Elvish Immortality

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Elvish Immortality

Post by Sam Gamgee » Fri Jun 25, 2004 2:25 pm

idoron, perhaps you could help me with a little question I've had for a long time...

"In Elvish legends there is record of a strange case of an Elf (Míriel, mother of Fëanor) that tried to die, which had disastrous results, leading to the ‘Fall’ of the High-elves. The Elves were not subject to disease, but they could be ‘slain’: that is their bodies could be destroyed, or mutilated as to be unfit to sustain life. But this did not lead naturally to ‘death’: they were rehabilitated and reborn and eventually recovered memory of all their past: they remained ‘identical’. But Míriel wished to abandon being, and refused rebirth." (Letter 212)

Now, this quote confuses me. In fact, this whole issue of immortality confuses me. At one point, Tolkien states that Glorfindel who died fighting the Balrog was reincarnated in the third age as Glorfindel who helped Frodo at the Ford of Bruinen. But other than that, I see no further evidence for most people's reincarnation. Where's Fingolfin? IF he's been reincarnated, where is he? Surely he's a noble enough character that he wouldn't hide in the background. And Fëanor? I'm glad I never had to read about the jerk again after he died, but why isn't he back? And Fingon? And Turgon? And Finwë, Elwë, Olwë, and all the rest of the crew? Did they get reincarnated on Tol Eressëa? How many people can that small island hold anyway? More boats sail there all the time, and nobody ever leaves, as far as I know... And if people are reincarnated on Tol Eressëa, why did Glorfindel get reincarnated in Middle Earth?

Tolkien also mentions the fact that elves can be sort of reincarnated through their descendents, like Arwen is almost a reflection of Lúthien, but Lúthien didn't get reincarnated. She's mortal. And as far as I know, no other examples are mentioned.

So what's going on with this? Does anyone know?
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Post by Theremin » Fri Jun 25, 2004 3:42 pm

Hey! You're right! I have even heard of and remember everything you are talking about (except the bit about Feanor's mother). Hmmmm.... Well, I certaintly don't have an answer! :lol:
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Post by Bnielsen » Sat Jun 26, 2004 9:18 pm

sam.... i can just hear the panic rising in your voice...

god forbid you DONT know the answer to someting LotR related! :twisted:
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Post by King » Sun Jun 27, 2004 8:14 pm

Do you really think Miriel TRIED to die? I just took it to mean that she was so drained of strength and kinda like an elf being slain by grief her spirit went to the halls of Mandos (elvish death which is more like a place of waiting for reincarnation or like a new creation type thing). I think it had something to do with being kind of a preminition of how powerful and how passionate (and violent, and selfish) Feanor was going to be, that even his birth took all of his mother's strength. Are you saying that she wished to cease to exist? Then again, i didnt read the letters.

maybe in the differing fates of the elves as far as who comes back and when and where Tolkien is just trying to show the different possibilities. Like not all the elves would be reincarnated at the same time. maybe they dont want to be until the world is healed and made new, you know how elves can be pretty indifferent about the fates of others and helping them out etc...or maybe if they are reincarnated it is not necesarrily into middle earth unless they are really needed or have some special fate (maybe Glorfindel's fate among the elves is parallell in a way to Earendil's fate among men) maybe it is more likely that they would be reincarnated in Valinor or on Tol Eressea of which not many tales tell...so we wouldnt know

Maybe there is just a big party going on in the halls of Mandos and after all those battles with Morgoth all thier friends were down there and so they are "livin' it up" and really don't want to come back...umm...that was just kinda random... :lol:

Good question about how big the island is...i guess Aule would just have to keep putting extensions on it, lol. umm...ahem, ok, seriously, do the letters say that they all really do just go to Tol Eressea, why not Valinor which is much bigger?

I think Arwen's resemblance to Luthien goes only as far as to be that they both fell in love with men and had mortal fates, I dont think Luthien was really reincarnated AS Arwen. It wouldnt be fair to either one of them. Arwen wouldn't really have her own identity because she would really be Luthien and then how would Beren and Aragorn feel, they (in a sense) would be married to the same Elf. No, it is just their fates that bind them together.

I really think that the major reincarnation for the elves is going to be when the end of the world comes or whatever they call it and they are all before the throne of Illuvatar singing a new song. Then I think the First and Secondborn will be share their ultimate fate and be together again in kind of a new world where everything is perfect and they are all there with Illuvatar and not separated. Hmm...kinda reminds me of our fate :wink:

Well, that's all I am thinking for now...lets see what Idoron says who knows a lot more than me for sure.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Sun Jun 27, 2004 9:14 pm

King wrote:Are you saying that she wished to cease to exist? Then again, i didnt read the letters.


Reread my post. I included a direct quote from the Letters saying that basically Miriel committed a form of suicide.

King wrote:I really think that the major reincarnation for the elves is going to be when the end of the world comes or whatever they call it and they are all before the throne of Illuvatar singing a new song. Then I think the First and Secondborn will be share their ultimate fate and be together again in kind of a new world where everything is perfect and they are all there with Illuvatar and not separated.


No, elves wouldn't be reincarnated at the end of Illúvatar's plan - I cannot think of a more depresing fate. Living forever - forever! On earth! I can't think that. That's way too depressing to want to dream. The whole thing with Men is that their Doom ("gift") is to pass beyond the circles of the world, and that though no one knows, the Elves hope that some day their fates will be united as the Children of Illúvatar before his throne. If the Elves are still on Middle Earth (which, renewed or not, is still physical earth), 1) that would be really depressing and 2) the Men will not be there. Now, technically you could argue that the Elves are only hoping this and Tolkien had something else in mind, but I doubt Tolkien would invent one set of beliefs for his characters to hope in and plan for something completely different. That's mean. I think all Elves go to heaven, eventually.
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Post by King » Sun Jun 27, 2004 10:17 pm

Sam Gamgee wrote:...the Elves hope that some day their fates will be united as the Children of Illúvatar before his throne. If the Elves are still on Middle Earth (which, renewed or not, is still physical earth), 1) that would be really depressing and 2) the Men will not be there.


That's what I said. At least it's what I tried to say, maybe I wasnt very clear. I wasnt saying that I thought the Elves would be left on ME...that would be depressing.
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Post by Theremin » Sun Jun 27, 2004 10:48 pm

I remember when I was in 4th grade, we read a book called Tuck Everlasting about a family that was immortaly due to some sort of magical spring. I scared the HELL out of me!!!
I gotta admit that I'm a little bit confused
Sometimes it seems to me as if I'm just being used
Gotta stay awake, gotta try and shake off this creeping malaise
If I don't stand my own ground, how can I find my way out of this maze?

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Post by Sam Gamgee » Sun Jun 27, 2004 11:38 pm

I hate that book. :-p

Anyway, King, the whole thing about Elvish immortality is that they are tied to the earth. When they get reincarnated, it is on the earth. They are to be attached to the circles of the world until its ending. So reincarnation/elvish immortality is not the same as heaven/eternal life of some kind. A good guess, but it wouldn't follow what Tolkien had previously said about the nature of Elves' fate.
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Post by Bnielsen » Mon Jun 28, 2004 9:59 am

Wow, King actually contributing more than 4 lines of post! Perhaps she is as wordsome as she is toothsome. But she never will be very good at being ugly, stupid, or a ham sandwich. 8)
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Post by King » Tue Jun 29, 2004 1:33 am

Sam Gamgee wrote: When they get reincarnated, it is on the earth. They are to be attached to the circles of the world until its ending. So reincarnation/elvish immortality is not the same as heaven/eternal life of some kind.


oh...right then...gotcha. I guess I didn't really think to separate the two, but the fact that any reincarnating has to happen ON EARTH makes sense.

and Brian...uhh, i guess I'll take your post as a compliment :| :P
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Post by idoron » Thu Aug 19, 2004 11:24 am

[stepping out of the shadows]

I didn't read King's big long post above, so forgive me if I restate anything. And my Sil. is still boxed up from the move, so I will be short on quotes.

I haven't read the letters so I can't comment so much on our special case above. But Feanor's mother's spirit departs from her body, which remains "alive" but in a coma, as it were. It is related to the fire in the spirit of Feanor - he drained her, one might say. There's more ammo for Sam ;).

Though it is "loose canon" (Sil.) that elves are reborn after an unspecified time. But i would assume the elves who are reincarnated remain in The West, so there wouldn't be much to read about them. I don't recall any discussion of how this rebirth takes place, but if they are "identical" with the same memories and knowledge, how would they be reborn as infants from different parents?

At Feanor's death, I recall the Sil. recording that he would remain in Mandos until the End oif the World. I don't recall the exact wording, so I don't know if he returns for the final battle or not. If he did it would make for an interesting confrontation, certainly.

The question of Glorfindel is a thorny one because it was never canonized that the 2 Glorfindels are the same. JRRT states (in the letters?) that in editorial reflection he wanted to go back and make them the same, but obviosuly he never had the opportunity. The easy answer: He sailed back to ME. Or was sent. But AFA Glorfindel is concerned, I think it is better to let sleeping dogs lie and say we don't know for sure if he is or not. If he is, there are other issues in addition to the ones above that need to be answered.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Fri Aug 20, 2004 1:48 am

idoron wrote:I haven't read the letters so I can't comment so much on our special case above. But Feanor's mother's spirit departs from her body, which remains "alive" but in a coma, as it were. It is related to the fire in the spirit of Feanor - he drained her, one might say. There's more ammo for Sam ;).


Where specifically did you read that? I'm not sure if I buy that.

idoron wrote:Though it is "loose canon" (Sil.) that elves are reborn after an unspecified time. But i would assume the elves who are reincarnated remain in The West, so there wouldn't be much to read about them.


Good point.
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Post by idoron » Fri Aug 20, 2004 10:11 am

Again, my books are all in boxes so I am operating off of my memory, which has been increasingly unreliable of late.

It was in the Sil. Story as I remember it:

1. Feanor born.
2. Mom has gnarly post-partum depression.
3. Mom: "I'm not having more kids."
4. Dad: "I want more kids"
5. Mom can't cheer up so she goes to Lorien (the one in Aman) a lot
6. It doesn't help
7. Eventually she stays there
8. And her body remains but her spirit departs for Mandos
9. Dad is depressed and visits her often, wanting to wake her
10. it doesn't work
11. Eventually he gives up and remarries, has more kids, Feanor's step siblings.

Look it up and let me know if I am right - I can't check up on myself any time soon.
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Post by idoron » Fri Aug 20, 2004 12:12 pm

Just checked the Encyclopedia of Arda and that is, in fact, correct.

I win! :P
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Fri Aug 20, 2004 2:08 pm

"Míriel Serindë
The mother of Fëanor

The first wife of Finwë and mother of Fëanor; the birth of her mighty son took so much of her spirit that she went to the gardens of Lórien and passed away."

Passed away means dead, by most conventions. As in, all the way dead. I'm surprised the entry is so short though... were you looking somewhere else?
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