Today we’ll meet Tulkas and Oromë, both associated with fighting and war, but each fairly opposite with the other. We’ll also meet their spouses, but barely. So if you’re ready for testosterone, picking up heavy things for no reason, and the Vala voted Most Likely to Wear Axe Body Spray, read on!
Tulkas: His Backpack’s Filled With Pecks
If Nienna is my favorite Queen, then Tulkas is my favorite Lord. Whenever I read anything about him, I immediately think of Hercules. No, not the tales from ancient Greece, but the Alan Steel movie Hercules Against the Moon Men, especially as riffed on MST3K. There’s a scene where Herc is throwing people around and really amusing himself. Joel sings: “I enjoy being a guy!” (You should watch that now, please.) That’s how I picture Tulkas. Sure, some would draw parallels to the actual Greek god, but not me. Tulkas may not be anywhere near Mount Olympus, but in my heart he’s played by Big Alan Steel. His big, broad, sassy and brassy.
Tolkien doesn’t touch on chronology very much in the Valaquenta, but we learn that Tulkas was the last of the Valar to arrive in Arda, coming just in time to help duke it out with Melkor. Tulkas doesn’t need a horse, just as he doesn’t need weapons. His legs can run faster than anything on earth and his hands are deadly! It sounds like Tolkien just created an eight year old’s best superhero ever.
What makes Tulkas so awesome is that he doesn’t give even a single fuck about the past or the future. Need advice? Don’t come poking around Casa de Tulkas. But, we’re told, “he is a hardy friend.” He might not have many useful things to say, but he’s got your back. Tulkas is your wingman, your co-pilot, your heavy and your brother.
Tulkas is so amazing that even Tolkien can’t stop talking about him. After briefly mentioning that Nessa, his wife, exists, Tolkien introduces Oromë, but then immediately goes back into talking about Tulkas because Oromë is a boring hunk, so let’s talk about Tulkas some more!
He loves to laugh! He’s laughing all the time. Seriously. At play, at war, in sport, he seriously doesn’t care. He’s got a mean case of the giggles, and it doesn’t matter who hears him. He even laughed in the face of Melkor! He loves to laugh – long and loud and clear!
As with Nienna, we sadly don’t get much of his antics in the published Silmarillion, so whenever he comes up (and, to be honest, even when he doesn’t), I’ll dip back into the old drafts for some exciting Tulkas pastimes!
So let’s start now! We’re told quite a bit more about him in The Book of Lost Tales version of his introduction. Get a load of this:
Most youthful is he and strong of limb and lusty, and for that is he named Poldórëa who loveth games and twanging of bows and boxing, wrestling, running, and leaping, and songs that go with a swing and a toss of a well-filled cup. Nonetheless is he no wrangler or striker of blows unprovoked as is Makar [the God of Battle – we’ll deal with him later], albeit there are none of Valar or Úvanimore (who are monsters, giants, and ogres) that do not fear the sinews of his arm and the buffet of his iron-clad fist, when he has cause for wrath.1
Pretty righteous, no?
That Other Tough Guy… Oromë, Was It?
Was there even a need for Oromë when Tulkas was around? Well, no. But we’ve got him anyway, so let’s take a look at him. He’s basically as strong as Tulkas, but way less fun. He doesn’t laugh, doesn’t play games, and pretty much hates anything that isn’t a horse, a dog, or a tree.
However, he did seem to be a touch more focused than Tulkas, and I guess that counts for something. While Tulkas would fight anyone for fun, Oromë trained himself and his soldiers to fight “the evil creatures of Melkor”.
Oromë is a pretty angry guy, but there must be something more to him. Maybe the passage from the Lost Tales would help flesh him out a bit. There, we’re told that Oromë’s folk make “a noise of boisterous mirth, and the lord of forests makes a lusty cheer.”2 That doesn’t sound so bad. Maybe across the written decades, somehow Oromë lost his mirth.
In that version, Oromë was the son of Aluë and Yavanna, but by 1930’s Quenta, he was just plain old Oromë, a Vala without a sibling or a smile.3 ((Shaping of Middle-earth, p79.))
Blink and Miss the Ladies
Nessa was Tulkas’ spouse and the sister of Oromë. Maybe her spousage to Tulkas is what made Oromë so cranky. She loves deer and running faster than deer and dancing. In the Book of Lost Tales, she would bring wine to Tulkas’ friends in between wrestling bouts.
If you thought there was too much talk of Nessa in this manliest of sections, rest easy, for there is even less talk of Vána, Oromë’s wife and Yavanna’s sister. All we get is one (pretty lovely) line: “All flowers spring as she passes and open if she glances upon them; and all birds sing at her coming.” Basically, Oromë got lucky, and Vána could have done better.
The early version of Vána was a bit deeper. She was full of youth and beauty, “and is the happiest of all beings.” The bit in the published Silmarillion about Vána and the flowers stems from the early writing where it was she “who bringeth spring, and all sing her praises as Tári-Laisi mistress of Life.” Also, Tolkien kicked around the idea of Oromë and Vána having a daughter named Nielíqui, but not much was ever said about that.4
Two Forgotten Gods of War
As if this post wasn’t musky enough, I’d be remiss if I wasn’t to mention Makar “and his fierce sister,” Meássë, “the barbaric war-gods.” While most of the Valar, even in the early draft, were good, these two were bad news – basically the Jason and Cheryl Blossom of Valinor.5
He wrote that “it had been better had they not found the world but remained for ever with the Ainur beyond Vaitya and the stars, for both were spirits of quarrelsome mood….” They were the “first and chief” to join in with Melkor’s discord during the Music.
As we’ve learned already (in the no-chicks-allowed Tulkas section), Makar would just hit you for no reason. Makar was a dick, plain and simple. The brother and sister didn’t live around the other Valar, but built themselves their own place made out of iron, “and a grim hall it was.” They built it near Mandos, so it was pretty far out of town.
Here’s a bit of fun:
There fought the vassals of Makar clad in armour, and a clad there was and a shouting and a braying of trumps, but Meássë fared among the warriors and egged them to more blows, or revived the fainting with strong wine that they might battle still; and her arms were reddened to the elbow dabbing in that welter.
None of the Valar ever visited them except Tulkas, who really didn’t like either of them, but went there to keep up his strength and fighting skills. Yet another example of Tolkien interjecting Tulkas because, come on – Tulkas.6
Tolkien subsequently cut them prior to the 1930 Quenta. I kind of enjoy these two rouge Valar, and think they add quite a bit to the Lost Tales, but in the published Silmarillion, they really would seem out of place. Of course, their story isn’t quite finished, and we’ll dip back into it when it comes up again.
And that pretty well takes us to the end of this beefy post. Sorry for all the bros, hope it wasn’t too dudely.
- This post took EXTRA long to complete – I got very distracted watching Hercules Against the Moon Men.
1. Book of Lost Tales, Vol. 1, p75. ↩
2. Book of Lost Tales, Vol. 1, p76. ↩
3. Shaping of Middle-earth, p79. ↩
4. Book of Lost Tales, p67, 89, 93. ↩
5. Archies comics, anyone? ↩
6. Book of Lost Tales, Vol. 1, p7-78. ↩
Pages & Text
- Page 29 (and a tiny bit of 28)
- Chapter: Valaquenta, Paragraphs 13-15
- Starting with:
“Greatest in strength and deeds…”
- Ending with:
“…that Ilúvatar has sent into Eä.”