After years of plotting, Morgoth is ready for his next serious assault against the Noldor and their allies, the Sindar and the Edain (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)
Part XV (Chapter 17)
Quenta Silmarillion: Chapter 18 part 1
It has been 455 years since Fingolfin first returned to Middle-earth. During that time, the Noldor have settled into their new kingdoms, the Sindar (Elves who stayed in Middle-earth) have become their allies for the most part, and the Edain (Men) have become an important part of their realms. There have been plenty of skirmishes with Morgoth and his Orcs, but it’s been a while since anything serious has happened, leaving most of the Noldor with a false sense of security.
Not all of the Noldor feel this way, though. Fingolfin knows better. He worries that Morgoth is planning something. But his call to action is unheeded by the majority of the Noldor, so they neither prepare for war nor act. They just continue with their content lives, like their enemy isn’t sitting just on the other side of the mountains.
That is, until one fateful night in the middle of winter. The usual troops of Elves keep watch in the darkness. For a long time, they have been stationed around Angband, continuing the siege. Tonight, though, when the earth quakes below them, they know that something is wrong, but it is already too late. They are overwhelmed by Morgoth’s unexpected assault. The one he has been plotting for hundreds of years.
“[G]reat rivers of flame” pour down the sides of the mountains, destroying everything and everyone in their path and sending up noxious fumes that kill everything else that the flames don’t consume. They are followed by a dragon — Glaurung — as well as Balrogs and a massive Orc army. The following war is one of the worst recorded in The Silmarillion, and it’s known afterwards as Dagor Bragollach, “Night of Sudden Flame.”
In the surprise attack, the Noldor, Sindar, and Edain scramble to fight back, but it is futile. The Noldor whose realms are closest to Angband (Morgoth’s fortress) are killed or forced to flee. The Edain retreat alongside them. Everything is in ruin.
It’s in the midst of this that Fingolfin becomes absolutely outraged about what is happening. With the kind of fury that could frighten a dragon, he charges to Angband’s gate, pounds on it, and demands that Morgoth face him Elf to Vala. At first, Morgoth thinks of refusing. To be honest, he’s actually afraid of Fingolfin. Maybe it’s just because of his current fury, or maybe because he saw how determined and hearty he was to survive the Grinding Ice on his way to Middle-earth. In any case, he seriously doesn’t want to do it. But with his captains, Orcs, and Balrogs watching, he knows that he would appear weak if he didn’t answer the challenge. So, against his better judgement, he suits up in his armor and faces Fingolfin.
An epic battle ensues. Fingolfin is more stout than Morgoth ever could have imagined. Sadly, he isn’t strong enough. After who knows how long of fighting, Fingolfin is exhausted. He stumbles on the rough stones (recently destroyed by the hammer Morgoth wields), and Morgoth sets his foot on Fingolfin’s neck. But even in this moment, Fingolfin refuses to go out without a fight. He gashes Morgoth’s leg before he’s killed.
Morgoth enjoys this victory far too much. He decides to desecrate Fingolfin’s body and feed him to the wolves. But his plans are interrupted by none other than the Eagles. Thorondor, the King of the Eagles himself, finds Fingolfin’s corpse, steals him from Morgoth’s hand, and leaves Morgoth with a nasty wound on his face as a reminder. Then Thorondor delivers Fingolfin’s body to his people, who prepare an appropriate burial site for him on the top of a mountain.
On another front of this war — Dagor Bragollach — Finrod has been fighting along with one of Bëor’s descendants: Barahir. Since Finrod befriended and advocated for the Edain (Men) after their first arrived, they have been happy to fight along side him to protect their lands against Morgoth. During one skirmish, Barahir saves Finrod and is given an emerald ring as a token of thanks. (If you’ve ever watched The Lord of the Rings, you know this ring well… More on that soon.)
Later, Finrod leaves that front, but Barahir continues to fight. He is a very valiant man, and so is his son Beren (who will plays an enormous role in the history of Arda). Even though they have a dwindling group and their homes have been burned, they continue to fight the Orcs and any other foes that come their way. Barahir’s wife — Emeldir — is quite a valiant lady herself. After Barahir and Beren head off to fight the Orcs, Emeldir takes up arms and leads the rest of their people to safety. She meets some other important women here, namely Rian and Morwen, but those names won’t mean anything yet.
Around this point in the war (which is a few years in), Morgoth decides to take a different approach with the Edain. Instead of killing them, he tries to befriend them. That immediately backfires, though, so he comes to hate them with the same passion with which he hates the Elves. The only Men who are his friends are the Easterlings, Men who have recently arrived from the Edain’s original home and who have long been in league with Morgoth.
There is one last event that takes place in this chapter, but the three Edain involved — Húrin, Huor, and Beren — are far too important to just cram at the end of this chapter. Húrin and Huor deserve more than a quick mention since, like Beren, they play an important role in chapters to come.
Next week, the famous Húrin and Huor arrive on the scene, and Beren’s life takes a fateful turn.