Why did Tolkien suddenly bother so much about Finwe and Miriel?

As Corey said it is not understandable from a narrative perspective why Tolkien put so much effort and focus on this minor story line. It would have been easier to keep Miriel and Indis the same person and have the brothers conflict built up differently. Tolkien must have found it very important to resolve the remariage conflict. He was so interested into the resolution of remariage that it was for him maybe even worth it to leave the publication of the Silmarillion for his son.
I think the reason must lie in the author's personal life rather than in his fiction.

I believe that his friend Lewis marrying a divorced woman had an important part in it. The civil wedding was 1956 and they got married by the church of England one year later. Tolkien being a devout catholic disapproved of this marriage and it cooled down their friendship immensely according to Carpenter and I think in of Tolkiens letters. Those years are also the time when Tolkien started to write about Finwe and Miriel. I don't think that this is a coincidence.
I can read Of Finwe and Miriel as a response on this. Probably Tolkien wanted to talk Lewis out of this but knew that Lewis was unbeatable in spontaneous theological arguments, so Tolkien sat down and started to write an argumentation but what came out was not as useful as he wished and in the end he put it into his world of fairy which also can convey thruths.
Maybe Tolkien wanted to resolve an inner conflict by writing down this argumentation. Are the doctrines of his church right or do the feelings of his friend suffice to make remarriage rightful.

Another important change of his personal life in those years was the announcement of the Second Vatican Council. According to one of his letters Tolkien was afraid of the progressive changes in his church due to this important Synode in the Catholic Church. The astonishing announcement was 1959. Tolkien's friends from the oratory must have been talking about this days in and days out. The agenda was basically to make the everlasting doctrins more applicable in a modern globalized world. Discussions were for example on marriage, sexuality and contraception, religious liberty. How is ecclesiastic pastoral applicable in a fallen world?
That is basically the same discussion that the Valar have in Morgoth's Ring and when I read that passage the other day it reminded me so much of Bishops and Cardinals giving there different points of view and and charismas on a subject in order to find a consensus and publish a document of the second Vaticanum.
So the story of Finwe and Miriel was maybe a personal treat on catholic doctrins vs catholic reality.

Both incidents (remarriage of Lewis and 2nd Vatican Council) were personally very important to Tolkien and therefore might have been the reason why he couldn't just jump over remarriage.

P. S. His son Christopher got divorced as well but that was in the 60s so unless CT did not misinterpret the time of writing of Finwe and Miriel, this did not influence Tolkien by the time
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
As Corey said it is not understandable from a narrative perspective why Tolkien put so much effort and focus on this minor story line. It would have been easier to keep Miriel and Indis the same person and have the brothers conflict built up differently. Tolkien must have found it very important to resolve the remariage conflict. He was so interested into the resolution of remariage that it was for him maybe even worth it to leave the publication of the Silmarillion for his son.
I think the reason must lie in the author's personal life rather than in his fiction.

I believe that his friend Lewis marrying a divorced woman had an important part in it. The civil wedding was 1956 and they got married by the church of England one year later. Tolkien being a devout catholic disapproved of this marriage and it cooled down their friendship immensely according to Carpenter and I think in of Tolkiens letters. Those years are also the time when Tolkien started to write about Finwe and Miriel. I don't think that this is a coincidence.
I can read Of Finwe and Miriel as a response on this. Probably Tolkien wanted to talk Lewis out of this but knew that Lewis was unbeatable in spontaneous theological arguments, so Tolkien sat down and started to write an argumentation but what came out was not as useful as he wished and in the end he put it into his world of fairy which also can convey thruths.
Maybe Tolkien wanted to resolve an inner conflict by writing down this argumentation. Are the doctrines of his church right or do the feelings of his friend suffice to make remarriage rightful.

Another important change of his personal life in those years was the announcement of the Second Vatican Council. According to one of his letters Tolkien was afraid of the progressive changes in his church due to this important Synode in the Catholic Church. The astonishing announcement was 1959. Tolkien's friends from the oratory must have been talking about this days in and days out. The agenda was basically to make the everlasting doctrins more applicable in a modern globalized world. Discussions were for example on marriage, sexuality and contraception, religious liberty. How is ecclesiastic pastoral applicable in a fallen world?
That is basically the same discussion that the Valar have in Morgoth's Ring and when I read that passage the other day it reminded me so much of Bishops and Cardinals giving there different points of view and and charismas on a subject in order to find a consensus and publish a document of the second Vaticanum.
So the story of Finwe and Miriel was maybe a personal treat on catholic doctrins vs catholic reality.

Both incidents (remarriage of Lewis and 2nd Vatican Council) were personally very important to Tolkien and therefore might have been the reason why he couldn't just jump over remarriage.

P. S. His son Christopher got divorced as well but that was in the 60s so unless CT did not misinterpret the time of writing of Finwe and Miriel, this did not influence Tolkien by the time
While I can follow you regarding the II Vatican Council and the council of the Valar, Lewis' marrying a divorcee seem to dissimilar to me to be of real influence on Tolkien. Actually Lewis' future wife married (her 1st husband) as an atheist of Jewish descent and became Protestant much later, as such her marriage would not have been considered sacramental - but just a "natural" one - by the Catholic Church. Natural marriages are principially dissolvable according the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pauline_privilege. But imho it was Tolkien's personal very romantic view of marriage that went farther than the Catholic one that was the ground for both his opposition to Lewis' marriage and to Finwe's remarriage. Tolkien seem to have considered marriages something for eternity - so in his mythology he insisted on keeping lowers together even post-mortem. This is not a Catholic teaching, where marriages are stricktly connected to this world, and beyong which we all - kings, subjects, slaves, free, parents, children, spouses - are just all siblings facing God our Father together, accoding to:
Luke 20:34-36 New International Version
"34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection."
 
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The marriage of C.S. Lewis was scandalous for the british society and especially the CoE. If Tolkien had an even more romantic view on marriage than the catholic canon then I am not sure whether he would consider all marriages outside of the Roman Catholic rite as not significant (it was like this before CV2). In addition the Pauline Privilege only would apply to marriages with a catholic convert.
But thanks for pointing out that we cannot assume that Tolkien considered her and Lewis as adulterers. His aversion to the Lewis' marriage was probably more connected to her supporting the Spanish communist revolution and influencing his friend thus.
 
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Your Bible quote reminded me of the passage right before, the dilemma that the Sadducees give to Jesus. It leads me to following observation: Another contemporary issue concerning remarriage that might have triggered Tolkiens sudden interest arose in the late 50s. Many German captive soldiers were released and came back from Russia. At home they were presumed dead after 10 years (and longer) without any notice from them (it partly resembles Bilbos homecoming), and their wifes got remarried in the meantime. It displayed a dilemma in Catholic teaching on marriage because now one woman was married to two living persons. Does the woman now have to divorce from one of her two husbands? Can one woman fully love two husbands? One of them coming back "from the dead". I see some similarity to Finwe, Indis and Miriel here.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
The marriage of C.S. Lewis was scandalous for the british society and especially the CoE. If Tolkien had an even more romantic view on marriage than the catholic canon then I am not sure whether he would consider all marriages outside of the Roman Catholic rite as not significant (it was like this before CV2). In addition the Pauline Privilege only would apply to marriages with a catholic convert. But thanks for you pointing out that we cannot assume that Tolkien considered her and Lewis as an adulterers. His aversion to her was probably more connected to her supporting the spanish communist revolution and influencing his friend thus.
"Not significant" is not the right world here, natural marriages are significant from Catholic perspective - but natural marriages can be dissolved "for faith sake" if certain rules are followed. So for example: intercouse with any of the wives of a polygamist would be considered aldutery (even if the polygamist in question would be allowed to keep only one of them as wife if he would choose to get baptised. The polygamist in question could also separate amicably from all of his natural wives - with their permission - before his baptism and marry a Catholic after receiving it.)
The political issue was news to me, for sure an aspect to consider.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Your Bible quote reminded me of the passage right before, the dilemma that the Sadducees give to Jesus. It leads me to following observation: Another contemporary issue concerning remarriage that might have triggered Tolkiens sudden interest arose in the late 50s. Many German captive soldiers were released and came back from Russia. At home they were presumed dead after 10 years (and longer) without any notice from them (it partly resembles Bilbos homecoming), and their wifes got remarried in the meantime. It displayed a dilemma in Catholic teaching on marriage because now one woman was married to two living persons. Does the woman now have to divorce from one of her two husbands? Can one woman fully love two husbands? One of them coming back "from the dead". I see some similarity to Finwe, Indis and Miriel here.
The 2nd marriage would have been declared invalid (like in the case where biological siblings marry not of knowing of their blood-relationship). But the children of such an invalidated union would be considered legitime as they were conceived while the 2nd marriage was assumed valid. A problem would arise if the wife would prefer keeping the 2nd husband, though. ;-)
 
Isn't Tolkien saying to Lewis in Letter 49 that Christians should not be ok with other forms of marriage other than Christian ones? But maybe I understand his argument wrong. I haven't read Lewis' "Christian Behaviour".
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Isn't Tolkien saying to Lewis in Letter 49 that Christians should not be ok with other forms of marriage other than Christian ones? But maybe I understand his argument wrong. I haven't read Lewis' "Christian Behaviour".
I do not know this source. But would that mean treating all other forms of marriage like the sacramental ones per default? Or considering them all invalid from the start? (So how he would be e.g. the polygamous ones?)
 
No, certainly not, of course. What that letter shows is that T and L had different views on marriage and divorce. Tolkien was quite keen on pointing this out. He strongly disapproved of Lewis making "propaganda" for a separation of legal and Christian marriage. He calls non-Christian marriages only an "expediant". Here some examples:

"I have never felt happy about your view of Christian 'policy' with regard to divorce".
"Toleration of divorce – if a Christian does tolerate it – is toleration of a human abuse"
"people who practise 'divorce' [...] are injuring themselves, other people, and society, by their behaviour. "
"Anyone in any case can see that the enormous extension and facilitation of 'divorce' in our days, since those of (say) Trollopean society, has done great social harm. "
"I cannot help suspecting that those who fight against the divorce in this case of law and religion are in the right"

Those quotes do not only apply to Christian couples only having a legal marriage, but he also does those statements in light of a modern british society, not necessarily anymore with Christian background. Tolkien sees Christian marriage as a universal truth and everybody's marriage to have the Christian one as its reference point.

"No item of compulsory Christian morals is valid only for Christians."
"A situation is being, has been, produced in which ordinary unphilosophical and irreligious folk are not only not restrained by law from inconstancy, but are actually by law and social custom encouraged to inconstancy ".

Coming back to the initial discussion, Tolkien shows in this letter that marriage and divorce are for him "a fundamental and vital a matter".
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
No, certainly not, of course. What that letter shows is that T and L had different views on marriage and divorce. Tolkien was quite keen on pointing this out. He strongly disapproved of Lewis making "propaganda" for a separation of legal and Christian marriage. He calls non-Christian marriages only an "expediant". Here some examples:

"I have never felt happy about your view of Christian 'policy' with regard to divorce".
"Toleration of divorce – if a Christian does tolerate it – is toleration of a human abuse"
"people who practise 'divorce' [...] are injuring themselves, other people, and society, by their behaviour. "
"Anyone in any case can see that the enormous extension and facilitation of 'divorce' in our days, since those of (say) Trollopean society, has done great social harm. "
"I cannot help suspecting that those who fight against the divorce in this case of law and religion are in the right"

Those quotes do not only apply to Christian couples only having a legal marriage, but he also does those statements in light of a modern british society, not necessarily anymore with Christian background. Tolkien sees Christian marriage as a universal truth and everybody's marriage to have the Christian one as its reference point.

"No item of compulsory Christian morals is valid only for Christians."
"A situation is being, has been, produced in which ordinary unphilosophical and irreligious folk are not only not restrained by law from inconstancy, but are actually by law and social custom encouraged to inconstancy ".

Coming back to the initial discussion, Tolkien shows in this letter that marriage and divorce are for him "a fundamental and vital a matter".
So he views "inconstancy" as a vice which it is in the society's interest to combat - in context of the British society of his time (a very romantic view, where being "inconstant" equals almost to a crime).

But this does not state his view on marriages in different cultural context or backgrounds - or even if he give them much though at all.

Lewis wife was married fo her first time in the States as an atheist and to a man who has been already divorced twice himself. So under no cicumstances Tolkien would consider her first marriage valid form a Catholic standpoint anyway. As such the issue of Lewis' marriage seems unrelated to Tolkien's wish for the British state to keep to discourage "inconstancy". He might object to her as being "inconstant" but not to the validity of Lewis marriage - which from a Catholic standpoint would be a first valid marriage for both of the sides involved in it.
 
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