The Problem of Curufinwë
‘…He was tall, and fair of face, and masterful, his eyes piercingly bright and his hair raven-dark; in the pursuit of his purposes eager and steadfast. Few ever changed his courses by counsel, none by force. He became of all the Noldor, then or after, the most subtle in mind and the most skilled in hand
…’ – (Silmarillion VI)
To some, Fëanor is the greatest of the Elves. To others, he is dark, twisted, and, quite frankly, psychotic.
But, when you come to think of it, who was Fëanor in truth?
‘…In that time was born in Eldamar, in the House of the King in Tirion upon Tuna, the eldest of the sons of Finwë, and the most beloved. Curufinwë was his name, but by his mother he was called Fëanor, Spirit of Fire; and thus he is remembered in all the tales of the Noldor
…’ – (Silmarillion VI)
Fëanor’s two names are almost like different sides of his personality. We have the ‘Skill of Finwë’, the master craftsman and artist, and on the other hand, the ‘Spirit of Fire’, an all-consuming flame that first warms and brightens, but then devours all around it.
His entire life was a struggle between these sides of his personality, as he tries to keep his fiery temper in check. But, in the end, the inner fire prevailed, and when there was nothing left to consume, the flame consumed him.
‘…Then he died; but he had neither burial nor tomb, for so fiery was his spirit that as it sped his body fell to ash, and was borne away like smoke; and his likeness has never again appeared in Arda, neither has his spirit left the Halls of Mandos. Thus ended the mightiest of the Noldor, of whose deeds came both their greatest renown and their most grievous woe
…’ – (Silmarillion XIII)
Fëanor’s fall began far before the Silmarils were even thought of – with the ‘passing’ of his mother Míriel. It would be terrible for anyone to lose their mother, whatever the circumstances – especially for the Elves, for whom death was not a natural thing. And to lose his mother and be told that it was his spirit, that it was his fault can only have left a scar that would not heal upon Fëanor’s mind.
Finwë, too, must have suffered greatly at this time; he put forth all the care and love he could give into Fëanor’s upbringing, and they were indeed exceedingly close.
‘…Then Fëanor ran from the Ring of Doom, and fled into the night; for his father was dearer to him than the Light of Valinor or the peerless works of his hands; and who among sons, of Elves or of Men, have held their fathers of greater worth?
’ – (Silmarillion IX)
This is certainly a point in Fëanor’s favour – that he loved his father very much. Evil does not love like this.
It is a mark of the esteem Fëanor must have held for Finwë, that even when his father married another woman, Indis, whom Fëanor can only have seen as an usurper, he did not grow estranged from his father, or begin to hate him for replacing Míriel’s place in their home.
Fëanor did not love her sons, being greatly estranged from them, but he never forsook his father for this, and in our day a son very well might.
Finwë’s death was a turning-point in Fëanor’s life. From then on, he had lost one of his few reasons for being; he was driven then only by his inner fire, and the glory of his ill-fated jewels.
There can be no doubt that Fëanor’s greatest works were the Silmarils. They are surrounded by a hazy, mysterious aura, just like silima, the substance from which they were made. It must have been gruelling labour, especially for only one person, to capture this light in this way, and still have jewels of such beauty.
Indeed they proved to be his undoing.
But what made him take up such a task?
Perhaps he was inspired to some degree by the hair of his kinswoman Galadriel, in whose tresses the lights of Laurelin and Telperion were said to be ensnared.
Or perhaps it was merely the beauty of the trees, and the thought that perhaps they, too might be lost some day, as his mother was to him.
‘…For Fëanor, being come to his full might, was filled with a new thought, or it may be that some shadow of foreknowledge came to him of the doom that drew near; and he pondered how the light of the Trees, the glory of the Blessed Realm, might be preserved imperishable. Then he began a long and secret labour, and he summoned all his lore, and his power, and his subtle skill; and at the end of all he made the Silmarils
…’ – (Silmarillion, VII)
But how much did he put into the making? Was it merely another labour for him, as making a copper ornament might be?
This is highly unlikely, taking into account that these jewels were peerless works of art, and that any other craftsman could certainly not remake them. Even Fëanor could not make their like twice.
So was this more than mere smithcraft?
Creation is one of the biggest underlying themes in Tolkien’s work.
Eru Iluvatar is everywhere, in everything, at every moment; He uses the Flame Imperishable to kindle His Creation; His Children have him in their spirits.
Melkor, in the attempt to rule Arda, diffuses a part of power throughout the world; thus, not until the world is broken and remade, can Evil be cured that once has been good.
Sauron, on the other hand and on a different scale, concentrates his power, making the One Ring.
The Dwarves resemble Aulë, their Maker, in mood; Eöl’s black mood passes to the sword he makes, Gurthang.
For a creation to have a life of its own, so to speak, to be truly great, the maker must put in more than skill and book-learning. The greatest creation contains a part of its maker’s spirit; he is bound to it, and he is diminished by it, and can never do it again. Fëanor himself says:
‘…For the less even as for the greater there is some deed that he may accomplish but once only; and in that deed his heart shall rest. It may be that I can unlock my jewels, but never again shall I make their like; and if I must break them, I shall break my heart, and I shall be slain; first of all the Eldar in Aman
…’ – (Silmarillion, IX
On a small scale Fëanor has performed an almost divine feat of creation. He is right, right when he says he cannot give up his works, for even as Yavanna loved her trees, Fëanor loved the work of his hands above all else.
This brings us to the one place where Fëanor’s actions seem out of character, considering the supreme love he has for creation: The Kinslaying at Alqualondë. Why did he not understand the plight of the Teleri?
Olwë said to him:
‘…These [the ships] are to us as are the gems of the Noldor: the work of our hearts, whose like we shall not make again
…’ – (Silmarillion, IX
He was blinded to all else - even this love of a craftsman for his work, which was so akin to his own love – and he was fey. His fault was unforgivable, and it was his most grievous deed.
Fëanor was certainly not flawless.
Lust, forgetfulness and ingratitude:
‘…For Fëanor began to love the Silmarils with a greedy love, and grudge the sight of them to all save his father and his seven sons; he seldom remembered now that the light within them was not his own
…’ – (Silmarillion, VII
‘…For Fëanor now began openly to speak words of rebellion against the Valar, crying aloud that he would depart from Valinor back to the world without, and would deliver the Noldor from thraldom, if they would follow him
…’ – (Silmarillion, VII
‘…Fëanor caused fire to be set to the white ships of the Teleri. So in that place which was called Losgar at the outlet of the Firth of Drengist ended the fairest vessels that ever sailed the sea, in a great burning, bright and terrible. And Fingolfin and his people saw the light afar off, red beneath the clouds; and they knew that they were betrayed
…’ – (Silmarillion, IX
But while his sins may condemn him, we must add the factor of Melkor and his deceit to our argument. Though his lies pierced through to Fëanor's heart, increasing his hostility and fuelling his volatile temper, he never subdued Fëanor’s will. Fëanor lived under the Shadow, bearing the Enemy's hate, yet he was never conquered.
‘…None of the Eldalië ever hated Melkor more than Fëanor son of Finwë, who first named him Morgoth; and snared though he was in the webs of Melkor's malice against the Valar he held no converse with him and took no counsel from him…’ – (Silmarillion, VI)
‘…And Fëanor looked upon Melkor with eyes that burned through his fair semblance and pierced the cloaks of his mind, perceiving there his fierce lust for the Silmarils. Then hate overcame Fëanor's fear, and he cursed Melkor and bade him be gone, saying: 'Get thee gone from my gate, thou jail-crow of Mandos!' And he shut the doors of his house in the face of the mightiest of all the dwellers in Eä…’ – (Silmarillion, VII)
‘…Then Fëanor rose, and lifting up his hand before Manwë he cursed Melkor, naming him Morgoth, the Black Foe of the World; and by that name only was he known to all the Eldar ever after…’ – (Silmarillion, IX)
Later on, in the Second Age, other smiths were ensnared by Sauron, who was of far, far less might than Melkor had been in those early days. Fëanor is certainly to be admired for his struggle. He did not conquer, perhaps, but he put up a fight that cannot be regarded with any emotion other than awe.
The choice that he had, to break the Silmarils or to go against the Valar, could only be resolved, as he himself said, with his slaying in the process. He could not have surrendered his jewels without giving away a part of himself.
Twice banished (once from his home in Tirion, the second time from Aman itself), cursed by Mandos and pursued by the wrath of the Valar, not recognized as King of the Noldor, Dispossessed (along with his sons), slayer and betrayer of kin, swearing a terrible oath. Fëanor was far from what he was in the beginning - from what he was supposed to be; the Valar were grieved, and Manwë wept:
‘…And they mourned not more for the death of the Trees than for the marring of Fëanor: of the works of Melkor one of the most evil. For Fëanor was made the mightiest in all parts of body and mind, in valour, in endurance, in beauty, in understanding, in skill, in strength and in subtlety alike, of all the Children of Iluvatar, and a bright flame was in him. The works of wonder for the glory of Arda that he might otherwise have wrought only Manwë might in some measure conceive
…’ – (Silmarillion, XI
Yet even those who condemned him granted him renown, and acknowledged his skill and the glory of the Noldor:
‘…But at that last word of Fëanor: that at the least the Noldor should do deeds to live in song for ever, he [Manwë] raised his head, as one that hears a voice far off, and he said: 'So shall it be! Dear-bought those songs shall be, and yet they shall be well-bought. For the price could be no other. Thus even as Eru spoke to us shall beauty not before conceived be brought into Eä, and evil yet be good to have been.'
Manwë was right. The Noldor indeed passed into song, though this glory was paid for with the lives of all their greatest lords, and so many others – but they died fighting for what they loved, for honour and glory, and for the free people of Arda.
Pride, glory, fame…Fëanor paid bitterly for these things which he valued, and in the end he did not regain his treasures, and to him his fight, his long hard struggle, was wasted.
Yet some say that after Dagor Dagorath, the Battle of Battles, when Morgoth will suffer his last and uttermost defeat, and the Silmarils will be recovered from air, fire and water, Fëanor himself will bring them to Yavanna; then they will be broken and the Light within shall shine anew.
And one can only believe in the power of redemption…
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.