75. Notes - part IV
Miriel's death indeed preceded the release of Melkor, q.v. Silm., "Of Fëanor," where it is stated that while Indis' sons were still growing up, Melkor came up for parole and was released from Mandos after his case was considered.
The Sea-Mew's reaction would likely be typical of Elves to Lúthien's imprisonment, given its anomalous character and the amply attested independence of the Eldar both in Aman and in Beleriand, and not merely the result of youthful empathy.
"defensive perimeter" — this dark-humoured remark is an allusion both to Leaguer and to the Guarded Plain protecting Nargothrond, where Beren was observed and arrested on his approach.
Again, more invocation of Montague-Capulet interactions in this section.
"minion" — a reference of course to their disguising themselves as Orcs.
The problem of interior mental attitude and moral guilt is not an abstract question, nor a matter of airy metaphysical speculation, as I have heard declared in college ethics classes, but a very real and material one: it is the difference between manslaughter and Murder One, and between different classes of assault even when no death results, and even when no assault is successfully carried through — with vastly different sentences corresponding to each.
And no, I don't think that there would be any Hollywood moment for Maiwë here, no "my hero!" exclamation and dazzlement overwhelming all rational doubts and self-interest at an act of violence undertaken (at least in part) on her behalf, given who she is, the culture she comes from, and what happened to her.
The interaction between Nerdanel and the Fëanorian lords reflects the fact that, as members of her husband's following, they would of course have been known to her before the rebellion, and in fact answerable to her as Lady of the House before the couple's separation.
"damnéd archers" — the problem of archers taking all the fun out of battle, so to speak, and levelling to a much greater extent the playing field, so that mere physical brawn and swordsmanship (or spearmanship) and courage no longer were the only elements (along with Fate) which determined the outcome of a battle, goes back at least to the Iliad and probably earlier. (This is the same problem which the samurai found themselves confronting in the Renaissance, leading to the outlawing of firearms at a time when artillery and ballistics were being refined in Europe; this equalizing effect can be seen demonstrated in Kurosawa's incomparable epic The Seven Samurai, where a primitive musket is employed against a ravaging warlord's forces with demoralizing results, despite its inefficiency.)
chess: Maiwë's query reflects the fact that I think it highly unlikely that chess originated in Valinor (though remotely possible.) Personally I suspect it to have been originally a Dwarvish invention, and modified first by the Elves and subsequently by mortals to add new elements of challenge (or alternately to reflect reality more closely.) It is in my opinion equally probable that it was first introduced to Doriath by the Dwarven architects and artisans who worked there, and from there brought to the other Noldor realms via the Finarfinions, as that it might have been "discovered" by Finrod first while working with the Dwarves on Nargothrond and thereby
introduced to his cousins — who might have replaced archers with cavalry to give it a shape more familiar to us at present. Or it could just be that the tafl style version, with all players equal in ability, as if on foot and armed only with hand weapons, was the original and the elaborations and specializations we are used to might be the later developments of the game.
Melkor's parole: Nienna (who was at that point thought of as the sister of Manwë and Melkor, not of Namo and Irmo) taking his part is mentioned in HOME:LR, "Quenta Silmarillion", as is the fact that Tulkas and Ulmo didn't trust him despite his display of benevolent reform, Tulkas clenching his fists whenever the pardoned rebel went by.
Before Cirdan was introduced into the mythos (or rather, his existence uncovered by the historian), Finrod (then known in the texts as Inglor, if you weren't confused enough already) was in fact posited as King and overlord of the coastal Teler as well as of Nargothrond, so his father's question is not entirely unwarranted, nor the idea implausible. ("The Quenta," HOME:Shaping). In the absence of a strong leader of their own, the folk of the Havens might well have adopted this outgoing, efficient young kinsman from the West who helped them build up their defenses and improve their shipyards, just as many of the Elves of Beleriand made his cousin Turgon their lord.
That there was an expression of familial rivalries on a very low-key level between the branches of the House of Finwë, in the unusual extent of each family, is entirely my own suggestion; the HOME timelines indicate a wide spacing of the children of Finarfin and Eärwen, (some sixty-odd years overall, but whether these are Valinorean years, which differ from Sun-years rather in the way that a "year" is not the same on every planet, or have already been converted to current dates, I'm still not sure), but I have not found any corresponding dates for the Feanorions or Fingolfinions to verify this conjecture. It isn't entirely improbable, though, I think.
That having more children than one's sibling would be understood more in the nature of being a prolific artist — and a collaborative one, at that — rather than in any notion of male sexual prowess, comes from HOME:Morgoth's Ring, "Laws & Customs" where it's made clear that according to Elven thought, having children is one among many skills and talents, like painting, sculpture, writing, fibre arts, music, and so forth; that it's one complete process, throughout which both parents are fully involved (if in different ways) and that the father's part doesn't begin and end in bed, nor the mother's part begin in pregnancy (take that, Aristotle!) and that one has no business indulging in the begetting if one doesn't plan to stick around for the childrearing part. Though like all analogies this is a limited one, because the Elvish sages also believed that while parents contribute psychic energy to the developing offspring (one reason why fathers need to be around, literally lending psychological support) the newcomer is not in any way "part of" the parents' souls, but a unique and different person, independent of others, not a mere extension of the family, certainly not property — even, or especially, in the case of those who are reincarnated.
The contrasts between present-day chess and tafl are used here, as in Act III, to make a point, but now the emphasis is slightly different, not on the fact of the unequal contest and difficulty as a metaphor for the struggles against the Enemy in Beleriand, and specifically equating Finrod to the namesake kingstone, but instead more strongly on the contrasting ways in which the two games are won or lost.
The complex and dynamic questions of how life shapes language shapes thought shapes sentient life are barely beginning to be systematically explored in a dispassionate way (i.e., not to "prove" cultural superiorities) by cognitive science researchers uniquely suited, by virtue of their own
multilinguality, to ask the right questions.
Finrod's kingdom was not limited in its height to merely the capitol and its environs. All those lands held in vassalty by his brothers, and in turn let by them to their own lieges, belong to him as surely as the Shire belongs to Gondor. Thus the whole of the Sirion Valley and the northern border up to the Pass of Aglon is his, forming an L-shape or shallow "C" around Doriath, leaving the east side to the apathetic rule of House Fëanor and the largely uninhabited south uncertain as to what alliegiance, if any, was acknowledged by its nomadic inhabitants. (It also encircled, though unawares, the compact realm of his cousin, Turgon, along with the dead zone of Nan Dungortheb between Doriath and Dorthonion.)
The political importance was even greater, as was the "sphere of influence," because of the fact that Finrod alone communicated with all the Free Peoples of Beleriand, serving as the bridge between the factions of his family in the northeast and northwest, with the Teler of the seacoast and the Sindar of Doriath, (and safeguarding the renewed contact previously broken by Morgoth between them), with the wandering tribes of the Lindar in the East, and with those who were entirely Other as well, the Dwarf-Lords and mortals. Nargothrond controlled the main north-south traffic corridor, the Sirion valley, and also had what no other Noldor house had — a safe, quick, route east and west through Doriath, and a vast source of free information through Elu's messengers. No other Elven King had the same level of access to places and news, not because of pre-eminence of birth or military power, but because of interest and involvement — no one else was a xenophile, to put it another way. Family connections only get you so far, and nowhere at all with people who aren't related to you in any degree. The rapid disintegration of what remains of organized resistance in Beleriand after Finrod's exile cannot all be ascribed to the military might of the Dark Lord, nor should it be facilely ascribed to the curse of the Silmarils, as if dooms operate in a vacuum, rather than working on, and through, the available materials.
Elu's counselor refers both to the sons of Finarfin being kicked out over the Kinslaying revelation, and the later situation with the Haladin described in Act II:III, as well as other unknown arguments which may safely be presumed to have taken place over the centuries on matters from politics to advanced theology, given the respective parties involved.
Regarding Finrod correcting himself before speaking of Glaurung by kind: somewhat patronizingly, perhaps, but also considerately, he doesn't assume that people here are familiar with what he's talking about that is outside of their direct experience.
The Warden of Aglon's words echo Caranthir's to Angrod and Aegnor:
But Caranthir, who loved not the sons of Finarfin, and was the harshest of the brothers and most quick to anger, cried aloud: 'Yea more! Let not the sons of Finarfin run highter and thither with their tales to this Dark Elf in his caves! Who made them our spokesmen to deal with him? And though they be indeed come to Beleriand, let them not so swiftly forget that their father is a lord of the Noldor, though their mother be of other kin.' (Silm., "Of the Return of the Noldor")
"birdcage" — this jibe invokes the speech of Fëanor in the great square of Tirion, where with flaming torches in hand he proclaims, as recorded in a fragmentary poem, where his hot words are forebodingly uttered against the background image of the frightened Sea-elves wandering on the beaches or huddled on the ships, calling for each other and wondering what catastrophe has darkened their world:
"…the Gods' jealousy, · who guard us here
to serve them, sing to them · in our sweet cages,
to contrive them gems · and jewelled trinkets,
their leisure to please · with our loveliness,
while they waste and squander · work of ages,
nor can Morgoth master · in their mansions sitting
at endless councils. · Now come ye all,
who have courage and hope! · My call hearken
to flight, to freedom · in far places!"
(LB, "The Flight of the Noldoli From Valinor")
along with the fact that Valmar, the city of the Vanyar, was known for its golden architecture and its many bells whose notes filled the air around it.
Aglon's slightly ribald remark provoking the Barad Nimras comment in return refers to the statements in Silm. "Of Beleriand and its Realms," about the Enemy never invading from the Sea. This is, in retrospect, obvious given the antipathy between the Powers of Water and Morgoth, but of course hindsight is always perfect, and neglect of defenses based on assumptions a dangerous thing.
yearsick: literal translation of Engwar, "the sickly ones", an epithet conferred by the Eldar on mortals, refers to sickness caused by the passing of time, rather than pestilence or injury.
"twilight" — harking back to her people's time on Tol Eressëa, of which it is said, "There the Teler abode as they wished under the stars of heaven, and yet within sight of Aman and the deathless shore; and by that long sojourn apart in the Lonely Isle was caused the sundering of their speech from that of the Vanyar and the Noldor," (Silm., "Of Eldamar") and in another rescension, "Ossë followed them, and when they were come near to their journey's end he called to them; and they begged Ulmo to halt for a while, so that they might take leave of their friend and look their last upon the sky of stars. For the light of the Trees, that filtered through the passes of the hills, filled them with awe." (HOME:LR, "Quenta Silmarillion".)
"quarter Noldor" — this is in fact the case, as Finarfin is half Vanyar, and Eärwen presumably entirely of Teler descent.
the Ex-Thrall's story. it's extremely possible that there were female POWs at Tol Sirion, given that Morgoth was an equal-oportunity enslaver, and that the bastions of the Noldor were not merely forward military base camps, but fortified installations of long-standing, like the Roman castrae, or medieval castles. Given what it says about Elvish gender roles in "Laws and Customs" (HOME:Morgoth's Ring), she would not have been impossible nor even implausible, far less so than the very real aristocratic women who went into the field in WWI driving ambulances, and were occasionally casualties there. (This is reflected in the fictional account of the narrator's lost, enigmatic mother in Brideshead Revisited; but that such drivers were not only courageous but also known at home for being somewhat reckless of speed limits, and sometimes came back from the War with decorated, titled husbands met in such chaotic circumstances, comes firsthand from the non-fiction pages of a crumbling 1919 newspaper in my personal possession.)
"two years" — to cross-reference, it will be recalled that this is when the situation in Dorthonion becomes untenable, and the extraordinarly-dangerous step of removing surviving civilian population willing to leave across that now-enemy-held area, through the mountains, is undertaken by their Lady.
Little Ease (& other horrors): her ordeal is not as "modern" as it seems, in large part because Tolkien himself anticipated many of the horrors of the 20th century years before they became fact, which in turn reflects the fact that the totalitarian excesses of the last century were but the outgrowth of those which preceded them, the police state well-known throughout 19th and 18th century Europe, the labour camps of Siberia merely continuing the traditions of the Czarist regime, the actual and virtual slavery of disenfranchised laborers, whose protests put down with such violence on the continent resulted in so many emigrations to the New World, and the infamously-hellish working conditions of mill and factory which have only moved to places where there is less regulation and oversight (or enforcement) these days. Angband's work environment is described in LL1, Cantos XII-XIII:
"They woke, and felt the trembling sound,
the beating echo far underground
shake beneath them, the rumour vast
of Morgoth's forges
…the thunderous forges' rumours grew,
a burning wind there roaring blew
foul vapours up from gaping holes.
Huge shapes there stood like carven trolls
enormous hewn of blasted rock
to forms that mortal likeness mock;
monstrous and menacing, entombed,
at every turn they silent loomed
in fitful glares that leaped and died.
There hammers clanged, and tongues there cried
with sound like smitten stone; there wailed
faint from far under, called and failed
amid the iron clink of chain
voices of captives put to pain."
And of course the systematic employment of brutality to control one's fellow-sentients, and by those who by innate temperment and/or bad upbringing find it an enjoyable diversion, is at least as old as recorded history. The confinement of political prisoners in an enclosure too small to lie down or stand up in was known to the jailers of Elizabethan England as "Little Ease," and the "divide and conquer" method of dealing with resistance well-known to the Romans. However Orwellian it might seem, this sequence is actually inspired more by Dante and the sources from antiquity that he drew on (along with the Lay itself, obviously.)
How bad could it have been? There is a tendency among fans to mistake reticence for naivete on the part of Tolkien, (which does not seem to take into account the facts of the Great War, for one thing) based on contemporary decades' explicitness in describing fictional torture and atrocity, often with a tone which indicates relish rather than real horror on the part of the authors. (Eddings, Jordan, Goodkind all leaping to mind.) But in one of the rescensions of the Fall of Nargothrond, when the dying Gelmir commands Túrin, he orders him to go and rescue Finduilas if he can — or kill her, if he cannot. Gelmir knows what he's talking about — if he, a veteran of four centuries' worth of warfare and the Crossing of the Ice, thinks the Halls of Mandos are a better alternative to surviving as a thrall, we can be sure that it was every bit as bad as anything described by Solzhenitzyn or other survivors — and worse: after all, the thugs of 20th century labour camps and prisons were not supervised by telepathic Darkside overlords. The following description of Húrin's "softening-up" in Angband dates from around 1926:
Said the dread Lord of Hell: · 'Dauntless Húrin,
stout steel-handed, · stands before me
yet quick a captive, · as a coward might be!
Then knows he my name, · or needs be told
what hope he has · in the halls of iron?
The bale most bitter, · Balrogs' torment?
Then Húrin answered, · Hithlum's chieftain—
his shining eyes · with sheen of fire
in wrath were reddened: · 'O ruinous one,
by fear unfettered · I have fought thee long,
nor dread thee now, nor thy demon slaves,
fiends and phantoms, · thou foe of Gods!'
His dark tresses, · drenched and tangled,
that fell o'er his face · he flung backward,
in the eye he looked · of the evil Lord—
since that day of dread · to dare his glance
has no mortal Man · had might of soul.
There the mind of Húrin · in a mist of dark
'neath gaze unfathomed · groped and foundered,
yet his heart yielded not · nor his haughty pride.
But Lungorthin · Lord of Balrogs
on the mouth smote him, · and Morgoth smiled:
'Nay, fear when thou feelest, · when the flames lick thee
and the whistling whips · thy white body
and wilting flesh · weal and torture!'
Then hung they helpless · Húrin dauntless
in chains by fell · enchantments forged
that with fiery anguish his flesh devoured
yet loosed not lips · locked in silence
to pray for pity. · Thus prisoned saw he
on the sable walls · the sultry glare
of far-off fires fiercely burning
down deep corridors · and dark archways
in the blind abysses · of those bottomless halls;
there with mourning mingled · mighty tumult
the throb and thunder of the thudding forges'
brazen clangour; · belched and spouted
flaming furnaces; · there faces sad
through the gloom glided as the gloating Orcs
their captives herded · under cruel lashes.
Many a hopeless glance · on Húrin fell,
for his tearless torment · many tears were spilled.
This scene — with the emphasis of helplessness and anticipation
being employed as simultaneously the stripped, brutalized Edain leader is set up for an example to the other prisoners (mostly Elven) and their hopeless state kept in front of him to make sure that he knows there is no way out — and the following, wherein Morgoth plays good-cop next, offering Húrin not only healing from from his burns and flogging, but a position of power in his armies—
"I am a mild master · who remembers well
his servants' deeds. · A sword of terror
thy hand should hold, · and a high lordship
as Bauglir's champion, · chief of Balrogs…"
—if he will only betray Gondolin's King to him, follows classic past and present interrogation tactics.
Add to that the fact that those Elves on whom the Dark Lord expended direct effort to break, remained pyschically broken thereafter, and — yeah, it would have been that bad. (Think of the mindflaying power of the Great Eye in LOTR.) The worst accounts of Primary World abuse always involve a level of consent, of the tyrant (small scale or large scale) forcing the victim to cooperate in their own degradation, and particularly by betraying companions, which both is the political end in itself, a way of maintaining the hold over the mind in absentia — and just plain fun for the kind of person who willingly gets involved in these activities. And yes, they're real, and they're not few, and they're far scarier than the hyped-up, eroticized serial killers of popular fiction, and they're not limited to any nationality or chronological period. You've probably encountered them in school already. All they need is organizers willing to use them against their enemies, and you have the Mob, the classic "police state" — or Angband.
Nerdanel's remark about hounds loving to sing reflects both Primary and Arda traditions; the lore of hunters talks of the sweet voices of the pack, and having a clear and beautiful call (as such things are reckoned) is a desirable trait in a hunting hound — but it is also present in the etymology of Huan's name (which is indeed a title as well — he is The Dog, like a Scots laird's honorific) from the root "khug" meaning to bark or to bay. (It also happens to be the simple truth, that it's canine nature to make loud noises.)
Aulë's reluctance to go to war is described here
"Oromë tarried a while among the Quendi, and then swiftly he rode back over land and sea to Valinor and brought the tidings back to Valmar; and he spoke of the shadows that troubled Cuiviénen. Then the Valar rejoiced, and yet they were in doubt amid their joy; and they debated long what counsel it were best to take for the guarding of the Quendi from the shadow of Melkor. But Oromë returned at once to Middle-earth and abode with the Elves.
Manwë sat long in thought upon Taniquetil, and he sought the counsel of Ilúvatar. And coming then down to Valmar he summoned the Valar to the Ring of Doom, and thither came even Ulmo from the Outer Sea.
Then Manwë said to the Valar: 'This is the counsel of Ilúvatar in my heart: that we should take up again the mastery of Arda, at whatsoever cost, and deliver the Quendi from the shadow of Melkor.' Then Tulkas was glad; but Aulë was grieved, foreboding the hurts of the world that must come of that strife…" (Silmarillion, "Of the Coming of the Elves")
The suggestion that he might have been reluctant to do so for fear that it would harm the unawakened Dwarves follows naturally from the concerns of the Valar in the earlier Ages that their battles might injure or destroy the Children they knew of from the Song, but whose place of Awakening was unknown to them:
In the confusion and the darkness Melkor escaped, though fear fell upon him; for above the roaring of the seas he heard the voice of Manwë as a mighty wind, and the earth trembled beneath the feet of Tulkas. But he came to Utumno ere Tulkas could overtake him; and there he lay hid. And the Valar could not at that time overcome him, for the greater part of their strength was needed to restrain the tumults of the Earth, and to save from ruin all that could be saved of their labour; and afterwards they feared to rend the Earth again, until they knew where the Children of Ilúvatar were dwelling, who were yet to come in a time that was hidden from the Valar. Thus ended the Spring of Arda…"(Silm., "Of the Beginning of Days.")
"And it is said indeed that, even as the Valar made war upon Melkor for the sake of the Quendi, so now for that time they forbore for the sake of the Hildor, the Aftercomers, the younger Children of Ilúvatar. For so grievous had been the hurts of Middle-earth in the war upon Utumno that the Valar feared lest even worse should now befall; whereas the Hildor
should be mortal, and weaker than the Quendi to withstand fear and tumult. Moreover it was not revealed to Manwë where the beginning of Men should be, north, south or east. Therefore the Valar sent forth light, but made strong the land of their dwelling." (Silm., "Of the Sun and Moon.")
The validity of such concerns is shown by looking at the map of Beleriand in conjunction with the passages which follow the first quotation given above — or by comparing the map of Beleriand with that of Third Age Middle-earth.
Ossë: this Maia of the oceans was lured to rebellion against his own lord, Ulmo, by Melkor (for whom the uncontrollable quality of the Sea was a challenge and a threat) but through the good efforts of his wife Uinen and family friend Aulë was redeemed and remained thereafter a passionate defender of law and order (while paradoxically remaining a fan of chaos, responsible for destructive storms) — which lawfulness even more paradoxically brought him into occasional conflict with that lord in a later Age when the situation grew more complex. (Silm., "Valaquenta," & UT.)
Arda Envinyanta: this is what I have termed "the Heresy of Felagund," the belief in an Eschaton in which the Marring will no longer damage the cosmos, which is seen in its fullest expression in the Athrabeth, the "Debate of Finrod and Andreth," but which appears in glimpses elsewhere throughout the Arda mythos. This is the "Second Music" spoken of in the Silmarillion, "Ainulindalë" in which the Children will be co-demiurges of the world with the Ainur, making the Great Song as it should be without discord. It is also there in the later, Second Prophecy of Mandos, when the entire world will grow old and weak enough that Morgoth can break into it again and destroy the Sun and Moon in terrible battle, before being defeated by none other than the mortal Túrin fighting at the side of the Powers, after which, as in the Scandinavian myths of Ragnarók, the world will be remade.
One remarkable implication of all this is the fact that Arda Renewed will not be Arda as it would have been without the Marring, as if Morgoth had never rebelled, any more than it is simply a patched-up version of this present universe. Another is what it says to possibly contradict the Elven certainty that unlike mortals, their lives are limited to this world only, with no hereafter — the Professor's dramatic re-envisioning of an old European folk-belief, which, unexamined, simply declares that the deathless ones of the land and sea, Fair Folk and mermaids, have "no souls." This belief, which is what the Eldar traditionally hold, and which is the meaning of the "sundered fates" and the tragedy of mortal-Elven love (and equally, of Ainur-Elven love), is revealed to mortals in the Athrabeth, a complicated philosophical work set like a Socratic dialogue or Anglo-Saxon debate (but unlike most 20th century philosophy) into a "real-world" context of individuals and problems personal, societal, and metaphysical.
The Athrabeth cannot be understood without considering it in the context of the Geste. It doesn't make sense apart from the full stream of events retold in Silm., neither for its irony nor for its implications. It isn't something tacked on to the mythos, either, as some have declared, but the natural outgrowth of the issues which the Geste, and the other three central stories of Elven-Edain interaction, the Narn, Gondolin, and Earendil, create and embody, but do not examine. They are, after all, stories — there is room for some reflection in them, but not much, without stopping the action dead. But during all those long years before, after, and during the crises which get stories told about them, the characters of the Silmarillion were thinking and talking and writing about what was going on around them and how they were reacting to it. It's just that most of this lore, as we are repeatedly told throughout Silm., of the First Age was lost in the course of the War and subsequent disasters. Athrabeth is one fragment which wasn't.
The setting, which in the context of the Athrabeth only unfolds gradually, and is revealed as the argument progresses, (significant spoilers, I'm afraid) is sometime not long before the Dagor Bragollach, of which coming disaster Finrod has vague premonitions, sharing with his brothers the certainty that containment of Morgoth is not the best strategy, but with no more knowledge than that future warfare is the inevitable result of the present stalemate. And a little while longer ago, one of his younger brothers, Aegnor, fell in love with a noblewoman of the Bëorings' tribe, and wasn't able to deal with it. Knowing that not only was she going to become old and feeble, but also that after she died they would be separated for eternity, he took the classic commitmentphobe's way out and stayed away from her for the rest of her life. The Athrabeth itself is the discussion of mortality, immortality, and Eternity by Finrod and the now-elderly, embittered mortal sage Andreth, wherein and both of them learn surprising things even after all these years about each other's peoples, and Finrod is hit with another vision, in which he starts seeing how these contradictory impressions and beliefs about the universe might actually all fit together and work out ultimately.
It's long, it's complicated, it touches on high-level metaphysical issues that Plato, Aristotle, the Vedas, Anselm of Canterbury, Dame Julian of Norwich, the Talmud and Lao Tzu all wrestled with, to name a few, and taken together with the Second Prophecy and the Second Music, undoes one of the most devastating facts of the Arda mythos, the idea that Elrond and Galadriel and all their people will just cease, as if they had never really mattered at all, except as preparation for human beings, and that this is somehow balanced out, as the Elven sages believed, by their own earthly immortality. It needs to be read in full, not once, and like every serious work of metaphysics I've ever encountered, can't be summed up simply, or understood the same way on each reading.
But a few things stand out from it, which can be easily remarked on (aside from the signal fact that Finrod will shortly die for one of Andreth's nephews aiding and abetting a relationship which he once considered fundamentally ill-advised): that he is willing to consider the worst possibilities — namely, that Evil is ultimately stronger than Good — while rejecting that claim; that he himself is at ease with the thought of his own finiteness, his own ultimate mortality, though grieved for the parting of friendships between their races; that only a "Great Doom" will make a mortal-Elven relationship work (which if you think about it, is really the same as saying that they have to be very unusual people to overcome the obstacles); the unpleasant consideration of those obstacles, not only the ultimate tragedy of separation, but the mundane and wretched problems of one spouse aging, the other not, and the fact that the Eldar don't think it's good to have children when the father is likely to be away or at risk in war, because of the importance of parental, not merely maternal, nuturing in early years; that the Eldar are not willing to risk things any more, and prefer to take the safe route of permanence over the harrowing risks of the future; that both the Firstborn and the Secondborn are meant to teach, enrich, and heal the other.
Thus the counter-arguments of his perturbed compatriots — that Finrod is grasping for everything (as would the Dark-seduced Numenoreans in the Second Age), or that he therefore doesn't regard suffering and destruction as serious in consequence, or that he's being hubristic to claim that he, a mere Elf, has glimpsed what is beyond the ability of even the Valar to know — are for the most part invalidated by the Athrabeth, valid though such objections are against some (or most) Eschatalogical arguments which I have read. The concept of Arda Envinyanta is unfathomable, but it doesn't simply dismiss past traumas as irrelevant compared to future goods, any more than Arda as it is is held up as "the best of all possible worlds." It isn't a wish for personal continuation that underpins Finrod's struggles to formulate his theory, but a conviction of the universal Justice as guiding force in the universe, that ultimately Good is, and cannot be destroyed — as a Greek poet put it, "—if the gods are evil, they are not the gods—" The role of the Followers in recreating the cosmos isn't just an adopted parent's enthusiatic belief in his own protegés, but implicit in the very Themes themselves.
—Whether or not claiming to know better than the gods themselves how the Song goes overall is arrogant, is one of those internal states of mind which can't be judged from outside — but it's a dead certainty it would look that way to most people. It is entirely in keeping, however, with his historical connection to Ulmo (more on that below). —Note, however, that the Powers themselves are depicted in Act IV as singularly blasé about ranting Eldar uttering defiant, radical, irreverent claims (or apparently-defiant, radical, irreverent claims) that others might think impious or blasphemous, which also comes from the Silmarillion and elsewhere. That the Weaver is more worried about damage to her house and tools, and her husband more worried about her being upset, isn't just for humorous effect. —After all, it isn't as though Finrod is doing anything wrong (being annoying doesn't count), like, oh, cutting down trees for no good purpose…
ice: this example of Melkor's earliest efforts to thwart the power of Water in the conceptualization process of the Elements, and his inability to do so, is found in Silm., "Ainulindalë".
myth: Beren and Amarië are referring to the subject matter of Silm., "Of Aule and Yavanna." I think one's attitude towards myths would be rather different if one were personally acquainted with the deities involved in them.
Concerning the arrival of the Edain in Beleriand, incorrectly believing that Aman was somewhere in Middle-earth — the reader may have guessed already what it is that Finrod (vainly, as it will turn out) is trying to keep from coming out about that event.
The only known time wherein Finrod actually loses control to an extent due to anger is the moment of Exile in Nargothrond, where he slams down his crown before the people and challenges any of them to follow him, so these others are my conjecture, containing as this example does elements of personal betrayal, attack, and danger to those under his protection in some degree. This comes from the fact that mere personal hostility is demonstrably not enough to get the eldest Finarfinion to reply in kind, when clarity is lacking, as demonstrated in the circumstances surrounding their temporary exile from Menegroth. Thus the Doriathrin counselor is understandably shocked to witness this outburst coming from Finrod, not Angrod.
Beren speaking of their last words is referring to Finrod's lines in Silm., "…it will be long ere I am seen among the Noldor again; and it may be that we shall not meet a second time in death or life, for the fates of our kindreds are apart" — from which "may" I originally took the conceit of this Act, and the implicit possibility of its alternative, before I knew about the existence of the Athrabeth — but which was followed by, in the version of the Quenta from which CT edited this redaction, the line "Yet perchance even that sorrow in the end shall be healed"— ! (HOME:LR, emphasis mine.)
In the original version of the Silm., as in the Geste itself, the seed of hope, that doubt of the ultimate futility of everything, was always intended to be there: even as Finrod believes himself bound for a long stay in Mandos, the poet of the Lay and chronicler of Doriath who tell of it know that he is already free in Valinor; even as it seems that his friend's love is doomed to be eternally unfulfilled, he affirms that tenuous certainty which their unhappy kindred rejected in Athrabeth.This time around, the Elven lover dares to grasp heartbreak, the mortal lover to keep faith, and they do change the ending of the story.
One reason Amarie is so particularly annoyed with Finrod over this matter of visions is that she is Vanyar, and he's only quarter-Vanyar, and her people are the ones who all along were closest to the Powers in terms of friendship and affinity, way before the malice of Melkor started turning the Noldor against the gods, so there's a bit of rivalry in operation going on here on top of everything else, a bit of spiritual jealousy at this passing-over (if it's really real) for a rebel who's hardly Vanyar at all!
banshee: a regrettable but irresistible joke, due to the fact that it is literally true — banshees are not ghosts, nor evil spirits, as is commonly believed, but only mourning female relatives of the soon-to-be-deceased, who happen to be immortals. "Ban" is Gaelic for woman, "shee" the phonetic rendering of "Sidhe" — the Fair Folk, those who dwell "beneath the hills" and within the woods. So it exactly describes the current situation, since the traditional banshee keens for the mortal scions of her own house, whose existence is due to just such long-ago romances.
Islands: see Silm., "Of the Sun and Moon," for the story of the defensive screen of islands and time-trapping web of dreams (similar to the Girdle around Doriath) set up to protect the coast of Aman against a renewed invasion from Middle-earth (along with the expansion of the mountain-barriersand the maintenaince of a round-the-clock watch on the only pass to the interior of the continent) which actually ended up catching those Noldor sailors who succeeded in getting that far in defiance of the Ban.
"Not before you're ready" — the obvious explanation for this, and all the exchanges referencing this fact about the Halls, would be that it comes from "Laws and Customs," and specifically the "Statute of Finwe and Miriel;" however, I didn't actually read the Statute until this scene was finished, and only once, briefly, skimmed the earlier parts of L&C before writing Act IV to this point. The simple basis for it is the high priority placed throughout Tolkien's other writings on personal liberty, the value set on individuality, and healing — the fact that regardless of power or authority, no one can coerce another's will and still be a good guy. And that no one is compelled to do what they ought, regardless of how "practical" it would seem — that even self-binding via oaths to a good cause is discouraged, for instance, by Elrond; and that those who do not wish to come to Aman are not forced to do so by Oromë.
So it wasn't really surprising at all that the problem of those who wish to remain however inconveniently dead may do so for as long as they wish, and ideally should be free of pressure from family members to hurry up and make the decision (whichever way), so that a significant length of time is mandatory and must elapse before any permanent commitment can be made. No one is forced to return to life who does not wish to, and no one is allowed to compel another either to leave before their healing is complete, or to stay there so that the spouse of a deceased Elf can remarry. The rights of the Dead are forcefully upheld by Námo and Vairë, even when they consider the decision to be a bad one, as in the case of Miriel.
(The rights of the individual to self-determination is specifically upheld by the Weaver, who denies the beliefs of the other Valar that poor Miriel didn't know what she really wanted and was rushed into things by Finwë (who was a selfish lout for giving up on her so quickly) and wasn't up to making the decision, even after all those years had gone by for her to reconsider: Vaire points out that she's worked with Miriel for a very long time now, knows her pretty well, and since it's a safe bet that Finwë also knew his soul-mate very well, it's also safe to assume that he knew what Vairë has noticed about Miriel — that she's one of the stubbornest people in Arda, and not weak-minded or weak-willed at all. —Oh, and before you guys go slamming Finwë, wait till one of us Valier leaves you here, stuck with the Children to mind, and you've got to go through the rest of Time all alone…!)
But it was pleasant, I admit, to discover that the issues had been discussed in detail and so articulately, and that Námo was just as adamantly fair-minded as I had assumed the Lord of Justice to be, and that the Weaver has canonically a tart manner when she gets ruffled.
(It can be seen by this that Amarie is seriously pushing the limits, here — technically she hasn't done anything "wrong" by asserting that she just doesn't want to have anything to do Finrod for the next hundred-forty-four years, but she and everyone else knows perfectly well that she's breaking the spirit of the law against telling your spouse to stay dead…)
Ulmo: his role as Finrod's patron is longstanding, and comes from the sequence wherein Finrod and his cousin and close friend Turgon are travelling along the Sirion together, and receive simultaneous but separate dream-warnings to seek out and reinforce safe havens for their followings, which inspiration results in the building of Nargothrond and Gondolin. What exactly this means, and why the other powers find it so exasperating, comes from his role as Loyal Opposition in the Ring of Doom (when he bothers to come at all — he doesn't find it easy to limit himself to the kind of material, land-bound form that his fellow demiurges enjoy) and elsewhere, arguing against the idea of bringing the Eldar to Valinor in the first place, and constantly working to counteract the power of Morgoth — and the doom of the Noldor — throughout Middle-earth wherever his power over water is not completely overwhelmed by pollution.
He finally gets a chance to explain in full what he's trying to accomplish and how, to Beren's as-yet-unborn cousin Tuor, the one who in Beleriand most clearly hears his call and is willing to help, and does so to an extent that no one else in Beleriand, Man or Elf, has shared, as he commissions the mortal as his prophet before sending him to warn Turgon and the Noldor of impending crisis. (All of which is set forth in the fragmentary chronicle, "Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin," UT.) But, in brief, it's his job to argue, defy, and subvert, because monolithic unanimity without dissenting opinions isn't good for any ruling body, celestial demiurges or not. After all, he's the Power of the Deeps, and that's what water does, as well as to heal, purify, provide easy communication and transport, quench thirst, and sooth the soul…
—But if it weren't the case that Ulmo had chosen Finrod to carry out his work in Middle-earth first, then it would be very natural to assume that Tulkas was his particular patron, (rather than Aulë by default of his Noldor heritage.)
Taliska: as remarked in earlier acts, this, the native language of the Bëorings, was derived like that of the people of Hithlum and Brethil from the Elven dialects of the eastern Moriquendi who befriended the ancient Edain and taught them, but these dialects, which survived in part to become incorporated in what would become eventually Westron, are very different from both Quenya and Sindarin. That Finrod could intuitively comprehend their speech and learn it by first mindspeaking with the tribe of Balan is indicative of his unusual abilities in this area (due no doubt in part to the fact that unlike most in Aman, he came from a bilingual family to begin with.)
"Barbarous" is a linguistic joke, but also fairly apt: the word barbarian refers to those foreigners who did not speak Greek as their native tongue, and thus were obviously "not from around here" nor civilized. (Literally, it means people who go "bar, bar, bar," instead of speaking "real" words; the nearest American equivalent to this Classical jibe would probably be "spic.") Thus, what his friend (who earlier, recall, did not say "there's nothing wrong with your accent," but "you can't help your accent," which isn't the same thing — but the Dead must speak truthfully) in essence says is —Yes, you're a hick, and you talk funny — now, are you going to let that stop you?
Námo is the avatar of Justice in Arda. Justice is not sentimental. (Nor is giving consolation the proper function of that office.) The fact that other people have and will continue to fall down on the job does not in and of itself make it so that Beren's not failing in his own duty ought to be rated higher in consequence. (Justice doesn't grade on a curve, so to speak.) The Doomsman is not mean. He's just not nice.
Regarding the attempted rescue of other Silmarils: in fairy-tale terms, it's inevitable — that whatever it is that shouldn't be done, which will arouse the guards of the sought-for entity on the quest, will happen. Prince Ivan takes the gorgeous bridle, not the rope halter, because it is more fitting for the finest horse in the world, and the spell of sleep is broken in the quest for the Firebird. Murphy's Law is always operative, such stories would seem to remind us. But the specific rationale is not my own invention. Although this complaint has bothered me ever since I encountered it on Usenet, and the obvious corollary never seeming to be asked — so, having come this far, with all the history lying behind, you'd just leave the others there without trying? Really? (And if so, what's wrong with you?) — the two key words themselves are there in the original texts: save, and free:
"Again he stooped and strove afresh
one more of the holy jewels three
that Fëanor wrought of yore to free.
But round those fires was woven fate:
not yet should they leave the halls of hate…"
in the first rescenscion, and in the second,
"Behold! the hope of Elvenland,
the fire of Fëanor, Light of Morn
before the sun and moon were born,
thus out of bondage came at last,
from iron to mortal hand it passed.
There Beren stood. The jewel he held,
and its pure radiance slowly welled
through flesh and bone, and turned to fire
with hue of living blood. Desire
then smote his heart their doom to dare,
and from the deeps of Hell to bear
all three immortal gems, and save
the elven-light from Morgoth's grave.
Again he stooped; with knife he strove;
through band and claw of iron it clove.
But round the Silmarils dark Fate
was woven: they were meshed in hate,
and not yet come was their doomed hour
when wrested from the fallen power
of Morgoth in a ruined world,
regained and lost, they should be hurled
in fiery gulf and groundless sea,
beyond recall while Time should be…"
That the Silmarils are alive, and in some sense yearn for their native elements, derives from Silm. itself:
"Yet that crystal was to the Silmarils but as is the body to the Children of Ilúvatar: the house of its inner fire, that is within it and yet in all parts of it, and is its life. And the inner fire of the Silmarils Fëanor made of the blended light of the Trees of Valinor, which lives in them yet, though the Trees have long withered and shine no more. Therefore even in the darkness of the deepest treasury the Silmarils of their own radiance shone like the Stars of Varda; and yet, as were they indeed living things, they rejoiced in light and received it and gave it back in hues more marvellous than before."
They can thus be described in a sense as being "cuttings" of the Two Trees, in that they are independent of the parent organisms the way that botanical life can reproduce (though not in a natural manner), and capable of surviving (so to speak) thus detatched; but there is a sense in which they are more like artificial seeds, since, imprisoned in their unbreakable crystal shells, they do not grow and change the way the Trees did, but remain perpetually limited and in potentia, while beautiful in themselves.
So — greed and stupidity, or foolhardy selflessness? Your call — but read the words. But it's clear from the texts that it isn't a punishment, (as I have read one essayist declare), a sort of divine cause-and-effect wherein the Valar hit Beren with the loss of his hand as a penalty for the arrogance of trying to take all of them. (For one thing, the Powers don't have that kind of clout, quite apart from whether they would.) It's just destiny — which is a fancier way of saying "stuff happens, bad and good, and sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't."
revenge: the pledge to avenge Barahir if it took him to Angband itself, mentioned in Scene II, as recounted here in LL2, Canto III:
"There Beren laid his father's
in haste beneath a cairn of stones;
no graven rune nor word he wrote
o'er Barahir, but thrice he smote
the topmost stone, and thrice aloud
he cried his name. 'Thy death,' he vowed,
'I will avenge. Yea, though my fate
should lead at last to Angband's gate.'
And then he turned, and did not weep:
too dark his heart, the wound too deep.
Out into night, as cold as stone,
loveless, friendless, he strode alone.
which is significant not simply for being fulfilled in a way the maker never could have imagined, but for the fact that Beren's response to his father's death is described in the exact terms of his later emotional state following Finrod's killing.
Endymion, Tithonus & Utnapishtim: these three mythical characters are very much present in the audience, nodding knowingly from the gallery at the arguments and counterarguments. Both of the first two were Classical figures, mortal men who were loved by celestial women, and whose situations are not exactly enviable. Utnapishtim was a Mesopotamian folk hero who received immortality and found it a very ambiguous gift. Endymion is the most famous, but his fate hinges on that of the less fortunate Tithonus, a royal scion of Troy, who caught the fancy of Eos, goddess of morning, (made famous by Homer as "the rosy-fingered dawn.")
Eos apparently was cursed, by none other than the inconsistent Aphrodite, for helping Ares to cheat on her (with whom the goddess of love was cheating on her husband Hephaestus.) Her doom? To always fall in love with mortals, whom she was thus bound to lose. One of these was the well-known hunter-hero Orion. Tithonus never got a constellation, because technically he isn't dead — after a number of these short-lived love affairs, Eos had the brilliant idea of asking Zeus to give her latest inamorato the gift of endless life.
Unfortunately, it didn't occur to them that endless life and endless youth are not the same thing, until it was too late. Tithonus got older and more decrepit until Eos couldn't stand to be around him any longer, though he remained living (such as it was) in luxury in her palace for centuries. Eventually Prince Tithonus grew so bent and withered that he was changed into a grashopper, and became an Olympian cautionary tale against falling in love with mortals.
Selene, the sister of Eos and charioteer of the moon — who may or may not be supposed to be identical with Diana in this story, being real mythology, it isn't very clear all the time — also spotted a handsome young man asleep on a hillside one night while she was doing her rounds. This was Endymion, who was either a shepherd, a king, or both, and who received a slightly different, but no less ambiguous gift, from the moon-goddess. Remembering the Tithonus disaster, Selene asked Zeus to give him a sleep of eternal youth, thus ensuring that he would always be handsome, healthy — and, as it happens, helpless to leave, argue, or complain. The ideal dream-lover, so to speak; true, he can't do much, but Selene had thought out the pros and cons before making her decision and factored it all in…
Utnapishtim was the Mesopotamian "Noah-figure" of their Flood story — which differs somewhat from the Biblical version in that people aren't in trouble because they've done anything specific like engaging in continuous warfare, but simply because they're noisy and get on the nerves of the Elder Gods. (It also differs in that the Elder Gods are a bunch of drunks, who frequently get each other snockered as a way of pulling fast ones on each other, and many of the inherent flaws of humanity are due to the fact that the rival goddesses who shaped people were doing shots at the time.) However, the counter-agent-figure of Mesopotamian mythology, who doesn't agree with the plan of wiping out people, and finds a sneaky way around the classifcation order, is none other than Enki, Lord of the Waters, who tells the plan not to his friend Utnapishtim, but to the walls of Utnapishtim's house. The construction of a huge ship and Flood follow, Men survive, the other Elder Gods relent, and Utnapishtim receives immortality as the due of his wisdom and efforts.
However, this turns out to have been a dubious gift — if it was meant that way at all. Gilgamesh, seeking immortality himself, encounters Utnapishtim in his wanderings, as an ancient, decrepit figure all alone, having outlived all his family, and eternal life not being able to counteract the natural aging process of mortality. —Not a pleasant prospect.
Thus, when later another mortal hero gets in trouble for busting the wing of the West Wind, and Enki tells him to answer the summons to the Gods' mountain, but also how to get out of the charge with a successful defense, he counsels Adapa against eating or drinking anything there, because it will cost him his mortal life.
Now there are two ways of looking at it: Enki (aka Ea —!) is an ambivalent god, generally benevolent, but unpredictable or at least jealous enough of divine status to try to cheat Adapa out of what is offered him by lying to him that he will die if he sups with the Gods. —Or, alternately, he saw what happened to Utnapishtim and realized that eternal continuation without eternally-renewed strength is not something that is good for anybody. The myths, of course, don't say one way or the other. Most commentators on the Adapa story interpret it the first way — but none of them seem to consider the myths as a unity, in the light of both the friendship of the Lord of all Waters with the Ark-maker and Gilgamesh's encounter with his ancient progenitor. Taken all together, it becomes far less simple and clear-cut.
(And yes, JRRT was familiar with Near Eastern mythology, too.)
Question of mortality passing faster, or seeming to go faster, in Aman: this comes up much later, in the growing determination of the descendents of the Edain to "have it all," challenging the Eldar over their faith in mortals' eternity and demanding that they be allowed to sail West as well as east. Whether or not, as the chronicles speculate, the too-powerful ambiance of Valinor would overwhelm mortal physiology and cause Men to burn out faster there, or whether it might merely seem that way, due to the fact of there being no "time markers" such as we are used to in a harsher climate and history, that a mortal lifespan would seem to fly by like no time at all, the problem of being the only sentients which aged in an ageless paradise is a real one. Would there be less resentment, or more? These future events chronicled in Silm., "Akallabeth," play as strongly into this scene and themes of this act as events of the First and Third Ages and the Before-Time of the Song.
"Fëanor himself, maybe, wrought them, in days so long ago that the time cannot be measured in years."
(LOTR:TTT, "The Palantir")
The need to convert times points up the fact that everything was different in the Time of the Trees, in a way which can hardly be comprehensible to someone born under and knowing only the Years of the Sun — and vice versa. The Sea-Mew, killed in darkness, has never seen either the sun or moon, or experienced time as it now runs, "swiftly," in the world outside the Halls, and has no frame of reference by which to make an equation; Beren, who has never known anything but the present state of things, also has no way of understanding the relative measurements, so it must fall to one of the returnees who has experienced both modes to render it comprehensible for both of them (or rather, to give Maiwë the equations necessary for her to be able to do so.)
Gildor: that Gildor of the Outlaws was named after the same Gildor Inglorion who speaks to Frodo on the road in LOTR:FOTR is not a far-out assumption. Gildor the Elf is one of those from Aman, originally part of Finrod's following. The Edain names are all either known to be those of real Elves, or of Elvish derivation linguistically, and it isn't unlikely that Gildor, Barahir's mortal follower, was named after another notable of their common overlord — perhaps for a friend or comrade of the man's father or grandfather, from whom the name was borrowed. This exchange also points up one way that Gildor-met-in-the-Third-Age might have plausibly gotten to the lands east of the Ered Luin before that time, though there could be others — but more importantly, that niggling little historical fact that everything has to get from one point to another somehow, some concrete how, (though it may be lost to us) whether it be name or object or news or person.
cousin: there's no way of knowing how many living cousins Beren had during his own lifetime, given the number of siblings his parents had, and the tribal connections of the Edain, but as in the earlier story I have taken the liberty of positing interactions in peaceful years with those two younger ones unfortunate enough to be known to history. Morwen and Rían had to learn their wilderness survival skills somewhere to begin with, after all.
hamsoken: a medieval English legal term reflecting the conviction that it is worse to come onto someone else's property and attack them in their own home than to simply get in a fight in a public place or commit highway robbery — adding insult to injury, as it were.
Eldar: Per Silm., Orome called all the Elves at Cuivienen "Eldar," the People of the Stars. Some of them later decided that it only applied to those of them who'd gotten to Aman. I feel pretty sure that the rest of the Umanayar, the people who didn't get to Aman, would have strongly disagreed with that attempt to co-opt the name and lay claim to the symbolic stars thereby, and that the Valar, for whom language and names were clumsy things necessary for interfacing with material dimensions, would have thought it all pointless and silly divisiveness.