Impressed by the sheer amount of comments and personal theories in reply to this post (Ungoliant: a Fragment of Melkor’s Discord?), instead of commenting back to each and every one of you, I’ve decided to post your feedback here and discuss them one by one: constructing a follow-up article with a collection of your ideas on the subject.
Hopefully, this will create further discussion…
Forgive me, but I have taken the liberty to use some of your comments; and in an attempt to keep this from running for too long, I’ve taken the most important aspects of your feedback.
If you feel you’ve made some essential statement beyond what I’ve selected (or maybe I’ve completely missed the point), please feel free to comment … again 😉
Steven at The Leather Library says:
You called her dark matter, or ‘negative darkness’ like a black hole. I like the analog of the black hole better than dark matter. Like a black hole, Ungoliant has an insatiable hunger that can never be quenched, it continues to consume everything around it to no avail.
This is precisely what I had in mind. The references to “an Unlight” and the devouring of light, seemed too strongly linked with our scientific concepts of how a black hole works, to remain unmentioned.
I propose a second idea […] The Music of the Ainur could be said to be perfectly symmetrical and thus Melkor’s discord is an asymmetry (quantum anomaly). This anomaly, or turbulence in the space-time fabric, could have manifested itself as Ungoliant. One such anomaly is a black hole, the total collapse of space time into a singularity. I think, as you said, Ungoliant is Tolkien’s cosmic anomaly, one that answers to no one, not even Melkor!
Spot on. This has got to make the most sense, and is what I had in mind when writing the article (albeit, less technical).
But yes, Ungoliant seems to have been the unwilling result of Melkor’s rebellion against the harmony of the Music of the Ainur; creating a force which is an inversion of light, time and space: a physical manifestation without control.
Further along this idea, anarialaurelin argues:
“I wouldn’t say that Ungoliant was a Valar, but perhaps she was a Maiar. I agree that she seems to be a piece of the void […]it seems very much like a black hole, indeed.“
And to make it even more compelling as a theory, Tolkien says of the fate of Ungoliant:
[…]in her uttermost famine she devoured herself at last
(The Silmarillion, ‘Of the Flight of the Noldor’; Chapter 9)
Because, apparently – and I’m no expert in anything mathematical – the genius mind of Stephen Hawking has used quantum mechanics to prove that black holes can actually evaporate (they literally shrink and vanish) – something which Ungoliant seems to have done, by turning on her own self.
In the meantime, Andrew focused on the issue of Ungoliant overpowering Melkor. He provided some very interesting thoughts on this:
Melkor was not stupid or witless, he was incredibly intelligent, crafty, and evil. He would not falsely promise to give her “whatsoever thy lust may demand” without knowing that he could defeat or at least escape her. […] if she was some sort of black hole then I think she must have been ‘below’ him in some way until she drank from the Trees […] Second, even Melkor fled from the Valar numerous times, so for a creature that was ‘lower’ than her to be afraid seems quite understandable.
Perfectly valid points. Though it would be interesting to compare your thoughts, Andrew, with what Steven had to say about black holes being “out of control” and beyond the grasp of anyone.
While Emily agrees with the concept of Ungoliant as a void, she has some doubts on the concept of Melkor’s control over this being.
The only possible argument against Ungoliant being a direct result of Melkor’s discord is the power the Ainur seem to have over the world. It always seemed to me that the Valar had essentially complete control over all of Arda, which was the direct result of the Music. If Ungoliant were the same, wouldn’t Melkor have been able to control her fairly easily?
A perfectly justifiable concern and something which seems strongly linked with what Andrew discussed above. Naturally, the “black hole/void” theory is just speculation.
But going back to Steven‘s and my own thoughts, it would appear that although Ungoliant may have been a result of Melkor’s discord, it became wholly separate, detatched and independent from that Vala, once the music was made tangible.
It’s a complicated thought, to tell you the truth; but I see Ungoliant as a “hiccup” within the Music of the Ainur … hehe! 😀
Meanwhile Nevey B. shared a sentiment no doubt many readers will agree!
Also, Bob Irving provided another fascinating idea which, frankly, makes a lot of sense:
I have been pondering whether Ungoliant was Tom Bombadil’s opposite […]They may both be deeply wound up with the music and the nature of Middle Earth itself.
I think this is a very good assumption.
In an attempt to understand the nature of Bombadil, if we were to take into consideration the concept of Ungoliant as a result of the Music of the Ainur, it seems perfectly plausible that this same Music would create an entity that is the reverse of a black hole.
Tom Bombadil may well have been the crowning jewel of that event; a cosmic conformity of sorts.
Anyway, moving on…
I’m glad Matthew Livermore provided us with a link to another great article on this subject: “The Darkness was More than Loss of Light”: the Case of Ungoliant.
The article is more of a philosophical discussion (than a scientific one), and cleverly discusses the concepts of light and darkness: the presence and absence of the two, and how they fit within Tolkien’s imagining of Ungoliant.
Very interesting stuff, thanks Matthew.
Meanwhile, an engaging discussion ensued between three of you, regarding an equally-complex set of subjects.
Sable Aradia notes that:
There is much in Tolkien’s writing to suggest that especially considering his field of study that he was not unfamiliar with mysticism and occultism.
I guess many concepts that can be found within the fictional and scientific fields, can also be applied to these topics.
But Emily writes that:
Tolkien was extremely conservative (if that’s even the right word) and would have considered anything even approaching occultism as dangerous. I think he would have steered clear of it.
Then again, there are many parallels and similarities across a wide spectrum of religions and spiritual beliefs, which may force us to question where these ideas primarily originated from.
Andrew further backs up Emily‘s claim and states:
Tolkien’s views of evil, Providence, right and wrong, power, death, etc. all come down and out of an essentially Christian worldview […]
The debate between the three is nonetheless fascinating, and since I’m not at all versed in the subjects of mysticism and the like (and to avoid any further debate between religions), I’ll leave the argument up to you, readers. 🙂
Finally, Andrew mentioned another point which I (honestly) was going to discuss in this post but thought it best to leave it as is.
Nevertheless, since it’s cropped up, might as well discuss…
Jan Oort didn’t propose the so-called “dark matter” until 1932, but Tolkien had already conceived and written about the Void and even Ungoliant before then (in
the teens and twenties). So I don’t think he could have based part of her character on that idea.
Certainly, it seems that Tolkien wasn’t aware of what dark matter was, but perhaps, he had an idea of how everything seems to be a balance; and that for every positive you have a negative. I don’t know how much Tolkien was into science – I doubt he had a passion for it.
Nonetheless, this inconsistency of dates seems to suggest that Tolkien (to use a clichéd phrase) wrote and thought ahead of his time: including certain ideas about black holes.
Either that, or it was mere coincidence that what Tolkien wrote about Ungoliant, seemed to match closely to these modern scientific ideas! 😀
Okay so this turned into a long post nonetheless.
But I couldn’t miss the chance to cram all your wonderful thoughts together.
This was such a stimulating discussion. And I’m betting that if all of us contributed our own ideas and opinions, half of Tolkien’s mysteries would be – if not solved – highly plausible with minimal doubts. 😀
Shall we try? 😉
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