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The History of Middle-earth (chibi version) - Part 101: We are grey

17th February 2014 (12:31)

A prize for spotting the reference in today's title!


I don't know how many people look at the titles I give to each instalment or the 'next time' text, but I actually decided to draw and add in today's cartoon over the weekend, after already creating what was going to be #101, but will now be #102. Hence why today's title doesn't match Friday's 'next time' text.

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Part 101: We are grey



Next time: Part 102: Of Thingol in Doriath.

Chibis by tektek.org
Original story by and copyright to J R R Tolkien, ed. C Tolkien: Primarily based on the Silmarillion, but incorporating ideas from the 12-volume History of Middle Earth series.
Questions and comments welcome!

Comments

Posted by: L'Ignota (lignota)
Posted at: 17th February 2014 16:19 (UTC)
vorkosigan

They stand between the candle and the star? Well, we all know the Minbari are Space Elves, anyway . . .

(Edited to fix the reference. Sorry, it's been a long time since I saw that show.)

Edited at 2014-02-17 16:22 (UTC)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 17th February 2014 16:54 (UTC)
buffy-all alone

I admit, I had to look up the correct wording myself as well. :)

(And it's actually 'between the darkness and the light'; I changed it to 'Shadow' to sound more Tolkienian.)

Posted by: curiouswombat (curiouswombat)
Posted at: 17th February 2014 19:06 (UTC)
Starlight trees

I just want to say that I rather like pregnant Melian...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 17th February 2014 19:14 (UTC)

:)

It's subtle, but her bump is actually bigger in the final image (bottom right) than the first. Time is passing...

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 18th February 2014 15:00 (UTC)

I wonder if Melian was the only Ainu who *could* get pregnant, or just the only one who ever wanted to? Maybe they can only reproduce with Elves and not with each other?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th February 2014 15:48 (UTC)

Originally, many of the Ainur had children. Oromë was the son of Yavanna and Aulë; Eonwë was the son of Manwë and Varda, and Gothmog was Melkor's son. At some point Tolkien decided to sweep that all aside and make the Ainur spiritual entities only. However, I suspect Melian's role as mother of Lúthien was too deeply embedded in the mythology to be taken out, so she had to become an exception to the rule.

Late in his life (around 1968), Tolkien wrote this:

Lúthien was through her mother, Melian, descended also from the Máyar, the people of the Valar, whose being began before the world was made. Melian alone of all of those spirits assumed a bodily form, not only as a raiment but as a permanent habitation in form and powers like to the bodies of the Elves. This she did for love of Elwë, and it was permitted, no doubt because this union had already been foreseen in the beginning of things, and was woven into the Amarth of the world, when Eru first conceived the being of his children, Elves and Men.

What that implies to me is that any Ainu could get pregnant in theory, but only if they voluntarily limited themselves to a material body. Most of the 'good' Ainur, the Valar and Maiar, would not do so because they believed it would be against God's will - Eru created them to be angels, not to imitate the Incarnates.

Melian broke the rules out of love, but God and/or the Valar allowed her to do so because it was her destiny.

The evil Ainur who followed Melkor, on the other hand, didn't care about the rules at all. Ungoliant was originally a Maia - "one of those he [Melkor] had corrupted to his service" - but she had a physical body, and had children. In HoME tolkien speculates that some Maiar took on the bodies of Orcs and interbred with them. Even Melkor himself, though he had no actual children, certainly had a physical body which (after stealing the Silmarils) he could no longer shed, nor even heal the wounds of his burned hand and crippled foot.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 18th February 2014 19:09 (UTC)

(That was me, by the way. LJ randomly logged me out and I didn't notice.)

...So Melian went beyond simply wearing a mortal body, like Sauron and the Istari, and became an actual physical person. Meaning she was basically an Elf with very stong magical abilities.

I wonder what would become of her if that body were killed? Would she return to Valinor to get a new one (in which case she's really no different from the other Maiar)... or would she go to Mandos?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 18th February 2014 21:10 (UTC)

Actually, I do wonder if Manwë got the idea of the Istari from what Melian did? The difference would be that she did it impulsively, without asking permission, while Manwë doubtless had a long chat with God first to make sure it was okay.

I assume that by becoming incarnate (we can't really use the word 'mortal' when dealing with Elves, unfortunately!) and able to bear children, the trade-off was that she would feel pain, hunger, exhaustion and all the other frailties of the flesh. She was still a Maia: she had foreknowledge of the future because she was there at the Music of the Ainur. I don't think she'd go to Mandos when she died.

In canon, after Thingol died she "vanished out of Middle-earth, and passed to the land of the Valar beyond the western sea, to muse upon her sorrows in the gardens of Lórien, whence she came".

If her body was killed? Well, when both Sauron and Saruman were killed, a vast cloud like a hooded figure loomed up into the sky above them, then a mighty wind sprang up (in Saruman's case, specifically "from the West") and blew the cloud away to nothing. So my guess is that if Melian died, there'd be a similar cloud, but instead of a cold wind there'd be, I dunno, a welcoming light beckoning her back to the West.

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 19th February 2014 03:50 (UTC)

It seems like being "killed" is usually just an inconvenience for Maiar... they have to go back to Valinor and get a new body, probably from the Valar. For those in good standing (like Gandalf) it's a fairly simple process, but those like Sauron and Saruman who are banned from returning to Valinor are condemned to exist as living but powerless spirits until the end of the world. (Or at least until the very unlikely event that the Valar allow them to return.)

This seems to argue that, while the Maiar exist in purely spiritual form back home in Valinor, they must take on a mortal body in order to be active in Middle-Earth.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 19th February 2014 12:14 (UTC)

while the Maiar exist in purely spiritual form back home in Valinor, they must take on a mortal body in order to be active in Middle-Earth.

I can't say I really agree with that. The Valar certainly passed freely backwards and forwards between Middle-earth and Valinor at will - Oromë's hunting expeditions, Yavanna sending plants to sleep, etc. I don't see why the Maiar would be any different: they might be less individually powerful than the Valar but they're "of the same order".

I think there are several factors at work:

1. Tolkien strongly implies that taking on physical form gives greater power over the physical universe. The price paid is to also become vulnerable to its dangers.

To gain domination over Arda, Morgoth had let most of his being pass into the physical constituents of the Earth - hence all things that were born on Earth and lived on and by it, beasts or plants or incarnate spirits, were liable to be 'stained'. Morgoth at the time of the War of the Jewels had become permanently 'incarnate': for this reason he was afraid, and waged the war almost entirely by means of devices, or of subordinates and dominated creatures.


2. Note that Sauron is quite capable of taking on immaterial form or recreating a physical body at will, and that body can appear either beautiful or terrifying has he chooses - but only at first. After the Downfall of Númenor we're told he can never again take on beautiful form. After the Ring is taken from him by Isildur it takes him centuries to recreate a physical body again. His power is weakening with each defeat he suffers.

3. The other idea is that the Valar and Maiar chose to take on physical bodies within Arda to give them a greater insight into, and empathy with, Elves and Men. Melian in particular chooses willingly to experience life as an Elf would experience it, both the good and the bad.

The Istari, then, are ordered by Manwë to take on physical form within Middle-earth, to ensure they can relate to the mortals under their care.

4. There's also the factor that the Valar want to encourage Men to fight evil of their own volition, not leave it up to divine providence to do it for them. Therefore most of the Maiar powers of the Istari are deliberately locked away, inaccessible to them, so they have to act by advising and inspiring mortals instead of fighting on their behalf.

By this analysis, when Gandalf is sent back as Gandalf the White, I think most of those restrictions are removed - both because the Valar now know he can be trusted to use his full powers wisely, and because they know the final showdown with Sauron is rapidly approaching, so it's time to take the gloves off.

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 19th February 2014 14:04 (UTC)

Note that Sauron is quite capable of taking on immaterial form or recreating a physical body at will, and that body can appear either beautiful or terrifying has he chooses - but only at first. After the Downfall of Númenor we're told he can never again take on beautiful form. After the Ring is taken from him by Isildur it takes him centuries to recreate a physical body again. His power is weakening with each defeat he suffers.

But if this were the case, would Sauron have had any reason to fear Huan, and yield to Lúthien? All Huan could have done was destroy his physical body. If Sauron could re-create a new one at will, what would have been the motive for surrendering? It seemed like he would have been obliged to go to Melkor for a new body, and he was terrified of having to admit to his master that he'd been defeated by a girl and her dog.

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 18th February 2014 19:12 (UTC)

Dammit, why is LiveJournal continually logging me out???

These "anonymous" comments are from me.

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