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     Tolkien and the afterlife of Men and Elves
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    Some time ago I was discussing J. R. R. Tolkien’s philosophy with a friend. The subject was Tolkien's fundamental difference between the elves and men (Eldar and Edain). The elves are bound to Arda and cannot leave even when they die of grief or in battle. Their spirits go to the halls of Mandos, (similar to Hades). The men die however of old age and disease. When they die, they are not bound to the circles of the world and go elsewhere. The elves and the valar do not know where.

    I happened to be pursuing the book "Morgoth's ring" which has a detailed essay from Tolkien about the subject. Morgoth’s ring is volume 10 of the 12-volume History of Middle Earth Series, published by Christopher Tolkien.

    Morgoth's Ring is the 10th volume of Christopher Tolkien's 12-volume series The History of Middle-earth in which he analyses the unpublished manuscripts of his father J. R. R. Tolkien. This volume along with the subsequent The War of the Jewels provides detailed writings and editorial commentary pertaining to J. R. R. Tolkien's cosmology that eventually would become The Silmarillion.

    The difference between men and elves is detailed in Akallabeth story in the Silmarillion. Messengers from Valinor tell the men of Numenor that eternal life is not for them and they would wither as moths in the flame if they stepped onto the undying lands. They describe death as the gift of men. They also state that, with the waning of the world, even the Great powers may envy the gift of death.

    A far greater exploration of the concept occurs in the story: "Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth" — A discussion between two characters, an Elven king Finrod Felagund and Andreth, a mortal woman, about the metaphysical differences between Elves and Men.

    Morgoth’s ring is one of the books available in the beta test of Google Print. It is a very cool feature by the Google search folks.

    If you want to just browse the pages, try this interesting new trick. Go to and search on "Morgoth's ring". Then select the “Book results for Morgoth's ring”. This shows up as part of the beta test for Google Print. Search within the book for "Athrabeth" and start on page 303. It may take a couple of restarts since Google only allows you to browse a few pages at a time. You can read 3 pages at a time, but may have to keep skipping back to the search to read more pages.

    John Howe drew a very cool sketch of Morgoth and Ungoliant that he submitted as the cover art for the book. It was rejected by the editor is favor of a conservative red dust jacket. It can be seen at his web site:

    John is one of the artists whose renderings of Middle Earth earned him a job with Peter Jackson on the set of the Lord Of The Rings movie trilogy. I spotted his influence right away in The Fellowship of The Ring. The Balrog looked exactly like his rendition of Glorfindel and The Balrog.
    Posted on Monday, February 28, 2005 @ 10:34:58 UTC by BB
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