Please note: this will be our only meeting this month as most members will be away at Oxonmoot on our next meeting day.
Our group was somewhat depleted this afternoon but 4 of us eventually met to take on Chapter 23, Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin. At least the room was quiet this time as we began our deliberations. Carol’s comments are included at the end of the main report where they are additional to the topics we took on.
These began with Eileen and Ian discussing the use and significance of oaths and curses. Eileen observed that in the case of Turin’s family, the curse’s effect is often upon other people.
Ian declared that there was no such thing as a curse, only other people’s perception, rather than some general malevolent directional power over another, or others. Thus Hurin is indeed powerless, but what he sees is tinged with his understanding of being powerless. What happens is really in the control of those who take the actions he witnesses.
Laura related this to people not taking charge of their lives but blaming fate. When the sons of Feanor take their Oath it becomes their fallback position rather than thinking for themselves.
Moving away from these ideas Ian noted that the otter was sacred to Zoroaster, and when Tolkien was pursuing his interest in ‘animalic’ ‘Otter’ was the ‘avatar’ he adopted.
Returning to the chapter in hand, I drew attention to differences between chapters 23 and 24. It seemed to me that Tolkien splits primary aspects of the story of Kullervo (from The Kalevala) between the cousins Turin and Tuor. To Turin he gives the incest motif while to Tuor he gives the enslavement.
Carol observed that Turin and Tuor are within sight of one another and Eileen noted that they are going in different directions.
Ian remarked that Turin keeps creating new identities for himself by means of new names, each time he encounters a reverse or new situation. But Tuor stays himself, his sense of self remains even when he suffers similarly to his cousin.
Laura noted that both their stories share the theme of betrayal.
Carol commented that all elven lords become proud, and ‘pride goes before a fall’. I wondered if the downfalls of Thingol and Turgon, which both turn on their great pride, are a sign of the detrimental effect of the freedom both have found in Middle-earth, as they rule their own kingdoms free from the control or dominance (however benign) of the Valar. Laura noted that The Lost Tales includes a passage in which the Valar are condemned.
Eileen remarked that Tolkien was opening up various views to thought and discussion.
Thinking back to Chris’s previous comment that there seems no sense of evolution in TSilm, I wondered if there was a particular significance to the fact that Ulmo is adviser to both Turin and Tuor which turns on the fact that he is the Vala associated with water, and water is the element of change. His approaches to the cousins are clearly intended to effect change.
Ian agreed that Ulmo is dynamic. Laura observed that Yavanna is linked to change but this is cyclical.
Ian noted that Ulmo represents an element, while the other Valar are representative of aspects of the world. He symbolizes the direction taken by characters who are not going around cyclically repeating their actions, but engage in progressive change. Ian went on to argue that in the primary world evolution affects everything, but not in Middle-earth. There, change and evolution happens to races through characters changing from one state to another. Those who think they have achieved the right or ideal situation never change.
Ian remarked that Ulmo is present all the time in the waters, so this is in effect his steady-state even though it doesn’t appear to be ‘steady’. His ‘steady-state’ is actually change, and water represents change in both primary and secondary worlds.
I then picked up the matter of compassion that we addressed last time, when I suggested that there is a thematic lack of compassion in TSilm and Tim pointed out the importance of pity in LotR. Ian commented that ethical values evolve through the different stories.
Laura wondered if the arrival of Gandalf in Middle-earth brings pity to it because he spends time in the West in the company of Nienna, Lady of Pity.
I questioned whether there was pity in the fosterings of Turin and Tuor, or whether this was just pragmatic on the part of their foster families.
Ian remarked that problems in the lives of individuals may engender new sets of values. Life conditions and problems create new ways of doing things. Emerging sets of values may be dictated by changing conditions and in a/the story are signaled by e.g. the end of an Age, or a controlling power.
And so our meeting also came to an end. Next time we will move on to Chapter 24 ‘Of the Voyage of Earendil and the War of Wrath’. Please note: that next meeting will be the 13th October.
Chapter 23 ‘Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin’
Tuor finds the arms left ‘for him’ in Vinyamar.
So Maeglin dies as his father said he would and in the same fashion.