Melkor was one of the most powerful of the Ainur. But why did he turn into such a shithead and how did he become known as Morgoth?

Tl;dr: Boredom and loneliness. No, really. Oh, and also a good heaping measure of wanting the power of creation for himself, that too.

It should probably go without saying, but I’ma have spoilers below. If spoilers for a 40-something-year-old book are an issue for you, you have been warned.

First, if you don’t know the Tolkien creation mythology, click here for a primer on Eru Illúvatar, the Ainur, and the Valar.

Melkor was one of the Ainur, the brother of Manwë. Like all of the Ainur, he was created by Eru Illúvatar (the supreme deity).

“Melkor” by Kapriss-Art

Melkor was super impatient with hanging around the Timeless Halls and wanted to be able to create life himself, so he often went into the Void to try and locate the Flame Imperishable. He was never able to locate it because the Flame Imperishable resided solely with Illúvatar, but because he was leaving the Timeless Halls alone to continue his search, Melkor was often lonely and began having ideas that clashed with his fellow Ainur. Melkor’s impatience and pride caused him to weave his own theme into the Ainulindalë, the Music of the Ainur. Some of the Ainur joined his theme until there were two melodies battling before Eru. Eru introduced a second theme, and then a third to try and correct the discord, but this was ultimately unsuccessful, and the discord in the Music of the Ainur brought evil and malcontent into the creation of Eä. Even while praising his strength, Illúvatar chastised Melkor, reminding him that even discord had its source in Illúvatar himself, since the Ainur were aspects of the creator. This made Melkor Big Mad, although he kept his feelings hidden.

Melkor, along with 13 other Ainur, chose to enter Eä and become the Valar in order to further shape the world of Arda. Melkor saw Arda and tried to claim it for his own, but the other Valar chose Manwë as their lord. While Melkor was stronger, Manwë understood the mind of Eru more completely than any of the other Valar. Melkor then set himself against the other Valar, working against the good they created in Arda.

For some time, Melkor’s strength held against the other Valar. Then the Vala Tulkas descended into Arda and tipped the power balance in the favor of the other Valar. Melkor took his proverbial ball and fucked off from Arda for a time. 

While Melkor was gone, the other Valar created the Two Lamps, the light source for all of Arda, and set them in the center of Middle-earth. Melkor eventually came back with a posse of Maiar who had attuned themselves with Melkor’s music and built the great fortress Utumno in the north of the land. When the Valar saw decay arising in the north, they knew Melkor was back. Before they could do anything about it, though, Melkor and his army destroyed the lamps, scorching the earth. The other Valar withdrew from Middle-earth to Aman, leaving Middle-earth to the decay of Melkor. Melkor built his second fortress, Angband, and set the Maiar Sauron to command it, while the Vala Yavanna sang the Two Trees into existence in Aman.

Hence when the Elves awoke in Middle-earth, Melkor found them first and captured, tortured, and twisted some of them, creating the Orcs in mockery of the Elves and also corrupted some Maiar into Balrogs. When the Valar learned of the location of the Elves, they sent an army against Melkor. He retreated into Utumno but was ultimately captured and brought to the Halls of Mandos. In their haste to judge him they didn’t delve too deeply into Angband and didn’t discover the Balrogs, and Sauron also remained uncaught. 

After a long, long time in the Halls of Mandos, Manwë rendered judgement against Melkor. Melkor pretended to have repented and was released. Melkor secretly worked to put a plan in place to ruin Aman. He slowly corrupted one group of Elves, the Ñoldor. He convinced them that the Valar brought them to Aman to clear the way for Men to inherit Middle-earth and terk their jerbs, and the Ñoldor became increasingly jealous and openly rebelled against the Valar. Fëanor, dick and creator of the Silmarils, was chief among the Ñoldor who spoke out against the Valar. The Valar didn’t realize Melkor was behind it until Fëanor threatened to off his brother, and by the time the Valar realized Melkor’s treachery he was nowhere to be found.

In fact, Melkor was allying with the giant spider beast Ungoliant, and together they destroyed the Two Trees, stole the Silmarils, and then fucked back off to Middle-earth by way of the Grinding Ice of the Helcaraxë. (Fun fact: Yavanna made another tree but this didn’t give off it’s own light. This third tree was the source of the White Trees of Gondor, via Tol Eressëa and Númenor.)

And here we come to the point in the myth where Melkor gets a new name. After the Silmarils were stolen, Fëanor named the Dark Lord “Morgoth”, Sindarin for “Black Foe of the World”, and made his infamous oath

Morgoth and Ungoliant fought over who got to keep the Silmarils, and the Balrogs helped drive Ungoliant away. Morgoth then began rebuilding Angband.

The Ñoldor followed Morgoth to Angband because Fëanor, and they battled the orcs. Then the balrogs came out and absolutely fucked the Elves up. Fingolfin’s host arrived from Aman and then Yavanna made the sun and the moon from a single flower and fruit that were all that remained of the Two Trees. Morgoth was not happy with this turn of events.

The Ñoldor united against their foe, and Morgoth realized that he needed a more powerful army so he created the dragons. 

About this time, Illúvatar created Men in Middle-earth, and Morgoth started corrupting them. There were more wars, heavy losses on both sides, and eventually the Elf-maiden Lúthien and the man Beren came to Angband to steal a silmaril. They were successful, with the help of the Elf lord Finrod and Thorondor, the King of the Eagles. 

Another war was fought, and another victory won by Morgoth. Soon after he razed the hidden city of Gondolin and thus fell almost all of the great kingdoms of the Elves, except for the lands ruled by Eärendil in the south. 

Eärendil pleaded with the Valar to help, and they came to Middle-earth swinging. They demolished Morgoth’s forces and cast him through the Door of Night into the Timeless Void, outside of Eä and beyond time and space. This of course left a power vacuum that Sauron was only too happy to step into, but that is a story for another post.

In some of Tolkien’s work, it is prophesied that Morgoth will eventually break the Door of Night and return to Eä, but this doesn’t appear in The Silmarillion. 

And there you have it. Being bored and lonely makes you into a Dark Lord. 

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