Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Weird Tolkien (II). Valinor is North America

So, THE SHIBBOLETH isn't that hard to get, appearing in THE PEOPLES OF MIDDLE-EARTH  (HME.XII) as it does, but how about J. R. R. TOLKIEN, L'EFFIGIE DES ELFES?*

This French-language publication prints some short pieces by Tolkien, in English, the most interesting of which to me is "The Numenorean Catastrophe & End of 'Physical Arda' ". This asks the question: what became of Valinor/Aman after the enormous upheaval of Numenor's destruction? An excerpt shows Tolkien's line of thinking, leading to conclusions which I don't think I'm alone in finding surprising:

Is Aman 'removed' or destroyed at Catastrophe?

It was physical. Therefore it could not be removed,
without remaining visible as part or Arda or as a
new satellite! It must either remain as a landmass
bereft of its former inhabitants or be destroyed.

I think now . . . best that it should remain a physical
landmass (America!). But as Manwe had already
said to the Numenoreans: 'It is not the land that is
hallowed . . . but . . . the dwellers there' -- the Valar.

It would just become an ordinary land, an addition
to Middle-earth (the European-African-Asiatic
contiguous land-mass) . . . 

Tolkien is unambiguous here, but I find it hard to get my mind around Valinor and Elvenhome, bereft of their former inhabitants, becoming North and South America.

For the part about Aman becoming a new satellite, see my next post.

--John R.
--current reading: continuing the Derrick, which looks more and more like a keeper

*Le Feuille de la Compagnie, No.3, ed. Michael Devaux. I am grateful to Charles Noad for drawing this passage to my attention.


N.E. Brigand said...

Interesting to place that alongside Tolkien's comments about Hy Breasil (in "On Fairy-stories") and his complaint about "the unfortunate existence of America" (in one of the "Kalevala" essays that Verlyn Flieger edited).

John D. Rateliff said...

Yes, good point about Hy Breasil. I've always felt there must be some connection between Breasil and Broceliand (/Beleriand) but never been able to pin one down.

Tolkien also made some interesting comments relating the continents in Middle-earth and the real world in his Resnik interview, but I don't have that accessible right now.


Wurmbrand said...

John, you can access Nikeas #18, with the Tolkien interview, online here:


Dale Nelson

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear Dale

Yes, that's definitely the passage I was referring to from memory. The two relevant passages are these:

[first passage, interview w. Resnick]
[Q:] . . . what is east of Rhun and south of Harad?
T: Rhun is the Elvish word for 'east'. Asia, China, Japan, and all the things which people in the west regard as far away. And south of Harad is Africa, the hot countries.
R: That makes Middle-earth Europe, doesn't it?
T: Yes, of course -- Northwestern Europe . . .
NIEKAS 18, p. 41

[second passage, subsequent meeting of the Tolkien Society of America]
Plotz: In the Tolkien Journal I published a statement by Tolkien to the effect that the part of MIddle Earth shown on the map corresponds to Europe, East of Rhun is Asia, and South of Harad is Africa. Aside from that you get no definite symbolism. Numenor is definitely Atlantis. I hate to think this makes Valinor America!
NIEKAS 18, p. 45

Thanks to Dale N. for the link.