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VII. Of the Darkening of Valinor - A Devouring Shadow

Doubling back to throw off pursuit by the enforcer-Valar who assume he's heading for his old haunts, Melkor heads southeast out into the dark, and digs out Ungoliant, the All-Devourer.

I'm not sure what Ungoliant is, exactly...she's a pattern-breaker in the mythos, a creature of no alleigance, no concern for who owns the world or what they do with it, and no direct quotation, implying her powers aren't song-based. She's just a kind of living, giant-spider-shaped black hole. Perhaps the Professor was arachnophobic, or sought to explain the phobia's occurence in Arda, or more likely (entertaining as the mental image of Vanyar stampeded by a small arachnid is) the affinity of spiders for dark cracks and crevices. She lacks mythic parallels: other ravenous beasts are boundary-keepers, guarding wastelands, gates or moral lines...Ungoliant just Is, in an unsettlingly primordial fashion.

Even her identity as a corrupt Maia is noted to be in doubt; like the Outsiders known to hallucinogenic shamanic practitioners and Uncle Lovecraft on his meds, she seems to be a buglike being that has simply cast a line down from the black between the stars, climbed down and found a crack to hide in. A note here, since despite its otherwise large steps in progressive depictions I came across the free intro to D&D 5ed. awhile back: it stated bluntly that elves come in white, pinkish, blue, green and a nobly savage copperish in the primary Mock-Tolkienian setting, and apparently evaporate if brought too close to an equator. The usual reasoning given for this view is that Tolkien didn't write black elves, so something something mumble they don't exist...yet the uncertainty over all the non-Nordic areas of the map, including the 'unknown lands' haunted by Ungoliant in what approximates West Africa, directly underlines the fact that this is a Northern mythos. The Bible doesn't mention the existence of Western Europeans, either.

So Melkor makes a bargain with Ungoliant (having invented finger-crossing behind the back) that he'll watch her back and give her anything she wants "with both hands" if she helps him put out the Trees and fetch something in Valinor. This agreement made, Ungoliant webs up some anti-light for an invisibility shield and they parachute over the ocean, landing in the dark bits of Aman somewhere.

Seasons have been invented by then, so that the elves don't get bored of the same non-running-away-food all the time, and the Dastardly Duo creep up on the Blessed Lands during the harvest festival - cut to Manwë's hall at this point, where Fëanor has been temporarily de-exiled for the festival and has come dressed in foreshadowing, without his family. I say foreshadowing not just because Fëanor has an eerie parallelisim with Melkor (great power, sharp curiousity, blazing pride, the fatal flaw of possessiveness), but because his goth moment would require some ingenious dye work - a fact Tolkien would have known from his Anglo-Saxon studies - Fëanor had created a new shade of dark. Hiding any disappointment at their father and his nephews' absence, Fingolfin again offers to get Fëanor pardoned, swearing to act as a full and loyal secondborn to the older brother's claim forever more. Fëanor bemusedly accepts, and the lights go out.

Melkor and Ungoliant have destroyed the Trees utterly, and even in scribe mode Tolkien manages to capture some of the utter bewildered alarm of the second generation of elves, those that had never seen full darkness...and from their corruption Melkor (masterminding) and Ungoliant (more directly) create a new kind: a Darkness that is explicitly more than lack of light, a poisonous, ensnaring non-substance of sheer corruption. This is what a lot of mock-Tolkienian fiction fails to grasp, I think, presenting the Great Bad Dark as simply Light's shadow, effectively demonising one side of a physics equation...Melkor and Ungoliant's Great Bad Dark is what happens when Bad eats Light and starts beaming something else. It's real, solid and terrifying, not a flickering on the wall.

The scribe tantalisingly mentions some (non-existent in RL) texts lamenting the first shock of Tree-loss...and it would be a major trauma to immortals, so much life and beauty gone at once, for the first time. By the time everyone's stopped panicking/stort-circuiting from routine-loss after long adaptation, the villians are long gone in a cloud of Dark.


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