The Silmarillion Recap: Turin’s Doom (or That Awkward Moment When You Marry Your Sister)

Want to catch up on The Silmarillion so far? Check out the Silmarillion Recaps page here.

It’s been a couple of weeks since the last Silmarillion Recap, but for good reason. The last part of Turin’s life is both awkward and depressing, and it hardly seemed appropriate for the Christmas season. So now that we’re into the new year, the conclusion of Turin’s story.

Last time, Turin lost to Glaurung the dragon, found himself under the dragon’s spell, totally failed to do what he had been warned to do, and ended up living amongst some kind people who keep his identity a secret. Now, it’s time for his mom and sister to re-enter the story.

Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 21 part 6

After Nargothrond becomes Glaurung’s new home and all of the inhabitants are captured or flee, word of the great defeat reaches Turin’s mom (Morwen) and sister (Nienor) who have been living in the safety of Doriath with Thingol and Melian, its king and queen. They also learn that Turin is still alive. It’s been ages since Morwen and Nienor have seen him. After all, Turin left when he was a child to escape slavery back home. Now, Morwen and Nienor are determined to find him and be reunited.

Unfortunately, when they go to find him, things don’t go well. Glaurung the dragon sabotages the crossing over a river. To make a long story short, Morwen is lost. No one in Doriath ever finds out what happens to her. Nienor is also lost, but after a series of events including being put under a dragon spell of forgetfulness, she’s found by Turin. Ironically, he finds her on Haud-en-Elleth (which is Findulias’ grave).

This should be a joyous moment, but Nienor doesn’t remember who she is, where she’s been, or what she’s gone through, thanks to the dragon’s spell. (Glaurung has to get one last jab in at Turin and his family.) Whenever she tries to remember, she curls up in a ball and weeps. And Turin doesn’t recognize her. How could he? Last time he saw her, she was little more than a baby.

Because of all her tears, Turin calls her Niniel (Tear-maiden). During her time with Turin and his people (the people of Brethil), she comes to love Turin. While he returns the sentiments, there’s another man who loves this mysterious Niniel too: Brandir, who is lame (because of an undisclosed problem with one of his legs, maybe an arrow to the knee?). However, he doesn’t have a chance with her. Turin proposes (twice, actually), and Niniel accepts.

Most awkward moment of The Silmarillion.

During this time, things had been peaceful. There hadn’t been many problems with orcs, and everyone seemed to all but forget the dragon hiding in Nargothrond. However, that changes soon after Turin and Niniel are married. Dorlas — the leader and the one who invited Turin to stay with them — needs help, so Turin has no choice but to go.

Oh, and to add to the awkwardness, Niniel is now pregnant. Yeah…

Because Turin still has a score to settle with Glaurung, Turin leaves to face off with the dragon. Only two people accompany him: Dorlas and Hunthor.

Niniel remains at home at first, but she soon can’t stand it. She gathers a group of people and follows her husband/brother and his companions. Brandir comes along as well because he still cares about Niniel, but he soon falls behind because of his lame leg.

Meanwhile, Turin has found Glaurun on the other side of a gorge and is ready to kill him. Seeing the dragon, Dorlas (the brave leader, I might add) becomes afraid and abandons the quest. Hunthor follows Turin down the one side of the gorge and part way up the other side, but unfortunately he meets his doom thanks to a falling rock.

When Turin, now alone, reaches the other side, Glaurung is fast asleep, so he marches right up and stabs the dragon in the stomach. In a mess of fire and fury, Glaurun basically flings himself into the gorge and dies with the sword still stuck in him.

Turin doesn’t want to lose the sword (which is the same one that killed Beleg), so he climbs down after it. Not Turin’s smartest move. Then he decides to taunt the dead dragon. “Hail, Worm of Morgoth!” he cries. “Well met again! Die now and the darkness have thee! Thus Turin son of Hurin is avenged!” (Tolkien 267)

With a flourish, Turin removes the sword, only to be hit with “venom” that spews out of the wound and burns Turin. And, to make matters worse, the dragon isn’t actually dead. In one final move, he puts Turin under another spell, so he passes out once more.

In the distance, Niniel hears the dragon’s screams and runs off to hide. Brandir finds her and, assuming that Turin is dead, he offers to take her away where they can be safe and start over again. Niniel won’t hear of it, though. She wants to find Turin. She flees him, leaving poor Brandir behind again.

Finally, she finds Turin, but since she’s not in her right mind, she’s oblivious to the dragon there. She tends his wound, but nothing can wake Turin. But, much to her surprise, the dragon does wake up and, with his last words, destroys her world. He’s the one that put her under the spell, and now he breaks it, telling her that she is, in fact, Turin’s sister.

By then, Brandir has caught up, and he’s heard everything. He wants to help Niniel, but she can’t be consoled. Instead, she flings herself over the nearby cliff and into the whitewater below.

S.B. Roberts 2015

S.B. Roberts 2015

Since there’s nothing more he can do, Brandir returns to his people. There, he finds Dorlas. The one who abandoned Turin when he needed help. So, in retribution, Brandir kills Dorlas. Then he shares the bad news. But just as he tells everyone that Turin is dead, Turin himself shows back up. He thinks that everything Brandir says — that Niniel is really his sister Nienor, that he was dead — are all lies that Brandir made up because he was jealous or under the dragon’s spell. Then Turin kills Brandir before fleeing himself.

Soon, Turin finds himself on Haud-en-Elleth himself, pondering everything that’s happened and what he should do next. This is where Mablung — who knew Turin so long ago and who helped escort Morwen and Nienor — finds him. Turin asks Mablung how his mom and sister are doing in Doriath, and that’s when Mablung reveals news that shatters Turin’s world. Morwen and Nienor were lost. Brandir was right. Nienor was Niniel.

In a fit, he curses everyone and flees right back to where Glaurung lays dead and where Nienor flung herself over the cliff. There, he kills himself on the sword that killed Beleg. That malice-filled sword takes a life one last time before it breaks.

It’s too late by the time Mablung catches up. All he can do is mourn.

Thus Turin and Nienor/Niniel are given a funeral, and Turin is buried with the shards of the accursed sword. And while it’s the end of their story, it’s not the end of grief for their family. After all, Morgoth has forced their captured father, Hurin, to watch the entire thing unfold, and things are about to get worse for Hurin.

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4 responses to “The Silmarillion Recap: Turin’s Doom (or That Awkward Moment When You Marry Your Sister)

  • Eric

    “In a fit, he curses everyone….” I have a feeling that that could have been said a LOT about Turin – I’m sorry, Neithan the Wronged. Ugh.

    One of the most tragic things about all of this is right before Nienor kills herself, she bid farewell to Turin, “twice beloved.” That’s just laying all your cards on the table. “He was my brother, I didn’t know it, and loved him anyway. Deal with it while I go die.”

    Also, you can’t go wrong with a talking sword.

    • S.B. Roberts

      Yeah, poor Hurin and his family have the most difficult and tragic stories in The Silmarillion. Luthien and Beren endured quite a bit, too, but at least they ended up back together in the end. No one flinging themselves off of waterfalls.

      I completely forgot to mention Nienor’s last words. Talk about heartbreaking. I can’t even imagine what must have been going through her head as everything came back to her.

  • Anthony Lee Collins

    Sibling incest often ends badly in fiction. Another example is ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, where they know they’re brother and sister and they get together anyway (by the way, notice how the title blames her for this).

    Hotel New Hampshire ends up well (for those two characters, at least), but they’re not a couple at the end.

    There is a movie (I hesitate to name it, since this is a spoiler) where a boy and girl fall in love in high school, but their parents keep them apart and they end up married to other people. Years later, those marriages are over and they get back together, then they discover they the reason their parents were so opposed was that there was an affair and they have the same father. They decide to stay together anyway. That’s probably pretty unusual.

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