COTW Silmarillion: Chapter XX "Of the Fifth Battle" (Part 4)

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Morgoth's Curse <morgothscurse2002@nospam.yahoo.com>

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Sep 28, 2006, 9:45:27 PM9/28/06
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"Yet neither by wolf, nor by Balrog, nor by Dragon, would Morgoth
have achieved his end, but for the treachery of Men. In this hour the
plots of Ulfang were revealed. Many of the Easterlings turned and
fled, their hearts being filled with lies and fear; but the sons of
Ulfang went over suddenly to Morgoth and drove in upon the rear of the
sons of Feanor, and in the confusion that they wrought they came near
to the standard of Maedhros. They reaped not the reward that Morgoth
promised them, for Maglor slew Uldor the accursed, the leader in
treason, and the sons of Bor slew Ulfast and Ulwarth ere they
themselves were slain. But new strength of evil Men came up that Uldor
had summoned and kept hidden in the eastern hills, and the host of
Maedhros was assailed now on three sides, and it broke, and was
scattered, and fled this way and that. Yet fate saved the sons of
Feanor, and though all were wounded none were slain, for they drew
together, and gathering a remnant of the Noldor and the Naugrim about
them they hewed a way out of the battle and escaped far away towards
Mount Dolmed in the east."

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I find these words to be rather intriguing: "But new strength of evil
Men came up that Uldor had summoned and kept hidden in the eastern
hills, and the host of Maedhros was assailed now on three sides, and
it broke, and was scattered, and fled this way and that." It is
almost--almost!--as if Tolkien is implying that sons of Feanor just
might have been able to recover from the treachery of the Easterlings
had not reinforcements arrived. It's likely that Morgoth had
anticipated that and instructed Uldor accordingly.

How do you feel at this juncture of the tale? I recall that when I
first read it I identified with Fingon and Maedhros so strongly that I
felt as though I had been personally betrayed. :-)

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"Last of all the eastern force to stand firm were the Dwarves of
Belegost, and thus they won renown. For the Naugrim withstood fire
more hardily than either Elves or Men, and it was their custom
moreover to wear great masks in battle hideous to look upon; and those
stood them in good stead against the dragons. And but for them
Glaurung and his brood would have withered all that was left of the
Noldor. But the Naugrim made a circle about him when he assailed them,
and even his mighty armour was not full proof against the blows of
their great axes; and when in his rage Glaurung turned and struck down
Azaghal, Lord of Belegost, and crawled over him, with his last stroke
Azaghal drove a knife into his belly, and so wounded him that he fled
the field, and the beasts of Angband in dismay followed after him.
Then the Dwarves raised up the body of Azaghal and bore it away; and
with slow steps they walked behind singing a dirge in deep voices, as
it were a funeral pomp in their country, and gave no heed more to
their foes; and none dared to stay them."

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Is it significant that only the dwarves of Belegost are mentioned? We
know that the dwarves of Nogrod had provided weapons, but they are not
mentioned in the battle. Could this be evidence that they did not
take part in the battle?

Any thoughts on how the custom of wearing hideous masks in battle
originated among the Dwarves?

Perhaps it is due to their extraordinary origins, but the Dwarves seem
to be the most patriarchal of all the peoples of Middle-earth. In The
Hobbit, Thorin's call during the Battle of the Five Armies is
sufficient to send the dwarves scrambling to his aid. In this tale,
the death of their lord causes the dwarves to abandon the battle. Is
this a subtle moral warning by Tolkien regarding the perils of, for
the lack of a better term, hero worship?

I remember how annoyed I was by the Dwarves' behavior when I first
read this chapter. ;-)

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"But now in the western battle Fingon and Turgon were assailed by
a tide of foes thrice greater than all the force that was left to
them. Gothmog, 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 Hurin 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 Gothmog, until
another Balrog came behind and cast a thong of fire about him. Then
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; and they beat him into the dust with their maces, and his
banner, blue and silver, they trod into the mire of his blood."

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Am I the only one with tears in my eyes at this point? ;-)

The numerous contradictions in the Silmarillion regarding the power
and physical strength of Elves are overshadowed by the sheer power of
the narrative, of course, but it's interesting to note here that it is
Fingon who is able to withstand Gothmog (however briefly) whereas his
brother Turgon is thrust aside. Fingon was the High King, of course,
but if Morgoth truly feared Turgon (as noted later in the chapter)
then Turgon should have been targeted rather than Fingon. The battle
was already won by that point.

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"The field was lost; but still Hurin and Huor and the remnant of
the house of Hador stood firm with Turgon of Gondolin, and the hosts
of Morgoth could not yet win the Pass of Sirion. Then Hurin spoke to
Turgon, saying: 'Go now, lord, while time is! For in you lives the
last hope of the Eldar, and while Gondolin stands Morgoth shall still
know fear in his heart.'
But Turgon answered: 'Not long now can Gondolin be hidden; and
being discovered it must fall.'
Then Huor spoke and said: 'Yet if it stands but a little while,
then out of your house shall come the hope of Elves and Men. This I
say to you, lord, with the eyes of death: though we part here for
ever, and I shall not look on your white walls again, from you and
from me a new star shall arise. Farewell!'
And Maeglin, Turgon's sister-son, who stood by, heard these
words, and did not forget them; but he said nothing."

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I rather like the way that Tolkien combined several different layers
of foreshadowing in this exchange. Maeglin's treachery, the downfall
of Gondolin and the deeds of Earendil are all referred to, but one
reference is implied while the second is explicit and the third is a
hint.

It's also interesting to contrast Turgon's behavior here and later,
but that discussion more properly belongs to "Of Tuor and the Fall of
Gondolin." I can only state here that his brother's death must have
shaken Turgon's confidence considerably.

William de Hikelyng >

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Sep 29, 2006, 9:56:26 AM9/29/06
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On Thu, 28 Sep 2006 21:45:27 -0400, Morgoth's Curse
<morgoths...@nospam.yahoo.com> <morgoths...@nospamyahoo.com>
wrote:

> Is it significant that only the dwarves of Belegost are mentioned? We
> know that the dwarves of Nogrod had provided weapons, but they are not
> mentioned in the battle. Could this be evidence that they did not
> take part in the battle?

As the story evolved, Tolkien wound up distinguishing between the "pretty
decent" Dwarves of Belegost and the "not so nice" Dwarves of Nogrod (in
early texts, Dwarves are always evil!). It is the Dwarves of Nogrod who
later sack Doriath, so there's no point in making them heroic here.

--
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