Monday, January 7, 2013

Blind Guardian - Nightfall

“The Hobbit” is a fantastic movie.

Well if course it is! “The Hobbit” is a fantastic story and Peter Jackson is a fantastic director so no surprise there. “The Hobbit” is often thought of as the beginning of the story, since it comes before “The Lord of the Rings,” however Tolkien lore is much larger than just the stories from the third age. If you want go back to the beginning you need to read “The Silmarillion.”

“The Silmarillion,” is not a very beloved book, and a lot of that has to do with the fact it reads like a history text book; which is befitting because “The Silmarillion” for all intents and purposes is a history text book about Middle Earth. I loved “The Silmarillion” and I am not alone in this, German metal band Blind Guardian loved the book so much they did an entire concept album about it, “Nightfall in Middle Earth.” But before we talk about “Nightfall” it is necessary to explain the true beginning of the mythology of Middle Earth.

Tolkien lore begins with Eru Iluvatar, the great creator being, whose thoughts created the Ainur (including the Valar, the fifteen gods) and later, and much more deliberately, he created the world of Middle Earth, the Elves and mortal men. When the world was made it was shaped by the song of Valar, but the most powerful among them, Melkor, sang a song against the harmony of Eru Iluvatar. Where mountains were raised Melkor flattened them, and where valleys were dug Melkor filled them. Despite his wrong doings in the immortal years that passed the Valar forgave Melkor and let him dwell with them once more.

Then the elves were awakened. When their eyes opened they first beheld the stars, because back then the sun had yet to have been made. To help the elves Yavanna of the Valar created the two trees, one that glowed gold and the other silver, and this became the light source of the world and all things prospered in their presence. Since the light of day came from these two trees there was never nightfall on Middle Earth....

The High King of elves Finwe’s wife, Miriel, bore him a son, Feanor. Feanor, in the elfish tongue means spirit of fire. Feanor’s fiery spirit burned so powerful in fact that the very life of his mother was sapped from her when she birthed him. Miriel was so weakened she lost the will to live. Feanor grew up to be the most powerful, cunning, and talented of all the Noldor.

With his grand talent Feanor created the Silmarils, three gems that captured the power of the three aspects of this world, the earth (red), the ocean (blue), and the sky (white). Feanor wore the three gems upon a crown when he visited the other Noldor and the Valar, but Melkor was always there and always asking about them, telling lies that both the Nolder and the Valar believed, and Feanor wisely mistrusted him.

Melkor’s desire for the Silmarils and his hatred for Feanor only grew and he preyed upon Feanor’s temperament and deceived him into thinking that his younger half brother, Fingolfin, was plotting against him. Feanor made threats against Fingolfin’s life and was exiled by the Valar. Finwe, in a showing of support for his eldest son went with him.

Melkor could not create, he could only corrupt, and in his desire for power he corrupted himself and become Morgoth. In order to steal away the Silmarils he recruited the help of Ungoliant, the queen of all spiders, an eldritch being whose origin is unknown.

There is much more to know but knowing all this, the scene is set for the beginning. Let us look upon the lyrics of “Nightfall.”

Morgoth and Ungoliant ready
the destruction of the two trees.

“No sign of life did flicker.
In floods of tears she cried.
‘All hope's lost it can't be undone,
They're wasted and gone.’”

Ungoliant devours the two trees stealing with them the light. Yavanna cries at the destruction of the trees.

"Save me your speeches,
I know. (They blinded us all)
What you want,
You will take it away from me.
Take it and I know for sure,
The light she once brought in,
Is gone forevermore."

From Feanor’s point of view; the Valar and the Noldor ask Feanor to bring them the Silmarils to help restore the trees since their power is part of the same, but Feanor’s distrusts the Valar and will not part with the gems, also he does not believe it will work.

“Like sorrowful seaguls they sang,
‘(We're) lost in the deep shades,
The misty cloud brought.
(A wailing when beauty was gone
Come take a look at the sky)
Monstrous it covered the shore,
Fearful into the unknown.’”

The elves cry out as darkness envelopes the land. Night has for the time fallen upon Middle Earth.

“Quietly it crept in new horror.
Insanity reigned,
And spilled the first blood,
When the old king was slain.”

The destruction of the two trees serves as a great distraction for Morgoth who sneaks into Feanor’s home, kills his father (the old king) and steals the Silmarils.

The Chorus:
Quietly crept in and changed us all.
Quietly crept in and changed us all.
Immortal land lies down in agony.”

The Noldor did change. The land of bliss and beauty had been taken away from them forever. They ceased being a people of peace and under the leadership of Feanor become a vengeful force of total war.

"How long shall we,
Mourn in the dark?
The bliss and the beauty,
Will not return.
Say farewell to sadness and grief,
Though long and hard the road may be."

From Feanor’s point of view; I feel these words are very self explanatory once you know the context. Nightfall has fallen upon Middle Earth, the home of the elves is lost. The long road of suffering lays ahead but Feanor is resolute to lead his people to peace and happiness once more.

“But even in silence I heard the words,
‘An oath we shall swear,
By the name of the one,
Until the world's end,
It can't be broken.’”

This refers to the Oath of Feanor. Feanor and his seven sons swore a terrible oath in the name of Eru Iluvatar that they would not rest until the three Silmarils were in their hands once more and that they would declare war on any who withheld them from them or prevented them from continuing their quest.

“Just wondering how,
I can still hear these voices inside,
The doom of the Noldor drew near.”

The Oath of Feanor would prove to be the doom of the Noldor. These lyrics foreshadow the ruthless tactics the Sons of Feanor would undertake to fulfill their oath. The lyrics foreshadow the Curse of Feanor.

“The words of a banished king,
‘I swear revenge.’
Filled with anger aflamed our hearts,
Full of hate full of pride,
We screamed for revenge.”

Fairly straight, forward, the Noldor rally behind Feanor.

"Vala he is that's what you said,
Then your oath's been sworn in vain.
(But) freely you came and,
You freely shall depart,
(So) never trust the northern winds,
Never turn your back on friends."

Vala Morgoth is; that is what is being said. Many of the Noldor remain unsure of Feanor’s quest, they fear turning their backs on the Valar.

“’Oh I'm heir of the high lord!’
‘You better don't trust him’
‘The enemy of mine,
Isn't he of your kind and,
Finally you may follow me.
He said.”

Feanor is the heir of the high lord and expects his people to follow his righteous quest for revenge. While the Valar try convincing the Noldor not to follow Feanor they are undone by the fact that this great betrayal was done by one of them. Morgoth is one of their kind, one of the Valar.

The fact an album like “Nightfall in Middle Earth” even exists is amazing enough, but the lyrics are so well chosen. I had to look up the lyrics and confirm that they are not in fact direct quotes from the book, but they feel like they could be.

“Back to where it all began.”

Indeed. Gods playing creation in the darkness of eternal space is a fancy story of creation but the true narrative of the history of Middle Earth begins with the conflict born between Feanor and Morgoth. This is where all begins, and with this, Tolkien creates fantasy literature, so when you think about it the first Nightfall on Middle earth is not just the beginning of Tolkien lore it is the beginning of all fantasy literature. I believe it worthy of at least one full metal album. .

- Colin Kelly

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