The Tolkien Road

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0188 – The Mariner’s Mailbag

It’s mail time! We tackle a bunch of questions and comments from our amazing listeners!

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4 Responses

  1. Some very thoughtful and interesting letters. Tye (sp?) asks some interesting questions, that I don’t think, have any definitive answers. But if anyone wants to dig deeper into the afterlife of elves and men and their souls Morgath’s Ring has useful texts. The main one is the “Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth”. In it Finrod and a wise woman of the folk of Beor discuss the afterlife of both races. Earlier in the same book are the short texts “Of Death and the Severance of the Fea and Hrondo” and the “Of Re-Birth and Other Dooms of Those that go to Mandos”. The text “Osanwe-kenta” in Vinyar Tengwar volume 39 has some information on the spirit and free will as well as thought transmission. Tye won’t find an answer in any of those texts but much to ponder.

    1. Wow, this is awesome! We will have to do a series on the topic of Tolkienian afterlife at some point because I find this a fascinating topic too. I will make sure to pass this on to Ty. Thanks David!

    2. Your mention of the “Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth” raises some interesting questions about the “eschatology” of Arda. As far as I can tell, JRRT apparently wanted the “Athrabeth” included as an Appendix to the Silmarillion, and yet Christopher chose to leave it out. That and some other editorial decisions made by Christopher seem to me to seriously affect the “eschatology” of Arda

      For example, the final paragraphs of the “The Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath” at the end of the published Silmarillion differ quite substantially from the ending of the 1936 Quenta Silmarillion (See The Lost Road and Other Writings, pp. 332 – 334). A number of paragraphs, particularly those including the “Second Prophecy of Mandos,” have been removed and a conclusion taken from the older form of the Valaquenta inserted.

      The idea of Arda restored, which is communicated so beautifully in the Second Prophecy of Mandos, remained a continuous theme from the Book of Lost Tales, where it exists only in notes, to the Quenta Noldorinwa, to the Quenta Silmarillion. It is consistent with what Iluvatar says in response to Melkor in the published version of the Ainulindale: “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.”

      The ending that includes the Second Prophecy of Mandos also seems to be quite consistent with what Tolkien writes about the eucatastrophe in his essay “On Fairy-stories.” He writes: “Far more important is the Consolation of the Happy Ending. Almost I would venture to assert that all complete fairy-stories must have it.” A few sentences later: “The eucatastrophic tale is the true form of fairy-tale and its highest function.” (p. 85, in The Tolkien Reader).

      The Second Prophecy of Mandos is the eucatastrophe in the most amazing way imaginable. Turin Turanbar, who suffers so much grief, deals the death blow to Morgoth avenging the children of Hurin and all men. The “Athrabeth” as you know has a fascinating speculation about what Iluvatar will eventually do to restore Arda.

      A Silmarillion that keeps the old ending with the Second Prophecy of Mandos and the Athrabeth seems to me to be much more in line with JRRT’s view of the world and of the purpose of fairy-tales, which he spent decades trying to perfect. By removing the Second Prophecy of Mandos and by not including the “Athrabeth” Christopher’s published Silmarillion ends on a much more somber and agnostic note – more along the lines of Norse mythology.

      We all owe Christopher Tolkien an enormous debt of gratitude for the decades of work he put in making so much of his father’s writing available, but I’m somewhat inclined to think he might have made a mistake in altering the ending found in the 1930 and 1936 versions. Do you think I’m wildly off in this?

      1. Not all are you wildly off in my opinion. Sadly I don’t believe we shall ever know why this decision was made either. In a world with so many knowns, it is the fact of so many unknowns which will fuel Tolkien discussions for ages to come.

        I have some more reading to do thanks to this discussion, appreciate you all!


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