COTW Silmarillion: Chapter XX "Of the Fifth Battle" (Part 3)

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Morgoth's Curse <>

Sep 28, 2006, 9:44:25 PM9/28/06
"Then the hearts of the Noldor grew hot, and their captains
wished to assail their foes upon the plain; but Hurin spoke against
it, and bade them beware of the guile of Morgoth, whose strength was
always greater than it seemed, and his purpose other than he revealed.
And though the signal of the approach of Maedhros came not, and the
host grew impatient, Hurin urged them still to await it, and to let
the Orcs break themselves in assault upon the hills."


Is it significant that it is Hurin who advocates this course of
action? One would think that the Elves would have learned a few
lessons during their long wars with Morgoth!


"But the Captain of Morgoth in the west had been commanded to
draw out Fingon swiftly from his hills by whatever means he could. He
marched on therefore until the front of his battle was drawn up before
the stream of Sirion, from the walls of the fortress of Eithel Sirion
to the inflowing of Rivil at the Fen of Serech; and the outposts of
Fingon could see the eyes of their enemies. But there was no answer to
his challenge, and the taunts of the Orcs faltered as they looked upon
the silent walls and the hidden threat of the hills. Then the Captain
of Morgoth sent out riders with tokens of parley, and they rode up
before the outworks of the Barad Eithel. With them they brought Gelmir
son of Guilin, that lord of Nargothrond whom they had captured in the
Bragollach; and they had blinded him. Then the heralds of Angband
showed him forth, crying: 'We have many more such at home, but you
must make haste if you would find them; for we shall deal with them
all when we return even so.' And they hewed off Gelmir's hands and
feet, and his head last, within sight of the Elves, and left him."


Do you think that Morgoth knew that Gwindor of Nargothrond had joined
Fingon's host or was he counting on the general outrage of the Elves
to provoke a reaction? (I would not give odds either way.)


"By ill chance, at that place in the outworks stood Gwindor of
Nargothrond, the brother of Gelmir. Now his wrath was kindled to
madness, and he leapt forth on horseback, and many riders with him;
and they pursued the heralds and slew them, and drove on deep into the
main host. And seeing this all the host of the Noldor was set on fire,
and Fingon put on his white helm and sounded his trumpets, and all the
host of Hithlum leapt forth from the hills in sudden onslaught. The
light of the drawing of the swords of the Noldor was like a fire in a
field of reeds; and so fell and swift was their onset that almost the
designs of Morgoth went astray. Before the army that he sent westward
could be strengthened it was swept away, and the banners of Fingon
passed over Anfauglith and were raised before the walls of Angband.
Ever in the forefront of that battle went Gwindor and the Elves of
Nargothrond, and even now they could not be restrained; and they burst
through the Gate and slew the guards upon the very stairs of Angband,
and Morgoth trembled upon his deep throne, hearing them beat upon his
doors. But they were trapped there, and all were slain save Gwindor
only, whom they took alive; for Fingon could not come to their aid. By
many secret doors in Thangorodrim Morgoth had let issue forth his main
host that he held in waiting, and Fingon was beaten back with great
loss from the walls."


This is one of my favorite passages from the Silmarillion! It never
fails to thrill me even though I have read it many times. Tolkien's
ability to invoke both the imagination and emotions is very evident
here. The comparison with the charge of Theoden and the Rohirrim at
the end of "The Ride of the Rohirrim" in LOTR is inevitable and
possibly deliberate.

This passage is ambiguous on one crucial point: Did the host of
Fingon arrive at the gates of Angband more or less as a unified body
or was it strung out from the initial assault at the foot of the
mountains to the Gate? My initial impression was that only a few
mounted troops reached Angband and breached the Gate before the armies
issued from Thangorodrim. This would explain why Fingon was driven
back so quickly even though his host was "very great" and well-armed.
A different interpretation is certainly possible, however.

This has been discussed before, but new perspectives are always
welcome. Could the Elves have actually slain Morgoth if they had
breached all of the defenses to the throne room?


"Then in the plain of Anfauglith, on the fourth day of the war,
there began Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Unnumbered Tears, for no song or tale
can contain all its grief. The host of Fingon retreated over the
sands, and Haldir lord of the Haladin was slain in the rearguard; with
him fell most of the Men of Brethil, and came never back to their
woods. But on the fifth day as night fell, and they were still far
from Ered Wethrin, the Orcs surrounded the host of Hithlum, and they
fought until day, pressed ever closer. In the morning came hope, when
the horns of Turgon were heard as he marched up with the main host of
Gondolin; for they had been stationed southward guarding the Pass of
Sirion, and Turgon restrained most of his people from the rash
onslaught. Now he hastened to the aid of his brother; and the
Gondolindrim were strong and clad in mail, and their ranks shone like
a river of steel in the sun."


This passage can be rather confusing: I originally read it as "on the
fourth day of the battle" instead of "on the fourth day of the war"
and wondered how the host had managed to hold their ground even when
outnumbered for four days! ;-)

Why was Fingon's army unable to escape? If the valiant men of Brethil
were willing to die in the rearguard, then why didn't the remainder of
the army disengage and flee? They might have had to run all the way
back to Hithlum, but at least they would avoid total destruction and
thereby snatch back the possibility of eventual victory from Morgoth's

Why did it take so long for Turgon to come to brother's aid? Why was
he tasked to guard the Pass of Sirion? All of their enemies were
north of that pass! Beren and Luthien had driven Sauron and his
servants from Tol Sirion, the men of Brethil had presumably cleared
the forests as they marched north and the Noldor had retaken
Dorthonion. The only explanation that occurs to me is that Turgon
intended to prevent the enemy from sending Orcs through the pass to
ravage southern Beleriand while it was largely defenseless.


"Now the phalanx of the guard of the King broke through the ranks
of the Orcs, and Turgon hewed his way to the side of his brother; and
it is told that the meeting of Turgon with Hurin, who stood beside
Fingon, was glad in the midst of battle. Then hope was renewed in the
hearts of the Elves; and in that very time, at the third hour of
morning, the trumpets of Maedhros were heard at last coming up from
the east, and the banners of the sons of Feanor assailed the enemy in
the rear. Some have said that even then the Eldar might have won the
day, had all their hosts proved faithful; for the Orcs wavered, and
their onslaught was stayed, and already some were turning to flight.
But even as the vanguard of Maedhros came upon the Orcs, Morgoth
loosed his last strength, and Angband was emptied. There came wolves,
and wolfriders, and there came Balrogs, and dragons, and Glaurung
father of dragons. The strength and terror of the Great Worm were now
great indeed, and Elves and Men withered before him; and he came
between the hosts of Maedhros and Fingon and swept them apart."


This is the passage upon which I base all of my earlier criticism of
Thingol and Orodreth. It is clearly stated that at this point in the
battle, Morgoth has committed all of his reserves to the battle. Do
you agree that the strength of Nargothrond and Doriath would have
provided the narrow of margin of victory (even taking into account the
treachery of Ulfang?)


Sep 29, 2006, 11:31:48 PM9/29/06
Morgoth's Curse <> a écrit :

> This has been discussed before, but new perspectives are always
> welcome. Could the Elves have actually slain Morgoth if they had
> breached all of the defenses to the throne room?

No. It's all been a lost play.

Alboin Errol / Æ

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