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Morgoth, also known as Melkor, was the greatest of the Ainur. He fell from glory when he disrupted the Music of the Ainur and defied the will of Eru Ilúvatar. Morgoth corrupted many of the Ainur to his allegiance, fought the Valar, and corrupted Arda. His theft of the Silmarils and wars against Elves and Men encompassed much of the history of the First Age. Eventually, Morgoth was bound in chains by the Valar and thrown into the Void, leaving the permanent damage his evils had done, and his servant Sauron, to trouble the world. One day, according to prophecy, Morgoth will rise again and be destroyed in the Dagor Dagorath by Túrin Turambar.
The first and most powerful of the Ainur that Ilúvatar created was a spirit known as Melkor. Because he wandered through the Void in an attempt to find and use the Flame Imperishable, the source of Ilúvatar's creative activity, Melkor developed ideas unlike those of the other Ainur. His feelings grew rebellious against his creator, for he wished to create sentient beings to inhabit the Void and was dissatisfied by the fact that Ilúvatar had not done so. However, Melkor could not find the Flame, for it was not in the Void, but with Ilúvatar.
The Music of the Ainur
When the Ainur made music, Melkor weaved his strange thoughts into his song. His song clashed against the Theme of Ilúvatar, disturbing the Ainur around him and causing some of them to attune their music to his. For a while the Theme of Ilúvatar and the discords of Melkor warred against one another. But Eru smiled, and sent forth a new theme. Most of the Ainur joined with it, but Melkor rebelliously opposed it even more violently. At last many of the Ainur stopped singing in dismay, and Melkor’s discords gained dominance. Eru sent out a third Theme against Melkor, sweeter and more beautiful than the others, and unquenchable. But though Melkor could not defeat it, still he opposed it. At last Eru halted the music completely with a single chord.
Eru then publicly rebuked Melkor, saying that all music found its source in himself, and thus Melkor could not create his own song or truly alter the Themes of Ilúvatar. Thus, though Melkor opposed Eru to his last breath, he only furthered the cause of Ilúvatar in new and wondrous ways. Melkor was shamed and angered by this judgment, but hid his feelings. When Eru showed the Ainur the product of their music, Eä, Melkor was one of those who begged to enter Arda, pretending to be willing to cultivate it and guide it for Ilúvatar’s glory. He actually wished to dominate Arda and its creatures, especially the Children of Ilúvatar. Nonetheless, he was allowed to enter Eä and come to Arda with the other Valar. Once there, Melkor declared to his colleagues that he was the master of Arda henceforth. Manwë, his brother, did not understand his evil, but fearing that Melkor might try and disrupt their labors in Arda, called forth many more Ainur to protect them. Melkor departed to the remote regions of Eä, leaving the world in peace for a while.
Wars of the Valar
But Melkor took form, great and terrible, and attacked the Valar’s work in preparing the Earth. There was war, and though Melkor disrupted their work and destroyed much, a great spirit named Tulkas came to Arda from other regions of Eä to combat him. After Tulkas drove Melkor away, the Valar managed to complete Arda, and the world was established.
The Valar dwelt in a land called Almaren, and raised up two lamps to light the young earth: Illuin and Ormal. Melkor, meanwhile, had attracted the attention and even in a few cases admiration from the Maiar, the lesser spirits of Arda. Melkor had many spies among them, and from them learned all that the Valar did, and bided his time. As the Valar sat down to a feast at the completion of their labors, Melkor gathered together those loyal to him, and looking down on the beautiful Arda was filled with hatred. Tulkas was wedded to Nessa at that feast, and she danced before the Valar. Tulkas fell asleep, and that is when Melkor struck.
Melkor with his host passed over the Walls of Night and returned to Arda once more. Without the watchfulness of Tulkas, the Valar were unaware of his coming, and he began to delve in the depths of the earth, making a fortress called Utumno beneath the mountains in the dimness of Illuin. The Spring of Arda became blighted as evil flowed out of the fortress. Death and illness took the green things of Arda, and animals fought and killed one another, while flies brooded in massive numbers. The Valar knew then that Melkor was at work, and sought his hiding place.
But Melkor struck the first blow. He destroyed the Two Lamps, and caused the world to be filled with flowing fire and surging water. The symmetry of Arda was broken. And in the darkness and confusion Melkor escaped, returning to Utumno. Though together the Valar were stronger than Melkor, they could not punish him at that time, for they needed their strength to keep the world from collapsing into ruin. The Spring of Arda had ended in turmoil.
Dominance of Middle-earth
With Almaren destroyed, the Valar departed to a new continent across the sea, Aman, and built Valinor. They also established new sources of light, the Two Trees, to light the world. Melkor, meanwhile, wandered across the face of Middle-earth, in various guises, but armed with cold and fire. Some of the Valar were unwilling to forsake Middle-earth, however; Ulmo and Yavanna, particularly. Also Oromë would ride in Middle-earth, killing the terrors of Melkor, who began to fear that the Valar might rise up against him in wrath.
Melkor brooded in the north, breeding great monsters, attended by his Maiar-servants later known as Balrogs. He also created another fortress and armory called Angband, in the northwest of Middle Earth, to resist any Valarin attacks. He placed his greatest servant, Sauron, in control of that stronghold. Melkor, by wandering about, also learned of the awakening of the first of the Children of Ilúvatar, the Elves. He instilled fear in them, and slew or captured many of them. Some of those he captured, it is believed, may have been transformed into Orcs by torture and breeding.
Time in Valinor
The Valar were not long, however, in discovering the Elves. Fearing that they would be destroyed or corrupted by Melkor, Manwë decided that Ilúvatar wished them to recover Middle-earth at all costs. They laid siege to Utumno, and eventually destroyed it after a great battle during which the face of Middle-earth was transformed. Melkor was captured and chained with the chain Angainor, but Sauron escaped. Melkor was imprisoned in the halls of Mandos, and remained there for three ages, plotting revenge.
At the end of his time, Melkor was presented to his brother Manwë. Melkor, swallowing his pride with thoughts of vengeance, prostrated himself before the throne of Manwë, begging for pardon. Manwë granted him thus, though Ulmo and Tulkas were displeased with this judgement. Yet the Valar would not let him leave their sight, and he stayed in Valmar. Before long, he began to exert his corrupting influence on the Elves, especially the Noldor. For the Vanyar did not trust him, and the Teleri he thought too weak for his designs, but the Noldor were curious, and eager to learn what he could teach them.
Revenge against the Valar
In time Melkor found his greatest adversary and yet greatest tool in the form of Fëanor, the eldest son of Finwë, High King of the Noldor. Fëanor was the creator of the Silmarils, which Melkor lusted after. As Melkor subtly spread lies and half-truths about the Valar and the Coming of Men in the form of rumors, Fëanor was greatly influenced, though he hated Melkor himself and had no idea that he was their source. His new ideas of wide lands and realms to rule touched the heart of Fëanor, and the hearts of many other Noldor. They began to murmur against the Valar, and the peace of Valinor was disturbed. Fëanor soon stirred up trouble, and while on trial before the Valar it was revealed that Melkor was at the bottom of the murmurings and troubles. Tulkas left straightaway to deal with him, but found Melkor gone. He had escaped.
Melkor was not seen for a while, but then appeared at Formenos to Fëanor, tempting him with words of friendship, and an offer of vengeance against the Valar whom Fëanor perceived had wronged him. Fëanor wavered, but Melkor pressed his advantage too much. He touched a chord about the Silmarils, and Fëanor, seeing his designs and lust for the jewels, cursed and rejected him. Melkor departed in anger, and went south past the mountain of Hyarmentir, to the shadowed valley of Avathar where there dwelt Ungoliant, a mysterious dark spirit in spider-form once his servant, but who had disowned him after his failure. After some time he convinced her to dismiss her fears with the offer of rich rewards, and she wove a cloak of shadow about them both.
Then Melkor and Ungoliant attacked while there was festival in Valmar. Melkor drained the Two Trees with his lance, and Ungoliant drank the blood. Then she drank dry the Wells of Varda, and the two fled north to Formenos, leaving the land once more in darkness and confusion. At Formenos Melkor slew Finwë and ravished the treasury of Fëanor, including the Silmarils. Then he passed over the icy Helcaraxë, entering once more into Middle-earth. He was soon back in Angband. He had struck swiftly and surely. But Fëanor cursed him, naming him Morgoth, and by that name he was known ever after to the Eldar.
Return to Beleriand
Once in safety, Ungoliant turned on her partner, demanding the jewels of Fëanor. The spider had grown in size and strength, and Morgoth feared her suddenly. He reluctantly parted with each of the beautiful gems, and Ungoliant devoured them. But Morgoth refused to give up the Silmarils, though she tortured him. His screams went out to Gothmog and the balrogs, and they rescued him from her clutches, driving Ungoliant away with their whips. So Morgoth returned to Angband.
Wars of Beleriand
Morgoth rebuilt the fortress there, and learned of the Elves who had remained in Middle-earth. Elu Thingol and the Sindar dwelt in the woodland kingdom of Doriath, while Círdan and the Teleri lived at the Falas and Denethor and the Nandor camped in Ossiriand. Morgoth made war on Thingol, surrounding Doriath and cutting Thingol off from Círdan. But Thingol was able to contact Denethor for help, and the Nandor joined with the Sindar to fight the Orcs between Aros and Gelion. Caught between the two armies, the Orcs of Morgoth were utterly defeated in the First Battle. Fleeing north they were intercepted and further demolished by the Naugrim. The Orcs attacking Círdan were more successful – pushing the Teleri to the very edge of the sea.
Morgoth was confronted by further challenges when Fëanor landed in Middle-earth. They set up at Mithrim, but Morgoth attacked them quickly, hoping to dislodge them before they settled in too much and became a threat. But the Elves were just come out of Aman, and they had the light of that country in their eyes. The Orcs dreaded them, and were swept before them like chaff before wind. Fëanor pursued them even nigh to the Thangorodrim and the gates of Angband, but Morgoth sent out Gothmog and his balrogs. Fëanor was killed, but the balrogs were driven back. The Falas were freed, and though Morgoth had practically lost Beleriand outside of the Ered Engrin, he was comforted in the fact that Fëanor was dead.
Yet Fingolfin came next, with his sons and the sons of Finarfin. They marched even to the gates of Angband, and yet could not go farther. As the Elves began to build (or rebuild) their kingdoms in Middle-earth, Morgoth waited sixty years before he struck again. It was the Dagor Aglareb, the “Glorious Battle”, called such because it was a great victory for the Elves. Fingolfin and Maedhros, eldest son of Fëanor, combined their strength and repelled Morgoth. They then set up the Siege of Angband, which was designed to keep Morgoth holed up in his fortress.
Dagor Bragollach and Fingolfin455. Then he surged forth suddenly, taking the slackened besiegers by surprise. Flames covered the formerly green Ard-galen (causing the battle to be known as the Dagor Bragollach), and several Noldor-lords fell in the succeeding combat. Much of Beleriand was overrun and Dorthonion was taken, as were northern Sirion and Maglor's Gap. In a single stroke Morgoth had broken the Siege of Angband, but the victory was not as complete as he would have preferred. Himring and Hithlum had held against him. King Fingolfin was dismayed and enraged by the defeat, and went to Angband. There he challenged Morgoth to single combat. Morgoth dared not refuse, for fear of showing himself a coward in front of his servants. With Grond, the Hammer of the Underworld, he fought Fingolfin long. The Elf-lord gave him seven wounds, but at last was struck down. As Morgoth placed his foot on Fingolfin to crush him, Fingolfin struck one last time, and Morgoth’s blood filled the pools made by his hammer. Morgoth could not desecrate the body, for Thorondor flew into his face and escaped with the body.
The Quest for the Silmaril
For some time after that the world lay in watchful discomfort. The southern part of Beleriand was, for the most part, free from Morgoth’s direct wrath. There arose two in Doriath, Beren of Bëor’s House and Lúthien Tinúviel, Thingol’s daughter. These two lovers embarked on the Quest for the Silmaril, in the process removing Sauron from Tol-in-Gaurhoth and entering Angband in disguise. Morgoth lusted after Lúthien when she stood exposed in his presence, but she danced for him and lured him to sleep with her magic robes. One of the Silmarils was stolen from his crown, and Morgoth bore only two until the War of Wrath.
Some time after, in 471, Maedhros made a great alliance with the Naugrim, Edain, and other Noldor. They marched to challenge Morgoth, clearing Beleriand of his scattered forces. But Morgoth through his spies anticipated their actions, and met them with his allies the Easterlings in a huge battle in which he prevailed, and many princes and rulers of Men, Elves, and Dwarves fell. Thus the battle was named Nirnaeth Arnoediad, “Battle of Unnumbered Tears”. Morgoth’s victory was almost complete, as he razed Hithlum, the Falas, the March of Maedhros, as well as Nargothrond in 495. But Turgon, King of Gondolin, escaped by the valiant actions of the House of Hador, the last of the Edain in the north. The survivors had all gone down to the Isle of Balar and the Mouths of the Sirion.
The Curse of Morgoth
Morgoth took Húrin, who had been captured during the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, and set him in the high places of Thangorodrim, to watch his family, whom Morgoth cursed. Upon the death of Túrin Turambar and Nienor, Húrin’s children, Morgoth released Húrin to further his cause.
The Fall of Gondolin
Some time later, by the aid of Maeglin, a traitor-elf, Morgoth discovered and laid siege to Gondolin. Turgon King, the last male heir of Fingolfin’s house, was killed in the sack. Morgoth’s victory in the north was now complete, though he had lost Gothmog his captain and many other leaders in the battle. Also, a small remnant including Tuor and Idril escaped the rape of the city, bearing their son Eärendil.
The War of Wrath
This was to be Morgoth’s doom, for some years later, Eärendil sailed to Valinor seeking the pardon of the Valar. This he earned, and the Valar advanced across Belegaer with a mighty host. Morgoth loosed all his demons and defenses against them, but could not stop their might. His dragons fell to the Eagles, and Ancalagon was brought down by Eärendil himself from his ship, Vingilot. Morgoth was seized in his fortress Angband, the Silmarils were removed from his crown, and he was bound once more. This time, however, he was ejected from Arda and cast into the Void. But though he had been vanquished, Arda was forever marred, and there was one still at large to carry on his evil legacy, if to a lesser degree: his greatest servant, the fallen Maia Sauron.
Morgoth remains in the Void, unable to return to Arda as long as the Valar maintain their power over it. Nevertheless, according to the Second Prophecy of Mandos, Morgoth will come back and attack Arda. He will fight a great battle, called the Dagor Dagorath, against the Valar and their allies, but will ultimately be slain by Túrin Turambar, the Man he cursed. By finally defeating Morgoth, Túrin will avenge not only himself, but all members of the race of Men, since Morgoth seduced them long ago.
Morgoth's will was suffused into the matter of Arda, so in a sense he is never truly gone. Arda was marred by him so deeply that only Eru could fully repair the damage. Those who wished to follow in Morgoth's footsteps, such as Sauron, found that by using his residual influence, they could easily corrupt races they wished to dominate.
CharacteristicsTolkien. He received many scars and wounds over the ages: his hands were burned forever when he touched the Silmarils, Fingolfin wounded him seven times during their battle as well as a wound the foot that caused him ever after to limp, Thorondor scarred his face with his talons.
Morgoth wielded Grond in battle, a weapon he presumably forged himself in Angband (unless Sauron or Gothmog had held it safe after the Siege of Utumno). He also had great mental and physical power, at least in the earlier days, greater than any of the other Valar.
- Morgoth (Bauglir) – Q. “The Dark Enemy” (“The Constrainer”), given him by Fëanor
- Melkor – Q. “He who arises in might”
- Dark King (of Angband) – given him by Men
- Dark Lord
- Belegur(th) – S. “Great Death”
- Lord of the Dark
- Dark Hunter – Given him by the fearful early Elves before they met Oromë
- mbelekôro – C.E. Unknown meaning
- Great Enemy
- Black Foe
- Master of the fates of Arda - used by him when speaking to Húrin
- Elder King - used when speaking to Húrin
- Melko, Belcha, Melegor, Meleko – Earlier names Tolkien used but abandoned
- Sauron – Greatest of his servants, later to become Lord of the Rings, perished with the One Ring
- Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs – killed by Ecthelion of the Fountain during the Fall of Gondolin
- Glaurung – Father of Dragons, killed by Túrin
- Ancalagon – Greatest of the Winged Dragons, slain by Eärendil
- Othrond – (noncanon) Orc-general during the Fall of Gondolin, killed by Tuor
- Lungorthin - (noncanon) A Balrog, Master of the Guard of Angband