Why You Probably Shouldn’t Read The Silmarillion (Part IV)

Oi, really?  Part four?  And we’re still on Quenta Silmarillion.  Jeeeeeez.  I’ve been forced to the conclusion that I’m incredibly bad at simply summing up.  Sorry!

Quenta Silmarillion

(the Tale of the Silmarils)

(continued)

(again)

We take a bit of a break from all the battles and whatnot for a bit of a romance.  Lúthien was a half-elvish princess.  Her father was Thingol, King of Doriath and her mother was Melian, one of the Maiar.  She was out dancing and singing one day, when she met a Man (capitalized because he was of the race of Men, not just a regular old male elf) named Beren.  Beren fell in love with her immediately, but she was a bit coy at first.  Eventually, she grew to love him too.  Her father, however, was kind of a haughty jerk (well, he was a king, you know) who thought Ilúvatar’s second children were only worthy of scorn, and told them he would only allow them to wed if Beren brought him one of the Silmarils from Morgoth’s crown.

Eep.  Kind of a tall order, yeah?

Beren and Lúthien use magic to disguise themselves and travel to Angband.  They make it all the way to Morgoth’s throne.  Lúthien sings a pretty song that puts Morgoth and his minions to sleep.  Beren climbs the throne and uses his blade to pry loose one of the Silmarils.  BUT he decided to try for a second Silmaril and his knife snapped.  A chunk of the blade hit Morgoth in the face and he awoke.  OH NOES!

The lovers flee, but are stopped at the gates by Carcharoth (a giant werewolf).  Carcharoth bites off Beren’s hand that is holding the Silmaril.  Remember when we talked about how evil beings couldn’t touch them safely?  Imagine being bred to be evil and accidentally ingesting one of the things.  NOT PRETTY.  The werewolf went mad and went on a bit of a rampage through the land.  Eventually, he found his way to Doriath.

When Thingol heard the tale of their bravery (and Beren’s lost hand), he decides he’ll let them get married after all – even though Beren didn’t fulfill his quest by bringing back the jewel.  Beren and Huan (Hound of the Valinor – he really has his own awesome story, but it’s too long for here, sorry) hunt down Carcharoth.  Unfortunately, Carcharoth mortally wounds both Beren and Huan BUT NOT BEFORE Beren recovers the lost Silmaril from the werewolf’s belly and hands it over to Thingol.  Gross, I know.

So maybe this isn’t what it looked like, but I heart Gastón Viñas.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but Elves don’t die of old age.  They can die in battle, but sometimes they will die of grief.  This is what happened to Lúthien when her husband died.  Her spirit went to the Halls of Mandos, where she sang a sad song of her lost love, how he was mortal and therefore they’d never be together again, not even in the Halls.  Mandos  was so moved by her song, he brought both of them back to life, and granted mortality to Lúthien.  They left her parents and moved to Ossiriand (later called Lindon) and both died the mortal deaths of Men.  Their descendants are kind of important, though.  We’ll talk about them in a bit.

Next up is the sad tale of  Túrin Turambar.  There was a whole book published after Tolkien’s death which went more into this story, but I haven’t read it, so you get the Silmarillion version.  His father, Húrin, was one of the Men who joined the Elves at  Nírnaeth Arnoediad.  Húrin was captured, and Morgoth placed a curse on his family.  Because of the curse, everything Túrin touches turns to crap (no, not literally).  Both Túrin and his sister Nienor are enchanted by the mesmerizing gaze of Glaurung and manage to forget that they are related.  They fall in love, get married, and she gets knocked up.  During a fierce battle, Túrin manages to mortally wound Glaurung, but Glaurung’s final act is to remove the spell he’s cast on Nienor and Túrin.  Túrin passes out from some dragon venom before he’s hit in the face with the truth that he’s been doing his sister, but Nienor was not so lucky.  Completely horrified (and probably a bit disgusted) by the fact that she’s carrying her brother’s baby, she tosses herself into a ravine and drowns in the river Taeglin.  Or maybe she was just dashed apart on the rocks?  Not really sure.  Túrin comes to, realizes what/who he’s been doing AND finds out that Nienor killed herself, so he falls on his sword.

Does anyone else think of The Operative when they hear “Fall on your sword”?? No?

The hidden Elf-city of Gondolin was the last to fall.  A human messenger (Tuor) was sent by Ulmo (Valar of Water) to warn King Turgon that the city was about to be set upon.  Tuor and Idril (Turgon’s daughter) married and had a son, Eärendil.  When Gondolin was destroyed, Tuor, Idril and Eärendil escaped.

Eärendil grew up to marry Elwing, who was the granddaughter of Beren and Lúthien – she was the keeper of the Silmaril Beren had successfully stolen from Morgoth.  Eärendil and Elwing use the Silmaril to travel to Valinor to beg Mandos to remove the curse from the Noldor AND to ask them to kind of intercede in Morgoth’s total rule over Middle-Earth.

The Valar agree to help and set up a GREAT HOST TO MARCH ON ANGBAND.

Morgoth has no idea they’re on their way, and sits on his Iron Throne, laughing at all the little people under his feet.  I’m sure he looked something like this:   But, y’know, less yellow and more altogether evil.  “WHERE ARE YOUR PRECIOUS VALAR NOW, YOU STUPID ELVES?!  MUAHAHAHAHAHA!”  Or something like that.  That’s how I always imagine it in my head.

While Morgoth is sitting on his throne, laughing, the Valar are steadily making their way to Angband COMPLETELY DESTROYING all of the Orcs and Balrogs they meet along the way.  Melkor realizes that almost all of his Balrogs are gone, he’s got few Orcs left, and the Men he has fighting for him aren’t really good for much.  Oh, but he thinks he’s got an ace up his sleeve.

“RELEASE THE KRAKEN DRAGONS!” He shouts.  Now, Glaurung, and all of the other dragons known at this time have been of the flightless variety.  These dragons, though.  These dragons have wings.  Terrifying and UNHEARD OF.  This is almost successful, and the Valar are driven back.

BUT THEN!  Eärendil shows up with the GIANT EAGLES and most of the dragons are slain.

Morgoth is soundly defeated, his Iron Crown is beaten into a collar, his limbs are chopped off and he’s tossed into the Void.  Sauron is all “Dude, I swear I didn’t know what I was getting into, I PROMISE it won’t happen again!”  He agrees to submit to judgement, but then makes a break for it and heads east – along with some of the Balrogs, Dragons and Orcs.

Oh, and remember Fëanor?  Yeah, his two remaining sons decide to steal the two remaining Silmarils from the Valar, but since they are less than pure, they’re burned by them.  They both commit suicide, and the Silmarils are lost.

Eärendil and Elwing?  Well, Elwing, upon hearing about the treachery of Fëanor’s sons threw herself into the sea with the last remaining Silmaril – determined not to let them have it.  Ulmo raised her from the sea, though, with the Silmaril on her breast and she went to seek out her One True Love.  Eärendil and his Silmaril travel nightly across the sky as the Star of High Hope.

The Men who fought on the side of Good in the War of Wrath, were granted the island of Andor in the Sundering Seas, which eventually came to be known as Númenor.

We’ll talk about that (among other things) tomorrow when I wrap this whole thing up.

Related Reading

Why You Probably Shouldn’t Read the Silmarillion

30 thoughts on “Why You Probably Shouldn’t Read The Silmarillion (Part IV)

  1. The Fall of Gondolin is one of my favourite parts of The Silmarillion. And Children of Húrin is totally worth reading — as is the novella-length version of it in Unfinished Tales. I think it’s mentioned in the tale of Tuor that Ulmo, Lord of the Waters, keeps watch on Middle-earth through its rivers and streams? I like to think of that much later when the hobbits flee the black riders. Hope that’s not too much of a spoiler.

    • Heh, no I don’t think it is.

      I had A LOT MORE that I wanted to talk about, but this post alone ended up being over 1300 words and I don’t want to put people to sleep.

      • You just watch, when HBO makes a TV series of The Silmarillion, everyone will be pointing to these summaries. I can already see Jeremy Irons as Oromë, exclaiming “ZOMG…!”

  2. Great series, SJ. You’ve put to bed a dozen false starts I’ve made trying to read that book (okay, maybe not quite a dozen). So maybe it”s the cliffs notes version instead of the book sleeve version, I prefer that anyway. And as always, I love your smart, funny writing. Well done. I’m looking forward to the jaw-dropping conclusion!

    • Aw, Mr Jones. This comment made my day. I’ve been having a bit of a rough week (deadlines, group read preparedness and my birthday coming up all combine to make me a giant ball of stress and self-doubt) and this made me smile. Thank you.

  3. The little laughing emoticon totally made my day!! Bahahaha!
    And the Operative – I’m right there with you! And I hear it in his accent and everything. Can’t wait for the wrap up!

    • Yay! I think I was searching wrong because it took FOREVER to find a decent picture of him. I probably should have just screencapped the DVD, but was too lazy.

  4. You are bringing this thing to life for me. I forgot the sheer level of depth that J.R.R. went in to. This truly is the bible of Middle Earth. I hope some people end up reading the whole thing. It is worth it… once… (I like the part where you had to tell us that things really didn’t literally turn to crap… because people would have believed it if you had let them)… This is awesome.
    I have always been a bit confused by the size of the giant eagles. They can destroy dragons, but in the Hobbit, they do not come across as this bad ass… or am I just confused again… have they grown smaller over the eons?

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  6. You win! I will probably never read the Silmarillian. I’m that close to dementia as it is – the intricacies would throw me over the edge.

    Where were you when I was trying to buy Coles Notes in high school?

  7. That you are able to keep track of people with multiple names who are related to other people with name that *rhyme* with those of their relatives is impressive enough. That I am actually able to *understand* all this by the end of this series is a testament to the awesomeness of your summaries. Also, you keep finding just the perfect spot to end each summary. It kind of makes me hate you. In a good way.

  8. I appreciate your ability to condense. I’ll take this over the real thing, but I will feel guilty about it. Not as guilty as I would feel if I read it and and didn’t really get into it, though. That would feel like letting the Geek tribe down. I read LotR when I was far too young to appreciate it’s richness (my recall: litttle people, big spider, shiny thing. Orcs are bad, little guys win). I’ve been meaning to go back and re-read, but I know it will just cause my brain to replay the movies.

    • Trevor, you should totally read them with us this summer! Surely you’re [ahem] old enough to appreciate the richness now? ;)

      And, as David said – the movies are a poor substitute. Tons of stuff was added and even more was left out.

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