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Was Manwë right to be merciful?

Rivendell_librarian

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Then Manwë granted him pardon; but the Valar would not yet suffer him to depart beyond their sight and vigilance, and he was constrained to dwell within the gates of Valmar. But fair-seeming were all the words and deeds of Melkor in that time, and both the Valar and the Eldar had profit from his aid and counsel, if they sought it; and therefore in a while he was given leave to go freely about the land, and it seemed to Manwë that the evil of Melkor was cured. For Manwë was free from evil and could not comprehend it, and he knew that in the beginning, in the thought of Ilúvatar, Melkor had been even as he; and he saw not to the depths of Melkor’s heart, and did not perceive that all love had departed from him for ever. But Ulmo was not deceived, and Tulkas clenched his hands whenever he saw Melkor his foe go by; for if Tulkas is slow to wrath he is slow also to forget. But they obeyed the judgement of Manwë; for those who will defend authority against rebellion must not themselves rebel.

Chapter 6
Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor
 

Gothmog

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Manwë was correct to release Melkor from Mandos!

It has been said by many on here (myself included) that Manwë was wrong to release Melkor. However, I have been reading the Sil., yet again, and have come to the conclusion that this view is incorrect. I am not defending Manwë in saying this as he, and the rest of the Valar, made earlier errors that led to it becoming necessary for Melkor's release and subsequent actions.

We know that the Valar abandoned Middle-earth after the destruction of the Isle of Almarin and allowed Melkor to do as he willed for a long time while they made themselves comfortable in the land of Aman. When the Elves awakened in Cuivienen and were discovered by Oromë Melkor had already created (or developed) many evil creatures that were abroad in the lands about their home.

When we look at the Quenta Silmarillion we find:
Manwë sat long in thought upon Taniquetil, and he sought the counsel of Ilúvatar.
And speaking to the rest of the Valar:
“ Then Manwë said to the Valar: 'This is the counsel of Ilúvatar in my heart: that we should take up again the mastery of Arda, at whatsoever cost, and deliver the Quendi from the shadow of Melkor.'

Chapter 3 Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor
So The Valar themselves went forth and battled Melkor and his followers, defeated them and took Melkor prisoner to Aman for trial. This should have been the start of the Valar's re-ordering of Arda so as to clear the evil of Melkor and allow the Quendi to flourish in relative peace and prepare for the coming of Men. Instead they did all they could to drag the Quendi to Aman leaving all the evil creatures of Melkor free to roam and cause troubles for those of the Quendi that chose to remain where Eru placed them.

This led to the situation that the Valar, having once more abdicated rule of Arda had to be forced to do that job for which they had come into Arda in the first place. I don't think that Manwë could not comprehend the evil of Melkor but that Eru would not allow him to do so. The only way the Valar could be made to think of the whole of Arda and not just their little walled garden was for Melkor to be released and put at risk all the children of Eru outside of Aman.
 

naretari

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Manwë was correct to release Melkor from Mandos!

It has been said by many on here (myself included) that Manwë was wrong to release Melkor. However, I have been reading the Sil., yet again, and have come to the conclusion that this view is incorrect. I am not defending Manwë in saying this as he, and the rest of the Valar, made earlier errors that led to it becoming necessary for Melkor's release and subsequent actions.

We know that the Valar abandoned Middle-earth after the destruction of the Isle of Almarin and allowed Melkor to do as he willed for a long time while they made themselves comfortable in the land of Aman. When the Elves awakened in Cuivienen and were discovered by Oromë Melkor had already created (or developed) many evil creatures that were abroad in the lands about their home.

When we look at the Quenta Silmarillion we find:

And speaking to the rest of the Valar:

So The Valar themselves went forth and battled Melkor and his followers, defeated them and took Melkor prisoner to Aman for trial. This should have been the start of the Valar's re-ordering of Arda so as to clear the evil of Melkor and allow the Quendi to flourish in relative peace and prepare for the coming of Men. Instead they did all they could to drag the Quendi to Aman leaving all the evil creatures of Melkor free to roam and cause troubles for those of the Quendi that chose to remain where Eru placed them.

This led to the situation that the Valar, having once more abdicated rule of Arda had to be forced to do that job for which they had come into Arda in the first place. I don't think that Manwë could not comprehend the evil of Melkor but that Eru would not allow him to do so. The only way the Valar could be made to think of the whole of Arda and not just their little walled garden was for Melkor to be released and put at risk all the children of Eru outside of Aman.
I believe Manwë truly could not comprehend the evil of Melkor because of the purity of his own nature. I don't think it was a necessary part of Eru's plan that Melkor be released, but that the release of Melkor and all the mischief and evil he worked thereafter falls within the scope of what Eru says at the beginning: "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.' Melkor's relentless attempts to alter the music and derail Eru's plans will always be thwarted, because of Eru's omnipotence in being able to turn things around and redirect them to fulfilling his original plan. Had Melkor not been released, something else would have happened eventually to bring the Ainur back to Ennor, maybe in a War-of-Wrath type of scenario, maybe to rescue the Secondborn. If Eärendil were never born, then another member of either the First or Secondborn would have been the Chosen One to reach the shores of Aman and galvanise the Ainur into doing something about the lands outside of Aman.
 

Gothmog

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The Secondborn awakened at the rising of the Sun. Had Melkor not been released then the trees would still be shining now and there would be no reason for the Valar to stir themselves to provide light to the rest of Arda as they were quite comfortable where they were. Eru had already told Manwë to "take up again the mastery of Arda" and once more they went back to living in comfort in their little walled garden and left the rest of Arda to fend for itself. What, short of Melkor, could have given the Valar a sufficient kick up the back-side to get them to do their job since they did not listen when Eru told Manwë to do so?
 

Ron Simpson

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Given his pure nature, Manwe made the only decision that he was capable of: albeit the wrong one. Manwe was the Elder King, ostensibly because of his purity and perfection. But I've often thought that in an imperfect world, he was precisely the wrong choice for leader. As they say "game recognizes game": so if he couldn't comprehend evil, how could he ever appropriately counter it? Ulmo should have been captain of that Star Ship...
 

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... Ulmo should have been captain of that Star Ship...
As, at least during the Hiding of Valinor during the First Age after the rebellion of the Noldor, he de facto was.
Caused Turgon to move from Nevrast to the hidden City of Gondolin, leaving behind in Vinyamar shield, hauberk, helm(et) and sword for Tuor to find and wear as a sign of his being Ulmo's ambassador to Turgon. Appeared "in person" to Tuor on the shores of Vinyamar, the only time any human had seen any of the Valar embodied, and spared Voronwë alone from the last ship that sought the West from the Havens of Cirdan (at Turgon's command) to lead Tuor to Gondolin. Probably with the tacit approval of Manwë, but as Ulmo was lord of all waters (including all forms of precipitation), he might have hypothetically told Manwë to mind his own business (which would be the winds), he, Ulmo, being the "singer of the waters" in the Ainulindalë, being the one uniquely empowered and competent to deal with this aspect of Arda as he himself saw fit.
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

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Boy, how I'd love to see Ulmo rising from the sea in the cinema! Someday. . .

BTW, the power of Ulmo, however residual, might explain the effect of water on the Ringwraiths, though Tolkien admitted it was "difficult to maintain".
 

Olorgando

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Boy, how I'd love to see Ulmo rising from the sea in the cinema! Someday. . .
Um, yes … for myself, my problem with big somethings rising out of the sea almost invariably lands me with Godzilla - no matter of what generation.
One could construe something out of the fact that in contrast to Manwë (Varda), Aulë (Yavanna), Námo-Mandos (Vairë), Irmo-Lórien (Estë), Oromë (Vána), and Tulkas (Nessa, sister of Oromë) Ulmo is a bachelor. That Nienna, sister of the Fëanturi Námo and Irmo, is also single, only makes my point more valid.
The embodiment of the Valar/ier is compared to our clothing. So, Ulmo has no spouse to tell him that the raiment he has chosen on any given day just won't do.
(I confess I'm thinking along Monty Python / Mel Brooks lines here …)
So Ulmo puts on his Godzi togs, pops out of the ocean at Vinyamar, sees Tuor keel over in a dead faint after giving off a choked sound something like "arkl", finally notices his inappropriate togs, and high-tails it back to his wardrobe to do a restart, while Voronwë, not having witnessed Ulmo's attire faux pas, tries to revive Tuor ...
(Oh dear, it's one of those days again - one when I just can't keep my internal Monty Python Gremlins away from the keyboard) 🤪
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

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my problem with big somethings rising out of the sea almost invariably lands me with Godzilla
That could stand for any number of Kaiju, though I confess to a fondness for a non-Japanese version -- it's so deliciously deadpan, with plenty of phlegmatic British stiff-upper-lipness:

And filmmakers might be tempted to create a piscine Ulmo, something like this:


There are lots of artistic conceptions out there, including from well-known Tolkien ilustrators. I have to wonder if Ted Nasmith took something from Harryhausen, for his:
Nasmith50.jpg

But there are more "human" ones, like John Howe's:
images (5).jpeg

Or Alan Lee's:
xYkCxhxaVcuer6kvfPpmzGhCjRsEml0a0aAeqP4eYxM.jpg

So I think it would be possible to have a "non-Kaiju" Ulmo -- for me, at least.
 
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Olorgando

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And filmmakers might be tempted to create a piscine Ulmo, something like this:

I dimly remembered that one, including the mechanical owl, and that the "hero" was too fumble-fingered to get that knot untied while on Pegasus.
Though of course the actual Ulmo counterpart is the old guy playing Poseidon - not impressive, unless increased in size ten-fold.
A bit surprised they were still using the stop-action technique of the 1933 classic "King Kong" with "scream queen" Fay Wray.
I liked it better in that old film - or for that matter in newer products using it, like "Chicken Run" or "Shaun the Sheep". 😄
 

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Someone started a really good discussion about Melkor on Reddit. One thing that I found interesting was this part from the OP in that post:
In the very first sentence of the Ainulindalë, Tolkien writes:
There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar; and he made the first Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught else was made.
So the Valar were the offspring of Ilúvatar. For my fellow Catholic members, would this be similar to the Holy Trinity, the three persons in one? Just in this case, there were more than three? If so, what Manwe did was just because it was as Eru had meant for it to be. It was the Manwe version of Eru. The quote from my signature also kind of applies,
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.’

- AINULINDALË
The quote in this instance may be directed at Melkor but it obviously applies for ALL of the Valar, not just him.

For example, Aulë created the dwarves himself, independently and by doing so made himself an instrument of Eru. By creating the dwarves, eventually this lead to Thorin and company who helped to drive one of the last, if not the last, fire-breathing dragon from the world and lead to Gimli being around and part of the fellowship who helped in the War of the Rings. No matter what theme any of the Valar play (aka action they take) they are acting as an instrument of Eru and it leads to his glory.
 

Gothmog

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So the Valar were the offspring of Ilúvatar. For my fellow Catholic members, would this be similar to the Holy Trinity, the three persons in one? Just in this case, there were more than three? If so, what Manwe did was just because it was as Eru had meant for it to be. It was the Manwe version of Eru. The quote from my signature also kind of applies,
I am not religious but here is a view on this matter from a devout Catholic:
The cycles begin with a cosmogonical myth: the Music of the Ainur. God and the Valar (or powers: Englished as gods) are revealed. These latter are as we should say angelic powers, whose function is to exercise delegated authority in their spheres (of rule and government, not creation, making or re-making). They are 'divine', that is, were originally 'outside' and existed 'before' the making of the world. Their power and wisdom is derived from their Knowledge of the cosmogonical drama, which they perceived first as a drama (that is as in a fashion we perceive a story composed by some-one else), and later as a 'reality'. On the side of mere narrative device, this is, of course, meant to provide beings of the same order of beauty, power, and majesty as the 'gods' of higher mythology, which can yet be accepted – well, shall we say baldly, by a mind that believes in the Blessed Trinity.

Letter 131 To Milton Waldman
So I would say that they are not similar to the Holy Trinity of Christian beliefs but simply akin to the angels of those beliefs.
 

Erestor Arcamen

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I am not religious but here is a view on this matter from a devout Catholic:

So I would say that they are not similar to the Holy Trinity of Christian beliefs but simply akin to the angels of those beliefs.
I'm really not as well but just know some from my earlier upbring. That makes sense about them being angels and not part of the "Eru Trinity"
 

Gothmog

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I'm really not as well but just know some from my earlier upbring. That makes sense about them being angels and not part of the "Eru Trinity"
One thing to remember, in the books there is no "Holy Trinity" as that would be too explicitly Christian which is something that Tolkien thought was detrimental to Arthurian mythology.
 

Olorgando

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... That makes sense about them being angels ...
In letter #153 (draft) of September 1954 JRRT states "The immediate 'authorities' are the Valar (the Powers or Authorities): the 'gods'. But they are only created spirits - of high angelic order we should say, with their attendant lesser angels - …"
In letter #181 (drafts) from early 1956: "[Gandalf's] function as a 'wizard' is an angelos or messenger from the Valar or Rulers …"
And in several other letters.
So JRRT personally equated the Valar / Maiar with angels, making the Valar something like the archangels.
 
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Erestor Arcamen

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In letter #153 (draft) of September 1954 JRRT states "The immediate 'authorities' are the Valar (the Powers or Authorities): the 'gods'. But they are only created spirits - of high angelic order we should say, with their attendant lesser angels - …"
In letter #181 (drafts) from early 1956: "[Gandalf's] function as a 'wizard' is an angelos or messenger from the Valar or Rulers …"
And in several other letters.
So JRRT personally equated the with angels, making the Valar something like the archangels.
That definitely makes sense to me, thanks!
 

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Then Manwë granted him pardon; but the Valar would not yet suffer him to depart beyond their sight and vigilance, and he was constrained to dwell within the gates of Valmar. But fair-seeming were all the words and deeds of Melkor in that time, and both the Valar and the Eldar had profit from his aid and counsel, if they sought it; and therefore in a while he was given leave to go freely about the land, and it seemed to Manwë that the evil of Melkor was cured. For Manwë was free from evil and could not comprehend it, and he knew that in the beginning, in the thought of Ilúvatar, Melkor had been even as he; and he saw not to the depths of Melkor’s heart, and did not perceive that all love had departed from him for ever. But Ulmo was not deceived, and Tulkas clenched his hands whenever he saw Melkor his foe go by; for if Tulkas is slow to wrath he is slow also to forget. But they obeyed the judgement of Manwë; for those who will defend authority against rebellion must not themselves rebel.

Chapter 6
Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor
It was just, evil serves a purpose in the betterment of the world. Yea, the experience is cruel, and the resentment bitter, but what is life without these things? There is no justification for the deeds of Melkor, there is only the understanding to do what is right. The World was still young, and so were the notions of the Valar, suffering unites people, and drives them to do great things.
 

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Consigned to the salt mines of Núrnen…
This is a reappearance of the theological and philosophic “Problem of Evil”. It is a great trap for those who believe in The Devine, and a frail crutch appealing to the vanity of atheists. Tolkien addresses it, whether by accident or deliberately, in The Silmarillion, “Of the Sun and Moon and the Hiding of Valinor”:
[T]he Valar they mourned not more for the death of the Trees than for the marring of Fëanor… For Fëanor was made the mightiest in all parts of body and mind, in valor, in endurance, in beauty, in understanding, in skill, in strength and in subtlety alike, of all the Children of Ilúvatar, and a bright flame was in him. …[I]t was told by the Vanyar … that when the messengers declared … the answers of Fëanor to his heralds, Manwë wept… But at [the] last word of Fëanor: that at the least the Noldor should do deeds to live in song for ever, he raised his head, as one that hears a voice far off, and he said: “So shall it be! Dear-bought those songs shall be accounted, and yet shall be well-bought. For the price could be no other. Thus even as Eru spoke to us shall beauty not before conceived be brought into Eä, and evil yet be good to have been.”​
But Mandos said: “And yet remain evil. …”​
This is also reflected in “Ainulindalë”:
… Ilúvatar … said: “…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.”​
Man is self-reflective, and alone among the creatures of the earth, we impose pain upon our fellows knowing what distress it gives them in order to distress them. This knowledge and this failing Tolkien also imparts to his angelic host, the Ainur, even as it is imparted to the angelic hosts in Judaism and so also in Christianity: that is where Tolkien first found it. The depths and the causes of evil are seemingly impenetrable, but pride, arrogance, and scorn for others of like kind to oneself are all surely ingredients in its formation; humility deflects many of its causes. Remember Gandalf’s words at the very end of The Hobbit,
Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!​
And in Letter 246, which we recently mentioned, when Frodo sailed into the Uttermost West,
he went both to a purgatory and to a reward, for a while: a period of reflection and peace and a gaining of a truer understanding of his position in littleness and in greatness…​
and this was permitted by the Valar
to heal him – if that could be done, before he died.
In other words, to restore to him a proper perspective, in part to overcome or offset the Problem of Evil that had arisen from his own experiences, many of which were completely outside his control.

But in the case of Melkor, his experiences were all within his control: His pride, his arrogance, his scorn for others – including his creator, Ilúvatar – led him to evil. In “Myths Transformed” in Morgoth’s Ring, Tolkien writes,
when Melkor was confronted by the existence of other inhabitants of Arda, with other wills and intelligences, he was enraged by the mere fact of their existence… His sole ultimate object was their destruction.​
Tolkien then goes on to suggest that as Morgoth, he became “[in]capable of rational thought,” achieving a state of “nihilistic madness.” One is reminded of Adolf Hitler in his last days, when he ordered the complete destruction of the Reich, or of Herod the Great at the end of his life:
The successors of neither of these tyrants executed his dying commands; nor did Sauron fall victim to the “nihilistic madness” that became the driving passion of his master.

Whatever the source of evil, its evolves to desire to twist that which is good and beautiful into something distorted and ugly, to cause as much harm and suffering as possible, often to as many people as possible. (Cf. the reasons driving the Columbine High School killers.)

Returning to The Silmarillion, the section “Of the Valar” begins,
Manwë and Melkor were brethren in the thought of Ilúvatar.​
It continues to “Of the Enemies”,
From splendor [Melkor] fell through arrogance to contempt for all things save himself… Understanding he turned to subtlety 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, but when he could not possess it for himself alone, he descended through fire and wrath into a great burning, down into Darkness…​
Manwë remembered Melkor as he had been, and after he was taken captive to Mandos bound with the chain Angainor, he was kept for three ages of Arda. In “Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor”,
Melkor abased himself at the feet of Manwë and sued for pardon, vowing that if he might be made only the least of the free people of Valinor he would aid the Valar in all their works, and most of all in the healing of the many hurts that he had done to the world. …​
Then Manwë granted him pardon… [F]air-seeming were all the words and deeds of Melkor …, and both the Valar and the Eldar had profit from his aid and counsel, if they sought it; … and it seemed to Manwë that the evil of Melkor was cured. For Manwë was free from evil and could not comprehend it, and he knew that in the beginning, in the thought of Ilúvatar, Melkor had been even as he; and he saw not to the depths of Melkor’s heart, and did not perceive that all love had departed from him for ever.​
Was Manwë right in his judgment, foolish, merely naïve? I don’t know; but his decision certainly carried on the play that had been foreshadowed in the Great Music, the Ainulindalë before the foundation of Eä.
 
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