Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Melkor and Subcreation?

Discussion Topic from Tuesday's Group Exercise from Nathan

One thing I noticed evident in the conflict between Illuvatar and Melkor (not sure how to add proper accents in email) was that it hinged on Melkor's ultimate desire to create his own world and dominate it. For me, this immediately brought to mind Tolkien's concept of "Sub-creation" and the way he claims he is a merely a part of the changing, growing mythology discussed in "Mythopoeia". I found it interesting that the reason Melkor fell from the grace of the Valar, was that he was trying to do the work of God. He was entirely unsatisfied as a "Sub-creator" and obviously needed to have more control. However, in pursuing this goal Melkor even lost his ability to "sub-create", in the sense that he was no long able to synthesis ideas on his own. Instead he could only mock the work of the other Valar, in anger and jealously. My question, I suppose, is whether or no you and the rest of the class see this parallel as valid and if so what are your thoughts? It seems to me almost like a hidden warning to other "Sub-creators" to remain as such, and not to try to take over the primary creation of God.


Aulë said...

I think the idea of Melkor needing to have more control is a key one here. It denotes another level of power beyond what he was allowed to have. The other Valar, for example Manwe, do have control over Arda and Middle-earth in a sense, but the control that Melkor is looking for is different. The Valar have power to change things about Arda and supervise its goings on, but the Children of Illuvatar are free-willed creatures and to take that away by force would be a deadly transgression on the part of the Valar. Yet that is exactly what Melkor wants; control in an all-encompassing sense that will give him total dominion over creatures of his own making bent to his will.
Perhaps Tolkien's warning here is that humans must recognize their place as Sub-creators in that we can never have total control over even our own creation, like Aule and his Dwarves. Anyone who has created a world or written an extended story knows that as you go, the characters and the narrative seem to take on a life of their own. You may have created that world, but as it grows and develops it will start to surprise even you as the creator and you have to learn to let go of total control in order for the story to reach its full potential.

Oromë said...

I think that it is important to look not only at the action of creating, but the motive behind it. Iluvatar's work is creation in its purest form, that is, creation for the sake of creation. Iluvatar creates the world for the mere purpose of creating something beautiful.

Melkor's motives, on the other hand, are wholly selfish. He does not desire beauty, he desires subordination. He desires control. Creation means nothing to Melkor if it does not serve his own purpose. Iluvatar's creations are called his children, while Melkor's are called his servants.

The idea that the motive behind creation is more important than the act itself is further realized in the example of Aule with the dwarves. Aule created when he was not supposed to, but because his motives were pure, Iluvatar forgave his folly.

Tolkien's idea of sub-creation cannot be taken out of a religious context, and I believe that "Mythopoeia" explains this really well in the final stanza of the poem. In the process of "sub-creating," Tolkien was imitating God by creating purely for the sake of creation. He created Middle-earth, not for selfish or arrogant purposes, but simply to make something beautiful. So too, God did not create evil, but rather, evil is the absence of God. In contrast, Melkor twists the pure creation of Iluvatar into something ugly and evil to meet his own foul ends.

Lórien said...

The obvious parallel regarding Melkor is that of Lucifer in the Judeo-Christian tradition. However, the warning to sub-creators is valid as well, both within the context of Lucifer and Melkor. I believe the real warning is not against the act of sub-creation. Tolkien obviously felt there was no harm in it, and if he did then he disregarded it. The real warning is about the intent in sub-creation. When Melkor sought to control his own sub-creation it was out of a will to be greater than Iluvatar. He was motivated by his own vanity and jealousy. This was his downfall, not the actual act of sub-creation. C.S. Lewis took an Augustinian view on pride, believing it to be the original sin. Pride, he said, was at the root of every sin we commit. This certainly rings true in the case of Melkor. For people such as Tolkien and Lewis, however, their sub-creation was not an act of pride. It was an act of pure creativity, curiosity, and joy.

Nienna said...

The part of "The Silmarillion" that deals with a "creation" of Melkor that most clearly stands out to me is the creation of the Orcs. I think the Orc origin story is fascinating because it demonstrates that while Melkor has lost his ability to sub-create he does not lose the desire to do so. However, he is incapable of creating anything himself and is therefore only able to taint Illuvatar's creations. The Orcs are twisted versions of elves. This is also demonstrated by Melkor's inability to create and therefore all he can do to make an impact on the world is to destroy. Destruction is all that is left to him. In this way I think Melkor does serve as warning to those who would wish to play God. All creation's come from God (Illuvatar) and anything "created" by Melkor is just a warped version of the original.