This topic has grown, somewhat "unnaturally" out of a previous discussion in one of Androga's Silmarillion Study lines, chapter 6. Here, I am hoping to be indulged (by the other TR members) in the more rambling expression of my own ruminations concerning the tragic events of The House of Finwë as they are outlined in the 1977 Silmarillion, and the later works of the History of Middle-earth.
I am especially concerned with the alterations that occur regarding the judgement of "relative guilts" as Tolkien reworked his early Silmarillion accounts (down to his actual death in 1973). Was Miriel, mother of Fëanor responsible for the reckless, wilfull subsequent career of her son, or does Finwë bear more of this burden than she? Should Fëanor himself receive the blame? How does Aulë's querry that the deeds of Fëanor "arise out of Arda marred..." impact this understanding? (HoMe, X, p. 240). I will also be looking for any hints as to how JRRT viewed Fëanor himself, and seeing whether I can discern any patterned changes over time in Tolkien's evaluations of this "greatest" of the Noldor, Fëanor.
Last Edit: Mar 22, 2007 9:53:22 GMT -6 by Andorinha
There are two main sources beyond the 1977 Silmarillion that concern themselves with the curious and complex case of Finwë and his family: Morgoth's Ring, HoMe X pp. 233 - 253; and The Peoples of Middle-earth, HoMe XII, pp. 331 - 366. I'm not going to try a full summation/ discourse on these two sections, but I will be mining them for the quotes that I think relevant for showing how JRRT's judgments on Fëanor, Finwë, and Miriel changed through time.
One of the main themes I am trying to develope here regards what I have been seeing as a tendency for JRRT to "coddle" Feanor in the 1977 version Silmarillion, and lay-off the blame for his later enormities on both his parents, Miriel and Finwë.
The Morgoth's Ring section (I have it from Fanuidhol's sources) was composed between 1958 and 1960, with "Fëanor's Shibboleth," in The Peoples of Middle-earth, coming a good deal later in 1968. Even with these two late dates, both manuscripts would have been available to impact Christopher Tolkien's edition of the 1977 Silmarillion, but I can find little evidence of Christopher using either of them in his redaction. Nor can I find any statements that might suggest which version of the Finwë tale JRRT would eventually have used had he lived long enough to produce his own final-edit Silmarillion. I suppose we should simply accept the versions in HoMe X and XII, as the continuing musings of JRRT, so that there is no single "authoratative" version available to us. What JRRT would eventually have decided -- was Miriel to blame, was Finwe to blame, was Fëanor to blame, or was the sorry course of the history of this family simply fore-ordained -- may be beyond our knowing. Nonetheless, trying to find at least some provisional answers here, will fill-up some otherwise empty hours of my time, so I'm hooked!
Last Edit: Mar 22, 2007 9:56:51 GMT -6 by Andorinha
"Miriel was the name of his [Fëanor's] mother... The love of Finwë and Miriel was great and glad, for it began in the Blessed Realm in the Days of Bliss. But in the bearing of her son Miriel was consumed in spirit and body; and after his birth she yearned for release from the labour of living. And when she had named him, she said to Finwë: 'Never again shall I bear child: for strength that would have nourished the life of many has gone forth into Fëanor.' " (Silmarillion, hb version, chapter 6, p. 63)
Had Miriel left it at this, we should have a fairly simply tale to deal with, but Miriel, for reason's I'll discuss later, found it necessary to do more than simply renounce further child-bearing, she, in fact, wills her own non-existence.
"She went then to the gardens of Lorien and lay down to sleep; but though she seemed to sleep, her spirit indeed departed from her body, and passed in silence to the halls of Mandos." (Sil, p. 64)
So the tale begins, and Tolkien was confronted with the double precedence-laying situation of the "death" of a deathless Elf, and the remarriage of her bereaved spouse. The ramifications of this situation seemed to deeply intrigue JRRT for he kept returning to this episode, and re-wrote it several times working out in great detail the legal and moral implications of these events. Did the "death" of his mother materially shape Fëanor's personality, twisting him into becoming a supremely egotistical, anti-social, criminal genius? Was she guilty of wilfull abandonment and neglect, is she therefore the culpable party, the root of all the evil that flows from Fëanor's life?
In the Silmarillion account this seems at first not to be Tolkien's primary assumption, and some of the passages may actually hint at her innocence when the departing Miriel speaks a last time with her husband:
" 'It is indeed unhappy,' said Miriel, 'and I would weep, if I were not so weary. But hold me blameless in this, and in all that may come after.' " (Sil. p. 64)
Here, I think, agreeing with a previous statements elsewhere by Stormrider and Fanuidhol, Miriel seems foresighted, and fears that her son's life will be a tragic one, perhaps even tinged with shame. At any rate, Miriel feels that she is not to be blamed for the later career of Fëanor, and Finwë does not gainsay her here, nor anywhere later in the narrative does he ever (to my knowledge) blame her for the misdeeds of their son.
But then, like a critical jewlor, Tolkien shifted his scrutiny to another facet of this tale: if Miriel bears no blame, is Finwë culpable?
"Now it came to pass that Finwë took as his second wife Indis the Fair. ... The wedding of his father was not pleasing to Fëanor; and he had no great love for Indis, nor for Fingolfin and Finarfin, her sons. ... In those unhappy things which later came to pass, and in which Fëanor was the leader, many saw the effect of this breach within the house of Finwë, judging that if Finwë had endured his loss and been content with the fathering of his mighty son, the courses of Fëanor would have been otherwise, and great evil might have been prevented..." (Sil. p. 65)
Ah, so, it is Finwë who should get the blame for the later misdeeds of his son! Or should he? Tolkien once again moves on to examine this case from yet another perspective...
Last Edit: Mar 22, 2007 12:11:40 GMT -6 by Andorinha