“Of the theme that I have declared to you, I will now that ye make in harmony together a Great Music. And since I have kindled you with the Flame Imperishable, ye shall show forth your powers in adorning this theme, each with his own thoughts and devices, if he will. But I will sit and hearken, and be glad that through you great beauty has been wakened into song.”

Illuvatar to the Ainur, p.1

The Great Music + The Discord of Melkor |In Summary

In Ainulindale, we are introduced to the major powers of this history. Eru, the One, who is also known as Illuvatar exists as the greatest power who created all others. We’re first introduced to the Ainur, the Holy Ones, who were brought into existence by Illuvatar’s thought. The Ainur dwelled with Illuvatar long before anything else was created. Illuvatar spoke to them musical themes, which they sang before him. Each Ainur “comprehended only that part of the mind of Illuvatar from which he came.” In other words, each Ainur was born of a specific part of Illuvatar’s thoughts and bore that image and understanding alone. However, as they listened to the music that Illuvatar had shared with them, they began to understand more and more, which enabled them to live in “unison and harmony.”

Eventually, Illuvatar asked the Ainur to make a Great Music out of the themes he had taught them. He gave them permission to use their own, individual powers (given to them by him) to “adorn the theme” while he listened. So, the Ainur, whose voices sounded like instruments, turned the theme Illuvatar had given them into music. Their music was woven together in harmony, filling the dwelling place of Illuvatar and even reaching into the Void, making it not void. It was, to date, the most beautiful music every made or heard; though, greater music will be heard after the end of days, which will Become the moment it is sang because understanding between the Ainur will be perfectly harmonious.

Illuvatar sat and listened to the music the Ainur made and, for a time, there were no flaws. However, one of the Ainur, Melkor, decided to insert things that were not in accord with the theme of Illuvatar. Melkor wanted to increase his own power and have glory given to himself for his music. Now, Melkor was the greatest of the Ainur, as he had “a share in all the gifts of his brethren” and the “greatest gifts of power and knowledge.” He had already sought the Imperishable Flame within the void, wanting to create things of his own, but was unable to find it, as it was kept by Illuvatar himself. In his time alone, he had started to think things that were out of harmony with the rest of the Ainur.

These thoughts of his own he wove into music, creating discord among the Ainur; some grew disturbed and faltered in their music-making, while others started to follow Melkor’s music rather than Illuvatar’s. Illuvatar listened for a long time, until the sounds were like a raging storm. Then, he smiled, lifted his hand, and began a new theme. The 2nd theme “gathered power and had new beauty,” but Melkor continued to sing against it, making sounds more violent than ever before so that many of the Ainur stopped singing. Illuvatar rose again, appearng stern, and began the 3rd theme which could not be quenched. Melkor continued to sing against this third theme, creating “two musics” that were “utterly at variance.” Melkor’s music, which was loud and vain, tried to drown out Illuvatar’s music but “it seemed that its most triumphant notes were taken by the other and woven into its own solemn pattern.” After a time, Illuvatar rose again, his face was terrible, raised up both hands and the Music ceased.

The Vision of Ea + The Children of Illuvatar | In Summary

Illuvatar now spoke to the Ainur, praising them for their might, and Melkor most of all. However, to show the Ainur that he was ultimately in charge, he showed the Ainur what was created out of their music, declaring that all themes, even those of Melkor, had their “uttermost source in [him]” and that any attempt to alter Illuvatar’s plans would lead to the deviant “prov[ing] but [his] instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.” Melkor, at hearing this, was filled with both same and anger. All the Ainur followed Illuvatar away from the regions that they lived in and into the Void. Then, Illuvatar showed the Ainur a vision of their sung words: a World, with a history and living, growing things. As they watched the 1st and 2nd themes unfold, Illuvatar told the Ainur that each would find their own additions amidst the creations of Illuvatar. He also singled out Melkor, stating that his additions, meant to bring himself special glory, were “but a part of the whole and tributary to its glory.” He continued to tell them many things so that the Ainur knew much of what would come; however, he kept some things to himself, and none of the Ainur knew about them.

Then, the 3rd theme began and the Ainur were amazed to the Children of Illuvatar appear. The Ainur realized that, as they sang the 1st and 2nd themes, they had been preparing a dwelling place for the Children, even though they were unaware of their coming. So, the Children were solely of Illuvatar’s making, not introduced in the initial theme given to the Ainur or in the 1st or 2nd themes sung in cooperation with the Ainur. The Ainur loved the Children and in them “saw the mind of Illuvatar reflected anew and learned yet a little more of his wisdom, which otherwise had been hidden even from [them]”.

The Children of Illuvatar were Elves (the Firstborn) and Men (the Followers). Many of the Ainur, after seeing the Children, greatly desired to pour all of their effort into building the dwelling place for them. They called the World Arda and they rejoiced in it. Even Melkor pretended to himself that he desired to go into the World and fix the wrongs he had committed (extreme heat, extreme cold, etc…) to make it a more habitable place for the Children. In secret, however, he desired to submit the wills of Elves and Men to his own instead of Illuvatar’s.

As the Ainur looked upon the things that made up Arda, they were drawn most to water and in it, it is said, that their Music lives in an echo. The Ainu Ulmo was most drawn to the water; the Ainu Manwe was most drawn to airs and wind; the Ainu Aule was most drawn to earth. Looking upon Arda, Illuvatar showed Ulmo how Melkor’s deviance had created even more beauty out of water, creating the snowflake. Ulmo and Manwe committed to working together in harmony to make melodies to delight Illuvatar forever.

As the Ainur were gazing upon the vision, it vanished and they saw darkness, which they had never seen before. The Ainur pondered what they had seen, realizing that the history they watched was incomplete and that the Later Ages and the End had not been seen. Many of the Ainur desired to for the vision to become tangible. And so, Illuvatar pronouced “Ea!” and the things of the vision came into being. Illuvatar sent into the Void the Flame Imperishable to sit at the heart of the World. He then allowed the Ainur who desired to to go into the World. So, some Ainur remained with Illuvatar beyond the confines of the World, while others descended into the World. Illuvatar gave the Ainur who chose to leave one condition: their powers would be the life of this World and they had to remain there until it was complete and at its end. These Ainur he renamed the Valar, the Powers of the World.

The Valar in Arda

When the Valar first entered the World, they were confused, because it did not yet look like the World of the vision. It was dark and unshaped and awaiting its shaping. So, the Valar began their great work, creating the habitation for the Children of Illuvatar. The mightiest of the Valar – Manwe, Ulmo, and Aule – bore the greatest part of this work. Melkor was also there, turning their work to his own designs at every turn and boasting to the other Valar: “This shall be my own kingdom; and I name it unto myself!” Manwe, however, had led the 2nd theme against Melkor and was closest to him in power and might. Manwe called many spirits to Arda to help Manwe in the fight against Melkor. Melkor withdrew after a time, to a region away from the Valar and began his own work there, while still desiring the Kingdom of Arda.

The Valar began to take shapes for themself, choosing to take on the appearance of the Chilren of Illuvatar due to their love of them. However, they did not need their physical appearance. They could walk in Arada invisible to the eyes of the Children, or take upon themselves the forms of male or female, each of the Vala choosing an appearance based on their own temperament. At times, they could even “clothe themselves in their own thought,” visible, but dreadful and majestic and unlike the Children.

Together with spirits and companions, the Valar worked to order Arda. Melkor, seeing their work and their appearance, became jealous. He also took a physical form that was dark and terrible and descended on Arda and sought to destroy the work of the Valar. The Valar, however, endeavored ever to defeat Melkor’s plans and build the dwelling place for the Children. As the Valar built, Melkor destroyed and the Valar rebuilt. Over time, though it wasn’t to their exact will, they established at last the habitation for the Children.

The Valar

Of the Ainur, 14 chose to dwell in Ea to prepare Arda for the coming of the Children of Illuvatar, excluding Melkor who dwells in Ea, but rebelled against Illuvatar’s purpose. The 7 males were known as Valar and the 7 females were known as Valier. In their human forms, they were fair and beautiful, but these forms were only “a veil upon their beauty and their power.”

Manwe Sulimo: Lord of the Breath of Arda + Varda Elbereth, Lady of the Stars

Manwe and Melkor are closest in might; however, since Melkor’s rebellion, Manwe is closest to Illuvatar and best understands his will. He became the King over Arda. He delights in winds, clouds, and regions of the air, including birds, hawks, and eagles. He dwells with Varda and they are rarely parted from one another. The light of Illuvatar lives in Varda’s face and light is her power and her joy. She rejected Melkor from the first, causing him to fear her more than all others that Illuvatar made. Manwe and Varda live in Taniquetil, the tallest mountain looking down upon earth. With Varda beside him, Manwe sees even further; and with Manwe beside her, Varda hears even more clearly. Varda is held most dear by the Elves, calling upon her in need.

Ulmo: Lord of Waters, King of the Sea

Ulmo is next in might to Manwe and dwells alone, moving through the deep waters on or under the Earth. He rarely joins the Valar for council, choosing to attend only when great matters are in debate. He does not walk on land and rarely clothes himself in a body, but usually appears as a mounting wave that strikes terror in the Children. However, he loves the Elves and Men, never abandoning him. At times, he plays music on Ulumuri, his horns, making music that one can never forget and that causes longing for the sea that never leves. He speaks to the people of Middle Earth through seas, lakes, rivers, fountains, and springs and through them hears news of the world, including all the needs and griefs of Arda, which he shares with Manwe.

Aule + Yavanna: Giver of Fruits; Kementari, Queen of the Earth

Next in power is Aule, who claims lordship over the substances of earth. He is a smith and master of crafts who loves works of skill, both big and small. He claims the gems and gold that lie deep in the earth. He is most like Melkor in his powers, causing jealousy in Melkor. It is Aule’s works in Arda that Melkor most sought to destroy. Although Aule is like Melkor in his desire to make things new and unthought of, he is unlike Melkor and true to Illuvatar in his submission of all creations to Illuvatar’s will and contentment, rather than envy, of the other Valar. The Noldor (a group of elves) love him most and learned from him.

Aule is married to Yavanna, who loves all things that grow on earth, from the great tree to the moss on a stone. She is tall and clothed in green or sometimes in the appearance of a great tree, crowned with the sun. However, she remains in constant contact with Ulmo and Manwe.

Namo Mandos, Feanturi, Master of Spirit + Vaire, the Weaver

Namo, who dwells in Mandos, is the keeper of the Houses of the Dead who summons the spirits of those who have been slain. He forgets nothing and foresees all, except for those things kept secret by Illuvatar. He pronounces dooms and judgements at the bidding of Manwe. He is married to Vaire, who weaves all of history into her webs in Mandos.

Irmo Lorien, Feanturi, Master of Spirit + Este

Irmo, who dwells in Lorien, is the master of visions and dreams. His gardens in Lorien are some of the fairest places in the world, filled with spirits. He is married to Este, the healer of hurts and weariness. She gives rest as her gift to those in need. The fountains of Irmo and Este in Lorien give refreshment for all seeking ease from their burdens.

Nienna

Nienna is the sister of Namo and Irmo. She dwells alone, being acquainted with grief, mourning for every wound Arda suffers. Her part in the Music turned to lamentation due to her sorrow over Melkor’s rebellion. However, she gives hope and endurance to those who come to her. She rarely joins the other Valar, but lives in the furthermost West. At times, she joins Namo in Mandos, where those who wait judgement cry to her and she gives them strength and wisdom.

Tulkas Astaldo, the Valiant + Nessa

Tulkas came to Arda last, being called to help in the fight against Melkor. He loves wrestling and contests of strength, being fast and tireless. He cares little for the past or the future and does not give counsel, but is a friend to all the Valar. Even in war or strife, he laughs. He is married to Nessa, the sister of Orome, who loves the deer, running, and dancing.

Orome, Aldaron, the Lord of Forests + Vana

Orome is only slightly less in strength than Tulkas, but is mightier in anger. He loved the lands of Middle Earth and was last to leave them for Valinor and often returns to Middle Earth to hunt. He loves horses and hounds and hunts for every evil beast and monster. He rids upon his horse, Nahar, and blows his great horn, Valaroma. He is married to Vana, the sister of Yavanna, called Ever-young. At her passing, all flowers bloom and all birds sing.

The Maiar

When Melkor began wreaking havoc and the Valar called down spirits for aid, many of those were the Maiar. The Maiar were similar to the Valar, a lesser order of the same type of being. They gave help to the Valar, but were rarely seen in a visible form to the Elves and Men. Many of the Maiar didn’t have names that were known to the Children. Ilmare, the handmaid of Varda, and Eonwe, the banner-bearer and herald of Manwe are two who are known to the Eldar. The most famous, however, are Osse, the vassal of Ulmo, and Uinen, the Lady of the Seas; Melian, the serant of Vana and Este; and Olorin, the wisest of the Maiar.

Osse stays near the coasts and isles, delighting in storms, while Uinen loves the creatures of the sea. Uinen is able to calm the raging storms of Osse, earning her the respect of mariners and the Numenoreans, in particular. Melkor hated the seas because it was out of his control, leading him to seek the support of Osse early in the history of Arda. Osse nearly strayed to his side, but Uinen was able to restrain him at the bidding of Aule. Ulmo gave him pardon, and he has remained faithful since. He still, at times, brings up storms without the permission of Ulmo, gaining him the love, but not trust, of those who live by the sea.

Melian tended the trees in the gardens of Irmo in Lorien, before coming to Middle Earth, where she was involved in many of the events in the history of the Elves. Olorin moved about Middle Earth unseen for much of the early history of the Children, providing visions and promptings of wisdom, as a friend of all the Children of Illuvtar. A friend of Nienna, he learned from her pity and patience, providing hope from despair when the Children called on him. He becomes a more prominent player in the 3rd age – Tolkien fans, you may know who he is.

Melkor + His Followers

Melkor is one of the Ainur who chose to dwell in Arda instead of with Illuvatar, but because of his rebellion, he is not considered a Valar. The Elves, particularly the Noldor, will not speak the name and instead call him Morgoth, the Dark Enemy of the World. He was given a share in all of the powers of the other Ainur, but squandered it in his jealousy and violence. He initially sought Light in the form of the Flame Imperishable, but when that was unavailable to him, he descended into Darkness that he used to fill Arada with fear. He fought with Manwe and the Valar for many years, alongside many of the Maiar who turned to his side. Of these, the most dreadful were the Valaraukar or Balrogs, demons of terror living in fire. Also among the fallen was Sauron, formerly a Maiar in the service of Aule. Sauron was involved in all of the works of Melkor upon Middle Earth. He was less evil than Sauron only because he served Melkor for so long, rather than only himself.

Some Terms

Eru/Illuvatar – the “god” of the story; the creator

Ainur – beings created by Eru before creation

Valar – the Ainur who chose to leave Illuvatar and dwell on Earth

Maiar – beings created by Eru before creation; similar to Ainur, but less powerful

Ea – roughly equivalent to the universe created by Illuvatar’s music

Arda – roughly equivalent to a planet within Ea

Middle Earth – roughly equivalent to a continent on Arda; where the Children live

Aman – roughly equivalent to a continent on Arda; in later chapters, this is where the Valar live

Timeless Halls – roughly equivalent to “heaven” as we think of it; where the Ainur who chose to remain with Illuvatar lived; probably had no physical form

The Void – space outside of both the Timeless Halls and Arda

Flame Imperishable – also known as or related to the Secret Fire or Flame or Arnor; a power of Illuvatar, likely related to his creative abilities


In the next post, I’ll share some of my thoughts on what I learned in the Ainulindale and Valaquenta. Going forward, I imagine there will be chapters in which the summary and personal reflections are in the same post and others in which, like this one, they are separate. This will largely depend on the scope of the content.