CotW: Chapter XII Of the Return of the Noldor

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Apr 24, 2006, 8:18:40 AM4/24/06
General comments - this is one of the first chapters in The
Silmarillion that starts to feature "historic" rather than
"mythic" narrative - we start dealing with events this side of
the Great Sea, and there are a few references to an historic time
frame. Saying that, it is also quite a gargantuan chapter, and covers
a fair old amount of action and time (from the return of the Noldor all
the way through to two hundred years after the Aglareb).

I don't have copies of the History of Middle-earth available to me,
so if someone else wants to make comparisons with the earlier versions
of this chapter, then please do so.


Feanor and his sons are the first of the exiles to return to
Middle-earth, where they burn the ships at Losgar. The "sound of the
burning" was picked up by the echo effect of their surrounding in
Lammoth and "far away all who hear [it] were filled with great
wonder" [1]. The fires were seen not only by Fingolfin but by the
"watchers of Morgoth". Morgoth learns that Feanor has followed him
from Valinor [2].

The Feanorian host marches up the Firth of Drengist and enters Hithlum,
and eventually make their camp on the on the northern shores of Lake
Mithrim. Morgoth's host comes through the passes of Ered Wethrin and
assaults the camp was fully set up or adequately defended.
Dagor-nuin-Gilliath then befalls, Second Battle in the wars of
Beleriand, so called because the moon had not yet risen - the Battle
under [the] Stars. The army of Morgoth is defeated, even the forces
that were attacking the Falathrim in Beleriand - the latter being
ambushed by Celegorm. [3]

Feanor is in the van of the Noldorin army pursuing the army across
Ard-galen, and draws ahead of the rest of his force. The remnants of
Morgoth's army turns to face him, and Balrogs appear from
Thangorodrim. Feanor fights on "with few friends about him" [4],
but is eventually struck down by Gothmog [5]. But his sons arrive
"with force" and the Balrogs retreat [6].

Feanor is not dead, but he knows his time is near. Near Eithel Sirion
[7] he looks out towards Thangorodrim and knows that they will never be
overthrown by the Noldor. He curses Morgoth, and dies: his body falls
to ash, his spirit flies to Mandos, where it has never left.

Sindar live in Mithrim (hence its name, "Grey People"). From them
the Feanorians learn of Elu Thingol and Doriath. Tidings percolate
south of the deeds of the Noldor, even as far as the havens of the
Falas. Both the Sindar and Falathrim are deluded in thinking that the
Noldor are the vanguard of some sort of relief squad from Aman. Even
"in the hour of the death of Feanor" Morgoth sends an embassy [8]
to his sons, pretending to defeat and offering to give up a Silmaril.
Maedhros persuades his brothers to play along, just as Morgoth is also
planning to be false. Both show up with more force than agreed.
Morgoth has more plus Balrogs. All of Maedhros' companions are slain
and he is taken captive [9].

The Feanorians "draw back" and fortify their camp in Hithlum [10].
There is another embassy from Morgoth, saying he won't release
Maedhros unless the Noldor leave Beleriand [11]. The sons of Feanor
finally seem to have worked out Morgoth will not keep his word, so they
stay, plus they have to fulfill the Oath. So Maedhros is hung from the
face of Thangorodrim by his wrist (presumably he is somehow sustained
by the power of Morgoth, or simply by the innate endurance of the
Firstborn, newly come from Valinor. It isn't clear how long he is
hanging there).

"Rumour" of Fingolfin's Helcaraxe crossing reaches the Feanorians
[12]. Fingolfin and his host enter Mithrim as the sun rises (in the
WEST, obviously) [13]. The Sun and the Moon dismay Morgoth's forces
and they flee to Angband; Fingolfin marches unopposed through Dor
Daedeloth [14]. But he retreats behind the Mountains of Shadow and
camps by Lake Mithrim - the Feanorians decamp to the southern shore.
Thus due to the interclan tension, the Noldor are divided at a time
when Morgoth's forces are on the back foot. Morgoth sees the
division of his enemies, and decides to use it. How? He makes a lot
of smoke issue from Thangorodrim. Great. Real scary stuff.

Fingon decides to heal the Noldorin feud. He goes off and searches for
Maedhros, alone and unaided (but he thoughtfully remembered to take his
harp with him). Eventually Fingon finds Maedhros (through the use of
said harp) and with the aid of Thorondor [15], rescues his cousin,
although Maedhros has to lose his right hand in the process. Back in
Hithlum, the feud is healed (at least on the surface), and Maedhros
waives his right to the kingship of the Noldor. The Noldor set up a
united watch on the borders of Dor Daedeloth and send messengers out
across Beleriand.

Thingol is wary of the return of the Noldor, and will only let those
descended from his brother Olwe into Doriath. Angrod goes there as
"messenger of his brother Finrod" [16], but he does not mention the
Kinslaying or the Exile of the Noldor. Thingol basically tells the
Noldor they can live wherever they want just as long as there are no
Sindar living there, which equate to the north and east of Beleriand
[17]. The Feanorians aren't happy with Thingol's split of the real
estate in Beleriand, but Maedhros takes his folk off to East Beleriand
anyway, in order to minimize the chance of friction between his
brothers and the rest of the Noldor. Caranthir and his people dwell in
Thargelion, and meet Dwarves in the mountains of Ered Luin. Caranthir
get rich off the trade that passes through his lands and hands [18].

We jump twenty years [19] to Mereth Aderthad, held at Eithel Ivrin.
Although it is supposed to be the Feast of Reuniting, only Maedhros and
Maglor (plus armed escort) come from East Beleriand; only Mablung and
Daeron come from Doriath, although they bear greetings from Thingol.
"Many counsels...and oaths were sworn of league and friendship"
[20]. The Noldor are rapidly switching to Sindarin as their everyday

After another thirty years, Turgon seeks out Finrod and they go on the
Noldorin equivalent of a fishing trip down the River Sirion. In the
Meres of Twilight, Ulmo sends both of them dreams about building a
secure place, in case Morgoth should burst from the north. Each of
them believes he alone got the dream; as a result of it, they go forth
(separately) and explore "untrodden lands" [21]. At some point
after this, Finrod and Galadriel are staying with Thingol and Finrod
likes what he sees in Menegroth. He speaks to Thingol, and learns of
the caverns by Narog. In time, with the aid of the Dwarves, he founds
Nargothrond. The Dwarves call him Felagund and craft the Nauglamir for
him. Galadriel stays in Menegroth, because Celeborn, her love, dwells
there [22].

Turgon returns to Vinyamar after the fishing trip. "In the next
year" [23], Ulmo appears and tells Turgon to return to the Vale of
Sirion. There Turgon discovers the hidden valley of Tumladen within
the Echoriath - somewhere suitable to build a version of Tuna, for
which his heart yearns in exile [24].

Almost finished the chapter. Morgoth's spies [25] tell him the
Noldor are unprepared for war, so his forces burst forth from Angband,
and penetrate the Vale of Sirion in the west and into East Beleriand
via Maglor's Gap. The main host assaults Dorthonion [26]. Maedhros
and Fingolfin attack this main host in a pincer, while "others"
[27] destroyed the bands of Orcs in Beleriand itself. Morgoth's
forces are utterly destroyed. This was the Third Battle, Dagor Aglareb
"The Glorious Battle". Afterwards, the Noldor start the Siege of
Angband, which lasts nearly four hundred years. Even during the Siege,
Morgoth would devise new evils and test the Noldor. We get to hear
about two of these tests next. The Siege is not complete though, as
the Noldor can't encircle Angband totally. Morgoth's spies
continue to come and go, and bring captives who can be cowed by
Morgoth's eyes and sent forth to do his bidding.

After almost a century, Morgoth sends an army into Hithlum via the
West, but it is seen and destroyed by Fingon and some of the forces of
Hithlum [28]. This is not considered a true test match, rather it's
like a one day international, in the Wars of Beleriand.

After another hundred years, Glarung makes his first appearance outside
of Angband. He "defiles" the fields of Ard-galen. The Elves in
the Siege flee in dismay, but our boy Fingon (is there no end to his
talents?) comes up against Glaurung with horsed archers and drives him
back home. Everyone goes home happy, without realizing the import of
the dragon. After this incident there is the Long Peace of almost two
hundred years, when Beleriand grows rich and fair. The Noldor and
Sindar "in many parts of the land" become one people [29].

Notes and points for discussion

1 It is never said exactly how far away the sound carried, and who
heard the noise of the Losgar burning. Since the sound is carried on
the "winds of the sea" perhaps it is only intended to mean that the
Elves of the Falas, or those Grey Elves dwelling in Nevrast and
Hithlum, heard it. Later in the chapter, when Angrod acts as emissary
to Menegroth and mentions nothing of the exile of the Noldor, Thingol
does not ask him about the burning, suggesting that neither the
"noise "or the news of the burning has reached Doriath.

2 What the "watchers" are is not clear, nor is what they were
watching for. Since they are able to see both the flames of Losgar AND
subsequently report that Feanor has returned to Middle-earth, maybe
they were watching the western shore for an army coming out of Valinor,
or spying on the Grey Elves of Hithlum and Nevrast. The phrase used in
the book is "Orcs AND watchers of Morgoth", which implies something
other than the Orcs were the "watchers".

3 The details of the Second Battle are frustratingly brief. Why was
it Celegorm that was involved in the second part of the action - was
he the most martial of the Sons of Feanor, or was he just commanding
the part of the Noldorin army that got wind of the approaching Orcs?

4 Who were these friends? Clearly his sons were not with him, since
they only "come up" with force after he has been struck down by
Gothmog. Presumably they would be Feanor's peers, some of the
firstborn sons of the Noldor, leaders of some of the clans of the

5 This is, I believe, the first time that the chief Balrog is named in
the published Silmarillion.

6 Why would the Balrogs retreat, just because a fresh Noldor force
arrives on the scene? Presumably this is just part of Morgoth's
guile. Ort perhaps Morogth's orders were to target Feanor exclusively,
since he is rhe leader of the Noldor.

7 That is twice that Eithel Sirion is mentioned in the first chapter
of the Noldor's history in Beleriand - once in the description of
Celegorm's ambush of the second army and now in the death of Feanor.
It must have been a significant pass in Ered Wethrin, which would
explain why afterwards it became the chief fortress of Fingolfin.

8 Who would he send as an emissary, and to whom would the sons of
Feanor agree to listen? Could it have been Sauron, when he could still
put on a fair form, like he did when posing as Annatar in the Second
Age? We don't hear anything about Sauron during the Wars of
Beleriand until the tale of Beren and Luthien, although I have always
assumed he was involved in the corruption of Men in the lands outside

9 Who were Maedhros' companions? Why did he not take his brothers
with him? Did he know it was as "suicide mission" to go to a
parley with Morgoth, and hence wanted to spare his brothers?

10 Presumably this is their original camp on the northern shores of
Lake Mithrim, where they had originally been attacked by Morgoth at the
start of Dagor-nuin-Giliath. To me this seems rather poor strategic
thinking - the most obvious line of defense has to be Ered Wethrin.
The fact that they "drew back" to a point in Hithlum could mean
that the meeting point was at Eithel Sirion.

11 Of course Morgoth doesn't say he WILL release Maedhros if the
rest of the Feanorians DO leave Beleriand.

12 It is never explained (probably it shouldn't be) how these
"rumours, or "noise", or "news" manage to fly around
Beleriand so easily. Did the Eldar communicate mind to mind (as we see
in Lord of the Rings)? Or did they have palantiri in which they could
see events far off?

13 In theory it might be possible to work out from this statement how
far the Helcaraxe was from Mithrim, and how long the passage of the
Moon and the Sun were across the skies since the Moon rose for the
first time in the West when Fingolfin first set foot on Middle-earth,
and now the Sun rises (also in the West) when he first enters Mithrim.
The Moon had crossed the skies seven times before the Sun rose for the
first time, but it is never mentioned in the later Silmarillion how
long each crossing of the sky took. It would all depend on how fast a
host the size of Fingolfin's could move on foot.

14 The whole geographical arrangement of the north-westernmost parts
of Middle-earth are never clear from the few comments made in the text.
Fingolfin marches THROUGH Dor Daedeloth and then returns to Hithlum as
he has heard rumours of the Sons of Feanor there. So does that mean
that Fingolfin did not pass through Hithlum first? Later, we hear that
one of the armies of Morgoth went into the "white north" and
"turned west and then south and came down the coasts to the Firth of
Drengist, by the route that Fingolfin followed from the Grinding
Ice". That seems to expressly mean that Fingolfin marched down the
coast to Drengist and then into Hithlum from the west. In that case,
the march through Dor Daedeloth can be nothing else but a military move
against Morgoth.

15 In the published text it is stated that the Eagles were sent forth
"to dwell in the crags of the North...keep watch on Morgoth; for
Manwe still had pity on the exiled Elves" - which implies that the
Eagles were sent out by Manwe only AFTER the Exile of the Noldor. The
phrase "crags of the North" is a bit generic, but since the Eagles
are to watch on Morgoth, it seems to imply that it refers to
Thagorodrim or Ered Engrin.
Christopher Tolkien highlights a further discrepancy concerning the
Eagles in note 25 to "Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin" in
Unfinished Tales, and suggests the story of the Eagles living on
Thangorodrim was found in an earlier Silmarillion text, but then
abandoned. There (in UT) it is said that "[they] dwelt once even on
Thangorodrim ere Morgoth grew so mighty, and dwell now in the Mountains
of Turgon since the fall of Fingolfin". This relocation of Thorondor
and kin at the death of Fingolfin is never mentioned in the
Silmarillion text.

16 This is the first mention of the pre-eminence of Finrod amongst the
second generation of Noldorin princes, although it was suggested
previously in his mention of the leader of the host of Finarfin in the
march out of Tuna. Finrod goes on to rule the "greatest by far"
(in geographic size) of the Noldorin realms.

17 However, this doesn't seem to square with the earlier statement
that there were Sindar living in Mithrim, unless Thingol's statement
that the Noldor can dwell "in Hithlum" is intended to distinguish
between the two regions of Hithlum (north of Mithrim) and Mithrim
itself. I always read the map as indicating that Mithrim was a part of
Hithlum. The one area that it seems the Noldor "trespassed" on
Elwe's realm was Nevrast, where Turgon settled - many of the Sindar
dwelt there, according to the next chapter in the Silmarillion.

18 The Dwarven trade into Beleriand had ceased "after the onslaught
of Morgoth" - which I take to mean the First Battle, when most of
the Sindar had retreated into Doriath, behind the Girdle of Melian.
The trade begins again, perhaps after talking to Caranthir and learning
of all the potential new customers in Noldor lands.
The Dwarf roads into Beleriand are a source of confusion, which was
never fully rectified in the published text. Although one is shown
following the Ascar down to Sarn Athrad, the course of it after
crossing Gelion is not shown. Presumably one of the Dwarf roads went
across East Beleriand towards Menegroth somehow. The course of the
other Dwarf road is not clear from the Silmarillion text, although I
seem to remember it is addressed in History of Middle-earth, where it
is said that there were TWO fords over Gelion, the other one being
north of Sarn Athrad somewhere. If that were so, presumably the other
Dwarf road would somehow link up with the road over Arossiach and
through Dimbar - which raises the question of why the Dwarves would
make a road that north. Since there were Sindar living in Mithrim and
Nevrast, perhaps the Dwarves traded with them. Or maybe there were
mines or Dwarven outposts in Ered Wethrin or Echoriath.

19 Twenty years of the Sun that is. At some point you would think
that the Elves in Beleriand would have wondered about the rearrangement
of the paths of the Sun and the Moon, but this is never mentioned in
the Silmarillion.

20 Since there were some Falathrim present, as well as many itinerant
Grey Elves, were the oaths sworn between them and the Noldor, or
between the different Noldorin "factions"? It is notable that the
Falathrim are more actively involved in the Wars of Beleriand than
their Doriath kin, so perhaps the oaths they swore at Mereth Aderthad
were the beginning of that involvement.

21 Since the map of Beleriand indicates that pretty much most of the
land was settled by this stage, it isn't clear where these
"untrodden lands" are supposed to be. Looking at the map, maybe it
is supposed to mean the wide open lands of East Beleriand, the lands
south of Doriath, or the area of Beleriand south of Nevrast and north
of the Falas, where there are some vague unnamed hills around the
sources of the Brithon and Nenning.

22 There are two competing stories for Celeborn, as set out by
Christopher Tolkien in Unfinished Tales. In one, he is the grandson of
Elmo, brother of Thingol, who she meets in Doriath. In the other, he
is a Teleporno, a grandson of Olwe of Alqualonde (also a brother of
Thingol) who she meets in Valinor and with whom she leaves Valinor
after the Kinslaying. The differing "traditions" are due to
Tolkien's changing view of Galadriel's role in the history of Arda,
rather than any change in his view of Celeborn's role.

23 It isn't clear if this is supposed to be the year after the
original joint trip of Finrod and Turgon, or a year after Finrod's
sojourn in Menegroth. Can someone with access to the Grey Annals
please expand?

24 Is this yearning why Turgon, alone of all the Noldorin princes,
dwells in the far west of Beleriand, closest to Valinor and at a place
(Mount Taras) where Ulmo was known to visit in the past?

25 There is no indication who or what the spies were - it is only
later in this chapter (after the start of the Siege of Angband) that we
learn of Morgoth's orders to bring all captive to him, to be daunted
by his eyes and then sent back out to do his bidding. But the practice
may well have been taking place since Morgoth's return, and he could
by this stage have captured and subsequently released some Noldorin
spies as well as Sindarin.

26 I have absolutely no idea why the main arm would assault
Dorthonion, unless it is was some kind of trap by the Noldor. In the
next chapter we learn it is a "bulwark that Morgoth would not lightly
seek to cross" - so why do just that, especially when your forces
have already penetrated the weak spots in your enemies defensive
perimeter (the Vale of Sirion and Maglor's Gap)?

27 The forces responsible for cleaning out Beleriand were probably
Finrod out of Tol Sirion, Falathrim, possibly Turgon out of Nevrast and
the Feanorians not involved on the front line (Amrod, Amras, possibly
Caranthir in Thargelion).

28 Elves only, as Men had not yet entered Beleriand.

29 "In many parts" is a very imprecise phrase. Since the Noldor
were only supposed to be setting in areas that had no Sindarin
population it seems that it can't be right. We have already seen
that Turgon became lord of Nevrast, and the Sindar there took him as
their lord; presumably there was also some co-mingling of the Eldar in
Hithlum/Mithrim. As for other parts of Beleriand, we do not have
enough information. I would think that the Feanorian lands would be
most likely to have the smallest Sindarin population. Dorthonion may
well have had some Sindar living/wandering there, especially since Tarn
Aeluin was hallowed by Melian, their queen. And there must have been
some Grey Elven population in Nargothrond, since it covered the
entirety of West Beleriand.


OK, start posting away.

Neil Anderson


Apr 24, 2006, 9:41:59 AM4/24/06
to wrote:

> 6 Why would the Balrogs retreat, just because a fresh Noldor force
> arrives on the scene? Presumably this is just part of Morgoth's
> guile. Ort perhaps Morogth's orders were to target Feanor exclusively,
> since he is rhe leader of the Noldor.

Because Balrogs were no match for Noldor. It is mentioned somewhere
in this chapter that Morgoth realised this as well, after the third
battle probably, so he had to create the Dragons to support them.

One thing that interests me is the suggestion that Noldor missed
their early chance, because of their division and mistrust in the
first days of Sun. What was it that they could have achieved,
and how would that have made things different in the long run?


Apr 24, 2006, 10:02:00 AM4/24/06

Morgil wrote:
> wrote:
> > <snip Balrogs>

> One thing that interests me is the suggestion that Noldor missed
> their early chance, because of their division and mistrust in the
> first days of Sun. What was it that they could have achieved,
> and how would that have made things different in the long run?

In the long run - probably nothing would have changed in the hisotry of
the First Age. There was no way that the Noldor could have
overthrown/captured Morgoth without the aid of the Valar.

However, we can speculate that if the Noldor had acted together at this
point, the Siege of Angband could have begun then, rather than after
the Aglareb. Potentially (but a bit of a stretch) Morgoth could have
been forced to focus all his attention on the Siege, and thus might
have missed the awakening of Men, and his subsequent corruption of
them. Who knows how the First and subsequent Ages could have played
out if that were the case?

Neil Anderson

Steve Morrison

Apr 29, 2006, 11:41:12 PM4/29/06
to wrote:

> 23 It isn't clear if this is supposed to be the year after the
> original joint trip of Finrod and Turgon, or a year after Finrod's
> sojourn in Menegroth. Can someone with access to the Grey Annals
> please expand?

In WotJ, the Grey Annals have the "fishing trip" occur in YS 50, the
conversation between Inglor (i.e. Finrod) and Thingol in YS 52, and
Turgon's discovery of Tumladen in YS 53.


May 6, 2006, 8:46:47 PM5/6/06
to wrote:


> Sindar live in Mithrim (hence its name, "Grey People").

A little tidbit I came across recently, in _WotJ_ I believe: the name
came from the characteristic grey camouflage they often wore. The
craft of its making might well be the same as that producing the
cloaks Galadriel & Celeborn give the members of the Fellowship of the
Ring on their departure from Lothlorien.


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