Greetings everyone! I hope that your time in Quarantine has been at least tolerable. It has been a month for me and, to be honest, it has been rough. Recently, I was placed on furlough from my job and applied for unemployment, all while fighting depression. Despite these difficulties, I am still able to continue my M.A. degree studies tuition free, which is always a plus. I did not think I would miss bringing smiles and joy at The Happiest Place on Earth. As an extrovert, it has been even harder to not be around people or to be out and about. Regardless, I am doing my best to keep busy, which includes this blog site.
So let’s get started!
Today, we will be continuing the darkness that has fallen over Middle-Earth in Chapter 9: Of the Flight of Noldor. We left off at the beginning of the Chapter with Ungoliant fleeing from Angband and Morgoth, declaring himself King of the World with the crown of the Silmarils. Out of anger, rage, and pride, Fëanor declares open rebellion against the Valar and takes the war to Morgoth. We will be focusing primarily on this section of Fëanor and see just how far his pride takes him.
(Side note: if you thought the title of the article came from Count Dooku in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, then you are right!).
Chapter 9: Blinded by Pride and Arrogance
By this point in The Silmarillion, Fëanor had already faced a great punishment from Manwë, the King of Arda. As read in Chapter 7: Of the Silmarils,
“But now the deeds of Fëanor could not be passed over, and the Valar were angered and dismayed; and he was summoned to appear before them at the gates of Valmar, to answer for all his words and deeds…Fëanor was not held guiltless, for he it was that had broken the peace of Valinor and drawn his sword upon his kinsman; and Mandos said to him: ‘Thou speaket of thraldom. If thraldom it be, thou canst not escape it; for Manwë is King of Arda, and not of Aman only….Therefore, this doom is now made: for twelve years thou shalt leave Tirion where this threat was uttered. In that time, take counsel with thyself, and remember who and where thou art. But after that time this matter shall be set in peace and held redressed, if others will release thee.'”
With his father Finwë killed at the hands of Morgoth and the Silmarils stolen in the process, Feanor’s anger and pride burn even greater to the point where he begins to speak out openly against the Valar.
“Why O people of Noldor,’ he cried, ‘why should we longer serve the jealous Valar, who cannot keep us nor even their own realm secure from their Enemy? And though he be now their foe, are not they and he of one kin? Vengeance calls me hence, but even were it otherwise I would not dwell longer in the same land with the kin of my father’s slayer and of the thief of my treasure…though long hard shall be the road! Say farewell to bondage! But say farewell to also to ease! Sat farewell to the weak! Say farewell to your treasures! More still shall we make. Journey light: but bring with you your swords! For will go further than Oromë, endure longer than Tulkas: we will never return back from pursuit. After Morgoth to the ends of the Earth! War shall he have and hatred undying. But when we have conquered and have regained the Silmarils, then we and we alone shall be lords of the unsullied Light, and masters of the bliss and beauty of Arda. No other race shall oust us!”
While I can’t remember the exact wording, I remember Pastor Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church saying pride is the essence of sin during one of this sermons. It is the foundation of our downfalls. Throughout my readings, Fëanor has been an interesting character to dissect. As said in The Silmarillion itself, “…Fëanor was made the mightiest in all parts of body and mind: in valour, in endurance, in beauty, in understanding, in skill, in strength and subtlety alike: of all the Children of Ilúvatar, and a bright flame was in him.” It is because of this that it is heartbreaking to read how he let pride get the best of him in his rebellion against the Valar.
As I was reading this monologue, I couldn’t help but be mad and irritated. And yet, I saw myself in that based on my own life. On my own spiritual level, there have been a great number of times where I rejected what God was telling me or even commanding me to do as I went off to live in rebellion. Whether you believe in God or not, one can find in the Torah and the rest of the Old Testament that Israel was in constant rebellion against God, constantly seeking to rule for themselves and to do what they wanted on their own terms.
“But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands. They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery….” – Nehemiah 9:16-17
At the very core of Israel’s rebellious ways was pride. Like Fëanor, they wanted to rule for themselves, and be their own masters, or even their own gods, dare I say. To quote Timothy Keller,
“Spiritual pride is the illusion that we are competent to run our own lives, achieve our own sense of self-worth, and find a purpose big enough to give us meaning in life without God…It searches for something that will give it a sense of worth, a sense of specialness and a sense of purpose and builds itself on that.”
Even in his rebellion and marching of his armies, Manw—King of Arda, the Ainur, and the Valar—still warns him to not go forth and even foretells the consequences.
“But even as the trumpet sang and Fëanor issued from the gates of Tirion a messenger came at last from Manwë, saying: ‘Against the folly of Fëanor shall be set my counsel only. Go not forth! For the hour is evil, and your road leads to sorrow that ye do not forsee. No aid will the Valar lend you in this quest; but neither will they hinder you; for this ye shall know: as ye came hither freely, freely shall ye depart. But though Fëanor Finwë’s son, by thine oath art exiled. The lies of Melkor thou shalt unlearn in bitterness. Vala he is, thou saist. Then thou has sworn in vain, for none of the Valar canst thou overcome now or ever within the halls of Eä, not through Eru whom thou namest had made thee thrice greater than thou art.'”
As the reader, I told myself, “If these are the words coming from Manwë, the god of Arda and the Valar, then this should be important! He is the god after all!” Yet, due to his pride, Feeanor responds.
“Say this to Manwë Súlimo, High King of Arda: if Fëanor cannot overthrow Morgoth, at least he delays not to assail him, and sits not idle in grief. And it may be that Eru has set in me a fire greater than thou knowest. Such hurt at least will I do to the Foe of the Valar that even the mighty in the Ring of Doom shall wonder to hear it. Yea, in the end they shall follow me. Farewell!”
Even with the great possibility of failure or defeat on the battlefield, he still pushes forwarded thinking he will have the upper hand. His pride grew too much within him for him to admit his wrongs and turn around. A quote that comes to mind when reading Fëanor’s response is that of Søren Kierkegaard,
“The proud person always wants to do the right thing, the great thing. But because he wants to do it in his own strength, he is fighting not with man, but with God.”
Within the pride of Fëanor that I see is him wanting to be greater than what the gods say he is. He is high King of the Noldor and highly gifted in multiple areas of his life, and yet, he struggles with the fact that there is a greater being than him that knows better. This type of pride hates the idea or fact that someone out there is greater and better in almost every way. To quote Tolkien’s dear friend C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity,
“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, cleverer, and better-looking than others. If everyone became equally rich, or clever, or good looking, there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is has gone, pride has gone.”
In many ways, I believe Fëanor’s rage and anger toward Morgoth is justified. To lose great valuables and a loved one at the hand of someone so evil and so vile, who wouldn’t want revenge? Who wouldn’t want to avenge them? Fëanor’s problem is his reliance on his own strength. When pride and self-reliance get the best of you, it can blind you from reasoning and danger.
“Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
In the past few posts, I have covered a significant amount on pride, and for good reason. This past chapters have just been filled with it, and it is absolutely beneficial to learn about. Yet, I never really covered the response to pride, and the response to it is humility. During Fëanor’s original exile punishment, I took to heart the words of Manwë in the Ring of Doom,
“In that time, take counsel with thyself, and remember who and where thou art.”
Pride can take over so much that we honestly begin to lose sight of who we are. Our vision becomes fogged and our mindsets occupied. When we allow for humility to come in, pride begins to fall away. Ever since I began The Silmarillion, Fëanor has been someone I’ve noticed who has a lot of pride and little humility, and I believe in many ways, he can represent us. In our youth or young adulthood, I think many of us can be blinded by pride. Whether it is God or our parents, we can be given great wisdom from those before our time or those that are above us. This wisdom can even be words of warning or caution. But if we choose to see ourselves as better than those who have so much wisdom to give, then who knows what could have been if we have chosen to listen.
“Humility, at its core, is the belief that no matter how much you think you know, there is always something you don’t know. It’s the understanding that even your most cherish beliefs could be wrong. It goes with willingness to change those beliefs if it seems clear that they are wrong. If you become the best while staying humble, you’ll still be able to learn from others, which not only will make you better, which will not only make things a lot less stressful, but have a much more sustainable lifestyle.” – DrUpauli YouTube Channel
This concludes today’s post the 9th chapter in Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. We will be continuing this chapter in due time. Until then, stay safe and stay home during Quarantine!