Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Creative genius in Tolkien - the pride of Feanor

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Being himself a creative genius of a high order, Tolkien felt a temptation of pride which was perhaps greater than for most.

In his depiction of the elf Feanor - he showed how pride can destroy everything which the greatest creative genius can achieve, and more.

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Feanor was by far the most gifted among the gifted race of elves: as a scholar he invented the written script, as a craftsman he created many wonders but especially the Silmarils: three indestructible jewels of beauty unequalled by any products of human art, in which the light of the Two Trees was captured.

Gandalf said that, above all else in the world, he would wish to see the incomparable hand and mind of Feanor at work at the height of his powers.

Even the greatest of 'the gods' (except for 'the One' creator God - Eru) - the premier Archangel Melkor (later re-named Morgoth, by Feanor) could not match Feanor's creative genius, and coveted the Silmarils above all.

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Yet Feanor's pride, his possessiveness concerning his own creations, was such that it led to many disasters for the elves: failure to restore the light of the Two Trees (after Morgoth had them destroyed), mass disloyalty, dishonesty and disobedience among the Noldor elves for generations, slaughter of the Teleri and destruction of their wonderful ships, betrayal and death of Noldor kindred, fruitless wars in Middle Earth with huge suffering and death for many centuries, exile from the care of the Valar - most of the major tragedies of the Silmarillion stories.

And all stemming back to the pride of Feanor.

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Tolkien depicted the same process at many levels, from Melkor himself, to the first and primary Fall of Man into the worship of Morgoth (unpublished in his life but described in the History of Middle Earth Volume X), to the second Fall of the men of Numenor (who developed the most powerful technological civilization ever in Middle Earth), to individual examples such as Sauron and Saruman (minor gods or angelic figures), to Boromir and Denethor.

In Tolkien's world, as in ours, prideful creative genius often leads first to astonishing achievements of power - else there would be no temptation - then to ruin and loss.

For Tolkien, there is no creative achievement so great that it cannot be undone and reversed by pride.

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And yet - we live, now, in a society which esteems and promotes pride - indeed depends upon pride for its very sustenance.

Of all the many moral inversions of political correctness - this is the most serious, the most damaging, the most damning.

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