Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tolkien in the Sky with Diamonds

If you're ever hanging out on Mercury, now you can find Tolkien there:
See him? Right there, between Goethe and Mendelssohn.

According to Tolkien's own writings, the half-elven seafarer Earendil (you know, Elrond's papa) carries the shining Silmaril on his brow as he crosses the skies. Now, the little bit of Mercury that we can see shining, chasing the sun, is Tolkien's vessel. He shines like a diamond ... explaining the rather bad pun in the title above.

More on why Mercury has craters named for artists on it can be found here.

7 comments:

dimwoo said...

Hi!
Surely Venus is Earendil's Silmaril, not Mercury. The Silmarillion says that Earendil in Vingilot is sometimes seen shining in the sky returning in the evening or leaving early in the morning, which is exactly the behaviour of Venus (as it is closer than us to the sun it is always near the sun, and best seen after the sun set or before it rises). Venus is also the brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon, so deserving of the title. Mercury is only ever seen by the naked eye during eclipses.

dimwoo said...

By the way, hi! I enjoy your blog. I am a sorta-christian, a Barfield fan and a bad guitarist.

BenMc said...

Yes, you're completely right that Tolkien's thinking of Venus when writing of Earendil. I think it's nice that in a (very limited!) sense, Tolkien himself is now placed in the heavens on a different sky-wandering planet -- as you point out, one that is literally often eclipsed (I think he'd like that fact actually). Thanks for the comment!

dimwoo said...

Ah yes, I see you knew that anyway. I think I was a bit abrupt, sorry! That's what comes of reading blogs and working at the same time, you glimpse something, think 'That's not correct!' and speed-type a response.

Keep up the good work!

PNG said...

When I last read the Silmarillion, I thought that Earendil and his ship were Venus and his wife (whose name I forget at the moment) going up to meet him was Mercury. Possible?

PNG said...

Oh, by the way, Mercury, can be seen with the naked eye, regularly. The ancients were quite aware of it, of course. And Earendil's wife was Elwing. (I love those Elvish names.)

BenMc said...

Definitely possible. I'm not aware of where the other planets fit in beyond Venus but that story sounds right. Guess it's time for me to read the Silmarillion again!