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The History of Middle-earth (chibi version) - Part 231 - A refusal often offends

27th July 2015 (17:42)

Not that it justifies Fëanor's reaction, but I do think that the Teleri are being unreasonable here. The fact that Tolkien's text compares their possessiveness about their ships to Fëanor's possessiveness about the Silmarils ('the gems of the Noldor') can't be a good thing.

If you remember, it was Ossë and Uinen who taught the Teleri how to make ships (and to make them look like swans).

Part 231: A refusal often offends

Next time: Part 232: Climb Mount Niitaka

Chibis by the now-dead website formerly known as tektek.org
Original story by and copyright to J R R Tolkien, ed. C Tolkien: Primarily based on the Silmarillion, but incorporating ideas from the 12-volume History of Middle Earth series.
Questions and comments welcome!


Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 27th July 2015 17:02 (UTC)

I guess Olwë would probably be offended if someone told him his ships look like they should be powered by foot pedals...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 27th July 2015 17:06 (UTC)

The ones you're thinking of would be the dinghies they use to get to the big ships at anchor. :)

Posted by: curiouswombat (curiouswombat)
Posted at: 28th July 2015 09:43 (UTC)
"Whose like we shall not make again"

"Whose like we shall not make again" - I find myself wondering if they thought the ships would last for ever? Also, if they learnt the skills, and elves are supposed to have such good memories, how come they couldn't make new ones when there eventually rotted?

Not relevant to the conversation they were having at the time, but still...

Mind you, as Feanor seemed to expect the ships to only be doing a one way trip you can't really blame them for not handing them over - perhaps if he had suggested the Teleri providing a shuttle service, doing the sailing for him, so they could just leave him on the opposite shore and go home again they might have been happier. Especially id he was offering a god price to them.

It's the difference between 'Can you give me a lift to X if I give you the petrol money?' and 'Can I have your car to drive to X, where I will abandon it as I'm not coming back for the foreseeable future?'

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 28th July 2015 13:57 (UTC)
I think it's also an ideology thing

The Teleri are still loyal to the Valar and see helping the Noldor somehow to leave Aman is a rebellion by itself. Therefore they refuse also to teach the Noldor to built ships of their own.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th July 2015 14:20 (UTC)
Re: I think it's also an ideology thing

I think there's something of that in there, yes. Though bear in mind that the Valar haven't actually forbidden the Noldor to leave; they've just said, "We think it's a bad idea and advise you not to go".

Fëanor, on the other hand, certainly thinks of himself as rebelling against the Valar. He expects any moment that they'll intervene to try and stop him going.

I'm reminded of the way small children in a temper will announce that they're leaving home this minute, pack a bag (including important essentials such as their teddy bear), and stomp out the front door and down the street. Their parents don't actually forbid them to leave since that would be counter-productive; they just keep a discreet eye on them from a distance and wait for their temper to cool and for them to turn around and come back again. I think that's what the Valar were expecting to happen here.

Posted by: curiouswombat (curiouswombat)
Posted at: 28th July 2015 14:59 (UTC)
Re: I think it's also an ideology thing
Oh Dear

You know, I think that is right in both directions - he probably didn't expect them to call his bluff, but expected the Valar to come over all heavy handed and physically prevent them leaving, and then everyone would feel sorry for him being prevented from going when he wanted to.

Whilst the Valar probably thought he would only get to the end of the path, clutching his bag with his teddy and a couple of bits of lembas, before realising it might not be such a good idea after all!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th July 2015 14:11 (UTC)
Re: "Whose like we shall not make again"

Good points.

I wouldn't be surprised if the ships would last forever, to be honest: Elven craftsmanship, and in the Undying Lands where things don't decay or rot. (Even Míriel's body was preserved 'uncorrupted' after her death - though I note that Tolkien says that this changed after the death of the Two Trees, and the bodies of elves who died in Valinor after that did decay.)

THe idea that some things can only be made once runs all through the Silmarillion. You could make a copy, but you'd alway know that it was only a copy, not the original. (A more practical person would shrug and say, 'What's the difference?' but remember, Tolkien hated the whole idea of mass production and industrialisation.)

I kind of assume that Fëanor was expecting the Teleri to provide crews along with the ships themselves, since I don't think many of the Noldor would know how to sail.

Regarding 'a good price', that's assuming the elves of Aman use money!

Posted by: curiouswombat (curiouswombat)
Posted at: 28th July 2015 15:01 (UTC)
Re: "Whose like we shall not make again"
K Baby pic

Regarding 'a good price', that's assuming the elves of Aman use money!

He could have made them a copy of a Silmaril.... :P

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: 28th July 2015 23:24 (UTC)
Re: "Whose like we shall not make again"

I always wondered how far that "no decay" thing went, if Indis cut some flowers and put them in a vase, did they just continue to bloom forever?

The Silmarillion says all kinds of birds and beasts, except those in service of Morgoth were found in Aman. What about things like flies, lichen and other decomposers?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 29th July 2015 00:26 (UTC)
Re: "Whose like we shall not make again"

I have to say, I found myself wondering about the sewers of Tirion after 3000 (solar) years of settlement, if nothing ever decays... (Eww.)

However, we know that crops go through a cycle of growing and being harvested, since the Valar celebrate a harvest festival every year. Oromë goes hunting, and I can't really see him doing catch-and-release. We know that natural, non-immortal creatures do die there eventually, even if their lifespans are greatly extended.

As such, I think there must be some natural processes of growth and composting and rebirth happening even in Aman. Yavanna would insist. :) But it's probably carefully tailored and managed. Those cut flowers would eventually turn from fresh blooms into lovely scented pot pourri, and stay that way virtually indefinitely, though the Yavannildi would eventually come around and take them for composting.

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 28th July 2015 14:00 (UTC)

Weren't those ships pretty much designed to just go back and forth between Alqualondë and Tol Eressëa? Would they have been capable of an ocean crossing?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th July 2015 14:29 (UTC)

Yes, they were. I assume, though, that their construction involved elven magic ('as it is known to mortals') meaning that the ships would never sink (unless through the direct intervention of an angry and grieving Maia), always find a fair wind, and so forth. They'd be capable of much longer voyages than their designers intended.

Another question is how large they are, or how many of them there are, since by my calculations there were probably between 50,000 and 100,000 Noldor to move over the Sea!

Posted by: mikeda (mikeda)
Posted at: 28th July 2015 22:59 (UTC)

Are you counting all of the Noldor or just Feanor's faction?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 29th July 2015 00:38 (UTC)

All of them.


The army of Gondolin at Nirnaeth Arnoediad was 10,000 elves.
Assume the population of Gondolin was 50/50 Noldor and Sindar, that makes 5000 Noldor warriors.

Turgon led "a third part of Fingolfin's host", so Fingolfin led 15,000 Noldor warriors into Middle-earth.

How many died crossing the Helcaraxë? No way of knowing, but let's assume it was 25% of his followers who died. So he set out with 20,000.

Fëanor's host was smaller than Fingolfin's, but how much smaller? We don't know, so let's assume it was half the size. 10,000 elven warriors following Fëanor and 20,000 following Fingolfin, total 30,000.

We also have to factor in those killed in the kinslaying and those who turned around to go home afterwards. So call it 35,000 at this point in time.

However, that's just the warriors. How many non-combatants were there?

If Turgon led half the population of Gondolin to war (for example, almost all the men plus some of the women), then there were 70,000 Noldor who left Tirion. If he left Gondolin empty, then there were 35,000. If the army of Gondolin was only 10% of the population, then there are currently 350,000 elves on the march. However, that would require a fleet larger than the D-Day landings in 1944, which strains credibility...

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