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Old 11-11-2023, 01:53 PM   #41
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Actually, I think Tolkien would regard machinery as natural. Morally tricky, but natural. It's Men that are supernatural, while Elves are natural. I think Tolkien would see that as a key distinction.
In a sense, Tolkien's dwarves were machinery. Or they started out that way. It took direct intervention by Eru to make them more than machines.
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Old 11-16-2023, 12:05 PM   #42
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In a sense, Tolkien's dwarves were machinery. Or they started out that way. It took direct intervention by Eru to make them more than machines.
Pretty much. A Vala could make a golem but not an intelligent being and the original dwarves were golems.

Which brings the thought that Tolkien could have spared a lot of trouble from the start by making the orcs evil golems and only making their leaders intelligent. That seems to have been what he settled on anyway but making them talk like Kipling Tommies just muddles things.
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Old 11-16-2023, 12:38 PM   #43
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Pretty much. A Vala could make a golem but not an intelligent being and the original dwarves were golems.

Which brings the thought that Tolkien could have spared a lot of trouble from the start by making the orcs evil golems and only making their leaders intelligent. That seems to have been what he settled on anyway but making them talk like Kipling Tommies just muddles things.
From what I understand, the kind of automatons/golems the dwarves were (prior to Eru granting them life), they didn't just require orders to do stuff, they basically had to be consciously (tele)operated to be anything more than well-articulated statues. That would basically call for elite commanders who could split their minds to actively control large numbers of orc golems (orcems?), and that doesn't feel quite right for them. The common orcs were stupid, not mindless. Also, sapient goblins made for better antagonists in The Hobbit than mindless bioroids would have (and for the scenes while Merry and Pippin were prisoners), and Tolkien needed to integrate those with the orcs when his publisher pushed for him to have hobbits on center stage in The Lord of the Rings (on account of their popularity in The Hobbit, and hence why Tolkien had to come up with the whole "Bilbo made up the bit about the Ring being a part of his prize for winning the riddle game" twist, or at least all that's what I've heard).

That said, a story where that's how orcs or similar are could be interesting.
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Old 11-16-2023, 08:26 PM   #44
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Default Re: Tolkien magic and game applications

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Pretty much. A Vala could make a golem but not an intelligent being and the original dwarves were golems.
They were only supposed to be golems, animated directly by Aule at all times. However, when Eru Iluvatar reprimanded Aule, he moved to destroy his creations - which wept and begged for mercy. This led Iluvatar to direct that the creatures should be spared, but should sleep beneath the ground until after the awakening of His true children, the elves. (The text as I read it is unclear as to whether the dwarves came to true life as the result of direct intervention by Eru, or if Aule's creation was just so close to perfection that Eru's mere presence was enough to awaken them.)

Third hand, all of Melkor's creations were mere mockeries of things sung into being by the Valar at Eru's direction, and had life only because of that - Melkor was incapable of creating things of his own accord, whether due to limitations of power or simply his own personal limits, and could only change what others had made. (This may be due to the changes Eru made in the Song to incorporate Melkor's modifications, however.) And the machineries of Saruman weren't inherently evil in and of themselves - they were merely the mills and furnaces of Gondor and the Shire, writ large. What was evil about them, far as I could tell, was Saruman's destruction of the environment around his stronghold, so reminiscent of Sauron's despoiling of Mordor. The smokes and steams didn't enrage the Ents, it was the wanton destruction of trees to fuel the process.

In short, in my understanding of Tolkien's view, machines aren't evil, but the people running them certainly can be.
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Old 11-16-2023, 08:38 PM   #45
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They were only supposed to be golems, animated directly by Aule at all times. However, when Eru Iluvatar reprimanded Aule, he moved to destroy his creations - which wept and begged for mercy. This led Iluvatar to direct that the creatures should be spared, but should sleep beneath the ground until after the awakening of His true children, the elves. (The text as I read it is unclear as to whether the dwarves came to true life as the result of direct intervention by Eru, or if Aule's creation was just so close to perfection that Eru's mere presence was enough to awaken them.)
When I read the Silmarillion, it seemed clear that Eru awakened the dwarves as a special act of mercy to Aule, in response to his repentance and to his grief at having to destroy what were in a sense his children.
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Old 11-16-2023, 09:46 PM   #46
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From what I understand, the kind of automatons/golems the dwarves were (prior to Eru granting them life), they didn't just require orders to do stuff, they basically had to be consciously (tele)operated to be anything more than well-articulated statues. That would basically call for elite commanders who could split their minds to actively control large numbers of orc golems (orcems?), and that doesn't feel quite right for them. The common orcs were stupid, not mindless. Also, sapient goblins made for better antagonists in The Hobbit than mindless bioroids would have (and for the scenes while Merry and Pippin were prisoners), and Tolkien needed to integrate those with the orcs when his publisher pushed for him to have hobbits on center stage in The Lord of the Rings (on account of their popularity in The Hobbit, and hence why Tolkien had to come up with the whole "Bilbo made up the bit about the Ring being a part of his prize for winning the riddle game" twist, or at least all that's what I've heard).

That said, a story where that's how orcs or similar are could be interesting.
Right but Tolkien could never justify to his satisfaction a multi-millenia army of cursed sapients though it is obvious that it is possible to make men act like orcs. Some orcems with maier or turned children of Eru as officers could serve much the same as manned platform controlling several drones.

Besides would they really make better antigonists? Tolkien's orcs are militarily incompetent which is why Sauron had to bribe or threaten human princes to get real soldiers out of them. Orcems could at least make a credible phalanx if nothing else.
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Old 11-17-2023, 01:49 AM   #47
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Besides would they really make better antigonists? Tolkien's orcs are militarily incompetent which is why Sauron had to bribe or threaten human princes to get real soldiers out of them. Orcems could at least make a credible phalanx if nothing else.
Tolkien's orcs were able to drive the dwarves out of Moria and prevent their retaking it. And the dwarves were not militarily incompetent.
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Old 11-17-2023, 04:33 AM   #48
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Besides would they really make better antigonists?
Yes, orcs and goblins made better antagonists than teleoperated swarms of orcems would have. Not in terms of effectiveness, but in terms of narrative. The orcs and goblins had personality, they discussed things amongst themselves (which is how Sam learned Frodo didn't actually die in his fight with Shelob), there was infighting, etc. It would have been tough to do that with mindless golems.

Now, I can certainly understand Tolkien's frustration with the setup. But I can think of some solutions to the problem. First off, one's morality is strongly influenced by one's upbringing - to bring in a Biblical source, which I think Tolkien would have appreciated, "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). The orcs/goblins are brought up in a vile, wicked society (amongst other orcs/goblins), so it should be no surprise that most of them wind up wicked and evil. Of course, I think Tolkien considered having them "born" already fully-formed (IIRC, he never really decided on how new orcs came to be), but it seems like they'd have some period of learning where they'd be as impressionable as children. In addition to this, one could simply posit that at least some orcs and goblins (perhaps as a result of their corrupted elven heritage) have the ability to detect (perhaps via scent, I believe some are noted to track using such) a person's goodness, and any amongst their number who's innate goodness hasn't been stamped out or suppressed winds up slaughtered by the others.
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Last edited by Varyon; 11-17-2023 at 04:50 AM. Reason: antagonists, not protagonists
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Old 11-19-2023, 04:02 PM   #49
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The whole thing sounds strangely like apocatastasis, which I think is a heresy, though Tolkien might have said that it was at any rate not beyond the power of God to do such a thing.
apocatastasis: Not exactly a heresy. Looking up the definition, it's the state of being rectified to God via some purification.
If it is interpreted as universal, a la Gregory of Nyssa, it's a heresy; universal salvation is heretical.

if being defined as only to those willing to seek it and work towards it, it's merely another form of purgation, which is only a heresy to (certain) protestants. To Catholics, it's Purgatory, and to Orthodox, the mystery of the posthumous purification of the faithful - which is interpreted in many ways... the toll houses, the laddder, and several other metaphors.

See Climacus' The Ladder of Divine Ascent and the Vatican's the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as Schmemman's For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy.

Knowing Tolkien was well read in theology at the time, and that the fading is not seen as inherently good, and the implication that sailing west slows it, but may also change the final destination... it's a direct analogue of purgatory in some ways. Being sent to purgatory does not, theologically, ensure eventual reconciliation with god, just not immediate eternal damnation. St. John Climacus' even says it was revealed to him that not all who are allowed to try will complete the climb - some will hang on at low levels, others will climb, and yet fall back into the pit below... I don't know if Tolkien was aware of Climacus.

It is, then, that the fading is perhaps better looked at as an allegorical form of historical obliteration, rather than afterlife issue - as they grow older, their effect in the mortal world decreases; if they stay, their reduced temporo-physical power further heightens their apparent irrelevance... until the point where their presence matters not.
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Old 11-19-2023, 04:16 PM   #50
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apocatastasis: Not exactly a heresy. Looking up the definition, it's the state of being rectified to God via some purification.
If it is interpreted as universal, a la Gregory of Nyssa, it's a heresy; universal salvation is heretical.
I take apocatastasis to mean universal rectification: the making over of the entire world and perhaps even the heavenly host as they would have been had sin never entered into things.

Though "sin" is a curiously ambiguous word. On one hand it seems to be a moral failing, a product of free will. But on the other hand, it seems to be a doctrine that sin is not a positive force, as in Zoroastrianism or Manicheism, but an absence or lack or falling short. (Tom Shippey discusses the way that, in Middle-Earth, the absence that is sin can take on the semblance of an active force, as with the Nazgul.) But it seems inherent in finite beings that they have limits, or fall short; that is, to be finite is to be sinful. (As the thought occurred to me when I was studying medieval philosophy, time is sin.) If that's valid, then God could not create without giving rise to sin. I'm not sure what a world after apocatastasis would be like, given that interpretation.
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