Location, explanation, discussion, and symbolism; connections with race, blue wizards, and migration of the elves. (500 words)
Outline – 7/30/05
Presence of the darkness on Middle-earth indicates that Elves and Men incorporate both good and evil within themselves, and must constantly battle to keep the two in balance. This is argued both by Flieger and by the Jung guy in different terms, and by the theology guy who places Middle-earth in the state of moral development before Christ but after Eden (check this – point is, the people react to temptation differently than we do, because their souls are in a different place with relation to God and the Devil.)
1) The East in Lord of the Rings – specifically Rhun.
a) Tolkien’s quote on how he conceived it, "where it is" on Earth
b) Brief description of location and involvement in the action
i) Source of much of the Dark Lord’s numerical strength
ii) Little known to those from the West
iii) Traditional enemy of Gondor
iv) Armies at the Pelennor and at the Black Gate
i) Sauron occupies Mordor at beginning of the Second Age
ii) Over time dominates all lands to the East as Morgoth did.
(1) Blue Wizards may have been corrupted or may have triumphed.
iii) Sauron defeated by Last Alliance
iv) Third Age, East remains the source of pressure on Gondor
(1) Incursions of Wainriders
(3) Vast coordinated attack from North and South of Mordor
v) Origins of the Rohirrim are to the East.
(1) The tribes of Rhovanion become Gondor’s allies
vi) Sauron arises again, removes to Mordor from Mirkwood.
vii) After War of the Ring, East is cleansed and pacified
(1) East still the site of battles into the future
2) Earlier appearances as a place in Tolkien’s works
a) The Hobbit
i) No apparent connection with the Silmarillion or Europe.
(1) The eastern journey belongs to the Sil’s basic geography.
(2) Wilderland, place of adventure, not inherently evil.
ii) Dividing Line of East and West is Misty Mountains.
b) The Silmarillion
i) The East abandoned by the Valar in contest with Melkor
(1) Haunted by Melkor’s creatures before the Elves came.
ii) Hunting ground of Orome, who thus discovers the Elves.
(1) Land of Darkness far removed from Valinor over the Sea.
(2) Lands go all the way to the Red Mountains and the Gates of the Sun
iii) Birthplace of Elves, Men, and Dwarves, only some of whom come West
(1) Inland Sea representing life, birth.
(2) Dividing Line of East and West is Anduin the Great.
iv) Not the home of the Dark Lord Morgoth, not inherently evil.
(1) The North is the ‘evil’ direction in the wars between Elves and Morgoth in Beleriand
(2) Just because he later connected them, does not mean the full sense of the evil East as epitomized by Mordor was present in the Silmarillion.
a) Historic/geographic equivalencies
i) Open plains, Inland Sea
ii) Eurasian locations – Russia, Caucasus, Turkey, Persia.
(1) Saracens to Charlesmagne - Dey
(2) Huns and Goths under Attilla to Late Roman Empire
(3) Wainriders, Variags of Russia
b) Symbolic meanings – coherent with real world
i) Birthplace of the races – Eden equivalent
(1) Corruption by Morgoth at birth incomplete
(2) No Jerusalem, No Christ, no rebirth in the East.
ii) Medieval three-level world transposed onto earth.
c) Differences from Medieval Myth
i) No Christianity
(1) Jerusalem, Eden do not exist
ii) No metaphysical Hell to balance Heaven
(1) Hell is on Middle-earth, within the souls of its inhabitants
iii) No advanced civilizations – no trade with the Exotic East
(1) Prester John myth – desire to Christianize pagan lands
d) Many symbolic interpretations depend on Flat Earth for effective meaning
i) Distance from the Light – Flieger
(1) Complexity of movement back and forth
ii) Jungian – Need for psychic balance between East and West
iii) Sun Journey – move East underground represents spiritual rebirth
a) Moral Geography
i) Relative rather than absolute.
ii) Contrasts with medieval and modern concepts connecting lands with peoples.
Notes to Myself
East is essentially not-West. Two related uses in Tolkien. 1. Lands of the Sunrise where the Elves and later the Men are born or awake, before they begin moving West toward Valinor. 2. Later, after the Elves and Edain have gone to the West, the Lands in the East are furthest from civilization, and apt to evil; later they are ruled over by Sauron of Mordor. "The East" at the end of the Third Age has fully replaced The North as the source of the Shadow that threatens Middle-earth.
Also, in its associative sense, the East mimics the East of Eurasia in history, as the source of all the various tribes and migrations that first settle Northwestern Europe, and later invade it.
In The Silmarillion, the East is first mentioned after Morgoth destroys the Two Lamps and the symmetry of Arda. The Valar retreat to the westernmost lands across the Sea, but from the high mountain Taniquetil "could look out across the Earth even into the furthest East." (p. 37)
Later when the Elves awaken it is by the Cuiviénen (Water of Awakening), a starlit mere "far off in the east of Middle-earth" (pp. 48-49). The Orocarni, Mountains of the East, are nearby, and it is while hunting there that Oromë discovers the Elves.
The focus of Tolkien’s literary work was the relationship of Northern people with an imagined Paradise to the West. He took inspiration for this from his professional studies of the same topic in Celtic, Anglo-saxon and Norse tales. [Idea gained from reading Shippey, Author of the Century] In this organization, the South represents first exotic people, then the unknown, with an emphasis on warmer and then hotter climate, while the East represents the opposite of Heaven, either the birthplace of the race (opposed to the last resting place) or the home of the Devil (opposed to the home of the Gods). (7/17/05)
East as a place inhabited by Pagans (non-Christians) is common in medieval writings. But the idea of The East as the direction of Jerusalem and the birthland of Christ, which is a strong theme in medieval literature, is, of course, totally absent.
Also absent: the idea of trade with the East for exotic riches. There is no Far East (China, India) for caravans to come from, over the arid wastes between Europe and those lands. (7/17/05) [Can I find a source for these statements!?]
The East is the birthplace of both Elves and Men, but this is underplayed in the stories. The emphasis is on the need to journey West to achieve racial "adulthood". For both Elves and Men, during their time in their original "Eden", it was no paradise. They did not have a beneficient God to provide for all their wants, but rather lived like noble savages, ignorant of the arts and higher. In these untold early years the Valar had abandoned Middle-earth, and the Children of Iluvatar were besieged by Morgoth and his creatures, and in the case of Men, mostly corrupted by him (as noted in Debate of Finrod & Andreth). (7/23/05)
The East is redeemed in the end of LotR. Along with the peace settlements arranged by Aragorn, we see Faramir leading Eowyn back to Ithilien, to create a garden of renewed fertility. His words "Let us cross the River" contrasts with Anduin being the boundary between Good and Evil, Gondor and Mordor, earlier in the book. (7/17/05) (inspired by Dickerson’s comments on Eowyn’s renewal as a healer and gardener, p. 41)
But note that Appendices end the Rohan story with Eomer and Elessar fighting again in the East.