Nerdist Book Club: THE SILMARILLION, Part 5
By Amy Ratcliffe on August 5, 2014
The hits keep on coming in The Silmarillion. While this week’s chapters may not be as heartrending as last time, they’re still filled with sadness. From what I’ve heard, it doesn’t exactly go uphill so I’m glad we’re all in this together. Besides some losses, Chapters 11-13 covered the entrance of men to the scene, the creation of the Sun and the Moon, and war.
Chapter 11 – Of the Sun and Moon and the Hiding of Valinor
The Valar waited until the Noldor left Valinor before healing the land. Did they wait in order to protect them? Though I don’t care for all of the Valar, I don’t find them to be malicious. But I don’t understand why they didn’t try to set things right while the Noldor were present.
As it stands, Nienna and Yavanna could not heal the trees. However, they were able to get a silver flower and a single gold fruit from them. They used these to create the Sun and the Moon, and it’s a beautiful story – just as lovely as the creation story at the beginning of the book. I found myself getting wrapped up and feeling soothed after the tragedy of Fëanor’s recent actions. Knowing that the Sun and Moon negatively affected Melkor was icing on the cake.
Given Melkor/Morgoth’s previous actions, the Valinor finally did something proactively and fortified Valinor. They raised mountain walls, set a watch, and hid their home forever. It’s drastic, but can you blame them?
Chapter 12 – Of Men
The Valar gave Middle-earth light with the Sun and Moon, and then pretty much left it to Morgoth. Their methods of thinking often confuse me. Regardless of their actions and inaction, the Men arrived. They weren’t welcomed quite as openly as the Elves and were afraid of the Valar. The Valar did provide for them – especially Ulmo – but I get the impression the Valar were underwhelmed by the intelligence of Men. Or maybe they were just weary.
Men spread across Middle-earth and eventually encountered Elves. Since The Silmarillion is mostly about Elves, the details of the Mens’ exploration and experiences in Middle-earth isn’t covered in depth. It’s too bad because I’d be interested in reading the history from another perspective.
Anyway, I found the most interesting part of this chapter to be the discussion of mortality. The Elves didn’t know what happened to the spirits Men after death and seem fascinated by it. They don’t seem willing to simply let go of things they don’t understand.
Chapter 13 – Of the Return of the Noldor
Welcome to Middle-earth, Fëanor and the Noldor! Have some Orcs and fighting and battles. Fëanor’s host survived the Orc Attack (can I copyright that phrase?), but then Fëanor foolishly decided he would head straight for Morgoth. Gothmog the Balrog (yes, same name as the Orc in Lord of the Rings) took him down though, and Fëanor perished. I wasn’t surprised and, since my heart had already broken when he set the ships on fire, I didn’t really mourn for him. Especially since the oath he created led his first son Maedhros to captivity at the hands of Morgoth.
In the most moving section of the chapter, the eldest son of Fingolfin did all he could to rescue his friend and heal the rift in the Noldor. Fingon and the Eagles set Maedhros free from his brutal prison (he had to cut off his hand – it’s the most popular appendage to lose in sci-fi and fantasy stories). Fingon’s actions reunited the Noldor and helped make up for what Fëanor did. The singing between Maedhros and Fingon as the latter searched for the former was a nice call back to the importance of music.
The Noldor tried to enter into the realm of Thingol, but he wouldn’t have it. Several of Fëanor’s sons were angry, so to prevent further problems, Maedhros took them away. They were still consumed by the oath and acting unpredictably. Essentially, Maedhros took one for the team. His brother Caranthir lived furthest east and encountered the Dwarves, and they more or less used each other to learn.
Peace followed for a while, but Morgoth couldn’t remain dormant for long. The third battle of the Wars of Beleriand was fought, and the Elves only barely won. They started the Siege of Angband, and it lasted for 400 freaking years! It’s been a challenge to wrap my head around the fact that hundreds of years is barely the blink of an eye for an immortal.
Morgoth didn’t give up on trying to catch Fingolfin and other Elves by surprise, and he even sent forth the first dragon, Glaurung. After Fingon sent the young fire-drake running back to Angband, Morgoth withdrew for a while and the Noldor and Sindar began to merge into one group.
Relevance to The Hobbit and/or Lord of the Rings
These chapters dropped a couple of names you’ve heard before: Elrond and Celeborn. Elrond was mentioned briefly at the end of Chapter 12 as being the offspring of an elf and a mortal, Eärendil and Elwing. And Celeborn, we encountered him when Galadriel first fell in love with him. The Galadriel we know from later books seems so measured and cool that I like the idea of her becoming so enchanted with someone that she splits from her brother in order to stay with him. The knowledge she gained from Melian undoubtedly contributed to the wise leader she eventually became.
Fëanor and Gothmog by guisadong_gulay
“Thus they held vigil in the night of Valinor, and their thought passed back beyond Eä and forth to the End; yet neither power nor wisdom assuaged their grief, and the knowing of evil in the hour of its being.”
“… the first dawn of the Sun was like a great fire upon the towers of Pelóri: the clouds of Middle-earth were kindled, and there was heard the sound of many waterfalls.”
“In that time the air of Middle-earth became heavy with the breath of growth and mortality, and the changing and aging of all things was hastened exceedingly.”
“Then he died; but he had neither burial nor tomb, for so fiery was his spirit that as it sped his body fell to ash, and was borne away like smoke.”
– Was it right for the Valar to stay out of Middle-earth and not go after Melkor for the sake of Men?
– Why is the relationship between the Valar and Men different than the one between Valar and the Elves?
– What did the Elves learn, if anything, from the mortality of Men?
– Would the Elves of Middle-earth been able to stand against the Orcs without the Noldor returning?
– Was Thingol being cruel by not welcoming all the Elves into his protection?
– How is Galadriel different than when we meet her in Lord of the Rings?
Middle-earth illustrations by Ted Nasmith
How to Read The Silmarillion – I’d say we’re doing a pretty good job, but additional perspectives are always good!
Head to the comments below to reply to the discussion questions, tell me your favorite quotes, and share your thoughts about Chapters 11-13 of The Silmarillion. Also, I’m curious: how are you all feeling about the book? Are you finding it more interesting than you imagined you would? I am. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter as well. If you tweet or Instagram about the book, be sure to add the #NerdistBookClub hashtag so everyone can track down your thoughts.
Come back for Part 6 next Tuesday, August 12, at 10:30am PST. We’ll be going over Chapters 14-16.
Top image by rinthcog