Friday, June 14, 2013

The Silmarillion (Part Two)


Oath of Feanor
A couple of weeks ago--or I believe it was three now--I had the pleasure of reading The Silmarillion in the middle of the morning, for sheer joy of it. Well, that week came and went, and I returned to my Sunday afternoon normality. But this morning I can sit down with it and call it work, because it's part of my daily blog routine.

Hard, hard work. ;)

Here, in "Sil Part Two", I'm simply going to have a "Favorite Things" chat and tell you all the things I liked, and all the legends and characters that struck my fancy. And after this is over, I would dearly love to hear your favorite characters and legends as well.

 For those of you who haven't read Sil, I do apologize; this might not make as much sense as my normal reviews. I'll try to make it as readable and understandable as possible, but you may want to come back to it after you've read the book. It's totally up to you. I mention the deaths of a few characters, but I try to keep it as spoiler-free as possible.

*All illustrations for this post are taken with permission from Jenny Dolfen's website.  Click here to see more of her fantastic work with Tolkien.*

 Favorite Legends
Nirnaeth Arnoediad
1. Nirnaeth Arnoediad--On the top of the list would have to be The Battle of Unnumbered Tears, also known as the Fifth Battle, also known as Nirnaeth Arnoediad. This legend is found towards the middle of Quenta Silmarillion, and I think, short of some of the LOTR battles, this has to be one of the most mesmerizing ones I've ever read. Possibly only one or two to top it.

There in the plain of Anfauglith, on the fourth day of the war, there began Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Unnumbered Tears, for no song or tale can contain all it's grief. ~Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter 20

It's premise, of course, is to gain back the Silmarils from the grip of Morgoth. All the Noldor elves have sworn an oath to get them back; so neither heaven nor hell, they claim, can dissuade them from their course.

There were many battles and raids in Sil. But by far, the bloodiest and most heartwrenching, and most tear-jerking of them all was Nirnaeth Arnoediad.  The brave yet hopeless fight of the dwarf Azaghal against the dragon Glaurung; the last meeting of the brothers Turgon and Hurin, before such a sad fate separated them and bound Hurin to the chair of Morgoth; Fingon's bravery against the hideous Balrogs--oh yes, I would not have missed it for a kingdom.

Luthien
2. Beren and Luthien--The love story of Beren and Luthien, sung of by Aragorn in Fellowship of the Ring, captures the hearts of practically everyone who reads it. Beren, to win the hand of the fair Luthien, will do anything necessary to persuade her father, even to the highest risk. When her father tells Beren that he can only have her if he will cut one of the Silmarils from the crown of Morgoth, Beren swears that he will do so. We are taken to the throne room of Melkor himself, on one of three fruitless attempts on Beren's part, until he and Luthien take on a very interesting disguise to try to achieve the quest together.
Luthien's father is an elf, but her mother is descended from the Ainur/Valar. And she is one of few given a choice to take the immortality of her race, or the mortality of her beloved. 

3. Turin Turambar--I am at a loss to decide which is more exhausting to read about--Nirnaeth Arnoediad, or the tragic history of Turin Turambar. I do hope I will never be as heartless as Tolkien was to his character, but one never knows the depths of depravity to which authors can sink.

Turin's father Hurin was captured during Nirnaeth Arnoediad, and chained in the stronghold of Melkor, with no one knowing whether he was alive or dead. His son was brought up by another Elven king who took pity on him, and grew to manhood and stature with good friends around him. But Turin  was not a patient nor a happy person, and when an unfortunate insult results in him murdering someone, it sets him down the path of rebellion, unhappy love, and untimely tragedy.

I still shudder. How could Tolkien do what he did to him? I'm going to read The Children of Hurin one day, when I can work up the strength of mind to endure all that agony in even greater detail. 

Earendil
4. The Voyage of Earendil--Oh, his voyage is a glorious one. But due to spoilers, I leave it to you to discover for yourselves. I would put spoiler warning and type it anyway, but some people (like me) ignore spoiler warnings and regret it ever after. So I shall save those of you who cannot bear not to look, and simply avoid it altogether.

5. Akallabeth--Besides the fact that I dearly wanted to shake the Dunedain and shout at all of them to grow up, the legend of Aragorn's ancestors truly deserves to be on this list of favorite legends. The mass destruction, the mass rebellion, the glory of that city on the island--the caged feeling of being free to go ever west, but to never sail east--oh yes. Can't say any more for fear of spoiling, because it's the last one in the book, but it really does deserve your special attention.

And as a side note, before I move on to favorite characters---Now I know who Frodo's talking about when he's singing to Elbereth Gilthoniel. I shall read LOTR with even more enjoyment now that I know so much more about Middle Earth.

But we must continue on, for there is much more to cover...

Favorite Characters


Tuor--Finally one ray of light in the midst of all this misery. A good fellow was Tuor, and brave, and I loved him. What a legend he fulfilled. 

Fate of Maedhros
 Maedhros-- After he lost his hand in Melkor's horrible torture and made peace with his fellow elves, I really had a respect for Maedhros and thought quite highly of him. Alas, by the end my good opinion of him crumbled to dust; I thought he was made of sterner stuff than that. But at the beginning I fully thought that Maedhros might turn out to be one of my favorites.


Turin--I didn't like everything about Turin. He wasn't a perfect fellow. But he was brave and bold and strong, and I cannot say that I feel anything but pity for him.

Beleg--Turin's friend, and I laud him for his character and brotherly love.

Fingolfin, Fingon, and Finrod--All these Noldor elves had their faults and a good spice of rebellion, but they went to their various endings bravely, and they redeemed themselves. 

Favorite Line of Elves: Oh dear, this is a tough one to decide. When I began, I really didn't like the Noldor Elves. But after I finished, the other elves seemed rather shallow in comparison--wrapped up in their own concerns, refusing to take a part in the grand conflict that had been given them. I don't think I can choose a favorite, of the original three branches. But the Noldor have the greatest depth to them, so in the end I have no choice but to bow to their superiority.

Themes

After a while, Sil started to read like my least favorite Christie mystery And Then There Were None. We once played the Agatha Christie video game  of that novel, where at intervals one of the guests locked up in the mansion died, until there were precious few left. (Confession is good for the soul. We regret it, and at this time I do not endorse Agatha Christie mysteries.) But when I read Sil, the memories came back with a vengeance. If you'll recall the map I posted (at left) all the sticky notes are the names of the original elf leaders in the various regions, and one by one they exited the scene in fearful agonies. The reader is left with the awful suspense of who was going to die next. Elves can't die except by war or a broken heart, but there was plenty of either malady to be had in this book.

I speak in jest, of course. I enjoyed every moment of it, even though it was a darker book, and I was sad to see so many brave warriors meet their end. But in a way, that's a bit like the passage in Hebrews 11:33-38.

Who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

 The only difference is, Noldor elves in Sil were facing their horrible deaths as a result of their disobedience--but I suppose, in the end, so did the servants of God. It was only because of mankind's sin that the giants of the Christian faith had to endure such fearful persecutions. Maybe there's not such a huge difference after all.

Everyone in Sil is flawed. Even the Valar have their imperfections, when it comes down to it. And that's the beauty of the Sil--though the Noldor are bound by their curse, and must bear the consequences of it through eons of heartbreak, inflicting the pain of it on the Sindar and Teleri elves, and even the dwarfs and men--yet there is still redemption. They cling to hope, even when hope shivers into little tendrils of misty illusions. When the Ultimate Evil mocks, the Noldor stand unmoved from their purpose. Aye, there could have been a happier age had they not sinned, just as there could have been a happier earth had we  not sinned. But in the end, and by the grace of God, we are not left in despair even though we have to bear the results of our follies. And the Noldor are not either.

Some of the elves lived in the dream of what might have been, shutting themselves out of the conflict, and refusing to recognize the looming destruction of Beleriand. Some recognized the evil and went out in their own strength to meet and eradicate it, corrupting the weak children of Illuvatar as they went along. But some of all three kindreds--dwarfs and elves and men--recognized that though they had brought upon themselves a great evil, there was a good greater still that they must fight for.

The Sil would be pre-Christ, if Tolkien had intended it to be an allegory, as would the Lord of the Rings. It's interesting to draw many biblical parallels from this story, and I'm sure as I re-read it many times over that I will discover richer and deeper content.

In short, The Silmarillion had the power that very few books have, to leave me breathless and inwardly shouting over the Tolkien's glorious gift to capture biblical theology in his stories. It's one of those books that leaves me hurting inside, because I simply cannot find words good enough or thoughts lucid enough to express my feelings about it. Alas, it is a chronic hurt that must be lived with, and will probably always be there.  I look forward to every perusal of it, and salute the man who crafted it so carefully, and thank the God who gave him the inspiration for it. Go read for yourself! But after you've read The Lord of the Rings. ;)

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile


P.S. To those of you who have read the Sil--

Can any of you tell me what this picture is supposed to represent?

Drawing of the Sword

Or this one:
Wanderer


14 comments:

  1. Looks great! Jenny Dolfen's illustrations are fantastic! ;)
    Love,
    Sister

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    1. I love them, and was so glad she didn't mind people re-posting, as long as they linked back to her! Quite epic, and they really capture the spirit of the Sil.

      Love and cuddles,
      Sister

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  2. Great!!! I'm REALLY glad you liked it!
    My favorite legend was definitely The Fall of Gondolin, the version in the Sil was smaller because Tolkien already wrote a more detailed version way before. You need to read it if you haven't, It's so great! You get to know Tuor and all the others so much better than you do by reading just the Sil.
    Speaking of which, Tuor is one of my favorite characters in Tolkiens world. I also love Finrod Felagund, he's so noble to give up his very life for the sake of his friend, he ranks 3rd (behind Frodo and Sam) as my favorite Tolkien character ever! Maedhros is a favorite too, and the story of Fingon rescuing him is one of my favorite legends (did you notice that when Fingon sang and Maedhros sang back, it was a parallel with a story from another of Tolkiens works (wont say which(spoiler))).
    A good place to look up is tolkiengateway.net, it has basically everything about characters, items, and places from all of Tolkiens works, the Silmarillion doesn't have everything, and sometimes it even has mistakes (thanks to Christopher Tolkien).
    Hopefully you will continue your journey through middle-earth with the other writings of Tolkien. :)
    That first picture is Feanor being the first elf to draw his sword against another elf, Fingolfin, after hearing lies about each other from Melkor.
    The second picture (I think) is Maglor (2nd son of Feanor), wandering the shores of middle-earth in sorrow after.. well...you know what happened if you've read the book.
    Have you heard of the Dagor Dagorath? If you haven't look it up, It will give you joy. :)
    By the way, keep on writing, we're bursting our brains on this end. :)
    S.H
    P.S Don't forget to find a copy of The Fall of Gondolin and read it if you haven't. :)

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    1. The Fall of Gondolin. I would like to read that, as I especially enjoyed Tuor. Perhaps it was because of Tolkien's work, but Gondolin seemed to be the one plot that threaded in and out through the entire collection of legends, and tied them all together. I think either Tuor or Turin would be my ultimate favorite. The story of Maeglin was downright evil. I didn't like him, but it sure added some nice suspense. :)
      Oh, thank-you for telling me what the pictures are. The second one makes great sense (that would have been a HUGE spoiler, thank-you for not mentioning it!) I must admit, I thought in the first picture that the person in blue was a girl. That was...amusing.
      Really enjoying Tolkien Gateway! What an amazing resource. :) I used it to double check my facts on Nirnaeth Arnoediad, to make sure I was right. What a battle that was. I wish he would have gone into more detail.
      I looked up the Dagor Dagorath, and am still throbbing with joy over it. :) I am definitely of the mind that it should have been Turin; what do you think?
      Our library has The Children of Hurin; I'm swamped with books at the moment, but as soon as I get a spare pocket of time I'll check it out. And I'll look for the Fall of Gondolin as well.
      We shall have to have a good Sil chat sometime where we won't have to worry about spoilers. :D

      ~Schuyler

      P.S. I was bad today. I read books instead. I'll try to redeem myself this evening. And if it's any consolation, I'm bursting my brain trying to stay ahead of you so you don't figure it out too soon!

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    2. The Fall of Gondolin is found in The Book of Lost Tales Part 2 if you want to find it. That book also has the first drafts of other legends, such as Beren and Luthien, Turin Turumbar, The Nauglamir, and Earendils Voyage, it's amusing to see the differences between the first drafts and the final drafts.
      I'm glad you like Tolkien Gateway, It really helped me keep all those family members in order.
      I found out about the Dagor Dagorath on Tolkien Gateway, and when I told my sister about it, she hugged me and said that I had given her great joy :). I think it's fitting that Turin should have that privilege after all that M did to his family and him.
      I'm really enjoying analyzing your book. I made a graph showing the average of what most of the characters in your book are being thought of in our house, pertaining to their loyalties.

      -S.H

      P.S. Articles on Tolkien Gateway that I liked... Blue wizards, Orcrist, Glorfindel.

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    3. You should see the differences between my first draft and final draft. But for the sake of my reputation, I think I shall keep it securely locked away until the skies fall. ;) Amusing it may be, but there is some amusement I can't bear to give people... I should like to see Tolkien's though.

      I WANT that graph. Please? :D

      I see that I'm going to have to spend some more time browsing on Tolkien Gateway when I can snatch the time. Between that and the Hobbit quiz, and trying to read a little, and supplying beta readers with fresh material--it's crazy.

      Perhaps I should take another break week...

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  3. I really shouldn't be commenting here, because there's this slave-driver of a beta reader of mine making all sorts of demands, but YAY!

    I've never got my hands on the Lost Tales, Part 2. But I also highly recommend Unfinished Tales and The Lays of Beleriand!

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    1. That's RIGHT.

      Hand it over. *cheeky grin*

      But I can't say too much. There are people following this blog who would turn my words against me...

      I can always email, though, if necessary.

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  4. There is not much to say, because you have phrased my thoughts on The Silmarillion EXACTLY, PERFECTLY RIGHT!!! Goodness, how did you put into words those emotions I felt so deeply? And I agree, those characters and stories you mentioned were my favourite parts in the books, hands down! They were so beautiful, at times I wanted to cry.

    And astounded as I was by the magnitude and depth of work it must have Tolkien to write The Lord of the Rings, this ^ book, made my admiration of Professor J.R.R. Tolkien rise to an even greater height. He was a GENIUS. And as you so perfectly put it, Tolkien was blessed with such a gift to place biblical theology and faith in his tales in such a beautiful, God-honouring and respectful way and with such deep poignancy. By the way, I read The Children of Hurin - it is an awfully sad book, as you would know from the Sil, and it isn't one to read on a rainy day... but it is so heart-wrenchingly beautiful. And the lessons one can learn from Turin's story... *sobs*, is well-worth the pain.

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    1. Oh my! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :D There is a beauty that is heart-wrenching, simply from the sheer depth and width and height of it. I'm finding more and more of that lately, and much as I'm enjoying it in the various places I come across, it's leaving me exhausted trying to grasp it all. :) But that's a good kind of exhaustion.

      I agree. LOTR was breath-taking, but The Silmarillion was mind-blowing. An even greater level. I see I'll have to steel myself for The Children of Hurin--even in Sil it was quite sad enough, but I can't imagine what it's going to be like in greater detail...

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  5. Dear Lady. B,

    If I wait until I have time to draft a comment of great power and cunning it will never happen. Therefore I will comment now off the top of my head and from the bottom of my heart.

    Nirnaeth Arnoediad. I still remember standing on a summer's afternoon at the kitchen sink, dishcloth in hand, with the book propped up in the window, reading about Hurin and Huor's stand at the Fen of Serech...staggering back, and thinking, "This is the most gallant thing I have ever read." *Aure entuluva!* Day shall come again....

    Beren and Luthien I love also. Their story was dear to Tolkien's heart, I know...perhaps dearer than all his other legends. When his wife died he asked that "Luthien" be inscribed on her gravestone, and after his own death his children had "Beren" carved on his. Finrod's duel of song with Sauron sets my imagination aflame without fail. (There is an older version of the story in The Book of Lost Tales II which is hilariously far removed from the final product. It features Sauron's middle-earth debut as a giant evil cat wearing a great collar of power. When he first meets Beren--O historic moment!--the first words out of his mouth are: "I smell dog." There is also a cameo by an Elf named Gimli. Be prepared to laugh if you get your hands on it.)

    If I were asked on any normal day to name my least favorite of all Tolkien stories, I would likely say Turin Turambar. It is dark and wrenching, yet it is the embodiment of much of human history. A great deal of its tragic power is found in the fact that Morgoth's purposes are clear to the reader. This story is what makes the Dagor Dagorath strike me to the heart with fierce joy.

    Earendil the Mariner I love. More than anyone else in Middle-earth I love him, and more than any other story I love his story...which is strange, because it is so briefly written and so mythlike in its high, distant style. But to me he embodies much of greatness and mercy and shining sacrificial courage, hallmarks of Tolkien's works. He was also the first character of the entire legendarium to be created, years and years before Bilbo Baggins.

    The Akallabeth--rich, dark, vivid, alive. A glittering parade of kings and queens, corrupt and pure, violent and gentle, just like history. The Akallabeth and The Disaster of the Gladden Fields (Unfinished Tales) made Isildur such a great character in my mind that his wretched cameos in the LOTR films disturb me greatly.

    I liked your list of favorite characters. I will not list my favorites because the list would be too long. But Finrod, Hurin, Ecthelion, and Earendil are among them.

    The artwork is fantastic. Jenny's rendering of the Oath of Feanor is far closer to my mental vision than any other I have seen.

    And I strongly second your hope that you will never be as heartless to a character as Tolkien was. It is a capital resolution which I commend most heartily.

    Sincerely,
    The Philologist

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    1. Dear Philologist,
      There were many times in "The Silmarillion" when I too staggered from sheer amazement at its grandeur. What a glorious testimony of a man who took his inspiration from the Greatest of all Epics, and combined it with inspiration from God's later work in history to produce such a splendid work.

      Oh my, I'm rather glad he kept back that first draft. Sauron as a cat would be rather laughable. I can just *cough* picture it on film. I shall have to get my hands on that first draft of his. Perhaps in the fall, when I've mentioned to another one of you that I will try to read The Fall of Gondolin. ;)

      And Earendil was the first to be created! Isn't it neat to discover all the little tendrils of inspiration that often come out as something entirely different? :) I love doing that!

      So you liked Hurin--I am going to have to go back over him again. After he came back I really didn't like him, but I really can't remember what he did before Melkor chained him to the chair. He certainly was tragic, as were his children. I wish in a way it could have been happier. But at the same time I am content with the tragedy of it, however odd that may be.

      Never so heartless. Well, I will not make rash promises, but will certainly take your recommendation to heart. I really do, in spite of my jests. :)

      Love,
      Schuyler

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  6. Dear Schuyler,

    I do deeply appreciate Hurin, and I admire his character. I hope you will come to the same conclusion after re-reading. There are a couple other characters whom I would enjoy discussing with you as well. I have a feeling we don't see eye-to-eye on everyone....
    But I'm open to changing my views if you prove persuasive. : )

    I just found this on Tolkien Gateway:
    "Isildur is played by Harry Sinclair. Sinclair, a friend of Peter Jackson, was asked because he was the most corrupt looking person Jackson knew."
    That twists me up inside. It far lessens the power of the temptation. You lose the fear and the astonishment of it: that even Isildur the courageous, the selfless, the faithful, could not stand before the strength of this temptation.

    ~The Philologist

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    1. I looked up Hurin on the LOTR Wiki. Now I remember him a little better. I liked his fight in the battle, and how he cried "Day will come again"--seventy times I think it was, before they took him. :)

      Oh, we shall have to have a good long Sil discussion. I would most enjoy it! And I'm sure you can persuade me to like all your favorites. ;) I don't often hold to a negative opinion for long when someone sits down and reasons really passionately with me.

      And I'm not surprised about Isildur. PJ lessened the temptation of the Ring or heightened it in several rather bad spots. Faramir and Isildur, we mourn your mutilation at his hands...

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