Fëanor’s Upbringing: The Stage Setting of His Downfall

Fëanor creating the Silmarils. Art by Kazuo

Greetings, everyone!

I hope you all have been well while I was away. For those that stayed up to date on my social media accounts, grad school heavily took over my life this past July. I didn’t have time to write for my blog, record for my podcast, or even edit photographs for my portfolio. With the school quarter now nearly complete, I have managed to find some downtime to work more on my side projects.

More than that, I am thrilled to be back and share my thoughts on my reading of The Silmarillion—I got really into it over the past month!

This blog post was originally going to cover chapters 6 and 7; however, due to the length of each, I have split them in two. Trust me, you will get a lot out of both.

We last left off at chapter 5 where we covered the importance of genealogy and learning from our ancestors through Finwë, King of Noldor. Related to this, we will be going over the importance of humble beginnings and the raising of the next generation (if you haven’t read the previous blog, click here).

Without further delay, let us begin!

Chapter 6: A Hallowed Heart of a Spoiled Life

While Melkor was still in bondage under the Valar, we are introduced to Fëanor, son of Finwë, High King of Noldor. According to Tolkien, Fëanor was highly skilled and educated in numerous areas of his life and, for the most part, was very good looking. To quote the author himself,

“All [Finwë’s] love he gave thereafter to his son; and Fëanor grew swiftly, as if a secret fire were kindled within him. He was tall, and fair of face, and masterful, his eyes piercingly bright and his hair raven-dark; in the pursuit of all his purposes eager and steadfast. Few ever changed his courses by counsel, not by force. He became of all the Noldor, then or after, the most subtle in mind and the most skilled in hand. In his youth…he it was who, the First of the Noldor, discovered how gems greater and brighter than those of the Earth might be made with skill. The first gems that Fëanor made were white and colourless, but bring set under starlight they would blaze with blue and silver fires brighter than Helluin; and other crystals he made also, wherein, things far away could be seen small but clear, as with the eyes of the eagles of Manwë. Seldom were the hands and mind of Fëanor at rest.”

Well, that was a mouthful about one person. Just based on this description, one can simply understand that Fëanor was the best in the kingdom of Noldor. At first, his appearance and skillset reminded me of King David of Israel in 1st Samuel of the Torah. I thought to myself, “Surely, this son would be worthy in stature and heart.”

And boy was I completely wrong.

Without going into the details beyond chapter 6, Fëanor became greatly off-putting in his adult years with his wife Nerdanel and his second mom, Indis the Fair. He greatly disapproved of his father’s second marriage to her and disliked when his second mother’s son Fingolfin and Finarfin joined the family. He heavily focused on what he wanted and what he enjoyed, becoming greatly selfish and arrogant.

How and why Fëanor was this way is very simple, and I believe it can trace back to Fëanor’s written introduction. “All [Finwë’s] love he gave thereafter to his son.”

To summarize but also emphasize, Finwë greatly loved his first wife, Miriel, as it is written, “The love of Finwë and Miriel was great and glad, for it began the Blessed Realm in the Days of Bliss.” As we learn later, she dealt with great pain during Fëanor’s birth and passed away not long after, leaving Finwë in a deep state of grieving.

“Then Finwë lived in sorrow; and he went often to the gardens of Lórien, and sitting beneath the silver willows beside the body of his wife he called her by her names. But it was unavailing; and alone in all the Blessed Realm, he was deprived of joy. After a while he went to Lorien no more.”

As one can imagine, the loss of a loved one can send the living spouse into a deep depression and sorrow for days, months, or even years. Mourning is of absolute importance; however, staying in that mourning without improvements of moving on is a great danger. No one wants to move from a great love they had, but what other choice is there?

Yet, even in moving on, people can still make great mistakes.

One of these mistakes can be a parent becoming overprotective of their children or beginning to heavily spoil them. As for Fëanor, he was heavily spoiled. Of course, anyone born into royalty can be spoiled, but the idea of all the love of a parent being given to them can also spoil their mind and heart, causing them to think themselves greater than others.

While one may look at Fëanor’s life and despise him, it is his father who is to blame just as much if not more.

“[Fëanor] lived apart from [his family], exploring the land of Aman, or busying himself with the knowledge and the crafts in which he delighted. In those unhappy things which later came to pass, and in which Fëanor was the leader, many saw the effect of this breach within the house of Finweë, judging that if Finwë had endured his loss and been content with the fathering of his mighty son, the courses of Fëanor would have been otherwise, and great evil might have been prevented…”

In the following chapter (and beyond), it is an absolute pity and shame to read about what became of Fëanor, and how far he fell from grace. This relates to old religious sayings about disciplining children (see Proverbs 13:24) or even classic literature such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet. 

We’re oft to blame, and this too much proved, that with devotion’s visage and pious action we do sugar on the devil himself.” 

In other words: spare the rod, spoil the child. (If you recognize that from Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta graphic novel, I extend my applause to you.)

This next section of this past can actually be found in chapter character 7 (and was meant to be in the next post covering that said chapter). But after much writing and editing, I believe that it relates to this post’s analysis more than the next. So sit back, and enjoy a sneak peek of Chapter 7!

Later in his adult years, Fëanor created what is known as the Silmarils. Made from his gifted craftsman hands, the Silmarils were three beautiful jewels made from the blended light of the Trees of Valinor. More than that, the “crystal was to the Silmarils but as is the body to the Children of Ilúvatar: the house of its inner fire, that is within it and yet in all parts of it, and is its life.

To understand the significance of the Silmarils and it’s relation to Fëanor, we have to briefly look at Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. This section is especially important for anyone new to LOTR or for anyone who is simply a fan of the LOTR films (and to the book fans, you all know where this is going).

After Gandalf’s fall at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, the Fellowship arrives at Lothlórien, the fairest Elf realm that remained in the Third Age. While the group is grateful for their stay and shelter, Gimli holds a strong prejudice against the Elves, considering the ties and history with his people. Yet, after the Fellowship meets Lady Galadriel, the fairest of Elves since The First Age, Gimli is awestruck by her beauty and kindness. Before their departure later on, Lady Galadriel personally gives each member a unique gift for their journey. Out of all members of the Fellowship, Gimli’s is one of great significance and humility that is beautiful and poetic. To quote the book:

“‘And what gift would a Dwarfs ask of the Elves?’ said Galadriel turning to Gimli.

‘None, Lady,’ answered Gimli, ‘It is enough for me to have seen the Lady of the Galadhrim, and to have heard her gentle words.’

‘Hear all ye Elves!’ she cried to those about her. ‘Let none say again that Dwarves are grasping and ungracious! Yet surely, Gimli son of Glóin, you desire something that I could give? Name it, I bid you! You shall not be the only guest without a gift.’

‘There is nothing, Lady Galadriel,’ said Gimli, bowing low and stammering. ‘Nothing, unless it might be — unless it is permitted to ask, nay, to name a single strand of your hair, which surpasses the gold of the earth as the stars surpass the gems of the mine. I do not ask for such a gift. But you commanded me to name my desire.’….

The Elves stirred and murmured in with astonishment, and Celeborn gazed at the Dwarf in wonder, but the Lady smiled. ‘It is said that the skill of the Dwarves is in their hands rather than in their tongues ‘ she said; ‘yet that is not true of Gimli. For none have ever made to me a request so bold and yet so courteous. And how shall I refuse, since I commanded him to speak? But tell me, what would you do with such a gift?’

‘Treasure it, Lady,’ he answered, ‘in memory of your words to me at our first meeting. And if ever I return to the smithies of my home, it shall be set in imperishable crystal to be an heirloom of my house, and a pledge of good will between the Mountain and the Wood until the end of days.’

Then the Lady unbraided one of her long tresses, and cut off three golden hairs, and laid them in Gimli’s hand. ‘These words shall go with the gift,’ she said. ‘I do not foretell, for all foretelling is now vain: on the one hand lies darkness, and on the other only hope. But if hope should not fail, then I say to you, Gimli son of Glóin, that your hands shall flow with gold, and yet over you gold shall have no dominion.”

– Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Chapter VIII

For the LOTR film fans, the significance of this cannot be found within The Silmarillion, but within Unfinished Tales. During the creating the Silmarils, Fëanor asks Lady Galadriel for a lock of her hair. Despite being of the same race and family line, she refused, knowing well of his pride and arrogance.

“Many thought that this saying first gave to Fëanor the thought of imprisoning and blending the light of the Trees that later took shape in his hands as the Silmarils. For Feanor beheld the hair of Galadriel with wonder and delight. He begged three times for a tress, but Galadriel would not give him even one hair. These two kinsfolk, the greatest of the Eldar of Valinor, were unfriends forever.”

Imagine that. Fëanor—a highly respected Elf and heir to the throne of Noldor—was denied three times after asking for one strand of hair from Galadriel. Two Ages later, Gimli—a mere Dwarf in comparison to those before him—who asked for one hair was given three.

This all goes back the beginning of this post regarding pride, arrogance, and humbleness. It is not the status of each that matter, but their hearts and humility before Lady Galadriel.

And it is the same in our own lives.

You can be wealthy or skilled in your work and people may praise you highly for it, but in the end, it only lasts for so long. The wealth and skill of an individual cannot stand forever on its own, for the individual must also have great character and humbleness.

It would better to be remembered by the content of one’s character than by the skills and wealth they possess.

How much more will your character stand amongst your riches and titles? Since I discovered this, I have heavily appreciated and loved this LOTR scene even more. It is a beautiful example that we, despite imperfections, can still do our best to have noble character. 

With this analysis of Fëanor, we will go through his actions, transgressions, and consequences in the next blog post. As previously said, the original writings of this piece were so great that it needed to be split into two different posts. I guess I now have a grasp of how Tolkien felt when he had to split the LOTR novel into three for the sake of readers. If you have any comments, questions, or even criticism, be sure to leave a comment below or email me in the contact section on the main page. Until next time!

P.S. If you want a solid example of character being greater than wealth, I highly recommend the film The Emperor’s Club (2002) to start off with. The opening line sets the stage for the entire film and analysis of it. “A man’s character is his fate.” Go check it out if you’re interested!

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