The case of the Magic Sun

The Tale of the Sun and the Moon, in the Book of Lost Tales is remarkable for many reasons, not least for its length.  Tolkien notes this himself, writing that this tale is “in need of great revision, cutting down, and [?reshaping].” (TBoLT I p. 194)  As Christopher Tolkien states in the commentary, it is a mystery whether in rewriting the tale later in life, Tolkien shortened the Tale through compression or rethought and possibly rejected some of the ideas in this Tale.

One such mystery caught my eye: the case of the “Magic Sun.”

After the Darkening of Valinor, efforts are made by Vána and Lórien to heal the trees mainly by lavishing what little store of light they have remaining on their roots.  These efforts are in vain.  They are ultimately stopped by Manwë, who scolds them for this waste of precious light, which the Valar have no means of creating.  So they call on Yavanna to use her power to mend the Trees.  She refuses, saying,

“Many things shall be done and come to pass, and the Gods grow old, and the Elves come nigh to fading, ere ye shall see the rekindling of these Trees or the Magic Sun relit……Tis of fate and the Music of the Ainur.  Such marvels as those Trees of gold and silver may even the Gods make but once, and that in the youth of the world; nor may all my spells avail to do what ye now ask.”  (TBoLT I p. 200-1)

At the end of the tale of the Music of the Ainur, there is mention of the Second Music of the Ainur and the Great End.  This may lend some insight into the meaning of the Magic Sun, which I think may not be separated from the notion of the Great End.

“I will end the tale…concerning the building of the Sun and Moon with that great foreboding that was spoken among the Gods when first the Door of Night was opened.  For ‘tis said that ere the Great End come Melko shall in some wise contrive a quarrel between Moon and Sun, and Ilinsor shall seek to follow Urwendi through the Gates, and when they are gone the Gates of both East and West will be destroyed, and Urwendi and Ilinsor shall be lost.  So shall it be that Fionwë Úrion, son of Manwë, of love for Urwendi shall in the end be Melko’s bane, and shall destroy the world to destroy his foe, and so shall all things then be rolled away.”  (TBoLT I p. 247)

Now this quote is not terribly illuminating in and of itself, but taken in conjunction with an understanding of the nature of Arda’s creation, it can lead to some interesting conclusions.  Following the Music, Ilúvatar leads the Ainur out into the void, where he shows them the world they have sung into being through his power.  As I’ve previously stated, this is the theory of subcreation placed in the context of mythology.  However, where is Ilúvatar in the creation of Arda?  He states:

“’One thing only have I added, the fire that giveth Life and Reality’—and behold, the Secret Fire burnt at the heart of the world.” (TBoLT I p. 53)

Now the last piece to finish the puzzle is the application of faith.  The Secret Fire is essentially the Holy Spirit of Tolkien’s Catholic faith.  Tolkien’s goal in writing his mythology, largely stated with regards to LotR but applicable here as well, was to create a pre-Christian Christian myth.  With this in mind, I believe two possible meanings of the Magic Sun become quite clear.

The first is that the Magic Sun is in reality Jesus Christ, who through his death and resurrection redeemed the world, making all things new and ending the tyranny of sin.  The Valar are bound to Arda, and therefore bound by its rules.  Their power is finite, but the power of Ilúvatar is not.  It is unclear if the Great End is the end of the world, or just the end of an Age.  If it is the end of an Age, this application fits quite well and ties the mythology of Middle Earth firmly to our own.

And yet another meaning, which cannot be fully separated from the last, is that the Great End and the rekindling of the Magic Sun is a veiled reference to the Second Coming.  Often in the Christian faith, we refer to the Light of Christ or the fire of the Holy Spirit.  Given mythological dress, it is not difficult to see the connection; whether it is correct is another question.  But whether it is or not, the implications of such a tie, even only hinted at, are fascinating to ponder.


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