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Silmarillion Sunday! The Valaquenta

Mightier than Este is Nienna, sister of the Feanturi; she dwells alone. She is acquainted with grief, and mourns for every wound that Arda has suffered in the marring of Melkor. So great was her sorrow, as the Music unfolded, that her song turned to lamentation long before its end, and the sound of mourning was woven into the themes of the world before it began. But she does not weep for herself; and those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope. . . The windows of her house look outward from the walls of the world.

The world is a wound, and the world is a song. Tolkien in a nutshell? It's probably not a great idea to go around trying to put large bodies of work into nutshells. Anyway, the Valaquenta is a brief recap of the World-Song we saw previously, and an introduction to the Valar.



What makes a god a god? We're told of the Valar that "men have often called them gods," which implies that they're really something else, but they're massive cosmic forces with personalities who behave more or less like gods -- making plants and mountains and hanging out at the bottom of the ocean, and hunting giant beasts, and all that god business. I think Aule and Yavanna are my favorites -- Aule likes to make things out of other things, and Yavanna likes to encourage living things to grow. Unlike most gods, these godlike non-gods are not even a little bit sexual, though some of them are spouses. No one in this crowd is likely to give birth to monsters, heroes, planets or rivers; semen and milk will be conspicuously absent from the material of the universe. Elves and Men may occasionally have sexual motivations later on, but I think they stay pretty rare. This is just as well; it's not where Tolkien's fiction-writing interests lie and there's no point in forcing it.

It probably doesn't do much good to try to map the Valar and their less-powerful cousins the Maiar on to either ancient mythology or Catholic angel-scholasticism (Tolkien was a Catholic, as the Catholic side of Tolkien fandom will never, ever, ever tire of telling you). They're the Valar. They make things and cultivate things, or else they sit in various locations and brood on things, or, if they're Melkor, they throw a tantrum and try to kill everything with volcanoes. Poor Melkor. I'm probably going to spend this entire book hoping he gets a Scrooge night and wakes up on Christmas morning refreshed and able to relax and stop trying to own everything, but [Spoiler:]I'm pretty sure it's not going to happen. :(

We hear a little about the balrogs (mostly that they exist) and a little more about Sauron, "of [Melkor's] servants that have names the greatest." One of the nice creepy touches that Tolkien keeps using is the lost name. Gollum's forgotten name is an important part of his sad story, and the Mouth of Sauron's "name is remembered in no tale, for he himself had forgotten it." I think the Ringwraiths are also said to have forgotten their human names. It's a simple but effective way of evoking very long life and extreme alienation. Maybe it's a coup for Sauron that he manages to hang onto one name for as long as he does? We'll see.

Gandalf -- Olórin in his youth in the West that is forgotten -- gets a name-drop, unfortunately only to tell us that he is Sir Not Appearing In This Film. But it's a nice nod just the same:

"But of Olórin 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 not know whence came the fair visions or the promptings of wisdom that he put into their hearts. In later days he was the friend of all the Children of Iluvatar, and took pity on their sorrows; and those who listened to him awoke from despair and put away the imaginations of darkness."

Hey, old friend <3


I don't have a lot to say about the Valaquenta, but if you do, please feel free to say it here! Next week starts the Quenta Silmarillion proper, with giant trees, impractical light delivery systems, my favorite Tolkien creation story, and maybe some elf drama! (but maybe not).

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
egelantier
Jan. 13th, 2015 09:52 am (UTC)
::checking in::

i don't have a lot to say about valaquenta (i loved varda, and i really wished somebody would introduce melkor to like... soothing pottery classes or something, but that's more or less it), but just wanted to say that i'm hugely enjoying your read-along. ah.

(i wonder if anybody ever bothered with translating zvirmarillion - it's a brilliant parody by late s.o.rokdevyaty, an influental old-school fan, and it sort of nails a lot of funny things in canon without being weird about it. i was a tiniest, so easily offended baby purist when i've read it first, and still loved it).
evelyn_b
Jan. 13th, 2015 05:24 pm (UTC)
Melkor needs soothing pottery classes, maybe with an electric wheel and a big pile of wet clay he can get his hands all over. Maybe with some nice crackling fire sounds instead of music in the background, since music is a sore point.

Someone did amateur-translate the first few paragraphs of Zvirmarillion, but that's all I can find so far in English, except a book cover. I'll post those separately, since I can't figure out how to put images in the comments.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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