Thursday, February 25, 2010

Blogging The Silmarillion: Out of ruined lands and cities, a star of hope arises

Part seven of Blogging the Silmarillion concludes the Quenta Silmarillion with a look at Chapters 22-24.


No careful reader of Tolkien’s fiction can fail to be aware of the polarities that give it form and tension. His work is built on contrasts—between hope and despair, between good and evil, between enlightenment and ignorance—and these contrasts are embodied in the polarities of light and dark that are the creative outgrowth of his contrary moods, the “antitheses” of his nature.

–Verlyn Flieger,
Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s World

J.R.R. Tolkien was, paradoxically, a man of deep faith who was subject to extreme bouts of despair. He believed that life here on earth is a long defeat, an inevitable march toward the destruction of man and all his creations. However, he also believed in an afterlife. Despite numerous defeats and endured miseries, there existed for Tolkien the possibility of final, unlooked-for victory (coined by Tolkien as a “eucatastrophe”) in this world or the next.

These contrasting sides to Tolkien’s personality are revealed in the final three chapters of the Quenta Silmarillion. In chapters 22-24 we experience (Middle)-earthian defeats that result in unimaginable ruin, followed by the Valar-backed defeat of Morgoth, a victory of truly epic scale.

It’s foolish to think that we can ever have a paradise on earth, for life here is transitory, a passing thing. So too it was in the First Age of Middle-earth. The Elves built cities of surpassing beauty and strength, but each in turn fall into ruin. While Part Six of Blogging The Silmarillion revisited the sack of Nargothrond, in this section of The Silmarillion we witness the ruin of the kingdom of Doriath, followed by the fall of the hidden mountain city of Gondolin. This is the culmination of the Long Defeat for the Elves, whose greatest and seemingly most enduring works come to a violent and ruinous end.

To read the rest of this post, visit The Cimmerian Web site.


David J. West said...

Awesome Brian

Glorfindel is THE Elf to me.

Your last remark-IS there a Book of The Fall of Gondolin in existence?

Brian Murphy said...

Unfortunately, no ... unless you buy into the Red Book of Westmarch, Translations from the Elvish and other such source texts (the original, "real" sources of Tolkien's stories). These are kind of like The Necronomicon.

There is an expanded story in Unfinished Tales called "Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin", but as befits the title of the book it's unfinished, ending before the fall of the city.

Eric D. Lehman said...

So much left unfinished! Though I suppose that's a comment on all our too-short lives.

Reminder to self: Immortality is not so great. Reread Tolkien books for evidence.

Long Haired Spider said...

I've always thought of the falls of Nargothrond, Gondolin and Doriath as a result of Morgoth's curse: "Wherever they go, evil shall arise. Wherever they speak, their words shall bring ill counsel. Whatsoever they do shall turn against them."

And I agree - I'd pay pure gold for a full story of the Fall of Gondolin!

オテモヤン said...
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Gabriele C. said...

Eric, if Tolkien had been an Elf, he'd chosen mortality when his wife died (and so would my father).

Brian Murphy said...

Gabriele, I agree. There are events (of which I cannot think too long about) that would make me choose mortality, too.