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 stole 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, exhausted, shortly after giving birth.[1] 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, who became prominent leaders among the Noldor.

Fëanor was the student of his father-in-law Mahtan, who was a student of the Vala Aulë. He was a craftsman and gem-smith, inventor of the Tengwar script, and the creator of the palantíri.[note 1]

Silmarils[edit]

Fëanor, "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 could not copy them. In fact, Fëanor himself could not copy them, as part of his essence went into their making. Their worth was close to infinite, 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 suspicious of the Valar and Eldar who he believed coveted them. Melkor, recently released from imprisonment and now residing in Valinor, saw an opportunity to sow dissent among the Noldor. Fëanor refused to communicate with Melkor, but was still caught in his plot. Melkor told Fëanor that his half-brother Fingolfin was planning to usurp his place as heir to Finwë, prompting Fëanor to threaten Fingolfin. As punishment, the Valar exiled Fëanor to Formenos. He took a treasure with him, including the Silmarils, which he put in a locked box. In a show of support, Finwë also withdrew to Formenos.[T 3] Fingolfin took their place as king.

The Valar learnt that Melkor was manipulating Fëanor, and sent Tulkas to capture Melkor, but he had already escaped. Fëanor realised that Melkor's 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 ."[T 3] The Valar invited Fëanor and Fingolfin to Valinor to make peace. Fingolfin offered a hand to his half-brother, recognising Fëanor's place as the eldest. Fëanor accepted, but The Two Trees were destroyed by Melkor with the aid of Ungoliant.[T 4] 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: "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 5] He refused to give up the Silmarils of his own free will. Messengers from Formenos told him that Melkor had killed Finwë and stolen the Silmarils. Yavanna was thus unable to heal the Two Trees.[T 5]

Fëanor named Melkor "Morgoth", "Black Enemy".[T 5] Fëanor railed against the Great Enemy, blaming 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. Together with his seven sons, they swore the fateful Oath of Fëanor:[T 5]

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

Return to Beleriand[edit]

Arda in the First Age. The Elves migrated across Middle-earth; many of them travelled to Valinor (green arrows to the left). Finwë's killing by Melkor led in turn to the Flight of the Noldor (red arrows to the right) back to Beleriand in Middle-earth.[2]

To get to Middle-earth, Fëanor went to the shores of Aman, and asked the seafaring Teleri for their aid. When they refused, Fëanor ordered the Noldor to steal the ships. The Teleri resisted, and many of them were killed. The battle became known as the Kinslaying at Alqualondë, or the first kinslaying.[T 5][3] His sons would commit two other acts of warfare against elves in Middle-earth in his name. In repentance, 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.[T 5] Upon arriving at Losgar, in Lammoth in the far west of Beleriand, they decided to burn the ships and leave the followers of Fingolfin behind. Fingolfin led his people for many months to reach Beleriand, travelling by the northern ice.[T 5]

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 won the battle. Fëanor pressed on toward Angband with his sons. He came within sight of Angband, but was ambushed by a force of Balrogs, with few elves about him. He fought mightily with Gothmog, captain of the Balrogs. His sons came upon the Balrogs with a great force of elves, and drove them off; but Fëanor knew his wounds were fatal. He cursed Morgoth thrice, but with the eyes of death, he saw 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. When he died, his body turned to ashes.[T 6]

Aftermath[edit]

The Oath of Fëanor affected the lovers Beren and Lúthien. They recovered a Silmaril from Morgoth. Their son Dior inherited it, but it awoke the oath and caused the Sons of Fëanor to make war on the Elves of Doriath when Dior refused to give up the Silmaril. The brothers killed Dior and sacked the halls of the Sindar, the second Kinslaying, where three of their number—Celegorm, Curufin, and Caranthir—died. The Silmaril escaped the destruction of Doriath, and the oath drove the remaining sons onwards. When the Sons of Fëanor learned that it was possessed by Elwing, daughter of Dior, they attacked after Elwing also refused to return the Silmaril to them, the third and final Kinslaying where Amras was slain.[T 7]

The Silmaril escaped them again and was borne by Eärendil into the West.[T 8] 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. Due to the terrible deeds committed by the brothers in their retrieval of the Silmarils, 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, spending eternity wandering the shore, lamenting his fate.[T 8]

According to Mandos' prophecy, following Melkor's final return and defeat in the Dagor Dagorath, the world will be changed and the Valar will recover the Silmarils. 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 be flattened and the light of the Two Trees will fill the world in eternal bliss.[T 9][T 10]

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.[4]

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'."[5]

The Tolkien scholar Jane Chance 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."[6] 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.[6]

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 11] and Fëanor is driven by "overmastering pride" that causes his own death and that of countless followers.[7]

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; and 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.

In popular culture[edit]

The black metal band Summoning's album Oath Bound's name comes from the Oath of Fëanor;[8] 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.[9][10]

The Russian power metal band Epidemia has a song entitled "Feanor" about the character's campaign against Morgoth, and his death.[11]

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 1996, Chapter 11 "The Shibboleth of Fëanor"
  2. ^ Tolkien 1977, Chapter 6 "Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor"
  3. ^ a b c d Tolkien 1977, Chapter 7, "Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor"
  4. ^ Tolkien 1977, Chapter 8, "Of the Darkening of Valinor"
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Tolkien 1977, Chapter 9, "Of the Flight of the Noldor"
  6. ^ Tolkien 1977, Chapter 13, "Of the Return of the Noldor"
  7. ^ Tolkien 1977, Chapter 19, "Of Beren and Lúthien"
  8. ^ a b Tolkien 1977, Chapter 24, "Of the Voyage of Eärendil"
  9. ^ Tolkien 1986, ch. 3: "Quenta Noldorinwa"
  10. ^ Tolkien 1994, Part 2, "The Later Quenta Silmarillion", "The Last Chapters of the Quenta Silmarillion"
  11. ^ Tolkien 1966, pp. 4, 22

Secondary[edit]

  1. ^ Dickerson, Matthew (2013) [2007]. "Popular Music". In Drout, Michael D. C. (ed.). Finwë and Míriel. The J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia. Routledge. pp. 212–213. ISBN 978-0-415-96942-0.
  2. ^ Clark, George; Timmons, Daniel (2000). J. R. R. Tolkien and his Literary Resonances. Greenwood Press. p. 176. ISBN 978-0-313-30845-1.
  3. ^ Fontenot, Megan (7 March 2019). "Exploring the People of Middle-earth: Míriel, Historian of the Noldor (Part 1)". Tor.com. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  4. ^ Hammond, Wayne G.; Scull, Christina (1995). J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-395-74816-9.
  5. ^ Shippey, Tom (1982). The Road to Middle-Earth. Grafton (HarperCollins). pp. 213–216. ISBN 0261102753.
  6. ^ a b Nitzsche, Jane Chance (1980) [1979]. Tolkien's Art. Papermac. pp. 131–133. ISBN 0-333-29034-8.
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ Summoning | Interview | Lords Of Metal metal E-zine - Issue 58: April 2006
  9. ^ Eden, Bradford Lee (2010). Middle-earth Minstrel: Essays on Music in Tolkien. McFarland. p. 134. ISBN 9780786456604.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Феанор (Feanor) (English translation)". Lyrics Translate. Retrieved 18 November 2020.

Sources[edit]