Then in the plain of Anfauglith, on the fourth day of the war, there began Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Unnumbered Tears, for no song or tale can contain all its grief…(The Silmarillion, 192)
This post continues my chapter-by-chapter walk through of The Silmarillion. This time, I examine the first part of the 20th chapter of The Silmarillion, “Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad”.
After Beren and Lúthien’s excellent adventure, what could possibly come next? Only a great battle brimming with bloodshed and “Unnumbered Tears” of course! First though, Tolkien provides a brief epilogue for Beren and Lúthien, giving them a happy ending, though, in true Tolkienian fashion, leaving Melian with a “grief of loss” heavier than anyone has ever known.
With the exploits of Beren and Lúthien having demonstrated Morgoth’s vulnerabilities, the time seems ripe to press the attack, and that’s where the story of the Fifth Battle of Beleriand picks up.
The Union of Maedhros: Having learned of Morgoth’s vulnerabilities thanks to the exploits of Beren and Lúthien, Maedhros summons whatever free peoples he is able to to press the attack against Angband.
The Day Has Come: When Turgon and the forces of Gondolin arrive at the battle, Fingon’s heart grow strong and it looks for a brief moment like the Union of Maedhros might triumph over Angband.
Unnumbered Tears: On the 4th day of battle, Morgoth unleashes the greatest of his forces, the Balrogs and dragons, leading to the death of Fingon, High King of the Noldor, at the hands of the Balrog Gothmog.
Morgoth’s Spies: Morgoth is the king of treachery, and he has placed spies everywhere among the peoples of Beleriand. He is not caught unaware at the plotting of the Noldor.
The Treachery of Men: For all their losses, it looks like the Union of Maedhros might in fact triumph, but the betrayal of the Easterlings finally proves too much for them to handle, being assailed on 3 sides.
A New Star Shall Arise: With Turgon retreating, Huor prophecies that “from you and from me a new star shall arise.” Foreshadowing!
And They Lived Happily (Ever After?): Then Beren and Lúthien went forth alone, fearing neither thirst nor hunger; and they passed beyond the River Gelion into Ossiriand, and dwelt there in Tol Galen the green isle , in the midst of Adurant, until all tidings of them ceased . The Eldar afterwards called that country Dor Firn-i-Guinar, the Land of the Dead that Live; and there was born Dior Aranel the beautiful, who was after known as Dior Eluchíl, which is Thingol’s Heir. No mortal man spoke ever again with Beren son of Barahir; and none saw Beren or Lúthien leave the world, or marked where at last their bodies lay.188
The Day Has Come!: Then when Fingon heard afar the great trumpet of Turgon his brother, the shadow passed and his heart was uplifted, and he shouted aloud: ‘Utúlie’n aurë! Aiya Eldalië ar Atanatári, utúlie’n aurë! The day has come! Behold, people of the Eldar and Fathers of Men , the day has come!’ And all those who heard his great voice echo in the hills answered crying: ‘Auta i lómë! The night is passing!’190
Fingon vs. the Balrog: At last Fingon stood alone with his guard dead about him; and he fought with Gothmog, until another Balrog came behind and cast a thong of fire about him. Then Gothmog hewed him with his black axe, and a white flame sprang up from the helm of Fingon as it was cloven. Thus fell the High King of the Noldor; and they beat him into the dust with their maces, and his banner, blue and silver, they trod into the mire of his blood.193