Of the Beginning of Days
The Quenta Silmarillion forms the bulk of The Silmarillion and contains most of the familiar characters and stories. In this first chapter, we learn more about the struggles of the Valar with the fallen Melkor in their preparation of Arda for the Children of Ilúvatar: Elves and Men.
Before Arda was completely shaped, the First War between the Valar and Melkor began. At this time, the Vala Tulkas came to Arda to lend his strength in the fight against Melkor, and he has remained since. Melkor fled from the laughter and wrath of Tulkas, and in the peace that followed, order was established in the world and many things began to grow.
Needing light upon the world for growing things, Aulë made two lamps at Yavanna’s request—Illuin and Ormal—set at the north and south of the world, leaving the world always in daylight. During this time, the first plants and animals grew upon the earth.
The Valar then dwelled upon an island called Almaren, and while the Valar feasted and rested from their labors, Melkor came forth once more and began building an underground fortress in northern Middle-earth called Utumno, and he gathered into service many of the Maiar whom he had corrupted. Sickness and violence was set upon the earth with Melkor’s arrival, but the Valar could not find where he hid. Melkor, trusting the unassailable strength of Utumno and his servants, then came forth and toppled the lamps, disrupting the lands and seas and pouring flame over the earth. In their efforts to restrain the chaos of the earth, the Valar could not attack Melkor at that time.
In the tumult following the toppling of the lamps, Almaren was destroyed, and the Valar then moved their dwelling to Aman at the far western edge of the world, raising the mountains of Pelóri against invasion by Melkor and building their realm, Valinor, behind their defense.
At this time, Yavanna called forth with song the Two Trees of Valinor. The first to arise was Telperion, and he gave cool, silver light. The second was Laurelin, and she blazed forth in golden brilliance. The trees alternated in waxing and waning, and each day included an hour where both trees shone dimly and their lights mingled.
Middle-earth was not wholly forgotten during this time. Yavanna returned often to heal the hurts brought against her creatures by Melkor, and she often asked the other Valar to make war against him. Oromë would also ride in Middle-earth, and the servants of Melkor shrunk from him but quickly returned at his leaving.
The world was prepared for the arrival of the Children of Ilúvatar—Elves and Men—whom the Valar are supposed to guide. Elves dwell upon Arda until its ending, and of them, great beauty and joy will come. They die only by being slain or wasted by grief, and their spirits go to the halls of Mandos, from which they may be reborn. The lengths of the Elves’ lives, however, leave them weary and sorrowed. Men, on the other hand, are mortal and are destined to seek beyond the world and find no rest within it. They possess greater control over their fates and, as a result, are often a grief to Manwë, as they choose the paths of evil. Ilúvatar, however, emphasizes once more that all actions taken—no matter how evil they may seem—only serve his purposes in the end.