The Speculative Discussion Archive

This section of The Tolkien Encyclopedia is set aside for the intelligent yet informal exchange of viewpoints, thoughts, ideas, and questions concerning Tolkien's literary work. As the discussion archive grows, it will be interlinked to easily follow the threads of an idea or topic.

This archive is not meant to be a newsgroup. The content of the messages sent for this section should be focused on the active discussion of suggested topics or topics of a similar sort. Comments need not be restricted to the list of suggested topics in the syntopicon, although this is a good place to find points of departure.

Jack Lang

Influence of the Valar

Date: Thu, Nov 30, 1995

Dear Mr. Hicklin,

My guiding principle for determining a "topic" for the Syntopicon is to ask the question: "How does Tolkien express his idea of X in his literary work?" where X is an idea or concept of the primary world, e.g. X = good, evil, free will, immortality etc.

Perhaps we could discuss the ideas underlying Tolkien's use of the invocation of the Valar in his text. Do you think that the influence of the Valar on the events of Middle-earth would be Tolkien's way of dealing with the idea of determinism, chance, God, fate?

Jack Lang

Dear Mr. Lang:

This is, essentially, what I had in mind. Specific instances in the texts are not common: I can recall "May the Valar turn him [the Mumak] aside!" and perhaps a couple of other occasions in the LR. The Silmarillion has others, but in a somewhat different mode. But since the broader metapyhysical issues you mention are of considerable interest to me, and I think others, a concordance of all known references to divine or angelic intervention would be a useful tool in analyzing them.

I suspect that Tolkien's cryptic references to chance "as we call it" refer in the main to direct interventions by God; on the other hand, I suspect that the Valar often served as intercessors. Was the Hymn to Elbereth a prayer? I don't know, but it's worth finding out. It does seem to be the case that the Valar's direct influence was rather more "physical" than supernatural, as the despatch of the Istari would seem to indicate. But perhaps not; or perhaps the Change of the World altered things.

In any event, I believe that a topic on divine/angelic invocation and intervention would be of great utility, especially if closely linked to a topic on chance and fate.

Very truly yours,
Bill Hicklin

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