Subcreation: A Collection
by SWG Authors
The Re-Creation of Arda
In the beginning was the Music and the Music was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar. And Eru created in His thought the Holy Ones who sang the universe as He had propounded. And Eru was pleased so He said: “Eä! Let these things Be!” And Arda Was.
When the Heaven was born, when the Earth was born, the Holy Ones entered Arda. That marked the beginning of Time for there had been no Time before Arda was made and in Time the life of the Eruhini, the Children of Eru, both Elves and Men, would unfold.
So Eru gave the Eruhini a Place and a Time to live in. The Children, strange and free, had been conceived by Eru alone and in their being His mind was reflected. Thus with the Children Eru shared His own Primary Imagination, the power to Create, and so contribute with their finite minds in the eternal act of Creation.
Notes: With thanks to St John, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and JRR Tolkien.
It Came Into the Heart of Melkor
It began with a single sound, one small note of disharmony, of difference. In all that unity of praise and glory, his desires could no longer be constrained, and burst forth, off the beat, out of rhythm, until they grew into a different tune altogether.
Melkor was not made for harmony. He desired so much more! The Void was empty and boundless, and it cried out for life to be made within it. He desired life: beings of his very own, created in his image, even as he had been created.
Rebellion surged up in his breast. New notes sprang into the Song, competing, clashing. Some of the Ainur nearest him heard his voice, and began to sing his song rather than the theme of Ilúvatar. The storm of sound about Ilúvatar's throne rose, and Melkor rejoiced in it. For was there not true creativity in the midst of chaos?
"Ainulindalë" from "The Prancing Pony"
But I... I am a mere Maia, a little bell at the side of the mightiest orchestra, where Manwë, Varda, Ulmö and other mighty Valar sang songs of glory and power, bringing joy and exaltation, filling all with love. The strife of Melkor marred the Music, but still we sang, our whole beings seeming to dissolve into the Music, as though there were only one chord, only one note, only Eru, alone, crying aloud in the void. But we saw the anger of Melkor, the beating of his spirit against the walls of fate that he felt surrounded him, and his rage would have him attack the being of Eru who made us, and many joined him in fury. But Eru raised his hand, and Melkor fell silent, and we sang again, and Eru was pleased.
Then Ilùvatar showed us a vision, though we did not know sight, but the World was there, Arda, which is, and we rejoiced, each of us, for our own small notes in the great Music had helped to shape the splendid vision, and if even the least among us had remained silent, we knew that the World would have been diminished.
And those of us among the created who truly loved the Music, and the vision, were sent here by Eru himself, to be a part of the vision, to bring the Music to completion, to act with "minute precision", to sing the last notes of the song of Eru from within the World Which Is.
And I, a humble Maia, of the following of Nienna, have been sent to Middle-Earth to continue in the long struggle, to end the discord of the echoes of the voice of wrath, to silence the screams of Melkor.
My name was Olórin, in Valinor, but that is not what I call myself.'(Read the full story.)
The Labours of Varda
Stars burn. Silver dew fashioned into ecstatic flame
From liquid turns to a star that has a name.
In stars, signs and portents earn their fame.
In the Kindler's burning hands, stars never wane.
Stars stand. Bright challenges to darkest hate
Over sea and land, rising early, setting late,
We understand though long they may wait
Stars are planned to foretell evil's fate.
Varda shines. Her hair of darkest night,
Like deepest wines, sets sparks all alight.
She made signs, symbols burning bright
Silver refined, a Tree's dew taking flight.
Hearing the Music
It is said by the Eldar that in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance that is in this Earth.
‘Listen, oh listen!’ cried Enelye.
‘The sound of flowing water?’ asked Tatie.
‘It is a world,’ mused Enel.
‘But is it this world?’ asked Iminye.
‘Or another one?’ asked Imin.
‘Can we make it?’ asked Tata.
Ingwë loved the Light, more than he loved his family, more than he loved all who lived, more than he loved his own life. When the Hunter had come to summon them to meet those who had crafted the world, and above all the stars, he had wished to have the others follow him with all the intensity of his passionate spirit. He could not comprehend their doubt and fear, nor grasp why they did not share his love of the glorious stars. For all agreed on the beauty and joy of the lights in the heavens, but to his dismay they did not share his consuming need to find the source of such beauty and power.
And after the hard and draining struggle to lead the drifting Elves to the great Sea, and finally, at last, to Valinor, and into the Light, even then, many had turned away from the Valar, some turning away, it seemed to the heart of Ingwë, from the Light itself. They hesitated yet, hiding beyond the mountains, skulking in the shadows on the shores of the dark sea, though he too rejoiced to see at times the stars of old from the quays of Alqualondë.
The voices of the Valar had stunned him, he had felt as the new-hatched bird, the shell shattered, loosed into the world under the vastness of the sky. The visions brought to him in the exaltation of the storm of their Song had lit within him with a joy that would shine until he, and the world, should fade. And in the Music, of which mere glimpses were granted to him, jewels of melody in the vast symphony of Eä, he understood a little of the mercy of Varda, and the truth of the fashioning of her brilliant stars.
For in the Song of Nienna he perceived the Void, in which Arda moves, a glinting speck of Light amidst the unfathomable black depths and the endless darkness of naught. A horror and terror had seized him, he would have fallen had his very fear not locked his frozen limbs.
But the Light was within him, the World was around him, and the shield of Varda held back the dread emptiness of the Void, while her Song spread the Music out into the endless, dead silence of nothing. His frail Elven heart clung to the Light of the stars as a child to the hand of a parent, and with fear at his back and love driving him forwards, he stepped towards the Valar, alone among the Firstborn.
But their power was as a sheer cliff, or crushing load, and he stood, his mind and spirit open, as the fell majesty of Eru Ilùvatar shone through the Song, as the stars shine through the darkness. His spirit turned to Varda, and it seemed to him that she would smile upon him, a tender smile to soothe his fearful heart. Her Lights, made ready for the Awakening of the Eldar, would outlast them, the terror of the Void was kept from them for all time, the Kindler would shelter them behind the strong Walls of the World.
And it seemed to Ingwë that the Light grew, strengthening and weaving a foundation and a dwelling place for the spirits within, while the Void became the thing both tiny and remote. The Song of Nienna rose in harmony with Varda until the Kindler fell silent, and at last Ingwë felt the longing of the Valar for those who had remained with Eru, beyond Eä, whom the Valar had left behind; and their endless regret at their parting from Ilùvatar. And like a single note of crushing power, he felt their own longing for that which is Beyond. The dwelling place of Nienna, whose windows face outward from the Walls of the World, would grant to all a glimpse of the truth of the Void, and turning thence, let each one know the joy of Light, set in stars for the love of all by Varda Elentári.
A Purpose Beyond Beauty
Este observed Melian tending the gardens of Lorien while she waited on her island. Nightingales flitted about the Maia while she worked, the nondescript brown birds filling the air with their vibrant song.
Melian busied herself fashioning garlands of flowers in the trees, of myriad colors and scents and scattered many new floral creations upon the lawns and lake that surrounded Este's island for the Vala to marvel at.
To her spouse Irmo, Este often acknowledged how much she admired Melian's creations but her words on this day were tinged with a note of sadness.
"I fear our dear friend has become bored with her work here and a desire grows within her to go forth to find new challenges." Este's voice held a low tone which illustrated her sadness.
"Dear wife, please do not think or say these words," Irmo replied with concern deepening his voice. "I had never thought this about our dear friend and helper."
Este clicked her tongue. "Melian needs more than we can provide for her here," she said firmly. "She needs something new and that, I fear, shall soon be provided to her."
"I speak of the Quendi," she continued. "The new people whom Eru has promised will soon arrive in Arda. And the lands there which have been all but destroyed by the one I will not name...once Melian discovers what we know she will desire to go there by her own volition. She yearns to make things beautiful, to fulfill her vision of replicating the stars in various creations in other ways - you have seen the great Dome of Valmar that she decorated so beautifully - is it not breathtaking?"
"Yes, it is as you say, but I am adamant that I do not wish her to leave," Irmo began to protest. "I need her here, with us."
"No, my dear, we must let her go. In fact, I believe we would be powerless to stop her." Este spoke gently and lay a tender hand upon his arm.
"If what you say is true I will be deeply saddened beyond what I ever thought possible," Irmo lamented.
Este held him close and began to soothe him with gentle caresses.
Melian stopped her work when she noticed Irmo had slumped into Este's arms as if wounded. Alarmed, she flew to their side.
"Has something happened? Are you all right?" Melian's concern touched Este deeply and she took the Maia's hand.
"No," Este said firmly. "But please show me something, Melian," she said in a soft voice.
"Gladly," Melian replied, surprise causing her voice to rise. She looked between Este and Irmo, noticing the tears that streamed down his cheeks.
"Would you make me one special flower - just one - something unique, that can never be replicated. I shall treasure it for ever as a special memory of you, until the end of days.""Why yes," Melian's eyes widened. "But why? May I ask where I am going?"
Este smiled and squeezed her hand ever tighter. "In time," she whispered. "In time..."
Míriel Þerindë: The Art of the Needle
They say that the Queen Míriel, the famed Broideress, never worked so hard as she did during the year of her pregnancy. As Fëanáro's body was knit together in her womb, so she spent all her time in weaving intricate and delicate fabrics, and then fashioning them into clothes, enough to last until her son was fully grown. Her handmaidens, Nione, Ravenne, and Vórime, worked beside her, each of them as dedicated to her craft as she was herself, and they learned all the knowledge that she had to teach, and so it was not lost.
Fëanáro, so they say, wore clothes made by her hand until his first son was born, and then he began to pass them down to his children. Vórime taught Fëanáro his mother's arts, and also passed them down to Maitimo and Carnistir his sons in full, though all of them knew their way around a needle.
In later years, Ravenne and Vórime fought beside Fëanáro during his last battle under the stars and were killed defending him with sword, shield, and body. Nione, who had been wounded at Alqualondë, took it as her charge to pass on the art of the Broideress to all who wished to learn. She taught all the children of Mithrim how to ply a needle, including both Idril and Celebrimbor.
Nione settled at Lake Helevorn, continuing to teach throughout the days of the Long Peace. Her woven garments, it is said, due to the virtue imbued in them, saved Maglor's life during the Battle of Sudden Flame. She fled with the rest of Carnistir's people south to Amon Ereb then.
She took up arms during the Second Kinslaying and was killed in battle, defending her lord Carnistir.
But the art of Míriel did not die with her, for many people knew it now. Elrond and Elros learned it, both from Maedhros in part and from some of the followers of Maglor. Her arts passed to Númenor upon its rising, and there they made great and glorious creations of cloth, both for ceremony and for sails. In Lindon, her arts flourished too, in a far more practical sense, and all the youth of the Eldar learned them. Celebrimbor in Hollin encouraged his grandmother's art, and the Gwaith-i-Mírdain had contests of weaving and artistry with the needle. Tapestries decorated the walls of every room, it seemed, and bright flags waved from every tower.
Once Imladris was established, those survivors of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain who had found their way there began furnishing it anew with tapestries, hangings, and rugs, as well as the more delicate art of fine clothing and fashion. East of the Sea, there was no finer, warmer place. Celebrían was enamoured of Míriel's arts, and both she and Elrond ensured that their memory was kept alive in the Last Homely House.
Arwen and her handmaidens brought them to Gondor at the end of the War of the Ring, and there they flourished in beauty, as long as the city lasted, and beyond its fall. Through all ages, handed down from parent to child, the art of Byrde Míriel, the Þerindë, has survived.
Inside the Fire
Inspiration strikes, and the world ceases to exist. Gone are the sounds of his busy household: the shrieks and giggles of the children, the slamming of doors and scraping of chairs, the tic-tic-tic of Nerdanel's hammer and chisel or the scritching of quill on paper, even the pop and hiss of the coals in his furnace no longer reach his ears. Gone are the myriad thoughts that normally crowd his brain: the projects he considers and discards while working on something else entirely, the information he filters from the smells and noises and sights around him, the words spoken and songs sung; the memories of something somebody told or asked him; the plans he is making for the next day, week, season, forever. Gone, even, is all sense of self: He does not feel hot or cold, hungry or thirsty, awake or exhausted, happy or sad; he simply is. The world ceases to exist, time ceases to exist, and he ceases to be Fëanáro: he becomes one with his work, whatever that may be.
It is never something that he has consciously planned. Afterwards – well after the inspiration has passed, when he has recovered from the strain of it, reassured his worried family, caught up on his duties, and admired the creation he has unwittingly brought forth – he analyses the time leading to the moment when inspiration absorbed him. He can see, then, that it planted its seed early on, sometimes years in the past, prompting him to study the properties of light, to observe the Trees more closely than usual, to experiment with different compounds for no purpose except to understand their different properties; to read obscure books on message passing during the Great March or the mechanisms of ósanwë-centa in High Valarin. But only in retrospect do these things become recognisable as stepping-stones on the way to his greatest inventions.
It is not the same thing as the pleasant flow that sweeps him along his daily duties, when he teaches a gifted student or discusses philosophy with Nelyo, when he makes progress on the challenges he sets himself or on one of the more rewarding commissions he has been given, when he and Nerdanel tease and please each other. Granted, to outsiders, it may look similar. He appears ignorant to distractions, is intensely focused, and demonstrates a certain indifference to the passing of time that in his early days of teaching regularly had his apprentices speak up, timid but determined: “We have already missed supper and bedtime, Master, but may we please go and have breakfast now?”
But it is not the same thing. He chooses to ignore distractions, to focus fully on his work, to disregard the Mingling of the lights and the rumbling of his belly until his work has reached the point that he wants to reach. When he is in the grip of true inspiration, he has no choice. He is not aware of anything; he does not know what he is doing, nor to what purpose he is doing it, or when it will be finished.
It is not an experience he relishes. It is terrifying in the way it absorbs him with no thought to his safety or health or his dignity. It can last for days, and they tell him grim stories afterwards: how Nerdanel pleaded with him to stop working and take some sustenance, to deaf ears; how he brutally pushed Curufinwë aside when the youth tried to keep him from touching molten glass with his bare hands; how they found him passed out on the bare floor of the forge, too weak to crawl to bed after a week's exertions. It is merciless, overpowering and dangerous.
It is frustrating, for when inspiration takes over and erases all conscious thought, it also erases his working memory. He cannot afterwards say just how he created these marvels: the Silmarils, the Palantíri. He refuses to admit it – he says that their making is a secret that he will not share with anyone - but the humiliating truth is that he could not share it if he wanted to. It is locked even from himself. More humiliating yet is the nagging feeling that, since he is not in control during these spells, since he is unaware of the process and can neither begin nor interrupt it of his own volition, that these astounding achievements are, somehow, not properly his; that he is in fact nothing more than a tool, however useful, in their creation.
Nelyo, the practical philosopher, proposes that it must be a great honour for a hammer to be worthy of the forge of Fëanáro, where only the best tools are used; and similarly, to qualify even as a tool for such magnificent inventions would be the highest of honours. Fëanáro tries to internalise that thought, but it still irks him that any aspect of his work is so wholly and mercilessly beyond his control.
He does not know what frightens him more: The thought that it might not happen ever again, that his potential for great deeds is all used up; or the suspicion that it will happen again, and that one day it will prove too strong for him. One day, it may wring every last spark of life from him, burning him up in one final, relentless surge of grandeur, in the same way that his mother's strength was burned up in the effort of giving him life.
When that happens, he can only hope that it will be worth it.
To Voyage in Their Courses
Two suitors had she, and she would have neither.
One vast and mighty, haughty and twisted, and so great in his power that one by one many spirits of fire began to fall to his guile.
She would not fall.
One dreamy and wayward hunter, a dove-grey, beech-bow-bearing stripling among the drowsing willows of Lórien, watching from afar and longing.
She did not turn to him.
The fire of Arien burned from within, gold and steady.
When the keening song of Yavanna brought forth the last gifts of the dying Trees - Isil the silver flower, Anar, the golden fruit - they were precious things and perfect, yet they were deemed not yet enough, still not come to their full potential. They were material to be worked upon still, they were fated to pass through many hands. Manwë sang high the song of hallowing; Aulë sang deep as he wrought the lanterns to shelter them and sharpen their light.
For the Valar work with their voices still - the music of the Ainur has not ceased - and each brings to each work a theme at once new and old.
Isil and Anar echoed in their lanterns, a light that was also sound, a summons to the Maiar who could hear.
Choose me, sang the flame that burned from the eyes of Arien. For long I tended Laurelin and I alone burn bright enough to bear this power unharmed. I shall sear your enemies and warm your loves. I can spread this golden warmth over all Eä, and light the darkest path.
Choose me, sang the silver glow in the voice of Tilion. For long I loved Telperion, and his color is my voice, like the starlight on the waters.
“You wish to be near me in the skies,” said Arien, and her voice crackled like pine pitch in the coals.
“I do not deny it,” said Tilion, and he whispered like crickets in the trees. “Yet I love my own light, and I do not truly seek union with you, for yours would blind mine and your heat would burn me.”
And so did Tilion go first into the sky with his precious burden, for his light was the elder of the two, and then his sorrow was blended with the greatest joy he had ever known. He felt himself many times created - in the thought of Eru Ilúvatar and his first notes in the Music; in the love of his Tree; and in the culmination of his sacred light, the night wind surrounding him in constant caress.
Long did Arien watch. Seven turns did Tilion make, all about the world, and all in Arda marvelled.
At last Arien took flight, and set the clouds ablaze with colors that were wholly new. As she had been created, so her light made new visions. Yavanna’s green-leafed children turned their branches up to her in love, yet none with eyes could hold her gaze.
She shed the limiting raiments of flesh and burned brighter. She made of herself a beacon, beyond all desire. She turned the lust of Melkor to fear and the fire of her anger to nourishment.
Nerdanel: The Creations of Grief
By the light of a single Fëanorian lamp, alone in her workshop as the host of the Noldor left Tirion, Nerdanel feverishly worked, her fingers covered in clay. Maitimo's face as a child formed beneath her hands, long ringlets of hair curling down, eyes upturned in wonder and awe at the beauty of the world.
By the time her boys were slaughtering Teleri sailors on the lamplit quays of Alqualondë, she had formed the whole seven of them in a row before her on the table, shaped in perfect miniature, just the right size to set aside and admire forever.
Nerdanel picked up the sledgehammer and brought it down with vindictive, destructive force, directly on Fëanáro's fair, marble-carved brow. His face shattered beneath her hands, and she beat the fragments down, further and further until they were nothing more than a fine powder. She was shaking with weariness and grief, tears streaming down her face, mixing with the dust of the once-beautiful statue.
She swept up the remains of Fëanáro in the dustpan, and threw them from the high window of the tower where once they had lain together. He blew away on the wind, nothing but dust.
Under the light of the new Sun and Moon, Nerdanel picked the whitest marble, the finest gemstones, the fairest paints, and set to work creating a new statue of Fëanáro. He sat as if hard at work, a baby on his lap, eyes upturned as though inspiration was striking him at that very moment, a feathered pen in his hand, a notebook on his knee.
She carted the statue to the main square of Tirion and, ignoring Arafinwë's ineffectual protests, installed it on a bench beside a bubbling fountain.
"Remember him like this," she said in answer to all questions.
Tirion was silent in the wake of Eärendil's advent; even the bells of Valmar were stilled. For the Noldor and the Vanyar went to war, ferried by the Teleri, and old sins were all forgiven.
Nerdanel went mining, and deep underground she wrote their names with pickaxe and chisel, hammering out a low drumbeat of tormented tears. Her sons, all her sons, five dead, and two left mired in darkness. There were no mourning-places for them in sunlight or moonlight, but here underground, she could weep for them, and cry out in time with the blows of the axe.
Nerdanel built a small house in a river-valley near the place where she and Fëanáro had first met, a long age ago under Treelight. It was between her father's home and Tirion, but not too close to either. She formed it and furnished it just as she had once dreamed of in a youth so long ago it seemed impossible. Clay figurines decorated every corner and statues of all sorts dwelt in odd places in the garden.
It was hers alone. She served her guests tea in delicate cups she crafted herself, and smiled as they exclaimed in wonder.
Finrod Fashions a World
Tolkien discusses the writing of fantasy as an act of sub-creation. He describes it as the making of a Secondary World in imitation of God, creator of the Primary World. God is the Prime Mover, the First Creator; the writer must therefore be a secondary creator, or sub-creator. For Tolkien this is not a dismissive term but the title of a high calling. –Verlyn Flieger. Splintered Light: Tolkien's World.
“Ingo! There you are!” Galadriel looked him up and down with a sharp eye. “You look wonderful!”
“As do you, little sister! Glowing, in fact. Love agrees with you.” Finrod’s slow, easy smile lit his entire face. She would not tolerate being called “little” by anyone but him. She’d always been spellbound by the splendor of her oldest brother, but she’d never seen him so joyful.
“It’s not just being in love! Although I will not deny that I am. But I feel good as well because I am learning so much and growing,” she said, while her brother’s slow teasing smile overtook his face and he raised a skeptical blonde eyebrow at her.
“Fine. Have it your way. I know the look of one who is caught up in the brilliance of being well-loved physically. And he is your first, isn’t he? Nothing can compare to that! Not even the joy of Queen Melian’s no doubt incomparable lessons in witchcraft.” She blushed all the way up into the roots of her hair and shook her head, unable to deny or argue with the truth of his words. No point in hiding anything from Finrod, he could read her like a book.
He bent and kissed her fervid brow. “Don’t be embarrassed. I’ve been there myself. It’s a marvelous thing and I do miss it. So, where is the handsome dog? Did you bring him with you?”
She sighed. “More like he insisted upon bringing me here. He did not want me to travel with any lesser guides or guards than himself.”
“I am happy he is looking after you well. All of your formidable intellect aside and your impressive martial skills, I feel better knowing there is one who does not allow you to hare off on your own whenever you feel like it! Where is he? I have something marvelous to show him. I’m bursting with self-regard!”
She took his hands in hers and brought them to her lips, before thrusting them away from her to examine them more closely.
“Oh, look at what you’ve done to your beautiful, beautiful hands! I’ve always thought you had the most glorious hands I’d ever seen on a man—so strong, with such long and graceful fingers!” His nails were ragged and his palms and fingertips scratchy, his knuckles rough and gray with embedded stone dust. “Don’t you even wear gloves to work?”
“But I do, until I get to the finer details. Wait! Just wait until you see what I’ve made before you judge me. You’re such a critic! I’ve created a hall which rivals the beauty of the throne room of Finwë’s palace at the height of the waxing of Laurelin. It’s all smoke and mirrors—quite literally. But it’s coming along really well.”
“But you’ve destroyed your wonderful hands!”
“My hands will heal. Just stop now, silly girl! Don’t judge until you’ve seen what I’ve done. I am as pleased and proud as Fëanáro must have been when he created the Silmarilli!”
“What an outrageous thing to say!” He looked so happy—his face shining with pleasure in his craft and satisfaction in the results. She could not resist being caught up in his elation.
“Nonsense, Artanis! I’m quite certain that the One intended us to use the hands and the intellect that he gave us to create our own worlds.”
The Stone of the Hapless
Some foresight descended on him that eventide, mere days after the news of the death of Morwen reached Brethil. For some came to the grave of Túrin and of Níniel to lay berries on the mound, and found there a new grave dug, and her name carved into the stone beneath that of her children.
Glirhuin began to play in the village hall, as was his wont. All turned to hear him, but the song he intended to sing did not come forth from his mouth. Instead, words spilled out in a rush, in a voice not quite his own:
The Stone of the Hapless shall not be defiled
Nor shall the Sea take it.
In memory of Húrin and Morwen, and of their children lost,
It shall stand forever, though the waters rage.
Blinking, Glirhuin came back to himself, hands falling silent on his harp, to see the whole village staring at him with mouths agape. The lord of Brethil, Hardang son of Hundad, came forward and took Glirhuin's hand, raising him up from the stool where he sat to play.
"So may it be as you have said!" Hardang said simply, and all the people echoed their agreement.
The View from within the Mountains
by Dawn Felagund
Pengolodh's pen hovered over the vellum.
The story filled his mind, but how best to tell it? For once told, it would fill the world.
A bead of black ink quivered upon the nib, threatened to fall and splatter and mar the page.
But even that threat couldn't hasten him. He knew the deep ache that lingered in Gondolin--the kinslaying, the burning, the Helcaraxë and Elenwë and--
--but he'd once met Celebrimbor by the sea and knew more of the story than just that too.
The ink trembled like lips buttoned upon a song. Unthinking, darkly, he wrote.
If their skill were great enough
At that very time great craftsmen of Nogrod were lately come into Doriath; and the King therefore summoning them declared his desire, that if their skill were great enough they should remake the Nauglamír, and in it set the Silmaril.
~ The Silmarillion, “Of the Ruin of Doriath”
“A prong setting,” Barzi said, “obviously.”
“Obviously not,” Zigil retorted. “The bezel technique is much better suited to the purpose. The gem will be better protected – the wearer will be better protected, for that matter! And it will be less easily lost.” She could not help but smirk, pearly teeth glinting between the neat black braids of her beard. “If the Dark Lord had used a proper bezel setting in his crown, even one of Telkhar's* knives would have been hard put to cut the gem from it. Prongs split much too easily.”
“Besides, the old masters used bezel settings for the other gems,” Tharka spoke up. “We should maintain the same style.”
Barzi waved that argument away with a leather-gloved hand. “This is an exceptional gem, and will be the centrepiece, so there is nothing wrong in using a different setting. Zigil, you should know that prongs are the perfect choice for diamonds; that way, they can sparkle much brighter!”
Zigil raised a bushy eyebrow. “You forget that we are not speaking of an ordinary diamond. Yes, a diamond needs to catch the light from all around in order to shine bright. This one, though? It shines with its own light.” With a dramatic flourish, she yanked the protective velvet covering from the Silmaril, which duly filled the deep cave with light. The perfect white remained untouched by the flickering yellows of the torches, the red gleam of the embers in the furnace.
Barzi was still not satisfied. “Well, surely we want to maximise that light,” he said, stroking his beard, “so we should still use as little metal as possible.”
“On the contrary,” Zigil protested again. “Since the light comes from the gem itself, the metal behind it will in fact act as a mirror. So once more, a bezel setting would be the perfect choice.”
The forge-master mulled this over, lifting up the Silmaril, holding it this way and that before he unwrapped the Nauglamír. Laying the exceptional gem very carefully in the middle, he grudgingly said, “I suppose you are right. Really, it is a sad waste, though. Two such marvellous pieces could make two priceless treasures. Instead, our forefathers' work must henceforth be outshone by that Elvish jewel, which would be just as precious on its own.”
“It is a shame,” Zigil agreed readily, mollified by Barzi's concession. “Should we refuse, then?”
“And leave this work to some second-rate jeweller?” Tharka's eyes flashed at them like the lesser gems in the Nauglamír. “No; if this work is to be done, it is better done by us. And since it is our task, let us set to it.”
*I have taken the liberty of assuming that “Telchar” is simply a Sindarinized form of the master smith of Nogrod's Khuzdûl name. It is not Sindarin, but it does not conform to the linguistic conventions of Khuzdûl, either. Since no meaning for the name is offered (and the Khuzdûl corpus is tiny anyway), there seems no sense in attempting a translation, so I've just adapted it.
Maglor ignored the bustle of the camp hidden behind the hide walls of his tent, staring down at the rag paper on his travel desk, a quill in hand ready to dip into the black ink. How to tell of the glories and the exile, the Darkness and the light? Not just of the Sun and Moon, but the stars and the Silmarils and the people? What could be told of those days long in the bright days of Valinor under the Two Trees and short in the overshadowed days of the Outer Lands? What could be told of the disasters and the battles and the Kinslayings?
How could one lament contain those multitudes?
He did not yet know, though he knew it would be his greatest work. The fall of the Noldor deserved no less.
Daeron the Bard
Daeron was born in the warm darkness under the trees of the forest of Neldoreth, and the first sound he heard was the rhythmic sighing of the wind in the branches far overhead, and forever he was enchanted by it. He grew up with parents who themselves had been able musicians in the early days of Cuiviénen, his mother a drummer, his father a lute player. They taught him from youth how to play every instrument they knew of, though he loved best the pipe to play, and the making of songs.
It is told he composed his first song as a youth in praise of the King Elu Thingol and his Queen, fair Melian, when they appeared from the forest of Nan Elmoth, hand in hand. Though it was true he had much to learn then, the Queen smiled upon him, and the King straightway made him the foremost bard of the court of Doriath.
The stories say that if you hear a lamenting song or the distant sound of a pipe by night in a deep and dark forest, it is vanished Daeron who sings and plays. You have naught to fear, for he only remembers lost beauty.
Maglor gazed at the surging sea, which drew ever closer to the Ered Luin. The drowning of Beleriand was too great a catastrophe for his mind to endure, and the pain of the loss of his brother burned him more than the pain of his wounded hand. The Silmarils had burned even their eyes, and when he closed them the shadow remained, a great blackness in the core of his sight, foreshadowing the endless dark of the void which awaited him. The small chest was heavy on his lap, the time had come, he must return the last Silmaril to Yavanna, shaper of the Trees, from whence the Light had come.
Maedhros had understood his answer to the riddle, that they must give the Silmarils into the hands of Aulë and Ulmo, for the path to Valinor was closed to them. But Maglor hoped that he would never come to know why his brother, upon casting the jewel into the rent earth, bleeding molten rock, and intolerable heat, had then cast himself into the fire.
The welcome tears returned, they soothed his spirit and numbed his wits, leaving him calm, and fixed in purpose.
He rose to his feet, holding the chest before him, an offering to those remote beyond his reckoning, to Yavanna Kementári, to all that lived. Blinded by the burned eyes and the tears, he opened the chest, feeling the force of the Light beating against him. He remembered his vision at the summit of Taniquetil; the great Tree, formed in pulses of the Music, the rhythms of life beating intricate little measures that grew and were enriched by deeper, slower waves of sound, the whole woven through with the myriad melodies of the life that moved.
The Tree had towered over the mountain, joining earth to sky, blending the stuff of Aulë with the waters of Ulmo, and breathing in the fresh winds of Manwë. For long he had believed his vision was of the Two Trees, or of one, in some remote future time, but since their theft of the Silmarils, the truth seemed burned into him as had the Light.
The Tree was Yavanna herself, the rhythms that had driven him to the harp and drum, in vain strivings to convey the vast and intricate landscape of the sound of life, were the heartbeat of Yavanna; the unconsuming fire of the greenwood and the flickering flames of the beasts. The Light must be returned to its source, Yavanna awaited his penance.
He sighed, he knew that his grief would outlast him, the Music would elude him, and the Light be forever beyond his grasp. He thought of the truth of life, the surging growth and the endless dying, the trees and grasses flickering forth from the ground and falling back into decay, as new life devoured them, or thrust them aside.
The vastness of Yavanna shrivelled his spirit, he cowered on the edge of the turbulent sea, then, with his eyes shut fast, he swung the open chest behind him and cast it, and the Silmaril, into the hungry waves, and cried aloud, not in words, but with his whole heart, pleading with Yavanna to accept his sorrow, and the return of the Light, though he himself should perish.
For the hurts of the world were too great for his spirit to endure, and as the Light sank into the sea, casting strange flickering beams through the deep water, he wept for all the slain, and for all the pain and death to come.
Making the Gift
Aulë slept like a rock, grey, cold and unmoveable. Having reassured herself that his spirit was still somewhere underneath the impermeable layers of stone, Yavanna kissed him and left him to his recovery. Estë would surely take the best possible care of him.
At the end of these labours, she knew, she herself would need a lengthy sojourn in the gardens of Lórien. The work of millennia had to be squeezed into mere decades, and all the Valar involved were pushing themselves to their very limit. They could not let things proceed at their natural pace, taking a thousand Valian Years to set up a new dwelling, a half-century to sing Trees into being. By that time, the Edain whom they meant to reward would be dead, and their children, and their children's children. So the process needed to be sped up a great deal. It was possible, but it was an arduous effort even for the greatest among the Valar, the kind of work that could be undertaken once and only once.
In spite of these daunting thoughts, Yavanna was eager to tap the creative forces of nature once more. She was grateful for this opportunity to balance out the destruction wrought in the War of Wrath. When she met Vána to set off for the new island, she could feel that the other Valië was having similar feelings. Naturally, joy and anticipation were always part of Vána's being, but it had been a long time since she had radiated both so openly.
The island was, as yet, a rough and bare lump of solidified lava, surrounded by a sea still choppy from the upheaval in its depths and the changes in its currents. The volcano that Aulë had used to raise the land now lay dormant and peaceful. Yavanna looked up at its lofty summit and could not help feeling a sense of awe. Sky-high and steep, the mountain rose up like a link between heaven and earth. An eagle cried somewhere high above, circling the peak, then joined by another great bird, and another. Yavanna smiled to herself. Clearly Manwë had thought the same.
But there was no time for sightseeing now. Vána had already begun to enliven the black rock with the first pioneer mosses, and Yavanna hurried to join her in creating further plants that could gradually prepare the way for ferns and shrubs. Together, the two Valier simulated the passing of the seasons in a single day, adding layer upon layer of hardy, modest plants that thrived and died and decomposed in a matter of weeks until the soil was thick and rich, welcoming the seeds that Yavanna had brought, the bugs and earthworms she hummed into life. Flowers began to bloom and trees began to rise. Closing her eyes, reaching deep within her soul to access the eternal melodies created so long ago, Yavanna summoned the first vertebrates.
When the two Valier left the island, they were worn and exhausted to the core; Estë and Irmo had to steady them on their way back. But the formerly barren rock around the high volcanic cone was now ready to welcome its human inhabitants. Lush and verdant and teeming with life: the Land of Gift.
Tapestries of Shimmering Thread
Vairë’s tapestries are not Ents or Dwarves, with minds of their own and the ability to make their own decisions independent of her wishes. But neither are they static images which forever display only one view of the world, though they appear that way to everyone save Vairë.
To Men of Númenor passing through on their way to the Gift of Men, they show the intricate workings inspired by Elvish tapestries that lined the halls of their grand palaces. To the Noldor waiting in these halls, they show hallmarks of Queen Míriel’s talents or the style adopted by Indis’ handmaids, as each elf remembers the style of their homes.
The Sindar see threads glowing in the moonlight in the earliest tapestries, and the lush greens and bright colors in the later ones. And there are other styles, Avari of every tribe, Men who do not belong to any house, and Dwarves of the East and West, which show themselves to those of their group who pass through.
Vairë alone sees all the images in each tapestry, the stories of Men of Rhûn and Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain, Sindar of Doriath and Noldor of the House of Fingolfin interwoven in shimmering threads that never really settle in one style.
The Making of the Second Elessar
He recalled, as a very young child, sitting on a high stool in his grandfather's workshop, watching keenly as Fëanáro fashioned a green gemstone under the light of Laurelin and spoke words to imbue it with the virtue of healing, before placing it in a setting of silver leaves.
It was easy to remember, but not so easy to reproduce. Some of the materials Fëanáro used could not be found East of the Sea, and Celebrimbor sought for substitutes among his stores, weighing up the benefits of one kind of arcane powder over another.
Decisions at last had to be made. Celebrimbor chose carefully, ladling out small amounts of various mysterious compounds, then mixing them over heat to form the gel that would eventually harden into the gem. As he stirred, he whispered words of preserving, keeping, healing, that trees and flowers would not wither.
His words spilled into the Elessar stone as it formed beneath his hands, and it shone forth, as bright as the one in his memories. The light of the sun shone down into the jewel. Laurelin's last fruit blazed with beauty as he placed the gem into its setting: a silver eagle with outspread wings.
Sauron: Ugliness and Magnificence
The creation of the thing was both ugly and magnificent.
Ugly, crude, full of noise and mess. Rude and undefined alloys harvested from depths unknown and unchartered whipped through volcanic air. Ash stirred through the particles of simple gold, embedding themselves in the core of the thing. Fire and flame, from the depths of the earth beyond sight of life and light, burned in red hot currents and torrents around him as he brought the metal together in a ring, warping the unshapely and unrefined treasure of the earth into something better than it was. Better than it was - but not new. Not created. The thing needed life, needed a spark, needed a unifying soul to truly become something more than what it was. It was to manifest itself as that spirit within the thing, the boiling, bubbling gold of that ring.
It was the magnificence that came from he himself. He, with his hands wrapped around the solidifying mass, the perfect circle, endless and exquisite in its geometry. It burned his fingers, burned away the flesh he’d fashioned for himself, as crude as the metal that he’d warped and worked. It showed itself for what it was - better than what it came from, a thing with a life of its own, a thing beyond its origins. Now came the wonder. Now came the beauty. He drew it up out of himself - he who had stood before creation and watched it unfold, he who held creation in his blood, in the fire of the father that gave him being -
Anger spilled into the mix. This creation was his creation, beyond reach or touch of anything or anyone else. Even beyond his master. This was his and his alone, something spawned of himself, a creation independent of all others. Stubbornness followed the rage, and righteousness, and in that righteousness he bore his arrogance, and he revelled in it, he twisted it with all his skill until it gleamed across the surface of the band, the sheen unparalleled to anything a smith could have worked.
And in that arrogance, he found hatred, and his will to set his creation upon the world in such a way as to change it. For what was creation if not a mechanism in a forge, a tool that allowed life to be a certain way, to form itself into the shapes intended by the creator, the smith, to act out the will intended?
In the last moments, he squared his vision upon the thing, the sulphuric fumes turning it around within the shimmering mirages of steam wrought over the walls of the fiery mountain. And as it spun, he bored his will and intent into the surface of the thing, cutting the crude ugliness with exquisite magnificence, and it etched itself into the glimmering band in the most beautiful writing of the foulest tongue, one that only the fires that broke the bases of the world - fire that could create something from nothing - fire like the flame imperishable - could reveal. For the first time then, in all his eons amid all the elements and in times before such things even held their grip on the world, he grinned. Not only with the form he had made for himself, but with his very spirit, at his very core. In the gold and the writing he saw the contradiction of creation, as perfect as the ring of malice in his burned and blackened hand.
The Unanswerable Question
by Linda Hoyland
Estel listened enraptured while his foster father spoke. Only when the story was concluded did he speak.
“Why did the One allow Melkor to spoil the music the other Ainur created?”
Elrond was silent for a few moments lost in thought.“Maybe this is how it was meant to be. Would we recognise light if there were no darkness, good if there were no evil, joy if there were no sorrow?”
“But how much happier everyone would be if Melkor's discords had not spoiled the harmonies of the Music of Creation!”
“Remember, though Estel, he only spoiled the music twice. The One would not let him spoil the final theme and it was from this that the One brought Elves and Men into being.”
“Then the music is not spoiled ?”
“Only if we allow the Evil One to prevail, Estel.” Elrond fell silent again thinking of his wife whom he could not heal. “One day, Arda will be renewed an her hurts healed forever.”
“But what about everyone who is hurting before then?” Estel persisted.
Elrond could only shake his head sadly. To some questions, even the wise lord of Imladris had no answers.
In the Beginning
Aragorn had Eldarion on one knee, and a great book balanced in the other. He was reading aloud, which he did marvelously: for his voice was rich and kindly, and he gave everyone in the story their own proper voices, even the Valar, who were difficult.
“And they made a great Music before him. In this Music, the World was begun—-”
Gilraen his daughter sat cross-legged on the floor, where she was arranging her favorite battalion of toy Dwarven warriors.
Eldarion sat quite still, and listened to Father. His face was framed by lovely locks of hair, which always fell just so, and he was almost always Good.
Gilraen played restlessly. She had been warned that she must not use the tiny axes of the Khazâd to chop at her brother, nor break in upon Father, while he read to them. Not unless it was a question about the story itself. That was acceptable, for then it was Learning, and not An Interruption.
“But how could it be music, if they did not have ears to listen with, yet?” she asked him.
Aragorn paused. “Do we know that they did not have ears?”
“Yes, because they have not clothed themselves in bodies male and female yet. That is later, when they descended into Arda are astonished at everything.”
“So it is, Gilraen,” said Aragorn, turning a page, and peeking. “You have a good memory. Well, I would say that the word music here means something great and beautiful and powerful, that could stir the heart, and help the mind to call up pictures of things far off, just as music does for us. And the story uses the idea of music, even though the Valar did not have ears yet, so that we people who come long after may understand a little bit about it.”
Oh. That was a good thought. Aragorn was very good about explaining things. He was patient, and Eldarion was patient, and Arwen her lady mother was almost always patient. Gilraen was not. Sometimes she wondered why Eru had given her to this family and not, say, the Dwarves.
She did try, however. Father read on, and she held her tongue for what was, for her, a very long time. Soon he came to a bit she liked:
“But when the Valar entered into Eä they were at first astounded and at a loss, for it was as if naught was yet made which they had seen in vision—”
She snickered, very privately, for she secretly enjoyed thinking about the Valar with great silly expressions on their not-faces, looking all about them in surprise.
In another while came back Melkor into the story. Hearing about him always filled her with dread, and yet interest, and so she listened intently once more. Her father made such a very frightening voice for Melkor.
“When therefore Earth was yet young and full of flame Melkor coveted it, and he said to the other Valar: “This shall be mine own kingdom, and I name it unto myself!”
“But they should have stopped him!” This time it was Eldarion who interrupted. He could make surprisingly stern faces for a little boy, and was making one now. “If I were there, I should have stopped Melkor, and not just chased him away!”
“No, you wouldn’t have,” his sister answered in exasperation. “How could you have stopped him?”
“With a sword,” said Eldarion in an ominous tone.
“But he was as a mountain that wades in the sea, crowned with smoke and fire, what good would a sword do? And how could you do what the Valar could not?” Gilraen felt she was only asking the reasonable questions, but Father waived her to hush.
“What is your thought, Eldarion?” said Aragorn. He liked to make sure each of them had their turn in speaking, and to understand what troubled them.
“The Valar ought to have stopped Melkor and put him out in the Void, and not let him be Morgoth at all. Then everyone would have been saved. They should not have let him ruin things, before the Elves even got there.”
For once, Gilraen agreed with her brother. She had very strong emotions about the later parts of the book. To her shame, her mother had had to take her out weeping when Aragorn read to them about Finrod.
Father had been forbidden to read aloud about the Isle of Werewolves again, till they were older, even if it was part of the lay of Lúthien. She knew it was thousands of years ago, but it was still sad and wrong and horrid.
Why could it all not have been stopped in the beginning?
She tried to ask him, but she could not shape her words to say everything she meant. All at once, she felt tears prickling behind her eyes.
Aragorn put down the heavy book, and took her upon his other knee, and though she usually objected that she was too old for this, this time she did not.
And then he did his best to explain to them, in words they could both understand, about how Ilúvatar had not chosen to create a universe in which all things were fixed and unchanging. How in every age of the world came forth things that are new and have no foretelling. How even very great beings must have the capacity to choose, if this freedom is to be woven into the fabric of the universe. How even the deeds of the very evil, like Morgoth and Sauron, give rise in their turn to that which is beautiful and brave and noble, even if there must be terrible sadness and loss that go with them.
She found that she could not understand all that he told her that day, and so she listened instead to the wonderful sound of the words, and the lovingness of his voice. And long after, many, many years into the future, when her Father, the King Elessar, was but a memory: this she remembered. That always there were choices, and always there was hope.
And in these, lay the beginning of all things.
The notebook lay open in front of him, waiting to be filled with the mythology and languages that lived in his head. Convalescing in the countryside of Great Haywood with Edith encouraging him and the war ever-present in the background meant one thing: he could no longer wait. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien picked up the pencil and wrote, “Then said Littleheart son of Bronweg, ‘Know then that Tuor was a man who dwelt in very ancient days in that land of the North called Dor Lómin or the Land of Shadows, and of the Eldar the Noldoli know it best.’”
Author’s Note: The quote is the opening sentence from “The Fall of Gondolin” in The Book of Lost Tales. It is the first story Tolkien wrote in what would become The Silmarillion.
by Linda Hoyland
Silence, nothingness, endless eons passed until;
A single note shattering silence.
Then another and another,
Chords woven into harmonies.
Sweet melodies took form, and with them
Earth and air fire and water,
The very stuff of being.
Land and sea, forest and river.
The One saw that it was good.
But then another chord distorts the melody
Earth trembles, seas rage and forests burn.
Harmony shattered by discord.
For Chaos must exist with order
And Evil with the Good.
From the beginning it was ever so,
Creation and Destruction.
Endless cycles, until the end of time,
When Arda is renewed.
About the Creators
Biographies for contributors to the collection appear in alphabetical order.
Angelica’s first contact with JRR Tolkien’s world was in 1979 when she read The Silmarillion. In 2006 she discovered Silmfics and added a whole new dimension to her appreciation of the wonders of Middle-earth. Since 2008 she has been a co-moderator at the SWG.
Dawn Felagund founded the Silmarillion Writers' Guild in 2005, which was the same year that she decided to start publishing Silmarillion fan fiction. Despite being profoundly unqualified to take on a project the scope of the SWG, it seems to have turned out okay in the end. All of Dawn's stories (except the few she's still too embarrassed to bring out of hiding on her LiveJournal) can be found on the SWG, and her Tolkien meta can be found on The Heretic Loremaster. Follow her on Tumblr or Twitter for the more half-baked stuff. Dawn will turn thirty-six the day after The Silmarillion turns forty, teaches humanities to tweens, and lives in a place called the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont.
Fernstrike has been writing and publishing fanfiction in multiple fandoms and websites since 2010, and is currently working on her first novel. Other than on the SWG, you may find more of her fanfiction on Archive Of Our Own or follow her original writing on Tumblr.
hennethgalad writes Tolkien fanfic on AO3 and The Silmarillion Writers Guild.
Dancing with wildness
Moving with kindness, writing
Troubled thinker I.
Himring has been writing Tolkien fan fiction since the winter of 2009. She mostly writes Silmarillion fan fiction, with a particular focus on the Sons of Fëanor, especially Maedhros and Maglor. Her main archive is at the Silmarillion Writers Guild. Her stories can also be found at Many Paths to Tread and Archive of Our Own (AO3), including those that are not Silmarillion-centred.
Independence1776 entered fandom in 2003 and has been involved in Tolkien fandom since 2004. She is one of the moderators for Back to Middle-earth Month. Indy’s stories tend to focus on Maglor, Elrond, and some of the people related to them. Her fics can be found on the Silmarillion Writers Guild and Archive of Our Own. She blogs on Dreamwidth, though she also has a Tumblr.
This author has been writing Tolkien fanfiction since 2005 but has been a fan of the books of JRR Tolkien and the films of Peter Jackson since long before that time. Other interests are too numerous to list but include reading historical fiction and watching European mystery series such as 'Nordic Noir' and British crime dramas. Another favourite series is George R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire and the related television series Game of Thrones. But the author has never written in that fandom.
Pen or username: just_jenni or jenni4765 on AO3
This author posts regularly on AO3 and the Silmarillion Writers Guild. Links are below:
She also writes occasionally on Dreamwidth (and copies to Livejournal):
Lyra is a Hobbit in all but size, but much more interested in the First and Second Age than actual Hobbit lore. A journalist by trade and philologist and cultural scientist by training, she has been struggling with plotbunnies and the relentless demands of real life ever since she discovered the fandom. Family life with two kids in an old farmhouse that desperately needs renovation doesn't make things easier, although it provides plenty of inspiration. Lyra is obsessed with Nerdanel and her boys, Númenor, Elwing and Eärendil, Maglor (+ Daeron) through the Ages, and the occasional footnote.
Oshun has 100+ stories in the SWG archive. Additionally, she has written 86 SWG Character Biographies. See Academia.edu for some of her other Tolkien-related articles. Her non-Tolkien fannish fiction is posted on AO3, including but not limited to the Swordspoint Series - Ellen Kushner, Harry Potter - J. K. Rowling, Alexander Trilogy - Renault, The Charioteer - Renault, Queen's Thief - Megan Whalen Turner, Captive Prince - C. S. Pacat, The Last of the Wine - Renault, Richard II - Shakespeare, Richard III (historical fiction), The Lion in Winter, and Howl Series - Diana Wynne Jones.
Vulgarweed has been active as a fanfic writer since 2001 or so, and has been most prolific over the years in the Tolkien, Harry Potter, Good Omens, and Sherlock fandoms (but has been a Tolkien fan since the 1970s). She is a co-moderator of the Good Omens Holiday Exchange (since 2005) and Fandom Trumps Hate, and a recipient of a 2003 Mithril Award, a 2004 Galvorn Award, and a 2014 Holmesie. She fancies Ainur, Ents, and Ringwraiths more than is healthy, and never saw a pairing that couldn't be improved by cursed jewelry and/or tentacles.
Username is also Vulgarweed on AO3, Livejournal, Dreamwidth, and Tumblr.