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Revision as of 23:15, 8 November 2013 by Sage (Talk | contribs)
Other namesThe Great Jewels, The Three Jewels, Jewels of Feanor
LocationFormenos, Angband, various
AppearanceHard, bright crystals that glow
GalleryImages of Silmarils

The Silmarils (Quenya Silmarilli) were three gems of immense might and beauty.



The gems were named for and crafted of the hard crystalline substance silima, which Feanor had devised, as their shell; in their heart burnt some of the Light of Valinor from the Two Trees. Their exact nature and manner of making the Silmarils were known only to Fëanor, and none other succeeded in making gems of comparable greatness and beauty. Varda hallowed the Silmarils so that no mortal or evil hands were allowed to touch them without being burned and withered. [1]

But the Silmarils were tainted by arrogance and lust by anyone who desired them, starting with Morgoth, then Feanor. As the Doom of Mandos proclaimed, it resulted in evil ends, such as the Fall of the Noldor, the Oath of Feanor, Kinslayings and the destruction of Doriath.


Feanor by Alice Falto

The Silmarils were created by Fëanor in Valinor after the unchaining of Melkor. Feanor gave his heart to their making and could not duplicate them. Melkor coveted their light.

Feanor wore the jewels at festivals and the Eldar admired them. But soon, corrupted by the lies of Melkor, he started to lock them away, and became greedy for them. After Fëanor was exiled to Formenos, the Silmarils were stored in a chamber of iron.[1]

Together with Ungoliant, Melkor destroyed the Two Trees. The Silmarils now contained all that remained of the light of the Trees. The Valar entreated Fëanor to give up the Silmarils so they could restore the Trees, but he refused.


File:James Stirzaker - Melkor and the Silmarils.jpg
Melkor and the Silmarils by James Stirzaker

Then news came: Melkor had killed Fëanor's father Finwë, the High King of the Ñoldor, and stolen all the gems. He and Ungoliant fled to the northlands of Middle-earth, where his ancient fortresses were, but they quarreled as the spider had devoured all the gems, and wanted also the Silmarils, something that Melkor, now named Morgoth by Fëanor, would not allow, even though their holy light burnt his hands and ceaselessly tormented him. The Silmarils were set on his Iron Crown.

Fëanor was furious at Melkor and at the Valar's perceived desire to take the gems for their own purposes, and, swearing that he and his sons would not rest until the Silmarils were recovered, he led the Ñoldor back to Middle-earth. His flight, led to no end of grief for the Elves and eventually for the Men of Middle-earth. Five major battles were fought in Beleriand, but ultimately the Ñoldor failed.

Beren recovers a Silmaril

The Sindarin King Thingol knew of the Silmarils from the Noldor. Wishing to dispose Beren, he tasked him to fetch one for the hand of his daughter. Impelled by his love for Lúthien, Beren reached Angband through great peril and loss and recovered one, only to be swallowed by Carcharoth, until the Wolf was slain in the Hunting of the Wolf. The Silmaril thus was delivered to Thingol, fulfilling his Quest.[2]

Doom of the Noldor

Instead of giving it to the Sons of Feanor, Thingol had the gem stored inside the dwarven pendant Nauglamir by the Dwarves of Nogrod, who however also coveted the jewel and killed Thingol. Doriath was ruined by the Dwarves. The Nauglamir was recovered by Beren in Tol Galen, and Luthien wore it until her second death, becoming the fairest vision east of the Sea. It was said that their second death came early, because their combined beauty was too bright for mortal lands. After her death, a Lord of the Laiquendi brought the Nauglamir back to Doriath and Dior who wore it. These news came to the sons of Feanor, who, stirred by their Oath, came to Doriath and resolved to battle, during which 3 of the brothers were killed, and Menegroth was ruined. However the Nauglamir was rescued by Elwing and Sindarin survivors who fled to the Havens of Sirion.[3]

Still pursuing the Silmaril, the sons of Feanor resolved to another assault, but again, Elwing and the Nauglamir had escaped. It ended up in the hands of Eärendil, and its light guided him through the Shadowy Seas and found his way to Valinor. It was shown to the Valar as a token of repentance. The Valar then set this Silmaril as a Star and worn on his brow.[4]

Maglor Casts a Silmaril into the Sea by Ted Nasmith

The other two gems remained in Morgoth's hands, and were taken from him only at the end of the War of Wrath. However, soon afterwards, they were stolen by Fëanor's two surviving sons Maedhros and Maglor. But because of their crimes in order to reclaim the jewels, they were unworthy of them, and the jewels burned their hands, in refusal of their rights of possession. In agony, Maedhros threw himself and his Silmaril into a fiery pit, and Maglor threw his into the sea.[4]

Thus the Silmarils remained in all three elements of Arda -- in the sky, soil and water --, fulfilling the prophecy made by Mandos shortly after the making of the gems. [1]

It is said that Fëanor will return only for Dagor Dagorath, following Melkor's final return, and defeat him to reclaim his beloved Silmarils. The world will be changed and he will surrender them to Yavanna who will break them and with their light she will revive the Two Trees. The Pelóri Mountains will be flattened and the light of the Two Trees will fill Arda again in a new age of eternal bliss.[5]


The word is said to contain silima, the substance they were made from[6] as well as an element from brightness, RIL.[7]

They mean "radiance of pure light".[8] It might contain the ending rille "brilliance".[9]

The proper Quenya plural form is Silmarilli, Silmarils being an Anglicised name.


In the Etymologies appears the Noldorin name Silevril, being related to Quenya Silmaril.[7] Tolkien appears to have retained the Noldorin form in Sindarin, since the name Pennas Silevril (apparently the Sindarin translation of Quenya Quenta Silmarillion)[10] is used in later manuscripts.[11]

Other Noldorin names from the Etymologies are Golodhvir meaning "Noldo-jewel(s)" (cf. Golodh meaning "Noldo") and Mirion pl. Miruin meaning "Great jewel/s".[12]

In Aelfwine's Old English translations, the name Silmaril is rendered phonetically as Sigelmaerels. As noted by Christopher Tolkien it is composed of OE sigel = sun, jewel, maerels = 'rope', actually referring to the Nauglamir.[13]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Beren and Lúthien"
  3. {S|Doriath}}
  4. 4.0 4.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "III. The Quenta: Commentary on the Quenta, [Section] 19"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Appendix: Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names"
  7. 7.0 7.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", pp. 383 (entry RIL), 385 (entry SIL)
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 148, (dated 7 August 1954)
  9. Vinyar Tengwar, Number 46, July 2004 p.11
  10. Helge Fauskanger, Sindarin, the Noble Tongue: Sindarin Plural Patterns at Ardalambion (accessed 10 July 2011)
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Three. The Later Quenta Silmarillion: (II) The Second Phase: The Valaquenta", p. 200
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", (entry MIR)
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "III. The Quenta: Appendix 1: Fragments of a translation of The Quenta Noldorinwa into Old English, made by Ælfwine or Eriol; together with Old English equivalents of Elvish names", p. 209