Zap Oracle SteamCast

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A brief discussion of Tolkien's elves followed by a discussion of some principles of time illustrated by the Tolkien mythos.

Show Notes

Time and Tolkien’s Elves

Note: Most of the following concerns time, but in the first section, I introduce Tolkien’s elf mythology in the lord of the rings which is often counter intuitive to people who have seen the movies, and even for those who have read the trilogy. In the ring trilogy Tolkien vividly describes particular elf characters as so exemplary and heroic that it often comes as a surprise to discover in his notes and letters that Tolkien considers the elves as almost developmentally disabled. The first section explains Tolkien’s ambivalent and paradoxical view of the elves which is necessary to understand the second section which concerns time perception.

Who are the elves and what meanings do they have for us? Tolkien has conscious views of the elves which are expressed in his writings, particularly his letters, but there are also other layers of meanings, which are implied or which manifest directly out of the creative muse, with or without Tolkien’s conscious approval. I believe that elves have such a resonance and inner recognition for us because they are a real biological form (if not necessarily carbon-based) which we recognize from within. (For much more on my view of the elves see Parallel Journeys, and The Glorified Body–Metamorphosis of the Body and the Crisis Phase of Human Evolution). For me, the elves resonate with the future as well as the past. (I didn’t make links for this article, but all the articles referred to are easily found on the website.)

Tolkien saw the elves as “man before the fall.” He did not, however, altogether idealize them. There was an anti-life aspect to the elves in his mythology in their desire to preserve and live in the past. Tolkien disparagingly referred to them several times as “embalmers.” Despite their love of nature, the elves were  the opposite of Taoists in that they resisted change and sought to live in an “embalmed” past. In a letter Tolkien writes,

But the elves are not wholly good or in the right. Not so much because they had flirted with Sauron; as because with or without his assistance they were ‘embalmers’. They wanted to have their cake and eat it; to live in the mortal historical Middle-earth because they had become fond of it (and perhaps because they there had the advantages of a superior caste), and so tried to stop its change and history, stop its growth, keep it as a pleasuance, even largely a desert, where they could be ‘artists’—and they were overburdened with sadness and nostalgic regret.

Tolkien and the Developmental Need for Evil -

Casting Precious Into the Cracks of Doom – Androgyny, Alchemy, Evolution and the One Ring -

The Mutant versus the Machine, the End of the Iron Age, and the Galactic Alignment of 2012 -

The Hobbit - An Unexpectedly Good High Frame Rate Journey through Middle Earth -

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What is Zap Oracle SteamCast?

The Podcast of Author Jonathan Zap.