Chapter 23. Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin
Chapter 24. Of the Voyage of Earendil and the War of Wrath.
After the early victories of the Noldor we have twice seen two great battles occur in which they have been defeated by Morgoth plus the loss of Nargothrond. Apart from a brief respite in which Beren and Luthien managed to take a Silmaril from him, we have also seen the loss of many great lords both among the Elves and the Edain. For a while Turin managed to hold the orcs at bay in one area, but from the onset his quest was doomed.
Tolkien has created a beautiful world for us, full of wonderful people; a place we can only ever dream of going to, but for the last five chapters he has made us endure the slow death of this paradise. Morgoth now has a definite upper hand, and though his armies of orcs seem inexhaustible, we are only too aware that the elven losses are not being replaced. By concentrating on individual heroic figures who he then kills, he is reinforcing this feeling within us, particularly as we were introduced to most of the elven lords early on and so know there is a finite number of them.
Of those early lords, we now have only Turgon, Thingol, Cirdan and the sons of Feanor left. Gil-galad has had a mention, and although one day he will be High King, I always felt Tolkien was deliberately saving him for the events of the Second Age rather than having him play a role in the battles of the First Age. Similarly, Galadriel plays only a minor role in the events of the First Age, Tolkien saving her for the Third Age.
So, onto the Chapters covered by this assignment. Two major elven realms still remain in Beleriand, Doriath and Gondolin. After holding him captive for twenty eight years, the mental torture of Hurin is about to pay dividends for Morgoth.
Chapter 22. Of the Ruin of Doriath.
This chapter sees Hurin at last released. Half mad with grief and shunned by those who see him, he attempts to find his way back to Gondolin. Unable to find the hidden gate, however, he cries out to Turgon, thus revealing the location of the hidden city to the spies who have followed him.
After a brief reunion with his wife, Morwen, before she died, he then travelled to Nargothrond. Here he slew Mim the Dwarf for betraying his son to the orcs, and so managed to claim the Dwarven made necklace, the Nauglamir. This he took to Doriath, whereupon it was given to Thingol. Cured by Melian of the madness created by Morgoth’s lies, Hurin then saw the irony of his life and so flung himself into the western sea.
Having ignored Melian’s warnings and so become tied to the fate of the Silmarils, Thingol’s doom is rapidly approaching him. He has the Dwarves of Nogrod remake the Nauglamir so it can house his Silmaril, but this act is tempting fate a little too much. The dwarves covert the jewel they have just made and refuse to hand it over to Thingol when they have finished it. Slaying him in his own halls, they are then hunted by the elves as they flee Doriath, but two of their number escape back to Nogrod. The lies they tell results in the Dwarves of Nogrod invading Doriath, and with the passing of Melian, they are able to ransack and plunder Menegroth.
Leading a force of elves from Ossiriand, Beren is able to destroy this Dwarven army as they return home with their plunder, and he manages to retrieve the Silmaril/Nauglamir which he gives to Luthien. Their son, Dior, then takes the lordship of Doriath, though it no longer has the protection of Melian.
This chapter ends with Dior receiving the Silmaril after the passing of his parents, followed by an assault by the sons of Feanor. Dior is slain, although he kills three of Feanor’s sons, and Doriath is laid to ruin, though his daughter, Elwing, manages to escape with the jewel.
Chapter 23. Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin.
This chapter is the tale of Turin’s cousin, Tuor. Escaping thraldom, he follows ancient elven paths and finds himself in Turgon’s deserted home of Vinyamar. Here he finds the armour and sword that Turgon left at Ulmo’s command before departing to Gondolin, and then he meets Ulmo too.
Under Ulmo’s instruction, and guided by an elf Ulmo has rescued from the sea, Tuor goes to Gondolin with a message from the Valar. Ulmo has urged Turgon to leave Gondolin, but the elven king has grown too fond of the city and refuses to leave. Unbeknown to Turgon, however, Morgoth now knows the rough location of the city and has it surrounded with his spies. On day some of these agents capture Maeglin, and under threat of torture he reveals to Morgoth all he wishes to know.
Unprepared for an attack, the elves find their walls assailed by an army of dragons and balrogs, the city quickly falling with terrible losses. Few manage to escape the carnage, but following a secret path that was unknown to Maeglin, Turgon’s daughter Idril, now married to Tuor, manages to escape with him and their son Earendil to the Havens at the mouth of the Sirion. Here the remnants who had escaped from Gondolin with Idril and Tuor joined themselves with those who had managed to escape from Doriath.
Chapter 24. Of the Voyage of Earendil and the War of Wrath.
Morgoth’s ruin of Beleriand is almost complete, but from the embers of defeat one spark of hope arises. Having married Elwing, who has bore him the sons Elrond and Elros, Earendil builds a ship and sails ever further west in search of Valinor. At first he is unsuccessful, but on returning home from a failed voyage he finds Elwing, transformed into a bird by Ulmo, fleeing from yet another attack by the sons of Feanor.
Together, with the aid of the silmaril, they eventually reach the shores of Aman and Earendil enters Valinor. Here he pleads with the Valar on behalf of both Elves and Men, his prayers eventually being answered. The Valar once more prepare themselves for war, and they return to Middle Earth with the Vanyar and the remaining Noldor.
A great battle ensues, in which the forces of Morgoth are destroyed and Morgoth himself is taken captive, but the fighting is so disruptive Beleriand is lost beneath the sea. The two remaining silmarils are taken from him, but in one last defiant move, the two remaining sons of Feanor manage to take them from the victorious army. Now, however, they find the jewels burn them, proving to them once and for all that their evil acts have cost them the right of ownership of the gems. One is cast into the sea and the other into molten lava, while the one belonging to Elwing and Earendil is sent into the sky aboard Earendil’s ship, whereupon it is forever seen as a star.
Questions for discussion.
1) Was it just chance that Hurin met Morwen just prior to her death, or had they been guided to each other by some benign power?
2) Why did Melian desert Doriath after the death of Thingol?
3) Unlike many of the heroes in this tale, both Beren and Luthien manage to die peacefully, though their lives appear rather short. What conclusions do you draw from this.
4) On his journey to Gondolin, Tuor caught a brief glimpse of Turin though he knew not who he was. Although it’s not mentioned in the Silmarillion, Turin actually aided Tuor’s journey to the hidden city. Any ideas on how? What do you suppose would have been the outcome if these two great warriors had joined forces with each other at this stage?
5) Why did Turgon ignore Ulmo’s warnings about leaving Gondolin?
6) Why was Earendil so qualified to be the representative of both Elves and Men, when Dior, for instance, was also half-elven?
7) Why did Maedhros and Maglor still attempt to take the silmarils after they had been taken from Morgoth by the Valar, and why did they burn them?
8) From what you have learned from this book, and also from what you know of LotR, what do you understand of the choice given to the Peredhil (Elrond and Elros) and their children concerning their fate?
If you have any other questions concerning these chapters, feel free to ask them.
In Assignment 8, Madwannabe asked the following question, which is relevant to this assignment.
Which leads me to the next question, was the fact that the silmaril burnt the hands Maedhros and Maglor because of the deaths of elves and the horrible fate that Feanor and his sons led them too that made them no longer "pure" enough to hold the silmaril. One more thing, did they lose their right to claim the silmarils the moment of the kinslaying or for sins after that?
I answered this question at the time with the following response.
We are jumping a little ahead of ourselves here, Mad, as this is material we will be covering in Assignment 10. Since you ask, however, I will answer you now with a couple of quotes from the Silmarillion, and then move the posts later into the relevant section.
From page 79 of the Silmarillion
And Varda hallowed the Silmarils, so that thereafter no mortal flesh, nor hands unclean, nor anything of evil will might touch them, but it was scorched and withered...
From page 204 of the Silmarillion.
But Eonwe answered that the right to the work of their father, which the sons of Feanor formerly possessed, had now perished, because of their many and merciless deeds, being blinded by their oath, and most of all because of their slaying of Dior and the assault upon the Havens.
I think between them, those two passages should answer your question. The Silmarils burned them because, in the eyes of Varda, they had committed evil deeds. As to when they lost the right to the Silmarils, I would say after the kin-slaying. If they had repented at this stage, however, after paying pennance I think they might have eventually regained them. They did not repent, however, and continued to commit wrongs. I think each one was a further nail in the coffin lid for them.
If anyone else would like to add their comments to this discussion too, please do so.