The children of Illuvitar

Eru has only one name -The One. But the elves gave him another: Illuvitar – the creator.

Eru had only ever intended the to be two “sentient” species on middle Earth – elves and men, also known as the firstborn and the second born, and together known as the children of Illuvitar. However there are four other sentient beings in Tolkien’s writings and only two are given a satisfactory explanation… Ents and dwarves.

Dwarves were, in fact, created before the elves awoke. To that end they are the oldest of the sentient species of Middle Earth. This goes a long way to explaining the traditional dwarf /elf mistrust which runs throughout Tolkien’s writings but is by no means the whole story. However, although dwarves were created before elves, they only awoke after both elves and men. The story goes something like this:

Although Eru kept promising that his children would soon awake, some of the Valar started to get impatient. One of them in particular, Aule, was so enraptured by the skills he had learned on this world that he longed to teach them to other beings. So he created, off his own back, dwarves.

However before the dwarves awoke Eru knew of this plan and visited Aule. He saw that he dwarves were generally “ugly” but he also saw that they had been created out of love. So he pronounced that dwarves would be born, but only after the children of lluvitar.

Compare, if you like, to Melkor’s musical rebellion which was born more out of ego than love.

The other explained sentient species are the Ents. Ents are trees, but trees which were woken to conciousness by the elves before the Valar made “first contact” with them. Long lived though ents are, theirs’ is just another tale of tragedy which Tolkien weaves into his world. After all, all unasked for, they were woken to conciousness, had flourishing relationships with the now lost Entwives, and tried to awaken other trees, commonly called Huorns. But as the elves fade, so the Ents do. Ultimately, they are destined to be come trees again, and nothing more.

That leaves orcs/goblins and hobbits. There are many other creatures of “evil” which come out of the pits of Angband (we’Il get the another time) such as dragons, trolls etc. All of these are described as perversions of nature and the implication is that orcs are a perversion of elves, although this is never categorically stated.

No-one knows where hobbits came from, and perhaps that’s just part of their magic 🙂 However it’s worth noting that without Melkor’s intervention no sentient creatures other than elves and men would have existed.

So, on to the children of Illuvitar themselves.

The elves, the firstborn, awoke by a lake under the stars, on Middle Earth. There was no son and moon then, so stars it had to be. The Valar found them on a hunting expedition. They immediately fell in love with these long promised firstborn of Illuvitar and asked them to come back to Valinor with them. This was the first sundering of the elves, for some chose to go and some to stay.

After a long and arduous journey the elves reach an area called Beleriand. This is on the westernmost coast of middle Earth. The Valar tell the elves that in order to get to Valinor they have to build their own ships and sail westwards. This is another sundering of the elves because some choose to put down roots in Beleriand whilst others start making ships.

Eventually, those who have  decided to make the voyage from Middle Earth reach Valinor. Of course, they’re not actually permitted to  live in Valinor because that’s the “home of the Gods”. So they’re allowed to settle on the eastern seaboard with an open invitation to visit as and when they want. Similarly there is an open invitation to elves in Middle Earth to sail over to Valinor as and when they will.

As for the genesis of men, far less is told. They certainly didn’t attract much attention from the Valar and when they did it was usually distainful. Afterall, the elves were wise and bright and bonny and merry, whilst men were, well, men.

Because he knew being second born was no where near as “glamorous” as being first born , Eru both cursed and blessed his children. To the elves he gave immortality, that they would never sicken or die but would live on unless they were killed by an outside agent (a sword in the guts in other words). Even in death the was no escape from the world because dead elves go to the Halls of Mandos. Mandos is one of the Valar and his halls are within but totally separate to Valinor. So he’s almost a Hades character, except it is expictly stated that there will be a new world one day, and when the time is right those elves in the Halls of Mandos will get reborn there’s a good dollop of New Jerusalem in there too.

Men get almost the precise opposite, They can sicken and die and their lives – even the Numenorian kings (yes we’ll get there too) – are but a melting snowflake compared to the longevity of elves. But man, when he’s dead, is dead. None of this hanging around in the Halls of Mandos stuff. Staight on to the next destination, which is never even partially discussed.

So, which would you go for: Man or Elf? Tough call really, but Tolkien is quite definite in his opinion – Man.

This, because Tolkien’s story isn’t just the tradegy of the elves, is expressed through romance and in particular the story of Beren and Luthien. Suffice to say this is a far more powerful version of the Aragorn / Arwen story most people are familiar with. It’s also worth noting that it’s man’s concept of time which drives the whole story.

Final Nerd Comment: did you know Tolkien invented the word “dwarves “? ‘Tis true! According to the Wierd and Wonderful laws of English if a noun ends in “f” and has a long vowel before it, you just add an “s” for the plural … eg. wharf → wharfs. But if it has a short vowel the “f” is replacedby “ves”. eg. shelf→ shelves. Until Tolkien’s writing the plural for dwarf was always dwarfs. Quite why he insisted on dwarves consistently no-one knows, but I’ll bet there’s a whole heap more warves out there now 🙂

The kalpa of decrease

Yet another thread of this blog is spiritual, especially Buddhist, especially Nichiren Daishonin teachings.

I no more believe Buddhists should wear turquoise socks just because I’m colour blind, nor to I believe there is a requirement for anyone to wear socks anyway.

I anycase, here is wisdom sumblime:

A person of wisdom is not one who practises Buddhism apart from worldly affairs but, rather, one who thoroughly understands the principles by which the world is governed.

In other words, a person of wisdom does not have to adhere to science, or Buddhism, or anything. What they need to do is to rise above that, have confidence in themselves.

Live your life wholly, completely and without fear or judgement.

*THAT* is Buddhism.

The Creation Myth

In the beginning there was Eru – The One.

He imagined a great world but knew he could not create it by himself. So he created a great choir of greater (Valar) and lesser (Maia) beings to sing with him to create this world.

At first he gave them a simple theme for them to improvise around … say something like a C-major arpeggio. And the music was beautiful and Eru was pleased with his jam session. But then something discordant started to creep into the music … say something like the Imperial March from ”Star Wars”. So Eru called the session to a halt and asked who was responsible for bringing discord to his harmony.

“It was me,” said one of the Valar named Melkor. “I started to find your theme boring so I started to create one of my own.” And Melkor had his supporters within both the Valar and the Maia.  Like a disgruntled record producer or conductor Eru shook his head and said: “Let’s try it again folks, except this time try and keep with the theme, hmm?”

So they tried again, and again Melkor and his crew got bored and tried out their own theme, and again Eru called order. And they tried again, and the same thing happened.

After the third time Eru gave a bit of a sigh and said:

” I never told you why we were singing together … there’s the reason,” and he pointed to a newly formed world. “You may go and visit it if you like.” So many of the Valar and Maia went and visited this new world, and they came back saying: “It’s beautiful! But where’s the life?”

“Ah,” replied Eru. ” That’s only from the first run through. It was the second which created life. Now go and have another look.” So they did and came back saying: “Oh it’s wonderful, can we go and live there please?”

“Of course you can,” replied Eru. “Look there’s even a place called Valinor where you can make your home.”

“Fantastic!” they replied. ” But who can we share this with?”

“Ah,”said Eru. ” That would be the third run through. That time has yet to come. You will know when it happens, but until then please just be content with what is there already.” So many of the Valar and Maia, including Melkor , went down to Valinor and made it their home.


As a creation myth, you can spot the idea of Melkor, the fallen angel, a mile away … and never forget Tolkien converted to Catholicism.

But like most of his writing it really has its roots in pre-christian Scandinavian pagan beliefs. This is easily demonstrated by the term ”Middle Earth” which is a literal translation of the plane humans exist upon in this folklore. Above was Valhalla, home of the Gods, below a place curiously enough called Hel.  l also like the idea of the choir to create the world and Melkor simply getting bored and wanting to try something else … a bit like a heavy metal drummer in a folk band.

However this is not meant to be a discussion on the Christian / Pagan interface, so on with the next chapter, The children of Illuvitar.

Burdock, Ragwort and Bindweed

Another of the things I want to do with this blog is a bit of Natural History.

Last year, for my birthday I asked for two specific books …. one about birds one about flowering plants. To a certain extent this was cathartic, because birds and plants,in particular, were the province of my late brother, whose shadow still and I guess always will hang over my life .

So I’m starting from the bottom with these books, noting down the common (swifts, swans, butterbur or bindweed) All get a tick in the book 🙂

So today, because my wonderful zero hours contact has “reactivated”, I’ve  been flower spotting again.


So I identified Greater Binweed, Lesser Burdock (the most common variety!) and Common Ragwort. All very common. So what’s the big deal?

Nothing. Yes I’m proud of myself for making the positive identifications. Noting really to do with my late brother…. it’s one heck of a learning curve. Trouble is, like so many other people, I’m quite thin- skinned. So I tend to hide stuff like this, afraid of the ridicule or misunderstanding Which may be aimed at me, or rather have done into past.

That. might be wise, but it certainly isn’t courageous.


Many people have advised me to start blogging, from ME to my councillors  to old Uni friends. I love writing but (as above) have always been afraid of the ridicule so find it painfully difficult to write in public .

So here’s trying again !

First Post

It’s always difficult to know what to put in a First Post on a blog.  No-one will read it, but it sets the tone and feeling of the blog in your heart.

Best I can do is tell you where I am. I’m in Aylesbury Bus Station, waiting for a bus to take me back to High Wycombe.

The first thought is Aylesbury Bus Station toilets.  Don’t.  Really, seriously.  Just don’t.  Of course I can only speak from personal (ie. Men’s) experience, but it really is foul.  It’s at times like this you realise why continental toilets have a dedicated cleaner whom you’re supposed to tip on the way out.  I’d happily pay £1 just to be able to pee in a place which wasn’t swimming in piss and smelt like an open sewer.

The second thought is “why am I in Aylesbury in the first place?”  Easy peasy … I’ve been to my Men’s Group session at the Whiteleaf Centre. For anyone who don’t know, the Whiteleaf CENTRE is a service provided by Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Mental Health Services.  Yes they have inpatients and no, I’m not one of them.

So I wend my merry way from High Wycombe to Aylesbury every Wednesday afternoon in order to participate in a psychodynamics group therapy. Yes, its working and no, I’m not going to say why.  Not in my first post anyway 🙂

As for anything else … well I’ve been trying to grasp the content and directions ofithis blog all day.  As a reflection of my life I have no qualms about its depth and breadth, aside from the fact that if I’m sharing that with The World, then I ought to share it with my children.

They know I’m mad, grumpy, strict and, er, eccentric. They know I shouldn’t drink, bit I’m not sure the word alcoholic has attached itself to me in their eyes.

The other word they’ve not heard is depression.  This is whole different kettle. At a time when we’re encouraging our children to be themselves and Shine , it may come as a shock that their Dad is a lost soul who (on good days) just Can’t Be Arsed.

I think that’s a good place to stop.  If I’m going to start posting thoughts and feelings at this level, then I need to be  honest with my children.

Not bad for a resolution from a First Post!

The Potted Silmarillion

One of my greatest passions is the writing of JRR Tolkien.

He’s most well known for “Lord of the Rings” and ”The Hobbit”. However neither book makes sense without “The Sillmarillion”. This is because the whole mythology is set up in this book and its final chapter **is** the last chapter of “Lord of the Rings”, “The Grey Havens”.

In essence, before The Age of Men, the were three other ages, plus ” the time before time began”. The Silmarillion concentrates on the First Age and is, in summation, the story of three jewels called The Silmarils. Without giving too much away the rings of “Lord of the Rings” follow on logically from the jewels of “The Silmarillion” and there are many references in the former which can only really be understood in the context of the latter.

The Silmarillion has, however, one huge minus point to it … the language.

The form of English “The Silmarillion” is written in is impenetrable at the best of times. This is mainly because Tolkien was writing it for his own enjoyment, rather than “Lord of the Rings” which was comissioned as a sequel to “The Hobbit” and so had some kind of editorial oversight.

This is why I’ve decided to embark upon this “potted Silmarillion” , to bring the full story of “Lord of the Rings” to life. However, I do need to be a little bit careful because, whilst “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” are out of copyright, ” The Silmarillion” is not. So I hope this potted version encourages people to go out and buy the book and discover the even greater depth there is to this epic tale of love, tragedy and hope.

The parts I’m going to split “The Silmarillion” into are as below. Once I’ve finished writing all the bits I’II come back here and change these to hyperlinks.

The creation myth
The children of Illuvitar
The Silmarils’ creation
The first kin slaying
The fall of Gondolin
Turin Tarambor
The Silmarils’ destruction
The kings of Numenor
The ring cycle

(Author’s note: these sections have been largely written from memory and occasionally I’ve fiddled Tolkien’s original narrative just to help this narrative flow without having to acknowledge that I’ve cut out a huge chunk of the story.)

The Merchant of Dreams — Anne Lyle — Book Review

One of the reasons I wanted a “normal” blog was to write book reviews. That goes back over a year and I’m not going to knife-and-fork every book I’ve read since (although a few will probably get honourable mentions).  However I’ve just finished The Merchant of Dreams by Anne Lyle so thought that a good place to start.

The story is set in a slightly alternative timeline 16th century Europe. For example the first novel in the series (The Alchemist of Souls) is set in Elizabethan England,

but one where Elizabeth I is married and has an heir.  However, this novel takes place largely in the Mediterranean an climaxes in Venice.

A key part of the stories are the skraelings.  These are a people mentioned in old Norse sagas who lived in what is now the northern US and Canada.  Their incarnation in the books is as humans with short, stubby tails, tattooed faces and the ability to reincarnate their spirit in successive bodies.

The books’ main protagonist is Jacomina Hendricksdoughter (sp?), consistently referred to as Coby. She’s a Dutch protestant refugee in London who is young enough to don mens’ clothes but old enough to get away with being in charge of the costumes in a travelling band of actors and latterly be Malverny Caytlyn’s errand boy.

Malverny (Mal) Caytlyn (sp?) is a one time mercenary who’s become involved with the skraelings and Walsingham’s infamous spy network.  Really the story is about him, but having Coby as the main protagonist keeps your brain cells jumping.  In addition, the story is also told from other peoples’ points of view, including Ned Faulkner, friend and one time lover of Mal Caytlyn, and Erishan, one of the skraelings.

Historical note: this is a fantasy set in a slightly divergent historical timeline, not an alternative history with a dash of fantasy.  The reason I make this distinction is because I read a review of the Alchemist of Souls which tore apart the book on three counts: a) Queen Elizabeth would never have kept the ambassador from a new people waiting for a week (perhaps in this timeline she does??); b) so she’s married, but where that leaves Mary Queen of Scots and James VI of Scotland isn’t explained (and isn’t relevant so why should it be??); and c) making the skraelings into this magical not-quite-human race is racist because scholars now agree that they’re the people who became the Inuit (despite the fact the book clearly states the skraelings come out of myth, not modern scholarship, and at the time the Norse sagas were written skraelings were regards as weird and magical creatures.

Really, if you’re going to get that anal about the historical bits of the book, it’s not for you.

For the rest of us, it’s an exciting romp through 16th century Europe with a good sense of humour and a well judged level of sexual innuendo which is never explicit but always leaves your imagination to fill in the gaps.

There’s also a good sense of place, whether sailing on the open seas, slumming it in London, or dashing around the twisty allies and canals of Venice. Furthermore, the characters engage the reader and pull you forwards in search of the next twist or unexpected revelation.

However there is one flaw in the whole thing which leaves me feeling really rather flat and not totally excited about getting the third in the series… the plotting.   The storyline seems to be somehow aimless.  It’s as though there’s something going on and the characters are swept up in it, each with his or her own personal agenda through which they influence events, but nothing is ever fully explained.

For example I was left wondering what the connection between Mal, his twin brother, and Erishen was at the end of the Alchemist of Souls.  This only became apparent in the Merchant of Dreams.  Similarly The Merchant of Dreams has left me wondering why the skraelings’ Lost Ones are reated as such pariahs when their history is that they were kidnapped from their homelands by Europeans against their will!

After reading Alchemist of Souls I had similar concerns but decided to give Merchant of Dreams a go just in case the editing had been tightened up.  Sadly, IMHO, it hasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong.  The writing is very strong in description and emotion, especially around Coby, and as said there is a good sense of place established.  However the key plot points aren’t  particularly well signposted and in some cases could even have been accidentally edited out all together.  Sadly, this means that you’re left with an unsatisfying read which leaves you wondering what the actual point of the story was and where the conclusion’s supposed to be.

I have to admit the ending of Alchemist of Souls took me  completely by surprise and just didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the book.  The ending of Merchant of Dreams isn’t quite so sudden but is still has an air of reaching the nearest possible ending within wordcount rather than reaching the conclusion it was always meant to.

All of which is a pity, because I do like Anne Lyle’s style, description and humour.   I just wish things were better explained, that’s all.