Oath of Fëanor

From Tolkien Gateway
Ted Nasmith - The Oath of Fëanor.jpg
Oath of Fëanor
LocationGreat Square, Tirion
DateY.T. 1495
ResultThree Kinslayings
Part ofExile of the Noldor
ParticipantsHouse of Fëanor
GalleryImages of the Oath of Fëanor
"Their Oath shall drive them, and yet betray them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue."
Doom of Mandos in Quenta Silmarillion, "Of the Flight of the Noldor"

The Oath of Fëanor was a dreadful irrevocable oath taken by Fëanor and his seven sons to pursue any in Arda who may take and withhold from them any of the Silmarils. It was taken following his great speech urging the Noldor to leave Aman and return to Middle-earth.

History[edit | edit source]

Fëanor and his Sons swore in the name of Ilúvatar that they would not rest until the three Silmarils were in their hands, and to make war on any who withheld them.

At the time the Oath was sworn, Morgoth held all three of the Silmarils, having stolen them from Fëanor's stronghold at Formenos. Driven by the unbreakable Oath, Fëanor led the greater part of the Noldor out of Aman and back to Middle-earth, in hopeless pursuit of the Dark Lord. Fëanor himself was mortally wounded by Balrogs in the Noldor's first assault. From that time on, while Morgoth held the three Silmarils in his Iron Crown, the Elves of Beleriand were bound by a common enemy.

The true danger of the Oath was revealed after Beren and Lúthien recovered one of the three Silmarils from the depths of Angband. Thereupon, the Sons of Fëanor made war upon the other Elves of Beleriand for the recovery of the Jewel. They attacked and destroyed the kingdom of Doriath, killing Thingol's Heir Dior. When the Silmaril escaped them there, they discovered that it was held at the Mouths of Sirion by Dior's daughter Elwing; again they attacked, and again the Silmaril escaped them. Carried out to sea by the power of Ulmo, Elwing brought it to her husband Eärendil, and they sailed with it back into the West.

That Silmaril was lost to Fëanor's sons, but two more remained on Morgoth's Crown. After the War of Wrath and Morgoth's defeat at the end of the First Age, just two of the original oath-takers survived, Fëanor's eldest sons Maedhros and Maglor. The former put forth a plan that the latter reluctantly accepted. They stole the Silmarils from the camp of the victorious host, but because of the evils they had committed in recovering them, they found that they could no longer touch the holy Jewels without enduring searing pain. In despair, Maedhros threw himself and his Silmaril into the depths of the Earth, while Maglor cast his into the deep ocean. Maglor was the last of the oath-takers, and was said to wander the shores of the world lamenting his pain and loss.

The Oath[edit | edit source]

The Oath of Feanor by Jenny Dolfen

Be he foe or friend, be he foul or clean,

brood of Morgoth or bright Vala,
Elda or Maia or Aftercomer,
Man yet unborn upon Middle-earth,
neither law, nor love, nor league of swords,
dread nor danger, not Doom itself,
shall defend him from Fëanor, and Fëanor's kin,
whoso hideth or hoardeth, or in hand taketh,
finding keepeth or afar casteth
a Silmaril. This swear we all:
death we will deal him ere Day's ending,
woe unto world's end! Our word hear thou,
Eru Allfather! To the everlasting
Darkness doom us if our deed faileth.
On the holy mountain hear in witness

and our vow remember, Manwë and Varda!
The Annals of Aman, §134

Other versions of the legendarium[edit | edit source]

The first mention of the Oath in the legendarium is given in the unfinished "Gilfanon's Tale",[1] and was not sworn by Fëanor, but his Seven Sons when they came to Middle-earth.

In an abandoned poem called "The Flight of the Noldoli from Valinor" (1920s), the Oath of Fëanor is given words for first time.[2]

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 Gods,
no might nor mercy,   not moveless fate,
defend him for ever   from the fierce vengeance
of the sons of Fëanor,   whoso seize or steal
of finding keep   the fair enchanted
globes of crystal    whose glory dies not,

the Silmarils.   We have sworn for ever!
—"The Flight of the Noldoli from Valinor", vv. 132-141

The words of the Oath in the main section come from the Annals of Aman[3] but in the published Silmarillion there is only a narrative description of the Oath.[4]

Inspiration[edit | edit source]

Tolkien remarked[source?] that it was an oath which should never have been taken, reflecting on the Biblical passage (James 5:12) concerning such oaths.

External links[edit | edit source]