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 … 😉