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Nerdist Book Club: The Silmarillion, Part 4

Last time we met, the Valar acted like naïve idgits. This week’s section of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion only touches on the Valar briefly and instead focuses on the fall of Fëanor. The Silmarils have seemingly corrupted his spirit. It’s unclear how much of the malice he shows was present before the gems took hold, but either way, it’s not pretty. Let’s dive in.

What happened
Chapter 9 – Of the Flight of the Noldor

After the destruction of the Trees of Valar, Yavanna asked Fëanor to use the light from the Silmarils to recreate the trees. He denied her because he was worried he could never make their like again and while Nienna is crying (again), messengers bring news that Melkor killed Finwë. Fëanor is wrecked over the death of his father and blames the Valar for calling him away from his home where the slaying happened. Besides the murder, Melkor also stole the Silmarils.

Despite the brilliance of the jewels burning his hand black and causing everlasting pain, Melkor put them in an iron crown. He went to Angband and ruled from there and rarely departed and only wielded a weapon once. Those facts speak to the strength of his power and paint a picture of him as an unstoppable enemy.

In his anger and grief, Fëanor swore a terrible oath to pursue any creature who took the Silmarils from him. His sons also spoke the unbreakable oath. The way the horribleness of the oath is emphasized makes it apparent that it is serious business, and I get the impression the words they said in anger will have consequences throughout the rest of the book. Also, people warned me about the tragedy and sadness in The Silmarillion, and oh boy, I completely understand now.


The Kinslaying by ivoignob

After his temper tantrum, Fëanor rallied the Noldor from their home in Tirion to take them to Middle-earth. From there, it only goes downhill and Fëanor keeps making the most awful decisions possible. Seriously, where’s a life coach when you need one? He steals ships from the Teleri and kills them and by doing so, causes the Noldor to kill in self defense. Then, when he gets to Helcaraxë, the Hoth-like waste between Aman and Middle-earth, he takes his loyal followers with him on the ships they stole and abandons everyone else. Oh, and he burns the ships. What a tool.

The others – including Fingolfin and Galadriel – brave the crossing and get to Middle-earth anyway. You can’t keep a good Elf down.

This chapter ripped up my heart. I was furious at Fëanor at first and still am, but mostly, I’m sad. The beautiful world has become twisted and blood has been shed. It was probably inevitable but that doesn’t make watching it play out any less painful.

Chapter 10 – Of the Sindar

This chapter takes us back in time and catches us up on what’s been happening with the Sindar. They’re ruled by Thingol and Melian and were off on their own while Fëanor created the Silmarils and the drama happened in Valinor. I understand the necessity of the summary, but the way the story went backwards didn’t flow and confused me for a moment.

Anyway, we learned about the prosperity of the Sindar and that they encountered the Dwarves during the second age of Melkor’s captivity. They were amazed that other beings were present but also seemed dismissive towards them. It bugged me that the Elves called the speech of the Dwarves ugly and that few bothered to learn it even though the Dwarves were more than willing to learn the Elven-tongue.

Despite their seeming distaste for Dwarves, the Elves befriended them and worked with them to create an underground home for the Elves known as Menegroth. While peace reigned for a while, eventually the Dwarves brought word that all the dark things Melkor had created were still wandering the world so Thingol had weapons created. And it’s fortunate that he did because after the Trees of Valar were destroyed, an Orc army soon descended upon Menegroth.

The first battle in the Wars of Beleriand occurred and while the Elves won, many perished. Other Elves did not win against the Orcs, and Thingol pulled them into his kingdom and Melian wrapped them in what I interpret as a barrier called the Girdle of Melian. The name may be silly, but it kept the servants of Melkor/Morgoth at bay. It seems to be a type of spell or just extension of Maia powers; which do you think it is?


Crossing the Helcaraxë by Belegilgalad

Relevance to The Hobbit and/or Lord of the Rings
These sections were light on references to Lord of the Rings. Some came up that we’ve seen before like Balrogs and Orcs, but I only found three items of note. We learn how Galadriel came into Middle-earth, and that she desired to rule her own realm. It’s small, but that makes her later refusal of the One Ring seem more important.

We also met Lúthien. She’s a distant ancestor of Arwen, and whereas Lúthien was described as the Morning Star, Arwen is known as the Evening Star. Lúthien’s relationship with Beren parallels that of Arwen and Aragorn.

And there’s one more tie to Aragorn. The dwarf Telchar is mentioned as a talented craftsman of Nogrod and made weapons for Thingol. He eventually made the sword Narsil which took down Sauron and was reforged into Andúril for Aragorn.

Favorite quotes
“In the darkness of Arda already the Dwarves wrought great works, for even from the first days of their Fathers they had marvelous skill with metals and with stone; but in that ancient time iron and copper they loved to work, rather than silver or gold.”

“But of bliss and glad life there is little to be said, before it ends; as works fair and wonderful, while still they endure for eyes to see, are their own record, and only when they are in peril or broken for ever do they pass into song.”

“In Beleriand in those days the Elves walked, and the rivers flowed, and the stars shone, and the night-flowers gave forth their scents; and the beauty of Melian was as the noon, and the beauty of Lúthien was as the dawn in spring.”

“For so sworn, good or evil, an oath may not be broken, and it shall pursue oathkeeper and oathbreaker to the world’s end.”


Lúthien by Cocoz42

Discussion questions
– Was Fëanor selfish to keep the light of the Silmarils for himself, or was it about self-preservation?
– Do you pity Nienna for carrying the sadness of the world on her shoulders?
– How much do you think guilt over his father’s death fuels Fëanor’s actions?
– Do you think the Doom of Noldor was a curse actually put upon them or as an expression of foresight?
– Do you view Fingolfin’s crossing into Middle-earth as heroic or foolish?
– “Of the Sindar” takes us back in time; did you feel this worked for the narrative?

Bonus material
A gallery of Silmarillion art
The Atlas of Middle-Earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad

Journey to the comments below to reply to the discussion questions and share your thoughts about Chapters 9-10 of The Silmarillion. Feel free to hit met up on Twitter as well. If you tweet or instagram about the book, be sure to add the #NerdistBookClub hashtag so everyone can find your opinions.

Come back for the discussion of Part 5 next Tuesday, August 5th, at 10:30am PST. We’ll be going over Chapters 11-13.

Top image by FoxinShadow

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  1. Mitulinski says:

    Of all the tragedy in Chapter 9, I don’t know whay, but the burning of the ships felt the most heart-wrenching. Maybe it’s because on a burning ship, many are doomed to either burn or drown…But also maybe because they were white. And as it seems, the white trees are not very common and quite valued, so the destruction of these vessels is just made worse due to them needing a lot of time and care to build. (That’s what I got anyway…Just something vivid about that, to me!)

    Also it feels like that at this point, multiple things are happening or have been set in motion in these lands, so I was okay with ‘Of the Sindar’ going back in time. Many threads are being spun, so it was just another one for me. ^^

    (That brilliant header art; another Star Wars similarity, I am seeing…Savage Opress!)

    – AM