Book Review

All the (Silmarillion) Feels | Chapter 9: Of the Flight of the Noldor

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 9: Of the Flight of the Noldor

We’re diving into morally complex characters, overly-hasty oaths, and a return to Middle-earth!

Melkor Becomes Morgoth

After Melkor and Ungoliant team up to take down the Light of the Trees of Valinor, they continue wreaking havoc by killing Finwë, King of the Noldor Elves and stealing Fëanor’s precious Silmarils before escaping across the northern ice wastes back to his old fortress of Angband.

Ungoliant is hunger personified, and the Light of the Trees is not enough to satiate her. She wants to eat all the plunder they stole from Valinor, which Melkor feeds her until it comes to the Silmarils, which he will not give her. She hates this, and TRAPS MELKOR IN HER WEBS! Melkor is the biggest bad around, we’re told; he was there during the creation of the world, messing things up, and here he is being trapped by a spider! All hail Ungoliant, our Dark Queen. The only thing that saves Melkor is his cries for help, which awakens his old friends the Balrogs. They use their whips of fire to free him and chase Ungoliant off. She heads south, where:

“Of the fate of Ungoliant no tale tells. Yet some have said that she ended long ago, when in her uttermost famine she devoured herself at last.”

The Silmarillion, page 87

RIP Ungoliant.

Melkor pretends this never happened and makes a crown for himself using the Silmarils. They burn his hands and the crown is heavy, but fashion is pain. He settles into his evil abode with a new name (from Fëanor): Morgoth, the Black Foe of the World.

Bound by an Oath

You would think Fëanor would come across pretty sympathetically here, as his dad was just murdered and his work of a lifetime was stolen from him. Unfortunately, he JUST set a precedent for not giving a shit about these sorts of things.

You see, Yavanna is lamenting the loss of the Trees, her greatest creation, when she realizes that she could perhaps remake them if Fëanor would allow her to use the Silmarils (they are crafted from the Light of the Trees). Faced with a world of literal darkness with the opportunity to be a hero by providing some light, Fëanor says no.

It’s a real whoopsie, because he pretty much immediately thereafter learns that Morgoth has stolen his Silmarils. If he hadn’t just been so miserly, the Valar might have helped him recover them from Morgoth. They understandably do not, and Fëanor’s paranoia and rage coalesce into the Oath that will drive the rest of this book.

“They swore an oath…vowing to pursue with vengeance and hatred to the ends of the World Vala, Demon, Elf or Man as yet unborn or any creature, great or small, good or evil, that time should bring forth unto the end of days, whoso should hold or take or keep a Silmaril from their possession.”

The Silmarillion page 90

Fëanor swears by this Oath, and so do his seven sons. A bunch of the other Noldor are drawn into the high emotion of it all, some making the Oath and others going along for family but with mixed feelings. Among them is Galadriel, who “was eager to be gone. No oaths she swore, but the words of Fëanor concerning Middle-earth had kindled in her heart, for she yearned to see the wide unguarded lands and to rule there a realm at her own will.” I love an ambitious woman!

From Worse to Worser

There’s a real mob mentality going on by this point, and Fëanor goes to the sea-loving latecomer Elves, the Teleri, to use their ships to sail to Middle-earth. They are super bummed by all that has gone down, and they try to calm everyone down and repair rather than revenge. This is the last thing Fëanor wants, so he attacks the Elves at the harbor and steals their ships. We went from centuries of peace to brothers pointing swords at each other to full on murder REAL fast.

Tolkien does such a good job of showing how whipping people into a frenzy spirals out of control and leads people to acts they would normally not commit. When the less spicy Noldor see Elves fighting each other by the ships, they assume the Teleri started things because they’ve bought into Fëanor’s paranoia that everyone is out to get them. They have to live with the fact that they became murderers because they followed a madman.

I also want to point out the hypocrisy of Fëanor. His whole deal is that these Silmarils are his life work, and he’ll do anything to keep them. But Yavanna feels the same way about the Trees, and he rebuffed her. And Olwë feels the same way about his ships, but Fëanor steals them. His needs supersede everyone else’s.

The bonds of family don’t even matter to him (which isn’t actually much of a surprise if you’ve been keeping track), because he winds up leaving behind a bunch of his followers because there are too few ships. No discussion, no compromise, just Fëanor and his sons sailing easily to Middle-earth and BURNING THE SHIPS rather than going back for everyone else. Fingolfin, Finrod, and Galadriel cross the ice wastes, and by the time they reach Middle-earth, they have little love left for Fëanor.

A Doom Pronounced

This all got pretty dire, and the Valar are unhappy, to say the least. They are also unhelpful, which I hate every time they see a problem and think, “We should wait.”

However, the Valar do pronounce the Doom of the Noldor upon them as the Elves leave Valinor.

“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 will; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever.”

The Silmarillion page 95-96

That’s a good Greek mythology curse right there!

Tune in next time to see what our great lovebirds Thingol and Melian have been up to, as well as a surprise appearance by the Dwarves in Middle-earth!

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