Today is a story of Elf meets Men.
Part I (Chapter 1)
Part II (Chapters 2-3)
Part III (Chapters 3-4)
Part IV (Chapters 5-6)
Part V (Chapter 7)
Part VI (Chapter 8)
Part VII (Chapter 9)
Part VIII (Chapter 10)
Part IX (Chapter 11)
Part X (Chapter 12)
Part XI (Chapter 13)
Part XII (Chapter 13 cont.)
Part XIII (Chapter 14-15)
Part XIV (Chapter 16)
Quenta Silmarillion: Chapter 17
The first time the Elves meet Men, it’s because of a song.
While Men have been roaming Middle-earth for a while now, they have finally migrated from the far east to the western regions of Middle-earth, where the Elves have been living for a very long time.
One particular evening, a group of Men led by Bëor are gathered around a fire, singing. This is perhaps the first time that they have felt truly safe in a very long time. Morgoth’s servants have been lurking among them for a long time, but this land is different than anywhere else they’ve been before. So they sing because they have much to be glad about.
On this same evening, Finrod (Galadriel’s brother) is riding through the forest. From a distance, he hears the singing but he sees fires, which isn’t common for the Elves who live in this neck of the woods. He sneaks closer only to find creatures that he has never seen before. And just as the Valar became excited the first time that they heard the Elves had arrived, he is delighted to see the people they have all been waiting for: the Secondborn of Iluvatar. Men.
After the Men drift off to sleep, he comes among them to watch over them and sing to them about the history of Arda. The Men don’t know the language, but they do understand what he’s saying. This immediately starts a long friendship between Men and Elves, specifically Finrod who becomes their advocate. Bëor and his people follow Finrod to a new land near Finrod’s realm, and they accept him as their ruler. (This is much to the relief of the Green Elves who live in that area, who weren’t so sure about having these Men roam around in their forests.)
But Bëor tells Finrod that his people aren’t the only ones headed over the mountains. There are two other groups: the Haladin and the people of Marach. And while not all of the Elves are thrilled at their arrival, the Noldor gladly welcome Men into their realms. In those times, it isn’t uncommon at all for the most important Men to serve in an Elven King’s court.
Among the Elves discomforted by this new turn of events is Thingol. He and Melian have lived safely in their realm of Doriath for a long time, and he is wary of them. (It’s been a hard life in Middle-earth, so who can blame him?) In fact, he decides that the only Men allowed to come directly onto his lands are the descendants of Bëor, and only because Finrod is such good friends with them.
Melian also has something (rather foreboding) to say on the matter: “… one of Men, even of Bëor’s house, shall indeed come [into Doriath], and the Girdle of Melian shall not restrain him, for doom greater than my power shall send him; and the songs that shall spring from the coming shall endure when all Middle-earth is changed” (Tolkien 168). Thingol doesn’t understand what it means yet, but he will in two more chapters…
Now, it hasn’t taken long for Morgoth to see Men and Elves getting along so beautifully and to see that he isn’t able to easily ruin the friendship. So he decides to do the next best thing: attack Men with endless Orc raids. The group that seemingly gets the brunt of it is the Haladin. Unlike Bëor and Marach’s people, they prefer independence and stay off on their own. They also do not have centralized leadership but work more like a confederation. In this case, though, both of these factors leave them vulnerable.
During an Orc raid, many of the Haladin are killed. Among them is a well-known and strong man named Haladin. He has twin children, Haldad (a son) and Haleth (a daughter). When Haldad tries to defend his father, he is killed. This leaves Haleth to handle the situation. So what does Haleth do? She takes up a sword, protects the remnant of the Haladin, and leads them to one of the Noldor princes, Caranthir.
Caranthir is heartbroken for the Haladin and offers to protect them, but Haleth wants to maintain the independence her people has always known. Instead, she leads them through a dangerous region (where Aredhel got lost in the last chapter) and brings them to a forest that is technically on Thingol’s lands. (They are outside of the magical barrier, but still on his doorstep.)
As Haleth’s people settle in, Thingol watches them with crossed arms and a raised eyebrow. Finrod assures him that it’s okay. After all, they’ve endured so much and they have the same enemy: Morgoth and the Orcs. So Thingol and Haleth strike a deal: the People of Haleth (as they are now known) can live in the forest if they help guard their part of the forest from Orcs. And the deal ends up working perfectly.
While there are many other things that happen in this chapter, there’s only one more that I want to highlight. Remember Bëor, one of the first Men that Finrod met? Well, at the age of 93, he dies, just as all Men do. It’s just from old age, and he passes happily. But this is the first time that Elves have witnessed death like this, and they truly wonder at it. What a strange gift Iluvatar has given the Secondborn.
Next week, dragons and Balrogs and battles — oh my! And Sauron shows back up to stir up more trouble in a great showdown between Morgoth and the newly allied Elves and Men.