The Silmarillion – Quenta Silmarillion: XVIII. Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin

The title sort of says it all, so… spoilers.  Break out those maps of Beleriand, ladies and gents.  You’re going to need them.

In the fight against the Dark Lord, there have been three great battles.  Now we arrive at Dagor Bragollach — the Battle of Sudden Flame — wherein the High King of the Noldor, Fingolfin, decides its time for an all-out assault because peace can’t last, and Morgoth is simply sick of waiting.  After centuries of peace (also known merely as a cease-fire), Thangorodrim explodes in smoke and fire that levels all of the surrounding territory faster than an army of Balrogs could do the job.  During the first volleys, Finrod is saved by Barahir, and thus swears an oath of friendship and aid: the Great Alliance of Elves and Men that Morgoth feared is embodied right here.  Sealing the oath, Barahir is given a ring.  This ring will be important in later chapters.  Remember it.

Hador and his son are killed.  Fingolfin is separated from his kinsmen.  Maedhros is the only one of Fëanor’s sons to hold his land, though all seven still survive.  Himlad is overrun; Celegorm and Curufin take shelter with Finrod in Nargothrond.  Fingolfin, believing the battle lost for the Noldor, rides to the gates of Angband and challenges Morgoth to single combat.  Tolkien tells us that this is the last time he comes forth from his gates, for he alone of the Valar knew fear (having used it as his means to rule), but he did come, attempting to take out his foe with Grond, Hammer of the Underworld.  Fingolfin is fast, and evading the hammer, he wounds Morgoth seven times, which really shook the confidence of the Dark Lord’s troops.  Ultimately Fingolfin stumbles into one of the pits made by the hammer, and Morgoth puts his foot on his foe’s throat.  Before he dies, Fingolfin strikes off Morgoth’s foot.  Morgoth intends to toss the body to the wolves, but Thorondor, the Great Eagle, swoops in, scarring Morgoth’s face and carrying the slain hero away.  Morgoth’s wounds will not heal.

Fingon takes the Kingship and sends his son, Gil-Galad, to the relative safety of the Gray Havens.  Barahir holds Dorthonion against Morgoth until he’s down to twelve soldiers: nine servants, two nephews, and his son, Beren.  They’re hunted, at great loss.

Two years after the Battle of Sudden Flame, we see another familiar name start making his play in the world.  Sauron, Morgoth’s right hand, drives Orodreth from Minas Tirith, making the area foul with his presence.  It becomes the Isle of Werewolves (Tol-in-Gaurhoth).  Orodreth flees to Nargothrond, reuniting with his brother Finrod.

Morgoth’s minions try to capture Elves and Men or sow lies where possible, though few will listen.  The Swarthy Men show up here, and two of their leaders, Bór and Ulfang, become friends with Maedhros, exactly as Morgoth intends.

The Haladin secure the area, and among their number are Húrin and Huor, who go into battle with Orcs.  The protection of Ulmo keeps them alive, and Thorondor flies them to Gondolin.  Learning of the Siege of Angband, Turgon will not send his armies for Gondolin is not yet ready to be revealed.  Instead, he sends ships and mariners into the West to beg pardon of the Valar and earn their aid.  None could navigate the enchanted seas; few returned.

Fearing the Alliance set into motion, Morgoth sent spies trying to learn locations of the heroes in play.  Seven years after the battle, Orcs kill Galdor in the assault of Hithlum.  The ships of Cirdan sailed in just in time to spare Fingon’s army, who in turn pursued the Orcs as they fled.

With the death of Galdor, Húrin becomes lord of Dor-lómin and head of the House of Hador.  He weds Morwen, who had escaped with Elmeldir (Barahir’s wife).  Of the outlaws living in Dorthonion, all but one has been killed: Beren, son of Barahir, who has come to Doriath.

To be continued in the chapter that Tolkien considered to be the most important tale in the entirety of The SilmarillionAs I mentioned earlier, of the remaining chapters, some of them are longer and warrant an extra week.  The next one is one of those, so expect that post to drop on the 17th.

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