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Alicornutopia • View topic - Silmarillion Book Club

Silmarillion Book Club

Is it a nice day out? Do you like baby goats? Are you overdue on thank-you notes for your Christmas presents? Here you go.

Re: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby jalapeno_dude » Thu Aug 04, 2016 1:16 pm

Might be worth watching the movies or at least reading a Wikipedia plot summary or something? Though honestly until/unless we get to the Second and Third Age stuff it probably won't really matter in terms of plot, except insofar as it's nice to have an idea that e.g. Elrond and Galadriel are still around at the time of LOTR. For our purposes here it's probably helpful more in terms of figuring out what sort of tone/atmosphere/moral dimensions Tolkien is going for, but a lot of that is already present in the Hobbit/stated explicitly in the letter we're in the process of discussing. So I think you'd be perfectly fine starting with Silm.
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Re: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby DanielH » Sun Aug 07, 2016 9:21 pm

Good, I haven’t read either Hobbit or LotR, and I like reading in in-universe-chronological order. I am starting Silm now, after prompting from this thread being created, and have just read the thread itself after reading the relevant parts of Silm. My additional thoughts:

1. The Powers are explicitly excepted from the word “power” being negative. This is interesting, and implies a sharper divide than just governance and rules vs. creation
2. Jalapeno says the letter was written before the publication of LotR, which in turn was before even Sputnik. I wonder how Tolkein’s views of Men leaving the circle of the Earth changed after the space program.
3. Something that is largely ignored in glowfic is that the Valar do have an arguably valid claim of at least partial ownership of the Silmarils. They were made from the light of the Trees, and “blessed” by the Valar. They are arguably co-creators of the Silmarils. Fëanor getting possessive over them was with this interpretation wrong even without that stupid Oath.
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Re: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby MaggieoftheOwls » Mon Aug 08, 2016 8:30 am

If I say, hey, dude, come hang out at my beach house, and you make a cool glass sculpture out of the sand, and I paint it for you, and at no point during this process do I lay any claim to it, announcing that it's mine the minute I discover that breaking it would be useful is a dick move at best.

Besides, what he made the Silmarils out of is literally light. It's not like the light he used would still be around illuminating things if he hadn't used it. That's not how light works. And if the Valar start saying "anything you create using resources we provide belongs to us" that is an even better reason to get the hell out of Valinor.
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Re: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby Kappa » Mon Aug 08, 2016 8:46 am

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Re: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby DanielH » Mon Aug 08, 2016 4:34 pm

I’m not saying I believe this interpretation myself, but it is not quite that cut-and-dried. If you personally put all the sand on the beach (because it was otherwise a rocky beach, say) then it is your sand. This is even more the case if you put a lot of work into making sure it was very high-quality sand. You would be well within your rights to not invite people to your beach house, or to ask them not to melt your sand and take it home. Of course, at this point the physical-object metaphor breaks down.

So let's do a different comparison: intellectual property. That should make everything simpler and not in any way cause any disagreements. One could regard the Silmarili as stand-alone fanfiction for the light of the Trees. The current real-world uneasy truce regarding fanfic is (simplified) that authors have widely varying opinions on it, publishers tolerate it, and fanfic authors don’t try to sell it. But suppose that somebody wrote some (for-profit) fanfiction of something that was relatively unknown and the fanfic got big. The original author would be justified in wanting credit and probably royalties and would justly feel cheated if the fanfic author claimed the entirety of the work. See: Candy Crush and CandySwipe for a real-world concrete example.

What they did is similar: Fëanor took something of the Valar’s work, made something else out of it, and then said “This wholly belongs to me, and my children who weren’t involved at all, and we will kill you if you say otherwise”. And just like in the real world, nobody bothered with who exactly owns what until the stakes got much higher.

This all hinges on how much the Valar have a right to the light and how much this gives them rights to derivative works. The first depends on what exactly they said when they invited the Elves to Valinor; the second on a lot of complicated factors. I’m personally inclined to believe that the Valar have rights to the Light and Fëanor most of the rights to the Silmarili, but that the Valar have a legitimate partial claim.

What the partial claim entails is difficult to pin down especially when the surrounding culture has little concept of property rights. Probably something like the right to nondestructively borrow them or something. It doesn’t matter much with the Silmarili in Melkor’s crown at the time. The point is that Fëanor was more possessive of them than he had a right to be.
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Re: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby MaggieoftheOwls » Tue Aug 09, 2016 8:15 am

Part of the issue I have regardless of whether or not the Valar could be considered to have some rightful claim to the Silmarils is that, as far as I can tell from the text, they never asserted this until they tried to claim them wholesale to break them. Part of the problem I have with the "fanfiction" metaphor is that fanfiction is an established thing, which gives people reasonable expectations for what rights the authors of canons may have towards derivative works. No one had ever done anything like this before. The Valar never set up the expectation that they might do or have the right to claim the Silmarils before they did it. If one wanted to argue the other end of the property dispute, and claim that the Silmarils belonged to the Valar in their entirety (which I do not in any way agree with but am posing for the sake of argument), I would still make the argument that them asserting this claim only when they wanted to break them is like letting a troublemaker get away with something consistently, and they know you have every means of knowing what you're doing and are making the choice not to punish them or intervene, and then coming down on them hard when you abruptly want to look good in front of a disciplinary committee or something.
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Re: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby DanielH » Tue Aug 09, 2016 5:35 pm

And again most of the problem with the troublemaker analogy is the expectation. If you had told the troublemaker “I don’t like what you’re doing but it’s not causing much harm now so I probably won’t bother intervening but I might if I have more reason” then later a disciplinary board showed up there wouldn’t be a problem intervening then.

I agree that most of the issue there was unclear expectations, but it goes both ways. Tolkien and the Valar thought that the Valar had at least some claim to the Silmarilli, Fëanor didn’t, and as a result we get the First Age. If they all agreed who the Silmarilli belonged to, whether it were Fëanor, the Valar, a combination of the two, or even an innocent third party like Elu or Fëanor’s children, the First Age would have gone differently.

[Another issue
This doesn’t have a bearing on ownership but does relate to possessiveness: lintamande says that the Silmarilli were not stated to have any abilities in canon and might have just been pretty jewellery which could resurrect the Trees. They could be put to use for a great purpose, and Fëanor didn’t let that happen; in glowfic this is because he wanted to use them for a different great purpose, but apparently that wasn’t specified in canon and in any case the Valar could disagree about the relative importance of the purposes. If you see the Trees as more important than an independent Noldoran kingdom then this looks a lot like possessiveness instead of scarce resources.
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Re: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby MaggieoftheOwls » Tue Aug 09, 2016 10:54 pm

Part of the problem with that is "how much right does anyone who isn't a Noldo have to compare the importance of an independent Noldor kingdom with other things."
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Re: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby jalapeno_dude » Sat Aug 13, 2016 8:41 pm

FYI, I made my highlighting pass through the last part of the letter a few days ago but have been distracted from writing it up as a post by the Olympics (and also postdoc applications). Also intend to reply to the above discussion, either before or at the same time as that post. Probably not tonight or tomorrow but maybe in the next few days, we'll see.
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Re: Silmarillion Book Club: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby jalapeno_dude » Tue Aug 23, 2016 11:54 pm

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