(As per usual, I feel I should point out once again that IANATS (I Am Not A Tolkien Scholar) and I’m extrapolating based on my understanding of the Silmarillion, the Book of Lost Tales, Corey Olsen’s podcast, and a whole pile of entries off three or four different wikis. Just in case someone is thinking that they must have missed something in the Quenta Silmarillion: you probably know better than I do, whoever you are.)
When last we left off, Ungoliant had cast all of Valinor into unlight, which was like darkness except more so. The Valar were understandably freaked out by this, and especially by the loss of the Trees and the light they shed. Varda, the Vala who was most closely associated with the Trees, examined the husks Ungoliant left behind, and diagnosed them as beyond recovery.
She laid out two options for how the Valar could restore the light and the day-night cycle, as follows:
- If a fragment of the original light could be recovered (maybe from three ineffably precious gemstones a certain alphabet-inventor might have secreted away) then she could restore the Trees like new. Better than new, because the Valar would know to make the new Trees unlight-resistant.
- Otherwise she and Aule (the Vulcan-type Valar who created dwarves) could gather up the last dregs of the Trees’ light, and fashion them into a couple of new, relatively shitty lamps. These new lamps would be relatively fragile, so to keep them away from Ungoliant and anyone else who’d want to destroy them, the Valar would have to fix them in the sky, which is to say, we’re talking about the sun and the moon.
“What, so, would the sun shine half the time and the moon shine the other half, like the Trees?” asked one of the Valar.
“Not so much; we wouldn’t be able to install dimmer switches without the silmarils.” Varda shrugged helplessly. “We could mount them on tracks and have only one be above the horizon at a time. I guess. We’d have to assign some Maiar the full-time jobs of piloting them.”
The Valar all made disgusted faces.
“I know, I know,” said Varda, off their response. “I know! It’s bull hockey. It’s a bad solution and –”
“What about starlight?” one of the other Valar interrupted. “Right now we’ve got all this great starlight that harmonizes with the light of the Trees, and casts all of distant Middle Earth into a lovely perpetual twilight. Well, not right now, because of this lousy unlight we’re still cleaning up, but you know what I mean.”
“Starlight would have to share time with the sliver one, the moon.”
“I know! So we’re all agreed, then: we’ll get the silmarils and use them. I’m sure Fëanor would happily donate them, for such a worthy project!”
In a flash, Fëanor was teleported in and stood before the assembled Valar (fun fact: the assembly of the Valar was known as the Ring of Doom, because they were arranged in a circle and made weighty pronouncements aka dooms in archaic Saxon, and because Tolkien was writing primarily to amuse himself).
Naturally, Fëanor assumed the Valar had summoned him to apologize for favoring Men (who still hadn’t even awoken) and tacitly endorsing his exile from Tirion and so on. He was not thrilled to hear that they just wanted the silmarils.
Fëanor scowled. “No.”
“You mean, no, we can use the silmarils? Or no, you don’t need any kind of reward because the honor of contributing to the restoration of the sacred Trees is reward enough? It’s that one, isn’t it? The no reward one?”
“Let me be clear.” Fëanor leaned forward, and all the assembled Valar did the same. “No, you can’t have the silmarils. They’re mine.”
The Valar were stunned when Fëanor told them exactly where they could stuff their silmaril-request. Manwë(the Zeus/Odin analogue Vala) pointed out that with the silmarils, Varda could restore the Trees to their original brilliance. “You saw the Trees, right? You remember how incredible they are. Were. Surely this is a worthy project to expend your baubles upon!”
“No. They’re mine.”
“Would you deny all your fellow elves the light of the Trees, from now until eternity? Think of your poor Teleri brethren, still on distant Middle Earth! They would be cursed to remain Moriquendi forever!”
“Don’t care.” Fëanor folded his arms. “Everybody’s always asking Fëanor for things. Live in Valinor instead of ruling a whole continent called Middle Earth, so that Men can have it. Step aside and let Fingolfin rule in Tirion. Assign the copyright for the alphabet, which I invented (!), to the public domain so that other people can write things down without paying me a royalty. And when Fëanor asks for things, what does he get? He gets kicked out of Tirion and has to go live in a house he built himself. He gets refused three lousy strands of Galadriel’s hair. He gets to watch Men and Fingolfin get all the stuff that’s rightfully his!”
“Are you referring to yourself in the third person for a reason?”
“It’s for dramatic effect! Because Fëanor has had enough! No one gets the silmarils! Not to wear as a necklace, not to reignite the light of the Trees, never, no, no one!”
The Valar considered. One, probably Tulkas the Thor-analogue, spoke up. “You know we could just take them. It wouldn’t even require effort on our part. You’re just an elf, and we’re the assembled Valar. I could just reach out and flip your off switch, right now.”
Fëanor was, however, not intimidated. “You won’t, though, because then you’d be no better than Morgoth. You won’t force anyone to do anything, ever; that’s what you’ve said over and over. If you’re willing to betray that highest principle and reveals yourselves to be a pack of Morgoths, then fine, go ahead and kill me! Because that’s the only way you’re getting the silmarils!”
Just then a messenger burst in on the Ring of Doom. Terrible news from Formenos, Fëanor’s citadel! Let’s flashback over there and see it!
Morgoth, swathed in unlight, descended upon Formenos. He pounded on the door (don’t ask me why he didn’t just knock it down, maybe Fëanor made the doors un-knock-down-able) until the citadel’s highest-ranking elf showed up.
“If you’re looking for Fëanor he’s not home,” said Finwë, Fëanor’s father as he opened the door. “The Valar summoned him for some kind of meeting, probably to deal with all this eerie magical darkness that’s fallen across the land.”
Morgoth responded by stabbing Finwë in the chest. The High King of the Noldor collapsed onto the flagstones of Formenos, dead.
Finwë was the first elf to die by violence in Valinor. Elves had died back in Middle Earth, mostly due to Morgoth abducting them, terrorizing them, turning them into orcs. Those elves, once they’d died, had found themselves in the Halls of Mandos, alongside those elves (such as Fëanor’s mother) who had faded away and died of grief. Mandos was, by the by, one of the Valar, specifically the oracular, prophetic one.
Anyway, dead as he was, Finwë relocated swiftly to the Halls of Mandos where he took up residence next to Fëanor’s mother. As such, he was helpless to do anything as Morgoth descended upon Formenos. The corrupted Vala slew all in his path until he reached Fëanor’s treasury. Morgoth looted the treasury quickly, scooping up several random handfuls of treasure, but he was careful with his main prize: the strongbox holding the silmarils.
Morgoth popped the lock on the strongbox – he was the mightiest of the Valar, after all – and gazed with hunger upon the silmarils. He picked one up, intending to keep them all close to his skin, but shrieked in pain as the gem scorched and burned his hand. The silmarils were filled with the light of the Trees, and only the worthy could bear them without being burned.
“No problem,” he said. “I’ll just wear gloves.”
“I see how this is,” said Fëanor, once the messenger had relayed the gist of the above scene. “You distract me with your pretty words and polite requests while Morgoth does your dirty work.”
“That’s not how it is at all…” began Varda, who incidentally was sort of the Mary-Mother-of-God, Isis, Athena type Vala.
“I don’t want to hear it! Good day!”
“I SAID GOOD DAY!” roared Fëanor.
NEXT: THE WORSTEST PROMISE!