This website contains archives of the Tolkien Discussion Group from 2009 to early 2013.

The discussion group continues to meet
in Second Life in Alqualonde the Swanhaven. Contact AelKennyr Rhiano in Second Life.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Influences on Tolkien's Elves

Belenos the Bad (belenosstormchaser.magic)
Hojo Warf                               
AelKennyr Rhiano                 
Lihan Taifun                           
Siwan Sandalwood                
Shawn Daysleeper                 
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul (lukka.rookswood)
Fifi Wickentower (briefly)

WHY were the Elves designed to “fade” (that is, to decline in power and influence)? It is a common theme in folklore, but why did Tolkien use it?

What about the Elves of Valinor? Were they declining in power too? or was it only the Elves of Middle Earth? We suspect the Elves of Valinor were not in decline.

Tolkien's concepts of Elves were influenced by the Tuatha Dé Danann of Ireland, the Norse Ljósálfar, the German elves, and other traditions. At the time he was writing, the popular British image was of Victorian tiny fairies in the garden.

Lukka rules the elf city in Ambrea – non-Tolkien Elves – and is here to learn more about his neighbors the Tolkien Elves.

Ael claims there are elves (and merfolk) in Asian folklore, but did not yet provide the references. {hint hint}

Some cultures see “elves” as helpful beings, some see them as agents of disease and mishap, and some use them as an image of primordial “unfalled” humanity.

 {Siwan's comments removed at her request 6/18/2011}
Lihan Taifun:                            last week, if I remember, we were just starting to think about whether the mass migrations of the Elves were part of the Great Song

Lihan Taifun:                            (that seems to be an unsucessful conversation starter ...)
Hojo Warf:                                Hehe
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: haha I'm just waiting expectantly. Most of my knowlege of elves is folklore/pre-tolkien, so I'm a little curious
Hojo Warf:                                I'd say they must have been because the results of their movement affected so much.
Belenos the Bad:                      I'm mainly here to listen today, and pick up the threads of the topic.. so pardon if I am quiet
Lihan Taifun:                            Lukka, are you familiar with the Silmarillion at all? (We can back up a little here)
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: It sounds so familiar, but I don't think I found enough to include in my lectures, so it may have been a while since I've seen the word.
Lihan Taifun:                            The Silmarillion is a book, compiled by Christopher Tolkien from his father's unpublished writings, of stories that happened long before the Lord of the Rings era, the backstory of Middle Earth
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: Ah ha, I just found it in my notes. "In The Silmarillion, Tolkien explains how the elves were called to the Undying Lands of the west after the defeat of Melkor/Morgoth.." thats all I really have on the text itself though
Lihan Taifun:                            ok :) that is very brief
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: And the mythos about Beren and Lúthien
Lihan Taifun:                            Soon after the first Elves awoke, the Valar -- the guardian spirits -- decided to move the elves to the Undying Lands where they would be safer. Not all of the elves actually wanted to move, and some groups made the trip quicker than others, and that created the first separation into different groups of elves. Then, much later, one of the groups -- the Noldor -- had an argument with the Valar, and stomped back to Middle Earth in a huff, which set in motion most of the plot
Belenos the Bad (belenosstormchaser.magic) grins.. good way of expressing it
Lihan Taifun:                            and then, by the Third Age -- Lord of the Rings era -- most of those elves were returning to the Undying Lands. So, a lot of moving back and forth
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  But why? why the fading? What was the logical purpose?
Lihan Taifun:                            besides keeping the plot moving? :P
Siwan Sandalwood:                 •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  Aside from following in the footsteps of many folklore traditions about the fading of the elves, I don't see it as a very effective plot device.
Hojo Warf:                                ultimately the plan was to leave the world to men.
Siwan Sandalwood:                 •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Lihan Taifun:                            when you say "fading", you are talking about the Elves as a race becoming less of a presence in Middle Earth?
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  yes
Siwan Sandalwood:                 •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  When i was in college and we discussed Tolkien, our professor referred to it as the "fading of the elves?"
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: Well, in one of my sources it does talk about how Tolkien's movements of the elves parellel the movements of the Túatha Dé Danann of irish folklore
Siwan Sandalwood:                 •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  yes! what he said
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: It was "Myth & Middle-Earth" by Leslie Ellen Jones
Siwan Sandalwood:                 •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Hojo Warf:                                The elves were gradually fading from the beginning. Their greatest works at first rivaled the works of the valar when they were in Valinor. By the time of Lord of the Rings they weren't capable of creating anything like the silmarils.
Belenos the Bad:                      But why would they have been created just to fade away?
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  right. and there must be a distinction between the elves of middle earth and the Elves of the west.
Siwan Sandalwood:                 •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: Well according to that book, Tolkien's elf mythos, particularly the sort of... creation story, was reflective of his own life
Siwan Sandalwood:                 •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: Apparently... (Let me type it)
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  I don't think the elves were meant to fade.... maybe they were meant to fade from the eyes of the Followers...humans... but to totally abandon middle earth makes very little sense to me.
Shawn Daysleeper:                  it is not entirely clear as to what the elves in valinor have been up to for the past ages, they may have accomplished much but it is never discussed or known by the folks in Middle earth, so it may be a knowledge void
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  I agree, Shawn
Belenos the Bad:                      Sort of like fore-runners, to set the scene, so to speak? Perhaps Tolkien had planned to re-involve them again at some later date, but never got around to it?
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  I could believe that.
Shawn Daysleeper:                  a story centreing on valinor during the 4th age may reveal lots of sucessful stuff, so their power may not be fading
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  and the elves may decide to return to middle earth and be a presence, whether or not the humans are aware.
Siwan Sandalwood:                •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Shawn Daysleeper:                  the ones that never left, such as the teleri
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  Very much alive, Siwan.
Siwan Sandalwood:                  •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Shawn Daysleeper:                  and the vanyar
Belenos the Bad:                      typical teleri.. never can get them to go home after a party....:P
Siwan Sandalwood:                  •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  ppppfffttt...we ARE the party!!!
Siwan Sandalwood:                  •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Belenos the Bad (belenosstormchaser.magic) grins
Shawn Daysleeper:                  hehe we have amazing parties

Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: "the core story of his entire Silmarillion mythology was the love between a mortal man and an Elvish woman, Beren and Lúthien, who he openly acknowledged symbolized the love affair between himself and his wife Edith."
Siwan Sandalwood:                  •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: Well doesn't every man in love believe his lover to be far more beautiful, wonderful, and on a whole other level from himself? :)
Lihan Taifun:                            Lukka, that applies to the story of Beren and Luthien, which is ONE major story in the Silmarillion
Siwan Sandalwood:                  •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: Youll have to forgive my typos, I wasnt expecting to get involved in a discssion tonight, so I'm just a taaaaaad tipsy hehe
Siwan Sandalwood:                  •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  :)
Shawn Daysleeper:                  hehe
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  A person who discusses Tolkien while tipsy. You found the right crowd.
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: hahah
Lihan Taifun grins
Siwan Sandalwood:                  •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  lol
Siwan Sandalwood:                  •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: Well I thought I should learn a little more about tolkiens version of the elves... I rule the elf city in ambrea, and while we have our own mythos, I thought it important to learn about other influences so that I can better relate to the tolkien-inspired elves
Siwan Sandalwood:                  •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Belenos the Bad:                      me, I've been dragged here kicking and screaming by, seriously, I find it fascinating, always have.. *Smiles*
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: I started to learn a bit about them in my research into folklore, because from what I understand they're heavily based upon the Túatha Dé Danann
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  hey! I represent that remark!
Shawn Daysleeper:                  you should have some teleri tequila
Belenos the Bad (belenosstormchaser.magic) grins
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  Actually on quite a few mythologies, Lukka
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: Yes, also based upon the norse mythologies as well
Siwan Sandalwood:                 •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: Seems primarily the Norse and British
Lihan Taifun:                            Actually, Lukka, we mentioned last week that since in the Tolkien mythos there were elves that stayed behind in Middle Earth the whole time, there would probably be huge cultural differences between various groups
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  Remember, that folklore worldwide share great commonalities.
Siwan Sandalwood:                  •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: Ineed they do Ael, but that doesn't mean that Tolkien drew from all of them hehe
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  Actually , he did a pretty good job of doing exactly that.
Siwan Sandalwood:                  •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Lihan Taifun:                            Tolkien only tells the story of a couple of the groups, and vaguely mentions that there are more elves that don't come into the stories at all
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: I would love to see if there is any Asian elf lore
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  There is actually.
Siwan Sandalwood:                  •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: Oh? Please elaborate Ael? about his other sources? I would love to know
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: And about the asian elves
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  Let me dig a moment...hold on.... roots around...

{We admire the low-prim architecture in Alqualondë.}

AelKennyr Rhiano:         in addition to the Norse influences with Tolkien's elves, do not forget Germanic influences...
Siwan Sandalwood:                 •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
AelKennyr Rhiano blushes more and more...thank you, very much.
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: Haha, but Germanic elves were nasty buggers!
Siwan Sandalwood:                  •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Hojo Warf:                                Der Erlkoenig?
Siwan Sandalwood:                  •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Hojo Warf:                                I think so. Schubert made it into a song.
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  He was well acquainted with the elves of Northern Europe and the Ljósálfar
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: "The Germanic elves' primary role in popular belief were as agents of disease, especially the more inexplicable and sudden illnesses.

Even today, the term "stroke" for an arterial tear or blood clot in the brain comes from the notion that it is caused by the stroke from an elf's invisible arrow; a number of diseases of livestock, likewise, were explained as being the result of "elf-shot" well into the modern era.

In fact, Stone Age flint arrowheads that work their way to the earth's surface, often as a result of plowing, were what was usually identified as the Elves' maleficent projectile. These arrowheads were obviously meant to be shot at someone or something, but they were not made by any people known to those who plowed them up.

Elves were also sometimes suspected as the culprits when horses were found sweating and panting in the morning after being stabled all night; they were said to be elf-ridden, fairy-ridden, or hag-ridden, and thus elves were associated with witches and the 'mara' "

AelKennyr Rhiano:                  And we are not just talking about elven mythology for his inspiration.
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: The Liosalfar were Norse light elves, of course
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  Remember the Welsh Mabinogion and Arthurian romances. Now it is true that the Noldor are based on the Tuatha Dé Danann in the Lebor Gabála Érenn, and their migratory nature comes from early Irish/Celtic history
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: I actually need to get going, will someone be able to send me a log of the discussion later?
Siwan Sandalwood:                  •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  But there is a whole other element, too...the elves also represent "man" before the fall.
Siwan Sandalwood:                 •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  yes
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: Ooh, thats interesting
Siwan Sandalwood:                 •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Hojo Warf:                                Yes thats an interesting way to think of it.
Lihan Taifun:                            ok, I'll make sure you get a copy of the log. we also have archives:
Siwan Sandalwood:                  •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  In the beginning...when Tolkien was working on his elves...the popular vision of elves was the traditional Victorian view..dancing fairies.
Hojo Warf:                                tiny critters who lived in hollow trees and made cookies~!
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  yes, Hojo...well, dunno about the cookies part
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: A popular Irish belief that lasted well into the nineteenth century held that when Lucifer rebelled against God, there were many angels who sided with him and fell into Hell along with him, but there were others who were committed to neither God nor Lucifer and as a result were shut out of heaven but not accepted in Hell.
AelKennyr Rhiano:                  And you see that echoed in the story of Melkor
Siwan Sandalwood:                  •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Lukka Rookswood Naqu'ul: These exiled - amoral - angels were said to be the Good People of Ireland. They could not be regarded as completely holy, because they had not sided with God, but neither were they completely evil, as actual demons and devils might be.
Lihan Taifun:                            fence-sitter angels

{Several people have to leave. Farewells.}

AelKennyr Rhiano:                  We could stop here for tonight, so no one will miss anything. or continues, whichever everyone prefers
Shawn Daysleeper:                  ok we could stop
Lihan Taifun:                            get done at a reasonable hour, for once :)
Belenos the Bad:                      be careful, that will set a precedent.. :P