Professor Fulton seemed shocked on Wednesday when most of us expressed our preference for the framing of The Silmarillion’s version of the Ainulindalë. I had not really considered why, but I was one of the people who preferred the unframed version found in The Silmarillion. During class, I realized what appealed to me from the story as I read it, but I also came to understand Fulton’s preference.
First a short summary of the framings of the Ainulindalë:
In The Lost Road and Other Writings (HME5), it is said to be the account of the Aunilindalë as written by Rúmil of Tun and as told to Ælfwine. This account bridges the gap between the creation of Arda and knowledge of said creation by the children of Illuvatar. Rúmil is a member of the second clan of Elves, and the first Elf to develop the written word. Rúmil’s account is therefore the first written account of creation, and this telling to Ælfwine, a man, is the way it came to the knowledge of men.
In Morgoth’s Ring (HME 10) (as I understand it, I’m still kind of shaky as to the timeline of events) the account is taken down a notch further, and it was told to Ælfwine by Pengolod the Sage and written by Rúmil. This means it still represents the moment when it came from the Elves to man’s knowledge through the “Elf-friend,” Ælfwine, the only difference being it was not Rúmil telling the story.
The Silmarillion begins more like Genesis in the simple fact that it does not claim any authorship. It does not begin with a lineage explaining who told the story and to whom, rather it jumps into the first line: “There was Eru. . .”
Now, like Genesis, the story had to come from somewhere. It ends by saying that “what has here been declared is come from the Valar themselves, with whom the Eldalië spoke in the land of Valinor, and by whom they were instructed,” the Valar being the 14 Ainur who chose to live on Arda, and the Eldalië being the Elves that were the first inhabitants of Middle-Earth. This again is similar to Genesis, which is supposedly the account of the creation of our universe as told by God to Moses. Therefore, both of these accounts represent the divine telling the story of creation to the inhabitants of their creation. In other words, these accounts both bridge the gap between creator and created.
This is part of why I found the unframed version to be my favorite. It is the actual account of creation by those who were there to witness it and participate in it. Maybe it was the order I read them in (I followed the syllabus: unframed, framed, more framed), but the ones after The Silmarillion’s version carried less weight. Sure the accounts of the Aunilindalë in HME5 and HME 10 are the accounts as the men of Middle-Earth knew them, but I have access to a much more direct version of the story, so why shouldn’t I read that one as the standard?
Furthermore, since Middle-Earth and the legendarium are Tolkien’s creations, I can actually trust the version as told in The Silmarillion. This I felt to be a little too contentious or far-reaching to bring up in class, but essentially I interpret Illuvatar as being an analogue to Tolkien himself. Tolkien created these stories and so the unframed version he authored, to me in primary reality, represented the actual truth of his secondary reality. What the first Elves heard was a first hand account told by the creators of the secondary reality, the Valar. They were there for the first, second, and third themes of Illuvatar, they saw the world as it could be, and they made it as it was. While not told by Illuvatar himself, the account is still given by creators. Even though it is missing one link to creation, i.e. it is not the account as told by Illuvatar, it has an authenticity that the Bible cannot have: the ultimate creator of this universe of Arda, Tolkien, the one who is writing this “Bible” is an indisputably real person. Illuvatar, though he has primacy within the secondary reality, is merely a sub-creator made by Tolkien, the original creator. I do not feel as though I have to take this story on faith, I trust pretty much every aspect of it, because it is being written by the original creator of Middle-Earth: Tolkien.
Now, all of this does not stop me from appreciating the versions of the Ainulindalë as they are known by the men of Middle-Earth. For them, within the secondary reality crafted by Tolkien, this is the story. It has to be taken by some faith because of the time separating the creation and their knowledge of it, and because of the fact that it is a retelling. In this sense again it is similar to Genesis in particular and the Bible in general. This just means that I’m enjoy the versions of the Ainulindalë on different levels: I like the unframed version as the original creation story of Middle-Earth, and the framed versions with their slight additions and omissions as the story of creation as known by the men who inhabit it. To me, it is like comparing a Bible written by a divine source to a Bible written by people as they know the story. They’re both fascinating, but for different reasons.