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Ainulindalë (Quenya: "Music of the Ainur", also known as the Great Music or the Great Song[1]) is the initial chapter of The Silmarillion, edited and published by Christopher Tolkien after his father's death. The name is pronounced eye-nu-lin-da-lay.

As part of the Tolkien Middle-earth cycle, Ainulindalë plays the role of its cosmogony, or creation story. Many of the themes and storylines revealed in the later histories (in The Lord of the Rings, for example) find their first expression in Ainulindalë.


The Ainur and their music[]

The opening paragraphs of Ainulindalë concern the time before the creation of the World and before the beginning of Time. First to be named is Eru Ilúvatar ('Father of All', also called Eru – 'the One, He that is Alone'). Ilúvatar makes the Ainur (meaning 'Holy Ones', singular form Ainu) by manifesting his concepts as living beings. Upon their creation, when nothing else yet is made, Ilúvatar teaches the Ainur the art of 'Music', which becomes their life and work.

The next lines speak to the maturation of the Ainur and the cultivation of Heaven’s Music into the First Theme. Heaven becomes filled with the making of Music. With each Ainu comprehending at first only those secondary ideas and themes most closely related to that primary idea-theme-thought of Ilúvatar’s which pre-figured itself, these creative musical elaborations only gradually, through exposure to each other, become collaborative. The compositions revolve around themes given to each Ainu by Ilúvatar, which themes correspond respectively to those primary themes/concepts embodied in each Ainu – that indeed are each Ainu. Through listening and contemplation, an Ainu becomes aware of other Ainur, other musics, and the cultivation and adornment of other themes.

After a time of Music, Ilúvatar proposes a first 'great' design/theme/plan to all the Ainur at once. He charges them with the collective elaboration of this great design/plan/theme.

While it is true that the Ainur are Ilúvatar’s thoughts embodied, they each have a life of their own, and are expected to utilize their 'freedom' by cultivating the grand theme. Only in the future, at the 'end of days', will all the created beings of Ilúvatar fully understand not only the divinely provided concepts and themes they each personally embody, but how each relates to all the others and fits (as per Ilúvatar’s intentions) in the entire greater scheme.

Melkor and the Great Music[]

Eru's last chord, Kulisz

"Ilúvatar's Last Chord", by Anna Kulisz

1. Melkor is introduced, and the Ainur begin their Chorus. The first Ainu to be named in the histories, Melkor ('Arises in Might') is described as the most powerful of the Ainur and as knowing much of Ilúvatar’s thoughts, including something of each of the primary themes that prefigure the other Ainur. He develops impatience with the schooling process of thematic elaboration: like a precocious child, Melkor begins thinking of certain musical ideas and themes as being 'all his own', and he feels compelled to develop them apace. Melkor even harbors the desire to externally manifest his ideas (private ideas, as he thinks them) and to become a creator of beings himself. When the choirs of the Ainur finally embark on the fully collaborative elaboration of Ilúvatar’s grand plan, Melkor participates with all the others, yet he stands forth and inserts his very different thematic adornments, which disrupts the harmony. One reason his music is so different is that he has spent too much time alone, so his themes appear to have a singular, rather than contextual, origin. The 'battle' in the choir of the Ainur rages back and forth with the Music akin Ilúvatar described as "deep and wide and beautiful, but slow and blended with an immeasurable sorrow, from which its beauty chiefly came". Melkor’s music, on the other hand, is said to have been "loud, and vain, and endlessly repeated [...] and it essayed to drown the other music by the violence of its voice … " (Ibid.). But, despite Melkor’s best efforts to mar and utterly overthrow the Great Music, his discordant music's "most triumphant notes were taken by the other and woven into its own solemn pattern"

2. The Great Music of the Ainur progresses thus: Ilúvatar introduces a First Theme to the choir of the Ainur and Melkor 'spoils' it, converting many of the Maiar to his cause in later years (these fallen Maiar become in the later histories characters like the Balrogs and Sauron himself.) Next, Ilúvatar imposes a Second Theme, and again Melkor corrupts it. Ilúvatar then proposes a Third Theme, which is also infected by Melkor and devolves into a raging disharmonious conflict. Ilúvatar puts an end to the disharmony with the conducting of "…one chord, deeper than the Abyss, higher than the Firmament, piercing as the light of the eye of Ilúvatar…" (Ibid.) After the Great Music stops, Ilúvatar promptly chastises Melkor and then leaves the room. This causes Melkor to be ashamed which in its turn causes him to become angry.

The vision[]

1. Ilúvatar next 'shows' the Ainur a 'Vision'. The Vision is of what the transliteration of their collaborative Great Music into a material reality would be like. They are shown that the Music has a point, has a result and effect beyond its composition and singing: it amounts to no less than a highly detailed template commensurate with the entire history – beginning to end – of a material, 'physical' Universe that could exist inside 'time'. During this sneak preview of the Birth, Life and Death of the Universe, the Ainur behold and contemplate all the aspects of material reality, which aspects are each associated with themes associated with particular Ainu. As the Ainur gaze out on this preview, Melkor sees now in detail how even his most private ideas and themes, even his most disruptive and destructive efforts, in the end serve only to fully elaborate Ilúvatar’s master plan, design, theme and will. Melkor is shown that his private themes (as Melkor thought them) are in fact elements of that plan/design/will and "tributary to [its] glory."

2. Now the Third theme and the Children (Eldar and Edain) are discussed. The Ainur see in the Vision that there are things none of them remember composing, and things they perhaps remember composing but did not at the time fully understand. The Children of Ilúvatar are first mentioned here, the future home of the Children (Arda –'the Realm', i.e. the Earth) is spotted, and some positively fascinating advice is given: don’t read too much into the relative size of the Earth as compared to the entire Universe, or be overly impressed with the immensity of Space compared to, say, the delicacy and complexity of design in a mustard seed. Many of the Ainur, including Melkor, become enamored of the Earth, though Melkor still wants to dominate it and the Children. The Ainur, looking out at the preview of all creation, come to believe that Water, of all the substances and energies of material reality, most completely echoes the collaborative elaboration that was the propounding and cultivating of Ilúvatar’s entire creative plan (i.e., the Great Music of the Ainur. ) The Ainur rejoice in Light, but at the sounds of the Sea, they feel “a great unquiet.” (Ibid, p 19. [Compare “…and for the great roaring of the ocean they {Ainur} were filled with longing.” Book of Lost Tales, Vol. 1)

3. Ulmo is introduced. While Melkor is the first Ainu properly named, and the first Ainu to whom Ilúvatar directly speaks in the histories, Ulmo ('The Pourer' or 'The Rainer') is the second on both counts: right after the point is made that Water is the fullest echo of the Music of the Ainur, Ulmo is introduced as the Ainu most identified with that element, and the Ainu most educated in the matter of Music. Ulmo is the second Ainu to whom Ilúvatar specifically speaks in the histories when He points out to Ulmo that Water has from Melkor’s meddling benefited beyond Ulmo’s earlier conceptions. Melkor’s attempts to disrupt with the use of fierce heat and severe cold do nothing to ruin Water (as Melkor must have hoped), but rather leave the World with the beauties of snow and frost and clouds and rain; this does no less than push Manwë and Ulmo more closely together. Ulmo, first of all the Ainur (Melkor included), has his words quoted in the histories when he says, "'Truly, Water is become now fairer than my heart imagined, neither had my secret thought conceived the snowflake, nor in all my music was contained the falling of the rain. I will seek Manwë, that he and I may make melodies for ever to thy delight!'" (Ibid.), and so Ulmo and Manwë are revealed as the two chief servants of Ilúvatar’s intentions.


  1. The Vision ends: Ilúvatar’s sneak preview is snatched away before any of the Ainur can fully see or comprehend the whole work of their music-made-into-substance. Because of this, and because of their nature as beings that must grow to an understanding of themselves in the context of the interplay of all creation, the Ainur know quite a bit of the past, present and future of the Universe and its inhabitants, yet they don’t know everything (the later days, especially, are hidden from them). When the vision is taken away, the Ainur are restless, having fallen in love with the Universe, the Earth and the Children. Even Melkor thinks that he wants to be a benign part of their manifestation, though his tendencies must lead more toward dominance than cultivation.
  2. Time begins. In the end (of the Beginning), Ilúvatar takes the entire musical work of the Ainur, including Melkor’s destructive efforts, and makes it manifest, material, real, objective and existing as ('It is', or 'Let it Be'), or what can be called the Universe. Many of the most powerful and influential Ainur enter into Eä, but they enter on condition that the life of the Universe, which has a beginning, middle and end, corresponding to the Great Music of the Ainu, will be binding on them, and will become their lives as well. The Valar (‘The Powers’, the most powerful Ainur that enter into the Universe) enter into and became a part of the World at the very beginning of Time, but Melkor is amongst them.

Struggle to fulfill fate[]

  1. The remaining paragraphs of Ainulindalë summarize the first efforts of the Valar to fulfill the destiny described in the vision of the Universe they have foreseen in Heaven. The Valar enter into Eä only to find it at the very beginning of its history – unformed and embryonic. The history of the Universe has been only 'forsung'. The Valar must labor to unfold that history and to build its constituent parts from scratch. The four Valar who are most involved in the crafting of the Earth are Manwë, Ulmo, Aulë and Melkor. Melkor lays claim to the Earth as his own, and makes the initial going very rough indeed. Manwë collects those Valar and Maiar (lesser Ainur who entered into Eä with the Valar) friendly to him and he sets up on Earth a resistance to Melkor. At the moment of this act, a reminder is provided of the fact that Manwë was the chief instrument of Ilúvatar in the Second Theme of the Great Music. Melkor withdraws from Earth and Manwë’s resistance, but later formally (and quite impressively) re-enters and makes open war on Manwë's throne, but Manwë’s rule is established nonetheless: it sees the Earth finished and made habitable and ready for Elves and Men.
  2. The First War inside Time: The Valar assume physical forms as others wear clothes, though the Valar do have temperaments commensurate with the genders these forms reflect. Melkor re-enters the Earth in a form of terrible majesty, and the war for Earth begins in earnest. The history of the first battles are little recorded, but the reports point to Melkor trying to undo everything the Valar do, which things the Valar do mostly to prepare the Earth for the Children. Melkor's actions can change, but not destroy or wholly spoil, the original (as they were understood) plans and intentions of the Valar. Despite Melkor, the Earth is made ready.

Dagor Dagorath and second song of Illuvatar[]

After the prophesied war of all wars, the Dagor Dagorath, the final war that will decide the fate of all beings on Arda, it is said that the Ainur will sing the second song of Eru Ilúvatar, not knowing what will be created. Yet greater it will be, more races borne of the melodies, reforming life. It is said the the Dwarves will assist Mahal (Aulë) in recreating the materials of Arda, to rekindle the flames that spark industry. To give birth to a new age.


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Foreign Language Translated name
Amharic ዓኢኑሊንዳለ
Arabic اينوليندالي
Armenian Աինուլինդալե
Belarusian Cyrillic Айнулиндалэ
Bengali আইনুলিন্ডালে
Bulgarian Cyrillic Айнулиндале
Chinese 埃努的大樂章
Georgian აინულინდალე
Greek Αινυλινδαλε
Gujarati આઈનુલીન્ડલે
Hebrew איינולינדאלה
Hindi आइनुलिन्दले
Japanese アイヌリンダレ
Kannada ಐನುಲಿಂಡಾಲೆ
Kazakh Аінұліндале (Cyrillic) Ainulindale (Latin)
Korean 아이눌린달레
Kyrgyz Cyrillic Аинулиндалэ
Laotian າິນຸລິນດະລເ
Macedonian Cyrillic Аинулиндале
Malayalam ഐനുലിന്ദേല
Marathi ऐनुलींडे
Mongolian Cyrillic Аинулиндалё
Nepalese आइनुलिन्दले
Pashto آینولیندالې ?
Persian آینولینداله
Punjabi ਐਨੀੁਲਿੰਡਾਲੇ
Russian Айнулиндалэ
Sanskrit आइनुलिन्दले
Serbian Аинулиндале (Cyrillic) Ainulindale (Latin)
Sinhalese ආඉනුලිඳලෙ
Tajik Cyrillic Аинулиндале
Tamil ஐநுளைந்தாலே
Telugu ఐనులుండాలే
Thai ไอนูลินดาเล
Ukrainian Cyrillic Айнуліндале
Urdu اانولاندالا
Uzbek Аинулиндале (Cyrillic) Ainulindale (Latin)
Yiddish אַינולינדאַלע
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  1. The Children of Húrin: List of Names