I like the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. I read them at least once a year if I can. Many people have. But few people have done the research to figure out where Middle Earth began. Tolkien’s legend, the Silmarillion, tells how Middle Earth began. I’ll try to summarize it in this post for you who don’t have enough time to read all the books. Warning: the results may shock you.
In the beginning of Middle Earth, God held his court in the heavens. He taught his angels a song that they were to sing in worship of him. But one of them, Melkor, the brightest of the Valar, decided that he didn’t want to obey God, and instead started his own song. Some of the Valar (angels) followed him in his rebellion. So God began a new song, and his angels sang with him. His song was stronger than that of the rebels, but they continued to sing and shame their brothers into silence.
Then God raised his voice, and all others were silenced. From that last song was created the earth and all that was. Melkor was cast down with his helpers, the Balrogs. Then some of the Valar went down to the new world to form it and keep it. They were hoping to make the world as perfect as they could, but Melkor, who was called by elves Morgoth, destroyed their work. Eventually the world was formed. And then came the creatures.
It started out softly. One of the Valar created the dwarves. Another, Yavanna, prayed for Ents. Manwë, lord of Middle Earth, asked for the eagles. Soon the elves came, blinking in the new light from Valinor, the home of the Valar. Of course, Morgoth hated them. He made imitations of them and called them orcs. None of the works of Morgoth were so heinous as the orcs.
The Valar invited the elves to see the beauty of Valinor, and to see the two light trees that lit the world, for at this time there was neither sun nor moon. And one of them, Fëanor, took the light of the trees and used it to make three gems which he called the Silmarils. He thought that he could keep them forever, and that they would be the greatest works of the elves. But Morgoth slew the glorious light-trees, and Fëanor refused to give them the light of the Silmarils to heal them. Later, Morgoth slew Fëanor’s father and took the three jewels for himself.
Fëanor was furious, and attacked everyone in his path to reclaim his work. He and his seven sons swore an oath that they would let nothing get in their way of reclaiming the Silmarils, no matter how dear. They slew their bretheren and wasted their ships, leaving most of their followers to die. Fëanor attacked Morgoth, and was subsequently killed. His sons began to all follow in his foolish footsteps, which resulted in some of the worst treachery in the history of Middle Earth. It might surprise you to know that most of this killing came from the elves.
Maedhros, the oldest of Fëanor’s sons, tried to avenge his father by attacking Morgoth himself. That only ended up in him being captured, having to be rescued by a friend of his, and ultimately losing a hand. This seemed to wise him up to how hard it was to hit Morgoth, and he gave up on revenge and instead tried to unite Middle Earth against Morgoth. Meanwhile, Morgoth put the Silmarils into his crown and dared the elves to come and take them.
A kingdom of elves that didn’t involve itself with all the bloodshed was the house of Thingol. He married a wood sprite and was very well off for his time. She protected his land and gave him counsel, and he loved her. They had a young daughter named Lúthien, whose beauty was unrivaled by any before or since. Her gown was blue, her eyes gray, her hair dark, her face bright. She was loved by an outlaw of men named Beren, whose parents had been murdered by Sauron. He named her Tinúviel.
Beren was homeless and penniless, and Thingol would not let his daughter marry him without doing something truly spectacular. So for a bride price, he asked Beren to retrieve a Silmaril from the crown of Morgoth. Beren went, and was captured by Sauron. Lúthien was kept in her house by her father, who didn’t want to lose his daughter as she tried to rescue her lover. But Lúthien’s mother was a spirit, and clever Tinúviel knew how to weave enchantments. So she grew her hair long and wove a sleeping enchantment into it, then wove it into a cloak for herself that put whoever it touched to sleep. Using this, she escaped, and fled to find her lover.
Unfortunately, she was discovered by two of the infamous sons of Fëanor, who were still bound by their foolish promise. They held her captive, and it was only by the help of a great wolf named Huan. Huan helped her escape, and even defeated Sauron, who at that time liked to take the form of a werewolf. The elf-princess destroyed the island fortress of the dark spirit, sending him fleeing to Middle Earth. Then she was reunited with Beren and the two of them journeyed to Morgoth, so that they could be done with the Silmaril and marry. The two of them traveled in disguise to the gates of Morgoth, put the wolf at the door to sleep, and passed through.
Once inside, Lúthien Tinúviel charmed Morgoth and blinded him, giving Beren enough time to cut away a Silmaril. The two of them fled, but the Silmaril was devoured by the great wolf guarding the door, and Beren’s hand as well. After this, Thingol allowed them to marry, but Beren was slain by the wicked wolf, and Lúthien bargained with Mandos, guardian of the dead, to let them both return to Middle Earth as mortals. They died after bearing other sons and daughters, and the Silmaril, after causing much bloodshed, was taken by the daughter of Lúthien and Beren into the sky.
Many bloody deeds were done in this troubled time. Elf killed elf, man killed man, and the dwarves got on any side they could. It was a time for mighty deeds, but also for great wickedness. Eventually the Silmarils were lost to Middle Earth: One was set as a star in a constellation, another was cast into the depths of the earth, and a last was dropped into the heart of the sea. Sadly, the oath of Fëanor to reclaim the jewels led to the death of his sons.
But for the elf lover who feels like I have just killed their hero, don’t be discouraged! The creator of the elven rings was grandson to wicked, proud Fëanor. Lúthien and Beren’s descendants were Elrond and Elendil. Indeed, the Silmarils were like triple rings of power, spelling destruction for those who took them wrongly. But unlike the “One Ring”, the Silmarils were redeemed. Their origin was good, but twisted for evil. The Ring’s origin was evil, and couldn’t be used for anything else.
Reading the Silmarillion was like reading the history of Middle Earth. Before, Tinúviel was a just a name. Now she is real to me. The elves and men and dwarves who fought and died in Middle Earth can be remembered now for their heroics, and their legacies written in a book. Reading The Lord of the Rings is a daunting task. Reading The Silmarillion is something even harder. But once you get into it, I guarantee you that Tolkien will not let you down with the literary excellence found in this book of legends. Lúthien will captivate your heart, as she did the hearts of men, elves, and spirits alike. You will mourn the fall of Númenor, and cheer as Morgoth is dethroned. This is the world into which The Hobbit was born. This is Middle Earth.