tehta: (stained glass tree)
[personal profile] tehta
So basically I am thinking: Australia.

Not Australia NOW, of course. That is a lovely place.

Anyway. It appears that, for parts of this Age, Elves could potentially make the journey from Valinor to M-e. Well, we know that some went to Numenor from Tol Eressea -- according to even just the Silm, they brought "flowers and fountains"* -- even if Men were forbidden to make the Westward journey. And the possibility of travel between Numenor and Middle-earth is clearly there for Elves, especially after the Men build their own ships. (I suppose that one could assume that the Valar interfered as usual and placed some restrictions on such travel. Or, indeed, on travel between Valinor and Tol Eressea. But it's not said that they did.)

And this, of course, makes one wonder why we don't hear more about Elves heading all the way East. To look for relatives, perhaps, or to see new lands. (Revisiting old lands in a fit of nostalgia is not really feasible, given what happened to Belierand.) Plenty of them seemed happy enough to head over in the First Age; curiosity and ambition are mentioned as motivating some of the Exiles. I guess this did not work out all THAT well for them, but surely that was Morgoth's doing? And then, in fandom, there is a general feeling that Valinor would be BORING; a gilded cage, at best.

But the only Elf known to have made the journey (in one version of the canon) is, of course, Glorfindel (of the second Glorfindel essay).

So why was this trip so unpopular? I am imagining that, after the First Age, Middle-earth ended up with a really terrible reputation, as a dangerous, unforgiving place "where exiled criminals get sent", with barely any civilization to speak of and little entertainment beyond orc slaying. One might have relatives there, but one would always think of them with faint pity, and hope they regain their senses and return home, where Art and Science actually exist and Life isn't such a struggle. (And we know that some of the Elves in M-e agree, what with the way they speak of the West, but then many do seem to like it -- love it, even -- and choose to stay.)

So here is what I am getting from all this:
-- Valinor is not seen as boring by most of those who live there.
-- Many people would have thought Glorfindel was very eccentric to go back. To say the least. (Ha!)
-- And yet, it seems that any other Elf with an equally good motivation to head there could have done so, independently of any heroic mission, at least for several centuries. (Plot-bunnies! And reverse plot-bunnies, since it means random Elves have less reason to join a specific expedition to M-e.)

Anyway, this is just a potential headcanon. Not claiming that it is CORRECT, of course. Nor that it is original. (One does see fics where Elves of Valinor think of those in Middle-earth with longing, and regret that they have been sundered, without making the timeline entirely clear.

* I just noticed something about that particular combination. Related to my last fic, in a way.

Date: 2013-05-07 09:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wulfila.livejournal.com
So why was this trip so unpopular?

Seen from a historical perspective, we simply cannot know. Unfortunately, the only thing we can surmise with any certainty - as you do so astutely in your essay - is that there does not have seem to been a mass migration of members of the elven elite from Valinor to Middle-earth in the Second Age.

We have very few primary sources - only narrative sources (focusing mostly on one specific social group), and all of them of the very same provenience, the collection of one single philologist. Source criticism is underdeveloped (there is a troubling tendency to consider the often contradictory claims of the few extant sources as "canon"). Most diplomatic sources of the relevant era seem to be unpublished, if they have been located at all.

The hitherto published archaeological record is scant at best (if there have been any efforts at establishing a convincing stratigraphy at known Second Age elven sites in Middle-earth, or any absolute dating methods, such as Ent-based dendrochronology, I have yet to hear about it). Because of the traditional dependence on the narrative sources alone, there have not been any efforts to locate any artifacts (such as potsherds the origin of which might be traced to Valinor) in Second Age digs.

More seriously, I like your thoughts on the matter a lot. It makes sense that Middle-earth would not have a good reputation after all that had happened there.

Less seriously again, the idea of exiling elven criminals to Middle-earth has me grinning quite happily here - oh, the possibilities! If that is a widespread practice, the more heroic elves traveling there on their own account might find themselves the targets of much suspicion - "Yes, yes, they all say they are merely adventurers ... So what did you do? Except for smuggling 'fragile hay', I mean."
Edited Date: 2013-05-07 11:07 am (UTC)

Date: 2013-05-07 11:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tehta.livejournal.com
I believe that, in this case, marine archeology could prove extremely helpful. (There is also the issue of the exact nature of the natural disaster that caused Numenor to sink.)

As for your more serious comments... my "interpretation" aside, do we really know that Glorfindel was sent back to Do Heroic Deeds? Perhaps he *was* transported. For horse-theft or similar. (Arwen might have picked it up from him!)

Date: 2013-05-08 05:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wulfila.livejournal.com
Perhaps he *was* transported. For horse-theft or similar.

Well, you know that my shortlived fanfic Glorfindel fled Valinor because of gambling debts, so "transported for horse-theft" is definitely a possibility for that kind of Glorfindel. Not so much for yours.

Date: 2013-05-07 10:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anna-wing.livejournal.com
That sounds very plausible. I think of Valinor as a very nice place, for elves. Where they can get on with having fun in their different ways - singing, sailing, fishing, seeking enlightenment, making stupendous things both living and non-living (I think of the Yavannildi getting into really major genetic engineering projects), all in peace and quiet without wars and mortals. Like the world of PG Wodehouse but with high-level R&D.

After the horrifically traumatic events of the First Age, and remember that the Second Age was also pretty nasty for much of Middle-earth, (especially after Sauron turned up again and Elves were fleeing West in large numbers), Middle-earth would be thought of as a horrible place, basically a perpetual war-zone full of barbarians and monsters. No-one in Valinor would have known about the major Avari settlements in what would later be known as the Himalayas that became the basis of the legends of Shamballa/Shangri-La/the Western (when seen from China) Paradise of the Immortals. Their leader Nurwe was the source of the Chinese legends of the Queen Mother of the West, in whose garden grow the peaches of immortality.

Speaking of Ents, I always wondered why they had so much difficulty reproducing. Surely some of them at least must have been self-fertile. Not to mention reproduction by stolons, rhizomes, tubers, layering, marcotting and cuttings. I assume that the Huorns of the Old Forest had realised this long ago.

Date: 2013-05-07 11:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tehta.livejournal.com
It seems very plausible that the Ents of LotR regarded such topics as a bit too risque to raise when Hobbits were present. And yes, I can totally imagine the Elves of Valinor running around absorbed in their pet projects, like Gussie Fink-Nottle with his newts. Finally, everyone always forgets the Avari, including me...

Date: 2013-05-08 03:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anna-wing.livejournal.com
I found it rather sad to think of Avari who were killed in Middle-earth, and wound up re-embodied in Valinor, cut off from their friends and families until the end of the world.

Date: 2013-05-08 06:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tehta.livejournal.com
But if they were reborn during (most of) the Second Age, they could at least try to get a boat back!

Date: 2013-05-08 06:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wulfila.livejournal.com
Or commit horse-theft in order to get transported.

Date: 2013-05-07 11:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tyellas.livejournal.com
When I wrote "Magweth Pengolodh" - my only story that ends with the protagonist in Valinor - the beta reader said that his ending up in Valinor seemed kind of sad, actually. So I amended the ending with this, to explain why the Elves would go:

"He had ceased to long for Middle-Earth the moment he stepped on the quay of Tol Eressëa. Something about the place immediately resonated through his being, like a fair note of music, or the paths of childhood and their remembered beauty, renewed without diminishment or regret. There had been pleasures both gentle and vivid to follow, and reunions unimagined...."

Date: 2013-05-08 06:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tehta.livejournal.com
I guess I read that as (mostly) a reference to Aranwe...

Otherwise, I am not sure this passing of regret works for me, unless there is a supernatural element, because I just cannot identify with it. I have been an expat since I was eight, in various places, and there is no one place that feels right this way -- I am often excited to return to a country I have known, but I always miss aspects of the others. (I suspect it must be similar for you.)

Date: 2013-05-07 11:54 pm (UTC)
hhimring: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hhimring
It could be argued (and I think it has been) that almost everyone who felt bored by Valinor had been pretty much been weeded out by the end of the First Age.
Also, having experienced the sometimes rather unpredictable nature of Valarin bans, you might not want to risk one suddenly being slapped on you, even if it wasn't firmly in place when you set out.

Date: 2013-05-08 06:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tehta.livejournal.com
Sorry to retread all ground! I have been such a First Age person I may have missed many Second Age discussions.

Anyway, I thought about that -- well, about the fact that anyone who wanted to try M-e out of boredom would have had a chance in the First Age -- and I wasn't so sure, because there would still be young Elves, and non-Noldorin ones. (I dislike the idea that one's personality is completely determined by one's ethnicity, so no Teler or Vanya would ever feel curiosity or ambition. Well, I guess for the Vanyar there seems to be some cultural element at work: they ALL came to Valinor together. But the Teleri seem to do their own thing quite often.)

I suspect this has already been said, as well...

(And then of course there are all the "previously-bored" people who have been reborn, like Glorfindel or Finrod, but I guess we can say most of those are traumatized. And all the people who are not bored, but who might have other reasons to go, such as love or loyalty towards someone in M-e... Gi-galad's family, friends, and followers, for example. Or Sindar with strong roots in some culture we hear little about.)

Date: 2013-05-08 07:16 am (UTC)
hhimring: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hhimring
Sorry, I didn't mean to imply I was well up on Second Age discussions! I'm a First Age person myself and a relative newcomer besides.
What I meant is that I've read fic--one of Lyra's comes to mind, but I think there were others--in which the society of the Noldor left behind in Tirion evolved to repress the kind of mindset that was seen to have led to the Exodus and the Kinslayings--the idea that the Noldor were traumatized as a people, not just as individually, and not only the ones who had been to Beleriand but the others as well. That would really more or less be the other side of the coin of your "Australia" suggestion, I guess!
Of course, a great many of the Noldor were quite simply dead and people do tend to diverge a great deal on how many were re-embodied and how much time had passed before they were.
As for the Teleri, in principle, yes. Only, apparently they don't even get off their ships and set foot on M-e during the War of Wrath, although there are certainly Sindarin relatives as well as those few remaining Noldor to rescue(?!!). They must have changed a lot since the early days...
None of which, as you say, would stop some young rebellious Valinorean heading off to Australia/Middle-earth, I guess.

Date: 2013-05-08 07:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tehta.livejournal.com
Maybe the Teleri are just guarding the ships? In case those Noldor decide to "rescue themselves." If you know what I mean.

(More seriously, though, staying on their ships might have been a sensible thing to do while the continent was sinking. And perhaps they were busy in other ways --ferrying refugees to the West, or something.)

Anyway, I guess overall the interpretation one goes for will depend (among other things) on how cynical/idealistic and serious/humorous one wants to be. I want to go for something that amuses me, at least slightly, but that is not too dark. I don't want to think that the Elves of Valinor were held there by fear, and the Elves of M-e -- by pride. I would rather think that they all chose their respective continents based on their interests, and were relatively happy with their choices, and privately though the members of the other group were crazy.

Date: 2013-05-08 07:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clotho123.livejournal.com
It all sounds likely. I also sometimes think that elves in Valinor tended to do nothing in a hurry, because why would they when they literally had all the time in the world. Feanor was likely an exception, but even he seems to have been banging on about wanting to go to M-e for what in M-e terms would have been a couple of centuries, without actually *doing* anything about it until Morgoth made him really, really angry. Anyway the point of this rambling is that there may have been elves still planning their packing lists for an eastward trip when Numenor became unfriendly to elves and they found they'd lost their chance. (Although there's no obvious reason why there couldn't have been elvish ships that could make the eastward voyage)

I also tend to assume that most of the elves killed in the First Age, who might have had the strongest urge to go back, were still in Mandos at the end of the Second - Tolkien does suggest Glorfindel got exceptionally early release, although the reasons he gives for that do bother me, not because Glorfindel wasn't heroic but because other people were just as brave.

And who knows, there may have been re-embodied Avari heading east for centuries, who just didn't get mentioned. Nobody ever took any notice of the Avari anyway, especially the Valar. I have a private theory there actually were some re-embodied Avari who attached themselves to the Noldor when they originally Went East, but nobody mentioned it.

Date: 2013-05-11 11:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tehta.livejournal.com
I think your time idea is a very good one. By Valinor standards, the First Age was ridiculously short. (And a lot of people have theorized that time passes differently there, anyway.)

Complete agreement on Glorfindel. Most of Gondolin's defensive force should have been out at the same time. And what about Finrod? Although of course he could be another exception...

Agreement also on the Avari. I would write more about them if I didn't fear the linguistic traps of making up OC names.

(One named person I am wondering about -- indeed, thinking about writing about -- is Nerdanel. Because, Maglor!)

Date: 2013-05-12 04:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clotho123.livejournal.com
Oh, Nerdanel would be an interesting one!

Complete agreement on OC names, they are a pain
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