Friday, April 12, 2013

Mandos = Valhalla?

In class, we discussed the idea of "the gift of death" which is granted to Men. I understand the problems which come with being immortal, but I find it problematic that the Elves are so unhappy with their everlasting life. Unless the halls of Mandos are similar to the realm of Hades in Greek mythology, it seems to be a decently happy place. On the other hand, if the halls of Mandos are similar to Valhalla in Norse myth, why don't we see more of a warrior culture, welcoming death in battle as a valiant end? This would release Elves from their "curse" of immortality since their bodies will never perish due to natural causes. Tolkien was obviously well versed in Norse myth, so I wonder if this was a conscious choice to move away from such a violent, death seeking culture. Thoughts?


Lorin said...

That's a really interesting connection that I hadn't thought of before! The halls of Mandos do seem to be similar to Valhalla in some way, but with the main difference that all Elves go to Mandos, not just ones that are killed in battle. So, I definitely think that Tolkien would not have wanted to make Elves seek death in battle just so that they could reach the halls of Mandos - it seems too extreme and morbid (I keep thinking of the Norse stories where sick men will intentionally go out and get themselves killed or will kill themselves on a sword because they want to make it to Valhalla). But, like you, Austin, I'm still left wondering why the Elves seem so unhappy with their everlasting lives in the halls of Mandos - is it just that they're still somehow bound to Arda, and they can't handle that?

Richard Wentworth said...

It's possible that the Elves miss Middle-earth. It's where they're from, after all, so it's kind of a home they can't return to.

It's also possible that, just as Men are envious of the Elves' immortality, the Elves are envious of Men's mortality. They'll never know what it's like to die. After living for thousands of years, some of them at least are probably bored.

Michael Lott said...

This is indeed an interesting thought, though there are problems with all elves go to the Halls of Waiting when they die, where as Valhalla is reserved only for the greatest warriors who die in battle. Note that this is specifically the greatest of the Norse warriors who go to Valhalla and dine at Odin's table. Here Valhalla is referred to as a feasting hall not just a room to kick back for a few thousand years.

As per why the elves get weary of life. I believe it has to do with things coming and going while they remain unchanged. They get to remember and lament that which has been lost never to be remade, where as men get to move on as every generation is something new though not always grater.