The Spring of Arda

Silmarillion, Chapter 1: Of The Beginning Of Days (1)

The "quick" version - made short by omitting large amounts of awesomeness, not by weeding out unimportant stuff. It's all important.
With the help of Tulkas, the First War was ended and Melkor had left Arda. There was peace as the Valar laboured, building up and bringing to order the lands and the seas, and causing green things to grow. Thus began the Spring of Arda

The Valar made two lamps and they were set upon high pillars, Illuin in the north and Ormal in the south. Where the two lights met and blended, the Valar set up their first dwelling upon the Isle of Almaren. 

The Valar rested and had a great feast, and because of light they had made they did not see the shadow of Melkor as he arrived in the north with his host.

Melkor built the fortress of Utumno underground and attacked before the Valar were prepared, destroying the lamps and wreaking havoc upon the world.  

Growing afraid of Tulkas and Manwë, Melkor escaped to Utumno, and the Valar were unable to overcome him as their strength was occupied in repairing the damage he had caused. 

Thus ended the Spring of Arda

And now for the longer, quote-y version. All quotes are from The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien.

During the First War "a spirit of great strength and hardihood came to the aid of the Valar, hearing in the far heaven that there was battle in the Little Kingdom; and Arda as filled with the sound of his laughter. So came Tulkas the Strong, whose anger passes like a mighty wind, scattering the cloud and darkness before it..." and Melkor fled and forsook Arda and there was a long peace. Tulkas remained and became one of the Valar, and is especially hated by Melkor. 

The Valar brought everything to order and "Yavanna planted at last the seeds that she had long devised. And since, when the fires were subdued or buried beneath the primeval hills, there was need of light, Aulë at the prayer of Yavanna wrought two mighty lamps for the lighting of the Middle-earth which he had built amid the encircling seas." Varda filled them with light, and they were set "upon high pillars, more lofty far than are any mountains of the later days." Illuin to the north of Middle-earth and Ormal to the south "and the light of the Lamps of the Valar flowed out over the Earth, so that all was lit as it were in a changeless day."

The seeds of Yavanna grew into a "multitude of growing things great and small" and animals came to live in the plains, rivers, and forests etc. In the midmost parts of the land the light of the lamps blended "and there upon the Isle of Almaren in the Great Lake was the first dwelling of the Valar when all things were young, and new-made green was yet a marvel in the eyes of the makers; and they were long content."

While the Valar rested, Manwë ordered a great feast "But Aulë and Tulkas were weary; for the craft of Aulë and the strength of Tulkas had been at the service of all without ceasing in the days of their labour." And Melkor, who still had spies among the Maiar, knew of all this. "Therefore he gathered to himself spirits out of the halls of Eä that he had perverted to his service" and he drew near to Arda.
The Valar gathered upon Almaren "fearing no evil, and because of the light of Illuin they did not perceive the shadow in the north that was cast from afar by Melkor, for he was grown as dark as the Night of the Void.

"And it is sung that in that feast of the Spring of Arda Tulkas espoused Nessa the sister of Oromë...Then Tulkas slept, being weary and content, and Melkor deemed that his hour had come." He came to Middle-earth in the north, unnoticed by the Valar. Melkor began building the fortress of Utumno "deep under the Earth, beneath dark mountains where the beams of Illuin were cold and dim.

Because of the evil of Melkor "Green things fell sick and rotted, and rivers were choked with weeds and slime, and fens were made, rank and poisonous, the breeding place of flies; and forests grew dark and perilous, the haunts of fear; and beasts became monsters of horn and ivory and dyed the earth with blood.

The Valar realized that Melkor had returned and sought for his location. Melkor came suddenly to war before the Valar were prepared and destroyed the lights of Illuin and Ormal. 
"In the overthrow of the mighty pillars lands were broken and seas arose in tumult; and when the lamps were spilled destroying flame was poured out over the Earth. And the shape of arda and the symmetry of its waters and its lands was marred in that time, so that the first designs of the Valar were never after restored."

In the confusion "Melkor escaped, though fear fell upon him; for above the roaring of the seas he heard the voice of Manwë as a mighty wind, and the earth trembled beneath the feet of Tulkas." But he managed to reach Utumno before they caught him, and he hid there. The Valar could not stop him, for "the greater part of their strength was needed to restrain the tumults of the Earth". 
Thus ended the Spring of Arda.



When Middle-earth is mentioned, it is not referring to the Middle-earth of the Hobbit or LOTR. So much destroying and rebuilding and moving of lands goes on before those books, that there is no relation to this first land, save the name. If it is confusing, blame Tolkien. In this section, I imagine Arda as being as sort of dark, watery blank slate, and then in the middle is this huge place with its own seas and islands (hence calling an earth and not a land), and somewhere in the middle of that is the Great Lake which holds the Isle of Almaren. I could be getting it all wrong, but it is so short lived that I am not terribly concerned, and I like to imagine it that way. 

The First War

There is no particularly detailed account of the First War, but it is explained in Ainulindalë and Valaquenta as being rather long (though time wasn't really a thing yet) and consisting of the Valar building things and Melkor destroying them over and over again until, with the help of Tulkas, they finally cast him out.  


The hosts of the Valar and of Melkor are the Maiar.

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Quotes from The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien
Image: Yavanna by jankolas on Deviantart 

Tolkien Reading Day

Tolkien Reading Day is celebrated on March 25th by Tolkien fans all around the world, in honour of the Downfall of Sauron. 
I had hoped to have finished LOTR (for the millionth time) by today, but alas, that was not to be. I'm just finishing up Two Towers. But that doesn't mean I can't go quoting from ROTK all I want. 

"On he toiled, up and up, turning this way and that to lessen the slope, often stumbling forward, and at last crawling like a snail with a heavy burden on its back. When his will could drive him no further, and his limbs gave way, he stopped and laid his master gently down."

"But deep in [Sam's] heart there was something that restrained him: he could not strike this thing lying in the dust, forlorn, ruinous, utterly wretched. He himself, though only for a little while, had borne the Ring, and now dimple he guessed the agony of Gollum's shrivelled mind and body, enslaved to that Ring, unable to find peace of relief ever in life again."

"And far away, as Frodo put on the Ring and claimed it for his own, even in Sammath Naur the very heart of his realm, the Power in Barad-dûr was shaken, and the Tower trembled from its foundations to its proud and bitter crown."

"'Precious, precious, precious!' Gollum cried. 'My Precious! O my Precious!' And with that, even as his eyes were lifted up to gloat on his prize, he stepped too far, toppled, wavered for a moment on the brink, and then with a shriek he fell. Out of the depths came his last wail Precious, and he was gone."

"A brief vision he had of swirling cloud, and in the midst of it towers and battlements, tall as hills, founded upon a mighty mountain-throne above immeasurable pits; great courts and dungeons, eyeless prisons sheer as cliffs, and gaping gates of steel and adamant: and then all passed."

"And then at last over the miles between there came a rumble, rising to a deafening crash and roar; the earth shook, the plain heaved and cracked, and Orodruin reeled. Fire belched from its riven summit."

"And into the heart of a storm with a cry that pierced all other sounds, tearing the clouds asunder, the Nazgûl came, shooting like flaming bolts, as caught in the fiery ruin of hill and sky they crackled, withered, and went out."

"'Master!' cried Sam, and fell upon his knees. In all that ruin of the world for the moment he felt only joy, great joy. The burden was gone. His master had been saved; he was himself again, he was free."

Tolkien, I can never thank you enough. You have given this world so much more than just a long book. 

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(Lest there should be any confusion or matter of rights and whatnot, all quotes in this post are from the works of JRR Tolkien, unless otherwise mentioned. There may be slight errors, misspellings, or alternate punctuation in the quotes, and if you notice such, please inform me so that I can speedily remedy them.

The Strength of Saruman

Ted Nasmith
Gandalf becomes a much more interesting character when you realize that he actually dwelt among the Valar, and has been around since before the beginning of time. 
In the Lord of the Rings, I think it is too easy to just discount him as the traditional wizard: an old wise man who does cool stuff every now and then. 
Which is exactly what the people of middle-earth were supposed to think. It is so cool to imagine this amazingly powerful Maia, the same species as Sauron, sitting in Bag-end having tea. 

Ted Nasmith
Gandalf, contrary to popular belief, does not use magic. He is a servant of the Valar, and therefore also a servant of Eru, and that is where his power comes from. Which explains quite nicely why sometimes he is able to do certain things (like scare away Nazgûl) and then is unable to do them later on. 

Think of it this way:
It's like how we humans have the strength that we have. It can be built up with practice, or atrophy from disuse. It varies between different people. This is the sort of baseline power that each Maiar has. 

Then there are adrenaline rushes, which is a natural increase in strength, brought about by a need for said increase. They enable us to do things that we cannot usually do. It cannot be brought on at will. This is the power that Eru gives to the Maiar at times, when he wants a certain thing to be done. When Gandalf scares off the Nazgûl, it is because that was not the time for him to be tested, and that was not the time for Faramir to die etc. So he was able to do that. He cannot replicate it at will to scare everything off all the time. So no, that is not a plothole. 

Next we have steroids. An artificial increase in strength, that can be used at will, and is not good for you. It is also potentially addictive. It can be used for good, but in small amounts and in a very controlled way. And yes, it is often more powerful than any adrenaline rush. This is like magic/sorcery. It does not come from Eru, one can get into it with the intention to do good, but usually they end up going overboard and becoming corrupted and it consumes them. 

Saruman is definitely guilty of sorcery, which he no doubt started looking into out of a mistrust of Eru, or dislike of how he couldn't have greater power whenever he wanted it. I imagine he told himself that it was for the best, and that he would use it to help people. 

And please leave Gandalf alone about the supposed inconsistencies in his abilities. It isn't in his control, so stop saying things like “well if he knew that he should have said it earlier and saved them all the trouble” or “why couldn't he just do that again and fix everything?” 
That isn't how this works. The Istari were not sent to blow up the bad guys, they were sent to give counsel to the good guys. Their greatest power is their wisdom, built up by living through all of time, and being inspired by Eru. 

Sauron's "baseline power" is considerable, but he is also a necromancer, and that is the majority of his strength. He is certainly the most powerful necromancer ever to have lived. After all, he was taught be Melkor himself. I look it as Melkor creating this darkness and sorcery (I am using sorcery and necromancy interchangeably in this post, though they do have slightly different definitions) etc., more evil than anyone could just learn on their own, and then Sauron just took it all into himself. The Maiar are, after all, the same sort of things as the Valar, just less powerful, so I imagine that everything Melkor had would fit into Sauron quite nicely. 

Alan Lee
Now then, you may have just rushed to your copy of LOTR to pick out a bunch of quotes where magic is spoken of favourably. You will say "there are two kinds, good and bad, look just here" and put your finger on a page. There is magic, which is questionable, dangerous, and pretty much always bad, then there is the power of Eru (and Valar and Maiar), and the power of the elves. I do not have a lovely word for "the power of elves' because there isn't really a word for it. But to them, it is no more magic than my ability to knit. It is an entirely different thing. A skill. A part of their being. Samwise, like you, may just think "Elf-magic" is the good sort, but Galadriel begs to differ:
"'And you?' she said, turning to Sam. 'For this is what your folk would call magic, I believe; though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and they seem to use the same word of the deceits of the Enemy. But this, if you will, is the magic of Galadriel.'"    
 ~The Fellowship of the Ring
In simpler terms, it isn't magic, but they sometimes call it magic because that is, apparently, the only frame of reference we have. Which is weird, because we don't say that God uses magic, so we must have some idea of a different sort of thing, but perhaps Hobbits do not. 

Alan Lee
I shall now return to Saruman 

I get terribly mother hennish when people say that Saruman was weak, because he wasn't. He was very very strong. 

Otherwise he wouldn't have been the head of the order. He didn't get there by bullying people. Peter Jackson shed a rather dark light upon him. Being in a position of authority over other people has a tendency to make you feel responsible every time the 'team' fails, even if it isn't anyone's fault. 
This leads bad things, as you can imagine. The more trust that is placed in you, the worse you feel when you fail. Saruman's purpose was to help help stop evil, and he failed over and over and over again. And then he finally saw Morgoth stopped, and everyone was happy and rebuilding their lives for perhaps the millionth time, and Sauron popped up, and bounced back from several "defeats" over and over again.  You would despair too. 

As far as I can tell, Saruman's corruption began not terribly long before the events in The Hobbit took place. They had had what was probably the longest stretch of peace they had known since Sauron took charge, and were probably thinking that they had actually succeeded in getting rid of him after working since the beginning of time. And then, bang, he's back in Mirkwood. Saruman was also alone too much, which is depressing. Because he was the head of the order, and rather proud, he would probably not have asked for help or counsel from any of the other wizards. He lacked Gandalf's humility, and it showed. Cut to later on, and he was hanging out in a lonely, cold, dark tower, with an excellent view of Mordor. Because he is a brooding type and had no one to talk to, he probably sat by the hour staring at Mordor, growing more and more certain that they would fail again. He didn't just give up. He wasn't being illogical. He was being quite logical. If a thing happens a hundred times in a row, it is silly to think it won't happen again. Isn't that the definition of insanity or something? No wonder he thought Gandalf had gone batty. 
The White Council

What he failed to remember is that hope usually is illogical and seems crazy. So if anyone thinks that they are better than Saruman the Traitor, they are wrong. He held out his 'illogical hope' much longer than you ever would, and you would do well to remember it. Weren't we just talking about humility?

So how come everyone else managed to hold on? Well, the elves didn't really. If I remember correctly, they had hope on principle, but Elrond in particular seemed quite the naysayer. It's all very well for men to run about with that hope, but his daughter is going to the grey havens anyway. Most of the elves left Middle-earth. He was willing to support them and he didn't quite despair, and he himself stayed, but as my mother said 'he was unwilling to invest his daughter in their hope.'

Alan Lee
And Gandalf? In my humble opinion, Gandalf was saved by the hobbits. They showed him that strength can be a weakness. They were a constant reminder to him off good and peace and innocence. A constant reminder that everything wasn't under Sauron's shadow. Their amazing resistance to evil no doubt put him in his place. If you were a timeless being of great power and wisdom, you would probably feel pretty ashamed to give up before a little hobbit. He saw their strength and their innocence and their stupid trust that life would just go on as it always had, and it made him stronger.

As for men, they hadn't been around long enough to have seen evil rise up again and again. That is to say, as a species, they had been around for a long time and had history to shake their hope but no personal experience. They didn't really know that much, and the ones who did were broody and not terribly hopeful. Aragorn had to be sort of shoved into fighting, when he was content to stay in the wild until the war came to him. And Denethor went down a very unpleasant path, as a result of learning too much through the palantir. 
Alan Lee
Knowing a lot about your enemy can be helpful in fighting him, but it can also lead to despair. Sometimes it is better not to know how small your chance of success is. 

*Maia is not a typo, it is the singular term for the Maiar. 'He is a maia, and one of the Maiar.' 

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Valaquenta: The Maiar and The Enemies

If you don't want to dig into the quotes, here is a simple summary.

  • The Maiar are servants of the Valar, set on Arda to aid them in their works. They are also susceptible to corruption, and many became servants of Melkor.
  • The Istari, or wizards, are a division of the Maiar.
  • Balrogs are also Maiar, and are called Valaraukar.
  • Sauron is, in fact, a Maia*. As Melkor was among the greatest of the Valar, Sauron was among the greatest of the Maiar.

The Maiar

In this section of Silmarillion, Tolkien describes the Maiar as spirits, the 'people of the Valar' their 'servants and helpers'. It is not known how many there were, and they rarely showed themselves to men or elves. They were not slaves, however, and had free will. Nor were they incorruptible. 
“With the Valar came other spirits whose being also began before the World, of the same order of the Valar but of less degree.”

“Chief among the Maiar of Valinor whose names are remembered in the histories of the Elder Days are Ilmarë, the handmaid of Varda, and Eönwë, the banner-bearer and herald of Manwë […] But of all the Maiar Ossë and Uinen are best known to the Children of Ilúvatar.”

Uinen and Ossë

Ossë is sort of the assistant to Ulmo, and is master of the sea shores of Middle-earth. He does not like deep waters, but prefers costs, isles, and wind “for in storm he delights, and laughs amid the roaring of the waves.” I feel like we would get along. 

Uinen, called also the 'Lady of the Seas', is his spouse.
“All creatures she loves that live in the salt streams, and all weeds that grow there; to her mariners cry, for she can lay calm upon the waves, restraining the wildness of Ossë. The Númenóreans lived long in her protection, and held her in reverence equal to the Valar.”

During Arda's forming Melkor, unable to subdue the sea, drew Ossë to his side by promising him all the realm of Ulmo. “So it was that long ago there arose great tumults in the sea that wrought ruin to the lands.” 

Fortunately Uinen was able to restrain Ossë and bring him to Ulmo, who then pardoned him. Ossë thereafter remained faithful, though “his delight in violence never wholly departed from him, and at times he will rage his willfulness without any command from Ulmo his lord.”


Melian is a Maia who served Estë and Vána; before coming to Middle-earth she lived for some time in Lórien tending the flowering trees in Irmo's gardens. 

“Nightingales sang about her wherever she went.” 

“Of Melian much is told in the Quenta Silmarillion. But of Olórin that tale does not speak; for though he loved the Elves, he walked among them unseen, or in form as one of them, and they did not know whence came the fair visions or the promptings of wisdom that he put into their hearts. In later days he was the friend of all the Children of Ilúvatar, and took pity on their sorrows; and those who listened to him awoke from despair and put away the imaginations of darkness.” 

Olórin (Gandalf):

The Istari:

The Istari are Maiar that were sent to assist the people of middle-earth against evil (Sauron and Morgoth). In Middle-earth they are known as wizards. In Valaquenta, only Olórin is mentioned, and so we shall talk about the others when we come to them in the book. He is also known as Gandalf, and I shall give him a whole post all to himself next week. 

"Wisest of the Maiar was Olórin. He too dwelt in Lórien, but his ways took him often to the house of Nienna, and of her he learned pity and patience." 


Sauron was one of Aulë's Maiar, and became Melkor's sidekick. He is also called Gorthaur the Cruel.

“In all the deeds of Melkor the Morgoth upon Arda, in his vast works and in the deceits of his cunning, Sauron had a part, and was only less evil than his master in that for long her served another and not himself. But in after years he rose like a shadow of Morgoth and a ghost of his malice, and walked behind him on the same ruinous path down into the Void.”


Not a Maia, but one of the Valar. Since I am also covering the section titled “The Enemies” in Valaquenta, I had to include this amazing quote.

“From splendor he fell through arrogance to contempt for all things save himself, a spirit wasteful and pitiless. Understanding he turned to subtlety in perverting to his own will all that he would use, until he became a liar without shame. He began with the desire of Light, but when he could not possess it for himself alone, he descended through fire and wrath into a great burning, down into Darkness. And darkness he used most in his evil works upon Arda, and filled it with fear for all living things.”

I have no words.


Many of the Maiar joined Melkor at the beginning, and still more he drew to his side with lies and bribes. Among them were the Balrogs. Keep in mind that they don't start out with a physical form that we can see, but many of them seem to choose their paths and settle down over time into a certain set of skills.

"Dreadful among these spirits were the Valaraukar, the scourges of fire that in Middle-earth were called the Balrogs, demons of terror."

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

The Filth of Saruman is Washing Away

I love to learn about Tolkien's life, and all of his works, as well as all the history and whatnot behind the things he wrote. I have liked what nonfiction of his that I have read. But, though I have been doing better at branching out, I always end up breaking to return to the Lord of the Rings. It is very difficult to read about how Frodo wasn't always named Frodo, when you are busy theorizing about what became of the Entwives. Anyhow, I was reading Return of the King, and I realized I had sort of forgotten that the battle (if you can call it a battle) between the Ents and Isengard, is told in flashback. 
This can hardly be considered 'risky' for Tolkien, considering that he ditched Frodo and Sam for half the book, but it is an odd choice. Tolkien's method of following one character for half a book, and then going back to the beginning and following another, makes sense to me. But I can't think of any particular reason why the destruction of Isengard should be told in flashback. It would certainly not have been out of character for Tolkien to have followed Merry and Pip through the entire thing before returning to Rohan and Helm's Deep. 
The only difference it seems to make, is that the language is rather more simplistic, as the story is told by the hobbits, and not by some more gifted speaker, or Tolkien as narrator. 
The only explanation (and probably a fairly accurate one) I have come up with to explain this flashback, is that Tolkien had no particular reason. 
But I am curious as to other people's theories on the matter, so please do leave a comment. 

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(Lest there should be any confusion or matter of rights and whatnot, all quotes in this post are from The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, unless otherwise mentioned. There may be slight errors, misspellings, or alternate punctuation in the quotes, and if you notice such, please inform me so that I can speedily remedy them. But I think the fact that I made this blog proves that I would never intentionally change something of Tolkien's in the transcribing of it.)