J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion sort of ended on a high note. Of course, it’s only high because the last several chapters have been so rough. A happy ending wouldn’t have suited the story anyway. Even when all seems lost between the fall of both Doriath and Gondolin, there is a shining spot of hope and justice. At least we got that. Let’s discuss all the things!
Chapter 22 – The Ruin of Doriath
Given all the foreshadowing and the fact that Thingol was in possession of a Silmaril, Doriath falling was inevitable. I’ve been waiting for the end but what happened was not what I expected. I thought Morgoth would send his forces against Thingol’s realm, and while he did start the ruin, he only pushed over the first domino by releasing Húrin. He’d already laid the necessary groundwork and distrust between Elves and Dwarves, and he only had to sit back and watch.
When Thingol had the Dwarves remake Nauglamír with the Silmaril, I never thought he would die at their hands. I yelled, “What?!” out loud at the page when the Dwarves ganged up on him and slayed him. Then they spread lies and told other Dwarves that Thingol commanded some of their kin to be killed, and that’s all it took. Well, that in combination with Melian leaving Doriath and the Girdle of Melian failing. The city was sacked by Dwarves, and they took Nauglamír and the Silmaril.
Enter Beren and Lúthien who were notified of events by Melian before she left. They got the Silmaril back while their son Dior Eluchíl took over the throne of Doriath and tried to resurrect the kingdom. The Silmaril would not have it though, and when it was sent to Dior after the death of his parents, it awoke the oath of Fëanor’s sons. They attacked Doriath and many died.
The Dwarves Steal the Silmaril by Sergio at DeviantArt
Just a few people who perished in this chapter: Thingol, Dior, Beren, Lúthien, Celegorm, and Caranthir. Some did escape from Doriath though, including Dior’s daughter Elwing. That’s important later.
Chapter 23 – Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin
Spoiler: things don’t look up. Tuor, son of Huor, sort of becomes Ulmo’s Chosen One. The Valar gives Tuor a cloak of invisibility and gets him to the secret city of Gondolin. It’s miraculously still hidden from Morgoth, but that doesn’t last. Before the story goes in the direction of tragic though, Tuor lives a time in Gondolin, marries Turgon’s daughter Idril (yeah, Maeglin is ticked about this), and they bear a son named Eärendil.
Ulmo warned Turgon that they should all leave the city, and he ignored him like a fool. He tried to protect his realm by blocking up the only entrance, but there were ways around that and eventually that led to Maeglin being captured by the Orcs. I was surprised his heart had turned so black that he was willing to betray what had essentially become his family so quickly. That was hard to read.
While some escaped with Eärendil and Idril through a secret path that Idril thankfully created, Gondolin was wrecked. Even their path out was fraught with trouble as Glorfindel had to battle a Balrog (both died). Those who did make it out came upon the survivors of Doriath, including Elwing. For those of you playing at home, she has the Silmaril.
One of the most touching scenes in this chapter was Ulmo’s trip to Valinor. He spoke for the people of Beleriand and asked the Valar to fight Morgoth. They didn’t jump at his pleas. Not yet.
Chapter 24 – Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath
Back to another bright spot, Eärendil and Elwing wed and bore two sons. Unfortunately, Maedhros learned that Elwing had the Silmaril and he and Maglor, the last of Fëanor’s sons, attacked the remaining survivors of Doriath and Gondolin. Elwing would have died except for the mercy of Ulmo who turned her into a bird so she could find her husband at sea.
Eärendil and Elwing then sailed into the West and made it through all the disguises and found land. Eärendil became the first man to walk into Valinor, and he begged for help from the Valar. And GUESS WHAT? They finally listened. The host of the Valar marched into Beleriand and trashed Angband. Morgoth asked for mercy, and they chopped off his feet and made his crown into a collar. Bam.
The tragedy isn’t quite over though as Maedhros and Maglor couldn’t resist the temptation of the two Silmarils removed from Morgoth’s crown. They stole the jewels and ended up killing themselves in the process. The Silmarils they took were lost in fire and water.
Some of the Noldor remained in Middle-earth, but many went to the Lonely Isle and all earned the pardon of Manwë and the other Valar.
Eärendil and Elwing by Lena-Hyena at DeviantArt
Relevance to The Hobbit and/or Lord of the Rings
Elrond was born. The half-elven was son of Eärendil and Elwing, though he was raised for a time by Maedhros and Maglor. He later becomes the Lord of Rivendell and Arwen’s father.
Though they’ve been mentioned in previous chapters, I haven’t discussed the Easterlings. They are Men who fight for Morgoth, but they’re different than the Easterlings we see in the Third Age during The Return of the King. In the First Age, during The Silmarillion, they were also called Swarthy Men. I’m not making that up.
“…suddenly her eyes looked into his, and he knew her; for though they were wild and full of fear, that light still gleamed in them that long ago had earned for her the name Eledhwen, proudest and most beautiful of mortal women in the days of old.”
“And he spoke no more of what was past, but stooping lifted up the Nauglamír from where it lay before Thingol’s chair, and he gave it to him, saying: ‘Receive now, lord, the Necklace of the Dwarves, as a gift from one who has nothing, and as a memorial of Húrin of Dor-lómin. For now my fate is fulfilled, and the purpose of Morgoth achieved; but I am his thrall no longer.'”
“He fled into the deepest of his minds, and sued for peace and pardon; but his feet were hewn from under him, and he was hurled upon his face.”
Why does Melian leave Doriath, and was it selfish of her to abandon her people?
Why did Ulmo choose Tuor as his representative?
Why did Glorfindel sacrifice himself?
Would you call the ending of The Silmarillion happy?
Did Maeglin give in too easily to Morgoth – was his betrayal believable?
That’s it for the primary part of the book. Guys, we did it! We only have two epilogue chapters left, and after getting through the rest, they’re going to be a piece of a cake, right? Right.
Head to the comments and tell me what you thought about the falls of Doriath and Gondolin. Answer the discussion questions, share your favorite quotes, you name it. If you post about this week’s chapter on social media, please use the #NerdistBookClub hashtag so everything’s easy to find.
Come back for Part 12 next Tuesday, September 23rd, at 10:30am PST. We’ll be going over Akallabêth.
Featured image powered by DeviantART // Artist: Simon Underwood