Reader deep thought: Of all the construction the Noldor had going on in Beleriand after they got back to stomping around Middle-earth, nothing trumped the deconstruction of perception Galadriel was forced to engage with Melian. The bigger question: were half-truths better than outright lies? Or avoidance for that matter? Surely Galadriel, with her lifetime of experience in Valinor, knew what Melian was and the futility of being less than truthful. And yet, she was selectively sharing information, affecting an almost nose-thumb. Was it because Melian was cut-off from Valinor and therefore not as omnipotent as the run-of-mill Maiar? Or was Galadriel just experienced with managing the Powers?
“But Melian said: ‘Now much you tell me, and yet more I perceive. A darkness you would cast over the long road from Tirion, but I see evil there, which Thingol should learn for his guidance.’
‘Maybe,’ said Galadriel; ‘but not of me.’”
Under the guidance of Ulmo (and with Thranduil’s helpful information), Turgon had identified and found a secret place, the vale of Tumladen which “lay east of the upper waters of Sirion, in a ring of mountains tall and sheer, and no living thing came there save the eagles of Thorondor”. For himself, Turgon got there by “a deep way under the mountains delved in the darkness of the world by waters that flowed out to join the streams of Sirion.”
He slept on his intent to design a memorial of Tirion upon Túna, until the Dagor Aglareb prodded him into action. Then he founded Gondolin (Sindarin for the Hidden Rock), and worked on it in secret for fifty-two years. Finally it was done and in stages he moved his people (consisting of one third of Fingolfin’s host, and more yet of Sindar) in secret, and under the shadows of Ered Wethrin, to the new-wrought city he named Ondolindë in the speech of the Elves of Valinor, the Rock of the Music of Water.
Ulmo himself came to Turgon in Nevrast as he prepared to leave his halls in Vinyamar beside the sea, and laid the groundrules for his stint n Gondolin.
‘Now thou shalt go at last to Gondolin, Turgon; and I will maintain my power in the Vale of Sirion, and in all the waters therein, so that none shall mark thy going, nor shall any find there the hidden entrance against thy will. Longest of all the realms of the Eldalië shall Gondolin stand against Melkor. But 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.’
Helpfully, Ulmo also reminded Turgon the Doom of the Noldor was as clearly hanging over his head as ever, and the Fall of Gondolin would be caused by one of his closest; the Doom was one which would get around to biting him in the behind. But there was a possible course of mitigation.
‘Thus it may come to pass,’ he said, ‘that the curse of the Noldor shall find thee too ere the end, and treason awake within thy walls. Then they shall be in peril of fire. But if this peril draweth nigh indeed, then even from Nevrast one shall come to warn thee, and from him beyond ruin and fire hope shall be born for Elves and Men. Leave therefore in this house arms and a sword, that in years to come he may find them, and thus shalt thou know him, and not be deceived.’ And Ulmo declared to Turgon of what kind and stature should be the helm and mail and sword that he left behind.
Thus Nevrast was emptied, and Turgon passed in secret into Gondolin, not to emerge again until the Year of Lamentation, more than three hundred and fifty years later. And no one that was not of Turgon’s people, except Húrin and Huor, entered Gondolin in that time. Behind those walls, Turgon’s people worked to make Gondolin upon Amon Gwareth fair and worthy of comparison with Tirion.
High and white were its walls, and smooth its stairs, and tall and strong was the Tower of the King. There shining fountains played, and in the courts of Turgon stood images of the Trees of old, which Turgon himself wrought with elven-craft; and the Tree which he made of gold was named Glingal, and the Tree whose flowers he made of silver was named Belthil.
Bliss there was for Turgon in Gondolin, and his pride was Idril, “Celebrindal, the Silver-foot, whose hair was as the gold of Laurelin before the coming of Melkor.”
Meantime, Finrod was focusing on his own project of Nargothrond. And when Nargothrond was ready, and Turgon was still in Vinyamar, Finarfin’s children gathered for a feast, even Galadriel who was staying for a bit, away from Doriath.
… but foresight came upon Felagund as she spoke, and he said: ‘An oath I too shall swear, and must be free to fulfil it, and go into darkness. Nor shall anything of my realm endure that a son should inherit.’
But it is said that not until that hour had such cold thoughts ruled him; for indeed she whom he had loved was Amarië of the Vanyar, and she went not with him into exile.
How sad for the King of Noldor in Middle-earth!
And meantime in the meantime, Galadriel was being hosted on a long-term basis by Thingol, no doubt enjoying Celeborn’s company in Menegroth. It was a wonder she found time at all to pay attention to other things, much less reminisce with Melian on the Noontide of the Blessed Realm. Or perhaps Celeborn was a excuse to avoid the danger of over-reminiscence? Still it made sense for one wishing a realm of her own to rule to learn the ropes from One who was doing some ruling.
And at times Melian and Galadriel would speak together of Valinor and the bliss of old; but beyond the dark hour of the death of the Trees Galadriel would not go, but ever fell silent.
Still, the truth would out. And finally Melian pried it forth.
And on a time Melian said: ‘There is some woe that lies upon you and your kin. That I can see in you, but all else is hidden from me; for by no vision or thought can I perceive anything that passed or passes in the West: a shadow lies over all the land of Aman, and reaches far out over the sea. Why will you not tell me more?’
‘For that woe is past,’ said Galadriel; ‘and I would take what joy is here left, untroubled by memory. And maybe there is woe enough yet to come, though still hope may seem bright.’
Easy for Galadriel to say, but Melian wasn’t a Maiar initiated yesterday.
Then Melian looked in her eyes, and said: ‘I believe not that the Noldor came forth as messengers of the Valar, as was said at first: not though they came in the very hour of our need. For they speak never of the Valar, nor have their high lords brought any message to Thingol, whether from Manwë, or Ulmo, or even from Olwë the King’s brother, and his own folk that went over the sea. For what cause, Galadriel, were the high people of the Noldor driven forth as exiles from Aman? Or what evil lies on the sons of Fëanor that they are so haughty and so fell? Do I not strike near the truth?’
‘Near,’ said Galadriel; ‘save that we were not driven forth, but came of our own will, and against that of the Valar. And through great peril and in despite of the Valar for this purpose we came: to take vengeance upon Morgoth, and regain what he stole.’
Then Galadriel spoke to Melian of the Silmarils, and of the slaying of King Finwë at Formenos; but still she said no word of the Oath, nor of the Kinslaying, nor of the burning of the ships at Losgar.
Galadriel was either very shrewd or very arrogant in the exchange with Melian. Seemed like a cocktail of both. Though it did seem Fëanor’s brash confidence might have rubbed off on this niece of his a little too well.
Still Melian was intuitive enough to know there was more Galadriel was not saying than she had disclosed. She pressed no more, but she did give Thingol a headsup on what she heard and inferred, mainly:
- The Silmarils, and their theft by Morgoth. Plus her insight that indicated the Eldar would not regain them.
“They shall not be recovered, I foretell, by any power of the Eldar; and the world shall be broken in battles that are to come, ere they are wrested from Morgoth.”
- The Two Trees’ killing.
- The Noldor were not sent from Valinor.
- Many of the Eldar have died for the Silmarils, Fëanor not least among them, but the first of all the deaths was his BFF, Finwë dead by Morgoth’s hand.
Thingol mulled over his wife’s words, and felt reassured the facts as presented indicated the Noldor would not treat with Morgoth, which seemed important for him. Perhaps he was concerned with their obsession in keeping watch on Angband.
‘Now at last I understand the coming of the Noldor out of the West, at which I wondered much before. Not to our aid did they come (save by chance); for those that remain in Middle-earth the Valar will leave to their own devices, until the uttermost need. For vengeance and redress of their loss the Noldor came. Yet all the more sure shall they be as allies against Morgoth, with whom it is not now to be thought that they shall ever make treaty.’
Still, Melian warned him to be on his guard against Fëanor’s brood when he decided the enemies of the Enemy were not his enemies.
But Melian said: ‘Truly for these causes they came; but for others also. Beware of the sons of Fëanor! The shadow of the wrath of the Valar lies upon them; and they have done evil, I perceive, both in Aman and to their own kin. A grief but lulled to sleep lies between the princes of the Noldor.’
Which he apparently heeded little, based on his less-than-impressed opinions of them.
‘Their swords and their counsels shall have two edges,’ said Melian; and afterwards they spoke no more of this matter.
Melian certainly knew what she was talking about. (On a slight tangent: it’s interesting to see this interaction between the original power couple of Middle-earth. They seemed on equal footing here, despite Melian’s higher status, and Thingol certainly was not talking down to her as might be expected of a man with great power and stature as he, to his wife. Still, despite the patriarchal nature of societal norms then, neither Thingol nor Melian could be called conventional.)
Even though they discussed it no more, rumours spread among the Sindar about the Noldor’s intent and history – Morgoth was certainly hard at work mongering the usual.
Certain it is whence they came, and the evil truth was enhanced and poisoned by lies; but the Sindar were yet unwary and trustful of words, and (as may well be thought) Morgoth chose them for this first assault of his malice, for they knew him not. And Círdan, hearing these dark tales, was troubled; for he was wise, and perceived swiftly that true or false they were put about at this time through malice, though the malice he deemed was that of the princes of the Noldor, because of the jealousy of their houses. Therefore he sent messengers to Thingol to tell all that he had heard.
Círdan played right into Morgoth’s hand. As luck would have it, Galadriel’s brothers were visiting when Thingol got the news. His prior knowledge had probably been on the slowburn since the conversation with Melian, and Círdan’s despatch coupled with the sight of the Noldor catalysed the inevitable outburst.
Then Thingol, being greatly moved, spoke in anger to Finrod, saying: ‘Ill have you done to me, kinsman, to conceal so great matters from me. For now I have learned of all the evil deeds of the Noldor.’
But Finrod answered: ‘What ill have I done you, lord? Or what evil deed have the Noldor done in all your realm to grieve you? Neither against your kingship nor against any of your people have they thought evil or done evil.’
‘I marvel at you, son of Eärwen,’ said Thingol, ‘that you would come to the board of your kinsman thus red-handed from the slaying of your mother’s kin, and yet say naught in defence, nor yet seek any pardon!’
Harsh words indeed. But while Finrod’s sense of obligation to the other Noldor kept him quiet, Angrod felt no such qualms, thanks to Caranthir’s unkind remarks at the meeting where he brought Thingol’s message from that first Noldorin visit to Menegroth.
But in Angrod’s heart the memory of the words of Caranthir welled up again in bitterness, and he cried: ‘Lord, I know not what lies you have heard, nor whence; but we came not red-handed. Guiltless we came forth, save maybe of folly, to listen to the words of fell Fëanor, and become as if besotted with wine, and as briefly. No evil did we do on our road, but suffered ourselves great wrong; and forgave it. For this we are named tale-bearers to you and treasonable to the Noldor: untruly as you know, for we have of our loyalty been silent before you, and thus earned your anger. But now these charges are no longer to be borne, and the truth you shall know.’
Then Angrod spoke bitterly against the sons of Fëanor, telling of the blood at Alqualondë, and the Doom of Mandos, and the burning of the ships at Losgar. And he cried: ‘Where-fore should we that endured the Grinding Ice bear the name of kinslayers and traitors?’
Had he but stayed and heard Maedhros’ reprimand of Caranthir’s outburst back then, Angrod might not have had his outburst here. But what’s done was done.
Yet, despite Angrod’s impassioned defense and grievance, Melian observed the pesky Doom of Mandos was also on the children of Indris.
Thingol dismissed his visitors, with a caveat for the company present.
But Thingol was long silent ere he spoke. ‘Go now!’ he said. ‘For my heart is hot within me. Later you may return, if you will; for I will not shut my doors for ever against you, my kindred, that were ensnared in an evil that you did not aid. With Fingolfin and his people also I will keep friendship, for they have bitterly atoned for such ill as they did. And in our hatred of the Power that wrought all this woe our griefs shall be lost. But hear my words! Never again in my ears shall be heard the tongue of those who slew my kin in Alqualondë! Nor in all my realm shall it be openly spoken, while my power endures. All the Sindar shall hear my command that they shall neither speak with the tongue of the Noldor nor answer to it. And all such as use it shall be held slayers of kin and betrayers of kin unrepentant.’
Thus the shadow of Fëanor’s fiery defiance of the Powers cast a pall upon proceedings even now, years after his death. And this was also how Sindarin came to be the common speech among Elves.
And it came to pass even as Thingol had spoken; for the Sindar heard his word, and thereafter throughout Beleriand they refused the tongue of the Noldor, and shunned those that spoke it aloud; but the Exiles took the Sindarin tongue in all their daily uses, and the High Speech of the West was spoken only by the lords of the Noldor among themselves. Yet that speech lived ever as a language of lore, wherever any of that people dwelt.
Clearly, from events as laid out, quite unlike the perception of an universal dislike, the rift between the Sindar with the Noldor was actually quite specific to House Fëanor (and this would unfold and broil in later chapters) since there continued to be mingling and interactions among the two clans.
(Relevance: read-along schedule)