onewhitecrow: agricultural minister hanging off a steam train badassedly (hell yeah)
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In an attempt to make words happen - and even better, words about elves - I am going to be posting a commentary series whilst reading the Silmarillion. It may not be comprehensable to non-fans, and may additionally contain references to Nerriméan perspectives which will confuse those of you who haven't encountered my deep-elves; you have been warned.

Capitalised Concepts ahoy.


I - Ainulindalë : Gods Singing

Wherin One externalises His thoughts and has them sing a world for Him. Introducing Melkor, who mistakes the harmony of perfection for a really really long Black Metal intro, gets bored of it and attempts to launch into a solo with power chords, thereby dooming Creation.


I think the idea of That One Bad Valar actually works for once here (I don't think I've ever seen it work again, at least not without glaring plot holes or theological unpleasantness), since Melkor is explicitly Eru's externalised subversive thoughts; Melkor is the things He could not think within the harmony of things, but nonetheless can use, once active and interacting with other Thoughts, to bring still greater works into being. Since Eru is portrayed as fractionally less than omnipotent (or tactfully very quiet about it if He is), and the Valar are still technically His thoughts, it comes across as less of an unfortunate theological problem than an omnipotent deity creating a world a certain way then deciding to add Devil for reasons known best to Himself.

The Thoughts make genuine choices and act as separate entities within the bounds of Eru's conception, clearly enough that although this creation is technically a one-god show, Eru being the Source and Great Conductor, the effect is of a great collaboration, with free will filling the spaces left by the limited natures of the Valar. That is, although the singing of the world gives it and everything in it a Fate, the recording, as it were (Melkor's screwups included), has to be manually copied into reality with no single Valar knowing more than their bit and the general theme of things. Wiggle room for lives - or immortal Thoughts, as the case may be - to have meaning on their own terms/by their own choices is a make-or-break for me with onstage gods. Having a forseen Doomful Doom is all very epic, but it's the prospect of escape from said fate that makes any such story bearable and worth the telling, even if it ends in tragedy. (Indeed, the only tragedy worthy of literature is the avoidable kind, the type where just the wrong combination of flaws chain-react into a bloody self-determined mess, otherwise it's just the gods - or author - grinding their heels on the necks of mortals because ha-ha, they're bigger than you.)

It does bother me that the Void is a literal nonentity, though...that is, a universe based on Dude* + Nothing = All The Things. Void doesn't even make that much sense in that context, as it's just Not-Eru...He is limited by...nothing? Himself? I shall leave this line of speculation swiftly, since it makes my head hurt, but I'd like to contrast it to the very-similar-but-fundamentally-different Nerriméan view of things, which echoes our world's Maori creation in that Nothing is a female and very pregnant concept, whose daughter is the one to be defined by/in contrast to the appearance of the male creative principle, resulting in a fundamental Balance rather than a fundamental Dude in Space. Moving on!

The Valar roll up their sleeves, tentacles and appendages and set to translating the world into reality. Melkor, still in something of a tantrum over being denied a solo with power chords, tries to grab whatever the other Valar have and generally gets in the way. Annoyed that Eru has planned for yet more creative souls to come into existence, none of which are intended as groupies for him, Melkor continues to arse around to the point where I assume the Valar got things done purely by devising elaborate ruses for Melkor to "find" their "real plans" and pre-emptively "sabotage" them by putting seas where mountains should be, mountains where seas should be etc. The lad might be the most powerful Valar - cleverly providing a uniting force for the rest - but he was never the brightest.


Next up, the Valaquenta, then into the Slimarillion proper.

*Tolkien specifically notes that the Valar have gender even when they wear no flesh, so we assume One identifies as and thus is male. Whilst a few Christians are known to believe their God is literally a male entity and the Western gender binary was so entrenched in the era of writing he may have thought Eru had to be one or the other, I think this is JRRT quietly practicing his theory of sub-creation. That is, implying that whilst Eru may be a shade or reflection of Tolkien's own Catholic God, as many a monotheist holds the better aspects of other peoples' gods to be, Eru isn't quite the Infinite/omnipotent and shouldn't be absoloutely equated with It/Him.
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onewhitecrow

July 2016

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