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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ainur Bodies

Reading Material:

Belenos                     (belenosstormchaser.magic)
Lihan Taifun           
AelKennyr Rhiano 
Rhûn Darkmoon

It is an intriguing comment by Tolkien that “unclad” (disembodied) Maiar could be detected by their fragrance. The only recorded example is that the name “Sauron” comes from the word for “rotten, putrid”.

To what extent was it natural and appropriate that Maiar take physical forms and interact with the physical world, and to what extent was that unnatural, and risking getting stuck in a physical body? The evil Ainur eventually got stuck in their bodies and lost shapeshifting powers.

How long would an Ainu have to be in a body to risk getting stuck? Melian must have passed that time limit, and we don't hear what happened to her when she returned to Aman after Thingol's death.

Tolkien's description of the “fana” bodies of Ainur sound like less-than-completely-functional physical bodies, more like holodeck forms. They can act upon the physical world, but they are constructs of the minds of the Ainur.

The Wizards, and Melian, must have been in bodies (“hröa”) that functioned completely by ordinary biochemical processes, just like ordinary Elves and Humans. They got hungry, ate, and digested their food. They got tired and slept. Melian had a baby.

Which type of body would the Ainur use for the feasts they held in Valinor? Using a fana seems like only pretending to participate in the physical life of the World. Using a hröa seems overwhelming for a mind not accustomed to a physical body. It takes humans years to get used to operating their bodies. It takes humans decades, if ever, to learn to pace their eating and drinking at feasts. Did the Valar routinely wake up after their feasts with tummy aches and hangovers?

What did the Ainur spend their time doing in Aman? Were they accumulating lifetimes of experience with physical bodies, or did they seldom use bodies? Tolkien doesn't tell us much detail about the Ainur. Once you get past the first couple of chapters of Silmarillion, the story isn't about the Ainur. Ainur may be characters (mostly minor characters), but the story is about the Elves and Humans.

Are fana and hröa the only two options, or are they the ends of a spectrum, with various degrees of functionality between? (We like the Fellowship of the Fourth Age take on Nienna's partially-functioning body.)

Eönwë, “greatest in arms of Arda”, leader of the army of the Ainur, is strongly influenced by the figure of Michael the Archangel, the Judeo-Christian “leader of the armies of heaven”. The title “greatest in arms” definitely suggests wielding a physical weapon.

Our ideas about “the Ainur being forbidden to interfere in the mortal world” are partly a Fellowship of the Fourth Age convention, and partly reflecting the fact that, as Tolkien's stories progress, the Valar do in fact interfere less and less with the Children. Though the Wizards were certainly “interfering” with events.

The terms of the Wizards' assignment required them to give up most of their Maiar powers while in Middle Earth, and to not oppose Sauron by direct magical force. Their job was mainly to encourage and organize the Elves and Humans.

Lihan Taifun:            anyone have anything to say about ainur? there was lots of interesting reading material, if anyone had time for it
Belenos:                      I didn't get the chance to read it... but I'll skim now... and listen if anyone else wants to start commenting?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Well, I would like to hear from you, Lihan, about the matter of "matter" and the ainur body as described in Tolkien vs how it has been rped in the 4th Age. Not to turn this into a fellowship discussion but because that serves as a practical comparison.
Lihan Taifun:            I'm not sure whether Tolkien was inconsistent, or whether I don't quite understand his view
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I must confess to the same problem. “whereas the Maiar were usually invisible unclad, but their presence was revealed by their fragrance.” That is interesting.
Lihan Taifun:            in some places, he gives the impression that ainur spent most of their time not in bodies, and that taking bodies for any extended time was unnatural and potentially dangerous to them -- yes
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Do we know what the different Vala smelled like? ooops
Lihan Taifun:            only that the name "Sauron" comes from the word for "rotten"
Rhûn Darkmoon grins, 'I'm sure Aule would have smelled like choc-chip cookies'
Belenos:                      lol
AelKennyr Rhiano:  ok...I can get the "unnatural" part for the Vala, but dangerous?
Lihan Taifun:            in that they might get stuck in that shape
on the other hand we have, in the Silmarillion:
"Now it was a time of festival, as Melkor knew well. Though all tides and seasons were at the will of the Valar, and in Valinor there was not winter of death, nonetheless they dwelt then in the Kingdom of Arda, whose life is Time. And even as it was then the delight of the Valar (as told in the Ainulindalë) to clothe themselves as in a vesture in the forms of the Children of Ilúvatar, so also did they eat and drink, and gather the fruits of Yavanna from the Earth, which under Eru they had made.
"Therefore Yavanna set times for the flowering and the ripening of all things that grew in Valinor; and at each first gathering of fruits Manwë made a high feast."

and that looks to me like it was considered appropriate and wholesome for the Valar to be in bodies that could eat and drink
Belenos:                      but only for the duration of the festival?
Lihan Taifun:            possibly; that would be a question
Belenos:                      so if they could eat and drink, it's assumed the bodies were fully functional, not just an outer husk?
Lihan Taifun:            so it seems
AelKennyr Rhiano nods
Belenos:                      ok, so I want to know where the assumption comes from that they would become stuck in that form? because would they not then age and die? or would it just be the body that does that and then releases them upon death?
Lihan Taifun:            though the descriptions of "fana" sound like something that is not fully functional
AelKennyr Rhiano:  so, for example in a body, a Vala would not get hungry?
Lihan Taifun:            apparently, from the forums, there was a letter Tolkien wrote (or an essay or something) where he said that it was unnatural for a Maia to stay in a physical body, and such a one was in danger of getting stuck in that form
Rhûn Darkmoon:     'And here is where we need to know his definition of 'stay'. How long must they stay before it is an issue?'
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Right
Lihan Taifun:            yes, we don't know that; and then, as those forums mentioned, did Melian have a problem? what happened to her when she went back to Valimar?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  and do the Vala run around Aman as little fuzzballs of light?
Lihan Taifun:            when no elves are looking
Belenos:                      well that's it too.. what DO the valar look like with no physical bodies? unruthed SL?
Lihan Taifun:            what do 100% spirits look like? probably invisible
Rhûn Darkmoon grins, 'Don't 100% spirits usually come in bottles?'
Belenos:                      LOL
Lihan Taifun:            200 proof
AelKennyr Rhiano:  well, on those ghostly encounter shows they are white specks that look suspiciously like dust motes.
Belenos:                      well that's rather boring... and... not what you'd expect of something powerful
Lihan Taifun:            if they didn't show up on camera, how could they film a show?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  true
Lihan Taifun:            now what I had thought, before we started the RP, and before reading all the forums ... (Lihan personal opinion) is that there were two kinds of ainur bodies
AelKennyr Rhiano listened.
Rhûn Darkmoon listens with interest
Lihan Taifun:            that when an ainu wanted to be visible, it could either take a fana or a hroa. the fana is a little more substantial than a "projection" -- that is, it can act upon physical objects. but it is more what Belanos was calling a husk -- a shape designed to be "visible"
Belenos:                      like a hologram perhaps? no wait, not if it could act on physical objects
Lihan Taifun:            like a hologram, but capable of touching physical objects
Belenos:                      ok
AelKennyr Rhiano:  like the holodeck
Lihan Taifun:            yes! that is an even better comparison than our SL avs
AelKennyr Rhiano:  :)
Lihan Taifun:            then someone like Melian, or the Five Wizards had actual hroa -- real, biochemically functioning bodies
Belenos:                      so the first version is easily put on and shed, and the latter more permanant?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  permanent?
Lihan Taifun:            the only cases where we know an ainu was in the second form are the cases where they were using it long term
Belenos:                      longer lasting.. takes more time to 'wear' perhaps and more time to shed or change?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  ok
Lihan Taifun:            what about eating at the feasts, though?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  just making sure we all have the same definition.
Rhûn Darkmoon:     'I was going to ask that. Which form would they have taken for the feasts?'
Lihan Taifun:            I'm not positive Tolkien was clear, himself. it seems kinda pointless to be eating, and not using a full body
Belenos:                      heh.. typical writer.. uses a concept that is useful but doesn't elaborate on it ..
AelKennyr Rhiano:  useful, but also a landmine
Belenos:                      which is why they don't elaborate on it.. :D
Lihan Taifun:            was Tolkien really imagining the Valr waking up the next morning, with full bladders and upset tummies?
Rhûn Darkmoon:     'The thing is though, if they are not using physical bodies all the time, if they ate and drank and 'felt' everything suddenly would it not be overwhelming?'
Belenos:                      or hangovers.. :)
Lihan Taifun:            I agree, to both of you
AelKennyr Rhiano:  it could give them PTSD
Belenos:                      i would have thought it was more a form they used to appear to join in... but not something that functioned fully; all that rich food and wine for the first time on a stomach? imagine giving it to a newborn
Rhûn Darkmoon:     'Would rather not.'
Lihan Taifun:            and how many decades does it take a human to learn to pace their eating at feasts?
Belenos:                      exactly.... so I think your concept that Nienna was using a body that was only functioning partially is a good one..
AelKennyr Rhiano:  please explain?
Lihan Taifun:            so that is basically assuming there is a continuum, between the "appearance" and the "fully functional"
Belenos:                      well, if nienna didn't use her physical form on a regular basis she would not want it experiencing everything all at once... it would be like lihan is suggesting would be wise to use for the festivals.... unless one can assume that if you take on an adult body then it has adult capablities, skills and tolerances?
Rhûn Darkmoon:     'But even if it had those capablities, skills and tolerances, still the input from the senses would be overwhelming if it is not commonly used, I would think?'
Lihan Taifun:            an adult human has had lots of practice
Belenos:                      yes, and i suppose they don't just keep a body in the wardrobe, fully programmed with a lifetime's experience, do they? or do they?
Lihan Taifun:            where would they get the lifetime of experience?
Belenos:                      well a human lifetime is but the blink of an eye to an ainur?
Lihan Taifun:            so they have had lots of practice going to feasts
Lihan Taifun:            eating, sitting in chairs, maybe some of them danced -- Vana I'm sure
AelKennyr Rhiano:  oh yes. nod nod nod
Rhûn Darkmoon:     'And who knows what they may have done in between that is not written about?'
Lihan Taifun:            that doesn't sound like "a lifetime of experience"; that would be a lot of repetition of the same things. That is where we get Irmo and Nienna who *still* can't light a fire or wash dishes or find a green bean
AelKennyr Rhiano thinks about this. If they did not use forms much...why have Manwe's palace on the sacred mountain?
Lihan Taifun:            that's a good point
Belenos:                      well i suppose really you have to think about what they did throughout the ages?.. did they just swan around in Aman as clouds and... do what?.... or did they go and walk in the mortal world in mortal forms?... because a lifetime for a human would be nothing to an ainu
Lihan Taifun:            and I wouldn't expect Manwe to be one of the more "physical" Valar
Lihan Taifun:            Orome used to visit Middle earth a lot
AelKennyr Rhiano:  That is the problem with using beings of this magnitude in your work...what DO they do when they are "off the clock?"
Lihan Taifun:            and would a human writer know? what do I know about what angels do in their spare time?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  And how to bring a character such as Manwe or Nienna to life in a way that the reader would care about them.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  We care best about characters with mortal flaws, drawbacks, defects.
Lihan Taifun:            Tolkien wasn't writing a story about the Ainur, really. we are
AelKennyr Rhiano:  And I think we now can understand why he would have avoided doing so.
Lihan Taifun:            he was using them as part of the backdrop for the story
AelKennyr Rhiano:  But, however, there is Melian. Notice how he glosses over her story, though.
Belenos:                      so if he didn't define them and we are in the fourth age then i suppose in a way we have a fair bit of 'artistic license?'
Lihan Taifun:            the story isn't about her; the story is about Elwe, and about Luthien
AelKennyr Rhiano:  true
Rhûn Darkmoon:     'As long as we do not inexplicably flout what he did define?'
AelKennyr Rhiano:  BUT...without her would there have been a story about either at all?
Lihan Taifun:            true. but you were saying she isn't drawn in as much detail as the other characters
AelKennyr Rhiano:  She isn't. And i would suggest that the reason the story IS about Elwe and Luthien is because to do the story about Melian would have been problematic....among other things.
Belenos:                      Because then he would have to have explained much more?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  yes, and it would have stirred up lots of questions about Luthien?
Rhûn Darkmoon nods, 'That makes sense.'
Lihan Taifun:            and I don't think the Valar were ever intended to be major characters, because the story was about the humans and the elves
Rhûn Darkmoon nods, 'Yes.'
Lihan Taifun:            we are picking up loose ends that he left, and making stories about the charcters who had only walk-on parts
Belenos smiles.. but that's not such a bad thing... as it allows us leeway... although it also gives us work to define their capabilities too
AelKennyr Rhiano:  all very true
Lihan Taifun:            "Rosesncrantz and Guilderstern are Dead"
AelKennyr Rhiano:  YES! precisely.
Lihan Taifun:            yes, it does give us leeway. so, would Eonwe use ordinary physics in his fighting?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  define what you mean specifically, please?
Lihan Taifun:            does he use a physical sword? Limited to ordinary physics? Why would a powerful spirit being do that?
Rhûn Darkmoon:     'What other instances are there of Maiar fighting in battles? What did they use?"
AelKennyr Rhiano:  well, are we looking at this from the outsider, as readers looking at the writing and its mechanics, or as within the world, looking for plausibility?
Belenos:                      well i'd say from within the world?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  ok...from within the world then...
Lihan Taifun:            Tulkas wrestled Melkor at the end of the War of Wrath
AelKennyr Rhiano:  If we look and accept that Tolkien was writing, with the Judeo-Christianity in the back of his mind, then he would, indeed, make it a physical battle with physical weapons, although I don't know about limted to ordinary physics.
Lihan Taifun:            why would that lead him toward a physical battle?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Let me answer that with a question. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, how is the fight between Lucifer and his fallen angels and Michael and the archangels portrayed?
Lihan Taifun:            I would say that is protrayed very symbolically and archetypal; "no matter what today's news looks like, the good guys are going to win"
Belenos:                      but then, if they didn't do literal battle why would eonwe be called the greatest at arms or whatever his title is?
Lihan Taifun:            yes, there is that
AelKennyr Rhiano:  ok, with Lucifer and Michael... the "War in Heaven..."
Lucifer corrupted 1/3 of the divine host in an attempt to place themselves as rulers in the Heaven, and they formed two groups: those that battled alongside with Lucifer and those that watched, the Grigori.
Lucifer had been one of the highest of Archangels and grew vain and preening. And when God created Man, he refused to bow before Man, as God required of all the angelic host.
Sounds a little like the Song of Creation and the Ainur and Melkor?
Belenos grins.. just a little.. :)
Lihan Taifun:            a little, though half of what you are quoting is from sources I never heard before
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Some myths say that When God announced to the angelic host the coming of Jesus (apparently God did birth announcements way early), Lucifer turned in his notice as highest of the seraphim and Chief of the angels.
I will try to get some sources online for you, Lihan.
Now I remember in the 14th- or 15th...maybe 16th century, some bishop or other estimated how many angels fell from heaven during that was...well, hundred of thousands.
Lihan Taifun:            you do know that approximately none of that is actually in the Bible?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Actually one of it is.
Lihan Taifun:            anyway, the real question is whether Tolkien had heard that version
AelKennyr Rhiano:  The only reference on a battle of this nature is in Revelation.
yes Let me go ahead and do share this ... the famous Wiki ...
Lihan Taifun:            and the battle in Revelation is a later battle, at the end of time, not the beginning
Lihan Taifun:            leaving the previous history of Lucifer obscure (or assuming the readers already knew that part)
AelKennyr Rhiano:  right; But ALSO remember the bible went through many many changes during the passage of time. Some books accepted, others discarded. For many, many years, no one version accepted as the "standard."
Lihan Taifun:            true
Belenos:                      Ok... but where is this leading as regards physical battle?... *is a little lost*
Lihan Taifun:            and Revelations was one of the more marginal candidates
AelKennyr Rhiano:  So, we need to say, "The Bible as we know it does not reference this War in Heaven," But apparently IT Was known.
If the angels were cast in to hell, if they were defeated, how else could it have been but by some physical form of conflict, even if that physical level is not one perceived by mortals?
Lihan Taifun looks confused. It all sounds allegorical to me.
Belenos:                      so you are saying that while being spiritual beings there was a physical battle, yes? even if it was not perceived by mortals?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I am saying it is possible, yes; Is not our perceptions limited? The world to an ant looks different than the world to a human. the world to a Vala different than the world of an Elf.
Belenos:                      yes..true; but when we are talking of Eonwe using weapons, it was in a physical form, yes?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  perhaps it is physical but beyond our abilities to perceive, and thus the need for allegory. yes
Belenos:                      now not having read the books, but relying on the movies... *blushes*.. wasn't Gandalf a maiar... he fought the balrog with magic yes?.. but how did he fight in the big battle at the end?... *cannot remember*... but he WAS in a physical body at the time, yes?
Lihan Taifun:            he was in a physical body, yes; and he was a maia
at the final battle he didn't do a lot himself, though he did stand at the broken gate of Minas Tirith and keep the King of the Nazgul from entering; so that sounds like a bit of magic
Belenos:                      so he was physically present in a mortal body.. at a battle.. he didn't really need to be did he?
Lihan Taifun:            as one of the Wizards, part of the terms of his assignment was to be in a physical body, just as part of the terms were to not oppose Sauron by his own direct power
Belenos:                      ok... so with eonwe... his title.. it wouldn't be from using magic, would it?... it would be from bearing arms.. and using them? so then, he'd need an actual physical body to wield them?
Lihan Taifun:            that would make sense. I just keep thinking, Why would a maia, given the choice, use physical weapons?
Belenos:                      the same reasons they wizards were told they had to use physical bodies? because sometimes there is need to deal with the mortal world on its own level, rather than just sit as a cloud on a mountaintop and cast thunderbolts?
Lihan Taifun:            or Manwe sits on the mountain top, and doesn't cast thunderbolts
Belenos:                      and why the valar chose to assume physical bodies to go to feasts.. it was all about being seen, functioning and known in the mortal world
AelKennyr Rhiano:  being a part of creation. It speaks to a human need to be a part of the world, to interact and therefore have meaning and impact?
Belenos:                      now I have a question: where did the idea come from that the valar did not interfere in the mortal world?.. is that from the books.. or a rule of ours?
Lihan Taifun:            mostly ours, I think? though somewhat based on the observation that , as the stories go on, the Valar do interfere less and less
Belenos:                      ok.. because my next question was going to be how could Gandalf be allowed to act as he did in the story and aid as he did.. that was blatant interfering..... and if they were not allowed to interfere than what point of being able to bear arms... BUT.. if they could.. then it makes perfect sense that Eonwe would literally fight with weapons...
Lihan Taifun:            the wizards were sent to middle earth to counter Sauron, but they were supposed to do it primarily by organizing the residents of middle earth
Belenos:                      yes.. but still that was interfering... anyways, the point is, it's logical that Eonwe could and would use weapons... with a physical body.. yes?
Lihan Taifun:            especially since it was now time for Humans to be taking over responsibility for Middle Earth
Lihan Taifun:            I would think it was logical
Belenos:                      ok.. cool.. :) so he would sweat.. *grins*
Lihan Taifun:            on an archetypal scale *grins*
Belenos:                      ok... lol.. just what do you mean by 'archtypal'?... that word's always gone over my head.. *blushes*
Lihan Taifun:            and that wasn't a very accurate use of the word. I'm not the person who took mythology courses --
Rhûn Darkmoon wonders if maiar use deodorant
Belenos:                      lol... didn't eonwe smell like a yak at one point?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  HE did not! omg. AelKennyr Rhiano blushes.
Belenos:                      LOL
AelKennyr Rhiano mutters darkly
Lihan Taifun:            an archetype is a character who is an embodiment of a concept
Belenos:                      ahhh.. I've heard it used in psychology texts.. but not mythology
Rhûn Darkmoon:     'So I guess he did use deodorant then?'
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Old Maiar Spice
Belenos:                      isn't there a rock or crystal that works like that actually?
Lihan Taifun:            works like what?
Belenos:                      a deodorant
AelKennyr Rhiano:  O.o
Lihan Taifun:            there is. it dissolves, slowly, so it gets used up as you use it
Belenos:                      yes.. I used it once.. you just had to wet it slightly and then rub it on... but I cannot recall the name... Belenos <--- is googling
Lihan Taifun:            I have some, at the other end of the house
Belenos:                      and I have some in my bathroom.. but it has no label... just a white'ish lump of stone
Lihan Taifun:            that's not much help
Belenos:                      lol.. none
Lihan Taifun:            "ammonium alum"
Belenos:                      yay!! so Eonwe could have been using that?
Rhûn Darkmoon grins, 'At the rate he practices his sword, he'd need a whole quarry of it.'
Lihan Taifun:            maybe he has a waterfall installed in his quarters
Belenos:                      lol... *looks at Ael*.. yes.... I would not be surprised at all..
Lihan Taifun:            and Aule?
Rhûn Darkmoon thinks. 'Aule would be able to take scented herbal baths, I would imagine, with all the plants Yavanna grows. He would always be sweet smelling.'.. grins
Belenos:                      LOL  Belenos <--- makes a note to put a bathtub in the set in the Halls of Mandos, complete with yellow duckie
Rhûn Darkmoon:     'LOL'
Lihan Taifun giggles at the image
Rhûn Darkmoon wonders if Olwe bathes with a white swan 'duckie'
Belenos:                      lol.. he'd have a whole flotilla, wouldn't he?
Rhûn Darkmoon grins
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I heard that. AelKennyr Rhiano glares
Lihan Taifun bites her lips
Belenos:                      lol  Belenos smiles sweetly at Ael and bats her big brown eyes at him... what?.. you mean olwe wouldn't have little swan toys in his bath?
AelKennyr Rhiano mutters darkly under his breath.

Belenos smiles quietly to herself.. so then... what more do we need to discuss about Ainur bodies?
Lihan Taifun:            do have have more to say?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I suspect we could discuss it all night, but at some point we have to leave it "to be continued for another time?"
Lihan Taifun:            what do we want for next month?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  ents
Belenos:                      Ents?...
Lihan Taifun:            Yavanna's answer to the dwarves
AelKennyr Rhiano:  yes!
Belenos:                      omg
AelKennyr Rhiano:  or we could discuss Yavanna
Belenos:                      erm... that might be helpful actually.. I'm still very much learning her character..
AelKennyr Rhiano:  ok, that would be great
Lihan Taifun:            the ents do show up in the chapter "Aule and Yavanna", so those fit together
AelKennyr Rhiano:  we could do both! Yavanna and the 7 Ents :P