Valaquenta

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Valaquenta (Quenya for "Tale of the Valar") is the second section of The Silmarillion, a collection of myths written by J. R. R. Tolkien and published in an abridged and condensed form by his son Christopher in 1977.

Contents

Overview

Valaquenta provides a middle-ground and link between Ainulindalë, which stands as Middle-earth's cosmogony or 'creation myth', and Quenta Silmarillion, a collection of mythical histories wherein major events of Middle-earth find their first elaboration (see The Silmarillion).

Not an actual 'story' in itself (there is no plot or action), Valaquenta is more a 'listing' — a kind of expanded footnote giving 'personal' details attached to each of the major divine characters of Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. These divine beings are the Valar, the Maiar and the 'Enemies' (the last being equivalent to fallen or Ainur of the same kind and order as the Valar/Maiar. For an explanation of the divine natures of all the Ainur, see Ainulindalë).

Just as with the rest of Tolkien's characters, the natures and names of these worldly Ainur are by no means incidental; they are intimately connected with important elements of plot and action in the later tales. To an extent, Valaquenta gives a meaning or a 'genealogy' , or both, to many scenes in the larger Quenta Silmarillion; it is a virtual 'list of players' for important parts of that ensuing drama, which drama itself (as a collection of mythic tales) provides a foundational background for the world that comes after (in particular for those stories comprising the more widely known histories of Middle-earth, including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings).

History of composition

Although sequential descriptions of the Valar can be found in The Book of Lost Tales (first begun as far back as 1916-7, but published in 1983 as volume 1 of The History of Middle-earth), the earliest Valar-list that can be measured against Valaquenta is found in the text called Quenta Noldorinwa (probably written in 1930, but first published in 1986 as part of The Shaping of Middle-earth, volume 4 of The History of Middle-earth).

These ordered descriptions eventually became Chapter 1 (entitled Of the Valar) for the Quenta Silmarillion (or "The Silmarillion proper".) In revisions to the Quenta Silmarillion done in 1958, the list of the Valar was split off into a separately titled work. When Christopher Tolkien finally edited and published The Silmarillion in 1977, he left the chapter as a distinct section. Apparently, there is nothing to indicate why the senior Tolkien felt that the piece should stand alone. While Valaquenta is not a narrative, neither is the Quenta chapter Of Beleriand and its Realms, and Tolkien never seems to have considered presenting the latter as an independent section.

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