Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth : A closer look

{Version française ici}

A while ago, I received a few similar questions on Tumblr :

Do you have more headcanons about Felagund or would you mind elaborate more about his relationship with Andreth?…

I read through all Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth several times and honestly I would love to know your interpretation of it. Andreth is my favourite female character.

The late text called Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, the Debate of Finrod and Andreth, was published in History of Middle Earth vol. X, and according to C. Tolkien it was probably written around 1960. We know Finrod Felagund quite well: the elder son of Finarfin son of Finwë, and brother of Galadriel, king of Nargothrond who died in Sauron’s jail in Tol-in-Gaurhoth. As for Andreth, she was a mortal woman of the House of Bëor, a people dear to Finrod, and she was Bregor’s sister, that is Barahir’s aunt and Beren’s great-aunt. In this text she’s a middle-aged woman regarded as wise since she knows much about human and eldarin lore. She’s a friend of Finrod who is said to often visit her until the Fourth Battle, Dagor Bragollach. At the end of the debate, we learn that during her youth she was in love with Aegnor, Finrod’s little brother, who dies during that same Fourth Battle. Aegnor loved her too, but he eventually left and their love was never given any chance to be. This « converse » between Finrod and Andreth deals with the nature of Mankind, of their death and their part to play within Arda, and of the differences between Elves and Men. The Debate is followed by a commentary written by J.R.R. Tolkien. 

One of the main questions of the text is that of epistemology, which ultimately leads to that of hierarchy which define the characterization of both Finrod and Andreth in the text, but also of hope, more precisely Estel. [Unless stated otherwise, all the quotes in this post come from the Athrabeth, its commentary and Christopher Tolkien’s note. As for the etymological sources : OED]

Knowledge

You must have noticed in the whole debate the recurrent topos of knowledge. Who knows what? How do they know it? what sort of knowledge are we talking about? What is the nature of the porosity between lore and wisdom? To what extent is Truth concerned?

Finrod talks to Andreth first and foremost because he wants to learn more about the lore and beliefs of Mankind, since his own knowledge about it confuses him greatly ; we are indeed told in the introduction to the Debate that « it was not clear to the Eldar » what Men meant when they talked of the fact that « their rhöar [that is more or less their bodily form] were not by right nature short-lived ». Yet, in the beginning of the Debate, Finrod positions himself as the figure of authority, if only in terms of knowledge; He knows, as an Elda « instructed by the Great who know » ; “We speak out of knowledge, not out of mere Elvish lore”, he says, and asserts that his knowledge is not drawn from any sort of superstitious assumption, thus giving his statement a solid authority. It is emphasized by the statement that his knowledge is mostly empirical when it doesn’t come from the Valar themselves, who are presented as the source of knowledge – they can’t err, they don’t lie. Yet, this last certainty is repeatedly questioned more or less implicitly by Andreth (“How should I know, or any Man? Your Valar do not trouble us…”) which eventually troubles him greatly :

Beware lest you speak the unspeakable, wittingly or in ignorance…

The term “ignorance” is interesting here, because it underlines that lacking knowledge is never harmless. In other words, ignorance may serve Melkor’s purpose. By proxy, those who know (meaning the Eldar) are more likely to avoid falling into his traps (contrary to the mortals). Yet, Andreth admits her ignorance (« I did not know this ») and her argumentation always progresses very carefully, since her only solid ground is uncertainty. She questions Finrod’s knowledge (“I think that you err”), she points at the Eldar’s tendency to cling to their wisdom and to show it off (“…having no sure knowledge such as ye boast of”), but she also questions the Men’s traditions, “depending upon ‘lore’, from which truth (if it can be found) must be winnowed.” Through the metaphor of the corn and chaff, she points at the blurred line between beliefs and facts, between knowledge and superstitions, between the empirical argument and one’s so-called wisdom, claiming that even the Atani’s beliefs are no certain facts.

Her bitterness on the matter of death is encouraged by the idea that, according to her, death is something the Quendi don’t know, despite their discourse on the matter, they don’t die, they have no experience of it. And indeed, in the Commentary it is said that Andreth « saw » that they didn’t experience death the same way. Finrod argues that the Eldar know death as well, and they fear it. And he refuses to acknowledge that Men and Quendi do not experience it the same way, before arguing that the fate of the Elves is as dreadful as that of Men, if only because the Quendi’s “uttermost end” is postponed :

It is not clear that a foreseen doom long delayed is in all was a lighter burden than one that comes soon

Finrod’s position is paradoxical, because while he claims that Men and Quendi are equal when faced with death, he is still unable to understand the grievance of Men towards their doom. He goes as far as accusing them of jealousy :

I had thought that this belief of yours, that you too were not made for death, was but a dream of your pride, bred in envy of the Quendi…

The same paradoxical position is true about Andreth, who, even though she repeats that she knows nothing for certain, still appears strongly antagonistic to Finrod’s explanations; but if she is sure of nothing, how can she so easily discard Finrod’s arguments ? Yet, Finrod patiently listens and explains what she doesn’t understand, or invite to say more when he doesn’t understand, keeping an open mind in spite of his convictions. Paradoxically, he also keeps on insisting on the idea that the Quendi’s knowledge is greater because it relies on empirical bases; having a certain distance, they can see better:

It may often happen that friends and kinsmen see some things plainly that are hidden from their friend himself.

The Elves don’t see the humans as the latter see themselves, and according to Finrod, the way Men understand their own nature does not « fit, as we might say, ‘the observable peculiarities of human psychology' ». Therefore, he argues that thanks to his observation he knows Men better than they know themselves. And this position is strengthened by Finrod’s constant use of “I perceive” ; he sees, he feels, he senses acutely (thanks to his elven nature and his natural gifts) – he places his assumptions on empirical grounds, thus giving more legitimacy to his speech, and eventually questions Andreth’s own knowledge regarding the Valar (“what do you know of them?”) – to better refute her antagonistic views about them – just like she did a few lines above about his experience of death (“what do ye know of death?”), in a clear dialectic reversal which, in fact, questions all sort of solid ground. We may also notice Finrod’s use of a proleptic dialectic which ultimately belittles Andreth’s arguments, but Andreth also uses the same sort of prolepsis, anticipating Finrod’s words to better debunk his argument ; and this is also a way for her to better assert her good knowledge of the Elvish lore.

While reading the Commentary, you’ll notice that Tolkien himself talks of the sources of Finrod’s knowledge: “his created nature; angelic instruction; thought; and experience”, the latter being applied to the acknowledgment of the different “incarnate creatures of Arda” and to the destructibility of the Elven rhöa, both elements given as a “known fact” or as a “fact of experience”. Empirical knowledge is thus given as different from what appears “in thought” : theories derived from experience and which may eventually be confirmed by it. Most of the time, “the Elves observed” and “supposed” according to angelic teachings and known facts. Men on the other hand, are said to have only rumours and old legends to stand on, at least according to Finrod :

You, Andreth, know naught save by hearsay and the memory of your people.

He also makes the distinction between knowledge and the aforementioned hearsay, which is significant in this context :

Will you say what you know or have heard ?

Yet, he acknowledges that Men’s beliefs and wisdom also rely on their empirical experience, that they « derived from Arda », like the Elves’ own knowledge, although the two species do not experience the physical world the same way.

Therefore, what appears through this (rather superficial) analysis is that Finrod’s knowledge derives first and foremost from the teachings of the Valar, and to a lesser extent, from the observation of Elves and Men, whereas Andreth’s knowledge is mostly empirical, it is her experience as a mortal, to which is added to a lesser degree the different theories that circulate among the Wise Men and the teachings of the Eldar. Yet, I think we can consider that Andreth’s statement about the Wise Men (“there have no certainty and no knowledge”) as another rhetorical device, or at least a proof of her being careful about her own statement. On the other hand, the only thing Finrod admits ignoring is what might happen when Arda will be no more – the only thing the Valar never revealed (if they have any knowledge of it), and at this point, the discussion turns into a much more eschatological development which implies a sudden shift in the progression of the debate, along with a certain shift in authority. From that point (approximately when Finrod says “then not only the High Eldar are forgetful of their kin!”), knowledge isn’t so much at stake anymore, although it appears here and there until the end.

Social hierarchy

When you talk about authority, you also talk of hierarchy and social status. Finrod seems rather patronizing toward the mortals, but it is something that can be said about all the Eldar. After all, it seems clear in The Silmarillion that the Elves are the lords and the human the vassals (a matter about which I talked in an old port on Tumblr, I might re-post it here someday), and even though the Elves never intervene in the mortals’ everyday life, there is no question, ever, of the possibility of mortal lords in the First Age who would be the equals of the elven lords, that is before Númenor, and even there, the first king is half-elven. In Beleriand, the mortals have their chiefs and leaders, but those are the vassals of the elven lords. Of course, it can be argued that a part of the Atani were much more independent people than vassals, yet they are still never presented as equals in terms of hierarchy and status. And apparently, the Men, or at least some of them, feel this. Andreth herself think that « she was rejected [by Aegnor] as too lowly for an Elf ».

As we saw, Finrod gives the epistemological authority to the Valar, and as a direct pupil of the Ainur, he positions himself right under them on the ladder of hierarchy. Then comes Andreth (whom, he says, “know[s] also much of the teaching of the Eldar”), although he rebukes her for disregarding the Valar:

Speak not of them so, nor anything that is high above you.

This is an interesting sentence because Finrod was at first very careful while explaining that Elves and mortals were close, if not equals (“ye are our kin”), but here, after what could be read as a provocative statement from Andreth, he finally acknowledges a hierarchy; it can be argued that he is only speaking of the Valar as the entities who are above all the Children, be they Quendi or Atani, but you cannot deny that through this statement, his own authority in terms of knowledge – if not in terms of social status – is given as more legitimate:

I have seen them and dwelt among them, and in the presence of Manwë and Varda I have stood in the Light.

Now, if the Light (capital L) is, as it seems, the most precious element in Arda, Finrod not so implicitly asserts that he is “blessed”, that he not only knows that the Valar’s divinity is a thing, but also that he was bathed and nurtured by Light (as a divine element). And this ultimately belittles those who did not stand in the Light. And what a better way to discard Andreth’s bitter words towards the Valar than by asserting that such accusations are only the fruits of Melkor’s lies? (“Such words came first out of the lying Mouth”). In other words, anything that would question the supremacy of the Valar can only be the outcome of Melkor’s strategy. And he’s not wrong! but I find his reaction – an impulsive one – quite interesting; we can read not only as a criticism, but also as a warning against heresy (careful with that… as we will see later).

Another essential element is the choice in the pronouns. Christopher Tolkien’s notes say: “On the opening page of the typescript he [JRR Tolkien] noted that ye is used for the plural only, and that you ‘represents the Elvish pronoun of polite address’, while thou, thee ‘represents the familiar (or affectionate pronoun)’. This distinction is not always maintained in the manuscript…”. This is important and it leads us to consider Andreth’s harsh reaction :

But say not thou to me, for he [Aegnor] once did!

A statement which possibly implies three things:

  • Social ranks: she refuses to be addressed to by the familiar pronoun (except by the one she loves) because she would use the formal one while speaking to Finrod; she may feel like he positions himself above her.
  • Pride and affect : Finrod, as her friend, would find it natural to use “thou,thee” – but it is not so obvious to her. And it’s not because Aegnor used this pronoun that Finrod can do it.
  • Grief: she doesn’t accept the affectionate pronoun because she deems it means little to him; Aegnor used it, and yet he left her (at this point she doesn’t yet know his reasons).

We may also notice that Andreth significantly calls him « Finrod » once only, the other times « Lord » or « My Lord », while he would indifferently call her « Andreth », « My Lady » or « Wise Lady ».

Yet, it is obvious that Finrod didn’t oppose Aegnor and Andreth love story on the basis of social status (it is clearly explained by Tolkien in the commentary); he acknowledges their love and didn’t rebuke it for itself, but for the practical struggles :

  • The short lifespan of Men. Obviously Finrod is afraid of what it would mean for his brother to see Andreth grow old and die. Finrod himself saw his mortal friends die, he would obviously not want his little brother to suffer the pain of such a loss (especially when we consider the bond implied by marriage among the Eldar)
  • “Eru’s plan”, “the high purpose of Doom”: the principle of the great plan devised by Eru, the idea that a human/Elf union would only occur to achieve the plan, etc. Even if Finrod actually wished that Andreth and Aegnor were together, he cannot go against the principle built on the assumption that Eru had a plan, and that Andreth and Aegnor’s union is not part of it.

Anyway, whether Finrod admits it or not, there is a hierarchy, which is given by the narration even before the beginning of the debate:

And they [the men] were in awe of the Eldar and would not easily reveal to them their thought or their legend.

“Awe” is characterized by its blurring line between wonder, admiration and fear. It seems that this hierarchy has been internalised by the Atani who took up without discussion their position as vassals, calling the Eldar “Grown-up Children” as to emphasize their authority, even though Andreth claims that they have their own lore and « needed none from the Elves », which seems to reject the eldarin authority. Christopher Tolkien mentions a rejected passage in which Finrod is surprised to learn that the mortals have their own lore :

But this is a strange thing! Do you claim to have known of Eru before ever we met?

This kind of reaction seems to point at Finrod’s belief that the Men would have no lore, no wisdom and no knowledge if they had not met the Eldar. And indeed, Andreth even expresses that she feels the Eldar look at the mortals as “creatures of less worth, upon whom ye may look down from the height of your power and your knowledge, with a smile, or with pity, or with a shaking of the heads”, which Finrod partly denies, if only for himself :

Alas you speak the truth….at least of many of my people; but not of all, and certainly not of me.

Although it is noble of him, he never explicitly says that they are equal, only that they are in close kinship, which is not exactly the same. When Andreth debunks his argumentation (“still the ordained interval remains between the lords and the humble, the firstcomers high and enduring, the followers lowly and of brief service”), he devalues her statement again, saying that her grievance must have been triggered off only by a feeling of humiliation (“and you speak with the bitterness of one whose pride has been humiliated”). Yet, it is very clear that Finrod loves the Atani and it is certain that he doesn’t want them to suffer. In fact, he seems quite blind to his own paternalizing attitude; the Men’s grievance, he says, must come from their pride, but he, as a lord, a prince and king who has always dwelt above, can neither realise that this position can be seen as unfair by other creatures. That’s why his exclamation after his “vision” is very interesting:

We were the lordly ones then ! But ye, ye would then be at home… Ye would be the lordly ones.

He uses the present time to speak of a situation that is yet to come while imagining what the Elves would say to the Men in this potential future, admitting here that Elves and Men aren’t really equal.. close in kinship perhaps, yet the Eldar are “the lordly ones” at the moment of the debate.. the shift is yet to come. But this acknowledgement of the future status of Mankind is also relevant of the shift of authority within the debate. Because at this point, he has accepted the Men’s “tales” as possibly true :

This then, I propound, was the errand of Men, not the followers, but their heirs and fulfillers of all : to heal the Marring of Arda, already foreshadowed before their devising…

Men become the “deliverers” and from that point, he starts to make assumptions based on Men’s lore (« If your claim is true… ») and even questions the knowledge of the Valar :

Did they hear the end of the Music?

Anyway, it feels like after he has acknowledged all this, Andreth’s behaviour shifts as well, and she appears as much more ready to listen to him, to ask him questions which are no longer rhetorical but genuinely driven by a will to know and to understand. Finrod’s speech and behaviour remain paradoxical though, he is the one talking of the “gulf” between Men and Quendi. Yet I let you imagine what the possibility of a redemption would mean for an Elda, and how it could shatter their previous ontological and eschatological beliefs, even though this new “vision” (be it prophetic or not) is built on the most important Eldarin hope.

Estel

Finrod speaks of Estel, which he defines as « trust », as a principle he has to cling to. Estel comes from the stem “stel” – “remain firm”, and “it was used in Q[uenya] and S[indarin] for ‘hope – sc. A temper of mind, steady, fixed in purpose and difficult to dissuade and unlike to fall into despair or abandon its purpose” (The War of the Jewels, HoMe XI, chapter. III), which is quite relevant of Finrod’s mind! I already talked a lot about it there (and you can read it to complete this), but what is very important to understand, is that Estel is a “last resort”. Tolkien makes it clear that the mere thought of their utter annihilation at the end of Arda is unbearable for the Elves. The only way for them to not fall into total despair and inaction is to have faith in something else, to believe that there will be something wonderful beyond the end of Arda. It is given as a matter of life or death, they are “obliged to rest on ‘naked ‘estel’” [etym: from Latin obligare “to bind, bind up, bandage,” figuratively “put under obligation,”], as if a lack of Estel would imply destruction or treachery/disobedience. To this must be added the question of the informal “law”:

Eru, who appears in the Elvish tradition to demand two things from His Children (of either Kindred): belief in Him, and proceeding from that, hope or trust in Him (called by the Eldar Estel).

Thus, Estel is also an act of « faith », a token of the children’s trust in Eru (one must be VERY careful while applying religious terms to Tolkien’s world! I only use them for lack of a better words). But there are two elements to consider in this quote.

  • The first one is that it is demanded by Eru. It is something one must do. Hence Finrod’s reaction when Andreth questions Eru and Estel – Not having Estel is almost an act of disobedience, if not of “heresy”, and we know what the Valar think of disobedience [ i.e. about the fëar that would refuse the summon of Mandos: “they would not wish to refuse the authority of Mandos: refusal had grave consequences, inevitably proceeding from rebellion against authority].
  • The other element is “elvish tradition”. A tradition is by essence a social construct…. I let you consider the thing, especially given the importance Finrod gives to what is “natural”…

According to these beliefs, all would be directed by Estel, by the fundamental hope that Eru designed everything for a “happy ending”, and that’s why all the Children have to follow the scenario which requires an unquestioned trust in what was designed, and in Eru, and that’s precisely what troubles Andreth, who struggles to understand the reason behind this “gulf” between Men and Quendi.

According to Tolkien in the Commentary, “all Elvish traditions are presented as ‘histories’, or account of what once was”, by the Men of Númenórean origin in the Third Age. It thus becomes complicated to distinguish the tales from History, the natural from the artificial (our textual material is a transcription supposedly from the Third Age of older tales and materials, probably translated), and same goes for the very beliefs of both Men and Eldar. Hence this ambiguity on the epistemological matter! It becomes even more relevant as it is said that “Elvish thought and feeling” are “conditioned” by their doom (“the shadow Ahead”); not a meaningless word to use to talk about one’s thoughts and feelings! It suggests that their beliefs are encouraged by, if not born from their fear of the end. I let you connect it to the epistemological matters previously analysed, but also to Finrod’s later decision to help Beren… whose marriage with Lúthien is given as the fulfilment of “his prediction that such marriage would only be for some high purpose of Doom”.

Characterization

Andreth’s bitterness is totally understandable, but beyond that, look how strong and brave she is. Don’t forget that she is supposed to be Finrod’s vassal, and despite the affection of the elven lord towards Bëor’s people and Andreth in particular, he remains their lord – a lord whom Andreth doesn’t hesitate to challenge. Yet, she does respect Finrod, and it would be rather exaggerated to call her a “rebel”. Her speech points not only at her desire to understand, but also at what she believes is incoherent in the elven lore. She is desperate, she almost begs him to understand (“if you would understand the despair in which we walk”), and this despair is presented as the source of her provocation. She wants to provoke a reaction, which she gets, from sheer deny and rebuking (“Say it not even in question!”), to a certain form of mutual understanding at the end of the text. Understanding yes, but not sheer solace. We cannot exactly say that she feels better in the end, but she probably is more at peace with herself and with the Eldar, having understood what it meant for Aegnor to leave her. Besides, she also stands her ground when faced with Finrod’s will to know the old story. Despite his cunning argumentation, she resists, “partly because of loyalty that restrained Men from revealing to the Elves […] partly because she felt unable to make up her own mind about the conflicting human tradition”.

Anyway, we saw that Finrod eventually acknowledges the Atani’s lore, which eventually takes shape through Finrod’s “vision” (but it is difficult to understand what sense we should give it. Is it a foresight? Or just a clear understand leading to a hypothesis?). In any case, Finrod clearly appears as thrilled by this epiphany, Christopher Tolkien uses the word “exalted” [from Latin exaltare: elevate / ex: High]; He becomes a prophetic figure, enthused by his revelation which couldn’t have happened without the insistence of Andreth to make him understand – he builds his vision on what she told him, and on his own will to understand. Because that’s how he appears form the first place: he wants to know. Thanks to Andreth, Finrod acknowledges the existence of another possible “reality”, of another point of view as valid as the Eldarin wisdom or at least, as something more valuable than a mere “tale”.

Now, what Tolkien asserts in the Commentary, is that this conversation has first and foremost a dramatic purpose:

… to exhibit the generosity of Finrod’s mind, his love and pity for Andreth…

Indeed, I think the very shift in his behaviour from one who clings to his certainties to one who actually considers the existence of another “truth”, is the reaction of a generous mind – a mind that doesn’t revolve around itself but which remains open to others and to their existence, which are different in nature, thoughts and beliefs. He is undeniably manifesting something that only a few other Eldar would manifest and accept – proof is that it took him a moment before he could himself accept it, and he admits that he treats the mortals better than the other Eldar would do. At last, Finrod is ready to accept the advent of Men as “the deliverers”, which implies giving them the main role in the drama of Arda. We also notice that, despite his confusion at several points, Finrod “did not take offence”; indeed, although confused, if not choked by some of Andreth’s provocations, he remains patient and even when he tells her off, it is never done with bitterness. Finrod’s fundamental point is that of Estel, it is what leads all his argumentation and justifies everything: Eru has a plan – it justifies why Men and Quendi are so different -> each species has a particular role to play in the Drama – their fights and sufferings aren’t useless; The end is supposed to be good, and all they have to do is to act according to the “Purpose of Doom” (a “Doom” which seems to take shape in Finrod’s mind from what Andreth’s tells him). Hence also, his distaste of everything that would question the might of Eru, the benevolence of His plans, and the advent of Arda Unmarred. If you question it, you may destroy all that was built and which was supposed to help the Eldar endure, you would destroy the very ground on which they stand, the reason for them to fight. As for Andreth, she (like most Men) cannot accept the Doom of Mankind, and she isn’t sure what to think of this “better end”; and even if she believed in it, it wouldn’t alleviate her pain; she lives in the present, she talks of her present sufferings because that is what matters to her. Even if the end is supposed to be a beautiful one, even if she meets Aegnor again in a form or another, it barely alleviate the present sufferings, whereas Finrod seems more apt to endure the present’s sufferings, precisely because of his strong belief in Estel.

Generic dimension and interdiegetic legitimacy

We clearly have here a debate (it is no mere chance if Tolkien gave the genre in the title itself), and this “conversation”, a dialog between two characters, is one of the rare examples of the genre in his writings about Middle-Earth ; we have epic texts, lays, poems, songs, a number of essays – the other piece I can think of which reminds me of a debate is the judgement regarding the status of marriage after Miríel’s death (HoMe vol X). Now, debates were pretty common in the medieval tradition and we still have a number of those texts, often revolving around religious matters ( the advent of the Messiah for instance) but not only. The form was yet quite strict, and implied a high level of rhetoric, sometimes in an artificial setting. It was a crucial scholastic exercise, but we also have satirical pieces. Therefore, we can see this specific text as a literary exercise, possibly not supposed to give any answer on the matters discussed by the characters, no matter how essential they seem to be. And indeed, Tolkien writes at the beginning of the Commentary that it « is in fact simply part of the portrayal of the imaginary world of the Silmarillion, and an example of the kind of thing that inquiring minds on either side, the Elvish or the human, must have said to one another after they became acquainted. »

Besides, we are explained that, from a interdiegetic perspective, the Athrabeth existed in various forms and versions, and those in which Andreth gives “under pressure” the Tale of Adanel (about the past of Mankind) were edited “under Númenórean influence” – and we are told that Adanel’s tale is not “entirely a fiction of post-downfall days ». and indeed, the introduction says:

… it is recorded in the Ancient lore of the Eldar that once Finrod Felagund and Andreth the Wise-woman conversed in Beleriand long ago.

This text is therefore presented as an archive which is given as true, but there is no token of his veracity and no witness. In addition, “in one version [of the Athrabeth], a complete legend (compressed in timescale) is given explicitly as a Númenórean tradition”, the latter being based on the lore of the people of Marach. Now, it is difficult to know which version we have here, and how influenced by the Númenórean tradition it is. And which one of them? From what period exactly? The traditions on the island were influenced by wholly different motives depending on their kings and their relationships to the Eldar and the Valar, which greatly changed with the years…! such texts immediately appear as perfect propaganda devices. And I cannot help but question the very source of this one; did this conversation really happen? If so, who transcribed it, especially if it is mostly supposed to exhibit Finrod’s generous mind? I have no answer, but we’re all free to imagine our own..!

Before I conclude, I also wish to come back on the metatextual elements which have always struck me in this text ; all the metadramatic comments revolving around the idea of the Maker entering the tale. Imbar/Ambar (the Earth) is given as a stage, the events in Arda are given as the “drama” ( from the Greek word that meant “action on the stage”), Eru as the “the master in telling tales”. All this, plus the “creative activity of Eru” is obviously relevant, in regards of Tolkien’s ideas on creation and sub-creation. Yet, beyond the messianic dimension of those features, I believe it also tells something about the text itself, and it is even more relevant if you compare it to what Tolkien wrote in On Fairy Stories, especially about elven drama, but that’s a very rich subject and I won’t explore it here. The opposition between natural/artificial, and between what is marred/unmarred could also have been explored in more depths, but this humble analysis is already wayyy too long, and yet far from being thorough, so I’ll leave it at that.

Of course my point was not to say who’s wrong and who’s right, that would be completely useless and out of place, but rather to look closer at what is at stake in terms of dynamics between those two characters, since their power relations seem to define them in this particular context : Finrod is driven by his love for Mankind and wish to understand while Andreth is drowning in her torment and in her bitterness, which makes her quite sceptical about the different theories, suspicious even regarding both the human and elven discourses. Their relationship, and by proxy the relationship between elves and humans in general, define their relations to the world and in the case of the Eldar, their eschatological apprehension, which is essentially connected to Estel, as the fundamental belief on which relies the whole structure of the Eldarin philosophy (if not the eldarin society at large). Finrod’s prime motive is to share Estel with Andreth so that she doesn’t end up hopeless, especially after the upcoming death of Aegnor ; his point is to help her leave in peace, with neither bitterness nor resentment towards the Eldar, and towards Eru’s “laws”… and to give her his last farewell.

[Edit because I forgot to mention it : Concerning the lore and wisdom of humans, especially human women, I now let reconsider Gandalf’s words in The Return of King, when Ioreth mentions the lore regarding the healing hands of the king:  » Men may long remember your words, Ioreth! For there is hope in them »]

Thank you very much for reading this (way too long) reflection ; feel free to share your opinion in the comments!

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