5

All beings within the confines of Arda are destined to remain there until the end of time except for Men (and I assume Hobbits too). Men are the only species not bound to the world and are only "visitors" (and presumably go to the Timeless Halls with Eru).

The Elves reside in Valinor because they are immortal while Men are forbidden to go there, igniting an envious feeling in them making them feel like the Valar favored Elves over them. But Eru granted Men death as a gift (only to have it be thought of as a curse because of Morgoth) and when they wished to die they could leave Arda.

Did Eru give Men the gift of death as a way of showing he favors them more than Elves?

  • 2
    Yes; I think that's the single most important "point" of Tolkien's lore. – Möoz Aug 17 '16 at 22:04
  • Is blue better than red? – Doug Warren Aug 17 '16 at 22:26
  • 3
    It's not as clean cut as Valar inviting Elves to Valinor because Elves are immortal and not inviting Men because Men are mortal. Valar invited Elves because they were the first ones to "wake up" and at that moment there was no one else to invite. That did not go too well, and so Valar has become more cautious. – void_ptr Aug 17 '16 at 22:55
7

It's very hard to definitively answer this question, since we know so little of Ilúatar's mind. Personally, I would be inclined to argue "probably not", largely based on this passage from the Silmarillion (emphasis mine):

[I]t is said that after the departure of the Valar there was silence, and for an age Ilúvatar sat alone in thought. Then he spoke and said: 'Behold I love the Earth, which shall be a mansion for the Quendi and the Atani! But the Quendi shall be the fairest of all earthly creatures, and they shall have and shall conceive and bring forth more beauty than all my Children; and they shall have the greater bliss in this world. But to the Atani I will give a new gift.' Therefore he willed that the hearts of Men should seek beyond the world and should find no rest therein; but they should have a virtue to shape their life, amid the powers and chances of the world, beyond the Music of the Ainur, which is as fate to all things else; and of their operation everything should be, in form and deed, completed, and the world fulfilled unto the last and smallest.

The Silmarillion III Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 1: "Of the Beginning of Days"

From this passage, it appears as though Ilúvatar is giving each of the Children different gifts, not necessarily giving either a better lot. Of course, the nature of us limited incarnate creatures being what it is, both sides think the other got the better deal. The Elves grow weary of living forever amid the suffering of the world, while Men fear the unknown fate that awaits them, and look upon the Elves as rather the more impressive of the two races.

We also see Tolkien himself thinking along these lines; for example, in Letter 181:

In this mythological world the Elves and Men are in their incarnate forms kindred, but in the relation of their 'spirits' to the world in time represent different 'experiments', each of which has its own natural trend, and weakness. The Elves represent, as it were, the artistic, aesthetic, and purely scientific aspects of the Humane nature raised to a higher level than is actually seen in Men.

[...]

But the Elvish weakness is in these terms naturally to regret the past, and to become unwilling to face change: as if a man were to hate a very long book still going on, and wished to settle down in a favourite chapter.

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 181: To Michael Straight (draft). January/February 1956

I think it's ultimately important to realize that Elves and Men have different roles in this mythical universe, and each race does something different for the other. The Elves were, broadly speaking, tasked with removing the threat of incarnate Evil (in the form of Morgoth and, to a lesser degree, Sauron1).

On the other hand, Ilúatar has some plan for Men, but nobody really knows what that is; at least some of the Elves believe that Men will be the ones to heal the world of the damage inflicted by Morgoth in the Music of the Ainur:

'This then, I propound, was the errand of Men, not the followers, but the heirs and fulfillers of all: to heal the Marring of Arda, already foreshadowed before their devising; and to do more, as agents of the magnificence of Eru: to enlarge the Music and surpass the Vision of the World!'

History of Middle-earth X Morgoth's Ring Part 4: "Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth"

But this is only a guess of Finrod's; all we know for sure is that both Elves and Men will participate in the Second Music, following Melkor's ultimate destruction.


1 Though Sauron isn't that simple; Sauron's threat was mostly the result of the "fall" of the Elves, and he probably wouldn't have been defeated without their assistance; though the ultimate responsibility was that of Men.

5

Great question and answer, I'd like to add the passage of the Silmarillion that seems to imply that Eru favors Men:

Death is their fate, the gift of Ilúvatar, which as Time wears even the Powers shall envy.

JRR Tolkien - The Silmarillion

I tend to think, for the reasons very clearly exposed by Jason Baker, that the plan Eru sets for them is just different, not better, and Tolkien was just speaking poetically in the quote above, more related to the wearing of the world than to the ultimate end.

Another quote that seems to imply that Men will have a better final destiny is in the dialogue between Finrod and Andreth, though again it can be interpreted in many ways:

And then suddenly I beheld as a vision Arda Remade; and there the Eldar completed but not ended could abide in the present for ever, and there walk, maybe, with the Children of Men, their deliverers, and sing to them such songs as, even in the Bliss beyond bliss, should make the green valleys ring and the everlasting mountain-tops to throb like harps.'

Then Andreth looked under her brows at Finrod: 'And what, when ye were not singing, would ye say to us?' she asked.

Finrod laughed. 'I can only guess,' he said. 'Why, wise lady, I think that we should tell you tales of the Past and of Arda that was Before, of the perils and great deeds and the making of the Silmarils! We were the lordly ones then! But ye, ye would then be at home, looking at all things intently, as your own. Ye would be the lordly ones. "The eyes of Elves are always thinking of something else," ye would say.

But ye would know then of what we were reminded: of the days when we first met, and our hands touched in the dark. Beyond the End of the World we shall not change; for in memory is our great talent, as shall be seen ever more clearly as the ages of this Arda pass: a heavy burden to be, I fear; but in the Days of which we now speak a great wealth.

History of Middle-earth X Morgoth's Ring Part 4: "Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth"

It seems that in action and change the Men are stronger in gifts, while memory and beauty is the true destiny of Elves, despite the importance of their actions in the beggining. We can argue to no end which gift is better, I tend to agree with Jason that it's just different.

About if Men were favored with greater free will, I think it depends too much in opinion, Id like to refer you to this reddit post. I think the later ages are not covered by the Great Song, and since that it's the time of Men it implies they will have the power to shape things outside of it, as Eru intended.

4

Yes, Eru favoured Men over Elves.

In Tolkien's essay 'On fairy-stories', "The Tolkien Reader", by J.R.R. Tolkien, pub. Ballantine Books (paperback), 1966.

Few lessons are taught more clearly in them [fairy-stories] than the burden of that kind of immortality, or rather endless serial living to which the fugitive [from death] would fly.

Tolkien introduces the Eucatastrophe (the opposite of Tragedy) saying that,

The eucatastrophic tale is the true form of a fairy-tale, and its highest function. page 68

But in the 'eucatastrophe' we see in a brief vision that the answer [to the question, is it true?] may be greater -- it may be a far-off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world. page 71

The elves were doomed to experience (near) endless serial living. Look at the fate suffered by the nine ring wraiths when Eru's gift was suspended. Man's gift is to escape time (and the fate of the nine and also the elves) to enjoy the Christian Gloria. Man's gift is by far the greater.

  • Nice answer. If it is, indeed, your conclusion, you might want to begin by saying that your answer to the question is: Yes, Eru favoured Men over Elves. – Blackwood Dec 12 '16 at 1:08
  • Good suggestion. – MikeJRamsey56 Dec 12 '16 at 2:31

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