On Amras: Some Thoughts and Questions.

Discussion in 'General Topics' started by Trevor Trumbull, Feb 9, 2018.

  1. Trevor Trumbull

    Trevor Trumbull New Member

    During the episode on the Kinslaying much time was given to how the elves, and perhaps especially the Noldor, would view death. Thinking of Amrod’s death and the way Amras reacts, or at least the reaction as it was discussed during this morning’s episode using words like depression, I cannot help asking would he really react in that way? To put it another way. Is the loss of a brother, even a twin, greater than the loss of a spouse? I am not sure that it is, though I am not saying that is is less that that either. Turgon losses his wife, Elenwë, is he depressed? Elrond losses, though not through death, Celebrían. Is he depressed?

    I know that not everyone reacts to things in the same way. My point is not to say if others are not depressed at the loss of a loved one why is Amras? But rather to ask is depression even the right word or concept to use when speaking of the elves?

    Ambras heard the Doom so he knows Valinor is closed to them. Does he think that that closing also refers to Mandos inself? This seems to me very unlikely given the words of Mandos. “For though Eru appointed to you to die not in Eä, and no sickness may assail you, yet slain ye may be, and slain ye shall be: by weapon and by torment and by grief; and your houseless spirits shall come then to Mandos.” Note two things here.

    1) The spirits of the Noldor return to Mandos.

    2) It seems clear that many, if not most or nearly all, of the Noldor will at some point suffer death in some fashion.

    So Ambras knows that his brother is in Mandos and that even if the Doom is never lifted they will meet again, unless he thinks that he/Ambras will never die. It might be tens of thousands of years but what are a few thousand years to an elf? So what is he depressed over? That is a rather crass way of putting it so let me ask the question a different way. Depression is not really sorrow but is more akin to despair. So is Ambras in despair? At the loss of his brother, the manner in which he dies, the reaction of their father and family or the burning of the ships? Have this things caused Ambras to give up all hope? And this brings up an even bigger question. If he is in despar than what would his reaction be?

    Whatever my own or anyone else's thoughts and opinions on Catholicism in particular or Christianity in general may be, Tolkien’s world is distinctly Christian. I would go even farther and say distinctly Catholic. Therefor suicide is a big deal, a grave matter. Yes it does happen, Corey mentioned Maedhros this morning and I could add Túrin. Would Ambras, newly come from Valinor, even in despair kill himself? I am not opposed to his death but I am not sure about suicide. Maedhros was at least in pain from the Silmaril when he threw himself into the fire. Having Ambras commit suicide would be to parallel him with his brother, but also with Túrin.

    Do not get me wrong I really like Túrin, the Children of Húrin is my favorite of Tolkien’s stories just after Beren and Lúthien. But a parallel between Ambras and Túrin? It you really want his death to be suicide than might I suggest you make it Niënorian in nature? Yes Niënor commits suicide but her words “Water, water! Take now Níniel Niënor daughter of Húrin; Mourning, Mourning daughter of Morwen! Take me and bear me down to the Sea!” Seem to say that she is seeking something more than a mere end to present suffering but rather some cleansing… perhaps even something redemptive?
  2. Marielle

    Marielle Well-Known Member

    I agree with much of what you said, and Tolkien's Catholicism certainly puts suicide in a different category for him than, say, the Roman Stoics. But there's an element here that you might be under-weighing: The Oath. When they swore, "Darkness doom us if our deed faileth..." they do open the possibility that Mandos is closed to them, and they would be doomed to everlasting wandering of the Void. And Amrod died because he was trying to turn back, to betray the Oath. Amras might very well fear, or even actively believe, that he wouldn't find his brother in Mandos, or walking Valinor again.
  3. Trevor Trumbull

    Trevor Trumbull New Member

    Is Mandos truly closed to them though? Mandos seems to know of the Oath since he speaks of it in his Doom, and yet he still says their spirits shall return to Mandos.
  4. Marielle

    Marielle Well-Known Member

    No, i don’t believe it truly is. Just as Tolkien’s Men can’t escape death and departure of the circles of Arda, I very much doubt elves can avoid their fate to remain within those circles until the Remaking.

    But that doesn’t mean that some elves can’t *believe* that they can. And, if anything could contravene destiny, that dread Oath would be a believable contender.
    Faelivrin likes this.
  5. Faelivrin

    Faelivrin Well-Known Member

    I don't think Mandos is closed to them, because Eru commanded the Valar to summon dead Elves to Mandos. On the other hand, Eru himself can contravene that and summon a particular elf to the Void if he wants. And any elf can (foolishly) reject the authority of Namo and become a ghost in Middle-earth instead, if they're really, really dumb. But I think Amrod and his brothers all ended up in Mandos with their father. How long they'll be stuck there, and if any of them will ever be allowed to return to life, is a separate question.

    There's also the fact that Amrod was slain by his own father and brothers, which adds a great horror to it. We didn't show Amros unknowingly participating, but it's horrific enough without that.

    But I don't think Amros becomes suicidal. I prefer to think his long-term reaction is to be pissed off at his father and brothers (except Maedhros, kind of) and hold a grudge for centuries.

    Please elaborate.

    We talked about this on the Feanorian storylines thread and I suggest merging threads... if anyone has the ability to do that.
  6. MithLuin

    MithLuin Well-Known Member

    Like you, I have my doubts as to why Amras has to react so destructively to the death of his brother.

    I am 100% on board with him being upset about it - I would definitely get behind a storyline where he is berserker-angry during the Battle-under-Stars and even potentially refuses to renew the Oath with his brothers at his father's death...or at least is shown to be clearly reluctant to do so. [Or some other manifestation of 'I am not okay with this!']

    But depressed for the rest of the First Age? Why?

    Not to be cruel, but lots of people face a loss. Especially in this show. Often, we aren't going to be able to show any nuanced expression of grief. Nienor deciding to kill herself? Dramatic, but very immediate and raw. Turgon hating the Fëanoreans forever after the death of Elenwë? Well, sure, he's a bit paranoid and not particularly forgiving, but he's not angry/suicidal/mentally unhinged as a result. He's just uncompromisingly mad at who he perceives as the guilty party.

    We are going to have some long-term, slowburning grief to process.

    The parting of Elrond and Elros is a 'beyond the circles of the world' type of thing, and they are twins, too. It was no doubt difficult. In fact, everything in Elrond's life is super difficult, and everyone who ever meant anything to him dies or leaves in super dramatic ways. If you stop to consider for a moment....his father is a star, his mother is (sometimes) a bird in Valinor, his foster father wanders the earth and has no contact with anyone, his brother chose to be mortal and died, his daughter chose to marry his mortal foster son and ditto, his wife was so traumatized by her captivity with the orcs that she had to leave him and sail over sea, he fostered generations of Dunedain chieftains, all of whom have died, and the king he served was killed by Sauron. But, you know, at least his mother-in-law travels with him when he finally takes a ship West.

    Granted, no one is going to burn someone he loves to death. At least...probably not. I'm not sure of the details of the sack of the Havens when he was a child. And he did watch his mother fling herself off a cliff.

    The point is, Elrond seems to be a pretty well-balanced guy. 'Kind as summer,' we're told in the Hobbit where we first meet him. He lives through his losses, and while he no doubt feels the grief keenly, he doesn't let it ruin him.

    So...back to Amras. He's mad, furious, that his father has gotten his twin brother killed and then gone and blamed Amrod for his own death. We should see that immediate reaction. Everyone is shocked, but his shock turns fastest into accusation, while everyone else is stuck somewhere in horrified disbelief. And...his father and some of his brothers are directly culpable in making this happen. Amras would likely blame Curufin as strongly as he blames Fëanor. Maybe he even blames Maedhros for 'inciting' Fëanor to such a dramatic reaction, as if that hadn't been the plan all along.

    But...stages of grief, folks. WHY would he get stuck in despair and just lodge there so permanently that he thinks killing himself is the only option?

    1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5. Acceptance.
    Now, I get it - we don't have to make Amras a textbook example of this progression. He doesn't have to hit all the points and reach some sort of cathartic state of acceptance where he forgives his dead father and moves on with his life. But...he should at least go through something.

    If we kill him off this season, we don't have the opportunity to do anything with his grief or bitterness or enmity with his family. He would just be angry, and then depressed, and then dead. If we decide to keep him around - there is literally no reason why he would have to spend the next 500 years depressed. Would there be tension between him and his brothers in the future? Sure. But I really don't picture him drowning himself in drink and sitting in a corner maudlin over his brother's death forever, either.

    There's also not much of a chance to process, because he just, well...gets the hits piling up here this season. First, his twin brother is killed. Obviously, he's mad at his dad for that happening. But, then his dad is killed. And if there is a Curufin vs Maedhros rivalry going on in the wake of it, the brother he would be most likely to back is then captured, so he loses another brother and....

    So, yes, I can see us making a story where that's just too much and he's overwhelmed and then, boom, dead. But...I doubt it's the most interesting story. And if we tell it that quickly, he's just going to be seen as a weak character who couldn't hack the hardships of Middle Earth and took the coward's way out. He is not going to be a sympathetic loss.

    So...here's how I see this. IF we are going to have him be a suicidal wreck, then, yes, that needs to happen sooner rather than later. No one wants 8 seasons of mopey depressed Amras not getting his shit together. But a better (harder) option would be to plot out his path through this. Figure out what notes he has to hit in his grief, show his struggle with the Oath, and his brothers, and his father's legacy. Show him forging a (semi-)unique path forward, presenting a view on grief and the Oath that we won't see without him, and show him living as a single twin alone for a long time. There's a lot more pathos there. JKR killed off one of the Weasley twins in the final battle at Hogwarts. She didn't have to show their family moving forward from that (not really), just a brief nod in the epilogue. If we kill off Amras, it's like we're saying his life isn't worth anything without Amrod in it, and that's just not true and not how that works. We can have him keep some remembrance of his brother with him for the rest of his own years in Middle Earth, to show that the loss never went away, but we don't have to show him being paralyzed by this. If anything, we can show him changing with the death of his father, maybe regretting that his last actions were to distance himself from Fëanor, while still blaming him. It can get complicated. But we do need to come up with reasons to keep him around, or else they're just going to kill him off. So....let's think this through!

    So, examples of this in other serial TV shows that tell an ongoing story rather than an episodic 'adventure of the week'.

    Kallen in Code Geass joined the resistance because of her brother - her brother who was killed shortly before the show opened. She refers to him as her inspiration throughout - she is fighting for the better world that her brother envisioned. She says his name like a prayer when she fears she's about to die. There is nothing particularly maudlin about her relationship with her dead brother, and he is never seen alive on the show (just in a couple of photographs; not even in flashback). The audience only knows about him because of the characters who talk about his memory. And yet, he is a meaningful character/influence. His best friend reflects if these were the choices he would have made in the final episode.

    Kallen brings up her brother's death when trying to console Lelouch over his sister's death late in the 2nd Season:

    In the 100, a post-apocalyptic survival story, Jasper experiences a traumatic/tragic loss at the end of Season 2. He then spends ALL of Seasons 3 and 4 very depressed and unhinged. He blames some of the people he is with for the death of the girl he loved (mostly because they flipped the switch that killed her and everyone with her). So, he lashes back at them, spends a lot of time drunk and/or high, buzz cuts his hair, is completely useless...and dangerously reckless. It was rather surprising that they drew this storyline out for 2 full seasons. Apparently, the showrunners weren't entirely comfortable with a teenage suicide storyline, so they had to build up a reason for him to finally do it. But the point is his grief and how it ruined his life is his *entire* story - he's not doing anything else and this is not just a backdrop to other stuff - this *is* what he's doing. For two full seasons. In Season 3, it's purely destructive/avoidance behavior, and seems to be leading up to ways to avoid the pain, and then suicide. But the knowledge that a crisis is coming switches his behavior to 'live it up' until the end for Season 4.

    Here, he articulates his 'fiddle while Rome burns' philosophy in Season 4 to one of the people responsible for his loss:

    And this pretty much sums up how everyone else views his grief throughout Season 3:

    Honestly, that's an annoying storyline. Watching someone be hurt, stay hurt, and not be interested in getting better, only endangering themselves and others...it's painful to watch. And, in a show where people are dying all over the place, it looks a little out of place - why is his grief so inconsolable, when other people are losing parents, children, lovers, best friends, civilizations, etc? Is it realistic that not everyone can bounce back from everything? Well, sure. There are some people who are never going to be fixed, and the apocalypse probably isn't great for your mental health. PTSD isn't a weakness, it's just a thing that happens. Some people don't get back up again.

    So, it's not impossible for us to make Amras the example of someone who couldn't hack it and just checks out. But...we should really think that through and consider other options for him, I think.

    We already have Fëanor as someone whose grief blinds him and maddens him so much that he throws himself recklessly against Angband and gets himself killed. And Maedhros recklessly tries to out-betray the devil, getting himself captured and nearly killed. We don't want Amras to be redundant, here. And whatever we do, it can't look like someone suddenly decided to write him off the show and he just totally goes out of character and up and kills himself.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2018
  7. MithLuin

    MithLuin Well-Known Member

    Okay, so...here's a suggestion.

    Amras is simply angry, not quite rebellious, in the time leading up to Fëanor's death. So, he's still part of the group, but shouting back and clearly pissed off with his family.

    Then, Fëanor tries to get them all to renew the Oath. Amras refuses.

    His brothers give him a hard time afterwards - Dad's dying wish, you can't turn your back on the Oath, etc.

    He spits back at them, fine, you have a chance to regain the silmarils, I'm there, but don't ask me for anything else. I wash my hands of you awful people. And he leaves camp, moves to the other side of the Lake, to make his point.

    What his brothers do about this depends - maybe they think he just needs some space and he'll get over it. But...he doesn't.

    In Season 4, we have the whole reconciliation between Fingolfin and the Sons of Fëanor, Maedhros acknowledging Fingolfin as High King. Amras acknowledges Fingolfin, but does not stand with his brothers, doesn't talk to them, keeps apart.

    When the entire Host of Fëanor moves to East Beleriand, they are making plans for the north and for war with Thangorodrim. Amras moves to the south, around Amon Ereb, faaaaaar from the front lines, and pointedly only involves himself in hunting, not fighting. Maybe he lets his brothers visit him there but he *never* visits them in the North.

    Eventually, Maedhros(?) convinces him back into the fold by using the leverage of the Oath. Maybe he comes back for the Unnumbered Tears. Maybe it's for the attack on Doriath. Either way - it's about regaining the silmaril actually being in sight, not just a long term war against Morgoth.

    Amras thus serves as the Oath-barometer for what the brothers are up to. Maedhros does all sorts of things for expedient political reasons and for genuine friendship with the other Noldor. Amras...will ONLY talk to his brothers on official Oath-related business. Amras' refusal to participate will give the others an excuse to talk about the Oath and why it is the motivator for a particular action.

    He will then die fulfilling the Oath, so his death will fit his story.

  8. Trevor Trumbull

    Trevor Trumbull New Member

    I completely agree with MithLuin's post. Even if Ambras is depressed/in despair why does that necessarily mean he must always be depressed throughout the rest of the First Age? Sorrowful over the death of his brother, upset at the manner of that death, angry at his father I can understand. But does that lead to his committing suicide? I am not convinced.

    Being able to show Amras wrestling with the Oath has consequences of which we might not be fully aware of at this point. Yes in some ways Maedhros and Maglor wrestle with it as well. However, each of them also re-swore the Oath at their father's death. What would it mean if Ambras did not re-swear the Oath? He swore the Oath in Valinor and that has to have consequence but at the same time having him not swear the Oath again at Fëanor's death, and having him not be depressed forever, has the potential to develop in some interesting ways.

    At the end of the day though it is not his death I am opposed to. If he really needs to die, and in this season, then fine. But the simplicity of he is depressed he kills himself is... well to simplistic. If it must be suicide then, as I suggested in my first post, do something Niënorian with it. Maybe Ambras is seeking redemption/release from the Oath in and through his death. Whether he finds that release is another matter.

    Or maybe contrast Ambras' death with his father's. Fëanor dies knowing that his sons will never regain the Silmarils but insisting that they re-swear the Oath and never give up trying. It is not that trying to regain the Silmnarils is the right thing to do but rather about Fëanor's pride. I have a sense, perhaps I am wrong, that especially at this moment Fëanor would let the world burn if it meant even a chance of getting his Silmarils back. Ambras, on the other hand, after sees Maedhros, I agree with MithLuin that Maedhros would be the brother Ambras would back, captured. What are the other brothers doing about this? With the possible exception of Maglor, it seems they are plotting to take Maedhros' position. Would Ambras do nothing? Or would he, though knowing it to probably be hopeless and perhaps suicide as well, try to save his brother?
  9. Marielle

    Marielle Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure I want Amras to go so far as suicide, either. I think I'm going to get the "blame", as it were, when you watch the session on Twitch or listen to the podcast; in my premptive defense, the comment to which Corey was responding went something like "we can't kill Amras too early, because it's important that only elves kill the Sons of Feanor. Unless you plan on having him commit suicide?"

    The only way I'm comfortable with this for Amras is in the "suicide by orc/enemy" route, and I'm not sure that throwing himself into the swords of the enemy, even if we somehow make it clear that he's seeking death, is enough to keep the "only elves kill Feanoreans" thing intact.

    The pre-Christian Mediterranean world had a much more positive view of suicide than the post-Christian European world did. Roman myth and history have suicides depicted as honorable, even noble or virtuous, most famously the deaths of Lucretia and Cato the Younger -- her suicide, after revealing the crime committed against her, sparks the rebellion that drives the kings out of Rome, and Cato's suicide is sometimes depicted as nothing less than the death of the Republic, as it was the final resistance he could make to the dominion of Caesar. By contrast, Augustine calls out Lucretia and insists she was wrong to kill herself, and others were wrong to praise her for it. Dante, almost a millennium later, depicts a conversation with a suicide in his Inferno in which the suicide's motives are depicted as injured pride and bitterness. In most of Christian history, suicide barred the deceased from being buried in Church ground, the act being seen as a great affront against God. It's only in modern times, with the understanding of mental illness, that the Catholic Church has eased that prohibition.

    Tolkien's thoughts on suicide seem to be .... complicated. We know he was a devout Catholic (his quotes on the Eucharist alone show that), but he also deeply admired the Norse myths and ethos, which seems to treat suicide in a manner closer to the Mediterranean pagan world (I say seems because I know much less about this topic than I ought, to be so boldly discussing it). He doesn't ever, I think, advocate suicide or praise his characters for committing it, but nor do his reflections of Turin, Hurin, and Niennor (or even Maedhros) fit seamlessly into the traditional Christian attitude towards suicide. Turin's suicide, perhaps, can be explained away as self-execution, and Hurin's as "going as far towards the West as I can", but the shame and despair that make up so much of the Catholic reasoning for condemning suicide can't be erased from Niennor's or Maedhros' final decisions.

    Really, suicide and Tolkien is a topic one could write a thesis paper on...
    The_Singing_Fox and MithLuin like this.
  10. MithLuin

    MithLuin Well-Known Member

    Thesis papers aside, Túrin's story is strongly based on Kullervo, with as much redemption and un-crassness worked in as Tolkien could manage while still keeping the essentials of the story: hero spends much of his life far from home, and upon his return, he meets a girl. After a few rebuffs on her part, they spend the night together, and only think to exchange names in the morning. Shocked to find they are brother and sister, they both commit suicide.

    In Túrin's version, there's Morgoth's curse and Nienor's dragon-induced amnesia, as well as an actual marriage. They behave honorably, and had no way of knowing that they were siblings. There are still suicides when the truth comes out, but Tolkien wrote the story in such a way that you'd pity them their fates, rather than just blame them for their own rash choices. Not that Túrin doesn't have plenty of rash choices, but his entire story is the inevitability of fate mixed with what he brought on by his own prideful choices. It's...a much more...elegant...story.

    The Christian aversion to suicide is related to the aversion to murder, but also tied up in the stipulation that one shouldn't play God - you don't get to choose the time/manner of your own death. Modern society is more open to such an idea that Christian theologians are.

    The idea of an honorable suicide (or a suicide to maintain/regain honor) is not a Christian idea. But it is present in multiple cultures, and I don't think we would be terrible for drawing on that as inspiration. Just...you really have to think it through. Suicide is often viewed as 'selfish' by those left behind in modern society, and any attempt to either glorify or justify the choice is viewed as temptation that might encourage the viewer to take such an action. There were plenty of parents of teens who were very upset that the show '13 Reasons Why' existed. I didn't watch it, but I know it was controversial because it justified suicide and placed the blame on those around the person. I did watch the film Heathers, and, ummmm, I think we want to avoid that, too.
    Marielle likes this.
  11. Faelivrin

    Faelivrin Well-Known Member

    Did anyone even actually suggest suicide seriously? We can't do that, it would mess up the Third Kinslaying storyline, and the personal character arcs of Maedhros and Maglor.

    I agree with a lot of what MithLuin said, and her second post suggest a lot of what I suggested earlier (on the Feanorian Storylines thread) about Amros holding a grudge against his brothers, and generally being uncooperative with them.

    But I can't agree with MithLuin about depression. I don't think Amros should be depressed for the long term, but I don't agree with what I see as a characterization of depression as moping and whining constantly and not doing anything. Yes, it can look that way, yes it can lead to suicide, yes it can be portrayed in a really extreme way and for some people it really is like that. Depression can be total dysfunction.

    But depression can be a lot less dysfunctional than that. I'm depressed and I work on this project, I laugh, I go out and spend time with friends, I go to work, I cook, I play with the ridiculous cat and laugh at his antics, I'm a political activist, I go to the library, I read, I do chores, I pet dogs... I'm depressed but I'm not in bed crying nonstop.

    We could portray a depressed Amros who was just... not as happy and enthusiastic as other people, or not happy as often as other people. And then stopped being depressed sometime in Season 4 and settled on being pissed off instead.

    But I bring this up because I have suggested that Maedhros should have PTSD after being horribly tortured for years, and that the Silm portrays him as not recovering. And the response I got was that we don't want him to be moping and useless all the time. Which wasn't what I envision at all. A lot of times depression (or PTSD, or any mental illness) is a lot more subtle and, well, not the only personality trait a person has. People can be functional in their day-to-day life without being 100% mentally or emotionally healthy or sound or pain-free.

    Which also means we can, potentially, portray Amros as going through a temporary phase of depression (before he settles on just being angry at his family) without it being overly dramatic, overly mopey, suicidal, destructive, or annoying to viewers or script-writers. It can be a subtle change in the way he reacts and behaves without being a huge, drastic dysfunction. A good actor can pull that off with minimal actual scripting. No need for dramatic woe-is-me speeches (Turin has that covered.)

    And then he left his sons behind to an uncertain maybe-they'll-be-mortal, maybe-they-won't fate. And now has to explain to his wife where their children are. Yeah, Elrond's life has had a lot of misery. :(

    Tolkien's own depiction of the moral question about their suicides changed. In the Lost Tales, they were barred from the Halls of Mandos (though maybe that was because of the incest, not the suicide.) In later stories, Turin is set up (persumably by Eru or the Valar) to personally kill Morgoth at the End of Time, to avenge his family and all Mortals.
    The_Singing_Fox likes this.
  12. Trevor Trumbull

    Trevor Trumbull New Member

    A couple of quick questions.

    1) How are we defining depression? The word gets used a lot these days and in a lot of different ways, anything of clinical depression to generic feelings of sadness.

    2) Elves are not human, that is to say, they are not mortal. There seems to be a difference, not just by degree but by order of magnitude, between the Moriquendi and the Calaquendi. If that is the case then the difference between the Calaquendi, such as Ambras, and mortals would be even greater. So are we right in using words, concepts, and ideas like depression when thinking about them?
  13. Faelivrin

    Faelivrin Well-Known Member

    I'm talking about clinical depression, in all its varied manifestations.
  14. MithLuin

    MithLuin Well-Known Member

    Re: Depression

    There are a few issues here. I'll do my best to spell out my thoughts on this topic, but this will probably be a disorganized, rambling screed. We'll see :p

    1) The Nature of Elves
    Elves are not subject to illness. They don't get sick. They can be wounded, of course, or die of exposure (so, extreme physical hardship, starvation), and they can also lose the will to live or fade. So, where does mental illness fall in this spectrum?

    I would say that classic clinical depression, or major depression, or persistent depressive disorder - whatever we're calling variations of this - is probably *not* something elves are susceptible to. They are likely as immune to that as they are to the flu, as they just...fix...whatever is wrong there, using their nifty hroa/fea bond to figure it out.

    They obviously are susceptible to *something* in this realm, though. We see several cases of elves suffering from a long term condition that includes lack of energy and difficulty taking interest in life. Míriel's symptoms sure do look like post-partum depression, and Celebrían is physically healed of her wounds, but.... In both cases, these conditions are the result of a traumatic event. An injury to the spirit, if you will. In Laws and Customs of the Eldar, we find that an elf who is forced to endure sexual assault can just choose to die, going to Mandos to repair the damage and be reborn, rather than suffer through the event. We aren't given any examples of that actually happening (Aredhel's marriage to Eöl is coerced, but not wholly unwilling, so....). But, hypothetically, we would also see trauma to an elf's fea in that case. Gwindor's brokenness after being a captive of Morgoth looks like old age to the elves.

    The thing is, in humans, depression brought on by a stressful or traumatic event tends to be acute rather than chronic. You suffer, for a time, and then...things get better when the situation changes. Would it be the same for elves? Or are they unable to heal that damage for some reason, and thus are permanently marked by the trauma?

    In the case of Amras experiencing the death of his twin brother Amrod, we're clearly looking at a traumatic event. And thus, we can consider the mental health ramifications of living through something like that - he could suffer mental instability, depression, grief, etc. But I think we should be careful to make sure that he does so as an elf.

    2) Portrayals of mental illness on TV
    There are plenty of instances where a character is portrayed as being upset or depressed after a difficult loss. But that's just grief, and not usually a long term thing. It's an arc for that character that resolves itself and then you go on with the story. For longer term conditions, there are a few options. One, the character is shown as a patient, someone who needs or gets help, and after a time is all better and the story just continues on. Or, they don't, and the condition persists throughout the story.
    Example: The Lady Pole's fairy-induced madness in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is treated as a mental health condition, and she spends the majority of the show wasting away on couches or strapped down to chairs or beds. This is integral to the story, though.

    This approach works best for a supporting character who can be off-screen a lot. You bring them back in as needed, remind the audience of what this character is dealing with, but the main story goes on without them.

    Alternatively, a character is portrayed as living with depression (or other mental health issues). So, it's a background that is there, but most of the time, others don't see it. This portrayal typically only works if you have a lot of screen time and it's a central character. So, if it's some sort of case-of-the-week procedural cop or medical show, then one of the leads who is on the show every week can have this as part of the back story/background. You can show them dealing with it from time to time, and the audience is aware, but for the most part...the condition does not (seem) to affect the character or get in the way of them doing their job. An example of this would be Dr. House's Vicodin addiction on House.

    The other option is that it is a family member of a main character, so you just see them occasionally, and the 'issue' (whatever it is) comes up in the way that it affects the main character.

    Supernatural's Dean Winchester has some mental health issues...but they're usually in the background. He has a ton of unhealthy coping mechanisms (including humor, property destruction, and alcoholism), but occasionally the show looks at it head on. VERY occasionally. They've had 13 seasons to deal with this, and there has not been much dealing going on. But it's definitely there. It's just that there are nearly identical conversations about it in Seasons 2 and 13, so....

    The situation with his brother Sam isn't any better. He's got huge issues with perceiving reality, bodily autonomy, and a traumatic end to all of his romantic relationships, but...none of that is ever addressed or dealt with. He gets angry sometimes.
    It's not that the writers aren't aware of all this. The show is rather meta, so the characters are called co-dependent onscreen. It's just that portraying any sort of progress through these issues or getting any healthier about dealing with them isn't a focus.

    Another show that is surprisingly good about its characters' choices being in-character and character arcs making sense is Grey's Anatomy. It's a soap opera with surgeons, but even when people do terrible things, it's usually for a reason. A handful of examples from that show:
    Dr. Bailey has a short arc where she has to deal with OCD in the wake of an issue involving gloves that didn't block the spread of an infection.

    Chief Weber's wife Adele has Alzheimer's, which obviously isn't a health condition that gets better.

    Amelia Shepherd has a drug addiction, which was dealt with more extensively in the show 'Private Practice', but is part of her background on Grey's Anatomy. She's mostly in recovery.

    Arizona spends some time being angry and depressed after her leg amputation. She doesn't want to be seen or touched, and her recovery isn't instantaneous. She does eventually get a prosthetic and just carry on as usual, so it's about a one season arc; the casual viewer in later seasons wouldn't even realize she's an amputee, probably.

    I bring up Grey's Anatomy kinda specifically because raising such issues as a backdrop for drama can be very...soap-opera-y. You do want to consider how you handle it.

    I cannot think of a good example of PTSD being handled well in a TV show, but I don't watch all that much TV, so likely there are examples I am unaware of. Any thoughts?

    3. Amras' case in particular
    What we want to portray is Amras' reaction to losing the closest person in his life (his twin brother). He blames his family for this (rightly so), and he would have to blame the Oath for it as well. And yet, he's part of that family and he swore that Oath. So, what does he do? Does he find a way to reject them? A way to move on? Or...? I think we should focus on his actions, and see if there is a reasonable emotional path that gets him to those actions. He is a minor supporting character, so we're not going to have a seasons-long arc about Amras working through this. We're just going to have a handful of key choices that he makes.
    a) Amras chooses suicide before the end of Season 3. The point of this action would be to show the worst consequence of Amrod's death. It would be an act of despair, and thus would likely happen before the sun rises for the first time.
    b) Amras chooses to accompany Maedhros to his parley, and is killed in that massacre.
    c) Amras refuses to renew the Oath with his brothers, and separates himself from his family after this point. The rest of his story would be his struggle to reject the Oath, and where that takes him.
    d) Amras is furious with his family...until Fëanor's death. The loss of his father causes a turn in him, and he renews the Oath and is brought back in line.
    e) Amras renews the Oath, but decides to separate himself from his family anyway. He thereby writes himself out of the story, only being brought back in for Oath-related business.
    f) Or...?​
  15. Faelivrin

    Faelivrin Well-Known Member

    Numenoreans were originally immune to "madness" as well as illness. So there are presumably some types of mental illnesses that just don't happen to Elves or Dwarves either. Labeling any particular congenital mental condition as "Marring" or "wrong" or "unnatural" can have negative connotations about real Humans who have those conditions, but I would guess that schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, dementia, depression caused by inherent chemical imbalances, and bodily dysphoria don't happen to Elves.

    But like MithLuin said, depression can instead be caused by circumstances, and then go away if those circumstances are relieved. So Amros could be depressed temporarily. About portrayal, that's outside my expertise.

    Of those I think some combination of D and E would be best. Some of C would work too, considering that he joined Maedhros and Maglor in spending 26 years refusing to fulfil the Oath even when it tormented him. Later he did vow to overthrow the Havens and go into it less reluctantly than they did, though. It's plausible for Amros to be the first of those 3 to regret the Oath itself, rather than (say) the Kinslaying at Alqualonde. It would be interesting is if he learns earliest the lesson that Feanor completely failed to learn from this sorry episode: that Feanor's deeds are wrong and crazy, and his goals have become warped, and his own family will suffer for it.​
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2018
  16. amysrevenge

    amysrevenge Well-Known Member

    I guess we also need to remember the discussion from the Kinslaying - it's not so much the *death* of Amrod that is traumatic, it's the *killing* of Amrod. Elves have that alien perspective on death that's so hard for us (and will continue to be hard for our audience).
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  17. Brian Dimmick

    Brian Dimmick Active Member

    Another thing to think about is how Amras' brothers react to whatever depression/anger symptoms he might manifest. Elves don't have a lot of experience dealing with these thingsi n those around them, and the sons of Feanor don't strike me as the most emotionally supportive crowd. So they might react in unhelpful ways that drive Amras away from them. Instead of making Amras immediately angry at all of his brothers, maybe he is in shock and unsure of what to do and he gets no help from his brothers. They aren't exactly heartless, but they don't really understand what is going on and they are focused on other things (exploring Middle-Earth, fighting the battle, dealing with Feanor's injury and death). Their reaction is something along the lines of "Yes, we know, it's terrible and we'll never forget him, but we have lots to do so get over it and help." That (along with his realization about what the Oath is doing and Feanor's reaction) moves him past shock into anger atthose around him. It helps to show that, while the brothers share the Oath, their bond maybe is not as tight as it might appear. ANd when amras more or less turns his back on their company, it doesn't look mopey or petulant.
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  18. Faelivrin

    Faelivrin Well-Known Member

    That could work. I guess whether he's immediately angry at them for helping kill his twin may depend (somewhat) on how much remorse they show. In our script outline, when Amros tells Feanor "fell and fey have you become" Curufin grabs him and either yells at him or tries to drag him back to Feanor for punishment for unsubordination. Possibly Caranthir helps Curufin. That is not going to endear them to Amros. But maybe Maglor is willing to openly show remorse for what he did (perhaps only out of Feanor's earshot).

    Amros can have a bunch of conflicting feelings and be really muddled, especially when his father is dying, and later when his brothers are captured/tortured or killed. I liked the suggestion that he saves one of them in the Fifth Battle because I can't imagine he hates any of his family enough not to care at all if they die. So when Feanor is dying Amros is simultaneously grieving, and still freshly angry at his father.

    While death for Elves is quite different from death for Humans in many ways (especially in being vastly less terrifying), in Middle-earth the experience of bereavement is much the same for both kinds.

    On the topic of mental illness and suicide, there is one thing Elves do that Humans don't/can't, which could be considered a form of suicide: that is, when an elf dies and goes to Mandos, if they refuse to be reincarnated. The only named elf who does this for certain is Miriel, but Finrod foretold to Andreth that Aegnor would do it, too. In my headcannon, if the Valar decide to allow one of the twins to return to life but won't reincarnate the other one, both will choose to stay together in Mandos until the End. That's the only kind of suicide I can imagine Amros committing.

    It probably depends on the person. While acute depression can go away on its own, to my knowledge PTSD is less likely to do so entirely, although people can learn coping mechanisms or be in remission. I was just reading an article about veterans with PTSD who were coping or in remission for years, suddenly start seeing symptoms like flashbacks again (or even for the first time) while coping with physical health problems at the ends of their lives.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
  19. Brian Dimmick

    Brian Dimmick Active Member

    For elves, of course there will be individual variation just as in humans, but I would think that most elves could gradually recover from an event that would trigger that kind of acute depression in humans. But recovery might be slower--elves don't adapt and change as quickly as humans do. And elves might be particularly susceptible to PTSD-type flashbacks, since they have long and keen memories.
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  20. MithLuin

    MithLuin Well-Known Member

    Right - PTSD is very different from an acute episode of depression, and can certainly have lifelong effects and triggers. Those who do not have PTSD, but have lived through trauma, may experience flashes of that at times, where they have a physiological response to a situation that is not appropriate to the current conditions. They're aware of this, of course - a former soldier knows perfectly well that the fireworks on the 4th of July are just fireworks - but the body reacts as if they are under fire, firing up the adrenaline and fight-or-flight. Etc. This is not a symptom of depression, and dealing with it tends to involve avoiding triggers or working through the stress response. We will have plenty of characters who have experienced traumas - battles, witnessing death, prisoners, loss of a limb, etc. We can think of ways to recall those traumatic events in flashback...but we'll want to be careful with that.

    While the elves of Alqualondë can all expect to be reunited with their lost loved ones eventually, the exiled Noldor of Middle Earth cannot. So, death may not be permanent for elves, but re-embodied elves in Valinor would have no contact with the elves of Middle Earth. So I agree with Brian that the bereavement should look more-or-less the same, with obvious caveats about the dialogue surrounding grief being different to reflect the differing fates of Elves and Men. But in the case of Amrod, the horror is that he was killed by his own family (albeit accidentally). Amras grieves the loss of his brother, but the anger is likely more closely tied for blaming those whose actions killed him.
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