Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië
“The Noldor afterwards came back to Middle-earth, and this tale tells mostly of their deeds; therefore the names and kinship of their princes may here be told, in that form which these names later bore in the tongue of the Elves of Beleriand.“
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we delve into an even more thorough history of the Elves and I come to an understanding that a regular Blind Read may not be enough to fully grasp everything going on.
Tolkien is so intricate in adding details pertaining to the history of the land, that we get extemporaneous facts built in for flavor, but they don’t necessarily pertain to the core of what we’re looking for. A great example of this is in the first paragraph of this chapter as Vanyar and Noldor (the Elves whom sailed to Valinor) come to the western shores – the shores looking out at Valinor: “In the north these shores, in the ancient days after the Battle of the Powers, bent ever westward, until in the northernmost parts of Arda only a narrow sea divided Aman, upon which Valinor was built, from the Hither Lands; but this narrow sea was filled with grinding ice, because of the violence of the frosts of Melkor.”
Ulmo, the Valar who ruled the seas, came to the Vanyar and Noldor and convinced them that they could make the trip and thus they left and went to Valinor. The point is we spend nearly a paragraph describing the fear of the icy sea, only to have that overturned in a sentence or two. This does two things. It establishes yet another effect of the power of Melkor, and it gives a snippet of history for the land (for flavor), but that’s the extent of it.
These chapters have been filled with these types of details, and it can be difficult to differentiate which are going to be important in the future of the land, and what is to give flair to Aman.
We hear very little of the Vanyar and Noldor for a while because the histories focus on the Teleri, who “dwelt in East Beleriand far from the sea, and they heard not the summons of Ulmo until too late;” so they ended up staying in Middle-Earth and made “Olwë, Elwë’s brother,” their king. They settled by the sea and had a great love for the waters, but eventually, Finwë, who was the king of the Noldor, requested Ulmo to bring his brethren to Valinor. Many of the Teleri went, but those that stayed on the shores of Beleriand were known as “the Falathrim, the Eleves of the Falas, who in after days had dwellings at the havens of Brithombar and Eglarest, the first mariners in Middle-earth and the first makers of ships.” I have a sneaking suspicion that those Falathrim will be of importance later.
But instead of following them, we stay on Beleriand and find that “friends of Elwë were left behind; and they called themselves Eglath, the Forsaken People. They dwelt in the woods and hills of Beleriand, rather than by the sea.”
Among these Terelri whom remained behind on Beleriand (Middle-earth), there were still a contingent whom wanted to see the light of the trees of Valinor, but because of the sundering of the elves, (between the Noldor, Vanyar and Teleri) they stayed on the edges of the Isle at the Bay of Eldamar, called Elvenhome, also known as the Lonely Isle. Despite being so close and “among the radiant flowers of the Tree-lit gardens of Valinor they longed at times to see the stars; and therefore a gap was made in the great walls of Pelóri (The Mountains separating Valinor), and there in a deep valley that ran down to the sea the Eldar raised a high green hill: Túna it was called.” and “There bloomed the first flowers that ever were east of the Mountains of Aman.”
There, on Túna, the city of Elves was built: Tirion. Also upon that land Yavanna made a lesser tree in the image of Telperion, named Galathilion. This is mentioned because Galathilion had seedlings, and the most notorious of these was Nimloth, the White Tree of Númenor.
So we know of the three main tribes of Eleves we’ve seen so far. The Vanyar whom reside in Valinor, the Teleri whom stayed in Beleriand, and the Noldor. Aparently the Valar named, Aulë, loved the Noldor, so much that he came amongst them often. The Noldor were first and foremost students: “Great became their knowledge and their skill; yet even greater was their thirst for more knowledge, and in many things they soon surpassed their teachers.” Reading this, I couldn’t help but think that Tolkien was describing himself as a Noldor. They had a love for knowledge, and an even greater love for language; “and sought ever to find names more to fit for all things that they knew or imagined.” We even get the opening quote of this essay indicating that the Noldor are the focus of the tales.
We n learnof Finwë, whom was the king of the Noldor. He had multiple children; two from a Noldor and one from a Vanyar. Seeing this trope we immedialty know that the Vanyar child, named Fëanor is going to be more a black sheep. He was the mightiest son, “in skill of word and of hand, more learned than his brothers; his spirit burned as a flame.” Whereas his brothers, Fingolfin (the ancestor of Elrond), the strongest, most steadfast, and the most valient; and Fingolfin (the ancestor of Galadriel) was “the fairest, and most wise of heart.” We spend a few paragraphs learning about their progeny in a very biblical sense (he begat they, and they begat she….etc.), but the picture is coming into place as to why the Elves are as they are when we move into other ages of the world. Much like humans, Elves are the result of their ancestor’s predelictions and concepts of the meaning of life.
We find that the Vanyar love Valinor and they eventually move into the land proper, but the Teleri whom some eventually made their way to Valinor lived in Tirion. Ironically some of the first Elves to head back to Beleriand, The Noldor, are what the majority of the remaining histories are about
So join us next week as we delve deeper into the lineage of those Noldor with “Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor.”
I find it extremely interesting that a few chapters ago we saw birds gain sentience from the music of the Valar, and part of the reason the Teleri were trapped on Beleriand, away from their kin, was that the ocean winds had stopped. What is the solution the Valar come up with? They got swans to tow the Teleri ships from Beleriand to Aman. I have yet to begin my rewatch and re-read of the The Lord of the Rings (I don’t know if I can muster up the strength to watch the Hobbit movies), but I’m pretty sure there were some swan like details on the boats at the end of Return of the King when Frodo was going off to Valinor. I wonder how much the sentient creature/ bird theme will run in these histories. Only one way to find out!