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The history of Middle-Earth (chibi version): Part 51: Discovery

29th July 2013 (13:37)

Thanks to the people who replied to my poll last week! It's nice to know there's an audience for these cartoons, and that LJ isn't totally dead yet. Only mostly dead... I'm pretty sure a few years ago a poll like that would have had five times as many replies, even if many of them would click the 'I'm not reading them" button. Oh well. :(

Anyway, say hello to a new generation of Elves! I've gone with the assumption that Ingwë, Finwë and Elwë are not the same people as Imin, Tata and Enel; it fits the continuity of my story better and is neither supported nor contradicted by canon.

"Námo acting mysterious" is a nod to the theory discussed in a previous post, that the souls of Elves killed by Melkor's minions might already have been showing up in Mandos even before their formal 'discovery' by the Valar.

Part 51: Discovery

Next time: Part 52: First contact

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!


Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 29th July 2013 15:28 (UTC)

"It's the Horseman! See, his horse has that same grin!"

Regarding the souls of Elves going to Mandos: I'm pretty sure Tolkien's Catholic beliefs would have rebelled at the idea of a soul going anywhere but to the afterlife it had earned. The disposition of a soul would be God's domain alone, and Satan/Melkor could not influence it except by turning that soul to evil while its owner was still alive. All the souls would have gone to Mandos/"Limbo" to wait the several thousand years for the arrival of Jesus, who between the Crucifixion and Resurrection would have arrived to lead the souls of the righteous to the Grand Opening of Heaven. (The "harrowing of Hell" in Christian belief.)

But I think Tolkien purposely avoided injecting that much overt Catholic theology into his stories.

Námo not saying anything would be odd, since the arrival of the Elves was pretty much the #1 thing the Valar were waiting for. But, since those Elf-souls would have been the first to arrive in Mandos, maybe Námo didn't know what or who they were and was trying to figure it out himself.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 29th July 2013 16:26 (UTC)

"It's the Horseman! See, his horse has that same grin!"

The black horse is the evil twin brother of the white horse. :)

As for souls: the way Tolkien set it up, Elves' souls are 'bound to the world' until Judgement Day. Originally they weren't even supposed to die at all; that was Melkor's doing, and part of 'Arda Marred'.

As such, Elven souls don't go to Heaven or Hell; they hang around the world until given new bodies, when they can live their lives anew. (Fëanor is called out as the exception; because of his crimes, he's the one Elf who will not be allowed to return to life at all until the Last Day.) Námo summons the souls of dead Elves to Mandos, where they're held in peace and solitude to contemplate their lives - an equivalent of the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory - before being reborn. However, there's a reference in HoME to the fact that not every Elf obeyed or even heard that summons. Námo couldn't compel them to come to Mandos, because that was a question touching at the very root of Free Will. However, refusing the lawful summons of the Valar is a wilful act at best, and a sign of corruption and evil at worst.

The souls of Men, on the other hand, "leave the circles of the World" and neither Elves nor the Valar know where they go after that. It's pretty clear that Tolkien's intent was for us to understand that they go to the Christian afterlife: but that's a different fate to the one the Elves expect.

Námo not saying anything would be odd

I didn't think so; my reading is that Námo never speaks about the things he knows, unless directly commanded by Manwë, or if he believes he's serving Destiny by speaking out.

As far as I can remember Námo is also the only Vala who possesses the gift of prophecy. He can actually see the future, as opposed to the other Valar who have to rely on their memories of the Great Music from before the world began, or Manwë who has the authority to commune with God and ask his opinion directly. So nothing is likely to take Námo by surprise; but he keeps his foreknowledge secret unless commanded to speak.

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 29th July 2013 16:47 (UTC)

Hmmm... Námo sounds a lot like Destiny from the "Sandman" comics.

The thing about the souls of Men going to the Christian afterlife is that there shouldn't have been any... not at that time, if we accept that Middle Earth is supposed to be our own world in the distant past. Catholic teaching holds that Original Sin prevented all souls (even those of the prophets and patriarchs) from entering Heaven before Jesus redeemed that sin through the Crucifixion.

Before that they would have gone to Limbo... a place of neither reward nor punishment, but waiting for Jesus to come and get them. This was based on the Hebrew Sheol, which in turn probably came from the Babylonian Irkalla.

It's interesting that after the death and Resurrection of Jesus -- a very Egyptian-type story (see: Osiris) -- souls started going to a merit-based afterlife more similar to that of Egyptian belief.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 29th July 2013 18:09 (UTC)

Well, I said 'the Christian afterlife' very deliberately, rather than 'Heaven'. Limbo could well be the destination of the souls of Men who die in the first few Ages. Tolkien deliberately didn't go into detail on that subject.

(I get the impression that at first, he wrote more conventional fantasy - his earliest writings call the Valar 'Gods' - but later in his life his conscience started troubling him and he tried to revise his mythology so that at least it never contradicted Christian teachings, even if it didn't follow them explicitly.)

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