Great powers they slowly brought out of themselves,
and looking backward they beheld the elves
that wrought on cunning forges in the mind,
and light and dark on secret looms entwined. (1)
We were wondering the other day (on the most recent episode) what the deal with the Mirrormere was. The story goes that Durin, dwarf-father, once beheld in the lake on an eastern slope of the Misty Mountains his own reflection, yet glorified, with a crown of stars. Thus, he saw a confirming sign, and the glories of Khazad-dûm would became a reality. Yet where did the vision in the lake come from? Indeed, where did the mystical properties of the lake come from? Valar? Elves? Ilúvatar himself?
In “Mythopoeia“, Tolkien concerns himself with a meditation on the latent nature of reality. It is in some ways an expansion of Tolkien’s “On Fairy-stories” idea of not so much with WHAT IS, but with WHAT IS MEANT TO BE. Modern man has surrendered to brute fact, contenting himself, at best, with the trifles truest to his basic nature. Yet in the subcreative vision, which so many suppress, he is reminded of his elvish calling, of the magic that may be. Man is capable of music, that which, in Tolkien’s world (and I’d argue in our own) underlies all of reality (yet is invisible to those who dwell only on the brute fact of things).
You look at trees and label them just so… (2)
Yes! And the birds and the elves both laugh at us, for in the tree, they behold so much more. It is the bird’s natural union with the tree that leads it to do so, but it is the elves’ wonder that causes them to laugh. For in Lothlórien, they live not only among the trees, but in them, in glorious dwellings that crown them.
The subcreative vision looks within a thing, to the essence of not only what it is, but what it might become. It is beholden to the dim reflection, the crown of stars hinted at only for the eyes open to wonder.
“What did you see?” said Pippin to Sam, but Sam was too deep in thought to answer. (3)