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This is something that just occurred to me recently - I had always assumed not, but I realized the key quote might not mean what I thought it meant.

Vala he is, thou saist. Then thou hast sworn in vain, for none of the Valar canst thou overcome now or ever within the halls of Eä, not though Eru whom thou namest had made thee thrice greater than thou art.

I had always assumed that meant that Fëanor and the Noldor never had any chance at all - but it just occurred to me that this is said in response to Fëanor's blaming the Valar for being related to Morgoth and using that as a reason to leave Aman:

And though he be now their foe, are not they and he of one kin?

And indeed by this point Melkor/Morgoth in a very real sense isn't one of the Valar anymore. After the Darkening of Valinor he seems to have been trapped in physical form:

he put on again the form that he had worn as the tyrant of Utumno: a dark Lord, tall and terrible. In that form he remained ever after.

As a "full" Vala for whom the body was only "raiment" to be put on and shed at will, fighting Melkor with physical violence would of course have been useless, regardless of how awesome Fëanor and the Noldor were. But that wasn't true anymore.

And Fingolfin did manage to wound Morgoth with unhealable injuries, which suggests that he could indeed have been killed by swords.

And the whole Doom of the Noldor seems to be premised on the Noldor's failure coming by 'treachery and the fear of treachery'. So, if Fëanor had been a bit less impulsive (no Kinslaying/burning of ships perhaps) and Fëanor's and Fingolfin's hosts had been truly united, would they have been able to win?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Jason Baker, Dave Johnson, Edlothiad, Blackwood, Ram Mar 24 '17 at 23:56

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  • Not without the intervention of a higher power no. Remember Frodo needed Eru to step in and defeat Sauron. – user46509 Jan 23 '17 at 10:50
  • If Fëanor had been less impulsive, the Noldor would never have left. – isanae Jan 23 '17 at 18:07
  • @Po-ta-toe: well, yes, but Frodo was far less powerful than Feanor, and Morgoth at the end of the First Age was weaker than Sauron, at least 2nd Age Sauron, so possibly comparable to 3rd. – cometaryorbit Jan 24 '17 at 13:34
  • @isanae: yeah, probably. (Although it's not clear to me that leaving Valinor itself - as opposed to the Oath, Kinslaying, burning ships etc. - was inherently a bad idea after the Darkening.) But hypothetically, would the united Noldor have been strong enough? – cometaryorbit Jan 24 '17 at 13:34
2

What is described in the Prophecy is fundamental to the history of the Noldor. If you remove that, then they're not Noldor anymore and I don't think they'd accomplish anything, much like the Vanyar and Teleri. The reason the Noldor are so powerful is because they are curious, impulsive and driven. It's also the reason for their downfall. They go hand in hand.

Fëanor is the main reason behind the Kinslaying. But if you remove Fëanor, you also remove the driving force behind the Noldor's leaving Valinor. Therefore, it is very difficult to envision the scenario you are suggesting: powerful Noldor not burdened by mistrust and treachery. You cannot have one without the other.

Without the Noldor, would Melkor have destroyed the Trees? He was filled with hatred when "he looked upon the wealth of bright gems, and he lusted for them". If Fëanor was less impulsive, would he have created the Silmarils? Think about how different the story would have been.

In any case, all I can say is that the Nirnaeth Arnoediad came very close to being successful. It was an all-in battle from both sides and for a while, it rested on a knife's edge. While it is true that Melkor couldn't be killed, I see no reason why he couldn't be captured. Perhaps the Noldor could have built a prison strong enough to keep him there.

The light of the drawing of the swords of the Noldor was like a fire in a field of reeds; and so fell and swift was their onset that almost the designs of Morgoth went astray. Before the army that he sent westward could be strengthened it was swept away, and the banners of Fingon passed over Anfauglith and were raised before the walls of Angband. Ever in the forefront of that battle went Gwindor and the Elves of Nargothrond, and even now they could not be restrained; and they burst through the Gate and slew the guards upon the very stairs of Angband, and Morgoth trembled upon his deep throne, hearing them beat upon his doors. [...]

Some have said that even then the Eldar might have won the day, had all their hosts proved faithful; for the Orcs wavered, and their onslaught was stayed, and already some were turning to flight. But even as the vanguard of Maedhros came upon the Orcs, Morgoth loosed his last strength, and Angband was emptied. [...]

Yet neither by wolf, nor by Balrog, nor by Dragon, would Morgoth have achieved his end, but for the treachery of Men.

The Silmarillion, Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad, pp. 227-228

  • "treachery of men" quote is really good, thanks for pointing that out! – cometaryorbit Jan 25 '17 at 1:05
  • And, therefore, accepted. I wasn't really expecting a clear-cut statement by Tolkien that Feanor could/couldn't have won (though it would have been nice - I haven't read Letters so it might've been in there) and this is a very big piece of information. – cometaryorbit Feb 3 '17 at 0:43
8

No

I think you've mostly answered your own question here. The only example I can think of to suggest that they might have been able to win is Fingolfin's ability to wound Melkor:

...and he wounded Morgoth with seven wounds, and seven times Morgoth gave a cry of anguish

[...]

Yet with his last and desperate stroke Fingolfin hewed the foot with Ringil
The Silmarillion: XVIII Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin

One, however, must remember that Fingolfin is described as the strongest of the sons of Finwë:

Fingolfin was the strongest, the most steadfast, and the most valiant.
The Silmarillion: V Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië

Furthermore, from Manwë's quote (which was said before the kinslaying and the burning of the ships, and after Morgoth's power had been described to have been diminished):

Then thou hast sworn in vain, for none of the Valar canst thou overcome now or ever within the halls of Eä
The Silmarillion: IX Flight of the Noldor

I think even without the Doom of the Noldor, and the decline of Melkor's power with the investment into his "Ring",1 the Noldor would've been unsuccessful in defeating Morgoth. Part of my reasoning for this is that although in single combat, a great elf (Fingolfin) was able to wound him eternally, the total of Morgoth's power, with the inclusion of his servants would have been too great for the hosts of the Noldor, however Manwë's words were said with the Power of the Noldor in mind before the Kinslaying and knowing of the diminishing of Melkor.

Finally, they would never have "won" as that was the main reason the Valar did not fight Morgoth. Morgoth's power and been so widely disperesed over Middle Earth any attack on Morgoth would've likely destroyed all of Middle Earth.1

This is the chief explanation of the constant reluctance of the Valar to come into open battle against Morgoth. Manwe's task and problem was much more difficult than Gandalf's. Sauron's, relatively smaller, power was concentrated; Morgoth's vast power was disseminated. The whole of 'Middle-earth' was Morgoth's Ring, though temporarily his attention was mainly upon the North-west. Unless swiftly successful, War against him might well end in reducing all Middle-earth to chaos, possibly even all Arda.
Morgoth's Ring: Myths Transformed (VII notes on motives in the Silmarillion)


1 Melkor's power is described as having been diminished due to his will to dominate Arda:

Melkor 'incarnated' himself (as Morgoth) permanently. He did this so as to control the hroa,(2) the 'flesh' or physical matter, of Arda. He attempted to identify himself with it. A vaster, and more perilous, procedure, though of similar sort to the operations of Sauron with the Rings. Thus, outside the Blessed Realm, all 'matter' was likely to have a 'Melkor ingredient',(3) and those who had bodies, nourished by the hroa of Arda, had as it were a tendency, small or great, towards Melkor: they were none of them wholly free of him in their incarnate form, and their bodies had an effect upon their spirits. But in this way Morgoth lost (or exchanged, or transmuted) the greater part of his original 'angelic' powers, of mind and spirit, while gaining a terrible grip upon the physical world. For this reason he had to be fought, mainly by physical force, and enormous material ruin was a probable consequence of any direct combat with him, victorious or otherwise.
Morgoth's Ring: Myths Transformed (VII notes on motives in the Silmarillion)

  • What about "Yet neither by wolf, nor by Balrog, nor by Dragon, would Morgoth have achieved his end, but for the treachery of Men"? Treason is part of the Prophecy. And if they couldn't kill Melkor, why couldn't they imprison him? – isanae Jan 24 '17 at 0:40
  • The original inspiration for this question was that the "Then thou hast sworn in vain" bit starts with "Vala he is, thou saist. Then..." IE that's true only if Morgoth is still one of the Valar. Or at least that's a possible reading. @isanae: Oh, I'm pretty sure the united Noldor, barring any betrayals, could have fenced Morgoth in Angband indefinitely. I don't think there's much he could have done about that. Killing him is a lot more questionable though. – cometaryorbit Jan 24 '17 at 13:37
  • @cometaryorbit, Morgoth is still one of the Valar. Just because he was cast out by his Brother doesn't change his status. And two your point to isanae, there's a quote from The Silmarillion that states they were unable to surround Angband, because of the mountainous and icy North, so Morgoth could still release his armies through the North. – Edlothiad Jan 24 '17 at 15:14
  • I'm not talking about the siege in particular, I'm asking why the Noldor couldn't have gone to Angband and captured Melkor. You're talking about killing him, which would be impossible for the Noldor, but you don't mention other means of making him irrelevant, which might be possible for a united group of Elves and Men. – isanae Jan 24 '17 at 18:02
  • I think I cover that when I state that the armies he held at his command would overwhelm any onslaught of the Children: "The total of Morgoth's power..." – Edlothiad Jan 24 '17 at 18:04

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