The Silmarillion: Ainulindalë Part 1

I wasn't entirely sure how to go about my cataloging(?) of the Silmarillion, and it might change a little as I go along, but I shall do my best not to drone on, and not to go off on enormous tangents. I may link to enormous tangents though....

The Ainulindalë is the creation story not of Middle-earth but of Arda. It correlates very closely with the creation story found in Genesis, but Tolkien did not consider it 'an allegory'. In a letter to Milton Waldman Tolkien says:
"I dislike Allegory - the conscious and intentional allegory - yet any attempt to explain the purport of myth or fairytale must use allegorical language. "
After which he goes on to explain himself further but you get the point.

Ainulindalë i.e The Music of the Ainur tells of how Ilúvatar (Eru) calls together the Ainur and speaks to them of the 'Great Music':
"Then Ilúvatar  said to them: '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 now 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 the great beauty has been awakened into song.'"
In short, the Ainur sing Arda into being, though naturally it is quite a bit more complicated than that. But one among them decides to 'interweave matters of his own imagining that were not in accord with the theme of Ilúvatar ' seeking to 'increase the power and the glory of the part assigned to himself.' This was Melkor. Basically, he ended up sowing a seeds of evil into Arda before it even came into being. 
Then seeing in a vision the great beauty of Arda, some of the Ainur decide to abide there upon a condition from Iluvatar:
"But this condition Ilúvatar  made, or it is the necessity of their love, that their power should thenceforward be contained and bounded in the World, to be within it for ever, until it is complete, so that they are its life and it is theirs. And therefore they are name the Valar, the Powers of the World."
 But when they get there, the things they saw in the vision had not yet taken place and it was still dark and empty. So they began to build up the world and in Melkor there is a growing desire to posses Arda and he tries to claim it as his own. He is, of course, sent packing by Manwë:
"'This kingdom thou shalt not take for thine own, wrongfully, for many others have laboured here no less than thou.'"
And Melkor withdraws to other regions of the world. In the vision which the Valar were shown by Ilúvatar they saw the Children of Ilúvatar (Elves and Men) and they take shape after that manner. The Children of Iluvatar are elves and men, otherwise known as the Firstborn and the Followers. Presumably the Valar's shapes were more akin to elves than men, for the elves are considerably more fair. 
And because Tolkien explains this far better than I ever could:
"Moreover their shape comes of their knowledge of the visible World, rather than of the World itself; and they need it not, save only as we use raiment, and yet we may be naked and suffer no loss of our being. Therefore the Valar may walk, if they will, unclad, and then even the Eldar cannot clearly perceive them, though they be present. But when they desire to clothe themselves the Valar take upon them forms some as of male and some as of female; for that difference of temper they had even from heir beginning, and it is but bodied forth in the choice of each, not made by the choice, even as with us male and female may be shown by the raiment but is not made thereby."
And they make the world fair and blissful 'even as a garden for their delight' ever preparing it for the coming of the elves, and even as they build Melkor, filled with hate and envy, throws down and corrupts. 
"And yet their labour was not all in vain; and though nowhere and in no work was their will and purpose wholly fulfilled, and all things were in hue and shape other than the Valar had at first intended, slowly nonetheless the Earth was fashioned and made firm."
"And thus was the habitation of the Children of Ilúvatar established at last in the Deeps of Time and amidst the innumerable stars."

(click HERE for more information on pronunciation)
Ainulindalë: eye-new-lin-dah-leh
Ainur: eye-noor
Aulë: ow-leh
Manwë: man-weh

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(All quotes are from the Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien unless otherwise mentioned. Post header image property of The Red Book.)

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