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Old 04-27-2007, 08:02 PM   #1
littlemanpoet
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Splendid but Unhappy

I was reading Homesick for Middle Earth one of the many reviews of the new Turin book, and my mind literally stumbled when I read this.

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Tolkien's silence says that Middle Earth is a splendid but unhappy world because it has no real god. That is certainly implicit in TLOTR, especially in the postwar sadness of Frodo. Not until he leaves Middle Earth for the home of the gods in the West does he find some hope of happiness. His companion Sam sees him off, and then returns to the Shire and the simple consolations of domestic life.
I'll grant Crawford Kilian the unhappiness point for the nonce, but it is the bolded statement with which I take exception. Lack of gods is what makes Middle Earth both splendid and unhappy? Supposing it was even accurate, how does that work?
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Old 05-01-2007, 01:24 PM   #2
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No real god? I'm as confused as you are, LMP. This sounds as if someone feels he has a unique perspective on the author's creation, and jumbles the facts around until they fit his viewpoint.
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Old 05-01-2007, 01:42 PM   #3
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I think the meaning is not that Arda has no God but that Middle-earth has no gods. That is, the 'gods' - the Valar - are across the sea.
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Old 05-01-2007, 02:19 PM   #4
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Same world though, isn't it?
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Old 05-01-2007, 02:46 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Aiwendil
I think the meaning is not that Arda has no God but that Middle-earth has no gods. That is, the 'gods' - the Valar - are across the sea.
Let us grant this postulate for the sake of argument. I still am unconvinced that unhappiness is caused by the particular circumstance of 'no gods in Middle Earth'.
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Old 05-01-2007, 08:52 PM   #6
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Tolkien

Agreed with LMP. There are many references in TLOtR which suggest the worship of a God, or Gods. I find no truth in Kilian's statement.
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Old 05-01-2007, 09:26 PM   #7
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There is the factual error that Tolkien's Middle-Earth has no God, because Illuvatar, Eru, The One, first sang Middle-Earth into existence.

And I think that readers of histories (The Silmarillion and so forth) know that the stories of Middle-Earth are great tragedies. (I don't know if I want to read a new take on the sordid tale of the children of Hurin! Even if it IS a new book!) and we can agree that Middle-Earth has more than its share of sadness.

But I think the question of whether or not the world can be happy without (a) God is a philosophical one. Most (including myself) would argue that without God, there is no higher purpose, no deeper meaning in life, and no solid moral frame of Right or Wrong. Man is flying solo through a purposeless world. If that is the case, then by all means, eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.
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Old 05-02-2007, 05:37 AM   #8
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Is great joy in Middle-earth also caused by there being no real gods?
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Old 05-02-2007, 07:23 AM   #9
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I'm pretty sure that there is at least a God like influence in M.E. I mean, how many time is another power, working for good, referred to? Gandalf especially mentions it when speaking of the ring coming to Bilbo, and Bilbo letting Gollum live. Sounds like God (or Eru) has a pretty strong presence in M.E. to me.
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Old 05-02-2007, 08:05 AM   #10
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There is very great unhappiness in our world, too, and that most certainly isn't caused by there not being a god.

Did this fellow have some strange idea that if M-E had a god, it would be happy?

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Old 05-02-2007, 09:49 AM   #11
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There is very great unhappiness in our world, too, and that most certainly isn't caused by there not being a god.
That's debatable.
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Old 05-02-2007, 09:58 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Aiwendil
That's debatable.
What, that there's unhappiness or that there's a god?

Either way, I don't care to debate it. And your above statement remind me much of Mr. Jack Easy in a book called Mr. Midshipman Easy who was always saying, "I'd like to argue that point." Cracks me up...

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Old 05-02-2007, 12:35 PM   #13
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It's an amusing statement for me because I often think how awful it would be to live in Middle-earth with such an unpredictable and omnipotent god as Eru is! Yes, there is a god in Arda, so it's not 'godless' - but the presence of that god wouldn't give me any kind of happiness - I'd be a bit scared to be blunt.

Maybe this hints at what the reviewer was getting at? He might be saying his own god is a nice god, not like Eru - so this is why he says "no real god" and why he assumes that this causes unhappiness. That idea that being without a "real god" causes unhappiness is weird and incorrect in itself anyway - how many people in Third Age Middle-earth know anything about Eru? Very few. But living without that knowledge doesn't make them unhappy. I always find LotR particularly refreshing and satisfying as these people struggle to do what's right without any kind of authoritarian morality. What does Sam know of Eru? Little if anything, but this doesn't stop him from being loyal, brave and making the right decisions for himself.
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Old 05-02-2007, 02:15 PM   #14
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Kilian's words run counter to everything else I've ever read about Tolkien and Middle Earth, at least in terms of the Third Age Middle Earth as we read it in LotR. Now let me clarify that I personally see Iluvatar behind the scenes as a silent mover of all the "meant to be's" in LotR. (Those who disagree with me know who they are, and that's of course fine, and they also know that this particular point has been argued at length elsewhere; I'm not going there this time.) It's a different kettle of fish than what Kilian is saying. Tolkien has purposely written a non-religious set of cultures (note that I'm not saying non-spiritual or non-supernatural, completley different things). These cultures still function as moral cultures and free ones. These are called the Free Peoples. Which is to say 'not under the domination of Sauron'. And this Free condition is tantamount to happiness. For Kilian to say that 'gods not there' means unhappy is frankly ludicrous not only because it just ain't so, but it's a misreading of the entire set-up Tolkien has made. Too bad he had to add that weird paragraph, because everything else he said was pretty good.
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