What are we to do with Melkor and discord? How is it that Eru smiles when the discordant song is first heard? Why should Eru have made Melkor in the first place? In order to deal with these questions let us first go through a retelling of the creation of Middle-Earth, a telling somewhat more true and more false than what is found in the Ainulindalë:
There was Eru, the One, who on Earth is called Tolkien; and he made first the Aspects of stories: languages, cities, and races, that were offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught else was made. And he spoke to them, propounding to them themes of music: and they sang before him and he was glad. But for a long time they worked only each alone, or a few together, while the rest harkened; for there were some stories, but no world to put them together into. Yet ever as they listened they came to deeper understanding, and increased in unison and harmony.
But now Tolkien sat and harkened, and for a great while it seemed good to him, for in the music there were no flaws. But as the theme progressed, it came into the heart of Melkor to interweave matters of his own imagining that were not in accord with the theme; for he was created with the desire to expand his dominion and bring shadow to all things.
Now to the halflings had that Aspect whom we call Hobbit turned his thought. … And Tolkien spoke to Hobbit, and said: Seest thou not how in this little realm in the Deeps of Time Melkor hath made war on thy province? He hath bethought him of cruelty, and yet has not destroyed the beauty of their spirit or of their rhymes. Behold Samwise, and the incredible stoutness of his heart. Melkor hath devised war without restraint, and hath not dried the supply of their courage nor utterly the music of the Shire. Behold rather the actions of Frodo, journeying out into the most dire affairs of Middle-Earth.
Then Hobbit answered: ‘Truly, the halfings are now become fairer than my heart imagined, neither had my secret thought conceived of such bravery, nor in all my music was contained such resistance to evil.
(This is drawn from the version presented in The Silmarillion.)
Although my story has none of the beauty of the Ainulindalë, hopefully my point stands out none the less. It is one thing to talk about the role of discord in a cosmogonic sense, but we should also realize that as a story-teller Tolkien himself becomes Melkor. He creates a fair world, but that is not interesting. In this world he, Tolkien/Melkor, creates discord, war, destruction, and grief. He’s not even very conservative with the dose of evil he gives to Middle-Earth. The list of his evil creations is quite long. He tells the story of not just one war, but several. Every good thing to fall in Arda was destroyed not just by cosmic force, but by Tolkien’s pen.
So what does this mean for us? Is Melkor a necessary part of all sub-creation? That is a difficult question. However, it is clear that any who seeks to create within Tolkien’s world will have to become Melkor, at least in part. It is in this realization that we can better understand the role of discord. We must see Melkor, not as an evil god in the distant past, but as a part of each of us, indeed something that we desire.
To sub-create is to praise the act of creation. Melkor is in the act of sub-creation, so he must be a part of praising creation. From the stories it is easy to see him as opposed to Ilúvatar. The musics of the two contend with each other for dominance. However, it is important to note that they are still using the same medium. In contending with Ilúvatar, Melkor is still using the form of music, with was taught to him by Ilúvatar. It seems that if melkor really wanted to rebel he could have stopped singing. What he did was in fact directly in line with the command he had been given: “ye shall show forth your powers in adorning this theme, each with his own thoughts and devices, if he will” (The Silmarillion p. 3). This is what Melkor did. The version of the story put forth in The History of Middle-Earth Volume 5 states that the theme of Melkor had “grown now to a unity and system, yet an imperfect one, save in so far as it was derived still from the eldest theme of Ilúvatar” (p. 173). Lucifer, Adam, and Eve all go against the command of God, but Melkor doesn’t. His great act of ‘evil’ is literally in line with the word of the creator.
So in the end Melkor is a force for creation. He sings and does not withhold from us his voice. His creations on Middle-Earth were numerous, even if all were monstrous. In order to rebel against the creator he would have to try and obliterate the world. Instead he adds to its richness. If Melkor is in fact a celebrant of creation, then we can be forgiven for bringing him into our sub-creations. With our pens we may go forth and create monsters and great sorrows and still fit into the plans of Eru and Tolkien. It is only when we give up our abilities as sub-creators, when we create nothing, that we truly rebel against Eru and commit evil.
A personal note regarding the music played in class: I once had the pleasure of playing the Vltava piece in a full orchestra. That piece has since been a personal favorite of mine, and the thought of it as part of the music of creation made me quite happy.