The Valar, be they metaphor or elements given life, are fallible and know not all ends for good or evil. Mightier they are than all other things in Arda, but even they can stray from the beauty of their Father, Illuvatar. The Eldar sing the sad song of the world and remember what might have been if many deeds were not done, by both the Valar and their kin. Many among our peers debate the nature of evil in the works which Tolkien wrought, but they need look no further than Tolkein’s own words. Three great sins there are from which evil arises as a shadow marring the works of Illuvatar. Pride above Eru is first, and it is terrible. Second is deceit and treachery, for through these the children cast aside the love of their father. Third is the strife which arises between Eru’s creations, but not wholly is this evil. For by humility and submission to Illuvatar, great beauty can be wrought from conflict also.
Melkor fell from Illuvatar’s grace because he desired lordship over all else, but it is Illuvatar who is lord and it can be no other. Ever, Melkor sought to bring under his dominion the other Ainur before the world was made, and in Arda he quested still for power and supremacy. Aule also desired more than was given him, but Aule is not regarded as evil for it was when he created the Naugrim, the Dwarves, born before their time that he demonstrated his mighty humility. Illuvatar knew always of Aule’s creations and came to him in anger when they were complete. And Aule said unto his father:
“I did not desire such lordship. I desired things other than I am, to love and to teach them, so that they might perceive the beauty of Ea, which thou hast caused to be… In my impatience I have fallen into folly... the child of little understanding that makes play of the deeds of his father may do so without thought of mockery… As a child to a father, I offer to thee these things, the work of the hands which thou hast made.”
Aule’s deed was not wholly wrong because of his humility, where Melkor desires to be lifted above his station, and he is jealous and filled with spite. Where Aule sought to honor Illuvatar with his creations, Melkor sought to profane. He stole the Quendi who wandered afar alone or but few together and twisted them to dark forms, “Thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orcs in jealousy and mockery of the Elves… This it may be was the vilest deed of Melkor, and the most hateful to Illuvatar.”
The children of Illuvatar, Valar or mortal, can discard their father’s love through pride but also through treachery and lies. Tolkien describes Morgoth Bauglir, Black Enemy of the World, as foremost jealous then as a weaver of lies. And while Morgoth has powers many and great, his greatest evils were wrought through deceit. It is said that, “his lies passed from friend to friend, as secrets the knowledge of which proves the teller wise… and then whispers went abroad that the Valar had brought the Eldar to Aman because of their jealousy… Thus ere the Valar were aware, the peace of Valinor was poisoned.” Melkor’s lies twist his own darkness to bear upon the listener fanning dark flames within their hearts. The servants of Morgoth, lesser than he but still among the great, are also wielders of lies. Sauron using a Palantir has no power to show what has not happened, but can weave the images to deceive, showing what has come to pass but in a way which is untrue. Just as his master did in the days before the coming of the Second Children, Sauron goes among the people of Numenor as a friend but with ill intent and secret malice bent upon those who listen.
Strife among the creations of Illuvatar is the third great evil. Tolkien writes of the Noontide of Aman as a time of peace and creation, and in the chronicles of the War of the Ring, he writes of Faramir, most noble man then alive in Minas Tirith as a lover not of war but of peace. War and conflict are among the most evil acts against Illuvatar. Even more evil is violence among kin, as Feanor flees Valinor and slays the Teleri on the strands of Aqualonde. But strife among kin can be brought to good if submitted with humility to Illuvatar. Feanor’s treachery against the Teleri is evil because he does it not for the beauty of Arda but in pursuit of his own glory and the Silmarills, the light of which he forgets is not his own. War is always terrible, but not always evil. When the Valar broke Angband and cast down the peaks of Thangorodrim, the land was scarred, but that act was not an evil one. Nor is conflict evil in the eyes of Illuvatar. When Melkor brought about his strife before the beginning of days, Illuvatar wove it into his music, and Ulmo was amazed. Illuvatar showed Ulmo snow and ice, which he found beautiful and marveled at the majesty of Illuvatar turning evil to good. It is not the action always which is evil but the intent.
- N. Reuter