Sunday, 24 May 2009

Of the Quendi

As has been told, the Valar dwelt in the light of the Trees for long years whilst all Middle-earth lay in darkness under the ancient stars, and under the power of Melkor. In the ancient forests walked the eldest creatures, furtive on account of the darkness, but strong. Under the power of Melkor, the Valar came seldom to those lands, and only in great secret. Yavanna, in grief, set a sleep upon many things that should awaken in a time that was yet hidden from her, in some far distant day when perhaps the power of Melkor would crumble.

But the power of Melkor grew and grew as the long ages past, and he did not sleep, but watched and laboured and his realm spread ever southwards over the whole of Middle-earth. In Utumno, the Balrogs gathered about him, and in that time Melkor made many other monsters that long troubled the unhappy world. In that time, Melkor wrought another fortress not far from the north-western shores of the Great Sea to resist any assault that might come against him from the West, and its charge was laid to Sauron his lieutenant, and the name of that fortress was Angband.

But in the West, the Valar held council, for they were troubled by the news that Yavanna brought to them concerning the evil realm of Melkor, and she urged them to that war that they must wage for the succour of the Firstborn. At the bidding of Manwë, Mandos (the Doomsman of the Valar) spoke, and he said:

''In this age the Children of Ilúvatar shall come indeed, but they come not yet. Moreover it is doom that the Firstborn shall come in the darkness, and shall look first upon the stars. Great light shall be for their waning. To Varda ever shall they call at need.''

Varda is the principal Marian arthetype in Tolkien's legendarium. Tolkien writes of her: ''Too great is her beauty to be declared in the words of Men or of Elves; for the light of Ilúvatar lives still in her face. In light is her power and her joy. Out of the deeps of Eä she came to the aid of Manwë, for Melkor she knew from before the making of the Music and rejected him, and he hated her, and feared her more than all others whom Eru made.'' And so Varda left the council of the Valar and climbed to the pinnacle of Taniquetil and looked east over the Sea and beheld the dark lands of Middle-earth; and fearing for the Firstborn of Ilúvatar, she began a vast labour, greater than any since the Ainur entered the world in the deeps of Time. Gathering the silver dews of the Tree of Silver, she scattered them across the dark skies, making new and brighter stars, and she strung together many of the ancient stars and made signs with them, and one great constellation she set in the northern sky as a challenge to Melkor, Valacirca, the Sickle of the Valar, and the sign of doom.

Even as Varda ended her labours, the Elder children awoke by the waters of Cuiviénen, the ''Waters of Awakening,'' a bay in the far north-east of Middle-earth. The Elves awoke and first saw the Stars of Varda; and in silence they beheld many wonders. They lived there long, and soon began to make speech and to give name to things. They called themselves the Quendi, signifying ''those who speak with words'' for as yet they knew of no other living things that spoke or sang.

It chanced that the Vala Oromë (who was wont to hunt the evil creatures of Melkor in Middle-earth) turned eastward in his hunting and came to that region where Cuiviénen lay; and suddenly his great horse Nahar set up a great neighing and stood still, and the Vala listened. And far off in the silent lands, he heard the voices of singing. And so it was that at last the Valar discovered the Elder Children of Ilúvatar, and looking upon them from afar, Oromë was filled with love and wonder. Then he went to meet them, but the Elves were filled with dread at his coming, and many fled and were lost; and this was the work of Melkor. For Melkor, ever vigilant, was first aware of the coming of the Elves and he sent shadows and evil spirits to spy on them and to devour them, and he sent lying whispers among them that they should shun Oromë if ever he came among them. Long years before the coming of Oromë, tales were told by the Elves at their ancient home that shadow shapes would at times walk in the woods and the hills around Cuiviénen, and of a dark Rider on a wild horse that would capture those that wandered far from the shores of Helcar alone and would devour them.

And so, after a short while, Oromë returned to the West and brought the news to the Valar, and they rejoiced. Then, they debated among themselves what counsel it were best to take for the safeguard of the Children from the shadow of Melkor, and they resolved then to make war on Melkor for the mastery of Middle-earth...
The above image is Ted Nasmith's rendering of Cuiviénen.

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