The Edain - The Twice Fallen?
I do not doubt Tolkien often wrestled with the reasons for introducing a fall of Men into his work. Although not entirely conclusive, Men dramatically fell from grace on two separate occassions; prior to their first encounter with the Eldar and as a direct result of their attempt to assail Valinor. There is a distinct significance in theological (primarilly Catholic) terms regarding the initial downfall and the attempt to seek access to Valinor, which I would suggest is the allegorical 'Eden' of Arda. Of course, Tolkien disliked allegory in all its manifestations, so could the unconscious inclusion of 'downfall' akin to the 'original sin' concept be considered an unsubstantiated truth in his work?
If one considers the Downfall of Numenor, should it represent the downfall of the entire race of Men? Alternatively, Numenoreans might have been considered indicative of the forgiven Men, who acknowledged Iluvatar, acknowledged the Valar and were in simple terms the 'righteous' among the Edain. If so, does this mean their elavated status among humankind was granted against the backdrop of a previous downfall that might be considered a response by Iluvatar to Man's original sin.
Where then does the evidence for this downfall originate? Tolkien had certainly wrestled with the idea evidenced in 'Athrabeth
Finrod ah Andreth' whereby the discussions between Finrod Felagund and Andreth The Wise reveals a dark past in the History of Men prior to their arrival in Beleriand.
In the The Drowning of Anadûnê Tolkien refers briefly to the 'First Fall of Man'
Men (the Followers or Second Kindred) came second, but it is guessed that in the first design of God they were destined (after tutelage) to take on the governance of all the Earth, and ultimately to become Valar, to 'enrich Heaven', Ilúve. But Evil (incarnate in Meleko) seduced them, and they fell.
A little later in the same text (HoMeIX 402) he wrote:
Though all Men had 'fallen', not all remained enslaved. Some repented, rebelled against Meleko, and made friends of the Eldar, and tried to be loyal to God.
It seems difficult from our understanding of this Fall to comprehend why the race were entirely 'Fallen' in light of the fact that they were corrupted and deceived by Melkor, without interjection by any of the Valar. Yet, is this the very reason Andreth is reluctant to recount her tale? Men were originally guided by Eru himself and not the Valar? Is this coincidence, that the Valar remained in Aman, addressing the needs of the Firstborn, while the Second were instructed by the Creator himself? I suppose one can begin to understand the pattern emerging in the plan Eru had for his Children! Yet, the misunderstanding of Andreth speaks clearly of the race of Men;
Andreth looked up and her eyes darkened. 'The Valar?' she said. 'How should I know, or any Man? Your Valar do not trouble us either with care or with instruction. They sent no summons to us.'
It is intriguing to know that Andreth also relates 'Death' as the 'Wound' which Men received because of Melkor, and for that the blame lies with The Valar, for Melkor is of the Valar and the equation seems comprehensive. But, the reality is that Death is the Gift, for what reason we do not know, but it was the Gift of Eru. So where then does the 'Fall' come into play in the first instance?
One must consider that which Andreth was truly reluctant to discuss, the Guidance of Eru in their beginning. It seems such that denial of their Creator is their sin and the sole reason for the first Downfall of Man! For the belief was held among Men in the beginning that they also were incarnate, as the Elves. Yet, in their dark past this gift was taken from them and so the punishment appears to them as Death, this was the Marring of Mankind and for that Melkor was responsible. Again it is the relationship with Eru that strikes me as the most significant aspect of their origins;
Some say the Disaster happened at the beginning of the history of our people, before any had yet died. The Voice had spoken to us, and we had listened. The Voice said: 'Ye are my children. I have sent you to dwell here. In time ye will inherit all this Earth, but first ye must be children and learn. Call on me and I shall hear; for I am watching over you.'
Further Andreth recounts;
'In that time we called often and the Voice answered. But it seldom answered our questions, saying only: 'First seek to find the answer for yourselves. For ye will have joy in the finding, and so grow from childhood and become wise. Do not seek to leave childhood before your time.'
But we were in haste, and we desired to order things to our will; and the shapes of many things that we wished to make awoke in our minds. Therefore we spoke less and less to the Voice.
Therein lay the key to their downfall (if that is what it can be called) for at this time Melkor appeared among them and named himself 'The Giver of Gifts' teaching and instructing them and ever seeking to encourage desire and lust for more and greater things.
Then one appeared among us, in our own form visible, but greater and more beautiful; and he said that he had come out of pity. 'Ye should not have been left alone and uninstructed,' he said. 'The world is full of marvellous riches which knowledge can unlock. Ye could have food more abundant and more delicious than the poor things that ye now eat. Ye could have dwellings of ease, in which ye could keep light and shut out the night. Ye could be clad even as I.'
Melkor proceeds to extend his power and fear over these unhappy few, denouncing The Creator as 'The Voice of the Dark' and so setting himself up as the exalted Lord of Men. Rather a depressing predicament especially when the 'Voice of the Dark' speaks one final time;
The first Voice we never heard again, save once. In the stillness of the night It spoke, saying: 'Ye have abjured Me, but ye remain Mine. I gave you life. Now it shall be shortened, and each of you in a little while shall come to Me, to learn who is your Lord: the one ye worship, or I who made him.'
The gross corruption and indecency Melkor inflicted upon the Race of Men is beyond words, worse yet is severing of this people from their creator. I wonder then was this their 'Downfall' in the sense of a Christian viewpoint; the removal from the Creator? If so, then it is a self-inflicted wound, but not without blame being laid at the door of Eru. It seems that his Children were ill-prepared to deal with such evil, physically or spiritually.
However, it seems that some of these escaped the shadow and came upon the Elves. Strangely enough, both peoples meet in the middle having run from a dark past, both of whom were reluctant to speak of the evils they had participated in. The Noldor had spilt the blood of their own in Valinor and were doomed by Mandos, Men had worshipped Melkor and forsaken their God! Yet, from within the race of Men there comes the Three House of the Edain; they can be viewed as the 'righteous' in the sense that they attempt to return to their Creator and learn moe of him through the teachings of the Eldar.
The Downfall of Numenor presents a continuation of this fall into darkness from which they had originally fled. The detachment from Eru, the return to the worship of Melkor, the forgotten history for which they had seemingly repented.
The Downfall is partly the result of an inner weakness in Men - consequent, if you will, upon the first Fall (unrecorded in these tales), repented but not finally healed. Reward on earth is more dangerous for men than punishment! The Fall is achieved by the cunning of Sauron in exploiting this weakness. Its central theme is (inevitably, I think, in a story of Men) a Ban, or Prohibition.
The Númenóreans dwell within far sight of the easternmost 'immortal' land, Eressëa; and as the only men to speak an Elvish tongue (learned in the days of their Alliance) they are in constant communication with their ancient friends and allies, either in the bliss of Eressëa, or in the kingdom of Gil-galad on the shores of Middle-earth. They became thus in appearance, and even in powers of mind, hardly distinguishable from the Elves - but they remained mortal, even though rewarded by a triple, or more than a triple, span of years. Their reward is their undoing - or the means of their temptation. Their long life aids their achievements in an and wisdom, but breeds a possessive attitude to these things, and desire awakes for more time for their enjoyment. Foreseeing this in pan, the gods laid a Ban on the Númenóreans from the beginning: they must never sail to Eressëa, nor westward out of sight of their own land. In all other directions they could go as they would. They must not set foot on 'immortal' lands, and so become enamoured of an immortality (within the world), which was against their law, the special doom or gift of Ilúvatar (God), and which their nature could not in fact endure..
The difficulty I have is in understanding the 'Fall' in the first instance as I do not believe Eru was forthcoming in his prepartion of the Secondborn. If he alone was the 'voice in the wilderness' that called them, without revealing himself, how then can the Children be held accountable for being deceived by Melkor? We know 'Death' was from the beginning, it was not taken from them either by Melkor or Eru alike, so what then can be the punishment;
Could it be all 3 or none at all considering these seemed inevitable from the outset? Were Men punished before they were brought into this world and doomed to suffer in order to inherit?
- The fear of Death itself?
- The reduction in lifespan?
- The severance from the Creator?
The 'Second Fall of Man' does not come as a great surprise then considering their history. The deceit of Sauron and the return to worship of Melkor is less forgiveable in this case as the Numenoreans could be considered better prepared and more learned in their understanding of Eru and their place upon Arda. The span is reduced for the saved by the mingling of blood among the remaining Edain in Middle-Earth?, the land was destroyed, Valinor was removed beyond sight and knowledge and only a few of the 'righteous' among the Race of Númenor were saved. Yet, it strikes me that this was not entirely a 'Downfall of Man' in the general term, more akin to the destruction visited upon Sodom by God!
What then can we consider to be the actual 'Downfall' in the case of Men in the History of Arda?