The Quenta

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The Shaping of Middle-earth chapters
  1. Prose Fragments
  2. The Earliest 'Silmarillion'
  3. The Quenta
  4. The First 'Silmarillion' Map
  5. The Ambarkanta
  6. The Earliest Annals of Valinor
  7. The Earliest Annals of Beleriand

The Quenta is the third chapter of The Shaping of Middle-earth, the fourth book in the series The History of Middle-earth.

The Quenta is an early version of what would become The Silmarillion, and the only one that Tolkien managed to complete. It marks a change of tone and style between the delicate "Victorian fairy" elements of the earlier Lost Tales, and the darker Nordic descriptions that characterised his later work.[1]

Quenta Noldorinwa[edit | edit source]

Analysis[edit | edit source]

Writen in 1930, this is the second version of the text that would eventually become the published Quenta Silmarillion, after the Sketch of the Mythology included in the previous chapter, "The Earliest 'Silmarillion'".

This version of the Silmarillion holds especially importance as it is the only 'complete' version of the legendarium that Tolkien ever completed to its end. Following on from the Sketch of the Mythology, this version of the Silmarillion also moves towards the final form of the story in almost all general terms.

However this version does differ significantly from the published Silmarillion. Most notable is that it is only about a quarter of the length of the published novel. This is largely due to Tolkien's often used method of expanding while composing. The end of the narrative differs in some respects, many names were still to be changed, and a few other narrative elements are slightly different or much more compressed, but by this stage the general history of the first age is largely complete.

Since it is the only version of the legendarium Tolkien ever completed, it also includes the last narratives of all of "The Nauglafring" and of "The Fall of Gondolin" on which the published forms were based, albeit much changed in form in many cases.

The text cites as its in-universe source Eriol's Book of Lost Tales, itself based on the Golden Book in Koromas (a city on Tol Eressëa which is here and elsewhere called Kortirion, after the city in Valinor which in later versions would be simplified to Tirion). In earlier versions the Golden Book of Tavrobel was written by Eriol or a later author. However, here is no evidence that Tolkien consulted the manuscripts of The Book of Lost Tales at any point in the process of writing the Quenta.

Synopsis[edit | edit source]

Although the text is one continuous narrative, Christopher Tolkien included the same division as in the Sketch to facilitate his commentary. These "chapters" do not include any title, so what it is included here is just a description.

Appendices[edit | edit source]

Christopher included two Appendices within the chapter related to The Quenta.

Appendix 1: Ælfwine's translation of the Quenta into Old English[edit | edit source]

Included in this appendix are surviving fragments of Anglo-Saxon translations of the Annals of Valinor, the Annals of Beleriand, and Quenta Noldorinwa, as well as the Old English equivalents of various Elvish names. All of this is attributed in-universe to Ælfwine.

The Valar as a whole are called the Fréan (singular Fréa, meaning "ruler" or "lord"), Ese (singular Os, meaning "god"), Brega (singular Bregu, "ruler" or "lord"), or Mægnu (singular Mægen, "power" or "might"). Mægen appears in the Old English translation of the Quenta included in this chapter.

  • Manwë is Wolcenfréa (from wolcen, meaning "sky").
  • Melkor (here called Melko) is Manfréa (man, meaning "evil" or "wickedness"), Bolgen (meaning "wrathful"), and Malscor (related to malscrung, "bewildering" or "bewitching").
  • Ulmo becomes Garsecges fréa (Garsecg, a name for the Sea), ealwæter-fréa (eal "all" + wæter "water"), and agendfréa ealra wætera (which adds the term agend, "owner"). This last name for Ulmo comes from the Old English translation of the Quenta that appears in this appendix.
  • Aulë is Cræftfréa (cræft, "power" or "art").
  • Tulkas is Afodfréa (afod or eafod "might, strength").
  • Oromë is Wáðfréa (wáð "hunting"), Huntena fréa (huntena "of hunters"), Wealdafréa (wealda "of forests"), which is a translation of Oromë's Noldorin epithet Tauros (which would be replaced by Tauron in later versions of the legendarium) that appears in the Old English Quenta, and Béaming (béam "tree"), which is a translation of his Quenya epithet Aldaron.
  • The Fëanturi, Námo and Irmo, are called Nefréa (ne(o) "corpse") and Swefnfréa (swefn "dream") -- in the Old English Quenta, Námo is also called neoaerna hlaford ("master of the houses of the dead").
  • Ossë is listed among the VAlar as well, and given the name Sǽfréa ( "sea").

Appendix 2: The Horns of Ylmir[edit | edit source]

Song of Tuor mentioned within The Quenta.

Main article: The Horns of Ylmir


  1. Dawn Walls-Thumma, "Tinfang Warble" dated 1 October 2022, Silmarillion Writers' Guild (accessed 23 February 2023)