An encyclopedia of Middle-earth and Numenor
Emblem of Feanor
Feanor was the greatest craftsman of the Elves. He made many wondrous things including the palantiri, but his greatest creations were the Silmarils - three jewels that held the light of the Two Trees of Valinor. When the Silmarils were stolen by Morgoth, Feanor and his sons swore to retrieve them at any cost. This Oath resulted in their deaths and brought terrible consequences to the peoples of Middle-earth.
Feanor was the eldest son of Finwe, the King of the Noldor. He was born in the Undying Lands in 1169 of the Years of the Trees. After his birth, his mother Miriel was drained of strength. In 1170, she went to the gardens of Lorien and lay down to sleep, and her spirit left her body and never returned.
Miriel had named her son Feanor, meaning "Spirit of Fire," because it seemed as if a flame burned within him. He grew rapidly and became tall and good-looking, with raven hair and bright eyes. He was stubborn in his opinions and steadfast in the pursuit of his goals. Feanor was highly intelligent and knowledgeable, and he was skilled at using words and at creating things with his hands.
In 1185, Feanor's father Finwe remarried. His second wife was Indis of the Vanyar. Feanor's half-brother Fingolfin was born in 1190, and Finarfin was born in 1230. According to some accounts, Feanor also had three half-sisters named Findis, Irime, and Faniel.
Feanor was not happy with his father's new family even though he was Finwe's favorite. He lived apart from them and spent much of the time traveling throughout Aman, even going as far west as the shores of the Outer Sea. Feanor frequently visited Aule, the smith and master craftsman of the Valar.
Feanor got married at an early age to Nerdanel, the daughter of Mahtan—a smith favored by Aule who taught Feanor about working with metal and stone. Nerdanel had a strong will but she was patient, and at first she was able to restrain Feanor's fiery spirit. Feanor and Nerdanel had seven sons, the most that any of their race ever had. They were Maedhros, Maglor, Celegorm, Caranthir, Curufin, and the twins Amrod and Amras.
Starting around 1250, Feanor made a number of significant inventions. He improved the writing system created by Rumil, and his Feanorian letters—also called the Tengwar of Feanor—became widely used by the Elves and others.
Feanor made jewels that were brighter than naturally occurring gemstones. His first creations were white gems that shone with blue and silver flames under starlight. He used similar stones when he invented the Feanorian lamps, which had a clear blue light impervious to wind and water.
Among Feanor's most important inventions were the palantiri - unbreakable crystal orbs that could be used to see and communicate over great distances. Feanor made a number of the Seeing-stones. The Master-stone was kept in the Tower of Avallone on Tol Eressea. In the Second Age, seven palantiri were given to the Faithful of Numenor, who later took them to Middle-earth and distributed them throughout the realms of Gondor and Arnor.
In 1400, the Valar released Melkor after three ages of captivity. They had imprisoned Melkor after the Battle of the Powers in order to protect the newly awoken race of Elves from him. Because of this, Melkor hated the Elves, but upon his release he pretended to be reformed. He offered to share his great knowledge with the Elves, and some of the Noldor accepted his tutelage. Feanor refused to have dealings with Melkor, despite Melkor's claims to the contrary.
In 1449, Feanor began preliminary studies and tests in preparation for his greatest creation, the Silmarils. His goal was to capture the light of the Two Trees of Valinor within the jewels. According to one story (UT, p. 230), he was inspired by Galadriel's radiant hair, and he asked her for a strand but she refused.
To make the jewels, Feanor used an unknown substance that resembled diamonds but was much stronger and could not be broken or damaged by any earthly means. Within the jewels he blended the silver light of Telperion and the golden light of Laurelin, and they shone like stars with inner fire, and they also reflected light in many hues. Feanor completed the three Silmarils in 1450. Varda blessed the Silmarils so that no mortal, unclean, or evil being could touch them without being burned. Feanor kept the Silmarils locked away in his vaults in Tirion most of the time but wore them on his brow at feasts.
Melkor coveted the Silmarils, and he plotted to steal them and to destroy Feanor. He sowed dissension among the Elves so subtly that they did not realize he was the source. He spread false rumors that the Valar had prevented the Elves from establishing realms in Middle-earth so that the new race of Men could rise to power. Feanor in particular began to yearn for freedom and wide lands of his own. Melkor then insinuated that Fingolfin was planning to usurp Feanor's place as Finwe's heir, while Fingolfin was led to believe that Feanor wanted to drive him out of Tirion. Feanor began to make weapons in a secret forge and he spoke openly of rebellion against the Valar.
At a council convened by Finwe, Fingolfin urged his father to restrain Feanor. Feanor overheard him and drew his sword on Fingolfin. When Fingolfin tried to walk away, Feanor followed him and warned him against trying to take his rightful place, but again Fingolfin did not respond. In 1490, the Valar summoned Feanor to answer for his actions. As Feanor stood before Mandos in the Ring of Doom, the lies of Melkor were revealed. Feanor was banished from Tirion for twelve years. Fingolfin forgave his brother but Feanor did not acknowledge him.
Feanor and his seven sons relocated to northern Valinor and built the stronghold of Formenos where they kept the Silmarils and other treasures. Nerdanel did not go with her husband, choosing to stay with Indis, but Finwe accompanied his eldest son into exile. Fingolfin was left behind to rule the Noldor, and thus Feanor's groundless suspicions became reality through his own doing.
Melkor came to Formenos in 1492 in hopes of luring Feanor away from Valinor with him. Feanor hesitated, but when Melkor questioned the safety of the Silmarils, Feanor became angry and slammed the door in his face. Finwe warned the Valar that Melkor had come, but they could not find where he had gone.
In 1495, Manwe commanded Feanor to attend a harvest festival on the summit of Taniquetil. Feanor complied though he did not wear his fine raiment and he left the Silmarils in Formenos. Finwe also stayed behind, saying he was not the leader of his people for as long as Feanor's exile lasted. Fingolfin again offered forgiveness to Feanor and this time Feanor shook his hand. Fingolfin promised that he would follow Feanor's lead and Feanor accepted, though neither realized what this would entail.
While the Elves and the Valar were feasting, Melkor and Ungoliant—an evil being in spider form—destroyed the Two Trees. Their light was quenched, and darkness fell upon Valinor. Yavanna said she could restore the Trees by using the remnant of the light that was contained in the Silmarils, but Feanor likened the Valar to thieves and refused to destroy his creations.
But then messengers came from Formenos with the terrible news that Melkor had slain Finwe and stolen the Silmarils. Feanor was deeply grieved for his beloved father and he was enraged at Melkor, whom he named Morgoth, the Black Foe of the World. Morgoth fled to Middle-earth with the Silmarils and rebuilt Angband.
Feanor defied his ban and returned to Tirion. He gathered the Noldor and claimed the kingship of his late father. Feanor gave a stirring speech to persuade his people to follow him to Middle-earth. He enflamed their hatred of Morgoth, but he also blamed the Valar for failing to stop one of their own kind. He urged them to return to the land of their awakening and claim it for their own before the race of Men came - even though this was only a lie invented by Morgoth.
Feanor then swore an Oath to reclaim the Silmarils at any cost, and his sons followed suit. Fingolfin opposed his brother at first, but he had promised to follow Feanor's lead and most of his people wanted to go, so he reluctantly agreed. Fingolfin's people did not accept Feanor as their leader, so the Noldor divided into two hosts: the first was led by Feanor and the second, larger host was Fingolfin's. As the Noldor left Tirion, a messenger came from Manwe exhorting them to remain, though Feanor himself was exiled because of his Oath. But Feanor was defiant and he urged his followers onward.
Realizing that they needed to cross the Sea to Middle-earth, Feanor proceeded to Alqualonde where he hoped to persuade the Teleri to join him and share their ships. But their leader Olwe refused to defy the Valar or to part with any ships, which were as dear to the Teleri as the Silmarils were to Feanor. Feanor became angry because the Noldor had helped the Teleri build their haven at Alqualonde. He tried to take the ships by force, but the Teleri resisted, resulting in the First Kinslaying of Elves against Elves. The vanguard of Fingolfin's host arrived and some were caught up in the battle even though they did not know the cause. The Noldor eventually defeated the Teleri, who were lightly armed, and stole their ships.
The seas rose because of the tears shed by Uinen—a Maia in the service of Ulmo, Lord of Waters—and many of the ships sank and those aboard drowned. There were not enough ships left to carry all the Noldor, so some had to march along the shore as they made their way north. As they reached the northern wastes of Araman in 1496, Mandos appeared before them and warned them that if they continued they would be exiled from the Undying Lands and would face suffering and betrayal.
"Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains. On the House of Fëanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also. Their Oath shall drive them, and yet betray them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue. To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever.
"Ye have spilled the blood of your kindred unrighteously and have stained the land of Aman. For blood ye shall render blood, and beyond Aman ye shall dwell in Death's shadow. For though Eru appointed to you to die not in Eä, and no sickness may assail you, yet slain ye may be, and slain ye shall be: by weapon and by torment and by grief; and your houseless spirits shall come then to Mandos. There long shall ye abide and yearn for your bodies, and find little pity though all whom ye have slain should entreat for you. And those that endure in Middle-earth and come not to Mandos shall grow weary of the world as with a great burden, and shall wane, and become as shadows of regret before the younger race that cometh after. The Valar have spoken."
The Silmarillion: "Of the Flight of the Noldor," p. 88
Feanor refused to give in, saying: "We have sworn, and not lightly. This oath we will keep. We are threatened with many evils, and treason not least; but one thing is not said: that we shall suffer from cowardice, from cravens or the fear of cravens. Therefore I say that we will go on, and this doom I add: the deeds that we shall do shall be the matter of song until the last days of Arda." (Sil., p. 88)
Feanor's brother Finarfin and many of his people turned back, though his children did not. Those who returned were pardoned, and Finarfin became the leader of the Noldor who remained in the Undying Lands. Fingolfin felt constrained by his promise to follow Feanor, and some of his people were afraid to face the Valar because they had taken part in the Kinslaying. All of the Noldor who continued onward fell under the Doom of Mandos even if they were innocent.
In 1497, they reached the narrow strait between the Undying Lands and Middle-earth known as the Grinding Ice because it was filled with moving icebergs. Crossing the ice itself was considered impossible, but there were not enough ships to carry everyone at once and no one wanted to wait for fear of treachery. Some of Fingolfin's followers began to curse Feanor for leading them astray. Feanor decided to abandon those he considered disloyal, and he and his people secretly boarded the ships and sailed away, leaving Fingolfin and the Second Host behind.
Once they reached Losgar on the Firth of Drengist in Middle-earth, Feanor's son Maedhros wanted to send the ships back for the others, but Feanor refused and had the ships burned instead. The flames were seen by Fingolfin, who realized he was betrayed and decided to lead his people across the Grinding Ice. The spies of Morgoth also became aware of the arrival of the Noldor.
Feanor and his followers journeyed inland and began to set up camp on the shores of Lake Mithrim. They were taken by surprise by Morgoth's forces but despite the fact that they were outnumbered and unprepared, the Noldor defeated their enemies in the Battle-under-Stars. Consumed with wrath, Feanor pursued the retreating Orcs to Angband with the intention of confronting Morgoth. But he became separated from his army on Dor Daedeloth and he was surrounded by Balrogs. After a long struggle, Feanor was struck down with a mortal blow by Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs.
The Balrogs retreated to Angband as Feanor's sons came too late to his aid and carried their father back toward Mithrim. As they climbed the Ered Wethrin near Eithel Sirion, Feanor told them to stop. With his last words, he cursed Morgoth and made his sons promise to uphold their Oath and to avenge him. When he died, his fiery spirit consumed his body so there was nothing left to bury. His spirit went to the Halls of Mandos, where Elves awaited judgment in order to be restored to life if they wished. But because of Feanor's deeds, this option was withheld from him and he remained in the Halls of Waiting. (HoME XII, p. 380, 389 note 8)
The war between the Elves and Morgoth continued throughout the First Age. Feanor's sons kept their promise to pursue the Silmarils, even to the point where they attacked their kin again in the Second and Third Kinslaying. Caranthir, Curufin, Celegorm, Amrod and Amras were all killed during these conflicts. After the War of Wrath—in which Morgoth was defeated by the Host of the Valar—Maedhros and Maglor briefly gained possession of a Silmaril each, but they were so tormented by the pain they caused that Maedhros threw himself into a chasm with one Silmaril, while Maglor cast the other Silmaril into the Sea. The third Silmaril had been set in the heavens as the Star of Earendil.
According to the Second Prophecy of Mandos (HoME V, p. 333), after the Last Battle at the end of this world, the three Silmarils will be recovered from the air, earth and sea, and Feanor will give them to Yavanna who will use them to restore the Two Trees.
Note: There is no definitive chronology of the Years of the Trees or the First Age. These dates are based on "The Annals of Aman" in The History of Middle-earth, vol. X, Morgoth's Ring and "The Grey Annals" in The History of Middle-earth, vol. XI, The War of the Jewels.
One year during the Years of the Trees is equivalent to 9.582 solar years.
Years of the Trees:
Birth of Feanor.
Feanor's mother Miriel passes away.
Finwe marries his second wife Indis.
Birth of Feanor's half-brother Fingolfin.
Birth of Feanor's half-brother Finarfin.
Starting around this time, Feanor makes a number of significant inventions including the Tengwar of Feanor, the Feanorian lamps, and the palantiri.
Morgoth is released from captivity.
Feanor begins preliminary work on the Silmarils.
Feanor completes the Silmarils.
Feanor is expelled from Tirion after drawing a sword on Fingolfin. He builds the stronghold of Formenos in the north. Finwe follows Feanor into exile. Fingolfin rules the Noldor in his absence.
Melkor comes to Formenos, but Feanor sends him away.
Morgoth and Ungoliant destroy the Two Tress of Valinor. Morgoth kills Finwe and steals the Silmarils and takes them to Middle-earth. Feanor swears an Oath to reclaim the Silmarils and he leads the Noldor in pursuit of Morgoth. Feanor's followers attack the Teleri in the Kinslaying at Alqualonde and take their ships.
Mandos tells the Noldor that they must turn back or face exile. Finarfin complies, but Feanor and his sons and many others continue onward and fall under the Doom of Mandos.
Feanor abandons Fingolfin's people and sails to Middle-earth. He burns the ships despite the objections of Maedhros. Fingolfin and his followers continue north on foot to undertake the crossing of the Grinding Ice.
Feanor and his followers enter Hithlum and settle on the shores of Lake Mithrim. Morgoth sends Orcs over the Ered Wethrin but the Noldor defeat them in the Battle-under-Stars. Feanor drives forward to Angband and is killed by Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs.
The name Fëanor is a hybrid Sindarin form of the Quenya Fëanáro, meaning "spirit of fire", from fëa meaning "spirit" and nár meaning "flame" with the masculine ending -o. The name was given to him by his mother, Miriel. The actual Sindarin form is Faenor.
The Silmarillion: "Appendix - Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names," entries for fea and nar
The History of Middle-earth, vol. XII, The Peoples of Middle-earth: "The Shibboleth of Feanor," p. 343
The name Curufinwë combines the Quenya word curu meaning "skill" with the name of his father, Finwë. Also spelled Kurufinwë. He was originally named simply Finwë or Finwion ("son of Finwë") after his father, and the element curu was added after his skills had developed. Also called Kurufinwë Fayanaro.
The Silmarillion: "Appendix - Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names," entry for curu
The History of Middle-earth, vol. XI, Morgoth's Ring: "Laws and Customs among the Eldar," p. 217, 230 note 20
The History of Middle-earth, vol. XII, The Peoples of Middle-earth: "The Shibboleth of Feanor," p. 343
High King of the Noldor:
Feanor was briefly High King of the Noldor from his father's death in 1495 to his own death in 1497.
Feanor was called Minyon First-begotten because he was the first-born of the second generation of Elves, according to HoME XI, p. 87, although this note was subsequently crossed out. The word minyon means "first-begotten" in Quenya from minya meaning "first" and onta meaning "beget, create."
The History of Middle-earth, vol. V, The Lost Road and Other Writings: "The Etymologies," entries for MINI and ONO
The History of Middle-earth, vol. XI, Morgoth's Ring: "The Annals of Aman," p. 87 note 3
Family tree of Feanor:
The Silmarillion: "Of Eldamar," p. 60, 62; "Of Feanor," passim; "Of the Silmarils," passim; "Of the Darkening of Valinor," passim; "Of the Flight of the Noldor," passim; "Of the Sun and the Moon," p. 98; "Of the Return of the Noldor," p. 106-9; "Appendix - Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names," entries for curu, fea and nar
The History of Middle-earth, vol. V, The Lost Road and Other Writings: "Quenta Silmarillion," p. 333; "The Etymologies," entries for MINI and ONO
The History of Middle-earth, vol. X, Morgoth's Ring: "The Annals of Aman," p. 87 note 3, 91, 92-101, 101 note 1, 102-3, 106-8, 110-20, 129; "The Later Quenta Silmarillion (I)," p. 177, 179, 185-97; "The Earliest Version of the Story of Finwe and Miriel," p. 205-7; "Laws and Customs among the Eldar," p. 210, 217, 230 note 20; "Of the Severance of Marriage," p. 236, 240-41, 247-48, 253 note 17; "Later Versions of the Story of Finwe and Miriel," p. 254-63, 267-69; "Of Feanor and the Unchaining of Melkor," p. 271-73; "Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor," p. 273-82; "Of the Darkening of Valinor," p. 287; "Of the Rape of the Silmarils," p. 293-96
The History of Middle-earth, vol. XII, The Peoples of Middle-earth: "The Shibboleth of Feanor," passim; "Last Writings," p. 380, 389 note 8
Unfinished Tales: "Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin," p. 22, 51 note 2; "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn," p. 230-32
The Two Towers: "The Palantir," p. 203
Appendix E of The Lord of the Rings: "Writing and Spelling," p. 395-401
J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, p. 195
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