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XI - Of Beleriand and its Realms - Wood and Pasture

This is one of those chapters where Tolkien pretty much tells you to draw a map. Someday, I would actually like to go over it with copies of his drawings and a map of pre-Flood northwest Europe, though I'm sure such work has been done far better elsewhere. At any rate, unless you have cartographic equipment to hand it's best to read lightly over this chapter rather than memorising precise directions until the brain squeaks.


Despite the broad brush-strokes, the few places Tolkien sets briefly under the spotlight here sing with his love and aptitude for landscape description. The world is green here, and if now no longer new and starlit, at least in no way tame. Green, that is, save for the dark spots stained by Morgoth.

Mention is made here of Angband's tunnels, and how they run too deep and far for even the Valar to ever truly clear them out...it's another facet that makes me wish there were a Dwarven equivalent to the Sil, because there is clearly a land under the land, and possibly a land under that, and under that. Remember that Bilbo and the dwarves managed to be lost for about three days under a mountain, and even shortcutting on the ancient roads through Moria in LoTR took at least one stop to camp. For that matter, it was not until the dwarven colonists there had mined down and down and down that they broke into what must have been the upper levels of a Morgoth-related network and let out a balrog.

With the appearance of fully-sapient dragons from Angband and the fact that Morgoth cannot create souls to make new species, only corrupt, there may (still) be things - smart things - down there the surface folk have never even heard about. Mention is made of mountains considered to be slag from Morgoth's furnaces, possibly a mythologised understanding of volcanic activity.

These tunnels would probably also account for what Morgoth's beasties are eating whilst mostly penned in (besides each other - perhaps the orcish aversion to cannibalisim mentioned in LotR stems from its association with the huge cultural trauma at this point, since they're happy to eat other humanoids), and how Morgoth captured randoms to turn into spies by "the terror of his eyes". This seems to be some kind of compulsion that bounces off people with more (sacred?) fire in their spirit, as the Silmarillion lacks any tales of spies recovering once so broken, though it does feature elves who've cracked under torture to act in otherwise unnatural ways.

Out in the sunlight, the Noldor are beginning to establish themselves. It's mentioned that some plainsland is kept for pasture and Maedhros gifts the few Light-bred warhorses that came across from Valinor to his uncle, which quietly underlines the importance of social gift-exchange within the tribes as well as between them. That and the fact that there are still hairline cracks between the great Houses of the Noldor, their curse never quite asleep.

Further foreshadowing is given by underlining the fact that whilst the elves presumably destroy any tunnel-nest they find in Beleriand's realms, little contact is to be had over the mountains to the East, where the elven population is low and roaming.

Mention is also made of the possibility of wandering across the entirety of Ossiriand without seeing any of the resident Laiquendi, something I've always loved about the Green-Elves. They're there all right, but they feel no social pressure to interact or even clump together outside of festivals. Or be nice to dwarves.

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onewhitecrow: goofy-looking albino raven on blue background (Default)
onewhitecrow

July 2016

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