All the (Silmarillion) Feels is an emotion- and story-focused summary of The Silmarillion. You’ll get facts, but that’s not the point here. Let’s talk themes, meaningful quotes, and moments that made us go “WHOA.” I started this project after falling in love with The Rings of Power television show, so expect me to focus on things to do with Galadriel and Sauron.
Where are my Greek mythology girlies at? This is the chapter for you! Tolkien’s cisheteronormative pantheon includes seven gods and seven goddesses (aka Valar, six of which are paired off, and this section of The Silmarillion introduces us to each one (plus some lesser gods with VERY familiar names).
Valaquenta: aka the Gods and Goddesses of Middle-earth
Manwë, Lord of Arda
Manwë rules the skies, which gives me serious Zeus vibes. However, he has none of the Greek gods’ licentiousness, because one of Tolkien’s favorite things is monogamy. He’s also less about lightning and more about birds, and yes, the Eagles are Coming was Manwë’s doing.
Varda, Lady of the Stars
Varda is the Valier who is most feared by Melkor because the light of Ilúvatar is in her face. The elves love her best of all the Valar, and she’s basically the personification of hope, so in the world of Tolkien, that makes her the best.
RELATIONSHIP ALERT: Varda + Manwë
The first couple in list and in power, I adore the fact that Tolkien mentions that their powers are greater when they are together. Varda helps Manwë see further, and Manwë helps Varda hear more clearly. I’m a big believer that couples should support and enhance each others’ strengths, so this note is right up my alley.
Ulmo, Lord of Waters
A solitary Valar with the heavy influence of Poseidon, Ulmo symbolizes freedom. He doesn’t go to meetings, he doesn’t rest, he doesn’t like to appear to elves or men, though he will help out if necessary. He just wants to hang out in the deeps of the sea, making him the patron saint of introverts.
Aulë, Master of All Crafts
Aulë is the good Morgoth, and maps onto Hephaestus pretty well. They both love making original content, but while Morgoth does it for his own glory, Aulë shared what he made and was open to direction by Ilúvatar. The Dwarves love Aulë because he’s all about gems and gold, and SPOILER, but Aulë is actually their daddy.
Yavanna, Giver of Fruits
As the lover of all things that grow, Yavanna is the Demeter of Middle-earth. There’s a great image of her as a giant woman robed in green, with roots stretching to Ulmo’s waters and branches high in Manwë’s sky…kind of like if the Norse tree of life, Yggdrasil, was a lady, which I am very into.
RELATIONSHIP ALERT: Yavanna and Aulë
Relationships in mythology are used to show the interrelationship of natural things. In this case, the two Valar are a celebration of the earth, above and below, as well as the creative capacity of natural substances. Yavanna gives me serious elvish vibes while Aulë is strongly connected to the dwarves; the fact that these two races are so often at odds is extra tragic when we’re told here that the two are best when working together.
Námo/Mandos, Keeper of the Houses of the Dead
It’s Hades! Mandos is the place which essentially becomes Námo’s name, and he’s the keeper of knowledge and souls, the pronouncer of Doom upon the world. But like, in a heavy but not evil way?
Vairë, the Weaver
Vairë is the three Fates as one being, and she weaves the webs of Time in ever-widening halls. Pretty badass, if you ask me, though she does sound a bit like a spider.
RELATIONSHIP ALERT: Mandos and Vairë
These two are the gothic couple that everyone respects but doesn’t invite round for tea.
Irmo/Lórien, Master of Visions and Dreams
Can’t read Lórien without thinking Lothlórien, am I right? Galadriel will rule over Lothlórien someday, and her Mirror gives visions…COINCIDENCE?
Estë, Healer of Hurts and Weariness
What a useful, lovely goddess! The equivalent deity that springs to mind is Becky Chambers’ Allalae, the god of small comforts. Estë seems to sleep all the time, and she gifts rest to those who need it. Love a sleepy girl.
RELATIONSHIP ALERT: Lórien and Estë
Do you have friends who, when you go to their place, you know you’ll feel cozy and cared for? Honestly, I aspire to be that friend, and now I know who to emulate. Tolkien says that the Valar head to Lórien and Estë’s house when they need to ease their burdens; sounds nice.
Nienna, Lamenter of Grief
Nienna is a downer at first glance since she is melancholy personified, and I LOVE that Tolkien made this emotion a deity. She is “acquainted with grief” and her mourning was woven into the song of creation. But she isn’t morbid. Her grief enables others to “learn pity, and endurance in hope.” She’s a single lady, and like a wise guru, people come to her to so that their sorrow can be turned to wisdom.
NOTE: One of the Maiar (lesser gods) who spent a lot of time with Nienna is Olórin. The name he’s better known by? GANDALF.
Tulkas the Valiant
Tulkas is Thor, the broiest of the Valar. He loves fighting and proving his physical prowess. You can just imagine him bouncing around asking people to dare him to jump over a mountain or wrestle a bear.
Nessa the Fleetfooted
Nessa is Artemis if Artemis also loved dancing. She likes deer? This is pretty much all we know about her.
RELATIONSHIP ALERT: Tulkas and Nessa
What does their relationship reveal? They both have an air of wildness about them, though in possibly the most heteronormative way possible. Tulkas is all manly brawls, while Nessa is nimble and quick. A classic barbarian/rogue team up?
Oromë, Lord of Forests
This guy loves Middle-earth the most (as opposed to Valinor, the heavenly land where the Valar live and the elves sail to), and Oromë is the original horse boy, in whose footsteps Aragorn and his ancestors will someday tread.
The younger sister of Yavanna (see tree goddess above), this Valier is all about flowers and birdsong. She’s basically the template for a 20th century Disney princess.
RELATIONSHIP ALERT: Oromë and Vána
The feeling I get with these two is a May-December romance that feels kinda skeezy from the outside, but they’re genuinely happy on their ranch, where they garden and hunt to their hearts content.
Melkor aka Morgoth
This guy is counted among “The Enemies,” though he was once the mightiest of the Valar. He’s a classic case of hubris, desiring things he couldn’t have and ruining (and being ruined) in the process of pursuing them.
He is especially tied to darkness, which is likely why he’s so afraid of Varda and her light. He’s power drew a lot of people to his side among the Maiar (lesser gods), including Ossë, who rules the coasts, the Balrogs, and SAURON. Tellingly, Tolkien points out that Sauron was not as evil as Morgoth because he served another rather than himself. It’s when Morgoth is gone and he claims total power to rule for himself alone that he’s truly beyond redemption.
(If you’ve got feels about how this relates to his offer to share power with Galadriel in episode 8 of Rings of Power, then WOW, let’s please talk in the comments.)
With the Ainulindalë and Valaquenta done, we move into The Silmarillion proper! It’s time to focus on the original piece of jewelry that threw all of Middle-earth into a tizzy.
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