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Concerning Hidden Realities and Human Destiny

The Silmarillion - A Beginner's Guide (Redux) - Part 11 - Of the Darkening of Valinor

John Carswell | Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Soon the Holy Mountain stood alone, a last island in a world that was drowned.
(The Silmarillion, 76)

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This post continues my chapter-by-chapter walk through of The Silmarillion. This time, I will take a look at the eighth chapter of The Silmarillion proper, "Of the Darkening of Valinor." You can see all the posts in this series by clicking here. You can also find other Silmarillion resources here.

Two Trees Of Valinor

"Two Trees of Valinor" by rysowAnia © 2013 - 2017

In this chapter, the bliss of Valinor comes to an end as Melkor’s plot unfolds.

download Getting Started on The Silmarillion

Key Figures

  • Melkor: Melkor’s malicious plot is unveiled fully in this chapter. He no longer lurks in the shadows, but enters openly into war with the Valar and the Elves.
  • Ungoliant: A figure that had previously been corrupted to Melkor’s service (perhaps a Maia), she forsook his service and took the form of a giant spider.
  • Fingolfin & Fëanor: They achieve something like a reconciliation here, but the terms of it will bear ill fruit for many.
Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien

Key Events

  • Melkor Enlists Ungoliant: Melkor eludes the hosts of Valinor, and doubles back to the south where he finds Ungoliant. He promises her her fill of the Light of Valinor if she will serve his purposes.
  • The Trees Are Murdered: Melkor and Ungoliant attack and kill the Two Trees of Valinor at a time of festival in Valinor.
  • Darkness Descends on Valinor: The murder of the Two Trees results in an overwhelming and suffocating darkness in the Blessed Realm, and chaos ensues.

Key Takeaways

  • Ungoliant’s Hunger: Ungoliant “hungered for light and hated it” (73). Her appetite is insatiable, and she desires to please none but herself. She only works for Melkor insofar as he can provide her with that for which she hungers.
  • A Living Darkness: The darkness is more than just an absence of light; it is "a thing with being of its own: for it was indeed made by malice out of Light, and it had powers to pierce the eye, and to enter heart and mind, and to strangle the will" (76).
  • Melkor’s Designs: Melkor has a darker aim than merely the death of the Two Trees. In fact, their death is a means to an end, an end which will be revealed in the next chapter.

Key Quotes

  • The Eldar knew not whence she came; but some have said that in ages long before she descended from the darkness that lies about Arda, when Melkor first looked down in envy upon the Kingdom of Manwë, and that in the beginning she was one of those that he corrupted to his service.
  • A cloak of darkness she wove about them when Melkor and Ungoliant set forth: an Unlight, in which things seemed to be no more, and which eyes could not pierce, for it was void.
  • Then Fëanor took his hand in silence ; but Fingolfin said: ‘Half-brother in blood, full brother in heart will I be. Thou shalt lead and I will follow. May no new grief divide us.’ ‘I hear thee,’ said Fëanor. ‘So be it.’ But they did not know the meaning that their words would bear.
  • But when the Darkness had passed, it was too late: Melkor had gone whither he would, and his vengeance was achieved.

download Getting Started on The Silmarillion

What else do you take away from "Of the Darkening of Valinor"? Please feel free to leave your thoughts, comments, and random observations below.

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