Saturday, September 5, 2015

On Light vs. Darkness

One of the most interesting aspects of The Silmarillion to me is the contrast between factors that are inherently light and factors that we see as representations of darkness. In class on Tuesday, we presented questions to the class based on the introductory material of the book, and we briefly discussed the question presented by the last group, which related to the reasons why we can interpret characters without extensive physical descriptions. On Thursday, we split the first nine chapters of the novel amongst ourselves and analyzed particular themes and motifs. During both exercises this week, I mostly thought of the presence of certain motifs throughout the novel which, according to common archetypes and interpretations of Tokien's works, represent light and darkness. As mentioned in class on Thursday, we see Feanor presented through his dark hair and the "fire" in his busy mind. In addition, we see Melkor presented as "evil," not because we are specifically told he is evil, but instead because we are presented with his rebellions against the Valar, his hidden fortress of Utumno, the creation of the Balrogs, Melkor's manipulation of a variety of beings, and several archetypal images of darkness. The Valar, and many of the other beings living in Middle-earth at this time, present contrast to darkness through images of lights, trees and other aspects of nature, wisdom, and a certain kinship as Anuir created by Illuvatar, which Melkor rebels against. To me, the story so far seems to possess two themes as a whole: creation, and the battle of good against evil as presented through familiar archetypes and images. I suppose what I'm curious about it what the overall theme of the novel is when compared with the individual sections.


Manwë said...

I agree with your statement that the battle of Light vs Darkness pervades the entirety of The Silmarillion- it seems as though every image can somehow be related to a certain ‘side.’ The lamps, trees, silmarils, as well as the sun and moon can be equated with light and goodness. Melkor on the other hand hides under the earth in darkness, he spreads both literal and figurative darkness with the help of Ungoliant, and utilizes the cover of darkness to attack and infiltrate. I suppose that with the image of darkness also comes the question of concealing or of some sort of veiled danger- with darkness comes the unknown and potential dangers, whereas in light everything is plain to see and thus carries some feeling of safety or security. As for how this theme plays into the individual sections of the book, I would say that ultimately each section portrays a ‘win’ or ‘loss’ in the fight of good and evil.

Nessa said...

I would offer a contrast to your idea of utter good and evil in the idea of the dwarves. Rarely is anything truly good said about the dwarves within the borders of The Silmarillion; at best they are treated with casual indifference. They are certainly not evil, yet they are related with "evil" motifs such as darkness, stone, caverns, gold (and greed), rebellion against Iluvatar (in their very creation), and a coarse language. I do not know exactly how this fits into the discussion of creation and good and evil, but it is interesting to note that dwarves are seen in such a vague light in comparison with the majority of created things. I wonder if this is because they were not created by Iluvatar; thus they are neither entirely good nor entirely opposite him. They were created by Aulë and merely given life by Iluvatar. Thus they are on no side but their own. What do you guys think? Why are the dwarves depicted with conflicting images in regard to good and evil?