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Discussion: BoLT1: The Cottage of Lost Play

Elfarmari

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The Cottage of Lost play is the beginning of Tolkien's English lore.
J.R.R. Tolkien From I was from early days grieved by the poverty of my own beloved country: it had no stories of its own (bound up with it tongue and soil), not of the quality that I sought, and found (as an ingredient) in legends of other lands. There was Greek, and Celtic, and Romance, Germanic, Scandinavian, and Finnish (which greatly affected me); but nothing English, save impoverished chap-book stuff.
Tol Eressëa, as originally conceived, was England. It was the home of the Elves after the fall of Gondolin and the defeat of Melko. Eriol was, at the time of the writing of was thought to come from the lands to the East of the North Sea, meaning he was an Anglo-Saxon before they had come to England. At the end of the tales, Tol Eressëa would be moved near the Great Lands, and the Elves would ‘fare forth' in an attempt to recover their lost kindred. This failed, and Tol Eressëa was rooted to the ground as England. Kortirion would become Warwick, Alalminórë would become Warwickshire, and Tavrobel would become Great Haywood.
Why did Tolkien abandon this idea? I do not own a copy of his letters, so I do not know if there is any mention of it there. Did it become too difficult to maintain as his mythology grew? Did Tolkien simply turn his attention to the ‘ancient' legends rather than the modern connection? Or was there some other reason?
Another idea abandoned early on was the Cottage of Lost Play itself, Mar Vanwa Tyaliéva, and Olórë Mallë, the Path of Dreams. Olórë Mallë was said to be a ‘path' leading to Valinor, trod by the children of the fathers of the fathers of men in their sleep. Some came to Kôr, and remained there with the Eldar. The path was closed when the Noldor (Gnomes) left Valinor to follow Melko to the Great Lands (Middle Earth), and the Cottage of Lost Play was built to house the children who had remained in Kôr. Apparently these children gained perpetual youth by remaining in Valinor?
Even though these ideas form the backdrop of the Lost Tales, the concepts above were abandoned almost immediately. By the end of the Lost Tales, Eriol has already become Ælfwine, and Anglo-Saxon from England.

(I couldn't find much to be discussed in this chapter, so feel free to add anything!)
 

gate7ole

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And at this he wondered more than before, seeing the size of the cottage; but he that opened to him, perceiving his mind, said: 'Small is the dwelling, but smaller still are they that dwell here -- for all who enter must be very small indeed, or of their own good wish become as very little folk even as they stand upon the threshold.'
Here we see the first germ of the diminishing of the Elves. It is very interesting that although most details of this early period of Tolkien’s writings contradict with the later passages, this concept of the “fading” of the Elves was existing from the beginning. It seems that the whole idea of the “non-coexistence” of Men and Elves (with the fading of the later) was dominant and was never abandoned.

Now this which we put into our cups is limpë, the drink of the Eldar both young and old, and drinking, our hearts keep youth and our mouths grow full of song, but this drink I may not administer.
Was limbë in a way connected with the Elvish immortality? It may be so, that at these early stages, the “gift” of immortality had not been given a more subtle theological base and was explained in more “magical” ways. This shows the “immaturity” of these early writings, where “magic” is overused to explain strange events.

About the Olórë Mallë. I understood that only mortal children (Men) could walk through it, while the original Cottage of Play was still existing. And that the later Cottage of Lost Play had devised the opposite road and children could start from Eressëa to the Great Lands and come back, but not the other way. Am I correct or did I confuse the things?
Also:
Ever and anon our children fare forth again to find the Great Lands, and go about among the lonely children and whisper to them at dusk in early bed by night-light and candle-flame, or comfort those that weep.
Here is another example of Tolkien trying to connect his mythology with the existing traditions and explain the fairies of our modern myths. All these “linking” details will be abandoned later and IMO this strengthens the cohesion of his mythology, because such links with existing myths not only are many times forced, but they degrade the level of plausibility.


About the reasons that Tolkien abandoned the whole idea about England, I’m sure it is somewhere told, but I couldn’t find it after a quick search. Does anyone know where the exact quote is? It would be very helpful to have it in our discussion.
 

Maedhros

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Where no play was Lost

I have read various tolkien stories. I was amazed by the path of Frodo in LOTR, then I read the Published Silmarillion and was even more amazed and drawn into the world of Tolkien. Then I began reading home, at the different versions of the stories and Tales that they are. I remember the courage of Ecthelion of the fair voice in his battle against Gothmog, I remember the coming of the Elves to Valinor, the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, The Lay of the Children of Húrin, etc, but of all the stories and tales that I have read, none has taken me so deep into liking the world as The Cottage of Lost Play. There is something so magical in it because it contradicts the philosophy of the legendarium, that Men and Elves are not meant to dwell together.
The Cottage of Lost Play and the Olórë Mallë, are just concepts that to me are just plain beautiful to see and comprehend, but in my mind I want them to be true. That that coexistence is the norm and not the exception.
No one, 'tis said, dwelt in the cottage, which was however guarded secretly and jealously by the Eldar so that no harm came nigh it, and that yet might the children playing therein in freedom know of no guardian- ship. This was the Cottage of the Children, or of the Play of Sleep, and not of Lost Play, as has wrongly been said in song among Men - for no play was lost then, and here alas only and now is the Cottage of Lost Play.
 

Confusticated

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Thank you, Elfarmari. You have cleared up some confusing things for me.


I wondered that about limbe too, gate7ole. It could just be that it was a drink too potent somehow for men.

The whole Cottage of lost play is confusing to me, I'll read it again of course, but no time in the near future.
 

Nenya Evenstar

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I will be reading "The Cottage of Lost Play" again in the near future and can hopefully spark up this conversation again. We can't let this die! In the meantime, discuss amongst yourselves. ;)
 

Nenya Evenstar

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Aren't we a talkative little bunch? ;) I read through the chapter and took many notes, so hopefully I'll be able to spark some interesting conversation concerning this rather remarkable work.

First of all, by reading through some of the versions of stories and notes that Tolkien has, I can't help but wish that the public had all the notes to go from. I know, it wouldn't be very easy to acquire. But it is tempting to think about. :D

My notes consist largely of simple musings. I tried to find things in the chapter which are connected in some way to later writings.

I find it interesting how, even this early, Tolkien had a conception of Earendel. He is pictured as a wayfarer who sailed to find Kor, and any man (and that man's decendants) who is born under his beam becomes a wanderer as well. So even at this point in time Tolkien had the conception of Earendel sailing to Kor (Aman) in Vingilot, but with a little different twist. Earendel's story both shrinks and grows from this version in the version that we have in The Silmarillion. The same can be said of Tol Eressea, though that island's significance becomes changed quite a bit. I enjoy following these changes through to their conclusion a lot.
And at this he wondered more than before, seeing the size of the cottage; but he that opened to him, perceiving his mind, said: 'Small is the dwelling, but smaller still are they that dwell here -- for all who enter must be very small indeed, or of their own good wish become as very little folk even as they stand upon the threshold.'
This part is confusing to me. It doesn't seem to me like it's a metion of the fading because fading isn't "smaller." The house is actually represented as being smaller in scale than usual houses. Could the smallness here be a possible allusion to humbleness? Could all who enter The Cottage of Lost play have to leave their pride behind and become "small?"
Yet all whom we send return not and that is great grief to us, for it is by no means out of small love that the Eldar held children from Kor, but rather of thought for the homes of Men; yet in the Great Lands, as you know well, there are fair places and lovely regionss of much allurement, wherefor it is only for the great necessity that we adventure any of the children that are with us.
...and for pity the Eldar sought to guide all who came down that lane into the cottage and the garden, lest they strayed into Kor and become enamoured of the glory of Valinor....
So the Elves first try to keep Men from becoming enamoured of Valinor, but when they do become enamoured of it, they try to hinder them from wanting to go back where they came from. Does this make any sense?
"...It was the ringing of this Gong on the Shadowy Seas that awoke the Sleeper in the Tower of Pearl that stands far out to west in the Twilit Isles."
I would dearly like to know what Lindo is talking about here.

I find it interesting that there are both children and adults at the tables during dinner. Are these adults Elves? Or are they the children of Men who long ago hear the singing of the Elves and got caught in Kor? Are there different ages because of the different times that the children stayed in Kor? At this point in the mythology, it is obvious that Tolkien was allowing Men to be able to stay in Valinor . . . but only if they remained there until the Faring Forth. It seems that men are allowed to visit the Heavenly Elven lands, and they may even join the Elves in their mortality by drinking Limpe.

The Elves are pictured throughout this entire chapter as more angel-like and faerie-like than Tolkien later described. What made him change this? Tolkien later moved the two kindreds closer and made them both "kindreds" instead of having one be so extremely different from the other.

The use of magic is also incredibly different from what Tolkien used in later writings. He has a "Magic Sun," a "magic fire," "magic shores," and "good magic." In his later writings Tolkien seems to draw away from this magical element and make the Elves more substantial and material. This was a good thing, IMO, though I'd like to see his thought process behind it.
Valwe -- Manwe. It seems possible that Manwe as the name of Vaire's father was a mere slip.
Here among those many came my father Valwe who went with Noldorin to find the Gnomes, and the father of Vaire my wife, Tulkastor.
Errr . . . error?

Now, about the poems. I personally like Tolkien's first version You & Me and the Cottage of Lost Play better than I do his last and final edition. I like the thoughts in it better because it seems more distant and dream-like than the later one. I did like The Trees of Kortirion in its final form, but didn't like it as well as The Cottage.

And finally:
Tall the were, fair-skinned and grey-eyed, and their locks were dark, save in the golden house of Finrod . . .
PJ really needed to listen to this!

Now, speak amongst yourselves. ;) :D
 

Elendil3119

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Tall the were, fair-skinned and grey-eyed, and their locks were dark, save in the golden house of Finrod .
I had a question about this quote. It says "the house of Finrod". To my knowledge, Finrod didn't have any children (I may be wrong), so does Tolkien mean the children of Finarfin? That would include Galadriel. It says in FotR:
They were clad wholly in white; and the hair of the Lady was of deep gold...
That would make sense if Tolkien meant the Children of Finarfin. Could someone help clarify this? :)
 

Inderjit S

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Finrod was a early name for Finarfin. Finrod Felagund of the later Quenta's was known as 'Inglor'. and as we can see from the Quenta Silmarillion of HoME 5, which was written prior to the writing of LoTR, Finrod was still known as the Third son of Finwe, not Felagund.

Finrod Felagund had one child in the process of writing LoTr, Gil-Galad, who was switched from an Elf with Feanorian descendancy to the son of Felagund.

'Finarfin' here had four children, Finrod, Angrod, Aegnor, Orodreth and Galadriel, though Orodreth was latter changed to the son of Angrod and father of Gil-galad. All had golden hair, though there was golden hair in non-Finarfian Noldor, such as Idril and Glorfindel.
 

Confusticated

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Originally posted by Elendil3119
I had a question about this quote. It says "the house of Finrod". To my knowledge, Finrod didn't have any children (I may be wrong), so does Tolkien mean the children of Finarfin? That would include Galadriel. It says in FotR: That would make sense if Tolkien meant the Children of Finarfin. Could someone help clarify this? :)
For a long time Finrod was the name of Finarfin, while Finrod Felagund was named Felagund and then Inglor. Felagund/Inglor did not get the name Finrod until Finrod (later Finarfin) lost it to become Finarfin.

That quote was from a draft for the appendices of LotR. In the first edition of LotR Finrod was named as Galadriel's father since at that time Finrod was the name of Finarfin.

In the second edittion of LotR which came out...12 years later(?)... Finrod was changed to Finarfin in LotR.

So that quote does mean "the house of Finarfin".
 

Arvedui

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This thread has been moved out of the Guild of Scholar's Hall, and will hopefully be filled with the thoughts of more members.
 

Maedhros

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From the Cottage of Lost Play
'Now on one side of the cot stood a thicket of white lilac and at the other end a mighty yew, from whose shoots the children fashioned bows or clambered by his branches upon the roof. But in the lilacs every bird that ever sang sweetly gathered and sang. Now the walls of the cottage were bent with age and its many small lattice windows were twisted into strange shapes. No one, 'tis said, dwelt in the cottage, which was however guarded secretly and jealously by the Eldar so that no harm came nigh it, and that yet might the children playing therein in freedom know of no guardianship. This was the Cottage of the Children, or of the Play of Sleep, and not of Lost Play, as has wrongly been said in song among Men — for no play was lost then, and here alas only and now is the Cottage of Lost Play.
As I have read most of the works of JRRT regarding ME, I don't think that I have met a place where the Elves had a purpose beyond themselves. The Elves caring for the children of men, wow. What would it be like I wonder to be in that Cottage, listening to the tales, dancing and playing with the other children. Trying to find Tinfang Warble.
Hey, it was the Cottage of Lost Play where no Play was Lost.
 

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