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The Chaining of Melko

The Chaining of Melko begins a new section after the lengthy contiguous document that, in The Book of Lost Tales, is divided into The Cottage of Lost Play, The Music of the Ainur, and The Coming of the Valar and the Building of Valinor.

The Chaining of Melko again begins with Eriol, the mortal explorer who happened upon Tol Eressëa in the early chapters of the Tales. Eriol hears in his sleep the flute music that also enchanted him on his first night. He tells his hostess Vairë of it, and she informs him that he music played for the stars by the elusive Tinfang Warble.

Tinfang Warble was a character J.R.R. Tolkien had written about years before beginning his work on The Book of Lost Tales. Tinfang stars (pun intended!) in two poems before appearing again here, as an element of J.R.R.T.'s early mythology. Even among the Solosimpi, Tinfang's talents as a flutist are unrivaled, and he plays as the stars come out. While he prefers the garden at the Cottage of Lost Play, he also departs--sometimes for months--to the Great Lands. He is believed to be the child of a fay from Palúrien's company and one of the Eldar. J.R.R.T.'s early opinion on this matter placed him as a son of Thingol and Melian--making him a kinsman to Lúthien Tinúviel--but this idea was rejected. It is said that the stars come out early at the sound of his fluting, and that they glow "blue and bright." These ideas were maintained over the space of years, through poetry and into the Tales.

Eriol remarks to Vairë that Tinfang's music inspired in him a great desire to follow it, even to leap from the window, and she tells him that he will always be filled with longing at the sight of the stars, having heard Tinfang's song. Eriol wonders why Vairë and the others in the Cottage of Lost Play do not seem to be similarly afflicted, and Vairë answers that the drink limpë gives one the ability to comprehend all songs, even the strange melodies of Tinfang. When Eriol wishes for a drink of limpë to free him from his longing, Vairë regrets that it can only be given to guests by Meril-i-Turinqi.

A few days later, after hearing Tinfang's song several more times, Littleheart takes Eriol to meet Meril-i-Turinqi. Recall from The Cottage of Lost Play that the tower of Kortirion was built by Ingil, the son of Inwë. At the base of the tower is a grove (korin) of elms, and Meril lives in a house at the center of it. Littleheart leaves Eriol at the house, and he is greeted by Meril, who is surprised that he sought her home rather than the sea, as she would have expected.

Eriol replies that he will never tire of this land enough to seek the sea, and that he has been enchanted by Tinfang and desires a drink of limpë.

Meril asks if Eriol understands what it is that he asks. He replies that he wishes to live forever among the Elves, free of longing, and able to understand all songs.

But, Meril explains, the fates of Elves and Men are different, and while they may be friends, they cannot be kin. Men are fated to die once, and it is a dangerous matter for a grown Man such as Eriol to drink limpë. She advises him to learn more of the lore of both Elves and Men before asking for a drink of limpë.

Eriol is hurt by her rejection and answers that he has learned some of the language of the Elves, as well as the origins of the world and the Valar as described in The Music of the Ainur and The Coming of the Valar. Meril cautions Eriol that to drink limpë, he must stand united with the Elves, even if against his own people at the Faring Forth. The longings for his home would be unbearable.

The Faring Forth has only been briefly alluded to in the stories so far. In the commentary to The Cottage of Lost Play, Christopher Tolkien explained that the Faring Forth will occur when Tol Eressëa is uprooted and brought near to the Great Lands with the intention of rescuing the Eldar who are stranded there. At this time, Men invade the island and claim it as their own, as England. The Elves are forced into hiding, and their fading begins. For Eriol to drink limpë, then, he would have to fight against his kinsmen, unsuccessfully, during this battle.

Eriol did not know of this. Meril begs patience from him and offers to tell him a story instead of "Melko's Chains" and of the awakening of the Elves.

Two divergent contexts for the same story exist. In the early version--presented in the Tales--Eriol goes to Meril and she tells him the story "Melko's Chains." In the second, later version, all of the stories in the early half of the Book of Lost Tales 1 are told in front of the fire over the course of three nights, though they are ascribed to "Evromord the Door-ward" and not to Rúmil. (Interestingly, however, it is Rúmil who survives as the "author" of Ainulindalë in The Silmarillion, in spite of his brief rejection here.) Eriol's seeking Meril and being denied limpë occurs separately from the tale-telling. These revisions, though outlined, were never applied.

The story of "Melko's Chains" begins in the time following the construction of Valinor, when all lies in peace. The Great Lands, however, are darkened, due to the Valar taking the light from the air to fill their cauldrons and water the Two Trees. Into the darkness, Palúrien Yavanna goes to coax forth the first plantlife.

Palúrien sings enchantments that will linger for years across the land and the memory of which will later form the basis of good magic. At her song, fungus and mold begins to grow, but this is not what she imagined. As she weeps in disappointment, Oromë comes to her, and they combine their efforts to bring forth life in the darkness. With a strong blast on his horn, Oromë brings forth trees, and both Valar are delighted at this.

The trees create hiding places for strange spirits: evil spirits from the halls of Mandos and Utumna that bring fear to the dark, and gentle spirits from the gardens of Lórien that create enchantment. These spirits linger still in the ancient forests and caves of the world, and Men and Elves can never remain contented in these places as a result.

Pleased with their work, Palúrien and Oromë retire again to Valinor. Thinking the world deserted by the Valar, Melko takes it as an invitation to do as he pleases. He shakes the earth and the seabed and creates great storms. He melts the insides of mountains to form volcanoes. Because of his tumults, sections of land are drowned; others are torn and broken. Angered by the destruction of that which they hold dear, Palúrien, Aulë, and Ossë seek Manwë to control Melko.

Manwë calls all of the Valar to council, and they decide that Melko must be controlled. Their chief desire is to convince him to voluntarily cease his destruction, but if they fail in this, they are willing to force him into compliance. From a blend of six metals called tilkal, Aulë creates a chain, manacles, and fetters. The other Valar array themselves in armor and take up weapons of war. With the aid of Ossë, they cross the Great Sea and into the Great Lands, where they march north to Melko's stronghold. Shaking the earth and sending up fire from the mountains, Melko attempts to stop them but is unsuccessful. Instead, he slams the gates of Utumna in their faces.

With a blast of his horn, Oromë throws open the gates of Utumna, and Manwë orders Melko to come forward. Though Melko hears Manwë's plea, he sends forth a servant to provide his answer. Feigning fawning regard, Melko sends his regrets that he cannot welcome his peers into his home, but it lacks the splendor to which they have become accustomed in Valinor. In fact, it is too small to hold more than two of them at a time. And while he is willing to accommodate two of them, he asks that they not be Manwë and Tulkas, who will surely demand better accommodations than he can provide. He adds that he will allow Manwë's herald Nornorë to speak on the behalf of the Valar, explaining why they have left behind their lazy lives in Valinor to come to where Melko humbly labors.

The Valar are angry at Melko's subtle defiance, but they withhold their rage and, on Manwë's advice, decide to use Melko's pride as a means to gain his audience. Sending forth Nornorë, he explains that the Valar are troubled by what they have done to upset Melko to the degree that he is ravaging the world in his rage. They seek his pardon and wish him to come live among them in Valinor, where Aulë will build him a house taller than Taniquetil.

Melko's pride overtakes his judgment when he hears this, and he says that he will grant them pardon so long as they set aside their weapons, show deference to him in Utumna, and allow him to banish Tulkas from Valinor. The Valar feign to agree with this, offering Tulkas as a slave in chains, which Melko accepts.

Draping Tulkas with the chain Angaino forged by Aulë and setting aside their weapons, the Valar go forward into Utumna. Melko demands that the Valar kneel at his feet one by one, beginning with Manwë and ending with Tulkas, and Manwë goes so far as to begin to perpetuate the ruse and starts to kneel. Tulkas and Aulë are wrathful at seeing Manwë humiliated so, and they spring forward--with Oromë close behind--and grapple Melko and wrap him in the chain Angaino.

Bound and humiliated, Melko is dragged outside and shackled. Ulmo and Tulkas break the gates of Utumna and pile stones high upon them. The dark creatures of Utumna, however, are left within, and across the ages, these creatures find means of escape and continue their mischief in the world without.

Melko is taken back to Valinor, where he stands trial before the other Valar. Many speak against him; only Makar speaks in his favor and only because Makar believes the world will become dull without the battles guaranteed to occupy the Valar if Melko remains. Palúrien speaks against Melko, in defense of preserving the earth's beauty for Elves and Men.

Manwë's verdict requires Melko to remain chained for three ages within the halls of Mandos, then to serve Tulkas for an additional four ages. Once he has earned the right to do so, he may live in peace among the others in Valinor. To Tulkas and Palúrien, this punishment seemed dangerously mild. However, it did buy the earth reprieve from Melko's hurts. This time of peace--called "Melko's Chains"--was the longest in the history of Valinor. Palúrien returns to her labors, planting seeds that await light to grow and populating the earth with animals. With her help, Ulmo fills the sea with fish.

But in Mandos, Melko grows evermore bitter in his heart.

While The Chaining of Melko contains some of the same foundations as the published Silmarillion, it still differs greatly in many regards. One chief similarity is the idea of Palúrien Yavanna having a measure of foresight about the coming of light to Middle-earth. In both The Chaining of Melko and The Silmarillion, she plants seeds in anticipation of future light allowing them to grow.

The exact sequence of her population of animals and plants differs between the sources, however. In The Silmarillion, she accomplishes her planting during the years of the Lamps, when there is light throughout the world. When Melkor overthrows the Lamps and darkness reigns again, she places a sleep upon most plantlife in order to preserve it.

By contrast, in The Chaining of Melko, Palúrien does her planting during the time of darkness, after the Lamps have been overthrown. Nonetheless, she clearly believes that the future will contain light for all of the world; many of her labors depend on it.

While the idea of capturing Melko using deception was entirely rejected, other elements remain the same--or similar--between the sources. In both, Aulë forges a chain that is used to bind Melko after capture. Tulkas wrestles with him in both versions, and the three-age term of imprisonment in Mandos remains. Perhaps most importantly, we see in The Chaining of Melko the idea arise that Utumna was not wholly and properly cleared following Melko's capture, allowing evil creatures to remain and continue their dark deeds in the absence of their lord. In The Silmarillion, this oversight is important in explaining how easily and quickly Melkor regained power upon his return to Middle-earth.




For readers familiar with The Silmarillion, a list of name equivalencies between the two versions is often helpful.




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