Rise & shine, Elves, you've got a long journey ahead.
The tales of the First Age when Morgoth dwelt in Middle-Earth and the Elves made war upon him for the recovery of the Silmarils, to which are appended the downfall of Númenórë and the history of the Rings of Power and the Third Age in which these tales come to their end.
Ainulindalë (the Music of the Ainur): Eru Ilúvatar, the omnipotent and omniscient (i.e. biblical) God* his names in Elvish mean "the One, the All-father", inspires and directs the Ainur (angels) to sing a "Great Music", through which the universe is created, and history itself playing out as a manifestation of its meanings.
Valaquenta (the Account of the Valar): a description of each of the Valar (Ainur who have chosen to enter the physical universe and serve as Eru's regents therein) and some of the Maiar, their servants.
Quenta Silmarillion (the History of the Silmarilli): recounts the creation of Middle-Earth by the Valar; the creation of the Elves, Dwarves, and Men; the first war between the Valar and Melkor; and the six-hundred year long war between the Elves and Melkor (with Men and Dwarves caught squarely in the middle) over the eponymous Silmarils.
The chapter "Of Túrin Turambar" is further elaborated in the book The Children of Húrin (named Narn i-Chîn Húrin in Sindarin, or Grey Elven)
Akallabêth (The Downfall of Númenor): The isle of Númenor is given to Men who fought in the war against Melkor as a reward by the Valar. Over the centuries, the Númenóreans grow proud. All culminates in the reign of Ar-Pharazôn, who, driven by his fear of death and the lies of Sauron, dares to invade the land of the Valar. As a punishment, Númenor is destroyed and sinks into the Sea.
Note: The terms "Quenta Silmarillion" or just "Silmarillion" are used (in-story and in the real world) for the whole body of stories from the First Age, regardless of their inclusion in the 1977 book The Silmarillion.Earlier forms of the stories in The Silmarillion, insights into their evolution over a period of more than 50 years, and additional texts and material can be found in The History of Middle-earth and Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth.Has a Character Sheet.
The Silmarillion provides examples of:
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Abandoned By The Cavalry: The Haladin, a tribe of Men, are just about crumbling after a week holed up in a fortress resisting an Orc rout with their leader and his son dead when Caranthir, one of Fëanor's sons on whose land they've grudgingly been tolerated enough to live on, finally shows up with his followers. Haleth, who helped them pull through that long against incredible odds is grateful but not grateful enough to accept Caranthir's offer of more official residence and alliance.
Absurdly Sharp Blade: Angrist, a knife that cuts iron like cheese. Telchar of Nogrod, the Dwarven smith who forged it, also created the sword Narsil, which found its way into Elendil's possession, and was eventually reforged into Andúril in The Lord of the Rings.
Haleth. Holding out against a massive onslaught of Orcs, her father, the leader of their band of Men is killed and her twin brother dies trying to retrieve that body, so with a combination of physical prowess and pure willpower manages to keep a fair amount of her people alive until help arrives at the last minute.
Lúthien counts, considering the lengths she went to helping Beren in his quest. While she never personally engaged in battle, she did contest with the will of Sauron, and was instrumental in sneaking into Angband. There's also the little bit about putting Morgoth under her spell...
A God Am I: In the Second and Third Ages, it is Sauron's goal to become god-king of Middle-Earth. He succeeded partially, as the populations of the East and South worshipped him as a god of fire. Though in a downplay, he was already an angelic spirit (Maia), while his former master Morgoth was a godlike archangel (Vala) with a lower-case g. He (and Morgoth before him) just wanted to graduate to big-G God. For obvious reasons, the guy who already has that job isn't very happy about that.note To clarify: Both Morgoth and Sauron, like all Maiar and Valar, were created by the God Eru-Ilúvatar. Lesser than the Valar are the Maiar. Power exponentially increases as you go up this chain, and within each group there are varying degrees. For example, the Maiar include Melian, Sauron, Balrogs, and the Istari (Gandalf being the most famous one).
The Ageless: The Elves, Ents, and Ainur live forever, within the lifespan of the world Arda, and never age in any way that mortals can perceive. They can perceive themselves getting "old," but even the Elves only start fading if they spend tens of thousands of years in Middle-Earth, so that doesn't seem to be anything inherent to their kind so much as a downside of Middle-Earth.
Aggressive Negotiations: After Fëanor's death, his son Maedhros receives envoys from Morgoth offering a truce and the return of a Silmaril. Both sides try to use this trope: Maedhros brings a large party to the appointed place, but "Morgoth sent the more and there were Balrogs" and so overpowered him.
The Alliance: Maedhros sought to create this after the Dagor Bragollach, combining the forces of the Noldor, the Edain, the Dwarves of Nogrod and Belegost, and Easterlings, into what was called the Union of Maedhros. He planned to bring all of their forces together to besiege Angband, and destroy it. Unfortunately, he wasn't careful enough about hiding his plans from Morgoth. Then the people of the Easterling chieftain Ulfang brought the plan crashing down when they betrayed the others during the joint assault against Morgoth's armies, resulting in the battle called Nírnaeth Arnoediad (Tears Unnumbered).
And Man Grew Proud: Ar-Pharazôn grew very proud, and Númenor was erased from the earth in turn.
Angry Guard Dog: Carcharoth the venomous werewolf, guarding the Gates of Angband, who was fed on the people-flesh from his puppy years; and Huan the good wolfhound of Valinor, who occasionally talks. They kill each other.
The two are sons of two warrior brothers, Hurin and Huor.
They each earn a name for themselves in a hidden Noldor city which later falls (Nargothrond/Gondolin), while earning the love of a local Elven princess (Finduilas/Idril).
In the troubles of both, there is an incestuous motif - Turin unwittingly falls in love with and weds his long-lost sister, while Tuor's wife is desired by her cousin who out of jealousy betrays Gondolin and causes its fall.
During the sackings of Nargothrond and Gondolin, respectively, both Turin and Tuor confront a great dragon - Glaurung and the Beast of Gondolin.
Turin is directed by the curse of Morgoth; Tuor is directed by the commands of Ulmo, Valar of the seas.
Turin has two tragic love interests: Finduilas the princess of Nargothrond, who Cannot Spit It Out to him and ends up enslaved and killed while he is paralyzed by Glaurung, and later his own lost sister Niniel, who he finds amnesiac on Finduilas' grave. Tuor, meanwhile, is Happily Married to Idril.
Turin, due to his Dark and Troubled Past, is seen as dangerous, if a powerful ally, in Nargothrond. Finduilas' father tells her that he is "no Beren". Tuor, on the other hand, is accepted by the people of Gondolin as one of them and King Turgon is happy to have him married to his daughter, explicitly referencing Beren and Luthien's union as a reason to do so.
The one time the two cousins cross paths, Turin is going north to Dor Lomin which is devastated by Hordes from the East, and Tuor is marching south to Vinyamar, an abandoned Elven fortress. They never say a word to each other.
Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Mostly played straight with Elves, except when Fëanor and his sons are around. They aren't called Kinslayers for nothing! Fëanor threatens his half-brother with murder in cold blood, then starts the first Elf-on-Elf war and slaughters the people of Alqualondë. His sons and their followers go on to slaughter the people of Doriath and the Havens of Sirion.
Atlantis: The island empire of Númenor. It's a direct homage to the Atlantis myth, which fascinated Tolkien. The link is reinforced somewhat blatantly in-story: the Quenya name for the downfall of Númenor is Atalantë. Although according to Word of God the title was a shocking coincidence when he worked out what the Quenya word for "Downfall" would be. This is supported by the fact that much earlier writings contain the verb root talat- for fall.
Backstory: Sometimes confused to be this to The Lord of the Rings, but are actually the original main stories and written much earlier. The author just never finished or published them, and so they are often viewed as supplementary to LotR, rather than equal tales who just happen to predate (both in in-universe and real-world chronology) the book that got the hype started.
Húrin, when he was captured by Morgoth's forces, killed seventy trolls and chopped the hand off every Orc that tried to grab him. He was only captured after he got pinned down by the weight of his maimed enemies. When you're so much of a nuisance that the equivalent of Satan curses your family to go through horrible hardships and forces you to watch the whole thing, you know you're badass. In-universe, Húrin is considered the most powerful mortal warrior in all of Arda's history. Indeed, depending which version of the legendarium you favor, it's possible that his son Túrin is destined to actually kill Morgoth in the Last Battle.
Ungoliant the giant spider, who drank the life out of the sacred Two Trees, nearly ate the Satanic Archetype himself and was the mother of the other bane of arachnaphobe's lives when reading (and, especially, watching) LotR, Shelob.
Fëanor. He engaged how many Balrogs during a single battle??* between three and seven And never mind his crafting the Silmarils... so valuable that Morgoth (the equivalent of Satan) wanted to steal them. He made the Silmarils basically out of pure willpower alone, after which not even he was sure how he did it. He engaged as many Balrogs as he could, including their lord Gothmog. And he did it alone because he literally ran ahead of his army, full of rage. And this was right after Morgoth's forces had attacked the Noldor in the night, almost immediately upon their arrival.
Haleth, who held out against a massive army of Orcs without any food for a whole week, losing most of her family and a massive disadvantage in numbers. To top it all off she led her people through near lethal conditions with sheer willpower.
King Finrod Felagund, who killed a werewolf with his bare hands and teeth, after having been in chains and starving in a dungeon for who-knows-how-many-weeks, and breaking his chains by raw strength.
Fingolfin, who challenged Morgoth himself to single combat and wounded him seriously before being killed, even stabbing him square in the foot so he always had a limp afterward. To put this in perspective, this is the same god of all evil, who is described as driving powerful spirits insane just by looking at his eyes. He also rode hundreds of miles into a land full of powerful enemies alone, and they all ran in fear because they mistook him for a god. He arrives at Angband, and challenges Morgoth, and Morgoth hesitates. Fingolfin literally faced the Satan of this world in single combat and Satan was actually afraid of losing.
Húrin's son, Túrin, takes after his father in this regard. He kills the father of all dragons (Glaurung), becomes a living legend amongst Elves and Men, and handles one of the most powerful blades of Middle-Earth. Unfortunately, he has been Blessed with Suck by Morgoth himself.
Glaurung is a bit of a Badass in his own right: aside from apparently spawning every dragon after him, he sacks a town before he's supposed to, sacks at least one other along with a troup of Orcs from whom he then denies any pickings in gold or jewellery, plays hypnotic mindgames with Túrin and Niënor, causing (further) madness in the former and amnesia in the latter, poisons at least two rivers, kills Túrin's friend Hunthor without even meaning to, nearly, in dying, kills Túrin himself with his toxic blood and then is arguably instrumental in causing the man's suicide having unmistakably caused the suicide of his lover Niënor. Pure Evil Badassery!
Beren and Lúthien. They set out to steal Morgoth's most treasured possession, which he keeps on his person, from the middle of his fortress of doom and succeed. All over what amounts to a bet.
And, Thingol himself. While he's not seen doing much, he led the hunt for Carcharoth (the greatest wolf that ever lived, as said below) and led the First Battle of Beleriand. Tolkien said of Thingol: "mightiest of the Eldar save Fëanor only." You see Fingolfin up there? Thingol could kick his ASS. Oh, and he spent his free time boinking an angel. Not to mention that without Thingol, Beren & Lúthien's quest would never have begun.
The House of Finwë in general.
The Battle of Nírnaeth Arnoediad, Unnumbered Tears, the scene of many acts of badassery as Maedhros' alliance fight Morgoth's forces. Húrin's fight with the trolls (mentioned above) was the last part of this. Also noteworthy is the Dwarf lord Azaghâl's going one-on-one with Glaurung.
Nerdanel, for accomplishing the impossible: for a time, Fëanor listened to her. She also bore him seven sons; this is a very big deal if you're an elf — few have more than four, as it is so draining for them, even more than for humans. And these are Fëanor's kids we're talking about. No elf ever had as many kids as them.
Eärendil. Half-Human and half-Elf, he is the ancestor of Elrond, Elros, Elladan, Elrohir and Aragorn, all serious Badasses. That and the fact that in least one version of the Silmarillion, he finds and casually slaughters Ungoliant, a creature which nearly ate Morgoth. He turns up in the final battle of the War of Wrath in a flying ship, killing the greatest of the Dragons, Ancalagon the Black. He also wears on his brow a Silmaril which is the morning/evening star. The guy is a walking Crowning Moment Of Awesome!
Ar-Pharazôn the Golden. The last king of Númenor, who wanted no less than the overlordship of the whole world, who vanguished Sauron the Dark Lord, and who then declared war on the Valar—the gods themselves. Well, he found out he'd bitten off more than he could chew with that one.
Maedhros, who recovered from decades of torment by Morgoth to "wield his sword with his left hand more deadly than his right had been." During battle, the orcs fled from him in terror. He also managed to survive to the end of the First Age, which is pretty much a feat in itself.
Dior, who managed to kill Celegorm, Caranthir, and Curufin during his last stand in Doriath.
Ecthelion of the Fountain, a lord of Gondolin. In one version of the Silmarillion, he personally killed three Balrogs. Oh, and he also killed Gothmog, the lord of the Balrogs (and was himself killed in that fight).
Badass Boast: Túrin chooses the title "Turambar," which means "the Conqueror of Fate." Alas, Fate conquers him
The ending of Akallabêth. Númenor is destroyed, Dúnedain are exterminated, their kingdom is finished, and only a handful of stranded exiles survive. Sauron's physical form is killed, but he reincarnates quickly and re-establishes his kingdom.
The tale of Túrin. Yes, Túrin managed to kill Glaurung, but so what. His life was still a tragedy that ended with his suicide, and the point of the curse was just to make Húrin watch as his family suffered. And then Húrin winds up leading Morgoth's forces to Gondolin anyway.
Bash Brothers: Túrin fights with a sword and has a cool dragon-topped helmet, and Beleg is pretty Badass with bow and arrow, hence his title "Cúthalion", meaning "Strongbow". Together they gain renown as the Two Captains and the land they hold becomes known as Dor-Cúarthol, meaning the Land of Helm and Bow.
Battle Cry: Usually given in Quenya. During his Last Stand, Húrin's is "Aurë Entuluva!" ("Day shall come again!"). note Compare to Aurinko on tuleva! (Sun shall come again!) in Finnish language.
Barred from the Afterlife: Túrin. Or rather, barred himself from the passing on from the Halls of Mandos unto Eru, which is extraordinary since Men by their design are meant to depart Arda. Due to his failures Túrin is unable to rest in peace. Can anyone blame him? Morgoth ensured he had a fairly lousy existence. It's poetic then that he is prophesied to deal the killing-blow unto Morgoth and destroy his evil-influence.
Beauty Equals Goodness: You might think so, what with the Orcs, Dragons, Trolls, Morgoth, and Ungoliant being hideously ugly bastards who also smell. With the Easterlings, it's even stated that the "uglier" ones were those who sided with Morgoth. But some ugly dudes (namely, the Drúedain) are among the most uncorruptible good guys. And as for the beautiful people, well... keep in mind that all elves are superhumanly beautiful, regardless of their behavior. And try not to forget that most fallen Ainur can appear in whatever beautiful, pleasing form they like, the better to deceive you...
Justified Trope: It's explicitly stated that evil is an inherently corrupting force, thus any being who remains evil long enough will eventually become ugly because evil can only damage things. Both Morgoth and Sauron were explicitly stated to be incredibly beautiful at first, until their own evil deeds rendered them incapable of ever taking a fair form again.
But compare Saruman whom even Aragorn mistakes for Gandalf once because the two of them are looking so much alike, despite one being evil.
Beleaguered Childhood Friend: Beleg finds that Túrin, his wayward friend, has become the leader of some rather unscrupulous outlaws. He proceeds to both help them and (try to) bang some morals into them.
Big Bad: Morgoth is the biggest bad of all. Once he's out of the picture, Sauron takes over the role.
Big Bad Duumvirate: Melkor and Ungoliant, at least during the Darkening of Valinor. This lasts just as long as you can expect an alliance between two evil, utterly selfish, Omnicidal Maniacs to last.
Morgoth may be the central villain but the house of Fëanor are responsible for a pretty large percentage of large scale and minor threats the protagonists encounter.
Morgoth's closest servants are also presented as individual Big Bads during key parts of the overall story. These include Ungoliant (who even shares a Duumvirate with Morgoth himself at this particular point) during The Darkening of Valinor, Sauron during the tales of Beren and Lúthien and the Akallabêth, Glaurung in The Children of Húrin, and Gothmog during The Fall of Gondolin.
Big Damn Heroes: Barahir, a Man and chief of the House of Bëor, rescuing Finrod Felagund in the Pass of Sirion during the Dagor Bragollach. Felagund swears an oath to come to the aid of Barahir or any of his descendants in their hour of need just as Barahir did for him.
Bittersweet Ending: Half the endings in the book. The other half are plain depressing. The "Quenta Silmarillion" overall has a bittersweet ending, with Morgoth overthrown but nearly every main character dead.
The Elves in their turn consider their immortality a Blessing With Suck, because they cannot leave the world even if they want to, but the audience is not likely to agree with them. The Elves' particular version of immortality consists of "fading," or in other words of their spirits gradually burning away their flesh: they become something resembling ghosts if they stay in Middle-Earth. (This is why they're leaving for the West at the time of The Lord of the Rings.)
Tulkas Astaldo, who "laughs ever, in sport or war", is essentially a Boisterous Bruiser god.
It's worth noting that two Valar that were eventually removed from the story — Makar and Measse — were this taken to an even more bloodthirsty degree, as in Norse mythology.
Brother-Sister Incest: Túrin Turambar and Niënor Níniel. To their credit, unfamiliarity and amnesia were involved.
Burning the Ships: After Fëanor and his faction of the Noldor have crossed over from Aman to Middle-earth on the ships they stole from the Teleri, Fëanor orders to burn all the ships. His motive is duplicate: He wants to prevent any of his followers from returning to Aman, but also make sure they cannot ferry the rest of the Noldor under the leadership of Fëanor's brother Fingolfin over to Middle-earth.
Túrin, yet again. Yeah, his life sucked that bad. There's a reason for it, too. First, the Doom of the Noldor hit his bloodline pretty hard for various reasons. And then Morgoth just went ahead and added his own curse on top of that. There was pretty much no way it was going to end well, not that Túrin knew it at the time.
Fëanor's sons, too. The whole quest for the Silmarilli just puts them (and hell, the rest of the Noldor) through increasingly worse disasters and failures. Of course, it is entirely their own faults.
Cain and Abel: Half-brothers Fëanor and Fingolfin. Fëanor doesn't kill Fingolfin, but he comes pretty close, twice.
Cain and Abel and Seth: Add the third brother Finarfin, who is said to be "the fairest and wisest of all Noldor". He eventually becomes the High King of Noldor at Undying Lands and presumably still rules at Túna.
Morgoth is very fond of this. He hates everybody, especially God and anything or anyone created by God (which means everything and everyone), and wants to break them. Also, he's exceedingly sadistic and just loves causing pain.
Sauron is quite skilled at this, too, though he tends to use minions to accomplish the actual torture while he plays mind-games with the victim on the side.
Con Lang: Tolkien simply isn't Tolkien without Con Langs. The languages came before the stories — he wrote all these tales to give the languages context and history.
Continuity Snarl: J. R. R. Tolkien got tangled in one of these all on his own, which is why the book had to be published posthumously. Like real-world mythologies, consistency should not be expected between different versions of the tales if one chooses to read beyond the 1977 Silmarillion.
Continuity Porn: However the fact that one can read from before time to the end of the Third Age of the Sun is very impressive none the less.
Cool Airship: Eärendil's ship Vingilot. It carries a holy Silmaril jewel and appears as the brightest star in the sky (a.k.a. Venus).
Cool Sword: Several examples. The black swords Gurthang and Anguirel are especially cool, being made of meteoric metal.
The Corruption: Eru's plans for the world are perfect until Morgoth begins to ruin it.
Except that it is entirely possible that Eru always intended for things to happen that way. He explains after the Music of the Ainur, which Melkor attempted to corrupt, that noone can play anything that does not come from him. The various references strongly suggest that Men, and possibly Dwarves, have true free will, and the ability to create truly new things of their own, but the Ainur and the Elves do not.
Creation Myth: Arda was planned by Eru through the Great Music, sung by the angelic choirs of the Ainur, corrupted by Melkor-Morgoth, and finally brought into physical existence as a "blank slate" for the Valar and Maiar to shape in accordance with the Music.
Creative Sterility: This is a recurring theme in Arda — in Tolkien's Christian theology, only God can truly create anything. Those who serve God can "subcreate" within the universe if they recognize their limits as created beings, but evil is a fundamentally destructive, degenerative force and can't even subcreate anything new.
Morgoth, the originator of evil, cannot make, only mock.
As Aulë finds out, even the good Valar cannot create sentient life with free will or souls, because that requires the Secret Fire that only Ilúvatar can grant.
Aside from the ability to spin webs, Ungoliant. She seeks only to destroy.
Cruel and Unusual Death: Morgoth and Sauron like causing these. Special mentions go to Gorlim the Unhappy and Gelmir son of Guilin.
For all his strength, both times Morgoth fought with Tulkas resulted in Morgoth taking a dirt nap; the fact that Tulkas was tough enough to subdue Morgoth one-on-one was the reason he came to Arda.
Ilúvatar versus Númenor, guess who wins?
The Battle of Unnumbered Tears (fourth in chronology) is depicted as a noble effort by the Elves, Men and Dwarves to finish off Morgoth once and for all, but turns into a catastrophic defeat for them.
The Siege of Gondolin also ends in utter ruin for the Elves.
The final battle by the Valar against Morgoth ends with his being utterly crushed. He is bound as he was before when defeated by Tulkas, but this time his punishment isn't a period of imprisonment followed by parole. Instead, he is taken to the literal edge of the universe, still bound, and thrown out of it. And guards are placed on the boundaries of the world to make sure he never comes back.
Cynicism Catalyst: Túrin's younger sister Lalaith dies of a plague that Morgoth sent, when she's three and he's six, instigating his dark and angsty worldview and leading to his descent into total berserk self-destruction, which ironically ended by suicide, just after the death of his other little sister.
Dark Is Evil / Dark Is Not Evil: A frequent visual motif in the legendarium is darkness and shadow as a metaphor and literal tool of evil. However, it isn't without exceptions, for nothing was evil in its beginning, including the concept of darkness.
Darkness as an evil motif:
Morgoth uses and abuses darkness, turning it from a harmless cozy nighttime thing into a terror and a weapon. He works in darkness, his servants (such as Orcs) fear and hate the Sun and Moon, he destroys light wherever he can (except the Silmarils, which he can't destroy and keeps as spoils).
Ungoliant, the horrific spider-shaped thing that crawled from the Void, devours all light and belches out webs of shadow darker-than-dark, shadows that are more than mere absence of light. With Morgoth, she destroys the holy Trees of Valinor.
Eöl, called "the Dark Elf," is the only individual Dark Elf to always be associated with literal darkness. He lives in the dark, hates and shuns sunlight, and is pretty evil at the end of the day. He's got fewer redeeming features than Fëanor.
Caranthir the Dark, Fëanor's fifth son. On one hand, he is only called "the Dark" because of his coloration, and is on the Noldor's side. On the other hand, he is a Jerk Ass who participates in the massacres of Elf by Elf, and who thinks the Sindar are inferior, and is a loud-mouthed bully even by Fëanorian standards. He does get a Pet the Dog moment when he and his troops rescue the people of Haleth from Orcs, though even that is suspect. He conveniently shows up just after their leaders have been killed, and offers to basically let them be a buffer between his people and Morgoth, only he phrases it better. That Haleth immediately led her people away from him and to Thingol of all Elves makes you wonder.
Dark Elves, or Moriquendi. They don't have jet black skin or live in the thrall of a Religion of Evil like the Dungeons & Dragons Dark Elves, they just never saw the light of the Two Trees and are thus "of darkness" and comparatively uneducated. As a whole, they have just as much potential to be evil or good as other Elves.
Mandos is essentially Tolkien's Hades. He's closely associated with death, but only as the caretaker and judge of dead souls. He's stern and unyielding, but just and entirely on the good side of things.
The elves are often mentioned to cherish nighttime, when the stars come out.
A Day in the Limelight: Aulë and Yavanna are the only Valar to get a chapter all to themselves. Well, Eru and Manwë show up for a bit, but since the chapter is literally called 'Of Aulë and Yavanna', the trope stands.
The Determinator: Fëanor and his sons in their quest to recover the Silmarils. Unfortunately for them (and Middle-Earth) though, it leads to their downfall and a lot of massacres.
Development Hell: Tolkien began writing The Silmarillion during the First World War and it was published only in 1977, over sixty years after its first conception.
Diabolus Ex Nihilo: Ungoliant (literally) appeared out of the Void and into the story to kill the Two Trees and attempt to eat Morgoth before disappearing into the South.
Divine Delegation: Tolkien, being a devout Catholic, did not want to create a cosmology that directly contradicted his religion, but he really loved Norse mythology, so this was a compromise between those two views. Eru (the biblical monotheistic God) creates the template of the Universe and its history via the "Great Music", while the Valar and Maiar (angels) effect the physical act of creation.
Divine Parentage: Lúthien the half-Maia, leading to veryRoyal Blood in her great-grandchildren Elros and Elrond and their progeny (and eventually Aragorn and Arwen).
Everybody with means to do so delves one: Morgoth had Utumno and Angband, Thingol and Melian had Menegroth, Finrod had Nargothrond, the dwarves had Belegost and Nogrod, and even the Petty-Dwarves had Amon Rûdh. Only humans and wood-elves had the misfortune of lacking massive underground fortifications in which to hide when the enemy came calling.
Gondolin is a subversion: a shining city on a hill, but hidden away behind almost impenetrable mountains, so effectively underground as far as concealment and defense are concerned.
Ungoliant becomes this and almost eats Morgoth. He needs a bunch of Balrogs to chase her away. You get the idea. Ungoliant also eats light, making herself huge, swollen, and more powerful, and emitting an "Unlight", which is not just darkness but a void that actively consumes light. Worse yet, nobody knows where she came from or what happened to her. She is said "to have descended from the Outer Darkness, maybe, that lies in Eä beyond the walls of the World." After breeding with lesser spiders, she just... wandered off.
Some have said that she ended long ago, when in her uttermost famine she devoured herself at last.
Morgoth himself used to be this. He is described as "a dark creature greater than a mountain with its head above the clouds, crowned with smoke and fire, and the light of his eyes drove the lesser Ainur to madness". Not to mention, he was originally more powerful than all the other Valar combined.
Eldritch Location: The mountains of Ered Gorgoroth and Nan Dungortheb, the valley (of Dreadful Death) below them. Not only do the descendants of Ungoliant make this their home, but Sauron's evil magic and Melian's protective, maze-like magic get caught up in each other and combine horrifically. Beren is the only one to have gotten through both alive, and (despite all the other stuff he goes through) doing so is the one thing he can't talk about, lest it all come back.
Elves VS Dwarves: Naturally. But not without reason: The Elves and Dwarves near the west coast of Middle-Earth were originally allies and trade partners. The problem didn't start until the Dwarves of Nogrod fell in love with a necklace that they'd made for King Thingol, refused to give it up, and murdered the Elf-king. The Elves killed all the Dwarves, but then the army of Nogrod retaliated by sacking the Elven kingdom. And Beren and some woodland Elves finish them off, then leave with said necklace.
The Silmarillion shows that the conflict between Elves and Dwarves is actually anything but natural: they do have things in common (a love of craftsmanship for instance) and, though not particularly friendly to each other, are willing to work and fight together at the beginning; it's only because of historical events that they become enemies, and the feud only affected the Eldar (western Elves) and the Dwarves of the western mansions. According to The War of the Jewels, the Avarin Dark Elves were actually frequently friends and allies of the Dwarves out east. And in the Second Age the Noldor of Eregion got along pretty well with Dwarves of Khazad-dûm.
Empathic Weapon: Anglachel, later renamed Gurthang (Iron of Death) by Túrin. It blunts and "mourns" the death of its former wielder, Beleg and eventually answers Túrin's request for death by saying that it will "drink [his] blood gladly".
Morgoth's realm, centered around Angband. It runs on the backs of slaves, the army is Always Chaotic Evil, the main entertainment is Cold-Blooded Torture, and the whole goal is to conquer and kill everybody on Earth.
Númenórë becomes one during its last days. They colonized large swaths of Middle-Earth, and controlled all the oceans. They also cut down all the old forests on the northwest continent to build fleets, and enslaved entire native populations. And it gets worse during the reign of Ar-Pharazôn, who is described as the greatest tyrant in the world since Morgoth himself. They came "no more as the benevolent kings of old, not even as harsh rulers, but as fierce men of war" who sacrificed scores of people on the altars of Morgoth every day, using the Middle-Earth natives, and took many others to slavery* (one might wonder how much the trip to Númenórë resembled the horrific "middle passage" of the Trans-Atlantic slave-trade). This is more or less the reason why the Gondorians, descendants of the Númenórëans, are so hated by the Dunlendings, and probably with some of the Haradrim and Easterlings, too.
Endless Daytime: Middle-Earth was originally lit by the Two Lamps, Illuin and Ormal, which never went out. After Melkor threw them down, Yavanna lit Valinor in Endless Daytime with the Two Trees of Light. Perpetual day was the original blessed state of the world, along with the theme of light as the symbol of holiness.
End of an Age: Several. The ruin of Almaren, the destruction of the Two Trees, the sinking of Númenórë...
Engagement Challenge: Thingol to Beren (because he promised his daugher he wouldn't just execute the guy or throw him in chains). Downplayed, since Lúthien tries to dissuade Beren from going through with it, and when he is unable to complete it alone, she proves to be more important to the Quest than him.
Túrin in regard to his mother Morwen. Mentioning that she (or his sister) may be suffering due to his choices can easily send him over the edge. And insulting the women of Dor-lómin, and by extension his mother and sister, is Túrin's Berserk Button.
Fëanor really genuinely loved his father a great deal, as both mother and father (since his mother died in his childhood). And he took his great regard for his mother to absurd lengths when he made a big political stink over dialectal differences in pronouncing her name and assumed the change was a giant conspiracy to besmirch her.
Lampshaded, when Fëanor learns of his father's death: "For his father was dearer to him than the Light of Valinor or the peerless works of his hands; and who among sons, of Elves or of Men, have held their fathers of greater worth?"
Everyone Is Related: Most of the protagonists are from the various noble houses, whose lines are followed over several generations. Heck, Túrin and Niënor even have an incestuous relationship to take it a bit further.
Played straight with Morgoth, when one of his plans is messed up by pity. Since he himself has none, he couldn't expect anyone else to show mercy to an enemy.
Subverted when Glaurung spares Túrin's life and he stares back at him, "being yet bemused by the eyes of the dragon, as were he treating with a foe that could know pity."
Evil Chancellor: Sauron to Celebrimbor, and later to Ar-Pharazôn; to an extent Maeglin to Turgon. Melkor was one to Manwë for a time, but his goals then were less to try and usurp Valinor and more to convince everyone he was reformed so he could have free rein to subtly corrupt the Elves.
Evil Makes You Ugly: It isn't a surefire thing, so don't assume Beauty Equals Goodness or you might end up like Celebrimbor. But evil does tend to turn formerly handsome beings into freakish monsters. The orcs, bred from elves and/or humans, are apparently among the most hideous things alive (Morgoth probably deliberately made them ugly, to mock Eru). Dragons are even more repulsive, and smell gut-wrenchingly vile. Even Morgoth and Sauron, originally able to assume any shape they pleased, eventually suffered Shapeshifter Mode Lock as a result of their moral falls, and became stuck in shapes as outwardly horrible as their evil souls.
Later Sauron and Ar-Pharazôn both take over this role.
Exact Words: When Thingol was trying to get Lúthien to reveal the name of her lover, he promised that if she told him, her lover would be neither killed nor imprisoned, or as Thingol put it, "Neither blade nor chain his flesh shall mar." When he finds out that her lover is the mortal Beren, he tries to weasle out of that oath, first by threatening to imprison Beren in a labyrinth where he technically wouldn't be chained, then by sending Beren to fetch one of the Silmarils.
Fëanor began as the greatest of the Eldar, but Morgoth (whom he hated) manipulated him until he became paranoid, jealous, cruel, and eventually rebelled against the Valar and started killing other elves.
And Sauron became the second Dark Lord because he believed he could help reconstruct Middle-Earth, Morgoth became the first because he believed he could improve the original plan for the world, and so on. Tolkien deconstructedUtopia Justifies the Means pretty thoroughly.
Fëanor's sons all turned against good, and committed some of the worst systematic slaughters against groups of Elves who opposed them. This led to all their deaths except for Maglor. While no less guilty than the others, only Maglor eventually relented, and only after he realized the futility of their cause. But after something like that, You Can't Go Home Again.
The entire Noldorin enterprise of waging war against Morgoth. Námo Mandos points out to them at the very beginning of the rebellion that they can't actually defeat Morgoth, but they spend 590 years trying anyway. As in The Lord of the Rings, force of arms proves largely useless in the face of evil.
The Númenórean expedition to conquer the Undying Lands. They were no match against the God himself.
Fantasy Pantheon: Eru Ilúvatar, and his personified thoughts, the Valar and Maiar. However, Eru is the only true God, consistent with Tolkien's Catholicism. The Ainur are the equivalent of Christian angels, though they take the place of a polytheistic pantheon in the story.
Fate Worse than Death: Ar-Pharazôn, the last king of Númenórë, and his army are ghosts buried forever under a landslide just outside Valinor, unable to rest in peace or leave the world, though human souls are designed to leave and remaining forever eventually becomes unbearable torment. One wonders if he'll have learned his lesson about immortality by the time the world ends.
Fiery Redhead: Three of the Sons of Fëanor — Maedhros, Amrod, and Amras — are fiery redheads. All seven Sons of Fëanor are fierce, rash, and violent, of course. But not their mother Nerdanel, who is much more cool-headed.* While it's actually never outright said, many fans assume she's a redhead, too. This has become such an integral part of the SilmarillionFanon most people don't even realize its unconfirmed status. Maedhros is possibly the fiercest of the Seven, though not the nastiest, but the twins don't get much characterization. And it's hard to estimate the Ambarussat's fiery-ness without falling into bad jokes about Amrod's fate. note Well, his fate as originally envisioned by Tolkien: accidentally burned to death on the Teleri ships at Losgar. This does not show up in the published Silmarillion, where he dies in battle together with his brother at the Mouths of Sirion.
First Time in the Sun: The Elves are born under the new stars, and Men when the Sun is made, so that these things are the first that they see.
Flat World: Arda was one until the Change of the World, when the world was made round, new lands (the Americas, by implication) were added to fill the new hemisphere, and Valinor (and the Lands of the Sun) were removed from the circles of the world.
Framing Device: The Red Book of Westmarch, Ælfwine of England. They didn't make it into The Silmarillion as published, but were part of Tolkien's initial plan.
A Friend in Need: Fingon's rescue of Maedhros on Thangorodrim, after all that's come between them — and when he sets out to do it Fingon thinks, with good reason, that Maedhros has pulled an Et Tu, Brute? on him (which was subverted: Maedhros was in fact the only one of the Fëanorians who stood aside at the betrayal of the Fingolfinian camp at Losgar). Unfortunately even after that heroic rescue, Maedhros' Conflicting Loyalty issues mean that the Oath, as before, must always come before everything.
God: Eru Ilúvatar. It should be noted that despite being based on the Christian God, Eru is different in some ways — he mediated the creation of the Universe through demiurges/angels (the Ainur), created two sentient races (Elves and Men), and intended for the human race to be mortal (rather than giving them mortality as punishment for the Fall). This is called the Gift of Ilúvatar. Also, he generally avoids intervening in the Universe directly, allowing the Valar to run things.
God of Evil: Morgoth. Sauron and the Balrogs (and possibly Glaurung) are demigods of evil.
The Gods Must Be Lazy: This appears to be the case — the Valar let the Noldor go to Middle-Earth to fight Morgoth while they sit back at Valinor. But the combined might of the Valar can destroy whole landmasses and kill untold numbers of people in the attempt to save anyone. Meanwhile, the Noldor rebelled and left paradise of their own free will, and forfeited all right to help. Nonetheless, Manwë sends his Eagles to provide help in extreme circumstances, and Ulmo takes an almost-direct hand in helping the Noldor — it's just that Ulmo's attempts are almost entirely ruined by the foolishness of Elves and Men. And sure, the Valar are very powerful — but for a long time, Morgoth was a match for all of them put together. Even when the Valar finally do strike, at a carefully selected time when Morgoth has been greatly weakened and they can defeat him, the cataclysmic battle still destroys a subcontinent.
Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: It is said that the Valar don't understand Morgoth's evil, and explicitly didn't understand it was incurable.
For Manwë was free from evil and could not comprehend it, and he knew that in the beginning, in the thought of Ilúvatar, Melkor had been even as he; and he saw not the depths of Melkor's heart, and did not perceive that all love had departed from him forever.
And in the Akallabêth, Manwë learns the hard way that Edain often take benefits for granted and feel entitled to more.
Good Is Not Nice: A recurrent theme of the stories, and particularly prevalent among the Noldor and their allies. Even the Valar have these moments.
Grim Up North: Morgoth's fortresses, Utumno and Angband, lie in the extreme north of Arda. Morgoth is the reason the extreme north is a frozen wasteland.
Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Golden hair, instead of the usual black or brown, is typically a sign of a wiser-than-usual elf, or an especially nice or heroic one:
The Vanyar, who usually have golden hair, are the holiest elves, living closest to the Valar. None of them stay in Middle-Earth during the Great March, hardly any join the rebellion, and their king Ingwë is the High King of all Eldar.
The House of Finarfin, the third of the Noldorin royal houses, inherited the golden hair of the Vanyar from Indis. They were also generally the wisest of the Noldorin princes (excepting Orodreth), the least rash, and the greatest friends to mortals. In his latest writings Tolkien also moved Galadriel far over on the innocent side of the trope, by extricating her from all involvement in the Noldorin rebellion, to the point of having her leave Valinor for Middle-Earth by a different route and for a different reason. Finarfin was the most innocent: he quit the rebellion early and went back to Valinor.
Half-Human Hybrid / Heinz Hybrid: Eärendil is exactly half Mortal and half Elven. Lúthien marries a Mortal and is herself half Elf and half Maia; thus all her descendants are combinations of Maia, Mortal, and Elf: Dior, his daughter Elwing, her brothers Eluréd and Elurín, and her sons Elros and Elrond.
Half Truth: The final chapter says, regarding the One Ring, that Frodo took it to Mt. Doom and destroyed it. This appears to be what the rest of Middle-Earth believes happened, though the readers know it's not exactly the truth.
Having been captured by Morgoth, Maedhros, the eldest son of Fëanor, was rescued from his torment on Thangorodrim by having his right hand cut off. Once he got healed up, he became an even more Bad Ass sword-fighter with his left hand such that when Orcs had to face him in battle they would flee in terror (of course, this probably had to do with the fact that Maedhros was a Bad Ass who had made it Out of the Inferno).
Beren (Erchamion, meaning one-hand), also lost a hand; it was bitten off by the greatest (were)-wolf in the history of the world. He does some stuff afterwards, but admittedly most of his physical Bad Ass achievements were done before that happened, or after he literally came Back from the Dead (presumably with two hands).
Glaurung to Túrin on their first encounter about what a nasty person he has been — cleverly using a paralysing hypnotic beam from his eyes beforehand so the man can't even attempt a Shut Up, Hannibal! on him.
Idril disliked and distrusted her cousin Maeglin, without really knowing why, almost as soon as she met him, though she didn't hate him. He fell in love with her and being unable to woo her, became so embittered he eventually betrayed their whole city and got it sacked.
Fëanor despised and hated his half-siblings before they were even born, and continued to hate them until he died. And with the "friendly advice" of the Big Bad Morgoth he became paranoid, thought they were out to get him, threatened to kill Fingolfin in cold blood, and then betrayed his siblings and their families during the Noldorin rebellion. Fingolfin and Finarfin, having done nothing to actually harm Fëanor, were trying to make peace with him.
Sauron, very briefly. At the end of the First Age, he considered supplicating himself in repentance to the Valar, but out of fear for the punishment he rightly deserved, he ultimately turned away from the light for good.
Celebrimbor turns against his house, disgusted by his kin's Kinslaying.
Fëanor. Good Eru, Fëanor. Here, have a trampoline.
Húrin is also this after he is released from Angband. Morgoth's Mind Rape left him convinced that Doriath and Brethil were partly responsible for his family's suffering, and that they needed to be, uh, punished.
Averted with Tulkas, Genre Savvy enough to know that it would be foolish and wrong to fight Melkor's rebellion with rebellion of his own.
Hidden Elf Village: Gondolin, and to a lesser extent Doriath and Nargothrond (all three are hidden by the power of the Maia Melian or the Vala Ulmo, and virtually no outsiders are allowed into Nargothrond or especially Gondolin.)
Honor Before Reason: Middle-Earth having its fair share of Proud Warrior Race Guys, honor is a big deal, and it often comes with a tragic price. This is enforced in the case of the Sons of Fëanor. They get themselves killed off one by one and alienate or kill every potential ally and friend trying to honor their pointless oath to reclaim the Silmarils. Because this oath was a Magically-Binding Contract enforced by the God of the setting, they didn't really have much of a choice.
Fëanor, to the point that when he dies his corpse spontaneously combusts from the fire of his spirit.
Most of his sons as well, to Knight Templar levels. Maglor and Maedhros are the only ones who repent, but only too late.
Human Mom, Non-human Dad: Inverted in all cases of mixed-race parentage: The father is always the more "mundane", the mother the more "exotic" parent (e.g. several human/elf and one elf/divine spirit couple).
Human Sacrifice: A major feature of the Religion of Evil that Sauron founded in Númenórë. The victims consisted of slaves captured from Middle-Earth and any Númenóreans who proved disloyal to the king or who still secretly used the elvish languages.
Humans Are Bastards: Pretty much so. Every Elvish defeat is due to human treachery or incompetence. And Númenor!
Humans Are Warriors: An almost straight out version of this trope. When elves first meet humans, they are refugees from Morgoth's land where they had to fight to survive against everything in the region. Elves, on noticing how tough humans were and how quickly they breed are glad to have them as allies, and give them land in a treaty. Though a variation is that elves did not consider humans better warriors than elves or dwarves for that matter. They just considered humans tough enough and better breeders, thus increasing the depleted supply of reserves. It is possible for humans to be physically stronger than Elves, though. Túrin, when he is ambushed by Saeros, is described as "stronger than any Elf." Elves usually have the advantages of experience, endurance, and occasionally magic (in the case of Elves like Finrod Felagund or Lúthien), rather than pure strength.
Hybrid Power: The choice of the line of Beren [a Man] and Lúthien [an Elf with Maia heredity], who alone can decide which race's fate will befall them.
Hypnotic Eyes: One of the things Glaurung uses to control his victims.
I'm a Humanitarian: Werewolves eat people. Melkor hand-feeds Carcharoth with elvish and human flesh, yet the most chilling example has to be the werewolf that came back again and again to drag away and eat Beren's companions, one by one, until only he and Finrod were left.
I Cannot Self-Terminate: Maedhros, when he thinks that Fingon will be unable to rescue him. He does, however, manage it later on.
Finrod, the freaking king of one of the most powerful of the Elven kingdoms, abandons his throne to help Beren on his suicidal quest simply because he promised Beren's father that he would do his utmost to aid him and his descendants. Finrod dies saving Beren's life.
Also the sons of Fëanor. They spend nearly 600 years chasing the Silmarils...to no avail.
Important Haircut: Lúthien gives herself one when she needs to escape from the treehouse her father's locked her up in: She magically lets her dark hair grow impossibly long, cuts it, and makes a rope to escape the treehouse and a cloak of super-camouflage.
Maeglin lusted after his first cousin, Idril. Idril, however, is squicked by this (Eldar normally don't marry kin so close), and her rejection leaves him bitter; this becomes the seed of Gondolin's downfall. Which is weird when you consider that the latest and arguably most canonically correct version of Galadriel and Celeborn had them as first, not second cousins, so maybe the Eldar not wedding with kin so near only counts if it's not mutual. Not that the legendarium is self-consistent, or anything.
How about asking Tar-Míriel for her opinion on this? Ar-Pharazôn, you bastard.
Amandil and Ar-Pharazôn, who befriended each other when Ar-Pharazôn was a boy. Also, any friendship between an Elf and a human (such as Beleg and Túrin, and Tuor and Voronwë) technically counts, as the Elf is nearly always decades or centuries older.
Finrod Felagund's friendships with Bëor and Barahir carry over to Beren, their descendant. He was also close friends with Andreth of the House of Bëor.
Túrin and Sador, a former soldier who was crippled in an accident.
Many friendships among elves count, due to their immortality. Look at Galadriel and Elrond, who are kind of buddies in the Third Age: Galadriel is Finwë's granddaughter, whereas Elrond is his great-great-great-grandson. She is also his mother-in-law: Elrond married her daughter, Celebrían.
Ironic Echo: "O, Túrin Turambar! Master of doom by doom mastered!"
Haleth was a human chieftainess and a very fearsome one.
Emeldir, Barahir's wife and the mother of Beren, was called "Man-Hearted", because she preferred to fight alongside her husband and son when Orcs came raiding. After the Dagor Bragollach, the land was being overrun by the enemy so she gathered together all the women and children that still remained and led them out of Dorthonion to Brethil. Beren, Barahir, and their ten companions stayed behind because they refused to abandon the land to Morgoth.
Morwen, who is generally depicted as proud, somewhat cold and iron-willed, especially after her husband Húrin is taken captive by Morgoth and their land is conquered by Easterlings. Later, she also disregards the advice of Thingol and Melian.
It's Personal: In the Akallabêth, Sauron makes it very personal for the survivors of Númenor.
Fëanor and sons. Let's count all the innocent people who died because of their utterly shameless, unrepented brutality: umpteen slain at Alqualondë, umpteen more who died in the Grinding Ice, Finrod Felagund and ten other elves in Sauron's dungeon, umpteen people in Doriath including Dior and his six-year-old sons, and umpteen more people at the Havens of Sirion. Only two sons of Fëanor (Maedhros and Maglor) show any remorse about these acts or attempt to break the Oath to continue them.
The last Númenórean king, Ar-Pharazôn, who forces his cousin to marry him so he can usurp her throne, happily embraces Morgoth-worship and Human Sacrifice, persecutes the last "faithful" Númenóreans and the natives of Middle-Earth to supply said sacrifices, and finally decides to invade Valinor.
Thingol certainly counts as a Jerkass as well, sending Beren off on an impossible quest to get him killed and trying to get Morgoth to do his dirty work. Not to mention that if Morgoth didn't do the job, he would've had Beren killed himself! At least he would have at first, if Lúthien hadn't made him promise not to. When Morgoth didn't do the job and Beren returned, Thingol was actually so moved by his determination and love for Lúthien that he promptly did a Heel-Face Turn.
Just So Story: There's a lot of this inserted here and there. In particular, a whole section of the text explains, gradually, how the sun and moon came to be, and a lot of other natural features in the process.
Kill 'em All: The First Age and the destruction of Númenórë at the end of the Second Age.
Kill It with Fire: Dagor Bragollach, the Battle of Sudden Flame, begins with Morgoth setting the entire North ablaze.
King in the Mountain: Turgon is considered this by non-Gondolinian elves; Finwë is a literal example after his death.
Last Stand: Acting as the rearguard for Turgon and the companies of Gondolin who are trying to escape the Nírnaeth Arnoediad both safely and secretly, Húrin and his people hold the Fens of Serech again a monstrous onslaught of enemies for days on end, killing so many that eventually the Orcs bridge the river with their own dead. The group, consisting of almost the entirety of the menfolk of the House of Hador do this knowing full well that they cannot survive but defying the heck out of Morgoth because that's just how Bad Ass they are; for further reference on Húrin's personal Last Stand you may be directed to the entry on this page for Badass.
Light is Good / Light Is Not Good: Usually light is a metaphor and literal, physical tool of the forces of goodness in the world, especially the Valar, and evil creatures such as orcs cannot endure sunlight. But occasionally looks can deceive; during the Second Age, Sauron's preferred form is that of a beautiful angelic being (Annatar, the "Lord of Gifts"); it is in this form that he deceives the Elves into forging the Rings of Power and later subverts Númenórë. Melkor's eyes also originally "pierced with a deadly light."
Like Brother and Sister: Despite Finduilas' romantic feelings towards him, Túrin looks at her in a more sisterly light. The same could be said for his sister Niënor; Brandir likes her romantically, but she loves him only platonically. Ironically both Túrin and Niënor manage to hook up with people whom they feel romantically attracted to but happen to actually be their siblings. That is, each other.
The loss of the Silmarils and the Darkening of Valinor has this quite understandable effect on the Valar, Maiar, and High Elves. It has the opposite effect on the Noldor though, causing them to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
After their king is killed in the Fifth Battle, the Dwarves just walk off the battlefield carrying his corpse. Nobody dares get in their way.
The Númenórean fleet that attacks Valinor was armed with "darts that could travel across an ocean." Being Middle-Earth, of course, it's hard to say where the line can be drawn between magic and technology.
The Noldor have the means to create synthetic gemstones superior in quality to natural ones.
At some points it's mentioned that the Noldor use crystals filled with light as energy-efficient light bulbs when going into dark places, a (magi)tech humans haven't quite mastered. Indeed, their inventor Fëanor didn't share the secret formula with anyone before his death.
Maeglin's heartbreak over Idril helps motivate him to betray Gondolin, so he can murder her husband and seven-year-old son and have a chance to rape her.
Daeron's love for Lúthien leads him to betray Beren to Thingol, who most definitely intended to kill the guy, and later to get Lúthien in trouble for trying to follow Beren. But unlike Maeglin, he's genuinely concerned for Lúthien, and apologizes when he sees Thingol's Overprotective Dad reaction.
Magic Music: The Ainur (and Lúthien, who is the daughter of an Ainu) use song in their "magic." Finrod Felagund also uses "music" to create "supernatural" effects, even in a duel against Sauron. This is Fridge Brilliance when you remember that this is also how the Ainur (sub)-created the universe.
The Man in the Moon: The sun and the moon are the last fruit and flower, respectively, from the Two Trees of Valinor, and act as lanterns in the sky; Arien, a female Maia, carries the sun. Tilion, a male Maia, carries the moon, in ships constructed by Aulë. Tilion is in love with the aloof Arien and chases her across the firmament. When he catches up to her, an eclipse is produced; however, he can never stay long as her glory burns him.
Mayfly-December Romance: Averted with Beren and Lúthien (and they worked hard to avert it.) Somewhat subverted with Aegnor (an elf) and Andreth (a human woman): he fears that she will grow old while he doesn't, or (quite rightly) that he will die in battle before she does. They never marry.
Morgoth (dark enemy), though this is because that's what he was. His real name was Melkor, but he was known only as Morgoth after his evil nature was revealed.
Maeglin (sharp glance)
Eärendil (lover/friend of the sea)
Meaningful Rename: Túrin gave himself many aliases to hide his identity, usually obliquely referring to whatever horrible thing had last happened to him: i.e. Neithan (the Wronged), Agarwaen (the Blood-Stained), Turambar (Master of Doom). By doom mastered
Morgoth to Húrin, nonstop, during his long imprisonment on Thangorodrim, forcing him to experience every (already horrific) second of his family's slow destruction, with the horror distorted all out of proportion to reality.
Misery Builds Character: Mostly averted, the constant misery and suffering the characters suffer just pisses them off and leads them to despair, which leads to more misery. Played straight twice however:
After being abandoned by Fëanor, Fingolfin and his people are forced to take the long and hard way to Middle-Earth "but their valor and endurance grew with hardship; for they were a mighty people."
Ulfang and his sons. He was an Easterling chieftain who secretly allied himself with Morgoth while serving under Caranthir, and it was his people's treachery that allowed Morgoth to learn all the secret plans for the Union of Maedhros and crush the alliance in the Nírnaeth Arnoediad.
Having agreed to betray Gondolin to Morgoth, Maeglin went back to the city and pretended everything was just fine, waiting for the invasion to start. He never once warned anybody. In The Book of Lost Tales his house's symbol is even a mole.
Momma's Boy: Fëanor. He loved his mother (although most versions of the story agree that he never knew her), and clung to her memory, rejecting his stepmother Indis and her children, and eventually created a Shibboleth as political litmus test around a sound change that happened to impact her name (Þerindë vs. the later Serindë). Mispronouncing her name was Serious Business! To Míriel's credit, she later stated she should have been present to help raise her son, but valued Indis for taking care of her family while she was in the halls of Mandos.
Averted. The young half-elven princes Eluréd and Elurín (the sons of Dior and the brothers of Elwing) are abandoned in the wilderness in the middle of winter... and never seen again.
Played straighter in one (seemingly rejected) story with Elwing's sons, who are taken into the wild after the attack on the Havens of Sirion, then found in a cave behind a waterfall, and around the waterfall respectively. Hence, their names: Elrond (Elf of the Cave), and Elros (Elf of the Foam).
The Silmarillion mentions a plague apparently sent by Sauron to weaken Gondor so he could regain control of Mordor.
And in the days of Telemnar, the third and twentieth of the line of Meneldil, a plague came upon dark winds out of the east, and it smote the King and his children, and many of the people of Gondor perished. Then the forts on the borders of Mordor were deserted, and Minas Ithil was emptied of its people; and evil entered again into the Black Land secretly, and the ashes of Gorgoroth were stirred as by a cold wind, for dark shapes gathered there.
A mystical plague sent by Morgoth before the Fifth Battle is what killed Túrin Turambar's younger sister Lalaith.
No Man of Woman Born: Huan the wolfhound can only be killed by the mightiest werewolf to ever live. Sauron tries to kill him by shapeshifting into the most powerful werewolf alive, but this fails because the most powerful werewolf to ever live is Carcharoth, who hadn't come into his full power yet.
Non-Action Guy: Brandir, called "the Lame," because of a crippling childhood injury. He is shown in stark contrast to the martial and Hot-BloodedTúrin.
No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: The particular difficulty of creating the Two Trees meant that Yavanna was incapable of recreating them after they were killed by Ungoliant. The only recourse would have been to take the last remnant of their Light from the Silmarils (thus destroying them) to revive them. Likewise, the creation of the Silmarils was a task so physically and spiritually demanding of Fëanor that recreating them would have been impossible, which is why he refused to let them be destroyed even if meant the restoration of the two trees.
Offing the Offspring: Failed with Eöl and Maeglin; accidental with Fëanor and Amrod note in Tolkien's original version of the story. Not present in the published version.
Omnicidal Maniac: "Morgoth" means "The Dark Enemy of the World." He started out "merely" wanting to replace God as the ruler of the universe. Since that turned out to be impossible (like, duh) he decided to just enslave everybody and force them to worship him. Eventually he became so enraged that anything at all dared to exist without being his exclusive creation, that he just wanted to destroy everything, utterly, forever. Torturing people to death along the way helped pass the time, though.
One-Winged Angel: Sauron on Tol Sirion. Starting off in a fair form, he attempts to defeat Huan by switching to huge scary werewolf mode, then realizes he's in trouble and does a lot of rapid shapeshifting to no avail. When he strikes a bargain with Lúthien, giving her mastery over the island in return for freedom, he shifts into a vampire/bat-thing shape to escape.
Only the Pure of Heart: If someone who has become tainted by evil touches the Silmarils, they get burned. It happens to Morgoth when he steals them, and to Carcharoth when he bites off Beren's hand when Beren was holding a Silmaril, and to Maedhros and Maglor after the War of Wrath. When they finally recover the gems, they will no longer suffer their touch because of all the evil deeds they've committed to fulfill their oath to get them back. The third ends up with Eärendil, who ends up sailing the skies as a star.note Which brings up the question of what would've happened if Fëanor had actually been able to reclaim them. As their creator does he get to have them no matter what? Or does the Pure of Heart clause apply to him as well? We may never know.
Orcus on His Throne: Enforced by Morgoth's injuries and resulting Shapeshifter Mode Lock, setting things up for the Watchful Peace. This is especially notable during the periods between the third and fourth battles. There's also the fact that he has weakened himself from spreading his power out into all his Orcs and other servants, who are motivated by his will. The History of Middle-earth goes into more detail and explains that the Ainur were shocked to find Morgoth a weak shadow of his former self once they had defeated his armies.
Our Dragons Are Different: The origins of dragons in Middle-Earth is revealed as reptile-like servants of Morgoth, apparently demons incarnated in physical bodies. There were cold-drakes (probably with no wings or fire breath); Urulóki, fire-drakes, wingless dragons with fiery breath like Glaurung the Golden, also one of Morgoth's Dragons in the trope sense; and finally, during the final battle at Angband, winged fire-drakes surprise the Valar's host and almost overcome them until Eärendil has his Big Damn Heroes moment in his Cool Flying Ship. Two aspects of Tolkien's dragons that don't show up much in other works are their poisonous blood, and that they stink terribly.
Our Elves Are Better: Very much not, even if many people mistakenly think so. Yes, Elves are in many ways more powerful, "magical" and skilled than humans (they better be as they got long enough to practice), but they can be just as stupid, chauvinist, or violent as any human, and can screw up monumentally. Possibly more than humans in fact, as their greater power lets them screw up more dramatically and cause more damage. Elves have more control over their bodies than humans, and thus are less inclined toward mundane sins like Lust and Gluttony and Sloth, but can fall to Wrath or Pride just as humans can. In other words, when an elf becomes evil it is not because he lacks willpower; it is because he actually intends to do so. Elves are more "in-tune" with the physical world than Mortal Men, since they are a permanent part of it. As such, they seem to feel things more intensely than Mortals, and as a consequence their errors in judgment can be far more damaging. Their peaks and valleys are more like mountains and canyons. An angry Elf is a Person of Mass Destruction. A sad Elf can literally die of a broken heart.
Our Souls Are Different: And how. This is a pretty complex issue — the nature and fate of the soul depends on race.
Ainur (Valar and Maiar) were created as disembodied spirits; they can take physical form, but for them this is more like wearing clothes than having a body. When they "die" they usually just make a new one, though fallen Ainur can become so messed up that they lose this ability.
Whereas the Incarnates (Elves, Men/Hobbits, and Dwarves) are only "complete" when they are embodied. The Valar, Maiar, and Elves must remain in the world until it ends, and cannot leave it: Elves whose bodies are killed can remain as shades (though this choice implies they are tainted), or go to the Halls of Mandos and hope to get a new body after a time of waiting. Which Elves get reincarnated seems to depend mostly on whether they can repent of whatever mistakes or misdeeds they've made, but the details are murky at best.
The souls of Men and Hobbits are designed to leave the universe after a relatively short lifespan; trying to avoid this fate leads to serious problems (Gollum and the Nazgûl are examples).
The fate of Dwarves is even more obscure; Elves seem to think they have no afterlife at all, but Dwarves believe that their maker Aulë will take care of them in the Halls of Mandos.
A still more obscure question is, what happens to dead Orcs? The Silmarillion suggests (without confirming) that Orcs were bred from Elves who were tortured and corrupted, and a throwaway line in The Lord of the Rings suggests that two of the Orc characters might remember the First Age, which at that point was a good six thousand years ago: the Orcs may be as long-lived as the Elves, though Tolkien elsewhere contradicted that. Maybe their souls go to the same place as those of Elves (where presumably they wait for the end of the world). Tolkien never quite figured out the question of Orc souls: everything in the legendarium suggests that Orcs are creatures of pure evil but he was never happy with what that might imply.
And then there are Ents, giant Eagles, Hounds of Oromë, and other more obscure creatures; Tolkien couldn't even decide whether the talking animals have souls at all, let alone what kind of afterlife they'd have. Meanwhile, Ents seem to be Incarnates and as immortal-within-the-world as Elves, but the fate of slain Ents is never mentioned.
Our Vampires Are Different: They appear to be not undead humans, but rather a specific class of demonic spirits, or perhaps mutated animals. Only one is named — Thuringwethil, Sauron's messenger. She looks like some sort of giant bat, apparently.
Our Werewolves Are Different: Like dragons, they are demonic spirits in animal bodies/shapes, not "infected" humans. They are not shapeshifters, and always resemble huge talking wolves. Sauron was their lord in the First Age.
Overprotective Dad: Thingol, who not only sends away Lúthien's suitor Beren on an impossible quest with the intention of getting around his promise not to kill him (which he only made, reluctantly, at his daughter's insistence), but also imprisons her in a treehouse when she tries to go after Beren to help him. Possibly somewhat justified, considering what happened when stuff started working out in his despite.
Parental Substitute: Thingol to Túrin, Annael to Tuor. The strangest, if strangely heartwarming, case is of course Maglor's fostering of Elros and Elrond.
Physical Gods: The Valar, more-or-less. They are the equivalent of Christian archangels, but their narrative place in the story is more like that of deities.
Physical Heaven: Valinor, the Western Blessed Realm of the Valar and Maiar. While no part of Arda can be wholly free of the corruption Morgoth forced into it, the Blessed Realm comes closest to what Eru intended Arda to be. There is no disease, no decay, no corruption or poison. Animals and plants there never age.* Questions about how such an ecosystem could function are best avoided.Everything is vastly more beautiful and lively than anything in Middle-Earth. Elves there can experience a world where everything they love doesn't age and die in a miniscule fraction of their lifespan. Word of God is that mortal humans would eventually find it unpleasant, however, and living there wouldnotendwell. Thus humans are banned from Valinor itself, by orders of Eru.
The primordial spirits (Ainur) were the offspring of Ilúvatar's thought and each was given understanding only of that part of the mind of Ilúvatar from which he or she came. The exception to this was Melkor.
All elves and men have a spirit or soul (fëa) which comes from the Flame Imperishable of Ilúvatar. It is indestructible and grants the individual consciousness and free-will, but is utterly powerless without a body made of the physical matter of Arda.
Playing with Fire: The Balrogs were primordial fire Maiar who allied themselves with Morgoth when he first rebelled. Arien, the Maia who pilots the Sun, is essentially a non-evil Balrog, and when she leaves Valinor to perform her new task she takes the form of a pure, naked flame, too bright for mortal eyes to look at directly. (And the Maia in the Moon follows her around because he's in love with her.)
Psycho for Hire: Ungoliant helps Morgoth destroy the Two Trees of Valinor, despite her fear, because he offers to pay her "with both hands" in edible Light, and she's starving. Their alliance lasts maybe an hour after they escape Valinor.
The Quisling: Maeglin, son of Eöl and Aredhel, sister of Turgon, the king of Gondolin. He is captured by orcs and dragged to Angband, and Morgoth tortures him to try and extract the location of Gondolin from him. Maeglin gives in when Morgoth offers or agrees to make him ruler of the city after its conquest, and also to deliver his cousin Idril (who's already married) into his hands. Maeglin agreed to kill her husband and seven-year-old son, and he couldn't have expected her to marry him willingly after that...
Rage Helm: The Dwarves of Nogrod and Belegost were known for wearing hideous and frightening masks in combat. The Dragon Helm of Dor-lómin was originally a dwarven helmet worn by Azaghâl, Lord of Belegost. He gave it to Maedhros as a gift when they became allies, and Maedhros passed it on to his friend Fingon. However, the helm was simply too damn heavy for any elf to wear it comfortably. Eventually, Fingon gave it to the human chieftain Hador, when Hador became Lord of Dor-lómin, and it became an heirloom of his house.
Rampage from a Nail: Carcharoth eats Beren's Silmaril-holding hand and goes on a mad rampage through Doriath while it burns him from the inside out.
Rapunzel Hair: Lúthien magically grows hers to escape from her confinement in a treehouse.
Rash Equilibrium: Maedhros and Morgoth, immediately following the death of Fëanor. They agree to have a "parley" but neither trusts the other or intends to keep the peace, and both bring more soldiers than they agreed. This ends very badly.
Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Tolkien's wife Edith was a fair-skinned brunette, and apparently his own aesthetic preferences combined with what seem to be ancient Celtic standards of beauty* most were probably dark-haired, not redheaded to make this combination the most common for the really beautiful people. Elves, of course, are the most beautiful incarnates, very tall and always superhumanly healthy and physically perfect (unless they're maimed or something). And the great majority of elves have pale skin and black or dark brown hair. Some of them are especially emphasized for their dark-haired-pale-skinned beauty: Lúthien, the daughter of Melian the Maia and most beautiful woman in the world (and sort-of-avatar for Edith Tolkien), and her descendant Arwen in The Lord of the Rings.
After capturing Gorlim, one of Barahir's resistant outlaws, Sauron offers to reunite him with his captive wife, Eilinel, if Gorlim betrays the whereabouts of Barahir and his men. Once Sauron obtains the information, he informs Gorlim that Eilinel is dead and he had only seen a phantom, and promptly kills him.
When the people of Ulfang betray the Union of Maedhros, Morgoth "rewards" them by relocating them to Hithlum and barring the exit.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Fëanor, and later Fingolfin, both vs. Morgoth. Fingolfin has more success, but it gets them both killed.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: Practically every ruler of Elves and Men in Beleriand, and at least one Dwarf lord (Azaghâl), fought on the front lines against Morgoth at one point or another.
Satanic Archetype: Morgoth is quite intentionally Tolkien's version of the Christian Devil.
Savage Wolves: The werewolves (Gaurhoth) in general embody and represent this classic European trope in The Silmarillion. They're the giant, evil, corrupted, probably demonic/demon-possessed wolves bred by Morgoth.
Saved from Development Hell: J.R.R.Tolkien worked on it from WWI to his death - over fifty years! - and it was published posthumously by his son Christopher in 1977. Most Tolkien fans agree it was definitely worth it.
Scaled Up: Sauron, in his battle against Lúthien and Huan, at one point takes a giant serpent (dragon?) shape.
Screw Destiny: Túrin attempts to overpower the curse laid against him by Morgoth through sheer willpower, even going so far as to give himself the name Turambar, "Master of Fate." Unfortunately, it really doesn't work out that well for him.
Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: When Men arrive in Beleriand and discover the Elves' war with Morgoth, a fair few of them turn around and head right back over the Blue Mountains so they won't have to deal with it. Morgoth, of course, tries to encourage this as much as he can.
Screw You, Elves!: The Númenórëans felt this way as they became more powerful and envious of the Elves' immortality.
Self Guarding Phlebotinum: The eponymous Silmarils burned any evil or tainted creature touching them, such as Morgoth and Carcharoth, while sparing the good-aligned heroes such as Beren and Eärendil. Becomes a plot point late in the book, when two remaining sons of Fëanor (the Silmarils' creator) finally get their hands on their "heirlooms" — only to find that the Simarils reject and burn them, after all they have done to get them back.
Morgoth uses his hideous form as the Dark Lord so often that he ultimately becomes trapped in it.
The same thing happens to Sauron after his body is destroyed by the Downfall of Númenórë, perhaps from the trauma involved (before that, Sauron seems to have been just about the most adept shapeshifter of all the named Ainur).
Shocking Defeat Legacy: The Battle Of Unnumbered Tears. It begins as a noble effort of the Elves, Men, and Dwarves to finish Morgoth once and for all. It's the first coalition of all the races together to fight Morgoth, and the greatest army seen so far in the world outside of the gods. It gets crushed so badly and so many people die that Morgoth literally makes a hill out of the corpses. The worst part is that they never had a chance. And things get so much worse from there.
From the other side, Beren and Lúthien defeating Sauron and actually reclaiming a Simaril was one for Morgoth. He lost his top man and one of the jewels. Their actions also gave hope to the people of Middle-Earth that Morgoth could be defeated, which was particularly needed after the utter ruin of the Battle of the Sudden Flame. Unfortunately, this hope was one of things that led to the Battle of Unnumbered Tears...
There's an attempted but failed one from Túrin to Glaurung when they first meet. Glaurung releases Túrin from his spell, having given him a Hannibal Lecture with him stuck to the spot by hypnosis and then gives him another when the spell is lifted. Túrin comes forward to try to stab his eyes out with his sword, but Glaurung "towers above him", puts him back under his spell and resumes the lecture.
Swan Boats: When the Teleri (Sea Elves) of the Lonely Isle Eressëa wanted to emigrate to Valinor, they travelled in ships pulled by large swans. They named their new city Alqualondë (Swanhaven) and built their later ships in the shape of swans, with feathers made of pearls.
Synthetic Plague: A plague from Angband, almost certainly engineered by Morgoth, strikes Hithlum at one point killing many, including Túrin Turambar's younger sister, Lalaith.
Take Up My Sword: Túrin accidentally kills Beleg and takes up Beleg's Empathic Weapon, eventually becoming known as the Mormegil, meaning Black Sword for his achievements therewith.
Taking You with Me: Numerous examples between the Elves and their enemies, but especially when Glorfindel and Ecthelion fight Balrogs during the Siege of Gondolin. They actually manage to take them down, but die themselves.
Huan, the Hound of Valinor. He only actually speaks three times, and Tolkien never really states if he's a Maia in animal form, or just a really big dog that the Valar gifted with the ability of speech.
The Eagles speak, and without them there would be no way for news to get around Beleriand at all. Then again, Thorondor at least seems to be more than an animal.
It's implied Werewolves can talk, as Draugluin says to Sauron "Huan is there!", and Carcharoth has no trouble talking to Beren and Lúthien (though, granted, they were shapeshifted at the time).
Talking Weapon: Gurthang, once, before Túrin's suicide. Unless he was hallucinating, of course.
Team Dad: Maedhros, the eldest son of Fëanor, filled this role among his more violent brothers — at least at first. He eventually turned to evil, though not as badly as Celegorm and Curufin. When Beren's grandchildren were left to die, Maedhros did at least try to find them. Also, he was willing to swallow his pride and work with the other peoples to take Morgoth down. Not an innocent by any means, but Maedhros did have a conscience. He finally repented after seeing the damage the Oath had done.
Tender Tears: Nienna. Though with Morgoth tearing around Arda and destroying the Valar's handiwork, she's got a legitimate reason to cry (plus her tears essentially work like divine Healing Potions).
Terrain Sculpting: In the beginning of the world, the Valar tried to shape it according to divine plan, while Melkor came along and undid their work. The end result was that the world was very gradually formed.
Theme Twin Naming: Eluréd and Elurín, Elrond and Elros. Amrod and Amras (both named Ambarussa in Quenya.)
Ar-Pharazôn is a subversion — his storyline is certainly that of classic tragedy, but the reader has no sympathy at all for him, seeing as the guy was an incestuous, megalomanic Jerkass even before he met Sauron.
Treacherous Spirit Chase: Gorlim refuses to believe that his wife Eilinel, who went missing during Gorlim's absence in the war against Morgoth, is dead. Sauron uses this belief against Gorlim by creating a vision of Eilinel as bait inside Gorlim's house. Gorlim enters and is immediately captured by Sauron's orcs, and eventually tortured into revealing the location of Barahir.
Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty: The Elves of Nargothrond. They employed guerilla tactics against the forces of Morgoth and preferred to use stealth and cunning over outright force. The main reason for this was that if Morgoth found out where the city was located, he would bring all his forces to bear and the city would surely be destroyed. And when Túrin Turambar convinced them to face Morgoth's armies in the open (against a god's advice, no less), that's exactly what happened. Well, it's not like anyone else (*coughTurgoncough*) ever listens to Ulmo's advice.
Ultimate Blacksmith: Aulë (essentially a god of blacksmiths), Fëanor (created the silmarils along with numerous weapons and gems), Eöl (forged Anguirel and Anglachel from Thunderbolt Iron, and created the black metal galvorn that was as strong as Dwarven steel but much easier to shape), Telchar of Nogrod (created Angrist and Narsil).
Unbuilt Trope: While most contemporary Dark Fantasy has arisen from the Hype Backlash against Tolkien's work and critics are quick to blame him for High Fantasy's typical Black and White Morality, The Silmarillion shows his world in a very different light. Violent, morally ambiguous antiheroes? Check. Black and Grey (though still a little bit of white) morality? Check. Hypocritical, brutal, imperialist elves who'd give the Lannisters nightmares? Check. Sexual themes like incest? Check. Dead kids? Check. Downer Ending? Oh boy, yes.
The Balrogs were other Maiar that Melkor corrupted. The Fellowship encountered a Balrog in Moria.
This was specifically stated in The Silmarillion.
...the lies that Melkor, the mighty and accursed, Morgoth Bauglir, the Power of Terror and of Hate, sowed in the hearts of Elves and Men are a seed that does not die and cannot be destroyed; and ever and anon it sprouts anew, and will bear dark fruit even unto the latest days.
The tenth volume of The History of Middle-Earth was entitled Morgoth's Ring, referencing a quote stating that just as the One Ring was Sauron's Soul Jar, since Morgoth was involved in the creation of the world itself, his influence cannot be expelled from it even after he himself has been physically removed.
Walking the Earth: Maglor, after murdering yet more people, then stealing the last Silmaril and throwing it away, is wracked by guilt and spends the rest of time wandering around the shores of Middle-Earth in regret and pain.
Was Once a Man: Orcs. The origin that made it into the book is that they were once Elves, twisted and corrupted by Morgoth. This is only one possibility, though, and it kept changing right up until Tolkien's death — he didn't like the implications that Always Chaotic Evil had for their eternal souls, even though he did not want evil to be capable of independent creation, which would have conflicted with his Christianity.
We Are as Mayflies: The longest-lived humans get a couple hundred years. Elves can go on until the end of the world, though they become increasingly "faded"/ghostlike with the passage of time, if they remain outside the Undying Realms. No mortal ever enters the Undying Realms; a few are granted a refuge on the Lonely Isle right outside it, but even those mortals who arrive by invitation (like Frodo) remain mortal and eventually die. Eärendil's father Tuor is the only pure human implied to become immortal without suffering undeath or a Fate Worse than Death, and that could be Fan Wanked as an odd sort of Balancing Death's Books from Eru, who'd just fairly recently made an immortal elf (Lúthien) into a mortal.
One of Tolkien's letters stated that it was impossible for the Valar to make any human truly immortal. If one ever entered the Undying Lands, they would exist and seemingly not age long past when they should have died, but their life would gradually become unbearable, since it would just be their natural lifespan spread out continuously (similar to what happened to Gollum and Bilbo with the One Ring). Also, it is said in the book that death is Eru's gift to mortals and the Valar don't have the right or ability to take it from them — only Eru can, and Tuor was likely the only such exception. Before the fall of Númenor, Men were immortal in the sense that they could choose when to die. Since Númenor though, Eru was forced to change the gift to introduce lifespans, as Men, thanks to the corrupting influence of Sauron, started to view it as a curse.
Who Wants to Live Forever?: Elves are truly immortal and will know the greatest wonders of creation, experiencing life to its very fullest on Arda. They initially regarded the short-lived Men as the "sickly" and "doomed" to die. As the ages pass though, gradually they, and even the god-like Valar, will become intensely jealous of Eru's Gift of Men, for death is liberation of the physical world and the inevitable sorrows of loss.
The Wise Prince: Finrod Felagund, and his father Finarfin. Finarfin is the one prince of Tirion wise enough not to stick with the rebellion. He thus becomes king of Tirion, and leads the non-rebellious Noldor in battle against Morgoth when the Valar finally come to save Beleriand.
World Shapes: An early unpublished version of Arda (the world) was shaped like a boat sailing through the blackness of outer space. The later version of Arda that most readers know started out as a rock with a flat side where Middle-Earth is. Eventually a divine cataclysm messed it up and made it a familiar, boring, round shape.
World Sundering: This happens three times — once when Morgoth sinks Almaren, once when the Valar's war tears apart Beleriand, and once when Númenórë is flooded by the Sea and Eru bends the whole world around from a flat pan to a round sphere.
World Tree: The Two Trees of Light created by Yavanna, Laurelin and Telperion, were the vast and holy trees that lit the entire Blessed Realm. The repeated themes of trees and light as symbols of goodness come together in them. Their light was preserved by Fëanor in the Silmarils, even after the Trees themselves were destroyed. The Moon and Sun grew from their branches before they died, and the last Silmaril became what we call Venus, the Evening Star.
First the ISS: When the armies of Ar-Pharazôn lay siege to Mordor, Sauron surrenders and allows the Númenórëans to take him home as a hostage. While in Númenórë, he slowly corrupts the minds of its people, persuading them to release him (although this takes a few years).
Here comes the Batman Gambit: He then becomes Ar-Pharazôn's advisor, encouraging his hatred for the Valar. Finally, he convinces the Númenórëans to worship Morgoth with human sacrifices — in exchange for eternal life — and becomes High Priest of this new religion. After several decades of this, Ar-Pharazôn is growing old, so Sauron gives him the idea of invading Valinor and taking immortality from the Valar.
Now for the Xanatos Gambit: The whole time, Sauron's ultimate goal was to destroy Númenórë by pitting Ar-Pharazôn against the Valar — whichever one comes out on top, he's down one dangerous enemy and severely weakened the other. Everything had a purpose — the human sacrifices removed all Númenórëans faithful to the Valar, and even the huge Temple was built as a "shelter" in case the Valar attacked. It almost works perfectly, and the "almost" is only there because Sauron had no way of forseeing that Godwould step in and get involved.
Gambit Roulette comes in because the plan spanned decades and had numerous fault points. He could have been killed before surrendering, killed after surrendering, failure to corrupt, failure to persuade, the war ending in a truce and an alliance, etc.
The rear-guard action after the Nírnaeth, courtesy of Húrin Thalion and the other Men of Dor-lómin.
On the eastern front, the Dwarves of Belegost were the last to retreat and probably would have fought to the last dwarf, if Glaurung hadn't slain their king. Afterwards, they made a slow, dignified withdrawal while singing a funeral dirge, and none of Morgoth's forces dared to approach.