Of Tuor and his coming to Gondolin

A discussion of Tolkien's Unfinshed Tales
Iolanthe
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Post by Iolanthe » Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:30 pm

I've just reached the end of the Lost Tales version and the first thing Christopher Tolkien says in his notes that the fact that Tolkien never revised Tuor's story right to the end (the Fall of Gondolin) is 'One of the saddest facts in the whole history of incompletion' and I really agree with him - it is! What a wonderful story it could have been if he'd taken it from Tuor arriving in Gondolin at the end of Unfinished Tales and kept going with a full revision of Tuor and Gondolin's fall.

I cannot understand why he didn't :( . It was one of the first stories he wrote (the first complete one, I think) and was dear to his heart - and yet he never came up with a final complete version of it. Tragic!

I think a lot of that story kept bubbling to the surface in LotR. Minas Tirith, as Riv says above, is a mini (though not quite so splendid) Gondolin. The Balrog makes a dramatic reappearance (they were a big part of the sack of the city), Glorfindel (where the reappearance of that name made him think about elvish reincarnation), and there is even a Legolas Greenleaf. It's all simmering there...

Those of you that have read the Unfinished Tales first part of this story can tell me if there are any parallels in that while I get around to re-reading it :lol: . It certainly seems to me that though he never properly finished this great story it kept bursting through!
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Post by Iolanthe » Thu Mar 05, 2009 6:12 pm

Glancing through the Unfinished Tales version has reminded me of the moment Tuor and Voronwe hear a cry in the woods and see 'a tall Man, armed, clad in black.... Woe was graven in his face..'. I love the way Tolkien has the paths of these two kinsmen - Tuor and Turin - cross without even knowing it. It seems to be another example of Turin's fate that he should come so near to a kinsman that might have stayed and helped him, but that they should pass without knowing each other.

It's a wonderful bit of inter-weaving, isn't it?
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Post by Merry » Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:54 am

I think you made a very good point, Iolanthe, about the revised Gondolin finding its way into Minas Tirith. I wonder if, toward the end of his life, Tolkien even suspected that the Sil or any of these Christopher books would make it into publication. No one had ever given him any indication that anyone would be interested.

Tuor and Turin are great interlacing, too. I think I felt sorrier for Tuor in this, after so long living alone. I wonder if we should think of Tuor and Turin like we do some of the other Tolkien pairings, like Saruman and Gandalf, Denethor and Theoden, where there are similar characteristics, but one turns bad and the other good.
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Post by Iolanthe » Fri Mar 06, 2009 9:48 am

Great point, Merry, I think you are on to something interesting here - there are so many parallels. Tuor is also brought up by elves but doesn't share Turin's difficult personality. He loses his father but hasn't been cursed by Morgoth and singled out for his doom. He also spends time as an outlaw 'grim and solitary'. He has hard trials but whereas Turin has a Doom, Tuor has a Destiny and is singled out to be Ulmo's messenger to Turgon. He is watched by a Valar where Turin is watched by Morgoth. Tolkien describes Tuor's early journeys as 'not made for the purpose of vengeance' (can't say the same for Turin!) and thinking that 'fortune favoured him' (again, so not Turin!). The two elves who first guide him mention twice that 'through darkness one may come to the light' and he is willing to be led towards it wheras Turin won't let anyone advise or lead him anywhere.

I'm sure there's more!
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Post by Merry » Fri Mar 06, 2009 3:42 pm

I think there's an article in this, Iolanthe! :wink:
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Post by Iolanthe » Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:50 pm

I could add it to the other two unfinished essays I have: “Freedom from Time and clinging to Time” - Death in Tolkien and Bearers of the Star :lol: . These are even more unfinished than the Unfinished Tales...
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Post by Riv Res » Fri Mar 06, 2009 6:25 pm

I sense a theme here. :wink: :twisted:

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Post by serinde » Sun Mar 08, 2009 4:19 pm

Well, here you all are...

Tolkien may well talk about Doom & Destiny -- but all his characters have free will -- to choose the light or the dark -- to follow the God's prompting, or go their own way (even Morgoth & Sauron are given this choice)

The gates -- good catch on the progression of metals! But the question is why? The Nolder certainly came over the Sea well into the tempered Iron (or Steel) Age, so why represent the earlier stages in their defense of the city?

-- essays could be written about numerology in Tolkien, too. The detailed description of each gate is wonderful. That would make a great painting essay.

The dwarfs could have found mithril already, but Turgon has had no contact with the rest of Beleriand for centuries. Likely, if they had found it, they were still experimenting with it, finding out its properties. I was astonished when I first realized that the Khazedum of LOTR was already established in The First Age.

The comparison between Gondolin & Minas Tirith is wonderful -- interesting to consider the 'jewel city' of the elves to that of men; the one a lesser imititation of the other. (of course, Minas Tirith is a lesser imitation of the cities of Numenor also).
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Post by Merry » Sun Mar 08, 2009 5:36 pm

Welcome back, Serinde!

You make a good point about destiny and free will. (Maybe there is another paper in that as well!) I think Tolkien's thought on this progressed as he matured as a person. When he was younger, he was, IMHO, overly influenced by older mythologies and imitated them in many ways. But as he grew into his own, this became less of a guiding principle. As a small example, I love the bit in LOTR when Aragorn, when the Fellowship has divided up, is struggling to decide whether to follow Frodo or Mippin. I think he even says something about all his decisions are fated to go wrong. But he stops to think it through, and decides to follow Mippin because it is the right thing to do: they are currently in more trouble than Frodo and Sam. This is how free will works.
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Post by Philipa » Sun Mar 08, 2009 6:34 pm

Good question. Tuor is acting on his intuition, which in turn is his free will. Although we are being told Ulmo has his, Tuors', 'doom' written in fate this doesn't mean Tuor can't change his mind. But than again...can he?
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Post by Merry » Mon Mar 09, 2009 1:46 am

Well, it's not like Tuor had a lot of attractive options. I guess he could have continued to live in those caves all by himself or remained a slave of the Easterlings or wondered about in the wild or thrown himself into the sea. He didn't have unlimited options, but if free will is to operate in the real world, we never have unlimited options. And we can't say that Ulmo caused all the conditions that limited Tuor's freedom. In fact, coming to Gondolin was the occasion of more freedom than he ever experienced.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

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Post by Iolanthe » Mon Mar 09, 2009 5:14 pm

I think in Tolkien's early mythology - especially with Turin - he was, as Merry said, writing myths in the style of the ancient stories that so stirred him. In those Fate and Doom play a huge part and I think he was writing Turin's story as that kind of myth. But Tuor's story feels different. Tuor is prompted to do certain things and is given a mission, but it's clearly up to him whether he goes or not - Ulmo asks him if he will and Tuor agrees. He has a chance to say no. For him many (but not all) things go right. Turin also takes the course he wishes to take but his doom is that whatever course he choses comes to an ill end. So he is using his free will but somehow it never works out right. Not even once. It's free will and doom all wrapped into one. Chose what he likes, something bad always comes of it.

I think Tolkien was exploring an age-old theme with some subtlety here and both stories have a different take on it.
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Post by Merry » Tue Mar 10, 2009 5:03 am

You know, what struck me most when I was reading Tuor is that this is almost a formulaic hero's journey. Tuor is an orphan--they're always motherless children. He suffers injustice as a youth, strikes out on his own, has mystical encounters, receives tokens as a warrior, gets a spirit guide, makes a long journey, almost dying, crawls through a dark place and is reborn a hero in a beautiful city on a hill! Even marries the king's daughter, who is well above him in station.

Have I forgotten anything?
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

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Post by Iolanthe » Tue Mar 10, 2009 8:57 am

That's spot on - yes it is the perfect Hero journey with all the elements. It seems Tolkien understood these things before Joseph Campbell pulled them all together (but that's no surprise knowing what we do of Tolkien).

Not only does he marry the Kings Daughter but has the 'encounter with the Goddess' in that she's not human but elven. Aragorn makes the hero journey with many of the same elements (though he's fatherless, not motherless and his trials come as a man after a boyhood in Rivendell).

I've just been reading all the notes and scraps that Tolkien wrote for the never finished The Story of Eärendil (Lost Tales). In that it's clear that even Tuor's end is mythical, in that he doesn't die but in his old age the sea calls him and he takes a boat out over the waves. In some versions Eärendil says farewell to him on the strand. In others no one knows where he's gone. In classic hero journeys the hero often takes leave in some mysterious way when his work is done, rather than just dying in the story like any other mortal. Aragorn also takes leave in a mysterious way in that he goes of his own choosing - death doesn't 'take him'. He has control over it.
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Post by Lindariel » Tue Mar 10, 2009 1:28 pm

It is also speculated that Tuor and Idril eventually reach the Undying Lands in their ship, a true heroic ending in that the hero is taken to live the Afterlife with the "Gods."
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