June 2017

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So Urloth on Tumblr asked, "What if Celegorm had managed to kill Luthien when he shot at her?" and requested the first of May, so here I am.

Two ways come to my mind as approaches to this question. First is to think about how such a narrative choice by Tolkien would have affected the overall theme of the Legendarium. Such a decision would have profoundly altered the larger theme, to say the least. Just tonight, I posted to the SWG [personal profile] heartofoshun's biography of Barahir. The whole essay is worth a read, but the final paragraph is particularly lovely and salient to my point here as well:

This sense of devastating loss, which also echoes the dark fatalism of the Norse epics of which Tolkien was so fond, is certainly central to The Silmarillion and most particularly evident in its Chapter 18, "Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin."25 We move from a world wherein the shaky balance between the forces of light and darkness is directly threatened and, to steal the words from the poet W. B. Yeats, "[t]hings fall apart; the centre cannot hold; [m]ere anarchy is loosed upon the world, [t]he blood-dimmed tide is loosed. . . ."26 And yet within that smoke-blackened and terrifying world, where the center no longer holds, there remain unwavering heroes like Barahir, with his determination and his hard-won family heirloom, who project hope down through the Ages and into the eucatastrophe of The Lord of the Rings.


As I put it, more or less, in a comment to Oshun on this subject, Barahir is a cog in the larger eucatastrophic machinery: His story is unrelentingly tragic, but we are to understand that his existence ensures defeat of Darkness in the far future. Therefore, the tragedy is acceptable. If he's a cog, Lúthien is a whole clockwork unto herself. If ever there is an emblem of literal and figurative light in the midst of darkness, here you have her, and destroying her in such an ignoble way by a character depicted as all but incorrigible would hamstring the theme of eucatastrophe.

The second approach is to think about how the story would change in an AU scenario where Lúthien dies at this crucial point, prior to recovering the Silmaril. (Because I don't care who was holding the knife: Lúthien totally scored the goal on that one and Beren had the assist.) Most obviously, the Silmaril would not have been recovered, and the existence of key characters like Elwing, Elrond, and Elros would have been rubbed out. If ever you needed to see a scary albeit fictional example of how a single action can completely rearrange history, here you have it in imagining the Second and Third Ages without the peredhil.

Before I get ahead of myself, without Elwing, there is no delivery of the Silmaril to Aman, no war against Morgoth, and Beleriand is not destroyed.

But it's perhaps more interesting to imagine the more immediate consequences of such an act.

I imagine Thingol--already no fan of the Fëanorians and crushed by his daughter's death--waging all-out war against them. This is not a crisis that even the most skilled diplomacy and brother-wrangling of Maedhros could avert.

What of Beren? Unlike Thingol, we get no suggestion that he is a vengeful character. I mean, he's a vegetarian for Pete's sake. It could be that Tolkien, to preserve that innocence and goodness, would have kept Beren's hands unbloodied and allowed him a death of grief.

But in a world (use your movie trailer voice if you want) where eucatastrophe has been essentially erased as a driving principle, what need is there to preserve Beren's goodness? Perhaps he would have become vengeful, ironically healing the rift between himself and Thingol in the interest of pursuit of a common enemy.

Because we also would not have had the second and third kinslayings--no Silmarils to slay over, remember?--I think Lúthien's death would have shifted the focus from the war on Morgoth to a civil war among the Free Peoples of Middle-earth. Now that is a scenario with modern relevance: the inability to unite against a common enemy because of infighting among one's own kind. (We do see hints of this in the refusal of Thingol and Orodreth to send forces to fight alongside the Fëanorians against Morgoth but nothing so overt as actual civil war.)

It may be that there is no line to continue into the Second and Third Ages. It may be that the Fëanorians prevail and become the heroes of those ages. Or it may be that eucatastrophe reasserts itself, and from the grievous loss of Lúthien, a new and unseen source of hope arises.




If there's a topic you want me to ramble about, there's still plenty of slots open in the ramble meme!
Here is today's prompt for the Snowflake Challenge:

In your own space, share a book/song/movie/tv show/fanwork/etc that changed your life. Something that impacted on your consciousness in a way that left its mark on your soul. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


I would, of course, choose The Silmarillion. It is not my favorite book, but it is absolutely the book that has had the most outsized influence on my life.

 photo silmarillion_zpspycpzqog.jpg

I came to The Silmarillion as a newly minted Tolkien fan, having gotten hooked by the LotR movies, an interest that was only galvanized by reading Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. My first copy of the Silm was the one to the right, with the weird cover that has Fëanor with graceful hands, flowing leopard-print scarves, and what appears to be an owl eating his head. The back of this particular edition, which is of course sitting right on my desk in front of me because I need to look something up in it at least weekly, reads:

The Silmarillion is Tolkien's first book and his last. Long preceding in its origins The Lord of the Rings [sic], it is the story of the First Age of Tolkien's world, the ancient drama to which characters in The Lord of the Rings [sic] look back, and in which some of them, such as Elrond and Galadriel, took part.


Now to a new fan such as myself, ravenous for more of LotR, this sounded promising! Elrond and Galadriel! I knew them!! I had no idea, of course, that the book wasn't about Elrond and Galadriel, who more or less have walk-on roles in The Silmarillion, but about a cast of dozens, everyone's name of which seems to begin with Fin-. I was also very new to the fantasy genre and really had no idea how to read a book like The Silmarillion. I went into it with my brain relaxed, expecting a frivolous sword-and-sorcery worthy of a beach read, instead of honing on every detail and storing away every name. I failed miserably in my first reading of it. I was about halfway through when Fëanor was mentioned, I looked him up in the Index of Names (the very fact that there is an Index of Names in the book should have been my first clue, no?), and realized he was someone important whom I should have remembered.

It was only because I was stubborn and embarrassed by my failure that I decided to give it another go, this time knowing better what I was getting into and more prepared to read the book as it needed to be read. And I fell in love with my second reading.

It sounds trite to say that Tolkien's world is rich but it is, and I am far from the first to become ensnared in Middle-earth via LotR. LotR, however, did not offer me the complexity of character that I had learned to appreciate in modern literature. I found that much more in The Silmarillion, where few characters are cut-and-dried good or evil but pretty much everyone is floundering around, trying to make the best of a shitty situation. That really appealed to me. The fact that the characters are barely sketched in made it possible to interpret them in myriad ways, drawing on my knowledge of human psychology. (I was a psych undergrad at the time.) When I discovered fan fiction, The Silmarillion practically begged for it: all of these complex characters only skeletally drawn. I found ample raw material for my own creativity.

And I found that The Silmarillion was only the surface of a very deep pool. LotR is a gateway drug that, if you're not careful, you'll find yourself before long flopped on a couch in a dim room arguing with a stranger on the Internet about how to interpret Laws and Customs among the Eldar. In addition to my creative side, The Silmarillion appealed to my intellectual side because there was not only a whole literary history underlying the creation of that particular book--meticulously documented in The History of Middle-earth series that I began to acquire despite my poverty at the time--but an entire pseudohistoriography. The result was a mashup of creativity and scholarship where the borders blurred. I was in love.

The Silmarillion and what it inspired of my creative and intellectual work has had reverberations through most of my life. When I picked it up, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I was terrified to imagine that my love of writing and creativity should be a major part of my adult life. Becoming involved in the Tolkien fandom through my love of The Silmarillion empowered me to embrace my love of language as a core of who I am. I went back to graduate school. I became a teacher. I eventually earned my MA in the Humanities and have had my scholarly work published. All because of The Silmarillion.

Through the Tolkien fandom, I have gained confidence in my skill as an artist, my voice, and the importance of my work. I have met amazing, lifelong friends whom I cannot imagine my life without. I have done things (like present at conferences) and learned things (like web design) that I never would have imagined as the young undergrad picking up The Silmarillion for the first time.

It's hard to imagine such a tiny action as picking up a book to read as having such far-ranging consequences. I still remember standing in the Barnes & Noble on The Avenue at White Marsh and holding my now-battered Silmarillion in my hands, deciding to spend my meager money to have more of this world, clueless that I had just decided to change my life. It's humbling and scary to realize that one's life is very rarely shaped by huge forces or in moments that one recognizes as turning points but in the tiniest of decisions that, looking back, set off a cascade of forces so that nothing was ever the same again. It is both frightening and hopeful to step daily into a world where that is possible.
I say "modified" because I want to do this, but as many of you know, I'm a one-fandom girl, so there's no point in asking you to ask me about my fandoms. There's only one! I could maybe answer most of these for True Blood, despite never participating in the online fandom, because Bobby and I constitute a fandom-of-two in our house, and I do occasionally talk with some of y'all too about it. But the only fandom I really deeply know is the Tolkien fandom, focusing on The Silmarillion. So here goes!

Tolkien Character M-Word Thing )
Yesterday, I finally finished The Tale of Tinuviel. Because the HoMe summaries are coming along so slowly, and I really want to move ahead with my research projects, then I've been trying to catch up on the essays and HoMe books that I haven't read yet. Currently, I'm wading through The Book of Lost Tales 2. As with BoLT1, I love it. The relative whimsy of the BoLT compared to The Silmarillion makes it a lot of fun, and the level of detail is simply astounding. And, as Christopher Tolkien takes care to reiterate every now and then, it's not so much that many of these details were rejected from The Silmarillion as they were condensed to make many long stories into a single book of a manageable length. And so every detail that seems intriguing and hasn't been rejected elsewhere in the canon suddenly takes on the possibility of becoming canon itself. And as one who loves her canon as messy and complicated as possible, the idea of this delights me to no end.

*waves to Silmgeeks* )
When I first considered the notion of celebrating a Finarfin Appreciation Month, I brought up the subject to my friends in the online Tolkien community as well as the members of the Silmarillion Writers' Guild, to see if such an event would actually be something in which people would want to participate. The responses I received could basically be dichotomized as such:

1) "Yes! Finarfin deserves an appreciation month! Why hasn't Finarfin Appreciation Month been declared before??"

...and...

2) "Finarfin? Why Finarfin?"

So I am taking on this second question--"Why Finarfin?"--in hopes of convincing those non-Finarfanatics out there why the current High King of the Noldor is deserving of greater attention in stories and why January has been declared Finarfin Appreciation Month.

1. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. )

2. An intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction. )

3. The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born... in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born. )

4. The greater difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests. )

5. Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them. )

Acknowledgements and Sources )
But as you can see, I am not.

Randomness Involving Breakfast, Bees, and Ice Cream...A Day in the Life of the 'gund! )

Being as I have people on my flist much more knowledgeable about canon than I am, I wanted to pose a few Silmarillion questions.

The first came from a discussion [livejournal.com profile] aramel_calawen and I were having earlier, in Chapter 16 of AMC. (Although it has nothing to do with AMC.) I remember, a while back, being privy to a conversation about the nature of Eöl's and Aredhel's marriage.

According to someone in this conversation, Tolkien originally envisioned that Eöl forced Aredhel into marriage. Of course, this idea was eventually rejected.

Problem is, I don't know that I've ever seen this in HoMe, but I don't own but a few volumes and have precious little reading time to devote to studying old versions of The Silmarillion. Most of my HoMe reading occurs in bookstores, standing in the aisles, drooling over books I can't afford.

Has anyone ever heard of this idea? Or (even better!) have a source?

Second question: I have heard numerous people reference the fact that Finwë was not one of the original Elves from Cuivienen.

Intuitively, it has always seemed to me that he was, and I have never seen anything to dispute this. (Although, as most of you know, I am no canatic.) I asked this question over at the Henneth Annun Yahoo! list a few months ago, and I got a few responses from people who believed--as I did--that Finwë was Unbegotten.

Is there any evidence to the contrary? Because I have heard people speak quite definitively to their opinion that he was not, and they seemed certain of this canonically, not just as though it was a fanficcer's whim.

I realize that Olwë and Elwë were brothers, but so were Manwë and Melkor, and Irmo and Namo, but they were "brethren in the thought of Eru" (or something like that).

Any thoughts?
Today has so far been a depressing day for me, and so I am compensating by becoming momentarily lost in a dilemma I have discovered that has absolutely no bearing on real life. Friends are losing friends (and pets--my condolensces to you, Juno) and my boss and I just had a long discussion about the state of the United States. Another hurricane is brewing in the Gulf of Mexico. I am pissed off at a group of friends right now for behaving in a heathenish, inconsiderate manner. I tried to do a flip jump on foot last night, in my parents' driveway, and got a sharp pain in the knee of my landing leg...the problems range from petty to profound, and so I am doing what any good writer does: losing myself in unreality.

Attitudes about Finwë and Miriel, Their Choices, and Their Impact on Fëanor )

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