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Sally Caves scripsit:

> Clearly this
> wretched Andreth is doomed in her transgressive longing, and all the more so
> because she is a woman who yearns.

Quite so.

> Is it the only instance in which Tolkien brings up this issue of FEMALE
> longing?   Does the woman reveal her love in her questions about
> immortality?

I'm not sure I'm fit to judge that point.  Finrod, at least, doesn't learn
it *from* the debate; he already knows it.

> What was the outcome of the debate?  My question would be "Aren't you Elves
> ever curious about mortality?  Look at me.  I'm dying as I speak to you.
> Where are your Elvish anthropologists?"

Here's a precis of the debate, as well as I can make it.  Like Pascal's
letter, it is long because I lack the time to make it short (but it is
only about 1/3 as long as the original!)

Finrod (the Elf) says he is sad for the short life of his human friends;
Andreth notes that they live longer lives than they used to before they
met the Elves, but that this only helps alleviate a little the human
suffering caused by Morgoth (the Prime Dark Lord).

Finrod says that humans are Children of God just as the elves are, and
that human nature comes from God.  Andreth retorts that all the Elves
say that because they look down on humans as children and pitiable,
of less worth than the Elves.

Finrod concedes that many Elves have this attitude, but not he, and that
in any case the Elves love all the creatures of Middle-earth, even the
most evanescent.  Just as death is part of the nature of animals and
plants, so it must be for Men; do Men think otherwise?

Andreth says that Men think variously; the majority would agree, but
that those called "the Wise", though their traditions are fragmented
and partly contradictory, believe that Man's life was not always short,
but that this comes from the Dark Lord.

Finrod agrees that everything that lives on the Earth is to some extent
injured by Morgoth, including even the Elves, who are less resistant
to weariness and "Elvish aging" than they were in the Blessed Realm.
Andreth says that this is not what she meant: that the Wise say that
in the beginning Men were not born to die, and points to their fear
of death as evidence that it is unnatural to them.  However, she says
that there is no hope of escaping death even in the Elvish realms of
Middle-earth nor even across the Sea, and though the Edain have fled to
the westernmost coast of Middle-earth, it has availed them nothing.

Finrod says that if this is true, humans have suffered a terrible wrong,
but that the Elves had nothing to do with it, and take no pleasure in
it, and that if anyone does, it is Morgoth.  But death and the fear of
death cannot be the same, for death is natural, but the fear of death
specifically human.

Andreth retorts that the Elves do not fear death because they know
nothing of it.  Finrod points to the many Elves who have died in
the Kin-slaying and in the wars against Morgoth -- not to defend the
Elves alone, but Men as well.  Andreth says that this is not enough:
Elves do not leave the world when they die, and can return; but Men do
not return, and so the loss is both irremediable and (because imposed
on Men) abominable.  Furthermore, death for the Elves is a matter of
bad fortune that the strong or the lucky may avoid; but for Men it is
inescapable and universal.  Finrod asks if Men have hope -- they only
have fear and dreams, says Andreth.

Finrod then reveals that death is as inevitable for the Elves as for
Men, since their lives are bound to the world and the world will not
last forever (only God lasts forever).  Though this end is far away at
present, it will come inescapably, and the Elves have neither certainty
nor knowledge of what comes after, nor even hope.  A long-foreseen loss
may even be worse than one that comes sooner.  However, asks Finrod,
Andreth seems to say that the short life of Men is not a matter of the
general harm done to the world by Morgoth, but to an evil done by him
against Men as such?  Just so, says Andreth.

Finrod says that this is the most terrible news, because the Elves had
never believed that Morgoth could injure an entire people: even at the
height of his power, Morgoth could capture or corrupt individuals, but if
he can do what Andreth says he has done, the Elves and even the Valar are
truly powerless.  Andreth reiterates that the Elves do not know death,
and that if this mere concept drives Finrod to despair, how much worse
for Men who must face it as a daily reality.  If Morgoth has done this,
he is Lord of the World indeed.

Finrod denies it: Morgoth is not Lord, but God (and under him Manwe,
the chief of the Valar) is.  The darkened and misled mind can come
from Morgoth indeed, but not the destruction of human immortality
passed from parents to children, leaving behind only the memory of a
stolen inheritance.  But Finrod does not believe Andreth's story: only
God could have done so.  But what have Men done to so infuriate God?
Andreth says that such matters are not discussed with other races,
and that in any event Men have striven to forget their past: even their
oldest stories tell only of longer lives, not of deathlessness.

Finrod says the Valar know the truth if anyone does.  Andreth says
bitterly that the Valar never summoned Men to Valinor, nor gave them
any guidance.  If so, says Finrod, it is because Men (unlike all the
other creatures of the world) are answerable to God alone, and not to
even the greatest of the Valar.  He asks Andreth if she means that before
the injury done to them, Men were like Elves, or like something else?

Andreth replies that Men did not know of Elves or their mode of living
with the life of the world: their legends speak only of mortality and
immortality.  Finrod asks her if when Men first met the Dark Elves [who
never went to Valinor] they were already mortal; Andreth says that Men do
not know when they lost immortality, only that at one time they had it,
and that the Wise among Men maintain that at one time nothing died.

Finrod says that the Elves disagree: that imperishable bodies made of
the substance of the world are impossible, since the nature of the world
is change; furthermore, that it is inconsistent to have an immortal soul
in a mortal body.  Andreth concedes the first point, but says that the
Wise have their own answer to it; she rejects the second point.

Finrod tells Andreth that the Elves, being non-human though similar to
humans, can see clearly that the souls of Men are not bound to the world,
and that Men are like visitors to the world, whereas the Elves are not
only inhabitants of it but bound permanently to it.  Therefore, to Men
the world is precious because it is all new, and to the Elves because
it is all they know or can know.

Men, then, are the guests, says Andreth.  Exactly: that is the Elvish
name for them, replies Finrod.  In that case, what is Men's if the world
belongs to the Elves?  Finrod points out that when Men study things of
the world, they do so because they are reminded of something different
and more precious.  If so, says Andreth, they have no memory of any
other world.  She says that the Elves do not grow weary of the world, as
men do, and they are forever young not only in strength but in attitude.
But if Men grow weary, perhaps it is not Morgoth's doing, but also a
part of their nature?

Finrod says yes, the world-weariness was always present in Men, though
Morgoth's evil may have made it worse; and if so, this is the essence
of the contradiction which he spoke of earlier.  If the soul is only a
guest in the world, but the body is part of the world and remains in it,
then physical immortality (since that cannot last longer than the world)
must mean that death was originally a sort of liberation from the world,
a return home.

Andreth says that cannot be true: the body and soul are made for each
other, and the body is not merely the clothing of the soul.  Separation
between them cannot be the true nature of Men, because if it is natural
for the body to die and the soul to go on living, then the body would
not be a gift but a chain.  And Men know who it is that imposes chains:
if this was their nature in the beginning, then they do come from
the Dark Lord and not God, but Finrod has said this cannot be true.
Therefore Men's authentic being must have involved both bodily and
spiritual immortality.

Sorry to break off here, but time's up.  I'll do the second half tomorrow
morning.

--
You escaped them by the will-death              John Cowan
and the Way of the Black Wheel.                 [log in to unmask]
I could not.  --Great-Souled Sam                http://www.ccil.org/~cowan