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Fëanor is thought to have made the palantíri, or at least similar far-seeing crystals. Why didn't his sons make use of them in the War of the Jewels? They would be able to espy the orc raids leaving Angbad northwards to circumvent the blockade, and would have huge advantage when the armies of Fingon and Maedhros had to cooperate in the Nirnaeth. (In fact, the lack of fast communication had fatal results.)

Is there any explanation for the absence of these useful artifacts, besides "They forgot to bring them to Middle-earth"?

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    Two words; roaming charges. – Valorum Jan 18 '17 at 15:34
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    @Valorum And data caps. – Matt Gutting Jan 18 '17 at 16:57
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    Now only if they figured out how to mount a palantir on a giant eagle. Reconnaissance mission for the win! – void_ptr Jan 18 '17 at 18:42
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    @void_ptr Eärendil the Mariner eventually took one into the heavens, establishing the first ever recon satellite, but I understand that nobody sorted out the correct crypto protocol so they never got the images. 8^D – KorvinStarmast Jan 19 '17 at 20:48
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No, this is never directly answered; the palantíri themselves don't enter the narrative until fairly late in the writing of The Two Towers, and Tolkien never integrated them into his stories of the First Age.

As such, we're forced to speculate, but there are a few reasons why they might not have been used:

  • They were left behind in Aman. You've already raised this as a theory, but it bears repeating; we don't know very much about the early history of the Seeing Stones, and it's entirely possible that they were left behind, and only later taken to Númenor. It's also worth pointing out that the published Silmarillion makes a point of calling out Fëanor's haste in leaving:

    Little foresight could there be for those who dared to take so dark a road. Yet all was done in over-haste; for Fëanor drove them on, fearing lest in the cooling of their hearts his words should wane and other counsels yet prevail

    The Silmarillion III Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 9: "Of the Flight of the Noldor"

    So it's not inconceivable that they could have been left behind; it also doesn't hurt that they're difficult to transport, which leads to my next point:

  • They're quite fussy. The essay on the palantíri in Unfinished Tales makes the point that, unless properly oriented, many of the Stones are basically useless:

    [T]he minor Stones, those of Orthanc, Ithil, and Anor, and probably Annúminas, had also fixed orientation in their original situation, so that (for example) their west face would only look west and turned in other directions was blank. If a Stone became unseated or disturbed it could be re-set by observation, and it was then useful to revolve it. But when removed and cast down, as was the Orthanc-stone, it was not so easy to set right.

    Unfinished Tales Part IV Chapter 3: "The Palantíri"

    So the Stones aren't actually very helpful unless treated with extreme care; in a pitched battle, especially one in which the commanders are also in the middle of the action, they're rather more trouble than they're worth.

    An astute observer will notice that the quote above only calls out a few of the Stones, indicating that the others do not have this limitation. This is true, but the others have a different problem: they're too big. Although only about a foot in diameter at the smallest (a little smaller than a medicine ball), they grew to an astonishing size:

    At smallest they were about a foot in diameter, but some, certainly the Stones of Osgiliath and Amon Sûl, were much larger and could not be lifted by one man.

    Unfinished Tales Part IV Chapter 3: "The Palantíri"

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