Today’s Solar Eclipse gives an opportunity to talk about Tolkien’s romantic sly sense of Humor. As I was looking at the (partial) Solar eclipse at Houston with some friends from work, I remembered that Tolkien, in his creation mythology in the Silmarillion, has an intriguing story about the creation of the Sun and the Moon.
When Illuvathar, God, sang the world into creation, in the first go, the earth was lit by light of the stars and the white trees of Valinor (Paradise). After the loss of that light, the Sun and the Moon were created. Sun is a female Valar, an angelic being, Arien. The Moon is male angelic being Tilion. Arien and Tilion are in charge of steering the sun and the moon. The Sun was meant the govern Earth’s day light, moon the night.
Tolkien says that Tilion is an unsteady hand steering the Moon, often in incorrect paths, thus ending up on the same side along the Sun. The idea being that Tilion can’t help steering recklessly towards the Sun, being love sick about Arien. This is the romantic in Tolkien. In order to explain the Moon showing up during the day, he comes up with a romantic solution that is humorous in the Tolkienian sense.
I don’t know if Tolkien develops this theme further into what Solar and Lunar eclipses mean, in the mythology, as to the relationship between Tilion and Arien. But that is very Tolkienis thing to do – develop some intriguing possibilities and leaving the rest for imagination!
Next time you see the see the Sun and the Moon, hopefully, it will not merely an incandescent ball of fire and a cold crater ridden piece of rock, rather your heart will be drawn to the mythic ballet of unrequited love between the angelic beings, Tilion and Arien. May be, it is not as unrequited as I make it to be, thanks to the eclipses! And the brilliance of Illuvathar’s creation… pointing back to the brilliance of God’s handiwork. All this to say this is Tolkien’s humorous way of adding a little bit more mythic meaning to our otherwise dreary existence on planet Earth!