Lectio Tolkiena: A Fruitful Hope

Hope rather that in the end even the least of your desires shall have fruit. The love of Arda was set in your hearts by Ilúvatar, and he does not plant to no purpose. Nonetheless, many ages of Men unborn may pass ere that purpose is made known; and to you it will be revealed and not to the Valar.’

Akallabêth

These words, from Manwë’s messengers to the Dúnedain of Númenor, are both greatly comforting and extremely challenging.

varda-of-the-stars-elegaer
Varda of the Stars © 2004 – 2016 elegaer

First, they are comforting because they are a reassurance from a reliable source that something more than mere death is in store for Men. The logic is simple: Ilúvatar is no trickster. Your love of Arda, of creation, comes from Him, and He is not one given to sowing seed without the intent of harvest.

At the same time, the words are challenging because they require an abiding peace and trust even in the face of good things going bad. Because of Melkor’s malice, the peoples of Arda journey on a stormy sea, and what is right in front of them tends to command their attention more so than what is on the distant horizon.

Furthermore, not even the Valar, those closest to Ilúvatar, can say what it is He has in store for Men. “Yes, it’s nice to know there is something better in store and all, but as to what it is, that is quite vague. Meanwhile, I really hope I’ll see my loved ones again, or even glimpse the beautiful sea.” Death, for the Men of Arda, is the trustfall of all trustfalls, and even as the followers of Amandil and Elendil strive to embrace the ambiguously promised hope, there’s something in each of us that can sense the existential bind the Numenoreans must have felt.

—-
That beautiful piece of Tolkien-inspired artwork you see above is from elegaer, my Tolkien Artist-of-the-Month for September 2016. Of course you love it, because it’s awesome, so go check out the rest of their work!

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The Tolkien Road – Ep78 – Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age Pt1

Concerning “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age”, from the founding of Lindon to the Last Alliance of Men and Elves…

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Hey there fellow travelers! Welcome to The Tolkien Road, a long walk through the works and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. On this episode, we begin a 2-part discussion of the last chapter in The Silmarillion, “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.” By the way, if you haven’t already, please leave The Tolkien Road a rating and feedback on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of the podcast. Enjoy the show!

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©2013-2016 rfcunha
  • Correspondence, etc (1:30)
  • First Age and Akallabêth recap (12:30)
  • Lindon, Gil-Galad, and Elrond (20:00)
  • Sauron, Lord of the Gifts (22:30)
  • The Forging of the Rings (25:30)
  • Men = Easy to Ensnare (29:00)
  • The Numenorean Kingdoms of Middle-earth (32:00)
  • The Seven Stones & the White Tree (38:00)
  • Sauron’s Return & Assault on Gondor (40:30)
  • The Last Alliance of Men & Elves (44:30)
  • Haiku Time (48:00)

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Lectio Tolkiena: Recovered Seeing and Hoarding

I do not say ‘seeing things as they are’ and involve myself with the philosophers, though I might venture to say ‘seeing things as we are (or were) meant to see them’ – as things apart from ourselves.

On Fairy-stories

I’ve written about this quote before, and it continues, in my mind, to be one of Tolkien’s key philosophical statements, a magical little manifesto of sorts. Whereas the literary world has been generally obsessed with “realism” for around 150 years or so, Tolkien takes the modernist idea of the “real” – meaning the thing just as it is in a materialist sense – and transforms it into something new.

the-light-of-the-silmarils-elegaer
“The Light of the Silmarils” © elegaer 2007-2016

“As we are meant to see them” – of course, this begs the question: “Meant by whom or what?” It’s an obviously supernatural statement, for it implies an intelligibility that stands outside of nature, a will to communicate something to us.

Our problem is that we are all taught to be good “realists”. Tolkien’s response to this is almost Chestertonian: “The real is not what you think it is.” The modernist mind tends to assess the “real” as being that which is right in front of me. It’s a way of taking things at “face value”, and thus, as Tolkien says, “appropriating” or “hoarding” them into our other piles of junk, facts conquered and tucked away.

But seeing things as they are meant to be seen – this requires not hoarding, but wonder leading to contemplation, a belief that it’s not just an empty bundle of atoms with some energy thrown in, but a gift imbued with intelligibility, a sacrament of sorts drawing us toward a greater reality.

When we see this way, it becomes harder to simply tuck things away as if we know everything about them. We are liberated from the grave danger of possession and greed, and thus free to understand that things as they are right now, at this moment, are not as they will always be. Indeed, the thing is given to call us to a hopeful realization of the greater, invisible reality.

—-
That beautiful piece of Tolkien-inspired artwork you see above is from elegaer, my Tolkien Artist-of-the-Month for September 2016. Of course you love it, because it’s awesome, so go check out the rest of their work!

The Tolkien Road – Ep77 – Akallabêth Pt2

Continuing with “Akallabêth”, the chronicle of Númenór’s downfall…

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Hey there fellow travelers! Welcome to The Tolkien Road, a long walk through the works and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. On this episode, we conclude our look at “Akallabêth”, or “The Downfallen”, the story of Númenór’s rise and fall in the Second Age. By the way, if you haven’t already, please leave The Tolkien Road a rating and feedback on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of the podcast. Enjoy the show!

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©2013-2016 rfcunha
  • Note from a Listener: more March 25th connections (2:30)
  • Sauron’s Assault Upon Nimloth the Fair (10:00)
  • The Worship of Melkor (13:00)
  • Ar-Pharazôn’s Unholy Crusade (29:30)
  • Amandil Goes West/Elendil Goes East (33:00)
  • Gathering Clouds (36:30)
  • The Assault Upon Aman (39:00)
  • The Great Chasm (41:00)
  • Elendil’s Escape & Sauron’s Fate (44:30)
  • Haiku (46:00)

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Lectio Tolkiena: The Purpose of Númenór

But the design of Manwë was that the Númenóreans should not be tempted to seek for the Blessed Realm, nor desire to overpass the limits set to their bliss, becoming enamoured of the immortality of the Valar and the Eldar and the lands where all things endure.

– “Akallabêth


What was the purpose of Númenór?
earendil-elegaer
Earendil © elegaer 2006 – 2016

We know that it was a reward to the Edain, the Elf-friends, that minority of Men that aided the Eldar against Morgoth. Yet it was perhaps an error to see it as a “progression” toward Valinor, the Blessed Realm of earthly immortality. Instead, it would seem that the way the Númenóreans should have seen it was as a launching point for peaceful mission, a place from which they could bring the light of the Valar and the Eldar (and ultimately the knowledge of Ilúvatar) to their brethren who remained in the dark. The first generations of Númenór perhaps grasped this, but over time that vision faded.

Our blessings are rarely, if ever, meant merely for our enjoyment or well-being.

The Tolkien Road – Ep76 – Akallabêth Pt1

Concerning Akallabêth, from the reward of the Edain to the captivity of Sauron…

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Hey there fellow travelers! Welcome to The Tolkien Road, a long walk through the works and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. On this episode, we begin our look at “Akallabêth”, or “The Downfallen”, the story of Númenór’s rise and fall in the Second Age. By the way, if you haven’t already, please leave The Tolkien Road a rating and feedback on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of the podcast. Enjoy the show!

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©2013-2016 rfcunha
  • Josh Sosa on Jackson’s Fellowship… (3:00)
  • What “Akallabêth” means… (14:00)
  • The Waldman Letter on the Second Age (15:30)
  • Eärendil & the Edain (20:00)
  • The Downfall of Morgoth & the Raising of Númenór (23:00)
  • The Religion of Númenór (29:00)
  • The Ban (34:00)
  • The Escape from Death/Númenór’s Complaint (37:00)
  • Sauron Returns/The Shadow Awakens (48:00)
  • The Deeds of Ar-Pharazôn the Golden (49:00)
  • Sauron’s Surrender (51:00)
  • The Worship of the Lord of Darkness (55:00)
  • Haiku Time (1:02:45)

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Lectio Tolkiena: Why Should We Not Envy the Valar?

And the Númenóreans answered: ‘Why should we not envy the Valar, or even the least of the Deathless? For of us is required a blind trust, and a hope without assurance, knowing not what lies before us in a little while. And yet we also love the Earth and would not lose it.’

– “Akallabêth”

Though short in comparison with the entirety of The Silmarillion, “Akallabêth” is a marvel for many reasons. One thing I find particularly fascinating about it is the establishment of the Númenórean religion, which is probably the most straightforward example of religion in all of Tolkien’s works.

light-of-silmarils-elegaer
Light of Silmarils © elegaer 2009-2016
Things start off well for the Númenóreans, the “elf-friends”, but as age and well-being increase, so too does their dissatisfaction with their lot in life. After all, they must “trust” that death is not the end of their story, though it rightly seems that it is a “blind” sort of trust, because none really bear witness to what may await them. They are told to keep faith, but it seems that they would respond “What faith have we to keep?”

The parallels of Akallabêth with our own time are manifold and staggering, each instance demonstrating the sort of insight Tolkien had into the human spirit. We sense that we are made for the eternal, though we have lost touch with it, and have trouble glimpsing it. Tolkien, of course, knew the Christian message of eternal life and the renewal of the cosmos, and realized the great advantage that it gives to post-Resurrection mankind. Thus, even as his fictional sea-kings slowly slide into despair, we hear far more pity in his telling than contempt.

Tolkien Artist-of-the-Month, September 2016: elegaer

“The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.”

My Tolkien artist of the month for September 2016 is elegaer, who may or may not exist. The thing is, I’ve tried to contact them in every way I can think of about using some of their art for a forthcoming project, but it’s been radio silence. The other thing is that they don’t appear to have posted new art in a few years. So I pray, elegaer, that wherever you are, you are OK! OK? If you are, and you’re reading this, then please contact me.

Anyway, I found elegaer because of this beauty:

Vingilot
And it would appear that heraldry is elegaer‘s thing, for here’s another piece:
devices-designs-noldor-elegaer
Devices and Designs: Noldor
You really need to do yourself a favor and check out the whole gallery of elegaer‘s works, they are all wonderfully detailed and brilliant. And if you do, leave elegaer a comment and tell them I said “Wuzzup! We need to talk…”

I’m happy to be displaying elegaer’s works here all month. You should be too! So check in reguarly.

The Tolkien Road – Ep75 – Concerning Galadriel

Concerning Galadriel, from her name to her exile…

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Hey there fellow travelers! Welcome to The Tolkien Road, a long walk through the works and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. On this episode, Greta and I spend some time discussing Galadriel and her background, including the puzzling question of her involvement with the rebellion of Fëanor. By the way, if you haven’t already, please leave The Tolkien Road a rating and feedback on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of the podcast. Enjoy the show!

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©2013-2016 rfcunha
  • Her Name – 14:00
  • Her Lineage – 18:00
  • Her Exile – 24:30
  • A Penitent? – 32:00
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