Before we get going on this post, I need to call something to attention. Raise a glass, friends, and celebrate, for we just passed September 15th, the 40th anniversary of The Silmarillion.
Now that we’ve marked a bit of history, let’s get to it.
Coming into the fullness of his skill, Fëanor created a wonder that would become the most renowned of all works of the Elves: the Silmarils. They were crafted of an unknown substance (later known as Silima), and they contained within the light from the Two Trees of Valinor, designed to preserve that light ever after as”no violence could mar it or break it.” As we know by now is often a bad idea in Tolkien’s world, Fëanor worked in secret to accomplish this feat.
Varda hallowed the Silmarils that nothing mortal, unclean, or evil could touch them. (Note: In this I think we can definitively put to rest the idea that the Arkenstone is one of the Silmarils as it was shaped by Dwarves and handled frequently by mortals.) Mandos foretold the fate of Arda was locked within them. And Fëanor’s heart was bound to them (also never a good thing, as we’ve seen). Melkor, of course, also lusted after them. (“Ooh, shiny! Must have that.”) And being typically Melkor, he looked to destroy Fëanor, divide the Valar and the Elves, and played the super-nice guy the whole time as he sowed the seeds of discord from his silver tongue. He revealed the Coming of Men, twisting the silence of the Valar to his evil whims. Essentially, he tells the Noldor that the Valar fear their potential for greatness, and that the Noldor could rule. (Note: this pride and desire to rule will pull frequently at Galadriel.) The peace of Valinor was tainted, and Fëanor’s pride pushed him to create weapons of war as the Noldor’s strife multiplied. Ultimately Fëanor declared rebellion against the Valar, claiming an end to thralldom. Ironic, seeing as how the only ones in thralldom are he and Melkor, who are thralls to the shiny Silmarils.
Called to the Ring of Doom to answer the charges against him, Fëanor revealed Melkor’s hand in things, and Tulkas left to chase after him. Fëanor had broken the peace, and for his part was exiled for twelve years. Melkor hid for a time before approaching Fëanor again. Fëanor saw the lust within him for the Silmarils and cast him away to bide his time for revenge later on. Dread waited upon the Valar as they prepared for the other shoe to drop.
The parallels between Melkor and Fëanor, and later Sauron, are staggering. Each lusts for power and treasure, each has more gifts than any other of his kind and chooses the route of evil, and each works in secret to achieve the height of their power. That Fëanor recognizes the treachery in Melkor without seeing his own reflection is standard “pride before a fall” type stuff.
The lasting result of the strife between the Valar and the Noldor, as we will see, is that the Valar will take a step back from their dealings with Men. Whenever the two come in contact, it will be important.