The Nature of Middle-Earth. Tolkien/Hostetter.

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Post by Amarië Mon Sep 13, 2021 6:48 pm

New book. New thread. You're welcome. study

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Post by halfwise Mon Sep 13, 2021 8:10 pm

I think we need Eldy to copy her big review over. I've copied my contribution below:

I've made the (probably mistaken) decision to read Nature of Middle Earth from cover to cover. Slogging through Valarian units of time. Tolkien doesn't make it easy: since the Valerian time units are not the same as our own he insists on using the elvish names, and on top of that keeps switching conversions. Not sure why I'm bothering with this, perhaps to make the interesting stuff that much more rewarding when I finally get there.

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Post by halfwise Mon Sep 13, 2021 8:20 pm

Tolkien wrote the Tale of Years before he had figured everything out.  One thing he decided was needed was a correspondence between elf years and man years, for example a ratio of 144 to 1 so that an elf that was 2880 years old was equivalent to 20 years old in the human life cycle, and ripe to get married and raise a brood.  But then of course he discovered his tale of years didn't quite fit this chronology, so had to speed things up in elven youth, or use different conversions in Aman vs Beleriand, etc.  It was causing him no end of fuss.

But the most amusing thing is when he tried to work out the Long March from where the elves were born to the western shores of Middle earth.  Originally this was scheduled to happen over the course of 200 years or so. But he began to realize that there had to be several generations in if there was too be a large enough group to migrate, but even worse, these would be young elves.  The moment they came to a place they liked (like the shores of Rhun, or between the great forest and the great river) they'd happily go about having a round of kids.  Then they'd have to sit and let them grow enough to continue the hike.  One gets the distinct impression of elf leaders bashing their heads against tree trunks in frustration every time they stumbled into a new place that would stimulate elven randiness.  

So Tolkien realized he was looking at something like a few thousand years, and the whole thing was getting out of control.  it's probably a good thing he never got around to fixing everything up the way he'd like, or it wouldn't look like middle earth at all.


Last edited by halfwise on Tue Sep 14, 2021 12:23 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Post by Amarië Mon Sep 13, 2021 9:31 pm

Eldy's review from "The general Tolkien news thread"

Eldy wrote:My copy of The Nature of Middle-earth was delivered this afternoon. I've been eagerly awaiting it since it was announced, but the recent online preview really whetted my appetite for this. It's been more than 14 years since the last substantial new Middle-earth releases*—The Children of Húrin and The History of The Hobbit in 2007 (Christopher focused on editing non-Middle-earth material afterwards, and the recent editions of Beren and Lúthien and The Fall of Gondolin were compilations of material that previously appeared in UT and HoMe). I remember being really excited for CoH when I was 12 and I didn't expect to get to experience this again. And honestly, I think this book will be more interesting, since most of CoH had already been published in UT. I don't expect NOME will mean much to the vast majority of Tolkien readers—which is by no means a criticism of them—but I am all about the esoteric, incredibly geeky philosophy, history, and anthropology of such a well-developed fictional world. Very Happy

*Hammond & Scull's The Art of The Hobbit (2011) and The Art of The Lord of the Rings (2015) notwithstanding, since my interest is overwhelmingly in Tolkien's writing.

Eldy wrote:Initial impressions are very good; I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the last three volumes of The History of Middle-earth, which NOME is very much of a piece with. It's really nice to have a lot of obscure material from Vinyar Tengwar and Parma Eldalamberon in a more accessible form; if more people read the fascinating philosophical bits of "Words, Phrases and Passages" (which make up several chapters in NOME) and want to talk about them afterwards, I'll be a happy girl. I've been skipping around a lot, mostly focusing on stuff related to Númenor so far since that's my area of greatest interest. I find the idealized moral picture of Númenórean society uninteresting in the same way and for the same reasons I don't connect with LACE's descriptions of Eldarin society, but I knew what I was getting into here. I'm just glad the chapter on Gender and Sex turned out to be about grammar; I'd been sorta dreading that one since I saw it in the table of contents in the Google Books preview. :pac:

Matters of personal taste aside, my only real criticism of any of the material I've read has to do with Tolkien's discussions of descent from Elros. There were a number of places where he implied that only Númenórean royals and nobles were descended from Elros, which is not how human reproduction works. Mathematics and population genetics both tell us that with the passage of time—and the dozens of generations that elapsed in Númenor before its destruction, based on "The Line of Elros" in UT and the figures in NOME chapter 3.XII for dates of marriage and childbearing, are more than enough—anyone who is an ancestor to living descendants in a given population will be an ancestor to all living members of that population. Hence why all people of European descent are descended from Charlemagne, but also from countless people of his and other eras, most of whom are completely unknown to history (see various sources here). I generally try to give Tolkien the benefit of the doubt when it comes to worldbuilding and not assume he's made a mistake if there might be an explanation, but this concept is counterintuitive to many people, and I suspect that given Tolkien's fetish for hereditary power, he may have been especially susceptible to it.

Anyway, then I got to the chapter on beards, where we learn that even a tiny percentage of Elven ancestry was enough to make human males beardless, which removed any ambiguity. Tolkien stated that because "the royal house was half-elven" (emphasis in the original), "none of the Númenórean chieftains of descent from Elros (whether kings or not) would be bearded"—but also claimed "[t]he tribes of Men from whom the Númenóreans were descended were normal, and hence the majority of them would have beards" (p. 188). And that's simply not consistent with Tolkien's goal, well-documented in NOME and elsewhere, of making his Secondary World work according to scientific principles except in clear and limited points of divergence. The really frustrating thing is that he got this right when talking about the Men of Dol Amroth in LOTR! When Legolas sees Imrahil, he comments that Imrahil's appearance makes it obvious he has comparatively recent Elvish ancestry (ROTK, V 9), but after a thousand years this isn't limited to the ruling family: even the footsoldiers of Dol Amroth are "tall as lords, grey-eyed, dark-haired" (ROTK, V 1), which are traits associated with the Eldar (Appendix F) and with Númenóreans/Dúnedain of especially "pure" descent (many instances). So it's disappointing that he flubbed it here.

TL;DR I have a new headcanon that by the late Second Age, all Númenórean men, regardless of social class, were beardless because they were all distantly descended from Elros! Very Happy

Ahem. I hope that dedicating two paragraphs to a personal hobbyhorse doesn't give the wrong impression; there's a lot of stuff worth checking out here. There are a ton of long-running fan debates that are either going to be ended or upended by this book, and it's been fun seeing which of my own headcanons are confirmed or contradicted. For example, I'm fond of the idea that Sauron, not Melkor, was responsible for the Fall of Man as described in "The Tale of Adanel," so I was tickled to see Tolkien say he was (p. 35)! There's a lot of interesting stuff said about the Fall in this book, actually, which I may or may not try to turn into a proper Lore essay sometime in the near future. Good shit.

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Post by halfwise Tue Sep 14, 2021 12:32 am

Some of Elthir's contributions:

Been reading. Decided to buy copy at bookstore . . . canceled my delivery before it shipped, so no charge.

Began with . . . you guessed it . . . Galadriel stuff. Should we have a GNOME thread?

Anyway, I think I see something unexpected about Amroth (Elvish Ages and Numenorean section, note 6),
but I'm not sure if my eyes are reading what they're reading . . . even with respect to a description that was
struck out!

Very Happy

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Just read The Founding of Nargothrond!

Loved it!

Spoiler Alert!

KING FINROD FELAGUND:
Spoiler:
King Finrod Badger!

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Post by halfwise Tue Sep 14, 2021 12:33 am

Pettytyrant101 wrote:

{{ Just ordered it from Amazon, £18.99 for the hardback }}

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Post by halfwise Wed Sep 15, 2021 11:09 am

In explaining why time seems to flow faster for elves, Tolkien explains that "there are few new things to add to a memory already stocked."

Wow, this really does explain why time seems to go by faster as you get older: not in real time, but in retrospect. It these powers of observation and explanation that makes Tolkien such a great writer.

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Post by Elthir Sat Sep 18, 2021 6:31 pm

Do we need to hide spoilers here?

Like . . .



. . . for example!

And thanks Amarie!

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Post by halfwise Sun Sep 19, 2021 12:26 pm

That's unexpectedly spicy! (see if anyone stays away from the spoilers now)

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sun Sep 19, 2021 10:50 pm

{{ Spoilers are good- and maybe mention what chapter is being spoiled, so if Ive got that far I know its safe to read (currently about 150 pages in and still getting through discussions on elvish ageing!) }}

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Post by halfwise Sun Sep 19, 2021 11:36 pm

It's not a friggin' novel! It's like spoiling an encyclopedia or car manual.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Sun Sep 19, 2021 11:42 pm

{{ Well there are some narrative bits in story form. Not many so far granted (and when there are you tend to get two or more varients of the same story one after the other), but they do contain some interesting or unexpected information folk might like to discover for themselves.
Spoiler:

Such as finding out Gandalf, Radagast and co were sent to ME way back first to persuade the early elvish leaders to temporarily go to Valinor so the Valar can kick Morgoths evil arse all over the place without worrying about collatoral damage. I'm not sure I like the idea, I kind of like the thought Gandalfs first visit in his physical form to ME was with the previously known arrival of the Istari. And seemd odd to me it would be the same set of spirits sent.
}}

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Post by halfwise Sun Sep 19, 2021 11:57 pm

There's mention I think in UT of him being in middle earth in spirit form, providing promptings that folks didn't know the origin of. I don't see that so terribly different from corporeal form.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Mon Sep 20, 2021 12:02 am

{{
Spoiler:
I think the reason I am not so keen is in UT (I think) we learn Gandalf didnt want to go when asked to and had to be persuaded, which seems slightly contradicted by him having gone in physical form no trouble or persuasion needed once before. I always got the impression when he arrived as part of the Istari it was his first time in a physical form that could be hurt and experience discomfort or pain, that being part of his lack of keenness to go.
}}

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Post by Elthir Mon Sep 20, 2021 4:03 pm

Alert: gnothing gnew from GNOME in the following.

For myself, I take Olorin's visit to Nerwen to be a pre-Istari visit (source Unfinished Tales, the [two versions of] the Elessar tale).

In Last Writings Glorfindel II, after describing that the re-bodied Glorfindel had become a friend and follower of Olorin in Aman, Tolkien characterized the statement that Olorin "had already visited Middle-earth and had become acquainted not only with Sindarin Elves and others deeper in Middle-earth, but also with Men" . . .

. . . as: "likely, but nothing is [> has yet been] said of this."

The Valaquenta reference relates that Olorin dwelt in Lorien, but his ways often took him to the house of Nienna, and that of Melian much is told in Quenta Silmarillion, but of Olorin that tale does not speak: "for though he loved the Elves, he walked among them unseen, or in form as one of them, and they did no gknow whence came the fair-visions or the prompting of wisdom that he put into their hearts."

In a text in Unfinished Tales, Olorin declared that he was too weak for the task (messenger to Middle-earth), and that he feared Sauron.

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Post by halfwise Mon Sep 20, 2021 6:11 pm

I always found the description of a rather timid Olorin in UT to be at odds with the Gandalf that we meet in the books. It seems plunking him among incarnate beings got his dander up.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Tue Sep 21, 2021 2:00 am

"he walked among them unseen, or in form as one of them"

{{ I always read the taking form bit to more like putting on a temporary mask or like changing outward clothing, rather than being fully incarnate as he was as Gandalf, subject to the cares and harms of the world and able to die physically. That comes across as a new thing for the five wizards I felt. And because of that all but Gandalf fail (probably, depending which point in Tolkiens life you consider the Blue Wizards affairs) and they fail by sucummbing in one fashion or another to the effects of being incarnate, the foibles of the world; lust for control or power, consumed in your own passions or seduced by the darkness. Which would imply they had not had experience of these impulses or worries previously or had to guard and fight against them. }}

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Post by Elthir Tue Sep 21, 2021 2:52 pm

Hmm. There are these things from Osanwe-Kenta anyway, for possible digestion:

"Here Pengolodh adds a long note on the use of hroar by the Valar. In brief he says that though in origin a "self arraying", it may tend to approach the state of "incarnation", especially with the lesser members of that order (the Maiar)." It's gnew to GNOME, but I've quoted from this text before (previously published in Vinyar Tengwar).

Tolkien (Pengoloð) adds that the longer and the more the same hroar is used, the greater is the bond of habit,
and the less do the self-arrayed desire to leave it: "As raiment may soon cease to be adornment . . ."


But then again, after going on about eating and drinking being binding -- with begetting or conceiving being most binding -- it's noted that it must be: " . . . an axan, or maybe necessary consequence, that if they are done, then the spirit must dwell in the body that is used, and be under the same necessities of the Incarnate. The only case that is known in the histories of the Eldar is that of Melian . . ."

Okay. I imagine Olorin eating and drinking in Middle-earth, but not begetting! Anyway this text it tentatively dated
1959-60, while the remark that Gandalf (likely): "had already visited Middle-earth and had become acquainted not
only with Sindarin Elves and others deeper in Middle-earth, but also with Men"
is much later.

Was Tolkien thinking of this later statement (or something like it) when he wrote Osanwe-Kenta? And how long did Olorin use the same arraying at a given visit? Or how long was a given visit? And how "soon" does the raiment cease
to be adornment, especially with the Maiar?

In any case Melian had a child. And though that doesn't appear to be the only "binder", maybe Olorin kept switching arrayings to avoid a Melianic state of incarnation?

And maybe there's more to this, to possibly answer some of those questions and more, but if so I can't recall at the moment, or haven't stumbled upon something else in NOME yet.

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