Tolkien's Elves inspired by Buddhism?

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Tolkien's Elves inspired by Buddhism?

Post by Ringdrotten on Thu May 26, 2011 3:38 pm

A thought struck me the other day when I was reading LotR. The similarities between Tolkien's Elves and certain elements in Buddhism are striking. I seem to remember someone here (was it Eldo?) saying that when Elves die, their spirit lingers or something, and they are reborn as someone else (very similar to Samsara in Buddhism). What struck me when I was reading, was how Galadriel described the Elves' love of Lorien. I don't have the English version at hand, so I can't quote it. She was talking about how strongly the Elves loved Lorien, yet they knew that it could not last forever, and this made them sorrowful. This is similar to how Buddhists define suffering. Their take on suffering (off the top of my head, been a while since I had religion lessons) is that everything is constantly changing, including the good things, which means that all that you love in life will eventually fade and go away, and this is what makes you suffer.

This and the rebirth thing made me think of Buddhism - does anyone know whether Tolkien was inspired by Buddhism when he created his Elves?

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Re: Tolkien's Elves inspired by Buddhism?

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Thu May 26, 2011 5:23 pm

I suppose there are elements in LotR that could be read as Buddism, but I don't think they would be in anyway delibrate. And there some big theoligical differences in their views. Tolkiens created world has a purpose, unknown to the participants but known to Ea. Whilst in Buddhism there is no plan just ever repeating cycles.


add- the bit about change reminds me of a quote, but damned if I can remember who from; "The only constant in the universe is that nothing remains constant."

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Re: Tolkien's Elves inspired by Buddhism?

Post by Orwell on Thu May 26, 2011 11:56 pm

Pettty said: "The only constant in the universe is that nothing remains constant."

It's second cousin might be "The more I know the less I know." (Or something similar. Socrates apparently, but I quote from memory).

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buddhist inspired?

Post by springstar on Sun May 29, 2011 8:53 am

This thread reminds me of a similar view said of the the Narnia films and that Liam Neeson was the person who said it! Another thing, Peter Jackson's movie of the book The Lovely Bones, sets a similar pattern with Saoirse wondering around in the "inbetween" with friends.

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Re: Tolkien's Elves inspired by Buddhism?

Post by Eldorion on Sun May 29, 2011 3:57 pm

I believe that Tolkien revised his account of Elvish reincarnation to say that they were actually 're-bodied' into their adults forms rather than re-born to a different set of parents, although I'm too tired to go poking around through Morgoth's Ring right now (it's a hard book to read Laughing). I can't say that I ever saw the Elves as particularly Buddhist, but I think you make some interesting points. Smile
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Re: Tolkien's Elves inspired by Buddhism?

Post by Elthir on Fri Jun 10, 2011 8:34 pm

Eldorion wrote:I believe that Tolkien revised his account of Elvish reincarnation to say that they were actually 're-bodied' into their adults forms rather than re-born to a different set of parents, although I'm too tired to go poking around through Morgoth's Ring right now (...)

That's correct Eldorion. For a very long time Tolkien held that the Elves were reborn as children, having new and different bodies of course, and in one of his letters he even defended reincarnation to the owner of a Christian bookstore -- during this long period when he held this view.

But Tolkien ultimately, and 'emphatically' according to Christopher Tolkien, abandoned this. As you say, the new notion was that the fea (roughly 'spirit') of an Elf held a memory of its hroa (roughly 'body') so powerful and precise that the Valar could make an exact 'copy' of the hroa, and it's this 'new incarnation' (or exact reconstitution) of the former body that Tolkien ultimately landed on.

JRRT thought that each fea should be connected to a particular hroa, and while I don't remember any references to Buddhism, Christopher Tolkien records that his father certainly found problems with the old idea, both physical and psychological, explaining that even if the notion should appear in text it must be noted as a false Mannish idea.
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Re: Tolkien's Elves inspired by Buddhism?

Post by Orwell on Sat Aug 24, 2013 10:44 am

I see the connection. Yes, fair enough.

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Re: Tolkien's Elves inspired by Buddhism?

Post by Norc on Sat Aug 24, 2013 11:09 am

wow, i found an interesting thread because of Orwell Very Happy
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Re: Tolkien's Elves inspired by Buddhism?

Post by Orwell on Sat Aug 24, 2013 12:29 pm

Here to help! Very Happy 

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Re: Tolkien's Elves inspired by Buddhism?

Post by Norc on Sat Aug 24, 2013 5:07 pm

always Rolling Eyes
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Re: Tolkien's Elves inspired by Buddhism?

Post by RA on Sun Aug 25, 2013 11:26 am

Thanks Orwell Very Happy 

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