Fëanor: a complex character indeed

On the surface, Fëanor tends to come across as merely an insane, overly possessive Elven prince. While he did have possessiveness in abundance, there is also more to Feanor than meets the eye.

Possessiveness is easily Fëanor’s most visible quality. He was possessive of his father, the Silmarils, and, to a slightly lesser degree, his family. When Miríel died, she essentially left Fëanor without a stabilizing feminine influence in his youth. While Finwë was greatly devoted to his son, he did have other matters to take care of, like ruling his people. Fëanor was likely left alone for a good part of his youth. There were few other Elves who could have easily identified with him, as death at that time was almost unknown to the Eldar. Fëanor desperately needed someone to cling too, and the best person in his eyes was probably his father. When Finwë married Indis, Fëanor felt anger, and also possibly betrayal. While Fëanor was already grown by the time of the marriage, he still had a very deep attachment to his father. Indis’ children only made matters worse for Fëanor. He was intensely jealous of both Fingolfin and Finarfin, because he perceived them as taking his father away from him. This jealousy was unfounded, because Finwë always held a deeper love for his firstborn above all others. Finwë, however, made the mistake of switching to the new form of Eldarin speech, even if it only amounted to a few sound changes. Fëanor saw this as a direct betrayal of Miriel. Fëanor’s possessiveness, in other words, also extended to his dead mother and the previous way of life for his family.

If he could not control all of the Noldor, he could control those closest to him, like his family. Fëanor, in my opinion, forced his sons to take the Oath, even if it meant they would all die. He cared little for the welfare of his family, and even less for the happiness of his wife. It’s rather ironic that he would hurt Nerdanel that way, because she was the only real feminine influence he had I his life. She was able to restrain his hot temper, for a little while at least. He caused irreparable damage to the thing he wanted most out of life: a woman he could cling to.

Fëanor’s creation of the Silmarils is a similar matter. Since he created them, he perceived himself as their owner. Still, the very thing that gave the Silmarils their magnificence was not Fëanor’s. He had merely imprisoned the light of the Two Trees, the creation of Yavanna. He went to any lengths to take back the jewels after they were stolen, eventually resulting in the decimation of Finwë’s house. The creation of the Silmarils was like painting a portrait with stolen paints; the final product may be the artist’s idea, but the original materials did not belong to him.

When one thinks of Fëanor’s character, one often asks him or herself if Fëanor was sane. His actions toward the end of his short life seem to point to insanity. However, Fëanor’s treatment of Morgoth at Formenos seems to say that he was sane. Except at the very end of his life, Fëanor’s actions are not erratic. He planned the assault at Alqualonde, and he also planned his abandonment of Fingolfin. Also, why was Fëanor forging swords and armor in a place where violence was almost unknown? Certainly he was planning for some kind of major event.

However, he may have lost his mind at the very end of his life, when he charged after a group of Balrogs. One Balrog is hard enough to kill, judging from the deaths of Glorfindel and Ecthelion. Only someone completely out of his or her mind would go charging after a group of them. Even if the Balrogs were not his primary target, common sense would dictate retreating when a large group of large, fire-spewing creatures moves toward him. It seems that Fëanor had, for a moment at least, lost all grip on reality. No Elf, no matter how strong and gifted, can hope to defeat more than one Balrog. But Fëanor seemed to think that he could. His error in judgment cost him his life.

So, was Fëanor sane or insane? Probably, neither. Mentally unbalanced, perhaps, and prone to uncontrollable rages. But Fëanor was probably neither completely sane or insane.

Fëanor is a very complex character, if one chooses to delve beyond the consequences of his actions and look to the causes. Nothing, not even the deaths of most of Finwë’s line, happened without a reason. Fëanor’s actions were one cause of the events in The Silmarillion. But, Fëanor’s actions had causes of their own. This is what makes him interesting; we see what happens to an extraordinary person when a series of nasty events deprives him of the things he loves most. In this way, Fëanor becomes not merely an untouchable Noldor prince, but a more real person that people can identify with.

Written by MirielFeanorian