Thread: Feanor vs Morgath...
I don't believe so because the Silmarillion stated that Fingolfin was mightiest in arms and the most valiant of the House Finwe. While Feanor was greatest of craft and Mind. And Finarfin was wisest and gentlest and smartest and nicest.
I'd have to agree with Amras. I do think Feanor was a great warrior and he would've put up a admirable fight, but I don't know if he'd get even a single blow in like Fingolfin.
But I don't know if it all comes down to strength, speed and ability. On top of this I think there was a huge mental component in fighting Morgoth. You had to be genuinely pure of heart and have a clear conscience to combat such great evil. Anything less and Morgoth's power would overwhelm his mind and, god forbid, turn him on his elven brothers. Or at least cloud his thoughts long enough to distract him so Morgoth could get in the killing blow. It would only take an instant.
Fingolfin would never let this happen. Like Frodo with the ring. It took someone as pure and innocent as he to be able to carry the burden of the ring as long as he did without being corrupted instantly. So even if Feanor made it back to Middle Earth, he'd still be on that borderline of crazy and confused, instead of fully set in the ways of good, leaving him vulnerable with not only a great weakness, but arguably a weakness that exploiting is Morgoth's greatest strength.
Aylee wrote: It is also said that there were no elves mightier than Feanor in Middle Earth.
Amras wrote: (...) the Silmarillion stated that Fingolfin was mightiest in arms and the most valiant of the House Finwe.
It's interesting when we look at Tolkien's use of superlatives. Nerwen of Barrow Downs wrote (Nerwen was responding to someone else when I posted):
Nerwen wrote: And now, a general comment: it’s best not to get too combative over Tolkien’s use of superlatives. Yes, at some points he'll describe a given character as “the wisest”, or “the fairest” or “the greatest”– but at other times he describes other characters the same way. No doubt– writing as he did over a period of decades– he sometimes forgot what he’d said previously– or else he just didn't mean these statements in the spirit of utter literalism in which people often appear to take them.
I (that's me) wrote: I agree Nerwen.
Another possibility [stress possibility] is that Tolkien meant different traditions to clash in this respect, although one can hardly really know, compared to the idea of JRRT just forgetting what he had written elsewhere; or enjoying superlatives.
In the 1930s Tolkien wrote: 'Of these Feanor was the mightiest in skill of word and hand, more learned in lore than his brethren; in his heart his spirit burned as flame. Fingolfin was the strongest, the most steadfast, and the most valiant. Finrod was the fairest, and the most wise of heart.' (Quenta Silmarillion)
Then in the early 1950s Tolkien wrote (Annals of Aman): 'For Feanor was made the mightiest in all parts of body and mind: in valour, in endurance, in beauty, in understanding, in skill, in strength and subtelty alike: of all the Children of Eru, and a bright flame was in him.'
But yet in the 1950s Tolkien keeps the first passage, even changing Finrod to Finarfin and extending the last sentence (so we know he simply didn't overlook this).
If Feanor is the mightiest 'in valour', how then is Fingolfin the most valiant? or if 'in strength' why then is Fingolfin the strongest? Or if 'in beauty' why then is Finarfin the fairest?
Is this a matter of authorship and opinion? The Annals of Aman were said to be written by Rumil in the Elder Days, and held in memory by the Exiles, and parts remembered were set down in Numenor before the Shadow fell upon it. Could it be that one author esteemed Feanor so highly, while another rather noted the greatness of Fingolfin and Finarfin in certain areas?
Hmm... ahem [cough] or something else.
In any event, here's what Tolkien added (and thus published himself) to the second edition of 1965 (in Appendix A): 'Feanor was the greatest of the Eldar in arts and lore, but also the proudest and most self-willed.'
As for Fingolfin, the tale notes that his departure to challenge Morgoth was fueled by rage and despair.
The Lord of the Rings "warns" against despair (Gandalf to Denethor for example, or Aragorn to Arwen, in a sense) despite that it can, especially when mixed with rage and a valiant heart, drive a person to an act that will go down in history. Fingolfin was no doubt valiant and strong, even among the mighty Noldor.
Granted, despair alone could drive another person to give up and allow Morgoth into the gates. Not so for the mighty Fingolfin, and I would say that he was not in utter despair. And yet, in my opinion he was not in the best of mind or mood here, even if the bards will never forget his deed.
As they shouldn't, I think.
Good earlier points, I especially like the idea that it was an earlier "author" who may have written his own version of history, making Feanor a jack of all trades, instead of another "author" who pointed out his specific strengths over the others
But I think saying rage and despair is what fueled Fingolfin's desire to challenge Morgoth is a bit of a non-sequitur. The conclusion does not follow the premise. It was rage and despair that lead Feanor to do what he did as well, however for almost opposite reasons. While I don't disagree, since that's ultimately why, it was "rage and despair" for all the right reasons, unlike Feanor's "rage and despair" which was out of greed and desire for power. This is the key difference between the mental state of the two, a key factor IMO in a fight against a god. I do not think Fingolfin was blinded by rage and that's what lead to his defeat. Feanor most likely would have been. Morgoth may have been able to exploit Feanor's power hungry mental state, just like I believe Sauron did with Saruman the White, who, for all his wisdom, was always prideful (his weakened mental state, just like Feanor) and thus was more easily corrupted by someone with a silver tongue.
If Feanor was able to commit the acts he did on his own free will, I don't doubt for a second that once Morgoth came out, he would've had a way to distract, maybe even win over Feanor, since Feanor's ambition was his own greed and pride, and not to end the tyranny of evil. Heck out of rage and desperation, clouding his judgment, Feanor might think "what if I feigned an alliance with Morgoth just long enough to steal the jewels back?" Fingolfin would never consider this as an option! Yet of course Morgoth is smarter than that (or at least more cautious than that), so out of a playful spite, he'd think "I'll let him think he can feign an alliance with me, then lock him in the dungeons when he's alone."
Even if they did enter hand to hand combat, what if Morgoth came out with his crown of silmarils? All it would take is for Feanor to glance at them mid-combat and think, just for a split second, "there they are, my pride and joy" ...dead. Fingolfin was in mourning and simply fed up with the destruction Morgoth was bringing, thought he stood a chance (which I believe he did), and so decided to take a final stand. Winner take all. His mentality was strong enough, his physical prowess ran just a little bit short. It's like saying the Allies fought the Nazis out of rage and despair. I mean, technically yes they were angry and in despair over the atrocities being committed, but it wasn't "rage and despair" that lead them to victory. It was bravery and strength. The fact Fingolfin lost because he slipped on a crater (something that has always bothered me), not because Morgoth actually got in a killing blow, is why I think Fingolfin's mental state was strong enough to fight Morgoth. Feanor's was not. So if he, Feanor, wasn't talked out of it before it even started, Morgoth would've been able to distract his mind just long enough to turn him INTO a crater, before he even had a chance to slip on one.
Now conversely, if Morgoth did come out with his crown, this may have actually fueled Feanor's "rage and despair" and made him an even more formidable opponent than Fingolfin. This is the double standard. Would being blinded and fueled by rage work in his favor here? Personally I think not, since he was up against an evil deity who thrived off rage; if he were to fight Fingolfin however, it may be enough, even if Fingolfin was in general the "stronger" fighter. Unfortunately this is something we'll never know, but if Feanor did stand a chance against Morgoth, I believe this would be the only way. Rage and despair can be tricky subjects, it seems...
Of course, all of this is based on my hypothetical interpretations of the characters and their personal traits. I do not think Feanor was evil, but his judgment was undeniably clouded by it.
Well, I don't think it's a non-sequitor for me to state that despair was part of the equation here, as that's what the tale tells us. How it fits in with your premise and conclusion, or not, is for folks to decide.
I thought some mention of the emotional state in which Fingolfin was in (or arguably was in) at this time, should at least be mentioned, and thus considered, to arrive at any interpretation, especially if something beyond the mere physical is in play (your premise).
My main reason to jump in was to look at the matter of superlatives in Tolkien's writing. I don't think I said all that much really, about the main question, or your interpretation.
And I'm not saying you hadn't considered Fingolfin's rage or despair when you posted originally, but as it wasn't specifically mentioned there, I just added it for the reader of the thread. And although a bit oldish, we also have a poetic version of this challenge and battle, parts of which read (canto XII):
"In overmastering wrath and hate
desperate he smote upon that gate"
[later on, during the battle]
"till all the earth was burst and rent. He was spent.
His feet stumbled. He fell to wreck
upon the ground, and on his neck
a foot like rooted hills was set"
This hails from the original Lay of Leithian anyway.
The later version of this lay has no revisions to canto XI or XII (again, this is from XII), but shows a little revision to canto XIII, although it's hard to say if that alone means Tolkien later approved all lines in the previous cantos.
Anyway, for what that's worth.
Well as stated I do believe he challenged Morgoth with "wrath and hate," though I think those words are misleading to his intentions. This is where I thought the Ally/Nazi analogy fit. It isn't how he felt when he made the decision, it's the reasoning behind the decision that is the key difference. The Nazis did what they did out of wrath and hate because of prejudice and unfounded dislike. The allies dropped the nukes and killed hundreds of thousands of people because they wanted to end that prejudice, not create more of it. Whether it was the best way to do it is another matter, but that was the idea. If a man beats someone up to steal their wallet it's different than when a man beats someone up defending their special needs brother.
The non sequitur= wrath and hate are evil attributes, thus they lead to evil deeds, thus Fingolfin challenging Morgoth was an evil deed. You could word it differently to fit your views, but this is how I read it. I personally don't think this was the case, but instead it was to defeat evil for a good cause. Now if he were wanting to defeat Morgoth so he could then become the Dark Lord himself, that would be a different matter, but more likely would be the path Feanor would take.
It's true you didn't say much in regards to his mental state, but you said a little, and I was responding to that, since it was my main point, and the bulk of your post consisted mostly of why Fingolfin wasn't the strongest, and not necessarily what that would mean if Feanor fought Morgoth instead. Not that it's a bad thing, but you didn't really give an opinion on what would happen in the scenario, just the factual references to help someone else come to a conclusion, which is what I did. I agreed he "wasn't in the best state of mind or mood," but I don't think this is why he stumbled on the crater, however this could be why Feanor would have. But instead it was because, as Tolkien said, he was physically spent. So I very well could be wrong, but that is how I feel events might turn out if, hypothetically, Feanor challenged Morgoth instead.
Basically it comes down to this: I think they both had enough physical capacity to end up in the same place, win or lose, whether it be tripping on a crater or being smacked in the face. However Feanor's mind would be focused on greed for himself, putting him at a disadvantage mentally when facing evil, while Fingolfin's was for the betterment of his people, giving him a clearer mind to stay focused in combat. He was doing great at first, if he had enough strength after being physically spent to stab a god in the foot and make him limp forever, we know it wasn't a strength issue, but stamina, so then it was his physical self being tired that lead to his defeat, not mental distress, which could be why Feanor would lose. More likely than not they both would've lost, Feanor just in a different way and for different reasons. I know you shy away from these threads because you're about facts, but facts will only take you so far in a thread like this. The rest is totally up to you. That's what makes it fun
Well, it was not my argument that Fingolfin's deed was evil, however you arrived at that from my post.
And for clarity about the idea of one tradition or author being keen to note Feanor's attributes in a superlative manner, while another stressed the attributes of Fingolfin and Finarfin, that's my opinion about a mere possibility, if based on the texts.
To make a general observation: the constructed Silmarillion published in 1977 employs text from The Annals of Aman as well as Quenta Silmarillion, two different traditions, at least in origin, although Christopher Tolkien felt that these traditions were merging in the early 1950s, from an external perspective.
To each their own in the world of hypothetical Tolkien!
Really wish more people still posted on this site. You can't have a thread with only two people. Just doesn't work
Good Evening Gentlemen and Tolkien Peeps,
Once again away from my computer. I would like to toss in a different perspective here as well. I think all have made very good points here. I would like to point out though, that I do not believe that Feanor could have been blinded by his desire to have the Silmarils back in his possession. Morgoth also took from Feanor that which he prized above the jewels; that being his father. I believe that Feanor was driven by thoughts of revenge and retribution, as much as wishing the return of the jewels. I believe his wrath against Morgoth was such that there would not be any way he could be won over to the side of our favorite dark lord.
Feanor also had another thing going for him, that Morgoth did not. Feanor was not a coward. Morgoth most certainly was. Feanor had many, many faults, but cowardice was not one of them. We know that Morgoth went unwillingly to combat against Fingolfin. He went because he had to. For Morgoth to feel such fear, he must have thought that Fingolfin had a shot against him. He did not view the duel as a slam dunk...otherwise why the craven attitude? I believe his fear would have been even stronger had it been Feanor knocking on his door. Of course, this is just my opinion.
I have missed you both! I am glad you are still alive and well!
I agree Aylee. I definitely don't think Feanor would've joined Morgoth. BUT I do think he would be susceptible to some type of manipulation. Morgoth's specialty was manipulating others, so who knows what compromise he may have been able to come up with. Perhaps the loss of his father is what would cripple him most. Again I don't think Feanor would fall prey to this, but then again I didn't think Feanor would commit mass murder either. His mind was not the valiant one it used to be, it was corrupted by the power of the Silmarils, just like Saruman was corrupted by the power of the palantir.
I do like your points, but I see them as a two way street. Feanor was definitely not cowardly, you are so right about that. But courage can easily lead to arrogance. Mixed with the revenge and retribution you mentioned, it could be a recipe for disaster. Think of both Isildur and Frodo when they finally made it to Mt. Doom. Their heart had been corrupted. I always assumed they thought "Heck, I did it. If I can take it this far, why can't I control it and rule the world myself?"
And I want to emphasize he wouldn't be "joining" Morgoth, so much as trying to deceive him. He doesn't WANT to be the next Dark Lord, but he wants his jewels back, and he'll do whatever it takes to do that. But as cowardly as Morgoth was, he was also smart. I think he'd see through this deception and eventually overpower Feanor...meaning Feanor failed and lost in his hypothetical attempt to challenge Morgoth. Yet Fingolfin saw how these jewels corrupted his brother, so he'd be less likely to succumb to anything other than physical combat.
The key factor here is the silmarils. Look at the Arkenstone and what it did to some of the most steadfast, courageous dwarves. If the arkenstone wasn't already a silmaril, it was as close as it's going to get, and we saw how that turned out!