Who is Morgoth? Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Key War Explained

Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power starts with an info dump. elves! trees! War! Destruction, death and finally – a great peace.

But is it enough exposure? Due to the unusually specific manner in which author JRR Tolkien’s work was licensed for the film, there are many things the creative team alludes to but cannot explain. And the biggest of these is the war against the dark god Morgoth, which makes up the bulk of the events of The Silmarillion.

You may have heard The Silmarillion referred to as “successor”. Lord of the Rings. But it’s actually something more complicated: a whole history of Middle-earth, from before the beginning of time to the end of the War of the Ring, compiled from Tolkien’s drafts and notes to the best of his son’s knowledge and belief. It’s less a novel than a collection of myths about the creation of the world and the great millennia-long struggle against an evil god.

The Rings of Power takes place after the end of this war, which the authors can allude to without details due to the film rights The Silmarillion have never been sold. In the first two episodes, characters call names like Fëanor and Morgoth, but it’s incumbent on nerds like me to unpack it as succinctly as possible for the layperson.

So what happened in the war against Morgoth? We must begin with the creation of the universe as Tolkien envisioned it.

Who is Morgoth?

A vision of Sauron in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

Image: New line images

In the beginning, the supreme creator god Eru Ilúvatar created a host of subordinate gods, the Valar, with whom he sang Middle-earth into being. Only Eru could create life; The task of the lesser gods was to prepare Middle-earth for its most important creations, Elves and Men.

Morgoth was one of the Valar, but wanted domination over living things from the start, until that desire turned to hatred. “From splendor he fell,” Tolkien writes, “through arrogance to contempt of all things but himself.” How mighty was Morgoth? Sauron had the witch-king of Angmar as his most terrible servant; Morgoth had Sauron.

How did the war start?

A magnificent elven city in Valinor, overlooking two absolutely massive trees across from a lake from the buildings. One shines bright with golden light, the other is a darker silver. From The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

Image: Prime Video

When the Valar clashed with Morgoth, their powers leveled mountains and shook oceans, and finally they feared going to war lest they destroy newborn elves. So they went to the far west, built the heavenly city of Valinor, and invited the elves to live with them. Middle-earth didn’t come out of the box with a sun or moon, and so the Valar created two massive, luminous trees in Valinor, waxing and waning to bestow golden light by day, silver light by night, and mixed light in between. Elsewhere in Middle-earth the only illumination was starlight.

Morgoth despised and coveted the light of trees and plotted to destroy what he could not make his own. Which brought him into conflict with a tribe of Valinorian elves, the Noldor, and sparked most of the story of The Silmarillion.

Meet Fëanor, the damn worst

Charles Edwards as Celebrimbor in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

This is Celebrimbor, another famous elven smith, but just pretend he’s Fëanor.
Photo: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video

Tolkien called Fëanor the greatest of the Noldor (Valinor’s craft-elves) in wit and skill and said that he invented the written Elven alphabet – good marks from a linguistics professor. But Fëanor is best known for gemcrafting, creating jewels more brilliant than could be discovered on Earth. He created the Silmarils, three jewels that captured the light phases of the trees of Valinor.

Fëanor was selfish and suspicious, and he became paranoid that the Silmarils were being stolen. He wasn’t entirely wrong. Melkor invited Ungoliant, an ancestor of Shelob, to Valinor to vacuum the trees dry. In the darkness and confusion he sacked the Silmarils and fled east across the sea. In response, Fëanor made the worst decision in the history of Middle-earth: he swore to himself and his seven sons by an unbreakable oath that they would kill anyone, god or mortal, who kept them from the Silmarils.

It’s not that the final war against Morgoth wouldn’t have happened without Fëanor, it’s that this one guy’s hubris would cause it to happen in the worst possible way. Despite the Valar’s advice, Fëanor rallied the Noldor to chase Morgoth across the sea, but they needed ships. And the shore-bound Teleri Elves, the only shipwrights in Aman, refused to help.

So Fëanor made another contribution to the history of the elves: he invented elf-versus-elf murder, a plot over which the Noldor have a cruel historical monopoly. For slaughtering the Teleri, the Valar forbade Fëanor and all who went with him from returning to Aman, denied them their right to resurrection in Valinor, and cursed them with an eternal longing for their homeland.

Six centuries of bloody battles, betrayals and tragedies followed. Fëanor himself died long before it was over, and there were many times Morgoth would have been defeated sooner or with fewer casualties if only he and his sons had gotten over it.

How did the war against Morgoth end?

Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) defiantly stands bathed in red light in Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Photo: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video

Their homes were destroyed and their children presumed dead by Fëanor’s last living sons. Two mortals of mixed elven and human descent mounted a Silmaril – preserved by inheritance and tragedy – at the bow of their boat and sailed to Aman. Earendil the Sailor and his wife Elwing persuaded the Valar to come to terms.

The War of Wrath between the Valar and Morgoth sank most of Middle-earth into the sea. The Silmarils were lost forever, Fëanor’s sons took their own lives, and Morgoth was, to quote Tolkien, “thrown through the gate of night beyond the walls of the world into the timeless void”. The Valar pardoned the Noldor who had contributed to Morgoth’s defeat and rewarded new allies: the men of the west coast of Middle-earth, bestowed with wisdom, power, knowledge and Numenor, a new island between Middle-earth and Aman.

Fortunately, they were the sons of Earendil and Elwing Not dead, and since the Valar couldn’t decide whether they were more elves or humans, the twins were allowed to choose themselves. One, Elros, chose mortality and became the first king of Numenor. The other, Elrond – well, you know who Elrond is!

And in the end, the Light of the Two Trees was not entirely lost. The Valar transformed Earendil and his Silmaril ship into a star. The star’s light was collected in a vial which Galadriel eventually gave to Frodo, and Sam brandished a giant spider in her own quest to defeat a Dark Lord. As Sam says, “Well, come to think of it, we’re still in the same story! It goes on. Don’t great stories never end?”

The stories don’t, but this account of the war against Morgoth does. If you want to find out what happens next, you need to pick up The Silmarillionor Lord of the Ringsor just keep watching Rings of Power.

https://www.polygon.com/23330717/morgoth-rings-of-power-war-lord-rings-silmarillion Who is Morgoth? Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Key War Explained

Curtis Crabtree

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