Morgoth had long prepared his force in secret, while ever the malice of his heart grew greater, and his hatred of the Noldor more bitter; and he desired not only to end his foes but to destroy also and defile the lands that they had taken and made fair.(The Silmarillion, 150)
This post continues my chapter-by-chapter walk through of The Silmarillion. This time, I examine the first part of the 18th chapter of The Silmarillion, “Of the Ruin of Beleriand”.
In Chapter 18, Angband breaks loose upon Beleriand. A lot happens in this chapter, so I am going to be reviewing it in 2 parts. This first part will cover The Battle of Sudden Flame. The second part will cover its aftermath.
Fingolfin: The High King of the Noldor since the death of Fëanor back in Chapter 13.
Morgoth: He has been biding his time within his dungeon fortress, devising an enormous war machine.
Glaurung the Golden: Originally unleashed in Chapter 13, he has been gaining strength and size and is ready to do some serious damage.
The Battle of Sudden Flame: Things have been relatively quiet in Beleriand for many years now, but all the time Morgoth has been devising a destructive capability beyond any previously known to the Elves. He unleashes rivers of flame along with hordes of Balrogs and Orcs (and other foul creatures) upon the siege forces and quickly overwhelms them.
Barahir Saves Felagund: Barahir, a descendant of Bëor, rescues Finrod Felagund from certain doom. For this, Finrod swears to him an oath of eternal friendship which will prove important later.
Fingolfin vs. Morgoth: Fingolfin has had enough. He rides up to the gates of Angband and challenges Morgoth to single combat. Though Fingolfin fights bravely against his literally towering foe, he ultimately dies at Morgoth’s hands.
A New High King: With the death of Fingolfin, his son Fingon assumes the Noldor crown.
War Evermore: Though things have been peaceful in Beleriand for some time, matters are rushing to a head now, and the next several chapters will see much battle and destruction.
Morgoth Wounded: Though Morgoth wins his duel with Fingolfin, he is injured by Thorondor the Eagle, and his power continues to wane.
The Hordes of Angband: Thus began the fourth of the great battles, Dagor Bragollach, the Battle of Sudden Flame. In the front of that fire came Glaurung the golden, father of dragons, in his full might; and in his train were Balrogs, and behind them came the black armies of the Orcs in multitudes such as the Noldor had never before seen or imagined. And they assaulted the fortresses of the Noldor, and broke the leaguer about Angband, and slew wherever they found them the Noldor and their allies, Grey-elves and Men. Many of the stoutest of the foes of Morgoth were destroyed in the first days of that war, bewildered and dispersed and unable to muster their strength . War ceased not wholly ever again in Beleriand; but the Battle of Sudden Flame is held to have ended with the coming of spring, when the onslaught of Morgoth grew less.151
Fingolfin’s Challenge: Fingolfin named Morgoth craven, and lord of slaves. Therefore Morgoth came, climbing slowly from his subterranean throne, and the rumour of his feet was like thunder underground. And he issued forth clad in black armour; and he stood before the King like a tower, iron-crowned, and his vast shield, sable unblazoned, cast a shadow over him like a stormcloud. But Fingolfin gleamed beneath it as a star; for his mail was overlaid with silver, and his blue shield was set with crystals; and he drew his sword Ringil, that glittered like ice.153
Maedhros’ Valour: Maedhros did deeds of surpassing valour , and the Orcs fled before his face; for since his torment upon Thangorodrim his spirit burned like a white fire within , and he was as one that returns from the dead. Thus the great fortress upon the Hill of Himring could not be taken, and many of the most valiant that remained, both of the people of Dorthonion and of the east marches, rallied there to Maedhros; and for a while he closed once more the Pass of Aglon, so that the Orcs could not enter Beleriand by that road. But they overwhelmed the riders of the people of Fëanor upon Lothlann, for Glaurung came thither, and passed through Maglor’s Gap, and destroyed all the land between the arms of Gelion.152-153