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Re: [mythsoc] Re: Denethor and Abraham

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  • Tony Zbaraschuk
    ... I tend to agree. Denethor isn t doing this in obedience to a command from God, like Abraham; he s doing it in total despair and abandonment of any divine
    Message 1 of 18 , Apr 10, 2013
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      On Wed, Apr 10, 2013 at 11:30:03AM -0700, Jason Fisher wrote:
      > I agree with Larry on this, particularly because Denethor makes a
      > point of saying, "We will burn like heathen kings before ever a ship
      > sailed hither from the West." That sounds like it points to a
      > pagan source (if any explicit source at all), and not a Jewish/Christian one.

      I tend to agree. Denethor isn't doing this in obedience to a command
      from God, like Abraham; he's doing it in total despair and abandonment
      of any divine mandate the Numenoreans might have received or remembered.
      I think there are common elements, but the core is an inversion of
      Abraham's faith, not an allusion to it.


      Tony Zbaraschuk

      --
      There is a reason most German philosophy scholarship consists of
      trying to parse what German philosophers actually meant.
      --Lady Wisdom's Favorite
    • Troels Forchhammer
      That also fits well with Gandalf s response about only heathen kings ‘slaying themselves in pride and despair, murdering their kin to ease their own
      Message 2 of 18 , Apr 10, 2013
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        That also fits well with Gandalf's response about only heathen kings ‘slaying themselves in pride and despair, murdering their kin to ease their own death.’ 

        Digging through memory I seem to remember hearing about an Arab writing about a visit to Russia and describing a Viking funeral involving burning a ship, and also accompanying the dead chief with servants or family ...? Mainly I hope to jog the memory of someone who knows more about it than I ;-) 

        But that of course doesn't preclude anything — it would be rash to suppose that there can be only one source to a given situation in The Lord of the Rings and exploring the Abraham & Isaac situation, but leaving out the command from God might also contribute along with other sources. 

        Venligst,
        /Troels




        On 10 April 2013 20:30, Jason Fisher <visualweasel@...> wrote:


        I agree with Larry on this, particularly because Denethor makes a point of saying, "We will burn like heathen kings before ever a ship sailed hither from the West." That sounds like it points to a pagan source (if any explicit source at all), and not a Jewish/Christian one.

        Best,
        Jason


        From: Larry Swain <theswain@...>
        To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 10:05 AM
        Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Denethor and Abraham

         
        I don't know of any scholarship on the question, but I actually don't
        see the connection. Other than a father and a son where dad intends to
        kill son, I just don't see it: the characters are different, the
        motivations are utterly opposed, the motifs are different, the placement
        of the scenes, even the "angel"...who is sent to the scene in LoTR by
        Peregrin who I certainly do not think a divine messenger. I do like
        Anders' note of how the sacrifice of Isaac is depicted in Exodus and
        Genesis, so one might argue an influence of the poems on that detail,
        though I'd want to check more widely in Bede, Tacitus, the Eddas and
        Sagas, etc about human sacrifice and funereal practices before drawing
        too firm a line. It strikes me that Denethor's action is typical
        Germanic pre-Christian practice (and perhaps other cultures) that the
        poems are also depicting rather than a direct connection between poem
        and novel. But at the moment, I can't prove that, but suggest that your
        student, Anders, might want to check on it.

        --
        Larry Swain
        Bemidji State University
        theswain@...

        On Wed, Apr 10, 2013, at 02:48 AM, Beregond, Anders Stenström wrote:
        > Thank you, Merlin, for those references! You wrote:
        >
        > > There is a reference to Abraham and Isaac in the Old English version of
        > > EXODUS, of which Tolkien's edition and translation appeared posthumously
        > > in 1982.
        >
        > Too long since I read that book, so I looked in it now. Tolkien
        > notes that "the poet had a strange idea of the manner of sacrifice,
        > shared by the poet of _Genesis_ . . . Isaac is placed on the burning
        > pyre before he is slain . . . fire was thought of as one of the means
        > of death". In the Bible, Abraham raises his knife to kill Isaac, the
        > fire is prepared to be lit afterwards. Tolkien's story combines the
        > motifs: Denethor's original intent is death by fire, then when that
        > is hindered he draws a knife.
        >
        > Chivalrously,
        >
        > Beregond
        >
        >
        >
        > ------------------------------------
        >
        > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.orgYahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >

        --
        http://www.fastmail.fm - Faster than the air-speed velocity of an
        unladen european swallow








        --
            Love while you've got
                love to give.
            Live while you've got
                life to live.
         - Piet Hein, /Memento Vivere/
      • Mike Foster
        Tolkien to Clyde Kilby, 1966: “Gandalf was an angel.” From: Troels Forchhammer Sent: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 5:22 PM To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Subject:
        Message 3 of 18 , Apr 10, 2013
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          Tolkien to Clyde Kilby, 1966: “Gandalf was an angel.”
           
          Sent: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 5:22 PM
          Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Denethor and Abraham
           
           

          That also fits well with Gandalf's response about only heathen kings ‘slaying themselves in pride and despair, murdering their kin to ease their own death.’ 
           
          Digging through memory I seem to remember hearing about an Arab writing about a visit to Russia and describing a Viking funeral involving burning a ship, and also accompanying the dead chief with servants or family ...? Mainly I hope to jog the memory of someone who knows more about it than I ;-)

          But that of course doesn't preclude anything — it would be rash to suppose that there can be only one source to a given situation in The Lord of the Rings and exploring the Abraham & Isaac situation, but leaving out the command from God might also contribute along with other sources.
           
          Venligst,
          /Troels
           
           


          On 10 April 2013 20:30, Jason Fisher <visualweasel@...> wrote:


          I agree with Larry on this, particularly because Denethor makes a point of saying, "We will burn like heathen kings before ever a ship sailed hither from the West." That sounds like it points to a pagan source (if any explicit source at all), and not a Jewish/Christian one.

          Best,
          Jason


          From: Larry Swain <theswain@...>
          To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 10:05 AM
          Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Denethor and Abraham
           
           
          I don't know of any scholarship on the question, but I actually don't
          see the connection. Other than a father and a son where dad intends to
          kill son, I just don't see it: the characters are different, the
          motivations are utterly opposed, the motifs are different, the placement
          of the scenes, even the "angel"...who is sent to the scene in LoTR by
          Peregrin who I certainly do not think a divine messenger. I do like
          Anders' note of how the sacrifice of Isaac is depicted in Exodus and
          Genesis, so one might argue an influence of the poems on that detail,
          though I'd want to check more widely in Bede, Tacitus, the Eddas and
          Sagas, etc about human sacrifice and funereal practices before drawing
          too firm a line. It strikes me that Denethor's action is typical
          Germanic pre-Christian practice (and perhaps other cultures) that the
          poems are also depicting rather than a direct connection between poem
          and novel. But at the moment, I can't prove that, but suggest that your
          student, Anders, might want to check on it.

          --
          Larry Swain
          Bemidji State University
          mailto:theswain%40operamail.com

          On Wed, Apr 10, 2013, at 02:48 AM, Beregond, Anders Stenström wrote:
          > Thank you, Merlin, for those references! You wrote:
          >
          > > There is a reference to Abraham and Isaac in the Old English version of
          > > EXODUS, of which Tolkien's edition and translation appeared posthumously
          > > in 1982.
          >
          > Too long since I read that book, so I looked in it now. Tolkien
          > notes that "the poet had a strange idea of the manner of sacrifice,
          > shared by the poet of _Genesis_ . . . Isaac is placed on the burning
          > pyre before he is slain . . . fire was thought of as one of the means
          > of death". In the Bible, Abraham raises his knife to kill Isaac, the
          > fire is prepared to be lit afterwards. Tolkien's story combines the
          > motifs: Denethor's original intent is death by fire, then when that
          > is hindered he draws a knife.
          >
          > Chivalrously,
          >
          > Beregond
          >
          >
          >
          > ------------------------------------
          >
          > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.orgYahoo! Groups Links
          >
          >
          >

          --
          http://www.fastmail.fm - Faster than the air-speed velocity of an
          unladen european swallow







           
          --
              Love while you've got
                  love to give.
              Live while you've got
                  life to live.
          - Piet Hein, /Memento Vivere/
        • not_thou
          ... From Wikipedia: Ahmad ibn Fadlan ... famous for his account of his travels as a member of an embassy of the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad to the king of the
          Message 4 of 18 , Apr 10, 2013
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            --- Troels Forchhammer <troelsfo@...> wrote:
            > Digging through memory I seem to remember hearing
            > about an Arab writing about a visit to Russia and
            > describing a Viking funeral involving burning a
            > ship, and also accompanying the dead chief with
            > servants or family ...?

            From Wikipedia:

            "Ahmad ibn Fadlan ... famous for his account of his travels as a member of an embassy of the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad to the king of the Volga Bulgars. His account is most known for providing a description of the Volga Vikings, including an eyewitness account of a ship burial."

            Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmad_ibn_Fadlan

            That episode is summarized here:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_funeral#Ibn_Fadlan.27s_account

            It's a bit grisly.

            -Merlin
          • wendell_wagner
            The story of Ahmad ibn Fadlan was turned into the novel Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton and then into the movie The Thirteen Warrior. The plots of
            Message 5 of 18 , Apr 11, 2013
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              The story of Ahmad ibn Fadlan was turned into the novel Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton and then into the movie The Thirteen Warrior.  The plots of these two stories have him travel even further north and enter the story of Beowulf.  It's Beowulf with the supernatural elements removed though.
               
              Wendell Wagner
               
              In a message dated 4/10/2013 7:23:18 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, emptyD@... writes:
               

              --- Troels Forchhammer <troelsfo@...> wrote:
              > Digging through memory I seem to remember hearing
              > about an Arab writing about a visit to Russia and
              > describing a Viking funeral involving burning a
              > ship, and also accompanying the dead chief with
              > servants or family ...?

              From Wikipedia:

              "Ahmad ibn Fadlan ... famous for his account of his travels as a member of an embassy of the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad to the king of the Volga Bulgars. His account is most known for providing a description of the Volga Vikings, including an eyewitness account of a ship burial."

              Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmad_ibn_Fadlan

              That episode is summarized here:

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_funeral#Ibn_Fadlan.27s_account

              It's a bit grisly.

              -Merlin

            • Jason Fisher
              It s Beowulf with the supernatural elements removed though. But a very enjoyable novel. For anyone who might be interested, I blogged about Eaters of the
              Message 6 of 18 , Apr 11, 2013
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                "It's Beowulf with the supernatural elements removed though."

                But a very enjoyable novel. For anyone who might be interested, I blogged about Eaters of the Dead after Crichton died in 2008: http://lingwe.blogspot.com/2008/11/michael-crichtons-beowulf.html

                Best,
                Jason


                From: "WendellWag@..." <WendellWag@...>
                To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                Sent: Thursday, April 11, 2013 12:43 AM
                Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Denethor and Abraham

                 
                The story of Ahmad ibn Fadlan was turned into the novel Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton and then into the movie The Thirteen Warrior.  The plots of these two stories have him travel even further north and enter the story of Beowulf.  It's Beowulf with the supernatural elements removed though.
                 
                Wendell Wagner
                 
                In a message dated 4/10/2013 7:23:18 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, emptyD@... writes:
                 
                --- Troels Forchhammer <troelsfo@...> wrote:
                > Digging through memory I seem to remember hearing
                > about an Arab writing about a visit to Russia and
                > describing a Viking funeral involving burning a
                > ship, and also accompanying the dead chief with
                > servants or family ...?

                From Wikipedia:

                "Ahmad ibn Fadlan ... famous for his account of his travels as a member of an embassy of the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad to the king of the Volga Bulgars. His account is most known for providing a description of the Volga Vikings, including an eyewitness account of a ship burial."

                Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmad_ibn_Fadlan

                That episode is summarized here:

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_funeral#Ibn_Fadlan.27s_account

                It's a bit grisly.

                -Merlin



              • Christopher Couch
                For an example of going through with it, Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to the god Poseidon for a safe crossing of the Greek armada to Troy.  For
                Message 7 of 18 , Apr 14, 2013
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                  For an example of going through with it, Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphigenia to the god Poseidon for a safe crossing of the Greek armada to Troy.  For that sacrifice and his return from Troy with Cassandra, Agamemnon is the victim of revenge by his wife Clytemnestra.

                  Good luck!

                  Christopher



                  From: ""Beregond, Anders Stenström"" <beregond@...>
                  To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                  Sent: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 3:46 PM
                  Subject: [mythsoc] Denethor and Abraham

                   
                  A theology student who is writing a paper on Denethor's
                  attempt to burn Faramir as an analogue to Abraham's
                  stopped sacrifice of Isaac has asked me about previous
                  literature on the topic. Perhaps people on this list
                  have better memories than I have, and can help?

                  Chivalrously,

                  Beregond



                • Tony Zbaraschuk
                  ... Two other possibilities I might suggest. First, from the Old Testament, the tradition of sacrifices to Moloch, passing one s seed through the fire , and
                  Message 8 of 18 , Apr 14, 2013
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                    On Sun, Apr 14, 2013 at 09:12:52AM -0700, Christopher Couch wrote:
                    > For an example of going through with it, Agamemnon sacrifices his
                    > daughter Iphigenia to the god Poseidon for a safe crossing of the
                    > Greek armada to Troy.  For that sacrifice and his return from Troy
                    > with Cassandra, Agamemnon is the victim of revenge by his wife
                    > Clytemnestra.

                    Two other possibilities I might suggest.

                    First, from the Old Testament, the tradition of sacrifices to
                    Moloch, "passing one's seed through the fire", and its parallels
                    in Phoenecian culture.

                    Second, from Tolkien's own _Akallabeth_ in the Silmarillion, the
                    specific tradition that Sauron in Numenor had human sacrifices
                    made to Melkor by burning. (And in other unspecificed ways,
                    but fire is mentioned a couple of times.)


                    Tony Zbaraschuk


                    >  
                    > A theology student who is writing a paper on Denethor's
                    > attempt to burn Faramir as an analogue to Abraham's
                    > stopped sacrifice of Isaac has asked me about previous
                    > literature on the topic. Perhaps people on this list
                    > have better memories than I have, and can help?
                    >
                    > Chivalrously,
                    >
                    > Beregond
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    --
                    There is a reason most German philosophy scholarship consists of
                    trying to parse what German philosophers actually meant.
                    --Lady Wisdom's Favorite
                  • lynnmaudlin
                    Tony, no no no (she screams), probably not what you meant but your statement, from the Old Testament, the tradition of sacrifices to Moloch, passing one s
                    Message 9 of 18 , Apr 24, 2013
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                      Tony, no no no (she screams), probably not what you meant but your statement, "from the Old Testament, the tradition of sacrifices to Moloch, "passing one's seed through the fire", and its parallels in Phoenecian culture" makes it sound like this was part of Judaism or acceptable in some way. NO, this was NOT a Jewish tradition but a corruption of the people where the worship of a foreign god (Molech, in this case) has been embraced in specific disobedience to the law given in Leviticus 18:21 ('You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD'). So yes, that horrible thing happened and it is noted in the Bible but even with the general lack of editorial comment, it's clear this is an abomination before YHWH.

                      You could argue Jepthah, in Judges 11: "Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, "If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the LORD'S, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering." (v. 30-31); he is horrified when his daughter, his only child, comes dancing out with tambourines to celebrate his victory. What isn't clear, according to rabbis, is the way in which the vow was kept: did he burn her or did she become "as dead" and never married or produced offspring?

                      Of course, the problem with making Denethor's madness-induced attempt to burn his son alive is hardly comparable to the Akedah, the great testing of Abraham, where YHWH instructs him to offer his son as a sacrifice. Denethor didn't think he was making a sacrifice of his son in obedience to his god, he was acting out of palantir/Sauron-induced madness and despair. I suppose the theology student is looking at some correspondence in the salvation aspect: God stops Abraham and supplies him with a ram caught in a thicket; Gandalf rescues Faramir and only Denethor is burned.

                      -- Lynn --


                      --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, Tony Zbaraschuk <tonyz@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > On Sun, Apr 14, 2013 at 09:12:52AM -0700, Christopher Couch wrote:
                      > > For an example of going through with it, Agamemnon sacrifices his
                      > > daughter Iphigenia to the god Poseidon for a safe crossing of the
                      > > Greek armada to Troy.  For that sacrifice and his return from Troy
                      > > with Cassandra, Agamemnon is the victim of revenge by his wife
                      > > Clytemnestra.
                      >
                      > Two other possibilities I might suggest.
                      >
                      > First, from the Old Testament, the tradition of sacrifices to
                      > Moloch, "passing one's seed through the fire", and its parallels
                      > in Phoenecian culture.
                      >
                      > Second, from Tolkien's own _Akallabeth_ in the Silmarillion, the
                      > specific tradition that Sauron in Numenor had human sacrifices
                      > made to Melkor by burning. (And in other unspecificed ways,
                      > but fire is mentioned a couple of times.)
                      >
                      >
                      > Tony Zbaraschuk
                      >
                      >
                      > >  
                      > > A theology student who is writing a paper on Denethor's
                      > > attempt to burn Faramir as an analogue to Abraham's
                      > > stopped sacrifice of Isaac has asked me about previous
                      > > literature on the topic. Perhaps people on this list
                      > > have better memories than I have, and can help?
                      > >
                      > > Chivalrously,
                      > >
                      > > Beregond
                      > >
                      > >
                      > >
                      > --
                      > There is a reason most German philosophy scholarship consists of
                      > trying to parse what German philosophers actually meant.
                      > --Lady Wisdom's Favorite
                      >
                    • Tony Zbaraschuk
                      ... Of course it is, and I never intended to imply otherwise. I was just pointing out that, if you re looking for parallels in the Bible to Denethor wanting
                      Message 10 of 18 , Apr 26, 2013
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                        On Thu, Apr 25, 2013 at 12:57:55AM -0000, lynnmaudlin wrote:
                        > Tony, no no no (she screams), probably not what you meant but your
                        > statement, "from the Old Testament, the tradition of sacrifices to
                        > Moloch, "passing one's seed through the fire", and its parallels in
                        > Phoenecian culture" makes it sound like this was part of Judaism or
                        > acceptable in some way. NO, this was NOT a Jewish tradition but a
                        > corruption of the people where the worship of a foreign god (Molech
                        > , in this case) has been embraced in specific disobedience to the
                        > law given in Leviticus 18:21 ('You shall not give any of your offspring
                        > to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your
                        > God; I am the LORD'). So yes, that horrible thing happened and it
                        > is noted in the Bible but even with the general lack of editorial
                        > comment, it's clear this is an abomination before YHWH.

                        Of course it is, and I never intended to imply otherwise. I was just
                        pointing out that, if you're looking for parallels in the Bible to
                        Denethor wanting to burn his own son, this one is probably worth
                        considering as well.

                        Not everythign in the Bible is there as an example to be followed;
                        sometimes they're examples to be avoided. Which doesn't mean that
                        people looking for literary comparisons can't use them in various
                        ways.

                        <snip Jepthah -- no comment there>

                        > Of course, the problem with making Denethor's madness-induced
                        > attempt to burn his son alive is hardly comparable to the Akedah,
                        > the great testing of Abraham, where YHWH instructs him to offer his
                        > son as a sacrifice.

                        Agreed.

                        > Denethor didn't think he was making a sacrifice of his son in
                        > obedience to his god, he was acting out of palantir/Sauron-induced
                        > madness and despair. I suppose the theology student is looking at
                        > some correspondence in the salvation aspect: God stops Abraham and
                        > supplies him with a ram caught in a thicket; Gandalf rescues
                        > Faramir and only Denethor is burned.

                        Now that's an interesting way of seeing the inversion of a pattern.


                        Tony Zbaraschuk


                        > --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, Tony Zbaraschuk <tonyz@...> wrote:
                        > >
                        > > On Sun, Apr 14, 2013 at 09:12:52AM -0700, Christopher Couch wrote:
                        > > > For an example of going through with it, Agamemnon sacrifices his
                        > > > daughter Iphigenia to the god Poseidon for a safe crossing of the
                        > > > Greek armada to Troy.  For that sacrifice and his return from Troy
                        > > > with Cassandra, Agamemnon is the victim of revenge by his wife
                        > > > Clytemnestra.
                        > >
                        > > Two other possibilities I might suggest.
                        > >
                        > > First, from the Old Testament, the tradition of sacrifices to
                        > > Moloch, "passing one's seed through the fire", and its parallels
                        > > in Phoenecian culture.
                        > >
                        > > Second, from Tolkien's own _Akallabeth_ in the Silmarillion, the
                        > > specific tradition that Sauron in Numenor had human sacrifices
                        > > made to Melkor by burning. (And in other unspecificed ways,
                        > > but fire is mentioned a couple of times.)
                        > >
                        > >
                        > > Tony Zbaraschuk
                        > >
                        > >
                        > > >  
                        > > > A theology student who is writing a paper on Denethor's
                        > > > attempt to burn Faramir as an analogue to Abraham's
                        > > > stopped sacrifice of Isaac has asked me about previous
                        > > > literature on the topic. Perhaps people on this list
                        > > > have better memories than I have, and can help?
                        > > >
                        > > > Chivalrously,
                        > > >
                        > > > Beregond
                        > > >
                        > > >
                        > > >
                        > > --
                        > > There is a reason most German philosophy scholarship consists of
                        > > trying to parse what German philosophers actually meant.
                        > > --Lady Wisdom's Favorite
                        > >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        > ------------------------------------
                        >
                        > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.orgYahoo! Groups Links
                        >
                        >
                        >
                        --
                        There is a reason most German philosophy scholarship consists of
                        trying to parse what German philosophers actually meant.
                        --Lady Wisdom's Favorite
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