The Tolkien Professor

Corey Olsen

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The Tolkien Professor podcast is a series of lectures, discussions, and seminars on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien by Corey Olsen, Assistant Professor of English at Washington College in Maryland. Find me on Facebook at "The Tolkien Professor," on Twitter at @tolkienprof, or at my website at www.tolkienprofessor.com. I have also begun a grand new venture: the Mythgard Institute, offering courses on Tolkien studies for credit at the MA level, or just for fun! Join us at www.mythgard.org.


SilmFilm Episode 1-08: Murder of the Lamps – Who dunnit?

December 5th, 2015

Episode 297 of 366 episodes

Introduction/Review Today’s episode is about the Destruction of the Lamps. Loose ends from last week:Trish’s comments about last week’s episode (she was driving and listening). Filling in where there is NO canon, Trish has more empathy for PJ in re: script writers needing to plan so much Re: Idea of dusky light – the Valar themselves can emit their own light, so they can see fine in twilight. They shed their own light into the lamps The lighting of Almaren should be different…where the Valar are, there is light. All the Valar can come together and place their hands on the gems going into the lamps (light coming from the “community”) – this underscores the dynamic between the Valar. Consider this w/regard to Melkor’s sense of entitlement/ownership and how this makes the other Valar uncomfortable Re: Damsel in Distress – the Valar can just disembody if in trouble, so that doesn’t quite work (in a literal sense) Their genders are expressed by the differences in temper. Bodies are like their clothes. Capture of Nessa is spiritual bondage…Ungoliant is constraining her Estel might ask why Nessa would need to be rescued by Tulkas, b/c they’re Valar. The choices they’ve made means other choices may not be available. Perhaps Nessa chooses be more physical to do her work in the creation of the world, and may have a harder time changing form as a result (this would make her need for rescue less about her gender and more about her form/function in Arda) Ungoliant may want to pair with Nessa, she finds away to draw Nessa aside, try to convince her to join her, but Nessa rejects her and Ungoliant is enraged and binds her, transforms into a spider and prepares to eat her. Love/sexual desire/relationships/marriage with Valar isn’t going to “look the same” as it is for us (being humans) however, we can’t make it soooo different that it’s alien to us. There is something similar to human sexual relationships among the Valar…something about connection/partnership that’s not unlike mortal romantic relationships, but it would still look a bit different. Attraction between Aulë and Yavanna isn’t about “oh gosh s/he’s cute” but rather there’s resonance/connection/fitting together/harmonizing. They’re derived from complementary parts of Illuvatar’s mind. This can still be demonstrated on a physical level Similar to the physical vulnerability question – the physical danger of the Valar and Maiar are metaphorical. Their bodies are manifestations of their identity/nature/abilities Tulkas’ physical strength is greater than any other Valar, but that doesn’t make him the GREATEST Valar. As other Valar have other strengths, they can be in danger/susceptible to negative influence/fall (Sauron/Melkor) Even in the Rape of Persephone, Hades’ sexual desire is still metaphorical, and Ungoliant’s desire would be of similar ilk. Tolkien’s own words are “The lust of Ungoliant” for light and beauty that she wishes to consume Later when Melkor teams up with Ungoliant, they both have been scorned and have this in common. Melkor: “At least we have each other” Ungoliant: *glares back* Contrast Tulkas’s desire for Nessa (resonance/connection/ purity/working together) with Ungoliant’s creepy consuming desire We need to be careful not to make Ungoliant’s desire to be overtly sexual – we don’t want to be accused of “demonizing” lesbian relationships, but rather make it more about the creepy desire of wanting to consume Nessa’s light When we see Eöl leaving snares for Aredhel, we should be reminded of Ungoliant’s desire Setting up archetypes with the Valar, and then seeing the behaviors repeat with Elves and Men. Ungoliant in non-spider form should look attractive – there should be a temptation. There should be a very engaged conversation where Nessa is truly tempted, but as it gets “weirder” she rejects it It could begin as a “we have a lot of common, we should work together” and it seems really innocuous in the beginning, but it gets progressively more creepy, which Nessa ultimately rejects, upsets Ungoliant, who turns into a spider and gets ready to consume her. Tulkas comes in at the “last moment” and rescues her. He goes after Ungoliant again (b/c now it’s personal) after the Destruction of the Trees, but b/c of the Unlight that Ungoliant leaves behind, Tulkas ends up beating at the air in vain Spiders are also graceful, so Ungoliant could be light and graceful being in “human” form (and can appear to )aerial acrobatics with the silk Nessa and Ungoliant could be dancing together when they first meet. (Modern Dance ballet meets aerial Cirque du Soleil acrobatics) Recalling the Luthién experience, but weirder Tulkas and Nessa’s relationship doesn’t need to have “exposition” as the whole “boy meets girl” thing isn’t truly applicable, so it’s ok to have them first meeting, and then getting married in the following episiode as we know that time elapses in between episodes. Mythgard Announcements We have some work-study openingsat Signum – work study allows you to barter time and skills for tuition. Work-study students are the heart of our staff. Jobs includebookkeeping, web, social media, HR, event planning, writers and editors, A/V editing and production, faculty support (admin assistant). Please send an email to [email protected] you are interested. As part of our continued fundraising, we have opportunities for participantshave a say in the courses made available through the Mythgard Academy. Everyone who donates $25 can vote in the election for the Mythguard courses, and everyone who donates $100 can be part of the Council of the Wise that nominates the books up for vote. See theSignum Annual Fund Pagefor more info. The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies Extended Edition – upcoming release…discussion of the movie may be tentatively held on the evening of Black Friday (November 27) Book Context of this Season Ainulindalë/Vala Quenta/Ch. 1-2 Quenta Silmarillion Today’s Topic/Discussion Episode 6 – the destruction of the lamps. What is the scenario for how the lamps are destroyed, and how does that come about? 2 models from Tolkien: First– it’s the Festival when Melkor comes in and destroys the lamps. An open act of war by an openly evil villain. (published Silmarillion). They don’t know that he’s there all the time, but when they do, they recognize (eventually) that he’s evil. Second– Melkor is contributing with the rest of the Valar. He constructs the pillars for the lamps out of ice, setting them up for failure. He dupes them…so when the lamps are destroyed, he is laughing at duping them (book of lost tales) The Valar look more foolish in the Book of Lost Tales that they do in the Silmarillion. Do we want to revisit Estel, Elrond and Gilraen? How many episodes can we go without seeing them? (Estel: “Why didn’t Nessa just evaporate herself?” but don’t want to get too “Princess Bride-y”) How does the current story connect with the frame? If there’s no good connection/relevance to Estel’s story, then we shouldn’t “shoe horn” the frame. Brief visit with the frame at the end of episode 5 or beginning of the episode 6 to help create a sense of time. Elrond can begin by saying “After much time passed…” but this could be cheesy. Tension between Gilraen and Elrond was paralleling the tension in the story, so this might be a good time to briung the tension back in at this time, as the tensions are building between the Valar and Melkor Who does the actual destruction? Melkor or the proto-Balrogs? We could have a nod to the ice pillar idea (even if we don’t actually use ice), as Melkor and Sauron could be working together on making the pillars. What is the fallout from this? Options: Most of the Valar think that Melkor is still one of them and don’t connect him with the destruction They might be uneasy…where there was some uneasiness before, there might be more now, but no open “rebellion” It can be associated with Melkor if proto-Balrogs are the ones who destroy them, but Melkor can still have some sort of plausible deniability They can all assume that Melkor did it and they openly accuse him Total ignorance seems unlikely (option 1)…Maybe Melkor might disappear when/after the destruction of the lamps, and perhaps the other Valar might think that that something bad happen to him. They might suspect Ungoliant did it, b/c we know she’s evil. Melkor destroys the lamps in a fit of pique, and so he storms off. Some may think “we need to watch out for him” b/c he wants to rule everything, but Nienna might be like “he might be suffering and needs compassion.” The moment of the destruction of the lamps might be the turning point for the Balrogs (they get their wings physically burned off). The Balrogs might actually be sensitive about the “wing thing.” Perhaps the Balrogs take the “evil” form to perform the destruction, but they can’t change back. Their physical marring can be their immediate consequence, rather than an external punishment befalling them. Melkor doesn’t become Morgoth for a while yet, but he’s still changing, and this is a turning point for him and his relationship with the Valar. He may try to fake his “goodness” but he’s no longer “honestly good.” He still doesn’t think of himself as evil, he’s rather the injured party. (“The others don’t know what’s *good.*) The Balrogs would fall of their own will, and this would be a changing point for them. They can be a symbol/visual cue for Melkor. They would be making the choice to fall. Melkor may be ranting about how the other Valar don’t respect him and how the lamps belong to him and not the others, and how they aren’t worthy of them, and Gothmog would call a meeting with the Balrogs and says “our Master has been slighted, so we should do something about it.” Arien may rebel at this moment from participating, and we watch her leave for Almaren to tell the others what the Balrogs did. What we saw happen in the music (the discord starting with Melkor) would be reflected here. Melkor may feel a little...

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