Noldor

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Noldor
In-universe information
Other name(s)High Elves,
Deep Elves,
Tatyar
Created byEru Ilúvatar
Creation dateFirst Age
Home worldMiddle-earth
LanguageQuenya
LeaderKings of the Noldor

In the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, the Noldor (also spelled Ñoldor, meaning those with knowledge in Quenya) are a kindred of High Elves who migrated to Valinor from Middle-earth and lived in Eldamar, the coastal region of Aman, a continent that lay west of Middle-earth. The majority of the Noldor returned to Beleriand in the northwest of Middle-earth following the murder of their first leader Finwë by the Dark Lord Morgoth, on the instigation of Finwë's eldest son Fëanor. They were the second clan of the Elves in both order and size, the other clans being the Vanyar and the Teleri.

Among Elves, the Noldor showed the greatest talents for intellectual pursuits, technical skills and physical strength, yet were prone to unchecked ambition and pride in their ability to create. Scholars such as Tom Shippey have commented that these attributes led to their decline and fall, especially through Fëanor who created and coveted the magical jewels, the Silmarils. Others including Dimitra Fimi have linked the Noldor to the mythical Irish warriors and sorcerers, the Tuatha Dé Danann.

Etymology[edit]

Emblem of Finwë, High King of the Noldor, his highest of ranks signified in Elvish heraldry by sixteen points touching the rim[1]

"Noldor" meant those who have great knowledge and understanding. The Noldor are called Golodhrim or Gódhellim in Sindarin, and Goldui by Teleri of Tol Eressëa. The singular form of the Quenya noun is Noldo and the adjective is Noldorin, which is also the name of their dialect of Quenya.[T 1]

Tolkien gave some Noldorin leaders like Finwë and Fingolfin their own heraldic devices, carefully distinguishing their ranks by the number of points touching the rim.[1]

Attributes[edit]

The Noldor were counted among the Calaquendi ("Elves of the Light") or High Elves, as they had seen the light of the Two Trees of Valinor.[2] The most distinctive aspect of Noldorin culture was their fondness for craftwork and skill of their workmanship, which ranged from lapidary to embroidery to the craft of language. Among the Elven kindreds, the Noldor were the most beloved by the Vala Aulë, who originally taught them craftsmanship. As a result of their renown as the most skilled of all peoples in lore, warfare and crafts, the Noldor were sometimes called the "Deep Elves". Following their return to Middle-earth during the First Age, the Noldor built great cities within their realms in the land of Beleriand, such as Nargothrond and Gondolin.[T 2]

The Noldor primarily spoke Quenya as their first language, though the Exiles in Middle-earth would also speak Sindarin, a Quenya term for the language of the Sindar ("grey people" in Quenya), a kindred of Elves who initially accepted the summons of the Valar but never completed the journey to Valinor, and remained in Middle-earth as a prominent civilization. Among the wisest of the Noldor was Rúmil, creator of the first writing system, Sarati, and author of many books of lore.[3] Fëanor, son of Finwë and Míriel, was the greatest of their craftsmen, "mightiest in skill of word and of hand",[T 3] and creator of the Silmarils. Fëanor also devised the Tengwar script.[3]

The Noldor were the proudest of the Elves, as they vaunted in particular their ability to create: by the words of the Sindar, "they needed room to quarrel in".[T 4] Equally, this caused in them an arrogance that plagued their history and caused them great suffering.[T 1]

The Noldor are tall and physically strong. Their hair colour is usually a very dark shade of brown; Tolkien hesitated over whether their hair might be black.[T 5][T 6] Red and even white ("silver") hair occasionally exist among some individuals. Their eyes were usually grey or dark, with the inner light of Valinor reflected in their eyes; the Sindarin term Lachend means "flame-eyed".[T 4]

Fictional history[edit]

Early history[edit]

Arda in the First Age. The Elves awoke at Cuiviénen, on the Sea of Helcar (right) in Middle-earth, and migrated westwards towards Valinor in Aman, some not arriving there. Fëanor's people of the Noldor, returned to Beleriand (top) in stolen Falmari ships, leaving an angry Fingolfin to return over the Grinding Ice. Locations are diagrammatic.

According to Elven-lore, the Noldor as a clan was founded by Tata, the second Elf to awake at Cuiviénen, his spouse Tatië and their 54 companions. The fate of Tata and Tatië is not recorded; it was Finwë who led the Noldor to Valinor, where he became their King, and their chief dwelling-place was the city of Tirion upon Túna. In Valinor "great became their knowledge and their skill; yet even greater was their thirst for more knowledge, and in many things they soon surpassed their teachers. They were changeful in speech, for they had great love of words, and sought ever to find names more fit for all things they knew or imagined."[T 3]

The Noldor drew the ire of the rogue Vala Melkor, who envied their prosperity and, most of all, the Silmarils crafted by Fëanor. So he went often among them, offering advice, and the Noldor listened, being eager for knowledge.[T 7][T 8] But Melkor sowed lies, and in the end the peace in Tirion was poisoned. Fëanor, having assaulted his half-brother Fingolfin and thus broken the laws of the Valar, was banished to his fortress Formenos, and with him went Finwë his father. Fingolfin remained as the ruler of the Noldor of Tirion.[T 8]

With the aid of the spider spirit Ungoliant, Melkor destroyed the Two Trees of Valinor,[T 9] slew Finwë, stole the Silmarils and departed from Aman. Driven by vengeance, Fëanor rebelled against the Valar and roused the Noldor to leave Valinor, follow Melkor to Middle-earth and wage war against him for the recovery of the Silmarils. Though the greater part of the Noldor still held Fingolfin as the rightful leader, they followed Fëanor out of kinship and to avenge Finwë. Fëanor and his sons swore a terrible oath of vengeance against Melkor, whom Fëanor renamed Morgoth, or anyone who came into possession of a Silmaril.[T 10][T 11]

Flight of the Noldor: exile to Middle-earth[edit]

In Alqualondë, the Noldor hosts led by Fëanor demanded that the Falmari, those of the Teleri who had come to Valinor, let them use their ships. When the Teleri refused, Fëanor's forces took the ships by force, committing the first Kinslaying. A messenger from the Valar came later and delivered the Prophecy of the North, pronouncing the Doom of Mandos on the Noldor for the Kinslaying, and warning that a grim fate awaited them should they proceed with their rebellion. Some of the Noldor who had had no hand in the Kinslaying, including Finarfin son of Finwë and Indis, returned to Valinor, and the Valar forgave them. The majority of the Noldor, some blameless for the Kinslaying, remained determined to leave Valinor for Middle-earth. Among them were Finarfin's children, Finrod and Galadriel, who chose to follow Fingolfin instead of Fëanor and his sons.[T 12]

The Noldor crossed the sea to Middle-earth in the stolen ships, leaving Fingolfin and his people behind. Upon his arrival in Middle-earth, Fëanor had the ships burned. When the Noldor led by Fingolfin discovered their betrayal, they went farther north and crossed the sea at the Grinding Ice or the Helcaraxë.[T 10] Suffering substantial losses along the way, this greatly added to the animosity they had for Fëanor and his sons.[T 12] The deaths of the Two Trees and the departure of the Noldor out of the Undying Lands marked the end of the Years of the Trees, and the beginning of the Years of the Sun, when the Valar created the Moon and the Sun out of Telperion's last flower and Laurelin's last fruit. Fëanor's company was soon attacked by Morgoth in an event known as the Battle under Stars or Dagor-nuin-Giliath. Fëanor himself was mortally wounded by several Balrogs, who had issued forth from Angband and captured his eldest son Maedhros.[T 12]

Fingon, the eldest son of Fingolfin, saved Maedhros from captivity, which settled the rift between their houses for a time. Maedhros was due to succeed Fëanor, but he regretted his part in the Kinslaying as well as the abandonment of Fingolfin and left the leadership of the Noldor in Middle-earth to his uncle Fingolfin, who became the first High King of the Noldor. The rest of his brothers dissented and began to refer to themselves as the Dispossessed, paying little deference to Fingolfin or his successors, and were still determined to fulfill the oath they swore to recover the Silmarils on behalf of their father.[T 12]

Sketch map of Beleriand in the First Age. Fingolfin's land of Hithlum is at upper left; Turgon's city of Gondolin is more central, Finrod's city of Nargothrond below it. The Noldor's enemy Morgoth was based in the Iron Mountains, top centre.

In Beleriand, in the north-west of Middle-earth, the Noldor made alliances with the Sindar and later with Men of the Three Houses of the Edain. Fingolfin reigned long in the land of Hithlum, and his younger son Turgon built the hidden city of Gondolin. The Sons of Fëanor ruled the lands in Eastern Beleriand, while Finrod Finarfin's son was the King of Nargothrond and his brothers Angrod and Aegnor held Dorthonion. Fingolfin's reign was marked by warfare against Morgoth and in the year 60 of the First Age after their victory in Dagor Aglareb the Noldor started the Siege of Angband, the great fortress of Morgoth. In the year 455 the Siege was broken by Morgoth in the Dagor Bragollach, or Battle of Sudden Flame, in which the north-eastern Elvish realms were conquered, with the exception of Maedhros' fortress at Himring. Fingolfin in despair rode to Angband and challenged Morgoth to single combat, dealing the Dark Lord seven wounds before perishing. Fingolfin was succeeded by his eldest son Fingon the Valiant, who became the second High King of the Noldor in Beleriand.[T 12]

In the year 472, Maedhros organised an attack on Morgoth, which led to the Nírnaeth Arnoediad, the Battle of Unnumbered Tears.[T 13] The Noldor and their allies were utterly defeated when they were betrayed by the Easterlings and surrounded by Morgoth's forces. Fingon was killed by Gothmog, and was succeeded by his brother Turgon. Morgoth scattered the remaining forces led by the Sons of Fëanor,[T 13] and in 495 Nargothrond too was conquered. Turgon had withdrawn to Gondolin which had been kept hidden from both Morgoth and other Elves; his realm was betrayed to Morgoth by his nephew Maeglin in 510. Turgon died during the Fall of Gondolin, though his daughter Idril led many of his people to escape and find their way south. Gil-galad, son of Orodreth, succeeded Turgon and became the fourth and last High King of the Noldor in Middle-earth.[T 14]

Between the years 545–583 the War of Wrath was fought between Morgoth and the host of the Valar. As the result of the cataclysmic destruction from the war, Beleriand sank into the sea, except for a part of Ossiriand later known as Lindon, and a few isles. The defeat of Morgoth marked the end of the First Age and the start of the Second, and most of the Noldor returned to Aman, though some like Galadriel or Celebrimbor, grandson of Fëanor, refused the pardon of the Valar and remained in Middle-earth.[T 15]

Second and Third Ages[edit]

Gil-galad founded a new kingdom at Lindon and ruled throughout the Second Age, longer than any of the High Kings before him. After Sauron re-emerged and manipulated Celebrimbor and the smiths of Eregion to forge the Rings of Power, he fortified Mordor and began the long war with the remaining Elves of Middle-earth. His forces attacked Eregion, destroying it, but were repelled in Rivendell and Lindon. With the aid of the Númenóreans, the Noldor managed to defeat him for a time.[T 16]

In the year 3319 of the Second Age, Númenor fell due to Ar-Pharazôn's rebellion against the Valar, manipulated in part by Sauron, though Elendil escaped to the mainland with his sons Anárion and Isildur, who established the realms of Arnor and Gondor. Gil-galad set out for Mordor in the Last Alliance of Elves and Men with Elendil's forces and defeated Sauron in the Siege of Barad-dûr, though Gil-galad himself perished with no successors as High King of the Noldor. Among the lineal descendants of Finwë in Middle-earth, only Galadriel and other Half-elven remained.[T 17]

In the Third Age, the Noldor in Middle-earth dwindled, and at the end of the Third Age the remaining Noldorin communities departed to Valinor.[T 16] In The Fellowship of the Ring Frodo meets a band of Elves led by Gildor Inglorion from the House of Finrod who were travelling to the Grey Havens.[T 18]

House of Finwë[edit]

House of Finwë family tree[T 19][T 20]
Míriel
"broideress"
Cib-gov-uk (CoreUI Icons v1.0.0).svg
Finwë
of the Noldor
Indis
of the Vanyar
Cib-gov-uk (CoreUI Icons v1.0.0).svg Fëanor,
maker of Silmarils
FindisIcon crown.png FingolfinIrimëCib-gov-uk (CoreUI Icons v1.0.0).svg
Finarfin
MaedhrosFive sonsCurufinIcon crown.png FingonIcon crown.png TurgonAredhelArgonFinrodAngrodAegnorGaladriel
Celebrimbor,
maker of Rings
Icon crown.png Gil‑galadIdrilMaeglinOrodreth
EärendilFinduilas
ElrosElrondCelebrían
AragornArwenElladanElrohir
Eldarion
Colour key:
Colour Description
  Elves
  Men
  Maiar
  Half-elven
  Half-elven who chose the fate of elves
  Half-elven who chose the fate of mortal men

Cib-gov-uk (CoreUI Icons v1.0.0).svg Kings of the Noldor in Valinor

Icon crown.png High Kings of the Noldor in Exile (in Middle-earth)


The Sons of Fëanor were Maedhros, Maglor, Celegorm, Curufin, Caranthir, Amras, and Amrod.[T 19]

The Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey comments that the family tree of the House of Finwë is "essential", as Tolkien allocates character by ancestry; thus, Fëanor is pure Noldor, and so excellent as a craftsman, but his half-brothers Fingolfin and Finarfin have Vanyar blood from their mother, Indis. They are accordingly less skilful as craftsmen, but superior "in restraint and generosity".[2]

Analysis[edit]

Tuatha Dé Danaan[edit]

The Tuatha Dé Danann depicted in John Duncan's 1911 Riders of the Sidhe

Scholars including Dimitra Fimi, Anne Kinniburgh, and John Garth have connected the Noldor with the Irish Tuatha Dé Danaan as a possible influence. The parallels are both thematic and direct. In Irish mythology, the Tuatha Dé Danaan invade Ireland as a tall pale fair-haired race of immortal warriors and sorcerers. They have godlike attributes but human social organisation. They enter Ireland with what Kinniburgh calls a "historical trajectory", entering in triumph, living with a high status, and leaving diminished, just as the Noldor do in Middle-earth. They are semi-divine as Sons of Danu, just as the Noldor are counted among the first of the Children of Ilúvatar. Their immortality keeps them from disease and the frailty of age, but not from death in battle, an exact parallel with the Noldor. Nuada Airgetlám, the Tuatha Dé Danaan's first high king, is killed by Balor of the Evil Eye; Fëanor is killed by Gothmog the Lord of Balrogs.[4][5][6] Celebrimbor's[a] name means "Silver Hand" in Sindarin, the same meaning as Nuada's epithet Airgetlám in Irish Gaelic. Celebrimbor's making of powerful but dangerous rings, too, has been linked with the finding of a curse on a ring at the temple of Nodens, a Roman god whom Tolkien in his work as a philologist identified with Nuada.[7][8][9]

Germanic influence[edit]

The Noldor had skill in weaving and needlework through Finwë's marriage to Míriel. Tolkien was aware that Germanic women were called weavers or embroiderers. Baldishol Tapestry pictured.[10]

Leslie A. Donovan notes that Tolkien's concept of exile, as principally exemplified by the Noldor, derives in part from Anglo-Saxon culture, in which he was an expert.[11]

The medievalist Elizabeth Solopova makes a connection between Middle English and Tolkien's description of Finwë's first wife Míriel as the most skilful of the Noldor at weaving and needlework; Solopova notes that Tolkien had proposed an etymology for the Middle English term burde, meaning lady or damsel, linking it to Old English borde, embroidery, and that he had given examples from both Old English and Old Norse where women were called weavers or embroiderers.[10]

Sub-creation[edit]

Shippey writes that Tolkien was himself fascinated with artefacts and their "sub-creation", and that in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion consistently chooses to write about the "restless desire to make things" which is not quite, he notes, the same as the Christian sin of avarice or possessiveness. This made sense in the case of the Noldor, as for consistency their besetting sin ought not to be the same as Adam and Eve's, which was pride. In Valinor, Shippey writes, the equivalent of the Fall "came when conscious creatures became 'more interested in their own creations than in God's'", with Fëanor's forging of the Silmarils.[12] He adds that the smith-Vala Aulë is not only the patron of all craftsmen but the Vala most like Melkor, the first Dark Lord. The kinds of craftsmanship he encouraged among the Noldor was not only of physical things, but "'those that make not, but seek only for the understanding of what is' — the philologists, one might say", writes Shippey, including Tolkien's profession along with the Noldor's skill with letters and poetry.[12]

Decline and fall[edit]

Bradford Lee Eden states that in The Silmarillion, Tolkien focused on the Noldor as their history was "filled with the doom and fate so typical of medieval literature that determines the entire history of Middle-earth from the First Age to the time of The Lord of the Rings."[13] He notes that in many "parallel stories and tales" the fates of Elves and Men are tightly interwoven, leading inexorably to the decline and fading of the Elves and the rise of Men as the dominant race in the modern Earth.[13] The Tolkien scholar Matthew Dickerson writes that the theft of the Silmarils by Morgoth leads Fëanor and his sons into swearing their dreadful oath and leading the Noldor out of Valinor back to Middle-earth, at once a free choice and an exile.[3]

In culture[edit]

Nightfall in Middle-Earth, a 1998 studio album by the German power metal band Blind Guardian, contained multiple references to various Noldorin characters and the events they experience within the narrative of The Silmarillion. For example, "Face the Truth" has Fingolfin tell how he crossed the icy Helcaraxë, while in "Noldor (Dead Winter Reigns)" he regrets having left Valinor; "Battle of Sudden Flame" recalls the battle of Dagor Bragollach, which marked the turning point of the Noldor's war against Morgoth in the Dark Lord's favour; "The Dark Elf" recounts the birth of Maeglin, the son of Fingolfin's daughter Aredhel and Eöl the titular Dark Elf; "Nom the Wise" is an elegy by Beren to his friend Finrod Felagund.[14]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Celebrimbor is a Noldor in some of Tolkien's versions, a Sindar in others.

References[edit]

Primary[edit]

This list identifies each item's location in Tolkien's writings.
  1. ^ a b Tolkien 1994, part 4, "Quendi and Eldar" C: The Clan-names "Noldor"
  2. ^ Tolkien 1977, ch. 15 "Of the Noldor in Beleriand"
  3. ^ a b Tolkien 1977, ch. 5 "Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië"
  4. ^ a b Tolkien 1994, Part 4, "Quendi and Eldar"
  5. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. "Changes Affecting Silmarillion Nomenclature". Parma Eldalamberon (17): 125.
  6. ^ Tolkien 1996, part 2, Late Writings (1968 or later): "The Shibboleth of Fëanor", p. 365, note 61
  7. ^ Tolkien 1977, ch. 6 "Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor"
  8. ^ a b Tolkien 1977, ch. 7 "Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor"
  9. ^ Tolkien 1977, ch. 8 "Of the Darkening of Valinor"
  10. ^ a b Tolkien 1977, ch. 9 "Of the Flight of the Noldor"
  11. ^ Tolkien 1993, pp. 194, 294
  12. ^ a b c d e Tolkien 1977, ch. 13 "Of the Return of the Noldor"
  13. ^ a b Tolkien 1977, ch. 20 "Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad"
  14. ^ Tolkien 1977, ch. 23 "Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin"
  15. ^ Tolkien 1977, ch. 24 "Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"
  16. ^ a b Tolkien 1977 "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
  17. ^ Tolkien 1977, "Akallabêth"
  18. ^ Tolkien 1954a, book 1, ch. 3 "Three is Company"
  19. ^ a b Tolkien 1977, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age": Family Trees I and II: "The house of Finwë and the Noldorin descent of Elrond and Elros", and "The descendants of Olwë and Elwë"
  20. ^ Tolkien 1955, Appendix A: Annals of the Kings and Rulers, I The Númenórean Kings

Secondary[edit]

  1. ^ a b Hammond, Wayne G.; Scull, Christina (1995). J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 191–196. ISBN 978-0-395-74816-9.
  2. ^ a b Shippey 2005, pp. 282–284
  3. ^ a b c Dickerson, Matthew (2013) [2007]. "Elves: Kindreds and Migrations". In Drout, Michael D. C. (ed.). The J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia. Routledge. pp. 152–154. ISBN 978-0-415-86511-1.
  4. ^ Fimi, Dimitra (August 2006). ""Mad" Elves and "elusive beauty": some Celtic strands of Tolkien's mythology". Folklore. 117 (2): 156–170. doi:10.1080/00155870600707847. S2CID 162292626.
  5. ^ Kinniburgh, Anne (2009). "The Noldor and the Tuatha Dé Danaan: J.R.R. Tolkien's Irish Influences". Mythlore. 28 (1). article 3.
  6. ^ Garth, John (2003). Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth. Houghton Mifflin. p. 222. ISBN 0-618-33129-8.
  7. ^ Anger, Don N. (2013) [2007]. "Report on the Excavation of the Prehistoric, Roman and Post-Roman Site in Lydney Park, Gloucestershire". In Drout, Michael D. C. (ed.). J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia. Routledge. pp. 563–564. ISBN 978-0-415-86511-1.
  8. ^ Armstrong, Helen (May 1997). "And Have an Eye to That Dwarf". Amon Hen: The Bulletin of the Tolkien Society (145): 13–14.
  9. ^ Bowers, John M. (2019). Tolkien's Lost Chaucer. Oxford University Press. pp. 131–132. ISBN 978-0-19-884267-5.
  10. ^ a b Solopova, Elizabeth (2014). "Middle English". In Lee, Stuart D. (ed.). A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien. John Wiley & Sons. p. 231. ISBN 978-0-470-65982-3.
  11. ^ Donovan, Leslie A. (2013) [2007]. "Exile". In Drout, Michael D. C. (ed.). The J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 178. ISBN 978-0-415-86511-1.
  12. ^ a b Shippey 2005, pp. 273–274
  13. ^ a b Eden, Bradford Lee (2013) [2007]. "Elves". In Drout, Michael D. C. (ed.). The J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia. Routledge. pp. 150–152. ISBN 978-0-415-86511-1.
  14. ^ Ferretti, Marco. "Blind Guardian – Nightfall In Middle-Earth". Souterraine (in Italian). Retrieved 18 February 2021.

Sources[edit]