Aiya, nildor, for this week’s post we’re covering chapters 9 – 11 of the Silmarillion, subtitled in Kindergartenese as “Feanor can’t hit a bully, so he hits his friends instead.” This is classic pass-the-buck behavior : Bully hits you, you’re too small to hit him back, so you find someone smaller than you, who hasn’t done anything, and you hit them instead. And that makes you feel better, in a sad sort of way.
So the trees that provide light and happiness have been totally wiped out by Morgoth’s giant spider pal, and all the elves and Valar-angels are pretty sad about that. Then someone has a great idea : Feanor used the proto-sunlight to make his shiny Silmaril toys, so why don’t they just take those, break ’em open, and use the proto-sun to bring the trees back to life. Unsurprisingly, Feanor’s not buying that argument. Others (justly) point out that without the trees, there would have been no Silmarils in the first place, so it’s kind of a jerk move to not give them back. Still no dice.
Right about then, people come in to tell Feanor that, oh, by the way, Morgoth broke into your house on his way out, killed your dad, and took your Silmarils, so it’s kind of a moot point anyway whether or not he should allow the Valar to break them since he no longer possesses them. So Feanor’s suddenly elevated to the kingship, giving him a lot of authority, and since he’s pretty upset about losing the Silmarils, he does not wield that power in the way that one might hope.
He and all his sons swear a pretty vicious oath which amounts to : We’re going to get the Silmarils back, and we’ll kill whoever gets their hands on them and doesn’t give them back to us. Men, Dwarves, Elves, Valar, demons, God himself…doesn’t matter. If you can’t foresee that that’s going to lead to bad places, even as a kindergartener, well…
So Feanor and the host of Noldor, who are all swayed by his golden tongue, go charging off to follow Morgoth and get the Silmarils back. Then they run into the sea. Oops, they need ships. Remember from last time how the Teleri (the outsiders group from school) were the only Elves with ships? So Feanor says, hey, lemme borrow your ships. And the Teleri are like, you’re making a huge mistake, and we’re not going to be complicit in it. So no. So Feanor does his usual hotheaded thing, tries to grab the ships by force, the Teleri fight back, and a lot of Elves get killed. This is a Majorly Bad Deal, and goes down historically as the Kinslaying of Alqualonde (the king of the Teleri was Feanor’s uncle by marriage).
Once they’ve seized the boats and gone up the coast a bit, they run into a bunch of icebergs, dangerous water, etc. They realize that they can’t keep moving like this (some on the boats, the rest following on shore), and that they’re going to have to actually cross the sea to get to Morgoth, and there aren’t enough boats to get everyone across in one trip. But nobody trusts anybody else anymore, because if you’re going to kill your own kin, anything’s possible. Feanor takes a few trusted close family and their followers, jump on the ships, and sail across to Middle Earth, leaving the majority of the Noldor still stranded back on the other side with Feanor’s half-brother, Fingolfin (F names abound). Which would be bad enough, except when Feanor’s son kind of naively says, “Great! Now let’s send rowers back with the ships to get the rest of our guys!”, Feanor rudely disabuses him of the notion that they’re all a happy family and orders the ships burnt at anchor so that nobody can chicken out and go back.
Fingolfin and his stranded kinsmen can see the smoke from across the water, and they know exactly what’s up : they’ve been betrayed by Feanor and his crew. So they can either go back to Heaven and look like complete tools for following him, or they can make a go at it across the icebergs, which is reckless and suicidal. They choose the latter course. Surprisingly, most of them make it (including, incidentally, Galadriel, of LOTR fame). But it’s a brutal trip and some of them die.
Fingolfin and Feanor are capital N Not Friends anymore, after this.