Fëanor

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Fëanor
Tolkien character
FEANOR AND FINGOLFIN.jpg
Fëanor (left) threatens Fingolfin
Artwork by Tom Loback, 2007
In-universe information
AliasesFëanáro,
Curufinwë
RaceElves
Book(s)The Silmarillion (1977)

Fëanor (IPA: [ˈfɛ.anɔr]) is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium who plays an important part in The Silmarillion as the creator of the three Silmarils, the skilfully-forged jewels that give the book their name and theme. He was the eldest son of Finwë, the King of the Noldor, and his first wife Míriel Serindë.

Fëanor's Silmarils form a central theme of The Silmarillion as the human and elvish characters battle with the forces of evil for their possession. After the Dark Lord Morgoth steals the Silmarils, Fëanor in response swore an oath which all seven of his sons also proclaimed, vowing to fight anyone and everyone—whether Elf, Man, Maia, or Vala—who withheld the Silmarils, swearing upon Ilúvatar himself, and invoking the chief of the Valar and the mountains of Valinor themselves as witnesses. This became known as the Oath of Fëanor and, later, the cause for great tragedy on Middle-earth, particularly among his seven sons.

The oath commanded Fëanor and his sons to press to Middle-earth, in the process committed atrocities against their fellow Elves at the havens of the Teleri, known as the first Kinslaying. Fëanor died soon after his arrival in Middle-earth though the remaining oath-takers, the Sons of Fëanor were still bound by the oath they swore together and are united in one cause to defeat Morgoth and retrieve the Silmarils. Though they lived on in relative harmony with the Eldar of Beleriand for the greater part of the First Age, they committed further Kinslayings against their fellow Elves, and their wayward actions defined the fate of Middle-earth during this time period.

Etymology[edit]

The character is originally named Curufinwë ("skilful [son of] Finwë") in Tolkien's fictional language of Quenya. Fëanor is also known as Fëanáro, "spirit of fire" in Quenya, from fëa ("spirit") and nár ("flame"). Fëanáro is his "mother-name" or Amilessë, the name given by an Elf's mother at, or some years after, birth and it was one of their true names.[T 1]

Fictional history[edit]

Early life[edit]

Fëanor's mother, Míriel, died shortly after giving birth, having given all her strength and essence to him. As a result, Fëanor "was made the mightiest in all parts of body and mind: in valour, in endurance, in beauty, in understanding, in skill, in strength and subtlety alike: of all the Children of Ilúvatar, and a bright flame was in him." Finwë would remarry and had several children, including Fëanor's half-brothers Fingolfin and Finarfin, both of whom would later become prominent leaders among the Noldor.

Fëanor was the student of his father-in-law Mahtan, who was himself a student of the Vala Aulë. He was a craftsman and gem-smith, inventor of the Tengwar script. He also was the creator of the palantíri[1][note 1] Gandalf would later describe Fëanor's skill as exceeding that of both Sauron and Saruman.

Silmarils[edit]

Fëanor, at the pinnacle of his might, "in the greatest of his achievements, captured the light of the Two Trees to make the three Silmarils, also called the Great Jewels, though they were not mere glittering stones, they were alive, imperishable, and sacred."[T 3] Even the Valar, including Aulë, could not copy them. In fact, Fëanor himself could not copy them, as part of his essence went into their making. Their worth, in Tolkien's universe, was close to infinite, even to the Valar, as they were unique and irreplaceable. So "Varda hallowed the Silmarils so that thereafter no mortal flesh, nor hands unclean, nor anything of evil will might touch them, for it would be scorched and withered."[T 3]

Fëanor prized the Silmarils above all else, and grew increasingly suspicious of the Valar and other Eldar who he believed had coveted them. Melkor, recently released from three ages of imprisonment in the Halls of Mandos and now residing in Valinor, saw in his paranoia an opportunity to sow dissension among the Noldor. Fëanor did not trust Melkor and refused to communicate with him, but was still caught in the evil Ainu's plot. Melkor used Fëanor's anger and pride against him, telling him that his own half-brother Fingolfin was planning to usurp his place as heir to Finwë, prompting Fëanor to physically threaten Fingolfin. As punishment for his threat, the Valar exiled Fëanor to Formenos. He took a substantial treasure with him, including the Silmarils, which he put in a locked box. In a show of support for his eldest son, Finwë also withdrew to Formenos. With Finwë and Fëanor's absence, Fingolfin had become king.

The Valar then learned that Melkor was manipulating Fëanor, and sent Tulkas to capture Melkor, but he had already escaped. Melkor tried again to convince Fëanor of them, but Fëanor realised that Melkor's true goal was to obtain the Silmarils, "and he shut the doors of his house in the face of the mightiest of all the dwellers in ." The Valar then invited Fëanor and Fingolfin to Valinor to make peace. Fingolfin offered a hand to his half-brother, recognising Fëanor's place as the eldest. He gave his pledge to follow his elder brother and Fëanor accepted, but during their reunion, The Trees were destroyed by Melkor with the aid of Ungoliant. The Valar, realising that now the light of the Trees survived only in the Silmarils, asked Fëanor to give them up so that they could restore the Trees. Fëanor replied and said: "It may be that I can unlock my jewels, but never again shall I make their like; and if I must break them, I shall break my heart."[T 4] And it was after this that he stated that he would not give up the Silmarils of his own free will; if the Valar forced him, he said, they would be no better than Melkor. Soon after, messengers from Formenos arrived and told him that Finwë the King of the Noldor had been killed by Melkor, who had then stolen the Silmarils along with the other lesser jewels Fëanor had created. Without the living light from the Silmarils, the Vala Queen Yavanna could not heal the Two Trees.

Fëanor, upon learning of his father's murder and the theft of his prized Silmarils, named Melkor "Morgoth", or "Black Foe of the World" (literally "Black Enemy"). Fëanor delivered the most impassioned speech ever given in Arda, which he unwittingly filled with Morgoth's corruption. He railed against the Great Enemy, but because of Morgoth's influence, he also blamed the Valar for Morgoth's deeds. He persuaded most of his people that because the Valar had abandoned them, the Noldor must follow him to Middle-earth to wrest the Silmarils back from Morgoth and avenge Finwë. He declared that even if the Noldor ever managed to recover the Silmarils, he would never give them to the Valar to help recreate the Two Trees. Together with his seven sons, they swore the Oath of Fëanor as follows:

They swore an oath which none shall break, and none should take, by the name even of Ilúvatar, calling the Everlasting Dark upon them if they kept it not... ...vowing to pursue with vengeance and hatred to the ends of the World Vala, Demon, Elf or Man as yet unborn or any creature, great or small, good or evil, that time should bring forth unto the end of days, whoso should hold or take or keep a Silmaril from their possession. — Quenta Silmarillion

Seeking a way to get to Middle-earth, he went to the shores of Aman, where the seafaring Teleri lived, and asked for their aid. When Teleri refused to give or lend their ships, Fëanor ordered the Noldor to take the ships. The Teleri resisted, and a battle broke out, in which many of them were slain. The battle became known as the Kinslaying at Alqualondë, or the first kinslaying. His sons would commit two other acts of warfare against elves in Middle-earth in his name. In repentance for this act, Finarfin, Finwë's third son, took his host and turned back. They were accepted by the Valar, and Finarfin ruled as High-King of the Noldor in Valinor. The remaining Elves, those who followed Fëanor and Fingolfin, became subject to the Doom of Mandos. There were not enough ships to carry all of the Noldor across the sea, so Fëanor and his sons led the first group.

Upon arriving at Losgar, in the land of Lammoth, in the far west of Beleriand, where Morgoth and Ungoliant had passed not long before, they decided to burn the ships and leave the followers of Fingolfin behind. However, Fëanor's son Amrod died at Losgar, having been accidentally burnt with the Telerin ships. Learning of the Noldor's arrival, Morgoth summoned his armies from his fortress of Angband and attacked Fëanor's encampment in Mithrim. This battle was called the Battle under the Stars, or Dagor-nuin-Giliath, for the Sun and Moon had not yet been made. The Noldor managed to win the battle, and destroy Morgoth's armies. Fëanor, still in a great rage, pressed on toward Angband with his sons. He came even within sight of Angband, but was ambushed by a force of Balrogs, with few elves about him. He fought mightily, hewing even after receiving several wounds from Gothmog, captain of the Balrogs. His sons came upon the Balrogs with a great force of elves, and were able to drive them off. However, as Fëanor was being escorted off the battlefield, he knew his wounds were fatal. He cursed Morgoth thrice, but with the eyes of death, he knew that his elves, unaided, would never throw down the dark towers of Thangorodrim. Nevertheless, he told his sons to keep the oath and to avenge their father. At the moment of his death the passing of his fiery spirit reduced his body to ashes.

Aftermath[edit]

However, the true dangers of the oath became apparent when the lovers Beren and Lúthien recovered one of the jewels from Morgoth, which ultimately came into the possession of Dior, their son, who succeeded his grandfather Thingol as ruler in Menegroth. The presence of the Silmaril awoke the oath and caused the Sons of Fëanor to make war on the Elves of Doriath when Dior refused to yield the jewel. The brothers killed Dior and sacked the halls of the Sindar, committing the second Kinslaying, where three of their number—Celegorm, Curufin, and Caranthir—died. However, the Silmaril escaped the destruction of Doriath and the oath drove the remaining sons onwards. When the Sons of Fëanor later learned that it was possessed by Elwing daughter of Dior, who dwelt near the mouths of Sirion together with survivors from Doriath and the city of Gondolin, they attacked after Elwing also refused to return the Silmaril to them, committing the third and final Kinslaying where Amras was slain.

But the Silmaril escaped them again and was borne by Eärendil into the West. That Silmaril was lost to the Sons of Fëanor, but two more remained inside the crown of Morgoth. At the end of the War of Wrath the two surviving oath-takers, Maedhros and Maglor, stole the two Silmarils from the camp of the victorious Hosts of Valinor. However, due to the terrible deeds committed by the brothers in their retrieval of the Silmarils they found they could not handle the Silmarils without enduring searing pain. The two brothers parted: in their anguish Maedhros threw himself and his Silmaril into a fiery chasm, while Maglor cast his Silmaril into the sea and would spend an eternity wandering the shore, lamenting his fate.

According to Mandos' prophecy, following Melkor's final return and defeat in the Dagor Dagorath, or the Battle of Battles, the world will be changed and the Silmarils will be recovered by the Valar. Fëanor will be released from the Halls of Mandos and give Yavanna the Silmarils. Depending on the version of the story, either she or Fëanor will break them, and Yavanna will revive the Two Trees. The Pelóri Mountains will then be flattened and the light of the Two Trees will fill the world in eternal bliss.

Development[edit]

Heraldic device of Fëanor. In Elvish heraldry, his rank as a prince is shown by the four points touching the rim.

Fëanor is among those major characters whom Tolkien, who also used to illustrate his writings, supplied with a distinct heraldic device.[2]

The Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey comments that Fëanor and his Silmarils relate to The Silmarillion's theme in a particular way: the sin of the elves is not human pride, as in the Biblical fall, but their "desire to make things which will forever reflect or incarnate their own personality". This elvish form of pride leads Fëanor to forge the Silmarils, and, Shippey suggests, led Tolkien to write his fictions: "Tolkien could not help seeing a part of himself in Fëanor and Saruman, sharing their perhaps licit, perhaps illicit desire to 'sub-create'."[3]

The critic Jane Chance Nitzsche sees Fëanor's pride as more simply Biblical, writing that Morgoth's corruption of elves and men "mirrors that of Adam and Eve by Satan; the desire for power and godlike being is the same desire for knowledge of good and evil witnessed in the Garden of Eden."[4] She treats the Silmarils as symbols of that desire, identifying Fëanor's wish to be like the Valar in creating "things of his own" as rebellious pride, and pointing out that his rebellion is echoed by that of the Numenorean man Ar-Pharazon, and then at the end of The Silmarillion by the (angelic) Maia, Sauron, who becomes the Dark Lord of Lord of the Rings.[4]

The philologist Elizabeth Solopova suggests that the character of Fëanor was inspired by Byrhtnoth from the Anglo-Saxon poem "The Battle of Maldon" who is slain in battle. Tolkien has described Byrhtnoth as misled by "pride and misplaced chivalry proven fatal" and as "too foolish to be heroic",[T 5] and Fëanor is driven by "overmastering pride" that causes his own death and that of countless followers.[5]

Tolkien wrote at least four versions of the Oath of Fëanor itself, as found in The History of Middle-earth. The three earliest versions are found in The Lays of Beleriand: In alliterative verse (circa 1918–1920s), in chapter 2, "Poems Early Abandoned". The Flight of the Noldoli from Valinor. Lines 132–141. In rhyming couplets (circa 1928), in chapter 3, "The Lay of Leithian". Canto VI, lines 1628–1643. In a different form as restated by Celegorm, third son of Fëanor, in chapter 3, "The Lay of Leithian." Canto VI, lines 1848–1857. A later version is found in Morgoth's Ring.

The fate of another brother, Amrod, varies by source. In the published Silmarillion, Amrod dies at the Mouths of Sirion with his twin brother Amras. In subsequently published material, he dies much sooner in an accident when his father burns the stolen Telerin ships at Losgar. Tolkien also offered a different version of Maglor's fate in The Lay of Leithian Recommenced, where he cast himself along with his Silmaril into the sea.

In popular culture[edit]

The black metal band Summoning's album Oath Bound's name comes from the Oath of Fëanor;[6] the lyrics are about the Quenta Silmarillion.

Blind Guardian's song "The Curse of Fëanor", featured on the album Nightfall in Middle Earth, tells of Fëanor swearing to go after Morgoth.[7][8]

The Russian power metal band Epidemia has a song entitled "Feanor" about the character's campaign against Morgoth, and his death.[9]

House of Fëanor[edit]

MahtanMírielFinwë
of the Noldor
Indis
of the Vanyar
NerdanelFëanorFindisFingolfinÍrimëFinarfin
MaedhrosMaglorCelegormCaranthirCurufinAmrodAmras
Celebrimbor
Colour key:
Colour Description
  Elves

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The Silmarillion mentions that Fëanor created crystals that "wherein things far away could be seen small but clear, as with the eyes of the Eagles of Manwë": the index points the reader at this passage when looking up palantíri.[T 2]

References[edit]

Primary[edit]

This list identifies each item's location in Tolkien's writings.
  1. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1996), Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, "The Shibboleth of Fëanor", ISBN 0-395-82760-4
  2. ^ "Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor". The Silmarillion.
  3. ^ a b "Of the Silmaril and the Unrest of the Noldor". The Silmarillion.
  4. ^ "Of the Flight of the Noldor". The Silmarillion.
  5. ^ The Tolkien Reader, pp. 4, 22

Secondary[edit]

  1. ^ "Palantíri". The Encyclopedia of Arda. Mark Fisher. 28 April 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  2. ^ Hammond, Wayne G.; Scull, Christina (1995). J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-395-74816-9.
  3. ^ Shippey, Tom (1982). The Road to Middle-Earth. Grafton (HarperCollins). pp. 213–216. ISBN 0261102753.
  4. ^ a b Nitzsche, Jane Chance (1980) [1979]. Tolkien's Art. Papermac. pp. 131–133. ISBN 0-333-29034-8.
  5. ^ Solopova, Elizabeth (2009), Languages, Myths and History: An Introduction to the Linguistic and Literary Background of J. R. R. Tolkien's Fiction, New York City: North Landing Books, p. 42, ISBN 978-0-9816607-1-4
  6. ^ Summoning | Interview | Lords Of Metal metal E-zine - Issue 58: April 2006
  7. ^ Eden, Bradford Lee (2010). Middle-earth Minstrel: Essays on Music in Tolkien. McFarland. p. 134. ISBN 9780786456604.
  8. ^ Robb, Brian J.; Simpson, Paul (2013). Middle-earth Envisioned: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: On Screen, On Stage, and Beyond. Race Point Publishing. p. 185. ISBN 978-1627880787.
  9. ^ "Феанор (Feanor) (English translation)". Lyrics Translate. Retrieved 18 November 2020.

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]