Killing Adverts on A Phuulish Fellow

After a long time going back and forth on the matter, I have decided to fork out for a wee upgrade to A Phuulish Fellow.

You see, one of the banes of having a free wordpress blog is that your internet masters foist annoying adverts on you. I cannot actually see them myself, except on my most recent post, but I know they’re there, and readers don’t like them. It’s one of the more critical bits of feedback I get – though hitherto, I’ve decided that the matter was out of my control.

Well, today that’s changed. The upgrade means I’ve killed those blasted adverts. Hopefully, that improves your reading experience. As I have previously noted, I don’t actually make a cent out of this blog, but I do care about the ability of people to actually read my rantings without extra irritation.

Cheers.

The Motueka Omicron Leak and Code Red

As of today, there has been a detection of community Omicron in Motueka – nine people having travelled to a wedding in Auckland in mid-January. The Government has responded by moving the country into Code Red – which, unfortunately, is not a lockdown. Caving to the Let it Rippers and Lord Haw Haws in the media will do that, though there is a case that a sufficient portion of the population have gone mad enough that you wouldn’t see enough proper compliance. Still, I would have liked to see the Government at least try. There’s much to be said for noble failure.

(Meanwhile, I dare say this would have never happened if the Government had kept MIQ stays at fourteen days, rather than ten. Again, caving to the media is never a good idea).

People are chasing up boosters in large numbers. I’m not eligible for mine until 20th February, but I did make a point of stocking up at the supermarket this evening. There had been a run on the bread and the cat-food, but luckily for me there were plenty of Baked Beans and potatoes left (my standard lockdown fare. Why yes, I am minimising public interactions for the next while).

It is possible that the outbreak might have been caught early enough that a reasonable lid can be kept on this – analogous to Queensland, prior to their state government making the cardinal sin of listening to the media. The key at this point is not opening the bloody borders. To do so would be to pour oil on a house fire… except that that muppet Hipkins has been making noises in that direction. Ugh. Even worse, despite the mountain of evidence that self-isolation does not work, the Government still keeps talking about it. Double ugh.

(Ironically, today was actually a pretty decent day in the Delta department. For the first time since August we have zero Covid patients in Intensive Care. A shame this has gone and ruined everything).

The MIQ Saga and Cheating Bastards

So we have an interesting development in Managed Isolation/Quarantine. We have muppets – oh so clever muppets – thinking they’ve found a legal workaround. Currently, in order to enter New Zealand, you need to successfully book a spot in MIQ facilities. Aforementioned muppets have settled on this plan as a result:

  • Book a transit flight from Australia to the USA via Auckland.
  • When in Auckland, go through Immigration, on the grounds that as a New Zealand citizen, you cannot be refused entry.
  • Comply with requirements to go into MIQ, albeit without a booked slot.

This was laid out, together with some understandable annoyance on the part of authorities, in a news article yesterday:

https://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/news/300500844/zero-tolerance-for-kiwis-trying-to-enter-country-as-bogus-transit-passengers

I must say, I was particularly irritated by a consulted lawyer giving the thumbs up, in particular this paragraph:

“There may be an attempt to find some sort of generic charge, but I believe it may be difficult to enforce. When we have a Government that doesn’t take action when a temporary visa holder with Omicron breaks the rules for home isolation, it is difficult to believe they would take action against desperate grounded Kiwis just trying to get home.”

These prospective rule-breakers aren’t desperate, of course. They’ve had years to get back if they really thought of this country as their beloved home, and there have been multiple periods of time – most notably last November and early December – where there were more available MIQ spots than applications. Quite apart from the fact that they know full well that they are potential disease vectors, potentially bringing the disease into New Zealand. You don’t treat your home like that. Not if you cared one iota about anybody else’s well-being.

To me, the only desperation on display is that of privileged arseholes disappointed that their right to travel is considered less important than our right to keep the disease out as much as possible.

But we’ve now also had a prominent law lecturer weigh in on the subject…

Knight refers to the Health Order obligation to have a confirmed MIQ allocation to enter:

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If Health Orders conflict with existing legislation, those Health Orders take precedence. So even if someone were able to enter New Zealand via this strategy, they would find themselves whacked with non-trivial criminal charges. And few locals (outside the media class) would shed a tear.

I’d also further point out the way in which Auckland Airport currently processes transit passengers (something I know about because I’m in communication with an acquaintance currently in MIQ via a flight with transit passengers). On arrival, transit passengers are told to leave the plane, and are ushered into a special holding area. Everyone else then gets out and heads for customs. In order to pursue this strategy, someone would not only be disobeying explicit instructions, but would also find themselves in the midst of passengers who did obey the rules, and who presumably would not appreciate finding themselves in the company of a privileged muppet. Cue the police getting involved…

Further on the point of MIQ, it has become something of an article of faith among certain people that MIQ is so incredibly incompetent that there are rooms going empty, even while “desperate Kiwis” are blocked from returning home. For example:

https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2022/01/experts_confirm_kiwis_can_legally_return_home.html

That is also something I can shed some light on. You see, my aforementioned MIQ acquaintance applied for an extra day’s extension (yes, really), because they wanted to leave in time for an internal flight. They were denied this extension. Why? Because there are few rooms currently available.

This is down to the process of Cohorting. Basically, in order to prevent incoming people from infecting outgoing people, ‘old’ and ‘new’ arrivals are not allowed to mix. Once a Quarantine Hotel gets an influx of fresh arrivals, it does not fill up any remaining rooms left after the influx. Cohorting was adopted after some MIQ leakages in 2020, and is an eminently sensible precaution. Learning from one’s mistakes and all that, and I dare say the muppets here are not MIQ management.

Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go: The Rings of Power

About an hour ago, we got an interesting tweet. Not a leak, for once, but for the first time since last year’s incident with the Two Trees, an Honest to Eru update, straight from the horse’s mouth. We now have:

(1) A name for the series (‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’).

(2) A one minute visual of flowing molten metal, with a voice-over recital of the Ring Verse.

(3) Confirmation that Season One will feature eight episodes, and the first two will total three hours in length.

My immediate thought? “Squeeeeeee!”

My more elaborate thoughts? Let’s break this analysis into three parts…

(i) ‘The Rings of Power’

The Rings of Power is a decent enough title*, linking the series to the familiar piece of magical jewellery we’ve all come to know and love. There is also a case for ‘Power’ here not merely referring to the literal Rings, though it obviously does do that, but also to the inevitable political power squabbles that will mark a certain island nation in the series. Nice thematic double-meaning.

*I’ve suggested elsewhere the joke title ‘Fantastic Rings and Where to Find Them.’

The only quibble I have: the leaks thus far seem to suggest that this will be a Númenor-centric series from the third episode onwards. The actual Forging of the Rings – and its immediate aftermath – either seems to be getting shunted into the first two episodes, or else faces a strange and creative smooshing with a different timeline. As such, it might be a tad strange if The Rings of Power isn’t actually focusing on the Rings of Power…

(ii) The Visual

It’s not a trailer, of course. Nothing that elaborate. More a teaser. And an intelligent one at that – we start off with what appears to be the image of a canyon and a landscape. That swiftly becomes molten metal flowing through a mould, inviting associations with fiery destruction, while a female voice-over (presumably Galadriel?) starts reciting the Ring Verse. Elves and Dwarves… with the flows of metal coming together from different directions, as if to speak of the interactions between the two peoples, and how the Rings affect them both (maybe it forces them to come together?). Then, just as the Verse switches to “mortal Men doomed to die,” a tide of water sweeps across, cooling the metal and sending up steam.

The thematic implication is that (1) the Númenoreans are the Men of the Sea, intervening in the heated affairs of Middle-earth and (2) the eventual fate of Númenor is foreshadowed – “doomed to die”, in water. One could further note that cooling water can be seen as a part of the forging process… Men wind up playing an important role in Sauron’s Grand Unified Rings Project, though we have no idea at this point how the series will treat the Ringwraiths, or whether we will get backstory for them.

(Meanwhile, the steam brings to mind Orodruin, and the smoking reek of Mordor – coinciding with the appropriate lines of the Ring Verse).

The clip concludes with the infamous Ring lettering being made apparent, tying the thing back to the familiar visual that casual film-goers will remember. All told, not a bad way of spending a minute, if you want to summarise the Second Age of Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

(iii) Eight Episodes

Given the budget of this thing, the fact that we’re only getting eight episodes this season is actually a bit mind-boggling. Also, with the first two being an hour and a half apiece, we are essentially starting off the first season with a pair of movies, each longer than the 1977 Rankin-Bass Hobbit.

Since Isildur and company only appear from the third episode onwards, and given that we’ve seen Tirion and the Two Trees as a promotion shot, that strongly hints that these movie-length productions will be the cliff notes version of The Silmarillion. Or at least the bits of The Silmarillion relevant to the late Second Age. There is still a decent chance that we might see a cameo from Mad Uncle Fëanor, in the sense that he’s the reason the Noldor are in Middle-earth at all, and more specifically the reason Galadriel (and her brother) find themselves crossing the Helcaraxë. One really does wonder about that mooted spin-off…

Exciting times ahead for the Tolkien fandom, I suppose. 🙂

Addendum: It turns out that the teaser is a genuine practical effect, not CGI. They used reclaimed redwood and aluminium and bronze.

Defending Death of the Author: A Reply to Tolkien Lore

It is one of the oddities of the internet that many commentators will take the side of Authorial Intentionalism over Death of the Author. Part of this, I think, is down to J.K. Rowling – and now also the response to J.K. Rowling. When one has creators delivering New Facts about their World via online communication, there arises the temptation to take their word for it. After all, it’s their world, right? And when aforementioned creators engage in… dubious… discourse, there is similarly the question of whether their art is stained by virtue of a flawed creator.

I take a different tack, of course, much preferring to interpret art in accordance with Death of the Author. That has the twofold advantage of (1) being able to stick my fingers in my ears if I encounter an extra-canonical interpretation I don’t like, and (2) not being overly fussed at Authors Behaving Badly. I don’t feel any guilt about listening to Wagner or reading Poe – their screw-ups as people do not alter my appreciation of their art, and since both are long dead, it’s not as if I’m supporting them with cash.

With that out the way, today I thought I would address a YouTube video from Tolkien Lore. The video in question being a defence of Authorial Intentionalism, with regards to J.R.R. Tolkien…

I think the video betrays some misunderstandings here, both in terms of the concept of Death of the Author, and at a wider level, the purpose of art.

First off, Death of the Author is not “anything goes.” It does not mean that if a random person insists “no, Galadriel was a brunette,” that that is a valid interpretation of The Lord of the Rings. It simply means that interpretations of the text are to be based off the actual text itself, and not the author telling us what it means in an interview or letter.

A good reason for this? There are plenty of possible meanings in a piece of creative art that creators did not intend at the time of creation. And (speaking as a writer myself), those textual meanings are not any the less valid, simply because a thought was not in the writer’s conscious mind at a given moment. Once a work is out of the creator’s mind, and circulating among other minds, you are also going to get a slightly different story working its way through each individual reader. My interpretation of Denethor’s character (or even appearance!) is going to be different from Tolkien Lore’s. And I dare say, also different from the interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien himself – but that’s fine, because that is what it means to be a reader.

To illustrate, one can assume, based of biography and a variety of extra-canonical evidence, that Tolkien was not a fan of Karl Marx. If one were to, hypothetically, give The Hobbit a Marxist reading, with the Dwarves as the alienated Proletariat, Smaug as the Bourgeoisie, and so on (complete with the squabble over the Hoard being a Kropotkin-style critique of the Labour Theory of Value), I do not think Tolkien would have personally endorsed such an interpretation.

However, if a reader wishes to attach such a reading to the text – based off actual evidence on the page – then that is not a problem, so far as Death of the Author goes. In arguing against such a Marxist interpretation, it then follows that one should also resort to using the textual evidence from The Hobbit, and not extra-textual material. Tolkien Lore ironically does something similar in criticising the readings of Christians.

It is, however, the wider question of “what is the purpose of art” where I think the video really stumbles. Tolkien Lore argues that fiction is communication of meaning. To which I would suggest that, if so, then a novel is a terrible means of achieving that. Much worse than a straight-forward letter. Hell, Socrates himself realised this over twenty-four centuries ago – it’s why he didn’t write anything down, since he preferred the unambiguous nature of face-to-face discussion.

No, the thing to remember about art is that there is no single Platonic meaning of a text, floating off in the aether, to be hunted down via reason and logic. Even many sentences can radically change meaning, based off context or what the reader does with them. Take, for example:

“Bob cried when he heard Alice was to marry.”

Is Bob weeping because he’s upset, or is he weeping tears of joy? Either interpretation is valid, at least until we are given more information – and if we aren’t, then we will have to be content with Schrödinger’s sentence.

A novel? That’s going to generate rather more than two meanings. It’s going to generate untold numbers of the things, and each meaning will take root in accordance with the mindset of any given reader – which is itself part of the fun. If a text only ever had one correct interpretation, namely that dictated by the Author-God, I dare say the study of literature would become a good deal less interesting. It’s the great achievement of Shakespeare that he was able to produce work that could be re-evaluated from generation to generation, with very different people getting very different things out of it – all without anybody really caring what was going through Billy’s own brain in 1600. I’d like to think that J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary legacy goes down much the same route.

(Oh, and despite what the video might suggest, the question of allegory in Lewis Carroll is much disputed – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Walrus_and_the_Carpenter).

Beware of Bearing Gifts for Greece: The National Library of New Zealand and the Fate of 1% of the Overseas Published Collection

So things are supposedly on hold, so far as the National Library of New Zealand’s idiotic plans to purge its Overseas Published Collection go. Supposedly. There is currently a lot of uncertainty floating around right now, and there is absolutely no reason to trust the National Library of New Zealand on anything.

But as of today, I can reveal an interesting piece of news. Namely, we now know 6,275 items from the collection were requested by the National Library of Greece. And we know which items too, together with their Dewey Decimal categorisation:

The Official Information Act 1982 is a wonderful thing.

A skim over the request list shows that we aren’t talking Windows 95 manuals here. We are talking valuable, and often specialised volumes, weighted towards religious texts and overseas literature. Appropriately enough, given that this is Greece doing the requesting, there is plenty that pertains to their country, its history, and philosophy.

So good on the National Library of Greece for doing its job, in terms of helping preserve human knowledge – these are 6,275 books that could have literally ended up in a landfill in the Philippines if the morons running the National Library of New Zealand had got their way. If our local idiots are the Vandals, then clearly the Greek library is taking on the preservation role of medieval Constantinople. But due to uncertainty, we still do not know if these books are getting delivered to Greece, or whether they have already been sent – we can only see what has been requested.

The other point is that this list only represents one percent of the trashed volumes of the Overseas Published Collection. Goodness only knows what will befall (or has already befallen) much of the remaining ninety-nine percent. One also wonders what the other great national libraries of the world have been doing, so far as rescuing the items that pertain to them.

Reviewing The Nature of Middle-earth, with ReadingTolkienPod

Just before Christmas, I had an interview with ReadingTolkienPod (https://readingtolkienpod.libsyn.com/) about our joint impressions of The Nature of Middle-earth (2021). As of today that interview has now been released:

https://readingtolkienpod.libsyn.com/the-nature-of-middle-earth-with-daniel-stride?tdest_id=2456000

As noted previously, this basically functions as my review of the volume. A bit belated perhaps, but recall that my copy only arrived on 15th December. 🙂

Addendum: It’s now also on YouTube:

MIQ and the New Zealand Constitution

Overseas readers might be curious to learn that Omicron has still not arrived in the New Zealand community, so our supermarket shelves are still functioning. And indeed that the August Delta outbreak is well on its way to dying out within the next month or so. The reasons for this unique state of affairs?

  • We’re an island.
  • Our borders have been closed to non-citizens since March 2020 (albeit exemptions apply).
  • Our system of Managed Isolation/Quarantine (MIQ). The Great Wall against the virus.

I wrote some time ago about conditions in MIQ, which contrary to popular belief are actually vaguely comfortable: https://phuulishfellow.wordpress.com/2020/09/22/the-inside-word-new-zealand-quarantine/

One thing I did not mention, however: the lottery system. Since there are more New Zealand citizens wanting to enter the country than there are places in MIQ, you need to go through a randomised online lottery to qualify. If your number comes up, great. If not, try again next time, though there are provisions for emergencies and so forth.

Those missing out tend to complain, of course. On the other hand, it’s often a matter of timing. When the New Zealand Government stupidly decided in November to phase out MIQ for New Zealand travellers from Australia, there was a massive lull in bookings. Then Omicron hit Australia in December, and those plans were shelved… though 922 (rather savvy) travellers booked themselves into those spare MIQ spaces before the Government announced its change of plan, because they had correctly anticipated that the Government was not going to let Omicron in. Good on them, of course… and the overall message is that one should be extremely careful in planning overseas travel in the current environment.

Anyway, I bring this up because a certain high-class muppet has been getting local media attention with her whingeing about losing out in the lottery:

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/kiwi-fashion-blogger-and-socialite-jaime-ridge-hits-out-at-jacinda-ardern-over-miq/5HH6ZJH23DWQZTWGTUSF7CTRLM/

Jaime Ridge is currently in Los Angeles, apparently. And rather strikes me as one of those people who have never been told ‘No’ in their lives. One might have sympathy for someone trying to visit a dying relative, or for someone returning to New Zealand for a permanent job. But not someone like her. If anything, she’s giving the Kiwi Diaspora a bad name, and her comments about MIQ being ‘unconstitutional’ have gotten a good laugh on social media.

It’s actually the last point that has got me writing today. You see, contrary to the statements of some, New Zealand does actually have a Constitution. It’s just not written down in one place. New Zealand’s Constitution, like the United Kingdom’s, is an evolving and weird jumble of parliamentary statutes, treaties, manuals, and conventions – “what is done,” rather than “what is written”. The word ‘cabinet’ appears nowhere in any Act of Parliament, and yet it is the top rung of New Zealand’s Executive Government. And out of this jumble, one thing remains paramount – Parliament is Supreme. The experiences of seventeenth century England sees to that.

As such, it is genuinely possible for an action of a New Zealand Government to be unconstitutional. One famous example was Fitzgerald v. Muldoon (1976), where the incoming Prime Minister announced that mandated payments to the (previous Government’s) compulsory superannuation scheme could stop. Since the incoming Prime Minister had only announced this change, but not yet passed a law to give it effect, someone took the Government to court over this. And won. It was a temporary victory, of course – the Government got around to passing the required law in short order, but I think you see the point.

The situation with MIQ is a bit different. Here, MIQ has been authorised by an Act of Parliament: https://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2020/0012/latest/LMS344134.html

Game over? Yes, game over. MIQ is, by definition, constitutional. But there is still one fly in the ointment. Namely, the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act (NZBORA), which under s18(2) guarantees the right of citizens to enter the country: https://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1990/0109/latest/DLM225517.html

Is MIQ prima facie breaching NZBORA? Yes, yes it is. But s5 of NZBORA makes provision for this scenario, allowing “justified limitations” on such rights. And, well, a bloody international pandemic is a pretty good justification for limiting the ability of people to enter the country. Every person arriving in New Zealand right now is a potential disease-vector, and we quite like having a functional health-system and non-depleted supermarkets. Moreover, even if MIQ’s existence were not justified, and no creative interpretation of statute could fix it, s4 of NZBORA actually makes provision for that scenario too. Namely, that the offending Act still applies anyway. So MIQ still stands, regardless.

(Regulations governing MIQ are actually slightly different. If they violate s5, they do get thrown out, and would have to be re-worked. But I’m talking about the underlying statute).

In one sense, of course, this does actually beg the question – could breaching NZBORA itself be enough to warrant the charge of unconstitutionality? After all, the whole point of the New Zealand Constitution is that it revolves around “what is normal, conventional behaviour.” The implicit expectation is that NZBORA should not be breached willy-nilly, giving rise to the possibility that MIQ is “lawful, but not constitutional” (how’s that for a paradox?).

But that’s not a sentiment I personally agree with. Since NZBORA explicitly anticipates parliamentary statutes running up against it, and specifies that such statutes stand anyway, I do not consider breaching it to be a matter of unconstitutionality. Unconstitutionality to my mind implies more than the Government taking unconventional measures in a crisis. Unconstitutionality requires something to go topsy-turvy in the machinery of New Zealand governance. And MIQ – love it, or hate it – ain’t that.

Sinda’s Advocate: Defending Eöl

Today, as an interesting exercise, I’m taking the Tolkien Elf I personally consider the most morally reprehensible, and giving him his day in court, so to speak.

That Elf is Eöl of Nan Elmoth – Sinda, smith, friend of Dwarves, and hater of all things Noldorin. Others might prefer to target his son, or the Fëanorians, but for me it is the forest low-life that is most worthy of reader condemnation. And precisely because I find him so reprehensible, I figured I would look at what could be said in his defence, if Eöl were to somehow face external trial for his in-universe crimes.

Yes, welcome to that thrilling court case, R. v. Eöl.

For the sake of convenience, where possible I will be trying to apply the legal system I am personally most familiar with, namely New Zealand’s. The result is a tad artificial, of course, since we are dealing with fictional characters in a fictional universe, and holding them to a standard they themselves would not recognise, but it serves its purpose. I am basically trying to put myself in the shoes of Eöl’s hapless defence lawyer – not condoning or excusing his actions, but merely trying to do the best I can for a particularly loathsome client.

So here goes. The statute law I am mostly drawing from is the Crimes Act 1961: https://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1961/0043/latest/DLM327382.html

Charge I: Coerced Marriage

Crimes Act, s207A(1): Everyone is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years who, with intent to cause another person to enter into a marriage or civil union, uses coercion (for example, intimidation, threats, or violence) against that other person.

Plea: Not Guilty

We have heard much about the unsavoury manner in which the accused took Aredhel to wife. We have also heard much about the unhappy nature of the subsequent marriage. However, in answer to the charge that the accused unlawfully coerced his wife into marriage, it is submitted that the Prosecution is falsely conflating coercion with seduction. One is an act of force, of hostile domination of will. The other, though repugnant to the sensibilities of many, is fundamentally an act of persuasion. Aredhel herself was not wholly unwilling to the arrangement, which implies a choice to ‘go along’ with the accused.

It is further submitted that the Crimes Act helpfully sets the parameters of ‘coercion’ in this context. The wording of the section lists examples, namely ‘intimidation, threats, or violence,’ and as per the principle of eiusdem generis, that in turn defines the wider class of unlawful coercive acts. Specifically, that coercion represents the presentation of negative consequences, calculated to instil fear in the other person. “Marry me, or else.”

The accused did not present negative consequences to Aredhel, in order to persuade her to marry him. He did not threaten or intimidate in pursuit of his goal. No, he wove goeteia – enchantments – in order to lure Aredhel to his abode in Nan Elmoth. Once there, she acquiesced to his advances, and remained there willingly for many years. This situation – however we may view it morally – cannot have been the one envisaged by Parliament in s207A(1), and as such the accused must be acquitted of the charge.

Charge II: Abduction for Purposes of Marriage

Crimes Act, s208: Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years who unlawfully takes away or detains a person (P) without P’s consent or with P’s consent obtained by fraud or duress,—with intent to go through a form of marriage or civil union with P; or…

Plea: Guilty

It is to be regrettably admitted that the accused did take Aredhel away unlawfully, with the intent of going through marriage with her. Fraud, in the form of goeteiac enchantment, was a key part of the accused’s methods, in terms of luring Aredhel to his abode in Nan Elmoth. However, in considering the facts of the case, it is also submitted that mitigating factors must be taken into account.

Chief among these is that fraudulent enchantment was only used to get Aredhel into the accused’s abode. The accused did not otherwise misrepresent himself, or his situation, once she had set foot in his dwelling, and as has been elsewhere noted, Aredhel was not wholly unwilling to play her part in this drama. This was a marriage that lasted many years, and while one might question the accused’s determination to cut his wife off from her kin and from daylight, the notion that the accused was tantamount to a kidnapper is not borne out by the facts. Aredhel was free to go where she pleased, just not to her family, whom the accused had long hated. It was a disagreeable situation, unquestionably, but not detention within the walls of a forest prison.

The other mitigating factor is the accused’s psychological state. The accused has been described as inherently anti-social. And indeed he is, to a degree the experts can only speculate upon. But even the most anti-social person – cut-off from the ways of others – can secretly desire a family, or have desires awoken within them. Aristotle called man a social animal, and one suspects Elves are little different. Before Aredhel and her son, the accused was a single creature of the dark forest woods. Beyond periodic interactions with the Dwarves, with whom he shared a mutual love of crafts and smithing, he had only his household servants for company. Isolated and strange, one can only imagine how the accused’s mind responded to seeing Aredhel for the first time – the White Lady of the Noldor herself, riding through his woods.

Indeed, we can imagine. We know his reaction to seeing her – it was not a reaction years in the making, but that of impulsive desire, as hot as the forge. Alas, he overreached, and here we are, on the wrong side of the law. But in considering sentence, one ought to take such thought processes into account. Desire has been the root of many moral failings.

Charge III: Attempted Kidnapping (two counts)

Crimes Act, s72(1): Every one who, having an intent to commit an offence, does or omits an act for the purpose of accomplishing his or her object, is guilty of an attempt to commit the offence intended, whether in the circumstances it was possible to commit the offence or not.

Crimes Act, s209: Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years who unlawfully takes away or detains a person without his or her consent or with his or her consent obtained by fraud or duress,—with intent to cause him or her to be confined or imprisoned; or

Plea: Not Guilty (Aredhel), Guilty (Maeglin)

The Prosecution has described, in great length, the accused’s epic horse-chase across northern Beleriand, whereby he hunted down his wife and son in terrifying fashion. And indeed, the episode reflects extremely poorly on the character of the accused. But does it constitute attempted kidnapping, in accordance with s72(1) and s209? The Prosecution have suggested that the accused would have dragged both wife and son back to Nan Elmoth, and returned them to confinement within a forest prison.

It is submitted that the charge of attempted kidnapping, with regard to Aredhel, must be dismissed. As noted by the scribes of Gondolin – none of whom have reason to show the slightest bit of favouritism towards him – the accused was willing to let the “let the bird go back to the cage [of Gondolin], where she will soon sicken again.” The pursuit from Nan Elmoth to Gondolin was thus less about Aredhel, and more about the son and heir, Maeglin.

The charge of attempted kidnapping with regard to Maeglin must, alas, be admitted. It has been established that the accused threatened his son with bonds if he associated with his Noldorin mother’s family. In light of subsequent regrettable events at Gondolin, it is also clear that if the accused had overtaken his son on the way to the Hidden Kingdom, Maeglin would have faced confinement in Nan Elmoth against his will. Only Maeglin and his mother arriving at Gondolin in time saved the young Elf from this fate.

In considering the mitigating circumstances for this reprehensible deed, one must again investigate the psychology of the accused. This is an Elf for whom the Noldor – save his wife, presumably – constitute a foreign and invasive evil. Nor is he alone among the Sindarin Elves of Beleriand for expressing this view, though the accused takes things further than most. The accused indeed goes beyond objecting to the Kinslaying, and actually considers the Noldorin realms in Exile to be an outright usurpation of Telerin territory.

In light of this innate hostility towards the Exiles, the accused’s treatment of his son begins to make a twisted sort of sense. Maeglin was his only close blood-relative, his heir – the notion that he might lose him to the hated usurpers was too much to bear. So the accused reacted with extreme protective measures, which ended in tragic circumstances. It does not excuse the attempted kidnapping, of course, but before one judges, it is important to understand.

(Note that it is unclear whether the accused was aware of Maeglin’s theft of the sword, Anguirel).

Charge IV: Rape

Crimes Act, s128(2): Person A rapes person B if person A has sexual connection with person B, effected by the penetration of person B’s genitalia by person A’s penis,— without person B’s consent to the connection; and without believing on reasonable grounds that person B consents to the connection.

Plea: Not Guilty

No-one is in any doubt as to the dubious nature of the accused’s relationship with Aredhel. Least of all the learned J.R.R. Tolkien himself, who in his early writings explicitly condemned Eöl as a wicked rapist. However, in light of subsequent evidence – especially the revelation that Aredhel was not wholly unwilling, and that her life in Nan Elmoth was not hateful to her – it is submitted that the Prosecution cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt that Aredhel was non-consenting to sexual connection with the accused.

One can further cite the example of Laws and Customs of the Eldar, for further evidence against this charge. Namely that Aredhel’s fëa would have abandoned her body, rather than submit. Since Aredhel did not die, but rather stayed to raise the accused’s family until her son desired to leave, one ought to conclude consent – unless the Prosecution is willing to ignore Laws and Customs, or imagines married and unmarried Elves behaving differently in the face of sexual violence?

Charge V: Ill-treatment or neglect of child or vulnerable adult

Crimes Act, s195(1): Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years who, being a person described in subsection (2), intentionally engages in conduct that, or omits to discharge or perform any legal duty the omission of which, is likely to cause suffering, injury, adverse effects to health, or any mental disorder or disability to a child or vulnerable adult (the victim) if the conduct engaged in, or the omission to perform the legal duty, is a major departure from the standard of care to be expected of a reasonable person.

Plea: Not Guilty

Few would consider the accused a particularly stellar parent. Raising his child in the depths of his forest home, one suspects he did Maeglin few favours in his early years. Through cutting the child off from the maternal side of his family, and through likely imparting unhealthy ideas about pursuing romantic attachment, the accused set the scene for Maeglin’s later problems. Quite apart from the later incident with the javelin, of course.

But it is submitted that the accused never crossed the line into criminal ill-treatment, at least while Maeglin was a child. For by the time Maeglin left Nan Elmoth, and went on his ill-fated journey to Gondolin, the young Elf was objectively an adult.

In terms of the treatment of Maeglin as a child, there are two bones of contention, which stand out as major departures from conventional Elven parenting. The first is the accused’s lengthy delay in giving his son his father-name – some twelve years, when it is customarily given soon after birth. The latter concerns the accused’s threat to bind Maeglin if he ever associated with the Noldor.

It is true that the twelve-year delay in naming stands out as curious, but it is unclear whether this caused Maeglin suffering, or resulted in mental disorder or injury. One might speculate as to the psychology of a child who spends the first decade of life without a name of his own (at least not a public name – he did, after all, have his secret mother-name), though doubtless there were in-house work-arounds, used by his parents and household servants for referring to ‘the boy.’ Since Maeglin did not encounter any other Elven children during this time, he would be unlikely to realise the unusual nature of his situation. But all this is raw speculation. It is submitted that, overall, the case for this unconventional parenting being criminal ill-treatment cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

The other matter is the threat of binding. And it is to be conceded that this was an extreme reaction on the part of the accused – to the degree that carrying out the threat would have indeed qualified as ill-treatment (there remains the quibble of Maeglin’s age at the time, but since he remained in the care of his father, it is accepted that we treat him as a child). It is also conceded that the episode brought about a clear worsening of relations between father and son. Maeglin ceased accompanying the accused on his periodic visits to the Dwarves.

However, there is no evidence of binding ever actually being used on Maeglin, and the matter was never again raised outside this unique threat. Meanwhile, it has been established that the accused has a known short-temper, and a profound hatred of the Noldor. Lashing out with threats is perfectly in-character for him. It is therefore submitted that there is insufficient evidence of injury or mental disorder arising from this episode. It created an internal family grudge, certainly, and constitutes another display of poor parenting from the accused, but there is reasonable doubt as to whether it crosses the line into criminality.

Charge VI: Failure to comply with border-restrictions

This does not pertain to the Crimes Act, but rather to the established law of Gondolin, whereby arrivals to the city are forced to remain within the city.

Plea: No Plea Entered. Jurisdiction not recognised.

The accused utterly rejects the jurisdiction of the so-called King Turgon, and his realm of Gondolin, and as such disputes their right to enforce this law. The Noldor have no more right to govern – or imprison – the Teleri than Angband does.

Moreover, the following points are submitted about the injustice of the situation:

Firstly, if the accused is to be tried for attempted kidnapping, what to make of Turgon confining both father and son? On arrival, Maeglin was less free to leave Gondolin than he was Nan Elmoth.

Secondly, Aredhel was permitted to leave Gondolin previously. Would she be free to leave again, if, say, she desired to meet the Sons of Fëanor? If the wife is permitted to leave the city, why not the husband or the son? There is clear inconsistency in the application of this so-called law.

Thirdly, as seen by later events, the law was inadequate to protect Gondolin.

Fourthly, the accused had a house and servants, and existing business relationships with the Dwarves. To deprive him of this was blatantly unjust.

Charge VII: Possession of an offensive weapon

Crimes Act, s202A:

(1) In subsection (4)(a) offensive weapon means any article made or altered for use for causing bodily injury, or intended by the person having it with him or her for such use.

(2) In subsection (4)(b) offensive weapon means any article capable of being used for causing bodily injury.

(4) Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years—

(a) who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, has with him or her in any public place any knife or offensive weapon or disabling substance; or

(b) who has in his or her possession in any place any offensive weapon or disabling substance in circumstances that prima facie show an intention to use it to commit an offence involving bodily injury or the threat or fear of violence.

(5) It is a defence to a charge under subsection (4)(b) if the person charged proves that he or she did not intend to use the offensive weapon or disabling substance to commit an offence involving bodily injury or the threat or fear of violence.

Plea: Not Guilty

It is accepted that the accused entered Gondolin, in possession of a poisoned javelin, and that aforementioned javelin was an offensive weapon in accordance with s202A.

However, it is submitted that with regard to s202A(4)(a), the javelin was not confiscated by the guards of Gondolin, prior to the audience with Turgon. As such, the accused claims lawful authority for possessing the weapon, even under the so-called laws of Gondolin – had the King wished to deprive him of the weapon, the city’s notoriously thorough guards would have done so. The Prosecution cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt that these guards merely overlooked the javelin.

With regard to s202A(4)(b), it is accepted that there appears to have been, prima facie, an intention to cause injury. In the event, the accused did actually cause injury with the weapon.

However, it is submitted that, in accordance with s202A(5), the intent of carrying the weapon was as a personal means of self-defence. The dark and mysterious forests of Beleriand are full of peril, while the journey from Nan Elmoth to Gondolin is not without its hazards. Indeed it has been established that the accused was temporarily held by a hostile and ill-tempered Son of Fëanor. Offensive weapons were (and are) necessary in the circumstances.

The intent in pursuing Maeglin was not to kill or injure him, of course, but to return him to his rightful home in Nan Elmoth. Yes, the accused would eventually attack his son with the javelin, but that was only in response to the accused suddenly learning of his family’s permanent imprisonment within the walls of Gondolin. The accused had likely never foreseen a situation where neither he nor Maeglin could ever return home – and certainly not when he initially took the javelin into his possession, back in the forest.

Charge VIII: Attempted murder

Crimes Act, s72(1): Every one who, having an intent to commit an offence, does or omits an act for the purpose of accomplishing his or her object, is guilty of an attempt to commit the offence intended, whether in the circumstances it was possible to commit the offence or not.

Crimes Act, s167(1)(a): Culpable homicide is murder in each of the following cases: if the offender means to cause the death of the person killed…

Plea: Guilty

It is with deep regret that the accused must admit culpability in the attempted murder of his son, Maeglin. Attempted murder is itself a severe crime, but to attempt to kill your child, your own flesh and blood, makes the circumstances so much worse. Only through the tragic intervention of Aredhel was the murder of Maeglin prevented, but that is a tale for another charge.

It is, however, submitted that there is a mitigating factor in this crime. Once again, we must turn to the psychology of the accused.

It has been repeatedly noted that the accused harbours a deep-seated, nigh on pathological, hatred for the Noldor – those Great Usurpers of Beleriand, those murders of the Teleri beyond the Sea. An extreme viewpoint, certainly, but not a completely unfounded one for a Sindarin Elf.

Now recall that Maeglin was his son, heir to Nan Elmoth, and follower in his father’s footsteps. The father raised the son as a Sinda, a skilled smith, and even as a friendly acquaintance of the Dwarves. And yet, burrowing in the back of the accused’s mind, was the knowledge that Maeglin was also half Noldorin. Of course he was – Maeglin was Aredhel’s child too. So the accused dreaded for many years that his son would associate himself with his mother’s family, and took all precautions against it. Alas, those precautions were not enough, and the family eventually found themselves within the walls of the great Noldorin city of Gondolin.

Gondolin is no ordinary city, of course. It carries with it a terrible doom for all who would look upon its fair walls – that of being a permanent prisoner. For a Man that would be bad enough, but for an Elf, whose lifespan is as long as the life of Arda? One can only imagine what was going through the head of the accused. He faced an indefinite future, being forced to live among the people he most despised. And worst of all, his son – who had defied him by coming here at all – would become one of them.

This was too much for the accused. Hot-tempered as he is, he saw only one way out. He would die. And so too would his son. With no time for cold calculation, he threw his poisoned javelin at Maeglin. And the rest, alas, is history.

None of this excuses the behaviour of the accused, of course. It was not insanity that drove him to the fatal act – he suffers no disease of the mind, and understands right from wrong well-enough – but rather a sense of proud and poisonous despair. It is an emotion to be pitied as much as it is condemned. So while we cannot find an excuse for the accused, we can at least find a psychological understanding for his crime – an understanding that argues, once again, for clemency. The accused is a hot-tempered fool, who acts in the moment, not a cold and calculating schemer like the one he tried and failed to kill.

Charge IX: Manslaughter

Crimes Act, s171: Except as provided in section 178, culpable homicide not amounting to murder is manslaughter.

[But see Addendum below]

Plea: Guilty

And now, with yet further sorrow, we turn to the tragic fate of Aredhel. Throwing herself in the path of the accused’s poisoned javelin, she was pierced by the weapon, and soon died from her wounds. The accused did not intend to kill her, of course – which is why this is not a murder charge – but it is a clear case of culpable homicide. An illegal act caused an unintended, but hardly unforeseeable, death. As such, the accused pleads guilty to the crime of manslaughter.

Insofar as there are mitigating circumstances to this, they have been largely dealt with in considering the attempt on Maeglin’s life. After all, that attack is precisely what caused Aredhel’s death.

The javelin-throw was a rash act, committed in the heat of the moment, and though the accused’s anger at his wife is clear – hence his reference to Gondolin as a bird cage – it must also be remembered that they spent many long years together. The accused’s despair at his perceived Noldorin entrapment indeed reaped bitter fruit, and regardless of his legal fate, the consequences of the loss of his family will affect him at the personal level for a long time to come.

Addendum: A closer inspection of the Crimes Act, s167(c), would upgrade this charge from Manslaughter to outright Murder:

Culpable homicide is murder in each of the following cases:

(c) if the offender means to cause death, or, being so reckless as aforesaid, means to cause such bodily injury as aforesaid to one person, and by accident or mistake kills another person, though he or she does not mean to hurt the person killed:

Eöl meant to kill Maeglin, and accidentally killed Aredhel. This is non-contentious murder under the Crimes Act. My error.

**

And thus ends my extensive – and thoroughly icky – defence of Eöl. I must reiterate that this was really just a legalistic thought experiment, not a serious attempt to morally rehabilitate a character guilty of some pretty toxic and abusive behaviour. But I found it an interesting exercise, if nothing else. In fact, I am actually toying with the idea of doing something similar for other characters in future.

A Two Towers Jigsaw Diversion

It may interest you to know that the only piece of Peter Jackson movie-related paraphernalia I actually own is a jigsaw puzzle. Specifically, a thousand-piece Two Towers-themed one. I received it as a Birthday/Christmas present around 2003 or so, and for old time’s sake I decided to dust it off, and work on it with some puzzle-loving acquaintances. It had been a good decade or more since I last did it, and I can happily report that there are no missing pieces, even after all these years.

It’s not an overly tough challenge, of course, but it is primarily notable for essentially being several puzzles in one. Locations from Jackson’s Rings adaptation are featured in miniature – ‘The Battle of Helm’s Deep,’ the Argonath, Fangorn, Minas Tirith, Edoras, Isengard, Rivendell, ‘the Black Gates of Mordor,’ and ‘Edoras Castle’, plus images of the One Ring and the Eye of Sauron. And the title, in gold letters.

(Yes, the errors are vaguely infuriating. The image of the ‘Black Gates of Mordor’ is not the Morannon, but rather the gates of Minas Morgul. Meduseld should not be called a castle, seeing as it is just a mead hall. The book-reading pedant in me would prefer it if it were just ‘Helm’s Deep’, or ‘the Battle of the Hornburg’. I’m also not sure why a Two Towers-themed jigsaw would feature the Argonath, Rivendell, and Minas Tirith. But oh well).

Anyway, after a couple of evenings’ work, the puzzle is now complete. Here’s the appropriate image:

Some of the images are easier to complete than others, of course.

Isengard and ‘the Black Gates of Mordor’/Minas Morgul are probably the easiest, being relatively small and mostly distinctive. The latter has a black portion to the left, but you can just work around that. The One Ring is bigger, but it too is not too bad, since the gold and white pieces are pretty easy to spot in the piece pile, and it is handily convenient to the border of the puzzle. Most of the Argonath is pretty easy too – especially the statues – but it has the dark cliff on the left to complicate things.

Edoras and ‘Edoras Castle’/Meduseld are a bit nastier. The former because of its central location, and more importantly because of the copious clear blue sky. Sure, the sky cannot be confused with the sky in the other images, but that’s a lot of very plain blue to figure out. The latter has some deceptively confusing architecture, and the bright sky is not massively distinctive on first glance from the Argonath. Sorting through those differing sky pieces can be a headache.

The nastiest two images are probably Rivendell and Fangorn. The former is big, has lots of unhelpful black around the sides, and the easiest entry point, the sky over the waterfall, also needs to be differentiated from the Argonath’s sky. Fangorn is surprisingly evil for such a small image – the problem being that there is copious darkness, and the stuff that isn’t dark is easy to confuse with parts of Helm’s Deep, or even the mountains in the Edoras picture.

(Oh, and then there’s Minas Tirith. Which shares a green border with Helm’s Deep, and is also predominantly dark. A big part of this overall puzzle is figuring out which black pieces belong in which image).

As an aside, the border itself – otherwise a collection of runic images – becomes a good deal easier once you realise the differences between the four sides. One side has tengwar lettering touching the runic border, one side has tengwar not touching the runic border, one side has bureaucratic wording, and the other has neither tengwar nor bureaucracy.