2. The Music of the Ainur

'But,' said Eriol, 'still are there many things that remain dark to me. Indeed I would fain know who be these Valar; are they the Gods? '

'So be they,' said Lindo, 'though concerning them Men tell many strange and garbled tales that are far from the truth, and many strange names they call them that you will not hear here', but Vaire said: 'Nay then, Lindo, be not drawn into more tale-telling tonight, for the hour of rest is at hand, and for all his eagerness our guest is way-worn. Send now for the candles of sleep, and more tales to his head's filling and his heart's satisfying the wanderer shall have on the morrow.' But to Eriol she said: 'Think not that you must leave our house tomorrow of need; for none do so — nay, all may remain while a tale remains to tell which they desire to hear.' Then said Eriol that all desire of faring abroad had left his heart and that to be a guest there a while seemed to him fairest of all things. Thereupon came in those that bore the candles of sleep, and each of that company took one, and two of the folk of the house bade Eriol follow them. One of these was the door-ward who had opened to his knocking before. He was old in appearance and grey of locks, and few of that folk were so; but the other had a weather-worn face and blue eyes of great merriment, and was very slender and small, nor might one say if he were fifty or ten thousand. Now that was Ilverin or Littleheart. These two guided him down the corridor of broidered stories to a great stair of oak, and up this he followed them. It wound up and round until it brought them to a passage lit by small pendent lamps of coloured glass, whose swaying cast a spatter of bright hues upon the floors and hangings.

In this passage the guides turned round a sudden corner, then going down a few dark steps flung open a door before him. Now bowing they wished him good sleep, and said Littleheart: 'dreams of fair winds and good voyages in the great seas', and then they left him; and he found that he stood in a chamber that was small, and had a bed of fairest linen and deep pillows set nigh the window — and here the night seemed warm and fragrant, although he had but now come from rejoicing in the blaze of the Tale-fire logs. Here was all the furniture of dark wood, and as his great candle flickered its soft rays worked a magic with the room, till it seemed to him that sleep was the best of all delights, but that fair chamber the best of all for sleep. Ere he laid him down however Eriol opened the window and scent of flowers gusted in therethrough, and a glimpse he caught of a shadow-filled garden that was full of trees, but its spaces were barred with silver lights and black shadows by reason of the moon; yet his window seemed very high indeed above those lawns below, and a nightingale sang suddenly in a tree nearby.

Then slept Eriol, and through his dreams there came a music thinner and more pure than any he heard before, and it was full of longing. Indeed it was as if pipes of silver or flutes of shape most slender-delicate uttered crystal notes and threadlike harmonies beneath the moon upon the lawns; and Eriol longed in his sleep for he knew not what.

When he awoke the sun was rising and there was no music save that of a myriad of birds about his window. The light struck through the panes and shivered into merry glints, and that room with its fragrance and its pleasant draperies seemed even sweeter than before; but Eriol arose, and robing himself in fair garments laid ready for him that he might shed his raiment stained with.travel went forth and strayed about the passages of the house, until he chanced upon a little stairway, and going down this he came to a porch and a sunny court. Therein was a lattice-gate that opened to his hand and led into that garden whose lawns were spread beneath the window of his room. There he wandered breathing the airs and watching the sun rise above the strange roofs of that town, when behold the aged door-ward was before him, coming along a lane of hazel-bushes. He saw not Eriol, for he held his head as ever bent towards the earth, and muttered swiftly to himself; but Eriol spake bidding him good morrow, and thereat he started.

Then said he: 'Your pardon, sir! I marked you not, for I was listening to the birds. Indeed sir you find me in a sour temper; for lo! here I have a black-winged rogue fat with impudence who singeth songs before unknown to me, and in a tongue that is strange! It irks me sir, it irks me, for methought at least I knew the simple speeches of all birds. I have a mind to send him down to Mandos for his pertness! ' At this Eriol laughed heartily, but said the door-ward: 'Nay sir, may Tevildo Prince of Cats harry him for daring to perch in a garden that is in the care of Rumil. Know you that the Noldoli grow old astounding slow, and yet have I grey hairs in the study of all the tongues of the Valar and of Eldar. Long ere the fall of Gondolin, good sir, I lightened my thraldom under Melko in learning the speech of all monsters and goblins — have I not conned even the speeches of beasts, disdaining not the thin voices of the voles and mice? — have I not cadged a stupid tune or two to hum of the speechless beetles? Nay, I have worried at whiles even over the tongues of Men, but Melko take them! they shift and change, change and shift, and when you have them are but a hard stuff whereof to labour songs or tales.Wherefore is it that this morn I felt as Omar the Vala who knows all tongues, as I hearkened to the blending of the voices of the birds comprehending each, recognising each well-loved tune, when tiripti lirilla here comes a bird, an imp of Melko — but I weary you sir, with babbling of songs and words.'

'Nay, not so,' quoth Eriol, 'but I beg of you be not disheartened by one fat imp of an ousel. If my eyes deceive not, for a good age of years you have cared for this garden. Then must you know store of songs and tongues sufficient to comfort the heart of the greatest of all sages, if indeed this be the first voice that you have heard therein, and lacked its interpretation. Is it not said that the birds of every district, nay almost of every nest, speak unalike?' "Tis said so, and said truly,' quoth Rumil, 'and all the songs of Tol Eressëa are to be heard at times within this garden'

'More than heart-content am I, ' said Eriol, 'to have learned that one fair tongue which the Eldar speak about this isle of Tol Eressëa — but I marvelled to hear you speak as if there were many speeches of the Eldar: are there so? ' 'Aye,' said Rumil, 'for there is that tongue to which the Noldoli cling yet — and aforetime the Teleri, the Solosimpi, and the Inwir had all their differences. Yet these were slighter and are now merged in that tongue of the island Elves which you have learnt. Still are there the lost bands too that dwell wandering sadly in the Great Lands, and maybe they speak very strangely now, for it was ages gone that that march was made from
Kôr, and as I hold 'twas but the long wandering of the Noldoli about the Earth and the black ages of their thraldom while their kin dwelt yet in Valinor that caused the deep sundering of their speech. Akin nonetheless be assuredly Gnome-speech and Elfin of the Eldar, as my lore teacheth me — but lo! I weary you again. Never have I found another ear yet in the world that grew not tired ere long of such discourse. "Tongues and speeches," they will say, "one is enough for me" — and thus said Littleheart the Gongwarden once upon a time: "Gnome-speech," said he, "is enough for me — did not that one Eärendel and Tuor and Bronweg my father (that mincingly ye miscall Voronwe) speak it and no other?" Yet he had to learn the Elfin in the end, or be doomed either to silence or to leave Mar Vanwa Tyalieva — and neither fate would his heart suffer. Lo! now he is chirping Eldar like a lady of the Inwir, even Meril-i- Turinqi our queen herself — Manwe care for her. But even these be not all — there is beside the secret tongue in which the Eldar wrote many poesies and books of wisdom and histories of old and earliest things, and yet speak not. This tongue do only the Valar use in their high counsels, and not many of the Eldar of these days may read it or solve its characters. Much of it I learnt in Kôr, a lifetime gone, of the goodness of Aule, and thereby I know many matters: very many matters.'

'Then,' quoth Eriol, 'maybe you can tell me of things that I greatly desire to know since the words by the Tale-fire yestereve. Who be the Valar — Manwe, Aule, and the ones ye name — and wherefore came ye Eldar from that home of loveliness in Valinor?'

Now came those two to a green arbour and the sun was up and warm, and the birds sang mightily, but the lawns were spread with gold. Then Rumil sat upon a seat there of carven stone grown with moss, and said he: 'Very mighty are the things that you ask, and their true answer delves beyond the uttermost confines of the wastes of time, whither even the sight of Rumil the aged of the Noldoli may not see; and all the tales of the Valar and the Elves are so knit together that one may scarce expound any one without needing to set forth the whole of their great history.'

'Yet,' said Eriol, 'tell me, Rumil, I beg, some of what you know even of the first beginnings, that I may begin to understand those things that are told me in this isle.' But Rumil said: 'Iluvatar was the first beginning, and beyond that no wisdom of the Valar or of Eldar or of Men can go.'

'Who was Iluvatar?' said Eriol. 'Was he of the Gods?' 'Nay,' said Rumil, 'that he was not, for he made them. Iluvatar is the Lord for Always who dwells beyond the world; who made it and is not of it or in it, but loves it.' 'This have I never heard elsewhere,' said Eriol. 'That may be,' said Rumil, 'for 'tis early days in the world of Men as yet, nor is the Music of the Ainur much spoken of.'

'Tell me,' said Eriol, 'for I long to learn, what was the Music of the Ainur? '

Then said Rumil:

'Hear now things that have not been heard among Men, and the Elves speak seldom of them; yet did Manwe Sulimo, Lord of Elves and Men, whisper them to the fathers of my father in the deeps of time.' Behold, Iluvatar dwelt alone. Before all things he sang into being the Ainur first, and greatest is their power and glory of all his creatures within the world and without. Thereafter he fashioned them dwellings in the void, and dwelt among them, teaching them all manner of things, and the greatest of these was music.

Now he would speak propounding to them themes of song and joyous hymn, revealing many of the great and wonderful things that he devised ever in his mind and heart, and now they would make music unto him, and the voices of their instruments rise in splendour about his throne. Upon a time Iluvatar propounded a mighty design of his heart to the Ainur, unfolding a history whose vastness and majesty had never been equalled by aught that he had related before, and the glory of its beginning and the splendour of its end amazed the Ainur, so that they bowed before Iluvatar and were speechless.

Then said Iluvatar: "The story that I have laid before you, and that great region of beauty that I have described unto you as the place where all that history might be unfolded and enacted, is related only as it were in outline. I have not filled all the empty spaces, neither have I recounted to you all the adornments and things of loveliness and delicacy whereof my mind is full. It is my desire now that ye make a great and glorious music and a singing of this theme; and (seeing that I have taught you much and set brightly the Secret Fire within you) that ye exercise your minds and powers in adorning the theme to your own thoughts and devising. But I will sit and hearken and be glad that through you I have made much beauty to come to Song."

Then the harpists, and the lutanists, the flautists and pipers, the organs and the countless choirs of the Ainur began to fashion the theme of Iluvatar into great music; and a sound arose of mighty melodies changing and interchanging, mingling and dissolving amid the thunder of harmonies greater than the roar of the great seas, till the places of the dwelling of Iluvatar and the regions of the Ainur were filled to overflowing with music, and the echo of music, and the echo of the echoes of music which flowed even into the dark and empty spaces far off. Never was there before, nor has there been since, such a music of immeasurable vastness of splendour; though it is said that a mightier far shall be woven before the seat of Iluvatar by the choirs of both Ainur and the sons of Men after the Great End. Then shall Iluvatar's mightiest themes be played aright; for then Ainur and Men will know his mind and heart as well as may be, and all his intent.

But now Iluvatar sat and hearkened, and for a great while it seemed very good to him, for the flaws in that music were few, and it seemed to him the Ainur had learnt much and well. But as the great theme progressed it came into the heart of Melko to interweave matters of his own vain imagining that were not fitting to that great theme of Iluvatar. Now Melko had among the Ainur been given some of the greatest gifts of power and wisdom and knowledge by Iluvatar; and he fared often alone into the dark places and the voids seeking the Secret Fire that giveth Life and Reality (for he had a very hot desire to bring things into being of his own); yet he found it not, for it dwelleth with Iluvatar, and that he knew not till afterward.'

There had he nonetheless fallen to thinking deep cunning thoughts of his own, all of which he showed not even to Iluvatar. Some of these devisings and imaginings he now wove into his music, and straightway harshness and discordancy rose about him, and many of those that played nigh him grew despondent and their music feeble, and their thoughts unfinished and unclear, while many others fell to attuning their music to his rather than to the great theme wherein they began.

In this way the mischief of Melko spread darkening the music, for those thoughts of his came from the outer blackness whither Iluvatar had not yet turned the light of his face; and because his secret thoughts had no kinship with the beauty of Iluvatar's design its harmonies were broken and destroyed. Yet sat Iluvatar and hearkened till the music reached a depth of gloom and ugliness unimaginable; then did he smile sadly and raised his left hand, and immediately, though none clearly knew how, a new theme began among the clash, like and yet unlike the first, and it gathered power and sweetness. But the discord and noise that Melko had aroused started into uproar against it, and there was a war of sounds, and a clangour arose in which little could be distinguished.

Then Iluvatar raised his right hand, and he no longer smiled but wept; and behold a third theme, and it was in no way like the others, grew amid the turmoil, till at the last it seemed there were two musics progressing at one time about the feet of Iluvatar, and these were utterly at variance. One was very great and deep and beautiful, but it was mingled with an unquenchable sorrow, while the other was now grown to unity and a system of its own, but was loud and vain and arrogant, braying triumphantly against the other as it thought to drown it, yet ever, as it essayed to clash most fearsomely, finding itself but in some manner supplementing or harmonising with its rival.

At the midmost of this echoing struggle, whereat the halls of Iluvatar shook and a tremor ran through the dark places, Iluvatar raised up both his hands, and in one unfathomed chord, deeper then the firmament, more glorious than the sun, and piercing as the light of Iluvatar's glance, that music crashed and ceased.

Then said Iluvatar: "Mighty are the Ainur, and glorious, and among them is Melko the most powerful in knowledge; but that he may know, and all the Ainur, that I am Iluvatar, those things that ye have sung and played, lo! I have caused to be — not in the musics that ye make in the heavenly regions, as a joy to me and a play unto yourselves, alone, but rather to have shape and reality even as have ye Ainur, whom I have made to share in the reality of Iluvatar myself. Maybe I shall love these things that come of my song even as I love the Ainur who are of my thought, and maybe more. Thou Melko shalt see that no theme can be played save it come in the end of Iluvatar's self, nor can any alter the music in Iluvatar's despite. He that attempts this finds himself in the end but aiding me in devising a thing of still greater grandeur and more complex wonder: — for lo! through Melko have terror as fire, and sorrow like dark waters, wrath like thunder, and evil as far from my light as the depths of the uttermost of the dark places, come into the design that I laid before you. Through him has pain and misery been made in the clash of overwhelming musics; and with confusion of sound have cruelty, and ravening, and darkness, loathly mire and all putrescence of thought or thing, foul mists and violent flame, cold without mercy, been born, and death without hope. Yet is this through him and not by him; and he shall see, and ye all likewise, and even shall those beings, who must now dwell among his evil and endure through Melko misery and sorrow, terror and wickedness, declare in the end that it reboundeth only to my great glory, and doth but make the theme more worth the hearing, Life more worth the living, and the World so much the more wonderful and marvellous, that of all the deeds of Iluvatar it shall be called his mightiest and his loveliest."

Then the Ainur feared and comprehended not all that was said, and Melko was filled with shame and the anger of shame; but Iluvatar seeing their amaze arose in glory and went forth from his dwellings, past those fair regions he had fashioned for the Ainur, out into the dark places; and he bade the Ainur follow him.

Now when they reached the midmost void they beheld a sight of surpassing beauty and wonder where before had been emptiness; but Iluvatar said: "Behold your choiring and your music! Even as ye played so of my will your music took shape, and lo! even now the world unfolds and its history begins as did my theme in your hands. Each one herein will find contained within the design that is mine the adornments and embellishments that he himself devised; nay, even Melko will discover those things there which he thought to contrive of his own heart, out of harmony with my mind, and he will find them but a part of the whole and tributary to its glory. One thing only have I added, the fire that giveth Life and Reality" — and behold, the Secret Fire burnt at the heart of the world.

Then the Ainur marvelled to see how the world was globed amid the void and yet separated from it; and they rejoiced to see light, and found it was both white and golden, and they laughed for the pleasure of colours, and for the great roaring of the ocean they were filled with longing. Their hearts were glad because of air and the winds, and the matters whereof the Earth was made — iron and stone and silver and gold and many substances: but of all these water was held the fairest and most goodly and most greatly praised. Indeed there liveth still in water a deeper echo of the Music of the Ainur than in any substance else that is in the world, and at this latest day many of the Sons of Men will hearken unsatedly to the voice of the Sea and long for they know not what. Know then that water was for the most part the dream and invention of Ulmo, an Ainu whom Iluvatar had instructed deeper than all others in the depths of music; while the air and winds and the ethers of the firmament had Manwe Sulimo devised, greatest and most noble of the Ainur. The earth and most of its goodly substances did Aule contrive, whom Iluvatar had taught many things of wisdom scarce less than Melko, yet was there much therein that was nought of his.'

Now Iluvatar spake to Ulmo and said: "Seest thou not how Melko hath bethought him of biting colds without moderation, yet hath not destroyed the beauty of thy crystal waters nor of all thy limpid pools. Even where he has thought to conquer utterly, behold snow has been made, and frost has wrought his exquisite works; ice has reared his castles in grandeur."

Again said Iluvatar: "Melko hath devised undue heats, and fires without restraint, and yet hath not dried up thy desire nor utterly quelled the music of thy seas. Rather behold now the height and glory of the clouds and the magic that dwells in mist and vapours; listen to the whisper of rains upon the earth "

Then said Ulmo: "Yea truly is water fairer now than was my best devising before. Snow is of a loveliness beyond my most secret thoughts, and if there is little music therein, yet rain is beautiful indeed and hath a music that filleth my heart, so glad am I that my ears have found it, though its sadness is among the saddest of all things. Lo! I will go seek Sulimo of the air and winds, that he and I play melodies for ever and ever to thy glory and rejoicing."

Now Ulmo and Manwe have been great friends and allies in almost all matters since then. Now even as Iluvatar spake to Ulmo, the Ainur beheld how the world unfolded, and that history which Iluvatar had propounded to them as a great music was already being carried out. It is of their gathered memories of the speech of Iluvatar and the knowledge, incomplete it may be, that each has of their music, that the Ainur know so much of the future that few things are unforeseen by them — yet are there some that be hidden even from these. So the Ainur gazed; until long before the coming of Men — nay, who does not know that it was countless ages before even the Eldar arose and sang their first song and made the first of all the gems, and were seen by both Iluvatar and the Ainur to be of exceeding loveliness — there grew a contention among them, so enamoured did they become of the glory of the world as they gazed upon it, and so enthralled by the history enacted therein to which the beauty of the world was but the background and the scene.

Now this was the end, that some abode still with Iluvatar beyond the world — and these were mostly those who had been engrossed in their playing with thoughts of Iluvatar's plan and design, and cared only to set it forth without aught of their own devising to adorn it; but some others, and among them many of the most beautiful and wisest of the Ainur, craved leave of Iluvatar to dwell within the world. For said they: "We would have the guarding of those fair things of our dreams, which of thy might have now attained to reality and surpassing beauty; and we would instruct both Eldar and Men in their wonder and uses whenso the times come that those appear upon Earth by your intent, first the Eldar and at length the fathers of the fathers of Men." And Melko feigned that he desired to control the violence of the heats and turmoils he had set in the Earth, but of a truth purposed deep in his heart to usurp the power of the other Ainur and make war upon Eldar and Men, for he was wroth at those great gifts which Iluvatar had purposed to give to these races. Now Eldar and Men were of Iluvatar's devising only, nor, for they comprehended not fully when Iluvatar first propounded their being, did any of the Ainur dare in their music to add anything to their fashion; and these races are for that reason named rightly the Children of Iluvatar. This maybe is the cause wherefore many others of the Ainur, beside Melko, have ever been for meddling with both Elves and Men, be it of good or evil intent; yet seeing that Iluvatar made the Eldar most like in nature if not in power and stature to the Ainur, while to Men he gave strange gifts, their dealings have been chiefly with the Elves.'

Knowing all their hearts, still did Iluvatar grant the desire of the Ainur, nor is it said he was grieved thereat. So entered these great ones into,the world, and these are they whom we now call the Valar (or the Vali, it matters not). They dwelt in Valinor, or in the firmament; and some on earth or in the deeps of the Sea. There Melko ruled both fires and the cruellest frost, both the uttermost colds and the deepest furnaces beneath the hills of flame; and whatso is violent or excessive, sudden or cruel, in the world is laid to his charge, and for the most part with justice. But Ulmo dwells in the outer ocean and controls the flowing of all waters and the courses of rivers, the replenishment of springs and the distilling of rains and dews throughout the world. At the bottom of the sea he bethinks him of music deep and strange yet full ever of a sorrow: and therein he has aid from Manwe Sulimo. The Solosimpi, what time the Elves came and dwelt in Kôr, learnt much of him, whence cometh the wistful allurement of their piping and their love to dwell ever by the shore. Salmar there was with him, and Osse and Onen to whom he gave the control of the waves and lesser seas, and many another.

But Aule dwelt in Valinor and fashioned many things; tools and instruments he devised and was busied as much in the making of webs as in the beating of metals; tillage too and husbandry was his delight as much as tongues and alphabets, or broideries and painting. Of him did the Noldoli, who were the sages of the Eldar and thirsted ever after new lore and fresh knowledge, learn uncounted wealth of crafts, and magics and sciences unfathomed. From his teaching, where to the Eldar brought ever their own great beauty of mind and heart and imagining, did they attain to the invention and making of gems; and these were not in the world before the Eldar, and the finest of all gems were Silmarilli, and they are lost.

Yet was the greatest and chief of those four great ones Manwe Sulimo; and he dwelt in Valinor and sate in a glorious abode upon a throne of wonder on the topmost pinnacle of Taniquetil that towers up upon the world's edge. Hawks flew ever to and fro about that abode, whose eyes could see to the deeps of the sea or penetrate the most hidden caverns and profoundest darkness of the world. These brought him news from everywhere of everything, and little escaped him — yet did some matters lie hid even from the Lord of the Gods. With him was Varda the Beautiful, and she became his spouse and is Queen of the Stars, and their children were Fionwe, Urion and Erinti most lovely. About them dwell a great host of fair spirits, and their happiness is great; and men love Manwe even more than mighty Ulmo, for he hath never of intent done ill to them nor is he so fain of honour or so jealous of his power as that ancient one of Vai. The Teleri whom Inwe ruled were especially beloved of him, and got of him poesy and song; for if Ulmo hath a power of musics and of voices of instruments, Manwe hath a splendour of poesy and song beyond compare.

Lo, Manwe Sulimo clad in sapphires, ruler of the airs and wind, is held lord of Gods and Elves and Men, and the greatest bulwark against the evil of Melko."'

Then said Rumil again:

'Lo! After the departure of these Ainur and their vassalage all was quiet for a great age while Iluvatar watched. Then on a sudden he said: "Behold I love the world, and it is a hall of play for Eldar and Men who are my beloved. But when the Eldar come they will be the fairest and the most lovely of all things by far; and deeper in the knowledge of beauty, and happier than Men. But to Men I will give a new gift, and a greater." Therefore he devised that Men should have a free virtue whereby within the limits of the powers and substances and chances of the world they might fashion and design their life beyond even the original Music of the Ainur that is as fate to all things else. This he did that of their operations everything should in shape and deed be completed, and the world fulfilled unto the last and smallest. Lo! Even we Eldar have found to our sorrow that Men have a strange power for good or ill and for turning things despite Gods and Fairies to their mood in the world; so that we say: "Fate may not conquer the Children of Men, but yet are they strangely blind, whereas their joy should be great."

Now Iluvatar knew that Men set amid the turmoils of the Ainur would not be ever of a mind to use that gift in harmony with his intent, but thereto he said: "These too in their time shall find that all they have done, even the ugliest of deeds or works, rebounds at the end only to my glory, and is tributary to the beauty of my world." Yet the Ainur say that the thought of Men is at times a grief even to Iluvatar; wherefore if the giving of that gift of freedom was their envy and amazement, the patience of Iluvatar at its misuse is a matter of the greatest marvelling to both Gods and Fairies. It is however of one with this gift of power that the Children of Men dwell only a short time in the world alive, yet do not perish utterly for ever, whereas the Eldar dwell till the Great End unless they be slain or waste in grief (for to both of these deaths are they subject), nor doth old subdue their strength, except it may be in ten thousand centuries; and dying they are reborn in their children, so that their number minishes not, nor grows. Yet while the Sons of Men will after the passing of things of a certainty join in the Second Music of the Ainur, what Iluvatar has devised for the Eldar beyond the world's end he has not revealed even to the Valar, and Melko has not discovered it.'