Saturday, 13 July 2013

The Flight Of The Noldor: Strength In The Face Of Disaster

To anyone who is among the unfortunate few who follow my Tumblr blog, you have doubtless been gnashing your teeth over my sudden and gleeful spamming of all things Silmarillion. I would apologise, but that would not be very much in keeping with the spirit of the occasion: celebrating the Noldor, the first elves to, among other things, forsake the havens of Tirion and move to the wild and untamed lands of Middle Earth in the First Age, ignoring all fears, opposition and nay-sayers.

For that reason, the Noldor - especially their leader, the infamous Feanor - are among both the most popular, but also the most controversial, figures in Tolkien's works. You don't come to dominate half a new world without making a few enemies, after all. Not to mention more than a few horrific mistakes.

Sometimes, I think, we all feel a bit like the Noldor did. We are presented with an opportunity like no other, but all the wonders of that opportunity are conterbalanced by a hundred-thousand uncertainties. We're not supporting the popular opinion here, and the nay-sayers of society, of our friendship groups, of our own families, the endless risks, the emotional and physical cost to ourselves - everything is piling up against us. But worst of all is the fear. Fear of taking that risk, of leaving the safety of all we know and love, of falling prey to a thousand risks along the way, and of what we may find waiting for us on the other side.

The fear of the unknown, some say, is the greatest fear of them all.

So, what makes all that risk worth it? Well, in the case of the brilliant-but-clearly-unhinged Feanor, it was obvious. His motivation was writ large across sky, sea and stars, and anyone who came within a ten mile radius of Aqualonde can tell you that he was more than capable of following up on his madly passionate quest.

But, of course, we are not all Feanor - thankfully, or else I'm not sure we'd get anything done without the need for a stunningly dramatic speech or life-threatening demonstration of high emotion. What about all those ordinary Noldor; the bakers, the blacksmiths, the candlestick makers, the ones whose names didn't carry a reputation beyond that lucky streak at Saturday night bingo?

That, my friends, is the core of the matter: when everything goes wrong, what will you do?

You see, everything goes spectacularly wrong for the Noldor - as is wont to happen when you've massacred an entire people, burned their city to the ground and stolen their ships before you've even gotten seaborne. Feanor himself, very much the spearhead of the movement, doesn't last all that long in Middle Earth before he meets his (characterisically flambouyant) end. His father, sons, brothers, grandson, cousins, and countless others who take up his leadership fall away behind him. Slaughter and misery and treachery abound. It's a wonder there are any elves, Noldor or otherwise, who last to make an appearance in The Lord Of The Rings at all!

And yet, somehow, through it all, the Noldor kept going - the ordinary Noldor, the ones who didn't make it into the legends and songs and heated forum discissions on the Silmarillion Wikipedia page.  Within each of them was something that gave them a singular strength of nature, something that steeled them against all the worst things the wrathful world could throw at them.

That's something, I think, we would do well to remember. We, as writers, are often among those who come to be interested in ideas that don't entirely fit the world's conventions, yet we are also often the most vulnerable to the setbacks of following up on those beliefs. There are a thousand trials out there awaiting us in the world of authorship: scathing reviews, confidence tricksters, implacable publishers and endless reams of rejections from agents who may or may not have even bothered to read your book.

Furthermore, as our elvish friends have demonstrated, sometimes we simply will not win. Our endeavours will fail, our hopes will be dashed, and we will be left trekking across an unending icy wilderness with nothing but our own bitter disappointment for company. Life is notoriously biased when it comes to handing out victories, and even those we do claim may feel like scanty compensation for what we endure to get them.

That, however, is not the point. What matters is, no matter how powerful our foes, or how hard our trials are, we keep going. If we, like the Noldor, find that one thing, that one source of strength, within us, there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn't keep going, even in the face of absolute failure. In fact, there's no reason why we should be afraid of failing - or be afraid of anything.

Available celebratory activities include forging, smithing, hunting, singing and slamming the doors in the faces of evil gods.

Happy Noldor Independence Day, everyone.

~ Charley R


  1. Your Silmarillion blogging makes me ashamed of the junk I've been posting today.

    1. Don't be - I'm in shameless Noldor Supremacist mode, and I'm loving every second of the communal insanity. This is just a more beneficient side-effect ;)

  2. I can't believe I missed this post. Excellent work, my friend.