Tolkien Encyclopedia > Mankind > Firiel

Firiel of Númenor

by Firiel-(T)
May 17, 2011

    Firiel was a maiden in Númenor, the daughter of Orontor, who had sailed away into the West on an errand only few knew the purpose of, though others guessed at it. Was Firiel privy to the knowledge? If not, she may have guessed. Even as her father had, she retained her beliefs in Eru and the West.
    As the Lost Road recounts, Firiel’s years without a father in the house of Elendil, leader of the Faithful of Númenor, were fraught with dangers to those who resisted Sauron and Ar-Pharazon the king. These perils also threatened Firiel herself, as is shown by Herendil Elendilyon’s (Elendil’s son’s) response to her singing an ‘even-song’ in Quenya that spoke of Eru and the Valar: ‘“She should not sing that song out of a window,” said Herendil, breaking the silence. “They sing it otherwise now. Melko(r) cometh back, they say, and the king shall give us the Sun forever.”’
    Elendil ‘loved Orontor’; Firiel ‘was dwelling in his house because Orontor had departed.’
    It is also said of Orontor’s departure: ‘Men said he was on a long voyage. Others said that he had fled the displeasure of the king. Elendil knew that he was on a mission from which he might never return, or return too late.
    If it is true that Orontor ‘had fled the displeasure of the king’, then this might endanger Elendil and his household as much as that the Elf-friend was ‘a leader in this matter.’ On that he is a leader, Elendil says, ‘And I have counted the peril, both for me and for thee and all whom I love.’
    That there was peril is undoubted; ‘…already men had begun to fear (the night)’; ‘”There is a shadow, but it is the shadow of the fear of Death, and the shadow of greed. But there is also a shadow of darker evil. We no longer see our king. His displeasure falleth on men, and they go out; they are in the evening, and in the morning they are not. The open is insecure; walls are dangerous. Even by the heart of the house spies may sit. And there are prisons, and chambers underground. There are torments; and there are evil rites. The woods at night, that once were fair–men would roam and sleep there for delight, when thou wert but a babe–are now filled with horror. Even our gardens are not wholly clean, after the sun has fallen. And now even by day smoke riseth from the temple: flowers and grass are withered were it falleth. The old songs are forgotten or altered; twisted into other meanings.
    “Yea: that one learneth day by day,” said Herendil.’ Also ‘…the dark is no longer wholesome in this land. Let us go home. I must tell and ask you much this evening–behind  closed doors, where maybe thou wilt feel safer.”’And ‘Herendil got suddenly to his feet, and went to the window. “It is cold, father,” he said; “and the Moon is gone. I trust the garden is empty. The trees grow too near to the house.” He drew a heavy embroidered cloth across the window, and then returned, crouching by the fire, as if smitten by a sudden chill.’
    The danger to Elendil and his household is especially expressed by Herendil’s words: ‘”Thou art mad,” said his son, turning at last up on his side and facing Elendil, with dread and fear in his eyes. “Do not say such things to me! They might, they might…”
    “Who are they, and what might they do?” said Elendil, but a chill fear passed from his son’s eyes to his own heart.
    "Do not ask, and do not speak–so loud!" Herendil turned away, and lay prone with his face buried in his hands. "Thou knowest it is dangerous–to us all. Whatever he be, Sauron is mighty, and hath ears. I fear the dungeons. And I love thee, I love thee."'
    Other than this information on the setting of her life, nothing is known about Firiel, save that 'Firiel was fair' in the Lost Road. Never again does she appear connected with Númenor's downfall, although the name reaccurs: Firiel Fairbairn, grand-daughter of Samwise; Firiel Queen of Arnor (direct descendant of Anárion grandson of Elendil); and the character Firiel in The Last Ship, the final poem of the Adventures of Tom Bombadil. (However, the Firiel in The Last Ship could relate, closer than others, to Firiel of Númenor; the poem tells how the maiden Firiel refuses passage on the last Elven ship sailing from the world known to men, because she was bound to her Earth and was its daughter. Her name, 'Firiel', means 'mortal maid', which may explain why Tolkien chose it.) Another use of the name appears in the Etymologies (where the name is given its meaning) as a 'later name of Lúthien.' This seems to refer to when Lúthien became mortal. The name also appears in Morgoth’s Ring, as the later name of the Elf Míriel upon becoming the weaving handmaiden of Vairë after her return to Mandos, and as a passing name of one of Elendil’s sons in Sauron Defeated.
    However, it is possible the Queen of Arnor's connection to Elendil may go back to Firiel whom Elendil had taken in. It is possible; but the Lost Road, in which Firiel of Númenor appears, was never completed, and there are no other certain traces of the daughter of Orontor, he who journeyed into the West.

    Part One: The Fall of Númenor and the Lost Road, III The Lost Road, ii The Númenorean Chapters, The Lost Road and Other Writings. The History of Middle-earth 5.
    Part Three: "The Etymologies", The Lost Road and Other Writings
    16 "The Last Ship", The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
    Sauron Defeated