Understanding Magic In JRR Tolkien

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Understanding Magic In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth Essay, Research Paper Understanding Magic In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth Magic is difficult to define. Outside the literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien we do not take it seriously but instead relegate it to the corners of myth, superstition, and the supernatural (that which lies outside or beyond the natural universe). In Tolkien’s world what he calls “magic” is real and natural, and we must understand the nature of his world in order to understand what he calls “magic”. There are many aspects to Tolkien’s magic and all of them must be naturally part of his world. Tolkien devised a robust cosmology for Middle-earth. It is but a small part of a greater world, and that world itself is but one aspect of the

overall natural order. All things in Tolkien’s order proceed from Il*vatar, the All-father, God. He creates the Ainur, the Timeless Halls, and even the Void. Without the will of Il*vatar these things simply cannot exist. So the beginning is in the will (and imagination or conception) of Il*vatar. Il*vatar’s thought is the Big Bang for Middle-earth. The Ainur were intrinsically different from the inanimate and non-sentient Timeless Halls and Void. The Halls and the Void were merely areas of what might be called “space” (not “space” as in the 3 dimensions of Space, but “space” as in indeterminate scopes of reality or existence). Call the Timeless Halls and the Void a universe, or two separate universes. Time does not exist in the Timeless Halls (apparently), and

nothing naturally exists in the Void (but things can enter into the Void from outside). Il*vatar’s creation of the Timeless Halls and the Void implies the beginning of a Here and a There, and this further indicates that different rules may apply. Here has its own rules and There has its own rules. In the Timeless Halls Il*vatar taught the Ainur about music, and they each began to compose music for him. One by one, as singers or instruments, they gave expression to whatever was in their thoughts. And when they had progressed sufficiently in these skills Il*vatar commanded the Ainur to join together in a mighty theme. The Music of the Ainur, the Ainulindal , is the source of a third place to arise from Il*vatar’s thought. And music appears to be a foundation of this third

place. The story tells us that after a while Melkor initiated his own theme within the Music, causing dissension and discord to spread through the ranks of the Ainur. And Il*vatar commanded the Ainur to begin a new theme, but Melkor’s music again invaded the original composition, and Il*vatar growing angry raised a third theme unlike the first two. When the conflict between Melkor’s brash and arrogant theme and Il*vatar’s third theme became so disconcerting that many Ainur stopped singing, Il*vatar brought an end to the music. And he showed the Ainur a vision which gave expression and interpretation to their music, but they did not fully understand it. Then Il*vatar created what we call the Universe, what Tolkien usually called E . “E ” means “it shall be” or “let

it be”. It is Time and Space, all that is natural to Middle-earth, which is but a small part of E . Il*vatar created E within the Void. He said, “I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be….” The Flame Imperishable is never fully described by Tolkien, but Il*vatar kindled the Ainur with the Flame Imperishable, and Melkor sought vainly for the Flame Imperishable in the Void. He did not understand that it existed with Il*vatar, was apparently a part of Il*vatar. The Flame Imperishable therefore provides the foundation for all things which have an existence or even a Will. It is the power of Il*vatar, his energy source and apparently the source of all that he creates. The Flame Imperishable, as an