Monday, January 4, 2016

Aule: Sinner or Servant?

If you've ever read The Silmarillion, you'll be familiar with Aule, the Vala most famous for overstepping his bounds and creating the dwarves.

Basically, the Valar are servants of the supreme god of Middle-earth: Eru.  Eru asked them to prepare the lands of Middle-earth for the coming of the Elves and Men which Eru had created and would awaken soon.  But Aule grew weary of waiting for them to arrive and so took the initiative and created his own beings: the dwarves.  Unfortunately for Aule, he couldn't actually animate the dwarves or make them sentient beings with free will--only Eru can do that.

Aule tried to keep his making of the dwarves secret because he thought it might be frowned upon by the other Valar.  One day, when he was teaching the dwarves how to speak, he was busted by Eru.  The conversation between Eru and Aule in the chapter of the Silmarillion called "Of Aule and Yavanna" is extremely interesting.  Even if you don't intend on reading the Sil, I think you should go ahead and read this chapter, especially if you are interested in Tolkien's concept of subcreation.

Eventually Eru breathes life into the dwarves and they become the stubborn, axe-wielding, hardy characters we know from the other stories.  But was Aule really within his rights to do this?  Or did he overstep his bounds completely?

One arguing that he went to far might sight a few sources.  First of all, it was not in the Music of the Ainur for dwarves to be created.  (For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, the Music of the Ainur in its most basic form is the plan for the world written by Eru and fulfilled by the Valar).  Since Aule went ahead and did something outside of Eru's plan, he was trespassing against him.

Furthermore, Aule was obviously being impatient with Eru.  It is not in anybody's best interest to rush Eru or to claim he is doing something wrong.  This is pretentious of Aule and is directly against Eru.


Aule explains that his desire to create things of his own and give them life comes from Eru himself.  He is really honoring Eru by imitating him in the form of creation--imitation is, after all, the sincerest form of flattery.

Aule even offers to kill his precious creations just to please Eru and show his sincerity.

Eru eventually chastises Aule for being untrusting and impatient towards Eru's design, but does grant the dwarves life since they already have speech and are pretty much fully formed.

It is very interesting to look at this from the perspective of subcreation.  I've already done a post about this very topic if you are interested.  What do you think about Aule: was he sinning by being impatient and taking things into his own hands, or serving Eru by imitating him and therefore honoring him?
construction, work, carpenter


  1. I believe it was wrong for him to tamper with Eru's creation- Aule had no right to do that. He was impatient, and his creations ended up having an effect on the world that was never meant to happen.

    But at the same time, Aule is nothing like Morgoth, in that he created the dwarves not out of spite, but out of admiration. He loved Eru and wanted to be like him, and sought to achieve this goal through imitation- never considering that perhaps creation was Eru's place and his alone.
    It's like when people try to please God through their works, not understanding that compared to His Holiness, even our finest works are as filthy rags before the Lord. Fortunately, God still understand our intent, and so our works do please Him as long as they are done out of love, rather than to save ourselves.
    In the same way, Eru understands that Aule wasn't trying to be arrogant or insolent, he was just trying to be like his creator in a way that wasn't entirely appropriate. Eru is gracious with Aule, and even gives him a supreme gift by breathing life into the dwarves and sparing them.

    1. Interesting thoughts! I think one sure sign that Aule was doing something wrong was the fact that he hid the dwarves from the other Valar and even from Eru himself as he was creating them. If he was doing something he knew was okay, I doubt that he would be concerned with keeping it secret. I think you're right though that Eru was forgiving towards him because he understood Aule's intent was pure.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. I tend to take the view that Aule wasn't doing wrong. He's a sub-creator and he's licensed to create within certain bounds. The bounds were not violated because his intent was pure. It wasn't an act of rebellion and once Eru saw this he completed Aule's design.

    Dwarves get a lot of bad flack for not being in the design when the Music of the Ainur was first sung; but the way I see it they were always a part of the melody. They are children of iluvatar, they just manifest differently than originally intended. It's still the same song, but the tones are richer, deeper, and of a different quality than they otherwise would have been.

    Music is quite a fluid art.

    1. Interesting thoughts! I think when it boils down to it, Aule wasn't purposely doing something to go against Illuvatar, but he was being a bit impatient and presumptuous. Certainly it is a good thing the dwarves were created, however! Middle-earth would have been much poorer without them and their creations.