It's known that the last time the Valar tried to directly interfere in Middle-earth, Bad Things Happened (which led to the Istari only being allowed to lead/guide Middle-earth's peoples instead of directly fighting Sauron).

While it is known WHAT negative things transpired as a result of the Valar's intervention during the Years of the Trees, is it known WHY things went down the way they did from canon sources? Does Tolkien canon explain WHY the direct intervention had such bad results?


2 Answers 2


I'd argue that the premise of the question is incorrect - the Valar's direct interventions did, in a number of cases, lead to catastrophic results, but by no means was that actually the case in all of them.

A list of Valar interventions in Middle-earth:

  • The first war between the Valar and Melkor, aka The Battle of the Powers: This was destructive and lead to the fall of Utumno, but was not catastrophic in that collateral damage seemed to be limited. There was not the sinking of land that was seen in the War of Wrath.

  • The Doom of the Noldor/the Prophecy of the North

Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains. On the House of Fëanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also. Their Oath shall drive them, and yet betray them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue. To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever.

While this obviously did have negative results on the Noldor, as was the intent given it was a punishment for kinslaying, this exile of the Noldor by the Valar cannot be argued to be catastrophic in that it did not cause a catastrophe. No land was destroyed nor collateral damage caused.

  • The second war between the Valar and Melkor (now Morgoth), aka The War of Wrath: Definitely catastrophic in every sense of the word, with the destruction and sinking of large tracts of land. However given the forces arrayed on both sides, this is more an understandable catastrophe. Their inaction had allowed Morgoth to grow ever powerful, and the forces required to capture and imprison him clashing with those defending him are so massive as to damage the earth itself.

  • The raising of Númenor: Not catastrophic by any means, this was intended as gift to the Edain for their part in the previous war. This was definitely a direct intervention of the Valar, as they rose the island up off the depths.

  • The downfall of Númenor: While definitely catastrophic, this was intended to be given it was punishment for the Númenóreans' hubris in trying to reach Aman. Secondly, this was actually an action of Eru, not the Valar. The Valar were forbidden to take direct action against Men so the Valar called upon Eru who removed Aman from the world directly.

Overall there was one action (the War of Wrath) that is the catastrophe that is most commonly referred, especially since it effectively shaped the world Middle-earth was at the point of The Lord of the Rings. The sinking of Númenor, regarded as the second catastrophe, was actually an act of Eru. There are numerous counterexamples of actions by the Valar that did not result in catastrophic results.

In the case of why the War of Wrath had such drastic and catastrophic results, it is because Valar and Maiar were fighting in the bowels of the Earth itself. As one can easily imagine, this could have titanic consequences - imagine tectonic plates shifting and the like, as these are powers that could raise mountains, affect weather and the like. Both The Silmarillion and HoME point towards this:

Then the sun rose, and the host of the Valar prevailed, and well-nigh all the dragons were destroyed; and all the pits of Morgoth were broken and unroofed, and the might of the Valar descended into the deeps of the earth. ... For so great was the fury of those adversaries that the northern regions of the western world were rent asunder, and the sea roared in through many chasms, and there was confusion and great noise; and rivers perished or found new paths, and the valleys were upheaved and the hills trod down; and Sirion was no more.

The Silmarillion


The sons of the Gods wrestled with Morgoth in his dungeons and the earth shook and all Beleriand was shattered and changed and many perished, but Morgoth was bound.

The Shaping of Middle-earth

  • +1 for incredibly comprehensive answer, but unless I'm missing something, it doesn't contradict the premise of the question: "the last time the Valar tried to directly interfere in Middle-Earth" - seems that the Second War was the last direct interference of non-creative kind, no? Jul 9, 2012 at 1:41
  • 1
    The title of the question is generic, the linked answer - "The problem that the immortals had discovered, from their previous interventions, was that they didn't work. They tended to wreak havoc across the land." - was commenting on all interventions, and you commented on the "last time" Valar interfered (which I took to mean the downfall of Numenor) and the Years of the Trees (which the first three in my list occurred during), so I covered everything. :) Though I definitely did not address the bolded part, which I will attempt to redress.
    – dlanod
    Jul 9, 2012 at 2:02
  • A minor correction on my previous comment: the War of Wrath actually took place in the Years of the Sun, because it was after Morgoth destroyed the Two Trees.
    – dlanod
    Jul 9, 2012 at 2:10
  • I just bolded that part in the question itself, as it clearly wasn't clear just from the wording. Jul 9, 2012 at 2:18
  • @DVK There you go - the reason was that the final battle of the war was under Beleriand itself, in Morgoth's dungeons, and the release of such powers were sufficient to rent and shift the earth itself.
    – dlanod
    Jul 9, 2012 at 5:30

We have seen historically the greater the crime being done, the greater the disruption caused, the more disruptive any kind of cure or correction of the issue may end up being. The greatest world wars, while their goals might have been laudable, surely caused as much damage and devastation as they were fighting against. The primary difference is believed to be the ultimate goal of the side fighting against the atrocities. That one day the war would end and the world would be a better place for that effort. Strangely enough, both sides would make that claim.

Considering the very first wars of the Valar, Melkor/Morgorth was one of the most powerful of the Valar, who even when he was one of the good guys was not a team player and every time he disrupted the Primal Plan, he created something that was unexpected and only with the efforts of Ilúvatar did those add to the overall plan instead of destroy them.

By the time Morgorth had decided he wanted to break from the rest of the Valar, the world was fully formed, and every effort he made disrupted or destroyed something from the natural world. Any attempt made to capture him would always cause collateral damage because of his inherent might and power and what efforts would be needed to contain him. The longer he was free, the more minions he would pervert and bring to his side. Eventually, his armies were vast and powerful and any effort would always require that someone die, that something is destroyed just out of spite on Morgorth's part.

Every action has an equal an opposite reaction is not quite the same kind of rule in societies as it is in physics, but the premise is basically the same. Any effort made by a dangerous and disruptive force often requires an equal effort on the part of the defenders to be able to bring that series of events under control.

Ultimately, after the Fall of Númenor, it was decided that the efforts of the Valar and to the lesser extent the first races had caused as much damage to the world as the forces they fought against and were requested they remain in the West in Valinor, away from the world. It was hoped that by limiting the Istari to the role of inspiration, that any catastrophe might be one that could be resolved by men, and not break the world in the process.

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