Of Fingolfin and Morgoth (I)

Over the past 7 years a significant number of hits on this site have been searching for Tolkien's "Fingolfin and Morgoth" -- by far, the two words that find the largest number of hits in one or other of the Tolkien extracts found on these pages.  SO... over the next few postings I will be serialising the story -- from "The Geste of Beren and LĂșthien" -- the narrative poem that I judge to be at the very core of Tolkien's creation.

In that vast shadow once of yore
Fingolfin stood: his shield he bore
with field of heaven's blue and star
of crystal shining pale afar.
In overmastering wrath and hate
desperate he smote upon that gate,
the Gnomish king, there standing lone,
while endless fortresses of stone
engulfed the thin clear ringing keen
of silver horn on baldric green.
His hopeless challenge dauntless cried
Fingolfin there: 'Come, open wide
dark king, our ghastly brazen doors!
Come forth, whom earth and heaven abhors!
Come forth, O monstrous craven lord,
and fight with thine own hand and sword,
thou wielder of hosts of banded thralls,
thou tyrant leaguered with strong walls,
thou foe of Gods and elvish race!
I wait thee here. Come! Show thy face!'

(lines 3,538 to 3,557)

The Geste of Beren and LĂșthien
J.R.R. Tolkien

[Image by Peter Xavier Price]

Et in Sempiternum Pereant

"The many people who have bought The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories since its publication in 1986 may well have been perplexed on reading ‘Et in Sempiternum Pereant’ by Charles Williams, so greatly does it differ in style and content from most of its companions in the anthology. For here is a story in which virtually nothing appears to happen. A retired Lord Chief Justice, out walking in the country, enters a burning empty house and encounters a troubled spirit on its way to Hell. The setting is vague and the material details scanty. Not until it is over does the story have the power to frighten: it gains its effects through implication. The only tale of its kind its author wrote, in its substitution of spiritual for material terror it epitomizes his approach to the writing of supernaturalist fiction." (Glen Cavaliero)

In the room there was no furniture, neither fragment of paper nor broken bit of wood; there was no sign of life, no flame in the grate nor drift of smoke in the air. It was completely and utterly void.

Lord Arglay looked at it. He went back a few steps and looked up again at the chimney. Undoubtedly the chimney was smoking. It was received into a pillar of smoke; there was no clear point where the dark chimney ended and the dark smoke began. House leaned to roof, roof to chimney, chimney to smoke, and smoke went up for ever and ever over those roads where men crawled infinitely through the smallest measurements of time. Arglay returned to the door, crossed the threshold, and stood in the room. Empty of flame, empty of flame's material, holding within its dank air the very opposite of flame, the chill of ancient years, the room lay round him. Lord Arglay contemplated it. 'There's no smoke without fire,' he said aloud. 'Only apparently there is. Thus one lives and learns. Unless indeed this is the place where one lives without learning.'

The phrase, leaving his lips, sounded oddly about the walls and in the corners of the room. He was suddenly revolted by his own chance words--'a place where one lives without learning', where no courtesy or integrity could any more be fined or clarified. The echo daunted him; he made a sharp movement, he took a step aside towards the stairs, and before the movement was complete, was aware of a change. The dank chill became a concentration of dank and deadly heat, pricking at him, entering his nostrils and his mouth. The fantasy of life without knowledge materialized, inimical, in the air, life without knowledge, corrupting life without knowledge, jungle and less than jungle, and though still the walls of the bleak chamber met his eyes, a shell of existence, it seemed that life, withdrawn from all those normal habits of which the useless memory was still drearily sustained by the thin phenomenal fabric, was collecting and corrupting in the atmosphere behind the door he had so rashly passed--outside the other door which swung crookedly at the head of the darker hole within.

Et in Sempiternum Pereant
Charles Williams

Inkling Tweets (Click here)

"Tweets have become a contemporay Haiku, at their best artfully worded moments of linguistic economy, abbreviation, and beauty." (Simon Pegg)  The Inklings, in all their vast output, were ahead of their time in their ability to capture a scene or mood in just a few lines, just like a Tweet.  So here we are, my experiment in Inkling Tweet postings... suggestions will be used!

Jack's Death and Funeral

[Quarry Church, Headington]

To Priscilla Tolkien (from J.R.R. Tolkien)

[Written four days after the death of C. S. Lewis]

26 November 1963 76 Sandfield Road, Headington, Oxford


Thank you so much for your letter…………..So far I have felt the normal feelings of a man of my age - like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one: this feels like an axe-blow near the roots. Very sad that we should have been so separated in the last years; but our time of close communion endured in memory for both of us.   I had a mass said this morning, and was there, and served; and Havard and Dundas Grant1 were present.  The funeral at Holy Trinity, the Headington Quarry church, which Jack attended, was quiet and attended only by intimates and some Magdalen people including the President. Austin Farrer read the lesson.   The grave is under a larch in the corner of the church-yard. Douglas (Gresham) was the only 'family' mourner. Warnie was not present, alas! I saw Owen Barfield, George Sayer and John Lawlor (a good mark to him), among others.   Chris, came with us.  There will be an official memorial service in Magdalen on Saturday at 2.15 p.m.

It was very sweet of you my dearest to write,

God bless you. Daddy.

Erotic Literature?

Wayland Young:
Now what in your view is overall right or wrong in modern erotic literature?

CS Lewis:
Well, what repels me - that's perhaps easier than saying 'right or wrong - is what I would call the appalling solemnity. I remember saying to a pupil once that I thought a certain novel pornographic, and he replied, 'how can it be? - he treats it all so seriously'. Now this seems to me so awfully wrong. The sexual act is often very serious to both parties, but more often, quite as often, it is more in the form of a play or romp, especially with married people; and all humanity knows this - it is always connected with jokes. The Greeks knew that the goddess of love was the laughter loving goddess, and this is what seems to be entirely crushed out by, what I would call, our modern aphrodhology, if I might coin this nasty word — the serious worship of Aphrodite.

C.S. Lewis
Interview with Wayland Young (19 Jan 1962)
Journal of Inklings Studies (Vol 1 No 1)

Tolkien Holidays (II)

[Belmont Hotel, Sidmouth]

To Christopher Tolkien

Begun about June 2nd. 1971.

My dearest C,

I am sorry that I have been so silent. But only a long 'tale of woe', of which you know the main outlines, wd. fully explain it. Here we are June 2nd, and May, one of the best of my experience, has escaped, without a stroke of 'writing’. Not all 'woe' of course. Our brief holiday to Sidmouth, which was what Dr Tolhurst's advice boiled down to, was very pleasant indeed. We were lucky in our time - in fact the only week available at the hotel — since May was such a wonderful month - and we came in for a 'spring explosion' of glory. with Devon passing from brown to brilliant yellow-green, and all the flowers leaping out of dead bracken or old grass. (Incidentally the oaks have behaved in a most extraordinary way. The old saw about the oak and the ash, if it has any truth, would usually need wide-spread statistics, since the gap between their wakening is usually so small that it can be changed by minor local differences of situation. But this year there seemed a month between them! The oaks were among the earliest trees to be leafed equalling or beating birch, beech and lime etc. Great cauliflowers of brilliant yellow-ochre tasseled with flowers, while the ashes (in the same situations) were dark, dead, with hardly even a visible sticky bud).

The Belmont proved a v.g. choice. Indeed the chief changes we observed in Sidmouth was the rise of this rather grim looking hotel (in spite of its perfect position) to be the best in the place - especially for eating. Neither M nor I have eaten so much in a week (without indigestion) for years. In addition our faithful cruise-friends (Boarland) of some six years ago, who recently moved to Sidmouth, and were so anxious to see us again that they vetted our rooms [at] the Belmont, provided us with a car, and took us drives nearly every day. So I saw again much of the country you (especially) and I used to explore in the old days of poor old Jo, that valiant sorely-tried old Morris. An added comfort was the fact that Sidmouth seemed practically unchanged, even the shops: many still having the same names (such as Frisby, Trump, and Potbury). Well that is that, & now, alas, over! I am, of course, still in the doldrums as far as my proper work goes - with time leaking away so fast….

Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien #323

Tolkien Holidays

John & Priscilla Tolkien
The Tolkien Family Album


"(Jack) was a man noted for his generosity.   He helped with the education of many children by means of a secret charity fund known as "Agaparg" and personified as an imaginary giant of kindly disposition.  This fund had been set up by his lawyer and friend, Owen Barfield.   No tramp or beggar would be turned away empty-handed by Jack.  Although convinced of his own poverty, he would gladly give to anyone who asked.  He had no sense of money management and cared less."

Lenten Lands
Douglas Gresham