Thursday, March 4, 2010

Blogging The Silmarillion: A straight road is bent and Men suffer punishment divine

Part eight of Blogging the Silmarillion continues with the Akallabêth.

According to scholar Tom Shippey, J.R.R. Tolkien struggled to reconcile his belief in a Christian heaven with the uncertain fate of the pre-Christian heroes he so adored. Un-baptized and living in a pagan age, where would the spirits of great Northern heroes like Beowulf dwell after their death? Likewise, what would be the fate of his Middle-earth creations, for example the slain Elven heroes Fëanor, Fingon, and Fingolfin? And where would their living, immortal brethren ultimately take up residence? The answer as explained in The Silmarillion is twofold: The Halls of Mandos, which houses the spirits of Elves slain in battle, and Valinor, the Blessed Realm, a paradise on earth removed from the darkness of Middle-earth.

Valinor and the Halls of Mandos serve as halfway houses for pre-Christian souls, or as Shippey notes in The Road to Middle Earth, a “middle path” where they remain until the Ragnarök-like ending of the world. While the Halls of Mandos can perhaps be thought of as a less rowdy Valhalla, Valinor makes a wonderful, shifting metaphor: The Garden of Eden; a lost time of innocence; a dim remembrance of a better time in our own lives; a loved one separated by death but who we hope to rejoin one day; they’re all applicable ways of assigning meaning to the Undying Lands.

Of course Valinor is sadly beyond not only our reach, but the reach of the denizens of the Third Age of Middle-earth. It’s a divide not merely between heaven and earth, but a split on Middle-earth itself. This is Tolkien’s myth of The Lost Road, an impossible straight path on a curved earth that leads to a land of magic and deathlessness. Frodo, en route to the Grey Havens, sings of this myth in the final pages of The Lord of the Rings:

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate;
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun

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

7 comments:

Lagomorph Rex said...

well I guess after this you only have one bit left.

An excellent series, but what do you have planned next?

Falze said...

An excellent series, but what do you have planned next?

"Blogging the Bible - part one - Genesis"

;)

(word verification- "progi": fast food for Polish people in a hurry)

S.J.Hogwood said...

You know, I never made the connection between Tolkien's Avallónë and Arthur's Avalon but now that you've pointed it out it seems blindingly obvious. It kinda makes me wonder whether the Pendragon family is descended from a far more ancient kingly lineage - Gondor perhaps? Cimmeria maybe? The mind boggles.

David J. West said...

Bravo as usual Brian, I too wonder not at what you can do to top this series but what you can do to even come close.

Brian Murphy said...

I am actually planning a 10-part series on a rock opera about the life and times of Jack the Ripper, "Saucy Jack."

...but seriously, no plans after this, but likely some lighter fare and one offs!

Eric D. Lehman said...

I love seeing just a glimpse of Numenor in the tale of Aldarion and Erendis. It made a mythic place come alive, and again I wish Tolkien would have finished it.

David J. West said...

I trust you'll take it to 11 Brian.