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Created by Varda shortly before the awakening of the Elves (approximately 4,300 years before the first rising of the Sun)
Among the stars
Created by Varda from the dews of Telperion
Perhaps 'Eagle of the West', but see text for further discussion
Other names
Perhaps equivalent to modern Aquila, though this is speculative


About this entry:

  • Updated 29 June 2023
  • This entry is complete


The eagle among the stars

When Mandos revealed to the Valar that the coming of the Firstborn Children of Ilúvatar was imminent, Varda gave thought to the darkness of Middle-earth. While Aman was filled with the Light of the Trees, Middle-earth in that ancient time lay under deep darkness. Though the sky was filled with stars, those distant stars shone down only dimly on the lands where the first Elves would awaken. So Varda took the shining silver dews of the Tree Telperion and began a great work. She set those dews in the sky to create a host of new bright stars to bring light to Middle-earth, and many of these she arranged into signs and symbols, including a group named Soronúmë.

Many of these signs in sky can be interpreted as constellations we know today: Menelmacar, noted as having a shining belt of stars, was a name for Orion, and the Valacirica, the seven stars of the Sickle of the Valar, referred to the grouping we know today as the Plough or Big Dipper. For others, their identity is much less certain, and Soronúmë is one of these. Its name includes soron, the Quenya word for 'Eagle', and on this basis it is often associated with the modern constellation of Aquila, the Eagle (with the name perhaps more fully meaning 'Eagle of the West', which could be seen as reference to the Eagles that served Manwë).

The Elvish word for 'west', númen, in fact derives from a root meaning 'down' (which came to be associated with the west because that is the direction in which the Sun sets). This raises an entirely different possible interpretation of the constellation's name, given that there was a real traditional star-grouping that might fit the meaning of 'down'. This is the constellation today named Lyra, the Lyre, but which was known to the Romans as Aquila cadens and to Arabic astronomers as An-nasr al-wāqi, the 'falling eagle'.1 Lyra, which contains the brilliant star Vega, is a rather more prominent constellation than Aquila, so this explanation is tempting. Ultimately, though, Tolkien did not specify which group of stars he had in mind for Soronúmë; it may have been Aquila, or Lyra, or some entirely different constellation not so far considered.



We cannot claim to have originated the ingenious connection between Soronúmë and Aquila cadens. It appears in various sources, but the ultimate origin of the idea is obscure. Perhaps its fullest treatment appears in a footnote to the page Astronomical objects above Middle-earth (which, as the name suggests, also discusses Elvish names for various other celestial phenomena).

See also...



About this entry:

  • Updated 29 June 2023
  • This entry is complete

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