Tolkien and 'the Fall'

Discussion in 'J.R.R. Tolkien : The Creator of Middle-earth' started by _postman, Jan 5, 2009.

  1. _postman

    _postman Registered User

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    Hello

    In his Letters (Carpenter), Tolkien often refers to 'the Fall', or 'fallen Man' (and even 'fallen woman').

    Can I ask two questions? One concerns which version of 'the Fall' he was referring to (some see the downfall of man as Eve's fault, and others as Adam's fault); and, are there any explicit references in The Lord of the Rings itself to 'the Fall' (I can't see any)?

    Many thanks for any guidance.

    Postman
     
  2. Alcuin

    Alcuin Registered User

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    That’s mostly a Silmarillion theme, where the Elves perceive that Men have a shadow or taint upon them. It appears most clearly in the essay “Athrabeth Finrod Ah Andreth” (“The Debate of Finrod and Andreth”) in Morgoth’s Ring, where it is directly discussed in character by Finrod Felagund and Andreth, Beren One-Handed’s great-aunt.

    It is addressed indirectly in LotR when, for instance, Gimli remarks to Legolas as they walk through Minas Tirith, that Men usually come to only might-have-beens, and that they normally fall short of their marks.

    But on a grander scale, the theme of “the Fall” repeats throughout Tolkien’s work: the fall of Morgoth (and the subsequent but undescribed fall of Sauron), the fall of Fëanor and then of the Noldor, the fall of the Númenóreans (and of Ar-Pharazôn in particular), the fall of Arnor (Faramir’s statements to Frodo and Sam can be read to imply that worship of the Dark was involved in the breakup of Arnor and subsequent collapse of at least one of the daughter kingdoms of the North). On an individual level, Boromir falls to the temptation of the Ring, but later finds redemption; Denethor falls to pride, and commits suicide. Celebrimbor and the smiths of Eregion may be seen to have fallen to temptation, and so wrought the Rings of Power; Isildur fell to temptation to seize the Ring, and so fell quite literally in the waters of Anduin.

    But the only explicit references to “the Fall” are in Silmarillion, where both Men and Elves are seen to have fallen (Men offstage, but the Elves can see it and remark upon it; the Elves onstage in the Rebellion of the Noldor and the subsequent treachery and murder of Elf-by-Elf in the Kinslayings), and in Morgoth’s Ring, where it is directly discussed.

    Others may recall specific instances where “the Fall” is discussed in LotR, but I cannot this morning.
     

  3. _postman

    _postman Registered User

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    Many thanks, Alcuin for your speedy and comprehensive reply.

    I didn't know about the Morgoth’s Ring discussion, so I had better brush up on that.

    Cheers!

    Postman
     
  4. Úlairi

    Úlairi Crying in the Wilderness

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    This thread is magnificently contrived. Great topic postman! If I may, perhaps the discussion could turn to:

    Whether the continuous Falling of the Races of Arda was due to the perversion and Marring of Arda by Melkor. Was this in a sense pre-destined? The quasi-fission of the fëa and hröa may also have something to do with this. As erma was Fallen; was therefore the hröa? As the hröa may also have been fallen; was thus the fëa tainted and was this then responsible for the downfall of the Noldor and the Númenoreans? Great topic. Thanks for the inspiration postman.

    I'll leave the first response in the brilliant hands of Alcuin (or postman) until I regain possession of my books.

    Whaddya think?

    Cheers,

    Úlairi.
     

  5. Prince of Cats

    Prince of Cats Among the Trees

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    While I do think you raised some interesting questions, this topic is more about connecting Christianity and Tolkien's works it seems rather than the direction you are going (unless you can tie it back in!)
     
  6. Tyelkormo

    Tyelkormo Registered User

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    I am a bit ambiguous about the Rebellion of the Noldor being classified as "the Fall", I'd see their fall at an earlier stage, with, as Tolkien notes in a footnote in letter 131 "a fall into possessiveness". The key point is a)the refusal to sacrifice the Silmarili and, taking it a step further, b)the oath of Feanor -once more a refusal, oath-enshrined- to sacrifice what he believes is his. Everything thereafter in the end is a consequence - including the first kinslaying, which in my eyes also involves a "fall" on the part of the Teleri, falling into the very same kind of possessiveness.

    Tolkien also notes the Valar could fall, and aside obviously from Melkor, it is seen at least on a lesser level, be it with Aule's creation of the dwarves or with the general way the Valar dealt with the Elves. In a way, this could be seen as a fall into possessiveness, too, rather keeping their own little "zoo" of Elves than leaving them in Middle-Earth to await the coming of the second-born. From this viewpoint, the rebellion of the Noldor could in fact be seen as Illuvatar's plan forcefully bringing itself back on track, illustrating the points that a)no one will really derail Illuvatar's plans and b)even "evil" acts will in the end bring about good.

    I am not sure about explicit references to Fall in LotR, but implicitly, there are plenty. Both in individual, personal falls, such as Gollums, that of the Nazgul or the Dwarves who in their possessiveness "delved too deeply", or, of course, that of Saruman. Tolkien even refers in a draft to "trees may go bad, as in the Old Wood" as an example of Fall. One favourite point for me for implicit references, though, is a rather indirect one, comparing Frodo's statement "It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them." with Tolkien's real-life statement in a totally different context "... the essence of a fallen world is that the best cannot be achieved by free enjoyment ... but by denial, by suffering".
     
  7. independent

    independent Registered User

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    In his letter to Milton Waldman, Tolkien makes it clear that Men are fallen, although the "first fall of Men, for reasons explained, nowhere appears". He reaffirms this on other occasions, in particular when he states "the Fall of Man is in the past and off stage".
     
  8. Prince of Cats

    Prince of Cats Among the Trees

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    In Tolkien's Mythopoeia he's written:
    (emphasis added by me) I don't believe Tolkien's referring to anything in Middle Earth here, as the rest of the text doesn't reference it. But like the original poster asked, is this a reference to Eden?
     

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