By Special Holiday Request: the History of Tolkien’s Elves (part VII)
What happens next is pretty involved and complex, so I’m going to simplify and summarize. Fëanor had just given a rousing speech, spurring the Noldor of Tirion to march forth and invade Middle Earth. Everyone was pretty excited about it, which frankly was a little surprising. Most of the Noldor a) had been perfectly happy in Valinor and didn’t give two hoots about Men ruling Middle Earth, and b) thought that Fëanor was kind of crazy. If they had to pick a son of Finwë to rule them, they’d go with Fingolfin or Finarfin.
So Fëanor was super eager to get everyone moving, before people calmed down and cooler heads prevailed and the whole “march to Middle Earth” plan was examined in the cold light of day.
Also, he was worried that Manwë or Varda or the other Valar would be miffed about his bawling them out. It might’ve led to a scene, he figured. And sure enough, as he and Galadriel and his seven sons and two brothers and an unknown number of nieces and nephews marched east from Tirion, leading ninety percent of the city’s population, a messenger of the Valar appeared.
Tolkien is extremely unspecific as to the nature of this messenger, but I think it’s reasonable to suppose it was one of the Maiar, the lesser demigods/angels who served the Valar (the greater demigods/archangels). The collective term for Valar and Maiar both, by the way, is Ainur. Just in case anyone asks. It’s not important. Anyway, a Maia appeared and delivered Manwë’s rebuttal to all the invective Fëanor was throwing around in the last couple of entries.
She lay out the following assertions:
- Fëanor’s refusal to offer up the silmarils was a real dick move.
- Fëanor’s world-bending Oath was even worse.
- Also Fëanor was being a real jerk about that and a lot of other things.
- So with that in mind, Fëanor had so offended his hosts that he was no longer welcome in Valinor.
- He was to vacate the continent of Aman forthwith.
- The rest of the Noldor were advised against accompanying him.
- The Valar would not assist the Noldor in their mad ‘invade Middle Earth,’ ‘defeat Morgoth by force of arms,’ ‘recover the silmarils’ plan.
- They would not actively work against Fëanor and his efforts, but they didn’t need to.
- Morgoth was one of the Valar, though a rebel and arguably no longer a member of the Ainur proper; Fëanor trying to fight him was like an infant boxing Muhammed Ali.
- Everybody really ought to just simmer down and go back to Tirion and let the Valar get to work building the sun and the moon.
There was some rumbling among the Noldor, as the Maia laid out her arguments on Manwë’s behalf. Fëanor, however, was unmoved, and rebutted the rebuttal with arguments of his own:
- He’d already explained how the Valar didn’t have the best interests of the Noldor at heart; he didn’t need to repeat that.
- Surely the Noldor wouldn’t send the prince and eldest surviving member of the House of Finwë off to fight Morgoth all by himself!
- Valinor had become unwelcoming to him, and therefore by extension to all the Noldor. Things might have been good just then, but they were clearly poised to collapse. In Middle Earth, by contrast, things were presumably terrible already and the Noldor could only make it all better.
- And maybe it was an insane plan, and maybe Fëanor was doomed to fail miserably, but at least he would be making an effort to improve things, unlike certain do-nothing Valar who liked to sit around in their Ring of Doom and bicker.
He spoke remarkably persuasively, such that all the Noldor were convinced of the rightness of his claim. Even the Maia messenger bended knee and not-quite-apologized to him for bothering him with such lame arguments.
Fëanor’s initial plan was to follow Morgoth’s route to Middle Earth exactly, heading north along the coast of Aman until reaching the great ice/glacier bridge connecting it to Endor. However as he and his small army of followers and his brother Fingolfin’s rather larger army of followers (not that Fëanor was jealous) marched, he realized that he could only keep the fires stoked for so long. His rhetoric had worked the Noldor up to a fever pitch, but sooner or later they’d calm down and most of them would probably want to just go back home to Tirion.
So marching to Middle Earth was out. The Valar definitely weren’t going to power up the magic island to ferry them there. That left just one option: boats.
Fëanor didn’t want to spend a lot of time building a navy for the same reasons that he didn’t want to try to march across the ice. However there was a group of people who’d come to the Undying Lands from Middle Earth via ships, and they still had the ships just sitting there: the Teleri!
And so Fëanor marched his makeshift army to the Teleri city of Alqualondë, on the eastern coast. He spurred his people to move quickly, and so arrived several days ahead of Fingolfin’s greater host.
The elves of Alqualondë and Fëanor’s followers had a tense series of exchanges that can be summed up with the following short play.
“The Kinslaying” or “The First Kinslaying” or “The Kinslaying at Alqualonde”
SCENE: the docks of Alqualondë. Gulls circle overhead in the starlight (the sun and the moon have not yet been launched). TELERI OF ALQUALONDË busy themselves with fishing, ship maintenance, that kind of thing. A mighty flotilla of beautiful swan-shaped ships dominates the view.
FËANOR and GALADRIEL enter, with the SONS OF FËANOR and the FËANOREAN HOST following.
FËANOR: Awesome armada of swan-shaped ships you have, cousins!
FIRST TELERI: Thank you. Please leave.
GALADRIEL: What? Why?
SECOND TELERI: We’ve heard about how you’ve chosen to defy the Valar.
FËANOR: The Valar can suck eggs!
The SONS OF FËANOR loudly agree.
FIRST TELERI: We won’t stop you from going, as you’re quite insistent.
SECOND TELERI: But we are loyal to the Valar and will not aid your travel in any way.
FËANOR: But we need your swan boats!
GALADRIEL: We need them badly!
FIRST TELERI: Maybe you should have thought of that before committing treason against the Valar.
GALADRIEL: We could just take them.
The SONS OF FËANOR draw their swords.
FIRST TELERI: What the hell are those things?
FËANOR: They’re swords! I invented them!
SECOND TELERI: What do they do?
GALADRIEL: They murder Teleri.
FIRST TELERI: No shit!
The FËANOREAN HOST seizes several of the swan boats, as the TELERI watch in stunned amazement. Finally, one rouses from the reverie.
THIRD TELERI: Hey, wait! You can’t do that! Those are our boats!
FOURTH TELERI: Block the harbor!
MORE TELERI emerge from the interior of one of the swan boats seized by the FËANOREAN HOST. They throw the Noldor on their boat into the harbor.
FIRST TELERI: That’s what you get!
SECOND TELERI throws a rock at GALADRIEL.
GALADRIEL: You shouldn’t have done that.
GALADRIEL starts murdering TELERI with her sword.
FEANOR starts murdering TELERI with his sword.
The SONS OF FËANOR start murdering TELERI with their swords.
The TELERI have no weapons, yet are not unarmed. They wield bows (for hunting), knives (for butchering meat), clubs (for belaying and other nautical club-uses).
The FËANOREAN HOST and the TELERI are roughly evenly matched.
FINGOLIN, FINARFIN, and FINGON the son of FINGOLFIN enter, with FINGOLFIN’S HOST.
FINGOLFIN: The hell is all this?
FINGON: The Teleri must have attacked Feanor on the Valar’s orders! I knew we couldn’t trust them not to interfere! Attack!
FINGOLFIN’S HOST descends upon the TELERI OF ALQUALONDË, butchering them.
Finally, the massacre is over.
FËANOR: Good for us!
GALADRIEL: I feel great about how this has gone so far.
FINARFIN: I don’t.
FËANOR: Shut up.
(Curtain, as the Noldor begin to board the swan-ships en masse. )
Incidentally, if you think I’m making any of this up, just google image search “kinslaying at alqualonde” for a variety of amateur and professional paintings and pictures of elves murdering elves while standing in front of giant swans. It’s totally a thing!
Also, we’re maybe halfway through the portions of the Silmarillion that this series of posts will cover. Maybe. )
NEXT: FËANOR CONTINUES TO BE WHATEVER THE HELL YOU CALL THIS
HOLY SHIT WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?! Galadriel just straight up starts butchering other elves?! This is totally blowing apart my perceptions of her.
It gets better*!
* assuming you have a pretty twisted definition of better.
Hubris train departing at Feanor with stops at several elf tragedies.