Book Review

All the (Silmarillion) Feels | Chapter 2: Of Aulë and Yavanna

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.

Chapter 2: Of Aulë and Yavanna

The Creation of the Dwarves

This chapter is short (just six pages) but so sweet! Until now, the focus has been on the Valar with little hints of the coming of Elves and Men. You might have noticed one race conspicuously missing from this list: Dwarves! (If you thought I was going to say Hobbits, I’m so sorry, but I don’t think they’re anywhere in The Silmarillion.)

As you may remember from previous chapters, Aulë is the Valar that is all about crafting, building, and creation. He reminds me of Hephaestus. So in the midst of all the Lamp/Tree drama that went down, Aulë decides that Middle-earth needs a race that is “stone-hard, stubborn, fast in friendship and in enmity” to resist Melkor’s evil. In secret, he forms the Seven Fathers of Dwarves, one of whom is Durin, “father of that kindred most friendly to the Elves, whose mansions were at Khazad-dûm.”

The only problem? Dwarves were not in Ilúvatar’s creation song, so Aulë is acting beyond the creator’s will…much like Melkor. When Ilúvatar confronts him, however, Aulë is contrite, insisting that rather than create something of his own in order to dominate it, he “desired things other than I am, to love and to teach them, so that they too might perceive the beauty of Eä, which thou hast caused to be.”

In shame over his actions, Aulë takes up his hammer to destroy the Dwarves, and they cower in terror. Ilúvatar stops the killing blow and points out that he has blessed the Valor’s work, giving them true life as they recoiled from Aulë. But! Dwarves cannot be created before Elves and Men, since they are not the foretold Firstborn, so Ilúvatar puts them to sleep until a more appropriate time.

I had remembered this story as mirroring the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac, as one of sacrifice, near death, and last-minute salvation. However, there is a key difference between the stories. In The Silmarillion, Ilúvatar does not ask Aulë to kill his son/creation. Aulë moves to do this on his own. Here, Ilúvatar only shows mercy, preventing death and offering life instead.

The Creation of the Ents

When Aulë goes home to Yavanna and tells her what went down at work, she is happy for him, but sad for herself and the things that she loves most: plants. She foresees that “thy children will have little love for the things of my love… They will delve in the earth, and the things that grow and live upon the earth they will not heed. Many a tree shall feel the bite of their iron without pity.”

They have a conversation about ethical consumption, and although Yavanna admits that all the Children of Ilúvatar will use and eat her creations, she can’t help but feel the sting of powerlessness. “Shall nothing that I have devised be free from the dominion of others?” This cry is so relatable, especially coming from a woman. It’s one of the reasons why I find it such a pity Tolkien didn’t write more female characters into his works, because he really does nail some aspects of the feminine experience.

Anyway, Yavanna realizes that she’s primarily concerned for the trees. After all, animals at least have a chance to escape capture or defend themselves, but trees grow slowly and have no defense against destruction. Having learned from the results of Aulë’s secrecy, Yavanna goes to Manwë and asks if she can create something to defend the forests. In the end, they agree that “in the forests shall walk the Shepherds of the Trees.” That’s right: ENTS!

Happy in her success, Yavanna returns to Aulë to tell him that his creations will no longer be able to take from the forests indiscriminately. The chapter ends on a comedic note that feels a little out of context, much like the presence of Tom Bombadil. “Nevertheless, they will have need of wood,” Aulë comments as he continues to work. Ba dum tss!

Alright, dude. Let her have her moment, please.

The Dwarves have been made and subsequently put to sleep, so it’s probably time to get a move on with the Firstborn, huh? Good things Chapter 3 is titled, “Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor.”

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