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Monday, April 4, 2011

"The Debate of Finrod and Andreth" - part 1 (Reading Material)

Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth (The Debate of Finrod and Andreth)
probably 1959
published in Morgoth's Ring, History of Middle Earth, vol. 10

JRRT envisioned this as part of the Silmarillion, and Christopher does not explain why it was not included in the published Silmarillion.

A conversation between Finrod and the Human loremaster Andreth (who happens to be Beren's great-aunt, although that isn't important). It occurs 3 Human generations (maybe 100-150 years) after Elves and Humans first met.
('Ye' is the old-fashioned plural of 'you'. 'Thou/thee' is a familiar – or sometimes patronizing – form, compared to formal and polite 'you'.)

'I see,' said Andreth ... 'All ye Elves deem that we die swiftly by our true kind. That we are brittle and brief, and ye are strong and lasting. We may be “Children of Eru”, as ye say in your lore; but we are children to you also: to be loved a little maybe, and yet creatures of less worth, upon whom ye may look down from the height of your power and your knowledge, with a smile, or with pity, or with a shaking of heads.'

'Alas, you speak near the truth,' said Finrod. 'At least of many of my people; but not of all, and certainly not of me. But consider this well, Andreth, when we name you “Children of Eru” we do not speak lightly.... We proclaim that ye are our kin, in a kinship far closer (both of hröa {body} and fëa {spirit}) than that which binds together all other creatures of Arda, and ourselves to them.
'Yet if we consider the briefness of life in all Middle-Earth, must we not believe that your brevity is also is part of your nature? Do not your own people believe this too? ...'
'I think that you err, and all who think likewise,' said Andreth; 'and that that error itself comes from the Shadow. ... {Various Humans have various opinions}....Yet among my people, from Wise unto Wise out of the darkness comes the voice saying that Men are not now as they were, nor as their true nature was in the beginning.... They say plainly that Men are not by nature short lived, but have become so through the malice of the Lord of Darkness whom they do not name.
'The Wise among Men say: “We were not made for death, nor born ever to die. Death was imposed upon us.” And behold! the fear of it is with us always, and we flee from it for ever as the hart from the hunter. ...”'
{Finrod:} 'Not all the voices that come out of the darkness speak truth to those minds that listen for strange news.

'But who did you this hurt? Who imposed death upon you? Melkor it is plain you would say ... For you speak of death and his shadow, as if to escape from the Shadow was to escape also from Death.

'But those two are not the same, Andreth. So I deem, or death would not be found at all in this world which he did not design but Another. Nay, death is but the name that we give to something that he has tainted, and it sounds therefore evil; but untainted its name would be good?'

{Andreth says, in essence, 'easy for immortal Elves to say'. Finrod answers that Elves know they will live only as long as Arda, and is it better to spend millenia watching inevitable annihilation creep up on you?}

{Finrod:} 'But I see now that you do not speak of the diminishment that all in Arda Marred suffer; but of some special stroke of enmity against your people, against Men as Men.
'Then this is a matter of great dread,' said Finrod. 'We know Melkor, the Morgoth, and know him to be mighty.... But never even in the night have we believed that he could prevail against the Children of Eru. This one he might cozen, or that one he might corrupt; but to change the doom of a whole people of the Children, to rob them of their inheritance: if he could do that in Eru's despite, then greater and more terrible is he by far than we guessed.
'For I do not believe your tale. None could have done this to you save the One. Therefore I say to you, Andreth, what did ye do, ye Men, long ago in the dark? How did ye anger Eru? For otherwise all your tales are but dark dreams devised in a Dark Mind.'

{Andreth doesn't know, and wouldn't tell Finrod if she did know.}

{Finrod:} 'Do not the Valar know?'

Andreth looked up and her eyes darkened. 'The Valar?... How should I know, or any Man? Your Valar do not trouble us either with care or with instruction. They sent no summons to us.'

{Finrod:} ...'Has it never entered into your thought, Andreth, that out there in ages long past ye may have put yourselves out of their care, and beyond the reach of their help? Or even that ye, the Children of Men, were not a matter that they could govern? For ye were too great. Yeah, I mean this, and do not only flatter your pride: too great. Sole masters of yourselves within Arda, under the hand of the One.
'But let us turn now to other matters .... You say: “we were not made for death, nor born ever to die.” What do you mean: that ye were as we are, or otherwise?'

'This lore takes no account of you,' said Andreth, 'for we knew nothing of the Eldar. We considered only dying and not-dying. Of life as long as the world but no longer we had not heard; indeed not until now had it entered my mind.
'Already we had our lore, and needed none from the Elves: we knew that in our beginning we had been born never to die. And by that, my lord, we meant: born to life everlasting, without any shadow of any end.'

'Then have the Wise among you considered how strange is the true nature that they claim for the Atani {Humans}?' said Finrod. ... “You claim, if you fully understand your own words, to have had imperishable bodies, not bounded by the limits of Arda, and yet derived from its matter and sustained by it. And you claim also (though this you may not have perceived) to have had hröar and fëar that were from the beginning out of harmony. Yet harmony of hröa and fëa is, we believe, essential to the true nature unmarred of all the Incarnate.
'Of this then we [Eldar] are certain ... : the fëar of Men, though close akin indeed to the fëar of the Quendi, are yet not the same. For strange as we deem it, we see clearly that the fëar of Men are not, as are ours, confined to Arda, nor is Arda their home. ...

'Each of our kindreds perceives Arda differently, and appraises its beauties in different mode and degree. How shall I say it? To me the difference seems like that between one who visits a strange country, and abides there a while (but need not), and one who has lived in that land always (and must). To the former all things that he sees are new and strange, and in that degree lovable. To the other all things are familiar, the only things that are, his own, and in that degree precious.
'[T]he Eldar say of Men that they look at no thing for itself; that if they study it, it is to discover something else; that if they love it, it is only (so it seems) because it reminds them of some other dearer thing. Yet with what is this comparison? Where are these other things?....Whence them comes this memory that ye have with you, even before ye began to learn?'
'Ever more you amaze my thought, Andreth, said Finrod. For if your claim is true, then lo! a fëa which is here but a traveller is wedded indissolubly to a hröa of Arda; to divide them is a grievous hurt, and yet each must fulfill its right nature without tyranny of the other. Then this must surely follow: the fëar when it departs must take with it the hröa. And what can this mean unless it be that the fëar shall have the power to uplift the hröa, as its eternal spouse and companion, into an endurance everlasting beyond Eä, and beyond Time? Thus would Arda, or part thereof, be healed not only of the taint of Melkor, but released even from the limits that were set for it in the”Vision of Eru” of which the Valar speak.

'Therefore I say that if this can be believed, then mighty indeed under Ere were Men made in their beginning; and dreadful beyond all other calamities was the change in their state.
'This then, I propound, was the errand of Men, not the followers, but the heirs and fulfillers of all: to heal the Marring of Arda, already foreshadowed before their devising; and to do more, as agents of the magnificence of Eru: to enlarge the Music and surpass the Vision of the World!

'For that Arda Healed shall not be Arda Unmarred, but a third thing and greater, and yet the same. I have conversed with the Valar who were present at the making of the Music ere the being of the World began. And now I wonder: Did they hear the end of the Music? Was there not something in or beyond the final chords of Eru which, being overwhelmed thereby, they did not perceive?

'Or again, since Eru is for ever free, maybe he made no Music and showed no Vision beyond a certain point. Beyond that point we cannot see or know, until by our own roads we come there, Valar or Eldar or Men. ...'

{Finrod continues, saying he was thinking of the eventual death -- fëar and hröar -- of all the Elves:} 'For that is what lies before us, so far as our reason could see: the completion of Arda and its end, and therefore also of us children of Arda; the end when all the long lives of the Elves shall be wholly in the past.

'And then suddenly I beheld as a vision Arda Remade; and there the Eldar completed but not ended could abide in the present forever, and there walk, maybe, with the Children of Men, their deliverers, and sing to them such songs as, even in the Bliss beyond bliss, should make the green valleys ring and the everlasting mountaintops to throb like harps.'

 > Part 2    

{Another writing, 'The Tale of Adanel', presented as a Númenórean legend rather than historical fact, describes Melkor seducing the early Humans with gifts of technological knowledge, and the Humans accepting Melkor as their king and god. There are obvious resemblances to the situation in the last years of Númenór. Tolkien, in his commentary on the Athrabeth, says: “The operations of Sauron naturally and inevitably resembled or repeated those of his master. That a people in possession of such a legend or tradition should have later been deluded by Sauron is sad but, in view of human history generally, not incredible. Indeed if fish had fish-lore and Wise-fish, it is probable that the business of anglers would be very little hindered.”

In a note on 1955 draft of the Athrabeth, JRRT worries: “Is it not right to make Andreth refuse to discuss any traditions or legends of the 'Fall'? Already it is (if inevitably) too like a parody of Christianity. Any legend of the Fall would make it completely so?”

Several 1954 letters contain explanations that the story of the Downfall of Númenór hinges on the idea that Humans are inherently mortal – that mortality was Eru's original plan for and gift to Humans and not a punishment for any fall – and that an attempt at bodily immortality is completely unnatural for Humans.

So Andreth may be mistaken in saying that Humans were once immortal.}


  1. I am opening the Comments for some of the consistently popular posts.

  2. It would be interesting to consider how Eru would manifest here on Arda, and whether He would appear disguised as a Vala or Maia or Eldar or Atani or Kelvar or Olvar.

  3. Yes indeed! I suspect that Tolkien himself had no clear answers to the questions he is raising in this debate.

  4. Since this debate was written after the letters on the Downfall of Númenór, I would consider Andreth's theory to be Tolkien's most recent idea on man and his relationship with death. It may be that death was a gift to Mankind after the marring of Arda, so that they may be released from the world until the the next was remade.

  5. Well of course Eru Ilúvatar would manifest Himself on Arda as the Second Person of the Trinity.

    1. Thanks! Finally someone who remembers that Tolkien was a Catholic!