Melkor has succeeded in turning the Noldor (a group Elves) against the Valar. While Fëanor broods in exile, Melkor prepares to take his revenge with some help.
Quenta Silmarillion: Chapter 8
Melkor’s plan hasn’t worked out as he had hoped. Yes, the Noldor aren’t feeling so certain about the Valar, but his plot has been exposed. And Fëanor, his old buddy, has seen through Melkor’s tricks and shown him the door. So it’s time to try a new tactic, one that Melkor has probably been hoping to use for a while.
Knowing that the rest of the Valar will send Tulkas and Oromë to ransack his lair in the northern part of Middle-earth, Melkor heads south to meet up with an old friend, Ungoliant. This Ungoliant isn’t like Sauron or a Balrog, though. She’s a gigantic spider, and the thing of nightmares.
At first, she’s not so sure about going with Melkor. After all, he plans to march into their enemy’s headquarters and wreak havoc. If she’s caught, that’s the end for her. But Melkor tries to comfort her by promising that “if thou hunger still when all is done, then I will give thee whatsoever thy lust may demand” (Tolkien 78). Even with her eight eyes, she never notices that he has his fingers crossed.
Melkor and Ungoliant approach Valinor from the one direction that the Valar pay little attention to and break in easily with the web of darkness that Ungoliant weaves around them.
And the Valar don’t notice. They’re partaking in a festival on the other side of Valinor with the Elves. Well, not all of the Elves. The Telari (sea-loving Elves who were the last to come) never seem to notice seasons so they just stay by the ocean and sing. The Valar don’t seem to mind. And Finwë refuses to come while his son, Fëanor, is still in exile.
But Fëanor does come. Not because he wants to but because Manwë (leader of the Valar) orders him to. And Fëanor ensures that everyone knows that he doesn’t want to be there by not dressing up for the occasion and keeping his arms crossed the whole time. The only good thing that happens to Fëanor is reconciliation with his half-brother, Fingolfin. Since Fëanor is older, Fingolfin promises that “[t]hou shalt lead and I will follow” (Tolkien 80). Not a smart promise to make to Fëanor, as he’ll soon learn.
Then disaster strikes.
Everyone has been so busy with the festival that no one notices Melkor and Ungoliant creeping towards the two Trees of Valinor. There, Melkor hacks the Trees open so that Ungoliant can drink the living light out of them and replace it with her poison. Then, to add insult to injury, she goes after the Wells of Varda, draining them and leaving darkness in her wake. As she ingests all this water and sap, she grows bigger and bigger, to the point that even Melkor becomes afraid of her.
And then Darkness falls on Valinor. But it’s not an ordinary darkness. It’s “a Darkness that seemed not to lack but a thing with being of its own: for it was indeed made by malice out of Light and it had power to pierce the eye, and to enter heart and mind, and strangle the very will” (Tolkien 81).
Everyone is devastated. The Elves and the Valar weep and lose each other in the Darkness. Only Oromë (the Vala who found the Elves to Valinor in the first place) is able to muster himself and go after Melkor. But it’s too late. Melkor is gone and the beloved (and very important) Trees are dead.
Want to read more about Ungoliant? Check out Sweating to Mordor’s recent post here!
Next week, Fëanor seeks revenge and Melkor is given a new (and perhaps more familiar) name.
The above quotes are from the second edition of The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien, copyright 1999.