In the past few blog posts, I have discussed the first two parts of The Silmarillion, the Ainulindalë and the Valaquenta. Those sections told of the creation of the world of Arda and of the Valar, powerful beings who brought the Vision of Ilúvatar to pass before the coming of the Children of Ilúvatar, Men and Elves. The first five chapters of the next section, Quenta Silmarillion (the history of the Silmarils) involve many of these Valar.
1. Of the Beginning of Days
The first chapter gives a more detailed description of the strife between the Valar and Melkor, who continuously destroys and corrupts the good things created by the Valar. They are forced to depart from Middle-earth and enter Aman, a landmass to the west. Here they raised a wall of protecting mountains, the Pelóri, around their realm, which is called Valinor. This name you will want to remember. In Valinor, Yavanna sang a song that created what are known as the Two Trees of Valinor, Telperion and Laurelin. These trees are also rather important in later chapters.
While in Valinor, the Valar rarely visited Middle-earth, instead giving “to the land beyond the Pelóri their care and their love.” Yet in the darkness of Middle-earth, Melkor lurked and “still often walked abroad, in many shapes of power and fear, and he wielded cold and fire, from the tops of the mountains to the deep furnaces that are beneath them; and whatsoever was cruel or violent or deadly in those days is laid to his charge.”
Not all of the Valar abandoned Middle-earth, however. Because Yavanna loved every growing thing, she “mourned for the works that she had begun in Middle-earth but Melkor had marred.” She often left Valinor to “heal the hurts of Melkor; and returning she would ever urge the Valar to that war with his evil dominion that they must surely wage ere the coming of the Firstborn.” (“The Firstborn” refers to the first of the Children of Ilúvatar, the Elves.) Oromë, the Huntsman of the Valar, also roamed Middle-earth, “pursuing to the death the monsters and fell creatures of the kingdom of Melkor…and in the twilight of the world Oromë would sound the Valaróma his great horn upon the plains of Arda…and Melkor himself quailed in Utumno, foreboding the wrath to come. But even as Oromë passed the servants of Melkor would gather again; and the lands were filled with shadows and deceit.”
The end of this chapter gives an insight into how the Valar viewed the Children of Ilúvatar. Because they did not fully understand the “theme by which the Children entered into the Music,” none of the Ainur had “dared to add anything to their fashion.” Put simply, the Ainur had nothing to do with the creation of Men and Elves and as such are not deities or masters over them, but rather kindreds. Ilúvatar also gave Men the gift of mortality: “Death is their fate…which as Time wears even the Powers shall envy. But Melkor has cast his shadow upon it, and confounded it with darkness, and brought forth evil out of good, and fear out of hope.”
2. Of Aulë and Yavanna
Aulë the smith, becoming impatient, formed the Dwarves, “for so greatly did Aulë desire the coming of the Children, to have learners to whom he could teach his lore and his crafts, that he was unwilling to await the fulfilment of the designs of Ilúvatar.” Yet Aulë could not give them cognizance, and when Ilúvatar rebuked him, he wept and offered apology, even saying that he would destroy the work of his own hands to make amends for his folly. Ilúvatar had compassion, though, giving the Dwarves consciousness. Yet though he accepted them, he caused them to sleep for a time so that they should not “come before the Firstborn of [his] design.”
Aulë, after creating the dwarves, told his wife Yavanna what he had done and what Ilúvatar decreed. Yavanna observed that because he kept the secret of the dwarves from her, they would often be at odds with the creation she loved most, the trees. Fearing for the work of her hands, she petitioned Manwë for an added protection for the trees. He heard from Ilúvatar that the Shepherds of the Trees would be made (you may know them as the Ents), and Yavanna rejoiced in that, telling Aulë, “‘Eru is bountiful…Now let thy children beware! For there shall walk a power in the forests whose wrath they will arouse at their peril.'” The response: “‘Nonetheless they will have need of wood,’ said Aulë, and he went on with his smith-work.” The husband and wife represent alike yet dissimilar parts of nature—alike in that Aulë governs the earth and Yavanna governs the trees that grow upon the earth, but dissimilar in that Aulë’s children, the dwarves, will not respect Yavanna’s creation.
3. Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor
In the ages that followed, Varda created stars and constellations to welcome the Elves. Oromë first beheld the Firstborn as they sang a song under the starlit skies of Middle-earth. (At this point, the world was under a perpetual twilight, the sun and moon having not yet been created.) He called them the Eldar, the people of the stars. Yet with the coming of the Firstborn, Melkor dared to taint the good work of Ilúvatar by forming the Orcs “in envy and mockery of the Elves.” This was known as “the vilest deed of Melkor, and the most hateful to Ilúvatar.”
At length, Oromë brought word to the Valar of the awakening of the Elves, and they determined to make war against Melkor to deliver the Elves from his shadow. In a violent struggle that changed the shape and moved the foundations of Middle-earth, the Valar fought and overcame Melkor, bringing him bound to the halls of Mandos.
The Valar also desired to bring the Elves to live in Valinor. Though some were afraid of the journey, most followed Oromë westward. After many long years, they arrived in Valinor, and all was as it should be. The Elves and the Valar rejoiced together in the light of the two trees which Yavanna had made.
4. Of Thingol and Melian
Melian the Maia was wise and beautiful; she taught the nightingales to sing and “loved the deep shadows of the great trees.” When the Elves awoke, Melian departed from Valinor and entered Middle-earth, where she “filled the silence…before dawn with her voice and the voices of her birds.” As the Elves traveled west and neared the end of their journey, Melian met an Elf called Elwë (or Thingol), and they loved one another. Elwë became a great king in the region of Beleriand, and Melian became his queen. Their kingdom of Doriath is highly important in later chapters.
5. Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië
Though some scattered deserters and the kinfolk of Elwë remained behind, the rest of the host of Elves came to Valinor. In this chapter we are introduced to an Elf called Fëanor, who is the son of King Finwë of the Noldor, and the half-brother of Fingolfin and Finarfin. I know this is a lot of confusing names, but hopefully they will make more sense later. Fëanor is the only one you need to worry about right now; he was “the mightiest in skill of word and of hand, more learned than his brothers.” He also had a fiery spirit that would cause a lot of trouble later. His seven sons are Maedhros, Maglor, Celegorm, Caranthir, Curufin, and twins Amrod and Amras. Fingolfin (the half-brother of Fëanor) had two sons, Fingon and Turgon, and a daughter, Aredhel the White. Finarfin (the other half-brother of Fëanor) had several sons, the most significant of which is Finrod, and a daughter, Galadriel.
This section lays the foundation for the future conflict of the world. While Melkor is bound in the halls of Mandos, all is at peace, but sadly, that will not last. If you know anything about The Silmarillion at all, you probably know that the worst is yet to come.
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