Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Features of Mythologies

While definitions vary, most real world myths typically:
1) are regarded as accounts of a remote past;
2) explain origins of life, the universe, and the natural world by means of logic and design;
3) evolve from the actions of supernatural or superhuman figures;
4) establish authority for social and cultural institutions, such as governing structures, racial divisions among people, and religious practices;
5) reflect basic behavioral structures related to values, morals, or attitudes, such as good vs. evil, light vs. dark, and rich vs. poor; and
6) evoke the contemplation of the sacred through mystery, ritual, or transcendent experience.

In what ways do the mythological elements of Tolkien's world as described in The Silmarillion or Tolkien's other Middle-earth fiction reflect any of these features?

2 comments:

Vana said...

A lot of the reflection between mythological elements and The Silmarillion are fairly obvious. One that caught my eye, however, is that of racial division among people. The way that the creation of dwarves is addressed in The Silmarillion offers an explanation of why there is so much division/hatred between elves and dwarves (this mostly picked up on by readers of The Hobbit and/or LOTR).

Lórien said...

I can see all six of these elements at work within Tolkien's mythology.
1) The Silmarillion recounts the events of Middle-earth's early history, much of it taking place even before the creation of the elves who are said to be the ones who originally recorded it in writing.
2) The Valaquenta and Ainulindale tell about Illuvatar thoughtfully and purposefully creating and constructing the world and those who inhabit it through son.
3) After Illuvatar's initial creation, we that his creation begins to change and add to his song. At one point there are some who introduce discord, and Iluvatar finds a way to work it into his song.
4) The children of Illuvatar are men and Elves. We immediately see social and cultural hierarchies develop when the elves are given powers akin to those of the Valar. The men are given a different gift, the gift of death, which they do not appreciate. Furthermore, when Aule creates the dwarves Illuvatar requires that they be put to sleep until the creation of the elves and men. This implies that they are lesser beings.
5) Because of the presence of Melkor and his opposition to Illuvatar and his creation, there is an immediate structure of good vs. evil. Melkor seeks to mar that which comes from Illuvatar, meaning that the children of Illuvatar have a natural enmity with him.
6) The Elves come to mind first when discussing that which is sacred or ritualistic. The Elves were awoken when Varda rekindled the light of the stars. As a result, the stars were the first thing they saw and they regard them as sacred. It is their first and strongest connection to the spiritual world.