More like an update to the previous post, especially after I read that long letter where Tolkien himself writes a summary of his whole “legendarium” and explains what he truly intended to do with it.

The Elves aren’t actually those responsible for the ultimate demise of Morgoth. They simply realize that they spent a book trying to win the war and there’s no end in sight. So they decide it’s a better idea to suck it up and return home to knock on daddy’s door to call for help. You see, there’s a sort of hierarchy that works like this: gods -> Elves -> men. Gods are westernmost, literally off the page. There’s even a physical boundary that restrains Elves and men to cross. In the origin myth the Elves decide to come living in the eastern world and that brought consequences, since they were meant to stay in the city of the gods. Safe. But they decide to go, and so are banished (Tolkien literally describes this as “have a cake and eat it”).

So it’s ultimately those western gods that answer the Elves’ call for help and decide to “invade” the eastern world (Middle-Earth) and put an end to Morgoth. It was almost a smooth ride. But after this happened they returned to their own land, and left men and remaining Elves once again alone and to their own devices. That’s also why Sauron was spared. He was told to go back to the god’s land (where he actually belonged) but he was too ashamed, and so he disguised himself and lingered among men. His rise to power is almost a consequence of the gods “refusing responsibilities” and abandoning the world. And so Sauron took charge and actually started to resent the gods. And manipulate those feelings of legitimate resentment.

At some point, seeing no one in power around, Sauron declares himself King of Kings or something silly like that. This span of time, between the end of Morgoth and the “breaking of the world”, marks the rise of a fourth entity. Númenór and the Númenóreans. These were some sort of middle ground between men and Elves. They were actually men, so mortal, but they developed great knowledge and great technology. Númenór represents Atlantis in Tolkien’s myth, and geographically this island lies exactly between Middle-Earth and the god’s land to the west. When they hear about Sauron’s boisterous claims they face him. This happens after Sauron made the rings, started to take control of everything, but ended up waging war to the Elves that wouldn’t submit. When Númenór decides for intervention they already had known civil war. This internal war they had was caused because of a main theme that will then be exploited by Sauron and will cause the demise of Númenór itself. But when Númenór faces Sauron there’s no war. At its apex Atlantis was a too huge power, and so Sauron doesn’t try to resist, actually submits himself to them. He’s taken as prisoner into Númenór, but what he finds (the remains of their civil war) is fertile soil to root his subversion.

The causes of Númenór’s civil war and that will lead to the destruction of that civilization are embedded into Tolkien’s myth and seem to have a pivotal role in its central philosophy. So I’ll reprise Tolkien’s own explanation:

Anyway all this stuff is mainly concerned with Fall, Mortality, and the Machine. With Fall inevitably, and that motive occurs in several modes. With Mortality, especially as it affects art and the creative (or as I should say, sub-creative) desire which seems to have no biological function, and to be apart from the satisfactions of plain ordinary biological life, with which, in our world, it is indeed usually at strife. This desire is at once wedded to a passionate love of the real primary world, and hence filled with the sense of mortality, and yet unsatisfied by it. It has various opportunities of ‘Fall’. It may become possessive, clinging to the things made as ‘its own’, the sub-creator wishes to be the Lord and God of his private creation. He will rebel against the laws of the Creator – especially against mortality. Both of these (alone or together) will lead to the desire for Power, for making the will more quickly effective – and so the the Machine (or Magic). By the last I intend all use of external plans or devices (apparatus) instead of developments of the inherent inner powers or talents – or even the use of these talents with the corrupted motive of dominating: bull-dozing the real world, or coercing other wills. The Machine is our more obvious modern form though more closely related to Magic than is usually recognized.

Tolkien also explains the the magic of Elves expresses itself through “Art”, so realizing that ideal of sub-creation, opposed to “domination and tyrannous reforming of Creation”. The implicit conflict is brought up when men show up in Middle-Earth, especially with Númenór, representing men at the apex of their civilization and technology. A triumph of splendor (“Númenóreans grew in wisdom and joy”). Tolkien underlines how this desire for the creative side goes beyond biological functions, and it becomes a craving to be like god. Art as the ideal of sub-creation, but that feeds hostility toward death and the rules of the natural world. That’s the conflict that started the civil war (“the more joyful was their life, the more they began to long for the immortality of the Eldar”) and that Sauron grasps, convincing Númenór to wage wars against the gods themselves. That it was their right to defy death, demand immortality from those gods, and build their own heaven, on Earth. Tolkien explains clearly all this too:

The Downfall is partly the result of an inner weakness in Men – consequent, if you will, upon the first Fall (unrecorded in these tales), repented but not finally healed. Reward on earth is more dangerous for men than punishment! The Fall is achieved by the cunning of Sauron in exploiting this weakness. Its central theme is (inevitably, I think, in a story of Men) a Ban, or Prohibition.

They [Númenóreans] became thus in appearance, and even in powers of mind, hardly distinguishable from the Elves – but they remained mortal, even though rewarded by a triple, or more than a triple, span of years. Their reward is their undoing – or the means of their temptation. Their long life aids their achievements in art and wisdom, but breeds a possessive attitude to these things, and desire awakes for more time for their enjoyment. Foreseeing this in part, the gods laid a Ban on the Númenóreans from the beginning: they must never sail to Eressëa, nor westward out of sight of their own land. In all other directions they could go as they would. They must not set foot on ‘immortal’ lands, and so become enamoured of an immortality (within the world), which was against their law, the special doom or gift of Iluvatar (God), and which their nature could not in fact endure.

Sauron is brought in, but uses those desires to increase Númenór enmity toward the gods, he becomes counselor of the king and convinces him to build the greatest army ever, sail toward the west, and defy the ban of the gods to grasp immortality as it is in their rights.

But the Valar (those western gods) are pissed by all this and so they break the world. Atlantis sinks, and with it their threat as well as Sauron himself. The off-the-page west is removed from the world. The world becomes round and so the link to the gods’ world is severed, even if it’s said that the remaining Elves, being immortal and so still belonging to the old mythical world, would be able to find a way were they to set sail westwards. The survivors re-settle on Middle-Earth, and Sauron, in spirit form (the physical form sank with Atlantis), moves into Mordor.

The rest is known (in the previous post).

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