Tuesday, July 20 Ė Some More Valar

12:00 AM The Valaquenta: OromŽ, God of the Hunt

OromŽ Ė The Text

ďOromŽ is a mighty lord. If he is less strong than Tulkas, he is more dreadful in anger; whereas Tulkas laughs ever, in sport or in war, and even in the face of Melkor he laughed in battles before the Elves were born. OromŽ loved the lands of Middle-earth, and he left them unwillingly and came last to Valinor; and often of old he passed back east over the mountains and returned with his host to the hills and the plains. He is a hunter of monsters and fell beasts, and he delights in horses and in hounds; and all trees he loves, for which reason he is called Aldaron, and by the Sindar Tauron, the Lord of Forests. Nahar is the name of his horse, white in the sun, and shining silver at night. The Valarůma is the name of his great horn, the sound of which is like the upgoing of the Sun in scarlet, or the sheer lightning cleaving the clouds. Above all the horns of his host it was heard in the woods that Yavanna brought forth in Valinor; for there OromŽ would train his folk and his beasts for the pursuit of the evil creatures of Melkor.Ē

OromŽ Ė Discussion

Curious: Was Orome present in Theoden and in Fingolfin, during there respective charges in LotR and The Silmarillion, when they were compared to him?I can't help feeling that he was, which opens a wide door to the Valar being involved in Middle-earth even though they are not present.Sauron did a similar trick with the Witch-king at the gates of Minas Tirith, and Morgoth did a similar trick with Glaurung vs. Turin.Ulmo did a similar trick with Tuor in Gondolin.The Valar do not have to visit Middle-earth to channel themselves through one of their faithful servants.Which means that although they no longer visit in person, they may have a far greater presence than most readers think.We should look for the Valar in the rest of The Silmarillion, even where they are not named.This chapter gives us the list of clues.

A. OromŽ is the God of the Hunt, a traditionally aristocratic role. What does this say about the Elvesí society in these tales?

Penthe: complementary couples in creation Elves see the Valar as an elite? They're not really your mucking in for a round of hearty drinking songs kind of mob, are they?

Beren IV: Hunting Elves Elves like to hunt? That we know - Thranduil takes his friends hunting. I tend to see Elves as semi-nomadic, and hunting is a big part of their lives. Lordship isn't necessarily the think to think of, here.

NZ Strider: Some quick thoughts... OromŽ's hunt puts me in mind of various legends of a spectral hunt, e.g. that by Wodin in Germanic legend.I like to think of him rounding up the wild kine (aurochs or whatever they were) on the great plains of RhŻn...

Is the hunt really so aristocratic?Can't it be a communal activity?I'm thinking more of smaller, tribal socities when the community would send out a party of men whose job it was, in coŲperation, to bring down game (say, an auroch) which a single man could not possibly hope to seize on his own.Can't it be that kind of a hunt?

Luthien Rising: (Posted before reading Penthe below ...) I'm not sure it says anything about aristocracy, because before the hunt was aristocratic it was necessary.

B. Ulmo and OromŽ both dislike being in the social center of the Valar, in Valinor, but prefer their own domains. Is this a meaningful parallel? Does anger have anything to do with it?

Penthe: Anger, and in Orome's case, grief. Lots of grieving going on here. Maybe an attachment to the less predictable and less perfect realms also suggests to us that these characters are less into doom and judgement and telling others what to do. Manwe and Mandos don't like surprises, but someone into hunting and fond of animals would seem to appreciate strands of being other than his own much more.

Beren IV: They're both wild nature-deities, one of the sea, one of the land. They're wild; they're not civilized, good as they may be.

NZ Strider: OromŽ is a little like Ulmo, but not quite.Both prefer not so much their own domains, but are unwilling to give up Middle-earth and the active fight against Melkor.Of course OromŽ does in the end.

Luthien Rising: I don't think they are away in similar ways. OromŽ seems to be trying to be near the Elves, no? That's quite different from Ulmo's restless solitariness.

 

Having heard of the ďtrumpets of ManwŽĒ (theyíre loud) and the ďgreat horns, the UlumķriĒ of Ulmo (theyíre unforgettable), now we cower before the great hunting horn Valarůma.

C. The hornís sound is described with visual imagesÖwhy doesnít Tolkien use similes of sounds? What natural force does it represent?

Penthe: This sound is bigger than sound. It creates a wall of sound that encompasses all other senses. This feeling over being overwhelmed by sound and light together is such a violent but beautiful way of describing something marvellous and strange.

Kimi: I love your answer to C! A sound bigger than sound. Marvellous!

Ataahua: Regarding being overwhelmed by sight and sound, I'm reminded of the time that my local rugby football team, Taranaki, defended the Ranfurly Shield at home.Think of the most parochial sports competition possible, with the most worth-shedding-blood-over trophy, and you get the idea.Also consider that it had been about 30 years since Taranaki had last held the shield.

I was standing on the sideline (so near the centre of the stadium) when the team ran onto the field and the roar of the crowd reach such an indescribable volume and pitch that I felt I was standing behind the engines of an international aircraft primed for takeoff.The noise actually got to such a point that my vision started to shudder - it had become sound that was bigger than sound, and was affecting more than just the aural senses.

Something similar for Orome's horn, perhaps?

Beren IV: Thunder, obviously!

NZ Strider: It is, as you say, striking that Tolkien uses a visual image to describe the sound -- but precisely that juxtaposition may have appealed to Tolkien.

VŠna Ė The Text

ďThe spouse of OromŽ is VŠna, the Ever-young; she is the younger sister of Yavanna. All flowers spring as she passes and open if she glances upon them; and all birds sing at her coming.Ē

VŠna Ė Discussion

D. What is VŠna the Goddess of? (I happen to know, because I have the Study Guide, that she is sort of the Goddess of Spring and Flowers. Is that clear to you?) In what way is she the ďyounger sisterĒ of Yavanna?

Beren IV: Beauty, what else? I don't know why your Study Guide doesn't catch on to that!

The sister thing is another one of those things where Tolkien hadn't finally worked out all the details to make everything internally consistent.

Luthien Rising: Yavanna's trees are "superior" or greater than VŠna's pretty but more transitory flowers and birdsongs.

E. Why is she married to OromŽ? Do their qualities complement each other?

Beren IV: The huntsman of nature, the beauty of nature... Do they not complement each other?

Luthien Rising: I think they are similar in that both are dependent on others' creations, especially Yavanna's forests.

F. VŠna never appears again in The Silmarillion. Why is VŠna here? What are we supposed to make of her?

Penthe: With regards to Vana, Tolkien seems to find it important that marriage is between equals who complement each other, rather than having a lot in common. Enough in common, but lots different too. Vana is the softer face of all of nature, not just plants, but not the face of hunting and eating and biting, either. Orome seems to have a lot to do with, say, the teeth and claws - Vana has more to do with Bambi.

Beren IV: I do not understand why these Goddesses need to appear in the Quenta Silmarillion to not be important. They never play a significant role in those tales, but they may be otherwise quite significant in other aspects. the Quenta Silmarillion is the Account of the Silmarils, and while it covers all the major events of the history of the Elves up until the War of Wrath, it's not the only tale they experienced.

Luthien Rising: She's another of the Valar whose characteristics don't lend to narrative action. Why is she here? I suspect simply to make the numbers right.

Pictures of OromŽ and VŠna

Here are the only images I could find. Just a few, but nice.

G. Re-read the description of him and his equipage, and tell me: does OromŽ seem a little ďrealisticĒ for the God of the Hunt, as two of these artists have rendered him? Is Ezpeleta completely whacked, or does she get it?

Beren IV: I think that Ezpeleta is closer than the other two, but there are some things that I envision differently.

NZ Strider: I have never understood how Ezpeleta's mind works.--I prefer the "realistic" images of the Valar; if OromŽ hunted with the Elves, then I imagine him doing so in a shape like unto theirs.I always imagine the Valar appearing not as frighteningly gigantic or unearthly figures, but rather in the manner of the Children of Ilķvatar so as not to frighten them and so as to interact with them in a form to which they have uncomplicated conceptual access.This is a fancy way of saying that the Valar appear to the children in the children's image; and there is good precedent for this procedure, of course.

Luthien Rising: I'm quite certain that if OromŽ didn't wear clothes Tolkien would have mentioned it. I imagine OromŽ as really rather Elf-like.

Piled Higher and Deeper

The Valaquenta has its roots in Tolkienís original sketches of his mythology back in the years after World War I, and he revised the material repeatedly over the years. Hereis a chart of the evolution of OromŽ and VŠna.

H. What changes do you see in Tolkienís conceptions of them?

Kimi: Orome was the son of Aule and Yavanna in the earliest (ahem) conception, so perhaps he inherited his tree-love from his mother. Then again, as he married Yavanna's "sister" in all the later versions, it's perhaps best not to explore the Yavanna-as-mother thread.

I notice that Orome is "cleaned up" in the published version to make it clear that he only hunts monsters and fell beasts, not cute little dear or (Eru forbid!) sentient foxes.

Beren IV: 1) OromŽ goes from being an especially important Maia to being one of the major Valar.

2) Vana is identified as the Goddess of beauty in the first version, but then that gets downplayed...

Extra credit

OromŽ loves the great forest trees. So does Yavanna, who made the immortal woods he roams in for months at a time. But OromŽ is married to little VŠna, Yavannaís younger sister, whoís into birdies and pretty flowers.

I. Where am I going with this?

Beren IV: Not sure, and not sure I want to know.

Luthien Rising: You really shouldn't make the students do your work for you :-)

But where you are going, in any case, is that he's too dependent on Yavanna to be her husband.

Discussion Guide and Full Text of the Valaquenta

               

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