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Battle of the Powers

From Tolkien Gateway
(Redirected from Siege of Utumno)
Previous war: First War
Next war: Wars of Beleriand
Battle of the Powers
Beginning: Y.T. 1090End: Y.T. 1099
Place: Across the northern parts of Middle-earth, passing eastward from its northwestern coasts
Outcome: Decisive victory for the Valar

Forces of the Valar

Forces of Melkor




The Battle of the Powers, also known as the War of the Powers[1] or War of the Gods,[2] was a conflict fought between the Valar and the forces of Melkor. Under the council of Manwë, the Valar marched in force with the aim to end Melkor's authority over Middle-earth and liberate the newly-awakened Elves from his influence. It culminated in the siege of Utumno, where Melkor was captured, chained, and imprisoned for three ages of the world. The Elves would never know details about the battle, which is shortly told in the Quenta Silmarillion.



Ring of Doom by Jacek Kopalski

Long time after the Valar settled in Aman, they held council among themselves and spoke of the coming Children of Ilúvatar, who first would be the Elves. Yavanna noted that the time of their arrival was unknown and they should not leave the lands of their future dwelling unprotected. Tulkas likewise agreed with the necessity of immediate action.

Manwë bid Mandos to speak, and he replied that the Children shall come in this age, and the Firstborn will walk under the stars. Varda then created other stars to help to light the world for the coming of the Elves. Using silver dews from Telperion, she created many new stars, including Wilwarin, Menelmacar, and others. After Varda's long works, the Elves awoke in the starlight by the shores of Cuiviénen, the Water of Awakening.

Oromë espies the first Elves by Anke Eißmann

While Oromë conducted his hunting trips on his great steed Nahar, he heard the newly-born Elves singing. He met them and spent time among them, and yet perceived the influence of Melkor among them, as they were afraid of him. Oromë reported these findings to the Elder King, who once again called a gathering of all the Valar to the Ring of Doom, even the far-off Ulmo. He then proclaimed the counsel of Ilúvatar in his heart that they "should take up again the mastery of Arda at whatever cost, and deliver the Quendi from the shadow of Melkor".

Oromë and Tulkas often stayed with the Quendi around Cuiviénen, but after the War was decided, they left for the preparations; in their place, Melian and the Five Guardians, a group of powerful Maiar, were sent to guard and protect the primitive Elves meanwhile.[3]


The Valar first came to Middle-earth on Y.T. 1090. The titanic conflict between the Valar and Melkor now began in earnest, with the hosts of the West confronting the hosts of Melkor in the North-west of Middle-earth, and all that region was broken by this engagement. But the first victory of the hosts of the West was swift, and the servants of Melkor fled before them to Utumno. Then the Valar passed over Middle-earth, and over the next two years, they set a guard about Cuiviénen to protect the Elves from battle. There the young Elves only felt the shaking of the Earth, and saw the north alight by mighty fires. Thus the Valar began the siege of Utumno, long and grievous it was and many battles were fought before its gates of which all is but a rumour to the Elves.

After seven years of the Trees, the gates of Utumno were broken and its halls unroofed, and Melkor took refuge in the uttermost pit. The last of his servants were host of Balrogs, who as a tide of flame assailed the standard of Manwë. The wind of his wrath withered their fire, and he slew them with the lightning of his sword.[4] Melkor stood at last alone, and Tulkas arrived and wrestled with him and bound him with the chain Angainor that Aulë had wrought.[5]


Melkor chained by Roger Garland

The Valar failed to discover some of the deepest chambers under Utumno and Angband, and Melkor's lieutenant Sauron was never captured. Some Balrogs and other evil creatures hid there, and others dispersed to the far edges of the earth.

From the ruin great clouds arose and hid the stars. It was during this time that the contour of Middle Earth was changed, with the Great Sea being widened. The Bay of Balar was carved out, as well as other minor bays until the Great Gulf southwards; the northern highlands of Hithlum and Dorthonion, sources of Sirion, were raised up as new mountain ranges, and the river came into being.

The Valar dragged Melkor back to Valinor for judgment before Manwë, in the Ring of Doom. Melkor laid upon his face and begged for mercy from Manwë, but his prayers were denied. He was cast into the prison of Mandos for three ages, after which he would be brought before Manwë once more. Although the Elves didn't participate in the war, Melkor never forgot that his downfall was for their sake.

The Valar gathered in council once again, and it was decided, after some debate, to summon the Quendi to Valinor to preserve them from evil. However, the Quendi were unwilling to listen to their summons after seeing their wrath and devastation of the war, so Oromë chose three ambassadors to accompany him back to Valinor and speak on behalf of their people. The three ambassadors were Ingwë, Finwë, and Elwë. In Valinor, they beheld the glory of the Two Trees. The three ambassadors returned to their people and counselled them to accept the summons, and the Great Journey began soon thereafter.[6]

Other versions of the legendarium

The Book of Lost Tales

In Tolkien's earliest writings the conflict had a different form compared to later versions. In The Book of Lost Tales Melko's devastation of the land is what caused the Valar to assault his fortress Utumna, whereas in The Silmarillion it was the discovery of the newly-awakened Elves by Oromë at Cuiviénen that prompted the Valar to go to war on Melkor.

The confrontation between the Valar and Melkor in Utumno is expanded in the Lost Tales, but unlike the aggressive approach in The Silmarillion, the Valar concoct a plan of deceit to capture Melko by satiating his pride. The heralds of Melko and Manwë whom were Langon and Nornorë exchange words and the ruse is successful. Melko invites them to his chamber to pay homage before his seat. The Valar enter Utumna with Tulkas bound by Angaino (Angainor), and Manwë kneeled before Melko. However, the sight of this angered Tulkas greatly and he leapt forward, followed shortly by Aulë and Oromë. A great melee erupted in the hall between the Valar and Melko and his servants, and at the end Melko was wrapped by Angaino.[7]

Depiction within Morgoth's Ring

In a 1955 essay included in Morgoth's Ring, Tolkien wrote that the Valarian assault on Utumno was an act of desperation, one they feared would fail, and their main intent was to distract Melkor long enough for the Quendi to flee from him and escape his influence. Manwë descended into the depths of the fortress and met with Melkor, and both were surprised; Manwë, to see that his brother had "dispersed" so much of his power into the physical world, and Melkor, to see that, in his mind, he was now physically weaker than his brother and could no longer daunt him with a gaze. In this version, Melkor never fights Tulkas or the other Valar directly, and instead surrenders himself to Manwë willingly.

Though he briefly considers truly repenting, his mind turns to evil, and instead he plots to corrupt and ruin Valinor from within, asking that the Valar take him as their prisoner and that he be allowed to serve them in penance. Out of both pity for and fear of his brother, Manwë accepts, but the Valar do not fully trust Melkor; rather, he is taken to Valinor and placed under the watch of Mandos for "meditation" and contemplation on his actions. Unable to enact his plans without being noticed, and now separated from his armies and servants, whom he poured a great deal of his personal might into, Melkor regrets his decision and grows deeply hateful, wishing instead that he had assaulted Manwë and the Valar "in fiery rebellion" when he had the chance.[8]

Depiction within Nature of Middle-earth

In a 1960 revision, included within The Nature of Middle-earth, Tolkien continued to develop the concept of the Valar attacking Melkor before the Great March began. As the Valar had allowed Melkor peace in which to establish himself, and thus neglected the matter until war would involve the Children in misery or destruction, Tolkien concluded "that the rescue of the Quendi must be secret (as far as possible), and before the assault upon Utumno"; therefore "The Great March must occur behind a screen of investment, and before any violent assault had begun!"[9]