[LMB] Re: LOTR, Modern Fantasy, and Chalion

Damien Sullivan phoenix at ugcs.caltech.edu
Mon, 31 Dec 2001 00:32:03 -0800


On Sun, Dec 30, 2001 at 11:59:57PM -0800, Marci DeLeon wrote:
> --- Tony Zbaraschuk <tonyz at eskimo.com> wrote:

> > There is regret for what was lost; there must be,
> > for beauty passed away, and tales no longer told, and
> > songs no longer sung.  But a new Age is dawning, and
> > new things with it...

Most literal example: the loss of the Two Trees of Valinor gave rise to
the Sun and the Moon.

> However, there still seems to be a sense of fatalism. 
> The idea that things are changing, yes, but also that
> they are changing for the worse.  The most people can
> do is make it less worse than it could be.  Even as

> just keep getting worse as time progresses.  The best
> things are the old things, or the things directly part
> of old things (the beauty of Lothlorien, the Numenor
> are much better than other "races" of Men, etc.)
 
Not all the old things are the best things.  Morgoth and Sauron are
older than the Elves, older than Middle-Earth itself.

Things changing for the worse... depends on what you're measuring.  If
you go by average sapient life expectancy, then yep, it's plummeting.
Hard to avoid that if you choose to populate your world with spirits and
elves but end up with the modern world, of course, no matter how you
spin things.  And a lot of skills have been lost from the First Age.

On the other hand, the direction of things for the Fourth Age is to get
better, for Men to breed and spread and fill up all that depressing
wilderness, to rebuild the kingdom of Arnor.  Cf. the regeneration of
the East after Smaug's death and the Battle of Five Armies, with new
Dale, new Esgaroth, new King under the Mountain, new trade[1], and Beorn
spawning or attracting a clan of his own.  With, later, Gimli's settling
of the virgin Glittering Caves.

I think a big thing to put against "things getting worse" is that that
hasn't been happening all by itself.  Someone's been exerting a lot of
effort to make things worse; by the end of the Third Age both major
Someones are dead or gone.  And even the 'good guys' had, historically,
Not Really Helpful -- selfishness and hoarding of the good things is a
common theme through the Silmarillion, with the actions of the bad guys
eventually resulting in the good things spreading.  Light is restricted
to the Trees in Valinor, and the Valar try to gather the Elves to their
little island in the West, rather than going out and educating them in
place.  Later the Edain get their own island of Numenor, from which to
sail east and play colonialist, leaving most of Middle-Earth in savage
darkness.

But out of Morgoth's destruction of the Trees come the Sun and Moon.
Out of the destruction of Numenor, somewhat induced by Sauron, come the
kingdoms of the Exiles, i.e. actual civilization in Middle-Earth itself.
And the destruction of Morgoth and Sauron means no more things like
Balrogs, dragons, orcs, mutant trolls, corrupting Rings of Power...

> -Marci, who is really into elves right now.  Anyone
> have any good books?

Whose elves?  What kind?  Tall, noble elves; tall, dangerously whimsical
elves; little flitlings?  Fantasy novels or fake non-fiction books?

[1] I realized something funny after re-reading The Hobbit.  The kingdom
of the old elf-friends, Gondor, doesn't have any elves nearer than
Lorien and hasn't even seen elves in a long time, and doesn't trust
them.  The Shire has High Elves passing through it on a regular basis,
although they tend to avoid notice, but it seems not too hard to go
catch them if you wanted to; most hobbits don't.  And of course dwarves
actually stop at the inns; dwarves aren't seen in Gondor either.  In the
meantime those lower orders of men on the Long Lake have regular traffic
with the elves of Mirkwood, who'll happily sit down to dinner with the
men after bringing back the barrels.

-xx- Damien X-)