Those missing moments

I’m re-reading the Silmarillion again (for the first time in fifteen years, cover to cover) and find myself delightfully stumbling over those little scenes in between that aren’t there – and yet are. One of the reasons why I can’t listen to the audiobook. I want to pause it after every other sentence, to give the words time to settle, and to give the forgotten images time to form. The audiobook just races through it all too quickly.

One of the scenes that caught was:

[B]ut Morgoth held Maedhros as hostage, and sent word that he would not release him unless the Noldor would forsake their war, returning into the West, or else departing far from Beleriand into the South of the world. But the sons of Fëanor knew that Morgoth would betray them, and would not release Maedhros, whatsoever they might do; and they were constrained also by their oath, and might not for any cause forsake the war against their Enemy.

The Silmarillion: Of the Return of the Noldor

The remaining sons of Fëanor were much too diverse to just comply like that. Now the funny thing with those missing moments is that they unfold so easily. I could just hear what they would say when they debated the fate of Maedhros.

Caranthir, Curufin, Maglor, Celegorm, Amrod

Amras: “But surely we will consider these terms? If our brother is given back to us, can we not then resume the war?”

Celegorm: “Morgoth will never return Maedhros to us, whatever we may do. And let us not forget that we have but Morgoth’s word in this. It is well possible that Maedhros is long slain, while he would still use him against us.”

Caranthir: “Shall the sons of Fëanor then be remembered for sitting idle, and neither trying to avenge their father nor to free their brother?”

Curufin: ”Have these past dealings with Morgoth taught you naught? Our father was slain because we took too lightly the strength of Angband. Our brother was taken because we took too lightly the cunning of our Enemy. Nothing can we do, but learn from our folly.”

Amras: “Maglor, thou hast not spoken. What sayest thou?”

Maglor: “My heart is with Amras, and with Caranthir. And yet, I know to be true what Curufin and Celegorm have said. In Hithlum we will remain, and regain our strength, and not yield to the terms of Morgoth.

And my heart prays that this also is true – that Maedhros is indeed dead.”

(My text.)

Amras, after just having lost his twin (according to the version where Amrod is accidentally burned with the ships (1), would probably be the only one to sincerely argue for meeting Morgoth’s terms to win Maedhros’ freedom. He strikes me as rather indifferent to politics, and would probably have been one of the last to realise what exactly the Noldor were up against.

Celegorm would have been deeply uncomfortable when faced with a conflict that could not be solved with a sword or a sneer. The most constructive he’d have to contribute would have been to point out that none of all this might ever work, and convincing himself (and finally, also Maglor) that this was the truth.

Caranthir I expect to be the only one to come up with a daring rescue mission – he’s the most impetuous, and the least subtle. Later Fingon would arrive at the same decisions – for all the right reasons, as opposed to all the wrong ones.

Curufin, on the other hand, would be the first to grasp the scope of what war against Morgoth meant, and that neither treaty nor rescue mission was an option. Cruelty and cunning came to him so easily in the later course of the war that he must have been quick to understand the mind of the Enemy.

And Maglor… Maglor, thrust into a position he never wanted, suddenly found himself up to his ears in a decision he never wanted to make, always having been more suited to following than to leading. After the sudden loss of his grandfather, father, and eldest brother, I can see him all but immobilised with shock, unwilling to make any decision that might go horribly wrong. I always thought he had successfully convinced himself that Maedhros was dead, and tried not to think about an alternative.


7 thoughts on “Those missing moments

    • I know exactly what you mean. I always have to be careful of when I read the last chapters. The ending is so incredibly sad. (And the beginning too, as you already know how it will all end and that all their efforts will come to naught.) :(

  1. Wow….This post honestly creeps me out a little. Never before have either of us spoken about this together…and I can’t recall you posting about this before…and our idea of the dialogue here is almost identical. It’s amazing…I ALWAYS saw Amras (whom I almost just called Ambarussa LOL) as the one that would be quick to say they should consider going home. Ah it’s amazing, I also saw Maglor being the one most at conflict, and seeing the other three insisting that they HAVE to stay but wondering if there’s something they can do or if he was even alive. I could see Maglor having this feeling of “what now,” Does he give up or keep going…and what can be done…so much confusion because overall his decision is the final one.

    It’s just…words cannot express this weird feeling of connection I have with your work right now…it’s so interesting XD. Also, I imagine the story without Amrod too…I imagine it would plague Amras with memories and that he would struggle a lot with living in the past. That scene is immensely tragic yet makes the characters so much more colorful. I spent a lot of time with that series of lines..staring at it…thinking about what it means for everyone.

    • I’ve noticed this loads of times before with the Silmarillion – we’re given so little characterization, so little dialogue, so little interaction – and yet everyone who puts their mind to it comes to the exact same conclusions. It’s as if Tolkien knew these characters so well that he managed to vaporise their personalities, completely hidden, in half-sentences – and we extract them rather accurately. It’s amazing, isn’t it?

  2. Pretty much how I see the characters too, spookily. Great minds think alike? ;)

    Just a question on names; everywhere else I’ve read says it’s Amras who gets burnt with the ships, and Amrod who lives. I know you’re very well-versed in Tolkienlore, so I wondered where you read Amras lived and not Amrod? (The two names are so similar we might well call them ‘older’ and ‘younger’ just to avoid confusion XD)

    • I’m not 100% sure either – but that’s because the brothers themselves didn’t really use different names for the twins. They called each other Ambarussa (=Amras). When Fëanor begged Nerdanel to give one a different name, she said, “Let one be called Umbarto (=”Fated”), but which, time will decide.” Fëanor changed this to “Ambarto”, which is clearly Amrod. There’s an added heartbreaking moment when, just before the departure of the Noldor, Nerdanel begs Fëanor to leave her the two youngest sons, or *the* youngest, at least, but Fëanor denies her. She then says, coldly, that the youngest will never set foot on Middle-earth.
      When the ships are landed, the youngest indeed does not leave his ship, but stays inside, thinking of going back secretly and sailing back to Aman. Fëanor doesn’t realise this and burns that ship first – to stop him from going back, not to kill him, but that’s the result.

      Thinking about it, it *is* Amras after all who dies, as he’s the youngest. But the “Ambarto” always makes me think it’s Amrod. But which was which seems to have become clear only in the instant of the death of one of two – when it didn’t matter any more anyway :(

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