Reader: The Silmarillion. Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter 18 “Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin”

Reader deep thought: When even the sons of Fëanor were less inclined to march on Angband than Fingolfin, the time the Noldor were having in Middle-earth must be fantastic. But the bigger wonder was the notion of futilty in their struggle against Morgoth did not cross the Elves’ minds. Nor did the Edain understand the magnitude, longevity of his grudge bearing. Escalation was a horrible thing to behold: Dagor Bragollach, number four in the Beleriand War Collection was more terrible, expansive, and devastating in its reach than the preceding three.

“…. But because the land was fair and their kingdoms wide, most of the Noldor were content with things as they were, trusting them to last, and slow to begin an assault in which many must surely perish were it in victory or in defeat. Therefore they were little disposed to hearken to Fingolfin, and the sons of Fëanor at that time least of all….”

 

SUMMARY NOTES

With the Edain sticking around, and assisting with their watch, and Angband seemingly quiescient, the Noldor in Middle-earth felt content. Fingolfin, High-King of the Noldor, and King of the North, however, felt strongly the need to go on the offensive.

… for he knew that they lived in danger while the circle of the siege was incomplete, and Morgoth was free to labour in his deep mines, devising what evils none could foretell ere he should reveal them. This counsel was wise according to the measure of his knowledge; for the Noldor did not yet comprehend the fullness of the power of Morgoth, nor understand that their unaided war upon him was without final hope, whether they hasted or delayed.

Unfortunately, only Angrod and Aegnor among the Noldor chieftains backed the plan, being the ones right on Angband’s doorstep.

Fourth_BattleBut the Long Peace was to be shattered by the Enemy himself, four hundred and fifty years after Fingolfin reached Middle-earth, “when the sixth generation of Men after Bëor and Marach were not yet come to full manhood”. The ever industrious Morgoth had been readying an assault, even as the Noldor luxuriated upon the peace in their fair lands. Fuelled by his malice and hatred, he actually jumped the start-gun.

And it is said that his hate overcame his counsel, so that if he had but endured to wait longer, until his designs were full, then the Noldor would have perished utterly. But on his part he esteemed too lightly the valour of the Elves, and of Men he took yet no account.

 

“… the evil befell that he had long dreaded, and yet more dire and sudden than his darkest fear”. For Fingolfin it was dreadful indeed. But the Elves were essentially saved from utter destruction by Morgoth’s impatience. Patience may be a virtue, but this was where impatience had its day, in aid of the Good, even though upon a cold and moonless winter night, Ard-galen was razed with stars looking down, from the hill-forts of the Noldor to the feet of Thangorodrim.

ted nasmith_the silmarillion_2_quenta silmarillion_18_of the ruin of beleriand and the fall of fingolfin2_medThe watchfires burned low, and the guards were few; on the plain few were waking in the camps of the horsemen of Hithlum. Then suddenly Morgoth sent forth great rivers of flame that ran down swifter than Balrogs from Thangorodrim, and poured over all the plain; and the Mountains of Iron belched forth fires of many poisonous hues, and the fume of them stank upon the air, and was deadly. Thus Ard-galen perished, and fire devoured its grasses; and it became a burned and desolate waste, full of a choking dust, barren and lifeless. Thereafter its name was changed, and it was called Anfauglith, the Gasping Dust. Many charred bones had there their roofless grave; for many of the Noldor perished in that burning, who were caught by the running flame and could not fly to the hills. The heights of Dorthonion and Ered Wethrin held back the fiery torrents, but their woods upon the slopes that looked towards Angband were all kindled, and the smoke wrought confusion among the defenders. Thus began the fourth of the great battles, Dagor Bragollach, the Battle of Sudden Flame.

 

Glaurung was point for Morgoth. Full-grown this time, he led Balrogs, who headed orc hordes so huge the Noldor were stunned.

…. And they assaulted the fortresses of the Noldor, and broke the leaguer about Angband, and slew wherever they found them the Noldor and their allies, Grey-elves and Men. Many of the stoutest of the foes of Morgoth were destroyed in the first days of that war, bewildered and dispersed and unable to muster their strength. War ceased not wholly ever again in Beleriand; but the Battle of Sudden Flame is held to have ended with the coming of spring, when the onslaught of Morgoth grew less.

 

Unsurprisingly the houses of Angrod and Aegnor, bore the brunt of the war. And “so great was the onslaught of Morgoth that Fingolfin and Fingon could not come to the aid of the sons of Finarfin”. The hosts of Hithlum were driven back to the fortresses of Ered Wethrin, greatly decimated. And they barely held against the Orcs. Before the walls of Eithel Sirion.

Angrod and Aegnor, were slain in the war, along with Bregolas lord of the house of Bëor and a large part of his army. Bregolas’ brother Barahir, was further westward, near to the Pass of Sirion, where he saved Finrod, who was cut off from his troops as he rushed from the south. (“Thus Felagund escaped, and returned to his deep fortress of Nargothrond; but he swore an oath of abiding friendship and aid in every need to Barahir and all his kin, and in token of his vow he gave to Barahir his ring.” Of course this oath had later repercussions in the story.) Then lord of the house of Bëor, Barahir returned to Dorthonion, but most of his people took refuge at Hithlum.

Hador fell in defense of his lord Fingolfin, aged sixty-six, along with Gundor his younger son. Galdor the Tall succeeded his father. And by the advantage of terrain in the Ered Wethrin, the joint effort of Elves and Men, Hithlum stood against the fires of Morgoth and his Balrogs and Orcs.

But Fingolfin was separated from his kinsmen as the eastern flank, held by the sons of Fëanor, collapsed. The Pass of Aglon was overrun as the orcs captured all the east marches. Celegorm and Curufin fled south to Nargothrond.

Thus it came to pass that their people swelled the strength of Nargothrond; but it would have been better, as was after seen, if they had remained in the east among their own kin. Maedhros did deeds of surpassing valour, and the Orcs fled before his face; for since his torment upon Thangorodrim his spirit burned like a white fire within, and he was as one that returns from the dead. Thus the great fortress upon the Hill of Himring could not be taken, and many of the most valiant that remained, both of the people of Dorthonion and of the east marches, rallied there to Maedhros; and for a while he closed once more the Pass of Aglon, so that the Orcs could not enter Beleriand by that road.

 

So Maedhros held his own, for a while. But the orcs, led by Glaurung, overcame the cavalry of Fëanor’s sons at Lothlann, for he entered Maglor’s Gap and destroyed the land between the arms of Gelion. The fortress on the west slopes of Mount Rerir also fell, and the orcs ravaged Dor Caranthir and Lake Helevorn. From there the orcs passed crossed Gelion “with fire and terror” and reached deep inside East Beleriand. Maglor joined Maedhros R Himring, but Caranthir, Amrod and Amras, fled and passed Ramdal in the south, where they maintained a watch on Amon Ereb they maintained a watch and some strength of war. There they also had the Green-elves’s aid: the Orcs “came not into Ossiriand, nor to Taur-im-Duinath and the wilds of the south.”

Agitated by the bad news all around, Fingolfin rode forth on his mighty steed.

Then Fingolfin beheld (as it seemed to him) the utter ruin of the Noldor, and the defeat beyond redress of all their houses; and filled with wrath and despair he mounted upon Rochallor his great horse and rode forth alone, and none might restrain him. He passed over Dor-nu-Fauglith like a wind amid the dust, and all that beheld his onset fled in amaze, thinking that Oromë himself was come: for a great madness of rage was upon him, so that his eyes shone like the eyes of the Valar.

 

Arriving at Angband’s gates alone, Fingolfin sounded his horn and banged on the gates, calling out Morgoth to single-combat. Unwillingly, Morgoth responded, “for though his might was greatest of all things in this world, alone of the Valar he knew fear.”

morgoth_and_fingolfin_by_shadcarlos-d31bi72But he could not now deny the challenge before the face of his captains; for the rocks rang with the shrill music of Fingolfin’s horn, and his voice came keen and clear down into the depths of Angband; and Fingolfin named Morgoth craven, and lord of slaves.

Therefore Morgoth came, climbing slowly from his subterranean throne, and the rumour of his feet was like thunder underground. And he issued forth clad in black armour; and he stood before the King like a tower, iron-crowned, and his vast shield, sable unblazoned, cast a shadow over him like a stormcloud. But Fingolfin gleamed beneath it as a star; for his mail was overlaid with silver, and his blue shield was set with crystals; and he drew his sword Ringil, that glittered like ice.

 

Morgoth, armed with Grond, the Hammer of the Underworld, struck repeatedly at the Elf, but missed the fleet-footed Eldar. Fingolfin in return wounded Morgoth seven times, and at wounding, “Morgoth gave a cry of anguish, whereat the hosts of Angband fell upon their faces in dismay, and the cries echoed in the Northlands.”

Still, at the last Fingolfin’s strength gave out. After taking Morgoth’s blows upon his shield thrice, he stumbled and fell on his back before Morgoth’s feet.

Morgoth set his left foot upon his neck, and the weight of it was like a fallen hill. Yet with his last and desperate stroke Fingolfin hewed the foot with Ringil, and the blood gushed forth black and smoking and filled the pits of Grond.

Thus died Fingolfin, High King of the Noldor, most proud and valiant of the Elven-kings of old. The Orcs made no boast of that duel at the gate; neither do the Elves sing of it, for their sorrow is too deep.

But the tale lived on, thanks to Thorondor King of Eagles, who brought the tidings to Gondolin and Hithlum. Swooping in from Crissaegrim his roost, and braving the projectiles of the orcs, he saved Fingolfin’s body, already broken by Morgoth, from being wolf fodder. In the process he scarred Morgoth’s face.

Upon a mountain-top overlooked Gondolin he laid Fingolfin, where Turgon built a high cairn over his father. No Orc dared pass near his tomb, until the Fall of Gondolin. Morgoth limped ever after, and “the pain of his wounds could not be healed; and in his face was the scar that Thorondor made.”

The Noldor kingship passed to Fingon. At this time he sent his young son, Erenion aka Gil-galad to the Havens.

Most of the Noldor’s Sindar allies abandoned the war, and ran south to Doriath, swelling Thingol’s subjects, and safe behind the Girdle of Melian. Others found refuge in the fortresses by the sea, Nargothrond, and even Ossiriand. Some passed over the mountains and wandered homeless in the wild. So devastating the war and the news of the Siege’s end even Men in the East beyond the Mountains heard of it.

Thus ended the Siege of Angband; and the foes of Morgoth were scattered and sundered one from another….

 

So Morgoth had control of the Northlands. But Barahir would not concede, fighting against him for every inch of Dorthonion. In reprisal, Morgoth persecuted them

tumblr_nese3wtT5A1tlc44io1_500Then Morgoth pursued his people to the death, until few remained; and all the forest of the northward slopes of that land was turned little by little into a region of such dread and dark enchantment that even the Orcs would not enter it unless need drove them, and it was called Deldúwath, and Taur-nu-Fuin, The Forest under Nightshade. The trees that grew there after the burning were black and grim, and their roots were tangled, groping in the dark like claws; and those who strayed among them became lost and blind, and were strangled or pursued to madness by phantoms of terror.

 

Things got so dire his wife, Emeldir the Manhearted, led the women and children through an arduous trek into Brethil where some settled among the Haladin. Others, including Rían daughter of Belegund and Morwen, crossed the mountains to Dorlómin and sought the people of Galdor, Hador’s son. None saw again the Men left behind, for they were decimated until only twelve were left to roam the lands.

For these were slain one by one, until at last only twelve men remained to Barahir: Beren his son, and Baragund and Belegund his nephews, the sons of Bregolas, and nine faithful servants of his house whose names were long remembered in the songs of the Noldor: Radhruin and Dairuin they were, Dagnir and Ragnor, Gildor and Gorlim the unhappy, Arthad and Urthel, and Hathaldir the young. Outlaws without hope they became, a desperate band that could not escape and would not yield, for their dwellings were destroyed, and their wives and children captured, slain, or fled. From Hithlum there came neither news nor help, and Barahir and his men were hunted like wild beasts; and they retreated to the barren highland above the forest, and wandered among the tarns and rocky moors of that region, furthest from the spies and spells of Morgoth. Their bed was the heather and their roof the cloudy sky.

 

Ultimately, of the twelve, only Beren survived, and he escaped into Doriath at the same time that Húrin entered Fingon’s service, seven years after the Dagor Bragollach.

 

Because the power of Ulmo was in the Sirion, the Noldor has continued to defend western pass where the headwaters were for two years after the Dagor Bragollach. But finally Sauron broke the defense with his sorcery, seized and made Minas Tirith into “a watch-tower for Morgoth, a stronghold of evil, and a menace”), and thus driving Orodeth to flee for Nargothrond. Sauron held the tower and no living thing could pass without his knowing. Ever after, Tol Sirion became accursed, and it was called Tol-in-Gaurhoth, the Isle of Werewolves.Tower_of_Tol_Sirion_2_by_Htogrom

In control of both the north and the western pass, Morgoth’s terror filled Beleriand and he pursued both Men and Elves relentlessly beyond Hithlum, flushing out hiding places and strongholds.

His approach was two-pronged. With the Elves, he sent Orcs who boldly ventured pass Celon into Doriath’s surroundings, terrorising and spreading Morgoth’s reach. Spies he sent to sow discord and gather info. Noldor and Sindar that were taken prisoners were made thralls in Angband.

And because of the curse of the Kinslaying at Alqualondë these lies were often believed; and indeed as the time darkened they had a measure of truth, for the hearts and minds of the Elves of Beleriand became clouded with despair and fear. But ever the Noldor feared most the treachery of those of their own kin, who had been thralls in Angband; for Morgoth used some of these for his evil purposes, and feigning to give them liberty sent them abroad, but their wills were chained to his, and they strayed only to come back to him again. Therefore if any of his captives escaped in truth, and returned to their own people, they had little welcome, and wandered alone outlawed and desperate.

 

Proactive with his Elven agenda, with Men he applied passive-aggression instead, hoping to incite rebellion against the Noldor. The Edain did not pay him heed, but fortunately for him, more Men were coming into Beleriand from the East. Swarthy Men, or Easterlings, with whom he was somewhat more successful.

Some were already secretly under the dominion of Morgoth, and came at his call; but not all, for the rumour of Beleriand, of its lands and waters, of its wars and riches, went now far and wide, and the wandering feet of Men were ever set westward in those days. These Men were short and broad, long and strong in the arm; their skins were swart or sallow, and their hair was dark as were their eyes. Their houses were many, and some had greater liking for the Dwarves of the mountains than for the Elves. But Maedhros, knowing the weakness of the Noldor and the Edain, whereas the pits of Angband seemed to hold store inexhaustible and ever-renewed, made alliance with these newcome Men, and gave his friendship to the greatest of their chieftains, Bór and Ulfang. And Morgoth was well content; for this was as he had designed. The sons of Bór were Borlad, Borlach, and Borthand; and they followed Maedhros and Maglor, and cheated the hope of Morgoth, and were faithful. The sons of Ulfang the Black were Ulfast, and Ulwarth, and Uldor the accursed; and they followed Caranthir and swore allegiance to him, and proved faithless.

 

The Easterlings and Edain did not get much opportunity to impress each other since the former stayed mostly in East Beleriand while the latter were preoccupied.

  • Hador’s folk were shut in Hithlum
    • Húrin and Huor, grandsons of Hador and sons of Galdor were being fostered in Brethil by Haldir their uncle because their mother was Hareth, daughter of Halmir of the Haladin (Glóredhel Galdor’s sister was wedded to Haldir, Hareth’s brother). Húrin and Huor joined a war party but were separated, Crossing the Ford of Brithiach, they were trapped in the Vale of Sirion. Then Ulmo caused a river mist to rise that allowed them to escape into Dimbar. From there they wandered among the foothills of the Crissaegrim until Thorondor sent his Eagles and them to Gondolin, making them the first Men to lay eyes on the hidden city. King Turgon welcomed the brothers, remembering Ulmo’s prophecy Hador’s children of Hador would aid Gondolin in its darkest hour. They remained with Turgon for a year during which Húrin learnt much of Elven lore. After being coerced into oaths of secrecy by Maeglin , the brothers were returned to Dor-lómin by the Eagles. Even to their father Galdor they said no word of Gondolin, but it was not a difficult mystery to solve. But news travel, so Morgoth learnt about the brothers and guessed as well.
  • Bëor’s house was vitually non-existent
  • The People of Haleth, originally unaffected by the northern war in their southern home in the Forest of Brethil were embroiled by invading Orcs. They maintained a watchful peace in the Forest of Brethil, and behind their guard Nargothrond had reprieve, and to gather strength
  • The Haladin continued to etch feats of valour into the Elves’ psyche.
    • After Minas Tirith the Orcs that had passed through the western pass might have defiled all the way to Sirion’s headwaters but for Halmir lord of the Haladin who sent swift word to Thingol. This allowed Beleg Strongbow, chief of the marchwardens of Thingol, to spring a surprise attack on the Orc-legion in the forest together with Halmir. and destroy it. This stemmed the black tide out of the North in that region, and the Orcs dared not cross the Teiglin for a good many years.

 

The news of the end of the Siege prompted Turgon to act, but not to unveil Gondolin. Instead he sought to find a way to send for help from Valinor from the mouths of Sirion and the Isle of Balar.

There they built ships, and set sail into the uttermost West upon Turgon’s errand, seeking for Valinor, to ask for pardon and aid of the Valar; and they besought the birds of the sea to guide them. But the seas were wild and wide, and shadow and enchantment lay upon them; and Valinor was hidden. Therefore none of the messengers of Turgon came into the West, and many were lost and few returned; but the doom of Gondolin drew nearer.

 

Morgoth learnt of these ventures as well. And he tried to locate Finrod and Turgon and their hidden realms to no avail. And he had suffered great losses in the victory at Dagor Bragollach and the conflicts in its aftemath. So he recalled the main host of his Orcs while he tried to reassess his erroneous evaluations of both Elves and Men.

Seven years after the Fourth Battle, Morgoth launched his new attack, sending a great force against Hithlum.

The attack on the passes of the Shadowy Mountains was bitter, and in the siege of Eithel Sirion Galdor the tall, Lord of Dor-lómin, was slain by an arrow. That fortress he held on behalf of Fingon the High King; and in that same place his father Hador Lórindol died but a little time before. Húrin his son was then newly come to manhood, but he was great in strength both of mind and body; and he drove the Orcs with heavy slaughter from Ered Wethrin, and pursued them far across the sands of Anfauglith.

 

There Fingon, greatly outnumbered, struggled to hold back Angband. At the moment, many ships of Círdan appeared, having sailed up the Firth of Drengist, “and in the hour of need the Elves of the Falas came upon the host of Morgoth from the west.” The Orcs broke and fled. Victory to the Eldar, whose cavalry-archers pursued into the Iron Mountains.

The rule of the house of Hador in Dor-lómin fell to Húrin, and he entered Fingon’s service as did his father before him.

It’s safe to say the Noldor and the Edain had great rapport, and through serving in the Houses of the Noldo-lords, many of the Men receive fame and achieved great deeds, both in the Dagor Bragollach and beyond.

(Relevance: read-along schedule)

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5 thoughts on “Reader: The Silmarillion. Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter 18 “Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin”

  1. Eric

    Fun fact – Barahir’s ring was the same one that Elrond gave to Aragorn. Though it had a strange way of getting to him. I think that’s covered a bit in Appendix A.

    It’s really hard to blame the Elves for not wanting to attack Morgoth. It was pretty clear that they couldn’t win. Sure, the Noldor vowed to do it, but a) that was dumb from the start, and b) nobody else made that vow.

    But things seemed to work out as they were supposed to. The Eagles arrived late, but Fingolfin was basically suicidal with rage, so…

    Also, there is some amazing writing in this chapter. Seriously some of his best. “And Morgoth came.” terrifying and brilliant.

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    1. lurkerinthemirk Post author

      Yeah! Barahir’s ring is an interesting artefact 🙂

      But I do look upon the Noldor’s flagging gumption for an attack with a jaundiced eye. Specifically the Feanorians, because they were the lead chest-thumpers on the proposition, chomping at the bit in fact. But a bit of good living, and they all go soft 😛

      There’s great writing in every chapter, which really makes it tough to even try notation when quoting was the obvious cop-out. But that quote, yes… just 😀

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      1. Eric

        The sons of Feanor were all ‘the Silmarils are ours!’ when anyone but Morgoth had them. They knew how to pick their battles. I mean, I get it, I really do. That’s Morgoth, and after Feanor was killed, you have to wonder just how much they really cared about their dad’s old shiney things. Sure, there was an oath, but they totally wouldn’t have bothered otherwise.

        I’m blanking, are we ever told specifically why Morgoth wanted the Silmarils?

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        1. lurkerinthemirk Post author

          You got a point there about the boys knowing how to pick a fight.

          As for Morgoth, we were just told he lusted after them. So a case of chronic bling-envy: Oooh, Pretty! Wants! So what if I can’t create them, I sure as hell can possess them muahahaha 😛

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