Silmarillion Character Profile: Morgoth

One of the most daunting things about reading The Silmarillion is keeping all of the names straight. I love this, so I want to make it more accessible for the general reader with brief character profiles.

  • Name: Melkor (more commonly known as Morgoth)
  • Immediate Family:
    • Brother (“in the thought of Eru Ilúvatar”): Manwë
  • Home: Angband
  • Claim to fame: He was the first Dark Lord.
  • Why I think he’s interesting: The greatest being ever created (his name means “he who arises in might”) is also the first one to turn against the Creator. You have to wonder–why?

Photo Credit: Alex Ristea

  4 comments for “Silmarillion Character Profile: Morgoth

  1. January 28, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    “[Morgoth] is also the first one to turn against the Creator. You have to wonder–why?”

    Well, that would be to account for the origin of evil, and centuries of theology would attest to the absence of an easy answer, so we should not be surprised that Tolkien also does not offer an easy answer, and I certainly cannot. Oh, but let’s have a go anyway…

    We might reasonably suppose that Ilúvatar, in his power and wisdom, would not have designed the Ainur with character flaws. In the Ainulindalë it is said: “[Melkor] had often gone alone into the void places seeking the Imperishable Flame; for desire grew hot within him to bring into Being things of his own … [and] being alone he had begun to conceive thoughts of his own unlike those of his brethren”; that would seem to be the seed of it, but if that does not itself indicate a flaw, then the impulse for Melkor to turn against his Creator must have emerged subsequently, from the freedom with which his personality developed and those “thoughts of his own” expressed themselves as he interacted with the other Ainur. We know almost nothing about this; the only statement of which I am aware, but which does at least suggest that all was not well, is when it is said of Varda “for Melkor she knew from before the making of the Music and rejected him”.

    The discord that Melkor then injected into the Music is expressed in terms of rebellion: Melkor’s discord and Ilúvatar’s theme were “utterly at variance” and the former “essayed to drown” the latter “by the violence of its voice”. This might be interpreted to mean that evil already existed before the creation of Eä and entered it from outside; however, Ilúvatar makes clear that nothing that Melkor has done in the Music is incompatible with Ilúvatar’s design for the world. Therefore the true rebellion, in the sense of turning away from Ilúvatar and falling into evil, must have come *after* the Ainur entered the world, and was not yet inevitable, but was a product of Melkor’s wars against the Valar in those primordial times.

    • Emily
      March 2, 2015 at 6:13 am

      Very insightful. What stood out to me was that Melkor’s variance came from him being alone–separate from his society/brethren. That does seem to be a common thread among Tolkien’s evil or ambivalent characters (Gollum, Maeglin and Mîm the Dwarf are some that come to mind). It’s interesting, though, because there are other characters, such as Aragorn or Gandalf, who live primarily lonely lives but are most certainly not evil or ambivalent. I may need to explore this more…

  2. MicaMica
    July 18, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    I think that it might not have been Iluvatar’s original plan, but in the end it panned out to his advantage–that Melkor was necessary evil, a balance needed in the world. For even after him, peoples of Arda had in them the negative traits also. Because nobody can be flawless.

    • Emily
      July 19, 2015 at 3:33 pm

      Definitely Melkor ended up adding more to the glory of Iluvatar’s work. It’s interesting reading some of Tolkien’s later philosophical works–such as when the Elves of Valinor try to come to terms with evil in the world.

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