Indis the Fair of the Vanyar, who became King Finwë’s second wife after Míriel’s firm decision to stay in Mandos, is a vivid embodiment of hope and patience capable of healing.

Tall, swift-footed, golden-haired and very different from Míriel, Indis was close kin of Ingwë,  High King of the Elves and King of the Vanyar. This Elvish clan, beloved of Manwë and Varda, took great delight in song and poetry, and Indis was no exception. She did not work with her hands, but could sing beautifully. This Vanyarin lady “made music and wove words into song; and there was always light and mirth about her while the bliss of Aman lasted” (Morgoth’s Ring. p. 261).

When Indis beheld Finwë for the first time during the time of the Vanyar’s sojourn in Tirion, she loved him instantly. The lord of the Noldor touched her heart deeply, so she remained unmarried. Later the Vanyar relocated to the slopes and nearby areas of Taniquetil, and Indis often wandered alone in “the friths and fields of the Valar, filling them with music” (Morgoth’s Ring, p. 261). Unrequited love was not uncommon among the Eldar even in the bliss of Aman. The Valar were not sure where this grief came from, for they considered it a deep sorrow that one’s good feelings were not returned. Some held it to be the consequence of Arda Marred and the Elves’ awakening under the Shadow, while others thought it to be the result of one’s heart’s free will.

As Finwë’s grief at Míriel’s reluctance to return to life deepened, Ingwë invited him for a visit to try and lift the sorrow of his dear friend. Finwë did not reply to this invitation instantly, but when Mandos pronounced the Statute and the doom of Míriel was sealed, Finwë hoped to find healing in the light of the Two Trees and decided that he should start building his life anew. Thus the Noldo accepted Ingwë’s invitation and went to his halls on the slopes of Taniquetil. He was walking up the mountain when Indis saw him and “sang suddenly in great joy, and her voice went up as a song of the lirulin* in the sky” (Morgoth’s Ring, p. 262). At that moment, as Finwë heard her song and saw Indis in the light of Laurelin, he realised that she loved him and his heart turned to her, too.

Finwë and Indis’s eventual marriage became a very unusual precedent in the Elvish tradition. As no Elda could have two living spouses at the same time, there were several substantial reasons that allowed a second marriage for the Elvish lord. Míriel forsook her life willingly and chose to stay in Mandos until the end of Arda, while Finwë’s desire to have more children and have a family was normal for a young Elf lord, who could not be kept bereaved of joy and a wife. Neither Finwë, nor Míriel were held guilty in the matter: Míriel’s desire to live no longer stemmed from Arda Marred, while Finwë had every right to be happy. However, his second marriage was a coin of two sides.

On the downside, Fëanor was not pleased with his father’s decision and did not love Indis or her children. Many believe that this marriage was the turning point for the House of Finwë, which led Fëanor astray, resulting in many evil things he might not have committed, had his father remained unmarried. Another aspect that displeased Fëanor and might have had a role to play in his eventual wrongdoings, was Indis’s decision to switch to using /s/ instead of /þ/, with the latter being more common in Vanyarin Quenya.

After her marriage Indis followed the principle “when with the Noldor, do as the Noldor do”. Thus she accepted the pronunciation switch from /þ/ to /s/ which by that time had become common among the Noldor. What was Indis’s desire to fit in with the people of her spouse and follow their tradition, Fëanor saw as lack of respect to the memory of his mother Míriel, who always used /þ/ during her life.

On the other hand, the sons of Indis and Finwë, Fingolfin and Finarfin, and their children in turn, played a huge role in Middle-earth and without them “the history of the Eldar would have been the poorer” (Morgoth’s Ring, p. 263). Besides, Indis and Finwë’s union had a virtuous effect on them. Though displeasing to Fëanor, this union proved to be the healing, necessary for them both. After their marriage Finwë was healed of his sorrows and became glad again, and so was Indis, who waited many long years to be united with the Elf she loved.

However, the shadow of Míriel never fully departed from the House of Finwë, nor from the Noldo’s heart, and Fëanor always had the main share of attention from his father. As time went by, Indis found herself amidst the strife of the Noldorin princes and the Noldor’s mounting unrest. In his conversation with Nienna, after being slain by Morgoth, Finwë stated that then Indis’s heart yearned “for the halls of Ingwë and the peace of the Vanyar, far from the strife of the Noldor” (Morgoth’s Ring, p. 249). Both the Vanyar and the Teleri kept away as best as they could from the quarrel among the Noldor, so for many years before Finwë’s death Indis had lived separately from him and after his death returned to dwell with her own people.

This series is mostly based on the texts found in The History of Middle-earth, twelve volumes of which feature drafts, essays and notes Tolkien composed for his Legendarium during his life. For these reflections I am using only the information which does not contradict the published Silmarillion.  It cannot be known which of these manuscripts stand at their final versions, while some of them are obviously works in progress. However, even regardless this uncertain state, Tolkien’s notes in HoME offer valuable insights into his mythology and enrich the reading experience of his published works. 


*lirulin – lark

Further reading:
Wives of the Eldar: Nerdanel

Wives of the Eldar: Míriel

Works consulted:

  1. J. R. R. Tolkien – The Silmarillion (edited by Christopher Tolkien); HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 1999.
  2. J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien – Morgoth’s Ring; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2015.
  3. J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien – The Peoples of Middle-earth; HarperCollinsPublishers; London; 2015.

Featured image: Vincent van Gogh – Green Field

8 thoughts on “Wives of the Eldar: Indis.

  1. The description “swift-footed” jumped out at me. Tolkien liked the word “swift”, and used it for all sorts of things. The other women who were described as swift are Nienor, Goldberry, and Éowyn. They are not Elves. I don’t know what to make of this observation.

  2. I was fascinated by the Elves’ own explanations of unrequited love. I do not like any explanation that allows me to avoid responsibility for the way I feel and so I tend towards both my freedom to feel and another person’s freedom not to return those feelings if that is their choice although this will make me sad. Sadness is the consequence of living in a world that is marred but sadness does not have to lead to anger as it does in Fëanor. It could lead to profound compassion as it does in Nienna and her pupil Olórin. Fëanor’s anger was neither inevitable nor did it have to become a fixed element in his character. He could have chosen to delight in Nerdanel and to create things for the common good and not just for his own.
    Thank you once again for for a fine reflection in this excellent series.

    1. It’s curious to see how Indis wasn’t led to anger or frustration. She remained patient, hopeful, joyful, which is a sensible road to follow even if one is sad because of unrequited love. Pride brings anger, and we see it in Fëanor. Unfortunately, he didn’t see the joy that was next to him.
      Thank you, Stephen! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the series!

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