“We had no word for death, for we thought our joys would be unending. We thought our light would never dim. So when the great foe Morgoth, destroyed the very light of our home we resisted. An a legion of Eleves went to war. We left Valinor, our home, and journeyed to a distant realm. One filled with untold perils, and strange creatures beyond count. A place known as Middle-earth.”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! Or, in this case, let’s call it a blind watch! This week, we’re taking a step back from The Silmarillion and reviewing the first episode of “The Rings of Power” on Amazon.
The show is pretty much what I was expecting. It corrupts the lore of Tolkien, using some, changing most, and making much up on their own.
That may sound like a denigration of the show, but it is entertaining – Of which you can’t deny when you first look at Valinor and its two shining trees. People who have not read the Silmarillion will probably take great joy in the show because they get to return to Middle-earth and join along with a few characters they remember from the Movies. Namely Galadriel and Elrond.
So there is entertainment value in the show, and the special effects and visuals of the first episode are incredible. If nothing else, you can tell this was a labor of love for at least the special effects crew.
I have not finished the book (nor any of the other histories which expound upon the core that is The Silmarillion, but if you’ve been reading along with me, you know that), but just getting through the Quenta Silmarillion has given me a good enough knowledge to notice the inconsistencies in the show.
The first of which is in this introduction. We start by viewing Galadriel and Finrod Felagund speaking in Valinor, but the show ignores the entire Fëanor and Silmril plot, which was the fundamental basis of The Silmarillion. In the book the storyline was an effort to show a fall from grace and how people born with the best intentions were corrupted by greed, hubris, and familial bond. If you remember, Fëanor created the Silmarils, and Morgoth stole them with the help of the great and horrible Ungoliant, Shelob’s mother.
Morgoth was a Valar, a creation of Ilùvatar, the God of Arda (“God,” for lack of a better term). Ilùvatar created the Valar, who in turn created the world they created through their song from Valinor. Morgoth was a fallen angel who was jealous of the abilities of the Children of Ilùvatar (The Eldar, or Elves). So he stole the Silmaril’s, which held the light of Valinor, and went to Middle-earth. That is all true.
What the show doesn’t cover is that Fëanor and his sons and the rest of the Noldor (Galadriel included), Killed their kin because they were denied an exit from Valinor, and then they stole boats and sailed to find Morgoth and take the Silmarils back.
The showrunners did this because they wanted to keep the Elves the uncomplicated heroes of the show. They needed them to be beings that the viewers would root for, yet that depth of character, which they tried to infuse within Galadriel, is lost on the rest of the Elves.
So we see in the opening quote of this essay, which is part of the opening voiceover from Galadriel, that the Elves chased Morgoth to Middle-earth to battle the called angel. They include every grand battle and say that the war lasted for centuries, but they gloss over the other incredible stories of the age. But, of course, they didn’t have the rights to those stories, so we can’t blame them for it, and there is a possibility that they framed the show this way because they were not allowed to mention the I.P. of The Silmarillion, I.E., the Silmarils.
So all of that is just the setup for the show. The introduction has some spectacular visuals, and it was fascinating to see the aftermath of the Fifth Battle called Nirnaeth Arnoediad. For example, the pile of Elven helms (which probably should have been bodies, but it’s a show), which was called Haudh-en-Nirnaeth, or the Hill of Tears (The fifth battle was called Unnumbered Tears), which eventually grew over with grass. You’ll notice this heartbreaking scene immediately when you watch it.
The first considerable divergence the show takes, however, is that Galadriel’s Brother, Finrod Felagund. In the show he falls in battle with Sauron, which is factually incorrect. Instead, he falls in battle with Morgoth, so the back story of Galadriel in the show is false.
The second divergence is The High King Gil-Galad sends the warriors of the Elves back to Valinor, presumably to get them out of the way because Gil-Galad doesn’t believe that Sauron will come back in the next few centuries, if ever. The problem is that at this time, sending the elves to Valinor is not a decision that Gil-Galad can make. It has to be approved by the Valar, and if he had that palaver, there is no way the Valar would allow all of the warriors to return. Not to mention that Galadriel is the last of the Noldor who are accountable to the Curse of Mandos, so she would never be allowed to return to the undying lands.
The scene of the warriors entering Valinor is breathtaking, however, showing the showrunners’ love for the source material. I just wish they had not changed the motivation and basis of Galadriel herself.
I did enjoy the episode, however there are more things to say. First, there is quite a bit of back and forth about black elves. I have seen articles and posts on Social Media where people thought there were no black elves in Middle-earth. I’m here to say that if you hold this belief and you think all elves are described as golden haired, white, and thin, then you did not read the Silmarillion. The description of the Moriquendi, otherwise known as dark elves, had dark (sometimes grayish) skin and dark hair; not to mention the most famous of the Dark Elves, Eöl, the master of the forge and father of Maeglin.
The second is a specific point of interest. It is said in The Silmarillion that because Galadriel is the last of the Noldor who had seen Valinor’s light (yes, despite the actress’s age, she is the oldest of all the Elves in Middle-earth during the events of the show), the light of the trees are reflected in her eyes. The show does a great job at having that reflection of the light of the trees of Valinor in her eyes at all times.
I hope you all enjoy the show as well! Next week we’re returning to the book with The Akallabêth, which is (I think) the history of the Nùmenorians and the second age!
We have a lot to talk about, so join me every Thursday!
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!
Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath, Part 1
“And the wise have said that it was by reason of the power of that holy jewel that they came in time to waters that no vessels save those of the Teleri had known; and they came to the Enchanted Isles and escaped their enchantment; and they came into the Shadowy Seas and passed thier shadows, and they looked upon Tol Eressëa the Lonely Isle, but tarried not; and at the last they cast anchor in the Bay of Eldamar, and the Teleri saw the coming of that ship out of the East and they were amazed, gazing from afar upon the light of the Silmaril, and it was very great.”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we start the process of closing the Quenta Silmarillion as we review the fates and legacy of the two half-Elves looking to save the world from not only Morgoth but their own kind.
We pick up right where we left off in the last chapter, with Eärendil marrying Elwing and having two boys, Elros and Elrond. Yes, that Elrond. Eärendil was restless because of how he viewed the progression of the destruction of Beleriand, so he took to the sea. “Seeking after Tuor and Idril who returned not; and he thought to find perhaps the last shore, and bring ere he died the message of Elves and Men to the Valar in the West, that should move their hearts to pity for the sorrows of Middle-earth.“
Eärendil became friends with Círdan the Shipwright, who built him a fantastic ship named Vingilot, the Foam-flower. He left his family on the coast and sailed West to find answers, but something nagged at him. It was the fear of the remaining sons of Fëanor and what they would do to fulfill their oath. He was right to fear because when the tidings came to Maedros that Elwing lived and had the Silmaril, he gathered his brothers and they demanded the Silmaril, but Elwing refused to relinquish it. “And so there came to pass the last and cruelest of the slayings of Elf by Elf; and that was the third of the great wrongs achieved by the accursed oath.“
The Noldor won the day, but only Maedros and Maglor survived the battle. Elrond and Elros were taken captive, but Elwing, wearing Nauglamír, complete with the Silmaril, cast herself into the sea.
Ulmo came to her rescue and turned her into a “great white bird,” yet again calling reference to the swan boat referenced at the beginning of this book and Galadriel’s ship in The Lord of the Rings.
Elwing, as a bird, found Vingilot and landed on the ship, only then turning back into Elwing. She relayed the events of the last great slaying to her husband, and they feared the loss of their sons, so they did the only thing they could think of doing. They sailed for Valinor to try and gain assistance from the Valar. We get the opening quote of this essay here.
Elwing and Eärendil step to the shores of Valinor but ask the other sailers to stay on the boat because they think that by stepping back on the shored of the Valar, they will not return alive. Their only hope is to get the Valar to agree to help those still living under Morgoth’s wrath.
They come before the council of the Valar, where an excellent discussion about what to do with them takes place. Mandos, the Valar who proclaimed the great curse which eventually led to the Noldor’s destruction, volleyed to have them put to death, for they came to the undying lands unbidden. However, cooler heads prevailed, and Manwë forgave them, if only because they came to Valinor to save others. He gave them a choice, however; “to Eärendil and to Elwing, and to their sons, shall be given leave each to choose freely to which kindred their fates shall be joined, and under which kindred they shall be judged.“
Both Eärendil and Elwing chose to be judged “among the Firstborn Children of Ilùvatar,” thus adhering, at least in part, to the Curse of Mandos.
The Valar sent a significant wind which set the sailors on the boat back to Beleriand, “but they took Vingiot, and hallowed it, and bore it away through Valinor to the uttermost rim of the world; and there is passed through the Door of Night and was lifted even into the oceans of heaven.“
And that is the fate of Eärendil. He is to sail the stars for the remainder of eternity with the Silmaril on his brow, shining brighter than any star. In fact, “when this new star was seen at evening, Maedros spoke to Maglor, his brother, and he said: ‘surely that is a Silmaril that shines now in the West?’
“And Maglor answered: ‘If it be truly the Silmaril which was cast into the sea that rises again by the power of the Valar, then let us be glad; for it’s glory is seen now by many, and is yet secure from all evil.'”
This end brought the light of the Trees of Valinor to the world, without ever having a single being be in charge of keeping the Silmaril, and thus lightened a load of all living beings to just existing. The Power the Silmarils held was never meant to be in the lands beyond Valinor because the gems indicated that a mortal (or semi-mortal) being could be close to godliness. The Light of the Trees was a creation of the music of the Ainur, spurned on by Ilùvatar himself (itself?). Fëanor created them not out of reverence for his betters but out of a lust to be more like them. That is what the power of the Silmarils entails, and that is why no one can seem to give them up when they have one (with the significant exception of Lùthien). They are a piece of God-made tactile. People still fight over lands they deem holy because they believe God was born there. Can you imagine what they would do if they knew there was a physical talisman which embodied God in the world? This is what caused the strife of Beleriand. This is what caused the world’s wars. Because one Noldor deemed that it was his birthright to be more like a god, he ascended high enough to create an aspect of that light but not high enough to become part of it.
Meanwhile, Elwing stayed on Valinor in a large white tower built by the Valar. “And it is said that Elwing learned the tongues of birds, who herself had once worn their shape; and they taught her the craft of flight, and her wings were of white and silver-grey.“
In Tolkien, there is always a node of hope in the harshest stories. For example, Elwing and Eärendil sacrificed themselves to end the strife of Beleriand. They were ostracized and put to death, owning the curse of Mandos to end it. But hope comes because whenever Eärendil comes close to Beleriand, Elwing becomes a bird and flies to meet him and be with her husband again. This is somewhat reminiscent to another resurrection story where someone takes on the sins of others…
The scene of them riding through the sky, however, is reminiscent of many old Mythologies and adds to the magic and wonder of the world. More importantly, it shows that though they took the curse on their shoulders, they still can be together, fly over the world of Middle-earth, and view their children growing up and old while being close to the light of their God.
We are nearly there; just a few pages more! Join me next week as we conclude The Quenta Silmarillion!
“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!”
“Thus it came to pass that when the Dwarves of Nogrod, returning from Menegroth with diminished host, came again to Sarn Athrad, they were assailed by unseen enemies; for as they climbed up Gelion’s banks burdened with the spoils of Doriath, suddenly all the woods were filled with the sound of elven-horns, and shafts sped upon them from every side. There very many of the Dwarves were slain in the first onset; but some escaping from the ambush held together, and feld eastwards towards the mountains. And as they climbed the long slopes beneath Mount Dolmed there came forth the Shephers of the Trees, and they drove the Dwarves into the shadowy woods of Ered Lindon: whence, it is said, came never one to climb the high passes that led to their homes.”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we come back to the tragic conclusion of the Ruin of Doriath and understand how the races came to hate each other.
Last week we left off with the murder of King Thingol in his very chambers. The power of the Silmaril, which the Dwarves forged into Nauglamir, was too great and created envy that overrode their memory and senses. They were suddenly angry because they felt Thingol didn’t deserve Nauglamír, as it was a gift to Finrod made by the Dwarves. So when Thingol asked them to reforge it with the Silmaril, they did so without hesitation. Still, after giving it back, the absence of the light of Valinor made them regret their decision, so they struck Thingol down, took Nauglamír, and fled Menegroth.
But they were “pursued to the death as they sought the eastward road, and the Nauglamír was retaken, and brought back in bitter grief to Melian the Queen.” Her thoughts grew dark, “and she knew that her parting from Thingol was the forerunner of a great parting and that the doom of Doriath was drawing neigh.”
In her grief, her magic waned, and the Girdle protecting Doriath fell, “and Doriath lay open to its enemies.” So she gave Nauglamír, inlaid with the Silmaril, to Mablung and asked him to send word to Beren and Lúthien, then “she vanished out of Middle-earth, and passed to the land of the Valar beyond the western sea, to muse upon her sorrows in the gardens of Lórien, whence she came.“
Two dwarves escaped the attack on the murderers of Thingol, however, and went back to their kin in Nogrod. These Dwarves vowed vengeance and gathered a great host to march on Doriath, “and there befell a thing most grievous among the sorrowful deeds of the Elder Days.”
The Dwarves lost many of their kin in the battle in Menegroth, but they sacked the city; “ransacked and plundered.” Finally, they killed Mablung and took back Nauglamír and the Silmaril.
Word spread quickly of the terrible act the Dwarves perpetrated, and soon Beren and Lúthien heard of it. So Beren gathered his son Dior and a host of Green Wood Elves and went after the Dwarves; their confrontation is the opening passage of this essay.
They slaughtered the Dwarves, Beren himself killing the King of Nogrod. Then, finally, the Elves and Beren drowned the treasure of Menegroth in the river Ascar, all that is, but Nauglamír and the Silmaril.
Now the Silmaril was back in his hands, the item he fought so hard to win Lúthien’s hand in marriage by cutting it out of Morgoth’s crown. He took it to Lúthien, and she wore it for protection, and “it is said and sung that Lúthien wearing that necklace and that immortal jewel was the vision of greatest beauty and glory that has ever been outside realm of Valinor.”
Dior, Thingol’s heir, took it upon himself to bring the glory of Doriath back. So he brought his wife Nimloth, his boys Eluréd and Elurín, and his daughter Elwing to Menegroth, and there he became the new King of Doriath and raised a new kingdom there.
There, in Menegroth, Dior brought greatness back until one day a group of Green Elves came calling. They brought with them Nauglamír and the Silmaril. Proof that Beren and Lúthien, his parents, had passed from the world of Men and Elves. “But the wise have said that the Silmaril hastened their end, for the flame of the beauty of Lúthien as she wore it was too bright for mortal hands.“
Dior knew this, but the call of the Silmaril was too strong, so he began to wear it, and in doing so, the Silmaril called for another end of Doriath.
The Sons of Fëanor laid a new claim to the Silmaril and demanded that Dior relinquish the jewel. When he refused, “Celegorm stirred up his brothers to prepare an assault on Doriath.”
They fought a battle that all would remember. Celegorm, Curufin, and dark Caranthir all died by Dior’s hand, but they, in turn, killed the new king of Doriath and Dior’s wife, Nimloth. The “cruel servants of Celegorm” also took Dior’s boys Eluréd and Elurín and set them to be lost and starve in the woods. The only survivor of the household was Elwing, who was given Nauglamír, and fled to the sea at the mouth of the River Sirion.
“Thus Doriath was destroyed, and never rose again.”
The sons of Fëanor sought, all the way back when they were still in Valinor, to gain the three gems known as the Silmarils their father made. The light of the trees of Valinor infused within them gave a longing call to the life they once had lived. So they spent more time on Beleriand than they did in Valinor, pining for the gems which reminded them of the world they left behind.
The Murder of the King of Nogrod also had a lasting effect on the Dwarves, and because of their stubbornness was something their race never forgot, even though the whole war was pretty much their fault in the first place. Beyond that, the Elves have proven time and time again that they can’t trust anyone, not even their own kin.
I find it fascinating that the whole world was turned upside down because of these artifacts that were only sought because of their beauty. They were created to be an homage to the light of Valinor, and they became the destruction of Beleriand. The strange part about that is that they don’t hold any specific power; it’s just that they are beautiful, which shows the ignorant and selfish nature of the Elves. They are called the Children of Ilùvatar, and that is precisely how they act, like petulant children who can’t share.
Only two chapters are left, and one has to wonder where the Valar are. Will Melian inform them about how bad the infighting had gotten? How will Morgoth be handled? Where will Elwing and the Silmaril end up next?
Let’s find out next week as we dive into “Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin.”
“It is told that a seer and harp-player of Brethil named Glirhuin made a song, saying that the Stone of the Hapless should not be defiled by Morgoth nor ever thrown down, not though the sea should drown all the land; as after indeed befell, and still Tol Morwen stands alone in the water beyond the new coasts that were made in the days of the wrath fo the Valar. But Húrin does not lie there, for his doom drove him on, and the Shadow still followed him.“
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week Húrin, Túrin’s father, returns to the story as the second of the great kingdoms of the First Age topple.
Tolkien introduces us to this chapter by letting us know that Morgoth had been watching the events closely in Doriath and “In all ways Morgoth sought most to cast an evil light on those things that Thingol and Melian had done, for he hated them, and feared them.“
After twenty-eight years, Morgoth released Húrin from his captivity in Angband, “and he feigned that in this he was moved by pity as for an enemy utterly defeated.“
But Húrin was a marked man. He had been in captivity for so long that no one believed that he wasn’t a thrall of Morgoth. So he went to his people in Hithlum, but they shunned him in fear that he might lead an army to their front door because why would Morgoth suddenly release him after twenty-eight years if not to use him?
They were right to be scared because the agents of Morgoth watched his every move from a distance unbeknownst to Húrin.
Turned away from his people, Húrin turned to Gondolin, but the same fate held him there. Gondolin stayed hidden from him against Throndor, the great eagle’s wishes. Turgon decided too late to trust Húrin, and he never saw the human again. Still, his curse stuck with the Elf because, under the view of Morgoth’s spies, Húrin cried out to the mountains where the hidden entrance was to let him in, “and now Morgoth smiled, for he knew now clearly in what region Turgon dwelt.” We are told a few sentences later, “This was the first evil that the freedom of Húrin achieved.“
The despair of Húrin deepens and he stumbles around until he finally comes upon a large stone, “But Húrin did not look at the stone, for he knew what was written there.” Namely the memorial for his children. Sitting at the stone, he finds Morwen, spent and ready to pass away. She doesn’t seem surprised to see him, almost as if he were a shade coming to her in the twilight. They speak for a moment and watch the sunset together, holding hands as she passes away.
He builds a monument for her, and this monument is the opening quote of this chapter.
Húrin’s loss and desperation is where the story of Doriath’s fall begins. Húrin travels the land and eventually comes across the ruin of Nargothrond, the house of Finrod Felagund, where Glaurung the dragon made a home and gathered all the treasures of the Elves together. An old character reemerges as we find him sitting on the stores of Gold. It is Mîm, the petty dwarf who betrayed Túrin.
They exchange words, and Húrin slays him. “Then he entered in, and stayed a while in that dreadful place, where the treasures of Valinor lay strewn upon the floors in darkness and decay; but it is told that when Húrin came forth from that wreck of Nargothrond and stood again beneath the sky, he bore with him out of all that great hoard but one thing only.” Nauglamír, the Necklace of the Dwarves, made for Felagund by Nogrod and Belegost, is one of Finrod’s most prized possessions.
Taking the prize, Húrin traveled to Doriath, eventually stood before Thingol, and threw Naulamîr at the King’s feet. He disparaged Thingol for not protecting his family, and by throwing the necklace at his feet, he intimated that Felagund was willing to go and fight, whereas Thingol thought he was too important; thus, Thingol was a coward and a breaker of promises.
Thingol accepted the jibes, but Queen Melian stood and spoke to Húrin, telling him the truth of the matter, that they did everything they could for Húrin’s family, short of imprisoning them to restrain them. She finished, “With the voice of Morgoth thou dost now upbraid thy friends.“
Húrin realizes his mistake and understands that the only thing keeping him alive was his anger, so “it is said that Húrin would not live thereafter, being bereft of all purpose and desire, and cast himself at last into the western sea; and so ended the mightiest of the warriors of mortal Men.“
But the damage had been done. Nauglamír was now in Menegroth at Thingol’s feet. The power of the Silmarils burned in Thingol’s memory as he looked at Nauglamír, “and it came into his mind that it should be remade, and in it should be set the Silmaril.”
Thingol went to the Dwarves and asked them to reforge the necklace, which they did in earnest. But the power of Fëanor’s creation created corruption, much like the One Ring in the Third Age. The Dwarves wanted nothing more than to keep Nauglamír once they forged it; “By what right does the Elvenking lay claim to the Nauglamír that it was made by our fathers for Finrod Felagund who is dead?“
I’ve looked for it before, but this is the tipping point between Dwarves and Elves. They are mortal enemies when we see them in the Third Age (The Lord of the Ring and The Hobbit). So, where did that rift begin? So far in the First Age, they have pretty much worked together. The Dwarves of the Blue Mountains even forged Nauglamír for an Elven King and then did it again to add a Silmaril for Thingol.
So what caused the rift? The fire of Fëanor. The Silmarils hold the light of Valinor, and for these Elves, it is the last vestige of the beauty of that land for them. So few are still alive that even looked upon the light of the trees of Valinor before the Sun or the Moon, and the only three left in Beleriand are Thingol, Melian, and Morgoth.
The Simarils remind them of the innocence of youth. A time when there was no strife and the music of the Ainur filled the world. They recalled a time of beauty and creation.
So when the people of Beleriand looked upon it, they felt that love and innocence and fought for it, even if they didn’t realize why. And what happens when you desire something so much, and you have no idea why? What happens when someone else tries to take this thing you love?
“The then lust of the Dwarves was kindles to rage by the words of the King; and they rose up about him, and laid hands on him, and slew him as he stood. So died in the deep places of Menegroth Elwë Singollo, King of Doriath, who alone of all the Children of Ilùvatar was joined with one of the Ainur; and he who, alone of the Forsaken Elves, had seen the light of the Trees of Valinor, with his last sight gazed upon the Silmaril.“
Join me next week as we conclude “Of the Ruin of Doriath!”
“And with the beginning of spring Túrin cast off his darkness, and grew hale again; and he arose, and he thought that he woudl remain in Brethil hidden, and put his shadow behind him, forsaking the past. He took therefore a new name, Turambar, which in the High-elven speech signified Master of Doom; and he besought the woodman to forget that he was a stranger among them or ever bore any other name.“
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we conclude the tragedy of Túrin Turambar.
Last week we left off with Túrin heading back to Dor-lómin, ignoring Gwindor’s dying wish. This week we pick up with Túrin finding his home but also finding that his mother and sister were gone, so he stopped by the house of Brodda the Easterling. This event is where Túrin completes his transition and becomes Darth Vader (forgive the crossover). The Easterlings tell Túrin that Morwen fled, and the shock of the knowledge opened his eyes, “and the last of Glaurung’s spell were loosed.” In a fury at his loss and stupidity, “he slew Brodda in his hall, and other Easterlings that were his guests.” Once again, becoming a hunted man, only this time by the people of his birth.
And yet Túrin justifies these murders and, in fact, every transgression of his life: “then those deeds wrought are not evil to all. And where else might I have better bestowed my kin, even had I come sooner? For if the Girdle of Melian be broken, then last hope is ended. Nay, it is better indeed as things be; for a shadow, I cast wheresoever I come. Let Melian keep them! And I will leave them in peace unshadowed for a while.” Morgoth will follow his movements because he is an incredible warrior and ignores all else. His youth and hubris show again to justify murder.
So Túrin left to search for Finduilas but found some men in the woods who told him an orc brigade killed her. They showed Túrin the body of the elf-maiden, and he went into a pang of great sadness. The opening quote of this essay comes at this point, making a turning point where Túrin accepts that he is “the Master of Doom.”
Tolkien takes us back to Doriath, where the word that there were some survivors out of Nargothrond, and Morwen, Túrin’s mother, decides she will go and find her son. Unable to stop her in this quest, Thingol bids Mablung go and protect her, but Nienor, Túrin’s sister, disguises herself to go along as well. This is the beginning of a disturbing parallel to the Beren and Lúthien tale. Remember all the times Lúthien disguised herself to go after Beren? Here we have Nienor, whom Túrin hasn’t seen for many years, and in that time, has grown into a woman, sneak out to go help find him, disguised much like Lúthien.
So this group rides out to Nargothrond, only to find Glaurung, so they retreat in haste, but in confusion, Nienor falls from her steed. She gets caught in the gaze of Glaurung, and he understands who she is through his magic. He wipes her memory and personality and turns her into a vegetable.
Mablung finds her and brings her with him, but Orcs assail them in the wild, and in the intervening traveling, Nienor has begun to gain her wits, if not her memory. Finally, the Elves kill the orcs, but Nienor was spooked, and she ran as swift as a horse and got lost in the wilds.
Nienor wandered through the forest; “Nothing did she remember save a darkness that lay behind her, and a shadow of fear; therefore she went warily as a hunted beast, and became famished.” Then she passed into Brethil.
Terrified and alone, she lay down on Haudh-en-Elleth, the burial mound of Finduilas – Gwindor’s prophesy was coming home to roost.
Túrin finds her there and brings her home, comforting her. She cannot even remember her name or that Túrin is her brother.
She had to be taught things “as to an infant” because Glaurung’s magic was that strong, but she learned and became a clan member. Many people had fallen for her, but it was Túrin who asked her hand in marriage, “but for that time she delayed despite her love.” Which was undoubtedly a familial love, not romantic love.
It took three years and a promise not to go to battle if she would marry him, and finally, she did, but even this oath Túrin forsook.
Orcs came and attacked Brethil, and Túrin stayed back at home for a while but eventually took up his black sword and met the orcs in battle. Because of his abilities in battle, word got out that the Black Sword was in Brethil.
Glaurung set a plan and got another army ready to march to Brethil, but he let those plans leak so that the people knew about their fate ahead of time. Terrified, they went to Túrin for advice, “and he counseled them that it was vain to go against Glaurung with all their force” and that he should try to go against the great dragon himself to trick him.
Túrin set off after the dragon, but Nienor was scared to be left behind, so she set off with a company of men after her husband/brother.
Túrin finally found Glaurung sleeping and, through the perils of getting to him, ended up reaching the dragon alone, the few men with him killed.
Túrin, undeterred, found Glaurung still sleeping. “Then he drew Gurthang, and with all the might of his arm, and of his hate, he thrust it into the soft belly of the Worm, even to the hilts.“
Glaurung was grievously injured, but he gazed into Túrin’s eyes and paralyzed the hero.
Meanwhile, Nienor heard Glaurung’s mighty cry and the people of Brethil thought that the dragon was killing the men who went forth, so she left to find him with Brandir, who loved her. He tried to lead her away, but Nienor told him,”‘The Black Sword was my beloved and my husband. To seek him only do I go. What else could you think?” But Brandir suspected the truth; Túrin and Nienor were brother and sister. What’s worse is now they are expecting a child. So Brandir only wanted to protect her.
But being part of the curse of Túrin, she left Brandir and went to find her Husband. When she finally did, lying on the ground seemingly dead, she wept until Glaurung lifted his head and saw her.
Using the last ounces of his life, Glaurung removed the spell, and Nienor suddenly remembered who she was and what she had been doing for the last number of years. She felt the child in her belly, and “she ran from him distraught with horror and anguish, and coming to the brink of Cabed-an-Aras she cast herself over, and was lost in the wild water.”
We see the parallel in the foreshadowing of Saeros at the beginning of this chapter, coming to fruition here.
Túrin woke with Glaurung’s passing and came back to Brethil. He should have been a hero, but when he heard that his wife was dead, and he learned that Brandir had come back to camp telling everyone that Túrin and Nienor (or Níniel as they called her in the base) were dead because of Túrin, what was Túrin to do? Why, what he always did! He killed Brandir in a fury of emotion but soon learned that Brandir was telling the truth and the only exaggeration was that he thought Túrin was dead when he saw his unresponsive form.
Overwhelmed, Túrin felt there was only one more thing to do. So he pulled his sword, Gurthang, and asked it, “Wilt thou therefore take Túrin Turambar, wilt thou slay me swiftly?“
And his sword responded, “Yea, I will drink they blood gladly, that so I may forget the blood of Beleg my master, and the blood of Brandir slain unjustly. I will slay thee swiftly.”
Túrin threw himself on Gurthang, and Gurthang kept his promise and immediately took Túrin’s cursed life.
He died a hero and lay under carven runes in Doriath from then on, a hero despite his curse, and Nienor’s name was on the marker, “but she was not there, nor was it known wither the cold waters of Teiglin had taken her.”
This quote is how Túrin’s tale ends, an ultimate Shakespearean tragedy. But before I let you go, I want to note two things. The first is when Túrin speaks to his sword; not only does Gurthang respond to him, but they both speak in almost biblical language. I think this is Tolkien’s way of indicating Ilùvatar’s influence on the humans, despite his seeming indifference. Just a theory, but the language change has been happening more and more, so I’m going to keep track of when it happens.
The second item is, despite the horror and despair throughout this tale, as in all Tolkien, there’s a measure of hope at the core. Túrin was a great hero, and sometimes heroes need to be formed by adversity. Glaurung had terrorized Beleriand for hundreds of years and was near unbeatable, yet this man, cursed or not, was able to singlehandedly slay the scourge of Beleriand.
It should indicate hope moving forward despite the next chapter’s title: “Of the Ruin on Doriath.”
“And Túrin hastened along the ways to the north, through the lands now desolate between Narog and Teiglin, and the Fell Winter came down to meet him, for in that year snow fell ere autumn was passed, and spring came late and cold. Ever it seemed to him as he went that he heard the cries of Finduilas, calling his name by wood and hill, and great was his anguish; but his heart being hot with the lies of Glaurung, and seeing ever in his mind the Orcs burning the house of Húrin or putting Morwen and Nienor to torment, he held on his way, and turned never aside.”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we continue on the journey of Túrin as Beleriand takes another turn towards the horror and desolation of Morgoth.
We left off last week with Túrin coming to Nargothrond with Gwindor, then soon after with Finduilas, Gwindor’s love, falling in love with Túrin.
Despite this perceived betrayal, Gwindor didn’t hold it against Túrin. He just considered it part of Túrin’s curse, and over time Túrin came to great glory in Nargothrond. They took his council and “built a mighty bridge over the Narog from the Doors of Felagund, for the swifter passage of arms.” They built up a vast store of arms, and “Then the servants of Angband were driven out of all the land between Narog and Sirion eastward, and westward to the Nenning and the desolate Falas.”
Gwindor spoke out against the council of Túrin, but “he fell into dishonour and one heeded him.” The problem was the curse of Túrin. The Noldor of Nargothrond thought no one was making a concerted effort to push back against Morgoth, so they heeded Túrin and moved from guerilla tactics to open warfare. The tactics worked initially, but Morgoth turned his full might against Nargothrond’s insurrection.
While the Noldor were active in the war against the evil of Angband, messengers came from the south from Círdan the Shipwright. “The Evil of the North has defiled the springs of Sirion, and my power withdraws from the finger sof the flowing waters.” So Ulmo told Orodreth, the Lord of Nargothrond, that he could not protect them in this open battle, surreptitiously telling Orodreth to return to hiding.
Yet Túrin again convinced the Noldor that they should continue the fight. “And in the autumn of that year, biding his hour, Morgoth loosed upon the people of Narog the great host that he had long prepared; and Glaurung the Urulóki passed over Anfauglith, and came thence into the north vales of Sirion and there did great evil.“
The host of Nargothrond went out to meet the armies of Angband in battle, “and none but Túrin defended by his dwarf-mask could withstand the approach of Glaurung…On that day all the pride and host of Nargothrond withered away; and Orodreth was slain in the forefront of the battle, and Gwindor son of Guilin was wounded to death.” but before Gwindor died, he told Túrin:
“Let bearing pay for bearing! But ill fated was mine, and vain is thine; for my body is marred beyond healing, and I must leave Middle-earth. And though I love thee, son of Húrin, yet I rue the day that I took thee from the Orcs. But for thy prowess and thy pride, still I should have love and life, and Nargothrond should yet stand a while. Now if thou love me, leave me! Haste three to Nargothrond, and save Finduilas. And this last I say to three; she alone stands between thee and thy doom. If thou fail her, it should not fail to find thee. Farewell!”
You may have noticed the overwhelmingly biblical way of speech Gwindor uses when he doesn’t sound like this earlier in the story. I think that’s because this is Tolkien’s way of foreshadowing what is to come.
Túrin is a reckless youth, and death and bad luck seem to follow him. This cavalcade of events is the true tragedy of his story because he is such a good warrior, leader, and influencer, but his youth, temper, and impetuosity get in his way. He is very much Hotspur from Hamlet. He is too quick to anger and fist.
From Saeros to Mîm, to Beleg, then Gwindor and beyond, Túrin caused their deaths because of his Hubris and impetuousness. One might look at Beren and think he had the same qualities, but Beren took precautions before he did anything. Túrin wants to meet the world head-on and take it by the throat, and has since he was a youth. An illustration of this example is below.
Túrin ran back to Nargothrond, but because he advised Orodreth to build that bridge over the Narog, the armies of Angband marched into Nargothrond without issue, and “the dreadful sack of Nargothrond was well neigh achieved.”
Túrin stood alone as Glaurung came out of the tunnels and stood before him “and opened wide his serpent-eyes and gazed upon Túrin. Without fear Túrin looked into them as he raised up thew sword; and straightaway, he fell under the binding spell of the lidless eyes of the dragon, and was halted moveless.”
Instead of trying to help the captives and free people as Beren would have done, Túrin decided to take the whole army of Angband by himself. Glaurung, knowing this about the man, merely held him with his magical gaze while the Orcs took Elven women and children, Finduilas among them screaming for Túrin to help her, away to be thralls in Angband.
Glaurung then tells Túrin that Morwen, his mother, and all his kin in Dor-Lómin are going to be killed by agents of Angband:
“Haste thee now, son of Húrin, to Dor-Lómin! Or perhaps the Orcs shall come before thee, once again. And if thou tarry for Finduilas, then never shalt thou see Morwen again, and never at all shalt thou see Nienor thy sister; and they will curse thee.“
Here we get the opening quote of this essay, as Túrin strives to find Dor-Lómin and his family. He may have still been under Glaurung’s spell when he made this decision, but it honestly matches his attitude.
He ignores all others’ advice and goes out on his own to do what he thinks is best without all the information, while only a few days before, his friend Gwindor told him he would be doomed for the rest of his life if he didn’t go after Finduilas. However, he ignores her cries because of an offhand comment from a dragon who only wanted him gone so it could horde the gold of Nargothrond to make its bed (in the shadow of Smaug from the Hobbit).
This tale is a tragedy in the Shakespearean manner because these terrible events could have been avoided if Túrin would listen to others and not run off on his own.
But what end would come to Túrin? Join me next week as we conclude, Of Túrin Turambar!
“But as he stood, finding himself free, and ready to sell his life dearly against imagined foes, there came a great flash of lightning above them; and in its light he looked down on Beleg’s face. Then Túrin stood stonestill and silent, staring on that dreadful death, knowing what he had done; and so terrible was his face, lit by the lightning that flickered all about them, that Gwindor cowered down upon the ground and did not raise his eyes.”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we continue to see how Túrin progressed, along with a few more tragedies he had to endure.
We left our heroes betrayed by the Dwarf Mîm. Mîm showed the agents of Morgoth to his home where Túrin, Beleg, and the Outlaws were hiding. Unfortunately, the Orcs took them by surprise, slaying most of them and kidnapping Túrin. We start this week with Beleg, after shunning Mîm for his betrayal, set out to track the orcish horde who had kidnapped his friend.
He never lost the track, “and not even in the dreadful woods of Taur-nu-Fuin did he swerve from the trail, for the skill of Beleg was greater than any that have been in Middle-earth.” and he came upon an injured Elf laying at the foot a great dead tree.
This Elf was Gwindor, son of Guilin, who we last saw captured in Nirnaeth Arnoediad by Morgoth and imprisoned to work, forging, and mining gems. But by “secret tunnels known only to themselves the mining Elves might sometimes escape.”
Gwindor saw the group of Orcs pass and saw Túrin with them, chained. Gwindor tried to persuade Beleg not to follow, but nothing could stop Beleg from his quest, so they followed the trail to Thangorodrim. It is here we see the true glory of Beleg Strong Bow.
“When all the camp were sleeping Beleg took his bow, and in the darkness shot the wolf-sentinels, one by one and silently. Then in great peril they entered in, and found Túrin fettered hand and foot tied to a withered tree.”
They snuck in, gathered Túrin, and carried him to a nearby dell, and Beleg took out Anglachel, that cursed blade forged by Eöl the Dark Elf, to cut his bonds. “But fate was that day more strong, for the blade slipped as he cut the shackles, and Túrin’s foot was pricked.”
After being beaten and enslaved, he was not in his right mind, and he only knew that someone was hurting him again, but he was free from his bonds, so he lept up “and grappling with him in the darkness, he seized Anglachel, and slew Beleg Cúthalion thinking him a foe.”
We then get the opening quote for this essay. A great storm arose at the death of Beleg and wiped the trail of Túrin and Gwindor, and the Orcs left empty-handed and returned to Morgoth. The man and the Elf buried Beleg there with his bow.
“Thus ended Beleg Strongbow, truest of friends, greatest in skill of all that harboured in the woods of Beleriand in the Elder Days, at the hand of him whom he most loved; and that grief was graven on the face of Túrin and never faded.”
When Tolkien calls this story a tragedy, this is the heart of it. We experienced a story of love and heroism with Beren and Lúthien, and this tale is the other side of the token.
Much of Tolkien is about good versus evil. The battle for the nature of the world. But when the world becomes corrupted, what does it mean to win? The Lord of the Rings has little snippets of these tragedies, but The Silmarillion is unfettered with the need or desire to hold a traditional narrative; thus, Tolkien can show his true intentions.
Tolkien lived and fought through World War One, and where his tales are not allegories, they mirror his experience. In war, you have two similar people; one comes out with what they desired, and one does not. The point is the struggle and how they hold themselves through the process. Of course, the lives of individuals go deeper than this generalization, but the fact is valid.
This tale is a tragedy, and the Beren and Lúthien tale is the book’s heart.
The whole book has a melancholy feel to it. From the first page, you can feel the horrible things coming, and that transcends the entire history (at least so far), but what Tolkien does so well is the infusion of hope in the most desperate times.
At this point in history, Morgoth has won. Over half of Beleriand is his, and he is killing more of the residents. What’s worse is the agents of Morgoth either kill or actively work to drain spirits. Only these few heroes like Turin and Beleg keep the hope alive.
So Túrin walked the lands with Gwindor, grieved and seemingly lost, until they came to the River Sirion and he lay in the waters, and the Love of Ulmo allowed him to release his pain, “and his tears were unloosed at last, and he was healed of his madness.”
He and Gwindor head to Nargothrond to continue the fight and the journey.
The people of Nargothrond welcomed Gwindor with open arms, and they accepted Túrin because he was traveling with the Elf. In time, he grew to be respected, primarily because of his appearance. The Elves knew he was the son of Húrin and Morwen, but he also knew the speech and language of Doriath so that “even among the Elves he might be taken for one from the great houses of the Noldor; therefore many called him Adanedhel, the Elf-Man.” Though we know that being associated with the Noldor isn’t always the best thing.
The smiths in Nargothrond reforged Anglachel to rid it of its horrible connotation, and Túrin renamed it “Gurthang, Iron of Death.” He proved himself to those Elves and became known as Mormegil, The Black Sword. He was considered invisible, so they gave him Dwarven hewn armor and a “dwarf-mark all gilded.”
When Gwindor and Túrin made it back to Nargothrond, Gwindor picked back up with Finduilas, daughter of Orodreth, the current King. Gwindor loved Finduilas to his fullest extent (and is insinuated that he always had), but the curse of Túrin followed even this Elf who broke his bonds. Finduilas fell in love with Túrin and out of love with Gwindor.
Finduilas could not help her love, even after being told that “this man is not Beren.” insinuating that Beren was a once-in-a-lifetime person who could hold onto the love of an Elf and make it work. But the heart wants what the heart wants.
Túrin, taken by surprise, did not return the love, honoring his friendship with Gwindor; but that relationship had turned. Gwindor approached Túrin, and the man tried to plead his case, but Gwindor spoke words no more factual said:
“The doom lies in yourself, not in your name.”
Join me next week as we continue the journey of Túrin!
“And now there came another dwarft bearing light to greet him, and they spoke together, and passed swiftly down into the darkness of the cave; but Túrin followed after, and came at length to a chamber far within, lit by dim lamps hanging upon chains. There he found Mîm kneeling at a stone couch beside the wall, and he tore his beard, and wailed, crying one name unceasingly; and on the couch there lay a third. But Túrin entering stood beside Mîm, and offered him aid. Then Mîm looked up at him, and said: ‘You can give no aid. For this is Khîm, my son; and he is dead, pierces by an arrow. He died at sunset. Ibun my son has told me.”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we continue our journey with Túrin as he navigates his trials and tribulations. Last week we read that Tolkien called this story “The Tale of Grief,” and we traverse this story; we’ll see why!
We jump in right where we left off. Túrin leads a band of Outlaws and Beleg Strongbow, picking up the mighty sword Anglachel and some lembas bread and going back out into the wilds to watch over Túrin.
Túrin, however, told Beleg that if he were to find him again, it would be on the slopes of Amon Rûdh, an isolated mountain peak just east of Doriath. So it’s either divine providence or sheer luck that the group of Outlaws would come across three dwarves. So naturally, being outlaws, they attacked the group (I’m assuming to rob them, but it’s not clear. Dwarves were known for their smithing and the gems they mine from the mountain cores) and captured one of them.
This dwarf, named Mîm, pleaded with Túrin “and offered as ransom to lead them to his hidden halls which none might find without his aid.”
And where is this home? “High above the land lies the house of Mîm, upon the great hill; Amon Rûdh is that hill called now, since the Elves changed all the names.”
On the journey to the peak, Tolkien gives us a little taste of what to expect on this journey. One of the Outlaws sees a red flower, seregon, on the ridge, and with the sun shining through it, he says, “There is blood upon the hill-top.”
He thinks this because of how the sun reflected off this flower. Still, in the Quenya tongue, sereg means blood, indicating that whatever happens here won’t be a happy-go-lucky experience.
The trouble starts immediately once the group gets into Mîm’s cave, as we get the quote that begins this essay. It was Túrin who killed Khîm with an arrow. It was Mîm’s clan the outlaws attacked below the peak.
Túrin is apologetic but stands tall. He owns the fact that he applied the killing blow, and because of Dwarven mentalities, Mîm respects him, saying, “You speak like a dwarf-lord of old.“
Túrin learned of Mîm and his people, who were known as the Noegyth Nibin, or the Petty Dwarves. They were outcasts from the Blue Mountains, and they came into Beleriand first, before even the Noldor made their dangerous trip across the sea to this land. As a result, they lost their crafting abilities and “became diminished in stature.” Orcs and Noldor hunted them and considered all creatures of Beleriand enemies, so “they took to lives of stealth, walking with bowed shoulders and furtive steps.”
They were the Dwarves who dug the tunnels which became Nargothrond, but the Noldor pushed them out, and they came here to Amon Rûdh, the Bald Hill, where they made their home.
Living on the hill was difficult, especially since it was “said that the winters worsened in Beleriand as the power of Angband grew.” But Túrin lived there with Mîm and the remaining dwarves and outlaws. Eventually, while holed up in the hill, a figure appeared from the terrible cold no one else dared traverse.
“suddenly among them a man, as it seemed, of great bulk and girth, cloaked and hooded in white; and he walked up to the fire without a word. And when men sprang up in fear, he laughed, and threw back his hood…and in the light of the fire Túrin looked again on the face of Beleg Cúthalion.”
Beleg again tried to coax Túrin to return with him to Doriath, even bringing “out of Dimbar the Dragon-helm of Dor-lómin” to pull at his heartstrings. But Túrin remained steadfast, so Beleg stayed with him. “Those that were hurt or sick he tended and gave them lembas of Melian,” but despite his care, it is evident that he was only there for Túrin, and “hatred of Mîm for the Elf that had come into Bar-en-Danwedh grew ever greater, and he sat with Ibun, his son in the deepest shadows of his house.”
Spring had finally come to Beleriand, but Angband’s reach had grown, and many had lost hope, but “Túrin put on again the Helm of Hador; and far and wide in Beleriand, the whisper went, under wood and over stream and through the passes of the hills, saying that the Helm and Bow that had fallen in Dimbar had arisen again beyond hope. Then many who went leaderless, dispossessed but undaunted, retook heart, and came to seek the Two Captains.” Dor-Cúarthol, the Land of Bow and Helm, and Túrin who “named himself anew” as Gorthol, the Dread Helm.
Their deeds were known far and wide, but finally, Morgoth took notice and realized that Gorthol was Túrin, “Then Morgoth laughed.“
A raiding party of Orcs took Mîm and Ibun captive while they were gathering roots, and Mîm led those Orcs back to his home with a promise that they would not harm Gorthol (Túrin).
“Thus was Bar-en-Danwedh betrayed, for the Orcs came upon it by night at unawares, guided by Mîm. There many of Túrin’s company were slain as they slept; but some fleeing by an inner stair came out upon the hill-top, and there they fought until they fell, and thier blood flowed out upon the seregon that mantled the stone. But a net was cast over Túrin as he fought, and was enmeshed in it, and overcome, and led away.“
Beleg found Mîm after the battle, the dwarf finding Anglachel on the ground and brandishing it at the giant Elf. But Mîm was no match for the large ranger, and Beleg took the sword back from the diminutive dwarf. Then, as Mîm fled, Beleg called after him:
“The vengeance of the house of Hador will find you yet!“
Beleg knew that Túrin had been captured and taken to Angband, so he healed himself from battle and set off to help his friend in the shadow of the bloody seregon on the hilltop.
Join me next week as we continue the tale of Túrin Turambar!
“And now again the might of Angband was moved; and as the long fingers of a groping hand the forerunners of his armies probed the ways into Beleriand. Through Anach they came, and Dimbar was taken, and all the north marches of Doriath. Down the ancient road they came that led through the long defile of Sirion, past the isle where Minas Tirith of Finrod had stood, and so through the land between Malduin and Sirion, and on through the eaves of Brethil to the crossings of Teiglin. Thence the road went on in the Guarded Plain; but the Orcs did not go far upon it, as yet, for there dwelt now in the wild a terror that was hidden, and upon the red hill were watchful eyes od which they had not been warned. For Túrin put on again the Helm of Hador; and far and wide in Beleriand the whisper went, under wood and over stream and through the passes of the hills, saying that the Helm and Bow that had fallen in Dimbar had arisen again beyond hope.”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we are regaled with one of Tolkien’s famous Lays, which later became the book “The Children of Húrin.”
“Here that tale is told in brief, for it is woven with the fate of the Silmarils and of the Elves; and it is called the Tale of Grief, for it is sorrowful, and in it are revealed most evil works of Morgoth Bauglir.”
We left off the last chapter with Húrin, Lord of Dor-Lómin (the human duchy by Hithlum in the North East), captured by Morgoth and tied to a pole enduring horrible torture but giving nothing up to that horrific diety.
In that time after Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Easterlings came to Dor-Lómin. These men were subservient to Morgoth, who “despised the remnant people of Hador, and oppressed them, and took their lands and their goods, and enslaved their children.” Still, Morwen, Húrin’s wife and Túrin’s mother, was feared. “and they whispered among themselves, saying that she was perilous, and a witch skilled in magic and in league with the elves.” This fear gave more freedom to Túrin, and she was able to “send him away in secret, and to beg King Thingol to harbour him, for Beren son of Barahir was her father’s kinsman, and he had been moreover a friend of Húrin.“
Beleg Strongbow, part of Beren’s fellowship, found Túrin outside Doriath. Beleg brought Húrin to Menegroth and sent a contingent of Elves to get Morwen back with him. Still, because of the strife of her people, she decided to stay with them in Dor-Lómin but sent back a keepsake for Húrin: “when the Elves departed, she sent with them the Dragon-helm of Dor-Lómin, greatest of the heirlooms of the house of Hador.“
Túrin grew solid and proud in Menegroth under the tutelage of both Thingol and Beleg Strongbow, but he needed more because he “was filled with fear for his mother and his sister.” So he donned his armor and the Dragon-helm and joined Beleg in battle on the marches of Doriath.
Túrin gained notoriety, but that is dangerous for a human in the land of Elves. Because “Now one there was in Doriath, of the people of the Nandor, high in the councils of the King; Saeros was his name.“
Saeros was jealous of Túrin because of his relationship with Thingol, so he bullied and taunted him to the point that Túrin fought back, throwing a goblet and striking Saeros in the face.
Embarrassed, Saeros approached Túrin in the forests outside of Menegroth and tried to best him in a fight. However, Túrin, who had been fighting against Orcs in the marches, quickly overtook him and forced Saeros to do what Saeros frequently said the human woman did, “Run naked as a hunted beast through the woods.”
Saeros was so terrified at his predicament, that he “fell into a chasm of a stream, and his body was broken on a great rock in the water.“
Túrin, knowing that he was a Man among a gathering of Elves, doesn’t feel safe, despite others telling him that Saeros’ fall was not his fault. So he decides to flee the judgment of the Elves, “deeming himself an outlaw and fearing to be held captive.”
Captivity is a prominent theme in this book, and I also think in the larger world of the Lord of the Rings. There are many passages where the characters in question (Beren, Túrin, Fingolfin, Morgoth, Hador, etc.) intimate, or Tolkien tells us through exposition, that they would do anything to escape captivity. Captivity and loss of their freedoms are central themes in these books. The people caught (Maedhros and, more recently, Húrin) were tortured perpetually.
Despite being captured and tortured, I don’t think Tolkien wrote a history of his world to have all characters be afraid of being captive, but instead I think it was Tolkien’s fear of progress and industry which spurned this theme.
When a character gets imprisoned, it’s always in a bleak tower away from all nature. In some ways, I think Tolkien was projecting his fear of what would happen to society if it succumbed to industry. People would no longer be free to head off into the forest and enjoy some good pipe tobacco and a book. Instead, they would be enslaved to the industry and metaphorically tied to towers to watch Morgoth’s fires (or Mordor’s) burn eternally.
The fear of death is secondary to being forced to do another’s bidding. The wars of Beleriand and the wars of the Third Age of Middle-earth are all for this exact reason, much as the real war Tolkien fought in, The First World War. They were wars for the freedom to be who you wanted and move about unmolested. I think that’s why these books still resonate so many years later.
So to escape this enslavement, Túrin ran from Menegroth. He was mistaken, though, because Thingol “took Húrin’s son as my son,” and Thingol grieved that Túrin didn’t believe he would be welcomed back into Menegroth. Beleg Strongbow, also aggrieved, responded to Thingol:
“I will seek Túrin until I find him, and I will bring him back to Menegroth, if I can, for I love him also.”
Beleg ranged and found Túrin, now chief of an outlaw brigade in the forests outside the Girdle of Melian. He tried to persuade Túrin to go back, but because of pride or embarrassment, Túrin refused. He wanted to be his own man, so he sent Beleg away. But Beleg knew that after the battle of Unnumbered Tears, Beleriand was not safe for Túrin to wander with just a few brigands, so he went back to Thingol and asked the King’s leave to guard Túrin from a distance. Thingol agreed and told him to take anything except the King’s sword to aid him in his quest.
“Then Beleg chose Anglachel; and that was a sword of great worth, and it was so named because it was made of iron that fell from heaven as a blazing star; it would cleave all earth-delved iron. One other sword only in Middle-earth was like to it. That sword does not enter into thi tale, though it was made of the same ore by the same smith; and that smith was Eöl the Dark Elf, who took Aredhel Turgon’s sister to wife.“
Thingol warns Beleg, “There is malice in the sword. The dark heart of the smith still dwells in it. It will not lvoe the hand it serves; neither will it abide you long.”
There is no greater foreshadowing than this statement.
Beleg leaves with Anglachel and a gift of Lembas “the waybread of the Elves, wrapped in leaves of silver, and the threads that bound it were sealed at the knots with the seal of the Queen, a wafer of white wax shaped as a single flower of Telperion.”
“and he returned to them no more.”
Join me next week as we continue the tale of Túrin Turambar!
“Great was the triumph of Morgoth, and his design was accomplished in a manner after his own heart; for Men took the lives of Men, and betrayed the Eldar, and fear and hatred were aroused among those that should have been united against him. So from that day the hearts of the Elves were estranged from Men, save only those of the Three Houses of the Edain.”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we return to war and learn of the battle of Unnumbered Tears and how the Elves’ mistrust of each other and the other races ultimately led to the destruction that came in this battle.
Tolkien starts us off with a small send-off to Beren and Luthien. We learn they “passed beyond the River Gelion into Ossiriand, and dwelt there in Tol Galen the green isle, in the midst of Adurant, until all tidings of them ceased,” they were never to be heard from again.
I believe Tolkien added that little epilogue to their story at the beginning of this chapter because he wanted to have a happier ending for them. When they are together, there is a bit of sadness in the tone of Tolkien’s writing, a melancholy subsumed beneath their love and happiness together. I believe he wanted to start this chapter with that tone partly because they isolated themselves from the hatred of the Noldor, and it’s precisely that viciousness that causes Morgoth’s successes in this battle.
The chapter begins by telling of Maedhros deciding to take arms up against Morgoth because, through Beren and Lúthien’s actions, he saw that Morgoth was fallible. He also understood that alone, the Elves could not fight him. They needed to come together and make a collective assault.
But the Noldor were too prideful. They could not let old grievances lie. The sons of Fëanor said they would only fight with Thingol if he submitted the Silmaril, but he didn’t trust them. Orodreth also would not march with Maedhros “because of the deeds of Celegorm and Curufin.“
So Maedhros turned to the Naugrim (Dwarves) and Men. Fingon in Hithlum to the east, “ever the friend of Maedhros,” also came to aid. Maedhros looked upon his army and “made trial of his strength too soon” and “resolved to assault Angband from east and west.” He would attack from the east and draw out Morgoth’s armies, while Fingon and the Men would pincer from the West.
A great army amassed in the east, and they were ready to fight, but Morgoth’s deception continued. One of the Men, Uldor the accursed, was a spy for Morgoth and was able to delay Maedhros from the attack.
Seeing the might of Fingon’s army, Turgon of Gondolin decided that he must help and sent a leaguer from Hidden Gondolin. But Morgoth had planned and built a massive army. So he sent forth the largest army of Orcs the world had seen, “and yet but part of all that he had made ready.”
Morgoth’s Captain had orders to bring Fingon to the battlefield, but he could not taunt him out, so they sent a party and asked for a parley. Here is where the true evil of Morgoth appears. Gelmir, a Lord of Nargothrond, was sent out to answer the parley, but the legion of Morgoth captured him, “and they hewed off Gelmir’s hands and feet, and his head last, within sight of the Elves.“
This betrayal lit a fire in the Noldor, and Morgoth’s plan succeeded. They charged the field of battle, just as he had planned.
“And in the plain of Anfauglith, on the fourth day of the war, there began Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Unnumbered Tears, for no song or tale can contain all it’s grief. The host of Fingon retreated over the sands, and Haldir lord of the Haladin was slain in the rearguard; with him fell most of the Men of Brethil, and came never back to their woods.”
But Turgon and the Gondolindrim came to the rescue, breaking the ranks of Orcs. But this was Morgoth’s plan all along because now that he had weakened the West, Maedhros finally joined the battle on the east, and “Morgoth loosed his last strength, and Angband was emptied. There came wolves, and wolfriders, and there came Balrogs, and dragons, and Glaurung father of dragons.“
They battled fiercely, but the force was not Morgoth’s greatest weapon because “…neither by wolf, nor by Balrog, nor by dragon, would Morgoth have achieved his end, but for the treachery of Men. In this hour the plots of Ulfang were revealed. Many of the Easterlings turned and fled, their hearts being filled with lies and fear; but the sons of Ulfang went over suddenly to Morgoth and drove in upon the rear of the sons of Fëanor, and in the confusion that they wrought they came near to the standard of Maedhros.“
The remaining sons of Fëanor could flee, “gathering a remnant of the Noldor and the Naugrim,” and most of the treacherous men were slain by Morgoth when they came to collect on the reward he had promised them for their betrayal.
It came down to one last force to make a stand. The Dwarves of Belegost, “and thus they won renown.” They could withstand heat much better than either Men or Elves, and “it was their custom moreover to wear great masks in battle hideous to look upon.” So the Dwarves drove off Glaurung and the dragons losing Azaghâl, Lord of Belegost.
Meanwhile, Fingon and Turgon were surrounded by “a tide of foes thrice greater than all the force that was left to them.” A multitude of Balrogs surrounded Fingon, and Gothmog turned to face Fingon. “That was a grim meeting.”
They battled one on one in a brutal and epic fight until one of the Balrog “cast a throng of fire about him.”
“Then Gothmog hewed him with his black axe, and a white flame sprang up from the helm of Fingon as it was cloven. Thus fell the High King of the Noldor; and they beat him into dust with their maces, and his banner, blue and silver, they trod into the mire of his blood.“
Once Fingon had died, Húrin and Huor, the Men of Hador, told Turgon to retreat, and they would guard his exit. Fingon was able to withdraw back into the mountains, to hold fast in Gondolin to be the last bastion of the North against Morgoth. While Húrin and Huor fought against Morgoth’s armies and died, “Thus was the treachery of Uldor redressed.“
Húrin made a name for himself fighting the Troll-guard of Gothmog, crying out, “Aurë entuluva!” (Day shall come again!) with every kill, he too eventually fell.
“Thus ended Nirnaeth Arnoediad.“
The opening quote of the essay follows. The lords of the North were defeated, and they no longer held their lands. “The Orcs and the wolves went freely through all the North and came further southward into Beleriand. They destroyed the Havens and círdan and took over all of the North, leaving only Gondolin, the hidden kingdom, and Doriath, the last two great kingdoms.“
There are tales of courage and horror following the battle of Unnumbered Tears, and Tolkien leaves us with a paragraph of woe and hope in the great horror that Beleriand had become:
“By the command of Morgoth the Orcs with great labour gathered all the bodies of those who had fallen in the great battle, and all their harness and weapons, and piled them in a great mound in the midst of Anfauglilth; and it was like a hill that could be seen from afar. Haudh-en-Ndengin the Elves named it, the Hill of Slain, and Haudh-en-Nirnaeth, the Hill of Tears. But grass came there and grew again long and green upon that hill, alone in all the desert that Morgoth made; and no creature of Morgoth trod thereafter upon the earth beneath which the swords of the Eldar and the Edain crumbled to rust.“
“They came at last to the gates of Menegroth, and a great host followed them. Then Beren led Lúthien before the throne of Thingol her father; and he looked in wonder upon Beren, whom he had thought dead; but he loved him not, because of the woes that he had brought upon Doriath. But Beren knelt before him, and said: ‘I return according to my word. I am come now to claim my own.‘”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we pick up right where we left off. Beren and Lúthien survived the battle with Sauron and were in the outskirts of the forests of Doriath.
Celegorm and Curufin found them there and attacked them, thinking of kidnaping Lúthien and taking her as a bride of the Noldor, when a familiar face came to their rescue:
“Then Beren throttled Curufin; but Death was near him, for Celegorm rode upon him with a spear. In that hour Huan forsook the service of Celegorm and sprang upon him…”
With the help of Huan, the sons of Fëanor were subdued and yielded to Beren and Lúthien, but revenge was in the Noldor hearts. Curufin shot a bow as they retreated, intending to kill Lúthien, but Beren dove in front of his love and took the arrow to his chest.
Huan gathered herbs after chasing off Curufin and Celegorm, and “with that leaf she staunched Beren’s wound, and by her arts and by her love she healed him; and thus they returned to Doriath.”
But Beren couldn’t take the thought of failing on his quest twice, so in the middle of the night, when Lúthien slept, he left to pursue the Silmaril.
When Lúthien woke, however, she saw that he was gone and sang her song to Huan for help. “Huan, consenting once more to be her steed, had borne her swiftly hard upon Beren’s trail.” Huan took the guise of Draugluin, Sauron’s wolf captain, and Lúthien took the guise of Thuringwethil, who “was the messenger of Sauron, and was wont to fly in vampire’s form to Angband.”
In these disguises, they caught up with Beren. Beren is quiet at first, hoping to shield Lúthien from “the shadow of Morgoth,” but Huan speaks up: “From the shadow of Death you can no longer save Lúthien, for by her love she is now subject to it. You can turn from your fate and lead her into exile, seeking peace in vain while your life lasts. But if you will not deny your doom, then either Lúthien, being forsaken, must assuredly die alone, or she must with you challenge the fate that lies before you.“
Encouraged, Beren decided he could no longer deny Lúthien and donned the werewolf disguise; Lúthien put on her vampire bat costume and found their way to Angband.
Meanwhile, Morgoth, aware the Huan was near, “chose one from among the whelps of the race of Draugluin; and he fed him with his hand upon living flesh, and put his power upon him.“
This whelp grew to enormous size and became Carcharoth, the Red Maw.
Carcharoth stationed himself in front of the gates, so when Beren and Lúthien came upon him, he stood tall before them, but it was Lúthien who threw off her disguise and stood “small before the might of Carcharoth, but radiant and terrible.” She cast a spell over him with her song and sent him into a deep slumber.
Disguised, the two made it to Morgoth’s chambers, but Lúthien’s disguise didn’t fool Morgoth. “Then Morgoth looking upon her beauty conceived in his thought an evil lust and a design darker than any that had yet come into his heart since he fled from Valinor.”
There is only inference to what he had in mind, but the way Tolkien writes him, there is some terrible sexual connotation which is supposed to indicate the level of evil Morgoth has become. But, of course, the world Tolkien grew up in was one of war, so physical damage might not indicate being evil, only a means to an end. Still, sexual torture and unnecessary damage to “the fairer” sex shows just how deep a level of moral poverty is in Morgoth.
So how do you counter that? By having Lúthien trick him and cast a spell upon him to make him fall asleep and fall from his throne, “The iron crown rolled echoing from his head.” I’ll post the passage in the postscript if you want to read it, but it shows Lúthien is the real hero, despite building Beren up at the beginning of the chapter. She was able to stand up to the horrible abuser and put him into his rightful place, without fear but with determination.
Beren took up his knife, Angrist, and cut off a Silmaril from the crown, but the blade snapped before he could take more.
The two lovers fled the hall, meaning to escape from Angband before Lúthien’s spell wore off, but Carcharoth had already risen and was blocking the gate, sealing them in. The two fierce warriors battled the beastly wolf, but when it saw the Silmaril, he bit for it and took Beren’s hand at the wrist, Silmaril and all.
Lúthien again healed Beren’s wounds, but they tarried too long, and the host of Angband had awoken. All seemed lost, but Huan again came to the rescue. He saw that Carcharoth had fled Angband and caused devastation upon his path, so Huan called for Thorondor, the King of the Eagles, and they flew to Angband and lifted Beren and Lúthien to the woods bordering Doriath.
Thingol was surprised to see the two lovers because of the tales he had heard. He was ready to attack the sons of Fëanor because of rumors that Curufin killed Beren and the Celegorm was to wed Lúthien, but Beren one-handed, and Lúthien appeared before Thingol and Beren gave his speech which started this essay.
Thingol asked for the prize, and Beren held out his stump. Then, understanding, Thingol’s demeanor softened towards Beren: “And it seemed to Thingol that this Man was unlike all other mortal Men, and among the great in Arda, and the love of Lúthien a thing new and strange; and he perceived that any power of the world might not withstand their doom. Therefore, at last, he yielded his will, and Beren took the hand of Lúthien before the throne of her father.“
It seemed as though the chapter should end because the lovers were married, and all parties were happy, yet Carcharoth was ravaging the north, “And Beren, hearing of the onslaught of the Wolf, understood that the quest was not yet fulfilled.“
They formed a hunting party with Huan, Mablung of the Heavy Hand, Beleg Strongbow, Beren, and Thingol to go and end Carcharoth. Upon finding him, there was a significant battle, but one last time, Huan came to the rescue and killed the Red Maw. Carcharoth had one final blow and poisoned Huan to Death: “Beren spoke not, but laid his hand upon the head of the hound, and so they parted.”
They cut open Carcharoth’s stomach, and Beren held the Silmaril aloft, stating, “Now is the quest achieved.”
When they returned to Doriath, Lúthien sang a song of love and sorrow to Mandos the Valar so that she and Beren could stay together in their passion.
“These were the choices that he gave to Lúthien. Because of her labours and her sorrow, she should be released from Mandos, and go to Valimar, there to dwell until the world’s end among the Valar, forgetting all griefs that her life had known. Thither Beren could not come. For it was not permitted to the Valar to withhold Death from him, which is the gift of Ilúvatar to Men. But the other choice was this: that she might return to Middle-earth, and take with her Beren, there to dwell again, but without certitude of life or joy. Then she would become mortal, and subject to a second death, even as he; and ere long she would leave the world for ever, and her beauty become only a memory in song.”
“This doom she chose.”
Beren and Lúthien lived to the end of their days, mortal and happy, and this opened the door to all others who love and told they shouldn’t, including Aragorn and Arwen.
The world of Beleriand is in turmoil, and there is another battle on the horizon.
Join me next week as we delve into “Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad.”
“Then suddenly she eluded his sight, and out of the shadows began a song of such surpassing loveliness, and such blinding power, that he listened perforce; and a blindness came upon him, as his eyes roamed to and fro, seeking her.
And his court were cast down in slumber, and all the fires faded and were quenched; but the Silmarils in the crown on MOrgoth’s head blazed forth suddenly with a radiance of white flame; and the burden of that crown and of the jewels bowed down his head, as though the world were set upon it, laden with a weight of care, of fear, and of desire, that even the will of Morgoth could not support. Then Lúthien catching up her winged robe sprang into the air, and her voice came dropping down like rain into pools, profound and dark. She cast her cloak before his eyes, and set upon him a dream, dark as the Outer Void where once he walked alone. Suddenly he fell, as a hill sliding in an avalanche, and hurled like thunder from his throne lay prone upon the floors of hell. The iron crown rolled echoing from his head. All things were still.”
“Then Celegorm turned his horse, and spurned it upon Beren, purposing to ride him down; but Curufin swerving stooped and lifted Lúthien to his saddle, for he was a strong and cunning horseman. Then Beren sprang before Celegorm full upon the speeding horse of Curufin that had passed him; and the Leap of Beren is renowned among Men and Elves. He took Curufin by the throat from behind, and hurled him backward, and they fell to the ground together.“
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we continue the tale of Beren and Lúthien while highlighting the betrayal of the Noldor and the heroics of our two protagonists.
Last week we saw Beren take off on his quest to gather a Silmaril through Felagund’s realm. Weary of the duplicitous nature of his kin (Curifin and Celegorm), Felagund joins Beren on his quest to ensure the Silmaril doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
They traveled towards Angband, and “Beneath the Shadowy Mountains, they came upon a company of Orcs.” Felagund used his magic to make the two of them look like Orcs so they could join the Orcish gang to travel to Taur-Nu-Fain. But Sauron knew of their disguises and sent his servants to intercept them. He succeeded in capturing them, “But though their kinds were revealed, Sauron could not discover their names or purposes,” so he threw them into a pit to imprison them.
Lúthien sensed something was wrong and went to Melian for assistance, to which she found none. Instead, she was sent to her room, a “mighty beech (was) named Hírilorn” like a naughty twelve year old. She used her Elven arts and disguised herself to escape from the home in the tree and go after Beren.
At this time, Curufin and Celegorm were out hunting the wolves of Sauron, and with them, we have introduced to possibly the most essential tertiary character of this tale: Huan.
“Now chief of the wolfhounds that followed Celegorm was named Huan. He was not born in Middle-earth, but he came from the Blessed Realm; for Oromë had given him to Celegorm long ago in Valinor, and there he had followed the horn of his master, before evil came. So Huan followed Celegorm into exile, and was faithful; and thus he too came under the doom of woe set upon the Noldor, and it was decreed that he should meet death, but not until he encountered the mightiest wolf that would ever walk the world.”
Remember the last line. It will be crucial next week!
Huan found Lúthien and brought her to Celegorm, who “promised that she would find help in her need if she returned with him now to Nargothrond,” but he betrayed her Lúthien. He imprisoned her, “believing that Beren and Felagund were prisoners beyond hope of aid, they purposed to let the king perish, and to keep Lúthien, and force Thingol to give her hand to Celegorm.” The two brothers thought only of power and didn’t care whom they hurt to get it.
But it was Huan who came to the rescue. He was true of heart and hated to see Lúthien caged, so he “led her by secret ways out of Nargothrond, and they fled north together.”
Little did she know that in the north, Sauron sent one of his wolves into the prison to kill Beren, “But when the wolf came for Beren, Felagund put forth all his power, and burst his bonds; and he wrestled with the werewolf, and slew it with his hands and teeth; yet he himself was wounded to the death.” and because of his heroics in saving Beren he “redeemed his oath.” and was able to take his long rest “in the timeless halls beyond the seas and the Mountains of Aman.“
Then “In that hour Lúthien came, and standing upon the bridge that led to Sauron’s isle she sang a song that no walls of stone could hinder.“
Sauron heard this song and knew it for Lúthien, Melian’s daughter, and sent his wolves to capture her but Sauron didn’t know that the Huan accompanied her; “and Huan one by one Huan took them by the throat and slew them.” Sauron even sent Draugluin, “a dread beast, old in evil, lord and sire of the werewolves of Angband.” Yet Huan even slew him.
Sauron probably said that old phrase, “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” he turned himself into a werewolf, “…the mightiest that had yet walked the world.” So he sprang upon them, and Huan battled him in a skirmish for the ages, and Huan came out the victor. Sauron yielded and pleaded release, and Huan let released him. “And immediately he took the form of a vampire, great as a dark cloud across the moon, and he fled, dripping blood from his throat upon the trees, and came to Taur-Nu-Fain, and dwelt there, filling it with horror.”
If you recall, from a few weeks ago, I contended that Taur-Nu-Fain (then called Dorthianian) was, in fact, Mordor of the Third Age. I believe this passage confirms that, because we have an area surrounded by mountains, Ungoliant’s children (Shelob) live in those mountains, and are just across from Minas Tirith. Sauron filled Taur-Nu-Fain with horror and turned it into the land where he forged the One Ring.
After Sauron fled, Lúthien and Huan head down into the pits, past the cowering thralls of Sauron, and find Beren “mourning by Felagund.” They brought the king’s body out and buried him in a proper ceremony so that “Finrod walks with Finarfin his father beneath the trees in Eldamar.“
Beren and Lúthien decide to hide in the forest and enjoy their love together. Huan returned to Celegorm out of only faithfulness because the Noldor prince’s actions destroyed his trust and honor in Celegorm.
Celegorm and Curufin’s plans came to fruition. They waited around and let Felagund die, thinking they would take the throne. Still, the subjects of Nargothrond “lamented bitterly the fall of Felagund their king, saying that a maiden had dared that which the sons of Fëanor had not dared to do; but many perceived that it was treachery rather than fear that had guided Celegorm and Curufin. Therefore the hearts of the people of Nargothrond were released from their dominion, and turned again to the house of Finarfin; and obeyed Orodreth (Finrod Felagund’s son).”
They fled to Himring to hide with their brother Maedhros and Huan went with them out of duty.
But Beren, living with his love Lúthien “near the borders of Doriath,” could not forget his oath and the possibility to live with Lúthien honorably. Lúthien, however, is not a passive princess from some other tale. She is a warrior queen, and though this is a love story, she has agency all of her own. She tells Beren:
“You must choose, Beren, between these two: to reliquish the quest and your oath and seek a life of wandering upon the face of the earth; or to hold to your word and challenege the power of darkness upon it’s throne. But on either road I shall go with you, and our doom shall be alike.“
It wouldn’t be much of a story if they didn’t charge once more into the breach, so join me next week as we conclude the story of Beren and Lúthien!
“My fate, O King, led me hither, through perils such as few even of the Elves would dare. And here I have found what I sought not indeed, but finding I would possess for ever. For it is above all gold and silver, and beyond all jewels. Neither rock, nor steel, nor the fires of Morgoth, nor all the powers of the Elf-kingdoms, shall keep from me the treasure that I desire. For Lúthien your daughter is the fairest of all the Children of the World.”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we continue the tale of the star-crossed lovers while deconstructing themes of selfishness and fear in Elvishkind, which we’ve mentioned before.
Last week we learned of Beren’s beginnings and his fight to exit Dorthonian and head south to Doriath. The path was dangerous, and by the time he made it to Doriath, he was “grey and bowed as with many years of woe, so great had been the torment on the road.” But it was there in the forests he espied “Lúthien… the most beautiful of all the Children of Ilúvatar.”
She was dancing and singing in the woods in a beautiful voice “he called her Tinúviel, that signifies Nightingale,” and upon viewing her and listening to her song, “all memory of his pain departed from him.“
He was instantly in love with her light and beauty, and he followed her dumbfounded, trying to speak but muted by her brilliance. When he was finally able to talk, Beren approached Lúthien, and Tolkien gives us a curious passage: “But as she looked on him, doom fell upon her, and she loved him.“
We will see soon that though this is Tolkien’s heart of The Silmarillion, Beren and Lúthien’s love signifies the end of Elvish rule in Beleriand. Morgoth is merely a means to an end, but the Hubris of the Elves marks their destruction. Whether it be Fëanor and his firey drive to kill Morgoth, Turgon’s desire to forsake others for his own people’s safety, or Thingol’s parental urge to “know” what is suitable for his daughter, these are the traits that brought the Elves down, not Morgoth.
Lúthien hid her love for Beren for a while, just as she hid him in the forest. She knew her love for a human was wrong, but she couldn’t help herself because “no others of the Children of Ilúvatar have had joy so great, though the time was brief.”
But there was a danger because “Daeron the minstrel also loved Lúthien, and he espied her meetings with Beren and betrayed them to Thingol.”
Thingol was beyond angry, but it was because of his Hubris as an Elf and fear as a father. He declared Beren a thief and a scoundrel, though reading it closely, one can tell that he can’t believe a man was able to do what no other being could – traverse the Girdle of Melian and enter the lands. He was also terrified of this man taking his daughter and what kind of dangerous life she would have with him because his pride could not allow Beren to remain in Doriath.
Lúthien speaks to Beren’s defense before Thingol tells her, “Let Beren speak!” Beren’s response is the quote that opens this essay.
Thingol still tries to find a way around his predicament. Finally, he accuses Beren of being a thrall or a spy of Morgoth, to which Beren responds:
“By the ring of Felagund, that he gave to Barahir my father on the battlefield of the North, my house has not earned such names from any Elf, be he king or no.“
He shows the Ring of Felagund, which we will see in the Third age, on the hand of Aragorn. Viewing this Ring and hearing his wife Melian’s caution, Thingol devised a plan. He tells Beren that if he wants his daughter’s hand in marriage, he would, “Bring to me in your hand a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown.”
Then, “he wrought the doom of Doriath and was ensnared within the curse of Mandos.” Because of his fear, he gave Beren an impossible task, bringing Doriath into the larger world. If Beren failed, Thingol would lose his daughter because of the knowledge of condemning Beren to an impossible task. If he succeeded, having a Silmaril would bring down the wrath of both the Noldor and the Valar. Thingol sealed his fate.
Beren, of course, accepts the mission. The young warrior heads north out of Doriath towards the wastes of Taur-Nu-Fuin, what was once Dorthonian – what was once his home. As he traveled, Beren realized he was spied upon, so he shouted to the hidden warriors and showed the Ring of Felagund; “Thus Beren came before King Finrod Felagund.”
He told the King what had befallen his father, and he said of his adventures, finally revealing to the King his quest to secure a Silmaril for Thingol so that he may be with his love. Finrod tells him:
“It is plain that Thingol desires your death; but it seems that his doom goes beyond his purpose, and that the Oath of Fëanor is again at work. For the Silmarils are cursed with an oath of hatred, and he that even names them in desire moves a great power from slumber; and the sons of Fëanor would lay all the Elf-kingdoms in ruin rather than suffer any other than themselves to win or possess a Silmaril, for the Oath drives them.”
Beren’s appearance came after the time of the Battle of Sudden Flame, when Curufin and Celegorm had fled to Nargothrond with them. The curse of Fëanor was strong, and the Hubris of the Noldor was even more potent. The sons of Fëanor would take their desire to gain the Silmarils to any extent, and Finrod knows this.
“And after Celegorm Curufin spoke, more softly but with no less power, conjuring in the minds of the Elves a vision of war and the ruin of Nargothrond. So great a fear did he set in thier hearts that never after until the time of Túrin would any Elf of that realm go into open battle; but with stealth and ambush, with wizardry and venomed dart, they pursued all strangers, forgetting the bonds of kinship.“
Much like we have seen in the Third Age, the Silmarils call out to the Noldor as the One Ring does. But unfortunately, their power corrupts absolutely, and their meaning has blinded the Noldor to bring about their demise.
Curufin and Celegorm, knowing they are the next in line to be King if Finrod falls in battle, encourage him to go and help Beren steal a Silmaril from Morgoth, “whatever betide.“
Join me next week as we continue Beren’s quest for the Silmaril and Lúthien’s hand in marriage!
“Among the tales of sorrow and of ruin that come down to us from the darkness of those days there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures. And of these histories most fair still in the ears of the Elves is the tale of Beren and Lúthien. Of their lives was made the Lay of Leithian, Release of Bondage, which is the longest save one of the songs concerning the world of old; but here the tale is told in fewer words and without song.”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we begin the epic tale of Beren and Lúthien by witnessing Beren’s beginnings and growth into the epic warrior he was to become.
The quote above begins the chapter, and we quickly learn of the Outlaws of Dorthonian led by Barahir, Beren’s father. These were the last twelve human men living in Dorthonian because “Barahir would not forsake” it. Pursued by Morgoth, these men hid in the moors of the highlands of that region at a lake named “Tarn Aeluin.”
“The waters of Tarn Aeluin were held in reverence, for they were clear and blue by day and by night were a mirror for the stars; and it was said that Melian herself had hallowed that water in days of old.“
These Men lived in peace for several years until one of the Outlaws, Gorlim, came home from a battle and “found his house plundered and forsaken, and his wife gone; whether slain or taken he knew not.”
Despite plundering this house, the Outlaws remained hidden and were a thorn in Morgoth’s side, so he “commanded Sauron to find them and destroy them.“
Sauron learned of Gorlim’s loss and, with his sorcery, set an illusion of Gorlim’s wife in the house. Then, when he came back from ranging, he saw her image in the place, “and her face was worn with grief and hunger, and it seemed to him that he heard her lamenting that he had forsaken her.”
Sauron’s trap had worked. Agents of Sauron captured Gorlim and “tormented him, seeking to learn the hidings of Barahir and all his ways. But nothing would Gorlim tell.”
The torment continued until Sauron finally offered Gorlim’s wife back to him. “Then Sauron laughed; and he mocked Gorlim, and revealed to him that he had seen only a phantom devised by wizardry to entrap him; for Eilinel (Gorlim’s wife) was dead.“
But he still promised to bring her back, and “In this way the hiding of Barahir was revealed.”
Morgoth’s agents descended on the troop and brutally slaughtered them. Fortunately, Beren, son of Barahir, was off-ranging when the devastation happened.
Beren returned after having a prophetic dream, telling of his father’s murder, but he was too late. He saw his fellow Outlaws dead next to the Tarn Aeluin. “There Beren buried his father’s bones, and raised a cairn of boulders above him, and swore upon it an oath of vengeance.”
Beren tracked the Orc party to their camp “at Rivil’s Well above the Fen of Serech.“
“There their captain made boast of his deeds, and he held up the hand of Barahir that he had cut off as a token for Sauron that their mission was fulfilled; and the ring of Felegund was on that hand. Then Beren sprang from behind a rock, and slew the captain, and taking the hand and the ring he escaped.“
For four years, Beren wandered Dorthonian as a “solitary outlaw.” Finally, he became one with the land, and “he became the friend of birds and beasts, and they aided him… and from that time forth he ate no flesh nor slew any living thing that was not in the service of Morgoth.”
Beren “did not fear death, but only captivity, and being bold and desperate he escaped both death and bonds; and the deeds of lonely daring he acheived were noised abroad throughout Beleriand, and the tale of them came even into Doriath.”
His deeds became so legendary that Orcs would flee instead of standing up against him if he were near. Finally, Morgoth became distraught that a man was causing such havoc in a land he was supposed to be in control of, so he ordered Sauron to flood the land with his armies to flush Beren out. “Sauron brought werewolves, fell beasts inhabited by dreadful spirits that he had imprisoned in their bodies.”
Dorthonian “was now become filled with evil, and all clean things were departed from it.” Sauron’s plan to find him didn’t work, but the land had become so overrun that Beren fled south, “There it was put into his heart that he would go down into the Hidden Kingdom” of Doriath.
“Terrible was his southward journey” through Ered Gorgoroth, where so many others had perished in that land “where the sorcery of Sauron and the power of Melian came together.“
Beren was known for many great deeds during his lifetime, and “that journey is not accounted least among the great deeds… but he spoke of it to no one after, lest the horror return to his mind.” That region is one of horror in Beleriand, save only for Angband itself. “There spiders of the fell race of Ungoliant abode, spinning their unseen webs in which all living things were snared; and monsters wandered there that were born in the long dark before the sun, hunting silently with many eyes.”
Imagine wandering through a land filled with creatures like Shelob from Return of the King and other creatures whose sole purpose was to destroy all that came from the light. This evil land survived independently from Morgoth because Ungoliant was the only creature Morgoth truly feared, yet Beren, with all his might,uuj]1 made his way through unscathed.
He finally “passed through the mazes that Melian wove about the kingdom of Thingol… grey and bowed as with many years of woe.”
But it was there in the forests of Doriath his journey was complete because “wandering in the summer in the woods of Neldoreth he came upon Lúthien, daughter of Thingol and Melian, at a time of evening under moonrise.“
The two star-crossed lovers have finally met. Join me next week as we discover how they last through a disapproving father and a curse that will come to doom Doriath.
Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin, Conclusion
“But at length, after the fall of Fingolfin, Sauron, greatest and most terrible of the servants of Morgoth, who in the Sindarin tongue was named Tol Sirion. Sauron was become now a sorcerer of dreadful power, master of shadows and of phantoms, foul in wisdom, cruel in strength, misshaping what he touched, twisting what he ruled, lord of werewolves; his dominion was torment.“
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we shift perspective from the Eldar battle against Morgoth to the war between Men and the Dark Lord, while we also get a taste of the Sauron, the Dark Lord of the future.
This portion of the chapter begins with a page break. It immediately switches to speaking about Barahir and his last stand against Morgoth with his minions in the woods of Dorthonian (the land to the north, just beneath the wastes of Ard-Galen). One of the objectives I’m looking for while reading through this book is to find the connectors with the Third Age and see how Beleriand became the Middle-earth we all know. This chapter speaks of Minas Tirith being near Tol Sirion, the river that flows by the mountains of Dorthonian and Mithrim. Dorthonian was a land once rife with greenery and trees, but with the Dagor Bragollach, or the Battle of Sudden Flame, Dorthonian turned into a place of ash. Tolkien tells us in this second half of the chapter that Sauron “took Minas Tirith by assault.” If we remember the map of Middle-earth in the Third Age, Minas Tirith was in Gondor, on the border of Mordor, land protected by mountains on all sides. Could it be that the once Elven stronghold of Dorthonian became Mordor?
It seems so as the Noldor and Men of Beleriand were forced out of their lands to the south, and “Many of the Noldor and the Sindar they (orcs) took captive and led to Angband, and made them thralls, forcing them to use their skill and their knowledge in the service of Morgoth.“
Much of Morgoth’s success in this late battle came from the work he seeded early on. His lies sowed misinformation and strife, making them distrustful of their kin. Hereafter Dagor Bragollach, Morgoth used these Elves and Men “…for his evil purposes, and feigning to give them liberty sent them abroad, but he chained their will to him, and they strayed only to come back to him again.“
These thralls proved his earlier lies that the Noldor couldn’t trust one another, so they stayed locked behind their doors. Doriath and Gondolin remained strong as the other kingdoms weakened. But through all of this, “To Men Morgoth feigned pity.” Many men went to Morgoth because they believed his sincerity, even while the world around them burned.
Some men stood and fought through all this deceit while the Noldor retreated; the Haladin, human friends of Thingol, sent word to him. As a result, the Elvish marchwarderns from Gondolin, led by Beleg Strongbow, and the Haladin (also known as the People of Haleth) destroyed the Orc-legion in the northwest.
But where the Eldar were a peaceful, non-violent people (with the exception of the Noldor), the Men of Beleriand were born without the light of the Valar and knew that they had to fight for what they needed to survive.
The disparity of existence led to strife between some bands of elves and men because the elves believed that they needed to be reserved. So it shows in the tale of Húrin and Huor (there is a book that we will eventually get to, which is a narrative tale of the Children of Húrin) as they went to a battle to save a company of men who were “cut off from the rest” at the Ford of Brithiach. They fought hard and valiantly but “would have been taken or slain, but for the power of Ulmo, that was still strong in the Sirion.“
Remember in “The Fellowship of the Ring” when Arwen takes Frodo after being stabbed by the Morgul blade on Weathertop? She says a prayer to Ulmo, and the waters rise (in the form of Horses) and wipe out the Nine Black riders as they pursue. This scene frames my concept of how Ulmo saved Húrin and Huor (who was merely 13 in this battle).
But Ulmo, though he loved the residents of Beleriand the most, was not the only Valar who would help. Thorondor, the King of the Eagles, created at the hand of Manwë, came down and brought the two men to Turgon, who housed them in Gondolin.
Thorondor will be familiar to everyone because he was the Great Eagle who came to Frodo and Sam’s rescue in “The Return of the King” and saved them from the cliffs of Mount Doom after they threw the ring into the fire.
The battle raged on, and many Men and Elves died at the hands of Morgoth as Turgon kept Gondolin’s gates shut tight. Turgon had “received his guests well,” (Húrin and Huor) but because these Men grew without consciously knowing of the love and assistance of the Valar, they were angry and anxious to get back out and help their kin in the fight. So when they approached Turgon and his attendants, the King gave them surprising grace:
“The King’s grace is greater than you know, and the law is become less stern than aforetime; or else no choice would be given you but to abide to your life’s end.“
Turgon never let anyone leave for fear that they would reveal the secret location of Gondolin, but the Men held to their word, not even telling their family where they had been for the past months, thus strengthening the bond between Elf and Man.
But Turgon saw the writing on the wall and sent secret messengers to Valinor to ask for the succor of the Valar. Still, Valinor remained hidden from the exiled Noldor, holding to their word that the Noldor would never step foot on the shores of the Grey Havens. “Therefore none of the messengers of Turgon came into the West, and many were lost and few returned, but the doom of Gondolin drew nearer.”
“Rumour came to Morgoth of these things, and he was unquiet amid his victories, and he desired greatly to learn tidings of Felagund and Turgon.” So he sent out spies to learn where Nargothrond was hidden and understand where Turgon hid. But unfortunately, the secret of Gondolin still had not been released, so Morgoth didn’t even know of the great city’s existence.
His desire to eradicate the Noldor led him to send another wave of Orcs to wipe them out completely. “He sent a great force against Hithlum. The attack on the passes of the Shadowy Mountains was bitter, and in the siege of Eithel Sirion Galdor the tall, Lorn of Dor-Lómin, was slain by an arrow.“
The battle was pitch, and it looked grim for Hithlum until “the ships of Círdan sailed in great strength up the firth of Dengrist, and in the hour of need the Elves of the Falas came upon the host of Morgoth from the west.“
They pushed the host back to Angband, and in the absence of a ruler in Dor-Lómin, Húrin, son of Galdor the tall, took over and ruled while serving Fingon.
“His wife was Morwen Eledhwen, daughter of Baragund of the house of Bëor, she who fled from Dorthonian with Rían daughter of Belegund and Emeldir the mother of Beren.“
These “outlaws of Dorthonian” were accompanied by Beren, and Tolkien tells us that tale in the next chapter. Tolkien called the story of Beren and Lúthien “The Heart of The Silmarillion,” which makes me very excited to reach that chapter finally!
Join me next week as we start the journey “Of Beren and Lúthien.”
Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin
“Thus Ard-Galen perished, and fire devoured its grasses; and it became a burned and desolate waste, full of choking dust, barren and lifeless. Thereafter its name was changed, and it was called Anfauglith, the Gasping Dust. Many charred bones had there their roofless grave; for many of the Noldor perished in that burning, who were caught by the running flame and could not fly to the hills. The heights of Dorthonian and Ered Wethrin held back the fiery torrents, but their woods upon the slopes that looked towards Angband were all kindled, and the smoke wrought confusion among the defenders. Thus began the fourth of the great battles, Dagor Bragollach, the Battle of Sudden Flame.”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we tell a tale of Hubris and horror; as the table is set, the players are in their places, and there is nothing left to do but act.
We begin by learning that Fingolfin, “the King of the North, and High King of the Noldor,” wanted to assault Angband and eliminate Morgoth. So he brought a council of Elves and Men together but could not get enough support to act against the horrid Valar in the mountains of Thangorodrim to the north.
But while this council was in session, during the sixth generation of men, Morgoth had similar hopes; “For Morgoth had long prepared his force in secret, while ever the malice of his heart grew greater, and his hatred of the Noldor more bitter; and he desired not only to end his foes but to destroy also and defile the lands that they had taken and made fair.“
Recall that Morgoth was an aspect of Ilúvatar, and his intentions started pure. His story is that of Lucifer the Lightbringer. He was an angel (Valar) who followed their own way, their own vision, and it led to their downfall. They both fell so far that nothing remained but a burning hatred for those they were supposed to love.
Tolkien also uses the imagery of fire, which Satan was known for, from the scene in Revelations where he was cast into the fire. Here, Tolkien takes that concept and gives the power of flame to Morgoth: “Then suddenly Morgoth sent forth great rivers of flame that ran down swifter than Balrogs from Thangorodrim, and poured over all the plain; and the Mountains of Iron belched forth fires of many poisonous hues, and the fume of them stank upon the air and was deadly.”
That quote leads directly into the passage which opens this essay, and we see that the horror of Morgoth’s wrath is spreading down to Dorthonian, where the seat of Turgon, Gondolin, resides.
And forgive the excessive quotes, but Tolkien describes the effects of the Battle of Sudden Flame better than I ever could:
“In the front of that fire came Glaurung the golden, father of dragons, in his full might; and in his train were Balrogs, and behind them came the black armies of the Orcs in multitudes such as the Noldor had never before seen or imagined. And they assaulted the fortresses of the Noldor, and broke the leaguer about Angband, and slew whereever they found them the Noldor and their allies, Grey-elves and Men. Many of the stoutest of the foes of Morgoth were destroyed in the first days of the war, bewildered and dispersed and unable to muster their strength. War ceased not wholly ever again in Beleriand; but the Battle of Sudden Flame is held to have ended with the coming of spring, when the onslaught of Morgoth grew less.”
The Elves were in a bad state. The sons of Finarfin took the heaviest losses, particularly at the Pass of Sirion, so much so that King Finrod Felagund was cut off and would have died if Barahir, a man, brother of Bregolas of the house of Bëor, didn’t bring a company of men to come and save him and take him back to Nargothrond.
In the east, Fingolfin and Fingon retreated to Hithlum “because of the strength and height of the Shadowy Mountains, which withstood the torrent of fire, and by the valour of the Elves and the Men of the North, which neither Orc nor Balrog could yet overcome, Hithlum remained unconquered.”
But further east on the other side of Dorthonian, Celegorm and Curufin were getting slaughtered and lost the pass of Aglon to Morgoth. So those elves fled south to Nargothrond and the strength of Finrod Felgund.
It was only Maedros who stood up Morgoth’s armies, as he held the Hill of Himring just to the east of the Pass of Aglon. It was Maedros who had been captured and tortured by Morgoth, only to later be saved by his kin and the Eagles. Maedros called upon that anger and held fast against the horrible armies.
But he became the sole outpost as Glaurung appeared at Maglor’s gap to the east, and Morgoth’s armies took all the lands down into eastern Beleriand down to Mount Dolmed, burning and pillaging the land.
Concurrently, “…news came to Hithlum that Dorthonian was lost and the sons of Finarfin overthrown, and that the sons of Fëanor were driven from their lands.“
Fingolfin saw these kingdoms falling, and his kin dying. Anger over took his body and he rode out with mighty speed over the barred and burned lands, all the way to Angband, and when he got there he challenged Morgoth to single combat. Morgoth begrudingly accepted and they fought like no other fight written in Tolkien (I’ll have it down below for you to enjoy!).
Eventually Morgoth overtook Fingolfin and slay him in the shadow of Angband, thus ending the reign of one of the mighty Noldor kings. And there he would have stayed, as Morgoth threw his body to the wolves, but Thorondor, King of Eagles came down, scratched Morgoth’s face and took up the body of Fingolfin to bring back to the Grey Havens.
We are only halfway through this epic chapter through all of these battles. So I’m going to go a bit slower and give a few more quotes so we can enjoy the events of the end of the First Age.
Join me next week as we conclude “Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin.”
Post Script: The Battle between Morgoth and Fingolfin.
“Therefore Morgoth came, climbing slowly from his subterranean throne, and the rumour of his feet was like thunder underground. And he issued forth clad in black armour; and he stood before the King like a tower, iron-crowned, and his vast shield, sable unblazoned, cast a shadow over him like a stormcloud. But Fingolfin gleamed beneath it as a star; for his mail was overlaid with silver, and his blue shield was set with crystals, and he drew his sword Ringil, that glittered like ice.
Then Morgoth hurled aloft Grond, the Hammer of the Underworld, and swung it down like a bolt of thunder. But Fingolfin sprang aside, and Grond rent a mighty pit in the earth, whence smoke and fire darted. Many times Morgoth essayed to smite him, and each time Fingolfin leaped away, as a lightning shoots from under a dark cloud; and he wounded Morgoth with seven wounds, and seven times Morgoth gave a cry of anguish, whereat the hosts of Angband fell upon their faces in dismay, and the cries echoed in the Northlands.
But at last the King grew weary, and Morgoth bore down his shield upon him. Thrice he was crushed to his knees, and thrice arose again and bore up his broken sheild and stricken helm. But the earth was all rent and pitted about him, and he stumbled and fell backward before the feet of Morgoth; and Morgoth set his left foot upon his neck, and the weight of it was like a fallen hill. Yet with his last and desperate stroke Fingolfin hewed the foot with Ringil, and the blood gushed forth black and smoking and filled the pits of Grond.
Thus died Fingolfin, High King of the Noldor, most proud and valient of the Elven-kings of old.”
You can also listen to the battle below! Please give him a like and a follow!
“Fëanor was a master of words, and his tongue had great power over hearts when he would use it; and that night he made a speech before the Noldor which they ever remembered. Fierce and fell were his words, and filled with anger and price; and hearing them the Noldor were stirred to madness. His wrath and his hate were given most to Morgoth, and yet well nigh all that he said came from the very lies of Morgoth himself; but he was distraught with grief for the slaying of his father, and with anguish for the rape of the Silmarils.”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we delve into the mindset of the Noldor as they divest themselves from the rest of the Eldar. We’ll also catch a glimpse of a very well-known Noldor, and we’ll get a greater understanding of Fëanor’s motivations.
We begin this chapter right where the last one left off. Melkor and Ungoliant killed the Trees of Valinor and fled Aman. Yavanna, the Valar who created the Trees, mourns them but comes to realize, “The Light of the Trees has passed away and lives now only in the Silmarils of Fëanor. Foresighted was he!”
Yavanna asks him to give up his Silmarils because “had I but a little of that light I could recall life to the Trees.”
He was excited at this prospect, but many Valar pressured Fëanor to relinquish his prized creations. Still, Fëanor ponders this option until the deception of Melkor, which we learned of in chapter 7, comes back into Fëanor’s mind; it was all a trick. Wasn’t Melkor, now Morgoth, Valar as well? Was this just an elaborate scheme to get Fëanor to give up his creation?
But it was not a trick, and in the darkness, Morgoth returned and “slew Finwë King of the Noldor before his doors, and spilled the first blood in the Blessed Realm.” This single act solidified Morgoth’s transition to evil as he broke into the stronghold of Formenos and stole the Silmarils.
He then fled with Ungoliant across the frozen strait of Helcaraxë, which separated Aman (Valinor) from Middle-earth. Ungoliant demanded that Morgoth feed her the gems he stole, but he held back the Silmarils, and as punishment to him, “she enmeshed him in a web of clinging thongs to strangle him.” He was stuck there in a land which would be called Lammoth, “for the echoes of his voice dwelt there ever after, so that any who cried aloud in that land awoke them, and all the waste between the hills and the sea was filled with a clamour as voices in anguish.”
These cries woke the Balrogs who rested beneath Angband (Morgoth’s domain) and came with their flame whips to “smote the webs of Ungoliant asunder” and frightening her enough to flee.
She took shelter in Nan Dungortheb in the north of Middle-earth (then Beleriand) and mated with the giant spider creatures which lived there. After that, it is unknown what happened to Ungoliant, though “some have said that she ended long ago, when in her uttermost famine she devoured herself at last.“
On the other hand, Morgoth fled to Angband and grew his army of Orcs (made from corrupting Elves) and demons and beasts and made himself a crown of iron which he inlaid the Silmarils.
“His hands were burned black by the touch of those hallowed jewels, and black they remained ever after; nor was he ever free from the pain of the burning, and the anger of the pain.“
This pain fueled his hatred and made him an even more significant threat to the tenants of Ea.
Here we catch a page break and switch gears. Here, the quote that begins this essay appears, and we spend the rest of the chapter discovering why the Noldor left Valinor and the strife that arose amongst them.
What is interesting about this chapter is that Fëanor, who hates Morgoth more than anything else in the world, falls right into his trappings. All the lies Morgoth whispered to the Noldor somehow seep into his mind, and he stands before his kin and starts a revolution. He does from anger because of the loss of his father and the loss of his creations, the Silmarils. Remember in the chapter that describes the design of the Silmarils. These gems have much the same hold over people as the One Ring does in the Third Age. We have not yet seen the power that they can produce, but could it be that the loss of these gems has clouded Fëanor’s mind? Could this be their power represented without Tolkien coming right out and telling us?
In any case, Fëanor rallies his kin to take “…an oath which none shall break, and none shall take, by the name even of Ilùvatar, calling the Everlasting Dark upon them if they kept it not; and Manwë they named witness, and Varda, and the hallowed mountain of Taniquetil, vowing to pursue with vengeance and hatred to the ends of the World Vala, Demon Elf or Man as yet unborn, or any creature, great or small, good or evil, that time should bring forth unto the end of days, whoso should hold or take or keep a Silmaril from their possession.”
But there was friction amongst their ranks. The sons of Fëanor were staunchly in his corner. Still, Fëanor’s brothers, Finarfin and Fingolfin, disagreed with his harsh sentiments, but they stayed true to their course since they had already joined him in their departure. So they left Valinor, but they and their host left the company of Fëanor and his followers.
This chapter is much more accessible than previous chapters because the dialogue reveals Noldor’s desires. First, they bicker and argue about the best way to do things, and eventually, they split; though the endgame of their intentions is to destroy Morgoth, they go about it differently.
Fëanor uses some of his firey drive and uses the questionable decisions his wife left him for and stole the only ships which can make their way to Beleriand. In the process, they murder some of the Teleri who created the ships, only to flee the land.
His kin is left with no other option but to take the same path as Morgoth and Ungoliant and travel across the frozen pass, Helcaraxë. Unfortunately, many of them die from the passage through the icy straits, which deepened their disdain for Fëanor.
The Noldor became outcasts because of this sundering. They left the land they struggled so hard to get to because of misunderstanding, fear, and desire, and we are left wondering what is to come of the Noldor afterward because of a passage delivered by Mandos, a herald of Manwë:
“Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains. On the house of Fëanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also. Their Oath shall drive them, and yet betray them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue. To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be forever.”
Some tales delve deeper into every transgression the Noldor did during this time. They are collected in a “lament which is named Noldolantë, the Fall of the Noldor.” Still, I’m beginning to wonder if these little offshoots are actually written down in other books like “The Book of Lost Tales” or if this is just a little flavor of history that Tolkien wanted to tell but never got around to completing. In any case, I’m very excited to see where the story goes next because we’ve transcended the Biblical style voice the beginning of this book held and have transitioned into a more storyteller fashion.
Will we finally get to see the fate of Fëanor and the Noldor next week? Join me as we review “Of the Sindar.”
I promised that we’d see a familiar face, and I was shocked at the character-building Tolkien was able to instill in a single paragraph:
“Galadriel, the only woman of the Noldor to stand that day tall and valiant among the contending princes, was eager to be gone. No oaths she swore, but the words of Fëanor concerning Middle-earth had kindled in her heart, for she yearned to see the wide unguarded lands and to rule there a realm at her own will.“
Galadriel held a wonder of the wider world to see, experience, and travel. Her curiosity about what life truly means drives her to leave Valinor to go to Beleriand.
It’s more than that, however. Galadriel wanted to be a queen in her own right. She had grown up and seen how the Noldor clung to history and tradition, even to their detriment. This was Galadriel’s time to make a mark. Unfortunately, I’ve not seen her past outside of the books and movies, and it’s been so long since I’ve read the books that I’m sure I’m missing something there, but even so, I hope she is a feature in the remaining story.
“The ring passed to Isildur, who had this one chance to destroy Evil forever. But the hearts of men are easily corrupted. And the ring of power has a will of its own. It betrayed Isildur to his death. And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend, legend became myth and for two and a half thousand years, the ring passed out of all knowledge until, when chance came, it ensnared a new bearer. The ring came to the creature Gollum who took it deep into the tunnels of the misty mountains and there it consumed him. The ring brought to Gollum unnatural long life. For five hundred years, it poisoned his mind. And in the gloom of Gollum’s cave, it waited.“
Welcome back! This week is not exactly a Blind Read, but more of an integration of other media so that we can gain a much more full and expansive understanding of what Tolkien was striving to create.
Tolkien was first and foremost a professor and linguist, and because of this, he spent much of his time in his head creating and developing languages and histories. The writing was his escapism. A young Tolkien went to war during World War I and fought along the Western Front. He fought in many battles, including the formative Battle of the Somme, which would eventually influence his writing style along with his staunch Catholicism.
During his time in the war, the mythology of Middle-earth was born. Tolkien decided to create a mythology for his homeland, England, during convalescence. He put pen to paper and began what is now known as “The Fall of Gondolin,” part of “The Book of Lost Tales.”
From there, things blossomed into other fragments and poems that would eventually become “The Silmarillion” (we will be getting to the histories eventually, even though there are supposedly contradictions and reiterations between the stories).
The Silmarillion is the basis of everything that came after, beginning with “The Hobbit.” and eventually “The Lord of the Rings.” What makes Tolkien more lasting and more entrenched in the ethos of public consciousness is the depth of his world and, thus, his histories.
Tolkien was always going to write The Lord of the Rings. However, at the behest of Tolkien’s publisher for “The Hobbit,” it became the novel that we know and not some dry history that’s as inaccessible as “The Silmarillion,” but the brilliant story that’s an extension of the history he had already created. The Lord of the Rings is the Third Age of Arda, whereas the “Silmarillion” is Arda from the beginning of time (The First Age).
The Fellowship of the Ring begins with the backstory of The Second Age, the first battle between the Maiar acolyte of Morgoth, Sauron, and his creation of the Rings of Power, or more specifically, The One Ring.
The opening quote of this essay is the passage that has stayed with me since watching it for the first time. “Some things that should not have been forgotten were lost.” Upon rewatching The Fellowship of the Ring, I was trying to watch it through the lens of the histories. How well did Jackson adhere to the story while at the same time honoring the history behind the tale? The answer is obvious because of the popularity of the movies. Peter Jackson’s team gave little hints about the history in the “Introductions” to the movies (I.E., the quote above). You would miss small moments if you were not paying attention and would not notice if you knew anything about the histories.
The first significant connection is with the Silmarils. The jewels of power that Fëanor created had a call to power, much like the One ring does in The Fellowship. However, the Silmarils do not show up, so what is the connection? It is not the back story with Ilsildur either, because he was a man of the Second Age. However, it is with the Elves of both Rivendell and Lothlórien. They are all ready to accept their destinies and head to the “Gray Havens,” otherwise known as Valinor. The tale of Middle-earth (or, even better, the larger world of Arda) begins with the Silmarillion, with Ilùvatar creating the Valar, and then later the Elves and Men. From what I have seen thus far in the Silmarillion, the Elves have an overwhelming draw to Valinor. Despite the rifts created by jealousy, Valinor is the Elvenhome.
There is much-maligned of the Elves’ decision not to take part in the battle for Middle-earth. However, by looking at things through Elven eyes (Elrond has an excellent little speech when asked to take part that lightly touches on this point), you can see that Middle-earth is not, and never indeed has been, their home. There is a slight threat that Sauron could conquer all of Middle-earth and encroach upon Valinor, but Morgoth could not even succeed in this aspect, so the thought is that his successor does not stand a chance of it. So why should the elves bother putting their lives at risk?
In the extended version, there is a scene that shows Frodo and Sam watching from the forest as wood elves sing during their exodus to Valinor. It is a shame this scene was cut from the regular version because it shows the reasoning behind the elves’ decision not to fight (to which they later decide to help). They know that the world has moved beyond their time. They are no longer the lords and ladies of Middle-earth; it has now truly become the time of men.
There is only one thing that stands out to me about the history of Middle-earth as they pass through the generations. Galadriel discusses the Rings of Power in the opening monologue and mentions that three are given (or made by?) to the Elves. I have to wonder how this correlates to the Silmarils since there were three of those crystals. Are the rings supposed to be consequent to the Silmarils? Are they supposed to hold similar power? I feel we will find the answer to that as we delve deeper into the history of Middle-earth.
Join me next week as we cover the next chapter in the Silmarillion: “Of The Flight of the Noldor.”
“Then the Unlight of Ungoliant rose up even to the roots of the Trees, and Melkor sprang upon the mound; and with his black spear he smote each Tree to its core, wounded them deep, and their sap poured forth as it were their blood, and was spilled upon the ground. But Ungoliant sucked it up, and going then from Tree to Tree she set her black beak to their wounds, till they were drained; and the poison of Death that was in her went into their tissues and withered them, root, branch, and leaf; and they died.“
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we transcend mythology and enter into the true darkness of Middle-earth history.
With Melkor’s rise and an introduction of a surprising and terrible new antagonist, we get a return of Christianity in this chapter and with it, comes the darkest twist of Middle-earth’s history.
We begin this chapter centering upon Melkor, who has become even more adept at fooling the denizens of Valinor:
“Thereafter the watch was redoubled along the northern fences of Aman; but to no purpose, for ere ever the pursuit set out Melkor had turned back, and in secrecy passed away far to the south.“
Melkor finds his way to Avathar, “that narrow land lay south of the Bay of Eldamar,” where he approaches Ungoliant, a giant spiderlike creature who is the ancestor of Shelob of “Return of the King” fame.
Coming across this creature, I wondered where she originated. The Valar created the world with their song, so how could something like a giant evil spider come into being? It turns out that Melkor had a hand in this as well. Suppose you remember that Melkor created the Balrog through his corruption of the Maiar (the assistants of the Valar). It seems that Ungoliant “was one of those that he corrupted to his service.” So just like the Balrog, Ungoliant was not a Giant Spider but transitioned to become a demon much like the Balrog. Still, because she lived amongst the creatures of the forests and mountains, she took the visage of a giant spider instead of the beasts of fire the Balrog became.
These two evil creatures teamed up and created what was known as the Darkening of Valinor, both in metaphor and reality. The quote to begin this essay shows the two killing the Trees of Valinor, blanketing out their light, and blanketing the hope of the Valar.
The most exciting aspect of this chapter is the depiction of the two of them, which is the correlation to Satan (Ironically called the Lightbringer). Melkor, ruled by jealousy, is not outright evil, but because he felt slighted his anger and jealousy grow and eventually devolve him into the demon he is destined to be. Beyond that, we’ve only seen from him as a trickster, much like the demons of other religions and mythologies. This chapter has a few choice quotes to indicate his nature, such as “Thus did the great thief set his lure for the lesser.” (meaning Ungoliant) and another which describes Ungoliant, but has an indication that it duplicates for Melkor: “she hungered for the light and hated it.”
This duplicity perfectly encapsulates the transition from good to evil, but with that sliver of hope, that sliver of light, means that one is not truly evil. Just as Satan was born an Angel and fell because of his jealousies, Melkor was born a Valar of the light of Ilùvatar, but fell to darkness because he believed he deserved more. It was here that Melkor decided that he had indeed chosen his path. The path of darkness instead of light. The Valar could take on any avatar they wished and it was at this point, just before the darkening of Valinor, that Melkor “…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.“
But even as darkness comes, and sometimes because darkness comes, the most light shines through. During this time of Darkening, Fëanor made up with his brother Fingolfin to bring the world back together. It was when “The Light failed, but the Darkness that followed was more than loss of light.” It was a time when “all song ceased.” Seeing this, the death of the Trees of Valinor is what spurred on the fellowship of the light.
This light, at a time when Melkor’s “vengeance was achieved.”
Join me next week as we take a look at the Extended Edition of “The Fellowship of the Rings” and tie it to these histories!
There is a mention of another history I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for; The Aldudénië. It is not present in this book, and I hesitate to look forward to other books of the Histories because I don’t want to spoil the nature of the Blind Read, but this is supposedly the tale of the time of the Darkening of Valinor: “So the great darkness fell upon Valinor. Of the deeds of that day, much is told in the Aldudénië, that Elemmírë of the Vanyar made and is known to all the Eldar.” Look out for it in the future!
Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor
“Yet be sure of this: the hour approaches, and within this age our hope shall be revealed, and the Children shall awake. Shall we then leave the lands of their dwelling desolate and full of evil? Shall they walk in darkness while we have light? Shall they call Melkor lord while Manwë sits upon Taniquetil?“
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week the First of Ilùvatar’s Children (Elves) awaken, Melkor is thwarted, and we get some in-depth understanding of the creation of Middle-Earth, its peoples, and its antagonists.
We begin this chapter of the history of Middle-earth by finding that the Valar grew comfortable with their creations. Melkor was defeated, and they put him out of their minds, staying away from his lands and “the evil things that he had perverted.” Melkor created a stronghold, commanded by his lieutenant, Sauron (sound familiar?), named Angband. It was here we find the perverted things including the Maiar who followed him: “those spirits who first adhered to him in the days of his splendour, and became most like him in his corruption: their hearts were of fire, but they were cloaked in darkness, and terror went before them; they had whips of flame. Balrogs they were named in Middle-earth in later days.”
This is where we get the opening quote of this essay. The Valar, on their seats in Valinor, had a great debate on what to do with Middle-earth and the impending Awakening of the first Children of Ilùvatar, the Elves.
Varda, Manwë’s spouse, decided that the Elves should not be born into the darkness that blanketed Middle-earth, so she created the stars (which is why the Elves then called her Elentári in their tongue means ‘Queen of Stars’). I’ll leave the passage for this in the postscript because several names aren’t pertinent to this portion, but I have a sneaking suspicion they will be later!
Anyway, the Elves woke next to Cuiviénen (a lake in Middle-earth, otherwise known as “The Water of Awakening“), and the first thing they saw were the beautiful stars and “Long they dwelt in their first home by the water under the stars...” They even developed their own speech, then naming themselves the Quendi, “signifying those that speak with voices” as the Valar had no need for voice.
These Children of Ilùvatar were “stronger and greater than they have since become;” and the Valar decided that they needed to get these children to join them in Valinor, so Oromë had them follow him back, and those that did he named the Eldar, or the people of the stars.
But why didn’t they all follow Oromë, you ask? Melkor put stories into their heads to scare them off from the great hunter. Reports of “a dark Rider upon his wild horse that pursued those that wandered to take and devour them.” Melkor was able to ensnare some of these unfortunate Elves by this deception, and “those of the Quendi who came into the hands of Melkor, ere Utumno was broken, were put there in prison, and by slow arts of cruelty were corrupted and enslaved; and thus Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orcs in envy and mockery of the Elves, of whom they were afterwards the bitterest foes.“
So Melkor created Orcs from the Elves, but not just from the Elves… from the Quendi, who were stronger and greater than what the Elves later became. So it makes sense why the Orcs are thought of as so terrifying.
Understanding that Melkor was gaining in power the Valar decided that they must do something about it, so they decided to ride out against Melkor and capture him; to save the Quendi from the spread of his darkness. Apparently little is known of this battle because it didn’t take place in the view of the Quendi, except that “the Earth shook and groaned beneath them, and the water moved, and in the north there were lights as of mighty fires.”
The battle was so savage that the shape of the land itself was altered permanently, but eventually Melkor “was bound with the chain Angainor that Aulë had wrought, and led captive; and the world had peace for a long age.” The Valar discovered and defeated many of the ranks of Melkor, but they never did find his lieutenant, Sauron.
The world was at peace, and after long years of discussion, the Valar decided that the Quendi should join the Valar in Valinor far to the west. They sent for Ingwë, Finwë, and Elwë, who were ambassadors of the Elves and later became their kings, but free will got in the way.
“Then befell the first sundering of the Elves.”
The kindreds of these ambassadors followed Oromë to the west and became known as the Eldar. The ones who stayed behind loved their home of Middle-earth, the seas, the trees, and the stars and they refused the summons. These Elves became known as the Avari, or the Unwilling.
But beyond this first sundering, even the Eldar split as well. The three different ambassadors had their own followers, each with their own predilections. The followers of Ingwë were known as the Vanyar, or the Fair Elves, who are closest to the Valar and few men have ever seen.
Then there are the Noldor, the people of Finwë, otherwise known as the Deep Elves, who were known as great fighters and laborers.
Lastly there were the followers of Elwë Singollo (Singollo signifies Greymantle. I have a feeling we’ll find more out about that next week!), who were named the Teleri, who “tarried” on the roads and were the last to appear in Valinor. They are known as the Sea Elves, or Falmari, because of their love for the sea and making music beside the breaking waves.
These three kindreds of Elves who made it to Valinor are called the Calaquendi, or Elves of the Light (or a very literal translation, “Those who speak of the light“)
These Elves do not take much part in the story of the Silmarillion, but rather those they left behind, those that the “Calaquendi call the Umanyar, since they came never to the land of Aman and the Blessed Realm.” These Umanyar and the Moriquendi (or the Elves of Darkness who came later and “never beheld the Light that was before the Sun and Moon.” are who the remaining history of Middle-earth pertains to.
The Nandor, who were led by Lenwë and “forsook the westward march, and led away numerous people, southwards down the great river, and they passed out of the knowledge of their kin for long years were past.” until years later Denethor (not to be confused with Denethor II the steward of Gondor from the Third Age. Aka, father to Boromir and Faramir), son of Lenwë, decided to lead his people west over the mountains and into Beleriand (the westernmost land of Middle-earth).
We have finally gotten past the rich history of gods and angels and are getting into the creation of Middle-earth as we know it. I’m most curious to see where the coming of men, the second of the Children of Ilùvatar, come into play as the Elves begin to build their roots in the land. Do you have an idea of where we’re headed?
Let’s find out next week as we discover “Of Thingol and Melian.“
As promised, here is your passage…
“Then Varda went forth from the council, and she looked out from the height of Taniquetil, and beheld the darkness of Middle-earth beneath the innumerable stars, faint and far. Then she began a great labor, greatest of all the works of the Valar since their coming into Arda. She took the silver dews from the vats of Telperion, and there-with she made new stars and brighter against the coming of the First-born; wherefore she whose name out of the Deeps of Time and the labours of Eä was Tintallë, the Kindler, was called after by the Elves Elentári, Queen of the Stars. Carnil and Luinil, Nénar and Lumbar, Alcarinquë and Elemmírë she wrought in that time, and many other of the ancient stars she gathered together and set as signs in the heavens of Arda: Wilwarin, Telumendil, Soronúmë, and Anarríma; and Menelmacar with his shining belt, that forbodes the Last Battle that shall be at the end of days. And high in the North as a challenge to Melkor she set the crown of seven mighty stars to swing, Valacirca, the Sickle of the Valar and sign of doom.”
“But I will not suffer this: that these should come before the Firstborn of my design, nor that thy impatience should be rewarded. They shall sleep now in the darkness under stone, and shall not come forth until the Firstborn have awakened upon Earth; and until that time thou and they shall wait, though long it seem. But when the time comes I will awaken them, and they shall be to thee as children; and often strife shall arise between thine and mine, the children of my adoption and the children of my choice.”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we continue on the journey through the Quenta Silmarillion, learn about a few new races of beings, and discover the evolution of life in Middle-earth!
This second chapter is short and answers a question I’d been wondering since we started the journey through this history: Where did Dwarves come from?
Through the first few chapters as we got to know the beginning of Middle-earth we came to understand that Ilùvatar created his own children, the Elves and Men. There were so many other races not represented here which had me questioning their origins, none more than Dwarves. The Dwarves of Middle-earth are a prideful and powerful bunch and knowing just a bit about their history with Elves, I wondered where and how they came into the story.
Well this chapter starts us off in the first sentence: “It is told that in their beginning the Dwarves were made by Aulë in the darkness of Middle-earth; for so greatly did Aulë desire the coming of the Children, to have learners to whom he could teach his lore and his crafts, that he was unwilling to await the fulfillment of the designs of Ilùvatar.“
So Aulë created the dwarves at the same time Elves and Man were being created, and “because the power of Melkor was yet upon the Earth” he made the Dwarves “stone-hard, stubborn, fast in friendship and in enmity.” He also made their lives long, longer than Men, but not eternal like the Elves.
When he created them (in the true fashion of Prometheus disobeying Zeus and giving humans fire), Ilùvatar was angered, because he had yet to finish creating his own children; but when Aulë showed that he was willing to smite them with his hammer, Ilùvatar took pity on them and we get the opening quote of this essay.
Aulë had promised the Dwarves they would sit at the End of the World with the Children of Ilùvatar, led by the Seven Father’s of Dwarves, “of whom Durin was the most renowned in after ages, father of that kindred most friendly to the Elves, whose mansions were at Khazad-dûm.” In case you don’t recognize this name from either the books or the movies, the better known name for Khazad-dûm is The Mines of Moria.
So now we know the Dwarves were created by Aulë as the “Second Born.” and were sequestered in Moria to await the coming of the First Born, aka the Children of Ilùvatar, aka Elves and Men.
But what of Yavanna? We’ve only spoken of Aulë and the chapter head has both of their names! Well, because Aulë kept his creations a secret even from Yavanna, the Dwarves ended up not caring much about her creations, instead, “they will love first the things made by their own hands, as doth their father. They will delve in the earth, and the things that grow and live upon the earth they will not heed.“
Yavanna was afraid for her great creation…nature. The bountiful trees and the beautiful forests were potentially in danger, because of the nature of Aulë, the smith, he instilled in his children that they should be desirous of making their own creations through industry. If Melkor got his desires into these industrial Dwarves, what was to stop them from cutting down Yavanna’s beautiful forests to use in their production?
Yavanna went to Manwë, the Valar of Wind and Sky and spoke her fears:
“Because my heart in anxious, thinking of the days to come. All my works are dear to me. Is it not enough that Melkor should have marred so many? Shall nothing that I have devised be free from the dominion of others?” They discussed it for a while until Manwë finally responded, “When the Children awake (the Dwarves), then the thought of Yavanna will awake also, and it will summon spirits from afar, and they will go among the kelvar (the fauna of Middle-earth) and the olvar (the flora of Middle-earth), and some will dwell therein, and be held in reverence, and their just anger shall be feared.”
This breath of spirits and life created two powerful and fascinating beings, The Great Eagles and the Ents. Yavanna was able to work with Manwë to build a defense system into her creations, thus bringing sentience to the Great Eagles (which you’ll remember from the end of The Lord of the Rings, when Gandalf speaks with them and gets them to assist in gathering up the Hobbits) and the Ents (Yay Treebeard!) as guardians, so that even if Melkor’s influence encroaches upon the Children (both first-born, Elves and Man, and Second Born, Dwarves) and they foster a desire to mar the land further than even Melkor was able to, these sentient beings would be there for protection.
We are finally getting a broader understanding of how the world came into being, but what transpired to bring the Children to wake into the world? Let’s find out next week as we unfurl “Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor.”
“Behind the walls of the Pelóri the Valar established their domain in that region which is called Valinor; and there were their houses, their gardens, and their towers. In that guarded land the Valar gathered great store of light and all the fairest things that were saved from the ruin; and many others yet fairer they made anew, and Valinor became more beautiful even than Middle-earth in the Spring of Arda; and it was blessed, for the Deathless dwelt there, and there naught faded nor withered, neither was there any stain upon flower or leaf in that land, nor any corruption or sickness in anything that lived; for the very stones and waters were hallowed.“
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we begin our pathway into the Quenta Silmarillion and learn of the beginning of the First Age, while getting some very useful backstory into the elves and man.
In the past few weeks we were introduced to the Valar and their predilections and abilities, which is imperative back story as we jump into the Silmarillion.
The story starts with mention of the First War, and if you remember, we don’t really know anything about it, because we’re getting everything from the Eldar, and the First War was before they came into their own in Arda. What we do know is that Melkor fought the Valar for control of the land, until Tulkas the Strong came down and “Melkor fled before his wrath and his laughter.“
With Melkor gone, at least temporarily, the Valar began to build Arda bringing “order to the seas and the lands and the mountains.” Once Yavanna planted seeds, the Valar realized they needed light to help life flourish, so Aulë “wrought two mighty lamps for the lighting of Middle-earth… One lamp they raised near the north of Middle-earth, and it was named Illuin; and the other was raised in the south, and it was named Ormal.”
The land flourished with the Valar and the light of the lamps, but Melkor had spies among the Maiar, “and because of the light of Illuin they did not perceive the shadow in the north that was cast from afar by Melkor.”
Because they didn’t notice Melkor, he came south and “began the delving and building of a vast fortress, deep under the Earth, beneath dark mountains… That stronghold was named Utumno.” His corruption spread from Utumno “and the Spring of Arda was marred.”
Another war broke out and Melkor “assailed the lights of Illuin and Ormal, and cast down their pillars and broke their lamps.” causing “destroying flame (which was) poured out over Earth,” scarring the land. The Valar were able to stop Melkor after this, but it was too late and “Thus ended the Spring of Arda.“
The Valar decided that there was no appropriate place to live, “Therefore they departed from Middle-earth and went to the land of Aman,” and to protect this land “they raised the Pelóri, the Mountains of Aman, highest upon Earth.” Upon the highest mountain Manwë (the Lord of Air and Winds) build his throne. “Taniquetil the Elves name that holy mountain.” Then we get the quote which opens this essay, and we understand that this land of Aman, had now become Valinor.
It was then, once they made their home in Valinor that Yavanna helped grow (through her song) the “Two Trees of Valinor;” Telperion and Laurelin. Telperion bloomed for six hours then stopped, then Laurelin bloomed for another six hours: “And each day of the Valar in Aman contained twelve hours, and ended with the second mingling of the lights, in which Laurelin was waning and Telperion was waxing.” It was a time of great joy for the Valar, to be free of Melkor and to continue to develop Valninor:
“Thus began the Days of the Bliss of Valinor; and thus began also the count of time.”
What significant about this is the aspect of time. The age of the Children of Ilùvatar was coming and the instance of time was it’s catalyst. The Elves are immortal, they “die not till the world dies, unless they are slain or waste in grief.” But men are mortal and they need to have a concept of time to understand what their life capability is. We’ll see more of this later in the essay.
But in this coming of the Children of Ilùvatar, Melkor still dwelt in Middle-earth, which is where the Children took up their home.
The Valar rarely came across Pelóri, but when they did they taught the Elves “the lore of all craftsmen: the weaver, the shaper of wood, and the worker in metals; and the tiller and husbandman also.” But it was the Noldor, the “most skilled of the Elves” whom were “the first to achieve the making of gems; and the fairest of all gems were the Silmarils, and they are lost.” I’m trying to take this one step at a time, but seeing as this history is called “The Silmarillion,” I’m sure they will come into play soon.
The Vanyar Elves were gifted the art of “song and poetry” by Manwë whom was named the “vicegerent of Ilùvatar, King of the world of Valar and Elves and Men, and the chief defense against the evil of Melkor.” he even wields a “scepter of sapphire, which the Noldor wrought for him.”
Then there was also Ulmo of the Oceans and seas. I’m going to give you a long passage and break it down, because to me, this is the most important passage in this chapter:
“In the deep places he gives thought to music great and terrible; and the echo of that music runs through all the veins of the world in sorrow and in joy; for if joyful is the fountain that rises in the sun, its springs are in the wells of sorrow unfathomed at the foundations of the Earth… And thus it was by the power of Ulmo that even under the darkness of Melkor life coursed still through many secret lodes, and the Earth did not die; and to all who were lost in that darkness or wandered far from the light of the Valar the ear of Ulmo was ever open; nor has he forsaken Middle-earth, and whatsoever may since have befallen of ruin or of change he has not ceased to take thought for it, and will not until the end of days.”
Not only is this passage poetic and beautiful, but it also gives form to the philosophy of Middle-earth as the personalities of the Valar form the very fabric of reality. There is and always will be a subset of people whom believe that the ideal of The Lord of the Rings is a power struggle between good and evil. Between happiness and sorrow. Between love and loss.
The end of the books and movies (as Frodo heads to Valinor) there is a certain forlorn sorrow, but infused within that thread is hope, and that’s what strikes me the most in this passage above. There is joyfulness, but that joyfulness is countered by “sorrow unfathomed.” The point is if there were only goodness, there would be no joyfulness. Men and Elves are the Children of Ilùvatar and thus are more open to emotion and feeling. The Valar only have a little bit. So if everything were always joyful, the point of joyfulness disappears because there is no counterpoint. It is only upon feeling sorrow that we understand what Joy truly is.
This sorrow does not mean the terror that Melkor had wrought, or even Sauron in The Lord of the Rings. This is speaking of the normal every day sorrow, and that comes along with the concept of time which the Valar created with the two great trees of Valinor. To burrow this down to brass tacks, it is the sorrow that Men have a finite time on Middle-earth that creates the joyfulness that they flourish off of. What Ulmo does is put the sorrow in “the foundations of earth” meaning both that it was around at earth’s inception, but it’s also deep in a well; deep in the earth; physically and metaphorically tying the song of the sorrow to Middle-earth as a place. Michael Ende used this concept to full effect in his Swamps of Sorrow of The Neverending Story.
But what is the point of having Men and Elves live on Middle-earth? The Elves “shall be fairest of all earthly creatures, and they shall have and shall conceive and bring forth more beauty that all my Children.” So the Elves are there to make Middle-earth a wonderous and beautiful place. But what of Men?
“Therefore he willed the hearts of Men should seek beyond the world and should find no rest therein; but they should have a virtue to shape their life, amid the powers and chances of the world, beyond the Music of the Ainur, which is as fate to all things else; and of their operation everything should be, in form and deed, completed, and the world fulfilled unto the last and smallest.“
For this the Elves fear Men, “for it seems to the Elves that Men resemble Melkor most of all the Ainur, although he has ever feared and hated them, even those that serve him.” The Elves are there for much the same reason the Valar were… to continue to make the world beautiful. Man was there to give direction and purpose. This is a powerful responsibility and it’s why many are corrupted during their journey, but it also gives rise to the joyful sorrow that one feels as they look out across the crashing waves and into the depths of the beautiful Ocean and it’s terrible wine dark composure.
Join me next week as we move onto chapter two and learn more of the Valar Aulë and Yavanna!