Ungoliant's Fall


Well-Known Member
Forgive me if this has been discussed elsewhere, but I've just started listening to the older Silmfilm podcasts and didn't hear it talked about in any of the episodes I've yet heard. My question is, why and how did Ungoliant fall? In the podcasts, she's mentioned as an alternative villain to Melkor--and a sort of red herring that draws suspicion away from him--but I don't think there was any discussion of precisely how she went bad. From the point she abducts Nessa, she's already creepy and exhibiting signs of having fallen, at least a little bit. But where did she go wrong? I have some ideas on that, though I think they would require a slight change to what was discussed; in particular, the timing of the lighting of the Lamps.

Ungoliant's origin
First of all, who is Ungoliant? We know that she will ultimately be associated with spreading darkness, and I propose that she could have had such a purpose from the beginning. Thinking of the Biblical creation story, one of the first things God did was separate the light from the darkness, and yet both were considered part of the good creation. Ungoliant's initial purpose may have been to separate shadows from the diffuse light in local areas. She would not destroy the light or hate it; she would simply separate out some shadows and enjoy them (just as Ulmo does not hate the land; he just prefers the sea). She would also do this locally, in temperance (again, just as the others perform their tasks within reasonable boundaries). If this is the case, it may even make sense for her to be a Maia under Varda (presumably with some other, pre-fall name, though perhaps "Ungoliant" would have sounded less sinister pre-fall).

What went wrong
So, if Ungoliant started out with a good job being performed in temperance, what happened? I think the lighting of the Lamps would be a good trigger. When the Lamps were lit, all the light was gathered together, and for the first time, there was true darkness, rather than just shadows, and Ungoliant loved it! Since she already enjoyed the shadows, the pure darkness would have been an absolute paradise for her. When she returned to lands lit by the Lamps, she found the extreme light too harsh, and tried to pull some shadows from it; but being concentrated light, there was no darkness to remove and the only way she could create some was to actually destroy light by devouring it. She eventually came to love the darkness and hate the light so much that she decided the world would be better if only darkness existed.

Thinking in terms of the Music, Melkor's Discord came about because he wanted to have everyone sing his song, and tried to get people to follow him. Some did not follow him, however, and were able to overcome Melkor's song with Iluvatar's. Ungoliant's desire is rather to silence or subsume all other voices so that she can sing a solo (of eternal darkness).

I think there are a number of ways this origin contributes to the Silmfilm Ungoliant.
-It shows that not even she was evil in the beginning.
-Her fall would be a result of Melkor's extremes (if he proposed lighting the lamps), but not directly influenced by him, nor part of his plan, showing unintended side-effects of the Discord.
-Her fall is also the result of a good trait twisted to unhealthy extremes (her enjoyment of darkness as a part of created Arda gets twisted into a greedy, lustful obsession; and a hatred of all else)
-Her fall parallels Ossë's in desiring too much of what they like without boundaries, except unlike Ossë, she has no one to draw her back before it's too late.
-Unlike Melkor, whose fall was due to pride and arrogance; Ungoliant's fall would be due to base desire and gluttony, allowing her to be a very different kind of villain.

Again, sorry if this has already been discussed, and I know it might require altering the lamp-lighting timeline (which may be a minor or major change, depending on how much was hanging on it), but I do think Ungoliant needs some sort of fall rather than simply being creepy and unsettling from the beginning.

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
First, I'll tell you that we're not likely to retread Season One material at this stage. It's now been more than five years since we closed the book on that. I can also tell you that at the time, our hope was to make her more frightening for being an unknown element, so we did not give her much of an origin story beyond what she tells Morgoth when he comes across her in the Void.

However... I would keep some of this in mind for when we get to Earendil. I have a sneaking suspicion, she's going to find her way back into his story, and you might be able to get some of these ideas worked in, as long as they don't contradict what has already been established in S01.


Well-Known Member
I suppose that's understandable, even if rather disappointing. The frustrating thing about listening through earlier episodes and classes is not getting to participate in the discussion.


Staff member
I think that it is true in Tolkien's cosmology that nothing is evil in the beginning. So, yes, even Ungoliant would have had an initial positive purpose of some sort. It's also true that we didn't explore that, leaving her origins and intentions mostly mysterious, showing her only as an already fallen, creepy creature. We showed Melkor's and Mairon's falls, and that was the focus in Season 1. I do think it might be possible to return to Ungoliant later, or potentially learn more about her with her offspring (Shelob is there, after all).

And yes, I understand it is frustrating when you have THOUGHTS but are listening asynchronously and can't share them. So, I'd say, you're always free to come share your thoughts here on the boards. :)