This will be the only blog for this month as our second meeting would be very close to Christmas.
We began our meeting this afternoon in very hobbit-like fashion by discussing Yule recipes! We missed Laura, who was ill, and Julie. Carol’s comments are missing because she is in the Australian sunshine, but we were happily surprised by Mike’s unexpected arrival.
When we finally began our discussion we had to pick up where we left off before Wessexmoot, and Eileen observed that Aulë’s creativity over-rode his duty to Iluvatar when he made the dwarves, but that this was one of many human frailties displayed by the Valar. Eileen said she also enjoyed the drama of conflict between Aulë and Yavanna.
Angela remarked that among the Valar and their respective ‘responsibilities’ it seems as though animals have no ‘guardian’, but Yavanna takes responsibility for plants AND animals although this is not clear from the Ainulindale.
Eileen thought Iluvatar was generous and understanding towards Aulë.
Chris noted that Iluvatar had to give life to the dwarves, but what about the hobbits?
Ian thought hobbits were part of Yavanna’s brief. As Aulë creates dwarves out of sequence, the entwives that were part of Yavanna’s brief disappear and then hobbits appear. But even the ents don’t know anything about them.
Chris observed that when Tolkien originally conceived the Silmarillion he had no thought of hobbits.
Ian remarked that they were another of Tolkien’s characteristic ‘mysteries’.
Mike commented that Tolkien gives us creation without evolution. Ian remarked that he had to ‘drop hobbits in’, and Chris noted that Tolkien had to ‘retro-fit’ Gollum after writing The Lord of the Rings.
I thought evolution took place at the level of story. I cited the unfinished evolution of the Beren and Luthien story and Angela cited Tolkien’s intention to revise Celeborn in line with his new ideas.
Ian thought Unfinished Tales give insights into the way Tolkien thought about his story-telling and expanding ideas. He compared Aule introducing the dwarves out of sequence, and Melkor doing all sorts of things out of sequence, seeing these as counterpoint to the Music. Ian suggested Tolkien did not work with evolution but with the replication of patterns.
Mike remarked that in Tolkien’s creation ‘you are what you look like’.
Angela remarked that The Lord of the Rings includes many species, not just races, and that Gan-buri-Gan is unprepossessing but has special powers, and in Unfinished Tales he and his species/race are given a backstory.
Mike then proposed that Tolkien could have written The Lord of the Rings without hobbits and could just have assigned their roles to Men, but we all noted that the economics of publishing demanded hobbits.
Ian observed, however, that all the races in the book have different tasks to perform and Merry, Pippin and Sam are observers. If all the characters were Men this would change the psychological focus of the story. I suggested that if all the The Lord of the Rings characters were Men the story would become a political legend.
Chris then remarked that Chapter 7 ‘Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor’ provides an interesting example of the use of ‘fake news’ as Melkor continually stirs things up.
Mike noted the way it proliferates when he picked out the statement ‘But he that sows lies in the end will not lack for harvest, and soon he may rest from toil indeed while others reap and sow in his stead.’ Mike observed: once you set it rolling it gains momentum.
Chris then questioned the observation in this chapter that Manw ëcannot comprehend evil. I thought this was because of his perfect virtue. Eileen objected that to be virtuous you must overcome evil. Ian proposed that to attach virtue to Manwë was incorrect. Manwë and Melkor are neither virtuous nor evil. Melkor is ego-centric in a world where he is part of a greater whole. Manwë, on the other hand, works as part of a whole. What we see is the contrast between the two.
Mike observed that Nietzsche declared there is no good or evil, only different moralities, and questioned whether Melkor and Manwë have different moralities? Ian thought they showed different ways of classifying views of the world.
Eileen proposed that Manwë and Melkor were like 1 character with 2 opposite sides.
Chris compared the 2 different sides of Gollum, and the 2 aspects of Boromir’s character.
Eileen then wondered why Tolkien emphasises the brotherhood of Manwë and Melkor? Ian suggested it emphasised the commonality between them, and one could compare Cain and Abel.
Mike added that the model of the Trinity could be cited – the 3 ‘persons’ are same being and substance.
I then asked whether Tolkien was using the term ‘evil’ in 2 different ways: evil as a metaphysical concept and evil as the consequence of actions. Mike thought this was the case, and that this was because English language uses the same term for both uses.
That brought us to the end of our meeting. Our next meeting is on January 13th. Our reading for that meeting will finish Chapter 7 and continue with Chapters 8 and 9.