[Spoiler warning for The Silmarillion]
The Silmarillion describes the fate of the three Silmarils. Earendil kept one, and traveled with it through the sky, where it became the planet Venus. Maedhros stole another, but regretted his deed and jumped into a fiery chasm. And Maglor took the last one, but threw it into the sea in despair.
Well, Venus is still around. But what happened to the latter two? Surely over all the intervening millennia, with so many people wanting a Silmaril, they haven’t just hung around in the earth and ocean?
After some research, I’ve developed a couple of promising leads for the location of the Silmarils in the Fifth Age.
I previously sketched out the argument that Maglor’s Silmaril probably belongs to a Los Angeles crime lord.
The movie Pulp Fiction centers around a mysterious briefcase. We’re never told exactly what’s inside, but we get some clues:
1. It’s described as “so beautiful” and captivates anyone who looks at it
2. It shines with an inner light
3. When Jules and Vincent are trying to get it, all the shots aimed at them miss, implying they’re miraculously immune to bullets, implying that they’re on some kind of divine quest.
4. Marsellus Wallace really wants to get it, and keeps killing anyone else who has it
So far this is only suggestive, but there’s more. While searching for the briefcase, Jules (!) keeps quoting a verse:
The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers.
They describe this as Ezekiel 25:17, but it isn’t. In fact, it isn’t anywhere in the Bible, and it doesn’t match any Biblical story. This isn’t from the Old Testament at all. It’s a description of the life of Maglor in the Silmarillion!
During the First Age, Maglor ruled “Maglor’s Gap”, a valley which connected the lands of the Elves and the lands of Morgoth. Maglor held Maglor’s Gap for 450 years until Morgoth finally conquered the valley; Maglor led the retreat of his people, thus “shepherding the weak through the valley of darkness”.
He fled to the fortress of his brother, Maedhros, in Himling, where he helped defend Maedhros’ lands and people in battle – making him “his brother’s keeper”.
In the ensuing battles, he captured the young Elrond and Elros, who had been orphaned after their parents fled across the sea, and adopted them – making him “the finder of lost children”.
As for “striking down with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers”, that’s about as Noldor as it gets.
What is going on here, and why do we keep finding these connections to Maglor?
Maglor is unique as possibly the only Noldo still remaining in the world. According to Wikipedia:
Maglor, along with Galadriel and Gil-galad, was the greatest surviving Noldo at the beginning of the Second Age. There is speculation that he remained even after the Third Age in Middle-earth, forbidden forever from returning to Valinor.
If he were still alive in our times, he would remain bound by his oath and be hunting the Silmaril. So: could Marsellus Wallace, the mysterious gang boss who wants the briefcase so badly, be Maglor himself? Given that the name “Maglor” is a Sindarinization of his birth name “Makalaure”, “Marsellus” doesn’t even sound like much of a pseudonym.
The main argument against this point is that Tolkien’s elves are usually depicted as fair-skinned and lithe, but Marsellus Wallace is shown in the movie as a big black guy. Does this disprove the theory?
It would, unless Marsellus were under some kind of magical glamor to hide his true appearance. And there’s actually some evidence for this.
There’s one character in Pulp Fiction who is clearly able to cast illusion-related magic: Mia Wallace. In the parking lot of the restaurant, she tells Vinnie “Don’t be a…”. Then she traces a square in the air with her finger, and the square appears in glittering light. Marsellus Wallace is married to someone who can cast visual illusions.
But why should we believe Marsellus’ appearance is itself such an illusion? Well, in the scene with Jules and Brett, Jules puts a gun to Brett’s head and asks him what Marsellus looks like. Brett says he looks like a tall bald black guy, which seems to satisfy Jules.
The hit men try to play this off as some kind of intimidation thing, but they’re just going to shoot Brett anyway – there’s no need to intimidate him. It would only make sense if they’re actually checking how Marsellus appears to Brett – ie whether a certain illusion he’s projecting is working. When they follow up with “Does he look like a bitch?“, this is their foul-mouthed way of asking whether he looks androgynous. When Brett confirms that he looks masculine, this seems to satisfy the hit men, who then go ahead and shoot him. Unclear why they’re expecting the illusion to fail in Brett’s case, but it seems like if it has they’ll need to interrogate him further and maybe track down anybody else who might have learned too much.
How is Mia Wallace able to cast these illusions?
I would guess that “Mia” is actually Maia, ie one of the Maiar who is sent from Valinor to guide Elves and Men with their good counsel and magic powers. There’s a previous example of a female Maia marrying an elflord to guide him: Melian and Thingol. Mia is following in this tradition, and just as Melian granted Thingol’s kingdom invulnerability to attack, so Mia grants Maglor/Marsellus the ability to look like a big muscular black guy.
We actually have further proof of this in the movie. Mia overdoses on heroin and goes unconscious. It looks like she goes a really long time without breathing. You get anoxic brain injury in like four or five minutes; Mia was out way longer than that. But once they give her adrenaline, she instantly and completely recuperates in a medically implausible way. Suffice it to say that she’s proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that she doesn’t have a human circulatory system, and given us at least strong evidence that she is literally immortal.
I would guess that Maglor survived, found his Silmaril, lost his Silmaril again, and that Pulp Fiction is an account of him getting it back. “Quentin Tarantino” is probably a made-up pen name for a group of elvish historians – the name “Quentin” obviously deriving from “Quendi”, the elvish word for elves. “Tarantino” is more obscure, but it may be a reference to Tar-Atanamir, the Numenorean king who refused to die when his time came – something which must carry a lot of metaphorical associations for any elves remaining on Earth.
If all of this is true, Maglor’s Silmaril probably remains with Maglor in his Los Angeles mansion.
The fate of Maedhros’ Silmaril is less clear, but one promising possibility is linked with the fate of Utumno.
Utumno was the fortress of the dark god Melkor before the First Age. It was built in the far north of Middle-Earth, “upon the borders of the regions of everlasting cold”. Tolkien Gateway writes that “the frigid temperatures of the northern regions were thought to originate from the evil of [Melkor’s] realm”.
What was Utumno like? Like most of Tolkien’s villains, Melkor was at least partly a technologist; his realm was one of forges and smithies ceaselessly building weapons for his war against the gods. This page describes it as “a fortress for war, with many armories, forges, dungeons and breeding pits.” Some of the descriptions sound like it was emitting pollution, destroying the land around it: “The lands of the far north were all made desolate in those days; for there Utumno was delved exceeding deep, and its pits were filled with fires and with great hosts of the servants of Melkor.”
Who manned these factories? Enslaved elves. As per the book, “All those of the Quendi who came into the hands of Melkor, ere Utumno was broken, were put there in prison, and by slow arts of cruelty were corrupted and enslaved”.
Eventually the gods decided enough was enough and marched against Utumno with a mighty host led by Tulkas, God of War. He wrestled with Melkor, defeated him, and bound him with a mighty chain.
What happened to Utumno after this? The Silmarillion is vague, but in retrospect it’s super obvious. What happened to the magical factory at the North Pole run by elves? Everyone knows the answer to that one!
Presumably Tulkas and the other gods, after defeating Melkor, decided it was poetically appropriate to turn Utumno from a place of darkness to a wonderland of holiday cheer. The elves agreed to stay on to help, and they repurposed Melkor’s forges to create toys for children around the world.
“Santa Claus” supposedly derives from St. Nicholas, on the grounds that “Santa” means “saint” and “Claus” is short for “Nicholas”. But “Santa” means a female saint; a male saint is “San”. Santa is male, so a more reasonable derivation would be “San Tulkas”. Once a year, Tulkas goes forth and distributes the toys created by the elves of Utumno.
(remember, the Silmarillion describes Tulkas as a huge bearded man who “laughs ever, in sport or in war, and even in the face of Melkor he laughed in battles before the Elves were born”. And remember, of his wife Nessa, it says “Deer she loves, and they follow her train whenever she goes in the wild”. Having deer follow your family around everywhere seems sounds pretty annoying, but at least it gives you a ready-made supply of draft animals.)
Since we never see Santa’s workshop, it must be hidden from the world in the same manner as the Undying Lands. How does Tulkas cross back into the mortal world to deliver gifts?
The only successful example of such a journey we have from Tolkien is that of Earendil, who travels from Middle-Earth to the Undying Lands using a Silmaril worn on his brow. Later, even after the two worlds are separated entirely, he is able use the same Silmaril to voyage through the sky in his flying boat. “The wise have said that it was by reason of the power of that holy jewel that they came in time to waters that no vessels save those of the Teleri had known”. So presumably any living being with a Silmaril upon their head can fly through the gulfs between the worlds safely.
Tulkas is a god and should have no trouble finding the only unclaimed Silmaril, the one Maedhros dropped into a chasm in the earth. His main issue would be preventing the surviving Noldor from learning what he has and invoking their vendetta. He would have to disguise it as something else, something so ridiculous that the stick-up-their-ass Noldor would never think to identify it with their holy jewels.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows…
This makes sense — but, if true, wouldn’t it be really, really unwise to talk about it on a public blog?
Santa Claus is known for having an extremely good surveillance network, and if you take action exposing him to the Noldor, I don’t think he’d stop at coal in your stocking.
I’m Jewish. Santa never gave me any presents and now he’s going to reap the whirlwind.
This is amazing!! Love the creativity
inspiring entertaining and revealing of our shared humanity!!
Given all that Santa knows, it wouldn’t surprise me if he got one of the palantir as well.
Santa seems powerful enough that he need not fear any elf or jew.
Ah but what about a Jewish Elf? Or an elfin Jew?? Just how pointy are Scott’s ears really?
Myth is full of gods getting tied up by tricksters and other villains who are weaker but smarter than them. And Malgor/Marcellous seems to be a lot smarter than Tulkas, and arguably smarter than Santa.
I am now half sure that Tarantino actually intended this, and has been sitting on it for 25 years giggling to himself.
As for the other Silmaril, well, if you wanted to put something where it couldn’t be retrieved, Venus is a strong contender as a bank vault.
The Silmaril may have also baked the CO2 out of the Venerean crust, causing the greenhouse effect.
Yeah, that’s a pretty accurate tag.
Really? Are you so sure it’s fiction?
Isn’t it Brad? As in, “Check on the big brain on Brad!”
Wait, but why would Tulkas give coal to naughty children? Coal is a symbol of industrialization taking over rural spaces. So basically what Melkor was doing. Is Tulkas trying to turn naughty children in new Melkors for him to defeat?
It’s a warning; a symbol of the industrial wasteland that awaits those who create it.
Chuckled all the way through. Jolly good write-up. 😉
HO, HO, HO.
Or perhaps “Now I have a silmaril. Ho. Ho. Ho.”
But isn’t the Arkenstone Maedros’s Silmaril? I suppose that’s where the dwarves come in…
I always liked the theory that fiery cavern Maedhros cast himself into was what would later come to be known as the cracks of doom, and that the power of the silmaril lying there (known or unknown to Sauron) lent potency to the things he crafted there.
No, the Arkenstone is different (and I disagree with those who put forth the claim that it’s the Silmaril cast into the fiery chasms). The Dwarves, as children of Aule, were quite capable of making their own beautiful jewellery and finding great gems in the depths of the Earth. The whole sorry episode of the Nauglafring starts with Thingol calling in Dwarven craftsmen to create a fitting setting for the Silmaril Beren and Luthien had brought back, after all.
And besides, I think Gandalf would have recognised a Silmaril when he saw one, and would not have left it in the possession of the Dwarves, even on Thorin’s tomb. Those jewels were too much bound up in bad fates to be left lying around like that.
I’m inclined to blame the Jackson movie adaptations for mashing together a lot of concepts from all of Tolkien’s books which just inflames the tendency of people to try and tie every single reference together to A Significant Element; not every white jewel mentioned in his stories has to be a Silmaril.
Gandalf is willing to let fate play its part. When he discovers that the one ring is held by a hobbit in the shire he just leaves it there while he makes his plans, and he dissuades Frodo from giving it away. Seeing a powerful gem voluntarily given up and buried would probably fit his view of proper disposal, as that voluntary action is part of the importance of ridding the world of evil.
No. Once he recognized the One Ring, he left it in the best hands he could imagine. He wasn’t ‘letting fate play its part’; he was actively intervening in the world to achieve his ends. It’s true that he was limited in his abilities; he could only act as a human with magical abilities, not as a full Maia, so his primary means were persuasion. But he used those means to their fullest extent, and was the driving force behind A) The Dwarves retaking Erebor and the slaying of Smaug (i.e. all the events of The Hobbit), B) the identification of the One Ring and the effort to dispose of it in the Cracks of Doom, and C) the reawakening of Theoden and being Rohan to the defense of Gondor. Nevermind personally slaying a Balrog and stripping Saruman of his powers.
I’m not sure what he would have done had he believed that the Arkenstone was a Silmaril; perhaps you’re right and he would have left it, but only because he thought that was the safest possible place for it, which seems at least somewhat unlikely.
Frodo: Why was I chosen?
Gandalf: Such questions cannot be answered. You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.
Callon – Also fighting the witch king of Angmar and driving him from Mirkwood, and halting him personally at the gate of Minas Tirith.
Baconbits – I think that’s more along the lines of, ‘moving it around generally makes things worse as long as the current bearer is not corrupted, so you’re stuck with it’
To start this doesn’t fall under “leaving it in the best hands he could imagine” and is reasonably close to fate. Secondly Gandalf knows what needs to be done, but doesn’t know how to do it, when Frodo says he will take the ring out of the Shire the reply is
Gandalf: My dear Frodo! Hobbits really are amazing creatures, as I have said before. You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you at a pinch. I hardly expected to get such an answer, not even from you.
Gandalf has more respect and faith in Hobbits than others, but he still underestimates them.
Gandalf doesn’t discover that the one ring is in the shire until the early stages of lotr. It’s never stated explicitly, but he clearly thought that bilbo’s ring was one of the seven dwarf rings, not the great ring. Gandalf only begins to suspect that it’s the one when bilbo tries to go back on leaving the ring to Frodo, and only confirms it an indeterminate time later after first looking for and failing to find Gollum, goes minas tirith and finds the account from isildur that tells him what happens if he puts the ring in the fire.
After the discovery Gandalf leaves the Shire with Frodo still holding the ring with instructions for Frodo to leave without him if he doesn’t return.
Beyond this something like 17 years pass between Bilbo giving the ring to Frodo and Gandalf having definitive proof, but he suspects it is more malevolent during this time (which spawns the search for information) but still leaves it with Frodo for that period.
So how do the gifts of whiskey and biscuits fit in?
(Great stories thanks.)
What awesome country are you from?
Anywhere that’s not North America. Though admittedly Santa got brandy at our house this year.
He always got sherry and mince pies at ours.
I think we have a winner.
Oh, you tell me Tulkas doesn’t drink hard liquor, go on! 🙂
Leaving cookies is traditional, and I think that’s what was meant. Not like waybread or even lembas.
I think we need an American – English dictionary here:
Modern English —- Modern American
Biscuits —- Cookies
Strange baked things —- Biscuits
Cookies —- Big, weirdly soft cookies, almost cakey.
I’m actually English by birth, and know what biscuits are. I was trying to imply that in our house the offering for Santa was just whisky.
Either way, it way better than the piece of toast that we traditionaly sacrifice to the Buddha in our family.
Well, this explains why Santa Claus punched the heretic Arius in the face! I’m impressed Tulkas confined himself to just punching one guy, and meekly went to prison overnight afterwards!
Is this what it feels like to have schizophrenia?
This is not a coincidence etc. etc.
I sometime wonder how you find all these random word associations between random pairs of things.
Do you have some kind of script that searches for similar-sounding words between 2 corpus or do you just have some shrooms and read their wikis?
Aristotle observed long ago that the one essential gift of an imaginative writer — and the only one that can’t be taught — is a gift for seeing resemblances.
Scott, can you connect The Silmarillion to Pulp Fiction and Santa Claus?
Scott gives me what I really wanted for Christmas. An Aaron Smith Teller story.
I thought Santa Claus was Tom Bombadil.
Well, the elves do the day-to-day work. He gets to hang out, smack down Old Man Willow, Nessa gets to hang out as Goldberry. . . .
No, that’s Maglor.
Maglor is the eldest of the first line of the House of Finwe, and his father is dead and not coming back from Mandos, so he’s “eldest and fatherless.” He threw away the Silmaril, so the Ring has no power over him – and having seen the Silmaril, he treats it as just a small trinket. And he was one of the most famed musicians in the First Age, so his songs – even the tiny little ditties he sings to please the hobbits – have power over all the wights of the Enemy.
And Goldberry? Well, I thought she was some anonymous elf, but Scott’s shown me she’s a Maia who’s good at disguise. She might’ve had a hand in changing Maglor’s singing style, too.
Nope. He’s been in Middle-Earth for longer than the Ents, who were there before the return of the Noldor. Further, it seems highly improbable that even one of Maglor’s greatness would be wholly unaffected by the One Ring.
As to what Tom is, I think the most likely answer is that he is a manifestation of the Music of the Ainur, of Arda Unmarred. He is pure, which is why the Ring does literally nothing to him. His being a manifestation of the primordial music also explains why his songs are so powerful, and how it is that he was in Eä before the coming of the Valar, which he pretty much explicitly states to be the case.
Before the coming of the Valar? I remember he says he was there “before the Dark Lord came from Outside” and before “the Elves came West” (which, under my Maglor theory, would either be exaggeration or a tongue-in-cheek misdirection like “before the Elves started sailing on the Straight Road back to Valinor”); is there something else I’m forgetting?
Evan Þ, I can’t seem to reply directly to your post and don’t post here enough to know how – might be a mobile thing for all I know. (Edit: seems comments can’t go more than 5 deep, OK.)
Anyhow, I took it to mean that he was there before tbe Dark Lord (Melkor) came in from Outside (the Void and/or the Halls of Eru), i.e. before the Ainur entered Eä. Certainly before the Elves came West puts him at older than the Silmarils at the very least, and I feel the remark about the Dark Lord implies being there before the Valar arrived, but I realize this is not necessarily so. However, we can say for certain that Tom is an anomalous entity who is neither Elf nor Man, given what Tolkien wrote about him in his letters. I think it is likely that the professor himself never fully settled on a definite answer for what Tom was, but it’s pretty clear he knew many things that Tom was not. Tom is not human in any sense of the word (while Elves are), nor is he Eru embodied in Middle-Earth, and it is highly improbable that he is a Maia (although I suspect that Goldberry is one, or something similar to one).
But, @Bjorning, according to the first chapter of Silmarillion, Melkor entered the Circles of the World after the rest of the Ainur. So, Bombadil could be an Ainu (even if he’s telling the truth).
On the other hand, I recognize this isn’t Tolkien’s intent. Tolkien intended him to be an anomalous entity, or at most a personification of part of Arda (“the vanishing Oxfordshire-Berkshire countryside,” he said in one letter before Bombadil merged into LOTR.) Still, I think it’s valid to consider what he’d be in a Watsonian sense, ignoring such Doylistic intent that’s perhaps incompatible with the broader universe.
The cosmology at the start of *The Silmarilion* is not really complete. You have to stretch it to explain Ents, Tom and nameless cthonic monsters, older than Sauron.
Worse, I suspect there is no coherent explanation for Tom at all, but last time I read it, he struck me as what kind of unfallen Adam.
Like Adam, he is Eldest, and master of a garden world.
Unlike Adam, he untouched by corrupting influences. But relatedly, he can’t quite understand the whole fuss about good-vs-evil, which means he is not clued in enough to be trusted with the ring.
I have no idea how such a thing fits in either with rest of Middle-Earth mythology, or JRRTs own Christianity.
the ents are explicitly explained in the cosmology, but not by name. That said, I think that one section is the only place the ents are mentioned in the silmarillion, and their absence in the wars of beleriand is definitely a bit odd.
The real question is where did the dragons come from.
I had interpreted that passage as being about trees, and about Ents only at a stretch. Still upon re-reading it, Ents don’t seem much of a stretch, though I would still point out that Yavanna doesn’t (quite) ask for trees to become mobile.
You are right about dragons. A lot of things in Tolkein come directly from non-Tolkein mythology, without intervening adaptations to make them compatible with the “cannon”. Which is why I looked to the bible for Tom-analogue.
adrian.ratnapala: I thought that the Shepherds of the Trees were generally understood to be the Ents. I don’t know if that’s said in black and white anywhere, but it seems clear to me.
The dragons are produced somehow by evil magic (bred from lizards?) by Morgoth in his fortress at Angband, during the Great Siege when the Noldor are united against him. We don’t get the details because, well, we *don’t* get the details of how creation works in the Silmarillion.
I support this theory. What evidence do we have that Tom Bombadil was around longer than the ents/’eldest and fatherless’? Only Elrond’s word. And Elrond has motivation to lie and protect Maglor.
So you’re saying the Lord of Gifts, is actually Tulkas? Well, I guess that explains why the wars of the rings lasted for so long! (I think since meeting Huan, Sauron still has PTSD when he hears barking; I really can’t imagine him waging any kind of war…)
So you’re saying the Lord of Gifts, is actually Tulkas?
No, that’s how Sauron was able to fool Celebrimbor! “So you claim to be from Valinor and you call yourself Annatar? Okay, sounds legit!”
It’s rather out-of-character for Tulkas, though. Tulkas is the bro-est of the Valar, not the sort to go fiddling with making stuff himself. Recall that he did not participate in the initial shaping of Arda, but instead only came in to lay the smack down on Melkor. Tulkas might well delight in giving presents, but he hardly seems the type to enjoy making them. That’s much more Aulë’s schtick. I can totally picture Aulë and Vairë collaborating to make presents for people.
That’s why the presents are made by the elves, right? And San Tulkas is only the one who rushes all over the world to hand them out!
(Along with lumps of coal, and lumps on the head for at least one heretic.)
It feels petty to nitpick such brilliance, but the Valar broke Utumno before the beginning of the First Age (of the Sun).
Bravo. Now so many questions… Are Marsellus/ Maglor and Mia/ Maia going to do anything with the Silmaril now they’ve got it back? And will the Valar take an interest? (After all it’s now established that Tulkas at least does still return to Arda periodically.) And is Jules’ final speech (“and I am the tyranny of evil Men”) a deliberate bit of misdirection?
Yeah, will be waiting for an update on that. And on what’s going to happen next.
I think the secondary sources for Pulp Fiction say that the thing in the case was Marsellus’ soul.
It takes very little poetic license to equate this with Malgor’s Silmarill. But once you make that connection, you get that the Simlaril has become spritually inseperable from Malgor, so he probably just wants to keep it for himself. And that is presumably what his wife wants too.
This. Is. Awesome.
Some years ago a friend of mine took a break from her serious fanfiction to write about a glitch that left all the Elves back in modern-day Earth. It was Christmas and they were all hanging out at Elrond’s house when Legolas, cruising eBay, found a Silmaril for sale. The story was HILARIOUS and I was quite upset that she never finished it because she didn’t find it plausible. Guess I should send her this post!
For a reference: Santa Claus is a god.
He says that Christianity “looks quite polytheistic. For example, though there are plenty of Christians who believe only in the one capital-G God, there are also many who also believe in angels, saints, demons, and even ghosts—and this is ignoring the complicating example of the Trinity.”
I can see where the Trinity doctrine could make some people unsure about the whole monotheism thing, although it shouldn’t, the bit about demons, angels, and saints, etc. has no bearing whatsoever on it.
As long as I get to think of him as Tulkas, though, I withdraw the objection.
the bit about demons, angels, and saints, etc. has no bearing whatsoever on it
Agreed. Even the “plenty of Christians who believe only in the one capital-G God” are also likely to believe in angels and demons. Angels and demons are spirits, not God; saints are human (and the whole Iconoclasm in Greek Orthodoxy and part of the Reformation was a dispute over the saints and their role and the honour that is permissible to be paid to them), and ghosts don’t exist.
Even in genuinely polytheistic and pantheistic religions, there are supernatural entities mid-way between the gods and humans. This is straining an analogy to make a point, as if he should say “Although the President of the United States is theoretically the sole head of state and head of the government, in practice there are other government rulers such as the cabinet members, the members of Congress, the civil service, and even public servants like teachers and police”.
“Does Santa Claus count as a god of the Christian religion?”
No. There you go, Jim!
I don’t know if it’s this simple. For example, is Middle-Earth polytheistic? You could say no, because the only true god is Eru, but really it functions as a polytheism in pretty much every way, and there’s not a lot of difference between the role of Ulmo and the role of Neptune.
Or: is Hinduism monotheistic? Some Hindus make vague motions about there only being one true God that all the other gods are just manifestations of, but in practice, no.
So whether somewhere there’s an asterisk saying “In the end, there’s only one God” is less important than how people act and pray and think of the world. And it seems like in some cultures at some times, people have been so interested in venerating and praying to the saints that they start to take on almost Vala-like levels of importance. Is that a polytheism? I don’t know, but the question seems reasonable.
I’m really not sure you’re right about Middle-Earth, Scott. I think that there is a very large difference: the Valar did not make man.
If you look at most of the mythologies of the world, gods and mortals don’t – can’t – interact as equals. Gods made mortals, and are so much enormously more powerful than mortals that mortals – even demigods – defying the gods suggests a smackdown is incoming. And the gods kind of have a *right* to deliver smackdowns like this, because if the mortals protest, the gods can just say “yeah, well, we made you, suck it up.” They are treated, by the setting, as having the rights of kings over subjects, when it comes to mortals.
But in Middle-Earth, Gandalf and Frodo are friends. And Gandalf knows more and can do more than Frodo, but it’s still basically a relationship of two people who like each other and have common interests and, in those interests, can interact on the same sphere. Despite the fact that Gandalf is an angel/minor deity and Frodo is, outstanding personal qualities aside, the most normal person in the world.
And on the higher scale – the scale of the Silmarillion – Mandos does not have the legal right to give orders to the Noldor. He can make requests, as fellow creature to fellow creature. But he doesn’t have kingly or even fatherly rights towards them, because he did not make them, Eru made them, and they are, ultimately, his brothers, children of the same father.
And this even applies in terms of direct confrontations! The reason that we never got the epic battle between Morgoth and Feanor wasn’t that it would have been an effortless victory for Morgoth, it’s because when He Who Arises In Might tried to seduce Feanor to the side of evil and Feanor threatened violence, Melkor – not named Morgoth quite yet – ran away because he was afraid he’d lose. The Vala are important, sure, but they aren’t gods, merely the most powerful beings created by God, and when they start trying to act like gods, they either repent or fall.
The Rudolph theory has precedent. Silmarils have been used to guide voyages across the sky before.
For my part, I kind of wonder if Doc Savage’s Fortress of Solitude doesn’t have some connection to Maglor’s Silmaril. I mean: perfectly round, made of a strange material, the fortress infiltrated by a man named “Sunlight,” and all of this written about in . . . pulp fiction.
It’s a little weak, but it fits to at least some degree.
If he were still alive in our times, he would remain bound by his oath and be hunting the Silmaril.
Disputable; Maglor and Maedhros found the last two remaining Silmarils and claimed them, so they did fulfil their oath. But they were unable to retain them as the evils they had done in their quest to find them rendered them unfit to bear the holy jewels, which is why they cast them away in despair. So they did get the Silmarils back, but then voluntarily (more or less) gave up possession of them. Their Oath, I would say, is technically fulfilled but they are still bound by the bad effects of it, and having spent so long on one single-minded quest, now what does the survivor do when there is nothing more to be done and moreover everything has collapsed on top of your head?
I can forgive everything in this for Tulkas as Santa Claus. Plus, St Nicholas is supposed to have reproached/slapped/punched Arius the Heretic at the First Council of Nicaea (let’s not mind for a moment whether or not this is actually true) and Tulkas, of course, is the one who wrestled with Morgoth and bound him with Angainor, so it all fits! (if you squodge it together).
(How Tulkas can travel to and from the mortal world is not a problem, though; he’s one of the Valar, and before him Orome was able to travel into Middle-earth and bring the Elves from Cuivienen to Aman. So it’s not that the Valar can’t come to the mortal lands, it’s that they don’t in general, for various reasons: one being, whenever they used to do so and engaged in battles with Morgoth and his forces, the destruction was so terrible and another that now in the Age of Men, they do not directly intervene in the affairs directly governing the world).
Relevant fanfiction: At The End of All Things. Characters included: Fëanor, Maedhros, Maglor, Morgoth, Sauron, Vladimir Putin. Sadly unfinished
This reminds me of a certain image macro on a similar subject. Couldn’t find it, too lazy to recreate it, so here’s the image and text. Honestly, Putin would make a good (bad?) Sauron, save for the whole bit about not being able to appear in a form fair to mortal eyes any more.
The man looks exactly like Julius Caesar. And come to think of ut Caesar very likely was Sauron in disguise too. So maybe we can intepret as: whenever he shows up he has to look like the usurper of republics that he is.
That is extremely great. Hope they finish it some day.
Does it make sense to have headcannon about a fanfic? Because in my head in this world, the general manager and erstwhile star quarterback of the Denver Broncos is Thingol Greymantle himself, John Elwë. It’s probably for the best they didn’t carry on to Colorado.
I don’t think a Vala would need the power of a Silmaril to move between the world made round/Arda and Aman. Recall that plenty of Elf-ships managed just fine by traveling the Straight Road, which worked by the grace of the Valar. Thus we can infer that the Valar themselves may travel between the realm of mortals and the Undying Lands without needing any special power source, for if they can grant this power, surely they must possess it for themselves. Indeed it seems likely that this power extends also to the Maiar, as the Sun and Moon, both Maiar, make a similar daily journey without the aid of any such artefacts. Eärendil needs the Silmaril to accomish such feats precisely because he is a Child of Ilúvatar, not an Ainu.
Having established this, we come to a further implausibility – a Vala would not likely keep a Silmaril for themselves here in Middle-Earth. Either they would return it whence they discovered it, for it is not rightfully theirs unless granted to them by the house of Fëanor (see the end of the Silmarillion), or they would bear it back to Valinor for safe-keeping, so that once the other is found, they could be unlocked by Fëanor to heal Arda Marred and restore the Two Trees whose light and essence they contain.
What brings you to the conclusion that we are living in the Fifth Age?
Good point. Didn’t Tolkien say once that he was living at the start of the Seventh or Eighth?
But over the millennia, something formed around these gems or from them. Three monsters with cores harder than any known material.
They are made of a mysterious crystalline material that has impossibly come to life.
One, appearing from the depths of the ocean. One, a beautiful winged female descending from space. And one bringing its fire out of subterranean chasms. They bring destruction and vengeance against the world of men, whose cities and technology are overrunning the beautiful world created by the Valar.
I expected this story to be a longwinded leadup to an absurd pun.
I left only a little disappointed.
> Maedhros stole another
Nitpick. I do not think JRRT, or any of the characters involved would have though of this as stealing. The sons of Feanor really were the rightful owners of the jewels. It’s just that this was not the most morally salient fact given the circumstances. Kind of like how Sauron was indisputably the rightful owner of the One Ring.
Objection – the narrative is neutral at best on whether it was theft, and given that the Silmarils burned their hands, they themselves at least frowned on it.
I’d say that “rightful ownership” is split between Feanor and the Valar. After all, Feanor did not fashion the light from the jewels; he got it from the Two Trees. While the Valar aren’t willing to take the Silmarils from him by force, the Silmarillion is reasonably clear that he has a moral duty to sacrifice the jewels for the Trees, which he abandons, triggering much of the rest of the tragedy.
Objection: Brett never says Marcellus Wallace is tall– your argument is invalid.
This is all Feanor’s fault.
Well, right, if Feanor hadn’t done so much of that, he wouldn’t have seven sons to cause all these problems. But if we’re going that route, we could blame Nerdanel just as much… 😉
When I was a child, I saw Willy Wonka as being obviously and uncomplicatedly in the right. It has only just occurred to me that I’m pretty sure the same went for Feanor. I wonder why I was so predisposed to side with murderous craftsmen of genius.
I haven’t seen very many Tarantino movies. Perhaps he clears everything up in Kill Bilbo?
Considering how much blood was shed over the possession of the Silmarils, the comparison to Pulp Fiction is fairly sound. However, the Silmarils did not impart any protection to their possessors. Quite the opposite, in fact — the people who gained the Silmarils almost invariably came to bad ends. Elu Thingol, Beren, Carcharoth, the dwarves of Nogrod, Dior, the elves of Doriath, Elwing, Maglor, Maedhros, Morgoth…the damn thing is a curse!
Much like any MacGuffin in a noir film, I suppose. Christopher Tolkien put together an epic tale where the shiny object acted like the Maltese Falcon. The real curse is the greed surrounding the thing.
I wonder if Santa Claus can hold the Silmaril because he is so generous.
Beren doesn’t come to a bad end, he gets to spend his life with the most beautiful women who ever lived, a woman who loved him so much she got the god of justice to bend the rules for both of them. He’s also the only person to willingly surrender a silmaril. I suspect these two facts are not unrelated