undergraduate the rudiments of his elvish tongues were laid. Even as a full professor, he always found time to work on his “secret vice”, as he called it; Quenya, modelled on the sound patterns of Finnish (his favourite tongue) and Sindarin based on Welsh.<BR><BR>His profound sense of language meant that he could not be satisfied with a ‘dead tongue’; for a language to live it needed a history and a culture to allow it to evolve and develop. He needed a world in which someone meeting a friend could greet them, “Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo, ” – “a star shines upon the hour of our meeting”. The Silmarillion emerged from his fertile imagination as a world in which his languages could live.<BR><BR>And if he was to create such a world, it was also natural that it would be informed by the literature that most moved him. The mythological literature of the North was bound with his fascination with language, for it was a natural consequence of following his philologic curiosity. <BR><BR>He read in the original the story of Sigurd and the dragon which had captivated him as a child. Tolkien never lost his respect for faery tales. On the contrary, he came to consider that faery and mythology are kin. In his major essay <i>On Fairystories</i> he spoke of faery not as the benign place commonly considered the domain of children, but of a perilous realm of depth and mysterious beauty, not lightly sought by mortals. For him, faery proper reflected the same kinds of truths that were to be found in the great mythologies. Tolkien seemed to sense that behind the fragments of tales and poems that are handed down to us, there lay a larger half-glimpsed pattern. He felt “a curious thrill, as if something had stirred in me, half wakened from sleep. There was something very remote and strange and beautiful behind those words, if I could grasp it, far beyond ancient English.”<BR><BR>Tolkien believed that creativity itself is a gift from God. One of his most telling lines in that essay is, “We make still by the law in which we’re made,” that successful fairy story has “the very taste of primary truth” and symbolises God’s gift of creativity to us. “Legend and history,” said Tolkien, “have met and fused” in fairy story. By his own definition, his major creative writings fall within the category of fairy story.<BR><BR>Tolkien once wrote that the whole of The Silmarillion ultimately sprang from the lines of Cynewolf’s Anglo-Saxon <i>Christ</i> poem: “Ëalä Eärendel engla beorhtast ofer middengeard monnum sended”, which he himself translated as, “Here Eärendel, brightest of angels, sent from God to men.” The inspiration is a melding of language and myth with his deepest Christian convictions. (PstTBG has posted on how this influenced his writings). “I felt a curious thrill,” he wrote long afterwards, “as if something had stirred in me, half wakened from sleep. There was something very remote and strange and beautiful behind those words, if I could grasp it, far beyond ancient English.”<BR><BR>But there is still another, significant motivation not yet touched upon that grew from Tolkien’s deep love for England. He saw himself unshakeably as a son of its soil. One of the reasons that Middle English touched him so deeply was the link it gave him to his ancestry, for he recognised it as the antecedent of the dialect spoken by his mother’s West Midland ancestors.<BR><BR>In his delvings into the rich vein of Norse tradition, Tolkien noted that England lacked a native mythology. “I would that we had more of it left,” he commented. In the Norman conquest and also in the industrial revolution which stamped out much rural folklore before it could be recorded, the Anglo-Saxon stories had been lost. England was cut off from its roots and its past. What survived was to him “impoverished chap-book stuff”. Even King Arthur was probably Welsh ie Celtic, not English, arriving in England by way of French troubadours. He aspired to bridge this gap and ultimately he worked on this great endeavour for most of his adult life.<BR><BR>“I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogonic to the level of romantic fairy-story the larger founded on the lesser in contact with the earth, the lesser drawing splendour from the vast backcloths which I could dedicate simply: to England; to my country. It could possess the tone and quality that I desired, somewhat cool and clear, be redolent of our ‘air’ (the clime and soil of the North West, meaning Britain and the hither parts of Europe; not Italy or the Aegean, still less the East), and, while possessing (if I could achieve it) the fair, elusive beauty that some call Celtic (though it is rarely found in genuine ancient Celtic things), it should be ‘high’, purged of the gross, and fit for the more adult mind of a land long steeped in poetry, I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama...” (Letter #151)<BR><BR>Another time he contemplated dedicating The Silmarillion to Queen Elizabeth, with the dedication, “the only thing in which your country is not rich is mythology.” <BR><BR>So could Tolkien just invent new mythologies and give them the same resonance that the genuine article would have? If anyone had enough knowledge and love of myth and language to qualify him for the task, Tolkien did. But more than that, he often spoke of “discovering” what he wrote: “They arose in my mind as ‘given’ things, and as they came, separately, so too the links grew ... yet always I had the sense of recording what was already ‘there’, somewhere: not of ‘inventing...’”<BR><BR>However that may be, there is a distant “mythological source” for almost everything Tolkien wrote; (eg if Ulmo is like Neptune, he is also the mythical barely-remembered English sea giant Wade). Tolkien's “source” texts probably include Beowulf, Snorri Sturluson's prose Edda and the Finnish national myth Kalevala. Or more generally (if you want a mountain of reading and a basis for comparison) Homer, Chaucer, Virgil, Shakespeare, Malory, Spenser, the Hindu Ramayana, the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh etc etc.<BR><BR>Tolkien never saw his work finished, much less published, and his idea of a specifically English mythology perhaps never came to fruition, yet in The Silmarillion, and the Middle-earth publications trailing in its wake, we can see as one critic said that in little over half a century Tolkien became the creative equivalent of an entire people.<BR><BR>____________________________________________________________________<BR><BR><BR><BR>Some tips for first time readers (more suggestions welcome <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>):<BR><BR><UL><li>The Index is useful, but contains spoilers (ditto for reference books and the <a target=new href="http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/">Encyclopedia of Arda</a> website). The map is a vital reference, and their is a handy map in the chapter on the Noldor in Beleriand showing each prince's territory. Get a second bookmark for that <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0>.<BR><BR><li>You can take notes if you like <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>. All the similar-sounding Elvish princes are very different characters, and if you lose track of <a target=new href="http://www.tolkienonline.com/thewhitecouncil/messageview.cfm?catid=53&threadid=46406#20">who they are and their relations to each other</a> you'll be missing a crucial part of the story. The identitles of all the different Ainur are perhaps less vital to memorise, as it's usually clear from the context who they are and what their function is. Gwindor points out, be prepared to re-read bits if you don't fully grasp them first time. Laying the foundations of Middle Earth in your mind is a worthwhile investment for what is to come.<BR><BR><li>The start is the "driest" part (I'm just repeating what some other readers have found here: I persoanlly find it incredibly lush and beautiful, actually). There is more "action" and character as we get into the book, and it is probably a better read the second time round when you have much better handle on what's going on.<BR><BR><li>The Second Edition of The Silm has an extra introduction consisting of a long letter Tolkien wrote describing what he intended with The Silm. Apparently both versions of the Sil have the same page numbers, including the Allen & Unwin, HarperCollins, and Houghton-Mifflin editions. (To avoid having to re-set the type, the second edition has no pages 1-12, going straight from xxiv to 13). Only the small mass-market paperbacks (Ballantine, Unwin??) would have different page numbers. Karen Fonstad's Atlas has a translation formula: Take the H-M Sil page, subtract 14, divide by .773, and add 2, and you should be within one page in the Ballantine editions. So presumably we can give hardcover page references here without too much confusion.<BR><BR><li>Some useful links:<BR><a target=new href="http://www.theonering.net/features/notes/index.html">Some nice essays at TORN</a><BR><a target=new href="http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/">The Encyclopedia of Arda</a><BR><a target=new href="http://www.flex.net/~layton2/encyc/index.html">Another Tolkien encyclopedia</a><BR><a target=new href="http://www.forodrim.org/daeron/md_hm.html">Summary of the contents of HoMe and UT</a><BR><a target=new href="http://www.daimi.aau.dk/~bouvin/tolkienfaq.html">A Tolkien FAQ</a><BR><a target=new href="http://www.tiac.net/users/dangweth/elfsaga.html">Analysis of Elves in European folklore</a><BR><BR><li>Some abbreviations:<BR>BoLT 1 and 2 = Book of Lost Tales 1 and 2 (HoME 1 and 2)<BR>CT = Christopher Tolkien<BR>HoMe = History of Middle Earth<BR>Lays = Lays of Beleriand (HoME 3)<BR>Letters = The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien<BR>LoTR = Lord of the Rings<BR>LR (?) = The Lost Road (HoME 5)<BR>MR (?) = Morgoth's Ring (HoME 10)<BR>Narn = Narn i hin Hurin (from UT)<BR>PoMe= Peoples of Middle Earth (HoME 12)<BR>QS = Quenta Silmarillion<BR>Silm (or TS) = The Silmarillion<BR>SoMe = the Shaping of Middle Earth (HoME 4)<BR>UT = Unfinished Tales<BR>WoTJ = War of the Jewels (HoME 11)<BR></UL><BR><BR><BR><BR><BR>Suggestions for any modifications/additions to this post are welcome, I'll try to keep it updated.
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Postby Gwindor » Thu May 09, 2002 7:29 am

Excellent post! Very well done.<BR><BR>There is only one thing that I will suggest, and it is merely due to the fact that it helped me when I first read "The Silmarillion". If you find yourself staggering under the weight of all the names and the text itself perhaps after you have completed a chapter, go back and read it again. I did this for roughly the first 100 pages, after which I felt comfortable enough to continue on without falling behind, if you catch my meaning. <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0><BR><BR>This is going to be great everyone!<BR><BR>Cheers!<BR><BR><img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0><img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0>
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Postby PstTBG » Thu May 09, 2002 9:44 am

Great links Wilko.<BR><BR>The essays that Tehanu has on TORN are very thought provoking. (you Icelanders need to read<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0> )<BR><BR>The Encyclopedia is a help as well.<BR><BR>I will be working on an essay re: the contextual relationship of Tolkien's works to Christianity. May be several days though before I have something to post. <BR><BR>--------<BR>Too Big<BR>
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Postby jeanelf » Thu May 09, 2002 9:56 am

You're right about the index Wilko. It does contain spoilers but I found it particularly helpful with the elven names and family histories to look back at the family trees. I had started to make one on my own the first couple of times I read it to keep everyone straight, only to find it later in the index. It still helps me to look at it as I'm reading....I think first time readers (and oldies as well of course) will get a lot out of the study group as far as learning the names goes. Discussing something will make it "stick" a little better.
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Postby Fingolfin_of_the_Noldor » Thu May 09, 2002 10:38 am

But how would we approach such things as that "2nd & 3rd theme" disparity, previously discussed, between the final Ainulindale and the later workings on the Silmarillion(LQS)? That is, how should we address inconsitancies within the text?
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Postby -Rómestámo- » Thu May 09, 2002 10:43 am

Just to mention a caveat regarding Reference Books such as the various Handbooks/Guides/Complete Guides to Middle Earth. Robert Foster, JEA Tyler and David Day all have produced such texts but vary in fidelity to what JRRT actually wrote. While Foster is the most reliable, even he has the odd lapse (occasional unfounded extrapolation), and his work is handicapped by excluding all the material from UT and HoME. Tyler is (I think) out of print and Day cannot earn even a qualified recommendation- many of his entries contain fanciful inventions derived from who knows where<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-confused.gif"border=0>. The online Encyclopaedia of Arda is a useful resource (it takes UT and HoME into account) but is less complete than the books. Foster is also unique in that he supplies page references to the original texts with his entries. So Robert Foster's "The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth" is my (qualified) recommendation for an Encyclopaedic guide if a hardcopy one is required<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0>.
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Postby wilko185 » Thu May 09, 2002 11:28 am

Thanks for the replies guys, I'm glad there's no major problems with my post <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>. Any improvements at all you can see, please suggest them though. <BR><BR>Look forward to your post Too Big. Fingolfin, I'll answer your question in Novice's thread, which I think is a more suitable place.<BR><BR><BR>EDIT: I answered Fingolfin in the other thread, as I interpreted his question as "What direction is this study group going to take?" But it is also asking "How should the Silmarillion be approached?" too. There is a book <i>The Silmarillion</i> which I, perhaps presumptively, assumed we would be focusing on here. But there is also a body of work loosely called "The Silmarillion", represented in <i>The Silmarillion</i>, UT and the 12 volumes of HoME. Deciding the "correct" approach to these, and even which "Silmarillion" to study, is perhaps not straightforward.
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Postby wisteria » Thu May 09, 2002 2:31 pm

Thanks for your clarification, Wilko. Last night, while mulling over the reading I intended for today, I had several questions about the purpose of the Sil (was it intended as a blueprint for future stories? was it simply a history text? a collection of short stories?). Since this is my first time through, I was unsure of it's context in the greater scheme of Middle Earth texts.<BR><BR>Your post has cleared up most of those questions. I have Paradise Lost open and will begin my reading tonight!
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Postby Amarie » Thu May 09, 2002 2:43 pm

I have Karen Wynn Fonstad's Atlas of ME and I often use it for reference. Is it accurate enough and would it serve reliable in my discussion?
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Postby wilko185 » Thu May 09, 2002 4:01 pm

Thanks Wisteria <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>. Amarie, I haven't got Karen Fonstad's Atlas, but I've heard it's generally good except for some spelling mistakes on the maps, which are corrected in the accompanying text, apparently. Can anyone confirm that?
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Postby Eluchil » Thu May 09, 2002 4:13 pm

I can confirm that the atlas is "generaly good". Sometimes her inclusion of information from HoME is done strangely and there are a few errors (I've been told) the most major being a contraction of thw width of Eriador.
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Postby greenleafwood » Thu May 09, 2002 4:15 pm

RE Atlas : I've read the German version, so my comment is of no use here. Is the approach to the Sil one thing we are going to work on from May 27 or is it a guideline to our preliminary reading?<BR><BR><BR>greenleaf
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Postby wilko185 » Thu May 09, 2002 4:41 pm

May 27th we start on the Ainulindale, courtesy of Master_Gurloes. This is just general preparation which might be useful between now and then. I guess it would be better to also read each chapter just prior to starting the discussion.
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Postby Novice » Thu May 09, 2002 6:38 pm

Wilko, with regard to Wisteria's questions, I had several questions about the purpose of the Sil (was it intended as a blueprint for future stories? was it simply a history text? a collection of short stories?).

Do you think it would be helpful to include in your background information a brief summation of how and why Tolkien began on the Silm? ie his first stimulus being Nordic mythology and his perceived lack of a grand mythology for England etc. and his "I desired dragons with a profound desire" personal need to create the sort of stories he wanted to read.

Just a suggestion--if you think it is inappropriate then just ignore.

I also assume that Too Big's exposition will be copied into your opening post, as it is also background information.
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Postby wilko185 » Thu May 09, 2002 7:34 pm

Novice, I think that would be very useful and appropriate. As I hinted at the end of the first post, I'm not very well-read in Tolkien's sources and was hoping someone would chime in on the more general context and background. Understanding where Tolkien was coming from is very important, I think; The Silmarillion didn't just spring from nowhere. Exactly where it did come from is not straightforward to pin down, however.<BR><BR>If no one posts anything on the "Northern stuff" soon though, I'll do it myself.
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Postby LiMuBai » Thu May 09, 2002 9:29 pm

i think this link will be useful to you!<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0><BR><BR><a target=new href="http://www.tolkienonline.com/thewhitecouncil/messageview.cfm?catid=27&threadid=16128">http://www.tolkienonline.com/thewhitecouncil/messageview.cfm?catid=27&threadid=16128</a>
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Postby wilko185 » Thu May 09, 2002 11:00 pm

Cheers LMB. Roac gave an excellent link in that thread to a page on Elves in European myth, which I've added to the start of this thread. (I was hoping roac might sign up for this project, he'd be a great assest, but I totally understand if he doesn't want to commit himself ...)<BR><BR>I'll repeat, anyone *coughroac?cough* who wants to write something on the "Norse" influences on the Silm, please say so, otherwise I'll have to cobble something together myself...
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Postby LiMuBai » Thu May 09, 2002 11:10 pm

yeah wilko ... that's why i put the link to the entire thread ... i wouldn't want to get credit for the link ... <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0><BR><BR>and yeah, roac would be a tremendous asset to what you people are doing here!<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0> (cross your fingers!!)<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0>
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Postby PstTBG » Fri May 10, 2002 3:00 pm

It is often asserted that Tolkien was a Christian author and that his works were Christian works. That assertion is true, but only in a limited sense. Certainly Tolkien was a Christian in his personal belief. That belief had a very real and abiding affect upon all that he did, particularly upon his writing. <BR> "I am a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’ –– though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory."<BR>Yet to call Tolkien’s works Christian without some explanation is to be simplistic and very possibly to convey the wrong idea. He was very careful to not be overtly symbolic in what he wrote. See his forward to LOTR where he disclaims any “larger meaning.” Instead of overt symbols and allegory as one finds in C. S. Lewis’ works, one finds allusions and pictures that remind one of Christian concepts. <BR>Christianity had the greatest affect in Tolkien’s works in the viewpoint from which he wrote. He wrote as one that realizes that there is a Sovereign Deity who created and is in control. That some of His creatures have fallen and that as a result the creation is marred. That there is a hope and a chance of redemption. That there is an evil to be fought in the world, and that the greatest danger of that evil is that it will find a response in one’s own heart. That everyone, no matter how good and how noble, struggles with the temptation to grasp that evil. That pride is the root of evil. That victory is not ultimately achieved by strength of arms. That God may choose the weak and humble to defeat the mighty and thereby demonstrate that victory or defeat is in God’s hands.<BR>Yes, there are elements in Tolkien’s stories that have definite parallels to the Christian Bible. The theme of light versus darkness. The piercing of the darkness by the light. The death and resurrection of the champion. The willing sacrifice of one for the rest of the world. The fall into sin of the greatest of the created beings. <BR>Tolkien’s works inspire one to look for the God of creation and to respond with faith as he did.<BR><BR>For a slightly different treatment of this topic follow this link:<BR><a target=new href="http://www.theonering.net/features/notes/note10.html">Link</a>
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Postby wilko185 » Fri May 10, 2002 5:46 pm

Very well put Too Big <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>. I'll paste your comments into the first post, if I may.<BR><BR>Edit: this is probably the wrong place for this, and will no doubt be discussed further at the relevant time, but as I mentioned its importance in the first post....<BR><BR><b>Descent of the Noldor</b><BR><BR>The Noldorin princes can be very roughly assigned certain characteristics based on their parentage. Note, the House of Fëanor is pure Noldorin (Deep Elves), while their cousins have Vanyar (High Elves) and Telerin (Sea Elves) foremothers.<BR><BR><pre> Míriel == Finwë == Indis (of the Vanyar)<BR> | |__________<BR> | | |<BR> Fëanor Fingolfin Finarfin == Eärwen (of the Teleri)<BR> | | |<BR> | | |<BR> Maedhros Turgon Finrod<BR> Maglor Fingon Orodreth<BR> Caranthir Aredhel Angrod<BR> Curufin Aegnor<BR> Celgorm Galadriel<BR> Amrod<BR> Amras<BR><BR> <b>skilful steadfast fair<BR> proud valiant wise</b></pre>
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Postby Novice » Sat May 11, 2002 10:26 pm

I'm working on a brief post on Tolkien's literary and philological influences, and his view of the world as and Englishman of the West Midlands--should be done by Monday (if other work allows). Hope it will be useful.<BR>
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Postby Alexandros » Sun May 12, 2002 3:27 am

Hmm.. I have just started reading TS and will make use of all the links provided by you guys. Thanks a bunch. This just makes me think how helpful such a forum is for newbie Tolkieners like me. I will make a more useful post ASAP!! <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>
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Postby wilko185 » Sun May 12, 2002 9:43 am

Novice, I was just about to start on that, but I'll let you handle it, thanks <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>. However, if you send me your email address (it's not in your profile) I could send you a quick version of what I was going to write, which you could incorporate into your own post, or disregard, as you see fit.
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Postby Novice » Sun May 12, 2002 4:36 pm

Wilko, email at: [removed], thanks.
Last edited by Novice on Wed Jul 23, 2014 10:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby wilko185 » Mon May 13, 2002 11:19 am

Novice, apologies for the delay in posting this (computer-related and other problems intervened). My mail to you earlier bounced ["Remote host said: 554 delivery error: dd This user doesn't have a yahoo.com account (novice_torc@yahoo.com) - mta309.mail.yahoo.com" <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-sad.gif"border=0>]. I actually just wanted you to mail me so I could reply :/. My address (in my profile) is wilko185@yahoo.com<BR><BR>Anyway, this is what I've written so far...<BR><BR>EDIT - essay deleted. See first post of this thread for a much improved version of the "philology article", courtesy of Novice <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>
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Postby -Rómestámo- » Mon May 13, 2002 2:17 pm

An online version of the Kalevala can be found at <a target=new href="http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/kveng/index.htm">Kalevala</a><BR>While it is not the best translation available (it dates from 1888 and uses 'W' in the Germanic fashion, rather than 'V' as is accepted modern practice (thus Vainamoinen is 'Wainamoinen' throughout...)), it is, at least, online and freely available. <BR> <BR>Other useful texts- including Elder and Prose Eddas and Beowulf (in Modern English <i>and</i> Anglo-Saxon) can be found at <BR><a target=new href="http://www.sacred-texts.com/index.htm">Internet Sacred Text Archive<BR></a><BR><BR>(References are best posted here? where they can later be incorporated into the library thread or is it preferable to post there directly?)
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Postby Novice » Mon May 13, 2002 4:34 pm

Wilko, what you've written is already about as long as I had intended my entire post to be, and I had envisioned including his linguistic influences and attachment to his 'English native soil' to boot!<BR><BR>My intention was to sketch a very brief background and allow others to investigate further if they wished, rather than to provide a major definitive background essay.<BR><BR>However, I shall take what you've provided (and peek into Romestamo's links, which should probably be included in our Resource Library as well) and try and produce something acceptable.<BR><BR>In any case, you will then be free to edit<BR>
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Postby wilko185 » Mon May 13, 2002 6:06 pm

<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0> Novice, I did go on a bit, but it <i>is</i> mainly Tolkien quotes (as you might expect from me <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0>). It could be profitably edited down, I agree. (Got your email by the way <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>).<BR><BR>Btw, here's a nice essay on <a target=new href="http://www.petersnet.net/research/retrieve.cfm?RecNum=4154">Tolkien's Catholic imagination</a> which I'll link to in the first post.
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Postby Lady_Aredhel » Mon May 13, 2002 8:29 pm

Question about the Atlas....do I need one? I have thought about buying the one by Fonstad, but I am not sure. I plan to get the trade copy of the Silm, and I went to some of the links posted here and printed off some of the maps. <BR><BR>Also, you mention needing about half of the HOME books. How necessary are these? I just bought HOME 1 and 2 (as this is where I am in the progression of my Tolkien reading), but should I have HOME 4, 5 and 10? I just want to make sure I get the most out of this <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0><BR><BR>Aredhel/Robin
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Postby Novice » Mon May 13, 2002 8:38 pm

Lady_Aredhel,<BR>it's absolutely a personal decision; if you've got the money and the inclination, buy them because they will broaden your understanding of where it all comes from. Otherwise, try a library or rely on what is published on the 'net. (most things are, if you look hard enough)<BR>
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