Chemicals and Sorcery

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Reikon Suchi-ru 30/Aug/2006 at 06:13 PM
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As was evidenced in the Battle of the Hornburg by Saruman’s use of what seemed to be black powder, chemical engineering and usage was possible back in this time, or was it?

"Then there was a crash and a flash of flame and smoke. The waters of the Deeping-stream poured out hissing and foaming: they were choked no longer, a gaping hole was blasted in the wall. A host of dark shapes poured in.
"’Devilry of Saruman!’ cried Aragorn. ’They have crept in the culvert again, while we talked, and they have lit the fire of Orthanc beneath our feet...’"
(Two Towers - Helm’s Deep - Page 153)

So, assuming that Middle-earth was, indeed, meant to be a precedent to the natural world, could there have been other uses of chemicals in this era of Middle-earth? Surely, it wouldn’t have been fully understood, perhaps even labeled as ’Sorcery’ or ’Devilry’ as Aragorn put it, but Since the elements that exist now have always existed on Earth, surely there would be other chemicals that could have been discovered. Are there any occurrences in ME of previously-thought-magical things that could be explained with science?
Bearamir 30/Aug/2006 at 06:18 PM
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Reikon:  A very interesting question...one that deserves a lot of thought and consideration.  That being the case, would you mind if I moved your thread to Ad Lore?   Not only does the forum need some new (and creative topics), but this topic deserves to be brought to the attention of the Lore Masters there...

What say you?

Reikon Suchi-ru 30/Aug/2006 at 06:22 PM
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Bael - Oooh, this is a first for me. I was just racking my brain about this with Snorta and decided to post for some input. Thanks for the honor!

<Nessa Edit:  My pleasure.  Best of luck with your discussion>
Alcarináro 30/Aug/2006 at 06:29 PM
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Why is it assumed that the fire of Orthanc was chemical, rather than magical, in nature?
Reikon Suchi-ru 30/Aug/2006 at 06:33 PM
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Elenhir - Admittedly, it’s an assumption I’ve always had since reading this passage the first time, but I could be wrong. My main reason for believing this is because Saruman himself was not present at the Battle. Therefore, any vessel that may be used by the Uruk-Hai to breach the Deeping Wall would have to be unleashed by natural means, and if it were to be induced by such means, then its nature would, I believe, have to be organic and not magical.
Bearamir 30/Aug/2006 at 06:50 PM
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Elenhir:  That’s a very good question...I daresay one that deserves a bit of research and discussion.  Afterall, a lot of people *do* think that Saruman’s mind was a thing of "metal and gears"...(certainly Treebeard thought so....) 
Alcarináro 30/Aug/2006 at 06:51 PM
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But why need Saruman be there? He was a Maia of Aule. Why should we put past him craft with a magical element that involves explosion? If there can be made stones throughw which one may see things far off, and Rings that grant invisibilty, and metal that reflects light only from moon and star, (all by the craft of Elves) why cannot Saruman make the fire of Orthanc in an entirely magical fashion?
Reikon Suchi-ru 30/Aug/2006 at 06:55 PM
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I’m not saying that he couldn’t, as he very well could have, but the entire scene struck me as one mimicking those of Medieval times, where chemical reactions and such were often thought as being ’Sorcery’ and such. Even though Saruman was a Maia, I think his knowledge surpassed that of being purely relying on magical elements to craft weapons. With the vast knowledge that the Head of the White Council must have certainly had, could he not, just as easily, created a substance equivalent to black powder and effectively making the weapon able to be used by the Uruk-Hai without his intervention being needed?
Oin 30/Aug/2006 at 06:58 PM
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I for one tend to agree with Elenhir, but even so I think there is at least a minor possibility that it was chemical. Here’s what Hammond and Scull had to say on the subject:

fire of Orthanc - a ’blasting fire’ as later described, som form of explosives. Saruman has developed modern weaponry: compare the ’liquid fire’ with which he attacks the ents at Isengard, described in Book III, Chapter 9. (The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion)

Certainly Saruman has been able to manipulate fire in more ways than one. And in Isengard, he combined either the chemical or magical fire with his machinery. To me, this suggests that Saruman did at least have some basic knowledge of chemicals, even if he did not realise it. But I still feel that Elenhir is right and the fire of Orthanc at Helm’s Deep is magical.

Reikon Suchi-ru 30/Aug/2006 at 07:35 PM
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If Saruman’s magical abilities stretched to these limits, why didn’t he just simply go to Helm’s Deep himself, blasting holes in the Deeping Wall, or setting Men of Rohan on fire? The fact that this weapon was only used once at Helm’s Deep leads me to believe that he had crafted some organic means of creating a process of rapid oxidation which he did not have enough materials to create more than enough. Then again, it could be because Saruman knew that one would be sufficient enough to secure the Uruk victory, but I tend to not believe this course of thought. Again, if we are supposed to believe that Middle-earth pre-dates our very own world, then the creation of such organic weapons would bring us closer to believing that tie, would it not?
Istanira 30/Aug/2006 at 07:55 PM
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I am not completely sure whether Sauruman’s fire was natural manipulation of unknown chemicals or purely magical (I tend to lean towards the latter) ; but, I don’t think it makes sense to narrow in on Sauruman’s use of fire only. What about Gandalf’s fireworks? What about the Orc’s use of fire when they were shooting Gondorian heads into the air at the Pelennor?

It seems more logical to me that all of these ’tricks’ are magical--or none of them are. Can you only single out Sauruman’s weapons while leaving out such fantastical and obviously magical things as ’shutting spells’ ’words of command’ or Galadriel capturing star light in water? or Elrond causing the Branduin to come down on the Nazgul? too many other things occur in Middle Earth that are not so easily explained as the use of fire.
Reikon Suchi-ru 30/Aug/2006 at 08:05 PM
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Istanira - That was my original intent in this thread, but it seems my assumption that Saruman’s ’fire of Orthanc’ was chemical is being contested at the moment, which I find to be acceptable, hehe. I’m not one to dismiss anything at this point, as I’ve often been proven wrong on my beliefs.

As for any number of things in Middle-earth: Yes, many of them are difficult to explain in terms of science, and I am fully able to accept them as being magical, but I’m not sure that everything labeled as such belongs in this realm. Gandalf’s fireworks, while seemingly magical, could have just been regular fireworks that, to the Hobbits, seemed amazing because they had never seen anything like that.

As for other things: the Light of Earendil, in the Star-glass gifted to Frodo by Galadriel, could be explained with the argument that it contained microscopic organisms who possessed the property of bio-luminescence. I’m not saying that I, myself, believe that, but it’s certainly a possibility.

I don’t think that questionable happenings in Middle-earth can be placed into solely the magical or scientific realms, just as they can’t be in our own world. Things such as miracles, ghosts, telekinesis and such can’t always be explained in scientific terms in our world, and such things might have been the same in ancient Middle-earth.
Lord_Vidύm 31/Aug/2006 at 12:35 AM
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So, assuming that Middle-earth was, indeed, meant to be a precedent to the natural world, could there have been other uses of chemicals in this era of Middle-earth? The Gunpowder was also in use. Gandalf was using fireworks at the Shire, making him seem even more "weird" to the Hobbits.

Surely, it wouldn’t have been fully understood, perhaps even labeled as ’Sorcery’ or ’Devilry’ as Aragorn put it, but Since the elements that exist now have always existed on Earth, surely there would be other chemicals that could have been discovered. Are there any occurrences in ME of previously-thought-magical things that could be explained with science? We merely see the science taking place in ME, for all men as you said were far away from industrialization. The first attempt was Saruman by cutting down the trees of Fangorn. I don’t know about Mordor however, but it seems to me that they did not have industrial society in them (Except for if you think that their catapults at the siege of MinasTirith were cannons -however we are spoken that Magic was leading their balls SO High in order to pass over the Walls.
Delnynalvor 31/Aug/2006 at 01:05 AM
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I have always thought that Saruman, being a Maia of Aulë the Crafter, invented gunpowder and was able to use it. The way I see it, it’s in his nature to understand these things, and use them for his personal advantage. But there is one problem ofcourse...

I don’t see ( or find it hard to see ) how Saruman could have got the different metals and ’ingredients’ to make gunpowder. Saltpetre hard to get, and nitrates are not very abundant in nature either. And then I don’t even mention lead, iron and all the other things Saruman would have needed.

Still I think gunpowder is a better explenation than ’magic’. Looking at the facts is more likelt Saruman invented gunpoweder then, than the Chinese in 850 AD ( eg. "Classified Essentials of the Mysterious Tao of the True Origin of Things" )

Alcarináro 31/Aug/2006 at 01:07 AM
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The issue of Gandalf’s fireworks is always brought up in the threads that go into this debate. There is also a rather simple answer: the fireworks of Gandalf were magical. Look at the descriptions in the story. Now look at fireworks in the real world. We can’t match those. We are struggling with far simpler designs (where I live, over the past few years ’smiley face’ fireworks have become popular for the big shows; even with teams of pyrotechnics, most of them come out at awkward orientations or angles, and they certainly can’t mimic a dragon and mountain).
Gandalf, as is evident from his use of magic, has a special affiliation with fire. I have before proposed (and plan to continue) that the fireworks of Gandalf are all fueled by magic, not any type of powder.

Reikon, I’d be more careful in the application of science. The bioluminescense idea, for example, fails to consider that it is spoken word and power of will that causes the light to come forth. That cannot be explained away by science. So why attribue part to science when it makes more sense for it to be entirely magical?
Lord_Vidύm 31/Aug/2006 at 01:21 AM
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Elenhir,well even the existance then of the fire of orthanc is magic and has nothing to do with our gunpowder. For a Wall cannot really fall so easily (not even with grenades can we destroy a wall).I don’t speak there is no magic at all, but there is also some science in the whole thing.

Delnynalvor 31/Aug/2006 at 01:27 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by Lord_Vidύm on Thursday, August 31, 2006


 For a Wall cannot really fall so easily (not even with grenades can we destroy a wall).

Don’t confuse RL with Middle-earth now. In RL we use concrete, while Helm Deep was built by just putting massive stones on top of eachother. ( That’s what I think is most likely... ) And if the basis of the wall is destroyed, all falls down. If they had used concrete the wall would be cracked but not broken.

Lord_Vidύm 31/Aug/2006 at 01:31 AM
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Deln, in RL the walls of Constantinople in order to fall, had to be besieged by some hundrends of cannons. I don’t try to confuse ME with RL. I am just giving an example to Elenhir (Who said that we can’t make the same fireworks with Gandalf).
Delnynalvor 31/Aug/2006 at 01:40 AM
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Vidum: It was not my intention to criticize you... Just point out the facts.

There is a big difference in shooting a cannonball at a wall ( the ball, made of metal, inflicts great damage of course, but doesn’t swipe the basis of the wall away. ) An explosion underneath the wall itself has a totally different outcome. The stone that support the stones above are catapulted away, and the wall falls down.

Also, the wall of Constantinople had an inner ( 5 meters thick ) and an external wall ( 2 meters thick ). Helms Deep was just one single wall. It can’t really be compared.

Lord_Vidύm 31/Aug/2006 at 01:54 AM
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Deln the cannonballs were pretty strong and big to bring down a house if it was hit by it. "The wall of HelmsDeep was 20 feet high and 20 feet thick". I agree that the foundations of the wall should not be harmed in order to remain strong, but I still don’t think that a single explosion can really shatter the stone of the wall.
Delnynalvor 31/Aug/2006 at 04:18 AM
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Vidum: The walls of Constantinople were made in the time of cannons and other heavy artillery. I’m sure they had taken precautions for such a attack. The wall of Helmsdeep could never have expected a gunpowder attack, not to mention a gunpowder attack from right underneath it.

But lets return to the topic now. Chemistry and Sorcery. The strength of walls in Middle-earth is something totally different.

Reikon Suchi-ru 31/Aug/2006 at 04:58 AM
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Delny - The use of what, I believe, was gunpowder by Saruman was, indeed, a first in Middle-earth, which is why I completely agree with you that such an attack would not be expected. Never before had the walls of Helm’s Deep been breached because they had never been witness to anything as destructive as the ’devilry of Saruman’

Perhaps it is just a misconception of mine, but most of what I got from Saruman’s character in the books was that he was an ingenious Maia, who had great knowledge and ability to create things from what ingredients he had in front of him. In this case, his knowledge of combustible materials, which were not too difficult to create, was invaluable in his crafting the ’fire of Orthanc’ which I still have not been convinced was at all magical.

But what about other things in Middle-earth? Are there any other instances, as I originally asked, that seemed to be amazing, but could be clearly explained scientifically? Again, I felt that Tolkien wrote these books with the intent of being a narrator who, himself, was a member of the time, so many things would seem magical or inexplicable to him.
Gelebruin 31/Aug/2006 at 09:44 AM
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In reading this thread I suddenly remembered another discussion somewhere about the ever-famous "Merlin" building stonehenge. The question at that time was wheter Merlin had built it by levitating the stones by magic or trough other crafts and arts that peoples at that time might find rather "special" as levee’s and turnmills and stuff.
What I’m trying t osay is not that Merlin did exist or that he was a RL wizard or do I know what, but I read somewhere (I’m sorry I can’t provide clear reference, for I don’t remember where exactly) that it was Tolkiens goal to create a myth that would feel native to his people, as opposed to the rather exotic arthurian legends and other myths. As such I think that it really didn’t matter if they were magical or scientific (magic may be scientific as well since science is not a source but a method. So if we were to understand magic we ’d probably see a science developping to explain what it is and why/how it works, and how it is improved).
But in regard to your question; even if there are things made possible by science (Saruman and Gandalf’s fireworks and flashes of light and colourfully burning pineapples). There is also a very clear indication that not all can be explained by science (Invisibility provided by the ring for example; Aragorn himself says that to Frodo when he uses the ring in the tavern).

The thing I see as more scientific than magical is the tampering with the genetics of the orcs, since Morgoth, fallen from his splendour, could no longer wield his power to create, but only to deform ...
Lord_Vidύm 31/Aug/2006 at 10:02 AM
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Gele probably his molecules begin to move so fast, that it is impossible for us to see his "moving". That’s why also the ring provides us extended lifetime: It ruins the laws of the spacetime of your system
Lord of the Rings 31/Aug/2006 at 10:11 PM
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The fact that this weapon was only used once at Helm’s Deep

Reikon, you made this comment earlier, and no one seems to have yetnpointed out that this is not so. There are at least two instances in the battle where it is used- the culvert and the gate upon which Aragorns stood.

’They have crept in the culvert again, while we talked, and they have lit the fire of Orthanc beneath our feet.’ [Aragorn speaking]
[...]

There was a roar and a blast of fire. The archway of the gate above which he
[Aragorn] had stood a moment before crumbled and crashed in smoke and dust.
-The Lord of the Rings III, Helm’s Deep
Lord_Vidύm 31/Aug/2006 at 11:49 PM
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LotR, I noticed that, but I got it as Reikon said "That weapon was used only once, at Helms Deep (and in no other battle)" Which is true. It was the first and last time that weapon was used in a battle.
Boromir88 01/Sep/2006 at 10:06 AM
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The way Saruman talks, he seems most like a scientist...he studies, and breaks things down in order to find out what it’s composed of, then with that process hopes he can find out how to master it:

 "White!" he sneered.  "It serves as a beginning.  White cloth may be dyed.  The White pages can be overwritten; and the White light can be broken."
 "In which case it is no longer white," said I.  "And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom."~The Council of Elrond

Saruman, to me always seemed like a scientist, trying to figure out the composition of everything, break it down and find out what it means.  He somehow finds a way to break the ’white light’ and his robes shimmer as he is ’Saruman of many-colors now.’  To Saruman white is merely a beginning, and he breaks the white light to try to master it.  Eventhough, if Saruman has always seemed like a scientist to me, he’s never seemed like a Chemist.  And I’ve never seen his ’fire of Orthanc’ as something chemical.  Elenhir brings up a good point about Gandalf’s use of Fireworks.  Gandalf’s fireworks definitely appear more magical and mystifying than your normal world fireworks.  And the Fire of Orthanc, I’ve always seen as a perversion of Gandalf’s Fireworks.  Gandalf had the ability to dazzle and amaze people with his magic of fire, he puts it to good use.  Counter that with Saruman who finds more evil and destructive purposes.  Let’s look at the parts where the Fire of Orthanc is being described:

Even as they spoke there came a blare of trumpets.  Then there was a crash and a flash of flame and smoke.  The waters of the Deeping stream poured out hissing and foaming: they were choked no longer, a gaping hole was blasted in the wall.  A host of dark shapes poured in.~Helm’s Deep

Lord Vidum mentions the dimensions of the wall which are described as: ’twenty feet high, and so thick that four men could walk abreast a long the top.~ibid

And then here:

There was a roar and a blast of fire.  The archway of the gate above which he had stood a moment before crumbled and crashed in smoke and dust.  The barricade was scattered as if by a thunderbolt.~ibid

Compare that to the Witch-King breaking down the Gate of Minas Tirith:

Thrice he cried.  Thrice the great ram boomed.  And suddenly upon the last stroke the Gate of Gondor broke.  As if stricken by some blasting spell it burst asunder: there was a flash of searing lightning, and the doors tumbled and riven fragments to the ground.~Siege of Gondor

The Witch-King during this time had increased power given to him by Sauron, and had the ability to use Sorcery.  I see some striking resemblances to the Witch-King breaking down the gate (Grond helped out, but I think more emphasis is placed upon the spell of the Witch-King).  And I seem some striking similarities between the breaking of the Gate of Gondor, and Saruman’s blasting fire used against the Hornburg.  So. I see no reason why the Fire of Orthanc was gunpowder, that Saruman had magically devised the Fire of Orthanc, something I definitely think he had a capability of doing.  He certainly had the capability of perverting Gandalf’s use of Fireworks for entertainment, to use for destruction.

Aranel the Grey 01/Sep/2006 at 01:45 PM
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We forget that tolkien created a fictional element in this world, Mithril, and could be assumed there were others.  Unless Mithril was meant to be platinum
Olme 01/Sep/2006 at 04:21 PM
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"The Renaissance magus, is the immediate ancestor of the seventeenth-century scientist"  -Francis Yates

I don’t think it’s good to eliminate either science nor magic from the instance at Helms Deep, nor from Gandalfs fireworks.  Gandalf could have had gunpowder, and embellished the explosions to do what he wanted, just how he manipulated the fire to scare the werewolves in RotK.  Fire is a purely natural thing, and magic is manipulating nature.  At Helms Deep, I’m sure that Saruman could have enhanced the power of whatever it was that he used to blast the walls. 

Boromir88-  why would they need to enter the culvert if it was all magic?  to put a little box of magic under the wall? Just a thought.   I think that we need to blend the two, science and magic, and the picture can become a little clearer, but I think that it is aruable that either magic or science could’ve done the job, otherwise we wouldn’t be debating it.

Boromir88 01/Sep/2006 at 04:43 PM
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Something else I’ve been meaning to add:

The strength of walls in Middle-earth is something totally different.~Delny

I differ, I don’t know of the walls ever being mentioned as being ’20 feet thick,’ but they were ’so thick’ that four men could walk across it at a time, so they must have been pretty darn thick.  Plus, back in the day they may not have had the easy technological availibility that we have today, but a great amount of engineering, skill, work, and craftsmanship went into building castles and forts.  They weren’t simply ’a pile of massive stones.’  Castles and forts have withstood thousands of years because of the great amount of skill that went into making them, and the years of back-breaking work.  Some of the best forts, without using mortor to hold them together, the stone was cut so fine and fit perfectly that you couldn’t slip a dollar bill in between them.  The Hornburg and the Deeping wall wasn’t just a pile of heavy stones, it had to of been built with great skill and craft:

There upon it’s spur stood high walls of ancient stone, and within them was a lofty tower.  Men said that in the far-off days of the glory of Gondor the sea-kings had built here this fastness with the hands of giants.  The Hornburg it was called, for a trumpet sounded upon the tower echoed in the Deep behind, as if armies long-forgotten were issuing to war from caves beneath the hills.  A wall, too, the men of old had made from the Honrburg to the the southern cliff, barring the entrance to the gorge.~Helm’s Deep.

Rochir Mumakdacil 01/Sep/2006 at 11:38 PM
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We have had this discussion elsewhere, and not so long ago. I lean very much towards non-magical explanations as often as possible. Middle-earth is meant to be our own world, and there is (for example) no need for mithril to be a new (and in our world) impossible missing element (welcome to the Plaza Aranel ), it could be known metals combined in an alloy. The Dwarves knew the making of this - it didn’t come out of the ground with all its special properties: Mithril! All folk desired it. It could be beaten like copper, and polished like glass; and the Dwarves could make of it a metal, light and yet harder than tempered steel. Gandalf speaking in FotR A Journey in the Dark

Other than personal taste, my argument for a ’minumum magic interpretation’  relies on Tolkien’s own words (Letter #155):
I do not intend to involve myself in any debate whether ’magic’ in any sense is real or really possible in the world. But I suppose that, for the purposes of the tale, some would say that there is a latent distinction such as once was called the distinction between magia and goeteia. Galadriel speaks of the ’deceits of the Enemy’. Well enough, but magia could be, was, held good (per se), and goeteia bad. Neither is, in this tale, good or bad (per se), but only by motive or purpose or use. Both sides use both, but with different motives. The supremely bad motive is (for this tale, since it is specially about it) domination of other ’free’ wills. The Enemy’s operations are by no means all goetic deceits, but ’magic’ that produces real effects in the physical world. But his magia he uses to bulldoze both people and things, and his goeteia to terrify and subjugate. Their magia the Elves and Gandalf use (sparingly): a magia, producing real results (like fire in a wet faggot) for specific beneficent purposes. Their goetic effects are entirely artistic and not intended to deceive: they never deceive Elves (but may deceive or bewilder unaware Men) since the difference is to them as clear as the difference to us between fiction, painting, and sculpture, and ’life’.

There is a useful distinction here between magia and goetia - the former producing a real effect, and the later an illusuion. Tolkien says that the Elves and Gandalf use their magia ’sparingly’, and cites the wet faggot on the Redhorn Pass, an incident that provides the following telling quote:
`If Gandalf would go before us with a bright flame, he might melt a path for you,’ said Legolas. The storm had troubled him little, and he alone of the Company remained still light of heart.
`If Elves could fly over mountains, they might fetch the Sun to save us,’ answered Gandalf. `But I must have something to work on. I cannot burn snow.’ FotR The Ring goes South

Just as Gandalf could not burn ’snow’, it seems to me that he is even more likely (because they were an entertainment, rather than a matter of survival) to have required explosives in his fireworks. Doubtless at Bilbo’s farewell party some of the special ones were magically enhanced (either by magia to produce a real effect or by goetia to produce an illusion), but they must have contained ’gunpowder’ of some kind as a basis (unless they were entirely illusory - goetic, which I think we can discount because of the many small ’real’ fireworks handed out toi the hobbit children). I would use a similar argument for the Orthanc ’blasting fire’ (which as Reikon says would naturally be referred to as ’devilry’ etc by those who did not understand it), and also for the jet of ’liquid fire’ in Pippin’s description of the sack of Isengard:

Several of the Ents got scorched and blistered. One of them, Beechbone I think he was called, a very tall handsome Ent, got caught in a spray of some liquid fire and burned like a torch: a horrible sight. TT Flotsam and Jetsam

 

I doubt if this was under the control of Saruman, it was just some nasty chemical stuff of his that caught fire.

 

.... and now I expect Elenhir, a proponent of the ’maximum-magic’ school to tell me that I’m wrong .

Olme 02/Sep/2006 at 08:58 AM
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Rochir- Even if ME was ’meant’ to be our world, it is not our world, but it is a world we can relate to.  It is removed from ours, a secondary world, where magic- logical or not- is possible.  But I do agree with you that there was most likely a purely natural, not magical basis for both Gandalf’s fireworks and Saruman’s devilry.
Carandol Eredion 03/Sep/2006 at 01:03 PM
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Something that I don’t think anybody has mentioned yet is that Sauron’s forces seem to have used explosives during the siege of Minas Tirith.
The bells of day had scarcely rung again, a mockery in the unlightened dark, when far away he saw fires spring up, across in the dim spaces where the walls of the Pelennor stood. The watchmen cried aloud, and all men in the City stood to arms. Now ever and anon there was a red flash, and slowly through the heavy air dull rumbles could be heard.
’They have taken the wall!’ men cried. They are blasting breaches in it. They are coming! RotK, The Siege of Gondor

This, to me anyway, suggests a use of explosives similar to, if not the same as, the ’Fire of Orthanc’. Sauron seems to have left the assault on Gondor almost wholly in the hands of the Witch-King, thus ruling out his direct intervention to blow the breaches, and somehow I can’t see the Witch-King going round using some magical powers to blow all the breaches himself. In any case, Tolkien gives an explanation as to how the secret could have been transferred from Sauron to Saruman-
’But Saruman had slowly shaped it (Isengard) to his shifting purposes, and made it better, as he thought, being deceived- for all those arts and subtle devices, for which he forsook his former wisdom, and which he fondly imagined were his own, came but from Mordor.’ TTT, The Road to Isengard
This seems to suggest that Sauron (who was a Maia of Aulë originally) is possibly or even probably the true inventor of the ’fire of Orthanc’ and transferred its recipe to Saruman almost certainly through the Palantiri.
In this case, I think that it would almost certainly have been chemical rather than magical.
Alcarináro 04/Sep/2006 at 08:56 AM
Banned Points: 14162 Posts: 14178 Joined: 24/Sep/2003
Rochir, as I believe I have pointed out before, your labels are stupid. Yes, I use a simple word such as that, because you seem to believe that there are only two views: either everything is magic, or nothing is. Rubbish. Besides, I have no reason to listen to you here, nor does anyone have reason to listen to you here, because in that prior debate you ignored ideas when you could not make them into ’science’ (used loosely, as true science does not seek to make up a natural explanation, but seeks to find it).

Carandol, I’m not sure that the same thing is used on Pelennor. There is more than one way to destroy a wall, and in that battle we do see something else that very much fits the description: the catapult shots that rose above the wall and entered into the first ring of the City, becoming alight as they fell.
Carandol Eredion 04/Sep/2006 at 11:03 AM
Healer of Minas Tirith Points: 7773 Posts: 4040 Joined: 13/Aug/2006
I don’t think it is logical to use flaming shot against the Rammas Echor. Firstly, the wall, being stone, would not catch fire (whereas buildings within Minas Tirith would probably have had some wood in their construction and hence burn easily). Why waste such shots on the Rammas Echor when they could be used to much greater effect on buildings inside Minas Tirith itself?

Secondly, if such shot obeyed the same physical laws as our world (and I appreciate that if magic was involved this is not necessarily the case), then surely they would have mostly burnt up before they hit their target and hence have a much lesser physical impact, thus rendering them almost useless against a non-combustible target.

Third, the first quote I provided above refers to the frequency of the red flashes being ’ever and anon’. I have checked two online dictionaries, both of which define this as ’from time to time, occasionally’. For me, this fits with taking time to set up mines before blowing them.

Finally, if the second quote is taken literally and Mordor was the source of all Saruman’s arts and devices, including ’the Fire of Orthanc’, then it would make sense for Sauron to equip his armies with it, knowing that there was at least the Rammas Echor standing between them and Minas Tirith.

Anyway, that’s my opinion and I see it as being a logical one- I don’t claim to be definitively correct but this is what makes sense to me.
Rochir Mumakdacil 04/Sep/2006 at 02:31 PM
Standard Bearer of Minas Tirith Points: 12971 Posts: 8262 Joined: 13/Jun/2005

Elenhir - you are being rude and insulting, and you appear to have not read my post. I resent being misrepresented: "you seem to believe that there are only two views: either everything is magic, or nothing is." That is completely incompatible with my exposition of the ’minimum magic’ v ’maximum magic’ viewpoints in my previous (and only) post in this thread.
’Minimum magic’ of course has to allow for some things that lack a scientific explanation, but it is perfectly defensible, and not ’stupid’, to seek a scientific explanation wherever possible.

Bearamir 05/Sep/2006 at 07:41 PM
Emeritus Points: 16276 Posts: 16742 Joined: 21/Sep/2008

Ladies & Gentlemen:  While members do not necessarily agree upon the interpretation of various aspects of the Master’s work,  I must remind everyone that in this forum, your task is to refute your opponent’s argument with examples, quotes and/or logical defense.  Resorting to the tactic of attacking your opponent’s arguments by calling them "stupid" (or words along a similar vein) is faulty debate technique, and only goes to highlight someone’s lack of command of the English language (and not necessarily a weakness in their opponent’s case).

 

crazylexisa 06/Sep/2006 at 03:01 PM
Adept of Isengard Points: 104 Posts: 25 Joined: 04/Sep/2006

chemicals have been around since the dawn of earth, I am sure that every living creature with higher brain function has tried to figure out how to use something strange for something cool. Like magic, magic could be based chemically by someone who is not a real magician. The real magician does not use chemicals... or does he...

Túrin 06/Sep/2006 at 07:01 PM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003
Rochir (et all promoting ’natural’ explanations),

I am puzzled at how you seem to be pushing this "minimum magic" point of view - like suggesting Saruman’s jets of fire and the fire of Orthanc were not (or minimally) magical in nature. Your quote from Letter #155 is very open to the idea of it:

"But his magia he uses to bulldoze both people and things,"

And also, shortly after the quote you gave ends, Letter #155 goes on to say:

"The basic motive for magia - quite apart from any philosophic consideration of how it would work - is immediacy: speed, reduction of labour, and reduction also to a minimum (or vanishing point) of the gap in time between the idea or desire and the result or effect."

Two main things to note from that:

1. Tolkien is telling us that the details of how magia works is very seperate from the fact that it exists and does work. Or to put it in context: claiming that there ’must’ be some sort of gunpowder in the fire of Orthanc is asserting something that Tolkien seems not to. He’s not concerned with how it works, just telling us that it does work. We can speculate away on how it might work, but in the end it is still very much magic.

2. Less theoretical here now - the goal of magia is "immediacy: speed, reduction of labour...". This is exactly what Saruman is concerned with at the Hornburg. He wants the wall destroyed so that his army can pour in. And using magia he can reduce the amount of work and time (and due to the nature of it, reduce the loss of troops) it takes to destroy the wall. Since the Hornburg was, according to reputation, never conquored while men manned it, making a critical hole in the fortifications there would be a high priority for someone wanting to conquor the fortress.

So to sum - breaking a hole in the wall of the Hornburg would be a high priority, calling for magia since that is what is used to "bulldoze both people and things" with the most "immediacy: speed". And at the same time, Tolkien is telling us not to bother with how magia might work, just that it does, that it’s magic, that we can and should just accept it as such.

All things considered, the fire of Orthanc seems to fit exactly with what Tolkien described of magia in Letter #155. If you’re trying to explain away the magic in the situation, it seems that you are going against Tolkien’s thoughts on the matter, I think we should just think of the fire of Orthanc as magic.
Alcarináro 08/Sep/2006 at 10:16 PM
Banned Points: 14162 Posts: 14178 Joined: 24/Sep/2003
So, Bael, would it be a more admirable technique if I bothered to use more convoluted and illustritavie language? Because I am more than capable of doing that. If I spent a paragraph describing the fact that I am being plagued with nonsense, is that worthy?

If you were to read the thread I mentioned (though did not link to) you will realize that examples, quotes, and a logical defense did not seem to satisfy my opponent, who selectively ignored all things he could not arbitrarily individually ’explain’. I came to this thread to debate the topic of this thread, not to have everything halted by that same argument, to which the retorts of several respected members were ignored repeatedly. Imagine such a scenario. One apparently can say what they wish, ignore opposition, then whenever they feel bring up their own argument again! One might think to redefine the word ’discussion’!

I have not enough time in this world to waste dealing with incessent blatherings of nonsensical bilge. If someone fails to understand the concept of discussion and debate once, I am not of the mind to humour that same argument over again. Indeed, I have not enough time in this world to waste on lofty adjectives for such matters: and hence, ’stupid’.
Wireless Wanderer 09/Sep/2006 at 05:53 PM
Scribe of Erebor Points: 349 Posts: 38 Joined: 29/Jan/2006
CarandolEredion, have you ever played Age of Empires 1 or 2? Greeks, Romans (i think) and several other ancint clivasations used a kind of "magic" to make their cataphult shots burn. And maybe everyone has forgotten that Gandalf did use a explosion to save himself from Goblins in the hobbit. and it also mentioned a "gunpowdery smell" Hummm...
Carandol Eredion 10/Sep/2006 at 05:08 AM
Healer of Minas Tirith Points: 7773 Posts: 4040 Joined: 13/Aug/2006
Wireless Wanderer: I was not denying the existence of such flaming shot. I was merely saying that I did not think that they would be much use against the Rammas Echor.
Secondly, I am indeed familiar with Age of Empires 2. However, if such evidence is admissible in this debate and civilisations in our own world did indeed use flaming shot, then this adds support to the ’chemical’ theory about the origins of Sauron’s weaponry. Of course, to those unfamiliar with such weapons, they would indeed seem like magic.
Wireless Wanderer 10/Sep/2006 at 06:19 AM
Scribe of Erebor Points: 349 Posts: 38 Joined: 29/Jan/2006
I agree, flaming shots would not be used on the Ramas, there, if I remember the books right, they were using some sort of "the fires of Orthanc", which makes another piece of evidance for a Sauron-Saruman knowladge link. From what we know of Saruman, however, leads us to think that he improved, or thought he improved the things from Sauron. Example: Uruk-Hai from orcs.

Oh, and Reikon Suchi-ru, thanks for making such and intrestng thread. Science and LOTR, now I am happy.
Lord_Vidύm 11/Sep/2006 at 06:41 AM
Banned Points: 1957 Posts: 2449 Joined: 26/Jun/2004
Wireless many quotes show that Saruman was the "creator" of the Uruk Hai breed. With Uruk Hai I mean the Orcs that feared not the sun. However, neither the Orcs of Sauron feared of it. So we couldn’t possibly say "Saruman was the one to improve them" or "Sauron". Treebeard and Gamling make that statement of Saruman, because for him they know- none of them had any conflict with the new orcs of Sauron.
Boromir88 21/Sep/2006 at 08:55 AM
Merchant of Minas Tirith Points: 3627 Posts: 2473 Joined: 24/Mar/2005

indeed use flaming shot, then this adds support to the ’chemical’ theory about the origins of Sauron’s weaponry.~Carandol

I do agree with Rochir to a degree, I think there has to be some kind of chemical composition.  As Rochir points out Gandalf simply can’t ’melt snow’ there has to be something there for him to work with.  It can’t simply be a ball of magic (I don’t think).  There is some sort of explosive (let’s just say gunpowder for the sake of things), and in both cases I think Gandalf and Saruman enhance it with there magic.  Both Elenhir and Turin provide I think excellent support for this.

I work for Phantom Fireworks, and what Elenhir says is true, we are struggling with very simple designs (compared to Gandalf).  Phantom is the biggest chain (of consumer fireworks) in the United States and we also get some Gucci products (which do most of the Fireworks shows).  But pretty much we can make some pretty big bangs, some nice drizzling/rain effects, some rings, very simple designs.  Nothing like a mountain or a flying dragon. 

Neither Gandalf nor Saruman could work with nothing, there had to be some sort of explosive composition, but I think it is no doubt enhanced by their magic (Gandalf for improved entertainment - the art form and Saruman for quicker easier destruction - the bulldozing form).

Gotrek Benthand 21/Sep/2006 at 07:12 PM
Gardener of the Shire Points: 6 Posts: 593 Joined: 29/Oct/2002
JRR Tolkien was devout believer in the hideous strength of technology. He uses the images of factories, mills, to denote the evil to come over the shire. ROTK Saruman’s fall to evil stemmed from his study of the science of the enemy, his "art" FOTK-Council of Elrond Treebeard notes Saurmans change to evil as a change in his mind from growing to things, to a mind concerned with mechanics. Sauron’s evil could be portrayed as his desire to dominate all nature.

The Good guys never use flaming shot, black powder, or any advanced tech to destroy or maim, it remained as it was for the orientals to Gandalf,a pretty toy.



If nature is close to ens realissimi then that which is not of nature would have been, for Tolkien’s Eru the unmoved mover,as close to ens negativo as possible. Ontologically the evil technomancy of Morgoth/Sauron would then taint the existence of any science holding the transformation of the natural order as a goal.     


In essence science that is advanced enough is magic, so magic that is advanced enough becomes science!!! In fact SAURON’s Ring might actually represent higher science in Tolkien’s world!!!

I challenge any here to dismiss Tolkien’s dislike of technology by showing how it was once used for a higher good, not art.

Err..... I’ve had posts in advanced lore before,and have been cruising the plaza for a while, err.....

Cogitamus ergo sumus, si cogitamus vera!

Panton Archei=
Hobbit Holes?
Christ?
Allah?
Túrin 22/Sep/2006 at 02:09 PM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003
Boromir88,

Was it a chemical? Perhaps. However, as I pointed out in my previous post, it also fits perfectly with Tolkien’s description of magia. There is nothing seperating chemicals from being regarded as magical. The blasting fire most certainly seems to be magical in nature, as far as ’magia’ is described. So at best the fire of Orthanc would seem to be a chemical type of magic.

But that could be say of many things. Gandalf’s making of fire in strange could be termed a chemical reaction, as could Gandalf’s changing of weather. It’s easy to term things as such. But it’s much harder to show such to be the case.

Yes, a Wizard might not be able to "burn snow", but does that mean Saruman must have gunpowder or an equivalent of it in order to make something explode? Gandalf can summon fire at need. In Moria the door shattered under the strain of two opposing spells. The fire of Orthanc combines those elements - breaking/explosion and fire. That it’s composed of something that will burn - that does not imply in the least that it must be a chemical reaction to cause the fire any more than Gandalf’s making of fire in strange situation.

Essentially - it seems clear from Letter 155 that the fire of Orthanc is magia. It might be a natural chemical reaction, but that would require proving, as there are indeed purely magical means for it to occur. Hence, to claim that it is chemical in nature requires proving it, until that time it can only be said that it is magic, and that the nature of how it works - chemical or magical - is undeterminable.

Gotrek,

You said: "The Good guys never use flaming shot, black powder, or any advanced tech to destroy or maim, it remained as it was for the orientals to Gandalf,a pretty toy."

Are you ruling out Gandalf’s use of flaming pinecones in The Hobbit (Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire), or the fact that the top of Weathertop had been burnt (evidence of in: A Knife in the dark, Gandalf’s testimony in: Council of Elrond), or when the Fellowship was attacked by Wargs (Journey in the Dark).

So, I don’t think Gandalf just toys around with fire, he uses it aggresivly when the situation calls for it.


And please do not type out your signature. I notice that you have double sig in your post, and it’s because your typed it and have it in your signature. It’ll show automatically, so please refrain from typing it out lest it be seen as signature-spamming. Just a reminder.
Gotrek Benthand 22/Sep/2006 at 11:08 PM
Gardener of the Shire Points: 6 Posts: 593 Joined: 29/Oct/2002

Yet he was setting those alight with his will purely was he not? He used no dark powders, no chemical alchemy. He was expending metaphysical might/light.

I was speaking in a paradigm of chemicals, where we should all be, so if Gandalf did not use chemicals, then my argument still stands as I presupposed the paradigm of "Chemicals and sorcery", and further reinforced it with preceding arguments.

No aporias here buddy!

 

Túrin 23/Sep/2006 at 10:55 AM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003
Gotrek,

On Weathertop we don’t know the situation which caused the fire, so we can’t judge on that. However, I thought you were speaking of Gandalf’s use of fire in general (’flaming shot’, as I took it, implied any sort of fiery projectile: such as burning pinecones).

However, even working within your paradigm, I’m not sure that your argument really strikes at the heart of the issue. Yes, the side of good typically refrained from "technology" and "machines", and the bad side typically embrased them as a means. However, what does that show? It does not prove that the fire of Orthanc was indeed chemical in nature; and it also does not show that Gandalf didn’t use any chemical-induced fire aggresivly nor that his fireworks were chemical in nature. In fact, if he didn’t use a chemical for fire elsewhere, I think it would be rather odd if he did use one for his fireworks.

I already fully admit that the fire of Orthanc might work by means of a chemical. However, given the description of magia in Letter #155, you are hard-pressed to show it is not magical, whatever the means of how it works. So we know it is magical - to say that it works by chemical means is going further and, at this point, is making a ’leap of faith’, a leap which is not going uncontested.
Gotrek Benthand 23/Sep/2006 at 05:40 PM
Gardener of the Shire Points: 6 Posts: 593 Joined: 29/Oct/2002
All I am defending is the possibility that the evil maiar would have viewed their magic more as "science", and that their evil stemmed from their practice of science,i.e. warping the goodly orignal nature of Eru’s world to further their own power. Saruman uses his his magic as science and that is enough to name it so, even if it is in reality Magic advanced to the point where it would be science. "Science advanced to a certain point is magic" ergo "Magic advanced to a certain point is science"    

Sorry about the double sig i’m trying to cope with this new system of making things bold, or underlined, or different colors.(A copy paste error )

I actually knew the sig would show up on its own near a year before you did buddy!
Túrin 24/Sep/2006 at 09:51 AM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003
Gotrek,

How do you come to the conclusion that: "Science advanced to a certain point is magic" ergo "Magic advanced to a certain point is science"?

I agree that science which is advanced enough can be seen as magic, even though it is technically attainable by anyone. The Letter #155 quote seems to imply this, and it follows from logic (though, to note, I’m not sure it’s been demonstrated, only stated).

However, the second part, that ’magic which is advanced enough is science’, I’m not sure I can agree. Certainly the two are related, but the level of interconnectedness you are claiming is, I think, beyond the proof given. I’d need to see more evidence to that end.

And if you think about it, what you are saying seems to be counter-intuitive:
Advanced science is magic
Advanced magic is science

Start with science, advance it, and we get magic. Advance that even further, and we get....back to science?

I don’t think it adds up, you’ll need a bit of evidence to bride that gap.
Gotrek Benthand 24/Sep/2006 at 11:30 AM
Gardener of the Shire Points: 6 Posts: 593 Joined: 29/Oct/2002
The emphasis is on Saruman’s outlook, the conundrum merely shows the two as inseperable in end and effect. I was trying to state that any magic removed from the will of Eru would become, in theory and practice, "science" as opposed to faith-based "magic" stemming from communion with Eru.

The god bit in red was actually important, as it delineatd any "fallen"(evil) spiritual applications of force as Science.   

I stated the magic/science bit earlier, along with the statment conceing eru in red, in a previous post, you didnt read my whole first post did you?

Túrin 24/Sep/2006 at 01:01 PM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003
Gotrek,

I read your post, but I focussed in on a seperate issue at start. I had thought you meant Gandalf didn’t use fire offensivly. If I showed that to be not the case, then your argument would not have held water. And following that I was still working, as per the start of the thread, within the specific example of the fire of Orthanc. If you want to move to generalization, so be it.

I now realize how central the ’magic <-> science’ issue is to your argument. I still disagree. Machine/science and magic, while related, are still different. In yet another an extension of Letter #155 we read:

"But the magia may not be easy to come by, and at any rate if you have command of abundant slave-labour or machinery (often only the same thing concealed), it may be as quick or quick enough to push mountains over, wreck forests, or build pyramids by such means. Of course another factor then comes in, a moral or pathological one: the tyrants lose sight of objects, become cruel, and like smashing, hurting, and defiling as such."
     - Letter #155

Thus I come to your point about the ’will of Eru’ in all this. The reason that the evil side tends towards machines and such moreso than the good is because the evil maiar, unconcerned with morality, have no reason to expend their own inherrent power if they can order slaves to do things for them. Morality is derivitive from Eru (he determines what is ’good’ and what is ’bad&rsquo, and therefore the ones employing the morally questionable methods are, ipso facto, the ones further from the ’will’ or ’design’ of Eru.

Magic and machine, while sometimes pursuing the same goal, are not the same thing. Machine is not merely magia which is far from the will of Eru. And magia is not only attainable through close faith in and following the will of Eru.

The emphasis is on Saruman’s outlook, the conundrum merely shows the two as inseperable in end and effect.

The persepctive of the one performing the deed is not what makes it what magic or machine. It is the means, not the end, which we should be analyzing here. Yes, magic and machine often have the same goal, but that does not make the two methods the same thing.
Gotrek Benthand 24/Sep/2006 at 06:16 PM
Gardener of the Shire Points: 6 Posts: 593 Joined: 29/Oct/2002
But they do breathe their own inherent power into their slaves do they not? Melkor breathed bits of his power into Orcs, Sauron into the Ring, and therefore it is likely Saruman utilized his essence to create the uruk-hai just as melkor used his to breed an army of orcs right???

Yet the only way any being makes use of magia is by means of a spiritual source, there are no wizards as we think of them learning to control, a neutral source of power accessable to any with the will/training. The mouth of Sauron would draw his sorcerous powers from his master, while as the maiar could draw energy from their essence and make use of it. So Eru would then be the ultimate source of all magia.

Do ends justify means here, or means ends???
Túrin 24/Sep/2006 at 07:25 PM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003
Breath their own power into their slaves? What has that to do with the issue?

Eru is the source of all magia? The only way that can be the case is if we look at Eru as being the source of all existance. Each spirit has unto itself a measure of inherrent power, and it can utilize that power as it so chooses: magia.

Who is talking about justification? The means and the end are seperate. Justification has nothing to do with this topic in the least.
Gotrek Benthand 25/Sep/2006 at 10:32 AM
Gardener of the Shire Points: 6 Posts: 593 Joined: 29/Oct/2002
Point one,concerning the breath, dealt with...

"But the magia may not be easy to come by, and at any rate if you have command of abundant slave-labour or machinery (often only the same thing concealed), it may be as quick or quick enough to push mountains over, wreck forests, or build pyramids by such means. Of course another factor then comes in, a moral or pathological one: the tyrants lose sight of objects, become cruel, and like smashing, hurting, and defiling as such."
     - Letter #155

Thus I come to your point about the ’will of Eru’ in all this. The reason that the evil side tends towards machines and such moreso than the good is because the evil maiar, unconcerned with morality, have no reason to expend their own inherrent power if they can order slaves to do things for them.-Turin

Eru is the source of all existence in the ME Universe though isnt he(The Great Music,the source,Pantocrator)? Which would validate my previous point labeling not Magia as stemming from Eru and and Science the evil perversion....
Túrin 25/Sep/2006 at 03:37 PM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003
Gotrek,

Point one,concerning the breath, dealt with...

Um...care to elaborate?

Eru is the source of all existence in the ME Universe though isnt he(The Great Music,the source,Pantocrator)? Which would validate my previous point labeling not Magia as stemming from Eru and and Science the evil perversion....

Yes, I said that first bit. However, you fail to bridge the gap from saying that Eru is the source of all things to saying that Science is the ’evil perversion’ of magia. And it is not true, because science is not inherrently evil, it is the method and reason in which it is employed which can make it evil, just like magia can be used for evil as well as for good. The Numenoreans’ studying maritime disciplines and designing superior ships and harbours was not evil, nor was the fact that Aldarion strategically planted forests so as to provide more timber for later generations of Numenorean shipwrights.
Gotrek Benthand 25/Sep/2006 at 06:36 PM
Gardener of the Shire Points: 6 Posts: 593 Joined: 29/Oct/2002
have no reason to expend their own inherrent power if they can order slaves to do things for them.-Turin

I am stating that as Melkor expened his power to make the orcs, then he would be merely making use of already expended power when he orders them around, their own inherent power is breathed into their slaves and so these slaves are extensions of their ( The evil Maiar’s) power.

Ahh but the Numenorians did not practice any chemistry to accomplish this, they did not change the chemical or true nature of the wood or hemp. Planting forests would be stewarding Eru’s nature, and preserving it, not Altering it!! Which is the "science" I was referring to when I speak of evil and chemistry.

Thank you for making me clarify my arguments!    
Túrin 25/Sep/2006 at 07:31 PM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003
I disagree with your take on the ’extensions’ of the Ainu’s wills. Yes, inherrent power was used to produce Orcs originally, but following that they became incarnates unto themselves and if utilized as slaves, would fall under the "machine" side, not magia. In the same vein and helping to validate my stance here is the fact that Orcs are not the only ones used as slaves - capturing Elves or Men and using them as slaves would work in the exact same manner. And hence "machine" is seperate from magia (and is also not inherrently evil, but those who use it a lot tend toward the evil side because it makes their pursuits easier).

Whatever you say about Aldarion’s forestry, it was a systematic approach to harnass the resources provided by nature and to squeeze as much from it as possible. He caused forests to grow where they otherwise would not have, and while he wasn’t paying attention to renewing wood sources, forests were clear-cut in his absense. He and his works were altering the natural state of things.

And if you are still concerned about the chemical level of things - refining metal and to produce iron is altering how it occurs, same with the production of steel. But those arn’t inherrently evil. I maintain that it is as I have been saying: science, magia, machine, none are inherrently evil, it’s the way in which they are excecuted, and the reason for which they are used, that make it evil or not.
KingODuckingham 25/Sep/2006 at 07:52 PM
Grey Counsellor of Isengard Points: 15053 Posts: 15390 Joined: 27/Aug/2006
If you can maintain that science, magia, and machine are none of them inherently evil, what is it about machine in particular that makes evil tend toward it so much more? In the real world such things may not be evil, but perhaps in Tolkien’s ME, they are? I agree with you that the reason for which they are used is what makes the evil, not the things themselves, but if, say, machineries uses are so much more easily used for evil than for good, does it not nearly come to the same thing--i.e. it might as well be inherently evil for all the good that comes out of its use?
Túrin 25/Sep/2006 at 09:04 PM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003
Of the three mentioned, I think that ’machine’ does tend to be evil most.

"But the magia may not be easy to come by, and at any rate if you have command of abundant slave-labour or machinery (often only the same thing concealed), it may be as quick or quick enough to push mountains over, wreck forests, or build pyramids by such means. Of course another factor then comes in, a moral or pathological one: the tyrants lose sight of objects, become cruel, and like smashing, hurting, and defiling as such. It would no doubt be possible to defend poor Lotho’s introduction of more efficient mills; but not of Sharky and Sandyman’s use of them."
     - Letter #155

I posted this quote above, but added the last sentance which I had not done before. Evil tends to ’machine’ more because doing so speeds up how swiftly they can accomplish their goals. It is easier to use than magia, and thus easier to exploit. Since evil doesn care about morals and ethics, exploiting ’machine’ to its fullest makes their works easier and quicker than using (if they are capable of using) magia to do the same things.
KingODuckingham 25/Sep/2006 at 09:27 PM
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Surely you are not defending the idea that accomplishing goals quickly is what is evil? I don’t think you are saying this, but I do want to clarify, because you say Evil tends to ’machine’ more because doing so speeds up how swiftly they can accomplish their goals., and exploiting ’machine’ to its fullest makes their works easier and quicker than using (if they are capable of using) magia to do the same things.

That is not Tolkien’s point when he is comparing Lotho’s use of mills versus Sharky’s. If swiftness and efficiency was evil, why would we be using an internet forum to discuss our ideas, rather than writing letters back and forth the way Tolkien did?

Thus I ask again, what exactly is it that makes machines have such a propensity for evil, and doesn’t this bring us around to the idea that eventually, inevitably, they will turn to evil, and thus may as well be considered inherently evil in the first place?
Túrin 26/Sep/2006 at 06:56 AM
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Sorry, I thought it was clear from my posts.

it’s the way in which they are excecuted, and the reason for which they are used, that make it evil or not.

It’s the means and reason they are used which make them evil. ’Machine’ is much easier to come by and nearly as good as magia, and so the evil side tends to use it to acomplish its goals. It’s easier, and thus more eaily taken advantage of. Hence we see evil tending towards machine, and why machine is more prone to be evil.

That does not make it inherrently evil - Tolkien says there is nothing wrong with Lotho’s more efficient mills, but Saruman and Sandyman took control of them and went beyond what’s helpful or necessary, and it’s showing its effect. If kept under control and by people who don’t "lose sight of objects, become cruel, and like smashing, hurting, and defiling as such", then there is nothing wrong with machine.

The Eagles were a "dangerous ’machine’", but they are not evil (Letter 210).
KingODuckingham 26/Sep/2006 at 03:16 PM
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’Machine’ is much easier to come by and nearly as good as magia
Ok....
Hence we see evil tending towards machine, and why machine is more prone to be evil.
Why don’t we see good tending towards machine if it is so easy to take advantage of? Do they not have goals that could be accomplished by use of machinery? Do we have any instances of machinery being used by the forces of good? (The eagles are the machine of the author, not of the elves or men.) If not, my burning question still stands: How can we tell the difference between inherent evil and resultant evil?

If so, then I of course withdraw that latter question.   But my first question is pertinent no matter whether we have examples of good using machinery or not...why is evil overwhelmingly more in favor of using machinery to accomplish their goals?
Túrin 26/Sep/2006 at 04:22 PM
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why is evil overwhelmingly more in favor of using machinery to accomplish their goals?

Because it’s easier and doesn’t necessitate using inherrent power.

Why don’t we see good tending towards machine if it is so easy to take advantage of?

Regardless of who the Eagles are a machine of, they are still a ’machine’. They are on the side of good, but dangerous because they have a tendancy to swoop in an ensure the victory of the good guys. It’s the same principle, just set in a different context - if Tolkien had used the Eagles much more, he would have been abusing them, taking away credibility from LotR because anytime anything was going wrong, the Eagles would fly in and save the day.

Good does not tend towards machine because it’s easier to slip towards evil, it’s more perilous in that regard. ’Machine’ is not inherrently evil, but it’s easier to slip towards it. Magia is also easy to corrupt and pervert to evil (note how good rarely uses magia either), but it’s harder to come by, and so harder to exploit, and thus evil tends to utilize machine to achieve its ends.

"The particular branch of the High-Elves concerned, the Noldor or Loremasters, were always on the side of ’science and technology’, as we should call it: they wanted to have the knowledge that Sauron genuinely had, and those of Eregion refused the warnings of Gil-galad and Elrond. The particular ’desire’ of the Eregion Elves - an ’allegory’ if you like of a love of machinery, and technical devices - is also symbolised by their special friendship with the Dwarves of Moria

I should regard them as no more wicked or foolish (but in much the same peril) as Catholics engaged in certain kinds of physical research (e.g. those producing, if only as by-products, poisonous gasses and explosives): things not necessarily evil, but which, things being as they are, and the nature and motives of the economic masters who provided all the means for their work being as they are, are pretty certain to serve evil ends. For which they will not necessarily be to blame, even if aware of them."
     - Letter #153

"But at Eregion great work began - and the Elves came their nearest to falling to ’magic’ and machinery. With the aid of Sauron’s lore they made Rings of Power (’power’ is an ominous and sinister word in all these tales, except as applied to the gods)."
     - Letter #131

Machine is easier to come by, and so it removes the necessity to use angellic power to achieve ends. We have word from Tolkien that machine is not necessarily evil, and the reason is as I have been saying: "things not necessarily evil, but which... are pretty certain to serve evil ends"

It is perilous to tinker with machine, and I think that is the reason why good does not delve too far into it.
Gotrek Benthand 26/Sep/2006 at 07:37 PM
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Err.. Eagles are not machines... We are talking of literal machines here aren’t we guys? Not metaphorical plot mechanics Tlkien made use of!!!

Túrin 26/Sep/2006 at 08:00 PM
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Nope, ’machine’ does not always mean mechanical devises with gears and cranks and such.

Tolkien thought that the Rings of Power were very close to if not ’machine’. And merely the employ of a multitude of slaves to do your bidding is ’machine’. I have been arguing from such a stance.
noldor mccrissi 27/Sep/2006 at 06:34 AM
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sry for all the posts little sister came up a clicked enter lots of times when i went to toilet
KingODuckingham 27/Sep/2006 at 01:47 PM
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When did you change to this definition of machine, as it is certainly not the idea being posited in the original posting...is it?

Machine/science and magic, while related, are still different.

In this you make science and machine synonymous, clearly. Surely people were not arguing over Tolkien’s authorial methods when they discussed science throughout this thread--they were referring precisely to mechanical devices with gears and cranks and chemicals, as the original thread asks.
Túrin 27/Sep/2006 at 05:37 PM
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Actually, I think I have been rather consistant in using ’machine’ and science as referring to ways of mimicing magia, to press after the same goal without using inherrent power.

And people in the main discussion of the thread, before this offshoot, were not talking about ’machine’. Talk of ’machine’ is limited to the discourse between myself, Gotrek, and you.

The thread started as in inquiry as to whether other things we think are magical might in reality be scientific in nature. The assumption that the fire of Orthanc was not magia in nature was questioned, hence the discussion.
KingODuckingham 27/Sep/2006 at 07:23 PM
Grey Counsellor of Isengard Points: 15053 Posts: 15390 Joined: 27/Aug/2006
I understand that the others in this thread were not posting about ’machine’. But they were posting on science, and talking about its relation to magia. And they were talking about science in the sense of chemistry, powders, etc. Gotrek brought the two together and tried to say they were one and the same, or perversions of each other--then you linked science (that others were already talking about in a physical, ME-world related way) as synonymous with machine. From there I do not see how you bring in ’machine’ as it relates to Tolkien’s use of eagles, which none (so far as I can see) but yourself were thinking of. I admit Tolkien’s use of the word machine, but it is not the same sense of the word as the others in this discussion were using it. And since Tolkien has no access to ’magia’ as an alternate way of ending his book as opposed to his eagle ’machine’, I do not quite see the relevance of trying to submit that as evidence.
Reikon Suchi-ru 27/Sep/2006 at 07:56 PM
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As I was reading up on the Druedain (who have begun to fascinate me lately), I found another instance of a chemical substance that exists in our world today:

"...he saw two Orcs setting fuel against the house and preparing to kindle it. Then Barach was shaken with fear, for marauding Orcs carried with them brimstone or some other devilish stuff that was quickly inflamed and not quenched with water." - (The Faithful Stone, The Druedain, Unfinished Tales)

So is this another instance of chemicals being used maliciously in Middle-earth, or can it be explained magically?
Túrin 27/Sep/2006 at 08:43 PM
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I pointed out the link between science and machine because it’s there, and fitting, within the context of this thread. Magia is supernatural, while machine and sciene, which can be used to achieve what could be done magically, are not supernatural.

Gotrek made the claim, unsupported, that "Science advanced to a certain point is magic" ergo "Magic advanced to a certain point is science". I’ve pointed out the connections between science and machine and how that differs from magia, and pointed out the paradox resulting from Gotrek’s claim, to ellucidate how his statement is incorrect.

From there I do not see how you bring in ’machine’ as it relates to Tolkien’s use of eagles, which none (so far as I can see) but yourself were thinking of.

The fact that neither you nor Gotrek understood Tolkien’s use of ’machine’ does not make me incorrect. After all, I have quoted Tolkien saying that machinery is often nothing more than abundant slave labor. It is your responsibility if you improperly use the terms.

And since Tolkien has no access to ’magia’ as an alternate way of ending his book as opposed to his eagle ’machine’, I do not quite see the relevance of trying to submit that as evidence.

How does Tolkien’s lack of magia have any effect here? It does not change the fact that the Eagles are a ’machine’, I pointed them out for the dual purpose of showing that not all ’machine’ was mechanical, and to show ’machine’ that was not evil.

The fact remains that Gotrek made the unsupported conjecture that science advanced would be magia, and thus magia advanced would be science. I dispute this, and have presented evidence showing some of the similarity between science and technology and machine, and how these differ with magia and are not necessarily evil.

Reikon,

To be ’another’ we must assume that the other instance is indeed a chemical, and thus far it is not nearly an accepted assumption.

That said, this instance does seem more natural. The Orcs set fuel against the house, and the house burns. The fire of Orthanc blasted and there is no mention of burning. There is fire, yes, but the way it’s described seem more of a flash of fire which does not remain, unlike the UT passage, in which there is clearly time enough to make multiple attempts at ’quenching’ the fire.

Note that nobody, to my knowledge, is saying that chemicals cannot be used in the way you suggest, the thread merely turned to the direction of discussing the instance of the fire of Orthanc, and more recently to a general discussion on magic vs science, technology, and ’machine’.
Gotrek Benthand 28/Sep/2006 at 10:25 AM
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I supported, with reasoning, the point that Tolkien viewed nature-altering (alchemical) science as evil, and that the Evil Maiar of LOTR would view their magia as science. Please dont claim my theories unsupported because you do not believe they were fully supported, or incorrectly supported. You disagree, therefore you believe my logic chains faulty. To deny their existence is not true argumentation.

I was impying too much perhaps with my science and magic quote, here is the orignal as worded by Arthur C. Clarke:

"any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic"

My change of emphasis only held true insofar as it was tied to the way the Evil maiar viewed their power, and themselves, as independent from Eru. To those wo lose their faith in spirituality or magic any application of such principles would appear a science would it not?
Túrin 28/Sep/2006 at 10:47 AM
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Logic and reasoning is different than evidence. I said it was unsupported, not that you didn’t reason through it.

And yes, I’m pretty certain that I agreed somewhere up there that highly advanced science might appear magical. However, that does not make it magical. The understood means and the actual means are two seperate things, and I have been talking about the actual means, not understood. And that quote - if it even can be properly applied to Tolkien, since T had his own views on magic - suggests that advanced science appears as magic; and I think you see that it does not imply advanced magic appears as science - a paradox which I pointed out earlier.

That train of logic is faulty, as the logical argument: A -> B does not imply that B -> A. That’s the converse and the two are not logically equivalent.

My change of emphasis only held true insofar as it was tied to the way the Evil maiar viewed their power, and themselves, as independent from Eru. To those wo lose their faith in spirituality or magic any application of such principles would appear a science would it not?

No, I don’t think so. Inherrent power is not dependant upon faith or allegiance to Eru. An evil being can turn completely against Eru and still wield magia as before. I don’t see how not being ’faithful’ or not would imply a change in perspective of how magic is viewed.
Gotrek Benthand 28/Sep/2006 at 09:46 PM
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Yes but I am focusing on how the power is viewed by those evil ones, Viewpoint man!!!

No good maiar calls anything he does a science. According to treebeard Saruman’s mind concerned itself with machines and metal before he fell fully into evil. These beings are willfully seperating themselves from eru. They cannot be renewed as Gandalf was when he was sent outside of time (TTT:The White Rider), the only being outside of Time must be the unmoved mover who created time. Saruman and Melkor wished to view their accomplishments as science as opposed to a misuse of the power Eru granted them.

The science and magic thing was ill-advised the way you took it, however I was delving into perception arguments, and I did clearly tie that bit in with what Saruman,Melkor, Sauron thought.
Túrin 29/Sep/2006 at 09:33 AM
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There’s actually quite a bit of beings other than Eru who are outside time.  Namely: The Ainur (excluding the Valar and Maiar).

Yes but I am focusing on how the power is viewed by those evil ones, Viewpoint man!!!

Regardless of your strange name for me, I have already pointed out that the perception isn’t the proper viewpoint.  The thread has been about the actual workings, magia or not, of the deeds done.  If we look at perspectives of the one performing the deed (since we cannot leave it as ’perspective’ since then we can have a single act being both magia and scientific at the same time, e.g. using only gunpowder as a means and using only inherrent power as a means).

How evil maiar might have viewed their magic is an entirely seperate issue from how their deeds can be classified.

The science and magic thing was ill-advised the way you took it, however I was delving into perception arguments, and I did clearly tie that bit in with what Saruman,Melkor, Sauron thought.

And I also pointed out that:

"The persepctive of the one performing the deed is not what makes it what magic or machine."
and
"The persepctive of the one performing the deed is not what makes it what magic or machine. It is the means, not the end, which we should be analyzing here. Yes, magic and machine often
have the same goal, but that does not make the two methods the same thing."

As I said before - I don’t think you are striking at the heart of the issue.

Again, you make the leap that beings which are evil/distancing themselves from Eru will thus view their deeds more as science as opposed to magia.  I ask again: Where is the bridge?  You cite Saruman, but you yourself point out why that analogy is flawed - Saruman’s mind was interested in those sorts of things before he was evil.  It’s the nature he had (and, incidently, Sauron had as well).

Gotrek Benthand 29/Sep/2006 at 10:54 AM
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I am not calling you Viewpoint man. I am trying to call your attention to my point, Viewpoint.

sorry for the possible ambiguity inherent in my wording.

Actually as soon as the Ainur were created they would have existed within time as finit beings, being unto themselves passages of time while Eru is eternally present and self-sufficient before and after time.
Túrin 29/Sep/2006 at 12:44 PM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003
Ahh, sorry for the mixup on the "Viewpoint man" comment, heh.

As for the Ainur - nope, time did not exist outside of Ea; and both the Timeless Halls of Eru (a name that becomes difficult to explain if we think that the Ainur who didn’t enter Ea must exist within time) and the Void were outside of Ea. In Middle-earth, time is actually finite, it has a beginning and and end.

From the draft of the Silmarillion from which the published version is largely derived:

"For the Great Music had been but the growth and flowering of thought in the Timeless Halls, and the Vision only a foreshadowing; but now they had entered in at the beginning of Time, and the Valar perceived that the World had been but foreshadowed and foresung, and they must achieve it."
     - Morgoth’s Ring, Ainulindale, Version C, §22

And for a later writing:

"They could move backward or forward in thought, and return again to swiftly that to those who were in their presence they did not appear to have moved. All that was past they could fully percieve; but being now in Time the future they could only perceive or explore in so far as its design was made clear to them in the Music..."
     - Morgoth’s Ring, Morgoth’s Ring, Text XI

So: Time had a beginning and will have an end. If you wish to view them as being in some sort of time, then you must accept that so too is Eru (once created, the Ainur also exist independantly, Eru cannot destroy any spirit in the sense of making them to no longer be).
Gotrek Benthand 29/Sep/2006 at 05:24 PM
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So Eru is not an omnipotent creator, the source of the great music that promulgates being eh? Th omnipotence of Eru would be difficult to ascertain without dipping into Tolkien’s Catholicism which is neither here nor there!
Túrin 29/Sep/2006 at 06:43 PM
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No. He isn’t.  Tolkien says it himself in a letter.  Eru is certainly rather powerful, but he cannot do anything that he wants to.  It does not stand to most RL philosophy that I’ve heard of, but Eru is actually capable of producing something that he cannot destroy, something that once it is made, it exists independantly from himself.

"That Sauron was not himself destroyed in the anger of the One is not my fault: the problem of evil, and its apparent toleration, is a permanent one for all who concern themselves with our world. The indestructibility of spirits with free wills, even by the Creator of them, is also an inevitible feature, if one either believes in their existence, or feigns it in a story."
     - Letter #211
Maiarian Man 29/Sep/2006 at 10:09 PM
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Turin - Eru’s inability to not be able to destroy what he creates does not necessarily take away from his omnipotence.  Tolkien’s wording in this letter indicates that this feature of Eru is perhaps the result of logical impossibility. It is perhaps logically impossible for a creator to be able to destroy spirits with free will after creating them (this is by no means a trivial truth, but Tolkien’s wording does really sugess that he is speaking of logical impossibility--and inevitable feature of creation)  Logically impossible in the same sense that it is impossible for anyone to create a round square. 

It makes no sense to say that Eru is not omnipotent simply because he does not have the power to do what is logically impossible.  "The power to create round squares" is a nonsensical phrase.  Omnipotence only involves having every power that there is.  Nonsensical powers are not relevant.  (Somewhat similarly, we would not argue that Eru is not omniscient simply because he does not know that 2+2=5).

Ankala Teaweed 02/Oct/2006 at 06:03 PM
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The blasting of the culvert with the "fire of Orthanc" is an interesting passage. I had also interpreted that to mean that Saruman had used some form of chemistry, a blasting powder. And it still seems to me to be a very unique occurrence in the entire work.

The only other reference I can think, offhand, of to any form of "chemistry" would be the healing herb athelas.

Of course, some might quibble over metallurgy and the making of swords about which we are not told much other than that Aragorn’s heirloom was reforged.

And how indeed did Feanor do what he did to create the Simarils?

I think the argument over magic comes down to what definition of magic upon which we might here agree. Is it the lumping together of all so-far unexplained phenomena in the natural world, including their use by humans? Or is it a supernatural ability such as Galadriel’s use of water in her mirror?

Alcarináro 03/Oct/2006 at 07:02 PM
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Ann Kalagon, I don’t see how athelas could be explained by chemistry. Given that it was only useful as a healing herb in one of a certain lineage (The hands of a king are the hands of a healer), the effect must be something more magical. Yet, there is some element of athelas that makes it useful for the purpose (which is of course why Aragorn used it rather than any other weed), but that needs to be no less magical than Aragorn’s unique power with it.
Ankala Teaweed 04/Oct/2006 at 04:54 PM
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argh, can’t believe my memory is so bad, but then not only mine!
The first and foremost use of "blasting powder" which we read of is Gandalf’s fireworks, in "The Long Expected Party". There is about a whole page written there on all of the effects Gandalf had planned and carried off at Bilbo’s party.

Elenhir, I concede that in that one case, it appears that it was necessary to have the Numenorean heir use it (though we also know that only the Dunedain retained the knowledge of its use, and only that in the North)? But all pharmaceuticals were originally derived from plant sources (although today they make analogs of the compounds in laboratories and make them so much stronger such as valium from valerian tea). Herbs are chemistry, yes, even magical ones.

Túrin 05/Oct/2006 at 07:09 AM
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A very good point, MM, that thought (obviously!) had not occured to me. I was merely reading it as a power that Eru did not possess, though I remember now a similar explination about whether ’God’ could create a rock heavy enough that he cannot pick it up.

Thank you for reminding me of that.
elendil elessar 05/Oct/2006 at 08:11 PM
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Okay guys I should read the all thread before posting what I will but I haven’t. I’ll do and hopefully participate a bit more in the debate. As for now regarding Magic and Science, or Machines, there is a quote from a Letter by J.R.R. Tolkien to Milton Waldman,1953:
Both of these (alone or together) will lead to the desire for Power, for making the will more quickly effective,-and so the Machine (or Magic). By the last I intend all use of external plans or devices (apparatus) instead of developments of the inherent inner powers or talents or even the use of these talents withe the corrupted motive of dominating: bulldozing the real world, or coercing other wills. The Machine is our more obvious modern form though more closely related to Magic than is usually recognised.
For me here we have a direct opinion of Magic (more the ennemy devilry than the Elven Art) being close if not part of science. And each one being attainable throughout knowledge ot the other.