Did Sauron have a physical Form during the War of the Ring?

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Post by Eldy on Tue Feb 05, 2019 4:05 am

halfwise wrote:Let's put it this way: at the time Tolkien wrote LoTR, there were Blue Wizards.  LoTR is clearly canon, so I'd say his thoughts around the time that came out should count more heavily then his possibly revisionist thoughts several years later.  (Remember what happened when we let George Lucas have thoughts?).

I have an allergic reaction to the word "canon" when used in Tolkien contexts, pale but the points you raise are part of the complex set of issues surrounding textual analysis of Tolkien's works that I mentioned above. He tinkered with LOTR for years after its publication--most notably for the second edition in the mid-60s, but not limited to that--and those changes are pretty much universally accepted. For example, I don't think anyone who has read both the first and second editions comes away claiming that Aragorn lived to 190 rather than 210. Of course, matters like that are all things that can actually be found in the text (whether explicitly or implicitly). Since LOTR says nothing about the Blue Wizards whatsoever, though, we're really limited to speculation.

LOTR (sans the Appendices) was more or less finished in 1949. The essay on the Istari wasn't written until 1954, when it was an outgrowth of Tolkien's work on the (never-completed) index he wanted to include with the published book (cf. UT, Introduction). I don't have any of my Scull-Hammond books with me nor do I own the relevant volume of The History of The Lord of the Rings, so I don't know if there have been any investigations into this question, but I think it's far from certain that Tolkien had any conception of what the remaining two wizards were like when he wrote the phrase "rods of the Five Wizards" into the chapter "The Voice of Saruman". It would be very far from the only instance when Tolkien included an idea in a story without having a full mental picture of it.

IIRC the Appendices were largely written in 1955, as they were responsible for the delay in publication of ROTK, so the two paragraphs about the Istari in Appendix B--which say nothing at all about the missing two wizards--might postdate the essay on the Istari from UT. If nothing else, the editing process extended past it. Not knowing at what point between 1954-58 Tolkien changed his mind about the colors, I don't think it's possible to say with confidence what he had in mind at that point. Maybe he still conceived of the two wizards as being Blue but didn't mention it due to space constraints (a lot of material was left on the figurative cutting room floor). Maybe it was that writing process which caused him to abandon the idea, as reflected in the letter a few years later. Or maybe none of the above.

halfwise wrote:As for not mentioning the color blue later (okay, perhaps he mentioned a doubt), absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

I mean, when Tolkien made as many revisions to the concept of the two wizards as he did in c. 1972, and when he was already on the record (albeit 14 years earlier) disclaiming the idea of them having distinctive colors, I think any argument that he actually still thought of them as the Ithryn Luin but just didn't mention it because reasons is gonna be pretty tenuous. Razz

I'm personally inclined to give weight to Tolkien's later ideas when they don't contradict material published in his lifetime (something Tolkien himself was wary of doing--although I might make a few exceptions) but there's no objectively right or wrong way to approach the matter. If you really want the Blue Wizards to be Blue, there's nothing stopping you from making them so in your own mental vision of the story. Sorta like the concept of "personal Silmarillions" that Elthir and I have discussed on here before. However, my take is that since (IMO) the balance of evidence leans against Tolkien sticking with the idea of the two wizards being Blue it makes more sense not to incorporate that idea, though I haven't purged the term from my vocabulary when speaking casually.

I have basically the same take on the question of whether there were one or two Glorfindels, which as far as I'm concerned was settled with the publication of HoMe XII due to comments in the same chapter as Tolkien's last writings about the Istari, even though Tolkien's attempt at resolving the ambiguity and crafting a coherent explanation came 30 years after he originally wrote Glorfindel's scenes in LOTR. There are still people who reject that and think of Glorfindel of Gondolin and Glorfindel of Rivendell as two different characters, but the singularity of Glorfindel seems to be near-universally accepted by people who weren't involved enough (or alive enough) to be crafting HoMe theories before 1996. Though that's probably in large part because the question of how many Glorfindels there were was central to that subchapter, whereas the two wizards' color is incidental to the rest of what we know about them and therefore not much of an attention-grabber.


TL;DR no gods, no masters, canon is a lie, focus on whatever parts of the legendarium you most enjoy reading, and never be afraid to say you blue yourself.




Fake edit: closing silliness aside, I hope this post doesn't come across as too dismissive because I think there's a strong case to be made for reading specific Tolkien texts in the context which they are written, as you allude to, but when applied consistently this drifts even further from any notion of a set canon than the approach I've tried (poorly) to illustrate here. Not that you have to entirely pick one or the other.
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Post by halfwise on Tue Feb 05, 2019 1:27 pm

They headed out east, where be commies.  Started blue.  Let's call 'em wizards purple.

Alatar and Pallando, the Purple Wizards. Nod

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Post by David H on Tue Feb 05, 2019 3:03 pm

Eldy wrote:Not that you have to entirely pick one or the other.

And IMHO that's a lot of what makes Middle Earth feel so "lived in" compared to other fantasy worlds. Human history is a mess of conflicting and ever-changing points of view that can never have a single "cannon", so why should we expect (or even want) one from Tolkien? scratch

{{FWIW Eldy, whenever you write TLDNR I always make a point of reading every single word! Twisted Evil }}

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Post by Elthir on Wed Feb 06, 2019 6:38 pm

Depends upon what is meant by "single" canon. I would say the next book in The Song of Ice and Fire will be part of a single canon. It will, I'm guessing, once again include many points of view, and possibly purposed inconsistencies.


But I bet it will not include false starts, rejected names and dialogues, deleted chapters that didn't work, unwanted inconsistencies (unless they are mistakenly included), "older", unrevised sections. In my opinion, that part of the art
of Subcreation which includes a desired measure of inconsistency (to echo the inconsistency of the Primary World), should truly be treated like art.


Within this characterization of single canon, I expect the same from Tolkien, and I for one would want this because I like to read books.


What is the purpose of Christopher Tolkien's constructed Children of Hurin? Or what is the purpose of my personal legendarium?

What is the purpose of cheering for a squirrel to eat a piece of bread right in front of its nose, especially when, after looking more closely, that so called squirrel turns out to be just a larger piece of bread?


heheh "like buses" Laughing

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Post by David H on Wed Feb 06, 2019 10:01 pm

Elthir wrote:Depends upon what is meant by "single" canon.

Don't get me wrong. One well-aimed canon can be very effective. But multiple canons that roughly parallel each other and are aimed at the same general target can, in the right hands, result in a broadside.
Did Sauron have a physical Form during the War of the Ring? - Page 2 Th?id=OIP
Add some smoke and noise and I think the result can be just as interesting (if less precise.)

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Post by halfwise on Wed Feb 06, 2019 10:37 pm

David H wrote:
{{FWIW Eldy, whenever you write TLDNR I always make a point of reading every single word! Twisted Evil }}


And I make a point of dragging out Ye Olde Urban Dictionary. :drum:

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Post by Elthir on Wed Feb 06, 2019 10:40 pm

Elthir wrote: What is the purpose of cheering for a squirrel to eat a piece of bread right in front of its nose, especially when, after looking more closely, that so called squirrel turns out to be just a larger piece of bread?

By the way, true story.

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Post by Elthir on Thu Feb 07, 2019 4:26 am

I would put it this way David, with just a slight change (perhaps we only get stuck on semantics here, but I'm not quite positive about that yet):

One well-aimed canon can be very effective. But multiple canons "perspectives/sources/authors" that roughly parallel each other and are aimed at the same general target can, in the right hands, result in a broadside. Add some smoke and noise and I think the result can be just as interesting.


For example, The Drowning of Anadûnê versus/plus Akallabêth is more interesting to me than just one of these accounts. And here's a great example of the art of Subcreation, where Tolkien purposely injects inconsistencies due to perspective and authorship, and even has the reader noting that the very shape of the World (as originally created) is/seems different!

The Drowning of Anadûnê exists in three versions -- so too, three versions of The Fall of Númenor, and I forget how may draft versions for Akallabêth, but I'll stop at seven versions of the same story.


Are there really seven "canonical" versions of this story? According to my opinion there is no canonical version of these texts, but I'm going to guess that only two were in the running for publication, and these two would not have the same title. There are two in my personal legendarium anyway, added to any bits found in The Lord of the Rings, for instance.

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Post by David H on Thu Feb 07, 2019 6:23 am

Elthir wrote:I would put it this way David, with just a slight change (perhaps we only get stuck on semantics here, but I'm not quite positive about that yet):

I think we agree in general Elthir, though not really stuck on semantics. I guess I just couldn't resist the opportunity to play with cannons/canons. pirat

More to the point, about your riddle:
What is the purpose of cheering for a squirrel to eat a piece of bread right in front of its nose, especially when, after looking more closely, that so called squirrel turns out to be just a larger piece of bread?
I give up. What IS the purpose? study scratch


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Post by azriel on Thu Feb 07, 2019 5:03 pm

I say David, is that not HMS Victory ? what, what. Fine ship. Very Happy

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Post by azriel on Thu Feb 07, 2019 5:03 pm

I say David, is that not HMS Victory ? what, what. Fine ship. Very Happy

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Post by Elthir on Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:52 pm

halfwise wrote: As for not mentioning the color blue later (okay, perhaps he mentioned a doubt), absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

If Tolkien had simply not mentioned the colours again after the Ithryn Luin text, I think my legendarium would likely have Blue Wizards running around somewhere, but saying that he doesn't know the colours, doubts that they had any and so on, and then not mentioning colour in any text (made public so far), or calling them the other two. . .

. . . I think that's a (I couldn't make the picture appear so had to settle for a link) horse of a different colour!

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Post by David H on Thu Feb 07, 2019 11:22 pm

Elthir wrote:horse

Agreed! Nod

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Post by David H on Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:13 am

azriel wrote:I say David, is that not HMS Victory ? what, what. Fine ship. Very Happy

Yep, that's her! I took the opportunity to tour her a few years ago when I discovered I'd somehow ended up in Portsmouth. She's an amazing old lady, but somehow I don't think I'd have enjoyed serving on her back in the day.... pale

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