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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Silmarillion: A question I'm pondering on

Calenleya
Bree


Jan 19 2017, 2:50pm

Post #1 of 18 (1739 views)
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Silmarillion: A question I'm pondering on Can't Post

So, I was wondering: what would actually happen if one (or more) of the sons of Feanor would decide that they really do not want to keep the oath. At least of two of them I get the impression that they regret taking the oath in the first place. So what would be the consequences of not at least trying to keep the oath? Besides feeling really guilty towards your now dead father and possibly facing the wrath of your siblings. Surely the Valar would not have a problem with this as they didn't approve Feanors actions in the first place.
Thoughts?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

May you have the hindsight to know
where you've been,
the foresight to know where you're going to and
the insight to know when you're going too far.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Darkstone
Immortal


Jan 19 2017, 6:51pm

Post #2 of 18 (1686 views)
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A divine oath [In reply to] Can't Post

If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.
-Numbers 30:2

Remember, they swore an oath by Iluvatar. Now even though Iluvatar might disapprove of the oath, by swearing by him they made him the guarantor of that oath. So the Wrath of God would come down on whoever broke it. Basically the trials of Job, the plagues of Egypt, fire, brimstone, dogs and cats living together, with the oathbreaker always at the epicenter.

******************************************
“Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!"
"Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye."
"Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may."
"Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!"
"But no living man am I! I am Eowyn, daughter of Theodwyn!”
"Er, really? My mother's name was Theodwyn, too!"
"No way!"
"Way!"
"Wow! Let's stop fighting and be best friends!"
"Cool!!"

-Zack Snyder's The Return of the King


InTheChair
Lorien

Jan 19 2017, 7:13pm

Post #3 of 18 (1676 views)
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How to forget? [In reply to] Can't Post

The question is both easy and impossible to answer. The easy answer is, nothing would have happened. If one of the sons could have found desire within himself to break the oath, he could have fled east and south and lived out a life in relative freedom, perhaps even gone back to Valinor and sued for pardon. On of them attempts this in late writings. A the same time the answer is that none them could have broken the oath. Because they swore by Illuvatar, they would never desire to break the oath forever. They might postpone it, perhaps even for a long time, but they would always still know that they had made the oath, and that it was unfullfilled, and that would torment them. One of the curses, if that is what it should be called, of beeing an elf is that your talent is in memory.


(This post was edited by InTheChair on Jan 19 2017, 7:17pm)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 19 2017, 9:50pm

Post #4 of 18 (1662 views)
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Well, it couldn't get much worse, could it? [In reply to] Can't Post

They all wound up with violent deaths, and while Maedhros and Maglor technically fulfilled the oath by getting the 2 silmarils back, they were cursed by them, ending in Maedhros' suicide and Maglor's presumed death.

I think you're right that the Valar would have pardoned them. So, let's imagine that M&M go back to Valinor to be judged by the Valar rather than steal the silmarils. Can the Valar set aside an oath in Iluvatar's name? On the one hand, they surrendered their roles when Ar-Pharazon invaded, but on the other hand, they managed to find a loophole for Beren & Luthien, and also for Earendil & Elwing. So I lean toward them finding a loophole with Mandos revealing some Eru secret or Manwe seeking Eru's counsel as he did with Aule & the Dwarves. I think that Iluvatar was probably offended enough by the oath that he would have been glad to nullify it, and he's supposed to be all-powerful, so why couldn't he?


Calenleya
Bree


Jan 20 2017, 3:00am

Post #5 of 18 (1635 views)
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I see your point [In reply to] Can't Post

I just find it strange that Iluvatar would bring wrath on to those whose oath he doesn't approve of in the first place. But this is more of a philosophical question, which of course we can't find an answer to. Besides it maybe also depends on what kind of God you believe Iluvatar is, I myself opting more for a kinde, forgiving one.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

May you have the hindsight to know
where you've been,
the foresight to know where you're going to and
the insight to know when you're going too far.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Calenleya
Bree


Jan 20 2017, 3:07am

Post #6 of 18 (1635 views)
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Loophole [In reply to] Can't Post

That's what I was thinking. And we know that the Valar did not desert the Noldor completely, even though they said they would. Otherwise Manwe would not have granted help to Fingon when he was trying to save Maedhros.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

May you have the hindsight to know
where you've been,
the foresight to know where you're going to and
the insight to know when you're going too far.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Darkstone
Immortal


Jan 20 2017, 2:22pm

Post #7 of 18 (1615 views)
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Dunno [In reply to] Can't Post

If oaths in Eru’s name are so blithely abrogated then what’s the point of even making them?

Oaths seem to be very sacred in Middle-earth. Recall Baldor the Hapless of Rohan who kept his rash oath to enter the Paths of the Dead even though it certainly meant his death. Indeed recall the Dead themselves, living Men who became shades because they broke their oaths to Isildur.

As for a kind, forgiving Eru allowing such, that’s free will. I recall the story of the minister who went to Heaven and the first thing he asked God was “Why is the world filled with so much pain, strife, and suffering?” and God replied “I’ve often wondered the same thing”.

******************************************
“Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!"
"Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye."
"Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may."
"Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!"
"But no living man am I! I am Eowyn, daughter of Theodwyn!”
"Er, really? My mother's name was Theodwyn, too!"
"No way!"
"Way!"
"Wow! Let's stop fighting and be best friends!"
"Cool!!"

-Zack Snyder's The Return of the King


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 20 2017, 9:15pm

Post #8 of 18 (1576 views)
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I agree that oaths are not to be trifled with [In reply to] Can't Post

But given that the Valar have a direct pipeline to Iluvatar that others don't, do you think that Iluvatar would have declared Feanor's Oath null & void if consulted?

It seems that essentially, it was nullified anyway, as Eonwe explained to the hapless M&M. Though how the mechanics of oaths work isn't quite clear to me--had the Oath turned into a curse against them, or were they still under the Oath but it was now impossible to fulfill because the Silmarils rejected, or was something else at work, and what part did Eru & the Valar play in all of this? Lots of blanks to fill in here.


Darkstone
Immortal


Jan 20 2017, 10:15pm

Post #9 of 18 (1565 views)
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Well [In reply to] Can't Post

When a man takes an oath, he's holding his own self in his own hands like water, and if he opens his fingers then, he needn't hope to find himself again.
-A Man For All Seasons



In Reply To
But given that the Valar have a direct pipeline to Iluvatar that others don't…


But the Valar would have a conflict of interest. The oath specifically targets them:

Be he foe or friend, be he foul or clean,
brood of Morgoth or bright Vala…

-Annals of Aman, HoME X



In Reply To
… do you think that Iluvatar would have declared Feanor's Oath null & void if consulted?


I would think he would have said something right off (Send thunder, lightning, a cloud of neekerbreekers, a stampede of fluffy kittens, etc.) since the oath was addressed directly to Him:

"Our word hear thou, Eru Allfather!
To the everlasting Darkness doom us if our deed faileth."

-ibid

But he didn’t.

The Sons of Feanor took the oath of their own free will. Would Eru act to contravene an act of free will?

******************************************
“Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!"
"Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye."
"Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may."
"Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!"
"But no living man am I! I am Eowyn, daughter of Theodwyn!”
"Er, really? My mother's name was Theodwyn, too!"
"No way!"
"Way!"
"Wow! Let's stop fighting and be best friends!"
"Cool!!"

-Zack Snyder's The Return of the King

(This post was edited by Darkstone on Jan 20 2017, 10:17pm)


dreamflower
Lorien

Jan 21 2017, 8:03am

Post #10 of 18 (1533 views)
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Consequences [In reply to] Can't Post

I have no doubt that should one of the sons of Feanor repent of the Oath that Eru Iluvatar would have forgiven him.

This would not have negated the worldly consequences of making the Oath in the first place. The Oath led to murder, kidnapping, and war. As someone pointed out, Elves don't forget, so there could be no easing of the conscience over time; also, while Eru might forgive, other Elves who were affected probably did not.

This reflects the truths of the Real World, in which small and unwise choices may have consequences far outweighing the original wrong. Many a young person has had his or her life ruined by such choices. And even though there might be a time later when such choices are forgiven and life turned around, it won't undo the original results.

Some people call it fanfiction. I call it story-internal literary criticism.


InTheChair
Lorien

Jan 21 2017, 1:11pm

Post #11 of 18 (1522 views)
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They would not have received any notice from Illuvatar. [In reply to] Can't Post

I just find it strange that Iluvatar would bring wrath on to those whose oath he doesn't approve of in the first place.

I don't think that Illuvatar deals with approvals or dissapprovals. That would kind of negate the concept of free will. Everyone, according to Illuvatar is free to shape destiny as they will, even Morgoth was so. All Illuvatar commets about is that no matter what they think, everyone will find in the end that their choices has only added to Illuvatar greatness. As far as I can guess, only in questions of nature of beeing, such as mortality and immortality, or in the flat denying of himself, would Illuvatar intervene.


So there can be no question of Illuvatar declaring the oath void. He would never have declared the oath anything at all. Tolkien describes it as an oath that no one should take, and that may be becasue there is no hope ever, not even in faith, that it could be undone. The oath was something that concerned the sons of Feanor, not Illuvatar. Theres maybe a possible case to make for Illuvatar dissaproving of the actions that the sons took as a consequence of their oath, but even that is doubtful, and would in any case have been delegated to the Valar, and the Valar most certainly would not have sought Illvatars judgement on this question.


The sons of Feanor might with time have received the Valars pardon, especially if they did penance for their deeds, but this would not have released them from their oath. It is an interestring question what would have happened to the seventh son if he had managed to get back to Valinor and received the Valars pardon. His life would have been most unhappy, and Valinor is the kind of place where they don't really allow unhappines, or at least prefer to sweep it under the rug.


(This post was edited by InTheChair on Jan 21 2017, 1:14pm)


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Jan 22 2017, 11:17pm

Post #12 of 18 (1415 views)
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Mind, who makes up the rules about these Oaths? [In reply to] Can't Post

About them been totally unbreakable under any circumstances in the first place. I doubt if this had been around for a while, if at all, in Elvish culture at the time of the swearing seen as this was a time for second or possibly 3rd generation elves only. And did Feanor and his sons even have the right to damn themselves in such a way? If Eru did ever hear of it, he, or his envoys, could say, 'go away, you litte creations, you do cannot damn yourselves to eternity in that way with one oath, even I can't do that!'
One other thing I wonder about this is what about these Princes followers? If some ordinary foot-Elves had sworn an oath of allegiance, would they be bound by their masters oaths as well?


Calenleya
Bree


Jan 23 2017, 12:03am

Post #13 of 18 (1411 views)
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Allegiance [In reply to] Can't Post

All elves who followed Feanor (or one of his brothers) were affected by the oath and its consequences in some way, even so they had a free will. They could not return to Valinor or at least not for long time, they had to endure war, treason and so on. But I guess they had a chance to build a new life in Middle Earth and some would choose never to return to Valinor, even given the chance
I was think about those who did not go with Feanor and yet had to suffer as much as they who left. Nerdanel (probably) looses not only her husband but all her sons as well, a cruel fate indeed. So in my mind I have to believe that there is a way for forgiveness.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

May you have the hindsight to know
where you've been,
the foresight to know where you're going to and
the insight to know when you're going too far.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 23 2017, 12:25am

Post #14 of 18 (1407 views)
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"And did Feanor and his sons even have the right to damn themselves in such a way?" [In reply to] Can't Post

That was my original reaction in reading The Silmarillion. I thought they had overstepped their bounds in invoking such an oath and didn't have the right to call on such powers in such a way. I think that was part of Tolkien's point, that they did go overboard, but somehow it was valid at the same time. I think more in my mind, Iluvatar and the Valar should have laughed it off as a stupid and rude gesture, not anything with power in it. I was surprised when Mandos showed up and took them all seriously.


Meneldor
Valinor


Jan 23 2017, 2:44pm

Post #15 of 18 (1366 views)
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If Mandos didn't take them seriously, what kind of message would that send? [In reply to] Can't Post

"Sure, go right ahead and swear oaths to Eru; if you don't keep them, it's no big deal." No, not Mandos' style.

Children of Iluvatar have free will and can make their own choices, but they need to be held accountable for the choices they make. The sons of Feanor made the oath in all seriousness, and they need to learn to take responsibility for what they said and what they did.


They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. -Psalm 107


enanito
Lorien

Jan 23 2017, 10:31pm

Post #16 of 18 (1323 views)
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Where the oath was made, and knowing quite well whom it was made against [In reply to] Can't Post

I admit I am tempted by the "Crime of Passion" line of argument -- that Fëanor and his sons, so incredibly distraught by Finwë's murder (and volatile elves to begin with), might receive forgiveness from an understanding Eru. Or at least the sons, if properly penitent.

However, I am more swayed by the fact that Fëanor & Co had lived amongst the Valar, and knew firsthand very, very well what they were doing. And who they were directly going against (even if the oaths were made when just elves were gathered, they were still in the land of the Valar). I'm not sure claiming 'the devil made me do it', or 'oops, my bad', is gonna work for them.

It's one thing for someone in M.E. to swear against some Unknown God that lives across some impassible ocean in some mythical land. Especially with the lack of religion in Arda, it seems like you should be given a break for not truly understanding what you're doing in that case.

But the Noldor had traversed land and sea and arrived at the Holy Land, living in the presence of the Gods. Sure they were less-than-impressed by deity when seen up-close-and-personal (Ultra-HD-4K). But still, the Valar represented the Creator, and when you stand in Paradise and revoke all your privileges and cast the blame on those in charge, I'm not quite sure how much wiggle-room is left when you end up realizing it maybe wasn't the smartest way to go about getting revenge.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jan 23 2017, 11:19pm

Post #17 of 18 (1317 views)
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Well, you covered all the bases and made a powerful argument [In reply to] Can't Post

So I am convinced by what you said. (Can I delete my previous posts? lol)


InTheChair
Lorien

Jan 24 2017, 7:42pm

Post #18 of 18 (1262 views)
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Problem is with elves a crime of passion is a lifetime of crimes of passion. They do not forget. [In reply to] Can't Post

I admit I am tempted by the "Crime of Passion" line of argument -- that Fëanor and his sons, so incredibly distraught by Finwë's murder (and volatile elves to begin with), might receive forgiveness from an understanding Eru. Or at least the sons, if properly penitent.


If it were just the oath then they wouldn't have needed forgivness, and could not have been providen by Eru or the Valar anyway. Only the sons could have forgiven themselver for the oath, and let it rest, and they were, as elves, the least likely in the whole world to do so.


The Valars grievance against them came from the effects of the oath. The kinslaying, which also meant the needed forgiveness from more than the Valar, and their decision to continue the march desipite the Valars judgement on it. The prophecy of Mandos. Perhaps also the stealing and burning of the ships of the Teleri.

 
 

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