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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room: Silmarilion Discussion, Chapter 6: "Of Feanor..." 1 of 2: Edit Log


Mar 8 2013, 8:46pm

Views: 5420
Silmarilion Discussion, Chapter 6: "Of Feanor..." 1 of 2

As the chaper suggests, I will divide this post into two parts. Today we have our first, and rather detailed, look at the infamous Feanor...

Now that the Three Kindreds of the Eldar are finally present in Valinor, we can celebrate the vaulted noontide (heyday!) of the Blessed Realm!

1. Does it strike you as odd that the Blessed Realm -- a place seemingly beyond time and change -- should have a noontide? Tolkien frequently uses time markers to describe the progress (or decline) of a people. What is he saying (if anything) about the cyclical nature of more metaphysical matters?

2. This noontide is described as "...long in tale of years, but in memory too brief." Why? Are tales of good thing happening simply too boring to recount or dull to remember -- much like the model of modern-day news broadcasts? Would you like to know what happened during those years (or in the very least have access to a short summary?) What might that entail?

Next, we are introduced to Finwe, his (first) wife Miriel, and son (cue stringed instruments full of tension) Feanor. There is just one small problem with this lovely Elven nuclear family -- it does not last very long (cue kettle drum). Miriel has complications in childbirth that ultimately lead to her death.

Miriel Does the Seemingly Impossible, But Who Was She?

Miriel is described -- interestingly -- by what she does: as "Serinde," someone so adept at needlework that her hands were "...more skilled to fineness than any hands even among the Noldor."

3. Who is/was Miriel? According to the above description, she does not seem to be Noldo and a later passage regarding Indis (a Vanya and Finwe's second wife) describes Indis as: "golden-haired and tall, and in all ways unlike Miriel." So was Miriel rather short and dark? What does the comparison with Indis say (if anything) about Miriel's -- or Indis's -- character? And perhaps more importantly,...

4. What causes her to have complications ("...consumed in spirit and body...") in childbirth -- resulting in death, no less -- while living in Valinor? Does that not seem contrary to the whole idea of the Blessed Realm? (By the way, this is also Finwe's question, so maybe we can help him find some closure...) Does Miriel really just "give up"? Is this strange birth merely a plot device or is there a better or more satisfying explanation?

The Devil Makes Work for Feanor's Hands

Tolkien describes Feanor in comparatively great detail -- including physical description and description of character. In particular, he adds "Seldom were the hands and mind of Feanor at rest."

5. Why do we get such a detailed glimpse of Feanor? What connection is Tolkien making? Is it a commentary on productivity? progress? an over-active imagination? D)All of the above or E) None of the above?

Feanor marries Nerdanel -- daughter of the Noldo Mahtan. She is desribed as "firm of will," but patient; she desires to "understand minds, rather than to master them..." She also bequeathed her mood to some of the seven sons she bore Feanor, but (again, menacing stringed instruments crescendo) "not to all."

6. Tolkien seems to be impressing upon the readers the importance of a mother's influence on the outcome of her children (a frequent topic in the Reading Room, but worth looking at here for reasons that seem obvious to me, anyway.) Miriel is absent from Feanor's life -- do you think Feanor views this as abandonment or sacrifice? Nerdanel, for all her strong will and patience, is put off by Feanor's later dealings and estranges herself from him, though it is unclear how much contact she has with her sons. What influence would Miriel have had that Nerdanel didn't? How much can we fault Nerdanel for not reigning Feanor in a bit more?

Feanor is not impressed that his father marries Indis and he is not at all interested in their sons Fingolfin and Finarfin.

In those unhappy things which later came to pass, and in which Feanor was the leader, many saw the effect of this breach within the house of Finwe, judging that if Finwe had endured his loss and been content with the fathering of his mighty son, the courses of Feanor would have been otherwise, and great evil might have been prevented; ... But the children of Indis were great and glorious, and their children also; and if they had not lived the history of the Eldar would have been diminished.

Trying desperately not to stray into future chapters, I find this passage fascinating. It is almost as if Tolkien himself were unsure on which side he stood in the free will/fate debate.

7. Do you think Finwe should have been satisfied with Feanor as his only son? Should he have guessed that Feanor might have been a bit upset with the new arrangement?

The same argument could be made if Miriel had lived, but that is not what the "many" in the quote above are suggesting. They seem far more comfortable casting doubt on the father figure than the mother. Have we seen this trend before or in other works (again, trying not to hamper discussions of future chapters...)? Do you agree with them, or is this even a question we should be spending time trying to answer, because it only leads to those maddening "free will/fate" discussions?

9. If you remember your first reading of this chapter, did you guess that Feanor would create something that would cause trouble? Especially since, at the same time, we are discussing the Unchaining of Melkor?

But then, that topic is for another post...

As always, I welcome any and all comments! These are just questions off the top of my head to hopefully get your heads churning...

(This post was edited by telain on Mar 8 2013, 8:50pm)

Edit Log:
Post edited by telain (Rohan) on Mar 8 2013, 8:50pm: word change

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