Comment on Earendil Poem

As I make my way through the poem discussion, Prof Olsen keeps raising the point to “not fill in the gaps with what you all know”. Unlike many of you, I have not read the Silmarillion, so all these “gaps” you guys seem to fill are totally unknown to me. Based on that, I agree with Prof Olsen; I have no idea what this poem is about, outside of just highlighting the sweeping activities. I have no idea what he did, what the impact was, and frankly why Earendil decided to do this and what he was seeking (light?).

Anyway, just thought I’d pass on that feedback :)
 

Flammifer

Active Member
Hi Aaron,

I agree with your perspective (and Corey's) on how to approach the Earendil poem when reading The Lord of the Rings, which is to ignore the Silmarillion stuff and take the poem as it appears if you have never encountered the Silmarillion.

So, you need to understand the poem as it appears in TLOTR.

Here are some suggestions on how it might appear:

1. Bilbo has chosen this poem on the occasion of a feast to honor Frodo. So, the poem should relate to Frodo. On the one hand, it is honoring Frodo, by suggesting that his quest so far (to bear the Ring to Rivendell through darkness and deadly danger) is comparable to Earendil's quest (whatever that may have been). But, also, to suggest to Frodo, that getting there may not be enough. There may be more to come. The more to come might be accompanied by a 'doom', and perhaps not a doom that Frodo would chose, but, 'taking up your cross, and carrying it' is the proper action of the hero. Bilbo, by inference, is suggesting that Frodo may be a hero on the same scale as Earendil, and may have to accept a similar 'doom'?

2. Bilbo is also presenting Earendil to his mostly Elvish audience as wholly mortal. He is suggesting the (perhaps surprising to Elves) idea that Earendil's doom is more dire, and less desirable for mortals than Elves might assume.

3. The poem also foreshadows much of what will happen in the remainder of the book. Frodo will continue (extend) the quest (and I think he realizes this sub-consciously when he hears the poem). Frodo, like Earendil, will need the help of the silmaril (in the form of the vial of Galadrial) to succeed. Frodo, like Earendil, will never be able to successfully return to normal mortal life after the quest.

There is probably more to be gained from the poem in the context of TLOTR only, when trying to understand it. But, I think it is a key hinge in the book, and you don't need to know all the Silmarillion stuff, to know that it is important, and to begin to relate it to the story as it unfolds.
 
Thank you! Very good post!

What I’m stuck on is whether Bilbo would have chosen it to honour Frodo, or if it was simply the poem he had available and ready to share. If the latter, there is a “provenance” element involved. Anyway, very interesting to think about either way!

Thanks again!
 

Anthony Lawther

Active Member
Hi Aaron,

I agree with your perspective (and Corey's) on how to approach the Earendil poem when reading The Lord of the Rings, which is to ignore the Silmarillion stuff and take the poem as it appears if you have never encountered the Silmarillion.

So, you need to understand the poem as it appears in TLOTR.

Here are some suggestions on how it might appear:

1. Bilbo has chosen this poem on the occasion of a feast to honor Frodo. So, the poem should relate to Frodo. On the one hand, it is honoring Frodo, by suggesting that his quest so far (to bear the Ring to Rivendell through darkness and deadly danger) is comparable to Earendil's quest (whatever that may have been). But, also, to suggest to Frodo, that getting there may not be enough. There may be more to come. The more to come might be accompanied by a 'doom', and perhaps not a doom that Frodo would chose, but, 'taking up your cross, and carrying it' is the proper action of the hero. Bilbo, by inference, is suggesting that Frodo may be a hero on the same scale as Earendil, and may have to accept a similar 'doom'?

2. Bilbo is also presenting Earendil to his mostly Elvish audience as wholly mortal. He is suggesting the (perhaps surprising to Elves) idea that Earendil's doom is more dire, and less desirable for mortals than Elves might assume.

3. The poem also foreshadows much of what will happen in the remainder of the book. Frodo will continue (extend) the quest (and I think he realizes this sub-consciously when he hears the poem). Frodo, like Earendil, will need the help of the silmaril (in the form of the vial of Galadrial) to succeed. Frodo, like Earendil, will never be able to successfully return to normal mortal life after the quest.

There is probably more to be gained from the poem in the context of TLOTR only, when trying to understand it. But, I think it is a key hinge in the book, and you don't need to know all the Silmarillion stuff, to know that it is important, and to begin to relate it to the story as it unfolds.
A fourth suggestion (or an extension of your second one):

Bilbo is relating his own story to that of Eärendil and saying 'you've seen how homesick I am; imagine how your dad feels'
 

Flammifer

Active Member
Let me go way out on a limb here, and suggest that it could be this poem, and it's effect on the understanding of Mortals in the minds of Elves (and of Valar/Maiar) which persuades them to allow Frodo, Bilbo, Sam to travel to Elvenhome.
 

Jim Deutch

Active Member
Let me go way out on a limb here, and suggest that it could be this poem, and it's effect on the understanding of Mortals in the minds of Elves (and of Valar/Maiar) which persuades them to allow Frodo, Bilbo, Sam to travel to Elvenhome.
"out on a limb" is great, there, connecting metaphorically (via the tree-dwellings in Lothlorien) to the notion I've long maintained that it was Galadriel who convinced the rest of them that the ringbearers should be allowed the trip to Elvenhome. She wasn't there in the Hall of Fire, but I'm sure she got a chance to hear Bilbo's poem later, so both ideas could be true!

On the other hand, there are also hints that it was all/originally Arwen's idea. And she was there in the HOF...
 

Jim Deutch

Active Member
Hi Flammifer - I don't have the book in front of me, so I can give citations, but:

As Galadriel tells Frodo (in the Mirror scene) that he has seen her inmost thoughts, and "gently" gotten back at her for her test of him by testing her with the freely-offered Ring in return, it seems strongly implied that this deep knowing is mutual. She understands his burden and need for healing. She passes the test, and "will diminish, and remain Galadriel". And, well: I don't have actual textual evidence at hand, but I'd always thought she would be watching out for him, as much as she was able, from then on. I wonder, too, whether the star-glass remains a connection-point between them: it certainly seems to comfort Frodo when he is down, as on the anniversary of Weathertop: is she aware of these episodes? It seems possible. Galadriel's compassion would be a powerful incentive for her to think up a way to help.

As for Arwen, I can't remember anything particular. But in the movies, didn't PJ make her explicitly say that she's staying in ME and transferring her "ticket to Valinor" to Frodo? This goes way beyond the book, but I do think there are hints there that the movie writers took and ran with. Can't remember what or where they were, though!

Sorry to be so vague. But it would certainly take someone very Wise to make such a decision: Gandalf, Elrond, Arwen, and Galadriel are pretty nearly the only ones with any possibility of such authority and foreknowledge of/confidence in/hope for the agreement of the Valar with this profoundly divergent honor.
 

Flammifer

Active Member
Hi Jim,

Let's try to explore the question of how permission was given for the Ringbearers to go to Valinor a little more?

First: Who might have come up with the idea? I think the candidates are: Elrond, Galadriel, Gandalf, possibly Arwen. Of these, only Galadriel and Gandalf have any first hand knowledge of the Blessed Realm (and Gandalf had little or no recollection - at least until he became The White). It is possible that Elrond or Arwen came up with the idea first, but, as their knowledge of Valinor (though no doubt extensive) is not informed by experience, if they first conceived the idea, I think it would have been as a tentative suggestion to Galadriel and/or Gandalf.

The most likely time and place for this to have been discussed was when Celeborn and Galadriel, and Gandalf, and Elrond, and the Hobbits 'tarried for seven days' at the foot of the Redhorn Pass before going their seperate ways, on the journey home from Gondor. "Often long after the Hobbits were wrapped in sleep they would sit together under the stars, recalling the ages that were gone and all their joys and sorrows in the world, or holding council, concerning the days to come.... They did not move or speak with mouth, looking from mind to mind; and only their shining eyes stirred and kindled as their thoughts went to and fro. But at length all was said and they parted again for a while, until it was time for the Three Rings to pass away."

So, this is when, I think, the decision was made that passage of the Ringbearers into the West would be a good idea. However, I don't think any of them (even Gandalf) had the power to make that decision.

The decision maker seems to be Manwe. It was he who made the decision on the fate of Earendil, after hearing counsel from Mandos and Ulmo. Furthermore, the decision did not set a clear precedent for the case of the Hobbits, because Manwe's decision was to give Elwing and Earendil a choice between being Elves, or being Men. If they chose Elves (which they did) then no problem, because the question (posed by Mandos) was, "Shall mortal Man step living upon the undying lands, and yet live?" Of course, if Elves, the problem did not arise. Though Manwe threw in the proviso that they could not return to Middle Earth.

So, it seems clear that the only one who can make the decision is Manwe.

How did Gandalf, Elrond and Galadriel communicate with Manwe?

Well, I am pretty sure that there are communication channels between Valinor and Middle Earth, other than dreams and visions, that have always remained open, though hidden to most. Perhaps the best evidence is that Frodo's first view of Elvenhome, from the ship bearing him thither was included in the Red Book of Westmarch. I doubt that Sam would have invented this (though it is possible that Findigil might have). So it is likely that this was reported to Sam via some communication channel from Valinor to Middle Earth.

I think the most likely communications channels are:

1. Via Manwe's Eagles. They are reporting back to Manwe constantly about goings on in Middle Earth. No reason they can't carry messages both ways.

2. Via Ulmo. Wherever there is water, Ulmo can go. And he does venture to Middle Earth more than any other Vala, and talk to people there.

3. Via Cirdan. Cirdan's ships travel to Valinor bearing Elves. Unless he builds a new ship for every voyage, they travel back again. Communication via Cirdan's sailors is a possibility.

4. Directly via Mental Telepathy. Just as the high Elves and Gandalf are talking mind to mind, perhaps mind to mind communication to Valinor is possible, at least for Gandalf?

I guess it is most likely to have been Gandalf who opened the discussion with Manwe. He might have done it mind to mind. He might even have done it face to face now that he is Gandalf the White (could he whip back to Valinor incorporealy to hob-nob with Manwe?) But, at least initiating the discussion via Manwe's Eagles seems the most likely.

The report to Sam, however, of Frodo's first view of Elvenhome, I think came by a different route. I suspect via Frodo or Gandalf to Ulmo, thence a communication up the Brandywine and Withywindle to Goldberry, the River's Daughter, thus to Tom Bombadil. Sam might have re-visited Cirdan at some stage and got the information via that route, but, I think it much more likely that Sam visited Bombadil from time to time, and that is who he got this story from.
 

Forodan

Member
Peter Jackson didn't invent the explicit gift. Tolkien himself says that Arwen gave Frodo her seat on the ship going west. Letters #154,
But in this story it is supposed that there may be certain rare exceptions or accommodations (legitimately supposed? there always seem to be exceptions); and so certain 'mortals', who have played some great part in Elvish affairs, may pass with the Elves to Elvenhome. Thus Frodo (by the express gift of Arwen) and Bilbo, and eventually Sam (as adumbrated by Frodo); and as a unique exception Gimli the Dwarf, as friend of Legolas and 'servant' of Galadriel.
This is at least partly because she noticed his lingering suffering. Again from the Letters, #246
He appears at first to have had no sense of guilt (III 224-5); he was restored to sanity and peace. But then he thought that he had given his life in sacrifice: he expected to die very soon. But he did not, and one can observe the disquiet growing within him. Arwen was the first to observe the signs, and gave him her jewel for comfort, and thought of a way of healing him.
Also, the communication with Valinor might have been possible through the Palantir remaining in Elostirion, the tower west of the Shire. It was different from the others, and only looked west to another Palantir that remained in Eldamar. Exactly what it was capable of was not well defined, as with so many of the loose ends of Tolkien's work. In some accounts it could only look "to the west" in a general sense, but in some others it could actually reach the "Master Stone" in Eldamar.
 
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Forodan

Member
Oops, and now I find the exact passage in LotR where she makes the double gift of jewel and ship passage:
But the Queen Arwen said, “A gift I will give you. For I am the daughter of Elrond. I shall not go with him now when he departs to the Havens; for mine is the choice of Lúthien, and as she so have I chosen, both the sweet and the bitter. But in my stead you shall go, Ringbearer, when the time comes, and if you then desire it. If your hurts grieve you still and the memory of your burden is heavy, then you may pass into the West, until all your wounds and weariness are healed. But wear this now in memory of Elfstone and Evenstar with whom your life has been woven!”
And she took a white gem like a star that lay upon her breast hanging upon a silver chain, and she set the chain about Frodo’s neck. “When the memory of the fear and the darkness troubles you,” she said, “this will bring you aid.”
(From "Many Partings")
 

Flammifer

Active Member
Hi Forodan,

Well spotted!

However, I don't think that it is within Arwen's power to grant this gift. She may be the one who bestows it on Frodo, but I think it must have been decided and approved by Manwe.

Arwen might have communicated with Manwe via a trip to the Tower and the Palantir in the Tower Hills at some point during the War of the Ring (though she would not then have been aware of Frodo's success nor suffering), or she might have communicated some other way (probably with the help of Gandalf) after the destruction of the Ring.
 

Forodan

Member
Actually, it seemed to me that Gandalf was the most likely user of the Palantir in the Tower. I doubt he could communicate "telepathically" directly with Manwe. It would have made his work much easier if he could. :)
Of course Arwen did not have the authority of her own to grant this, so it was a mostly ceremonial or symbolic act. But there were several years between this gift and the actual departure of Bilbo and Frodo for the Grey Havens. Plenty of time for Gandalf to ask Cirdan for the keys to the Tower and have some conference calls with his boss(es). :) It does seem that the possibility was already there anyway, given Frodo's dreams in the House of Tom Bombadil, already discussed a while back in this course. Prophetic dreams would come from Lorien, one of the Valar and originally the affiliation of one Olorin who became known as Gandalf. Though later Tolkien decided to attach him to Manwe (in the Letters). Maybe Arwen had sensed what was going to happen already and used her gift to merely inform Frodo of what she knew was in the offing.
 

Flammifer

Active Member
Good stuff Forodan.

I agree that Gandalf could have used the palantir. However, given his predilection for Eagles, I am still inclined to suspect that that was the channel he used to initiate the discussion?
 

Flammifer

Active Member
Hi Anthony,

No, I don't think they would have found it was in the Music from the beginning. The Valar seemed to know almost nothing about the Music where it pertained to the Children of Illuvitar. That was opaque to them. So, Manwe would have had to make his own decision on this.
 

Anthony Lawther

Active Member
Hi Anthony,

No, I don't think they would have found it was in the Music from the beginning. The Valar seemed to know almost nothing about the Music where it pertained to the Children of Illuvitar. That was opaque to them. So, Manwe would have had to make his own decision on this.
From the Ainulindalë:
"And many other things Ilúvatar spoke to the Ainur at that time, and because of their memory of his words, and the knowledge that each has of the music that he himself made, the Ainur know much of what was, and is, and is to come, and few things are unseen by them. Yet some things there are that they cannot see, neither alone nor taking counsel together; for to none but himself has Ilúvatar revealed all that he has in store, and in every age there come forth things that are new and have no foretelling, for they do not proceed from the past. And so it was that as this vision of the World was played before them, the Ainur saw that it contained things which they had not thought. And they saw with amazement the coming of the Children of Ilúvatar, and the habitation that was prepared for them; and they perceived that they themselves in the labour of their music had been busy with the preparation of this dwelling, and yet knew not that it had any purpose beyond its own beauty. For the Children of Ilúvatar were conceived by him alone; and they came with the third theme, and were not in the theme which Ilúvatar propounded at the beginning, and none of the Ainur had part in their making. Therefore when they beheld them, the more did they love them, being things other than themselves, strange and free, wherein they saw the mind of Ilúvatar reflected anew, and learned yet a little more of his wisdom, which otherwise had been hidden even from the Ainur." emphasis added

And from the Quenta Silmarillion:
"Now all is said concerning the manner of the Earth and its rulers in the beginning of days, and ere the world became such as the Children of Ilúvatar have known it. For Elves and Men are the Children of Ilúvatar; and since they understood not fully that theme by which the Children entered into the Music, none of the Ainur dared to add anything to their fashion. For which reason the Valar are to these kindreds rather their elders and their chieftains than their masters; and if ever in their dealings with Elves and Men the Ainur have endeavoured to force them when they would not be guided, seldom has this turned to good, howsoever good the intent. The dealings of the Ainur have indeed been mostly with the Elves, for Ilúvatar made them more like in nature to the Ainur, though less in might and stature; whereas to Men he gave strange gifts.

For it is said that after the departure of the Valar there was silence, and for an age Ilúvatar sat alone in thought. Then he spoke and said: 'Behold I love the Earth, which shall be a mansion for the Quendi and the Atani! But the Quendi shall be the fairest of all earthly creatures, and they shall have and shall conceive and bring forth more beauty than all my Children; and they shall have the greater bliss in this world. But to the Atani I will give a new gift.' 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." emphasis added

That doesn't sound like opacity, merely lacking detail and only at the far end of the work.
It seems to me that this indicates that there are details of the Music that they don't recognise the import of, until the time of it is right in front of them. This might serve to prevent the Valar from interfering in the most critical pieces of the work, e.g. sending Eagles to Bag-End to fly Frodo to Mordor ;-)
It also indicates that such a decision would not be taken unilaterally by the Valar, but instead in reference to the Music.

All the same, all of this is speculation as there is insufficient textual basis to make a firm statement.
 

Jim Deutch

Active Member
I agree that Gandalf could have used the palantir. However, given his predilection for Eagles, I am still inclined to suspect that that was the channel he used to initiate the discussion?
I wonder: can these third-age Eagles take the Straight Road back to Valinor? I don't think we have any evidence either way. I'd never considered it before. It seems a bit unlikely, but that may be because the only closeup view we get of them is in The Hobbit (which is not as firmly within the legendarium). The Eagle's archaically-phrased announcement after the Pelennor Fields suggests to me that they actually might: if they talk like Manwe, perhaps it's because they can talk to Manwe!
 
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