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Welcome to the 17th episode of The Tolkien Road podcast (formerly known as Talking Tolkien).
On this episode, John & Greta continue their chapter-by-chapter walkthrough of The Silmarillion with Chapter 8, Of the Darkening of Valinor, wherein Melkor and the giant spider Ungoliant throw the Blessed Realm into overwhelming darkness. Sounds like a fun-packed family adventure, eh?
Originally released: 5/1/2015.
Talking Tolkien is now known as The Tolkien Road.
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I always enjoyed this chapter when I read it. The origin of evil in the form of a monstrous spider is what captivated me. Everyone always wondered where Shelob came from or her background. Tolkien referred to her as the “Eater of Light.”
It’s cool to see that Ungoliant was the essence of that. She desired to drain the light from all things. She hated/loved it. Shelob was stated to be the last of her kind, and even she was a fearful creature to behold. It paints a picture of how much more menacing Ungoliant must have been that even Melkor trembled at the site of her after she had eaten the light of the trees. I’ve often wondered if Ungoliant could communicate verbally/expressively the same as other Maia/Valar or if she spoke her own language entirely and he is the only “being” that could make sense of her. Maybe Melkor merely understood her because they were both filled with so much evil and that was the main connection between them.
Eru did create her, just as he created the other celestial beings. She is a sentient being capable of rational thought, communication and planning. To what extent though, is not clearly told. Think about Gollum and Shelob. How did he communicate when he first encountered her. Promising that he would return with better/more yummy food for her to enjoy. It makes you wonder.
This is a dark chapter for sure but also illuminating in that darkness will always try to consume light. Darkness wants to fill every aspect of it. You see how devastating the imagery is here when Manwe sees nothing but a cloud of extreme darkness moving at a great speed. I just imagine Melkor riding on her fat body because she’s so massive at that moment.. Not really but it’s funny to picture it in your head anyways!