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Old 03-01-2024, 06:08 PM   #1
whswhs
 
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Default dreams and immortality

I've been reading Anna Vaninskaya's Fantasies of Time and Death, a study of the themes of Dunsany, Eddison, and Tolkien. One of the things she points to is Tolkien's supposition that elves are immortal within the existence of Arda (the created world)—if their bodies are destroyed they reincarnate—but they have no prospect of outliving Arda, in contrast to men, who die and go somewhere else. This seems to tie in with the old idea that elves are soulless.

So this time that made me think of my current campaign The Gate of Horn, about people who can meet and have adventures in shared dreams. It occurred to me that the people they meet in dreams are rather like elves: they don't seem to have "free will," and they have to stay within dreams, but they can keep coming back in subsequent dreams. Conversely, the actual dreamers can come out of dreams into the waking world.

So might dream beings wish for an escape from living in dreams, as Tolkien says that elves fantasize about the escape from deathlessness? That might be something I can use in the rest of the campaign . . .
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Old 03-02-2024, 05:51 AM   #2
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Default Re: dreams and immortality

Dream beings might yearn for a reality where they aren't dependent on a dreamer, but where reality has existence of its own, independent of any mind.

It never seemed to me that Tolkien's elves would fantasise about death, but about whatever men experience after death.
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Old 03-02-2024, 11:38 AM   #3
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Default Re: dreams and immortality

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
So might dream beings wish for an escape from living in dreams, as Tolkien says that elves fantasize about the escape from deathlessness? That might be something I can use in the rest of the campaign . . .
There are actually only a limited number of dream beings inside your mind, and they take on the myriad forms as your dreams change. They do tend to tire of repetitive dreams, and wish for interesting roles. I don't know for sure whether they desire (or could even comprehend) an escape to the real world. The one I spoke with was aware of an outside world, and seemed to have a very uninformed curiosity, but didn't express any inclination to see it for herself.
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Old 03-06-2024, 10:03 AM   #4
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Default Re: dreams and immortality

Did Arwen acquire a soul when she made her choice? If she was born with one, was Elrond?

"..and bitter was their parting that should endure beyond the ends of the world."
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Old 03-06-2024, 10:42 AM   #5
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Default Re: dreams and immortality

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So might dream beings wish for an escape from living in dreams, as Tolkien says that elves fantasize about the escape from deathlessness? That might be something I can use in the rest of the campaign . . .
This put me in mind of stories where fictional characters escape from their stories to "the" real world (of the framing story; problems with recursion are generally ignored).

A quick check of TV Tropes results in a skerry* of related concepts.


*in the sense used by GURPS: Infinite Worlds, anyway.
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Old 03-06-2024, 11:11 AM   #6
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This put me in mind of stories where fictional characters escape from their stories to "the" real world (of the framing story; problems with recursion are generally ignored).
Redshirts plays with this at the end. Spoilers ahoy!
Spoiler:  



For the topic at hand, yeah, it makes sense dream entities might want to escape into the real world, and this has been played with in the past. Hijacking the body of a dreamer is one option. They might also be able to open a rift (likely with the assistance of dreamers, who prepare things on the other side) that allows them to travel bodily into the real world. If a dreamer is hooked up to something monitoring brain waves, sleep patterns, etc, you have the potential for the entity to become a "ghost in the machine," hopping through the body of the dreamer into attached technology and then jumping from there to other technology that's on the same network or power grid, possibly eventually getting into the world-wide web. The (now sadly-defunct) webcomic Mindmistress had a plotline involving that sort of situation. Or they might be able to simply "piggyback" on a dreamer into the real world - not quite the same, but one of the major characters in the old ReBoot show, AndrAIa, was originally just a Game Sprite (hence the AI in her name) who managed to hitch a ride on Enzo when he returned to Mainframe after the Game was over. The Game World of that show arguably had a lot of similarities to a Dream World.
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Old 03-07-2024, 11:16 AM   #7
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Default Re: dreams and immortality

This is good fodder for a Marches-focused game in In Nomine.
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Old 03-07-2024, 12:37 PM   #8
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One of the things she points to is Tolkien's supposition that elves are immortal within the existence of Arda (the created world)—if their bodies are destroyed they reincarnate—but they have no prospect of outliving Arda, in contrast to men, who die and go somewhere else. This seems to tie in with the old idea that elves are soulless.
I wouldn't characterize Tolkien's Elves as "soulless" at all. Elves and Men both have "spirits" or fear, which are just like souls. The difference between Elves and Men is not that Elves' souls end with the end of Arda and that Men's souls go on. Instead, the difference is that Elves bodies, or hroar, can be rebuilt and rehoused by the Elf-soul, while Men's bodies are single-use only, and limited, and when Men's souls are separated from their bodies, they go somewhere else.

Two of the major mysteries of Tolkien's world are (1) where do Men's spirits go when their bodies die? and (2) what will happen to the Elves' spirits at the end of Arda?

Tolkien wrote the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, wherein Finrod and Andreth debate the nature of existence and what the purpose of bodies and spirits is. They come to some startling conclusions. They suggest that the purpose of Elves is to gather memories of Arda and become repositories of them, while the purpose of Men is to use those memories to build Arda Never Marred out of them. And possibly, both races get a Happily Ever After once that's done.

Elves' spirits don't leave Arda when they die because Arda is Elf-heaven, while Men are the "Guests" because Arda is not their permanent home. This is why Elves are so darned happy all the time: the world is heaven to them.

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So this time that made me think of my current campaign The Gate of Horn, about people who can meet and have adventures in shared dreams. It occurred to me that the people they meet in dreams are rather like elves: they don't seem to have "free will," and they have to stay within dreams, but they can keep coming back in subsequent dreams. Conversely, the actual dreamers can come out of dreams into the waking world.
Tolkien's Elves don't lack free will, but they do have a lot more to do with dreams than Men do. Elves can inhabit the dream-world, meeting people there and getting messages. Tolkien planned to write a novel all about time travel through dreams. His entire legendarium began with the idea that there was a Path of Dreams, Olórë Mallë, that Elves could use to visit Valinor from Middle-earth, and that sometimes children of Men would find in dreams and visit the Cottage of Lost Play. But Elves do exist in Middle-earth; they simply use the Path of Dreams as a way to visit the other side. Elves also invoke dreams a lot in their art: Frodo, for instance, had trouble distinguishing dream from song in the Hall of Fire at Rivendell.

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So might dream beings wish for an escape from living in dreams, as Tolkien says that elves fantasize about the escape from deathlessness? That might be something I can use in the rest of the campaign . . .
Tolkien's Elves don't want to escape from living in dreams; they want to escape the weariness of never dying, of being unable to go someplace better when the weight of the world has ground you down.

What you're describing actually reminds me more of Tron Legacy, where programs long for escape into the "real world." Programs are the creations of users; you could say that they were created by the dreams of their programmers. These dream-beings want to leave Creation, the Grid, and become users themselves.
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Old 03-07-2024, 03:25 PM   #9
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I think you are taking literally matters that I'm viewing analogically.

But also, per Anna Vaninskaya, Fantasies of Time and Death,

. . . the cardinal difference between the two kindreds was this: that the completion and fulfillment of the design was the especial 'task' and 'gift' of Men. They alone had the ultimate 'freedom' to 'fashion' their life beyond the prescription of God . . .

Elves are longaevi, but not eternal. I see this as a subtler mutation of the medieval idea that the Fair Folk are soulless, but as a way of interpreting it.
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Old 03-09-2024, 08:52 AM   #10
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Default Re: dreams and immortality

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Did Arwen acquire a soul when she made her choice? If she was born with one, was Elrond?

"..and bitter was their parting that should endure beyond the ends of the world."
A Tolkien Elf is a soul (fëa) that often inhabits a body (hröa), they're just more aware of that than humans are, so yes, Elrond and Arwen were born with (or rather as) souls.
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