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Old 08-02-2015, 03:55 PM   #1
Pitchwife
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Silmaril The Shadow of the Maker

It has been noted and discussed repeatedly on these Downs (e.g. on two old threads here and there, and lately in the thread about greed in Tolkien) that Aulë, the Smith of the Gods, was a bit of a black sheep among the Valar. Not only did he, too impatient to abide with The Way God Planned It, try to anticipate the Children of Ilúvatar by creating the Dwarves and was promptly chidden for it by Eru himself, he also had some sore bad luck in how his assistants and pupils turned out:

-Sauron, aka Annatar, defected to become Morgoth's lieutenant and later used his smithcraft to forge One Ring to Rule Them All;
-Fëanaro Cúrufinwë, greatest jewel-smith ever, got carried away by his obsession with his works into rebelling against the Valar and convinced most of the Noldor (who were most into arts and crafts of all the Elven peoples) to follow him;
-Fëanor's descendant Celebrimbor, greatest Elven artisan in Middle-earth, lent his ear to Annatar aka Sauron (see above), whom the other great Elven lords had wisely rejected, and learned how to forge the Rings that would make the Free People susceptible to Sauron's domination;
-Curumo aka Saruman, another of Aulë's Maiar, fancied himself a Ringmaker and went from bulldozing trees in Fangorn to causing an industrial revolution in the Shire.

It's hard not to see a recurring theme here, and it's not so much about Aulë himself than about the archetype he embodies: the Artisan, the Inventor, the Maker. This post over on the greed thread sums up what I'm driving at here in a few words:
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Originally Posted by Zigűr View Post
While I don't believe Aulë himself is a proud or greedy character, I do believe that Professor Tolkien consistently argued that his discipline, "making", was a very dangerous one. I believe he saw a potential connection between a desire to "make" and a desire to control. Thus "makers" are often the ones who desire power and domination. "Makers" (in Arda) wish to bring their will into being, and their will might easily transform from "the existence of a thing" to "a state of affairs".
I think this could do with a little elaboration and discussion. Why do you think Tolkien felt such a need to repeatedly insist on the liability of Makers to lapse into evil, or at least collaboration with evil? Does this apply to all kinds of art and invention, or are some more endangered than others? Is there, in this respect, a categorical difference between 'pure' art (Fëanor, Celebrimbor) and 'evil' industrial technology (Sauron, Saruman), or are we looking at a sliding scale? How did the Professor view his own (sub)creativity in this context, and whence his need to defend it as a genuinely Christian enterprise and insist that "we make still by the law in which we're made" (Mythopoeia)?
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Old 08-02-2015, 10:08 PM   #2
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I think that perhaps Melkor should be included. Although he is said to have "had a share in the gifts of all his brethren" [Silmarillion; Ainulindalë] it is to Aulë that his gifts mirror, "Melkor was jealous of him, for Aulë was most like himself in thought and in powers....Both, also, desired to make things of their own that should be new and unthought of by others, and delighted in the praise of their skill." [Valaquenta]
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Old 08-03-2015, 07:46 AM   #3
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There is, I think, always the danger that the sub-creator can lose sight of the "sub" part. This danger is greatest when the thing created has physical reality of its own, rather than just being "art," and one can see the danger of losing the plot among the Maiar of Aule, given that they could shape the very substance of Arda.

Melkor actually *did* know the difference- and it drove him insane.

----------------------------------------

Independent of that, there is also the danger of possessiveness, akin in a way to greed- remember Ulmo's (unheeded) warning to Turgon, "Love not too well the works of thy hands"? This of course was Feanor's downfall.










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Old 08-04-2015, 05:35 AM   #4
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I need to put some thought into it before coming up with a very cohesive thesis, but I thought I would observe while the thought occurs that the Dwarves do not appear to have succumbed to power-lust in general or to imperialism or the desire for "great realms" which burned in the hearts of the Noldor. They were warriors, but not conquerors. Similarly, they were at times afflicted by greed, but not a desire for domination.

I think perhaps the relationship between "making" and tyranny is expressed through Saruman's desire for "Knowledge. Rule. Order." This was a state of affairs cohesive to "making". That might at least explain an element of it.
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Old 08-04-2015, 10:08 AM   #5
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I think that perhaps Melkor should be included. Although he is said to have "had a share in the gifts of all his brethren" [Silmarillion; Ainulindalë] it is to Aulë that his gifts mirror, "Melkor was jealous of him, for Aulë was most like himself in thought and in powers....Both, also, desired to make things of their own that should be new and unthought of by others, and delighted in the praise of their skill." [Valaquenta]
We could add Eöl, and Maeglin to that list. All "makers" who had a link to Aulë through the Dwarves. Curufin as well, although he likely was taught by Aulë directly, not to mention his own father.

Besides Aulë, are there any examples of craftsmen in Middle-earth of which we know anything at all who are -not- largely corrupted?

Mahtan, I suppose. Any others?
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Old 08-04-2015, 11:11 AM   #6
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Besides Aulë, are there any examples of craftsmen in Middle-earth of which we know anything at all who are -not- largely corrupted?

Mahtan, I suppose. Any others?
Turgon?

Moreover, I don't think it's fair to say that Celebrimbor was "largely corrupted;" say rather that he was cozened.
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Old 08-04-2015, 12:46 PM   #7
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Moreover, I don't think it's fair to say that Celebrimbor was "largely corrupted;" say rather that he was cozened.
To my way of thinking, a "corruption"' would entail drawing one in the opposite direction from one's original intent or inclinations. Therefore, I agree about Celebrimbor. It was when he realized that Sauron had tried to corrupt the Noldor that he repented.
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Old 08-04-2015, 03:29 PM   #8
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D'accord about Celebrimbor, I don't think he would have gone along with Sauron's plans so far if he had known who or what he was dealing with. But his ambition as a craftsman made him vulnerable to Annatar's promises of improved methods and techniques to fashion artefacts of greater power.

Melkor certainly belongs here as the archetype of the inventor and subcreator gone wrong. (And may I confess that I always had a soft spot for his attempt to turn the Music into free jazz; the desire "to make things of their own that should be new and unthought of by others" is hardly reprehensible by itself in my eyes - isn't that what drives every artist?)

Eöl, hm, I don't know that he really belongs here, and Maeglin neither, as the evil they committed wasn't tied to their craft. They were just artisans who also happened to be evil. While Eöl was possessive as hell and this vice drove him to commit the deeds which led to his and Aredhel's death it wasn't the love of the works of his own hands William Cloud Hicklin mentioned above that did this.

Zigűr, nice observation about the Dwarves! I wonder whether they are largely free of the lust for domination because Aulë made them so, or whether Eru improved a little on Aulë's design when he gave them life.

I'm not so sure about "Knowledge. Rule. Order" - that seems more like a scientist's dream than an artist's to me. "Creative chaos" is a trope for a reason.

One temptation to makers that I see in Fëanor is idolizing the made thing, the artifact, and holding it higher than the art of making itself. He tells the Valar he would never be able to make the likes of the Silmaril again, but he could have moved on to make other interesting things if he hadn't been so obsessed with the Shiners Three. It's said that every artist puts a part of themself into their work, and in Fëanor's case this part was pretty big. (Sauron, of course, is the most extreme example for this, exaggerating the concept almost into parody.)
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Old 08-04-2015, 04:27 PM   #9
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Zigűr, nice observation about the Dwarves! I wonder whether they are largely free of the lust for domination because Aulë made them so, or whether Eru improved a little on Aulë's design when he gave them life.
Eru told Aulë that he would give actual life to the Dwarves, but would in no other way "amend" them. So I think that Aulë's intention in their making, of merely wanting students to teach and not to dominate, was a large factor in their being free of the desire themselves to dominate.
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Old 08-04-2015, 05:14 PM   #10
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I'm not so sure about "Knowledge. Rule. Order" - that seems more like a scientist's dream than an artist's to me. "Creative chaos" is a trope for a reason.
That's true. In Professor Tolkien's work, though, I feel like there's something of a parallel, and that the line between artistry and science is blurred into a more general sort of "artisanship". It reminds me of the statement he makes in Letter 154 about the intended effect of the Elven Rings upon Eregion (and Middle-earth in general) in the minds of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain, that they:
Quote:
tried to stop its change and history, stop its growth, keep it as a pleasaunce, even largely a desert, where they could be 'artists'
Thus I feel that an artist in Middle-earth could also desire control.
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Old 08-04-2015, 07:04 PM   #11
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Turgon?

Moreover, I don't think it's fair to say that Celebrimbor was "largely corrupted;" say rather that he was cozened.
Good point about Celebrimbor. Maybe a better way to word the question would be "What examples of makers are there who were not either largely corrupted by or deeply entangled in the designs of evil?"

("Entanglement" is a little problematic considering the overarching nature of evil in Arda, but Celebrimbor has ...culpability on a different scale than, say, Galadriel.)

Turgon--was he a craftsman? Or are you referring to his presumed abilities as a noteworthy urban planner? :P
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Old 08-05-2015, 03:12 PM   #12
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Turgon--was he a craftsman? Or are you referring to his presumed abilities as a noteworthy urban planner? :P
Turgon wrought Belthil and Glingal, the silver and gold replicas of Telperion and Laurelin in Gondolin.
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Old 08-05-2015, 03:21 PM   #13
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That's true. In Professor Tolkien's work, though, I feel like there's something of a parallel, and that the line between artistry and science is blurred into a more general sort of "artisanship". It reminds me of the statement he makes in Letter 154 about the intended effect of the Elven Rings upon Eregion (and Middle-earth in general) in the minds of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain, that they:

Thus I feel that an artist in Middle-earth could also desire control.
Tolkien made a distinction often between "pure" and "applied" science, or between science and engineering; the difference between the Ents and Entwives he likened to that between Botany and Agronomy.

He had little issue with the sort of "science", scientia, Knowledge, which seeks merely to understand, but he had no love at all for "minds of metal and wheels" which sought to control, making the desires of the Will into concrete reality-- whether through iron machinery or through "magic." (Compare also Galadriel's distinction between "Elvish magic" and "the deceits of the Enemy," in light of Tolkien's discussion in OFS of faerian drama.)

Celebrimbor and the Mirdain drifted from the former towards the latter- a constant temptation for the Noldor, whose bent always was towards stone and metal and their properties and manipulation, as opposed to, say, the Sindar whose concern was more for the kelvar and olvar of the world, which bred an Entish sort of attitude.
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