At last, in the year when Eärendil was seven years old, Morgoth was ready, and he loosed upon Gondolin his Balrogs, and his Orcs, and his wolves; and with them came dragons of the brood of Glaurung, and they were become now many and terrible.(The Silmarillion, 242)
This post continues my chapter-by-chapter walkthrough of The Silmarillion. This time, I will examine the 23rd chapter of The Silmarillion proper, “Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin.”
You’ll recall from Chapter 20, during the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, Huor (brother of Húrin) says to King Turgon of Gondolin that “from you and from me a new star shall arise.” With Chapter 23, we pick up that story.
Tuor: The son of Huor, he is raised by Grey-Elves, but enslaved by Easterlings. When he escapes, he is drawn to the shores of the Great Sea.
Idril: The daughter of Turgon, King of Gondolin, whom Tuor weds.
Maeglin: Turgon’s nephew, you’ll recall he is the son of Eöl the dark-elf and Turgon’s sister Aredhel. He harbors a strong desire for Idril that leads to a burning jealousy.
Under the Infuence of Ulmo: Tuor is drawn to the sea by Ulmo, and Ulmo tells him to go to Gondolin with a warning to abandon Gondolin and move to the Vale of Sirion (down by the sea).
The Fall of Gondolin: When Turgon ignores Ulmo’s warning, the Curse of Mandos comes full circle, and Morgoth learns the whereabouts of Gondolin. An army of Balrogs, Dragons, and orcs assaults the city, and it falls, along with Turgon and many of its inhabitants.
The Birth of Eärendil: Through the marriage of Tuor and Idril, Eärenil Halfelven is born. He is the “new star” of whom Huor prophesied in the Battle of Unnumbered Tears.
Maeglin’s Treachery: Though Maeglin is treated as Turgon’s “right-hand man,” his lust for Idril gets the best of him, and when he is captured by Morgoth, he all too easily betrays the location of Gondolin.
Turgon’s Pride: Though he receives an oracle from Ulmo, Turgon believes Gondolin is unassailable, and he adopts an “isolationist” mentality. This leads to his death and the fall of Gondolin.
Ulmo the Advocate: With the fall of the 3 great Elven realms of Beleriand (Nargothrond, Doriath, and Gondolin), it appears that Middle-earth will fall into an impenetrable darkness. Yet Ulmo seeks to stir the sympathies of his fellow Vala to come to the aid of Beleriand.
Ulmo & Turgon: But there came a great storm out of the west, and out of that storm Ulmo the Lord of Waters arose in majesty and spoke to Tuor as he stood beside the sea. And Ulmo bade him depart from that place and seek out the hidden kingdom of Gondolin; and he gave Tuor a great cloak, to mantle him in shadow from the eyes of his enemies.239
The Last Days of Bliss in Gondolin: And Tuor remained in Gondolin, for its bliss and its beauty and the wisdom of its people held him enthralled; and he became mighty in stature and in mind, and learned deeply of the lore of the exiled Elves. Then the heart of Idril was turned to him, and his to her; and Maeglin’s secret hatred grew ever greater, for he desired above all things to possess her, the only heir of the King of Gondolin.241
Ulmo & the Vala: And it is said that in that time Ulmo came to Valinor out of the deep waters, and spoke there to the Valar of the need of the Elves; and he called on them to forgive them, and rescue them from the overmastering might of Morgoth, and win back the Silmarils, wherein alone now bloomed the light of the Days of Bliss when the Two Trees still shone in Valinor. But Manwë moved not; and of the counsels of his heart what tale shall tell? The wise have said that the hour was not yet come, and that only one speaking in person for the cause of both Elves and Men, pleading for pardon on their mis-deeds and pity on their woes, might move the counsels of the Powers; and the oath of Fëanor perhaps even Manwë could not loose, until it found its end, and the sons of Fëanor relinquished the Silmarils, upon which they had laid their ruthless claim. For the light which lit the Silmarils the Valar themselves had made.244