How’s the reading going?
Welcome to the second week of the TTRT!
There were some very interesting points raised during last week’s discussion and I urge you to keep sharing your ideas and comments, even of past chapters.
In this week’s post we’ll be going through the first two chapters that make up the Quenta Silmarillion (the History of the Silmarils).
If you’ve done your Foreword and Preface reading, you will have realised that together with the main text of the Quenta Silmarillion, ‘The Silmarillion’ as a whole book also constitutes of 4 shorter works – the Ainulindalë and Valaquenta (already discussed last week), the Akallabêth and Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age (to be tackled later on).
Now, once more unto the breach!
Chapter 1: Of the Beginning of Days
The Valar find themselves hard pressed as they engage in a struggle against Melkor’s mischief. From Ilúvatar’s dwelling descends Tulkas – a Vala characterised by mighty strength and a hearty laugh – who assists the Valar in their battles, whilst they continue to hallow the world in preparation for the awakening of the Elves.
Ever since it was shaped by the Valar, the world lay in an ever star-filled sky (as crafted by the prowess of Varda). It is at this point that the Ainur decide to raise two mighty lamps – Illuin in the North and Ormal in the South – to give light to the world and allow things to spring to life and evolve.
The Lamp of Illuin
However, after building the fortress of Utumno in the far East of the world, Melkor re-emerges from the shadows to cause more destruction on the world: forcing the Valar to leave their dwelling upon Almaren – an island in the middle of a large lake at the heart of Arda.
With the destruction of the Two Lamps of the Valar, the world plunges once more into eternal night, and its geographical shape is changed forever. The lands of Middle-earth as we know them (which you will find at the back of every Middle-earth novel) are formed, as is also the land to the West: Aman, which becomes the new home of the Valar.
The dwellings of the Valar are established; the city of Valinor is built and the Pelóri range – a mountainous region to the East of Aman overlooking the Great Sea – is raised in defence against Melkor.
The Valar make another attempt to give light to the world and dispel the shadows of the Enemy. Yavanna, through the beauty of her signing, produces two saplings that eventually grow to become the Two Trees of Valinor.
The Two Trees of Valinor
Similar to our concept of the Sun and the Moon, one of the trees (Laurelin) emanates a golden radiance; whilst the other (Telperion) produces a silver hue. Thus Time starts to be calculated, as each Tree waxes its light for 6 hours, before slowly waning to let the other shine again. From this source of pure light, Aman evolves into the most beautiful land in Arda.
To the East in Beleriand and Middle-earth, meanwhile, the shadows remain and only the star-filled sky is present.
“And as they watched, upon the mound there came forth two slender shoots; and silence was over all the world in
that hour, nor was there any other sound save the chanting of Yavanna.”
Questions to ponder on:
– In hindsight, how pivotal is Tulkas arrival in aiding the Valar in their struggles?
– What do you think of the concept of the Two Lamps being introduced before the creation of the Moon and the Sun? How does it compare to established mythologies; are there any historical accounts/stories that allude to a source of Light other than our own two celestial orbs?
Now for a somewhat philosophical question …
– The destruction of the Two Lamps heralds the creation of the Two Trees of Valinor: one of the Valar’s finest creations, seemingly alluding that out of an evil act emerges an even greater good. How much does the rebellion, death and destruction caused by Melkor, ultimately profit the world and its inhabitants?
Chapter 2: Of Aulë and Yavanna
It is interesting that this chapter should be dedicated to these two Valar in particular. Though certainly not the mightiest, they introduce into the world important elements that, not only are they the backbone of the Silmarillion narrative, but also emerge into The Lord of the Rings.
Aulë the Smith, unable to wait for the awakening of the Children of Ilúvatar, brings into being the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves. His desire to teach them and instruct them on the ways of the world overcomes his patience. He creates the Dwarves with stubborn and tough characteristics, to help them in the conflicts and struggles that will afflict the world.
Eru Ilúvatar, not wanting to alter his original plan of the Awakening of the Elves, rebukes Aulë for his actions. Eru, however, takes pity on the Vala and forbids him from destroying the Dwarves; allowing them to be put to sleep and awake at their appointed time, whilst bestowing upon them the gift of life from Ilúvatar: to be part of the Children of Ilúvatar along with Elves and Men.
Aulë’s spouse, Yavanna, learns about the creation of the Dwarves and is troubled that once they awake and populate the world, they will pose a threat to her own creations: notably the kelvar (animals and other living beings that move) and the olvar (other living entities such as plants).
(this is supposed to be an Ent’s hand, by the way)
The Vala Manwë comforts her distress, proclaiming that the Sheperds of the Trees will be present to guard and protect these living beings against the actions of the Dwarves.
“‘Eru is bountiful,’ she [Yavanna] said. ‘Now let thy children beware! For there shall walk a power in the
forests whose wrath they will arouse at their peril.’
‘Nonetheless they will have need of wood,’ said Aulë, and he went on with his smith-work.”
(Basically, Aulë is our modern-day equivalent of a “troll” 😉 …)
Questions to ponder on:
– Aulë seemingly crafted living beings out of his own will; how does that compare to Melkor’s own ambitions to do the same?
– “The Sheperds of the Trees” alludes to the Hourns and Ents; what does that tell us of their later role in The Lord of the Rings?
As always, share your thoughts and opinions about these chapters.
Next week we’re tackling Chapters 3 & 4 …
5 thoughts on “TTRT: The Silmarillion – Chapters One and Two”
I’m not gonna lie, this was not my favorite chapter of the Sil. I guess I got confused because the first time I read it I thought it was the moon and sun, and then learned I was wrong. haha
Thanks for these articles, I wish they would have been around when I first read the Silmarillon. But I was disappointed that you didn’t have a drawing of Tulkas wreckin’ Melkor.
With Aule making the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves, I wonder if Tolkien ever thought of giving the others (besides Durin) names. That would’ve been pretty cool to see where that went. If they ever did make a Silmarillion movie, I think the scene where Aule is about to destroy the Fathers would the the most “feel-y” (heh, Fili).
My favorite bit was when Yavanna said, “Would that the trees might speak on behalf of all things that have roots, and punish those that wrong them!” and Manwe said exactly what I was thinking: “This is a strange thought.” Cracked me up 🙂
All in all, I’m finding it more accessible than I’d anticipated. Yay!
Hah! Great quote 😉