Manwe and Morgoth were brothers from their very creation. Morgoth whom created evil and wrote into the Music of the Ainur, chords of discord that would affect the events of Arda to come, had corrupted many Spirits into his service and would lead them to war against the Valar in the early years and later against the Children of Iluvatar in the lands of Beleriand in the First Age.

Manwe on the other hand was blissful and the wisest of the Ainur who came to dwell within Ea. He had no understanding of evil and therefore after the ages that Morgoth was imprisoned showed mercy to his brother even though Morgoth's malice was stronger than ever. How could Manwe not have forseen the deception that his brother would soon play upon him or the Noldor Elves for that matter. How could Manwe have fallen for Morgoth's deceit in his hearing for his release when it should have been clear he was playing him and the other Valar for fools save Orome, Tulkas and Ulmo.

Why did Manwe not understand the concept of evil and was not aware of such deception within his realm of Valinor?

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    Seems like you have difficulty understanding difficulty understanding... which is very meta. ;) – Lexible May 23 '18 at 2:10
  • sigh Like it's such an easy thing to tell who deserves second chance... Especially if it's your brother. – Mithoron May 23 '18 at 23:09
  • @Mithoron you havent had a brother who is far beyond repair have you? – Fingolfin May 24 '18 at 3:42
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    But enough about Feanor. – suchiuomizu May 27 '18 at 4:09

I think you have put your finger on a paradox, but I think you underestimate Manwe, though you have good reason to, since Tolkien says in the Silmarillion:

For Manwe was free from evil and could not comprehend it, and he knew that in the beginning, in the thought of Ilvatar, Melkor had been even as he; and he saw not to the depths of Melkor's heart, and did not perceive that all love had departed from him for ever.

But I think this may overstate the case if you read "comprehend" in its most common sense of "understand". "Comprehend" also has a second major sense of "encompass" or "embrace" or "take in" and I think this is the sense Tolkien uses here. Manwe cannot internalize evil. (This interpretation is supported by the fact that the whole Silmarillion is written in somewhat archaic language, and this sense of "comprehend" is the older, also, and so in keeping with the language used.)

To suggest that good can not understand evil (but evil can understand good) is simply wrong: For example, Gandalf's whole strategy of sending the Ring to Mt Doom is based on the opposite. He understands Sauron, but Sauron does not understand him:

Well, let folly be our cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy! For he is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of his malice. But the only measure that he knows is desire, desire for power; and so he judges all hearts.

And later Galadriel says:

I say to you, Frodo, that even as I speak to you, I perceive the Dark Lord and know his mind, or all of his mind that concerns the Elves. And he gropes ever to see me and my thought. But still the door is closed!

Lastly, there's a second major point in Manwe's defense. Melkor was the one created being who was created Manwe's superior. If Manwe -- or anyone, including ourselves -- is going to misjudge anyone it's going to be people who are smarter than us, more persuasive than us, possessing superior gifts to us. (And of this Manwe had no doubts.)

I don't find it surprising that Manwe was fooled by Melkor.

  • I think Manwe either cannot understand lie completely or cannot understand that someone could lie with intentions other than "the greater good" (i.e. lie to children akin to "we sent your old doggie to the pretty farm, where he will live happily). Sauron cannot understand how someone can do something without thinking about yourself first. – Yasskier May 23 '18 at 3:27
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    I think possibly Gandalf has the advantage of time in understanding evil. Basically, evil itself was very new back when Melkor deceived Manwe, so everyone (even the agents of evil) understood good better. Manwe was surprised, as it were, because he had no experience with evil. With some time, as good individuals learned more about evil, the essential flaw in evil's understanding became apparent. – Adamant May 23 '18 at 4:32
  • "Melkor was the one created being who was created Manwe's superior": do you have a quote to support that? – lfurini May 23 '18 at 18:43
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    Sure. From the Ainulindal: "To Melkor among the Ainur had been given the greatest gifts of power and knowledge, and he had a share in all the gifts of his brethren." – Mark Olson May 23 '18 at 18:49

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