March 23, 3018 – Gandalf Arrives in Mirkwood

Welcome to March 23, 3018 (Third Age). On this day Gandalf made it to Mirkwood where he met Aragorn, who was holding Gollum prisoner.

While he’d remain here for about five days, let’s take a look at what he was up to before this. If you don’t know where you’ve been, you don’t know where you’re going, right?

Gandalf Post-Hobbit – Expecting a Party
When last we left Gandalf, he and Balin the Dwarf were visiting Bilbo “some years” after the Battle of Five Armies. Of course, The Hobbit doesn’t give us any solid dates – those solid dates didn’t even exist when Tolkien wrote it. But when figuring out the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien went back and connected both to the larger framework of his legendarium.

The “some years” later turned out to be seven years – 2949, according to the “Tale of Years” in Appendix B – or 69 years before the Fellowship gathers in 3018. Frodo was not yet even born.

Four years after the visit, in 2951, Gandalf met with the White Council to mull over the Rings of Power. This is where Saruman lied about the One Ring, telling everyone that it washed out to sea. He also has spies following Gandalf, being suspicious that the gray wizard might be onto him (he wasn’t).

Five years later still, in 2956, Gandalf meets Aragorn, then merely a pup at the age of 25.

Gandalf doesn’t show up again in the “Tale of Years” until Bilbo’s farewell feast on his eleventy-first birthday, the Long Expected Party, at the beginning of Lord of the Rings.

There must have been some communication between Bilbo and Gandalf shortly before, however. Gandalf asks out of nowhere: “You mean to go on with your plan then?” Bilbo says that he had made up his mind “months ago.”

After Bilbo puts on the Ring and disappears, the two meet up back at Bag End. Gandalf makes sure that Bilbo follows through with his plan to a) leave and b) leave the Ring with Frodo. Bilbo leaves for his last adventure (to Rivendell) and Frodo leaves the party for Bag End, where he and Gandalf both spend the night (Frodo, of course, has been living there for years).

Not So Fast!
Due to the Peter Jackson films, it’s easy to forget that Frodo didn’t just up and leave on the heels of Bilbo’s departure. Seventeen years passed between the Long Expected Party and when Frodo left the Shire. So what was Gandalf up to?

We learn in the “Shadow of the Past” chapter that after Bilbo’s party in 3001, he was away from the Shire for three years. Then, he dropped by to “take a good look” at Frodo. Every year or so after that, until the autumn of 3008, he had showed up to pay Frodo a visit. After that “his visits had ceased.”

It’s speculated that from the party until 3008 Gandalf was operating nearby, possibly based out of Rivendell, but definitely west of the Misty Mountains. After that, however, he was likely to their east.

We learn in the “Tale of Years” that it was then that Gandalf and Aragorn renewed their search for Gollum in hopes that he would reveal whether the ring he once carried was the Ring. They searched “the vales of Anduin, Mirkwood, and Rhovanion to the confines of Mordor.” They heard rumor of Gollum, but they never found him.

The Search for Gollum and the A-ha Moment
We learn from Gandalf in the Council of Elrond that over the next eight years Gandalf and Aragorn searched for Gollum. Gandalf then recalled that Sauron once said that the Ring could be read by someone “skilled.” With that, in the year 3017, Gandalf broke off the search for Gollum and went immediately to Gondor.

Of course, through much of this, Gollum was held as a prisoner by Sauron in Mordor. He was, however, released around this time. As Aragorn continued the search, Gandalf made his way to search through King Denethor’s mass of scrolls at Minas Tirith.

Specifically, Gandalf was looking for the scroll written by Isildur – the last to possess the Ring. Gandalf found the scroll and learned that Isildur had seen the markings on the Ring. Though he couldn’t read them, he copied them down. Gandalf, though, could read them. Now he knew what to look for. All he had to do was go back to the Shire, take a good hard look at Frodo’s ring and see if it was a match.

Not So Fast! (Again)
With this handy bit of knowledge, Gandalf left Minas Tirith in a hurry for the Shire, heading north. But he learned from the Elves at Lórien that Aragorn had captured Gollum. It was a bit of a Battleship Potemkin moment for Gandalf. Did he go towards the northeast to Mirkwood to interview Gollum? Or should he continue northwest to the Shire?

Gandalf chose the latter, but didn’t give much of an explanation. Of course, at this point, nobody knew that every hour was critical. It was, as it turned out, still 183 days before Frodo would leave the Shire on September 23rd.

What’s Next?
Aragorn and Gandalf would remain with Gollum and the Elves in Mirkwood for five days, leaving on March 29th. And it’s then that we’ll take a closer look at what they learned from Gollum and just what this delay might have cost Gandalf.

Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2, Model D
Film: Svema Foto 65 (x-04/84)
Process: Rodinal 25+1 (6:15mins)
Yellowstone National Park


March 21, 3018 – Aragorn and Gollum Arrive in Mirkwood (Probably)

Hello. And welcome to March 21st, 3018 of the Third Age (or 1418 by the Shire Reckoning). Today is a bit of a gray area involving Aragorn, Gandalf and Gollum. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s first get you up to speed.

You remember the Hobbit, right? Bilbo won a ring of invisibility from Gollum, and returned to the Shire after the Battle of Five Armies. That was some 77 years before the start of Lord of the Rings – Bilbo returned home to the Shire in 2942. At that time, nobody but he and Gollum knew he had the ring. And nobody at all knew what exactly the ring was.

Sure, folks like Gandalf and Elrond knew of the One Ring, but it hadn’t been seen since Isildur lopped it off Sauron’s hand over 3,000 years before.

Of course, the Ring was found by Déagol the Stoor (a race similar to Hobbits) in the year 2463. He was almost immediately murdered by his cousin Sméagol, later to become Gollum, who wanted the Ring for himself (as a birthday present). Seven years later, Sméagol scurried into the Misty Mountains where he lived with his Precious for nearly 500 years.

In 2939, two years before the events of The Hobbit, Sauron began his search for the Ring. He knew that Isildur was killed in or near the Anduin around the Gladden Fields, and so sent his servants to search for it. The wizard, Saruman, learned of this, but kept the information to himself – a curious choice.

And so Sauron was actively looking for the Ring, which was then in the mines of Mount Gundabad in the Misty Mountains – the same mountain where the Goblin King, a servant of Sauron, was living. In fact, the Orcs had occupied Gundabad for thousands of years (with the possible exception for a few years during the War of the Dwarves and Orcs in 2793).

To be clear, the One Ring, the Ring, was within reach of Sauron’s servants in the Misty Mountains for 450 some years. So close, yet so far.

But following Bilbo’s return to the Shire with the Ring, Sauron moved from Dol Guldur in Mirkwood to Mordor. Two years later, Gollum finally left the Misty Mountains, also searching for the Ring.

Up through this time, Sauron was keeping on the downlow. But that time was soon over. Six years after The Hobbit, Sauron declared himself openly, rebuilding Barad-dûr and even reoccupying Dol Guldur in Mirkwood with three Nazgûls (or two, depending on when Tolkien was writing about it). It was also at this same time that Gollum started for Mordor.

So About Today, Then?
We’re getting there. But it does involve Gollum, so let’s stick with him. Gollum started for Mordor in 2951. Setting out from the Misty Mountains, he flapped 800ish miles over the course of 29 years, reaching Shelob’s lair in the year 2980. It took him a bit longer to finally be captured by Sauron in the year 3009 or 3017 (Appendix B has the earlier date, but “The Hunt for the Ring,” appearing in Unfinished Tales, has the later).

There, he was “questioned and tormented” by Sauron, who could get at least two words out of him: “Baggins” and “Shire.” But he also told Sauron other things – such as the Shire (he didn’t know the word “Hobbit”) was somewhere near where he had once lived – in the Vales of Anduin. In another version of “The Hunt,” it’s Sauron who deduces this somewhat faulty information.

After learning what he could from Gollum, Sauron released him, hoping that his spies could keep an eye on Gollum, who would, no doubt, lead them directly to the Ring. Afterall, Gollum knew that area of Middle-earth better than Sauron. It all just made sense.

Except it didn’t work out that way at all.

Soon, Gollum was captured by Aragorn and interviewed by Gandalf. But when did that happen? Tolkien wasn’t exactly clear, and probably wasn’t all that sure.

So… Not Today, Then?
Okay, let’s get down to it. Appendix B claims that in 3017 Gollum was “released from Mordor” and then “taken by Aragorn in the Dead Marshes, and brought to Thranduil in Mirkwood.”

Though official, this is all incredibly vague (keep it mind, that in Appendix B Gollum was captured in 3009 – so, again, various versions may vary).

The reason I prefer the “unofficial” dates given in “The Hunt for the Ring” and other notes is because Tolkien actually worked out the specific details down to the miles and days. That’s far more interesting than the simple hand-waving given in Appendix B.

In “Hunt for the Ring,” Aragorn captured Gollum at nightfall on February 1st, 3018. Aragorn then dragged Gollum 900 miles, crossing the Anduin twice (with the help of the Beornings!), delivering him to Thranduil in Mirkwood on March 21st (today!).

Aragorn’s roundabout path from the Dead Marshes to Mirkwood.

But Tolkien had a bit of a problem. He knew that Gandalf had to arrive in the Shire by April 12th – a distance of 700 miles. He played around with the dates a bit, and even the miles. In the end, he figured that Aragorn needed 44 days to get Gollum from the Dead Marshes to Mirkwood, and that Gandalf would require 40 days to get from Mirkwood to the Shire.

Though he gave Gandalf a horse for some of the time, he really couldn’t make it work. In one of his notes, he wrote that “Gollum must therefore have been captured [by Aragorn] at beginning of 3018, say about Jan 1-3.”

Hammond and Scull speculate that Tolkien might have removed all of these finer details when publishing Appendix B “in order to begin the section ‘The Great Years’ with an event related in the direct narrative of The Lord of the Rings: Gandalf’s arrival at hobbiton on 12 April 3018.”

They’re probably correct. But it also solved his other problems. He no longer had to worry about when Gollum was released or when Aragorn captured him, how long it took to get from the Dead Marshes to Thranduil or even how Gandalf would get to the Shire. In Appendix B none of those things matter at all.

Of course, none of this could stop what seemed like his error later in the book, when Frodo mentions that Aragorn captured Gollum “some years ago.”

So, setting aside the official canon of Appendix B (which is almost always a bad idea), the March 21st date for Aragorn’s arrival in Mirkwood with Gollum makes the most sense and is generally accepted as canon even though it’s really not.

Regardless, March 21st is 185 long days before Frodo will leave the Shire.

What’s Next?
March 23 – Gandalf arrives in Mirkwood. We’ll dig a bit into that and dig into where the grey wizard has been for the past 77 years.

Side note: It feels really good to get back to Tolkien.

… And Back Again?

I’m kicking around an idea. See, this is the year 2018. The “18” corresponds nicely with the Third Age year 3018 (Shire Reckoning 1418) – the year when the Fellowship set out. Even more fun, the actual days And while the date of their departure isn’t until September, there’s quite a bit of pre-journey shuffling that is about to start.

So my idea is to follow the event taking place in Lord of the Rings day-by-day, as much as possible. True, there is a bit of downtime, especially at first. There’s also a lot going on during some days, and this will require a bit of yadda-yaddaing. I’m fine with that.

And since this is me, I plan on taking a look not just into the story, but into how the story evolved a bit through the writing, especially concerning matters of time.

To assist me, I’ve got “The Tale of Years” from Appendix B of LotR, as well as Hammond & Scull’s Reader’s Guide. For the backstory, there’s the History of the Lord of the Rings volumes from the History of Middle-earth series, and finally Untangling Tolkien by Michael W. Perry (which is going to come in very handy when I’m in a hurry).

I have no idea if this will work out or if I’ll just wander off like I did with my other Tolkien projects on this page. But mostly, I’m fine with that too.

Mistakes will be made, dates will be forgotten, and I’ll most definitely stand corrected. I have no idea how I’ll handle dates such as Lithe and Yule, but I’m sure it’ll all work out.

The first date that I come across is for March 21st – tomorrow. No pressure, right? It’s a fairly interesting date. We’ll see if I keep it.

The Valar Give Melkor the Ol’ Switch-a-roo! (A Slight Diversion)

Since I’m clearly taking the Silmarillion at my own pace, I thought I’d get us a bit sidetracked once again. In the previous post, Tulkas was mentioned in passing. Whenever Tulkas is mentioned, I always find it best to go back to the Book of Lost Tales version. Tolkien gave this character much more dialog and fun way back in 1919. But this version was drastically different. Rather than deciding to do nothing, the Valar acted!

While Yavanna’s meeting was still called, it was Ulmo and Aulë who devised a plan to battle and ultimately capture Melko (as Tolkien first named Melkor). Aulë turned to his smithy and made a chain which they named Angaino, because what good is a chain if it doesn’t have a bitchin’ name? The Valar then went to Utumna, Melko’s abode, banged on the door and asked to see the guy in charge.

Langon, Melko’s servant, claimed his master was super incredibly thrilled to see them, but since he was totally not even a tiny bit ready to entertain the lot of them, he only had space for two of them at a time. Also, please don’t send Manwë or Tulkas, thanks.

Melko was also a bit sassy, wondering (via Langon) “what it were the Gods so greatly desired that they must leave their soft couches and indolence of Valinor for the bleak places where Melko laboured humbly and did his toilsome work.”

At that, Tulkas “would have started straightway raging down the narrow stairs that descended out of sight beyond the gates, but the others withheld him…” They needed a plan, and it was Aulë who reasoned that since Melko didn’t want to see Manwë or Tulkas most, that Manwë and Tulkas needed to find a way to sneak in and surprise the big guy.

So they sent a messenger to butter Melko up, telling him that he was the best and how much they missed him, and that they really hoped that he’d come the hell back to Valinor. To make it believable, they even told him that “Tulkas alone would not assent” and because of that, they totally restrained him “with violence to beg thee to pardon them each one.”

And it worked! Melko bought it hook, line, and sinker. But they weren’t out of the woods yet. Melko wanted them to bow to him. I mean, if he was the greatest, why wouldn’t they just do this one small thing – “but – Tulkas I will not see, and if I come to Valinor then will I thrust him out.”

Though Melko and Tulkas were super unfriends, Tulkas still got really angry about this and “smote his hands in wrath.” But the Valar used this to their advantage. They really wanted to chain Melko and get Tulkas inside. What better way to do this than playing a trick on Melko by binding Tulkas in the chains of Angaino, leading him into Detention Block AA-23, to cell 2187 where Tarkin was keeping the Princess. Or something like that. Anyway…

So after binding Tulkas, they brought him before Melko, who sat in a chamber “lit with flaming braziers and full of evil magic, and strange shapes moved with feverish movement in and out, but snakes of great size curled and uncurled without rest about the pillars that upheld the roof.” It was a strange joint, to be sure. But with that, Manwë asked Melko to come back to Valinor.

But Melko wasn’t quite finished. First, he wanted Manwë to kneel before him and for Tulkas to kiss his foot. Here we get a quick peek into the mind of Melko. We’re told that “he purposed to spurn Tulkas in the mouth in payment of that buffet long ago.” You’ll remember, that this “buffet” came in the form of Tulkas socking Melko in the face. Melko didn’t exactly forget that.

While Manwë had sincerely thought there was good still in him, it was now clear to all that Melko was more evil now than Vala. So the sneaky original plan was still on track.

The plan seemed to be for Manwë to bow and Tulkas to kiss Melko’s feet, and for them to bring him back to Valinor and deal with him on ground of their own choosing. But then Tulkas jumped the gun. (Note: Classic Tulkas.)

Camera: Spartus 35F Model 400 Film: Svema 125 (expired)

Camera: Spartus 35F Model 400
Film: Svema 125 (expired)

Seeing Manwë bow, both Aulë and Tulkas were enraged. And while Aulë could keep his emotions all bottled up, Tulkas really really couldn’t. So he “leapt across the hall at a bound.” Aulë and Oromë both followed his cue, “and the hall was full of tumult.” The Valar battled Melko’s minions, but even the dark lord himself got in on the action, grabbing his iron flail and swinging it at Manwë. But Manwë’s blew his breath at it and diverted its path.

So then naturally “Tulkas smote Melko full in his teeth with his fist of iron, and he and Aulë grappled with him, and straight he was wrapped thirty times in the fathoms of Angaino.” It was a boring conversation, anyway.

Oromë really wanted to kill him, and lamented that Gods couldn’t (yet) be killed. So they beat him up real good and his minions fled. It was Tulkas who got the pleasure of dragging Melko out of his abode, where Aulë put their prisoner in iron cuffs. Tulkas and Ulmo then destroyed Utumna. And with that, they brought him back to Valinor to stand trial.

From this point on, the story is echoed in the published Silmarillion, with Palúrien (Yavanna) here standing in for Nienna and her tears, though falling in against Melko rather than in his favor. Manwë, even in this early version, was hopefully naive that Melko could be rehabilitated. Tulkas and Palürien weren’t thrilled, but all went along with it. And for a time, there would be peace.

In this early version, dating from 1919, it was only after Melko was chained that the Elves came. He would be partially freed on the day of the awakening, losing the heavy chain of Angaino, but still having to wear the wrist and ankle cuffs. Manwë did this before the full time of Melko’s sentence. And “Melko sat at the feet of Tulkas and feigned a glad and humble cheer.”

In 1930’s Quenta Noldorinwa, the story’s outline remained basically the same, though much of the fun writing was gone. (Shaping of Middle-Earth, p84, 264) By 1937’s Quenta Silmarillion, Tolkien had decided upon the basic outline that he carried through to the last – that the attack upon Melkor would come after the awakening of the Elves.

But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. Next post, we’ll return to the published Silmarillion and see more about the awakening of the Elves, this time with Melkor!


Some Note:

  • Uh, we had a slight weapons malfunction, but uh… everything’s perfectly all right now. We’re fine. We’re all fine here now, thank you… How are you?
  • This is all in the Book of Lost Tales, Book I, p100-105, with a bit from 115.
  • The in-laws are visiting, so I’m pretty sure that I’ll not be able to get a post up on Monday. I’m sure you’ll survive.

Pages & Text

  • Page 48 (with a bit of 47 – but really it doesn’t matter for this post)
  • Chapter: Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor, Paragraphs 4-8
  • Starting with:
    “It came to pass that the Valar held council…”
  • Ending with:
    “…and have revered Varda Elentári above all the Valar.”

Oh Heavens! Making the Stars and Not Going to War (Silmarillion Slow Cooker, p48)

Today brings us to the moment we’ve all been waiting for – the awakening of the Elves! But first, we’ll need to form a committee, hold a meeting, give dire warnings, threaten war, and create a few more stars. It’s a big day in Valinor, so let’s get started!

Yavanna and Oromë Return
After their jauntings in Middle-earth, Yavanna came back to Valinor, called the other Vala together, and reminded them that the time draweth neigh – soon the Elves would be awake. This was a fine thing, to be sure, but because of the whole retreat to Aman after Melkor destroyed the lamps and remade the world thing, they were hardly ready.

Because of this remaking, the world was divided into three continents, with Aman (and Valinor) being in the west, and the aptly-named Middle-earth being in the middle. Because all of the Valar remained in Valinor except Yavanna and Oromë (and Ulmo, I suppose, but does anyone really count him these days?), Middle-earth and the Elves were left undefended.

Yavanna cautioned that since Ilúvatar’s vision was cut short, they really had no clue as to when the Elves would rise. All she knew was that the time was coming and Middle-earth was ruled by Melkor and his minions. “Shall they walk in darkness while we have light? Shall they call Melkor lord while Manwë sits upon Taniquetil?”

Yavanna Sort of Gets a Bit of Support…
The only one to really seem to care about this was Tulkas – the Vala who laughed while he fought. He urged them to make war, warning that they had rested too long and it was time to take out this Melkor chap.

But he seemed to be the only one. Mandos, who was representing Manwë for some reason, explained a few things. Ilúvatar had shown Manwë much more than he had shown he other Vala. For instance, the Children, the Elves and Men, wouldn’t be coming along quite yet. Besides, it was their “doom,” their destiny, to be born in the dark.

The Great Light Shall Be For Their Waning.
This is such a strange statement. According to the Annals of Aman, a timeline of pre-First Age events written by Tolkien in the early 1950s, it was 1050 years after the making of the Two Trees when the Elves were awakened. Then, only 450 years later, the Sun and the Moon were created (and Men were awakened), thus starting the First Age. (Morgoth’s Ring, p71, 130)

If the “great light shall be for their waning” was true, that means that the Elves golden years lasted only four and a half centuries. Of course, they were still around for millennia to come, but from the First Age on, it was basically Sun and Men (yow!).

Star Talk with Varda
Though there were some stars in the sky of Middle-earth, it was apparently not enough – they were “faint and far.” So she made more. This was a huge undertaking, called the “greatest of all works of the Valar since their coming into Arda.”

Made from the silver dews from the tree Telperion, she created a whole slew of stars. Tolkien gave them all names, even deciding which constellations were which. Tolkien, in one of the last drafts of the Quenta (from 1958ish), jotted down which stars related to which actual celestial bodies.

We’re given six names of stars: Carnil, Luinil, Nénar, Lumbar, Alcarinquë, and Elemmírë. Of these six, only three have definite ties to our world. Carnil, Lumbar, and Alcarinquë are Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter, respectively. There’s a chance that he wished for Elemmírë to be Mercury, but it’s written in the Silmarillion that these were to be the brightest things in the sky. Mercury seems right out.

However, Christopher Tolkien reasoned that while the names for Mars and Jupiter were definitely settled, he figured that his father just chucked in all the planets (except Venus, of course) for good measure. This would leave Luinil and Nénar to be Uranus and Neptune. Why? Well, Tollers was sort of a completest in some strange ways.

 Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2, Model D (1914) Film: Kodak Verichrome Pan (expired 1959)

Camera: Kodak Brownie No. 2, Model D (1914)
Film: Kodak Verichrome Pan (expired 1959)

In the Likeness of a Great Bee?
As for the constellations, six were named, and two were glossed. Menelmacar was Orion, and Valacirca was the Big Dipper. The rest are unknown. (Morgoth’s Ring, p434-436)

But there’s something interesting about Menelmacar. With his “shining belt” he “forebodes the Last Battle that shall be at the end of days,” the Dagor Dagorath. This constellation was nothing new to Tolkien. He first wrote about it in 1919, when he called it Telumehtar, meaning “the warrior in the sky.” (Lost Tales I, p200, 256, 268.)

Though it was never fully fleshed out, the constellation was said to actually be Telimektar, the son of Tulkas. He, along with the first Elf’s son, Ingil, “rose into the heavens in the likeness of a great bee.” They chased Melko into these heavens, “and they remain now in the sky to ward it, and Melkor stalks high above the air seeking ever to do a hurt to the Sun and Moon and stars (eclipses, meteors). Telimektar became the constellation using stars given to him by Varda, “and he bears them aloft that the Gods may know he watches; he has diamonds on his sword-sheath, and this will go red when he draws his sword at the Great End.” Ingil became Helluin, Sirius, the Dog Star – the brightest star in the sky. (Lost Tales II, p281.)

But these were only notes, and soon enough, the story disappeared entirely, ultimately evolving into what we see in the published Silmarillion.

Rise and Shine
In our last paragraph, the awakening of the Elves is only mentioned. The long and the short of it are to come next. But here we get the basic outline. They awoke under the starlight by Cuiviénen, “Water of Awakening.” The first thing they saw were stars, and have since been “all for Moon and Stars,” as Sam said (though the Moon wasn’t quite around just yet).


Some Note:

  • Menelmacar was also called Menelvagor in Sindarin, and was used in Chapter Three of Fellowship. In Appendix E, Part 1 of Lord of the Rings, it’s also named Telumehtar, as it was in 1919. It’s Menelmacar in Quenian.
  • In the next post, we’ll stick around this page for a bit longer. In the Book of Lost Tales version, Tulkas sort of gets his way at the meeting called by Yavanna. I want to delve into that for a spell. Okay?

Pages & Text

  • Page 48 (with a bit of 47)
  • Chapter: Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor, Paragraphs 4-8
  • Starting with:
    “It came to pass that the Valar held council…”
  • Ending with:
    “…and have revered Varda Elentári above all the Valar.”

How to Tame a Balrog (Silmarillion Slow Cooker, p47)

Today we’ll not only take another look at Yavanna and Oromë, but we’ll also check in with Melkor, Sauron and the Balrogs. It’s a bit of rehashing, but that will allow us to gloss over some morsels to dig into Tolkien’s ever-changing philosophy regarding the body and the soul (and even Orcs).

This Again?
In the first chapter, we learned all about Yavanna and Oromë’s trips to Middle-earth. I wrote about it here. The previous mention of this delved into much more detail, but still we learn a few new things (and a few old things worded in slightly different ways).

Prior to Melkor destroying the Two Lamps, it had been Springtime in Arda, and Yavanna’s plants and animals began to grow. After the Lamps were taken out, Yavanna pressed pause and everything went to sleep to wait for the waking of the Children of Ilúvatar, the Elves. Tolkien focused upon a few examples of things that were halted in mid-growth. Specifically, in the plant category, he mentioned seaweed and trees. But when it came to animals, things got darker.

“…and in the valleys of the night-clad hills there were dark creatures old and strong.”
This brings us to Melkor in Atumno, and to the “dark creatures” brought up in the first paragraph. These seem to be relegated to three groupings. First were “the evil things that he had perverted.” We’ve learned in the first chapter that Yavanna’s animals “became monsters of horn and ivory and dyed the earth with blood.” (Silmarillion, p36) Melkor’s drawing near was evidenced by these changes.

His perversions weren’t the only things keeping him company, of course. The second group was labeled as “demons.” They were spirits who had sided with him earlier, and were most likely maiar. Though they certainly could have taken other forms as well, these were Balrogs.

Thirdly, we learn that Melkor bred other “monsters.” We’re given basically zero information about this. Did he mate his perversions with Balrogs? It seems possible that it could happen. Did he create something akin to Aulë’s Dwarves who would be fully-controlled by him? It seems that he had the power to do so (if Aulë had it, Melkor certainly had it, too) . But really, it’s all speculation. All we’re told is that he bred monsters. That leaves Sauron in Angband, near the western shores, standing as a fortress against the Valar to the west.

And Horror They Brought
The idea that demons and monsters flourished in the darkness brought about by Melkor had been there from the start. In the 1919 Book of Lost Tales version, the spirits which came from Melko (as he was then called) were described in much more interesting detail.

“Full of evil and unwholesome were they; luring and restlessness and horror they brought, turning the dark into an ill and fearful thing, which it was not before.”

In these early writings, extra spirits came not only from Melko, but also from Mandos (his were “very gloomy and secret”) and Lórien (they “danced thither with gentle feet exuding evening scents”). (Lost Tales 1, p99)

As his writings evolved, the early strains of this chapter can be noticed. In the 1930 Quenta, chapter two is much like the published Silmarillion‘s third chapter. Here we see the first mention of the “weeds of the sea,” but instead of trees, we get “the dark shade of yew and fir and ivy.”

But we also get not only Morgoth and Balrogs, but Orcs, which Melkor “made of stone, but their hearts of hatred.” (Shaping of Middle-earth, p82)

I described the writing history of the Orcs across a few posts (specifically, here), so I won’t go into too much detail. But when the 1937 Quenta was penned, this chapter only mentioned the Orcs to state that they had not yet been made, and would not be until Melkor “had looked upon the Elves, and he made them in mockery of the Children of Ilúvatar.” (Lost Road, p212)

Mixing It All in a Pot
This brings us to the post-Lord of the Rings era. In 1951-52, he wrote the Annals of Aman, which was basically a long-form “Tale of Years” outline for the Silmarillion material. Then, twice in the 1950s, he rewrote the Quenta again. It’s from these three sources that Christopher Tolkien compiled the published Silmarillion.

With both the Annals and the Quentas in hand, he bounced from one source to the other, plucking what he considered the best parts of each and placing them down as final. For example, much of the first paragraph (about Yavanna) comes from the Annals of Aman, while most of the second (about Melkor) comes from the later Quenta draft. However, in both, a couple sentences were swapped out here and there. The third paragraph (the one about Sauron) was actually written as a later footnote in the Annals.

How to Change a Balrog
During the editing process, Christopher Tolkien cut an interesting line about Balrogs. The published version was lifted directly from the 1950-52 Quenta draft. But the decision not to use the Annals of Aman text from a year or two later had some curious consequences. While that text, like the Quenta’s, stated that some of the evil things were perverted by Melkor, it also declared that “he wrought the race of demons whom the Elves after named the Balrogs.” (Morgoth’s Ring, p70)

Previously, I mentioned that Melkor, like Aulë, was powerful enough to create his own species, though, like the Dwarves prior to Ilúvatar, they would have no will of their own. This seems to be what Tolkien was thinking about in the earlier Annals of Aman version. Melkor wrought the Balrogs.

When Tolkien rewrote the Quenta in 1958-60, for this chapter, he mostly clung to the previous draft, but wandered around a bit about the Balrogs. This version maintained that the Balrogs were spirits who followed him from long ago. However, he used the word “ëalar,” which meant “spirit – not incarnate”. The word he would have used for something with a body was “fëa,” meaning an incarnate spirit. (Morgoth’s Ring, p165)

Why does any of this matter? Because Tolkien never really settled upon what any of this really meant. In some very late writings (collected as “Myths Transformed”), Tolkien argued that Melkor had corrupted many spirits – from the great, like Sauron, to the not-so-great, like Balrogs. But he questioned “would Eru provide fëar [spirits to be incarnated] for such creatures?” Since all spirits ultimately came from Ilúvatar, this was a fine question.

In the end, Melkor’s corruption worked on the “moral or theological level… the fëar dragging down the hröa [body] in its descent into Morgothism: hate and destruction.” This seemed to hold true for both Balrogs and Orcs. (Morgoth’s Ring, p410)

Camera: Polaroid Automatic 100 Film: Fuji FP-100C (reclaimed negative)

Camera: Polaroid Automatic 100
Film: Fuji FP-100C (reclaimed negative)

Really Reeling off Records
Concluding his final ideas about the origins of the Balrogs and Orcs, Tolkien wanders around greatly. He had set up a couple of problems for himself when writing Lord of the Rings. In this case, having the Orcs being able to talk was a huge stumbling block. If they could speak, didn’t that mean they had wills of their own?

To allow for his internal theology, the answer had to be a resounding “no”. But it also had to be explained away. The Orcs, he decided “were beasts of humanized shape.” They were not made by Melkor but altered by him in mockery. These were not like Aulë’s Dwarves in that sense. He did not create them out of whatever, but molded the Orcs from other beasts, apparently using neither Elves nor Men in the process.

As far as the talking went, he fell back upon a throw-away line from Appendix F of Lord of the Rings: “It is said that the Black Speech was devised by Sauron in the Dark Years.” From there, Tolkien reckoned that “their ‘talking’ was really reeling off ‘records’ set in them by Melkor.” Rather the Sauron, it was Melkor who taught them speech “and as they bred they inherited this; and they had just as much independence as have, say, dogs or horses of their human masters.” In this way, they were like Aulë’s Dwarves.

Having Melkor be the source of the Orcs’ wills also allowed them to rebel against Sauron “without losing their own irremediable allegiance to evil.”

The Balrogs, on the other hand, remained the same – “corrupted Maiar.” This indicates that Ilúvatar would indeed make fëar [incarnated souls] that would be able to be corrupted into Balrogs. But still, they were placed on a nearly identical level with the Orcs. “The wills of Orcs and Balrogs, etc. are part of Melkor’s power ‘dispersed’.” (Morgoth’s Ring, p410-411)

So in the case of Orcs, it seems as if their wills had always been tied to Melkor. In Balrogs, however, their original wills as given to them by Ilúvatar seem to have been taken over by Melkor.

Does Any of This Even Make Sense?
I think so. But it’s definitely a subject we’ll delve into again and again – even throughout this chapter. Besides, with the omission of anything having to do with Orcs, all you really have to remember is that Balrogs were corrupted Maiar. If you want extra-credit, just recall that they no longer have wills of their own.


Some Note:

  • Curiously, Tolkien also concluded that Húan and even the Eagles had no fëar, no incarnated soul.

Pages & Text

  • Page 47
  • Chapter: Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor, Paragraphs 1-3
  • Starting with:
    “Through long ages the Valar dwelt in bliss…”
  • Ending with:
    “…and it was named Angband.”

Entomology: Studying the Shepherds of the Trees (Silmarillion Slow Cooker, p46b)

The Ents/Manwë section of this chapter was written in 1959ish – a few years after the Lord of the Rings was published. Prior to their invention in that book, the Ents did not exist in any of Tolkien’s writings. And when he first wrote about them, during the creation of LotR, they were not the Ents we know and love today. Let’s take a look at how this all happened.

The word “ent” was first used by Tolkien when naming the land of the Trolls north of Rivendell. “Ent” was from the Old English “eoten” for “giant.” It had nothing to do with Treebeard’s Ents, which, at the time of the naming (early 1938), did not yet exist. (Return of the Shadow, p201, 205)

Toward the end of 1938, Tolkien had Sam say: “But what about these Tree-men, these here – giants? They do say as one nigh as big as a tower was seen up away beyond the North Moors not long back.” (Return of the Shadow, p254) This could certainly have been the first mention of Ents, except that way back in 1917, when writing the first version of the Eärendel story, he also mentions the “Tree-men,” which probably weren’t anything remotely related to the Ents. (Book of Lost Tales II, p254)

Around Decemberish of 1938, Tolkien was trying to figure out the reason for Gandalf’s delay. Eventually, he devised the story about the wizard being held prisoner by Saruman, but the original idea was that Gandalf was “caught in Fangorn and spent many weary days as a prisoner of the Giant Treebeard.” (Return of the Shadow, p363)

It’s possible that this version of the Treebeard character was merely an evil (or at least not good) giant humanoid creature. In February of 1939, Tolkien wrote in a letter that there would be no dragon in Lord of the Rings, but that “there is going to be a giant.” (Letters, No. 35)

This idea may have been carried forward until July of that year, when Tolkien again turned to this large fellow. Seemingly out of nowhere, Tolkien wrote a short narrative describing a meeting between Frodo and Treebeard.

“Suddenly he felt a quiver in the gnarled tree-trunk against which he was leaning, and before he could spring away he was pushed, or kicked, forward onto his knees. Picking himself up he looked at the tree, and even as he looked, it took a stride toward him. He scrambled out of the way, and a deep rumbling chuckle came down out of the tree-top.

“‘Where are you, little beetle?’ said the voice. ‘If you don’t let me know where you are, you can’t blame me for treading on you. And please don’t tickle my leg!'”

In the short few paragraphs that followed, a quick description was given of Treebeard and his garden. But it’s noted that Frodo “is deceived by the giant who pretends to be friendly, but is really in league with the Enemy.” (Return of the Shadow, p382-3)

Though the physical description is as we know him, it’s clear that this Treebeard is no Shepherd of the Forest. The in-story chronology of this passage seems to take place after Frodo was to be separated from the Fellowship. However, Tolkien wasn’t quite up to drafting the Council of Elrond material. Along the way, believing he knew where he was going, Tolkien inserted warnings and mentions of the “giant Treebeard” throughout the text.

Later in 1939, while revising and rewriting the Council of Elrond bits, Tolkien began to reconsider Treebeard’s allegiance. “If Treebeard comes in at all,” he jotted down in a note, “let him be kindly and rather good?” He fleshed out his physical description more, even placing him in a “castle in the Black Mountains,” giving him “many thanes and followers” who “look like young trees when they stand.” The “tree-giants” aid in breaking the siege of Ond (Gondor) and rescuing Trotter (proto-Strider). These were the first Ents, though not yet in name. (Return of the Shadow, p410)

As he did with many things, Tolkien changed his mind. In August of 1940, he switched Treebeard back to his original evil self and reinstated the idea that Gandalf had been held as his prisoner. Curiously, it was also at this time when Saruman (named “Saramund” at first) came into the picture. He was a wizard, like Gandalf, and even betrayed him as in this early version. Even with an out for Treebeard, the poor creature was reverted again to evil. (Treason of Isengard, p9, 70-71, 130)

In late 1940 or early 1941, Tolkien had written the story to the Mines of Moria, where he stopped and contemplated what would come next. After the Fellowship was to be split, he wished for Merry and Pippen to “come up Entwash into Fangorn and have adventure with Treebeard,” who “turns out a decent giant… perturbed by news of Saruman, and more so by the fall of Gandalf.” (Treason of Isengard, p210.) With that, and with the “tree-giants” dreamed up before, Tolkien was basically set.

Except for the name “Ent,” which at this point was only used to mean “giant.” Even the Entwash didn’t quite refer to Treebeard’s species, still called the “tree-giants” or “tree-folk.” This came about in notes written just as he delivered the Fellowship to Galadriel and Celeborn. The Elves warn them of the Fangorn Forest upon the Ogodrûth or Entwash. “He is an Ent or great giant.” (Treason of Isengard, p250)

With this established, Tolkien wouldn’t really return to the Ents until later in 1941, when scribbling down some notes. In these, he tried to come up with some origin for these creatures – Yavanna was no where to be seen.

“Did the first lord of the Elves make Tree-folk in order to or through trying to understand trees?” he asked himself.

Camera: Arguc C3 Film: ORWO UN54

Camera: Arguc C3
Film: ORWO UN54

He continued: “In some ways rather stupid. Are the Tree-folk (‘Lone-walkers’) hnau [basically Men – actually a term coined by C.S. Lewis] that have gone tree-like, or trees that have become hnau?” He also tried to parse the difference between Ents and Trolls. The latter were “stone inhabited by goblin-spirit, stone-giants” – but stopped shot of giving the parallel for the Ents. In these notes, there were only three Ents left, one of whom, Leaflock, had gone off to Isengard and become “tree-ish”. (Treason of Isengard, p411-412)

The story in Lord of the Rings would change a bit here and there until it reached the version we all now know, but shortly after the publication of Two Towers, Tolkien addressed the Ents’ real-life origins. Writing that “the Ents seem to have been a success generally.” They, he continued, “grew rather out of their name, than the other way about. I always felt that something ought to be done about the peculiar Anglo Saxon word ent for a ‘giant’ or a mighty person of long ago – to whom all old works were ascribed.” (Letters No. 157)

It was four or five years later that he wrote their in-story origins that appear in the published Silmarillion. This was done in a piece called “Anaxartamel” or “Of the Ents and the Eagles,” which was not then intended to be included in the larger book at all. (War of the Jewels, p340-1)

But even this didn’t seem to settle it. In a note made on a letter written in September of 1963, Tolkien penned the following:

“No one knew whence they (Ents) came or first appeared. The High Elves said that the Valar did not mention them in the ‘Music’. But some (Galadriel) were of the opinion that when Yavanna discovered the mercy of Eru to Aulë in the matter of the Dwarves, she besought Eru (through Manwë) asked him to give life to things made of living things not stone, and that the Ents were either souls sent to inhabit trees, or else that slowly took the likeness of trees owing to their inborn love of trees. (Not all were good [words illegible]) The Ents thus had mastery over stone. The males were devoted to Oromë, but the Wives to Yavanna.” (Letters No. 247)

If you remember my (many) Galadriel posts, it was in the 1960s when Tolkien really wished to build Galadriel up as the most important Elf ever. Though the Ents had nothing to do with Galadriel, she was pegged as the source for the story of their origin. To know this, she would have had to have been intimate with Yavanna – a very lofty position.

When compiling and editing the Silmarillion for publication, Christopher Tolkien combined the two very separate writings about the Dwarves and Ents (and Eagles), and moved them to the Second Chapter slot. It stopped what little narrative there was dead in its tracks, but it became a fan-favorite in the process – something that probably wouldn’t have happened if it would have remained tucked away as his father wished it.

Originally, the segment about the Dwarves was part of what later became Chapter Twelve: “Of Men” and the bits on the Ents and Eagle wasn’t there at all. Just like that, Christopher Tolkien made canon out of speculation.


Some Note:

  • We’re moving to chapter three in the next post, I promise!

Pages & Text

  • Page 46
  • Chapter: Of Aulë and Yavanna, Paragraphs 17-23
  • Starting with:
    “Then Manwë sat silent, and the thought of Yavanna…”
  • Ending with:
    “…and he went on with his smith-work.”

Ents and Eagles Out of Flippin’ Nowhere! (Silmarillion Slow Cooker, p46a)

Previously on SSC, Aulë had created the Dwarves, telling no one but Yavanna, who immediately was unthrilled. Worried about what the Dwarves (and Elves/Men) would do to her plants and animals, she beat cheeks for Manwë, keeping the whole Dwarves things on the down low. He asked her to pick one thing to protect, and she chose the trees. Manwë totally didn’t get it, but “it was in the song,” she said, referencing the song the trees sang when Manwë and Ulmo created rain. Not using his big boy ears even a little bit, Manwë totally missed the song and had to give the whole situation a bit of thought.

Manwë Gets Hip to the Trip, Daddy-O
As Manwë was deep in thought, probably mulling over how someone as awesome as he was could not pick up the song of the trees, Ilúvatar, like the ethereal Arthur Fonzarelli that he was, elbowed the cosmic jukebox and caused Manwë to hear the cut once more. This time, he caught it.

The song of the trees was a vision, which now included Manwë. Think of it as A-ha’s “Take On Me” video, if you like – “all was upheld by the hand of Ilúvatar; and the hand entered in…” When it did, Manwë saw everything that he missed the first time, and quite a bit more which Ilúvatar only showed to him in that moment.

What Ilúvatar showed him was that Yavanna’s wish for the trees to be protected would come to life. When the Elves finally awoke, “spirits from afar” would come to Arda and go among the plants and animals. Some would dwell within the bodies of these living things “and their just anger will be feared.”

These were, among possible other creatures, the Eagles and the Ents. They would thrive pretty much at the same time as the Elves. When the Men would later come into power, they would withdraw.

This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It was Dwarves that Yavanna was mostly worried about. Men would have had to come in second on the Valar Anxiety Scale. That the protectors of the plants and animals would wane when these Men came into power (what to speak of the Dwarves) seems like it would be bad timing at best.

Wait.. The Eagles Came From What?
While Tolkien isn’t known for his bad writing and campy dialog, much bad writing and campy dialog was inspired by Tolkien. What first comes to mind is the movie Ator 2 – L’invincibile Orion
, also known as The Blade Master, but more famous from its appearance in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, Cave Dwellers. When Zor asked Akronis: “Why did your daughter fly like an arrow straight towards the sun?” it’s some if the most perfectly bad ‘Tolkien’.

Unfortunately the same effect is achieved by Tolkien himself when Manwë asked Yavanna: “Did not thy thought and mine meet also, so that we took wing together like great birds that soar above the clouds?” Seriously, Tollers. Were you high?

But this little bit of scribble explains how the Eagles were manifest. “That also shall come to be by the heed of Ilúvatar, and before the children awake there shall go forth with wings like the wind of Eagles of the Lords of the West.” That’s right. The Eagles will go forth with the wings like the wind of Eagles. Come on! Sum up!

Picking through all of this, we can deduce that the Eagles in Middle-earth, such as Gwaihir, were based upon Manwë’s Eagles, which were themselves based upon actual eagles. Why? Because Manwë and Yavanna’s thoughts were somehow soaring like eagles. Ilúvatar saw this brilliant metaphor and acted upon it. Chicks dig metaphors.

Who’s Zoomin’ Who? What? When?
It’s not stated how many times Yavanna rolled her eyes at Manwë’s bad poetry, but in the end, she figured that it would be the Eagles of Middle-earth who would perch in the trees, watching over the forests. That should thought this indicates that what Yavanna heard in the song of the trees, the “Music,” wasn’t anything even closely resembling the Ents. Basically, it seems what Yavanna heard was that the things she devised, animals and plants, required some sort of protection regardless of the Dwarves.

What Manwë heard (when he finally bothered to listen) was that the Eagles and Ents were what that protection would look like. It just took a lot of breath to spit it out.

Manwë explained that the Eagles would roost in the mountains “and hear the voices of those who call upon us” while “the Shepherds of the Trees” [the Ents] will walk in the forests. While the Ents bit is pretty clear, the Eagles role isn’t at all.

It would be simple to say that the Ents would watch over the plants and the Eagles would look after the animals. But that’s not what’s said. It’s sort of implied that the Ents would take care of both roles, while the Eagles would, in Manwë’s words, “hear the voices of those who call upon us.” Eagle Post?

But who would be calling upon the Valar? And when? The chronology of this is scattered. We learn first that “when the Children awake” the thought of Yavanna will also awake “and it will summon spirits from afar,” which will go among the plants and animals. However, we’re also told that “before the Children awake” the combined thought of Manwë and Yavanna “there shall go forth with wings like the wind of Eagles of the Lords of the West.”

So basically the Eagles will come before the Children wake, and the Ents will come when the Children wake. But if the Eagles’ only job is to “hear the voices of those who call upon us” what the hell will they be doing before the Children are awakened? Were they to hear the Maiar? It’s all pretty vague.

Camera: Mamiya 645 Film: Fomapan 100

Camera: Mamiya 645
Film: Fomapan 100

Never Mind Me, I’m Just Smithin’ Around
Whatever Manwë meant, Yavanna seemed thrilled and a little sassy. When she got back to Aulë, she found him in his smithy pouring molten metal into a mold because of course he was. Filled with a bit of piss and vinegar, she said to him: “Now let thy children beware! For there shall walk a power in the forest whose wrath they will arouse at their peril.”

Notice how she really doesn’t seem to care at all about the Eagles. She seems to be saying “sure, Manwë, our thoughts were like one and soared like an Eagle to the sea, soared like an Eagle, let my spirit carry me the fuck out of your creepy little god space!” Or some such thing.

But Aulë, who really didn’t have any room to be sassy in return, was sassy in return. “Nonetheless they will have need of wood.” Sure, but whose fault is that, Aulë? Who came up with that little quirk, oh Lord of Needing Wood for Stuff? Oh Sunshine, you can’t have it both ways. And with that, he went back to his work, scorning Yavanna and basically winning everything. He was kind of a dick like that.

Now, of course, the groundwork is laid for the myriad battles and conflicts fought between the Dwarves and the Ents over the plethora of forests in Middle-earth! I can’t wait to read about how Durin’s Folk clear cut the Grey Wood only to be torn asunder by the vengeful wrath of the Ents! We’ll all thrill at the exciting tales of when the Dwarf Lords diverted the Tieglin, choking the trees of Brethil, and raising the spiteful ire of Forest Shepherds to murderous rage!

That’s all bound to happen, right? Oh of course it is! And it’ll be absolutely smashing!


Some Note:

  • The Fonz!

Pages & Text

  • Page 46
  • Chapter: Of Aulë and Yavanna, Paragraphs 17-23
  • Starting with:
    “Then Manwë sat silent, and the thought of Yavanna…”
  • Ending with:
    “…and he went on with his smith-work.”

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things! (Silmarillion Slow Cooker, p45)

Just as everyone seems to know the origin of the Dwarves, most understandably link it with the origin of the Ents. That is really all this chapter deals with – all four pages of it. Aulë created the Dwarves, and Yavanna, his spouse, wasn’t even a little thrilled about it, and so made the Ents. But there’s more going on than supernatural ping-pong. We bring in Manwë, the Music, and even the Eagles for this very Entish back half of Chapter 2.

The Reveal
There are some things you just can’t tell anyone. And then there are some things you can only tell your spouse. If, for example, you create an entire race of living creatures and are chastised by your deity for so doing, you might not want to mention it to your pals at the pub. This is, however, the perfect thing to tell your betrothed.

That is, unless you created Dwarves and your mate is Yavanna. In that case, you should totally keep it to yourself. Aulë didn’t just create the Dwarves and get caught. What he created was, in many ways, in his own likeness. Knowing Aulë as she did, Yavanna was certain that this meant that they’d dig up the earth and destroy the growing things that were her own responsibility: “Many a tree shall feel the bite of their iron without pity.”

Rather than owning up to this, Aulë countered with a weak-ass argument, saying that Men and Elves were going to do that anyway, so it was totally okay if the Dwarves added to the coming destruction. However here, Aulë was being a bit dishonest, but then so was Yavanna. She claimed that they would only behave like that if corrupted by Melkor.

Just as Aulë understood that the Children of Ilúvatar, the Men and Elves, would not do such things unless corrupted by Melkor, Yavanna understood that it was inevitable that Melkor would corrupt the Children. Both were arguing from untenable positions. And while both were right, both were also wrong.

But that wasn’t even the point! Yavanna had a legitimate grievance, and Aulë did his best to distract her with this Men and Elves thing. Not wanting to deal with Aulë’s shit even a little, she went to Manwë.

I’m Sort of Telling Dad!
Aulë’s bullshit argument must have given Yavanna an idea. At this point, nobody but Ilúvatar, Aulë and Yavanna knew about the Dwarves. How could she go to Manwë with this issue without betraying the secret? Simple – she played off of Aulë’s bullshit to her own advantage (and to the advantage of the trees).

She had a problem with the whole Children having dominion over Middle-earth thing anyway. “Is it not enough that Melkor should have marred so many? Shall nothing that I have devised be free the dominion of others?”

This is a very fine question. When dealing with freewill, few things will remain tidy. Manwë essentially told her to pick one thing to preserve. This is sort of a pointless cop out, but also necessary for the story. Why couldn’t everything be preserved, Manwë? Why not most things or even some things? Why just one thing?

Yavanna had devised the kelvar, or “animals, all living things that move” and the olvar, the plants (War of the Jewels, p340-341). She reasoned that the kelvar, the animals, could run away, while the plants had no such luck.

Greatest of all the plants were the trees, and it was them that she wished to save.

‘Yet It Was In The Song’
One of my favorite lines from all of Tolkien is Yavanna’s response to Manwë’s shock at her suggestion of saving the trees. This is such a powerful statement, but she doesn’t seem to be referencing the Music. The Song in question was sung by the Trees themselves.

When Manwë and Ulmo made the clouds and rain, Yavanna lifted the branches of the trees to receive the water, “and some sang to Ilúvatar amid the wind and the rain.”

This was clearly Music, though not exactly The Music. Yavanna seemed to expect Manwë to know what she was talking about, so maybe he had heard the song of the Trees, tapped his ethereal foot, but didn’t really listen to the words. He’d have to heard it again.

We’ll get to that in the next post, no worries. But still, take note that the Ents have not yet made their appearance.

Camera: Agfa Clipper Film: Kodak Vericolor III (x-6/98)

Camera: Agfa Clipper
Film: Kodak Vericolor III (x-6/98)

A Few Changes Here and There
I mentioned in the two posts about Aulë and the Dwarves that Tolkien never wrote the Silmarillion chapter as we know it today. The stuff about the Dwarves was penned in 1958, mostly as part of the current Quenta’s Chapter 13: “Of Dwarves and Men” (later changed simply to “Of Men”). In that draft, Yavanna wasn’t mentioned at all, and neither were her concerns. The chapter wandered its way to Men and left it at that.

However, a year or so later, Tolkien returned to the origin of the Dwarves, playing off of it when he wrote a short piece entitled “Anaxartamel” also known at “Of the Ents and the Eagles.” This wasn’t meant to be included in the Quenta or any other larger writings, but served mostly as notes.

In compiling the Silmarillion for publication, Christopher Tolkien plucked the bit about the Dwarves from Chapter 13 of the 1958 Quenta and this bit of his father’s notes, combining them into “Chapter Two: Of Aulë and Yavanna” – an idea that his father never had, never suggested, and never wanted. Though, I will admit that it was pretty well a stroke of genius (or at least luck).

Very little in this section had to be altered. Small things like swapping out the word “bewray” for the more common “betray” was done, but for the most part, it was a copy/paste job.

There was, however, one curious omission. In the part about the song of the Trees, the original draft claims that they “sang to Eru amid the wind and the rain and the glitter of the Sun.” In the published version, the reference to the Sun was nixed. There was, as yet, no Sun in this Creation.

Tolkien had toyed with the idea of tossing out the whole flat world idea and going with something more true to factual science. In 1948, he had composed a round world Ainulindalë, but dropped it pretty quickly. Was he again considering this in 1958? Did he actually intend for the creation of the Ents to happen after the creation of the Sun? Or was it simply a slip up on his part?

I’ll delve more into these questions in the next post, but the answer really isn’t clear, so feel free to guess all you like.


Some Notes:

  • One more post for this chapter, and it’s on to the next. Short chapters are quite a bit of fun!
  • Am I off on the Song of the Trees vs. The Music thing? They’re totally not the same, right?

Pages & Text

  • Page 45 (and a sliver of 44 and 46)
  • Chapter: Of Aulë and Yavanna, Paragraphs 8-16
  • Starting with:
    “Now when Aulë laboured in the making of the Dwarves…”
  • Ending with:
    “…some sang to Ilúvatar amid the wind and the rain.”

Bearded Ladies and Life Before Life (Silmarillion Slow Cooker, p44)

Though we’re technically moving onto the next page in the Silmarillion, this post is basically a continuation of the previous, concluding the Dwarf-section of the “Of Aulë and Yavanna” chapter.

When we last left Aulë, he had made the Dwarves, given them speech, but could not give them wills of their own. Ilúvatar, who knew what Aulë was up to, told him as much. When Aulë offered to destroy the newly-made Dwarves, he lifted up his hammer and the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves were afraid and begged for mercy.

This was a dead giveaway that they actually did have wills of their own. “Else they would not have flinched from thy blow, nor from any command of thy will,” Ilúvatar explained to him. As I read it, Ilúvatar had already given being to the Dwarves before Aulë asked them to be blessed.

But though Ilúvatar had adopted them, they could not be awakened before the Elves and Men, so Aulë “laid them to rest in far-sundered places” and waited for that day to come.

Returning to the History
We last left off the writing history with Lord of the Rings. So far, we’ve seen the origin evolve from simple unknowing on the Elves’ part, to Dwarves having no indwelling spirits, and finally to the introduction of Aulë’s role. What we’ve not seen thus far is the introduction of Ilúvatar and the “far-sundered” sleep of the Dwarves.

In 1950, After writing Lord of the Rings, during which Tolkien must have mulled some of this over, he dipped back into Quenta. Over the next two years, he explored the entire legendarium with the new material carried over from Lord of the Rings, which wouldn’t be published until 1954. For a long time, he worked on the Turin Turambar story, but returned again to the Quenta proper in 1958.

This was when he created a new chapter called “Of the Naugrim and the Edain” with two sections – “Concerning the Dwarves” and “Of the Edain.” While the latter became the “Of Men” chapter in the published Silmarillion, the former was used as the basis for the first part of “Of Aulë and Yavanna.”

But it’s still not here where we get our story. In this iteration, we get only a brief glimpse of Aulë’s role – that of maker. Their actual origin isn’t discussed, but their fate was given through two points of view. The Elves held that the Dwarves simply returned to stone (an idea we’ve heard before), while the Dwarves believed “that Aulë cares for them and gathered them in Mandos in halls set apart from them, and there they wait, not in idleness but in the practice of crafts and the learning of yet deeper lore.” Their ultimate fate is to help Aulë in the remaking of Arda after the Last Battle. (War of the Jewels, p204)

Here’s to Swimmin’ with Bowlegged Women
According to Lord of the Rings, there aren’t many Dwarvish women, and you can’t really tell them from the men anyway. Tolkien wrote that in the early 1950s, and returned to that idea after its publication in the Appendices.

While this is stated in the aforementioned “Concerning the Dwarves” draft, we also learn that the womenfolk “go not to war, and seldom save at direst need issue from their deep bowers and halls. It is said, also, that their womenkind are few, and that save their kings and chieftains few Dwarves ever wed; wherefore their race multiplied slowly, and now is dwindling.”

It was explained in a one-off note that since Aulë could not finish his work, the Dwarvish women looked the same as the men. In another version, he made the Seven Fathers, and then six of the female forms, “and then he wearied.” Still another included mates for all seven. Yet still another, all have mates except the eldest male. (War of the Jewels, p211)

Tolkien abandoned the idea of an origin for the female Dwarves, as can be seen in the published Silmarillion.

Camera: Imperial Savoy Film: Konica VX100 (x - 4/2001)

Camera: Imperial Savoy
Film: Konica VX100 (x – 4/2001)

Back to the Silmarillion
To compile the Dwarvish bits of the “Of Aulë and Yavanna” chapter, Christopher Tolkien pieced the story together from a few sources. The first three paragraphs came from notes somewhat attached to the Quenta drafts, copy and pasting much of it. For the rest, he turned to the same 1958 Quenta draft, as well as a line or two from the “Grey Annals,” and updated version of the Annals of Beleriand, from the early 1950s.

Curiously enough, the “Grey Annals” draft, fully an Elvish text, maintains that the origin of the Dwarves was unknown, and gives the Dwarvish version as a sort of aside. (War of the Jewels, p203-4, 10)

Aulë is Totally Not Melkor
It’s been suggested by others that the Dwarves had being and wills of their own before Ilúvatar stepped in. They’ll use this to say that since Aulë could create life, Melkor could create it too! And they use that to say that things like Balrogs and Orcs were fully Melkor’s own creation with wills of their own.

But a careful(ish) reading tells us that Ilúvatar was speaking as if he had already given “being to the thoughts” of the Dwarves before telling Aulë that he had done so. This also makes the argument that at least some of the monsters made by Melkor were creatures without being (without a “soul”) who could live only by Melkor’s being and will. And while Aulë “did not desire such lordship,” Melkor certainly did.


Some Notes:

  • Tolkien would return to the Dwarves in 1968ish, but would mostly focus upon the language and interactions with Men. (Peoples, p295-330)
  • Next up – The Ents! And another crazy-ass writing history.

Pages & Text

  • Page 44 (and a sliver of 43)
  • Chapter: Of Aulë and Yavanna, Paragraphs 4-7
  • Starting with:
    “Then Aulë took up a great hammer to smite the Dwarves…”
  • Ending with:
    “…whose mansions were at Khazad-dûm.”