It is currently Mon Dec 11, 2017 5:12 pm

All times are UTC




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 29 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: Fate and Free Will
PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 5:47 pm 
Offline
Feeling grateful
User avatar

Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:41 am
Posts: 32715
This is a topic that has been discussed ad infinitum here, there, and everywhere where Tolkien is discussed. The most vexing issue is to what extent Tolkien meant to suggest by saying that the Music of the Ainur was as fate to all things other than Mankind. Does that mean, for instance, that Fëanor really did not have any choice in refusing to break the Silmarils in order to save the Trees, despite Tolkien's suggestion that he did? It is a question that I go back and forth on, but more and more I coming to agree with Verlyn Flieger (and disagree with most other Tolkien commentators) that Fëanor did not really has any choice in the matter. That, in fact, he had only the appearance of having free will, but not free will itself. His choice is necessarily determined by the Music, whereas the fact that I have chosen to make this the 200,000 post made at this messageboard is not.

_________________
Woods is most felt. Nice! it's gentle on your mind.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 6:10 pm 
Offline
Living in hope
User avatar

Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:43 am
Posts: 38639
Location: Sailing the luminiferous aether
Pondering this. Am I correct in classifying hobbits as a subset of Men rather than a separate race? (Meaning that they would not be bound to the Music?)

_________________
“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


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:59 pm 
Offline
Feeling grateful
User avatar

Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:41 am
Posts: 32715
Yes, that's correct. To use a more serious example of human free choice than my choosing to make my post the 200,000th on the board, Frodo's choice to take the Ring to the Fire was NOT (in my opinion) pre-ordained by the Music.

_________________
Woods is most felt. Nice! it's gentle on your mind.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:45 pm 
Offline
Living in hope
User avatar

Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:43 am
Posts: 38639
Location: Sailing the luminiferous aether
Well, I have always felt strongly that Frodo's decision had meaning only insofar as it was an act of will rather than a mechanism set in play by Eru long before his birth.

I wonder if the detachment of Elves (at least the ones in LotR, who seem somehow above it all, at least as viewed by hobbits) stems in part from an understanding that they are acting in a predestined way. Why agonize over a decision when whatever you do will be what Eru intended you to do, for good or evil?

And, congratulations on making the 200,000th post!

_________________
“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


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:06 am 
Offline
Pleasantly Twisted
User avatar

Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2006 6:35 pm
Posts: 8996
Location: Black Creek Bottoms
Quote:
Why agonize over a decision when whatever you do will be what Eru intended you to do, for good or evil?


Ask a Calvinist. ;)

_________________

Resentment is no excuse for baldface stupidity.
-- Garrison Keillor

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:45 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2005 8:37 am
Posts: 4695
Location: Melbourne, Victoria
When I read that the music of Ainur was ‘fate’, I never read it as meaning that every non-human sentient being had a life laid out for it. Every being other than men – Valar, Maiar, Elf, Dwarf, Ent, Eagle – is tied to the world, while only the spirits of men depart it after death to a fate unknown to all save Eru. It seems fairly obvious from the context of the work that, at the very least, Valar and Maiar are capable of acting contrary to Eru’s desires. For example, the published Silm describes Melkor’s creation of the Orcs has being ‘hateful’ to him, and IIRC somewhere in the HoME it suggests that the turning of Elves and Men was also contrary to Eru’s plan. In addition, it seems certain that Aulë’s creation of the Dwarves wasn’t in Eru’s original plan, although he adapted to it.

What the music does seem to establish is what form the world will take, who will inhabit it, and how it will reach the fulfilment of its purpose. Melkor is able to keep interrupting the themes, even apparently making Eru wrathful, but in the end the music seems to go as Eru desires. That seems to be a metaphor for how the world will play out – it will be corrupted, but in the end it will come to fulfilment, along with all the beings tied to it.

I really should be more specific, but I can’t recall what Tolkien’s final verdict on what the three themes actually represented, if it is even at all recorded somewhere. I re-read Arda Unmarred a couple of days ago, and I remember this topic being discussed in there somewhere, but I don’t remember the details.

This is leading onto a line of thought that I’ve been having for a while, namely about the central theme of Tolkien’s Legendarium. It seems that the central failing that all Tolkien’s villains, from the mighty to the petty, share, is an attempt to seize a position above the one allocated to them in the natural (divinely-ordained?) social and cosmological order. Melkor wants to create beings, and be worshipped by them, neither of which he is entitled to. And as such, his attempts to do so lead to corruption and evil. Saruman aspires to be ‘one of the powers’. Ar-Pharazôn wants to cheat death, even though death is part of Eru’s plans for mortals. He also seeks to claim kingship over the men of Middle-Earth by force, which seems to run contrary to Tolkien’s idea of good, natural kingship. Even Gollum’s delusions about being ‘Gollum the Great’ fit into this category. But in the end, it is suggested that all of their efforts will come to naught.

In that sense, the One Ring is the ultimate metaphor for evil – it offers people power above their stature, immortality to mortals, and the ability to dominate the wills of others, which seems to be something profoundly wrong for anyone, be it Gollum or Melkor himself. That, I think, is what Tolkien meant when he described the central theme of LotR as being ‘death’ – the desire to flee from death is natural to mortals, but it is wrong. It also explains his remark about tipping your hat to the squire being good for both you and the squire. It’s actually a pretty reactionary worldview when you think about it, in line with the medieval Catholic hierarchy of God, angels, church, king, nobles, knights, etc, which is perhaps why it doesn’t seem to be discussed by Tolkien’s fans that often.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:54 pm 
Offline
Pleasantly Twisted
User avatar

Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2006 6:35 pm
Posts: 8996
Location: Black Creek Bottoms
JRRT was a reactionary across the board: from what I can glean from his writings and letters he wasn't fond of any change to the social order since and including the Reformation. The Great Chain of Being suffuses his work.

And yet...the curious thing is that he also recognizes the limits of that model. The ultimate redemption of Middle-earth from the evils of Melkor and then Sauron required the three unions of the Eldar and Edain.

_________________

Resentment is no excuse for baldface stupidity.
-- Garrison Keillor

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:23 pm 
Offline
chocolate bearer
User avatar

Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2005 6:27 am
Posts: 3335
Location: beachcombing, or hiking, or dragon boating
Could the fate simply be the "cards dealt" for which we, based on our fellow players, our experience, and our training, choose the "play of the hand", for better or worse.

I'm having trouble envisioning a god who deliberately sets someone up to fail, like Melkor or Lucifer.

_________________
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

~ Albert Camus


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:39 pm 
Offline
Pleasantly Twisted
User avatar

Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2006 6:35 pm
Posts: 8996
Location: Black Creek Bottoms
If the Ainur are not automatons, that is, they have real free will and are not perfect beings, one will eventually fail. An infinite string of correct decisions is not the mark of a sentient being.

_________________

Resentment is no excuse for baldface stupidity.
-- Garrison Keillor

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2011 2:20 pm 
Offline
Feeling grateful
User avatar

Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:41 am
Posts: 32715
Lord_Morningstar wrote:
It seems fairly obvious from the context of the work that, at the very least, Valar and Maiar are capable of acting contrary to Eru’s desires. For example, the published Silm describes Melkor’s creation of the Orcs has being ‘hateful’ to him, and IIRC somewhere in the HoME it suggests that the turning of Elves and Men was also contrary to Eru’s plan.


I assume you are referring to this passage regarding the corruption of the Elves into Orcs:

Quote:
Yet this is held true by the wise of Eressëa, that all those of the Quendi who came into the hands of Melkor, ere Utumno was broken, were put there in prison, and by slow arts of cruelty were corrupted and enslaved; and thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orcs in envy and mockery of the Elves, of whom they were afterwards the bitterest foes. For the Orcs had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Ilúvatar; and naught that had life of its own, nor the semblance of life, could ever Melkor make since his rebellion in the Ainulindalë before the Beginning: so say the wise. And deep in their dark hearts the Orcs loathed the Master whom they served in fear, the maker only of their misery. This it may be was the vilest deed of Melkor, and the most hateful to Ilúvatar.


But just because it is "hateful" to Eru doesn't mean that it is against his will, or not part of the Music. Indeed, Eru also says:

Quote:
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.


That is true even of Melkor's marring of Arda, of which the corruption of the Orcs is a very large part. In the Laws and Customs of the Eldar, Manwë makes this very point, saying "the Arda Healed ... shall be
greater and more fair than the first, because of the Marring."

Quote:
What the music does seem to establish is what form the world will take, who will inhabit it, and how it will reach the fulfilment of its purpose.


That is true, for Men. But unless the line about Men having the virtue of being able to "shape their life" whereas the Music is "as fate to all else" is a meaningless throwaway line (which I simply can not except), than one can not escape the conclusion that only Men truly have free will.

Quote:
I really should be more specuific, but I can’t recall what Tolkien’s final verdict on what the three themes actually represented, if it is even at all recorded somewhere. I re-read Arda Unmarred a couple of days ago, and I remember this topic being discussed in there somewhere, but I don’t remember the details.


Yes, it appears quite definite (though this is not reflected in the published
Silmarillion) that the conception had changed from both Elves and Men being introduced in the Third Theme to Elves coming in the Second Theme and Men coming with the Third Theme. There are several different indications of this, in the final rewriting of the Quenta (though Christopher changed it in the text), in the Athrabeth commentaries (twice) and in his October 1958 letter to Rhona Beare (Letter 212). This, I think, provides further support to the proposition that a different conception of fate and free will applied to Men as to Elves.

_________________
Woods is most felt. Nice! it's gentle on your mind.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2011 4:05 pm 
Offline
Pleasantly Twisted
User avatar

Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2006 6:35 pm
Posts: 8996
Location: Black Creek Bottoms
Felix culpa is all through JRRT, and is one of the reasons I think of him (as he thought of himself) as a fundamentally Catholic author.

_________________

Resentment is no excuse for baldface stupidity.
-- Garrison Keillor

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2011 5:07 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sat May 26, 2007 12:41 am
Posts: 489
Location: Cleveland, OH, USA
Well, this is what I asked Verlyn Flieger when she read her paper on this subject at Mythcon 39: did Galadriel "pass the test", as she told Frodo, or did she not even take the test?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2011 5:22 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2005 8:37 am
Posts: 4695
Location: Melbourne, Victoria
VtF wrote:
That is true, for Men. But unless the line about Men having the virtue of being able to "shape their life" whereas the Music is "as fate to all else" is a meaningless throwaway line (which I simply can not except), than one can not escape the conclusion that only Men truly have free will.


Again, that interpretation of the line seems inconsistent with the events of the mythology as they play out. I still see it as more of an 'in the end, things will turn out as Eru planned' regardless of the steps along the way. For example, regardless of whether Fëanor turned the Silmarils over to the Valar at first or whether he did not, in the end the world would be restored as Eru designed.

If you start assuming that Elves, Valar and Maiar are simply automatons serving Eru’s will, then plenty of events in the story cease to make any sense. For example, Ulmo summons Tuor to Vinyamar, gives him Voronwë as a companion, and sends him as a messenger to Turgon telling him to abandon Gondolin and seek the sea. Tuor accepts Ulmo’s quest and goes to Gondolin, but Turgon refuses his advice. Subsequently Tuor marries Idril and fathers Eärendil, and Gondolin is destroyed and the refugees flee to the coast. Eärendil becomes a great mariner and is instrumental in the downfall of Morgoth.

Now try to read that series of events in such a way that Tuor could have chosen to do anything he liked but everything that Ulmo, Voronwë, Idril and Turgon did was pre-ordained by Eru (and what of Eärendil and the other half-elven?). For example, was it Eru’s design that Turgon should have refused Ulmo’s summons, even though Ulmo is one of the Valar who are meant to act closest in line with the will of Eru, and even though much suffering could have been prevented otherwise? And if, in overthrowing Morgoth, the Valar were simply acting in accordance with Eru’s will, then it makes the choices of Tuor and the other Edain meaningless, as the War of Wrath must have played out in the end as it did.

Ultimately of course we don’t know what the themes actually said, so we don’t know what Eru’s design was or how the third theme was different. Obviously the line isn’t simple a throw-away, but I don’t think that it should be read literally. Obviously even through marring the world will turn out more beautiful in the end. That is ‘fate’. But that doesn’t mean that its inhabitants must have made the choices that they did in the order that they did for it to come about.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2011 5:46 pm 
Offline
Feeling grateful
User avatar

Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:41 am
Posts: 32715
I think that Verlyn Flieger and I are pretty much the only ones that believe that Tolkien really did mean that Men are the only ones with true free will.

N.E.B., what did Verlyn say when you asked her that question?

_________________
Woods is most felt. Nice! it's gentle on your mind.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2011 6:18 pm 
Online
of Vinyamar
User avatar

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:39 pm
Posts: 7912
Location: Ireland
Great post Lord M!

_________________
Image
The Vinyamars on Stage! This time at Bag End


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2011 6:39 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sat May 26, 2007 12:41 am
Posts: 489
Location: Cleveland, OH, USA
She wasn't sure. This was in the lively Q&A following her paper, and thinking back, I may not have been as clear there as I was here. Her focus had been on The Silmarillion, HoMe, and the previously unpublished text by Tolkien that Carl Hostetter had read earlier in the conference (and Hostetter took a view largely opposite to Flieger) and later published in Tolkien Studies. Scull and Hammond note in their online "Addenda and Corrigenda" to the Reader's Guide (for the "Free Will and Fate" entry on pp. 324-33), that Flieger's interpretation "proved controversial when presented at two gatherings attended by the present authors" -- one of those was Mythcon 39, where the debate became a running topic of conversation, and was even referenced in the weekend's entertainment, as when two characters in "Not Ready for Mythcon" skit were "doomed to slay each other of their own free will".

The materials Flieger had been citing in her talk were either fairly abstract, as in the more philosophical texts, or somewhat distantly told, as in the typical style of the "Quenta". I think I began my rambling question by asking if Galadriel, by the Third Age, was aware of the texts in question, that can be interpreted to mean that Elves don't have free will: did she know that Fëanor, whose actions Flieger had described, hadn't really chosen not to relinquish the silmarils? And that her own actions likewise were foreordained? If so, why does she claim to have made a choice? And doesn't that basically make the temptation of Galadriel scene a sham?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2011 6:40 pm 
Offline

Joined: Tue Mar 24, 2009 8:44 pm
Posts: 89
Verlyn Flieger has some very interesting comments in her essay published in Tolkien Studies, but there doesn't seem to be relatively that much that actually focuses on the particular question of free will and the Elves.

Of course the Ainulindalë statement is raised, as others have noted, and (very basically) the position seems to be that if Eru means what he says it's hard to read that Tolkien's Elves have free will. Now I may be simplifying things (and certainly am when one reads her whole essay in context), but this is the general feeling I'm left with: in other words, this is a strong example with respect to her side of the issue, and that as such, it can get glossed over when dealing with the matter in general.

That said, when we get to the Fëanor example, the question of interpretation looms large. Flieger chooses this example as a 'perplexing passage' because Fëanor's after deeds should not be subject to change if Elves in fact don't have free will, and the passage appears to say his after deeds could have been other, or altered: 'The problem seems deliberately unsolvable, but Tolkien's word other may offer a solution.'

Thus here we appear to have a notable example that doesn't fit the idea of Elves not having free will, but maybe it can be interpreted a certain way as to fit. I've no problem with that of course, all I'm saying is that the Ainulindalë may also be a difficult example from the other side of the fence, and maybe it need not mean Elves don't have free will in the first place.

I note Carl Hostetter here:

Quote:
(...) What is tricky, though, is that it is equally clear in the Ainulindalë passage that Tolkien is not thinking only of this, for the passage reads: "Therefore he willed that the hearts of Men should seek beyond the world and should find no rest therein; but they should have a virtue 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" (emphasis added). Very clearly this special virtue that Men are given is operative within the World and throughout Men's lives, not merely in their ultimate destiny.

And so I can readily understand Verlyn's take on this: if one uses this passage as the basis upon and lens through which all other published evidence is evaluated, and if one equates this "virtue" with "free will", it is easy to argue that Elves do not have free will. I'm not saying it makes for a convincing or satisfying argument -- after all, none of the Elves ever act as though they don't have free will, and in fact they are often presented as having to make crucial choices with serious consequences (moral and otherwise); while Frodo and other Men are often described as fated (or possibly so) -- but it is an easy and obvious argument to make.

But I begin my paper by noting that Tolkien does not say here that Men have a unique gift of "free will", but rather that they are given a "virtue". Verlyn assumes they mean the same thing; I submit they do not: virtue is ability and strength and efficacy, not merely will (i.e., purpose or intent). Moreover, if Verlyn is right, it is very hard to explain (in addition to the points I allude to above) the existence and content of the unpublished notes I presented, which discuss the Elvish thought on the roles of fate and free will within the World and make no mention of any limitation of free will to Men. What it does do is draw distinctions between what Men mean by "fate" and what Elves mean by it, and as to the "given conditions" within which will is constrained to operate. And that, I think, is what we must do as well: what does "fate" mean in the Ainulindalë passage? What does the Music of the Ainur, which is "as fate", encompass, and so what exactly are its constraints, that Men alone can go beyond? And just as importantly, what does the Music not encompass and constrain? And what are the "powers and chances of the world", amid which the special virtue of Men operates? And are fate and free will really at odds with each other? (As I have said, I submit in my paper they are not.) Tolkien touches on all these points, both in the unpublished notes and in numerous published writings (particularly Letters).


http://newboards.theonering.net/forum/g ... st=#127759

I'm a bit unsure as to the possible differences between what was said or read at the conference compared to what was published in Tolkien Studies, but in any case, Jason Fisher noted...

Quote:
Carl Hostetter, "'The Circles of the World': Fate, Free Will, and the Oikumeme in Elvish Thought" — Little did we know that this was just the first salvo in what would become the Great Debate around which the entire conference eventually seemed to revolve. More on that in a moment. Carl's paper was less a paper (at present; he's continuing to work it up into one) than a series of quotations from Tolkien on the subject, including about three pages of unpublished notes from late 1968 or 1969 on the Elves' ideas of fate and free will. That was very interesting, and Carl did a nice job explaining Tolkien's sometimes sketchy and confused adumbrations (though it will be even more convincing once Carl has written more of the apparatus to connect the parts). In the final analysis, Carl demonstrated Tolkien's apparent view that the Elves do indeed possess free will. This is the side on which I find myself, too, but not everyone agreed. I also appreciated Carl's disquisition on the Elvish terms ambar and umbar, from the root MBAR; I had touched on this in my last Mythcon paper (two years ago), but I don't think I'd had the relationship between them quite right in my head then.


http://lingwe.blogspot.com/2008/08/myth ... eport.html

I'm generally a fan of Verlyn Flieger, but so far I don't find her explanation of the 'choice of Fëanor' all that compelling. Anyway, upon reading Hammond and Scull's entry on Free Will and Fate (Tolkien Companion), I was reminded of this explanation from JRRT.

Quote:
'According to the fable Elves and Men were the first of these intrusions, made indeed while the 'story' was still only a story and not 'realized'; they were not therefore in any sense conceived or made by the gods, the Valar, and were called the Eruhini or 'Children of God', and were for the Valar an incalculable element: that is they were rational creatures of free will in regard to God, of the same historical rank as the Valar, though of far smaller spiritual and intellectual power and status.'

JRRT, from letter 181, probably 1956


How do folks respond to this?

edit: by the way, this was crossposted with several other posts :)


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:20 pm 
Offline
Feeling grateful
User avatar

Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:41 am
Posts: 32715
Quote:
Carl demonstrated Tolkien's apparent view that the Elves do indeed possess free will


Having read the essay by Tolkien on fate and free will that Carl edited and which was published in Tolkien Studies volume 6 (along with Verlyn's paper), I have to say that I'm still not at all convinced that that was Tolkien's view.

I should mention that the debate continued into the next volume of Tolkien Studies with an excellent essay by Thomas Fornet-Ponse that rebuts Verlyn's essay.

I also actually had a long email exchange with Verlyn in which I agreed with her on some points and disagreed on others. I'm going to repeat some of what I said to her here:

Quote:
I particularly like your comments about the purpose of the Children of completing Eru's design "being two-fold in its action, for otherwise there would be no necessity for two separate races." I agree with this. There is an interesting passage in the Athrabeth commentary (Note 7) in which I think Tolkien describes very well how that two-fold action plays out in the end:

"The Elves find their supersession by Men a mystery, and a cause of grief; for they say that Men, at least so largely governed as they are by the evil of Melkor, have less and less love for Arda in itself, and are largely busy in destroying it in the attempt to dominate it. They still believe that Eru's healing of all the griefs of Arda will come now by or through Men; but the Elves' part in the healing or redemption will be chiefly in the restoration of the love of Arda, to which their memory of the Past and understanding of what might have been will contribute. Arda they say will be destroyed by wicked Men (or the wickedness in Men); but healed through the goodness in Men. The wickedness, the domineering lovelessness, the Elves will offset. By the holiness of good men - their direct attachment to Eru, before and above all Eru's works - the Elves may be delivered from the last of their griefs: sadness; the sadness that must come even from the unselfish love of anything less than Eru."

Tolkien makes it clear in the Ainulindalë that the two gifts of Men - the freedom to shape their own lives beyond the reach of the Music, and the ability to leave the world, are related ("It is one with this gift of freedom that the children of Men dwell only a short space in the world alive, and are not bound to it.") Men are free even to mirror the folly of Melkor, and the shadow he has cast upon the world. I think it is the fact that Men as a race are not bound to the circles of the world that allow them to ultimately transcend the Music in a way that the Elves are unable to do, not because they are endowed individually with Free Will and the Elves are not. It is that freedom as a race that allows them to be Eru's primary tool of ultimately healing and perfecting Arda.

The most difficult portion of the equation is the issue of Fëanor and the Valar, after the Darkening of Valar. The whole situation truly does "seem wyrd in all senses of the word." I applaud you for taking on this paradox directly, rather than trying to avoid it. But ultimately I come to a somewhat different conclusion than you do.

I understand your point that had Fëanor said "yea" to Yavanna his motivations would have been different, but not his actions, or the result thereof. But I just don't quite buy it. As you yourself state, the "Doom of the Noldor" -- so integral to the way the whole Tale plays out - is brought down upon the Noldor by themselves, particularly by Fëanor himself and his actions that lead to the kin-slaying. Am I reading you correctly that you are saying that even if he had said "yea" and had "cleansed his soul" and therefore sought the Silmarils not to become "lords of the unsullied light" but rather to recover them to re-illuminate Valinor, that he still would have engaged in the kin-slaying? To me, that simply is beyond belief. I don't think there is anyway to get around the fact that Tolkien is saying that Fëanor's "choice" (albeit one that had no direct impact since the Silmarils had already by that point been taken by Melkor), had a profound effect on how the events then proceeded to play out. And thus individual Elves can exercise true free will at least on some occasions.

I think that the distinction that Tolkien makes about Men having a virtue to shape their lives beyond the music only makes sense when it is applied to the two races as a whole, but not necessarily to individuals in all cases. Generally speaking, the Eldar -- who are bound to the world -- are also bound by the Music. Whereas Men -- who are not bound to the world -- are generally not bound by the Music and are free as a race to shape their own destiny. This freedom, while often causing grief to Elves and Valar alike, ultimately will serve as the chief tool by which Eru heals and perfects Arda (assisted by the Elves' love of Arda, to which they are bound). In essence, I see Fëanor's exercising of genuine free will - which Tolkien seems to take great pains in showing had a profound influence in events to come -- as the exception that proves the rule.

_________________
Woods is most felt. Nice! it's gentle on your mind.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2011 8:56 pm 
Offline
Pleasantly Twisted
User avatar

Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2006 6:35 pm
Posts: 8996
Location: Black Creek Bottoms
The choice of Feanor--which made no difference as to the disposition of the Sils but did make a difference when it came to a lot of other things--may be a hint as to how "The music" and "free will" interact. By way of illustration: my friends and I used to joke, when we were playing Role playing games, about when the person running the game obviously had a particular plot event in mind:

GM: You see a castle in the distance.
Players: Eh, not another castle. We head into the woods.
GM: After many uneventful hours in the tangled paths of the forest, you emerge to see a castle before you.
Players: Jeez, fine, we drink our flying potions and head up into the clouds.
GM: When you pass through the clouds you encounter a great floating castle.
Players: OK then, we return to the ground, and dig a tunnel going the way we came with our Pick of Mighty Excavation.
GM: You emerge in the courtyard of a castle.

Now, once we accepted we were going to be in that castle no matter what--that it was our doom--we could, within that context, act freely.

I think, for JRRT, the Music is such a context. Some events, both important and unavoidable were going to happen, because they were part of the Music, but maybe the tempo would quicken or slow, so to speak. Morgoth was going to take the Sils, no ifs, ands or buts, yet Fëanor was perhaps not foreordained to choose as he did. There are different ways of getting from Morgoth taking the Sils to the War of Wrath, and not all of them would have been so ruinous.

Men, on the other hand, are caught up in the Music only when they tangle themselves up in the affairs of the Elves (and the Ainur). But that's their choice. ;)

_________________

Resentment is no excuse for baldface stupidity.
-- Garrison Keillor

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2011 9:23 pm 
Offline
not something I would recommend
User avatar

Joined: Wed Dec 07, 2005 11:13 pm
Posts: 12879
Location: Florida
axordil wrote:
GM: You see a castle in the distance.
Players: Eh, not another castle. We head into the woods.
GM: After many uneventful hours in the tangled paths of the forest, you emerge to see a castle before you.
Players: Jeez, fine, we drink our flying potions and head up into the clouds.
GM: When you pass through the clouds you encounter a great floating castle.
Players: OK then, we return to the ground, and dig a tunnel going the way we came with our Pick of Mighty Excavation.
GM: You emerge in the courtyard of a castle.


Players: Let's go play Mario Kart.

(I was never very good at pen & paper.........)

_________________
everything happens so much

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 29 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next

All times are UTC


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group