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Old 02-13-2006, 06:39 PM   #1
Glirdan
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Silmarillion: Main characters

Ok, so here's the deal. I'm reading the Silamarillion for my Grade 11 University level English class (independent study) and by the end of our March Break (which is about the second week of March) we need to have a book analysis done. Now, part of the criteria is to identify two main characters and about five secondary. I already have one main character picked out (Morgoth[if you think otherwise, please, let me know]). Now, what I need your help on is who do you think would be another main character? And which five should I choose as the secondary character's. My teacher wanted to discuss this with me later on but I said to myself "Why not ask the most knowledgeable Tolkien lover's I know?" So, if you don't mind, I'd really like to get your input on this subject. Thanks a million!
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Old 02-13-2006, 11:33 PM   #2
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- Beren/Luthien, since Tolkien calls their story as the "the chief one" in the Silmarillion;
- Earendil seeing that he is named the greatest Half-elven
- just seeing how many heroes he rescued, I would also consider Thorondor;
- Finrod helped the establishment of Men to the greatest degree,
- Feanor, chief gifted and trouble-maker
- Turin, for all the drama in his life, and his foretold role in the last battle.
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Old 02-14-2006, 03:03 AM   #3
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The problem with this approach is, it doesn't work for the Silmarillion. Unlike a narrative such as LotR, the Sil is not one single story, but a collection of various tales and mythological accounts - like a book of short stories. You can define main characters for each of the tales, but they may not occur or be involved in the others. At the beginning, Eru is the one who is active, but later on, he isn't even mentioned. The Valar have their story, then for the most part drop out of the narrative, which concerns mostly Elves and later, Men.

It would be a good idea to discuss this problem with your teacher; perhaps you can do a detailed analysis for one of the tales and merely give a summary for the rest.
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Old 02-14-2006, 04:34 PM   #4
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Quote:
The problem with this approach is, it doesn't work for the Silmarillion. Unlike a narrative such as LotR, the Sil is not one single story, but a collection of various tales and mythological accounts - like a book of short stories.
I have noted this earlier yet I believe that I would probably still have to do two and five for the Valaquenta, Ainulindale, Quenta Silmarillion and (possibly) Akalabeth and Of the Rings of Power. If I do have to do this, I will aske my teacher exactly what she wants on the day that she returns. In the meantime, I'd still like to speculate because there are a lot of characters to choose from (and luckily, my teacher agrees with me) and they all had an important role. I agree with all the characters that Raynor mentioned. What are others thoughts on this?
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Old 02-14-2006, 05:03 PM   #5
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What are others thoughts on this?
That you're task is impossible No, not really impossible, but as Esty pointed out; an ordinary approach is not recommendable when it comes to the Silmarillion. One option is to choose one of the many stories (Beren/Luthien or Turin perhaps?). An other option is to choose one theme and follow it through the different stories.

For example: the influence of Men during the War of the Jewels. One could follow the great heroes of mankind and specialize on their doings and deeds. That would narrow down the number of potential main characters and one could concentrate on the ones with most impact on history (Hurin/Turin, Tuor, Eärendil etc). Other themes are for example the Wood Elves, the Dwarfs or some other race/group that isn't described as detailed as the Noldo, where a single character is impossible to choose.

If you want to make it easy for yourself, choose someone like Turin with his own tale and comment his life. But my vote is still on one of many stories or one theme through all the stories. Good luck with your writing!
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Old 02-14-2006, 07:19 PM   #6
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The problem with this approach is, it doesn't work for the Silmarillion. Unlike a narrative such as LotR, the Sil is not one single story, but a collection of various tales and mythological accounts - like a book of short stories.
Actually, I don't see this as a problem at all. It is an opportunity to display your linguistic and mental skill by writing your way out of the problem. (I've found using big words in rapid succession will usually work wonders. Especially if the things you say are inherently contradictory. In fact, that will usually net bonus points because everyone will think you are really smart because they can't figure out what the Udun you are talking about.)

Oh wait...you actually wanted suggestions and were not helpfully providing an opportunity for me to display my seething (boiling, searing, towering inferno-like) hatred of the educational establishment.

You should do an analysis of Feanor and expound on how everything that happened afterwards was the result of his rather questionable decisions. Should be piles of material there. It would be a pretty easy way of tying all the tales together.
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Old 02-14-2006, 07:49 PM   #7
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the phantom would pick Feanor and Turin because they are by far the most interesting characters.

And no, that's not an opinion, that's just the truth.

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Old 02-14-2006, 07:56 PM   #8
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I have no clue how I would go about writing a thesis-support analysis of the Silm. I was given the opportunity in grade school, but opted instead to write about Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. In Achebe's book, it was relatively easy to create a thesis pointing to the author's intention in writing the book, supproted with viable evidence in the main character's growth and transformation and in the larger historical context of the book. With the Silm, I always feel it would be trite to do a traditional literary analysis -- in a sense, I have too much respect for J.R.R. Tolkien to posit an overarching thesis, however superficially demonstrable, about the nature of the work or a character therein.
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Old 02-14-2006, 08:12 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Son of Númenor
With the Silm, I always feel it would be trite to do a traditional literary analysis -- in a sense, I have too much respect for J.R.R. Tolkien to posit an overarching thesis, however superficially demonstrable, about the nature of the work or a character therein.
Interesting point.

I think I'd start with Letters, choose some of the statements that TOlkien made himself about his own intent regarding the stories, and then discuss whether (and to what extent) I thought he fulfilled his own hopes. That may or may not be an appropriate approach.

I can imagine Bethberry in apoplexy at the very idea.

But I don't think Tolkien would mind.

[edit] Some (especially in the Elvish forum) woiuld point out that in the Sil, I would be pointing out whether Christopher succeeded in reaching his father's aims; at which point I would have to bow to their loremastery. But I'd still write my own paper about my own (limited) point of view.

One more point: however you tackle it, and however you finish it, you will have learned a lot about the Sil. There are much worse ways to spend your time.

If you don't have a copy of Letters, check the library and see if they can order it for you. Or buy it...
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Old 02-14-2006, 08:15 PM   #10
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the phantom would pick Feanor and Turin because they are by far the most interesting characters.
And how, Seigneur fantôme, do you propose to create a nice overarching, plot-enveloping analysis out of that choice? The two of them had nothing to do with each other at all. On the other hand, a Feanor/Morgoth choice is just fraught with conflict.

Conflict=lots of stuff to write about, especially if you include the continuing drama caused by the Feanorians attempting to fulfill the Oath.

Hey, there’s an idea. Make the Oath itself a character for analysis.
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Old 02-14-2006, 08:19 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuruharan
Make the Oath itself a character for analysis.
Long live Kuruharan. May your soil richly produce.
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Old 02-14-2006, 08:35 PM   #12
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May your soil richly produce.
Don't you mean, "May my mines richly produce."

We dwarves hate farming, you know.
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Old 02-15-2006, 07:39 PM   #13
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1420!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuruharan
Don't you mean, "May my mines richly produce."

We dwarves hate farming, you know.
Mines, then. And may no one ever roll you downstream in a barrel.

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Old 02-15-2006, 10:04 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by mark12_30
Interesting point.

I think I'd start with Letters, choose some of the statements that TOlkien made himself about his own intent regarding the stories, and then discuss whether (and to what extent) I thought he fulfilled his own hopes. That may or may not be an appropriate approach.

I can imagine Bethberry in apoplexy at the very idea.

But I don't think Tolkien would mind.

[edit] Some (especially in the Elvish forum) woiuld point out that in the Sil, I would be pointing out whether Christopher succeeded in reaching his father's aims; at which point I would have to bow to their loremastery. But I'd still write my own paper about my own (limited) point of view.

One more point: however you tackle it, and however you finish it, you will have learned a lot about the Sil. There are much worse ways to spend your time.

If you don't have a copy of Letters, check the library and see if they can order it for you. Or buy it...
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Old 02-16-2006, 01:39 PM   #15
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Helen, you are, of course, entitled to your version of the report, but to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of my ill health are greatly exaggerated.
Eh? Bethberry speaketh not against authorial intent? Lo, the room spinneth.
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Old 02-16-2006, 01:49 PM   #16
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As THE main character of the Silmarillion I would only choose Melkor/Morgoth. He is the connection between all the stories. His presence and his actions are the red thread through the story, although the character is not very present in the later times. But his actions let gleam his character.
All the other characters come and go, only Melkor/Morgoth is always there.
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Old 03-19-2006, 04:28 PM   #17
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Well, I have talked to my English teacher and she said that I only had to have one (Morgoth it shall be). Now I need to choose at least five secondary characters. I have four in mind: Beren and Luthien, Turin, and Thingol. Now, is there anyone else instead of those four that I should have?? More inportantly, I need to find the final secondary character. So, what do you think??
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Old 03-19-2006, 07:22 PM   #18
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Old 03-20-2006, 06:27 AM   #19
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I would choose those characters, which are the main characters in the central stories of old. Tolkien developed these central stories ('Beren and Luthien', Turin, Tuor, Earendil) as the nucleus of his works and wrapped the other stories or the history around. Consequently I would consider these character as secondary: Beren, Luthien, Turin, Thingol, Tuor, Earendil. Maybe also Feanor, Fingolfin, Felagund, Sauron and Glaurung.
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Old 03-20-2006, 07:39 AM   #20
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Disclaimer: This is an impossible task and what follows is personal bias.

That said:

Feanor
Maedhros
Maglor
Celegorm
Caranthir
Curufin
Amrod
Amras

I think that for the first and possibly last time this might justify one of these
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Old 03-20-2006, 10:38 AM   #21
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I believe Feanor would be the logical choice. As others have said his deeds change alot of the out come of the story.
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Old 03-20-2006, 05:16 PM   #22
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This is a difficult choice/situation. To analyze so simply is to ignore the sort of work it is. It's a history of Middle-earth. How do you pick the main character (or two) of a world's history (that spans many years)?

How would you even pick the two main characters of the history of the United States, a relatively new country?

If I had to pick, Morgoth and Feanor would be my two main characters.

The secondary list would have to be extensive. The Valar; Fingolfin, Feanor's sons, Fingolfin/Finarfin's children; Thingol, Beren, Luthien, Sauron; Turin, Glaurung; Ulmo, Eol, Maeglin; Earendil and Elwing. Each substory (or chapter, essentially) of the history could be divided with main and secondary characters. Many would overlap, obviously.
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Old 03-20-2006, 09:06 PM   #23
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But that's exactly why I chose the book. From the start of the semester I knew I wanted to do a LotR book and seeing as I haven't really read the Sil (once before I started this project) I chose to do it. I also knew when I chose it what I was getting myself into. I knew it was going to be difficult and I'm glad. It's presenting a challenge and I reall like challenging myself and this was the perfect oportunity.
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Old 03-20-2006, 10:13 PM   #24
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I think you could go with two main characters, but in a perhaps strange way:

Main Characters

1. Morgoth.

2. Fëanor; and once he dies, his seven sons as continuations of him, since his oath binds them, and all their deeds flow therefrom.

Minor Characters

- Thingol
- Beren & Lúthien
- Finrod Felagund
- Túrin

I guess that's five, if you count Beren & Luthien as separate characters.

Earendil's role was crucial, but somehow it lacks the depth and scope that these other five exhibit in the Sil.
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Old 03-20-2006, 11:28 PM   #25
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It seems to me that the best choice would be to use Melkor/Morgoth and Feanor as the two main characters. While Feanor may not be in the whole book, his actions, primarily the creation of the Silmarils and the Oath, are some of the main driving forces for a good majority of the plotline. Also, these are two very good characters in that a good amount of the book is about strife between Morgoth and Feanor/his sons.

Alternatively, since the Silmarils, even though they are an object not a character, are in many ways more important than the primary characters in many novels. So, if possible, it could make sense to choose Morgoth and The Silmarils as the two main 'focuses,' instead of characters.

As far as secondary characters goes, the problem isn't finding at least five, but deciding which of the numerous characters qualify. Also, it may be possible to group sets of secondary characters so that more of the characters can get their due recognition.
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Old 03-22-2006, 04:35 AM   #26
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just a notion...

Take the seven sons of Feanor as one 'entity' and you have a virtual alter-ego of Feanor himself.
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Old 03-22-2006, 05:20 AM   #27
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Very convenient, but regrettably balderdash. Maedhros, Maglor and the twins in particular have plenty of their mother in them...

The seven sons are not a more survivable split up Feanor clone. Feanor did not reproduce asexually.
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Old 03-22-2006, 12:01 PM   #28
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the phantom would pick Feanor and Turin because they are by far the most interesting characters.

And no, that's not an opinion, that's just the truth.
I disagree with the Phantom's opinion.
I'd suggest Maedhros as the most interesting and conflicted person, and the character who arguably most drives the story overall.

Earendil is clearly a/the key secondary character. Is Turin really
all that important to the tale of the Silmarils? Tuor, Beren and
Luthien, and Morgoth it seems are more relevant secondary
characters. But in a Shakespearean tragedy (or perhaps more
a Grrek tragedy) sense, I'd say
Maedhros should be the key character to the tale overall. He
tries to mean well but at numerous times feels compelled to
follow an evil and hopeless path.
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Old 03-22-2006, 12:44 PM   #29
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You could almost suggest that the Oath of Feanor as a character. This way, you could encompass more than one entity.
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Old 03-22-2006, 03:43 PM   #30
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Quote:
You could almost suggest that the Oath of Feanor as a character. This way, you could encompass more than one entity.
Quote:
the Silmarils, even though they are an object not a character, are in many ways more important than the primary characters in many novels.
Now wouldn't that be an interesting paper. Pick as your two main characters things which aren't really characters: The Oath and The Silmarils.
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Old 03-22-2006, 03:48 PM   #31
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Unfortunately, you are all getting to far ahead of yourselves. a)It's a Character analysis and we have to stick with it. b) I'm in grade ELEVEN, not university. Mind you, all of those ideas seem rather interesting and would actually create another challenge for me. Which is why I might do it again in grade 12 or once I get to uni that is.
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Old 03-22-2006, 09:51 PM   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anguirel
Very convenient, but regrettably balderdash. Maedhros, Maglor and the twins in particular have plenty of their mother in them...

The seven sons are not a more survivable split up Feanor clone. Feanor did not reproduce asexually.
Of course not. But that oath! I just re-read it. It is one fierce oath! All genetics, inclinations, et cetera, become subservient to it due to its sheer scope. The seven sons of Feanor bound themselves with their father to that oath. So maybe the oath is after all a rather fitting possibility as a character....

Glirdan, I hope you don't mind if this thread goes off in directions you didn't originally intend. There's a lot of good possibility for discussion here.
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Old 03-23-2006, 02:33 AM   #33
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Sticks and Stones.......................

My own view is that the Oath is only a characteristic of Feanors lack of control. However, it is very central to the whole story, for one of the last things we see in The Silmarillion true, is Maglor throwing the Silmaril into the sea, after fulfilling the oath. Therefore if you included The Oath of Feanor into your list, then The Prophecy of the North/Doom of the Noldor was equally as binding and powerful.
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Old 03-24-2006, 10:28 PM   #34
Glirdan
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Lmp, I'm absoultely fine with that. I was actually going to come back on and say (even though I'm now done the project) to continue these discussions as they are all great ideas and I would have loved to have been able to use them all.

Now to deliver good news that I hope you will all be proud of. Keep in mind that I'm only a Grade 10 student in a Grade 11 class (my schedule got messed up). Also keep in mind that the Silmarillion is a rather difficult book to analyze (as has been proven earlier in the thread).

Anyway, back to the good news. I finished the analysis. But that's not the good part. The good part is that it's 10 pages long and 2,530 some words. So, what do you think of one of the youngest members now??
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Old 03-24-2006, 10:37 PM   #35
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I'm not sure about the lack of self-control, as such. I think there is this, but only in certain senses. Feanor was a very self-controlled individual, except in two particular ways.

His oath is fascinating in its motivations, of which there were basically two:

1. what he loved
2. his separation

He loved his father, the silmarils, and his superiority/separation from other Eldar. While he had the first two, the effects of his separation from others was mitigated.

He lost his father and his silmarils in the same day, and Morgoth was responsible. Feanor was not in control of what he loved, nor of the degree to which he was separated from others by his abilities, his birth mother, and his character.

His separation from others combined with the loss of what he loved, resulted in anger and hate. The oath sprang from this. Why an oath, though? Why swear to his course of action? The reason was to demonstrate his determination to regain at least the silmarils, for he could not regain his father. He desired the silmarils and he was proud enough to believe himself capable of reclaiming them from Morgoth. The result was his passion, which took the form of the oath he and his seven sons swore.

So yes, there is an element of lack of self-control, but there is a lot of self-control in Feanor too. Considering how Feanor was described, it would take a lot more character to control oneself if one was Feanor than if one was, say, Elempí.
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Old 03-31-2006, 01:45 PM   #36
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If you're sticking with the Silmarillion, then the two main characters are clearly and undoubtably Morgoth and Feanor...without these two, the tale doesn't happen, period, end of story...you need Melkor/Morgoth to steal the Silmarils and Feanor to swear an Oath which leads the Noldor back to Middle Earth...which is what the Silmarillion is about, the plight of the Noldor on Middle Earth...even if you include the Akallabeth, this is an extension of the plight of the Noldor (albeit mixed now with the plight of Men...but really they are called "half-elven" not "half-men") but now dealing with Morgoth's underling Sauron...

Back to point...Morgoth and Feanor...two main characters, that is what the Silmarillion is about...Oath of Feanor against Morgoth because of the Simarils, thats why the Noldor leave Aman

5 secondary characters is much tougher...

NOTE: Although I personally love the story and tale of Turin, his is the easiest removed from this discussion because he really never drives the Silmarillion story...he has no interaction with the Silmarills or with Morgoth...his story is named the saddest and he suffers most from the evil begot by Morgoth but not directly, only indirectly through trechery, sorrow and lies...therefore I think you can rule him out

1) Sons of Feanor...group these together (unless you want to do 6 plus Maedhros as he plays a somewhat more important role)...they as secondary characters are chiefly important because they continue the Oath of Feanor...although otherwise they suck because they don't do much for the story in terms of plots and interesting actions

2) Beren/Luthien...clearly important because a) they interact with the Silmarils, b) they interact with Morgoth (and his chief underling Sauron), c) they interact with the Son's of Feanor, d) their story was most dear to Tolkien's heart (his tombstone has Beren below his name and Luthien below his wife's name)

3) Earendil...the "Jesus" figure of this work...he not only is bound to a Silmaril (permanently in the sky), but he is the savior of Middle Earth when he voluntarily sacrifices himself to venture to Valinor for help

After those three, pick as you choose...Finrod helps Beren on his way...Tuor and his comming to Gondolin, which was one of the first stories Tolkien wrote and is the last stronghold of the Elves, minus Cirdan's havens of course...Hurin who is named Mightest of Warriors of mortal men, who interacted with Morgoth, Thingol, Turgon, ect...Hurin's tale more so than his son's is important because it ties together many plots...again, I love Turin, but his story is cheifly concerning the fall of Nargothrond and Glaurung, doesn't further the story of the Silmarils...

I also venture now to say that I would probably break up the Son's of Feanor into two groups...Maedhros, and the other 6 smucks...Maedhros deserves his own piece now that I think about it because he drives the plot significantly more than his brothers

anyways, those are my thoughts on the subject, all is well and open to debate...I'm sure many will disagree
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Old 04-02-2006, 11:17 AM   #37
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I also agree with Morgoth and Fëanor as the chief characters.

But I think it’s very though to pick the five minor characters – there are at ten or more that would qualify.

1) and 2) Beren and Lúthien. Not only because of the importance of their story, but because they simply are interesting characters which grow as the tale proceeds. I would not put them together as one character, they deserve to be treated individually. Also Beren will be the only mortal and Lúthien the only non-noldorin elf on my list.

3) Maedhros plus 6 (rather 4, isn’t it), as Thalion put it. Every time it is told that Fëanor’s sons did something together, Maedhros had the last word on it. His actions bring the plot forward and his decisions are worthy to be looked at in detail. But the other six/four shouldn’t be put into one box, that would do injustice at least towards Maglor.

4) Turgon. You simply need an elf not from Fëanor’s house in here, I think. Turgon to me is more interesting than Fingolfin, Finrod or Fingon because of his actions and decisions. Why does he leave Tirion? Why does he hide himself when his kin would have needed his help? Why does he then decide to come out for the Nirnaeth? And, maybe most of all, why doesn’t he listen to Ulmo’s words brought to him?

5) Sauron. He’s of minor imprortance in the Quenta but the chief baddie of Akallabêth and Third Age. Not including him would leave those important chapters out.

“on the outside looking in”:
Húrin and Túrin, for the above reasons. As interesting and tragic as their story is, they don’t really contribute to the whole story.
Finrod. Again, his decisions would be fascinating to examine. I would pick him as 6).
Thingol. A very complex and intriguing character and main force behind the deeds of Beren and Lúthien.

I would object against Eärendil. Yes, I know, he’s important, but what do we know about him, actually? His symbolic meaning is undisputed, but he only appears as an active character in one (and not the longest) chapter.

Another idea:
What do you think about, instead of trying to cover the whole book, to concentrate on one single chapter. That would of course be “Of Beren and Lúthien”.
The main characters are clear here.
The secondary characters would be Thingol, Finrod, Celegorm and Curufin as one, Morgoth and then Daeron or Sauron, maybe Melian or Orodreth.
The interesting thing about this is: not only gives it the opportunity to give more detail instead of putting a little bit of everything in it, the background story of the characters would at the end be covering the whole story, since you can’t talk about the Silmarils without mentioning Fëanor and his oath.
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Old 04-07-2006, 06:06 PM   #38
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1420! Book Report

Yeah, I'm doing a book report/project on the Silmarillion because the previous book I chose called 'Buried fire" by Jonathan Stroud was too easy. I haven't read but a little of the Silmarillion so far, but i'm up for it and I think I will enjoy it.
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Old 04-07-2006, 09:41 PM   #39
Glirdan
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If you need any help with characters, take a look at the thread that I started up for my own analysis on the book. Have fun with it!
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Old 04-08-2006, 02:15 AM   #40
Estelyn Telcontar
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Actually, this topic can continue on the previous Sil report thread to which Glirdan has linked. I will merge the two threads. Then a general discussion can carry on that will be of interest to all.
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