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  1. #1
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    Awakening of Men question

    I'm racking my brain on this but can't remember where I read this idea and whether it was on a reputable website or in a book or just some random person' website with their own opinions, so I'll ask the lore experts here:

    It is generally accepted that the first men awoke when the first sun rose during the First Age. However, I seem to vaguely recall reading somewhere that Tolkien was considering or had considered a different idea--maybe even going so far as to having them awaken as the same time as the elves--and that these considerations were near the end of his life when he was thinking of doing a complete overhaul to the base story to bring it more into keeping with what we know to be true about the world, as Tolkien always said his epic was supposed to be a mythological beginning for our world.

    Does anyone else remember reading that somewhere? Perhaps in one of the 12 volumes of the Histories of Middle Earth? I have all 12 but admit that I've only skimmed through pertinent topics and have not read them cover to cover--I just end up with a spinning head when I try to sort through them, so I usually just go ask someone who has read them

    I know the Silmarillion portrays the first storyline where they awaken in the First Age, but I also know that some of the material used for the Silmarillion is up for debate these days given that the 12 volumes of the Histories of Middle Earth has been released, so I was wondering what the Tolkien experts have to say on the subject--is it still pretty well taken they awoke with the first sun, or was Tolkien truly intending to change it?

    Thanks bunches!

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by AllySanders View Post
    -is it still pretty well taken they awoke with the first sun, or was Tolkien truly intending to change it?
    I think there's some passing mention of it in HoME somewhere - that when Tolkien eventually decided that Orcs really needed to have come from Men rather than Elves, that he realised he'd also have to change the order in which other things happened to go along with that and so Men would have had to have awakened much earlier. One thing for sure, though, he never worked through all the details and so the original version still stands.

  3. #3
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    Yes.

    Late in his life, Tolkien engaged in some deep theological examination into the nature of his Orcs and felt that there was a problem. Specifically, he felt that perhaps he had painted Orcs as too corrupt, too lacking in morality to have once been Elves. He questioned whether the nature of Elves would allow them to fall to the level of Orcs. The obvious solution was to have Orcs be twisted Men instead. But that left him with a huge problem in his timeline. Orcs in fairly large numbers were seen long before Men awoke according to the timeline established in his writings up to that time (now preserved in The Silmarillion). Thus he expressed an intention to alter the timeline in order to make this change possible. Obviously, he never managed to make those alterations and so what we have now is the version in The Sil. But you can read his essays on the subject in the Morgoth's Ring volume of HoMe, part 5 Myths Transformed. It's very interesting stuff.

    Personally, I think Tolkien was second guessing himself too much. I don't think that the nature of the Elves is too high an obstacle for their transformation into Orcs. And I think an equally valid solution would have been to have the first Orcs come from Elven stock and later have Men bred into the race, leading to the base creatures we see in LOTR. And it's possible Tolkien would have eventually realized that he was making too much of the problem and dropped his plans for the huge adjustments. We'll never know.
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  4. #4
    At the risk of seeming rude, I'm glad that he didn't have a chance to go George Lucas on us. I haven't read all of the histories, or even the Silmarillion, but it seems to me that while it might be too much to think that elfs could "fall" and become orcs in large numbers, in theory it would only take a few to become the progenitors of all orc-kind.

  5. #5
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    I question the veracity of neither Radhruin_EU nor Fionnuala and certainly defer to the good professor where his works are concerned, but I don't see the problem w/ orcs being derived from twisted elves. We have the examples of Eol and Maeglin, as well as the oath of Feanor (and his sons) which shows that the elves are capable of great evil and they had not been subjected to ages of torment in the dungeons of Angband and Utumno. Also Melkor/Morgoth, originally a Vala and mighty among the Ainur and his servants Sauron and the Balrogs who were Maiar. Oh yeah Ungoliant too. If these can fall into absolute evil why would it be so impossible for elves?
    "Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn." -C. S. Lewis-

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duathrandir View Post
    I question the veracity of neither Radhruin_EU nor Fionnuala and certainly defer to the good professor where his works are concerned, but I don't see the problem w/ orcs being derived from twisted elves. We have the examples of Eol and Maeglin, as well as the oath of Feanor (and his sons) which shows that the elves are capable of great evil and they had not been subjected to ages of torment in the dungeons of Angband and Utumno. Also Melkor/Morgoth, originally a Vala and mighty among the Ainur and his servants Sauron and the Balrogs who were Maiar. Oh yeah Ungoliant too. If these can fall into absolute evil why would it be so impossible for elves?
    Orcs weren't considered to be absolutely evil - there was some small scope for their redemption, in theory at least (it seems to have been beyond Melkor's power to make them entirely irredeemable). So far as I recall, only Melkor was supposed to be fundamentally evil, hence for example why he and Sauron behaved differently: Sauron sought dominion over the world, whereas Melkor was nihilistic; he just wanted to watch the world burn, to steal a line from elsewhere, and would apparently have ultimately destroyed everything, even his own followers.

    Going back to the original question: Tolkien's private debate over the origin of the Orcs can be found in Morgoth's Ring (HoME vol. 10), in texts VIII, IX and X of Myths Transformed. Essentially the problem Tolkien saw was one of how Melkor had brought about the ruination and corruption of a whole people rather than just individuals, and how he'd made that state inheritable. Tolkien came to believe this made Elves 'very unlikely' candidates as the general basis for Orcs. The longer he went on, the more he leaned towards Men as that basis while accepting that this would cause chronological problems.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by kmcferrin View Post
    At the risk of seeming rude, I'm glad that he didn't have a chance to go George Lucas on us.
    Well, this circumstance isn't like George Lucas at all. At the point when Tolkien wrote these essays, all that had been published was The Hobbit and LOTR. He was still working on The Silmarillion and this was, it seems, an attempt to make sure that The Sil (which he had been working on all his life, but never published) would agree with what he had written in LOTR. So it's the opposite of George Lucas, really.

    Quote Originally Posted by Duathrandir View Post
    Also Melkor/Morgoth, originally a Vala and mighty among the Ainur and his servants Sauron and the Balrogs who were Maiar. Oh yeah Ungoliant too. If these can fall into absolute evil why would it be so impossible for elves?
    That's comparing apples and eggs. Melkor, Sauron, the Balrogs and Ungoliant were all a completely different order of being than either Elves or Men. They are, for easiest comparison, like Angels from Christian belief. As such, it's almost certain that they had no true Free Will. Only the Children of Eru had true Free Will. Which is why, once a Vala or Maia revolts, it is virtually impossible for them to be redeemed. Once they go bad, there's no going back.

    However, as Radhruin says, the Orcs are still essentially redeemable. Tolkien confirms this in the same essays we are talking about. It is necessary that they be redeemable because they did begin as Children of Eru and that Free Will can never truly be taken away, since it is a gift from Eru. They probably don't know this though. I doubt that's something Morgoth would want them to know.
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  8. #8
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    Very thoughtful and thought provoking answers/clarifications from you both. I must reread Morgoth's Ring (been several years).
    Many thanks.
    "Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn." -C. S. Lewis-

  9. #9
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    Thank you very much for the responses! I knew I had read that somewhere.....I have the histories of Middle Earth but admit I have only skimmed them; I must have come across that essay in my copy of that book. Now I'm going to dig the book out to read the essay in full.

    Thanks again!

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    Going back to the original question: Tolkien's private debate over the origin of the Orcs can be found in Morgoth's Ring (HoME vol. 10), in texts VIII, IX and X of Myths Transformed.
    Also in Morgoth's Ring - Part Four - "Athrabeth Finrod Ah Andreth" is an interesting little tale of the "Fall of Man". Of course the whole thing could be just ancient legends passed on to explain the otherwise unexplainable (until they met the Eldar) but there are suggestions it started during the great dark. This would predate the darkening of Valinor and the creation of the Sun and Moon. There's also a suggestion that Melkor is involved which would date it to either before his imprisoning in Valinor or sometime during the Siege of Angband, when he could theoretically slip off for a bit unnoticed.

    Personally I always felt that Men showed up in Beleriand far too quickly (and too numerous) after having just awakened such a short time ago in far off Hildorien. Yes it's not 'canon' and also introduces some major theological debates about the 'gift of Men' but that's what I like about this book in particular.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by tuor66 View Post
    Also in Morgoth's Ring - Part Four - "Athrabeth Finrod Ah Andreth" is an interesting little tale of the "Fall of Man". Of course the whole thing could be just ancient legends passed on to explain the otherwise unexplainable (until they met the Eldar) but there are suggestions it started during the great dark. This would predate the darkening of Valinor and the creation of the Sun and Moon. There's also a suggestion that Melkor is involved which would date it to either before his imprisoning in Valinor or sometime during the Siege of Angband, when he could theoretically slip off for a bit unnoticed.

    Personally I always felt that Men showed up in Beleriand far too quickly (and too numerous) after having just awakened such a short time ago in far off Hildorien. Yes it's not 'canon' and also introduces some major theological debates about the 'gift of Men' but that's what I like about this book in particular.
    Compared to Cuivienen, Hildorien was not as far off from the North-west of the old world, east of the sea; but the point is still valid. Something often overlooked is that it was Elves that were not extremely numerous nor very prolific. Compared to Elves, Men bred like rabbits . No Elf in the legendarium was it said to have had 7 children, let alone sons other than Feanor. Generally Elves had one or two offspring, occasionally three or four. It could be said that the Orcs were more like Men than Elves in this respect. I also think, based upon memory, that the Orcs were more debased than evil and in a sense less inherently evil than evil Men. Orcs were driven by hatred of others, including other Orc tribes more than anything else.
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    Indeed, in a world and life full of change, the only constant is human nature (A is A, after all :P).
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