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Sylphs

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"sylphine maidens of the Air
whose wings in Varda's heavenly hall
in rythmic movement beat and fall
"
The Lay of Leithian, 4077-9

Sylphs were creatures only mentioned fleetingly in the earliest versions of the tales of Arda and nomenclature by the Eldar.[1][2]

Contents

[edit] Characteristics and divisions

The sylphs were part of what apparently was a three-fold division of the lesser Ainu spirits: sylphs (spirits of the air), sprites (spirits of the earth), and water spirits.[1]

Manwë had "two clans of air-spirits",[3] a basic division of two groups of sylphs which, with their Elvish names, are given as follow:

An individual Súruli mentioned by name was Ilinsor, steersman of the Moon. Ilinsor "loved the snows and the starlight and aided Varda in many of her works".[6]

[edit] Commentary

It has been suggested that the concept "air spirits" is used "metaphorically [...] for the winds that these spirits govern".[7]

[edit] The later legendarium

As the sylphs are not mentioned in later versions of the legendarium, it might be that Tolkien envisioned these creatures as the "servants and helpers" of the Maiar (mentioned in later versions of Elven chronicles)[8] — lesser spirits that would have remained in Middle-earth (and would thus perhaps be equivalent to the Faeries). As Tolkien never cared to elaborate much on these "lesser Maiar" in the texts used by his son Christopher when preparing the published The Silmarillion, one could speculate on how much Tolkien would have retained or rejected of this earlier conception.

[edit] Inspiration

Patrick H. Wynne and Christopher Gilson have noted that Tolkien's use of sylphs (and related spirits) is likely influenced by Paracelsus's chart of four elementals: sylphs (air), pygmies or gnomes (earth), nymphs (water), and salamanders (fire).[9]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  1. 1.0 1.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, "The Coming of the Valar and the Building of Valinor", p. 66
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lays of Beleriand, "III. The Lay of Leithian: Canto XIII (Beren and Lúthien in Angband)", pp. 301, 306 (§4077-9)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, "I-Lam na-Ngoldathon: The Grammar and Lexicon of the Gnomish Tongue", in Parma Eldalamberon XI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, and Patrick H. Wynne), pp. 57, 68
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, "I-Lam na-Ngoldathon: The Grammar and Lexicon of the Gnomish Tongue", in Parma Eldalamberon XI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, and Patrick H. Wynne), p. 31
  5. 5.0 5.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, Index
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, "The Tale of the Sun and Moon", pp. 192-5
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Early Elvish Poetry and Pre-Fëanorian Alphabets", in Parma Eldalamberon XVI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, Patrick H. Wynne, Carl F. Hostetter and Bill Welden), p. 59
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Valaquenta: Of the Maiar"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Early Qenya and The Valmaric Script", in Parma Eldalamberon XIV (edited by Carl F. Hostetter, Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, Patrick H. Wynne, and Bill Welden), p. 8
Legendary Races of Arda
 Animals:  Dumbledors · Gorcrows · Hummerhorns · Pards · Swans of Gorbelgod · Turtle-fish
Dragon-kind:  Great glow-worms · Sea-serpents · Spark-dragons · Were-worms
Evil Races:  Giants · Gongs · Half-trolls · Hobgoblins · Ogres · Snow-trolls · Troll-men · Two-headed Trolls
Fairies:  Dryads · Mermaids · Sprites · Sylphs · White cow
Other:  Badger-folk · Great beasts · Lintips · Mewlips · Nameless Things · Spectres
Individuals:  The Hunter · Lonely Troll · Man in the Moon · The Rider · River-woman · Tarlang · Tim