This essay is the WINNER in a recently held first round of an Essay Competition held at the TolkienForum, the Guild of Tolkienology.
A perfunctiory study of the "Silmarillion" might suggest that there is an immense gap between the initial intentions, when the world was created with much love, and the upcoming results. I don't share this opinion. It seems to me that Thought, Love and Reality were basically the same thing, or the essense of the World Creator. There is no contradiction between the original idea and what happened later; there's no even need to oppose Eru's Love to the 'cruel' Reality.
All the events in Tolkien's epics happen because they are meant to be by a transcendental supernatural force. The "Silmarillion" reveals a profound monistic philosophy--i.e. a belief that everything--good and bad--derives from one source of origin,one creator. From Eru, the infinite intellect, comes all.
Concerning Eru's Thought, it is rather far-fetched to see only ideas of a peaceful existence and regard Melkor's twist as a surprising rebellion. You cannot possibly say that Eru, mighty enough to contrive the earth, was blind to let this Ainur walk around and do his misdeeds. Evil had been rooted in Eru. It did not spoil any plans, for it was part of them.
Malice did not come from outside, Melkor was just not that great enough to think up Evil by himself. Eru needed a Dark Lord or a Dark Lady for his purpose. Evil is the force that makes good things go. Someone had to play 'the fallen angel' and a talented Vala was up to it. Melkor was simply the necessary embodiment of that force. Don't overestimate his personal qualities--he was no different than Varda. Do you think she couldn't be corrupted? I don't.
Eru wanted to weave into the world dark and light, bad and good. He did so, even into the characters of all his Children (Vala,Maia,Men,Elves...). There was a lurking villain even in the fairest Elf; and that was the smartest point of his Thought. For evil is a vital thing. If there was only Good or only Evil, who could make any difference? What's the point in definitions at all? Eru wanted his children to tell the two sides apart, appreciate one of them and struggle with the other. There's no better way to teach them that tjhan giving them a piece of malice.
Was it only Love that He bestowed on his children? I daresay not. In order to keep them fit for improvement, he made them imperfect. There was pride and envy as well. Everyone was prone to temptation and that was a process triggered and expected. someone would deviate from the conventional 'good' thus contributing to the perfection of the rest.
Regarding Reality, I'd rather call it ' just' than 'cruel'. Did you think that the Good Lord only wanted his children to 'live happily ever after'? But that would have lessened the value of life itself! Just fancy--everyone flawless: no sufferings, but no appreciation of the fact as well. Without a threat to it, beauty cannot be treasured. Eru didn't want his people to live idly in bliss: his creation would have withered in nothingness. life would have been futile.
Reality was what he expected it to be. You may say the Curse of Mandos contradicts this idea. But mind you, that was Vala point of view. You can interpret it in 2 different ways: 1)that was the awe-inspiring way to say 'that's life'; or 2) you might assume (too naively, meseems), that the Vala seemed to believe in the utopia of eternal joy.
Someone had to cross the line and determine the 'downfall'. But it was nobody's fault in specific. If it hadn't been Feanor, it could have been a converted Vala.
The infinite supernatural power of Eru was beyond anybody's reach. A life of suffering actually turned out a benefit for his children--otherwise there wouldn't have been heroes, sacrifice for love,Beren and Luthien...Just how many great things were caused by Evil! There was a subtle balance--Eru would never have let any of the sides--good or evil--dominate over the other. Else it would diminish.