Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The True Nature of Ungoliant

In the beginning, long before Arda was created, there was only the Void - the great and terrible Nothingness that existed before good and evil manifested in the world. Within this Void, a being arose, or perhaps was the embodiment of the void itself, a darkness infinite and unfathomable, who would in time come to be known as Ungoliant. She was the embodiment of that which first stirred in the blackness that was the primordial state of unlight, and unbeing.  Her eyes beheld the Void in the glory of its infinitude, and all else was an unwanted invasion of noise and light amid the absolute darkness and silence from which she spawned in ages far beyond reckoning, long before time began.

When Melkor, mightiest of the Valar, wandered alone and in secret through the vast emptiness of the Void in his search for the Imperishable Flame of Arnor, long before the creation of Arda, it may be that he encountered Ungoliant in that fathomless eternity of darkness. And in that fateful, unrecorded meeting, a shard of her malevolence became lodged in Melkor's soul, cracking his mind and driving him to the all-consuming obsession with the destruction of all that was good in Ilúvatar's creation, and his ultimate doom. 

Ages later, the Silmarils became the obsession of Melkor's twisted desire - for they were vessels of the pure light and represented the Divine Will of Iluvitar, and were the first half of what Ungoliant hungered to devour.  Yet, Melkor could not see that the other half of her desire was to devour the rest of all creation, and so deceived was he that he was caught by surprise when Ungoliant not only sought to devour the Silmarils he craved, but Melkor himself.  And this was because her hunger was unlimited, and she desired to swallow and destroy the whole of Iluvitar's creation.  And so, it was Iluvitar who allowed the Balrogs to save Melkor in the fateful battle for the Silmarils.  After all it was He who told Melkor in the beginning that even his own evil deeds were a part of The Great Plan of Creation, which he would one day come to understand.  And so it was Iluvitar who saved Melkor from Ungoliants all-devouring maw in so far as He allowed the Balrogs to frighten Ungoliant away.  Otherwise she would have devoured the Silmarils, and then Melkor, and then the creation of all that is in the universe... the whole of Arda would have dissolved back into the nothingness of the Void.  

And so, before Arda was created, the stage was set for the great and terrible conflicts that would shake the foundations of Middle-Earth for ages to come. Melkor, driven by the maddening taint of Ungoliant's essence, sought to destroy all that was good in Arda, and claim the Silmarils in order to rule over their radiance, while the Elves and other Free Peoples fought to preserve that which gave the world light, hope and beauty. Yet while we followed the tales of this great conflict, in the shadows, Ungoliant lurked, her endless hunger unsatiated, desiring above all to consume existence itself.

When battling the Balrog of Moria, Mithrandir became aware of the presence of unnamed, unfathomable horrors gnawing at the roots of the world - entities that had slipped into Arda from the Void at the beginning, along with Ungoliant. These colossal terrors, hidden from the eyes of Elves and Men, represented an even greater threat to Arda than Melkor, for they sought not just the destruction of all that was good, but the utter annihilation of everything, and the return of all into the emptiness of the Void itself.  Ultimately, it was Ungoliant, and the nameless things, not Melkor or Sauron, who were the true enemies of Iluvitar, and they were the true threat to Iluvitar's Divine Plan.  Iluvitar said that Melkor fit into the Divine Plan in his own unwitting way.  But Ungoliant and the nameless horrors from the Void?  No, the ultimate threat to Creation is Un-Creation, not evil.  For evil can be bourn for an age, and overcome, because it is not ultimate, and it's balance is goodness.  These rival forces can rise and fall, and eventually goodness can prevail in the end.  But Ungoliant and her siblings of the Void were a threat so vast and so powerful, Gandalf refused to discuss anything about them. The "nameless things" refered to ancient, primordial entities that he did not wish to engage with or reveal the full nature of, as they were part of the deepest, darkest mysteries underlying the created world of Arda.  They gnaw at the roots of the world, working to undermine its foundations, and overthrow the whole of creation.  And not even Gandalf could confront such beings.  The Balrog, he could defeat.  The nameless things, he could not. 

And so as the conflict raged across the history of Middle-Earth, with the forces of light and goodness battling against the destroying malice of Melkor, and the wickedness of Sauron, we ought to be ever mindful that true foe of Light and Hope was not the Lords of Evil, but instead, the primal, voracious hunger of the Void itself, manifested in Ungoliant and her voracious kin, ever gnawing at the roots of the world, threatening all of existence. For in the end, the Creation itself hung in the balance, threatened by a malevolence so great and so terrible that it sought to undo ALL that Ilúvatar had wrought, and with that, end all possibility of light, hope, or beauty for all eternity.

And Iluvitar, in His wisdom, foresaw this, knew the nature his enemy, and His own Power of Creation, the Imperishable Secret Flame of Arnor, and through it all, with this power sustained Arda, and brought the world through the perils into each new age, and will continue to do so for as long as Arda shall last.

1 comment:

SeaClearly said...

What is interesting is the idea that the Tao gives rise to the Yin and the Yang. I wonder if there is a parallel where Ungoliant is the Yin, whereas Uru Illuvitar is the Yang of the universe. One creative and bringing forth life, the other receptive, and entering back into darkness. If there is something to this, then Ungoliant's desire could never truly be fulfilled, nor could the opposite. The Tao is the whole of both, and neither Yin nor Yang can truly usurp the other.