Today I bring you… The Silmarilion Project. (This post will be updated every time they post a new drawing to try to keep the whole story. From here I wish to thank all the people that makes the project possible and I want to say that it is reproduced here with links to the original page, and if they consider it inappropriate to show their work in this way, please, put in contact with me and it will be retired from here).
“This is the beginning of a side project I’ve been working on,
where each week I’ll be posting an illustration
that corresponds with a different chapter of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion.”
This is how the story goes.
The Music of the Ainur is essentially the beginning of Tolkien’s creation myth, where the Earth is slowly formed into being by ethereal song.
The second chapter of The Silmarillion introduces us to the various divine beings (Ainur) who enter Earth (Arda) at its conception: the Valar (a godlike pantheon), the Maiar (lesser spirits) and the Enemy, who at this point is called Melkor. Although Melkor is mightier than any individual Vala, he is not counted among them, as their mission is to craft and preserve the world, while Melkor is hell-bent on twisting it to his will.
Several Valar are pictured here. They are, from front to back:
- Mandos – Judge of the Dead and Master of Doom. He has foreknowledge of everything that will come to pass on Arda until the end times, but will only reveal pieces at Manwë’s order.
- Yavanna – Queen of the Earth and Giver of Fruits. She created the Ents to protect the trees from the axes of Orcs and Dwarves.
- Aulë – Craftsman of the Earth and husband of Yavanna. He created the Dwarves with Ilúvatar’s (God’s) blessing, who gave them actual life.
- Varda – Queen of Stars. Creator of light and the stars (naturally) and also the first to see Melkor for what he truly was.
- Manwë – King of the Valar, master of the sky and husband of Varda. He is also the “twin” broth of Melkor, the Enemy.
- Ulmo – Lord of Waters and the sole wandering Vala (never taking residence in the the Undying Lands as they do). Ulmo prefers the open oceans and is an eternal friend to Men and Elves, of whose plight he is always keenly aware.
The accompanying illustrations are of the Enemies:
- Melkor – First and mightiest of the Ainur. Obsessed with creating life of his own, which he cannot, so he forever strives to corrupt Creation itself and rule over it. The source of all discord and Evil in Arda. Later called Morgoth, “The Great Enemy,” he is the central antagonist of the Silmarillion.
- Sauron – A powerful Maia originally in service of Aulë, Sauron was corrupted by Morgoth, ultimately becoming his second-in-command. Master of all shapes and forms, as well as the crafting of objects of power.
Now let’s go for the armies.
These are a brief list of the best-known creatures to serve the Dark Lords:
- Orcs – Created “in mockery” of the Elves, it’s never been clear where Orcs originated. They vary greatly in size and shape, though most are smaller than Men. Most Orcs flee from the Sun, though some later breeds lacked this weakness. While often ferocious, Orcs never exhibit much initiative on their own, and when not commanded by a Dark Lord or other evil power, they tend to keep to themselves.
- Trolls – If Orcs were a mockery of Elves, then Trolls were meant to mock the Ents. While there are many types of Trolls, they are usually slow-witted and thuggish. There is some speculation that Trolls were not living things at all, but some sort of stoneish “counterfeits” that required greater powers to give them a will. This may explain why most Trolls permanently turn to stone when in direct sunlight, undoing the dark magic that created them.
- Dragons – Bred from unknown beasts and dark magics, Dragons are amongst the most powerful creatures in Middle-Earth. They are extremely intelligent and greedy, and among Morgoth’s creations the most independently minded. Most could breath fire, and later on some strains were bred with wings. A single Dragon could drive away armies, and those with enough nerve and cunning to slay a Dragon became legends.
- Balrogs – Also called Valaraukar, Balrogs were fire spirits seduced into service under Morgoth. While they could take on many forms, they were generally great creatures of shadow, breathing fire and carrying whips made of flames. Balrogs primarily acted as Morgoth’s generals, with Gothmog, their captain, being second in authority only to Sauron. Though shrewd and immensely powerful, the main weapon of Balrogs was their ability to inspire primal terror in both enemy and ally. There is no instance of a mortal killing a Balrog, and it is suggested that only the power of Elves or greater beings is able to overcome them.
The Free Peoples of Middle-Earth consist of Men, Elves and Dwarves.
- Teleri – The largest of the houses, Teleri are a diverse group that has often found its home in the sea. They are among the most skilled shipbuilders and navigators of their time. The Teleri usually had brown hair and eyes, though those of royal lineage had silver hair.
- Vanyar – The ruling house of Elves, the Vanyar comprise the wisest and most powerful of their race, including the high king of all Elves, Ingwë. The most distinctive element of the Vanyar is that once arriving in Aman, they would virtually never leave it again. As such, their influence in the history of Middle-Earth is brief. Vanyar are exceptionally fair, with bright golden hair.
- Noldor – Easily the most famous of the High Elves, the Noldor are the most ambitious and industrious of their kind. They are above all legendary craftsmen; it was the Noldor Fëanor who crafted the Silmarils, for which the Silmarillion is named. As one might expect, the Noldor are extremely proud, becoming the source of much tragedy in Middle-Earth. Noldor have a strong, muscular build, usually bearing very dark hair and grey eyes.
Of the Elves who chose to stay in Middle-Earth, the most notable are the Sindar. They, along with the Dwarves, comprise the rest of the non-human allies during the First Age of the Silmarillion.
- Sindar– A large population of Teleri never completed the journey to Aman and stayed in Middle-Earth. These became known as the Sindar, and comprise the Elves most familiar to the human history of MIddle-Earth. They largely prefer natural surroundings, creating cities in harmony with the forests.
- Dwarves – Created by Aluë as a crude imitation/homage to the true Children of Illuvatar (Elves & Men), Dwarves were given true life, though their nature and appearance is notably different from the other races. Dwarves are stubborn, hardy, and resistant to both evil and harsh elements. They prefer mining and crafting, surpassing all others in the skill of smithing. Their relationship with Elves is complicated, though they found good friends amongst the Noldor.
In the First Age, the humans who participated in the wars against Morgoth were known as the Edain, who were divided into three houses:
- Hador – The House of Hador was large and fond of warfare. Many of the greatest warriors of the First Age came from these people, and above all the Edain gained the most renown. They were very tall and usually had blonde or goldenhair.
- Haleth – The House of Haleth were the most peaceful and reclusive of the Edain, largely keeping out of the conflicts of the First Age. They were dark-haired, short, and survived well into later times.
- Bëor – The smallest house of the Edain, Bëor consisted of patient, steadfast people who were quick to resist the evil temptations of Morgoth. They endured significant menace and tragedy from the Dark Lord and his armies throughout the First Age.
Chapter 1 deals with the details of the shaping of Arda (Earth). In the beginning, the Valar attempted to assemble Arda, but were constantly at odds with Melkor, who warred against them to a standstill. This persisted until the last of the Valar, Tulkas, descended into Arda as well, and together they managed to scare Melkor off for the time being.
What followed was an era of peace, and to light the world (in addition to the stars), the Valar constructed two titanic lamps at opposite ends of Arda. In the middle, they resided on the Isle of Almaren, which I’ve illustrated above, along with one of the lamps. In the foreground is Tulkas himself, ever vigilant.
Melkor ultimately returned while Tulkas slept and toppled the lamps. The destruction was so devastating that Arda itself was deformed, and the Valar retreated to the Western continent of Aman, leaving Middle-Earth to the dark powers.
Aulë is functionally the god of craftsman, and is said to be most like the villainous Melkor in personality (his servants Sauron and Saruman both turn evil, plus he trained troublemaking Fëanor) but Aulë himself remains virtuous and humble. Even when he created the Dwarves in defiance of Eru, it was meant to be a tribute to the Elves & Men (Eru’s personal creations). As such, the Dwarves were given true life and allowed to be awakened after the Elves. Aulë represents the creative ambition of Melkor without the jealousy or vanity. Yavanna, creator of the Ents, is great because she’s one of the only Valar who actively tries to keep Middle-Earth from becoming overrun with evil, as her interest is with the actual plants and animals of the world.
But at the last the gates of Utumno were broken and the halls unroofed, and Melkor took refuge in the uttermost pit. Then Tulkas stood forth as champion of the Valar and wrestled with him, and cast him upon his face; and he was bound with the chain Angainor that Aulë had wrought, and led captive; and the world had peace for a long age.
Thingol and Melian are the High King and Queen of Beleriand, and functionally all of Middle-Earth in their day. Melian is a Maia, the race of spirits that include Sauron. Tolkien gives very little description of her, so I decided to keep a slightly otherworldly appearance, with horns like a faun or forest spirit. She’s actually much wiser than her husband and much more joyful, so I wanted to make sure that imagery held.
Thingol is the King of the Sindar, the “Grey Elves” who stayed in Middle-Earth (though Thingol himself made the journey to Aman once). As the tallest of the Men and Elves and one of the mightiest in battle, I wanted to keep his form larger and imposing. Older Elves can grow beards, and I’ve decided that any male Elf who was among the first to awaken (this includes Thingol) will be sporting a beard.
Above is a painting of the Tirion, which became the capital city of the Noldor.
The House of Finwë From left to right:
- Indis – Finwë’s second wife. She is not actually Noldor, but a Vanyar Elf.
- Finwë – High King of the Noldor.
- Míriel – Finwë’s first wife who died after giving birth to her only son, Fëanor.
- Fingolfin – Indis and Finwë’s son, and a significant hero in the Silmarillion.
- Fëanor – Finwë’s eldest son, mightiest of the Noldor and creator of the Silmarils.
- Finrod – Among the wisest of the Noldor, Finrod was the first High Elf to encounter humans, and was quick to befriend and defend their kind.
- Galadriel – Eager and ambitious, Galadriel is one of the leaders of the brewing Noldor rebellion.
- Olwë – Younger brother of Thingol and king of the Teleri, Elves more concerned with shipbuilding and the exploring the sea.
- Ingwë – King of the Vanyar and High King of all Elves, Ingwë and his people are best known for their art, and since they never cause any trouble, they rarely appear in the Silmarillion.
…and therefore in a while he was given leave to go freely about the land, and it seemed to Manwë that the evil of Melkor was cured. For Manwë was free from evil and could not comprehend it, and he knew that in the beginning, in the thought of Ilúvatar, Melkor had been even as he; and he did not perceive that all love had departed from him for ever.
Here is the beginning of the end for the peaceful days of the Elves. Never before nor after would anything as beautiful or tragic as the Silmarils ever be created again. Not an easy thing to illustrate, so I kept it pretty abstract.
Noldor Warriors – On the right is a generic soldier, while on the left is another illustration of Galadriel. While best known for her more regal role in Lord of the Rings, in this era, Galadriel is militant and ambitious, ready to defy the Valar and claim a kingdom of her own in Middle-Earth.
A lot of the supernatural monsters in Tolkien’s mythology are deliberately left vague. In general, this is to leave it up to the imagination, but in the case of Ungoliant, I think it’s more interesting to depict her as a spider-shaped void than a detailed monster. She is, after all, more of an elemental, the embodiment of hunger.
His Silmarils stolen and his father, the king, slain by Morgoth, Fëanor gives his firey speech to the Noldor. Behind him his brother, Fingolfin, prepares to speak against him, in vain. Galadriel, though no friend of Fëanor, is touched by his words and envisions kingdoms of her own in the East. Her brother, Finrod, simply weeps for the looming fate of his people. For better or worse, Middle-Earth is about to meet the Noldor.
– Teleri Sailors – Some examples of the Teleri, the more numerous but less imposing ethnic group of the High Elves.
– Gothmog – Captain of the Balrogs and second-mightiest of Morgoth’s servants. While Sauron ruled in Morgoth’s absence, it’s Gothmog who is generally in charge of leading his armies.
The Sons of Fëanor are infamous in the history of the Elves. Swearing a dreadful oath to recover the Silmarils at any cost, they’re second only to Morgoth in causing grief and death during the First Age.
– Maedhros the Tall – Eldest and generally the most diplomatic.
– Maglor the Mighty Singer – Arguably a nice guy and the least insane.
– Celegorm the Fair – Sexist creep and all-around jerkass.
– Caranthir the Dark – Dwarf-hater, rarely worked well with others.
– Curufin the Crafty – Most like Fëanor, and father of Celebrimbor, the Elf who would make the Rings of Power.
– Amrod and Amras the Hunters – They don’t do much, but I still don’t trust them.
(To be continued when more drawings appear).