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The Doom of the Noldor: a Rant.

Mandos: "Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains. On the House of Fëanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also.

Manwë : almost immediately sends Eagle to help Fingon, who quite clearly should be counted as a follower of the House of Fëanor, rescue Fëanor ’s eldest son.

 ‘Echo of your lamentation' unheard.  REALLY, MANWE?  REALLY?  I don't think Manwë can have got the note Mandos sent him.  I'm guessing that there was probably a fairly stern followup note after that incident. It probably had to be quite carefully worded though, in the manner of one communicating with a boss who has failed to properly read his email

Ulmo: I am already outside the mountains, so I shall do my own thing.  I think I shall enchant my favorite river so it is holy and protective against Morgoth.  And recommend hidden city locations to Noldor who, no question, have in fact followed Fëanor.  And I think I might just warn the residents of those cities of danger.    And send an actual messenger when other communication does not appear to register with them.

Me: I’m not sure that everyone is taking the Doom of Mandos equally literally here.

I came across someone saying that the Doom of the Noldor was inevitable and that there could be no possible way out of it at all.   And that even if the Noldor had got hold of all three Silmarils they would then, inevitably,  have gone to war over them.

To me, if that were true, the whole story would lose its charm.  I don't want to read about people being inevitably doomed.  I want to believe that it is possible for them to win, if only....  And I can think of about 999 possible ways that the Doom of the Noldor could have worked out and if I had nothing else to do, I could happily write 999 AU fix-its...

OK, in canon it didn't work out - or not all that well for a lot of people, anyway - but I don't see the appeal of a story that is completely without any chink of hope.  The idea of a story without hope seems very unTolkienien to me.   It's not a proper tragedy if there is no possible escape.  It's just a sausage factory.  Even horror movies understand that.

I'm really not convinced with the idea that the Silmarils are the equivalent of the One Ring and that it's impossible for them to not cause dissention, either.

 They are holy gems.  The reason they cause trouble is because the (astonishingly ill-worded) Oath of Fëanor, and because the Silmaril of Doriath is set into the Nauglamír - a necklace stolen from a dragon's hoard by someone under a curse.  It is not because Silmarils are intrinsically argument-provoking.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
24th Feb, 2017 21:45 (UTC)
The idea of a story without hope seems very unTolkienien to me. It's not a proper tragedy if there is no possible escape. It's just a sausage factory. Even horror movies understand that.

This for me is a supremely important consideration when trying to work with the significance of the Doom or Curse of the Noldor and the entire history of the First Age. We know that there were a whole series of gradations of opinion among the Valar on asking Feanor for the Silmarils, for example.

And, like you, I am not at all convinced that the Silmarils are identical to the One Ring or even all that similar.

I am also aware a lot when reading these accounts that they were produced, written and/or collected by a whole slew of different authors, each with their own blanks spots and biases about the original events. The body of work is the quintessential unreliable narrative. Tolkien created it as though creating a real history with missing pieces and narrative prejudice. That is what makes it so fascinating. But the problem with seeking the absolute, correct, certifiable version of it all is that it does not exist.

We have to reflect on the biases, the knowledge, the sources, and particular interests and prejudices of these various in-story authors. Dawn Felagund has done a lot of work on trying to follow these narrative trails and study the perspectives from which they were produced, in-universe. Here's an interesting video on Youtube of a presentation she gave on it at the New York Tolkien Conference in 2015--https://youtu.be/06jN5wTN9JE.

I find studying the different versions and thinking about them great fun for me as a reader and a writer of fanfic, but it drives a lot of other people crazy. Even Christopher Tolkien gets snarled up in that tangle and tries to talk his way out of it. Or pops up on occasion, and says that he might been wrong about a position he took two versions back--no, actually not! He would only be wrong if he did not tell us about both. Even CT does not have a cell phone which reaches his father in the afterlife. But thanks to him, we have a lot the same material he was working with and can continue to fool around with it.

Edited at 2017-02-24 21:48 (UTC)
24th Feb, 2017 22:00 (UTC)
I do love unreliable narrative and multiple versions of history. When I'm writing historical fiction, it's great to wriggle through the possible alternative interpretations and the dodginess of sources, though I would probably have made a much better historian if I didn't have a tendency to pick the version I like best...

It's kind of refreshing with Tolkien to take an in-world perspective and just have a little rant about how wrong other versions are though. Because its fiction I don't feel so guilty about actually having a firm opinion. :-D

24th Feb, 2017 22:12 (UTC)
Everything you wrote in that last comment describes me! Just so you know, if you need anything about the Feanorians come to me! I'm your girl. They really got a raw deal and I can explain why in untiring detail, some parts of it better supported by canon than others.

There is some high-faluting literary theory that asserts that authorial intent is irrelevant to understanding a work of literature once it is out there in the wide world and being read and discussed. I'm not sure if I agree, but it certainly works for me as a fanfiction writer. And if anyone ever left himself open to that sort of interpretation it might be Tolkien. Because while he denies certain obvious influences, he accepts the existence of others, but by and large reflects his entire lifetime of literary scholarship and appreciation in his work.

Edited at 2017-02-24 22:13 (UTC)
25th Feb, 2017 09:10 (UTC)
'some parts of it better supported by canon than others.'

So true, this is also me.
26th Feb, 2017 10:51 (UTC)
Ulmo has an explanation for his role--or at any rate he talks to Tuor about it in Unfinished Tales.
Not that that removes all issues, at least nor for me.
Whatever--it clearly does not stop Ulmo from drowning people who try to reach Valinor and ask for pardon without carrying a Silmaril, such as Voronwe's ship mates.

There do seem to be some hints elsewhere that Mandos--even apart from Ulmo's role--might be pursuing a more severe line than other Valar: when Feanor's words are reported back to Manwe and when Mandos argues for the execution of Earendil.

Nevertheless, the Prophecy seems to be uttered very much _ex cathedra_.
Only of course there is that odd hint of uncertainty whether it was actually Mandos himself who uttered the Prophecy.

I tend to think that Tolkien has intentionally introduced some ambiguity into the matter of the Doom, at least in some phases (whether that is meant to imply different narrators or no). Or maybe he wasn't quite sure himself and changed his mind, depending on the context--with the history of the Legendarium, it's possible that both apply.

It's quite typical for fate and doom to attract this kind of ambiguity in the materials he was using for inspiration as well.

(I don't think it is quite unambiguous what is meant by "follow" either--arguably, it could be taken as implying more than just going to Middle-earth after Feanor, in which case retreating to Gondolin could be taken as a degree of "unfollowing"--or not).

Edited at 2017-02-26 10:56 (UTC)
26th Feb, 2017 13:01 (UTC)
I'd forgotten that bit in Unfinished Tales (well, with my conscious mind, anyway: apparently a scene I just wrote is closer to canon than I'd remembered...)

That scene reads to me as if Ulmo was blaming Osse for the shipwrecks, which was my memory too. He is pretty clear there about his role as a counter-influence, but that still leaves the Unexpected!Eagle.

Much of it is ambiguous: I think it would be much less interesting if there was only one possible reading (though, obviously My Reading Is The Right One :-D )
26th Feb, 2017 16:41 (UTC)
You're right about Osse. I guess I might have felt that was just a bit lame on Ulmo's part?

(How does one justify drowning or executing Sindarin mariners and Noldor born in Middle-earth, who never followed Feanor in any sense even by the Doom, unless the Doom is supposed to work by contagion? Sometimes it sounds as if does.)

26th Feb, 2017 17:10 (UTC)
Either the Doom works by contagion, or possibly the world is a lot wilder and odder than the more obvious rules seem to suggest?

I like the latter idea. It's more Bombadil.

Osse is supposed to be Ulmo's junior, yet in that passage it really sounds like Ulmo is working behind his back and Osse is reporting to Mandos. AND that Osse is deliberately trying to kill Tuor, although Tuor isn't even an elf.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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