09 December 2015

The Dream of Manwë in 'Of Aulë and Yavanna'

After Ilúvatar has sanctioned Aulë's making of the Dwarves because of his humility, Yavanna turns to Manwë, fearful of what the coming dominion of the Children of Ilúvatar will mean for the other life of Arda.
'If thou hadst thy will what wouldst thou reserve?' said Manwë. 'Of all thy realm what dost thou hold dearest?'  
'All have their worth,' said Yavanna, 'and each contributes to the worth of the others. But the kelvar can flee or defend themselves, whereas the olvar that grow cannot. And among these I hold trees dear. Long in the growing, swift shall they be in the felling, and unless they pay toll with fruit upon bough little mourned in their passing. So I see in my thought. Would that the trees might speak on behalf of all things that have roots, and punish those that wrong them!'  
'This is a strange thought,' said Manwë.  
'Yet it was in the Song,' said Yavanna. 'For while thou wert in the heavens and with Ulmo built the clouds and poured out the rains, I lifted up the branches of great trees to receive them, and some sang to Ilúvatar amid the wind and the rain.'  
Then Manwë sat silent, and the thought of Yavanna that she had put into his heart grew and unfolded; and it was beheld by Ilúvatar. Then it seemed to Manwë that the Song rose once more about him, and he heeded now many things therein that though he had heard them he had not heeded before. And at last the Vision was renewed, but it was not now remote, for he was himself within it, and yet he saw that all was upheld by the hand of Ilúvatar; and the hand entered in, and from it came forth many wonders that had until then been hidden from him in the hearts of the Ainur.  
Then Manwë awoke, and he went down to Yavanna upon Ezellohar, and he sat beside her beneath the Two Trees. And Manwë said: 'O Kementári, Eru hath spoken, saying: "Do then any of the Valar suppose that I did not hear all the Song, even the least sound of the least voice? Behold! When the Children awake, then the thought of Yavanna will awake also, and it will summon spirits from afar, and they will go among the kelvar and the olvar, and some will dwell therein, and be held in reverence, and their just anger shall be feared. For a time: while the Firstborn are in their power, and while the Secondborn are young." But dost thou not now remember, Kementári, that thy thought sang not always alone? Did not thy thought and mine meet also, so that we took wing together like great birds that soar above the clouds? That also shall come to be by the heed of Ilúvatar, and before the Children awake there shall go forth with wings like the wind the Eagles of the Lords of the West.'
(Silmarillion, 45-46)

As the postponed 'Then Manwë awoke' clearly indicates, Manwë has just been experiencing a dream of some kind.  He recognizes the Song and the Vision at once, but something new is at hand. His perspective is simultaneously wider, in that he sees for the first time the fundamental and ongoing role of the hand of Eru, and more intimate because, having entered into Arda, he is now an active participant in a present reality and not simply a witness to a vision of what may yet be, as he was when Ilúvatar showed the Ainur what they had sung (Silmarillion17). 

What Manwë sees here I find interesting for a couple of reasons. First, the revelation that there is more going on than meets the eye reminds me strongly of a passage in the second book of Vergil's Aeneid, where Venus, seeking to persuade her son, Aeneas, not to kill or even blame Helen but to save himself from the ruin of Troy while he still has a chance, grants him a wider perspective on reality than he normally possesses:

“‘Think: it’s not that beauty, Helen, you should hate,

not even Paris, the man that you should blame, no,

it’s the gods, the ruthless gods who are tearing down

the wealth of Troy, her toppling crown of towers.

Look around. I’ll sweep it all away, the mist

so murky, dark, and swirling around you now,

it clouds your vision, dulls your mortal sight. 
You are my son. Never fear my orders.

Never refuse to bow to my commands.


yes, where you see the massive ramparts shattered, 

blocks wrenched from blocks, the billowing smoke and ash

— it’s Neptune himself, prising loose with his giant trident

the foundation-stones of Troy, he’s making the walls quake,

ripping up the entire city by her roots.

 “‘There’s Juno, 

cruelest in fury, first to commandeer the Scaean Gates, 

sword at her hip and mustering comrades, shock troops

streaming out of the ships.

“‘Already up on the heights
— turn around and look—there’s Pallas holding the fortress,

flaming out of the clouds, her savage Gorgon glaring. 

Even Father himself, he’s filling the Greek hearts

with courage, stamina—Jove in person spurring the gods

to fight the Trojan armies! 

“‘Run for your life, my son.

Put an end to your labors. I will never leave you,

I will set you safe at your father’s door.’

“Parting words. She vanished into the dense night. 

And now they all come looming up before me,

terrible shapes, the deadly foes of Troy,
the gods gigantic in power. 

“Then at last

I saw it all, all Ilium settling into her embers, 

Neptune’s Troy, toppling over now from her roots 

like a proud, veteran ash on its mountain summit,

chopped by stroke after stroke of the iron axe as 

woodsmen fight to bring it down, and

over and over it threatens to fall, its boughs shudder,

its leafy crown quakes and back and forth it sways 

till overwhelmed by its wounds, with a long last groan 

it goes—torn up from its heights it crashes down
in ruins from its ridge . . . 

Venus leading, down from the roof I climb 

and win my way through fires and massing foes. 

The spears recede, the flames roll back before me."

(transl. Fagles)

Now clearly the perspectives of Manwë and Aeneas differ greatly. Aeneas's vision is of a single moment in time and space; Manwë's appears far more cosmic in scope. Yet the difference between them is not as great as we might expect, which is in a way precisely my point here. Aeneas is a mortal; his vision of reality is necessarily and unsurprisingly limited.  In its limitation Aeneas' vision is like the one Ulmo grants Tuor when he says that his 'heart yearneth rather to the Sea' (Unfinished Tales30). Ulmo allows him to see all the breadth and depth of the sea 'with the swift sight of the Valar,' but no more. The vision ends as Tuor catches the merest glimpse of Valinor.

Manwë, however, is the Elder King, the chief of the Valar, the peer of Melkor, an immortal who existed before the world was made and played a central role in its imagining and making. Yet even his sight is limited, as is that of Aulë and Yavanna, the two other Valar in this chapter which bears their names and explores the perils and mysteries of sub-creation both before and after the ongoing creation of Arda. Aulë's dwarves were not in the Song, yet the Eagles of Manwë and the Ents of Yavanna evidently were. The hand of Ilúvatar, unseen by Manwë until this moment, continues to produce wonders from what lay 'hidden ... in the hearts of the Ainur.' The things the individual Valar did not know or had not attended to (since, as Manwë admits, there were things in the Song that he heard, but did not heed) are as much a part of the reality of Arda as all they knew and saw 'with the swift sight of the Valar.'  Much 'lies still in the freedom of Ilúvatar' (Silmarillion, 28; cf. 17-18).  The Valar are of course still quite far from the point alluded to in The Ainulindalë, when total mutual comprehension between Ilúvatar and all his children will accompany -- and perhaps even cause -- the realization of the themes as they sing them:
Never since have the Ainur made any music like to this music, though it has been said that a greater still shall be made before Ilúvatar by the choirs of the Ainur and the Children of Ilúvatar after the end of days. Then the themes of Ilúvatar shall be played aright, and take Being in the moment of their utterance, for all shall then understand fully his intent in their part, and each shall know the comprehension of each, and Ilúvatar shall give to their thoughts the secret fire, being well pleased. 
(Silmarillion, 15-16)
One could well quote the New Testament here, and wonder how much specific inspiration Tolkien might have drawn from it in The Ainulindalë: 'For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known' (1Cor. 13:12 KJV). This most famous chapter of First Corinthians speaks powerfully of knowledge and understanding, both perfect and imperfect, of prophecy of what is to come, and of the critical role of love (charity); it states categorically that 'without charity' 'the tongues of men and angels' can produce only cacophony and discord -- just as happens in the Music thanks to Melkor (Silmarillion, 16-17), from whose heart, it is later said, 'all love had departed forever' (Silmarillion66). Given this, it quite easy to suspect that the similarity we see here is no coincidence.

The second interesting connection which Manwë's dream calls to mind is to a passage in On Fairy-Stories:
Now “Faërian Drama”—those plays which according to abundant records the elves have often presented to men—can produce Fantasy with a realism and immediacy beyond the compass of any human mechanism. As a result their usual effect (upon a man) is to go beyond Secondary Belief. If you are present at a Faërian drama you yourself are, or think that you are, bodily inside its Secondary World. The experience may be very similar to Dreaming and has (it would seem) sometimes (by men) been confounded with it. But in Faërian drama you are in a dream that some other mind is weaving, and the knowledge of that alarming fact may slip from your grasp. To experience directly a Secondary World: the potion is too strong, and you give to it Primary Belief, however marvellous the events. You are deluded—whether that is the intention of the elves (always or at any time) is another question. They at any rate are not themselves deluded. This is for them a form of Art, and distinct from Wizardry or Magic, properly so called. They do not live in it, though they can, perhaps, afford to spend more time at it than human artists can. The Primary World, Reality, of elves and men is the same, if differently valued and perceived. 
(OFS para. 74)
What is Manwë experiencing but 'a dream that some other mind is weaving'? Except that he is neither 'deluded' nor forgetful of this 'alarming fact'.  And if it were not already apparent from the description of the dream that Ilúvatar is the weaver of this dream, Manwë's words to Yavanna afterwards -- 'O Kementári, Eru hath spoken....' -- make it absolutely clear. But rather than introduce him to a Faërian Drama or a Secondary World, this dream enlarges his knowledge and understanding of the Primary World and its supernatural underpinnings. Like Aeneas, Manwë sees the hand of God at work. Like Tuor, he sees a deeper, wider world. As elsewhere in Tolkien, we see that dreams are a link to things about the world that are not normally perceived. For men or hobbits this is no surprise. What is unexpected is that the same appears true of the Valar, only on a different scale. 


1) Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2) And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3) And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 
4) Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5) Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6) Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7) Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 
8) Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9) For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10) But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11) When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12) For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13) And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 
(1Cor 13:1-13 KJV)

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