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Simbelmyne: Mortality and Memory in Middle-Earth (Critical Essay)

Mythlore 2010, Fall-Winter, 29, 12

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IN THE TWO TOWERS, AS GANDALF, ARAGORN, LEGOLAS, AND GIMLI ride to meet Theoden in Edoras, they pass a group of mounds covered with small white flowers. Gandalf comments, "Evermind they are called, simbelmyne in this land of Men, for they blossom in all the seasons of the year, and grow where dead men rest" (III.6.507). Later, in The Return of the King, Theoden himself is placed in another such mound, and its surface is covered with turf, from which more simbelmyne grows. His epitaph sums up his last ride as "out of loss, out of life, unto long glory" (VI.6.976). This passage, and others in J.R.R. Tolkien's writing, embodies a distinctively pagan conception of the fate of the dead. Despite Tolkien's Catholicism, he could not envision the Men of Middle-earth, thousands of years before the birth of Christ, as having any thought or hope of salvation in the Christian sense. His Men have spirits that outlive their bodies--they can, for example, become ghosts, bound to Middle-earth by unfulfilled oaths--but the natural fate of those ghosts is to leave the world, and no one knows what happens to them then. The dying Aragorn, speaking to his wife Arwen, can only tell her, "I speak no comfort to you, for there is no comfort for such pain within the circles of the world" (Appendix A.1062).

Simbelmyne: Mortality and Memory in Middle-Earth (Critical Essay)
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  • Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
  • Published: 22 September 2010
  • Publisher: Mythopoeic Society
  • Print Length: 18 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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