Saturday, 22 September 2012

Essekenta Eldarinwa...

Having disavowed religion, I spend the days musing on old churches (how ironic!), studying Tolkien, and playing retro video games. Tolkien is a blessing, I must say. The Lay of Leithian is my favourite. Imagine, a dark Lord on his throne in the North, an unbroken forest-kingdom, a shining jewel and the octo-syllabic couplets of romance; it ought to be made into a ballet, and I have thought so for a while now. Imagine the dance of Tinúviel before Beren among the hemlocks in the forest of Region (pronounced with a short 'e' and hard 'g,' reg-ee-on, not as the English ''region'' - there are no Italianisms in Tolkien!). Who could dance the contest of Sauron and Felagund on the Isle of Wolves? Could you imagine the fires of Angband flaring up at the sound of the great Wolf? Or the song of Lúthien before the judgement seat of Mandos, which moved even he to pity for the sorrows of the Eldar and Fathers of Men? My heart is full of it.

Now, more than ever before, I turn to The History of Middle-earth rather than The Silmarillion. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I read The Silmarillion cover to cover. 10 years ago, as a not-very-well-read teenager, I thought it the best thing ever written. Today I would say it would be better if The Silmarillion had never been published. What Christopher Tolkien attempted therein was not dissimilar to the process of the ''codification'' of the Sacred Canons, bethought of pope Sarto, where at the expense of a rich, variegated tradition of legendarium, you have a ''canonical,'' linear work, cut short, and true only to The Lord of the Rings, as though that were the climax of the history of Arda. The codification of the Sacred Canons into the Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law (ironically seen by the traditionalists as an arthetype and paragon of Church Tradition!), while largely based on the work of Gratian and St Raymund, distorts the relationship of contemporary magisterium to Time, and the authority of Law relative to the same. Where before the auctoritas of a particular law depended on eld, the new code sets a very high store by the authority of the most recent law promulgated, even if it overturns that which went before; a novel idea which comes to us from the Enlightenment. Traditionally it was seen as axiomatic that Men were ruled by two things: the Natural Law, understood as the precepts established of the Lord before all ages, which can be known by the use of right reason

In the same way the canonical stuff in the published Silmarillion, by its status of canonicity, is seen as superior to the varying accounts given in The History of Middle-earth, richer though they be.

It is nothing short of a revolution in the understanding of law, the nature thereof being defined anew according to the whim of the Age.

Similarly the compilation of a linear, streamline Silmarillion narrative detracts from the nature of Mythology itself. The legends that make up The Silmarillion went through many changes over the 60 years of their composition; from early verses about the mariner Earendel (derived from Crist of Cynewulf) when Tolkien was a student, The Book of Lost Tales (some of the most exquisite and imaginative), the Lays of Beleriand (which C.S Lewis critiqued in 1929), the Sketch of the Mythology, the 1930 Quenta Silmarillion, and the first Annals; the 1937 Quenta Silmarillion, the later Quenta, and the final Annals. That is not to mention the many other writings, stories, legends, essays, unfinished material, letters, drawings, paintings, and fundamentally also the plethora of languages (which themselves underwent extensive revision over the years), etc which compliment this vast work (which covers twelve volumes in The History of Middle-earth). Tolkien died in 1973, and it is no surprise that a work so vast should have remained largely unfinished. There are many ''gaps'' in the Tale of Years, and much more could have been written of Númenor, of Galadriel and Celeborn, of Ost-in-Edhil, of Middle-earth in the Second Age, etc. Chapter 22 of The Silmarillion was composed entirely by Christopher Tolkien due to a gap in the mythology, loose ends left by the unfinished Tale of Turambar, the actual fate of Doriath, the motives of the Dwarves of Nogrod, the curse of the Nauglamír (was it the curse of Mîm the Dwarf, or was the gold (brought by whom out of Nargothrond?) accursed from having lain long in the hoard of Glaurung?) and on indecision about the ...of the Curse of Morgoth upon Hurin. It is not to be wondered at. Since the legendarium is conceived of as tales told in Tol Eressëa to the mariner Ælfwine of England, who having become lost off the west coast of Ireland, had found the Lonely Isle and befriended the Elves that dwelt there; and by the Dúnedain of Gondor, gaps are attributed by Tolkien to lost records, the waning of lore among Men, etc, though it is said that the whole history of Arda is recorded by Míriel Serindë in the halls of Vairë on the shores of the Outer Sea. Christopher Tolkien makes some concession to ''custom,'' conflicting narrative, etc, both in

Some of Tolkien's later writings, to be found in Volume X of The History of Middle-earth, are

humility, and acceptance of human error - in both the Canon Law and Silmarillion; canon law deference to older laws, Silmarillion deference to differing accounts of the same event.
No doubt intelligible motives, tie in comment about delays in implementation, and the reasonable desire for clarity in the work.

For precisely the same reason - order, the pigeon hole - the very things Saruman spoke of in his discourse with Gandalf in the Tower of Orthanc.

Of course Christopher Tolkien remarks in Volume XI of The History of Middle-earth (at the end of the Wanderings of Hurin) that even for the case of Hurin's wanderings an attempt to compile a Silmarillion narrative was futile, or at least questionable.

in the same way the ''codification'' of the Silmarillion narrative, consonant with the names, times, places, etc of The Lord of the Rings, distorts the relative import of the Elder Days to the history of Arda, as recorded by Miriel Serinde in the halls of Vaire by the shores of the Outer Sea, and told by Pengolodh to AElfwine of England. While the War of the Ring, in a sense, ''concludes'' the story of

Christopher Tolkien makes some concession to ''custom'' in the published Children of Hurin, where at the capture of Mim the Dwarf by the soldiery of Morgoth he adds a footnote as to Mim's intentions in betraying the House of Ransom, but

However; the problem is that the interpretation of ancient law in a modern context has a tendency to lead to anything from irrelevance to injustice, usually via delay and expense

They are fundamentally legends of the Elder Days, told by Pengolodh to AElfwine, a Saxon living in the 9th century on the Lonely Isle who, having strayed off the west coast of Ireland, had found the Straight Road and sailed into the true West (thereby keeping something of the original Book of Lost Tales

The fate of the Children of Hurin was inextricably tied up with the fate of the three great realms of the Eldar in the Elder Days - Turin brought about the ruin of Nargothrond, Hurin's wandering brought the location of the hidden city of Gondolin to the counsels of Morgoth, being stalked by the spies of the Dark Lord, the cursed gold of Nargothrond to Thingol in Doriath and thereby

Anyway, contrary to what I said hitherto, I haven't completely ''disavowed'' religion - just religious people. Nothing angers me more these days than having ever belonged to a sick finger-pointing culture. To put it bluntly, I don't give a shit about which sycophant-bishop was appointed to a curial office in the Vatican; I don't give a shit about the ordinariate or traditionalist pressure groups who make a fuss about candles and vestments. You're all welcome to the rubbish; just don't expect me to share your enthusiasm for tat and spuriousness. It has nothing whatever to do with Christianity. Have I become worldly? Or perhaps fretting over petty religious squabbles, who will triumph over whom, which ideology in the churches is best aligned with the Word of God unchanging, is a worldly pursuit? It was nice, once upon a time (now seeming immeasurably remote), having liturgy as a ''supplement,'' as it were, and complimentary element to my love of Tolkien, ballet, and art, but I perceive the work of the Lord as much (perhaps more) in beautiful works as any service I ever attended. At least the works of Tolkien remain constant, and a ballet is rehearsed! Constant and unchanging to the end of Time, hallowed by their own greatness, though there come a time when all great catholic works are forbidden and men are constrained to conceal them in vaults deep underground. To feel close to God surely entails some degree of separation from emotions and dispositions destructive of soul? Anger (even righteous anger), prejudice, regret. Attendance at most churches just fuels such things.

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