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Old 03-25-2014, 05:03 PM   #1
Orphalesion
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Do Elves lack Civil Courgae?

Hello everyone,

First of all, I want to say, I do not mean this as a form of "Elf-bashing". The Elves, especially the Galadhrim, are my second favorite people of Middle Earth (after the Hobbits) and Galadriel is my favorite character. Yet sometimes, when reading the Silmarillion I cannot help but wonder about the apparent dependency common Elves seem to have towards their leaders, I'm almost tempted to call it "spinelessness", it just seems like they are unable to think for themselves or make decision independent or contrary to the will of their leader(s).
Now I understand it is perfectly possible that it only appears that way because the the Silmarillion is little more than a "summary" of the tales. And I also understand that I might look at it from a perspective that is "too modern", but let me explain:

Basically, in my opinion the whole thing of Elves following their leaders blindly becomes apparent during the Rebellion of the Noldor. Now I think that is a wonderful, dramatic story and it pains me that Tolkien was never able to put it into a shape similar to the LOTR, but at certain parts it makes me downright uncomfortable and a bit angry. As in: I do not for the life of me understand why so many of the Noldor continue to follow Feanor and his sons. Alqualonde might "just" have been a tense situation that escalated very badly but after this throughout the Silmarillion we have situations like this:

Feanor decides to burn the ships and maroon the majority of the Noldor to an uncertain fate in a hostile environment: Nobody dares to speak against that (except one feeble attempt by Maedhros and, if you accept HOME lore, Amras)

Maedhros and his brothers, after suffering heavy losses and being reduced to scratching out a meager living in the wilderness decide to invade and massacre another Elf nation: All their followers go along with it.

Maedhros and his remaining brothers, decide to attack what amounts to a giant REFUGEE CAMP (basically committing a war crime): All their followers go along with it (except a few who decide to stand against them at the last minute but do not accomplish anything)

and even among the other Elves:

Turgon chooses to ignore Ulmo's warnings to flee Gondolin: Nobody even considers leaving against his will.
Elwing refuses to hand over a shiny jewel to crazed fanatics who threaten to murder her and her people if she doesn't(and who have already killed all of her family): Nobody considers rebelling against her and forcing her to hand over the Silmaril to the Feanorians.
And the people of Nargothrond seem like be biggest sheeple ever; easily swayed by Celegorm, Curufin and Turin, culminating in their destruction.

So basically what I want to know; why do you think that there is such a lack of Elves rebelling against their kings and lords (for that matter why do Elves even have kings and lords that have no other claim to rule other than that they are descendants of what a mounts to "a guy who was among the first to go to Valinor". Why are there no stories about some courageous, low-born Elf standing up against Feanor at Lossanach and splitting away from his faction? Why were their no Elves who tried to escape Gondoling against Trugon's orders? Why was nobody smacking Elwing in the face for trading the lives of everybody around her (including her children) for jewelry? Why don't we know the names of the Feanorian soldiers who decided to fight against their own commanders and friends rather than to massacre innocent civilians? Why is Galadriel the only one of the Noldor mentioned by name to rebel against Feanor in Alqualonde and take up arms in defense of the Teleri?

Sorry for the long post, that's just something I have wanted to discuss for a long time.
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Old 03-25-2014, 08:26 PM   #2
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First, welcome to the Downs, Orphalesion!

I don't know that I see the Elves' "spinelessness" the way you do. I would be tempted to discount the examples of Fëanor and his sons, and really anything to do with the Oath or the Silmarils. That was a unique situation in the history, and colored greatly the actions of the Noldor in the First Age. It's notable that in after times we don't see Elves committing atrocities in blind obedience.
Those Noldor also had a special loyalty to their kings of those times, due to their connection and descent from the earliest Elves who awoke by Cuiviénen.

Yes, if some of the followers of Fëanor, his sons, or the other Noldorin princes under the Curse had chosen their paths differently much evil would have been avoided. The fact that they did not is to me the greatest indicator of its power.
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Old 03-25-2014, 09:06 PM   #3
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Elves are people too.
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Old 03-25-2014, 09:53 PM   #4
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Thank you Inziladun,

That is true, I did disregard the Doom of Mandos a bit, but does Mandos telling them that they're all gonna die horrible deaths really override their free will? Also, how does Mandos have such power? Or did the doom come from Eru himself?

And the Oath: I always thought the oath only applied to Feanor and his sons, not their followers, so it should not have any effect on the decisions of their soldiers.

Yeah, also forgot that the Silmaril had some sort of hypnotic effect that made people want to posses it, however, you can't argue that this doesn't cast Dior and Elwing in quite a negative light, let alone that it lends a sort of sinister aspect to the Silmarils.

And we don't know if Finwe was descended from Tata and Tatie (the first Noldor that awoke), and even if, what sense does it make to equate that with the right or skill for leadership? I'm not saying that he story is bad, just that Elves (supposedly wiser than humanity) automatically have an absolute, patriarchal monarchy is a bit weird, why don't they have at least a council system, modeled after the Valar?
And even so I would have felt better if there had been at least a few more mentions of dissident during the more problematic phases. Well, at least we get Amras, Galadriel, Celebrimbor and the handful of, sadly nameless, Feanorian soldiers that refused to butcher refugees for jewellry. Galadriel in particular seemed rather untouched by the Doom/able to leg it out of Beleriand before any of the really bad stuff happened.

But yes, forgot that Tolkien was very much influenced by the Norse Sagas and the whole "you can't fight fate" thing.
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Old 03-25-2014, 11:10 PM   #5
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Yes I think we ought not to blame the common Elf, per se, but rather acknowledge the sheer charisma and majesty of many of their leaders. It seems that they (and other spiritually mighty beings) had what we might describe as a "superhuman quality of leadership."

In Fëanor's case we ought also to remember the fact that in persuading the Noldor to accompany him back to Middle-earth he was telling many of them what they wanted to hear: that the opportunity had come to forsake Aman, where in their pride they felt constrained, and forge realms of their own.
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Old 03-26-2014, 09:44 AM   #6
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There are throught out the history of Elves also other examples beside the one you already mentioned:
We have first of all the Avari refusing to go to Amman.
We have the Silvian Elves and Nandor refusing to cross Anduin and the Misty Mountians.
We have the Sindar refusing to leave Beleriand due to diffrent reasons.
We have the Teleri staying on Tol Eressea for a time.
We have one tithe of the Noldor refusing to follow Feanor, Fingolfin and Finarfin, staying behind in Tirion.
We have Finarfin leading some of his people back to Valinor.
We have many Feanorians that were repented of the burning at Losgar and ashamed for deed done by Feanor allone and in the night wihle the camp was asleep (okay, they did not rebel).
We have the Noldor refuse to go to war when Fingolfin felt the time ripe.
We have Aredhel rebelling against the law her brother Trugon has set up in Gondolin.
We have the Nargothrondians refusing to follow Finrod, which is indeed an succesfull open rebellion, seting aside the king.
We have the feanorian folowing of Celegrom and Curufin leting them go from Nargothrond alone.
We have Gwindor going to war against the will of Orordreth.
We have the oposition of Gwindor against Turin.
We have the rebellion of Luthien against her father.
We have Maedhros and Maglor standing allone when they try to fetch that Silmarills, because they were deserted by their follwoing.
We have Celebrimbor and the Mirdain seting aside the rule of Galadriel and Celeborn in Eregion.
We have Amdir refusing the overlordship of Gilgalad and lunching an eraly attack on the Morannon.

And even so the list is long don't think it is complete.

Respectfuly
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Old 03-26-2014, 10:58 AM   #7
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Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by Findegil View Post
There are throught out the history of Elves also other examples beside the one you already mentioned:
We have first of all the Avari refusing to go to Amman.
We have the Silvian Elves and Nandor refusing to cross Anduin and the Misty Mountians.
We have the Sindar refusing to leave Beleriand due to diffrent reasons.
We have the Teleri staying on Tol Eressea for a time.
We have one tithe of the Noldor refusing to follow Feanor, Fingolfin and Finarfin, staying behind in Tirion.
We have Finarfin leading some of his people back to Valinor.
We have many Feanorians that were repented of the burning at Losgar and ashamed for deed done by Feanor allone and in the night wihle the camp was asleep (okay, they did not rebel).
We have the Noldor refuse to go to war when Fingolfin felt the time ripe.
We have Aredhel rebelling against the law her brother Trugon has set up in Gondolin.
We have the Nargothrondians refusing to follow Finrod, which is indeed an succesfull open rebellion, seting aside the king.
We have the feanorian folowing of Celegrom and Curufin leting them go from Nargothrond alone.
We have Gwindor going to war against the will of Orordreth.
We have the oposition of Gwindor against Turin.
We have the rebellion of Luthien against her father.
We have Maedhros and Maglor standing allone when they try to fetch that Silmarills, because they were deserted by their follwoing.
We have Celebrimbor and the Mirdain seting aside the rule of Galadriel and Celeborn in Eregion.
We have Amdir refusing the overlordship of Gilgalad and lunching an eraly attack on the Morannon.

And even so the list is long don't think it is complete.

Respectfuly
Findegil
Good Points!

Yes, the Avari and Nandor were awesome like that.
The Sindar however, I see more as staying loyal to Thingol and so feeling compelled to stay, in a way its Olwe and the Falmari that are rebelling by going to Valinor
And with Tol Eressea; who says it wasn't Olwe who said "Well I feel like staying on this island"and everybody agreed with their king like good little Elves.
Yes, Finarfin is one of my favorite characters exactly for that reason :-) But again the dissident here is dependent on the actions of a noble, no agency coming from average Joe Elves here.

Well in the Silmarillion the burning of the ships was rather public, but you are right it is said many did regret.
The part with Fingolfin you mention is indeed a very good example, possibly the best. Kudos!
Ah yes, and Aredhel, but again a Noble, noble Elves seem to have much more freedom in that matter.
The Nargothrondians were just swayed by Celegorm and Curufin here, exchanging one lord for another.
I thought it was just Celebrimbor who stayed, there were others? Cool! So my head canon that Curufin's wife stayed in Nargothrond isn't that far off :-)
Yes I did forget about Gwindior, he was quite the rebel and so was Luthien!
At that time, is it sure that they still had a following? Would their armies not have been dissolved at the order of the Valar?
Celebrimbor only works in the UT account, in the Silmarillion he was the rightful ruler of Eregion.
I was not aware of Amdir doing that, I never liked the Amdir/Amorth element in Lorien's history much and pretty much ignored it, thanks for pointing it out.

In hindsight I should probably have specified that I mainly have that complaint about the Feanorian following. But as you msterfully pointed out there has been quite a bit dissident there too: Amras(in HOME), many of the commoers post Ship burning, Celebrimbor, Curufin's and Celegorm's following in Nargothrond and the heroic, nameless soldiers that fought against their own masters during the Third Kinslaying.

I gladly concede you the point, Findegil, accept that we sadly hear very little about common Elves in general and respectfully withdraw my case. :-)

P.S. This now leads me to the interesting (though unprovable) theory that Maedhros ceding the crown to Figolfin and paying compensation by presenting Fingon with those horses was not merely a chivalrous act on his part, but perhaps the flag Feanor's sons got from their people for burning the ships was getting so critical that he would have risked losing a large chunk of his people to Fingolfin/Finrod or even open rebellion unless he paid penance in some way. And instantly the whole situation looks vastly different. It's really a shame that the Silmarillion doesn't go into much detail like that...

Last edited by Orphalesion; 03-26-2014 at 11:40 AM.
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