Friday, July 23 – The Enemies

6:00 AM The Valaquenta: Melkor, the Enemy

TGIF, eh? Well, while the slackers on Main flirt and get sloshed and push each other into the virtual pool, and generally make fools of themselves, we get to talk…  um…. to talk about….   Excuse me.

*returns soaking wet with drink in hand*

…we get to talk about the real attraction in any story: the villains! Who leaves bigger toothmarks in Tolkien’s gorgeous scenery, Melkor, his evil twin Morgoth, or Sauron?

Melkor – The Text

 “Of the Enemies

Last of all is set the name of Melkor, He who arises in Might. But that name he has forfeited; and the Noldor, who among the Elves suffered most from his malice, will not utter it, and they name him Morgoth, the Dark Enemy of the World. Great might was given to him by Ilúvatar, and he was coeval with Manwë. In the powers and knowledge of all the other Valar he had part, but he turned them to evil purposes, and squandered his strength in violence and tyranny. For he coveted Arda and all that was in it, desiring the kingship of Manwë and dominion over the realms of his peers.

From splendour he fell through arrogance to contempt for all things save himself, a spirit wasteful and pitiless. Understanding he turned to subtlety in perverting to his own will all that he would use, until he became a liar without shame. He began with the desire of Light, but when he could not possess it for himself alone, he descended through fire and wrath into a great burning, down into Darkness. And darkness he used most in his evil works upon Arda, and filled it with fear for all living things.

Melkor – Discussion

A.      Melkor was coeval with Manwë, and probably superior. He had a part of all the powers of the other Valar, unlike any of the others. So what role did Ilúvatar/Tolkien have in mind for him, if not to be the ideal Satan-figure? What other position in the universe could Melkor possibly have filled?

Aragonvaar: I believe that Eru saw Melkor's role as being to challenge and stimulate the other Ainur to perfect their craft, often in disagreement w/ them, but not in defiance of Eru's will thereby.  A devil's advocate, not a devil.  Melkor's original role might have been consisted in constructive criticism and throwing out legitimate artistic challenges, leading his borthers ansd sisters forward in a kind of burst of creative "adrenaline".  He earns Eru's wrath when he puts his own will before the artistic good of the whole: in the music,it's almost if he starts out doing jazz-like improvisations, and then, as the Ainur and Eru's succeeding themes successfully assimilate his riffs, his attempts to "dominate" degenerate into mere destructive "noise": he's become more interested in "winning" than in producing something good.

I think Nienna, Ulmo, and Tulkas are softer expressions of this "stimulative" or "challenging" theme in Eru's thought.  They try to fill Melkor's shoes as as best they can, but none of them are a perfect fit.

Hills: no milton... I think that Tolkien from the beginning knew he was going to  be "evil". After all, he wouldn't have a plot w/o him. Iluvatar, on the other hand, might have given Melkor some of all the powers so he could be a balencing force. Since Melkor has some understanding of all the Valar, in the event of a fight/catastrophe he can see it from all people's POV. However, Tolkien does say that nothing is hidden from Iluvatar. Maybe he knew that Melkor would be evil. He did make the Ainur, after all, "they were the offspring off his thought".

Erather: A few comments The god of atonal music?  of independent thinking?  of teenagers?

As we discussed in the first chapter, Melkor introduces chaos into the orderly creation, the element of randomness and accident that enables things like genetics to work well over the eons.  He is a consequence of Eru's decision to allow free will in the world, and the proof of it.

Beren IV: The Chaos to oppose Manwë's Order Arda is originally created with perfect symmetry, and despite that what is on it is beautiful, it is not complex enough, and would become a drab, uninteresting place. Melkor's purpose is to spice it up a little - and he does just that. He's supposed to be the adversary of the other Valar - but he took it farther than the other Valar wanted him to!


In this passage, Tolkien repeatedly inverts a clause, then resolves it with a following clause in proper order. He presents Melkor’s fall in a very structured triple declamation, starting from Splendour, Understanding, Desire of Light, and giving three points in the path downwards from each. “He” is the subject of seven sentences in a row, yet the rhythm stays lively.

B. Does this formal rhetoric move you? To fear? To anger? To pity?

Luthien Rising: Melkor, Blake and Tolkien Honestly? For me it actually removes emotion from the passage.

Erather: To admiration of Tolkien's verbal skills.  Not much emotion, I'm afraid.

Beren IV: Not particularly

C. Could Melkor have stayed good? Would Manwë then have rebelled, or Ulmo, or Aulë? If Melkor had stayed good, given his extraordinary powers, could any other Vala have made as spectacular or successful a rebellion as he did?

An seileachan: *runs to look up "inverted clauses"... Could Melkor have stayed good?

Yes, Oh God, yes; otherwise, there is no free will, is there? If even the highest order of created entity has no choice but to a pre-determined path, then I, a mere mortal sinner, am doomed, aren't I? If he's running down some deeply rutted path of evil which he NEVER had the chance to not take, then good heavens, what about my path?

I don't know how to argue free-will logically, so am just speaking from my heart and soul here, squire. Hope someone else can defend free will for Melkor.

Else really, I am prone to despair.

Luthien Rising: Yes, theologically speaking (within Tolkien's structure), he could have stayed good. But this is also narrative, which requires a fall. And somewhere, somehow, an explanation of the source of evil is needed (Varda would have been an interesting choice for an alternative, though).

Aragonvaar: A fallen Manwe would in some respects have been worse than a fallen Melkor.  Mr. Tough Love/Constructive Critic goes bad, you halfway expect it.  If Mr. Nice Guy goes bad, the center cannot hold.  Manwe would've taken alot more Ainur w/ him if he'd fallen.

Hills: No, I think it was in his nature as an Ainu.

Erather: Yes, Melkor could have stayed good, but the world would be a much more boring place.  I really don't see any of the other Valar really rebelling, although they may act a little fractious now and then.

Beren IV: I think that if Melkor had rebelled, but not in an evil way, then the world might have been a much nicer place, although the other Valar might have gotten fed up with the plan. Aulë might have done something sad. I don't think that any save Melkor could have been that successful, though.

If Melkor had not rebelled at all, then Illůvitar would have put a stop to this complete absense of a mess and instructed someone to mess it up in a good way.

D. How does Tolkien relate Firelight to the Light of Ilúvatar? How does he relate Fire to Darkness? If Manwë, Ulmo, and Aulë are the Gods of Air, Water and Earth, is Melkor the God of Fire?

Hills: No, b/c most often fire (in the Silm.) is spoken in relation to the "Flame Imperishable" or the "Secret Fire" which is, in essence, good; the Flame Imperishable (the ability to make life) dwells only with Iluvatar--Melkor doesn;t have it, so he can only create things in mockery of life, such as the orcs, goblins, and trolls. Sometimes, however, fire is spoken of in the evil form: when Gandalf is fighting the Balrog in Moria he calls it "flame of Udun".

It is conceivable to say Melkor is the god of Fire as he greatly desires the Secret Fire and he also used fire a lot in Utumno and Angband, but I personally don't believe this.

Erather: Light = good and darkness = evil.  Fire provides light, but is also destructive.  I think fire per se is neutral.  Falling through fire could have been purgative, but having irrevocably chosen darkness Melkor will latch on to its destructive nature and use it as a tool in his war against everyone else.

Beren IV: I normally see Aulë as Fire, Yavanna as Earth, Varda as Light, and Melkor as Darkness.

Images of Melkor or Morgoth

Not a few illustrators have taken on the Great Enemy. Here are two links to some of the results. First there is Melkor, the super-talented brother to Manwë. Was he handsome and well favored in the beginning? Second is Morgoth, who is utterly and visibly corrupt.

E. Do you think Morgoth should physically resemble Melkor in any way?

Luthien Rising: Only if the artist is constructing a narrative series of works.

Beren IV: I normally see Melkor with angel-wings. As Melkor, his wings are white, and he has a hansome (if terribly powerful) appearance. As Morgoth, his wings are black, tattered, and yes, he's covered in armor.

Piled Higher and Deeper

Here is the passage from Milton’s Paradise Lost in which God explains to Jesus how Man’s fall from grace was his own fault, though God foresaw it. Yes, the classic “Free will” debate, rendered into 17th century epic blank verse.

F. Does this argument apply to Melkor? Could you imagine Ilúvatar giving this explanation to Manwë?

Beren IV: I'm not going to touch Milton. I don't like Milton, and don't read him.

G. Any literary or other similarities between Tolkien and Milton? Would Tolkien appreciate this comparison?

Luthien Rising: Actually, the really interesting bit in your mix is Blake, whose reinterpretation of Milton would likely not have appealed to Tolkien. But Blake's Satan-as-Romantic-hero is hard to escape since the 19th century. (See how physically attractive his Satan is? See how handsome Melkor is? Hear the seduction in Saruman's voice?)

Aragonvaar: W/o reviewing the Milton, I'd have to say... Probably not.  I seem to recall Tolkien being rather derogatory about Milton's theology somewhere, and certainly authors who were influential in his thinking or theologically and temperamentally similar were, eg:

Chesterton on Milton (paraphrase): "People always wonder why the staunchly religious Milton portrays the Devil so sympathetically.  I think it was because he was very like the Devil himself."  Ie, Milton was a person of considerable intellectual gifts, unbending will, and vast arrogance.

NZ Strider: Milton, thou should'st be living in this hour! I doubt that Tolkien and Milton would have liked each other personally: certainly neither would have approved of the other's religious views very much; and Tolkien could never have defended regicides in the way in which Milton did. 

However, that does not mean that Tolkien did not learn from Milton; and, in fact, Paradise Lost seems to have had influence on Tolkien.  Milton's Satan and Tolkien's Melkor have a few things in common, certainly.  Satan and Melkor are both aware that they have greater abilities than the other Angels/Ainur; and both are very jealous of that status.  When each however sees that his ambition goes beyond what he can actually achieve, the rebellion begins.  In Paradise Lost God's begetting of a Son touches off the rebellion: Satan realises that he is not the centrepiece of God's plan.  Envious of God's ability to do such a thing, jealous of his own now threatened status, and generally pre-occupied with himself, Satan rebels.  Persuading other Angels to join him, he orders and arranges in Heaven a sort of "counter-movement" to God's régime. 

In Tolkien's mythology Melkor too is prideful.  His abilities exceed those of the other Ainur, and yet fall short of his ambition.  Melkor desires to create on his own, to do something which only Ilúvatar can do.  Melkor too is pre-occupied with himself and becomes frustrated when he cannot create.  When the Ainur sing before Ilúvatar, Melkor introduces his own thoughts, his own themes into the music -- against those of Ilúvatar. 

In both Tolkien and Milton the chief failing of the Enemy seems to be this: he becomes more concerned with his own status and his own desires than with the purposes of God/Ilúvatar.

At any rate, there are enough other resemblances between Paradise Lost and Tolkien's works to show that Tolkien had read Milton thoroughly.  For example, both Milton and Tolkien explain Satan's/Melkor's ability to deceive Angels/the Valar with the inability of perfectly good beings to see through deception:

E.g. Paradise Lost, III 686-689:

"And oft though wisdom wake, suspicion sleeps

At wisdom's gate, and to simplicity

Resigns her charge, while goodness thinks no ill

Where no ill seems..."

The same idea lies behind Manwë's naďve pardoning of Melkor (e.g. "for Manwë was free from evil and could not comprehend it" -- in "Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor").  (This "borrowing" from Milton is all the more conspicuous as it contradicts a central thesis of The Lord of the Rings: there, one of the chief things which distinguishes the "good guys" from the "bad guys" is that the former can imagine becoming evil, but the latter cannot imagine becoming good; in fact, Sauron is blind to the "good guys'" plan to destroy the Ring rather than to use it precisely because he is incapable of conceiving how the "good guys" might think.  The situation is plainly reversed!) 

Another relatively clear "borrowing" from Milton is the setting of Sauron's realm.  After Satan in Paradise Lost crawls out of the lake of fire, he and his minions travel to a nearby volcano.  They use the volcano as a forge and draw ores from it; and so build Pandemonium.  Sauron, too, builds his stronghold next to a volcano which he uses a forge.

Extra Credit

H. If Melkor was a 'South Park" guest character, would Saddam Hussein dump Satan for him?

Luthien Rising: No, but Morgoth would be pretty tempting. I think he'd dump them all for Grima Wormtongue, though.

Now -- where's that elf with my Cosmopolitan and sunscreen?

Beren IV: I'll let Lůthien Rising handle this.

Discussion Guide and Full Text of the Valaquenta


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