The Song of the Ainur – the Second Theme

by May 6, 2004Stories

In the beginning was the One, Eru Iluvatar; but he created the Ainur, who were with him before the World was made in the Void. Of them were many of strength and power, the Holy Ones that of later times and Ages of the World were the Valar; and they sang before him, both in many voices and alone.

Among these spirits of great and wondrous power there were others, of a lesser strength but whose voices held to less beauty, and some of them were gifted to know nigh as much of the mind of Illuvitar as their greater brethren. And of these few there was one, of the least power, who forever sang in silence; and her voice was like the music of a lone flute: simple, plaintive, and solemnly alone.

Then it came that Iluvatar gathered all of the Ainur together, and declared to them a Theme, greater and more mighty than any revealed before; and all the Ainur, from the Greatest to the Least, bowed down in silence and awe before Illuvitar.

And she, the Least, was amazed by the power of the Theme, and vowed to hold its music forever in her voice; and thus in one slow, soft note, the Music began.

One by one the other Ainur drew upon the Theme, and the triumphant echo of its harmonies interwove endlessly with the glory of the Theme itself.

But the music of the Great, of the horns and harps and trumpets, far outshone the quiet music of the Least, and her voice was lost amidst the splendor. But even as the flute faltered and fell silent, a new sound began: and it was not the Theme of Illuvitar, but wholly against it; a clamoring of many discordant notes. At its center stood the Greatest Ainur of them all.

And so the Least, silent now, looked up to Iluvatar, in fear and wonder. Nut even as she looked Illuvitar arose, and a smile played upon his face. His left hand he lifted up, and across the floor the Great who still hearkened to him looked up, and began a new theme, both like and unlike the one before. But the Greatest grew angry, and marshaled the power of his own Theme; and amidst its braying, harsh disunity the Least gave it its name, and called it Noise. But she remained silent; for the battles from the Great to the Great would not hold a place for her softer, sadder music. But he Noise grew in power and intensity, while the Theme shrank; and the Least took shelter in the shadow of Illuvitar’s silence, and did not sing.

Soon it became that the Noise alone continued, marching defiantly along its proud and clamorous union, and the other Ainur, even the Great, fell silent.

Amidst the clamor the Least lifted her eyes to the face of Iluvatar and found it cold, cold and stern as the gap between the Light and the Void. And Iluvatar raised his eyes from the Noise, and cast his gaze upon those in the shadow of his silence; and they were afraid, and lowered their faces before him.

Then before them Iluvatar arose again, great and terrible in both power and splendor, and raised his right hand. And as the Least looked upon him in his cold and fearful hour she was caught once more by the splendor of his Themes, and ashamed anew at her fearful silence. As Iluvatar raised his right hand his gaze fell upon her like thunder and lightning out of a clear sky in Arda, kindling the Imperishable Flame lying dormant within her; and from it a single note was struck, low and quavering, that fell beneath the clamor of the Noise and supplanted it.

From that low note another rose, ascending, and the pair hummed together, perfectly balanced. The two voices were joined by a third, and then a fourth, and the note grew into a chord; and from the shadow of the Throne of Iluvatar the Lesser took up a new Theme, and amidst the Noise the Great heard harmony again.

One by one the silent sang again, joining into the third Theme. But it was not a thunderous glory of sound, but instead quiet, wide and rolling, and riven with sorrow, calling upon some longing unknown to immortal minds, save Iluvatar alone.

Ever the Noise rose up against it, striving in its dreadful unison to drown the other; but every triumphant blast was woven, somehow, into the softer Theme, and for all its striving the Noise never gained the mastery. And ever the Lesser sang at the heart of the Theme, and it grew in power and profundity, vying in its solemnity. About the Throne of Iluvatar the Theme swelled and the Noise exulted, and he became like a solid rock upon a stormy sea. And the Least watched him as she sang, and drew her notes from the Fire of his eyes.

But then she faltered, and the flute softened to a whisper; and Iluvatar arose again. On this Third Rising no smile played, no cold neutrality issued: for the face of Iluvatar was terrible to behold. The silence of the Void was in his eyes. Both hands he raised, and the Music ceased.

Standing upon the edge of the choirs of the Ainur, the Least looked upon Illuvitar, and Existence itself spun away; for she was lost in the piercing darkness of his eyes. Iluvatar spoke to the Ainur, but she could not hear, and only three words came to her, echoing as if across the distance of the Void: “I am Iluvatar.”

And with that he arose, and the choirs of the Ainur parted before him, and he passed out unto the edge of the void, and the Ainur followed. All save one.

The Least alone remained, standing in the shadow of the empty Throne, and the hall was silent, and for the first time since she was brought into Being, she was Alone.

Before long Iluvatar returned, and he too was alone, for many of the Ainur had journeyed into Eä, and the few who remained stayed in other regions of that fair place. Walking as if in thought, so Iluvatar came upon her, standing half-hidden in the shadow of his Throne; and she looked up, and behold! the Flame Imperishable shone in the Void in his eyes, and it Was.

And Iluvatar said, “Behold thou, how even she counted Least, who sings alone, can raise again the will of Iluvatar. Despair not in the brazen discourse of the Noise, and remember the Second Theme!” She looked up in amazement at the name, and Illuvitar smiled for the second time, and was silent.

And so, amidst the Void, the World was shaped, and the Valar gathered in their land, watching for the coming of the Children of Iluvatar. But Iluvatar sat in silent thought, and waited.

At last, as the stars were formed, Iluvatar turned to those Ainur remaining, all those of the Lesser, and the Least was among them. “The world changeth, and much that once Was, Is no longer. The Voice of Melkor ringeth forth, and all falls before it: but Behold! I am Iluvatar, and my right hand is raised, and the Children of Iluvatar come forth. Lo! the Edain will arise, and become fell and strong, and glorious in their sorrow.” And the eyes of Iluvatar fell upon her, and she Knew.

It was cold. She shivered, feeling the wind and the air about her. She blinked, and opened her eyes, and far above a great Light blossomed, a Star cold and bright and free. A Flame in the Void. She raised her arm, and cried out in the darkness: “Ele!”



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