Alternately titled, “Well, This Was A Lot Of Fun”
A Tolkien and Medieval Literature class assignment: Dialogue.
Write a five-page paper [k, so mine is actually 11 pages…wups.] that consists predominately of two or more figures [real, fictional, characters from the texts we’ve read, you name it] conversing together interpretively about one or more of the texts we have studied so far in class [a selection of old Norse/Anglo-Saxon poetry and riddles, Welsh myth/poetry, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, Beowulf, etc]. Relate them to each other, delve deeper into ideas discussed in class, interpret them in light of modern times, engage in scholarly discussion about them…
I don’t know that I did this right. I got the dialogue part, but I feel like I didn’t go near deep enough into any of the stuff I wanted to discuss. But I realized I was on page eleven of a five-page assignment and it was 12:45am the morning it was due, and I realized that if I wanted to actually turn it in on time I’d have to wrap it up somewhere. And before you say it, the reason it was 12:45am was not because I procrastinated (though I did do a little of that too), but because I was having so much stinking fun.
Also I took the first few pages of my Dialogue to Dr. Gruenler’s office hours on Thursday to ask if it was headed the right direction, and it was so much fun, and we talked about fanfiction and Tolkien’s mythology, and his office has a big cozy Hobbit-esque armchair, and I discovered that while Dr. Gruenler may know more about Tolkien’s scholarly pursuits and his translations and essays and stuff, I definitely know more about Tolkien’s creations – Middle Earth, ME history, and the like. Booyah. Smarter than the Prof. What now. …once I realized that fact, I added a two-page-long appendix to my dialogue explaining what the Dagor Dagorath is…because he saw it mentioned in my paper when he skimmed the first few pages and was like…what is this. is this actually a thing or are you making it up. And I was like, one does not simply MAKE UP TOLKIEN.
Anyhow. Here’s all eleven pages of the dialogue for you. I was only going to post part of it, but I have no idea where to cut off. So here, have it all. Sorry about the length. I was having too much fun. I want to continue it…and include more of the Valar and make it more epic and things. Ohhhh, for the time.
Basic premise: A present-time (not Middle-earth time) conversation between the Valar about the end of the world and the nature of heroes. Sort of. There are references in it that you won’t get if you haven’t read the Sil recently, and there are ideas in it that you won’t get if you weren’t in my Lit class for the past few weeks. but THAT’S OK.
Seriously people, I had so much fun with this. I literally stayed up til one in the morning researching Tolkien. …I’d forgotten how much fun that is…how amazing it is to be passionate about something so wonderful, and to spend hours on it. it made me want to drop out of college all over again and devote my life to studying Tolkien and his works. I really really want to finish reading the Histories now. *sigh* Must get my hands on that fourth book somehow…
Seriously, though. You don’t have to read this. =P It’s way long, I know. I just wanted to post it because I can. And it makes me happy. So there. And before you tell me it’s fanfiction, just be quiet and get over it. Perhaps it is, but it is of a scholarly sort, not a…fangirl sort. So I am ok with the fact.
So It Is Doomed
Cast: The Valar. Costumes as appropriate to their characters and “specialties.” (Varda: light, Manwë: wind/the heavens/clouds, etc)
Time: The present, after Middle-earth has changed into the world we know now.
Setting: The curtain rises upon the Ring of Doom outside the gates of Valmar. The thrones of the Valar stand in a ring about the edges of the stage, facing inward. Manwë’s throne is upstage center, and larger than the rest. Downstage right and left are the two ends of a parapet railing that runs around the back of the stage, encircling the thrones.
Manwë sits slumped upon his throne. He is leaning moodily onto one closed fist, and absent-mindedly rubbing the fingers of his other hand up and down the arm of his throne. This (like all the others) is of Aulë’s craftsmanship, formed of a brilliantly shining golden metal. It is crafted to resemble two great feathered wings rising up behind Manwë’s head. Manwë continues to slouch in thought for some time, when Varda enters from Stage Left. She is preceded by an increase of light, which remains until her departure. The lights shine brighter each time she speaks, as well. She wears a circlet of silver stars on her brow, and the flow of her clothes seems to radiate with hidden lights.
Manwë doesn’t notice her presence. He sighs and a wind springs suddenly up.
Varda: (amused) You chase the clouds away with the gusts of your thinking, Manwë Súlimo. What do you ponder so deeply, King of Arda?
Manwë: (jumps at her voice, then pushes himself upright to speak) I look upon Arda and am troubled by what I see, Varda Elentári. It is many ages since the changing of Arda and our removal from that sphere. Much is different, much goes on that never I remember hearing in the Music long ago. The will of Ilúvatar is hidden from me, and my mind cannot seek out that of Eru.
Varda: Have you spoken with Mandos?
Manwë: I have tried. He is silent. He will not pronounce his doom upon Arda, and I know not how to act now.
Varda: (concerned) What is it that troubles you, lord?
Manwë: It was doomed before our descent into Eä that we should remain in Arda, our power contained and bounded within it, until it is complete. It seems to me now that this completion is near at hand, and yet Ilúvatar speaks not, and within the realms of Middle-earth Man rules and falls away from the greatness he once was. Never did the Atani possess the same beauty and wisdom as the Firstborn, yet still they were great. Their heroes strong, their fortresses high, their leaders proud and bold. Too bold, perhaps, at many times. (He pauses, smiting his fist down upon the arm of his throne) Yet always they were great, in their own way!
Varda: And it seems to you they are no longer?
Manwë: No. No longer are they so. They fence themselves in with doubts and fears rather than bright blades and strength of arms.
Manwë stands up, walks to the parapet downstage right, and leans upon it, staring out over the audience and across the lawns of Valmar. Varda joins him, placing her hand over his.
Manwë: (quietly) Too long have we left the Secondborn to themselves, Varda.
Varda: (shakes her head negatively) We have left them alone because we have learned from our own past mistakes, Manwë Súlimo. Surely you do not forget. Our meddling in the lives of the Firstborn brought great joy to us and to them, but also great sorrow. The destruction of the Trees, Fëanor’s oath, the Kinslaying…and all that followed. (her voice grows sorrowful) We lost many of the Elves by trying to keep them.
Manwë: Yet they came back to us, many of them. Their last ships traveled the straight road in the end and found again our shores and the encircling arms of the Pelóri. But Men? Who can know where they go when their spirits leave Arda’s globe?
Varda: None save Ilúvatar. That was his gift to his younger children, though they may look on it as a curse. We cannot change it. Not by meddling in their lives, not by going down into Middle-earth once more. And why should this be changed? It is, of course, a gift. Eru gave unto Men a longing for something beyond Arda, which cannot be fulfilled by anything within the bounds of Eä. Perhaps it is to this thing that they go, when their spirits depart from the halls of their bodies.
Manwë: (gesticulating and frustrated) But what is this thing? What is this strange Gift? I knew the mind of Ilúvatar, once. He spoke into my thoughts, he gave me counsel, and we conversed. Now there is nothing. I ask Eru about the Gift, about the Second Music that must come soon, but get no reply. All that is known is what Eru spoke to me before – that the Atani will join in the Second Music of the Ainur, when all is completed and the world fulfilled. But when? When is our work here complete?
There is silence for several moments. Manwë stares out over the audience. Varda looks down, obviously lacking answers to Manwë’s questioning.
Manwë: (quieter) I often wonder what would have happened if we had extended the same hand of friendship to Men as we did to the Firstborn.
Varda: But you know what would have happened. It would only have caused more trouble and tragedy. Did we not cause many rifts in the people of the Elves by bringing them here? How much worse would it be with Men, who are so like to Melkor in their thoughts, at times?
Manwë: (bitter contempt and anger) Melkor. Do not speak to me of him.
Varda: Yet it is true. Had we brought the Secondborn here with the First, nothing would have been different, save perhaps that Melkor’s destruction would have touched more in Aman than just the Trees. Valinor would have fallen in utter ruin.
Manwë: (unconvinced) Mm.
He turns away from the parapet railing and walks slowly back into the center of the Ring of Doom. Varda looks after him.
Varda: It was better we left them alone. This way was not altogether good. But it was better.
Manwë: Better that we left them to worship the darkness and fall into Melkor’s snares? Even still, though Melkor is gone, cast into the Void long ages ago, and Sauron is long since brought down, they look to the darkness more than the light. How can they join in the Second Music if they will not turn to us? What is it that Ilúvatar gave them, that is not of their world or ours, that they yearn ever for yet can never find save by death?
Another long moment of silence. Manwë sinks down into his throne again, placing his head in his hands. Varda stands quietly watching him from the railing for a moment, then walks silently to his side. She places a hand on Manwë’s shoulder, and he takes it in him own, kissing it and looking up into her face.
Varda: (very softly) Perhaps, my lord…Perhaps, Ilúvatar gave to Men a part of the Flame Imperishable. Perhaps their spirits go straight to him when they leave Arda, skipping over Mandos’ halls. Perhaps the Secondborn gain, in the end, the greater inheritance.
Varda and Manwë freeze. All movement on stage is stilled completely. Manwë sits motionless, holding Varda’s hand in both of his and looking up into her face. She is frozen beside his throne, looking down at him. The lights dim but do not go out. In the half-light, the other Valar enter from stage right and left. Some seat themselves in their thrones, freezing into postures of deep contemplation. Others stand together in the center of the Ring, motionless in attitudes of discussion or argument. Some stand at the parapet railing. When all the Valar are assembled and motionless, the lights rise again. At the same instant, the Valar begin to move and a scene of slight chaos and cacophony unfolds. The Valar in the center of the ring argue together and those at the parapet begin to pace. Those seated on their thrones get up to join the group in the center and the pacers. Only Manwë and Varda remain still. Throughout the rest of the dialogue, the discussion is backed by constant murmurs of approval or dismissal, and occasional outbursts of more argument among the Valar. There is never full silence unless otherwise directed.
Manwë’s voice finally cuts through the noise.
The voices die down in a fading crescendo. The Valar turn towards their lord. Those who were pacing return to their thrones and sit.
Manwë: This is not the time for arguments. You know why I have called a counsel. We look upon Arda and see turmoil among Men. They fear each other, they fear themselves, and they fear us, if they even remember us. I feel in my heart that the completion of our work in this world is drawing near. Yet what then? Can we –
Mandos: (interrupting, yet unapologetic) Forgive me, Manwë Súlimo. Let me speak. (Manwë nods) Completion is drawing near, as you say, lord. Yet it will not come easy. Forget not the Dagor Dagorath, the Last Battle, when Morgoth shall return out of the Void.
Manwë: I do not forget it, Námo. That prophecy haunts my thoughts both day and night, now that I feel our work here is nearly finished. I do not know what will come of it, and the voice of Ilúvatar is silent concerning the Last Battle, and many things else. What part will the Atani play in this final struggle? Will the world will be destroyed utterly…the final end of time? What then shall become of Men, who look to the world for their existence? Even if Arda is not destroyed, it shall be marred beyond all recognition. What shall the Atani do?
Tulkas: (stepping forward and brandishing a fist) They shall fight with us.
Manwë: (unmoved) Shall they?
Varda: Manwë Súlimo looks upon the cowardice of Men and despairs.
Manwë: No longer are they brave and strong, as once they were. The hide behind machinery, letting the products of their craftsmanship fight while they lie safe behind thick walls, or deep underground. Where is the prowess of the heroes of old? Even their stories no longer display this glory, and they create leaders who are weak and unfortunate. Their tales lead them to look on cowardice for their champion. They are not like you, Tulkas Astaldo. They will not fight.
Tulkas: I wonder, though, lord. I wonder if they are not still like me, in their hearts.
Vairë: (jumping quietly into the conversation from her seat on her throne. When she speaks, all turn to her in silence.) My lord, Tulkas does not speak folly.
Manwë: (after a moment of reflection) Speak, Vairë.
Vairë: Men once had what you call greatness, yes. Their stories hang upon the walls of Mandos, woven into many tapestries. Those of long ago, of Númenor Atalantë. Their stories are great, yet corrupted. They strove for strength of arms and wealth of riches and power over the greatness that comes of Eru. Those stories are fallen.
Still from long ago, there are the stories of the Age of Men, the King returned to his throne at long last, bearing the crown of Gondor and the sceptre of Arnor. He was a true hero, of a kind that has not been seen since. After him came many other kings, though none so great as he. Then Arda changed, the Elves withdrew to the shores of Aman, Men ruled alone. The wisdom of the Elves was no longer there to temper the brashness of Man.
New heroes rose up in tale and song, but not like those of old. Still great in arms and rich with gold and fighting strength, but lacking in wisdom and understanding. In their stories they turned their mead halls against each other, slaughtered for gold, floundered beneath the weight of their spoils. Men like the heroes of the Norse kings, the Anglo-Saxon lords as they live in legend. Their tapestries in the halls of Mandos are stained with needless blood.
Manwë: (interrupts) Perhaps. But the tales of the Atani now do not speak of heroes like the stories of ages past did. They do not speak of true heroes at all. The heroes of long ago were great and strong, battle-hardy and radiant in victory, like you say. Now Men look to lesser things. They create lesser stories about lesser men, with lesser heroes to lead them. The old stories are best.
Lórien: Do Men now look to lesser things, Manwë Súlimo, or have their dreams and desires simply shifted?
Manwë: (turning to Lórien) What do you mean, Irmo?
Lórien: In ages past, the stories of heroes echoed the desires of those who were not so courageous. The Atani have never known us as the Firstborn do. We have never been so present in their lives. So they created their heroes to stand in our stead. They needed gold to keep power, they needed power to build community, they needed community to survive. So the heroes they created in tale and song gave them something to look up to and strive to emulate. They had and did these things.
Estë: (backing up Lórien) But now things are different. Men no longer need gold to keep power, they need wisdom. They no longer need power to create community, they need strength of character. Yet they do still need community to survive. So the heroes in their tales reflect this. The heroes in their tales use their wisdom and strength of character to save their community. No longer does Man need the great and glorious epic heroes of the old tales. They need heroes of a less assuming nature – they need the unlikely ones, the small and timid ones, who will face adversity and danger and self-sacrifice from this position of weakness for the good of their community, out of their wisdom and strength of character. That is who they look up to now, so that is who they fill their stories with.
Silence for a while as Manwë ponders these words. When he speaks again, he is visibly reassured.
Manwë: I understand what you say, Estë. I believe you speak truth. Yet still, what of the Dagor Dagorath? What will become of these Men, who look to things other than strength in combat to guide them?
Tulkas: I, for one, still say they will fight.
Manwë: Yet if they do, what then? If Arda is destroyed, whither can they flee in the end?
Varda: Who can say? We do not have all the answers, Manwë Súlimo, Powers of the World though we be. Ilúvatar has revealed that the Secondborn will join in the Second Music, and that is all that anyone can say.
Manwë: So we wait? I do not know the mind of Ilúvatar of late. I feel that the completion of our labors here is near at hand, and the Last Battle approaching.
Varda: We wait. There is nothing else we can do. We wait, and we watch, and we prepare for the Battle. Whatever the outcome, we will fight with our all for the glory of Eru.
Silence falls for a moment.
Mandos: (voice low and weighty) So it is doomed.
The Valar fall still, and the lights die slowly. Curtain.
The Dagor Dagorath is mentioned in brief in The Silmarillion – In the Akallabêth and in the chapters Of Aule and Yavanna and Of the Coming of the Elves, Tolkien mentions the Last Battle in passing. It is also mentioned more clearly in Unfinished Tales (In “The Istari,” page 395 of the edition from which the class handout was copied). Tolkien discusses the idea of Gandalf being Manwë himself, and says, “Manwë will not descend from the Mountain until the Dagor Dagorath, and the coming of the End, when Melkor returns.” There follows a poem in alliterative verse immediately after this paragraph, which also mentions the Dagor Dagorath.
Wikipedia has a nice summary of the Dagor Dagorath. I can’t back this up, since I haven’t read all the Histories, but all my research has brought up the same general story:
“As Tolkien originally wrote it, The Silmarillion ends with a prophecy by Mandos about the Dagor Dagorath. The published Silmarillion ends instead with the recounting of the voyage of Eärendil the Mariner, but this is due to an editorial decision by Christopher Tolkien…According to the Second Prophecy of Mandos…Morgoth will discover how to break the Door of Night, and will destroy the Sun and the Moon. For the love of these, Eärendil will return from the sky and shall meet Tulkas, Eönwë, and Túrin Turambar on the plains of Valinor. There the forces of the Valar shall fight against Morgoth. Tulkas will wrestle with him, but it will be by the hand of Túrin that finally death and destruction will be dealt to Melkor…Then the Pelóri Mountains will be leveled, the three Silmarils will be recovered…and Fëanor’s spirit shall be released from the halls of Mandos to give them to Yavanna, who will break them and rekindle the light of the Two Trees. The battle will end and renew Arda’s existence: all the Elves shall awake and the Powers will be young again. Also, according to Dwarven legends, they will help their maker Aulë recreate Arda in all its glory…Following this, there will be a Second Music of the Ainur. This song will sing into being a new world…It is unknown what the fate of the old races, or of the old world, will be in the new one…In some of his later writings Tolkien made changes which might indicate that no Vala had definite knowledge of what would happen at the end of the world, beyond that a Last Battle would be fought between the forces of Light and Darkness. However, other contemporaneous texts continue to show further updates to the Second Prophecy of Mandos and thus it is uncertain what Tolkien’s final views on the matter may have been.”
I have written the ending of this dialogue as though the Valar do not know what will happen at the “end of the world,” other than the occurrence of a battle. I find the concept of the Dagor Dagorath intriguing, and the idea that the Valar themselves know nothing of an event so huge and important is extremely fascinating.
More information on the Dagor Dagorath is available at this website: http://valarguild.org/varda/Tolkien/encyc/papers/LastBattle.htm
Also, though the first part of this page is in Russian, there is a list of quotes below that (in English!) from various of Tolkien’s books that mention the Dagor Dagorath.