On a raw and dismal afternoon some of us had already begun our discussion of aspects of the chapters we have been reading. Although Eileen could not be with us she had spent a good deal of time familiarising herself with Feanor and passed on some thoughts by phone prior to the meeting.
As we began the meeting itself we continued considering Feanor and Ian introduced us to his latest theoretical reading on the concept of ‘post-truth’, – the manipulation of language, which is in fact meaningless, otherwise known as all the spin and ‘flannel’ that is supposed to convince us, and with which we have become familiar. The effect of Melkor’s lies on Feanor leads to the Elf’s destructive actions, and Ian argued that we are more likely to remember such characters in distinction from their background.
Laura remarked that the characters of the Elves in TSilm are not as fleshed out as characters are in The Lord of the Rings, they are more symbolic.
Ian commented that we are not travelling along with them as we are with the characters in the later work, while Chris observed that characters in TSilm are not in ordinary society.
Laura added that if we met one of the ordinary Elves in this story we would be stunned by their difference. Ian added ‘as post-Creation characters in the Bible are extraordinary, so are Elves’.
We went on to compare the treatment of the creation of animals in TSilm and the Bible, seeing it as much less detailed, and Angela noted that Yavanna is simply given responsibility for Olvar (growing things with roots in the earth) and Kelvar (animals, living things that move).
Ian went on to wonder whether in creation things were put in by Iluvatar that cause disruption and therefore he has disruption in his Plan apart from Melkor.
Ian continued by considering whether, as far as Tolkien is concerned, disruption is a device to rekindle the power of fairy-stories, while films are the cheapest way of engaging and audience. Angela objected that it is possible to see the films several times and still find more ‘meaning’.
Ian turned to the perennial topic of free will and remarked that an author can guide the reader in a particular direction. Chris proposed rather that quality films are like good books – there can be a lot in them.
Laura suggested that in both cases the question is one of the level of quality. Ian brought us full circle when he added that it is also about what is said and how it is said.
Laura then asked if Feanor is used as a catalyst for initiating the Plan? And as we went on to consider the power of his language and his oath, I asked what it is that adds particular power to his language and his Oath?
Ian proposed that it lies in the dissemination of information and what is of concern in contemporaneous society.
Laura observed that the Oath and the Prophecy are expressed in strong language and it is dreadful when Mandos (probably) – the King of Death himself, pronounces doom on Feanor.
Ian and Laura then both suggested that constant reiteration defines things, and Ian added that effectiveness depends on how a speaker applies words, not what words they are.
Laura went on to remark that knowing about Tolkien himself has enriched knowledge and understanding of his stories.
Angela commented that his attitudes to his characters are interesting.
Ian went on to wonder if Melkor and others believe the Eldar’s creativity could rival that of the Valar.
Laura noted that Melkor said Orome was a threat when he was leading the Elves out of Middle-earth, so Melkor was overridingly dangerous to Elves.
Ian wondered whether, because Aule is also disruptive, he too sees the Elves as problem creators.
As usual we ran out of time and as we had been taking on various topics rather than discussing chapters, I promised that at our next meeting we would definitely discuss the Kinslaying and the passage of the Helcaraxe, so there is no appointed reading for our next meeting.