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First & Second Ages > Morgoth and Sauron

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message 1: by Aldean (new)

Aldean | 17 comments Over on the boards at The Lord of the Rings group, Jenny raised the interesting (and I venture to say important) point that the twelve-volume History of Middle-Earth series "gives interesting insights into the characters of evil (Morgoth and Sauron)" and Terrence and Jenny have advanced this in subsequent posts.

Since this is a) a vastly interesting topic and b) far from the original point of the thread it is currently at the bottom of ("Quote disgruntlement"), I have made so bold as to start a fresh topic, and to do so in this group, since the issue is larger than only LOTR, but encompasses Tolkien's entire legendarium and his (always-evolving) worldview for Middle-earth. Please join in!


message 2: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Gentry (authorjennifergentry) | 9 comments Thank you for starting this new topic, Aldean. There's a wealth of information to discuss and differing points of view from which to discuss it.

Although not an allegory, I do see many parallels between Tolkien's Middle Earth and its characters to my Christian worldview and beliefs. My husband has always been interested (if not a bit disappointed), for example, in the fact that at the end, Frodo ultimately succumbed to the evil in the ring and could not destroy it. What he finds interesting is that the end everyone worked so hard to achieve was only reached because of Gollum's selfishness.

Anyway, it was the two characters of Morgoth (Melkor) and Sauron and their differences/similarities that Terrence and I were discussing. I was really surprised when reading the Silmarillion to discover that Sauron was but a servant, a fraction of evil Morgoth.

But Terrence reminded me that in the end, after expending so much of his power upon his destructive, creation works, he was defeated. So I thought it was interesting that after watching his master's downfall, Sauron basically did the same thing all over again. He poured the greatest portion of his power and cunning into the One Ring--not expecting to be separated from it, I'm sure. But in the end, separated from it he was and it eventually lead to his destruction as well.


message 3: by Terence (new)

Terence (spocksbro) | 19 comments Just reposting my original comment from the other thread:

There's an interesting discussion of the difference between Morgoth and his lieutenant in one of the latter volumes of the Histories (either X, XI or XII, I forget which). Essentially, Morgoth is a nihilist. If he had won, he would have destroyed Arda because it wasn't his. Sauron was someone who wanted order, his order. Under him, Arda would have survived but it would have been a mirror of his own mind, everyone and everything well oiled cogs in the Mordor Machine.

And, while I'm thinking of it, there's a discussion about Morgoth's power - Remember, when the Valar and Melkor first came to Arda, he was able to fight them single-handedly and it was only the intervention of the latecomer Tulkas that tipped the balance in the Valar's favor. Over the course of time, Morgoth fed more and more of his essence into the fabric of Arda and, thus, diminished personally so that Fingolfin could face him in single combat (though Fingolfin died) and Luthien could charm him with a spell.


@Jenny: I don't know that Tolkien could have ended Frodo's quest any other way since his worldview and ME's ethos is essentially Christian. Men, Elves and everyone else in Arda are flawed by Morgoth's poison and can only find salvation by relying upon Eru's mercy (in this case manifested by Gollum's inadvertent sacrifice).


message 4: by Chris (new)

Chris | 6 comments I haven' t read the histories but I have read the Simillan (sorry bout the spelling) and the whole relationship is kinda cool I enjoy the part with Beren and luthien in Dol whatit called anyways I am wondering what type of creature saron is and what he looked like "before he was tereble to behld" Y'know when he was working with the elves.


message 5: by Terence (new)

Terence (spocksbro) | 19 comments Chris wrote: "I am wondering what type of creature saron is and what he looked like "before he was tereble to behld" Y'know when he was working with the elves...."

Sauron is a Maia and, as such, initially he could take any form he chose. Considering his life choice, that form usually was pretty grim (he was called Lord of Werewolves in the First Age) but he could appear as a noble Elf or Man until the end of the Second Age, when his physical body was destroyed in the Drowning of Numenor.


message 6: by Dennis (new)

Dennis | 11 comments I have always had a love of music and in my imagination have tried to consider the majesty of the music of the Ainur and the terrible discord that Melkor kept insinuating into the music. Tolkien mentions sounds like harps, lutes, pipes, trumpets, viols, organs and choirs coming from the Ainur, but the only instrument mentioned relating to Melkor is the trumpet – many trumpets playing a few brash notes in unison very loudly and (my thought) slightly off key. And all this music ends up being changed by Eru from thoughts and visions into the solid matter of the (I assume) universe - Ea. What a wonderful creation story!


message 7: by Eli (new)

Eli Dennis wrote: "I have always had a love of music and in my imagination have tried to consider the majesty of the music of the Ainur and the terrible discord that Melkor kept insinuating into the music. Tolkien me..."
Same here, Dennis! It is an amazing story, and for me at least, gives insight into the power and love of the one true God. That's not to say that the purely musical side isn't just as fascinating.

Anyone besides me find it interesting that this thread was started to discuss "darkness" (Morgoth and Sauron) and we ended up marveling at the beauty of Eru's creation?


message 8: by Aldean (new)

Aldean | 17 comments Amy wrote: "Anyone besides me find it interesting that this thread was started to discuss "darkness" (Morgoth and Sauron) and we ended up marveling at the beauty of Eru's creation?"

Well, you cannot have darkness without light (or vice versa): the one is required to define the other. So not so off-topic after all... :-)

I agree with Dennis: the mythic portrayal of pre-creation in the language of music has always been for me one of the most beautiful moments in the Silmarillion, and perhaps also the most Tolkien, if that makes any sense. Music was obviously very important to him: the tales are filled with song, and in many instances that plays a very important narrative role.

The "sin" of Melkor, if we want to use that language, is the sowing of discord, a discord rooted in his pride; he is too proud to collaborate under the guidance of the One. The theological and cosmological implications roll out from there, and give us our story, of course. And to Christian readers, it is a story that feels very, very true, and that is no accident on Tolkien's part, obviously.


message 9: by Terence (new)

Terence (spocksbro) | 19 comments Aldean wrote: "The "sin" of Melkor, if we want to use that language, is the sowing of discord, a discord rooted in his pride; he is too proud to collaborate under the guidance of the One...."

It's even more subtle than that: Melkor wants to be God, at least to the extent that he wants to create things. You'll remember that he spends ages wandering the Void looking for the Flame Imperishable.

His pride twists that desire into the blind hatred and violence first manifests in the original Music.

Remember too that the Valar and Maiar of similar characters (Aule and his people) face the same temptation. Both Sauron and Saruman were Maia of Aule's folk, after all.


message 10: by Aldean (new)

Aldean | 17 comments You know, Terence, every time you post something I become a bigger fan of yours.

I especially like the point you make about the similar temptation for those Powers you name, all of whom are engaged in and passionate about craft/techné. Any reflection, do you think, of Tolkien's deep mistrust of technology and industry?


message 11: by Terence (new)

Terence (spocksbro) | 19 comments Well, I know about Tolkien's loathing of modern technology (influenced by his childhood in Manchester - at least I think I remember that's the city he grew up in), and I'll certainly accept that some of that is reflected in the characters of Melkor, Aule, Sauron et al. (it's captured quite nicely, IMO, in Jackson's version when Saruman orders the orcs to cut down all the trees to feed the fires of Isengard's industry).

But, as usual, Tolkien if far deeper than many give him credit for: Melkor's sin is not that he desires to create (and in the beginning his desire was to create beautiful things) but that the desire becomes the need to possess Eru's power to create entirely new things. It wasn't an appropriate wish as only someone who fully comprehended all of Arda could presume to create something new under the sun. Aule skirts the edges of that trap but in the end submits to Eru's will (and is rewarded with the Dwarves actually "becoming").

Melkor could have been the true king of the world (in place of Manwe) if he had accepted that limit on his will.

It's a profoundly Christian (Abrahamic) world view that I don't buy into but I'm constantly impressed by Tolkien's depth and complexity, and how he tries to work out the paradoxes of Christianity via these myths.


message 12: by Dennis (new)

Dennis | 11 comments There wasn't much to celebrate at the end of the first age of Middle Earth, but at least Morgoth was removed from our dimension and imprisoned beyond time and the universe. Tolkien pulled so much mythology from other cultures; I wonder if he got the idea of banishing the Devil himself from one of those or whether he invented the idea himself. As a good Catholic, he would have had no Christian reference.


message 13: by Sidhe (last edited Apr 10, 2010 05:54AM) (new)

Sidhe Prankster (sidheprankster) | 28 comments Terence wrote: "Both Sauron and Saruman were Maia of Aule's folk, after all."

I thought Sauron was a Maia while Morgoth was a Vala? Have I been totally confused all this time?
8-O
Oh, nooo! LOL!


message 14: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Gentry (authorjennifergentry) | 9 comments Sidhe wrote: "Terence wrote: "Both Sauron and Saruman were Maia of Aule's folk, after all."

I thought Sauron was a Maia while Morgoth was a Vala? Have I been totally confused all this time?
8-O
Oh, nooo! LOL!"


No, you're right. Sauron and the wizzards = Maia. Morgoth/Melkor = Vala


message 15: by Ebster (last edited Apr 28, 2010 02:35PM) (new)

Ebster Davis | 13 comments Chris wrote: I haven' t read the histories but I have read the Simillan (sorry bout the spelling) and the whole relationship is kinda cool I enjoy the part with Beren and luthien in Dol whatit called anyways I am wondering what type of creature saron is and what he looked like "before he was tereble to behld" Y'know when he was working with the elves ..."

I believe Sauron shape-shifts, he can appear as an animal or a humanoid.
The most interesting version of Sauron, to me, is the one he takes after Morgoth was destroyed and Sauron repents; he assumes appearance of a beautiful angelic being. I would assume that this is his "true form" or at least it represents what he is before he turned evil.

Ultimately, this is the appearance he used to trick the elves into helping him make the One Ring.


message 16: by Sidhe (new)

Sidhe Prankster (sidheprankster) | 28 comments Jenny wrote: "No, you're right. Sauron and the wizzards = Maia. Morgoth/Melkor = Vala"

Oh, good! I thought I was going to have to turn in my Official Tolkien Addict badge. LOL!


message 17: by Jack (last edited Mar 28, 2013 03:23AM) (new)

Jack | 10 comments Terence wrote: "Well, I know about Tolkien's loathing of modern technology (influenced by his childhood in Manchester - at least I think I remember that's the city he grew up in), and I'll certainly accept that so..."

If you read Humphrey Carpenter's biography J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, I think you'll find it was Birmingham he grew up in - the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.

I suspect the many of the contributors' exclusive Christian interpretation of JRRT's work might be wrapping his story-telling in too tight a straight-jacket. As an academic, he studied the the pre-Christian mythological texts of north-west Europe. In particular, his seminal work on Beowulf attracted acclaim (and still does). He then drew upon those myths to create Middle Earth. JRRT said explicitly he was not interested in creating Christian allegorical works like those written by his great friend C.S. Lewis. All the Norse-Germanic and Celtic mythologies have concepts of right and wrong, evil being banished and so on. Is there a culture that doesn't?


message 18: by Wm. Scott (last edited Mar 28, 2013 04:27AM) (new)

Wm. Scott Conway (wsconway) | 11 comments Oh yeah, Tolkien was miffed at Lewis' blatant Christian reflection in Narnia. Not allegory, even Lewis balked at that.

But one cannot deny that Tolkien's Catholicism pervaded LOTR. Aragorn, descended from a divine race, a king by birthright, but chosen instead a nomadic life of obscurity and servitude. Who does that sound like ;)?

Interesting, Aragorn's is a picture of mainline Christianity's Christ. But when you consider that Aragorn's mother lived with elves, and inherited many of their attributes, one can see where Catholicism's adoration of Mary comes into play as well. Some parts of LOTR draw a picture of "mere" Christianity, and sometimes, the flavors lean toward Catholicism.

It is all intensely interesting.


message 19: by Jack (last edited Mar 28, 2013 04:31AM) (new)

Jack | 10 comments Hah, yes, point taken about the allegory. Thanks.

Tolkien was, of course, influenced by Christianity, but the point I'm trying to make is to interpret Morgoth and Sauron (and Aragorn) solely within a Judeo-Christian worldview might reflect more upon the religious perspective of those who do so rather than JRRT himself.


message 20: by Wm. Scott (last edited Mar 28, 2013 05:55AM) (new)

Wm. Scott Conway (wsconway) | 11 comments Yes. In the end, Tolkien was creating an epic. Tolkien and Lewis both was saddened that England didn't have its own mythology. At least, no mythology on par with the Icelandic and Norse myths these two enjoyed so much.

And yes, when I read LOTR, or The Hobbit, or the Silmarillion, or any of these stories, I realize that I am reading the epic of a literary scholar that was NOT meant to be theological in nature (although the nature of the story makes it inherently theological, or perhaps the better word might be "metaphysical").

Christianity is salt on Tolkien's stories. It might bring out intellectual flavors one might not glean from a more superficial reading. But certainly, to dig out theological correlation is not what Tolkien intended his readers to do. In fact, he was not writing for readers. He never dreampt he'd be published.

On a personal level, I read the whole story in light of the culture and society Tolkien was surrounded with. I read the whole story in light of Tolkien's own taste in literature. And I read it in light of Tolkien's religious worldview.

I recognized Tolkien's complaints against industrialization before the movies made it so blatant. I recognized similitude with Beowulf before I read any commentary suggesting it. It never ceases to amaze me at the similarity between Rohan and the Danes. And, I recognized the Catholic and Christian preceptual pervasion into the core of the story before the religious right pounced on it for their own purposes.


message 21: by Aldean (new)

Aldean | 17 comments Let's not forget, either, that even Beowulf is the work of a Christian poet, re-telling a much older tale set in a pre-Christian past, but through a Christian lens. I think Tolkien was very conscious of that, and perhaps saw it as an ideal, allowing his own belief to inform the worldview of his imaginative work, without bludgeoning the reader about the head with any blatant "meaning" or "allegory" along the way.


message 22: by Wm. Scott (new)

Wm. Scott Conway (wsconway) | 11 comments That's a thought. He loathed the idea, in general. But I like to think he believed it viable if it could be made subtle enough. Either way, it is there.

For clarification, I had it in my mind that Beowulf's original author was unknown. How do we he was a Christian?


message 23: by Laurie (new)

Laurie (nerdogical) | 7 comments Aldean, I think, is spot on. Tolkien was a devout Catholic, and his letters reveal that Catholicism informed much of the LOTR's, not in a purposeful sense, but because Catholicism informed his whole life. There are books on the subject--The Power of the Ring by Stratford Caldecott is one that I would highly recommend, particularly because he discusses this vision in LOTR without making it the sole basis of the story's creation.

Also, Beowulf's author is unknown, but there are prayers and petitions to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit throughout. However, I understand that older manuscripts have been found where these petitions were made to pagan gods, and that Christianity was infused later, but I'm not sure where this notion is coming from in my brain, so that may not be true.


message 24: by Michael (new)

Michael | 447 comments Mod
Wm. Scott wrote: "I had it in my mind that Beowulf's original author was unknown. How do we he was a Christian? ..."

Grendal is described as being descended from Cain, the fratricidal son of Adam and Eve - there are other examples of Christian elements, but I'm too comfortable on the sofa to go upstairs and look up the examples :-)


message 25: by Philip (last edited Sep 30, 2013 03:56PM) (new)

Philip Dodd (philipdodd) | 84 comments In the universe created by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings, there is One God, who he calls Eru, Iluvatar, the One. Below him are his highest children, the Ainur, the greatest of whom the Elves called the Valar. Below the Ainur come the Maiar and below them come the Elves. Melkor, one of the Valar, equal in might to Manwe, decides from the beginning to sing out of tune with the choirs of the Ainur. He plans to unmake whatever Iluvatar and his children make. After his theft of the Silmarils, Feanor names him Morgoth. Though J.R.R. Tolkien achieved what he set out to do, that is, create his own mythology for his own country, England, he did, inevitably, mirror in his works the myths he knew and loved. The myth of the fall of Lucifer, the one who became known on Earth as the Devil, Satan, found on the pages of The Bible, is clearly behind his creation of Morgoth and his chief servant, Sauron. Both Morgoth and Sauron could be seen as fallen angels. In The Bible, as in the works of Tolkien, there is One God who is betrayed by one of his sons, the original fallen angel, the one known on Earth as Satan, the Devil. If Melkor falls to become Morgoth, it is Manwe, his equal in power, he rebels against, just as in the war in heaven, mentioned in the Book of Revelation, the dragon, another name for Satan, rebels against the archangel Michael. So you could see Morgoth as Satan, Manwe as the archangel Michael. According to his biographer, Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien did not care too much for the works of John Milton, but his description of Morgoth in the Valaquenta could well be of the fallen angel, Satan, in Paradise Lost.
Of the rebel Valar, Melkor, fallen to become the one named Morgoth, Tolkien writes: "For of the Maiar many were drawn to his splendour in the days of his greatness, and remained in that allegiance down into his darkness; and others he corrupted afterwards to his service with lies and treacherous gifts."
That could well be a description of Lucifer, the Devil, Satan, as he is portrayed by John Milton in Paradise Lost. Dragons, Balrogs, orcs and other evil creatures, Morgoth creates, to crawl out of the same dark pit. In the last battle in The Silmarillion, Morgoth is defeated and cast out by the Valar, as the Devil is finally defeated and cast into the lake of fire in the Book of Revelation, at the end of The Bible. At the end of The Lord of the Rings, Sauron, Morgoth's servant, is finally destroyed, but the evil created by him and his master leaves a stain on Middle-earth and a sorrow that cannot be removed.


message 26: by Victoria (new)

Victoria | 4 comments Adeptly put! I noticed the same parallels when I read the Silmarillion. In the preface of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien's son, Christopher, makes it clear that his father didn't intend or desire to make an allegory of Middle Earth, but you can see plain as day that Tolkien cannot resist the pull to mimic the greatest plot ever; the triumph of good over evil - God vanquishing Satan. It's a story still in the making... we have yet to see its conclusion...


message 27: by Glitchieyt (last edited Oct 01, 2013 04:51AM) (new)

Glitchieyt TTV | 5 comments Awkward and similar, considering they chained Melkor up and cast him into the Door of Night.

And Satan was bound and cast into the bottomless pit.


message 28: by Camille (new)

Camille Hodoul | 9 comments I always wondered whether Melkor was "evil" right from the start or not.

As far as I know few things if any are born evil in Tolkien's universe, but I'm not sure about Melkor and it's been a while since I haven't read The Silmarillion.

I remember he didn't follow the others in the Music but that's not enough to be Devil-like in my opinion.

I'd be happy to read what you think about it.


message 29: by Philip (last edited Oct 02, 2013 08:28AM) (new)

Philip Dodd (philipdodd) | 84 comments "Nothing was evil in the beginning." So says Gandalf, somewhere, in The Lord of the Rings, I remember. He was speaking of Sauron. In the beginning, the one who became known as Sauron was born a holy one, one of the Maiar, but he was taken down by Melkor, the one who Feanor named Morgoth, and made by him his high servant. What sets Melkor apart from the other Ainur in the beginning was that he went off alone, into the Void, seeking the Imperishable Flame. His desire was to create his own creation, separate to the one created by Iluvatar. So in the beginning, he was not evil. Maybe his explorations of the Void, the darkness outside, unbalanced his mind and finally led him to want to destroy what Iluvatar and his fellow Ainur made. When he rebels against his own maker and is given the name of Morgoth by Feanor, he becomes a figure to be compared with Lucifer, the Devil, Satan, the one who was born a holy angel, but who fell to become the Enemy of God and his children.


message 30: by Chris (new)

Chris Irvine | 3 comments To say it plainly, all that comes from God is good but because it is not God it is in turn not perfect therefore prone to falling into an abyss of false beliefs that it can be like God and attempts to be like God in every way it can comprehend and imagine.


message 31: by Chris (new)

Chris Irvine | 3 comments This doesn't account for everything God made but I think you see where I'm coming from.


message 32: by Katherine (new)

Katherine | 15 comments I think it shows the depth of Tolkien's faith that so many things in his books correspond so well to things in the Bible when he didn't necessarily mean them to. I also like the way that he adds something similar to the Greek or Norse gods while still maintaining Iluvatar's supremacy.


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