At the first rising of the Sun the Younger Children of Ilúvatar awoke in the land of Hildórien in the eastward regions of Middle-earth...
(The Silmarillion, 103)
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This post continues my chapter-by-chapter walk through of The Silmarillion. This time, I examine the twelfth chapter of The Silmarillion proper, "Of Men." You can see all the posts in this series by clicking here. You can also find other Silmarillion resources here.
Men – the Younger Children of Ilúvatar – awaken with the sunlight. Chapter 12 of The Silmarillion lays the groundwork for the coming of Men into Beleriand.
- The First Morning: The rising sun awakens Men.
- The Flowering of Middle-earth: Morgoth’s power is at bay, so the handiwork of Yavanna begins to blossom and the lands of the East become beautiful.
- A Kindred Tension: Though alike in many ways, Elves and Men are destined to have a tension between them, with Elves as the immortal Firstborn and Men as the mortal Secondborn. This can be seen in the various names given Men by the Elves: "Second People", "Followers", "After-born", "Sickly", "Usurpers", "Strangers", "Inscrutable", "Self-cursed", "Heavy-handed", and "Night-fearers" (103).
- No Guide: Men have no Vala to guide them to the Blessed Realm. They are drawn West by the rising of the Sun. Still, Ulmo takes thought of them, and keeps them in the mind of Manwë.
- A New Theme: The fate of Men is not foretold in the Music of the Ainur. Therefore, the coming of Men introduces a new strand of free will into the story of Eä.
To Hildórien there came no Vala to guide Men, or to summon them to dwell in Valinor; and Men have feared the Valar, rather than loved them, and have not understood the purposes of the Powers, being at variance with them, and at strife with the world. - 103
West, North, and South the children of Men spread and wandered, and their joy was the joy of the morning before the dew is dry, when every leaf is green. - 104
But in the dawn of years Elves and Men were allies and held themselves akin, and there were some among Men that learned the wisdom of the Eldar, and became great and valiant among the captains of the Noldor. - 105
While Tolkien’s tales are generally Elf-focused, Men play an indispensable role. The dynamic he developed with the contrasting Children of Ilúvatar was a stroke of genius, and this chapter begins a turning point in The Silmarillion.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this chapter in the comments below.
Want to learn more about The Silmarillion? My book Tolkien's Requiem explores the stories of Middle-earth's First Age through the prism of Tolkien's most personal tale: Beren and Lúthien. It's designed to work as a "back door" approach for those who struggle to get a start on The Silmarillion. Click here to learn more!
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