The Silmarillion Writers' Guild :: Seven in '07, A Tribute to the Creativity Inspired by the House of Fëanor

Sons of Fëanor - Maglor by Breogán
"Sons of Fëanor - Maglor" by Breogán.

Nelyo's song as played by Findekáno and heard by Macalaurë by Marie Bebe
"Nelyo's song as played by Findekáno and heard by Macalaurë" by Marie Bebe.

Maglor remains one of the most popular and written-about characters in The Silmarillion, owing in part to his reputation of being kinder and gentler than his father and brothers. While there is support in the canon that he may have been the son who was most like his wise and gentle mother, he is far from a pie-eyed pacifist, and the dual natures of the second son of Fëanor certainly contribute to his allure.

Harp in the Making by Noliel
"Harp in the Making" by Noliel.

Maglor is named as being an exceptionally skilled musician and poet, and according to the Lay of Leithian (HoMe 3), he was one of the three greatest singers among the Elves. According to The Shibboleth of Fëanor (HoMe 12), his Quenya name Canafinwë Macalaurë means "strong-voiced" or "commanding" (Canafinwë) and "forging gold" (Macalaurë). While the latter seems more a reference to his father's trade than Maglor's unique gifts as a musician, it is believed to have been a reference to his skills on the harp. Maglor's vocation is notable among the Noldor, who were not known for their gifts in music or poetry.

Little is known about Maglor's early life in Valinor aside from his profession as a poet and musician. According to a footnote to the essay Of Dwarves and Men (HoMe 12), Maglor was married, but nothing is known about his wife, whether they had children, or even if they were married prior to the Noldorin rebellion or later, in Middle-earth.

It is Midsummer Day, the day my brother and Fingon agreed upon to attack our enemy. I just want to wait a little longer before I fasten my helm and join my men. The wind plays with the red plume of my helm, small dust clouds sweep over the plains of Anfauglith. I watch how Celegorm and Curufin gather their men, Amrod and Amrad theirs. Caranthir joins me and together we await the signal coming from Fingon. My eyes fall on Uldor, who is behaving suspiciously. Then our banner rises, Maedhros follows suit. The beacon remains unlit: the enemy approaches.
~~~
"United We Wait" by Rhapsody the Bard

And Maglor Took Pity Upon Them by Kasiopea
"And Maglor Took Pity Upon Them" by Kasiopea.

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The waterfall fell over the mouth of the cave in a shimmering curtain, and Elrond backed against the damp rock. His hands slipped over it; he was loath to touch it. One of them was whimpering: who? His cold hand found his brother’s, which was warmer than the rock but not much. Elrond wanted to shush the whimpering, but his throat was tight with unshed tears.

I am not afraid.

Behind the curtain of water came a ripple of color, an apparition: red cloak, black hair. A water-bright sword washed clean in the pool.

I am not afraid.

So why did he quiver, why did his heart flutter, why did the tears race down his face? He imagined that he could hear the teardrops as he could hear the waterfall, the whisper of water caressing rock. A second apparition joined the first: same cloak but red hair and a sword still crimson from battle.

The whimpering grew louder, and Elrond realized: It is both of us.

The curtain parted, water pattered raven-dark hair and rang against armor. Elrond struggled to step in front of his brother even as Elros tried to step in front of him.

I am not afraid.
~~~
Excerpt from Droplets by Dawn Felagund

Though a master of more delicate arts than his father, Maglor is far from soft-hearted. He too swore his father's oath and followed Fëanor to Beleriand, murdering his kin at Alqualondë and playing his part in the treachery against Fingolfin's people. After Fëanor's death and Maedhros's capture, Maglor found himself unexpectedly foisted into the role of regent to the kingship of the Noldor, and according to an early version of the Quenta Silmarillion in HoMe 5, it was directly to Maglor that Morgoth gave his conditions for Maedhros's release, terms that Maglor rejected in the end, not trusting Morgoth to be faithful.

Maedhros was waiting for him in the other room. “I have put them in Ambarussa’s room,” Maglor explained. Maedhros merely nodded. “Are you sure about this, brother?” he asked after awhile. “Children do not simply go away when they grow up. If you raise them….they will be yours.”

Maglor nodded. “I am sure,” he said simply. “Though they may grow up faster than you think. Their mother was a mere girl when… when Doriath fell.”

Maedhros considered that for a moment, and smiled ruefully. “You do realize that every ancestor they have would curse you?”

“Then fortunate for me that they are dead, and will never know,” Maglor answered shortly. “I am already cursed, though!” he said bitterly, not shouting so as not to wake the sleeping boys. He threw himself into a chair. “How many battles have we lost? How many brothers? Even our victories are defeats! How much longer can we endure in this hopeless war against an inexorable and inexhaustible foe who mocks and scorns us?”

“As long as we must,” Maedhros answered coldly, though his face was also troubled. “At the very least,” he said in a softer voice, “I would see the Iron Crown again.”
~~~
"Maglor Takes the Twins" by MithLuin

One can imagine that this must have been a terrible choice for Maglor to make. Throughout The Silmarillion, Maglor closely follows his brother Maedhros, and the two appear to have similar ideas--and ideals--about the governance of the Noldor. Alone of his brothers, Maglor joined Maedhros at the Feast of Reuniting that Fingolfin hosted, and the two brothers remained close in friendship with Finrod Felagund as well.

When the Fëanorians chose to move to eastern Beleriand, Maedhros and Maglor took upon themselves the most dangerous of the realms. Maglor's realm--called the Gap of Maglor--provided passage among the hills and easy access for Morgoth's armies to come into Beleriand. Nonetheless, until the Battle of Sudden Flame obliterated all the northeastern realms save Himring, Maglor bravely kept this land, lending further credence to the notion that the he was skilled in the arts of war as well as music. After the Battle of Sudden Flame, Maglor fled to Himring, where he dwelt with Maedhros, and the brothers appear to have remained together until Maedhros's death at the end of the First Age.

Star by Oloriel
"Star" by Oloriel.

At the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, Maglor again proved his mettle in killing the traitor Uldor before he could reach Maedhros. Despite this intervention, though, the Noldor were soundly defeated that day, and with the rest of his brothers, Maglor took to wandering in Ossiriand until word came that Dior held a Silmaril. Persuaded by Celegorm, the brothers pursued the Silmaril through two kinslayings, leaving Doriath and Sirion destroyed behind them. All of the brothers died in these attacks--denied noble death in battle on numerous occasions but instead destined to remain named kinslayers--except Maedhros and Maglor.

The indigo of the sea reflecting the crimson morning skies crept slowly down the surface like a snake leaving marks in the sand. The fluffy shapes passed minute distances in their long voyage to reach the dark figures standing before the cliff like pawn figurines waiting to be sacrificed. The dance was endless and yet so short, as the two pairs of eyes passed each other’s gazes by, sharply penetrating what once was famous and known. The wind blew like the world was ending, making them appear wraithlike, the coppery hair dancing through the air, accompanied by the night shade of velvet covered in iron and silver. He wore a chainmaille still, his brother. It reflected the light of the Silmaril like a mirror. It was not close to the otherworldly empty shining eyes focused on nothing but the penetrating light burning deep inside his soul. He looked like a beast captured by its own prey.

He looked back at the source of the radiance in his own hand, feeling it burn his temples and skin. The oath had been fulfilled as well as his heart’s longing. It was finally his. He smiled.
~~~
Excerpt from Sins of Our Fathers by Andrannath Mirdaneg

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Torment/Nwalme
I remember her betrayal. I remember her anger and the burning of my skin, tendons and refined touch. I remember how her essence shortly mingled with my fëa, the force set upon me, filling my mind with one thing as punishment. The jewel’s spirit taunted me, ripped my already tenuous mind into pieces, while I only knew one way out, to throw her far away from me. When I sensed how the calm water enveloped me, cold stone collided with my knees and my burned hands clutched together while I tried to hold onto my mind, now filled with torture.
~~~
Excerpt from Letters in the Sand by Rhapsody the Bard

It was then that Maglor committed one of his most famous acts in choosing to foster the sons of Eärendil, Elrond and Elros. This is only one several ways that the Fëanorians--despite their violence and treachery--nonetheless helped to secure a free and peaceful Middle-earth in ages to come. Maglor adored his foster sons, but the weight of the oath was still heavy upon him, and when at last the Valar made war upon Morgoth and Eonwë the herald of Manwë gained the Silmarils, it was with loathing and regret that Maedhros and Maglor prepared to yet again attempt to satisfy the dogged oath.

How could I have been so foolish, to think she would accept me after what I have done, the unforgivable sins I have committed? As agony burns in my flesh, I feel total despair for all I have lost, for her, my unyielding beloved. I have lost all and I weep. My songs can no longer bring comfort to me. The wounds go too deep, making my voice harsh and painful to my own ears. Even as I feel my hand scarring from clutching her, I cannot release the item I have sacrificed everything for. The one remaining Silmaril is in my grasp but the pain is unbearable. I cannot let go!

Release me...you are not worthy…

Her words tear through my mind and push me closer to the brink of insanity.

Do not cower before me…let me go.

Crawling to the sea, I furiously cast her out, away from me, following her commands as Feanor did before me. As clarity returns, tears of shame fall into my wounded flesh.

‘Adar, I have failed thee. I was not strong enough to fulfill my oath. Forgive me.’

Until the end of time, Maglor’s requiem will forever be heard in the waves.
"Sorrowful Waves ~ Maglor's Fate" by Alassante

Cano by Oloriel
"Cano" by Oloriel.

But Maglor alone of the sons of Fëanor then considered abandoning the oath and returning to Valinor--as Eonwë had decreed--to face the judgment of the Valar. It was his hope that the Valar would extend a pardon to Maedhros and him, and he argued with Maedhros about this. Maedhros feared that the Valar would withhold their forgiveness, and the two sons of Fëanor would be without a means to fulfill their oath and unable to be released and, thus, doomed to the Everlasting Darkness. But, Maglor reasoned, if they could not be released from the oath, then the Everlasting Darkness was their doom no matter what. In breaking the oath, however, they did less evil, and so it was the proper course of action.

Despite the logic of Maglor's words, Maedhros prevailed, and the brothers disguised themselves and went to Eonwë's camp. After slaying the guards and stealing the two remaining Silmarils, Maedhros and Maglor faced certain death at the hands of Eonwë's soldiers, but Eonwë forbade slaying the brothers and allowed them to escape, presumably expecting that the Silmarils would pass the judgment that the sons of Fëanor refused to hear from him. And pass judgment they did: For the brothers' evil deeds, the Silmarils would not consent to be comfortably held, and they scorched the hands of Maedhros and Maglor. Maedhros took his own life then, but Maglor fled and tossed his Silmaril in the sea. The only one of the sons of Fëanor to survive multiple wars and kinslayings, Maglor refused to return to his people and wandered along the shores, singing in lament.

I follow the faint sound of a mournful singing voice for what seems like hours. The coast is long, the wind is harsh, and yet, I still cannot find the singer.

'Or does he know I search for him?'

Changing tactics, I stop and sit on the rocky shore, remembering my father's story. Maglor, Son of Fëanor, smiled rarely then. But he was always kind to the children of his youngest brother's family. The best uncle anyone could ever have.

The crunch of stone beneath foot alerts me. Standing slowly, I turn to face the haggard, sorrowful, care-worn countenance before me. "Why do you look for me? What is your purpose here?" His voice was rough, both from his singing and from the harsh sea-air.

'And countless tears.'

"My only reason for coming here was to meet you, sir. My father told me you were kin."

Flashes of surprise and disbelief wash over my uncle's face. I can see him search his mind, going through the lineage, searching for the connection. I bring out father's leather bound book from my pack. The one filled with our family's history. The one that led me to my uncle.
~~~
Excerpt from Similitude by Isil Elensar

From the beginnings of his work on the legendarium, J.R.R. Tolkien imagined Maglor as a great singer, though his position as the kindest and certainly most repentant of the brothers was a bit longer in evolving. In the earliest account of the assault on Eonwë's camp found in the "Sketch of the Mythology" in HoMe 4, it was Maglor who was the more determined of the brothers, and he went alone to retrieve the Silmaril he believed was his. When the pain it caused revealed his rights over it to be void, he fell to the same fate as Maedhros later would and cast himself into a chasm.

He would remember that night. The starlight was as bright
As he recalled it from his youth, when he could convey
Anything with a rhyme. Now his fingers had no might
That could bring peace, though his skill had never passed away

Like an elusive tide. A fire had burned in his hands
And reshaped what had once bloomed into a bitter taste;
The flame had demanded that he never leave his stance,
But he finally refused and felt salt on his face.

His destiny, now buried, slept in deep blue and green
Without a trace, but he stared at the lamenting waves
For a long time before he left, no more to be seen.

Sometimes, you may hear him speak. When the wind fades away,
The lonesome bard sings his grief. Just listen to his plea,
Take heed with your eager ear, and remember that day.
~~~
"Maglor's Song" by Robinka

As the tale evolved further in The Quenta (HoMe 4), the debate between the brothers about abandoning the oath is added, but their roles are reversed, and it is Maglor who convinces Maedhros to go along with his plot to steal the Silmaril. In this version, both brothers take their own lives, with Maglor again jumping into a chasm in the earth. Finally, the Silmarillion version takes shape: Maglor takes the repentant--and more logical--role, is convinced by Maedhros, and ends up casting aside his Silmaril and wandering beside the sea.

Likewise, the evolving Quenta story underwent a brief spell where it was Maedhros who showed mercy upon the sons of Eärendil and chose to foster them, not Maglor. The reversal of the brothers' roles twice to show Maglor as the more merciful and remorseful of the brothers suggests that J.R.R. Tolkien may have been developing his character as the one most deserving of survival: He who showed the most kindness and even considered repentance before the end.

What was Maglor's final fate? We know little about this, whether he died during his wanderings, faded, or returned eventually to Aman. Or, perhaps, he wanders still along the shore. The Quenta in HoMe 4 says this of Maglor, that "… not all would forsake the Outer Lands where they had long suffered and long dwelt; and some lingered many an age in the West and North, and especially in the western isles and the lands of Leithien. And among these were Maglor as has been told …"

Speculating about Maglor's fate--and his possible role in varying historical events--is certainly a common fan favorite. The truth may not be ours to know but remains ours to imagine, and more than one fan of the second son of Fëanor admits to searching for him still, wandering beside the sea.