Welcome to “Of Aulë and Yavanna” – the chapter that shouldn’t have been. One of the most fascinating things about the published Silmarillion is how it was created, first, by Tolkien across the decades, and then by this son after he died.
This particular chapter was pasted together from two very difference sources. One dealt with Dwarves, the other handled the Ents. Neither were Chapter Two, and only one was part of the Quenta. In fact, the bits about the Ents came about during Tolkien’s flirtation with the Round World idea. But let’s begin at the beginning and take the story right until Aulë picks up his hammer.
We all know the story. Aulë was excited to see the Elves, but time wasn’t moving fast enough for him, so he made the Dwarves. Knowing that the other Valar just wouldn’t understand, he didn’t tell anyone what he was doing (not even Yavanna!). He made Seven Fathers of the Dwarves strong to be able to withstand Melkor. Aulë even gave them speech.
All the while, of course, Ilúvatar knew what he was up to, and asked him why Aulë did this, even though he knew it was beyond his authority. We learn that the Dwarves were, more than anything, like puppets, only able to move by Aulë’s will. When Aulë offered to destroy them, Ilúvatar intervened and more or less adopted them as his own, giving them wills of their own.
This is what we’re told in the Silmarillion, but this was decided upon very late in the game by Tolkien. Through the writing of the Lost Tales, The Hobbit, and even Lord of the Rings, there was a very different story going on behind the scenes.
The Dwarves were first mentioned in 1918’s “Tale of Turambar,” which introduced (and quickly dispatched) Mîm the Dwarf. (BoLT 2, p103) This new species got Tolkien thinking, which spawned “The Nauglafring: The Necklace of the Dwarves”, in early 1919. That the Dwarves were now part of the world, Tolkien went back and added them here and there, but nowhere did he explain how they were created within the story.
It was, however, addressed by one of the Elves in “Nauglafring”: “The Nauglath [Dwarves] are a strange race and none know surely whence they be; and they serve not Melko nor Manwë and reck not for Elf or Man, and some say that they have not heard of Ilúvatar, or hearing disbelieve.” (BoLT 2, p223)
This unknowable origin was carried through to the early 1930s, when he wrote the “Annals of Beleriand,” a timeline for what would later be known as the First Age. Within the entry for the Siege of Angband, it’s again stated: “For it is not known whence the Dwarves came, save that they are not of El-kin or mortal kind or of Morgoth’s breed.” (Shaping, p331)
This was the idea that Tolkien had when he wrote The Hobbit. Their origins were simply not known. But before starting Lord of the Rings, the first sliver of the Aulë story was given in a revision to the “Annals of Beleriand,” written in the mid-1930s. After echoing the previous statement, the narrator added: “But it is said by some of the wise in Valinor, as I have since learned, that Aulë made the Dwarves long ago, desiring the coming of the Elves and of Men, for he wished to have learners to whom he could teach his crafts of hand, and he could not wait upon the designs of Ilúvatar.”
In this telling, the Dwarves, at least according to this Elvish narrator, “have no spirit indwelling” and “have skill but not art.” After they die, they “go back into the stone of the mountains of which they were made.” This would soon be changed with the additional speculation that Aulë might take care of them after their passing, so that they won’t perish. (Lost Road, p129)
Also in the mid-1930s, and after writing the “Annals of Beleriand,” Tolkien wrote “The Lhammas,” which delved into the in-story origins of the various languages. In this piece, it was stated assuredly that Aulë made the Dwarves for the reasons stated above, but just as certain, propounded that they were without indwelling spirits and could not make art or even poetry. (Lost Road, p179, 190-1)
Then, just before starting Lord of the Rings, in 1937, Tolkien rewrote the Quenta, based upon the earlier version from 1930. In what was then the Tenth Chapter, “Of Men and Dwarves,” he worked out the origin even more. At first, it mirrored the previous, and the Dwarves were without indwelling spirits, but in a rewrite, he nixed that bit. He also equated them to the Orcs, “but they were not made out of malice and mockery, and were not begotten of evil purpose.”
Though Aulë was responsible for them, in Tolkien’s mind from this period, Ilúvatar had nothing to do with their creation. Their thought and being came from only Aulë, but one of the Valar, as opposed to Elves and Men who “have kinship with all in some degree.” (Lost Road, p273-277)
And all of this prior to the Lord of the Rings! This means that when he penned The Hobbit, Tolkien was writing under the idea that the Dwarves essentially had no souls! And then, when he picked up the story in Lord of the Rings, their indwelling spirits were unmentioned, but Iĺúvatar was not yet involved. His story and theology would go through some major changes before Lord of the Rings was published, however.
Due to time, we’ll pick that up in the next post. We’re basically covered the first three paragraphs of “Of Aulë and Yavanna,” though mostly just the first (and kind of the fourth and fifth). This will all work out, no worries.
- I guess I really only dealt with the first paragraph. But since we all know the story well enough, I’ll leave the other two, as well as the next page, for the next post.
Pages & Text
- Page 43
- Chapter: Of Aulë and Yavanna, Paragraphs 1-3
- Starting with:
“It is told that in their beginning…”
- Ending with:
“…But should I not rather destroy the work of my presumption?”