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Topic: Inaction, hesitation, of the Valar

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Hobbit from Hobbiton - Rank 4
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Date: Oct 18, 2009
Inaction, hesitation, of the Valar

PUT THE DOG IN THE BASKET!

So Numenor slowly becomes estranged from the West.
Sauron is taken by Al-Phazron to dwell with his people.

Sauron slowly dominates and wins over the people.

The largest armada that has ever been built, is assembled over time.

During this time the mighty Valar do...........nothing.

Why didn't the Valar intervene with a direct earlier action, to prevent the death by drowning of an entire civilisation.

Grrrrr gods...slippery as eels



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Rohirrim of Edoras - Rank 4
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You and your Valar-bashing, yeesh!! It just makes for a better story. They weren't worried about the "greatest armada" and if the people were that haughty then they deserved their self inflicted fate. What would you do if a bunch of ten year olds tried to loot your house?  no

-- Edited by lomoduin on Sunday 18th of October 2009 02:38:19 PM

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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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Filli and lomoduin,
It might be important to note that all this injustice and pain is foretold in "The Music of the Ainur." And in that music are themes and counter themes, harmonies and discords, point and counterpoint, and in the end resolution, crescendo, the Final Chord, and th
e quote;
"Then Ilúvatar spoke, and he said: 'Mighty are the Ainur, and
mightiest among them is Melkor; but that he may know, and all the Ainur,
that I am Ilúvatar, those things that ye have sung, I will show them
forth, that ye may see what ye have done. And thou, Melkor, shalt see that
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.'
Then the Ainur were afraid, and they did not yet
comprehend the words that were said to them; and Melkor was filled with
shame, of which came secret anger. But Ilúvatar arose in splendour,
and he went forth from the fair regions that he had made for the Ainur; and
the Ainur followed him.
But when they were come into the Void, Ilúvatar said to them: 'Behold
your Music!'
And he showed to them a vision, giving to them sight where
before was only hearing; arid they saw a new World made visible before them,
and it was globed amid the Void, and it was sustained therein, but was not
of it. And as they looked and wondered this World began to unfold its
history, and it seemed to them that it lived and grew. And when the Ainur
had gazed for a while and were silent, Ilúvatar said again: 'Behold
your Music! This is your minstrelsy; and each of you shall find contained
herein, amid the design that I set before you, all those things which it may
seem that he himself devised or added. And thou, Melkor, wilt discover all
the secret thoughts of thy mind, and wilt perceive that they are but a part
of the whole and tributary to its glory.' "
(The Silmarillion, Ainulindale, "The Music of the Ainur", pg.17)
Maybe I don't quite have your perspective but I have never seen the Valar as Gods.  These are another of God's (Iluvatar's) creatures and what we perceive as failures of the God's are instead part of the beauty and plan of the divine being Eru!

Numenor, Sauron, the great destruction, are all part of the tapestry of Eru; part of his symphony.  The Valar don't interfere because the didn't interfere in the song.  What you claim as "what is happening" was already sung eon's ago.
"During this time the mighty Valar do...........nothing...Why didn't the Valar intervene with a direct earlier action, to prevent the death by drowning of an entire civilization."(Tolkien Forums >General Lore discussion (standard) > Inaction, hesitation, of the Valar > Filli > October 18th, 2009)
These Valar don't interfere because ERU has told them not to!
Numenor falls...come on...this is a good thing...by this point they are not champions...they are irreverent, self serving, arrogant monsters.  They are a discordant theme in Iluvatar's song...and the faithful survivor's in Middle-earth Iluvatar's counterpoint  and  in the long run Sauron's downfall...twice!!

Bottom line is the Valar are not God's.  And in many ways they are only Eru's instruments.
Yes Melkor, Aule, Sauron, and a bunch of Maiar rebel against Iluvatar.  But Iluvatar says; "so what...your rebellion is part of my grand theme..."
And besides sending the Istari is doing something...
The Valar have learned that their direct interference in Eru's plans spells disaster...
It is a hard lesson to learn...don't jiggle God's elbow...but they finally get it!!!


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Hobbit from Hobbiton - Rank 4
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Hmmmm hadn't considered the Valar not to be gods....

Hmmm ok they are what they are . Different  and powerful

But one of their own was being a naughty boy.

A very naughty boy indeed...but was Eru's response justifiable ?

Where is the pity, the forgiveness from the Valar ?

A bad day for men all round

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Loremaster Elf of Mirkwood - Rank 4
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They had been warned. They knew of the ban the Elves had also been warning them. Numenorians were not ignorant of Sauron and his evil. If they chose to follow his adivce and start religions that centered on human sacrifice and such, who have they to blame. They had been beacons of enlightenment to Middle-earth. But they became self indulgent and tyrannts even when they knew better. Its a wonder Eru didn't distroy all Men and start over like what happened in the Hebrew Bible.

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Hobbit from Hobbiton - Rank 4
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If there was but one innocent, would Eru have stayed his hand....................hmmmmmm sounds familiar.

Whooosh went the waves......people go to meet the fishes



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Loremaster Elf of Mirkwood - Rank 4
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Not all of them, Filli. Remember the ships of the "Faithful" Numenorians that were marked with the "seven stars" and carried the "seven stones". Oh yes! "and one white tree"!

-- Edited by Anorlas on Sunday 18th of October 2009 06:40:55 PM

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Anarion, Son of Elendil - rank 8
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I would say the Valar are gods - without a capital 'G'. They are not all-knowing or all-powerful, such as is Iluvatar, the One God, but they certainly warrant the titles of 'lesser gods'. They remind me of the AEsir and Vanir, the Norse gods, each one being associated with certain things, and being divided into two groups (such as the male and female Valar are).

-- Edited by Glorfindel1235 on Monday 19th of October 2009 10:26:25 PM

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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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All,
I am double posting this both in the threads; " Inaction, hesitation, of the Valar" and in the thread "Biblical Comparisons."
Way back in October Filli posted;

"If there was but one innocent, would Eru have stayed his hand ...hmmm? Sounds familiar.
Whooosh went the waves...people go to meet the fishes."
(Tolkien Forums > General Lore discussion (standard) > Inaction, hesitation, of the Valar >Filli > October 18th, 2009)

The first part almost sounds like part of the Biblical story where Abraham tries to bargain with God for the saving of Sodom.
20 Then the LORD said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous
21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know."
22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD.
23 Then Abraham approached him and said: "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?
24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city?
Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?
25 Far be it from you to do such a thing-to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
26 The LORD said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake."
27 Then Abraham spoke up again: "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes,
28 What if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?" "If I find forty-five there," he said, "I will not destroy it."
29 Once again he spoke to him, "What if only forty are found there?" He said, "For the sake of forty, I will not do it."
30 Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?" He answered, "I will not do it if I find thirty there."
31 Abraham said, "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?" He said, "For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it."
32 Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?" He answered, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it."
Genesis 18:20-32 (New International Version)

The second part sounds like God's decision to destroy the earth through the Great Flood.
5 The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.
6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.
7 So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth-men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air-for I am grieved that I have made them." Genesis 6:5-7 (New International Version)
Yes! Whoosh....we all go down to the fishes"
Anorlas also makes an important point;
"Not all of them, Filli. Remember the ships of the "Faithful" Numenorians that were marked with the "seven stars" and carried the "seven stones". Oh yes! "and one white tree!" (Tolkien Forums > General Lore discussion (standard) > Inaction, hesitation, of the Valar >Anorlas > October 18th, 2009)
This sounds like God decision saving Noah.
6:8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD...
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence.
12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.
13 So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth...
17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.
18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark-you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you." Genesis 6:5-7 (New International Version)
And the Bible adds,
7:1, I have found that you are the only one in all the world who does what is right. Genesis 7:1 (New International Version)

So why the double posting?
When re-reading both of these threads it felt to me that they both left things unsaid or things uncorroborated. Sort of like without references.
The biblical references may give us a sample of Tolkien's reconnection to his faith, thereby validating his works connection to his Christian mythos.
The Fall of Numenor and the inaction of the Valar helps us define what the Valar really are.
This may be evidence to support Glorfindel 1235's posting;

"I would say the Valar are gods - without a capital 'G'. They are not all-knowing or all-powerful, such as is Iluvatar, the One God, but they certainly warrant the titles of 'lesser gods'. They remind me of the AEsir and Vanir, the Norse gods, each one being associated with certain things, and being divided into two groups (such as the male and femaleValar are)."(Tolkien Forums > General Lore discussion (standard) > Inaction, hesitation, of the Valar >Glorfindel 1235 > October 19th, 2009)
It may be excused, if rather than a hierarchy of divinity, one assigns nomenclatures of angels and demons to the Ainur and Valar.

And let me add a biased opinion;
I do not think either of these threads is anywhere near finished.





-- Edited by Bear on Monday 11th of January 2010 07:19:45 PM

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Loremaster Elf of Mirkwood - Rank 4
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Even Tolkien refers to the Valar as "g"ods numerous times in his Letters. They are caretakers of Arda but as you say, their wisdom and foresite is not absolute and they are answerable to Eru. Even the Elves knew that, even while they might pray to Elbereth Gilthorniel, it was Eru who was the greater power and nothing was done without His authority.

When the corrupt Numenorians set out to invade the Undying Lands to wrest immortality for themselves, the Valar had to pray to Eru to stop them for they themselves did not have the authority to deal with these Men. They were Eru's second born and only Eru could say what would happen to them.

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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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Anorlas,
Very good points!
Perhaps labels such as "inaction" and "hesitation" shouldn't be attached to the Valar.
Your point
"...
it was Eru who was the greater power and nothing was done without His authority...When the corrupt Numenorians set out to invade the Undying Lands to wrest immortality for themselves, the Valar had to pray to Eru to stop them for they themselves did not have the authority to deal with these Men. They were Eru's second born and only Eru could say what would happen to them." brings home the little "g" idea and also Tolkien's choice of nomenclature as Valar being gods.
Despite what he calls them I think it important to look at the context from which of his letters he uses that nomenclature.
For instance do we have men or elves who we might label as saints?


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Samwise Gamgee - rank 9
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Interesting question Bear.

I don't think we have any individuals of Elves or Men being portrayed as saints, but we do have similar things. The Vanyar Elves, for example, were considered the 'Highest' of the Elves, the closest to the Valar, and therefore the most 'Holy'. Ingwe was considered the top dog of all the Elves and was the King of the Vanyar. Almost a Pope-like figure, perhaps?

The relationship between Elves and Valar seems more like that of teachers and students, not worshippers. Worship is reserved for the Dark side in Tolkien's world. The only case we have of worship was the Mountain of Meneltarma in Numenor.

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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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mouth of sauron,
Your response is a very good one in a couple of ways.
First it points out that the naming of characters with a Catholic nomenclature or vocabulary is foreign to Tolkien's works.
Secondly you point out that despite vocabulary we can draw positive corollaries
as far as the Vanyar being the highest or 'Holy' Elves and Ingwe as their king being
"...Almost a Pope-like figure, perhaps?"
Certainly we can see a possible hierarchy...maybe religious...and that, while it not being exact...does seem to reflect Tolkien's Catholic orientation.

Anorlas has also made a point very important to this discussion;

"...Remember the ships of the 'Faithful' Numenorians that were marked with the 'seven stars' and carried the 'seven stones.' Oh yes! "and one white tree!'..."
While not exact this does reflect the concept of iconography that is also part of Catholic worship...and applicable particularly surrounding "sainthood".  So much so that when Aragorn comes into his regency it is under the icons of 'seven stars' and 'seven stones'.  And, with the help of a high priest figure such as Gandalf, seeks and finds a token of divine favor, 'one white tree!'
Indeed he takes his crown with a name of an icon, Elessar...the healing green Elfstone.


While this thread has been a discussion where the Valar are referred to as 'gods' with a little 'g', there is more than enough evidence to name a 'God' with  the big 'G'...that of Eru.

So while we bounce around and claim Valar as 'gods', citing Tolkien's letters (sometimes out of context...we need the whole letter to judge) we can place them in our unnamed and unspoken Catholic heirarchy as angels...

And that brings us back to a why of Filli's original question...
"Why didn't the Valar intervene with a direct earlier action, to prevent the death by drowning of an entire civilization?"
Because they just didn't have the stuff!



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Loremaster Elf of Mirkwood - Rank 4
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I suppose, besides the Vanya being the neartest thing to "holy" that we have among the Elfkind, there is Glorfindel, Luthien and Beren. All three die. Glorfindel is sent back with Gandalf to be the body guard to Elrond and his house. Of course Luthien will no longer be of Elfkind but mortal but her line gives rise to both Arwen and Aragorn. But to my mind, if there is one eligable for sainthood, it might be Glorfindel and maybe Elrond.

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Anarion, Son of Elendil - rank 8
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I can't recall the version of Glorfindel being sent back to Middle-earth with Gandalf.

As far as I know, Glorfindel was indeed reincarnated, and then was allowed back to Middle-earth at around 1600 of the Second Age. Can anyone clarify?

As to why I think the Valar can be called gods: They have a part in the making of the world. It is their own music, guided by Iluvatar, that creates the history of the world. Not forgetting their more practical uses in the construction of Arda itself.

I don't know much about the Bible, but aren't the angels solely messengers of God? If so, this doesn't seem to fit in with the tasks assigned to the Valar. To create and rule, albeit in Eru's name, the 'stuff' and people of Arda.

A far better example of angels, I think, are the Istari. Sent to middle-earth from what is essentially Heaven, as messengers, teachers and guides, not as rulers or creators.

-- Edited by Glorfindel1235 on Thursday 14th of January 2010 01:03:06 AM

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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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Glorfindel,
Istari as angels?
That does make sense!

"Sent to middle-earth from what is essentially Heaven, as messengers, teachers and guides, not as rulers or creators."
Yes!  I'll buy that.

But angels did get specific jobs from God...and some messed them up enough that they got thrown out of heaven...
And to throw a small curve ball your way...Christian mythos and culture comes from sources than just the Bible.


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Fundin, Lord of Moria - Rank 5
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'I can't recall the version of Glorfindel being sent back to Middle-earth with Gandalf.'

That's from essay Glorfindel I, The Peoples of Middle-Earth. I like this version, but Tolkien followed with Glorfindel II (same book) where he comes back to Middle-earth in the Second Age. This one might be more well known on the web I think (the Gandalf version is also missing some text).

It might seem like splitting hairs, but Tolkien makes a distinction about creation. A letter to Milton Waldman (letter 131)...

'God and the Valar (or powers: Englished as gods) are revealed. These latter are as we should say angelic powers, whose function is to exercise delegated authority in their spheres (of rules and government, not creation, making or re-making). They are 'divine', that is, were originally 'outside' and existed 'before' the making of the world. Their power and wisdom is derived from their Knowledge of the cosmological drama, which they perceived first as a drama (that is as in a fashion we perceive a story composed by some-one else), and later as a 'reality'. On the side of mere narrative device, this is, of course meant to provide beings of the same order and beauty, power, majesty as the 'gods' of higher mythology, which can yet be accepted -- well, shall we say baldly, by a mind that believes in the Blessed Trinity'.


And in a footnote (to another [draft] letter)...

*They shared in its 'making' -- but only on the same terms as we 'make' a work of art or story. The realization of it, the gift to it of a created reality of the same grade as their own, was the act of the One God.' JRRT draft to Michael Straight, probably 1956

'I don't know much about the Bible, but aren't the angels solely messengers of God? If so, this doesn't seem to fit in with the tasks assigned to the Valar. To create and rule, albeit in Eru's name, the 'stuff' and people of Arda.'
 
I don't know much about Angels myself, but here's something I found a while back (I hope it's accurate, or accurate enough):

'They are known most for communicating messages, for it is in this capacity that they appear in Biblical stories. But, the number of times we read of them carrying messages is relatively few. By far their largest role is to carry out tasks for God as executive agents, when they are not seen or noticed. (...)

When we see good angels exercise their might in the scriptures, they are working on physical reality, physical objects, forces or the body. They carry out judgments on people or they protect and deliver from physical dangers. Within this limited sphere of activity, they can wield God's power over the world, but they can only do it by God's word.'

The Doctrine of Angels by G.T. Tabert

In any case, I think the matter of gods/angels is nicely summed up in the following:

'Strictly these spirits were called Ainur, the Valar, being only those from among them who entered the world after its making, and the name is properly applied only to those great among them, who take the imaginative but not the theological place of 'gods'. The Ainur took part in the making of the world as 'sub-creators': in various degrees, after this fashion.'

JRRT 1958, draft letter 212 to Rhona Beare



-- Edited by Galin on Thursday 14th of January 2010 12:16:36 PM

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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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Galin,
Once again my friend an excellent and decisive post!
Thank you very much!
Bear


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Hobbit from Hobbiton - Rank 4
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Hi all

Been a while.
Yip I see Abrahamic, Noetic influeneces. Destruction and compassion delt out in measure (equal?).

Are the Valar gods. To a man, I'd say yes.
Do the gods have gods ?

Who suffers most, when the Valar make mistakes ?






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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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Filli,
It brings to mind the question;
"Who suffers more? The dead? Or those left behind to mourn?"
Even in my psychological work with those of terminal illness and those left behind it is a question to which I have no firm answer.
But in the case of the "fallen", "gods" or "angels" in Tolkien's works, I'd say the lesser creatures of Arda suffer the most....
But what of brother/sister incest?
Or a fathers rejection of a daughter and her beloved?
Or a brutal but accidental killing of a best friend?
To me the Valar can't suffer enough..."gods"? 
They don't deserve the title or even the mention!


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Anarion, Son of Elendil - rank 8
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Galin wrote:
'I can't recall the version of Glorfindel being sent back to Middle-earth with Gandalf.'

That's from essay Glorfindel I, The Peoples of Middle-Earth. I like this version, but Tolkien followed with Glorfindel II (same book) where he comes back to Middle-earth in the Second Age. This one might be more well known on the web I think (the Gandalf version is also missing some text).

It might seem like splitting hairs, but Tolkien makes a distinction about creation. A letter to Milton Waldman (letter 131)...

'God and the Valar (or powers: Englished as gods) are revealed. These latter are as we should say angelic powers, whose function is to exercise delegated authority in their spheres (of rules and government, not creation, making or re-making). They are 'divine', that is, were originally 'outside' and existed 'before' the making of the world. Their power and wisdom is derived from their Knowledge of the cosmological drama, which they perceived first as a drama (that is as in a fashion we perceive a story composed by some-one else), and later as a 'reality'. On the side of mere narrative device, this is, of course meant to provide beings of the same order and beauty, power, majesty as the 'gods' of higher mythology, which can yet be accepted -- well, shall we say baldly, by a mind that believes in the Blessed Trinity'.


And in a footnote (to another [draft] letter)...

*They shared in its 'making' -- but only on the same terms as we 'make' a work of art or story. The realization of it, the gift to it of a created reality of the same grade as their own, was the act of the One God.' JRRT draft to Michael Straight, probably 1956

'I don't know much about the Bible, but aren't the angels solely messengers of God? If so, this doesn't seem to fit in with the tasks assigned to the Valar. To create and rule, albeit in Eru's name, the 'stuff' and people of Arda.'
 
I don't know much about Angels myself, but here's something I found a while back (I hope it's accurate, or accurate enough):

'They are known most for communicating messages, for it is in this capacity that they appear in Biblical stories. But, the number of times we read of them carrying messages is relatively few. By far their largest role is to carry out tasks for God as executive agents, when they are not seen or noticed. (...)

When we see good angels exercise their might in the scriptures, they are working on physical reality, physical objects, forces or the body. They carry out judgments on people or they protect and deliver from physical dangers. Within this limited sphere of activity, they can wield God's power over the world, but they can only do it by God's word.'

The Doctrine of Angels by G.T. Tabert

In any case, I think the matter of gods/angels is nicely summed up in the following:

'Strictly these spirits were called Ainur, the Valar, being only those from among them who entered the world after its making, and the name is properly applied only to those great among them, who take the imaginative but not the theological place of 'gods'. The Ainur took part in the making of the world as 'sub-creators': in various degrees, after this fashion.'

JRRT 1958, draft letter 212 to Rhona Beare

Very interesting, Galin.

I'll address the first point about the Valar not creating. It is, as you quoted further down, a mere difference of belief, rather than actual fact.

The Valar DID create things, Aule created many works and built no less than the mountains themselves. And all of the substances were 'thought up' in the Music of the Ainur. The Valar did indeed do these things.
What the quote means, I believe, is that while the Valar created these things, they were in fact only 'instruments' operating on behalf of Eru, just like every single thing in the history of Ea and beyond does so.

Just like Feanor didn't create the Silmarils, he is also an instrument through which Iluvatar's will comes forth, as is everything.

The quote is therefore saying that the Valar didn't create things in the uttermost sense of the word. The idea behind the creation didn't come from themselves, but ultimately came from Eru, therefore they are not true creators.

I hope that made sense.confuse

As far as I am aware the Angels in Christianity don't actually create anything (I don't mean in the uttermost sense, I'm using the term generally) or do anything major, they are simply Gods messengers and 'errand-boys', rather than operating as an independent force within the Universe, like the Valar do, ordering the lands, sea and air, setting up their own system of ruling, making judgements of their own on the Children of Iluvatar (albeit they do their best to judge them on how they believe Iluvatar would judge them), the direct war they have with Morgoth (at several points the Valar fret about when to do this, clearly showing they are not directly speaking with Eru on the matter and asking for instructions) etc etc.

As for your last quote, I think what it is trying to say is the Valar are not actual gods, in terms of being direct copies of our own version of gods, but are an imaginative equivalent. The equivalent of gods in Tolkien's world, but still having differences that seperate them as being direct copies of our own.

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Auta  i  lómë! 
Aurë entuluva!

Fundin, Lord of Moria - Rank 5
Status: Offline
Posts: 563
Date: Jan 15, 2010
More quotes to chew on, and a snippet from John Rateliff below -- please note this is an edited version. To be fair to Mr. Rateliff one should really read the whole paper, if possible. 

'The immediate 'authorities' are the Valar (the Powers or Authorities): the 'gods'. But they are only created spirits -- of high angelic order we should say, with their attendant lesser angels -- reverend therefore, but not wordshipful.' Draft to Peter Hastings 1954

I note the attendant lesser angels here, as the Maiar are said to be of the same order as the Valar, but of less degree.

*There is only one 'god': God Eru Ilúvatar. There are the first creations, angelic beings, of which those most concerned in the Cosmogony reside (of love and choice) inside the World, as Valar or gods, or governors;...' footnote to a draft to Robert Murray, 1954

'There are no 'Gods', properly so called, in the mythological background of my stories. Their place is taken by the persons referred to as the Valar (or Powers): angelic created beings appointed to the government of the world.' to A. E. Couchman, 1966

Men even call some other Men gods...

'Then the Men of Middle-earth were comforted (...). And they revered the memory of the tall Sea-kings, and when they had departed they called them gods, hoping for their return; for at that time the Númenóreans dwelt never long in Middle-earth...' JRRT Akallabêth

Tolkien makes his distinction: the Valar do not take the theological place of 'gods', and they are not to be worshipped. There are no gods 'properly' so called because the Primary counterparts cannot be accepted by the Christian mind.

The Valar can resemble these pantheons, echo them. Men hearing about them will naturally equate them with actual gods from various traditions. They are much like the gods of these pantheons in beauty and power -- but whatever similarities and differences one can note between Manwe and Woden, for example, I would say an important difference to Tolkien is ultimately theological: Manwe is in this light properly called an 'angelic being' as a result, acceptable to a mind that believes in the Blessed Trinity. 

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An interesting question: did Tolkien think the angels of the Primary World had a part in creation? Or might he thought it at least possible, if he thought it didn't step on accepted Catholic teaching? At least John Rateliff (The History of The Hobbit) argues...

'Do you really think Tolkien's view was as unorthodox as to suggest the angels played an active part in Creation?' Jason Fisher

'Yes, that's exactly what I argue in my 2004 Marquette paper, since published in the 2006 Blackwelder festschrift; that here Tolkien's theology and literary asthetic met and merged.' John Rateliff

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Mr Rateliff notes...


'Skimming through a recent arrival, THE SILMARILLION: THIRTY YEARS ON, ed. Allan Turner (Walking Tree Press), I see that Michael Devaux's article on the Ainulindale contains a brief section entitled "The Ainur as sub-creators" (pages 101-102), which might be worth looking at for those interested in pursuing the topic. Interestingly enough from my point of view, Devaux quotes Fr. Rbt Murray as having said that Tolkien once told him "in his opinion the angels had played a large part in creation"; Devaux asserts that JRRT was talking about his secondary world, not the real world as Fr. Murray had assumed. I on the other hand wd say he might have meant it to apply equally to both, since he was at pains to associate his fictional world with our own.

(...) Here's what I wrote in my paper for the Marquette conference in 2004:

'. . . Tolkien was even willing to blur the line between levels of reality when he observed that "inevitably my [sub-created] world [i.e., Middle-earth] is highly imperfect . . . nor made wholly coherent -- our Real World does not appear to be wholly coherent either; and I am actually not myself convinced that . . . even in ours there are not some 'tolerated' sub-creational counterfeits!"


'That is, our Primary Reality shows telltale traces of being a sub-created world, not the perfect place an omnipotent being could plan and execute but one flawed though full of beauty and wonder, worthy of being taken up into a divine plan and made real. To put the matter metaphorically, Tolkien's position would seem to be that this world is a rough draft that will some day be destroyed and replaced by a revised and corrected final copy; it's an author's right and privilege to offer suggestions for additions and revisions which may or may not be taken up into the New Heaven and Earth. 'Thus, for Tolkien, the destruction of what we sub-create is no defeat. If it had value, that may be taken up into primary reality in some form, at some time; if not in this world then in the next. Nothing worth preserving is ever really lost . . .'


As I say there's more to the argument (Leaf by Niggle, for example). Anyway, I'm not sure I agree, but I really haven't thought about it enough in any case... yet. Interesting! Sorry for so many quotes, but the information is too new to me. Larry Swain commented:


'I don't know if John's paper was the one I had in mind or not, but I don't think Tolkien was unorthodox so much as he wove together different patristic traditions and medieval takes on the tradition along with Greco-Roman mythology to create his tale. For example in Augustine's take in In Genesim ad litteram the 6 days are not literal six days, but are stages in the understanding and comprehension of the angelic hosts as they see the Beatific Vision of the music of the spheres unfold before them and they enter into the world to accomplish and announce the will of God. Granted, ol' Auggie doesn't say HOW they accomplish God's will nor does he have the angels shaping mountains, but still pretty general in some ways, and plenty of room for creativity for a teller of tales to move in without being labeled "unorthodox". As for Satan's role, the question would then be at what point the Beatific Vision began before Satan turned. In Augustine it is before anything else, but if memory serves in Basil it is on the sixth day of creation...and as the church to my knowledge never officially codified the "correct" version (I may be wrong here), a commentator or inventor such as Tolkien is free to create within certain bounds.'

Larry Swain

It's always a bit tricky quoting people out of context, apologies in advance if doing so is warping something.


-- Edited by Galin on Friday 15th of January 2010 02:29:34 PM

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