Thursday, March 11, 2010

Blogging The Silmarillion: Closing the book on the Third Age

Part nine of Blogging The Silmarillion concludes with Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

“Many are the strange chances of the world,” said Mithrandir, “and help oft shall come from the hands of the weak when the Wise falter.”

–J.R.R. Tolkien,
The Silmarillion

A recurring theme in The Silmarillion is Elves and/or Men meeting force with force, the result of which is endless cycles of war and ruin. In the Quenta Silmarillon Melkor steals the three Silmarils, and their maker, the Noldorin Elf Fëanor, vows to recover them at all costs. Fëanor’s destructive oath sets in motion a millennia-spanning series of conflicts that continue until the Valar intercede in the War of Wrath, another horribly destructive affair which mars Arda forever and ends the First Age of Middle-earth.

But even after Morgoth’s defeat in the War of Wrath, evil is not destroyed, nor are possessiveness and pride stamped out of the hearts of Men. In the Akallabêth the Númenóreans fall victim to the same Fëanor-like sins of pride and overreaching when they try to wrest immortality from the Valar. The result is the destruction of their civilization.

Thus far it’s been pretty bleak stuff from Tolkien, and with only one section of The Silmarillion left it’s still very much an open question whether Men and Elves will ever learn from their mistakes, or whether Middle-earth is doomed to ever more destructive wars of possession. And so we arrive at Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.

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


Lagomorph Rex said...

If what you describes makes you crazy... Sign me up.

David J. West said...

I'm sorry to see it end.

I've read that 100 year later begining (couple differing versions in Peoples of Midle Earth)and bleak as it may have been, I would have liked to have seen it finished.

Harald said...

Sir, your series of posts on the Silmarillion are made of pure win!

I have been following them on TC for a while, and since I couldn't comment there I have come here. I am myself in the process of rediscovering Tolkien, and the Silmarillion is next on the reading-list. Your articles have helped peak my interest as well as my curiosity, and I will most certainly keep some of your perspectives in mind when I start reading.

Kudos and a tip of the hat.

Brian Murphy said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

Lagomorph: Though it's obviously fiction, it's amazing how much like history some of this stuff seems.

David: I have a feeling we may have seen something along the lines of A Song of Ice and Fire with a lot of bitter infighting and squabbles among the nobility, with the rank and file foot-soldiers suffering... Men being Men.

Harald: Enjoy the re-read! If you're feeling bogged down in the first 50 pages, press on, and once you hit Feanor in Chapter 6 of the Quenta Silmarillion it's all gold.

Harald said...

I made an attempt some ten-fifteen years ago and got bogged down quite early, this time around I find myself looking at Tolkiens world with different eyes.

I agree with your response to Lagomorph Rex. My love of Middle-earth stems part from Tolkien's incredible storytelling, and part from his complex legendarium. One of the things I find fascinating is to try to pin-point where his references come from.

Again, thanks for the read.

Lagomorph Rex said...

I've found a lot of them, I buy every legend and saga I can lay my hands on just to look for them.

Though this leads to an odd thing occasionally when you stumble across a clearly re-worded bit.. that had the Norse Skald been alive.. probably could have gotten Tollers for plagiarism.

I agree, I first tried to read the Silmarillion in 6th grade and had no luck with it.. I kept getting bogged down in the first little bit. But after a few attempts I soldiered through it and when I got past it it was all smooth sailing.

Gabriele C. said...

Lagomorph, true Norse skalds whould have chopped his head off. :)

Thank you for a great series of Silmarillion posts, Brian. Now go and finish the Battle ones. ;)

Eric D. Lehman said...

Thanks for your work on this, Brian. Put it all together in an essay collection sometime. It's a lot better than most of the 'scholarship' I've read on Tolkien.