Big Birds and Bigger Waters (Silmarillion Slow Cooker, p40)

I hate to say this, folks, but we’re dipping back in for a second helping of the rehashed. In the last post, we treaded those stagnant waters a bit, but in today’s we’ll plunge right in. Sure, there’s some new stuff and a few morsels we’ll need for later, but mostly you should prepare to chew the chewed on this installment of the Silmarillion Slow Cooker!

We Go Where (Useless) Eagles Dare
Among the same ol’ Manwë jive, we get a bit about the Eagles. After hearing again how Manwë built his house upon Taliquetil – the highest mountain in the world – we’re told one of the ways in which he knows most of the goings on across creation. Enter the Eagles.

We read that these weren’t just any boring ol’ birds, but “spirits in the shape of hawks and eagles”. These were, it seems, other Ainur – Maiar who decided to take the form of various birds of prey. Their job was to fly to Middle-earth, check out what was going on, and report back. Their vision was fairly keen, as they “could see to the depths of the seas, and pierce the hidden caverns beneath the world.”

This would be an incredibly handy super power for keeping an eye upon Melkor. Except that’s the one thing they couldn’t see. Melkor’s darkness was impenetrable, which quickly suggests that one might question their usefulness.

Of course, time in this passage is a bit odd. It’s clearly looking ahead to after the Elves are awoken, as the following paragraph goes on and on about various lines of Elves and their relation to Manwë. Once the Elves are awake, the various spirit-raptors could certainly keep watch over them. We’ll get into these and other birds later in the narrative.

Eagles were within Tolkien’s earliest writings, beginning in 1917’s Fall of Gondolin, where “Thorndor” was named “King of Eagles.” Melko captured his kin, and “chained them against sharp rocks to squeeze from them the magic words whereby he might learn to fly (for he dreamed of contending even against Manwë in the air); and when they would not tell he cut off their wings and sought to fashion therefrom a mighty pair for his use, but it availed not.” That’s pretty messed up. (BoLT2, p93)

Also, when Tolkien wrote the first draft of the Ainulindalë, the passage we’re looking at today was contained within it. And as I’ve mentioned before, when Christopher Tolkien was compiling the Silmarillion for publication, he moved a bunch of paragraphs from the Ainulindalë draft, pasting them at the beginning and end of Chapter One. (Lost Road, p162; Morgoth’s Ring, p19, 34)

Camera: Mamiya C3 Film: Fuji Provia 100F xpro as C-41

Camera: Mamiya C3
Film: Fuji Provia 100F xpro as C-41

Tickle Me Salmar!
Though we’re told again that Ulmo is all about the water and never goes to Valinor unless he really super duper has to, we also learn a tiny bit more about him and a few of the chums he palled around with.

Who could forget the incredibly unforgeable Salmar? Remember all those wild tales of Ulmo and Salmar splish splashing around the Outer Ocean? No, of course not. Here is the only mention of this Salmar fellow, the maia who made the Ulumúri, Ulmo’s horn of blasting.

Though this is the only time we hear about him in the Silmarillion, he too dates back to 1917’s Fall of Gondolin, where he was named Noldorin and fought alongside Tulkas (until Tolkien cut him out of the battle – poor Salmar). (BoLT 2, p194.)

From that point on, he’s mentioned here and there, but mostly in passing. And while he’s mentioned in 1919’s Music of the Ainur (a proto-Ainulindalë), his construction of the Ulumúri didn’t come about until the mid-1930’s Ainulindalë. (BoLT 1, p58; Lost Road, p161, 165)

What the Hell is the Outer Ocean?
Ulmo, we’re told again and again, lived in the water. The Earth at this point was flat. If you’d look at a map, Valinor was in the west, Middle-earth was in the middle, and the Lands of the Sun were in the east. Two oceans were between the three land masses, however, around all of the land and the oceans was the Outer Ocean, Ekkaia, where Ulmo lived.

The concept of an outer sea dates back to 1919, when it was then called Vaiya, the Enfolding Ocean. This was probably first named in a weird drawing done by Tolkien of a sort of cross-section of the earth that also looked like a Viking ship. It’s pretty bonkers. Anyway, Vai (the Outer Ocean) was actually below the land, so that the entire flat world was floating upon it. (BoLT 1, p86, 227)

Even from the early writings, Ulmo claimed that there was only one ocean, and the smaller oceans of the world derived their waters from the Outer Ocean, Vaiya. This is described in detail in the mid-1930’s Amabarkanta, which detailed how the world looked. You can see a map from that era here. (Shaping of Middle-earth, p236)

The Outer Ocean, Vaiya, Ekkaia, is nothing all that special. It’s just water. Sure, it’s where Ulmo lives, but there’s nothing otherwise mystical about it.


And in Closing…
In today’s passage, we learned that both Manwë and Ulmo cared for and watched over Middle-earth. Both would have dealings with the Elves, and both had servants who helped them in that regard. It was important for them that Middle-earth not be forsaken.

Since all of the writing in today’s paragraphs was taken from the final/1951 version of the Ainulindalë, time seems to look ahead toward the larger narrative. The original draft of what would be called Chapter One, had no such details. All was kept to the present tense of the Two Lamps, Two Trees, and the Valar building Valinor. Since the Ainulindalë was meant to be a stand-alone piece, little bits of the larger story were referenced with the thought that the audience would already know whatever it was that Tolkien was talking about. This is why the published Chapter One seems to jump ahead a bit – because these paragraphs weren’t actually supposed to be there.


Some Notes:

  • So, what do you think? Are the citations okay? I kind of hate them, but they save me about twenty minutes of work, so they’re probably sticking around as-is.
  • It looks like I might be dropping to two posts a week – Monday and Thursday. For now, it suits me. Summer is basically here and there’s hardly time for even that much.
  • I don’t really have any photos of eagles, so how about the Apollo command module that held the Eagle? That works!

Pages & Text

  • Page 40 (starting on a bit of 39)
  • Chapter: Of the Beginning of Days, Paragraphs 17-19
  • Starting with:
    “But Manwë Súlimo, highest and holiest of the Valar…”
  • Ending with:
    “…and will not until the end of days.”

8 thoughts on “Big Birds and Bigger Waters (Silmarillion Slow Cooker, p40)

    • A ton! Before, after finishing the writing, I’d moan and bitch to myself about having to copy/paste/code for the next 15-20 mins. Also, find a photo. Extra work after writing really bugs me. I just want to be finished. Sure, I could go back and do it later, but dang, even that is icky.

      That said, I hate how they look and I wish WordPress would just automate them. Badtards.

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