Who’s ready for a tour of Beleriand? If you got past that uh, interesting chapter, you got to experience some high stakes drama in chapters about the Noldor vs. Thingol and Maeglin. While there are certainly some dry paragraphs and pages, I’m surprised by how much of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion reads like a soap opera. Betrayals, forbidden love, rash behavior – it’s like an episode of Days of Our Lives but with Elves!
Chapter 14 – Of Beleriand and Its Realms
I was warned about this chapter and now I understand why. This grand journey all around Beleriand had some helpful notes about who lived where and was more engaging if you accessed an interactive map and followed along, but mostly? I was bored. This entire chapter could be summed up in an infographic. It was difficult to digest since it was name after name, and it made my eyes blurry.
On the upside, when I began The Silmarillion with all of you, I thought the whole book would be like this chapter. It thankfully has not.
Gondolin by breathing2004
Chapter 15 – Of the Noldor in Beleriand
Remember the city of Tirion upon Túna? So do the Noldor! Turgon found the perfect real estate to make a city like their old home and named it Gondolin. He kept the city a secret from most of Beleriand’s citizens and only his people went to the secret city. And finally, we see one of the Valar interacting with the Elves again. Ulmo still seems the most kind of them all. He offers counsel to Turgon and drops a callback to the Doom of Mandos.
Elsewhere in Beleriand, Galadriel gives up some information to Melian about Fëanor and what happened when they left Valinor. She’s reluctant, and I feel like Melian was being a little nosy and pushy here. That said, she was probably acting in the way that she thought was best in order to protect Doriath. The more they know, the better they can stand against any threats (real or only perceived). I’m relieved that they noticed how weird Fëanor’s sons were acting.
When Thingol learned the whole truth about the Kinslaying, he banned his people from speaking the language of the Noldor. Shunning Quenya was an effective and somewhat cruel way to isolate the Noldor who had come to Beleriand. Not all of them had a hand in the tragic events, and I feel like it’s overkill for Thingol to take such action. Then again, he’s never struck me as the most rational of Elves.
Aredhel in Nan Elmoth by Sieskja
Chapter 16 – Of Maeglin
Caged birds aren’t always happy birds (is that a saying? Let’s go with it.) and Turgon’s sister Aredhel grew weary of Gondolin. She left to explore Beleriand but instead got waylaid by a Dark Elf. Eöl saw her on the borders of the forest where he lived. Nan Elmoth was enchanted and dark, and Eöl didn’t care for daylight. I can understand why he moved in but not the rest of his actions. He essentially trapped Aredhel in the forest and then wedded her and had a kid with her.
This portion has the ring of a familiar fairy tale. Eventually the captive bride and son, named Maeglin, grew weary of their cage and escaped Eöl. In typical stalker-emotionally abusive husband form, he followed them and ended up finding the hidden city of Gondolin (PS: do Elves get sunburnt?). His actions led to him murdering Aredhel and receiving the punishment of getting tossed over a cliff. I don’t blame Turgon for the extreme reaction, and I’m curious as to whether any part of it was caused by him feeling guilty about allowing Aredhel to leave Gondolin. He shouldn’t, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that weighed on his mind.
Maeglin remained in Gondolin but not all was well. He fell for Turgon’s daughter Idril. She was his cousin, but that didn’t stop his feelings and they grew into ugliness because he could not have her. “Thus it was in Gondolin; and amid all the bliss of that realm, while its glory lasted, a dark seed of evil was sown.” Evil, man, it’s everywhere.
Relevance to The Hobbit and/or Lord of the Rings
Though as far as I can tell the Minas Tirith mentioned here isn’t the same place we see in Lord of the Rings, but it is mentioned. Finrod, son of Finarfin, build the tower on the isle of Tol Sirion. He did so to keep an eye on Morgoth.
We also traveled to Nan Elmoth. While the enchanted and creepy sounding forest isn’t a place tied to later tomes, it does have similarities with other forests in Middle-earth. Reading about its tangled pathways reminded me of Fangorn and Mirkwood.
“…I would take what joy is here left, untroubled by memory. And maybe there is woe yet to come, though still hope may seem bright.”
“Beware of the sons of Fëanor! The shadow of the wrath of the Valar lies upon them; and they have done evil, I perceive, both in Aman and to their own kin. A grief but lulled to sleep lies between the princes of the Noldor.”
“I am your sister and not your servant, and beyond yours bounds I will go as seems good to me.” (You tell him, sister!)
“…she marveled she that she had grown weary of the light of Gondolin, and the fountains in the sun, and the green sward of Tumladen under the windy skies of spring; moreover she was often alone in the shadows when both her son and her husband were away.”
Eöl by kimberly80
– Why does Galadriel tell Melian about the Silmarils but not the rest of Fëanor’s actions? Is she afraid of Thingol’s reaction?
– Do you see any similarities between Eöl and Melkor?
– Do you think Aredhel ever loved Eöl or was their relationship based on abuse?
– How do you interpret Thingol’s ban on using Quenya? Why do you think he chose that punishment for the Noldor?
– Do you think any Elves in Gondolin came to resent going there since they could not leave?
– Share a discussion question of your own in the comments!
Head to the comments to reply to the discussion questions, post your questions, tell us your favorite quotes, and share your thoughts about Chapters 14-16 of The Silmarillion. Feel free to send me your thoughts on Twitter as well. If you tweet or Instagram about the book, be sure to add the #NerdistBookClub hashtag so everyone can find your thoughts.
Come back for Part 7 next Tuesday, August 19, at 10:30am PST. We’ll be going over Chapters 17-18. Yes, we’re nearly halfway through!
Top image of Aredhel in Nan Elmoth by Leevah