‘Ungoliant’ Post: Follow-up

Spider (follow up)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.Shelob

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.

***

Melkor-and-Ungoliant

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!

Arachnophobia is hell 😦Black Widow

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.

Huh?! :S

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.

Tolkien (BBC)Indeed, we are told many times that Tolkien was a Roman Catholic and it seems strange that someone so devoted to this religion would find appeal in such contrasting movements.

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 passionBlack Hole 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? 😉

(Copyright to the illustrations and images belong to the respective artists/studios)

 

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57 thoughts on “‘Ungoliant’ Post: Follow-up

  1. It may be worth mentioning that we “think” we have a scientific understanding of Black Holes, but no human being has ever experienced one. In the same way, given that the Professor has gone to his eternal reward, we have to content ourselves with “thinking” that we understand Ungoliant, but not being 100% certain.

  2. Concerning Melkor’s almost submission by something we all consider a lesser being, remember that he was no longer counted as the most powerful of the Ainur, even if he boasted as being such. This is the same Melkor that would eventually be maimed by one of the Noldor, an infinitely lesser being in comparison to the might of the Valar. One could also say that he was weakened by the searing nature of the jewels he bore, whereas Ungoliant was bolstered by the power of the Light she devoured (as Andrew states above).

    I do find the idea of Ungoliant as a fragment of Melkor’s discord compelling. There are many things that were inadvertently created as a result of Melkor’s insistence to have his voice rise above the rest of the Music, such as something as simple as rain. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that she is an after-effect of the Music. I do like the Tom Bombadil comparison, though I would caution saying that she is the counter to Iarwin Ben-adar. Galdor in the Council of Elrond makes it sound as though Tom is a manifestation of the properties of Middle-earth. Would that mean, if Ungoliant is the anti-Bombadil, that she is the manifestation of the bad qualities of the world? That would certainly point to her being even more so a fragment created by the discord, but it would also mean that there was something inherently evil and dark with the world, and if Melkor was ever defeated, evil could never be until Arda was remade.

    Just some thoughts!

    • Hey LotrLore thanks for your feedback! 🙂

      You are right about Melkor’s continuous decline of strength. It would certainly explain Ungoliant’s ability to make him a prisoner; and your reference to his maiming by Fingolfin is an important reminder.

      The Ungoliant/Bombadil debate has to be clarified, it seems. In his original comment, Bob made it clear that he wasn’t suggesting an opposite being to Ungoliant, but wanted to compare idea of the “bad effects” of the Music of the Ainur, occurring similarly to produce something good – in this case, Tom Bombadil.

  3. “[…] 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” I think that this is a very interesting point. When black holes consume large amounts of matter, say a star or stars, they literally gain energy (remember stars are essentially large balls of nuclear fusion) this energy is contained near the singularity (under the second event horizon). When they consume matter/energy they literally grow larger (Sometimes even merge into a large black hole!). The super massive black holes (‘super-massive’ because they are literally super MASSIVE) at the centre of our galaxy (and most galaxies) are huge because of their seemingly long life spans of consuming, or eating. Eventually these super-massive blacks holes can consume (or eat, ergo Ungoliant) so much that they turn in quasars. These quasars tare the most powerful and deadly phenomena in existence, because they shoot jets of plasma for billions of light years in many directions. Why am I mentioning this? Well it seems that Andrew hit a good point. Ungoliant ate the tree and therefore made herself immensely powerful, almost unchallengeable! However, like a black hole, when it has consumed all that it can; it gives of Hawking radiation and slowly evaporates and dies, Ungoliant likewise consumed all that could have possible sated her hunger, and eventually consumed herself.

    I hope that I was not too confusing. But the nature of Ungoliant seems so damn similar to that of a black hole, in so many regards. But we may be simply making analogical connections where there are none. Nonetheless, the practice of making such analogies is what makes the subject so interesting, and unceasingly fun!

  4. Reblogged this on The Leather Library and commented:
    My Comment:

    “[…] 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” I think that this is a very interesting point. When black holes consume large amounts of matter, say a star or stars, they literally gain energy (remember stars are essentially large balls of nuclear fusion) this energy is contained near the singularity (under the second event horizon). When they consume matter/energy they literally grow larger (Sometimes even merge into a large black hole!). The super massive black holes (‘super-massive’ because they are literally super MASSIVE) at the centre of our galaxy (and most galaxies) are huge because of their seemingly long life spans of consuming, or eating. Eventually these super-massive blacks holes can consume (or eat, ergo Ungoliant) so much that they turn in quasars. These quasars tare the most powerful and deadly phenomena in existence, because they shoot jets of plasma for billions of light years in many directions. Why am I mentioning this? Well it seems that Andrew hit a good point. Ungoliant ate the tree and therefore made herself immensely powerful, almost unchallengeable! However, like a black hole, when it has consumed all that it can; it gives of Hawking radiation and slowly evaporates and dies, Ungoliant likewise consumed all that could have possible sated her hunger, and eventually consumed herself.

    I hope that I was not too confusing. But the nature of Ungoliant seems so damn similar to that of a black hole, in so many regards. But we may be simply making analogical connections where there are none. Nonetheless, the practice of making such analogies is what makes the subject so interesting, and unceasingly fun!

  5. I admit, I only sort of understand the science-y stuff. 😉 Your thoughts, James, combined with Steven’s, are certainly very compelling. Forgive my ignorance, but is dark matter the same as a black hole? Is dark matter that which makes up a black hole? I ask because I wonder if the concept of a black hole is closely related to Jan Oort’s 1932 proposition. If the concept of a black hole existed before then, it is possible that Tolkien would have been familiar with it? I agree that Tolkien didn’t seem to have a lot of interest in science. However, I’m sure he kept up with current events to at least a certain degree. I don’t know how much press a new theory like that would have gotten in early 20th century. If it did get a lot of press in England, it would be quite possible that Tolkien read about it and it sub-consciously influenced him.

    This is off topic, but the discussion of dark matter makes me think of prime matter. I have to go back over my notes/reading from my college philosophy classes, but is it possible that the concept of prime matter could be related to the Music of the Ainur?

    I’m happy to continue the debate with Sable Aradia and Andrew, if they so desire. However, such a debate touches on so many sensitive points (religion, primarily) that I doubt we could come to any kind of productive conclusion. 🙂

    • I’m no science geek either, but I’ve always been fascinated by the creation and evolution of the Universe.

      As I understand it, dark matter is (naturally) the opposite of matter – which is everything tangible: the physical objects around us, we ourselves, everything.

      Dark Matter is so-called because it does not emit or absorb light and therefore cannot be seen and is only believed to exist. And here I quote: “Astronomers know it exists because something in the universe is exerting significant gravitational forces on things we can see”.

      So it’s still a bit of a mystery it itself … 🙂

    • I think I’ve stated everything I felt was worth saying in my two (terribly) lengthy comments on the other post, but if you want to continue the discussion I’d be more that willing! 🙂

    • The comments on these 2 posts have been very fascinating to read, especially this discussion between Andrew and Sable Aradia (and Emily). I’m not meaning to get into a lengthy discussion myself, but I think Andrew’s comments fit best with Tolkien’s ideas and intentions. They seem to be the most researched and supported by Tolkien’s own writings (kudos to him!). I’m not religious myself and I probably wouldn’t agree with Andrew on most other points, but I think when it comes to Tolkien you can’t deny the fact that his Christian/Catholic worldview is key to understanding the underlying principles of the whole mythology and that there’s little basis for influence from modern occults. We shouldn’t try to distort and misrepresent his beliefs, even though they may have been wrong.

  6. There was certainly something “different” about Ungoliant: her Unlight, which even the eyes of Manwë could not pierce, and her ability to consume radiance and from that to grow enormously strong very quickly; and yet her physical embodiment, which made her powerful, also made her vulnerable, just as it did for Morgoth and Sauron and the Balrogs.

    There is a difficulty in that Tolkien’s descriptions seem to be poetic rather scientific in nature, lacking the precise definition from which it would be possible to draw firm conclusions.

    It is not stated that all of the Ainur who entered Eä participated in the fashioning of Arda: Manwë “called unto himself many spirits both greater and less, and they came down into the fields of Arda”, and when Tulkas arrived, Melkor “forsook Arda” and “brooded in the outer darkness”, where other Ainur, possibly including Ungoliant, may yet have remained. Later, after the first fashioning of Arda, Melkor “far off in the darkness … gathered to himself spirits out of the halls of Eä that he had perverted to his service.” Just as Arien was by nature “from the beginning a spirit of fire”, Ungoliant may have been a spirit of the darkness and the void, which would account for her Unlight. It is notable that whereas the Valar appear not to have known beforehand of Ungoliant, and afterwards only “perceived that Melkor had called upon some aid that came from beyond Arda”, Melkor certainly knew of her: “Now Melkor came to Avathar and sought her out.”

    Alternatively, Ungoliant and Bombadil could conceivably have been aboriginal entities that existed within Eä from its beginning; I know of no statement from Tolkien to rule that out. While “all was on point to begin and yet unshaped, and it was dark” when the Valar entered Eä and that “so began their great labours in wastes unmeasured and unexplored” does not in any way imply that primordial spirits already dwelt within, Bombadil insisted that he was in some sense “Eldest … here before the river and the trees … before the Dark Lord came from Outside.”

    Interestingly, Gandalf said that “Far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he”, which is a strange statement to make when Sauron existed before Eä itself, unless it is supposed that the “nameless things” were already in Eä before the Ainur arrived. Perhaps, therefore, Ungoliant was originally one of those “nameless things”.

  7. Just some more thoughts on my own interpretation of the relationship between Bombadil and Ungoliant (this is just one interpretation among many and of course not canonical). For me, the tragedy bound up with Ungoliant is that she was not originally Bombadil’s opposite but something very similar to Tom – perhaps there relationship could be summed up by the relationship between the first two musics at the beginning of creation with the third leading to the revelation of the world (I might not be remembering correctly how many there were!). Could Tom and Ungoliant be like personifications of these musics or something similar. Tom somehow transcending the attempted corruption of Melkor because he is master (e.g. like the master harmony within the music) and thus cannot be mastered by corruption (not that he is God/Illuvator). However, Ungoliant, now ever hungry for the light she lost, was mastered even though, in a sense, she may have been greater than Tom just as the second music built upon the first.

    One of the interesting things about Tom, is the question of whether Sauron could have mastered him and how the comments within the cannon of MiddleEarth could be interpreted. Perhaps Sauron just did not have a chance against Tom and this may seem to go against what has been written. But here is my (somewhat wishful) interpretation. In a sense, Sauron by sheer might of darkness could have banished Tom from MiddleEarth and in that sense overcome him. But, the truth is Tom knew Sauron did not have a chance against him, because it was not down to sheer might. Tom knew Sauron would not get the opportunity to overcome him and he knew the corrupting song of the ring would not last long.

    As for Tom’s place in MiddleEarth, perhaps he decided to live next to the most important people within it – those that most embodied MiddleEarth. Could that be the Hobbits – the very same creatures who a very wise Maiar spent time with!

    • Another addition to my own comment – oops! A thought related to Ungoliant and void. In corrupting (or trying to corrupt) the music in the beginning, it first looks like Melkor has made a significant input to the music. If Ungoliant was an incarnation of say the second music or some part of it, then the void in her due to his corruption reveals he added nothing. His corruption is not something, it is the negation of reality like darkness is only the absence of light. Perhaps, this is why Ungoliant is so pissed off with Melkor – she once had something in abundance – with him she had power but in reality had nothing. In my interpretation of Tom, perhaps, he grieves for her and maybe there is no redemption for her whatever her fate was or will be. Who knows! 😉

      • Sorry about this, I am having too much fun with this thread. Another thought about Tom and Ungoliant. Could they predate Sauron? Could they even predate Melkor? These may be completely stupid questions! Did the Valar and Maiar create the music at the beginning of creation or did they discover the music that in some sense was already in Illuvatar’s heart?

      • Very interesting insights Bob. It just makes Middle-earth even more expansive and rich with all these plausible possibilities …

  8. Thanks for this thread and I apologise for not explicitly mentioning other contributors who have helped refine my own thoughts re Ungoliant (especially related to Ungoliant’s connection to the void and being a very ancient creature). In my own thoughts, I have imagined there is a connection between Ungoiliant and Goldberry – Tom’s wife. In this interpretation, Tom is related to the first music and perhaps he was actually first in a real sense, even predating the Valar who in the freedom Illuvatar gives them, discover many elements of the music within Illuvatar’s heart. Ungoliant, is related to the second music (but so is Goldberry and the River Woman). Perhaps Ungoliant is the incarnation of the major harmony within the second music but is corrupted by Melkor. In her corruption, because of the close relationship between the first two musics, Tom suffer’s a great loss. This loss can only be healed within the third living music of the Ainur. Did the third music stop, or is it in some sense still ongoing and being expressed in the history and events of MiddleEarth? In this interpretation, Melkor attacks the third music using what he thinks is his success with the corruption of the second music. The two trees embody themes within the third music, and Ungoliant is used in an attempt to destroy them which only partially succeeds (the two trees become a theme of hope especially with the seed that reflowers at the end of the third age).
    Tom being an incarnation of the first music, is resident within the third music (MiddleEarth) and finds his completion and healing (the remerging of the first and second musics) near the land of the Hobbits (the people who most embody the hidden and gentle harmonies of the third music). Perhaps, it is on the riverbanks of a stream near the Shire that Tom find’s Goldberry and they marry. And so, the first and second musics find their consummation within the delicate themes of the third music, and this same gentleness and vulnerability within the third music resists the strident manipulations of Melkor and his followers (the Hobbits being central to the overthrow of Sauron without resorting to the tactics of Melkor – e.g. winning by use of force). Of course, this is only a readers interpretation as opposed to the authors and I may have unwittingly become a Tolkien heretic in what I have written here! 😉

  9. On a slightly different tack, if Ungoliant had become a bit of a leech, draining from other things (like the two trees) what she did not have herself, did she leech some of Melkor’s strength/vitality? If he was drained and weakened in his efforts, was the activity of working with Ungoliant one of the major drains? A sort of comeuppance for what he did to her in corrupting her – there seems to have been no love lost between Ungoliant and Melkor as he discovered.
    Also, was she the mother of all parasitic creatures (e.g. like her spider children). I cannot remember if there were actual vampires in the Silmarillion (e.g. was Thuring-Wethel an actual vampire) but could they also have been offspring of Ungoliant rather than fallen Maiar?

  10. Some say Ungoliant consumed herself long ago, but only some say this. What if she lived on, biding her time, and her move, when it came, brought about the end of the fourth age. 🙂

  11. There have been a number of blogs I have read that I have really enjoyed (like this one). Some of them I have lost because I did not have my up-to-date browser favourites backed up. I think this is the first one I have contributed to, but with all of them I have enjoyed the environment for exploring MiddleEarth (ME) further and from different perspectives.

    Why have I found this thread so interesting? I do not know, how other Tolkien fans think, but sometimes I wonder what happened in the fourth age. What sort of sequel could there be which would not undermine the achievements of Gandalf and Frodo (and friends) but could be big enough to be interesting and draw in some of the enigmatic characters (e.g. Tom, Radagast and Thranduil) of LOTR? This is where Ungoliant comes in, or at least her heritage and unfinished business with Mr Big Melkor. It is my observation that the lands of ME do not change unless something big (usually a result of something bad) happens (e.g. before first age, end of first and second ages). Although, some sources indicate that once Aragorn became king, king followed king without to much trouble. What if these sources are wrong, for do we not observe that the lands documented in the magnificent Red Book of Westmarch are different from the lands we observe today? Did something significant happen leading to this? And was it Ungoliant and/or her heritage behind it? 😉

    A second thought is this: The Music of the Ainur seems to finish before the world appears (my memories may be wrong here), but are things necessarily as they seem? Were the battles between the strident voices of the Dark Powers arrayed against the less ‘strong’ (perhaps) but more beautiful and nuanced voices of the Light being outworked in ME’s history? Is the music the key to understanding ME, its lands, its enigmatic individuals like Tom and Ungy, and its peoples? On setting out the music at the beginning, is this just part of a creation myth for ME or is there something more to it (e.g. a framework for what follows so that what follows is in fact an outworking of the music)?

  12. We are told that Ungoliant had spider offspring but we do not know if she had other offspring as well. Let us suppose that she interbred with more than spiders, could vampires also have been her offspring? Perhaps, we could further wildly speculate that Thuring-Wethel was her offspring, maybe even her firstborn and/or her first servant.
    Given that Ungoliant nearly got the better of Melkor, would Sauron get a perverted sense of mastery by having Thuring-Wethel as his ‘mastered’ servant? Also, would Melkor get a similar sense of satisfaction in that it did not even take him to do it; his own ‘first’ servant mastered hers. And perhaps the name of Thuring-Wethel (Lady of Shadows) is also a condemnation/insult towards Ungoliant given to her ‘mastered’ first-born/first-servant the name that was once hers or a very similar name.

    Another thought about vampires is where did they go at the end of the first age? Perhaps, all will be revealed at the end of the Fourth Age, when Ungoliant makes her move. 😉

    PS: James, if I am injecting too may ‘wild’ ideas into your blog just say and I will stop or tone it down – which ever you prefer as it is your blog.

  13. Here are some additional wild thoughts on Ungoliant and Melkor. Ungoliant gives Melkor the biggest shock of his existence and nearly de-exists him; he is saved by his Balrogs. Could it be, that apart from specific situations, Melkor keeps some of his Balrogs around just in case Ungoliant turns up again? And if Thuring-Wethel (TW) was an offspring of Ungoliant, even though she has been ‘mastered’ by Sauron, Melkor won’t take any chances with her. So, when Luthien comes in TW’s form, she finds Melkor in company with his Balrogs (of course he does not realise it is Luthien). One of the other wild thoughts related to the Balrogs, there were probably 3-7 in number (I think according to JRRT), but could this leave open the possibility there were nine (a number that proves significant to a subsequent Dark Lord)?
    I also have some wild thoughts about connections between Ungoliant and Sauron. What if he thinks she is still around and he also wants a bit of extra insurance against her, but there are just not enough Balrogs to hand? Could his ring-wraiths be his extra line of defence, the equivalent of the Balrogs, and yet not so strong as them? However, if they imbue something of the void, this might make them sufficiently effective so that between Sauron and his nine riders Ungoliant would be kept at bay. Of course, all this is very wild speculation.

  14. Going back to where I started with the comparison between Tom and Ungoliant and the possibilities that in some sense they are now opposites.

    First I will deal with Tom: Tom is content does not need to try and do anything he does not want to do. He just is. He lives out in the open even though many do not know he is there. He does not have to do anything ‘important’ to correct evil. It is not that he is unconcerned; he just knows what is and what is not needed and that who he is in himself is enough. His prime attribute is to be, to exist and any doing comes naturally out of that like leaves budding from a tree.

    Now Ungoliant: Ungoliant is driven mad by what she has lost. She knows Melkor both conned and corrupted her and she is driven towards revenge. Above all, she wants to be the source of Melkor’s downfall and will work everything in the shadows needed to that end, and perhaps to bring forward the Last Battle before he is ready – especially in the light of the relatively recent defeat of his Lieutenant. Her madness means others are not her prime focus but this does not mean she has no care for her offspring. She has lost most of what she was; all she has left is shadows, power, hunger and determined action – she cannot just be.

  15. I’ve always been interested in Ungoliant – she’s sort of the final loose end. Morgoth has been banished to the Void and isn’t coming back until TEOTWAWKI; Sauron and Saruman are dead and will be little more than feeble shades until the same event where Morgoth returns; *MAJOR ‘HOBBIT’ SPOILER* – Smaug, one of the last of the great dragons, is dead thanks to Bilbo and Bard; *SPOILER END* Gondor has entered a new era of peace and prosperity; and everything’s nice and pleasant. It’s so horrible 😦

    But Ungoliant’s fate is up for interpretation. Her death is little more than myth, her origins are mysterious, she was powerful enough to nearly defeat Morgoth himself and for all we know she could still be out there. After all, Middle-earth is, as Tolkien stated, the same Earth upon which we live. Perhaps, therefore, Ungoliant is truly out there somewhere? (That’s for all you arachnophobes 😉 )

    • If I am posting too much, please feel free to say James. I admit I get a bit over enthusiastic about Ungoliant. To me, she represents the one specific hope I have of the Fourth Age not going out with a whimper (I agree, the idea is horrible) but with a big bang. In her, I think MiddleEarth still has big stories to tell before the final big battle with Mr Melkor (I just thought I had better be polite about him in case he is reading this). Another possibility of villains with the stature to bring about the end of an age might be the nameless things lurking in the depths. Are there any others, or is this too off-topic?

  16. Regarding Tom Bombadil, there was a blog I read a while back that made this claim. It said that Tom Bombadil is the embodiment of the Music, while Ungoliant is an embodiment of the Void. I suggest reading it. It’s very informative.

    • Thanks! You wouldn’t happen to have a link to the article by any chance? Someone actually told me about such a post though I’m not sure if it is the same one you are referring to …

  17. Ungoliant: an embodiment of the void, a fragment of Melkor’s discord or an embodiment of the music? Or does it have to be an ‘or’, could it be all three? If the original music of the Ainur all leads to the creation of the world, then is it possible Ungoliant was originally an expression of this (like Tom Bombadil), but due to Melkor’s discord, she was subverted and becomes an embodiment of the void, in effect adding nothing nor taking away any glory of the music of the Ainur. His discord is a tributary to the music leading to the creation of the world, for the world resides in the void, perhaps. It might be, in Tolkien’s world, that evil cannot create, but only corrupt. If this is the case, then whatever Ungoliant originally was, perhaps, she was not the creation of Melkor, but instead what she became was the result of his corruption. So her original nature could be different from her final nature, and this change of nature arising through Melkor’s discord.

    • Hey Bob, I’m glad we’re still discussing this topic as it remains as intriguing as ever.

      On your first point: I agree that all three points are really just the same and stem from each other.

      Ungoliant is a physical manifestation of Melkor’s discord, made into being by the corruption of the Music of the Ainur in the void.

      I like how you talk about Ungoliant becoming corrupt by Melkor AFTER the Music of the Ainur. Indeed, Tolkien does mention that she was one of his followers – seduced by his evil.

      However, that’s where the discussion ends. It appears that, unlike the others who followed Melkor, she chose a path of her own: an independence. Until she reunited with him to devour the Trees.

      • And what happens after that becomes even more intriguing especially as Tolkien left us that teaser ‘some say …’.
        How could he be so cruel to us? 😉

      • Hehe! In a way though, that really adds to the believability and realism of Middle-earth’s history.

        Very much like our own real histories, we can’t be certain about how some events actually turned out.

        So rather than being spoon-feed, we readers are given more to question and to speculate – which is one of the great things about Tolkien 🙂

      • Strictly speaking he wrote ‘yet some have said …’ I still think she would make a great antagonist for the ending of the Fourth Age. She is someone who scared the pooh out of Melkor himself. And dealing with her in no way minimises what Gandalf and the Bagginises achieved with the destruction of the ring. It also, potentially, gives further roles for the remaining Istari, Tom Bombadil/Goldberry, and we could complete Thranduil’s story in MiddleEarth. It would be a more indirect story of Evil, often hidden, yet still on a grandscale than the final undoing of Sauron. And she has a bigger bite than anyone else remaining (on the bad side) plus she can bring along Mrs Shelob who will still be MEGA upset because of a famous Gamgee.

  18. I am mischievously keeping this thread active because Ungoliant LIVES!!!! Well, at least she lived past the end of the First Age according to a very speculative and unreliable source – me.
    So, what might she have been doing out of mind and out of view during the second, third and into the fourth age? My take is that her focus is Melkor especially after being driven off by the Balrogs and denied the Silmarils. She needs time to heal and she needs time to gradually build up her strike against the dark lord. Saurons defeat is her opportunity. Her strike will not be direct but indirect and initially out of sight.

    The main premises are Middle Earth is our history, and that Middle Earth itself is Melkor’s ring and therefore Melkor’s vulnerability as Sauron’s ring was his weakness.

    Ungoliant brings the fourth age to an end by attacking Middle Earth from below with the intent of bringing Melkor back from the void early, thus instigating the last battle before Melkor is ready. She knows she will die but it is her intent he will lose and she will be avenged for her corruption by Melkor, his denial of the Silmarils and her painful defeat at the hand of his Balrogs. Things don’t go as she plans but it does lead to the massive change in the lands of Middle Earth and why the lands existing today are different. How successfully she is in bring Melkor back, I won’t say directly, but the last battle is still to come and I would not want her to be too successful otherwise this undermines the good work of our delightful Bagginses and Gandalf, of course. Thus Melkor’s discord, the void and the musics come together again with calamitous results which Melkor will rue until the end of days!

    • Please keep them coming! I’m considering revisiting this topic in another post with some major additions.

      In the meantime, I’m intrigued by your thoughts. It could almost become a fan-fiction series 😉

  19. Ungoliant lives! 😉 At least in this thread. I was thinking of the relationship between Melkor and fear, and maybe he had managed to supress his fear of Illuvatar through his lust for power in Middle Earth – then Ungoliant happens. If Ungoliant can bring Melkor to his knees he has no chance against the will of Illuvatar. Maybe she robbed him of his dark fantasy world and unintentionally was a window of reality to him. I think there were reasons the dark lord hid in dark caverns – ultimately it was fear – deep down he knows in the long run he has no chance. For all the servants of the dark lord might fear him – they don’t know fear like he does because he has a Valar sized fear and Sauron has a Maiar sized one.

  20. Quote “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.”

    I agree with this – but it still doesn’t explain how Ungoliant took shape as a spider. She was described as a sentient being that was able to breed with spiders – hence Shelob.

    I have a theory that takes this one further. We know that in the ancient world Melkor poured his essence into the earth to corrupt it and shape it to his will. But we also know that this action weakened him as he transforms from being the most powerful valar to a colossus living in fear underground.
    What if Ungoliant as this cosmic anomaly when it reached Arda it actually absorbed some of Melkors essence that he had poured into the earth.
    Once this anomaly absorbed/sucked in some of Melkors essence it was able to take form as something sentient and was able to shape itself as a evil terrifying being. As it was an inversion it remained independent and not under Melkors will but the essence of Morgoth corrupted it and turned it evil.

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