Among the characters in The Silmarillion one of the most renowned for his deeds of valour and nobility was Fingolfin’s eldest son Fingon. Named the Valiant, Fingon won great honour for his glorious feats and showed himself as a person of real courage.

The name Fingon, which is used throughout The Silmarillion, is, in fact, a Sindarized version of the Elf’s Quenya name Findekáno. Tolkien commented in his notes on the names of Finwë’s descendants, that the Sindarin form Fingon shows the knowledge of the sound changes that distinguish Sindarin from Telerin but disregards meaning. As the Professor remarked, ‘old Sindarin names had by that time frequently become obscured by sound-changes and were taken as names and not analysed’ (Peoples of Middle-earth, p. 345).

Presumably a father-name, Findekáno consists of two elements – findë and káno. The first element findë means ‘hair’ – ‘a tress or plait of hair’. By choosing the name beginning with fin for his eldest son Fingolfin intended to echo the ancestral name Finwë, though, as Tolkien noted, this was not a sufficient proof for a conclusion that Finwë’s own name was derived from the same stem. Still, the chosen name was suitable for Fingon as he wore his long dark hair in plaits braided with gold.

The element káno bears the meaning of ‘commander’. It was derived from the Common Eldarin stem KAN – ‘cry, call aloud’. From this stem more meanings developed and they reflected various reasons for calling out loud, e.g. to make an oath, to announce news, to issue orders, etc. Later most of these meanings were dropped from the Elvish languages, and the meaning ‘to command’, ‘to issue orders by derived or one’s own authority’ became the most common in Quenya.

Among several transitional versions and variants of spelling of Fingon’s name present in the earlier drafts and later discharged in favour of Fingon/Findekáno, Tolkien also gave the Elf’s name in Old English – Finbrand. This name is used in a short verse in Old English on Fingon’s defeating the dragon Glómund that later became known as Glaurung:

Þá cóm of Mistóran    méare rídan

Finbrand felahrór     flánas scéotan;

Glómundes gryre      grimmum strǽlum

forþ áflíemde.

(Shaping of Middle-earth, p. 337)

In my attempt to translate this piece into Modern English I rendered it as follows: There came from Mithrim      his steed riding / Valiant Finbrand        arrows shooting; / In terror Glomund       gravely painéd / Far forth  fled.

This short verse captures the deed, also referred to in prose in the published Silmarillion, that was among those that demonstrated the great valour of Fingon. He was among those few who did not become frightened of Morgoth’s new creature and rode with his archers to meet it courageously shooting arrows at the worm from Angdand thus making it remain in Morgoth’s fortress for a long time.

It was such feats that won him Fingon his title the Valiant – the epithet which is also given to the Vala Tulkas known for his strength and prowess. In reference to Fingon the title was first used by Maedhros long before Findekáno made the dragon of Morgoth flee. When the Noldor were returning to Middle-earth from Aman, Maedhros wondered if Fëanor was going to send the Telerin ships back for the other Noldor, and possibly first – for Fingon the Valiant (Silmarillion, p. 97). Fëanor refused and chose to burn the ships instead, but this deed, which led to Fingolfin and his people’s having to cross the Helcaraxë on foot, did not poison the friendship between Maedhros and Fingon that had begun in the time of bliss in Aman. 

When in Middle-earth Maedhros was captured by Morgoth and hung from the precipice of Thangorodrim, Fingon attempted a valiant deed:

….and though he knew not yet that Maedhros had not forgotten him at the burning of the ships, the thought of their ancient friendship stung his heart. Therefore he dared a deed which is justly renowned among the feats of the princes of the Noldor: alone, and without the counsel of any, he set forth in search of Maedhros; and aided by the very darkness that Morgoth had made he came unseen into the fastness of his foes.

(Silmarillion, p. 124)

This feat shows Fingon’s valour at its highest and also his great nobility. By acting selflessly and not growing embittered after being abandoned in the colds of Araman, Fingon succeeded in healing the conflict between the Elves and rescued his friend. One might object, though, that despite all of these highly positive characteristics, Fingon was not entirely guiltless of the Kinslaying at Alqualondë which might be regarded as a stain on his otherwise spotless reputation. True, the Elf did unsheathe his sword when on approaching the havens he saw his kin falling and joined the battle before learning what its true cause was. But this was more out of desire to defend his people rather than harm the Teleri or aid Fëanor in his monstrous attack. Still this enmeshment in the Kinslaying was one of the reasons why after the Prophecy of the North Fingon carried on with his march to Middle-earth and fell under the Doom of Mandos.

for his valour was as a fire and yet as steadfast as the hills of stone; wise he was and skilled in voice and hand; troth and justice he loved and bore good will to all, both Elves and Men, hating Morgoth only; he sought not his own, neither power nor glory, and death was his reward.

(Lost Road, p. 251)


Works consulted:

  1. J. R. R. Tolkien – The Silmarillion (edited by Christopher Tolkien); HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 1999.
  2. J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien – The Shaping of Middle-earth; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2015.
  3. J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien – The Lost Road and Other Writings; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2015.
  4. J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien – The Peoples of Middle-earth; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2015.

Featured image – Creative Common Licence found at Pixabay.

2 thoughts on “Language notes /// On Fingon.

  1. I can see parallels between Fingon and his father Fingolfin. Fingolfin promised Fëanor that he would follow him, and so he did. Fëanor never reciprocated this love or loyalty in any form, yet Fingolfin was still attached to his older brother and wished to mend things between them. In the end, Fingolfin followed Feanor’s path the long way round over the ice, though who knows what his personal feelings were by then.

    In a similar way, his oldest son Fingon was attached to Fëanor’s oldest son Maedhros. Fingon never forgot their friendship, even when there was no evidence to suggest that Maedhros regretted leaving Fingolfin’s people behind. Despite this, Fingon followed Maedhros’ trail all the way to Thangorodrim and back.
    But unlike Fëanor, Maedhros had every intent to reciprocate the friendship (he was the one who asked about sending the ships back). And he ended up showing loyalty to Fingolfin as well, turning the leadership over to him. He recognised Fingolfin in the way Fëanor never did.

    1. That’s a great parallel! It seems that the relationship between Fingon and Maedhros shows how the relationship between Fingolfin and Fëanor could have turned out had Fëanor been slightly less obstinate and arrogant. Perhaps we could say that the sons made amends for their fathers.

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