Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Book of Lost Tales, Part 1, The Building of Valinor

“There, said Aulë, would be a place well suited to great building and to a fashioning of realms of delight; wherefore the Valar and all their folk first gathered the most mighty rocks and stones from Arvalin and reared therewith huge mountains between it and that plain which now they name Valinor, or the land of the Gods (pg 70).”

Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we continue our journey through the coming of the Valar as we delve into the Building of Valinor.

Last week we left off discovering who the Valar were, and this week we get into the details of the building of Valinor from the perspective of the Valar and Tolkien himself.

From our readings of The Valaquenta in The Silmarillion, we know that The Valar went to different parts of the world but wanted a place to call home. Valinor was that place. But even with the creation of Valinor, the Valar still had their various areas which they controlled. Ulmo ruled the deep seas, Manwë ruled the air and winds, etc. As these concepts formed in Tolkien’s mind (all early stages of developing the world), he envisioned this world as floating through the ethereal nature of space and time.

Remember that the original idea was that all of Middle-earth would eventually lead up to our historical timeline, acting as a sort of mythological foundation which he felt was lacking in the English tradition. He also based much of his work on Norse Mythological writings and practices, so what better format than having the entire Eä (read that as Earth) floating through the cosmic tapestry than on a Norse ship? Everything from Palisor to Valinor would live on this ship sailing through space.

Though he later dropped this idea for a globe world, it was evident that he loved the concept of the boat sailing through the cosmos and eventually re-used it. Enter Eärendil, arguably one of the essential characters in Middle-earth history. He and his wife Elwing stood up to Morgoth, and Eärendil sailed to Valinor with a Silmaril to protect it and make the Vala understand what they were up against. A mortal sailing to Valinor was prohibited, but instead of outright killing him (mainly because of his courage and selflessness in sailing there to save the world), they made him part of the cosmos, sailing his ship Vingilot “even to the starless voids.”

Tolkien never gave up on his ship idea, but he also never gave up on the concept of creating something from nothingness.

Moving back in time, as soon as the Vala created Valinor, it was still a dark place to be. “These were the days of Gloaming (Lomendánar), for light, there was, silver and golden, but it was not gathered together but flowed and quivered in uneven streams about the airs, or at times fell gently to earth in glittering rain and ran like water on the ground, and at that time Varda in her playing had set but a few stars within the sky (pg 69).”

The world was dark, and the only light came from the stars, yet the Vala wanted to build a complete world, so they came up with a rudimentary idea.

“Aulë suaded Melko to build two towers to the North and South, for he purposed to set upon them mighty lamps one upon each (pg 69).”

This passage differs from the Silmarillion because Melkor was a lousy actor. He created the world’s darkness and envied the other Valar and the Noldor, but more on that next week.

So they built these two lamps to light the world. “They sprang up through the lower air even to Ilwëand the stars, and Melko said they were of an imperishable substance of great strength that he devised; and he lied, for he knew that they were of ice (pg 69).”

Manwë and Varda gathered light from the stars and brought them down to fill these mighty lamps. Still, Melkor had tricked them because “it so happened that the blaze of those lights had melted the treacherous ice of the pillars of Melko, Ringil and Helkar, and great floods of water had poured from them into the Shadowy Seas (pgs 69-70).”

It is never outright stated why Melkor did this treacherous act. It is possible that Melkor was the Angel of Darkness, so he desired to keep the world in the Gloaming, but this is an early iteration of the mythos of Middle-earth, and Tolkien needed a Big Bad to push the story forward. So in the Book of Lost Tales, Melkor is just wrong from the start; there isn’t much in the text to brighten his character, much like Sauron.

But what Melkor didn’t realize is that Ilúvatar set the theme of the world’s construction, so when the globes holding the light of the stars fell to the Earth, they buried themselves. “Then came Palúrien, even Kémi the Earth-lady, wife of Aulë, mother of the lord of forests, and she wove spells about those two places, deep enchantments of life and growth and putting forth of leaf, blossoming and yeilding of fruit – but she mingled no word of fading in her song (pg 71).”

Trees began to grow from those lights buried in the Earth, one they named Laurelin and the other Silpion. These trees ended the Gloaming and produced light from their leaves and blossoms until the coming of the Sun and the Moon. Later Tolkien renamed the second tree, changing it from Silpion to Telperion, but this is the earlier iteration of the creation of the Trees of Valinor.

I prefer this iteration to the published version with Yavanna signing the Trees into existence because it ties much more to the legendarium. First, the trees came from the stars and set into the ship that sails the cosmos. Then later, once the first age was coming to a close, we have Eärendil voyaging through the cosmos for all eternity on his ship. There is something poetic about closing the loop to me, which is also what I appreciate about being able to read the earlier stages of Tolkien’s work.

Join me next week as we complete “The Coming of the Valar and the Building of Valinor!”


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