|Tolkien's legendarium character|
|Aliases||Melkor/Belegur (the Sindarian equivalent, never used) / Arun (in the old tales of the Numenoreans) / Melko,
Moringotto / Morgoth (Black Enemy),
Bauglir / Belegurth,
The Enemy/ The Marrer / The Corrupter / The Prime Dark Lord
The Children of Húrin,
Morgoth Bauglir ([ˈmorɡoθ ˈbau̯ɡlir]; originally Melkor [ˈmelkor]) is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth legendarium. He is the main antagonist of The Silmarillion, figures in The Children of Húrin, and is mentioned briefly in The Lord of the Rings.
Melkor was the most powerful of the Ainur, but turned to darkness and became Morgoth, the definitive antagonist of Arda from whom all evil in the world of Middle-earth ultimately stems. Sauron, one of the Maiar of Aulë, betrayed his kind and became Morgoth's principal lieutenant.
Morgoth was the principal agent of evil in The Silmarillion, and his influence lingered in the world even after he was cast from the world into the outer void. Morgoth's example provided later ages a cautionary tale against pride, wrath, envy, lust for power, and greed — and the destruction these visit upon oneself and others.
The name Morgoth is Sindarin (one of Tolkien's invented languages) and means "Black Foe of the World"; Bauglir is also Sindarin, meaning "Tyrant" or "Oppressor". "Morgoth Bauglir" is actually an epithet: his name in Ainulindalë (the creation myth of Middle-earth and first section of The Silmarillion) is Melkor, which means "He Who Arises In Might" in Quenya, another of Tolkien's languages. This too is an epithet since he, like all the Ainur, had another true name in Valarin (in the legendarium, the language of the Ainur before the beginning of Time), but this name was not recorded. The Sindarin equivalent of Melkor was Belegûr, but it was never used; instead a deliberately similar name Belegurth, meaning "Great Death", was employed. In earlier versions of Tolkien's legendarium the form of his name was Melko simply meaning 'Mighty One'
Melkor was not called "Morgoth" until he destroyed the Two Trees, murdered Finwë and stole the Silmarils in the First Age. The darker name was then bestowed by Fëanor, son of Finwë; and the Elves called him thereafter by that name alone. The name meant "Dark Enemy", even though it was Black Foe of the World that Feanor named him out loud.
Like Sauron, he had a host of other titles: Lord of the Dark, the Dark Power of the North and Great Enemy. The Edain called him the Dark King and the Dark Power; the Númenóreans corrupted by Sauron called him the Lord of All and the Giver of Freedom. He was called Master of Lies by Amlach.
Before the creation of Arda (The World), Melkor was the most powerful of the Ainur. Because of his unique station, he sought to create wills in the manner of his own Creator, so he alone would venture sometimes into the Void in search of the Flame Imperishable, the Secret Fire, which would grant him this ability. But he never found it, as it is with Eru only. He had sought to fill the Void with sentient beings and was dissatisfied with Eru's abandonment of it. Instead, in what he hoped would be an expression of his own originality and creativity, he contended with Eru (God) in the Music of the Ainur, introducing what he perceived to be themes of his own.
Unlike his fellow Ainu Aulë, Melkor was too proud to admit that his creations were simply discoveries wholly made possible by, and therefore “belonging” to, Eru. Instead, Melkor aspired to the level of Eru, the true Creator of all possibilities.
During the Great Music of the Ainur, Melkor attempted to alter the Music and introduced what he believed to be elements purely of his own design. As part of these efforts, he drew many weaker-willed Ainur to him, creating a counter to Eru’s main theme. Ironically, these attempts did not truly subvert the Music, but only elaborated Eru’s original intentions: the Music of Eru took on depth and beauty precisely because of the strife and sadness Melkor’s disharmonies (and their rectification) introduced.
Since the Great Music of the Ainur stood as template for all of history and all of material creation in the Middle-earth cycle (it was first sung before Time, and then the universe was made in its image), there was an aspect of everything in Middle-earth that came of Melkor’s malign influence; everything had been "corrupted". Tolkien elaborates on this in Morgoth's Ring, drawing an analogy between the One Ring, into which Sauron committed much of his power, and all of Arda – "Morgoth's Ring" – which contains and is corrupted by the residue of Melkor's power until the Remaking of the World.
After the Creation, many Ainur entered into Eä. The most powerful of them were called the Valar, or Powers of the World; the lesser, who acted as their followers and assistants, were the Maiar. They immediately set about the ordering of the universe and Arda within it, according to the themes of Eru as best they understood them. Melkor and his followers entered Eä as well, but he was frustrated that his colleagues would not recognize him as leader of the new realm, despite his having a greater share of knowledge and power than all the rest. In anger and shame, Melkor set about ruining and undoing whatever the others did.
Each of the Valar was attracted to a particular aspect of the world that became the focus of his or her powers. Melkor was drawn to terrible extremes and violence — bitter cold, scorching heat, earthquakes, rendings, breakings, utter darkness, burning light, etc. His power was so great that at first the Valar were unable to restrain him; he single-handedly contended with the collective might of all of the Valar. Arda never seemed to achieve a stable form until the Vala Tulkas entered Eä and tipped the balance.
Driven out by Tulkas, Melkor brooded in the darkness at the outer reaches of Arda until an opportune moment arrived when Tulkas was distracted. Melkor re-entered Arda and attacked and destroyed the Two Lamps, which at the time were the only sources of light. Arda was plunged into darkness, and the island of Almaren, the first home of the Valar on Earth, was destroyed in the violence of the lamps' fall.
After the fall of the Lamps, the Valar withdrew into the land of Aman in the far West. The country where they settled was called Valinor, which they heavily fortified. Melkor held dominion over Middle-earth from his fortress of Utumno in the North.
Melkor’s first reign ended after the Elves, the eldest of the Children of Ilúvatar, awoke at the shores of Cuiviénen, and the Valar resolved to rescue them from his malice. The Valar waged devastating war on Melkor, and destroyed Utumno. Melkor was defeated by the Vala Tulkas, bound with a specially forged chain, Angainor, and brought to Valinor, where he was imprisoned in the Halls of Mandos for three ages.
In the account published in The Silmarillion, Melkor had captured a number of Elves before the Valar attacked him, and he tortured and corrupted them, breeding the first Orcs. Other versions of the story (written both before and after the published text) describe Orcs as corruptions of Men, or alternatively as soulless beings animated solely by the will of their evil lord. This last version illustrates the idea of Morgoth dispersing himself into the world he marred.
Upon his release, Melkor was paroled to Valinor, though a few of the Valar distrusted him. He made a pretence of humility and virtue, but secretly plotted harm toward the Elves, whose awakening he blamed for his defeat. The Noldor, most skilled of the three kindreds of Elves that had come to Valinor, were most vulnerable to his plots, since he had much knowledge they eagerly sought, and while instructing them he also awoke unrest and discontent among them. When the Valar became aware of this they sent Tulkas to arrest him, but Melkor had already fled. With the aid of Ungoliant, a dark spirit in the form of a monstrous spider, he destroyed the Two Trees of Valinor, slew the King of the Noldor, Finwë, and stole the three Silmarils, jewels made by Finwë’s son Fëanor, which were filled with the light of the Trees. Fëanor thereupon named him Morgoth, "Black Foe of the World", and the Eldar knew him by this name alone afterwards.
Morgoth resumed his rule in the North of Middle-earth, this time in Angband, a lesser fortress than Utumno, but not so completely destroyed. He rebuilt it, and raised above it the volcanic triple peak of Thangorodrim. The Silmarils he set into a crown of iron, which he wore at all times. Fëanor and most of the Noldor pursued him, along the way slaying their kin the Teleri and incurring the Doom of Mandos. On arriving in Beleriand, the region of Middle-earth nearest Angband, the Noldor established kingdoms and made war on Morgoth. Soon afterwards, the Sun and the Moon arose for the first time, and Men awoke if they had not done so already. The major battles of the ensuing war included the Dagor-nuin-Giliath (Battle Under the Stars, fought before the first rising of the Moon), Dagor Aglareb (Glorious Battle), Dagor Bragollach (Battle of Sudden Flame) at which the long-standing Siege of Angband was broken, and the battle of Nírnaeth Arnoediad (Unnumbered Tears) when the armies of the Noldor and the Men allied with them were routed and the men of the East joined Morgoth. Over the next several decades, Morgoth destroyed the remaining Elven kingdoms, reducing their domain to an island in the Bay of Balar to which many refugees fled, and a small settlement at the Mouths of Sirion under the protection of Ulmo.
Before the Nírnaeth Arnoediad, the Man Beren and Elf Lúthien, the daughter of Thingol, entered Angband and recovered a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown after Luthien's singing sent him to sleep. It was inherited by their granddaughter Elwing, who joined those dwelling at the Mouths of Sirion. Her husband Eärendil, wearing the Silmaril on his brow, sailed across the sea to Valinor, where he pleaded with the Valar to liberate Middle-earth from Morgoth.
During the ensuing War of Wrath, Beleriand and much of the north of Middle-earth was destroyed and reshaped. In the end, Morgoth was utterly defeated, and his armies were almost entirely slaughtered. The dragons were almost all destroyed, and Thangorodrim was shattered when Eärendil slew the greatest of dragons, Ancalagon the Black, who crashed upon it as he fell. The few remaining dragons were scattered, and the handful of surviving Balrogs hid themselves deep within the earth. Morgoth fled into the deepest pit and begged for pardon, but his feet were cut from under him, his crown was made into a collar, and he was chained once again with Angainor. The Valar exiled him permanently from the world, thrusting him through the Door of Night into the void, excluded from Arda until the prophesied Dagor Dagorath, when he would meet his final destruction. His evil remained, however, as "Arda Marred," and his will influenced all living creatures.
Children of Húrin
This book is a more complete version of a story summarized in Quenta Silmarillion. Húrin and his younger brother Huor were leaders of the House of Hador, one of the three kindred of elf-friends. At Nírnaeth Arnoediad they covered the escape of Turgon to Gondolin by sacrificing their army and themselves. Huor was slain, but Húrin was brought before Morgoth alive. As revenge for his aid to Turgon and his defiance, Morgoth cursed Húrin and his children, binding Húrin to a seat upon Thangorodrim and forcing him to witness all that happened (using the long sight of Morgoth himself) to his children in the succeeding years. There is little additional information about Morgoth in this book, except in the encounter with Húrin, which is set out in more detail than in The Silmarillion and in a more connected narrative than in Unfinished Tales. It gives the first allusion to the corruption of Men by Morgoth soon after their awakening, and the assertion by Morgoth of his power over the entire Earth through "the shadow of my purpose".
The Cult of Melkor
After Morgoth's defeat, his lieutenant Sauron gradually rallied many of Morgoth's servants to his own cause, and during the Second Age established himself in the land of Mordor. Sauron lacked the raw power and malice of his master, but he was far more cunning, and seduced many to his allegiance with lies and false promises. In the Second Age, Sauron repeatedly used his fame among Men as Morgoth's erstwhile lieutenant to portray himself as Morgoth's representative and thus gain the allegiance of his former master's worshippers. Similarly, in Númenor following his capture, Sauron became very powerful by seducing Ar-Pharazôn to the worship of Melkor, establishing a Cult in which it was only natural that, as Melkor's foremost former disciple, he became high priest. This cult exploited the Númenórean fear of death by claiming that human sacrifice to Melkor would grant the Men of Númenor immortality. In actuality by turning away from Eru and the Valar they only dwindled more rapidly. Sauron used this religion among his means of encouraging Ar-Pharazôn's invasion of Valinor, which resulted in the destruction of Númenor by Eru. By the Third Age Sauron came more often to propound himself, rather than Morgoth, as the object of worship for his servants and subjects, but in his pride also portrayed himself as Morgoth returned when it was more convenient for him to do so.
Appearance and characteristics
The Ainu Melkor could initially take any shape, but his first recorded form was "...as a mountain that wades in the sea and has its head above the clouds and is clad in ice and crowned with smoke and fire; and the light of the eyes of Melkor was like a flame that withers with heat and pierces with a deadly cold." At the time he destroyed the Two Trees and stole the Silmarils, he took to himself the shape of a great "Dark Lord, tall and terrible". The diminution of his power in this time and his own desire for lordship destroyed his ability to freely change shape, and he became bound to this one terrible form. His hands were burned by the theft of the Silmarils, which never healed and he evermore carried the burden of the burning pain. In his fight with High King Fingolfin, he suffered several wounds; his foot was hewn by Fingolfin's Sword of Ice Crystal, Ringil. At the end of this battle, Thorondor, the great Eagle, swooped down and scarred Morgoth's face with his talons, a wound that also never healed. In battle he wore black armour and wielded Grond, the Hammer of the Underworld. The great battering ram of Mordor was named for this weapon. He also wielded a black spear, and in early texts a poison sword.
Melkor's powers were originally immense – greater than those of any other single Ainu. He shared a part of the powers of every other Vala, but unlike them used it for domination of the whole of Arda. To accomplish this Morgoth dispersed his being throughout Arda, tainting its very fabric; and only Aman was free of it. His person thus became ever more diminished and restricted.
Pity was beyond Morgoth’s understanding, as was courage. As he alone of the Valar bound himself to a physical (and therefore vulnerable) body, he alone of the Valar knew fear.
Because Morgoth was the most powerful being in Arda, many "flocked to his banner." Morgoth's chief servants were Maiar he corrupted or monsters he created: Sauron, later the Dark Lord of Mordor and his chief servant; the Balrogs, including Gothmog, the Lord of Balrogs and High-Captain of Angband; Glaurung, the Father of Dragons; Ancalagon "the Black", greatest of the Winged Dragons; Carcharoth, the mightiest wolf that ever lived; Draugluin, Sire of Werewolves; and Thuringwethil, Sauron's vampire messenger.
Ungoliant, a demon in spider form, helped Melkor destroy the Two Trees. This alliance was temporary, however; when Melkor refused to yield the Silmarils to Ungoliant, she attacked him. He had spread his power and malice too thin, and had weakened himself too much to fight back; he escaped only through the arrival of the Balrogs.
When the race of Men awoke, Morgoth (or his servant, depending on the text consulted) temporarily left Angband to live among them. Some men worshipped him, banning Ilúvatar from their hearts.
Morgoth was known to betray his own servants. After the Noldor were defeated, he confined all Men in his service to the lands of Hithlum, their only prize the pillage of that land, though they had fought to win richer lands in Beleriand. Since he could never fully dominate Men, he could never really trust them, and indeed feared them.
Character development and history
In the early versions of Tolkien's stories, Melkor/Morgoth was not seen as the most powerful Ainu. He is described as being equal in power to Manwë, chief of the Valar in Arda. But his power increased in later revisions of the story until he became the most powerful Ainu, and in a late essay more powerful than all of the Valar combined. He developed from a standout among equals into a being so powerful that the other created beings could not utterly defeat him.
Over time, Tolkien altered both the conception of this fallen Ainu and his name. The name given by Fëanor (Morgoth) was present from the first stories. He was for a long time also called Melko. Tolkien vacillated over the Sindarin equivalent of this, which appeared as Belcha, Melegor, and Moeleg. The meaning of the name also varied, related in different times to milka ("greedy") or velka ("flame"). Similarly the Old English translations devised by Tolkien differ in sense: Melko is rendered as Orgel ("Pride") and Morgoth as Sweart-ós ("Black God"). Morgoth is once given a particular sphere of interest: in the early Tale of Turambar Tinwelint (precursor of Thingol) names him "the Vala of Iron".
Much of the text published in The Silmarillion was drawn from earlier, more completely written, drafts of the mythology — and thus reflects the older conception of Morgoth's power; there is less discussion of his marring all of Arda by diluting himself throughout it. In other sections, such as the 1950s draft used for Ainulindalë, the implication of his pervasive power remains clear. While not included in the published Silmarillion, other versions of the mythology hold that Melkor will escape the guardianship of Eärendil and return at the end of time. In the final battle, Melkor will be slain by Túrin Turambar with his famous black sword.
In late writings a distinction is made between the Ainu Melkor, the most powerful of Eru’s created beings, and Morgoth, the diminished being that styled itself Dark Lord of Arda. This distinction is not limited to the change in name ("Arises in Might" to "Dark Enemy").
As described in Ainulindalë, Melkor’s discord marred the Music of the Ainur in Heaven. Melkor’s thematic variations in that Music amounted to his own self-elaboration. (Each Ainu arose from a divine theme, existing beforehand only in the mind of Eru.) Eä, or the World that Is, is shaped after the Music. Thus, the evil that Melkor weaves into the Music was mirrored in Eä by the evil he wove into the fabric of reality. As a result, the world Arda was "Marred": the conceptions of the Valar never came about, and Melkor's very essence was present in all creation.
Melkor's inability to perform true creation is tied to the idea that something of his actual being must pass into the things he "created", in order to give them an effective substance and reality. Melkor could not create anything, as he did not possess the Flame Imperishable; thus he could only create a mockery of those things in Arda. From his Trolls to the Sun (which was made from a flower from a Tree poisoned by Ungoliant, and was thus itself imperfect), Melkor's power and essence was poured into Arda. Melkor's individual self was diminished as a consequence. He was reduced to Morgoth, the “Dark Enemy” (poetically elaborated as "The Black Foe of the World").
Morgoth, once the most powerful being in Eä, spent his will on his vast armies and followers, so that in the War of Wrath, as his armies were swept away before the host of Aman, he was captured by Eönwë and cast off his throne. Morgoth's spirit was cast out beyond the Walls of Night, yet his presence remains as the pervasive corruption of the world, "even until the End of Days."
Melkor has been interpreted as Satan. Like Lucifer he rebels against his creator. However, unlike his Christian counterpart, he does not enslave the souls of the dead. Instead he creates an "iron hell" for his elven slave labourers. His greed for ever more power and his fondness for technology make him a symbol for the despotism of modern machinery.
On the other hand it has been observed that Melkor's rebellion against God is creative in itself as Melkor is impatient for the void of the world to be filled with things. But his creativity becomes destructive because it had always been tainted with pride. "His desire to create other beings for his glory" turns into a desire for servants and slaves to follow his own will. This "temptation of creativity" is later echoed in Tolkien's work by Melkor's opponent Fëanor who loves the Silmarils he created so much that he leads his entire people to a hopeless war when Melkor steals the Silmarils.
Notes and references
- Roots MOR- 'black', KOTH- 'strife, enmity' and MBAW- 'compel, oppress'; see Lost Tales, "Etymologies", pp. 365, 372, and 373. Fëanor actually named him in Quenya (another of Tolkien's languages), Moriñgotho, and later this was translated into Sindarin as Morgoth.
- See The Silmarillion, Index, p. 340, and Lost Tales "Etymologies", Roots BEL(EK)- 'strong' and ORO- 'rise', pp. 352 and 379. The form of the name in ancient Quenya was Mbelekōro; also a variant form of Melkor is recorded as Melko, simply meaning 'Mighty (One)'.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Four. Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth: Glossary", p. 350
- The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 10: Morgoth's Ring, The Later Quenta Silmarillion, The Second Phase, VIII: "Of the Rape of the Silmarils"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Coming of Men into the West".
- Tolkien 1993, p. 398–401
- Tolkien 1977, p. 50
- Tolkien 1993, pp. 72-73
- Tolkien 1993, pp. 416-21
- Tolkien 1977, p. 66
- Tolkien 1977, p. 79
- Tolkien 1993, p. 398
- Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #183, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
- Tolkien 1977, p. 22
- Tolkien 1977, Of the Fifth Battle, p. 195
- Tolkien 1987, Quenta Silmarillion, p. 206
- Tolkien 1987, Ainulindalë, pp. 157, 164
- Tolkien 1993, pp. 390-393
- Tolkien 1987, The Etymologies, p. 373, root MIL-IK-
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1984), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Book of Lost Tales 1, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, p. 260, ISBN 0-395-35439-0
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1986), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Shaping of Middle-earth, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, pp. 281-283, ISBN 0-395-42501-8
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1984), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Book of Lost Tales 2, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Turambar and the Foalókë, p. 73, ISBN 0-395-36614-3
- Tolkien 1977, Ainulindalë, pp. 15-22
- Tolkien 1993, Myths Transformed
- Carter, Lin (2011). Tolkien: A Look Behind The Lord Of The Rings. Hachette UK. ISBN 978-0-575-11666-5.
- Garth, John (2014) . Tolkien und der Erste Weltkrieg: Das Tor zu Mittelerde [Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth] (in German). Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta Verlag. pp. 316–7. ISBN 978-3-608-96059-4.
- Rosebury, Brian (2008). "Tolkien in the History of Ideas". In Bloom, Harold. J.R.R. Tolkien. Infobase Publishing. p. 115. ISBN 978-1-60413-146-8.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1977), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Silmarillion, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-25730-1
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1987), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Lost Road and Other Writings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-45519-7
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1993), Christopher Tolkien, ed., Morgoth's Ring, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-68092-1
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