A Silmarillion Summary
JRR Tolkien’s bestselling series, The Lord of the Rings, changed the genre of fantasy and adventure; he was the one who created the land of the elves, orcs, dwarves, hobbits, and men. Though a great writer and author; his books are a commitment. Many people have just seen the movies and see holes within the plot line, however, those holes are covered by The Simarillion. This book is a detailed account of the beginning of Arda (Earth) and how the events from the other books correspond to the overall lore. As stated previously, Tolkien’s books are a commitment; this holds no less true for The Silmarillion. Tolkien loves detail. He is a writer who loves his semi-colons. He adores the long prose and despises the short sentence. His sentences contain so much information that it is hard to retain it all. Many people wish to know the back story to the elves and the orcs and the men and the dwarves. But when there is five paragraphs that detail an entire family tree then five more paragraphs that detail where they originated and migrated to; it is hard to stay focused. This Hub will summarize the important moments of The Silmarillion and outline some of the family trees.
The Beginning: Ainulindale
(I will refrain from the usage of accents as I am not versed enough with the keyboard) This precursor to The Silmarillion presents the reader with the birth of Arda or Earth. Iluvatar is the ultimate creator; every being within Arda is the child of Iluvatar – aside from the dwarves. Iluvatar created the Ainur (pronounced Eyn OOR) who have the other name of Valar. He created the Maiar as subordinates to the Valar.
Once created, Iluvatar gave each Valar specific knowledge that can be manifested through song. Melkor was gifted with more knowledge and strength and began to form independent thoughts that superseded the will of Iluvatar. Iluvatar had the Valar sing a song of their knowledge and, due to Melkor’s independence, the song was corrupted giving birth to the world of Arda. The song lasted three varying themes in which different Valar began to sing to Melkor’s tune. This tune drafted a destruction within the newly created world, and Iluvatar was angry. He, however, did not forsake his children. Instead he gave them the choice to go to the Imperishable Flame or join in the formation of the world of Arda. The Imperishable Flame is what gives Iluvatar and the Ainur their strength. It is the opposite of the Void, where darkness presides. The Void was where Melkor discovered his independent thoughts.
Seven of the Valar ventured to Arda. This included Manwe, Ulmo, and Aule – those who reign over winds, waters, and earth; respectively. Melkor also ventured to Arda in hopes to create a world that he commanded as supreme ruler. He was met with resistance, however, by the other Valar. In the song sung by the Valar, Men and the Elves were born; Dwarves and Orcs came later. Iluvatar waited for the Valar to create a land beautiful enough to allow the Elves and Men to walk, so they slept.
The Valaquenta: Of the Valar
The Valaquenta explains the Valar’s relationships to each other as well as to the Maiar. The Valar came to Arda as seven and married seven. The significant others to the Valar were called the Valier. Below is a shortened example of the information found in the Valaquenta. Each Valar had dominion over a specific entity that made up Arda. The Maiar did not take human form, for the most part, so few Maiar were ever sighted by the Elves or Men. Ones that did take human form were Ilmare, Eonwe, Osse, Melian, and Olorin. The Maiar of Melkor was Sauron who was initially a servant of Aule. He also corrupted other Maiar into his service who took the form of fire and darkness. These Maiar made up the first Balrog’s of Arda.
The Quenta Silmarillion: The Beginning
This chapter brings the Valar into conflict with Melkor for the first time. Melkor lost the fight and withdrew to his stronghold he had built under great mountains. The Valar took this time to rebuild Arda; they created two lamps that would drench the world in continuous light – Illuin and Ormal. This was called the Great Spring and it is when majority of the living creatures grew and expanded.
Melkor began to gain a foothold as he corrupted more into his service. The Valar tried to find his underground fortress, known as Utumno, but could not. With his strengthened army Melkor silenced the light that poured over Arda creating darkness. The Valar fled from Melkor’s might and created a new home called Valinor where they grew two great trees of light; one tree, Telperion, bathed the world in silver light, while the other, Laurelin, bathed the world in gold light; each tree shone in brilliance at specific times and intermingled their lights. This created the night and day cycle of Arda. Once the Valar were strengthened the world became ready for the introduction of the Elves and Men, and to be guided by the Valar.
The Elves were created in Iluvatar’s image and character; they were blessed with immortality; a love for the world; and in the end sorrow and weariness due to their long life. Men were blessed with shorter lives but were given the ability to choose their destiny. In essence they were more like Melkor in independence, but had the ability to do great things.
The Creation of Dwarves: Aule and Yavanna
Aule was the closest Valar to Melkor in feeling. He wished to create but he did not loathe as Melkor did. Melkor’s jealousy for the creations of the other Valar is what fed his anger and darkness. Aule was a kinder spirit. He looked to create for the purpose of creation; he wanted his creations to grow and form; he wanted them to be apart of the world and for him to be their guide. In his haste to find a creation that could fit that description he created the dwarves. This angered Iluvatar who rebuked Aule. Aule, in his shame, brought up his hammer to destroy his creation; the dwarves begged for mercy, and Iluvatar stopped him. He had Aule put the dwarves to sleep under a mountain until the first of the Elves stood upon the world of Arda.
Yavanna learned what Aule had done and became angry. She was the guardian of plant and animal. She felt that her dominion was usurped by the others because their creations had dominion over hers, and in an act of consolidation Manwe gave her permission to create shepherds of the forest. These were to be known as Ents and the great Eagles. The spirits of these shepherds came with the coming of the First Born (Elves).
End of Pt. 1:
This concludes part 1. Here we looked at how Arda was created, who the Valar were, and where Men, Elves, and Dwarves came from. The next part will involve the coming of the first born and their migration across Arda, and Melkor stages another war upon the Valar.
Originally published April 16, 2015.