By Special Holiday Request: the History of Tolkien’s Elves (part XV)
Okay, so, you’re probably expecting to hear that Maedhros and the other sons of Fëanor heard about Thingol’s silmaril, and then they went to Menegroth to murder him. That’s not actually what happened, though! Not because of any lack of murderousness on the part of the Fëanoreans, but because of the dwarves whom Thingol hired to set the silmaril into the Nauglamir. They had the silmaril, they had the Nauglamir, they had them in their hands, and once you touch something like that you really don’t want to give it up. So long story short by the time the sons of Fëanor arrived in Menegroth, Thingol was already dead at the hands of insane dwarven artisans.
The insane dwarven artisans looted Menegroth, slaughtering elves and spitting on the floor and generally being super unclassy. They didn’t stick around, but started looting Doriath left and right; the nation was ripe for looting, on account of Melian, the Maia angel wedded to Thingol, withdrew her magical protection.
Thingol’s heir was Luthien. You remember Luthien! His daughter! Go back and check. She and Beren lived on a private island outside Doriath, with their son Dior and his wife and their three children. Dior’s wife was a Sindar princess and a cousin of Celeborn’s.
Celeborn, in case you forgot, was Galadriel’s husband. Tell me where is Gandalf, for I much desire to speak with him, that guy. Galadriel, it turns out, spent pretty much the whole time since the death of Fëanor living in Menegroth, married to a Sindar prince. She and Celeborn fled the rampaging dwarves well in advance, and lived with Beren and Luthien for a bit.
Beren, despite being an old man who’d already been resurrected once, ended up leading the armies of Doriath to defeat this rampaging army of dwarves. He defeated the dwarf army pretty easily, and ripped the Nauglamir off the body of the dwarf-king. Then he went back home to the Land of the Dead that Lived (as his estate was known) and gave the silmaril-necklace to Luthien.
When Luthien wore the Nauglamir, the silmaril inside it lit up with the light of the Trees, which had not been seen clearly in Middle Earth in, like, ever. Everyone was amazed by how impossibly wonderful the silmaril was, and how great Luthien looked while wearing it, and how bathing even briefly in this small fragment of the light of the Trees made you feel like you were straight-up better than all those poor people who hadn’t seen it.
Luthien declined to leave the Land of the Dead that Lived, so Dior had to go be king of Doriath. He and his family went to Menegroth to take over; everyone was happy to see him and he ruled with wisdom and peace for almost a year. When Beren and Luthien died a second and final time, Dior inherited the Nauglamir, which he wore on state occasions and which everyone in Menegroth cooed over, like, all the time.
So it was Dior that the sons of Fëanor had to deal with. Dior was half-Edain, quarter-Sindar, and quarter-Maia, which was a unique pedigree. He was renowned as the prettiest creature in Middle Earth, which is pretty amazing if you consider that his mother Luthien was supposedly the most beautiful woman who ever lived, and also Galadriel was still around.
A few months after Dior started walking around with the Nauglamir, word reached the sons of Fëanor that a silmaril had been recovered and was located in Menegroth. A few years after that, the sons of Fëanor razed Menegroth.
Bound by the Oath of Fëanor, they couldn’t not. Maedhros actually tried not to, and held off attacking for as long as he could after he learned there was a silmaril, but he couldn’t manage it for long.
This was the Second Kinslaying, also known as the Battle of the Thousand Caves; the fighting took place mainly in the underground bunker that was Menegroth. It’s the second time elf fought elf, and this time instead of Noldor versus Teleri, it was Noldor versus Sindar. Dior died, alongside a bunch of Sindar and Noldor heroes. Several of the sons of Fëanor died as well, but not Maedhros.
Funny story: Celegorm, one of Maedhros’s brothers killed Dior’s wife and captured their children. Celegorm abandoned the half-elf children in the forest to die of exposure, but when Maedhros learned of this he got all huffy and chewed Celegorm out and tried to find and rescue the children. He found zero children, and felt super bad about it.
Dior’s two sons were never seen or heard from, but his daughter fled south from the carnage and joined a remnant of Doriathrim elves, who struck out for the coast as refugees. Her name was Elwing, and in secret she bore the silmaril away from the sons of Fëanor.
We’re now at the 506th year of the sun and moon. Doriath basically no longer exists. There are now basically two major elf settlements remaining in Middle Earth: Turgon’s secret citadel Gondolin, and Cirdan’s havens.
Quick note about Cirdan and the havens: the last we heard about them was back when the Noldor first arrived in Middle Earth, when Morgoth was assaulting them. Morgoth destroyed a bunch of Falathrim settlements back then, before Fëanor’s host crushed his army. Cirdan rebuilt, but then when Morgoth sent his dragons out to burn the whole of the Northlands, those new havens were lost as well. In the 473rd year of the sun and moon, Cirdan led refugees to the bayous at the mouth of the river Sirion, where they built the Havens of Sirion. When the Havens of Sirion were destroyed (spoiler warning), Cirdan would move again, and build yet another set of havens: the Gray Havens as seen at the very end of Return of the King.
Then Gondolin fell to Morgoth’s host, and the list of major elven settlements was down to just the Havens. The story of the fall of Gondolin is a tragic one, because the city fell to treachery. This is yet another story that I could unpack into six or so entries, but instead you get the super quick version.
• Maeglin was the nephew of Turgon, and lusted after both the throne of Gondolin and Idril, Turgon’s daughter. Turgon was the high king of the Noldor at the time, because everyone else with a claim to the throne was either dead or had lost eligibility when Maedhros renounced it.
• A mortal prince and cousin of Turin Turambar, Tuor, married Idril; Maeglin considered this a real slap in the face.
• Maeglin snuck out of Gondolin, looking for ore. This was forbidden as it endangered the city, but Maeglin didn’t think rules applied to him.
• Maeglin fought some orcs and became wounded. Captured, he was taken before Morgoth, who of course wanted to know the secret way to Gondolin.
• Maeglin agreed to tell Morgoth how to reach Gondolin, in exchange for a bunch of concessions including Maeglin being named high king of the Noldor after Morgoth deposed Turgon, and Idril’s hand in marriage, and also Morgoth would just depose Turgon and install Maeglin on the throne. Morgoth promised not to raze Gondolin and slaughter its inhabitants.
• Morgoth broke this promise.
• Maeglin, filled with madness and remorse and suicidal rage, dueled Turgon while Morgoth’s troops poured in and the city burned below them. Maeglin slew Turgon and tried to sieze Idril, but Tuor threw him bodily off the top of Gondolin to his death.
• Tuor and Idril led a band of refugees to the Havens of Sirion. Among the refugees: their half-elf son Earendil.
• In Cirdan’s court, such as it was (dude lived in a swamp), Earendil and Elwing hit it off and were soon married. At their wedding, Elwing wore the Nauglamir.
And so we reach the 532rd or so year of the sun and the moon. In less than one human lifetime, the great civilization of the elves and men and dwarves of the West had torn itself to pieces.
On the one hand, Elwing had just given birth to twin boys, Elros and Elrond (yes, that Elrond). But on the other hand, this was also when the sons of Fëanor learned that Elwing was alive in Cirdan’s havens and still had the silmaril… guess what happened next?
NEXT: THE THIRD KINSLAYING or FINALLY THINGS LITERALLY CANNOT GET ANY WORSE or EARENDIL WAS A MARINER
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