In the Elder Days of Middle-earth, the First Age of the World, the Dark Lord Morgoth stole the Silmarils, the greatest treasure of the Noldor elves. Morgoth took shelter in his fortress of Angband in the north of Beleriand, that long-vanished land west of the Blue Mountains, and there made war upon the elves and their allies, the dwarves and the late-arriving tribes of men.
The Noldor, defying the will of the Valar, arrived in Middle-earth and defeated Morgoth's forces, laying siege to Angband for over four centuries. In the Battle of Sudden Flame Morgoth breached the siege, but found the elven forces more resilient than expected, thanks to their new human allies. In the Battle of Unnumbered Tears Morgoth finally gained the upper hand through treachery and drove his enemies back in defeat, and began the long task of finally destroying the last resistance to his rule.
Maglor casts the Silmaril into the sea, by Ted Nasmith.
The Fall of Doriath
After learning of his son and daughter’s deaths and seeing his wife’s passing, Húrin went to Nargothrond and there encountered Mîm the petty-dwarf. Angered at the thief’s presence, Húrin slew him and took from the ruined halls the Nauglamír, greatest of the treasures of Nargothrond, the fabled Necklace of the Dwarves given to Finrod Felagund by the dwarves of Nogrod for his alliance with them. Then Húrin went to Doriath and gave the Nauglamír to Thingol as payment for Thingol’s protection of his family. Then Húrin knew his time had come at last and he travelled west to the shores of Beleriand and then cast himself into the Belegaer, knowing his time on Earth was done.
Now Thingol commissioned the dwarves of Nogrod to forge anew the Nauglamír so he might bear the Silmaril given to him by Beren and Lúthien upon it, but the dwarves were unhappy with the task, for they had given the Necklace to their friend Finrod, not to proud Thingol who yet mistrusted them and had never been their ally. After the Necklace was completed the Silmaril was placed upon it, and it awoke greed in the hearts of the dwarves. They slew Thingol were he stood and took the Nauglamír and the Silmaril upon it and passed out of Doriath, but the grey-elves were filled with wrath and pursued them, slaughtering them on the banks of the River Aros and taking the Nauglamír and the Silmaril back to Doriath. There Melian was filled with great grief and sent word to Ossiriand that Beren and Lúthien should return at once. Then Melian gathered herself together and departed Middle-earth forever, passing to Valinor beyond the Sea to dwell in the gardens of the Vala Lórien as she had in the years before the Stars. But when she left, the enchantment of the Girdle failed also and Doriath was laid open to its enemies.
Two dwarves escaped the vengeance of the elves and, coming to Nogrod, aroused the wrath of their kinsfolk. Then a great dwarven host came down the Ered Luin and invaded eastern Doriath. many elves and dwarves fell in lengthy battle and much of the forest was engulfed in flames, and blood was spilled even in Menegroth itself. But the dwarves at last won the day and, taking the Nauglamír and the Silmaril for their own, retreated towards the east.
In Ossiriand there still lived Beren and Lúthien, and with them dwelt their son Dior and his wife Nimloth, who was kinswoman to Celeborn of Doriath, husband of the Lady Galadriel, the only surviving child of Finarfin. All of these were present in Ossiriand when news came of the dwarves’ assault. Beren, Dior and Celeborn arrayed themselves for war and with a great host marched north to intercept the dwarves before they could return to Nogrod. There, at Sarn Athrad, the dwarves were slain and the Silmaril recovered. The few dwarves who survived the battle were caught by the Shepherds of the Trees, the Ents, and slain in the shadow of the Ered Luin. The treasures of Menegroth that the dwarves had stolen were emptied into the River Ascar, which henceforth was known as Rathlóriel, the Goldenbed, but Beren took the Silmaril back to Tol Galen and gave it to Lúthien. Then Dior and his wife Nimloth and their sons and their daughter Elwing returned to Menegroth and ruled in peace there for four years. Before the end of this time Beren and Lúthien passed on to the Halls of Mandos of their own free will, but before they went they delivered the Silmaril unto their son.
The Sons of Fëanor had thusfar let the one Silmaril outside Morgoth’s control be, for whilst it lay in the command of Thingol it was unattainable through the Girdle of Melian and taking it would have resulted in full-scale war between the Exiles and the far more numerous Sindar. But now the Sindarin were fading, with many fleeing to the Falas and Ossiriand after the sack of Menegroth, and the Girdle of Melian was gone. Then the Sons of Fëanor came to Menegroth and Dior ordered them gone, but they would not heed him. So took place the Second Kinslaying, with Noldor pitted against Sindar in the Thousand Caves. In this battle, at least Celegorm, Curufin and dark Caranthir were slain, but so fell Dior and his wife Nimloth. Their sons Eluréd and Elurín were left to starve in the forest, but Maedhros and Maglor, and Curufin’s son Celebrimbor repented this crime and sought them, but in vain. In the confusion of battle Elwing took the Silmaril and led her people south to Arvernien, the country surrounding the Mouths of Sirion, and there dwelt many long years.
Tuor comes to Gondolin, by Tad Nasmith.
The Tale of Tuor and Idril and the Fall of Gondolin
Whilst his cousin Túrin managed to evade the Easterlings of Dor-lómin, Tuor son of Huor was captured and made to serve in thralldom for three years. Escaping from the Easterlings, Tuor fled and dwelt alone in the wilds for many years, slaying Orcs as he found them, and in this his tale resembled that of his cousin Túrin, but Tuor was more honourable and not marked by a curse of Morgoth. Then Ulmo, Lord of the Sea, cast his eye upon Middle-earth and, like all the Valar, was troubled by the growing evil of Morgoth, but like the rest of the Valar he had to obey the law of Manwë, that only a combined plea of mankind and elfkin could win the alliance of the Valar against Morgoth. But no ban was set on helping individuals, and thus Ulmo filled Tuor’s heart with a longing for the sea.
So, following a call which he did not understand, Tuor passed from Hithlum into Nevrast, that country by the sea where many years before Turgon had dwelt, and there found in the shadow of Mount Taras Turgon’s old fortress of Vinyamar. Within the fortress Tuor found Turgon’s old armour and weapons, left here at Ulmo’s bidding when Turgon went to build Gondolin, and arrayed himself in this gear. Then Tuor gazed upon the Belegaer. To Tuor’s amazement, Ulmo Lord of Waters arose before him and bade him to seek out the Hidden Realm of Gondolin. Tuor agreed, but did not know the way. Then a ship sailed out of the east and foundered upon the coast, and it was piloted by Voronwë, the last mariner sent by Turgon west to seek out lost Valinor. Voronwë agreed to guide Tuor to Gondolin and away they went, but the spies of Morgoth marked their passing. Again, they failed to find Gondolin, but the search was narrowed to a particular set of mountain ranges in the south-west of Dorthonion.
Thus, it came to pass that Tuor came before Turgon, Lord of Gondolin and the mightiest of the remaining free elves of Beleriand. Tuor delivered his warning from Ulmo, that the doom of Gondolin drew nigh and its people should prepare to leave, but Turgon chose not to heed it, instead raising his troops and promising that if Morgoth’s legions should come, they would not find Gondolin unprepared. Moved by the valour of the Noldor, Tuor chose to remain with him. Tuor became mighty in warfare and was honoured by the elves, and thus Idril Celeabrindal, daughter of Turgon, fell in love with Tuor, and they married. But, as with the custom of Beren and Lúthien, Idril had to give up her immortality to remain with him, but she agreed to this and in the 503rd year of the First Age they had a son, Eärendil.
Also in Gondolin there lived the dark-elf Maeglin, a warrior of great renown, and he loved Idril, but she mistrusted him and would not love him back. Enraged when she took a mortal as husband, Maeglin sought to avenge himself upon Tuor. One day, in the 511th year of the First Age, Maeglin wandered out of Gondolin and was set upon by the servants of Morgoth. Borne to Thangorodrim, he agreed to reveal the location of Gondolin in return for Idril being given to him after her capture. To this the Dark Power assented, but only if Maeglin returned to Gondolin and weakened it from within. Maeglin agreed.
It came to pass that the armies of Morgoth at last learned the location of Gondolin, the Hidden Realm, after four centuries of searching. So as not to alert the elves to their peril, Morgoth sent his aerial troops of balrogs and dragons to attack the city from the sky. Thus took place the Fall of Gondolin, the most desperate and heroic of the great battles of Beleriand. Many are the tales of greatness in this battle, of how the great warrior Ecthelion duelled Gothmog Lord of the Balrogs before the great Fountain of Gondolin and slew the demon, quenching his flames with such force that even the other balrogs knew fear for the first time, but Ecthelion perished also. Turgon and his household fought a series of great battles against the balrogs and dragons upon the highest towers of Gondolin, delaying them so that their people could escape, and in this they were successful, for most of the populace evacuated by hidden, long-prepared escape tunnels. But at the end Turgon died and the woe of the Noldor was great for he, like Finrod, was among the most valiant and honourable of them all.
Tuor and a loyal band of warriors escorted the women and children of Gondolin from the city, but Maeglin assailed them, desiring Idril for himself, and Tuor slew him in wrath. Then they fled the city and came to the Encircling Mountains, but were set upon by Orcs and a balrog. Glorfindel, chief of the House of the Golden Flower of Gondolin, battled the balrog and both fell to their ruin in the abyss. Thorondor retrieved Glorfindel’s body and he was buried with honour, but his self-sacrifice moved even the Valar; in the Halls of Mandos he was allowed to remain and, a thousand or more years later, he was permitted to return to Middle-earth and re-enter the service of his people.
But for now the remaining refugees fled, and they were aided by Thorondor, who came forth with many Eagles and they assailed the attackers, and took many of the wounded by air to Arvernien. But the majority had to flee by foot, down from Dorthonion to Sirion and along its banks for hundreds of miles. The dwellers of Arvernien, led by Elwing, learned of their coming and sent boats upriver to help them after they passed the Falls of Sirion, and thus came more refugees to Arvernien.
But Gondolin, the Hidden Realm, was now in ruins. With the destruction of Doriath and Gondolin, all of Beleriand lay open to attack by the Dark Power.
The Shores of Valinor, by Ted Nasmith.
The Tale of Eärendil the Mariner
Now the hosts of night drew in, yet Morgoth was leisurely. The centres of resistance to him were gone, the great kingdoms lay in ruins, and all that was left of the elves and men of Beleriand were scattered remnants. The Falas was assailed and the great citadels of Eglarest and Brithombar were destroyed, and Círdan and Gil-galad removed themselves to the Isle of Balar. In Ossiriand the Green-elves began leaving, fleeing over the Ered Luin to Eriador, but Galadriel and Celeborn remained behind with other kinsmen of Doriath, including Thranduil.
But it was in Arvernien that the true strength was gathering, for here had come the refugees of Doriath and Gondolin, led by Tuor and his wife Idril, and by Elwing of Doriath. Knowing now that the defeat of Morgoth could only be achieved by the Valar themselves, Tuor and Idril took ship for Valinor, but did not find it. Eärendil, son of Tuor, wed Elwing, daughter of Dior, and thus was the first and only union of the Half-elven and the Half-elven. In time they had two sons, twins, which was a great blessing for elves, and these were called Elrond and Elros.
Now Eärendil was a great mariner and many times sailed into the Belegaer searching for Valinor, but he could not find it. But such were his skills that he always brought his ship home again to port in Arvernien. Whilst he was away on such a voyage, the remaining Sons of Fëanor came to Arvernien and demanded the return of the Silmaril, now held by Elwing, but she refused and the Third Kinslaying took place, and Amrod and Amras were slain, and many others taken prisoner by Maedhros and Maglor. Rather than stay and be the continued cause of bloodshed, Elwing hurled herself into the sea, but the light of the Silmaril transformed her into a bird and guided by the Light of the Trees she sought out Eärendil at sea and was reunited with him. Then the Light of the Trees guided them westwards, piercing through the cloak of shadows the Valar had flung around the Undying Realm, and in the distance, they saw the peak of Taniquetil rising to the heavens.
So they found their way to Tol Eressëa, but it was dark and empty, and passing through the Calacirya they saw no sign of life. At first their hearts were fill with despair, for surely nothing could have happened to the Valar themselves, but then they entered Valmar itself and understood, for before the Circle of Doom stood the assembled hosts of Valinor, the Valar themselves, their legions of Maiar servants and Ingwë Lord of the Vanyar, and Finarfin Lord of the Noldor who remained and Olwë Lord of the Teleri, and their followers besides. Then Eärendil and Elwing were brought hither to the Circle and bade speak for their peoples, for as half-elves they could speak for both men and elves. They pleaded for help in the hopeless struggle against Morgoth Lord of Darkness, before endless night came down upon Beleriand and all Middle-earth.
Then Manwë King of the Earth announced that he was satisfied by their plea, that the Doom of Mandos had been lifted and that the Valar must at last deal with their wayward brother. Then his herald Eonwë assembled such a vast assemblage of war that had never before been seen, and they went by sea and by sky to Middle-earth.
The Door of Night, by John Howe
The War of Wrath and the Ruin of Beleriand
In the 600th year of the First Age, true defeat stared the free peoples of Middle-earth in defeat, for Arvernien was destroyed, the great kingdoms obliterated, and the elves reduced to a few groups huddling on the Isle of Balar and in far Ossiriand, and the total victory of Morgoth seemed certain.
Then the western sky grew dark and ominous, and the island of Tol Eressëa was again returned to the shores of Middle-earth bearing upon it the countless hosts of the Maiar and the High elves from beyond the sea, and they were led by Tulkas Lord of Battle and by Ulmo Lord of Waters and by Eonwë, who came in Manwë’s stead (for it is the lot of Manwë and Varda never to leave the land of Valinor ere the Last Battle at the end of time). And at their head rode Eärendil, who had been given a star chariot as a vehicle of war. And in the War of Wrath which followed, when the hosts of Morgoth were battled to their annihilation, Eärendil cast down Ancalagon the Black and many other great dragons, and many balrogs fell also.
Then, when all seemed over, Tulkas the Mighty strode forth and uprooted Thangorodrim, shattering the triple-peaked volcano with such force that the entire land of Beleriand was cracked and broken, and flooded the deep dungeons of Angband. Then Morgoth came forth and battled Tulkas, but again Tulkas proved the victor, and chained Morgoth as he had once before. Then, leaving Beleriand smouldering and indeed sinking behind them, the Valar took Morgoth to the Sunlands at the far ends of the Earth and there thrust him through the Door of Night into the Outer Darkness, and set Eärendil as guard against his return. Then, their work done, the Valar returned to the Undying Lands.
But what of the Silmarils, may be asked? Maedhros and Maglor, last surviving sons of Fëanor, released their prisoners from the battle at Arvernien, including Elrond and Elros sons of Eärendil, and then took possession of the Iron Crown of Morgoth. They plucked the Silmarils from it, but were burned by their purity, for in their quest to recover the jewels they had become touched by evil and hubris. This they understood too late and they repented of all their crimes. Then Maedhros journeyed far into the lands of the east, and there found a great chasm of fire. He cast himself and the jewel into the flames, ending them both, but Maglor, whose crimes were less, contented himself by merely throwing his Silmaril into the sea. Of what became after him afterwards, none may say.
So ended the First Age of the Sun and the War of the Great Jewels, the hopeless struggle against the Great Darkness. But, though Morgoth was banished from the Earth, Mandos prophesised that at the Last Battle Morgoth would return, increased in power, and all the world would tremble at his coming.
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