Op. 46 - Fëanor, The Silmarillion Part One
Artwork by kind permission of Ted Nasmith
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The formation of the text in Fëanor was the cause of much difficulty; the First Triptych in particular created many problems. In the end, the novel solution was found of giving all the text to the chorus, including the occasional remarks which are actually made by a character in the drama. The text employed was drawn almost exclusively from the published Silmarillion, with only one or two very minor exceptions.
Scene One, which follows the orchestral prelude, opens with the words of Manwë the Elder King, but these are given not to the bass soloist who sings the Elder King later in the work but to the male chorus. The female chorus then describes the work of his spouse Elbereth in the creation of the stars, and the whole chorus then proceeds to the awakening of the Elves. All of the text is drawn, with almost no amendment, from The Silmarillion proper. Scene Two opens with the description of Morgoth drawn from the Valaquenta but then leaps into the middle of the story and treats of the capture of wandering Elves by Morgoth, the creation of the Orcs and the beginning of Time with the blossoming of the Two Trees. It is perhaps noteworthy that Tolkien himself towards the end of his life changed his mind frequently about the creation of the Orcs, and although the text here was fashioned long before these reconsiderations were published, the text as set says nothing about the corruption of the Elves in this context; the music refers fleetingly to the Orcs (in material that then does not recur until much later) and then moves quickly on to other matters: a vagueness of reference which perhaps might not have displeased the author. Again, all the text after the opening of the scene derives exclusively from the published Silmarillion.
Scene Three, treating of the birth of Fëanor and his brothers and the creation of the Silmarils, caused very little difficulty except that of
compression. The whole of the opening triptych of Fëanor covers the greater part of five chapters of the published work, and rely more than most other parts of the cycle upon a degree of background knowledge of Tolkien’s mythology for their comprehension. A deliberate attempt has been made, however, to limit the degree of knowledge required to those members of the reading public who know The Lord of the Rings; words like “Arda”, “Valinor”, “Cuiviénen” and so on have been “glossed” into English as “the earth”, “the Blessed Realm”, “the Waters of Awakening” and similar phrases.
The Second Triptych treats of a much smaller area of original text, the unrest of the Noldor, the Darkening of Valinor and Fëanor’s leading of the rebellious Noldor into exile. Here the text was drawn from three chapters of The Silmarillion forming a continuous narrative, and dividing very neatly into three scenes. Originally the narrative at the end of Scene Five which described Morgoth’s killing of Finwë was given to the chorus, using the exact reported phrases as given in The Silmarillion itself. At a later date, the publication of some of Tolkien’s later sketches in Morgoth’s Ring gave a more detailed and very atmospheric description of the event through the mouth of Maedhros. Using much of the same music, considerably expanded, this later passage was then rewritten.
In the sixth scene, The Silmarillion gives a reported text for the oath of vengeance sworn by Fëanor and his sons. Later, in the chapter devoted to Beren, another text of the same oath is given by Celegorm at the court of Nargothrond. Tolkien at various stages in his life wrote several versions of the same words, but the first version of all, written in about 1920 as part of the incomplete alliterative poem The Flight of the Noldoli, seemed to me to be one of the best of all, with a primitive rhythm and verve which many of the later redraftings seem to lose. It also, because of its peculiar metre and style, has a distinctive quality which clearly marks it out and differentiates it from the surrounding text as a formula, a form of words which is spoken as a quasi-religious rite, and not part of normal speech. Some minor adjustments were made to bring words into line with those used in the remainder of The Silmarillion, but otherwise the original was left unaltered, and further marked out from the surrounding material by a totally distinct musical style, rhythmically unstable and with the eight solo voices accompanied solely by two sets of timpani.
The descriptions of the flight of the Noldor, the Kinslaying, the Curse of Mandos, the quarrel over the Silmarils between Morgoth and
Ungoliant, and Fëanor’s burning of the ships on his arrival at Middle-Earth, are covered in the Third Triptych in the same language and style as in the published Silmarillion. In the epilogue it will be noted that the death of Fëanor bears more than a slight resemblance to that of Fingolfin after the Battle of Sudden Flame, many chapters later in the published Silmarillion. This is deliberate. The death of Fingolfin, one of the great scenes of the legends, could find no place elsewhere in the cycle; and the killing of Fëanor in battle by the Balrog and of Fingolfin in combat by Morgoth had enough similarities to make a merger of the two instances both easy and inevitable. So, as a consequence, the epilogue to Fëanor is, uniquely in The Silmarillion cycle, as devoid of text as the prologue. The orchestra frames the whole work, setting it off as a legend, a distant vision, in which it should be noted, like Wagner’s Rheingold, mortals have not figured at all.
PAUL CORFIELD GODFREY
3 Flutes (1st Flute also on stage, 3rd Flute doubling Piccolo)
3 Bassoons (3rd Bassoon with extension to play low A)
2 Tenor Trombones
Three Percussion Players (Side Drum, Tenor Drum, Bass Drum, Tamborine, Cymbals, Triangle, Gong, Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Vibraphone, Tubular Bells, Wind, Thunder)
Pianoforte (doubling Celesta)
12 First Violins
12 Second Violins
6 Double Basses
The ELDER KING (Bass), Lord of the Valar in the realm of Middle-Earth
ELBERETH (Soprano), his spouse, Queen of Light
MANDOS (Bass-Baritone), Lord of the Realm of Death
MELKOR later MORGOTH (Bass), the Enemy
FINWË (Silent), King of the Noldor in the Blessed Realm
FËANOR (Heroic Tenor), son of Finwë and Miriel
FINGOLFIN (Lyric Barintone), son of Finwë and Indis
FINARFIN (Silent), son of Finwë and Indis
OLWË (Lyric Tenor), King of the Teleri in the Blessed Realm
MAEDHROS (Baritone), son of Fëanor
MAGLOR (Tenor), son of Fëanor
CELEGORM (Tenor), son of Fëanor
CURUFIN (Tenor), son of Fëanor
CARANTHIR (Baritone), son of Fëanor
AMROD (Bass), son of Fëanor
AMRAS (Bass), son of Fëanor
Voices of UNGOLIANT (Sopranos and Altos), the Great Spider
Mixed chorus of Unseen Voices
The world is created by Ilúvatar, the One, from primaeval chaos. He introduces the fourteen Valar, the Powers who will govern Arda in his name. The Elder King, his spouse Elbereth, Mandos, Ulmo and Melkor are among their number.
The Awakening (Scene One)
The Elder King declares the hour has come when the Firstborn Children of Ilúvatar, the Elves, will rise from sleep. Elbereth creates new stars to herald their coming. The Elves come into being by the Waters of Awakening, in the far east of Middle-Earth, and look upon the stars.
The Enemy (Scene Two)
Melkor the Enemy descends to the Elves and seeks to corrupt them. The Valar decide to summon the Elves to safety in the Blessed Realm, where the Two Trees give light to the land and the Elves begin the crossing of Middle-Earth to reach the ships that will take them to Valinor.
The Silmarils (Scene Three)
In Tirion, the chief city of the Elves in the Blessed Realm, Finwë the King of the Elves and his wife Miriel have a son, Fëanor; but Miriel’s spirit is consumed in the delivery, and she passes to the kingdom of Mandos the Lord of Death. Finwë remarries and has two further children, Fingolfin and Finarfin, who are therefore Fëanor’s half-brothers. Fëanor shapes three great jewels, the Silmarils, from the blended light of the Two Trees, and they are hallowed by the Valar.
The Banishment (Scene Four)
Melkor covets the Silmarils, and sows dissension between Fëanor and his half-brothers. Fëanor draws his sword on Fingolfin during a debate before his father Finwë, and is banished from Tirion for twelve years. Melkor warns Fëanor that the Silmarils are not safe in the land of the Valar, and Fëanor realising Melkor’s purpose drives him from his door.
The Black Foe of the World (Scene Five)
Melkor seeks out Ungoliant, the Great Spider, and offers her all that she may wish if she will aid him. Fëanor and Fingolfin are reconciled, and Fingolfin promises to follow Fëanor wherever he may lead. But Melkor and Ungoliant come into the Blessed Realm and destroy the Two Trees. Elbereth says that with the use of the Silmarils she could restore light to the Realm, but Fëanor reflecting on Melkor’s words refuses to surrender them. Fëanor’s son Maedhros enters in haste to tell the Valar that Melkor has gone to Fëanor’s stronghold and, after killing Finwë the King, has stolen the Silmarils. Fëanor curses Melkor, naming him Morgoth, the Black Foe of the World, whilst the foe himself takes his prize and crosses the Narrow Ice to Middle-Earth to fortify himself in his stronghold of Angband.
The Flight of the Noldor (Scene Six)
Fëanor summons the Elves to follow him in pursuit of Morgoth, seeking to recover the Silmarils by force. He and his sons swear an oath of vengeance, and that they will destroy anyone who seeks to keep the Silmarils from them. The Elder King warns Fëanor that his pursuit of Morgoth is in vain, but Fëanor is unmoved.
Amongst the Elves who meet with Fëanor and agree to aid him by crossing to Middle-Earth with him are the majority of the Noldor in Valinor, one notable exception is his half-brother Finarfin who chooses to remain behind and not be involved with his war-like sibling.
The Kinslaying (Scene Seven)
Fëanor and Fingolfin seek to persuade Olwë, the King of the Teleri Elves in Valinor, to lend them ships to sail back to Middle-Earth in pursuit of Morgoth. Olwë refuses to do so against the wishes of the Valar, and Fëanor seizes the ships by force in his defiance, killing many of the Elves who resist him. Fëanor, his sons and the first group of his followers board the ships to begin the crossing to Middle-Earth. Their trip across the sea is perilous as a vengeful Ulmo raises a storm and many of the ships are lost.
At the forefront of this kinslaying were Fëanor and his Sons. The other Noldor arrive once the deed is done and though horrified by these actions, their oath to Fëanor means that they are also bound to his doom and cannot return to their homes.
The Curse of Mandos (Scene Eight)
Mandos appears to the host of the Elves, laying a doom upon Fëanor and all who follow him. For slaying their kinsfolk unrighteously they are forever banished from Valinor and the Valar will block any that try to return. Though they may not perish by natural causes they shall all be doomed to die and their works will all fade to nothing. Fëanor replies that even if they all perish, their deeds will live after them.
The Burning of the Ships (Scene Nine)
Morgoth and Ungoliant quarrel about the division of the spoils, and Morgoth refuses to surrender the Silmarils to her; with the aid of his Balrogs, spirits of flame, he drives her away. Fëanor and his sons land in Middle-Earth, but Fëanor refuses to send the ships back to convey the rest of the Noldor across the Ocean; he has the ships burned.
The betrayal of Fëanor to the rest of the Noldor meant that the exiled Elves were left with no option but to cross the Narrow Ice to Middle-Earth, with the loss of much life to the perilous frozen paths. The characters that are part of this cycle this affected directly are Fingolfin, Finrod, Orodreth, Galadriel, Turgon (who lost his wife in the crossing), Aredhel and Idril.
The Death of Fëanor (Epilogue)
Fëanor manages to fight his way to Angband to confront Morgoth, but is defeated by him in combat and consumed with flame.
Text by J R R TOLKIEN extracted from The Silmarillion and Morgoth’s Ring (edited by C R Tolkien)
used by kind permission of the estate of the late John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and HarperCollinsPublishers
PAUL CORFIELD GODFREY ©2022
Ainulindalë (Prologue) and The Awakening (Scene One)
The Curtain rises into total darkness through which dimly shifting shapes alone can be seen. Slowly a central pool of light forms at the centre of the stage; two great trees frame this, but can only be dimly glimpsed in the shadows.
In this time the Children of the One* shall come indeed;
the hour approaches, and within this time our hope shall be revealed.
But it is doomed that the Firstborn shall come in the darkness,
and shall look first upon the stars.
Great lights shall be for their waning, but to Elbereth ever shall they call at need.
Slowly starlight begins to shine in the heavens.
Then Elbereth beheld the darkness of Middle-earth
beneath the innumerable stars, faint and far.
Then she took the silver dews from the vats,
and therewith she made new stars and brighter against the coming of the Firstborn.
And high in the North as a challenge to Melkor
she set the crown of seven mighty stars to swing,
the Sickle of the Valar and sign of Doom.
Starlight illuminates all the sky; and slowly dimly glimpsed figures on the ground raise themselves.
And as blue fire flickered in the mists above the borders of the world,
the children of the Earth awoke, the Firstborn of the One.
By the starlit mere of the Water of Awakening they rose from sleep;
and while they dwelt yet silent their eyes beheld first of all things the stars of Heaven**.
Many waters flowed down thither from heights in the east:
and the first sound that was heard by the Elves was the sound of water flowing,
and the sound of water falling over stone.
Long they walked the earth in wonder; and they began to make speech,
and give names to all that they perceived.
The beauty of the Singers*** in the days of their youth
was beyond all other beauty that the One has caused to be;
it has not perished, but lives, and sorrow and wisdom have enriched it.
* THE CHILDREN OF THE ONE: This is the name given to the creations of ILÚVATAR, the Firstborn being the ELVES and the Second or Younger race being the race of MEN.
** HEAVEN: In the context of MIDDLE-EARTH, HEAVEN is the title for the highest levels of the sky where the stars are set.
*** THE SINGERS: Here the term is used to describe the ELVES who were enchanted with the sound of the waters of ULMO and learnt music from it.
The Enemy (Scene Two)
Suddenly a dark shadow engulfs the stars, like a rising black horse.
Last of all is set the name of Melkor.
From splendour he fell through arrogance to contempt for all things save himself,
a spirit wasteful and pitiless.
He began with the desire of Light,
but when he could not possess it for himself alone,
he descended through fire and wrath
into a great burning, down into darkness.
And darkness he used most oft in his evil work upon earth,
and filled it with fear for all living things.
Suddenly a bright light obliterates the black shadows, laying all the secret places bare.
This is the counsel of the One:
that we should take up again the mastery of earth, at whatsoever cost,
and deliver the Singers from the shadow of Melkor.
The light fades, and the Elves remain once more in starlight.
But fear for the Singers in the dangerous world amid the deceits of the starlit dusk;
gather them to the knees of the Powers in the light of the Trees forever.*
So it is doomed.
The two great Trees** at the sides of the scene become slowly illuminated by a serene inner radiance, each in turn bending slowly towards each other and again shrouded their branches so that their lights mingle and fade in a solemn alteration
This is the Noontide of the Blessed Realm, the fullness of its glory and its bliss;
long in tale of years, but in memory too brief.
* Being described here are the protective steps the VALAR take to ensure the ELVES do not fall to the evil of MORGOTH. They bring all that will follow them on a great journey across MIDDLE-EARTH to the western shores where they board ships and are taken across the sea to VALINOR. The ELVES that cross the sea to VALINOR become one of three groups: the TELERI, the VANYAR, and the NOLDOR. Those that don’t cross eventually become known as the SINDARIN.
** THE TWO TREES: In the years before the creation of the Sun and Moon, the Two Trees alone give light to the Realm of the Valar.
The Silmarils (Scene Three)
The first individual figure now appears: a tall figure with fiery hair, striding impatiently forth from the midst of the Elves.
In that time was born in Eldamar, in the house of Finwë the King,
the eldest of the sons of Finwë, and the most beloved.
Fëanor was his name, Spirit of Fire;
but in the bearing of her son Miriel his mother was consumed in spirit and body,
and though she seemed indeed to sleep,
her spirit departed and passed in silence to the Halls of Mandos.*
Then Finwë lived in sorrow;
and sitting beneath the silver willows beside the body of his wife,
he called her by her names.
But it was unavailing; and alone in all the Blessed Realm he was deprived of joy.
After a while he went to Mandos no more.
And it came to pass that Finwë took to wife Indis the Fair.
He loved her greatly, and was glad again.
But the shadow of Miriel did not depart from the house, nor from Finwë’s heart;
and of all whom he loved Fëanor had ever the chief share of his thought.
But the children of Indis were great and glorious also,
and if they had not lived the history of the world would have been diminished.
Forward to join the sole figure of Fëanor at the front of the stage come Fingolfin and Finarfin, the sons of Indis.
And Fëanor grew swiftly, as if a secret fire were kindled within him.
He was tall and fair of face and masterful,
in the pursuit of all his purposes eager and steadfast.
The first gems that he made were white and colourless,
but being set under starlight they would blaze with blue and silver fires,
as with the eyes of eagles.
And, being come to his full might, Fëanor 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 pondered how the light of the Trees,
the glory of the Blessed Realm, might be preserved imperishable.
Then he began a long and secret labour,
and he summoned all his lore and his power and subtle skill;
and at the end he made the Silmarils.
The Silmarils are seen, bound round the head of Fëanor.
As three great jewels they were in form.
But not until the End,
when Fëanor shall return who perished ere the Sun was made;
not until the Sun passes and the Moon falls,
shall it be known of what substance they were made.
Like the crystal of diamond it appeared, and yet was harder than adamant;
the house of its inner fire, that is within it and yet in all parts of it, and is its life.
And the inner light of the Silmarils
Fëanor made of the blended light of the Trees of the Blessed Realm,
which lives in them yet, though the Trees have long withered and shine no more.
And Elbereth hallowed the Silmarils**,
so that thereafter no mortal flesh, nor hands unclean,
nor anything of evil might touch them, but it was scorched and withered.
And Mandos foretold that the fates of the world, earth, sea and air,
lay locked within them.
The light of the Silmarils, and the reflected light of the Trees, fill the stage.
The Curtain falls very slowly.
* THE SPIRIT OF MIRIEL: In giving birth to FËANOR MIRIEL is left without strength and wishes to be released from her eternal existence. Her spirit leaves her body, which remains alive, and passes into the HALLS OF MANDOS where it remained. Due to this unprecedented situation the ELDER KING allows FINWË to re-marry, even though his wife’s body still lives.
** THE HALLOWING OF THE SILMARILS: This act by ELBERETH has a much greater bearing in the other works of this cycle. She has made it so that the SILMARILS can only be held by the VALAR, MAIAR or ELVES and may never be held by one of a mortal race or anything evil without being burned and driven mad.
The Banishment (Scene One)
At first darkness once again covers the scene.
And Melkor lusted for the Silmarils,
and the very memory of their radiance was a gnawing fire in his heart.
But he dissembled his purpose with cunning,
and nothing of his malice could yet be seen in the semblance that he wore.
Long was he at work, and slow at first and barren was his labour.
But he that sows lies in the end shall not lack of a harvest,
and soon he may rest from toil while others reap and sow in his stead.
Fingolfin and Finarfin are seen illumined alone in the centre of the stage. And a quiet voice is now heard, as if coming from within the innermost recesses of their own thoughts; but it is the voice of Morgoth, amplified from an insinuating whisper.
Voice of MORGOTH
Beware! small love has the proud son of Miriel ever had for the children of Indis.
Now he has become great, and he has his father in the palm of his hand.
And Fëanor began to speak openly words of rebellion against the Powers,
crying aloud that he would depart back to the world
and deliver the Elves from thraldom, if they would follow him.
Fingolfin and Finarfin have turned their faces towards the back during the foregoing; now Finwë the King is seen, seated beneath the light of the Trees. Both the younger sons turn to him.
King and father, wilt thou not restrain the pride of our brother Fëanor,
who is called the Spirit of Fire, and all too truly?
Thou it was who long ago spake before the Singers,
bidding them accept the summons of the Valar.
If thou dost not repent of it, two sons at least thou hast to honour thy words.
Fëanor suddenly appears, and he is fully armed; a high helm on his head, a sword at his side, and girt in golden armour.
So it is, even as I guessed! My brother would be before me with my father,
in this as in all other things.
[He turns to Fingolfin]
Get thee gone, and find thy place!
Fingolfin turns away from Finwë; but as he comes towards the front of the stage, taking his departure from his father, Fëanor suddenly runs after him, setting the point of his sword against his brother’s breast.
See, half brother! this is sharper than thy tongue.
Try but once more to usurp my place and the love of my father,
and maybe it will rid the Elves of one who seeks to be the master of thralls.
Then at last the root was laid bare, and the malice of Melkor revealed.
Voice of MANDOS
Thou speakest of thraldom.
If thraldom it be, thou canst not escape it;
for the Elder King is Lord of the Earth, and not of Eldamar only.
Therefore this doom is now made:
for twelve years thou shalt leave Tirion where this threat was uttered.
In that time take counsel with thyself,
and remember who and what thou art.
But after that time this matter shall be set in peace, if others will release thee.
I will release my brother.
But Fëanor turns away with a gesture in silence. Darkness veils the back of the stage, and Fëanor hears the words of Morgoth as if in his ear.
Voice of MORGOTH
Behold the truth of all that I have spoken, and how thou art banished unjustly.
But if the heart of Fëanor is yet free and bold as were his words in Tirion,
then I will aid him, and bring him far from this narrow land.
For am I not Valar also?
Yes, and more than those that sit in pride, for I have ever been thy friend.
Fëanor halts, pondering as if in doubt.
Voice of MORGOTH
Here is a strong place, and well guarded;
but think not that the Silmarils will lie safe in any treasury
within the realm of the Valar!
FËANOR [his eyes light with a sudden suspicion and revulsion]
Get thee gone from my gate, thou jail-crow of Mandos!
He too disappears into a complete darkness.
The Black Foe of the World (Scene Five)
Light, filtering as if through heavy clouds, reveals a desolate mountain landscape. Slowly there appears alone at the front of the stage the figure of Ungoliant. When first discerned she takes the tall, stately and tragic form of a dark and hungry woman of greater than human stature.
Beneath the sheer walls of the mountains by the cold sea,
the shadows were deeper and thickest in the world;
and there, secret and unknown, Ungoliant* had made her abode.
In a ravine she lived, and took shape as a spider of monstrous form,
weaving her black webs in a cleft of the mountains.
There she sucked up all the light that she could find,
until no light more could come to her abode;
and she was famished.
Ungoliant is seen transformed into a monstrous creature of spider form.
Now Melkor came and sought her out there in the black shadows.
But when Ungoliant understood his purpose
she was torn between lust and great fear,
for she was loath to dare the perils of the power of the dreadful Lords,
and she would not stir from her hiding.
Voice of MORGOTH [now heard as a dark and terrible sound, hugely amplified]
Do as I bid; and if thou hunger still when all is done,
then I will give to thee whatsoever thy lust may demand, yea, with both hands.
A cloak of darkness wove Ungoliant when she with Melkor set forth;
an Unlight which eye could not pierce, for it was void.
Then slowly she wove her nets, rope by rope from cleft to cleft,
from jutting peak to pinnacle of stone, ever climbing upwards,
crawling and clinging, until she reached the very summit
upon the dim waters of the pathless sea.
But now upon the mountain top dark Ungoliant lay;
and she made a ladder of woven ropes and cast it down,
and Melkor came to that high place and stood beside her,
looking down upon the Guarded Realm.
Fëanor and Fingolfin are seen within the Ring of Doom at the foot of the Trees.
As I promised, do I now. I release thee, and remember no grievance.
[Fëanor takes his hand in silence]
Half-brother in blood, full brother in heart will I be.
You shall lead, and I shall follow.
May no new grief divide us.
I hear thee. So be it.
And even as Fëanor and Fingolfin stood there came the mingling of the Lights
when both the Trees were shining,
and the silent city was filled with a radiance of silver and gold.
And in that very hour Melkor and Ungoliant came hastening,
as the shadow of a black cloud floats over the sunlit earth.
Then the Unlight of Ungoliant rose up even to the roots of the Trees,
and Melkor with his black spear smote each Tree to its core, wounded them deep,
and their blood spilled forth on the ground.
And the poison of death went into them and withered them, root and leaf.
In that hour was made a Darkness by malice out of Light,
and it has power to pierce the eye,
and to enter heart and mind, and strangle the very will.
And Elbereth beheld the shadow soaring up in sudden towers of gloom.
All song ceased. There was silence, and no sound could be heard,
save only from afar there came on the wind the cold cry of gulls.
For it blew chill from the East in that hour,
and the vast shadows of the sea were rolled against the walls of the shore.
Slowly a dim scene is illuminated, as if seen by a faint and overcast starlight. In this light the Elder King, Elbereth, Mandos and others of the Valar are seen, gathered in the Ring of Doom. Before them, head bowed, stands Fëanor.
The Light of the Trees has passed away,
and lives now only in the Silmarils of Fëanor.
Far-sighted was he!
The Light of the Trees I brought into being,
and within the world I can do so never again.
Yet had I but a little of that Light I could recall life to the Trees,
ere their roots decay;
and then would the malice of Melkor be confounded.
THE ELDER KING
Hearest thou, Fëanor son of Finwë? But who shall deny Elbereth?
Wilt thou not grant what she would ask?
Did not the Light of the Silmarils come from her work in the beginning?
For the less, even as for the greater,
there is some deed that he may accomplish but once only;
and in that deed his heart shall rest.
It may be that I can unlock my jewels, but never again shall I make their like;
and if I must break them, then I shall break my heart
and I shall die - the first of all the Elves in the Blessed Realm.
The voice of MANDOS
Not the first.**
The voice of MORGOTH [unseen, as if heard from within Fëanor’s thoughts]
The Silmarils are not safe, if the Valar would possess them.
FËANOR [to himself]
And is he not Valar as they are, and does he not understand their hearts?
This thing I will not do of free will. But if the Valar will constrain me,
then shall I know indeed that Melkor is of their kindred.
The voice of MANDOS
Thou hast spoken.
MAEDHROS [hastening in through the throng]
Blood and darkness! Finwë the King is slain, and the Silmarils are gone!
Fëanor falls prostrate upon his face, while Maedhros turns towards the Elder King.
My Lord, it was the day of festival,
but the King was heavy with grief at the departure of my father;
a foreboding was on him.
We were irked by the idleness and silence of the day,
and rode northward toward the Green Hills.
Suddenly we were aware that all was growing dim. The light was fading.
We turned and rode back, seeing great shadows rise up before us,
a blackness like a cloud and a sudden flame of fire.
We heard the sound of great blows struck. And then there was a piercing cry.
We lay upon our faces without strength.
When we could move again we came to the house.
There we found the King, his head crushed as with a great mace of iron.
The chamber of iron*** is torn apart, and the Silmarils are taken.
FËANOR [rising in wrath and raising his hand]
And here I curse Melkor, naming him Morgoth, the Black Foe of the World.
* UNGOLIANT: An evil spirit in the form of a giant spider, able to spin webs of pure darkness, she craves to swallow up all great sources of light.
** “NOT THE FIRST”: This is not a reference to FËANOR’s mother MIRIEL, who though without spirit is technically still alive. Here MANDOS is foreshadowing the news that MAEDHROS is about to bring. As the keeper of the dead he would be the first to know of the passing of FINWË
*** THE CHAMBER OF IRON: The treasury where FËANOR kept the SILMARILS locked away.
The Flight of the Noldor (Scene Six)
In the light of flaming torches Fëanor is seen standing upon a high place; below him is gathered a great multitude of the Elves*.
Why, O People of the Stars, why should we longer serve the jealous Valar,
who cannot keep us nor even their own Realm secure from their Enemy?
And though he be now their foe, are not they and he of one kin?
Vengeance calls me hence; but even were it otherwise
I would not dwell longer in the same land with the kin of my father’s slayer
and the thief of my treasure. And have ye not all lost your King?
And what else have ye not lost,
cooped here in a narrow land between the mountains and the sea?
Here once was light, that the Valar begrudged to Middle-earth,
but now darkness 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 homes?
There 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!
Fair shall the end be, though long and hard shall be the road!
Say farewell to bondage; but say farewell also to ease, say farewell to the weak,
say farewell to your treasures! More still we shall make.
Journey light; but bring with you your swords!
After Morgoth to the ends of the earth!
War shall he have and hatred undying.
But, when we have conquered and regained the Silmarils,
then we and we alone shall be lords of the unsullied light,
and masters of the bliss and beauty of earth.
Fëanor’s sons leap to his side with drawn and raised swords.
FËANOR and his SONS
Be he friend or foe or foul offspring of Morgoth Bauglir,
be he mortal dark that in after days on earth shall dwell,
shall no law nor love nor league of Powers nor might nor mercy nor moveless fate,
defend him forever from the fierce vengeance of the sons of Fëanor.
Whoso seize or steal or finding keep the fair enchanted globes of crystal
whose glory dies not, the Silmarils, is cursed for ever!**
There is a great sounding of trumpets. Fëanor and his sons lower their swords, and Fëanor is about to descend when the voice of the Elder King resounds out of the darkness.
THE ELDER KING
Against the folly of Fëanor shall be set my counsel only. Go not forth!
For the hour is evil, and your road leads to sorrow that ye do not foresee.
The lies of Morgoth thou shalt unlearn in bitterness.
Valar he is, thou saiest: then thou hast sworn in vain,
for none of the Valar canst thou overcome now or ever within the halls of earth,
not though the One whom thou namest had made thee thrice greater than thou art.
Say this to the Elder King, High Prince of Earth: is sorrow foreboded to us?
In this land we have seen it.
In this land we have come through bliss to woe.
The other now we shall try; through sorrow to find joy, or freedom.
And it may be that the One has set in me a fire greater than thou knowest.
Such hurt at the least will I do to the foe of the Valar
than even the mighty in the Ring of Doom shall wonder to hear it.
Yea, in the end they shall follow me. Farewell!
A great tumult of voices. Fëanor leads the Elves forth in a great company. Quick Curtain.
* MULTITUDE OF ELVES: The ELVES in attendance on FËANOR’s entreaty here are the NOLDOR, who have just lost their King. This loss is significant as FINWË is the first ELF to ever die whilst in the protected lands of the VALAR. Their protection now seeming to be for naught, the NOLDOR are roused into rebellion by FËANOR and they agree to follow him into MIDDLE-EARTH. As a reference point, this assembly includes FINGOLFIN whom we have already met, and FINROD , GALADRIEL, ORODRETH, TURGON, AREDHEL and IDRIL who come into greater significance through the rest of the cycle. One notable exception is FINARFIN, who disagrees with his half-brother and remains in VALINOR.
** THE OATH OF FËANOR: This oath is the beginning of the ultimate downfall of every ELF for the remainder of this cycle and a turning point for FËANOR and his SONS. Its unyielding nature leads them on a downwards spiral towards evil.
The Kinslaying (Scene Seven)
A long seashore is seen, calm and still. On the tide float many tall white ships, shaped in the likeness of swans.
Others of the Elves were grieved indeed
at the going of their kinsfolk and long friends,
but would rather dissuade them than aid them; and no ship would they lend,
nor help in the building, against the will of the Valar;
for they desired no other home but the strands of the Blessed Realm.
Fëanor and Fingolfin are seen in violent argument with Olwë.
You renounce your friendship, even in the hour of our need!
We renounce no friendship.
But it may be the part of a friend to rebuke a friend’s folly.
And as for our white ships, I say to you Fëanor son of Finwë:
these are to us as the gems of the Noldor,
the work of our hearts whose like we shall not make again.
Then swords were drawn, and a bitter fight was fought upon the ships,
and about the lamplit quays and piers;
but at last the Teleri were overcome,
and a greater part of their mariners were wickedly slain.*
And the sea rose in wrath against the slayers,
so that many of the ships were wrecked, and those in them drowned.**
A great storm rises and rages across the stage. Darkness covers the scene.
* THE KINSLAYING: The OATH OF FËANOR claims its first victims. Because OLWË and the TELERI refuse to give up their ships they are seen as getting in the way of the fulfilment of the oath. FËANOR and his SONS see this as justification for the first slaying of ELF by others of their kin. The KINSLAYING is witnessed by the rest of the NOLDOR who agreed to follow them, but due to their agreeing to follow FËANOR in defiance of the VALAR they are now doomed to share the fate of FËANOR and his SONS.
** THE FIRST GROUP: FËANOR and his SONS are first to board the ships, along with all who took part in the KINSLAYING, and take them to MIDDLE-EARTH. The rest of the NOLDOR, will remain behind to await the return of the ships for their crossing.
The Curse of Mandos (Scene Eight)
Finally the storm is assuaged; the empty waste is once more seen, mountainous and cold.
The way was long, and ever more evil
as they went forward in the unmeasured night, mountainous and cold.
Then they heard a voice, solemn and terrible, that bade them stand and give ear:
the Prophecy of the North, and the Doom of Mandos.
The voice of MANDOS [hugely amplified]
Tears unnumbered shall ye shed;
and the Valar shall fence the Realm against you, and shut you out,
so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains.
On the House of Fëanor lieth the wrath of the Valar
from West unto the uttermost East,
and upon all that follow them shall it be laid also.
Their oath shall drive them, and yet betray them;
and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue.
To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well.
And by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass.
The Dispossessed shall they be forever.
Ye have spilled the blood of your kindred unrighteously
and have stained the Blessed Realm.
For blood ye shall render blood,
and beyond the land ye shall dwell in death’s shadow.
For though no sickness may assail you, yet slain ye may be,
and slain ye shall be, by weapon and by torment and by grief;
and those that endure in Middle-Earth
shall grow weary of the world as with a great sorrow, and shall wane,
and become as shadows of regret before the younger race that cometh after.
The Valar have spoken.*
We have sworn, and not lightly. This oath we will keep.
We are threatened with many evils, and treason not least;
but we will go on. And this too I add:
the deeds that we do shall be the matter of song until the last days of the earth.
Sudden darkness veils the scene. The voice of the Elder King is heard, resigned and full of pity.
THE ELDER KING
So shall it be!
Dear-bought those songs shall be accounted, and yet shall be well-bought.
For the price could be no other.
Thus shall beauty not before conceived be brought into the world,
and evil yet be good to have been.
The voice of MANDOS
And yet remain evil. To me will Fëanor come soon.**
* THE DOOM OF MANDOS: Here now is the judgement and curse for the rebellion and kinslaying. All of the NOLDOR must leave VALINOR, to never return; and all of their deeds will be for nothing. Though immortal, many shall meet their ends through war and grief. If they survive they shall regret their actions and fade before the oncoming race of MEN.
** “TO ME WILL FËANOR COME SOON”: Here MANDOS is giving a glimpse of the future and foretelling that FËANOR will soon die.
The Burning of the Ships (Scene Nine)
The dark shores of the Great Ocean, beneath the mountains of Middle-Earth. In the night darkness something stirs: the black monstrous shape of Ungoliant. Beside her stands the tall and dreadful Morgoth.
Voices of UNGOLIANT
Blackheart! I have done thy bidding. But I hunger still.
What wouldst thou have more? Dost thou desire all the world for thy belly?
I did not vow to give thee that. I am its Lord.
Voices of UNGOLIANT
Not so much. But thou hast a great treasure from Tirion; I will have all that.
Yea, with both hands thou shalt give it.
Nay! thou hast had thy share.
For with my power that I put into thee thy work was accomplished.
I need thee no more.
These things thou shalt not have, nor see. I name them unto myself for ever.*
He raises his arms; there is a roar of thunder and fire flares from the mountains.
Ungoliant shrinks away and Morgoth fades into the returning darkness. Slowly a faint light begins to grow across the sea, a faint shimmer of moonlight. In this light are seen arriving some of the shadowy swan-ships; Fëanor and Maedhros step ashore.
Now what ships and rowers will you spare to return,
and whom shall they bear hither first?
Finrod the valant?
FËANOR [laughing, as one fey]
None and none!
What I have left behind I count now no loss;
needless baggage on the way it has proved.
Let those that cursed my name, curse me still,
and whine their way back to the cages of the Valar! Let the ships burn!**
Fire is set to the ships, and Fëanor with his followers depart into the mountains. Fingolfin alone remains, looking out with despair across the sea.
And Finrod and his people saw the light afar off, red beneath the clouds;
and they knew that they were betrayed.
Small love for Fëanor or his sons had those that marched at last behind him,
and blew their trumpets in Middle-earth at the first rising of the moon.
* THE THIEVES QUARREL: MORGOTH here betrays his accomplice after they have fled across the NARROW ICE with the SILMARILS.
** THE BURNING OF THE SHIPS: Now FËANOR in his madness decides to betray the rest of the NOLDOR who agreed to follow him. By burning the ships instead of returning them, he has left them cursed and forced to leave VALINOR with only one option: to cross the NARROW ICE to the north, a perilous journey that will claim the lives of a great number of them.
The Death of Fëanor (Epilogue)
The flames die down into a further darkness. Now at last is seen the full majesty and terror of the shape of Morgoth, standing amidst the flames and looking with contempt and scorn upon Fëanor who confronts him. Fëanor raises his sword, but is overcome by the flames and falls, struggling backwards. Then he raises his sword again in a helpless defiance. Morgoth’s shadow casts a shade over Fëanor like a stormcloud; thunder and lightning smite down upon him, but Fëanor hews at the shadow with his sword. Thrice he attacks, and thrice is driven back. Finally he falls prone and helpless before the feet of Morgoth. He dies, and the flames consume him.*
* “THE DEATH OF FËANOR”: The death of FËANOR in conflict with MORGOTH leaves his followers committed to a war against an Enemy that they cannot hope to defeat.
The orchestral prelude derives in every detail from the opening of my third symphony Ainulindale: inevitably, since it describes exactly the same events, the creation of the world in the mythology of Middle-Earth. Both symphony and prelude open with two extended chords for divided strings, one centred on C and one on D (but both chords comprising all the twelve tones of the chromatic scale: a representation of chaos, indeed). Then, in E, the theme of Eru Ilúvatar, the One, is stated by the trombones:
This is successively taken up by bass clarinet, violas, horns and finally trumpets before the theme of the Valar crashes in:
building to a full orchestral climax. Abruptly all is still and a number of individual strands emerge in various parts of the orchestra, each depicting an individual Vala. First we hear the theme of Elbereth, on clarinets, which later becomes a motif for the stars she kindles:
and this is followed almost immediately by the first appearance of the theme of Morgoth, very quietly introduced by trumpet, harp and oboes:
Two further themes appear, but the significance of these is not immediately apparent. One represents Yavanna, the goddess of the Trees, and will later be transformed into the theme of the Two Trees themselves:
Another, a long sinuous melody rising from the depths, depicts the weavings of Vairë, the Mistress of Dreams. It will return as a pendant to the later theme of the Two Trees (a transformation of 5), but it will not recur as a distinct theme in its own right until the very end of The Fall of Gondolin, when the complete restatement of the whole theme will signify Tuor’s passage through the Night of Nought on his journey to the Blessed Realm:
After a further climax over a pulsing series of rhythms generated by this theme, one final motif—that of Arda, the Earth itself—is heard:
before a thunderous recurrence of No 1 brings to an end both the exposition of the symphony and the prelude to Fëanor.
It will have been noted that the theme of Ilúvatar (1) is founded upon a chain of open fourths, and the harmony that accompanied the theme consisted of such a superimposed chain. It is therefore entirely intentional that the male chorus who sing the opening words do so on a series of open fifths, accompanied by 1 itself:
In this Age the children of the One shall come indeed; the hour approaches, and within this hour our hope shall be revealed.
This is followed immediately by the theme of the Elves, the Firstborn:
who will look first upon the stars (3).
The female chorus now take over the narrative, to a continuing accompaniment of 3 as they describe the labours of Elbereth in the creation of the Stars, again often accompanied by the open fourths of Ilúvatar. The theme of the Elves (8) is heard again, and then the first intimation, in the same manner as in the Prelude, of Morgoth (4). At the words
high in the North as a challenge to Melkor she set the crown of seven mighty stars to swing,
the chorus declaim a new theme which will eventually become the motif of Morgoth’s Northern fastness in Angband:
before the reference to the Sickle of the Valar and sign of Doom brings a return of 2.
Starlight now illumines all the sky, and the figures of the Elves rise from their sleep. 8 flows continually around the chorus until a new theme finally arises; at present it is a theme of magic, but it will eventually become the long-flowing melody which characterises the Hidden Kingdom, protected by magic, of Doriath:
The orchestra eventually falls silent, and the chorus are left unaccompanied to sing of the wonder of the Elves at the sight of the stars (to a series of harmonies founded upon the open fourths of Ilúvatar).
10 begins to sound again under a shimmering accompaniment of harp, celesta and violins as the chorus sings of the sound of the waters flowing down around the Waters of Awakening (7). Then, as the chorus rhapsodises about the beauty of the Singers in the days of their youth, the Elves in the days before their fall, the two themes of the Elves intertwine in the orchestra, 8 sounding out in the violins above the sonorous declamation of 10 by the horns.
The second scene opens as a sudden interruption of the lyrical interweaving of these two melodies by a sudden reappearance of 4. On this occasion it is accompanied by a rushing figure in the strings, which will recur later:
The chorus sings of Melkor, who fell from splendour to contempt. Another jerkily accented theme appears, first in the trumpets and then in the horns:
This also will recur when Melkor, later the Enemy Morgoth, seeks to corrupt those whom he envies. There is an initial movement towards the corruption of 7, the earth, before the chorus proceeds to talk of Melkor’s desire for Light, when the open fourths of the Ilúvatar theme first twist into an augmented fourth:
and then seek to combine the new augmented fourth with the old perfect one, producing a semitone discord which is blasted out by the muted horns:
and against which Morgoth’s own theme (3) tries to assert itself before it is inverted into a fast-falling phrase:
which will also recur, and finally become associated with Morgoth’s creation the Dragon Glaurung. In the meantime the choral passages describing Morgoth’s descent into darkness take 15 and confuse it with the chords of 13 and 14 into a blurred and indistinct harmonic darkness of its own.
Now comes the brief passage referred to earlier when the orchestra briefly hints at the creation by Morgoth of the Orcs, the evil race of Middle-Earth from Elves whom he has seduced and twisted to his own ends. Melkor’s original 3 is flung out by the brass, immediately leading to two new themes presented simultaneously—the first a harshly accented phrase representing the Orcs:
and the second a fast rushing string phrase which will afterwards be used on several occasions for thunderstorms, rain and other similar atmospheric phenomena:
But this latter theme rapidly dissolves into other figurations as the theme of Ilúvatar (1) thunders out, and the Valar intervene to deliver the Elves from the Shadow of Melkor. The theme of the Elves themselves (8) leads into a version of 15:
which will later transform itself into the theme of Morgoth’s Curse upon the children of Húrin. Now, however, Elbereth’s plea to bring the Elves to the Blessed Realm and deliver them from the shadow of Melkor is sung by the female chorus to an accompaniment of 10 and then 2. As the Valar accede to her request, the male chorus sing Mandos’s fateful words So it is doomed to the phrase that will later characterise Mandos himself:
followed immediately by another phrase which will not recur for some time (until the final scenes of Beren and Lúthien) but which represents the notion of an existence beyond death:
All is peaceful and still as the Two Trees begin to become illuminated by a serene inner radiance, each in turn bending slowly towards each other and again shrouding their branches so that their lights mingle and fade in a solemn alternation and the music of Yavanna (5) blossoms forth in an extended orchestral interlude:
After some while this turns into a recapitulation of 6 as the chorus sings This is the Noontide of the Blessed Realm, the fullness of its glory and its bliss culminating as before in the statement of 7 before the scene ends with a final reference to 21.
The third scene opens with a new theme representing the House of Finwë, the King of the Noldor in the Blessed Realm, which will later become the theme attached to his youngest son Finrod (for the origins of this latter role, see the discussion above):
The chorus sings (over a steady accompaniment of 8) of the birth of Finwë’s eldest son Fëanor, and his motif is at once given out by the horns:
When the chorus describes him as the Spirit of Fire, another new theme appears:
which initially attaches itself to Fëanor, but later will become a symbol of Fire itself. The chorus then goes on to sing of the death of Fëanor’s mother, and the grief of Finwë, over an extended series of statements of 19, rising to an impassioned climax. As 19 finally dies away, the chorus turns to Finwë’s remarriage to Indis, and the theme of her son Fingolfin appears quietly in the orchestra:
continuing in a passage interwoven with 22 and 23. A quiet passage for four solo violins playing a combination of 7 and 22 leads to the description by the chorus of Fëanor’s growth to manhood (23 and 24) and his creation of the first gems, which being set under starlight...would blaze with blue and silver fires, as with the eyes of eagles.
As with the other themes associated with the Valar, the Powers, the motives also attach themselves to their creations. We have seen how Yavanna’s theme (5) has developed into the theme of the Trees, and how Elbereth’s 3 has also become the theme of the Stars. Similarly here the mention of eagles, the creatures of Manwë, who as the Elder King is the vicegerent of Ilúvatar the One in Middle-Earth, take over the theme of Ilúvatar himself, thundered out by the full orchestra. The chorus proceeds to describe Fëanor’s creation of the Silmarils from the blended light of the Two Trees (23 shading into 21) and the first hint of the theme of the Silmarils themselves is heard, shortly to be expanded quietly by the full orchestra:
This theme dominates the remainder of the music of the scene, first in combination with 21, and then with 7, 1 and finally in mounting ecstasy 21 again; but for much of the time it is developed in isolation in music of increasing richness. Finally as Elbereth hallows the Silmarils, and Mandos foretells their fate, 3 and 19 accompany the words of the female and male choruses. The return of 21 leads to further repetitions of 26, but the final three bars contain a quiet return of 8 played by a solo cello.
The second triptych brings a quickening of the dramatic pace, using largely material already developed at some length in the opening scenes. The brief prelude opens with a quiet statement of 11, interrupted by brief reminiscences of 26; Morgoth is lusting for the Silmarils. Morgoth’s own theme (4) leads to the statement of the chorus regarding his sowing of discord among the Elves, to the music already heard in the prelude. The first solo voice heard in the whole work is that of Morgoth warning Fingolfin and Finrod against the growing pride of Fëanor. Brief references to 4, 23, 25 and 26 accompany his words before 11 returns to accompany the chorus as they tell of Fëanor’s speaking of rebellion against the Powers (23 set against 2, leading to a weighty climax).
Fingolfin appears before Finwë to warn against the words of Fëanor, in the first dramatic scene of the whole cycle. His words are accompanied by the themes already heard of 22, 25, 23, 24, 8, 2 and 22 again, heard in quick succession as a tapestry of sounds. Fëanor’s appearance (to 23) breaks the texture into faster declamation, and when he threatens Fingolfin with his sword his own theme 23 is set against the fast and jagged 12 rising up through the strings. Morgoth’s theme (4) is sketched under his words, showing that Fëanor’s message is not entirely of his own creation. And 11 (which might be called the theme of Rumour) surges in (over 2) to show that Fëanor’s message reveals the complicity of Morgoth in the unrest of the Noldor.
It is Mandos who pronounces sentence of banishment on Fëanor, over a slow-moving series of chords derived from 19, 1 and 7. His admonishments for the future conduct of the sons of Finwë brings in its turn recollections of 23, 22 and 25. But as Fingolfin speaks of his forgiveness, Fëanor’s thoughts are dominated not by thoughts of reconciliation but of the truth of the predictions of Morgoth, whose voice (heralded by 4) is heard as if speaking in Fëanor’s ear. But when Morgoth’s words turn to the Silmarils (26 in the insinuating colour of the vibraphone), Fëanor turns on him and expels him from his gate, and the trumpets and horns blaze out 26 against 23 in the woodwind.
There is a sudden and startling change of colour. The double-basses begin a dodecaphonic fugue in a limping 7/8 time, as they begin the depiction of the Great Spider, Ungoliant:
The shape of the phrase gives rise to a series of harmonies based upon diminished seventh chords, which threaten in their own way to disrupt the structure of the melodies as much as Morgoth’s diminished fifths and minor seconds (13 and 14). These too now make their reappearance as Morgoth makes his approach to the Great Spider, and the progress of the fugue, soon disrupted, makes for a series of increasing dissonances, at first gently bruising and then violently insistent. 21 on the bassoons underlines the purpose of Morgoth’s approach, and an even softer 2 on the horns explains the reason for Ungoliant’s hesitation. Morgoth (to a thunderous statement of 4) makes his promise to the Spider: if thou hunger still when all is done, then I will give to thee whatsoever thy lust may demand; yea, with both hands.
These last words are set to a downward chain of diminished fourths which afterwards will frequently recur in the words of Morgoth and of his creatures:
The fugal treatment of 27 returns as Ungoliant spins her webs to make an Unlight to protect her and Morgoth as they approach the Trees. As they stand above the Sea, a new theme briefly occurs:
and this too will be greatly expanded later in a more gentle manner. Finally she and Morgoth stand looking down upon the Blessed Realm; and 2 blooms nobilmente molto in the full orchestra, for the last time free of the Shadow. But this scene as a whole is a violent and extended interruption of a score that has until now been remarkably free of discord.
Fëanor and Fingolfin stand before the throne of the Elder King as Fingolfin extends the hand of friendship to his brother and has his offer of reconciliation accepted. 8 leads through 25, 22 and 23 to a tranquil episode as the chorus sings gently of the final Mingling of the Lights of the Trees, in a radiantly concordant passage wherein 21 is further developed as if to restore the peacefulness of a score that has recently been so extensively shattered; but it is not to be. An insistent rhythm on the basis of Morgoth’s diminished fifth underpins the approach of Morgoth and Ungoliant, and this rhythm will henceforth recur in all four parts of the cycle:
The destruction of the Trees by Morgoth and Ungoliant is an episode of violence and discord unparalleled before in the work. Over the insistent rhythm of 30 the various themes associated with Morgoth—4, 13, 14 and 17—are combined even with Fëanor’s 24, now for the first time identified as a theme of Fire and hence of Destruction to underpin the narrative of the chorus. Over (or more usually, submerged beneath) all the tumult of the orchestra, the theme of Ungoliant (27) with its disruptive melody and even more disruptive harmonies jars and crashes against the rest of the music. Finally the male chorus breaks away in a passage underlined by an even more chaotic version of 30:
and 3 is heard against rearing chords in the strings as Elbereth looks out across the darkening of Valinor. In the distance is heard the voices of the Elves beside the Sea, like the wailing of gulls, and 29 now takes on a new form:
A new extended melody begins to unfold, at first played by an oboe and then taken up by a disembodied piccolo over string harmonics; it represents the idea of Loss:
and this theme now introduces a new scene. The Valar, with Fëanor before them, sit in darkness and ponder their fate. Elbereth (introduced by her own theme 3 and supported by that and 21, 26, 23, 33 and 4) praises the foresight of Fëanor, who by creating the Silmarils has preserved the light of the Trees, so that they may be restored and the malice of Melkor confounded. Fëanor remains silent, and the Elder King now presses the case. The Elder King’s music is unique in the cycle (as indeed is his position in Middle-Earth). He declaims, rather than sings, his lines on one immutable note, which preserves itself against all influence from elsewhere. It is this resistance to change, this impervious resistance, which Melkor/Morgoth has already sought to emulate. His words to Ungoliant, and his earlier words to Fingolfin, have begun as if in imitation of the Elder King, on one note alone, but always they have fragmented, shifted, twisted the line, as in 28. Now we hear what it is that Melkor has envied and tried to copy.
This may be an appropriate point to mention the matter of voice amplification. In concert performances, it will always be necessary to amplify the voices of the Valar, and the orchestration is written with that in mind. The amplification for the Elder King and Elbereth should be slightly vague and distant, with a halo of echo around the voice; that for Mandos (and for Ulmo, when he appears in The Fall of Gondolin) should be slightly less vague, slightly more implacable; that for Morgoth should be very powerful and all-embracing, if possible surrounding the audience on all sides, although the voice itself may often be required to sing quietly. Finally, Morgoth’s creatures, Sauron and Glaurung (when they appear in their turn in Beren and Luthien and Narn i Hin Húrin) and the multiple-voiced Ungoliant, should be amplified in a similar manner to Morgoth himself, but unlike Morgoth the amplification should not be omnidirectional but originate for a specific point on the stage or platform. In staged performances similar considerations should apply to the amplification, but it may also be necessary to amplify the chorus (to ensure audibility, most particularly of the words) and, in places with unhelpful acoustics, to assist some or all of the solo voices.
The Elder King appeals to Fëanor to grant Elbereth’s request: he is accompanied by his own representative 1, Fëanor’s 23, Elbereth’s 3 and finally the melody of 26 associated with the Silmarils. Fëanor remains unmoved. Over a muted statement of 23 and 26 he refuses to comply. He cannot repeat his creation (21) and to break the Silmarils will break his own life (24, then 8), first of all the Elves in the Blessed Realm. Mandos (19) ominously states Not the first, and Fëanor hears the whispered voice of Melkor in his ear warning him as before that the Silmarils will not be safe if the Valar will possess them (4 against 26, then 2). Fëanor declares finally that he will not yield the Silmarils of free will. 33 reappears, now in a stronger form than before, combined with 23 in the bass, and when Fëanor reminds the Valar that Melkor is of their kindred, 2 and 19 also combine with 33.
In the original score at this point the chorus broke in to tell of the killing of Finwë by Melkor. At a later stage, the version of this scene given in the main body of the score was substituted and this is the preferred version for all performances (the original is no longer included in published editions). The music for the two versions is very similar, except that the original version with chorus, being shorter, considerably reduces the recurrence of the themes. The description which follows relates to the revised version.
Maedhros, the eldest son of Fëanor, rushes in. He has no independent theme of his own (in the original version of the score, he had no individual solo music to sing) but his arrival is heralded by a flurry of Fëanor’s own 23 followed immediately by 22. When he declares that the Silmarils are gone (26), Fëanor falls prostrate upon his face, and Maedhros continues his narrative directly to the Elder King. The narrative is delivered over an agitated tremolo chord:
which also forms the background to the chorus narrative in the original version of the scene. Maedhros mentions the departure of Fëanor (23) and then the darkness which began to grow (27 and 4). The chord of 34 rises ever higher and at the words We heard the sound of great blows struck another new theme appears, the rhythm of which will later assume massive importance in Narn i Hin Húrin:
At the moment of the description of Finwë’s death 22 rings out in the high woodwind, and suddenly the scoring drops back to the agitated tremolo of 34, underpinned by the ominous rumbling of 35 and a deep statement of 27. Then 4 and 22 lead back to 26 as Maedhros describes how they discovered the theft of the Silmarils, and Fëanor rising pronounces his curse upon Melkor: And here I curse Melkor, naming his Morgoth, the Black Foe of the World.
He rushes away into the darkness as the long scene comes to an end. The curse itself is underpinned by a series of powerful chords:
and then by Melkor/Morgoth’s own 4 and increasingly desperate statements of 23.
The final scene is introduced by a flowing version of 33 given out by the full orchestra. The scene is set by the light of flaming torches and 24 precedes Fëanor’s words. He addresses the assembled Elves (8) and castigates the jealous Valar (2), who cannot keep the Elves or themselves safe from their Enemy (4, then 12). He refers to the theft of his treasure (26) and rouses the Elves to fury (23, 22 and even 32). In the Blessed Realm, he declares, there once was light (21) but now there is only darkness (33, now on muted cellos). He conjures up a vision of what the Elves have left behind in Middle-Earth, to an extensive recapitulation of the music which concluded the First Scene. At his words Come away! a new theme is heard, declaimed over the original material:
and this recurs several times during the passage which follows. The music blossoms forth in fiery eagerness as he calls on the Elves to follow him out of the Blessed Realm (23). Although 37 sounds through the texture, there is also another new theme here, sung by Fëanor to his words Fair shall the end be, though long and hard shall be the road!:
As he calls on the Elves to abandon their treasures, 26 sounds briefly followed during the following section by 23 and 4; but then Fëanor turns to the new treasures that will be theirs when they have conquered and regained the Silmarils (26 again) and that we and we alone will be lords of the unsullied light, and masters of the bliss and beauty of Earth, it is 8 which sounds beneath his words and leads into a new theme altogether:
This theme, the Oath of the Sons of Fëanor, will assume major importance throughout the rest of the cycle.
As explained above in the section on the text, the text of the Oath itself, which now follows, is wildly different from anything else in the cycle. For the same reason the music also inhabits a different and more primitive world, with wildly fluctuating rhythm:
but it also contains within it reference to former themes; and, of course, the opening bars of 40 are a direct reflection of 39. At the reference to Morgoth Bauglir a new theme refers back to Melkor’s original diminished fourths (28), now turned back within themselves:
and this is immediately succeeded by a brief allusion to a new theme which later will become extremely important, at the words be he mortal dark that in after days on earth shall dwell:
The whole of the Oath is here unaccompanied except for two pairs of timpani, which create chords and unisons underpinning the primitive and highly chromatic harmonies of the semi-chorus (Fëanor himself plus the seven solo voices of his sons). The conclusion of the oath is heralded by trumpet fanfares and a massive restatement of 39.
The music is interrupted by the words of the Elder King, on his usual single note (this time B-flat rather than B-natural) over his harmonic fourths and 1. He warns Fëanor and his followers not to go forth in pursuit of Morgoth (39 again) for the lies of Morgoth thou shalt unlearn in bitterness (12, now expanded) even though he is admittedly one of the Valar (2). He concludes with a massive restatement of 1 by the full orchestra, over which Fëanor begins his response, Is sorrow foreboded to us?, with a full restatement of the theme of Loss (33). He says they will now try a new and different road (10), for it may be that the One (1) has set in me a fire (24) greater than thou knowest (23). Such hurt at the least will I do to the foe of the Valar (38) that even the Mighty in the Ring of Doom (2) shall wonder to hear it.
This last paragraph of Fëanor’s oration is, as may be seen, a positive patchwork of various already-heard themes, the whole now bound into an all-embracing declaration. His own 23 is blasted out by the full orchestra as he leads the Elves forth into exile; but the final word is given to a baleful statement of 39 on the brass.
The third triptych opens with a short orchestral prelude, entirely constructed around intertwined canonic statements of 32, the theme of the Sea. The first scene concerns Fëanor’s attempt to seize ships from the Elves of the Havens, their refusal, the subsequent armed struggle, and the rising of the Ocean in fury. At the climax of the orchestral prelude a new theme extends itself in large phrases over the repetitions of 32; this may be called the theme of Ulmo, because in The Fall of Gondolin it represents the Lord of the Ocean:
8 appears in the bassoons as the chorus sing of the grief of the Elves of the Havens at the forthcoming exile of their kindred. But they will not assist, and a new theme appears:
which finally develops into a rhythmically jagged phrase:
Fëanor’s 23 rises in conflict with the emollient 22 over a ground of 32, followed shortly by 25 as the dispute between the Elves grows. When Finrod sings of the white ships as the work of our hands 32 is increasingly repeated over a series of jagged syncopated rhythms, with 43 soaring above, before hints of Morgoth’s 4 echo Fëanor’s previous drawing of his sword in Scene Four and the strife of the Kinslaying begins (44 and 45). As the sea rises in wrath Ulmo’s 43 transforms itself into a chromatically shifting version, which will eventually take on a separate identity as the theme of Storms:
coupled with a number of other phrases suggestive of the anger of the Sea:
which, again, will recur in The Fall of Gondolin. It is these themes, 46 and 47, which will dominate the succeeding orchestral interlude (depicting the storm which wrecks many of the ships) in combinations with 32, 44 and 45, finally dying down as 46 gives way to 32.
The new scene opens with a grinding statement of 39 on muted brass, underpinned with irregular drumbeats. The fleeing Exiles have come into the North of the Blessed Realm, and a new theme suggestive of the shores of Middle-Earth is solemnly given out by the trombones:
Mandos appears to the Exiles, and pronounces the Prophecy of the North, and the Doom of the Valar. His opening words are declaimed (with massive amplification) over his own 19 and then lead to his pronouncement of banishment against Fëanor and his followers:
Their oath shall drive them (39) and yet they shall not achieve their aim (26), because of treason within their company:
Because they have shed the blood of their kin (44), Mandos continues, they shall pay the price with their own blood (49); for though they may not die, they may be slain by weapon and by torment and by grief:
19 resounds over and above his sentences. Finally he reveals the ultimate fate of the Elves: to fade as shadows of regret before the younger race of mortals who will succeed them. This is the first statement in the cycle of the second phrase of what will eventually become the theme of Men:
The Valar have spoken Mandos finally declaims, as 19 and 39 strive against each other in a rising phrase on full orchestra. Fëanor is unmoved (39); the Elves will go on (38 blasted out by the horns). 52, now in a more extended form, is heard in the woodwind as he states the deeds that we do shall be the matter of song until the last days of the earth but his words are interrupted by sudden darkness and the voice of the Elder King, resigned and full of pity (1 again, but leading back again to 52). Mandos pronounces that Fëanor will soon come to him (19) and the scene closes over gentle restatements of 48.
The scene changes to the dark shores of Middle-Earth and returns to Morgoth and Ungoliant (27, stirring sinisterly on bassoons and violas). Ungoliant’s voice is represented by four female singers, amplified and heavily distorted, but her theme of 27 continues to sound in woodwind and xylophone, and the vocal harmonies are built on her chains of minor thirds. Morgoth refuses to deliver to her more than he has already done (4, leading to minor seconds in an almost exact recapitulation of the music already heard when he promised to Ungoliant whatsoever thy lust may demand). Ungoliant in her response refers back to 28 and her final words are an exact reflection of Morgoth’s own, complete with minor second harmonies. It is her theme which now rises ever higher over Morgoth’s continuing refusal, and only the reference to the Silmarils (26) interrupts this. Morgoth in his desperation summons his spirits of fire, the Balrogs, to his aid; their theme is a wide-ranging plunging phrase passing down through the orchestra over four octaves:
and this phrase, after a brief but violent struggle, overcomes Ungoliant’s own 27, finally dying down to Morgoth’s minor seconds as the Balrogs drive Ungoliant away. Again there is a gentle theme heard, a new phrase depicting the shores of Middle-Earth:
and accompanied by echoes of 32 as Fëanor and Fingolfin (or Maedhros) step ashore. Whom shall they bear hither first? (22 and 25), the latter enquires. Fëanor (with 23 leading directly into ferocious statements of 24) declares that he has no need of his allies or his brother’s aid. He orders that fire be set to the ships, to a fragmented version of 24 deriving from its flickering harmonic structure:
This theme will continue, at ever-increasing volume and pitch, to dominate the whole of the remainder of the score to the final bars. Finrod, abandoned in Middle-Earth (22 and 32 in counterpoint) sees the light of the burning beneath the clouds (54, now clamant in the trumpet) and realises that he has been betrayed (50). He follows after Fëanor as the Moon rises (7) and his armies blow their trumpets as they enter Middle-Earth (with a version of 21 recalled by the orchestra).
The wordless Epilogue, as 55 continues on its relentless way, recalls 7 as Morgoth comes forth (4) to challenge Fëanor (23). It is these two themes which accompany their combat, but the music also brings back references to the Silmarils (26) and the Oath (39); and finally Fëanor’s 23 rises through the orchestra is a disjointed statement by the piccolo trumpet and the extreme height of its range as Fëanor falls prostrate beneath the feet of Morgoth. The incessant 55 finally ceases and the final phrase heard is a vastly extended version of the Oath (39), stretched downwards over a span of five full octaves and accompanied by the thudding series of Morgoth’s minor seconds in the timpani: