Book Review

All the (Silmarillion) Feels | Chapter 6: Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor

All the (Silmarillion) Feels is an emotion- and story-focused summary of The Silmarillion. You’ll get facts, but that’s not the point here. Let’s talk themes, meaningful quotes, and moments that made us go “WHOA.” I started this project after falling in love with The Rings of Power television show, so expect me to focus on things to do with Galadriel and Sauron.

Chapter 6: Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor

We started with the cosmic, zoomed in to the Elves, and now we’re narrowing our focus even further into a family drama and the introduction of one of the most important characters in The Silmarillion, Fëanor. At the same time, the big bad is back, and their showdown begins.


It was the best of times for the Elves in Valinor; they were mastering crafts, creating writing, and starting families. Finwë, King of the Noldor (crafty Elves), marries Míriel, and together they have a son. But even in the heavenly realms, there is apparently postpartum depression, because Míriel languishes after giving birth, to the point that her soul leaves her body and she effectively dies. There’s a weirdly magical aspect to this, as it’s hinted that she passed on too much of her life force to her son; “Strength that would have nourished the life of many has gone forth into Fëanor.”

It’s fitting, then, that his nickname is Spirit of Fire, which hints at his ability to consume as well as create and refine. He is the golden child of the Noldor, described rapturously as, “tall, and fair of face, and masterful, his eyes piercingly bright and his hair raven-dark; in the pursuit of all his purposes eager and steadfast. Few ever changed his courses by counsel, none by force.”

I’ll show my hand; I really like Fëanor! He is one of the few Elves who is allowed to be morally complicated. He’s ambitious and stubborn as well as creative and high-minded, and I love this about him.

Fëanor marries Nerdanel, one of the only people he listens to (at least at first). We get this amazing description of her, which underscores my never-ending complaint about Tolkien: he knows how to describe an amazing woman, he just doesn’t give them any page-time to do anything! Anyway, here’s Nerdanel: “[She] also was firm of will, but more patient than Fëanor, desiring to understand minds rather than to master them.”

Fëanor’s father is also getting married, this time to Indis, with whom he has two more sons, Fingolfin and Finarfin. I have never, and likely will never, be able to keep these two straight. Fëanor has Complex Feelings about his dad’s new family, and he mostly stays away from them, preferring to pour himself into creating Elvish scripts and mastering gem-making.

And in the Other Corner…Melkor is Back!

From the time the Elves first awoke in Middle-earth to now, three whole ages have passed! I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I think it’s thousands of years. And that means Melkor’s prison sentence is up! He makes the most of the opportunity, playing nice and seeming repentant. A couple of the Valar suspect him, but most believe he is a good guy now, and he is slowly given more and more freedom.

He’s not a good guy, though. When he gets out of prison and sees this new world with thriving Elves, “envy was in heart,” “hatred filled him,” and “he lusted for [the wealth of bright gems].” He ingratiates himself so well that he’s giving advice and sharing skills with the Elves and Valar alike, and it gives me a lot of Sauron-helping-the-Elves-forge-Rings-of-Power vibes.

In all this time, very few suspect a thing…except for Fëanor.

There’s this great line where, foreshadowing future events, Melkor says he was instrumental in teaching Fëanor, but Fëanor is all like, “I never trusted you!” I think this is likely true, as he’s the one to give Melkor the name Morgoth, which I think we can all agree is a much more evil-sounding name. We’re also reminded that “Fëanor was driven by the fire of his own heart only,” so he doesn’t seem likely to accept much input; and if he does, he’s unlikely to credit them.

I cannot help but picture this as a scene from The Office where Melkor tells the camera how important he was to Fëanor’s future, at which point the Elf gives a Jim-like expression to the audience to let us know how he feels about that.

The drama! It is beginning!

Chapter 6 introduces us to our two antagonists, and in the next chapter we learn about the thing they will fight over. That’s right, we’re finally going to learn what the titular silmarils are!

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