“Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you…”(The Silmarillion, 88)
This post continues my chapter-by-chapter walk through of The Silmarillion. This time, I look at the ninth chapter of The Silmarillion proper, “Of the Flight of the Noldor.”
Previously, Melkor and Ungoliant have slain the Two Trees and stolen the Silmarils. This chapter concerns the consequences of these actions for the Valar and the Elves, as well as the fate of Ungoliant.
Yavanna: She believes there may be a chance to heal the Two Trees with the aid of the Silmarils.
Fëanor: He summons the Noldor to pursue Melkor and regain the Silmarils.
Teleri: The Noldor want their ships to pursue Melkor but the Teleri refuse.
Melkor | Morgoth: Fëanor dubs Melkor “Morgoth,” the “Black Foe of the World.” From here on out he is known by that name. (79)
The Fate of the Two Trees: The only hope for saving the Two Trees is to break the Silmarils and by their light recall life to the Trees. Yet to do so, Fëanor claims, would slay him. Even so, the Silmarils have been stolen by Morgoth. Thus, the Two Trees perish forever.
Morgoth vs. Ungoliant: Morgoth and Ungoliant flee north and travel across the ice to Beleriand in the north of Middle-earth. Morgoth gives Ungoliant all of the great jewels to devour except for the Silmarils. Ungoliant assaults Morgoth, but they are close enough to the ruins of Angband for his servants the Balrogs to hear his cries and come to his rescue.
The Noldor Pursue the Silmarils: Fëanor vows to pursue Morgoth and reclaim the Silmarils and many of the Noldor join him. In doing so, he acts against the will of the Valar, and cuts himself off from the Blessed Realm.
Ungoliant’s Fate: Ungoliant’s ultimate fate is mysterious (it is thought that she ultimately devours herself), yet we do know she spawns the giant spiders that come to inhabit various locations in Middle-earth.
Fëanor’s Oath: Fëanor and his sons take an oath to claim the Silmarils as their own, vowing to pursue any who would deny them, and to not let any stand in their way. This great oath leads to enormous tragedy in the rest of The Silmarillion.
The Kinslaying: The Noldor attempt to coerce their brethren the Teleri into aiding their pursuit by means of their ships. When the Teleri resist, what results is great bloodshed of both Teleri and Noldor.
But Fëanor spoke then, and cried bitterly: ‘For the less even as for the greater there is some deed that he may accomplish but once only; and in that deed his heart shall rest. It may be that I can unlock my jewels, but never again shall I make their like; and if I must break them, I shall break my heart, and I shall be slain; first of all the Eldar in Aman.
In his right hand Morgoth held close the Silmarils, and though they were locked in a crystal casket, they had begun to burn him, and his hand was clenched in pain; but he would not open it. ‘Nay!’ he said. ‘Thou hast had thy due. For with my power that I put into thee thy work was accomplished . I need thee no more. These things thou shalt not have, nor see. I name them unto myself for ever.
They swore an oath which none shall break, and none should take, by the name even of Ilúvatar, calling the Everlasting Dark upon them if they kept it not; and Manwë they named in witness, and Varda, and the hallowed mountain of Taniquetil, vowing to pursue with vengeance and hatred to the ends of the World Vala, Demon, Elf or Man as yet unborn, or any creature, great or small, good or evil, that time should bring forth unto the end of days, whoso should hold or take or keep a Silmaril from their possession.