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I just finished reading The Silmarillion (prior to this, I'd read The Hobbit once and The Lord of the Rings a couple of times), but something bothered me about the ending: did the Valar themselves fight to defeat Morgoth in the War of Wrath? And if not, why not? Maybe I missed a mention of them, but it seems that the host of the Valar consisted only of elves.

This seems strange to me for a few reasons:

  • I seem to remember them (the Valar) intervening directly in the affairs of the world on at least one occasion earlier in the story. Morgoth/Melkor was originally one of the Ainur like them, so wouldn't that make him their problem to deal with?
  • I know it is a little presumptuous to second-guess Tolkien on literary matters, but it felt a little anti-climactic to me: the story begins with these demigods battling it out in epic warfare for control of creation, but when the time for the final battle arrives, the demigods send a small clan of elves to fight for them.
  • Speaking of the elves, the army that is sent to assist in the fight against Morgoth consists of the Vanyar, who seem to come out of nowhere. If I understand correctly, they are the clan of elves that made the trip to Valinor (and stayed there) very early in the story, but then weren't really involved after that.
  • The book describes how the conflict was so fierce that it actually resulted in the world being physically reshaped. Who or what caused this level of destruction? Morgoth and his allies (balrogs and dragons)? It just seems far-fetched that elves and orcs could cause it.

Although I'm familiar with his most popular books, I admit I'm not as well-versed in Tolkein's whole universe as some on this site are, so I suspect there are good answers to these points and I hope that someone can straighten me out. :)

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The only definitive statement I'm aware of is in Unfinished Tales, the Istari essay, where Tolkien states that Manwe will not come down from the mountain until the end of the world, and that he had sent a lesser representative to the War of Wrath. So we know for certain that Manwe did not fight in it, but we don't know about the others. We may however make some reasonable conjectures.

Looking over the original War of Wrath text from HoME 5 I note that Tolkien is careful to always say "the Children of the Valar" (editorially changed to "Host of the Valar" in the published version as "Children" was an earlier abandoned concept) and "the host of Fionwe" (earlier name of Eonwe) and never directly references the Valar themselves. Fionwe/Eonwe himself is explicitly the leader of the good guys.

From that I believe we can conclude that the Valar did not fight in the War.

To deal specifically with some of your points:

  • The Valar stopped directly intervening in the world when the Children of Illuvatar appeared, with the exception of the first battle when Melkor was Chained. Subsequently they've acted alone (Ulmo) or through intermediaries (Eonwe, the Istari). The only other exception was at the end of the Second Age when they laid down their governership and let Illuvatar reshape the world (this point will be relevant shortly).

  • They didn't just send the Vanyar; you probably need to re-read the chapter here, but it's explicitly a "host". In the earlier version it's called the "Children of the Valar", by which we may understand is meant the Maiar.

  • The Vanyar were only indirectly involved in that Finwe ended up taking Indis as his second wife. We can imagine them quite content to live out the rest of the world doing whatever it is Vanyar do.

  • And now for the reshaping. There were actually two reshapings that affected Beleriand; the first at the end of the First Age and the second at the end of the Second Age. In earlier works (see HoME 5, Fall of Numenor and revised QS ending) the first one was not utterly destructive, and this concept was never explicitly abandoned (aside from mention of Numenoreans sailing to Lindon, but that can be easily reconciled with a partially destroyed Beleriand). We have no indication of what the western coastline of Middle Earth looked like during the Second Age, but we may be able to assume that it's some form of intermediate stage. Even if we don't, we can work on the basis that a proportion of the destruction in the First Age came from Melkor too.

  • AFAIK, the "Children of the Valar" are the Valarindi and are explicitly stated as not Maiar. ("And with them [the Maiar] are numbered also the Valarindi, the offspring of the Valar, their children begotten in Arda, yet of the race of the Ainur..." – horatio Apr 9 '13 at 20:54
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    It goes both ways; Fionwe was originally the son of Manwe but became a Maia in the later conception, for example, so hence "by which we may understand is meant the Maiar" - an explanation of the full concept and it's evolution would just have confused the answer (not to mention taken a disproportionate amount of text). – user8719 Apr 9 '13 at 22:01
  • So you are ignoring contrary statements to reach your understanding. – horatio Apr 11 '13 at 13:47
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    I completely fail to see the problem or where you could have drawn that conclusion from. Fionwe was once said to be the son of Manwe, Gothmog was once said to be the son of Melko. In the later versions of the legends they were not any more. It's called simplification for the purposes of focussing on answering the actual question being asked; the matter of "Children of the Valar" is not relevant to that and is more appropriate for a separate question rather than dragging through it (or nitpicking over it) in comments here. – user8719 Apr 11 '13 at 17:20

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