Tuesday, July 20 – Some More Valar

6:00 AM The Valaquenta: Aulė, God of the Earth and of Crafts

Aulė – The Text

 “Aulė has might little less than Ulmo. His lordship is over all the substances of which Arda is made. In the beginning he wrought much in fellowship with Manwė and Ulmo; and the fashioning of all lands was his labour. He is a smith and a master of all crafts, and he delights in works of skill, however small, as much as in the mighty building of old. His are the gems that lie deep in the Earth and the gold that is fair in the hand, no less than the walls of the mountains and the basins of the sea. The Noldor learned most of him, and he was ever their friend. Melkor was jealous of him, for Aulė was most like himself in thought and in powers; and there was long strife between them, in which Melkor ever marred or undid the works of Aulė, and Aulė grew weary in repairing the tumults and disorders of Melkor. Both, also, desired to make things of their own that should be new and unthought of by others, and delighted in the praise of their skill. But Aulė remained faithful to Eru and submitted all that he did to his will; and he did not envy the works of others, but sought and gave counsel. Whereas Melkor spent his spirit in envy and hate, until at last he could make nothing save in mockery of the thought of others, and all their works he destroyed if he could.

Aulė –Discussion

Aragonvaar: LOL... Aule is a fairly straightforward transposition of Vulcan/Haesphaetus (presented in the Illiad as a relatively pacific deity who dislikes quarrels and in the Aeneid as being so absent-minded/laid-back that he, at his wife's request, forges a suit of armor for her illegitimate son Aeneas).

He's interested in craft and artisanship to the point of tunnel vision, but open and generous and willing to talk shop w/ any interested party, which is partly why Melkor resents him I think.  He also genuinely cares about his handiwork, which is why Eru cuts him some slack later in the Silm, when Aule [spoiler] pulls a Baron Frankenstein.

What is unusual is that he is identified w/ the earth, and his wife w/ growing things, whereas the opposite seems to be more usually true of old-style pantheons: either an earth goddess for both jobs, or a vegetation god and an earth goddess.  Not sure what that signifies, but it's interesting.

Curious: Perhaps Aulė retreated to Valinor because it would be perilous for land-dwellers if the land were as restless as the waters.  Melkor, on the other hand, loves tumults and disorders.

Aulė is the God of both Artists and Artisans – of both designers/creators and mechanics/makers.

A. Is Tolkien dreaming here, to combine the two passions in one God?

Luthien Rising: Oooh -- an RR pants thread! Not at all! This is the individual craftsman whose workshop is attached to his house; the sole proprietor. It is craft and art unified: art that is useful, craft that is artful not only functional. (On the other hand, I'm less sure that this is all artists -- I don't see fabric works or songwriting in this description, for example, either literally or by clear extension.)

Erather: God of the Pre-Raphaelites No, this is the ideal unity of art and craft promoted by Rossetti, Morris, & co.  Their movement was still in full cry in Tolkien's youth, and although I haven't seen any mention of his opinion of them, their philosophy seems quite compatible with his.

Penthe: Passion and well-fitting trousers No. Art & work always go together. Anyone who tells you otherwise is falling into the one of the traps of being pretentious, lazy, or plain ignorant. There is hard work in all arts (even those Aule isn't patron of), and there is creativity even in labour. But, yes, this link was important to Tolkien, I think. Dwarves, of course.

Beren IV: Dreams of Envy Why should he be dreaming? Why cannot one individual enjoy two very related skills?

NZ Strider: A quick thought or two... Where is the problem?  Think of Smith in "Smith of Wootton Major" -- he is both a talented craftsman and an excellent singer; he combines the craftsman's skilled hands with the artist's sensitivity to beauty.  Where is the conflict? 

     Think also of Owen Barfield's theory of "Original Semantic Unity" -- it may be relevant here...  "Artist" and "Artisan" share the same root, Latin "ars" -- which can mean both a technical skill as well as an aesthetic art.  And our word "poet" -- it comes from Greek "poiéO," "to make (any object)."  A "poķEma" is a object which has been made; amongst other things also a "poem." 

      So, by Barfield's theory, all of these things -- artisanship and artistry -- was originally conceived of as one single thing.  It is only we with our splintered language who see two things.

B. Why does Tolkien so stress the comparison between Aulė and Melkor? What was Melkor “jealous” of?

Luthien Rising: Because Melkor's craft is devoid of art and is no longer the full property of its maker; others make things for him. (This is factory work, not artisan work. And Tolkien wouldn't like this, but it is also alienated labour.)

Erather: Melkor desperately seeks to be creative.  Aulė appears to succeed, whereas Melkor seems only to be able to destroy.  That must be infuriating.

Penthe: Melkor, what a prat. Jealous of Aule having both creativity and satisfaction in his work? He got the girl?

Beren IV: Dwarves, maybe? :) I still think that Tolkien is having trouble reconciling the versions of the story.

NZ Strider: Why was Cain jealous of Abel?  Ilśvatar accepted Aulė's Dwarves and sent the Flame Imperishable into them to make them alive.  Melkor, meanwhile, went searching for the Flame Imperishable so that he too might make new things of his own -- but he never found it.  Of course he got jealous. 

C. Melkor here seems consumed by envy, although he like Aulė is a creative soul. Is it common for creators to “envy” the works of others, in your experience?

Erather: Unfortunately, yes.  I've spent a lot of my life with scientists, and somewhat less with artists.  Scientists seem to me much better able to respect and admire the work of their colleagues, whereas artists can be quite petty with each other.  Maybe it's the relative lack of grant money for art.

Linkinparkelf: Scientists vs artists I've had occasion to be both and work with both and I've seen pettiness in people in both fields; though I've experienced far greater empathy, kindness and creative joy amongst artists.

Beren IV: Speaking AS a scientist I've seen it both ways, and many scientists are artists as well.

I've seen bickering as well as collegueship.

Penthe: In my personal experience, yes. I am filled with the green-eyed monster. I am jealous of all of you when you make good posts! (not really, but a bit). But others, like Aule, just enjoy the creativity of others, and work to share it or create together.

Beren IV: Yes. 

D. If Aulė is God of the earth, why are tunnels and underground spaces so scary, in Tolkien’s works?

Luthien Rising: Melkor took them over. And they aren't earth, they are airspaces inside earth. So they're just sort of wrong.

Erather: I sometimes think Tolkien has mixed feelings about Aulė.  Craft is good, technology is dubious to bad, but the line separating them can be fuzzy.  But then, you could always resort to Freudian explanations, too.

Penthe: Melkor, Melkor, Melkor. What a pain in the...pants.

Beren IV: They're filled with the spawn of darkness.

Curious: Not all tunnels are scary.  Hobbits live in them, after all.  And so do dwarves.  It is Morgoth's taint that makes them scary. 

Images of Aulė

Here is a link to some images of Aulė. It’s a sparse lot, compared to the more “charismatic”, or should I say “aristocratic”, Gods we have seen so far.

E. What does it say that so few artists seem to respond to their own God, as Tolkien would have him be? Do artists know that Aulė the Smith is “their” God?

Luthien Rising: Maybe Aule will appear more when it isn't painters who are making art: Aule will appear adorning metal trays and pottery bowls and beaded bags.

Bigidiot: if these paintings are the best people can do to depict images of the gods of Middle Earth I sure hope noone tries to put the Sil into a film anytime soon.  I want to stress I'm not just saying the five here for Aule but all the pictures for the Valar.  I haven't seen one good painting to represent the majesty of Tolkien's vision.  Oh well.

Erather: Perhaps they're devotees of "pure art" and less respectful of all this craft stuff.

Penthe: He seems to me to be the patron of only particular arts. Dwarves reverence him (as they should), and the Noldor did too. However, sometimes the pupil needs to learn from the teacher and move on, rather than following and not achieving independence.

Beren IV: I have to agree that I don't want to see the Sil made a motion picture anytime soon, unless there are a lot of different Sil motion pictures with many different Sil interpretations.   

Piled Higher and Deeper

On first conceiving Aulė, Tolkien wrote a rich description in his opening chapter of The Book of Lost Tales. As with some others here, he radically pared it down in his Silmarillion until the Valaquenta was re-conceived.

F. What is purpose of the expanded passage in the Valaquenta?

Kimi: "tillage too and husbandry was his delight as much as tongues and alphabets, or broideries and painting."

The Aule of BoLT 1 has a much bigger job! And has much more in common with his spouse: a gardener matched with the guardian spirit of plants. His demesne also included textiles, which I don't associate the later Aule with.

I wonder why JRRT lessened Aule's reach, and (IMHO) created more tension between Aule and Yavanna.

Beren IV: Just more of the history... 

Extra Credit

G. When Aulė bends over at his forge, smithing some vast work, do his pants hang so low in back that he moons his apprentices? Does Aulė shower nearly as often as he should? Would you date Aulė?

Luthien Rising: Aulė has Perfect Pants, engineered to fit regardless of body position. And the Valar are always clean. And yes, I'd date him -- can you imagine the birthday presents?

Penthe: His supernatural bottom only shows above his trousers when he is fixing his V8 supercar. So his apprenctices should be safe from the sight for a few millenia. Dating? No.

Kimi: Oh, and about his trousers: Aule invented lycra in its purest form.

Beren IV: Does Aulė even have apprentices? And no, I would not date him. Luthien might, but I'm Beren. 

Discussion Guide and Full Text of the Valaquenta


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