This is dealt with in depth on the page First and Last Things. Dwarves:
The Dwarves are an exception in the Divine Plan. They are in fact not part of the children of Iluvatar. They come about through the disobedience of one of the Valar: Aule.
Aule fashions the dwarves in secret wishing to create creatures of his own. Eru knows of this act the instant is it done. He says to Aule:
"Why hast thy done this? Why dost thou attempt a thing which is beyond thy power and authority? For thou hast from me as a gift thy own being only, and no more; and therefore the creatures of thy hand and mind can live only by that being, moving when thou thinkest to move them, and if they though be elsewhere, standing idle. Is that thy desire?" [Sil p.37]
"God spoke to him in anger but not without pity: for Aule had done this thing not out of evil desire to have slaves and subjects of his own, but out of impatient love, desiring children to talk to and teach, sharing with them the praise of Iluvatar..." [Letters p.287]
"The One rebuked Aule, saying that he had tried to usurp the Creator's power; but he could not give independant life to his makings. He had only one life, his own derived from the One, and could at most only distribute it... Eru says 'this is a mockery of me'." [Letters p.287]
"I did not desire such lordship. I desired things other than I am to love and to teach them, so that they too might perceive the beauty of Ea, which thou hast caused to be... As a child to his father, I offer to thee these things, the work of thy hands which thou hast made. Do with them what thou wilt." [Sil p.38]
"Then Aule in grief and repentance humbled himself and asked for pardon." [Letters p.287]
Aule then raises a hammer to crush his dwarven children.
"But Iluvatar had compassion upon Aule and his desire, because of his humility... Thy offer I accepted even as it was made ... Dost thou not see that these things have life of their own and speak with their own voices."
"May Eru bless my work and amend it!" [Sil p.38] Iluvatar then says:
"Even as I gave Being to the thought of the Ainur at the beginning of the World, so now I have taken up thy desire and given it a place therein ..." [Sil p.38]
Iluvatar then commands that the Dwarves shall not awaken in the world before his own Children. Here is it seen that Iluvatar doesn't like the change in design that is brought about through the disobedience of Aule, but he knows that Aule has created with imperfect love and his humility is evident. Aule has created living things, so Eru, being a God of Life, will not now crush these beings out of existence, but give them life. Though what Aule did was still against the Divine Plan.
In today's world there are many medical ways of producing life that are against the Divine Plan. But even though children may come into being through these disordered practices, the Good Lord always loves them and wishes to bring them into His Love and True Life. And so the Church will always baptise children brought into the world in this way: but this does not justify the means of procreation used.
Awakening of the Children:
The Firstborn begin to awaken in Middle-earth and are called by the Valar to come to Valinor. Many respond and travel westwards to the Blessed Realm. The Encyclopedia of Arda gives an account of this time.
"When Orome discovered that the Elves had awoken at Cuivienen, great changes came about. The Valar made war on Melkor to protect the Elder Children of Iluvatar; Utumno [Melkors dominion] was destroyed and Melkor was brought in chains to Valinor. The Valar also summoned the Elves to dwell in their land, and many answered this summons.
A period of three ages [about 2,900 years] followed. Melkor was imprisoned in the halls of Mandos, and the Valar and Eldar dwelt together in the light of the Two Trees." [arda]
Feanor was the greatest of the Elven craftsmen who had come West from Middle-earth to Valinor. Feanor wrought the Silmarils, the most hallowed jewels of the Elves that held within them the Light of the Two Trees. Feanor had captured the beauty and radiance of the Two Trees in the making of the Silmarils.
"In the darkness of Middle-earth, the Dark Elves who had not journeyed to Valinor still dwelt, and the Fathers of the Dwarves stirred.
These Years came to an end when Manwe released Melkor from his imprisonment. For a time, the Dark Lord pretended friendship with the Eldar, but he turned back to the darkness. With Ungoliant, he destroyed the Trees, stole the Silmarils and fled back to the north of Middle-earth. Seeking revenge, Feanor led a great part of the Noldor out of Valinor and back to Beleriand [a part of Middle-earth]."
Melkor [after being unchained] destroyed the most beautiful living things in Valinor, the Two Trees: their Light was extinguished. He stole the Silmarils and fled back to Middle-earth. See the page The Trees of Life for more on this and how a sapling of the Trees survived.
"So the Years of the Trees came to an end. At this time, the Valar made the Sun and Moon to give light to the World, and the Years of the Sun began, and with them the First Age."
Yavanna used the last fruit and leaf of the Two Trees to create the Sun and Moon and Elbereth had previously used the dew from the White Tree, Telperion, to make the Stars of the vault of Heaven.
"Men would not appear until some time after the end of the Years of the Trees." [arda]
Thus, many of the Elves [though not all] forsook the blessedness of the Undying Lands and pursued Melkor into Middle-earth. In their wrath, lust and pride, the Elves erred. The Valar forbade them from going but many disobeyed.
Tolkien refers to this as "...their own particular elvish fall..." [Letters p.205]
The Elves who had seen the Light of the Two Trees and lived in Valinor were known as the High Elves in Middle-earth.
The "...high elves had come from the Blessed Realm where they praised and worshipped Iluvatar, 'the One' Father of All on the Mt of Aman." [Letters p.204]
The Elves waged war upon Melkor, whom they named Morgoth. It was an utterly fruitless war in which the Elves never won.
The First Age comprises mainly of the stories and struggles of the Elves against Morgoth. It recounts how Men awoke to the world in the East. Only some came Westward seeking deeper meaning and existence. Those that remained in the East were held in the darkness of Morgoth and Sauron.
Though Tolkien does suggest that they all had some sort of darkness come upon them after they awoke. [see First and last Things]. A parallel to Original Sin. This then leads to a sort of corrupted nature and rejection of the natural gift of true death. This is why they needed ennoblement.
The Elves befriended the Men who came Westward, who are:
"... the descendants of Men who tried to repent and fled Westward from the domination of the Prime Dark Lord, and his false worship ... they renewed their knowledge of the Truth and the nature of the world. Thus they escaped 'religion' in a pagan sense, into a pure monotheist world." [Letters p.204]
They came into knowledge of the One God. Though their knowledge didn't really lead them into true worship.
"There are thus no temples or 'churches' or fanes in this world among the 'good' peoples. They had little or no religion in the sense of worship. [Letters p. 193 footnote]
There were three houses of the Edain [Men] who helped the Elves in the War against Morgoth. They became known as the Elf-friends. From these three houses will come the three unions of Elves and Men which will help fulfil the Ennoblement of Men.
The First Age ends with the sailing of Earendil with a recaptured Silmaril to the Blessed Realm. He obtains the help of the Valar in finally defeating Morgoth. The Valar had forbidden any to return after the exile of the Elves. Earendil is half-Elven and comes on behalf on both races of the 'Children of God'. He is then set to sail in the heavens with the Silmaril on his brow as a sign of hope in Middle-earth. It is this Star of Earendil that Sam sees in Mordor and hope returns to him during the quest.
The Valar consent to the plea and attack Morgoth; utterly defeating him. He is chained and sent into the Void. A great part of Middle-earth is engulfed by a tidal wave to cleanse Middle-earth of the evil. [see Women of Middle-earth for more regarding Earendil and Beren & Luthien]
Many of the elves are forgiven and then return to Valinor.
Even though Morgoth is chained and cast out, many of his servants, including Sauron, escape only to later re-emerge.
The Second Age signalled a rising of the Race of Men and static consolidation and introspection of the Elves.
As a reward for their help in fighting the Elves [and also through the intermingling with the Elves], Men receive many blessings from the Valar.
The half-Elven receive a choice: either to remain part of the race of Elves or become part of the race of Men. Elrond and Elros are half-Elven brothers. They are the sons of Earendil. Elrond chooses to be of Elf-kind and Elros chooses to be of the race of Men.
But, Elros will receive a restored gift if you like. His gift is to live longer than that of lesser corrupted men in Middle-earth [3 times longer] and he will be able to die in the original sense of the gift of Eru of death. That is, he and his descendants will be ale to surrender and give up their lives at the hour of their choosing.
They will also receive a new abode: Numenor
Numenor = Land ol the Star,
Numenor is an island off the coast of Eressea which was an outlying part of the Blessed Realm. The 'good' Men of Middle-earth were given this great island as a gift. They sailed there guided by a Star. It is quite possible that this star is the Star of Earendil. [Letters p.204]
The Numenoreans were "Blessed with the island of Numenor, death was a gift of God, a good Numenorean died when he felt it was the right time to do so..." [Letters p.205, footnote at bottom of page]
Once again Tolkien confirms that they re-received their preter-natural gifts in a sense.
From contact with the Elves in the Blessed Realm [not far way] the Numenoreans rose in great Wisdom and Power.
"... people from the Blessed Realm visited them, and so their knowledge and arts reached an almost Elvish height." [Letters p.205]
They received many gifts from the Elves including a sapling of the White Tree and the Seven Seeing Stones.
They came to a deeper knowledge of the Truth: Eru
"The Numenoreans thus began a great new good, as monotheists; but more like the Jews with only one 'centre' of worship: the summit of the mountain Meneltarma, 'Pillar of Heaven'. " [Letters p.204]
"But there was no temple in Numenor. The top of the Mountain, the Meneltarma or 'Pillar of Heaven', was dedicated to Eru, the One, and there at any time privately, and certain times publicly, God was invoked, praised and adored: an imitation of the Valar and the Mountain of Aman [in Valinor]." [Letters p.194 footnote]
The Numenoreans became great mariners and sailed the oceans. They founded massive harbours in Middle-earth and set-up cities along the coasts. About this time Sauron began the stir in Middle-earth again.
The Numenoreans became aware of this and sailed to Middle-earth with a force so great and powerful that Sauron surrendered and his armies were scattered. But the King in his pride took Sauron captive and returned to Numenor with him. Sauron soon deceived the King with a honey tongue and fostered in him a jealousy of the Elves who had immortal life.
The King begins to reject the gift of death again. Sauron employs the same old lie of Melkor. He engenders a distrust of the Elves, Valar and Eru. He promotes fear and lust for power.
The King, being poisoned by this influence, leads the island of Numenor in a revolt against the Blessed Realm. The Valar became aware of this and beseech Eru to provide a solution. As the great armada of Numenoreans ships came near the Coast of Valinor, a huge tidal wave rises up, destroys the ships and engulfs Numenor.
"But they fell again - because of a ban or prohibition..." [Letters p.204]
Men fall again because they were forbidden to try the reach the Undying Lands.
They end up trying to wrench it off the Valar by force. There is great truth here. Is this not what our modern world is trying to do?
But, during this time of corruption and evil in Numenor, there remained a remnant called the Faithful, who still revered Eru and the Valar; and loved the Elves. They fled Numenor as the great armada left for Valinor, and sailed to Middle-earth. They took with them:
• the Seven Seeing Stones.
• and other royal artefacts.
Elendil and his sons were the leaders of this remnant but more importantly, there were of the royal family, and hence setup the Kingdom of Numenor in Middle-earth [Gondor and Arnor] and claimed the Kingship.
"...so ended Numenor, Atlantis in all its glory. but in a kind of Noachian situation the small party of Faithful, who had refused to take part in the rebellion " [Letters p.206]
Tolkien has used Atlantis as an inspiration for his Numenor story and in fact talks of a recurring dream he had in life that his son also received. Faramir, in the Lord of the Rings, speaks to Eowyn of his vision of the ancient Downfall of Numenor.
"For when Faramir speaks of his private vision of the Great Wave, he speaks for me... That dream and vision has been ever with me - and has been inherited by one of my children." [Letters p.232]
After the rebellion and Downfall of Numenor, the Valar withdraw the Blessed Realm from the circles of the world.
"In this myth, the Blessed Realm had an actual physical existence in the real world."
This is then taken away after the rebellion. [Letters p.204]
"Eressea and Valinor were removed from the physically attainable earth: the way west was open, but led no-where but back again - for mortals." [Letters p. 197-198]
"Before the Downfall of Numenor, the realm of the gods in Valinor was still present in the world, and those Elves who wished to reach it could do so by sailing on into the West. After the Downfall, Valinor was taken away, and the World took on the round shape we know today. Mortals sailing into the West simply circled the globe and eventually returned to their starting place.
For the Elves, however, a way was left open to return to Valinor; the Straight Road. An Elven-ship sailing into the West left the Bent World, and travelled through the air 'as it were on a mighty bridge invisible', until they came to Tol Eressea and the Undying Lands.
The Straight Road was not entirely closed to Mortals; some by the special grace of the Valar could use it, as did the ring-bearers at the end of the Third Age. Other mortal mariners too, it was said, would sometimes find the Road and come to the shores of Aman before they died." [arda]
Once again this Garden of Eden theme arises. After the Fall of Men, the Garden of Eden has been removed from the world [symbolic biblical language of course].
The Kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor are from Numenorean heritage:
"...thus Elendil established the Kingdom on the shore of Middle-earth, inheriting a hatred of Sauron, friendship of the Elves, and a knowledge of the True God." [Letters p.206]
"Among the exiles, for the remnants of the Faithful who had not adopted the false religion [worship of Sauron] nor taken part in the rebellion, religion as divine worship [though not perhaps as philosophy and metaphysics] seems to have played a small part; though a glimpse of it is caught in Faramir's remark on 'grace before meat' "
[Letters p.194 footnote]. Faramir looks towards the Blessed Realm before eating. Thus they lost their sense of reverence for Eru in some way.
The Elves during this time forge the Rings of Power to help in the burden of carrying the sorrows and joys of their immortality. They try to preserve and halt time. This is dealt with on the page First and Last Things. It is also around this time that the Istari [Wizards] appear in Middle-earth.
But the Elves are ensnared and deceived by Sauron who betrays them and forges the One Ring. The Elves are also led astray by their rejection of the natural gift of Eru to them.
After Sauron claims Lordship over Middle-earth through the One Ring, the Elves and Men form an alliance and march on Mordor, defeating Sauron and cutting the One Ring from his hand. For those who know the Lord of the Rings, they will know the story from here.
Lothlorien which comes about in the Second Age is also another return of the Garden of Eden theme. [see First and Last Things]
Later, the line of Kings is lost in Gondor, but they also lose the priesthood in their religion:
"...also when the king's line came to an end, there was no equivalent to priesthood: the two being one and the same." [Letters p.206]
This is restored with the Return of the King: Aragorn.
"...it is presumed that with the emergence of the lineal priest kings, the worship of God would be renewed, and His Name would be more often heard." [Letters p.206]
Aragorn re-enters the old place of worship, through Gandalf's guidance [remember Gandalf is an emissary of God] and finds the White Tree. [see The Trees of Life]
"...it appears that in later years there was a hallow on Mindolliun, that had been used by the Kings to offer worship and praise on behalf of the people, only approachable by the King. It was re-entered by Aragorn. This is where he found a sapling of the white tree." [Letters p.206]
Aragorn restores the Kingship and Priesthood to the Race of Men. His significance is dealt with in the page Priest, Prophet and King.
Once again, it is worth stressing that Tolkien's mythology is just a story. But within that it is important to realise how his writing is essentially Christian. It is good to see how the Hand ol God has used a story like this one and handed on Truths, but through myth.
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