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SWG Re-read: Valaquenta Discussion Post

And this is our second post. It also includes a short summary, stuff we found interesting, notes on earlier versions, and a few questions to get you started.

Important: This is not a spoiler-free zone. It is hard to discuss any chapter in depth without referring to things that happen in later chapters. Proceed at your own risk!

Valaquenta



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Summary

~ Valaquenta: This chapter tells of the Valar, Maiar, and their Enemies. The kinds of Valar and Maiar are properly together called Ainur and they came to the world at the beginning of time.

The Valar: Manwë is the Elder King and rules Arda, with his specialty being the air. His wife Varda is associated with the stars and she is revered among the Elves for this. Ulmo is the Lord of the Waters and never abandoned the Elves and Men. Aulë’s lordship is over the earth. His wife is Yavanna, whose specialty is plants. Námo (also called Mandos) is the lord of the dead. His wife is Vairë, who weaves the past. Irmo, in charge of dreams, is Námo’s brother and rules Lórien, the garden of rest in Valinor. His wife is Estë, who heals hurts and weariness. Nienna is Námo and Irmo’s sister and she grieves for Arda. Tulkas is known for his strength. His wife is Nessa, who dances. Her brother is Oromë, who loves Middle-earth and is a hunter. His wife is Vána, the younger sister of Yavanna, and flowers bloom when she passes.

The Maiar: They are the lesser kindred of the Valar. Eönwë is Manwë’s herald. Ossë is a vassal of Ulmo, who once paid heed to Melkor’s words. His wife Uinen returned him to the Valar’s allegiance. Melian is associate with nightingales and plays a larger role in The Silmarillion Olórin is the wisest of the Maiar and learned much from Nienna. His most well-known name is Gandalf.

The Enemies: Melkor began as the Manwë’s equal but chose to fall into darkness. He is now named Morgoth for his crimes. His greatest servant is Sauron.

Our Favourite Quotes

~ "But she [Nienna] does not weep for herself; and those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope."

~ "Too great is [Varda's] beauty to be declared in the words of Men or of Elves; for the light of Ilúvatar lives still in her face. In light is her power and her joy."

~ "For the arising of the King of the Sea was terrible, as a mounting wave that strides to the land, with dark helm foam-crested and raiment of mail shimmering from silver down into shadows of green. The trumpets of Manwë are loud, but Ulmo's voice is deep as the deeps of the ocean which he only has seen.
Nonetheless Ulmo loves both Elves and Men, and never abandoned them, even when they lay under the wrath of the Valar."

~ "Some there are who have seen [Yavanna] standing like a tree under heaven, crowned with the Sun; and from all its branches there spilled a golden dew upon the barren earth, and it grew green with corn; but the roots of the tree were in the waters of Ulmo, and the winds of Manwë spoke in its leaves."

~ "Vairë the Weaver [...] weaves all things that have ever been in Time into her storied webs, and the halls of Mandos that ever widen as the ages pass are clothed with them."

~ "From splendour [Melkor] fell through arrogance to contempt for all things save himself, a spirit wasteful and pitiless."

Other Versions

~ The “Valaquenta” began life in The Book of Lost Tales as “The Coming of the Valar.” It is significantly different than the text in The Silmarillion. Nienna was originally a mistress of death and wife to Mandos. Oromë was a son of Aulë and Palúrien (Yavanna). And some of them-- Makar and Meássë, for example-- disappeared. Also, the Valar had children. They were also properly gods, and only later were reduced to angelic "Powers" whom "Men have often called [...] gods."

~ In The Shaping of Middle-earth, “The Quenta,” Qenta Noldorinwa, the opening section is more recognizable in form to the final “Valaquenta” text. Among other changes, Oromë has made the leap from son to Vala, though Nienna still dwells with Mandos.

~ In Morgoth’s Ring, “The Annals of Aman”, the short opening section lists many of the Valar. Nienna is now accounted as Manwë and Melkor’s sister and that she dwells alone. Vairë now exists and is Mandos’ wife. The Valar still have children.

~ From Morgoth’s Ring, “The Later Quenta Silmarillion”, “The First Phase” comes “Of the Valar.” Ossë now answers to Ulmo. Fionwë is named son of Manwë but is transformed by Tolkien's in-text edit to Eönwë, herald of Manwë. Nienna remains a brother to Manwë and Melkor, though that was corrected in a single instance of one copy of the text to Námo’s sister. This is also the first time that a section dealing specifically with the Maiar was added, and Sauron’s first mention in the “Valaquenta”’s context.

~ We also find in Morgoth’s Ring the first proper “Valaquenta” texts. There are two versions, the second of which gained for the first time the title and became a seperate chapter. According Christopher Tolkien’s editorial note, Vq1 was the innovating version and Vq2 the stylistic. Among other changes, Ossë and Uinen become Maiar. The conception of the Aratar appears. There is no mention of any children of the Valar. Vq2 is the text that became the Silmarillion text, with some editorial changes (many, but not all, dealing with tense).

Food for Thought

~ Who is your favorite of the Valar and/or Maiar? Why?

~ Where the changes made to the Valar-- additions, subtractions, etc.-- a good or bad thing? Which version do you prefer?

~ The Greek, Roman and Germanic gods that Tolkien would've been familiar with had children, whereas angels in the Abrahamic tradition are infertile and sexless. Do you think the changes made to the Valar are linked to this?

~ Do you think the Valar and Maiar have Free Will?

Works Cited

The Silmarillion. "Valaquenta"
The Book of Lost Tales 1. "The Coming of the Valar"
The Shaping of Middle-earth. “The Quenta,” Qenta Noldorinwa
Morgoth's Ring. “The Annals of Aman”
Morgoth's Ring. “The Later Quenta Silmarillion”, The First Phase, “Of the Valar”
Morgoth's Ring "The Valaquenta"

Please note: We don't know everything and it's perfectly possible that we missed something. These summaries and questions are by no means supposed to be complete and exhaustive. If you have looked further into this particular topic or would like to discuss something that we've overlooked, please share it!

“Of the Beginning of Days” and “Of Aulë and Yavanna” are due on January 26.
Tags: discussion, reading group, silmarillion re-read
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