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Old 06-14-2003, 09:38 PM   #1
Diamond of Long Cleeve
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The Silmarillion Ch 9: Of the Flight of the Noldor

CHAPTER 9 - OF THE FLIGHT OF THE NOLDOR

This is a crucial chapter in Tolkien's histories - the end of the years of bliss in Valinor and the beginning of the numbered ages of the world. It contains the account of the Oath of Fanor, which is the cause of so much of the grief of the Elves. It also contains the account of the Kinslaying of Alqualond and the Doom of Mandos.

Outline of this post:

Post 1. Plot Summary
Post 2. HoME references
post 3. Discussion topics and themes


1. Plot Summary

The Valar meet after the light of the Trees had been drained. Yavanna declares that she cannot repeat her act of creation of their light but she could recall the light if she had a little of all that now remains - held in the Silmarils of Fanor. By unlocking the light of the Silmarils she could rekindle the light of the Trees, but the jewels would be broken.

Fanor echoes Yavanna's lament that for each person there is one work (deed) that they can accomplish but once only. If he were to break the jewels he would break his heart. In bitterness he refuses to relinquish the jewels of his free will, refusing the request of the Valar. He declares that if the Valar force him, he will know them as akin to Melkor.

Word then comes to Fanor that Melkor has slain his beloved father Finw and stolen the silmarils. Fanor curses Melkor, naming him Morgoth, and curses the summons of Manwe which had drawn him away from Formenos.

Morgoth escapes to Angband, a figure of hatred and terror. Ungoliant is driven out by balrogs at Morgoth's bidding, he having refused her the Silmarils.

Fanor defies his banishment and calls the Noldor to him, making a great speech inspiring them to join him in leaving Valinor for Middle-earth. Although he speaks against Morgoth, Fanor also echoes Morgoth's lies, sowing the seeds of jealously of Men and of distrust of the Valar.

Then Fanor swears his terrible oath, immediately repeated by his seven sons. They swear to pursue with vengeance and hatred any creature, including the Valar, who should hold or take or keep a Silmaril from their possession. They swear by the name of Iluvatar, calling Manwe and Varda as witnesses.

Although there was dissension and both Fingolfin and Fanarfin were reluctant to depart, Fanor inspired nine/tenths of the Noldor to go, though the greater part of the host followed under Fingolfin and did not take Fanor as their king. They followed despite the warning of a messenger of Manwe who confirmed their freedom to depart but counselled them to stay. Fanor is exiled, but replies to the warning of future sorrow that it was in Aman that they first learned of sorrow. Even if he cannot overthrow Morgoth, Fanor declares, he will not delay in assailing him.

Fanor tries to persuade the Teleri to join him but although they hold to their friendship with the Noldor they will not join nor give up their ships. Fanor takes the ships by force and many are killed, especially the mariners of the Teleri who were lightly armed. The Noldor prevail with the aid of the hosts of Fingolfin, although the latter coming late to the battle were less sure of its cause. The Kinslaying of Alqualond marks the first great evil in the fall of the Noldor.

Mandos appears to pronounce the Doom - a chilling curse and prophecy of the grief of the elves placed on those who will not turn back: "Tears unnumbered ye shall shed ..."

The Doom of the Valar foretells that their oath shall betray them, that evil will result from all their endeavours through treason and the fear of treason. The spilling of blood of their own kindred will result in further bloodshed and although the elves are immortal and suffer no sickness, they can and will be slain and come to Mandos as houseless spirits. Those that are not slain shall "grow weary of the world as with a great burden, and shall wane, and become as shadows of regret before the younger race that cometh after."

Of the Nolodorin lords only Finarfin, with some of his people, turn back and receive the pardon of the Valar. His sons go forward to the icy North with Fanor and the Noldori in exile. Here Fanor commits another great evil in abandoning his brother Fingolfin and much of the host. He takes his own people by ship to Middle-earth, burning the ships after the crossing. Fingolfin and his people endure great hardship and loss in crossing over the Grinding Ice to the North and come at last to Middle-earth.


There are maps of Aman and Arda before the First Age at The Encyclopedia of Arda site
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Old 06-14-2003, 09:40 PM   #2
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2. References in the History of Middle-earth

[I do not have all of the HoME series (and have not read all of those that I own), so please add if I have missed any. I have a reference elsewhere to volume 1. 237-41 as the Travail of the Noldoli. Perhaps someone who has Volume 1 can add something? I dont have volume 12 either]

Volume 3 - The Lays of Beleriand
Page 131-135 The Flight of the Noldoli

The Flight of the Noldoli is a poem in alliterative verse that Christopher Tolkien dates as probably having been written in 1925. It begins with the quenching of the Trees of Light and is abandoned after the Oath of Fanor and the vow to pursue Morgoth to "vengeance and victory". The Fanorian Oath is given in direct speech.

Volume 4 - The Shaping of Middle-earth

Page 17-18 of 'The Earliest Silmarillion'

Probably written in 1926. The essentials of the chapter are present - Fanor speaks with wrath of Morgoth but his words are in part the fruit of Morgoth's lies; persuading the people (here 'gnomes') to seek freedom outside as Valinor is no longer blissful. The gnomes seize the swan-ships of the Teleri of whom many are slain. The Curse of Swanhaven is a little more simple - in punishment for this act they will suffer from treachery and the fear of treachery. The first fulfilment of the curse is Fanor and his sons abandon Fingolfin and burn the Telerian ships. In this version Fingolfin returns to Valinor and Finw (Finweg) leads the main host over the Grinding Ice.

[Fortunately for SGH and many female Entmooters, there is no development of the Professor's margin note: "Finrod is slain at Swanhaven in trying to stay the violence"].


Page 94 -96 of 'The Quenta'

Probably written in 1930. A short account, but in essentials similar to the poem.

Volume 5 - The Lost Road

Pages 113 -119 of The Later Annals of Valinor
Pages 232-238 of Quenta Silmarillion
This is the manuscript of The Silmarillion rejected by Stanley Unwin in 1937, predating Lord of the Rings

Volume 10 - Morgoth's Ring

Pages 106-120 of The Annals of Aman

Written after the completion of LotR. Possibly 1958, suggests Christopher T. This is a very expanded version compared to the earlier ones, containing for the first time Yavanna's statement that the Silmarils could be used save the Trees and Fanor's pained refusal of the request of the Valar. I think this is also the first reference to the second host being uncertain of the cause of the battle at the Kinslaying.

The Prophecy from the North contains the "measure of mortality" referred to in the Annals of Valinor (HoME 5) given to the elves in that many will be slain and "yearn for your bodies" in Mandos while those that are not slain shall grow weary of the world.

Pages 292 - 295

An further account of the request of Yavanna and the "thieves quarrel" between Melkor and Ungoliant.

I am sure there are many other references, including significant revisions,
in the HoME series. Please post them.
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Old 06-14-2003, 09:43 PM   #3
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2. Themes and Discussion Topics

Fanor's Refusal

Fanor has the opportunity to do good by the sacrifice of his greatest work of art. It might be called Niggle's Choice, for those of you who have read Tolkien's Leaf by Niggle.
[Niggle is constantly interrupted in his painting by agreeing to help his
neighbour, which ultimately leads to his redemption/reward]

Clearly Fanor makes the wrong choice: "had he said yea at the first, before the tidings came from Formenos, it may be that his after deeds would have been other than they were. But now the Doom of the Noldor drew near". [page 79]

1. Are there any mitigating factors? Would anyone care to be Defence Attorney for Fanor? I know there is a recent thread on that theme.


Fanor cries bitterly at the Valar's request saying "if I must break them, I shall break my heart, and I shall be slain: first of all the Eldar in Aman. 'Not the first', said Mandos, but they did not understand his word"

Well, I did not understand it either for a long time, but it appears that Mandos knew that Finw has been killed. He must also know that the Silmarils have been taken and the Fanor's "choice" is now hypothetical, is now a "test".

2. Is Mandos silence quite fair?

3. What is Professor Tolkien saying about the nature of Free Will? Why is Fanors choice so important to his future despite it being irrelevant, as it turns out, because the Silmarils are no longer in his possession?

The Fall

Chapter 9 and notably the Curse of Mandos recalls the Biblical account of the Fall of Man, banishment from paradise and God's curse on Adam and Eve. The biblical story is in Genesis Chapter 3 . The Kinslaying recalls also the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis Chapter 4.

Tolkien described his Middle-earth writing in this way:

All this stuff is mainly concerned with Fall, Mortality and the Machine .... The main body of the tale, the Silmarillion proper, is about the fall of the most gifted kindred of the Elves, their exile from Valinor (a kind of paradise, the home of the Gods) in the furthest West, their entry into Middle-earth, the land of their birth but long under the rule of the Enemy, and their strife with him, the power of evil still visibly incarnate" at p. 147-8 The Letters of JRR Tolkien, Ed. Humphrey Carter; Houghton Mifflin 1981

This is from Tolkien's long letter to Milton Walman (number 131 in Letters and probably written in 1931) which is a general explanation of the relationship of The Silmarillion to the Lord of the Rings, in the hope of convincing the publisher to publish them both.

1. Is Fanor's sin, like Adam and Eve, the sin of pride?
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Old 06-14-2003, 09:46 PM   #4
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The Fanorian Oath and the Nature of Oaths

We know that the Oath of Fanor leads to centuries of misery. But it is clear to the Valar and the wiser Noldorian lords, that it was "wrong" from the very start. Fanor is exiled because of the oath.

"They swore an oath that none shall break and none should take, by the name even of Iluvatar, calling the Everlasting Dark upon them if they kept it not... For so sworn, good or evil, an oath may not be broken, and it shall pursue oathkeeper and oathbreaker to the world's end..."

1. Why was it wrong from the start?

Is it because oaths bind the oathtaker to certain action regardless of the future circumstances (eg the sons of Fanor cannot accept any claim by Beren and Luthien, by whose valour the first the Silmaril was recovered)?. Elrond will not bind the Fellowship with an oath because "you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road" or similarly "let him not vow to walk in the dark who has not seen the nightfall".

Or is it the blasphemous nature of this particular oath in including the Valar in its potential vengeance and sworn by the name of Iluvatar? This latter seems to prevent the oathtakers from ever being released. Maedros later says "But how shall our voices reach to Iluvatar beyond the Circles of the World? And by Iluvatar we swore in our madness, and called the
Everlasting Darkness upon us, if we kept not our word. Who shall release
us?"[page 253]

Or was it that the oath was unfulfillable because elves did not have the power to defeat Morgoth. Fanor sees this just before his death [page 107].

2. Are all oaths evil? (vows of marriage, oaths of allegiance??)

It seems all sworn promises are dangerous. The oathbreakers from the Paths of the Dead cannot rest until their oath is fulfilled and even Pippin's oath of allegiance to Denethor is thought by Gandalf to be inconsistent with "cold counsel". But they are not evil - Pippin's oath, for example, was a "generous deed".

(By the way, I've often wondered, what is the difference between Frodo
allowing Gollum to swear BY the Ring but not ON it?)

Or is the real danger of an oath simply that it denies the future exercise of Free Will?


The Doom of Mandos

The Prophecy of the North is also referred to as The Doom of Mandos, the Curse of Mandos, the Doom of the Noldor etc.

The prophecy of the North is described as "the curse and prophecy" so it is both a punishment and a foretelling (compare this, for example, with Saruman to Frodo in the Scouring of the Shire "Do not expect me to wish you health and long life. You will have neither. But that is not my doing. I merely foretell").

There are several aspects to the doom -estrangement from the Valar; everything turning to evil through treason and the fear of treason; that many will be slain and yearn for their bodies; those that are not slain shall grow weary of the world and become 'as shadows of regret'.

Tolkien's elves are immortal. Yet in an earlier version of the Prophecy, Tolkien calls the ability to be slain "a measure of mortality". Those who are not slain are cursed to live and regret the passing of things that pass. Even the return to the Undying Lands is a sorrow to the elves. Consider, for example, Haldir's comment on the Undying Lands "But if there are mallorn
trees beyond the great sea, none have reported it".

1. Are some parts of the Doom a punishment and some a foretelling? Or is it the same thing to Mandos who knows the future?

2. To what extent is everything that befalls the elves the result of estrangement from the Valar and/or treason?

3. Are the elves damned for all time? Is there no redemption, no hope?

4. Is all this why mortality is the Gift of Men?


Other discussion points

1.The nature of creativity - art and craft, the notion that great works once destroyed cannot be made anew. Is this also part of the sorrow of the elves in outliving their creations?

2.Even Morgoth seems to fall under the spell of the Silmarils?

3.Galadriel's desire to see Middle-earth "and rule there a realm at her own will". How does she develop from this to passing 'the test' of the One Ring and her reconciliation with the Valar?


This is the end of opening posts. Over to you...
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Old 06-14-2003, 10:10 PM   #5
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OMgoodness DLC, a very very well done introduction. I hope to have more time to read it thoroughly tomorrow and comment. Good job.
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Old 06-15-2003, 08:00 AM   #6
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What an excellent introduction. Good work, DLC !
There is so much going on in this chapter.
Though I'm not a religious person, I am familiar with the Adam and Eve tale.
Quote:
"Chapter 9 and notably the Curse of Mandos recalls the Biblical account of the Fall of Man, banishment from paradise and God's curse on Adam and Eve. The biblical story is in Genesis Chapter 3 . The Kinslaying recalls also the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis Chapter 4."
I never appreciated the similarity before. The biblical story always seemed like the ultimate punishment , but in the case of the Noldor, I see the banishment more along the lines of a 'closed door'. They had made their choice and I never got the sense that
they were now relegated to a secondary existence. This is remeniscent of a previous discussion that debated whether the elves should have been brought to Valinor. Despite the fact that their stay in Aman led to the oath and doom, pehaps they were now better able to deal with the evils that awaited in Middle-earth. Right or wrong, they now had a 'beef' with Melkor and were prepared to fight.
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Old 06-15-2003, 05:07 PM   #7
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Quote:
[I do not have all of the HoME series (and have not read all of those that I own), so please add if I have missed any. I have a reference elsewhere to volume 1. 237-41 as the Travail of the Noldoli. Perhaps someone who has Volume 1 can add something? I dont have volume 12 either]
You might want to add from Book of Lost Tales I: The Theft of Melko: Where Bruithwir who was the father of Fanor at that part in the legendarium, was slained.
Also there is from Morgoth's Ring: Later Quentas and from People of Middle earth: Shibboleth of Fanor.
Quote:
Clearly Fanor makes the wrong choice: "had he said yea at the first, before the tidings came from Formenos, it may be that his after deeds would have been other than they were. But now the Doom of the Noldor drew near".
Well, he had the deed of their making, and it was his right. It had terrible consequences and it was just a sign of his arrogance and pride, but of all the Elves, he was the genius amongs them.
Quote:
1. Is Fanor's sin, like Adam and Eve, the sin of pride?
The fault of Fanor and the oldor was of course pride. They were so full of pride amongst most of the princes.
Quote:
We know that the Oath of Fanor leads to centuries of misery. But it is clear to the Valar and the wiser Noldorian lords, that it was "wrong" from the very start. Fanor is exiled because of the oath.
I do not agree with this. There were certainly bad situations of the oldor, the Crossing of Fingolfins host through the Helcarax (1497 Age of Trees) , and the Capture of Maedhros (1497 Age of Trees), but the Dagor Bragollach (The Battle of Sudden Flame) was in 455 FA and the Nirnaeth Arnoediad (472 FA), these are in my opinion, the beginning of the downfall of the oldor in Beleriand, and in 587 FA, that Morgoth was finally defeated. The oldor were successful in preventing Morgoth from spreading his power up to 472 FA. The time between the defeated of the Nirnaeth and the defeat of Morgoth 587 FA is 115 years (Sun and the Moon), which hardly are centuries of misery for the oldor.
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Old 06-15-2003, 05:44 PM   #8
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DoLC, what a brilliant work. It takes a while to digest this. I have some comments, but I don't quite know where to start. Let's try from the beginning.

2. Is Mandos silence quite fair?

3. What is Professor Tolkien saying about the nature of Free Will? Why is Fanors choice so important to his future despite it being irrelevant, as it turns out, because the Silmarils are no longer in his possession?

I don't see the silence of Mandos as a 'test', but more as an opportunity given to Fanor to make an offer. He is given a chance to turn away from the lies of Melkor and have trust in the Valar. Unfortunately he made the wrong choice.

1. Is Fanor's sin, like Adam and Eve, the sin of pride?

I'm not sure if it was Fanor's pride that led to his fall. Fat Middle a while ago explained his thoughts about how Fanor was able to make the Silmarils. It's in the thread for chapter 7, the first 2 pages. (I tried to make a link to them but failed ) This reminded me of a passage in Letters, letter #131 (my emphasis):
Quote:
The chief power (of all the rings alike) was the prevention or slowing of decay (i.e. 'change' viewed as a regrettable thing), the preservation of what is desired or loved, or its semblance this is more or less an Elvish motive. But also they enhanced the natural powers of a possessor thus approaching 'magic', a motive easily corruptible into evil, a lust for domination.
Did Melkor aid Fanor in the making of the Silmarils? Is this the real danger, to go beyond your natural limits? Did Fanor, tempted by the knowledge Melkor could offer, go beyond his?

Isn't this also a parallell to the fall of Man in the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve by their disobedience gained knowledge beyond their limits?
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Old 06-15-2003, 06:19 PM   #9
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[quote]Originally posted by Diamond of Long Cleeve
But it is clear to the Valar and the wiser Noldorian lords, that it was "wrong" from the very start. Fanor is exiled because of the oath.I think Fanor was exiled because the oath he made would mean war, and the Valar would not suffer that in the Blessed Realm.

2. Are all oaths evil? (vows of marriage, oaths of allegiance??)
Quote:
It seems all sworn promises are dangerous.
Dangerous, yes. Evil, no.
Quote:
(By the way, I've often wondered, what is the difference between Frodo
allowing Gollum to swear BY the Ring but not ON it?)
(To swear ON the Ring would mean touching it, I think. That's what Gollum wanted, but Frodo would never have allowed it)

Or is the real danger of an oath simply that it denies the future exercise of Free Will?

Don't think so. Free Will is always there. Breaking an oath is possible (The Paths of the Dead).
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Old 06-16-2003, 02:28 PM   #10
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Diamond of Long Cleeve, an excellent Summary. I shall review it later and see if I can add to the discussion.
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Old 06-18-2003, 07:23 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by Artanis


Did Melkor aid Fanor in the making of the Silmarils? Is this the real danger, to go beyond your natural limits? Did Fanor, tempted by the knowledge Melkor could offer, go beyond his?

Isn't this also a parallell to the fall of Man in the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve by their disobedience gained knowledge beyond their limits? [/b]
Very well put, Artanis, about knowledge beyond one's limits. Perhaps Feanor had craft beyond his wisdom. He had the skill and inspiration to make the silmarils but was not as well able to use them to the best purpose.

Perhaps the elves we meet in Lord of the Rings are older, sadder and wiser for the suffering they have endured since this estrangement from the Valar. As Meadhros says, Feanor was a genius and never later rivalled in craft, but I wonder whether those that came after had 'a little wisdom for the pain'?
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Old 06-18-2003, 06:30 PM   #12
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Is all this why mortality is the Gift of Men?

Isn't the real gift of Men their ability to go beyond the music of the Ainur, and decide their own fate. This they can do because their far are not bound to the earth, but have descended into it, as guests in the physical body. Mortality becomes a gift, because when the body dies, the fa is released. But for the Elves the ability to be slain, this "measure of mortality", is a danger, for their fa and rha will be longing for each other when they are separated. Elves have reason to fear 'death', but Men have not.
Quote:
Perhaps the elves we meet in Lord of the Rings are older, sadder and wiser for the suffering they have endured since this estrangement from the Valar. As Meadhros says, Feanor was a genius and never later rivalled in craft, but I wonder whether those that came after had 'a little wisdom for the pain'?
I think you're right there. But still there were some who failed. The Eregion Elves had been better off if they had not given in to the temptation of gaining knowledge from Sauron, and had not made the Rings of power.

Edit: Maedhros, your inbox is full. Can you clear it, por favor.
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Old 07-01-2003, 07:00 PM   #13
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Good start, DLC!

I'll just start with a quick answer, and I see Artanis has already said it - I think Frodo didn't want Gollum to touch the Ring.

More later, after I think a bit...
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Old 11-06-2003, 07:11 PM   #14
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2. Is Mandos silence quite fair?
Yes. This is a seminal test of Feanor's character. If Feanor agrees to surrender the Silmarils, knowing that the agreement is unenforceable, that invalidates the sacrifice. Feanor is being asked to sacrifice something dear to him for the greater good. His refusal to do so illustrates his valuation of his art over the well being of the entire community. "Niggle's Choice" is an excellent characterization.

3. What is Professor Tolkien saying about the nature of Free Will? Why is Fanors choice so important to his future despite it being irrelevant, as it turns out, because the Silmarils are no longer in his possession?
His choice, and his surrender to the lies of Morgoth, then drives the Oath. He percieves the Valar as being well represented by Morgoth, and repudiates the choice and counsel of his father in coming to Aman. Had he shown himself to be capable of sublimating his desires to the well being of the community, it is unlikely that the Oath would have been sworn at all, or if it had been sworn then it would have been in a substantially different form. The Kinslaying and the Doom would probably not have occurred. It is even plausible that the Noldor could have been aided by the Valar in assailing Morgoth.
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Old 01-29-2004, 04:23 PM   #15
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version of the oath from the Lay of Leithian

"Be he friend or foe, or seed defiled
of Morgoth Bauglir, or mortal child
that in after days on earth shall dwell,
no law, nor love, nor league of hell
not might of Gods, not moveless fate,
shall defend from wrath and hate
of Feanor's sons, who takes or steals
or finding keeps the Silmarils,
the thrice enchanted globes of light
that shine until the final light."
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