Greetings one and all. I hope that your time in quarantine has been at least tolerable and that you enjoyed Father’s Day yesterday. Between the last post and now, I finished the winter quarter, which took up a lot of time and focus. Along with that, I was in a place of isolation and solitude regarding my faith. I devoted more time to God since I had the opportunity to do so; devoted time in prayer, meditation, and readings. With the quarter over, I found some time to complete this week’s post for you all.
We are still in chapter 9 Of the Flight of Noldor, a chapter that has been significantly heavy and continues to be. I hate to break it to most of you, but as I said in the last post, this will not be a happy one, for this will focus on the first spilling of blood between the Noldor Elves and the Teleri Elves.
Chapter 9: The Humility of the Teleri
By this point, Fëanor had led his troops to wage war against Morgoth despite the warnings of Manwë, the King of the Valar. During their journey north, the Great Sea was immeasurably wide. They required ships and turned to the Teleri Elves, who were known for their craft in shipbuilding. Fëanor greeted their leader Olwë, trying to persuade him to use their ships and to join him in battle. Olwë denied his request despite their friendship.
The significance of Olwë’s decision was that it was not made out of fear for Morgoth but out of trust in the Valar. To quote Tolkien,
“[The Teleri] were grieved indeed at the going of their kinsfolk and long friends, but would rather dissuade them than aid them; and no ship would they lend, nor help in the building, against he will of the Valar. As for themselves, they desired now no other home but the strands of Eldamar, and no other lord than Olwë, prince of Aloqualondë. And he never lent ear to Morgoth, nor welcomed himto his land, and he trusted that Ulmo and the other great among the Valar would redress he hurts of Morgoth, and that the night would pass yet to a new dawn.”
Even in a time of literal darkness, Olwë was still obedient to the Valar, trusting that they would bring justice and peace. Fëanor on the other hand wanted his form of justice.
A particular story in the Jewish Torah that comes to mind is the story of Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve. Of course, this story is significantly different than Olwë’s and Fëanor’s, but hear me out. In this Bible story, Cain and Abel bring different offerings to God and are given different responses.
“Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time, Cain brought some fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you but you must rule over it.” – Genesis 4:2-7
The reason for God’s favor with Abel had nothing to do with him being better. Aside from the context of a lamb being a sacrifice, one can say that Abel’s sacrifice was a humble one, considering he brought the best portions from the flock. Giving our best to God means being humble in who we are before God. Contrast this with Cain’s, who did not bring even the best of his offering. Some have speculated that God knew his heart, considering how envious and enraged he became afterward.
So, how does this relate to The Silmarillion? Fëanor became enraged with Olwë’s refusal to help him, stating that he renounced their friendship during their time of need. Olwë responded with,
“We renounce no friendship. But it may be the part of a friend to rebuke a friend’s folly. And when the Noldor welcomed us and gave us aid, otherwise then you spoke: in the land of Aman we were to dwell forever, as brothers whose houses stand side by side. But as for our white ships: those you gave us not. We learned not that craft from the Noldor, but from the Lords of the Sea; and the white timbers we wrought with our own hands, and the white sales were woven by our wives and our daughters. Therefore, we will neither give them nor sell them for any league of friendship. For I say to you, Fëanor son of Finwë, these are to us as are the gems of the Noldor: the work of our hearts, whose like we shall not make again.”
As previously stated, the Teleri looked to the Valar for guidance and gave them the true credit for their craftsmanship. Like Abel, they gave their best to Ossë, the Spirit of the See, in praise and appreciation. Abel and the Teleri are similar in regards to what becomes of them.
Chapter 9: The Killing of Your Own Kin
By the hardening his own heart, Fëanor took the ships by force. When the Teleri stood their ground, war broke out. Three times did the Noldor attempt to overcome the Teleri and three times they were pushed back.
“Thus at last the Teleri were overcome, and a great part of their mariners that dwelt in Alqualondë were wickedly slain. For the Noldor were become fierce and desperate, and the Teleri had less strength, and were armed for the most part but with slender bows. Then the Noldor drew away their white ships and manned their oars as best they might, and rowed them north along the coast. And Olwë called upon Ossë, but he came not, for it was not permitted by the Valar hat the flight of he Noldor should be hindered by force.”
The significance of this was the spilling of kin’s blood. Out of anger, rage, and envy, Fëanor’s hardened heart guided his decision making. To make matters worse, it was said that Mandos, Doomsman of the Valar, watched them from a high place after they took the ships. From there, the Prophecy of the Doom of Noldor was announced.
“‘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.
Ye have spilled the blood of your kindred unrighteously and have stained he land of Aman. For blood yet shall render blood, and beyond Aman ye shall dwell in Death’s shadow. For through Eru appointed you to die not in Ëa,and no sickness may assail you, yet slain ye may be, and slain ye shall be: by weapon and by torment and by grief; and your houseless spirits shall come then to Mandos. There long shall ye abide and yearn for your bodies, and find little pity through all whom ye have slain should entreat for you. And those that endure in Middle-Earth and come not to Mandos shall grow weary of the world as with the great burden and shall wane, and become as shadows of regret before the younger race that cometh after. The Valar have spoken.”
I don’t know about you, but if I heard that prophecy from a dark figure high in the mountains, I would be the most anxious in my life. What is terrifying about this moment is that the Valar did not get directly involved. It is one thing for a god or supreme being to get involved and stop one’s horrendous actions. It is something else entirely when that supreme being leaves you to your demise. That is when you experience true abandonment; knowing that the very beings who created you, guided you, and protected you leave you in darkness, and you have no one to blame but yourself.
Cain hardly had it any easier, if I am being quite honest.
“Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ The Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries to me from he ground. Now you are under and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.'” – Genesis 48-12
As with Fëanor, anger, rage, and envy overcame Cain, causing him to spill the blood of his own brother, with God watching the entire time. It is difficult to fathom the very idea of being cursed by God; in many ways, it sometimes seems like a fate worse than death.
Chapter 9: When Pride Blinds One’s Sight
Fëanor’s actions from here only continue to grow worse as his pride continue to dominate his decision making. At one point, one must ask, “How far are you willing to go?”
“Then Many quailed; but Fëanor hardened his heart and said: ‘We have sworn, and night lightly. This oath we will keep. We are threatened with many evils, and treasons not least; but one thing is not said: that we shall suffer from cowardice, from cravens or the fear of deeds that we shall do shall be the matter of song until the last days of Arda. Therefore I saw that we will go on, and this doom I add: the deeds that we shall do shall be the matter of song until the last days of Arda.’
But in that hour Finarfin forsook the march, and turned back being filled with grief, and with bitterness against the House of Fëanor, because of his kinship with Olwë of Alqualondë; and many of his people went with him…[The Noldor] began to suffer anguish from the cold, and the clinging mists through which no glean of start could pierce; and many repented of he road and began to murmur, especially those that followed Fingolfin, cursing Fëanor, and naming him as the cause of all the woes with his sons.”
Even with conditions growing harsher and troops abandoning the campaign, Fëanor continued to press forward. Even his own son, Maedhros, grew in bitterness towards him. When asking of what ships to spare for the journey home, later on, Fëanor laughs, claiming,
“None and none! What I have left behind I count now no loss; needless baggage on the road it has proved. Let those that cursed my name, curse me still, and whine their way back to the cages of the Valar! Let the ships burn!”
I cannot imagine how his sons and troops must have felt at this moment; to see just how cruel their leader had become. He ignored the Valar’s words of warning, he killed his own kin, he ignored the curse of the Valar, and now his troops are abandoning the campaign or are greatly exhausted. And yet, Fëanor cannot see how blind his pride has made him. Even then, he still sees his oath and actions as a noble cause when it was never was, to begin with.
I did read ahead some time ago because I couldn’t put the book down. All I can say is this: It only gets worse for Fëanor from here.
The next few chapters will actually be of a different focus, so we will take a breather from these past depressing topics. Until next time, I hope you enjoy your week and be safe in quarantine!