|“||I am the Elder King: Melkor, first and mightiest of all the Valar, who was before the world and made it. The shadow of my purpose lies upon Arda, and all that is in it bends slowly and surely to my will.||„|
|~ Morgoth to Hurin, The Words of Hurin and Morgoth|
|“||And he descended upon Arda in power and majesty greater than any other of the Valar, as a mountain that invades in the sea and has its head above the clouds and is clad in ice and crowned with smoke and fire; and the light of the eyes of Melkor was like a flame that withers with heat and pierces with a deadly cold.||„|
|~ The Silmarillion on Morgoth's coming to Arda.|
|“||....hatred devoured him, and in the domination of his servants and the inspiring of them with lust of evil he spent his spirit.||„|
|~ The Silmarillion (on Morgoth).|
Morgoth, originally named Melkor, is the main antagonist of the Arda universe of J.R.R. Tolkien, which is mainly focused on Middle-earth. He is the primary antagonist of the novel The Silmarillion, the secondary antagonist and bigger bad of The Children of Húrin, the master and predecessor of Sauron, and the in-turn eponymous primary antagonist of The History of Middle-Earth. Being the first Dark Lord and the master of Sauron, Morgoth is the de-facto ultimate evil of the whole Earth, known as Arda, and the main antagonist of the Middle-Earth Legendarium.
Once part of the Valar (Archangels), Melkor became the first Dark Lord who was named Morgoth Bauglir in Beleriand and Middle-earth. He became greedy and hungry for Light, but seeing it was inaccessible to him, he turned to Dark, coveting it and, by seducing many angels and corrupting them for his course, he filled Dark with a fear for all future life. Melkor marred the Great Music of the air with his selfish and materialistic ambitions and inspired fear and corruption amongst his brothers and sisters. Eventually, Eru Ilúvatar (equivalent to God) rebuked Melkor for his pride, and reminded him that pride was his weakness. Ashamed, Melkor withdrew, but when Iluvatar showed the Valar His new creation: Arda (Earth), Melkor longed to possess it. He gained a foothold on Earth's newly created surface and fell into battle with his brethren, which lasted all through Earth's early history. Eventually Melkor claimed Kingship over Earth and declared himself god of the realm, but it took the combined efforts of Elves, humans, Valar, and all the Free Peoples of the world to defeat him. The Valar captured him and thrust him through the Door of Night bound in a great chain, Angainor.
Amongst the Maiar (angels) that Melkor corrupted was Sauron, who was the greatest Maiar that has been created. Sauron became most like Melkor in corruption. Melkor handed some of his powers to Sauron to corrupt and govern Earth, but Sauron was not defeated until some 3,500 years after Melkor's defeat. Melkor's lies and illusions live on in the souls of humans and Elves, who have inherited the world, and takes shape in men as the fear of death. Death began as a gift to humans from Ilúvatar, allowing them to seperate from the world and go to astral parts unknown (possibly Eru's original inhabitance, where the Valar dwelt before coming to Valinor as Ainur), which elves cannot do, as they are bound to it eternally. He warped this gift to be perceived as a curse and an insult, as if immortality had been stolen from Men. Sauron later uses this to his advantage on the Black Númenóreans.
In the Beginning
Melkor was, in the beginning, an Ainur created by Eru in the Timeless Halls. He was brother to Manwe, the future ruler of Arda. Of all the Ainur, Melkor was gifted with the greatest power and knowledge and had a share in all of the gifts given to his fellow Ainur by Eru.
Desiring to create great things of his own and knowing of but not understanding the Flame Imperishable, Melkor often went forth into the Great Void outside of the Timeless Halls in search of this flame. His quest was vain for he found not the Flame Imperishable for it lies with Eru alone. Afterwards, Melkor grew ever more impatient of the unclear designs of Eru, and was often alone and apart from his fellow Ainur. It was during this lonesome period that Melkor began to have ideas and designs of his own that were not in accordance with his fellow Ainur.
When the Ainur sung the Great Music before Eru, Melkor attempted to take it over and wove into it his own chords of vanity. This brought great discord to the once harmonious Music and each time Eru sounded the beginning of a new theme, Melkor would once again interfere with it. Soon the Music was marred and there was no longer any unity or harmony, but a sea of chaos, turbulence, and confusion before the throne of Eru. Then Eru arose with great might and the Music ceased. He spoke to Melkor saying that although he is mightiest amongst the Ainur, he could not create or play a theme, which does not first come from Eru, nor can the Music be altered. Full of shame Melkor secretly harbored great anger and thus began his rebellion.
Before the Two Trees
During the creation and shaping of Arda, Melkor thwarted the efforts of the other Valar, marring the world, and while the Valar started to build their kingdom of Almaren Melkor corrupted many of the Ainur First, he dwelt in The Void outside Ea at the beginning of the World, but he later built a new underground fortress in the north of Middle-earth. Naming it Utumno, he built it behind the Iron Mountains (Ered Engrin) in the far north of Beleriand.
From Utumno, Morgoth waged five massive wars against the Valar, flattened Almaren, and destroyed the Great Lamps. It is likely that in this time Melkor delved his second, lesser fortress of Angband in the west, as a defense from the other Valar should they attack. Angband was delved into the Iron Mountains, and was given to Sauron to command. While the Valar were unsure where the Children of Iluvatar would awake, they were reluctant to wage war against Melkor, fearing the clash of powers might result in massive collateral damage. It is in this time that Melkor discovered the Elves first, captured many of them, and transformed them by torture and other foul craft into Orc.
Before the Sun and Moon
When it was discovered by the Vala Orome where the elves were, the Valar took immediate action against Melkor. Both Angband and Utumno were razed, and Melkor brought back in chains. However, many of Melkor's servants (including Sauron and the Balrogs) were not found, since in their haste the Valar did not wholly destroy Angband.
During the War of Powers, Melkor had been captured and chained, and for some years Middle-earth was allowed to prosper. At last Melkor was brought before the Valar to be judged. To the Valar he seemed to have changed and mellowed such that Manwe, Lord of the Valar, ordered his chains removed. Nevertheless, they were all deceived, and Melkor continued to wage war against them, destroying the Trees of the Valar with his ally Ungoliant (the first Great Spider of Middle-earth) and stealing the gemstones known as the Silmarils.
After this point, Fëanor titled him Morgoth, meaning Dark Enemy in Sindarin. The name Melkor was never spoken again. Occasionally people referred to him as Belegurth, The Great Death, a perversion of Belegur, the Sindarin form of Melkor.
Upon fleeing back to Middle-earth, he rebuilt Angband as his center of operations, and reared the tallest mountains to have ever been in Middle-earth, the Thangorodrim, over its gate. Thangorodrim was adorned with walls and gates, and functioned as a guardian fortress to Angband proper, which was underground.
First Age of the Sun
Another war began, the War of Great Jewels, in which the Noldor waged a long and ultimately hopeless war against Morgoth for the recovery of the Silmarils. This war lasted through the whole of the First Age of the Sun. Finally, in the War of Wrath, Angband was destroyed and, though Morgoth tried to call up more and more beasts of the shadows to aid him, he was eventually defeated by the mighty Host of Valinor. He was then bound as he was before, cast through Door of Night, and sent into the Void by the Valar.
In later writings of Tolkien's, it becomes apparent that Melkor was not merely bound, but unhoused, after his final capture, being "beheaded" and thus "killed", that is, the body to which he had become so bound was destroyed, after which execution his spirit, still bound with the enchanted chain Angainor, was cast out through the Doors of Night. His "will" is spoken of as an active force in the world, tempting and urging in thought, and sometimes in phantom manifestation; and it is foretold that at the end of the world, his old strength will come back to him, that he will overcome the guard upon the Door, and reenter Arda. This will initiate the Final Battle and the Day of Doom, the Dagor Dagorath
Early accounts of this battle have him being slain by Turin Tumbar who will run his black sword Gurthang, 'Iron of Death,' through him. This however does not appear in later versions of The Silmarillion; and indeed is inconsistent with the above late conception, unless Melkor re-incarnates himself after entering Arda, as he already has been slain by the Valar like a common criminal.
The Cursing of Húrin
Morgoth is also well known for the imprisonment of Húrin of the House of Hador during the Nirnaeth Arnoediad (Battle of Unnumbered Tears). In the last hours of the battle Húrin and his kin defended Turgon, for he was the last heir to the throne of Gondolin and of Fingolfin after his brother, Fingon, fell in battle. Turgon narrowly escaped the clutches of the host of orcs due to the valor of Húrin and Huor and their men.
Unfortunately, all but Húrin fell after the onslaught of Morgoth's forces. After slaying 70 trolls, Húrin was bound by Gothmog with his flaming whip and, thus, sent him to Angband. There, after a nightmare of chained torment in Thangorodrim's chambers, Húrin still defied Morgoth Bauglir and refused to tell him where Gondolin lay. Thus, Morgoth sent Húrin to the top of Haudh-en-Nirnaeth and cast a mighty curse on Húrin and his family and told him that his Shadow would be with them wherever they went, and his hate would pursue Húrin's family to the end. Melkor threatened Húrin that all Húrin loved would be rendered extinct with Melkor's evil thoughts, and wherever they went, evil would transpire.
And so Húrin stayed was chained atop Thangorodrim, forever watching his homelands fall under the shadow of Morgoth until he releases him. Túrin, who was valiant and powerful, nearly escaped the curse, as feared by Morgoth, but could not leave it. He and his sister perished. Thus, the curse of Morgoth on the Children of Húrin was fulfilled.
Fall of Gondolin
Though he was unable to force Húrin to reveal the location of the last great Elven kingdom, Morgoth eventually captured Maeglin, sister-son of Turgon, the King of Gondolin. Threatened with unimaginable torment, Maeglin offered the secrets of Gondolin's defenses in exchange for his own well-being. Additionally, he made a promise to kill Tour personally, and was given permission by Morgoth to take Idril for himself. With the promise of having Idril, Maeglin became one of Morgoth's servants willingly, and Morgoth sent him back to Gondolin to aid the invasion from within when the time came.
Soon after, Morgoth assailed Gondolin, the last great realm of the Noldor and, with a vastly superior force and Maeglin's treacherous information, the city was beleaguered without hope and quickly fell.
With the sacking of Gondolin and the defeat of the Noldor and their allies, Morgoth's triumph was complete. The great kingdoms of the Elves had all fallen, save for the Havens of Cirdan and the survivors of the Mouth of Sirion, and these were ruled by Earendil; and Morgoth esteemed them as nothing. He even came to care nothing for the Silmaril that had been taken from him, and laughed when he saw the last and the most cruel Kinslaying when the Sons of Feanor destroyed the dwelling at Arvernien.
However, Morgoth's triumph was short-lived. Due to the plea actions of Earendil, the Valar were persuaded once again to take up arms against Morgoth's tyranny. Morgoth himself did not expect that the Valar would ever respect the Noldor's wishes after the terrible sins that they committed, and did not forsee the assault from Aman. But the Valar took pity on the Noldor, and a great battle began between Morgoth and the Host of Valinor. Morgoth emptied all of Angband, and his devices and engines and army of slaves were so various and powerful the fighting spilled across all of Beleriand.
In the end, Morgoth's forces were utterly defeated. The Balrogs were destroyed (save some few that fled and hid themselves in caverns at the very roots of the Earth), and most of the Orcs were slaughtered. Then, Morgoth quailed, and dared not come forth himself, but he had one last weapon at his command: the monstrous Winged Dragons. From out of the pits of Angband they issued, and so sudden and ruinous of their attack, with great power and a tempest of fire, they drove back the host of the Valar. But then Earendil came with Vingilot, accompanied by Thorondor and all the great birds, and Earendil slew Ancalagon the Black, whose great bulk fell upon the volcanoes of Thrangorodrim, destroying them in his ruin.
Morgoth, utterly defeated, stood at bay, and was yet unvaliant. He fled into the deepest of his mines and sued for peace and pardon, but the Valar came and hewned his feet from under him, and cast Morgoth on the face. They bound him with the chain Angainor, beat the Iron Crown into a collar for his neck, and thrust him through the Door of Night into the Timeless Void.
Legacy and Prophesied Return
Melkor's lies, sowed in the hearts of Elves and Men, were a seed that did not die and could not be destroyed, but ever and anon sprouted anew, and bore dark fruit ever after.
According to material in some of Tolkien's writings complied (but not published) by his son, in the last days, Melkor will learn how to break the Door of the Night and re-enter the World. He will destroy the Sun and Moon, plunge the world into Darkness, and raise his great armies of evil to battle all good in Dagor Dagorath, the Battle of Battles. Tulkas will fight Morgoth and wrestle him to the ground, and Túrin Turambar will ram his Black Sword through Morgoth's heart, killing him once and for all. Morgoth's armies shall all die, ending Dagor Dagorath, resulting in the Second Music of the Ainur which will create a new world. Nothing is known of the Second Music, except that it will be greater than the First.
However, the published Silmarillion does not include this information, and instead asserts that, if the Valar know how the end of Arda will present itself, they have not revealed it.
Appearance and Personality
Melkor, when he first came to Earth, took the form of a gigantic, ice-white humanoid deity, filled with flames. This form was terrifying, it was the size of a giant mountain, with his head just touching the uppermost clouds. This projected his arrogance, greed for power and hatred of his Valarian siblings on the early Earth and severely damaged the world with its mere presence alone. The more time Morgoth spent in the world, the more his dark will leak into it, and corrupt what his Father Eru had originally designed. As time went on, he became manifested as the Dark Lord when his shapeshifting abilities were stripped from him from all the evil he was committing. As the Dark Lord, he was superhumanly tall, approximately five hundred feet, "like a tower," and covered in dark storm clouds and a dark powerful aura which humbled all who saw him. He wore an Iron Crown at all times, as his means of others identifying him with kingship of the world, and he placed the Silmarils in his crown when he had stolen them.
He was a very standoffish, intimidating, and unapproachable opponent, because of his being in the presence of God had given him almost godlike powers. But he was a skilled, influential, and manipulative politician and could charm his enemies, as he tried to do with Hurin when he captured him. When seen as Melkor, he was perceived as resplendent, majestic, and noble, even by his enemies, but when he became Morgoth, he became a giant looming threat which was feared by even the noblest warriors on Earth. Literally only five people on Earth ever challenged him: Fingolfin, Beren and Luthien, Hurin, and also Earendil. This clearly shows his formidable might, with Fingolfin being the only one to ever enter into a duel with him. Although Morgoth won the duel, Fingolfin gave him seven wounds, which clearly shows Morgoth's power, (albeit diminished due to his evils) because if a skilled Elf swordsman could only give Morgoth seven wounds then he was clearly impressive, resilient, powerful, and durable.
Unlike the other Valar, Morgoth knew fear and pain. This was most likely a punishment given to him because of his heinous crimes. He could feel the pain of the Silmarils, and also the wounds given him by Thorondor the eagle and Fingolfin scarred him forever and caused him a burning pain. Luthien commented that Morgoth's life was a "burden" and she rid him of this "burden" for awhile by putting him into sleep.
Morgoth was also arrogant, as he loved challenging people and reducing their wills to dust. He prided himself on his immense powers, giant size and intelligence, and knew that he would most likely come off better in any duel. However, these tables got turned in his epic downfall.
Morgoth may rank as one of the most evil, terrifying and powerful antagonists in fiction, because he was almost successful in his goals, and it literally took everyone's will to defeat him.
Servants of Morgoth
Allies and Armies
Victims of Morgoth
A few notable members of those Morgoth has killed, either if he directly killed them or is responsible for them perishing.
|“||But upon all whom you love my thought shall weigh as a cloud of Doom, and it shall bring them down into darkness and despair. Wherever they go, evil shall arise. Whenever they speak, their words shall bring ill counsel. Whatsoever they do shall turn against them. They shall die without hope, cursing both life and death.||„|
|~ Morgoth to Hurin.|
|“||Behold! The shadow of my thought shall lie upon them wherever they go, and my hate shall pursue them to the ends of the world.||„|
|“||Fool, little among Men, and they are the least of all that speak! Have you seen the Valar, or measured the power of Manwë and Varda? Do you know the reach of their thought? Or do you think, perhaps, that their thought is upon you, and that they may shield you from afar?||„|
|~ Morgoth to Hurin.|
|“||What wouldst thou have more? Dost thou desire all the world for thy belly? I did not vow to give thee that. I am its Lord.||„|
|~ Morgoth to Ungoliant.|
|“||Nay! Thou hast thy due. For with my power that I put into thee thy work was accomplished. I need thee no more. These things thou shall not have, nor see. I name them unto myself forever.||„|
|~ Morgoth refuses to give Ungoliant the Silmarils.|
- Morgoth is known for having similarities with Lucifer, who later became Satan. Both Melkor and Lucifer were angle-like beings who rebelled against a Godly figure, both were renamed after their atrocities and both are the highest authority of evil in their respected realm. Additionally, Melkor means "He Who Arises in Might." This has parallels with Lucifer, the Morningstar and the Light Bringer, in its majestic sense. Morgoth means the Black Foe of the World, given to him by Feanor, after Melkor had killed Feanor's father. Feanor created the Silmarils and thus desired vengeance.
- While not appearing in the film series, (most likely because he no longer existed in the world at the time of said series because of his banishment to the Void in the War of Wrath in The Silmarillion) Morgoth's most powerful servants such as Sauron still thrive, and Morgoth was mentioned in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers as when Gandalf speaks of his battle with the Balrog, he refers to it as "The Balrog of Morgoth". He was also mentioned in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies when Galadriel calls Sauron "Servant of Morgoth".
- Ironically, Morgoth was not even mentioned in the novel of The Hobbit, because by that time Tolkien had not yet conceived his mighty mythology, and he had only begun to create the barest aspects.
- Morgoth appears in his earliest incarnation in the novels Unfinished Tales which compare the earliest scripture of Lord of the Rings with the final version. In this version, Morgoth is named Melko instead of Melkor, and is either another name for him or an epithet of Melkor itself.
- Because the Valar and the Maiar, (although not deities - they are Archangels and angels that have been elevated to godlike status by humans who didn't know better) are very similar to the Greek pantheon, the Olympians, in their characters, (Mandos being Hades, Manwe being Zeus, etc) its very possible that Morgoth is originally based off the story of Atlas the Titan - said to be the largest man in the world, so tall he reached the upper clouds - and who was condemned to wear the burden of the heavens and earth forever due to his role against the gods in the Titanomachy conflict. Atlas does bear certain similarities to Morgoth -
- Both have immense sizes.
- Both have great strength.
- Both are involved with the Sun and Moon - Morgoth desires to destroy them, (although initially he wanted to seduce the Sun to his side and corrupt the Moon) and Atlas is forced to hold them up forever
- Both are very deceptive - Atlas fools Hercules into holding the heavens, then has the cheek not to go back on his word, Atlas states he'll let Hercules go on in his place holding up the heavens forever. Needless to say, Hercules is infuriated and devises a very cunning plan to outwit Atlas.
- Both are against God, or at least the head deity of their respective enemy pantheon - Atlas is against Zeus, and Morgoth is against Eru.
- Sauron is said by Tolkien to have been certainly more successful than Morgoth, given that Sauron was far more cunning, and possessed shape shifting and deception to fool others. Morgoth is compared to Sauron by Tolkien because the whole Earth was "Morgoth's Ring." However, Morgoth is much more powerful, and majestic, than Sauron, and is not to be overlooked or taken lightly.