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The Silmarillion

Ainulindalë and Valaquenta The first section of The Silmarillion, Ainulindalë, takes the form of a primary creation myth. Ilúvatar ("Father of All") created the Ainur before anything else, a group of eternal spirits or demiurges, called "the offspring of his thought". Ilúvatar then brought the Ainur together, and showed them a theme, from which he bade the Ainur to make a great music. Melkor—whom Ilúvatar had given the "greatest power and knowledge" of all the Ainur—broke from the harmony of the music to develop his own song. This caused discord and division as some Ainur joined him, while others continued to follow Ilúvatar. The music then stopped, and Ilúvatar showed them all a vision of Arda and its peoples. After a while, the vision disappeared, but Ilúvatar, seeing the desires of the Ainur, brought the vision into being.

Many of the Ainur descended, taking physical form and becoming bound to the new world. The greater Ainur became known as Valar, while the lesser Ainur were called Maiar. The Valar attempted to prepare the world for the coming inhabitants (Elves and Men), while Melkor, who wanted Arda for himself, repeatedly destroyed their work, until, slowly, through waves of destruction and creation, the world took shape.

Valaquenta describes Melkor and each of the fourteen Valar in detail, as well as a few of the Maiar. It also tells how Melkor seduced many Maiar—including Sauron and the Balrogs—into his service. Quenta Silmarillion Quenta Silmarillion, which makes up the bulk of the book, is a series of interconnected tales set in the First Age making up the tragic saga of the three magical jewels, the Silmarils. The Valar had attempted to fashion the world for Elves and Men, but Melkor continually destroyed their handiwork, so they removed to Aman, a continent to the west of Middle-earth. When the Elves awoke, the Valar decided to fight Melkor to keep them safe. They defeated and captured Melkor, and invited the Elves to come to Aman. Many Elves journeyed to Aman, but some did not attempt the journey, and others left along the way. While in Aman, an Elf named Fëanor created the Silmarils, jewels which contained the light of the Two Trees of Valinor, the source of light for Aman. Melkor, having been released after seeming to repent, stole the Silmarils, killed Fëanor's father, and destroyed the Two Trees. Fëanor and his sons swore an oath of revenge against Melkor and anyone who kept a Silmaril from them, and led many of his kin to Middle-earth, where Melkor had fled, killing other Elves for their ships.

When Melkor arrived in Middle-earth, he attacked the Elvish kingdom of Doriath, but was defeated. This battle was the first of five battles between Melkor and the Elves, aided at times by Men and Dwarves. This conflict came to be known as the War of the Jewels. Soon, the Noldor arrived in Middle-earth and attacked Melkor, and though Fëanor was slain, they were victorious. After a peace, Melkor again attacked the Noldor, but was defeated and besieged. Nearly four hundred years later, Melkor broke the siege and drove the Noldor back. A man named Beren survived the battle and wandered to Doriath, where he fell in love with Lúthien, the daughter of the king. The king would only allow their marriage if Beren gave him a Silmaril for a dowry. Together, Beren and Lúthien stole into Melkor's fortress and stole a Silmaril, which Beren gave to the king. The Noldor, seeing that Melkor was not invincible, decided to attack again, but were utterly defeated. All of the Elvish kingdoms fell, until one Elf, using the light of the Silmaril Beren retrieved, travelled across the sea to Aman to ask the Valar for help. The Valar agreed; they attacked and defeated Melkor, completely destroying his fortress and sinking Beleriand, and expelled him from Arda. Akallabêth This short section, comprising about thirty pages, recounts the rise and fall of the island kingdom of Númenor, which the Valar granted to the three loyal houses of Men who had aided the Elves in the war against Melkor. Their tragic fate is brought about in large measure by the influence of the evil Maia Sauron (formerly the chief servant of Melkor), who had arisen during the Second Age and tried to take over Middle-earth. The Númenóreans moved against Sauron, who, seeing that he could not defeat the Númenóreans with force, allowed himself to be taken prisoner to Númenor, where he quickly seduced the king, Ar-Pharazôn, led the Númenóreans into worshipping his former master, and urged them to wage war on the Valar themselves. Ar-Pharazôn created a fleet and sailed to Aman, but some Númenóreans remained loyal to the Valar and fled to Middle-earth. The Second Age ended with the destruction of Ar-Pharazôn's fleet and Númenor by Ilúvatar, in punishment for their rebellion against the rightful rule of the Valar. Sauron, however, escaped and returned to Middle-earth. Of The Rings of Power and the Third Age The concluding section of the book, comprising about twenty pages, describes the events that take place in Middle-earth after the fall of Melkor and the end of the First Age. It tells of the emergence of the Dark Lord Sauron, the forging of the Rings of Power, and the battles between the peoples of Middle-earth and Sauron, culminating in the War of the Last Alliance, in which Elves and the remaining Númenóreans united to defeat Sauron, after which the One Ring passed to Isildur. This section also gives a brief overview of the events leading up to and taking place in The Lord of the Rings, including the waning of Gondor, the re-emergence of Sauron, the White Council, and Sauron's final destruction along with the One Ring.

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