Wow, last week was an adventure. Tolkien basically broke down the biggest parts of the plot in about ten pages with just so little care for suspense. It was hilarious. This week is also the shortest of all of them (only four chapters coming in at probably 50ish pages), and next week is the longest at a whopping 100ish pages, but I’m going to weep over Beren & Lúthien for about 75% of this entire post, and you’ll want to, as well, so buckle up, and let’s get started!
Of the Coming of Men into the West
I like that the race of Men is just there. Not a whole ton of explanation, which makes sense given that this story is told from the perspective of the elves, but all of a sudden, there’s just a bunch of humans wandering around, singing at night around their campfires, and Finrod Felagund is just like, “Oh hey! This is cool! Wanna be friends?”
Also, peep Morgoth being so anxious about literally everything that he just hides in Angband forever until the humans do arrive, and then he’s also like, “Oh hey! People to corrupt! I’m gonna do that!” Runs off to set a shadow in the hearts of Men, and then promptly runs back to Angband like, “SAURONNNNNNNN THE ELVES ARE SCARY!”
It’s not canon, but it might as well be given how Tolkien develops Morgoth & Sauron’s relationship, but the way that everyone sketches Morgoth as a total shit and Sauron just being done with him at all times is glorious.
Like, Morgoth is just truly a child eternally throwing a tantrum, whereas Sauron is casually building an empire and waging war against the entire world because he’s pissed off and he’s got a plan.
Ohhhh, I was going to try to be serious, and then Tolkien throws unfriends out there in the world, and now:
Oh yeah, we’re going full song, not even just a gif, YOU’RE WELCOME. You absolutely cannot convince me that Tolkien didn’t get unfriends from unbirthday, so don’t even try.
Look, this entire chapter is purely because Beren is going to be a big character in two chapters, and instead of being a normal person, Tolkien realized that, in order to introduce a human, he had to introduce the entire race and give them their whole background. And I was going to say I’m sure this isn’t how it actually happened, but then I remembered the letter where he describes Faramir just randomly walking onto the page with no say-so from Tolkien, so now I’m sure this is exactly how it happened–Tolkien was probably just merrily writing away, got to Beren & Lúthien, went shit Beren is a man, and immediately circled back to create the entire race of humans.
Also, he’s neatly setup the story of Beren & Lúthien here because Thingol already doesn’t like the race of Men. THINGOL IS JUST THE WORST, WHY. So the Men mostly hang out with Finrod & Fingolfin because those are the kings that reach out to them, and they’re all excited about the possibility of friendship. But Thingol thinks humans should come to the elves and not the other way around because that’s just respectful, so he doesn’t reach out to anyone, and only one section of Men comes his way, so he gets all uppity about it.
Thingol, you literally brought all of this upon yourself.
That said, look at how damn beautiful that art of these two dumbass elves are.
You know, the Men have a point. They’re nervous about Morgoth in the north, so they don’t want to go there, but they’re also frustrated with the elves because Thingol’s being all “you can’t live here, no not there either, nope that’s off limits, what are you doing that’s my land!!!!”, so they don’t feel welcomed among the elves, either, and they’re wary of the dwarves tearing apart the world underground. I, too, would want to strike out on my own and leave behind the troubles of Middle-earth for somewhere peaceful to reside.
Quick note because I looked it up, so I know someone else will, too: the mound mentioned that Haleth builds in honor of her fallen father & brother–Tûr Haretha, the Ladybarrow, Haudh-en-Arwen–is not the mound that Aragorn & Arwen get engaged on. That’s Cerin Amroth, which is in Lothlórien, and Haleth lives outside of Beleriand. (By the grace of Thingol, ffffffffffs.)
Every time Tolkien does this, I just sigh loudly.
The sons of Haldor were Galdor and Gundor; and the sons of Galdor were Húrin and Huor; and the son of Húrin was Túrin the Bane of Glaurung; and the son of Huor was Tuor, father of Eärendil the Blessed. The son of Boromir was Bregor, whose sons were Bregolas and Barahir; and the sons of Bregolas were Baragund and Belegund. The daughter of Baragund was Morwen, the mother of Túrin, and the daughter of Belegund was Rían, the mother of Tuor. But the son fo Barahir was Beren One-hand, who won the love of Lúthien Thingol’s daughter, and returned from the Dead; from them came Elwing the wife of Eärendil, and all the Kings of Númenor after.
Yeah, because that’s not aggravating to figure out at all. Truly, the only really important people to pick out of this are Túrin, Tuor, Eärendil, and Beren. Personally, I also love Morwen because she’s a badass, but the people we’re going to hear about the most are those four men. And, you know how I say half of Middle-earth’s problems are Fëanor’s fault, well, half of all the problems that ever come to Men are Túrin’s fault. He is an idiot and an emo dumbass, which is basically just Fëanor in Man form, so I guess that makes sense.
It’s hard, too, because I do like Túrin sometimes, but he’s also responsible for one of the saddest deaths, and he does some really questionable things, sooooo.
Beren: not many spoilers here because there’s a whole chapter devoted to him soon, but falls in love with Thingol’s daughter, Lúthien, which is 85% of the reason I can’t stand Thingol, is one of the few people that goes up against Morgoth, actually steals back a Silmaril!
Túrin: The Worst, slays Glaurung, but also falls in love with his sister (unknowingly, I’ll give him that, but he’s a straight up moron), has approximately one thousand names, makes me want to kick him in the shin at all times.
Tuor: has a wild encounter with Ulmo that totally changes his entire life & sends him to Gondolin, where he falls in love with Idril, who, if you remember, Maeglin the Emo is also in love with, and they have Eärendil, who becomes Middle-earth’s best mariner under his father’s tutelage.
Eärendil: one of my faves, has a ship that literally sails through the sky lit by the star of a Silmaril that he keeps safe, is single-handedly responsible for why the Valar finally come back to Middle-earth to defeat Morgoth, and is the father of Elrond!
me: this is literally just a vehicle to Beren
also me: I LOVE ALL THE MEN
Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin
It always is so interesting to me how much power Tolkien gives his villains. He freely admits that Morgoth would have absolutely decimated everyone if he’d but waited a little longer and not been hasty, and he freely admits later that if Frodo hadn’t been able to defeat Sauron, literally no one would have. And it’s just so interesting to me, how big he builds these monsters up to be, so that the odds almost seem insurmountable. Talk about writing a story about hope.
DAGOR BRAGOLLACH! TIME FOR A BATTLE TOLD IN TWO PAGES! Also love Morgoth for just “BLERGHHH FIRE AND FLAME” in the most Smaug way ever, literally lighting full Eldar fields on fire just because. Oh my gosh, ahahahahaha, I gave Tolkin so much credit with my “told in two pages”, he literally told it in one paragraph. Basically, Morgoth decides he’s fed up with the stalemate that’s been going on for literal centuries, spews lava & fire & dragons all over Beleriand, sends his Balrogs & orcs out to slay any elves they come across, there’s an insane battle in which the Siege of Angband is ended and the elves suffer a terrible death.
ALSO TOLKIEN YOU ASS WHAT IS THE SECOND HALF OF THAT CHAPTER TITLE
I forgot what was in this chapter, I’m not ready.
He does, however, spend quite some time discussing the ramifications of Dagor Bragollach. Outright war is happening now, battles being fought all over, with Dagor Bragollach as the thing that broke the camel’s back, basically, and made all this destruction possible. Morgoth gets pissed enough to begin the war, and the Finwëans are pissed enough to continue it, and then we’ve got my fave of all time, so pissed that he does something stupid.
Then Fingolfin beheld (as it seemed to him) the utter ruin of the Noldor, and the defeat beyond redress of all their houses; and filled with wrath and despair he mounted upon Rochallor his great horse and rode forth alone, and none might restraint him. He passed over Dor-nu-Fauglith like a wind amid the dust, and all that beheld his onset fled in amaze, thinking that Oromë himself was come: for a great madness of rage was upon him, so that his eyes shone like the eyes of the Valar. Thus he came alone to Angband’s gates, and he sounded his horn, and smote once more upon the brazen doors, and challenged Morgoth to come forth to single combat. And Morgoth came.
I know I’ve posted this art before, but I don’t care BECAUSE IT IS BEAUTIFUL! I want this framed someday. Fingolfin challenging the Black Foe of the World is something I will never get over. Morgoth is literally The Most Evil that has ever come to Middle-earth, and Fingolfin’s just like, “Bro, I’ve fucking had enough. Let’s end this.”
Therefore Morgoth came, climbing slowly from his subterranean throne, and the rumour of his feet was like thunder underground. And he issued forth clad in black armour; and he stood before the King like a tower, iron-crowned, and his vast shield, sable unblazoned, cast a shadow over him like a stormcloud. But Fingolfin gleamed beneath it as a star; for his mail was overlaid with silver, and his blue shield was set with crystals; and he drew his sword Ringil, that glittered like ice.
Ugh, look at him. I love Fingolfin with my whole heart, and I don’t care what Fëanor did, he never went up against Morgoth, and he’s The Worst anyway, and Fingolfin is the best of Finwë’s sons, FIGHT ME. The image of him shining and brilliant as he stands against the darkest of all evils just breaks my heart. Not only that, he stabs Morgoth seven times, and they never heal so that Morgoth is forever in anguish after that. And, after Morgoth kills Fingolfin, when he might have ruined his body, the king of all eagles, Thorondor, descends from on high to attack Morgoth so that he forever bears the scar across his face, swoops up Fingolfin’s body, and carries him high above the passes of Gondolin, where no one ever disturbs because Fingolfin was The Best.
This has all been very serious and academic, and I just really need to ruin it real quick because Morgoth literally just poisoned an entire forest so that ‘The trees that grew there after the burning were black and grim, and their roots were tangled, groping in the dark like claws.’
Oooh, Sauron comes in for a brief moment here to just destroy as much shit as possible. Meanwhile, Morgoth’s like “DAS MY HUBBY!!! LOOK AT HIM GO!” while he destroys all his own shit. They continue to destroy shit for about two years while the elves try to hold them at bay, and, honestly, mostly fail. Minas Tirith is nearly taken several times, Morgoth tries to sway the men again, the elves continue to fight amongst themselves because the kinslaying that Fëanor did with the Teleri is still a curse upon them (told you he was responsible for half of all bad things), and then, like a beam of sunshine, a beacon to replace the dark shadow that is Fingolfin’s lost, in comes the one, the only–Beleg Strongbow, chief of the marchwardens of Thingol. (IE: One of only two good things to come from Thingol.) Beleg is much of the reason why the elves finally find a temporary peace against Morgoth.
Gondolindrim, wow, what a way to say that.
All told, the battle of Dagor Bragollach is fought, in which Fingolfin dies, Morgoth is wounded forevermore, and two years of utter strife and destruction occur, in which all manner of smaller battles are fought. Gondolin is still a hidden city, and Turgon refuses to release his forces yet; Finrod is bowing beneath the pressure of Morgoth’s armies and may yet fall until Círdan shows up to help him; and a bunch of refugees escape, of which most are not named, but for one man–Beren son of Barahir.
Of Beren and Lúthien
The Lay of Leithian, the story of Beren & Lúthien, is undoubtedly one of my favorite stories largely in part because it resembles Aragorn & Arwen so closely. And, truth be told, it’s not really Beren that I get so excited by in this story, but Lúthien, who is, arguably, the most badass woman in Middle-earth, which is only made better by the fact that Tolkien based her off his wife.
…for Lúthien was the most beautiful of all the Children of Ilúvatar. Blue was her raiment as the unclouded heaven, but her eyes were grey as the starlit evening; her mantle was sewn with golden flowers, but her hair was dark as the shadows of twilight. As the light upon the leaves of trees, as the voice of clear waters, as the stars above the mists of the world, such was her glory and her loveliness; and in her face was a shining light.
Also love the artist’s caption for this “Totally gonna marry this random person that was just met in the woods who’s not even the same species”.
So literally Beren’s entire village is destroyed via Sauron, who’s in a destroying shit mood to impress his hubby, but Beren is away on an errand for his father. When he returns and finds his village destroyed, he starts wandering aimlessly through the wild (sound familiar?), and he finds himself so lost and in wretched states that he ends up in freaking Gorgoroth, the Mountains of Terror. It’s lucky, though, because despite Morgoth’s advances on him, Beren happens to stumble into none other than Doriath, the forest where Beleriand resides.
In a bleary, half-alive state, he comes upon a field where a beautiful woman is dancing and thinks that he might be having a hallucination. Now, I don’t normally quote myself this much, but I’ve already written an extensive look at Beren & Lúthien, and I don’t feel like doing it again because I think it was pretty excellent the first time around. In my The Fellowship of the Ring review, I was being bitter about people who won’t give The Silmarillion a chance, and I decided that I was going to tell the story of Beren & Lúthien in my own way so that it might reach more people. I’ve told this version of the story in yoga several times before to lull people through their savasana, and, inevitably, several people are always sniffling by the end and asking where they can find the actual story. Thus, I present to you, my take on Beren & Lúthien, along with one of the most beautiful pieces of fanart & and an adaptation of the actual song. And yes, all of this is from the FOTR review, so if you’re having déjà vu, there’s a reason.
There was once a young elf woman dancing in the woods, carefree and wild. She had never experienced such joy as she did when dancing where no one might see her. And yet, one day, a man stumbled upon her. He stayed at the edge of the wood, entranced by her beauty and grace, yes, but, more importantly, the radiant joy that curved through her smiling facing. He watched her for many days before he finally got up the courage to step out of the woods and ask if she might teach him how to dance.
Lúthien, endeared by this sweet, humble man, agreed, and so began Beren’s dancing lessons. For many days, they danced in the woods together, and, before long, they fell in love. So great was their love that Lúthien, though immortal, asked Beren to meet her father, Thingol, so that he might give them his blessing. Lúthien wished to give up her immortal life so that she could marry Beren and live with him forevermore.
But Thingol was not a giving man, and when he heard their tale, he could think of nothing in the world he would loathe more than losing his daughter to a simple man. And so, he set Beren a task. “A beautiful jewel has been stolen from me,” Thingol said, “And I would like it back. Bring me one Silmaril, and you may have Lúthien’s hand in marriage.” It was an impossible task, and all knew it. For the Silmarils were safely kept in Morgoth’s grasp, and to even go near his kingdom was to walk with evil. Lúthien, furious with her father, begged and pleaded for him to reconsider, but Beren would not hear of it. He agreed to the task and set out at once.
In an effort to keep his daughter safe, and knowing how reckless she could be, Thingol had Lúthien caged in a wooden box tucked high in the trees. He brought her no news of Beren except to prematurely comfort her, as though she should already be in mourning. After a time, when it was obvious that Beren had not succeeded, Lúthien wielded a song of magic so that her hair grew and grew and grew until, finally, the wooden box keeping her prisoner burst at the seams. She floated down to the earth amid the startled guards, disarmed them easily, and made off into the woods at a speed that could not be followed.
None were able to keep up with Lúthien, for love sped her onward. At last, she reached Angband, the terrible land of all evil. Along the way, she had gathered woodland companions, though none more brave than Huan the wolf. While the others lingered at the edge of Angband, ready to carry Lúthien and Beren home, Huan walked into the heart of all evil with her. He was instrumental in helping her enter Morgoth’s foreboding castle, but it was Lúthien that claimed victory that day. When Morgoth demanded to know who she was and how she had come to slip past his guards, Lúthien said, “I am here to sing you a song, oh great king. A beautiful one of magic and mystery.” Morgoth, intrigued, agreed to hear her song.
And so, Lúthien wielded another song, this one threaded with the weight of sleep, with the magic of slumber, with a heaviness that bore down upon Morgoth’s shoulders until, for the first time in many, many long years, the evil king closed his eyes. Quickly, Lúthien raced across the hall to where she’d spied Beren tied up next to the throne, singing all the while. She freed Beren from his chains, and Beren sprang up to Morgoth’s enormous crown, deftly prying one of the Silmarils free. Morgoth began to stir, and so, the two quickly ran toward escape. They had no sooner fled the palace, though, when one of Morgoth’s wolves attacked. He tore Beren’s hand from his body, but the Silmaril burned his insides, and the wolf ran off, mad with pain.
Eventually, Lúthien and Beren returned to her homeland. A great battle ensued, in which Beren slayed Morgoth’s wolf, retrieved the Silmaril, and presented it to Thingol before he died, fatally wounded as he was from battle. Lúthien passed away in grief, but when she arrived to the great halls of the gods, she wielded a third, and final, song, threading it with such love and loss that even the immovable gods felt her pain. They granted her a single wish. “For the sacrifice of your immortal life,” they said, “We will restore Beren’s body to you.” Lúthien agreed at once, and when next she opened her eyes, she was in the woods surrounding her home, Beren at her side.
They considered returning to Thingol’s hall, but the woods were where they’d met, where they’d fallen in love, where they’d most been at peace, and so, Lúthien and Beren remained in the woods, loved and beloved, forevermore.
I forget every damn time.
His words were proud, and all eyes looked upon the ring; for he held it now aloft, and the green jewels gleamed there that the Noldor had devised in Valinor. For this ring was like to twin serpents, whose eyes were emeralds, and their heads met beneath a crown of golden flowers, that the one upheld and the other devoured…
There’s more that happens in the Lay outside of Beren & Lúthien, too, like Finrod going toe to toe with Sauron and, uhhhhhh, definitely losing. They have a karaoke battle, though, which is hella fun, and then Sauron throws them into the Pit of Despair. Finrod is out and about in the first place because his people have turned against him, thinking him weak for not being fearful of the Oath of Fëanor, which is clearly at work again in Thingol’s mind when he says Beren must steal a Silmaril to have his daughter’s hand in marriage. Celegorm & Curufin have taken over Nargothrond while Finrod is away, and they come upon Lúthien in the woods and basically kidnap her. Huan, however, is a legit badass, and given that he trusts Lúthien first before the twins, he quickly comes to her aid.
Sauron is pissed, so he sends a bunch of wolves to delay them from reaching Morgoth, but Huan is way mightier in wolf form than Sauron, so he wins, Sauron yields, goes from werewolf to vampire so fast, he probably even gives himself whiplash, and then flies back to his miserable tower. And I’m only mentioning this in detail because there is the most hilarious detail ever about this, and it’s actually canon. When Sauron shifts from wolf to himself to vampire to escape Huan, he then takes flight and literally flies over Gondolin. This is important because he’s been trying to find Gondolin FOREVER, and he’s such a panic dumbass that he doesn’t pay attention where he is because he’s bleeding from the throat after turning into a wolf to fight the mightiest wolf known to Arda and obviously losing that stupid idea of a battle. Sauron, you dumb.
Anyway, if you still haven’t listened to the Lay, I beg of you to do so. This is easily the most beautiful story in Tolkien’s legendarium, and Lúthien stands far above all those that came before and that will come after her.
Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad
We come again to the most dramatic ship ever:
LOOK I WAS TRYING TO FIND A BATTLE-APPROPRIATE PICTURE FOR THEM AND THEN THIS APPEARED ON MY PINTEREST SO YOU MUST SIT IN BITTERNESS WITH ME OVER THE FACT THAT THEY NEVER SEE EACH OTHER AGAIN
When Maedhros decides (for the umpteenth time) that enough is enough, and he’s going to defeat Morgoth once and for all, he summons as many of his remaining kin as he can. Fingon, obviously, will willingly follow his heart AHEM MAEDHROS into anything, so he’s like, “Wherever you go, meleth, I shall follow.” It’s very poetic, and I’m making the drama of it up entirely, but I’m forcing you to go along this ride with me because Maedhros is waylaid by Morgoth’s servants, so when Fingon charges out onto the field, despite not waiting for Maedhros’ herald (it’s a long story, not his fault), he ends up on the field without his beloved/best friend.
The Battle of Unnumbered Tears is called such because ‘no song or tale can contain all its grief’, though I’ll do my best here:
- Maedhros is delayed by a false claim of war by Morgoth’s servants meant only to waylay him so he can’t be there with Finrod’s army at the same time
- the one bright thing is that Turgon finally releases the forces of Gondolin, which would have been great if
- all of the men hadn’t suddenly either a) turned tail & run or b) went over to Morgoth
- Maedhros’ army, which has arrived, is now being attacked on three sides, and his forces are torn from Fingon’s
- oh wait! another bright thing! the Dwarves arrive and they’re badasses!
- and then, the literal worst thing ever (don’t @ me, I know I’ve said that a lot, and I’ll continue to say it because another horrible death is upcoming)
Gothomg, Lord of Balrogs, high-captain of Angband, was come; and he drove a dark wedge between the Elvenhosts, surrounding King Fingon, and thrusting Turgon and Húrin aside towards the Fen of Serech. Then he turned upon Fingon. That was a grim meeting. At last Fingon stood alone with his guard dead about him; and he fought with Gotmog, until another Balrog came behind and cast a thong of fire about him. T hen Gothmog hewed him with his black axe and a white flame sprang up from the helm of Fingon as it was cloven. Thus fell the High King of the Noldor…
LOL @ TOLKIEN THAT WAS A GRIM MEETING YOU DON’T SAY
Let it be known that very few people have ever gone up against balrogs and survived.
I’m upset, have some art.
We should keep reading here given that Morgoth has just cursed Húrin & all his kin, but the next chapter is over 20 pages long, and I’ve specifically split Túrin & Beren’s stories up because they’re the biggest drifts away from the main story. I know we haven’t talked about Húrin at all because he kind of just comes and goes here and there, and he’s honestly not that important other than Morgoth kidnaps him, binds him to a high seat on Thangorodrim, and curses his kin, which is what leads to all the chaos of Túrin. Anyway, we’re saving that for next week.
I can’t believe next week is our last! I’ve noticed that a lot of the Morgoth things I scream about in my daily life have come from outside The Silmarillion, mostly Unfinished Tales, I think, so I do want to make a note that if you’re having a super fun time like I am, I highly recommend both Unfinished Tales and the Great Tales of the Elder Days because they dive into these stories even more. The Lay of Leithian isn’t even included in The Silmarillion, but it is in the Elder Days story for Beren & Lúthien, so if you’re looking for more depth to these stories, definitely check those out. Unfinished Tales is similar in style to this, and Elder Days does have a lot of repetition by the time you get there, especially because Christopher shows several drafts of each story, so I’d stick with Unfinished Tales first and then decide if you want more, but I’m starting to ramble! We only have about 100 pages left, and I’ve got to know–