“As has now been fully recorded, my father greatly desired to publish ‘The Silmarillion’ together with The Lord of the Rings. I say nothing of it’s practicability at the time, nor do I make any guesses at the subsequent fate of such a much longer combined work, quadrilogy or tetralogy, or at the different courses that my father might then have taken – for the further development of ‘The Silmarillion’ itself, the history of the Elder Days, would have been arrested (pg 5).“
Welcome back to another Blind Read! We shift gears a little this week now that the Silmarillion is finished and jump into The Book of Lost Tales.
This week I wanted to review the Introduction, but in doing so, I wanted to check Christopher Tolkien’s words (John’s son and the editor of all of Tolkien’s estate since the publication of The Lord of the Rings). So this week will be a combination of analysis and opinion, even more so than any previous essay I have posted.
I’m going to cover two distinct points Christopher covers in the Introduction (there is more there, but for the purposes and desires of this blog, this is the focus). First, the difficulty of ‘The Silmarillion’ and John’s earlier works, and the novelistic approach versus the historical method through the evolution of ‘The Silmarillion’ from its earlier iterations versus Christopher’s edited publication. This last point is the tread that will bring us through the rest of the book and beyond.
“The Silmarillion is commonly said to be a ‘difficult’ book, needing explaination and guidance on how to ‘approach’ it; and in this it is contrasted to The Lord of the Rings (pg 1).“
In this quote, Christopher is saying what everyone else is already thinking; this is why I chose to do a Blind Read with these books because they are notoriously tricky. The Silmarillion begins with a story similar to the Book of Genesis, which was difficult to swallow after concluding one of the most popular stories in generations. “This produced a sense of outrage – in one case formulated to me in the words ‘It’s like the Old Testament’ (pg 2)!”
Which this book is – at the beginning. Once Tolkien moves beyond the archaic origins of the beings and the world of Ëa, the language softens a bit because it becomes more attuned to exposition instead of an elegiac homily.
I contend that it’s Christopher who makes the language so difficult. He is the son of a language professor and is part of the English academic elite. His language is not the same as the language of the masses, which made the book (even when “stories are being told” like Beren and Luthien) considerably more difficult, as opposed to Tolkien’s The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings.
That being said, we get an introduction to the original vision of the history of Middle-earth in “The Book of Lost Tales.”
“The letter of 1963 quoted above shows my father pondering the mode in which the legends of the Elder Days might be presented. The original mode, that of The Book of Lost Tales, in which a Man, Eriol, comes after a great voyage over the ocean to the island where the Elves dwell and learns their history from their own lips, had (by degrees) fallen away (pg 5).”
Tolkien wanted to tell his history, but he knew the difficulty of writing it as a historical book instead of a novelistic approach. But it was the novelistic approach with which he started. Tolkien began writing his histories before anything else (and the myth that the language developed and the book written to display that language is a misnomer. In the development of The Book of Lost Tales, we see the evolution of that language as he develops it over time.) in 1917. Tolkien wrote the history as if it were an oral tradition, which would alleviate some of the dry and dull exposition needed. It would stop the feeling of it reading “like the Old Testament (pg 2).“
So instead of a dry history, we get the Human, Eriol, traveling to the Cottage of Lost Play and meeting Elves (they were Gnomes in 1917, though still called Noldor) who gather around a fire, much like you would expect Hobbits to do and regale Eriol with their story.
That makes The Book of Lost Tales interesting, even though it is a rehashing of The Silmarillion. We get to see the evolution of the design and approach of the work and how Christopher decided to edit it and publish it after his father’s death.
Christopher mentions that his father wanted this story told. The fact that we have so much material that calls back to The Lord of the Rings proves that Tolkien wrote to make the world whole. To be more than what Christopher calls “the mise-en-scéne of the story (pg 7),” Tolkien wanted people to know that there was history and agency behind the action in the book. That history led the characters to where they are when we pick up the events in The Fellowship of the Ring.
But does Christopher take it too far? On the contrary, it looks to me as though he uses his father’s platform to carve out a space for himself: “There are explorations to be conducted in this world with perfect right quite irrespective of literary-critical considerations; and it is proper to attempt to comprehend its structure in its largest extent, from the myth of its Creation.“
I agree with what Christopher is saying here. If he didn’t take the mantle over, there wouldn’t be The Silmarillion, and the world of Middle-earth would have stopped at The Lord of the Rings. However, what he did by taking things over was indelibly stamp his prejudice on the material.
Would The Silmarillion have been better as a story as it is in The Book of Lost Tales? Would that have garnered a more significant audience if it were a more accessible tale?
These are all questions I hope to get a better answer for through the next couple of books. Both The Book of Lost Tales, part 1 and The Book of Lost Tales, part 2, are the earlier iterations of The Silmarillion through the storytelling perspective. So these Blind Reads will be much more analytical than previous Blogs as we follow the creative process of Tolkien as both he and Christopher work to uncover the definitive history of Middle Earth.
“I leapt from that ship because I believed in my heart that I was not yet worthy of it. I knew that somehow, my task here was not yet complete. And when I surfaced all I could do was swim and pray I had chosen wisely. I did not cross that bitter Ocean, onyl to drown now. And nor will I let you.”
Welcome back to another Blind Watch! This week we conclude The Rings of Power and close up all the messy and misused storylines.
There will be heavy spoilers in this essay, so if you have not watched the episode or show yet, please stop now and head back to Amazon and watch it!
This episode finally reveals who Sauron is as well as one other major character in the mythology.
The show begins by having “the stranger” walking through the woods. He has been exiled from the wandering Hobbits (though they are not called that yet), and the mysterious and dangerous wanderers dressed in all white appear before him and all but tell him he is Sauron. Then, they use out-of-place magic to fool him, but the entire exchange doesn’t make sense.
First, let’s follow along with the show’s storyline and assume that this tall Stranger is, in fact, Sauron (he’s not, and we find out later who he is). It doesn’t make sense that Sauron wouldn’t know who he is at this point in history. He was already in Middle-earth from the end of the First age. The only time in Middle-earth’s history that it would make sense that Sauron might not know who he was (that never happened in any Tolkien I have read) was after the Drowning of Númenor, when he was cast down into the abyss, shed his mortal form and retreated to Barad-dûr. The fact that he shed his human form is the only factor in thinking he might not know who he was, so instantly, we see this Stranger is not Sauron.
What bothers me about this interaction is how lazy the writers were. Why would Sauron’s servants not know who he was? Especially servants who were this powerful in magic? Notwithstanding that there never were any magic users mentioned in Sauron’s entourage, these characters are just a means to an end to show the power of the Stranger and to show who he is, which is an Istari, otherwise known as a Wizard. Namely, this Stranger is who I thought he was all along: Gandalf the Gray.
It is Halbrand who turns out to be Sauron in disguise. I’m a little discouraged that I didn’t catch this sooner, but the writers changed the history so wholly to make it challenging to understand who he was, so I’ll give myself a little grace. Afterall, the whole point of this first season wasn’t to tell a wonderful story about Middle-earth, they wrote it to hide who Sauron was and to make a dramatic reveal.
To met he problem isn’t that Sauron turned out to be Halbrand. Sauron did, after all, disguise himself to influence the making of the Rings of Power. In the Silmarillion, he disguises himself as Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, to control the Noldor Elves and influence them create the rings in the first place.
Elrond and Gil-Galad suspected Annatar was not who he said he was, so he left Lindon and went to Eregion, where they crafted the Rings. But, unfortunately, while they were making all the Rings of Power (not just the three for the Elves), Sauron retreated to Mount Doom and created the One Ring to rule them.
So the fact that the showrunners decided to change Sauron’s disguise from Annatar to Halbrand is acceptable. My problem comes in with how they introduced and framed him. Sauron is a master of deception, so much so, that he destroyed two different empires with influence alone (meaning that he didn’t raise an army against them).
But why was Sauron stranded on a raft? Do the showrunners want us to believe that he foresaw Galadriel jumping off her boat and swimming to a broken-down ship in the middle of the sea? And even if that was the case, there are far easier ways for him to ingratiate himself within the Elven culture.
Having Halbrand come up with such a soft cover as “King of the Southlands,” which was so easy to figure out “bloodline was broken,” is unlike Sauron. It makes him seem weak and lazy, which he is not.
Not to mention that there never was a human king in Middle-earth before Númenor. They were all traveling bands who were subjects of the Elven Kings.
The whole point of the entire show wasn’t to make an incredible Lord of the Rings show, but to hide the information about who Sauron was so they could have that reveal in the last episode. All the character’s motivations were to hide who he was, all the action was to hide who he was, and all the plot was to conceal Sauron’s true identity. I don’t mind that the showrunners wanted to change history, however, it doesn’t thrill me. The fact that they very obviously sat around a writing room and said they wanted the final reveal to be who Gandalf is and who Sauron is, then framed the rest of the show around that is just lazy.
This is why people don’t like the show. It’s not necessarily how they changed history because, without a doubt, this story is different from Tolkien’s. It’s not the show’s visuals because the special effects are spectacular. It’s how the writers decided that one event was enough to drive eight episodes. It’s how they took away the agency of every character to fit in with some big reveal (which was pretty lackluster).
I’m not sure if I’ll be watching the second season, if and when it comes out, but it’s no longer a Tolkien show, so there will not be another Blind Watch covering the events if there does turn out to be a second season.
Thank you all for reading, and join me next week as we complete The Silmarillion!
Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Of The Rings of Power and the Third Age, Part 3
“Thus the Exiles of Númenor established their realms in Arnor and in Gondor; but ere many years had passed it became manifest that their enemy, Sauron, had also returned. He came in secret, as has been told, to his ancient kingdom of Mordor beyond Ephel Dúath, the Mountains of Shadow, and that country marched with Gondor upon the east. There above the valley of Gorgoroth was built his fortress vast and strong, Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower; and there was a fiery mountain in that land that the Elves named Orodruin. Indeed for that reason Sauron had not set there his dwelling long before, for he used the fire that welled there from the heart of the earth in his sorceries and in his forging; and in the midst of the Land of Mordor he had fashioned the Ruling Ring (pg 290-291).“
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we learn about the rise of Sauron and the beginnings of the downfall of the Númenórean lineage.
We left off last time learning how Isildur and Anárion built some of the most significant structures of Middle-earth, and we pick up this time realizing that “the malice of the Eye of Sauron few even of the great among Elves and Men could endure. (pg 291)“
We learn from the opening quote that Sauron took up residence in Mordor. He gathered great strength, recruited and bred servants, and expanded his empire beyond the firey mountain Orodruin; “and perceiving that Sauron had returned, the Númenóreans named that mountain anew Amon Amarth, which is Mount Doom. (pg 291)“
Sauron then used that great force to attack and sack Minas Ithil, “and he destroyed the White Tree of Isiluder that grew there (pg291).”
Isildur fled with a seedling of that great tree for a second time in his life and sought his father. Meanwhile, his brother held Osgiliath and drove Sauron back into the mountains, but “Anárion knew that unless help should come his kingdom would not long stand (pg 291).”
Elendil and Gil-Galad met with each other to come up with a strategy against this new Dark Lord. They decided that the only chance the people of Middle-earth had against his tyranny was to unite and make a stand. “Therefore they made that League which is called the Last Alliance (pg 292).“
Tolkien gives us two short paragraphs describing the events of this battle that rent the world. Every race had members on both sides, except the Elves, making it a struggle of kith and kin.
Gil-galad and Elendil fought valiantly and pushed Sauron back into Mordor, laying siege to his stronghold for seven long years. During these seven years in the fields of Gorgoroth, Anárion, Elendil’s son and Isildur’s brother died in battle. But it wasn’t until the last siege that Sauron himself came out to fight against his enemy, and “he wrestled with Gil-Galad and Elendil, and they both were slain, and the sword of Elendil broke under him as he fell. But Sauron also was thrown down, and with the hilt-shard of Narsil Isildur cut the Ruling Ring from the hand of Sauron and took it for his own (pg 292).“
Sauron, defeated, returned to shade form because he had put so much of his essence into the Ruling Ring. However, it was years before he took “visible shape (pg 292)” again. This victory marked the end of the Second Age of Middle Earth. The destruction of two great Kings and their powerful enemy ushered in a new age.
Isildur took the Ruling Ring for himself, and there was peace and prosperity for many years. Sauron’s minions were not wholly destroyed but reduced to a number Isildur was not worried about.
Isildur was not his father, though. “Never again was such a host assembled, nor was there any such league of Elves and Men; for after Elendil’s day the two kindreds became estranged (pg 293).“
Part of that estrangement came because Isildur refused to destroy the Ruling Ring, even upon the council of Elrond and Círdan. Instead, he took it as a token of success in dealing with the killing blow to Sauron and as recompense for the deaths of his father and brother.
Isildur went north to stake his claim to the throne in Eriador, his father’s seat, “and he forsook the South Kingdom (pg 293).” He set Meneldil, Anárion’s son, to rule Gondor in the south in his absence. To rule and to guard against the inevitable return of Sauron.
On Isildur’s trip north, he “was overwhelmed by a host of Orcs that lay in wait in the Misty Mountains (pg 293).” Unfortunately, Isildur was lazy because he deemed that he had won the war, so he didn’t set a guard when his caravan slept. As a result, the roving Orcs killed everyone except for three servants and Isildur, who escaped by slipping the ring on his finger and going invisible to his pursuers.
He jumped into the river, but “there the Ring betrayed him and avenged its maker, for it slipped from his finger as he swam, and it was lost in the water (pg 294).” With the ring off his finger, the Orcs could see him, and they filled him with arrows.
The surviving servants brought Narsil, Elendil’s broken sword, back to Imladris. But the sword was not reforged, “and Master Elrond foretold that this would not be done until the Ruling Ring should be found again and Sauron should return. pg 294)“
Over the beginning years of the Third Age, through war and isolationism, “the Men of Westernesse, the Dúnedain of the North, became divided into petty realms and lordships, and their foes devoured them one by one (pg 294).”
In the Southlands, the line of Númenor flourished for years under the leadership of Meneldil. They built immense structures and created the Gondor armor we are so used to seeing, but “the blood of the Númenóreans became much mingled with that of other men, and their power and wisdom was diminished, and their life-span was shortened, and the watch upon Mordor slumbered (pg 295).”
Eventually, a plague landed on them and killed the King’s lineage. They abandoned the border of Mordor and allowed evil to creep out of the boundaries. The evil took the shape of dark shadows. “It is said that these were indeed the Ulairi, whom Sauron called the Nazgûl, the Nine Ringwraiths that had long remained hidden, but returned now to prepare the ways of their Master, for he had begun to grow again (pg 295).”
They took Minas Ithil, Isildur’s former seat, and made it a place of dread and horror. “Thereafter it was called Minas Morgul, the Tower of Sorcery (pg 295).“
“But Minas Arnor endured, and it was named anew Minas Tirith, the Tower of Guard; for there the kings caused to be built in the citadel a white tower, very tall and fair, and it’s eye was upon many lands (pg 295).“
The stage is set, and the hallmarks of the Third Age are being revealed. Join us on the next Blind Read to see the resolution of “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.”
“We ask for something sacred in this mountain, and so we offer something sacred in return. In exchange for access to your Mithril mines, the Elves are prepared to furnish this city with gain, grain and timber from the elder forests of Eriador for the next five centuries.“
Welcome back to another Blind Watch! This episode and subsequent essay are strange because there is quite a bit of racism between the species, but not how you would necessarily expect it, and not how Tolkien wrote it.
Elrond speaks the opening quote of this essay to King Durin III towards the beginning of the episode. Unfortunately, the showrunners have changed the Elves’ history and relegated their fall to the Second Age of Middle-earth instead of the Third Age. In doing so, they have changed the relationships between the Elves and Dwarves of this age and made Mithril something it is not.
At this time in Middle-earth history, the Elves and Dwarves had a friendship, or if that’s too strong a word, they had peace and an understanding. For example, Celebrimbor and Durin worked together to create incredible weapons and armor using the Mithril. Likewise, Gil-Galad and Elrond had a deep friendship (which the show posits is only on Elrond’s side, Gil-Galad just uses him) with the Dwarves. Beyond the weapons and armor, they build fantastic structures for Elves and Dwarves alike, and Celebrimbor even used Mithril to infuse into the doors of Moria to block outsiders. I’ve mentioned this before, but Gandalf needs to speak the Elvish word for “Friend” to enter the mines in the movies. If their relations were so strained, why would you have to use an Elvish word to enter a Dwarven City?
At this point in Tolkien’s history, there was no rift between the Elves and the Dwarves. Instead, the showrunners rely on the play between Gimli and Legolas to inform the audience of interracial conflict rather than showing the history.
The show also has a scene where Prince Durin throws a piece of newly mined Mithril to the end of a table next to a wilted leaf. The Mithril seemed to bring the leaf back to life, which was supposed to indicate how the Mithril would bring back both life to the world and nature to the Elves, but this was not the case in the book.
Tolkien intended to be vague in his writing and wanted an eventual rift between these two races because that created more drama. But, unfortunately, the showrunners are taking it a step further and dramatizing things that were never written to get more dramatics out of the show itself.
Beyond that, Mithril is just a metal. It’s a precious and rare metal, but it doesn’t have the magical power the show pre-supposes. What it does have is the ability to be a magical conduit, which is why Celebrimbor used it in the magical lock of the doors to Moria.
So the argument that King Durin is proposing to his son seems like a dangerous and backward-thinking proposition, but it’s spot on (at least in the show’s reality).
He tells his son, “The Fate of the Elves was decided many ages ago. By minds much wiser, much farther seeing than our own. Defy their will, and this entire kingdom might fall. Perhaps the entire Middle-earth.”
He is alluding to the Valar and how the deeper the Dwarves delve, the more danger they can bring upon themselves. In fact, one of the most well-known Balrogs was named Durin’s Bane.
If you remember Peter Jackson’s movies, there is a scene right before the Balrog comes out, and Gandalf says that the Dwarves delve too deep, in their greed. This anticipation of the Balrog is what the showrunners are trying to set up.
There are two other plotlines the show covers, and neither has any basis in Tolkien’s works, just the vague understanding of what might be happening behind and between the pages, with some outright falsehoods along the way.
Let’s get the falsehoods out of the way first, shall we?
Galadriel and Theo are speaking one night on their trek to find survivors of the volcanic explosion. Galadriel tells Theo that she lost her brother Finrod and her husband Celeborn to Sauron. There is no truth in these statements; her story of how she met Celeborn is convoluted with the tale of Beren and Lúthien. That is the story of Lúthien dancing in a meadow and Beren coming upon her, not how Galadriel meets Celeborn. To top that off, Celeborn doesn’t die; we see him in Fellowship of the Rings, so I’m not sure what they are trying to prove here.
In addition, Finrod died in the battle against the Dark Lord, but not the Dark Lord you might think. Finrod had one of the most epic battles told in The Silmarillion when he fought Morgoth, the fallen Valar and Sauron’s master. Sauron had nothing to do with Finrod’s death, so it seems strange that they would purposefully change history instead of just skewing it in their favor.
We also follow along with the Southlanders as they all come together, and we learn of Isildur’s death…which never happens in the book. Isildur’s closest brush with death comes when he steals the fruit from Nimloth, the tree of the Valar, when he still lived on Númenor, and even then, he is never considered dead.
Beyond these blatant changes, however, they do show what happened in history. The Southlands became Mordor, just not in the way the showrunners are proposing. Sadly, we don’t get to see Isildur and his brother develop the great cities of Middle-earth and bypass everything to get some fake fan service, but these are differing mediums, so I guess beggars can’t be choosers. You either get screen time in the Second age or don’t.
The last portion I would like to mention is the powerful magical strangers who come across the halflings. There is much mention that this is Sauron, but I don’t think that’s the case. Instead, I think this may be a younger version of Saruman or one of the other Istari.
Sauron didn’t travel in a group. Indeed he was famously solitary and did not need to mess with halflings. But then again, they have changed many other things, so let’s see where the ride takes us.
Join me next week as we delve back into The Silmarillion for the Penultimate essay on Of The Rings of Power and the Third Age before coming back for the final episode of The Rings Of Power!
“It is said that the towers of Emyn Beraid were not built indeed by the Exiles of Númenor, but were raised by Gil-galad for Elendil, his friend; and the Seeing Stone of Emyn Beraid was set in Elostirion, the tallest of the towers. Thither Elendil would repair, and thence he would gaze out over the sundering seas, when the yearning of exile was upon him; and it is believed that thus he would at whiles see far away even the Tower of Avallónë upon Eressëa, where the Master-stone abode, and yet abides. These stones were gifts of the Eldar to Amandil, father of Elendil, for the comfort of the Faithful of Númenor in their dark days, when the Elves might come no longer to that land under the shadow of Sauron. They were called the Palantíri, those that watch from afar; but all those that were brought to Middle-earth long ago were lost. (pg 290)”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! Whew, that was a long introductory quote! This week we progress into the places, deeds, and constructs of the Third Age as we get closer to the events of The Lord of the Rings.
We pick up right where we left off last week, with the creation of the Nazgûl, because “Sauron’s lust and pride increased, until he knew no bounds, and he determined to make himself master of all things in Middle-earth. (pg 287)”
Sauron’s shadow began to spread across Middle-earth, and he ruled with an iron fist, crushing any small insurrections before they could start. He oversaw the Orcs, and they “multiplied like flies. (pg 288)”
However, this era was still prosperous for the people of Middle-earth, and Sauron would not cross Ered Luin. “Gil-Galad was aided by the Númenóreans. (pg 288)” and so Sauron knew, even with his mighty garrison of Orcs, that he could not withstand the two races who had aligned against him.
It was at this time in History that the Númenóreans challenged Sauron, and as we learned in Akallabêth, he “left Middle-earth for a while and went to Númenor as a hostage of Tar-Calion the King. (pg 288)”
After the Drowning of Númenor, Sauron fell into the Abyss, but his spirit flew back to Middle-earth where he found Gil-Galad had taken over and made a wonderful kingdom of much of Middle-earth. So Sauron “withdrew to his fortress in the Black Land and meditated war. (pg 288)” as the Third Age began.
During this time of the great Flood that destroyed Númenor, the Faithful, Númenóreans who still believed in the Valar and the Eldar, sailed to Middle-earth. “The chief among these were Elendil the Tall and his sons, Isildur and Anárion. (pg 288)”
It was in Middle-earth that Elendil befriended the Elven King Gil-Galad, and had the freedom to settle in Eriador and create new kingdoms and structures. They built great towers in Emyn Beraid, “and there remain many barrows and ruined works in those places. (pg 289)” Probably the most memorable for casual readers/viewers would be the tower on Amon Sûl, otherwise known as Weathertop.
Elendil’s sons went south, “and they established a realm in those lands that were after called Gondor. (pg 289)” Aragorn, considered the king of men because his bloodline comes directly from Elros (Elrond’s brother) half-blood, is the direct descendant of Isildur. So Elrond is Aragorn’s uncle; if you put about 89 greats in front of Uncle, that is.
The Númenóreans were still a sea-faring people, so they created the most significant city along a great river, a city they named Osgiliath, with a great bridge to allow their spectacular ships to sail beneath. This structure is the Bridge destroyed in “The Return of the King,” and Osgiliath is the city Faramir is trying to defend from the Orc scourge.
They also built two prominent towers: “Minas Ithil, the Tower of the Rising Moon, eastward upon a shoulder of the Mountains of Shadow as a threat to Mordor; and to the westward Minas Anor, the Tower of the Setting Sun. (pg 289)” Remember these names. These become very important in everything that comes afterward.
Isildur settled into Minas Ithil, where Anárion settled into Minas Arnor, “but they shared the realm between them, and their thrones were set side by side in the Great Hall of Osgiliath. (pg 289)” Their towers were also set to either side of the great city, setting up the major areas of early Gondor, but they were not the only dwellings.
The Númenóreans also built many other cities, including the circle of Angrenost, otherwise known as Isengard, and the tower they built there was known as Orthanc. This is the tower where the Istari (wizard Maiar) Saruman took up abode.
Beyond the buildings, “Many treasures and great heirlooms of virtue and wonder the Exiles had brought from Númenor; and the most renowned were the Seven Stones and the White Tree. (pg 290)” Otherwise known as the Palantíri (the seeing stones) and the seed of Nimloth, which Isildur nearly died obtaining.
The seeing stones “Three Elendil took, and his sons each two. (pg 290).” Elendil set his in the towers of Emyn Beraid, on Weathertop, and the city of Annúminas. Isildur placed his in Minas Ithil and at Orthanc, and Anárion put his at Minas Arnor and Osgiliath.
These seeing stones were intended to be a balm against the darkness Sauron held in the land, but at this time in History, he was still trying to build power, so the significant structures of the Númenóreans in Middle-earth didn’t feel his presence often. Only Elendil realized the turn of the tide and understood the power of the Palantíri. He knew that if Sauron got his hands on those, his presence could reach far more deeply than ever. He saw Pharazôn be corrupted by only words, creating the downfall of Númenor. What if Sauron could control the visions the Great Kings of the Third Age were seeing and make them think they were all real? This would be far more pervasive than just playing to one’s Hubris.
The sons, however, one more step removed from the purity of their bloodline, believed in using these seeing stones for their power and protection of their people. So the seeing stones stayed where they were set. Orthanc fell into Saruman’s hands, and the power corrupted him (amongst other things), and Osgiliath, we know, stood until the end of the Third Age. But what of the other two towers? We have not seen the names Minas Ithil and Minas Arnor yet. Where do those come in?
Join me next time to find out!
Next week we’ll cover the penultimate episode of The Rings of Power before diving back into “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.”
“My children, we have endured much. We cast off out shackles. Crossed mountain, field, frost, and fallow, till out feet bloodied the dirt. From Ered Mithrin to the Ephel Arnrn, we have endured. Yet tonight, one more trial awaits us. Our enemy may be weak, their numbers meager…yet before this night is through, some of us will fall. But for the first time, you do so not as unnamed slaves in far-away lands, but as brothers. As brothers and sisters in our home! This is the night we reach out the iron hand of the Uruk…and close our fist around these lands.“
Welcome back to another Blind Watch! This week we cover Episode six of The Rings of Power, Undûn. The episode is fast-paced and fun to watch, but there is very little content in this episode based on the core material.
This episode focused solely on the southland’s battle for survival against the orcish horde and showed the treachery of men wooed by Sauron’s power delicately and subtly. But it also shows how people can hold onto hope nearly as well as Peter Jackson did in “The Lord of the Rings.”
We start the episode with the Orcs storming the tower. The Southlanders have fled, and Arondir stays behind to lay traps for the scourge.
It’s here, Waldreg, the human who betrayed his kinsmen and ran off to join Adar shows his concern for the Orc Captain, but there is something strange about his motivations. He follows Adar fervently, but we don’t know why he does this. Earlier in the season, he shows the mark on his arm. He gained that mark from using the hilt which becomes a sword from his blood, but where did he get the hilt? Why did he lose it, and where did Theo get it? Was Waldreg previously a soldier in Sauron’s armies and used the blood sword? Has he been a spy all these years? Unfortunately, they haven’t given us enough to make a proper conclusion.
We then transition to Galadriel and the Númenóreans on the ship on their way to help the Southlands. They show a bit of interaction between Galadriel and Isildur, where Isildur says, “I was just trying to get away. As far as I could from that place.“
Isildur wanting to leave Númenor is actual history, but it takes place before the events in the show. Isildur was trying to get away from Númenor, but it wasn’t until after he was already a hero for taking the fruit of Nimloth and saving the tree’s offspring from the evil of Sauron and Pharazôn. Isildur was gravely injured because of his heroism and “went out by night and did a deed for which he was afterwards renowned.” The problem I have, is that he has already left Númenor, so if the showrunners decide this event is to be his redeeming deed, then they need to find some way to bring him back to Númenor before the great flood.
The remainder of the episode takes place in the Southlands. The Humans all retreat to the town and set up an ambush for the Orc army, who attacks them at night. They successfully attack and push back the Orcs but find that most of the beings they killed were, in fact, their fellow humans who left town to join Adar. These humans are just in disguise, made up to look like Orcs.
Once this realization happens, the actual garrison of Orcs attacks the humans, only to be pushed back again by the Númenóreans, who have the best possible timing.
If you weren’t paying attention, however, you might miss Adar saying, “Waldreg, I have a task for you.“
The Númenóreans go onto a glorious victory, at least it seems. We see Waldreg finds the broken hilt, and he places it in some lock which activates a flood.
The flood goes all the way through to what I can only imagine is Mount Doom, where Sauron forged the One Ring. Then, the water creates a chain reaction which causes a significant eruption.
You might wonder why the episode is called Udûn. It’s the Elvish word for Hell or Dark Pit. The tunnels that the Orcs had been tunneling weren’t just searching or trying to seek something. It was that because they wanted the hilt, but they were also making tunnels so the water released by the hilt key would create a chain reaction that would cause hell on earth for the humans. Fireballs and magma fill the ground, and it’s a more extensive form of destruction that hasn’t been seen since Ancalagon the Black crushed mountain tops underneath its claws (an enormous dragon ever to live in Middle-earth and servant to Morgoth). What is even more devious is that Udûn is Sindarin Elvish, which proves the point that these Orcs were indeed transitioned from Elves to these creates because of Sauron’s corruption. Udûn is also the name of the region just beyond the black gate of Mordor. Coincidence?
So there is just one question remaining. Arondir tries to destroy the hilt key earlier in the episode, but the hammer he uses breaks instead.
What can this blade be but Gurthang, the sword of Turin Turambar? Turin is a hero of legend in the first age, surrounded by bad luck. His sword was Gurthang, which he used to slay many powerful creatures, including Glaurung, Morgoth’s Dragon Captain. Unfortunately, Turin killed himself once he realized he was married to his sister (who killed herself just before he did the deed), and the blade broke asunder after that happened, which is the only way the sword could be broken. Gurthang was a sentient sword, and there is a prophecy (interesting prospect in a show heavily leading on the sign laden Palatirí) where Turin will use Gurthang in the Final Battle to kill Morgoth for infinity.
I could see the showrunners using Gurthang as a key to release Sauron from the trappings of his spirit form and return him to his mortal form.
This is the blade, after all, that feeds off blood and remembers its kills.
So despite the lack of history in the last few episodes, I am excited about where this is going because if I’m right about this sword being Gurthang, it opens up whole new worlds of history to be exposed. There will be considerably more people who have never read The Silmarillion exposed to its lush history.
So join me next week and experience some of that history as we continue with “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age!”
Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Of The Rings of Power and the Third Age, part 1
“But Sauron gathered into his hands all the remaining Rings of Power; and he dealt them out to the other peoples of Middle-earth, hoping thus to bring under his sway all those that desired secret power beyond the measure of their kind. Seven rings he gave to the Dwarves; but to Men he gave nine, for Men proved in this matter as in others the readiest to his will.“
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we start the last chapter of The Silmarillion and learn how the events of The Lord of the Rings came to be.
Tolkien begins this chapter by describing Sauron himself. Sauron was a Maia, one of the servants of the Valar, and just a half step down in power from them. Melkor seduced Sauron with his power and led him to serve the Dark Lord, but when Melkor was defeated, he begged forgiveness. Then, when it was clear that no quarter would come, he “hid himself in Middle-earth; and he fell back into evil, for the bonds that Morgoth had laid upon him were very strong.”
I contend that Sauron is much more evil than Morgoth (Melkor) because Melkor’s goal wasn’t ultimate power; instead, his story falls much more in line with Lucifer Lightbringer, who was an angel but pride made him feel slighted, which created his fall. Sauron chose evil from the beginning. There was never anything in him that tried to be or do good; his entire existence was about deception and power.
This whole chapter is basically about Sauron and his influence on how he corrupted the Rings of Power to gain control over the people of Middle-earth and what those people did to fight against him.
Tolkien tells us the land beneath Ossiriand on the eastern side of what was once Beleriand was re-formed by the surging of rivers and shifting of the ground. The region is now called Lindon, where many Elves settled to live.
Those that didn’t live there posted up in a region to the west of Khazad-dûm named Eregion. “In Eregion the craftsmen of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain, the People of the Jewel-smiths, surpassed in cunning all that have ever wrought, save only Fëanor himself; and indeed greatest in skill among them was Celebrimbor, son of Curufin, who was estranged from his father and remained in Nargothrond when Celegorm and Curufin were driven forth, as is told in the Quenta Silmarillion.“
Meanwhile, Sauron was growing in power and steering clear of Lindon. In fact, “elsewhere the Elves received him gladly, and few among them hearkened to the messengers from Lindon bidding them beware; for Sauron took himself a name of Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, and they had much profit from his friendship.”
Much like the Númenóreans, these Noldor of Eregion had their pride get in the way. They let Annatar give them advice on how to create, how to live, and how to rule. They even “refused to return into the West, and they desired to stay in Middle-earth.”
“In those days the smiths of Ost-in-Edhil surpassed all that they had contrived before; and they took thought, and they made Rings of Power.” Moreover, they did so under Sauron’s guidance, taking his advice in the Rings’ creation.
The Elves created many of these Rings, “but secretly Sauron made One Ring to rule all others, and their power was bound up with it, to be subject wholly to it and to last only so long as it too should last.” I think anyone who is reading this has heard of this Ring before. The One Ring allowed Sauron to rule and influence the decisions of those who wore the lesser rings.
But the Elves immediately understood their gaff: “As soon as Sauron set the One Ring upon his finger they were aware of him; and they knew him, and perceived that he would be master of them, and all they wrought.”
The Elves took off their rings and hid them away, but Sauron could feel them, and in his great wrath, he waged war against the Elves to take the rings back, “But the Elves fled from him; and three of their rings they saved, and bore them away, and hid them.“
They saved the rings of the greatest power, Narya, Nenya, and Vilya.
Narya was called the Ring of Fire and inlaid with a Ruby. Nenya was called the Ring of Water and inlaid with adamant, and Vilya was called the Ring of Air and inlaid with a sapphire.
The rings could “ward off the decays of time and postpone the weariness of the world.” But they were kept secret and not worn while Sauron wore the One Ring. “Therefore, the Three remained unsullied, for they were forged by Celebrimbor alone, and the hand of Sauron had never touched them.”
However, Sauron never gave up his quest for power over the rings and battled against the Noldor incessantly. During this time, “Eregion was laid to waste, and Celebrimbor slain, and the doors of Moria were shut. (Celebrimbor sealed the gates of Moria using Mithril and Elven magic. These are the gates we see the fellowship open in “The Fellowship of the Rings” by speaking the Elvish word for Friend).”
Because Sauron was raging so hard against the Elves, Elrond founded Rivendell as a sanctuary, as a way to rally against Sauron. It is here we get the opening quote to this essay.
The Rings given to the Dwarves were of Gold, matching their heart’s greed. These golden rings kindled the evil of profits in their hearts and they hoarded Gold, “but all these hoards long ago were plundered, and the Dragons devoured them.“
Men took nine of the rings, which gave them eternal life, “yet life became unendurable to them.” Then eventually, “they could see things in worlds invisible to mortal men; but too often they beheld only the phantoms and delusions of Sauron.“
The nine men who held the Rings fell into thralldom to Sauron, “And they became for ever invisible save to him that wore the Ruling Ring, and they entered into the realm of shadows. The Nazgûl were they, the Ringwraiths, the Enemy’s most terrible servants; darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death.“
Join me next week for a breakdown of Episode 6 of The Rings of Power before we jump back into the next section, “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age!”
“Then behind locked doors Sauron spoke to the King, and he lied, saying: ‘It is he whose name is not now spoken; for the Valar have deceived you concerning him, putting forward the names of Eru, a phantom devised in the folly of their hearts, seeking to enchain Men in servitude to themselves. For they are the oracle of this Eru, which speaks only what they will. But he that is their master shall yet prevail, and he will deliver you from this phantom; and his name is Melkor, Lord of All, Giver of Freedom, and he shall make you stronger than they.’“
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we continue on our journey in Númenor and watch as the once-great empire begins to collapse.
We left off last time with the fact that the Valar were angered at Númenor and cut off ties with them. The lack of Valar support didn’t affect the mainland, but some were still faithful to the Valar and the Eldar, and they lived in a kingdom on the western shores in a city named Andúnië. The Men (read that as humans) who lived there “were of the line of Elros, being descended from Silmarien, daughter of Tar-Elendil, the fourth King of Númenor.” It was this line of Elros’ goal to unite the people of Middle-earth instead of trying to rule over them like the rest of the Númenóreans. In fact, Aragorn is a descendant of the Andúnië, and it’s his shame of what the Númenóreans eventually did that made him stay away from the crown for so long.
Years passed, and King begat King, until the beginning became the beginning of the end. Then, Tar-Palantir took the scepter and became King. He took an Elvish name (his Númenórean name was Inziladûn), and for the first time in years, a King of Númenor had used the dialect of a race the Númenóreans had begun to hate. He was a seer, so he took the name of the Palantirí, the seeing stones. One of his prophecies was that when the great “White Tree perished, then also would the line of the Kings come to its end.“
Tar-Palantir tried to bring back the old ways, but it was too little, too late. His daughter took to the throne after he died, “whom he named Míriel (whom you might know as the Queen Regent if you watch The Rings of Power on Amazon) in the Elven tongue.” But her first cousin Pharazôn was power hungry and hated the Valar for forsaking them, so he “took her to wife against her will, doing evil in this and evil also in that the laws of Númenor did not permit marriage, even in the royal house, of those more nearly akin than cousins in the second degree.”
Ar-Pharazôn became the most guilded of all kings to rule Númenor…and the proudest. His men told him that Sauron was building strength in the East, and in his hubris, he sent a contingent of men to capture Sauron. But the Dark Lord outwitted the Golden King and waved the white flag. So Ar-Pharazôn took him captive in Númenor, thinking he would keep the enemy close.
“Yet such was the cunning of his mind and mouth, and the strength of his hidden will, that ere three years had passed he head become closest to the secret councils of the King.“
The men of Númenor began to fall under Sauron’s sway, “save one alone, Amandil lord of Andúnië.” Of the Line of Aragorn. The men of this line remained faithful to the Valar and the Eldar, but the rest of Númenor “named them rebels.“
The quote which opens this essay is one of the examples of the cunning of Sauron. He twisted history and played upon the Númenórean beliefs, making them believe that Melkor was the true Lord and not Ilúvatar (also named Eru, as seen above). But, unfortunately, because of the pain of the Valar rejection and their own belief that they are better than any other race, the half-truths of Sauron rang true to them, and “Ar-Pharazôn the King turned back to the worship of the Dark, and of Melkor the Lord thereof, at first in secret, but ere long openly and in the face of his people; and they for the most part followed him.”
With this belief in the Dark Lord, Ar-Pharazôn threw Amandil, the Elf-friend of Andúnië and out of his council. But Amandil, along with his son Elendil, were the most significant ship captain of Númenor, so they were kept in Númenor, despite their outward rejection of the worship of Melkor.
While shunned, Amandil heard that Sauron had advised Pharazôn to cut down Nimloth, the white tree. Knowing of Tar-Palantir’s prophesy, he gathered his son Elendil and his grandchildren Isildur and Anárion. He told them the tale of the Trees of Valinor and the glory of the Valar.
“…Isildur said no word, but went out by night and did a deed for which he was afterwards renowned.”
Young Isildur went to Nimloth and stole its fruit. The guards gravely injured him, but he managed to escape and bring the fruit to his Grandfather, who planted it in secret. Upon its first bloom, Isildur was miraculously healed, showing the power of the Valar.
Soon after, the new tree bloomed just in time because “the King yielded to Sauron and felled the White Tree, and turned wholly away from the allegiance of his fathers.”
Ar-Pharazôn ordered that a gilded tower be turned into a fire altar and burned Nimloth so that “men marveled at the reek that went up from it, so that the land lay under a cloud for seven days, until slowly it passed into the west.“
“Thereafter the fire and smoke went up without ceasing; for the power of Sauron daily increased, and in that temple, with spilling of blood and torment and great wickedness, men made sacrifice to Melkor that he should release them from Death. And most often from among the Faithful they chose their victims.”
The Doom of Númenor has begun. Join me next week as we continue with Episode 4 of The Rings of Power and the week after when we return and complete Akallabêth!
“If we didn’t do everything we weren’t supposed to do, we’d hardly do anything at all.“
Welcome back to another Blind Watch! This week we cover episode three of The Rings of Power, “Adar.”
Before we begin anything, I have to say how amazed I am at the show’s budget and their ability to capitalize on and make the show as beautiful as it is. Of course, there are problems with the narrative flow, as they are cherry-picking events from multiple different timelines, but they are keeping reasonably faithful to the character’s intent. That almost doesn’t matter when you get to see the beauty of Middle-earth and Númenor.
We are introduced to several characters you’ll know, even if you aren’t familiar with The Silmarillion or the Númenórean story. First, we meet Captain Elendil (which I’m pretty sure was never mentioned as a Captain in the book, but I’m still catching up) and his son Isildur, whom we all know from the Scene in The Return of the King where he cuts off Sauron’s finger and takes the One Ring from the Dark Lord.
It seems like the showrunners are forsaking that Andùnië (the city Elendil takes Galadriel to the library) was a major metropolis and a kingdom in its own right. Elendil was the ruler of that Kingdom on the western shores of Númenór.
In the show, we see a mural of Elrond and Elros, brothers and sons of Elwing and Eärendil, in that library. If we remember from The Silmarillion, Eärendil and Elwing came to Valar and told of Morgoth’s reign, which caused the Valar to come to Beleriand and stop him. They broke the rules by going to Valar and are lauded as heroes for risking their lives to destroy Morgoth. As a reward, the boys had a choice of which line to follow because Elwing and Eärendil were descendants of both Elves and Men. Elros chose Men, and Elrond chose Elves.
There is an interesting scene where Elendil comes before the Queen Regent and states that his name means either Elf-friend or Star-lover. Eärendil becomes a star and rides a chariot across the sky as penance and reward for his transgressions, so Star-lover shows respect to Elendil’s ancestor. Because Elendil is a direct descendant of both Elwing and Eärendil, the Elf-friend translation of his name shows his willingness to bring both Elvenkind and Men together.
The Númenóreans seem like an evil group of people in the show, and they progressed that way because they believed they were better than anyone else. They had progressed to be more intelligent and advanced and yearned for long life. It seems like that would be at odds with The Lord of the Rings mythology, where they call Aragorn the last great Númenórean king. But in that case, it’s because Aragorn was a descendant of Elendil, the Elf-friend, and not of the Kings (or Tar’s), which took power and eventually caused the Drowning of Númenor.
And Speaking of the Drowning of Númenor, the show seems to be headed in that direction. The Queen Regent Míriel is indeed a true Queen of Númenor, daughter of Tar-Palantir, the seer. He is named after the Palantírí, the Seeing Stones which Fëanor created in Aman, and Elendil brought with him to Middle-earth when he fled from the Drowning of Númenor. Of course, everyone can remember Saruman with his twisted claw hovering over the stone, looking into the future tainted with Sauron’s corruption.
Back to Míriel. She was forced into marriage by Ar-Pharazôn, who was possibly the worst of the Kings of Númenor. I think this is where the show is headed, though I wonder if we will see Ar-Pharazôn as a character.
He sought to take over Middle-earth under the glorious banners of Númenor and force Sauron to bend his knee. However, it was Sauron who outwitted him. Sauron raised the white flag and surrendered without lifting a finger. Ar-Pharazôn took him into custody, thinking he had successfully created a kingdom of Eä (the world in which all the lands were in. Feel free to read that as Earth).
Over the years, Sauron corrupted Ar-Pharazôn to the point that he eventually became a council to the king. This led to the world’s downfall and caused the great wars of the Second Age.
Obviously, the show will speed this up, as they need to do so within the next six episodes. Still, I’ll be very interested in where they take this, as we’ve just touched upon the history of Númenor, which is the basis of the Current Blind read essays on one of the final chapters of The Silmarillion, “Akallabêth.”
We have two other storylines in this episode that don’t progress much, but one gives a deeper understanding of what is happening behind the scenes in the show. The other shows a broader sense of the progression of Middle-earth itself.
The first is Arondir’s storyline, which gives the episode its namesake. He awakens and finds that he’s a slave to the Orcs. They force a team of captives to dig tunnels when the prisoners realize that the Orcs are looking for something, not necessarily tunneling under the Earth. This hilt can only be what we saw the boy Theo hiding in the first and second episodes. The assumption is that they need the hilt to try and bring Sauron to power, but that all remains to be seen. We meet Adar at the very end as Arondir is concussed, and his vision is blurred. Adar comes in his point of view as a blurry Orc Captain.
The second storyline is Nori’s, and whom I can only guess are the originations of the shire folk, I.E., Hobbits. There is a mention in The Fellowship of the Rings that Hobbit’s used to be nomadic, but they settled down, and they are calm and gentle folk who don’t like adventures. Not only do their names (Brandyfoot and Proudfellow) match those of the Hobbits, but their demeanor does as well. After watching this episode, I’m doubling down on the “Stranger” that they found to be Gandalf. I’ve always wondered why Gandalf had a propensity for hobbits when danger was in the way and why he thought of them when he had a task. It may be that Nori is an ancestor of the Baggins clan, and Gandalf feels an affinity with her because she made sure he was safe.
The plot thickens, but it closely matches Akallabêth, so join me next week for a continuation of the Blind Read before we return for Episode 4 of the Rings of Power!
“In this Age, as is elsewhere told, Sauron arose again in Middle-earth, and grew, and turned back to the evil in which he was nurtured by Morgoth, becoming mighty in his service. Already in the days of Tar-Minastir, the eleventh King of Númenor, he had fortified the land of Mordor and had built there the Tower of Barad-Dûr, and thereafter he strove ever for dominion of Middle-earth, to become a king over all kings and as a god unto Men.“
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we continue the story of Númenór and watch as they create cancer within themselves, eventually leading to their demise.
We left off last time with the Númenóreans hitting landfall in Middle-earth, so they could hold to their word that they would not sail East towards Valinor.
The people of Middle-earth “sat under the Shadow were now grown weak and fearful,” but the Númenóreans taught them to farm and trained them “in the hewing of wood and the shaping of stone.“
This enabled the people of Middle-earth to forget their ancestor’s transgressions and shed Morgoth’s taint. They revered the Númenóreans because of this and took them as godlike kings.
This power went to their heads. “And they said among themselves: ‘Why do the Lords of the West sit there in peace unending, while we must die and go we know not whither, leaving our home and all that we have made? And the Eldar die not, even those that rebelled against the Lords. And since we have mastered all seas, and no water is so wild or wide that our ships cannot overcome it, why should we not go to Avallónë and greet our friends?‘”
The sentiment of Hubris is central to the Númenórean downfall and the wars which would follow in the Second and Third ages. The Dúnedain thought themselves so great and powerful that they allowed their demise. There is a very close parallel with the Romans in the Númenórean storyline, and I have to wonder if Tolkien didn’t model their rise and fall after that ancient empire. We’ll touch on that more later.
Some heavy theology follows the above quote, which spans pages. It is Tolkien’s search for meaning between the godlike and the mortal. There is quite a bit of documentation that Tolkien eventually meant for these histories to progress into later ages, which would become our history, almost like alternate history and mythology to the real Earth. Because of this, we see this Theology in the struggle of suffering. Why do Men have to suffer and die when the Elves and Valar live eternally? These are surrogate Angels of our world, with Ilúvatar being God.
They go back and forth, showing the youth and entitlement the Númenóreans felt. Why shouldn’t they get to see Valinor and become undying like the rest? But the Valar argued with them, telling them they were given their own gifts; they were not allowed to have the gifts of the Valar and the Eldar.
The Númenóreans all believed this, so it wasn’t until Tar-Atanamir (King of the Dúnedain) that their quest for eternal life saw its first downfalls (which they were blind to) because “Atanamir lived to a great age, clinging to his life beyond the end of all joy; and he was the first of the Númenóreans to do this, refusing to depart until he was witless and unmanned.”
The curse they would keep was this obtuseness of desire. Instead, they would cling to power and life to the detriment of all else.
It was during this age that they built significant structures on the mainland. Many of the Númenóreans reveled in the worship they received from the men of Middle-earth, “and the power and majesty of their kings were increased; and they drank, and they feasted, and they clad themselves in silver and gold.”
Reading this passage, I couldn’t help but think of Denethor and his disgusting eating habits while Merry sang his lamentations.
But the Númenóreans had more power and prestige than Denethor, and it enabled Sauron to gain his own power. So it’s here in the book that we get this essay’s opening quote.
There are some confusing and contradictory passages here which I probably need to read a few more times to understand completely. Still, it seems as though Sauron was around and in the land building power and creating Mordor, and during the Númenórean King Tar-Minastir’s reign, he created the One Ring. It was a partnership between Tar-Minastir and Gil-Galad, the Elven King, which stopped his ascension to power. I hope to see what that struggle looks like in the last chapter of The Silmarillion, “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.”
His fear and hatred of them grew through his exposure to the Númenóreans. “Yet Sauron was ever guileful, and it is said that among those whom he ensnared with the Nine Rings three were great lords of the Númenórean race. And when the Úlairi arose that were the Ring-wraiths, his servants, and the strength of his terror and mastery over Men had grown exceedingly great, he began to assail the strong places of the Númenóreans upon the shores of the sea.”
Because of this struggle against Sauron and their own Hubris, the Númenóreans continued their segregation from the Eldar and Valar. It was years and numerous Kings later when they stopped taking Elvish names and stopped tending the White Tree. They didn’t strike out against the Eldar but punished those of their ranks who sympathized with the Eldar. The Valar saw this, and they “gave them counsel and protection no more in their wroth.”
Tolkien does something exciting here. It’s the telling of the rise and fall of civilization over age, but he tells it so simply that it feels like one event after another leading to their eventual fall. But these events are slow-moving, and little things happen during the reign of each of the Númenórean great Kings. Of course, Sauron was around in Middle-earth during this time. Still, his influence was slight, mainly because of the impact of Gil-Galad, but also because he was interested in building up his great fortress, much like his Valar master, Morgoth.
There was no nail in the coffin for the Númenóreans, which makes this history so believable. Great empires can withstand a single significant event. What they cannot resist is years of degradation from the inside. The Númenórean pride and hatred lead them down a path of righteous death.
These people lived hundreds of years, and we’re up to the 24th King of Númenór, and we haven’t even gotten to the linchpin event, which caused the eventual downfall. Tolkien is taking his time, creating an environment within Númenór that will allow this linchpin event to happen.
So join me next time when we see what that event is as we continue on the story of Akallabêth!
“No! This is different. He could have landed anywhere and he landed here. I know it sounds strange but somehow I just know he’s important. It’s like there’s a reason this happened, like, I was supposed to find him. Me. I cant walk away from that, not, until I know he’s safe. Can you?“
Welcome to another Blind Watch! This week we delve back into Amazon’s realization of Middle-earth with the second episode of “The Rings of Power.” Be warned now! This blog is meant to be read after watching the episode. There are heavy spoilers and explanations of the episode, so please watch before reading!
This episode, “Adrift,” follows a stranded Galadriel in the middle of the sea. Arondir as he searches for the root of the plague. Nori Brandyfoot finds a mysterious giant and tries to befriend him. Then lastly, Elrond brings us to see the Dwarves of Khazad-Dûm.
Though the title is a metaphor for all the characters and the uncertainty of what is to come, let’s begin with the most apparent message and cover Galadriel.
A group of shipwreck survivors finds her floating in the ocean. A creature they call the worm attacked them, which is some giant sea creature. It harasses them and breaks up their flotilla, leaving only one survivor after its destruction. However, Galadriel does see (with her elf eyes) some spear impaled into its tail fin. I’m sure there is a significance that I’m missing at the moment, but it’s something to remember moving into future episodes.
In the Silmarillion, many creatures remained undescribed and grew in the darkness of Middle-earth. They were creatures of Morgoth’s creation because he corrupted the land. I believe that this sea creature, this “worm,” is one of those creatures, and it’s fun to see what the imaginations of Amazon can come up with because they have such an open slate.
The last survivor, Halbrand, lets Galadriel know that Orcs destroyed his home, Orcs that were supposed to be gone from the region. Instead, we find that the Orcs come from the Southlands, which we already know from Arondir’s storyline. Eventually, they are seen by someone on a ship, who undoubtedly is a Númenórian.
Moving back to Arondir’s storyline, he heads to the Southlands and finds a city that has been destroyed from beneath. The scourge is Orc that has tunneled underneath the earth and popped up to sack the city. He and Bronwyn find enough evidence to realize that Bronwyn’s town is in danger. They head back to find that Orc’s have come from underneath, and there is a fun fight scene towards the end of the episode where they fight and kill one of the orcs.
The mystery here is Theo, who is Bronwyn’s son. He has a sword hilt with Sauron’s mark on it, and the question is, where did he get that hilt? Could Theo be Halbrand’s son? Could the mysterious broken sword have come from a previous battle where Sauron was defeated? We are led to believe that Sauron’s armies heeded the call of the sword hilt, so all those questions remain to be answered.
Elrond’s storyline is the least impressive of the episode and takes up most of the run time. However, the whole point of the storyline is a setup for the rings of power in general. Elrond meets up with Celebrimbor, the premier elvish smith who wants to create something spectacular. However, he somehow lacks the ability, so Elrond takes him to visit his “friend” (speak friend and enter) Prince Durin. The goal is to get Prince Durin and Celebrimbor together to create what can only be the Rings of Power. There is also a decent amount of back and forth about Dwarvish/Elvish relations, which will only enrich the later storylines.
The final storyline is, to me, the most interesting and is represented by the quote at the beginning of this essay. It follows Nori, who is a precursor to the Third Age Hobbits we know and love (based upon the name, I have to imagine she is a descendant of the Proudfoot and the Brandywine Hobbit lines).
Nori finds the mysterious giant who has some magical powers. I think the showrunners are taking a little more creative license here because I believe this being is a Maiar named Olórin, otherwise known in Middle-earth as Gandalf.
The Maiar are basically celestial beings, second only to the Valar, and indeed are servants of the Valar (Morgoth is and was Valar, and Sauron is his Maiar adjutant). The Istari were a sect of Maiar “wizards” sent to Middle-earth to assist the people against Sauron’s deception and armies. At the end of the first episode we see this giant being shot down to the earth like a meteor, and spends the majority fo the second episode trying to learn speech, and to understand his magic.
That follows with the general storyline of The Silmarillion, but the only issue is that the Istari were all sent in the Third Age, not the Second Age, so the showrunners are ignoring some history of Middle-earth here to work to make a better and more fluid show.
The whole of what I know about the Second Age comes from Akallabêth, which I’ve just finished, and we’ll get a Blind Read over the next few weeks to complete it. The issues I see here are that in the Second Age, Sauron worked his silver tongue to fool the great kingdoms of Middle-earth. He became a consultant of the Númenórians and created distrust from the inside rather than fighting them directly.
Sauron’s real story may still be the case in the show because we are just getting to Númenor in the next episode, but because there are already armies of Orcs fighting, and no one seems to know where Sauron is, I don’t think this is the direction they’re going.
It also is a complete divergence for Galadriel’s character because she was a fighter, but at this point in history, she was married to Celeborn and living peacefully, but there is no mention of him in the show. It was Morgoth who killed her brother, not Sauron, so her motivation has changed entirely.
Despite all that, it’s fun to be back in Middle-earth on screen, and I can’t wait to see their take on Númenor!
Join me next week as we continue with Akallabêth. We will switch back and forth between Blind Reads and Blind Watch every week for the next few weeks, as the last two chapters in the Silmarillion pertain to what is happening in “The Rings of Power.”
“And the Doom of Men, that they should depart, was at first a gift of Ilùvatar. It became a grief to them only because coming under the shadow of Morgoth it seemed to them that they were surrounded by a great darkness, of which they were afraid; and some grew wilful and proud and would not yield , until life was reft from them. We who beat the ever mounting burden of the years do not clearly understand this; but if that grief has returned to trouble you, as you say, then we fear that the Shadow arises once more and grows again in your hearts.“
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we delve into the Decendents of Elves and Men, otherwise known as the Númenorians or Dúnedain.
Tolkien begins the chapter by giving us an abridgment of the story of Men in The Silmarillion, but with a slight adjustment: “It is said by the Eldar that Men came into the world in the time of the Shadow of Morgoth, and they fell swiftly under his dominion; for he sent his emissaries among them, and they listened to his evil and cunning words, and they worshipped the Darkness and yet feared it.“
Interestingly, he begins this chapter from the perspective of the Eldar because the majority of the end of The Silmarillion has to do with how the “men” (meaning humans) helped with the ultimate defeat of Morgoth. Indeed without their influence, Morgoth would probably have taken over the land of Middle-earth.
What I find so fascinating about this passage is that Tolkien is saying that the majority of Men in the first age fell under Morgoth’s deception. However, just a select few, the Edain, who made their way West into Beleriand, were free of The Dark Lord’s corruption. Indeed, these Edain are whom we’ve read about thus far in the Quenta Silmarillion.
With Morgoth’s defeat, his thralls went back into the east, and the Edain faithful to the Valar were rewarded for their servitude. “Eönwë came among them and taught them; and they were given wisdom and power and life more enduring than any others of mortal race have possessed.”
They were also given land that was “neither part of Middle-earth nor of Valinor, for it was sundered from either by a wide sea.” The Valar raised the ground from the sea and enriched it with life, and the Star of Eärendil shone like a northern light to show the Edain how to reach that land. The land was called Andor, or “Númenóre in the High Eldarin tongue.“
“This was the beginning of that people that in the Grey-elven speech are called the Dúnedain: the Númenóreans, Kings among Men.“
These “Kings among Men” were blessed with abnormally long lives to allow them to gain wisdom and help with the progression of Men in Arda, but the original gift of Ilùvatar was still intact. The gift of death.
Ilùvatar (you can read this as God) wanted Men of Middle-earth to have the ability to die, so he gave them short lifespans. The Valar are eternal, and the Eldar are immortal unless mortally injured. So men were given short lives to appreciate the splendor that Ilùvatar and the Valar had wrought. The drawback was that none of the great human kingdoms of the First Age could produce the marvels that the Elves or even Dwarves were able to create. Thus Númenor allowed them to grow “wise and glorious, and in all things more like the Firstborn than any other of the kindreds of Men; and they were tall, taller than the tallest sons of Middle-earth; and the light of their eyes was like the bright stars.“
It was here on Númenor, the island kingdom, that Elros, brother to Elrond and son of Eärendil and Elwing, became the first King of the Dúnedain in the great city of Armenelos.
Because of his parent’s sacrifice and their mixed blood, the Valar gave the brothers the choice of whom they would live their lives. Elrond chose Noldor blood and lived the rest of his life amongst the Elves. Elros, however, decided the blood of Man, and it’s from his shared blood that the Númenórian line descended.
Elros ruled in splendor for over four hundred years, growing Númenor into the legend it would become. “The Dúnedain dwelt under the protection of the Valar and in the friendship of the Eldar, and they increased in stature both of mind and body.”
They accepted a ban from the Valar that they were not to sail to the west and thus spent their time growing in knowledge and the arts. They became great shipbuilders, as you would expect of people living on an island. They accepted gifts from the Valar and planted seedlings of the great trees of Valinor, echoing Telperion. I have to wonder if this is the antecedent of the great white tree of Gondor we see in The Lord of the Rings. The men of Gondor were, in essence, descendants of the Dúnedain, so having the tree be the standard on their armor and flags makes sense, especially because Aragorn was a descendant of those great kings.
It was during this time that Middle-earth’s wisdom faded, all while the Númenórian knowledge increased. It was only a matter of time before the Dúnedain would make their way to the mainland. Over the years of building ships and gaining their knowledge, a natural curiosity about the surrounding world cropped up among the Dúnedain. They were denied the ability to sail west, so naturally, they sailed east to Middle-earth’s dark lands.
This was the beginning of the corruption of the Dúnedain. They came as seekers of knowledge but went to the land that had regressed. They came to a land of people who had become hunter-gatherers and lived tribally. They came as wanderers and became conquerors. They became, in their own eyes, Gods of Middle-earth.
Join me next week as we review the second episode of The Rings of Power before returning to the saga of the Dúnedain!
“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!