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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Númenor — Silmarillion "Akallabêth"

Rhûn Darkmoon
Lihan Taifun            
AelKennyr Rhiano  
Shawn Daysleeper  

The story of Númenor, and its sinking, is of course related to the legend of Atlantis.

Plot synopsis:
After Morgoth was defeated at the end of the First Age, the Valar encouraged the Noldor Elves of Middle Earth to return to Aman, and built an island (Númenor) to be a home for the Faithful humans – those who had rejected Morgoth and aided the Valar and the Noldor in the War of Wrath.   The Númenoreans lived for over 2000 years in peace and prosperity, friendship with the Teleri Elves of Tol Eressëa, and respect for Eru and the Valar.  

The Númenoreans were exceptional shipbuilders and sailors.   They sometimes visited MiddleEarth, and sometimes attempted to teach the Humans there (who lived in barbaric conditions, under the fear of Sauron) skills such as agriculture.   The Valar forbade them to sail to Aman (or Tol Eressëa) – lands which had always been off limits to Humans.

Back in Middle earth, Sauron proclaimed himself “King of Men.” The king of Númenor got jealous, decided he was going to be King of Men, took a large fleet to Middle Earth, and challenged Sauron.  Sauron decided he couldn't count on a military victory, so he pretended to surrender, and was taken back to Númenor as a captive.  

Sauron soon managed to talk his way into the king's councils, and became high priest of a cult worshipping Melkor.   He convinced the King to invade Aman and seize immortality.   (Not true.   Even if a Human did set foot in Aman, this would not grant immortality.)

Meanwhile, Elendil, his family, and the remaining faction that respected the Valar took their ships and fled back to Middle Earth, just in time.

When King Ar-Pharazôn landed in Aman and claimed it as his own, the Valar asked Eru Ilúvatar to intervene.   Eru opened a chasm in the ocean.   The island of Númenor sank into the chasm, and the resulting tsunami washed away King Ar-Pharazôn and his entire fleet.   Aman was moved to a parallel dimension, to avoid similar problems in the future.  

Was it appropriate for the Valar to evacuate their favorites to an offshore paradise, and leave the rest of MiddleEarth to the forces of evil? How much were the Valar forbidden to interfere in the affairs of the world, and how much are we speculating from the fact that they seldom did interfere? (And how much are we embellishing for our own Fourth Age roleplay purposes?)

The downfall of Númenor was said to be the second fall of Men, the first being when Humans first awoke and fell swiftly under the dominion of Morgoth.  

The Fall of Númenor is a story about the loss of a Golden Age.   This would be a poignant theme for Tolkien, who was a young man during World War 1 – a war where advances in technology suddenly increased both the scale and the impersonal nature of the killing.  

Sauron's body was drowned when Númenor sank.  He had to re-manifest a new, less-pretty body for the Third Age.   Evil Ainur seem to gradually lose their abilities to form new bodies, or their control over the shapes they take, perhaps because they become detached from the power of the Song.   Sauron had also already put a lot of his own energy into the One Ring.

Saruman's original intellectual interest in the technology of Rings of Power gradually became corrupted into a desire for power.   Is technology inherently related to a desire for power?

The Númenoreans were susceptible to Sauron's influence because of their fear of death.  We find it surprising, but Tolkien makes it clear that the Númenoreans had only vague and unsatisfying ideas about their fate after death.

Lihan Taifun:             what do we have to say about Numenor? :)
Rhûn Darkmoon blushes and confesses, 'That I know very little about it and was hoping to learn something?'
Lihan Taifun:             2000 years of golden age, that might be a record for Middle Earth
AelKennyr Rhiano:   Yes, it was the greatest of the realms of men.
Lihan Taifun:             although, we again see the recurring theme of the Valar building a paradise, evacuating their favorites there, and leaving the rest of Middle Earth to Melkor
AelKennyr Rhiano:   It was supposed to represent Atlantis myth, right?
Rhûn Darkmoon frowns a little, 'So the Valar were not always impartial?'
Lihan Taifun:             it was certainly related to the Atlantis myth
AelKennyr Rhiano:   :)
Rhûn Darkmoon thinks a moment, 'Did it not also sink?'
Lihan Taifun:             Numenor sank, yes
AelKennyr Rhiano:   nod nod nod
Lihan Taifun:             the Valar never claimed to be impartial, did they?
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'Were they not supposed to interfere? To take sides in the affairs of the world?'
Lihan Taifun:             that was not in their initial description
AelKennyr Rhiano:   The Prime Directive came later?
Lihan Taifun:             I thought we made that part up
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'We did?'
Lihan Taifun:             although, by Third Age, it sure didn't look like the Valar were interfering much. at the end of the First Age, they built Numenor, and then didn't do much else. at the end of Second Age, they asked to have Aman removed from the physical plane, and had even less to do with events in Middle Earth. but that is just a description of their actions
AelKennyr Rhiano:   Why did they ask that, Lihan?
Lihan Taifun:             to prevent anyone else from trying to sail unauthorized to Aman
AelKennyr Rhiano:   I was trying to remember if there were another reason.
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'Why would they not want people sailing to Aman?'
Lihan Taifun:             the last king of Numenor tried to invade Aman. that is what made him the LAST king
Rhûn Darkmoon gives a soft chuckle, 'Yes, that would be a good reason why he was the last king.'
AelKennyr Rhiano:   that and the destruction of the white tree
Lihan Taifun:             which was a token of their rejecting the Valar and their friendship with the elves
AelKennyr Rhiano:   and the sacrifice of the Elendili, the ones friendly to the elves and obedient to the Valar
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'They certainly did not seem very bright, or perhaps they were arrogant?'
AelKennyr Rhiano:   it was also incredibly...yeah...what he said
Rhûn Darkmoon grins
Lihan Taifun:             they listened to the advice of Sauron
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'Ok, not bright then.'.. grins
AelKennyr Rhiano:   nod nod nod
Lihan Taifun:             they thought that , if they were living in Aman, they would become immortal
AelKennyr Rhiano:   and would that have been the truth?
Lihan Taifun:             not at all, as Manwe had told them previously
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'So they thought the land was the source of the immortality?'
AelKennyr Rhiano:   or at least from their perspective?
Lihan Taifun:             they thought that
AelKennyr Rhiano:   The downfall of Númenor was said to be the second fall of Men, the first being when Men first awoke and fell swiftly under the dominion of Morgoth. I have that correct?
Lihan Taifun:             that is what I heard
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'Is it not common though, when civilisations have thrived and flourished they also somehow become corrupt and end up self destructing?'
Lihan Taifun:             it does seem so. though maybe that is the same as saying a civilization doesn't keep getting better forever
AelKennyr Rhiano:   Civilizations have life spans, just like people
AelKennyr Rhiano:   Now, am I right, also, that Tolkien originally intended this to be a part of a time-travel story
Lihan Taifun:             I hadn't heard that part
AelKennyr Rhiano:   I wish I could remember more I may have that wrong, though.
Rhûn Darkmoon muses to himself about time travel. 'What would his purpose have been though, in having it thus?"
AelKennyr Rhiano:   It certainly is a story about the End of a Golden Age. And that would have been very poignant during Tolkien's lifetime.
Rhûn Darkmoon nods, 'Yes, you are quite right'
Lihan Taifun:             end of the British Empire?
AelKennyr Rhiano:   yes, but also the time around WWI. He was a young man, I believe, when WWI happened.
Lihan Taifun:             he fought in it, I think, so that would fit
Rhûn Darkmoon nods, 'So he would have lived through times of great change.'
AelKennyr Rhiano:   oh yes....and That was dubbed the end of Innocence
Rhûn Darkmoon nods, 'It was certainly the end of a gracious era.'
Lihan Taifun:             were they more innocent before?
AelKennyr Rhiano:   If I remember correctly, he got sick, as many young men did with trench fever, and had to be evacuated home. He came home alive, but a lot of his close friends did not.
Lihan Taifun nods. That would have happened a lot
AelKennyr Rhiano:   Well, until WWI, warfare was much more up close and personal. Some point to WWI as the first instance of chemical warfare.
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'I think perhaps that mankind had never seen war before on the scale they did with the Great War. They saw the true barbarity of what man will do to man.'
AelKennyr Rhiano:   It was the second deadliest conflict in World history. at least as far as the West went.
Rhûn Darkmoon nods, 'Yes'
Lihan Taifun:             the wonders of technology -- kill people on larger scales
AelKennyr Rhiano:   We think of genocide and ethnic cleansing and think of WWI...but WWI actually was the start of that on such a wide scale.
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'So it would most definitely have had an impact on Tolkien, there can be no doubt, I think.'
AelKennyr Rhiano:   Something close to 1 million Armenians were killed as a result. Yes, I think that when Tolkien was writing, he was thinking of WWI
Lihan Taifun:             he had a good part of it written before WWII started

Rhûn Darkmoon:      'So what did Numinor achieve while it existed?'
Lihan Taifun:             advanced technology (never described), a good standard of living for its people. at one stage they taught some basics to the humans of Middle Earth
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'So Tolkien mentioned 'advanced technology', but did not elaborate?
Lihan Taifun:             they "became mighty in crafts, so that if they had had the mind they could easily have surpassed the evil kings of MIddle-earth in the making of war and the forging of weapons; but they were become men of peace. Above all arts they nourished ship-building and sea-craft, and they became mariners whose like shall never be again"
AelKennyr Rhiano:   hmmmm....they partied with the Teleri
Lihan Taifun:             and they partied with the Teleri, they did!
Rhûn Darkmoon listens with interest, 'And over time this mightiness seems to have gone to their heads?'
Lihan Taifun:             yes, one of the kings of Numenor went to Middle Earth and took Sauron captive -- not realizing this was all part of Sauron's plan
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'Why would that have been part of Sauron's plan?'
Lihan Taifun:             well, Sauron had proclaimed himself "King of Men" in MIddle Earth
Rhûn Darkmoon listens
Lihan Taifun:             and the king of Numenor got jealous, and decided HE was going to be King of Men, and took a large fleet to Middle Earth, and challenged Sauron. Sauron decided he couldn't count on a military victory, so he pretended to surrender, and was taken back to Numenor as a captive, but managed to talk his way into the king's councils. you can imagine what would happen to a king who took Sauron as his chief advisor
Shawn Daysleeper:   nods
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'Sauron sounds like he was very crafty and silver tongued. Are we sure he wasn't part Teleri?'
Lihan Taifun:             so, from Sauron's point of view, it was a surer way to destroy Numenor than he could have managed on his own
Shawn Daysleeper:   yes, he did well to secure numenor
Lihan Taifun:             but I think that was the last time Sauron could take a pleasing appearance
AelKennyr Rhiano gives Rhun a sharp look
Rhûn Darkmoon opens his grey eyes wide in innocence and smiles back at Ael
Lihan Taifun:             he -- his body -- drowned when Numenor sank, and he had to manifest a new body again
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'and he could not take on a nice one?
Lihan Taifun:             but he was getting weaker, and the next one -- the Third Age body -- ... right, wasn't such a nice one. he had less ability to make a body contrary to his inner nature
Rhûn Darkmoon pauses and thinks, 'He was a maia, yes? So each time he lost a body he was weaker when he manifested one again?
Shawn Daysleeper:   yes, very true
Lihan Taifun:             after the end of the Third Age, we all really hope he doesn't have the energy to make a new body at all
AelKennyr Rhiano:   no kidding.
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'Ahhh, now I understand.'
Lihan Taifun:             he was a Maia
AelKennyr Rhiano:   in an exasperated voice..."That is soooooo last age."
Shawn Daysleeper:   lol at Ael
Rhûn Darkmoon gives a snort of laughter and tries to hide it as a cough
Shawn Daysleeper:   and the 3rd age body was tied to the fate of the one ring
Lihan Taifun:             Tolkien never explains, but it seems to be only the evil maia who have trouble manifesting bodies, so we speculate that becoming evil drains their energy, or prevents them from recharging, or soemthing like that
Shawn Daysleeper:   that could be the cost of going against the Song?
Lihan Taifun:             true, Shawn, he would have lost the energy he put into the Ring. that would make sense, being cut off from the source of their lives
AelKennyr Rhiano:   Or, like the case of Fallen angels in Christianity, they lose part of their "grace" once they fall.
Shawn Daysleeper:   that was clear with Saruman
Rhûn Darkmoon nods, 'Yes that all makes sense
Shawn Daysleeper:   Saruman perhaps changed the most when he became evil
AelKennyr Rhiano nods
Lihan Taifun:             how so, Shawn?
Shawn Daysleeper:   his powers, he rejected the white powers given to him by the Valar (good) and accepted the many colours (his own device or evil), not to say physical appearance changes and attitude
Lihan Taifun:             did his physical appearance change?
Shawn Daysleeper:   he became bent and much older, "Sharkey"
Lihan Taifun:             hmmm, ok
Shawn Daysleeper:   unless my timing is off. back to topic though hehe
Rhûn Darkmoon thinks he is quite short enough without becoming bent
Lihan Taifun:             we never see him when he was still truly good
AelKennyr Rhiano:   That is true. Was he ever truly good?
Shawn Daysleeper:   I believe he was a maia of Aule?
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'How do you define 'truly good'? He was one of aule's maiar originally and when you think on aule's character was he even truly good?'
Shawn Daysleeper:   how do you define evil then?
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'Not good?'.. grins
Shawn Daysleeper:   it's a hazy line it seems
Rhûn Darkmoon thinks of a certain black dragoness who chews lady's dresses and elves boots and ears
AelKennyr Rhiano:   lol
Shawn Daysleeper:   lol
Lihan Taifun:             I thought he started out with just an intellectual interest in understanding the rings of power
AelKennyr Rhiano:   and it quickly turned into ambition?
Lihan Taifun:             which would I'm sure be an interesting technological question
Shawn Daysleeper:   nods I have wondered that myself
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'Could the rings of power themselves have affected him?'
Lihan Taifun:             well, he never had one of the rings of power
Shawn Daysleeper:   simply wanting the ring drove saruman to evil, and the palantir of Orthanc did not help
Lihan Taifun:             so, would that not be the same as saying he got hungry for power?
AelKennyr Rhiano:   that is an interesting question.
Shawn Daysleeper:   I agree Lihan. so it is not necessarilly technology, but power?
Lihan Taifun:             like many technologies, it gives power
Shawn Daysleeper:   that affects becoming evil?
Shawn Daysleeper:   nods
AelKennyr Rhiano mulls this over
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'So power corrupts. That's the constant theme through his work? All except for a hobbit, power corrupts?'
Lihan Taifun:             technology on its own is generally not evil
Shawn Daysleeper:   power corrupted the Noldor of the 1st Age
AelKennyr Rhiano:   And is that what happens to the men of Numenor?
Shawn Daysleeper:   the lust for the silmarls
Lihan Taifun:             the hobbit held out longer than most, but even Frodo didn't resist to the end. Frodo was saved by his earlier choices. and then he has another test back in the Shire
Shawn Daysleeper:   The men of Numenor were promised power by sauron I believe, the power to defeat the Valar
Lihan Taifun:             yes, Shawn, and immortality
Shawn Daysleeper:   right
Rhûn Darkmoon listens quietly. Rhûn Darkmoon frowns a little, 'I still find it hard to believe that men and a maia would think they had it in them to overthrow the Valar
Shawn Daysleeper:   power corrupts. it affects reasonable thinking
AelKennyr Rhiano:   It is a common seeking to challenge the gods
Lihan Taifun:             true, but that generation of Numenoreans hadn't had any contact with the Valar
Shawn Daysleeper:   it also hampers logic. hinders logic
Lihan Taifun:             so, given the choice between believing old legends, and believing the flattery of Sauron ....
Rhûn Darkmoon smiles softly, 'So one must really learn to beware of the silver tongue, it would seem.'
Lihan Taifun eyes Rhun speculatively
AelKennyr Rhiano eyes Rhun with raised eyebrows. "Did you just say that?"
Rhûn Darkmoon smiles innocently at Ael, 'Is not Belenos always calling you her silvertongued elf?'
Lihan Taifun:             so, ahem, Numenor
AelKennyr Rhiano:   Numenor
Rhûn Darkmoon smiles quietly to himself and turns back to the discussion, 'Yes, Numenor'
AelKennyr Rhiano mutters about elven whippersnappers.
Lihan Taifun:             another theme would be what the fear of death will drive people to
AelKennyr Rhiano:   and the quest for eternal life
Lihan Taifun:             yes
Rhûn Darkmoon nods and tilts his head a little as he thinks, 'So.. so the men did not believe in an afterlife?'
AelKennyr Rhiano:   Even those who believe an afterlife will seek not to die at all.
Lihan Taifun:             Tolkien's humans are always unsure about what happens to their spirits after death. even the Valar don't know
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'How interesting'
Lihan Taifun:             the Valar know that human spirits leave this universe, but they don't know any more detail, unlike elvish spirits, which stay in Mandos until they are reincarnated either in Aman or in Middle Earth
Lihan Taifun:             I'm sure Tolkien felt it was important that human destiny should be compatible with his own Catholic beliefs
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'And perhaps he did not feel he should dare to dictate for certain one's ultimate fate?'
Lihan Taifun:             so the Numenoreans didn't have a strong tradion of afterlife
AelKennyr Rhiano:   wait...because they had to mesh with his Catholicism, they did not have a strong tradition of an after life?
Lihan Taifun:             well, how could he reconcile Middle Earth cosmology with Catholic ideas of afterlife? besides what he did, that nobody inside Arda knew how human destiny worked
AelKennyr Rhiano:   I am not Catholic, but, um...I would think Catholics have a very STRONG tradition of an afterlife?
Rhûn Darkmoon nods, 'They do.'
Lihan Taifun:             yes
AelKennyr Rhiano:   Soo, why wouldn't the humans of Numenor?
Lihan Taifun:             sooo, would Tolkien give them the Catholic explanation? or some other tradition?
AelKennyr Rhiano:   I think I am lost. I mean, Tolkien made it clear that humans go somewhere else, not the halls of Mandos, and leaves it at that.
Lihan Taifun:             right
AelKennyr Rhiano:   But that would not mean that the humans themselves have a vague idea of their life after death. They may have very strong ideas.
Lihan Taifun:             The elves that come to Numenor tell them : "This we hold to be true, that your home is not here, niether in the Land of Aman nor anywhere withn the Circles of the World. And the Doom of Men, that they should depart, was at first a gift of Iluvatar. It became a grief to them only because coming under the shadow of Morgoth it seemed to them that they were surrounded by a great darkness, of which they were afraid, and some grew wilful and proud and would not yield, until life was reft fom them"

and the kings of Numenor are saying "... while we must die and go we know not whither, leaving our home and all that we have made?"
AelKennyr Rhiano:   Ahhh....I respectfully conceded the point.
Lihan Taifun:             Tolkien may have found himself in over his head, trying to handle the final destiny of humans
Rhûn Darkmoon nods, 'would not any human?'
Lihan Taifun:             a danger of world-building
AelKennyr Rhiano:   Indeed, that is true.
{Shawn has to leave. Farewells.}

Lihan Taifun:             do we want to continue Numenor next week?
AelKennyr Rhiano:   Why don't we?
Rhûn Darkmoon smiles shyly, 'I would like that if we may? I think there is still more to learn of it, yes?'
Lihan Taifun:             I would think so
AelKennyr Rhiano:   me, too. Great class tonight :)
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'I have found today's discussion very enjoyable.'.. blushes, 'Although I fear I was listening and learning more than discussing.'
AelKennyr Rhiano:   Very interesting discussion.
Lihan Taifun:             listening and learning is fine
AelKennyr Rhiano:   I did, too, Rhun.
Lihan Taifun:             I didn't quite get the whole chapter read this week
AelKennyr Rhiano:   Lihan is a wonderful moderator.
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'I fear we may wear the Lady out if we do not soon begin to contribute more. I shall certainly have to brush up on my Tolkien, methinks.'
AelKennyr Rhiano:   I think I am the least familiar with this part.
Lihan Taifun:             it would be fascinating to know more about ordinary life in Numenor, but as far as I know Tolkien didn't write much
AelKennyr Rhiano:   yes.. it would... Tolkien offers us so little of that.
Lihan Taifun:             some stories about the soap operas of the royals, but not much about actual life
AelKennyr Rhiano:   and you have to wonder at if they were afraid of the did they fill that spiritual void?
Lihan Taifun:             yes, that doesn't seem very much like the humans I know. well, not all the humans I know have theories, but a large fraction of them do
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'Methinks even those who do not admit it still ponder what happens after death.'
AelKennyr Rhiano:   You could expect, reasonably a percentage of the population to be disaffected by thoughts of an afterlife, but a whole civilization? Then, again, is it true that the Jewish faith does not traditionally support an afterlife? I have always been confused about that? If that is so, then we have a real life case for the Numenoreans not as well
Lihan Taifun:             I have heard that about the Jewish faith, although, from what I hear, there are some groups there with a form of afterlife; a later addition, though
Rhûn Darkmoon thinks a moment, 'Did I not read in the news recently about some jewish judges ordering the stoning of a dog because they believed it was a man whom they'd previously cursed reincarnate?'
AelKennyr Rhiano:   Really?
Lihan Taifun:             I read that, although it didn't sound like anything I had heard of before
AelKennyr Rhiano:   I have not either
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'I must confess it drew my eye for I did not think the jews believed in reincarnation.'
Lihan Taifun:             no, I had never heard of that before, either. I wouldn't think it was a very "mainstream" approach
AelKennyr Rhiano:
Lihan Taifun:             aha
Rhûn Darkmoon:      'And yet it was a panel of judges who ordered it.'.. shrugs a little in confusion
Lihan Taifun:             yes, confusing
AelKennyr Rhiano: ah-ha :)

Traditional Judaism firmly believes that death is not the end of human existence. However, because Judaism is primarily focused on life here and now rather than on the afterlife, Judaism does not have much dogma about the afterlife, and leaves a great deal of room for personal opinion. It is possible for an Orthodox Jew to believe that the souls of the righteous dead go to a place similar to the Christian heaven, or that they are reincarnated through many lifetimes, or that they simply wait until the coming of the messiah, when they will be resurrected. Likewise, Orthodox Jews can believe that the souls of the wicked are tormented by demons of their own creation, or that wicked souls are simply destroyed at death, ceasing to exist.
Lihan Taifun:             but then Israel attracts Jews from all over the world, so whatever variety of beliefs existed would likely all get thrown together
AelKennyr Rhiano:   that is true. They would have had a lot of external influences.