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Nerdist Book Club: THE SILMARILLION, Part 11

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!

What happened
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.

Favorite quotes
“…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.”

Discussion questions
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?

Bonus material
Interactive analysis of Tolkien’s works by Emil Johansson
Silmaril inspired necklace by Herisson Rose

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

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  1. Trav says:

    Why no mention of Ecthelion of the Fountain slaying Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs? Perhaps one of the most epic moments in the book. 

  2. Mitulinski says:

    I was simply overcome at the amount of tragic fatality in these chapters! The actions of the Dwarves were particularly shocking! Sometimes I was even thinking ‘aw, that didn’t need to happen…!’

    However, I did find Chapter 24 was a lot more hopeful…Especially the effort made so that Earendil and Elwing could be together. ^^ Kudos to Ulmo, who rarely makes an appearence!

    The casting of the Silmaril into the sea was the most saddening, but you could sort of see the bigger picture that Tolkein was getting at with air, land and sea…:/

    Morgoth getting his comeuppance was oh-so satisfying…!

    – AM

  3. jamal says:

    I’d first like to refer back to a previous comment I made for chapter 5 I beleive when the noldor originally left aman, that feanor says the valar would follow him. The war of wrath is where he was actually right.

    Tour is a parallel of turin, especially since theyre cousins. I was actually sad that they almost met once only and just passed each other by, not knowing their fathers were related.

    Its also worth mentioning that the fall of gondolin is where the swords orchist, glamdring, and sting start their long journeys to the troll horde cave on middle earth thousands of years later.

    I honestly dont regard this chapter as the end of the book, but if I were its a mixed bag. That morgoth finally got what was coming to him is satisfactory, but that so many people died because fate had to play out, or that elvs, vala, or men were just too stubborn is sad.

    I never understood the war of wrath and how that can sink half a continent though.

  4. XagzanOTM says:

    One fact I want to point out, and a pretty sobering one when you think about it. Of all the leaders of the Noldor who took their people from Valinor into exile in Middle-earth–that is, Feanor and his sons, Maedhros, Maglor, Celegorm, Curufin, etc, Fingolfin and his children, including Fingon, Turgon, and Aredhel; Finarfin’s four children, Finrod Felagund and Galadriel and their two brothers–of all these people who we’ve followed from the nascent days of the 1st Age earlier on in the book, I think that’s 17 in total, around whom all the stories revolved…Galadriel is now the only one left alive.And let’s not forget Finwe before all, was slain, and including him we went through how many high kings of the Noldor? 5? One after the other, they all fell to Morgoth. Plus, now Thingol and Melian are also gone.

    In essence, this means Galadriel, in the 2nd and 3rd Ages, is possibly the oldest living elf remaining in the world, as well as the last of the Noldor, unless someone else is slipping my mind. And come the Akallabeth, outside of Sauron, the only remaining major(ish) figure from the Silmarillion.

    Definitely puts perspective on that whole, “the immortality of the Elves being a burden” theme.

    • jamal says:

      cirdan may actually be about the same age

      • Darren says:

        I think Cirdan is actually older. I believe Galadriel was born in Valinor while Cirdan was alive during the elves trek towards the far West.

        • You are correct about Cirdan being older. Cirdan also waits in Middle-earth the longest as he mans the last ship to sail west in the Fourth Age whereas Galadriel sails west with the ring-bearers at the close of the Third Age. 

        • XagzanOTM says:

          Yes Cirdan was the one I was forgetting. However, he is a Teleri who never went to Aman (until the 4th Age), and is less prominent in the tales than Galadriel. She’s still the last of the Noldor leaders who went into exile left in Middle earth.

  5. I do not think that Melian thought she had a choice since, as a Maia, only through her union to Thingol was she “bound by the chain and trammels of the flesh of Arda” through which she “gained a power over the substance of Arda” and only through that power was she able to create the Girdle of Melian to protect Doriath. True, she could have stayed in Doriath, but it seems probably that she knew the fate of Doriath and in keeping with her character accepts this doom rather than attempt to fight it. What is surprising is how unstructured the chain of command was under Thingol. The wholesale confusion and lack of coordination once the Girdle is removed shows that living so long under magical protection left the Grey-elves of Doriath vulnerable and without leadership to guide a “Plan B” if the protection of the Girdle was removed. Thingol’s pride, arrogance, and in no small part due to his obsession with the Silmaril set the stage for the woe to follow. I don’t think Thingol could conceive that he should be slain while the Girdle’s power held, as we learn “in his wrath and pride he gave no heed to his peril” and further added fuel to the lust of the Dwarves by insulting them as an inferior race and threatening to withhold all payment for their work. While a Lannister may always repay his debts, we might say it is not wise to stand between a Dwarf and his payment. It is ironic that the greatest work of Elves and Dwarves were combined into the single object that in its beauty would divide them. Such fruits come from the well sown seeds of Morgoth.


    Tuor is a good choice if Ulmo was guided by partial knowledge of his fate since he, through his union with Idril, can again unite the First and Second Children of Ilúvatar to plea for mercy from the Valar through his son Eärendil and his wife Elwing. It is important also that Tuor was of the House of Hador of which Ulmo told Turgon, as we learned in chapter 18, that their house would aid them in times of greatest need. Further, Tuor’s father, Huor, gave his life so Turgon and company could escape back to Gondolin after the disaster of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. I also get the impressing that certain people harken to Ulmo’s calls more than others, and Tuor is one who understands the Ainur’s call. It is a shame Turgon allows pride (again with pride) to prevent him from following Ulmo’s message, but then the story would have a different outcome, or would it?

     I don’t know that I would say that Glorfindel sacrificed himself, but rather he acted as any of the valiant warrior Noldor would have trying to protect their women, children, and wounded. The Book of Lost Tales II has the full narrative of the battle and while the Eagles took care of the Orcs, Glorfindel brought up the rear guard and was surprised by the Balrog. Glorfindel and his men fought with the creature but when the Balrog leapt at Glorfindel and the two were locked in combat, he had the opportunity to use his left hand to plunge his dirk into the Balrog’s belly and slice him upwards. When the creature fell backward he grabbed Glorfindel’s yellow hair and the two fell into the abyss. Unfortunately, Tolkien died before he could decide whether or not Glorfindel of Gondolin was indeed resurrected as Glorfindel of Rivendell which exists only in notes after he noticed the duplication. We do know that they were not originally conceived as the same character.

    A happy ending? If you’re looking for a happy ending, you’re reading the wrong author. 😉 Fate, hope and joy mixed with sorrow and despair, these are what Tolkien provides. However, you always with the knowledge that “roads go ever on.” To quote the Bard: “All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players. / They have their exits and their entrances, / And one man in his time plays many parts”.


    Maeglin’s betrayal is so heavily foreshadowed that it is almost unremarkable when it happens. We know that Maeglin would do anything to possess Idril Celebrindal, so once Morgoth promises her to him we know what choice he will make. His death is fitting, as it mirrors his father, Eöl’s death so long ago.

    • XagzanOTM says:

      I always figured it as something like Melian knowing her power would now diminish with Thingol’s death, so that even if she stayed, her power wouldn’t have remained as it was. Kind of like the Elves in the 3rd Age, particularly how they depicted Arwen in the movies as “fading.” Her time was simply up, and she recognized it.

      • Yes, also with Galadriel saying she will diminish and go west. Knowing that Elrond chose the Eldar and watched his brother die as a man as well as watched the “strength of Men” fail with Isildur, it is not surprising that Elrond would try to dissuade his daughter Arwen to choosing the mortal path. 

  6. Susan says:

    A few important things haven’t been covered yet concerning a few characters that are in the Hobbit and LOTR.  There were a couple of revelations that blew my mind.  

  7. Robert says:

    Why does Melian leave Doriath, and was it selfish of her to abandon her people?

       Who are Melian’s people? She left her people to go to Doriath with Elwe. After he and Luthien were gone she had no reason to stay and every reason to leave. Her  daughter is lost to her but Elwe is in Aman. She can be reunited with him there forever. Also, I would guess that a mortal form feel like clothes that do fit just right. I think she left because she no longer belonged there.

    Why did Ulmo choose Tuor as his representative?

       Top 5 Reasons:
        1. Obviously, he’s the best around and no one’s ever gonna keep him down (insert Annael’s elven training montage here)
        2. His Conan like enslavement and revenge on his captors.
       3. Good genes. (His dad, uncle, and cousin are perhaps the three best warriors among men and elves) Unless you are Morgoth or a dragon it’s not a good idea to mess with the children of Galdor.
       4. He was available (There are not not many heroes left. They don’t call it the Battle of Unnumbered Tears for nothing.)
       5. Ulmo is a fan of Arthurian overtones.

    Why did Glorfindel sacrifice himself?
      Who else can fight a Balrog one on one in that company of refugees? Glorfindel is noble and loyal to his people as well as unflinchingly brave. Also maybe he was ready for an Aman vacation. Turgon kept everybody all tucked in in Gondolin. Perhaps he needed to run free in Valinor. Finally, he is a masochist (see below).

    Would you call the ending of The Silmarillion happy?

       No. It’s more bittersweet. Bittersweet is what Tolkien always tastes like to me. Do the Vala finally get off their asses and put Morgoth on a leash? Yes. Did they wait until all that the Elves had wrought in Beleriand was laid waste? Yes to that too. Did the Valar pass the Hill of Tears? Did it give them pause? There is satisfaction that Morgoth finally got what was coming to him but also sadness at the futility of the heroics of elves and men and cumulative tragedy resulting from their pride. After this time through I am more convinced than ever that Manwe foresaw all of this play out from the time Feanor swore his oath to the voyage of Earendil and the War of Wrath. Manwe’s last words to Feanor bear this out. It is always difficult to know what to do when love for another clashes with your respect for their free will. In many cases all choices lead to one heartbreak or another.
    Did Maeglin give in too easily to Morgoth – was his betrayal believable?
       It was foreshadowed at the end of the chapter that bears his name that Maeglin was headed for the dark side. His infatuation for Idril turned to obsession and she did not return his affection. Instead it repulsed her that her cousin would want her at all. His obsession thwarted but unfulfilled turned everything he loved about Gondolin to bitterness. Then She gives herself to a human? Never underestimate the dark power of unrequited love.

    Relevance to LotR:
     – Now you get what Aragorn was saying about Bilbo, “having the cheek to make verses about Earendil in the house of Elrond.”

    – Glorfindel is the only recorded elf who reincarnated and came back to Middle Earth. I’m not sure why he’d want to do that unless he’s a masochist (see above). Did someone talk him in to it? Was he double dog dared? Either way compared to a Balrog the Nazgul look like tattered bits of laundry on horses. Had he known that he would be replaced by Legolas in the cartoon and Arwen in the movie he might have said screw you Middle Earth I’m staying home in Aman. BTW, Tolkien is not explicit about this in his books. He only reveals this in his letters.

    – I’m pretty sure that the sword of Tuor is Glamdring, the Foehammer. It some how finds its way into a troll horde to be found by Gandalf in the Third Age. It is fitting that the swords of Turgon and Tuor should be found together and put to use against the spawn of Morgoth in later years.

    – We find out what happened between the Elves and Dwarves. The destruction of Menegroth by the dwarves of Nogrod to steal the Simiril infused Nauglamir begins a chain of betrayals that will forever separate two kindreds of Free People from one another. Sauron will use this enmity to his advantage as his master before him. This highlights the character of Legolas and Gimli to look into the eyes of the enemy and find a friend. No matter how many orcs are chopped up or used for pin cushions it is the ability of these two friends to overcome their mistrust and to explore Middle Earth through the eyes of the other.    

    • XagzanOTM says:

      I don’t think the Glorfindel thing is definite though. The story goes, originally they were conceived as two separate characters. Some time later, Tolkien wrote in his letters how he was contemplating merging them into one, with the explanation of resurrection. But he died before he made any changes with that, or seemingly arrived at any final decision.

      So ultimately, I think you can interpret it either way.

      • Robert says:

        It’s not definite but I like to think that one of the five Istari talked Glorfindel into hopping on the boat to Middle Earth. Although I’d like to think that Finrod would want another shot at Sauron, and he has a soft spot for the secondborn so you would have thought he’d catch a ride to the other side as well. What actually happens to elves (and returning Maia) after living/dying in Middle Earth is a bit murky. How long do you have to stay in the Halls of Mandos? I get the impression that Feanor is still there. I don’t imagine he’s running loose in Valimar but who knows?

  8. elnofey says:

    I honestly did not think that Thingol was going to be killed off after all of this time. It actually shocked me, I suppose we see the similarities in Thorin and the Other Dwarves. They all seem to like shiny things and commit murder and get killed over them. As for the ending, I suppose it couldn’t be too happy of an ending, or too sad of an ending. It brings a bit of closure, but sill you feel that the worst is yet to come.

  9. Aleketh says:

    -Why does Melian leave Doriath, and was it selfish of her to abandon her people

    She was so heartbroken about Thingol, that I don’t feel that she would of been able to run the kingdom. She had been through too much grief. I however don’t think it was right to just leave, she indeed should of at least put SOMEONE, in charge.

    -Why did Ulmo choose Tuor as his representative?

    I suppose he fit his criteria? If I was more familiar with the lore I might of explained this better. I’m still learning.

    -Why did Glorfindel sacrifice himself?

    To protects those he cares about? perhaps he tohught he’d stand a chance? to let the others escape? there can be many reasons.

    -Would you call the ending of The Silmarillion happy?

    I can’t say it’s happy or sad, it’s just like a “damn…this is why everyone sort of feuds with everyone” and you get a sinking feeling in your chest kind of ending. A very foreboding feeling, but somewhat it puts you at ease. It might be just me.

    -Did Maeglin give in too easily to Morgoth – was his betrayal believable?

    Well, I can’t say I blame him he’s very bitter. I don’t think it’s enierly his fault, since Morgoth knew about Gondolin’s location, but he still conspired with him.

  10. XagzanOTM says:

    Before anything else, I wanted to share this ridiculously epic fanart of Ancalagon the Black.
    Maybe it’s exaggerated, maybe it’s not. Most art of him tends to be the opposite anyway, and underwhelms. So this is my favorite.

    • I really like that one. He has to be huge since his fall destroys the towers of Thangorodrim which are described as three mountain peaks. 

      • XagzanOTM says:

        RIGHT? That’s what I always say!
        I mean, yes there would be some logistic complications to actually making him that size on screen. Like, how would Earendil kill him if he was 500x the size of the Vingilot? Or, shouldn’t the eagles be bigger as well. Or, how on earth did Ancalagon fit inside Angband when he’s bigger than 3 mountains.

        But purely in terms of imagining him, why not go huge?