First off, today is Tolkien Reading Day! How appropriate to have a Silmarillion Recap fall on this momentous occasion, a celebration Tolkien’s works and the anniversary of the Fall of Sauron. Here’s more about it from my Tolkien Reading Day post last year.
Want to catch up on The Silmarillion so far? Check out the Silmarillion Recaps page here.
Last time, Morgoth finally destroyed Gondolin and sent a small remnant of survivors (led by Tuor and Idril) scrambling. Now, the aftermath… and it’s not what Morgoth was expecting.
Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 23 part 6
After being rescued by the Eagles, Gondolin’s survivors don’t have much left. The secret kingdom, which has been their home for so long, has been completely destroyed, and their king is gone. And while they do rest along rivers that are filled with Ulmo’s power, it’s not enough power to heal their wounds. They’ve lost too much.
As a memorial to Gondolin, they have a special feast and compose songs about their home and those that they lost, including Glorfindel, who tried to save them in the mountains.
Among these songs, Tuor creates one for his son, Earendil. It’s all about how Ulmo spoke to Tuor in the first place and told him to warn the people of Gondolin. Even though Eärendil is still (seemingly) young at the time, it awakes the “sealonging” (292) in him. It’s not uncommon for Elves and Men to occasionally have this sealonging, but in this case, it’s a set up for what’s to come.
Because of Eärendil’s interest in the Sea, his parents Tuor and Idril decide to move down that way. Other Elves happen to be there, too. Remember Doriath? (See the set-up of the story here and the rest of the story here.) Well, those survivors happened to come to this part of Middle-earth as well. Among them is Elwing, Dior’s daughter (which means she’s Beren and Luthien’s granddaughter, and King Thingol’s great-granddaughter). Together, these survivors of two great downfalls decide to band together and create a new society. One that involves ships, the Sea, and (perhaps unbeknownst to them) Ulmo’s protection.
But we’ll come back to Ulmo in a moment.
At this point, Morgoth is quite pleased with himself because of everything that’s happened. Doriath is destroyed and so is Gondolin. Yes, he lost one of his precious Silmarils, but that price is well worth watching the Elves crumble, seemingly never to rise again. Seemingly.
Now, regarding Ulmo, he’s the only member of the Valar who’s constantly been alert to the happenings in Middle-earth. While he’s not mentioned constantly throughout the chapters, he does do things directly on occasion (like speaking to Tuor) and more subtly, like adding that refreshing nature to rivers, lakes, and the sea.
After seeing everything that’s happened, he decides that he needs to intervene. So he returns to Valinor to ask the Valar to help the Elves. Yes, the Noldor were kicked out and had a doom pronounced on them, but haven’t they endured enough under Morgoth? Isn’t it time to do something?
Manwë (the head of the Valar) listens to Ulmo’s argument but decides not to act. No exact reason is given. Maybe it’s because it’s not the right time. Maybe Fëanor’s sons need to give up the lust for the Silmarils that caused them to be doomed in the first place. Maybe the plea needs to be on behalf of Elves and Men. No one knows. All that is for sure is that the Elves won’t receive any intervention now.
But that doesn’t stop some of them from finding happiness. When Tuor becomes an older man, he builds a great ship called the Eärrámë (which means Sea-Wing). Then he and Idril literally sail off into the sunset, never to be seen again. It’s said that Tuor becomes part of the “elder race” (294), which seems to mean that he makes the reverse choice of Luthien (or, perhaps more well-known, Arwen). Instead of an immortal choosing mortality, a mortal is given immortality, allowing him to become like his wife and the Noldor of Gondolin whom he has always loved.
Next week, Eärendil takes his sealonging on the road, and the sons of Fëanor prove that they’re still trouble yet.