Op. 71 - The War of Wrath, The Silmarillion Part Five
Artwork by kind permission of Ted Nasmith
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When I originally wrote the set of ‘epic scenes’ based on the mythology of J R R Tolkien generally classed under the title of The Silmarillion, I never expected that there would be any further expansion necessary to a work that was already extended enough in its duration and its sheer scale. Indeed, in the introduction to the score of The Fall of Gondolin I quite specifically stated that the admittedly inconclusive ending of that work brought my labours in the field of The Silmarillion to an end, if only because Tolkien himself had failed to provide any usable material for the final segment of his legend. Much of the material he had written back in the early 1920s had related to wildly different versions of the mythology and bore little resemblance to the final shape of that mythology; and his ultimate work in that sphere, a brief and somewhat mysterious rewriting of the final pages made in the late 1930s, still showed evidence of earlier versions of the tales which had not yet been perfectly adumbrated into the work as a whole. Under the circumstances it seemed to me best to provide an admittedly artificial conclusion to The Fall of Gondolin which could be regarded as rounding out the cycle in a manner that for Tolkien enthusiasts would never be more than a stop-gap but which might hopefully be regarded as forgivable under the circumstances.
Some eight years later I did provide a sort of extension to that text in the form of my setting of Bilbo’s Lay of Eärendil as presented in The Fellowship of the Ring, which served in some ways to provide an oblique glance at the later development of the mythology in its final stages. This was partially written in order to provide a brief synthesis of some of the Silmarillion music which by that stage I was regarding as unlikely ever to be performed, and also because I had long been
attracted by the notion of making a setting of what is after all Tolkien’s longest continual piece of completed lyrical writing in the whole of his mythology. As such The Lay of Eärendil lies somewhat outside the main body of my Tolkien Silmarillion cycle.
However at the time when the recording of the cycle of epic scenes was already drawing towards completion after four or five years of continual work, Simon Crosby Buttle suggested to me that there might indeed be a case to be made for providing a full fifth segment of ‘epic scenes’ which would bring the Silmarillion cycle to a conclusion in a manner closer to that which Tolkien had intended. I was initially sceptical. For reasons that I had explained in my introduction to the score of The Fall of Gondolin written twenty years earlier, I did not regard there as being sufficient material to provide a satisfactory musical framework to cover these episodes. Simon set out to try and prove otherwise, and produced a lengthy and in many ways most remarkable compendium of material which demonstrated to my mind with some conclusiveness that I might have been over-hasty in my reluctance to look at the existing material in a more constructive light. The result is perhaps dramatically
unbalanced, with the story of Eärendil in the centre overweighing the remainder; but at the same time this may have been something close to what Tolkien himself might have intended, and there was an additional consideration that could be brought into play here.
This arose from my treatment of the ‘love scene’ in Beren and Lúthien, where I had employed Aragorn’s much later song from The Fellowship of the Ring as a framework surrounding a series of brief vignettes drawn from Tolkien’s other dramatic writing on the same legend. These were then subsumed into a musical whole which in the case of the Beren and Lúthien scene took the form of a musical rondo. It occurred to me that Bilbo’s lengthy narrative poem could be similarly employed, although the sheer discursiveness of the music meant that it would be much more symphonically organised and that the narrative chorus surrounding the scenes would assume a greater degree of both musical and dramatic significance. This central section of the legend could then be surrounded by earlier material extending the plot of Fëanor to a point where the intervention of the Sons of Fëanor in the ‘matter of the Silmarils’ could be fully explored, but would also then provide a lead into material relating to the end of the First Age of Middle-Earth (which Bilbo’s song completely omits). It also seemed to me then that it might be legitimate to extend the story of the First Age further bringing it up to a point where it would actually make contact with the plot of The Lord of the Rings, which would of course already be familiar to most listeners.
The interesting thing in all of this is that Tolkien himself may perhaps have had some similar notion. There has long been a mystery attached to the history of his treatment of the text of Bilbo’s Lay of Eärendil, where Christopher Tolkien suspects that he may have continued to revise and work on the poem even after the final version had been sent to the printers. But one of the peculiar things about this is that the version as initially published omits all references to the actions of the Sons of Fëanor in the raid of Eärendil and Elwing’s dwelling at the Mouths of Sirion, which leads to their exile and their mission to Valinor. It may well be that Tolkien, who had already excised Eärendil’s encounter with Ungoliant from earlier versions of his poem, was further abridging the legend and may have intended to reduce the role of the Sons of Fëanor to a greater degree. This in turn would have meant drastic alterations to the course of the plot regarding the final fate of the Silmarils, the relationship between Maedhros and Maglor, and (as we can see in late sketches) the abandonment altogether of one or another of Fëanor’s young twin sons, who in later versions meets a very different fate much earlier in the development of the mythology. It is unclear indeed how these matters might ever have been resolved, although some vague glimpses may be seen from the fact that references to “the Sons of Fëanor” are altogether omitted from the text of the first edition of The Lord of the Rings (they were introduced in the second edition ten years later).
Inevitably, given the fragmentary nature of the source material, the text for The War of Wrath lacks dramatic cohesion. The First Triptych is effectively a series of flashbacks relating events contemporaneous with the First Triptych of Fëanor (Scene One), preceding the events of Beren and Lúthien (Scene Two) or parallel to the Third Triptych of The Fall of Gondolin (Scene Three). This is however not inconsistent with procedures earlier in the cycle, where the whole of the First Triptych of The Fall of Gondolin relates events which in Tolkien’s history actually fall between the narratives of Fëanor and Beren and Lúthien. Similarly the dialogues in Scene Two of The War of Wrath serve to set the stage for the rivalry between the Sons of Fëanor and Thingol, which will lead in Scene Three to the ruin of Doriath and in Scene Five to their raid on the havens of Sirion.
The Second Triptych is more straightforward, since the narrative of Bilbo’s Lay of Eärendil forms a framework into which are inserted sections of dramatic dialogue drawn largely from Tolkien’s material for the end of The Silmarillion written in 1937 but with some interpolations from elsewhere such as Legolas’s song from The Lord of the Rings. The text for the Third Triptych draws on the same material, but leads into dialogue from Of the Rings of Power (included in the final section of The Silmarillion as published in 1977), and further references to The Lord of the Rings culminating in Sauron’s forging of the One Ring, echoed by the voice of Morgoth in the ‘Black Speech’.
The Epilogue caused considerable problems, however. At one stage I contemplated the use of ‘Bilbo’s Last Song’, either in the form that Tolkien revised it in the late 1960s or in its earlier 1930s version as Vestr am haf, but eventually I concluded that the poem itself was too bound up with the events of The Lord of the Rings to be satisfactory in a Silmarillion context. I accordingly took up a suggestion by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull that I should investigate the possibilities of using some of Tolkien’s early poems, and I discovered potential in the lengthy poem Kortirion which he had written in 1915 but had
subjected to later revision including a final overhaul in the 1960s when the verses were considered for inclusion in the published collection The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. Tolkien himself rejected such an idea – “they would overbalance the boat” – but it seemed to me that some selection from the lengthy poem, celebrating the continuing presence of the ideals represented by the Elves in the modern world, would make a perfect conclusion to a cycle which sought to encapsulate The Silmarillion as a whole, and to The War of Wrath in particular where the Prologue had included a setting of The shores of Valinor, one of the very earliest of Tolkien’s verses on the subject of Middle-Earth. The parallels were underlined by the use of the original Anglo-Saxon verse couplet about Eärendel which had first inspired the author, given in the Elvish translation which he had contrived for use by Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, and which returns in the Epilogue to frame the later verses which set the drama in the context of a mortal existence.
PAUL CORFIELD GODFREY
I wanted to just give a brief note on some of the decisions made during the compilation of the libretto for this work, in which I had a hand. In trying to convince Paul that the “Silmarillion Cycle” needed a final part I started working my way through any references to Eärendil that could be found in the extended printed works of Tolkien, including the often contradictory or abandoned versions in The History of Middle-Earth. Using these as a basis I put a sample libretto together for Paul that
focused primarily on The Voyage of Eärendil, a title this opera had for a brief while. This version had some noticeable gaps and plot holes in it that I highlighted for Paul in the hope that he would either know of something that could work or be able to write something to fit in, a noticeable example here being no dialogue for when Eärendil and Elwing meet upon Vingelot. The meeting with the Valar was similarly problematic as in the original texts all that exists is the judgement and not the plea.
Paul, after a brief while, came back with a left-field solution to these problems…and that was to think bigger in scope for the story and focus on the fact that these are “Epic Scenes” and not necessarily a comprehensive dramatic version. What was originally The Voyage of Eärendil became Scenes Four to Eight of the current work, with the choral narrative taking care of a lot of the missing dialogues, and telling the story at a much brisker pace. All of the events occur as they did, but without the need for creation of non-Tolkien dialogue.
With the expansion of the scope of the story came a list of events that we could employ to fill out the narrative and close up the various loose threads of the story Paul began with Fëanor. Círdan’s vision of Eärendil, although now being given to him by Ulmo rather than the Elder King, reminds us of how much Ulmo interferes with events, even centuries before Eärendil’s birth, to achieve his desired outcome. The other major addition to the beginnings of the story was for us to witness the ruin of Doriath; we have seen the fall of Nargothrond and Gondolin in the previous works, so it felt right that this should be there. Paul gave me a list of sources for the two scenes in Doriath, the first a deliberate placing of Galadriel in his operatic world and a reminder about the treachery of the Sons of Fëanor (it has been two evenings since we’ve heard from them). This was lifted almost straight out of the Grey Annals with only a few edits. Scene Three was where we have deviated the most from the published Silmarillion in order to fit the events into the current narrative without the addition of a whole raft of characters just for one appearance. In the version compiled by Christopher Tolkien for The Silmarillion, Thingol is murdered by dwarves in Doriath; Melian then removes her enchantments from the realm and leaves. Their grandson Dior subsequently takes up residence until the Sons of Fëanor massacre the majority of the inhabitants with only a few escaping, including Elwing with the Silmaril. The death of Thingol is treated very differently in the much earlier version in The Tale of the Nauglafring, where he is killed outside of the protections of Doriath (whilst out hunting) and his head is presented to Melian by the dwarves who lusted after his treasure. This is a much more “operatic” scenario (that thankfully deals with the beheading offstage, as such things in full view of a live audience are more often than not a source of unwanted hilarity). Still, this involved the addition of new characters and didn’t fulfil the need to get the Silmaril out of Doriath and into the hands of Elwing ready for the following narrative.
The solution that we found for this came by combining this version of events with the ultimate end of the elven realm. By replacing the dwarves with the already-seen sons of Fëanor, having them kill Thingol (rather than Dior) and be the ones to present his head to Melian we get to keep them as seen antagonists in this work and give them an arc to their ultimate downfall in Scene Eight. We still had the issue of the Silmaril to deal with, though: the need to have Elwing as a refugee and be seen to have it in her possession is much neater than her suddenly having it without an explanation in Scene Five. The answer came with a bit of sideways thinking, using the Nauglafring text again. There Melian is having a conversation with a handmaiden just before the attack begins; by giving the handmaiden’s lines to Elwing, we get to see her in Doriath before she weds Eärendil. The contrivance that did need to be manufactured, though, was the presence of Thingol’s Silmaril in the throne room rather than round his neck when he dies; otherwise the sons of Fëanor would have no reason to attack Doriath. By having Melian bundle Elwing offstage with the gem in her possession, the plot hole was closed and we could witness the ultimate destruction of realm after Melian abandons it.
The Prologue was designed as a re-introduction of the Valar (who haven’t been seen since Fëanor) utilising poetry about Eärendil and Valinor that would serve as a prophecy. Scene Nine came about as a connection from this story to the later Ages, so having the opportunity to see Sauron deceiving the Elves into creating the Rings of Power, and his forging of the “One Ring” fitted well.
The Epilogue, as previously mentioned by Paul, was problematic; but once he had settled on the poetry he wanted to use, we needed a way to visualise it on stage. The wording of the poetry fitted well with the waning of the Elves and I mentioned to Paul that we currently have three of the Elven Ringbearers appearing in this work: Galadriel, Círdan and Elrond (although the latter has been seen only as a child). By the time of the Epilogue though, after the Last Alliance, Elrond would be grown and bearing the ring. So a show of solidarity between the three Ring-bearers, whilst contemplating the end of their time, seemed like a fitting end to this version of the “Silmarillion”.
SIMON CROSBY BUTTLE
3 Flutes (3rd Flute doubling Piccolo)
2 Tenor Horns ("Wagner Tubas")
2 Bass Horns ("Wagner Tubas")
2 Tenor Trombones
Three Percussion Players (Side Drum, Tenor Drum, Bass Drum, Tamborine, Cymbals, Crotales, Triangle, Gong, Whip, Steel Plates, Glockenspiel, Vibraphone, Thunder)
Pianoforte (doubling Celesta)
12 First Violins
12 Second Violins
6 Double Basses
Valar and Maiar:
The ELDER KING (Bass)
ELBERETH (Soprano), his spouse
ULMO (Bass-Baritone), Lord of the Waters
MANDOS (Baritone), Lord of Death
EÖNWË (Baritone), Herald of the Valar
MORGOTH (Bass), the Enemy
SAURON (Bass), his servant
MELIAN (Mezzo-soprano), Queen of Doriath
THINGOL GREYCLOAK (Bass), King of Doriath
GALADRIEL (Soprano), sister of King Finrod Felagund
CÍRDAN (Bass), a mariner
MAEDHROS (Baritone), surviving son of Fëanor
MAGLOR (Tenor), surviving son of Fëanor
CURUFIN (Tenor), survivng son of Fëanor
EÄRENDIL (Tenor), son of Tuor and Idril
ELWING (Mezzo-soprano), his wife, great-granddaughter of Thingol and Melian
ELROND (Tenor as an adult, silent as a child), one of their twin sons
ELROS (silent child), one of their twin sons
Mixed chorus Unseen Voices
The Prophecy (Prologue)
Elbereth and the host of the Valar are seated in the Ring of Doom awaiting the first arrival of the Elves crossing from Middle-earth. She sings of the beauties of Valinor and of Eärendil, the one who will sacrifice everything to eventually come to the aid of all of the Children of Illúvatar.
The Vision (Scene One)
Círdan, one of the Elves travelling across Middle-Earth to make the crossing to Valinor, is delayed because of searching for his missing friend Thingol. He arrives at the shore too late to board the ships and swears to build his own ship to make the crossing. Ulmo, the Lord of Waters, appears to him in a vision and tells him wait behind and bide his time for the prophecy of Eärendil to come to fruition. He shows him an image of a white ship sailing through the air shining as a star. Círdan relents and stays behind.
The events of scenes four to the epilogue of Fëanor take place in between these scenes.
The Questioning (Scene Two)
In the hidden realm of Doriath, Melian the Queen asks Galadriel to tell her of the reasons for the exile of the Noldor to Middle-Earth. Galadriel is reluctant to reveal all and will not talk of the Kinslaying. Melian warns Thingol that the disputes between the princes of the Noldor will threaten his realm, and that the sons of Fëanor are not to be trusted. She foresees that the coming of Men, and that one man in particular, will soon change the destiny of both races.
The events of Beren and Lúthien, The Children of Húrin and all but the epilogue of The Fall of Gondolin take place in between these scenes. In the interim the great wolf Carcharoth, driven mad by the Silmaril still burning inside him, breaks through the Girdle of Melian and begins a rampage through Doriath. He is slain and Mablung removes the gem from his belly and returns it to Thingol in Doriath.
The Ruin of Doriath (Scene Three)
Melian is beginning to feel her control over events is slipping; and the Sons of Fëanor, mindful of their Oath to keep the Silmarils from any but themselves, discover that one of their father’s creations is held by Thingol in Doriath. On the festival of the King, when Thingol is hunting outside the Girdle of Melian, they ambush and kill him. This creates enough disruption to Melian’s power for them to cross her barrier and enter Doriath. They begin a brutal and ruthless sacking of the Realm in search for the Gem. When coming close to the throne room Melian quickly sends her great-granddaughter Elwing away from the city with the Silmaril. The Sons of Fëanor break into the throne room and present Melian with the head of her husband. At that moment she abandons all of her protections of the realm and walks away from her home, unchallenged by the attackers. The Sons of Fëanor then discover that the Silmaril is no longer there and the realm is destroyed.
The survivors of all of the great realms of Beleriand, Nargothrond, Gondolin and Doriath, along with the remaining members of the great Houses of Men are now isolated on the Western Coast of Middle-Earth, the majority in the Havens of Sirion, where Tuor acts as Lord of the Exiles. The rest of the land is now taken by Morgoth’s forces and the war against him is all but lost. Tuor sails off into the west to seek aid from the Valar against Morgoth and is never heard from again.
The Mariner (Scene Four)
Eärendil is now married to Elwing and they have twin sons, Elrond and Elros. The situation in Middle-Earth is now dire and he has no recourse but to brave the sea and try to find the Blessed Realm to ask for the assistance of the Valar. Círdan aids him in building a ship, Vingelot, to make the crossing and he bids farewell to his family. The enchantments placed by the Valar mean that his ship ends up lost at sea.
The Voyage of Eärendil (Scene Five)
The Sons of Fëanor attempt to seize the Silmaril from Elwing, which she has kept in hiding. Elrond and Elros manage to flee but Elwing is trapped against a cliff edge. As Curufin attempts to take the gem from her she throws herself into the sea, and in pursuit of her he falls to his death in the waves. Ulmo intervenes and bears her aloft as a seabird to the deck of Eärendil’s ship. Together, with the Silmaril bound upon the brow of Eärendil, the two of them set sail once again for Valinor and this time through its power they succeed.
The Judgement (Scene Six)
Eönwë the herald of the Valar bids Eärendil and his wife welcome to the Blessed Realm. Eärendil pleads on behalf of the two Kindreds for their aid in the war against Morgoth. His prophecy is now fulfilled and the Valar agree to lend support to the forces in Middle-Earth opposing the enemy Morgoth. But the two half-elven are not allowed to return to Middle-Earth, and their ship is raised to the stars with the Silmaril bound to its mast.
The War of Wrath (Scene Seven)
The assault of the Valar comes to Morgoth, and his realm is laid to waste. He tries to resist by sending massive winged dragons into the fray but Eärendil, now aboard his ship of the air, comes to slay the beasts. Morgoth is ultimately captured, chained and sent into the Void. The remaining two Silmarils are taken from his crown by Eönwë.
The Silmarils Come to Rest (Scene Eight)
Maglor and Maedhros, the two remaining of the Sons of Fëanor, demand that the Silmarils should be surrendered to them in fulfilment of their Oath. To this Eönwë consents; but the jewels burn the hands of the two brothers with unendurable pain, and they cast them into the depths of the Earth and the Sea. The Valar save the survivors of the war by sending them East to Eregion and then sink the wasted Beleriand into the sea.
The Rings of Power (Scene Nine)
Sauron, the surviving servant of Morgoth, attempts to seduce the Elves by the suggestion that with their creative powers they should seek to render Middle-Earth as blissful as the distant realm of the Valar. But he deceives them, and as he forges the One Ring to make himself the master, the voice of Morgoth is heard pronouncing the doom of the Elves.
The Waning (Epilogue)
The three bearers of the Elven Rings, Elrond, Galadriel and Círdan, lament the downfall of the Elves, but suggest that their powers are not yet ended, even in times far distant. They will await the end of the darkness and the Age of Men.
Text by J R R TOLKIEN extracted from The Silmarillion, The Book of Lost Tales (edited by C R Tolkien)
and The Lord of the Rings
used by kind permission of the estate of the late John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and HarperCollinsPublishers
PAUL CORFIELD GODFREY ©2022
The Prophecy (Prologue)
The Timeless Halls in Valinor. The Valar are present, seated in a semi-circle with the Elder King and Elbereth centre stage, also in prominent positions are Mandos and Ulmo.
Aiya Eärendil elenion Ancalima! Hail, Eärendil, brightest of stars!
ELBERETH [rises and walks slowly into the middle of the semi-circle]
East of the Moon, west of the Sun there stands a lonely hill;
its feet are in the pale green sea, its towers are white and still,
Beyond Taniquetil, in Valinor.
Comes never there but one lone star that fled before the moon;
and there the Two Trees naked are that bore Night’s silver bloom,
Beyond Taniquetil, in Valinor.
West of the Sun, east of the Moon lies the haven of the star,
the White Tower of the Wanderer and the rocks of Eglamar,
Beyond Taniquetil, in Valinor.
There Vingelot* is harboured, while Eärendil looks afar
o’er the darkness of the waters between here and Eglamar,
Out, beyond Taniquetil, in Valinor.
The lights fade as Elbereth returns to her throne and rejoins the other Valar.
* VINGELOT: The ship built by EÄRENDIL, with the aid of CÍRDAN, for the purpose of attempting to reach VALINOR.
The Vision (Scene One)
The shores of Middle-Earth by the Mouths of Sirion. A faint light is seen in the distance: Círdan approaches the seashore at the head of some of his people.
I will follow that light, alone if none will come with me,
for the ship that I have been building is now almost ready.*
The light fades: he makes for his ship, but is halted by the voice of Ulmo.
One day a messenger from Middle-Earth will come through the shadows to Valinor,
and Manwë shall hear, and Mandos relent.
Abide now that time, for when it comes, then will your work be of utmost worth,
and it will be remembered in song for many ages after.**
A vision is shown to Círdan of a great white ship, sailing through the air.
A ship like a white boat, shining above him, that sailed west through the air,
and as it dwindled in the distance it looked like a star of so great a brilliance
that it cast a shadow of Círdan upon the shore where he stood.
The light gradually fades and mists cover the scene.
* CÍRDAN IS DELAYED: This scene is set all the way back during the time of Scene Two of “Fëanor”. The ELVES are journeying across MIDDLE-EARTH to cross the sea to VALINOR. It is in this crossing that THINGOL meets MELIAN and chooses to stay behind with her. Her magic conceals his location from the rest of his kin. CÍRDAN is delayed because he is searching for THINGOL and that is why he misses the last ship here.
** THE PROPHECY OF EÄRENDIL: Here ULMO is showing the prophecy to CÍRDAN in order to have him be on the shores of BELERIAND to aid EÄRENDIL in the construction of VINGELOT.
The Questioning (Scene Two)*
The scene now revealed is the throne room in the realm of Doriath. Two thrones are prominent; Melian is seated upon one and the other is currently vacant. In attendance on Melian is Galadriel.
And at times Melian and Galadriel would speak together of Valinor
and the bliss of old;
but beyond the dark hour of the death of the Trees Galadriel would not go,
but ever fell silent.
There is some woe that lies upon you and your kin.
That I can see in you, but all else is hidden from me;
for by no vision or thought can I perceive anything that passes in the West.
A shadow lies over all the land of Aman, and reaches far out over the sea.
Why will you not tell me more?**
GALADRIEL [avoiding Melian’s gaze]
For that woe is past, and I would take what joy is here left, untroubled by memory.
And maybe there is woe enough yet to come, though still hope may seem bright.
MELIAN [looking directly into her eyes]
I believe not that the Noldor came forth as messengers of the Valar,
as was said at first:
not though they came in the very hour of our need.
For what cause, Galadriel,
were the high people of the Noldor driven forth as exiles from Aman?
Or what evil lies on the sons of Fëanor, that they are so haughty and so fell?
Do I not strike near the truth?
Near, save that we were not driven forth,
but came of our own will and against that of the Valar.
And through great peril, and in despite of the Valar, for this purpose we came:
to take vengeance upon Morgoth, and regain what he stole.
Then Galadriel spoke to Melian of the Silmarils,
and of the slaying of King Finwë at Formenos;
but still she said no word of the Oath, nor of the Kinslaying,
nor of the burning of the ships at Losgar.
Now much you tell me, and yet more I perceive.
A darkness you would cast over the long road from Tirion,
but I see evil there, which Thingol should learn for his guidance.
Maybe, but not of me.
Galadriel makes an obeisance and leaves. Thingol enters deep in thought and sits upon his throne.
And Melian spoke then no more of these matters with Galadriel;
but she told to King Thingol all that she had heard of the Silmarils.
This is a great matter, greater indeed than the Noldor themselves understand;
for the light of Aman and the fate of Arda lie locked now in these things,
the work of Fëanor who now is gone.
They shall not be recovered, I foretell, by any power of the Eldar;
and the world shall be broken in battles that are yet to come,
ere they are wrested from Morgoth.
See now! Fëanor they have slain, and many another, as I guess;
but first of all the deaths they have brought
and yet shall bring was Finwë your friend.
Morgoth slew him, ere he fled from Aman.
THINGOL [filled with grief and foreboding]
Now at last I understand the coming of the Noldor out of the west,
at which I wondered much before.
Not to our aid did they come (save by chance);
for those that remain in Middle-Earth the Valar
will leave to their own devices, until the uttermost need.
For vengeance and redress of their loss the Noldor came.
Yet all the more sure shall they be as allies against Morgoth,
with whom it is not now to be thought that they shall ever make treaty.
Truly for these causes they came; but for others also. Beware of the sons of Fëanor!
The shadow of the wrath of the Valar lies upon them; and they have done evil,
I perceive, both in Aman and to their own kin.
A grief but lulled to sleep lies between the princes of the Noldor.
What is that to me?
Of Fëanor I have heard but report, which makes him great indeed.
Of his sons I hear little to my pleasure;
yet they are likely to prove the deadliest foes of our foe.
Their swords and their counsels shall have two edges.
Thingol departs, and Melian rises from her throne. She moves downstage and as she sings the lights fade on the throne room. Lights come up elsewhere on the stage and we see a dim vision from the future of Beren and Lúthien.
Now the world runs on swiftly to great tidings.
And one of Men shall indeed come; and the Girdle of Melian shall not restrain him,
for doom greater than my power shall send him.***
And the songs that shall spring from that coming shall endure
when all Middle-earth is changed.
The lights on the vision dim, and Melian is left alone in the only light on stage.
* This scene is set after the end of “Feanor” and before the beginning of “Beren and Lúthien”. GALADRIEL has survived the journey across the NARROW ICE and is now an apprentice to MELIAN.
** THE SINDAR AND THE NOLDOR: When the NOLDOR first arrive in BELERIAND they will not give the reason for their exile from VALINOR, but instead tell the SINDAR that they have come to aid them in the fight against MORGOTH.
*** FORESIGHT OF BEREN: Here MELIAN is seen having a vision of the one of the RACE OF MEN who will eventually come to DORAITH and become her daughter’s husband.
The Ruin of Doriath (Scene Three)*
Then a winter, as it were the hoar age of mortal men, fell upon Thingol.
In another vision, Mablung is seen standing over the body of the slain wolf Carcharoth**, holding aloft a Silmaril in his hand which he then passes to Thingol. Melian watches with great foreboding.
He sat long is silence, gazing at the great treasure.
The lights fade on this vision. In another corner of the stage lights come up on Curufin, Maglor, Maedhros and the other surviving sons of Fëanor.
The hunt is up, the woods are stirred!
In the woods things may be learned;
and if he bears a Silmaril,
I need declare no more in words;
but by right it is ours.
The lights fade on the sons of Fëanor, and rise again on the throne room of Doriath. Many years have passed. Melian is seated on her throne, the Nauglamir*** containing the Silmaril shines brightly on that of her husband.
Now when the horns of the hunt grew faint in the forest,
Melian sat long in silence with foreboding in her heart and eyes.
ELWING**** [enters and approaches her]
Wherefore, lady, are you sorrowful at the high feast of the King?
Evil seeks our land, and my heart misgives me
that my days in Middle-Earth are speeding to an end;
yet if I should lose Thingol, then I would wish
that never had I wandered forth from Valinor.
Nay, but have you not woven a web of enchantment about us,
so that we need not fear?
Yet it seems to me that there is a rat that gnaws the threads,
and all the web has become unwoven.
At that moment there is a loud cry and the sounds of a struggle from beyond the doors. Melian bundles the Silmaril into a cloak and hands it to Elwing, bidding her silently to leave with it. A blood-stained Curufin enters, and walks straight to Thingol’s throne and seats himself.
Wherefore, renegade, do you defile the seat of my lord?
Little had I ever thought to see one of the sons of Fëanor sat there,
a robber stained with murder,
a league-fellow of the enemies of his kin.
Or think you that it is a glorious deed,
to assail a defenceless house when its lord is far away?
Get you gone, lest Thingol returning repay you bitterly.
CURUFIN [bidding his brothers to enter]
Nay, but already he is come.
The other sons of Fëanor enter, bearing the head of Thingol which they throw at the feet of Melian. She breathes deeply and rises to her full height, looking Curufin in the eye until he flinches back.
Melian saw in her heart all that had befallen,
and how the Curse of Mandos had fallen upon Doriath.
And a great darkness fell on her mind,
and her counsel and lore forsook her.
She went forth, and none stayed her.
Hateful is now become the land that I loved, and the trees misshapen.
No more shall music here be heard!
Let all voices fail in Doriath,
and in every dale and upon every hill let the trees stand silent!
She turns to leave and starts to walk away, still the proud Queen. Some of the sons of Fëanor seek to stop her, but Maedhros halts them and they watch her leave.
She vanished out of Middle-Earth,
and passed to the land of the Valar,
to muse upon her sorrows
in the gardens of Lórien whence she came.
Curufin regains his composure and, calling his brothers to him, he silently bids them to start searching for the Silmaril.
Thus Doriath was destroyed,
but the sons of Fëanor gained not what they sought;
for a remnant of the people fled before them, and they escaped,
and bearing with them the Silmaril they came in time
to the Mouths of Sirion by the sea.
Their search is shown to be in vain and they leave in fury, ransacking the throne room. The lights fade on the now derelict realm of Doriath.
* This scene takes place after the fall of the city of GONDOLIN but before the events in the Epilogue of The Fall of Gondolin
** THE DEMISE OF CARCHAROTH: The wolf bred by MORGOTH by this point has been driven mad by the burning of the SILMARIL inside his belly. His rampage through BELERIAND ends in DORIATH where he is slain.
*** NAUGLAMIR: A necklace created by DWARVES that THINGOL has the SILMARIL set into.
**** ELWING: The HALF-ELVEN granddaughter of BEREN and LÚTHIEN, great-granddaughter of MELIAN and THINGOL.
The Mariner (Scene Four)
The lights gradually come up on the Havens of Sirion, as in Scene One. We see Círdan and some of his people assisting Eärendil in preparations to sail in his ship Vingelot.
Eärendil was a mariner that tarried in Arvernien;
he built a boat of timber felled in Nimbrethil to journey in;
her sails he wove of silver fair, of silver were her lanterns made,
her prow was fashioned like a swan, and light upon her banners laid.
The ship is now ready. Círdan gifts to Eärendil his weapons, which his people place aboard the ship.
His coat that came of ancient kings of chainéd rings was forged of old;
his shining shield all wounds defied, with runes engraved of dwarven gold.
His bow was made of dragon-horn, his arrows shorn of ebony,
of triple steel his habergeon, his scabbard of chalcedony,
his sword was like a flame in sheath, with gems was wreathed his helmet tall,
an eagle plume upon his crest, upon his breast an emerald.
Elwing, now Eärendil’s spouse, enters with their young children Elrond and Elros. Círdan and his people leave them alone on stage.
It is likely that you will see me never again;
and if you do not, then harden your hearts,
and cease not from war, but endure to the end.
But if I do not fail of my errand,
then also you may not see me again;
but a sign you will see, and new hope shall be given to you.
To the Sea, to the Sea! the white gulls are crying,
the wind is blowing and the white foam is flying.
West, west away the round sun is falling.
Grey ship, grey ship, do you hear them calling,
the voices of my people that have gone before me?
I will leave, I will leave the realm that bore me,
for our days are ending and our years failing.
I will pass the wide waters lonely sailing.
Long are the waves on the Last Shore falling,
sweet are the voices in the Lost Isle calling,
in Eressëa, in Elvenhome that no man may discover,
where the leaves fall not: land of my people for ever!
Eärendil embraces Elwing and his children, boards his ship and sets sail. Once the ship has gone she leads their children away.
Beneath the moon and under star
he wandered far from Northern strands,
bewildered on enchanted ways
beyond the days of mortal lands.
From gnashing of the Narrow Ice
where shadow lies on frozen hills,
from nether heats and burning waste
he turned in haste, and roving still
on starless waters far away
at last he came to Night of Naught,
and passed, and never sight he saw
of shining shore not light he sought.
The winds of wrath came driving him,
as blindly in the foam he fled,
from west to east and errandless,
unheralded he homeward sped.
* This scene takes place after the Epilogue of “The Fall of Gondolin”.
The Voyage of Eärendil (Scene Five)
The sons of Fëanor are seen gathered at the side of the stage.
A Silmaril of Fëanor still burns in the woods of Nimbrethil.
For what reason do we suffer exile,
if others gather to their hoard the heirlooms that are ours?
Then must the Silmaril be given to the sons of Fëanor.
The lights come up on Elwing, brandishing the Silmaril, and her sons, who are backed up against a cliff edge with Curufin, Maedhros and Maglor blocking their escape. As Curufin presses the advantage Elrond and Elros, urged on by their mother, manage to dash past him and flee the stage; Maglor pursues them.
In might the sons of Fëanor
that swore the unforgotten oath
brought war into Arvernien
with burning and with broken troth;
and Elwing from her fastness down
then cast her in the waters wide,
but like a mew was swiftly borne,
uplifted on the swollen tide.
Curufin makes a grab for the Silmaril but Elwing pulls it from his grasp.
Kinslayers, may the madness of your oath take you in the end!
She throws herself with the Silmaril into the sea; Curufin, maddened with lust for the jewel, tries to reach for the jewel and topples over the cliff after her. As Maedhros rushes to the cliff the lights on stage suddenly drop and the light from the Silmaril is seen darting straight up into the sky. After a brief pause the light suddenly drops back down to the stage. As it lands we see Elwing holding the gem and the lights on stage return we see that she is aboard Eärendil’s ship, Vingelot, surrounded by mist. Her shocked husband approaches her and they embrace.
Through hopeless night she came to him,
and flame was in the darkness lit;
more bright than light of diamond
the flame upon her carcanet.
Elwing, as if controlled by an unseen force, pulls away from her husband and then places the Silmaril on her husband’s head, as she does this its light intensifies and the mists clear.
The Silmaril she bound on him,
and crowned him with the living light,
and dauntless then with burning brow
he turned his prow at middle night.
Beyond the world, beyond the Sea,
then strong and free a storm arose,
a wind of power in Tarmenel;
by paths that seldom mortal goes
from Middle-earth on mighty breath
as flying wraith across the grey
and long-forsaken seas distressed;
from east to west he passed away.
Elwing and Eärendil move to the helm of the ship. The brightest light on stage is the Silmaril and the rest of the stage gradually darkens so that only the two of them are visible.
ELWING and EÄRENDIL
San ninqeruvisse lútier kiryasses Eärendil or vea,
There upon a white horse sailed Eärendil, upon a ship upon the sea,
ar laiqali linqi falmari langon veakiryo kírier;
and the green wet waves the throat of the sea ship clove;
wingildin o silqelosseën alkantaméren úrio
the foam-maidens with blossom-white hair made it shine in the lights of the sun;
kalmainen; i lunte linganer,
the boat hummed like a harp string;
tyulmin talalínen aiqalin
the tall masts bent with the sails;
kautáron, i súru laustaner.
and the east wind bellowed.
The Judgement (Scene Six)
The scene remains the same as before but throughout the following the lights around the ship gradually rise.
Through Evernight he back was borne
on black and roaring waves that ran
o’er leagues unlit and foundered shores
that drowned before the Days began,
until he heard on strands of gold
where ends the world the music long,
where ever-foaming billows roll
the yellow gold and jewels wan.
As the lights reach their full level, we clearly see that Vingelot has now pulled into shore, and in the distance the towers of Tirion on the mountainside.
He saw the Mountain silent rise
where twilight lies upon the knees
of Valinor, and Eldamar
beheld afar beyond the seas.
A wanderer escaped from night
to haven white he came at last,
to Elvenhome the green and fair
where keen the air, where pale as glass
a-glimmer in a valley sheer
the lamplit towers of Tirion
are mirrored on the Shadowmere.
Eönwë, the herald of the Valar, steps forward onto a nearby cliff and addresses Eärendil.
Hail Eärendil, of mariners most renowned,
the looked-for that comes at unawares,
the longed-for that comes beyond hope!
Hail Eärendil, bearer of light before the Sun and Moon!
Splendour of the Children of Earth,
star in the darkness, jewel in the sunset,
radiant in the morning!
He gestures for Eärendil to step ashore, which he does; Elwing attempts to follow.
Here none but myself shall set foot,
lest you fall under the wrath of the Valar and the doom of death.
But that peril I will take on myself alone, for the sake of the Two Kindreds.
Then would our paths be sundered for ever;
but all thy perils I will take on myself also.
She steps ashore but Eönwë raises his hand to the pair and gestures for Eärendil alone to follow him.
He tarried there from errantry,
and melodies they taught to him,
and sages old him marvels told,
and harps of gold they brought to him.
Await me here; for one only may bring the message that it is my fate to bear.
He follows after Eönwë, leaving Elwing alone on the shore.
They clothed him then in elven white,
and seven lights before him sent,
as through the Calacirian
to hidden land forlorn he went.
Eärendil is led into the centre of the stage and the scene around him gradually becomes that of the Timeless Halls, as in the Prologue. The Elder King, Elbereth, Ulmo and Mandos are once again prominent. Eärendil takes the Silmaril down from his brow, faces them and is seen to be pleading for their intervention in the war against Morgoth.
He came unto the timeless halls
where shining fall the countless years,
and endless reigns the Elder King
in Ilmarin on mountain sheer;
and words unheard were spoken then
to folk of Men and Elven-kin,
beyond the world were visions showed
forbid to those that dwell therein.
The Elder King rises and gestures for Eönwë to fetch Elwing. Eärendil’s plea has been successful; he falls to his knees in thanks but Mandos rises.
Shall mortal Man step living upon the Undying Lands, and yet live?
For this he was born into the world.
And say unto me: whether is he Eärendil Tuor’s son of the line of Hador,
or the son of Idril Turgon’s daughter of the Elven-house of Finwë?*
Equally the Noldor, who went wilfully into exile, may not return hither.
Eönwë reappears with Elwing, who comes to her husband’s side and kneels with him before the Elder King.
The peril that he has ventured for love of the Two Kindreds
shall not fall on Eärendil;
nor shall it fall on Elwing his wife,
who entered into peril for love of him.
But in this matter the power of doom is given to me,
and this is my decree:
to Eärendil and to Elwing, and to their sons,
shall be given leave each to choose freely to which kindred their fates shall be joined,
and under which kindred they shall be judged.
EÄRENDIL [to Elwing]
Choose thou, for now I am weary of the world.
To honour Lúthien my grandmother,
I choose to be judged among the Firstborn Children of Ilúvatar.
And for your sake I choose the same,
though my heart belongs rather to my father’s people.**
The scene shifts around the couple, with the Valar standing and moving towards them. The Timeless Halls slowly descend into darkness. Throughout the following sequence we see once again the deck of Vingelot, now transformed as described in the text. Elbereth takes the Silmaril from Eärendil and raises it up so that it becomes affixed to the mast of the ship. Eärendil takes the helm an,d as the Valar and Elwing disembark the ship, it begins to raise up high into the sky.
A ship then new they built for him
of mithril and of elven-glass
with crystal keel; no shaven oar
nor sail she bore; on silver mast
the Silmaril as lantern light
and banner bright with living flame
of fire unstained by Elbereth
herself was set, who thither came
and wings immortal made for him,
and laid on him undying doom,
to sail the shoreless skies
and come behind the Sun and light of Moon.
Maedhros and Maglor appear on the shores of Middle-Earth looking into the sky.
Surely that is a Silmaril that shines now in the West?
If it be truly the Silmaril which we saw cast into the sea, then let us be glad;
for now its glory is seen by many, and is yet secure from all evil.
The lights fade upon them and Vingelot is high in the heavens.
From Evereven’s lofty hills
where softly silver fountains fall
his wings him bore, a wandering light,
beyond the mighty Mountain Wall.
From World’s End then he turned away,
and yearned again to find afar
his home through shadows journeying,
and burning as an island star
on high above the mists he came,
a distant flame before the Sun,
a wonder ere the waking dawn
where grey the Norland*** waters run.
Visible now below Vingelot is Eönwë with the assembled host of the Valar preparing to journey to Middle-Earth. Eönwë looks up to the Silmaril and gestures for the host to form up behind him.
And over Middle-earth he passed
and heard at last the weeping sore
of women and of elven maids
in Elder Days, in days of yore.
Eönwë raises his sword, gestures forward to his host and they begin to march. Vingelot now starts to move into the distance and all light fades apart from the Silmaril.
But on him mighty doom was laid,****
till Moon should fade, an orbéd star
to pass, and tarry never more
on Hither Shores were mortals are;
till end of Days on errand high,
a herald bright that never rests,
to bear his burning lamp afar,
the Flammifer of Westernesse.
Vingelot has now disappeared into the distance, with only the shining Silmaril visible high up centre stage. Its light becoming brighter and more intense. It gradually bathes the empty stage with white light which slowly fades again to black.
* A TRUE REPRESENTATIVE OF HIS KIN: Being HALF-ELVEN places EÄRENDIL in a strange position in the eyes of the VALAR here. As a member of the RACE OF MEN he must die for setting foot on VALINOR. As an ELF of the NOLDOR the DOOM OF MANDOS applies to him and he must be exiled. He is of both races and cannot suffer both fates.
** ELROND AND ELROS: The decisions here by EÄRENDIL and ELWING do not carry for their sons. ELROND chooses to be an ELF and ELROS chooses to join the RACE OF MEN. He becomes the first in a long line of Kings that rule in MIDDLE-EARTH until beyond the fall of SAURON depicted in “The Lord of the Rings”.
*** NORLAND WATERS: This is a term for waters that flow from the North.
**** THE FATE OF EÄRENDIL: Whilst he was not killed for setting foot on VALINOR his choosing to be an ELF was not the final judgement of the VALAR. He is no longer allowed to set foot upon MIDDLE-EARTH and they create a flying ship for him to steer across the skies with the SILMARIL set to its mast. Forever to be seen as the brightest star in the sky.
The War of Wrath* (Scene Seven)
A battlefield on the outskirts of Angband. Eönwë and the host of the Valar, now supported by the remaining members of the races of Elves, Men and Dwarves, are assaulting the stronghold of Morgoth. His host of orcs and Balrogs are defending but are being steadily defeated.
But Morgoth looked not for the assault that came upon him,
for so great was his pride that he deemed that none
would ever again come with open war against him;
but at last the might of Valinor came up out of the West,
Beleriand was aflame with the glory of their arms,
and the mountains rang beneath their feet.
In an enormous flash of flame the light of the winged Dragons is seen descending over the battlefield, forcing Eönwë and his host to retreat back.
So ruinous was the onset of that dreadful fleet
that the host of the Valar was driven back;
but Eärendil came, shining with white flame**;
and there was battle in the air all the day,
and through a long night of doubt.
Before the rising of the sun Eärendil slew the mightiest of the Dragon-host,
and cast him from the sky.
Vingelot appears in the skies, shining bright with the light of the Silmaril. Eärendil raises his sword and plunges it into the belly of the greatest of the dragons. With this the fiery onslaught from on high stops and Eönwë and his men rally and slay the remaining forces of evil. Vingelot once more sails away through the skies.
Then the sun rose, and the host of the Valar prevailed.
Morgoth is seen at bay, with Eönwë and his host surrounding him; the action follows the description of the chorus.
There Morgoth stood at last at bay, and yet unvaliant.
He fled into the deepest of his mines,
and sued for peace and pardon;
but his feet were hewn from under him,
and he was hurled upon his face.
Then he was bound with the chain Angainor*** which he had worn aforetime,
and his iron crown they beat into a collar for his neck;
and his head was bowed upon his knees.
And the two Silmarils which remained to Morgoth were taken from his crown,
and they shone unsullied beneath the sky; and Eönwë took them, and guarded them.
Eönwë and his host leave the stage with the two Silmarils. Morgoth, chained now to the ground and the lights around him fade, except for the light of Eärendil’s Silmaril, which shines down on him like as if guarding him.
And Morgoth himself the Valar thrust through the Door of Night,
beyond the Walls of the World, into the Timeless Void;
and a guard is set for ever on those walls,
and Eärendil keeps watch upon the ramparts of the sky.
Yet the lies that Melkor, the mighty and accursed,
sowed in the hearts of Elves and Men are a seed that does not die,
and cannot be destroyed; and ever and anon it sprouts anew,
and will bear dark fruit even until the latest days.
Morgoth is now lost from sight but the Silmaril still shines in the sky.
* THE WAR OF WRATH: The battle depicted in this scene is the one that this final chapter of the cycle takes as its title from. The final conflict against MORGOTH. EÖNWË, the host of the VALAR and the remaining peoples of MIDDLE–EARTH take the war to MORGOTH, who is finally defeated.
** BENDING THE RULES: Although no longer allowed to set foot upon MIDDLE-EARTH that does not mean that EÄRENDIL cannot fly over the lands in his ship and give aid in the war against MORGOTH.
*** ANGAINOR: The chain that held MORGOTH in the HALLS OF MANDOS after his first betrayal of the VALAR.
The Silmarils come to rest (Scene Eight)
Eönwë and a few of his host are guarding the two Silmarils. Maedhros and Maglor enter and approach them.
Yield up now these jewels which Fëanor our father made,
and which Morgoth stole from us.
Your right to the work of your father has now perished,
because of your many merciless deeds, being blinded by their oath.
The light of the Silmarils shall go now into the West,
whence it came in the beginning;
there ye must abide the judgement of the Valar,
by whose decree alone I will release them from my charge.
Maglor takes Maedhros aside to confer. Behind them a vision of the Elder King, Mandos, Ulmo and Elbereth appears, which Eönwë sees clearly. They watch the following conversation with great interest.
The oath says not that we may not abide our time;
and it may be that in Valinor all shall be forgiven and forgot,
and we shall come into our own in peace.
Elbereth smiles at this, and the Elder King nods in assent.
If we return with them but the favour of the Valar is withheld,
then our oath would still remain, but its fulfilment be beyond hope.
Who can tell to what dreadful doom we shall come,
if we disobey the Powers in their own land?
Mandos bristles clearly at this.
If Manwë and the Valar themselves deny the fulfilment of an oath
to which we named them in witness, is it not made void?
But how shall our voices reach to Ilúvatar beyond the Circles of the World?
And by Ilúvatar we swore in our madness,
and called the Everlasting Darkness upon us if we kept not our word.
Who shall release us?
Mandos is becoming more displeased with what he is hearing. The Elder King is standing emotionless and watching.
If none can release us, then indeed the Everlasting Darkness shall be our lot,
whether we keep our oath or break it; but less evil we shall do in the breaking.
Maedhros draws his sword and prepares to fight; Maglor reluctantly does the same. The Elder King raises his hand to stop Eönwë from doing the same, and then gestures for them to leave the Silmarils.
EÖNWË [stopping his followers drawing their swords]
Hold! I will not permit the slaying of the last sons of Fëanor!
He bids his followers depart, and with a final look at the now fading vision of the Valar, he too leaves the brothers alone. They approach the Silmarils.
Since one is lost to us, and but two remain,
so it is plain that fate would have us share the heirlooms of our father.
Both Maedhros and Maglor take a Silmaril, but as they hold the jewels they begin to shine more brightly and burn their hands*.
It is as Eönwë has said: our right has become void, our oath was vain!
Maedhros, driven mad with the pain, takes his Silmaril and throws himself with it into the depths of the earth. Maglor casts his Silmaril far out into the waves of the sea, where the ships of Men are seen passing westward.
Thus it came to pass that the Silmarils found their long homes:
one in the fires in the heart of the world,
one in the deep waters, and one in the airs of heaven.
The light of the three gems mingles and then goes dark.**
* THE RETURN OF THE SILMARILS: Here we see the HALLOWING OF THE SILMARILS serving its purpose. MAEDHROS and MAGLOR have committed too many evil deeds since last they saw these gems in person and are now unable to hold their prize.
** THE DESTRUCTION OF BELERIAND: What remains of BELERIAND after the WAR OF WRATH is nothing but a charred wasteland. The VALAR send all who aided them in the war east to EREGION and then BELERIAND is sunk beneath the sea.
The Rings of Power* (Scene Nine)
In the distance the realm of Númenor is seen revealed. A light nearer at hand reveals Sauron standing addressing a company of the Elves; his appearance is as one of them and not the monstrous form he will become.
Alas, for the weakness of the great!
For a mighty king is Gil-galad**,
and wise in all lore is Master Elrond;
and yet they will not aid me in my labours.
Can it be that they do not desire to see other lands become as blissful as their own?
But wherefore should Middle-Earth remain for ever desolate and dark,
whereas the Elves could make it as fair as Eressëa: nay, even as Valinor?
Is it not then our task to labour together for its enrichment,
and for the raising of all who wander here
to the power and knowledge they have who are beyond the Sea?
The Elves bow before him, as if in allegiance; but suddenly the form of Sauron is consumed in darkness, and a red glow as of a massive forge illuminates his silhouette against the flames.
Out of the Black Years come the words that the smiths of Eregion heard,
and they knew that they were betrayed:
Three Rings for the Elvenkings under the sky,
seven for dwarf lords in their hails of stone,
nine for mortal men doomed to die,
one for the Dark Lord on his Dark Throne
in the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie***.
Sauron is now seen, forging the One Ring in the fires of Orodruin; and the shape of Morgoth looms behind him as a great shadow.
One Ring to rule them all, Ash nazg durbatulûk,
one Ring to find them, ash nazg gimbatul,
one Ring to bring them all ash nazg thrakatulûk
and in the darkness bind them agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.
in the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.
* THE SECOND AGE: From this scene onwards we are in the Second Age of MIDDLE-EARTH, very many years after the destruction of BELERIAND.
** GIL-GALAD: The last King of the NOLDOR in MIDDLE-EARTH and bearer of one of the ELVEN RINGS before passing it to ELROND.
*** RINGS OF POWER: Nineteen great rings created by the ELVES, using the guidance of SAURON in disguise that bestowed certain powers to the wearer. In secret SAURON forged the One Ring, which could dominate the owners of the others and proceeded to gradually take control of the rulers of MIDDLE-EARTH.
The Waning (Epilogue)
Through the mist the moonlight and stars become visible, the brightest of the stars once again being the Silmaril.
Aiya Eärendil elenion Ancalima! Hail, Eärendil, brightest of stars!
In the fitfully darting moonbeams the forms can be discerned of the three bearers of the Elven-Rings: Galadriel, Círdan and the now adult Elrond, each standing apart*.
GALADRIEL, ELROND and CÍRDAN
A wind in the grass! The turning of the year,
a shiver in the reeds beside the stream,
a whisper in the trees afar men hear,
piercing the heart of summer’s tangled dream,
Chill music that a herald piper plays
foreseeing winter and the leafless days.
The late flowers trembling on the ruined walls
already stoop to hear that haunting flute
through the wood’s sunny aisles and tree-propped halls
winding amid the green with cold clear note
like a thin strand of silver glass remote.
Elrond is now isolated; he raises his Elven-ring, the lights around him grow but begin immediately to fade away. He sees the waning of its power.
Now the proud elms at last begin to quail,
their mourning multitude of leaves grows pale,
seeing afar the icy spears of winter march to battle with the sun,
when bright Narquelion** fades their day is done,
with UNSEEN VOICES
and borne on wings of amber wan they fly
in heedless winds beneath the sullen sky,
and fall like dying birds upon the meres.
Now Galadriel steps forward towards Elrond and raises her hand, adorned with her Elven-ring. Both of their rings once again show their light for a bit longer but too fade away.
At night Elves dance beneath the roofless sky,
when naked elms entwined in branching lace
the Seven Stars, and through the boughs
the eye stares down cold-gleaming in the high moon’s face.
O Elder Kindred, fair immortal folk!
You sing now ancient songs that once awoke
under primeval stars before the Dawn;
We dance like shimmering shadows in the wind,
as once we danced upon the shifting lawn of Elvenhome,
before we were,
Before we crossed wide seas unto this mortal shore.
Círdan approaches the two and raises his hand and elven-ring with theirs. This time all three rings glow brightly, fade a little but do not extinguish.
Bare has our realm become,
the trees are shed stripped of their raiment,
and their splendour fled.
Winter is come.
Beneath the barren sky the Elves are silent.
But they do not die!
Here waiting they endure the winter fell and silence.
Here I too will dwell;
when winter comes, I would meet winter here.
All three now lower their hands and look to each other in agreement and support.
GALADRIEL, ELROND and CÍRDAN
I would not seek the burning domes and sands
where reigns the sun, nor dare the deadly snows,
nor seek in mountains dark the hidden lands
of men long lost to whom no pathway goes;
with UNSEEN VOICES
I heed no call of clamant bell
that rings iron-tongued in the towers of earthly kings.
Here on the stones and trees there lies a spell
of unforgotten loss, of memory more blest than mortal wealth.
Here undefeated dwell the Folk Immortal
under withered elms, in Middle-Earth as once in ancient realms.
Any light in the mists now fades to darkness; the light of the Silmaril is the last to fade.
Aiya Eärendil elenion Ancalima! Hail, Eärendil, brightest of stars!
* ELVEN RINGS: This is the name given to the last three rings created by the ELVES using the knowledge gained from SAURON. They were bound to the power of the One Ring but the bearers managed to keep their presence from SAURON until after his ultimate downfall.
** NARQUELION: The ELVEN name for “Autumn”.
When, after a hiatus of over twenty years, I returned again to the realm of The Silmarillion to complete the cycle with the addition of The War of Wrath, I also inevitably returned again to the skein of musical references that had featured in the original cycle with additional material also garnered from The Lay of Eärendil added as an appendix to the sequence of epic scenes some ten years after the completion of The Fall of Gondolin. Accordingly, this analysis of the music for The War of Wrath refers back to the original analyses of the Silmarillion cycle, with the various motives numbered according to the same system; but the new additions to The Lay of Eärendil are allocated new numbers according to their thematic significance as they occur.
The constitutiton of scenes in The War of Wrath reflects of course the same pattern as in the previous segments of the Silmarillion cycle and therefore begins with a scene-setting Prologue which stands somewhat apart from the subsequent action. The text in fact is the very first poem that Tolkien ever wrote on the subject of Middle-earth (as he recollected in later life, although there may be some doubt as to the reliability of his memory over half a century later): a setting of a poem on the subject of the shores of Valinor (‘Faery’ as it was entitled when originally written) and allocated here to the voice of Elbereth as the semi-divine being who created the stars in Scene Two of Fëanor.
The music begins with an entirely new theme which depicts the shores of Valinor:
This theme is preceded and succeeded by a line in the chorus setting Frodo’s words Aiya Eärendil, which are in turn an Elvish translation of the old Anglo-Saxon couplet
Eala Earendel engla beorhtast
ofer middangeard monnum sended
which Tolkien described as the germ of his linguistic exploration of Middle-Earth and its languages:
The second part of this phrase is soon detached and brought forward by the solo violin over the repetitions of 180 and one of Ulmo’s themes of the ocean (143, already foreshadowed in the third phrase of 181); it now refers specifically to the vision of Eärendil as a star floating above Middle-Earth:
This theme was originally written for, and indeed opened, the setting of The Lay of Eärendil which I made in 2004, and assumes greater importance both there and in the Second Triptych of scenes in The War of Wrath.
Finally, when the voice of Elbereth does enter with her setting of Tolkien’s opening line, we hear yet another entirely new theme:
which will also recur later in the score.
These elements constitute the whole of the new musical material of the Prologue, but there are also references to existing themes from earlier in the cycle. At the mention of the Two Trees the theme from Fëanor recurs (21) and the theme of the ships from that score, where it referred to the Haven of the Swans (32), also makes it presence felt. The Prologue finally dies away with the overarching theme of 143 and muttered reiterations of 180.
The first scene of the action depicts the host of the Elves summoned to Valinor in Scene Two of Fëanor and their arrival at the shores of Middle-Earth under the leadership of the mariner Círdan. This character has not yet made an appearance in the Silmarillion cycle, but he did feature in my earlier setting of The Grey Havens, the closing scene of The Lord of the Rings, where the ship which he provided for the Ring-bearers on their passage over the sea acquired its own theme (which will shortly make an appearance in this score as well). However at first his intention is to build a ship to sail to Valinor at once, a purpose underlined by the return of 32 as a counterpoint to his words. But he is contradicted by the voice of Ulmo, whose utterances derive partly from a late sketch of the scene by Tolkien and also from words attributed to Mandos in prophecy in passages written in the 1950s. The music here juxtaposes the theme of Ulmo himself (43) with that of Mandos (19) and references soon appear to the coming of Eärendil (176) and the ultimate rule of the Elder King (1). This contrast between themes from the farther reaches of the Silmarillion cycle will continue to be a feature of the score.
As Círdan sees a vision of Eärendil’s ship the choral description of this vision is underlined by 32 floating above a bass line derived from 180, but both these soon give way to the extended theme of Vairë as the weaver of dreams (6), a long-breathed melodic line that has already been associated with the passage to Valinor in the Epilogue to The Fall of Gondolin. As the vision dies away, and Círdan acknowledges the authority of Ulmo, we hear another theme from that Epilogue – this time the theme associated with death of the Trees from Fëanor (33) which now assumes a longer and more extended form.
which is mingled with repetitions of Eärendil’s own 176 before giving way to the melody from The Grey Havens associated with Círdan’s own ship:
With the return of 184 we move into the action of the second scene.
The text of this scene focuses around the character of Melian, already featured in Beren and Lúthien but here assuming a pivotal role as the protectress of the Hidden Kingdom of Doriath in a series of dialogues with her husband Thingol and her companion Galadriel, one of the Noldor exiled from the Blessed Realm under the circumstances described in Fëanor. Galadriel as a character had not existed before her appearance in The Lord of the Rings, and Tolkien’s account of her in The Grey Annals therefore derives entirely from texts written in the 1950s. During the first of these Melian questions Galadriel concerning the banishment of the Noldor in a manner that clearly implies that she discerns that something of importance is being hidden from Thingol and herself. After the choral introduction of the scene over 184 as described, the music derives entirely from themes already established earlier in the cycle – Melian herself (86), the Curse of Mandos (19 and 49), Fëanor (23), the Oath (39), the Valar (2) and finally Morgoth as the thief of the Noldor’s treasure (4). There is only one new element, a theme describing the character of Galadriel, which underpins much of her increasingly evasive responses:
As Galadriel gives way to pressure from Melian, she discloses more (as the chorus describes), and now yet more themes from earlier in the cycle emerge: the Silmarils themselves (26), Finwë the Elvenking whose death is now disclosed (22), a greater prominence given to the Oath (39) and the burning of the ships in the final scene of Fëanor (55). But Galadriel refuses to disclose more information which might incriminate her kin, and 186 becomes ever more elusive as the chorus proceed to introduce the later discussion between Melian and her husband. The theme of the Silmaril now assumes the form that it took when Thingol demanded one of the jewels from Beren in exchange for the hand of his daughter (87).
The discussion between Melian and Thingol which now ensues is musically derived entirely from themes already familiar from their deployment earlier in the cycle. Melian’s 86 is now combined with the descending chords associated with Thingol himself (84) and repetitions of the Silmaril theme (26) are interspersed with the motives of the Elves (8) before Melian’s narrative of the deeds of the Noldor brings references to Fëanor (23), his attribution as Spirit of Fire (24), his father Finwë (22) and his murder by Morgoth (35). Thingol is shocked by her revelations (84) and he now draws the association with the Curse of Mandos (19) and the exile of the Noldor from Valinor (49) attributing this to the action of the Oath (39) which is now combined with the chords sequence associated with treachery (50) before the music returns to the matter of the Silmarils themselves (26). Melian’s forebodings are underlined by the combination of the chords associated with the Curse of Mandos and those of treachery (19 and 50) which are heard in sequence; Thingol in his dismissal of her fears refers back to the motive of Fëanor (23) which Melian in her turn combines with the chords of treason. As Thingol leaves, his own chord sequence (84) is overlaid with a syncopated violin line which now assumes a thematic importance of its own:
Melian, left alone with Galadriel, now sees a vision of the future events which will alter the fate of Doriath – the love of her daughter for a mortal man, which of course has formed the main action of Beren and Lúthien. Her declaration that the deeds of these lovers will transform the destiny of Middle-Earth is set to a full-length recapitulation of the theme associated with their first meeting, now extended in rhythm and intertwined with reiterations of 187:
As the scene concludes the whole passage is reiterated by the orchestra alone, slowly dying away as the vision itself fades. All that remains is the despairing theme of the Death which will claim Beren and Lúthien (85), heard as the chorus sings of the winter “as it were the hoar age of mortal men” which descends upon Thingol with the loss of his daughter.
The third scene of The War of Wrath treats of the events which lead in Tolkien’s narrative to the ruin of Doriath. This was one of the most complex webs of conflicting and indeed contradictory material which the author bequeathed at the time of his death, and the version of the story published in the original edition of The Silmarillion as edited by Christopher Tolkien departed in many significant ways from the author’s own text. The only full-length version of the tragic events left by Tolkien was a sometimes illegible draft entitled The Tale of the Nauglafring which not only introduced the Dwarves significantly into the history of the First Age but also made substantial play of treachery among the Elves themselves, signified by a character Ufedhin who appears nowhere else in any of Tolkien’s writings. For the purposes of this scene I have combined elements of the Nauglafring with the description of the actions of the Sons of Fëanor as described both in that tale and the brief accounts in Tolkien’s later Tale of Years, but eliminating altogether the participation of the Dwarves and generally cutting and simplifying both the progress of the narrative and the genealogy itself, where Tolkien’s dialogue either becomes sketchy or non-existent.
In the first place, the acquisition of the Silmaril by Thingol is represented by a brief tableau in which Mablung is seen to take the jewel from the stomach of the slain wolf Carcharoth, where it had been abandoned in the narrative of the epic scenes Beren and Lúthien (a passage where Tolkien’s full-length narrative in The Lay of Leithian had been abandoned by the author). Mablung delivers the jewel to Thingol, as in Tolkien’s version of the tale in the Grey Annals; but the participation of Beren in the slaying of the Wolf is perforce omitted. The scene then moves forward many years, with Thingol now in possession of the Silmaril which is coveted by the Sons of Fëanor under the compulsion of their Oath. The Sons now invade Doriath (as they do in The Tale of Years after the death of Thingol) but in the version of the story seen here they take on the function of the Dwarves in Tolkien’s sketches, throwing the head of Thingol at the feet of Melian. It is the latter who now commits the Silmaril to the care of Elwing, and she bids farewell to the realm of Doriath in words derived from Tolkien’s unfinished prose version of Beren and Lúthien written in the 1950s. Otherwise the dialogue in this scene, both that of the Sons of Fëanor and between Melian and Elwing, is adapted from the Tale of the Nauglafring. And the final words of the chorus describing the ruin of Doriath come from Christopher Tolkien’s version of the narrative in the published Silmarillion.
In musical terms this assembly of textual fragments is, like much of Scene Two, once again almost entirely derived from material heard earlier in the cycle. As Mablung presents the Silmaril to Thingol, the music associated with the jewel in Fëanor is heard at full length – at first combined with theme of Thingol himself (84) and then as heard in Fëanor (26). As the music describes the hunt by which Thingol is lured to leave the protection woven by Melian around the realm of Doriath, we hear the motives heard previously when Túrin hunted Saeros through the woods (114) where the theme of Morgoth forms an uneasy undercurrent (4) to the threats of the Sons of Fëanor. Elwing comes to Melian, enquiring the reason for her disquiet, and her theme is now heard for the first time:
Melian replies (86) with deep foreboding, and for the first time in The War of Wrath the Doriath melody, last heard in the prologue to The Fall of Gondolin, is hinted at in the accompaniment (10). As she consigns the Silmaril to Elwing for safe-keeping the themes of Elwing (189) and Melian (86) are interwoven with that of the Silmaril (26) before the entry of blood-stained Curufin who, taking over the role of Ufedhin in the Nauglafring tale, walks to Thingol’s throne and seats himself in it to a combination of 39 and 23. Melian confronts him (in a diatribe she originally used to Ufedhin) as the theme of treachery (50) rises to a climax over the music associated with the hunt. And as the head of Thingol is hurled at her feet, an outburst of despair from the orchestra combines the chords associated with treachery with the sequence of Thingol himself (84) and then is in turn overlaid with the extended version of the lament associated originally with the death of the Two Trees in Fëanor (184). As Melian passes from the scene, her own theme 86 evaporates and gives way to a full statement, for the very last time in the cycle, of the extended melody associated with the realm of Doriath (10). Brief fragments of other themes depict the fruitless search of the Sons of Fëanor for the Silmaril (23 and 26). And the Doriath melody itself, which has in its earlier appearances always risen to a triumphant climax, now collapses into an eviscerated silence where it is uneasily juxtaposed with the rhythm of 187 as the First Triptych comes to its end.
As has been explained elsewhere in my description of the process by which The War of Wrath came to be written, the musical material of the Second Triptych is constructed around my setting of The Lay of Eärendil made some years after the conclusion of my work on The Silmarillion cycle in its four-evening version. Indeed the narrative substance of the Lay surrounds and explicates the inserted dramatic scenes which are drawn from other sources, and can indeed continue to stand as an independent work in its own right.
It opens with the theme associated with the idea of Eärendil as the evening star (182); this theme recurs throughout the work, and is used to separate each of the verses of Tolkien’s original poem. After this initial theme, the flute gives out the theme associated with the Elves in Fëanor (8), but unlike its appearance in that work the theme is immediately imitated (before its initial statement has even finished) by the oboe and clarinet:
The use of this theme gives a nod to the fact that The Lay of Eärendil in its original appearance in The Fellowship of the Ring is sung by Bilbo to an audience consisting almost entirely to the Elves of Rivendell, who subject the poem itself to a rigorous textual analysis once its recitation is completed. The imitations of the theme pass to violins, cellos, horn, back to flute and piccolo, trumpet, violins, horns and back to violins and horn again and are set against an increasingly elaborated orchestral texture which finally is underpinned by a throbbing A on the timpani which deliberately mirrors the appearance of Ulmo as Valar of the Sea in The Fall of Gondolin and will be repeated later (although has not previously been cited as a specific motif:
The chorus, taking on the role of Bilbo, then enter with the opening words of the poem, which are accompanied for the first three bars by continuing statements of 9 by the violins; but this restatement of the opening theme is soon joined by 21 which originally in Fëanor referred to the Two Trees that gave light to the land of the Valar, but which later assumed a more general reference to the Blessed Realm itself. Here it apparently simplistically reflects the reference to the boat built of timber, but it also has a further significance is showing the very special nature of the boat that has been created. The statements of 190 return, but at the mention of the boat’s prow being “fashioned like a swan” 32 enters on the oboe. This theme will recur many times in the legend of Eärendil, always with the same significance as a theme of the sea; and the first verse comes to a conclusion with a full orchestral statement of 182, given out by all four horns with their bells in the air.
The second verse opens with a full restatement of the theme of the House of Hador originally found in The Children of Húrin (113). Eärendil is of course a direct descendant of that House, through his father Tuor who also made extensive use of the theme in The Fall of Gondolin; and Eärendil will also be the father of Elros, the founder of the realm of Númenor (hence the further appearance of the theme in my rondo for piano solo Akallabêth, which tells of the downfall of that realm). Here the theme underpins the first part of the text in which Tolkien describes Eärendil’s armament. Halfway through its course, this theme is accompanied briefly by a horn phrase (63) depicting battle and war. And immediately after 113 reaches its conclusion, a new theme enters briefly in the tuba as the singer talks of Eärendil’s bow “of dragon horn”. This theme is not to be found in The Silmarillion, but derives from my earlier work on The Hobbit where it was indeed the theme of the Dragon Smaug:
This theme is immediately succeeded by further statements of 63 and then, as the singer goes on to tell of his sword, two sword themes enter almost simultaneously. One, heard on trumpets, again derives from The Hobbit, where it depicted the elven blades used by Gandalf, Thorin and Bilbo:
The second, heard on woodwind, is the theme of Túrin’s sword from The Children of Húrin (110). And one bar later, as the singer tells of the gems that wreathed his helmet, another theme from The Hobbit is heard on the glockenspiel (it originally described the jewels found by the dwarves under the Lonely Mountain, specifically the Arkenstone, but here its use is more generic):
and this is followed in its turn by 24 from Fëanor, where it was symbolic of fire; however in the Lay it becomes a more general theme, depicting the forces of nature rather than any specific manifestation of these.
Finally two other themes are heard, both of which will recur in the Lay. First is the theme of the One (1) which in the Lay has a wider relevance as the theme of the Elder King (this reflects its later use in Fëanor, where it was also specifically used—as here—to refer to the Eagles as the special envoys of the Elder King). And to end the verse, as the singer tells of the emerald that Eärendil wore upon his breast, the woodwind and brass give out an initial statement of the theme always associated with the Silmaril itself (26) which brings the second verse of the Lay to a conclusion with a general pause.
There now occurs the first of several newly introduced passages into the course of the Second Triptych which expand the dramatic context of the setting by reference to other sources in Tolkien’s manuscripts. This scene, showing the departure of Eärendil from his wife Elwing on his voyage of discovery, combines a brief recitative with a text written by the author as part of his work on the legend of Númenor with a more extensive treatment of the song of the Elf Legolas from The Return of the King – Legolas, like Eärendil, is in search of the realm of Valinor beyond the Sundering Seas. While the recitative brings back the depiction of the shores of Valinor (180) the setting of Legolas’s verses brings a new theme:
which is set in contrast with already established themes such as 32 and 49. At the second return of the melodic line 195 it is now placed in counterpoint with 185 and this combination leads to a full statement of the theme of the Valar (2) and the triumphant return of the theme of the Elves (8) before the accompaniment to the song melody dies away in mutterings of 32 and 195.
The trombones then give out a new statement of 182 and this leads into the description of Eärendil’s early voyages which forms the third verse. The orchestra directly quotes one of the sea themes from The Fall of Gondolin (not cited in the analysis at that point) which is also to be found describing the voyages of the Númenoreans in the Akallabêth piano rondo:
This is overlaid firstly by violin figurations which recall another of the textures in the same passage from The Fall of Gondolin, but then move in a totally different direction with the introduction of the theme of Arda as the Earth itself (7) which will again recur many times in the Lay. This is repeated a number of times, descending in pitch from piccolo through oboes to clarinets and horns, as the singers describe Eärendil’s wanderings across the ocean. As the text moves on to describe his flight “from gnashing of the Narrow Ice” two themes from The Silmarillion are given simultaneously. The first, on trombones, describes the Northern lands where the rebellious Elves wander (48) before they are exiled from the Blessed Realm. The second theme, on cor anglais, bassoons and strings, is the theme of Elbereth herself (3) and this is soon underpinned, as the chorus two bars later sing of the shadow that lies on the frozen hills, by the appearance of Morgoth’s rhythmic pattern from The Silmarillion (35) on timpani and bass drum. Then, as the narrative goes on to tell of “burning waste” *12 reappears before the return of *5 on oboe and cor anglais, and then another Fëanor theme (54) which there depicted the shores of Middle-earth but in the Lay assumes a wider significance. And then for the first (but not the last) time is heard the theme of the Valar themselves (2), as the singer tells of Eärendil’s fruitless quest to find the Blessed Realm. It is heard here on muted horns, with an ominous muttering version of 5 on the timpani underpinning it. But the storms overtake Eärendil, and the use of material from Fëanor shows that the cause here is the same, the wrath of the Sea itself (46 and 47).
Finally these themes are joined not only by *5 but also by another, the chaotic version of Morgoth’s theme also heard at this point in Fëanor (31). Finally all these themes subside, and the cellos and basses give out a ppp statement of 182 to bring the verse, and Scene Five, to an end.
The next verse of the poem which opens Scene Six is entirely an addition of Tolkien’s which was made after the original version of the Lay was sent to the printers. Christopher Tolkien in The Treason of Isengard has explained how the author came to continue to revise his poem after its publication, and many of these later revisions have been introduced into the musical setting. The new verse, rather shorter than the others, describes how the sons of Fëanor launch an attack on Eärendil’s dwellings in Arvernien, and as such it of course utilises a good many other themes from Fëanor. The first of these is the theme of Fëanor himself (23) and the second is the theme of the Oath sworn by the sons of Fëanor (39); the third is the theme of Battle first heard in the prologue to Beren and Lúthien (59). These underpin the dialogue of the sons of Fëanor, and all three of these themes are combined as the singer describes the attack, culminating in a massive statement of 26, before the motif of Elwing 189) is immediately taken up by the woodwind and strings as the singers describe how Elwing throws herself into the sea to escape capture and the loss of the Silmaril (to the accompaniment of woodwind runs springing out of 28). At the end of this passage the timpani thunder out 182 very briefly before the next verse begins.
As Elwing comes to Eärendil bearing the Silmaril, 28 leads into 14 and this is developed at some length as he binds it upon his brow. As he turns his ship to make his way back across the seas, a new version of 15 is taken up as a string ostinato:
and this is then combined with the original version of 15 to underpin first 20 and then the theme of the Banishment of the Elves pronounced by Mandos (49), which Eärendil is now defying by the power of the Silmaril he bears. As he passes away across the Ocean, the narrative it is almost immediately interrupted by a stormier version of 180 which builds towards a duet for the reunited husband and wife, beginning with an rhythmically inflected version of 164:
and where the central section consists of a counterpoint woven from the themes of Eärendil (176) and Elwing (189) before the flute delivers a gentle reminder of 182 to bring the verse to an end.
The next verse contrasts three themes which are presented simultaneously, as Eärendil crosses the pathless seas. Firstly there is a rising theme in the bass:
against which there is presented a falling theme in the woodwind reminiscent of the Elves (2):
and these two themes are bound together with a third ostinato which adopts an idea from the second phrase of the theme of Men (6):
to depict the fact that Eärendil is bearing the appeal of the kindreds both of Elves and Men.
As he arrives on the shores of the Deathless Realm, 185 is heard and, because this is the Land of the Valar and the coming of Eärendil there will signify the end of the Loss of the Silmarils, the theme used in The Silmarillion for this Loss (33 in Fëanor) is now heard on muted strings followed by a fuller restatement of 185. This leads to a mysterious restatement of the theme of Elbereth (18) as Eärendil sets foot upon the undying lands.
Here he is hailed by Eönwë, the herald of the Elder King, in an apostrophe which extended itself over three full-scale and massively scored statements of the theme of the Valar (2) over which 182 is declaimed to bring this verse of the poem to an end. Eärendil takes counsel with the people of the Immortal Realm, and themes which have not been heard in the Silmarillion cycle now return after a very long absence. After a brief recapitulation of 2 and 4 comes the theme originally identified (6 in the Silmarillion analysis) with Vairë, the Weaver of Dreams; and then Eärendil is led through the Calacirya, the Pass of Light, and vertiginous themes plunge upwards and downwards sheerly on all sides:
to be followed immediately by the fateful chords associated with Mandos as Lord of Death (19). Over this material Eärendil bids farewell to Elwing, bearing his message to the Valar on behalf of the Two Kindreds of Elves and Men. As Eärendil passes further into the Realm of the Immortals, more of their themes are restated: that of Ilúvatar (1) is followed again by that of Vairé (6), and then by a combination of the theme of the Elves (8) with that of mortality (heard here in the version 125 associated with Eärendil’s parents in the Silmarillion analysis), as Eärendil consults concerning the futures of Elves and Men. The verse then continues with the music associated with Vairé as Weaver of Dreams, and after this has built to a climax a distant echo is heard of the theme of Earth (7) and 182 is heard on harp harmonics to bring the verse to an end.
Once Eärendil’s request for aid has been granted, the Valar turn their attention to the fate of the messenger and his spouse. Mandos, to the severe chords of 19, asks whether a mortal man should be allowed to live once he has set foot in the Undying Lands. Ulmo responds with emollience, and his theme of 143 as heard in The Fall of Gondolin.
The next verse introduces the idea of Eärendil as the Mariner, the messenger who will bring hope to the beleaguered peoples of Middle-earth, and it begins with the themes associated with Ulmo in The Fall of Gondolin (143 in the Silmarillion analysis), now definitively underpinned with the throbbing of 191:
He cites Eärendil’s descent from both Men and Elves (113 and 147 are heard at references to Tuor and Idril); but Mandos remains adamant that the Noldor are equally barred from return to Valinor (49). It is left to the Elder King to resolve the conflict, as over quiet statements of 1 he decrees that the messenger and his spouse will be given a choice under which kindred they are to be judged, with solo violins delicately outlining the themes of both Eärendil (182) and Elwing (189). As the theme of mortality surges forth in the orchestra (125) Eärendil states his preference for his father’s house; but Elwing, influenced by the memory of her grandmother Lúthien (78), elects for immortality and her husband agrees to her decision. From this point onwards all the characters in the cycle are, as in Fëanor, immortals; and like the use of the chorus, this lends both to Fëanor and The War of Wrath the form of a legendary frame into which the three human dramas – Beren and Lúthien, The Children of Húrin and The Fall of Gondolin are inlaid.
The theme associated with the infant Eärendil (176) now drifts back into the music, delicately outlined by violins over a rippling celesta, as Eärendil receives the gift of rebirth. And and as his boat is hallowed by the Immortals, many of the preceding themes crowd back. Firstly we hear the theme of the Silmaril itself (26), overlaid with 40; then, as Elbereth sets the Silmaril on his mast, 26 is counterpointed with 18; finally 38 leads to a restatement of 16 before 1 is played delicately by the bassoons.
The next verse of the poem consists entirely of a rumination on 182, played initially as an ostinato on harp and celesta and then condensed into a series of chords. Against this the solo violin and cello weave repetitions of 21 before 190 returns. Above the verse sung by the chorus, Maedhros and Maglor see the Silmaril rise into the heavens and take hope; and this is followed by the return of 24, 7 and finally 54 to depict the “grey Norland waters.” The statement of 182 at the end of this verse turns for the first time to the minor mode, and is overwhelmed by a massive orchestral statement of 203 as the forces of the Valar assemble to march upon Morgoth’s realm in Middle-Earth.
The final verse begins with a restatement of 113—treated here almost like a recapitulation of a second subject in classical sonata form. It leads into a doom-laden declamation of 19 (against which 203 descends on tremolando violins), and this is followed by strong statements of 49 and 125. The last four lines of the poem are introduced by the theme based on 164 in the orchestra: and at the lines “the Flammifer of Westernesse” 21 is restated for the last time, before a massive orchestral statement of 113 and the return of 164 on woodwind. The final statement of 182 is left to a solo violin in harmonics at the utmost extreme of its range.
The Third Triptych opens with a cracking whip as the scene opens on the Great Battle which brings the War of Wrath to its conclusion. A whole welter of themes associated with Morgoth are thrown into violent juxtaposition with each other, over a twelve-tone theme in 6/8 rhythm which derives ultimately from the 7/8 music associated with Ungoliant in Fëanor (27) but now rushes around contrapuntally in the strings as a depiction of the Unlight that Morgoth has created to surround his realm:
Trumpets in close imitation introduce the forces of the Orcs (12) and the percussion underpin this with the violent rhythms of 30. The trombones solemnly intone the theme associated with Morgoth in Angband (98) and as the chorus enter with their narrative describing the battle 9 shrills out in the woodwind. As the forces of the Valar engage in battle the brass deliver 1 in a stentorian canonic imitation, and the figuration that in Beren and Lúthien was associated with the Battle of Sudden Flame (59) accompanies the description of Beleriand as “ablaze with the glory of their arms” with 63, last heard in the description of the arming of Eärendil, challenging the Orc theme 12.
This welter of themes placed in violent juxtaposition with each other is suddenly overwhelmed as Morgoth releases his dragons upon the Army of the West, and the theme originally associated with Glaurung as the first of the breed (15) is now combined with the bulking and shorter phrases depicting the winged dragons such as Smaug (192) before the appearance of Eärendil in his ship (176) renews the battle with the return of the earlier themes such as 12, 30, 1, the conflict between 176 and 192, all of these superimposed in chaotic fashion over the continuing ostinato figurations of 204 and 59, before the music suddenly broadens with the victory of the Valar (2) which abruptly clarifies the texture.
The choral narrative resumes as the male voices describe the overthrow of Morgoth (his principal theme 4 only now making its appearance, as the pits of Angband are opened to disclose the cowering enemy) and the timpani impotently thudding out his claim “I am the Elder King” (35) as the clanking of metal plates depicts his chaining. As the Silmarils are taken from his iron crown 9 is heard in the form originally employed in The Children of Húrin – “Who knows now the counsels of Morgoth?” and the theme of the Silmarils themselves (26) returns to the form that it had originally assumed at the time of their creation in Fëanor.
The choir describe the exile of Morgoth to the realm beyond the Door of Night is a wide-ranging theme rising up from the bass and combining elements of Morgoth himself (4) with the Valar (2):
and this is followed by 7 as the Earth itself is restored to order, and a triumphant statement of 2 depicts the unity of the Valar with Eärendil on watch (176 leading to the triumphant return of his “To the Sea!” 195). But this triumph is only illusory; the chorus reminds us that the lies of Morgoth (67) continue to dominate both Elves (8) and Men (125) and a fugal development of 205 rounds the description off in an ambiguous manner.
For the Oath of Fëanor has not yet completed its baleful work, and its music (39 to 42) is now assigned wistfully to muted brass as Maedhros, one of the two surviving sons of Fëanor, now demands the return to theme of their father’s creation (9 again, but now with an emphasis on the semitonal dissonance which has always underpinned the theme even in its most tranquil guises). Eönwë as herald of the Valar (2) refuses to yield the Silmarils from his charge, and despite a forthright assertion of the theme of the Oath (39) he declares that the jewels will be returned into the West whence they came (9 again, but now with the semitonal dissonance smoothed over). After this statement the focus shifts to the two remaining sons of Fëanor, Maedhros and Maglor, as they debate their course of action. A grandiose statement of 23 is followed by an obsessive repetition of 39, and the two are then combined with the theme associated with the Kinslaying (44) as the first fruit of the Oath and then with an underlying bass statement of the theme of Ilúvatar (1).
But it is the insidious repetition of 39 which eventually wins out (in its final moments it is even overshadowed by Morgoth’s 12), and it finally bursts forth as the two brothers seek to seize the Silmarils by force. Eönwë forbids his followers to slay the two remaining sons of Fëanor (2) and they triumphantly seize their prize; but the music of the Silmarils, now combined ineluctably with 23, finds the harmonic discord of 9 emphasised by thudding percussion in a rhythm also associated with Morgoth (60) as the jewels burn the brothers’ hands and they realise that their claim to the possessions of their father is in vain. Maedhros is despair throws himself into a pit in the earth (repetitions of 1 rising up in the orchestra to submerge in a plunging series of repetitions of 7) and Maglor in his turn throws his Silmaril into the sea (196). Indeed the music at this point directly quotes from my piano rondo Akallabêth, as we have here reached the same point in the drama. And through the mists that cover the sea we discern the ships of the Númenoreans sailing across the waters to their new homeland, and the theme formerly associated with the House of Hador (113) now takes on a more general significance as described before. The chorus now describes the fate of the Silmarils themselves: one in the depths of the earth, one in the sea, and the third – that held by Eärendil – in the skies of heaven (2 repeated twice and leading to a majestic and triumphant statement of 113. This is the situation at the end of the First Age of Middle-Earth when, as Elrond states in The Fellowship of the Ring, “the Elves deemed that evil was ended for ever, and it was not so.”
The reason for this becomes clear in Scene Nine, where The War of Wrath – and indeed the whole of The Silmarillion – makes contact with the Third Age when the narrative of The Lord of the Rings is set. Tolkien himself deliberately made this link in his plans for The Silmarillion where the last segment of the book was designed to contain a description of the creation of the Rings of Power, and of the One Ring in particular. The first element in Scene Nine is the partially successful attempt made by Sauron to convince the Elves to aid him in his work of ‘recovery’ – to make the lands of Middle-Earth blossom in a manner to rival the realms beyond the Sea. A pastoral theme from the piano Akallabêth (in a section omitted from the orchestral version of the score) underlines his appeal:
But the repetitions of this theme gradually subside into a growling bass, and the true nature of Sauron’s desires is made clear as 61 underlines his betrayal of the Elves.
As he begins his task of forging the One Ring to give him control of Middle-Earth the theme associated in Beren and Lúthien with his enchantments (68) forms a persistent undercurrent to the music. His allocation of three Rings to the Elvenkings is inevitably accompanied by an insidious statement of 8, just as his temptation of nine mortal Men is underlined by 42; but two further themes are also briefly heard in this passage, both of them deriving from my work on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings but neither otherwise found in The Silmarillion. When the verse tells of the seven “Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone” we hear the theme of descending thirds associated with that race in The Hobbit:
and as the theme of mortal men dies away we hear the very briefest hint of the motif that will be used in The Lord of the Rings to characterise the Nazgul (and is heard in more developed form as a background menace in the Drinking Song, for example);
But the music associated with Sauron now builds progressively towards a climax based on 61 over the persistent repetitions of 68, and the voice of the banished Morgoth is added to his casting of the spell as the orchestra thunders out for the last time the menacing statement of 98 before the uprushing theme of Ilúvatar (1) crashes into conflict with the theme of the Earth itself (7) and the catastrophic element of 196 (now at tempestuous speed) underpins the emergence of the Ring itself in the inflected version of 68 previously heard in Beren and Lúthien). This dies quickly away over a final muttering of Sauron’s 61.
The epilogue, illustrating the continuing influence of the Elves over the world of mortal Men, is launched by offstage female voices in four parts delicately spreading a series of repetitions of the theme of Elbereth (3) under which the male voices once again return us to the themes of the prologue and two statements of 181. The three bearers of the Elven-Rings – Galadriel, Elrond and Círdan – apostrophise “the turning of the year” with the repetitions of 3 now in the orchestra suspended over reiterations of a solitary sixth in the bass (as at the similar juncture in the epilogue to The Fall of Gondolin). Gradually a new theme emerges from the texture:
and it is this theme, with is constant rhythmic vacillation between duple and triple rhythms, which will underpin the whole of the music throughout the epilogue. For now the melodic counterpoint rises steadily higher in the orchestra as the chorus add their voices to the trio of solo voices and take over the description of the coming of autumn to the landscape. As the repetitions of 3 slowly die into the distance, Elrond steps forward and over the descending triplets of the lower voice in 209 speaks of the approach of winter before the chorus once again add their voices to his as the upper melodic line emerges gradually into prominence.
It is now Galadriel’s turn to take the lead, and as she does so a new dancing theme emerges initially in the bass but gradually rising to a greater persistence:
eventually resolving into a return of the music associated with the first appearance of the Elves in Fëanor (8) although the dance rhythms of 210 continue to make their presence felt. As she concludes the juxtaposition of 3 with the underpinning added sixth rises to ecstatic heights.
As Círdan begins his mournful yet hopeful description of the winter landscape, his own theme 185 underlines his words although the restless surging of 3 continues throughout in the bass. And this juxtaposition finally and inevitably leads to the return of the principal theme 209 now assuming a triumphant tone as the three solo voices and the full chorus join in a paean to the “undefeated…Folk Immortal”. The constant contrast between duple and triple rhythms finally appears to reach coalescence.
But the mood of triumph is tinged with sadness, and is short-lived. After the chorus have ceased the oboe returns us to the opening of the prologue with the melody of Elbereth’s song 183 and a final choral statement of 181 while the oscillating triplets of 3 die progressively away and descend into the depths of the bass, and the muttering strings sul ponticello bring a last whisper of 180, progressively slowing down and finally resolving onto the suspended open fifths with which the prologue had originally opened.
This symmetry, it should be noted, is not exclusive to the score of The War of Wrath alone. The provision of a fifth segment to the cycle of epic scenes which constitute The Silmarillion as a whole also serves to bring a further element of structure both to the music and the drama throughout. It frames the three ‘Great Tales’ of Beren and Lúthien, The Children of Húrin and The Fall of Gondolin with their mortal protagonists, with two mythological legends where immortals either figure exclusively (as in Fëanor) or to a considerable extent (as in The War of Wrath, most notably in its final pages including the whole of its Third Triptych). Similarly the role of the narrative chorus, circumscribed and restricted in the three central panels of the whole, assumes much more prominence in the outer sections of the cycle with whole scenes delegated to purely choral writing and other sections where the choral element predominates. As will be apparent also from this exhaustive analysis of the musical material, the symphonic development of the representative themes continues throughout with the material itself progressively combined in different juxtapositions. And I trust that this analysis may assist them in this, also serving to highlight the manner in which one theme heard earlier in the cycle may evolve into another psychologically related theme as the drama develops. It is to be hoped that the discovery of these varied permutations will continue to provide interest to listeners even when the overall dimensions of the work may have become familiar to them.