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Eru in the LotR; the theme of Mortality

Goro Shimura

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Return of the King, Appendix A:
'"Nay, dear lord," she said, "that choice is long over. There is now no ship that would bear me hence, and I must indeed abide the Doom of Men, whether I will or I nill: the loss and the silence. But I say to you, King of the Numenoreans, not till now have I understood the tale of your people and their fall. As wicked fools I scorned them, but I pity them at last. For if this is indeed, as the Eldar say, the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive."

'"So it seems," he said. "But let us not be overthrown at the final test, who of old renounced the Shadow and the Ring. In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory, Farewell!"
It can be inferred from the appendix that Eru has authority over the Valar when it says,they "were not permitted to take from them the Gift of Men." Also, they "laid down their Guardianship and called upon the One..." when they were invaded by Ar Parazon the Golden.

From the above scene it is clear that Arwen and Aragorn know of the existence of Eru-- and also that the "mortal Men doomed to die" actually had an advantage over the elves: a special gift from Eru to be able to leave the circles of the world.

My question is... how can death be a "Gift?" How does it compare with the "memory" that seems to be the lot of the elves?
 
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Crumpled Stars

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Are you asking for a philosophical debate?

In Tolkien's world it's very clear that there are better things to look forward to after death. So the answer to your question is simple.

IMHO, in our world, knowing that we will die one day makes us more appreciative of the life we have. If we could all stay in this world forever, I doubt anyone would have much motivation to do anything at all.

I'm sure you have your own reasons.
 

Niniel

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In teh Sil, Death is referred to by the Elves both as 'The Doom of Men' and 'The Gift of Men', and more often as the latter. The Elves fear death, because they do not know it, but at the same time, they envy Men, because they can escape from this world by death. For Elves the world grows boring after all these Ages they have lived in it. In the beginning, when the Elves were young, they were curious about everything and wanted to know the language of beasts and birds, so that they could talk to them about everything they wanted to know, but in the third Age, the Elves have grown weary of the world and do not concern themselves in its affairs (note Gildor's words on this).
So death can indeed be a gift. You should read Simone de Beauvoir's book 'All men are mortal' (she's a French author, in French it is called 'Tous les hommes sont mortels'), if you want to read more about death as a Gift to Men.
 

Khamul

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Niniel, I completely agree. The Elves envied men and their gift of death. The world had no meaning to them, and they longed for the Valinor again. The Noldor were also under the curse, and that also wore on their hearts, and caused discord among the Elves as well.

For some death is the worst thing imaginable, but for others it is something to yearn for. In Lotr it is pretty clear that there is life (or a state of being) after death. Then they were almost looking forward to death and that state of bliss, instead of the troubles of ME.
 

lilhobo

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Originally posted by Goroshimura
It can be inferred from the appendix that Eru has authority over the Valar when it says,they "were not permitted to take from them the Gift of Men." Also, they "laid down their Guardianship and called upon the One..." when they were invaded by Ar Parazon the Golden.

From the above scene it is clear that Arwen and Aragorn know of the existence of Eru-- and also that the "mortal Men doomed to die" actually had an advantage over the elves: a special gift from Eru to be able to leave the circles of the world.

My question is... how can death be a "Gift?" How does it compare with the "memory" that seems to be the lot of the elves?
well, one thing is that Tolkien was never a philosopher, not like Camus or sastre....Tolkien just wrote a fantasy world for his languages, and left too much unexplained.

i dont see it as Arwen and Aragorn knowing of an almighty God. And death can only be seen as a gift from the perspective of Arwen. She went away after the death of her love and kinda "died" by fading away. Tolkien just never explained the deaths of Arwen or Luthien, fading away to die of a broken heart is tragic, which is kinda funny coz it explains your next question about memory.

Arwen can be seen to die because she faded from memory as the years passed; her people ostracised her, so she faded from memory. and when Aragorn spoke about memory its from human perspective. man has a short lifespan so memory is the only thing that lives on. Beyond memory is an afterlife that Aragorn was hoping for, however, theres no indication that men worshipped the Eru that the elves worshipped.
 

Halandor

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death is truly a gift because once men die they go beyond the circles of the world into another place of happiness
 

Thorin

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Originally posted by Halandor
death is truly a gift because once men die they go beyond the circles of the world into another place of happiness
Of what are you talking about? The fate of man after death is not fully explained in Tolkien's world. Hence, to say that your reason is why it is called "the gift of men", can only be an assumption. Your comment is approaching it from a Christian perspective, and even that explanation of the state of the dead is debatable
 

Anduril

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I support the idea shared to us by Niniel...death is a gift in the sense that it's unknown for Elves, it's something completely new into their comprehension of universe and life, because they are "inmortals but they can be death by sword".
Also, as a "rest" of the world's years and memories, world's mistakes and mankind stubborness...

In the "latu sensu", Nin reference to Beauvoir's book is elegant and simple, not mythological, nor religious, but existentialist...
:D
 

Anarchist

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A gift or a curse? Very very interesting this one. This depends on the character. It would be a gift to Gollum, who has been through so many things to die and leave this dread behind. But it was a dreadful curse for Beren and Luthien not being able to enjoy their love forever. When someone hasn't any reasons to live for or believes that he has done enough for this world (like Frodo who saved ME), then death is the finest gift which takes off all the dreads. But when you love life so much, when you are connected to a person and want to be near him/her forever and death brings you apart from that person, it is indeed a curse.
 

Tar-Palantir

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Forgive me if I'm off on this one,but methinks Goro (going by his/her previous posts) is playing opossum on this here thread. Anyway......

It seems clear to me that the "Gift of Men" means that there is an afterlife for them, i.e....heaven. The Elves are part of the world and thus forever bound to it. By extension, when they die, they die. 'Cept for good ol' Glorfindel (& Finrod, I think).

I'm shooting from the hip here, and I don't have the texts in front of me....so I'll gracefully accept a correction.
 

Goro Shimura

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The Worship of Eru

Originally posted by lilhobo
Beyond memory is an afterlife that Aragorn was hoping for, however, theres no indication that men worshipped the Eru that the elves worshipped.
Sorry... I can't let this one slide...
From Unfinsihed Tales, "A Description of Numenor" page 166:
Near to the centre of the Mittalmar stood the tall mountain cvalled Meneltarma, Pillar of the Heavens, sacred to the worship of Eru Iluvatar. Though the lower sloped of the mountain were gentle and grass covered, it gree ever steeper, and towards the summit it could not be scaled; but a winding spiral road was made upon it, beginning at its foot upon the south, and ending below the lip of the summit upon the north. For the summit was somewhat flattened and depressed, and could contain a great multitude; but it remained untouched by hands throughout the history of Numenor. No building, no raised alter, not even a pile of undressed stones, ever stood there; and no other likeness of a temple did the Numenoreans possess in all the days of their grace, until the coming of Sauron.
So men evidently did worship Eru. Aragorn is a descendent of "The Faithful" that maintained their devotion to Eru during Sauron's ascendancy in Numenor. His replanting of The White Tree is symbolic of repentance from the falling away and a reestablishment of a proper attitude towards God. (It was Isildur that rescued the seed of the original white tree, remember....)
 

Goro Shimura

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T.A. Shippey's View of Aragorn's Death

Aragorn is a remarkably virtuous character, without even the faults of Theoden, and he foreknows his death like a saint. Nevertheless he is not a Christian and nor is Arwen. He has to say then to her, 'I speak no comfort to you, for there is no comfort for such pain within the circles of the world' (III, 343). When she still laments her fate he can only add 'We are not bound forever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory. Farewell!' Arwen is not comforted. She dies under the 'fading trees' of a Lorien gone 'silent', and the end of her tale is oblivion, 'and elanor and niphredil bloom no more east of the Sea'. Aragorn, then, has some hope of the future and of something outside the 'circles of the world' that may come to heal their sorrow, but he does not know what it is. This is a deathbed strikingly devoid of the sacramants, of Extreme Unction, of 'the consolations of religion'. It is impossible to think of Aragorn as irretievably damned for his ignorance of Christianity (though it is a view some have tried to foist on Beowulf). Still, he has not fulfilled the requirements for salvation either. Perhaps the best one can say is that when such heroes die they go, in Tolkien's opinion, neither to Hell nor Heaven, but to Limbo: 'to my fathers', as Theoden says, 'to sit beside my fathers, till the world is renewed', to quote Thorin Oakenshield from The Hobbit, perhaps at worst to wait with the barrow-wight 'Where gates stand for ever shut, till the world is mended'. The whole of Middle-earth, in a sense, is Limbo: there the innocent unbaptised wait for Doomsday (when, we may hope, they will join their saved and baptised descendants.
So Aragorn has a hope... but he does not know what he's hoping for. (That makes sense-- the story is set before the coming of any of the prophets that could explain things....)

...He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; Isaiah 61:1

Normally this verse is interpreted as Christ freeing those who are slave to sin and the powers of this world while they are living. It is debatable whether or not it also applies to those that died before his coming. But...

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) Ephesians 4:8-10

What was Christ doing during the time that he "descended first into the lower parts of the earth?"

For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. 1 Peter 4:6

So... when Aragorn died... he was in a state of "Limbo" for a long time... then Christ appears... preaches the gospel to him and all the other dead people... Aragorn maybe even gets to partake of the life that could be had through Jesus (even though he was still dead!)... and then later he faces the judgement on the Last Day where his eternal destination is to be determined.

(That's one way of looking at it.... I admit though that this is just an "armchair" speculation and may not be a legitimate orthodox view.... In any case... I can't translate Greek. However, the point about Aragorn not knowing what he could truly look forward to in the hereafter is I think fairly solid, IMHO.)

Addendum:

I just found a passage written by Tertullian (an early Christian writing during the early part of the third century.)

"For we read that Christ in His death spent three days in the heart of the earth.... He did not ascend into the heights of heaven before descending into the lower parts of the earth. This was so that He might there make the patriarchs and prophets partakers of himself."

(So whether I'm right or wrong, I'm not the first person to put forward this interpretation....)

The early Christians seem to refer to what I've called Limbo as "Hades."
 
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Goro Shimura

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The Elves

Several questions:

Why do the elves seem so much more keen on Elbereth than Eru?

What happens to elves when they die?

Why is the afterlife for elves handled differently than that of men?
 

Elanor2

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Re: The Elves

Originally posted by Goroshimura
Why do the elves seem so much more keen on Elbereth than Eru?
Although Eru is the creator, the Valar are the ones that live in Arda and have a close contact with elves (not with men). High elves have learned much from all valars and are very fond of Elbereth, who made the stars.

What happens to elves when they die?
According to SIL, the death elves remain on Arda, in the halls of Mandos, west of Valinor.

Why is the afterlife for elves handled differently than that of men?
Tolkien decided so. Elves remain on Arda, alive or dead. At the end, Eru will make Arda a paradise for them, I think. Men do not remain on Arda, but the Valar do not know what their final destination is.

What we know of Eru and his purposes seem to come second hand, from the Valar to the elves to men.

Additionally, Tolkien talked in some initial drafts (source: HoME) that Men have strange gifts (strange for the Valar). He talked of one, the "Gift of Freedom", that becomes later "Gift of Death". I liked that idea of the gift of freedom, and of the other strange gifts. It put in my mind the idea that men are, in a sense, 4-dimensional beings in a 3-dimensional world. They can go truly beyond it. But for the elves (and the Valar, who have chosen to live in Arda) they are difficult to understand.
 

Goro Shimura

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So... if the world is destroyed at the end of time... the elves will be destroyed with it?

Does this mean for sure that there is no "resurrection of the dead" for elves?

What passages tell us about these matters?


Might the "Gift of Freedom" refer to the ability of Men and Hobbits to act outside the boundaries of the Song of the Ainur? (Or have I botched something?)
 

Goro Shimura

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Just found this and thought it was pertinent to the discussion:
from "Of the Voyage of Earendil"
And this is my decree concerning them: to Earendil and to Elwing, and to their sons, shall be given leave each to choose freely to which kindred their fates shall be joined, and under which kindred they shall be judged.
This seems to impy a Judgement Day of some kind for both races-- and that the parameters of the judgement is different for each race.

Or is judgement here synonomous with "doom?"

(Can't study this one out from the original Greek!!)
 

Elanor2

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My impresion was that the world would be destroyed and renewed, even more beautiful, and would be given to the elves to dwell forever.

However, I do not find the quote that gave me that impression. It was something like "after the end of the world, Eru will give the Eldar the most beautiful halls to dwell". In fact, I found the opposite, one that says that after the world is destroyed, the Valar do not know what the Eldar's destiny would be. So sorry, I cannot find it, so perhaps I am mistaken and it was a memory trick.

As for men "...they should have a virtue to shape their life...beyond the music of the Ainur". Comes from the SIL and it is similar in HoME. They will join the second music theme after the world's end.
 

Pippin/Frodo

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WOW!

I have known about c.s. and J.R.R tolkien being friends.

I was so empressed to find such a stand for christians and Am very proud.

I never saw things as the ring being sin but you lit a lamp.

I did notice however some things in the Lord of the Rings that would be good to find in the Bible or resemble things.

Such as souron being where he is not seen and yet has the power to do many things evil.

And how Gandalf the wise Died to SAVE the rest of the copanie, and yet rose again. Is that not also at least close to the Lord?

Well, I just wanted to say I am a strong Christian and am very proud that we have such a thread on this forum.

It is rare to find such things in very public places.
 

Thorin

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Welcome to the forum Pippin/Frodo!

You will find a wide assortment of people here...from die hard Christians (I am one) to agnostics to atheists....Luckily, we don't let that stand in the way of getting along and discussing Tolkien...

If you've read the other threads dealing with God in LoTr, you will see it hotly contested....Religion is always a good area for that, isn't it? :D
 

Pippin/Frodo

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Yeah I've noticed that.
I found a Redwall forum and they got really mad when people brought up religion. Wel, most of em.

Anyway what have you been talking about lately?

What did you think about my veiws?
 

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