15

Is Morgoth, the original enemy in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth ever visually described? I envisage him as a bigger, meaner version of the physical Sauron, but I cannot find any reference in The Silmarillion.

3
  • 7
    He's big, he's black, he's bald... No, wait - I'm thinking of Marcellus Wallace.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jul 27, 2015 at 18:42
  • Simarillion -> Silmarillion Nov 3, 2020 at 3:53
  • I always pictured him as a taller Major Frank Burns.
    – JohnHunt
    Sep 20, 2021 at 17:37

5 Answers 5

21

Depends. He takes on various forms at different times. He's mostly described as a huge dark man and this is the form he takes and is locked into after his first imprisonment.

His first appearance during the creation and the First War was

"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."

He lost his foot and suffered various un-healable wounds after his combat with Fingolfin and burnt his hands stealing and holding the silmarils.

11

Melkor was grandiose. His helmet, as the Morgoth, was so heavy Beren could not lift it [Lays of Belereiand, 8.4136-4137], and he had a scar and limp [12.3604-09, 3615-3617, 3632-3634]. Melkor's physical form in the beginning is described as:

because of his mood and the malice that burned in him that form was dark and terrible. And he descended upon Arda in power and majesty greater than any other of the Valar, as a mountain that wades in the sea and has it 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 deadly cold. [Silmarillion; Ainulindalë]

He is also said to have walked around in various "shapes of power and fear" [Of the Beginning of Days]

he put on again the form that he had worn as the tyrant of Utumno: a dark Lord, tall and terrible. In that form he remained ever after. [Of the Darkening of Valinor]

Don't over-estimate how big Melkor, or any of the Ainu were. There is also another description of him when he battles Fingolfin:

Morgoth came, climbing slowly from his subterranean throne, and the rumour of his feet was like thunder underground. And he issued forth clad in black armour; and he stood before the King like a tower, iron-crowned, and his vast shield, sable unblazoned, cast a shadow over him like a stormcloud...

Melkor held aloft Grond, the Hammer of the Underworld, and swung it down like a bolt of thunder... Grond rent a mighty pit in the earth, whence smoke and fire darted...

Morgoth bore his shield upon him. Thrice he was crushed to his knees... Morgoth set his left foot upon his neck, and the weight of it was like a fallen hill. Yet with his last and desperate stroke Fingolfin hewed the foot with Ringil [The Ruin of Beleriand]

Morgoth is big but not like a giant. When he put his foot on Fingolfin's neck he could still use his arm to swing his sword.

3
  • Nice answer, you could also mention that he was stuck in form and shrank because of fight with Ungoliant.
    – Mithoron
    Jul 27, 2015 at 16:25
  • 3
    That's a bit of a tangent but he was not stuck in his form because he fought Ungoliant. He was stuck because he dispersed his power so widely in middle-earth that he became bound to it. That's why Aman is known as Morgoth's Ring.
    – Belegorn
    Jul 27, 2015 at 20:34
  • @Belegorn I assume you meant Arda, not Aman specifically. Jul 15, 2017 at 0:15
6

Along with the othe Ainur, I think the idea is that they have no form defined that we can grasp, but each has a preferred form when they appear before other beings.

Morgoth was stuck in form because of his misdemeanors. That was a form reflecting his evil.

1
  • Tor Books' website has a series of essays by Jeff LaSala (iirc) that say Morgoth lost the ability to change shapes because he spent his power on too many grand schemes. Aug 24, 2021 at 0:37
1

Morgoth can take on different evil forms at will, but his true appearance is an invisible cloud of dread that sucks out the color and light from its surroundings

In 1967, Tolkien wrote some linguistic notes about the elvish root √PHAN- "cover, screen, veil", from which he derived the elvish word fanar, meaning the physical forms adopted by the Valar and Maiar. He then digressed for a few pages to discuss these forms. These notes were published in Parma Eldalamberon #17, and then later republished in The Nature of Middle-earth.

During these notes Tolkien discusses a bit what Valar were like when not "clad" in their fanar.

Melkor, they said, was invisible, and his presence was revealed only by great dread and by a darkness that dimmed or blotted out the light and hues of all things near him. The Maiar corrupted by him stank. For this reason neither he nor any of the evil Maiar ever approached one of the Eldar that they wished to persuade or deceive except clad in their fanar. These they could still make to appear beautiful to Elvish eyes, if they wished — until after the great treachery of Melkor and the destruction of the Trees. After that Melkor (Morgoth) and his servants were perceived as forms of evil and enemies undisguised.
The Nature of Middle-earth - "The Visible Forms of the Valar and Maiar"

0

Initially he could take any form at will, but upon becoming evil he chose a form that is said to be "a mountain that wades in the sea, and has its head above the clouds, and is clad with ice and crowned with smoke and fire, and the light of the eyes of Melkor was like a flame that whithers with heat and pierces with a deadly cold", and The Silmarillion stated that "he stood over the king as a tower...and...cast a shadow over him like a storm cloud".

...a mountain that wades in the sea, and has its head above the clouds, and is clad with ice and crowned with smoke and fire, and the light of the eyes of Melkor was like a flame that whithers with heat and pierces with a deadly cold. —The Silmarillion, Ainulindalë

He stood over the king as a tower...and...cast a shadow over him like a storm cloud. —Quenta Silmarillion, "Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin"

After stealing the Silmarils, he used them as his crown jewels, so they shone on his head. There are illustrations of him that depict his appearance:

enter image description here

Also, Sauron's armor in the movies was based on Morgoth's in the illustrations: https://lotr.fandom.com/wiki/Sauron#The_Lord_of_the_Rings_film_trilogy

He also wears black armor and a helmet similar to Morgoth's in The Silmarillion, and wields a giant mace (perhaps based on Grond) capable of killing scores of men in one hit.

So I guess Morgoth looks like a gigantic movie!Sauron with three Silmarils on his helmet's forehead.

6
  • 1
    As I mentioned in response to one of your other answers, it's preferable to use direct quotes from the books or films wherever possible, rather user-generated content from sites like Wikipedia or LOTR Fandom. You have included some direct quotes from the books here, but the majority of what you've quoted falls into the user-generated category. It'd be better to remove most or all of the user-generated stuff, and just focus on the direct quotes from the books, and your own interpretation of them. Sep 20, 2021 at 8:00
  • OK, but can I keep the quote where Sauron's armor in the movies is based on Morgoth's?
    – user145025
    Sep 20, 2021 at 8:01
  • 1
    It's up to you, but ideally, it's best to only quote the source material, and explain what you're quoting (and why) in your own words. For one thing, it removes the need to have quotations within quotations, which doesn't look very nice in terms of the formatting. Also, if your answer relies heavily on user-generated content from another page, it potentially makes your answer redundant, as we could just go read the other page and find exactly the same text written verbatim there. Sep 20, 2021 at 8:07
  • I edited the comment. I'm gonna need to learn more about the rules regarding answers.
    – user145025
    Sep 20, 2021 at 8:10
  • 1
    I don't think you broke any rules, per se. These are just suggestions on how to present your answers in such a way that they're more likely to be viewed favourably by (and hopefully earn upvotes from) other users. I recommend looking at the most highly voted answers in any given thread to help get a better idea of what a really good answer looks like. I've learned a lot myself from doing that. Sep 20, 2021 at 8:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.