Who is the most complex character in Lord of the Rings?

Excellent answers have already been provided, so I will allow myself to broaden the subject somewhat and focus on a particularly complex character within Tolkien’s work, and more precisely, the Silmarillion, hoping that you’ll forgive me for being off-topic!

I am going to talk about the story of the seven sons of Fëanor, which generally retraces the entire first part of The Silmarillion . If you haven’t yet read this work and want to get started: run away, poor fool!

So let’s start this story by talking about the character of Fëanor. He is the son of Finwë, first king of the Noldors, and is described among them by Tolkien as having:

The finest mind and the most skillful hand.

He is notably the creator of the Silmarils, gems containing the light of the two sacred trees of Valinor. His sons were Maedhros, Maglor, Celegorm, Caranthir, Curufin, Amrod and Amras.

When the period of peace of Valinor came to an end, the sacred trees were destroyed by Morgoth and Ungoliant, King Finwë assassinated by the first city and the Silmarils stolen by him, these eight characters played a central role in the rebellion of the Noldors against the Valar (the gods, more or less). They also took an oath which, as we will see, will have capital importance for the rest of this story.

Swore to pursue with their hatred and their vengeance to the ends of the world any Vala, Demon, Elf, any Man or any being yet to be born, (…) who could come into the world until the end of time and who had a Silmaril possesses it.

To take this oath, they took as witnesses Manwë and Varda, two Valar, the lords of the Immortal lands, and invoked the name of Illuvatar (the God of gods…).

Driven by this oath, the sons of Fëanor set out in pursuit of Morgoth (or Melkor, a Vala, the Villain of history). They massacred the Teleri Elves, who had refused them access to their ships, and betrayed some of their own people by burning the boats when all had not yet made the crossing: note also that according to One version of the story is that when he gave this order, Fëanor was unaware that one of his sons (Amrod or Amras) was in one of the ships. This son is therefore, in this version, the first to perish.

The story of the seven brothers and their father is, from their arrival, inextricably linked to that of the famous Silmarils, which remained in the possession of Melkor for several centuries, until one of them was stolen by Beren and Luthien (whose story deserves a response much longer than these few lines).

This Simaril was therefore stolen, torn from the crown of Morgoth, by a man, Beren, out of love for Luthien, daughter of the elf king Thingol, who had set this feat as a condition for the union of the two lovers. Badly came to him: Tolkien here makes the Silmaril the object of desire and corruption, a jewel of too great beauty not to be a source of lust and misfortune. Thingol was assassinated, the Silmaril changed owners several times and the kingdom was ravaged by the Dwarves and the Elves of the armies of the seven sons of Fëanor, who had suffered a refusal from Dior, the new king, to hand over the Silmaril to them. The latter was killed in turn, but led to death three of the brothers: Celegorm, Curufin and Caranthir.

Two of the king’s sons were then abandoned to their fate in the woods; Maedhros, overcome with remorse, searched for them in vain. This is the first passage through which Tolkien sketches a form of repugnance towards the oath, by one of those who had uttered it.

The story, however, does not end with these events: the Silmaril was in fact able to be taken away again from the hands of the sons of Fëanor by Elwing, daughter of Dior, who took it to the west side of the Lands of Medium. She later married Eärendil, and they had sons Elrond and Elros. However, here again, the peace did not last…

When Maedhros learned that Elwing still lived and lived at the mouth of Sirion, still in possession of the Silmaril, remorse for what had happened at Doriath restrained his first impulse. But, in time, the oath that remained unfulfilled returned to torment him and his brothers; They left their wandering hunts to meet and send the people of the Ports a message of friendship while firmly recalling their demands.

Demands which were rejected by Elwing, who refused to cede the Silmaril so dearly acquired, and for which so much blood had been shed. The ports, which sheltered the last exiles of Doriath and Gondolin, were then attacked by surprise. The battle was confused, the sons of Fëanor were betrayed by some of their own, but they still managed to win. Of the seven brothers, only Maedhros and Maglor remained. Elrond and Elros were captured, and Elwing, in despair, threw himself into the sea, the Silmaril still around his neck.

His sons, however, were not executed:

Maglor took pity and affection for them and little by little, as improbable as it was, love grew between them, for Maglor’s heart was weary and disgusted with the burden of this terrible oath.

Elwing’s Silmaril was then taken by her and her husband to Valinor, and the Valar then decided to place it beyond the reach of evil by making the ship that had transported it into a sort of star, a chariot of Apollo to the Tolkien .

At the end of the War of Wrath, during which Morgoth’s armies were almost annihilated, his fortresses destroyed and he himself taken captive, the two remaining Silmarils fell into the hands of Eönwë, and he proposed to all the Elves of the region to join the Undying Lands.

Maedhros and Maglor refused to follow him and prepared again, although this time with weariness and disgust, to carry out the oath they had made. (…) So they sent a message to Eönwë, ordering him to leave them the jewels once made by their father Fëanor and stolen by Morgoth.

They were told that the right they had over these jewels had been lost through the countless crimes committed to recover them. They were invited to follow their people, and the Silmarils, to Valinor to receive the judgment of the Valar. Maglor wanted to accept, but his brother, Maedhros, dissuaded him: it would never be possible for them to keep their word under the eye of the Valar… so they entered the army camp, killed the guards and stole the precious jewels. The Elves, awake, surrounded the two brothers, but Eönwë decided to spare them. I let Tolkien’s words conclude this story:

But the jewel burned Maedhros’ hand with unbearable pain. He understood that it was as Eönwë had said, that their right had been forfeited and that their oath had become vain. Mad with anguish and despair, he threw himself into a gaping crevasse where a blaze was roaring and thus ended his days. The Silmaril he carried was lost in the heart of the Earth.

It is said that Maglor could not bear the pain that tortured him either and that he ended up throwing the Silmaril into the sea and then wandering forever along the coasts, singing to the waves of his suffering and his regret. For he was one of the greatest singers of old (…), and he never returned among the people of the Elves. So it came to pass that the Silmarils found their home at last: one in the firmament of the sky, the other in the flames at the heart of the world, and the third in the depths of the sea.

This is where the story of the seven sons of Fëanor ends, which I hope to have made quite attractive, despite the desire for brevity. Reading this story always reminds me of the style of an old Greek tragedy, in which the hero seems doomed from the start, and never to experience reprieve. Regardless, I found the story poignant – and I hope I was able to capture some of that feeling here. I can only encourage the reading of the work which contains it, hoping that an ambitious Hollywood man does not decide, tomorrow, to add meteors!

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