Sons of Feanor

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Cigfa 25/Nov/2006 at 12:48 PM
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I wonder...feel free to say otherwise...if Tolkien gave Feanor seven sons to coincide with the 7 deadly sins? I found this interesting website on the 7 sins and wondered if it worked along with what Tolkien had in mine.


Endril 25/Nov/2006 at 01:31 PM
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I don’t think if this works quite well. Some of Feanor’s sons from what I remember were not evil, but that might be false. Whatever I don’t think each of them had as main characteristik one of the sins. Can you proove the contrary, with your knowledge. That would be interesting.
Alcarináro 25/Nov/2006 at 01:55 PM
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Just because two concepts share an aspect like number does not mean that they are related, that one is linking itself to the other, or really anything other than that they share the aspect of number.
You have no evidence. You have no reason. This is purely unfounded speculation derived from your personal want.
Lanthir Lamath 25/Nov/2006 at 02:28 PM
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The number 7 is the number of "deadly sins" from a Christian perspective, however, as Wikipedia’s page on number seven shows, there are many equally interesting perspectives to chose from; in Guarani mythology, 7 is the number of legendary monsters, for instance, although I don’t think all of Feanor’s sons would deserve that qualification...
Cigfa 25/Nov/2006 at 03:43 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Elenhir on Saturday, November 25, 2006
Just because two concepts share an aspect like number does not mean that they are related, that one is linking itself to the other, or really anything other than that they share the aspect of number.
You have no evidence. You have no reason. This is purely unfounded speculation derived from your personal want.

You have no idea what the heck you’re talking question could have a right or wrong answer it didn’t matter to me. No offense but, I had a darn good reason to ask it...what’s wrong with just wondering about something? That’s why the forums are here!

Lord of the Rings 25/Nov/2006 at 08:41 PM
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Cigfa, actually Elenhir does know what he’s saying. You haven’t presented any real evidence for a connection beyond the fact that the number is the same. This isn’t any real evidence- the number seven is a highly symbolic number in many ways, and it doesn’t really make sense to connect the Sons to the sins over any other set of seven: from the days of the week to the seven churches of Asia to the seven stones in his own mythology.

So without some sort of other evidence, this thread probably won’t get anywhere meaningful beyond people idly projecting their own various ideas about which son represented which sin in a rather ineffectual manner. Most importantly, even if you reached a conclusion about this, it wouldn’t be based on the books, and people might get the false impression of intent on Tolkien’s part. So it is probably wiser to apply your creativity elsewhere more productive.
Cigfa 26/Nov/2006 at 12:37 PM
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Hmm, I see. Maybe Elenhir’s right in some cases, but it’s just they he said it that sounded offensive to me. Ah, but nevermind that, I have research and evidence to dish out to prove ’em wrong.
Ankala Teaweed 27/Nov/2006 at 06:25 PM
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I don’t know, that post sounded more like a lecture in a logic class, Cigfa. I seriously doubt it was intended as any kind of insult. (It is like in geometry, when the teacher says a=b and c=d; does a=c? And the answer is no.)
And Tolkien was opposed to allegory; so it was definitely not related to the "seven sins". He would never have kept any element of the story that would have been so allegorical and obvious as that.

BTW, in some Indigenous belief systems, seven is a sacred number. It is the number of stars in the Pleides, for example. But seven is also an important number in art. It is a primary number, too.

But, getting back to the question of number of sons, I believe that as in many other elements of the story, Tolkien arrived at the final figure and names and status through a process of development.

Geirve 29/Nov/2006 at 01:56 PM
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I think this answers the question fully (just substitute ’seven sons’ for ’five wizards’ and ’seven sins’ for ’five senses&rsquo:

"There is no ’symbolism’ or conscious allegory in my story. Allegory of the sort ’five wizards = five senses’ is wholly foreign to my way of thinking. There were five wizards and that is just a unique part of history." (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, #203)

The story of seven sons of Feanor was there from the very beginning (this part remained remarkably infact during revisions of Silmarillion). The unsual number highlighted the creativity (associated among the Elves with fertility, see "Laws and customs", HoME-10) of Feanor.
Lord of the Rings 29/Nov/2006 at 02:41 PM
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Also one more note: seven sons has a bit of alliteration to it (no moreso than six, but still). It just sounds good to say. Perhaps that’s why he picked it initially.
Galin 29/Nov/2006 at 02:59 PM
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There’s this (just to note it) concerning surprising references to the five sons of Feanor (edited a bit by me)...

’The five sons of Feanor are three times mentioned, but I cannot explain this. It does not seem credible that the Seven Sons of Feanor, so deeply rooted and so constantly recurring in the tradition, should become five by a mere slip of forgetfulness (...) by this time the story had entered that one of the twin brothers (...) the youngest of Feanor’s sons, died in the burning of the Ships (...) possibly my father had come to believe that both Amrod and Amras died in the burning ship.’ Christopher Tolkien Maeglin War of the Jewels

Elros T-M 29/Nov/2006 at 04:37 PM
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Cigfa - the choice of 7 for Feanor’s sons was probably deliberate on Tolkien’s part, but there is no direct connection between the sons and the deadly sins.  7 is just a significant number in numerology.


The ancient world was fascinated by numerology, and this fascination found its way into the Bible (both Old and New Testaments). As a devout Christian Tolkien would have been aware of the Biblical significance of certain numbers.


To the ancients, 7 was thought to signify completeness (Lanthir Lamath has kindly provided us with a link to Wikipedia which gives a list of examples).  7 is particularly prominent in the New Testament book of Revelation, and it was used extensively by Tolkien – the 7 Lords and Queens of the Valar, the 7 sons of Feanor, the 7 stars of Elendil, the 7 seeing-stones, the 7 dwarf rings.


Another significant number in Christian numerology is 3, being the number of the Trinity.  It was also used by Tolkien (3 silmarils, 3 elven rings, 3 kindreds of the elves, 3 houses of men).


Other significant numbers include 12 (12 tribes of Israel, 12 disciples of Jesus, 12 companions of Thorin Oakenshield), and square numbers - especially squares of numbers significant in themselves (eg the 9 ships sailing from the wreck of Numenor, the 9 walkers of the FOTR, the 9 rings.  9 being of course the square of 3).


I don’t think anything particularly should be read into all this, and certainly nothing specifically symbolic or allegorical.  It’s just that Tolkien’s Christian belief led him to be aware of significant numbers in Christian numerology, and so he used these numbers in his books.  I can’t recall ever reading anything by him specifically on the use of numbers (apart from the few references to “curious” numbers in the first chapter of FOTR).  My guess would be that the numbers are a subtle pointer to the Christian belief that underpins the book, and also that Tolkien found the use of these numbers to be artistically pleasing.  Which it is.


Incidentally, Tolkien was also interested in the significance of dates.  It is no coincidence that the Fellowship set out from Rivendell on December 25th.                           

Loin Stealtharm 30/Nov/2006 at 01:25 AM
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As a christian, seven is a "magic" number (not working on the 7th day etc...), so that might have been the reason why he first thought about 7 sons. But like Geir quoted, Tolkien didn’t liked allegories and always claimed that nothing in his story was an allegory of something that happened in the real life.
One could also try to link the sons of feanor to the seven dwarven fathers, or the dwarven rings.
But I got to admit, it was an interesting thought, but I can’t immediatly think of putting one sin on each son.

geordie 30/Nov/2006 at 10:30 AM
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It is no coincidence that the Fellowship set out from Rivendell on December 25th.

Actually, it is - or it might be.

In an interview with Henry Resnick for The Saturday Evening Post Resnick commented to Tolkien about the date of departure from Rivendell, and on certain aspects of Frodo which seemed to parallel Jesus Christ. ’How do you feel about the idea that people might identify Frodo with Christ? Tolkien replied:

’Well, you know, there’ve been saviours before; it is a very common thing... You don’t have to be a Christian to believe that someone has to die to save something. As a matter of fact, Dec.25th occurred strictly by accident, and I left it in to show that this was not a Christian myth anyhow. It was purely an unimportant date, and I thought, Well there it is, just an accident’.

However, in _Nomenclature_ to LotR Tolkien discusses the date, relevant to the hobbit’s calendar as opposed to the calendar of Imladris and finishes with ’Though Dec.25 [setting out] and March 25th [accomplishment of quest’ were intentionally chosen by me’.
[taken from Hammond and Scull: ’LotR: A Reader’s Companion’.]

I also have a copy of the Sat. Eve. Post, and the ed. of Niekas from which that section of the interview was taken.

So there you go - you pays your money and takes your choice. I go for the ’not Christian’ point of view; for one thing, H&S also tell us that Tolkien was fiddling with the time-schemes, and that date worked out logically.

By the way - you sound very sure - can I ask what you based your statement on?
Captain Bingo 30/Nov/2006 at 10:58 AM
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As geordie says, you pays your money & takes your choice. My own feeling is that its quite possible that the dates of Dec 25th (& Mar 25th - the old date of Good Friday, & of the annunciation - 9 months before Dec 25th) were a reference to significant dates in the Christian calendar. That Tolkien wouldn’t have realised that the dates were ’significant’ is, of course, impossible.

That said, a non Christian would not be missing out on anything in the story if they didn’t pick up on, or assign any primary world significance to, the dates. The Legendarium is (deliberately) self contained, & does not depend on the primary world in terms of its religions or history in order to be understandable to any reader or any faith or none. The implication that is often bandied about, that Christian readers will get more out of the story than non Christian readers is hardly tenable. That said, the constant repetition by Christian fans that Tolkien’s works are Christian in their essence, & that a knowledge of the Bible will enhance the reader’s experience of the stories does seem to be affecting the way the general reader thinks of the books. Wrongly, imo.
Elros T-M 08/Dec/2006 at 02:53 PM
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Hi Geordie


My information is only what you have (I think you knew this ), plus as well the bit of Letter 210 where Tolkien explains that the time scheme, from autumn to winter to spring, is important.


It just seems to me that Dec 25th couldn’t have been unintentional.  Tolkien must have been aware of what he was doing when he chose it, and arguing that it shows that the book is not a Christian myth doesn’t really make sense – surely it suggests the opposite.  The argument that the 25th was just what fitted into the time scheme is a bit weak - a few days either side could easily have been made to work if the Fellowship had walked a bit slower or a bit faster


The autumn – winter – spring thing might have been intended to operate independently of any Christian element, but then wouldn’t Dec 22nd (the actual winter solstice) have been chosen rather than 25th?


So I prefer the explanation in Nomenclature; I suspect the answer given in the interview was a way of avoiding a question he didn’t really like much. I wonder if in his later years he regretted putting such a direct Christian reference in, and the denial was a way of expressing the regret.  I actually find that the use of 25th December jars slightly, and Tolkien may have come to the same conclusion himself. (Though of course it doesn’t affect reading the actual book, as it’s only referred to in the appendices.)


I am not implying that Frodo or anyone else is Jesus, or indeed that there is any Christian allegory at all in LOTR.  There isn’t.  There is just what I guess you could call a Christian “resonance”.  The reader is free to take this on board or not, as they wish. (the “applicability” rather than "allegory" thing).


Incidentally, if I may be permitted to use the F-word in the book forum (), the films make the Christian resonance stronger, at least in some scenes.  As Gandalf falls into the abyss in Moria his body is very definitely in a cruciform shape, and the way Frodo is filmed in the rescue scene toward the end of ROTK is very strongly reminiscent of images of the crucified Jesus as they have appeared in Western art down the centuries.  There is even a third (3, that number again) death and resurrection inserted – Aragorn’s.  (Though where the horse fits in I’m not quite sure.)  And at the end of TTT Gandalf has a rather messianic air about him.  Probably only a Christian or someone who knew quite a bit about Christianity would notice all this.


As a final point, I’ve just thought of another 3 – the eagles.