Archive for April, 2023

Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Book of Lost Tales part 1, The Making of Kôr

“Now therefore do the God bid the Elves build a dwelling, and Aulëaided them in that, but Ulmo fares back to the Lonely Island, and lo! it stands now upon a pillar of rock upon the seas’ floor, and Ossë fares about it in a foam of business anchoring all the scattered islands of his domain fast to the ocean-bed (pg 121).”

Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we get a more significant image of who the Elves, and each clan of Elves, were.

The first thing we have to cover is the making of Kôr:

“Behold there is a low place in that ring of mountains that guards Valinor, and there the shining of the Trees steals through from the plain beyond and guilds the dark waters of the bay of Arvalin, but a great beach of finest sand, golden in the blaze of Laurelin, white in the light of Silpion, runs inland there, where in the trouble of the ancient seas a shadowy arm of water had groped in toward Valinor, but now there is only a slender water fringed with white.At the head of this long creek there stands a lonely hill which gazes at the loftier mountains…Here was the place that those fair Elves bethought them to dwell, and the Gods named that hill Kôr by reason of its roundness and it’s smoothness (pg 122).”

This soft hill became the home of the Noldori Elves and the Teleri Elves. But, unfortunately, the only group that wanted to live in a new space were the Solosimpi Elves, the favorite of Ulmo the sea Valar. So the Solosimpi stayed out on Tol Eressëa, a place that “is held neither of the Outer lands or of the Great Lands where Men after roamed (pg 125).”

The Solosimpi became the favorite of Ulmo because they decided to stay away from Valinor. He taught them music and sea lore and lived in general harmony. They lived in the caves by the sea in connection with all other living creatures of the land. Valinor, at the time, had very few creatures (primarily sprites and fae), so the Solosimpi were better equipped to deal with strife because they could see the circle of life in motion. They could see creatures being hunted and killed so that others could live. They had worldly wisdom.

They also came to love birds for their beauty, simplicity, and grace. Ossë (Ulmo’s fellow water Valar, who in The Silmarillion became a Maiar), wanted to stoke this love, but he also didn’t like the Solosimpi to be estranged from their kin; “For lo! there Teleri and Noldoli complain much to Manwë of the separation of the Solosimpi, and the Gods desire them to be drawn to Valinor; but Ulmo cannot yet think of any device save by help of Ossë and the Oarni, and will not be humbled to this (pg 124).”

Yet again, we see Ulmo’s jealousy. The reason for the change in character between this book and The Silmarillion must be the change from the lesser Valar being siblings and children of the Valar to becoming a Maiar. This Sea-change of the power dynamics was twofold; 1. to make it a more straightforward narrative and include fewer names (which anyone who read The Silmarillion would attest to), and 2. To make the motivations of the Valar more clear. Melkor is the one who is supposed to be jealous and to take out that jealousy on the Eldar, not the other Valar. If they held these same jealousies, then both the Valar would be diminished, and Melkor wouldn’t be as much of a “Dark Lord” because others with his power level feel the same way.

Still, it is interesting to see that the transition, and the reality, of the concept of anger and jealousy in The Book of Lost Tales is much more feasible than in The Silmarillion. Somehow the events in this book make the Valar, just that much more relatable.

Going back to the quote above, Ulmo was not to be outdone by any other Valar, so he facilitated “the first hewing of trees that was done in the world outside of Valinor (pg 124).”

He partnered with Aulë, and together they “sawn wood of pine and oak make great vessels like to the bodies of swans, and these he covers with the bark of silver birches, or…with gathered feathers of the oily plumage of Ossë’s birds. (pg 124)”

Remember that the Solosimpi were in the later versions of the Teleri Elves, so this is the first iteration of the Lothlórien “Swan Shaped Barge,” which we also briefly glimpse Galadriel on in The Lord of the Rings.

Art by Billy Mosig

The Noldor seemed to be flourishing on their island, and with the assistance of the Valar, each tribe seemed to specialize in different practices. Unfortunately, this eventually ended the Golden Age of the Eldar in Tol Eressëa (Kôr).

“Then arose Fëanor of the Noldoli and fared to the Solosimpi and begged a great pearl, and he got moreover an urn full of the most luminous phosphor-light gathered of foam in dark places, and with these he came home, and he took all the other gems and did gather their glint by the light of white lamps and silver candles, and he took the sheen of pearls and the faint half-colours of opals, and he [bathed?] them in phosphorescence and the radient dew of Silpion, and but a single tiny drop of the light of Laurelin did he let fall therein, and giving all those magic lights a body to dwell in of such perfect glass as he alone could make nor even Aulë compass, so great was the slender dexterity of the fingers of Fëanor, he made a jewel… Then he made two more…he those jewels he called Silmarilli (pg 128).”

Fëanor, in this early iteration, is just an unnamed Noldor, not Finwë’s direct lineage, but he still creates the Silmarils, which starts all the events of the First Age in motion.

There is very little said about Fëanor in this version. In the Silmarillion, he is prideful and firey (in fact, that is what his name implies in the language of the Eldar). Still, here it is just one of a race who is excellent at crafting and can infuse the light of the Trees of Valinor (Think the first magic contained in the land. Early and Old magic, potentially stronger than anything that comes after) into these pearls.

Join me next week as we see if there are differences in how Morgoth tries to steal these Silmarils in “The Theft of Melko!”


Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Book of Lost Tales, part 1, The Coming of the Elves

“There was a stir among the distant trees and words were spoken suddenly, and feet went to and fro. Then did I say what is this deed that Palúrien my mother has wrought in secret, and I sought her out and questioned her, and she answered: ‘This is no work of mine, but the hand of one far greater did this. Ilúvatar hath awakened his children at the last – ride home to Valinor and tell the Gods that the Eldar have come indeed (pg 114)!'”

Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we mark the entrance of the Eldar into Beleriand and Valinor, which also signifies a dramatic shift in the lives of the Valar.

The introduction of the Elves in these early works is a bit of a departure from The Silmarillion. Tolkien wrote this chapter with Valar filled with enthusiasm with their newfound “children.” They ran about Valinor cheering and crying out in joy. Oromë even interrupts Varda creating the Seven Stars from Aulë”s forge as he “shouts aloud so that all the ears in Valmar may hear him: ‘Tulielto! Tulielto! They have come – they have come (pg 114)!'”

This sounding call is echoed by many of the other Valar until they work themselves into a frenzy and end up doing something foolish. “Great joy blindeth even the forewisdom of the Gods (pg 114).”

Tolkien is referring to Manwë releasing Melkor from Angaino “before the full time of his doom (pg 114),” though he still kept Tilkal (his fetters or manacles) on his wrists and ankles. In fact, in this telling, the Tilkal stayed on him forever as a reminder of the ages he spent in bondage because of the trickery of the Valar. Manwë releases him because it’s such and event, and such a celebration that even Melkor should be involved. If this seems impetuous and over the top, it absolutely is.

Tolkien understood this and downplayed this excitement in The Silmarillion, though part still exists. The strange twist is that the only Valar who is not excited about the Eldar’s arrival in The Book of Lost Tales is Ulmo. It took me a little introspection to see what Tolkien was trying to sublimate, and it goes back to one of the quotes above. The Valar were blinded by their excitement, making them ignore their “forewisdom” in more than one sense.

In The Silmarillion, Ulmo was the Valar who was said to love the Eldar more than any other, and it was strange to me that he went against the will of those Valar to have the Eldar come to Valinor.

But why were the Eldar so happy that the Eldar had come? “and it was not until that hour that the Gods knew that their joy had contained a flaw, or that they had waited in hunger for it’s completion, but now they knew that the world had been an empty place beset with loneliness having no children for her own (pg 114).”

It wasn’t until the world was populated that the Valar realized the point of their existence. It was about creating a world for these other beings to exist. But unfortunately, they were so hung up on how their projects were progressing and angered at Morgoth for (Melkor) interrupting or ruining those projects that they didn’t realize that the world they had created didn’t have a soul. The coming of the Eldar made that soul in the world.

So why did Ulmo act against them? Because he understood this fundamental tenant because he helped create them. The Eldar were Ilúvatar’s children, but they were born next to “Koivië-néni or the Waters of Awakening (pg 115).” Remember that Ulmo is the Vala of the seas and water, and, in The Fellowship of the Ring, when the horses form in the river that wipe out the Dark Riders following the Hobbits and Aragorn, they were a creation of Ulmo and an indication of his interfering in the lives of the people of Middle-earth. Glorfindel says a prayer to Ulmo in that scene (which was changed to Arwen in the movie), and Ulmo helps them to Rivendell.

Ulmo immediately connects with the Eldar because of his association with them through the Koivië-néni (or Cuiviénen in The Silmarillion). Ulmo knows that exposing the Eldar directly to the immense knowledge of the Valar is a mistake that could, and does, end up having far-reaching issues later on in history. Ulmo believes the Eldar should live in the world and have their own life experiences rather than be involved with gods (or angels).

But Ulmo is outvoted, and three Eldar come in a procession to Valinor, one from each tribe, and we get this loaded paragraph:

“Great was the stir and wonder now about the waters of Koivië, and its end was that three of the Eldar came forward daraing to go with Nornorë, and these he bore now back to Valinor, and their names as the Elves of Kôr have handed them on were Isil Inwë, and Finwë Nólemë who was Turondo’s father, and Tinwë Lintö father of Tinúviel – but the Noldoli call them Inwithiel, Golfinweg, and Tinwelint. Afterward they became very great among the Eldar, and the Teleri were those who followed Isil, but his kindred and descendants are that royal folk of the Inwir of whose blood I am. Nolemë was lord of the Noldoli, and of his son Turondo (or Turgon as they called him) are great tales told, but Tinwë abode not long with his people, and yet ’tis said lives still lord of the scattered Elves of Hisilómë, dancing in its twilight places with Wendelin his spouse, a sprite come long long ago from the quiet gardens of Lórien; yet greatest of all the Elves did Isil Inwë become, and folk reverence his mighty name to this day (pgs 115-116).”

I’m sure you don’t recognize many of those names because Tolkien changed them around (and I suspect they changed which tribe would be which in their ultimate storyline). Isil Inwë later became Ingwë, the lord of the Vanyar, Finwë stayed Finwë lord of the Noldor, but Turgon moved from son to grandson (with the notorious Fëanor, creator of the Silmarils, in the middle). Tinwë Linto became Thingol, and Wendelin moved from a Sprite to the Maiar Melian.

The Eldar who went to Valinor were Ingwë, Finwë, and Elwë (Thingol), as spokespeople for the Eldar. They were met with great fanfare, but the omen of great strife began on that first visit to Valinor. Where Melkor “often did he lie to the Noldoli afterwards when he would stir their restlessness, adding beside all truth that he alone had withstood the general voice and spoken for the freedom of the Elves (pg 177).”

Join me next week as we see where the Elves go next with “The Making of Kôr.”

Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Book of Lost Tales, part 1, The Chaining of Melko

“‘Yet nothing do you know of the coming of the Elves, of the fates wherein they move, nor their nature and the place that Ilúvatar has given to them. Little do you reck of that great splendour of their home in Eldamar upon the hill of Kôr, not all the sorrow of our parting. What know you of our travail down all the dark ways of the world, and the anguish we have known because of Melko; of the sorrows we have suffered, and do yet, because of Men, of all the fears that darken our hopes because of Men? Know you the wastes of tears that lie between our life in Tol Eressëa and that time of laughter that we knew in Valinor? O child of Men who wouldst be sharer of the fates of Eldalië, what of our high desires and all those things we look for still to be – for lo! if you drink this drink all these must you know and love, having one heart with us – nay, even at the Faring Forth, should Eldar and Men fall into war at the last, still must you stand by us against the children of your kith and kin, but until then never may you far away home though longings gnaw you…(pg 97-98)”

Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we delve back into The Book of Lost Tales and discover how the Valar captured Melkor and (in this iteration) what turned him entirely to the Dark Side.

The quote above is the perfect transition exposition to get into the meat of the chapter. The section comes from Meril-i-Turinqui “in her Korin of elms (pg95).”

Meril by Sandrine Gestin

Meril tells Eriol that he knows nothing of the Elves and to stop making assumptions based on other stories he has heard or what he has seen. This dialogue is also a turning point in the book because everything previously has been from the perspective of Eriol and thus from the standpoint of “Men.” What Meril is trying to introduce is that the Elves have had a completely different story and perspective. That story is directly tied to the fate of Melkor and what happened when the Valar decided to imprison him.

When Oromë “blew great blasts upon his horn as though he would awake the grey rocks to life and lustihood (pg 99).” He used his music to create the lands where the Elves would live. This land inhabited many creatures who came from Mandos and traveled with Ilúvatar, but some came “from the fortresses of the North where Melko then dwelt in the deep dungeons of Utumna. 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 (pg 99).”

This transgression was the last straw for the Valar. They had put up with Melko’s betrayal in building the fake lamps, which melted, but now he was bringing elements into the world that they intended to keep away from the Children of Ilúvatar.

I find it fascinating that these “gods” were so petty. Of course, Melkor was somewhat unreasonable because of his anger and jealousy, but the way Tolkien writes the book, it seems almost more like he’s more a Loki, or trickster god, than an actual menace.

It seems that the Valar themselves are the vengeful gods (which will come out more at the beginning of the next chapter) because they decided that the only way not to have Melkor interfere or change their ultimate vision was to chain and imprison him. “Behold, Aulë now gathered six metals, copper, silver, tin, lead, iron, and gold, and taking a portion of each made with his magic a seventh which he named, therefore, tilkal (pg 100).”

This tilkal is the early iteration of Mithril, as the alloy is unbreakable. It was the ultimate tool to hold Melkor so he wouldn’t be able to cause any more mischief amongst the Valar or the world they had created. Aulë “made two manacles of tilkal only and four fetters likewise. Now the chain was named Angaino, the oppressor, and the manacles Vorotemnar that bind for ever, but the fetters Ilterendi for they might not be filed or cleft (pg 100-101).”

The Valar then did something akin to the devious Melkor. They went to his chambers to apologize and ask him to return to Valinor: “Behold, we have come and salute you here in your own halls; come now and be in Valinor (pg 103).” They even tied Tulkas up (the Valar who hated Melkor the most) in Angaino and brought him before Melkor as an offering that they wanted to work with him.

Their plan had foresight because Melkor’s pride was his fall. “‘Nay first,’ said he, ‘wilt thou come Manwë and kneel before me, and after you all the Valar; but last shall come Tulkas and kiss my fooot, for I have in mind something for which I owe Poldórëa no great love (pg 103).”

The Valar catered to those demands, but the sight of the mighty Valar paying homage to a sneering Melkor angered the conspirators even further; “so fiercely did wrath blaze up in the hearts of Tulkas and Aulë at that sight that Tulkas lept across the hall at a bound despite Angaino, and Aulë was behind him and Oromë followed his father and the hall was full of tumult (pg 104).”

They brought Melkor back to Valinor as a prisoner, but this is the point where Melkor became the Dark Lord. He cursed the Valar and “writhed in rage at the name of Eldar and of Men and at his own impotence (pg 105).”

In this iteration, he was chained for ages, and his anger and despair grew through that time. Finally, he became hated incarnate because the only thing he could think about for his eternal life was revenge and to escape those bonds.

The Valar wanted to save the world they created and have everything be perfect, but what ended up happening was they created a darkness that they didn’t understand how to control. Their hubris created the monster that would inevitably destroy Beleriand, even though they thought they were protecting the world and it’s future by eternally imprisoning one of their own.

Join me next week as we move into the next chapter, “The Coming of the Elves and the Making of Kôr!”

Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Return of the King

‘I am with you at present,” said Gandalf, “but soon I shall not be. I am not coming to the Shire. You must settle its affairs yourselves; that is what you have been trained for. Do you not yet understand? My time is over: it is no longer my task to set things to rights, nor to help folk to do so. And as for you, my dear friends, you will need no help. You are grown up now. Grown indeed very high; among the great you are, and I have no longer any fear at all for any of you.'”

Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week will be the last of the “not quite blind” reads for Tolkien as we discuss The Return of the King before heading back into The Book of Lost Tales.

To begin, I want to reiterate that if you have not read these books yet, purchase this one first and read the appendices before you go back and read The Fellowship of the Ring. The Lord of the Rings is so much better when you have the history of the Legendarium under your belt, and the appendices give enough of this information to get a basic understanding of what happened in The Silmarillion.

To that point, The Dúnedain was a concept I had a challenging time with when I first read them. Why did Tolkien spend so much time discussing their armor, and what was the Star of Eärendil on their forehead?

I didn’t realize before reading The Silmarillion that Eärendil was Elros’ and Elrond’s father. He saved the world in the First Age by sailing to Valinor and getting the Valar to assist in the war against Morgoth.

That voyage was such a big deal because it was against the will of the Valar for a human to sail to Valinor (Eärendil was half-elven, but you get the point). Eärendil knew he would die, but he also knew that it would save the world, so he sacrificed himself for the betterment of the people of Beleriand (I.E. Middle-earth of the First Age).

Dunedain Rangers (uncredited)

For his bravery, the Valar made him immortal, and he would sail across the cosmos in his ship for the rest of eternity. Hence the Star of Eärendil guided the Dùnedain on their helmets (Tolkien brings up the helmets and the signet many times, especially before battles).

So why does the Dùnedain get the star and no one else? The book described them as Rangers like Aragorn, first introduced as Stryder. Who are these guys?

They are the living descendants of the Númenoreans.

Elros and Elrond chose to be Human or Eldar because they were both Half-elven (remember their parents were Half-elven). Elrond chose to be Eldar, but Elros chose to be human. Because he had the Eldar blood in his veins (the people who cannot die, but by battle or disease), the humans of his line were blessed with a much longer life. They also had the blessing of the Valar, which extended their lives even further, and this group became the Númenoreans.

They thrived and ruled humanity for many years from their island kingdom, but eventually, there was a split, made into a chasm thanks to Sauron. The faithful Númenoreans eventually became the Dùnedain, and the “Black Númenoreans” either died off or became part of Sauron’s cadre.

Sauron’s Luitenant (or The Mouth of Sauron), whom we see at the Battle of Morannon (The Battle at the Black Gate), is one of the Black Númenoreans who fell for Sauron’s lies and followed him into Mordor.

The Mouth of Sauron (uncredited)

Much of this information is lost if you don’t read The Silmarillion or the Appendix at the end of The Return of the King.

But why read the book when the movies are so spectacular? Because you won’t get the end of this book, The Scouring of the Shire.

Saruman escapes from Orthanc and wanders the roads as a defeated man, or at least we are made to think this. Instead, we find out he orchestrated a greedy Hobbit to take over the Shire and employ “guards” who were goblins and ruffians Saruman controlled. These guards then took over the Shire entirely at the end of the book. It isn’t until our four Hobbits head back to the Shire and discover this that they become even larger heroes.

This event is the first time in all the books that the Hobbits take on enemies and fight them head-on without help. All of their experiences leading up to this make them able to be self-sufficient beings, even in the face of such a ruthless character as Saruman. The metaphor here is that they are finally grown, no longer children now that they are back from war, and aren’t putting up with anyone’s crap.

I hated this when I read it years ago, but there is a bit of poetic justice in it, as it brings these characters full circle.

The Hobbits are the ones who kill Wormtongue. Saurman throws Grima under the bus for the last time, and Wormtongue takes his knife and cuts Saruman’s throat, only to be shot to death with arrows by the Hobbits.

It seems a fitting end, The death of Saruman. But the fact that Saruman is an Istari, and once he “died,” he turned to mist, which gave me pause. We have seen this before. Saruman is not actually dead.

There are two different reasons for this. The first is Saurman is an Istari, which means he is a Maiar, one step down from the immortal Valar. Maiar are also eternal. Gandalf is a Maiar; and he died earlier in Fellowship of the Ring, only to be resurrected in The Two Towers. However, his memory was hazy on who he was before because his (their?) proper form is not the man we see walking around, but a god-like wizard from Valinor sent at the beginning of the Third Age to help fight against Sauron.

If Gandalf can come back, then it stands to reason that Saurman can also come back.

The second reason I’m sure Saruman will be back is that Sauron is a Maiar as well. In the Akallabeth (The second to last chapter about the Second Age in The Silmarillion), Sauron is killed during The Drowning of Númenór, but he becomes a mist and travels back to Mirkwood forest. This half-death is precisely how Sarumon’s death is described at the end of the Scouring of the Shire.

But does that mean that Sauron will also return because he is Maiar? Unfortunately (unfortunate for us because of the stories, fortunate for the people of Middle-earth!), no, and that’s because of J.K. Rowling.

No, not really, but she did seem to get an idea for Voldemort out of Tolkien. Sauron’s bodily form was defeated at the end of the Second Age when Isildur cut the One Ring from his hand. He was defeated because, to create the One Ring, he had to infuse all of his power into the Ring. Most of his life essence went into the One Ring when he created it. Yep, you guessed it, the One Ring is Sauron’s Horcrux.

When Gollum falls into the lava of Mount Doom with the Ring and destroys it, Gollum, in essence, destroys Sauron. So now, who’s the real hero?

Join me next week as we begin the next chapter of The Book of Lost Tales, “The Chaining of Melkor!”