Reader: The Silmarillion. Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter 9 “Of the Flight of the Noldor”

Reader deep thought: How bitter the cup Melkor brewed. And yet it would not have burnt as terribly if not for Fëanor’s self-righteous hard-heartedness, and obsession with the Silmarils.

“… many voices were lifted in lamentation; and it seemed to those that mourned that they had drained to the dregs the cup of woe that Melkor had filled for them. But it was not so.”

 

SUMMARY NOTES

So the Two Trees were dead. Yavanna could not revive them, not without some help.

‘The Light of the Trees has passed away, and lives now only in the Silmarils of Fëanor. Foresighted was he! Even for those who are mightiest under Ilúvatar there is some work that they may accomplish once, and once only. The Light of the Trees I brought into being, and within Eä I can do so never again. Yet had I but a little of that light I could recall life to the Trees, ere their roots decay; and then our hurt should be healed, and the malice of Melkor be confounded.’

 

Manwë and Tulkas compelled him, but Fëanor voiced his reluctance to relinquish his preciouses, even in the face of what’s at stake. It probably didn’t help that Aulë spoke up for him.

‘For the less even as for the greater there is some deed that he may accomplish but once only; and in that deed his heart shall rest. 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, and I shall be slain; first of all the Eldar in Aman.’

 

Of course, Mandos, Mr Cryptic, had a repartee: “Not the first.” And with Melkor’s words in mind, Fëanor declared: ‘This thing I will not do of free will. But if the Valar will constrain me, then shall I know indeed that Melkor is of their kindred.’

Way to allude and entrap, especially when these are the higher Powers of existence. Fiery spirit indeed.

So that’s it, no Silmarils for the world. Still there were things to do. Nienna cried the Valar rivers enough to cleanse Ezellohar, and sang her “mourning for the bitterness of the world and the Marring of Arda.”

Meanwhile, Mandos’ words were being realised, for Melkor went to Formenos, killed Finwë and raided Fëanor’s treasure hoard, and took the Silmarils. In retaliation, Fëanor cursed and renamed Melkor: Morgoth, the Black Foe of the World. Ever after, that was what he was called by the Eldar.

The surprise is that he “cursed also the summons of Manwë and the hour in which he came to Taniquetil, thinking in the madness of his rage and grief that had he been at Formenos his strength would have availed more than to be slain also, as Melkor had purposed. Then Fëanor ran from the Ring of Doom, and fled into the night; for his father was dearer to him than the Light of Valinor or the peerless works of his hands; and who among sons, of Elves or of Men, have held their fathers of greater worth?”

Talk about taking on the world. Fëanor certainly lived and thought large, and fiercely he loved too.

Meantime, Melkor had escaped back to Middle-earth by way of Araman in the north of Aman, a barren icy wasteland, “through the great mists of Oiomúrë to the Helcaraxë, where the strait between Araman and Middle-earth was filled with grinding ice; and he crossed over, and came back at last to the north of the Outer Lands”.

Ungoliant was with him, not that he wanted it – Morgoth could not shake her. If he had thought to get help losing her at Angband, he thought wrong.

Unsurprisingly, Ungoliant demanded the payment he had promised. Even then, he pre-empted any claim on the world itself. But Ungoliant only wanted the bling he held, in both hands as she stipulated. Slyly, he fed her from his left, one jewel at a time, while “in his right hand Morgoth held close the Silmarils, and though they were locked in a crystal casket, they had begun to burn him, and his hand was clenched in pain; but he would not open it.”

But Ungoliant had grown from all that she had swallowed, and he shrunken “by the power that had gone out of him”. She caught him in her web and proceeded to strangle him.tumblr_inline_mk1zsiHvaR1qz4rgp

Then Morgoth sent forth a terrible cry, that echoed in the mountains. Therefore that region was called Lammoth; for the echoes of his voice dwelt there ever after, so that any who cried aloud in that land awoke them, and all the waste between the hills and the sea was filled with a clamour as of voices in anguish. The cry of Morgoth in that hour was the greatest and most dreadful that was ever heard in the northern world; the mountains shook, and the earth trembled, and rocks were riven asunder. Deep in forgotten places that cry was heard. Far beneath the ruined halls of Angband, in vaults to which the Valar in the haste of their assault had not descended, Balrogs lurked still, awaiting ever the return of their Lord; and now swiftly they arose, and passing over Hithlum they came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire. With their whips of flame they smote asunder the webs of Ungoliant, and she quailed, and turned to flight, belching black vapours to cover her; and fleeing from the north she went down into Beleriand, and dwelt beneath Ered Gorgoroth, in that dark valley that was after called Nan Dungortheb, the Valley of Dreadful Death, because of the horror that she bred there. For other foul creatures of spider form had dwelt there since the days of the delving of Angband, and she mated with them, and devoured them; and even after Ungoliant herself departed, and went whither she would into the forgotten south of the world, her offspring abode there and wove their hideous webs. Of the fate of Ungoliant no tale tells. Yet some have said that she ended long ago, when in her uttermost famine she devoured herself at last.

 

So Morgoth, and the Silmarils, were saved by his Balrog troops and Ungoliant left her legacy.

Safe in Angband, Morgoth threw himself into fortifications and horde strengthening, rearing “the threefold peaks of Thangorodrim”, and “countless became the hosts of his beasts and his demons, and the race of the Orcs, bred long before, grew and multiplied in the bowels of the earth”

Of course he mustn’t forget his prize. The self-proclaimed King of the World, wore an iron crown, in which the Silmarils were set.

His hands were burned black by the touch of those hallowed jewels, and black they remained ever after; nor was he ever free from the pain of the burning, and the anger of the pain. That crown he never took from his head, though its weight became a deadly weariness. Never but once only did he depart for a while secretly from his domain in the North; seldom indeed did he leave the deep places of his fortress, but governed his armies from his northern throne. And once only also did he himself wield weapon, while his realm lasted.

For now, more than in the days of Utumno ere his pride was humbled, his hatred devoured him, and in the domination of his servants and the inspiring of them with lust of evil he spent his spirit. Nonetheless his majesty as one of the Valar long remained, though turned to terror, and before his face all save the mightiest sank into a dark pit of fear.

 

What a sorry end for one who started at the top of such a vaulted heap.

 

Back in Aman, unrest was stirring amidst the gloom of the pontificating Valar in the Ring of Doom. Fëanor instigated the Noldor to return to Middle-earth and help him regain the Silmairls, painting an ugly portrait of the Eldar’s captivity and deception by the Valar in service of the “Aftercomers”, who the Powers were helping to dominate Middle-earth. Essentially, Fëanor gave an oration masterclass right in the heart of Tirion their city.

Fëanor was a master of words, and his tongue had great power over hearts when he would use it; and that night he made a speech before the Noldor which they ever remembered. Fierce and fell were his words, and filled with anger and pride; and hearing them the Noldor were stirred to madness. His wrath and his hate were given most to Morgoth, and yet well nigh all that he said came from the very lies of Morgoth himself; but he was distraught with grief for the slaying of his father, and with anguish for the rape of the Silmarils. He claimed now the kingship of all the Noldor, since Finwë was dead, and he scorned the decrees of the Valar.

 

And he swore an oath to end all oaths, his sons along with him, and “many quailed to hear the dread words. For so sworn, good or evil, an oath may not be broken, and it shall pursue oathkeeper and oathbreaker to the world’s end.”

Jenny_Dolfen_-_The_Oath_of_FeanorFëanor swore a terrible oath. His seven sons leapt straightway to his side and took the selfsame vow together, and red as blood shone their drawn swords in the glare of the torches. 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; and Manwë they named in witness, and Varda, and the hallowed mountain of Taniquetil, 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.

 

Of course, Fingolfin, Turgon and Finrod spoke against Fëanor’s terrible oath and plans, while Finarfin and Orodreth tried to make peace.

Galadriel, the only woman of the Noldor to stand that day tall and valiant among the contending princes, was eager to be gone. No oaths she swore, but the words of Fëanor concerning Middle-earth had kindled in her heart, for she yearned to see the wide unguarded lands and to rule there a realm at her own will.

 

Interestingly, Fingon, Angrod, Aegnor, shared Galadriel’s ideas. (Why anyone who did not swear was allowed on the journey is a mystery screaming to be solved.)

But the die had been cast, and Fëanor “drove them on, fearing lest in the cooling of their hearts his words should wane and other counsels yet prevail; and for all his proud words he did not forget the power of the Valar.” and indeed, the veneer of solidarity started to crack, with dissension on who is king. So at last the greater part of the Noldor did set forth, but not before Fëanor rejected Manwë’s command to stay. The Exiles was not a merry band of Elves.

Fëanor and his following were in the van, but the greater host came behind under Fingolfin; and he marched against his wisdom, because Fingon his son so urged him, and because he would not be sundered from his people that were eager to go, nor leave them to the rash counsels of Fëanor. Nor did he forget his words before the throne of Manwë. With Fingolfin went Finarfin also and for like reasons; but most loath was he to depart.

 

But Fëanor realised he needed a fleet of ships he did not have time to build, and so decided to recruit the Teleri to his cause. But the Teleri, to his indignation, were not impressed, and remained unmoved.

Then Fëanor grew wrathful, for he still feared delay; and hotly he spoke to Olwë. ‘You renounce your friendship, even in the hour of our need,’ he said. ‘Yet you were glad indeed to receive our aid when you came at last to these shores, fainthearted loiterers, and well-nigh empty-handed. In huts on the beaches would you be dwelling still, had not the Noldor carved out your haven and toiled upon your walls.’

But Olwë answered: ‘We renounce no friendship. But it may be the part of a friend to rebuke a friend’s folly. And when the Noldor welcomed us and gave us aid, otherwise then you spoke: in the land of Aman we were to dwell for ever, as brothers whose houses stand side by side. But as for our white ships: those you gave us not. We learned not that craft from the Noldor, but from the Lords of the Sea; and the white timbers we wrought with our own hands, and the white sails were woven by our wives and our daughters. Therefore we will neither give them nor sell them for any league or friendship. For I say to you, Fëanor son of Finwë, these are to us as are the gems of the Noldor: the work of our hearts, whose like we shall not make again.’

 

So Fëanor did the unthinkable: three attempts to take the Teleri ships by force. Kinslaying.

And Fingolfin and Finarfin, late in arrival, joined the fray on Fëanor’s behalf before they even understood the right and wrong of the whole mess.

tumblr_mnyqxbK1tv1s72jefo1_500Thus at last the Teleri were overcome, and a great part of their mariners that dwelt in Alqualondë were wickedly slain. For the Noldor were become fierce and desperate, and the Teleri had less strength, and were armed for the most part but with slender bows. Then the Noldor drew away their white ships and manned their oars as best they might, and rowed them north along the coast. And Olwë called upon Ossë, but he came not, for it was not permitted by the Valar that the flight of the Noldor should be hindered by force. But Uinen wept for the mariners of the Teleri; and the sea rose in wrath against the slayers, so that many of the ships were wrecked and those in them drowned. Of the Kinslaying at Alqualondë more is told in that lament which is named Noldolantë, the Fall of the Noldor, that Maglor made ere he was lost.

 

Still, most of the host survived and made landfall, and the Noldor seemed to have had their way, except after continuing on a long march “in the unmeasured night,” they were only at the northern confines of the Guarded Realm, the borderlands of Araman. There, a dark figure with a voice that carried delivered the Prophecy of the North, the Doom of the Noldor.

‘Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains. On the House of Fëanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also. Their Oath shall drive them, and yet betray them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue. To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever.

‘Ye have spilled the blood of your kindred unrighteously and have stained the land of Aman. For blood ye shall render blood, and beyond Aman ye shall dwell in Death’s shadow. For though Eru appointed to you to die not in Eä, and no sickness may assail you, yet slain ye may be, and slain ye shall be: by weapon and by torment and by grief; and your houseless spirits shall come then to Mandos. There long shall ye abide and yearn for your bodies, and find little pity though all whom ye have slain should entreat for you. And those that endure in Middle-earth and come not to Mandos shall grow weary of the world as with a great burden, and shall wane, and become as shadows of regret before the younger race that cometh after. The Valar have spoken.’

Many quailed, though of course not Fëanor, and in one last hurrah he said:

‘We have sworn, and not lightly. This oath we will keep. We are threatened with many evils, and treason not least; but one thing is not said: that we shall suffer from cowardice, from cravens or the fear of cravens. Therefore I say that we will go on, and this doom I add: the deeds that we shall do shall be the matter of song until the last days of Arda.’

 

But Finarfin did turn back, “being filled with grief, and with bitterness against the House of Fëanor, because of his kinship with Olwë of Alqualondë”. So he and those wtih him were pardoned and he ruled as King of the Noldor in Valinor. But Fingolfin his brother and his sons did not.

The two disagreeing hosts of Noldor made it to the Helcaraxë, and facing the choice of a bitter crossing by either land or sea, Fëanor chose to take only those loyal to himself and use what ships remained to get to Endor, aka Middle-earth, landing at the mouth of the firth which was called Drengist, running, as it were, into Dor-lómin.

Feanor_at_Losgar… Fëanor caused fire to be set to the white ships of the Teleri. So in that place which was called Losgar at the outlet of the Firth of Drengist ended the fairest vessels that ever sailed the sea, in a great burning, bright and terrible. And Fingolfin and his people saw the light afar off, red beneath the clouds; and they knew that they were betrayed. This was the first fruits of the Kinslaying and the Doom of the Noldor.

 

Fingolfin, thus spurned and abandoned, resolved to confront Fëanor.

ted nasmith_the silmarillion_2_quenta silmarillion_9_of the flight of the noldor2_med-iAnd he and his host wandered long in misery, but their valour and endurance grew with hardship; for they were a mighty people, the elder children undying of Eru Ilúvatar, but new-come from the Blessed Realm, and not yet weary with the eariness of Earth. The fire of their hearts was young, and led by Fingolfin and his sons, and by Finrod and Galadriel, they dared to pass into the bitterest North; and finding no other way they endured at last the terror of the Helcaraxë and the cruel hills of ice. Few of the deeds of the Noldor thereafter surpassed that desperate crossing in hardihood or woe. There Elenwë the wife of Turgon was lost, and many others perished also; and it was with a lessened host that Fingolfin set foot at last upon the Outer Lands. Small love for Fëanor or his sons had those that marched at last behind him, and blew their trumpets in Middle-earth at the first rising of the Moon.

 

What a horrendous turn of events. Fëanor can be truly hard-hearted when it came to those he did not deem worthy.

 

Footnote

(Continued)
There really is a lot of geography in the backyard the Valar did not pay attention to

  • “… Araman. This land lay northward between the Mountains of the Pelóri and the Great Sea, as Avathar lay to the south; but Araman was a wider land, and between the shores and the mountains were barren plains, ever colder as the Ice drew nearer. Through this region Morgoth and Ungoliant passed in haste, and so came through the great mists of Oiomúrë to the Helcaraxë, where the strait between Araman and Middle-earth was filled with grinding ice; and he crossed over, and came back at last to the north of the Outer Lands.”

(Relevance: read-along schedule)

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2 thoughts on “Reader: The Silmarillion. Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter 9 “Of the Flight of the Noldor”

  1. Eric

    There is just SO much here to sift through.

    I love how Tolkien will write these little digs, like “Not the first.” It reminds me of Galadriel’s sly chastising of Celeborn for calling Gandalf rash. Also, I think there was a similar dig during the selection of the Wizards, but I can’t remember if that was in the Silm or UT.

    I think Fëanor allowed the non-oath takers to tag along because he figured that the more Noldor who left Valinor the better. And besides, he could always leave them behind if they got too uppity.

    Moral of almost every Tolkien story: Do not swear oaths!

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    Reply
    1. lurkerinthemirk Post author

      The Silm is just LOADED. It’s about 5-10 pages per chapter in the Quenta, but man! The effort to make a notation blog about each chapter truly saps time and the mind. I’m loving it though. Helps me get things straight (though there’s still more tangents lying around than I dare to look).

      Yeah, I love the prof’s wordplay. I think that dig is in the UT.

      As for Fëanor taking on the deadweight 😛 it’s a bit contradictory to me, since he seemed the recognition-sensitive sort, you know: particular about folks pulling their weight and being properly rewarded and such. But then, he’s also really trying to shepherd the herd as he planned before it starts breaking up, so what’s a few uncommitted freeloaders in this situation? 🙂

      Haha… truly, do not lightly swear, or Fëanor going into the good night, raging impotently despite all his bluster might become one’s own reflection.

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      Reply

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