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Fall of Gondolin

The name Fall of Gondolin refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see The Fall of Gondolin (disambiguation).
Fall of Gondolin
John Howe - The Fall of Gondolin.jpg
Conflict: War of the Jewels
Date: F.A. 510
Place: Tumladen, Amon Gwareth, Beleriand
Outcome: Decisive victory for Morgoth
  • The destruction of Gondolin and the majority of its people
  • Scattered survivors fled to Nan-tathren
Combatants

The forces of Morgoth

Gondolindrim

Commanders
Strength

Balrogs, wolves, dragons, Gondolindrim led by Maeglin, and many Orcs

Many Noldor under the command of various lords and warriors

Casualties

Moderate

Near-total

"Lo! the flame of fire and fierce hatred
engulfed Gondolin and its glory fell...
"
The Lay of Eärendel, vv.1-2

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. Here the battle is mainly told as written in the twenty-third chapter of the Quenta Silmarillion, but much is told in the Lost Tale of "The Fall of Gondolin".

Contents

[edit] History

[edit] Prelude

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. Once he was far away from Gondolin, searching for ore in the mountains. 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. However, Idril foreshadowed the dangers to come, so she began working on a hidden passage deep beneath Gondolin that would later act as an escape route.

[edit] Battle

On Midsummer of F.A. 510,[1] the Gondolindrim were celebrating the festival of the Gates of Summer. As they gathered in the night to observe the sunrise over the mountains, a light was seen in the North instead of the East: the armies of Morgoth were coming and nothing could stop them until they reached the walls of the city. Orcs, wolves, dragons and other creatures of Morgoth surrounded the city, but could not climb up them as Amon Gwareth was completely smooth.

Of the deeds of desperate valour there done, by the chieftains of the noble houses and their warriors, and not least by Tuor, is much told in The Fall of Gondolin; of the death of Rog without the walls; and of the battle of Ecthelion of the Fountain with Gothmog lord of Balrogs in the very Square of the King, where each slew the other; and of the defence of the Tower of Turgon by the men of his house-hold, until the tower was overthrown; and mighty was its fall and the fall of Turgon in its ruin.
Quenta Noldorinwa, QII §16

During the havoc of the battle, Maeglin went to Tuor's home on the southern wall and attempted to assassinate Eärendil, but was caught by Tuor before he could do so. There Maeglin was struck down and fell from the wall to his death below, fulfilling the curse of his father Eöl. Then Tuor and Idril gathered as much Gondolindrim they could and led them to the secret way. The Exiles of Gondolin could cross Tumladen not being noticed, as the fountains and burnings of the city had covered the plain with fume and mists.

Glorfindel and the Balrog by Steamey

Although Morgoth was ignorant of their escape, the survivors found an ambush of Orcs while crossing the Cirith Thoronath, and a Balrog was with them. The Eagles protected the refugees, but Glorfindel fought the Balrog alone. He slew the beast and both fell into the abyss.

[edit] Aftermath

Though Morgoth's marshal Gothmog had fallen in the battle, he had conquered the greatest and last 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, after which Morgoth was cast into the Void.

[edit] Other versions of the legendarium

Main article: The Fall of Gondolin (chapter)#The Fall

Tolkien wrote two versions of the Fall, one in The Book of Lost Tales and other within the Quenta Noldorinwa (published in The Shaping of Middle-earth). "The Fall of Gondolin" was the first tale he ever wrote of the Legendarium and is very detailed, and even the Quenta Noldorinwa mentions it as a reference.[2] Although the Quenta Noldorinwa was a more of a summary, it was the text used by Christopher Tolkien for the published Silmarillion, as it was more developed in Tolkien's thinking.[3]

[edit] Inspiration

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.[4] 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.[source?]

[edit] See also

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Three. The Wanderings of Húrin and Other Writings not forming part of the Quenta Silmarillion: V. The Tale of Years", p. 351
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "III. The Quenta: §16 in the Q II version", p. 144
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "III. The Fall of Gondolin": "Notes and Commentary", p. 212
  4. Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth, p. 217