The Silmarillion – Quenta Silmarillion: XXIII. Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin

If ever there was a lesson from World War I that ran through Tolkien’s works as a connective theme, it’s that isolationism is not a good idea.  No matter how much you try to avoid the ills of the world, they will find you one way or another.  Best to confront them head on, with help.

Tuor, whose father Huor was slain at the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, was raised by Annael of the Gray Elves.  When the Elves set out for Sirion when Tuor was sixteen, they were ambushed by Orcs and Easterlings.  Tuor was enslaved, escaping after three years and avenging himself upon the Easterlings to the point where they put a price on his head.  Chosen by Ulmo, Tuor felt the urge to leave home and journey to Nevrast, the former home of Turgon’s people before moving to Gondolin.  Tuor dwelt in Nevrast until seven swans appeared in the sky, a sign that he followed to the halls of Vinyamar.  The sword and armor that Turgon had left there under Ulmo’s orders were claimed.  Ulmo appeared, gave Tuor a cloak so as to hide, and bade him to go to Gondolin.   Tuor met Voronwë, the only one of Turgon’s mariners to be spared by Ulmo during the attempt to reach Valinor.  The mariner agreed to guide Tuor to Gondolin.  Along the way, they caught sight of Túrin Turambar, which Tolkien suggests a parallel and opposite between Túrin and Tuor.

At Gondolin, Tuor and Voronwë are arrested and taken to Turgon when  he’s recognized as being sent by Ulmo.  Tuor spoke Ulmo’s message, warning that the Noldor should leave Gondolin to save his people from the oncoming destruction.  Pride had twisted the High King, however, and he trusted in the isolation of his city and the strength of its walls.  Fearing treachery, he shut the gates and forbade any to leave.  Thorondor, Lord of the Eagles, brought news of the fall of Nargothrond and of Doriath, but even that Turgon would not hear.  So much for Tolkien’s “I win!” button.  Seriously, the Eagles know.  Of course if Turgon listened, the Doom of Mandos wouldn’t be the prophecy it is.  Tuor remained in Gondolin and met and fell in love with Idril, Turgon’s daughter.  After seven years, they were given permission to marry, which caused Maeglin’s hate to swell something fierce.  Note that this is the second union between Elf and Man; two down, one to go.  The happy couple gave birth to a son, Eärendil, who will go on to become legend and the hope named throughout later Ages.

Having secured the rough location of Gondolin from Húrin, Morgoth began laying his plans for invasion, thus thwarted due to the constant vigil of the Eagles.  Idril felt the dread and prepared in secret a way out of the city.  Meanwhile, Maeglin disobeyed Turgon, went outside, and was captured by Orcs.  After some threats of torment, he gave up the exact location of the city.  Morgoth promised him the throne and Idril in the eventuality of success, bending Maeglin’s will to the Dark Lord.  Maeglin was returned, deepening Idril’s fears.

Eärendil was seven years old when the attack came.  Morgoth attacked on the morning of a festival with Balrogs, Orcs, wolves, and dragons, overtaking the tower of the King and claiming Turgon’s death in the process.  Maeglin took Idril and Eärendil, and Tuor pitched him over the wall into the fire below.  He and Idril led those they could gather through the secret passages under the cover of battle smoke, climbing into the mountains.  Orcs assailed them, and they were confronted by the Balrog lord, Gothmog.  Glorfindel fought Gothmog, and the two were killed when they fell into the abyss.  The Eagles drove back the Orcs, and Thorondor claimed Glorfindel’s body.  He was buried beneath a mound where golden flowers would perpetually grow.

Tuor led those who remained to Sirion, where they were joined by those who had survived Doriath, including Elwing, daughter of Dior.  Ereinion Gil-Galad, son of Fingon, was named High King of the Noldor.

Morgoth believed himself successful, with the remnants of the Elves being no threat from this point.  Ulmo, on behalf of the Elves, begged the Valar that they be forgiven and aided against Morgoth.  It is said only one who speaks on behalf of Elves and Men could persuade Manwë, and that one had not yet come.  (Next chapter!)

Feeling his age, Tuor’s longing for the sea grew.  He built a ship and sailed into the West with Idril.  No tales of them would come again.  Tuor’s fate was sundered from that of Men, and he was joined with the Noldor.

This last part leaves me wondering.  Why did Tuor get immortality?  Or to put it another way, why was the “Gift of Men” taken back from him?  It’s all in the phrasing, I suppose.  Was it a balance to Lúthien becoming human?  Was it a reward for saving the Elves and giving the world Eärendil?  From where I’m sitting, it seems like maybe Beren should have become immortal instead of Lúthien making her sacrifice, and likewise the same later on for Aragorn and Arwen.  But then we wouldn’t have the tragedy that makes the story.  I don’t really know if Tolkien gave us an answer to any of the questions I have about this.  I suspect not.

4 thoughts on “The Silmarillion – Quenta Silmarillion: XXIII. Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin

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