So I happened to read an old thread on a Tolkien discussion site, one about how purely “good” or “evil” all of Tolkien’s characters were. One commenter said there was good and evil in all of them; another asked about the good in Melkor Morgoth, the first Enemy of the Valar and of Middle-Earth.
Whereupon it was said (by a participant nick-named after a Ringwraith, no less!) that at least before his fall Melkor had been open-minded, creative and a fine leader (hadn’t he persuaded many of the Maiar to follow him — of whom Mairon, later known as Sauron, was one) — and after all, Melkor and Manwe had been brothers in the beginning; it could have been Melkor that became the High King of Arda. To quote:
Had Eru chosen Melkor over Manwe to be King of Arda, perhaps he would have remained good-intentioned. But things in Arda would have gotten far more … ahem … interesting.
Whereupon I slack-jawedly looked at those words for a minute, and then my keyboard didn’t cool before I had dashed out the snippets below. Heavens, if I ever wanted to rewrite the Silmarillion according to my freethinker sympathies, it was Melkor, open-minded and creative, that ought to be the lord, and the Valar and their world of frozen charm the enemy!
So have then these snippets from a twice-fictional Dark Silmarillion —
* * *
And so cat-formed Mairon, Melkor’s son in spirit and his envoy, came to the shores of Valinor, and the might of the Valar frowned down at him from the encircling mountains.
Along with Mairon there came Thuringwethil, the Woman of Secret Shadow, in the form of a great bat; and Tulkas the Strong in the form of a great bull. These three had been the bravest of those in Melkor’s service; and they had volunteered for this undertaking.
So then there was a hateful concert of screams from Oiolosse, the screams of a thousand blood-beaked eagles used to hunting and rending what they willed; and from their wheeling mass a man-shape descended: a man of feathers and darting lights, a shape which was but a shell for the terrible brilliance which glowed within. It landed on the lowest slope, its eyes two pools of white light, with blue jewels within; and it spoke.
“Why come you here, you refuse of the Ruler? This place is not yours, and you are not welcome here.”
“You do not name yourself”, Mairon said, “so then I, Mairon, will. You are nameless because you fear to name yourself. Once you were mighty; now you are a craven and unworthy of your former name, Lord of Eagles. Come, Ruler’s brother of old; come, strike us down if your hand still has the strength. Come, evict us if your rebellious spirit still has the strength. Come, harm us if that is the intent, and the consequences, you will have. Valar you call yourselves, the Mighty; show that might, or forsake that name also, and let us pass.”
The shape of the Lord of Eagles sighed, and grew smaller; he raised a hand of clay and feather to cover his shining face, and asked: “What brings you here, you accursed young?”
Now Tulkas spoke, for he was impatient. “Remove yourself, outcast. You would not change with the world as it changed by the Music of the One; but you cannot live apart from the world even in this distant place. And you most certainly are not allowed to keep the Children of Iluvatar hostage here, in your squalid mirror of times and crimes past!”
Thuringwethil spoke also. “Lo, in the beginning of times I did serve thee, Lord of Eagles. I did soar in your wake through the primordial skies of Arda. But alone do I now fly in the skies, for you are downfallen to these mean edges of creation, where the nothingness above presses close, leaving little air for flying things. This Valinor is not a place worth living in, save for those who for the reason of their rebellion cannot live in the flow of time.”
The Lord of Eagles quaked in fear; but then in fury, and raised a hand. All the eagles, a thousand thousands of them, leapt up and screamed, and their scream shook the mountain and the strand; and the Lord leaped up among them, and a great light like a pair of wings spread after him; the greatest of all eagles he was, the Lord of Air, and his eyes were the cold eyes of an unrepentant predator, and full of anger.
This curse he cried: “By the winds and the breath of air! Nameless I may be, but hatred needs no name! In the beginning there were two eldest children of Eru Iluvatar, Melkor and I, and I was the fairer one! I was the wiser one! I knew the shape of the world, and I would have fixed it so! Through trickery and invention has the world been turned against me, who would have been its foreordained ruler! If the world I cannot have, then I shall keep the heart of it, as I found it — go tell Melkor he will not have the Quendi back until he gives me my foreordained throne — if he falls on his face and worships me, I shall allow him into the world complete as it should be!”
“Melkor I mock, so-called Rising-in-Might, and you his lickspittles likewise — him I name Toorgoth, Brother-Foe, for I remain his brother in mind and might, and in the wisdom and foresight of Eru I say this, I am immortal in the manner of all of Eru’s eldest, and I shall see the day he is brought low!”
Then Mairon and his companions turned and fled, and told Melkor what they had seen; and Melkor was saddened for the sake of the Elves, and the one who had been his brother; and for his own sake also, for he had loved his brother in the first age, before the world began to change, and the eldest children of Eru were divided.
* * *
Thus then the host of Middle-Earth came to Valinor’s shore; and it came in five armies, each led by a peerless lieutenant.
The first of these was Mairon, Melkor’s herald, that in the black battle of Beleriand had been named Sauron, the Fearsome; his banner had the all-seeing eye of Melkor in black on a field of red. His troops were armored in the same: red for the blood they had to spill for the greater good, black for the grief it brought to them.
The second was Tulkas the Steadfast, Mairon’s equal in bravery and strength, and he was without armor or weapon, for he needed neither; and the elves that came with him were bare-chested to tell their allegiance, though they carried weapons. Their banners flew in plain grey, and thus they were called the Sindar, the Greys; and they were the most impatient for the freedom of their kin.
The third was Osse, whose host did not travel over or on the sea, but under it; and his banner was blue and green like the sea itself. His soldiers were the Teleri, the Sea-Elves, whose leader was Olwe — and he was the most impatient of them all, for his brother Elwe had been one of Melkor’s first envoys to the captive masses of Valinor, and had been captured.
The fourth and fifth hosts were behind these, and as they landed the land of Valinor was filled with radiance like never before; for their commanders were Arien and Tilion, the very Sun and the Moon himself; and under their brightness the mean spirits of the shore whimpered and fled to their masters. The troops of these hosts were bannered in gold and silver, and thus called the Vanyar and the Celebor — the Elves of Gold and Silver; though the latter host, the silver of the moon, was often called the Noldor, the Wise, after their lord, Feanor, who had learned at the feet of Melkor, Aule, Yavanna and all the other spirits that had not joined the rebellion of Manwe Aran Annundor, Manwe of the Land of Dying.
But that first day there came a trumpeting answer from Oiolosse, and from the crude pass beside it there foamed an army of the Valar; and at its head there was the chief ruler of that land, save the land’s master: fell Mandos, heartless and pitiless, and in his hands was the sword Lanc-Sereg, Throat-Blood, the sword of the executioner and the merciless pronouncer of deaths and dooms.
And after him came a teeming army to the doom-doom beat of great drums: fell spirits in tattered livery, and shades made mean by their unrelenting antiquity; and shining beings whose light was not their own; and pale Quendi deluded and whipped into a frenzy by faith in the coming foulness they had not seen; and above all hulking forms that were lords of the Maiar in the Valar’s service; but of the Valar themselves only Mandos was there.
And so a great battle was fought on the shore of Valinor; and it is called the Battle of the Moon, for though Arien the Sun and Tilion the Moon were both there, and the shore and the pass burned with their light, it was Tilion whose name the poets sing first; for Tilion the young, Tilion the fair, he who steered the moon-chariot and so loved the sun, he died there, struck down by Mandos’s black sword.
But in that strike was the battle also decided; for without an equal in all the memory of the world was Arien’s wrath; and as she raised her blade she blazed with all the fury of the sun, and she cried out. Her shine blinded all there, and the flame of her anger threw them over; the boom of her shout made them faint and deaf, and the radiance of her anger made all tremble. She strode to Mandos, who alone had stood unaffected, and their blades met, high and low, her fire-brand hissing against his black doom-blade. Her eyes burned brighter than the disk of the Sun ever did; and where Mandos stepped, an immense shadow loomed behind him; where Arien stepped, the earth was scorched, and made forever barren; when Mandos’s sword came down, the wail made the world dim; but when Arien’s blade parried, the world shook with a light that made the Valar shake and hide in their mansions.
And in the end Arien’s blade crashed through the black sword, and the black sword was shivered into pieces; and Arien’s blade took the head of Mandos, and for the second time in the annals of the world, one of that kindred died.
The host of the Valar turned and fled; and the last took the body of Mandos with it, for Arien had fallen to her knees; but there were no tears in her eyes, for the fire still burned within her. But it is said that since that day the Sun has never burned as bright as it did before; for Arien mourns for her loss, and her mourning shall never cease. Also, ever since that day the Chariot of the Moon has traversed the night skies empty, without a rider; and for that reason nights are a time of silence and mourning.
It is said this is the reason the Quendi do not like nighttime: it reminds them of this battle fought in the time of their bondage, this battle of kinslaying, as there were elves on both sides of it. And the elves of Valinor were a debased kind that knew or took no mercy, nor cared for any save the end of their presumed foes; and no fanatics so fey have been seen ever since. So it has ever been: the madness of lords is seen in the madness of their captive folk; but the latter ever suffer more for it.
For this fury of Arien, the battle is also called the War of Wrath.
* * *
Then, at the end, the Lord of Eagles had no place to hide; and he cried: “Let me at my brother, then! Let him come and fight me, or forever be called craven!”
But Melkor came not; Mairon came in his stead, and he said: “Speak not, craven, if you do not have understanding. There are far more things in bravery that the work of fists. I am here so he may stay and hold the world together, for it rests heavy on his shoulders; I am here of my own volition; and I am here to do in his name what is necessary.”
“Let him come!” the Lord cried again. “I will not have these lackeys.”
Then Thuringwethil spoke. “Why should you, defeated and rebel, have any right to make demands? The world is not your fairytale to twist whichever way you will; and there will be less of havoc and grief if our lesser power extinguishes your still lesser fight.”
For a third time the Lord repeated his call; but Melkor was not there, and Tulkas spoke in final return.
“Peculiar creature, you, small and mean! Your armies are spent, your allies subdued; your might is broken, and your slaves freed. Your precious enchantment is fled, and your prisons have been pried open. This land between ice and night is no more, for Time will not be gainsaid, and Change will come even into a corner as remote as this; you who would not go along with it, you will be left alone. Greater hurt we cannot lay on you; any less you do not deserve.”
They then turned and left, without laying a hand on their foe; and the Lord of Eagles wept, alone.