Reader: The Silmarillion. Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter 3 “Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor”

Reader deep thought: Seriously, must there always be a catch to Ilúvatar’s gifts? The Elves got everything mortals could want. But out there in the wild wild east, the terror of Melkor consumed some of them. And once and for all: the Eldar are the westward-ho pioneers who followed Oromë, not every Legolas or Galdor.
“In the beginning the Elder Children of Ilúvatar were stronger and greater than they have since become; but not more fair, for though the beauty of the Quendi in the days of their youth was beyond all other beauty that Ilúvatar has caused to be, it has not perished, but lives in the West, and sorrow and wisdom have enriched it. And Oromë loved the Quendi, and named them in their own tongue Eldar, the people of the stars; but that name was after borne only by those who followed him upon the westward road.”



Life shall not be denied, or something like that. Evil neither.

This is the chapter that started everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, residing in Arda down that long, long road of epic trials and tribulations.

It starts quietly enough: while the Valar were getting their daily Vit D dosage from the Two Trees over in Aman, Middle-earth suffered a bad case of arrested development in the gloomy shadows of the damnably tall Pelóri.

And yet:

… already the oldest living things had arisen: in the seas the great weeds, and on earth the shadow of great trees; and in the valleys of the night-clad hills there were dark creatures old and strong.

Of the Blessed Ones, only two traipsed regularly around the dark: Yavanna, to grieve, tend and put some of her creations into hibernation mode; Oromë to exercise Nahar and bust out hits with Valaróma aka bring terror and thin the ranks of evil.

And Melkor, with his creativity run amok, optimised his insomnia and his charisma. Not only did he get busy with breeding “monsters of divers shapes and kinds that long troubled the world”, and sending them forth along with “evil things that he had perverted” to haunt “the dark and slumbering woods” with monsters and shapes of dread”, he amassed in Utumno “his demons about him, those spirits who first adhered to him in the days of his splendour, and became most like him in his corruption: their hearts were of fire, but they were cloaked in darkness, and terror went before them; they had whips of flame.” Enter the Balrogs.

He even had an insurance/Plan B:

And Melkor made also a fortress and armoury not far from the north-western shores of the sea, to resist any assault that might come from Aman. That stronghold was commanded by Sauron, lieutenant of Melkor; and it was named Angband.

It pays to gallivant even when one is a Power of the World, because it was the adventuresome twosome, Yavanna and Oromë, who alerted their divine cohorts to Melkor’s shenanigans and got everyone busy again with prepping the welcome party for the Firstborn’s advent, based on Mandos’ doomsay.

… Mandos spoke, and he said: ‘In this age the Children of Ilúvatar shall come indeed, but they come not yet. Moreover it is doom that the Firstborn shall come in the darkness, and shall look first upon the stars. Great light shall be for their waning. To Varda ever shall they call at need.’

Way to lay it on someone, Mandos! So Varda embarked on the home-improvement project of the Ages.

Then Varda went forth from the council, and she looked out from the height of Taniquetil, and beheld the darkness of Middle-earth beneath the innumerable stars, faint and far. Then she began a great labour, greatest of all the works of the Valar since their coming into Arda. She took the silver dews from the vats of Telperion, and therewith she made new stars and brighter against the coming of the Firstborn; …. Carnil and Luinil, Nénar and Lumbar, Alcarinquë and Elemmírë she wrought in that time, and many other of the ancient stars she gathered together and set as signs in the heavens of Arda: Wilwarin, Telumendil, Soronúmë, and Anarríma; and Menelmacar with his shining belt, that forebodes the Last Battle that shall be at the end of days. And high in the north as a challenge to Melkor she set the crown of seven mighty stars to swing, Valacirca, the Sickle of the Valar and sign of doom.

With her stellar work, finally, there was light, and the Children woke.

It is told that even as Varda ended her labours, and they were long, when first Menelmacar strode up the sky and the blue fire of Helluin flickered in the mists above the borders of the world, in that hour the Children of the Earth awoke, the Firstborn of Ilúvatar. By the starlit mere of Cuiviénen, Water of Awakening, they rose from the sleep of Ilúvatar; and while they dwelt yet silent by Cuiviénen their eyes beheld first of all things the stars of heaven. Therefore they have ever loved the starlight, and have revered Varda Elentári above all the Valar.

Cuiviénen sounded like a lovely place to begin breathing. Such a pity it can no longer be accessed, thanks to major geographical changes caused by Melkor’s continuous freestyling and endless world-domination ambition.

Still, it took a while before the Valar knew the Children had Awoken. Again, thanks to the adventuresome:

And on a time it chanced that Oromë rode eastward in his hunting, and he turned north by the shores of Helcar and passed under the shadows of the Orocarni, the Mountains of the East. Then on a sudden Nahar set up a great neighing, and stood still. And Oromë wondered and sat silent, and it seemed to him that in the quiet of the land under the stars he heard afar off many voices singing.

Thus it was that the Valar found at last, as it were by chance, those whom they had so long awaited….

The wonder and beauty with which the Valar meet each new discovery must be a marvellous trait. To know and anticipate, and yet still to be surprised at the moment of fruition.

So it was with the awakened Children. Before Oromë found them, the prodigal had kept themselves busy, inventing speech and naming things, calling themselves the Quendi.

Unfortunately, adventuring land surveyance was not quite the same as home ground advantage. Melkor had already used his “evil spirits and shadows” to socialise the Elves negatively against the Hunter, and even captured those who strayed abroad, to the point that it remained in the Elven psyche collective:

And indeed the most ancient songs of the Elves, of which echoes are remembered still in the West, tell of the shadow-shapes that walked in the hills above Cuiviénen, or would pass suddenly over the stars; and of the dark Rider upon his wild horse that pursued those that wandered to take them and devour them.

The proof, as the saying goes, is in the pudding, though the misconception was long overdue in its clearing. Seeing Oromë, the Elves knew the truth. Well, those of the “noblest” constitution who did not flee from the fright and fear of seeing the Great Rider among them.

What a sad fate for the ones who were caught by Melkor though:

But of those unhappy ones who were ensnared by Melkor little is known of a certainty. For who of the living has descended into the pits of Utumno, or has explored the darkness of the counsels of Melkor? Yet this is held true by the wise of Eressëa, that all those of the Quendi who came into the hands of Melkor, ere Utumno was broken, were put there in prison, and by slow arts of cruelty were corrupted and enslaved; and thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orcs in envy and mockery of the Elves, of whom they were afterwards the bitterest foes. For the Orcs had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Ilúvatar; and naught that had life of its own, nor the semblance of life, could ever Melkor make since his rebellion in the Ainulindalë before the Beginning: so say the wise. And deep in their dark hearts the Orcs loathed the Master whom they served in fear, the maker only of their misery. This it may be was the vilest deed of Melkor, and the most hateful to Ilúvatar.

So Oromë stuck around Cuiviénen for a bit, and brought word back home before returning to take up his chaperone’s duties while the rest decided what to do, or rather, Manwë deliberated and announced his plan: “take up again the mastery of Arda, at whatsoever cost, and deliver the Quendi from the shadow of Melkor.”

Support was not unanimous, but the Valar launched the Battle of the Powers:

  • Tulkas: Aye!
  • Aulë: Nay
  • Melkor never forgot “the war was made for the sake of the Elves, and that they were the cause of his downfall.”
  • The hapless Elves knew nothing of the war, and did not experience it except in the resulting geographical upheavals.

…. Long and grievous was the siege of Utumno, and many battles were fought before its gates of which naught but the rumour is known to the Elves. In that time the shape of Middle-earth was changed, and the Great Sea that sundered it from Aman grew wide and deep; and it broke in upon the coasts and made a deep gulf to the southward. Many lesser bays were made between the Great Gulf and Helcaraxë far in the north, where Middle-earth and Aman came nigh together. Of these the Bay of Balar was the chief; and into it the mighty river Sirion flowed down from the new-raised highlands northwards: Dorthonion, and the mountains about Hithlum. The lands of the far north were all made desolate in those days; for there Utumno was delved exceeding deep, and its pits were filled with fires and with great hosts of the servants of Melkor.

  • First theatre: the North-west of Middle-earth, which was “much broken” as a result
    • The Valar had the first victory
    • Melkor’s forces fled back to Utumno
  • Second theatre: Utumno and the surroundings
    • A long siege and many battles before its gates
    • Tulkas wrestled Melkor, who in defeat was bound in the chain Angainor that Aulë made
    • Angband and Utumno had so many “mighty vaults and caverns hidden with deceit” far under them that some of Melkor’s creations and minions still lurked or fled, along with Sauron.

Melkor was led back to Valinor, where he was judged in the Ring of Doom to be imprisoned in the impregnable fastness of Mandos, for three Ages before he can be considered for parole.

Most of the Powers voted for bringing the Quendi to Valinor for they “feared for the Quendi in the dangerous world amid the deceits of the starlit dusk; and they were filled moreover with the love of the beauty of the Elves and desired their fellowship.” Mandos broke his silence only to say: ‘So it is doomed.’ Portentous as ever.

For the record, chief among the minority dissenters was Ulmo who felt “the Quendi should be left free to walk as they would in Middle-earth, and with their gifts of skill to order all the lands and heal their hurts.” What a different world it might have been if Ulmo had his way.

The Quendi were not willing to answer the summons, which was understandable given the circumstances of their experiences with the Valar. So once again, Oromë set out. He chose Ingwë, Finwë, and Elwë to visit Valinor. And the message they brought back to Cuiviénen began the First Sundering of the Elves, and the fragmentation into clans, mainly the ones who went West, the ones who started on the journey but did not make it, and those who outright declined.

  • The Calaquendi, Elves of the Light, the Eldar (the ones who were swayed by the words of their lords, and were willing to depart and follow Oromë)
    • The Fair Elves, the Vanyar, ruled by Ingwë. Beloved of Manwë and Varda; “few among Men have spoken with them”
    • The Deep Elves, the Noldor, ruled by Finwë. “… the friends of Aulë; and they are renowned in song, for they fought and laboured long and grievously in the northern lands of old”
    • The Sea Elves (most numerous of the Eldalië), the Teleri, ruled by Olwë, brother of Elwë (his story, and the how and wherewithal in the next chapters). “… they tarried on the road, and were not wholly of a mind to pass from the dusk to the light of Valinor. In water they had great delight, and those that came at last to the western shores were enamoured of the sea. The Sea-elves therefore they became in the land of Aman, the Falmari, for they made music beside the breaking waves. Two lords they had, for their numbers were great: Elwë Singollo (which signifies Greymantle) and Olwë his brother.”
  • The Moriquendi, Elves of the Darkness (“they never beheld the Light that was before the Sun and Moon.”)
    • the Úmanyar, the ones “who set out indeed upon the westward march, but became lost upon the long road, or turned aside, or lingered on the shores of Middle-earth; and these were for the most part of the kindred of the Teleri…. They dwelt by the sea, or wandered in the woods and mountains of the world, yet their hearts were turned towards the West.”
      • The Nandor, led by Lenwë. They broke off from the Teleri on the eastern banks of Anduin, and went “southwards down the great river, and they passed out of the knowledge of their kin until long years were past…. they became a people apart, unlike their kin, save that they loved water, and dwelt most beside falls and running streams. Greater knowledge they had of living things, tree and herb, bird and beast, than all other Elves.” (Denethor, his son led a part of the Nandor over the mountains into Beleriand before the rising of the Moon.)
        • Second Sundering of the Elves
    • the Avari (The Unwilling who “refused the summons, preferring the
      starlight and the wide spaces of Middle-earth to the rumour of the Trees”)

      • with the separation of the Avari from those of the Eldar who set off, this was the First Sundering of the Elves

For those who did not decline, it was a long long journey, taking years and on foot, to the Sea of Helcar in the north before turning west. Not that they minded for “they were filled with wonder at all that they saw, and by many lands and rivers they wished to abide; and though all were yet willing to wander, many feared rather their journey’s end than hoped for it.” And it did not help that Oromë sometimes had to go away and leave the pilgrims to their own devices for a bit.

Major (and sometimes scenic) points in the itinerary:

  • Anduin the Great “the frontier of the west-lands of Middle-earth.”
  • The Hithaeglir, “the Towers of Mist upon the borders of Eriador; yet they were taller and more terrible in those days, and were reared by Melkor to hinder the riding of Oromë.”
  • The Teleri stalled on Anduin’s east bank while the Vanyar and the Noldor
    passed over it and Oromë guided them into the Hithaeglir’s passes of the mountains.
  • The Vanyar and the Noldor came over Ered Luin, “the Blue Mountains, between Eriador and the westernmost land of Middle-earth”, an area the Elves named Beleriand
  • Then their vanguard passed over the Vale of Sirion and arrived at the shores of the Great Sea, between Drengist and the Bay of Balar. But they freaked out to see the Sea, and “many withdrew into the woods and highlands of Beleriand”. The journey stalled again, even for the most Willing. (Oromë returned to Valinor to ask Manwë’s advice
  • This gave the Teleri a chance to catch, urged on by Elwë Singollo, who was eager to return to Valinor and the Light, and also he because he wanted to get together again with his bestie, Finwë. Still it took the many years to get to the eastern regions of Beleriand where they stayed beyond the River Gelion.

So finally, the three hosts were together, more or less, waiting on the shores of Great Sea for the next stage.

(Relevance: read-along schedule)

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