- "I am the Elder King: Melkor, first and mightiest of 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. 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 Húrin, The Children of Húrin
Originally the most powerful of the Ainur created by Eru Ilúvatar, Melkor rebelled against his creator out of pride and sought to corrupt Arda. After committing many evils across the First Age and preceding eras, such as the theft of the Silmarils, which resulted in his name Morgoth, and the destruction of the Two Lamps and the Two Trees of Valinor, Morgoth was defeated by the Host of Valinor in the War of Wrath. As punishment, he was banished from of Arda into the Void, though it was prophesied that he would one day return.
Impatient with the emptiness of the Void outside the Timeless Halls, and desiring to create things of his own, he often entered the Void seeking the Flame Imperishable, but the Flame was of Ilúvatar and resided with him, and Melkor never discovered it. Melkor continued to search, however, and as such was often alone and apart from his fellow Ainur. It was during these lonesome periods that he began to have ideas and thoughts of his own that were not in accordance with his fellow Ainur.
When the Ainur sang the Great Music before Eru, he wove some of these alien thoughts into his music, and straightaway discord arose around him. Some of those nearby attuned their music to his, until two musical themes were warring before the Throne. To correct the discord, Eru introduced a Second, and then a Third Theme into the music. But Melkor succeeded in holding back the Second theme, of which Manwë was the chief instrument. The Third was the theme of Elves and Men, and while it was not overwhelmed by the discord as the Second theme was, it too failed to correct it. When Eru brought the Music to an end, he rebuked Melkor, praising his strength but reminding him that, as an aspect of his creator's thought, anything that he could bring into being ultimately had its source within Eru himself. As such, even the discord redounded in the end to the glory of Eru's work. This rebuke shamed Melkor, but brought on anger in him as well, though he hid it. Thus when the Music was made incarnate as Arda, it was already flawed through the Discord, and immoderate heat and great cold stalked it. Melkor then took in the interest of the World and descended to it with the other Valar.
Arrival in Arda
When the Valar entered into Arda and began to shape the unwrought matter, Melkor saw the Field of Arda and claimed it for his own. However, the other Valar took Manwë to be their lord, for while Manwë was not nearly so powerful as Melkor, he understood the thought of Eru better than any of his peers. Bitter, Melkor set himself against the other Valar. Whenever the Valar worked to better the world, Melkor disrupted their efforts. For a long while, Melkor fought alone against the might of all the other Valar and Maiar of Arda, and he long held the upper hand. During this time, Arda was kept essentially shapeless, as Melkor ruined virtually every early work that the other Valar attempted to create. Fortunately for them, the mighty Vala Tulkas eventually descended to Arda, and his strength tipped the balance in favor of the Valar. Melkor fled before him, and left Arda for a time.
Years of the Lamps
After Melkor's departure, the Valar managed to quiet the tumults of the world, and set about ordering it in preparation for the coming of the Elves. To give light to the world, they constructed two Great Lamps in Middle-earth and set their place of dwelling in the midst of them. During this time, Melkor re-entered Arda with the various Maiar spirits who had attuned themselves to his music, and delved a mighty fortress at the very north-most part of the World and named it Utumno. To defend it he raised the Iron Mountains as a ring around the north. Decay arose in the North, and the Valar thus knew that Melkor had returned. Before they could begin to search for him however, Melkor came forth from Utumno with sudden war, and cast down the Lamps. The fire within the Lamps scorched a great portion of the world, and containing the catastrophe caused by their breaking kept the Valar occupied long enough for Melkor and his forces to retreat back to Utumno.
After the destruction of the Lamps, the Valar withdrew to the continent of Aman and there built Valinor. In doing so, however, they gave Melkor virtually free-reign in Middle-earth. As a result, the continent languished in darkness, and Melkor filled its lands with terrible creatures and decay. During this time, Melkor built his second, lesser fortress of Angband in the west, as a defense in the West should the Valar attack. Angband was delved into the Iron Mountains, and was given to Sauron to command. While the Valar were unsure where the Children of Ilúvatar would awake, they were reluctant to wage war against Melkor, fearing the clash of powers might result in massive collateral damage the likes of which they had not seen since the Lamps were destroyed. As such, most of them remained in Aman and forsook Middle-earth. Due to this, Melkor discovered the Elves before the other Valar, captured many of them, and transformed them by torture and other foul craft into the first Orcs in mockery of the Elves.
The War of the Powers
When it was discovered by the Vala Oromë where the Elves were, the Valar took immediate action against Melkor, instigating the War of the Powers. The Valar overcame the hosts of Melkor and he retreated into Utumno. After a grievous siege, the Valar rent the doors open and Melkor was captured. Melkor was bound with Angainor and brought back to Valinor. There, he pleaded for pardon, but was cast into the Halls of Mandos for three Ages. However, in their haste to overthrow Melkor, the Valar left many of Utumno's pits and vaults unexplored, and Sauron remained at large. Additionally, they did not capture or destroy the Balrogs, who gathered at the ruins of Angband and went into a long hibernation, awaiting Melkor's return.
After the passing of the Ages, Melkor was brought before Manwë, and feigned repentance. Unable to comprehend the evil of Melkor, being himself free of it, Manwë ordered him released. At first, it seemed as though the evil of Melkor had been cured, for all who sought his counsel and aid in that time benefited greatly from it. However, Tulkas and Ulmo were both very slow to forget Melkor's evils, and watched him closely. In truth, Melkor was more filled with malice than ever, and began to put his extraordinary cunning to use in devising a way to ruin Aman. Seeing the bliss of the Elves and remembering that it was for their sake that he was overthrown, Melkor desired above all things to corrupt them. Of all the three primary groups of Elves, he found the Ñoldor to have a perfect balance of usefulness and open ears, and so worked his malice almost exclusively among them.
Over a long period of time he spread lies concerning the intentions of the Valar in bringing the Elves to Aman, telling them, among other things, tales of the coming of Men, the existence of which the Valar had not revealed to the Elves. Due to his carefully crafted lies, many of the Ñoldor began to believe that the Valar had brought them to Aman so that Men might inherit Middle-earth, taking the lands and the glory that could have been theirs. Eventually, a shadow fell upon the Ñoldor, and they began to openly rebel against the Valar. Chief amongst the disgruntled Ñoldor was Fëanor, the firstborn son of the Ñoldor King Finwë. Though he hated and feared Melkor, his overwhelming pride caused him to be the most vocal of the Ñoldor in expressing discontent. For their part, the Valar remained unaware of Melkor's work, and saw Fëanor as the source of the Ñoldor's unrest. Though perturbed, they let the situation continue until Fëanor threatened his brother Fingolfin with violence, at which point the Valar summoned him to the Ring of Doom in Valinor to explain his unlawful actions.
Fëanor's testimony revealed the lies of Melkor, and Tulkas immediately left the Ring of Doom to recapture him. But Melkor could not be found. After a time, Melkor went to Formenos and feigned friendship to Fëanor in order to acquire the Silmarils. But Fëanor, seeing Melkor's greed, refused him and shut the doors of Formenos in the face of Arda's mightiest being. Melkor then passed unseen to the south, and came upon Ungoliant. Promising to sate her unrelenting hunger, she and Melkor came back to Valinor, intending to destroy the Two Trees of Valinor. Then, during a time of festival, Melkor and Ungoliant suddenly attacked. Melkor thrust a great spear into the Trees and Ungoliant drank the sap that poured from the wounds, draining the Trees and poisoning them. The Trees quickly withered and died, plunging Aman into complete darkness for a time.
In the fear and confusion that followed, Melkor sped to Formenos and broke into the fortress. There, he slew Finwë, father of Fëanor, and stole the Silmarils along with all the other gems that lay there. The Silmarils burned Melkor's hand, causing him immeasurable agony, but he did not release them. He and Ungoliant fled to the North, and the Valar gave chase, but the Unlight of Ungoliant bewildered them and the two escaped. The two thieves crossed the Grinding Ice of the Helcaraxë and entered into Middle-earth, completing Melkor's revenge.
In Lammoth, Melkor and Ungoliant approached the ruins of Angband, with Melkor hoping to escape and leave his promise to feed Ungoliant unfulfilled. Ungoliant saw through his plan and stopped with him before they reached Angband. She demanded that he surrender the treasure of Formenos to sate her hunger as he had promised, and begrudgingly he gave her the lesser treasures he had taken, but would not yield the Silmarils. For his refusal, Ungoliant attacked Melkor, weaving her dark webbing about him. His resulting cry of pain and anguish roused the Balrogs from their slumber in the darkest depths of Angband. They came swiftly to his aid and drove Ungoliant away. He then began to rebuild Angband, and to gather his servants there.
When Fëanor found his father was slain, he cursed Melkor and named him Morgoth, meaning "Dark Enemy", and by that name was he known ever after. The name Melkor was never spoken again by his enemies.
As Morgoth finished rebuilding Angband, the slag and debris created by his vast tunnelings was plied into three huge volcanoes, collectively known as Thangorodrim. He hastened then to rebuild his forces, breeding innumerable Orcs and other fell beasts. The Silmarils were mounted into the Iron Crown.
Fëanor followed Morgoth to Middle-earth with the greater part of the Ñoldor in rebellion, hoping to recover the Silmarils. This action triggered the tragic War of the Jewels, in which the Elves would be utterly defeated in the end.
Upon learning of the arrival of the Ñoldor in Middle-earth, Morgoth sent armies of Orcs against Fëanor's host, hoping to destroy them before they could establish any viable defenses. Though the Ñoldor were outnumbered, they swiftly and completely destroyed the Orcs; only a handful returned to Angband. But Fëanor, in his pride and arrogance, thought to come at Morgoth himself and pursued them. Soon, he and his vanguard drew far ahead of the main host, and the Orcs, seeing this, turned and gave battle at the gates of Angband. Due to their proximity to Angband, a number of Balrogs emerged to aid the Orcs, and the Elves with Fëanor were quickly killed. Fëanor fought on alone, but was eventually struck down by Gothmog, the Lord of Balrogs. Though a relief force under the command of his sons saved him from being killed on the field of battle, Fëanor's wounds were mortal and he perished soon after.
Shortly after Fëanor's death, Morgoth sent an embassy to the Ñoldor offering terms of surrender, even promising a Silmaril. Maedhros, Fëanor's heir, agreed to the parley, but both sides, expecting treachery, came with greater force than was agreed. Unfortunately for the Elves, Morgoth's force was the greater of the two, and was accompanied by Balrogs. The Elven company was quickly slain with the exception of Maedhros, who was captured and chained by his right hand to one of Thangorodrim's many cliffs. Morgoth sent word to the Ñoldor, promising to release Maedhros on the condition that the Elves would depart from the North and cease their war against him. However, the Elves knew that Morgoth would not honor his word, and sent no reply.
It was at this time that the host of Fingolfin, which had been betrayed and abandoned by Fëanor's host in Aman, came at last to Middle-earth. Tension between the two hosts quickly developed and Morgoth, seeing that the Ñoldor were divided, made plans to destroy his distracted foes. To his dismay, however, the Valar revealed the creation of the Sun and the Moon, which confounded Morgoth and his servants for a time. To counter these new lights, Morgoth sent up nigh-impenetrable clouds of smoke from the Iron Mountains to darken Hithlum.
During the time of confusion and inaction among Morgoth's forces by these new lights, Fingon traveled to Angband, aided by the very darkness Morgoth had set upon Hithlum, and rescued Maedhros. In doing so, he set into motion a series of events that united the Ñoldor and allowed them to establish mighty kingdoms in Beleriand and Hithlum. The Ñoldor then set a siege upon Angband, hoping to forever contain the evil of Morgoth. When he had waited many years, Morgoth made trial of his foes, causing the Iron Mountains to erupt and sending an army of Orcs down through the passes, but to no avail, for the Orcs were easily defeated by the Ñoldor in the Dagor Aglareb. After this failure, Morgoth took to capturing what Elves he could, breaking them with the power of his will and chaining their lives to his. These Elves became his spies among the Ñoldor, and they kept him appraised of the movements and plans of his enemies.
One hundred years later, Morgoth sent an army into the north to approach Hithlum from the side, but an army under the command of Fingon destroyed them yet again in the Battle of the Firth of Drengist. At this point, Morgoth came to realize that the Orcs unaided were no match for the Ñoldor, and began experimenting with ways to create deadlier creatures for his armies. Another century passed, and the issuing of the first dragon, Glaurung, demonstrated the results of Morgoth's long labor. Glaurung's sudden appearance scattered the Elves in the immediate vicinity of Angband, but a company of archers under Fingon's command engaged him before he could do much more than frighten the Elves. As Glaurung was barely half-grown, his hide was not yet invulnerable to the Elven arrows and he fled the field. Morgoth was displeased with Glaurung for revealing himself before his creator had planned, but ultimately Glaurung's youthful foray was of little consequence.
Some time later, when men first arrived in Beleriand, it was revealed that Morgoth had left Angband and walked among the fathers of Men. Hoping to corrupt them to his service, he spread his lies among them, and found them to be considerably easier to sway than the Elves had been. However, the strengthening of the Elven kingdoms worried Morgoth, and he returned to Angband before his labors were complete. Nevertheless, most Men believed or half-believed his lies and either departed from the North or joined with Morgoth's forces. However, a small group of men that became known as the Edain resisted him. They strengthened the siege of Angband, as many settled in the north of Beleriand, adding to the strength of the Ñoldor.
About 455 years after Fingolfin came to Middle-earth, Morgoth deemed that the time was ripe to destroy the Elves and their allies. One cold winter night, when the Elven watch was least vigilant, Morgoth sent forth terrible rivers of fire and lava from Thangorodrim and poisonous fumes from the Iron Mountains. The Elves were completely unprepared for such an assault, and a great many Ñoldor perished on the Ard-galen, as the fires consumed it and transformed it into a lifeless wasteland, forever after known as the Anfauglith. In the wake of these fires there came Glaurung, now fully grown, the Balrogs, and armies of Orcs and other monsters in numbers such as the Elves had never conceived of. Thus began the Dagor Bragollach. The Siege of Angband was swiftly broken and the forces of the Elves were scattered. So swift and overwhelming was Morgoth's assault that the various Elven kingdoms were unable to marshal their forces in any sort of unified front, and as such Morgoth was able to engage the Elven forces in a piecemeal fashion, greatly blunting the effectiveness of any resistance.
With the exception of Maedhros and his fortress upon the hill of Himring, the sons of Fëanor and Finarfin were overthrown and utterly defeated. Fingolfin and Fingon only just barely managed to defend Hithlum from Morgoth's onslaught, as the mountains surrounding it provided an effective barrier against Morgoth's fires. The Elves were completely driven from the forests of Dorthonion, and many of the Sindar forsook the war altogether and went to Doriath. When news came to Fingolfin of the totality of the disasters that had befallen the Elven forces, a great despair came upon him. Believing the Ñoldor to have been defeated beyond any hope of recovery, he rode forth alone from Hithlum to the gates of Angband in a wrath so potent that he was said to have resembled Oromë himself. When he arrived, he smote upon the doors of Morgoth's fortress, challenging the Dark Lord to come forth to single combat. Though Morgoth did not wish to, Fingolfin's challenge was heard by all in Angband, and was given in such an insulting manner that to ignore it would have been to lose face before his captains.
Morgoth issued forth in black armor from Angband to confront Fingolfin. Wielding the terrible hammer Grond, Morgoth repeatedly attempted to smite the Elven king, but succeeded only in carving many fiery pits in the ground from his missed strikes. Fingolfin long managed to avoid Morgoth's blows, and wounded the Dark Lord seven times. But at last, Fingolfin grew weary, and Morgoth thrice drove him to his knees. Fingolfin arose each time to continue the fight, but eventually he fell backwards into one of the many pits formed by Morgoth's missed attacks. Morgoth then set his foot upon Fingolfin's neck and killed him, but not before Fingolfin, with his last stroke, hewed Morgoth's foot with his sword. Then Morgoth broke the Elf's body and prepared to feed it to his wolves. But Thorondor, the King of the Eagles, swooped down upon Morgoth, marring his face with his talons, and rescued the body of the elf-king.
Fingolfin's last stroke gave Morgoth a permanent limp, and the pain of his seven wounds could not be healed, nor were the scars ever erased.
However, despite his great victory, Morgoth had made a critical mistake. So great had been his malice and his desire to destroy the Elves that he had struck before his plans were fully realized, and in his hatred and contempt he had underestimated the resolve and valor of his foes. Now Morgoth found that the Elves and Edain, recovering from the initial shock of his onslaught, had begun to make small gains against his outlying forces. He therefore checked his advance, and withdrew the main host of Orcs to Angband. For though he knew that his victory had been relatively decisive, his own losses had been as numerous as the losses that had been accrued by the Elves. Afterwards, Morgoth sent out many spies, and he sent messengers to Men, feigning pity. When the Edain refused his false offers of peace, he summoned the Easterlings over the Blue Mountains to harass them militarily. Seven years passed before Morgoth renewed his offensive. He assailed Hithlum with great strength but just as he was on the verge of victory, Círdan and a host under his command came at the last moment and helped Fingon to turn the Orcs back.
The Quest of the Silmaril
Some time later, the Elf-maiden Lúthien and her human lover Beren, seeking to recover a Silmaril, came disguised to Morgoth's court. Morgoth was able to see through her disguise, but she was undaunted by his eyes, and offered to sing for him. As she sang, Morgoth conceived a lust and an evil more abominable than any he had yet committed, and allowed her to continue singing. But as he delighted in his thought, suddenly shadow hid her, and she sang a song of great and terrible power that cast a spell of sleep.
All Morgoth's court was cast down in slumber by her song, but the Silmarils burned, and became so heavy that the head of Morgoth sagged upon his chest. He fell from his throne, the Iron Crown rolled away from him, and Beren cut a Silmaril from it with Angrist. However, rather than leaving immediately with his prize, he tried to take another of the Silmarils. As he attempted to pry the second jewel loose, his knife snapped. One shard struck Morgoth's face, and he began to awaken. Beren and Lúthien fled in terror, but were not chased, as Morgoth and his court had not yet woken. However, at the gates of Angband the werewolf Carcharoth was aware of them, and bit off Beren's hand, and took with it the Silmaril. Burning from the inside at the touch of the holy jewel, Carcharoth went mad and fled in wrath from Angband, slaughtering all who stood in his path. Then Morgoth awoke, and in a rage he and his court roared up in pursuit, only to see Thorondor carrying off the raiders. Morgoth's rage at the loss of the Silmaril caused the Iron Mountains to begin erupting, terrifying all those who could see it. Ultimately however, he was unable to recover the gem.
Soon after, Morgoth became aware that Maedhros was making a great league against him, and driving his Orcs off the northern heights of Beleriand. As such, he took council against them and prepared his forces for a major confrontation. When the Elves eventually made it to Angband, the Battle of Nírnaeth Arnoediad began. Ultimately, the battle was a complete and decisive victory for Morgoth. The power of the Elves and their Edain compatriots to make war against Morgoth was utterly and permanently broken. All of the great kingdoms of the Ñoldor in Beleriand except Gondolin and Nargothrond, were destroyed, and Hithlum was at last taken as well. The Edain who did not flee were enslaved by Easterlings, and Húrin was taken captive.
The Cursing of Húrin
Morgoth was also well known for the imprisonment of Húrin of the House of Hador during the Nírnaeth Arnoediad. In the last hours of the battle, Húrin and his kin defended Turgon, for he was the last heir of the house of Fingolfin after Fingon fell in the battle. Turgon narrowly escaped the clutches of the host of Orcs due to the valor of Húrin, Huor, and their men.
Unfortunately, all but Húrin fell after the onslaught of Morgoth's forces. After slaying untold numbers of Trolls and Orcs single-handedly, Húrin was captured by Gothmog and taken to Angband. Morgoth knew that Húrin had been to Gondolin, and therefore knew the city's location. He sought to extract the information from him but, despite inflicting terrible torment upon his captive, he was unsuccessful.
From a distance Morgoth put the son and daughter of Húrin, Túrin and Niënor, under a species of diabolic oppression: his thought followed them and gave them bad luck, though they were not possessed. By this means he drove them at last to madness and despair; though there is doubt as to whether in the extremity of his malice he cheated himself, as their madness saved them from damnation.
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.
—The Children of Húrin
Then, continuing his curse, he said:
But 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. Wherever 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.
—The Children of Húrin
And so Húrin stayed and was chained atop Thangorodrim, watching his homelands fall under the shadow of Morgoth until he released him. Túrin, who was valiant and powerful, nearly escaped the curse, as feared by Morgoth, but in the end did not. He and his sister Niënor perished. Thus, the curse of Morgoth on the Children of Húrin was fulfilled.
Fall of Gondolin
It was said that Morgoth hated and feared the House of Fingolfin most among the Houses of the sons of Finwë, especially Fingolfin's son Turgon, as it was prophesied that his doom would come from the House of Turgon. Following Turgon's escape from the Nírnaeth Arnoediad, Morgoth sought to find and destroy the last of the free kingdoms of the Ñoldor; Gondolin, where Turgon reigned.
Though he had been unable to force Húrin to reveal the location of the last great Elven kingdom, Morgoth eventually captured Maeglin, sister-son of Turgon. 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 Tuor personally, and was given permission by Morgoth to take Turgon's daughter Idril for himself. Having lusted after Idril for decades, Morgoth's offer secured Maeglin's loyalty, and he became the Dark Lord's willing servant. After learning all he could from Maeglin, Morgoth sent him back to Gondolin to aid the invasion from within when the time came.
Soon after, Morgoth assailed Gondolin. With Maeglin's treacherous information, Morgoth's forces advanced upon the city nearly undetected, during a time of festival and over the mountains where the watch was least vigilant. By the time the Elves realized their peril, the city had been beleaguered by Morgoth's overwhelmingly superior forces, and quickly fell.
With the sacking of Gondolin and the defeat of the Ñoldor and their allies, Morgoth's long-sought triumph was complete. The great kingdoms of the Elves had all fallen, save for the isle of Balar and the survivors at the Mouths of Sirion, which were ruled by Eärendil, 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 Fëanor destroyed the dwelling at Arvernien).
Persuaded by Eärendil to take pity on the Elves and Edain, the Valar soon decided to come to Middle-earth and confront Morgoth's tyranny. Unable to understand compassion, Morgoth did not expect that the Valar would ever aid the Ñoldor after their evil deeds, and did not foresee the assault from Aman. But the Valar mustered their forces, and a great, tumultuous battle occurred began between Morgoth and the Host of Valinor. Morgoth emptied all of Angband, and his devices and engines and armies of slaves were so various and powerful that the fighting spilled across all 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 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 was their attack, with great power and a tempest of fire, that they drove back the host of the Valar. But then Eärendil came with Vingilot, accompanied by Thorondor and all the great birds, and Eärendil slew Ancalagon the Black, greatest of Morgoth's dragons, and his carcass fell upon the towers of Thangorodrim, breaking them.
Morgoth was utterly defeated, fled into the deepest of his mines, and sued for peace and pardon, but the Valar crippled him and cast him upon his face. He was bound with the chain Angainor, his Iron Crown was beaten into a collar for his neck, and he was taken from the Earth and thrust through the Door of Night into the Timeless Void. The two remaining Silmarils were recovered from him, though shortly thereafter they were again lost.
Legacy and prophesied return
Melkor's lies, sowed in the hearts of Elves and Men, spawned a seed that did not die and could not be destroyed, but ever and on sprouted anew, and bore dark fruit ever after. Sauron, his most powerful servant, remained loyal to his master's memory, became the second Dark Lord. After his first defeat during the Second Age, Sauron was held prisoner in Númenor, but managed to corrupt the king, Ar-Pharazôn, and his followers, into worshipping Melkor as a god.
Melkor's taint of Arda was more than symbolic as, like the One Ring with Sauron, Melkor's dispersed a great portion of his essence into Middle-earth and like the One Ring, Arda became the physical container for Melkor's spirit/will. While Melkor lost a great deal of strength infusing his essence into Arda so he could increase his hold over the world, it also meant that even banished, his malevolence would still permeate everything and corrupt the creatures of Arda. There are even hints in Tolkien's writing and notes that Melkor could even reach out from the void and make his voice heard like a silent whisper tempting the children of Eru towards evil or at the least his essence acted like an echo and similarly to the One Ring had its own dark will that served Melkor's ends in his stead.
According to material in some of Tolkien's writings compiled (but not published) by his son, in the last days Melkor will learn how to break the Door of Night and re-enter the World, and initiate the Dagor Dagorath, the Battle of Battles. In this battle Morgoth himself would be slain by Túrin Turambar, returned to life or by Eönwë as written in The Hiding of Valinor. Thus the Children of Húrin and all Men will be avenged.
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.
The name Melkor is Quenya, meaning "One who arises in Might"; his name in Sindarin was Belegûr or Belegurth ("Great Death"). Tolkien wrote that he derived "Melkor" from malkū, which is an Akkadian word meaning "king", equivalent to Hebrew מלך ('mélekh').
The name Morgoth, given by Fëanor at Valmar after Melkor stole the Silmarils, meant "Dark Enemy", even though it was "Black Foe of the World" that Fëanor named him out loud. He was also known as Melkor Bauglir when he returned to Angband; bauglir meant "the Constrainer".
Melkor was the world's first Dark Lord, and sometimes gave himself titles such as King of the World, Elder King, and Master of the Fates of Arda (when speaking to Húrin). Sador called him "Black King", and Amlach "Master of Lies". Before his defeat in the War for Sake of the Elves, fearful Elves of Cuiviénen called Melkor the Dark Hunter. After his defeat in the War of Wrath, his servant Sauron called him "Lord of All and Giver of Freedom" and "Lord of the Dark" when trying to align the corrupted Númenóreans with him.
- Bauglir, (S. "the Constrainer") given after his return to Angband at the beginning of the First Age. It was often combined with the name Morgoth to become the full title Morgoth Bauglir.
- Belegûr (S. "he who arises in might") or Belegurth ("Great Death")
- Black Hand, called thus by Beleg
- Black King
- Dark King, given by Edain
- Dark Lord
- Dark Power of the North
- Elder King, title of Manwë, claimed by Morgoth when speaking to Húrin
- Great Enemy, used once by Aragorn
- King of the World, given by himself after his return to Middle-earth
- Lord of All and Giver of Freedom, used by Sauron when he encouraged Ar-Pharazôn to worship Melkor
- Lord of the Dark, given by Edain
- Lord of the Darkness, used by Sauron when he encouraged Ar-Pharazôn to worship Melkor
- Master of Lies, given by Amlach
- Master of the fates of Arda, used by him when speaking to Húrin.
- Melko, Belcha, Melegor, Melekō, earlier forms of his Elvish names.
In earlier stages
As shown in The Book of Lost Tales, Tolkien had named him Melko (most often), Belcha (from the Quenya velka meaning 'flame'), Ulban(d) ("monster"), Melegor, and Meleko, from the Primitive Quendian term melek, "great, mighty, powerful".
Powers & abilities
Melkor was initially the strongest being of Arda, second only to Eru Ilúvatar. In his prime, he spilled oceans and destroyed mountain ranges. While Eru had blessed the other Valar with a portion of his thoughts and insights, making each absolute in their respective specialties, Melkor was blessed with greater power and a wider breadth of knowledge. However, Melkor, while blessed with a large portion of Eru's knowledge, did not know all and never realized that the Secret Fire was a power to create that belonged solely to Eru.
Though tremendously powerful, able to alter or transform the world in many ways, Melkor could only twist or corrupt what already existed, not create anything new. In his desire to take control of all Arda, he dispersed his essense and power throughout the world to the point that Arda as a whole was corrupted and even after his banishment, his evil would continue to plague the world by corrupting men and making the gift of immortality unbearable for the Elves. The more he dispersed his power throughout Arda, the more control he had over it.
Even while greatly weakened, Melkor could create massive firestorms, huge craters, and curse his foes to sorrow and death (e.g. the family of Húrin), though, the diminishing of his power was to his disadvantage in times such as his struggle with Ungoliant.
Initially, Melkor could take on any form he chose. The Ainur took on forms reflective of their moods and might. Melkor, in his arrogance, malice and power, took on a form recorded as:
...a mountain that wades in the sea, and has its head above the clouds, and is clad with 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, Ainulindalë
It is said that out of all the Valar, Melkor was most like Aulë for his craftsmanship. Originally the brightest, most beautiful, most powerful Ainu, he fell through jealousy, pride and hatred of others, into Darkness with ever after a desire to conquer and to rule. When he built Utumno he took on a form shaped roughly manlike but great in size, "a Dark Lord, tall and terrible." This form was chained by the Valar. When he walked in Valinor he wore a much fairer form, so noble and lofty and benevolent not even the Elves (save only Fëanor and Galadriel) are recorded as seeing through it to the malice underneath. This he cast off to escape unclad from the hunt of the Valar, and when he faced Ungoliant he put back on the form of the tyrant of Utumno. In that form he remained ever after. As he spent his might and poured out his power into the very fabric of matter, as well as into all his creations, he grew more stooped and less majestic, and his hands were burned black from the touch of the Silmarils. His eyes shone with a daunting light.
There is some dispute over Morgoth's size. The Silmarillion states:
He stood over the king as a tower...and...cast a shadow over him like a storm cloud.
—Quenta Silmarillion, "Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin"
As Elves typically reached about six feet tall, or close to seven feet for the Ñoldor, Morgoth must have stood at least twice this length, and with the shadow he robed himself in he may well have seemed taller. In most artistic renderings Morgoth is depicted as towering over other beings, most notably Elves (Fingolfin in particular) of the FA.
Morgoth set his foot upon his neck, and the weight of it was like a fallen hill.
—Quenta Silmarillion, "Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin"
Initially, Melkor's power was so great that he could contend with all the other Valar and Maiar of Arda and beat them (ere Tulkas came). Over time however, his power was dispersed into the fabric of Arda and into his servants, lessening his might. At the time of his visit to Fëanor at Formenos, Melkor was still referred to as "the greatest being in Eä", though this was before his capture and final defeat by the Valar. It is unknown how much of his power he put into his various slaves after returning to Angband.
In terms of his personality, perhaps his most defining attribute was his overweening pride. From nearly the beginning of his existence, Melkor wished to have the power of creation, a power that only Eru Ilúvatar possessed. When he discovered that he would never be able to possess it, and that all that he could accomplish had, by definition, its utmost source in Ilúvatar himself, he began to descend into anger and bitterness. When Arda came into being, he desired lordship of it for the sake of his own self-aggrandizement rather than for the sake of ordering it according to the will of Ilúvatar. When he was denied it, he began to squander his gifts in wasteful and wanton destructiveness, using his vast power to ruin the works of the other Valar. He also envied anyone who possessed anything in greater quantity than himself, and that which he could not control, he grew eventually to hate.
He began with a desire for light, but when he could not possess it for himself alone, he turned instead to darkness. His power and knowledge, both of which were greater than all the other Valar, he perverted to manipulation and deception, and he became an absolute and consummate liar. Ever denied the lordship and worship he so coveted, he squandered his power in fashioning evil servants who would give him these things, dispersing himself, his power, and his malice into the very fabric of Arda.
Despite his overwhelming might, he was also known to be remarkably cowardly, reluctant to engage in battle himself even when victory was completely assured. Part of this was due to the fact that, alone of the Valar, he eventually became bound to a physical form which could be destroyed. He was possessed of virtually peerless cunning, and he was able to deceive and manipulate even the other Valar to the point where, after he was released from the Halls of Mandos, he was above the suspicion of all save Tulkas and Ulmo, and this was primarily because they were slow to forgive his past transgressions. Many of his most terrible deeds in Arda were achieved through treachery, manipulation, misdirection, and lies, and he seduced many Maiar to his service with false promises. However, as an utterly pitiless and merciless being, acts of compassion, mercy, or pity were entirely beyond his comprehension, and he seemed to have a serial tendency to underestimate the valor and capabilities of his foes.
Other versions of the legendarium
Portrayal in adaptations
The Hobbit film trilogy
In The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, during the Attack on Dol Guldur, after Elrond and Saruman defeated the Nazgul, Sauron appears, reviving his servants, and predicted the fall of the West and the rise of Angmar, declaring the Elves' time is up and the Orcs' time has come. With his appearance, Galadriel arises in her spectral form with her phial, dueling Sauron in a battle of wills. One of the titles she taunted him with was "Servant of Morgoth", mocking him as bearing no name or face or form before casting him out, forcing him to retreat to Mordor.
The Lord of the Rings film trilogy
In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, when the Fellowship encounters goblins and Orcs in Moria after entering Balin's tomb, they eventually fight their adversaries for a long period of time, until a deep roar scatters them away, accompanied by a sprouting of fiery columns, as the Orcs and goblins flee. Eventually, as it comes nearer, Gandalf recognizes the creature as a Balrog of Morgoth from the Elder Days, a demon of the ancient world. Gandalf is immediately alarmed and tells his companions to frantically run, as this enemy's power was beyond their capacity to overcome. Legolas also describes it as such to Galadriel when speaking of the Wizard's demise.
Although not Morgoth himself, the design for Sauron (in particular, his armor) seen during flashbacks to the War of the Last Alliance was taken in part from the narrative description of Morgoth.
- The Lord of the Rings
- The Silmarillion
- Unfinished Tales
- The Children of Húrin
- Beren and Lúthien
- The Fall of Gondolin
- The History of Middle-earth
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Belarusian Cyrillic||Мелькор (Melkor)
|Bulgarian Cyrillic||Мелкор (Melkor)
|Chinese (Hong Kong)||米爾寇 (Melkor)
|Macedonian Cyrillic||Мелкор (Melkor)
|Mongolian Cyrillic||Мэлкор (Melkor)
|Serbian||Мелкор (Cyrillic) Melkor (Latin)
Моргот (Cyrillic) Morgot (Latin)
|Tajik Cyrillic||Мелкор (Melkor)
|Ukrainian Cyrillic||Ме́лькор (Melkor)
|Uzbek||Мелкор (Cyrillic) Melkor (Latin)|