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?
     
  9. 1stvermont

    1stvermont Member

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    Biblical and Christian themes in the LOTR

    “I am a Christian, that fact can be deduced from my stories.”
    -J.R.R Tolkien

    “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work.”
    -J.R.R Tolkien

    “In LOTR the conflict is not basically about “freedom,” though that is naturally involved. It is about God, and his sole right to divine honor. The Eldar and the Numenoreans believed in the one, the true god, and held worship of any other person an abomination. Sauron desired to be a god-king, and was held to be this by his servants.”
    -J.R.R Tolkien


    As a devout catholic, Tolkien’s worldview could not be hidden in his works. His worldview is the worldview that produced the LOTR. He included many Christian and biblical themes into his works. He did not however like straight allegory and disliked C.S Lewis’ strong Christian allegory (Lewis, who sought to give Christianity a home in mythology, used strong Christian allegory). Tolkien said, “I have written a tail which is built on or out of certain religious ideas but is not an allegory of them.” Of first most importance, Tolkien’s work was to be for enjoyment, yet he knew he could not withhold his own worldview. At a lecture at Saint Andrews, Tolkien said LOTR was a specifically a Christian venture to write such a story as he was now engaged in. Wheaton College (IL) professor Clyde Kilby once sent Tolkien a paper by a professor in New South Wales that argued, “At every point, the human dynamics of The Lord of the Rings are drawn from the tradition ascribed to Christ’s redemptive activity.” Tolkien wrote back to Kilby and said that this was true, though not always conscious on his part. A student said he feels “clean” after reading LOTR, with no sex, morality, power, and with its concern for ethical/spiritual life.

    The religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.”
    -J.R.R Tolkien


    Tolkien included many aspects of biblical theology into his books. Councils of the past play a large role in catholic thinking, doctrine, and decision’s on important issues. In LOTR there are many councils that decide the fate of Middle Earth, such as at the council of Elrond or the Ent moot. In the book “Walking with Frodo, a devotional journey through LOTR,” author Sarah Arthur goes through the many choices faced by LOTR characters good versus evil with biblical counterparts and lesson. It includes chapters on darkness/light, pride/humility, corruption/integrity, betrayal/loyalty, deceit/honesty, control/servant hood, bondage/freedom, and despair/hope. The creation of Middle Earth was by singing, just as in the bible, God spoke creation into existence. “The elf food called “lembas,” was clearly reminiscent of the Eucharistic wafer.” Tolkien said Elendil was a Noahchian figure [Noah]. He said Aman was a form of purgatory for Frodo and mortals until their eternal destination. When Tolkien said that Frodo gave into the ring of power, but that he was still a “good” person, he was thinking of 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 and the Lord's Prayer. Biblical marriage, monogamy, was commonly practiced in the West by the free people. Other systems of marriage or union were regarded as “things only done under the shadow.” Tolkien said Frodo was under demonic pressure bearing the ring, and was given grace, divine grace, to carry out his task. Much of Galadrial comes from the teachings of Mary.

    The Fall and Eden Restoration

    Tolkien believed strongly there had been an Eden on earth and that man’s original sin was responsible for this fallen world. The immortal Elves for all intent and purposes were men before the fall. Like the world pre fall (Garden of Eden), Lorien was without “stain,” no death, sickness or curse. The Elves represent the eternal and supernatural aspects of humanity and are the creatures most like eru(God). Elves by nature are good, but can be seduced. At the council of Elrond, Elrond says, “Nothing is evil in the beginning, even Sauron was not so.” This is a Christian understanding of evil, that God’s original creation was good, with no death or suffering and evil. The devil himself was created “good” and an angel of light. Andreth says that men were born to live everlasting in the beginning just as the bible teaches. The elves thought God’s gift to man was death, because to go on as fallen creatures forever would be worse. Reflecting the biblical teachings in Revelations chapter 21, Andreth says, “The one [God] will himself enter into Arda, and heal men and all the marring from the beginning to the end.” Tolkien said, “Fantasy serves as “A far off gleam or echo of evangelium [good news gospel] in the real world.” In the history of Middle Earth, when Arwen dies, it says “There is her green grave, until the world is changed.” In the Hobbit it says, “The world will ultimately be “renewed.” “The world was fair, the mountains tall in elder days before the fall,” speaks Gimli in The Hobbit.

    Melkor’s fall was like that of Satan in the bible. Like Satan Melkor fell “From splendor, he fell through arrogance to contempt for all things save himself, a spirit wasteful and pitless. Understanding he turned subtly in perverting to his own will all that he would use, until he became a liar without shame. He began with the desire of light [creative action] but when he could not posses it for himself alone, he descended through fire and wrath into great burning, down into darkness and darkness he used most in his evil works upon arda and filled it with fear for all living things.”

    Like Melkor, The biblical tempter, the angel cast out of heaven, the father of lies, the one thrown into darkness are all biblical connections. Melko’s rebellion was to increase power and glory as the biblical Satan intent was as well. Melkor forges a crown for himself and gives title “king of the world.” Melkor like Satan could not create, but only corrupt or cause marring of the once good creation.. Frodo said “The shadow that bred [the orcs] can only mock and it cannot make, not real things of its own. I don’t think it gave life to orcs, it only ruined them and twisted them”.
     
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