With defeat of the Noldor at the Dagor Bragollach, the Battle of Sudden Flame, their siege was broken and their armies scattered. Though Fingolfin’s heroic combat with Morgoth had shown Morgoth was not unbeatable, it had cost them their High King. Fortunately, Morgoth’s victory at Dagor Bragollach had cost him dear and he had been unable to press forward his advantage. Spurred on by the deeds of Beren and Luthien, Maedhros therefore, attempted to once again unite the remaining Noldor. This new league became known as the Union of Maedhros.
From the start, however, the Oath of Feanor and the deeds it had wrought went against the design of Maedhros. Because of the actions of Celegorm and Curufin, Orodreth (now ruler of Nargothrond) refused to march forth at the word of any son of Feanor. Likewise, because of their proud words when demanding back their Silmaril, neither would Thingol send aid from Doriath.
Maedhros did have aid from elsewhere, though. The Dwarves of Nogrod and Belegost sent troops and weapons, and many Men joined his forces, including Men from the East. In addition, Turgon chose this moment to come forth from Gondolin with an army of 10,000. Maedhos’s plan, after driving the Orcs back out of Beleriand, was to assault Angband from two fronts, the intention being that Fingon would be able to arrive with the second army after his own had lured Morgoth’s forces onto the battlefield. The deception of Men, however, caused this plan to badly fail.
Morgoth had already corrupted many of the Easterling Men, and using these as spies, he was privy to Maedhros’s plans. Using the Easterlings to create a diversion that would delay Maedhros’s army, he sent forth a force to draw out Fingon’s. By brutally killing the brother of one of Fingon’s captains in front of their lines he succeeded in doing this. Fingon’s army attacked, and breaking through Morgoth’s western army, the Noldor reached the gate of Angband. With the fire of their initial attack gone, however, the Noldor were then forced to retreat back again.
Until rescued by Turgon’s force from Gondolin, for a night Fingon’s army was surrounded by Orcs. As Turgon and Fingon joined forces, so too came the army of Maedhros. Before they could unite, however, Morgoth sent forth his reserves, and these included Balrogs and Dragons. They came between the two Elven armies, preventing them from meeting, and then many of the Easterlings showed their deceit by attacking the rear of Maedhos’s lines. Attacked on three fronts, this Maedhros’s army broke and fled. The last to leave of this eastern army was the force of Dwarves. They stayed until their lord fell, and by doing so, managed to drive off Glaurung, the father of dragons.
With the eastern army gone, Morgoth turned his attention back to the western army, and led by the Balrog, Gothmog, they managed to split Fingon and Turgon’s forces, Gothmog slaying Fingon. With no hope of victory, the Edain led by Hurin and Huan guarded the retreat of Turgon so they could return secretly to Gondolin. In this defence, the Edain were all slain with the exception of Hurin, who was eventually captured after killing 70 of his enemy.
With the end of this battle also went the strength of the Noldor, their only armies now lying hidden in Gondolin and Nargothrond. Northern Beleriand was in Morgoth’s control, and in Hithlum he sent the Easterlings to dwell. He then turned his attention fully on Turgon, and to find his kingdom he set a terrible fate upon Hurin whom he knew had been there. Imprisoning him on a stone chair upon Thangorodrim, he forced him to watch and hear all the events that occurred from thereon concerning his family, though all he saw was poisoned by the lies of Morgoth.
Questions for discussion.
1) Again in this chapter, as with Feanor and Fingolfin, we see forces of enraged Elves successfully breaking through the enemy's lines and banging on the gates of Angband. What does this suggest to you?
2) Why did Turgon leave Gondolin for this battle and not for the Dagor Bragollach eighteen years earlier?
3) In both this battle and the Dagor Bragollach, the sons of Feanor break and leave the field, while the forces of Fingolfin and his sons manage to fight on, either holding their territory or fighting to the death. Is there any particular reason for this?
4) In this battle we saw great contrasts in the deeds of Men. Taking a viewpoint from the late third age, how important was this battle in the way of future Elf/Human relationships? Can many of the future prejudices be seen to stem directly from this battle?
Thus ended Nirnaeth Arnoediad, as the sun went down beyond the sea. Night fell in Hithlum, and there came a great storm of wind out of the West.
If you have any queries or comments of your own concerning this chapter, feel free to add them.