|Oath of Feanor|
Hard, hard work. ;)
Here, in "Sil Part Two", I'm simply going to have a "Favorite Things" chat and tell you all the things I liked, and all the legends and characters that struck my fancy. And after this is over, I would dearly love to hear your favorite characters and legends as well.
For those of you who haven't read Sil, I do apologize; this might not make as much sense as my normal reviews. I'll try to make it as readable and understandable as possible, but you may want to come back to it after you've read the book. It's totally up to you. I mention the deaths of a few characters, but I try to keep it as spoiler-free as possible.
*All illustrations for this post are taken with permission from Jenny Dolfen's website. Click here to see more of her fantastic work with Tolkien.*
There in the plain of Anfauglith, on the fourth day of the war, there began Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Unnumbered Tears, for no song or tale can contain all it's grief. ~Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter 20
It's premise, of course, is to gain back the Silmarils from the grip of Morgoth. All the Noldor elves have sworn an oath to get them back; so neither heaven nor hell, they claim, can dissuade them from their course.
There were many battles and raids in Sil. But by far, the bloodiest and most heartwrenching, and most tear-jerking of them all was Nirnaeth Arnoediad. The brave yet hopeless fight of the dwarf Azaghal against the dragon Glaurung; the last meeting of the brothers Turgon and Hurin, before such a sad fate separated them and bound Hurin to the chair of Morgoth; Fingon's bravery against the hideous Balrogs--oh yes, I would not have missed it for a kingdom.
Luthien's father is an elf, but her mother is descended from the Ainur/Valar. And she is one of few given a choice to take the immortality of her race, or the mortality of her beloved.
3. Turin Turambar--I am at a loss to decide which is more exhausting to read about--Nirnaeth Arnoediad, or the tragic history of Turin Turambar. I do hope I will never be as heartless as Tolkien was to his character, but one never knows the depths of depravity to which authors can sink.
Turin's father Hurin was captured during Nirnaeth Arnoediad, and chained in the stronghold of Melkor, with no one knowing whether he was alive or dead. His son was brought up by another Elven king who took pity on him, and grew to manhood and stature with good friends around him. But Turin was not a patient nor a happy person, and when an unfortunate insult results in him murdering someone, it sets him down the path of rebellion, unhappy love, and untimely tragedy.
I still shudder. How could Tolkien do what he did to him? I'm going to read The Children of Hurin one day, when I can work up the strength of mind to endure all that agony in even greater detail.
5. Akallabeth--Besides the fact that I dearly wanted to shake the Dunedain and shout at all of them to grow up, the legend of Aragorn's ancestors truly deserves to be on this list of favorite legends. The mass destruction, the mass rebellion, the glory of that city on the island--the caged feeling of being free to go ever west, but to never sail east--oh yes. Can't say any more for fear of spoiling, because it's the last one in the book, but it really does deserve your special attention.
And as a side note, before I move on to favorite characters---Now I know who Frodo's talking about when he's singing to Elbereth Gilthoniel. I shall read LOTR with even more enjoyment now that I know so much more about Middle Earth.
But we must continue on, for there is much more to cover...
Tuor--Finally one ray of light in the midst of all this misery. A good fellow was Tuor, and brave, and I loved him. What a legend he fulfilled.
|Fate of Maedhros|
Turin--I didn't like everything about Turin. He wasn't a perfect fellow. But he was brave and bold and strong, and I cannot say that I feel anything but pity for him.
Beleg--Turin's friend, and I laud him for his character and brotherly love.
Fingolfin, Fingon, and Finrod--All these Noldor elves had their faults and a good spice of rebellion, but they went to their various endings bravely, and they redeemed themselves.
Favorite Line of Elves: Oh dear, this is a tough one to decide. When I began, I really didn't like the Noldor Elves. But after I finished, the other elves seemed rather shallow in comparison--wrapped up in their own concerns, refusing to take a part in the grand conflict that had been given them. I don't think I can choose a favorite, of the original three branches. But the Noldor have the greatest depth to them, so in the end I have no choice but to bow to their superiority.
After a while, Sil started to read like my least favorite Christie mystery And Then There Were None. We once played the Agatha Christie video game of that novel, where at intervals one of the guests locked up in the mansion died, until there were precious few left. (Confession is good for the soul. We regret it, and at this time I do not endorse Agatha Christie mysteries.) But when I read Sil, the memories came back with a vengeance. If you'll recall the map I posted (at left) all the sticky notes are the names of the original elf leaders in the various regions, and one by one they exited the scene in fearful agonies. The reader is left with the awful suspense of who was going to die next. Elves can't die except by war or a broken heart, but there was plenty of either malady to be had in this book.
I speak in jest, of course. I enjoyed every moment of it, even though it was a darker book, and I was sad to see so many brave warriors meet their end. But in a way, that's a bit like the passage in Hebrews 11:33-38.
Who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
The only difference is, Noldor elves in Sil were facing their horrible deaths as a result of their disobedience--but I suppose, in the end, so did the servants of God. It was only because of mankind's sin that the giants of the Christian faith had to endure such fearful persecutions. Maybe there's not such a huge difference after all.
Everyone in Sil is flawed. Even the Valar have their imperfections, when it comes down to it. And that's the beauty of the Sil--though the Noldor are bound by their curse, and must bear the consequences of it through eons of heartbreak, inflicting the pain of it on the Sindar and Teleri elves, and even the dwarfs and men--yet there is still redemption. They cling to hope, even when hope shivers into little tendrils of misty illusions. When the Ultimate Evil mocks, the Noldor stand unmoved from their purpose. Aye, there could have been a happier age had they not sinned, just as there could have been a happier earth had we not sinned. But in the end, and by the grace of God, we are not left in despair even though we have to bear the results of our follies. And the Noldor are not either.
Some of the elves lived in the dream of what might have been, shutting themselves out of the conflict, and refusing to recognize the looming destruction of Beleriand. Some recognized the evil and went out in their own strength to meet and eradicate it, corrupting the weak children of Illuvatar as they went along. But some of all three kindreds--dwarfs and elves and men--recognized that though they had brought upon themselves a great evil, there was a good greater still that they must fight for.
The Sil would be pre-Christ, if Tolkien had intended it to be an allegory, as would the Lord of the Rings. It's interesting to draw many biblical parallels from this story, and I'm sure as I re-read it many times over that I will discover richer and deeper content.
In short, The Silmarillion had the power that very few books have, to leave me breathless and inwardly shouting over the Tolkien's glorious gift to capture biblical theology in his stories. It's one of those books that leaves me hurting inside, because I simply cannot find words good enough or thoughts lucid enough to express my feelings about it. Alas, it is a chronic hurt that must be lived with, and will probably always be there. I look forward to every perusal of it, and salute the man who crafted it so carefully, and thank the God who gave him the inspiration for it. Go read for yourself! But after you've read The Lord of the Rings. ;)
P.S. To those of you who have read the Sil--
Can any of you tell me what this picture is supposed to represent?
|Drawing of the Sword|
Or this one: