First War

From Tolkien Gateway
Previous war: None
Next war: Battle of the Powers
First War with Melkor
Beginning: V.Y. 1End: V.Y. 1500
Place: All of Arda
Outcome: Victory for the Valar, Formation of Arda
Major battles: Many and various

Valar and Maiar

Melkor and Úmaiar




The First War was a titanic struggle between the Valar and Melkor at the beginning of Arda for its dominion.[1]



When the Ainur came to Arda, before it was fully formed, Melkor claimed it for himself. Manwë denied this because Arda was the labour of all the Ainur. Many spirits, including Varda[2], came to Manwë's side from the deeps of Ea.[1]


Numerous undocumented battles began for the dominion of Arda.[1]

While the Valar formed Arda, Melkor undid or marred whatever they made, demolishing mountains they created, raising up their valleys and spilling their seas, ever hindering their plans.[1] Melkor ruined most the works of Aulë, who grew weary repairing the damage and tumults.[2]

Melkor prevailed for ages until news of the War reached far in heaven where other spirits remained. Learning of the War, Tulkas finally descended to Arda in Valian Year 1499. Hearing his mighty laughter, Melkor fled before Tulkas's anger and escaped beyond the Walls of Night.[3]


The result of the War was that Arda was marred. The completion of the world was hindered and its plan was altered. Tulkas and Aulë laboured much to restore Arda and extinguish the fires. There was peace for a long time and thenceforth Tulkas was counted among the Valar. Melkor forsook Arda and brooded in the outer darkness for some time, and held a hatred of Tulkas forever after.[3]

Aulë created the Two Lamps for the illumination of all Arda and the vegetation of Yavanna, who planted her seeds that sprouted. The Spring of Arda began, and the earth was filled with plants from mosses to large trees.[3]

Of that primordial duel the Elves knew only what the Powers told them of it.[1]

Other versions of the legendarium

In Tolkien's latest writings where Arda was a round world from its beginning, this period of fire and cataclysm is said to correspond roughly with the earth's primeval epochs before this world became habitable for organic life. During these battles, it is said, the earth was given its elliptic orbit and the Moon broke away from the earth, both of which were caused by Melkor, though another version tells that the Valar wrought the Moon from the earth to counteract the night when Melkor was most active.[4]

In an essay written in the late 1950s, the First War and its outcome were modified somewhat, along with the nature of Melkor: in this version, Melkor is not merely a mighty Ainu or first among equal powers, but greater than all the rest of the Valar combined, and he singlehandedly drives them into retreat. It is unclear if Melkor himself ever had to retreat beyond the Walls of Night in this version, but he appears triumphant, holding dominion over much of Arda and forming Utumno openly. The Valar do not attempt to face him again until the Battle of the Powers, which itself is changed.[5]


Preceded by:
Music of the Ainur
Major events of Middle-earth
V.Y. 1 - 1500
Followed by:
Spring of Arda