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Stars by Douglas Chaffee

The stars, playing a prominent role in the history of Arda, were created by the Vala Varda (thus her names Tintallë = Q. Kindler, Elentári = Q. Star-queen, Elbereth = S. Star-queen).[1]


[edit] History

Varda created the stars in two phases: first, in the earliest ages of the creation of Arda, and second, prior to the awakening of the Elves. She made the second group using collected light from the Silver Tree, Telperion. These were the brighter of the stars that we see. This group included many of the prominent constellations, including Menelmacar (Orion) and the Valacirca (the Sickle of the Valar, the Big Dipper).

Also created in the second group appear to be many of what we would consider planets rather than stars. These are named Carnil, Luinil, Nénar, Lumbar, Alcarinquë, and Elemmírë.[note 1]

While the evil of Morgoth corrupted the whole of Arda ('Arda Marred'), the stars (or at least most of them) remained unaffected.[2]

The Elves first awoke under the stars before the Sun and Moon existed, and the stars were the first thing they saw. The earliest words spoken by the Elves are associated with the stars; according to Elvish legend, ele was a primitive exclamation 'behold!' made by the Elves when they first saw the stars. From this origin derived the ancient words el and elen, meaning 'star'." Moreover, when Oromë first met the Elves, he too associated them with the stars and named them the Eldar, the People of the Stars.

The Star of Eärendil is a unique case. Following his successful mission to persuade the Valar to intervene in the wars against Morgoth in the First Age, Eärendil and his ship, along with the last remaining Silmaril, were placed in the sky as a sign of hope to the faithful people of Middle-earth. After the war against Morgoth was concluded, a group of the Edain followed Eärendil's star to the newly created island that would become Númenor. Consequently, one of the names of that island was Elenna, or "Starwards". [note 2]

Emblems also featured stars. An eight-rayed star represented the House of Fëanor, and seven eight-rayed stars above a crown and anvil were the emblems of Durin. Both of these were depicted on the West-gate of Moria (the former because Celebrimbor, one of the makers of the doors, was a descendant of Fëanor). Seven stars appeared on the banner of Gondor. Certain jewels are also described as stars, notably the Star of Elendil that Aragorn wore into the Battle of Pelennor Fields. In the Lay of Nimrodel, it is said that "A star was bound upon her brow," clearly describing some kind of jewel.

Other prominent references to stars include:

  • The Quenya greeting, Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo (Quenya: "A star shines on the hour of our meeting.")
  • Frodo, from the window of his room in Rivendell, observed a red star foreshadowing the Eye of Sauron: "But low in the South one star shone red ... deep in the heavens burning like a watchful eye that glared above the trees on the brink of the valley."[3][note 3]
  • Sam's song in Cirith Ungol concludes "...above all shadows rides the Sun, and Stars for ever dwell. I will not say the Day is done, nor bid the Stars farewell."
  • Travelling through Mordor, Sam saw a star, leading him to conclude that "In the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach."

[edit] Names

[edit] Other versions of the legendarium

In the printed text in The Silmarillion it is only told that Varda set the constellations "as signs in the heavens of Arda",[4] but in "The Later Quenta Silmarillion" text J.R.R. Tolkien writes: 'as signs in Heaven that the gods may read'.

Note that in the standard mythology of the published Silmarillion, the stars of both groups were created long before the Sun and the Moon. They thus contain the unsullied light of creation, and are therefore particularly sacred to the Elves.

So important was this identification of the Elves with the stars to Tolkien that when he considered revising his creation myths so that the Sun and Moon existed from an earlier time (see Myths Transformed), he still insisted that the Elves must have awoken under the stars.


  1. In his introduction to the Index of Morgoth's Ring, Christopher Tolkien identifies these, respectively, with the planets Mars, Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mercury. Most of these identifications appear to be fairly certain, although there are astronomical problems with the identifications of Neptune and Uranus in the context of the mythology. Note that Venus is not included on this list, as in the mythology, it is not a star (or planet), but rather a Silmaril.
  2. The Star of Eärendil is identified with the Evening or Morning Star, i.e. the planet Venus.
  3. While recognizing its allegorical nature, scholars have attempted to identify this star in the night sky. David Turner, "Stars of fancy" in Nova Notes (newsletter of the Halifax Center of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada), vol. 27, no. 2, avril 1996, identifies it with Sirius, supposedly reddish many aeons ago. Alain Lefèvre, "L’astre rouge de la Lune du Chasseur" (French) in Tolkien, le façonnement d'un monde, vol. 2, 2014, pp. 29-41, argues against Sirius and retains Mars as possible candidate. As an aside note, "Saruman's Book" in Peter Jackson's adaptation includes pages in tengwar (movie prop designed by Daniel Reeve) mentioning the "red star of Sauron" and its supposedly (non-canonical) strange effects on nature.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Númenórean Catastrophe & End of ‘Physical’ Arda" (edited by Michaël Devaux with the assistance of Christopher Tolkien and Carl F. Hostetter), in J.R.R. Tolkien, l'effigie des Elfes, La Feuille de la Compagnie, Nr. 3, p. 152
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Ring Goes South"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor"
Middle-earth Cosmology
 Constellations  Anarríma · Durin's Crown · Menelmacar · Remmirath · Soronúmë · Telumendil · Valacirca · Wilwarin
Stars  Alcarinquë · Borgil · Carnil · Elemmírë · Helluin · Luinil · Lumbar · Morwinyon · Nénar · Star of Eärendil · Til 
The Airs  Aiwenórë · Fanyamar · Ilmen · Menel · Vaiya · Veil of Arda · Vista
Narsilion  Arien · Moon (Isil, Ithil, Rána) · Sun (Anar, Anor, Vása) · Tilion
See Also  Abyss · Arda · Circles of the World · · Timeless Halls · Two Lamps · Two Trees · Void