3. The Coming Of The Valar And The Building Of Valinor

Illuin: Lamp of the Valar (painting by Ted Nasmith)

Below is a description of the tale, as posted at Silmarillion Writers' Guild.

Readers will recall that The Music of the Ainur left off with the Noldorin sage Rúmil and the mariner Eriol in conversation in a garden near the Cottage of Lost Play. Eriol's interest in the Valar, Ilúvatar, and the creation of the world had been keen, and Rúmil was eager to tell all that he knew of these subjects. Eriol's curiosity, however, remained far from sated.

Rúmil, however, would go no further at the moment for a very simple reason: It was time for breakfast. He departed and sent a meal out to Eriol, and Eriol spent the rest of the day wandering the garden. That night, however, in the room of the Tale-fire, music gave way to further stories of the Valar, once again told by Rúmil.

Rúmil's tale began with the entry of Manwë and Varda into the world. They flew through the three levels of air with all intentions of arriving first and were angered to find that not only had Melko exceeded them, but the haste of his arrival had caused upheaval in the earth and the oceans.

Next of the Valar to arrive were Ulmo with Salmar and Aulë with Palúrien, and close behind them came many more of the Valar: Ossë, Ónen, Tulkas, Lórien, Mandos, Vána, Nienna, and Oromë. Arriving late were the brother and sister Makar and Meássë, and Rúmil suggested that they would have best never entered the world at all, as they delighted in Melko's chaos and were among the Ainur who followed his divergent theme in the Music. Last to arrive was the youngest Vala Omar, singing as came.

With the Valar now gathered in the world, Manwë asked how the world would be permitted to flourish according to Ilúvatar's designs if Melko continued to cause uproar. Tulkas and Mandos were sent to find him, being as Melko feared them more than any others among the Valar, and he was brought before Manwë to answer for his deeds. He made the excuse that he had simply been enjoying the new world and promised that he would do nothing against Manwë's lordship or the lordships of the other Valar. It was Melko's belief that each Vala should live alone where s/he was most pleased and should not interfere with the domains of the other Valar. Some of the Valar trusted Melko's words; others continued to doubt.

Now, Rúmil paused to explain the geography of the early world. Beginning in the east were the Great Lands, where the Men now dwell. Moving westward, one crossed the Great Sea, then reached the Magic Isles. There, one entered the Shadowy Seas, which were in fact a part of the Great Seas, before reaching the next set of islands, the Twilit Isles. The Shadowy Seas ended at Eruman (also called Arvalin), the southern portion of the western lands that contained Valinor. Continuing to move westward, at the extreme western edge of the world, one ends at the Outer Ocean (Vai) where Ulmo dwells.

The geography of the western continent can be confusing to those more familiar with the geography presented in the published Silmarillion. Eruman and Arvalin are synonymous and are located to the south of Valinor. Because the curve of the coastline is different in The Coming of the Valar than The Silmarillion, there are no "wastes" north of Valinor. In The Silmarillion, this northern region is named Araman, which is etymologically related to Eruman of The Coming of the Valar and can present some confusion.

Collectively, in The Coming of the Valar, the Twilit Isles, Eruman, and Valinor are called the Outer Lands. Elsewhere in the Tales as well as in The Silmarillion, the Outer Lands refers to the lands east of the Great Sea that will later be called Middle-earth.

Returning to the council of the Valar, Aulë and Palúrien, who were the most bothered by the way Melko had hurt the world, advised that the Valar dwell together rather than apart, fearing that Melko would take advantage of them singly, being more powerful than all save Manwë. The other Valar agreed and began to look for a place to build their home. Melko, naturally, was not in agreement; he had already begun construction on his halls Utumna in the north.

At this time, Varda had made few stars and light travelled in the air. It was difficult for the Valar to see as they explored, and Aulë and Varda gathered light from the air to fashion to large lamps to give light to the world. Aulë asked Melko to build two pillars at the extreme north and south of the world to hold the lamps, and Melko complied, telling Aulë that they were of an imperishable substance. In fact, the pillars were made of ice. The Valar were standing upon the Twilit Isles and gazing westward when the lamps melted the ice upon which they stood and fell. The melting ice expanded the seas and drowned many islands. The light that poured forth from the lamps pooled upon the earth and created deserts.

This brought the first period of night, and the Valar were angry at Melko for the harm he had done. Ossë and his servants dragged the island on which the Valar stood to the western lands, and the Valar decided to build their home upon Arvalin. Gathering rocks from the plain of Arvalin, they raised the Mountains of Valinor, and Aulë constructed the tall mountain Taniquetil at Manwë's bidding.

Aulë, however, lamented the lack of light by which he worked. Ulmo collected the light that had spilled from the lamps onto the earth into two large cauldrons that Aulë had constructed. The cauldrons were called Kulullin and Silindrin.

Upon the plain of Valinor, the Valar dug two pits. In the first, Ulmo place seven golden rocks from the sea bed and a shard of one of the lamps. Palúrien covered it with earth, and Vána danced and sang upon it, watering it with streams of golden light from Kulullin. In the second pit was placed three large pearls and a small star, and it was covered with foam and bits of earth, and Lórien and his servants whispered to it while watering it with silver light from Silindrin. At the last, Palúrien put enchantments on both places encouraging growth.

From these places, the Two Trees arose, first the golden tree Laurelin. Twelve hours later, the silver tree, called Silpion, arose as well. From the trees, light emanated, alternating between dim and very bright, and they had grown so that when one tree was bright, the other was dim. Palúrien instructed the Valar that the trees must be gently watered with light from the two cauldrons so that they could continue to produce light. Vána gave the duty to her maiden Urwen to water Laurelin, and Lórien trusted Silmo to water Silpion.

Aulë now had adequate light to complete his tasks. For each of the Valar, he built a suitable home, and The Coming of the Valar describes each in precise and fantastical detail. Most of the Valar had their homes in Valmar, the city of the Valar built upon the plain, and these included Aulë and Palúrien, Ossë, Tulkas and Vána, Oromë, and Salmar and Omar. Manwë and Varda lived atop Taniquetil, and Ulmo dwelt in the Outer Ocean and came infrequently to Valinor. Likewise, Lórien dwelt in Eruman in the south. Vefántur (Mandos) and Nienna and the siblings Makar and Meássë lived in the north of the land.

The material concerning the halls of Vefántur and Nienna is some of the most intriguing in The Coming of the Valar. In this section, Elven "death" is established, some details of which remain constant through to the published Silmarillion, and a bizarre version of the death of Men is also recounted.

The region known as Mandos is a series of underground halls built by Aulë at the foot of the Mountains of Valinor in the north. Vefántur and Nienna--who are spouses in this version--each have separate halls where Elves and Men, respectively, go after death. Vefántur's halls are called Vê, and Elves who are slain or die of grief go here to be judged by Vefántur and await rebirth through their children. The concept Elves departing to a "hall of awaiting" overseen by the Vala Mandos (here, commonly called Vefántur) persists through to the published Silmarillion, as does the idea that Elves are able to die only from being slain or of grief. The notion that Elves are "reborn" as the children of their children endures for some time as well but was rejected in the final material from which The Silmarillion was published.

The second part of Mandos is the halls of Nienna, called Fui. The character of Nienna in the Tales is a much darker and morose version of the Vala who, in The Silmarillion, "brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom," teaches "pity, and endurance in hope," and is expressly named as one of Gandalf's mentors (Valaquenta). Fui Nienna of the Tales sends out clouds of grief and sorrow around the world, but perhaps most importantly, she sits in judgment of Men after death. Much as Elves go to Vê after death, so the spirits of men go to Fui, and The Coming of the Valar describes several possible fates that stand in stark contrast to what J.R.R. Tolkien later describes as the singular fate of Men after death--indeed, what is described within the Tales themselves: to leave the world altogether.

The possible fates of Men are very similar to Christian beliefs about the afterlife: Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. Some Men are judged by Nienna and remain with her in Mandos; others are driven forth to Melko, to bear his torments in Angamandi. Most are put aboard the black ship Mornië that sails along the coast, past Valinor, and leaves its passengers to await the Great End upon the plains of Arvalin. A few of these are retrieved by the herald of the Valar Nornorë, and they go to dwell in joy with the Valar in Valmar. Along with the parallels between this account and Christian belief, there is also etymological evidence to suggest that the names of certain regions in Valinor evolved from words for Heaven and Purgatory. But that all Men remain in the world--much like the Elves--is extraordinary considering that the crux of the fate of Men will become their ability to leave the world after death; indeed, in The Music of the Ainur, this idea is already beginning to develop.

In his commentary, Christopher Tolkien is at a loss to explain how this account of the afterlife of Men came to be written after The Music of the Ainur already hinted at a very different fate that endures through to the published Silmarillion, and so the detailed and sometimes frightening depiction of the afterlife of Men is intriguing but remains an oddity.

Rúmil's tale concludes with an account of the halls of Makar and Meássë, the late-coming brother and sister who alone of the other Valar enjoy the chaos that Melko creates. Makar and Meássë do not appear in versions of the story beyond the Tales.

Rúmil ends there as it grows late, and his audience--including Eriol--retires to bed.