Forgive me for mixing stories here, but with this chapter I’m reminded of an old Klingon proverb that says, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Regardless of which story you’re in, if you’re known as a Dark Lord, you have to live up to that title in ways indisputable by all. The only way to do that is by deeds so terrible the legend of them will cast shadows across all time. If you can do them in vengeance, so much the better. The more passionate a villain is about the work ahead, the more likely a hero will rise. The best heroes out there are defined by the villains they face. For every Darth Vader, there is a Luke Skywalker because when storytelling is at its best, the best beget the best. In Tolkien’s Legendarium, we’ve already seen what it takes to bring down Sauron: massive intercultural cooperation to run interference while a Hobbit drops a ring into a river of fire. If The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are akin to the original Star Wars trilogy in bringing down the mighty Empire, then The Silmarillion fills the same role as the prequels, setting into motion the story of the fall and the power that caused it. The greater the fall of the world, the greater and more powerful the redemption is later on. Melkor is the original Dark Lord of the Legendarium, and it’s not enough to cast proverbial shadows. No… this Dark Lord’s shadows are very real to the beings of Arda. Twisted, corrupt beings dwell in that darkness. But is that enough to earn the reputation? Melkor has the whole of the Valar opposed to him, and the very music he sought to distort from the beginning is working against him thanks to the versatility and mastery of Eru Ilúvatar. A Dark Lord in this world has to do something particularly nasty in this world if he’s going to earn his title, something so spiteful that his vengeance will bring about a major turning point in the history of the world.
After trying and failing to seduce Fëanor to his will, Melkor makes his way to the shadowed valley of Avathar to seek out a former servant. Ungoliant, possibly once a Maia, had thrown off the shackles of dominance and set out with insatiable hunger to feed on all light. To properly set the stage here, Ungoliant has taken the form of a large spider, and it is she who is the mother of Shelob, who in turn is the mother of the Spiders of Mirkwood. She has been depicted as being cut off from the light of the Valar by her own webs of darkness, starving, and living in fear of her former master. Melkor asks Ungoliant to join him for a specific mission to hit the Valar where it hurts. How evil is it? It’s a plan so diabolical that Ungoliant has to be persuaded to undertake it. When the mother of all evil spiders questions it, it’s got to be evil beyond all reckoning.
In Valmar, the great festival was set in motion to reconcile the sons of Finwë, and Melkor made his play at this time to sow maximum strife at this delicate time. He pierced the Two Trees with his lance, and Ungoliant gorged herself on the sap, draining the Trees dry. As an encore, she drank up the Wells of Varda, belching darkness in her wake and growing to massive proportions such that even Melkor feared her.
And in the darkness that passed over the entirety of the land, Melkor and Ungoliant make their escape, thus giving time for the new reality to set in within the hearts and minds of the formerly jubilant partygoers. That is how you establish yourself as a Dark Lord, which Tolkien tells us is the fixed form of Melkor ever after.