One Series to Rule Them All
The new Lord of the Rings series from Amazon is in hot demand. I know it is for me, at least. We know that the series takes place during the Second Age of Middle-earth. But I’m sitting here wondering, what else could it be about? I’m rereading The Silmarillion and thinking: my God, this series could be about literally anything. How do we even speculate? Well, I did the hard work for you and read The Silmarillion from cover to cover about three times, picking out the most prominent aspects of the narrative. So, without further ado, here are my speculations into what the Lord of the Rings series could possibly be about.
Fëanor and the Silmarils
To understand the story of the Silmarils, it’s important to go back to the Noontide of the Blessed Realm, mostly chapters six and seven in The Silmarillion. The Blessed Realm being Aman, and the Noontide being the three ages in which Melkor was chained in Mandos and the Three Kindreds of the Eldar dwelt in Valinor. Before this, when the Valar first left Middle-earth and created Valinor for themselves, Yavanna created the Two Trees, Telperion and Laurelin, and their light lit Valinor for ages before Melkor was unchained. As quoted in The Silmarillion,
“[Telperion] had leaves of dark green that beneath were as shining silver, and from each of his countless flowers a dew of silver light was ever falling, and the earth beneath was dappled with the shadows of his fluttering leaves. [Laurelin] bore leaves of a young green like the new-opened beech; their edges were of glittering gold. Flowers swung upon her branches in clusters of yellow flame, formed each to a glowing horn that spilled a golden rain upon the ground; and from the blossom of that tree there came forth warmth and a great light.”
So the story of the Silmarils—covered in chapter seven of The Silmarillion—goes a little something like this; Fëanor created three unbreakable gems, uninteresting on the outside, but with an “inner fire made of the blended light of the Trees of Valinor.” Around the time Fëanor made the Silmarils, Melkor served his three ages, basically apologized to the Valar for his bad behavior in Middle-earth, and was pardoned and allowed to wander around Valinor. How the Valar believed Melkor could ever be rehabilitated, I’ll never understand. Melkor “lusted for the Silmarils, and the very memory of their radiance was a gnawing fire in his heart”, and he spread lies among the Elves, playing the long con, waiting for them to betray each other and cut ties with the Valar.
Around this time, Fëanor began to love the Silmarils with a “greedy love,” and at this point only allowed the Valar to look upon the jewels. Eventually, he threatens his brother Fingolfin and is banished from Valmar (the city in Valinor). He, his sons, and his father Finwe set up shop in Formenos, where Fëanor locks the Silmarils in an iron treasury and never lets anyone see them again.
The Death of the Trees
In chapter eight of The Silmarillion, we deal with the darkening of Valinor. Melkor leaves Valinor and plots with Ungoliant (the ancestor of Shelob, you know, that big spider from Return of the King). Melkor and Ungoliant ride back into Valinor under a cloak of darkness, “and Melkor sprang upon the mound; and with his black spear he smote each Tree to its core, wounded them deep, and their sap poured forth as it were their blood, and was spilled upon the ground.” So, Melkor’s revenge for his entrapment is to murder the two Trees; “[t]he light failed; but the Darkness that followed was more than a loss of light. In that hour was made a Darkness that seemed not lack but a thing with being of its own.”
In chapter nine of The Silmarillion, Yavanna has the power to remake the Trees if she has a little bit of the Light, which, as we remember, lives in the Silmarils. But Fëanor refuses to break the Silmarils to remake the Trees, as he knows he’ll never be able to make anything as beautiful as the Silmarils again: “if I must break them, I shall break my heart, and I shall be slain.” But as Fëanor is refusing to break the Silmarils, a message comes from Formenos of how “a blind Darkness came northward, and in the midst walked some power for which there was no name, and the Darkness issued from it.” Melkor was also in this Darkness, and he killed Fëanor’s father Finwe, “and spilled the first blood in the Blessed Realm.” And Melkor broke into Formenos and stole the Silmarils.
The Oath of Fëanor
After Melkor stole the Silmarils, escaped back to his stronghold Angband, and set the Silmarils in an iron crown, Fëanor marshaled the Noldor and convinced them to leave Valinor. So begins the Flight of the Noldor, which the Valar were forbidden from stopping. And at this time Fëanor and his sons swear their oath:
“They swore an oath which none shall break, and none shall take, by the name even of Iluvatar, calling the Everlasting Dark upon them if they kept it not; and Manwë they called in witness, and Varda, and the hallowed mountain of Taniquetil, vowing to pursue with vengeance and hatred to the ends of the World Vala, Demon, Elf or Man as yet unborn, or any creature, great or small, good or evil, that time should bring forth unto the end of days, whoso should hold or take or keep a Silmaril from their possession.”
The Doom of the Noldor
Fëanor leads the Noldor out of Valinor and brings them to the Haven of the Swans, where the Teleri keep their ships. There, of course, he tries to steal the ships. And, of course, the Teleri try to stop him. Fëanor and the Noldor slay most of the Teleri and steal the ships anyway. This incites Mandos to come down from his Halls and share the Doom of the Noldor with Fëanor and company. It’s basically a prophecy telling the Noldor they done goofed and shouldn’t have listened to Melkor or done literally any of the things they just did. To paraphrase:
“Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Calinor aginst you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains…Their Oath shall drive them, and yet beteay them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue. To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever…”
Kinslaying and the Burning of the Ships
So Fëanor and the Noldor keep doing what they’re doing anyway. They continue on and stop at the Helcaraxe, the treacherous, icy river. Here, Fëanor started to feel a little back-stabby; “it came into the hearts of Fëanor and his sons to seize all the ships and depart suddenly…Fëanor slipped away secretly with all whom he deemed true to him, and went aboard, and put out to sea, and left Fingolfin in Araman.”
When they reach Losgar, Fëanor’s oldest son Maedhros asks when they’re going to go back for the rest of the Noldor. Fëanor says, “What I have left behind I count now no loss; needless baggage on the road it has proved. Let those that cursed my name, curse me still, and whine their way back to the cages of the Valar! Let the ships burn!” And Fëanor set fire to the Teleri ships, and Fingolfin saw the light of the burning from the shores of the Helcaraxe.
The Death of Fëanor
After Fëanor, his sons, and his trusted Noldor came to Middle-earth, they set up camp at the lake Mithrim. Here, they were set upon by a host of Orcs, who they swiftly defeated. This battle was named Dagor-nuin-Giliath, the Battle Under Stars, the second battle in the Wars of Beleriand. Fëanor, possessed by hubris, took his host of Noldor and chased after the retreating Orcs, hoping to come upon Melkor himself at the gates of his stronghold. But Fëanor wasn’t prepared for Angband, and knew nothing of Melkor’s defenses.
And so, he was set upon by Balrogs, and beaten down by Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs. Fëanor’s sons came to his rescue and took their wounded father away towards Mithrim. But Fëanor knew he would die, and made them stop; “he cursed the name of Morgoth thrice, and laid it upon his sons to hold to their oath, and to avenge their father. Then he died.”
Second Half of the First Age
The Coming of Men
Beor the Old
In The Silmarillion, Beor the Old was the first of man to meet the Elves. He led his people West over the Blue Mountains and were the first men to come into Beleriand, where they met Finrod. While hunting with Maglor and Maedhros, Finrod stumbled upon Beor’s people camped in the woods. He waited until they fell asleep and then sat by their fire, picking up a crude harp and singing about the making of Middle-earth, of the Valar, and the bliss of Aman, Iluvitar’s domain. The men awoke, and understood Finrod’s songs as “clear visions before their eyes.” After this, Finrod stayed with Beor’s people, and “taught them true knowledge, and they loved him, and took him for their lord, and were ever after loyal to the house of Finarfin.”
Beor the Old is important not because of anything he does specifically, but mostly because of his lineage. He left his people and went with Finrod to Nargothrond, where he was Finrod’s vassal until his death. Beor’s close friendship with the Elves led to the creation of the First House of the Edain (another name for the first of men to come to Beleriand.) Beren (who we’ll discuss shortly) is Beor’s great-great-grandson, and one of the greatest heroes in The Silmarillion.
Haleth is an interesting character, as she’s one of few women who hold positions of power and never wed. The House of Haleth—also known as the Haladin— was the Second House of the Edain to come into Beleriand. First led by Haldad, who had twin children Haleth and Haldar. Both Haldad and Haldar were slain by Orcs, so Haleth tried to muster the scattered Haladin to finish the battle. Eventually, Caranthir—one of Fëanor’s sons—came to their rescue. He “offered [Haleth] recompense for her father and brother…he said to her, “If you will remove and dwell further north, there you shall have the friendship and protection of the Eldar, and free lands of your own.” Haleth, being “proud, and unwilling to be guided or ruled,” refused Caranthir’s offer. She was taken as the chief of the Haladin, and led her people into Estolad, eventually moving into Brethil, where she was their leader until her death.
Beren and Luthien
The tale of Beren and Luthien is a long freaking story (nine pages in The Silmarillion) and an entire series could conceivably be made just about them. Basically, Beren and Luthien were one of the first interspecies relationships in Middle-earth, Beren being mortal and Luthien an elf. That’s not even the most important aspect of this story. Basically, Luthien’s father tells Beren that if he can bring him a Silmaril (which, if we remember, are in Melkor’s iron crown at this point and have been for, like, three-hundred years) he can marry his daughter, knowing full well that Beren will never do it.
Long story short, along with Luthien’s help, Beren does steal a Silmaril from Melkor, only to get his hand bitten off by Melkor’s most terrible wolf, Carcharoth, who swallowed both the hand and the Silmaril. The Silmaril burned Carcharoth from the inside out, sending him into a horrible fury through the countryside, terrorizing Doriath (Luthien’s father’s stronghold). So Beren goes back to see Luthien’s father and Luthien’s father is all “So where’s the Silmaril?” and Beren goes “It’s in my hand.” Because technically the Silmaril is in his hand, that hand just happens to be in a wolf at the moment.
Eventually a hunting party kills the wolf but not before Beren is mortally wounded and technically dies for a little bit. But Luthien brings him back. And after that, they go off into a forest together and never speak to anyone ever again and no one knows when or where they eventually died. And so goes the story of how one (1) Silmaril was taken back from Melkor.
First and Second Ages
Melkor is essentially the Satan allegory of The Silmarillion. If Illuvatar is God, Melkor is the Lucifer figure who questions and rebels against God’s plan. Melkor wishes to rule Middle-earth after seeing it made through the song of the Ainur. His entire arc is fueled by wanting to take over the world and possess all the riches Middle-earth has to offer. Hence, stealing the Silmarils. Melkor’s first stronghold in Middle-earth is Utumno, his second being Angband where Sauron sees all. When Melkor is captured and chained in Mandos for three ages, Sauron delves deep into the bowels of Angband and none of the Elves are able to find him. He hides there until Melkor returns after he steals the Silmarils.
Exploring Melkor’s character is important because of how he shapes Middle-earth; he might not be the most interesting—essentially, he’s your standard evil fantasy villain—but there needs to be evil in a fantasy world for the story to have purpose and progress.
The Seduction of Sauron
If we compare The Silmarillion to the Bible to Paradise Lost by John Milton, Sauron is essentially a Beelzebub stand-in; in Paradise Lost, Beelzebub is Satan’s right-hand man, which is what Sauron is for Melkor, his most trusted Lieutenant. Sauron started out as a Maiar named Mairon, an apprentice to Aulë the blacksmith. (Ever wonder how he knew how to forge rings? This is how). Mairon listened closely to Melkor’s plans and fell for his rebellion; “[i]n the beginning of Arda, Melkor seduced him to his allegiance.” Sauron is important to explore just because we know basically nothing about him from The Lord of the Rings. If you don’t take the plunge and read The Silmarillion, Sauron is just the Dark Lord. You don’t know that there was another Dark Lord in Middle-earth before him, or that Sauron was basically the equivalent of a Cherubim before his fall.
Looking closer into his character, we find out that he more or less had OCD; “…he loved order and coordination, and despised all confusion and wasteful friction.” Is it clear yet that Sauron is my favorite character and I want a series about Melkor and Sauron as The Odd Couple? Because the text is there in The Silmarillion, they were basically already Felix and Oscar. Just, you know, evil.
The Wars of Beleriand
There were a lot of wars in Beleriand, according to the Silmarillion, but there are six very important ones; the first war, which was fought before the Noldor left Valinor and came to Middle-earth and was fought by the Sindar, the Laiquendi (Elves who stayed behind when the Noldor left for Valinor), and the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains; the Dagor-nuin-Giliath, the Battle-under-Stars, fought by the Noldor and Fëanor and his sons, during which the Battle of the Lammoth was also fought; the Dagor Aglared, the Glorious Battle, which led to the Siege of Angband, during which Melkor was trapped in Angband and couldn’t send out any hosts of Orcs; the Dagor Bragollach, the Battle of Sudden Flame, during which Fingolfin was slain; the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, during which the most destruction was wrought. This battle includes the Fall of the Falas, the Sack of Nargothrond, and the Fall of Gondolin, in which King Turgon was killed. The sixth battle was The War of Wrath, which “defeated Morgoth, ended the first age of Arda, and destroyed most of Beleriand.” Short, succinct. Thank you Tolkien Gateway.
Beren and Luthien Steal a Silmaril
As mentioned above, in The Silmarillion, Beren and Luthien steal a Silmaril back from Melkor. This is crucial in Melkor’s history because it’s the first time he looks weak. A man and an elf just snuck into his legendary fortress and pried a Silmaril out of his crown while it was still on his head.
The Rise of Sauron
Essentially, the War of Wrath gave birth to Sauron as Dark Lord. During the Second Age he really kicks it into high gear; he establishes himself as High Priest of Melkor and Lord of the Dark, forges the rings, builds Barad-dur, corrupts the Numenoreans, attacks Gondor, conquers Minas Ithil. Eventually, the Last Alliance of Elves and Men forms and defeats Sauron in the Battle of Dagorlad, leading to the Seige of Barad-dur. This leads to what we all know about from watching The Fellowship of the Ring: Isildur takes his father’s broken sword Narsil and cuts the One Ring from Sauron’s hand, which destroys his physical form and razes Barad-dur to the ground.
Sauron does so many things during the Second Age. If I tried to talk about them all here this would be twenty thousand words long. If you’re really curious, it’s best to read the Timeline of Arda for hours of fun.
What I Want From This Series
Really, I don’t want a retelling of The Lord of the Rings; but I don’t think it’s going to be that. I would love a series about the entire First Age and the very beginning of Middle-earth; basically the entire Silmarillion in a series. But I don’t think it’s going to be that either. I just hope things are done with respect to the source material while not being afraid to branch out a little on the scarce tales. And, most importantly, I want Melkor. I don’t think I’m going to get Melkor, but at least I’m pretty sure I’m going to get Sauron, if we’re in the Second Age.
Small Glossary in Comparison to The Silmarillion Glossary
- Iluvitar/Eru – Basically God of the Elves
- Ainur/Valar – Holy Ones; basically angels
- Melkor – Mightiest of the Ainur, brother to Manwë; the first Dark Lord of Middle-earth.
- Manwë – Lord of the wind and clouds, King of the Valar
- Varda – Lady of the stars, wife of Manwë
- Ulmo – Lord of waters
- Aulë – Blacksmith, master of all crafts
- Yavanna – Giver of Fruits, wife of Aulë
- Namo (Mandos) – Keeper of the Houses of the Dead
- Voire – the Weaver, wife of Mandos
- Irmo (Lorien) – Master of Visions and Dreams
- Este – the Healer, wife of Lorien
- Nienna – sister of the Feanturi; Lady of Grief
- Tulkas – the Valient, master of laughter, wrestling, and strength
- Nessa – sister of Orome, Lady of Dancing, wife of Tulkas
- Orome – Mighty Lord and hunter
- Vana – younger sister of Yavanna; the Ever-Young; wife of Orome
- Feanturi – Masters of Spirits = Mandos and Lorien
- Aratar – High Ones of Arda = Manwë and Varda, Ulmo, Aulë and Yavanna, Mandos, Nienna, Orome
- Maiar – lesser Holy Ones
- Ilmare – Varda’s handmaid
- Eonwe – banner-bearer and herald of Manwë
- Osse – vassal of Ulmo
- Vinen – Lady of the seas, wife of Osse
- Melian – served both Vana and Este, later Lady of Gondolin
- Olorin – walked unseen among Elves, not much known about
- Mairon – student of Aulë, lost to Melkor, later becomes Sauron
- Quendi – First Elves
- Eldar – Elves that went to Valinor with Orome (later called Calaquendi = Elves of Light)
- Avari – Elves that stayed in Middle-earth (later called Moriquendi = the Unwilling)
- Vanyar, Noldor, and Teleri – Three Kindred of Elves
- Finwe – King of the Noldor
- Fëanor (Curufinwe)
- Maedhros, Maglor, Celegorm, Caranthir, Curufin, Amrod and Amras
- Fingon (King of the Noldor in the North), Turgon (Lord of Gondolin), Aredhel (sister)
- Finrod (Felegund), Orodreth, Angrod, Aegnor, Galadriel
- Fëanor (Curufinwe)
- Aman – Land of Iluvitar
- Valinor – Land of the Valar
- Arda/Ea – Middle-earth
- Utumno – Melkor’s first stronghold
- Angband – Melkor’s second stronghold, commanded by Sauron
- Beleriand – region in Northwestern Middle-earth during the First Age; destroyed during the War of Wrath