Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath
“The meeting of the hosts of the West and the North is named the Great Battle, and the War of Wrath. There was marshalled the whole power of the Throne of Morgoth, and it had become great beyond count, so that Anfauglith could not contain it; and the North was aflame with war.”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we review The War of Wrath and the end of the Quenta Silmarillion.
Last week we learned of Eärendil and Elwing and their plea to the Valar to come and help the people of Beleriand. Through those two half-elves’ sacrifices, they gained Valinor’s assistance against Morgoth. “Yet it is said that Morgoth looked not for the assault that came upon him from the West; for so great was his pride become that he deemed that none would ever again come with open war against him.”
Yet come they did. The Valar came along with the Noldor, who never left Valinor and the Vanyar. Even a host of Teleri marched to battle despite their kin’s memory of the slaying at Swanhaven (Fëanor and his followers) because they “hearkened to Elwing.” Which leads directly into the opening quote of this essay.
The power of Morgoth’s armies was immense, but it could not stand up to the Valar. “The Balrogs were destroyed, save some few that fled and hid themselves in caverns inaccessible at the roots of the earth; and uncounted legions of the Orcs perished like straw in a great fire.”
Morgoth made one last ditch effort and sent out the horror of the fleet of dragons from the pits of Angband. “And so sudden and ruinous was the onset of that dreadful fleet that the host of the Valar was driven back, for the coming of the dragons was with great thunder, and lightning, and a tempest of fire.“
The power of the dragons was immense, but the King of the Eagles, Thorondor, came with his host along with Eärendil upon the flying Vingilot. They met the dragons in the sky and turned the tide. Eärendil even killed Ancalagon the Black, “the mightiest of the dragon-host,” who was so large that he could crush mountaintops under his claws. When Ancalagon fell from the sky, “he fell upon the towers of Thangorodrim, and they were broken in his ruin.“
Finally, the host of Valar was victorious. They descended into earth to gather Morgoth, but the dark king “fled into the deepest of his mines and sued for peace and pardon; but his feet were hewen from under him, and he was hurled upon his face. Then he was bound with the chain Angainor which he haed worn aforetime, and his iron crown they beat into a collar for his neck, and his head was bowed upon his knees. And the two Silmarils which remained to Morgoth were taken from his crown, and they shone unsullied beneath the sky; and Eönwë took them, and guarded them.“
The battle was so devastating that it ended the epoch. The world was physically changed from the drama of the fight. “and the sea roared in through many chasms, and there was confusion and great noise; and the rivers perished or found new paths, and the valleys were upheaved and the hills trod down; and Sirion was no more.“
Many landmarks are the same throughout the ages of Middle-earth (for example, Gondolin is undoubtedly Minas Tirith); however, the landscape is entirely different in the first age from what I know of the Third Age. This battle, “The War of Wrath,” was so devastating that the actual earth was rent and made new. There is a minimal description of the fight in the book; in fact, most of Tolkien’s descriptions are in this essay, but this devastation shows the outright power of the Valar. The book is long and challenging to read, so while reading through the mythos of the Elves as they came to Beleriand, I somewhat forgot that the Valar created the world with their music. A being who can make a world would have the power to destroy or remake that same world. The remaking of Beleriand was either a happy accident or the intent of the War of Wrath because the Valar wanted to eliminate the memory and the scar of Morgoth from the world.
Thus ended the Silmarillion and the reign of Morgoth, but it would not be Tolkien if we didn’t have a little “there and back again.”
The surviving sons of Fëanor, Maedhros and Maglor, still had not held up their oath to their father. So after Eönwë called Elves back to Valinor in the West, they still schemed and wondered if it were worth a battle with the Valar to take the Silmarils back, knowing it would cost them their lives.
They decided to send a message to Eönwë and ask for the two remaining Silmarils, “But Eönwë answered that the right to the work of their father, which the sons of Fëanor formerly possessed, had now perished, because of their many merciless deeds, being blinded by thier oath, and most of all because of their slaying of Dior and the assualt upon the Havens.”
Maedhros and Maglor took council with each other, with Maglor wanting to submit and break their oath because “‘whether we keep our oath or break it; but less evil shall we do in breaking.” But Maedhros knowing the evil they had already committed, talked Maglor into trying to fulfill their oath.
The two Noldor broke into the camp of Eönwë, killed the guards, and took the Silmarils. But an alarm was raised, and the camp came against them. They were immediately caught, “but Eönwë would not permit the slaying of the sons of Fëanor,” and he allowed them to take the Silmarils. He could see the future because the Silmarils caused the remaining sons of Fëanor great pain. So much pain, Maedhros threw himself into a great chasm with the Silmaril so that it was “taken into the bosom of the Earth.“
Maglor threw the Silmaril into the sea because he could not bear the pain, but the pain did not abate once the Silmaril was gone because it was the knowledge of all the wrongs he perpetrated made manifest. So Maglor spent the rest of his days “singing in pain and regret by the waves.”
Most of the Eldalië went back west into the undying lands, but a few stayed, building upon the future of Middle-earth.
“Among those were Círdan the Shipwright, and Celeborn of Doriath, with Galadriel his wife, who alone remained of those who led the Noldor to exile in Beleriand. In Middle-earth dwelt also Gil-galad the High King, and with him was Elrond Half-elven, who chose, as was granted him, to be numbered among the Eldar; but Elros his brother chose to abide with Men. And from these bretheren alone has come among Men the blood of the Firstborn and a strain of the spirits divine that were before Arda; for they were the sons of Elwing, Dior’s daughter, Lúthien’s son, child of Thingol and Melian; and Eärendil their father was the son of Idril Celebrindal, Turgon’s daughter of Gondolin.“
I believe this is the foundation of the Nùmenorians from Elros’ line, and we all know what becomes of Elrond’s line. Not to mention Galadriel, prominently featured in the new Rings of Power Amazon original.
Thus the Silmarillion or the great long struggle of the First Age ends. Morgoth was “thrust through the Door of Night beyond the Walls of the World, into the Timeless Void.” And he is never to return.
Tolkien ties up all the loose knots but one, which I believe he did on purpose because it is the draw to bring the reader back to the next portion of the book: Akallabêth and Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age. The loose knot? What happened to Sauron? He was not mentioned during the War of Wrath, and one can only imagine he is hidden away in Taur-Nu-Fuin, which becomes Mordor in later Ages.
There is a very satisfying conclusion to the tale, and I can’t wait to get into Akallabêth because I believe it describes the events of the Second Age and what The Rings of Power show is partially based on.
Let’s find out next week as we start our journey with Akallabêth!