Reader: The Silmarillion. Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter 13 “Of The Return of the Noldor”

ted nasmith_the silmarillion_2_quenta silmarillion_13_of the return of the noldor_medReader deep thought: What an eventful time! The Noldor sure started their careers as Exiles with a bang, or three. And the Sun and the Moon sprung up in time to bear witness to the stuff of legends. Gothmog debuted, Fëanor passed, the Noldor-lords reunited willy-nilly, Noldor meets Sindar, and Thingol unhappy. But still, the Noldor prospered and there was diaspora, much thanks in part to Maedhros’ mellowing out, Finrod’s loyalty to their friendship, and the even-tempered EQ of Fingolfin. Everything happened. Even LOVE, blooming in Galadriel and Celeborn’s companionship in Menegroth (interestingly, both were Thingol’s kin). And yet, already two Wars of Beleriand before the end of the chapter, in the brief span of time right before the Sun first rose to her 60th anniversary, and the Silmarils were still in Morgoth’s ever scheming hands. Bummer. And what did the Noldor do? Siege Angband of course! Four hundred fifty years. Longevity hath its privileges.

“No love was there in the hearts of those that followed Fingolfin for the House of Fëanor, for the agony of those that endured the crossing of the Ice had been great, and Fingolfin held the sons the accomplices of their father. Then there was peril of strife between the hosts; but grievous as were their losses upon the road, the people of Fingolfin and of Finrod son of Finarfin were still more numerous than the followers of Fëanor, and these now withdrew before them, and removed their dwelling to the southern shore; and the lake lay between them. Many of Fëanor’s people indeed repented of the burning at Losgar, and were filled with amazement at the valour that had brought the friends whom they had abandoned over the Ice of the North; and they would have welcomed them, but they dared not, for shame.”


Picking up the tale’s threads from where Fëanor and his sons landed in Middle-earth,  burned the white ships of the Teleri, announcing their arrival to both Fingolfin, whom he had left to his own devices on the shores of Araman, and Morgoth and his hordes.

“Under the cold stars before the rising of the Moon”, and while the Valar were still moping, Fëanor “went up the long Firth of Drengist that pierced the Echoing Hills of Ered Lómin”, and into Hithlum.

Making full use of the “here be Elves” signal from the burning Teleri ships, Morgoth despatched an Orc host which sprung an attack on Fëanor where he was encamped, on the north shore of the long lake of Mithrim.

Thus was the Second Battle in the Wars of the Beleriand born. But surprise was not an advantage; the Exiles, still feeling the sparkly goodness of being Calaquendi, made short work of the assailing orc mobs.

…. But the host of Morgoth, aroused by the tumult of Lammoth and the light of the burning at Losgar, came through the passes of Ered Wethrin, the Mountains of Shadow, and assailed Fëanor on a sudden, before his camp was full-wrought or put in defence; and there on the grey fields of Mithrim was fought the Second Battle in the Wars of Beleriand. OlgerdDagorNuinGiliathDagor-nuin-Giliath it is named, the Battle-under-Stars, for the Moon had not yet risen; and it is renowned in song. The Noldor, outnumbered and taken at unawares, were yet swiftly victorious; for the light of Aman was not yet dimmed in their eyes, and they were strong and swift, and deadly in anger, and their swords were long and terrible. The Orcs fled before them, and they were driven forth from Mithrim with great slaughter, and hunted over the Mountains of Shadow into the great plain of Ard-galen, that lay northward of Dorthonion. There the armies of Morgoth that had passed south into the Vale of Sirion and beleaguered Círdan in the Havens of the Falas came up to their aid, and were caught in their ruin. For Celegorm, Fëanor’s son, having news of them, waylaid them with a part of the Elven-host, and coming down upon them out of the hills near Eithel Sirion drove them into the Fen of Serech. Evil indeed were the tidings that came at last to Angband, and Morgoth was dismayed. Evil indeed were the tidings that came at last to Angband, and Morgoth was dismayed. Ten days that battle lasted, and from it returned of all the hosts that he had prepared for the conquest of Beleriand no more than a handful of leaves.

Fanorthefiery-1In pressing his advantage Fëanor,  fiery as ever, had but a handful of Elves with him at the crux. Bad mistake. In the land of Morgoth, Dor Daedeloth, he was beleaguered by Morgoth’s Balrogs issuing forth from Angband, and was mortally wounded by Gothmog. But for his sons who drove off the Balrogs, he would have died there in the Land of Morgoth. Still he passed at Eithel Sirion, in the east of Ered Wethrin (Mountains of Shadow), though not before getting in a last hurrah, and thrice throwing his curse of Morgoth’s name at Thangorodrim where the Enemy sat pretty.

… but he had neither burial nor tomb, for so fiery was his spirit that as it sped his body fell to ash, and was borne away like smoke; and his likeness has never again appeared in Arda, neither has his spirit left the halls of Mandos. Thus ended the mightiest of the Noldor, of whose deeds came both their greatest renown and their most grievous woe.

And yet, even as he died, Fëanor ensured the perpetuation of the Doom of the Noldor, which he caused to be, by laying it on his sons to keep the Oath and avenge him.

Continuing on, the Exiles reached Mithrim where Sindar dwelt, “folk of Beleriand that had wandered north over the mountains.” Things got lost in translation for a while, since both sides needed to mind the language, and synch up their ability to communicate. Finally getting things lined up, the Exiles learnt of Thingol, and the Girdle of Melian, and word spread among the Sindar about the Noldor: “Then all the Elves of Beleriand were filled with wonder and with hope at the coming of their mighty kindred, who thus returned unlooked-for from the West in the very hour of their need, believing indeed at first that they came as emissaries of the Valar to deliver them.” Talk about self-fulfillment. Even after all they’ve been through, the Sindars saw the cup as half-full.

Meantime, Morgoth schemed relentlessly, and in turn the sons of Fëanor counter-schemed.

… in the hour of the death of Fëanor an embassy came to his sons from Morgoth, acknowledging defeat, and offering terms, even to the surrender of a Silmaril. Then Maedhros the tall, the eldest son, persuaded his brothers to feign to treat with Morgoth, and to meet his emissaries at the place appointed; but the Noldor had as little thought of faith as had he. Wherefore each embassy came with greater force than was agreed; but Morgoth sent the more, and there were Balrogs. Maedhros was ambushed, and all his company were slain; but he himself was taken alive by the command of Morgoth, and brought to Angband.

ted nasmith_the silmarillion_2_quenta silmarillion_13_of the return of the noldor2_maedhros and fingon_medMorgoth’s terms for Maedhros’ ransom were simple enough: Give up and go home or away from Beleriand – preferably far in the South. But Maedhros’s brothers knew Morgoth’s deceit, and the Oath binded them – they can’t do anything else until the Oath is fulfilled or they dead in service of it. Catch 22. And they were right: “Therefore Morgoth took Maedhros and hung him from the face of a precipice upon Thangorodrim, and he was caught to the rock by the wrist of his right hand in a band of steel.”

Fortuitous for Maedhros, Fingolfin was come at this time. As Fëanor’s arrival in Middle-earth marked the dying of the Long Night, his half-brother’s advent into Mithrim heralded the rise of the Sun. What a glorious sight it was:

But as the host of Fingolfin marched into Mithrim the Sun rose flaming in the West; and Fingolfin unfurled his blue and silver banners, and blew his horns, and flowers sprang beneath his marching feet, and the ages of the stars were ended. At the uprising of the great light the servants of Morgoth fled into Angband, and Fingolfin passed unopposed through the fastness of Dor Daedeloth while his foes hid beneath the earth. Then the Elves smote upon the gates of Angband, and the challenge of their trumpets shook the towers of Thangorodrim; and Maedhros heard them amid his torment and cried aloud, but his voice was lost in the echoes of the stone.

Prudence saved the day, for Morgoth, because Fingolfin retreated back to Mithrim instead of pressing his advantage. Wisely he did indeed, when in assessing the situation “he desired also to have the shield of the Mountains of Shadow while his people rested and grew strong; for he had seen the strength of Angband, and thought not that it would fall to the sound of trumpets only.” Too, he wished to meet with Fëanor’s boys.

So Fingolfin made camp on the north shores of Lake Mithrim, where also dwelt the boys. Tension, tension! And yet, even though his host, including Finrod son of Finarfin’s people, was the more numerous than Fëanor’s, Fingolfin and his people showed true generosity of heart, ceding the north shores, and instead settling on the southern banks. At least many of Fëanor’s people had the decency to regret the burning at Losgar. Pity their shame inhibited any clear display of welcome.

Stalemate and thumb-twiddling time. The Noldor could do naught with the Oath hanging over them, and yet they could not function, let alone progress as a unit.

Meantime, the marauding of Morgoth’s orcs were curbed by their fear of the new Sun’s light. But he saw opportunity in the discord among the Noldor, and using some secret recipe sent depressing, and poisonous, smokes and vapours from Angband to obscure the Sun and befoul the air at Mithrim.

Too bad for Morgoth, he did not study the Noldor princes well. Fingon, using the very darkness he caused to be, ventured alone into Angband to find Maedhros, because their friendship in happier times was still dear to him (mutual feelings since at Losgar, Maedhros did want to return on the Teleri ships across the Helcar for him). It took some effort, and singing, but finally Fingon located his cousin. Both despaired of freeing Maedhros. But while Fingon was nocking an arrow to grant Maedhros’ wish to die (like his grandmother Miriel perhaps), he asked Manwë for mercy: “O King to whom all birds are dear, speed now this feathered shaft, and recall some pity for the Noldor in their need!”

Piety reaped him some reward. It so happened the race of Eagles, which Manwë commanded to settle in the mountains in the North to surveil Morgoth, were home. Thorondor, the King of Eagles, swopped down and brought Fingon up to where Maedhros was hanging out. “But Fingon could not release the hell-wrought bond upon his wrist, nor sever it, nor draw it from the stone. Again therefore in his pain Maedhros begged that he would slay him; but Fingon cut off his hand above the wrist, and Thorondor bore them back to Mithrim.”

Thanks to the fortitude of having grown up in Valinor, Maedhros recovered, physically, and, through necessity, became a southpaw. So Fingon won renown and solved Noldor peace.

… and the hatred between the houses of Fingolfin and Fëanor was assuaged. For Maedhros begged forgiveness for the desertion in Araman; and he waived his claim to kingship over all the Noldor, saying to Fingolfin: ‘If there lay no grievance between us, lord, still the kingship would rightly come to you, the eldest here of the house of Finwë, and not the least wise.’ But to this his brothers did not all in their hearts agree.

So Mandos’ words came true: “the House of Fëanor were called the Dispossessed, because the overlordship passed from it, the elder, to the house of Fingolfin, both in Elendë and in Beleriand, and because also of the loss of the Silmarils.”

But at last: Noldor United! Which was bad news for Morgoth. Dor Daedeloth was watched on all sides, and the Noldor were able to turn to other matters, and explore beyond Mithrim.

Thingol, unsurprisingly, was not happy with the sudden influx of “princes in might out of the West” looking for realms to lord over; “he would not open his kingdom, nor remove its girdle of enchantment, for wise with the wisdom of Melian he trusted not that the restraint of Morgoth would endure.”. Still, there were exceptions – Finarfin’s kids were his nephews by way of their mother Eärwen of Alqualondë, Olwë’s daughter.

So he received Angrod as Finrod’s representative,the first of the Exiles to enter Menegroth. Angrod, “being true, and wisehearted, and thinking all griefs now forgivenbeing true, and wisehearted, and thinking all griefs now forgiven” omitted the Kinslaying, and the specifics of both the Exiles’ circumstance and the Oath, while recounting what the Noldor did in the North and the arrays of the various Houses and princes.

Thingol’s stern homily, which Angrod brought back to Mithrim was not universally received.

‘Thus shall you speak for me to those that sent you. In Hithlum the Noldor have leave to dwell, and in the highlands of Dorthonion, and in the lands east of Doriath that are empty and wild; but elsewhere there are many of my people, and I would not have them restrained of their freedom, still less ousted from their homes. Beware therefore how you princes of the West bear yourselves; for I am the Lord of Beleriand, and all who seek to dwell there shall hear my word. Into Doriath none shall come to abide but only such as I call as guests, or who seek me in great need.’

As might be expected, Fëanor’s brood did not take it well. Except Maedhros, whose response was truly classically epic:

‘A king is he that can hold his own, or else his title is vain. Thingol does but grant us lands where his power does not run. Indeed Doriath alone would be his realm this day, but for the coming of the Noldor. Therefore in Doriath let him reign, and be glad that he has the sons of Finwë for his neighbours, not the Orcs of Morgoth that we found. Elsewhere it shall go as seems good to us.’

Hanging around on Morgoth’s pad seemed to have done him some good. But Caranthir, he of the foul-mouth and worse temper threatened to spoil the peace. To him, it was a case of who died and made Finarfin’s boys Noldor’s heirs? Clearly he bore no love for those with whom he shared the same heritage, perhaps due to that tiny detail of their mother’s pedigree. Calling Thingol a “Dark Elf” was going too far, but this harshest of Fëanor’s boys probably didn’t care nor appreciate that it did not find its way to Thingol’s ears.

And Angrod huffed out of the meeting, without hearing Maedhros’ reprimand of Caranthir. But many there were who heard his outburst, and “hearing his words were troubled in heart, fearing the fell spirit of the sons of Fëanor that it seemed would ever be like to burst forthin rash word or violence.”

Interestingly, Maedhros restrained his brothers, and they left Mithrim. Heading east, to the wide lands about the Hill of Himring, eastward beyond Aros. From there, Maedhros and his brothers kept watch. That region which was called the March of Maedhros ever after was strategic for “northwards there was little defence of hill or river against assault from Angband.” And they interacted seldom with their kinsfolk westward.

It is said indeed that Maedhros himself devised this plan, to lessen the chances of strife, and because he was very willing that the chief peril of assault should fall upon himself; and he remained for his part in friendship with the houses of Fingolfin and Finarfin, and would come among them at times for common counsel.

So indeed, Morgoth’s hospitality seemed to have mellowed Fëanor’s eldest, but still the Oath yet hung over him, dormant though it was then.

Meantime, Caranthir had settled “furthest east beyond the upper waters of Gelion, about Lake Helevorn under Mount Rerir and to the southward; and they climbed the heights of Ered Luin and looked eastward in wonder, for wild and wide it seemed to them were the lands of Middle-earth.”

Because of their venturing, Caranthir’s people were the first Elves to encounter Dwarves again, the Naugrim who had stopped going to Beleriand after the First Battle of Beleriand (in which Thingol and his vassals in Beleriand suffered grave losses) and the Noldor’s arrival.

But though either people loved skill and were eager to learn, no great love was there between them; for the Dwarves were secret and quick to resentment, and Caranthir was haughty and scarce concealed his scorn for the unloveliness of the Naugrim, and his people followed their lord. Nevertheless since both peoples feared and hated Morgoth they made alliance, and had of it great profit; for the Naugrim learned many secrets of craft in those days, so that the smiths and masons of Nogrod and Belegost became renowned among their kin, and when the Dwarves began again to journey into Beleriand all the traffic of the dwarf-mines passed first through the hands of Caranthir, and thus great riches came to him.

Certainly necessity and practicality can make the strangest of unwilling bedfellows. And clearly, even through his unlovable nature, Caranthir caught a very lucky break, and sat upon a giving windfall that would last as long as Beleriand.

Twenty years later, Fingolfin threw a party so happening it was remembered in later times of sorrow. Its name: Mereth Aderthad, the Feast of Reuniting.

Thither came many of the chieftains and people of Fingolfin and Finrod; and of the sons of Fëanor Maedhros and Maglor, with warriors of the eastern March; and there came also great numbers of the Grey-elves, wanderers of the woods of Beleriand and folk of the Havens, with Círdan their lord. There came even Green-elves from Ossiriand, the Land of Seven Rivers, far off under the walls of the Blue Mountains; but out of Doriath there came but two messengers, Mablung and Daeron, bearing greetings from the King.

The dignitaries wheeled and dealed, with Beleriand-speak the mode of communication since the Noldor were good at it, while the Sindars were not quite so proficient in Valinorese. Uncharacteristically, the Noldor were happy and hopeful for “it seemed that the words of Fëanor had been justified, bidding them seek freedom and fair kingdoms in Middle-earth; and indeed there followed after long years of peace, while their swords fenced Beleriand from the ruin of Morgoth, and his power was shut behind his gates.” So despite the spectre of “the Shadow” brooding in the north, there was joy among the residents of Beleriand.

Thirty years later, Turgon son of Fingolfin left Nevrast where he dwelt, and with Finrod who lived on the island of Tol Sirion, went on a summer roadtrip following the flow of the river Sirion south. Camped beyond the Meres of Twilight (the Aelin-uial), they each received messages from Ulmo.

But Ulmo coming up the river laid a deep sleep upon them and heavy dreams; and the trouble of the dreams remained after they awoke, but neither said aught to the other, for their memory was not clear, and each believed that Ulmo had sent a message to him alone. But unquiet was upon them ever after, and doubt of what should befall, and they wandered often alone in untrodden lands, seeking far and wide for places of hidden strength; for it seemed to each that he was bidden to prepare for a day of evil, and to establish a retreat, lest Morgoth should burst from Angband and overthrow the armies of the North.

Later, Finrod, who with Galadriel were sponging off the hospitality of Doriath, was so inspired by Menegroth he confided in Thingol as he too wanted to “build wide halls behind ever-guarded gates in some deep and secret place beneath the hills.” Learning of the deep gorge of the River Narog from Beleriand’s King, who provided precise directions, Finrod established Nargothrond in the Caverns of Narog. Tastefully fashioned after the mansion of Menegroth of course.

In that labour Finrod was aided by the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains; and they were rewarded well, for Finrod had brought more treasures out of Tirion than any other of the princes of the Noldor. And in that time was made for him the Nauglamír, the Necklace of the Dwarves, most renowned of their works in the Elder Days. It was a carcanet of gold, and set therein were gems uncounted from Valinor; but it had a power within it so that it rested lightly on its wearer as a strand of flax, and whatsoever neck it clasped it sat always with grace and loveliness.

Surely, thrift is a virtue rewardeth. Finrod was nicknamed Felagund, Hewer of Caves by the Dwarves too.

Meantime, Galadriel stayed on in Menegroth, happy for the company of Celeborn, Thingol’s kin. And in her spare time availed herself of Melian’s “great lore and wisdom concerning Middle-earth.”

Turgon, the other dreamer, had Tirion as his guiding vision, and arrived at his stronghold via a different approach.

And in the next year Ulmo himself appeared to him, and bade him go forth again alone into the Vale of Sirion; and Turgon went forth, and by the guidance of Ulmo he discovered the hidden vale of Tumladen in the Encircling Mountains, in the midst of which there was a hill of stone. Of this he spoke to none as yet, but returned once more to Nevrast, and there began in his secret counsels to devise the plan of a city after the manner of Tirion upon Túna, for which his heart yearned in exile.

Things had been peaceful too long. Morgoth, believing the advantage was his in spy reports of the seemingly peaceful traipsing of the Noldor-lords, struck.

Dagor AglarebOnce more, with little warning, his might was stirred, and suddenly there were earthquakes in the north, and fire came from fissures in the earth, and the Iron Mountains vomited flame; and Orcs poured forth across the plain of Ard-galen. Thence they thrust down the Pass of Sirion in the west, and in the east they burst through the land of Maglor, in the gap between the hills of Maedhros and the outliers of the Blue Mountains. But Fingolfin and Maedhros were not sleeping, and while others sought out the scattered bands of Orcs that strayed in Beleriand and did great evil they came upon the main host from either side as it was assaulting Dorthonion; and they defeated the servants of Morgoth, and pursuing them across Ard-galen destroyed them utterly, to the least and last, within sight of Angband’s gates. That was the third great battle of the Wars of Beleriand, and it was named Dagor Aglareb, the Glorious Battle.

Thereafter began the four-hundred year Siege of Angband, for though “a victory it was, and yet a warning; and the princes took heed of it, and thereafter drew closer their leaguer, and strengthened and ordered their watch”. A fitful stalemate, for while there was always skirmishes, the Noldor could neither break Angband nor regain the Silmarils. Thanks to the lay of the land.

… the Iron Mountains, from whose great curving wall the towers of Thangorodrim were thrust forward, defended it upon either side, and were impassable to the Noldor, because of their snow and ice. Thus in his rear and to the north Morgoth had no foes, and by that way his spies at times went out, and came by devious routes into Beleriand.”

Morgoth continued his life’s work to trip the Eldar.

And desiring above all to sow fear and disunion among the Eldar, he commanded the Orcs to take alive any of them that they could and bring them bound to Angband; and some he so daunted by the terror of his eyes that they needed no chains more, but walked ever in fear of him, doing his will wherever they might be. Thus Morgoth learned much of all that had befallen since the rebellion of Fëanor, and he rejoiced, seeing therein the seed of many dissensions among his foes.

So much for Fingolfin’s boast that only treason among the Noldor-lords could grant Morgoth the ability to spring surprises on them, or indeed break their Siege.

But it was a fitfully peaceful time for the Elves. Until one hundred years after the Dagor Aglareb; Morgoth sprung a surprise attack on Fingolfin in Hithlum from the west, rather than on the viligant Maedhros, sending “an army into the white north, and they turned west and again south and came down the coasts to the Firth of Drengist, by the route that Fingolfin followed from the Grinding Ice.” But it was pre-empted, an Elven rout at the head of Firth, with most of Morgoth’s army driven into the sea. Morgoth left the Elves alone for many years after that, realising it was futile to just rely on orcs to break the Noldor.

Glaurung-invade-Nargothrond-4Another hundred years passed before Morgoth tried a new tactic. Dragons, the Urulóki, the fire-drakes of the North, featuring Glaurung’s debut upon Ard-galen. Even as a junvenile still, scarce half-grown, he spooked the Elves into fleeing to Ered Wethrin and Dorthonion. But Fingon along with archers in horseback, saved the day for they “hemmed him round with a ring of swift riders; and Glaurung could not endure their darts, being not yet come to his full armoury, and he fled back to Angband, and came not forth again for many years.”

Fingon won great praise, and the Noldor rejoiced; for few
foresaw the full meaning and threat of this new thing. But Morgoth was ill-pleased that Glaurung had disclosed himself oversoon; and after his defeat there was the Long Peace of wellnigh two hundred years.

So Morgoth stewed and sent forth small punitive sorties at the marches from time to time, and the Elves got on with life, secure in the might of their armies keeping watch in the North. This meant the merging of Noldor and Sindar.

In many parts of the land the Noldor and the Sindar became welded into one people, and spoke the same tongue; though this difference remained between them, that the Noldor had the greater power of mind and body, and were the mightier warriors and sages, and they built with stone, and loved the hill-slopes and open lands. But the Sindar had the fairer voices and were more skilled in music, save only Maglor son of Fëanor, and they loved the woods and the riversides; and some of the Grey-elves still wandered far and wide without settled abode, and they sang as they went.

True to the strictures of the Oath, the Noldor were greater warriors, and true to their lineage, they were the greater sages. What an oxymoronic state of being. The Sindar though; something must have happened in the intervening Ages because it seemed the Third Age had no inkling of their musicality.

(Relevance: read-along schedule)

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