5

It's written in The Silmarillion:

"Then the themes of Ilúvatar shall be played aright, and take Being in the moment of their utterance, for all shall then understand fully his intent in their part, and each shall know the comprehension of each, and Ilúvatar shall give to their thoughts the secret fire, being well pleased."

Why is "secret fire" written here using only small or lower case letters? After all, in other passages the term is written "Secret Fire" or "Flame Imperishable", always with upper case letters... These last manners look more suitable, given that this entity appears to be divine in some way (something like the Holy Spirit, perhaps).

  • 1
    As far as I can tell, it's referred to in capitals when they're referring to the fire as a singular. In the case you've highlighted (and several others), it's more that it's being referred to as some secret fire, not The secret fire. – Valorum Jan 28 '15 at 20:43
  • As far as I can tell, the term secret fire only appears three times in the Silmarillion. Once it's capitalised, twice it isn't. – Valorum Jan 28 '15 at 20:44
  • I am not sure if this is a grammatical error by the publisher or something that is actually answerable. – Tritium21 Jan 28 '15 at 20:44
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    @Tritium21 - I'm not saying that you don't get the occasional publishing error but the fact that this capitalisation is constant in three different versions of the text (two published, one ebook) suggests that it was intentional. – Valorum Jan 28 '15 at 20:50
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    @Richard Fair enough. – Tritium21 Jan 28 '15 at 20:51
4

There are three mentions of "secret fire" in the Silmarillion.

  1. ...and Ilúvatar shall give to their thoughts the secret fire, being well pleased.
  2. ...and the Secret Fire was sent to burn at the heart of the World...
  3. ...and Fëanor grew swiftly, as if a secret fire were kindled within him.

Of these the first two are evidently referring to the same thing as the Flame Imperishable, whereas the third is just a generic reference to "a fire that is secret", and so may be discounted.

If we cross-reference these with the source texts given in History of Middle-earth 10 and 5, we find the following:

  1. This is also "secret fire" in History of Middle-earth 10 but is "secret Fire" in History of Middle-earth 5.
  2. This is also "Secret Fire" in History of Middle-earth 10 but is likewise "secret Fire" in History of Middle-earth 5.

So we can see that the capitalization was consistent in the original texts from the 1930s, but was changed in the 1950s revsions, with the first going to all lowercase but the second going to all title-case.

Christopher Tolkien does not account for this change and this difference in his commentary.

The other notable mention of "secret fire" is, of course:

I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass.

And again we see that its title-case too.

In the end we have no explanation for this change. We can say for certain that it's not a publishing error as it's consistent with the latest source texts from History of Middle-earth 10, and it seems highly unlikely to be a simple authorial error as Christopher Tolkien maintained it from the source texts to the published Silmarillion.

Ultimately we just don't know.

  • I understand that this answer is probably unsatisfactory, and may not be what you were looking for, but it's really the best you're going to get given the available evidence. – user8719 Jan 29 '15 at 10:14

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