The Silmarillion – Quenta Silmarillion: VI. Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor

Melkor is chained.  The Blessed Realm is experiencing “the fullness of its glory and its bliss.  Rúmil of Tirion brings the beginnings of writing.

During this time is born the eldest sons of Finwë, including his most beloved, Fëanor (“Spirit of Fire”).  His birth consumed the body and spirit of his mother Míriel to the point where she sought release from the burden of life.  She asks to be held “not blameless in this,” though it can be argued that much of what happens is a direct result of her willingness to give up.  Her spirit departs, and her body remains incorruptible.  And as is typical, those she leaves behind are miserable, beginning with her husband.

Fëanor grew quickly and turned out to be crafty and skilled.  He improved on the writing system, creating Tengwar.  From there, he started learning to create gemstones, which will come into play something fierce in the next chapter.  He married the daughter of the great smith Mahtan, who in turn had learned at the feet of Aulë himself.  Finwë remarries, but Fëanor distances himself from the new bride and their sons.  Fëanor blames his father not raising him properly for the great evil to come.  Note: it’s never good when a character goes off to act alone and blames everyone else for it.  It’s also those who learn through the lines of Aulë that seem to wreak this kind of havoc.  It’s all part of Tolkien’s commentary on technology and progress as he saw it.

Meanwhile, Melkor has served his prison sentence of “three ages,” and is due for parole.  Being brought before the throne of the Valar, Melkor immediately lusts after their glory and wealth, and envy pretty much powers him.  But he bides his time and pledges to help to heal the hurts he has caused.  He is pardoned, but he isn’t trusted enough to leave their sight.  Tolkien notes that Manwë was free from evil and couldn’t comprehend it.  So essentially we’re looking at a world not as Eru envisioned it, but as it adapted to what Melkor unleashed, much like the world in Biblical Genesis following the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.  Tolkien also notes that Ulmo was not deceived, and Tulkas was slow to forget.  So Melkor is slowly stewing and plotting, and the Valar are expecting the other shoe to drop.

And it does drop in the form of Fëanor, who learned more art and instruction directly from Melkor.  Interestingly, Fëanor hated Melkor more than any other, naming him Morgoth.  Much like Melkor and Sauron later on, Fëanor worked alone, asking counsel of none with the notable exception of his wife, Nerdanel the wise.

15 thoughts on “The Silmarillion – Quenta Silmarillion: VI. Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor

  1. What a chapter! Míriel’s act seems so selfish to me. But like it’s stated in, if I’m not mistaken, Morgoth’s Ring, it could only have happened in Arda Marred. So in a way it was Melkor’s discord at work that made Míriel so tired of life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have to disagree the Feanor learned from Melkor directly.
    “but he lied in his lust and his envy, for none of the Eldalie ever hated Melkor more than Feanor”

    Sounds an awful lot like Melkor said he taught Feanor and Tolkien is saying that’s not so.

    To me Míriel sounds like she’s dealing with some serious, and untreated, postpartum depression… so I can’t hold that against her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You may be right on Melkor. I probably misread that somewhere. The bulk of his training came far earlier, as we know. I need to dig around and clarify. It’s such a minor point, but details absolutely matter here. They have a way of changing everything. Feanor’s hatred towards Melkor is certainly not in dispute as that’s where the name Morgoth comes from.

      I have no problem with the notion of her dealing with depression. I deal with it myself (not postpartum, obviously, but you get the point). Depression is one thing I can sympathize with, especially since they probably don’t have medical experience on Arda to diagnose such things. Suicide, on the other hand… no. It’s believable, certainly, but it’s selfish to take the easy way out when people depend on her. That ripple effect led to some truly devastating events. Regardless of what she couldn’t have foreseen, her duty was to be a parent first. But that’s just my take on it. Overlaying Tolkien’s own Catholic beliefs, which really have to come into play first, suicide is generally considered a damning act being “self-murder.” Such a thing is going to open the way for ill omens.


    • Thinking further on this… Is it possible that Miriel could be “blameless” if her role in all of this was woven into the music from the start? If so, who composed that music, Ilúvatar or Melkor? This really gets into the weeds with concepts of predestination vs. free will, and the question is very likely rhetorical and/or unanswerable, but I feel compelled to ask all the same.


      • I’m sorry if this is doubled, I’m having ridiculous issues today with stuff. If this is a double, please delete!

        I had this really well written out reply and I managed to lose it. FFS.

        OK. Try to do this to the point this time.

        To me it seemed pretty clear cut in the text that Melkor says “I taught Feanor all the good stuff,” and then says right after that Melkor was clearly lying. But there’s more to read, so who knows. And there may have at the very least been some indirect or unintentional learning.

        Tolkien and suicide.

        He’s not at all opposed to characters choosing to die if it’s dramatically appropriate. If it wasn’t for Faramir, Eowyn would have likely at some point fallen asleep to never wake up. Arwen after a long life deliberately goes to her final resting place. Even the death of Denethor, a dramatic self-immolation, is that of a mourning man out of his mind with grief and the grasp of another’s corruption who cannot bear to live without his son. The latter is a tragedy but quite possibly also a moment of self-atonement and sacrifice. But the idea of dying of a broken heart or broken spirit? I’ve read nothing to convince me that he doesn’t find that a completely legitimate literary death, and lots of breadcrumbs to convince me that he does.

        Postpartum Depression (and Psychosis) can be *serious.* I’ve seen several friends institutionalized due to it. I’ve also had way too many late night talks with friends who want to go to sleep and never wake up. I’m actually wondering if there was someone close to Tolkien who did suffer from Postpartum Depression, but I really have no way of knowing. To me, Miriel’s death was not a deliberate suicide, but a literal “giving up the ghost” by a woman in whom something broke during childbirth and who was unable to find healing.

        Liked by 1 person

        • No duplicates on this end. It worked!

          All things considered, I’m more than willing to concede the point about Melkor unless something more comes to light. I mean, he IS the original liar here. I just need to go through and see what it was I stumbled upon that put me to that other conclusion. I’m terrible at citing my own sources sometimes.

          There’s a difference here between choosing to actively die and simply waiting for the inevitable to come. For Arwen, she was marking the time she had left because she was mortal, and it took her a long time to go by comparison. Miriel simply gave up. She said she wanted to die, and it was so. No explanations really offered on the hows and what fors. Dying in a blaze of glory as a hero is a very different thing than simply giving up, and which is what Faramir thought he’d be doing in his famous charge. We can wax philosophical about Éowyn all day, but she didn’t act on those impulses because she had Faramir, so it’s a non-factor. Denethor… he gave up just as Miriel did, and he opted to take Faramir with him, not listening to any reason, so that compounded his problem. But then, he went more than little nuts at the end.

          I’m not trying to diminish the effects of any kind of depression, don’t get me wrong. I think we can all relate to it. But there is a very real difference, as I say, between wanting to die and actively making it happen. I’ve seen people simply give up and die within months. I don’t question death by heartbreak. I’ve seen it, but in those cases the person in question lost the love of their life and left no unprotected attachments behind. I assume that’s what happened to Miriel, but she had a child to care for, which could have been the very salvation she needed, but we’ll never know. We don’t have any details as to any aid that was offered and/or rejected. The way it’s written, I see it less of “unable” to find healing and more “unwilling.” It’s a completely legitimate literary death, yes. Tragic in the extreme, and as a literary device it opens up the world to a variety of nastiness. That’s part of the tragedy. It also means that since you can draw point A to point B and so on, there is fault to be cast. She cannot be held blameless, no matter how sympathetic we want to be, though I would also argue that Fëanor needs to put on his big boy pants and take responsibility too.


          • I mean, we’re allowed to agree to disagree.

            To me it remains reading as a dramatic tragedy death due to a broken spirit, and I’ll try to ignore the whole concept that having a child to care for is a “healing” or “something to live for” for mothers naturally… cause as a universal it’s a *huge* misconception. I have a long term partner who doesn’t understand depression while I suffer from it regularly, so I can admit that it colors my reading a bit when I get upset that Finwë has no idea what to do with his hurting wife (and seems more upset by the idea that she’s saying she can’t do more kids than helping her pull herself back together).

            Liked by 1 person

            • Of course we’re allowed to disagree. That’s the wonderful thing about literature. It speaks to us on what we understand and opens up opportunities to explore that which we don’t yet relate to. Discussion is good!

              I suppose the best I can say in this case is that it’s very likely nobody on Arda had a clue how to help Miriel. She may very well be the first case of depression in creation. Wise though they may be in many cases, everyone has to learn somehow.


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