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Old 01-19-2007, 09:28 PM   #1
Aiwendil
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Tolkien Silmarillion - Chapter 06 - Of Feanor and the Unchaining of Melkor

In this short chapter we are introduced to one of the most important characters (if not the most important) in the Silmarillion – Feanor. Some hints to his importance are given here, though little is actually said of him in this chapter. There is an interesting association made between Feanor and fire, not only in his name (which means ‘Spirit of Fire’), but also twice more:

Quote:
. . . Feanor grew swiftly, as if a secret fire were kindled within him.
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For Feanor was driven by the fire of his own heart only . . .
I have often misread the first as “as if the secret fire were kindled within him”, and I wonder whether the mistake may point the way to something significant. It is, at the least, interesting that Tolkien used the same term here as he did elsewhere with reference to the Flame Imperishable.

The story of Finwe and Miriel is given in rather compressed form in this chapter. The story first arose in post-LotR work on the ‘Quenta Silmarillion’ as an addition to what was then ‘Of the Silmarils and the Darkening of Valinor’. In a later phase, the matter of Finwe and Miriel underwent a remarkable development, leading to the essay on ‘Laws and Customs among the Eldar’ as well as an account of the debate of the Valar and the ‘Statute of Finwe and Miriel’. Subsequently, a shorter (but still longer than that given here) account was written to stand as its own chapter in the ‘Quenta Silmarillion’.

The final section of the chapter deals with Melkor’s release from Mandos. One point that intrigues me is this:

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. . . snared though he was in the webs of Melkor’s malice against the Valar he held no converse with him and took no counsel from him.
It seems that Feanor, for all his flaws, was one of the few (Valar, Maiar, or Eldar) who saw through Melkor’s deceit.
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Old 01-24-2007, 03:28 PM   #2
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I think the roles of the different Valar in the Unchaining of Melkor are interesting.


There's Nienna, who actively supports Melkor.
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and those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope. ~Valaquenta
Pity and hope are maybe the most central ideas in the Lord of the Rings, but here they lead the wrong way and allow evil to return. Does this imply that pity and hope have their limitations in J.R.R. Tolkien's view, or is this just due to the different theme and context of the Silmarillion? Even though she was fooled in the end, the mention of Nienna aiding Melkor moves me. More than anybody she grieved for the wounds of Melkor's deeds, yet she also grieves for Melkor himself.

*sigh*


Then there's Manwë. Interesting idea that he is said to be 'free of evil' and therefore too good to understand evil. Since Ulmo and Tulkas aren't deceived, does it follow that they aren't free of evil? Granted, Tulkas is just too mulish to forgive Melkor, but Ulmo seems to know very well whom he is not trusting.

And by the way, a dollar for the thoughts of silent Mandos.
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Old 01-26-2007, 02:24 PM   #3
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A few other thoughts...actually just two

I found that interesting, too. I can only assume that, unlike the "pure' Manwe, Ulmo and Tulkas are more acquainted with the their own dark sides and urge.

I also found it interesting that Finwë married twice. Does this ever happen again in the legendarium--that an Elf remarried? I can't think of a single example(off hand).

Another thing that struck me is how very different the Elves(and especially the nutty genius Fëanor) seem from the Elves in the Lord of the Rings.
I can't imagine Feanor beng of the same race; the Elves in the Third Age seem to display a much more world-weary wisdom than the rash Feanor; Feanor is much more of a loner and spurns the Valar and Melkor, keeping around him only a few respected craftsmen and his father.
The sibling rivalry--to the point in w hich the Noldor later believe is Feanor's founding drive and the reason for all the woe that follows-- is out of my vision of "Elven character" in the Third Age...

Quite a lot of the Elves in the Silmarillion behave differently, in fact, than they would several thousand years later in Rivendell or Lorien.
These are the years of their youth--when their craft was at it's height but their wisdom hadn't yet caught up with it.
They almost seem like "wicked and foolish" men...but unlike men they will have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes-.
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Old 01-12-2011, 10:30 AM   #4
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I don't quite understand why Míriel died. I thought Elves wouldn't die until either Arda perished or they were slain. Does childbirth count as a slaying? I've only read LoTR, the Hobbit, and this far into the Silm, so I apologize in advance if this is a stupid question that is obviously answered elsewhere.
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Old 01-12-2011, 01:37 PM   #5
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There are no stupid questions!

There is a difference between the death of the Elves at the end of Arda and the death when they are slain. And besides being slain Elves can die from great weariness. For this Míriel is the first and probably only explicit example.

If Elves are slain or die from weariness they are summoned to the Halls of Mandos. There they are judge by Mandos. Some are held there until the end of Arda (e.g. Feanor) other are held for a time of thought and purification. When Mandos judges them fit and if they desire it a body is build for them by the Valar from the memory of the old body that the soul caries on for that propose. Then with a blessing from Manwe the Elves become (re-)incarnated beings again (e.g. Glorfindel). But if an Elf does not want to be alive again, he is free to stay in Mandos as long as he of she wishes.

At the end of Arda all Elves will die a real death, which means they will leave time and space of the created world and will go to the doom prepared for them by Ilúvatar (what ever that may be).

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Old 01-13-2011, 09:13 AM   #6
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Thanks Findegil! That makes a lot more sense now.
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Old 01-17-2011, 12:49 PM   #7
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Weariness is a way of saying it, but specifically 'grief' is what elves are susceptible to.

Miriel died of grief. A few others may die of grief as well, but no sense in spoiling the story if you're just that far!

The Silmarillion describes it as below in the first chapter, though there's a lot of information there so it was probably easy to miss on the first reading.

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For the Elves die not till tile world dies, unless they are slain or waste in grief (and to both these seeming deaths they are subject); neither does age subdue their strength, unless one grow weary of ten thousand centuries; and dying they are gathered to the halls of Mandos in Valinor, whence they may in time return.
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Last edited by Legolas : 01-17-2011 at 06:59 PM. Reason: Miriel, not Melian
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Old 01-17-2011, 02:52 PM   #8
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Melian is neither an Elf nor does she die. But other wise you are ofcourse right that grief is one course of weariness that many Elves suffered.

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Old 01-17-2011, 06:58 PM   #9
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A mistake, of course. 'Miriel' intended.
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Old 01-18-2011, 02:49 AM   #10
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Sorry for nitpicking again. But in the case of Miriel, what would have been the reason for grief heavy enough to led here die? She died when Fëanor was young and the peace of Valinor undistrubed.

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Old 01-27-2011, 04:35 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Findegil View Post
Sorry for nitpicking again. But in the case of Miriel, what would have been the reason for grief heavy enough to led here die? She died when Fëanor was young and the peace of Valinor undistrubed.
Answering that "good question" could be subject of a lengthy essay. I'll try to keep it succinct (at the risk of glossing over some points - apologies in advance for that).

First it is important to realize and consider that, in Tolkien's subcreation (Ea, Arda, Middle Earth) rational creatures had a "fea" (or "spirit") and had the varying ability to pour from their spirit into their creations (or children). It seems that this was not particularly so of Men, so much as of Elves & Valar/Maiar, however. Thus, for example:
  • Sauron poured part of his spirit into The One Ring so that when it was actually destroyed (not merely separated from him in space) he was diminished and rendered unable to ever again grow and menace the world.
  • Melkor/Morgoth, as described in HoME vol X, poured pary of his spirit into the very matter and substance of Arda. As Christopher Tolkien puts it "All of Middle Earth was Morgoth's Ring". In a sense (to use a more modern illustration) Middle Earth became Morgoth's Horcrux - so that his final death and end can't come until Middle Earth is finally destroyed at the end of time.
  • Feanor poured of his spirit (or will) into his Silmarils so that "he could never again make their like".

It's hard for us humans to picture this, since we don't experience things quite this way. But Elves and Valar/Maiar are different beings. We have only to accept, even if we don't understand.

With Miriel, after birthing Feanor, she complained that the will or spirit in her that might have nourished many had gone forth into Feanor. It is also spoken of her being consumed in mind and spirit (or words to that effect, I believe) by Feanor's birth. e might say that she had expended so much energy (physical, spiritual, moral) in bearing and birthing her son that she had no more will to live.

Finwe believed (initially) that, in time, there would be healing. But without the will to live, Miriel's Fea passed from her body to Madndos. One of the HoME books had an essay on the "Statute of Finwe and Miriel" which talks much about this. Miriel remained obdurately in Mandos so long, refusing to be rebodied, that Finwe lost hope and remarried - from which came Fingolfin & Finarfin and, in time, the death of the Trees, the rebellion of the Noldor and the tales of the first three ages of the Sun.
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Old 01-28-2011, 08:02 AM   #12
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Puddleglum, I agree to all you wrote in your post. But what you discribe as the situation Miríel was aftrer the birth of Fëanor is 'weariness' not 'grief' as I pointed out to Legolas.

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Old 01-28-2011, 07:11 PM   #13
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Puddleglum, I agree to all you wrote in your post. But what you discribe as the situation Miríel was after the birth of Fëanor is 'weariness' not 'grief' as I pointed out to Legolas.
Hi Findegil. I agree with you that it was weariness, not grief (as that word is normally used) - tho weariness grown great enough can become difficult to distinguish, in another being, from terribly great grief: both can leave a being practically catatonic and undesiring of continued life.

In the case of my last post, however, I was mostly thinking of weariness and had mentally substituted that for the word "grief" in your post. A mistake on my part. Sorry for the confusion.
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Old 01-28-2011, 08:56 PM   #14
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. . . snared though he was in the webs of Melkor’s malice against the Valar he held no converse with him and took no counsel from him.
It seems that Feanor, for all his flaws, was one of the few (Valar, Maiar, or Eldar) who saw through Melkor’s deceit.
Even if Feanor realised what Melkor was aiming at, I think that his actions (toward Morgoth) were produced by pride, not wisdom.
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