Silmarillion Book Club (Week Five)
For key terms, major events, and takeaways, I've found the posts on TrueMyths.org to be the most helpful. Click here to read them! And I'm including some of the key quotes below as well as discussion questions. This guide to the Silmarillion is also helpful, although not broken up into chapters; and The Silmarillion Writers' Guild also offers a chapter-by-chapter summary, which is incredibly helpful!
This week is a huge week for the Noldor. We begin in chapter seven with the making of the Silmarils and Melkor being released from his prison. Almost immediately, Melkor is scheming to get revenge and obtain the Silmarils. He stirs up dissention between the Noldor, pitting them against he Valar, eventually leading Fëanor to rebel against his own family. Melkor gets a little too eager and Fëanor realizes he's scheming to get the Silmarils, so he runs off and hides for a while.
Melkor meets up with Ungoliant where he convinces her to help him destroy the Trees of Valinor and steal the Silmarils. They do so successfully, though they have a falling out after Melkor refuses to give Ungoliant the Silmarils. Before realizing the Silmarils have been stolen, Fëanor refuses to give them to Yavanna. Once they realize that the Silmarils are already gone and Finwë has also been killed by Melkor, Fëanor curses Melkor and changes his name to Morgoth.
Melkor thinks he's the coolest guy ever and makes himself an iron crown, where he places the Silmarils. Fëanor gets his sons to swear an unbreakable oath to get the Silmarils back and they leave in a hasty pursuit. Along the way, they get into trouble with the Teleri who won't cooperate with their plan and the first Kinslaying happens. Things just get worse and worse as the chapter goes on, but Fëanor presses forward, blinded by his anger and his obsession with the Silmarils....
Chapter 7: Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor
- "Then he began a long and secret labour, and he summoned all his lore, and his power, and his subtle skill; and at the end of all he made the Silmarils."
- "Then Melkor lusted for the Silmarils, and the very memory of their radiance was a gnawing fire in his heart."
- "Bitterly did the Noldor atone for the folly of their open ears in the days that followed after."
- "For Fëanor began to love the Silmarils with a greedy love, and grudged the sight of them to all save his father and his seven sons; he seldom remembered now that the light within them was not his own."
- "And when Melkor saw that these lies were smouldering, and that pride and anger were awake among the Noldor, he spoke to them concerning weapons."
- "Bitterly did Mahtan rue the day when he taught the husband of Nerdanel all the lore of metalwork that he had learned from Aule."
- "For am I not Vala also? Yea, and more than those who sit in pride in Valmar; and I have ever been a friend to the Noldor, most skilled and most valiant of the people of Arda." (Melkor)
- "And Melkor, seeing that Fëanor wavered, and knowing that the Silmarils held his heart in thrall, said at last: 'Here is a strong place, and well guarded; but think not that the Silmarils will lie safe in any treasury within the realm of the Valar!' But his cunning overreached his aim; his words touched too deep, and awoke a fire more fierce than he designed; and Fëanor looked upon Melkor with eyes that burned through his fair semblance and pierced the cloaks with his mind, perceiving there his fierce lust for the Silmarils."
- "Thus Melkor departed from Valinor, and for a while the Two Trees shone again unshadowed, and the land was filled with light."
- Why did Fëanor make the Silmarils in secret?
- How are the Silmarils described? Do we know what they are made of?
- How did everyone react to the Silmarils?
- What was Melkor's plan and how did he carry it out?
- What did the Noldor first make in this chapter?
- What are the consequences of the unrest caused by Melkor and Fëanor? Are they just?
- How did Melkor mess up his own plan to take the Silmarils?
- How does this chapter end?
Chapter 8: Of the Darkening of Valinor
- "In a ravine she [Ungoliant] lived, and took shape as a spider of monstrous form, weaving her black webs in a cleft of the mountains."
- "Do as I bid; and if thou hunger still when all is done, then I will give thee whatsoever thy lust may demand. Yea, with both hands.' Lightly he made this vow, as he ever did; and he laughed in his heart. Thus did the great thief set his lure for the lesser."
- "Then Fëanor took his hand in silence; but Fingolfin said: 'Half-brother in blood, full brother in heart will I be. Thou shalt lead and I will follow. May no new grief divide us.' 'I hear thee,' said Fëanor. 'So be it.' But they did not know the meaning that their words would bear."
- "And in this very hour Melkor and Ungoliant came hastening over the fields of Valinor, as the shadow of a black cloud upon the wind fleets over the sunlit earth..."
- "So the great darkness fell upon Valinor... The Light failed; but the Darkness that followed was more than loss of light. In that hour was made a Darkness that seemed not lack but a thing with being of its own: for it was indeed made by malice out of Light, and it had power to pierce the eye, and to enter heart and mind, and strangle the very will."
- "But when the Darkness had passed, it was too late: Melkor had gone, whither he would, and his vengeance was achieved."
- Reflect on the description of Ungoliant, particularly that she "hungered for light and hated it."
- What is Ungoliant (hint: not a spider)?
- Why does Ungoliant agree to work with Melkor? How does she help him?
- Why did Melkor choose a time of feasting to attack the trees?
- What happened after the light of the trees was gone?
- How was Melkor able to escape?
Chapter 9: Of the Flight of the Noldor
Buckle up, this is a looonnnnnng chapter. And a *super* important one!
- "Yavanna spoke before the Valar, saying: "The Light of the Trees has passed away, and lives now only in the Silmarils of Fëanor. Foresighted was he! Even for those who are mightiest under Ilúvatar there is some work that they may accomplish once, and once only. The Light of the Trees I brought into being, and within Eä I can do so never again. Yet had I but a little of that light I could recall life to the Trees, ere their roots decay; and then our hurt should be healed, and the malice of Melkor be confounded.’
- "‘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.’
- ‘This thing I will not do of free will. But if the Valar will constrain me, then shall I know indeed that Melkor is of their kindred.’
- "And they told that Melkor had broken the stronghold of Formenos, and taken all the jewels of the Noldor that were hoarded in that place; and the Silmarils were gone."
- "Then Fëanor rose, and lifting up his hand before Manwe he cursed Melkor, naming him Morgoth, the Black Foe of the World; and by that name only was he known to the Eldar ever after."
- "Yet had he said yea at the first, before the tidings came from Formenos, it may be that his after deeds would have been other than they were. But now the doom of the Noldor drew near."
- "And thus the fear of Yavanna that the Silmarils would be swallowed up and fall into nothingness did not come to pass; but they remained in the power of Morgoth."
- "Morgoth forged for himself a great crown of iron, and he called himself King of the World. In token of this he set the Silmarils in his crown. His hands were burned black by the touch of these hallowed jewels, and black they remained ever after; nor was he ever free from the pain of the burning, and the anger of the pain."
- "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."
- "Ye have spilled the blood of your kindred unrighteously and have stained the land of Aman. For blood ye shall render blood, and beyond Aman ye shall dwell in Death's shadow.
- 'Small love for Fëanor or his sons had those that marched at last behind him, and blew their trumpets in Middle-earth at the first rising of the Moon."
- Why does Yavanna want the Silmarils?
- How does Fëanor react to this request? Is he being a little overdramatic?
- "Not the first,' said Mandos, but they did not understand this word..." - What is Mandos referring to?
- How does Fëanor ultimately respond to Yavanna's request?
- What news do the messengers of Formenos bring? How does this change things?
- What does Fëanor call Melkor and what does this name mean?
- What happens between Melkor and Ungoliant?
- What did Morgoth do with the Silmarils?
- How was Melkor harmed by the Silmarils?
- What did Fëanor say as he spoke to the Noldor?
- What oath did Fëanor and his sons take?
- Where does Fëanor lead the Noldor?
- What happens when they come upon the Teleri? Reflect on the great tragedy of the Kinslaying...
- What is the Prophecy of the North / the Doom of the Noldor?
- What becomes of Fingolfin, Finrod, and Galadriel?
- What is the general mood of this story at the chapter's end?
- What can we learn from Fëanor's terrible choices?