03 October 2011

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 95: Fëanor

The Oath of Fëanor; Ted Nasmith
Fëanor was the eldest of the three sons of Finwë, and the only child by Finwë’s first wife, Míriel. He was the half-brother of Fingolfin and Finarfin.

He was the mightiest of the Noldor, the greatest craftsman of his time, and also one of the greatest of the Children of Ilúvatar. He was remembered for his lore and skill, though not for his wisdom; as skilled as he was, he was equally quick to anger, jealousy, and pride, and these would soon lead to his downfall. 

He married Nerdanel, daughter of Mahtan, who bore him seven sons: Maedhros, Maglor, Celegorm, Caranthir, Curufin, Amrod, and Amras.

The Silmarils

During the time of great bliss, known as the Noontide of Valinor, Fëanor, under the instruction of Aulë and Mahtan, invented the Tengwar and the art of crafting (most notably the palantirí and the Silmarilli). Fëanor’s skill was so great that he had managed to capture the light of the Two Trees to make the Silmarils, or Great Jewels. Even the Valar could copy them (nor could Fëanor himself, as much of his own essence had gone into their making). 

The Silmarils were of infinite value to the Valar, whom Fëanor, who prized them above all else, began to grow distrustful of. Seeing an opportunity to create dissention among the Noldor, Melkor, who had been released from three ages of imprisonment in the Halls of Mandos, played upon Fëanor’s pride and anger, suggesting to him that Fingolfin was planning to take his spot as heir to Finwë. Fëanor threatened his half-brother’s life, and was exiled to Formenos, taking the Silmarils with him. Finwë also went into exile with his oldest son. 

In Finwë’s absence, Fingolfin became king, as Melkor had suggested. This time, when he tried to convince Fëanor, the Noldorin prince realised that Melkor’s intent was to obtain the Silmarils. The Valar, learning of Melkor’s manipulation of Fëanor, invited him back to Valinor, where Fëanor reconciled with his half-brother. While they reconciled, Melkor and Ungoliant poisoned the Two Trees. By this time, Fëanor had grown so attached to the Silmarils that he would not surrender them to the Valar to heal the Two Trees, and the Valar began to realise just how bad Melkor's treachery was.  

The Oath of Fëanor

When Fëanor learned of Finwë’s murder and the theft of the Silmarils, Fëanor spoke out against the Valar, blaming them for the ill deeds of Melkor (whom he had now named Morgoth) and persuading most of the Noldor to join him in rebelling against them. Thus, he swore the Oath of Fëanor, which his seven sons also took, vowing not to rest until the Silmarils were reclaimed, and fighting anyone who withheld the Great Jewels from them. The Oath led to the First, Second, and Third Kinslayings. Shortly after the First Kinslaying, Fëanor was slain upon returning to Middle-earth.

Names and Etymology

Fëanor’s birth name was Curufinwë (‘the Skill of [the House] of Finwë’).

The name Fëanor is Sindarin, meaning ‘Spirit of fire’; its Quenya form is Fëanáro, ‘Spirit-fire’

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