And Maeglin stood by and said nothing; but at the last Eöl cried out: ‘So you forsake your father and his kin, ill-gotten son! Here shall you fail of all your hopes, and here may you yet die the same death as I.’(The Silmarillion, 138)
This post continues my chapter-by-chapter walk through of The Silmarillion. This time, I examine the sixteenth chapter of The Silmarillion, “Of Maeglin”.
“Of Maeglin” represents a shift in the style of The Silmarillion. While we had previously been dealing in something like a chronicle of the various Elves in Beleriand, with this chapter the scope becomes much narrower, and we focus in on the story of Aredhel, the sister of Turgon, and on the hidden city of Gondolin. “Of Maeglin” is one of the book’s first chapters that really works well as a tale unto itself, although it of course bears significant relation to the rest of The Silmarillion as well.
Aredhel: Sister of Turgon, King of Gondolin; “the White Lady of the Noldor.”
Eöl: “The Dark Elf” who had forsaken Doriath for the dark woods to the northwest.
Maeglin: The son of Eöl and Aredhel, his name means “Sharp Glance.”
Aredhel’s Odyssey: Aredhel covers a lot of ground in this chapter. She journeys away from Gondolin, gets lost, winds up in Eöl’s home, marries him, bears Maeglin, and then (many years later) returns to Gondolin.
Eöl’s Rage: Eöl, having tracked Aredhel and Maeglin back to Gondolin, flies into a rage and mortally wounds Aredhel while attempting to slay Maeglin.
The Execution of Eöl: Aredhel dies, and Eöl is executed for her death by being cast down from a high place of Gondolin.
Aredhel’s Wanderlust: Aredhel once wandered freely in the Blessed Realm of Valinor, and the memory of this freedom makes Gondolin seem confining and mundane to her.
A Marriage of Contrasts: It is of course significant that Aredhel is called “the White Lady of the Noldor” and Eöl is called “the Dark Elf.” Their marriage produces one who is thus caught between the light and the dark, the “Child of the Twilight” as his mother secretly named him.
Maeglin’s Grief: Maeglin becomes infatuated with his cousin Idril (to be fair to Maeglin, he never saw her until he was full grown). Idril does not share his feelings, and furthermore such a union would not be deemed acceptable by the Elves. This leads Maeglin to harbor a secret grief, despite his growing stature in Gondolin. Couple this with the violent deaths of his mother and father and one can imagine that Maeglin is going to have issues.
Of Eöl: In that wood in ages past Melian walked in the twilight of Middle-earth when the trees were young, and enchantment lay upon it still. But now the trees of Nan Elmoth were the tallest and darkest in all Beleriand, and there the sun never came; and there Eöl dwelt, who was named the Dark Elf. Of old he was of the kin of Thingol, but he was restless and ill at ease in Doriath, and when the Girdle of Melian was set about the Forest of Region where he dwelt he fled thence to Nan Elmoth. There he lived in deep shadow, loving the night and the twilight under the stars. He shunned the Noldor, holding them to blame for the return of Morgoth, to trouble the quiet of Beleriand; but for the Dwarves he had more liking than any other of the Elvenfolk of old. From him the Dwarves learned much of what passed in the lands of the Eldar.132-33
Of Eöl and Maeglin’s Estrangement: ‘You are of the house of Eöl, Maeglin, my son,’ he said, ‘and not of the Golodhrim. All this land is the land of the Teleri, and I will not deal nor have my son deal with the slayers of our kin, the invaders and usurpers of our homes. In this you shall obey me, or I will set you in bonds.’ And Maeglin did not answer, but was cold and silent, and went abroad no more with Eöl; and Eöl mistrusted him.134
Of Aredhel’s Death: Then Eöl looked into the eyes of King Turgon , and he was not daunted, but stood long without word or movement while a still silence fell upon the hall; and Aredhel was afraid, knowing that he was perilous. Suddenly, swift as serpent, he seized a javelin that he held hid beneath his cloak and cast it at Maeglin, crying: ‘The second choice I take and for my son also! You shall not hold what is mine!’ But Aredhel sprang before the dart, and it smote her in the shoulder; and Eöl was overborne by many and set in bonds, and led away, while others tended Aredhel. But Maeglin looking upon his father was silent.138