The Silmarillion – Quenta Silmarillion: XIII. Of the Return of the Noldor

I’m not going to lie.  Upon reading this chapter, I smacked up hard against the wall of inadequacy and slapped around a bit.  Maybe I’m just a slow learner.  Or maybe Tolkien is just that awesome.  Probably both.  All I know is there’s a lot to unpack in this chapter.

We return to the story of Fëanor and his sons, already a happy-go-lucky tale of anger and betrayal.  Upon arrival in Lammoth, they set fire to the ships, drawing the attention of Fingolfin over in Aman… and the attention of the Orcs under Morgoth’s reign.  Queue the dramatic music.  *Dun dun DUN!*  The wayward explorers settle in Mithrim, where they’re assaulted by Morgoth’s armies in the Second Battle in the Wars of Beleriand, aka the Battle-under-Stars (the Moon had not yet risen.)  As luck would have it, this battle is renowned in song… because even being caught by surprise, somehow Team Fëanor wins.

The win isn’t enough.  Fëanor is full of “wrath,” which my Star Trek upbringing tells me will end badly.  Fëanor will pursue Morgoth “round the Moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition’s flames…”  *ahem*  You get the idea.  What does he encounter for his dogged determination?  Balrogs.  Well played, Morgoth.  It seems a Dark Lord fights dirtier than Kirk.  Gee, what are the odds?  What did you think would happen, Fëanor?  Know ye nothing of Angband?  Well, no, of course you don’t.  Foolish Noldor…

Fëanor is wounded, and before he’s killed, his sons drive away the Balrogs.  I want to know how, but that’s not the point.  Fëanor demands his sons renew their oaths and avenge his death, then he curses three times the name of Morgoth.  The fire of his spirit reduces his body to ash.  That, my friends, is true wrath.

Meanwhile, Morgoth sends a messenger conceding defeat.  Maedhros, Fëanor’s eldest son, opts to feign treaty with him, so we’re going into surrender negotiation where neither side is serious.  This’ll end well.  Morgoth arrives with a larger army than Maedhros does, captures him, and holds him hostage until the Noldor opt out of the war and agree to leave Beleriand.  The other sons of Fëanor know full well Morgoth isn’t to be trusted, and besides — they have newly sworn oaths.   Morgoth hangs Maedhros from a precipice by his right hand in a band of steel.

So… if I’m reading this correctly, we have the myth of Prometheus.  Someone steals fire from the gods, and he’s punished for it.  Except in this case, the sins of the father are visited upon the son.  Very fair.  Where have I seen this before?  Oh yes… Klingons!  I’m really starting to wonder just how much Tolkien influenced Star Trek all around at this point, what with all the misbegotten oaths of honor and wrath and sins of the father stuff.

Fingolfin has returned to Middle-Earth, and Morgoth’s servants flee in terror from the light of the Sun as the ages of stars were ended.  Fingolfin and his people unfurl the banners, sound the trumpets, and chase the dark minions back into Angband where they “smote upon the gates of Angband, and the challenge of their trumpets shook the towers of Thangorodrim”.  So… Angband is now the walls of Jericho?  Seems like an allusion Tolkien would draw upon.  Except… the walls don’t come down, and no one answers the door, so Fingolfin packs up and heads to Mithrim.  There’s some bad blood between his people and Fëanor’s after all that back there, and Fëanor’s peeps are dumbfounded into shame that Fingolfin’s troops showed up at all.

Fingon, eldest son of Fingolfin and formerly a good friend of Maedhros, vows to heal the rift between their peoples.  Good idea.  So he starts by sneaking off alone and having told no one to Thangorodrim under the dark of night to search for Maedhros.  Good idea?  *shrug*  Certainly a brave and foolish one.  It runs in the family, apparently.  Fingon finds Maedhros, who begs to be killed.  Fingon prepares to do so by bow since he cannot reach him otherwise.  He prays to Manwë to speed the arrow true to its target, and Tolkien pushes the giant “I win!” button in answer to the prayer.  The button is one we’ve seen before in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, calling for the Eagles.  Or in this case, one Eagle will do nicely: Thorondor, who bears Fingon over to Maedhros.  The steel cannot be released, however, so Fingon cuts off Maedhros’ hand.

Fingon wins renown, and Maedhros, who heals up over time, begs for Fingolfin’s pardon in an attempt to heal the feud between their peoples.  United, the Noldor set watch upon Angband and begin to explore the whole of Beleriand.

Remember Thingol over in Doriath?  His wife, Melian, says not to trust that the peace would last, and she will not remove the Girdle from Doriath.  Only the children of Finarfin are allowed here.  Angrod visits first, and he tells Thingol of the Noldor, but leaves out details like the exile, the oath, and that whole bit about the kinslaying.  Thingol gives leave for the Noldor to dwell north and east of the realm, but not within Doriath, nor does he give control over any of his people living elsewhere in Beleriand.

The Noldor meet in Mithrim, and Angrod tells of Thingol’s message, which of course angers the sons of Fëanor.  Of course it does.  Maedhros holds to the idea that Thingol would feel good about the idea of having them as neighbors, protecting his borders.  They claim their realms.  the northernmost is known as the March of Maedhros, being the expected route from which Angband’s forces would manifest.  Caranthir meets the first Dwarves.  As expected, they don’t really get along, but alliances are formed from mutual hate of Morgoth.  The enemy of my enemy, etc.  The Dwarves gain knowledge from the Noldor, and Caranthir becomes quite wealthy.

Fingolfin holds a festival for the Elves of Beleriand after twenty years to celebrate peace.  Thirty years after that, Turgon and Finrod travel together along the River Sirion.  Ulmo comes to them in dreams, directing them to seek secret strongholds.  Long story short, with the help of the Dwarves, Finrod builds his underground realm Nargothrond.  The Dwarves make a necklace for him called Nauglamir, and Finrod is known afterwards as Felagund, “hewer of caves.”

Finrod goes forth into his realm, but Galadriel would not follow him, such was the great love between her and Celeborn, a kinsman of Thingol.  She remained in Doriath and learned the wisdom of Melian.  Good choice, Galadriel.  Good choice.

Turgon is visited by Ulmo, who directs him to the Vale of Sirion.  There, in secret (never a good idea in Tolkien’s stories), he creates a realm there fashioned after Tirion.

Morgoth is bored again, but his forces are surrounded and quickly defeated in what would later be known as Dagor Aglareb, the Glorious Battle.  For the next 400 years, the Noldor continued the Siege of Angband.  None of Morgoth’s ranks dared past the gates for fear of the Noldor.  Ice and snow, however, prevent the Noldor from doing much in the north, so Morgoth sends his Orcs through the impassable area anyway with instructions to take as many of the Eldar alive as possible.  This has the desired effect of spreading fear, rumor, and dissention in the ranks.

The first of the dragons, Glaurang, comes across the Elves at this time, but he ventured forth long before he was at full strength, so Fingon and his archers were able to drive him back.  Way to jump the gun there, big guy.

Prosperity reigns for hundreds of years, and the Noldor and the Sindar become united as one (Tolkien says they are “welded”), the strength and wisdom of the Noldor melding with the love of natural things and the skill of music as manifest by the Sindar.

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