Wednesday, July 21 – What are the Valar?

6:00 PM The Valaquenta: The Valar in The Silmarillion

The Valar as a Pantheon – The Text

To repeat again: “These are the names of the Valar and the Valier, and here is told in brief their likenesses, such as the Eldar beheld them in Aman. But fair and noble as were the forms in which they were manifest to the Children of Ilúvatar, they were but a veil upon their beauty and their power. And if little is here said of all that the Eldar once knew, that is as nothing compared with their true being, which goes back into regions and ages far beyond our thought. Among them Nine were of chief power and reverence; but one is removed from their number, and Eight remain, the Aratar, the High Ones of Arda: Manwë and Varda, Ulmo, Yavanna and Aulë, Mandos, Nienna, and Oromë. Though Manwë is their King and holds their allegiance under Eru, in majesty they are peers, surpassing beyond compare all others, whether of the Valar and the Maiar, or of any other order that Ilúvatar has sent into Eä.”

The Valar and The Silmarillion

A. Where do the Valar fit into The Silmarillion? Do the Elves truly meet and know the Valar? How much do the Valar directly affect the Elves’ lives? Would the Silmarillion work as a narrative if the Elves and Valar never directly met?

Varda Elentari: Obviously the Valar represent Tolkien's attempt to create some sort of legitimate history and mythology to be the foundation of his world.  But I think it was something that he didn't really follow through with completely.  Aside from having created this and that or being responsible for this and that, the Valar seem essentially unnecessary and very distanced from all that goes on in Middle Earth.  I don't feel that they fit at all into Tolkien's later works, aside from an odd reference. Like you asked, I occasionally wonder why Tolkien neglected to include the Valar in his other books, and even in the majority of the Sil. Did he want to keep his stories from resembling mythology?  Maybe he just got lazy?  I can never really figure it out, because when I read his writing I see a lot of potential for the inclusion of the Valar in various places.  So where are they?

Beren IV: The Valar are important I think the Valar need to be there. Melkor is a Vala, and the futility of the War of the Elves against him is really only made obvious when one stops to consider that these are beings really only one step above mortals trying to fight a God. Of course, legenary heroes (Fingolfin, Beren, Lùthien) can do things to said God, but they can't vanquish him. In order for good to triumph in the end, the Valar have to act, even if they act indirectly.

Perhaps from reading earlier versions of the Sil, I generally envision that while Fionwë may have been the standard-bearer, the Valar were right behind him, and they took the gloves off when it actually came to fighting Melkor himself.

B. Where do the Valar fit into Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit? Are they necessary or helpful in appreciating these later works?

Beren IV: They help a great deal, since it is now possible to envision where all of these wonderful creatures come from, as well as give some explanation of why "magic" (broad definition) works the way that it does, and for whom. In The Hobbit, they're less necessary, but in LotR, there are things that the Valar have to be there in the distance for, and some things (all those little coincidences involving the Ring) in which even Illùvitar needs to be invoked.

Entwife Wandlimb: the distancing of Eru I think the Valar impose distance between the peoples of ME and Eru.  Instead of Eru caring for man so much that he comes down to be one of them, we have the Valar.  Instead of Eru dressing the lilies of the field in their splendor, we have Yavanna.  Instead of Eru mourning and crying in sympathy for his creations, we have Nienna.  Instead of Eru writing down everything in his book, we have Vairë.  Instead of Eru healing our bodies and souls, we have Estë.  Istead of -- well, you get my point.

I think I’ve always been a little frustrated by the distance of Eru in LotR and now I think I know why.

          Celeborn’s Mirror: delightful, and love your footer

Aragonvaar: Actually... Tolkien in one of his spinoff texts (intended as part of Silm; not published as such) deals w/ a philosophical debate between a human wisewoman and one of Galadriel's brothers (he's one of the "Fin-"s that make n00bs and Silm. nonfinishers scream in pain, so I'm not naming him ;).  The debate leads ultimately to the idea that the world can never be put right (or start to be put right) until Eru enters it Himself (heavy-handed foreshadowing of the Incarnation).  This about blows the Elf's mind, btw :)

So the distance is intended as a factor of this being an "Old Testament" era world populated by very pious and well-meaning pagans; rather than by the idea that Eru is "emotionally" distant from Arda.

Entwife Wandlimb: "very pious and well-meaning pagans" Thanks for the spin-off recap, and for sparing me another screaming session (it begins to grate on my family). ;-)

this being an "Old Testament" era world populated by very pious and well-meaning pagans

Is this how you would characterize all of the heroic characters of LotR?  What comes to mind is Denethor's comment that "we will burn like pagan kings of old" (or something like that).  I wouldn't think Tolkien would describe Frodo or Aragorn as pagan.

Aragonvaar: In this context... using "pagan" as a shorthand for "not member of the chosen people."  The Old Testament features non-Jews who accept Yahweh, but that doesn't make them members of the Chosen people.

Entwife Wandlimb: Ah, "gentiles" -- now I follow you.  Thanks.

Aragonvaar: Yeah, meant gentiles.  Brain fart, sorry :)

Curious: The Valar are everywhere and nowhere. Many readers have noted Tolkien's tendency to repeat certain themes in LotR that originated in The Silmarillion.  Shelob is a lesser Ungoliant, Sauron a lesser Morgoth, Galadriel a lesser Melian, who in turn is a lesser Varda or possibly a lesser Este, the lady in Valinor's garden of Lorien.  Lotholorien is a reflection of Doriath in Beleriand and Lorien in Valinor.  Gandalf is Manwe's steward, but also reflects Nienna's pity.  The White Tree in Minas Tirith comes from a long line of White Trees based on the original in Valinor, of which the Moon is a fruit.  Aragorn is a tall throwback to the Sea-kings of old, i.e. Elendil, who himself was a tall throwback to the heroes of the First Age, Earendil and Tuor and Beren.  I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

In the past I have talked about Tolkien borrowing from his own unpublished works, as if it were an excusable form of plagiarism, but I now believe Tolkien did not do this because of a lack of imagination, but as part of a deliberate theme that everything in the Third Age is a reflection of similar things in the Second Age, which in turn reflect the First Age, which in turn reflect the ages before the Sun, which in turn reflect the age before Valinor, which in turn reflect the age before the toppling of the lamps, which in turn reflect the age before Eru said "Ea."  Each age is a reflection of the age before, and there is nothing in the present which cannot be traced back into history, right back to the beginning of time and even before time.  We see this in the theme of light, starting with Eru's light in the darkness of the Void, then the two lamps, then the two trees, then the Silmarils, then Earendil's star and the Sun and Moon, then the vial of Galadriel.  Each light is a piece of a far older light, each lamp a smaller version of a far older lamp.  That light can also be seen in faces; elf-friends have a spark in their eyes, High Elves have the glow of Valinor in their faces, Varda's face reflect the light of Eru Himself. 

Tolkien quite deliberately repeats himself, because this is one way in which the Valar appear in Middle-earth; we see their likenesses in various heroes and, in the case of Morgoth, in various villains and monsters.  That is not just coincidence.  I believe the Valar channel themselves through their willing servants.  But the Valar do not just appear in the faces of heroes and heroines, they also appear in nature, in wind and water and stars and trees.  Again, they are everywhere and nowhere; those who look for them see them everywhere, but the story still makes sense to those who have never read The Silmarillion and don't know what to look for.

Luthien Rising: I really like this--- One of the interesting things it does is suggest a cyclical history working inside a (putatively) end-directed history. I wonder, though, how Tolkien would have seen the lessening of each cycle over time. Certainly he suggested in one place (I think it was in one of his letters?) that each age becomes shorter as we move toward the present, but do the heroes continue to diminish -- and the evils too?

Curious: The evils become more boring. The evils of the Robot Age, as Tolkien called it in "On Fairy-stories," are just as horrible as dragons -- but far less beautiful and magical. 

Still, beauty and magic, both the good and evil kind, do survive, although they become harder to find.  Perhaps they survive only in our thoughts, as we dream of elves and balrogs, or as Jackson films them for us.  Or perhaps they survive in our souls.  Perhaps they survive in the depths of the ocean, or in the vast depths of space, which can be both beautiful and terrible.  One day all of Earth may become part of one vast suburb, with all the mundane good and evil found in a suburb.  But we are still a very small speck in the universe.

C. Why do some of the Gods, and especially the Goddesses, never really appear again in the books that Tolkien wrote, especially The Silmarillion that the Valaquenta introduces?

Beren IV: Tolkien's work in progress needs some revision.

D. The Elves are creations of Ilúvatar himself. The Valar had no part in their making, and are drawn to Arda by their curiosity and love for these people who are to inhabit the world they have made. Are the Valar "playing" at being Elves by wearing their bodies and mimicking their ways of life: feasting, living in halls, etc.?

Beren IV: Well, I suppose they are, but the Valar are doing things other than just playing Elves. They're still making the world, and continuing to make it. Every flood washes sediment down to the beach. Every earthquake piles the mountains higher.

E. “…any other order that Ilúvatar has sent into Eä.” Huh? What other orders? Any thoughts on this one?

Curious: And yes, the reference to "any other order" is the last remnant of spirits other than the Valar and Maiar.  Some have seen it as a clue to Bombadil's nature, although I tend to agree with you that in the latest version all the miscellaneous spirits are Maiar, which would mean that Bombadil is also a Maia. [this post taken from previous thread, as it seems to address this question]

Beren IV: This seems to imply that there are other beings in Eä besides the Elves, Men, Valar, Maiar, and those things made by the Valar and Maiar. I can think of a number of other spirits that may be none of those (e.g. Ungoliant, Tom Bombadil), but then, they could also just be an odd type of Maia.

Piled Higher and Deeper

Plato argued that the elite of his ideal Republic should not be taught the mythological stories of the Homeric/Greek pantheon, because the gods were flawed, showing tendencies to both good and evil. He concluded that a true God can only be perfect, and once all the gods are perfect, distinctions between them become meaningless. Some commentators use this argument to state that any sufficiently intellectual theology forbids polytheism.

F. How does this argument apply to the rather intellectual, or at least literary, polytheistic theology of The Silmarillion?

Pukel-Man: F: Perfect gods I think Tolkien's 'pantheon' is a poetic creation rather than a truly theological one.  The descriptions of the Valar as 'middle management' in Eru's grand scheme leave me cold.  Are they gods?  I don't think so.  There is no need for them to be perfect because they are not the highest power; they are victims of Eru's hidden agenda just as much as any Elf or Man.  Ultimately I think the Valar are Tolkien's exercise in polytheistic character creation; full of colour and beauty but ultimately not meaningful in any theological sense.  The contrived Manwe-Eru relationship is, I judge, simply a justification for the existence of a 'Zeus' in a Christian man's fantasy world.  I have to say, though I admire and respect the synthesis of poly- and mono-theism that Tolkien achieved, the Valar represent some of the least interesting and engaging aspects of his legendarium.  Lacking the dynamic capriciousness (and thus the story potential) of Greek or Norse gods, and diluting the awe that might otherwise be ascribed to a single deity, the Valar seem to fall between two stools.  I'm not entirely sure they work, really; the only one that's ever really intrigued me is Tulkas, and I think that's because he seems the most accessible of them.

Curious: But they are everywhere in LotR, if you know where to look, and trust what you see.  Manwe in the wind and eagles, Varda in the light, Ulmo in the water, Orome in Theoden's charge, Nienna in Gandalf's pity, plus Maiar and other spirits everywhere.  LotR is a pantheistic world, with a spirit associated with every rock and stream and hill, and the Valar behind every shift in the wind and beam of sunlight.

Penthe: Yes, the work resonates with them. I couldn't agree more. Their characters (as evidenced by the actions they take, and relationships they form) might be absent, but the flavour of them is everywhere. They are, oddly, quite local too, given their actual absence from Middle Earth. You can feel Manwe and Ulmo at Henneth Annun, you can feel Ulmo all the way down the Anduin, and even in the pleasure that the various Hobbits feel when finding water (or bathing their feet in it).

I didn't miss the Valar in LOTR before I read the Sil, but now I find them everywhere in it. And Nienna touches everything with her selfless sorrow. Everything!

However, I do see where Pukel-man and Varda Elentari are coming from. I adored the Norse stories when I was a kid, because the Gods pretty much acted like kids do. I mean, letting everyone chuck spears at you because you are invincible? So playground.

Lottelita: "Any sufficiently intellectual theology forbids polytheism." Excuse my while my eyes roll right out of my head.  Three cheers for asserting our superiority over those primitive pagans by calling then insufficiently intellectual!

I think the sum of the Valar/Eru pantheon is "perfection" in the Socratic sense.  They are perfectly good and perfectly wise.  This certainly cannot be said of other pantheons, who neither had complete knowledge of the world nor completely (or even slightly) benevolent intentions towards it.  This is another instance in which Tolkien pretends to offer a pantheon as a nod to ancient tradition, but instead infuses his pantheon with monotheistic, Christian philosophy.  Brilliant, imho.

An seileachan: why the Valar are more like angels than gods... I think the sum of the Valar/Eru pantheon is "perfection" in the Socratic sense.  They are perfectly good and perfectly wise.  This certainly cannot be said of other pantheons, who neither had complete knowledge of the world nor completely (or even slightly) benevolent intentions towards it

OK, I'm no scholar, but it appears to me that the ancient real (if you will) pantheons of say, Greece, were simply ways humans tried to explain the powers at work in the world. That's why the gods are capricious, so often, and good and strong but also weak and petty. They are like all natural forces in the world, and ancient people could recognize that forces work both in regularity and in apparent chaos, and sometimes, at the same time! So the gods they made up to be in charge of these things, were multifaceted.

But angels, angels (while they can be fallen) are our guardians, not the powers behind the natural powers of the world.

Tolkiens gods (the Valar) are poetic, and he certainly covered all the traditional areas thought to be controlled by gods (elemental forces, nature, death, sleep/dreams, etc). But they were made BACKWARDS: they are poetic inspirations for which he then fills in the details, not gods made up by real people observing the forces at work in the real world and giving these characteristics to their gods. That is why, in my opinion, they seem sort of, well, contrived.

my thoughts only, and remember, my major was nursing, not fine arts or theology!


Penthe: Hey, Lotte, the English keep telling us you .... Americans don't understand irony!You're spoiling my cheap, ignorant nationalistic stereotypes!

Lottelita: Irony? Isn't that something Alanis Morissette made up for one of her songs?

                      N.E. Brigand: Yeah, it's a Canadian thing.  

NZ Strider: *chuckles*  Hmmm...  Can't resist stirring the pot... Be it noted that Monotheism generally (always?) postdates Polytheism; and tends to be a development from the latter.  And a degree of intellectual sophistication brings about the development: cf. e.g. Zorastrianism; or even Judaism in which, to give it a fancy name, Henotheism developed into Monotheism through the systematic application of intellectual rigour.  In Platonic philosophy (as well as in those systems derived from it) the essentially monotheistic theology propounded is a purely intellectual product which perhaps for precisely this reason never caught on beyond the sheltered groves of the Academy. 

So, there's my contribution to controversy!  Have at!  ;-)

Annael: and how would you say mysticism, or the esoteric approach, fits in? As one person puts it, ". . . the basis or foundation of all religions is the same.  There is a basic esoteric truth usually lived and taught by one man during his lifetime.  Frequently his students and successors take this basic wisdom and make a religion out of it. The general rule is that the maintenance of social, political and economic hierarchies and bureaucracies become more important than the original truths, and the world acquires another exoteric religion."

But every exoteric religion then develops a mystical branch: the Sufis for Islam, the Kabbalists for Judaism, the Zen Buddhists, the gnostic Christians. Is this a chicken-and-egg question?

Squire: Could anyone define 'henotheism' please I mean, I could look it up. But it is getting thrown around here rather casually, so I'd like to hear from someone here who's using it like it means something.

Stanislaus Bocian: Henotheism Oxford English Dictionary henotheism

The belief in one god as the deity of the individual, family, or tribe, without asserting that he is the only God: considered as a stage of religious belief between polytheism and monotheism. See quotes. So "henotheist, one who worships according to henotheism. henothe"istic a.

Annael: I like the definition "professing a monotheistic belief while essentially practicing polytheism."

Lottelita: I had it explained to me as "belief in many gods, but worship of only one."

NZ Strider: Just to add, the traditional explanation of why a people might opt for Henotheism is this: a people agrees to worship (at least officially: cf. Joshua's speech on the occasion of the Parliament at Shechem: Josh. XXIV) one single god from whom it then expects, as a quid pro quo, to receive increased and potentially exclusive aid.  I.e. we worship only you; you help only us.  The implied bet is that constant and exclusive support from one god will be better than the mutable support of many gods who all have many peoples to look after.

Pukel-man: Playing the divine stock market . . . I can't help but feel religion was more fun in the old days; sort of like picking a football team.

Lottelita: Was it intellectual rigor, or increasing self-importance that led the Hebrews to change their patron deity, one among a council of gods, into the creator of the universe and the sole existent God? 

If you go in for the Documentary Hypothesis (which I do, in one form or another), then you accept the idea that the Hebrew Bible was written by lots of different people, each with his own agenda, writing in and for his own time.  Later, the collection of texts was edited together in order to suggest that they're all part of a continuous, consistent narrative, a narrative in which God is not only the patron deity of the Hebrews, he's the creator of the universe and then *at least* the most powerful God.  From there, it's a very short trip to claiming that our God is the only god, perhaps because, as one Psalm suggests, he killed the weaker ones off. 

So why the move?  Was it increasing intellectualism?  Or was it social pressure -- in which Judah was jockeying for power in the region, and wanted to set themselves apart from and *above* the neighboring kingdoms?  What's a better way to solidify national resolve in the face of marauding Assyrians than to say, "Hey, their gods are crap!  Ours is the best -- maybe the only real one!"

That, anyway, would be the Documentary Hypothesis-based rebuttle to your suggestion that monotheism was the product of an advance in intellectualism.  But you know those anthropologists -- always trying to place everything in its sociopolitical context.  ;-)

NZ Strider: Oooh!  I stirred something up!  ;-) Hmmm...  What increasing self-importance, and in which region? 

The old Documentary Hypothesis (J, E, P, & D), by the way, is in tatters these days; sure, there are a couple diehard believers left, and textbooks always lag behind, but "J" and "E" don't exist these days; and a few have even doubted the existence of "P" (I still believe in "P" for what it's worth), while "D" surely got a lot of editing in its turn as well. 

But the question really does arise, when did the leap to monotheism take place; and some these days would actually put it in the period of the Babylonian Exile (granted, with a bit of good henotheistic work done by Josiah as preparation) when the texts were thoroughly edited, but when the Judahites lay in a state of near complete powerlessness -- i.e. when they had no importance whatsoever. 

During this period scholars like Ezekiel subjected much of the Israelites' traditions to systematic review; and "P" (at least in vocabulary, style, and precept, if not with absolute certainty in date) stands close to Ezekiel (though it could be a century or so later).  "P", at any rate, is definitely the late product of a full-scale review of the Israelites' religion -- an impressive piece of intellectual rigour: the near-Linnean systematisation of sacrifice in Leviticus; the injection of the latest scientific (yes!) concepts into a creation story which then proceeds in an orderly step-by-step fashion according to the seven-day week; the architectural design of the Tabernacle -- all very impressive!  And it's here, in this intellectual climate, that monotheism is established. 

So, is monotheism in this particular case far more an intellectual reaction to political powerlessness in a time of statelessness?  I.e. an intellectually inspired theological clawing back of what had been lost politically as a people's priests put forth all their intellectual power to produce a means with which to lead that people out of a state of utter helplessness?

Spoiler Message: 

"I'm enjoying this; but we probably shouldn't carry this too much farther lest we get way off-topic.  Respond if you want to -- and you can have the last word!  ;-)"

Lottelita: Tatters, shmatters. I suppose it depends on how you define "documentary hypothesis."  Given that most observant Judeo-Christains would have their minds blown by the idea that it wasn't dear old Moses behind the Pentateuch, I'd say the respective cohesions of J and E, or the timing of D, is small potatoes.  I know my favorite religion professor is one who puts redaction in the Exilic period, though I never did get to hear his full spiel on why.

I don't mind the Exilic timing at all, because that sociopolitical explanation is every bit as plausible as the Josaian one.  What I was objecting to was your assertion that monotheism arose as a result of a people growing more intellectually sophisticated, as though there's something more complex and clever about monotheism, as if you'd have to be brainier to come up with the idea.  I've been so brainwashed by my culturally-relativistic college education that I am appalled -- absolutely APPALLED! -- at such assertions.  Flabbergasted!  Shocked!  Flummoxed, I say!

Aragonvaar: That would depend on your definition of "behind", I suppose. My impression is that only the hardest of fundamentalist hardcores (or simple believers who have a perfectly valid desire to not intellectualize everything) would oppose, say, the idea that the Pentateuch has its roots in Moses's teachings and era, but was committed to papyrus, w/ editorizing, sometime later.

Aragonvaar: BTW, if you're going to half-jokingly accuse NZS of condenscension by implication... You might be more convincing about it if you didn't toss around patronizing remarks about "dear old Moses" and the people who take him seriously as an author ;)

Pot.  Kettle.

Lottelita: Touche! If I ever claim not to be a patronizing jerk, everyone has full rights to smack me around.  Apologies.

Aragonvaar: Heh.  That's what i like about you :) Quick to see what the party's getting at :)

No harm done, I just thought I'd rib about it a bit.

Squire: I love it when you guys talk dirty like this! 

Beren IV: Are the Valar perfect? Honestly, I don't think they are. Some of the Valar - Manwë and Nàmo in particular - could be argued to be a little too stringently "to the letter" about some of Illùvitar's laws. Melkor of course is supposed to be defiant, but anybody living in Arda would probably say that he's *too* defiant!

Extra Credit

Disney commissioned Gerald Scarfe to conceptualize its Hercules cartoon, but in production they radically simplified, or “Disneyfied” (some would say BUTCHERED) Scarfe’s acid vision.

Entwife Wandlimb: Wow!  Amazing to see the concept illustrations.  I do think Hera was butchered, and Hades lessened.  Thanks for the pics!

Aragonvaar: Re: Hades: can't agree... Scarfe's is a preproduction design, whereas the final version is designed to harmonize w/ James Wood's brilliantly slimy, satirical vocal performance in the role.  Slap a voice track under the Disney Hades, choose a still that shows off his teeth to more advantage, and I assure you, you WILL find him the equal in menace, and the superior in wit, of Scarfe's version :D

That's the real danger of an animated Silm: a flashy but inappropriate voice performer totally derailing the project.

Squire: I loved James Woods' performance But what appeals to me about Scarfe's drawings is their very flatness. He is pure line. To have honored his lines, they would have had to have the film stay flat to the screen, in a very stylized way that I think would have been fantastic, and hugely creative.

In such a style, the voice performance would have been more isolated from the drawings, but that does not mean Woods could not have created the same character.

Lottlita: I assume, also, that the flatness of the conceptual designs was meant as a nod to the artwork of the time.

G. Which illustrator or cartoonist would you base an animated Silmarillion movie on (post or link to an example of their work if you can)? How would you feel about your illustrator being Disneyfied?

Lottelita: With that [Scarfe’s flatness as period reference, previous question] in mind, what style of art would be appropriate for the Sil?  From what culture does it draw most heavily?

Curious: Tolkien liked Pauline Baynes.

Entwife Wandlimb: a couple of links from amazon and a ? Here's a couple of covers he did for Tolkien's works:

Bilbo's Last Song

Farmer Giles of Ham

He was also the illustrator for the Narnia books I grew up with.

 (I don't really care for his style, myself, but I like some more than others.)

I had never heard of "Bilbo's Last Song."  Anyone familiar with it?

N.E. Brigand: Isn't PB a "she?" "Pauline?"

Most of her drawings for Giles and Smith of Wootton Major are black-and-white line drawings.  It would be fascinating to see an animated film in that style, although I'm not sure it's appropriate for the more serious material in The Silmarillion.

Tolkien gave "Bilbo's Last Song" to his secretary around 1970, I think.  Published some time later.  Just one poem, I believe.

Incidentally, if anyone is thinking of purchasing Farmer Giles of Ham, you may find the 50th anniversary edition, to which Wanda has linked, to be a worthwhile purchase.  It's like a smaller-scale version of The Annotated Hobbit, with copious explanatory notes, a new map by Pauline Baynes, an earlier and notably different draft version of Giles, and the text of an early-abandoned sequel.

Squire: Wow. And I was just going to work from my faithful "Tolkien Reader" edition from the 1960s B.C.

As a discussion leader for Giles next month, can I ignore this one? "notably different draft", you say? Map? hmmmm.... it's a toughie.

What do the folks at home say? Straight Farmer Giles discussion from the canonical text only -- or bells and whistles out the wazoo?

N.E. Brigand: Are *you* capable... of leading a non-bells and whistles discussion?

Here's a little more about this edition, to help you decide.

The biggest difference in the earlier Giles draft, IIRC, is that it's more of a straight children's tale without the pretense of being a found bit of mock-history.  The basic plot is the same.  (No rope at the Parson's suggestion and no Twelve Likely Lads, I think.)

The map is a nicety, especially for those of us who don't know Oxford and thereabouts.  It's not very detailed and includes only the places mentioned in the text, which casual readers might not realize are real locales.  Of course, Tolkien didn't think a map was necessary.

The sequel is very abortive (much shorter than say, The Return of the Shadow) with a few hints as to how it might have developed.

The notes are nice but less copious than those in The Annotated Hobbit.  Because the anniversary edition uses a facsimile of the original book, the notes are not inserted in the text but referred to by page in an appendix.

There is the added cost, but perhaps the book can be found in local libraries?

Kimi: I've got the 50th anniversary edition, but my discussion will be plainsong to your opera. Actually, it'll be nursery rhyme in comparison to this week's.

I think you'll be fine with the plain text.

NZ Strider: If you do buy it, the really nice thing about it are the sweet illustrations by Pauline Baynes.  Without them, I wouldn't have picked the book up. 

Still, I think that you'll do just fine leading the discussion on the basis of the final text (which is a vast improvement on the initial draft anyway).  And the projected sequel never got beyond two or three pages...

But, just for you, some bells and whistles:

Squire: Thanks, NZ!  *ding-dong, toot-toot!!*

Entwife Wandlimb: lead or peanut butter? Or do you mean Pauline?  Ah, yes, most likely a she.

Clearly, that 3 hour meeting I attended on Tuesday on what book of the Bible to study this fall was way too long (it was suggested that we avoid a Pauline book).

Hmm.  Maybe I'll make a PB&J now, after adding the Annotated Hobbit to my wish list.  (Not sure about the Annotated FGoH.  It's been a while since I've read it.  I do look forward to the discussion of that one.)

N.E. Brigand: Pork-bellies. About two years ago, on Jeopardy's all-time champions "Million Dollar Masters" tournament, one of the contestants, Bob Harris, trying to answer (or question) what PB meant in the stock-market world, guessed "lead."

Lottlita: The FGoH drawing is lovely! Almost like a medieval woodcut.  I'm not sure I'd choose that for the Sil, though ... seems to earthy.

Curious: Bilbo's Last Song is lovely. It is an excuse for extensive illustrations -- the song itself is short, and easily found on the internet.  But Baynes uses the book to illustrate both "The Grey Havens" from LotR and the entire story of The Hobbit.  Her illustrations for Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham are delightful, but her illustrations for Bilbo's Last Song are far more extensive.

She is probably better known as the illustrator for the entire Narnia series -- Tolkien recommended her to Lewis.  I think Tolkien liked her because the illustrations were vaguely medieval in character.

Kimi: Yes, I'm very fond of it. It has a lovely wistful quality, and the illustrations are delightful.

At the funeral of NZ sailor Sir Peter Blake (killed at a tragically young age), his daughter read this poem. There was not a dry eye in the house.

Erather: Not sure she'd be right for the Sil. Her illustrations for SoWM and FGoH are delightful, but their lightheartedness goes well with those little fables.  Sil is about 3 stages more serious, and needs something a little more heroic, IMO.  I'd lean toward John Howe, myself.

Squire: Howe is great, but doesn't do character Neither does Alan Lee. That's why they were so good for the film: they do great 'environment', giving the actors the proper background.

Let's face it, Tolkien doesn't do 'character' so well either, which is why, in my opinion, most Tolkien illustrators focus on place or action rather than people.

I used Scarfe as a leading example in my question because he is a caricaturist -- I like the Valar illustrations that I found, where the Vala is characterized strongly, even extremely. That's why I respond to Ezpeleta or Govar rather than Janin, for instance, as much as I admire Janin's talent as an artist, and disagree with Ezpeleta's taste.

I think an animated Silmarillion would demand a strong graphic style, rather than illustrated 'realism', because you're going nowhere showing the Valar as 'realistic' beings.

I agree that Baynes is a little too twee to pull off the Silmarillion, but I think she at least shows us the proper direction. John Howe goes in the opposite direction, and I think it is the wrong direction for this problem.

H. Who would voice the Valar in your Disney or Dreamworks-quality commercial cartoon movie? You have to say what characteristic of each Vala or Valie inspires your choices. Is this an easier problem than the earlier one of casting for a live-action film?

Beren IV: Not familiar enough with Disney and their animated productions to answer these. I would be more comfortable with having the Valar be animated somehow than be physically played by actors, though, if there were to be made a movie.

Discussion Guide and Full Text of the Valaquenta


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