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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Part VI - Of Dwarves and Men, or Elves and Dragons!


Dec 2 2009, 5:35pm

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Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Part VI - Of Dwarves and Men, or Elves and Dragons! Can't Post

Well, as I promised, this is the last of the pre-prepared threads. The next will probably be shorter, and more suspectible to inaccuracies. Evil

So Húrin met Turgon again, for a short moment of hope.

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 Fëanor assailed the enemy in the rear.

Well, there seems to be a limit to what the machinations of Ulfang can achieve!
1. Did they actually achieve anything? The initial plan of the Noldor was for the armies of Angband to attack the greater host of Maedhros, so that Fingon could come on the other side and they will be caught between the hammer and the anvil. Now Fingon swept the army before him, and Maedhros is coming in the rear, all fresh and ready!

And indeed, among later historians, some held that the Eldar might yet have won the day, even after the last of Angband’s hosts are sent against them: wolves, wolfriders, Balrogs, and dragons – headed by Glaurung.
Glaurung drives a wedge between the armies of Fingon and Maedhros, preventing their union; but still this might not have availed, had the allies stood firm. In the professor’s words:

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 Fëanor.

2. Who are these who later debated the ‘what ifs’ of the great debacle? Or is this just Tolkien’s way of being coy with his readers, suggesting victory was at hand while unwilling to contradict his statement at Fëanor’s death, that the Eldar could never defeat Morgoth?
3. The reference to ‘dragons’ in the plural is interesting. However, the poor beasts cut a poor figure – they seem to follow Glaurung, and when he is wounded (see below) they turn tail and fly with him! Were they simply young? Imperfect ‘essays in the craft’? Or are most dragons cowards, and for every Smaug there are a dozen of Chrysophylaxes?
Note that ‘Many of the Easterlings’ do not betray the Elves – they merely are terrorised into desertion; and the sons of Bór remain faithful; only the sons of Ulfang actually drive upon the rear.
4. Why only them? Were the other Easterlings too afraid of the Fëanorian forces to fully betray them? Or were they faithful at heart, but simply unmanned by the lies of Uldor and the onset of the Dragon? In short, do we have a worse opinion of the Easterlings than they deserve?

The sons of Ulfang get near to the standard of Maedhros – apparently trying to capture it for a promised reward. Well, they never get their reward: Maglor kills, the leader in treason, and the sons of Bór kill Ulfast and Ulwarth before being slain themselves.
5. I wonder about the sons of Bór and their realtions with the sons of Ulfang. Was there a rivalry between the fathers as well? I note that the sons of Bór are said to have cheated Morgoth’s hope, and remained faithful – and also that serving Maedhros rather than Caranthir, they were in an even better position to damage Maedhros’ cause. Was Bór a traitor to an old allegiance to Morgoth, or was Ulfang more amenable to the Enemy’s approaches, feeling ‘demoted’ to the service of a younger brother? Or was Ulfang less high-minded to begin with, and he took Caranthir for a lord because he was the richest of the Noldorin princes (see the end of The Noldor in Beleriand)? Or did he want to keep contact with his brethen beyond the Mountains?
6. Regarding the sons – is this an echo of the Horatii and the Curiatii?

And so the Eastren Front is lost. But fate saves the sons of Fëanor, and drawing together they hew a way out of the battle, escaping to the east.
I wonder about the strange fate which preserved them. But towards the end of this chapter, Morgoth calls himself the “Master of the fates of Arda” – and seeing that after the Nirnaeth, they cause nobody any damage save his own enemies – I cannot help wondering whether there was some deep design in their survival.
7. What do you think?

But it is not Fate alone which saves the sons of Maedhros, but the valour of some of their allies of an inferior race (at least according to Eldarin prejudices). The Dwarves of Belegost, and thus they won renown, wearing their great, hideous masks, stand their ground against Glaurung and the lesser dragons; and those stood them in good stead against the dragons.

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 Azaghâl, Lord of Belegost, and crawled over him, with his last stroke Azaghâl 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.

8. Great stuff, isn’t it? But it begs a few questions about Thorin and Smaug (yes, I know this part comes from The Grey Annals, and was written after The Hobbit):
9. Why is there no mention of dwarvish masks in The Hobbit? (and/or how could Tolkien introduce such a critical part to the dwarvish arsenal if it was completely missing in the earlier?)
10. Why did Gandalf say only a warrior or a hero could stand up against Smaug? (and/or how if a circle of masked dwarves swinging axes could turn a mighty dragon to flight, doesn’t this undermine the earlier writings (appendix AIII, Of Durin’s Folk, even more than The Hobbit?)
11. When the dwarves fell into discussing methods of dragon slaying – “historical, dubious, and mythical, and the various sorts of stabs and jabs and undercuts” in Inside Information, were they thinking only of Túrin, or of Azaghâl as well?

And as no Silmarillion thread is complete without a Voronwë-like question:
In The Grey Annals (WotJ p. 75), the following assertion appears:

Had Azaghâl but borne a sword great woe would have been spared to the Noldor that after befell, but his knife went not deep enough.

12. Do you miss this speculation? Or do you think it would divert attenation from the flight of the dragons and the funeral of Azaghâl?

Regarding the funeral of Azaghâl:

Then the Dwarves raised up the body of Azaghâl 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.

13. I find this really impressive and moving, and very telling about Dwarves in general. I ask no specific question, but would love to read your comments.

Once again, some editorial points:
14. In the 1937 Quenta Silmarillion, the last attack of Morgoth is described as following: “But even as the vanguard of Miadros came upon the Orcs, Morgoth let loose his last strength, and hell was emptied”. The Grey Annals have “Angband was emptied”, as in the published Sil. Why do you think Tolkien changed the name? Do you miss it?
15. The names of the sons of Bór were also changed. As late as the Grey Annals, their names were Borlas, Boromir and Borthandos, but in the chapter Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin in the later Quenta, they were amended to Borlad, Borlach, Borthand. Why? Was this because of the LotR character? Or because of the house of Bëor connection? Did Tolkien think of the people of Bór as connected to the first house of the Edain, only to change his mind later?

And last but not least, I cannot discuss the heroics of the Naugrim without pointing out that they were not such wonderful fellows in the first drafts. As late as the first Quenta Silmarillion, after The Hobbit was published, there still appears this cynical approach:

The smithies of Nogrod and Belegost were busy in those days, making mail and sword and spear for many armies; and the Dwarfs in that time became possessed of much of the wealth and jewelry of Elves and Men, though they went not to war themselves. ‘For we do not know the right causes of this quarrel,’ they said. ‘and we favour neither side – until one hath the mastery.’

- The Lost Road (HoME vol. V), p. 307. In his commentary to this passage (page 313), Christopher Tolkien notes:

Against this my father scribbled ‘Not true of Dwarfish attitude’; this, I feel sure, was put in long after.

16. Does anyone know whether Christopher ever explained how he was sure? Were Durin’s Folk conceived to be different from other Dwarves, or typical of the race?
Perhaps one should point out that the Dwarves of Belegost are called ‘the Enfeng’ in The Grey Annals which means (according to the Annal referring to the building of Menegroth, the War of the Jewels p. 10) “The Longbeards” – the name Thorin gives in A Short Rest to Durin’s Folk! Only in the very late essay On Dwarves and Men (The Peoples of Middle-Earth, HoME vol. XII, p. 301) are Durin’s Folk different from those of the Ered Lindon, which are identified as the Broadbeams and the Firebeards.
17. So the heroics of Azaghâl were those of an ancestor of Thorin! Doesn’t it seem as if as The Hobbit grew, Tolkien felt he should modify the unsavoury way the dwarves of Nogrod and Belegost were portrayed in the legends of the First Age? I note that the dwarves of Nogrod were considerably shadier than those of Belegost, and are not said to have participated in the Fifth Battle. What do you think?

”’Farewell, Lady of Dor-Lomin; we ride now with greater hope than ever we have known before...‘
...and the sun glittered on fifty blades as they leaped forth, and the court rang with the battle-cry of the Edain of the North: ’Lacho calad! Drego morn! Flame Light! Flee Night!‘
Then at last Hurin sprang into his saddle, and his golden banner was unfurled, and the trumpets sang again in the morning; and thus Hurin Thalion rode away to the Nirnaeth Arnoediad.“
- The Children of Hurin, ch. 1.

For the hopes and their dashing, for valour and defeat, for the fair morning, the baleful nightfall, and the hope that Day will come again – join us in the Reading Room this week.

Subject User Time
Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Part VI - Of Dwarves and Men, or Elves and Dragons! sador Send a private message to sador Dec 2 2009, 5:35pm
    LOL Voronwë_the_Faithful Send a private message to Voronwë_the_Faithful Dec 2 2009, 6:02pm
        I didn't think of that explanation sador Send a private message to sador Dec 6 2009, 8:58am
    Dwarvish Attitude Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Dec 7 2009, 8:04pm


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