As many major characters in Tolkien’s work, the greatest villain of Middle-earth Morgoth had a lot of different names and titles among Elves and Men that reflected his character and personality. 

The Ainu’s original Quenya name was Melkor meaning «He Who Arises In Might». This name referred to the unsurpassable greatness and might he possessed as compared with the other Ainur. In earlier drafts Tolkien used the form Melko which meant simply «the Mighty One». An ancient version of this name, as mentioned in Morgoth’s Ring, was Melkórë.

The Sindarin translation of the name Melkor was Belegûr, but the Sindar of Middle-earth referred to him by the altered form of this name Belegurth – «the Great Death».  They simply did not wish to acknowledge the Ainu’s power in their speech and the name Belegûr fell out of use just like Melkor did:

But that name he has forfeited; and the Noldor, who among the Elves suffered most from his malice, will not utter it, and they name him Morgoth, the Dark Enemy of the World.

(Silmarillion, p. 23)

After stealing the Silmarils and killing  Finwë the greatest Ainu acquired his new name Morgoth – «the Dark Enemy of the World». This meaning evolved from the earlier versions «Dark Power» and «Black God». It was Fëanor who coined the Dark Lord’s name which Elves used ever after. However, Morgoth is a Sindarin word – the language which Fëanor could not possibly speak or know of. It is stated in several drafts that the Noldo pronounced this name in Quenya and it was (according to different versions) Moringotto or Moriñgotho, and Morgoth was simply a Sindarin translation used in The Silmarillion. Moreover, Morgoth’s return to Angband earned him yet another title in Sindarin – Bauglir, meaning «the Constrainer». Very often the two names were used together to form a full title Morgoth Bauglir. 

In his acquiring Sindarin names Morgoth was different from many other Valar. In the Sindarin culture the names of «foreign persons», who did not dwell in Beleriand, were not as a rule changed whether they suited the Sindarin fashion or not. Thus the Sindar never altered most Valar’s names as the Grey Elves had never encountered them in person. The only exceptions were Oromë, Manwë, Varda and Melkor, who all got their own names to fit the Sindarin style.

Interestingly, Men tried to avoid any proper names while referring to Morgoth. Instead they used various impersonal words and word combinations which sounded more like titles or euphemisms as if they were afraid that calling the Dark Lord directly might accidentally invoke him or some trouble. One of such titles among Men was Dark King. In Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth Andreth also refers to Morgoth as to the Shadow and the Lord of the Darkness.

At the early stages of The Silmarillion creation Tolkien also provided several Old English versions of names for Morgoth. They were Mánfréa, Bolgen and MalacorMánfréa is derived from the O.E. mán – «evil, wickedness»; Bolgen means «wrathful» and Malacor seems to come from the verbal noun malscrung meaning «bewildering, bewitching». The O.E. form of Bauglir was Bróga – «terror».

The titles Morgoth chose for himself were far more flattering that the ones used by Elves and Men, but if we remember what kind of personality he had, it becomes clear why humility was not amongst his virtues:

From splendour he fell through arrogance to contempt for all things save himself, a spirit wasteful and pitiless.

(Silmarillion, p. 23)

Among his self-chosen titles were King of the World, which Morgoth claimed after the theft of the Silmarils and setting them in his iron crown; in a conversation with Húrin he called himself Master of the fates of Arda and even the Elder King. The latter title rightfully belonged to Manwë and referred to his being the King of the Valar and the whole of Arda. In claiming such big titles Morgoth showed both – extreme arrogance and pride, as well as his purpose: he wanted dominance all over the world and aimed to be its master, wishing to usurp even Ilúvatar’s place. In fact, Sauron, when weaving nets of deceit around Ar-Pharazôn, echoed his master, referring to him as to Lord of All. Morgoth could have no claim for this title whatsoever as the rightful Father of All (and thus Lord of All) is Eru Ilúvatar.

Works consulted:

  1. J. R. R. Tolkien – The Silmarillion (edited by Christopher Tolkien); HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 1999.
  2. J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien – The Peoples of Middle-earth; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2015.
  3. J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien – Morgoth’s Ring; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2015.
  4. J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien – The Shaping of Middle-earth; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2015.

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