Fall of Gondolin
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|Fall of Gondolin|
|Conflict: War of the Jewels|
|Date: F.A. 510|
|Place: Tumladen, Amon Gwareth, Beleriand|
|Outcome: Decisive victory for Morgoth
Balrogs, wolves, dragons, Gondolindrim led by Maeglin, and many Orcs
Many Noldor under the command of various lords and warriors
The Fall of Gondolin, or the Siege of Gondolin, was a dramatic battle in which the hidden city of Gondolin was destroyed after its location was betrayed to Morgoth by Maeglin. As Morgoth intended, the destruction of the majority of the Noldor peoples was nearly complete, though a handful of survivors managed to escape.
Gondolin had long been a hidden city, heavily fortified and cut off from the Noldor's allies and enemies alike. The Elf Maeglin, a lord of Gondolin, resented both Turgon and Tuor, primarily because of the latter's marriage to Idril, whom he desired as a lover. After an argument, he set out from Gondolin into the mountains, searching for ore. Orcs captured him, and he pleaded with and bribed them to bring him to Morgoth rather than kill or torture him. Morgoth recognized Maeglin, and told him he would make him ruler of Gondolin and husband of Idril if he betrayed the Noldor and gave Morgoth information on how to gain access to the city. Maeglin agreed to the treachery, and was given a token by Morgoth that would supposedly protect his life during the assault. Maeglin returned to the city and spoke nothing of his capture. Idril noticed a change in him however, and sensing danger she began working on a hidden passage deep beneath Gondolin that would later act as an escape route. Lastly, Maeglin began to convince some of the weaker lords, such as Salgant, to his side, though not disclosing his allegiance to Morgoth.
On the evening of the festival Tarnin Austa, as many residents of Gondolin gathered to observe the sunset over the mountains, many riders suddenly poured forth from them, and the forces of Morgoth advanced on all sides around the city. A war council was hastily called by Turgon. Tuor suggested that the forces of Gondolin sally out to attack Morgoth's hosts, while Maeglin and Salgant suggested they remain within the strong walls of the fortress. Turgon was fond of Maeglin, and took his side. Maeglin revealed to Salgant, after the council, his alliance with Morgoth, and suggested that Salgant aid him. Salgant became frightened and departed to his home, where he "lay... aquake on his bed". As the lords of Noldor prepared their defenses, Morgoth's hosts launched their assault. Turgon's war machines and the skilled Noldor archers opened fire, but could do little to slow the advance.
The Orcs, wolves, and other creatures of Morgoth reached the walls, but could not climb up them as they were completely smooth. Morgoth ordered Gothmog, Lord of the Balrogs and the marshal of his armies, to assault the North Gate using "iron monsters" that he had forged within Angband. These machines hit the walls and opened, and hosts of Orcs charged out from within, smashing into the forces of Rog and Galdor, who were hard pressed to hold them back. Salgant ordered his troops to betray the other lords and not assist them in the battle, but they turned against his command and joined up with the other lords in defense. Salgant's fate was left unknown, though it is suggested he either perished or became a servant of Morgoth after the siege.
During the havoc of the battle, Maeglin travelled with the troops of his House to Tuor's home on the southern wall and attempted to assassinate both Idril and her son Eärendil, but was caught by Tuor before he could do so. There, Maeglin and Tuor dueled, alongside their respective houses, but Tuor gained the upper hand and struck down Maeglin, before throwing him off the wall to his death below. Maeglin's house had been slain, and Tuor went with what remained of his own forces to assist the defense once more. In the meantime, Balrogs assaulted the city gate, driving back the defenders there and killing Duilin and Penlod, two lords of the city. Rog rallied his house together and made a desperate charge, repulsing Morgoth's forces from the gate to the field. But Rog was slain and his forces, cut off from the city, were annihilated.
A fresh host of Morgoth reached the western walls, and his dragons broke through them. Tuor and Ecthelion held reserves there, however, and charged Morgoth's forces head-on. The two lords proved mighty in battle, slaying Orc chieftains and several Balrogs, though Ecthelion suffered a grievous wound on his left arm from a Balrog's whip. A great dragon attacked the defenders, killing Elf and Orc alike. Tuor slashed the beast of Gondolin foot and it fled in madness, wrecking ruin about itself. Despite their valiance, many of their soldiers fell, and they could no longer hold the walls.
The Noldor forces fell back to the Square of the King, where Turgon and his host reinforced them. They hastily erected barricades, but Morgoth's forces broke through them. Gothmog led the assault, accompanied by Orcs and a dragon, and charged through the Square, where Tuor was thrown down and nearly killed. Ecthelion, though wounded, attacked Gothmog, sacrificing himself so that the other Gondolindrim had time to escape. Gothmog disarmed him and ruined his right arm, but Ecthelion impaled the Balrog's chest with the spike of his helmet, falling into the Fountain of the King where both he and Gothmog drowned. Glorfindel and his house defended the rear as the rest of the Noldor fled from the Square, losing many soldiers in the process. Glorfindel himself managed to fall back successfully.
The remaining Noldor troops retreated to the Tower of the King, where Turgon lamented the city's destruction and his dismissal of his council's advice. He tossed his crown to the ground and declared Tuor to be the leader of Gondolin and whom they should follow, and asked Tuor to lead the survivors out of the city. Turgon went to the highest peak of the Tower and shouted "Great is the victory of the Ñoldoli!", to which the Orcs mocked him. Turgon refused to leave the city with the others and was slain. Tuor informed the survivors of the tunnel Idril had constructed, and thus they made haste for it, slipping from beneath the city whilst it burned on the surface.
Morgoth was not ignorant of their escape, however, and dispatched patrols to stop them. A Balrog attacked the refugees, though Glorfindel fought it. He slew the beast, but he too was killed. Ulmo protected them, and the group managed to escape.
Though Morgoth's marshal Gothmog had fallen in the battle, he had conquered the greatest city of the Noldor and had almost entirely wiped out their people. In the north, Morgoth's victory was complete. However, this would later be his doom, for years after the siege, Eärendil, a survivor, sailed to Valinor where he requested their aid in defeating Morgoth. This would lead to the War of Wrath, afterwhich Morgoth was cast into the Void.
According to John Garth, the narrative of the battle "appears to echo Tolkien's creative development and slow acceptance of duty in the first year of the war" whereas the latter part echoes his personal experience of battle. Christopher Tolkien removed some elements too evocative of World War I warfare for the Silmarillion chapter, such as metallic dragons, the works of "smiths and sorcerers", that carried Orcs inside them.