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V. Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor - A Flame and a Shadow

Once upon a time, there was a boy whose father wanted to call him Finwë's-Skill and whose mother, dying of the effort of bringing him forth, named Spirit-of-Fire, and he was forevermore known as the latter, because it was true.

Fëanor's soul blazes off the page. This is why English needs an equivalent of grossier: a too-much-doer, an excessive one, a way to say 'if you send this one out for firewood, be sure to specify you need some trees left standing'. Returning to the text, this is a closer look at his (early) life than the begottery in the previous chapter, and from the start it's clear that without any prophecies or Melkor-interference or anything, this baby is destined for greatness and tragedy. He kills his mother on arrival in what would be interpreted in an archaeological sense as a normal incident of childbearing-related trauma elevated alongside a real person's culture-hero status to the first death in the Blessed Lands.

In an in-story sense, this is the only way to produce something like Fëanor: to Tolkien's elves in Valinor, making children was an act of pure love, performed for no other reason than to make something new with/of one's beloved. Tolkien notes that his elves mated for life and that to mate at all was considered to be a binding marriage. So here we have an act of love so great that Serindë gave almost all of herself to it, noting that all her potential to make children (at the very least 3 lightborn-elves' worth of spirit, plus most of hers) had gone into making Fëanor before dragging herself into Lorien, where the Valar themselves could not replace what she had given. So...yikes. Finwë clearly had an excess of spirit, too, since after "calling her by all her names" in an attempt to make his dead wife get up again (I know what the Prof. means, but I can't help picturing an increasingly bewildered Finwë going through fear and anger to grief, first calling her 'sweetheart' and 'honey', then swearing at her, shaking her corpse, until finally breaking down), then failing to call her out of Mandos, he eventually went and remarried, producing more kids.

It's the 'eventually' bit that may well have been the elven equivalent of original sin, as blameless an act as it is: if Finwë had not brought his first son up to almost-adulthood alone, Fëanor's crazy furnace heart focusing love on one parent that should have been shared between two, Fëanor might have resented his half-brothers' existence far less, providing no flaw in the Noldor's loyalties for later exploitation.

Fëanor, growing up without siblings, naturally proved a prodigy, and appears to be the kind of scientist-engineer who'd invent great leaps of technology just to make his main projects a bit more convienient. Wireless communication, for instance. Quite possibly infinite refraction for working at night. He married at the equivalent of about fifteen, to possibly the most under-appreciated lady in canon ever to bear a retrospectively stupid name: Nerdanel could not only wrangle Fëanor to a standstill, but - again with the spiritual implications and high risk - made seven children with him in relatively quick succession. Presumably they were trying for a girl, since all five then the twins turned out male before Nerdanel refused to have any more, likely because even with Maedros just about old enough to help and Fëanor inventing baby-minding mecha and so on, seven boys with the slow elven rate of maturation were more than enough. The silly/eternally-fantasy-biology-questioning side of me wonders if any daughters of theirs would have been tortoisehell, since going by the names the sons of Fëanor seem to have been evenly either ginger- or black-haired, suggesting the traits are potentially co-dominant in elves. *ahem*

I find Amrod and Amras interesting, since apparently Nerdanel originally just interchangeably called them Ginger (not that I blame her by that point) until Fëanor insisted they were two people (and probably invented some kind of kittenproof labelling system so that the pair could be told apart). Was it common practice to consider identical twins one thing? Was the existence of twins at all another freakish House Finwë occurence of spiritual excess? Was Nerdanel having a nervous breakdown? All intriguing questions.

Meanwhile, it's decided Melkor has had long enough in the Naughty Void and is brought before Manwë and told to say sorry.

He says: "sorry."
Nienna enthusiastically points out "he said sorry!"
Námo says "..."
Manwë considers this a bit and concludes that "well, he did say sorry," and lets his fiendishly powerful big brother out of the Void with minor community service, telling Tulkas he's not allowed to punch him.
Tulkas says "..."

Melkor, being Melkor, finishes his community service and immediately goes about helping elves discover all sorts of useful things, like chainmail, and possibly the odd device that might come in handy sometime, y'know, just for moving mountains out of the way. Helping! In a manner not at all suspicious, no sir. It's mentioned that Melkor would subsequently try to claim credit for chunks of Fëanor's research, but at once stated firmly that these are jealous lies, and that the only one to help Fëanor reasearch, get inspired or make stuff was Nerdanel, herself the daughter of a great smith though seemingly more into design and engineering.

Seven sons. With the inalienable ability to build trebuchets. Much as the Fëanorians' confidence in their self-sufficiency later cost the Noldor, I can see why Nerdanel and/or the inhabitants of Tirion apparently sent them off camping as far away as possible with great regularity.

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July 2016

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