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Topic: Question about Ungoliant

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Gondor Civilian - Rank 1
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Date: Mar 28, 2006
Question about Ungoliant

 I was reading Silmarillion today and got to the part where melkor and Ungoliant attacked Valinor and the trees were killed. I was wondering if Ungoliant was like a spirit or "power" that chose her shape as a spider.. could she exist with no shape like the valar .. or was she stuck as a spider?

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Valar
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These quotes may give a answer to your question, atleast to one of them.



'The Eldar knew not whence she came; but some have said that in ages long before she descented from the darkness that lies about Arda, when Melkor first looked down in envy upon the Kingdom of Manwë, and that in the beginning she was one of those that he corrupted to his service.'Sil, Of the Darkening of Valinor.



'In a ravine she lived, and took shape as a spider of monstrous form weawing her black webs in a cleft of the mountains.'Sil, Of the Darkening of Valinor.



'Of the fate of Ungoliant no tale tells. Yet some have said that she ended long ago, when in her uttermost famine she devoured herself at last.'Sil, Of The Flight of the Noldor.



These quotes are pretty self explatory but to the question could she exist with no shape like valar, i believe that she had made her choice once and that was it. Even Melkor a valar lost his ability and it only seems locigal that if Melkor had that skill but he lost it, his servants didn't had that at all.



'Thereafter the watch was redoubled along the northern fences of Aman; but to no purpose, for ere ever the pursuit set out Melkor had turned back, and in secrecy passed away far to the south. For he was yet as one of the Valar, and could change his form, or walk unclad, as could his brethren; though that power he was soon to lose for ever.' Sil, Of the Darkening of Valinor.



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Anarion, Son of Elendil - rank 8
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Yes indeed, Lord Tulkas is correct.


Like the Balrogs, Ungoliant took her shape and was thereafter bound to it. The Balrogs took there shape as Fire and Shadow encasing there bodies, and if they were slain they could then not assume another form.
I would say the same is true for Ungoliant.



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Royal Guard of Menegroth - Rank 5
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Ungoliant was without a doubt one of the Ainur, and a very powerful one at that. As to whether she was bound to her shape or not, no one knows.

When the Ainur are confined to a form it is very specifically mentioned as with Sauron and Melkor. That is not to say that some did not confine themselves to a form they really liked for whatever reasons.

For what appears to be a long time (First Age or before), Gandalf walked among the Elves as one of them and they didnt know it. There is no explanation for why he chose to appear as an old man in the Third Age, but I am sure he had his reasons.



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Anarion, Son of Elendil - rank 8
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The reasons are known to us Celethil.


The Istari were commanded to assume shapes as of men, some old, some less, but all of shapes that did not emit majesty. Gandalf chose the shape of an old grey man in his grey cladding, probably looking the least important of the Istari from the West, but as we know he turns out to by the most important as Varda knew well. 'Not as the Third' said she to the valar Council in Valinor.



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Royal Guard of Menegroth - Rank 5
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Fair enough. So the Istari were commanded to take the shape of men. So why would you say Balrogs and Ungoliant were bound to their shape, since it is obvious that the Ainur can assume whatever shape they choose or are told to take?


My original point was that she was one of the greater Ainur and as such could choose her shape. She just chose the appearance of a giant spider.

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Witchking of Angmar - Rank 10
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ah well, back to quoting from the good old paperback book:
"In a ravine she lived, and took shape as a spider of monstrous form,..."
So indeed we are told she could change her shape, and we are also not told that she lost that skill, so she could probably do that
Melkor however lost that power as he visited Ungoliant, because as told in the Sil, because ofthe fact he used his powers to corrupt many creatures, he lost some of his power and eventually got stuck as a Dark Lord, tall and terrible.

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Samwise Gamgee - rank 9
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All the evil Ainur seem to lose the power to change shape after they have taken the desired shape to live with. Why did not Ungoliant shape shift into something thrice her size to defeat the Balrogs that advanced on her when she tried to rest the Silmarils from Morgoth?



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Royal Guard of Menegroth - Rank 5
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Actually it appears that Melkor lost his ability to change his form because he invested so much of his power into his works in the world. Sauron lost the ability to assume other forms after having his body destroyed with Numenor AND investing the bulk of his might in the One Ring.

Ungoliant on the other hand did not invest her power in anything except her own greed. So it would seem that the loss of ability to change shape is directly related to the amount of power one of the Ainur expends into the world.

Ungoliant did inspire fear in Melkor, but even she may have had a problem fending off the mightiest of the Ainur AND his Maiar servants.

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Anarion, Son of Elendil - rank 8
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You say that as though Ungoliant was stronger than Melkor. The simple reason Melkor needed the Balrogs is that he was trapped, they were not. It was not nessersarily a fair fight if Ungoliant grabbed him when he was not looking.


And don't forget the only reason Ungoliant was so stong then was becuase she had grown to an enormous size by sucking the life out of the two trees. She was not normally that strong.



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Royal Guard of Menegroth - Rank 5
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All I implied is the same as what is written. Ungoliant did inspire fear in Morgoth. That does not mean that she was more powerful than him.

Fingolfin also inspired fear in Morgoth.

After re-reading the account in the Silmarillion, it does state that Ungoliant had grown great and Melkor was lesser because of the power he had given to her. This still does not imply that she could have bested Melkor, but rather that he did have reason to fear.

-- Edited by Celethil at 20:22, 2006-08-25

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Black Numenorean - Rank 3
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I'm sure that all the maiar and valar had the power to change their body shape at will. But if they invest a lot of their power into something (melkor = arda, sauron = ring etc), then they've lost that power forever, it seems.

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Anarion, Son of Elendil - rank 8
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Yes it seems so.


Also it seems that if they put too much of there power into there own bodies, they can have the same fate. For example Balrogs could change shape when they entered Ea, but we are never after told that they could. The same applies with Ungoliante.



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Black Numenorean - Rank 3
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Of course, just because we're not told that that didn't change their shape, doesn't mean they couldn't. maybe they just prefered that form because but brought out the evilness in them.

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Royal Guard of Menegroth - Rank 5
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I don't know of any example of the Ainur pouring too much of their power into their own bodies and losing the ability to change shape. Rather it would seem that they become fond of a particular shape and choose to use that one primarily.

The balrogs chose their shapes to inspire fear.

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Elf of Beleriand - Rank 2
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I agree that Ungoliant took the shape of a giant spider because it did inspire fear.  I don't think she ever lost the ability to change into other things, but maybe in her mind her form as a spider was the scariest she could think of.  A question I have, if Ungoliant is the formother to Shelob and the spiders of mirkwood, a, would they have any type of ability to change form, i think probably not, and b, if Ungoliant did change form into something else, would the spiders of then been of the same shape as the new form that she took?



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Tom Bombadil
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I don't think so Turgolfin. you cannot breed a spider out of say, the Watcher in the Water. They may both breed I guess, but it would have to be the offspring of what they were at the time. Can't make apples out of oranges. As to shifting shapes, I don't think the offspring could. Especially if the "Parent" had continued to be corrupted further by You know who.

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Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
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I like to imagine that somewhere out there in the Mythoverse, the mythologies of Tolkien and Lovecraft intersect. I think there were other things in the great Outer Dark than Eru and the Ainur at the beginning, and some of these things were attracted to Arda when it was made. After all, "the world is gnawed by nameless things, and Sauron [or really anyone] knows them not." I believe Ungoliant was one of these spirits of the Outer Dark who made her home on Arda, and assumed the spider's form. For the record, I think Tom Bombadil was also one of them, arriving at Arda completely independently of Eru. It's just that Tom Bom and Ungoliant had different views of the world. Ungoliant was a greedy, evil b****, and Tom delighted in the world for what it was.

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Tom Bombadil
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I am sorry Samnite, but I am not familiar with Lovecraft. And I think it it too easy to dismiss Tom Bombadil out of hand as one of those things. It is too delicious to dig and find out for oneself, then give a ready made opinion, no offense.

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Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
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H.P. Lovecraft was a horror/fantasy writer who lived and wrote in the 1920's. He was a contemporary of Tolkien (albeit on the US side of the Atlantic) who wrote about the beings who lived in the Outer Darks, the Uttermost Void, and longed for dominion over life on Earth. He wrote about sightless beings of chaos and darkness that gnawed the earth and hid beyond the farthest stars. Not all of his Outer Gods were evil, however. There was at least one class of them who were inclined to help us hapless humans out on occasion. Lovecraft was a fierce letter-writer, having hundreds of correspondents across the globe. It's not entirely out of the question that Tolkien could have occasionally been one of them.

Also, I'm really not sure why you feel as though I'm dismissing Tom Bombadil out of hand. I'm merely proposing a speculative possibility, and noting thematic elements which coincide between two extremely influential fantasy writers who developed massive cult followings.

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Soldier of Beleriand - Rank 3
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Samnite, first of all welcome to the boards. Regarding the previous post, I would not say that any creature arrived in Arda 'independently of Eru'. That they arrived independently of the Ainur is another matter altogether, but nothing can escape the knowledge of Iluvatar (being in fact just a name Tolkien gave to the real God which he firmly believed in.)

Ungoliant being of the Maiar is a slim possibility, as you point out yourself. Though it would be tempting to put her (and for that matter, Tom Bombadil) in that category so as to level out the apparent inconsistencies in Tolkien's legendarium, it is more probable that there were indeed spirits which had not been in the music, and which Eru had created for other purposes, and Ungoliant was among them.

Also in favour of this is the fact that Ungoliant became so strong that even Melkor was afraid of her; and I don't see how the most powerful Vala could be afraid of a lesser Maia spirit; but he could well be afraid of a power different than him, which he did not fully understand himself!

Anyway, that's just an opinion, but in effect there is nothing written by Tolkien himself to settle this debate, so it is just a matter of educated guesses after all.

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Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
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That's fair enough, John. Thank you for the reply. As for my flight of fancy re: Tolkien's/Lovecraft's legendarium, hey, what can I say? I'm subject to 'em. :D

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Tower Guard of Minas Tirith - Rank 4
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i agree completly with john wain here. it seems that Ungoliant and Tom were as different as could be yet of the same origins in a way

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Samwise Gamgee - rank 9
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John Wain wrote:
Also in favour of this is the fact that Ungoliant became so strong that even Melkor was afraid of her; and I don't see how the most powerful Vala could be afraid of a lesser Maia spirit; but he could well be afraid of a power different than him, which he did not fully understand himself! 

Well Melkor had alot taken out of him after slaying the trees. He had at that time just become bound to physical form. Perhaps his journey back to Middle-earth from Valinor with Ungoliant was the first ever time he had done so in a physical form (not sure if there is anything that indicates he did so previously). On top of that there may be additional 'power sappage' by the very act of slaying the trees.

Ungoliant on the other hand - who if indeed was a spirit of the Ainur must have been a strong one not some lesser Maiar - had just sucked up some serious magic juice.

Let us also not forget that hand-to-hand combat was not a strong point of Melkor's. He failed against Tulkas, struggled a bit against Fingolfin and could not (neither could anyone else) beat Eonwe in battle with arms. No doubt the inability to simply shape-shift and disappear when Ungoliant grabbed him was a bitter blow.



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Tower Guard of Minas Tirith - Rank 4
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That's a great point. I've never really thought of melkor as weak in the hand-to-hand combat area but all of his battles and challenges shows just that. And ungoliant being more powerful then ever was far more then he could handle. Hence him sumoning the balrogs to his aid

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But no wizardry nor spell, neither fang nor venom,nor devil's art nor beast-strength, could overthrow Huan of Valinor;
Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
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In regards to Ungoliant, i have a theory that she probably started out as a Maiar of Vaire, The Weaver of the Valar. whats you think?   



-- Edited by azaghal on Monday 17th of September 2012 02:25:16 AM

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King Azaghal was I, Lord of Belegost.

Fought the father of dragons at great cost,

During the Battle of Unnumbered Tears,

Nearly killed the Great Worm of our fears,

I Stabbed my knife into Dread Glaurung,

Could be worse, I could be dragon dung.

 

Guard of Armenelos - Rank 4
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That certainly makes sense...

I have a small theory to add: I think that Ungoliant was born of Melkor's intentions as he viewed Arda and coveted it. His ill will gave birth to many things like the thought of many of the other Valar gave birth to things unintended. I have a feeling Tom Bombadil or even the Ents were some of these bi-products of the Valar's feelings toward the wonder that was their song taking shape as the world of Ea. Just saying.

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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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Jaidoprism7,
    A very interesting theory!
    It fits with Eru's song in the creation of Arda and the themes and counter themes of the various Ainur/Valar as Melkor's disharmonic counterpoints were sung.
    It seems to fill in the gaps and has supportive material in The Silmarillion. 
Examples ~ Ainulindale (The Music of the Ainur) and the Valaquenta (The Account of the Valar and Maiar according to the lore of the Eldar).

    Tom Bombadil and the Ents do fit in that same hypothesis and in the Ents case a clear creation of Yavanna's to counter the ecological destructiveness of Aule.

    Yes indeed!
    Jaidoprism7,
my friend, a theory worth exploring.
    Well done!
    It triggers a question rolling around in my head; "Were the Maia creations of Eru, created to serve the Valar, as the counterpoint to Melkor's constructions and manipulations?"

    Ungoliant seems to have more webs spun around her than in the book!



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Guard of Armenelos - Rank 4
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"Were the Maia creations of Eru, created to serve the Valar, as the counterpoint to Melkor's constructions and manipulations?"

I've never considered the notion until now! That's something worth digging around for...


I see your "Well done" and raise you one!



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Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
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post deleted as per request



-- Edited by azaghal on Saturday 22nd of September 2012 03:34:56 AM

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King Azaghal was I, Lord of Belegost.

Fought the father of dragons at great cost,

During the Battle of Unnumbered Tears,

Nearly killed the Great Worm of our fears,

I Stabbed my knife into Dread Glaurung,

Could be worse, I could be dragon dung.

 

Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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Date: Sep 18, 2012

azaghal,

I like your reasoning and your supportive evidence about Tom.

I will explore these points and let myself wander through the other stories about Tom.

Nice work ... and thanks for triggering a new theme to explore.

Bear

PS:  Welcome to the Tolkien Forums ...

If I can help in anyway please don't hesitate ...



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Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
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Thank you Bear, makes me feel pretty good about contributing something that gives others thought. I have held this thought/belief for a few years now, but have no-one to share/discuss with until i found the Tolkien Forums.

I also think that Ungoliant may have been a Maiar of Vaire the Weaver of the Valar.

Glad to "meet" you, i look forward to dicussing or debating more in the future! your new friend- Eric

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King Azaghal was I, Lord of Belegost.

Fought the father of dragons at great cost,

During the Battle of Unnumbered Tears,

Nearly killed the Great Worm of our fears,

I Stabbed my knife into Dread Glaurung,

Could be worse, I could be dragon dung.

 

Tom Bombadil
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Date: Sep 22, 2012

Azaghal, could you please move this to the Tom Bombadil Thread? Tis would be good information for that thread.



-- Edited by ArwenLegolas on Saturday 22nd of September 2012 01:40:07 AM

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Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow!
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Guard of Armenelos - Rank 4
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Since we have all spoken of Ungoliant last, a few other things have come to light, as they say.

Ungoliant was said to have descended from the void as if She indeed had the power to enter into Arda as she wished. This seems to make her more than just a Maiar. But we all know that nothing can be created that didn't have its utmost beginnings in Eru Illuvatar. So she would have to be part of the design.

I think this supports the theory that Ungoliant was created in the music. Since Melkor's thought was ever upon the void (because that is where he thought the Imperishable Flame was) his malice and insatiable lust for the Flame Imperishable was incarnated as Ungoliant.

Mind you all, that this is merely my wayward opinion but makes most sense to me in vein of the mythos at hand.

Any more thoughts on this? Or clearer evidence to support or discredit?



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Haldir of Lorien - Rank 6
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Sounds reasonable.

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Thorin Oakenshield - Rank 6
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Jaidoprism7 wrote:

Since we have all spoken of Ungoliant last, a few other things have come to light, as they say.

Ungoliant was said to have descended from the void as if She indeed had the power to enter into Arda as she wished. This seems to make her more than just a Maiar. But we all know that nothing can be created that didn't have its utmost beginnings in Eru Illuvatar. So she would have to be part of the design.

I think this supports the theory that Ungoliant was created in the music. Since Melkor's thought was ever upon the void (because that is where he thought the Imperishable Flame was) his malice and insatiable lust for the Flame Imperishable was incarnated as Ungoliant.

Mind you all, that this is merely my wayward opinion but makes most sense to me in vein of the mythos at hand.

Any more thoughts on this? Or clearer evidence to support or discredit?


 

The only potential issue with this theory is that Ungoliant did not seem to show much subservience to Melkor. At least not when he went with her to destroy the Two Trees.

 

Also, Ungoliant has a life and will of her own. Isn't only Eru capable of creating such a thing? The Dwarves Aule created were only given free will by Eru.



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Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
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I wonder if this reference, dealing with the nature of Evil (and primarily getting at the origin of Orcs) may apply to the origin of Ungoliant as well? This is from Text VII, Myths Transformed, Morgoth's Ring:

"Out of the discords of the Music - sc. not directly out of either of the themes, Eru's or Melkor's, but of their dissonance with regard to one another - evil things appeared in Arda, which did not descend from any direct plan or vision of Melkor: they were not 'his children'; and therefore, since all evil hates, hated him too. The progeniture of things was corrupted."

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Lórellinë

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Bilbo Baggins and Lorelline,

I think you two have completely nailed it. This would explain a lot of why Ungoliant acted so powerfully against Melkor.

One of my favorite scenes in the Sil is when Melkor finds the tables turned and Ungoliant becomes the dominate one and ensnares Melkor. His terrible cry haunts the hills from that moment on...which I find to be the kind of "origins of terror" that make up great storytelling.

Ungoliant became more powerful as a result of drinking of the light of the trees.... more powerful than Melkor himself....So what category does this put Ungoliant in? I don't think I've ever known that one. Is she Maia? One that can withstand or absorb a power like the trees themselves and live?

Is she of the same Ilk as Tom Bombadil and Treebeard?

I feel like I should know this stuff....haha.....Tolkien 101.

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Thorin Oakenshield - Rank 6
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Lorelline wrote:

I wonder if this reference, dealing with the nature of Evil (and primarily getting at the origin of Orcs) may apply to the origin of Ungoliant as well? This is from Text VII, Myths Transformed, Morgoth's Ring:

"Out of the discords of the Music - sc. not directly out of either of the themes, Eru's or Melkor's, but of their dissonance with regard to one another - evil things appeared in Arda, which did not descend from any direct plan or vision of Melkor: they were not 'his children'; and therefore, since all evil hates, hated him too. The progeniture of things was corrupted."


 

This is an excellent quote which I haven't seen before. It does seem to provide an explanation for Ungoliant that by-passes the objections alternative theories have raised.

 

However, it also opens the door to another question: could this explain the coveted and mysterious origins of Tom Bombadil? Obviously he's not evil but could neutral things also manifest from the same process?



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Guard of Armenelos - Rank 4
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Bilbo,
I think you are definitely on to something there. The music was a mixture of Melkor's will and the other's music as well. So therein many different things and combinations could have found their way into being.

Very cool.

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