Gandalf is a Feanor Fanboy and I Am Not Okay With This
Even now my heart desires to test my will upon it, to see if I could not wrench it from him and turn it where I would – to look across the wide seas of water and of time to Tirion the Fair, and perceive the unimaginable hand and mind of Feanor at their work, while both the White Tree and the Golden were in flower!’ He sighed and fell silent.
- The Two Towers
Generally speaking, reading Lord of the Rings after you’ve read the Silmarillion is a very comforting experience. All the references make sense and the songs make you weep and the history lends the story depth instead of (I’ll admit I didn’t like LotR too much on my first read) weighing it down.
But then there are a few moments like this, which leave you wondering if Tolkien and I read the same Silmarillion.
When I think about Fëanor’s legacy in Valinor, I tend to imagine he was hated, mistrusted, maybe grieved for, probably avoided in polite conversation. I tend to assume it would be a little taboo to express a longing to return to the world he lived in, or a willingness to sacrifice anything to see him at work once more. I’m guessing sentences like ‘the unimaginable hand and mind of Fëanor at their work’, followed by longing sighs, were right out.
Part of the dissonance is just that we’re never given the chance to see, in canon, the Fëanor who was inspiring and admired, the Fëanor Manwë wept for, the Fëanor who created and distributed and shared and enhanced the Ñoldorin understanding of the world. We’re told secondhand that he existed, but by the time we see him he’s entirely absorbed in political intrigue, and that makes his admirableness something of an informed characteristic. It’s understandable that, for most readers of the Silmarillion, a throwaway reference to Fëanor’s great achievements leaves a weak impression and a detailed description of horrifying violence that results from his decisions leaves a very, very strong one.