Things are beginning to heat up in The Silmarillion. Middle-earth is finally about to get its first residents, some expected and some unexpected.
Want to catch up on the first part of the “Quenta Silmarillion” recap? Click here.
Quenta Silmarillion: Chapter 2 and the first part of Chapter 3
Among the Valar, there’s one who’s a little different than the others. He’s the entrepreneur of the group, always wanting to come up with new ideas that no one has ever thought of before and who enjoys working with his hands. So it’s no surprise that, if any of the Valar were to have a bit of a rebellious streak, it would be Aulë.
Since Middle-earth is still in darkness (thanks to Melkor), Aulë is able to privately create his own group of people: the Dwarves. From all indications, it sounds like he enjoys spending time with them, teaching them to speak the language he made up for them and surely teaching them about mining and forging, which are Aulë’s favorite things to do. And, probably best of all, they’re his secret.
But one day, while he is alone with his Dwarves, he realizes his creations aren’t a secret. Nothing ever seems to be a secret from Ilúvatar. Ilúvatar talks to Aulë about the Dwarves and their fate. You see, the trouble with creating creatures is that they’re a huge responsibility. (In some ways, this conversation makes me think of a father having a talk about adopting a puppy with his son.) Aulë is quick to realize that he doesn’t have what it takes to maintain these creatures on his own. He’s messed up. And, unlike Melkor, he’s repentant.
In fact, Aulë decides it’s time to destroy the Dwarves. They’re not supposed to exist so, even though it kills him inside, he prepares to destroy them. Ilúvatar stops him before he can, though. Honestly, in some ways, this situation feels like a test, and Aulë has passed it. Ilúvatar promises to take care of the Dwarves. They’ll sleep under their mountains until the time is right. Then, they’ll wake up and be a welcome part of Middle-earth. And Aulë will always have a special connection with them.
Aulë isn’t the only one thinking of creatures to inhabit the now empty Middle-earth. Yavanna finds out about the Dwarves and is worried that they love gems and forging over her plants, which clearly means that there will be strife between her beloved creations and the Dwarves and other Children to come. She immediately goes to Manwë to talk about the problem, and it turns out that there’s already a solution built into the symphony that created the vision for Arda: the Ents (referred to as “Shepherds of the Trees” in chapter 2) and the Eagles (yes, the enormous ones that play a bit of a dues ex machina role in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings). When the time is right, they’ll make their first appearance in Middle-earth, too, and they’ll stand up for Yavanna’s handiwork.
Speaking of Middle-earth, chapter 3 heralds the time for the first Children of Ilúvatar to show up. (Huzzah!)
Before the moment comes, there’s some prep that needs done. Varda uses Teleperion (one of the two trees in Valinor), which provides light in Valinor, to create bright stars to provide light for the Elves. It’s in this moment that the Elves first awake. And since the first thing they see is the stars, Varda (called Elbereth by the Elves) becomes their favorite Valar. (In The Lord of the Rings, the Elves often sing about Elbereth.)
Since the Elves don’t meet any other creatures that speak during those early days, they called themselves the Quendi (which basically means those that speak with voices). But that doesn’t last for long, because Oromë (the Valar that loves hunting and trees) finds them by accident while hunting, and he’s the first of the Valar to figure out that the Firstborn of Ilúvatar — the ones they’ve been waiting for all this time — have finally arrived.
Instead of being happy to see Oromë, though, the Elves are terrified. As it turns out, Melkor had been taking advantage of the situation, sending his forces to hunt down Elves that strayed too far from the others. And, since he had a feeling Oromë might be the first to find them, he’d used the form of a dark hunter in his attacks.
Melkor’s plan definitely works. Some of the terrified Elves flee, never to be heard from again. Some are ensnared by Melkor and end up becoming the Orcs. (Yes, Orcs have been around for a very long time.) But the brave ones realized that there is something different about Oromë. An unearthly light. He is definitely a friend.
Oromë then bounces back and forth between Valinor and Middle-earth: delivering the good news to the Valar, planning what they should do to save the Elves from Melkor, and protecting the Elves as they all wait for something to be done. In the meantime, the Valar come to the conclusion that it’s time to get Melkor once and for all.
Though the Elves know little about the war between the Valar and Melkor, it’s a long and hard one. But in the end, Tulkas (who’s been at the top of Melkor’s hit list) takes Melkor down, ties him up, and delivers him to Valinor to be judged. Of course, Melkor pleads “not guilty” and begs the Valar to forgive him, but they (wisely) don’t and lock him up. His major accomplice, Sauron, remains on the loose, but he seemingly lies low while his master is locked up. Smart move, Sauron.
Next week, the Elves are given a choice and there are more names that end in “-wë” than you can shake a stick at.