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Topic: The psychological aspect of the Arda legendarium

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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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Date: Feb 4, 2012
The psychological aspect of the Arda legendarium

Felagund,
Interesting topic.

In any psychological analysis there are many factors which are symptoms or causes that relate to personality or behaviors which can carry a label of disorder but in general only those characteristics which are "harmful to self or others" are considered pathological.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders in its fourth revision (DSM-IV) has sections devoted to the description of personality disorders which may find application to specific characters in Tolkien's works.
FŽanor and his behavior as described in the various Tolkien works could fit into specific personality disorder descriptions.
But as we are hesitant to ascribe these to people in real life we must also proceed with caution at labeling Tolkien's characters.
In other words ... "profiling" may not be appropriate.
Nonetheless we can offer certain descriptors and allow the discussion to continue.

Personality disorders are a group of psychiatric conditions in which a person's long-term (chronic) behaviors, emotions, and thoughts are very different from their culture's expectations and cause serious problems with relationships and work.
The causes of personality disorders are unknown. However, many genetic and environmental factors are thought to play a role.

There are approximately ten of these disorders. But in keeping within our topic ... that of FŽanor ... I will only list those three I perceive as relevant.

Borderline personality disorder ~ is a condition in which people have long-term patterns of unstable or turbulent emotions, such as feelings about themselves and others. Genetic, family, and social factors are thought to play roles.
These inner experiences often cause them to take impulsive actions and have chaotic relationships.
Causal factors that may apply to FŽanor:
*Abandonment in childhood or adolescence
*Disrupted family life
* Poor communication in the family
Symptoms which might apply to Feanor:
*Tend to see things in terms of extremes, such as either all good or all bad. Their views of other people may change quickly. A person who is looked up to one day may be looked down on the next day. These suddenly shifting feelings often lead to intense and unstable relationships.
*Fear of being abandoned
* Frequent displays of inappropriate anger
* Intolerance of being alone
* Repeated crises and acts of self-injury

Narcissistic personality disorder ~ is a condition in which people have an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with themselves.
Causal factors that may apply to FŽanor:
The causes of this disorder are unknown. An overly sensitive personality and parenting problems may affect the development of this disorder.
Symptoms which might apply to Feanor:
*React to criticism with rage, shame, or humiliation
*Take advantage of other people to achieve his or her own goals
*Have excessive feelings of self-importance
*Exaggerate achievements and talents
*Be preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence, or ideal love
*Have unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
*Need constant attention and admiration
*Disregard the feelings of others, and have little ability to feel empathy
*Have obsessive self-interest
*Pursue mainly selfish goals

There is another mental condition called Bipolar disorder. It is a condition in which people go back and forth between periods of a very good or irritable mood and depression. The "mood swings" between mania and depression can be very quick.
Causal factors that may apply to FŽanor:
The exact cause is unknown, but it occurs more often in relatives of people with bipolar disorder. (possibly Feanor's mother, Miriel, her choice of suicide)
Symptoms which might apply to Feanor:Symptoms
The manic phase may last from days to months. It can include the following symptoms:
* Poor judgment
* Poor temper control
* Reckless behavior and lack of self control
* Very elevated mood
* Excess activity (hyperactivity)
* Very high self-esteem (false beliefs about self or abilities)
* Very involved in activities
* Very upset (agitated or irritated)
The depressed phase of bipolar disorder can include the following symptoms:
* Daily low mood or sadness
* Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
* Fatigue or lack of energy
* Feeling worthless, hopeless, or guilty
* Loss of pleasure in activities once enjoyed
* Loss of self-esteem
* Thoughts of death and suicide
* Pulling away from friends or activities that were once enjoyed

(Thank you to The U.S. National Library of Medicine)



Here is a small piece of analysis done in an earlier thread.
"FŽanor's innovative artistic character rings so true to my own studies of creative temperament.
In my work the most creative of those that I serve have elements of obsessive-compulsive personality as well as symptoms of paranoia. Both borderline and bipolar have periods of manic energy where they seem to be almost "on fire" with their creativity and can be completely amoral in their judgments. There is also the complementary and inevitable depression., which can also be born of anger.
Tolkien's creation of the character of FŽanor, so much aflame that his birth consumed his mother, surrounded by his half-brothers and half-sisters who he holds in suspicion, so gifted artistically yet ungenerous and amoral, leaves one eager to read more about him.
His oath and the binding of his family to destruction. His treatment of the Teleri and the kin-slaying as well as stranding his own people and half-brother by destroying the swan -boats, denial of the Valar, show him as a megalomaniac as despicable as our human history ever produced."


As you can see there is no simplistic "cookie cutter way" of diagnosing either a disorder or psychological motivation. Each act, each person, each social-biological-emotional variable, should be included to "map" the underpinning of Tolkien's characters.
And that is (and will be) a serious endeavor!

Here is a short list of the references to study FŽanor:
The Silmarillion: "Of Eldamar," p. 60, 62; "Of Feanor," passim; "Of the Silmarils," passim; "Of the Darkening of Valinor," passim; "Of the Flight of the Noldor," passim; "Of the Sun and the Moon," p. 98; "Of the Return of the Noldor," p. 106-9; "Appendix - Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names," entries for curu, fea and nar

The History of Middle-earth, vol. V, The Lost Road and Other Writings: "Quenta Silmarillion," p. 333; "The Etymologies," entries for MINI and ONO

The History of Middle-earth, vol. X, Morgoth's Ring: "The Annals of Aman," p. 87 note 3, 91, 92-101, 101 note 1, 102-3, 106-8, 110-20, 129; "The Later Quenta Silmarillion (I)," p. 177, 179, 185-97; "The Earliest Version of the Story of Finwe and Miriel," p. 205-7; "Laws and Customs among the Eldar," p. 210, 217, 230 note 20; "Of the Severance of Marriage," p. 236, 240-41, 247-48, 253 note 17; "Later Versions of the Story of Finwe and Miriel," p. 254-63, 267-69; "Of Feanor and the Unchaining of Melkor," p. 271-73; "Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor," p. 273-82; "Of the Darkening of Valinor," p. 287; "Of the Rape of the Silmarils," p. 293-96

The History of Middle-earth, vol. XII, The Peoples of Middle-earth: "The Shibboleth of Feanor," passim; "Last Writings," p. 380, 389 note 8

Unfinished Tales: "Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin," p. 22, 51 note 2; "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn," p. 230-32

The Two Towers: "The Palantir," p. 203

The Lord of the Rings: Appendix E "Writing and Spelling," p. 395-401

J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, p. 195

And so forth. What are your opinions on this, Felagund?






-- Edited by Bear on Saturday 4th of February 2012 05:39:53 AM

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Elf of Beleriand - Rank 2
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So I was thinking, what is it really that made the peoples of Middle-Earth (and of course Valinor) do what they did?

By this I mean psychologically. In our own world, psychology is "the study of the mind, occurring partly via the study of behavior." - And I would say this applies to Tolkien's legendarium as well.

So what is it really that made FŽanor leave Valinor, for example? Was it hatred for Morgoth, the loss of the Silmarills? With this thread I seek to unravel what made FŽanor (and all those others who did extraordinary things, both good and bad) do what they did. Psychologically, not for reasons like "they were evil", "they were kind of heart". There is always a deeper meaning.

Sometimes I can be bad at explaining what I mean, so to try to clear up things that might be a little foggy, I'll take FŽanor as an example.

On the surface, it was most likely a combination of his hatred of Morgoth and the loss of the silmarills that made him leave Valinor for good. But why? Was he greedy? Was he simply just fierce and "fiery" of mind, which caused him to act irrationally (debatable)?

What was Tolkien's true "explanation" of one of his greatest characters; FŽanor?

And so forth. What are your opinions on this, people?

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Tom Bombadil
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This would be a good thread for our friend Bear, who is a retired Psychologist. But please don't bug him. He is, like I said, retired and has other issues to content with. I will give him a nudge

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Elf of Beleriand - Rank 2
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Oh wow, you truly know a lot about this stuff!

Didn't realize you're a psychologist. That's great however, since I'm interested in psychology, and that's what lead me to create this thread in the first place.

Indeed, it is not possible to label characters with profiles. My purpose with this thread was to understand what personality traits might have caused the different characters to do what they did.

I've always thought of FŽanor as the narcissistic type.
Few reasons why (from what you listed)
*Take advantage of other people to achieve his or her own goals
*Have excessive feelings of self-importance
*Exaggerate achievements and talents
*Have unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
*Disregard the feelings of others, and have little ability to feel empathy
*Have obsessive self-interest
*Pursue mainly selfish goals


These can all be thought of reason as to why FŽanor did what he did.
- His excessive feelings of self-importance (loss of his father and the silmarills --> "I'm more important than you, so now I'm the center of attention."
- Combined with "exaggerate achievements and talents", believing that his work and his talents are of greater importance than others' (the kin-slaying, the burning of the Swan-boats; which are the Teleri's works)
- "Have unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment" - he expects his people to follow him, and spits on those who would not.
- "Disregard the feelings of others, and have little ability to feel empathy" - Can be combined with his excessive feelings of self-importance, where he believes his goals are more important than others', and does not care what he has to do to achieve them.
- "Have obsessive self-interest" and "pursue mainly selfish goals" are technically the same thing, as I see it; at least in this case, where FŽanor will only follow his own heart, in order to achieve his own goal, which not many others feel the same about (his sons followed him without any doubt, but many of his people were unwilling (or were having second thoughts), as said in the Silmarillion.)

Now, I'm no psychologist, nor have I ever studied psychology, so I might be looking at it wrong.

I'm not sure if any of Tolkien's elf-characters can have a "personality disorder", since they were originally created "pure", wise, immortal, fair (and so forth), which leads me to believe Tolkien's characters were supposed to come off as "perfect", in any sense of the word. But I don't see any reason his elf-characters can't have certain personality traits, such as excessive feelings of self-importance; where they believe their own works are of greater importance than others, and they act around that, as it seems to be with FŽanor.

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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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Felagund,

Without putting labels on I think your diagnosis of Narcissistic personality disorder for Feanor is accurate.

There are several enviormental elements which would add to the diagnosis with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ... death of mother, father murdered, robbed by Melkor, battle with Teleri, feeling betrayed by his Gods the Valar, involving his children in violent confrontations, etc.

I have a minor disagreement with your statement;
"I'm not sure if any of Tolkien's elf-characters can have a "personality disorder", since they were originally created "pure", wise, immortal, fair (and so forth), which leads me to believe Tolkien's characters were supposed to come off as "perfect", in any sense of the word."

At birth we all may be "perfect" but we all have roots of "personality traits" which may evolve into pathological symptoms ... Eol, Maeglin, Melkor, Thingol ... this is a tiny list ... it could be bigger ... are deliberately created with "flaws" by Tolkien ... but I agree ... Tolkien never assigns clinical labels to any of his characters ...

And here is a scarey thought ... it is you and I who assign those labels of pathology ...
I wonder why we do that?

Yours is a very interesting thread and post.

Well Done !!!




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Elf of Beleriand - Rank 2
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True, we may all have started out with certain personality traits. In The Silmarillion, FŽanor is an elf with a fiery spirit, which makes me believe Tolkien wanted us to imagine for ourselves that he could develop into the character he did end up to be.

As for the "it is you and who assign those labels of pathology" - this is true, but I also believe this goes pretty automatic for us. In every-day life we (most of us) label people by observation and interaction. So I don't think it's weird we look at it the same way with Tolkien's characters (often, at least).

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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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Felagund,

So do you have another character for your "profile box"?smile



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Elf of Beleriand - Rank 2
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You choose, if you wish :)



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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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Felagund,

Thank you.

I think I will pass.

If you want help with another one just let me know.

Bear



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Elf of Beleriand - Rank 2
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Going to put it on hold for now. Going to be quite busy with school for a few weeks, so I obviously need to prioritize that for the time being.

If anyone wishes to go on with another character; feel free to do so :)

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Guard of Armenelos - Rank 4
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Is it just me...or did Feanor have a great deal in common with the Dwarfs?

I mean he had the same kind of tenacity and desire with his own personal crafts as did the Dwarfs; whose hearts can be kindled when they see their treasures. In other words, they both seem to have an innate covetous quality about themselves. I'm no pro at this 'Lore Keeping' business but did Feanor revere Aule as much as the Dwarfs? And why does it seem that everybody in Tolkien's world who was tied closely to The Smith Aule, go slightly batty. Was it Tolkien warning us throughout his works of the temptation of physical possessions? A bit off topic, I know. Just curious.

Interesting thread by the way...

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Lord Elrond of Rivendell - Rank 9
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Jaidoprism7,

Of course it is hard to separate all the nuances of Tolkien's characters through the lens of mental pathology ... it is not hard to recognize that the basis of any good story is conflict (with one's self, with others, with Gods or nature, etc,etc ...)

Part of any story carries the inner conflicts of its author ... in the example that you bring up it seems to be the obsession (or addiction) within artistic creativity ... and the objects of that creativity to reflect in the pathology of the creator and those in conflict around him. (for example the lust for gold, or the Nauglimer, or Silmaril, or in Aule's case the dwarves themselves)

A key element in this sort of obsession or "focus" is the strict definition of pathology vs creative focus ... and that is "harmful to self or others."

That is the main criteria in determining mental pathology.



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Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
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I am inclined to think of Feanor as paranoid about his Slimarils, of course I am no psychologist (did some psychometric studies a while ago)... Is there any (psychological) disorder that makes one disregard or make bad things to the closest kin? In the case of Feanor, obviously his gems are way more important to him than his sons, that is, he himself is most important to himself... This is not "normal" (at least for us humans biologically; maybe Elves are so different that it is not as outrageous for them?).

There are other examples - Eol attempting to kill his son; Elwing trying to keep the Silmaril by all means and not even thinking what might befall her little children... Is that their psychology that is so different from ours? Or does that just happen and there is no clear pattern?



-- Edited by Lorelline on Thursday 25th of July 2013 07:47:31 PM

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LůrellinŽ

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I'm not sure I agree with the idea that the Elves you mentioned put the Silmarils before all else. Feanor loved his father Finwe above anything else:

"Then FŽanor ran from the Ring of Doom, and fled into the night; for his father was dearer to him than the Light of Valinor or the peerless works of his hands; and who among sons, of Elves or of Men, have held their fathers of greater worth?"

After his father died and his Silmarils stolen he obviously did go somewhat crazy. But I don't see anything inherently bad in his decision to go to Middle-earth and try and recalim the Silmarils. Foolish, perhaps, but not evil.

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Being lies with Eru - Rank 1
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No, Feanor is not evil - he is not acting out of malice. It is exactly the point that "his father was dearer to him " than everything else but his sons obviously were not (for example he is not upset that they take the oath the first time around and later he makes them repeat it). That's what is troublesome psychologically. Was it because he had as many as seven...

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Haldir of Lorien - Rank 6
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After reading these posts I believe my view of Feanor was more simplistic. Pride was his biggest issue in my mind. Yes his father's death was traumatic, but he was obnoxious before. Did he have a disorder? Perhaps in today's world he did. But I am inclined to think that JRRT was not thinking disorder. Maybe I went off the mark there? The character that interests me psychologically is Galadriel and her change(?) over the ages.

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Guard of Armenelos - Rank 4
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I believe if we broke down any historical figure that was as great as Feanor was to Arda...say Alexander the Great, Abe Lincoln, Henry VIII, Jim Varney, etc., we would find them riddled with syndromes and disorders but sometimes that's what it takes to achieve greatness.

The most sane and well balanced people are good at managing what the crazies have established and thank God for that but the risk takers and innovators gotta be a little 'touched in the head' to be a catalyst....or so says this questionably sane Tolkienite.

"I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity."-----Edgar Allen Poe.



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Haldir of Lorien - Rank 6
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Jaido,

This questionably sane person would agree with you whole-heartedly. Most of my favourite authors, including Poe, had issues. And definitely some of my favorite musicians. I highly doubt they could have created what they did had they been "normal." Feanor is probably one of those too. The hard part is though when you've got charismatic people who are "touched in the head" that lead their people (whether that's just their family or a whole nation) down the wrong path to satisfy their ego (Hitler, of course, is the best example). It's probably a fine line between having issues that lead to beautiful works and issues that lead to destruction.



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Guard of Armenelos - Rank 4
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Well said, Laurelin!

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