Reader deep thought: Maeglin’s story seemed pitiable: grounded just for wanting to visit the (doing-better) relatives. And yet it also is disturbing he kept so much to himself so well. He was the crafty one, noting the enticing combo of Turgon’s lack of sons and one hot daughter so keenly from the get go. His impatience and need to have others bend to his will didn’t help his budding privileged entitlement complex. Turgon helped nurture it in fact. Prophetic plot development indeed.
“Of these tales also grew the first quarrels of Maeglin and Eöl. For by no means would his mother reveal to Maeglin where Turgon dwelt, nor by what means one might come thither, and he bided his time, trusting yet to wheedle the secret from her, or perhaps to read her unguarded mind; but ere that could be done he desired to look on the Noldor and speak with the sons of Fëanor, his kin, that dwelt not far away. But when he declared his purpose to Eöl, his father was wrathful..”
After Gondolin had been established for two hundred years (still during the Siege of Angband), Aredhel Ar-Feiniel, the White Lady of the Noldor, daughter of Fingolfin, who had been living there under the protection of Turgon her brother, requested leave from Turgon’s side. Missing the days of riding freely in Valinor, she wanted an adventure beyond the confines of the Hidden Kingdom.
Finally he said yes, on the condition she was to only visit with Fingon and return forthwith.
But Aredhel said: ‘I am your sister and not your servant, and beyond your bounds I will go as seems good to me. And if you begrudge me an escort, then I will go alone.’
Then Turgon answered: ‘I grudge you nothing that I have. Yet I desire that none shall dwell beyond my walls who know the way hither; and if I trust you, my sister, others I trust less to keep guard on their tongues.
Doting brother that he was, Turgon appointed three lords of his household as her escort, bidding them to lead her to Hithlum if possible.
But she had other plans. At the Ford of Brithiach in the River Sirion, she turned south, wanting to visit the sons of Fëanor, who were her friends. This brought her to Doriath’s borders where the march-wardens denied them entry, on Thingol’s orders none of the Noldor could pass the Girdle of Melian except for members of the house of Finarfin.
Helpfully, the wardens did provide directions around the Girdle.
‘To the land of Celegorm for which you seek, Lady, you may by no means pass through the realm of King Thingol; you must ride beyond the Girdle of Melian, to the south or to the north. The speediest way is by the paths that lead east from the Brithiach through Dimbar and along the north-march of this kingdom, until you pass the Bridge of Esgalduin and the Fords of Aros, and come to the lands that lie behind the Hill of Himring. There dwell, as we believe, Celegorm and Curufin, and it may be that you will find them; but the road is perilous.’
In short, Aredhel would be taking “the dangerous road between the haunted valleys of Ered Gorgoroth and the north fences of Doriath”, which she did. But near to “the evil region of Nan Dungortheb the riders became enmeshed in shadows,” and Aredhel got lost.
Though the companions tried valiantly to find her, fearing the effects of the poisoned streams in the region they barely escaped the fell creatures of fell creatures of Ungoliant, and had to return empty-handed and bearing the sad news for Turgon.
Meantime, Aredhel managed to cross Esgalduin and Aros, entering the land of Himlad between Aros and Celon, and found the home of Celegorm and Curufin herself. The brothers were away visiting Caranthir however. And after staying a year waiting and sponging off the hospitality of the two by proxy, she got restless and set off on solo riding adventures.
Ultimately, she ventured into south Himlad, and leaving Celon, got lost in Nan Elmoth (aka Melian and Thingol’s first date venue). There, where Melian used to walk, and where Thingol met and got enraptured with her, Aredhel met Eöl the Dark Elf, a kin of Thingol and former resident of the Forest of Region, under rather less organically romantic circumstances.
He shunned the Noldor, holding them to blame for the return of Morgoth, to trouble the quiet of Beleriand; but for the Dwarves he had more liking than any other of the Elvenfolk of old. From him the Dwarves learned much of what passed in the lands of the Eldar.
On such good terms with the Dwarves was Eöl that he would meet them if they should travel from the Blue Mountains by way of the Fords of Aros on the northern route, which took them near Nan Elmoth, and had even been to stay in Nogrod, and Belegost. There he came by great skill in metalwork. But he was inventive, and created galvorn, which became his signature look: “a metal as hard as the steel of the Dwarves, but so malleable that he could make it thin and supple; and yet it remained resistant to all blades and dart…. it was black and shining like jet”.
But Eöl, though stooped by his smithwork, was no Dwarf, but a tall Elf of a high kin of the Teleri, noble though grim of face; and his eyes could see deep into shadows and dark places. And it came to pass that he saw Aredhel Ar-Feiniel as she strayed among the tall trees near the borders of Nan Elmoth, a gleam of white in the dim land. Very fair she seemed to him, and he desired her; and he set his enchantments about her so that she could not find the ways out, but drew ever nearer to his dwelling in the depths of the wood. There were his smithy, and his dim halls, and such servants as he had, silent and secret as their master. And when Aredhel, weary with wandering, came at last to his doors, he revealed himself; and he welcomed her, and led her into his house. And there she remained; for Eöl took her to wife, and it was long ere any of her kin heard of her again.
Surely this was entrapment of the most devious sort. It seemed a forgone conclusion, with Aredhel seemingly having had no chance of avoiding her fate. Quite ironic since Eöl detested the Noldor. Or was this perhaps a warped sense of payback of sorts.
Was Aredhel held against her will in all the years she was with Eöl? She was forbidden to seek other Noldor or to go out in the sun, but it seemed she could bear his company as they “wandered far together under the stars or by the light of the sickle moon”. She even bore him a son who had his disposition but her good looks.
And Aredhel bore to Eöl a son in the shadows of Nan Elmoth, and in her heart she gave him a name in the forbidden tongue of the Noldor, Lómion, that signifies Child of the Twilight; but his father gave him no name until he was twelve years old. Then he called him Maeglin, which is Sharp Glance, for he perceived that the eyes of his son were more piercing than his own, and his thought could read the secrets of hearts beyond the mist of words.
… He was tall and black-haired; his eyes were dark, yet bright and keen as the eyes of the Noldor, and his skin was white.
When he grew up, Eöl brought him on business trips beyond Ered Lindon (where he, like his father, learnt much from the Dwarves; particularly the craft of finding the ores of metals in the mountains.), and it seemed Maeglin was quite the persuasive one: “his voice had a power to move those that heard him and to overthrow those that withstood him.”
Still, Maeglin was on closer terms with his mother better, and when Eöl was away, would listen attentively as she told of Eldamar and his kin in the House of Fingolfin.
All these things he laid to heart, but most of all that which he heard of Turgon, and that he had no heir; for Elenwë his wife perished in the crossing of the Helcaraxë, and his daughter Idril Celebrindal was his only child.
Looking back was a always a tricky business and trouble stirred. Aredhel contracted a case of grass-greener-on-the-other-side, marvelling “that she had grown weary of the light of Gondolin, and the fountains in the sun, and the green sward of Tumladen under the windy skies of spring”. And Maeglin got itchy feet, which only resulted in a serious grounding.
Of these tales also grew the first quarrels of Maeglin and Eöl. For by no means would his mother reveal to Maeglin where Turgon dwelt, nor by what means one might come thither, and he bided his time, trusting yet to wheedle the secret from her, or perhaps to read her unguarded mind; but ere that could be done he desired to look on the Noldor and speak with the sons of Fëanor, his kin, that dwelt not far away. But when he declared his purpose to Eöl, his father was wrathful. ‘You are of the house of Eöl, Maeglin, my son,’ he said, ‘and not of the Golodhrim. All this land is the land of the Teleri, and I will not deal nor have my son deal with the slayers of our kin, the invaders and usurpers of our homes. In this you shall obey me, or I will set you in bonds.’ And Maeglin did not answer, but was cold and silent, and went abroad no more with Eöl; and Eöl mistrusted him.
So the duo made use of one of Eöl’s trips away to Nogrod and left, instigated by Maeglin. But unwisely, they left word at the house that they were going to visit the sons of Fëanor.
Unfortunately, Eöl got home earlier than expected, and in a fit, set off in pursuit. In Himlad, he was stopped and brought before Celegorm and Curufin, who both had no poor opinions of the sun-shunning Elf, and Aredhel and Maeglin’s passing near Aglon to the Fords of Aros.
Curufin let Eöl continue on his pursuit of Aredhel and Maeglin, but the parting was not amiable.
‘You have my leave, but not my love,’ said Curufin. ‘The sooner you depart from my land the better will it please me.’
Then Eöl mounted his horse, saying: ‘It is good, Lord Curufin, to find a kinsman thus kindly at need. I will remember it when I return.’ Then Curufin looked darkly upon Eöl. ‘Do not flaunt the title of your wife before me,’ he said. ‘For those who steal the daughters of the Noldor and wed them without gift or leave do not gain kinship with their kin. I have given you leave to go. Take it, and be gone. By the laws of the Eldar I may not slay you at this time. And this counsel I add: return now to your dwelling in the darkness of Nan Elmoth; for my heart warns me that if you now pursue those who love you no more, never will you return thither.’
Eöl, angry and aggrieved, nearly caught them at the Brithiach. But Aredhel and Maeglin made it into Gondolin where they were received with great fanfare and gladness. Turgon honoured Maeglin greatly, but unknown to all, this nephew of his had his eye on the greatest prize.
Then Maeglin bowed low and took Turgon for lord and king, to do all his will; but thereafter he stood silent and watchful, for the bliss and splendour of Gondolin surpassed all that he had imagined from the tales of his mother, and he was amazed by the strength of the city and the hosts of its people, and the many things strange and beautiful that he beheld. Yet to none were his eyes more often drawn than to Idril the King’s daughter, who sat beside him; for she was golden as the Vanyar, her mother’s kindred, and she seemed to him as the sun from which all the King’s hall drew its light.
Eöl, so determined in his anger, managed to find a way into Gondolin himself, and was admitted into the presence of Turgon, following Aredhel’s acknowledgement of him with much trepidation. Though acknowledged and welcomed by Turgon himself, Eöl, maddened by the marvellous beauty of Gondolin, spurned him.
But Eöl withdrew his hand. ‘I acknowledge not your law,’ he said. ‘No right have you or any of your kin in this land to seize realms or to set bounds, either here or there. This is the land of the Teleri, to which you bring war and all unquiet, dealing every proudly and unjustly. I care nothing for your secrets and I came not to spy upon you, but to claim my own: my wife and my son. Yet if in Aredhel your sister you have some claim, then let her remain; let the bird go back to the cage, where soon she will sicken again, as she sickened before. But not so Maeglin. My son you shall not withhold from me. Come, Maeglin son of Eöl! Your father commands you. Leave the house of his enemies and the slayers of his kin, or be accursed!’ But Maeglin answered nothing.
Then Turgon sat in his high seat holding his staff of doom, and in a stern voice spoke: ‘I will not debate with you, Dark Elf. By the swords of the Noldor alone are your sunless woods defended. Your freedom to wander there wild you owe to my kin; and but for them long since you would have laboured in thraldom in the pits of Angband. And here I am King; and whether you will it or will it not, my doom is law. This choice only is given to you: to abide here, or to die here; and so also for your son.’
Eöl was silent but “Aredhel was afraid, knowing that he was perilous.” And true enough, he suddenly cast a javelin he had hidden at Maeglin, making the decision for both himself and his son.
Aredhel blocked the javelin, and Eöl was suppressed. Maeglin said nothing.
It was appointed that Eöl should be brought on the next day to the King’s judgement; and Aredhel and Idril moved Turgon to mercy. But in the evening Aredhel sickened, though the wound had seemed little, and she fell into the darkness, and in the night she died; for the point of the javelin was poisoned, though none knew it until too late.
So the next day, Eöl was thrown off the hill of Gondolin from the Caragdûr, but not before cursing his son: ‘So you forsake your father and his kin, ill-gotten son! Here shall you fail of all your hopes, and here may you yet die the same death as I.’ Maeglin continued to say nothing. Interesting, “Idril was troubled, and from that day she mistrusted her kinsman” – how portentous was this feminine, or perhaps Elven, intuition.
But Maeglin seemed to have found his place among his kin otherwise.
… Maeglin prospered and grew great among the Gondolindrim, praised by all, and high in the favour of Turgon; for if he would learn eagerly and swiftly all that he might, he had much also to teach. And he gathered about him all such as had the most bent to smithcraft and mining; and he sought in the Echoriath (which are the Encircling Mountains), and found rich lodes of ore of divers metals. Most he prized the hard iron of the mine of Anghabar in the north of the Echoriath, and thence he got a wealth of forged metal and of steel, so that the arms of the Gondolindrim were made ever stronger and more keen; and that stood them in good stead in the days to come. Wise in counsel was Maeglin and wary, and yet hardy and valiant at need. And that was seen in after days: for when in the dread year of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad Turgon opened his leaguer and marched forth to the help of Fingon in the north, Maeglin would not remain in Gondolin as regent of the King, but went to the war and fought beside Turgon, and proved fell and fearless in battle.
Still, all was not as it seemed. Maeglin seemed happy, but Idril could read him well.
For from his first days in Gondolin he had borne a grief, ever worsening, that robbed him of all joy: he loved the beauty of Idril and desired her, without hope. The Eldar wedded not with kin so near, nor ever before had any desired to do so. And however that might be, Idril loved Maeglin not at all; and knowing his thought of her she loved him the less. For it seemed to her a thing strange and crooked in him, as indeed the Eldar ever since have deemed it: an evil fruit of the Kinslaying, whereby the shadow of the curse of Mandos fell upon the last hope of the Noldor. But as the years passed still Maeglin watched Idril, and waited, and his love turned to darkness in his heart. And he sought the more to have his will in other matters, shirking no toil or burden, if he might thereby have power.
And for her, knowing he was in love with herself was disturbing, proving her intuition on the day of Eöl’s death so right.
Thus it was in Gondolin; and amid all the bliss of that realm, while its glory lasted, a dark seed of evil was sown.
All this just from one highborn lady’s desire to ride free and go house-hopping.
(Relevance: read-along schedule)