"The Singular Incompetence of the Valar" for discussion

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
9,080
Here is a carefully-written three-page 1968 piece from one of the best of the old Tolkien fanzines.


I'm impressed by the author's effort to synthesize material then available. Of course, he didn't have The Silmarillion, let alone the writings given to the world in the Letters, the Unfinished Tales, and the 12 volumes of The History of Middle-earth. I don't think he was able to consult 1968's The Road Goes Ever On, which had a few paragraphs that might have been relevant.

I'd love to see discussion here. First one might consider whether or not his thesis was convincing in terms of what he had to work with in 1968. Second, we might ask if the great additional quantity of Tolkien's writing published since 1968 reveals Randolph's paper as thoroughly obsolete.

Some Chronsfolk are much better acquainted with The Silmarillion than I and others, so here's a chance for you folks to share your expertise. It will be appreciated!
 
Last edited:
Yes, but if the Valor done their work properly, there would be no story to tell.:D
 
Last edited:
Here is a carefully-written three-page 1968 piece from one of the best of the old Tolkien fanzines.


I'm impressed by the author's effort to synthesize material then available. Of course, he didn't have The Silmarillion, let alone the writings given to the world in the Letters, the Unfinished Tales, and the 12 volumes of The History of Middle-earth. I don't think he was able to consult 1968's The Road Goes Ever On, which had a few paragraphs that might have been relevant.

I'd love to see discussion here. First one might consider whether or not his thesis was convincing in terms of what he had to work with in 1968. Second, we might ask if the great additional quantity of Tolkien's writing published since 1968 reveals Randolph's paper as thoroughly obsolete.

Some Chronsfolk are much better acquainted with The Silmarillion than I and others, so here's a chance for you folks to share your expertise. It will be appreciated!

It's definitely interesting to compare it to what was revealed by the Silmarillion. Pretty good sleuthing on the author's part, given how little there was to work with. I wrote in undergrad that the Valar to me always seemed like Milton's angels... immortal protectors waging god's war on his rebellious creation (of particular note is I didn't see Eru mentioned in this piece, and that's rather necessary to establish the "order" of Eru -> Valar -> Elves/men). In that sense, they seem not so much incompetent as uninterested. For much of the Silmarillion, they rest in Aman basking in their own light. This piece ponders a non-violent streak among the Valar that does not seem at all present in Silmarillion. They're plenty ready for action, but when Feanor rejects them, they're also content to let him and the elves fend for themselves until their pride is humbled.

That (I would say Catholic) notion of free will and choosing evil runs throughout the works, with the Silmarils and the One Ring being essentially macguffins for sinful behaviors like pride and greed.

I attached my old thesis if you're REALLY bored and want to read 10-20 pages of my thoughts on Tolkien, Catholicism and Milton. Be kind, I was young and coasting to graduation on a raft of beer. I also didn't get into Tolkien's Norse influences much. They also shape the Valar in that the Norse gods are both immortal and quite human, intervening and disappearing from human affairs based on their own whims which cannot be understood by us mortals.
 

Attachments

  • thesis.docx
    41.4 KB · Views: 280
Thank you for sharing that work, Soulsinging -- though, from my own experience here, I haven't found a lot of interest in reading long documents posted at Chrons.
 
It’s a bit difficult to address this question without wandering into discussions either political or religious, because it seems to me that JRRT’s choices were very much defined by his views on those two things.

I agree with Soulsinging that the amount of stuff that Mr. Randolf has gathered from only the Hobbit, the LOTR and possibly some poems etc is quite masterful, even if some of his conclusions are simply stated or refuted later in the Silmarillion et al. (The git off men is, of course, also explained later.)

The question is, of course, to what extent a guardian should get involved without becoming a tyrant, or at least a nanny state.

It seemed to me quite clear, at least after reading the Silmarrilion, that the Valar had decided that problems must be solved by people of the same order. Thus, they could get involved with Morgoth himself, but not lowlier creatures, that only the Istari (Maia) could be sent to help out against Sauron, and that otherwise men, elves, dwarves, ents, orcs, trolls etc sorted out their own affairs.

He mentions that the Valar eventually came out to sort out Morgoth and to destroy Thangorodrim, but this was always restricted to a Valar/Valar struggle, and the big people battles (even at the end) were untouched by them. (Eonwë’s refusal to judge Sauron after the fall of Morgoth is interesting on this basis?!?)

In a similar way, I used to wonder why Gandalf didn’t direct the sort of killozaps of which he seemed capable at the orcs on the Pellenor field. But this seems to have been because of a similar rule.

You've probably said alll this in your thesis, Soulsinging, but successfully managed to put me off reading it. :)
 
Thank you for sharing that work, Soulsinging -- though, from my own experience here, I haven't found a lot of interest in reading long documents posted at Chrons.

I won't fault anyone for that, but it seems slightly more likely to pique someone's curiosity here than the one sitting in some university library storage room I'm sure.

It seemed to me quite clear, at least after reading the Silmarrilion, that the Valar had decided that problems must be solved by people of the same order. Thus, they could get involved with Morgoth himself, but not lowlier creatures, that only the Istari (Maia) could be sent to help out against Sauron, and that otherwise men, elves, dwarves, ents, orcs, trolls etc sorted out their own affairs.

He mentions that the Valar eventually came out to sort out Morgoth and to destroy Thangorodrim, but this was always restricted to a Valar/Valar struggle, and the big people battles (even at the end) were untouched by them. (Eonwë’s refusal to judge Sauron after the fall of Morgoth is interesting on this basis?!?)

In a similar way, I used to wonder why Gandalf didn’t direct the sort of killozaps of which he seemed capable at the orcs on the Pellenor field. But this seems to have been because of a similar rule.

You've probably said alll this in your thesis, Soulsinging, but successfully managed to put me off reading it. :)

I actually didn't get to any of that, so glad to read it here! It does make a sort of sense that the Valar believe in some form of "fair play" and wouldn't unleash the powers of a Gandalf against mortal orcs the way Melkor has no hesitation to unleash dragons, balrogs and Sauron on elves and men. Also fits into the Paradise Lost-style hierarchy of angels that I think influenced Tolkien.
 

Back
Top