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 DanielH » Sat Oct 01, 2016 12:37 pm

I missed your edit and forgot your desire for others to post first. I’ll post my thoughts shortly.

Edit: I seem to have lost my notes in the past month. I’ll need to reread this part, because the only part of my notes I remember is that it’s weird that the Ainur have genders already when the way Lintamande describes them they are so unlike incarnates. So I’ll not be able to post them shortly; it’ll have to be mediumly.
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Re: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby DanielH » Sat Oct 01, 2016 4:27 pm

Note: I am listening to an audiobook version. I might get some capitalization and punctuation wrong.

In universe, it is not clear who first wrote these words, but the information comes from “the Valar themselves” and the author seems to have gotten this information from the elves.

Initially the Ainur were given “themes” plural, so Jalapeno’s last question isn’t really answerable, but I will assume those initial plural themes are part of the first theme Eru gives them after calling them together. As for the rest of the themes, I am not sure I have te representations right. The ones I listed below make sense, and fit with the rest of the chapter, but don’t even go as far as the first dawn.
  1. Eru’s First Theme seems to represent the harmony of the Eru’s primary design for the world, and seems to create the world directly (“the music, and the echo of the music, went out into the Void, and it was not Void”). The other themes, although it is very deeply tied to Creation, seems to not literally cause things to happen as the Ainur are singing. I’m not sure I quite understand what Tolkein was driving at when comparing it to the music after the End of Days; he says there were no flaws in the first Theme right after saying how the End of Days music will be greater, and “[t]hen the themes of Ilúvatar shall be played aright” and have greater m̶a̶g̶i̶c̶  p̶o̶w̶e̶r̶ effect on the world than even this first theme did.
  2. Melkor’s Theme is against this first theme, and is about Melkor’s only subcreative desires. He wanted to increase his power, beyond its already (relatively high even for the Ainur) “rightful” position. I am not sure how much this actually increases his power, but it probaly represents the destruction of the Lamps and his fight with the Valar before the elves awaken, in the later building of the world. I also find it interesting that “thoughts of his own, unlike those of his bretheren” is a negative thing. I feel like I’m strawmanning Tolkein even suggesting this, but I’m honestly not sure how far along the path to 1984 to take that. It is far worse than sectioning off some section of potential thoughts as heretical; it seems to be saying that individualism and having unapproved thoughts are bad. Surely I’m strawmanning and slippery-sloping that sentence, right? But I cannot find any reasonable interpretation where what I quoted was relevant. It and its changes are not described in as much detail as Eru’s themes, so I count it as only one theme instead of several.
  3. Eru’s Second Theme: This does not seem to have much positive effect on the music as a whole. It causes Melkor to fight back harder with his first theme, and for some of the Ainur to stop entirely. According to later in the chapter, this represents the non-Melkor Valar casting Melkor out of Valinor. Melkor does not really need a new theme to counter the Eru’s, here.
  4. Eru’s Third Theme: This one is “slow, and blended with an immeasurable sorrow”. Given how Tolkein seems to think about his elves, it probably represents them. It gains power, and it makes the most of what Melkor’s theme creates. Melkor’s theme at this point is contrasted with Eru’s, loud and repetitive and monotonous. If I had to guess, given the contrast with elves and what I know from glowfic, tihs represents orcs.

Eru also ends the music a single chord, which I am not counting as a theme. This is where the first lines of dialog are, where Eru proclaims how great he was and that he foresaw and planned everything Melkor did to upset the music. He shows the Ainur everything that the music was about, which I found surprising because surely they were able to hear that as they sang it? I don’t know how to map the world to song, but it seemed like the Ainur do, and they heard that song. Doesn’t it describe snowflakes or rainfalls etc.?

The narrator also mentions that “in every Age, there come forth things that are new, and have no foretelling; for they do not proceed from the past”. This line confuses me; the obvious new things are the Children of Ilúvatar, but they do have foretelling. The only things I can think of that were not foretold about the First Age of the Sun are all the interdimensional visitors they keep getting.

After showing the Children of Ilúvatar some more, along with Arda (the Earth), we get brief mentions of some of the Valar we all know and love:
  • Ulmo, who thought and sang most about Water. Water is given special importance here, as something that the Children of Ilúvatar often seek. I am not quite sure what it is supposed to truly represent, though; I expect that will become clearer in the Valaquenta and beyond. Possibly something related to wisdom or music? In any case, Ulmo is instructed to notice how air and water are allied, and to work closely with Manwë.
  • Manwë, who thought of the airs and winds. He is the most noble Ainu. That’s… pretty much all that’s said of him at this point.
  • Aulë, who thought of the earth. He is directly and indirectly contrasted with Melkor; he is also (sub-)creative, and has almost as much skill and knowledge. The specific contrast is that Aulë likes creating and the creation, but not in mastering the skills or possessing that creation. This makes him generous and carefree, as opposed to Melkor’s greed and… carefulness? persistence? I don’t think I quite get that part of the comparison.

Eru then takes away the Ainur’s vision of the world before the point where Man comes fully into power. He sends those of the Ainur who wish to go into (it seems to be both a verb for Existence (“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be!”.¹) and a noun for the World that Is). He puts the Flame Imperishable, which has been mentioned before as relating to Eru’s creation, at the heart of the world.

It is worth noting at this point that we have seen all four classical elements and those associated with them: the fire of Eru, which Melkor persues, the water of Ulmo, the air of Manwë, and the earth of Aulë. These cover creation/life, ¿wisdom and/or music?²,, nobility, and skill.

The Ainur who went down into Eä were contained therein, inseperable from it, until the End of Days. They are the Valar, the Powers of the World. They were surprised that nothing actually existed; apparently they didn’t realize that getting things done required more than simply singing about it and imagining it, as though they were stereotypical millenials. Unlike these stereotypical mellenials, though, they actually went and did the necessary work, especially the above-named elemental Valar. The fourth Vala of an element, Melkor, was also there, destroying things instead of creating them. This is the world as of the First Theme.

At one point, Melkor tries to claim Arda for his own. The others say that they have all worked here and Melkor cannot do that. Manwë calls in some of the Maiar, who to that point were not in Eä, and the Valar kick Melkor out of Arda. Then the Valar designed the world based on what they saw, to make it a nice place for the Children of Ilúvatar to live. When they also wish to “clothe” themselves in physical form, some choose male forms, and some choose female; apparently the Valar have had this distinction “since the beginning”. They also call in more Maiar. I’m not really sure what this means, either here or above when Manwë did it. Are the Maiar just Ainur that did not go into Eä at first but were later summoned by the Valar? Did they have a choice in the matter?

I’m not sure what Melkor was doing at this point (maybe setting giant balls of hydrogen on fire), but he saw this and got jealous and also created a powerful visible form, creating the “first battle” for Arda (apparently all the disagreements and destruction before didn’t count), about which the author does not know much. The elves say that the Valar kept trying to claim power (which is apparently fine, because they are Valar) and prepare the world for the Children of Ilúvatar, while Melkor kept hitting the “undo” button on everything they did. The other Valar collectively worked faster though and eventually made the world ready.

¹ I am now imagining a TNG translation where one Picard catchphrase is “Eä”, and then the Q would be rounded to Ainur, and this actually seems like it could be interesting.
² I wish more languages used the upside-down question mark to indicate where a question began, and I am importing it from Spanish where it helps disambiguate.
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Re: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby jalapeno_dude » Sat Oct 01, 2016 9:31 pm

Cool, someone responded! The enjoyment I get out of actually writing up my notes is not sufficiently greater than the enjoyment I get from just thinking about things as I read them to make it worth doing. If enough other people are actually willing to read and discuss, that calculation will probably change.

I have the strong suspicion, given the emphasis on Ulmo here, that the author of the Ainulindale was Teleri. (I'm aware that this is flatly contradicted by HoME, which has Rumil as the author, but it still seems obviously correct to me. Maybe he wrote down the Teleri rather than Noldor version of the legend for some reason.)
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Re: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby DanielH » Sat Oct 01, 2016 9:53 pm

I figured that the author was not personally an elf because of the way elves are always described as a group in the third person. Then again, they talk about what the elves say about this time as separate from what the Valar say, which implies having directly spoken to both Valar and elves.

I don’t yet have enough of a feel for the non-Noldor elven cultures to comment on whether it seems particularly Telerian
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Re: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby PlainDealingVillain » Sun Oct 02, 2016 3:37 pm

If I remember right there's a conceit that Rumil is living on that one island off the coast of Valinor while he tells most of these stories and writes them down. So possibly his _audience_ is mainly Teleri.
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Re: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby DanielH » Sat Oct 08, 2016 11:46 pm

If we move on to the Valaquenta this might be worth keeping in mind and looking for:

lintamande (as Maitimë) wrote:Their tastes are innately a bit strange to us, but yes. That's - part of the problem, really, they see Valinor as a work of theirs -


It seems especially relevant to possessiveness and the subcreative fall. The book probably wouldn’t acknowledge it but I expect it to be a parallel phenomenon anyway.
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Re: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby DanielH » Thu Nov 03, 2016 8:19 pm

I have not read any Tolkein before this and am not qualified to lead the discussion, but would love to participate if it happens. Jalapeno is qualified but doesn’t want to do this if the response rate is going to be small. I expect it’ll pick up a bit when the Eldar get to Valinor, but I don’t know and they haven’t even appeared yet.

Would anybody have a lower necessary response threshold than Jalapeno and be more willing to post if they were leading the discussion? Jalapeno, would you mind somebody taking over?
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Re: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby jalapeno_dude » Thu Nov 03, 2016 11:01 pm

I absolutely would not mind.
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Re: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby Nemo » Thu Dec 29, 2016 12:22 am

This is out of order, but:

"Of the Sun and Moon and the Hiding of Valinor" wrote: [The Valar left an opening in their impenetrable wall because] For all those of elven-race, even the Vanyar and Ingwë their lord, must breathe at times the outer air and the wind that comes over the sea from the lands of their birth.

We know Elves can fade if they stay out of Valinor too long, but this implies that something (else?) happens if they do the reverse. And now that the world got reshaped, they can't breathe Earth's air just by walking past the gigantic army and the "no Melkors" signs.

So either it just sucks to be them after a few thousand years, or are there field trips to not-Valinor, or I'm misreading something.
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Re: Silmarillion Book Club

Postby DanielH » Sun Jan 01, 2017 12:12 am

So now I have a few questions and comments from reading further into the Silmarillion:

  • Are hours also longer in Valinor? It’s said to have 12-hour days, but in at least Lintamande’s version they’re more like 48 hours.
  • What happened to Ekkaia and the Walls of Night in Lintamande’s Arda?
  • Why did Mandos not realize that the elves existed well before Oromë did? I’m pretty sure Melkor killed some of them, not just captured them.
  • I probably will learn this later, but it said that Sauron was already working with Melkor before the Valar captured him. Did he just manage to hide that from the other Valar?
  • My audiobook is not pronouncing Tulkas’s name right, and instead is pronouncing it a lot like Tolkein.
  • I find it interesting that the Valar apparently have siblings and spouses. This… doesn’t fit with my picture of them. Even weirder is that one of those marriages happened during the feast before the destruction of the Lamps. I assume Valar marriages don’t work quite the same as Elf ones but I couldn’t help but interpreting that as Tulkas and Nessa sneaking off together to have sex or the incorporeal equivalent.
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