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Silmarilion Discussion, Chapter 6: "Of Feanor..." 1 of 2
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telain
Rohan

Mar 8 2013, 8:46pm

Post #1 of 30 (995 views)
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Silmarilion Discussion, Chapter 6: "Of Feanor..." 1 of 2 Can't Post

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.

Quote
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?

8.
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)


Ardamírë
Valinor


Mar 9 2013, 4:29am

Post #2 of 30 (531 views)
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Alas that I am on holiday... [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm staying with relatives for the weekend and don't have my books with me! It's especially sad because we're at one of my favorite stories - Finwe and Miriel. Hers is one of the most fascinating stories in the whole legendarium, but all too briefly told in The Silmarillion as published. Have you read any of HoME? Her story is more fully told there, and I will do what I can to remember it while answering these.

2. Tolkien actually does say in The Hobbit that happy times are harder to recount or write about than the exciting/adventurous times. It's in chapter 3 somewhere. So, yes to that, but I also think that what he's saying here is slightly different. I think he's saying that the time period of blessedness was too brief (even though it was long), not that the memory itself is brief.

3. Oh goodness, I cannot remember, but I do think she was a Noldo. She was, as you say, Ţerinde: the broideress. In fact, her ultimate fate is to weave tapestries of the tales of her kin. Of hair color - if she really were a Noldo as I believe, that would naturally make her dark-haired, and I don't see it as a stretch to see her as a short woman, or at least small or petite. Of her character it is said that once she made up her mind she would stick to it. I think it's described as "making it a doom" unto her self.

4. At some point doesn't Tolkien describe the birth in such a way as saying that much of Miriel's spirit was consumed in the delivery of Feanor? I do know that he says that when she was delivered she "yearned for release from the labour of living." The childbirth didn't actually result in her death, but it so exhausted her that she wanted out of her body. Eventually, she lays down in the garden of Lorien and her spirit passes to the Halls of Mandos. If you think this death is contrary to the idea of the Blessed Realm, you would be right. Tolkien wrote an account of a whole debate between the Valar about this whole ordeal. While the story might seem like a cop-out in the abbreviated version, it's actually a fascinating read in HoME. It's obvious that Tolkien put a great deal of thought into it.

7. I don't at all fault Finwe for wishing to remarry, at least, not any more than I do Miriel for refusing to return to bodily life. I mean, we're talking about thousands and thousands of years of living without your wife. That's an awfully long time if you as me.

Great discussion so far! Looking forward to getting more and more into it (hopefully with books next time Wink).

There's a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall and the bells in the steeple, too.
And up in the nursery an absurd little bird is popping out to say coo-coo (coo-coo, coo-coo).


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Mar 9 2013, 8:06pm

Post #3 of 30 (525 views)
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Excerpt from Arda Reconstructed [In reply to] Can't Post

Of all of the published Silmarillion, this chapter is perhaps the one that I have the most issues with. Before my book was published, Mythlore printed an excerpt from the book that covers this chapter, modified so that it could stand alone. Since it is available online, I thought I would post a link to it here:

Reconstructing Arda: Of Feanor and the Unchaining of Melkor

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


Ethel Duath
Valinor


Mar 9 2013, 10:49pm

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Thank you [In reply to] Can't Post

This explains a great deal--and it helps clarify and flesh out that section in the Sil, which to me went by much too fast. It was hard to "settle in" to the characters (such as Indis) and feel the flow and pacing of that part of the hsitory as much as I generally like to, because of the lack of description. My next time through, I''ll keep all this in mind. :)


telain
Rohan

Mar 10 2013, 11:51pm

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I didn't include HoME... [In reply to] Can't Post

...but perhaps I should have for this story. Now, I hope I have the correct volume because your description of the story sounds fascinating. I hope others don't see my not bringing in HoME as a problem -- mostly I knew others would include it and give it better treatment than I, and I wanted to concentrate on how it is presented in Silmarilion. alas, I have already said to much on this topic ... on to the next!

I do find this abbreviated version a bit odd. We have (so far) been introduced to the relative fallibility of the Valar, but the constancy of Valinor. It is more than a bit disconcerting that it should fail someone -- especially as a result of childbirth.

And you are right, the childbirth itself does not directly result in her death, but it does weaken her in body and spirit (as you mention.) But this brings me to a question...

Perhaps you remember, but does it seem to you that Miriel "gives up"? Or is the extended story a bit more sympathetic to her? I am left (perhaps because so much explanation is left out) feeling rather ambivalent toward her, but I have no good reason for that.


telain
Rohan

Mar 11 2013, 12:11am

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and thank you again! [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, that was an eye-opener and no doubt!

I would have very much enjoyed to read the entire long version of this chapter -- I might have asked more thought-provoking discussion questions or at least many of the questions I pose would have been answered more fully!

In truth I feel a little cheated. A bit more information on several of the female characters would have been very welcome. I always imagine Tolkien's Elven society to be a bit more "equal" between genders, yet I don't find many references in the more common published works.

I also feel cheated that much of the philosophical material is left out. With little of that remaining in this chapter, it seems so thin and the actions of characters seem so arbitrary or inexplicable (as Manwe & Melkor for the next post). While I realize that the discussion is on the Silmarilion -- and I told myself to stick to the chapter -- perhaps I will amend that decision and try to include a bit more to flesh it out. I certainly couldn't do worse than bring in some points from your article.


CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 11 2013, 10:55pm

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Another thank you [In reply to] Can't Post

Very informative. This chapter has always felt unsatisfyingly condensed to me, and now I see that JRR himself probably would have fleshed it out more. It's good to read more detail on Miriel and Indis, though I think it's just as well that all those daughters were left out of the story if nothing was going to be said of them. And would Feanor have disliked them also? Only so much hate to go around.

I never finished Unfinished Tales, or Book of Lost Tales, and haven't attempted the whole HoME series. I think it helps all of us who don't know those works if those who do know them don't mind jumping in to fill the gaps for us.


CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 11 2013, 11:41pm

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Personality development: nature, nurture, or fate? [In reply to] Can't Post

For asking questions off the top of your head, Telain, you do much better than me after I spend hours trying to formulate discussion questions.

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?

It does seem to contradict popular notions of paradise, doesn't it? Isn't paradise supposed to be wonderful all the time, or at noontide ALL the time? One of his themes is that the world ultimately leads to melancholy, so happiness is more the exception than the rule. Fortunately in this case it lasts a good, long time. Yet it seems the spring was the early years of the Two Trees, the summer is now, and while there's no winter, the autumn comes with the death of the Trees and revolt of the Noldor, and there will be no spring again. Similarly, Luthien lives at a time of the noontide of the Eldar; Arwen in her likeness is the Evening Star that signals their great decline. Not very uplifting, huh?

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?

That's a general observation that we think happy times will and should last forever, and while they last, we want to flow along with them without examining them closely. Hard times are the ones that we examine because we want to know how to make them end and how to prevent more hard times, so the bad times get us much more involved, though against our will, and we want to flow against them, not with them.

And, yes, I'd still like to know more about what happened during the noontide. What else did the creative Valar like Aule, Yavanna, and Varda make? What were the Eldar up to? What was it like for Elves to be happy and not contemplating loss and grief?

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,...

I like that she was skilled with her hands; Feanor got that from her. My impression is that Miriel was as close to plain as an Elf can be without being homely, since it doesn't seem they can be. I get the impression that she's the outwardly dull one, who's introspective, shy, and has a lot going on inside her, while Indis is the glamorous party girl who sweeps into Finwe's life and cheers him up after his melancholy wife is gone. That's my imagination filling in a lot of gaps here. I never get the impression that Indis is the cruel stepmother, but it seems to me that she never understands Feanor.

It also appears that he never gave her a chance, but that's common with stepchildren and their stepparents. While in other chapters Elvish behavior seems exalted, here it seems very domestically human.

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?

Good to bring up the question about plot devices. What if she had lived normally? Wouldn't she have made a great tragic figure, her husband murdered by Morgoth and her son a kin-slaying rebel? Would she have tried to restrain Feanor, or gone with him to Beleriand out of loyalty and her own thirst for revenge?

To me, Tolkien wanted to show that Feanor was larger than life, greater than was normal and greater than he should have been. His hubris was fed by excess ability compared to his peers that he was too keenly aware of. If he'd been an ordinary Elf, the story would not be so dramatic. But since he seemed to suck the life potential of future siblings out of his mother, and sucked life out of her also, he was a sort of super-elf. That kindles the imagination of what good he could have done, and makes his Fall the more tragic. So, I'd say it's a plot device that Miriel needed to die for us to appreciate this super-elf.

It also makes me pity Feanor here, at the beginning. Anyone who loses a parent while young faces hardship in life that others never understand. Since he was the only semi-orphan in all of Valinor, he was doomed to not fit in. Being blessed with exceptional talent while being a misfit is usually a recipe for disaster. I don't pity him later, but here at least, I think he got a rough start in life that explains his later actions.

I get the sense that Miriel knew that bad things were in store for the Noldor because of Feanor. "Hold me blameless in this and all that is to follow." If she didn't know details, she still forebode trouble ahead. On the one hand it seems irresponsible of her to not stick around and try to restrain this son she felt would be a big problem (I know many parents would say that's not realistic). Yet she has had the life sucked out of her, and it doesn't seem capable of self-replenishment. It's as if she's been prematurely aged with no hope of recovery. Given that, it's understandable that she did give up, and I think she did give up voluntarily. Why she didn't want a quick return from Mandos is harder to explain. But if I stick with my theory that she knew what evil Feanor would wreak on the world, what mother wants to confront her son that is a monster beyond her control? She may have stayed in Mandos to escape that greater grief.

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?

I think Tolkien feels obliged to give us all the detail about this mover and shaker of world events. What interests me is that Tolkien seems to admire Feanor as a person even while setting him up as a selfish, rash, and heartless bad guy. It's good to make a villain complex like that, but it seems more than authorship, I always feel Tolkien has a deep-down affection for Feanor, which I never share myself.

Free will/fate: oh, Tolkien the Ambivalent! First there's some almost-implied criticism that if Miriel had lived, Feanor might have been more mellow, then the blame falls on Finwe for being an inattentive father. That's right, kids, blame the parents for what goes wrong. But how could Finwe have known? There were Elves who disappeared on their first awakening, but did any die after that? Is he the first widower? If so, how is he to know what will happen to the first stepson among the Eldar? He seems pretty idealistic throughout, so wouldn't he assume that giving a new mother to Feanor would make him happy, all of them happy, forever after? I won't blame him since I don't think he had any precedent to follow and couldn't have known any better.

First reading: I knew before the Silmarillion that Feanor would do and make important things, so on first read, I knew this was just an introduction to him Before the Big Stuff Happened.


Ardamírë
Valinor


Mar 12 2013, 3:57am

Post #9 of 30 (497 views)
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Míriel [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh, don't at all feel badly about not including HoME. It's a long, complex series, and very difficult to wade through at times. This being one of my favorite stories, I just automatically went to its fullest versions in Morgoth's Ring and The Peoples of Middle-earth. Now that I'm home with my books, I'll try to bring what I can to the table.

The first thing I notice is that there is a line in "Laws and Customs A" that says "so that wellnigh all strength seemed to have passed from her." It's not a whole lot, but it does make her a little bit more sympathetic, I think, by adding just another descriptor of the state she was in. Now, a little bit after that (also included in the published version) is Miriel's own words "I would weep if I were not so weary." The lady is so incredibly exhausted by Feanor's birth that she can't even cry. I think that goes a long way to explaining why she gave up, but I think it's also quickly passed over.

Then we really get into the heart of the story, and it's not at all present in The Silmarillion as published. Finwe goes to Manwe after a number of years and asks what he should do since he has no wife. Miriel is asked if she would now like to return from Mandos, and this is her reply: "I came hither to escape from the body, and I do not desire ever to return to it. My life is gone out into Feanaro, my son. This gift I have given to him whom I loved, and I can give no more. Beyond Arda this may be healed, but not within it." After this it is said that "she had died under a necessity to great for her to withstand."

Those are from a narrative account, but there is also a debate among the Valar about Finwe and Miriel that adds a little more insight. In the council Yavanna said, "The failing of the strength of the body of Miriel may then be ascribed, with some reason, to the evil of Arda Marred, and her death be a thing unnatural." And Nienna said, "Miriel, I deem, died by necessity of body, in suffering [for] which she was blameless or indeed to be praised, and yet was not given power to resist it: the cost of so great a child-bearing." On the other hand, Ulmo had this to say, "But this resolve entailed not only abandoning her own life, but also the desertion of her spouse, and the marring of his. The justification which she urged is insufficient." Then comes Vaire's words that I alluded to in my earlier post. Speaking of the spirit of Miriel in the Halls of Mandos, she says, "I know it well, for it is small. But it is strong; proud and obdurate. It is of the sort who having said: this I will do, make their words a doom irrevocable unto themselves. She will not return to life..." Even if the whole of these quotations doesn't serve to maker her more or less sympathetic, they do at least shed a fair bit of light onto her character. I think the wealth of information about her that was left out of The Silmarillion is one of the saddest editorial decisions of the entire book.

You asked in your original post Who is/was Miriel? Reading through Morgoth's Ring, I came upon this description that I had completely forgotten about. I cannot for the life of me understand why it was not included in The Silmarillion.

Quote
Her hair was like silver; and she was slender as a white flower in the grass. Soft and sweet was her voice, and she sang as she worked, like rippling water, in music without words. For her hands were more skilled to make things fine and delicate than any other hands even among the Noldor. By her the craft of needles was devised; and if but one fragment of the broideries of Miriel were seen in Middle-earth it would be held dearer than a king's realm; for the richness of her devices and the fire of her colours were as manifold and as bright as the wealth of leaf and flower and wing in the fields of Yavanna.


Many years later, near the end of his life, Tolkien returned to the story of Miriel as it related to the linguistic history of the elves. There the story was changed somewhat, though I'm not sure if this was deliberate or just a misremembering of what he'd written earlier. In it Miriel is said to have waited to die until after Feanor was fully grown - "Her weariness she had endured until he was full grown, but she could endure it no longer." It's also explicitly stated here that she was Noldorin, though I think that was heavily implied in the final narrative version of her story. Also added in this writing is that she was repeatedly asked while in Mandos whether she would return to life or not and that she would each time only say "not yet". Then it says, "Each time that she was approached she became more fixed in her determination, until at last she would listen no more, saying only: 'I desire peace. Leave me in peace here! I will not return. That is my will.'" I think that by having her wait until Feanor was grown shows her in a better light because it allows her to have been there during his childhood, something that I think shows her as more motherly and sacrificial and selfless. But of course, by the time she gets to Mandos, she's absolutely determined not to come back, so I guess it really serves to enhance both aspects of her character.

There is one final thing to note about Miriel's story, and really, this might put her in the most sympathetic light possible after the choices that she made. She does not stay forever in the Halls of Mandos. Instead, she at last relents and admits her fault in abandoning Finwe and Feanor, but not until after Finwe also has died (though that is a discussion of another chapter). They met again in the Halls of Mandos where she said this: "I erred in leaving thee and our son, or at least in not soon returning after brief repose; for had I done so he might have grown wiser. But the children of Indis shall redress his errors and therefore I am glad that they should have being, and Indis hath my love. How should I bear grudge against one who received what I rejected and cherished what I abandoned." After this, Finwe stayed in Mandos, but Miriel was allowed to go back to life in Aman, but "she had no desire to return to her own people." So she went to the House of Vaire and was admitted and became her "chief handmaid." It is here that she put her skills in broidery to their fullest use weaving "webs historial, so fair and skilled that they seemed to live". Finally, her name is changed from Míriel to Fíriel which means "She that died".

I don't know about you, but after having read such a wealth of story and detail, the scant two pages in The Silmarillion just don't do it for me anymore. It's too bad really, because it is such a wonderful tale that explores so many intriguing aspects of the elves and their lives. It's a pity that it was stripped to the bare essentials for the published, and most-widely known, telling. What's even more disheartening is that Miriel is reduced to a shadow the character that Tolkien wrote.

There's a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall and the bells in the steeple, too.
And up in the nursery an absurd little bird is popping out to say coo-coo (coo-coo, coo-coo).


CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 12 2013, 10:33pm

Post #10 of 30 (414 views)
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Wow, many thanks, Ardamire [In reply to] Can't Post

She seems a shadowy character in both the brevity of description of her in The Sil and how quickly she becomes a ghost. The book would be far richer if all that detail had been included so we could see the fullness of her personality, as well as more detail about Valar councils and Elvish society and spiritualism. And the description of her that you quoted is a sublime one--praise Tolkien with great praise. :) It easily conjures an aura of enchantment about her, the way she sings, and the embroidery she invents and perfects. Knowing more about her makes her death all the more tragic, more so than the quick-to-expire version we get in The Sil.

And so much for my perception that she was nearly homely. :)

It's touching that she had good feelings toward Indis. From the description that Indis was in all ways unlike Miriel, I concluded they would have only politely tolerated each other while both alive, but this shows she could see a nobler purpose in her replacement and not play the jealous (dead) wife. (Aren't ghost stories full of angry dead spouses resenting new loves by their still-alive spouses?)

The other bit that's revealed is that she is yet another strong female character. I can hear Aredhel, Morwen, or Eowyn being that stubborn in refusing to leave Mandos. "I told you NO. How many times do I have to say it before you leave me alone?!" But I think there's a beautiful ending that she could become the handmaid to Vaire and aid in the embroidery of history, which would serve a double purpose on giving us more info on Vaire and making her less of a "filler wife," as I dub her.

Thanks again.


(This post was edited by CuriousG on Mar 12 2013, 10:35pm)


Ardamírë
Valinor


Mar 12 2013, 10:56pm

Post #11 of 30 (419 views)
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It was my pleasure! [In reply to] Can't Post

I adore this story, so it was absolutely my pleasure to get to delve into it rather deeply last night. If you have either of the books I used, I would suggest you go through and read those parts. At the least, look for them at the library. My post just cannot do them the justice they deserve. It's so apparent that Tolkien put a great deal of thought into this story, which makes it all the more upsetting that it was so severely truncated.

Homely, indeed! Wink She's such a wonderfully developed character described in such beautiful language that only Tolkien can write. He certainly was able to conjure up fascinating images. I'd liken his mastery of language to Miriel's mastery of needlework.

I also like that she's not portrayed as the bitterly jealous first wife. I think it serves to make her even more sympathetic after her initial unfathomable stubbornness. I think both show different sides of her strength as a character, and I agree that she's very similar to those other women in terms of resolve. And yes, it also helps Vaire be a very little bit less filler.

"Now this babe was of greatest beauty; his skin of a shining white and his eyes of a blue surpassing that of the sky in southern lands - bluer than the sapphires of the raiment of Manwë; and the envy of Meglin was deep at his birth, but the joy of Turgon and all the people very great indeed." -The Fall of Gondolin


telain
Rohan

Mar 12 2013, 11:07pm

Post #12 of 30 (393 views)
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I absolutely agree with CuriousG -- thank you! [In reply to] Can't Post

Really lovely and detailed! See, Christopher, it is possible!

I have a much more satisfying view of her now -- I still want to read the selections you suggested (as well as your post a few more times) to fully appreciate her character. But, on first blush, I'd say CuriousG's comments and mine will be very similar. I especially like the handmaid to Vairë ending -- very fitting with the more noble character portrayed through your summary of her character.

Not the bitterly jealous first wife and not the irresponsible "Oh, I am weary, I think I'll just abandon my spouse and son to the doom I am predicting" caricature , either. The description of her suffering in my mind makes her a far more sympathetic figure. Sometimes you really have to know a thing or two about a character before you can really care about them... (hint, again, Mr. Christopher!)

I'm off to start marking a stack of papers -- but I'll be back!


Ardamírë
Valinor


Mar 12 2013, 11:42pm

Post #13 of 30 (411 views)
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Finwe and Miriel detailed [In reply to] Can't Post

You're very welcome! Smile As I told Curious, it really was my pleasure. I had such a fun time reading through it all again last night and putting together the post. Sometimes when the subject interests me enough, you're able to get quite a bit out of me actually Blush

I first want to say that I am in no way intending to bash Christopher Tolkien. I think he did a fabulous job of creating a whole and coherent version of his father's lifelong work, and that without all of his hard work over a great many years, we wouldn't even be having this discussion right now. He didn't have to edit The Silmarillion, and he certainly did not need to edit together the 12 volumes of HoME. So for all of that, I am incredibly grateful to him.

That being said, I do sometimes marvel at the decisions he made. The almost complete removal of such a moving story is one of these. In HoME, he makes it quite clear that this section was actually so expanded that his father made it its own chapter. How he could revert back to such a simple telling is beyond me. I completely agree that you really need to know quite a bit about the character before you can begin to care about them. And in a book with so many characters, she easily gets lost. I think she'd have been one of the standout characters had her full story been told.

"Now this babe was of greatest beauty; his skin of a shining white and his eyes of a blue surpassing that of the sky in southern lands - bluer than the sapphires of the raiment of Manwë; and the envy of Meglin was deep at his birth, but the joy of Turgon and all the people very great indeed." -The Fall of Gondolin


CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 13 2013, 12:43am

Post #14 of 30 (392 views)
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All the same [In reply to] Can't Post

I wish we could successfully petition the Tolkien family to reissue The Silmarillion to include some of these great stories in a revised, expanded edition. Their publisher should love the sales, and it's been done elsewhere, but I suppose if they had any inclination, they would have done so by now. (Look at me. I was silly enough to buy 2 different sets of The Lord of the Rings, and got another 2 sets as presents, and the content didn't even change.)


Ardamírë
Valinor


Mar 13 2013, 12:51am

Post #15 of 30 (388 views)
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Reissue [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd be all over that in a heart beat. I think it'd be an excellent idea. Can you imagine what The Silmarillion could be if the fullest versions of every tale were told? It would be astounding.

But unfortunately I agree that it would have been done by now. It's really too bad.

"Now this babe was of greatest beauty; his skin of a shining white and his eyes of a blue surpassing that of the sky in southern lands - bluer than the sapphires of the raiment of Manwë; and the envy of Meglin was deep at his birth, but the joy of Turgon and all the people very great indeed." -The Fall of Gondolin


telain
Rohan

Mar 13 2013, 1:13am

Post #16 of 30 (408 views)
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homely Miriel and party-girl Indis, no more! [In reply to] Can't Post

Ardamire's post was quite illuminating! I couldn't agree with you more.

What I find interesting is the fullness that stories about domestic affairs lend to these bigger sagas. (I am referring to [The Silmarilion here as part of the larger saga or epic of Middle-earth.) The attention to those details, for me, really opens the door into another world. I contrast that to reading a fantasy or science fiction (or drama, for that matter,) that leaves those insights out, and I feel I am just reading a book.

I find these more personal insights especially important in The Sil, because it really feels like a collection of poems and annals and tales. A longer, more insightful chapter at this stage of the book would certainly help establish a baseline for how to judge the later actions of certain characters (or judge actions of later characters). Even having the tale of how Feanor was drawn to Nerdanel or how Miriel and Indis felt about one another would offer much insight into how the Elves interacted with one another. In particular, I feel I would have had a much better sense of how to judge the actions of Feanor even later in this chapter. Maybe now I see him as a bit petulant and entitled, where before I was more sympathetic (even though I know what is coming).

but I have yet to comment on your most excellent comments above -- until tomorrow!


telain
Rohan

Mar 13 2013, 1:21am

Post #17 of 30 (381 views)
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count me in, too! [In reply to] Can't Post

I also have multiple copies of LoTR... Would love an extended Sil. (Sigh.)

Just one more thing in response to one of your other posts. I definitely did not feel you were "bashing" poor Christopher -- and I certainly did not intend to, either. I do, however, feel a little helpful critique -- or informed opinion -- is certainly warranted from time to time. Certainly it is tricky trying to publish your own work -- let alone someone else's ideas! And perhaps he could have treated some stories a bit differently, but I imagine that undertaking was nothing less than monumental.


Ardamírë
Valinor


Mar 13 2013, 2:06am

Post #18 of 30 (399 views)
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The daughters of Indis [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien does mention how Feanor felt about them in the long version. It's funny that your rhetorical question is actually answered by the author himself!


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he had little love for Indis or her children, least of all for his half-brethren.


Ok, so I was mistaken and that actually comes from "Laws and Customs", not the final version of the story. But it still does clearly show that Feanor did not like his half-sisters. Obviously, his dislike for them couldn't be referenced if they weren't, though.

You said it was fine that they weren't mentioned because they were never spoken of again. In the late text I referenced yesterday, the daughters of Finwe are mentioned again, though there are only two there. One, the eldest of Indis's children, stayed with her in Valinor, but the younger went into exile with Fingolfin who was said to have been "most dear to her of all her kin".

"Now this babe was of greatest beauty; his skin of a shining white and his eyes of a blue surpassing that of the sky in southern lands - bluer than the sapphires of the raiment of Manwë; and the envy of Meglin was deep at his birth, but the joy of Turgon and all the people very great indeed." -The Fall of Gondolin

(This post was edited by Ardamírë on Mar 13 2013, 2:10am)


Ardamírë
Valinor


Mar 13 2013, 2:09am

Post #19 of 30 (406 views)
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Critique [In reply to] Can't Post

I totally agree that critique is helpful and warranted. I just also wanted to make sure that my deep appreciation was also duly noted.

"Now this babe was of greatest beauty; his skin of a shining white and his eyes of a blue surpassing that of the sky in southern lands - bluer than the sapphires of the raiment of Manwë; and the envy of Meglin was deep at his birth, but the joy of Turgon and all the people very great indeed." -The Fall of Gondolin


Finwe
Lorien


Mar 13 2013, 5:46pm

Post #20 of 30 (355 views)
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Great info [In reply to] Can't Post

That was an incredible post, Ardamire! Sheds a whole new light on Miriel.

As three great Jewels they were in form. But not until the End, when Fëanor shall return who perished ere the Sun was made, and sits now in the Halls of Awaiting and comes no more among his kin; not until the Sun passes and the Moon falls, shall it be known of what substance they were made. Like the crystal of diamonds it appeared, and yet was more strong than adamant, so that no violence could mar it or break it within the Kingdom of Arda.


Ardamírë
Valinor


Mar 13 2013, 6:18pm

Post #21 of 30 (367 views)
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Thanks, Finwe! [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm glad it was interesting to you Smile

"Now this babe was of greatest beauty; his skin of a shining white and his eyes of a blue surpassing that of the sky in southern lands - bluer than the sapphires of the raiment of Manwë; and the envy of Meglin was deep at his birth, but the joy of Turgon and all the people very great indeed." -The Fall of Gondolin


Finwe
Lorien


Mar 13 2013, 8:23pm

Post #22 of 30 (387 views)
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Unbelievable [In reply to] Can't Post

I had paragraphs of thoughts based of your awesome questions for this chapter. I spent close to an hour responding(with a few interruptions). So what happens when I hit 'Post Reply'? Internal server error. Here's the short, short version, to borrow a line from Spaceballs.

Blessed Realm is a mere continent enriched by the Valar, so it makes sense the noontide ends when the most powerful of the Valar is attempting to end it. Noontides always seem brief because one rarely stops to smell the roses until it's too late. Miriel's comparison to Indis is more about personality than physical features. Eru literally put Miriel's eggs in one basket, so I don't hold her accountable for what happened after Feanor's birth. Feanor is like a modern day CEO who rises through the ranks at the expense of his family and happiness. Simarily to Aldarion, Feanor loved too greatly the work of thine own hands. Nerdanel never stood a chance because the one true love of Feanor's life was himself. Feanor suffered from a lack of a father more than a lack of a mother. Finwe was that parent who tries to be their kids' friend instead of their father. Finwe may have been king, but he served Feanor's will. The presence of Indis, Fingolfin, and Finarfin threatened Finwe's loyalty to Feanor, at least in Feanor's mind. I know my screen name is Finwe, just go with it. Wink

As three great Jewels they were in form. But not until the End, when Fëanor shall return who perished ere the Sun was made, and sits now in the Halls of Awaiting and comes no more among his kin; not until the Sun passes and the Moon falls, shall it be known of what substance they were made. Like the crystal of diamonds it appeared, and yet was more strong than adamant, so that no violence could mar it or break it within the Kingdom of Arda.


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Mar 13 2013, 9:51pm

Post #23 of 30 (360 views)
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For those who may be interested in delving deeper into the story of Finwë and Míriel [In reply to] Can't Post

There is a superb essay in the last issue of Tolkien Studies, by Amelia A. Rutledge entitled “Justice is not Healing”: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Pauline Constructs in “Finwë and Míriel”. I recommend it highly.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 13 2013, 10:12pm

Post #24 of 30 (352 views)
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2 bits of advice [In reply to] Can't Post

That's happened to all of us Finwe--so painful to lose a long post one's labored over! Sorry it happened to you too.

I do both of these things:
1. Hit Preview Post every few minutes. That seems to keep the page active.
2. Before hitting Preview Post or Post Reply, select all and copy all, then when you get that nasty timeout error, you can just paste it back in.

I really like your observations about Feanor being the one true love of his own life (so true!) and Finwe (well, that's you) being more friend than father to him (also true). Finwe was certainly overly indulgent, and it's odd how he acts later, but I'll save that for that chapter.


telain
Rohan

Mar 14 2013, 1:20am

Post #25 of 30 (324 views)
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did Valinor have daylight savings time? [In reply to] Can't Post

Re: the questions: You are too kind -- actually I had recently devised a midterm exam for my class, so I had much practice!

I like your seasonal description:

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the summer is now, and while there's no winter, the autumn comes with the death of the Trees and revolt of the Noldor, and there will be no spring again.

Just the wording of that sentence! Why is it that seasonal metaphors always speak of so much melancholy?

On a happier note: what relationship must one have to the season of summer to feel uplifted to know that something is in the summer of its existence? Do you have to love the season, live in a place with agreeable summer weather, or (rather cynically now) be involved in teaching so the routine of the school year is set aside for a while?


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What was it like for Elves to be happy and not contemplating loss and grief?

Indeed! I would have very much liked to have read about that. Personally, I'd like to think they were writing and performing beautiful music, eating and drinking the equivalent of ambrosia, and storytelling (but forgetting to write any of it down, so we would have to guess about in an online thread...)


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To me, Tolkien wanted to show that Feanor was larger than life, greater than was normal and greater than he should have been.

I completely agree -- and with Finwe's (TORn Finwe, not Sil Finwe) observation about Miriel and Feanor. He needed to be extraordinary and draining his mother of life and spirit just by being born (and in Valinor, no less) really does set him up as other-otherworldy.

His losing a parent is interesting, too, because he could very much feel responsible for it. That he was skilled in hand -- as you pointed out, like his mother -- could be his atonement.

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Being blessed with exceptional talent while being a misfit is usually a recipe for disaster.

Yes! Of course, in stories such as these, those incredibly talented and giftedly tragic people will go on to do things -- by nature, nurture, or twist of fate -- that are the fitting outcomes for their extraordinary beginnings.

Since Ardamire's posts I am significantly more sympathetic toward Miriel, but I think you make a great point about Finwe as father. What role model was he using? Were there other deaths of spouses/parents that preceded this one? We might be expected quite a lot from Finwe, given the unnumbered years of human existence we can draw on for help in these matters.

So many great comments! I would ask for more hours in the day, but we did just get another hour of daylight, so I shouldn't complain...

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