Reader: The Silmarillion. Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter 14 “Of Beleriand and its Realms”

ted nasmith_the silmarillion_2_quenta silmarillion_14_of beleriand and its realms_medReader deep thought: Beleriand, north-west Middle-earth, action central of the First Age. Time to get the lay of the land, and know this land full of Elves, as things were during the Siege of Angband. Or geography!time aka this was the way the lembas crumble when the Elf-lords drew borders. And of course where there were maps, there was politics. Add Mr. Deceit himself and the DOOM of an entire clan of Eldalië, and things could only have gotten interesting. Still, ever hath music sootheth the savage beast. What a pity the Laiquendi were so shy.

In Ossiriand dwelt the Green-elves, in the protection of their rivers; for after Sirion Ulmo loved Gelion above all the waters of the western world. The woodcraft of the Elves of Ossiriand was such that a stranger might pass through their land from end to end and see none of them. They were clad in green in spring and summer, and the sound of their singing could be heard even across the waters of Gelion; wherefore the Noldor named that country Lindon, the land of music, and the mountains beyond they named Ered Lindon, for they first saw them from Ossiriand.


Colorized_Map_of_BeleriandSUMMARY NOTES

Beleriand, Middle-earth was the place to be, for any Elf wanting a piece of the action in the First Age. Beautiful and deadly, and yet wide and expansive enough to accommodate both the would-be King of the world, the various Elf-lords, and even assorted others who remained unnoted.

Morgoth’s pad

FirstAgeEWIn the remote North, the regions of everlasting cold, where Morgoth had ice and smoke as his decorating theme were his stomping grounds, his proud property collection stylishly named Dor Daedeloth.

Utumno was his original headquarters. But since his return from Valinor, Morgoth had taken up residence in Angband, since Utumno was ground zero in the War of the Powers but Angband escaped complete ruin, being only practically, but not thoroughly, razed by the Powers.

Key features

  • Ered Engrin, the Iron Mountains. Raised by Melkor as a buffer for Utumno and Angband.
    • a great tunnel, opened in the south of the mountains was dug, and “there he made a mighty gate”.
    • Sitting behind this gate were the triple towers of Thangorodrim, built of filth and slag from his subterranean realm.
  • Angband.


Other key locations and geographical features

  • Ard-galen
    “Before the gates of Angband filth and desolation spread southward for many miles over the wide plain of Ard-galen; but after the coming of the Sun rich grass arose there, and while Angband was besieged and its gates shut there were green things even among the pits and broken rocks before the doors of hell.”
WEST Beleriand

img__Map-Beleriand-WestThe Noldorin lands

Fingolfin was held overlord of all the Noldor, and Fingon after him, though their own realm was but the northern land of Hithlum; yet their people were the most hardy and valiant, most feared by the Orcs and most hated by Morgoth.

  • Hithlum. West of Thangorodrim. Rulers: Fingolfin and Fingon.
    “It was a fair land while the Siege of Angband lasted, although its air was cool and winter there was cold. In the west it was bounded by Ered Lómin, the Echoing Mountains that marched near the sea; and in the east and south by the great curve of Ered Wethrin, the Shadowy Mountains, that looked across Ard-galen and the Vale of Sirion.”

    • Most of Fingolfin’s people dwelt around Lake Mithrim
    • Fingon resided in Dor-lómin, west of the Mountains of Mithrim
    • Their chief fortress was Eithel Sirion, east of Ered Wethrin
    • Calvary was a big feature of their forces, with many of their horses bred from broodstock out of  Valinor – given to Fingolfin by Maedhros in atonement of his losses, for they had been carried by ship to Losgar. Ard-galen was their grazing grounds.
  • Nevrast. West of Dor-lómin, beyond the Echoing Mountains. Ruler: Turgon (until he left for Gondolin).
    • “The Hither Shore”.
      “That name was given at first to all the coastlands south of the Firth, but afterwards only to the land whose shores lay between Drengist and Mount Taras…. bounded by the sea, and by Ered Lómin, and by the hills which continued the walls of Ered Wethrin westward, from Ivrin to Mount Taras, which stood upon a promontory. By some Nevrast was held to belong rather to Beleriand than to Hithlum, for it was a milder land, watered by the wet winds from the sea and sheltered from the cold north winds that blew over Hithlum. It was a hollow land, surrounded by mountains and great coast-cliffs higher than the plains behind, and no river flowed thence; and there was a great mere in the midst of Nevrast, with no certain shores, being encircled by wide marshes. Linaewen was the name of that mere, because of the multitude of birds that dwelt there, of such as love tall reeds and shallow pools.”
    • Capital: Vinyamar, under Mount Taras beside the sea.
  • Highlands of Dorthonion. South of Ard-galen. Rulers: Angrod and Aegnor.
    “… great pine forests it bore, especially on its northern and western sides. By gentle slopes from the plain it rose to a bleak and lofty land, where lay many tarns at the feet of bare tors whose heads were higher than the peaks of Ered Wethrin: but southward where it looked towards Doriath it fell suddenly in dreadful precipices. From the northern slopes of Dorthonion Angrod and Aegnor, … their people were few, for the land was barren, and the great highlands behind were deemed to be a bulwark that Morgoth would not lightly seek to cross.”
  • Nargothrond. Ruler: Finrod.
    “… the realm of Nargothrond, between Teiglin and Narog. And the River Narog rose in the falls of Ivrin in the southern face of Dor-lómin, and flowed some eighty leagues ere he joined Sirion in Nan-tathren, the Land of Willows. South of Nan-tathren was a region of meads filled with many flowers, where few folk dwelt; and beyond lay the marshes and isles of reed about the mouths of Sirion, and the sands of his delta empty of all living things save birds of the sea…. the realm of Nargothrond extended also west of Narog to the River Nenning, that reached the sea at Eglarest; and Finrod became the overlord of all the Elves of Beleriand between Sirion and the sea, save only in the Falas.”

    • Pass of Sirion. Between Dorthonion and the Shadowy Mountains.
      “… there was a narrow vale, whose sheer walls were clad with pines; but the vale itself was green, for the River Sirion flowed through it, hastening towards Beleriand. Finrod held the Pass of Sirion, and upon the isle of Tol Sirion in the midst of the river he built a mighty watch-tower, Minas Tirith; but after Nargothrond was made he committed that fortress mostly to the keeping of Orodreth his brother.”
    • Encompassing a wide area that reached to the Havens of the Falas, “the realm of Finrod was the greatest by far, though he was the youngest of the great lords of the Noldor, Fingolfin, Fingon, and Maedhros, and Finrod Felagund.”


The Sindarin Lands

  • Havens of the Falas. West coast of Beleriand, south of Nevrast, abutted by Nargothrond, Finrod’s lands. Ruler: Círdan.
    “… between Círdan and Finrod there was friendship and alliance, and with the aid of the Noldor the havens of Brithombar and Eglarest were built anew. Behind their great walls they became fair towns and harbours with quays and piers of stone. Upon the cape west of Eglarest Finrod raised the tower of Barad Nimras to watch the western sea, though needlessly.”


EAST Beleriand

img__Map-Beleriand-EastThe Noldorin lands

Thus the sons of Fëanor under Maedhros were the lords of East Beleriand, but their people were in that time mostly in the north of the land, and southward they rode only to hunt in the greenwoods…. and there also other of the Elf-lords would ride at times, even from afar, for the land was wild but very fair…. But none of the Noldor went ever over Ered Lindon, while their realm lasted; and little news and late came into Beleriand of what passed in the regions of the East.

  • Above Aros in the north marches of Beleriand, dwelt the sons of Fëanor, chiefly Maedhros in the March of Maedhros, aka the lands north of the Hill of Himring. There his riders often passed the vast and empty northern plain of Lothlann, east of Ard-galen, for east of Dorthonion Beleriand was the most vulnerable.
  • Pass of Aglon. Between Himring and Dorthonion, exceeding steep on its west, and a gate into Doriath. Held by Celegorm and Curufin, they fortified the pass, and kept safe all the land of Himlad southward between the River Aros that rose in Dorthonion and his tributary Celon that came from Himring.
  • Maglor’s Gap. Between the arms of Gelion. Held by Maglor. The only weakness is a spot where the “the hills failed altogether; there it was that the Orcs came into East Beleriand before the Third Battle.” This was remedied during the Siege by strength of Noldorin cavalry.
  • Dor Caranthir (the Land beyond Gelion, the Land of Caranthir). Outliers on the range of Ered Lindon, east of Maglor’s Gap. Main feature: Mount Rerir. And “in the angle between Rerir and Ered Lindon there was a lake, shadowed by mountains on all sides save the south. That was Lake Helevorn, deep and dark, and beside it Caranthir had his abode”

Other Noldorin lands

  • Nargothrond. South-west of Doriath. Ruled by Finrod
    “… where Aros flowed into Sirion, lay great pools and marshes on either side of the river, which halted there in his course and strayed in many channels. That region was named Aelin-uial, the Twilight Meres, for they were wrapped in mists, and the enchantment of Doriath lay over them. Now all the northern part of Beleriand sloped southward to this point and then for a while was plain, and the flood of Sirion was stayed. But south of Aelin-uial the land fell suddenly and steeply; and all the lower fields of Sirion were divided from the upper fields by this fall, which to one looking from the south northward appeared as an endless chain of hills running from Eglarest beyond Narog in the west to Amon Ereb in the east, within far sight of Gelion. Narog came through these hills in a deep gorge, and flowed over rapids but had no fall, and on its western bank the land rose into the great wooded highlands of Tauren-Faroth. On the west side of this gorge, where the short and foaming stream Ringwil tumbled headlong into Narog from the High Faroth, Finrod established Nargothrond. But some twenty-five leagues east of the gorge of  Nargothrond Sirion fell from the north in a mighty fall below the Meres, and then he plunged suddenly underground into great tunnels that the weight of his falling waters delved; and he issued again three leagues southward with great noise and smoke through rocky arches at the foot of the hills which were called the Gates of Sirion.”

The Sindarin lands

  • The guarded woods of Doriath, South of East Beleriand. Ruled by Thingol, the Hidden King
    “… into whose realm none passed save by his will. Its northern and lesser part, the Forest of Neldoreth, was bounded east and south by the dark river Esgalduin, which bent westward in the midst of the land; and between Aros and Esgalduin lay the denser and greater woods of Region. Upon the southern bank of Esgalduin, where it turned westward towards Sirion, were the Caves of Menegroth; and all Doriath lay east of Sirion save for a narrow region of woodland between the meeting of Teiglin and Sirion and the Meres of Twilight. By the people of Doriath this wood was called Nivrim, the West March; great oak-trees grew there, and it also was encompassed within the Girdle of Melian, that so some portion of Sirion which she loved in reverence of Ulmo should be wholly under the power of Thingol.”

Other Elven lands

  • Ossiriand, the Land of Seven Rivers, lay between Ascar in the north and Adurant in the south, and between Gelion and Ered Luin. Ruler: Denethor, son of Lenwë, until his death in the First Battle in the Wars of Beleriands. No ruler thereafter. These are the Nandor turned Laiquendi. Finrod managed to make friends with them however, with his love of wandering the land where it was “wild but very fair.” This was also where Beren and Lúthien settled after their return from their epic trip to the after-life.
    “The woodcraft of the Elves of Ossiriand was such that a stranger might pass through their land from end to end and see none of them. They were clad in green in spring and summer, and the sound of their singing could be heard even across the waters of Gelion; wherefore the Noldor named that country Lindon, the land of music,
    and the mountains beyond they named Ered Lindon, for they first saw them from Ossiriand.”

Other key locations and geographical features

  • East Beleriand at its widest is a hundred leagues from Sirion to Gelion and the borders of Ossiriand
  • Northmost, between Sirion and Mindeb, was the unpeopled land of Dimbar under the peaks of the Crissaegrim, abode of eagles
  • The “no-land” of Nan Dungortheb was between Mindeb and the upper waters of Esgalduin, a region filled with fear, with the Girdle of Melian fencing the north march of Doriath on one side, and on the other were the sheer precipices of Ered Gorgoroth, Mountains of Terror, rising from Dorthonion. Ungoliant had her nest there for a bit. It was an area shunned by the living for “the thin waters that spilled from Ered Gorgoroth were defiled, and perilous to drink, for the hearts of those that tasted them were filled with shadows of madness and despair.” Even the Noldor would cross Nan Dungortheb, by paths near to the borders of Doriath and furthest from the haunted hills.
  • Esgalduin was eastwards of Nan Dungortheb, accessible by a path made before Morgoth returned. There stood in the days of the Siege the stone bridge of Iant Iaur.
  • Dor Dínen, the Silent Land, abutted Esgalduin.
  • Aros could be reached from the Silent Land and crossing the Arossiach (which signifies the Fords of Aros) from Dor Dínen.
  • Andram, the Long Wall was a hill range in the southmost reach of Nargothrond, some twenty-five leagues east of the gorge of Nargothrond where Sirion fell from the north in a mighty fall below the Meres of Twilight. Its end was called Ramdal, the Wall’s End, in East Beleriand. The Wall grows less sheer the further east it stretched, “for the vale of Gelion sloped steadily southward, and Gelion had neither fall nor rapids throughout his course, but was ever swifter than was Sirion. Between Ramdal and Gelion there stood a single hill of great extent and gentle slopes, but seeming mightier than it was, for it stood alone; and that hill was named Amon Ereb.
  • Taur-im-Duinath, the Forest between the Rivers, was south of the Andram, between Sirion and Gelion, a land of tangled wild forest, deserted for the most part.
  • Gelion the river rose from two headwaters: Little Gelion, from the Hill of Himring, and Greater Gelion from Mount Rerir. From where they merged, the river flowed south for for forty leagues before his tributaries added to the flow. “Before he found the sea he was twice as long as Sirion, though less wide and full, for more rain fell in Hithlum and Dorthonion, whence Sirion drew his waters, than in the east.” The six tributaries of Gelion came from Ered Luin: Ascar (that was after named Rathlóriel), Thalos, Legolin, Brilthor, Duilwen, and Adurant, swift and turbulent streams, falling steeply from the mountains.
    • Tol Galen, the Green Isle was a river isle nearly midway in the stream of Adurant where it divided and then joined again.

In short, Thingol controlled the south, Círdan had the to-die-for sunset view all to himself on the edge of the western seaboard, and the Laiquendi lurked in the east. Arrayed northward west to east (and squishing Doriath north, east and west as well), and scrutinising the even more northerly stranglehold of Morgoth was the Noldor collective, especially the brood of the late Fëanor clustered eastwards. There the various Houses jostled cheek to jowl in the name of the Siege, even as awkward matters plagued internal administrative processes.

(Relevance: read-along schedule)

2 thoughts on “Reader: The Silmarillion. Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter 14 “Of Beleriand and its Realms”

  1. Eric

    Really really well done with this! I always sort of snooze my way through this chapter. It’s basically the land version of 1st Chronicles. Your added maps (even one from the Atlas) are super helpful . Also, big score for bullet points!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lurkerinthemirk Post author

      bow with flourish Thank you, thank you. Points should be the only use for bullets, imo 😀

      I do sleepwalk my way through this chapter too! That’s why I had to make myself do this, just to snap out of the funk; though I did end up doing a lot of the quotey thing because how do you rephrase what the prof said best already?

      P.S. the Atlas is a Valarsend, imho 🙂



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