Remember the inscription upon the One Ring: “Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone…”
We’ve come to know much about the Dwarves already from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. We know them to be strong and stout, stubborn, quick in friendship and in enmity, to be of big heart when it comes to great deeds and of bigger pride when it comes to their crafts. They are seemingly at odds with everything the Elves represent, and yet their place in the stories of Middle-Earth is secure. It would seem they have reason to be proud. Pride leads to stubbornness and fall within the writings of Tolkien, but it is humility and acceptance that leads to far greater things. Pride claimed Thorin Oakenshield, though he was repentant in the end. Love granted Gimli the humility and acceptance needed to gain the favor of Galadriel, the friendship of Legolas, and the strength stand with the Fellowship to the end of the War of the Ring. In this chapter, we learn that these ideas are there right from the beginning of the creation of the Dwarves.
Aulë, impatient for the Elves to wake and eager to pass on his secrets of smithcraft the Children of Ilúvatar, jumps the gun completely and creates Dwarves, without ability or authority. Like Sauron forging the One Ring, Aulë creates in secret. Unlike Sauron, Aulë does so out of a desire to teach, to share, and to build in strength against the power of Melkor. Specifically, he creates the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves (which is why the Dwarf-lords would always number seven, to honor them). Ilúvatar learns of their creation, however, and forces Aulë to understand his own folly and limitations. When Aulë swings that hammer in tears to undo his work, the Dwarves cower in fear and beg for mercy while, and Ilúvatar stays the execution and grants them mercy. They must rest until the Awakening of the Elves, and thus must sleep for all that time until Eru’s chosen come to be. At that time, they will be merely Eru’s instruments, limited by their original intent, lesser than his chosen and at odds with them, but adopted and woven into his Music of Creation nonetheless.
Aulë’s impatience echoes that of Melkor himself, both in impatience and in the desire to create in secret. But unlike Melkor, Aulë gains repentance through his willingness to see, to ask forgiveness, and to continue to be a part of Eru’s grand design. Where Melkor wanted minions, Aulë wanted students. Where Melkor rebelled openly and brooded in secret. Where Aulë rebelled in secret, he repented openly. It’s a perfect inversion of characters, part of the diversity of Eru’s design.
Aulë’s wife, Yavanna, learns of the Dwarves and the dominion of their labors. Because Aulë chose to hide them from her, she realizes that they should hold no love for that which she loves — the plants and trees. They will love only that which they craft themselves rather than that which grows upon the earth. Accordingly, she fears them and seeks out Manwë for protection, lest the Dwarves become as destructive to her works as Melkor. She says that it is her desire that the trees have the means to speak on behalf of all those with roots, that they should be able to protect against all those who would harm them. As this has been seen in the Song of Creation, Manwë is able to envision all of it, though it may be that these are new lines in the Song that Eru is adding on the spot. He declares via Eru that when the Children awaken, spirits will be summoned to protect that which Yavanna holds dear: the Eagles and the Ents. Yavanna warns Aulë that his children should beware, but he replies only that they will still have need of wood.
So much for compromise in marriage.
Before closing out this chapter, it’s worth considering these spirits that should become the Eagles and Ents. If they are of Ilúvatar, that certainly classifies them as Ainur, even if they are not Valar. And if this is true, knowing what we now know of Gandalf, this puts the conversations between the wizard and Gwaihir, Lord of the Eagles, into new context.