Aulë [ˈau̯le] is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, who is primarily discussed in The Silmarillion, but appears also in Tolkien's other works. In Tolkien's pantheon of Middle-earth, Aulë is a knowledge deity, sometimes worshipped as a god by men, representing skill and craftsmanship, who is also thematically associated with Earth, stone, metal and the dwarves. Because of his associations with smithing and skill, Aulë is similar in thematic role to the Greek god Hephaestus, the Roman god Vulcan, the Finnish god Ilmarinen, and the Norse god Völundr.
Aulë the Smith is a Vala and one of the Ainur. Aulë is given lordship over the matter that composes Arda and is a master of all the crafts that shape it. He created the Dwarves. During the Music of the Ainur, Aulë's themes concerned the physical things of which Arda is made; when Ilúvatar gave being to the themes of the Ainur, his music became the lands of Middle-earth. Other works of his include Angainor (the chain of Melkor), the Two Lamps and the vessels of the Sun and Moon. He is husband to Yavanna. His name translates from Quenya as invention.
As Aulë is a smith, he is the Vala most similar in thought and powers to Melkor, in that they each gloried in the fashioning of artful and original things. Both also came to create beings of their own. But while Aulë strove to be true to the original intent of the Music of the Ainur, and submitted all that he did to the will of Ilúvatar, Melkor wished to control and subvert all things, and was jealous of the creations of others so that he would try to twist or destroy all that they made. There was long strife between Aulë and Melkor both before and after the creation of Arda. Aulë, however, traditionally opposed attempts to fight Melkor, for fear of the damage that would be wrought to Arda.
When the Elves came to Valinor, the Noldor became the students of Aulë. Fëanor was his greatest pupil, and from him learned to make gems through craftsmanship that is now forgotten. This would eventually lead to the Silmarils, the greatest creation of handiwork within Arda. On the Flight of the Noldor, the Noldor who returned to Valinor under Finarfin named themselves the Aulendur, Followers of Aulë.
Desperate for pupils onto whom he could pass his knowledge and unwilling to wait for the emergence of the Children of Ilúvatar, Aulë created his own race of beings, the Dwarves. However, he did not have a clear idea of what the Children of Ilúvatar would be like, and because of the presence of the chaos caused by Melkor, Aulë made the Dwarves strong and unyielding, and not willing to endure the domination of others, as well as embodying some of his values and desires for Middle-earth. However Aulë did not have the power to give independent life to his creations. They could act only when his thought was on them.
When Aulë had completed his work he began to instruct the Dwarves in the language he had made for them, Khuzdul. Then Ilúvatar spoke to him, asking why he would seek to exceed his power and authority by attempting to make new life. Aulë repented, answering that the drive to create was kindled in him by Ilúvatar, and that he only wished for other beings to love and teach, with whom to share in the beauty of the world. He admitted that his impatience had driven him to folly and submitted his creations to Ilúvatar. Assuming that they should be destroyed, he made to smite the seven Fathers of the Dwarves with a great hammer, weeping as he did so. But as the Dwarves shrank from the blow, Ilúvatar stayed Aulë's hand and showed that he had already accepted his offer by gifting the Dwarves with spirits of their own, else they could not have been afraid.
Ilúvatar accepted them as his adopted children; however, as it was ordained that the Elves were to be the firstborn race, he set the Dwarves to sleep "in the darkness under stone" inside remote mountains in Middle-earth, until after the Awakening of the Elves. He told Aulë that while both races were Ilúvatar's children, their creation was outside the scope of the Music of the Ainur, and often strife would arise between the Dwarven race and the Elven race as the events of the world unfolded.
The first of Aulë's sleeping Dwarves to wake was Durin, at Mount Gundabad.
The Dwarves believe that after they die their spirits remove to halls Aulë has set aside for them, and their role will be to rebuild Arda after the Final Battle that is yet to come.
Several Maiar were associated with Aulë: Sauron, before being corrupted by Melkor; and Curumo (Saruman), who later went to Middle-earth as an Istar to combat Sauron. Sauron was among the mightiest, if not the mightiest of the Maiar who served Aulë and used his knowledge of the metaphysical structure of Arda to great effect as a servant of Morgoth in the First Age of Middle-earth and then was his own master in the Second and Third Ages. When Sauron sought to corrupt the Elves in the Second Age one of the names he assumed was Aulendil, meaning devotee of Aulë. It is interesting to note that two of the greatest Maiar who were sent to Middle-earth and later fell were in the beginning both aligned with Aulë. The reason for this is probably that this is the order most associated with craft, skill, and by these means, power. Weaker-willed spirits often fall prey to craving for power in Tolkien's works, and these prove no exception.