This passage is basically the first part of the creation myth that Tolkien designed for the world he wrote about. It tells about how Ilúvatar sang the Ainur into being and how the world and elements became real. The story mainly deals with Ilúvatar’s vision and design of the world – through music.
Rúmil tells Eriold about the Music of the Ainur and the realization of the world. The story have previously never been heard by a man. Originally the Ainu/Vala Manwë Súlimo whispered it all to the “fathers of my father in the deeps of time” according to Rúmil.
In the beginning Ilúvatar was alone. He sang the Ainur into being and fashioned dwellings for them. He teached them many things of hich music was the greatest. He propounded a mighty design, a history of vastness and majesty. The Ainur made music. The Ainu Melko wanted to express designs of his own and made dark music or noise in order to depart from Ilúvatar’s vision. Ilúvatar explains that Melko’s mischief and evil themes have formed part of Ilúvatar’s grand sceme rather than undoing any of it. To the music Ilúvatar added the fire that gives Life and Reality and the world took shape according to the themes from the Music of the Ainur. Some Ainur had dreams of their own and their themes added this to the world: water (dreamt by Ulmo), air and wind (dreamt by Manwë Súlimo) and earth (dreamt my Aulë). Melko contributed with biting colds and undue heat. While this didn’t destroy the other elements, undreamt effects took place. For example: water could turn into beautiful ice crystals. The Airnur who have had independent dreams manifested in the world wished to dwell in the world and protect it. Other Ainur who followed Ilúvatar’s vision and theme remained with him. The elves and men, who are of Ilúvatar’s design would come into the world later on. To the men Ilúvatar gave freedom from fate.
Characters to note
- Manwë Súlimo – Ruler of Air and Wings, Lord of Gods, Elves and Men. Husband of Varda. Beloved by the Teleri. Dwelt in Valinor.
- Varda the Beautiful – Queen of the stars. Wife of Manwë.
- Ulmo – Ruler of Water. Most deeply instructed in music by Ilúvatar of all the Ainur. Beloved by the Solosimpi. Dwelt in the ocean.
- Aulë – Fashioned many things. Busied in all sorts of crafting; making webs, beat metal, tillage, husbandy, broideries and painting as well as tongues and alphabets. Beloved by the Noldoli. Dwelt in Valinor.
- Melko – Ruler of fire and extreme cold. Those elements that are violent or excessive, sudden or cruel are under his charge. The Ainu given great gifts of power, wisdom and knowledge by Ilúvatar. Strives after bringing things into being of his own and dominating the Children of Ilúvatar.
Places to note
- Valinor – The realm of the Valar.
- Taniquetil – The highest peak in Arda, where Manwë and Varda lives.
- Ulmonan – The name of Ulmo’s hall, in Vai.
- Vai – The outer ocean (more next chapter).
- Ainur – the deities created by Ilúvatar from song. They played his vision in music and Ilúvatar made it real.
- Valar – Those Ainur who dwells in the world.
This chapter, or tale, is what has laid the foundation for “Ainulindalë” that was written 30 years later (which you can read in Silmarillion). There are a few differences but mainly this was a complete myth early on. For me, because this version is more explicit – it is much more easy to follow. A lot of the content is quite outright. I recommend this to any reader who read The Silmarillion and found the “Ainulindalë” complicated and difficult to follow.
Some other than the “four great Valar” (that I have listed above, Varda not being one of them) are mentioned here. Salmar, Ossë and Ónen who are all subordinates to Ulmo. The offspring of Manwë and Varda are also accounted for.
The main thing that this chapter tells us, from my perspective, is that you can’t be separate from the vision of Ilúvatar. Even if he gave the men freedom from fate, they will ultimately come to fulfill his vision and later join into the Second Music of the Ainur. What the Ainur contributed to Ilúvatar’s design are considered adornments and embellishments. They’re a “part of the whole and tributary to its glory”. Like in the music they played.
Have you read this chapter? Please comment and tell me what you think of this part and if you have anything to add!