Friday, May 06, 2005

'The pride of Feanor'

Book: The Silmarillion
Quenta Silmarillion, ‘The flight of the Noldor’ [p82-83]

With the darkening of the trees the Valar consider whether the trees can be brought back to life.
Yavanna (who brought the trees to life) hasn’t the power to recreate them and the only chance of restoring the existing trees is to use the light preserved in the Silmarils created by Feanor.

Yavannas creation of the trees was a unique event likewise Feanors creation of the Silmarils can’t be repeated. Feanor takes a great deal a pride in works he created, unlike the Valar, who love and care for thier works.

Feanor has been counciled by Melkor and, though he has the wisdom not to take Melkor at his word the deliberations of the Valar lead Feanor to the conclusion that the Valar always wanted the Silmarils for their own.

He refuses to help the Valar and his concern turns to the security of the Silmarils themselves.

The Valar and the Eldar are described as having,

‘….drained to the dregs the cup of woe that Melkor had filled..’

this counterpoints the draining of the light of the trees by Ungoliant.

Feanors creation of the Silmarils is seen as being ‘foresighted’ by Yavanna (an example of the Valars lack of omniscience) as this action has preserved the essence of the trees.

The Valar do not act unanimously with regard to the to the Silmarils. Tulkas champions Yavannas position (that only the contents of the Silmarils could be used to rekindle the trees). Whilst Aule the smith (a creator of things) champions Feanors right to preseve his works.

Among the Valar, Tulkas and Aule represent the 'warrior' and the 'artisan' ( respectivley) and counterpoint Feanors embodiment of both qualities.

Feanor and the Valars attitude to this situation differ in that the Valar wish to restore a lost idil ( the beauty of the trees, the mingling of the light), whilst Feanor wishes to build on greatness. Neither party considers that the future might not depend on their achievements to date.

The angst that Feanor feels, echoes the limitation of the power of the Valar with the added aspect that,

‘…in that deed his heart shall rest….’
and to
‘…break them…’ (the Silmarils)
‘…break my heart…’

Feanor interprets the designs of the Valar as confirmation of the half truths that Melkor has told him. This convinces him that the Valar have always wanted to keep the Eldar in Valinor as ‘servants’ and that while the Valar have asked for Feanors help they might well take the Silmarils by force.

That being the case the Silmarils aren’t safe and so he takes his leave of the Valar.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

‘The plunder of Laurelin and Telperion’

Book: The Silmarillion,
Quenta Silmarillion, ‘Of the darkening of Valinor’ [p79-80]

A high feast day in Valinor, the Undying Lands. Feanor (the first born son of Finwe) has been ‘commanded’ to attend this feast by Manwe, the chief of the Valar.
Among the Eldar Feanor is the most accomplished and in art and lore, his skills are unrivalled; but he is independant, self-willed and this has almost led to conflict between himself and his half-brother Fingolfin.

His attendance at the high feast has been arranged so that the dispute might be resolved.

Many of the noble houses of the Eldar are represented at the feast but Finwe stays away.

Feanor (due to his dispute with Fingolfin) has been prohibited from entering Tirion and Finwe views this as an indictment on his house and so doesn’t attend the feast.

Fingolfin forgives Feanor but even as this reconciliation is taking place Melkor approaches the mound (Ezellohar) on which the holy trees stand. The trees (laurelin and Telperion) are raised above the plain and their light illuminates Valinor.

The approach of Melkor and Ungoliant is a shadow that covers the plain and threatens to engulf the mound itself. The shadow is a creation of Ungoliant and Melkor uses this to disguise his approach.
Melkor emerges from this ‘shadow’ and wounds the trees allowing Ungoliant to drain them of their essence. This extinguishes the light created by the Valar in Valinor and the undying lands are plunged back into darkness.

Ungoliant consumes the light of the trees with a greed that shocks Melkor.

The Killing of the Trees, John Howe

The Eldar (first born of the children of Iluvatar) are creations of Iluvatar and their appearance in Arda is a joy to the Valar. Their partnership in the life and culture of Arda and Valinor has been directed by the Valar.
The Valar have been viewed as the keepers of wisdom and knowledge about Arda and the Eldar have been willing pupils learning language and other skills from them.
Feanor presents a challenge to both the Valar and the Eldar in that he brings a new dynamism into both art and lore.

Melkor (who is Valar) has to ally himself with a power like Ungoliant in order to destroy the Holy Trees, this points to the limitations of the Valar. Their efforts to thwart or neutralise the malign influence of Melkor have not been successful.

The Valar are only instruments of Iluvatars will within Arda and so the works they render cannot exceed the creation that they were shown by Iluvatar.
The ‘children of Iluvatar' however are not. They are brought into being in Arda by Iluvatar. Their role in Arda is only fully known by Iluvatar.

The location of the Trees and the mound on which they stand (outside the western gates of Valmar, city of the Valar) has elements reminiscent of the hill of crucifixion outside Jerusalem.
What is more, Melkors wounding of the trees contains echoes of the climactic events in ‘The Passion of Christ’.

The shadow created by Ungoliant does not in itself over-whelm the light of the Holy trees and it is the intervention of Melkor that allows Ungoliant to indulge the destructive hunger that finally drains the trees of life.

Melkor doesn’t drain/defile or destroy the trees himself he only ‘wounds’ them. This is typical of the influence that Melkor has on the works of the other Valar in that in that he corrupts works created within Arda.

Ungoliant however may represent an aspect of Arda that may not have been fully considered by the Valar, namely the nature of end of the world.

When Arda returns to the void (as it is destined to do) then ‘something’ will consume the fabric of the ‘world that is’. Ungoliants directionless, all consuming hunger provides a pwerful demonstration of this 'return to the void'.

Melkor thinks that he can direct this hunger to his own ends, but even he is unsettled by the effect
of unleashing it and fearful that all Arda might be consumed before he has achieved mastery of it and challenged Iluvatar.