Reader deep thought: Forget about light-swallowing monsters far and near, here be the original beast, the Black Hole to end all black holes: Ungoliant, from parts unknown, and Melkor’s go-to gal of Binge.
“In a ravine she lived, and took shape as a spider of monstrous form, weaving her black webs in a cleft of the mountains. There she sucked up all light that she could find, and spun it forth again in dark nets of strangling gloom, until no light more could come to her abode; and she was famished.”
The cunning of Melkor knew no bounds it seemed. Even in escaping, he had the presence of mind to create a diversion and managed to circle back remain in Aman, thanks in part to his ability as one of the Valar to “change his form, or walk unclad, as could his brethren”, but also to the guileless thoughts of Manwë, to whom “it seemed plain to him that he purposed to escape to his old strongholds in the north of Middle-earth”.
He had a plan, of course.
Thus unseen he came at last to the dark region of Avathar. That narrow land lay south of the Bay of Eldamar, beneath the eastern feet of the Pelóri, and its long and mournful shores stretched away into the south, lightless and unexplored. There, beneath the sheer walls of the mountains and the cold dark sea, the shadows were deepest and thickest in the world; and there in Avathar, secret and unknown, Ungoliant had made her abode….
In his favoured form as the tyrant of Utumno, “a dark Lord, tall and terrible”, he met her. She and he went back a long way, though she spurned Melkor’s claim of mastery, “desiring to be mistress of her own lust, taking all things to herself to feed her emptiness; and she fled to the south, escaping the assaults of the Valar and the hunters of Oromë, for their vigilance had ever been to the north, and the south was long unheeded.”
There was really only one thing the duo had in common: the capacity to both love and hate at the same time that which they desired, she the Light, and he merely the Kingdom of Manwë.
Yet, even in her great hunger, Ungoliant had a shred of prudence, “torn between lust and great fear; for she was loath to dare the perils of Aman and the power of the dreadful Lords, and she would not stir from her hiding.”
Melkor then made a false promise (that came back at him in the grandest way).
Melkor said to her: ‘Do as I bid; and if thou hunger still when all is done, then I will give thee whatsoever thy lust may demand. Yea, with both hands.’ Lightly he made this vow, as he ever did; and he laughed in his heart. Thus did the great thief set his lure for the lesser.
Got to wonder, who is the lesser?
Ungoliant took the bait, and what a perfectly cool way to veil their advance. Anti-matter for the win!
A cloak of darkness she wove about them when Melkor and Ungoliant set forth: an Unlight, in which things seemed to be no more, and which eyes could not pierce, for it was void. Then slowly she wrought her webs: rope by rope from cleft to cleft, from jutting rock to pinnacle of stone, ever climbing upwards, crawling and clinging, until at last she reached the very summit of Hyarmentir, the highest mountain in that region of the world, far south of great Taniquetil….
From that peak, they could survey all of the “Guarded Realm”. Melkor had timed his arrival well, for there was ongoing festivities decreed by Manwë, “a feast more glorious than any that had been held since the coming of the Eldar to Aman”, an attempt at healing the rifts in the Noldor before the Powers had to attend to the inevitable problems Melkor would cause.
Though all tides and seasons were at the will of the Valar, and in Valinor there was no winter of death, nonetheless they dwelt then in the Kingdom of Arda, and that was but a small realm in the halls of Eä, whose life is Time, which flows ever from the first note to the last chord of Eru. And even as it was then the delight of the Valar (as is told in the Ainulindalë) to clothe themselves as in a vesture in the forms of the Children of Ilúvatar, so also did they eat and drink, and gather the fruits of Yavanna from the Earth, which under Eru they had made.
All Valinor was there. But from Formenos, only party-pooper Fëanor came. “For said Finwë: ‘While the ban lasts upon Fëanor my son, that he may not go to Tirion, I hold myself unkinged, and I will not meet my people.’”
Still, Manwë’s will was done, if only in words.
Nevertheless he met Fingolfin before the throne of Manwë, and was reconciled, in word; and Fingolfin set at naught the unsheathing of the sword. For Fingolfin held forth his hand, saying: ‘As I promised, I do now. I release thee, and remember no grievance.’
Then Fëanor took his hand in silence; but Fingolfin said: ‘Half-brother in blood, full brother in heart will I be. Thou shalt lead and I will follow. May no new grief divide us.’
‘I hear thee,’ said Fëanor. ‘So be it.’ But they did not know the meaning that their words would bear.
At that same moment, the terrible duo struck. Melkor wounded the Two Trees upon Ezellohar, and Ungoliant drank all their light, killing them. She grew and continued to expand as she drained the wells of Varda too.
Ungoliant belched forth black vapours as she drank, and swelled to a shape so vast and hideous that Melkor was afraid.
The tragedy of that day was committed to the written word by Elemmírë of the Vanyar, in a work titled “The Aldudénië”.
Oromë and Tulkas set off in pursuit of Melkor when Manwë pinpointed “a Darkness beyond dark which they could not penetrate” moving northward as the duo hi-tailing it. But “so soon as any came up with the Cloud of Ungoliant the riders of the Valar were blinded and dismayed, and they were scattered, and went they knew not whither; and the sound of the Valaróma faltered and failed. And Tulkas was as one caught in a black net at night, and he stood powerless and beat the air in vain. But when the Darkness had passed, it was too late: Melkor had gone whither he would, and his vengeance was achieved.”
Well, Melkor certainly had much to gloat, but he would also have much to sleep on, surely.
There seemed a lot of geography in the backyard the Valar did not pay attention to
- “…she fled to the south, escaping the assaults of the Valar and the hunters of Oromë, for their vigilance had ever been to the north, and the south was long unheeded….”
- “… the very summit of Hyarmentir, the highest mountain in that region of the world, far south of great Taniquetil. There the Valar were not vigilant; for west of the Pelóri was an empty land in twilight, and eastward the mountains looked out, save for forgotten Avathar, only upon the dim waters of the pathless sea….”
(Relevance: read-along schedule)