is the relationship of Elvish death to Aman's existence and history?
What about dwarvish death?
the anthropology of Elves different than that of humans? Given a
difference, is it in any way important to Tolkien's mythology?
death a gift and/or a curse for human beings?
"reincarnation" the right term to describe Elvish rebirth?
is the relationship between Tolkien's Catholic beliefs and his
mythology in this area?
does his understanding(s) of death apply to other works, such as The
Silmarillion, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, or Smith
of Wooton Major?
important is to account for the potential perspectives of the
fictional authors of the various pieces?
do the essays' notions of death imply about the world, Eru, the
demonic and angelic, the eschaton, etc?
Laws and Customs
among the Eldar
and Customs (HoME
vol. 10) is meant to be a study of Elvish culture from an outsider's
perspective, likely human. It considers how the Valar came to the decision
to allow Finwë to marry after the death of Míriel. It looks at a
number of factors that would have likely entered into the decision,
including Elvish marriage, procreation, families, types of naming, gender
equality, work division, and Elvish anthropology.
represents an earlier version of Tolkien's ideas about Elvish
reincarnation, one in which the fëa
(approx. "soul") of a dead Elf may return from the Halls of
Mandos by being born anew. In later prose explorations, such as the Athrabeth
and "The Converse of Manwë and Eru" (HoME 10.361-366), Elves
may only be reincarnated by special permission of the Valar and that in a
reconstituted body (hrondo).
This process could assume that the Elvish soul has a powerful memory of
its bodily life and existence, but it more likely simply recognizes the
reconstitution by the Valar.
potential duality in Elvish anthropology raises the question as to whether
the body is simply superfluous or at least secondary. There is some hint
of this. The "unhoused" are those fëar
who refuse to go to the Halls of Mandos and/or Valinor. Elves also
experience fading over centuries as their bodies are worn down by the fire
of their fëar. Yet, overall, the
Elvish connection of soul and body is one of deep dependence.
One soul is intended for one body. The body is more than a shell;
it is deeply fitted to its fëa. Tolkien shifts in his presentation of Elvish reincarnation
precisely because the earlier view would undercut this stress. There is in
Elvish understanding the awareness that the person continues to exist even
after death and will always exist as long as Arda exists.
statute of Finwë and Míriel arises after a debate among the Valar
as to whether Finwë may marry even though Míriel continues to
exist. Their debate breaks down thusly:
Manwë--Principles of justice and healing must be kept in
mind. Death is unnatural. Since Arda is Marred, the work of justice is not
always the work of healing. What is just exists amidst a world that is
broken and can, while not desiring to add new evils, perpetuate present
evil. The work of healing, which operates out of suffering and patience,
must always keep in mind the end of Arda Restored
Aulë--Perhaps death is natural and the intent of Eru is to
bring creatures beyond Arda.
Ulmo--Death is an evil. Míriel's death is the result of
grief. The fault is in the creatures of Eru. To justify Míriel is
Yavanna--But the Shadow (of Melkor) works on Arda;
Míriel's death is part of that shadow.
Nienna--Justice needs pity; The Elves are weak, and
Míriel died out of that weakness. Eru did not give her power to
resist the suffering.
Vairë (Varda)-- Míriel is determined not to return.
Finwë is trapped, unable to follow his wife in death nor fulfill his
marital duties as a husband.
Manwë--There are two kinds of death--one intended for evil
by Melkor; the other intended for good by Eru. Likewise, there are two
Ardas Unmarred--the aspects of the unmarred that remain in this present
world and the expectation of Arda Healed.
Manwë fears that to allow Finwë to marry again is to continue the evil
of Míriel's death.
Mandos--The statute is just since while the better choice is
to wait, the Valar cannot violate the free will of the Children. Mandos
also prophecies the greatness of the descendants of Indris and Finwë.
is also summarized in "The Shibboleth of Fëanor" (HoME
Athrabeth Finrod ah
The debate of Finrod the Noldor and Andreth of the House of Bëor
is concerned with their differing takes on death and immortality, as well
as differing views of the causes of human fallenness. The debate also
considers the question of the eternal destiny of both races beyond Arda,
and it explores the relationship of Eru to his creation in its current
assume that death is part of normal human existence.
is a grief for humans; it is not what their original state was.
are we intended for?
intended for Arda, but now that it is Marred, they wear out quicker
than they would have.
were intended for life beyond Arda in an eternal state.
death a good end?
death would be a good end (meaning to leave Arda?) Elves may die.
has been imposed upon humans, and is not good.
this world our final destiny?
are bound to Arda. Existence beyond Arda is only speculation among
the some Elves.
are meant to exist beyond Arda.
our bodies part of the problem?
the fëa would eventually
abandon its home, but this is not the fault of the body.
The body is intended for its one dweller. It is not to be despised.
then, is the eternal state?
wonders if Eru's purpose for humans might be to have their fëaruplift their hröa to an eternal state.
purpose of humanity would, then, be to uplift and surpass the
present state for Elves as well.
there a place for hope where there is no certain knowledge?
designs for his Children are for their ultimate joy.
that Morgoth is the King of the World and that there is no hope.
is the answer to Arda Marred?
not Eru then have to enter his own tale, being both inside it and
outside it since he is the only one who may heal Arda completely? Is
of the Old Hope say that Eru himself will enter Arda and heal
Tale of Adanel" (HoME 10.345-350)
appendix to the Athrabeth, it
tells the story of a human fall to the deceptions of Morgoth. It is both
parallel to and divergent from the biblical Genesis account. The narrator
conjectures that this is an addition added during the
Númenórean Second Age, though it may be the product of genuine
Essays on Glorfindel (HoME 12.377-384)
two short, late essays form a good test case for the doctrine of Elvish
special sanctity in Lord of the
Rings is perhaps due to be one who has returned to Middle-Earth from
the Halls of Mandos. Glorfindel's state may have to do with being one who
even finally lived bodily among the Valar for a time before his return. (A
fëa's return to bodily
existence may also be delayed, even denied, if the elf was guilty of great
evil--the opposite of the case of Glorfindel.)
brief texts on Elvish reincarnation mentions in passing some ideas about
dwarvish reincarnation and later existence. Dwarves believe that the
spirits of the original Seven Fathers are reborn in kindred at various
(pp.146-147, 151-152)--Elves variously see human death as both a gift and
a grief, a doom to be pitied and an escape to be envied. Those Elves who
remain in Middle-Earth do so out of a desire for prestige and memory. They
fade over time, and their culture becomes "a kind of embalming."
defense of Elvish reincarnation as an authentic expression of
sub-creation. Tolkien sees it as a mode of existence for certain kinds of
"rational incarnate creatures." He sees Elves as a certain kind
of human existence explored imaginatively.
Elvish temptation is to put the world on hold and to be "burdened
with Memory." "[T]he hideous peril of confusing true
'immortality' with limitless serial longevity. Freedom from Time, and
clinging to Time."
out the view that death is the Gift of God to men is an Elvish perspective
and not a denial of the Christian view that death is a result of sin and
human rebellion as the Fall. Tolkien stresses that even divine punishment
can be also a divine gift since its ultimate end is for a restoration of
the good God intended originally. Likewise, Tolkien understands that the
Silmarillion myth locates the entrance of death into creation at a
different point than typical Christian belief. Death enters the world
before the creation of Elves and men. Tolkien also explores the notion
that a good man can choose to die before being forced to do so (e.g.
Aragorn) and compares this to teaching on the Assumption of Mary.