The Fall of Elvenkind
Since this chapter is quite long I decided to tackle it on its own for this week. As always, stick-figures make a persistent return.
Chapter 9 – Of The Flight of the Noldor
Melkor has wreaked havoc in Valinor. The Two Trees lie dead in the darkness of the world. As the Valar convene in Máhanaxar (“the Ring of Doom”), they mourn the staggering loss they have suffered and decide on what to do next.
The light of the Trees now lives only in the Silmarils. Voices are raised in the hope that Fëanor is willing to hand over the Jewels to be unlocked and give new life to the Trees.
Fëanor before the Valar in the Ring of Doom
Fëanor, being the elf that he is, strongly rejects this idea, having become possessive of his greatest creation. On his return to Formenos he discovers his father, Finwë, has been slain by Melkor and the Silmarils stolen.
His already volatile character spurs him to take drastic measures that will reshape the entire narrative and atmosphere of The Silmarillion (among which is the Oath of Fëanor that brings vengeance and destruction upon all who swear by it).
Meanwhile, Melkor (who from now on is referred to as Morgoth “the Black Enemy”, as cursed by Fëanor), has fled back to Beleriand unable to get rid of Ungoliant trailing at his side. The spider, who has now grown great and powerful after consuming the light of the Trees and the innumerable gems of Aman, hungers for further treasures.
She eyes the Silmarils with ferocious lust and demands them from Morgoth. The Vala refuses and ends up bound in torment by the spider’s deadly webs. Morgoth’s cries of pain resonate through the lands (giving them the name of Lammoth, “the Great Echo”), even reaching the ears of his servants in Angband.
Ungoliant ensares Morgoth in her webs
The Balrogs come swiftly to their master’s rescue and Ungoliant escapes further inland: making an abode for herself and her offspring along the southern mountains of Dorthonion.
Morgoth, retreats back to Angband and fortifies it.
Meanwhile, over the Great Sea, Fëanor is stirring up the Noldor to follow him back to Beleriand to reclaim the Silmarils. He voices his anger against the Valar and after swearing a dangerous oath of vengeance a large contingent of Noldorin elves prepares to depart the Undying Lands (Aman).
Fëanor swears the Oath
Fingolfin, half-brother to Fëanor, opposes the rebellion, but his sense of devotion to his people forbids him from abandoning them. Therefore, he departs as a secondary (and larger) host behind Fëanor and his sons.
Their long march leads them out of Valinor and northwards along the Pelóri Mountains. The Valar send them warnings that they will no longer fall under their immediate protection should they exile themselves.
Their journey is uncertain as the only possible route over the Great Sea into Middle-earth is through the Helcaraxë “the Grinding Ice”, a region in the far north of Aman that connects both mainlands.
Fëanor heads towards Alqualondë to request the aid of the Teleri in using their ships as transport. Unwilling to go against the wishes of the Valar the Teleri refuse this request, forcing the Noldor to attack their own kin.
The Kinslaying at Alqualondë
In a terrible battle that sees both groups losing many of their own, the Noldor emerge victorious. It is an event know as the Kinslaying, a major turning point in The Silmarillion: the killing of elf by elf, the worst deed to be carried out by the Children of Ilúvatar.
Seizing the ships the Noldor sail to Middle-earth, leaving behind Fingolfin’s contingent who brave the passage of the Helcaraxë into Middle-earth.
Mandos to Fëanor:
‘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.’
Questions to ponder on:
– Do the Valar have the right to request the Silmarils from Fëanor? After all, aren’t they his creation?
– Although also bound by the Oath, why did Fingolfin risk everything (including the safety of his people) to follow Fëanor’s folly?
– What is the true nature of the Oath: is it psychological (that drives an individual to become violent) or something more complex, interwoven with Fate (and thus, predestined by Ilúvatar?
Next week it’s Chapters 9 and 10. Enjoy the reading!
As always, comments are welcome … 😉
4 thoughts on “TTRT: The Silmarillion – Chapter Nine”
Thanks for tackling Chapter 9 only! (I’m only on the fifth paragraph of Chapter 10) 😉
Sorry if my comments aren’t much. I’m better at reading this stuff than at actually discussing it. On the plus side, I did spend my week reading portions of The Peoples of Middle-Earth! Those Appendices just keep growing on me (and so does AUJ, cough *literal Oakenshield* cough). I think the only Appendix that still might bore me when I return to it is the one with the Calendars… I guess I’m just not a calendar guy… yet I guess. Who knows, maybe someday?
Well, I should really get back to Thingol and the Dwarves of Belegost! 🙂
In 1977 this broke my heart when I read it for the first time. I had had such a wonderful and mysterious glimpse of the first age from LOTR that the awful reality of what elves can do to one another was a real shock. And the Silmarillion continued to supply shock upon shock for me. For me, Feanor and the Valar pose an interesting question related to what is good leadership? And of course it poses questions about Illuvatar as you imply. Would Illuvatar predestine something the Valar would condemn so strongly? Or is this related to the consequences and complexities of the music in the beginning and the fact that the Children of Illuvatar are not machines – they have freedom even freedom to not choose good. The very freedom perhaps that the Valar gave the Noldor accompanied by warnings but which Feanor may have withheld from his followers and those who opposed him. But again, perhaps this was part of the outworking of the original musics corrupted by Melkor and the irony may be that Melkor was himself imprisoned as a consequence of his dark song.
The music was a battle in the beginning perhaps now being outworked in Arda. And yet, just as Illuvatar intervened then to bring it all together in the end, so will it outwork in Arda ending in the last battle still to come.
I’m still reading! Life got weirdly hectic for a few weeks, but I have finally managed to finish chapter 9.
The kinslaying made me very sad. It made me think of the American Civil War, and that Bible passage about “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”
On to chapter 10 at last!
That’s good to hear! Keep at it and just enjoy the read! 🙂