Morgoth warred against the Valar in the early years of Arda including destroying the Two Lamps which lit the world, and marring the lands in which the Valar had set to prepare for the coming of the Elves. Then Tulkas descended into Arda and wrestled him a couple times and got him imprisoned in the Halls of Mandos for Ages.

Why wouldn’t Morgoth have easily been able to defeat Tulkas if he was indeed the most powerful of the Valar and all Ainur, second in power to Eru?

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    With wrassling.
    – Wad Cheber
    May 2, 2016 at 2:23
  • 1
    On any given Sunday....
    – Blackwood
    Jul 6, 2016 at 17:09
  • 4
    The President of the US is more powerful than Hulk Hogan, but the president would get body slammed to a pulp if Hulkamania ran wild on him/her. WHATCHA GONNA DO WHEN TULKAMANIA RUNS WILD ON YOU?!?!?!
    – Wad Cheber
    Oct 5, 2016 at 22:57
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    Wrassling was his thing. Morgoth was good at everything, but not the best at everything. Oct 7, 2016 at 18:11
  • Morgoth: the most powerful of the Ainur. But 15 years later, you still can't cook a chicken on him. Oct 12, 2023 at 11:39

4 Answers 4


He was not alone

It is told among the wise that the First War began before Arda was full-shaped, and ere yet there was any thing that grew or walked upon earth; and for long Melkor had the upper hand. But in the midst of the war a spirit of great strength and hardihood came to the aid of the Valar, hearing in the far heaven that there was battle in the Little Kingdom; and Arda was filled with the sound of his laughter. So came Tulkas the Strong, whose anger passes like a mighty wind, scattering cloud and darkness before it; and Melkor fled before his wrath and his laughter, and forsook Arda, and there was peace for a long age. And Tulkas remained and became one of the Valar of the Kingdom of Arda; but Melkor brooded in the outer darkness, and his hate was given to Tulkas for ever after.

The Silmarillion, p. 12

There was war in Arda before Tulkas arrived, between the Valar that were already there and Melkor. Tulkas merely tipped the balance.

Tulkas probably could not defeat Melkor single-handed, but there were thirteen other Valar to help him:

The Great among these spirits the Elves name the Valar, the Powers of Arda, and Men have often called them gods. The Lords of the Valar are seven; and the Valier, the Queens of the Valar, are seven also.

The Silmarillion, p. 7

So Tulkas was not without assistance. It is indeed a testament to Melkor's power that he was the equal of thirteen of the Valar together.

It is worth noting that (though this does not apply here) in later ages Morgoth dissipated much of his power into Arda itself and into his servants, seeking to corrupt it beyond repair. He was then weakened to the point that a single Vala, Maia, or even elf could contend with him. The power of the other Valar seems to have decreased with time as well, perhaps partly for the same reason (another being that exercising their powers became more difficult as the world grew more settled).

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    To be fair, the Silmarillion often mentions that Morgoth was scared poopless of Tulkas, and the clear implication is that Morgoth was more powerful in different ways, but Tulkas could pwn him in a fight.
    – Wad Cheber
    May 2, 2016 at 2:25
  • @WadCheber - I agree that he was scared. Not sure whether Tulkas could beat him in a fight, though.
    – Adamant
    May 2, 2016 at 2:26
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    Tulkas was basically the god of fighting. Fingolfin was just some elf, and he held his own against Morgoth for a while in a one-on-one fight. Granted, Morgoth eventually killed him, but not before Fingolfin permanently crippled Morgoth. If a mere elf can do that, the god of fighting would crush Morgoth.
    – Wad Cheber
    May 2, 2016 at 2:38
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    @WadCheber - I understand your point, but don't forget that Morgoth was severely weakened by that point (as I mentioned in my answer).
    – Adamant
    May 2, 2016 at 2:39
  • Fun fact: "Tulkas" comes from a Noldorin phrase meaning "hold my beer".
    – EvilSnack
    Feb 2, 2019 at 5:18


I would argue that while Melkor is indeed more powerful than Tulkas, we are speaking of both (overall) power vs. individual strength and focus. Melkor could contest all other Valar because his only purpose was defeating them in order to become the king of Arda (while the Valar had trouble fulfilling the ideas given to them by Eru) and because of the many servants that helped him in this only purpose.

Tulkas could defeat Melkor in direct combat because his only purpose was fighting (individual strength) and because Melkor is a little wimp without his servants (despite his power/aura/holiness and in relation to Tulkas and probably Oromë who is "even more dreadful in his anger" only, I might add).

There is the factor of Melkor losing power as well, but there is clear evidence that he is nevertheless more powerful than any other being in Ea (i.e. our universe, the place outside the timeless halls) when he is wrestled down (see at the end of this answer). The point made by Adamant and main argument of Ossiriand is therefore wrong.


Regarding power vs. strength

First, Tulkas indeed wrestled Melkor alone and defeated him. This also was before Melkor lost his power over time:

But at the last the gates of Utumno were broken and the halls unroofed, and Melkor took refuge in the uttermost pit. Then Tulkas stood forth as champion of the Valar and wrestled with him, and cast him upon his face; and he was bound with the chain Angainor that Aulë had wrought, and led captive; and the world had peace for a long age. (Silmarillion, Chapter 3, emphasis mine)

Second and most important, there is a clear distinction between power and strength:

The mightiest of those Ainur who came into the World was in his beginning Melkor (Silmarillion, Valaquenta, Of the Valar, emphasis mine)

and further on:

Greatest in strength and deeds of prowess is Tulkas (Silmarillion, Valaquenta, Of the Valar, emphasis mine)

Another point supporting this distinction between power and strength is that Melkor obviously was able to contest all of the other Valar as long as Tulkas did not arrive, but even then he did not do this on his own:

Yet so great was the power of his uprising that in ages forgotten he contended with Manwë and all the Valar, and through long years in Arda held dominion over most of the lands of the Earth. But he was not alone. For of the Maiar many were drawn to his splendour in the days of his greatness, and remained in that allegiance down into his darkness; and others he corrupted afterwards to his service with lies and treacherous gifts. (Silmarillion, Valaquenta, Of the Enemies, emphasis mine)

That his strength does not lie in direct confrontation is made quite clear as well both in the void and after returning:

Therefore he gathered to himself spirits out of the halls of Eä that he had perverted to his service, and he deemed himself strong. (Silmarillion, Chapter one, emphasis mine)

But Melkor, trusting in the strength of Utumno and the might of his servants, came forth suddenly to war, and struck the first blow, ere the Valar were prepared (Silmarillion, Chapter 1, emphasis mine)

This means that although Melkor is very powerful indeed, as he is able to take part in all the powers of the Valar and by misusing them do great evil (see below), his strength relies on the fruits of his doings, i.e. on fortresses and servants. It is the very method of evil to let others be the executioners until there is no other way, as it is shown after Melkor is free again (and by Sauron in Numenor, btw):

But he that sows lies in the end shall not lack of a harvest, and soon he may rest from toil indeed while others reap and sow in his stead. (Silmarillion, Chapter 7)

Melkor, on his own, isn't strong. Tulkas' very purpose, on the other side, is being strong on his own. This provides a nice transition to the other point I want to make:

Regarding focus/purpose

The other important point is that although the Valar might have been able to defeat him before that, they did not do so because they had other important business. Especially considering what is said about Melkor and Manwë, it is quite clear that if Manwë and all the other Valar would have thought of defeating Melkor as their only purpose, they could have done it:

But Manwë was the brother of Melkor in the mind of Ilúvatar, and he was the chief instrument of the second theme that Ilúvatar had raised up against the discord of Melkor (Silmarillion, Ainunindalë)


Manwë and Melkor were brethren in the thought of Ilúvatar. (Silmarillion, Valaquenta, Of the Valar)


Great might was given to him [Melkor] by Ilúvatar, and he was coeval with Manwë. In the powers and knowledge of all the other Valar he had part, but he turned them to evil purposes, and squandered his strength in violence and tyranny. (Silmarillion, Valaquenta, Of the Enemies)

There even is an instance (after the fall of the two pillars of light), where it is explicitely expressed that it is not Melkor that is their main focus, but realising the themes of the Great Song (Ainunindalë) as good as possible:

And the Valar could not at that time overcome him, for the greater part of their strength was needed to restrain the tumults of the Earth, and to save from ruin all that could be saved of their labour; and afterwards they feared to rend the Earth again, until they knew where the Children of Ilúvatar were dwelling, who were yet to come in a time that was hidden from the Valar. (Silmarillion, Chapter one, emphasis mine)

This strongly indicates that the Valar had many other doings to fulfill even before Melkor fled from Tulkas for the first time, which would have bounded their powers. This is supported by the fact that right after his flight into the void, they proceeded much faster in the shaping of Arda:

In that time the Valar brought order to the seas and the lands and the mountains, and Yavanna planted at last the seeds that she had long devised. (Silmarillion, Chapter one)

Even Melkor himself realised that without the elves (making the Valar focus on their security), they would never cared about him enough to become dangerous for him:

Now in his heart Melkor most hated the Eldar, both because they were fair and joyful and because in them he saw the reason for the arising of the Valar, and his own downfall. (Silmarillion, Chapter 6, emphasis mine)

But it has been that way since Melkor encountered Arda: The Valar always strived for more than just defeating Melkor, their highest priority was forming Arda:

Yet it is told among the Eldar that the Valar endeavoured ever, in despite of Melkor, to rule the Earth and to prepare it for the coming of the Firstborn; and they built lands and Melkor destroyed them; valleys they delved and Melkor raised them up; mountains they carved and Melkor threw them down; seas they hollowed and Melkor spilled them; and naught might have peace or come to lasting growth, for as surely as the Valar began a labour so would Melkor undo it or corrupt it. And yet their labour was not all in vain; and though nowhere and in no work was their will and purpose wholly fulfilled, and all things were in hue and shape other than the Valar had at first intended, slowly nonetheless the Earth was fashioned and made firm. (Silmarillion, Ainulindale, emphasis mine)

So, it is both a question of power vs. individual strength as of focus/purpose.

Regarding the decrease of Melkor's powers

Melkor has indedd become less powerful than he was in the beginning, that is true. There is a difference between Melkor as he was:

The mightiest of those Ainur who came into the World was in his beginning Melkor (Silmarillion, Valaquenta, Of the Valar, emphasis mine)

And Melkor as he was after the early days and the marring of Arda (and in all probability already before his chaining, because the marring of Arda was earlier than that):

For the Valar were greatly concerned to see that their labour for the guarding of Valinor was unavailing, if any thing, living or unliving, was brought thither out of Middle-earth, and they perceived now more clearly how great was the hurt that Melkor of old had done to the substance of Arda, so that all those who were incarnate and drew the sustenance of their bodies from Arda Marred, must ever be liable to grief, to do or to suffer things unnatural in Arda Unmarred. And this marring could not now be wholly undone, not even by Melkor repentant; for power had gone forth from him and could not be recalled, but would continue to work according to the will that had set it in motion. (Silmarillion, Chapter 6, emphasis mine)

Nevertheless, it is made 100% clear that Melkor is still and was at the moment of his defeat against Tulkas more powerful than any of the Valar, because the following quote is after his imprisonment:

And he [Feanor] shut the door of his house in the face of the mightiest of all the dwellers in Ea [Melkor]. (Silmarillion, Chapter 7, emphasis mine)

Therefore, only beforementioned points remain as explanation. Q.E.D.


Tulkas did fight with Melkor alone in the War of Powers and was victorious. Sure, that was somewhat later, but still before Melkor's captivity. I think that voids arguments along the lines that Tulkas was merely "the straw that broke the camel's back".

Frankly, I disagree with the above reply. I think all the mentioning of Melkor being the mightiest Vala at the start is refering to overall power, not brute combat power, given the context in which it presented. It states that he has a share in all the other Valar's areas of power (or something of the kind, in other words) and having even a share of the specialized Vala's power would add up to him being the mightiest Vala overall. He wouldn't need to be as good or strong as other Valar in their specific areas (Manwë in air, Varda in light, Yavanna in nature, Ulmo in water etc.) to accomplish being the greatest Vala overall. The Silmarillion definitely portrays Tulkas as being superior to Melkor in sheer, raw combat, in my not so humble opinion. I have never seen anything indicating Melkor would have been better than him in a direct fight. I think some people just think Melkor is cooler or more interesting than Tulkas (in which they may have a fair point, as Tulkas is more one-dimensional), and simply want him to be better in combat than Tulkas, so they twist a quote clearly referring to overall power (which includes many things that have no useful application in an immediate combat situation, such as manipulation, twisting elves into orcs etc.). So, if you count every conceivable type of power, Melkor outclasses Tulkas, but counting combat alone...nope, it does not seem so. I suppose it possible that Melkor might have won in one on one combat if he had expended absolutely none of his power, but I doubt it, as not all types of power is useful in combat, and it feels kind of moot anyway, as Melkor could not have accomplished any of his corrupting of the world without expending power in this fashion.

One might counter that Ungoliant humiliated Tulkas, but that seems to have been more of a temporary snare that was supernatural (which was not Tulkas's strength). It certainly didn't finish Tulkas, or cause him permanent damage. Just temporarily delayed him to allow Ungoliant and Melkor to escape.

Sure, I am not Tolkien, and cannot claim to know his mind exactly (and neither can anyone who disagrees with me), but this in my impression of the work.

  • Nice. I'd say it's upvote-worthy now. I took out the last sentence, but feel free to revert if I overstepped.
    – Adamant
    Aug 16, 2016 at 0:21
  • Ok, I have removed the "Reply to Adamant:" part. Your edit is ok. Aug 16, 2016 at 0:22
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    And don't misunderstand me. Melkor is still very mighty, even counting combat power alone (rather than overall power). Probably second or third among the Valar, the way I understand the work. Even a very specialized warrior type of character of a lesser "race" than a Vala would almost definitely not be able to take him down one on one. Just look at Fingolfin. But Tulkas, being a Vala, isn't quite as outclassed by Melkor/Morgoth as Fingolfin is, so being specialized for combat is enough to be able to beat Melkor, if barely. Aug 16, 2016 at 0:34

Tulkas was victorious over Melkor at the Battle of Powers because at that point Melkor had already spent a sheer amount of himself in:

  • Fighting all the other Valar by himself in the first war of Arda.

  • Empowering hosts of Maiar that were attracted to his might from the very beginning; Valaraukar etc..

  • Corrupting other Maiar that were not attracted to him at first;
    Sauron etc...

  • The shaping of Arda in which Dor Daedeloth came to be.

  • The raising of the Ered Engrin and the Hithaeglir.

  • The building of Utumno, the greatest architectural conception in Arda.

  • The building of Angband.

  • The Corruption of the Quendi.

  • The Corruption of beasts created by Yavanna.

  • The spreading of his essence across the very earth when he blights the spring
    of Arda.

At the end of the siege of Utumno, when he wrestled with Tulkas and got chained by him alone he truly realized he didn't had the might from the Ainulindalë anymore. He already was greatly spent in the Valian years. Later in the first age, he spent himself further to the point that he became incarnate, he could be physically destroyed.

Now to my real point: Tulkas was in fact "The straw that broke the camel's back" in the very first war. He showed up fresh for battle with the purpose of (aid) while Melkor had already spent ages fighting. So in the first war Melkor could contend with all the other Valar combined, each of them with their own expertise, but he could not defeat Tulkas one on one?......Ok. All in all, it was Eru's will all along.


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