Book Review

All the (Silmarillion) Feels | Chapter 3: Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor

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 3: Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor

Darkness Grows

As the chapter opens, the Valar are hanging out in Valinor, “dwel[ling] in bliss” like they do, while Melkor has free rein of Middle-earth, creating balrogs and giving strongholds to his lieutenant Sauron. The Valar are basically playing The Sims and getting distracted by a shiny new house and family after forgetting all about that first family you made whose kitchen is on fire.

Yavanna continues to be the standout Valar by demanding the group stop thinking only of themselves, saying:

“Yet be sure of this: the hour approaches, and within this age our hope shall be revealed, and the Children shall awake. Shall we then leave the lands of their dwelling desolate and full of evil? Shall they walk in darkness while we have light? Shall they call Melkor lord while Manwë sits upon Taniquetil?”

The Silmarillion, page 44

There is intense ambivalence among the Valar, and they mostly decide to keep waiting around, although Varda does create more stars so that the Children will have better lighting when they awaken. Which they do, almost immediately.

The Elves Awaken

Naming themselves Quendi, the Elves begin their existence in Cuiviénen, and because the Valar put in the bare minimum in preparing the world for their coming, life is terrifying! Melkor “sent shadows and evil spirits to spy on them and waylay them” for YEARS before Oromë stumbles upon them. In the meantime, Melkor is also kidnapping some of them and creating his own race – of Orcs.

“…all those of the Quendi who came into the hands of Melkor, ere Utumno was broken, were put there in prison, and by slow arts of cruelty were corrupted and enslaved; and thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orcs in envy and mockery of the Elves, of whom they were afterwards the bitterest foes.”

The Silmarillion, page 47

Yes, this is what Adar was talking about in The Rings of Power when he claimed to be the Father of Orcs!

The Valar Finally Do Something Helpful

Because their early years were full of terror, the Elves in Cuiviénen initially think Oromë is also going to hurt them, but some find the courage to engage with him and realize he’s a good guy. He returns to Valinor to urge the Valar to help the Elves, but as per usual, “they debated long” and Manwë “sat long in thought.” These are not the people to go to in an emergency!

After taking their sweet time, the Valar finally decide to go to war and defeat Melkor’s reign of terror in Middle-earth. Very slightly making up for their late arrival, they set up a guard around the Elves to ensure that they do not experience the effects of war.

Gods battling upon the land reshapes Middle-earth, creating bays and mountain ranges, and in the end, the Valar are successful. Utumno’s gates are broken, Melkor is captured, and he is “cast into prison in the fastness of Mandos, whence none can escape.”

Just when the Valar are looking pretty good, they get lazy again.

“Nonetheless the Valar did not discover all the mighty vaults and caverns hidden with deceit far under the fortresses of Angband and Utumno. Many evil things still lingered there, and others were dispersed and fled into the dark and roamed in the waste places of the world, awaiting a more evil hour; and Sauron they did not find.”

The Silmarillion, page 49

I’m sure that won’t lead to any problems.

The Great Elf Migration

One of my favorite things about The Silmarillion is that we get to see different kinds of Elves with different priorities and beliefs. They get to be diverse rather than the monolithically Strong, Wise, and Slow Elves that we see depicted in The Lord of the Rings movies.

After the Valar make Middle-earth safe for the Elves, they promptly invite them to leave and journey to their cooler, better digs aka Valinor. It is at this point that we get multiple Elf groups, and even though I’m salty about the Valar’s preference for Valinor over Middle-earth, there is very much the implication that the Elves that go to Valinor are better than the ones that stay behind. We have:

  • The Vanyar, led by Ingwë. The smallest group, but the first to set forth. They hecking love Valinor and the Valar, and they never wanna leave.
  • The Noldor, led by Finwë. Beloved of Aulë, this group is renowned in song for their labours, and they are going to be the focus of a LOT of future stories in The Silmarillion.
  • The Teleri, led by Elwë and Olwë. The largest and slowest group, they loved water and kept stopping on their journey to enjoy the beautiful landscape.

These three groups are all called the Calaquendi, or Elves of the Light, because they went to Valinor and lived under the light of the Trees. In contrast, the Moriquendi, or Elves of the Darkness, stayed in Middle-earth and lived only by starlight. These were the Avari, who refused the initial journey and stayed in Cuiviénen, as well as anyone who set out but stopped along the way like the Nandor.

I’m a huge dork who enjoys all these details, but what you need to know is this:

THE SUMMARY

  1. The Elves have arrived!
  2. Melkor terrorized the Elves, and the Valar captured and imprisoned him.
  3. The Valar invited the Elves to Valinor, and the story pretty much only cares about the ones who went.

This was a long chapter, but never fear, chapter 4 is only two pages long! Two really good pages, because in it is one of the great love stories of The Silmarillion.

1 comment on “All the (Silmarillion) Feels | Chapter 3: Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor

  1. Pingback: All the (Silmarillion) Feels | Chapter 4: Of Thingol and Melian – Roar Cat Reads

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