Friday, February 26, 2010

Possible Tolkien Inspiration? Tolkien Geek Out Post

In doing some research on a paper---as rarely as that happens these days--I came across a reference in Aelfric. I don't know how to get Blogger to display A-S characters, so I'll just translate the line from Aelfric's homily for the Second Sunday After Pentecost (CHI): The chosen always see their Maker's brightness, and so there is not anything in creation hidden from them.

Aelfric is translating almost directly from Gregory the Great's homily for the same date. The phrase applies specifically to those who are chosen and have been through the last judgment, and so are blessed. I have to admit that it is a notion I've not encountered before.

Now, to the Tolkien bits: There are two characters in Middle Earth in LoTR who know an awful lot of the goings on. That knowledge is gained in various ways: spies, magical instruments, news, and in one case through torture. But for both Galadriel and Sauron there seems to be more to it than that.

Galadriel remarks to Frodo in Lothlorien in the Book II that Sauron's designs are not hidden from her. "I perceive the Dark Lord and know his designs." One might suppose that this is a reference to the just revealed magic ring she wears, one of the Three for Elven kings under the sky. But is this so? Neither Elrond nor Gandalf who also wear one of the three make similar claims, and they further note that Sauron has often been ahead of them through the ages. As it turns out, when one reads the appendices, it is Galadriel who consistently has been right about Sauron and his purposes and that too often Saruman whom Galadriel distrusted was able to assuage doubts and questions and talk the council into another course of action. So it argues against the ring she wears being a direct source of her knowledge. Nor does Nenya, Galadriel's ring, confer hidden knowledge and the like, but rather the power to preserve and protect.

One might point to her magic mirror...but the mirror like the palantir only shows images of what is, was, or might be....not what one thinks, feels, or intends. Granted, the mirror might show her Sauron's battle plans in the War Room of Barad-Dur. But that might be a "was" or a "might be."

I suggest that there might be something more to Galadriel's knowledge. Unlike the other elves who are principle characters in LoTR (not dealing with the Silm. and other works which might disprove this it is a work in progress), she has lived in the Blessed Realm, and has seen the glory of her creator, at least as reflected in the Valar and the Blessed Realm. Further, over time, Galadriel seems to have redeemed herself for leaving the Blessed Realm and returning to Middle Earth by resisting Morgoth and Sauron through the ages. Does this redemption and her having dwelt among those directly reflecting the glory of God give her the ability that Aelfric and Gregory are talking about: that nothing is hidden from her in creation?

Ah, the objection will be raised that Galadriel tells the characters that she can not perceive Gandalf the Grey, he is clouded to her. She can not discern his intent or mind. Ok, fair enough, though this example actually kind of demonstrates the thesis. Galadriel knows, or suspects, or intuits, that Gandalf yet exists in spite of his fall. She may not know his mind, but she knows that he is and kinda, sorta, where to find him. The Grey Pilgrim further is greater than she, so there are limits just as the blessed who see God and his glory don't know his mind unless he reveals it to them.

But then Sauron is of the same order as Gandalf, how can she know his mind? Several reasons: first, Sauron has limited himself in many ways. He has limited himself to Middle Earth. He has lost power each time he has incarnated. He has lost power by putting it into the One Ring, a object he can not access or control. He can no longer block her entry.

Speaking of Sauron, he too seems to be able to gather information beyond the use of magical devices, spies, torture of prisoners and the like. We see his "lidless eye" a number of times outside of Mordor looking, seeking, knowing, "his arm is long", long enough to affect things where and when he in fact can not possibly have been able to know by normal means, and even magical means available to him would be somewhat limited. SO how does he know?

I'd suggest that like Galadriel it is the result of the refracted glory of his creator, whom Sauron like Gandalf has seen "outside the circles of the world." Granted, Sauron has turned his innate abilities including this one to his own purposes, and therefore to evil and that certainly dulls their usefulness. But he is still greater than any in Middle Earth for all that.

It might be pointed out that the passage to which I have already pointed remarks that Sauron can not discern Galadriel's mind and intents, doesn't that argue against this thesis. Not at all: as just mentioned Sauron has turned his gifts and himself to evil. In the same sermon Gregory and Aelfric mention that the damned have things hidden from them and only occasionally catch glimpses of the chosen. Thus, Sauron having seen the One and lived in the Blessed Realm has a deeper perception and fewer things hidden from him than the average Middle Earth dweller, but because of his evil his ability is tarnished and weakened in comparison to those who have not turned to evil, or who did, but have been redeemed.

Just a working hypothesis.....

1 comment:

Troels Forchhammer said...

Hmm -- I'd have to think about it, but my first reaction is to ask about Glorfindel: in particular if he is (as Tolkien says in the rather late essay in The Peoples of Middle-earth) already re-embodied after his death in the Cleft of the Eagles, this would mean that he has definitely been purged of any guilt or sin he acquired in the Flight of the Noldor, while it is strongly suggested that Galadriel did not purge herself of the last part of that sin until she rejected the Master Ring (indeed that this was her ticket back to Valinor - that only then was the ban lifted for Galadriel).