Sleevenotes from Prima Facie Records PFCD208/209 The Silmarillion, Part Five: The War of Wrath
Paul Corfield Godfrey (b. 1950)
The Silmarillion, Part Five: The War of Wrath
Epic Scenes after the mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien
Complete Demo Recording
1. Prologue: Aiya Eärendil [06:26]
2. Scene One: I will follow that light [05:52]
3. Scene Two: And at times Melian and Galadriel… [01:09]
4. There is some woe that lies upon you [05:16]
5. Then Galadriel spoke to Melian of the Silmarils [00:39]
6. Now much you tell me [02:03]
7. This is a great matter [06:18]
8. Now the world runs swiftly on to great tidings [02:45]
9. Scene Three: Then a winter, as it were a hoar age of mortal men, fell upon Thingol. [02:31]
10. Now when the horns of the hunt grew faint in the forest [03:08]
11. Wherefore, renegade, do you defile the seat of my lord? [06:09]
12. Scene Four: Eärendil was a mariner [04:09]
13. It is likely that you will see me never again. [01:40]
14. To the Sea [03:21]
15. Beneath the moon and under star he wandered far [03:24]
16. Scene Five: A Silmaril of Fëanor still burns in the woods of Nimbrethil [01:22]
17. Through hopeless night she came to him [01:49]
18. San ninqueruvissë lútier kiryassë Eärendil or vea [03:04]
1. Scene Six: Through Evernight he back was borne [02:49]
2. Hail Eärendil! [01:36]
3. He tarried there from errantry [02:43]
4. Shall mortal Man step living upon the Undying Lands, and yet live? [04:39]
5. A ship then new they built for him [01:32]
6. Surely that is a Silmaril that shines now in the West [03:49]
7. But on him mighty doom was laid [04:15]
8. Scene Seven: But Morgoth looked not for the assault that came upon him [03:54]
9. Then the sun rose and the host of the Valar prevailed [03:45]
10. And Morgoth himself the Valar thrust through the Door of Night [03:10]
11. Scene Eight: Yield up now these jewels which Fëanor our father made [08:00]
12. Thus it came to pass that the Silmarils found their long homes [01:50]
13. Scene Nine: Interlude [00:55]
14. Alas for the weakness of the great! [01:14]
15. Three Rings for the Elvenkings under the sky [02:12]
16. Epilogue: Aiya Eärendil [01:04]
17. A wind in the grass! [02:52]
18. Now the proud elms at last begin to quail [01:48]
19. At night the Elves dance beneath the roofless sky [02:12]
20. Bare has our realm become [01:40]
21. I would not seek the burning domes and sands [04:42]
 The distant voice of Elbereth sings of the beauties of Valinor, which lies westward beyond the
 As the Elves seek to come to Valinor, the mariner Círdan is instructed by Ulmo to await the
coming of one who is prophesied.
 In the hidden realm of Doriath,  Melian the Queen asks Galadriel to tell her of the reasons for
the exile of the Noldor to Middle-Earth.  Galadriel is reluctant to reveal all,  but Melian warns
Thingol  that the disputes between the princes of the Noldor will threaten his realm.  She also
foresees that the coming of Men will change the destiny of both races.
 Mablung, having killed the wolf Carcharoth, brings the Silmaril to Thingol.  But Melian
declares that her mastery over events is slipping out of control;  and the Sons of Fëanor,
mindful of their Oath to keep the Silmarils from any but themselves, destroy Doriath and kill its
 The chorus sing of Eärendil the son of Tuor, and his fruitless voyages on the Ocean seeking
Valinor. [13-15] The mariner departs and bids farewell to Elwing his wife, to whom the Silmaril
has been committed by Melian.
 The Sons of Fëanor attempt to seize the Silmaril from Elwing, but she throws herself into the
sea and is borne by Ulmo as a seabird  to the deck of Eärendil’s ship.  Together, with the
Silmaril bound upon the brow of Eärendil, the two of them set sail once again for Valinor and this
time they succeed in making the passage.
[1-3] Eönwë the herald of the Valar bids Eärendil and his wife welcome to the Blessed Realm, 
and the Valar agree to lend support to the forces in Middle-Earth opposing the enemy
Morgoth. [5-7] But the two half-elven are not allowed to return to Middle-Earth, and their ship is
raised to the stars.
 The chorus sings of the assault of the Valar upon Morgoth, and the destruction of his realm in
the War of Wrath. [9 -10] The remaining Silmarils are taken from his crown by Eönwë.
 But Maglor and Maedhros, the two remaining of the Sons of Fëanor, demand that the
Silmarils should be surrendered to them in fulfilment of their Oath.  To this Eönwë consents;
but the jewels burn the hands of the two brothers with unendurable pain, and they cast them into
the depths of the Earth and the Sea.
[13-14] Sauron, the surviving servant of Morgoth, attempts to seduce the Elves by the suggestion
that with their creative powers they should seek to render Middle-Earth as blissful as the distant
realm of the Valar.  But he deceives them, and as he forges the One Ring to make himself the
master, the voice of Morgoth is heard pronouncing the doom of the Elves.
[16-21] The three bearers of the Elven Rings lament the downfall of the Elves, but suggest that
their powers are not yet ended, even in times far distant.
The full libretto along with annotations and analysis can be found online at
THE CYCLE COMPLETED
When I originally wrote my set of ‘epic scenes’ based on the mythology of J R R Tolkien
generally classified under the title of The Silmarillion, I never expected that there would be any
further expansion necessary to a work that was already extended enough in its duration and its sheer
scale. Indeed, in the introduction to the score of The Fall of Gondolin I quite specifically stated that
the admittedly inconclusive ending of that work brought my labours in the field of The Silmarillion
to an end, if only because Tolkien himself had failed to provide any usable material for the final
segment of his legend. Much of the material he had written back in the early 1920s had related to
wildly different versions of the mythology and bore little resemblance to the final shape of that
mythology; and his final work in that sphere, a brief and somewhat mysterious rewriting of the final
pages made in the late 1930s, still showed evidence of earlier versions of the tales which had not yet
been perfectly adumbrated into the work as a whole. Under the circumstances it seemed to me best
to provide an admittedly artificial conclusion to The Fall of Gondolin which could be regarded as
rounding out the cycle in a manner that for Tolkien enthusiasts would never be more than a stop-gap
but which might hopefully be regarded as forgivable under the circumstances.
Some eight years later I did provide a sort of extension to that text in the form of my setting of
Bilbo’s Lay of Eärendil as presented in The Fellowship of the Ring, which served in some ways to
provide an oblique glance at the later development of the mythology in its final stages. This was
partially written in order to provide a brief synthesis of some of the Silmarillion music which by that
stage I was regarding as unlikely ever to be performed, and also because I had long been attracted by
the notion of making a setting of what is after all Tolkien’s longest continual piece of completed
lyrical writing in the whole of his mythology.
However at the time when the recording of the cycle of epic scenes was already drawing towards
completion after four or five years of continual work, Simon Crosby Buttle suggested to me that
there might indeed be a case to be made for providing a full fifth segment of ‘epic scenes’ which
would bring the Silmarillion cycle to a conclusion in a manner closer to that which Tolkien had
intended. I was initially sceptical; for reasons that I have explained, I did not regard there as being
sufficient material to provide a satisfactory musical framework to cover these episodes. Simon set out
to try and prove otherwise, and produced a lengthy and in many ways most remarkable
compendium of material which demonstrated to my mind with some conclusiveness that I might
have been over-hasty in my reluctance to look at the existing material in a more constructive light.
The result is perhaps dramatically unbalanced, with the story of Eärendil in the centre overweighing
the remainder; but at the same time this may have been something close to what Tolkien himself
might have intended, and there was an additional consideration that could be brought into play here.
This arose from my treatment of the ‘love scene’ in Beren and Lúthien, where I had employed Aragorn’s much later song from The Fellowship of the Ring as a framework surrounding a series of brief vignettes drawn from Tolkien’s other dramatic writing on the same legend. These were then subsumed into a musical whole which in the case of the Beren and Lúthien scene took the form of a musical rondo. It occurred to me that Bilbo’s lengthy narrative poem could be similarly employed, although the sheer discursiveness of the music meant that it would be much more symphonically organised and that the narrative chorus surrounding the scenes would assume a greater degree of both musical and dramatic significance. This central section of the legend could then be surrounded by earlier material extending the plot of Fëanor to a point where the intervention of the Sons of Fëanor in the ‘matter of the Silmarils’ could be fully explored, but would also then provide a lead into material relating to the end of the First Age of Middle-Earth (which Bilbo’s song completely omits).
While his narratives describing the downfall of the Elven realms of Nargothrond and Gondolin remained largely unchanged over the years, Tolkien never achieved a satisfactory narration of the ruin of Doriath. The original version in The Book of Lost Tales exhibits elements that stand in stark contradiction to other constituents of the legendarium as it evolved, and after the early 1930s Tolkien never made any serious attempt to rectify these. Christopher Tolkien in The Silmarillion had perforce to invent wholly new episodes and subject other elements to wholesale amendment in order to achieve the published text; but even so there were elements of reduplication which he was unable to avoid. Doriath is invaded twice – once by an army of dwarves, and then again by the sons of Fëanor – and the Silmaril is similarly twice brought to the ruler of the realm, and twice removed all during a period of some ten years. In order to portray the destruction of Thingol’s kingdom in the course of these ‘epic scenes’ it was necessary to telescope these elements, so that the deaths of Thingol and that of his heir Dior are conflated; and it made sense to attribute both to the malignant oath of the sons of Fëanor who are seeking possession of the Silmaril as the legacy of their father. Once Mablung has brought the Silmaril to Thingol, Curufin (as in the Tale of the Nauglafring) demands that it be surrendered to Fëanor’s heirs and when this demand is refused leads an invasion of the realm (the problem that Tolkien confronted, that Doriath cannot be violated by an alien race, would not deter other Elves).
This solution has the added advantage that Curufin survives the ruin of Doriath to lead his brothers in their raid on the Havens of Sirion in the following generation, again seeking the restoration of the Silmaril. Tolkien’s 1930 narrative describes the death of Fëanor’s young twin sons, Amrod and Amras, as occurring during that raid; but later in the 1960s he had evolved an alternative story where one of the twins had already died before landing in Middle-Earth. This leaves Maedhros and Maglor as the surviving sons to contest their father’s legacy, as in the published Silmarillion. The result may be a drastic foreshortening of Tolkien’s original tale, but it does yield positive gains in its own right, as Melian confronts the renegade Elf who has usurped the throne of her slain husband as in the original Lost Tale – taking her words in turn from the curse on Doriath uttered by Daeron in Tolkien’s late prose version of the Lay of Leithian.
The interesting thing in all of this is that Tolkien himself may perhaps have had some similar notion. There has long been a degree of mystery attached to the history of his treatment of the text of Bilbo’s Lay of Eärendil, where Christopher Tolkien suspected that he may have continued to revise and work on the poem even after the final version had been sent to the printers. But one of the most peculiar things about this is that the version as published omits all references to the actions of the Sons of Fëanor in the raid on Eärendil and Elwing’s dwelling at the Mouths of Sirion, which leads to the exile of the latter and their mission to Valinor. It may well be that Tolkien, who had already excised Eärendil’s encounter with Ungoliant from earlier versions of his poem, was further abridging the legend and may have intended to reduce the role of the Sons of Fëanor to a greater degree.
After the description of the fate of the Silmarils and the sons of Fëanor at the end of the First Age, the narrative of these epic scenes proceeds to explore the final sections of the legendarium in the Akallabêth and Of the Rings of Power, giving a brief overview of the principal events of the Second Age with the foundation of Númenor and the forging of the One Ring. The epilogue in its turn brings events even further forward in time. At one stage I contemplated the use of ‘Bilbo’s Last Song’, either in the form that Tolkien revised it in the late 1960s or in its earlier 1930s version as Vestr am haf, but eventually I concluded that the poem itself was too bound up with the events of The Lord of the Rings to be satisfactory in a Silmarillion context. I accordingly took up a suggestion by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull that I should investigate the possibilities of using some of Tolkien’s early poems, and I saw potential in the lengthy poem Kortirion which he had written in 1915 but had subjected to later revision including a final overhaul in the 1960s when the verses were considered for inclusion in the published collection The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. Tolkien himself rejected such an idea – “they would overbalance the boat” – but it seemed to me that some selection from the lengthy poem, celebrating the continuing presence of the ideals represented by the Elves in the modern world, would make a perfect conclusion to a cycle which sought to encapsulate The Silmarillion as a whole, and to The War of Wrath in particular where the Prologue had included a setting of The shores of Valinor, one of the very earliest of Tolkien’s verses on the subject of Middle-Earth. The parallels were underlined by the use of the original Anglo-Saxon verse couplet about Earendel which Tolkien later described as the spark which ignited the whole of his legendarium (given in the Elvish translation which he had contrived for use by Frodo in The Lord of the Rings) which returns to frame the later verses which set the drama in the context of a mortal existence.
By its very nature then The War of Wrath is less dramatically conceived, more episodic, than the other segments of the Silmarillion cycle, but nonetheless it has a theatrical validity and as in the other works stage directions are included in the score. Indeed the cycle as now completed may be reviewed as a whole where Fëanor and The War of Wrath form a legendary frame into which the three ‘Great Tales’ – Beren and Lúthien, The Children of Húrin and The Fall of Gondolin – are set as a kind of triptych in their own right. This symmetry was never intended – the manner in which the work evolved militated against any such notion – but in retrospect may perhaps be regarded as inevitable.
And even so the work, like the other ‘epic scenes’, can perhaps be viewed as a sort of secular cantata which may indeed best be encountered through the medium of sound recording, where listeners can mentally supply their own visual images to counterpoint the aural effect. Such a recording as the one here, which allows the detailed interweaving of choirs and solo voices to be fully appreciated, would inevitably be very difficult to realise in the context of live performance.
Paul Corfield Godfrey
I wanted to just give a brief note on some of the decisions made during the compilation of the libretto for this work, in which I had a hand. In trying to convince Paul that the “Silmarillion Cycle” needed a final part I started working my way through any references to Eärendil that could be found in the extended printed works of Tolkien, including the often contradictory or abandoned versions in The History of Middle-Earth. Using these as a basis I put a sample libretto together for Paul that focused primarily on The Voyage of Eärendil, a title this opera had for a brief while. This version had some noticeable gaps and plot holes in it that I highlighted for Paul in the hope that he would either know of something that could work or be able to write something to fit in, a noticeable example here being no dialogue for when Eärendil and Elwing meet upon Vingelot. The meeting with the Valar was similarly problematic as in the original texts all that exists is the judgement and not the plea.
Paul, after a brief while, came back with a left-field solution to these problems… and that was to think bigger in scope for the story and focus on the fact that these are “Epic Scenes” and not necessarily a comprehensive dramatic version. What was originally The Voyage of Eärendil became Scenes Four to Eight of the current work, with the choral narrative taking care of a lot of the missing dialogues, and telling the story at a much brisker pace. All of the events occur as they did, but without the need for creation of non-Tolkien dialogue.
With the expansion of the scope of the story came a list of events that we could employ to fill out the narrative and close up the various loose threads of the story Paul began with Fëanor. Círdan’s vision of Eärendil, although now being given to him by Ulmo rather than the Elder King, reminds us of how much Ulmo interferes with events, even centuries before Eärendil’s birth, to achieve his desired outcome. The other major addition to the beginnings of the story was for us to witness the ruin of Doriath; we have seen the fall of Nargothrond and Gondolin in the previous works, so it felt right that this should be there. Paul gave me a list of sources for the two scenes in Doriath, the first a deliberate placing of Galadriel in his operatic world and a reminder about the treachery of the Sons of Fëanor (it has been two evenings since we’ve heard from them). This was lifted almost straight out of the Grey Annals with only a few edits. Scene Three was where we have deviated the most from the published Silmarillion in order to fit the events into the current narrative without the addition of a whole raft of characters just for one appearance. In the version compiled by Christopher Tolkien for The Silmarillion, Thingol is murdered by dwarves in Doriath; Melian then removes her enchantments from the realm and leaves. Their grandson Dior subsequently takes up residence until the Sons of Fëanor massacre the majority of the inhabitants with only a few escaping, including Elwing with the Silmaril. The death of Thingol is treated very differently in the much earlier version in The Tale of the Nauglafring, where he is killed outside of the protections of Doriath (whilst out hunting) and his head is presented to Melian by the dwarves who lusted after his treasure. This is a much more “operatic” scenario (that thankfully deals with the beheading offstage, as such things in full view of a live audience are more often than not a source of unwanted hilarity). Still, this involved the addition of new characters and didn’t fulfil the need to get the Silmaril out of Doriath and into the hands of Elwing ready for the following narrative.
The solution that we found for this came by combining this version of events with the ultimate end of the elven realm. By replacing the dwarves with the already-seen sons of Fëanor, having them kill Thingol (rather than Dior) and be the ones to present his head to Melian we get to keep them as seen antagonists in this work and give them an arc to their ultimate downfall in Scene Eight. We still had the issue of the Silmaril to deal with, though: the need to have Elwing as a refugee and be seen to have it in her possession is much neater than her suddenly having it without an explanation in Scene Five. The answer came with a bit of sideways thinking, using the Nauglafring text again. There Melian is having a conversation with a handmaiden just before the attack begins; by giving the handmaiden’s lines to Elwing, we get to see her in Doriath before she weds Eärendil. The contrivance that did need to be manufactured, though, was the presence of Thingol’s Silmaril in the throne room rather than round his neck when he dies; otherwise the sons of Fëanor would have no reason to attack Doriath. By having Melian bundle Elwing offstage with the gem in her possession, the plot hole was closed and we could witness the ultimate destruction of realm after Melian abandons it.
The Prologue was designed as a re-introduction of the Valar (who haven’t been seen since Fëanor) utilising poetry about Eärendil and Valinor that would serve as a prophecy. Scene Nine came about as a connection from this story to the later Ages, so having the opportunity to see Sauron deceiving the Elves into creating the Rings of Power, and his forging of the “One Ring” fitted well.
The Epilogue, as previously mentioned by Paul, was problematic; but once he had settled on the poetry he wanted to use, we needed a way to visualise it on stage. The wording of the poetry fitted well with the waning of the Elves and I mentioned to Paul that we currently have three of the Elven Ringbearers appearing in this work: Galadriel, Círdan and Elrond (although the latter has been seen only as a child). By the time of the Epilogue though, after the Last Alliance, Elrond would be grown and bearing the ring. So a show of solidarity between the three Ring-bearers, whilst contemplating the end of their time, seemed like a fitting end to this version of the “Silmarillion”.
Simon Crosby Buttle
Paul Corfield Godfrey
Paul Corfield Godfrey was born in London and after a period of residence in Ireland now lives in Wales, studying composition and conducting at various times with Alan Bush and David Wynne. His compositions include four symphonies: various orchestral, chamber and instrumental works: songs and choral works: operas, including The Dialogues of Óisin and Saint Patric and Arcturus, both performed in Cardiff and elsewhere: and a cycle of epic scenes based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s posthumous novel The Silmarillion, of which this recording is but one part. Other works have been performed in London and elsewhere throughout the UK, Hungary, America, Australia and New Zealand. His manuscript scores are lodged at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. He has appeared as a performer both on radio and television, and he reviews live performances, audio and video recordings for MusicWeb International.
A note from Volante Opera Productions
We freely admit to you that this recording is not live or a studio recording. We did not have the means to employ a full orchestra and chorus to rehearse and record this work. What we do have is the small recording studio we use at Volante Opera Productions with room for only one person at a time in the booth.
The orchestra for this recording was created using sampled instrument sets, in this case the EASTWEST SOFTWARE/QUANTUM LEAP “Symphonic Orchestra”. These instrument sets use samples of real instrument sounds which are then sequenced in the recording software ready to be played. It is a long, slow process preparing the scores this way but with patience the results are as close to real, without having an actual orchestra in a studio, as can be.
We are extremely honoured to have a large collection of friends and colleagues who are all professional opera singers. With their help we have managed to fill out the cast of this piece. Due to the limitations of space in our recording setup, we could only record them one at a time often months apart from the other characters in the scene.
The chorus in this piece, a character in its own right, presented a problem to us. With our limitations of space this meant that however many singers we had for the chorus would have to record individually. We therefore decided that a chorus of eight, whilst very under the required numbers, would serve best for this recording as a demonstration of the music. Again, with patience in post processing they can be brought very close to the sound of a live ensemble though and we hope that any imperfections in this will be forgiven in the interest of getting this piece heard. For the purposes of this recording we also bumped up the number of male voices to eight for what we refer to as the “War Chorus” scenes (7&9) as the female voices were not in these scenes—making sure that each vocal line is well covered in the massive sections.
The purpose of this Demo Recording is simply to get the piece heard. The ideal would of course be to hear it performed by a full orchestra and chorus but until this happens we hope that this recording will serve.
Volante Opera Productions was founded by Julian Boyce in 1999, originally bringing opera gala performances to Wales and England. Our main aims are not only to take live music into the community but also through our recordings to enable a wider audience to hear varied and exciting repertoire that has previously gone unrecorded or unheard. In addition, over the years, Volante Opera Productions has helped to raise money for charities, performing in dementia homes, schools and churches. Also our Musical Advent Calendar videos, recorded in the lockdowns of 2020, raised thousands of pounds for Shelter Cymru.
In memory of Priscilla Tolkien, her assistance and encouragement.
We would like to offer our thanks to all of the performers for giving up their precious free time so willingly to help us bring this project to life.
Production and engineering: Volante Opera Productions ©2023
Music published by: Zarathustra Music ©2023
Texts: Used by kind permission of the estate of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and HarperCollins Publishers ©2023
Illustrations: “Beren: Song of Parting” & “Taniquetil” by kind permission of Ted Nasmith ©2023
Synopsis and notes: Volante Opera Productions and Paul Corfield Godfrey ©2023
All artists appear by arrangement with Welsh National Opera
Composer’s website: https://www.paulcorfieldgodfrey.co.uk
Performer biographies and more information: https://www.volanteopera.wales/war-of-wrath