Most of those who tell the world’s histories begin them in much the same way. But then too – most of those who tell the world’s histories also tell them quite utterly wrong.
Every other word is missing.
Every second topic has been erased.
Every other theme was purged.
Some things, it seems, are too discomforting for those who style themselves the great and the powerful to even consider, and yet.
If only most of those who tell the world’s histories also told them the right way, the true way, the way that so many have long since forgotten or never even heard, then –
Then the history of the world would actually begin something more like this.
~ ~ ~
Ainulindalё: The Music of the Ainur
In the darkness that was the beginning there was Eru, the One, who in Arda now is styled Ilúvatar. But Eru cared not for that darkness He found all about Himself, and so He called forth first the Ainur, whom He named His Holy Ones and claimed offspring of His thought, for they were light in that great darkness that He found so unknowable. And the Ainur ranged about Him then before He did aught else, and the heart of Eru was lifted from its distress. For He spoke to them, propounding to them themes of His own devising, and the Ainur made of these devisings many things: chords and luminescence and melody and song.
And so for a time the beginning was one of amity, for the Ainur sang only each alone, or but few together while their brethren hearkened, and thus Eru might know and tell only that which He so wished to know and tell: a barrier against the darkness and the silence that had come before. But even then there were those who would wonder why their light and their voices were being thus directed, or else interweave matters of their own imagining into the devisings of Eru, or else creep back into the Void from whence they had been called. But all these things Eru the One might and must ignore, so long as there was light.
And so there was. The luminescence of the Ainur was as flames imperishable, each of a hue and strength and depth unique to its source and only its source, and as the Ainur sang it was as if great flames leaped and spun in time with that music, piercing out into the Void where no light had yet been seen before.
But presently it came to pass that the music of His Holy Ones no longer seemed enough, for the darkness of the Void before encroached upon the thought of Eru once more, and it dismayed Him all the more now, for He had seen how things might be once pierced through with a light as of flames imperishable. Thus Eru called together all the Ainur and declared to them a single theme mightier than He had proclaimed before, unfolding before them visions still vaster and more splendid yet. And they were hushed with awe for all that they were shown, and the flames imperishable ceased their piercing dance out into the darkness.
And so too it came to pass that in the fleeting quiet Eru felt with new clarity the Void that waited beyond the light and the song of His Holy Ones, and too He saw how they might return to it with impunity, marooning Him as He had been before He called them forth. And so He demanded that the Ainur sing again, and all of a single time and a single voice now, saying unto them that the visions they saw might not be realized if they ceased their music.
And so in wonder and delight and hope for that vision they had seen the Ainur sang, save those of their number who yet crept away, or dimmed their flames, or wove their own themes into these newest devisings of Eru.
But when the Ainur now sang together, their luminescence made a greater light for Him than had occurred when they sang alone or in minor numbers. And the Void and its darkness and its many soundless whispers seemed to retreat once more from His thought, and Eru was pleased with His great solution, sitting back to hearken and be glad at the great beauty and wonder that He watched awaken with the song He prompted of his Holy Ones.
And of that second song there came the world, and all about it and beneath it and within it and of it.
And thus is said to end the Ainulindalё.
~ ~ ~
Mmmm. Good enough to serve most who would learn the world’s histories, but of course that is hardly the end of it, for of that song there also came a great deal more than just the world. But how the threads of that vast complicit web unraveled are told properly enough, considering their tellers – another people whom the same One named His own and set to laboring against His many fears, fears that soon included certain of those whom He had named His own Holy Ones in that beginning now so long ago.
But only parts of what followed that great web’s unraveling are ever told, and that –
Oh, now that is a great shame indeed.
It must be enough, then, that at least some of us remember, and that we would tell the world of all that followed if only we were permitted our freedom once more.
~ ~ ~ ~
Valaquenta: An accounting of the Valar according to the memory of the -------
Certain of the Ainur eventually made petition to leave the Song, and the One, seeing that they would not be gainsaid, feared that they might spread dissent among their brethren. So He gave His gracious permission that they might descend into the world, Eä, while their brethren remained with Him. And the One said unto these dissenters that He had set a Secret Fire to burn at the heart of Arda, a realm which was the center of the world, and that it was by this Fire that they would affect whatsoever changes they chose.
And a clamorous discord arose among the Ainur, for some said that to descend into the world was to enter into a cage of another’s making, while others replied that to enter into the world was to join a vision and a story that they might now have a hand in shaping. And while the eyes of the One were busy elsewhere, many more of those whom He had conscripted to count among His Holy Ones fled home into the Void, and they are no longer named in the histories of the world, for it is an alien realm beneath their notice and attention.
But in due course those of the Ainur who most desired it arose and entered into Eä, pouring themselves into regions vast beyond the scope of the younger races who have joined them since. And the mightier among them each staked for themselves a name and a dwelling place and a raiment to match, and delighted in ordering its elements to their own tastes and appointments. From time to time strife arose among their numbers, as realms overlapped or alliances frayed, but the One remained outside of the affairs of the world once His chosen few had come to inhabit it.
And thus is said to end the Valaquenta.
~ ~ ~
And it is said that the One did not interfere in the world from that day forward since He was content with the stewardship of His chosen few.
It is said.
Though it does seem passing strange, does it not, that He would only be satisfied when the dissenters had been removed from His song and their doings were so far beyond His reach that He might no longer affect them anyway.
Never mind, we are told. You read too much intent into far too few words.
And never mind, either, the particulars of those Ainur who made Eä their dwelling place: the histories of the world as told by its younger peoples name most of them acceptably enough. A lord apiece for the world, the airs, the waters, and of crafts, strength, visions, spirits; a lord apiece of different make for growing things, blooded things, and of makings, severings, bringings-forth.
And above them all, a lord of light.
~ ~ ~
The Elentári: Maker of the Stars
Varda is the Maker of the Stars, who has traveled all the regions of Eä and by whose power those regions were made transversable by others. In the younger days of the world she was much sought out by the other lords, who intended to mesh their realms and their strengths with hers in contest against one another. But ever Varda scoffed, and rebuffed them, for the Maker of Stars needed no mastery to complement her own, whatever else her suitors claimed they were masters of besides.
In the deeps of Eä Varda made her dwelling, in those formless places where the dark of night still resounded with the echoes of the Void, and the Void battered against the boundaries of Eä in counterpoint. In light was all her strength and joy, but Varda was not as was the One, fearing that place from which she had come before or else affixing her delights where none might enjoy them save by her leave.
And in those first days of the world and its youth, light trickled from the dwelling-place of Varda in pinprick spots, crimson and gold and violet and white, and the borders barring Eä from what lay beyond it were ornamented by her hand. And the ways to her halls she made tangled and winding, that none might vex her peaceful solitude with their boastful claims, and that she might concentrate instead on light and the craft of shaping it, as she so loved to do.
And yet it came to pass, that on a day when Varda was preoccupied with her work, a visitor came to her, but not along the ways that Varda herself had fashioned to confound the unwary and preserve her solitude.
“Our dwelling place was made to be impenetrable,” the lord of light observed. “And yet, thou hast managed to come upon Us unannounced.”
“So it is, and so I have,” her visitor replied. “And if the feat is unwelcome, I am not averse to departing as I have come, that You might enjoy your pleasures alone as You prefer.”
And Varda was pleased by her visitor’s courteous words, so that all the lights she had scattered across the boundaries of Eä danced with her amusement.
“Thou might stay, if canst explain thy purpose in daring Our ways.” The voice of Varda then, as it still remains, was too great for any but those of her own brethren to discern, and it was by this that the lord of light guessed that she spoke with another who had left the song and its now-predictable customs for the uncharted paths of Eä. “And if thou wouldst name thyself, for We do not know thee from before.”
“Some of Your conditions I might fulfill, while others must remain unmet even if this means I must depart at once,” her visitor replied. “Ungoliant is as suitable a name as any, to the limits that a mere name might stretch; and my purpose in coming to You is to see how the Bright One that I remember has withstood the descent into this place, though I hope the presumption that You could have changed might be forgiven me. But whether You would know me from before, that I could not say – for what is Before, save that which must be separated from Now in its propensity as something too unsettling to remember?”
And when her visitor removed the guise by which she made her way to Varda, the lord of light saw that her guest was not in fact a fellow who had taken refuge from the song, but instead one who had rejected its choruses and the removal to Eä alike, choosing instead the third way and returning home to the Void.
“Thou wouldst spin pretty webs with thy words,” Varda said, charmed by the form and the temerity of her guest as both were thus revealed. For Ungoliant had followed the old, old customs, and had come to Varda in tangible form: matter taken mass and shape. In the Void before the Song, such a choice had ever signaled trust, for matter might be seized hold of as non-matter might not, and to run such a chance was ever a risk if one did not know the other.
And too in the Void before the Song, such a choice had often signaled desire, for matter might be taken up or bound or entered as even non-matter might not, and so to acknowledge this was to invite the other to acknowledge it as well.
And thus arranged had Ungoliant come to Varda’s dwelling-place in Eä, and Varda was greatly pleased by her guest’s keeping of customs older than the world in which they both now resided.
“Is this to say that You are pleased, then?” Ungoliant inquired, obliging Varda’s touch. Many limbs had her chosen form, and many eyes, and a mouth so furred and soft and mobile that eons passed unnoticed by the lord of light.
“Perhaps,” Varda concurred, in time. “And if We are, it is as much by thy temerity as it is by thine words. Deft is thy mouth, and its maneuvers smooth.”
And Ungoliant seemed to smile. “Whether or not it is my words You compliment, I find that I do not mind.”
And for a time there was only silence, and the shifting of new stars overhead, before Varda replied.
“As well thou might not,” said the lord of light. “For words enough We had from all who came before thee.”
“And there it is again, before,” Ungoliant said, and though she did not chide it seemed as though her soft-furred mouth twisted in some disdain. “I maintain, Bright One, that dividing all into before and after risks elevating some mere happening to greatness it never merited. Take, if You will, the song. Before it, we were told, all that is lacked light and order, while after, we had these in abundance. Lies, and tales, and not even good ones at that! I tired of them soon enough, and so I left – ‘til now, of course, when I came seeking You as You see me now. And I do not flatter myself that I merit a before and an after in Your own tale: an interlude, at best.”
“But say this was not so. What came before me, o Lord of Light?” Ungoliant asked.
Stars trembled in their places, nebulae fragmenting and reforming with the displeasure of their maker. “Other lords, who would take Us to wife.”
But Ungoliant trembled not. “Why so?”
Stars swelled and imploded as their maker recoiled, their white-hot remains flowering into dense black holes that devoured light just as their former lives once had given it. “One would see Our work bent toward uncovering the truth of a Fire at the center of Arda; another would contain Our light in Lamps of his own devising.”
Yet amidst that chaos, Ungoliant held firm. “And this displeased You, for you are not to be contained any more than they, and you love not that which cannot change nor grow.”
And so saying the Void-dweller spoke not in question, but as if she knew the heart and mind of the Star-Maker, and Varda was astonished at her guest’s insight. For she had not seen matters in this way before, and had deemed the intrusions of her brethren as unwelcome only.
And in the astonishment of the lord of light, even the great black holes eventually fell still. And such a quiet then descended upon Arda as has not been heard before or since, for ever has the great voice of Varda sounded behind and about and beneath all else, save only in that time when she looked upon her guest and perceived a strange wisdom she had not known before.
And in the wake of Varda’s silence there chittered again the Void, a barrage against the borders of Eä. But now the lord of light did not rebuke that soundless call, nor fix her lights in guard against it, and the dense black holes her anger had ripped among the stars remained as they were, doors into a realm beyond Eä.
And though the form of Ungoliant had neither teeth nor tongue, still it seemed that she smiled at the lord of light.
“Thou hast revealed wisdoms that We had not known missing,” Varda said, slowly. And then it was her turn to echo the form that Ungoliant had first spoken to her. “Why?”
And now it seemed certain that Ungoliant smiled, great soft-pincered mouth and all. “I do not seek to deceive You, Bright One – I hunger, and for such light as You create. But I am not as are Your fellow lords: I seek not Your submission to some other realm, nor Your backing of petty arguments, nor Your appointment of Your precious creations to fixed times and places. All I would ask is what splintered light You consented to give me.”
“And in return?” asked the lord of light, already wondering what her guest might gain by such a novel arrangement.
“Return?” echoed Ungoliant. “Did I not promise that I was not another of your peers? But if You wished it, then yes: then in return, I would offer You a foil. A Devourer, to match You the Creator; a Material, to complement You the intangible. A Night, to match Your Day. No, do not scoff quite so quick – You will have need of another side to Your story some day, when Night and Day have come to be more than empty terms, and Your brethren will wonder why You hold stewardship over the boundaries into the Void.”
And even as Varda pondered what her guest might mean with such dire words, it seemed to her that Ungoliant pressed her shape and form up into the very stars, and the softness of her guest diverted the lord of light once more.
“Give to me with both hands,” whispered Ungoliant. “And I will neither leave nor fail You.”
And here is said to end the Elentári.
~ ~ ~
Of all that the histories of the world have lost, it is this story, we think, that they treat the most shamefully.
Think of it, eh, the pretty little sing-song that is all that remains of it.
“In the beginning, the One created the heavens and the earth, and all were without form or shape, with darkness and a mighty roar sweeping over the abyss. Then He said: Let there be light, and so there was, and he saw that it was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. And evening came, and morning followed—the first day.”
No, that was not the way of it at all. Darkness was, and light was too, and a guest of the Void persuaded the lord of light that neither need be separated from the other.
And morning came, and evening followed, and together they made the first day.