The Valaquenta 


Welcome to The Silmarillion discussion forum! This week we are batting around Part II, The Valaquenta, or “Tale of the Valar.” Last week, in The Ainulindale, we witnessed the creation of the world, and met some of the Ainu (heavenly spirits) who, having helped create it, then descended onto the newly-made earth (Arda). They became The Valar (The Powers), and took up its guardianship on behalf of Eru, the One God.

In The Valaquenta, Tolkien takes a short narrative break to introduce the reader to the entire pantheon of the Valar and their associated spirits. He then plunges back into the Quenta Silmarillion, “Tale of the Silmarils”, which is the main story of The Silmarillion  and which we will discuss starting next week and all this summer and fall.

The Silmarillion is tricky stuff for some Tolkien readers who are used to the romance and easy elegant flow of The Lord of the Rings. The Valaquenta  especially is written in a high, “Biblical” style and being about Gods practically begs to be the basis for some pretty heavy philosophical and literary questions.

I want to welcome you first-time Silmarillion  readers! I will try to suggest topics for response and discussion that are of interest to all who just wander into the Reading Room this week, as well as to that bunch (you know who you are) over there in the squishy chairs under the Tolkien portrait, sipping your amber-colored adult beverages and thumbing your first editions. “Thinking hard”, you guys?

Here’s how I will conduct this week’s discussion:

A        I will post one or two Topics every 6 hours or so.

B        Text and Discussion. Because of the brevity and unfamiliarity of the text, I will quote the entire thing during the course of the week. In fact, each Topic will generally address a single paragraph or so of The Valaquenta. Every post will have a link to the entire text for reference.

1.       Monday and Tuesday, following the text, we will consider each of the Valar individually.

2.       Wednesday, we will pause and talk about the Valar as a group, about pantheons in general, and about the role of the Valar in Tolkien’s works.

3.       Thursday we will go back to the text and look at the Maiar, the Valar’s lesser spirit-folk.

4.       Friday we conclude with the Enemies! TGIF! Darkness and Pain!

5.       Over the weekend will be a low-volume open discussion. This is July, after all (Northern hemisphere bias admitted! How’s the weather down there, folks austral?)

C        Images. I have collected some interesting pictures and graphics to look at that should compensate a little for the heavy literary and philosophical stuff.

D        Piled Higher and Deeper. I will provide links to additional material that relates to The Valaquenta, taken from Tolkien’s early writings posthumously published as The History of Middle-earth, and from other secondary sources of interest. I would assume you will read the material provided if you want to comment on it; or feel free to skip the thing completely….

E        Extra Credit. Always a welcome treat for ambitious Reading Room wonks, these questions will reach beyond the traditional limits of Tolkien discussion and contain rich but hidden themes for those who aspire to Valinorian heights of discourse. And silliness.

The ethos of the entire enterprise will be as ecstatic, eclectic, erudite, educational and enjoyable as I can endeavor with my essays and enquiries. After that, it’s essentially and entirely up to every one of you! Excelsior!