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PotbellyHairyfoot
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Post Chapter Quote -QS-12
on: June 25, 2016 09:25
Immortal were the Elves, and their wisdom waxed from age to age, and no sickness nor pestilence brought death to them. Their bodies indeed were of the stuff of the Earth, and could be destroyed, and in those days they were more like to the bodies of Men, since they had not so long been inhabited by the fire of their spirit, which consumes them from within in the courses of time.

Consumes them from within? What exactly does this quote mean?
Elfeawen Lomiondil
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on: July 06, 2016 10:48
This passage also caught my attention. I cannot answer this question with confidence, but I will give an interpretation based on what I have read so far.

The firey quality of Elves’ spirits (and maybe other people’s too?) is alluded to many times in Tolkien’s writing. Then there is the Flame Imperishable, should we take it that it is similar “stuff”? It seems probable, since only Iluvatar can use the Flame to make creatures with spirits. Tolkien probably used the word “fire” as a metaphor to help us understand an unfamiliar concept. Metaphors can be extended beyond what their creators intended, and thus misconstrued. I don’t know how far Tolkien meant for us to take it, but I was thinking about the properties of fire and what it could mean.

Fire is a process that transforms inanimate matter into energy. Physical materials such as dead plant matter become heat and light. Fire consumes, but it is not strictly accurate to say that it destroys because the matter being burned is converted from one form to another. Fire transfigures.

“Their bodies indeed were the stuff of Earth, and could be destroyed . . .”

The bodies of Elves were made of “earthly stuff”. The body is like a house for the spirit. The house can be destroyed, but the spirit lives on.

“and in those days they were more like to the bodies of Men . . .”


In fact, their bodies, being “earthly stuff”, were not even that different from those of Men. It is their spirits that distinguish them from other creatures, not their bodies.

Over time, though, Elves become more physically different. The reason for this:

“since they had not so long been inhabited by the fire of their spirit, which consumes them from within in the courses of time.”


Either the spirits of Men do not have this transfiguring quality, or they do not live long enough for it to affect them. So what does it do to Elves? I will venture this interpretation. Over long periods of time, the earthly stuff composing an Elf’s body is transfigured from a natural earthly state to something more spiritual by exposure to the fire of the spirit.
"There shall be war between the Children of Iluvatar and the Ainu Melko. What if we perish in our quest? The dark halls of Vê be little worse than this bright prison" ~ Fëanor
Gandolorin
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on: July 19, 2016 03:40
The only thing that comes to my mind is the utter extreme of one Elf's body being consumed by his spirit, obviously Fëanor: "... but he had neither burial nor tomb, for so fiery was his spirit that as it sped his body fell to ash, and was borne away like smoke; ..."
Makes me think of astronomy, supernovas and stuff as far as Fëanor is concerned. But the analogy to astronomy shouldn't be pressed too hard - how would Men fit in, most of all? I'm stumped for an answer.

"Their bodies ... in those days they were more like to the bodies of Men." But far tougher, as "... no sickness nor pestilence brought death to them." And just try imagining Men trying to cross the Helcaraxë, the differences in sleep needs (or in sleep as such).

But maybe the real difference was in the Fëa inhabiting the bodies, rather than in the bodies themselves. And perhaps being in the presence of the Valar and Maiar in Valinor (with Valinor also only having a beneficial effect through their presence, not of itself). I believe it is stated more than once that the returning Noldor also became subject to the swifter change inherent to Middle-earth after their return.

So a hypothesis: even had Fëanor not suffered his mortal wounds from his rash sally against the forces of Morgoth - Balrogs led by Gothmog - he still would not have endured very long in Middle-earth. I'm assuming a sort of soothing influence - not on Fëanor's temper, certainly, but ... - in Valinor. That left behind, Fëanor turned from dynamite back to nitroglycerin - the reverse of what Alfred Nobel did in our world.

[Edited on 07/19/2016 by Gandolorin]
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Elfeawen Lomiondil
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on: July 23, 2016 11:28

But maybe the real difference was in the Fëa inhabiting the bodies, rather than in the bodies themselves. And perhaps being in the presence of the Valar and Maiar in Valinor (with Valinor also only having a beneficial effect through their presence, not of itself). I believe it is stated more than once that the returning Noldor also became subject to the swifter change inherent to Middle-earth after their return.


I think so. But the loss of the Valinorean influence took some time, a "fading."
"There shall be war between the Children of Iluvatar and the Ainu Melko. What if we perish in our quest? The dark halls of Vê be little worse than this bright prison" ~ Fëanor
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