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Constellations

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The Constellations of Arda were formations of stars made by Varda to signal the Elves to Valinor. In a council of the Valar, Mandos foresaw the coming of the Elves and spoke: "the Firstborn shall come in the darkness, and shall look first upon the stars - to Varda ever shall they call at need."[1]

Creation

After pondering at the words of Mandos, Varda decided to make new stars and also "many other of the ancient stars she gathered together and set as signs in the heavens of Arda".[2]

Thus were formed the constellations Wilwarin, Telumendil, Soronúmë, Anarríma, and as the most important ones, Menelmacar and Valacirca. Of the two last ones the former was meant to forebode the Dagor Dagorath and the latter to challenge Melkor in the Northern skies and to act as the sign of doom of the Valar.

According to the Annals of Aman the making of the stars (and constellations) happened 1000-1050 Valian Years after the first flowering of the Two Trees.[3]

Evolution of the story

The constellations played their part already in the very early phase of the mythology of Arda in The Coming of the Elves and the Making of Kôr.[4]

There the Elves are first brought to Valinor during the captivity of Melko and Varda, in order to commemorate the coming of the Eldar, made new stars mingling the radiance of the Silver Tree that was stored in a basin with molten silver in Aulë's workshop. Of the constellations only the "Seven Stars" is mentioned, and its birth is ascribed either to Aulë or (in a separate note) to Varda.[4] Later, in The Tale of the Sun and the Moon there is a reference to Telimektar and in the end of the Tale the Moon is told to beg the "starry mariners flee before him and the constellate lamps go out".[5]

The development of Telimektar, from a Vala, son of Tulkas, to the constellation now known as Orion followed its own path, separate from the story of the making of the constellations until it was abandoned. Only in the latest versions of the Silmarillion, Telimektar was taken to the company of other constellations with another name and character, Menelmacar the Swordsman.

In the next phase, written between 1926-30,[6] the making of the stars was already contemporary with the awakening of the Elves, but the constellations were not mentioned. Only in The Quenta,[7] written in 1930, Varda made the stars before the coming of the Eldar and also creates The Great Bear, also mentioned in The Earliest Annals of Valinor,[8] at the Valian Year 2000 (later changed to 1900).

In The Later Annals of Valinor,[9] written between 1930 and the end of 1937, in the entry of Valian year 1900 Varda is told to have begun "the fashioning of the stars" and in V. Y. 1950 she made the Sickle of the Gods. No other constellations are mentioned.

The origin of the stars is again changed in the Annals of Aman,[3] which were written after Tolkien finished The Lord of the Rings. Here, the stars are told to have been made in V. Y. 1000-1050: first, Menelmacar (now set apart from the story of Telimektar), and after that, in V. Y. 1050, Valacirca

Finally, in The Later Quenta Silmarillion I,[10] also written after the completion of The Lord of the Rings, all constellations now known are listed and the Elves awake just "when first Menelmakar strode up the sky". The printed text in the Silmarillion does not essentially deviate from this except in wording and omission of some details.

Middle-earth Cosmology
 Constellations  Anarríma · Durin's Crown · Menelmacar · Remmirath · Soronúmë · Telumendil · Valacirca · Wilwarin
Stars  Alcarinquë · Borgil · Carnil · Elemmírë · Helluin · Luinil · Lumbar · Morwinyon · Nénar · Star of Eärendil · Til 
The Airs  Aiwenórë · Fanyamar · Ilmen · Menel · Vaiya · Veil of Arda · Vista
Narsilion  Arien · Moon (Isil, Ithil, Rána) · Sun (Anar, Anor, Vása) · Tilion
See Also  Abyss · Arda · Circles of the World · · Timeless Halls · Two Lamps · Two Trees · Void

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Beginning of Days"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor"
  3. 3.0 3.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "The Annals of Aman"
  4. 4.0 4.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, "The Coming of the Elves and the Making of Kôr"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, "The Tale of the Sun and Moon"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "The Sketch of the Mythology"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "The Quenta"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "The Earliest Annals of Valinor"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "The Later Annals of Valinor"
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "The Later Quenta Silmarillion I"