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Silmarillion Discussion 2013, Chapter 18: Of The Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin

noWizardme
Grey Havens


Jun 16 2013, 9:08am


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Silmarillion Discussion 2013, Chapter 18: Of The Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin Can't Post

Hi if you’re new to these discussions!
These chapter discussions are open to everyone -- all you need is to have read the book and have an opinion. Its also OK to have more than one book (or more than one opinion). This is absolutely not a series of threads for experts only - everyone's opinions and questions are welcome. feel very free to jump right in. : )

So, off we go-

A lot of this Chapter is given to a description of warfare, at a fairly strategic level - we’re looking at troops marching about on the map, rather than all that often getting down to the level of individual deeds. I suspect that the strategy aspect will fascinate some, and bore others. So I want immediately to divide this discussion into two. One part for a military historian (or armchair general) type of view, and one that will keep the strategical and tactical stuff down, so that it doesn’t crowd out other issues.

I’m going to do this by posting my “other issues” ideas in this post, containing a fairly brief and un-analysed description of the military events. I’ll then immediately post a separate thread for discussion by the strategy-minded. My intention is that those of us who want to play armchair or tabletop general will then have a separate thread for the purpose, without crowding out those who find the movements of armies on the map a big yawn.

There are plenty of “other issues”. Certainly, as in any war, a lot of significant stuff happens as a result of the fighting. Wars send people to unexpected places (Beren or Húrin in this case). Individuals or groups form alliances or friendships which would otherwise not happen (Húrin again or the ring and oath that Barahir gets from Finrod in return for his help) . Or solid seeming arrangements break down, leading to unexpected crises and opportunities. Events can stand or fall on a knife-edge. Everything changes so fast (in the morning Ard-galen is peaceful prairie, patrolled by the elvish cavalry, by nightfall, burned sooty survivors are falling back and regrouping in the hills, while the wildfires rage on the plains). Individuals and groups can rise or fall spectacularly in their standing. Many of those things can be seen in this chapter. One way to look at the significance on the overall plot of the book is that this episode establishes critical bonds of trust and obligation between certain Elves and Edain. By the end of the Chapter Barahir’s house has the “Ring of Barahir” from Finrod, and with it Finrod’s oath of assistance. Húrin and Huor have befriended Turgon (and Húrin has gone on to become king). And Beren is making his cautious way out of Dorthonion.

There’s a further angle. Tolkien was of course, a veteran of the First World War. We can look for echoes of his own experiences and knowledge in the imaginary conflict he’s created here.

A brief description of the war is needed here, I think, even for those of us who don’t want to worry about troop movements more than we have to. Please feel free to skip this bit if you’ve got the events clear in your head already, or if a summary is otherwise not very useful to you right now! As it happens, that’s something I find difficult to do from the “annals” style of the chapter. But maybe I’m just not that annal-y retentive.Wink :

Key events of the war
Beleriand has been in a sort of Cold War for several hundred years. Both sides now ponder offensives. Fingolfin, the senior leader of the Noldor, ponders an attack on Angband, but cannot rally sufficient support for it. We’re told that his assault would have been futile in any case - the elves and their Edain allies (henceforth I’ll call them together “the Allies”) have little understanding just how powerful Morgoth and his forces are.

On the other side of the doors of Angband, Morgoth is also poised to strike, and launches a Winter campaign “450 years after the coming of Fingolfin”. This is the Dagor Bragollach, or Battle of Sudden Flame, an offensive that lasts until the Spring (that’s its duration as a major offensive, though the fighting never thereafter fully stops). Morgoth launches his attack with sudden rivers of fire. These burn and level the ground of Ard-galen, catching many of its defenders and turning it into a land of choking dust. Then Morgoth’s forces - including dragons, balrogs and orcs - emerge.

Even this brief summary will be much easier with a map. If you don’t have one handy, I suggest a look at this one: http://lotr.wikia.com/...:Dagorbragollach.gif

Morgoth’s forces strike South, Southeast and Southwest, against the various elven Princes (arrows 1-4 on the map). The Allies are driven back through Ard-galen and Lothlann, and fall back on their mountain bases. Morgoth takes the Pass of Aglon, which allows their forces a route South past the highland region of Dorthonion, which is also attacked.

Finrod and a force emerge from the hidden fortress of Nargothrond, but are driven back. Finrod himself becomes cut off from his troops, is rescued by the Edain troops of Barahir, to whom he presents a ring and swears an oath of abiding friendship. Of the other hidden elves, Turgon remains hidden in Gondolin, and Thingol in his woods of Doriath.

Having saved Finrod’s neck, Barahir then leads the fighting in Dorthonion “contesting the land foot by foot”. But eventually the bulk of his people retreat to Dor-Lomin, leaving a guerilla force including Barahir’s son, Beren.

Fingolfin, despairing of an Allied victory, decides to settle the matter personally. He rides to Angband and challenges Morgoth to single combat. After a heroic battle, Morgoth kills Fingolfin, but not before Fingolfin has wounded his enemy seven times, and then finally severely wounded Morgoth’s foot. Fingolfin’s body is rescued by an eagle, who scars Morgoth’s face. Fingon becomes high King in Fingolfin’s place.

The second big offensive happens two years later. Since Dagor Bragollach the Allies have been able to hold the western pass about the sources of the Sirion (that is, the pass between Dorthonion and the mountains bordering Hithlum. They are aided (not clear how) by Ulmo. Then an attack by Sauron (shown as the dotted arrow 5 on the map http://lotr.wikia.com/...:Dagorbragollach.gif ) captures the confusingly named Minas Tirith (which in this period is the fortress on the island of Tol Sirion, in the Sirion Valley).

This completes Morgoth’s breakout through the natural barriers to the north of Beleriand. His forces can now pass Dorthonion to the west (down the Sirion) or to the East, through the Pass of Aglon. Morgoth’s forces surround Doriath.

Here things settle a little - Morgoth is described as using spies and trying to foment treachery and distrust, but there is no new major offensive to describe.

Meanwhile,the Edain living in the Forest of Brethil (which is to the South West of Dorthonion, West of Thingol’s Kingdom in Doriath) are aided by Thingol’s forces. They win victories which prevent further orcish advance across the River Teiglin, so protecting Nargothrond.

Among the Edain in the forest of Brethil are Húrin and Huor, who have a remarkable adventure. Separated from their troops, they are protected from capture by a mist sent by Ulmo. Then they are rescued by eagle and taken to Gondolin, where they are welcomed by Turgon, and stay for nearly a year. Eventually, however, it is agreed that they can return to their people. They are flown back by eagle and therefore return without knowing the location of the secret city they had visited. They also have sworn an oath not to tell of their adventures, which they immediately honour by refusing to explain to their Father where they’ve been. At least they tell him that’s because of an oath of silence (“ I don’t know, kids these days: gone missing for months, come back wearing someone else’s clothes, won’t explain - worried sick, I was”.)

Turgon attempts to send ambassadors by ship to Valinor, but they are unable to cross the seas to plead for help, thanks to the Keep Out precautions the Valar put in place in Chapter 11. Otherwise the people of Gondolin continue to take no part in the war.

A period of comparative quiet ensues. Morgoth is aware that Turgon and Finrod are out there somewhere, but cannot learn much about them. Both sides are licking wounds and regaining strength. Then, seven years after Dagor Bragollach, Morgoth launches an third assault, this time Westward into Hithlum. On the map http://lotr.wikia.com/...:Dagorbragollach.gif , the attack must pretty much have come once more along the arrow marked (1). This time, Morgoth’s forces break through Hithlum’s eastern mountain borders and there are battles on the plains. Fingon, leading the Allies here, is having a hard time of it until he is re-inforced from the sea by Círdan. This turns the tide of the battle, and Morgoth’s forces are pursued back “as far as the Iron Mountains”. At this point Húrin becomes king of the Edain living in Dor-lomin.

Meanwhile, the last Allied guerilla resistance in Dorthonion is destroyed, and Beren son of Barahir, is the sole survivor escaping into Doriath.

As I say, a separate thread will cover my suggestions for a “military” discussion - so why not reply to that thread if you want to critique Morgoth’s generalship etc. I’m about to post some replies to myself (Should my family be worried? - “He spends a lot of time in a Tolkien forum replying to his own posts...”) with some possible points we might want to debate.

Before I close this post though, many thanks to Brethil and to CuriousG for reading a draft of this to help me eliminate any howlers which are not Sauron’s werewolves. I felt there was a reasonable chance of writing Finrod where I meant Fingol (or Fingolfin?), or that I hadn’t found all the places where I put Doriath instead of Dorthonion or Björk instead of Beör- the kind of thing which is hugely confusing and distracting in what is supposed to be a handy summary. So thanks guys!. But please blame only me for any stupidities that are left, or which snuck back in!


Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Jun 16 2013, 9:13am)

Subject User Time
Silmarillion Discussion 2013, Chapter 18: Of The Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 16 2013, 9:08am
    Tolkien's personal and literary experiences of war, and their influence on this chapter noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 16 2013, 9:15am
        Heroic myths Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 16 2013, 1:21pm
            Written for the ear! noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 16 2013, 5:37pm
                Hear, hear CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 16 2013, 8:37pm
                I agree... elaen32 Send a private message to elaen32 Jun 16 2013, 8:45pm
        large scale Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 16 2013, 5:51pm
            Soldiers and wooden blocks noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 16 2013, 6:01pm
                The two faces of war CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 16 2013, 8:51pm
                    "Modern generals never fight now" squire Send a private message to squire Jun 17 2013, 2:47am
                        "He uses others as his weapons" noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 17 2013, 11:47am
                            England has such picky, arcane rules for kingship CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 17 2013, 12:13pm
                            Another reason for "safe" generals CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 17 2013, 12:18pm
                            The tragedy of Denethor FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Jun 18 2013, 1:31pm
                                I think some of this depends on the particular situation. Escapist Send a private message to Escapist Jun 18 2013, 1:40pm
                                Generalship by walking around noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 18 2013, 2:00pm
                                    the suicides of fingolfin and denethor Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 2:26pm
                                        Denethor fan! CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 18 2013, 3:06pm
                                            so the grima thing... Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 5:09pm
                                                Yes, I do give it away in my Facebook entries CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 18 2013, 5:18pm
                                            a little denethor trivia Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 6:13pm
                                                LOL and LOL some more // CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 18 2013, 7:14pm
                                                    is it... Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 7:16pm
                                                        No, he's much redeemed in my eyes. Especially because of the coupons. // CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 18 2013, 7:21pm
                                                            lol! Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 7:22pm
                                                            btw Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 8:03pm
                                                Question on the senior menu... Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 19 2013, 12:24am
                                                    you know what's dangerous? Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 19 2013, 12:52am
                                        regarding "poof" Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 3:52pm
                                            I don't believe anyone could believe you're intolerant. :) // CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 18 2013, 5:02pm
                                                hope not : ) Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 5:27pm
                                                    Uruk High? That's the school for orcs…? // noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 18 2013, 8:40pm
                                                        indeed Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 11:50pm
                                                            I'm also avoiding imagining Uruk High's cheerleaders... noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 19 2013, 7:32am
                                                        I thought it was a drug reference CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 19 2013, 12:14am
                                                second that!// telain Send a private message to telain Jun 19 2013, 10:05pm
                                                    ah, Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 19 2013, 10:11pm
                                                        BLT? CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 19 2013, 11:25pm
                                                            sounds delish! Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 19 2013, 11:43pm
                                                                Troll fare CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 20 2013, 12:44pm
                                                                    i think i see the problem... Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 20 2013, 3:17pm
                                                            Hungry after a long day CG? Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 20 2013, 12:17am
                                                        yummy! telain Send a private message to telain Jun 20 2013, 5:54pm
                                        Interesting compare/contrast! A further one - how about Fingolfin c.f. Frodo? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 18 2013, 4:48pm
                                            fingolfin and frodo Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 11:24pm
                                                Fingolfin & Frodo - great contrast - so much depends on motivation noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 19 2013, 9:26am
                                                    Very interesting tie-in to Tuchman's book! // CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 19 2013, 12:08pm
                                        Maybe more like Theoden? FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Jun 18 2013, 4:49pm
                                            love theoden! Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 19 2013, 3:50pm
                                                Now you've got me thinking... FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Jun 20 2013, 7:07pm
                                                    heya : ) Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 20 2013, 7:16pm
                                                        Yes, as our Silmarillion discussion progresses CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 20 2013, 7:43pm
                                                            nobody Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 20 2013, 7:46pm
                                                                Manwe and choices Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 20 2013, 8:47pm
                                                                    Manwe's choice CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 20 2013, 10:01pm
                                                                        Oh no - don't tell me Manwe has read my footer...// Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 20 2013, 10:14pm
                                    Good point about the mourning and despair. Escapist Send a private message to Escapist Jun 18 2013, 2:32pm
                        Yes, it's amazing how aggressive the US "Department of Defense" can be. CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 17 2013, 12:38pm
            "No plan survives contact with the enemy." Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Jun 19 2013, 9:58pm
                ha! Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 19 2013, 10:05pm
        Thanks for the summary NoWiz elaen32 Send a private message to elaen32 Jun 16 2013, 8:19pm
    Fingolfin's single combat noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 16 2013, 9:16am
        Finglofin Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 16 2013, 1:08pm
        acting upon the rage of sorrow Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 16 2013, 6:02pm
            Exceptionally well put here Telpemairo! Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 17 2013, 12:25am
                thank-eee Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 17 2013, 2:31am
        Pathos and Turgon CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 17 2013, 12:46pm
            Excellent and touching point CG Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 17 2013, 6:15pm
        more thoughts on Fingolfin telain Send a private message to telain Jun 18 2013, 12:40am
        Better late than never Lothwen Send a private message to Lothwen Jun 21 2013, 9:01am
            Facing Sauron as an improvement cf facing Morgoth noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 21 2013, 9:39am
    Call not to the gods.... noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 16 2013, 9:19am
        no real realization yet Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 16 2013, 6:13pm
        Huh, don't get me started on the Valar! elaen32 Send a private message to elaen32 Jun 16 2013, 8:34pm
            The Valar don't know fear... telain Send a private message to telain Jun 18 2013, 2:03pm
                perhaps that's part of the problem Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 18 2013, 11:13pm
        East calling West CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 16 2013, 9:00pm
            Calling for help Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 16 2013, 9:10pm
                That must be it, Brethil CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 16 2013, 10:06pm
            If it comes to that... elaen32 Send a private message to elaen32 Jun 16 2013, 10:08pm
        More on calling for help Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 17 2013, 5:02pm
            what if... telain Send a private message to telain Jun 18 2013, 1:45pm
                Makes it more heroic if so - and a bit on Thorondor Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 18 2013, 2:32pm
                    The Valar aren't coming! The Eagles aren't coming! CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 18 2013, 3:28pm
                        well put telain Send a private message to telain Jun 18 2013, 4:22pm
                        Indomitable spirit noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 18 2013, 5:27pm
    Eagles and matters of fate and doom noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 16 2013, 9:20am
        More on eagles Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 18 2013, 2:44pm
    Under-energetic allies? noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 16 2013, 10:08am
        Hey, the Orcs aren't in MY living room, why should I care? CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 16 2013, 8:20pm
    oh and... Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 17 2013, 2:29am
    All of the postings to this thread - AWESOME ltnjmy Send a private message to ltnjmy Jun 19 2013, 9:04pm
        Thanks Itnjmy! // noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 19 2013, 9:21pm
        yes, but... Maciliel Send a private message to Maciliel Jun 19 2013, 10:03pm
        Good to see you Itnjmy! Brethil Send a private message to Brethil Jun 19 2013, 11:56pm
        Thanks for the compliments, Itnjmy. We always appreciate your feedback and are glad you enjoy the discussion. // CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Jun 20 2013, 5:37pm
    Some selected points from the 2009 read-through noWizardme Send a private message to noWizardme Jun 23 2013, 10:15am

 
 
 

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