Melkor, also known as Morgoth Bauglir, was in his origins the mightiest of all the Ainur and the greatest in knowledge. During the Song of Creation his strange thoughts produced Discord, marring the fabric of reality even before its creation. Through pride, malice and a desire to dominate the wills of others he fell into darkness. He became the first Dark Lord, and was named Morgoth Bauglir by Fëanor after the theft of the Silmarils. Thus he was known in Beleriand and Middle-earth forever after. Not satisfied with the marring he had brought in the Discord, he proceeded to infect Arda with decay, as well as spreading a purely material empire upon the earth. He corrupted many peoples, among them the Ñoldor of Eldamar, leading to their revolt and The War of the Great Jewels. He then corrupted the hearts of Men with lies and deceitful gifts, until many worshiped him, and all had a seed of darkness within them which he often used. When The Host of Valinor finally defeated him at the end of the War of Wrath, Melkor was chained, and thrust through the Door of Night into the Void.
Yet the Darkness that he had begun in the Ainulindalë continued on through his most devoted lieutenant Sauron, who continued to wage war on the Free Peoples of the world for thousands of years and was not defeated until March 25, 3019 some 6500 years later. Melkor is prophesied to return during the end of days and be finally defeated in Dagor Dagorath (Final Battle)
Melkor's legacies survived in the fabric of the earth and are seeded in the hearts and minds of men, the inheritors of the world.
Melkor was made in the beginning as an Ainu created by Eru in the Timeless Halls. Manwë is said to be brother to him, yet Melkor was greater in power than any of the Ainur. Melkor was gifted also with the greatest knowledge of all the Ainur, and had share in all of the gifts given to his fellow Ainur by Eru.
Desiring to create things of his own and knowing of but not understanding the Flame Imperishable, Melkor often went forth into the Great Void outside of the Timeless Halls in search of this flame. His quest was in vain; he found not the Flame Imperishable for it lies with Eru alone. Melkor grew ever more impatient of the unclear designs of Eru and the emptiness of the Void, and was often alone and apart from his fellow Ainur. It was during these lonesome periods that Melkor began to have ideas and thoughts of his own that were not in accordance with his fellow Ainur.
When the Ainur sung the Great Music before Eru, some of these alien thoughts he wove into his music, and straightaway Discord arose around him. Some of those nearby attuned their music to his, until two musics were warring before the Throne. Then Eru introduced first a Second and then a Third Theme into the music; Melkor succeeded in holding back the Second theme, of which Manwë was the chief instrument. The Third was the theme of Elves and Men, and while it was not overwhelmed by the Discord, it too failed to correct it. When Eru brought the Music to an end, he rebuked Melkor, praising his strength but telling him that all he did redounded only to the glory of Eru's work. And Melkor was ashamed, and resented it; for he thought his Discord an improvement. Thus when the Music was made incarnate as Arda, it was already flawed through the Discord, and immoderate heat and great cold stalked it.
Before the Two Trees
When the Valar entered into Arda and began to shape the unwrought matter, Melkor saw the Field of Arda and claimed it for his own, striving against the Valar. He took shape in tremendous majesty like a burning mountain of ice with piercing eyes that withered, and when they raised mountains Melkor cast them down, and when they delved valleys Melkor raised them up; yet still the Earth was fashioned slowly and made firm. For a long while, Melkor fought alone against the might of all the other Valar and Maiar of Arda, and he long held the upper hand. Then Tulkas came, his strength tipping the balance in favor of the Valar, and from his laughter Melkor fled, hating Tulkas ever after.
Seducing many spirits, as well as many he had sung beside in the Discord, Melkor entered once again into Arda after the other Valar had finished shaping it. The Valar had built for themselves the lovely isle of Almaren in the midst of Middle-earth, between the Great Lamps. Then Melkor delved a mighty fortress at the very north-most part of the World, where the beams of the Lamps were dim, and he named it Utumno. To defend it he raised the Mountains of the East in the northeast of Middle Earth, east of the Sea of Helcar. Decay arose in the North, and the Valar knew that he was there, but before they could come Melkor issued forth, and overthrew the pillars, spilling the Great Lamps. In the thunderous uproar the Valar were too busied with restraining the tumults to give him chase; but Melkor was afraid, for the voices of the Gods were terrible in their rage.
So when the Valar had built Valinor, Melkor built his second, lesser fortress of Angband in the west, as a defense from the West should they attack. Angband was delved into the Iron Mountains, and was given to Sauron to command. While the Valar were unsure where the Children of Ilúvatar would awake, they were reluctant to wage war against Melkor, fearing the clash of powers might result in massive collateral damage. Due to this, Melkor discovered the Elves before the other Valar, captured many of them, and transformed them by torture and other foul craft into orcs.
Before the Sun and MoonWhen it was discovered by the Vala Oromë where the elves were, the Valar took immediate action against Melkor. This action was called the War of the Powers, during which Melkor's armies were destroyed piecemeal, while he directed operations from afar, for already he was grown weaker; though he knew it not. When he saw the Valar winning, in haste he retreated into Utumno and shut the great doors in the Valar's face. Then they smote them open and fought their way down, until at last they stood in the bottommost chamber where Melkor waited, and both Manwë and Melkor were astounded. For Manwë had expected to find Melkor too powerful to overcome, and now he perceived Melkor, having put power into his slaves, was weaker. Melkor also perceiving this was dismayed. Then Tulkas and Aule fought him, and Tulkas smote Melkor in the teeth, and Melkor leaped upon Manwë with a great flail, but Manwë gently blew on it and bent the thongs aside. Then Tulkas cast Melkor down, and straight away Aule wrapped him thirty times in the Chain Angainor. He was cast into Mandos for three Ages of the world, ere his cause could be tried or he sue for pardon; for the Valar did not comprehend yet the true depth of his fall.
When the Ages were over, Melkor was brought before Manwë, Lord of the Valar, and feigned to be repentant and abashed. And Manwë, who was above all things merciful, did not understand evil, and ordered him released. At first it seemed as though the evil of Melkor had been cured, for all who sought his counsel and aid in that time benefited greatly from it; yet Tulkas and Ulmo were not fooled, and watched him closely. Unfortunately however, Melkor was cunning and more filled with malice than ever. Seeing the bliss of the Elves and remembering that it was for their sake that he was overthrown, Melkor desired above all things to corrupt them. Of all the Elves, he found the Noldor to have a perfect balance of usefullness and open ears, and so worked his malice almost exclusively among them. Over a long period of time he quietly and cunningly spread lies concerning the intentions of the Valar in bringing the Elves to Aman, until a shadow fell upon the Noldor, and they began to openly rebel against the Valar. Feanor, the greatest of the Noldor, fell furthest under this shadow, and was the most vocal in proclaiming the perceived injustices of the Valar. For their part, the Valar remained unaware of Melkor's work, and saw Fëanor as the source of the Noldor's unrest. They let the situation continue until Feanor threatened his brother Fingolfin with violence, at which point the Valar summoned him to Valinor to explain his actions. Then at last the lies of Melkor were laid bare, and Tulkas immediately left to re-capture him. But Melkor could not be found, and the only rumor of him that came to the ears of the Valar was of his appeal to Fëanor at Formenos to continue his rebellion. For above all else, Melkor lusted for the Silmarils; the three great Jewels that Fëanor had wrought, and he feigned friendship to Fëanor so that he might acquire them. But Fëanor perceived this, and bade him be gone, shutting his doors in the face of Ea's mightiest dweller. Then Melkor cast off his raiment of form and passed unseen to the south, and so came upon the spider-like Maia known as Ungoliant. He held out two gems he had stolen, and they shone like green eyes in the gloom, and Ungoliant ate them, and grew stronger. Promising to sate her unrelenting hunger, he formulated a plan with her to, for the second time, put out the great lights of the world. Weaving her webs, rope by rope, she and Melkor mounted the heights of the Mountains, until brooding they looked down upon the light of Valinor. It was a time of festival when they came, and in the cloak of Unlight woven by Ungoliant they came unseen to the feet of the Trees.
There Melkor thrust his spear into them, and Ungoliant drank the sap that poured from the wounds, poisoning the trees. In the fear and confusion that followed, Melkor sped to Formenos. Ungoliant caught up with him there (which he had hoped to avoid) and he broke into the fortress, slew Finwe, High King of the Noldor his father and stole the Silmarils along with all the other gems that lay there. Then they fled to the North, and the Valar gave chase; but the Unlight of Ungoliant bewildered them, and the Two Thieves crossed the Grinding Ice unmolested and entered Middle-earth.
Now they drew nigh to Angband, and there Melkor hoped lose his companion, for Ungoliant was become greater than he due to drinking the power of the trees and draining the wells of Varda, and because he had put some of his own power into her to allow her to accomplish his revenge. She demanded that he surrender the treasure of Formenos to her to sate her hunger, and begrudgingly he gave her the lesser treasures he had taken. But he would not give her the Silmarils, and she took exception to that. She cast strangling thongs about him and began to crush him to death, and he uttered a great cry that shattered hills and roused the Balrogs from slumber. With a tempest of fire they came to his aid, and drove away Ungoliant; but Melkor recalled them, and thus Ungoliant escaped. He then began to rebuild Angband, and to gather his servants there.
When Fëanor found his father was slain, he named him Morgoth, meaning Dark Enemy in Sindarin. The name Melkor was never spoken again. Occasionally people referred to him as Belegurth, The Great Death, a perversion of Belegur, the Sindarin form of Melkor.
First Age of the Sun
Feanor followed Morgoth to Middle-earth with the greater part of the Noldor, hoping to recover the Silmarils. Thus began The War of the Great Jewels, a series of battles between Morgoth and the Noldor. But Morgoth's power was too great, and, despite their valor, the Noldor never stood a chance of achieving victory. This war lasted through the whole of the First Age of the Sun. Finally, in the War of Wrath, Angband was destroyed and, though Morgoth tried to call up more and more beasts of the shadows to aid him, he was eventually defeated by the mighty Host of Valinor. He was then bound as he was before, cast through Door of Night, and sent into the Void by the Valar.
His actions during this period are discussed under the article Morgoth Baugilar.
In later writings of Tolkien's, it becomes apparent that Melkor was not merely bound, but unhoused, after his final capture, being "beheaded" and thus "killed", that is, the body to which he had become so bound was destroyed, after which execution his spirit, still bound with the enchanted chain Angainor, was cast out through the Doors of Night. His "will" is spoken of as an active force in the world, tempting and urging in thought, and sometimes in phantom manifestation; and it is foretold that at the end of the world, his old strength will come back to him, that he will overcome the guard upon the Door, and reenter Arda. This will initiate the Final Battle and the Day of Doom, the Dagor Dagorath.
Early accounts of this battle have him being slain by Túrin Turambar who will run his black sword Gurthang, ' Iron of Death,' through him. This however does not appear in later versions of the Silmarillion; and indeed is inconsistent with the above late conception, unless Melkor re-incarnates himself after entering Arda, as he already has been slain by the Valar like a common criminal.
The Cursing of Húrin
Morgoth was also well known for the imprisonment of Húrin of the House of Hador during the Nirnaeth Arnoediad (Battle of Unnumbered Tears). In the last hours of the battle Húrin and his kin defended Turgon, for he was the last heir to the throne of Gondolin and of Fingolfin after his brother, Fingon, fell in battle. Turgon narrowly escaped the clutches of the host of orcs due to the valor of Húrin and Huor and their men.
Unfortunately, all but Húrin fell after the onslaught of Morgoth's forces. After slaying 70 trolls, Húrin was bound by Gothmog with his flaming whip and, thus, sent him to Angband. There, after a nightmare of chained torment in Thangorodrim's chambers, Húrin still defied Morgoth Bauglir and refused to tell him where Gondolin lay. Thus, Morgoth sent Húrin to the top of Haudh-en-Nirnaeth and cast a mighty curse on Húrin and his family:
Behold! The Shadow of my thought shall lie upon them wherever they go, and my hate shall pursue them to the ends of the world.
Then continuing his curse, roared:
But all whom you love my thought shall weigh as a cloud of Doom, and it shall bring them down into darkness and despair. Wherever they go, evil shall arise. Wherever they speak, their words shall bring ill counsel. Whatsoever they do shall turn against them. They shall die without hope, cursing both life and death.
And so Húrin stayed was chained atop Thangorodrim, forever watching his homelands fall under the shadow of Morgoth until he releases him. Túrin, who was valiant and powerful, nearly escaped the curse, as feared by Morgoth, but could not leave it. He and his sister perished. Thus, the curse of Morgoth on the Children of Húrin was fulfilled.
(More is said in The Children of Hurin )
Appearance, Power, and Personality
Initially, Melkor could take on any form he chose. The Ainur took on forms reflective of their moods and might. Melkor, in his arrogance, malice and power, took on a form recorded as
- "...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 pg. 22
It is said that out of all the Valar Melkor is most like Aulë for his craftsmanship.
Originally the brightest, most beautiful, most powerful Ainu, he fell through jealousy, pride and hatred of others, into Darkness. When he built Utumno he took on a form shaped roughly manlike but great in size, "a dark Lord, tall and terrible." This form was chained by the Valar. When he walked in Valinor he wore a much fairer form, so noble and lofty and benevolent not even the Elves (save only Fëanor and Galadriel) are recorded as seeing through it to the malice underneath. This he cast off to escape unclad from the hunt of the Valar, and when he faced Ungoliant he put back on the form of the tyrant of Utumno. In that form he remained ever after. As he spent his might and poured out his power into the very fabric of matter, as well as into all his creations, he grew more stooped and less majestic, and his hands were burned black from the touch of the Silmarils. His eyes shone with a daunting light.
There is some dispute over Morgoth's size. The Silmarillion states:
- "He stood over the king as a tower...and...cast a shadow over him like a storm cloud."
- —The Silmarillion: Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin pg. 153
As Elves typically reached about six feet tall, or close to seven feet for the Nolder, (Men were of similar height to Elves, however, Númenóreans averaged seven feet and Elendil was said to be nearly eight)... Morgoth must have stood at least twice this length, and with the shadow he robed himself in he may well have seemed taller. In most artistic renderings Morgoth is depicted as towering over other beings, most notably elves (Fingolfin in particular) of the FA.
- "Morgoth set his foot upon his neck, and the weight of it was like a fallen hill."
- —The Silmarillion: Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin pg. 154
This again implies a huge size. It may be wondered how Fingolfin stayed alive so long; but Elves were possessed of a strength and agility many times greater than a human (save exceptional ones like Turin), and Fingolfin could probably leap to great heights.
In The Fellowship of the Ring film introduction, Sauron is portrayed with the description Tolkien used for Morgoth.
After capture during the War of Wrath, Melkor was taken to Valinor and held in judgement for his crimes. For his punishment he was cast into the Void, still wearing the Chain Angainor, where he thus lost all physical form. He currently exists purely as an evil, formless spirit.
It is said, however, that in the last days the watch on the Walls of Night will grow weary, and Melkor will overpower them and re-enter the World, and initiate the Dagor Dagorath (Battle of Battles). This can only come about if his strength leaks out of matter and back into him.
Initially, Melkor's power was so great that he could contend with all the other Valar and Maiar of Arda and best them (ere Tulkas came). Over time however, his power was dispersed into the fabric of Arda and into his servants, lessening his might. At the time of his visit to Fëanor at Formenos, Melkor is still referred to as "the greatest being in Ea", thought this is after his capture by the Valar. It is unknown how much of his power he put into his various slaves after returning to Angband.
|Ainur of Arda|
|Lords of the Valar (of Valinor):||Manwë (Súlimo) | Ulmo (Ulubôz) | Aulë (Návatar) | Oromë (Aldaron) | Námo (Mandos) | Irmo (Lórien) | Tulkas (Astaldo)|
|Queens of the Valar (of Valinor):|| |
Varda (Elentári) | Yavanna (Kementári) | Nienna | Estë | Vairë | Vána | Nessa
|Maiar (of Valinor):|| |
Eönwë | Ilmarë | Ossë | Uinen | Salmar | Melian | Arien | Tilion | Curumo (Saruman) | Olórin (Gandalf) | Aiwendil (Radagast) | Alatar (Morinehtar) | Pallando (Rómestámo)
|Lords of the Valar (The Enemy):|| |
|Maiar (The Enemy):||Sauron (Mairon) | Gothmog | Durin's Bane | Ungoliant | Shelob | Curumo (Saruman)|