Posts tagged “#thesimlarillion

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

“In this dimness the Gods stalked North and South and could see little; indeed in the deepest of these regions they found great cold and solitude and the rule of Melko already fortified in strength; but Melko and his servants were delving in the North, fashioning the grim halls of Utumna, for he had no thought to dwell amongst the others, howso he might feign peace and friendship for the time (pg 69).”

Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we move forward in the Book of Lost Tales and start on the third chapter, “The Coming of the Valar and the Building of Valinor.”

This chapter has three distinct cut points, so we’ll divide that up into three separate essays. The first will be about the entrance of the Valar into the tale and the theory behind Valinor, the second will be about the lamps of Valinor and the Vala dwellings, and the final will be about some new material we haven’t seen before.

We pick back up with Eriol, the human traveler, speaking with Rúmil, the storyteller of Tol Eressëa. Eriol asks Rúmil, “I would still hear many things of the earliest deeds within its borders (Valinor); of the labours of the Valar I would know, and the great beings of most ancient days (pg 64).”

Rúmil regales Eriol with the names, purpose, and works of the Valar throughout this chapter, and it’s not an easy read. However, the first few chapters of the Silmarillion and The Book of Lost Tales are about the beginning of time, and they frame everything that comes after.

This chapter is so tricky because Tolkien goes for pages upon pages and describes the various Valar. Still, once we begin to get into the stories of the Eldar, which comprise the majority of The Silmarillion, the Valar don’t play much of a part.

Ulmo Valar of Water

In the Book of Lost Tales, Tolkien spends more time describing the various Vala and their roles. Some of their names change slightly between when the writing of this book (remember that The Book of Lost Tales is an amalgamation of editions edited by Christopher. In the appendices for this chapter, Christopher even mentions that he collected and put together the best story he could from notebooks and even scraps of paper his father used for notes.), and the publication of The Silmarillion.

In later works, Tolkien had differing power levels for the Valar, almost like rankings. The Aratar (Exalted Ones) were the most powerful of the group in this iteration, who comprised most of the Valar, whom Tolkien calls gods during the Book of Lost Tales, but we’ll discuss this more in a moment. Many Valar had children considered lesser Vala, and Tolkien eventually formed the title Fëanturi for them. There was also a third ranking of these gods in Valinor, whom Tolkien later got rid of entirely, which were very similar in every aspect of the Eldar, except in conception:

“About them fared a great host who are sprites of trees and woods, of dale and forest and mountain-side, or those that sing amid the grass at morning and chant among the standing corn at eve. These are the Nermir and the Tavari, Nandini and Orossi, brownies, fays, pixies, leprawns, and what else are they not called, for thier number is very great: yet must they not be confused with the Eldar, for they were born before the world and are older than its oldest, and are not of it, but laugh at it much, for they not somewhat to do with its making, so that it is for the most part a play for them (pg 66).”

Tolkien later eliminated the fae and streamlined the Valar by re-facing lesser Vala (Lórien and Mandos) as the Fëanturi, Sindarin for “Masters of Spirits,” no longer children of the Aratar. He decided that the Valar would no longer be gods because Ilúvatar was the one God, and the Valar were his servants, who had free will to use their music to create and adjust life on Eä. The conception took the Valar from gods to angels, and the angels of the lesser degree were the Maiar, better known as the servants of the Valar. The best-known Maiar are Sauron, a servant of Melkor (also known as Morgoth), and the Istari, the wizards. You may know them as Gandalf, Radagast, and Saruman.

Tolkien’s primary objective was to create a fantasy world that would eventually become our world in later epochs. He studied mythology and fairy tales his entire life and felt as though England didn’t have appropriate myths. The most famous tale at the time as a mythology for England was The Faerie Queen, and obviously, this is where Tolkien started.

The Faerie Queen

I believe that over time he wanted to distance himself from Edmund Spencer (also, from everything I’ve read, I don’t get the feeling he liked The Faerie Queen that much), so getting rid of the fae was always going to happen, but he didn’t get rid of them entirely. If we dig down into the quote above and remove specific verbiage: “for they were born before the world and are older than its oldest, and are not of it, but laugh at it much… (pg 66),” it brings to mind a specific character.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, we are introduced to Tom Bombadil, “the oldest being of Middle-earth, ” constantly laughing and merrymaking. The Council of Elrond even considers giving him the One Ring for safekeeping but decides against it because he is so old that the Ring’s power would be boring to him. Tolkien filtered down the fae creatures in The Book of Lost Tales to Tom Bombadil in later works. He wanted to keep the concept of a fae creature, but he also needed to distance himself from what came before so that he might have a complete mythology.

So now we have the fourteen Valar (eight in the Silmarillion), but we still don’t know anything about their home. So come back next week for the second section of “The Coming of the Valar and the Building of Valinor!”