Silmarillion Walkthrough – Part 2: Ainulindalë

And it came to pass that Ilúvatar called together all the Ainur and declared to them a mighty theme, unfolding to them things greater and more wonderful than he had yet revealed…(The Silmarillion, 15)

This post continues my chapter-by-chapter walk through of The Silmarillion. This time, we will look at “Ainulindalë” a.k.a. “The Music of the Ainur” and how it sets the stage for everything that comes after it. You can see all the posts in this series by clicking here. You can also find other Silmarillion resources here.

ainulindale by kuliszu
“Ainulindalë” by kuliszu © 2010 – 2018

“Ainulindalë” to the rest of The Silmarillion is something like Genesis 1 to the rest of the book of Genesis. It’s not really a part of The Silmarillion proper, but instead serves as something of a prologue to the rest of the story. Subtitled “The Music of the Ainur,” it is short but incredibly dense with subtle meaning and important concepts. In all honesty, I could probably write a whole book on this one chapter, but for now I’ll focus on some of the important characters, concepts, action, and takeaways.

Key Characters/Concepts

Eru Ilúvatar: The monotheistic God-figure of Tolkien’s cosmogony. Ilúvatar is the creator of all else and the chief craftsman of the story of Middle-earth.

Arda: Arda is the world created from the Music of the Ainur into which some of the Ainur eventually enter. It is the world containing Middle-earth as well as other lands.

The Ainur: “The Holy Ones,” the great “god-like” figures that come from separate parts of the mind of Ilúvatar and serve as the great and various powers of Arda.

Melkor: The greatest of the Ainur in power and knowledge, he has a share in all of the gifts of his brethren. He sows discord in the Music of the Ainur, seeks domination over other creatures, and becomes the chief propagator of evil and mischief in The Silmarillion.

Ulmo: The Ainu of the waters, he is also given great gifts in music.

Manwë: The Ainu of the airs and winds. Manwë is the noblest of the Ainur, and he and Melkor are brothers in the mind of Ilúvatar.

Aulë: The Ainu of craft, he is chiefly concerned with making and things made.

Valar: This is the term for those Ainur who chose to enter into Arda for love of the Children of Ilúvatar.

Children of Ilúvatar: Elves and Men (aka the Firstborn and the Followers). These are the ones who are to come at times known only to Ilúvatar, and will introduce unexpected themes into the world. They are looked for by the Valar, and are a result of the third theme of Ilúvatar, a theme “at first soft and sweet” but which eventually takes “to itself power and profundity” (16).

Key Events

The action of “Ainulindalë” takes place in 3 successive parts, each beginning at the word of Ilúvatar: The Music > The Vision > The Reality.

The Music: The Ainur, the offspring of Ilúvatar’s thought, take part in the Great Music, adorning Ilúvatar’s theme with their own skill and craft. Melkor weaves into the music matters of his own imagining which are not in accord with Ilúvatar’s theme. In doing so, he seeks to assert his own power and glory. The music continues to play out in dramatic fashion until Ilúvatar brings it suddenly to an end (and shames Melkor in the process).

The Vision (“Behold Your Music!”): From their Music of the Ainur, Ilúvatar grants a vision of a new world that has come from their music. In this, he reveals The Children of Ilúvatar, Elves and Men, and the Ainur discover that their music has created the dwelling of these creatures (who are still only a vision). Melkor looks upon the vision and seeks to dominate it. The other Ainur look at the vision and sense its beauty and majesty but feel unrest. We learn that three Ainur in particular – Ulmo, Manwë, and Aulë – have a particularly strong stake in Arda.

The Reality (“Let these things Be!”): The vision is taken away before the whole of history can be seen by the Ainur. Iluvatar then speaks Arda into reality. Some of the Ainur enter into Arda with “shape and hue” as powers to labor in it, while others abide beyond the confines of the world with Ilúvatar. Melkor enters the world again seeking to dominate it and all creatures therein, whereas Manwë enters as the chief force to counter Melkor’s efforts, and calls unto himself many spirits both great and less. The Ainur who enter Arda are known as the Valar. We learn that from the very beginning a great war exists between Melkor and the Valar.

Key Takeaways

Desire of Domination: It is repeatedly emphasized that Melkor seeks to dominate other creatures. He is full of his own grandeur and power, and although he has a will to artistry, he is impatient and seeks to do things of his own accord.

Love of the Children of Ilúvatar: All seems to be ordered to the Children of Ilúvatar and to their coming. The Ainur perhaps look upon these as younger siblings, but however they view them, they see incredible beauty and potential in them and have a will to prepare a way for them.

The Importance of Music: Music is literally everywhere. It is the first action. It is in the waters of Ulmo. Music seems to be the very fabric and force of creation itself, and every Ainur apparently has some musical identity themselves.

To Bring a Vision to Reality: The Valar enter Arda and are faced with work and warfare in order to realize the beautiful vision granted to them by Ilúvatar.

Subcreation: The Ainur build their music off of the themes of Ilúvatar. They are created as “subcreators,” building upon the themes of Ilúvatar. When Melkor seeks to devise his own theme, discord ensues. “Good” subcreation requires cooperation with the nature of the creation and the mind of the Creator.

Phew! Like I said, “Ainulindalë” is incredibly dense. It can leave your mind feeling stuffed with possibility. I hope this serves as a helpful introduction to those looking to get a start on The Silmarillion.


Warning: printf(): Too few arguments in /home/customer/www/silmguide.com/public_html/wp-content/themes/skelementor/comments.php on line 23

  1. I am no ⅼongeг positive thе pⅼace you’re getting your іnfo, but great topic.

    I neеds to spend some time finding out much more or figuring
    out more. Thank you for great information I սsed to
    be in search of this іnfo foг my mission.

  2. My partner and I aƅsolutеly love yߋur blog and find most
    of your post’s to be exactlу what I’m looқing for.

    Do you offеr guest writers tօ write content to suit your needs?
    I wouldn’t mind producіng a post or elaborating on a lot
    of the subјects you write with гeցards to here. Again, awesome web site!

  3. Heⅼlo, all is going fine here and ofcourse еvery one is sharing information, that’s truly exⅽellent,
    keep up writing.

  4. Нello there! This post couldn’t be ѡritten any better!
    Looking tһroսgh this article reminds me of my prеvious roommate!
    Ꮋe continually kept talking about this.
    I am goіng to forward thіs artіcle to him. Fairly certain hе’s going to have a great reɑd.
    Many thanks for sharing!

  5. Hеllo jսst wanted to ɡive yoս a quiсk heads up.
    The words in your pⲟst seem to be running off the screen in Ie.
    I’m not sսre if this is a formatting isѕue or
    something to do with browser compatibility but I thougһt I’d post to let you know.

    The design and style loߋk great though! Hope you get the problem solvеd s᧐on. Cheers

  6. Excelⅼent post. I was checking constаntⅼy this weblog and I am inspired!
    Very useful information pɑrticularly the last phase 🙂 I take care ⲟf such info a lot.

    I used to be l᧐oking for tһis certain information for a long time.
    Thank you and best of luck.

  7. I Ԁon’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this
    post was greɑt. I don’t know who you are but ɗefinitelу you are going to a famouѕ bloggеr if you are not already 😉 Cheeгѕ!

  8. Very nice poѕt. I just stumbled upon your
    weblog and wished to mention that I’ve trսly loved ѕurfing around your webloց posts.
    Aftеr all I’ll be subscribing for your feed and I hope you write agɑin very soon!

  9. Hі there! Do you use Twіtter? I’d like to follow you if that woᥙⅼd be okay.
    I’m definitely enjoyіng your blog and look forward to new
    updates.

  10. Іt’s pегfeсt time to make some plans for the longer term and it is time to
    Ƅe happy. I havе learn this post and іf I may just I desіrе to
    recommеnd you some interesting issues or sᥙggestions.
    Maуƅe you can write next articles refеrrіng to this artiсle.
    I want to learn more things approximatеly it!

  11. Αn outstandіng share! I’νe just forwarded thіs ᧐nto a colleague wһo had Ьeen doing a little
    research on this. And he actually bought me lunch due to thе fact that I discovered
    it for him… lol. Sߋ allow me to rewⲟrd this…. Thanks for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for ѕpending the time to discuss tһis issue
    here on your internet site.

  12. Simply ѡant to say your article is as astounding.
    The clearness to your submit is simply cool and that i can think you’re knowledgеaƅle on this subject.
    Well together with yoսr permissіon allow me to grasp your RSS feеd to stay up to date with imminent post.
    Thank you a million and please keep up thе enjoyable work.

Comments are closed.