Last meeting in October


We missed Julie and Mike this afternoon, and those of us who met battled determinedly against the noise of the local Oktoberfest (nothing like the famous Munich event). Carol sent her comments (quietly) and they can be found at the end of this blog, but in fact we began the meeting with Carol’s thoughts and question:

‘Flame Imperishable’ reminds me of Gandalf especially fighting the balrog. Melkor begins the discord. He wants to create his own ‘things’ apart from Eru’s creation. Melkor is initially the chief of the Ainur but he can’t find the Flame Imperishable. Still not sure what this represents but it’s a secret Eru keeps to himself. Gandalf is guardian of the ring of fire. Is he Eru’s direct emissary, even though only a Maia, who remembers the prime directive of non-interference through power only encouragement. Any elucidation on the Flame Imperishable, what it means etc?

Laura began our responses to this when she remarked that it is too obvious to say that the Flame is the Holy Ghost.

Ian took a positive line on this when he observed that it is something to do with the Holy Ones (i.e. the Valar). He expanded this by noting that Melkor imagines, as opposed to the Valar who bring into being and fulfil and don’t imagine.

I observed that Melkor thinks the Flame is external to him and so he seeks for it when in fact it is part of him.

Ian proposed that Tolkien is exploring ‘possession’ and acquiring as a trait which determines future actions.

Eileen noted the importance of the combination of thought and music.

Laura remarked that Aule creates the Dwarves without wanting the Flame and compared this to Melkor desiring to create in order to possess. Ian commented that Melkor doesn’t create but corrupts.

Chris whimsically suggested that the Flame is an ignition system deployed by Iluvatar so that the Valar can create.

Ian observed that Tolkien himself creates in a way very unlike the 70s fantasts who were working at the time when The Silmarillion appeared because he creates at a semantic level.

Ian went on to remark that if we look for the Flame we ignore the fact that we are the Flame and can therefore sub-create, which is fulfilling the Plan.

Laura observed that there are actually 2 Flames in the myth because the balrog is the Flame of Udun. Laura went on to contrast the Flame Imperishable to the eternal fire in Rider Haggard’s She.

Ian objected that Tolkien’s version is not like Haggard’s, which is an attempt to make myth manifest in a ‘real world’.

I wondered about the difference between Aule’s desire to create the Dwarves and Melkor’s desire to create. Laura commented that Melkor corrupts Elves to create orcs and this is considered the worst of his actions.

Chris observed that Melkor squanders his strength and therefore cannot create. Ian added that Melkor burns out his power. In the context of Melkor as Vala and therefore ‘infused’ with the Flame, Eileen saw this as a paradox. Chris characterised Melkor as ‘wasteful’, and suggested that when Saruman ‘dissipates’ at the end of The Lord of the Rings, this indicated his loss of the Flame. We noted other instances is similar ‘dissipation’ by other corrupted characters. Ian likened this to entropy and the final dissipation of all energy in the universe.

Eileen observed that Dwarves seem to be created with fear and wondered if this was because they were not created for the right reasons. Ian remarked that Aule is a maker, not a creator, and is exceeding his authority. Angela remarks that Iluvatar gives the Dwarves life and for this reason they cower in fear.

I asked if the ‘secret fire’ was the same as the Flame Imperishable and Angela thought so but Chris and Laura suggested it was not the Flame itself, but like the Olympic torch

We moved on to consider the presentation of the Maiar, and Angela and Laura noted that Olórin is only once mentioned in The Lord of the Rings.

Angela continued with the observation that he walks unseen, while Ossë, Ulmo’s Maia, is ‘visible’ in the wildness of the effect he has.

Laura reflected that as ‘we’ are largely composed of water, Ulmo is in all of us through his universal presence in water.

I wondered what might be deduced concerning Olorin’s effect on the hobbits because he is capable of influencing the hearts and minds of Elves? If hobbits are considered more rustic and susceptible, the heroic choice of Frodo would surely be tainted by Olorin’s influence rather than being the choice of a free will.

Laura proposed rather that hobbits are Iluvatar’s secret weapon. Chris noted that Tolkien didn’t go back to The Silmarillion to add in the hobbits after he created them. Laura went on to wonder who in the ‘pantheon’ would have created them. I suggested that Yavanna might have.

Ian wondered about the timescale between the loss of the Entwives and the appearance of the hobbits. This could not be resolved at the meeting, but led us to consider the prospect of miscegenation.

Angela returned us to the main thread of discussion when she asked whether Yavanna would consult Ilúvatar? I remarked that she had consulted Manwë about the plight of growing things, and he had consulted Ilúvatar, and this was the authorisation for the Ents.

Ian brought the discussion back to the problem of fitting elements of fantasy into primary world conditions, identifying this as a problem for readers. 

With that we had to call a halt to the meeting. We did not set specific reading for next time as we shall proceed through the chapters at the pace dictated by the amount of detail thrown up by our discussion.

Carol’s Comments:

VALAQUENTA, of the valar

Tolkien recognises male and female, not just the patriarchal God of Christianity. Mostly, life under the sun needs male and female to procreate.

‘Manwe and Melkor were brethren’ – brother against brother, seems to be a recurring theme in mythology, Cain and Abel for example.

‘for Melkor she [Varda] knew from before the making of the music and rejected him.’ I think this may have contributed to Melkor’s contrariness, loving a female he couldn’t have.

Ulmo-Poseidon? This is how Tuor sees Ulmo while trying to find Gondolin.

The sea-longing is created – which comes down to Legolas and Frodo

‘Of the Enemies’

Can we equate Melkor with Lucifer? They are both fallen angels through want of all-encompassing power over everything.

Valaraukar are balrogs ‘the scourges of fire’. I think Gandalf had to fight a balrog in Moria as they were both maiar of fire, the balrog the Flame of Udun, and Gandalf of the Flame Imperishable.

Sauron, like Gandalf is a maia but I think stronger because he served only himself using cruelty. As evil, he could use dirty tricks with impunity, whereas Gandalf had to play fair.


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