The Tolkien Road

A podcast about Middle-earth and all things Tolkien.

0002 – The Silmarillion – Ainulindalë

On the second episode of the Talking Tolkien podcast, co-hosts John & Greta Carswell examine Ainulindalë, the first section in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. Come get lost in Middle-earth and explore the history of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings! Originally released: 2/7/2015. Talking Tolkien is now known as The Tolkien Road. If you like The Tolkien Road, you can support us for only $1 per episode via Patreon!

5 Responses

  1. When Gandalf says “I am the servant of the secret fire, wielder of the flame of Arnor. The dark fire will not avail you Flame of Udun!” The Imperishable Flame and the Secret Fire seem to represent the same thing; the power of Iluvatar to impart actual Being to his thought – the spirit of creation, if you will. … Hence, Flame of Udun could be read as Servant of Morgoth or Balrog from Morgoth’s Fortress. Just thought you might want to know!

    1. Thanks Veronica! The Secret Fire is a fascinating topic, and one we certainly cover in future episodes. It’s always a fun one to discuss, so I’ll plan to mention your comment on an episode very soon!

      1. Hello, I might be a bit late on this one, but I thought I’d just chime in anyways. Also, as a preface, I’ve read Hobbit, Fellowship, parts of the Silmarillion before, and seen the movies, but that’s it, so I’m no epistemological authority in matters of Tolkien.

        That being said, the 3 melodies, as depicted in the Ainulindalë, were to me representative of the greater struggle between Good and Evil that would play out over the course of Tolkien’s canon. The first melody is initially beautiful and harmonious, as it’s origins lie completely in Eru Ilúvatar’s being and his creative capacity, but it is eventually corrupted and overtaken by Melkor’s theme. Note here, as is a common theme in Tolkien’s work, as I understand it, Melkor (Evil) cannot create his own music, he can only distort the creations of Ilúvatar (Good). This, to me, is representative of the events of the first age (the creation of Middle Earth up until the War of Wrath), where Melkor is consistently causing disharmony within Ilúvatar’s creation.

        With the War of Wrath, Melkor is defeated, and Ilúvatar’s theme once again takes over. If I recall correctly the manner in which Ilúvatar’s theme returns is indicative of this conflict, since in both cases Evil is overtaken and dominated by Good but not entirely defeated. In the War of Wrath the valar crush Melkor and banish him, and in the Ainulindalë Ilúvatar’s theme is reworked and crescendos so as to usurp Melkor’s theme.

        Within, Ilúvatar’s second melody, the disharmony of Melkor returns, both in music and in lore through the workings of Sauron in the 2nd and 3rd age. Once again, Good triumphs over Evil and an even more beautiful melody is created. However, it is done so in a completely different manner from the first reconquest of the theme. In this instance, Ilúvatar doesn’t just rework his own theme to counter Melkor’s disharmony, instead, he utilizes Melkor’s disharmony to fashion beauty from it. This is reflective of the events of the Lotr, in which two of the most prevalent ideas are the self destructive nature of Evil and the mysterious but brilliant nature of Ilúvatar’s plans. In the Lotr, Sauron isn’t defeated by the force of good (Arogorn’s army) or by the good nature of Frodo conquering the temptation posed by the ring (evil). Instead, Gondor, after the battle of Minis Tirith, militarily speaking, is incapable of outright defeating to Sauron and his army reserves. Similarly, Frodo is corrupted by the ring. However, the possessive nature of Evil becomes the arbiter of it’s undoing, as the intense and conflicting desire for the ring by Frodo and Gollum, and the scuffle that ensues from it, ultimately causes the rings destruction. In this sense, it is Evils nature that undermines it, and although Evil is of Melkor’s design, and therefore in opposition to and absence from Ilúvatar and his being/creation, it nonetheless is incorporated into Ilúvatar’s plan for creation and used to facilitate good.

        That’s what I think atleast. Anyways, thank you for your podcast, and I look forward to listening to it more as I try to read the Silmarillion once more!


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