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PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 7:21 pm 
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Húrin wrote:
it took me a long time to warm up to the long poem that Bilbo recites about Eärendil. This poem at first seemed very long and obscure to me. Only in more recent years after I became familiar with The Silmarillion (and HoME) did I come to appreciate this poem and understand what it was all about.


I would say that I had the same experience, Húrin. With the added comment that over the years I have come to really love the unique metrical devices of this poem (and his forebear, Errantry.)

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2009 7:40 pm 
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In Gandalf's conversation with Frodo, after the latter is healed of his wound, Gandalf says that he was delated "and that nearly proved our ruin. And yetI am not sure: it may have been better so." Wayne and Christina quote a comment in a 1991 letter to Beyond Bree by one David Cremona that I think is worth citing here:

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it is part of the schema of The Lord of the Rings that what seems to be setbacks, blunders and delays, turn out to have been useful shortcuts; though I think Tolkien would have argued that, had they done otherwise, with a good intention, that too might have led to the quest's end, but by a different path. Ilúvatar, as ever, does not compel or predestine, but his plans are far-seeing and the roads to his ends, many.


Do you agree that this is what Tolkien would have argued? And how does this relate to the statement in the Ainulindalë (but moved by Christopher into the first chapter of the Quenta) that Eru grants Men (and Hobbits, of course, are a branch of the human race) the freedom "to shape their life, amid the powers and chances of the world, beyond the Music of the Ainur, which is as fate to all things else?" And what about the continuation of that statement: "and of their operation, everything should be, in form and deed, completed, and the world fulfilled unto the last and smallest?" Is Tolkien stating that it requires the operation of Men (and Hobbits, but not Elves, nor even the Valar) to complete the creation of the world beyond that foretold by the Music?

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2009 8:50 pm 
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I'm not a Tolkien scholar, but my strong instinct on this point is that a world entirely predestined is mere tautology. Maybe that is the point of including beings not bound to shape their lives by the Music.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2009 9:03 pm 
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But if it is true that, had different choices been made, but with good intentions, Eru would have found a way to make the Quest succeed anyway, do they truly have free will? Or are their "operations" just another form of manifestation of Eru's will?

ETA: And no, I will never tire of discussing this subject in all of it's manifestations. There is so much in Tolkien's work that truly is"wyrd"in all senses of the word (both ancient and modern).

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2009 9:25 pm 
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If Eru sees all times and all places as an eternal "here and now," I maintain that there is no difference. Knowing an event occurred and having caused it to happen are not always the same thing, though for Eru they can be. From that perspective "would have found a way" is meaningless; what happened, happened; what is, is. The Quest succeeded. Because Frodo had free will, it might have happened differently or through someone else's action—but if it had, that would have been what happened and what is. Eru wasn't writing the story while Frodo lived it; Eru knew it as complete from the perspective of eternity.

Or that's my post-lunch take on it.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2009 9:29 pm 
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Must have been a good lunch. :)

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2009 9:33 pm 
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Leftover crab and lobster canneloni with tarragon cream sauce. :)

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2009 2:50 am 
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I may have posted this before, and if I did I apologize.

The best analogy of free will vs. predestination was by, I think, Neal Walsh. He likened it to playing a video game. A player is free to make choices, but what the game will do in response to each choice has been determined. And Eru knows all the possibilities.

Galadriel seemed to think that it was possible for the quest fail, though. It is possible that the quest might have succeeded in a different matter, but if there were no possibility of it failing, well, what would have been the point?

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‘There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.’
‘It’s a lot more complicated than that -’
‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2009 2:57 am 
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I agree Frelga.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2009 3:08 pm 
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Well, Tolkien approached the Free Will question about as intelligently as anyone can, but neither his nor any of the other approaches works entirely. This is in great part of course because the human mind cannot grasp infinity, so we're left fumbling.

It certainly does seem to be the case though that Tolkien conceives Eru as putting his thumb on a scale once in a very great while, most clearly in the Sammath Naur. Galadriel was right: Frodo did fail. In this particular situation, Frodo's mode of failure was one in which, coupled with his (and Sam's) pity for Gollum, Chance or Fate or Ilúvatar could tip the balance.

Would other modes of failure have led to the same result, Eru making up the difference so to speak? If, e.g., Boromir had succeeded in taking the Ring, or had Frodo succumbed to the Black Riders? Not necessarily. I don't think that the Divine History mandated that Sauron be defeated in or around TA 3019; it could well have allowed for a second Great Darkness. After all, Isildur had the same opportunity as Frodo-- and then there's Ar-Pharazôn!

And of course, even though Sauron was defeated beyond recovery, Arda remains Marred, and the legacy of Melkor remains.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2009 3:24 pm 
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I agree, soli. (I'm very agreeable.)

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2009 7:39 pm 
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I am agreeable, too. :)

It seems in Tolkien's world Eru might step in, but only after the "good guys" have exhausted all their resources and are up against forces they cannot possibly defeat. So, no point in stepping in with Isildur - Sauron is temporarily disabled, disaster is not imminent, and Isildur himself grabbed the Ring from the first. While Frodo and Sam really did everything they could, and they were the last line of defense. They still could have failed, I think.

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‘There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.’
‘It’s a lot more complicated than that -’
‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 1:39 pm 
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From the Ainulindalë:

Then Ilúvatar spoke, and he said: 'Mighty are the Ainur, and mightiest among them is Melkor; but that he may know, and all the Ainur, that I am Ilúvatar, those things that ye have sung, I will show them forth, that ye may see what ye have done. And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.'


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 5:21 pm 
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Tolkien wrote somewhere that he needed to have "trembling moments," where fate stood upon the edge of a knife, where the decision, usually moral, of one person would rule the fate of many. He was in this case referencing Gollum's near-repentance outside Shelob's Lair; but there are others throughout his writings. I don't think this applies to all of the many Bad Decisions which led to disaster, but there was such a moment I think when Fëanor was asked to give up the Silmarils in order to save the Trees, and another where Turgon refused Ulmo's advice brought by Tuor. Galadriel's refusal of the Ring, also; and I am sure there are many more.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 6:10 pm 
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Isildur's failure to destroy the Ring could be one, although I do not recall whether it was written in any great detail. I'm sure there are a few in Túrin's story.

Are we supposed to mark for spoilers? SPOILERS BELOW!!!


On a smaller scale, there are a number of such moments in LOTR. Gollum's non-redemption is of course the big one, as soli mentions, but there are others where a character hesitates before making an important decision. Among the "good guys" such are Frodo's decision to take up the quest, Éomer's decision to help the Fellowship, and every good guy's refusal to take the Ring. Of this last, the most dramatic was perhaps Faramir's since he was such an unknown quantity at the time.

Among the "bad guys" besides Gollum, Grima got two chances to repent, so did Saruman, and even Sauron received an offer, even though that was clearly a forlorn hope. Boromir didn't get a chance, poor man.

This actually brings up something I noticed about Tolkien's Moral World. Every bad guy gets a chance to repent and redeem themselves, but they never ever take it. It seems that the moral road goes one way, with Tolkien, and once a characters steps off of it, no matter what the provocation, they are doomed to death.

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‘There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.’
‘It’s a lot more complicated than that -’
‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 6:18 pm 
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Every bad guy gets a chance to repent and redeem themselves, but they never ever take it.


Surely that doesn't apply to Boromir. Now, certaily when we get to souls which have accumulated an impenetrable layer of sludge like Gollum or Saruman, it's pretty much not going to be penetrated. But even Grima- I think his ending was morally very ambiguous.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 6:24 pm 
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I pretty much hate it when any story that brings up fate or destiny. I have no use for the concepts and find them very distracting and irritating.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 8:12 pm 
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solicitr wrote:
Quote:
Every bad guy gets a chance to repent and redeem themselves, but they never ever take it.


Surely that doesn't apply to Boromir. Now, certaily when we get to souls which have accumulated an impenetrable layer of sludge like Gollum or Saruman, it's pretty much not going to be penetrated. But even Grima- I think his ending was morally very ambiguous.


True, but he still ended up dead. So did Boromir, although you are correct, he actively repented and tried to make amends.

The only redemption Tolkien gives his characters is in death, it seems.

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‘There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.’
‘It’s a lot more complicated than that -’
‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 8:15 pm 
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What about Beregond?


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 8:22 pm 
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What about him? :P

That is, what did you have in mind?

I don't think he falls under the "good or dead" rule in that he made the "right" moral choice and therefore was allowed by the author to survive.

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‘There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.’
‘It’s a lot more complicated than that -’
‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum


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