Westward, ho! Even within the pages of Tolkien’s Legendarium, the call of the West will not be ignored. It’s not just an American thing. It’s something that Western civilization has felt since at least the dawn of recorded history, that idea that whatever might be here, whatever’s beyond the horizon might be even better.
It’s probably a good idea to remind ourselves at this point that The Silmarillion is the Elven account of the history of Arda. When Men arrive on the scene, we don’t see how they entered because there were no Elves present. The first Elf to discover Men is Finrod Felagund, who is drawn to them in the forests of Ossiriand by the light of their fire and by their singing. They call themselves the people of Bëor, and while they slept, Finrod crept among them, picked up Bëor’s harp, and the Men woke to the song. While they could not understand the language, they were able to understand the music, seeing before them the making of the world and the Valar. Followers of Bëor grew wiser by hearing it, and as a result, they swore fealty to the House of Finarfin.
Finrod could understand the meaning of Men’s language in their thoughts, and it wasn’t long before he could converse with Bëor. Bëor knew little of the origin of his people, and even in thought he did not wish to return for Morgoth had gotten to them first seeking to turn them against the Eldar.
Angered by the presence of Men and distraught by the number of trees and beasts that were felled, the Green Elves asked Finrod to get them to move on, which they did to the realm of Estolad. Bëor wished to accompany Finrod to Nargothrond and to live as his vassal. Eventually, Elves named these Second People “Edain,” and they were ultimately welcomed by High King Fingolfin, allowed to dwell in Noldor.
Thingol, however, believed Men to be trouble and ordered none should come to Doriath. Melian foretold to Galadriel that one of Bëor’s house would come to Doriath, and the songs that ushered forth from that would outlast the changing of the world.
Some Men pursued an isolationist policy regarding the Eldar and Morgoth, chief among them Bereg of the house of Bëor and Amlach of the house of Marach. As far as they were concerned, Morgoth was the Elves’ problem, and they need not be a part of that war. Others said there was no war, that it was fabrication. Amlach later denied he said that, claiming he had reason to quarrel with Morgoth, “Master of Lies.” Sounds a lot like modern politics and fake news, doesn’t it? Those who did not wish to stay to fight journeyed back over the Blue Mountains into Eriador. History forgets them after that.
Failing to sunder Elves and Men, Morgoth sent an orc raid to Haladin. Haldad was killed with his son beside him, and his daughter Haleth held the people together. The people of Caranthir arrived as the orcs broke through the defenses, saving the Haladin from destruction. Caranthir offered Haleth and her people free lands and protection in his realm, but pride and independence drove them to Estolad and eventually into the Forest of Brethil at great loss to their numbers.
The Forest of Brethil was in Thingol’s realm, and Finrod convinced him to let the people of Haleth remain. Groups of Men learned much from the Elves, but the lords of the Eldar persisted that Men should be ruled by their own and gave them realms accordingly. Some remained in the service of Elves anyway, such as Hador, who was given by Fingolfin to rule over Dor-lómin, and Boromir of the house of Bëor, ruler of Dorthonion.
Morgoth was largely held in check during the height of the alliance of Elves and Men. Men did not fear the cold nor the evils of Morgoth and launched themselves into battle against him frequently. Gradually they lived longer and grew wiser upon arrival in Beleriand. The Elves were puzzled by death, for their lore told nothing of it, and what lay beyond for Men was not for them to see.