Reader: The Silmarillion. Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter 17 “Of the Coming of Men into the West”

Reader deep thought: Despite their valour and valiant spirit, Men, who came after the glorious Elves , were clearly not of the same constitution as the Firstborn, who in turn were caught up in the intrigue of Ilúvatar’s gifts to Men. Especially the concept of death by old age, thanks to Bëor’s life demonstration. But the biggest question remained: “Why, Eru, why?”

“… And when he lay dead, of no wound or grief, but stricken by age, the Eldar saw for the first time the swift waning of the life of Men, and the death of weariness which they knew not in themselves; and they grieved greatly for the loss of their friends. But Bëor at the last had relinquished his life willingly and passed in peace; and the Eldar wondered much at the strange fate of Men, for in all their lore there was no account of it, and its end was hidden from them.”

 

SUMMARY NOTES

Three hundred years after the Noldor’s return to Middle-earth, Elves met Men during the Long Peace. Unsurprisingly, it was the Elf with the itchy feet who encountered the first Men.

With his penchant for wandering and exploring, Finrod broke away from one of his hunting trips with Maglor and Maedhros east of Sirio. He went alone towards the mountains of Ered Lindon, taking the Dwarf-road, and crossing Gelion at the ford of Sarn Athrad, turned again to go south over the upper streams of Ascar, thereby entering the north of Ossiriand.

In a valley among the foothills of the mountains, below the springs of Thalos, he saw lights in the evening, and far off he heard the sound of song. At this he wondered much, for the Green-elves of that land lit no fires, nor did they sing by night. At first he feared that a raid of Orcs had passed the leaguer of the North, but as he drew near he perceived that it was not so; for the singers used a tongue that he had not heard before, neither that of Dwarves nor of Orcs. Then Felagund, standing silent in the night-shadow of the trees, looked down into the camp, and there he beheld a strange people.

 

These were Bëor the Old, the first chieftain of Men to have entered Beleriand, and his followers, lately wanderers in Ered Luin. And they were singing, “because they were glad, and believed that they had escaped from all perils and had come at last to a land without fear.”

Finrod felt some sort of affinity, or perhaps affection, for them. After watching until these few creatures fell asleep, he went among them and serenaded them into wakefulness using only Bëor’s crude harp, making “music upon it such as the ears of Men had not heard; for they had as yet no teachers in the art, save only the Dark Elves in the wild lands.”

It must have been quite an experience, and Finrod quite the vision.

… they did not speak or stir while Felagund still played, because of the beauty of the music and the wonder of the song. Wisdom was in the words of the Elven-king, and the hearts grew wiser that hearkened to him; for the things of which he sang, of the making of Arda, and the bliss of Aman beyond the shadows of the Sea, came as clear visions before their eyes, and his Elvish speech was interpreted in each mind according to its measure.

Thus it was that Men called King Felagund, whom they first met of all the Eldar, Nóm, that is Wisdom, in the language of that people, and after him they named his folk Nómin, the Wise. Indeed they believed at first that Felagund was one of the Valar, of whom they had heard rumour that they dwelt far in the West; and this was (some say) the cause of their journeying. But Felagund dwelt among them and taught them true knowledge, and they loved him, and took him for their lord, and were ever after loyal to the house of Finarfin.

 

And Elves being the linguists of Middle-earth, Finrod quickly learnt to understand the Men’s speech, a process aided by their long association with the Dark Elves over the mountains to the East since all the languages of the Quendi shared the same roots.

Many conversations they had, and he learnt about others who were also making their way to Beleriand, including the Haladin, “a people from whom we are sundered in speech, are still in the valleys on the eastern slopes, awaiting tidings before they venture further.” There was another very large band of people, whose leader was Marach. These folk spoke in a tongue similar to Bëor’s people.

But Finrod could learn little of Men’s origins from Bëor for he seemed to know or was taught little by his forefathers.

‘A darkness lies behind us,’ Bëor said; ‘and we have turned our backs upon it, and we do not desire to return thither even in thought. Westwards our hearts have been turned, and we believe that there we shall find Light.’

 

This darkness it turned out, was Morgoth’s doing. The awakening of Men troubled him so much he had left Angband to Sauron’s command and went forth personally among the Aftercomers in Hildórien where they awoke. What took place between Men and the Enemy the Elves could only guess, but whatever he got cooking and baking, it seemed Morgoth had neither patience or courage to see his schemes through.

… but that a darkness lay upon the hearts of Men (as the shadow of the Kinslaying and the Doom of Mandos lay upon the Noldor) they perceived clearly even in the people of the Elf-friends whom they first knew. To corrupt or destroy whatsoever arose new and fair was ever the chief desire of Morgoth; and doubtless he had this purpose also in his errand: by fear and lies to make Men the foes of the Eldar, and bring them up out of the east against Beleriand. But this design was slow to ripen, and was never wholly achieved; for Men (it is said) were at first very few in number, whereas Morgoth grew afraid of the growing power and union of the Eldar and came back to Angband, leaving behind at that time but few servants, and those of less might and cunning.

 

Meantime, the Green-elves of Ossiriand, reticent as they were, requested Finrod to move the newcomers, “hewers of trees and hunters of beasts”, out of their land to ease their discomfit or else: “we are their unfriends, and if they will not depart we shall afflict them in all ways that we can.”

So with Finrod’s help, Bëor’s people moved over ‘Gelion, and took up their abode in the lands of Amrod and Amras, upon the east banks of the Celon south of Nan Elmoth, near to the borders of Doriath; and the name of that land thereafter was Estolad, the Encampment.”

Finrod continued to stay with them for the next year, and when he left, Bëor (whose original name was Balan) went with him, leaving his rule to Baran his son.

After Finrod left Estolad, the Haladin also arrived in Beleriand. Unlike the luckier Bëor, they did not have any “lord of Eldar from over the Sea” to mediate with the Green-elves. They moved north to Thargelion where they had peace (for a time) and Caranthir paid little heed to them.

A year after that, Marach’s people came too, but “they were a tall and warlike folk, marching in ordered companies, and the Elves of Ossiriand hid themselves and did not waylay them. But Marach, hearing that the people of Bëor were dwelling in a green and fertile land, came down the Dwarf-road, and settled in the country south and east of the dwellings of Baran son of Bëor; and there was great friendship between those peoples.”

Felagund himself often returned to visit Men; and many other Elves out of the west-lands, both Noldor and Sindar, journeyed to Estolad, being eager to see the Edain, whose coming had long been foretold. Now Atani, the Second People, was the name given to Men in Valinor in the lore that told of their coming; but in the speech of Beleriand that name became Edain, and it was there used only of the three kindreds of the Elf-friends.

 

Fingolfin welcomed the Atani and by his example, Elves (actually just Noldor) and the Edain got on friendly terms, with many of the Men’s ablest youth going into service of the Elf-lords. Malach, son of Marach, was one such, dwelling fourteen years in Hithlum, and even earning the Elven name Aradan.

The Edain did not long dwell content in Estolad, for many still desired to go westward; but they did not know the way. Before them lay the fences of Doriath, and southward lay Sirion and its impassable fens. Therefore the kings of the three houses of the Noldor, seeing hope of strength in the sons of Men, sent word that any of the Edain that wished might remove and come to dwell among their people. In this way the migration of the Edain began: at first little by little, but later in families and kindreds, they arose and left Estolad, until after some fifty years many thousands had entered the lands of the Kings. Most of these took the long road northwards, until the ways became well known to them. The people of Bëor came to Dorthonion and dwelt in lands ruled by the house of Finarfin. The people of Aradan (for Marach his father remained in Estolad until his death) for the most part went on westward; and some came to Hithlum, but Magor son of Aradan and many of the people passed down Sirion into Beleriand and dwelt a while in the vales of the southern slopes of Ered Wethrin.

 

While the Noldor were happily assimilating the Edain, the Hidden King was ill-pleased and troubled, not least because Finrod had not given Thingol any headsup about the proceedings. But Thingol himself too felt foreboding about the coming Men, and commanded that Men were to come no further into his realm except the northmost region, (where they already were anyway), and placed the onus of responsibility on the Elf-princes they served.

‘Into Doriath shall no Man come while my realm lasts, not even those of the house of Bëor who serve Finrod the beloved.’ Melian said nothing to him at that time, but afterwards she said to Galadriel: ‘Now the world runs on swiftly to great tidings. And one of Men, even of Bëor’s house, shall indeed come, and the Girdle of Melian shall not restrain him, for doom greater than my power shall send him; and the songs that shall spring from that coming shall endure when all Middle-earth is changed.’

 

Still many Men did not venture outside Estolad, and it remained occupied until the ruin of Beleriand and Men were either dead or fled back East.

But there was restlessness: “… there were not a few who desired to go their own ways, and they feared the Eldar and the light of their eyes; and then dissensions awoke among the Edain, in which the shadow of Morgoth may be discerned, for certain it is that he knew of the coming of Men into Beleriand and of their growing friendship with the Elves.”

Chief among the agitators were Bereg of the house of Bëor, and Amlach, a grandson of Marach.

‘We took long roads, desiring to escape the perils of Middle-earth and the dark things that dwell there; for we heard that there was Light in the West. But now we learn that the Light is beyond the Sea. Thither we cannot come where the Gods dwell in bliss. Save one; for the Lord of the Dark is here before us, and the Eldar, wise but fell, who make endless war upon him. In the North he dwells, they say; and there is the pain and death from which we fled. We will not go that way.’

 

A council and assembly of Men was called where the Elf-friends addressed the concerns of Bereg, saying Morgoth, the Dark King, sought “dominion over all Middle-earth”, and was the source of the evils they fled. Perhaps to aid the Eldar, who kept him in check, in defeating him was the reason the Edain had been guided into Beleriand.

To which Bereg answered: “‘Let the Eldar look to it! Our lives are short enough.’” So it seemed the immortality of the Eldar was already a point of contention among Men.

Then Amlach son of Imlach, rose.

‘All this is but Elvish lore, tales to beguile newcomers that are unwary. The Sea has no shore. There is no Light in the West. You have followed a fool-fire of the Elves to the end of the world! Which of you has seen the least of the Gods? Who has beheld the Dark King in the North? Those who seek the dominion of Middle-earth are the Eldar. Greedy for wealth they have delved in the earth for its secrets and have stirred to wrath the things that dwell beneath it, as they have ever done and ever shall. Let the Orcs have the realm that is theirs, and we will have ours. There is room in the world, if the Eldar will let us be!’

 

Fell words indeed, causing many to want to get away from the Elves as much as possible. But it seemed it was not Amlach, son of Imlach, who spoke them, for he later denied having been attendance at all. And in answer to the Elf-friends’ contention there was indeed a Dark Lord with his spies among them, some felt it only demonstrated the danger Men were in.

‘He hates us, rather, and ever the more the longer we dwell here, meddling in his quarrel with the Kings of the Eldar, to no gain of ours.’

 

So Bereg led a thousand of the people of Bëor away southwards, and they were never heard of since. But Amlach, declaring he had an life-long axe to grind with Morgoth himself, headed north into Maedhros’ service. Those of his people who wanted out got a new leader, and like Bereg’s host, were never heard of again after going back east into Eriador.

 

Meantime, Morgoth was really keeping himself busy. While the Men in Estolad were packing up, he, dissatisfied with the half-success of his cloak-and-dagger schemes, sent orcs among the Haladin in Thargelion, who had been contented in their peace.

Thankfully for the lordless Haladin, Haldad stepped up and “gathered all the brave men that he could find, and retreated to the angle of land between Ascar and Gelion, and in the utmost corner he built a stockade across from water to water; and behind it they led all the women and children that they could save. There they were besieged, until their food was gone.”

Ultimately he was slain, and his son Haldar died trying to save his body from the orcs. Haleth his twin sister held the survivors together until Caranthir arrived to save them.Haleth_and_Caranthir

Then Caranthir looked kindly upon Men and did Haleth great honour; and he offered her recompense for her father and brother. And seeing, over late, what valour there was in the Edain, he said to her: ‘If you will remove and dwell further north, there you shall have the friendship and protection of the Eldar, and free lands of your own.’

But Haleth was proud, and unwilling to be guided or ruled, and most of the Haladin were of like mood. Therefore she thanked Caranthir, but answered: ‘My mind is now set, lord, to leave the shadow of the mountains, and go west, whither others of our kin have gone.’ When therefore the Haladin had gathered all whom they could find alive of their folk who had fled wild into the woods before the Orcs, and had gleaned what remained of their goods in their burned homesteads, they took Haleth for their chief; and she led them at last to Estolad, and there dwelt for a time.

 

Ever after, these folk were known as the People of Haleth, but she was not content in Estolad, and by sheer force of will, brought her people (against their protests and counsel), through Ered Gorgoroth and the Girdle, crossing beyond Brithiach to Talath Dirnen, beyond Teiglin. Some continued to wander, and arrived in Nargothrond. Wherever they settled, Haleth’s people tried to settle down and return to their old way of life.

But there were many who loved the Lady Haleth and wished to go whither she would, and dwell under her rule; and these she led into the Forest of Brethil, between Teiglin and Sirion. Thither in the evil days that followed many of her scattered folk returned.

 

 

The Forest was in Doriath’s borders and Thingol would have driven her out if not for Finrod’ intercession. In return she was to guard the Crossings of Teiglin against all enemies of the Elves. To which her answer was: “‘Where are Haldad my father, and Haldar my brother? If the King of Doriath fears a friendship between Haleth and those who have devoured her kin, then the thoughts of the Eldar are strange to Men.’”

At the end, Haleth, having remained unwed, passed the headship to Haldan, her nephew. Her people raised a green mound over her in the heights of the forest: Tûr Haretha, the Lady-barrow, Haudh-en-Arwen in the Sindarin tongue.

So it came to pass that the Edain lived among the Eldar in Beleriand, “some here, some there, some wandering, some settled in kindreds or small peoples”, and learnt Sindarin, “both as a common speech among themselves and because many were eager to learn the lore of the Elves.”

Still, the Elf-kings realised order and leadership was needed for the Men.

But after a time the Elf-kings, seeing that it was not good for Elves and Men to dwell mingled together without order, and that Men needed lords of their own kind, set regions apart where Men could live their own lives, and appointed chieftains to hold these lands freely. They were the allies of the Eldar in war, but marched under their own leaders. Yet many of the Edain had delight in the friendship of the Elves, and dwelt among them for so long as they had leave; and the young men often took service for a time in the hosts of the kings.

 

At this point, some important Edain rulers emerged:

  • Hador Lórindol, son of Hathol, son of Magor, son of Malach Aradan
    • Served household of Fingolfin
    • Given lordship of Dor-lómin
    • Mightiest of the chieftains of the Edain
    • Only Elvish was spoke in his house though their own speech was not forgotten
      • Gave rise to the common tongue of Númenor
    • Scions
      • Galdor
        • Húrin
          • Túrin the Bane of Glaurung
        • Huor
          • Tuor (father of Eärendil the Blessed)
      • Gundor
  • Boromir, son of Boron, who was the grandson of Bëor the Old
    • Granted the country of Ladros in Dorthonion
    • ruler of the people of Bëor
    • Scions
      • Bregor
        • Bregolas
          • Baragund
            • Morwen (mother of Túrin)
          • Belegund
            • Rían (mother of Tuor)
        • Barahir
          • Beren One-hand (love of Lúthien Thingol’s daughter, and returner from the Dead)
            • Elwing (wife of Eärendil)
              • Kings of Númenor

 

The Three Houses of the Edain left their mark, even on history as reckoned by the Eldar for they joined their strength to that of their Noldor lords, and thus were caught up in their Doom. “Morgoth was straitly enclosed, for the people of Hador, being hardy to endure cold and long wandering, feared not at times to go far into the north and there keep watch upon the movements of the Enemy.”

EdainThe Men of the Three Houses throve and multiplied, but greatest among them was the house of Hador Goldenhead, peer of Elven-lords. His people were of great strength and stature, ready in mind, bold and steadfast, quick to anger and to laughter, mighty among the Children of Ilúvatar in the youth of Mankind. Yellow-haired they were for the most part, and blue-eyed; but not so was Túrin, whose mother was Morwen of the house of Bëor. The Men of that house were dark or brown of hair, with grey eyes; and of all Men they were most like to the Noldor and most loved by them; for they were eager of mind, cunning-handed, swift in understanding, long in memory, and they were moved sooner to pity than to laughter. Like to them were the woodland folk of Haleth, but they were of lesser stature, and less eager for lore. They used few words, and did not love great concourse of men; and many among them delighted in solitude, wandering free in the greenwoods while the wonder of the lands of the Eldar was new upon them. But in the realms of the West their time was brief and their days unhappy.

 

Men of the Edain were long-lived. Bëor the Old died of old age at ninety-three, of which he forty-four were in Finrod’s service, with no wound or sickness. His passing perplexed the Eldar, and they wondered at the strange fate of Men. Nonetheless, the Edain learnt much from the Elves and their livespan, wisdom and abilities grew beyond that of Men who continued to live in the East.

Bottomline: it pays to be curious, and have a case of itchy feet.

(Relevance: read-along schedule)

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11 thoughts on “Reader: The Silmarillion. Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter 17 “Of the Coming of Men into the West”

  1. Eric

    I absolutely love this chapter. The quote by the Green Elves about Men is one of my favorites.

    I really don’t like brining the Bible into Tolkien, but I think it’s quaint that he leaves room for the serpent in Eden story, but also seems to (here) contradict the Bible about death being a gift from Illuvatar. He’ll go on to change that later in and but, he actually defended the position against a Catholic priest who thought that death came because of the Fall. It’s great stuff.

    Oh! And Haleth! Such a great character. I love how she tells Thingol what for.

    Such good stuff! Even a Galadriel appearance! Though, mostly it’s just Melian saying “get a load of my chump of a husband.”

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    1. lurkerinthemirk Post author

      Re “Oh! And Haleth! Such a great character. I love how she tells Thingol what for.”
      I like this show of girl-power by the prof. Coming from the eye-roll letdown of a certain filmmaker creation in BotFA, Haleth is the real deal that they should have taken a page from. Instead what we got is just pffft!

      Re “Such good stuff! Even a Galadriel appearance! Though, mostly it’s just Melian saying “get a load of my chump of a husband.””
      LoL! You know, I do wonder how does Celeborn stack up against Thingol, given that Melian’s sort of had Gladdys under her wing and this was probably in her face a lot, and I really just can’t imagine a Maia accepting a deadbeat for a spouse 😛

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      1. Eric

        You mean the strong and independent Elvish woman who fell in love and became a useless damsel in distress? That was no good at all. She started out as the Elvish Arwen and became a trope. Sad.

        Haleth is beyond awesome. And he follows her up with Luthien.

        I really want to write a comparison of Melian and Galadriel. In that, I’ll definitely explore why they picked the husbands they did. Neither had to. I know that in Galadriel’s case, Tolkien wrote about them being a couple before either of the characters were developed (or even named), so maybe it’s not that the husbands were made weak, but that the wives were made strong? Who knows. I’ll dig.

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        1. lurkerinthemirk Post author

          Yes, the Mary whose Sue could no longer be hidden. All that squandered screentime for a trope, and not even a particularly imaginative one.

          Having said that, I find it fascinating that Haleth was the only one among the field of cool girl characters we got here that did not saddle herself with a husband.

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          Reply
          1. Eric

            I think you’re right. Not that the girls often let their husbands get in the way… Though in Luthien and Aowen’s cases, it did sort of cost them their immortality.

            Like

          2. lurkerinthemirk Post author

            Looking forward to that!

            Another interesting bit, to me anyway: The great/interesting couples of ME seem, to a fault, to feature higher pedigree in the girl. Even with Earendil and Elwing, which is about the most equal pairing among a field of famed pedigree pairings.

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  2. Pingback: Of the Coming of Men into the West | datinginmiddleearth

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