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The Music of the Ainur (BoLT I)

Luke Sineath

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I'm reading The Book of Lost Tales right now and just read a wonderful passage. After Melko introduces discord into the Song of the Ainur, and Illuvatar intervenes, Illuvatar says:
Through him [Melko] has pain and misery been made in the clash of overwhelming musics; and with confusion of sound have cruelty, and ravening, and darknes, loathly mire and all putrescence of thought and thing, foul mists and violent flame, cold without mercy, been born, and death without hope. Yet is this through him an not by him; and he shall see, and ye all likewise, and even shall those beings, who must now dwell among his evil and endure through Melko misery and sorrow, terror and wickedness, declare in the end that it redoundeth only to my great glory, and doth but make the theme more worth the hearing, Life more worth the living, and the World so much the more wonderful and marvellous, that of all the deeds of Iluvatar it shall be alled his mightiest and is loveliest. (p.55, emphasis mine)
This struck me as pretty interesting; amazing, even. Evil, strife, disappointment, and so on, are things which give something important to life. Isn't it absolutely fascinating, the idea that a completely happly, complacent life is less enjoyable, less 'worth living'? Wouldn't we all rather be free of pain? I'd like to think about this idea a little more, and so I'm making this post, because discussion is a good lubricant for thinking about things. I often get ideas while talking, discussing.

I'm really enjoying this book. It seems better by far than The Silmarillion, but then again, I read that book long ago and may not remember it very well (and I seem to have lost my copy.)
 

Turgon

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The Book of Lost Tales has many admirers I think, there used to be many of them on this forum. I really loved them when I first read them, BoLT that is, though that's not to say I don't do so still, just haven't read them in a good long while. I actually read BoLT before The Silmarillion, which I've always been thankful for, as they seemed to enhance The Sil for me when I came to read it. The indepth nature of the Lost Tales made the brief stories of seem much more alive, even though the stories themselves had undergone something of a transformation, certainly I never got lost in the Sil as so many others seem to have done.

As for your quote I think that is something that appears quite ofter in Tolkien. The whole tragic tale of the Noldolante, one of Melko's most evil acts, still has a brooding beauty to it.

'The unexamined life is not worth living.' Kind of sprung to mind when I read your post, and of how knowledge of the world brings sadness, yet without knowledge of the world and it's wonders can somebody be truly happy? Then again we get the quote 'When ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise.' I guess the truth is somewhere between the two.
 

Luke Sineath

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'The unexamined life is not worth living.' Kind of sprung to mind when I read your post, and of how knowledge of the world brings sadness, yet without knowledge of the world and it's wonders can somebody be truly happy?
I think Iluvatar is saying something a bit stronger and more radical than this, though. Knowledge, as you put it, is something that can have both good and bad effects. But Iluvatar isn't referring to something that has both good and bad effects, but rather bad effects themselves, and saying that bad things are actually good and necessary.

But then, he's also not making the (fairly trivial) point that there must be evil in order for there to be good (the idea here being that implies the other, as light implies dark, etc.). He's saying that life is better if it has evil in it. :confused:
 

Eledhwen

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From Luke's post:
Yet is this through him and not by him; and he shall see, and ye all likewise, and even shall those beings, who must now dwell among his evil and endure through Melko misery and sorrow, terror and wickedness, declare in the end that it redoundeth only to my great glory, and doth but make the theme more worth the hearing, Life more worth the living, and the World so much the more wonderful and marvellous, that of all the deeds of Iluvatar it shall be called his mightiest and his loveliest.
I find the 'yet is this through him and not by him' interesting. Melkor took what Iluvatar had wrought and twisted it. It's almost as if pain begets beauty - like a wood turner injuring a tree so that the healed woodflesh has beautiful swirls and patterns in it. I saw a fountain once in Berlin. It would have been unremarkable except for one feature - a figure mangling the railings! Click and see! It's what makes the fountain worth the photograph, yet it's ostensibly a picture of destruction.

We see a lot of the misery and suffering done through Melko(r) - the Sil and Books of Lost Tales are full of it. I have difficulty understanding the concept, but this was penned by a man who fought in the Somme and lost nearly all his close friends to that war. And so, I look towards a greater understanding of this concept. I think my own writing will be the better for it.
 

YayGollum

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Hm. When I read that quote, I think ---> Poor Mel. One of my favorite characters. I usually think of him as the spirit of creativity (and Manwe as the spirit of sock puppets, but that's another thread). A misunderstood artist, always working with the materials that other people create, since he doesn't have the ability to make his own. Even Ulmo, an especially active enemy of Mel's, complimented the dude's invention of snow. Anyways, he made his own little tune, it started catching on, then Eru, apparently composed primarily of large gobs of pure evil, had to laugh and inform everyone that what could have been seen as one of Mel's coolest contributions to the world was really just another way to gather more praise for himself. The New Coke, to create a large demand for the original stuff. Eru was a father claiming ownership of his son's creativity. Or just one of those music pirate internet dudes. :rolleyes: You can understand why Mel didn't turn out to be especially pleased.
 

Annaheru

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I think Tolkien is addressing an important point. In my experience those who have come closest to death appreciate life the most; those who have lost friends appreciate friendship the most, etc.

To relate a personal example: back in 2002 I hurt my foot. I spent the next 2 yrs in constant pain and even now I can't run or play sports (which were major in my life). Through this experience I come to understand what a gift living without pain is.

To take this a step further (as I think Tolkien intended) the man who experiences pain gains a deeper understanding of pleasure. If you had never felt pain then simply being pain-free would be the worst thing possible. Now if you've felt searing pain then being pain free is in itself a joy and feeling pleasure is a "super pleasure".

A life without pain/sorrow/etc would be a life lived within 1/16 of an inch. A life lived with these things will stretch across a yard-stick.
 

Eledhwen

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I was looking for a similar quote to this by Corrie ten Boom, but this is quite succinct:
When I was a little boy, my mother used to embroider a great deal. I would sit at her knee and look up from the floor and ask what she was doing. She informed me that she was embroidering. I told her that it looked like a mess from where I was. As from the underside I watched her work within the boundaries of the little round hoop that she held in her hand, I complained to her that it sure looked messy from where I sat.

She would smile at me, look down and gently say, "My son, you go about your playing for a while, and when I am finished with my embroidering, I will put you on my knee and let you see it from my side."

I would wonder why she was using some dark threads along with the bright ones and why they seemed so jumbled from my view. A few minutes would pass and then I would hear Mother's voice say, "Son, come and sit on my knee." This I did only to be surprised and thrilled to see a beautiful flower or a sunset. I could not believe it, because from underneath it looked so messy.

Then Mother would say to me, "My son, from underneath it did look messy and jumbled, but you did not realize that there was a pre-drawn plan on the top. It was a design. I was only following it. Now look at it from my side and you will see what I was doing."
Corrie used to say it was the dark threads that gave brilliance to the brighter colours; and that without them, the whole would be less than it was.

YayGollum said:
The New Coke, to create a large demand for the original stuff.
I love your posts, Yay! You make it sound like Melkor could write a book like "A child called 'It'". Ever thought of going into politics? You'd do really well at Prime Minister's questions in the House of Commons; though I don't know if a similar forum exists where you are.
 

YayGollum

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I love my posts, too, Eledhwen person. Empathetic, but only for those that others have quickly overlooked. I almost left that New Coke thing out, mostly because I couldn't remember if it was Coke or Pepsi that did that. :rolleyes: Yes, I have thought of going into politics, but never very seriously. I am the sort who would rather direct from the background, if anywhere, even though I am nowhere close to being afraid of the spotlight or a more public leadership role. Also, I am not so good when it comes to public relations. Too honest and too sure of my particular truths. :rolleyes: I don't know if a similar forum to the House of Commons exists where I am, either. My relatives are frequently attempting to get me interested in politics. Hasn't taken hold yet. oh well.

But as to the more philosophical point of this thread (sorry for attempting to steer it elsewhere), no, I wouldn't call the idea that a completely happy as well as complacent life is less enjoyable or less worth living is absolutely fascinating. Absolutely? Too strong! Mildly interesting, though. Yes, I'd much rather be free of pain. You can have plenty of fun without it. Sure, humans who have experienced more of the stuff must be having all kinds of self-satisfactory fun with being somehow better than others, but oh well. I'm sure to adapt to any new kinds of fun that I run into.

Yes, the Books Of Lost Tales are pretty cool. I like The Silmarillion better, though. Maybe because I wasn't confused by it (which is maybe because I had already been hanging out here and reading everything ever written before I got to the book), but also because, even though it doesn't have as much detail, there's a lot more to learn and a lot more to become interested in.
 

Eledhwen

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We have to be careful of not advocating banging one's head against a brick wall because it's nice when it stops.

Melkor introduced pain, suffering and destruction to the world - he wove it into the very fabric or Arda by means of his discord in the creation song. The destruction wrought by his ultimate vanquishment shows how strongly his influence held.

Iluvatar created Melkor. Did he have influence over the personalities of his creation or did he, quite literally, not know what he was doing? If not, how could he know that more of them wouldn't turn out to be evil minded?

I am surmising that the creation would have been a pointless paradise without the discord of Melkor; a bunch of robotically happy people with no decision to make except which flower to sniff today.

But with the discord, and with Melkor's continued interference with whispered half-truths and dissatisfactions, the people of Arda had to make real choices between good and evil, right and wrong etc. It is in this that they became real and not just adornments.

Did Eru deliberately create an evil-minded git, who would liven up the party with his bad behaviour; just so life would have a point to it?

I think maybe he did, and this is the real meaning of Eru's proclamation to Melkor.
 

Gothmog

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It is interesting that Tolkien did not write Iluvatar as the Ultimate representation of Good in Arda, that position is taken by Manwe who is Iluvatar's chief instrument in challenging Melkor's rebelion. Iluvatar is a remote creative force who used the Ainur to help in the forming of Ea and for improving on his inishal design.

It appears to me that Melkor's rebelion, while not actually pre-ordained, was hoped for by Iluvatar. There were others who could have rebelled but did not and had any other than Melkor been the chief rebel then the effects would have been lessened and the story become less grand and wonderful.

As for the seemingly contradictory Evil being Good, Iluvatar (who heard the whole of The Music and took notice of every single note) knows all that is necessary to the work. His view on what is Evil and what is Good is different from that of the peoples within Arda. Iluvatar would see as Good that evil which resulted in improvements in Arda.

If we look at Melkor, Iluvatar knew all that had been done by Melkor in the Music and therefore what would be in Arda. He could have prevented this by not allowing Melkor's changes in Ea and by not letting Melkor desend into Arda, he did neither. In fact Iluvater did nothing directly about Melkor until he had done all that was necessary and had only the destruction of Arda left. At this point Iluvatar allowed for Melkor to be removed from the circles of the world, his direct part finished.
 

Arvedui

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It appears to me that Melkor's rebelion, while not actually pre-ordained, was hoped for by Iluvatar. There were others who could have rebelled but did not and had any other than Melkor been the chief rebel then the effects would have been lessened and the story become less grand and wonderful.
Considering that all the Ainur were created from the thoughts of Ilúvatar, then Melkor's rebellion was in my opinion not only hoped for, but actually planned. And the reason for this was probably that appreciation of Arda was supposed to be enhanced through strife and suffering, as many have already pointed at in this thread.
Gothmog said:
If we look at Melkor, Iluvatar knew all that had been done by Melkor in the Music and therefore what would be in Arda. He could have prevented this by not allowing Melkor's changes in Ea and by not letting Melkor desend into Arda, he did neither. In fact Iluvater did nothing directly about Melkor until he had done all that was necessary and had only the destruction of Arda left. At this point Iluvatar allowed for Melkor to be removed from the circles of the world, his direct part finished.
I absolutely agree. Melkor's mission was over, and he was from that moment expendable.
 

Gothmog

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I am resurrecting this thread to answer a point that I missed before.
Considering that all the Ainur were created from the thoughts of Ilúvatar, then Melkor's rebellion was in my opinion not only hoped for, but actually planned. And the reason for this was probably that appreciation of Arda was supposed to be enhanced through strife and suffering, as many have already pointed at in this thread.
I think that if Melkor’s rebellion had been planned by Eru, then there would have been no need for the Ainur to have existed much less been given freedom to embellish the Themes of Iluvatar each according to his/her abilities. Iluvatar wanted the Ainur to improve on his ideas in ways that he as an individual could not. By giving such freedom to the Ainur Eru hoped for many to follow his theams but also for some great ones to rebel.
Perhaps he even subtly encouraged Melkor during the period that Mel was searching in the darkness giving little nudges in the direction for him to become the main rebel, but to get the best out of this Eru would need to allow Melkor to decide for himself just what part he would play when the time of the Great Music came.
 

Elfarmari

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I don't think Melkor's rebellion was planned or hoped for, but Iluvatar created the Ainur with the possibility of rebellion. Most of the epic events described in the Silmarillion can be (arguably) blamed on the 'good' Ainur's misguided actions, rather than directly on Melkor's evil. This part of Tolkien's mythology is very Deistic (is that a word?): Iluvatar creates the Ainur, makes their song reality, and then lets history unfold without intervention. The most important thing Iluvatar does is provide free will: he creates the Ainur with the ability to act independently of him. In order to allow the creation of unforeseen beauty, the alternative of evil and suffering must also be a choice. I haven't read BoLT for a while so I don't remember when this was introduced, but Aule's creation of the dwarves shows the alternative; the dwarves are nothing more than puppets until Iluvatar intervenes. Please correct me if I'm forgetting something, but Iluvatar's only direct interventions after saying 'Ea' are giving the dwarves life, possibly granting Tuor the life of the Eldar, and then reshaping the world after the Numenoreans go completely insane at Sauron's urging.
 

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