Ulmo, Aulë and Yavanna – Together Again for the First Time! (Silmarillion Slow Cooker, p27)

In today’s passage, we’ll take a look at three more of the Valar – Ulmo, Aulë, and Yavanna – and thus round out the explanation of the three previously-mentioned Valar and two of their spouses.

Tickle Me Ulmo
Ulmo doesn’t seem to really live anywhere specifically. Anywhere there is deep water, Ulmo could be found. Unlike most of the other Valar, he doesn’t have a spouse. We’re told “He is alone.”

This wasn’t always the case. Before the Valar came to the created world, he was close friends with Manwë. But once he experienced water, as we learn in the Ainulindalë, he found it to be truly “fairer than my hearted imagined.” He then told Ilúvatar that he and Manwë would “make melodies for ever to thy delight.”

While this certainly happened, it wasn’t like Manwë and Ulmo toured the world as Arda’s own Louvin Brothers. Instead, while Manwë had Varda, Ulmo had only himself. He was alone, but not alone in the same sort of way as Melkor had been.

Melkor’s lonesomeness was a key part of his downfall. Ulmo’s is instrumental to how he operated. Unlike Melkor, who wanted to subjugate the Elves and Men, Ulmo loved these Children of Eru. The only problem was that they weren’t so cozy with him.

We’re told that if they ever saw him they would be “filled with a great dread.” His rising “was terrible, as a mounting wave that strides to the land, with dark helm foam-crested and raiment of mail shimmering from silver down into the shadows of green.” This sounds more like the appearance of Cthulhu than one of the Valar.

But Ulmo’s love for Elves and Men extended much farther than the other Valar. He is more like his element, water, than the other Valar seem to be of their own (air, land, etc.). Anywhere there is water and the sound of water, Ulmo can hear and communicate.

“For all seas, lakes, rivers, fountains and springs are in his government, so that the Elves say that the spirit of Ulmo runs in all the veins of the world.”

As we’ll see through much of the Silmarillion, this characteristic of Ulmo can be incredibly helpful. There is, however, another side to it. We’re told that he can come up rivers and make music upon his horns, “the Ulumúri.” If you hear the music, the sea-longing will develop. He’ll also speak “in the music of water.” It’s this music, we’ve already been told, that is an echo of the Great Music.

 Camera: Kodak Pony Film: Weis Quality Color 200

Camera: Kodak Pony
Film: Weis Quality Color 200

Aulë! Old!
The pecking order of the Valar has gone from Man / wë to Ulmo, and now to Aulë, who was almost as powerful as Ulmo. Aulë is associated with the land, working together with Manwë and Ulmo in fashioning the World.

While Ulmo was frightening to the Elves, Aulë was their friend. Because of this, Melkor was jealous and marred whatever he could of Aulë’s rendering. Of course, it could also be said that Aulë was an easy target. There’s not a whole lot Melkor could do with Manwë’s air or Ulmo’s water. But to Aulë’s land, he “ever marred or undid.” This was troublesome to Aulë, but he loved to make things, so it all kind of worked out.

Just as Ulmo’s solitude could have been a potentially bad, Melkor-like quality, so too could Aulë’s desire to make things be his own undoing. He liked to make new things, and he liked to have these things complimented. While in the wrong hands of Melkor these things might turn dark, with Aulë they did not. Aulë worked in the love of Ilúvatar, while Melkor “could make nothing save in mockery of the thought of others, and all their works he destroyed if he could.”

Yavanna Affair
Maybe one of the biggest reasons why Aulë was grounded and unlike Melkor was that he wasn’t alone. His “spouse” was Yavanna, “the Giver of Friuts.” Aulë’s land gave to her the blank canvas for her thoughts. Trees, moss, plants, “small and secret things in the mould” were all hers.

While Aulë is third in power of the Lords of the Valar, Yavanna was second to Varda in the Valar’s Queens. While she can take the shape of a tall woman, she also had been known to take the shape of an incredible tree, with her body upon the soil of Aulë, her roots in the water of Ulmo, and her leaves in the winds of Manwë.

Digging in the Dirt (and Water)
The relationship, names, and status of Manwë, Varda, Ulmo, Aulë, and Yavanna were basically unchanged from the beginning. The first real difference was that Manwë and Varda had two children, a son and a daughter named Fionwe and Erinti (later Ëonwë and Ilmarë). The dropping of this idea spun off of Tolkien’s rethinking of relationships.

Secondly, all the way through till 1958ish, Tolkien referred to the Valar Queens as being the “wives” of the Lords. Varda was Manwë’s wife just as Yavanna was Aulë’s. But when writing the late 50s version of the Quenta Silmarillion, he changed the word to “spouse.” In the margin, Tolkien wrote: “Note that ‘spouse’ meant only an ‘association.’ The Valar had no bodies, but could assume shapes.”1

Through the many drafts, Tolkien swapped out which of the Queens were sisters to the others. For a long time, Varda and Yavanna were sisters. This was apparently in the same way that Manwë and Melkor had been brothers – in the mind of Ilúvatar. This connection was dropped in the 1959 draft of the Valaquenta.

There were some other oddities, as well. For instance, Oromë, in the mid-1930’s Annals of Valinor, was said to be the son of Yavanna, but not the son of Aulë as they had been wed after coming to Valinor in the new World (Manwë and Varda had been wed prior to that).2

The post-Valinor association between Aulë and Yavanna was actually in the last draft of the Valaquenta (the one used to make the published Silmarillion‘s Valaquenta), but was dropped by Christopher Tolkien. This was, he stated, “wrongly changed” from “The spouse of Aulë in Arda is Yavanna,” dropping the “in Arda” believing it insignificant.3

Other curious bits and bobs are sprinkled throughout the writing histories, but we’ll cover those when we meet the other Valar involved.

Some Notes:

  • If you missed Sunday’s post, you can view an ugly little chart concerning the writing history of the Valar. I didn’t (couldn’t really) include their relationships to each other, though now that I think about it, I wish I could have.
  • The description of Yavanna was used by artist Ulla Thynell for the cover of Perilous and Fair that I talked about here.



1. Morgoth’s Ring, p151.
2. The Lost Road, p110.
3. Morgoth’s Ring, p202.

Pages & Text

  • Page 27 (with a bit from 26 and 28)
  • Chapter: Valaquenta, Paragraphs 6-9
  • Starting with:
    “Ulmo is the Lord of Waters…”
  • Ending with:
    “…she is surnamed in the Eldarin tongue.”

On the Road to Elbereth (Silmarillion Slow Cooker, p26.)

Okay! Now we’re cruising on into the Valaquenta proper. This isn’t exactly an easy section of the Silmarillion. Mostly, it’s a slew of names and some odd exposition. When people complain about the Silmarillion being boring, they’re usually talking about this part. Today, we’re going to take a quick look at the overview of the Valar (from page 25) and a longer look at Manwë and Varda.

In the published Silmarillion, we’re given the names of seven Lords and seven Queens. Tolkien didn’t arrive at this number immediately. In the early Book of Lost Tales, there were a varying number, and though they were named in that draft’s Valaquenta equivalent, others, like Nessa, the wife of Tulkas/Oromë’s sister, came later.

Through the long decades of writing and rewriting, Tolkien changed the names, roles, histories, and personalities of many of the Valar. Some were cut and others added. I did a nifty (though ugly) chart about this, which you can see here. By 1926, he had the number to nine. Though that number didn’t include their wives, it did include Melko (as Melkor was then named).

In the published Silmarillion, we’re told that “Melkor is counted no longer among the Valar, and his name is not spoken upon the Earth.” This shunning and snubbing came rather late in the game. It wasn’t until 1959’s Annals of Aman where he was removed from number of the Valar and given his own status. This would have been several years after the latest draft of the Ainulindalë was written.

When looking at the evolution of Tolkien’s Valar, the two who remain most constant are Manwë and Varda. In 1919’s draft, it’s Varda who is first described and Manwë who is hardly touched upon at all (until a bit later).1 But it’s in the 1930 draft of the Quenta Noldorinwa where we first see the rather familiar:

Manwë was the Lord of the Gods and Prince of the airs and winds and the ruler of the sky. With him dwelt as spouse the immortal lady of the heights, Varda the maker of the stars.

When reading Lord of the Rings, we heard much about how the Elves (and Frodo) called upon Elbereth. This was, we learn from the published Silmarillion, Varda, who “hears more clearly than all other ears the sound of the voices…”

But even before starting Lord of the Rings, Tolkien had placed Varda in a special position concerning the Elves. In 1937’s Quenta, it was Varda’s actual name that was then said to be “holy.”2

In revisions made the year following, Tolkien wrote that Varda was known as Tinwerína to the Elves. This would have been when he had just started working on Lord of the Rings. He was, it seems, on the path to Elbereth.

Camera: Argus C3 Film: Svema 64

Camera: Argus C3
Film: Svema 64

The next stop for Varda’s name train was Elentári, which was actually used in an Elvish poem that he penned around the time when he finished up the “Farewell to Lorien” chapter in late 1941. By that point, however, he had already been kicking around the idea of Elbereth.3

This came about when he was writing the “Three is Company” chapter of Lord of the Rings in early 1938. There, she was referred to as Elberil, and later as Elbereth.4

After settling on Elbereth and finishing Lord of the Rings, Tolkien wrote in 1948’s Ainulindalë, that Varda was “whom the Noldor name Elbereth, Queen of the Valar.”5 But in 1950’s Quenta, Varda was once more “called after by the Elves Elentári, the Queen of the Stars.”6

So why change it this late in the game? From almost the start of Lord of the Rings and the Quenta (both from 1937), the Elves referred to Varda as Elbereth. What happened in 1950?

Through the 1950s, Varda’s role changed slightly. In one passage, Tolkien wrote that Varda “wrought the Stars.” In a revision, it was altered to “wrought the Great Stars,” implying that she did not, in fact, wrought all of the stars (just the Great ones). This shift from all to some changed her name. While Tinwerína meant (basically) “Star-kindler,” Elentári meant “Queen of the Stars.” The latter could stand, but the former couldn’t.

But he had already nixed Tinwerína and several of such related named. Elentári, then was from the Quenya, where as Elbereth was Sindarin (as was Golthoniel). So basically, some Elves had called her Elentári, while others called her Elbereth. He had a much longer explanation for all of this, but you get the gist of it.7

Lastly, I want to touch on an interesting phrase dropped by Christopher Tolkien when compiling the Silmarillion. In the published version, we read: “With Manwë dwells Varda…” But Tolkien never put it that way. At first, in 1937, when he still referred the the Valar as having “wives,” Tolkien wrote “With him dwells as wife Varda.” In 1958’s first draft of the stand-alone Valaquenta, Tolkien put it as “With Manwë now dwells as spouse Varda.”

The “now,” thought Christopher Tolkien at the time, seemed to have no significance at all. The Valaquenta had a huge problem with tenses, shifting from present to past and back again seemingly at random. But, as he later came to realize, this “now” was actually important.

“It is however,” he later wrote, “undoubtedly significant.” He referenced the Annals of Aman, penned in 1951, which stated that “Varda was Manwë’s spouse from the beginning.” At that point, Tolkien had different Valar getting (essentially) married to other Valar at different times. While Varda and Manwë were espoused from the start, others were “wed” after coming to the World.8

This might not seem to be so significant, but it seems as if Tolkien was saying that Manwë and Varda got hitched much later than he had previously recognized. In the end, it’s another example of a regret held by Christopher Tolkien after the publication of the Silmarillion. It’s also another example of how maybe we can’t really consider the published Silmarillion as strict canon.

Some Note:

  • While I’m enjoying the crap out of all of this, I’m sure it’s not super exciting to many. All I can say is bear with me. The Silmarillion picks up again pretty quickly.



1. Book of Lost Tales, p65.
2. The Lost Road, p205, 209.
3. The Treason of Isengard, p285.
4. The Lost Road, p200, 351.
5. Morgoth’s Ring, p20.
6. Morgoth’s Ring, p160.
7. Morgoth’s Ring, p38, 376. There’s definitely much more to this Varda/Elbereth/Elentári story. This is by no means definitive.
8. Morgoth’s Ring, p201.

Pages & Text

  • Page 26 (with a bit from 25)
  • Chapter: Valaquenta, Paragraphs 3-5
  • Starting with:
    “The Great among these spirits…”
  • Ending with:
    “…uplift it in song at the rising of the stars.”

Across the Years with the Valaquenta (Silmarillion Slow Cooker, p25)

Previously on The Silmarillion…

The Valaquenta, the second section in Tolkien’s published Silmarillion, begins with a quick rehashing of the Ainulindalë. There’s not really anything notable to cover in the first two paragraphs, since we’ve already covered it, so I thought it would be fun to take a look at the writing history of the Valaquenta, and maybe get a better idea where and how it came about.

This all started way back in 1919. Then, it was part of a chapter called “The Music of the Ainur,” which would later evolve into the Ainulindalë, though it was definitely supposed to be taken as its own thing.

As with many of the stories in the Book of Lost Tales, the framing narrative took up quite a lot of space. We learn how Rúmil told Eriol about the Valar, and read Eriol’s questions in response until Rúmil finally does all the talking: “I will begin the tale, else will you go on asking for ever….” Even in Tolkien’s early writings, the Elves could be dicks.

And so Rúmil began telling the first story of the Valar. Like the published version which we all know and wade through, the Lost Tales version is little more than a glossary of names with a smattering of exposition. The names and characteristics of the Valar changed quite a bit over time, but we’ll get into that later in the text.

One of the biggest overall differences is that there were, in the 1919 draft, no Maiar. Instead, we learn of “lesser Vali who loved them [the Valar] and had played nigh them and attuned their music to theirs.” They were called the Mánir and the Súruli, “the sylphs of the airs and of the winds.” Tolkien strove in the early days to connect his mythology to the more modern era. In doing so, these “lesser Vali” were then “the sprites of the trees and woods… brownies, fays, pixies, leprawns…”1

There were, in this early version, no set number of Valar, and a slew of names were given. But by 1930, when he wrote an early version of the Silmarillion, called Quenta Noldorinwa, he had it down. There were nine chieftains of the Valar, and a few wives to accompany them (so, fourteen in all). They could also reproduce and some had children. And then there was Melko (he was was then called).

In the Quenta Noldorinwa, the first chapter did not deal with the creation, but of the coming of the Valar into the World. It was short, covering only a few pages, and gave brief descriptions of the Valar. In fact, it wasn’t really even the first chapter, but the preamble. The first chapter actually begins with the Valar making two lamps to provide the new world with light. 2

Very shortly after Tolkien penned the Quenta Noldorinwa, he also created the first Annals of Valinor – a sort of Tale of Years for the early days of the World. Much of the information was rehashed, but put much more succinctly. Also, some of the information about the coming of the Valar was used in the Ambarkanta, a piece of writing from the same time as the Annals which dealt mostly with the shaping of the world and geography. Just where the Ambarkanta was to fit within the larger framework isn’t known, but it would be something that would fit nicely between the Ainulindalë and Valaquenta.3

By the mid 1930s, just before writing The Hobbit, Tolkien turned again to the Annals of Valinor, making a few key changes, including the Vanimor, who would eventually become the Maiair.4

Camera: Bolsey Jublilee Film: Weis Quality 200iso (expired in late 90s)

Camera: Bolsey Jublilee
Film: Weis Quality 200iso (expired in late 90s)

We’ve talked quite a bit about the Ainulindalë from the mid 1930s, and along with the revision of the Annals of Valinor, Tolkien also rewrote the Quenta Noldorinwa, which he now entitled the Quenta Silmarillion. The first chapter of this work was “Of the Valar,” and was essentially the Valaquenta. As were its ancestors, it is much shorter than the version eventually published in the Silmarillion, leaving off any sections about the Maiar (or Vanimor) and the Enemies.5

With the exception of a brief revision in 1937 or 1938, Tolkien set aside the Quenta to focus upon writing the Lord of the Rings. It remained unchanged and mostly untouched for thirteen years, returning to it in 1951, revising “Of the Valar”. By this time, the spirits later known as Maiair, were “lesser spirits of their own kind.” There were nine Valar and seven queens of the Valar. Of these sixteen, seven (Manwë, Melkor, Varada, Ulmo, Yavanna, Aulë, and Nienna) were the most important.6

He also returned that same year to the Annals, which were renamed The Annals of Aman. Here is where the Maiar came into their own, receiving their name with Melian and Sauron among their number.7

When Tolkien returned in 1958 to the Ainulindalë, he also dove into another revision of the Quenta Silmarillion. To the “Of the Valar” chapter, still the first, he made a few major changes, including the nixing of any reference to the Valar having “wives,” replacing the term with “spouse.” Additionally, gone were any ideas of the Valar being able to reproduce. And while the Maiar were mentioned (including a brief appearance by Olórin), “The Enemies” section had not yet come about.8

A year later, Tolkien revised the Annals of Aman, reflecting the changes made in 1958’s “Of the Valar.”9 Over the next year or so, he made additional changes to each, finally rewriting the Quenta Silmarillion yet again. This time, however, he separated the Valaquenta from the Quenta, making further changes, finally settling on the number of Aratar/High Ones at eight. It was this final version that Christopher Tolkien used (with some editorial fiddlings) for the published Silmarillion.10

And that about covers our little introduction to the published Valaquenta. I know that some might not be so keenly interested in the previous versions and how the story was developed along the way, but for me, it adds another dimension, and makes it all seem more real.

Some Notes:

  • The chronology used by Scull & Hammond in Valaquenta entry in the Companion and Reader’s Guide was relied upon greatly. As was a bit in Arda Reconstructed by Douglas Charles Kane.
  • If you like, you can check out the ugly chart that I made to help suss out the varying versions of the Valaquenta.



1. Book of Lost Tales, Vol. 1, p64-66.
2. The Shaping of Middle-Earth, p76-80.
3. The Annals of Valinor can be found in The Shaping of Middle-Earth, p262-263, while the Amarkanta can be found immediately before it.
4. The Lost Road, p110.
5. The Lost Road, p204-205.
6. Morgoth’s Ring, p147.
7. Morgoth’s Ring, p48-49.
8. Morgoth’s Ring, p143-149.
9. Morgoth’s Ring, p142. This passage provides some idea of when a few of the works around this time were written.
10. Morgoth’s Ring, p199-205. Though this section, Christopher Tolkien describes the editorial decisions and changes he made in the process of creating the published Silmarillion. He also touches briefly upon this in Book of Lost Tales, p82.

Pages & Text

  • Page 25
  • Chapter: Valaquenta, Paragraphs 1-2
  • Starting with:
    “In the beginning, Eru…”
  • Ending with:
    “…descended into it and dwelt therein.”

Doughnuts, Roller Derby, the Valaquenta and Pizza (Again)

What a very productive week I didn’t have! Though it’s over now, I was fairly consumed with writers block. While I could still jot down 1,000 or so words each day about the Civil War, I couldn’t gather the gumption to start up the Valaquenta. I really wanted to, of course, but I was gripped by a bit of nervousness and the blues (or mean reds).

Remember when I started this blog, how it was supposed to be a vehicle for me to exercise? I’ve started back up and have actually put myself on a fairly strict (for me) diet. I’ve been counting calories and trying to burn as many as I could. Progress has been awfully slow and I got a bit down.

The weekend started with a 7am visit to a lab so I could have blood drawn. The vamp stuck me with a needle, but couldn’t find a vein. Several pokes and a good deal of rooting around later, and she tried my other arm, which went just fine. Not the most auspicious of beginnings, but then there were doughnuts (or rather doughnut – the whole diet thing, remember?).

The afternoon saw a bit of writing for this blog, and then a couple of bouts of roller derby. Wherever you are, I can promise you that there’s a roller derby league. I can also promise you that it’s great fun and you’ll have a blast. If you’re not familiar with the sport, go ahead and watch this. It follows the London Rollergirls and their trip to Seattle last year (I was at the bout).

In Sweating to Mordor news, I renewed the domain name for two years, so looks like I’ll be around for a bit. Also, I made a chart for the Valaquenta writing history. It’s not pretty, but it’s as accurate as I can get.


I wish it were prettier, but if I’m not screenprinting something, it’s really not my forté.

The pizza-making is still going strong. I tried a new recipe for NY Style, and am about ready to toss it and put it in the oven. I’ll report back with the findings. Trying out a new vegan cheese too. It’s called Tease, and I’ve heard it’s pretty good. I’ve had it before, but have never cooked with it. We’ll see how it goes. The thing about testing pizza recipes is that even when you kind of mess it up, you’ve still got pizza! Huzzah!

Last week's pie. This cutter is amazing, by the way.

Last week’s pie. This cutter is amazing, by the way.

So for this upcoming week, keep an eye out for three Valaquenta posts starting tomorrow! Now, I understand that the Valaquenta isn’t exactly the most exciting of chapters. It’s basically a glorified list (and really not that glorified). The writing history is fun, but really, there’s not a whole lot that you can do with this. I try to keep it interesting and informative, though. Here’s hoping you’ll wade through it!

Thy Feet Are On the Beginning of the Road – Ending the Ainulindalë (Silmarillion Slow Cooker, p22)

And here we are – already at the end of the Ainulindalë! We’ve just read that some of the Ainur, called the Valar, had come into the World. And now we learn that they drew other Ainur to them as they went. These were spirits like them, though some were lesser, and some were nearly as great.

The Valar had taken bodies “and were lovely and glorious to see.” Melkor had been sent packing (mostly on his own accord), and the Earth was “a garden for their delight, for its turmoils were subdued.” Melkor saw what the Valar and their comrades were doing and became envious.

The bodies of the Valar were based according to their moods. For most, the moods had been the same since creation, and so their bodies were accordingly beautiful. But when Melkor took his own body, his mood was sour. Because of “the malice that burned in him that form was dark and terrible.”

We’re told then that Melkor “descended upon Arda in power and majesty greater than any other of the Valar…” To me, the chronology is a bit fuzzy. Melkor came to Arda with (or nearly with) the other Valar. There was a disagreement and he left. Now, after seeing the nice things they had made, he was jealous and was returning.

The last paragraph tells briefly of the first battle between Melkor and the Valar. This is the closest that the published Silmarillion gets to a framing narrative. Honestly, I’m surprised that it came as close as it did.

It’s explained that the Elves didn’t know much about the battle, but everything they knew came from the Valar “with whom the Eldalië [the Eldar, Elves] spoke in the land of Valinor, and by whom they were instructed.”

What was published was not the exact words of Tolkien. In the 1951 draft, upon which the published version of this paragraph was based, we get a more specific picture of the succession by which this knowledge was learned.

The in-story Ainulindalë was first given by an Eldar named Rúmil. Another Eldar, Pengoloð, then spoke it to Ælfwine, a Man from eleventh century Britain. In the 1951 version, Pengoloð says: “for know though, Ælfwine, what I have declared unto thee is come from the Valar themselves.” You’ll find the basic equivalent, transposed by Christopher Tolkien to be: “For what has here been declared has come from the Valar themselves.”

Additionally, Rúmil’s name was also mentioned in the 1951 version. While the published Silmarillion states: “Yet it is told among the Eldar that the Valar endeavored ever….”, Tolkien’s actual words were: “But this said Rúmil in the end of the Ainulindalë which I have recounted to thee: that the Valar endeavored ever….”1

The work that went into cutting out every example of the Rúmil/Pengoloð/Ælfwine framing is truly mind-boggling. Still, I think I prefer Christopher Tolkien’s edition to that of his father’s, for its vagueness. I’m very glad it wasn’t directly connected to eleventh century England. Ironically, Christopher later stated that he regretted cutting the framing narrative.2

The ’51 version of this paragraph ends sooner than that in the published Silmarillion. Originally, it concluded by stating that “the Earth was fashioned and made firm.”3 In the published version, that sentence is followed by another explaining: “thus was the habitation of the Children of Ilúvatar established at the last in the Deeps of Time and amidst the innumerable stars.”

This actually came from the next paragraph in the 1951 draft. In this, Pengoloð told Ælfwine that he wasn’t there to “instruct thee in the history of the Earth.” Instead of just stating that the “habitation” was established, Pengoloð seems to be finally showing and introducing Ælfwine to the Elvish world.

Camera: Mamiya C3 Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64 (expired 1989)

Camera: Mamiya C3
Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64 (expired 1989)

“And now behold! here is the habitation of the Children of Ilúvatar established….” But he also adds: “And here are the Valar, the Powers of the World, contesting for the possession of the jewel of Ilúvatar; and thus thy feet are on the beginning of the road.”4

Pengoloð is showing Ælfwine not only the land of the Elves, but the Valar themselves (though not literally). And that is not all. While the published Silmarillion‘s version of the Ainulindalë stops, the ’51 version has an additional sixteen paragraphs!

While the first two of these deal with the framing, the rest were copy and pasted by Christopher Tolkien into the First Chapter of the published Silmarillion – some at the very beginning and more at the end of the first chapter.

Though Christopher Tolkien gave no reason why he decided to do this, it seems pretty clear that, as Ælfwine recorded in the first of these extra paragraphs, “when he [Pengoloð] had ended the Ainulindalë, such as Rúmil has made it, Pengoloð the Sage paused a while.”5

And so Christopher Tolkien paused a while, ending the Ainulindalë, like Pengoloð and Rúmil, and gave us the Valaquenta, itself cobbled together from various sources, including the original first chapter of the Quenta Silmarillion from 1958.

The “link” between the Ainulindalë and the first chapter of the Quenta (“Of the Beginning of Days”) is actually an edited-out question raised by Ælfwine. After Pengoloð paused, Ælfwine asked him to tell more about the time after the Valar came, but before the Eldar were awakened. He wanted to know more about “those ancient wars” and wondered if maybe Pengoloð couldn’t tell him.

Pengoloð replied to him: “Much of what I know or have learned from the elders in lore, I have written; and what I have written thou shalt read, if though wilt, when thou hast learned better the tongue of the Noldor and their scripts.” He explained that the tales were too great to be spoken and needed to be read. That said, he decided to give him a little taste.

This little taste took up the remainder of the extra paragraphs (which were lifted to begin the first chapter of the Quenta). However, the writings of Pengoloð were not simply the Quenta Silmarillion, but a much broader and more in depth history of the world. In the original framing, Pengoloð gave Ælfwine the Ainulindalë as well as the Akallabêth, but the Quenta itself was compiled by Ælfwine from a mix of Elvish history (probably preserved by Pengoloð) and other matter preserved by the Númenóreans.

But I’m really getting ahead of myself. We’ll cover all of that when we get there. For now, that’s the Ainulindalë, and I hope you’ve all enjoyed it. Next up, the Valaquenta!

Some Notes:

  • Covering something like the Ainulindalë and Valaquenta, which really don’t have plots, isn’t something I’m used to doing. I can propose theories and state opinions like anyone else, of course, but I relied heavily upon the writing history. I can imagine that this isn’t super exciting for everyone. That’s totally okay. It would be completely fine by me if anyone wanted to discuss plottish things in the comments section. I think it would give us all a better understanding of the text itself.
  • I’m taking a very short break before starting the Valaquenta. A post usually goes up on Friday, but we’ll wait till Monday this time. This will give folks a chance to catch up and to get ready for a chapter that’s really not all that exciting.



1. Morgoth’s Ring, p16, 31.
2. Book of Lost Tales I, p5
3. Morgoth’s Ring, p31.
4. Morgoth’s Ring, 16.
5. Morgoth’s Ring, p17.

Pages & Text

  • Page 22 (with a bit of 21)
  • Chapter: Ainulindalë, Paragraphs 24-25
  • Starting with:
    “And the Valar drew…”
  • Ending with:
    “…and amidst the innumerable stars.”

‘And He Walked Alone; And the Earth Was in Flames’ (Silmarillion Slow Cooker, p21)

Though Melkor and Manwë were brothers in the mind of Ilúvatar, in reality, it didn’t really work out that way. In the Ainulindalë, we’re given a sort of throw-away line about Manwë being “the chief instrument of the second theme that Ilúvatar raised up against [Melkor].” So let’s take a look at the second theme again.

This was the first of two themes in which Ilúvatar played an actual role (in the First Theme, he was basically the audience). We’re told that he rose and that “the Ainur perceived that he smiled.” Ilúvatar lifted his left hand and the theme began.

Ilúvatar and Melkor battled as the latter “rose in uproar and contended with” the former’s theme. This “war of sound” dismayed the other Ainur and they stopped singing. All, apparently, except for Manwë, who was used by Ilúvatar as his “chief instrument.”

Does this mean that Ilúvatar didn’t “sing” himself? That seems to be so, at least for the Second Theme. The Third, I’d bet, was sung by Ilúvatar himself (with perhaps a bit of help from another – but we’ll get to that later), since that’s where the Children came in – and nobody knew about them apart from Ilúvatar.

Using Manwë as his “chief instrument” seems to imply that he had others, less chief. This would make sense since we’re told that Manwë “called unto himself many spirits both greater and less” to come to Arda and aid him against Melkor’s discord. If they had not done this, Melkor would have taken over the world and ruined everything.

The parallels to the Music are pretty obvious. Just as in the Second Theme, Manwë was joined by other Ainur to battle against Melkor who wanted to make the Music (or in this case, Arda) his own. The Third Theme would also be echoed, but not quite yet.

Manwë’s chastisement of Melkor was actually pretty lenient. He would not allow Melkor to claim Arda as his own because the other Ainur “have laboured here no less than thou.” He admitted that Melkor had labored there (if not helped). But this created friction and Melkor left for “other regions and did there what he would.” Still, ruling all of Arda was what he wanted.

The chastisement of Melkor wasn’t present in earliest 1919 draft or the one from the mid-1930s. However, in the latter draft, Tolkien decreed that this was when Melkor made the Orcs. Tolkien wrote then: “Few of the divine race went with him… and his companions were of his own making: the Orcs and demons that long troubled them early, tormenting Men and Elves.” 1

Additionally, in the 1948 version, Tolkien had an extra line closing the paragraph: “For he [Melkor] was alone, without friend or companion, and he had as yet but small following; since of those that had attuned their music to his in the beginning not all had been willing to go down with him into the World, and few that had come would yet endure his servitude.” 2

Camera: Imperial Savoy Film: Konica VX100 (x - 4/2001)

Camera: Imperial Savoy
Film: Konica VX100 (x – 4/2001)

This is an amazing sentence that really changed the way I thought about Melkor’s minions. Some chose to stay with Ilúvatar, while others with the Valar. Even his own friends didn’t like Melkor. Tolkien cut this line from the 1951 draft, but still, it’s pretty fun.

The sentiment was crafted from an odd earlier draft from around or just before 1948 – the Round World Version, in which the Sun was there from the start. In that, Melkor was the first to come into the “halls of the World,” taking it and making it his own. When Manwë saw what he was doing, he said to the others: “Let us go to the Halls of Anar, where the Sun of the Little World is kindled, and watch that Melkor bring it not all to ruin!”

There, we also learn that Melkor was nearly alone, except for a few “lesser spirits who had attuned their music to his; and he walked alone; and the Earth was in flames.” The paragraphs surrounding this one in the Round World Version were rewritten in 1948 and revised in 1951 to create the text that we know now in the published Silmarillion3

Moving on, we learn that the Valar took their shapes based upon those of the Children of Ilúvatar as they saw in the vision. We learn that they are spirits and clothe themselves in in bodies, but can also clothe themselves “in their own thoughts, made visible in forms of majesty and dread.” They can really only be perceived when they have bodies, which means that they can go bodiless, as spirits, and be undetected. When embodied, they take male and female forms based upon their temperaments.

This paragraph, as lengthy as it is in the published Silmarillion, was even longer in the later 1948-51 drafts. There, Tolkien added specific details about certain Valar, such as Varda (Queen of the Valar and spouse of Manwë), Yavanna (who was Varda’s sister and spouse of Aulë), and Nienna (who, like Ulmo, dwelt alone), creating, along with the previously-mentioned Manwë, Aulë, Ulmo, and Melkor, “the Seven Great Ones of the Kingdom of Arda.”4

It’s pretty easy to understand why this was edited out by his son, since Tolkien later increased the number of the Valar to fourteen (not including Melkor) when he wrote the final drafts of the Valaquenta in the late 1950s.

The last draft of the Ainulindalë also contained a bit of the framing narrative, and it’s a shame that it was cut. Here, Pengoloð said to Ælfwine: “And I myself, long years agone, in the land of the Valar have seen Yavanna in the likeness of a Tree; and the beauty and majesty of the form could not be told in words, not unless all the things that grow in the earth, from the least unto the greatest, should sing in choir together, making unto their queen an offering of song to be laid before the throne of Ilúvatar.”5

Since Christopher Tolkien did away with the framing narrative, this too had to go. While the mention of the other Valar is what it is, the loss of Pengoloð’s description of Yavanna is really some great writing. It’s such a shame that it was dropped.

Some Notes:

  • Any guesses as to which of the Valar I’m pegging as the instrument of the Third Theme?
  • I’m going to finish up the Ainulindlë in the next post, and then do another post about the ending that Tolkien had wanted (and which Christopher Tolkien edited away).
  • Melkor was kind of a cock.



1. The Lost Road p161. The last sentence was added in a revision of this mid-1930s draft.
2. Morgoth’s Ring, p15.
3. Morgoth’s Ring, p40.
4. Morgoth’s Ring, p15.
5. Morgoth’s Ring, p15-16.

Pages & Text

  • Page 21
  • Chapter: Ainulindalë, Paragraphs 22-23
  • Starting with:
    “But Manwë was the brother of Melkor…”
  • Ending with:
    “…in forms of majesty and dread.”

Hearts, Worries, More Pizza, and a Good Bad Movie (Saturday Simmerings)

Like any halfway adept blogger, I don’t write each post on the fly and then simply push “Publish” when I’m finished. I research and write the post, let it simmer for a bit, revise and edit it, and then schedule where it will go live.

Incredibly preliminary notes on the various versions of the info that eventually wound up in the Valaquenta.

Incredibly preliminary notes on the various versions of the info that eventually wound up in the Valaquenta.

Usually, I’m about a week ahead. It’s enough time to give me a buffer just in case life happens to intrude upon writing. So while the readers have a couple more Ainulindalë posts to wade through, I’m about ready to start the Valaquenta. And now things get interesting.

While there are only a handful of drafts of the Ainulindalë, the Valaquenta’s evolution is much more complex. Oddly, the version which is printed in the published Silmarillion is nearly identical to that final draft as written by Tolkien. In fact, it’s so identical that Christopher Tolkien didn’t even bother to print it in the History of Middle-earth series as it would be redundant. In fact, he barely printed the draft before that, instead, referring back to a draft before the Valaquenta was even its own entity. So I guess what I’m saying is, I’ve got a lot of fun ahead of me.

But these weekend posts aren’t for talking business, they’re for random things. But today, the only random things I can think about is the Valaquenta, which, considering I’m about to write about it, isn’t exactly random.

Pizza Again
I suppose it’s not the only thing on my mind. Today is Valentines Day, and though I’m not exactly a sweep-her-off-her-feet romantic, I am making a heart-shaped pizza today! I’ve talked about my pizza making attempts last week, and since then, I’ve tweaked my recipe a bit. We’ll see how it goes.

Once I get it “right,” I’ll post the recipe here. I’ve been using Caputo 00 Flour, and would like to try the easer-to-find bread flour to see the difference. After that, I’ll finalize things.

The LotR Movie that Should Have Been
While listening to the podcast How Did This Get Made, which explores incredibly bad movies, asking how they, in fact, got made, I learned something fun about a potential LotR movie that never happened.

It was supposed to be directed by John Boorman, who later went on to direct Deliverence and Point Blank (the movie covered on the podcast was Zardoz). At that point (1970), he was a mostly-unknown TV director. He wrote a 120 page script that was insane. I wish he would have made the movie. I pray that someday, when both Lord of the Rings and Boorman’s script enter the public domain (long after we’re all dead) that someone will make this happen.

I won’t go into all of the details, but you can read about them here. Seriously, go read them. It would have been a masterpieceofshit.

Heart-shaped doughnuts from Mighty-O in Seattle! Veganny goodness and even organic!

Heart-shaped doughnuts from Mighty-O in Seattle! Veganny goodness and even organic!

The Future
After I finish the Valaquenta, I plan on reassessing the whole Sweating to Mordor project. I had a lot of plans, but all I can think about right now (as far as time is concerned) is finishing the Civil War blog that I do. It will be over in a little less than a month. After that, I’ll have an hour and a half extra of free time each day! Do I want to spend that writing about Tolkien? Sure do! Should I? I’m not so sure.

Worst case scenario is that I’ll keep up the same schedule of three/four posts per week and slide more focus upon my photography blog. We’ll see.

‘Let These Things Be!’ (Silmarillion Slow Cooker, p20)

In the Ainulindalë, When Ilúvatar showed the Ainur the vision of the world that was to come, they were able to perceive it in some sort of linear fashion. Time was not a thing that existed yet, but the vision seemed to unfold chronologically.

They would have seen the creation, the wakening of the Children of Ilúvatar, and a bunch of other stuff. But it was cut short without explanation. At which point in the history it was cut was, apparently, up for debate. The Silmarillion, which was an Elvish writing, contended that it was cut before the Dominion of Men and before the fading of the Elves.

This is a curious coincidence, since it gives the lack of heavenly intervention in the latter ages a possible and plausible reason – “the Valar have not seen as with sight the Later Ages or the ending of the World.” 1

It was at that point when Ilúvatar stopped the vision and showed them Darkness – the Void now rendered in the visual. Prior to the vision, there was no mention of the Ainur being able to experience anything but sound. Ilúvatar then told them that he would say “Eä! Let these things be!” and would create the world they had designed and then were shown in their vision. He also told them that those who wanted to could go and live there.

Tolkien’s original draft of this is worlds apart from where he ended up. Mostly, it’s because the early draft contains no vision, but an explanation of the creation itself. In the Book of Lost Tales version from 1917, he actually had two different versions of this, the first of which described:

“…how beauty was whelmed in uproar and tumult and again new beauty arose therefrom, how the earth changed and stars went out and stars were kindled, and the air swept about the firmament, and the sun and moon were loosened on their courses and had life.” 2

This early draft also more specifically detailed how the creation was brought about: “It is of their gathering memories of the speech of Ilúvatar and the knowledge, incomplete it may be, that each has of their music, that the Ainur know so much of the future that few things are unforeseen by them – yet are there some that be hidden even from these.” 3 This would explain, without even the need for a vision, how the Ainur knew about the future.

In all drafts, some of the Ainur chose to stay with Ilúvatar, while others went to live in the new world. While in the published version we learn that many of those who left were “of the greatest and most fair” (an idea that was there from the beginning), it’s in the first draft from 1917, we learn that those who stayed behind “were mostly those who had been engrossed in their playing with thoughts of Ilúvatar’s plan and design, and cared only to set it forth without aught of their own devising to adorn it.” 4

This idea was there through the mid-1930s version,5 but was dropped by the 1948 draft upon which much of the published Ainulindalë was built.6

 Camera: Mamiya C3 Film: Film: FujiChrome Provia 100F

Camera: Mamiya C3
Film: Film: FujiChrome Provia 100F

The Elves, who are the in-story authors of the Ainulindalë then dip into a bit of speculation. They saw that the Ainur’s power was contained in the World, “to be within it for ever, until it is complete, so that they are its life and it is theirs.” This was due to one of two things, though. It was either a condition established by Ilúvatar or from the Ainur’s own love.

It was in the mid-1930s version that this was first written. In that, Rúmil, who was speaking the Ainulindalë to Ælfwine as part of the framing narrative, gave both possibilities, and as an aside said: “(I know not which)”.7

The 1917 Book of Lost Tales version, this speculation is absent. What’s there is a mix of less and more, as is often the case with the early draft. The less is the description of the altercation with Melkor. The more is the altercation itself, which we’ll dig into next time.

Though the word “Valar” had been used a couple of paragraphs before, we now get the definition: those Ainur who came into the World – “the Powers of the World.” The term had been around from almost the beginning. In his very first draft, Tolkien wrote: “and these are they whom ye and we now call the Valur and Valir.”

Apart from the odd spelling, it seems that both the speaker (Rúmil) and the hearer (Eriol/Ælwine) both referred to the “Gods” (as they were called in this version) as the Valar.8 Not much is made of this, but what Tolkien is implying is that this term was known as late at 500AD, when the original Eriol/Ælwine was to have lived. This curious tidbit seems to have been dropped by the next draft (also of 1917) where it’s written: “and these are they whom we now called Valar (or the Vali, it matters not).”9 This change, excluding Men, lasted until the final draft.

The vision showed to the Valar made them think that the World would be fully formed when they arrived. It wasn’t. In fact, the whole thing was dark. This is the point when the Valar realized that their singing was just “growth and flowering of thought” and that the vision was “only a foreshadowing.” This is when Time began, and it was only then when they understood that they had been outside of time. Prior to this, their timelessness was normal. Now they realized they would have to work to make it as they foresaw.

This effort took “ages uncounted and forgotten.” Most of it was accomplished by Manwë, Aluë, and Ulmo, which covered the air, land and water, respectively. This was, in a very real way, like the Great Music playing itself out. As they built, Melkor, as in the Music, “meddled in all that was done.” Mostly, it seems like he just burned stuff. At some point, the entire Earth was “full of flame,” which made Melkor covet it and determine: “This shall be my own kingdom; and I name it unto myself!”

The first drafts from 1917, as well as the mid-1930s draft, contain nothing about a vision. This was a later addition. But do contain a vow from the Ainur, telling Ilúvatar that they want to guide “the fair things of our dreams” and to “instruct both Elves and Men in the wonder and uses.” Even Melkor promised to control the violence and fires, the extreme heats and colds that he brought about, but he was lying “for he was jealous of the gifts” which Ilúvatar had given the other Ainur. 10

These two early versions are so vastly different in many respects that it’s hard to compare them. If you’re not careful (I wasn’t), you’ll even miss that there’s no vision given – that when the World unfolds before the Ainur, it really is unfolding.

The vision, however, is a really powerful thing – here I am still going on about it when it’s long over.

Some Notes:

  • There is a whole discussion in Morgoth’s Ring about Tolkien’s use of the word World vs. Aman vs. Eä. If you’re interested in that, it’s on page 37. It’s interesting to me, but more detail than I can really include here.
  • We’ve got two more posts to go before the end of the Ainulindalë!



1. This is the first use of the word “Valar,” though it isn’t defined for another couple of paragraphs.
2. Book of Lost Tales,I p60.
3. Book of Lost Tales, I p57.
4. Book of Lost Tales, I p57.
5. The Lost Road, p160.
6. Morgoth’s Ring, p14.
7. The Lost Road, p160.
8. Book of Lost Tales, I p61.
9. Book of Lost Tales, I p58.
10. The Lost Road, p160.

Pages & Text

  • Page 20 (bit of 19 and 21, too)
  • Chapter: Ainulindalë, Paragraphs 18-22
  • Starting with:
    “But even as Ulmo spoke…”
  • Ending with:
    “…and I name it unto myself!”

To the Voices of the Sea! (Silmarillion Slow Cooker, p19)

When Melkor saw the vision of Arda – the world which was to be created – he mostly noticed the Children of Ilúvatar, and wanted to subdue both Elves and Men to his will. He wanted subjects and servants, and to be called Lord.

But that’s not how most of the other Ainur reacted to the vision. The other Ainur “rejoiced in light” and their eyes “were filled with gladness.” But the roaring ocean bothered them a bit, even though they still praised it.

Today, we learn about three of the Ainur: Ulmo, Manwë, and Aulë.

Ulmo – Thought of water during the Great Music. Ilúvatar instructed him more deeply in music than the other Ainur.

Manwë – Had pondered the airs and winds during the Music. He is the noblest of the Ainur.

Aulë – Thought of the “fabric of Earth” during the Music. Delights in “making, and the thing made.” Ilúvatar gave him almost as much skill and knowledge as he gave Melkor. “He gives and hoards not, and is free from care, passing ever on to some new work.”

For the most part, the focus was upon Ulmo and Melkor. Ilúvatar used Ulmo’s oceans and waters to show just how powerful Melkor wasn’t. Though Melkor had brought into existence extreme heat and cold, he had not been able to mar the waters. Water was still pure. All the cold Melkor could muster wasn’t enough to freeze the oceans. And wasn’t the snow and frost just beautiful? All the heat he could burn couldn’t dry up the seas. And aren’t the clouds and rain just lovely? It’s true – he really did (accidentally) devise things more wonderful than he could imagine.

It’s explained that the Music of the Ainur could still be heard in the water. This is why the Children of Ilúvatar have sea-longing. They “hearken still unsated to the voices of the Sea, and yet know not for what they listen.”

The water wasn’t just Ulmo’s voice, but the voices of all the Ainur. The singing, from the time Melkor raised his discord, was likened to a raging storm and to water. Though the effects of the discord could be seen every where in this vision of Arda, in the water, they were less prevalent. Still, since the conflict between Ilúvatar and Melkor was drawn through allegory to water, some of that must remain within.

Another unintended consequence of Melkor’s rascaldom was how he brought Ulmo and Manwë closer. Ulmo’s clouds were in the air of Manwë, as Ilúvatar explained to Ulmo, “thy friend, whom thou lovest.”

It’s not stated, but it almost seems like Ulmo was really bothered by the results of Melkor’s discord. Over all the other Ainur, Ilúvatar comforted him, saying basically, cheer up, it’s not that bad. But maybe this is just the version received from the Elves, who were partial to Ulmo. Maybe Ilúvatar did this for more of the Ainur. Maybe even all of them. Though their designs for Arda were not quite as they had first thought, things were still really beautiful.

Aulë was only briefly mentioned, but it could also be said that Ulmo was drawn closer to him since his waters ran across Aulë’s earth, and his rains fell upon the ground.

Camera: Mamiya C3 Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64X (EPX) expired mid90s

Camera: Mamiya C3
Film: Kodak Ektachrome 64X (EPX) expired mid90s

In looking back to the 1917 Book of Lost Tales version, it’s surprising how little was changed over the ensuing decades. The biggest difference is that in the 1917 and mid-1930s versions, there was no vision. The description of the world unfolding actually was the world unfolding!

That aside, as far as the description goes, the one major difference is the Ainur’s reaction to first seeing the ocean. In the earliest draft, it’s explained that “they were filled with longing,” while in the last, the version used in the published Silmarllion, we learn that they “felt a great unquiet.”1 This change was made in the mid-1930s version, and remained so to the end. 2

Another interesting difference cropped up in the mid-30s version. Tolkien wrote that “They observed the air and winds, and the matters whereof the middle-earth was made, of iron and stone and silver and gold….”3 The 1917 simply called it “the earth.” Calling it “middle-earth” was a strange thing. By this time, Tolkien had already coined the term “Middle-earth,” 4 meaning the middle lands of Arda. But this seemed to be a different meaning, since it wasn’t just the middle lands that had air and winds, iron and stone, etc.

Curiously, this term lasted all the way through to the final 1951 version: “and the matters whereof Middle-earth was made.”5 This was clearly Tolkien’s last thought on this passage. Christopher Tolkien, when editing the material he was using to create the published Silmarillion, was confused by this. In a note in The Lost Road, he admits, “I cannot account for it; there seems no reason to specify the middle lands, between the seas, to the exclusion of the lands of the West and East.”

In the published version, neither “Earth” nor “Middle-earth” was used, but “Arda.” Christopher Tolkien stated that “the change… was editorial.”6

The Book of Lost Tales version shows that Ulmo went on and on about how great snow was, calling it, “a loveliness beyond my most secret thoughts.” Rain, he lamented, didn’t have much music in it, but still, “rain is beautiful indeed and hath a music that filleth my heart, so glad am I that my ears have found it, though its sadness is among the saddest of all things.”7

As usual, this sentiment faded a bit over the next draft, where all Ulmo said of snow was that “neither had my secret thought conceived the snow-flake.”8

For the most part, these are little changes. The crux of the message, as well as many of the details (minus the vision itself), were there from the very beginning.



1. Book of Lost Tales, I, p56.

2. The Lost Road, p159.

3. The Lost Road, p159.

4. The first use of the term “Middle-earth” probably came in the cosmological essay, “The Ambarkanta,” which predated this version of the “Ainulindalë” by some indeterminable amount of time (probably only a couple of years). In The Shaping of Middle-earth (p. 262), Christopher Tolkien dated a cosmological essay, “The Ambarkanta,” to the early 1930s. Further research made him later conclude, however, that it was probably penned in the mid1930s. (The Lost Road, p108.)

5. Morgoth’s Ring, p12.

6. The Lost Road, p164.

7. Book of Lost Tales, I, p156.

8. The Lost Road, p160.

Pages & Text

  • Page 19
  • Chapter: Ainulindalë, Paragraphs 14-17
  • Starting with:
    “But the other…”
  • Ending with:
    “…most faithfully the purpose of Ilúvatar.”

Cruelty and Ravening and Darkness – Melkor’s Influence on Ilúvatar’s Vision (Silmarillion Slow Cooker, p18)

As we all know – “Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”1 In the Silmarllion‘s Ainulindalë, that counts even more. When last we left off, Ilúvatar had done a bit of musical battle with Melkor before stopping the Music all together. We learned that the Music was made by the Ainur, and was a design for the creation to come. However, we also learned that Ilúvatar was creating from this Music as it was happening. In fact, this whole thing was happening outside of time.

So when Ilúvatar stopped the Music and spoke, telling the Ainur that he would now show forth what they had sung, it’s impossible to fully grasp just when this was happening, because technically there was no “when.” It just was.

Because Melkor wanted his theme to be more powerful than the others, he had created discord in trying to make it come about. In the end, most of the other Ainur had dropped out, leaving Ilúvatar to deal with Melkor and his compatriots on his own.

He told the Ainur that they would now see what he was about to create with their singing. Melkor was included in this, his discordant theme was incredibly powerful and would also be used. However, Ilúvatar had a special message for him. Melkor “shalt see that no theme may be played that had not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself had not imagined.”

In a sense, this was already demonstrated in the Third Theme, when Ilúvatar wove Melkor’s “most triumphant notes” into his own theme. When called out, Melkor, we’re told, “was filled with shame, of which came secret anger.” 2

There was a section of writing that appeared first in the Book of Lost Tales version and then again in an edited form in the 1937 version of the Ainulindalë.3 Both explained Melkor and what his discord had wrought in no uncertain terms.

[T]hrough Melko have terror as fire, and sorrow like dark waters, wrath like thunder, and evil as far from my light as the depths of the uttermost of the dark places, come into the design that I laid before you. Through him has pain and misery been made in the clash of overwhelming musics; and with confusion of sound have cruelty, and ravening, and darkness, loathly mire and all putrescence of thought or thing, foul mists and violent flame, cold without mercy, been born, and death without hope.”

When the Ainur heard what Ilúvatar said, they were frightened and confused. We’re not told whether it was the idea of seeing their music made real or the chastisement of Melkor, or just the whole thing that frightened them. Whichever, the Ainur, including Melkor, followed Ilúvatar when he rose and left “the fair regions that he had made for the Ainur.”

They all entered the Void – a place where Melkor had spent much time (or whatever) alone, contemplating what he would do if he had the Flame Imperishable and could bring whatever he wanted into existence.

But Ilúvatar didn’t yet create anything. First, he “showed to them a vision,” and gave them sight. Prior to this, the only sense they had was hearing. This gives us a strange and bewildering glimpse into the early ripples of creation.

Ilúvatar had created prior to this. Apart from creating the Ainur, we’re told that he had made “fair regions” for them. Though, just how they were fair is unknowable since they had only hearing. I suppose it’s also possible that the regions were fair as we would know it, but that the Ainur couldn’t yet see them.

 Camera: Holga 120N Film: FujiChrome Provia 100 x-pro as C-41

Camera: Holga 120N
Film: FujiChrome Provia 100 x-pro as C-41

The vision that he gave them showed a new world within the Void, but not of the Void. This world then began to “unfold its history”. They could see that the world would be living and growing. Ilúvatar told them that they could see their own parts, their own themes as given to them by him in this coming creation. But they could also see their additions and those improvised parts of their music.

This was especially momentous to Melkor, who was no doubt still stewing in his anger. Ilúvatar explained that when Melkor saw the vision, he could see the secret thoughts of his own mind. It was explained that when he was in the Void, Melkor had “conceived thoughts of his own unlike those of his brethren.”

It was these thoughts created in solitary that Ilúvatar wove into the vision of creation. And now Melkor could see for himself that “they are but a part of the whole and tributary to its glory.” This did not at all sit well with Melkor.

Just how Tolkien wished to end this segment of writing changed over time. The published version ends: “…they are a part of the whole and tributary to its glory.” This is exactly as Tolkien wanted it, as we can see from both the 1948 and 1951 versions – his last.4 And that sentence was there from the 1917 version.

But in that early version, his first, Ilúvatar continued his speech: “‘…One thing only have I added, the fire that giveth Life and Reality’ – and behold, the Secret Fire burnt at the heart of the world.”5

When he returned to it in 1937, where Ilúvatar added instead: “‘But I have given being unto all.’ And lo! the secret Fire burned in the heart of the World.”6

The trend that we can see, as he wrote across the decades, was to sacrifice detail on the altar of subtly. The long, but wonderful, explanations of what Melkor’s theme brought into the world were cut, but the purport remained. The same goes for these last two endings. From the published text, we can see that Ilúvatar brought forth life, though we don’t quite see it just yet. Maybe he thought it would be a bit too soon to reveal it, and wanted the reader to join the Ainur in discovering that it wasn’t just the world that the Secret Fire had kindled, but existence itself.

Some Notes:

  • Only three paragraphs to cover today!
  • Generally speaking, I find the Book of Lost Tales version of the Music of the Ainur/Ainulindalë to be my favorite.
  • It’s really rare that I dip back into my Holga photos. I first started using this iconic/trendy camera when I first got back into film photography. Since then, I’ve focused mostly on antique and vintage cameras, leaving the Holga behind. I don’t think I even have it displayed on a shelf – it’s just tucked away in a drawer somewhere.



1. Does this really need attribution? (Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

2. If we look back to the earliest drafts of this chapter, from the Book of Lost Tales (I, p55), Tolkien there gave us a much deeper look at what might make Melkor harbor this secret anger. “Maybe I shall love these things that come of my song even as I love the Ainur who are of my thought, and maybe more.” Ilúvatar was to have said this right before telling Melkor that no one could “alter the music in my despite.”

3. Book of Lost Tales, Vol. I, p55; The Lost Road, p158.

4. Morgoth’s Ring, p11, 30.

5. BoLT I, p55.
6. Lost Road, p59. A slightly earlier version has “But this I have added: Life” instead of “But I have given being unto all.”

Pages & Text

  • Page 17
  • Chapter: Ainulindalë
  • Starting with:
    “Then Ilúvatar spoke…”
  • Ending with:
    “…but a part of the whole and tributary to its glory.”