Almea as an allegory - part II

Posted by Panu Petteri Höglund on 9:15 9/17/01

In reply to: (none)

If I may take up this thread again: to start with, I rather enjoyed Irgend's reading of the ktuvoks as childhood bullies. I did have some such bullies in childhood, too. Today I at last found a copy of "The Mote.." at Akateeminen Kirjakauppa, so maybe I'll soon be able to understand you better. :) But I think Irgend has a point about the Ilii as an utopia: coming to think of it, as Shippey has pointed out in his "Road to Middle-earth", Tolkien's elves are "Ilian-type" ideal Man, while orcs are an uninspired, impoverished parody on Man. The point is, both species are in a way "past redemption": the Orcs are outside Man's moral scale, because they are by definition evil; and the Elves are outside Man's moral scale, because they don't need redemption or afterlife. The point is, a successful Utopian alternative and an altogether evil monster are both outside what is human, and are therefore only possible among non-human creatures. I guess this is what you mean when you say, concerning Asimov's Gaia, that fundamental changes in human nature would be necessary to make it work, i.e. Man should be transformed into an Iliu or an elf. And this is a frightening perspective - in fact, it is the very same metaphysically frightening perspective which makes the thought of an after-life as frightening as the thought of death as the End - because such a transformation, as a personal experience, is simply unimaginable. So, this frightening possibility - being sinless and not needing to struggle between alternatives at every moral or ethical crossroads - can only be endured if it only concerns a non-human creature - an iliu or a Tolkienian elf - whose consciousness, morals and "soul" are designed for an eternal (elves) or a sinless (ilii) life.

Mark responds:

I think you're quite right about both elves and orcs being "outside Man's moral scale"-- and it may be a flaw in Tolkien's work. (It also bugs me that the elves are rather like nobles, and the orcs rather like (an Oxford don's impression of) laborers.)

Interesting that you find sinlessness "frightening". In Tolkien's worldview, it's the state that humans were supposed to be in-- sinfulness is a corruption we all go through. I find it a fascinating concept... especially if we attempt to divorce it from our experiences with people in our world who claim to be above sin. Sanctimoniousness is really just another form of sin; reflecting on this, I decided that the iliu must not have any concept of "morality" at all... what would they need it for?

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