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
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.
- 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!”