Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 16

Thread: When is a God not a God?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Age
    43
    Posts
    1,779

    When is a God not a God?

    Thus it came to pass that of the Ainur some abode still with Ilúvatar beyond the confines of the World; but others, and among them many of the greatest and most fair, took the leave of Ilúvatar and descended into it. But this condition Ilúvatar made, or it is the necessity of their love, that their power should thenceforward be contained and bounded in the World, to be within it for ever, until it is complete, so that they are its life and it is theirs. And therefore they are named the Valar, the Powers of the World.
    Among the Edain, many referred to the Valar, whom they knew little about, as Gods. Though in reality, they originated from the mind of Iluvatar which leads me to understand that any belief system within Middle-Earth should based on monotheism, the singular God being Eru. However, the fact that the powers within Arda are so prevalent, a polytheistic system could easily be interpreted as fewer would understand or know that these 'powers' originated from Eru. Yet, there is little evidence of any religion within Arda that we can know, therefore it is more difficult to interpret the inhabitants understanding of who is deemed a God and who is not.

    Do you think the Valar should be considered as Gods? Should they be considered Demigods or Deities on a par with Eru himself? How can a God be defined within Middle-Earth if there are so many from which to choose?
    'Tis virtue, and not birth, that makes us noble; Great actions speak great minds, and as such should govern.
    - John Fletcher, The Prophetess

    Threads you should make a point of reading!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Somewhere in-between universes.
    Age
    37
    Posts
    194
    I think that the peoples of Middle-Earth look upon the Valar as gods, but the Valar look upon themselves as lieutenants of Illuvatar.

    It's all relative.

    Just like a man is like a "god" to his dog.
    Last edited by Darth Saruman; 08-07-2002 at 08:27 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Age
    43
    Posts
    1,779
    It is interesting to see how Amlach plays upon Mens perception of the Valar as Gods;
    The Sea has no shore. There is no Light in the West. You have followed a fool-fire of the Elves to the end of the world! Which of you has seen the least of the Gods?
    Amlach (well, his impersonator who could very well have been Sauron himself) uses the concerns of Men to attempt to cause dissent both towards Elves and The Valar. Therefore I would imagine that only Men viewed them as Gods, whereas Elves make no reference to them as Gods.

    Sauron always considered himself to be a God among Men, again playing the 'God Card' among men who in truth knew little better;
    Already in the days of Tar-Minastir, the eleventh King of Númenor, he had fortified the land of Mordor and had built there the Tower of Barad-dűr, and thereafter he strove ever for the dominion of Middle-earth, to become a king over all kings and as a god unto Men.
    Yet, the question still remains; where they Gods or not?
    'Tis virtue, and not birth, that makes us noble; Great actions speak great minds, and as such should govern.
    - John Fletcher, The Prophetess

    Threads you should make a point of reading!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    Doriath
    Posts
    95
    Well, I guess in order to answer the question "Are they Gods?" you have to specify from which point of view. In the mind of Ilúvatar, I'm sure they are something along the lines of Demigods. And the elven attitude to them is probably quite similar--especially the attitude of the Noldor and Vanyar because they experienced the Valar firsthand and know that Manwë was the mouth of Ilúvatar and not Ilúvatar himself. But men, save a few, never interacted with the Valar. So I think for men the Valar were much closer to gods because they were so high above men. Does that make sense? So in actuality they are not gods because they were created by Ilúvatar, but they are sometimes depicted as gods by less powerful beings.
    Last edited by LúthienTinúviel; 08-07-2002 at 08:44 PM.
    A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language. - W. H. Auden

    http://www.thereandbackagain.net

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    Aldamar, Ered Nimrais
    Age
    31
    Posts
    206
    If we look at gods in our own world, from religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism etc. The Gods are not 'real' in the sense that we cannot see them or speak to them face to face. The only way that we know these Gods are there is through our faith. We have never seen these Gods, and they do not exist on our planet. This is similar to Eru, but not the Valar in Middle-Earth.

    This is why I would say that the Valar in Middle Earth are not Gods. They existed upon the Earth and made themselves known in person to the peoples of Arda. They were certainly heavenly beings, but not Gods.
    Eru is the only God of Arda, the peoples of the world have never seen him and have only their faith that he truely exists.

    That's the way I look at it anyway. I would equate the Valar with Angels.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    Doriath
    Posts
    95
    I agree. They are like Angels. I just meant that races such as Men, because they have not seen the Valar, will therefore have more awe of them and are more likely to equate them with gods.
    A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language. - W. H. Auden

    http://www.thereandbackagain.net

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Somewhere in a Tolkien story.
    Age
    59
    Posts
    2,981
    I'm not sure what we should make of the Valar and Maiar.
    from The Silmarillion, the Ainulindale,
    Thus it came to pass that of the Ainur some abode still with Ilúvatar beyond the confines of the World; but others, and among them many of the greatest and most fair, took the leave of Ilúvatar and descended into it. But this condition Ilúvatar made, or it is the necessity of their love, that their power should thenceforward be contained and bounded in the World, to be within it for ever, until it is complete, so that they are its life and it is theirs. And therefore they are named the Valar, the Powers of the World.
    IMHO, since the power of the Valar is tied to this plane of existence, it seems to me also that that Power must be finite. It will eventually be used up and when that occurs, I'm assuming that the Last Battle will occur. But... that's just me.
    Feanor's Legacy by Grond
    Out of evil, came good... out of hate, came love... out of darkness came light... out of death came life.

    Guildmaster Emeritus of the Guild of Tolkienology

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Location
    Cardiff, United Kingdom
    Age
    55
    Posts
    1,775
    To be considered a God in my view the being in question would have to have some participation in the creation of the world or the people therein. Now we know that of all the peoples in Arda only the Dwarves were created by a Valar and even then It was only by the gift of Iluvatar that they had life. So that leaves only participation in the creation of the world.
    Then Ilúvatar spoke, and he said: 'Mighty are the Ainur, and mightiest among them is Melkor; but that he may know, and all the Ainur, that I am Ilúvatar, those things that ye have sung, I will show them forth, that ye may see what ye have done. And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.'
    Then the Ainur were afraid, and they did not yet comprehend the words that were said to them; and Melkor was filled with shame, of which came secret anger. But Ilúvatar arose in splendour, and he went forth from the fair regions that he had made for the Ainur; and the Ainur followed him.
    But when they were come into the Void, Ilúvatar said to them: 'Behold your Music!' And he showed to them a vision, giving to them sight were before was only hearing; and they saw a new world made visible before them, and it was globed amid the Void, and it was sustained therein, but was not of it. And as they looked and wondered this World began to unfold its history, and it seemed to them that it lived and grew. And when the Ainur had gazed for a while and were silent, Ilúvatar said again: 'Behold your Music! This is your minstrelsy; and each of you shall find contained herein, amid the design that I set before you, all those things which it may seem that he himself devised or added. And thou, Melkor, wilt discover all the secret thoughts of thy mind, and wilt perceive that they are but a part of the whole and tributary to its glory.'
    So The Ainur were involved in the creation of the world from the very begining.
    But when the Valar entered into Eä they were at first astounded and at a loss, for it was as if naught was yet made which they had seen in vision, and all was but on point to begin and yet unshaped, and it was dark. For the Great Music had been but the growth and flowering of the thought in the Timeless halls, and the Vision only a foreshowing; but now they had entered in at the beginning of Time, and the Valar perceived that the World had been but foreshadowed and foresung, and they must achieve it. So began their great labours in wastes unmeasured and unexplored, and in ages uncounted and forgotten, until in the Deeps of Time and in the midst of the vast halls of Eä there came to be that hour and that place where was made the habitation of the Children of Ilúvatar. And in this work the chief part was taken by Manwë and Aulë and Ulmo;
    I know that Eru actually made Arda.
    Then there was unrest among the Ainur; but Ilúvatar called to them, and said: 'I know the desire of your minds that what ye have seen should verily be, not only in your thought, but even as ye yourselves are, and yet other. Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be; and those of you that will may go down into it.' And suddenly the Ainur saw afar off a light, as it were a cloud with a living heart of flame; and they knew that this was no vision only, but that Ilúvatar had made a new thing: Eä, the World that Is.
    But the Ainur did help in both the planning (the Song of the Ainur) and in the work of bring the Vision to reality. So I would say that the Valar are Gods but lesser ones. They not only run Arda but participated in its creation.
    Perfection is a Path we Tread. Not a destination we Reach!!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    Aarhus, Denmark
    Age
    23
    Posts
    934

    Talking Re: When is a God not a God?

    Do you think the Valar should be considered as Gods? Should they be considered Demigods or Deities on a par with Eru himself? How can a God be defined within Middle-Earth if there are so many from which to choose?
    First of all, I'd like to mention that Tolkien himself called the Valar 'Gods' in the letters but I think that he did it to explain what they are. This is the best explanation to the people who have never read Tolkien's works or who have read LotR only. The Valar are the emissaries of the real God to the Visible World - Ea.
    Eru created the Elves and the Men. He's their God. The Ainur created Arda but not the living creatures. Eru is the One God. The Valar must learn the Children to love Eru and they do it .

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Posts
    73

    Re: When is a God not a God?

    The Valar are gods, but only Eru Iluvatar is God.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Age
    43
    Posts
    1,779

    Re: When is a God not a God?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mithrandir-Olor View Post
    The Valar are gods, but only Eru Iluvatar is God.
    Is this not a contradiction? If the Valar are gods, then are they gods among Elves. If Eru is a God, is it only among Men, so who in fact is God? Is there really one God or is God a legion of facets, never whole, simply a sum of the parts. Can a singular God exist without the existence of the Valar?
    'Tis virtue, and not birth, that makes us noble; Great actions speak great minds, and as such should govern.
    - John Fletcher, The Prophetess

    Threads you should make a point of reading!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Toronto, Canada
    Posts
    623

    Re: When is a God not a God?

    From Tolkien’s The Book of Lost Tales: Part I, page 49:

    But Rúmil said: ‘Ilúvatar was the first beginning, and beyond that no wisdom of the Valar or of Eldar or of Men can go.’

    ‘Who was Ilúvatar?’ asked Eriol. ‘Was he of the Gods?’

    ‘Nay,’ said Rúmil, ‘that he was not, for he made them. Ilúvatar is the Lord for Always who dwells beyond the world; who made it and is not of it nor in it, but loves it.’

    I don’t believe the Tolkien ever explicitly calls Ilúvatar or Eru by the name God in his fiction, although Ilúvatar/Eru is obviously intended to be identified with the God of monotheistic religions.

    Tolkien uses gods in his early fiction to identify beings like Manwë, Varda, Mandos, Yavanna, Oromë, and so forth who are presented in his fiction as made by Ilúvatar first among created things. The lesser beings created in the same way be Ilúvatar are also called gods.

    In his later writing Tolkien very seldom mentions gods and then mainly when presenting the beliefs of men. Tolkien prefers the Quenya words Ainűr, Valar, and Maiar to the English word gods and sometimes translates Ainűr as ‘Holy Ones’ and Valar as ‘Powers’.

    In his letter to Milton Waldman (letter 131 in Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien) Tolkien goes into some detail on what he means by the Ainűr whom he classifies as “angelic powers” but also says that as a narrative device they are supposed to correspond to the gods of higher mythology as might be imagined by a Christian. A slightly shorter version of the Milton Waldman letter is included in Christopher Tolkien’s preface in his second edition of The Silmarillion, released in 2004.

    Nowhere does Tolkien suggest that Eru is a god worshipped by Men as opposed to the Valar who are worshipped by Elves.
    Last edited by jallan; 04-23-2012 at 07:46 PM.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Houston
    Age
    30
    Posts
    229

    Re: When is a God not a God?

    This is a very interesting discussion. I agree 100% Jallan. I just wanted to add that whenever I read Tolkien I always approach it as Tolkien attempting to build a religion for the British people. So much of his work is rooted in Western European mythology it is obvious the the Valar are supposed to represent Gods. However, in mythology there is typically something that came before the current Gods. I also believe that Middle Earth is supposed to represent our current world. For instance I believe that Numenor is Avalon.

    Putting both these aspects together, I really appreciate how he is able to capture the polytheism of the ancient religions, and also have it ultimately be a monotheistic religon. In which Illuvater has a special plan for the humans. When I read his work this way I also conclude that the Valar are the equivalent of the Seraphim, or the Archangels such as Michael or Gabriel. I see the Maiar as something like the cherubim or some other type of angel. To further go in that direction in Christianity and Judaism when Satan fell he took 1/3 of the angels down with him. These fallen angels (demons) are quite similar to the Balrogs. However, they also are remarkably similar to the Jotunns of Norse mythology.

    The last point I will bring up is that in the book of Revelation, John is shown a vision of the fall of Babylon (Rome). After this portion is complete he falls before the angel (messenger) who showed him this vision, and began worshiping the angel. The angel said stand up, I am not worthy of your praise, only God is worthy to be praised. This is how I see the Valar. They are powerful and mighty, but they do not perceive themselves as God. They want to cultivate and tend the planet as a good steward not control and subjugate it. They have powers of Gods, but the Gods of the past could be defeated. They were not all powerful and almighty. We see this in Norse, Greek, German, Finnish, and almost every other Western European mythology that the power of the Gods is transient. I believe that for Tolkien the Valar filled this role. However, just as the time of the Elves has passed, and the fourth age is the age of man, the Valar have separated themselves from the world, and now Illuvater will work in the world as he deems fit.

    I have not read much of the HOME or the Tolkien Letters and so this more my inference then something I have read.
    'No!' said Thorin. There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell!'
    The final words of Thorin Okenshield

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Posts
    73

    Re: When is a God not a God?

    Biblically the Seraphim and Cherubim are synonyms. And Michale is the only Archangel, being below them.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    146

    Re: When is a God not a God?

    I think that the Valar are 'demigods'- powerful beings but not omniscient, or omniscient.
    As for angels and archangels, Catholic theology (after all, Tolkien was one and I'm sure he would have known this) teaches that there are nine choirs or levels of angels. Seraphim are the highest, followed by cherubim and the other levels. That might have inspired the rank structure of the Valar and the Maia.
    "It is in moments of peril, when the chill breath of fear blows upon our souls, clearing them of pettiness, that we find ourselves."
    -P.G. Wodehouse

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. The Return of the King Reviews Thread
    By Niniel in forum "The Return of the King"
    Replies: 397
    Last Post: 06-26-2005, 11:19 PM
  2. Replies: 881
    Last Post: 09-22-2003, 09:58 AM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •