The Prosecution Speaketh

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KingODuckingham 03/Dec/2006 at 06:11 PM
Grey Counsellor of Isengard Points: 15053 Posts: 15390 Joined: 27/Aug/2006
So I think it’s about time that I make as large and definitive as possible a case for calling Feanor evil, as too many people on the plaza seem willing to give him a break. Bear with me, and may I ask that you read the whole post before you respond, because I am already tired of repeating myself (yes before it has happened...orcs don’t have to be reasonable if they don’t want to!).

Firstly, I want to make a sharp and clear distinction between calling someone "evil" and "Absolutely Evil" and I want to make it quite clear that we can do the former without implying the latter. Tolkien says in his Letters:

In my story I do not deal in Absolute Evil. I do not think there is such a thing, since that is Zero. I do not think that at any rate any ’rational being’ is wholly evil. Satan fell. In my myth Morgoth fell before Creation of the physical world. In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to the wholly evil will as is possible.~Letter 182

But even Sauron, we know was not evil in the beginning. So in no way am I implying that Feanor was Absolutely Evil nor do I intend to. But Tolkien also says, in another of his Letters, speaking of Gollum:

Gollum was pitiable, but he ended in persistent wickedness, and the fact that this worked good was no credit to him. His marvellous courage and endurance, as great as Frodo and Sam’s or greater, being devoted to evil was portentous, but not honourable. I am afraid, whatever our beliefs, we have to face the fact that there are persons who yield to temptation, reject their chances of nobility or salvation, and appear to be ’damnable’.~Letter 181

Basically, Gollum is lost. His wickedness (his evil) has lost him his chance at redemption, and though we can pity him, as is also apparent, it in no way excuses his deeds nor do we ignore them. If Tolkien (and therefore we) can say such things of Gollum, we ought to be able to say it of any character, if we can prove that the person in question was despicable on the level of Gollum. So let us proceed to Feanor’s deeds, keeping Gollum in mind as a parallel.

Feanor’s evil deeds are many and varied. I will begin with his refusal to hand over the Silmarils to restore the Two Trees. Some will protest that even the Valar admitted the difficulty of the decision they were asking of Feanor. But they do not consider the fact that at the end of time Feanor’s spirit will be released from the Halls of Mandos when he agrees to hand over the Silmarils, and that this is portrayed as the right decision. After all, just because a choice is hard does not mean that there is no right and/or wrong decisions. Feanor’s selfishness caused him to rebel and keep for himself the jewels he had made and deny all others in Valinor their beauty. Here is a quote from the Sil telling of the tragedy that arose from this decision:

"The Silmarils had passed away, and all one it may seem whether Feanor had said yea or nay to Yavanna; yet had he said yea at the first, before the tidings came from Formenos, it may be that his after deeds would have been other than they were. But now the doom of the Noldor drew near."~ The Sil, Of the Flight of the Noldor Because of his course of action specifically, the Doom of the Noldor is near.

Second, his foolish rebellion against the Valar and the Oath. The Sil tells us of the actions leading up to the Oath:

"His wrath and hate were given most to Morgoth, and yet well nigh all that he said came from the very lies of Morgoth himself; but he was distraught with grief for the slaying of his father, and with anguish for the rape of the Silmarils. He claimed now the kingship of all the Noldor, since Finwe was dead, and he scorned the decrees of the Valar."~The Sil, Of the Flight of the Noldor

Again, many try to excuse his actions based on his grief, but if that were the case, one could excuse oneself from almost any crime based on your emotional state. Scorning the decrees of the Valar is flat-out arrogance, and like it or not, he is actually furthering Morgoth, not any good purpose.

I proceed next to his most infamous deed: the Kin-Slaying. Few will try to excuse this deed (though I have seen some try). It is, as I said once before, mostly a massacre of elves that ought to be their friends and family, for sheer greed of haste and the Silmarils. Look at the language:


"Thus at last the Teleri were overcome, and a great part of their mariners that dwelt at Alqualonde were wickedly slain. For the Noldor were become fierce and desperate, and the Teleri had less strength, and were armed for the most part but with slender bows.-The Sil, Of the Flight of the Noldor.

The Teleri are outnumbered and outgunned (so to speak) and are essentially slaughtered, and this is all Feanor’s perpetration, a direct consequence of his rebellion and Oath. The very sea, we are told, "rose in wrath against the slayers~ibid. Everything natural and supernatural cries out against such a crime being committed. Mandos tells them in pronouncing their Doom:

"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...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."~ibid.

Clearly there has been evil committed in it, and we see here the punishment for such crimes: their spirits will not be allowed to rehouse when they reach the Halls of Mandos for a long period of time. I shall bring this up again at the end.

Going on from the Kin-Slaying, Feanor continues in his recklessly evil course with the most despicable of acts: a betrayal of his friends (and close kin) at the Helcaraxe. He sails off with those most loyal to him and his sons, leaving the masses that followed him behind:

"Then Maedhros alone stood aside, but Feanor caused fire to be set to the white ships of the Teleri. So in that place which was called Losgar at the outlet of the Firth of Drengist ended the fairest vessels that ever sailed the sea, in a great burning, bright and terrible. And Fingolfin and his people saw the light afar off, red beneath the clouds; and they knew that they were betrayed. This was the firstfruits of the Kinslaying and the Doom of the Noldor."~ibid.

Feanor betrays his half-brothers and their children along with many of those that followed him, leaving them to beg forgiveness of the Valar (which is unlikely, considering the doom that had been pronounced on them) or cross the Helcaraxe, which they eventually do at the cost of many lives. This is, in my opinion, the most disgusting and disreputable of the acts of Feanor, as we cannot forget that the burning of the ships is in itself a terrible deed. Such ships were, shall we say, the Silmarils of the ocean, and Feanor in his lust for his own prize carelessly burns beautiful, unduplicatable, precious ships. The irony is extremely thick and telling as to how messed up Feanor’s intentions now are.

To begin to wrap up the discussion of Feanor’s deeds, let us consider what the Valar said of it, for it is true (as some are so hasty to point out) that much good came of Feanor’s actions for ME. Here is Manwe and Mandos conversing:

"Thus even as Eru spoke to us shall beauty not before conceived be brought into Ea, and evil yet be good to have been.’ But Mandos said: ’And yet remain evil. To me shall Feanor come soon.’"~The Sil, Of the Sun and the Moon and the Hiding of Valinor

Mandos is telling us that no matter how much good comes of Feanor’s wickedness, it does not justify or excuse Feanor’s actions. The end does not justify the means. In tandem we might as well provide this quasi-famous quote speaking of Feanor’s death:

"Thus ended the mightiest of the Noldor, of whose deeds came both their greatest renown and their most grievous woe."~The Sil, Of the Return of the Noldor

When we put the last two quotes together, we see that though we can acknowledge that much good came from Feanor’s evil actions we must still call him evil for the good would not excuse the actions even if no woe came from them, yet much more woe did come from them, including two more Kin-Slayings and much other innocent death. Indeed, we see that he was not spared justice for his deeds, for The Silmarillion tells us his spirit has not left the Halls of Mandos, so great were his crimes. To clarify, our understanding of Feanor’s good whilst condemning his evil and calling it such occurs in much the same way that we can pity Gollum’s wretchedness and still acknowledge his evil as well.

Which bring us conveniently back to Gollum. Gollum, Tolkien tells us, was simply a "mean son of a thief."~Letter 181 And if he has become damnable, how much more Feanor, who caused the greatest woe to his race of any of the Noldor? Also in the parallel with Gollum lies a refutation of the biggest objection people raise with regards to Feanor. They want to say that Feanor was misguided, misled by Morgoth, etc. But so was Smeagol. Misguided, corrupted by the Ring. That does not stop Tolkien from condemning Gollum. So why should Morgoth’s deeds stop us from condemning Feanor? No, the simple fact is that Feanor must bear personal responsibility for his actions, and both he and his actions were evil.

The prosecution (finally) rests.
manwe1 04/Dec/2006 at 04:43 PM
Soldier of Mordor Points: 1462 Posts: 1653 Joined: 23/Mar/2003
I in no way believe that feanor should be absolved from what he did, he attacked family, he abandoned family, cold heartedly.

Rebellion against the valar that is a stretch, considering the valar never declared themselves the rulers of the elves, nor was the oath, in and of itself evil, it was a facilitor of evil, but was not evil itself.

Yet, yet...Feanor did that which the Valar seemed, at that time, to be unable to do, he went against morgoth, Foolishly, yes, with a chance of winning, no. but he opposed the one that caused all the grief in valinor, when the valar sat in thought.

you can say that feanor was evil, or rather that his deeds led to evil, but what is worse, to watch evil being done and do nothing, or to oppose evil, though evil may come of it.
Tķrin 04/Dec/2006 at 08:41 PM
Politician of Umbar Points: 16612 Posts: 23336 Joined: 14/Sep/2003

KingODuckingham -- An excellent thesis!  Iíve tributed you 10 points for the considered and researched openeing.

manwe1, you wrote that the Valar sat in thought.  That is true, but they are Feanor’s words.  The Valar were thinking, had Feanor not taken action, we can only assume that the Valar would have done something to redress the situation.  They merely restrained themselves because they vowed not to aid the Noldor.

Also: "you can say that feanor was evil, or rather that his deeds led to evil, but what is worse, to watch evil being done and do nothing, or to oppose evil, though evil may come of it."

However, if one is going to oppose evil, then one should not commit evil himself!

"Ulmo, it is said, was not deceived; and Tulkas clenched his hands whenever he saw Melkor his foe go by, for if Tulkas is slow to wrath, he is slow also to forget.  But they obeyed the ruling of Manwe; for those who will defend authority against rebellion must not themselves rebel."
     - Morgothís Ring, Later Quenta Silmarillion (II), Of Feanor and the unchaining of Melkor

The quote mentions rebellion and not evil, but I think the point made is the same - if you are claiming to oppose something, youíd better not engage in that same thing.  Feanor, you ask?  His attack on the Teleri was carefully considered.  KingO did not quote it, but I have before in a character analysis:

"Thereupon Feanor left him, and sat in dark thought beyond the walls of Alqualonde, until his host was assembled.  When he judged his strength was enough, he went to the Haven of the Swans and began to man the ships that were anchored there and to take them away by force."
     - Silmarillion, Of the Flight of the Noldor

This attack was carefully considered.  And the Kinslaying is unquestionably evil.  Furthermore, when Feanor burns the Swan ships, he is doing to the Teleri almost exactly what Morgoth did to him!

"...these [ships] are to us as are the gems of the Noldor: the work of our hearts, whose like we shall not make again."
     - ibid

Feanor wants his gems back, but will take, and destroy, the ígemsí of others in order to do so?

KingO - Like I said, an excellent opening.  A few comments, not even really counter-arguments so much as a question for further thought -

Could it not be said that Feanor was furthering the "divine plan", as Tolkien terms it in a letter, of Eru?  The intermingling of Elves and Men, including the introductions of an Elvish strain into the Mannish bloodlines.  And the Noldor in their glory were, as Tolkien describes, the best possible containment for Morgoth while Men came onto the scene (Iíd grab the quotes but Iím short on time: it snowed any my boss called me to go out early)

Though Mandos words do come back to haunt that question - regardless of the good that resulted, Feanor still caused much evil.

KingODuckingham 04/Dec/2006 at 09:28 PM
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manwe1: Rebellion against the valar a stretch, you say? Let’s see what the Silmarillion has to say on the matter:

"Then suddenly Feanor appeared in the city and called on all to come to the high court of the King upon the summit of Tuna; but the doom of banishment that had been laid upon him was not yet lifted, and he rebelled against the Valar."~The Sil, Of the Flight of the Noldor

Of course, one may say that this is rebellion against his banishment, and does not apply to him rebelling against the Valar’s wishes to stay in Aman. But if one, why not the other? Finarfin, when he forsakes the march with some of his people, must receive the pardon of the Valar when he returns. This implies some evil deed, which I presume to be rebellion against the Valar’s wishes, as they warned the Noldor not to go.

he went against morgoth, Foolishly, yes, with a chance of winning, no. Which makes his deeds far more despicable in my eyes. Just before he dies:

"And looking out from the slopes of Ered Wethrin with his last sight he beheld far off the peaks of Thangorodrim, mightiest of the towers of Middle-Earth, and knew with the foreknowledge of death that no power of the Noldor would ever overthrow them; but he cursed the name of Morgoth thrice, and laid it upon his sons to hold to their oath, and to avenge their father."~The Sil, Of the Return of the Noldor

Even though HE KNOWS they are doomed, still his bitter pride makes him doom his sons and indeed all those Noldor that follow to the fruitless 500 year war filled with pain, loss, anguish, sorrow, and death. And I think Turin has explained well enough the foolishness of doing evil to stop evil. That is exactly what the Istari like Gandalf and Saruman were forbidden to do to oppose Sauron--match power with power. Saruman tried it anyway, and look where he ended up!

Turin:Thank you, first of all. It was a pleasure.
Could it not be said that Feanor was furthering the "divine plan", as Tolkien terms it in a letter, of Eru? It could. But knowing what I do of free will, I would say that Feanor could not escape the divine plan anymore than Melkor could, but that he could have made better choices for good and that the divine plan would not be foiled by such. It is impossible to answer what would have happened if Feanor and the Noldor had not come to Middle-Earth, but certainly Feanor didn’t know all the good effects that might have come from his actions: his intents and motivations were evil. I will bring back this part of a previous quote once more:

"Gollum was pitiable, but he ended in persistent wickedness, and the fact that this worked good was no credit to him. His marvellous courage and endurance, as great as Frodo and Sam’s or greater, being devoted to evil was portentous, but not honourable."~Letter 181

One could substitute the name Feanor in there just as easily, and the sentence would work perfectly. If evil could be justified, then it would no longer be evil.

By the way, where does that last quote come from in your sig? Is it from one of Poe’s stories? It looks very familiar, but I can’t place it...
manwe1 04/Dec/2006 at 10:08 PM
Soldier of Mordor Points: 1462 Posts: 1653 Joined: 23/Mar/2003
"And looking out from the slopes of Ered Wethrin with his last sight he beheld far off the peaks of Thangorodrim, mightiest of the towers of Middle-Earth, and knew with the foreknowledge of death that no power of the Noldor would ever overthrow them; but he cursed the name of Morgoth thrice, and laid it upon his sons to hold to their oath, and to avenge their father."~The Sil, Of the Return of the Noldor

Noldor is the key word, he did not know whether or not any other help would come, which it did, and they would have defeated morgoth for a second time, if it were not for the betrayal of the easterlings in the army.

while I will not dispute that his acts were evil, his beloved father was just murdered, in the land of the Valar. Do you truly place so little value on the feelings of grief and vengence that he must have felt. Do not forget that the Valar’s summoning is what made it so that Feanor would not be there, can you not see him veiwing there summons as a ploy to allow morgoth to be able to kill and pillage everyone and everything in formenos.
I know it is not a rational thought, but he would have been far from rational at that time.
The lack of help that the valar gave his quest of vengence would have only cemented the conspiracy in his mind.

KingODuckingham 04/Dec/2006 at 10:21 PM
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Noldor is the key word, he did not know whether or not any other help would come, which it did, and they would have defeated morgoth for a second time, if it were not for the betrayal of the easterlings in the army.

So, because Morgoth could be defeated (though not the way he planned), that excuses his actions? I think not. The key in that quote is the knew and the but. In spite of the fact that he essentially dooms his sons and people to death by fighting an unbeatable enemy, he does it anyway, and thus we see his actions to be all the more despicable and reprehensible.

Do you truly place so little value on the feelings of grief and vengence that he must have felt. It depends on what you mean by placing value. I do feel great pity for him and I do not believe grief should be ignored or belittled. However, I do place little value on grief and vengeance if by that you mean emotions used to determine your course of action. As I said in my original post, during his rebellion and swearing of the Oath, he was repeating the lies of Morgoth, and thus perpetrating evil. So no, his grief does not excuse him. If he had been less fiery and impulsive, less selfish and proud, then he would not have been deceived by Morgoth or rebellious against the Valar. And perhaps he would not have turned out to be evil.
manwe1 04/Dec/2006 at 10:33 PM
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no, but, imagine you are married, and you come home and find your wife in bed with another man, there is a gun on the nearby table, and you grab the gun and kill them both.
Now, while they are both dead, you acted in the heat of passion and emotion, not out of something calculated, what you did was evil, but should you be judged as one who with cold deliberation planned a murder?
Mirkwoodworker 05/Dec/2006 at 12:47 AM
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manwe1: Iím not a lawyer, but the act you just described would still be prosecuted as homicide because of intent--the man intentionally killed two people. Depending upon jurisdiction, there are degrees of homicide, with different penalties. Carefully planning to commit a murder is different than impulsively killing someone, but both are homicides.

<Ulmo edit: You do not need to quote the entirety a post that is directly above yours.>

Phil_d_one 05/Dec/2006 at 02:09 AM
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Just a few comments:

Feanor’s selfishness caused him to rebel and keep for himself the jewels he had made and deny all others in Valinor their beauty. Here is a quote from the Sil telling of the tragedy that arose from this decision. Not quite. The quote you provide makes two points:

i) Regardless of what Feanor replied, the Valar wouldn’t have obtained the Silmarils
BUT
ii) It is possible that things would have progressed differently had Feanor been willing to give them up

The quote specifically says that it may be that his after deeds would have been other than they were. It in no way suggests that this was certainty -- who knows? Maybe he would have seen their being stolen (i.e. his losing them not of his own free will) as a fault of the Valar, and the rebellion, and all that came after, would have progressed normally. maybe the Valar would have refused to seek for Morgoth thoroughly and immediately, as Feanor would doubtless have wished, and the rebellion would have proceeded normally. We cannot take one thread from the tapestry, remove it, and not understand that the consequences of removing that thread are far wider than the obvious.

It is possible that had Feanor consented to yield the Silmarils the tragedy wouldn’t have occurred, but not fact. What is fact is that Feanor’s decision made no difference to the Valar obtaining the Silmarils.

That said, I agree with all your arguments. I find them a tad biased, yes, but they are valid and they make sense. Except for one, the conclusion that you draw. You choose not to differentiate between Evil and Absolute Evil, fair enough. But you do not differentiate between ’bad’ and ’evil’, and there is certainly a huge difference here. Tolkien does not call Gollum evil. He calls him ’wicked’ and ’damnable’ (condemnable), but he never calls him evil. He never calls Feanor evil either. Neither does Mandos, incidentally. He calls his deeds evil, but regardless of what you imply, doing evil deeds does not make one evil. Or do they? If they do, then the Valar themselves are to be called evil, for the slaying of the messenger that Morgoth sends to them. Regardless of the message, a messenger has the inviolable right of herald, and cannot be killed. But obviously the Valar are not evil, so it follows that committing evil deeds does not in and of itself make someone evil.

I’ve argued this many times, and I will argue it again. Feanor was bad. His deeds suggest it, and his judgement and final fate makes it certain. But he was not evil. Sauron was evil, and Morgoth was evil, but Feanor was not evil. His deeds do not suggest it, and it is never made certain.
manwe1 05/Dec/2006 at 11:18 AM
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I know, Mirkwood, that was my point, they are both murder, but one cannot just look at the act and judge, they must also take into account the perpetrator’s mental state, because that has a direct beiring on what he did.

you make a good point Phil, but as Batman Begin’s says, " it is not who you are, but what you do that defines you" you may not be evil, but if you do evil then you will be seen as evil. I also like your destinction between bad and evil.
Phil_d_one 06/Dec/2006 at 04:58 AM
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Forgive me if I choose to use Tolkien as a base rather than a quote from Batman Begins  And my reading of Tolkien, at the very least, indicates that an evil deed does not make someone evil, Tolkien allows for the fallibility of his characters. Mandos kills the messenger that Melko sends him (though I should have mentioned earlier that this was, to the best of my knowledge, excised from the final version), a clearly evil act that does not define Mandos as evil. Nor does Turinís killing of Brandir -- a senseless murder -- define him as evil.

Similarly, Feanorís deeds alone are not enough to define him as evil. They define him as ínot goodí, obviously, for someone cannot commit so many evil deeds and still be good, as his judgement by the Valar clearly indicates. But neither can he be defined as evil, unless we go a step further and define all those guilty of evil deeds as being evil. And the problems we encounter with such a view-point should be apparant.

manwe1 06/Dec/2006 at 09:50 AM
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hey, no need to pick on where I quote. It served a purpose, that being, that even if you are not evil, you may be seen as evil based upon what you do.
Phil_d_one 06/Dec/2006 at 11:02 AM
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I am not ’picking on where you quote’, manwe1. I was making clear that that quote is not from Tolkien, and in my opinion, does not apply to Tolkien. Perhaps in the Batman universe, performing evil deeds makes one evil, but that does not neccessarily hold true for the Tolkien universe, and I myself believe that it does not
manwe1 06/Dec/2006 at 11:56 AM
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I never said it makes one evil, I said that it makes others percieve you as evil, which I have stated in multiple posts. after all, what do people judge you on, your words or your actions?
ElendilTheShort 06/Dec/2006 at 05:04 PM
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Does the act of evil and subsequent failure to repent make one evil?

A mistake (in this case an evil act) can be forgiven but to continue on with this course of action and perpetually undertake evil actions would possibly make one evil by definition, because it is becoming the nature of the being in question. That is why Sauron cannot re-body. When diminished after the destruction of the One Ring all that is left of his reduced spirit is soley focused on his evil designs and therfore he does not have the ability to try and regather his inherent power. And as we know Tolkien said that Sauron was as close as possible to an entirely evil will (exceeding even the evil will of Melkor it would seem, if not his actual ability to enforce his will through power)

Mirkwoodworker 08/Dec/2006 at 11:46 PM
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I agree with ElendilTheShort. Melkor and Sauron became "evil" due to their repeatedly evil decisions and actions. What they did, finally, did make them evil. I think that Tolkien makes this clear in all of his books. And as Elrond said, nothing is evil in the beginning--not even Sauron was.
KingODuckingham 09/Dec/2006 at 06:52 PM
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Thanks for your thoughts everybody, I have read them all and enjoyed them very much. I beg your pardon for not getting back to you very fast, but I think it better to give a thought-out answer than responding the instant one thought pops into my head, because very often I change my mind after my initial reaction. I’ll try to respond to everything I saw, pardon me if I don’t address every point in this post.

you acted in the heat of passion and emotion, not out of something calculated, what you did was evil, but should you be judged as one who with cold deliberation planned a murder? As Mirkwoodworker hinted at, there is a difference in judgement, but it doesn’t stop the action from being evil. And we have seen in earlier posts Feanor’s evil intentions, particularly his premeditated kin-slaughter, and the betrayal of Fingolfin. So it’s not all in the heat of the moment acting anyway, much of it is calculated, if not exactly cold.

Phil, I’m not sure what you are getting at in the first half of your first post. It simply seems to prove my point, that even if he had given up the Silmarils at first, he still might have rebelled, reinforcing the evil character that motivated him, not just circumstances turning out the way they did.

I find them a tad biased, yes, Nobody can be completely objective. They all come with presuppositions and preconceptions, and neither you nor I are exceptions.

You choose not to differentiate between Evil and Absolute Evil, fair enough. But you do not differentiate between ’bad’ and ’evil’, and there is certainly a huge difference here. No no no no NO! You misunderstood me! I think. I DO differentiate between evil and Absolute Evil. That was my very first premise on which my argument was based. Your division of bad vs. evil is the same as my evil vs. Absolute Evil, respectively. At least, that is how it seems to me based on how you argue. Merely a difference in terms. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think we are practically saying the same thing.

Does the act of evil and subsequent failure to repent make one evil? Yes.   Exactly. This was a huge point in my first post (or atleast it was supposed to be, I’m not sure if it came out that way.) I pointed to his final breath, where he refuses to repent and curses Morgoth, and forces his sons to swear to continue on the evil course he had started.

everybody.
manwe1 09/Dec/2006 at 06:59 PM
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but if failure to repent makes one evil, then all are evil. Everyone does something wrong at some point, not everyone repents, not everyone lives to repent, according to your logic, then everyone of those that didn’t or couldn’t repent is evil.
Look at Turgon, he, in his pride doomed his city, if that is not evil at all then i believe that your veiw of evil is skewed, yet did he repent, no, therefore is he not evil.
When one does evil and gets caught, are they sorry for the deed or the fact that they didn’t get away with it. If they aren’t sorry for the deed itself, it is not repentance, therefore are they still evil?
KingODuckingham 09/Dec/2006 at 09:42 PM
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To draw on more movie quotes (sorry Phil), have you seen Pirates of the Caribbean? "One good deed does not redeem a lifetime of evil." (paraphrased) It’s true, and the converse is true as well. Turgon’s one folly is not enough to tip the balance and make me view him as evil, just as Feanor’s one good deed of creating the Silmarils doesn’t stop me from calling him evil.
manwe1 10/Dec/2006 at 11:40 PM
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but was feanor’s life one of evil? That is the question. He died so soon after his oath was made and the evil acts were commited. You cannot judge his life based on the time of the making of the silmarils on. His life went from birth to death, and while many of the events in his later life were evil, who is to say that the events of his younger life were also.
KingODuckingham 12/Dec/2006 at 03:53 PM
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We get a few quotes telling of the character of Feanor:

"in the pursuit of all his purposes eager and steadfast. Few ever changed his courses by counsel, none by force. He became of all the Noldor, then or after, the most subtle in mind and the most skilled in hand."~The Sil, Of Feanor

While this does not indicate evil, there are the shadows of doubt cast upon him here, speaking of his stubborness and rashness already (for this is speaking before his marriage, which was early in his life). Also subtleness of mind has a quality to it which has a penchant for evil--trickery and deceit.

"Nerdanel also was firm of will, but more patient than Feanor, desiring to understand minds rather than to master them, and at first she restrained him when the fire of his heart grew too hot, but his later deeds grieved her, and they became estranged."~ibid.

Here we see through the description of his wife Feanor’s lack of patience, his desire for power through mastery of minds (reminiscent even of Sauron’s desire to dominate all life), his fiery and quick temper. We also see that his wife, after a point, refused to stand by him. If she would not, of all people, why should we?
Vugar 12/Dec/2006 at 07:07 PM
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It seems to me one would have to take into account FŽanorís state of mind after the death of his father and the theft of the Silmarils.  From that moment on he was crazed by grief and rage.

"Then FŽanor rose, and lifting up his hand before ManwŽ he cursed Melkor, naming him Morgoth, the Black Foe of the World; and by that name only was he known to the Eldar ever after. And he cursed also the summons of ManwŽ and the hour in which he came to Taniquetil, thinking in the madness of his rage and grief that had he been at Formenos his strength would have availed more than to be slain also, as Melkor had purposed. Then FŽanor ran from the Ring of Doom, and fled into the night; for his father was dearer to him than the Light of Valinor or the peerless works of his hands; and who among sons, of Elves or of Men, have held their fathers of greater worth?" (Of the Flight of the Noldor, The Silmarillion)

Little wonder that due to that one stroke he remained driven and fey for the remainder of his life.

Etymology: Middle English feye, from Old English f[AE]ge; akin to Old High German feigi doomed and perhaps to Old English fAh hostile, outlawed -- more at FOE
1 a chiefly Scottish : fated to die : DOOMED b : marked by a foreboding of death or calamity
2 a : able to see into the future : VISIONARY b : marked by an otherworldly air or attitude c :
CRAZY, TOUCHED
(Merriam-Webster, my emphasis)

He is guilty of the crimes mentioned - he is not blameless -, yet I do not think him cupable as some might suggest.  I see him more as a catalyst than an instrument of any side.  I think one could pursue the themes of chaos and stagnation on that course.  It would also be interesting to see what others thought of the notion of FŽanor fitting the mold of the Greek hero possessed of hubris e.g. Achilles.

KingODuckingham 17/Dec/2006 at 09:42 PM
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I think the hubris idea a very interesting connection...but then Achilles is hardly the model one would want to choose to try and redeem Feanor. I also fail completely to see how one’s state of mind excuses crimes. Insane people can do whatever they want and not be punished for it? The laws (written or natural) do not change based on how someone is feeling or thinking. That is a ridiculous justification. Did your mother ever forgive you for smashing her precious possessions just because you were having a fit? Perhaps if everyone that ever lost a mother reacted as Feanor did and went insane, then one might say, that’s a natural result, and excuse it. But that isn’t the way it works. Feanor is culpable because he cannot control his passions, rebels, is a traitor, and a murderer.
Thefourfingers 18/Dec/2006 at 08:07 AM
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KingODuckingham-  I just wanted to mention something about one of your points.

"And looking out from the slopes of Ered Wethrin with his last sight he beheld far off the peaks of Thangorodrim, mightiest of the towers of Middle-Earth, and knew with the foreknowledge of death that no power of the Noldor would ever overthrow them; but he cursed the name of Morgoth thrice, and laid it upon his sons to hold to their oath, and to avenge their father."~The Sil, Of the Return of the Noldor

You comented that Feanorís "bitter pride makes him doom his sons and indeed all those Noldor that follow to the fruitless 500 year war filled with pain, loss, anguish, sorrow, and death."  This is not the case at all.  Feanor had no power to release his sons or anyone else from the oath they had taken.  It was written that even the Valar could not release the sons of Feanor from their oath because it was made to Eru himself.  Sorry that I donít have the exact quotation, but my copy of the Sil is not on hand at this moment.

It would not have made any difference had Feanor released his followers from their oath.  They still would have been bound to it.  Therefore, Feanor does not doom his sons or his followers;  they doom themselves when they take their oath.

KingODuckingham 18/Dec/2006 at 08:13 AM
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TFF: Point understood. Good to see you again, by the way, I’ve been wondering where you’ve been. But my point in saying such a thing is not necessarily to prove that right there at his death he doomed them all to that war, but he WAS the one who led them to take the Oath in the first place, so it is his fault anyway. Also the point is that even if he could revoke the Oath, he didn’t want to, because he makes them reaffirm it and promise him revenge. Granted it all comes to the same thing practically, but my point is the underlying will of Feanor wanted the Oath to be fulfilled anyway.
Thefourfingers 18/Dec/2006 at 08:48 AM
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KingODuckingham-  Yes it has been a while.  Final exams have taken over my life recently, but now I am back.

Here’s a question for you then.  Is Feanor’s desire to have the oath fufilled on his deathbed another evil action on his part, or is it just a reconfirmation that the oath itself was evil?  What I mean to say is that Feanor’s continued wish to have the oath fufilled shows that he is still commited to the past action.  Now is this recommitment a new evil deed all unto itself or is it just a reference back to the evil of the original oathtaking?

Battlehamster 18/Dec/2006 at 11:38 AM
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I would say that it referring back to the Oath isn’t a new evil, it’s just continuation of the old one. It seems like everything he does after the theft of the Silmarils and his father’s death was basically all done in an storm of rage and grief and what it shows is that he hasn’t really stopped to think about it at all. You can argue that the ships were a calculated move, but it seems to me more like something done in anger than a calculated betrayal.

I would also say that there were more ways to interpret the Oath than his sons did. When Beren and Luthien were going to win the Silmaril there was a branching of ways they could have gone. They could have, as they did, insisted on taking the Silmaril from them. However, in my opinion, the Oath would also allow them to "bide there time" and keep Doriath and Nargothrond allies, in the interest of getting the other two.
KingODuckingham 18/Dec/2006 at 02:06 PM
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TFF: Yes, it was a continuation of the prior chain of evil, but it was also an evil unto itself, a refusal to repent and a reaffirmation of his evil ways. Which brings me to:

Battlehamster: Of course he was angry about the death of his father, but notice the Oath is not a "I’m going to kill the guy that killed my dad" but "I’m going to kill anyone who tries to keep the Silmarils from me." Thus he didn’t just hate Morgoth by then, but everyone who just tried to keep him from his jewels. And no, the Oath couldn’t really be reinterpreted that way. Maglor tried that at the end, but the Oath wouldn’t let them, and they had to do it Maedhros’ way. I’m really sorry I’m not giving quotes but I don’t have my Sil for a while. The Oath said that they would fight anyone who held the Silmarils, unescapably said so, so any putting off they did about that, no matter how they justified it weighed on them, and eventually they had to give in, no matter the consequences. Which makes the Oath all the more evil to take, given the eventual results.
Thefourfingers 18/Dec/2006 at 06:03 PM
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I do not think that Feanor’s continued commitment to the oath on his death bed is an action that makes him more evil.  I think that this only indicates that Feanor has not changed since the oath-taking.  He is still just as evil as he was before, and his dying words reconfirm but do not increase that evil.

KingO-  I am assuming that you are using the word evil how most people use the word bad.  If this is not what you meant by: I want to make a sharp and clear distinction between calling someone "evil" and "Absolutely Evil"  then let me know.

Yarrow Loamsdown 19/Dec/2006 at 01:03 AM
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Begging your pardon KingODuckingham but the written laws may not change depending on you’re mental state. But the consequences sertainly do. In fact there have been quite a few famous trials where insanity, and even temporary insanity is enough to get a person aquitted. For example women have been aquitted of murder by pleading PMS, and most people (at least in the U.S.) have heard about the famous "twinkie defense", of course I’m pretty sure that was also a crime of passion... which are also dealt with much less harshly.

If Feanor was in fact "evil/bad" then what of the Doom of Mandos? Feanor swore an oath "...,calling the Everlasting Dark upon them if they kept it not;..." and yet in the Doom of Mandos he speaks nothing at all of this part of the oath ever coming to pass.
"For though Eru appointed to you to not die in Eš, 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."

If he truly were evil and without chance of redemption, wouldnt the Valar have let him go into the Everlasting Darkness he had called upon himself? Melkor/Morgoth was evil (even I won’t argue with that) and was cast into the void, he did not want that I’m sure. And yet Feanor asked for it, and instead sits waiting in Mandos...
And waiting for what precisely?
KingODuckingham 19/Dec/2006 at 07:49 AM
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Aewen/Filit: I know about those ridiculous temporary insanity trials, and I disagree with them and am not convinced by them at all. In fact they infuriate me.

TFF:Yes, I suppose I am using that word distinction, though I donít understand why people hesitate to use the word evil. I tried to make the distinction very clear, but Aewen/Filit seems to be falling back into the trap once again by saying If he truly were evil and without chance of redemption,....one does not have to be beyond redemption to be evil.

And what of the Doom of Mandos, by the way? It says if he doesnít keep his Oath the everlasting darkness will come. But he certainly did keep his Oath, which is why he isnít thrown out.

Arthur Weasley 20/Dec/2006 at 04:08 PM
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KingODuckingham - WOW!  Lots to read here.  Love your digs on Gollum but if Frodo could forgive him ("let us Forgive him Sam")  why can we not?  Also, Elves are always the good guys and most LOTR fans have what I call this "typical knee-jerk reaction," that all Elves are basically good, forest dwelling tough guys.  When Elves act foolishly or even stupidly, it is not based on ambition to enslave others which could be true evil.  No one calls Galadriel evil though she certainly committed a form of treason against the Valar when she followed Feanor to Middle Earth (the irony is that she really despised Feanor herself) to rule her own Kingdom.  Was she evil?  Certainly no one asked her to come to ME to rule them.  These are basic feelings and human reactions in life.  Evil only exists when someone really wishes to harm others.  Selfishness is not inherently evil.  What is mine is mine unless I share.
Battlehamster 21/Dec/2006 at 12:26 PM
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I don’t defend Feanor because I like Elves, I defend Feanor because I--actually have no idea why I do. But I dislike plenty of Elves. Eol and Maeglin, for example. Finarfin too, though that’s a bit different: I just find him irritating. Maybe it’s my knee-jerk reaction to defend the borderline psycho character.
Arthur Weasley 21/Dec/2006 at 07:55 PM
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Battlehamster - Love your name!!  Actually your thoughts provide me with another example of my point about "knee jerk or preconceived notions," that most LOTR fans possess in common.  Elves rarely reveal emotional traits and usually come off as simply wise loremasters or warriors.  Once I tried to imagin intimate moments between Celeborn and Galadriel and I just could not imagine it.  We should all try to overcome our preconceived notions and move beyond them!
KingODuckingham 21/Dec/2006 at 11:17 PM
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Love your digs on Gollum but if Frodo could forgive him ("let us Forgive him Sam") why can we not? Who says we can’t forgive him? Of course we forgive him. And in parallel, we forgive Feanor too. My point in this thread is that they have become evil and therefore we actually have to forgive them for something. If they weren’t evil, there would be no need for forgiveness.

Evil only exists when someone really wishes to harm others If I had the quote, I would provide it, but I don’t. In the Sil, when Feanor betrays Fingolfin and all those others, his plan was for them essentially to wander around until they died. If that isn’t harm to others I don’t know what is.

Finarfin too, though that’s a bit different: I just find him irritating.   Me too. Go figure.

We should all try to overcome our preconceived notions and move beyond them! You speak the truth, but don’t take it so far you end up ignoring the obvious and looking for alternate explanations to the truth just to be different.
Arthur Weasley 23/Dec/2006 at 12:32 PM
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KingODuckingham - You always get me thinking in new directions!  Yes, Feanor condemning Fingolfin and All into following him across the ice polar cap (eep I cannot remember the name and I am on the hop and not near my books) would certainly be considered a grave injustice.  But was not Feanor a little bit nutsirrational by then also?  Nah.  What am I saying? He was a nasty!
Battlehamster 23/Dec/2006 at 09:09 PM
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But we love him for it.
KingODuckingham 23/Dec/2006 at 09:39 PM
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Yeah. After all, why else would I spend so much time with him?
Arthur Weasley 27/Dec/2006 at 05:19 PM
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KingODuckingham and Battlehamster - Feanor however was better looking than Gollum so he always gets a better press.  The unintended consequences of Feanor’s actions brought nothing but misery.  At least with Gollum, his unintended consequences actually saved Middle Earth and destroyed Sauron!
elvenpath 28/Dec/2006 at 12:23 AM
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Quote: Originally posted by KingODuckingham on Monday, December 18, 2006


Battlehamster:  Iím really sorry Iím not giving quotes but I donít have my Sil for a while. The Oath said that they would fight anyone who held the Silmarils, unescapably said so, so any putting off they did about that, no matter how they justified it weighed on them, and eventually they had to give in, no matter the consequences. Which makes the Oath all the more evil to take, given the eventual results.

Here is the quote from Sil regarding the oath Feanor swore:

They swore an oath which none shall break, and none should take, by the name even of Ilķvatar, calling the Everlasting Dark upon them if they kept it not; and ManwŽ they named in witness, and Varda, and the hallowed mountain of Taniquetil, vowing to pursue with vengeance and hatred to the ends of the World Vala, Demon, Elf or Man as yet unborn, or any creature, great or small, good or evil, that time should bring forth unto the end of days, whoso should hold or take or keep a Silmaril from their possession.(Sil, Of The Flight of the Noldor)

 

I think the oath is not most ’evil’ thing Feanor did, as one can decide for himself what to do and takes full responsability. I consider it worse that he used his power to manipulate the other Elves who listened to him with open hearts and this is how he managed to convince them to follow him:

 

FŽanor was a master of words, and his tongue had great power over hearts when he would use it; and that night he made a speech before the Noldor which they ever remembered. Fierce and few were his words, and filled with anger and pride; and hearing them the Noldor were stirred to madness(Sil, Of The Flight of the Noldor)

Arthur Weasley 28/Dec/2006 at 09:57 AM
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Probably the only two really ’Evil’ things Feanor did was to first order and participate in the Kinslaying of the Teleori with the rape of their ships.  The next ’evil’ act was then to burn the ships once he arrived in Middle Earth.  Otherwise, Feanor still might be hailed as a macho, tough guy warrior who wanted to destory Melkor/Morgoth.
KingODuckingham 29/Dec/2006 at 06:37 PM
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Darth: You made an excellent point when you said:

Feanor however was better looking than Gollum so he always gets a better press.

It’s so unfortunately true. Because he is an elf, people are less willing to believe he was evil, because the stereotypical elf is fair and wise and just. There’s no problem in thinking of Black Numenoreans, but so-called "Dark Elves" in Tolkien are not evil, but simply haven’t been to Valinor. As we can see from examples like some of Feanor’s sons, Eol, Maeglin, and Feanor himself, though, elves are not always the best of people. Don’t judge on the outward appearance.

elvenpath: Also an important observation. Dooming oneself is one thing, but bringing others with you in your folly becomes a far more serious crime.