Media previews

For discussion of Amazon's new television show "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power"
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Inanna
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Re: Media previews

Post by Inanna »

Eldy wrote:Another view of the Dwarvish masks:

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Now I see it! Those are great masks! Very individualistic, no?
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Re: Media previews

Post by RoseMorninStar »

They remind me of Babylonian statues.
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Re: Media previews

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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Introduces Pharazon of Númenor (Exclusive) - ComicBook.com

Some nice insight into ROP's characterization of Pharazôn, and also—finally—an oblique references to Tar-Palantir!
"We see a man whose seafaring days, whose warrior days are not behind him, but he's got to take on a different role now," Gravelle tells ComicBook.com, speaking over the phone. "His cousin, Queen Míriel, is now the queen regent. Her father's ill, so she's, in his stead, ruling Númenor. And so she needs some help from her cousin, who is Pharazôn, who has the ear of all the guildsmen, who has the ear of all the people of Númenor, and so is the man to bring the island together to listen to Queen Míriel. So very much at the moment, he's an advisor, a chancellor, and very much a public servant, and it's not a job or a task that he is reluctant to do. He has a very, very deep love for his island and for his kingdom."
"He's a typical man," Gravelle says. "We see him midlife. He's been there, he's done it. He could still don his armor and still lead. Those days aren't truly behind him, but right now we see him in a different capacity. That might not be how we see him forever, but right now that's how we see him. So when I saw the character of Pharazôn, when I read the character of Pharazôn, it is somebody who has been supremely confident but everybody has their insecurities about everything, and has their grievances with things. And so we see, I wouldn't say flawed, I would just say your typical man."
"Every relationship, every community, every society, it could be like a powder keg, and it could go off at any moment," Gravelle says. "And he's well aware of these things. And coupled with the Ban of the Valar, the gift of men that the Faithful believe in, he's more skeptical about that and going, 'Well, why can't we live forever? Why can't we travel here? Why can't we do this? Are we just second-class visitors then, to this earth that we live on?' And there are a few existential questions that need answering."

He goes on to explain, "If you live forever, you can afford to spit the wine out into the spittoon. If you're not going to live forever, you might want to just swallow that wine. So maybe there is less of a respect for nature, and that's why you hew from the rock, these great statues that we see in Númenor. Then you are like, 'Look what we're capable of. We're not here for as long a time as elves, but look at what we're capable of, look at what we can do. We are going to create these statues because we are not here forever.' And that is very much in the back of everybody's mind in Númenor, and I think Pharazôn. more so than anybody else, I think he does typify that."
"Looking at the micro and macro of any situation is vital," he says. "And some people can lose perspective of the macro or they can lose perspective of the micro, and then all of a sudden, altruism can creep in, in a very bad way. And all of a sudden you're doing things for the greater good. And at first, that's fine, because it's for the greater good, but then how far is too far?"
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Re: Media previews

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Very interesting, indeed!
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Re: Media previews

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RoseMorninStar wrote: Wed Aug 10, 2022 2:55 pm They remind me of Babylonian statues.
Image
Yes! I had previously thought Assyrian-inspired as well: https://www.alamy.com/assyrian-sculptur ... 43420.html

Very appropriate, too, given Tolkien’s commentary on Khuzdul and linguistic influences from the Near East.
Last edited by Stranger Wings on Wed Aug 10, 2022 10:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Media previews

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Eldy wrote: Wed Aug 10, 2022 5:07 pm The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Introduces Pharazon of Númenor (Exclusive) - ComicBook.com

Some nice insight into ROP's characterization of Pharazôn, and also—finally—an oblique references to Tar-Palantir!
"We see a man whose seafaring days, whose warrior days are not behind him, but he's got to take on a different role now," Gravelle tells ComicBook.com, speaking over the phone. "His cousin, Queen Míriel, is now the queen regent. Her father's ill, so she's, in his stead, ruling Númenor. And so she needs some help from her cousin, who is Pharazôn, who has the ear of all the guildsmen, who has the ear of all the people of Númenor, and so is the man to bring the island together to listen to Queen Míriel. So very much at the moment, he's an advisor, a chancellor, and very much a public servant, and it's not a job or a task that he is reluctant to do. He has a very, very deep love for his island and for his kingdom."
"He's a typical man," Gravelle says. "We see him midlife. He's been there, he's done it. He could still don his armor and still lead. Those days aren't truly behind him, but right now we see him in a different capacity. That might not be how we see him forever, but right now that's how we see him. So when I saw the character of Pharazôn, when I read the character of Pharazôn, it is somebody who has been supremely confident but everybody has their insecurities about everything, and has their grievances with things. And so we see, I wouldn't say flawed, I would just say your typical man."
"Every relationship, every community, every society, it could be like a powder keg, and it could go off at any moment," Gravelle says. "And he's well aware of these things. And coupled with the Ban of the Valar, the gift of men that the Faithful believe in, he's more skeptical about that and going, 'Well, why can't we live forever? Why can't we travel here? Why can't we do this? Are we just second-class visitors then, to this earth that we live on?' And there are a few existential questions that need answering."

He goes on to explain, "If you live forever, you can afford to spit the wine out into the spittoon. If you're not going to live forever, you might want to just swallow that wine. So maybe there is less of a respect for nature, and that's why you hew from the rock, these great statues that we see in Númenor. Then you are like, 'Look what we're capable of. We're not here for as long a time as elves, but look at what we're capable of, look at what we can do. We are going to create these statues because we are not here forever.' And that is very much in the back of everybody's mind in Númenor, and I think Pharazôn. more so than anybody else, I think he does typify that."
"Looking at the micro and macro of any situation is vital," he says. "And some people can lose perspective of the macro or they can lose perspective of the micro, and then all of a sudden, altruism can creep in, in a very bad way. And all of a sudden you're doing things for the greater good. And at first, that's fine, because it's for the greater good, but then how far is too far?"
Image
Wow. Gravelle really understands this character and the Akallabêth. Some very encouraging words there. And confirmation that the Ban of the Valar is in the show (assumed it would be in some form, but wasn’t sure how they would present it, or even if Amazon has the rights to use that phrase/ concept).
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Re: Media previews

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

The Ban of the Valar is specifically mentioned and described in Appendix A:
There was a tall mountain in the midst of the land, the Meneltarma, and from its summit the farsighted could descry the white tower of the Haven of the Eldar in Eressëa. Thence the Eldar came to the Edain and enriched them with knowledge and many gifts; but one command had been laid upon the Númenoreans, the ‘Ban of the Valar’: they were forbidden to sail west out of sight of their own shores or to attempt to set foot on the Undying Lands. For though a long span of life had been granted to them, in the beginning thrice that of lesser Men, they must remain mortal, since the Valar were not permitted to take from them the Gift of Men (or the Doom of Men, as it was afterwards called).
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Re: Media previews

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Voronwë the Faithful wrote: Wed Aug 10, 2022 10:20 pm The Ban of the Valar is specifically mentioned and described in Appendix A:
There was a tall mountain in the midst of the land, the Meneltarma, and from its summit the farsighted could descry the white tower of the Haven of the Eldar in Eressëa. Thence the Eldar came to the Edain and enriched them with knowledge and many gifts; but one command had been laid upon the Númenoreans, the ‘Ban of the Valar’: they were forbidden to sail west out of sight of their own shores or to attempt to set foot on the Undying Lands. For though a long span of life had been granted to them, in the beginning thrice that of lesser Men, they must remain mortal, since the Valar were not permitted to take from them the Gift of Men (or the Doom of Men, as it was afterwards called).
Ah, right! OK, good. So there’s no need for them to fudge that.
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Re: Media previews

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Stranger Wings wrote: Wed Aug 10, 2022 10:13 pmWow. Gravelle really understands this character and the Akallabêth. Some very encouraging words there.
Yeah, I found Gravelle's comments very heartening. Granted, most of the actors have to varying extents identified themselves with their characters in interviews, so it's not surprising Gravelle has a sympathetic take on Pharazôn, but as something of a King's Men sympathizer myself I hope that comes through in the rest of the show, too. (By which I mean I agree with the King's Men in the initial philosophical/theological dispute that saw them split with the Faithful, and also approve of making the language of government the same as the language spoken by the common people, not that I support the later Kings' oppression of the Faithful. I also side with Andreth in the Athrabeth. :D)
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Re: Media previews

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Eldy wrote: Wed Aug 10, 2022 10:45 pm
Stranger Wings wrote: Wed Aug 10, 2022 10:13 pmWow. Gravelle really understands this character and the Akallabêth. Some very encouraging words there.
Yeah, I found Gravelle's comments very heartening. Granted, most of the actors have to varying extents identified themselves with their characters in interviews, so it's not surprising Gravelle has a sympathetic take on Pharazôn, but as something of a King's Men sympathizer myself I hope that comes through in the rest of the show, too. (By which I mean I agree with the King's Men in the initial philosophical/theological dispute that saw them split with the Faithful, and also approve of making the language of government the same as the language spoken by the common people, not that I support the later Kings' oppression of the Faithful. I also side with Andreth in the Athrabeth. :D)
By initial philosophical/ theological dispute, you mean their discontent with the Ban, their desire for deathlessness, their populism, their restrictive policies regarding elven tourist visas, their colonization of Middle Earth, or something else? My apologies for the tangent, but the Akallabêth this one of my favorite stretches of Tolkien’s writing, and I am easily distracted by it. :wooper:
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Re: Media previews

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Stranger Wings wrote: Thu Aug 11, 2022 4:08 amBy initial philosophical/ theological dispute, you mean their discontent with the Ban, their desire for deathlessness, their populism, their restrictive policies regarding elven tourist visas, their colonization of Middle Earth, or something else? My apologies for the tangent, but the Akallabêth this one of my favorite stretches of Tolkien’s writing, and I am easily distracted by it.
First of all, no apologies for Númenor tangents! It's my favorite subject, too. :D

I referred to the dispute that arose during the reign of Tar-Atanamir about the Númenórean desire for deathlessness and, relatedly, whether it was morally acceptable for Númenóreans not to commit suicide before senescence. The Akallabêth claims Tar-Atanamir "was the first of the Númenóreans to ... refus[e] to depart until he was witless and unmanned" after "clinging to his life beyond the end of all joy." It's my belief that nobody has any business declaring whether other people can still experience joy and find their lives worth living, so I deplore the idea that Tar-Atanamir or anyone else was morally suspect for not wanting to die. I also think the King's Men's dissatisfaction with not knowing what would happen to their souls after they die (in a world where the existence of the soul, and of naturally disembodied spirits, is a matter of objective fact) is perfectly reasonable. Immortal beings in Arda had been flubbing their attempts at soothing death anxiety since at least Finrod in the Athrabeth, but if the Valar were more attuned to Incarnate philosophy, they would have predicted the Númenóreans would eventually chafe against paternalism. Is it any wonder that removing them from the rest of humanity to make them almost as good as Elves, with a special island home that's almost as great an earthly paradise as Valinor—which is literally kept just out of sight from them until well into their "rebellion"—would breed resentment and jealousy? Not to Tolkien in Letter 156!

I know populism is a dirty word in some circles, and for good reason, but I nonetheless maintain that making the language of government a language that most people can understand is a good thing. I do not approve of Númenórean colonialism, but that was well-established before the King's Men/Faithful split (I recently made the case on TORn that the Númenóreans engaged in mass killing in the Enedwaith in the first half of the Second Age), and the Akallabêth's efforts to absolve the Faithful of responsibility for Númenórean colonial abuses rings hollow in light of Tal-Elmar (ethnic cleansing again!) and of the racial hierarchy their descendants presided over in Third Age Gondor. That's not to excuse the King's Men's involvement in the same, but I think this is a much deeper-rooted problem with Númenor, not something arising from its internal cultural divide. I do not condone the later Kings (centuries after Tar-Atanamir's time) prohibiting Elvish visits to Númenor, nor their infringements on the culture and basic human dignity of the Faithful. Hopefully it goes without saying that I do not support the things that began only after a Ring-wielding Sauron made his influence felt: slavery, human sacrifice, etc.
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Re: Media previews

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Eldy wrote: Thu Aug 11, 2022 4:49 am
Stranger Wings wrote: Thu Aug 11, 2022 4:08 amBy initial philosophical/ theological dispute, you mean their discontent with the Ban, their desire for deathlessness, their populism, their restrictive policies regarding elven tourist visas, their colonization of Middle Earth, or something else? My apologies for the tangent, but the Akallabêth this one of my favorite stretches of Tolkien’s writing, and I am easily distracted by it.
First of all, no apologies for Númenor tangents! It's my favorite subject, too. :D

I referred to the dispute that arose during the reign of Tar-Atanamir about the Númenórean desire for deathlessness and, relatedly, whether it was morally acceptable for Númenóreans not to commit suicide before senescence. The Akallabêth claims Tar-Atanamir "was the first of the Númenóreans to ... refus[e] to depart until he was witless and unmanned" after "clinging to his life beyond the end of all joy." It's my belief that nobody has any business declaring whether other people can still experience joy and find their lives worth living, so I deplore the idea that Tar-Atanamir or anyone else was morally suspect for not wanting to die. I also think the King's Men's dissatisfaction with not knowing what would happen to their souls after they die (in a world where the existence of the soul, and of naturally disembodied spirits, is a matter of objective fact) is perfectly reasonable. Immortal beings in Arda had been flubbing their attempts at soothing death anxiety since at least Finrod in the Athrabeth, but if the Valar were more attuned to Incarnate philosophy, they would have predicted the Númenóreans would eventually chafe against paternalism. Is it any wonder that removing them from the rest of humanity to make them almost as good as Elves, with a special island home that's almost as great an earthly paradise as Valinor—which is literally kept just out of sight from them until well into their "rebellion"—would breed resentment and jealousy? Not to Tolkien in Letter 156!

I know populism is a dirty word in some circles, and for good reason, but I nonetheless maintain that making the language of government a language that most people can understand is a good thing. I do not approve of Númenórean colonialism, but that was well-established before the King's Men/Faithful split (I recently made the case on TORn that the Númenóreans engaged in mass killing in the Enedwaith in the first half of the Second Age), and the Akallabêth's efforts to absolve the Faithful of responsibility for Númenórean colonial abuses rings hollow in light of Tal-Elmar (ethnic cleansing again!) and of the racial hierarchy their descendants presided over in Third Age Gondor. That's not to excuse the King's Men's involvement in the same, but I think this is a much deeper-rooted problem with Númenor, not something arising from its internal cultural divide. I do not condone the later Kings (centuries after Tar-Atanamir's time) prohibiting Elvish visits to Númenor, nor their infringements on the culture and basic human dignity of the Faithful. Hopefully it goes without saying that I do not support the things that began only after a Ring-wielding Sauron made his influence felt: slavery, human sacrifice, etc.
Finally, someone who appreciates my Númenórean digressions! Well met.

Overall, I agree with your general sentiment: the Valar set up a political situation between themselves, the Numenoreans and the Eldar that was inherently unstable, and helped precipitate much of what transpired. Regarding the Númenórean spiritual and political dynamics in particular, I agree with some of your sentiments, and have a slightly different take on others.

First, on clinging to life "beyond joy." I think it's important to focus on the "beyond joy" part of that sentence. In my view, this kind of dynamic can lead to severe consequences for society if such individuals consequently cling to the big "Ps" - power, prestige, position, possession, property, etc. I agree entirely that if one continues to enjoy life deep into old age, they should not be judged as immoral for doing so (I say this as someone who is never bored, and wouldn't mind living to 500 so I can read everything that's ever been written). But "beyond joy" becomes problematic, IMO. I generally agree with the ancients across myth and cultures that the desire for immortality can be quite destructive to society, and that grasping possessively onto the temporal, material world is folly. In that, Tolkien and the Buddha had a lot in common. But there's no reason to be dogmatic about it - and I don't think Tolkien would have been. If one persists into old age, and continues to bring joy to society (or at least, is doing no harm to it), moral judgment should be reserved. So we're probably on a similar page on this one.

Second, on the fate of the human soul. As someone who is moved and inspired by the mysteries of the universe (and the human condition), I don't relate to the "need to know." So I don't respond that empathetically to anger over this ambiguity among Numenoreans. However, in a world where the Eldar are aware of their spiritual fates, and the Numenoreans are aware of that awareness among the Eldar, it's understandable that this would create some serious envy and tension. Add to this the dynamic of the men of Númenor being "almost" as blessed as their elven compatriots, as you note, and you have a situation wherein the Valar have set the stage for almost certain class-conflict of the ethnic variety. More transparency from the Valar regarding the fate of men, a more equitable treatment of man and elf, and some conflict-prevention thinking, would have been helpful here. But then again, Tolkien was simply commenting on the difficulty of the human condition, and how easy it is for the fear of death (and of our unknown fates) to drive us into folly. After all, we really...do not know what awaits us. And the Numenoreans were perhaps presented with the ultimate test: can you be friends with beings that DO know their fates, and can travel wherever they please, while resisting envy, resentment, and the desire to overturn the status quo of human existence? Tough teachers, those Valar were.

Third, regarding the language of Númenórean government and majoritarianism. I agree with the King's Men that the language of government should be intelligible to the broader public. Having a Sindarin-speaking elite governing over a largely Adunaic speaking public is unjust and a recipe for eventual political disaster. However, the folly of the King's Men was in their solution to the problem: majoritarian ethnonationalism. Ultimately, their populism was restricted to those who thought like them, spoke like them, and had the same jaundiced view of the elven "Other." This contributed to a "tyranny of the majority" (Socrates felt the sting of such tyranny when he was driven out of Athens), wherein the majority functioned as an officially legitimized cudgel against the minority. In this context, rather than changing the official language of Númenor to Adunaic, if the King's Men were truly men of the people, they should have had no "official" language, and simply instituted Adunaic and Sindar as the working languages. Using the United States as an illustrative example, the country - contrary to popular belief - does not have an official language. This derives from the linguistic diversity of its early days - German, Dutch, English, Scots, Spanish, Native American, etc - and the application of a soil-based vs a blood-based conception of citizenship. Yes, the working language of the US is English (and in some documents such as passports, French as well), but there is no fixed law along those lines. Therefore, if a Hispanic minority grows or becomes a majority, the country can democratically "flex" to accommodate the change, and institute Spanish and English as working languages. And this would be a more just arrangement. The King's Men, unfortunately, followed the example of later 19th century and 20th century conceptions of nationalism, which was majoritarian ethnonationalist in character. When Ataturk made Turkish the official language of his newly-minted nation that arose from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, that policy was the camel's nose in the tent for a broader oppression of ethnic, religious, linguistic and political minorities on the Anatolian peninsula. And I need not go into how the Germans, Italians, Japanese and other ethnonationalists of the mid-20th century wielded arguments of majoritarian ethnonationalism to justify some of the greatest horrors ever visited upon mankind.

What could have the King's Men done to address their legitimate grievances, while not turning into near-genocidal ethnic chauvinists? Simple. Pressed for a power-sharing arrangement with the Faithful, and the use of both Adunaic and Sindarin in government affairs. But then, that would have led to a much less dramatic chapter of the published Silmarillion:

"And so the King's Men and the Faithful lived happily ever after with their just, equitable, power-sharing, multi-lingual consociational government, and the island of Númenor did not sink into the sea, and the writing of the Lord of the Rings became unnecessary, and there was much rejoicing."

Fourth, on the colonial misadventures of the Faithful. I agree that they are not above criticism, particularly in the Third Age and as it relates to the ethnic cleansing of the Dunlendings. However, as I've always read it, those like Tal-Elmar and others of the line of the Faithful who committed such acts are generally presented as exceptions to the rule. As leaders who lost their way, and the way of the more tolerant Faithful (though perhaps I am being too generous in my assessment of their base philosophy, given that they believed in a family-centric legitimacy when it came to governance - though ethnic-based legitimacy of the King's Men variety has historically been far more destructive than family-based legitimacy of the Faithful variety). On the other hand, the brutality of the colonialist adventures of the King's Men were a direct and logical progression from their stated ethnonationalist philosophy - they are great men by race, their language and customs are codified as such by law, and lesser men who do not share their language and customs should be their subjects, willingly or not. The Faithful, and the "lesser men" of Middle Earth, get thrown into the same minority bucket, and this flows naturally from the ethnic chauvinism inherent in their philosophy. There was no room for humility or magnanimity towards their ethnic lessers, in this philosophical context, because it was centered on an aggressive ethnic populism. Contrast that with a later King of the Faithful in Gondor - Aragorn son of Arathorn - who not only strived to earn his claim to the throne of Gondor and Arnor through his deeds (and would not enter Minas Tirith unless invited), but was magnanimous towards his subjects as a ruler - for example, allowing the hobbits to essentially govern their own affairs. Aragorn, I felt, was acting in the spirit of the original philosophy of the Faithful, whereas Tal-Elmar was not. The same cannot be said of Ar-Pharazôn, or the Black Numenoreans who persisted in Middle Earth after him. They were carrying a bright, flaming torch for Adunaic-speaking Numenoreans. As ethno-linguistic exclusionists at heart, they were just implementing the philosophy espoused by their forbears to their logical conclusion.

In summary, I see the internal populism of the King's Men in Númenor, and the consequent brutality of their colonial adventures in Middle Earth, as two of the greatest evils committed in Arda by the race of man. And this derives, I think, primarily from the ethnic envy and insecurity of the King's Men. Interestingly, the Akallabêth is as such one of the most relevant to Tolkien's age, and to our age, of his stories, and also one that carries the greatest stamp of 19th and 20th-century historical dynamics (though one could also stretch back to the proto-nationalism of Greek and Roman thought and practice as an analog - including as it relates to Greek-speaking elites in the Roman Senate who were eventually vilified by populist autocrats like Julius Caesar). Though the Akallabêth's lessons of death and the desire for deathlessness are timeless, its political dimensions come closest to Tolkien's hard line against allegory (without being ham-handed), and as a scholar of political history, that intrigues me to no end. Despite not delving into the intricacies of governance and policy, Tolkien was a remarkably astute observer in this space. And it's that blend of myth and political realism that really gets under my skin when I read the Akallabêth - in the best possible way.

Finally (for real this time), given the relevance of Númenor's decline to the rise of ethnonationalist, populist authoritarianism we're witnessing around the world today, I suspect it will be the element of Rings of Power most talked about. I'm both looking forward to that, and dreading the responses from reactionaries who will distort Tolkien's words to critique this part of the story. But mostly, I think this aspect of the show could be of real value to social discourse, as it inherently addresses the current zeitgeist. And as a longtime promoter of the social value of Tolkien's stories, that makes me happy.

ETA: Apologies for being long in the wind with this post. I'm writing hastily from a phone, and without time to edit, as I'm racing against the clock (an upcoming conference-building measure that I really don't want to attend…).
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Re: Media previews

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

What a fascinating discussion. SW, the last thing you should ever apologize for is being long-winded! I have things to say (I think) but I don't want to say them until I am sure of what they are (which I think will require more coffee, at the least, and another read through both of your posts).
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Re: Media previews

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Voronwë the Faithful wrote: Thu Aug 11, 2022 2:36 pm What a fascinating discussion. SW, the last thing you should ever apologize for is being long-winded! I have things to say (I think) but I don't want to say them until I am sure of what they are (which I think will require more coffee, at the least, and another read through both of your posts).
Speak, friend, and enter...the conversation. I want to hear your views! But coffee, yeah. I need some more too.
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Re: Media previews

Post by Eldy »

I'm delighted to have such a fascinating, thoughtful post to read and reply to! Thanks for this, Stranger Wings, and I'll echo what you said about hoping Voronwë jumps in. :)

To reply to your points sequentially:

1. Clinging to life As you say, I think we are more or less on the same page. Whether or not Tolkien himself would have been dogmatic here, the fictional characters and cultures he wrote about certainly were. I want to emphasize that Númenor is ostensibly a society where every single person committed suicide before experiencing old age until more than 2000 years into the history of the realm. (I have a hard time taking this seriously and prefer to imagine that Tar-Atanamir was merely the first member of the ruling class to flaunt this religious directive, but there's no particular grounding in the text for this.) Given that the First Age Edain had no such custom, and that "long life and peace" was their request of the Valar at the start of the Second (NoMe, p. 316), I seriously doubt this attitude arose organically from them. The alternative is that it came from the Valar and/or Eldar, who were the only outside cultural influence on the early Númenóreans, since the Valar instructed Círdan to stop providing transportation between Númenor and Middle-earth (HoMe XII, p. 145; NoMe, p. 339). But what did the Valar or Eldar know about the value of life in old age? The greatest insight we have into their perspective on this matter is Finrod in the Athrabeth, but Finrod's idea of consoling his brother's lover, after Aegnor left Andreth rather than watch her grow old, is to say that "the Eldar ... would rather have a memory that is fair but unfinished than one that goes on to a grievous end. Now he will ever remember thee in the sun of morning, and that last evening by the water of Aeluin in which he saw thy face mirrored with a star caught in thy hair" (HoMe X, p. 325). It's not necessarily surprising that immortal beings would be so averse to watching loved ones grow old and die since they have little to no experience of doing so, but that's precisely why they have no business trying to make this call. It's like the Primary World phenomenon of people routinely underestimating the quality of life possible with various health conditions and disabilities. The Valar and Eldar are no more qualified to say if elderly mortals have lives worth living than able-bodied humans are qualified to say if paraplegics should give up and die.

2. Fate of the soul As a philosophical materialist, I'm not the best person to weigh in here. I think the Valar were in a tricky position, so I don't want to be unfair to them, and it's worth noting again that the Númenóreans being granted extended lifespans was, in at least one text, done at their own request (NoMe, p. 316). My main objection to the Valar is the clueless, patronizing response of their messengers, who immediately finger-wagged at the Númenóreans and insinuated they were showing signs of moral corruption because they did not want to die: "if that grief has returned to trouble you, as you say, then we fear that the Shadow arises once more and grows again in your hearts. Therefore, though you be the Dúnedain, fairest of Men, who escaped from the Shadow of old and fought valiantly against it, we say to you: Beware!" (TS, p. 265) I'll also note that I think early humans being punished with reduced lifespans for worshipping Melkor is profoundly unjust, given they were left completely on their own, with no support or knowledge of the wider world to help them avoid being tricked/forced into it, but that can't be pinned on the Valar except insofar as they should have been more vigilant and not abandoned Middle-earth for Valinor.

3. Language of government As I mentioned previously, I don't approve of the King's Men infringing on the rights of the Faithful, and I include their linguistic rights in that. As such, I don't really have any disagreement with you. The main thing I will mention, though, is that I think the severity of this offense by the King's Men depends on whether there were any native Sindarin speakers in Númenor: I consider banning the mother tongue of a substantial minority of the population to be worse than banning a dead language which is preserved only as a method of gatekeeping law, government, and education (though that gatekeeping could have been undone without a complete ban). Like many fans, I'm fond of the idea of there being a Sindarin-speaking commoner population in the Andustar region, in addition to the Sindarin-speaking and Quenya-literate nobility (the situation presented in Aldarion and Erendis). The Akallabêth itself is vague on this point, but LOTR Appendix F makes no mention of Andustaris, saying only, "the native speech of the Númenóreans remained for the most part their ancestral Mannish tongue, the Adûnaic, and to this in the latter days of their pride their kings and lords returned, abandoning the Elven-speech, save only those few that held still to their ancient friendship with the Eldar." Of Dwarves and Men goes further, saying that Sindarin had been a language of lore in Númenor (the same status Quenya has in A&E), and that the Faithful elite only stopped speaking Adûnaic because of its association with the anti-Valarin Kings. Only in the Faithful-controlled colonies of northwestern Middle-earth did "[a]ll men of high lineage and all those who were taught to read and write [use] Sindarin, even as a daily tongue among themselves. In some families, it is said, Sindarin became the native tongue, and the vulgar tongue of Adûnaic origin [i.e., Westron] was only learned casually as it was needed." (HoMe XII, p. 315)

Again, this isn't to excuse the King's Men's actions, but I find the linguistic situation in Númenor fascinating, so I couldn't resist bringing this up. :halo: I'll also note that, if Andustar was majority Sindarin-speaking, the forced resettlement of Elf-friends described in the Akallabêth would have been a massively more disruptive event than that text gives the impression of. We're talking on the scale of Soviet deportations of nationalities: something of such magnitude and expense that it can only be justified, even to an already prejudiced population, in times of war or other national crisis. So if one wants to construct a syncretic picture of Númenor, my inclination is to imagine Ar-Gimilzôr's persecution of Sindarin speakers provoking a rebellion in Andustar. Which is not the same as a generalized Elf-friend rebellion, since the aristocratic Faithful were by that point mostly closeted, like the House of Valandil, who spent centuries successfully portraying themselves as loyal King's Men. Then again, the aristocratic Faithful would have been a minority of the whole Sindarin-speaking population in such a scenario.

4. Faithful colonialism I'm afraid I don't see the tolerant Faithful philosophy you refer to in the text. Faramir gave a brief sketch of the Gondorian hierarchy of peoples in The Two Towers, and Tolkien elaborated on this in Of Dwarves and Men: the ranking of High Men (Númenóreans), Middle Men (theoretically any Edainic-related people, but in practice those friendly to the Númenóreans), and Men of Darkness. He makes it clear this hierarchy was devised in the Second Age, and that it was deliberately based on the Númenóreans' misunderstanding of the Elvish division into High (Calaquendi), Middle (Sindar), and Dark (Avari) Elves. This is clearly not something arising from the Adûnâ ethnonationalist tradition. As for Tal-Elmar, the title character was one of the indigenous "Pre-Númenórean" inhabitants of Gondor, whose people were threatened with death if they did not leave the area the Faithful Númenóreans had decided to colonize: "Your time of dwelling in these hills is come to an end. Here the men of the West have resolved to make their homes, and the folk of the dark must depart – or be slain." If this isn't chauvinism, I'm not sure what is. :P I think pointing to Aragorn is misleading at best, given that he lived more than 3000 years after the Downfall of Númenor. A more instructive example would be the early Kings of Gondor: "All told the Dúnedain were thus from the beginning far fewer in number than the lesser men among whom they dwelt and whom they ruled, being lords of long life and great power and wisdom." (LOTR, Appendix F) The indigenous and mixed race peoples of Gondor remained on the outs for thousands of years. Although Eldacar's victory in the Kin-strife established that someone of Northmen descent could inherit the throne, the House of Anárion ultimately failed because "no claimant to the crown could be found who was of pure blood, or whose claim all would allow" after the death of Eärnur II (Appendix A). It was only the Stewards who "recruited the strength of our people from the sturdy folk of the sea-coast, and from the hardy mountaineers of Ered Nimrais" (TTT, IV 5), finally allowing the majority of the population of Gondor proper into the fold. But even during the War of the Ring, the "mingled" blood of the men of Lossarnach and Lebennin was contrasted unfavorably with the "high blood" of the men of Dol Amroth (ROTK, VI 1).

I think you're right about the political parallels between the late-stage King's Men movement and modern nationalist and populist movements, though as noted directly above, I think the worst elements of their worldview were already present in pre-divide Númenor (and were also carried forward by the Faithful in slightly different form). By the time we get to Ar-Gimilzôr, we're talking about a movement a thousand years removed from its spiritual forefather, Tar-Atanamir. I make no secret of sympathizing with Tar-Atanamir on the topic of religiously and culturally mandated suicide (I'm very much not on his side when it comes to his treatment of the peoples of Middle-earth, but all the Kings from Tar-Meneldur onward were at the very least complicit in colonial crimes), and I'm also open in my disdain for the Valar, so I'm inclined to interpret the early King's Men through a positive lens. This obviously can lead to motivated reasoning, and I certainly would not claim my interpretations are in any way definitive. But I'm reluctant to take what we know of the late-stage King's Men and project it backwards with no further reflection. The American Revolution is less than 250 years removed from the present, and while there are many valid criticisms one can levy at the Patriot side, one criticism you can't make is that they were Christian Dominionists looking to establish a theocracy. And yet there are millions of people who believe they were. When I look at the progression of the King's Men—from advocating for personal autonomy (the right to live out one's full life) and removing barriers to participation in government and education, to trampling over their fellow Númenóreans—I'm inclined to see a similar progression. But, as in the American analogy, we shouldn't forget that their poor treatment of non-Númenóreans was present from the start.

I'm not super happy with this post, but like you I am now out of time, and want to get this done with so that when I have free time again later this afternoon/evening I can focus on other things. :smilespin:
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Voronwë the Faithful
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Re: Media previews

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

I'm still pondering what both of you have written, and considering my thoughts on the matter.
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Re: Media previews

Post by Inanna »

Just wanted to chime in to say that I’m reading with utmost interest.
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Re: Media previews

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

I'm working on a response. Or at least, I'm thinking about working on a response. It's going to take some time, so bear with me.
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Re: Media previews

Post by Eldy »

Voronwë the Faithful wrote: Fri Aug 12, 2022 1:29 am I'm working on a response. Or at least, I'm thinking about working on a response. It's going to take some time, so bear with me.
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Re: Media previews

Post by Stranger Wings »

Eldy wrote: Thu Aug 11, 2022 7:37 pm I'm delighted to have such a fascinating, thoughtful post to read and reply to! Thanks for this, Stranger Wings, and I'll echo what you said about hoping Voronwë jumps in. :)

To reply to your points sequentially:

1. Clinging to life As you say, I think we are more or less on the same page. Whether or not Tolkien himself would have been dogmatic here, the fictional characters and cultures he wrote about certainly were. I want to emphasize that Númenor is ostensibly a society where every single person committed suicide before experiencing old age until more than 2000 years into the history of the realm. (I have a hard time taking this seriously and prefer to imagine that Tar-Atanamir was merely the first member of the ruling class to flaunt this religious directive, but there's no particular grounding in the text for this.) Given that the First Age Edain had no such custom, and that "long life and peace" was their request of the Valar at the start of the Second (NoMe, p. 316), I seriously doubt this attitude arose organically from them. The alternative is that it came from the Valar and/or Eldar, who were the only outside cultural influence on the early Númenóreans, since the Valar instructed Círdan to stop providing transportation between Númenor and Middle-earth (HoMe XII, p. 145; NoMe, p. 339). But what did the Valar or Eldar know about the value of life in old age? The greatest insight we have into their perspective on this matter is Finrod in the Athrabeth, but Finrod's idea of consoling his brother's lover, after Aegnor left Andreth rather than watch her grow old, is to say that "the Eldar ... would rather have a memory that is fair but unfinished than one that goes on to a grievous end. Now he will ever remember thee in the sun of morning, and that last evening by the water of Aeluin in which he saw thy face mirrored with a star caught in thy hair" (HoMe X, p. 325). It's not necessarily surprising that immortal beings would be so averse to watching loved ones grow old and die since they have little to no experience of doing so, but that's precisely why they have no business trying to make this call. It's like the Primary World phenomenon of people routinely underestimating the quality of life possible with various health conditions and disabilities. The Valar and Eldar are no more qualified to say if elderly mortals have lives worth living than able-bodied humans are qualified to say if paraplegics should give up and die.

2. Fate of the soul As a philosophical materialist, I'm not the best person to weigh in here. I think the Valar were in a tricky position, so I don't want to be unfair to them, and it's worth noting again that the Númenóreans being granted extended lifespans was, in at least one text, done at their own request (NoMe, p. 316). My main objection to the Valar is the clueless, patronizing response of their messengers, who immediately finger-wagged at the Númenóreans and insinuated they were showing signs of moral corruption because they did not want to die: "if that grief has returned to trouble you, as you say, then we fear that the Shadow arises once more and grows again in your hearts. Therefore, though you be the Dúnedain, fairest of Men, who escaped from the Shadow of old and fought valiantly against it, we say to you: Beware!" (TS, p. 265) I'll also note that I think early humans being punished with reduced lifespans for worshipping Melkor is profoundly unjust, given they were left completely on their own, with no support or knowledge of the wider world to help them avoid being tricked/forced into it, but that can't be pinned on the Valar except insofar as they should have been more vigilant and not abandoned Middle-earth for Valinor.

3. Language of government As I mentioned previously, I don't approve of the King's Men infringing on the rights of the Faithful, and I include their linguistic rights in that. As such, I don't really have any disagreement with you. The main thing I will mention, though, is that I think the severity of this offense by the King's Men depends on whether there were any native Sindarin speakers in Númenor: I consider banning the mother tongue of a substantial minority of the population to be worse than banning a dead language which is preserved only as a method of gatekeeping law, government, and education (though that gatekeeping could have been undone without a complete ban). Like many fans, I'm fond of the idea of there being a Sindarin-speaking commoner population in the Andustar region, in addition to the Sindarin-speaking and Quenya-literate nobility (the situation presented in Aldarion and Erendis). The Akallabêth itself is vague on this point, but LOTR Appendix F makes no mention of Andustaris, saying only, "the native speech of the Númenóreans remained for the most part their ancestral Mannish tongue, the Adûnaic, and to this in the latter days of their pride their kings and lords returned, abandoning the Elven-speech, save only those few that held still to their ancient friendship with the Eldar." Of Dwarves and Men goes further, saying that Sindarin had been a language of lore in Númenor (the same status Quenya has in A&E), and that the Faithful elite only stopped speaking Adûnaic because of its association with the anti-Valarin Kings. Only in the Faithful-controlled colonies of northwestern Middle-earth did "[a]ll men of high lineage and all those who were taught to read and write [use] Sindarin, even as a daily tongue among themselves. In some families, it is said, Sindarin became the native tongue, and the vulgar tongue of Adûnaic origin [i.e., Westron] was only learned casually as it was needed." (HoMe XII, p. 315)

Again, this isn't to excuse the King's Men's actions, but I find the linguistic situation in Númenor fascinating, so I couldn't resist bringing this up. :halo: I'll also note that, if Andustar was majority Sindarin-speaking, the forced resettlement of Elf-friends described in the Akallabêth would have been a massively more disruptive event than that text gives the impression of. We're talking on the scale of Soviet deportations of nationalities: something of such magnitude and expense that it can only be justified, even to an already prejudiced population, in times of war or other national crisis. So if one wants to construct a syncretic picture of Númenor, my inclination is to imagine Ar-Gimilzôr's persecution of Sindarin speakers provoking a rebellion in Andustar. Which is not the same as a generalized Elf-friend rebellion, since the aristocratic Faithful were by that point mostly closeted, like the House of Valandil, who spent centuries successfully portraying themselves as loyal King's Men. Then again, the aristocratic Faithful would have been a minority of the whole Sindarin-speaking population in such a scenario.

4. Faithful colonialism I'm afraid I don't see the tolerant Faithful philosophy you refer to in the text. Faramir gave a brief sketch of the Gondorian hierarchy of peoples in The Two Towers, and Tolkien elaborated on this in Of Dwarves and Men: the ranking of High Men (Númenóreans), Middle Men (theoretically any Edainic-related people, but in practice those friendly to the Númenóreans), and Men of Darkness. He makes it clear this hierarchy was devised in the Second Age, and that it was deliberately based on the Númenóreans' misunderstanding of the Elvish division into High (Calaquendi), Middle (Sindar), and Dark (Avari) Elves. This is clearly not something arising from the Adûnâ ethnonationalist tradition. As for Tal-Elmar, the title character was one of the indigenous "Pre-Númenórean" inhabitants of Gondor, whose people were threatened with death if they did not leave the area the Faithful Númenóreans had decided to colonize: "Your time of dwelling in these hills is come to an end. Here the men of the West have resolved to make their homes, and the folk of the dark must depart – or be slain." If this isn't chauvinism, I'm not sure what is. :P I think pointing to Aragorn is misleading at best, given that he lived more than 3000 years after the Downfall of Númenor. A more instructive example would be the early Kings of Gondor: "All told the Dúnedain were thus from the beginning far fewer in number than the lesser men among whom they dwelt and whom they ruled, being lords of long life and great power and wisdom." (LOTR, Appendix F) The indigenous and mixed race peoples of Gondor remained on the outs for thousands of years. Although Eldacar's victory in the Kin-strife established that someone of Northmen descent could inherit the throne, the House of Anárion ultimately failed because "no claimant to the crown could be found who was of pure blood, or whose claim all would allow" after the death of Eärnur II (Appendix A). It was only the Stewards who "recruited the strength of our people from the sturdy folk of the sea-coast, and from the hardy mountaineers of Ered Nimrais" (TTT, IV 5), finally allowing the majority of the population of Gondor proper into the fold. But even during the War of the Ring, the "mingled" blood of the men of Lossarnach and Lebennin was contrasted unfavorably with the "high blood" of the men of Dol Amroth (ROTK, VI 1).

I think you're right about the political parallels between the late-stage King's Men movement and modern nationalist and populist movements, though as noted directly above, I think the worst elements of their worldview were already present in pre-divide Númenor (and were also carried forward by the Faithful in slightly different form). By the time we get to Ar-Gimilzôr, we're talking about a movement a thousand years removed from its spiritual forefather, Tar-Atanamir. I make no secret of sympathizing with Tar-Atanamir on the topic of religiously and culturally mandated suicide (I'm very much not on his side when it comes to his treatment of the peoples of Middle-earth, but all the Kings from Tar-Meneldur onward were at the very least complicit in colonial crimes), and I'm also open in my disdain for the Valar, so I'm inclined to interpret the early King's Men through a positive lens. This obviously can lead to motivated reasoning, and I certainly would not claim my interpretations are in any way definitive. But I'm reluctant to take what we know of the late-stage King's Men and project it backwards with no further reflection. The American Revolution is less than 250 years removed from the present, and while there are many valid criticisms one can levy at the Patriot side, one criticism you can't make is that they were Christian Dominionists looking to establish a theocracy. And yet there are millions of people who believe they were. When I look at the progression of the King's Men—from advocating for personal autonomy (the right to live out one's full life) and removing barriers to participation in government and education, to trampling over their fellow Númenóreans—I'm inclined to see a similar progression. But, as in the American analogy, we shouldn't forget that their poor treatment of non-Númenóreans was present from the start.

I'm not super happy with this post, but like you I am now out of time, and want to get this done with so that when I have free time again later this afternoon/evening I can focus on other things. :smilespin:
I agree.
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