World War I was known as “The War to End All Wars.” Had the world been allowed to move forward instead of suffering a series of revenge plays… well, it wouldn’t have ended all war, but it might have led to a far lesser amount of suffering. This was one of the many lessons Professor Tolkien took from his experiences, and it’s this lesson he inverted into a cautionary tale that sets into motion the fall of the Elven kingdoms like so many dominoes.
After 28 years of captivity and torture at the hands of Morgoth, the Dark Lord frees Húrin, using him as a pawn by which to sow more discord. Húrin ventures forth from Angband unhindered and brandishing a new sword, resulting in the free peoples of the world shunning him out of fear and hatred, which in turn further embitters the former prisoner of war. He has but one quest: to avenge the wrongs of the world done against his son, Túrin. In his frustration, he cried aloud to Turgon (overheard by the servants of Morgoth), who asked Thorondor, King of the Eagles, to carry him to Gondolin. But Húrin could no longer be found. He sought his wife Morwen in Brethil at the grave of Túrin, where she knelt before the stone marking the deaths of him and Nienor. Morwen died, and Húrin buried her there.
In anger, Húrin ventured to Nargothrond and found Mim the Petty Dwarf. Húrin knew the full story of Mim’s betrayal and killed him, taking only one piece of treasure with him when he departed: Nauglamir, the Necklace of the Dwarves. From there, he went to Doriath and cast Nauglamir at Thingol’s feet. Melian saw past Morgoth’s lies and helped Húrin to see also, and he picked up the necklace again, this time as a gift. Then he departed and cast himself into the western sea. The one time someone listens to Melian, it ends in tragedy.
Thingol looked to have Nauglamir recast to hold the Silmaril, obsession taking him. He took the jewel to the Dwarves from Nogrod to assist with the metalwork and revealed his desire, and they too coveted the Silmaril but consented. When it was finished, the Dwarves withheld it from him on the pretext that Nauglamir had been made by their fathers and given as a gift to Finrod, who was dead. Thingol saw through them, and they rose up against Thingol and killed him, taking the Silmaril and Nauglamir. They were pursued by Elves, and most were killed. Nauglamir was returned to Melian. Two Dwarves returned to Nograd with word that the Elven-king of Doriath had ordered the slaying of their kin. They swore vengeance and marched. When Elves and Dwarves speak of the rift between their races, this is where it begins, a legacy of hate that has filtered all the way down into the Third Age, all built on the obsession of the Silmaril.
In her grief, Melian withdrew her powers that protected Doriath, opening it to attack. She spoke only to Mablung, bidding him to take heed of the Silmaril and to send word to Beren and Lúthien of events. They had a son, Dior, who wed Nimloth, kinswoman of Celeborn. They had two sons, Eluréd and Elurîn, and a daughter, Elwing. Beren and Dior led the Green Elves of Ossiriand against the Dwarves. Beren killed the Lord of Nogrod and returned Nauglamir to Lúthien.
A messenger from the Green Elves arrived in Doriath on an autumn night bearing a coffer that contained Nauglamir. From this, Dior knew his parents were dead, lost to the fate of Men. Word of the Silmaril reached the sons of Fëanor, who wrote asking for its return. Dior did not answer, thus reawakening their oath. They attacked Doriath in the second kinslaying. Dior and Nimloth were felled, as were Fëanor’s sons Celegrom, Caranthir, and Curufin. Dior’s daughter Elwing escaped to Sirion with the Silmaril.