The Book of Lost Tales Part One, Chapter 2 Part B
The Music of the Ainur — JRR Tolkien
Rumil begins by saying Eriol is about to hear something that has never been heard among Men and even the Elves rarely speak of it.
“1 Behold, Ilúvatar 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.”
Rumil explains how Iluvatar sang the history of the world to the Ainur, revealing to them the timline of the events on “Arda” / Earth. The Ainur joined him in the music making and sang with him because they were blown away by how vast the timeline of the world was.
Iluvatar then makes it clear that what the Ainur have been shown is merely the outline and there are many blank spaces to be filled in nor has he revealed all to them.
He then bids them to sing “according to your own thoughts and designs” thereby instilling the idea of Free Will upon the universe.
The music they make is incredible and will only be rivaled by the music after the Great End where Men and Ainur will all come together to sing to Iluvatar. (Why are the Elves not included in this I wonder).
But trouble began to brew as Iluvatar contemplated the good work (the flaws in the music were few) when he sensed the themes that Melko had interwoven of his own vain imaginings that did not fit with the theme of Iluvatar. Melko had been given the greatest gifts of power, wisdom and knowledge of the Ainur.
Melko was spending his time in the dark places and voids seeking the “Secret Fire” that gives life. For Melko desired that which he had not — the ability to bring forth life. It was a chief reason for his hatred of Elves and Men that they were given the ability to create life and he was not. But the fire resides with Iluvatar and he was unable to get it.
The next part describes how Melko fell to deep cunning thoughts and he wove it into the music, messing up the other Ainur, making their music feeble and unclear and others began to attune their music to him rather than to the themes of Iluvatar.
This paragraph is fascinatingly troubling:
“In this way the mischief of Melko spread darkening the music, for those thoughts of his came from the outer blackness whither Ilúvatar had not yet turned the light of his face;” Im not sure what to make of this.
Iluvatar sat watching this happen until the music reached a “depth of gloom and ugliness unimaginable”. Then suddenly Iluvatar smiled sadly and raised his LEFT hand and a new music began among the clash and unlike the first it gathered power and sweetness.
And Melko went to war with this music by starting an uproar against it.
“This time Iluvatar raised his RIGHT hand and he no longer smiled but Wept; and behold a third theme grew amid the turmoil. There were two musics progressing at once and there were very at odds with each other. One was very great and deep and beautiful but was mingled with sorrow while the other was grown to unity and system of its own but was loud and vain and arrogant etc.” (paraphrased)
Then Iluvatar raised his hands and clapped and in a huge chord the music crashed and stopped. And Iluvatar praises Melko saying how powerful he is but reminding everyone that he is in charge
Then he explains that although Melko has introduced suffering and pain into the world, it is still through the glory of Iluvatar. For now that there is pain and suffering it will make the good parts of the music of Iluvatar more vibrant and glorious.
The Ainur were unable to comprehend this idea and Iluvatar got up and began to lead the Ainur to the dark places. He showed them a place that used to be bare and dark but now was a sight of surpassing beauty and wonder. Iluvatar explains it was the work of their music.
The Ainur are marveling at everything and are especially taken by water, Iluvatar explains that the echo of the music lives on in the water and thats what drives men to the sea. He explains how each of these elements were brought about by different Ainur (Ulmo — the water, Manew — winds)
Iluvatar speaks with Ulmo and explains further this concept that bad can create good. He explains how water is beautiful but because of Melko there is cold and freezing which creates… Snow, which is more beautiful than anything Ulmo could have thought up. Also Rain, although it is sad has beauty and a music that fills the heart.
The Ainur loved it and some of them asked to be allowed to dwell in Arda and to help the Men and Elves they had seen in their dreams that fascinated them (they will quickly become in love with the Elves and not so in love with Men. The reason being the Elves were fashioned to kind of look like the Ainur and they therefore had more in common with them than with Men).
The Ainur who entered the world we call The Valar and they dwelt in Valinor in the Blessed Realm. The chapter details the different Valar and what they did on Earth.
Then Rumil tells the most important portion of all: The gift to Men that they are able to create a destiny outside what has been fortold in the Music of the Ainur. That they might “fashion and design their life beyond even the original music.”
This is the ultimate gift given to Men and what sets men aside from all other creatures on Earth.
Whoa. This is easily one of the more beautiful chapters of Tolkiens work. The theme of Tolkien in general is “Boring times dont make for Interesting stories” and that in order for their to be good there needs to be evil, there is no courage without fear etc.
This is my favorite chapter of Tolkien precisely for this reason. Melko is fucking everything up, he is creating evil themes and putting bad into a world that is good. Yet Iluvatar allows it as we see he lets it progress to the point where the doom is unbelievable etc.
We see this character trait carry on to the Valar. In the Silmarillion we see the Valar taking a very hands off approach to the meddlings of Melkor and Sauron and at a certain point withdraw entirely. This must be a trait they learned from Iluvatar, that the time to intervene is when things are at their last point, because if you intervene before that the positive of the experience wont be highlighted.
Which is the entire point of this portion. Tolkien gives an absolutely perfect example; rain and water is gorgeous but without the evil of Melko there wouldnt have been that bitter cold that turns rain into Snow — and snow is one of the more gorgeous, pure things on Earth.
The final point of this chapter is one of the more incredible ideas in Tolkiens mythology. That men have the ultimate distinction of not being bound by the foretelling of the world. Basically the big issue everyone says about Free Will is that if you know whats going to happen is it Free Will. Here we are seeing Tolkien give an idea of how to reconcile that. Yes there is Free Will because its the ultimate gift of God to Man, that we are not bound by the foretelling and God is giving us license to create a future even he cant see.
Sentence of the Chapter: Iluvatar explaining why Melko deviation in the music is still to the glory of Iluvatar.
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 redoundeth 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 Ilúvatar it shall be called”
Rumil tells of the splitting of the two main language into two factions: Quenya which was spoken by the high elves of Valinor who lived with the Valar in the blessed realm.
In the Silmarillion, the Valinor Elves make their way back to Middle Earth and because the Grey Elves who had never left Middle Earth had such trouble learning the Valinor version, the Valinor Elves just adopted the Grey Elves version of the language.
In Rumils version here in the Lost Tales he claims the Valinor Elves and the Grey Elves combined the two languages.
Regarding the language of the Valar: