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.”

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

  1. From the horse’s mouth straight into the minds of the gullible then? Melkor’s a prime candidate for the trend of villian-reframing that’s still popular these days.

    heheh! I want a look at that teeshirt, please. 🙂 (btw, there’s a troop of Melkor supporters on tumblr, and sifting though the angst, some of that stuff can be interesting)

    All right, on with the show! 🙂

  2. The T shirt is awesome!, I didnt think anyone still read the Silmarillion anymore let alone make a study of it, I havent read it in years and never thought this much about it. Now I want to dig through my stuff and see if I still have my copy.

    • Thanks so much! Lots of folks still read the Silmarillion, I bet. Right? I mean… I bet they do. 🙂

      But yes! Join in! I’ve got Tolkien and film photography!

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