|The LOTR Movie Site
September 1, 2000
Fingolfin the Greatest?
Anyone doubting the 'greatness' of Fingolfin need only compare his situation with that of the other would-be 'greats'. Fingolfin's challenge to Morgoth is made in the bleak but very real prospect of a Middle Earth held hostage forever by an unalterably evil Vala, Morgoth. The other weak-willed, do-nothing Valar (hiding away in the Undying Lands)seem quite content to wait it out until every poor elf, dwarf and human caught up in the Oath of Feanor is well and truly dead before they'll lift a finger. Meanwhile... what's a High King of the Noldor to do?
Galadriel, survivor of the drowning of Beleriand and Queen of Lorien, knows that the Valar can be moved to help the Good - Fingolfin could never have hoped for this.
Beren and Luthien? Their heroism was borne of love for each other. Noble in itself, admittedly, but this can be seen as selfishness, too. What did Beren care for the Silmarils until Thingol's brideprice was announced? What burdens and obligations of rule did Beren ever bear for long? Did he not indeed relinquish his obligations to the First House just to run after a bit of shiny stone? And, in the end, how much help did he need before he ever held that stone?
Gil-Galad had the military force of the Numernorian realms in exile in their first flower to assist him, and he fought a lesser evil, Sauron, the servant of Morgoth. Fingolfin's enemy was greater, his help far less.
Frodo ultimately succumbed to the Ring - Fingolfin never cared for the Silmarils and fought Morgoth to the death.
Aragorn, were he to die before achieving his kingdom, always had the comfort that the Doom of Men destined him to a greater future beyond the Circles of the World. And, to an extent, even Aragorn's motives to resist Sauron were part of his fulfilment of Elrond's brideprice for Arwen. Fingolfin had no such bride to win nor such a faith in which to find comfort; he was cursed by the Oath of Feanor and were he to die, there could be no guarantee of his soul resting in Eldamar - the oath that bound him forfeited that privilege (even if only in his mind).
And Samwise? Can we account him among the Great? Samwise himself had one happy advantage that Finfolfin never did; no-one ever looked to him to do anything grand or noble except assist Mr Frodo. That he does undertake the role of Ringbearer is his greatest triumph - but even Samwise knew that there was a way out of the dilemma; destroying the Ring would end the reign of Sauron. Fingolfin's enemy, Morgoth, did not invest his power in the Silmarils; to regain them would still leave Morgoth in control of all Middle Earth.
Earendil? Again, he was not expected to sustain a victory and was not cursed by any oath of Feanor should he die.
No. All would-be greats pale by comparison to Fingolfin. Valiant, loyal, true to his word, a defender of his people, a leader by example; Fingolfin's burdens were greatest, his condition the most desperate, his actions all borne from the heart of a pure and noble soul.