Since my last post was a little on the heavier (and more controversial) side, I thought I’d post something lighter for a change. After all, even heretics like to have fun. I encountered this article quite by accident today on The New York Times website while reading a much more serious article on food-labeling practices. Among many other nifty gadgets, the artisan featured in the article has made an LED necklace.
Of course, my first thought–upon seeing the photo–was “OME! Light-up jewelry! That’s probably what the Silmaril that Fëanor wore looked like!” It even has that sharp, blue-white light, as I’ve always pictured the Silmarils.
But these he was not suffered to approach; for though at great feasts Fëanor would wear them, blazing on his brow, at other times they were guarded close, locked in the deep chambers of his hoard in Tirion.
In truth, I’ve always had a problem with imagining that passage, at least in a way that makes it seem appealing (as I’ve always assumed it was meant to be). And–with no offense intended to Alison Lewis–her newfangled Silmaril necklace sort of shows why. As cool-looking as it may be in a photograph, can you imagine actually interacting with someone wearing light-up jewelry “blazing” on any body part, much less the brow? It’d be distracting, to say the least. I’ve always had a mental image of Fëanor wearing the Silmarils looking something like one of those cartoonish miner’s hats with the bright lamp on the front of it. That’s all well and good if one is delving for mithril but in conversation at a party? Could you even look such a person in the eye? And wouldn’t it rather ruin the mealtime ambiance? And what if the lights were dimmed for, say, Maglor to play a concert? “Oh, look, there’s Dad standing in for an exit sign over by the door!” “In case of fire, walk–do not run–to the nearest Silmaril-wearing Elven lord.” I mean, these things are bright enough for us to see one of them sailing across the sky with Eärendil; what must have three looked like, worn by one Elf in a confined space? “Don’t worry about the lamps, Anairë, dear. Fëanor just sent word that he’ll be attending.”
Am I reading too much into it? Absolutely. I think this relatively minor matter of Fëanor’s choice in accessories (and the fate of said accessories a couple hundred pages later) illustrates something important about the “canon” one can glean from The Silmarillion: It’s not meant to be taken literally. The image of an Elven lord of unimaginable beauty wearing three radiant (not blazing) stones that he crafted from untainted light is an amazing image. And the notion of that untainted light being preserved in stones and placed within the earth, sea, and sky is a lovely concept. The two, however, don’t reconcile very well. And I think we lose something if we try too hard to make them.