Morgoth Bauglir ([ˈmɔrɡɔθ ˈbau̯ɡlir]; originally Melkor [ˈmɛlkor]) is a character, one of the godlike Valar, from Tolkien's legendarium. He is the main antagonist of The Silmarillion, The Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien and The Fall of Gondolin.

Tolkien character
In-universe information
  • Melkor (originally)
  • Arun (in the old tales of the Númenóreans)
  • Moringotto
  • Bauglir
Book(s)The Lord of the Rings,
The Silmarillion,
The Children of Húrin,
Beren and Lúthien
The Fall of Gondolin
Morgoth's Ring

Melkor was the most powerful of the Ainur, but turned to darkness and was renamed Morgoth, the definitive antagonist of Arda. All evil in the world of Middle-earth ultimately stems from him. Mairon, one of the Maiar of Aulë, betrayed his kind and became Morgoth's principal lieutenant, Sauron.


Melkor was renamed "Morgoth" when he destroyed the Two Trees of Valinor, murdered Finwë, the High King of the Noldor Elves, and stole the Silmarils in the First Age.[T 1][T 2] The darker name was then bestowed by Finwë's son Fëanor, and the Elves called him thereafter by that name alone.[T 2] The name Morgoth is Sindarin (one of Tolkien's invented languages) and means "Dark Enemy", "Black Foe", or "Black Foe of the World".[T 3] Bauglir is also Sindarin, meaning "Tyrant" or "Oppressor".[T 4] Fëanor actually named him in Quenya (another of Tolkien's languages), Moriñgotto or Moriñgotho, and this was later translated into Sindarin as Morgoth.[T 3]

"Morgoth Bauglir" is thus an epithet. His name in Ainulindalë (the creation myth of Middle-earth and first section of The Silmarillion) is Melkor, which means "He Who Arises In Might" in Quenya.[T 5][T 4] This too is an epithet since he, like all the Ainur, had another true name in Valarin (in the legendarium, the language of the Ainur before the beginning of Time), but this name was not recorded. The Sindarin equivalent of Melkor was Belegûr, but it was never used; instead a deliberately similar name Belegurth, meaning "Great Death", was employed.[T 6]: 358  In earlier versions of Tolkien's legendarium the form of his name was Melko, simply meaning "Mighty One".[T 3]

Like Sauron, he had a host of other titles: Lord of the Dark, the Dark Power of the North, the Black Hand, and Great Enemy. The Edain called him the Dark King and the Dark Power; the Númenóreans corrupted by Sauron called him the Lord of All and the Giver of Freedom. He was called "Master of Lies" by Amlach of the House of Hador.[T 7]

Fictional historyEdit


Before the creation of and Arda (The Universe and the World), Melkor was the most powerful of the Ainur, the "angelic beings" created by Eru Ilúvatar (analogous to God). Melkor, dissatisfied that Eru had abandoned the Void, had sought to emulate his creator and fill the Void with sentient beings. This, however, required the Flame Imperishable, the Secret Fire, which belonged to Eru alone; though Melkor searched for this, he could not find it. In what he hoped would be an alternative expression of his own originality and creativity, he contended with Eru in the Music of the Ainur, introducing what he perceived to be themes of his own.[T 8]

During the Great Music of the Ainur, Melkor attempted to alter the Music and introduced what he believed to be elements purely of his own design. As part of these efforts, he drew many weaker-willed Ainur to him, creating a counter to Eru's main theme. Ironically, these attempts did not truly subvert the Music, but only elaborated Eru's original intentions: the Music of Eru took on depth and beauty precisely because of the strife and sadness Melkor's disharmonies (and measures to rectify them) introduced. Unlike his fellow Ainu Aulë, Melkor was too proud to admit that his creations were simply discoveries made possible entirely by Eru. Instead, Melkor aspired to the level of Eru, the true creator of all possibilities.[T 8]

Since the Great Music of the Ainur stood as template for all of history and all of material creation in the Middle-earth cycle (it was first sung before Time, and then the universe was made in its image), the chaos introduced into the Music by Melkor's disharmonies was responsible for all evil in Arda, and everything in Middle-earth was tainted or "corrupted" by his influence.[T 8] Tolkien elaborates on this in Morgoth's Ring, drawing an analogy between the One Ring, into which Sauron committed much of his power, and all of Arda—"Morgoth's Ring"—which contains and is corrupted by the residue of Melkor's power until the Remaking of the World (analogous to the Apocalypse).[T 9]

Quenta SilmarillionEdit

After the Creation, many Ainur entered into . The most powerful of them were called the Valar, or Powers of the World; the lesser, who acted as their followers and assistants, were the Maiar. They immediately set about the ordering of the universe and Arda within it, according to the themes of Eru as best they understood them. Melkor and his followers entered Eä as well, but he was frustrated that his colleagues would not recognize him as leader of the new realm, despite his having a greater share of knowledge and power than all the rest. In anger and shame, Melkor set about ruining and undoing whatever the others did.[T 10]

Each of the Valar was attracted to a particular aspect of the world that became the focus of his or her powers. Melkor was drawn to terrible extremes and violence—bitter cold, scorching heat, earthquakes, rendings, breakings, utter darkness, burning light, etc. His power was so great that at first the Valar were unable to restrain him; he single-handedly contended with the collective might of all of the Valar. Arda never seemed to achieve a stable form until the Vala Tulkas entered Eä and tipped the balance.[T 10]

The Spring of Arda was lit by two great lamps, Illuin and Ormal, until Melkor attacked and destroyed them. Based on Karen Wynn Fonstad's Atlas of Middle-earth

Driven out by Tulkas, Melkor brooded in the darkness at the outer reaches of Arda, until an opportune moment arrived when Tulkas was distracted. Melkor re-entered Arda and attacked and destroyed the Two Lamps, which at the time were the only sources of light, along with the Valarian land of Almaren, which was wiped from existence. Arda was plunged into darkness and fire, and Melkor withdrew to his newly established dominion in Middle-earth. In the latter versions, Melkor also dispersed agents throughout Arda, digging deep into the earth and constructing great pits and fortresses, as Arda was marred by darkness and rivers of fire.[T 10]

After the fall of the Lamps, the Valar withdrew into the land of Aman in the far West. The country where they settled was called Valinor, which they heavily fortified. Melkor held dominion over Middle-earth from his fortress of Utumno in the North.[T 10]

Melkor had captured a number of Elves before the Valar attacked him, and he tortured and corrupted them, breeding the first Orcs.[T 11][T 12] Earlier and later versions of the story describe Orcs as corruptions of Men, or alternatively as soulless beings animated solely by the will of their evil lord. This last version illustrates the idea of Morgoth dispersing himself into the world he marred. His fortress Utumno dispersed deathly cold throughout Arda and brought on an endless winter in the north; for the sake of the Elves, the Valar waged a seven-year war with Melkor, defeating him after laying a grievous siege to Utumno. The battles fought there shaped and marred Arda even further, though Melkor was defeated by Tulkas and imprisoned by the Valar.[T 13]

Upon his release, Melkor was paroled to Valinor, though a few of the Valar mistrusted him.[T 1] He made a pretence of humility and virtue, but secretly plotted harm toward the Elves, whose awakening he blamed for his defeat. The Noldor, most skilled of the three kindreds of Elves that had come to Valinor, were most vulnerable to his plots, since he had much knowledge they eagerly sought, and while instructing them he also awoke unrest and discontent among them. When the Valar became aware of this they sent Tulkas to arrest him, but Melkor had already fled. With the aid of Ungoliant, a dark spirit in the form of a monstrous spider, he destroyed the Two Trees of Valinor, slew the King of the Noldor, Finwë, and stole the three Silmarils, jewels made by Finwë's son Fëanor, which were filled with the light of the Trees. Fëanor thereupon named him Morgoth, "Black Foe of the World", and the Eldar knew him by this name alone afterwards.[T 2]

Morgoth resumed his rule in the North of Middle-earth, this time in Angband, a lesser fortress than Utumno, but not so completely destroyed. He rebuilt it, and raised above it the volcanic triple peak of Thangorodrim. The Silmarils he set into a crown of iron, which he wore at all times. Fëanor and most of the Noldor pursued him, along the way slaying their kin the Teleri and incurring the Doom of Mandos. On arriving in Beleriand, the region of Middle-earth nearest Angband, the Noldor established kingdoms and made war on Morgoth. Soon afterwards, the Sun and the Moon arose for the first time,[T 14] and Men awoke if they had not done so already.[T 15] The major battles of the ensuing war included the Dagor-nuin-Giliath (Battle Under the Stars, fought before the first rising of the Moon), Dagor Aglareb (Glorious Battle),[T 16] Dagor Bragollach (Battle of Sudden Flame) at which the long-standing Siege of Angband was broken,[T 17] and the battle of Nírnaeth Arnoediad (Unnumbered Tears) when the armies of the Noldor and the Men allied with them were routed and the men of the East joined Morgoth.[T 18] Over the next several decades, Morgoth destroyed the remaining Elven kingdoms, reducing their domain to an island in the Bay of Balar to which many refugees fled, and a small settlement at the Mouths of Sirion under the protection of Ulmo.[T 19][T 20]

Before the Nírnaeth Arnoediad, the Man Beren and Elf Lúthien, the daughter of Thingol, entered Angband and recovered a Silmaril from Morgoth's crown after Luthien's singing sent him to sleep. It was inherited by their granddaughter Elwing, who joined those dwelling at the Mouths of Sirion. Her husband Eärendil, wearing the Silmaril on his brow, sailed across the sea to Valinor, where he pleaded with the Valar to liberate Middle-earth from Morgoth.[T 21]

During the ensuing War of Wrath, Beleriand and much of the north of Middle-earth was destroyed and reshaped. Morgoth summoned many Men to his side during the fifty-year conflict, which became the largest, longest, and bloodiest conflict ever fought in Arda's history. In the end, Morgoth was utterly defeated, and his armies were almost entirely slaughtered. The dragons were almost all destroyed, and Thangorodrim was shattered when Eärendil slew the greatest of dragons, Ancalagon the Black, who crashed upon it as he fell. The few remaining dragons were scattered, and the handful of surviving Balrogs hid themselves deep within the earth. Morgoth fled into the deepest pit and begged for pardon, but his feet were cut from under him, his crown was made into a collar, and he was chained once again with Angainor. The Valar exiled him permanently from the world, thrusting him through the Door of Night into the void, excluded from Arda until the prophesied Dagor Dagorath, when he would meet his final destruction. His evil remained, however, as "Arda Marred," and his will influenced all living creatures.[T 22]

Children of HúrinEdit

In this more complete version of a story summarized in Quenta Silmarillion, Húrin and his younger brother Huor were leaders of the House of Hador, one of the three kindred of elf-friends. At Nírnaeth Arnoediad they covered the escape of Turgon to Gondolin by sacrificing their army and themselves. Huor was slain, but Húrin was brought before Morgoth alive. As revenge for his aid to Turgon and his defiance, Morgoth cursed Húrin and his children, binding Húrin to a seat upon Thangorodrim and forcing him to witness all that happened (using the long sight of Morgoth himself) to his children in the succeeding years. There is little additional information about Morgoth in this book, except in the encounter with Húrin, which is set out in more detail than in The Silmarillion and in a more connected narrative than in Unfinished Tales. It gives the first allusion to the corruption of Men by Morgoth soon after their awakening, and the assertion by Morgoth of his power over the entire Earth through "the shadow of my purpose".[T 23]

The Lord of the RingsEdit

Melkor is mentioned briefly in the chapter "A Knife in the Dark" in The Lord of the Rings, where Aragorn sings the story of Tinúviel and briefly recounts the role of Morgoth ("the Great Enemy") in the wider history of the Silmarils.[T 24]


In the early versions of Tolkien's stories, Melkor/Morgoth was not seen as the most powerful Ainu. He is described as being equal in power to Manwë, chief of the Valar in Arda.[T 25] But his power increased in later revisions of the story until he became the most powerful Ainu,[T 26] and in a late essay more powerful than all of the Valar combined. He developed from a standout among equals into a being so powerful that the other created beings could not utterly defeat him.[T 27]

Over time, Tolkien altered both the conception of this fallen Ainu and his name. The name given by Fëanor (Morgoth) was present from the first stories. He was for a long time also called Melko. Tolkien vacillated over the Sindarin equivalent of this, which appeared as Belcha, Melegor, and Moeleg. The meaning of the name also varied, related in different times to milka ("greedy") or velka ("flame").[T 28][T 29] Similarly the Old English translations devised by Tolkien differ in sense: Melko is rendered as Orgel ("Pride") and Morgoth as Sweart-ós ("Black God").[T 30] Morgoth is once given a particular sphere of interest: in the early Tale of Turambar Tinwelint (precursor of Thingol) names him "the Vala of Iron".[T 31]

Much of the text published in The Silmarillion was drawn from earlier, more completely written, drafts of the mythology—and thus reflects the older conception of Morgoth's power; there is less discussion of his marring all of Arda by diluting himself throughout it. In other sections, such as the 1950s draft used for Ainulindalë, the implication of his pervasive power remains clear. While not included in the published Silmarillion, other versions of the mythology hold that Melkor will escape the guardianship of Eärendil and return at the end of time. In the final battle, Melkor will be slain by either Túrin Turambar with his famous black sword or by Eönwë as mentioned in the Hiding of Valinor.

In earlier versions, Melkor's first reign ended after the Elves, the eldest of the Children of Ilúvatar, awoke at the shores of Cuiviénen, and the Valar resolved to rescue them from his malice. The Valar waged devastating war on Melkor, and destroyed Utumno. Melkor was defeated by the Vala Tulkas, bound with a specially forged chain, Angainor, and brought to Valinor, where he was imprisoned in the Halls of Mandos for three ages.

According to later texts, the Dagor Dagorath would be the apocalyptic final battle against Morgoth, prophesied by Mandos. According to this prophecy Morgoth would regain his power and find a way to break through the Door of Night. After passing through it into Arda he would resurrect all of his greatest servants and minions and rebuild his hosts, and in great wrath would wage war on Arda once more, destroying the Sun and the Moon. It would be either by Túrin Turambar or by Eönwë (as mentioned in the Hiding of Valinor) that Morgoth would be slain. According to Christopher Tolkien, the Dagor Dagorath concept as it was theorized was abandoned by Tolkien in his late essays.

In late writings a distinction is made between the Ainu Melkor, the most powerful of Eru's created beings, and Morgoth, the diminished being that styled itself Dark Lord of Arda. This distinction is not limited to the change in name ("Arises in Might" to "Dark Enemy"). As described in the Ainulindalë, Melkor's discord marred the Music of the Ainur in Heaven. Melkor's thematic variations in that Music amounted to his own self-elaboration. (Each Ainu arose from a divine theme, existing beforehand only in the mind of Eru.) Eä, or the World that Is, is shaped after the Music. Thus, the evil that Melkor weaves into the Music was mirrored in Eä by the evil he wove into the fabric of reality. As a result, the world Arda was "Marred": the conceptions of the Valar never came about, and Melkor's very essence was present in all creation.[T 8]

Melkor's inability to perform true creation is tied to the idea that something of his actual being must pass into the things he "created", in order to give them an effective substance and reality. Melkor could not create anything, as he did not possess the Flame Imperishable; thus he could only create a mockery of those things in Arda. From his Trolls to the Sun (which was made from the fruit of a Tree poisoned by Ungoliant, and was thus itself imperfect), Melkor's power and essence was poured into Arda. Melkor's individual self was diminished as a consequence. He was reduced to Morgoth, the "Dark Enemy" (poetically elaborated as "The Black Foe of the World").[T 32]

Morgoth, once the most powerful being in Eä, spent his will on his vast armies and followers, so that in the War of Wrath, as his armies were swept away before the host of Aman, he was captured by Eönwë and cast off his throne. Morgoth's spirit was cast out beyond the Walls of Night, yet his presence remains as the pervasive corruption of the world, "even until the End of Days".[T 32]

After Morgoth's defeat, his lieutenant Sauron gradually rallied many of Morgoth's servants to his own cause, and during the Second Age established himself in the land of Mordor. Sauron lacked the raw power and malice of his master, but he seduced many to his allegiance with lies and false promises. In the Second Age, Sauron repeatedly used his fame among Men as Morgoth's erstwhile lieutenant to portray himself as Morgoth's representative and thus gain the allegiance of his former master's worshippers. Similarly, in Númenor following his capture, Sauron became very powerful by seducing Ar-Pharazôn to the worship of Melkor, establishing a Cult in which it was only natural that, as Melkor's foremost former disciple, he became high priest.[T 33] This cult exploited the Númenórean fear of death by claiming that human sacrifice to Melkor would grant the Men of Númenor immortality. In actuality, by turning away from Eru and the Valar they only dwindled more rapidly. Sauron used this religion among his means of encouraging Ar-Pharazôn's invasion of Valinor, which resulted in the destruction of Númenor by Eru. By the Third Age, Sauron came more often to propound himself, rather than Morgoth, as the object of worship for his servants and subjects, but in his pride, also portrayed himself as Morgoth returned when it was more convenient for him to do so.[T 34]


Melkor has been interpreted as analogous to Satan, once the greatest of all God's angels, Lucifer, but fallen through pride; he rebels against his creator.[1] John R. Holmes, writing in The J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia, suggests that Melkor's nature resonates with John Milton's fallen angel in Paradise Lost.[2] Just as in Christian tradition Satan leads humanity to become slaves of sin, Melkor creates an "iron hell" for his elven slave labourers. His greed for ever more power and his fondness for technology make him a symbol for the despotism of modern machinery.[3] His rebellion against Eru is creative, as Melkor is impatient for the void of the world to be filled with things. But his creativity becomes destructive, as it is tainted with pride. "His desire to create other beings for his glory" turns into a desire for servants and slaves to follow his own will. This "temptation of creativity" is echoed in Tolkien's work by Melkor's opponent Fëanor, who loves the Silmarils he created so much that he leads his entire people to a hopeless war when Melkor steals them.[4]

The Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey writes that The Silmarillion is most obviously a calque on the book of Genesis (where the Shire of The Lord of the Rings is a calque upon England). Tolkien thus says that even Melkor begins with good intentions, just as Satan was created good. Shippey concludes that clearly the reader can assume "that the exploit of Morgoth of which the Eldar [Elves] never learnt was the traditional seduction of Adam and Eve by the serpent", while the Men in the story are Adam's descendants "flying from Eden and subject to the curse of Babel".[5]

The Tolkien scholar Marjorie Burns writes in Tolkien's Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth that Morgoth, like all Tolkien's Middle-earth characters, is based on a complex "literary soup". One element of his construction, she states, is the Norse god Odin. Tolkien used aspects of Odin's character and appearance for the wandering wizard Gandalf, with hat, beard, and staff, and a supernaturally fast horse, recalling Odin's steed Sleipnir; for the Dark Lord Sauron, with his single eye; for the corrupted white wizard Saruman, cloaked and hatted like Gandalf, but with far-flying birds like Odin's eagles and ravens. In The Silmarillion, too, the farseeing Vala Manwë, who lives on the tallest of the mountains, and loves "all swift birds, strong of wing", is Odinesque. And just as Sauron and Saruman oppose Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, so the enemy Morgoth gets Odin's negative characteristics "—his ruthlessness, his destructiveness, his malevolence, his all-pervading deceit". Burns compares this allocation to the way that Norse myth allots some of Odin's characteristics to the troublemaker god Loki. Odin has many names, among them "Shifty-eyed" and "Swift in Deceit", and he is equally a god of the Norse underworld, "Father of the Slain". She notes that Morgoth, too, is named "Master of Lies" and "Demon of Dark", and who functions as a fierce god of battle.[6]

The Tolkien scholar Verlyn Flieger, discussing the splintering of the original created light of Middle-earth, notes both that Melkor initiates the rebellion against Eru,[7] and likens Melkor/Morgoth's response to the Silmarils to that of Fëanor, who had created those jewels. She states that "desire to possess is the cardinal temptation, and possessiveness the great transgression in Tolkien's cosmology", observing that the commandment "Love not too well the work of thy hands and the devices of thy heart" is actually stated in The Silmarillion. Flieger compares Tolkien's descriptions of the two characters: "the heart of Fëanor was fast bound to these things that he himself had made", followed at once by "Melkor lusted for the Silmarils, and the very memory of their radiance was a gnawing fire in his heart". She writes that it is a "fitting irony" that Melkor and Fëanor, "each one the best and brightest of his kind" – Melkor being the greatest of the Ainur, Fëanor the most subtle and skilful of the creative Noldor among the Elves – should "usher in the darkness".[8]

See alsoEdit



This list identifies each item's location in Tolkien's writings.
  1. ^ a b The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion", ch. 6 "Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor"
  2. ^ a b c The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion", ch. 9 "Of the Flight of the Noldor"
  3. ^ a b c Morgoth's Ring, pp. 194, 294
  4. ^ a b The Lost Road and Other Writings, "The Etymologies"
  5. ^ The Silmarillion, Index entry for "Melkor"
  6. ^ The History of Middle-earth, Vol. XII, The Peoples of Middle-earth.
  7. ^ The Silmarillion, ch. 17 "Of the Coming of Men into the West"
  8. ^ a b c d The Silmarillion, "Ainulindalë"
  9. ^ Morgoth's Ring, pp.398–401
  10. ^ a b c d The Silmarillion, Chapter 1, "Of the Beginning of Days"
  11. ^ The Silmarillion, ch. 3 "Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor"
  12. ^ Morgoth's Ring, pp. 72-73
  13. ^ Morgoth's Ring, pp. 416-421
  14. ^ The Silmarillion, Chapter 11, "Of the Sun and Moon"
  15. ^ The Silmarillion, Chapter 12, "Of Men"
  16. ^ The Silmarillion, Chapter 13, "Of the Return of the Noldor"
  17. ^ The Silmarillion, Chapter 18, "Of the Ruin of Beleriand"
  18. ^ The Silmarillion, Chapter 20, "Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad"
  19. ^ The Silmarillion, Chapter 22, "Of the Ruin of Doriath"
  20. ^ The Silmarillion, Chapter 23, "Of the Fall of Gondolin"
  21. ^ The Silmarillion, ch. 19 "Of Beren and Lúthien"
  22. ^ The Silmarillion, Chapter 24, "Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"
  23. ^ The Children of Húrin, Chapter 3, "The Words of Húrin and Morgoth"
  24. ^ The Fellowship of the Ring, book 1, ch. 11 "A Knife in the Dark"
  25. ^ Valaquenta, "Of the Enemies"
  26. ^ The Silmarillion, Ainulindalë
  27. ^ Morgoth's Ring, pp. 390-393
  28. ^ The Lost Road and Other Writings, The Etymologies, root MIL-IK-
  29. ^ The Book of Lost Tales, p. 260
  30. ^ The Shaping of Middle-earth, pp. 281-283
  31. ^ The Book of Lost Tales 2, "Turambar and the Foalókë", p. 73
  32. ^ a b Morgoth's Ring, "Myths Transformed"
  33. ^ Morgoth's Ring, p. 398
  34. ^ Letters, #183 notes on W. H. Auden's review of The Return of the King, footnote "†By a triple treachery"


  1. ^ Carter 2011, p. pt 16.
  2. ^ Holmes 2013, pp. 428–429.
  3. ^ Garth 2003, pp. 222–223.
  4. ^ Rosebury 2008, p. 115.
  5. ^ Shippey 2005, pp. 267–268.
  6. ^ Burns 2000, pp. 219–246.
  7. ^ Flieger 1983, pp. 55ff.
  8. ^ Flieger 1983, pp. 99–102.