The matter of Elvish names is one of the most interesting ones in Tolkien’s Legendarium. The way of Elves’ giving names to their children presents a very thought-out system showing the depth of Elvish culture, the importance of family values to them and their skill in giving the names that capture the inner nature of a person. Let’s have a look at the story of Fëanor’s name and how it reflects his personality.
Fëanor’s Quenya name is Fëanáro which means «Spirit of Fire». It consist of two elements – fëa – «spirit» and nár – «fire, flame». The ending «o» denotes masculine gender. Fëanáro is the Elf’s mother-name. It was given to him by his mother Miriel who recognised her son’s fiery spirit and chose the name in accordance with Fëanor’s nature. Mother-names usually reflected Elvish children’s inner selves and were given either several years after a child’s birth or soon after it as Elvish mothers had a gift of foresight and insight into their children’s characters.
Fëanáro’s first name given to him right at his birth was his father-name Finwë. Father-names typically «recalled the father’s name, resembling it in sense or form» (Peoples of Middle-earth, p. 339) and were either exactly like the father’s name or slightly changed by means of a prefix to highlight child’s special abilities and talents. So, Fëanáro’s father-name Finwë was changed into Curufinwë meaning «skillful Finwë» (curu – «skillful» and Finwë – his father’s name which is believed to be one of the oldest names among the Eldar) when his talents and abilities unfolded. There are rare occurrences of the version Kurufinwë throughout The History of Middle-earth.
Fëanor – the name the Elf is chiefly remembered by in tales and legends – is a Sindarin form of the name Fëanáro but is is only half-Sindarized. The genuine Sindarin form was Faenor. It consists of the elements faer – «spirit» and naur – «fire, flame». There are two versions of how the name Fëanor came to be. One of them is presented in The Peoples of Middle-earth and might have arisen out of a scribal confusion when ae was substituted with ea because in documents in written Quenya the combination ae did not normally occur. The ë was used for a device of transcription only. Another version can be found in Morgoth’s Ring and it is claimed there that the name Fëanor was a blend of the Quenya name Fëanàro and the Sindarin name Faenor.
Among other Fëanor’s names there were also mentioned Finwion (meaning «Son of Finwë») and Minyon First-begotten. Minyon is a Quenya word consisting of two elements: minya – «first» and onta – «beget, create». Tolkien gave it to Fëanor as to the first Elf of the second generation. Later, though, the Professor rejected this version as the story evolved.
Other words with similar roots.
The word fëa meant «spirit» and was often used to denote a soul of an incarnate being which usually housed within a body – hröa;
Fëanturi – «Masters of Spirits»;
Nárya – «fiery». It was the name of one of the Three Elvish Rings of Power – the Ring of Fire or the Red Ring;
Anar – «Sun» (cf. Anárion).
Sammath Naur – «Chambers of Fire»;
Anor – «Sun» (cf. Minas Anor, Anórien).
Elanor – «Sun-star».
- J. R. R. Tolkien – The Silmarillion (edited by Christopher Tolkien); HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 1999.
- J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien – The Peoples of Middle-earth; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2015.
- J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien – Morgoth’s Ring; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2015.
Featured image – Creative Common Licence found at Pixabay.