*This twentieth chapter of the Quenta takes place approximately five years after Beren & Luthien returned from the houses of the dead and took up residence on their little island.
*This chapter opens with a brief wrap up to B&L’s story, noting that they returned briefly to Doriath, bid farewell to Thingol and Melian and then disappeared from history. Where they lived out the rest of their days, how they eventually died and where they are buried, no one knows.
*This will actually be contradicted later, but whatever. It sounds poetic, right?
*Also, B&L really sounds like a railroad, doesn’t it?
*So, anyway, the Fifth Battle of Middle Earth is precipitated when Maedhros ‘perceives that Morgoth was not unassailable.’ Based on that whole thing with two people walking right in there and stealing a Silmaril right off the top of his head, you know. I guess that qualifies as ‘not unassailable.’
*But all the bad blood stirred up during B&L’s adventure causes Maedhros trouble from the get go. Finrod’s brother, Orodreth, is ruling Finrod’s people in the caves and he won’t come out to fight because of the treachery of Celegorm and Curufin, who have formed an alliance with Maedhros.
*Maedhros sends to claim the Silmaril Beren stole from Thingol, but Thingol, being, as usual, incensed, refuses to either assist in the efforts of Maedhros or to surrender the Silmaril he has. Celegorm and Curufin vow to destroy Thingol and his people if they return victorious from their war with Morgoth.
*Thingol quite rightly presumes this means that he doesn’t need to worry about it.
*Anyway Maedhros assembles a force of Elves, Dwarves and Men and heads out to take back the Silmarils stolen so long ago by Morgoth.
*Surprisingly, they are joined by Turgon’s forces; Turgon has at last come down from the hidden city of Gondolin to join the fray.
*When the forces of Turgon meet the forces of Maedhros, we get our first Elvish in the Silmarillion.
* “Utulie’n aure! Aiya Eldalie ar Atanatari, utulie’n aure!” “The day has come! Behold, Eldar and Fathers of Men, the day has come!” “Auta i lome!” “The night is passing!”
*Morgoth sends a group of his Orcs to take Gelmir, a prisoner that they had previously captured and go to meet the oncoming horde. They meet the horde and then cut Gelmir’s hands off, then his feet, then his head.
*This is not the traditional way that one opens treaty meetings, but then Morgoth has always been a little unpredictable.
*This so incenses Gelmir’s people that they charge and battle is joined; Morgoth sends forth the rest of his troops and the Fifth Great Battle of the First Age, Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Unnumbered Tears, begins.
*Due to the fact that the battle was joined in the heat of the moment, Unnumbered Tears is actually two battles, an Eastern one and a Western one, since the group led by Maedhros was actually split into two parts.
*Some of the Swarthy Men, the Easterlings, that had made allegiance with Maedhros, switch sides during the battle and strike at the Elves from the rear.
*The most valiant fighters in the Eastern battle are the Dwarves, who stand firm in a circle around the last of the Elves and the hosts of Morgoth are not able to overcome them. That’s a surprising moment of the Dwarves and Elves being completely allied.
*There’s a first mention of the Wolfriders here which I’m sure we all recall from The Two Towers and that crazy thing Aragorn did with deciding to be a Wolfrider just long enough to go over every cliff in the immediate vicinity.
*Glaurung the dragon, soon to be the major antagonist in The Children of Hurin, reappears and is grievously wounded by Azaghal, one of the Dwarf kings.
*Fingon also dies, slain by Gothmog, the Balrog King. Wonderful death scene.
*“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.”
*It’s that beating him into the dust with their maces that just really conjures the image in my mind.
*So, Hurin is fighting alongside Turgon and Hurin counsels to Turgon to flee. The hidden city of Gondolin is the last hope of the Elves, Hurin says. Turgon refuses at first, but Hurin convinces him that one day a new hope will rise out of Gondolin. Maeglin (remember Maeglin; the son of Turgon’s sister and the Dark Elf, the one that loves his cousin?) hears those words and, Tolkien says, does not forget them.
*Okay, great bit about Hurin:
*“Last of all Hurin stood alone. Then he cast aside his shield, and wielded an ax two-handed; and it is sung that the ax smoked in the black blood of the troll-guard of Gothmog until it withered, and each time that he slew Hurin cried: “Aure entuluva! Day shall come again!” Seventy times he uttered that cry; but they took him at last alive, by the command of Morgoth, for the Orcs grappled with him with their hands, which clung to him still though he hewed off their arms; and ever their numbers were renewed, until at last he fell buried beneath them. Then Gothmog bound him and dragged him to Angband with mockery.”
*Thus, at last, Morgoth’s aim was accomplished; due to the treachery of the Easterlings, men and Elves were forever estranged from each other, save for a few houses.
*So, things are bad. Bad. I mean, really bad. Fingon’s entire realm is destroyed; not a single one of his soldiers returns home and the civilians left behind are captured and sent to the mines of Morgoth.
*Anyway, it’s shorter to tell you what still stands. Thingol’s realm in Doriath is still safe behind the magic fence; and the caves of Nargothrond begun by Finrod are still undiscovered. Likewise, Gondolin still stands. And a small band of Elves under Cirdan find a refuge on the Isle of Balar. Otherwise, Morgoth controls all; bands of Orcs wander at liberty, murdering and killing and taking prisoners.
*Turgon sends ships again into the West to try to appeal to the Valar. Again, they all sink; only one survivor returns, cast up on the beach by the waves, to tell of the utter doom of the mission.
*In other words, it’s over. Morgoth has won completely. No kings remain except Thingol, Cirdan and Turgon. All other Elves and Men are simply wandering in territory controlled by Morgoth, trying to stay ahead of the Orcs and the other monsters. Four small outposts remain hidden; otherwise, all is lost.
*Morgoth is becoming ever more obsessed with Turgon and the hidden city of Gondolin. It’s for this reason that he’s had Hurin taken alive; Hurin, recall, has been to Gondolin, though, luckily for Gondolin, unluckily for Hurin, he doesn’t actually know how to get there.
*So, when Morgoth discovers that Hurin can’t tell him anything, he has Hurin chained to a stone chair overlooking Middle Earth, there to live out his days, seeing everything through Morgoth’s eyes and hearing everything through Morgoth’s ears.
*And this chapter ends on a bitter note; the Orcs pile up all the slain and create a hill large enough to be seen for miles and miles. The Hill of Tears it will come to be called.
*MOVIE #7: The Silmarillion: The Unnumbered Tears – from Maedhro’s claim on Thingol’s Silmaril to Hurin’s capture by Morgoth
*Wonderful, astonishing, horrible chapter. Deep tragedy.
*Okay, when next we meet we’ll be talking about another text. The Children of Hurin was published in 2007; after years of kicking the idea around, Christopher Tolkien took the 21st chapter of the Silmarillion, Of Turin Turambar, and the section of the Unfinished Tales dedicated to Turin and combined them into one long, continuous narrative of Turin’s life.
*First we’ll read the Children of Hurin and then we’ll go back and hit the chapter about him in The Silmarillion and also the section about him in Unfinished Tales, since I think there were a few deletions to make the story flow better and remove contradictions.
*The Children of Hurin is a short book, just a couple of hundred pages, but it covers the next twenty-eight years of Middle Earth’s history, picking up immediately after the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. We’ll be reading it all in one go, as indicated on the timeline I’m using. So, join us for that.