74. Notes - part III
The Sea-Mew has been part of the story, as a ghostly presence (so to speak) since Act II was begun. She is, of course, the one obliquely referred to in the exchange re farewells between Finrod and Edrahil after the Council and coup; as a member of Olwë's tribe her situation allows for a not-entirely-disinterested outsider's perspective on the dynastic struggles of the House of Finwë. I meant for her to provide a reminder of the kinship connections between the three clans of the Eldar, and to illustrate the problems of division and strife which far predated the Kinslaying and attitudes which so ably were exploited by Melkor which allowed that event to happen. I also was strongly caught by the idea of someone not knowing that a loved
one had been caught up in the Kinslaying until their reunion in the Halls of Mandos, and the theme of good intentions rendered meaningless which is summed up so powerfully in the line, "all good deeds were made in vain," through the undercutting of Edrahil's spiritual renunciation and selflessness in assuming her to be happy — and better-off — without him, forever, by that revelation.
Quite late in the day, I realized that I had created an OFC who also happens to be the romantic interest of a canon character… (And now yet another layer of significance is added to the word-game towards the end of Scene II.)
The documented envy of the Secondborn aroused by Melkor in the Noldor plays a significant role throughout this scene —as it did in the history of the Eldar. More on this later.
Beren's blaming himself for everything both follows from his self-castigating remarks in the Lay fragments, and is a response to the criticisms made by readers on Usenet and elsewhere in this vein — Really? All right then, let's take this to its logical extreme…
This section incorporates a small homage to Fabergé, whose studios managed to create both the tacky and the sublime, not infrequently combining both into the tackily sublime (or sublimely tacky), such as the comic or realistic animals crafted from the precise shades of gemstones to match their natural coloring.
Helka & Ringil were the two pillars of the original Lamps, sometimes described as being made of ice, which Melkor subverted and destroyed after successfully infiltrating Arda during the distractions of Tulkas and Nessa's wedding party. This fact gives Fingolfin's crystal sword the nature of a sacred symbol, named in honor of that long-destroyed supporter of Light. (However, they are also described in terms which make it seem as if they were mountains. Before trying to determine which they were — and I am not being mischievously Elvish here merely — one has to consider the question of what matter would vessels containing enough energy to both light a continent, and to destroy vast sections of it when released by catastrophic failure, be constructed of — let alone be supported on, when created by godlike beings of superhuman intelligence and ability capable of "singing" a material universe out of nonbeing and potentiality into physical actuality? It's likely the answer would be as incomprehensible to us as the first alien description of a functioning hyperdrive will be:
"All composed of supercooling micro-accelerated particulate fields with a reversed matrix of indented parallel wavelengths, see?"
"—Ah. Yes. Of course." —It works by magic—really advanced magic…
Beren endeavoring to tell Finarfin what his kids have been up to is not included merely for humorous effect, but also to point up the sheer magnitude of the task, and the difficulty of trying to convey events to someone interested in them, when both parties have only partial knowledge of both the circumstances and the players, and no direct experience of the events at all.
"Going to stake out a realm" — a not-so-kind reference to their shared pasts as would-be colonists in Beleriand and the hubris of the Noldor invoked as well as inflamed by Fëanor's rousing words after the Treeslaying.
"Fly pride, quoth the peacock" — ObRef to The Comedy of Errors, an exquisite farce rife with mistaken identity, verbal and physical humour, and rhyme. This expression is the equivalent of "the pot calling the kettle black," due to the legendary vanity of peafowl — which has some basis in observed fact, as it is possible to keep peacocks in the open but in a central area by hanging a mirror outside: the males spend inordinate amounts of time displaying before this tireless rival, just as Siamese fighting fish will.
The tall and beautiful Nürnburg-style harps often seen in medieval art are, according to archaeologists, fairly fragile, extant examples of the instrument often showing breaks in the neck that were repaired in its
original useful lifetime. Edrahil's travel-harp should be imagined more like the Irish harps, such as the one famously called Brian Boru's. Aegnor is playing nastily on old insecurities, in a reversal of the usual direction of snobbery, invoking the superior innate talents of the Sea-taught Teler at music, versus the Noldor skill at the "objective" arts of metal and stone working.
That there was strong friendship as well as kinship between the two sets of brothers is attested in "The Quenta," HOME: Shaping, where it is remarked that Angrod and Aegnor were close friends with the sons of Fëanor (and not merely in agreement with their father about the Return.) Moreover, if Angrod and Aegnor were friends and longtime neighbors with Celegorm and Curufin, both in Aman and in East Beleriand, Aegnor is bound to have known Huan pretty well. And vice versa.
The incidents, er, surrounding the fountain hearken back to the discussion in Act II regarding mortal forms of humour before the Council. The constant references to water, and employment of it for various purposes, have a deeper meaning (sorry!) and while on the one hand reflecting simply geology and personal experience — I live in a land of old mountains and bedrock, and driving along the road it is possible to see the fresh water welling through and pouring down the surfaces of the granite cliffs, (which in the winter form most dramatic columns and sheets of ice) and every quarry becomes a tarn without constant pumping-out, because the water is there beneath the earth and must come through somehow — it also refers to the water-symbolism omnipresent in the Arda mythos and the immense (though hidden, patient, and subversive) power of the Lord of the Deeps.
Regarding Beren's challenge to Aegnor not to walk away from their issues — avoidance does seem to be a hallmark of the Exiles' way of dealing with things, given events both subsequent and prior.
"Tree toads" — an ObRef to some actual Fabergé artworks, crafted of gemstones. (This
Russian art history site has a photograph of one of the Fabergé flowers, a life-size pheasant's-eye narcissus set in a vase of rock-crystal, filled with rock-crystal water.)
"Thargelion" — the joking about "mountain passes" and "rolling countryside" derives from the following Elvish linguistic associations:
súma: hollow concavity, bosom, i.e., cleavage; the equation of territorial elevations with female breasts transcends culture and language (as seen in the range from Scotland, "The Paps," to the New World's "Uncanoonuc," which by local legend memorializes an ancient Abnaki noblewoman) so I have extended the parallel to Elven cultures as well. (But without the attendant human self-consciousness.)
palúre: the surface of the land, as in the expression "the bosom of the earth" (equated with the English root "fold" as in Westfold) and the source of an alternate name of Yavanna, Palúrien.
"Rank hath its privilege," always stated in such archaic form, is a saying eternally current to describe the inequities of the military, though a modern acronym has of course been constructed from it, RHIP. I have no idea how old it is or what the original source: like Greensleeves, it's always referred to as just "old."
"see," "perceive" etc. — there is a technical problem for metaphysicians in the fact that the words we are obliged to use to describe non-physical situations, and which are used universally so far as I can tell, regardless of language, all come from physical situations. "Understand," "back up,"
"past," "grasp" — all of these terms with their directional or action sources, are used by analogy — yet so automatically that this fact can be itself
difficult to realize. Given that we are physical entities, cannot be otherwise, and the signal lack of success of projects in the past century to create new philosophical languages devoid of any confusion or overlapping of terms, I suspect this is inherent to corporeal sentients (though of course this cannot be checked until we encounter an alien sentient race similar enough for us to communicate with) — but would not be the natural case for a group of naturally-immaterial telepathic entities for whom even language is a makeshift invention used for dealing with the material world and the corporeal creatures who inhabit it.
Both the equine and canine dragging of logs comes from Primary World experiences, both firsthand and secondhand. (It could be that I've only known some very eccentric horses, but several people have recounted tales of dogs mysteriously drawn to hauling objects nearly as large as themselves, apparently for the sheer challenge of it. James Thurber, American humorist and dog lover, had one who tried to bring home abandoned furniture found in alleyways — in the middle of the night, naturally!)
The world of espionage, and how much of it depends on not standing out, and as well on the fact that people generally don't tend to question, or even to notice things, that are outside their own interests, is quite fascinating — as are the small, dumb little things that historically have given away agents, many of which seem due more to chance (favorable or evil, depending on one's perspective) than to any systematic investigative or watch efforts. Former agent John LeCarre does a good job of conveying this in his novels, but other examples from the news include the story of the Zimmerman Telegraph in WWI, the use of the Brompton Oratory (a High Baroque church in London) as a drop-point for microfilms in the late 1980s, and pop singer Josephine Baker's experiences working for the Resistance in WWII.
"small people" — I do hope that all readers would have guessed who the Apprentice is by now! More on his presence later — but recall that it is said in Silm. that he learned patience and pity of Nienna, — who in turn is said to spend most of her time counselling the inhabitents of the Halls of Mandos.
Edain: "Now Atani, the Second People, was the name given to Men in Valinor in the lore that told of their coming; but in the speech of Beleriand that name became Edain, and it was there used only of the three kindreds of the Elf-friends." (Silm., "Of The Coming of Men into the West.")
"wanted to be an Eagle" — not only an ObRef to later events, but intended to point up both the striking affinity of all three independent Immortal agents: both Huan in the First Age and Mithrandir in the Third work together with the Lords of the Eagles in their complicated efforts to influence the destiny of Arda for the better. (It also is a play on the not-uncommon wistful imaginings of being a fighter pilot or pioneering aviator, which (as C.S. Lewis once used in analogy) is very different in reality from the romantic ideas of it. Thorondor and his family also have jobs to do, as well as lives to lead, and despite being autonomous in the field, can't simply give up their duties of trying to watch Morgoth's activities, watch over Gondolin, and report back to Taniquetil in order to go exploring somewhere off south, say.)
It also serves to point up the fact that the Ainur chose what they were going to be in Arda, and when they were going to join in. Not everyone was interested in making Eä at once, and not everyone arrived at the same time once the world was made. The Ainur aren't regimented, despite the urges of fans to organize them so: the Timeless Halls aren't Orwellian in nature. Power and authority are fluid, and come as much from within as from any Eru-conferred roles. Recall (since "Ainulindalë" is a bit long to retype, I haven't put it all here, but I commend rereading it) that the only Valar whose status as such we actually see taking place in the story are Melkor and Tulkas, who end up exchanging places. Melkor
opts out of a universe he can't control; Tulkas shows up out of nowhere, starts slugging, and becomes the new member of the core leadership group. The Song begins slowly, with a lot of "tuning-up" — that is, each Ainu must discover his or her own voice — and this takes place very slowly for some, and quicker for others, and it is never rushed by the One nor
is self-knowledge forced on any of the Powers-to-be — and then from that, awareness of each other, and then the delight of small spontaneous jam sessions slowly grows into a comprehension of Music on a grand scale, and the potential for something really spectacular…
This is actually somewhat abridged from the original MS, which is available
in HOME:Shaping, "The Quenta," and has a lot more of the interpersonality of the Ainur in the Before-Time worldbuilding. There it's remarked that
Melkor's music was forceful, though chromatically dull, and had the effect of either drowning out the quieter voices or leading them to follow his
dominant monotonous tune — in fact, the whole story is very resonant to anyone with any experience of playing in groups of various sizes. The idea of each performer learning to make his or her own music, not being forced into "the box", and this being the foundation for building the symphony, attuned to the strengths of the individual soloists, is idyllic and utopian, (though not impossible when considering celestials at play) but it also does reflect the reality of many successful groups whose sound
is utterly unique and yet which changes over time as new members enter and old ones depart, and such spontaneity and individuality is also the hallmark of such folk groups as jazz ensembles, swing bands, Celtic and Cajun "sessions," medieval and renaissance consorts, and innumerable parallel
ethnic traditions from around the world. br>
Except then there's a rebellion, and the woodwind section leader wants everyone to play his improvisation as if it were the only possible
elaboration on the given line, and manages to convince most of the section to join in his vision of how the symphony should go, and gets a crew playing
"Twinkles" very, very loudly on rackets (industrial-strength renaissance kazoos) — and whether you want to or not, it's very hard sometimes
to stick with your own line if you have a loud, piercing voice right next to you, and especially if they tend to do the line wrong-but-easy…
I've also had the personal advantage of observing different conducting
styles over the past dozen years, from the obsessed, manically-up-tight control freak whose band resembles nothing so much as a pen of deer-in-headlights trapped behind their music stands, to the completely indiscriminating, approving-of-everything leader who benignly waves the baton over a cacophony which the discerning audience, after much struggle, may finally be able to identify without recourse to the programme — to the generally
laid-back, affirming director who makes sure the timid people get solos and aren't abandoned to finger silently or whisper for fear of making mistakes,
and lets people improvise and brings those variations into the final version if they work with the piece as a whole, and doesn't leap all over someone who mangles a key phrase by accident — but doesn't hesitate to step in and address the issue when timing gets out of control or someone just won't stop adding in excessive tremolo fter repeatedly being advised that it isn't appropriate to gargle on every note…and maybe gives that grand solo not to the metronome-perfect ten-year student, but to the two-year neophyte, still a little rough around the edges, a little uncertain, who leaps in with fiery enthusiasm and brings the piece to life.
Tirion: this brief portrait of the "present-day" capital of the Noldor derives from Silm., "Of Eldamar," and serves to remind the reader, as well as the characters, of that wider world out there, and the context of all actions, events, and personalities, even in Aman.
The symbolism of the odd task described is I hope obvious, and comes from two very different rituals I am aware of, on vastly-separate parts of this earth: the feast of Divali, in India, w herein tiny clay lamps,
about 3 cm tall, are lit and placed along the edges of window-sills and rooftops, filling the towns with a warm golden glow far beyond what such a tiny flame would seem capable of generating, singly or in groups; and the kindling and exchanging of the Paschal flame in Roman rite Catholic churches during the Easter vigil. The style of the task, and all others implied or related, comes from the two mythic examples I am aware of in which a high-ranking female celestial has the tutelage of an earnest young male whose enthusiasm is not always equal to the study; one of which may be found in the Hebrew Scriptures, and the other in Chinese epic literature. (More on these parallels later.)
"witless and redeless" were Huan's actual words to Beren, as given in LL1, Canto XI, when he berates him for dashing off in this crazy, ill-advised way that is bound to get him killed, or worse.
The working-songs of Dorthonion are an idea inspired in part by the Scots Gaelic songs of this nature which I have heard sung, which like such songs all over the world are used to make easier and more mentally-interesting the boring repetetive tasks of agriculture and materials preparation, and also from the English tradition of change-bell ringing, in which complex mathematical patterns are played, and may be sung by the bell-ringers in practices or where bells are unavailable, and which ideally all return to the same original note simultaneously — something I've heard once for real, and a very eerie, impressive experience it was. (Change-ringing is prominently featured in what many consider to be Oxonian Dorothy Sayers' best mystery novel, The Nine Tailors.)
melisma: an ancient musical term meaning "honey-sweet," referring to a single syllable being run up and down across many notes. (A well-known example is the gloria refrain of the carol "Angels We Have Heard On High.")
The question as to whether or not Lúthien could have messed with Beren's mind — and would have been so tempted — seems inevitable to me, given her efforts to convince him by lawful means…and the prior and subsequent events where her willpower and strength of purpose to protect Beren enabled her to befuddle and overwhelm a lesser demon, a greater demon, and the archfiend of Arda himself. The incentive is unquestionable, the ability equally so — put them together with Galadriel's words in Lórien
concerning the difficulty of coercing and otherwise swaying minds, and the temptation to do so for the good of those individuals, and their shared familial history, and the question of the moral right to use "magic" to push people into doing the right and safe thing for their own sakes inevitably starts becoming something more than an abstract debate between friends and relatives late at night over the wine-cups on the terrace…
As to why she wouldn't have done so, despite inclinations and ability — see Act III for likely reasons.
Huan: the Lord of Dog's role, and his Doom as one of the Noldor by virtue of following the sons of Fëanor, is something that (quite evidently) has fascinated me — as noted before, I do not concur with Michael Martinez' stated belief that had Tolkien only done further revisions of the Geste, he would have made it less "fantastic," ore "naturalistic," and done away with the figure of the giant talking dog. Not only is there no evidence of this — Huan being present from the outset and in each further revision gaining an expanded role rather than a reduced — but in a world where there are also giant talking demon-wolves, and giant talking seraphic eagles, and Green Men with sacred charges, and sentient horses, and sentient trees, one more non-humanoid sentient demi-divine character is not going to strain a belief already given to the Ardaverse. There are many, many parallels between Huan's role in the Geste and the deeds of Gandalf in the Third Age, beyond the fact that both of them are known as "grey"; the fact that there is a prophecy surrounding him makes him part of a grand tradition of doomed characters in our history as well as Arda's; and his particular fate, entangling him in the Doom of the Noldor, and the ethical dilemmas of his conflicted loyalties make him one of the great tragic heroes of the legend.
—Who just happens to be a dog as well.
One of the reasons I have made Huan so very doggish is that he is, even in the leadership role and narrow time frame in which we get to see him during the Geste. (This should not surprise, given the authentically-doggy personality of Garm, that canine Sancho Panza, in Farmer Giles of Ham.) Throughout the Lay, Huan enjoys his work, hunting the Werewolves of the Enemy with a gusto and enthusiasm which owners of working animals (not simply hunting hounds) will well recognize; he is eager to do what he thinks should be done, as the comment in the Lay mentioned in the last Act notes, running ahead and looking back to see what's keeping his master; he is perceptive, which even ordinary dogs are, of the strains and stresses between his people, and easily depressed by it; but his affections are not given or withheld in accordance with his owner's priorities — also very canine
behaviour. His creative interpretation of commands like "Stay!" is all too familiar to any dog-owner, and his protective behaviour and autonomous intelligence while in advance of, in very much in line with real experiences of Newfoundlands and other large, loyal breeds of dog told not simply in legend, like that of Gelert and the hound of Odysseus, but also in fact.
"You do not ride Shadowfax: he is willing to carry you — or not. If he is willing, that is enough. It is then his business to see that you remain on his back, unless you jump off into the air." (LOTR:TTT, "The Palantir")
There are also interesting parallels between Gandalf's steed, and the Lord of Dogs, who understands spoken language, and is so proud and unique that his carrying of Lúthien is a matter of some amazement in the chronicles, but nevertheless remains one of the kelvar in his daily life. Like the Lord of the Eagles, who is unashamedly a Large Bird of Prey who makes no bones about snacking on stray cattle when opportunity presents itself, despite the armed objections of their owners (The Hobbit), this nobler kinsman of Garm is also mirroanwë — a full incarnate, who abides by the rules of Earth even when he transcends them by virtue of his nature; and unlike Sauron he cannot "cheat" and escape death by morphing into another shape: every time he fights in defense of his friends is potentially the last time, until he meets his Wolf and walks that road alone. —Which is also not unlike the situation of a certain Maia in the distant future.
Q-P shifts: one of the hallmarks of the linguistic changes wrought by time and geographical separation among the Eldar, this is in our world found in the different branches of Indo-European, and can be seen very clearly in the diverging words for "horse" where the Latin is "equus," the Greek "hippos" and the Celtic horse-goddess is named Epona.
Thingol's Sight warning him against humans before the coming of the Secondborn and leading him to forbid entry to all mortals, even to Finrod's servants, is described in Silm., "Of the Coming of Men Into the West," — along with Melian's private prophecy to Galadriel that one of the Bëorings will do so regardless.
The problem of the Elves going to Valinor in the first place is a complicated one: Ulmo thinks it's a terrible idea, and his conviction is the Author's, as revealed both throughout the text in the embedded (if subtle) commentary and the outcomes of the decision to bring them to Aman — and "outside the fiction," in various letters of JRRT. But at the same time, hindsight is always perfect, and the reality of making decisions based on what is presently known and likely based on that known information and past experience is never simple. And the desire to keep keep children safe and prosperous, to help one's friends and loved ones, is in itself good — and fraught with perils. "Call no man happy until he is dead," was the Greek sage Solon's advice on trying to assess "success" in someone else's life, meaning that until the full story of someone's life has unfolded, what is a good situation and who is fortunate, or happy, cannot be determined from the outside.
How many millionaires have looked "happy" until their bubble bursts, revealing fraud and crime, marital strife, spiritual emptiness and substance abuse?
In the same way, what is a "good" decision or an imprudent one, cannot always easily be decided without considering the circumstances at the time each judgment call is made. This too is presented by the Professor in the course of the story, and while readers tend to oversimplify, one recurring theme in Silm. is that every action has both good and bad consequences. (Like Finwë's remarriage, for one.) Consider one alternative history of Arda: the Powers return to Middle-earth and remain there with the Eldar. Morgoth comes up for parole, concealing his malice, and successfully incites division and rebellion among the Elves. When his misdeeds are exposed (in whatever form it should take in this timeline) and he flees, he doesn't have anywhere near as far to go, and all his secret stash of superweapons
(i.e. Balrogs) are ready for instant recall to go up against the forces of the Ainur presently dwelling on this side of the Sea.
The War of Wrath takes place centuries earlier in a fully-inhabited Middle-earth, on the eastern side of the Blue Mountains, with the same havoc that previous battles between gods and demigods always result in, like stray mountain-ranges and sinking rifts, and the Eldar are for all intents and purposes wiped out — along with the Dwarves, and Men as yet unborn. Endor is split into two new continents, Beleriand to the West and on the other side of a wide mediterranean sea, the remnant portion beyond the Misty Mountains, across which the handful of traumatized survivors
are scattered. Eriador down to Isen no longer exists. The Gap of Rohan is the Gulf of Rohan leading up to Anduin, Fangorn an Everglades, Rohan a Camargue — except that there isn't any population left to give those areas names. All of civilization, and potential civilization, being in one restricted area, nothing of future history happens in any way resembling the known timeline of Arda. There's no Belegost, no Nogrod, no Long Peace, no Edain, no Gondolin — and no Aman as we know it; no cultural and material reserve to rebuild a Númenor after the Terrible Battle, so there's no Mordor, no Gondor, no Erebor, and also no Shire. Nothing happens as it would otherwise have unfolded.
—Would this have followed, if the Eldar had not removed in part to Valinor? No way of telling. Could it have happened? The maps say yes.
Remarks concerning the futility of keeping the future existence of the Secondborn classified forever are a reference to the alternate story of Galadriel's wishing to go East to explore even before the Darkening (UT), which whether considered apocryphal or not, is nevertheless in keeping with the long-standing tradition that Finrod, while not hungering for power and dominion, was nevertheless also lured by the thought of far-off lands to explore, and can be taken to indicate that such a return movement for benign reasons would eventually have come forward in Valinorean society, regardless of the Silmarils. The palantiri are of course one of the improvements in scrying technology mentioned in the argument. The non-release of this information, and its leakage by Melkor, was one of the main factors in creating the rift between the Noldor and the Valar (and everyone else in the world, ultimately.)
Storytelling: this scenelet is devoted to the problems of how and when does information get from one place to another, and what effect does it have on those who receive it. It doesn't just transmit itself, magically, though we tend to feel that way given the amount of uncredited, generalized information to which we are exposed from an early age through school and the media. But intelligence has to come from somewhere — or rather, someone — and at particular times, and through particular real routes, and it doesn't all arrive at the same rates, nor is it known to all persons everywhere at all instants, and in the same degrees, and the problems of bias are not simply that of ideology, but of perspective, access, and interests. This is on the one hand, the problem of history, and the honest historian, and on the other hand the problem of anyone who has to make command decisions in any area, based on what is currently known.
(It's also an homage to LOTR generally, and TTT, "Flotsam and Jetsam" specifically, where the telling of tales itself is as integral to the story as the recounting of the adventures themselves.)
The idea that the years between Maedhros' capture and rescue by Fingon, a time of rivalry and strain between uneasy neighbors-across-the-lake, might have contained other efforts at negotiating with or spying on the Enemy is entirely mine (but the Noldor of the followings of Fingolfin and Finrod had to be actively pursuing any number of political options during that time in which they recuperated from the Crossing). However the fact that the Fëanorians' treaty was not attempted in good faith and that both sides meant to ambush the other and take hostages, but Morgoth sent the big guns and won, is a long-standing part of the Silmarillion, as is the fact that Turgon's group assimilated first and fastest into the native Sindar population.
(This, combined with his early removal from the general landscape of Beleriand had the interesting effect of making Gondolin bilingual when Quenya was banned in the world outside: the Noldor, Sindar and "Gray-Noldor" of his domain being already one united people, no special stigma was attached to the language of Aman, regardless of whether or not the news of Thingol's prohibition ever reached them before Aredhel's return. Which in turn had ramifications for the subsequent history of Middle-earth, in that there was a significant portion of those few who escaped the fall of Beleriand who possessed and were at ease with the ancient knowledge, thus aiding in preserving what little did survive and bequeathing it to Númenor.)
Doriath: I wished here to point up several things, one of them being the immense age and power of the forest, something that could be as daunting to Elves as to mortals, (recall that in LOTR:TTT, Legolas — a Wood-elf even — is intimidated somewhat by Fangorn) which is owing to the accellerated growth it receieved from the presence of one of the Powers of growth and healing. (Nan Elmoth's shadow and powers of holding also are attributable to the fact that it was the place where Melian stayed during her visit to Beleriand, and where for long years she and Elu Thingol stood lost in each other's dreams.) Another fact is that it was, indeed, a Long Peace — that we only see it by and large in the moments of crisis, for as the chroniclers of Silm. note, stories are most interesting when things are awful and chaotic. Another point is the parallel between Doriath in the First Age and before, and Lothlórien in the Third Age, both in its political role and function in the War, and in its internal arrangements. It's possible to add to the picture of Doriath at peace by studying the realm governed by those who learned ruling there — that is, the images of Lórien in LOTR:FOTR. (One element of which, it may be recalled, is the coming to flower of an unlikely friendship.)
Ingold: being Finrod's amilessë, or matronym, it's not impossible that he would be best known among his mother's people thus.
Galad(h)riel: that her name, meaning "maiden crowned with a bright garland" & referring to her hair worn braided and pinned round her head to keep it out of her way during sports events, was a gift to her from Celeborn and that in this Sindarin form it was sometimes identified with the word for "trees" by her own people comes from UT. This punning equation would surely have occurred to a natural linguist, and an older sibling wouldn't be too daunted to make a joke out of it no matter how proud this youngest Prince of Finarfin's scions might be…
Celeborn: the silver hair of Galadriel's husband described in LOTR:FOTR, "The Mirror of Galadriel", is a particular trait of Lúthien's father's family, one which he shares with Finrod's mother Eärwen, and comes to him through his grandfather Elmo, the brother of Elwë and Olwë about whom nothing else is recorded. (It is also said in HOME that Nimloth, who married the son of Beren and Lúthien and was also killed by the sons of Fëanor, was Celeborn's niece, the daughter of his brother Galathil.)
When exactly did Galadriel and Celeborn leave Doriath and go East? No precise time-frame is ever given, and many readers assume that they were present during the events of the Geste and afterwards. I think this is implausible for a great many reasons, geopolitical and psychological as well as textual — and there is textual warrant for my supposition: she tells the Fellowship (LOTR:FOTR, "The Mirror of Galadriel") that they came to this part of Middle-earth "long" before the Cities of Beleriand fell. If Galadriel considers it a long time, it probably wasn't just a decade or two. And this makes sense given both the established story of the War, that they would have left during the Long Peace, not while east Beleriand was in chaos and being overrun, and their friends and relatives in danger, but would have gone on a well-equipped, well-prepared, sizeable expedition.
One indication of why (beyond, that is, the lure of distant far off lands and strange peoples which she shared canonically with her eldest sibling) is given in the varied sketches from UT, in which it is noted that they took a company, containing no small number of Noldor followers as well, beyond the mountains because it seemed to her dangerous to keep themselves penned up in the subcontinent, all one's eggs in one basket so to speak, and that they needed to spread out more: a forewarning of danger, vaguer than the ones her brother and cousin received, perhaps borne only of her own strategic understanding — but it's also certainly possible that she too received some form of message of her own while in Doriath. Ulmo was a particular friend of Thingol and Melian, and the Girdle was extended so as to enclose a section of Sirion within its boundaries, for the purpose of maintaining that contact between them. I don't say it did happen, but it could have.
"magic" — if Galadriel, who has had a wide experience of the chaotic realm of Middle-earth crossing three Ages of the world, has a hard time determining in her own mind exactly what mortals are thinking of when they use the word, it's guaranteed to be even less comprehensible to the Valinorean Eldar. (It's also an opportune way for Beren to get a little of his own back in the verbal combat department, needling his friends about things they don't know how to begin to explain.)
"Green Throne" — this outdoor seat of authority reflects old stories of European kings holding court at the foot of oak trees, but Thingol's place of power is at the base of the tree traditionally sacred to the Lady.
"But Thingol marvelled, and he sent
for Dairon the piper, ere he went
and sat upon his mounded seat—
his grassy throne by the grey feet
of the Queen of Beeches, Hirilorn,
upon whose triple piers were borne
the mightiest vault of leaf and bough
from world's beginning until now.
She stood above Esgalduin's shore,
where long slopes fell beside the door,
the guarded gates, the portals stark
of the Thousand echoing Caverns dark."
These lines from LL1, Canto IV, herald Daeron's first betrayal, and Lúthien's first impassioned defense of Beren, as Thingol seeks to discover the reason behind the "spell of silence" that the great musician's jealousy has cast over Doriath. It is not, I think, coincidental that Oromë is mentioned in the lines which follow:
Then Thingol said: 'O Dairon fair,
thou master of all musics rare,
O magic heart and wisdom wild
whose ear nor eye may be beguiled,
what omen doth this silence bear
What horn afar upon the air,
what summons do the woods await
Mayhap the Lord Tavros from his gate
and tree-propped halls, the forest god
rides his wild stallion golden-shod
amid the trumpets' tempest loud,
amid his green-clad hunters proud,
leaving his deer and friths divine
and emerald forests? Some faint sign
of his great onset may have come
upon the Western winds, and dumb
the woods now listen for a chase
that here once more shall thundering race
beneath the shade of mortal trees.
Would it were so! The Lands of Ease
hath Tavros left not many an age,
since Morgoth evil wars did wage,
since ruin fell upon the North
and the Gnomes unhappy wandered forth.
But if not he, who comes or what?'
And Dairon answered: 'He cometh not
No feet divine shall leave that shore,
where the Shadowy Seas' last surges roar,
till many things be come to pass,
and many evils wrought. Alas
the guest is here. The woods are still,
but wait not; for a marvel chill
them holds at the strange deeds they see,
but kings see not — though queens, maybe,
may guess, and maidens, maybe know.
Where one went lonely two now go!"
Is it a coincidence that Thingol happens to wonder if it is Oromë's return which has caused this hush over the land — or that when he learns of a trespasser, demands,
"How walks he free
within my woods amid my folk,
a stranger to both beech and oak?"
— when elsewhere these particular trees are named as Beren's comrades? It would take a much longer space than this to go into all the tree-symbolism, mythic archetypes and stories of Oak-Heroes and Kings of Summer and Winter that seem to play beneath the surface here.
Melian: her innate power, and her adventurous and flamboyant nature are to be found in the source texts for Silm., in greater detail than in the published edition. In "The Tale of Tinúviel" (LT2), an Elf who knew her answers the question of what she was like in the following words:
'Slender, and very dark of hair,' said Vëannë, 'and her skin was white and pale, but her eyes shone and seemed deep, and she was clad in filmy garments most lovely yet of black, jet-spangled and girt with silver. If ever she sang, or if she danced, dreams and slumbers passed over your head and made it heavy
'…but now the song of Gwendeling's nightingales was the most beautiful music that Tinwelint had ever heard, and he strayed aside for a moment, as he thought, from the host, seeking in the dark trees whence it might come. And it is said that it was not a moment he hearkened, but many years, and vainly his people sought him, until at length they followed Oromë and were born upon Tol Eressëa far away, and he saw them never again. Yet after a while as it seemed to him he came upon Gwendeling lying in a bed of leaves gazing at the stars above her and hearkening also to her birds. Now Tinwelint steping softly stooped and looked upon her, thinking, "Lo, here is a fairer being even than the most beautiful of my folk" — for indeed Gwendeling was not elf or woman but of the children of the Gods; and bending further to touch a tress of her hair he snapped a twig with his foot. Then Gwendeling was up and away laughing just softly, sometimes singing distantly or dancing ever just before him, till a swoon of fragrant slumbers fell upon him and he fell face downward neath the trees and slept a very great while.
'Now when he awoke he thought
no more of his people…but desired only to see the twilight-lady; but she was not far, for she had remained nigh at hand and watched over him. More
of their story I know not, O Eriol, save that in the end she became his wife…"
"She dwelt in the gardens of Lórien, and among all his fair folk there were none more beautiful than she, nor more wise, nor more skilled in songs of magic and enchantment. It is told that the Gods would leave their business, and the birds of Valinor their mirth, that the bells of Valmar were silent, and the fountains ceased to flow, when at the mingling of the light Melian sang in the gardens of the God of dreams. Nightingales went always with her, and she taught them their song. She loved deep shadow, but she was akin, before the World was made, unto Yavanna, and often strayed from Valinor on long journey into the Higher Lands, and there she filled the silence of the dawning earth with her voice and with the voices of her birds.
Thingol heard the song of the nightingales of Melian and a spell was laid upon him, and he forsook his folk, and was lost…" (HOME:LR, "Quenta Silmarillion.")
So we have an adventurous, independent, powerful-yet-mischievous demigoddess who wanders the dark corners of the world on her own until she meets the love of her Immortal life, the young chief of a primitive, newborn people, and goes off to tame a savage and dangerous land with him by her side… and doesn't know how to cope when their daughter takes after her parents. (I particularly like the image of Melian like a gypsy Queen, clad in sparkly transparent black dancing outfits, and the attendance of singing birds is an old Celtic attribute of divinity — Aengus is the most famous of the Celtic god-heroes, but there are others as well.)
She's a fascinating character, who like most epic figures raises more questions than are or can be ever answered, but it's intriguing to think about them. —What was she supposed to do, in Middle-earth, and what might have happened if she hadn't been so ambivalent about her daughter's destiny? (In one of the earliest rescensions, the second betrayal is not simply by Daeron (who is still her brother at this time) but partly accidental — Lúthien is trying to get her mother to help by pleading with Thingol to get an army together, after being told of Beren's captivity, and in one version she does help, but in the other Melian says — "No help wilt
thou get therein of me, little one, for even if magic and destiny should bring thee safe out of that foolhardiness, yet should many and great things
come thereof, and on some many sorrows, and my rede is that thou tell never thy father of thy desire" — just as the latter happens to be coming into the room, and says — Tell him what?
Which makes things so much worse that she wishes she'd never even talked to her mother; but — does Melian say this by accident, really, or not? And does she counsel Lúthien not to speak about it as advice to give up, or to do it on her own? All along, her role is strangely ambiguous — or is it? Your only daughter wants to go off and challenge your mortal enemy, the most powerful ruler in the known world, against whose defenses Elven armies have come to ruin, on behalf of someone who isn't going to stick around in this life or the next, and she wants your help to do it, and to take her side against your husband, and there are already strains in your relationship because of the situation …but on the other hand, there is your nature, your calling, the task you took up Ages ago to guard the Land, and the fact that by birth and training your daughter has a right to the name you gave her, Sorceress —
Some days it doesn't pay to get up in the morning, as the saying goes.
Daeron: His status as greatest of the three greatest musicians of the Eldar is found in the first Lay fragment, Canto III:
"…and when the stars began to shine,
unseen but near a piping woke,
and in the branches of an oak,
or seated on the beech-leaves brown,
Dairon the dark with ferny crown
played with bewildering wizard's art
music for breaking of the heart.
Such players there have only been
thrice in all Elfinesse, I ween:
Tinfang Gelion who still the moon
enchants on summer nights of June
and kindles the pale firstling star;
and he who harps upon the far
forgotten beaches and dark shores
where western foam forever roars,
Maglor, whose voice is like the sea;
and Dairon, mightiest of the three."
Maglor being of course the second of Fëanor's sons; I don't know anything about Tinfang Gelion (also known sometimes as Tinfang Warble) — neither ethnicity, place of origin, nor gender, nor even preferred instrument (though "Warble" would indicate vocalist primarily) — who always appears as one of the three foremost but who seems to have been lucky enough not to have gotten famous for anything else in history. (The status of Daeron and Tinfang in fact predates the inclusion (or final name) of Maglor, going back to the Tale of Tinúviel.)
"absent friends" — in our continuum this is a traditional toast made in honor of dead comrades among military veterans; I employed this particular phrasing both because it is a memorable one and ambiguous in its unsentimentality (hence its appeal) and in hopes that the double appropriateness of it stemming from this association might possibly work its way into the reader's awareness, consciously or not; appropriate in this story, because the one who has occasioned it is also a casualty of the War, though unbeknownst to those who recall her overseas.
Elemmirë: a Vanyar Elf renowned for "The Lament for the Two Trees," about whom no more is known because this composer is evidently so famous as to be a household name in Valinor — and although the name endings aren't a 100% indicator of gender, known trends make it probable that the author of the "Aldudénië" is female, given the terminal -ë; "Elemmirë" (star-jewel) is also the name of an Arda constellation or first-magnitude astral body.
Chronology of the Geste:
(taken from the Silmarillion, the Lay of Leithian, and the Grey Annals)
- The Dagor Bragollach takes place at midwinter, winding down somewhat in spring of '56. Of the lords of the northlands, Fingolfin, Hador Lórindol, Angrod, Aegnor and Bregolas are all killed, with massive allied casualties and loss of territory. Finrod saved by Barahir, joined by Orodreth, with Celegorm, Curufin, Celebrimbor, and surviving followers driven from Aglon and Himlad, regrouping in Nargothrond.
- Tol Sirion lost. (The Haladin protect Doriath and Húrin and Huor are separated from their cousins, then rescued and taken to Gondolin by the Eagles.) Subsequently the situation in Dorthonion worsens; Lady Emeldir takes surviving civilians westward in search of safety — no exact time frame given.
- (Húrin and Huor are given special
conduct to leave Gondolin and return home to Hithlum via Eagle.)
- Sauron comes to settle the rebels in person. Gorlim captured; Barahir and the other Outlaws killed. Beren continues his personal war alone.
- (Morgoth attacks Eithel Sirion, Húrin's father Galdor killed there. Cirdan brings a fleet to Fingon's rescue.)
- (Easterlings arrive en masse in East Beleriand, ally with Maedhros, Maglor and Caranthir.)
- Beginning quarter, during winter, Beren leaves Dorthonion, crosses the dead zone and enters Doriath, taking up residence in the northeastern quadrant of Neldoreth. (Also in the early part of the year, in Dor-lomin, Húrin marries Beren's cousin Morwen.)
Around midsummer Beren sees Lúthien for the first time and is smitten.
(Towards the end of the year, Túrin is born in Dor-lomin.)
Through autumn and winter Beren haunts Neldoreth, occasionally catching sight or sound of Lúthien, but unable to approach or talk to her.
- At midwinter Beren sees Lúthien celebrating in the snow.
Spring arrives, and the "spell of silence" on Beren is broken. Through the next few months their relationship develops, overwatched unknown to them by Daeron.
Around midsummer Daeron betrays them to Thingol. Beren is assigned the Quest and departs westward for Nargothrond. Lúthien mourns at home and gives her family the silent treatment.
Early autumn Beren arrives Nargothrond, the coup takes place, and "on an evening of autumn" Beren, Finrod, Edrahil and the other nine leave the City in the divided possession of Orodreth and the sons of Fëanor.
After indefinite days of travel northward, they are picked up at the border of Anfauglith and taken back to Tol Sirion by Sauron's patrols. Duel, defeat and imprisonment.
Simultaneously in Doriath, by psychic means, Lúthien discovers the truth and plans to attempt a rescue. Betrayed to her father again by Daeron and imprisoned in Hirilorn for indefinite days before escaping. Arriving environs Nargothrond is intercepted and taken hostage by Celegorm. Escapes with Huan after indefinite days imprisoned there. Arrives Tol Sirion late autumn/early winter.
Joint battle and defeat of Sauron, rescue of Beren and other Elvish slaves employed at Tol Sirion. Burial of Finrod there. Ex-thralls travel to Nargothrond with Huan, while Beren and Lúthien wander around for an indefinite while sightseeing and arguing about what to do next, heading generally towards Neldoreth.
In Nargothrond, counter-revolution results in the eviction of the sons of Fëanor. Their eastward route between Nan Dungortheb and Doriath intersects with Beren and Lúthien's trail north of Brethil. Attempted shooting of Lúthien, Beren shot, Huan defects to their side. The following day after Beren's healing they begin a debate/journey back to Doriath, taking an unspecified number of days.
Meanwhile in Doriath proper, Thingol receives Celegorm's "offer of alliance" and responds with an army, but en route is obliged to detour to cope with an invasion of Orcs, and after taking care of that, sends Beleg in to Nargothrond to infiltrate and gather intelligence. Learning that Lúthien is gone who-knows-where, and that the sons of Fëanor have been sent packing, he gives up on that attempt and returns to Menegroth to plan new rescue efforts. No exact timeline for these events.
Winter, early a.m. Beren sneaks off on Curufin's horse and rides back west and north to the Anfauglith.
Later same day Lúthien convinces Huan to take her along, they detour briefly south to Tol Sirion, pick
up Huan's stashed trophies and go north to catch up to Beren at the border of noman's-land at nightfall. (Could have been not that same day but the next — but maybe not, given the fact that the steeds were respectively a proto-meara and an Immortal.) Huan leaves to go talk to Thorondor and other lawful animal species, after scolding Beren. That night Lúthien transforms them, at midnight they begin the crossing of the burnt plain.
About two days travel broken by rest periods to get to the Gates of Angband (midnight through the following day and night, arriving at the foothills of Thangorodrim the next morning, and the road that led through the rough tailings to the Gate where they rest through the afternoon before continuing down it to arrive at the Gates by evening) followed by the attempted infiltration of Angband and The Duel, followed by the removal of the gem, the messed-up escape plan, Beren's maiming, and the extraction from before the Gates by Thorondor, Gwaihir and Landroval, with evacuation to the starting point in northern Doriath where Huan is waiting.
- Through the end of winter Beren is comatose, cared for by Lúthien and Huan. Meanwhile Carcharoth is rampaging madly around the northeast, as much a menace to Morgoth's own forces as to anyone else, and Thingol has sent an embassy to demand damages and assistance in finding Lúthien from Himring but the emissaries are intercepted and slaughtered by the Wolf, with only Mablung surviving the attack.
Spring arrives, Beren recovers consciousness but not hope. Return to Menegroth end of spring/beginning of summer. The hunt of the Wolf. Beren & Huan killed.
- Lúthien dies, no season of year given, and goes to Mandos to appeal on Beren's behalf.
- Maedhros decides he could certainly do a better job than they managed and starts planning his own invasion of Angband.
- Beren & Lúthien return to Middle-earth, no season of year given, and after an unspecified time leave Menegroth, wander for a while, and end up in Ossiriand. Sometime in the next five years Dior is born.
Sulilotë: "windflower;" Quenya, constructed name, after the fashion of Ninquelotë.
Finrod's brothers refer in their self-critical remarks to the statements in Silm. that they were eager to be off and among the first to step forward at Fëanor's behest — not surprising, if they were close friends to his sons and presumably close in temperment as well.
Finrod on the other hand is invoking the family issues of the preceding generation as a negative model and reproach, reminding them of the destructive consequences of their uncles' sibling rivalry for their grandfather's attention and approval — not a comparison which would be at all welcome, particularly given their centuries'-long role as elder guardians of mortals.
His attempt to console Aegnor and the latter's response connect with the matter of the "Athrabeth," Aegnor being no more willing, in this envisioning, to accept such a tenuous hope than his true-love was.
Not enough consideration has been given, it seems to me, to the resulting familial stresses that would follow from the decree of banishment that has been discussed in Act III, whereby the Noldor refused to allow those who had been captured by Morgoth to return, because of the likelihood that some (or all) of them had been turned and were released only under a compulsion. I also wanted to point up the complications of interrelated Great Houses — and their interrelated followings; a historical fact in our earth, and equally so in Arda.
Time problem: the discussion of how time is measured and defined, and even perceivable, has been a hotly-debated philosophical as well as scientific issue for as long as people have been watching the stars and noting the regularity — and variation — of their movements. The need to abstract one' self from assumptions, to consider scientifically what is taken for granted (that is, the present standards of measurement, both on a small and a large scale) and the difficulties thereof are something I have personally experienced when trying to reassure high-school students as to the mystic-non-significance of "Y2K" and the reasons for not believing in it: one tool I used was an old Chinese New Year card made by Hallmark, which did very concretely what chalkboard diagrams of the solar system had not succeeded in doing — conveying the fact that a "year" is a segment of time whose start and stop are determined by people, not the Universe itself, and when we choose to do so entirely arbitrary and variable.
Crossings of Teiglin: the place where the southern road which leads from Tol Sirion towards Nargothrond traverses the river Teiglin; this is the particular location the Haladin were specifically charged to guard against Enemy incursions as the "rent" for Brethil forest by King Thingol — which at the time of its granting was hardly a heavy challenge (or foreseeably so), given the amount of allied traffic that must have traveled this main north-south corridor between the domains of the Noldor, the Fortress standing squarely athwart that road, and the Leaguer serving to maintain a perimeter even farther north. For most of the Long Peace it must have been a very busy locale, as well as a slightly inconveniently-splashy one in times of heavy traffic, given that it was after all a ford.
"not very biddable" — Maiwë is referring here to their shared Valinorean past, and one of Melkor's main arguments in seducing the Noldor to strife and rebellion: the idea that Men, according to the will of the Valar, "might come and supplant them in the realms of Middle-earth, for the Valar saw that they might more easily sway this short-lived and weaker race, defrauding the Elves of the inheritance of Ilúvatar. Small truth was there in this, and little have the Valar ever prevailed to sway the wills of Men, but many of the Noldor believed, or half believed, the evil words." (Silm., "Of the Silmarils.") It is also noted rather dryly earlier in the same passage by the chronicler that "little he [that is, Melkor] knew yet concerning Men, for engrossed with his own thought in the Music he had paid small heed to the Third Theme…" — an oversight which would cost him dearly, but which he would swiftly move to rectify, with not insignificant success.
bastard: one important theme in this act (as in the Silmarillion itself) is that of communication — what are the basic assumptions, cultural contexts, and inherent traits that shape our understanding, so that language itself can become an obstacle, as well as what potential lies in overcoming such barriers. A thoughtless (to most of us, at least) insult serves as one way of illustrating the vast gulfs of understanding not simply between Men and Elves, but between the cultures which have been separated now for almost half-a-millenium, and whose experiences have diverged so radically.
Since Elves (with the world-shattering exception of Finwë) bond with a single partner, and conception follows from a voluntary act of the parents' will, bastardy cannot be an Elven concept in its origin; there is no way for it to enter the vocabulary except through contact with mortals, as the observation of nature would only yield the fact that different kinds of creatures follow different rules for social organization, including those concerning mating. Not until encountering sentients so similar in outward appearance and yet so different on very fundamental levels would, it is reasonable to assume, such a thing even occur to the Eldar — and, it is equally reasonable to deduce, be very troubling to think about. (Angrod and Aegnor, having been in close contact with Men for so long, understand the word superficially at least, enough to use the insult with meaningful intent.)
Nerdanel, however, being as wise, is likely to cut right through the social confusion following the faux-pas of the unmeant corrolary of such an insult (i.e., her presumed infidelity) and to see the crucial facts of such a psychic difference, and their implications for recent events.
"a good thing" — Nerdanel's somewhat disturbing remarks (since encompassed in them is the fact of his death) follow naturally enough from the view that it is better to suffer wrongs than to do them.
Beren's amusement at their eviction from the Powers' discussion refers both to Beren's own experiences and those of House Finarfin not simply in Nargothrond but also in Doriath previously.
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