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.
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!”
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