What is Middle Earth?
Middle-Erde is a word etymologically derived from the Old English word ”middangeard”. It is a Germanic word that defines the physical world, unlike the invisible worlds, which the Greeks call οικουμένη (oikoumenē) or the “faithful place of men”. ‘Middangeard’ also appeared six times in the famous old British Beowulf Epic, which was later translated by Tolkien. However, Tolkien designed the Middle Earth geography in a way that it is similar to the geography of the world on which we currently live. While designing the Middle Earth, Tolkien was inspired by Cynewulf’s Christ poem which was a poem written in old English and composed of 3 parts. Each part in the poem focuses on a different theme (Christ I on the Advent, Christ II on the Ascension and Christ III on Doomsday) and a small annotation from the poem is shared below together with its translation:
Éalá Éarendel, engla beorhtast, ofer middangeard monnum sended, ond sóðfæsta sunnan léoma, torht ofer tunglas, þú tída gehwane of sylfum þé symle inlíhtes! (Christ of Cynewulf, Lines 104 to 108)
Hail Éarendel, brightest of angels, above the middangeard sent unto men and true radiance of the sun, bright above the stars – thou of thy very self illuminest for ever every season
The name Earendel in the lines above (which may mean ‘the morning star’, but in some contexts was the name of Christ) was the inspiration for the name of the sailor Eärendil in Tolkien’s book ”Silmarillion”.
After this very brief information about the concept of Middle Earth and the origin of this legendary land, now we are going to continue with the myths of creation that Tolkien designed both for Middle Earth universe and the continent. In this way, you are going to understand how the characters in Lord of the Rings and Hobbit were created and you are going to feel illuminated by the fact that how the real roles and the purposes of those characters in Middle Earth shape the story.
Every Universe Has a Creator : Eru Ilúvatar
Eru Iluvatar is the only creator of the fictional Middle Earth universe in J. R. R. Tolkien’s book. Iluvatar can afford everything. It is unique and knows everything. It is the one that has always existed in the past and will exist in the future.
According to the legend, Eru created beings that we could call an angel to manage universe and it asked them to sustain its harmony. The name of these beings was Ainur. These beings were divided into two as Maiar and Valar. These angels created harmony together. Melkor was the smartest and strongest among all Valars. Meanwhile, Eru Ilúvatar created Arda (the world) and Melkor used his strength and intelligence to disrupt the harmony in Arda and he wanted to create his own harmony on this world. This incongruous harmony created by Melkor attracted some other Maiar to his side, too. However, Valar continued to shape Arda before the children of Eru were born. Meanwhile, Melkor continued to disrupt what Valar did, and so all the pain and mismatches in the Arda were born due to the disruptive behavior of Melkor.
Finally, Valar and Melkor went into a great war. Having heard about Valar’s struggle with Melkor, Tulkas, who was one of the strongest Valar warrior and the last member of Valar descending to Arda, managed to win against Melkor. After his failure, Melkor escaped from Tulkas and hid in the dark.
When Tulkas ended the war, Valar started to beautify the world again. They created seas, lakes, rivers and mountains. Then, they planted the seeds of plants and animals. These seeds needed light to grow and thrive. So ,they built two giant splendid lamps. Everything was very good in Arda. Plants grew and forests were formed again, but Melkor got an opportunity again and returned to Arda. He began to spoil all the beauties in Arda and destroyed the lamps. However, Valar somehow defeated Melkor again.
Meanwhile, Eru Ilúvatar created humans and elves (Eruhíni- Eru’s Children). This made them special and superior to other creatures. Humans were the favorite of Ilúvatar. Eru Ilúvatar rewarded them with mortality and granted them the power of self-determination. The human also helped shaping the Middle-Earth. On the other hand, Elves were not involved in worldly affairs.
Besides the power of sustaining harmony, Valar also had the power to create their own non-angelic creatures called dwarves (a.k.a. adopted children of Eru) , ents and eagles. However, Melkor didn’t have the power of creating his own creatures. It created the orcs by deforming some of the races as much as he could. As years passed, races around the world (Arda) fought in countless battles with Melkor and his army. At the end of their war, Melkor was punished and the shape of the world changed. After years, some power rings were hammered by a blacksmith named ”Annatar” and they were distributed to some races on Arda. J.R.R. Tolkien describes the purposes of those rings in his book as in the following :
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.”
(The Ring Poem, J.R.R. Tolkien)
The creation of those power rings were exactly the start of all the epic stories mentioned in Middle Earth.
Rise of the Devil : Sauron
Sauron was a Maiar called the ”Dark Lord” or the ”Lord of the Rings”. Although Sauron was a good Maiar of Valar Aulë at the beginning, he later passed on the side of Melkor which was called the dark enemy of the World and he became the greatest assistant of Melkor even during the period when Melkor was captivated by Valar in Valinor (Immortal Lands). When Valar defeated Melkor and condemned him to remain in the void forever and took over Angband, Sauron disappeared.
Sauron was the strongest person after Melkor in the Dark Age. In the Third Age, Sauron reappeared as Necromancer (Death Sorcerer), but was hiding his true identity. He made friends with blacksmith elves and he made the power rings with them. He reached his former power thanks to the power ring that was made for himself. This ring could rule all the other power rings. As you can see, the Blacksmith Annatar I mentioned at the beginning of the post was Sauron himself indeed.
With the creation of those power rings, the war with the dark side started again. Elves and humans opposed Sauron with an army called the Last Alliance. After 7 years of siege, Sauron left the black fort and started to fight. Isildur, the eldest son of the Supreme King Elendil cut Sauron’s finger and took the ring. Sauron’s power was in the Ring, so the Ring could not disappear unless it was destroyed, neither did the power of Sauron. Although Isildur cut the finger of Sauron and got his Ring, Sauron did not completely disappear because Isildur did not destroy the Ring. Sauron escaped and hid in the Dol Guldur in South Mirkwood which was also called the Hill of Dark Sorcery . Over there, he disguised as a dark wizard known as the “Necromancer” and ordered Nazgûl to find the Ring. The activities of those Nazgûls (a.k.a. Nine Dark Riders or Nine Fallen Kings) attracted the attention of Valar and Valar decided to send five Maiar to follow Nazgûl’s activities and prevent them.
In the meantime, Isildur died and the ring disappeared. It was found by two Hobbits named Sméagol and Déagol. Sméagol was taken under the influence of the ring and killed his cousin Déagol to have the ring.
Sméagol changed a lot after he found the ring because of the ring’s dark power. He was excluded by his own people and he had to leave his home. He gave the name ”precious” to the ring. One day, the ring left him, and he dropped the ring. And the ring was found by the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who went to Erebor with a group of dwarves and joined their adventures.
The Five Istari
As a response to the reappearance of Nazgûl activities in different places and possible Sauron threat that had been on the rise after the Morgoth domination ended, Valar sent five representatives to Middle-earth. When they were born in Middle-earth, they were greeted by a shipbuilder named Círdan in Gray Ports. These representatives were called “Istari” by elves and “Wizards” by humans. They were all Maiar, but they could feel all the pleasure, pain and fears just as humans did as long as they were in human form.
They all had different colors and different responsibilities in Middle Earth. Their colors were also changing depending on their strength.
1. Saruman (Curumo)
2. Gandalf (Olórin)
He was called “Gandalf The Gray” for wearing a gray dress. Cirdan, who met the ”Five Istari”, regarded Gandalf as the most determined soul among all the five Istari. Therefore, he gave him the Red Narya from the power rings he was protecting. After Saruman couldn’t perform his duty and he joined the dark side, Saruman was prevented from being “White” and this title was given to Gandalf. So, ”Gandalf The Gray” became ”Gandalf The White” in the end.
3. Radagast (Aiwendil)
The third Istari was called “Radagast The Brown” for wearing a brown dress. He did not deal with the worldly issues of humans and elves. The reason he was sent to Middle-Earth was that he was interested in Kelvar (Animals) and Olvar (Plants), that is, the non-speaking creatures of Middle-Earth, and he tried to protect them from Sauron’s evil.
4 &5. Sea-Blue Alatar and Pallando(Blue Wizards)
Two of the five Maiar who were sent by Valar were wearing blue clothes. These two Maiar named Alatar and Pallando, were known as Blue Wizards. They went to the east and never returned again.
This is the end of Silmarillion stories and the creation myths covered by J.R.R. Tolkien related to Middle Earth. In my following post, I plan to cover the races who were living on Middle Earth and their connection with each other in more detail. Thank you for reading! See you in my next post.
Photo Credit and Resources (In the order above):
- [Cover page] https://www.wallpaperup.com/309767/hobbit_lotr_lord_rings_fantasy_warrior_collage_poster.html