‘Out of the Great Sea…’, J.R.R. Tolkien

Out of the Great Sea to Middle-earth I am come. In this place will I abide, and my heirs, unto the ending of the world.

For some reason, when watching Return of the King today, this quote struck me as very beautiful. These are the original words in Elvish (I couldn’t really remember whether it is Quenya or Sindarin although I would bet on Quenya):

Et Eärello Endorenna utúlien. Sinome maruvan ar Hildinyar tenn’ Ambar-metta!

For the context, if people familiar with the general Middle-Earth lore can use a reminder, it is supposedly what Elendil said when he landed in Middle Earth after the Downfall of Númenor; and these words were again uttered by Aragorn upon his coronation in Minas Tirith (which is where the Return of the King brings them in). In that movie version, they are sung to a beautiful tune by the character in a very mind-lifting way. I am sure that it is quite how Peter Jackson intended.

However, what strikes me there is not just the tune and the setting and the words, but the meaning that they can carry outside of that lore. Why, isn’t it the same as what’s meant by “Keep calm and carry on”?.. And yet, so much more eloquent!

Boromir

I just had the wonderful opportunity of re-watching Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring’, and what it reminded me of most (or at least, what certain parts of it reminded me) was how Boromir has evolved in my mind from when I first saw the movie. Regrettably, the first time I read the first book was after I had seen the movie so opinion from that probably affected how I approached the character.

However, what is clear to me is that every time I see it again (or read that chapter again), is that Boromir’s death is brilliantly done — he was supposed to die there, and it was done in a way which made it memorable.

In those last moments, he adheres to his culture and its values, he keeps to the beliefs of his own House, and he displays the skill which made him into a great captain of men. All that despite the fact he must have known there was no escape for him.

That single-minded approach to his own death makes me like him more and more — I seem to be able to understand him better, for nothing he does is by that out of the ordinary.

That stance he assumes in the film when the hobbits are endangered and uruks gathering on their position… I can imagine a thousand men in the past having done the same to protect their friends/lords.

“The Way of the Samurai is found in death. When it comes to either/or, there is only the quick choice of death. It is not particularly difficult. Be determined and advance.”
— Yamamoto Tsunetomo

For some reason, I think that Yamamoto Tsunetomo would approve of our Boromir.

‘The Children of Hurin’, J.R.R. Tolkien

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94J71KbLeiY]

“Sit now there; and look out upon the lands where evil and despair shall come upon those whom thou lovest. Thou hast dared to mock me, and to question the power of Melkor, Master of the fates of Arda. Therefore with my eyes thou shalt see, and with my ears thou shall hear; and never shalt thou move from this place until all is fulfilled unto its bitter end.”

It would seem that amongst the books not yet mentioned is also the piece of Tolkien’s writings last published (by the present reckoning). Indeed, ‘The Children of Hurin’ is a tale (a wonderful, tragic and dramatic tale) mostly compiled and fully edited (and in small parts written) by Christopher Tolkien, but that makes it lose none of its charm. Indeed, while reading it I most hoped that it would be possible to read a long copy of the other two major storylines of Beleriand as well.

For that is what ‘The Children of Hurin’ is supposed to be — one tragic tale that sealed the fate of the lands west of the mountains and east of the sea, but one of three : the other two being the Lay of Leithian (Of Beren and Luthien) and The Fall of Gondolin (roughly, Tuor and Idris, plus a few epic duels between Balrogs and Ecthelion/Glorfindel). Given that Beren and Luthien has the wonderful duel between Finrod Felagund and Sauron, then for the majority of reads of any First Age literature my favourite of these three has always been something else.

But the up-climbing is painful, and from high places it is easy to fall low.

But now, reading this book — it was the embodiment of something great, truly great. I enjoyed it for the depth and for the style; the way how “fate” turned the doors; the story of Turin, Master of Fates, who in the end mastered nothing and lost all.

‘False hopes are more dangerous than fears,’ said Sador, ‘and they will not keep us warm this winter.’

It would be hard to describe the book by anything less than an utterly sad and devastating storyline for anyone who keeps on expecting good endings… the only consolation here is that people are saved the death of Hurin though we see well detailed stories for both of the daughters as well as the son, Turin.

‘How shall an Elf judge of Men?’ said Turin. ‘As he judges of all deeds, by whomsoever done.’

The people who have previously read either the Unfinished Tales, or Silmarillion, or some of the Histories of Middle Earth (I think it’s Book 2 there) will know the gist of the story, which is what has put me off from reading it until now — indeed, content-wise there is not much added, but what is there is the depth that a book can have contrary to a chapter.

The Elves were driven back and defeated on the field of Tumhalad; and there all the pride and host of Nargothrond withered away.

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One character whose presence I very much enjoyed was our favourite dragon, Glaurung. I noticed a comment on Amazon before buying the book that it added much depth and personality to a commander of Morgoth (Glaurung, specifically), and I quite wondered how it was done — in the end, I still can’t see the exact device but after reading I have to agree that Glaurung was a much different dragon than before (though no less malicious).

In many a sense (and what the reader can easily deduce from the quotes given) I found this to be a treatise on pride : for it was pride which led Turin forward, it was pride which destroyed the Elves of Nargothrond, and moreover, it was pride which allowed Hurin to withstand Morgoth. Yet, this pride took many different forms, though the outcome little changed of it…

Then he cursed his fate and his weakness; but he would not turn back.

‘The Silmarillion’, J.R.R. Tolkien

I mentioned a while ago on my other blog (the one dealing not with arts and literature but everything else) that I’ve been thinking of reinvesting time into re-reading Tolkien. So said, so done. I began with ‘The Silmarillion’, and that’s what I’ll concentrate this entry on.

I’ve read the Silmarillion before, once (in Estonian), and a few chapters for a second time as well. Therefore, I knew the what and when that would take place so the storyline had no chance of “surprising” me with new developments or something of the kind. Now, this does not mean that reading it in the original language left me emotionless to the plot : more the opposite, I found that the words and language used in many a location (oh the fate of a Master of Fates) were stronger than I’d ever before seen, and that the archaic style played off very well.

Indeed, if for nothing else then for the sheer pleasure of the literary devices used would I suggest a person to read this book. But, that cannot be all!? We’re speaking of the complex summary of the legends of the First Age and times before that (as well as summaries on the Second and Third Age)…

Very true indeed : As mentioned, the storyline was as captivating as any I’ve read and though the relations between everything might be complex to pick up during a first read, then the happenings of people are certainly some that we can relate to (well, perhaps not riding out on your horse with your shield and sword to duel the Dark Lord in person, but the crying out in anger and desperation over the less-than-lucky ending of your best friend who had ever done everything to help you) at least on some level.

Therefore he willed that the hearts of Men should seek beyond the world and should find no rest therein; but they should have a virtue to shape their life, amid the powers and chances of the world, beyond the Music of the Ainur, which is as fate to all things else; and of their operation everything should be, in form and deed, completed, and the world fulfilled unto the last and smallest.

This description of what the most powerful beings meant for Men resounds not only in Tolkien’s legends but also in our lives — we do have the chances of shaping what we are on so many different levels. Starting from whether we excuse ourselves from going out running today with a poor comment on that it is too dark already, to the more serious instance of “Oh, I unfortunately cannot do that today but I’m sure that I’ll manage next week!” as many people (myself included all-too-often) are too apt to do these days.

Aside from the already mentioned tale of Turin (which will be more properly reviewed as part of the ‘Children of Hurin’ in any case) I found that my favourites included the story of Gondolin (as always, there we have the white citadel and its just and righteous king, and a lovely people, and not-the-least a duel between great evil and good), Beren and Luthien (which I do hope will turn into a full book someday much like we’ve now got the ‘Children of Hurin’ available), Unnumbered Tears (oh this chapter, greatest courage and strength of mind against the least and worst of the treacherous), and several others.

Unfortunately, one aspect that I (think I would) like to read of, namely, peace and prosperity, has mostly been excluded and I well understand why for as the author wrote:

But of bliss and glad life there is little to be said, before it ends; as works fair and wonderful, while still they endure for eyes to see, are their own record, and only when they are in peril or broken for ever do the pass into song.

I do have to say that it was a pleasure to read of those men who acted with confidence and power, and did not shirk away from death and destruction. This is quite comparable indeed to the valor presented by the Elven-King, Fingolfin, which has, by the way, been well illustrated by John Howe in his painting ‘Fingolfin’s Challenge’ which is one of my favourites by this great artist. This is the painting here on a reduced scale from Mr Howe’s website:

And this brings me to the close, for this book is better described by the thoughts ranging in one’s head while reading. Just, to finish, alongside Fingolfin a description of the might of the swords of his successors:

The light of the drawing of the swords of the Noldor was like a fire in the field of reeds; and so fell and swift was their onset that almost the designs of Morgoth went astray.

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