"Here once was light, that the Valar begrudged to Middle-earth, but now dark levels all. Shall we mourn here deedless for ever, a shadow-folk, mist-haunting, dropping vain tears in the thankless sea? Or shall we return to our home? In Cuiviénen sweet ran the waters under unclouded stars, and wide lands lay about, where a free people might walk. There they lie still and await us who in our folly forsook them. Come away! Let the cowards keep this city!"
His Silmarils stolen and his father, the king, slain by Morgoth, Fëanor gives his firey speech to the Noldor. Behind him his brother, Fingolfin, prepares to speak against him, in vain. Galadriel, though no friend of Fëanor, is touched by his words and envisions kingdoms of her own in the East. Her brother, Finrod, simply weeps for the looming fate of his people. For better or worse, Middle-Earth is about to meet the Noldor. (More art and information on the Noldor here and here)
- Teleri Sailors - Some examples of the Teleri, the more numerous but less imposing ethnic group of the High Elves. Sleight and androgynous, especially compared to the more muscular Noldor, the Teleri are crafters of the only ships in Aman, a quality that seals their terrible fate at the hands of Fëanor and his followers. (More Teleri examples here).
- Gothmog - Captain of the Balrogs and second-mightiest of Morgoth’s servants. While Sauron ruled in Morgoth’s absence, it’s Gothmog who is generally in charge of leading his armies. (More Balrog examples here).
The Sons of Fëanor are infamous in the history of the Elves. Swearing a dreadful oath to recover the Silmarils at any cost, they’re second only to Morgoth in causing grief and death during the First Age.
- Maedhros the Tall - Eldest and generally the most diplomatic.
- Maglor the Mighty Singer - Makes it out of this story alive, but arguably the most depressing.
- Celegorm the Fair - Sexist creep and all-around jerkass.
- Caranthir the Dark - Dwarf-hater, rarely worked well with others.
- Curufin the Crafty - Most like Fëanor, and father of Celebrimbor, the Elf who would make the Rings of Power.
- Amrod and Amras the Hunters - They don’t do much, but I still don’t trust them. I mean look at them.
The Silmarillion as an HBO-style animated series
I’ve been giving it some thought, and I think with some elbow grease (to flesh out the stories), you could write at least three very solid seasons that follow the main stories in The Silmarillion. It would kind of be structured like Game of Thrones, where different or minor characters become main characters later on.
Season 1: Beren & Luthien
Season 2: The Children of Hurin
Season 3: Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin (ending with the War of Wrath)
The whole series could start with an hour-long opener of Feanor crafting the Silmarils and the War of the Jewels kicking off. Also it should be animated and someone should hire me to do the designs. Obviously.
Silmarillion Chapter 8: Of The Darkening of Valinor
But now on the mountain-top dark Ungoliant lay; and she made a ladder of woven ropes and cast it down, and Melkor climbed upon it and came to that high place, and stood beside her, looking down upon the Guarded Realm.
…Then Melkor laughed aloud, and leapt swiftly, and leapt swiftly down the western slopes; and Ungoliant was at his side, and her darkness covered them.
A lot of the supernatural monsters in Tolkien’s mythology are deliberately left vague. In general, this is to leave it up to the imagination, but in the case of Ungoliant, I think it’s more interesting to depict her as a spider-shaped void than a detailed monster. She is, after all, more of an elemental, the embodiment of hunger. Similar to what I’ve done with the Valar, I think Ungoliant’s form is more of a vague facade she wears to interact with the world.
Silmarillion Project Q&A
As promised, I’ve gone and compiled a short list of common questions of what exactly this project is all about!
It’s a side project I do in my free time to create a painted illustration to accompany every chapter in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion, as well as provide supplementary illustrations to round out the characters and world in general. My motivation is to create a Middle-Earth visually unique from the style of the Peter Jackson films. I like the movies, but I miss the days when there was more diversity and interpretation to Tolkien illustrations.
A second motivation is to provide a greater representation of women and people of color in the narratives. While Tolkien made more than a few missteps regarding race and gender, the “everyone is white” trend in adaptations is a symptom of other people ignoring what’s in the texts. Additionally, all of Tolkien’s writings are presented as if they’re written from a limited and flawed historical perspective (LoTR and The Hobbit were “written” by Hobbits, etc). The position of my adaptation is to present what “actually” happened- the events upon which the flawed or biased history is based. Just like with real historians, the presence of women and people of color, and their achievements, are frequently ignored.
I’m never going to contradict what’s written, but I’m definitely going to use all of the tools at my disposal to emphasize the importance of those who don’t always get their rightful share of historical credit.
Silmarillion Chapter 7: Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor
For Fëanor, being come to his full might, was filled with a new thought, or it may be that some shadow of foreknowledge came to him of the doom that drew near; and he wondered how the light of the Trees, the glory of the Blessed Realm, might be preserved imperishable. Then he began a long secret labour, and he summoned all his lore, and his power, and his subtle skill; and at the end of all he made the Silmarils.
Here is the beginning of the end for the peaceful days of the Elves. Never before nor after would anything as beautiful or tragic as the Silmarils ever be created again. Not an easy thing to illustrate, so I kept it pretty abstract.
On the topic of Fëanor’s appearance: the Noldor are only described as being more muscular than other Elves, and having darker hair and features. Additionally, we know the Noldor resemble the human House of Bëor, who are described as having brown, “swarthy” skin and dark features. Tolkien’s characters are often all portrayed as white Anglo-Saxon, but in reality this frequently conflicts with his ethnic descriptions.
Noldor Warriors - On the right is a generic soldier, while on the left is another illustration of Galadriel. While best known for her more regal role in Lord of the Rings, in this era, Galadriel is militant and ambitious, ready to defy the Valar and claim a kingdom of her own in Middle-Earth.
"Silmarillion Chapter 6: Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor"
"…and therefore in a while he was given leave to go freely about the land, and it seemed to Manwë that the evil of Melkor was cured. For Manwë was free from evil and could not comprehend it, and he knew that in the beginning, in the thought of Ilúvatar, Melkor had been even as he; and he did not perceive that all love had departed from him for ever."
"Silmarillion Chapter 5: Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië"
"But the memory of Middle-Earth under the stars remained in the hearts of the Noldor, and the abode in the Calacirya, and in the hills and valleys within the sound of the western sea"
Above is a painting of the Tirion, which became the capital city of the Noldor. It faces the gap of Calacirya, which is the only opening in the mountain range where the light of the Two Trees (a divine source of illumination) can pass through. I’ve also incorporated this image into the clothing and banners of the Noldor Elves. The black eye markings are used to mimic the dirt marks the Noldor get while working their furnaces, as they are very proud of their crafting and metalworking.
The House of Finwë From left to right:
Indis - Finwë’s second wife. She is not actually Noldor, but a Vanyar Elf.
Finwë - High King of the Noldor.
Míriel - Finwë’s first wife who died after giving birth to her only son, Fëanor.
Fingolfin - Indis and Finwë’s son, and a significant hero in the Silmarillion.
Fëanor - Finwë’s eldest son, mightiest of the Noldor and creator of the Silmarils.
Finwë and Indis had another son, Finarfin, who was the father of two particularly noteworthy children:
Finrod - Among the wisest of the Noldor, Finrod was the first High Elf to encounter humans, and was quick to befriend and defend their kind.
Galadriel - Eager and ambitious, Galadriel is one of the leaders of the brewing Noldor rebellion.
Along with the Noldor, there are also the Teleri and Vanyar, who are notably less restless.
Olwë - Younger brother of Thingol and king of the Teleri, Elves more concerned with shipbuilding and the exploring the sea.
Ingwë - King of the Vanyar and High King of all Elves, Ingwë and his people are best known for their art, and since they never cause any trouble, they rarely appear in the Silmarillion.
"Silmarillion Chapter 3: Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor"
"But at the last the gates of Utumno were broken and the halls unroofed, and Melkor took refuge in the uttermost pit. Then Tulkas stood forth as champion of the Valar and wrestled with him, and cast him upon his face; and he was bound with the chain Angainor that Aulë had wrought, and led captive; and the world had peace for a long age"
"Then an enchantment fell on him, and he stood still still; and afar off beyond the voices of the lómelindi he heard the voice of Melian, and it filled all his heart with wonder and desire. He forgot utterly all his people and the purposes of his mind, and following the birds under the shadow of the trees he passed deep into Nan Elmoth and was lost. But he came at last to a glade open to the stars, and there Melian stood; and out of the darkness he looked at her, and the light of Aman was in her face."
Thingol and Melian are the High King and Queen of Beleriand, and functionally all of Middle-Earth in their day. Melian is a Maia, the race of spirits that include Sauron. Tolkien gives very little description of her, so I decided to keep a slightly otherworldly appearance, with horns like a faun or forest spirit. She’s actually much wiser than her husband and much more joyful, so I wanted to make sure that imagery held.
Thingol is the King of the Sindar, the “Grey Elves” who stayed in Middle-Earth (though Thingol himself made the journey to Aman once). As the tallest of the Men and Elves and one of the mightiest in battle, I wanted to keep his form larger and imposing. Older Elves can grow beards, and I’ve decided that any male Elf who was among the first to awaken (this includes Thingol) will be sporting a beard.
Of all the Valar, Aulë and Yavanna are my favorites, the ultimate husband & wife combo. Aulë is functionally the god of craftsman, and is said to be most like the villainous Melkor in personality (his servants Sauron and Saruman both turn evil, plus he trained troublemaking Fëanor) but Aulë himself remains virtuous and humble. Even when he created the Dwarves in defiance of Eru, it was meant to be a tribute to the Elves & Men (Eru’s personal creations). As such, the Dwarves were given true life and allowed to be awakened after the Elves. Aulë represents the creative ambition of Melkor without the jealousy or vanity.
Yavanna, creator of the Ents, is great because she’s one of the only Valar who actively tries to keep Middle-Earth from becoming overrun with evil, as her interest is with the actual plants and animals of the world. She’s also the one who chose Radagast to be one of the Istari sent to Middle-Earth. It’s also worth noting that while they got along very well, Aulë’s and Yavanna’s creations or servants did not. Dwarves and Ents have never had good relations, and Saruman despised Radagast to the end of his days.