Then his sons beside him, the seven kinsmen,
crafty Curufin, Celegorm the fair,
Damrod and Diriel and dark Cranthir,
Maglor the mighty, and Maidros tall
(the eldest, whose ardour yet more eager burnt
than his father's flame, than Feanor's wrath;
him fate awaited with fell purpose)
The Lays of Beleriand
"The Flight of the Noldoli from Valinor"
The veils of smoke tore, revealing a path of dark water extending far beyond the light of the fire. Almost, he fancied, he could see the other shore, campfire patches of light and miniscule shadow-shapes.
A gust of wind from across the sea caught him in the face.
Almost, he fancied, he could hear their laments. Or were these voices in his mind?
For he alone stood aside.
Betrayer to those on the other shore: A son of Fëanáro.
Betrayer to his family: Mourning those left behind.
As though in answer, the smoke closed in.
He stood alone.
"Losgar" by Elleth. (Credit and full view.)
The fire at his back was supposed to make him warm. Didn’t metal get hot under the influence of fire? And yet, all he felt was sorrow. Coldness. What had they done? He glanced over his shoulder one more time, to see the finest ships that ever sailed the seas... go up in flames. Higher, higher! In the distance, his father and brothers stood, watching with what seemed to be approval.
And for the first time, Maedhros wondered... Had he made the right choice? Or was this Oath nothing but foolishness, driven by someone else’s lies. He ran his fingers through his hair, as his sword arm fell to the side, the tip now resting on the trampled earth.
What had they done... And more importantly ... would this ... they ... ever be redeemed? Or was it too late for that?
"Losgar" by Eärengil, inspired by the image by Elleth.
Maedhros, the eldest son of Fëanor, remains one of Tolkien's most tragic characters, one whose kind and cooperative nature often seems contrary to his ruthless actions. Rational and diplomatic where his kinsmen were impetuous and wrathful, he was nonetheless driven by the oath of the Fëanorians to perform terrible deeds, and because of his oath, even his greatest accomplishments always fell just shy of bringing defeat to Morgoth.
He recalled the sky clouded with the smoke of countless smoldering torches and the scent of their oily fumes. He would never forget looking through eyes, bloodshot and itchy, upon Maitimo’s handsome, determined face illuminated in the red glow as he and each of his brothers drew their swords and, holding them aloft, joined in swearing their father’s oath. Beautiful and terrible they all had been in their fierce majesty. Findekáno had been enthralled and horrified in equal parts, as though seeing them as near-mythic in potency, forgetting for a moment that these fearsome seven had long been closer to him than his own brother.
With the urgent voice of his father and his Uncle Arafinwë 's quiet droning in the background, Findekáno had pushed his way through the crowd to reach Maitimo. Finally he had been able to grasp Maitimo’s arm. His cousin had turned to him, his jaw hard and lips set in a thin line, and said, “Káno, I know not if you love me still or if you have cast aside all memories of the friendship and the bond we shared, but surely your intellect will persuade you to follow us.”
Excerpt from New Day† by Oshun
Maedhros was born in Aman and followed his brilliant and fey father to Middle-earth, joining his father and brothers in an oath of pursuit and vengeance that would torment him until the end of his days. In The Shibboleth of Fëanor, he is described as having rare red-brown hair and being "of beautiful bodily form," a detail that is expressed in his epithet the Tall. Once arrived in Beleriand, Maedhros alone stood against the burning of the ships, remembering his old friendship with Fingon, but his disapproval was not enough, and the people of Fingolfin were driven to cross the Helcaraxë by the treachery of the Fëanorians. Maedhros's belief in the value of unity among not only the Noldor but the people of Middle-earth would shape his life … but would be thwarted always by the shadow of his oath.
Following the Battle-under-stars, Maedhros and his brothers intervened to save Fëanor's life but not soon enough. In the same hour, Maedhros--suddenly foisted into place as the High King of the Noldor--attempted to trick Morgoth into defeat but was himself captured and hung from Thangorodrim by his right hand. A character previously described as being exceptionally beautiful (HoMe 12), Maedhros would then bear signs of his torment, both physically and spiritually, for the remainder of his life.
Maedhros's friendship with his cousin Fingon is one of the most beloved and written-about elements of his story. Following his capture, Fingon alone--without an inkling of an idea that Maedhros had attempted to prevent the betrayal of Fingolfin's people--endeavored to rescue his cousin from Thangorodrim. Being unable to reach Maedhros upon the precipice, he agreed to kill Maedhros and end his pain, but as he was stringing his bow, was visited by Thorondor of the Great Eagles and borne to where he cousin hung. Being unable to loosen or break the steel, Fingon was forced to amputate Maedhros's hand at the wrist. Ever after, Maedhros fought with his sword in his left hand and grew to be more skilled than he'd been with his right, and it is said that he was "as one that returns from the dead," of unsurpassed valor and a terror to behold in battle.
To heal the long-standing feud between his father's house and the House of Fingolfin, Maedhros relinquished the crown of the High King of the Noldor to his uncle Fingolfin. Throughout the rest of the story, Maedhros would use friendship and alliance with his kinsmen to fulfill his quest to recover a Silmaril. He and his brother Maglor, alone of the sons of Fëanor, attended Fingolfin's feast Mereth Aderthad, and he remained friends with both the Houses of Fingolfin and Finarfin. Despite his brothers' attempts to undo this allegiance--most notably Caranthir's treatment of the sons of Finarfin and Celegorm and Curufin's antics in Nargothrond--Maedhros managed for the most part to keep the people of Middle-earth allied against Morgoth, until their eventual undoing at the Battle of Unnumbered Tears.
Amused, he looked at his brother. 'I covered myself with the woolen shawl, what else would you desire? My feet will dry and my hair is still wet anyway.' He winked.
'Maitimo, you are insane.' Makalaurë wasn't giving up, although a smile replaced his solemnity. 'Come back to the baths and warm yourself. I cannot look at you standing barefoot on the snow.'
Maedhros sighed. So many times had he asked them not to use this name... Why couldn't they understand his aversion to being Maitimo?
'Kanafinwë,' his voice was cold, 'if you cannot bear this sight, go back inside.' After a moment, seeing his brother's face, he added in a slightly warmer voice, 'Or join me here. Barefoot. You will see there is nothing to be worried about.' He smiled conciliatorily. 'And please, do not call me Maitimo, it is not my name anymore, not with this.' He took his stump out from under the shawl.
'As you wish.' Makalaurë answered sadly and added with resignation, 'But now come back inside, Ambarussa have to set off soon if they are to make it before the storms. Surely you want to bid them farewell, don't you'.
First Snow, art and story by Sirielle.
Hills beckoned to the north where danger dark shadows cast
Heavy clouds descended low, swollen with colours of storm
In grasses, like in dark marble, sculptor wind carved new forms
Until the sweet scent of flowers faded to sleep at last.
I loved this earth so wild, so tough to the heart and bold
Where winter winds sprinkled snow like sand sharp in the eye
Where alien stars shone brightly and always at dawn would die
Where thought reflected itself in lakes like mirrors cold.
I chose then my destiny and until this world falls apart
My soul will be chased by darkness, by doubt eternal torn
The jewel will not brighten grim memories of oaths sworn
The Sun will rise like a signal for battle, a blood-red star
Only the blue horizon, changed into curtain of glass
Climbed softly by the slender, silvery branches of rain
Soothes me with murmurs of storm and frees my soul from pain
And then I call this earth my home, and let my grief pass.
"Himring" by Nifrodel. Translated from Polish by Bożena Mitko 'Nellelórë'.
With his brothers, Maedhros departed to the eastern lands of Beleriand and there defended the most treacherous realm: the March of Maedhros, a cold and barren stretch of land just south of Angband. His fortress was built upon a hilltop and called Himring, meaning "the ever-cold." In the centuries that followed, Maedhros remained friendly with the people of Fingolfin and Finarfin, and along with Fingolfin, helped lead to victory during the Glorious Battle, which resulted in four hundred years of peace in Beleriand. During the Battle of Sudden Flame, Maedhros alone of his brothers managed to hold his fortress against Morgoth and continued to hinder the Dark Lord's plans with his constant vigilance.
It was with hopes of a similar victory through allegiance that Maedhros forged the Union of Maedhros, seeking the assistance of others of the Elves as well as Dwarves and Men in the defeat of Morgoth. However, he showed his strength too soon, and Morgoth was given time enough to install spies in the ranks of the House of Fëanor. The treachery of the Men who rode in Maedhros's ranks proved too much for the allied forces of Elves, Men, and Dwarves, and they met terrible defeat that day.
The weather has been harsh this winter: the wind roars around my stronghold and many couples find each other in a passionate embrace, retreating to their own quarters. Midwinter is almost upon us and I know that next year we will be blessed with many children of Iluvatar.
Should I get a cluster of Mistletoe and pick off the berries, one by one, to determine if she indeed loves me? Or shall I try to see if I can commit my thoughts to paper, a gift which comes so natural to my brother. My other siblings are on their way to our midwinter fest, but I want to ask her before my fair brother, with his outspoken mind, claims her attention first. Or the more cunning one, who knows well of the joys of marriage. Or my younger twin brothers, too young to know the proper customs of Tirion’s courts. Have I become just like my dark brother, who hardly speaks or feigns interest in matters outside his realm?
Maitimo is something I am no more, and I wonder if she will express concern if I ask her to become my consort, lest I should be too late.
Excerpt from Midwinter Thoughts by Rhapsody the Bard
With a Silmaril out of Morgoth's clutches and possessed instead by Beren and Lúthien's son Dior, the Fëanorians' oath began to haunt them. Though Maedhros made attempts at peacefully retrieving the Silmaril, the lust for the jewel was too strong on all sides, and the kinslayings of Doriath and Sirion followed. All of the sons of Fëanor were lost save Maedhros and Maglor, and still, the Silmaril eluded them. When they attempted to wrest it from Elwing, she was borne away with it to Valinor.
"A Silmaril Is Behind That Door" by Sirielle.
After the tragedy at Sirion, the oath still pursued the two remaining sons of Fëanor. After the Valar finally chose to join with the peoples of Middle-earth to defeat Morgoth, Maedhros convinced Maglor to make one final attempt at retrieving the Silmarils from Eonwë, the herald of Manwë, though both brothers were embittered by and wearied of the oath. Eonwë would not willingly yield the Silmarils, but neither would he permit his guard to kill Maedhros and Maglor, and they each took one of the remaining jewels and fled. The Silmaril burned Maedhros's remaining hand, and in agony because of the deeds he had done in its name--knowing that they had indeed been for naught--he jumped into a chasm in the earth and took his own life.
His world was fire. He was burning, the jewel in his hand was burning, and so were the fiery pits of broken Beleriand. All was fire, and the fire was inescapable - part of him. The moment of decision came and went. Falling, he tried to remember – did he fall, or did he jump willingly? He could not separate himself from the burning jewel, and it called to the burning earth, so he, the jewel, and the earth would all burn. His last thought fluttered through his mind: My body will turn to ash, as Father’s did.
Afterwards, he discovered the fatal flaw, the cheat – his fëa could not hold onto anything, not even the jewel. He tried to resist, but he was wrenched away. He howled in loss, not noticing that his spirit was pulled inexorably Westward. He passed over the wide, unforgiving Sea, reached the Forbidden Shores, and hesitated: a gate of stone and steel, opening into only shadow, on a barren, rocky shore. It was his only hope of escaping Eternal Darkness. He would not go into the Void, and so he fled into the forbidding gate. The darkness swirled about him, and he knew no more.
"Death of Maedhros" by MithLuin
"Cyan" by Sirielle.
Maedhros's character was present in varying forms throughout the long course of J.R.R. Tolkien's work on The Silmarillion. Maedhros makes his first appearance as Maidros--the name by which he is known throughout most of the early work on The Silmarillion--in The Book of Lost Tales 1. Here, he is first identified as Fëanor's grandfather in The Theft of Melko and the Darkening of Valinor. By Gilfanon's Tale at the end of the same book, however, his place has been changed to that of Fëanor's son, and first mention is made of his capture and torment by Morgoth. Thus, by Tolkien's earliest work on his legendarium, the beginnings of the character of Maedhros were already in place.
In the years to come, J.R.R. Tolkien demonstrated some doubt as to Maedhros's eventual role in the House of Fëanor. While always the eldest son and always proclaimed the leader of the Fëanorians, Tolkien vacillated between having Maedhros as one of the more aggressive brothers or the most passive and repentant, and from this latter version, he evolved to the tragic character of The Silmarillion that is known and admired by fans.
In Volume Four, The Shaping of Middle-earth, Tolkien portrayed Maedhros as the gentlest of the brothers, going so far as to forswear his oath prior to the attack on Doriath and taking Maglor's role as the rescuer of Elrond and Elros. In the earliest Silmarillion, Tolkien reverses the roles of Maedhros and Maglor completely for the final scene with Eonwë and even makes Maedhros responsible for the breaking of the Silmarils to restore the Two Trees. Through these subtle character changes, the Maedhros set forth in The Silmarillion emerges: a character of great personal strength who values peace and unity whose hand is forced to ruthless deeds by his oath, a tragic character who continues to inspire seemingly endless contemplation and creativity.