Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin
“Therefore in that time the very entrance to the hidden door in the Encircling Mountains was caused to be blocked up; and thereafter none went ever forth from Gondolin on any errand of peace or war, while that city stood. Tidings were brought by Thorondor Lord of Eagles of the fall of Nargothrond, and after of the slaying of Thingol and of Dior his heir, and the ruin of Doriath; but Turgon sht his ear to word of the woes without, and vowed to march never at the side of any son of Fëanor, and his people he forbade ever to pass the leaguer of the hills.”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we witness the fall of the Elves’ last great city and Beleriand’s continued destruction.
Tolkien starts by reminding us of Tuor, Túrin’s cousin, who was captured at a young age by Easterlings and Orcs and kept in captivity for three years. Once he escaped, he spent the next four years living in solitude and “did such hurt to the Easterlings” that they set a bounty on his head.
Ulmo, the only Valar that seemed to care for the Children of Ilúvatar, “had chosen Tuor as the instrument of his designs” and saved Tuor by bringing him through a tunnel filled with raging water to Nevrast by the sea.
Tuor stayed there for some time until he finally found “the deserted halls of Vinyamar beneath Mount Taras, and he entered in, and found there the shield and hauberk, and sword and helm, that Turgon had left there by the command of Ulmo long before.”
There are many callbacks to previous chapters, but they raise more questions than answers. For example, did Ulmo foresee this destruction coming to Beleriand when the Noldor left Valinor? Is that why he instructed Turgon to leave equipment there? Because he knew there would eventually be someone to come and take it to make some stand? And an even bigger question, Ulmo is the protector of the Children of Ilúvatar, but does this foreknowledge make him complicit in the destruction? Or was there no other way around it?
In any case, in Vinyamar, Tuor came across Voronwë, the son of Aranwë, one of the Elves that Turgon sent to sea. Voronwë, understanding that Tuor was on a mission from Ulmo, assisted him in getting to Gondolin. Along the way, they passed a tall man, “clad in black, and bearing a black sword…” which is Tolkien’s way of setting the timeline for us because this is very obviously Túrin heading back to Hithlum.
Tuor finally makes it to Gondolin and is led before King Turgon “and all that heard the voice of Tuor marvelled, doubting that this were in truth a Man of mortal race, for his words were the words of the Lord of the Waters.“
Tuor “gave warning to Turgon that the Curse of Mandos now hastened to its fulfillment, when all the works of the Noldor should perish; and he bade him depart, and abandon the fair and mighty city that he had built, and go down Sirion to the sea.”
Again here we have information of foreknowledge by the Valar. This First Age seems more and more like a punishment for leaving Valinor in the first place. It almost feels like the Valar wanted the Eldar with them in Valinor, leaving the world of Beleriand for Men and Dwarves.
There is even a passage where Turgon thinks back on something Ulmo said to him when he was getting to Beleriand, “Love not too well the work of thy hands and the devices of thy heart; and remember that the true hope of the Noldor lieth in the West, and cometh from the sea.”
Not only does Ulmo tell him that they will only be there for a little while and they truly belong to the West, but he then tells Turgon how to live so that he can return to finish his existence. Turgon, being Noldor through and through, “was become proud” and ignored those words. Even Maeglin, his nephew, believed in Gondolin and continued to hide, which leads directly to the quote which opened this essay.
So they stayed, and Tuor stayed with them. In time Tuor fell in love with Idril, daughter to Turgon, and they eventually married “and thus there casme to pass the second union of Elves and Men.” But Maeglin loved his cousin and held Tuor in great animosity. He took Idril from Maeglin, but not only that; he was an outsider and a Man to boot!
The following spring Eärendil was born of Tuor and Idril, and Maeglin’s resentment grew. We have already seen in the chapter about Maeglin that he strove to make unique and powerful weapons and armor, but we see here that he ranged deep into the mountains and far from home, trying to get materials for these forgings.
We also know that Húrin cried out to the mountains that hid Gondolin, hoping for help from Turgon, and Morgoth’s agents watched so they knew the general region of Gondolin. So when Maeglin searched for materials, Morgoth’s agents caught him and brought him to Angband.
He was tortured there and made a deal with Morgoth. His torment, hope for the future, and resentment led him to this betrayal, far more than any of the torture Morgoth put him through. The deal was that Maeglin would reign underneath Morgoth’s rule in Gondolin and take Idril’s hand in the process.
It took years for Morgoth to make his move, but in the Summer when Eärendil was seven, Morgoth released his fury upon Gondolin.
“Of the deeds of desperate valour there done, by the cheiftans of the noble houses and their warriors, and not least by Tuor, much is told in The Fall of Gondolin: of the battle of Ecthelion of the Fountain with Gothmog Lord of Balrogs in the very sqaure of the King, where each slew the other, and the defence of the tower of Turgon by the people of his household, until the tower was overthrown; and mighty was its fall and the fall of Turgon in its ruin.“
Tuor and Idril escaped with their son, but Maeglin caught them. Tuor and Maeglin had a mighty battle, but eventually, Tuor “cast him far out, and his body as it fell smote the rocky slopes of Amon Gwareth thrice ere it pitched into the flames below.” Thus Maeglin ended.
But Tuor and his family’s exit was not complete. They escaped through the mountains, but a group of Orcs and a Balrog found them. Glorfindel saved them while riding the King of the Eagles, Thorondor. They had a mighty battle, and eventually, Glorfindel and the Balrog fell from the mountain and perished.
Finally, their escape was complete, and they fled south with Ulmo’s aid down the Sirion to the sea, where they met up with Elwing, who held Nauglamír and the Silmaril.
Morgoth felt his sack of Beleriand was complete, “recking little of the sons of Fëanor, and of their oath, which had harmed him never and turned always to his mightiest aid; and in his black thought he laughed, regretting not the one Silmaril that he had lost, for by it as he deemed the last shred of the people of the Eldar should vanish from Middle-earth and trouble it no more.”
Meanwhile, Ulmo called for forgiveness of the sons of Fëanor and to rescue them from Morgoth’s wrath, but Manwë was unmoved by Ulmo’s cries; “and the oath of Fëanor perhaps even Manwë could not loose until it found its end, and the sons of Fëanor reliquished the Silmarils, upon which they had laid their ruthless claim. For the light which lit the Silmarils the Valar themselves had made.”
What I find so interesting about this is that the Noldor don’t have the Silmarils anymore, but Morgoth does. So the Valar are blinded by their Hubris and can’t see past the fact that the Silmarils were taken in the first place, despite Fëanor making them.
There is one Silmaril left that Morgoth does not possess, and it’s in the hands of a young Elf who just met a young half-elf. Eärendil and Elwing, heirs of the great Kings of Middle-earth. Do they sail to Valinor and hand the Silmaril back to Manwë? Is that what brings the change and leads the Valar to battle against Morgoth?
There’s only one chapter left, so let’s find out next week in “Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath!”