Monday, August 19, 2019

J. R. R. Tolkien's "The Silmarillion": The Myth-History of Middle-earth



Introduction
Outline History of Middle-earth
The History of Middle-earth in Brief


Prelude: The Creation of Arda
Volume I. The Valar and the Shaping of Middle-earth
Volume II. The Rise of the Elves
Volume III. The Silmarillion (in Two Parts)
Volume IV. The Downfall of Númenor
Volume V. The Shadow Over Middle-earth
Volume VI. The War of the Ring
 
Notes on Tolkien's Letter to Milton Waldman (1951)
A Selected History of Tolkien's Work



Introduction


The exploits of Bilbo, Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn and their companions in the novels The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955, split up into The Fellowship of the Rings, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King) are rightfully enjoyed as the modern era's greatest works of fantasy literature (and were summarized in a separate section). However, less well-known is the massive history preceding these adventures, which is recounted in The Silmarillion and the Appendix to The Return of the King. This background history is incredibly complex and well thought-out, and is in many ways as impressive as the mythologies of many cultures (such as Greek, Hindu, Norse, etc...). Although quite well-known, the Silmarillion and the Appendix are also somewhat notoriously difficult to read, as they are presented not as a "modern" novel (modern to the peoples of Middle-earth's "Third Age", anyways), but more as a series of "recitations" delivered by various writers from Middle-earth's misty, historical past (and maybe closer in tone to famous Classical Greek texts such as Ovid's Metamorphosis or Homer's famous epics - or even the Bible).

The version of Middle-earth's "myth-history" presented here describes and summarizes - in 21st century syntax - the broad strokes of Tolkien's millennia-long chronology in order to make reading through the Silmarillion itself a bit easier, or at least provide some context for the episodes found there. This fictional ("in-world") history of Middle-earth is broken into 50 chapter summaries, beginning from the creation of the universe by the supreme deity Eru and finishing at Aragorn's passing and the final departure of the Elves from Middle-earth. Before the main history however are an "Outline of History" and a "History in Brief", which each present the entire thing shrunk down to single pages in order to present an introductory "bird's eye view" of the entire chronology.

One of the problems faced in this kind of task is that Tolkien was sometimes not consistent in his dates, genealogies or even story details (since he was often in the process of constantly rewriting things). Therefore, I ended up arriving at a version of Middle-earth history by choosing the most “organic-seeming” path through any conflicting narratives (essentially what Christopher Tolkien did when assembling the original Silmarillion).

The original historical background texts of the Silmarillion were never completely assembled in Tolkien’s lifetime into a form fully consistent with the lore set out in the published books (let alone with themselves). After Tolkien’s death, his son Christopher eventually edited them into a version of the Silmarillion published in 1977, and since then he has published many additional books collecting and commenting on various notes that his father left behind related to Middle-earth, most notably Unfinished Tales (1980), the 12 volume History of Middle-earth (1983-1996), and the more recent trio of The Children of Hurin (2013), Beren and Lúthien (2017) and The Fall of Gondolin (2018) (the covers to these and other books are placed in various places in the below narrative where they seem to fit). Christopher Tolkien's remarkable achievement in the History of Middle-earth series does an amazing job of presenting the evolving versions of Tolkien’s original texts with highly informative commentary, but is essentially an academic analysis of the writing and development of his father's "legendarium". So here will be my humble attempt to write a compact, chronological "myth-history" of Middle-earth as would have been understood by the characters themselves.

Outline History of Middle-earth

I have structured this myth-history as a Prologue and 50 Chapters, grouped into 6 Volumes. Tolkien specifies different “Ages” (First Age, Second Age, etc…) but I instead decided to divide the entire saga based on story arcs, rather than on the first appearance of a new race or new sun. In a way, I imagined that if the History were made into a 6-movie adaptation, these would be appropriate divisions between each movie (this of course completely falls apart for the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings which combined would only take up the last hour in the last movie of my imaginary film series – whereas they of course have already been made into 6 movies all by themselves). The titles I’ve chosen also tend to be descriptive (rather than poetic), since this is more an informative historical breakdown than a fictional novel. Below is an outline of the 50 chapters divided up into 6 volumes making up a History of Middle-earth.

Prelude: The Creation of Arda
Volume I. The Valar and the Shaping of Middle-earth
1. The Valar
2. Melkor and the First War of Arda
3. The Great Lamps of Arda
4. Melkor Destroys the Lamps, The Valar Go West to Valinor
Volume II. The Rise of the Elves
5. Valinor and the Trees of Light
6. Melkor’s Rule on Middle-earth
7. The Dwarves
8. The Awakening of the Elves
9. The Battle of the Powers, Melkor Chained
10. Elves of the Undying Lands
11. Elves of Beleriand
Volume III. The Silmarillion (in Two Parts)
Part 1: The Return of the Noldor
12. Melkor Destroys the Great Trees and Steals the Silmarilli
13. The Noldor Depart the Undying Lands
14. The War of the Jewels Begins
15. Men Awake with the Sun and the Moon (The First Age Begins)
16. The Noldor Arrive in Middle-earth
17. Maeglin Arrives in Gondolin
18. The Edain
Part 2: The Doom of the Elves
19. Morgoth Breaks Out of Angband
20. Quest of the Silmaril
21. Morgoth Strikes Back
22. Túrin’s Doom and the Fall of Nargothrond
23. Fall of Doriath
24. Fall of Gondolin
25. The Voyage of Eärendil
26. The War of Wrath: Morgoth Destroyed
Volume IV. The Downfall of Númenor
27. Men Settle on Númenor (The Second Age Begins)
28. The Migration East
29. Aldarion And Erendis, The Mariner’s Wife
30. Sauron Forges the Rings of Power
31. Sauron Defeats the Elves
32. The Númenóreans Drive Sauron Back to Mordor
33. Rivendell
34. Sauron Tricks the Númenóreans
35. The Númenóreans are Destroyed, Arda Reshaped
Volume V. The Shadow Over Middle-earth
36. Elendil and the Arrival of the Dúnedain
37. Sauron Defeated: The Last Alliance of Men and Elves
38. Rise of Arnor and Gondor (The Third Age Begins)
39. Sauron Gathers Power in Mirkwood
40. The Witch-King of Angmar Attacks Arnor
41. Gondor’s Kinstrife War
42. The Great Plague and Wainriders From the East
43. Arnor Destroyed, the Witch-King Driven Off by Gondor
Volume VI. The War of the Ring
44. The Witch-King Attacks Gondor, Gollum Finds the One Ring
45. Rohan Comes to Gondor’s Aid
46. Gondor and the Long Winter
47. Dragons Drive the Dwarves Out of the Mountains
48. Gondor Resists as Sauron Rebuilds
49. The One Ring and the Hobbit
50. The War of the Ring


The History of Middle-earth in Brief

The short capsule summaries which follow give a very broad overview of Tolkien's entire myth-history. They also later act as prefaces to each of the more detailed 6 Volumes and Prelude.  

Prelude: The Creation of Arda 
The all-powerful god Eru creates a pantheon of fellow god-like beings (the Valar). Together they “sing” into being the world of Arda, a new planet in the Void of space.

Volume I. The Valar and the Shaping of Middle-earth 
The Valar make Arda their home but one of them, Melkor, rebels and makes war against the others. Arda is ultimately divided into two realms: the main continent of Middle-earth (under the subjugation of Melkor) and the Undying Lands, a landmass towards the west (with its main city Valinor ruled by the Valar).

Volume II. The Rise of the Elves 
Eru’s plan is to have Arda first populated by the immortal Elves, and then passed on to mortal Men. When the Elves finally awaken from the earth, Melkor oppresses and enslaves them, which prompts the Valar to return to Middle-earth and take Melkor back to Valinor as prisoner. Most of the Elves are also invited over to Valinor for protection against Melkor’s remaining minions in Middle-earth.

Volume III. The Silmarillion 
Part 1: The Return of the Noldor: In Valinor, Melkor destroys the Great Trees of Light and steals the Silmarils, three great jewels made by the Elves which hold the surviving light of Valinor. The enraged Elves pursue Melkor back to Middle-earth, renaming him Morgoth. Men finally begin to awaken in Middle-earth but their numbers so small and their lives so brief that they have little sway over the conflicts between Morgoth and the Elves.
Part 2: The Doom of the Elves: Due in part to their own arrogance and obsession over the Silmarilli, the Elves are eventually weakened and defeated by Morgoth’s forces (among them Sauron, Balrogs and Dragons). Finally, the Valar themselves are forced to return to Middle-earth and the forces of light are able to drive Morgoth off into the Void (in the War of Wrath). 

Volume IV. The Downfall of Númenor
The Men of Middle-earth are given their own continent of Númenor in return for their aid in the War of Wrath. Beleriand, the former region of Middle-earth ruled by the Elves sinks. East of the Blue Mountains, Sauron tricks the remaining Elves into forging the Rings of Power, ultimately giving him great power. The Númenóreans arrive and take Sauron back to their realm as prisoner, but Sauron tricks his captors into defying the Valar and causing the destruction of Númenor.

Volume V. The Shadow Over Middle-earth
Survivors of the sinking of Númenor arrive in Middle-earth and become known as the Dúnedain ("Men of the west"). With the help of the Elves, they take vengeance on Sauron and cut the One Ring from his hand. Afterwards, the Dúnedain divide the western half of Middle-earth into Arnor in the north and Gondor in the south. In the northwest, Sauron’s Ringwraith Black Captain (known there as the Witch King of Angmar) conducts an offensive campaign against Arnor. The people of Arnor are eventually scattered, although the Witch King is later driven back to Mordor by the arrival of the Men of Gondor from the south.

Volume VI. The War of the Ring
Sauron and his Ringwraiths attempt to invade the south, but the Men of Gondor prevail (aided by new allies the horsemen of Rohan). Sauron searches for his lost One Ring and learns that Hobbits from the Shire (in the northwest) have found it. With guidance from agents of the Valar (the Istari, or Wizards), the Hobbits, Elves and Men of Middle-earth are able to destroy the One Ring in the War of the Ring, freeing Middle-earth from the tyranny of Sauron forever. The remaining Elves depart for the Undying Lands, leaving Middle-earth to Mankind, as Eru had always intended.




The following "Myth-History of Middle-earth" is an attempt to present a fairly straight-forward account of Middle-earth’s history condensed from the obviously more “poetically-nuanced” accounts detailed in The Silmarillion and the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings, with additional notes added from Unfinished Tales. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings novels are covered from this myth-historical viewpoint in Chapters 49 and 50, but detailed chapter-by-chapter synopses of the novels can be found in a separate section.


Prelude: The Creation of Arda

Summary: The all-powerful god Eru creates a pantheon of fellow god-like beings (the Valar). Together they “sing” into being the world of Arda, a new planet in the Void of space. This synopsis is derived from “Music of the Ainur”, found in The Silmarillion.

Eru (Ilúvatar in Elvish), the omniscient One exists in the Void. Eru uses the power of the Flame Imperishable to manifest his thoughts as spirits called the Ainur. The Ainur express themselves by singing different melodies reflecting different aspects of their creator Eru. However, the most powerful of the Ainur, Melkor, searches in vain for the Flame Imperishable in order to manifest his own (original) melodies.

Eru eventually proposes a great theme with which the Ainur can collectively harmonize on, giving it many colorful instrumental timbres. Melkor tries to introduce his own original theme, which confuses the other Ainur, causing a division in the celestial harmony (i.e. - dissonance, counterpoint). Eru introduces a variation of his great theme but Melkor tries to counter this melody as well. Eru introduces a third, new melody which is soothing and sweet, but Melkor’s counter-melody remains repetitive, angular and harsh in timbre. Eru halts the music with a final chord accent. He criticizes Melkor for his attempt to introduce an original theme and tells him that his prideful attempt is pointless since any theme that Melkor introduces would actually still have originated from Eru’s mind (since Melkor himself is essentially an aspect of Eru made manifest).

Eru then presents a vision of a world floating in the Void, which he explains is a manifestation of the great harmony they had just sung together. This vision also presents the future history of the world, including the eventual awakening of Eru’s Children, Elves and Men (these two races are a manifestation of Eru’s third melody). The Elves are proclaimed to be the immortal Firstborn of Arda, although the later-arriving mortal Men will eventually become the sole inheritors of the world.

The Ainur express a desire to provide a beautiful world for the Elves and Men to live in, but in contrast Melkor feels a desire to rule over them. Eru ends this future history vision just before the passing of the Elves and the world’s domination by Men. Eru then uses the Flame Imperishable to create a physical manifestation of this musical vision, called Eä, the World that Is, which appears in the form of a flame surrounded by a sphere of clouds (basically in an unformed state). The Ainur are then tasked to sculpt this celestial manifestation into the finished world of Arda, based on the vision they had just witnessed.



Volume I. The Valar and the Shaping of Middle-earth

Summary: The Valar make Arda their home but one of them, Melkor, rebels and makes war against the others. Arda is ultimately divided into two realms: the main continent of Middle-earth (under the subjugation of Melkor) and the Undying Lands, a landmass towards the west (with its main city Valinor ruled by the Valar). This narrative is derived from “VALAQUENTA” (“Story of the Valar”), found in The Silmarillion.

Chapter 1: The Valar

Several Ainur descend to this new world and manifest themselves in corporeal form as the Valar (the physical “Powers of the World”).

Manwë, King of the Winds, leads the Valar in shaping Arda into the vision earlier presented by Eru, and he is aided primarily by Aulë (the Smith) and Ulmo (Lord of the Oceans). Ulmo is Manwë’s closest friend and he watches over the waters of Arda. His equal is the master smith and craftsman Aulë, who communes with the earth. Aulë is wed to Yavanna, the Giver of Fruits, who is connected to all things that grow from the earth.

Mandos is the Keeper of the Houses of the Dead, and Vairë the Weaver, his spouse, weaves the webs of time. Lórien (also known as Irmo) is the master of Visions and Dreams and he is wed to Estë, the Healer (of hurts and of weariness). Together they provide comfort to the other Valar in times of stress. Mandos and Lórien are together known as the Fëanturi, masters of spirits. Their sister is Nienna the Weeper, who mourns for the downtrodden but instills them with strength. The physically strongest of the Valar is Tulkas the Wrestler, who has a hero’s heart. His spouse is Nessa, who is connected to the deer of the forests. Oromë, Lord of Forests (and Nessa’s brother) is a hero like his brother-in-law Tulkas, but sterner in mien. Oromë’s spouse is Vána, the Queen of Blossoming Flowers and the Ever-young (and younger sister to Yavanna). She is connected to the flowers and the birds.

Although Manwë’s brother Melkor (the Mighty One) is the most powerful and knowledgeable of the Valar, Eru had passed him over and instead chose Manwë to be King of the Valar. This adds further to tension which had already grown between the two most powerful Valar. Prior to the singing of the Great Music, Melkor had been enamored of Varda (Queen of the Stars). At that time Varda rejected Melkor’s advances and instead chose Manwë to wed. For all of this, Melkor grew to hate and fear the two of them.

Manwë, Varda, Ulmo, Yavanna, Aulë, Mandos, Nienna, and Oromë are collectively known as the 8 Aratar, the High Ones of Arda (Melkor was originally one of the Aratar but is later exiled for his crimes). Being the most powerful, they have the greatest part to play in the history of Arda. The Maiar are the lesser demi-gods, who sometimes serve the Valar. These include Eönwë (Herald of Manwë), Ilmarë (Maid of Varda), Ossë of the Waves and Uinen of the Calm Seas (serving Ulmo); Melian (who later becomes Queen of the Sindar Elves); Arien (later becoming the Sun); Tilion (later becoming the Moon); Sauron the Sorceror (later Ring Lord); Gothmog (Lord of the Balrogs), Thúringwethil (King of the Vampires), Ungoliant the Spider; Draugluin the Werewolf, Goldberry the River-daughter, Iarwain Ben-adar (also known as Tom Bombadil), and the five Istari (wizards) – Olórin (Gandalf), Curunír (Saruman), Aiwendil (Radagast), Alatar and Pallando.

Chapter 2. Melkor and the First War of Arda

When the Ainur physically manifest as the Valar on Arda, they almost all take on beautiful forms inspired by that of the Elves seen in Eru’s future-vision. Melkor however takes on an appearance embracing darkness and inspiring terror. Melkor makes plans to betray Eru’s will and gathers dark allies including the Valaraukar - scourges of fire also known as the Balrogs. His second in command is Sauron (originally a Maiar follower of Aulë).

Melkor arrives in Arda and interferes with the other Valar’s more constructive deeds by causing great fires. He tries to claim ownership over the world but Manwë and the other Valar object. Defiant, Melkor continues to counter every hill, mountain, sea and river his fellow Valar raise up. When Melkor’s efforts threaten to overcome the other Valar’s, Tulkas the Wrestler arrives and with his great strength drives Melkor into hiding. The forming of Arda is finally completed although, due to this “First War”, it is not as harmonious as first envisioned or hoped for.

Chapter 3. The Great Lamps of Arda

After the Valar have completed their labors to form the world according to Eru’s vision, Aulë the Smith forges two Great Lamps (assisted by Varda, Queen of the Stars and, Manwë the Wind King). The Valar raise them onto sky-high pedestals to provide light to all of Arda. One is placed in the far north (named Illuin, in the sea of Helcar) and the other in the far south (named Ormal, in the sea of Ringol). The Valar establish their own city of Almaren on the Great Lake at the midpoint between the Great Lamps. Yavanna the Fruitful creates beautiful flora and  fauna to populate Arda and this peaceful time is called the ‘Spring of Arda’.

Chapter 4. Melkor Destroys the Lamps, The Valar Go West to Valinor

With Arda settled and illuminated, the Valar feast and rest. During this time, Melkor secretly returns to Arda and creates a dark fortress called Utumno under the vast Iron Mountains in the north. Melkor’s evil presence there causes Yavanna’s surrounding flora and fauna to perish. Melkor soon emerges to war openly against the Valar once again and manages to topple both of the Great Lamps of Light. The toppling of the Great Lamps and their monumental pedestals destroys the Valar capital of Almaren, and the Valar are hard put just to salvage the beauty they have just created across the land. In the aftermath, Arda is preserved, but most of the Valar decide to retreat to the western landmass known as Aman (also called the Undying Lands).

Chapter 5. Valinor and the Trees of Light

In the Undying Lands of the west, the Valar build a new kingdom called Valinor (‘Land of the Valar’). From Taniquetil, the tallest mountain in the world, Manwë the King is able to observe all of Arda. Outside the gates of the city of Valimar (‘Home of the Valar’), Yavanna the Fruitful sings into being the two Trees of Light (named Laurelin the Golden and Telperion the White) which are able to provide light to all of Valinor and - with their periodic flickering - establish a cycle of time. The Valar also begin to raise up the Pélori Mountains around Aman as a shield against Melkor who, for now, rules over the main continent in the east, later known as Middle-earth.



Volume II. The Rise of the Elves

Summary: Eru’s plan is to have Arda first populated by the immortal Elves, and then passed on to mortal Men. When the Elves finally awaken from the earth, Melkor oppresses and enslaves them, which prompts the Valar to return to Middle-earth and take Melkor back to Valinor as prisoner. Most of the Elves are also invited over to Valinor for protection against Melkor’s remaining minions in Middle-earth. This narrative is derived from the first half of the QUENTA SILMARILLION  (“Tale of the Silmarils“) found in The Silmarillion.

Chapter 6. Melkor’s Rule on Middle-earth

Middle-earth (the main continent of Arda east of the Undying Lands) falls into the Ages of Darkness, since it is now without the light of the Great Lamps. Melkor gathers Balrogs, Vampires, Winged Beasts, Serpents, Great Spiders and Werewolves to his Pits of Utumno in the Iron Mountains of the north, overseen by the Maia Gothmog (leader of the Balrogs). Angband (‘Iron-Prison’), a second stronghold in the western part of the Iron Mountains is ruled by his disciple, Sauron.

During this time the Valar mostly avoid Middle-earth, although Ulmo and his Maiar followers continue to protect the seas surrounding the continent, and Yavanna shields her beloved animals and plants from aging with the Sleep of Yavanna, so that they might reawaken in better times. Oromë, Lord of Forests, roams the greenery of Middle-earth hunting down the monsters of Melkor, and briefly giving Melkor pause whenever he appears.

Chapter 7. The Dwarves of Aulë

Aulë the Smith also visits Middle-earth and hollows out underground halls beneath the mountains. Impatient for the arrival of the Elves, he attempts to create his own “children”, resulting in the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves (the first eventually known as Durin the Deathless). Without a clear vision of how Eru’s Elves will look, his creations end up rougher in form than Eru’s Elves to come. However, Aulë gives them the gift of hardiness and resiliency, in order to withstand the evil abroad during Melkor’s rule.

Eru soon discovers the existence of Aulë’s Dwarves and is displeased at the Vala’s impulsiveness. Eru decides to put the Dwarves back to sleep so that his own Children (the Elves) will awaken in Arda first. Aulë returns to Valinor and tells his wife Yavanna about his Dwarves. Yavanna worries about what these Dwarves will do to her trees. When Manwë is consulted, he promises her that when the Dwarves awaken, she will be given permission to give voice and mobility to some of the trees so that they can defend themselves from the Dwarves (these trees will later become known as the Ents and Huorns).

Chapter 8. The Awakening of the Elves

Varda (the Queen of the Heavens) uses the sparkling dew from the Great Trees of Valinor to brighten the stars above Middle-earth. This illumination instigates the Awakening of the Elves in the northeast (at the Mere of Cuiviénen). Learning of the Elves’ emergence, Melian (as well as a few other Maiar) departs Valinor for Middle-earth, hoping to share the beauty of her song with the Elves. Unfortunately, Melkor also learns of the Elves’ arrival and captures some of them, turning them into Orcs. Because of these kidnappings the Elves become fearful of strangers, although they eventually learn to trust Oromë when he comes across them in the forest by accident.

Around this time Manwë is permitted to create the Great Eagles. Yavanna gives consciousness to the Ents, and Aulë’s Dwarves are allowed to reawaken. The Dwarves live apart from the Elves and eventually build several mountain fortresses for themselves, including Belegost and Nogrod in the Blue Mountains (as well as Khazad-dûm in the Misty Mountains, much later and farther east).

Chapter 9. The Battle of the Powers, Melkor Chained

Oromë reports to the Valar that Melkor has been turning the newly-awakened Elves and Ents into Orcs and Trolls. The Valar and the Maiar return to Middle-earth and after a great battle (The Battle of the Powers) Utumno is laid waste. Melkor is brought back to the Undying Lands and held captive in Valinor. Sauron, however, evades capture and remains in Middle-earth.

Chapter 10. Elves of the Undying Lands

Fearing for the safety of the Elves in Middle-earth, the Valar invite the Elves to live in Valinor. The first Elves to accept this invitation are later known as the Vanyar (the Fair Elves, who will become closest to the Valar) and the Noldor (the Deep Elves). Ulmo ferries the Vanyar and the Noldor over the great sea to the Undying Lands on an uprooted island. The Elves are given Eldamar (‘Elven-home’) to settle on the shores of the Undying Lands. These Noldor and Vanyar Elves (now known collectively as the Eldar) build the great city of Tirion in the north. The Vanyar eventually abandon Tirion to settle closer to King Manwë’s mountain Taniquetil, but the Noldor remain in Tirion and, led by their king Finwë, learn to extract and refine gems from the earth of Valinor.

Another group of Middle-earth Elves (later known as the Teleri) also accept the Valar’s invitation to journey to the Undying Lands but are delayed when one of their leaders - Elwë – goes missing (he had met and fallen in love with Melian the Maia, see next chapter). The Teleri eventually depart without him, and - like the Vanyar and Noldor Elves earlier - are ferried across the waters on an island uprooted by Ulmo. However, the Teleri have a change of heart mid-journey and the island is halted just within sight of the Undying Lands. This island becomes known as Tol Eressëa, the Lonely Isle. However, the Teleri’s Elven brethren in Tirion use a lamp to shine a beam of light to the island, acting as a beckoning gesture. Eventually the Teleri of Tol Eressëa decide to fully migrate to the mainland of the Undying Lands and the Maia Ossë teaches them how to make ships. Swans draw the Teleri’s new ships to the shore town of Alqualondë, and the Teleri (now led by the missing Elwë’s brother Olwë) eventually become known for their swan-shaped ships.

Chapter 11. Elves of Beleriand

During the time of the Teleri’s journey westwards to the western shore of Middle-earth, the Maia Melian had finally reached Middle-earth on her journey from Valinor. She runs into the Teleri leader Elwë and they fall in love (as described in the previous chapter, the Teleri eventually continue westwards without him). Elwë (better known later as King Thingol) and Queen Melian end up leading the Elves who have elected to remain in Middle-earth (called the Sindar, or Grey Elves). They settle the northwest region of Middle-earth called Beleriand, and establish their capitol in the city of Menegroth, in the Thousand Caves (deep in the forests of Doriath). They also form alliances with the Sea Elves of the Falas (or the Falathrim a west coast splinter group of left-behind Teleri led by Círdan the Shipwright), the Green Elves (Laiquendi) of Ossiriand in the south east, and the Dwarves in the Blue Mountains east of Ossiriand (Belegost and Nogrod).



Volume III. The Silmarillion

(Due to its great size, Volume III is divided into two sequences: Part 1, "The Return of the Noldor", and Part 2, "The Doom of the Elves".)

Part 1: The Return of the Noldor

Summary: In Valinor, Melkor destroys the Great Trees of Light and steals the Silmarils, three great jewels made by the Elves which hold the surviving light of Valinor. The enraged Elves pursue Melkor back to Middle-earth, renaming him Morgoth. Men finally awaken in Middle-earth but their numbers so small and their lives so brief that they have little sway over the conflicts between Melkor and the Elves. This narrative is derived from middle part of the QUENTA SILMARILLION.

Chapter 12. Melkor Destroys the Great Trees and Steals the Silmarilli

In Valinor, the Noldor King Finwë and his queen give birth to a son named Fëanor, although unfortunately the queen dies in childbirth. Finwë eventually remarries, giving Fëanor two half-brothers, Fingolfin and Finarfin. Years later, Fëanor becomes a great jeweler and devises a means to capture the Light of the Great Trees of Valinor in three jewels called the Silmarilli.

Meanwhile, Melkor completes his sentence and is released from captivity. He soon begins to have designs on Fëanor’s Silmarilli and uses false claims to inflame antagonism between Fëanor and his half-brothers. Fëanor eventually threatens Fingolfin with violence, for which he is exiled from Tirion and forced to establish a fortress at Formenos in the north. His sympathetic father Finwë decides to join him in exile. Melkor’s role in this drama is eventually exposed and he goes into hiding.

During a celebration, the people of Valinor are gathered for a great feast at Manwë’s great mountain home on Taniquetil. Fëanor is also permitted to attend, but his father Finwë insists on remaining at Formenos. With the gods and the Eldar preoccupied at Taniquetil, Melkor resurfaces and enjoins the Great Spider Ungoliant to his cause. Together they destroy the Great Trees of Light, sending Valinor into darkness. When the Valar discover this terrible act, Yavanna asks Fëanor for the Silmarilli so that she can use them to save the Trees. However, news arrives that Melkor has attacked Formenos, killed Finwë (“the First Kinslaying”) and stolen the three Silmarilli. Fëanor gives Melkor the name “Morgoth” (the Black Foe of the World) and vows vengeance.

With the Silmarilli in hand, Morgoth and Ungoliant escape to Middle-earth by way of Helcaraxë the Grinding Ice, a connecting land passage in the north. When they reach Morgoth’s western Iron Mountain base Angband, Ungoliant attacks Morgoth for possession of the Silmarilli, but Morgoth’s Balrogs appear and drive Ungoliant away forever. Morgoth proceeds to rebuild his empire from Angband, basing his new citadel at Thangorodrim, great towers built against the mountain face.

Chapter 13. The Noldor Depart the Undying Lands

In Valinor, the Valar consider the great destruction wrought upon Arda during the earlier Battle of the Powers at Utumno and decide to refrain from making a direct assault on Morgoth at this time. Fëanor however, does not share this view. He petitions the Noldor to head back to Middle-earth in order to pursue Morgoth and recover the Silmarilli. Fëanor also accuses Manwë of trying to keep the Elves away from Middle-earth in order to allow the soon-to-arrive Men sole domination of the continent. For this impudence, Manwë banishes Fëanor from Valinor forever. Fëanor leads his Noldor followers out of Valinor, and his half-brother Fingolfin reluctantly leads a separate host of Noldor after him. When Fëanor realizes that he needs ships to quickly reach the northern land passage to Middle-earth (before the angry momentum of the rallied Elves flags), he tries to recruit the Teleri to his cause in order to gain their swan-ships. The Teleri refuse to defy the Valar and insist on remaining in the Undying Lands. Outraged, Fëanor destroys the Teleri and their city (the “Kinslaying at Alqualondë”), and then uses the Teleri swan-ships to sail up the coast (although, due to a scarcity of ships, many Noldor are still forced to march north on foot). 

Before reaching the threshold of Helcaraxë, the Noldor receive a final warning and curse from the Valar Mandos (“the Doom of the Noldor”), which Fëanor promptly dismisses. Finarfin elects to return to Valinor, but Fingolfin feels obligated to continue with his half-brother Fëanor. However, Fëanor betrays Fingolfin when he uses the limited number of Teleri ships to only bring his own host across the sea to Middle-earth, leaving Fingolfin and his Noldor host behind. Fingolfin and his army are forced to cross Helcaraxë the Grinding Ice on foot, incurring massive losses to their number.

Chapter 14. The War of the Jewels Begins

The Wars of Beleriand (or, the War of the Jewels) encompass several great battles which decide the fate of the Elves in Middle-earth. Shortly after rebuilding his forces in Angband, Morgoth begins to send out invasion forces to regain control over Beleriand. In the First Battle, his Orc forces attack the Elves but are repulsed by an alliance of King Thingol’s Sindar Grey Elves (from Menegroth), the Green Elves of Ossiriand and the Dwarves based in the Blue Mountains. Despite the victory, the Green Elves are decimated however, and Queen Melian is forced to project an invisible shield around Doriath (called the Girdle of Melian) in order to protect the Sindar against roving Orcs.

Chapter 15. Men Awaken (The First Age Begins)

Back in Valinor, the Valar Yavanna and Nienna use the last leaf and fruit of the destroyed Great Trees of Light to form the Sun and the Moon, which are steered across the skies by the Maiar spirits Arien and Tilion. This establishes a cycle of night and day to both Middle-earth and Valinor and signals the beginning of the First Age (of the Sun). The first rising of the Sun instills fear in Morgoth, giving some relief to the free peoples of Middle-earth. More importantly, it also triggers the awakening of Men (later called Edain) in the far-eastern land of Hildórien.

Chapter 16. The Noldor Arrive in Middle-earth

In the Second Battle of Beleriand (named the Battle Under Stars/Dagor-os Giliath, since at this time the Moon had not yet arrived) Morgoth’s Angband invaders are again contained, this time in the northwest by Fëanor’s Noldor host, who have finally arrived in their stolen Teleri ships from Valinor. Despite the victory, Fëanor is mortally injured when his foolhardiness leads him into a pack of Balrogs. He dies, and soon afterwards his son Maedhros is captured by Morgoth’s forces as well.

Meanwhile, Fingolfin’s Noldor finally arrive in Middle-earth after their perilous trek across the icy northern passages of Helcaraxë, and the opportune first appearance of the Sun in the sky helps them evade Morgoth’s spies. They reunite with Fëanor’s Noldor force (with some hard feelings, naturally), but Fingolfin’s eldest son Fingon gallantly rescues Fëanor’s son Maedhros from Thangorodrim (with the help of Manwë’s Great Eagle Thorondor) and Fëanor’s grateful followers agree to make Fingolfin the High King of the Noldor in Middle-earth.

The Sindar (lead by Thingol and Melian in Menegroth) also welcome the newly-arrived Noldor but insist that they remain outside of Doriath and settle their own territories. The Noldor eventually found the realms of Nargothrond (established by Finarfin’s son Finrod Felagund), Gondolin (the Hidden Rock/Kingdom, established by Turgon, son of Fingolfin) and other kingdoms. However, the Noldor Galadriel (Finrod’s sister) falls in love with the Sindar Celeborn (from Thingol’s line) and she stays with him in Menegroth to study with Queen Melian.

The Third Battle in the Wars of Beleriand (the Glorious Battle/Dagor Aglareb) occurs in year 56 of the First Age. Morgoth’s invasion force is defeated by the united forces of the Elves in Middle-earth (now including Fingolfin’s Noldor), and this time the Noldor begin maintaining a standing siege force to contain Morgoth and his followers to Angband. Finrod Felagund maintains vigilance from Nargothrond and installs a watchtower named Minas Tirith (of Beleriand, not to be confused with Minas Tirith of Gondor) on the island of Tol Sirion. During the ensuing peace (of four centuries), intermittent raiding parties sneak out of Angband (notably an Orc raid on Hithlum in 160, and a dragon attack by the not-yet-fully-matured Glaurung, first of the fire-drakes), but for the most part there is peace in Beleriand. Behind his gates, Morgoth stays informed of the Elves’ activities by capturing and interrogating Elvish prisoners.

Chapter 17. Maeglin Arrives in Gondolin

During Morgoth’s containment at Angband, the Noldor Aredhel leaves Gondolin in search of freedom. She ends up marrying a Sindar exile named Eöl and they have a child named Maeglin. Aredhel and Maeglin eventually desire to return to Gondolin but they are pursued by an angry Eöl. At Gondolin, Eöl catches up with his wife and son and during a struggle Aredhel is mortally wounded. Eöl is executed, which causes Maeglin to distrust the Noldor in Gondolin (although he remains there). In the future, Maeglin’s hard feelings eventually lead to the fall of Gondolin.

Chapter 18. The Edain

300 years into the Long Peace, Finrod Felagund, lord of Nargothrond, discovers Men who have spread outward from the east. Finrod allows them some of his territory to settle in, but King Thingol of Menegroth has foreboding feelings about them and does not allow Men to settle in his realm. Behind the scenes, Morgoth tries to sow discord amongst the groups of Men and tries to make the Men suspicious of the Elves. In any case, the Elves and the Men are able to maintain a strong relationship and the Men who ally with the Elves become known as the Edain.

Part 2: The Doom of the Elves

Summary: Due in part to their own arrogance and obsession over the Silmarilli, the Elves are eventually weakened and defeated by Morgoth’s forces (among them Sauron, Balrogs and Dragons). Finally, the Valar themselves are forced to return to Middle-earth and the forces of Light are able to drive Morgoth off into the Void in the War of Wrath. This narrative is derived from the remaining part of the QUENTA SILMARILLION.

Chapter 19. Morgoth Breaks Out of Angband

In 455 the siege of Angband breaks when rivers of flame erupt from its perimeter and engulf the surrounding Elvish guard realms, signaling the beginning of the Fourth Battle of Beleriand, the Battle of Sudden Flame (Dagor Bragollach). Legions of Orcs and Trolls pour out of Angband led by Balrogs (under Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs) and Glaurung the fire-breathing dragon. The kingdoms of Beleriand are thrown into disarray by the sudden onslaught of Morgoth’s erupting forces and Fingolfin is killed in a duel with Morgoth himself at the gates of Thangorodrim (although Morgoth is permanently scarred by the encounter). Fingolfin’s oldest son Fingon becomes High King of the Noldor.

Two years later Morgoth’s lieutenant Sauron captures Minas Tirith (of Beleriand) and the island of Tol Sirion is renamed Tol-in-Gaurhoth, the Isle of Werewolves. Turgon, King of Gondolin, sends ships towards the Undying Lands hoping to gain aid from the Valar, but none of them ever return. Now holding the upper hand in Beleriand, in the next few years Morgoth searches for the hidden Elvish strongholds of Nargothrond and Gondolin, while strengthening his forces in Angband. Seven years later, Morgoth corners the Noldor High King Fingon at Hithlum in the north, but aid comes from Círdan the Shipwright and his Falathrim fleet from the south, and the Elves continue to hold on.

Chapter 20. Beren and Lúthien (The Quest of the Silmaril)

In year 468 of the First Age, a man named Beren (the last survivor of a group of Men attacked by Orcs) arrives in Menegroth and falls in love with King Thingol and Queen Melian’s daughter Lúthien. Her singing inspires him to rename her Tinúviel (Nightingale). Thingol is outraged at Beren’s impudent intentions and declares that he will only allow Beren to wed Lúthien if he returns with one of the stolen Silmarils from Morgoth’s Iron Crown. Beren journeys southwest to Nargothrond and gains the aid of its ruler Finrod and a few of his men. Unfortunately, they are later captured by Sauron at Tol-in-Gaurhoth (the Isle of Werewolves) and are executed one by one (including, eventually, King Finrod), until only Beren remains.

Meanwhile, Lúthien defies her parents and escapes from Menegroth (using her hair as a cloak) and goes in search of Beren. Unfortunately, she runs into the Fëanor’s youngest sons Celegorm and Curufin. Celegorm decides to hold Lúthien prisoner, hoping to use her birthright (as the half-Maia daughter of the Sindar King) to gain rulership over Nargothrond (especially with King Finrod missing). However, Huan (Celegorm’s wolfhound, gifted to him long ago by the Vala Oromë) feels pity for Lúthien and frees her, and together they penetrate Sauron’s fortress on the Isle of Werewolves. Huan and Lúthien drive Sauron out of his watchtower fortress and Beren is safely reunited with Lúthien.

Beren and Lúthien then disguise themselves as a werewolf and a vampire (using the “skins” of the Maia Draugluin and Thúringwethil, obtained from Sauron’s tower by Huan) and gain entry into Morgoth’s great armory and underground fortress in Angband. When discovered, Lúthien lulls Morgoth to sleep with a song, and Beren retrieves one of the three Silmaril jewels from Morgoth’s Iron Crown. However, during their escape, Morgoth’s guard dog Carcharoth ambushes them and bites off Beren’s hand. Carcharoth swallows it, with the Silmaril still held in its grasp, and the burning light of the Silmaril inside his stomach subsequently drives Carcharoth into a frantic rampage across the north.

After recovering from Carcharoth’s poisoned bite, Beren and Huan go hunting for the maddened creature (who, with the power of the Silmaril in his stomach, has the power to breach the Girdle of Melian). Carcharoth is hunted down and the Silmaril retrieved, but Huan and Beren both perish in the battle. Beren’s spirit is transported to Mandos’ realm in Valinor, to await his final departure to the west. A sorrowful Lúthien journeys to Valinor and sings a song to Mandos to petition for his help. Mandos asks Manwë for guidance and Manwë agrees to allow Lúthien to return to Middle-earth with a resurrected Beren. However, she is forced to relinquish her immortality as a daughter of the Eldar and the Maia. Beren and Lúthien subsequently return to Middle-earth and live in seclusion.

Chapter 21. Morgoth Strikes Back

The Noldor are inspired by Beren and Lúthien’s successful recovery of a Silmaril from Morgoth, and five years later Fëanor’s son Maedhros and the Noldor King Fingon form an alliance with Men and Dwarves in order to mount a concerted attack on Angband. Morgoth learns of this alliance and places spies among them. When the Elf-Friends attack (this Fifth Battle of Beleriand includes the Battle of Unnumbered Tears/Ninaeth Arnodiad, or Nirnaeth Arnoediad), a company of compromised Easterling Men turns on their allies, throwing the Elf-Friends’ attack into disarray and causing Maedhros’ death. The Dwarves manage to injure the fire-drake Glaurung, but Fingon is killed by Gothmog, Lord of the Balrogs. Turgon of Gondolin (son of Fingolfin) becomes the High King of the Noldor.

Additionally, the Man Huor (leader of the Hithlum) is killed and his brother Húrin captured. As a consequence of his alliance with the Noldor Elves, Húrin is kept prisoner at Angband and forced to sit frozen in a highly-placed chair in the mountains so that he will bear witness to Morgoth’s terrible vengeance on his children. Morgoth also reneges on his promise to the Easterling Men who had turned on the Elf-Friends during the Battle of Unnumbered Tears - instead of being given the rich Elvish lands of Beleriand in the south, the Easterlings are forced to raid the tribes of Men who populate Hithlum in the northwest. This in turn forces Húrin’s people to either become slaves of the disgruntled Easterlings or seek refuge in the south.

Chapter 22. Túrin Turambar and the Fall of Nargothrond

Húrin’s wife Morwen sends her son Túrin south towards Doriath. Shortly afterwards she gives birth to a daughter, Nienor. Túrin arrives at Menegroth, only the second Man (after his kinsman Beren) to be allowed refuge there. He befriends the Elf Beleg at Menegroth, and Morwen sends the famous Helm of Hador to Thingol for his generosity to her son.

One of Thingol’s counselors, Saeros, develops a grudge against the presence of a Man in Doriath, and taunts Túrin. After winning a duel, Túrin forces Saeros to flee naked in the woods. Unfortunately, Saeros falls to his death and Túrin decides to exile himself from Doriath rather than face punishment. Túrin soon ends up leading a band of brigands to the west. Beleg eventually finds and joins his troupe, but they are betrayed by the Petty Dwarf Mîm, and Túrin is captured by Orcs. Beleg successfully tracks down the Orc party, but when Túrin is woken up from his imprisonment he kills Beleg by accident. The Elf Gwindor (who had just escaped from Angband) helps the despondent Túrin reach Gwindor’s home in Nargothrond. There, Túrin becomes known as “Mormegil”, the Black Sword of Nargothrond (while keeping his true parentage a secret from Morgoth’s spies). Mormegil leads many successful battles against the Orcs, and his victories distract enough of the Orcs to allow his mother and sister (Morwen and Nienor) to sneak into Doriath, hoping to reunite with the now long-departed Túrin.

Unfortunately, Túrin’s great victories around Nargothrond draw Morgoth’s attention, and the city is found and decimated by an army of Orcs led by the dragon Glaurung (the Battle of Tumhalad). Túrin struggles to save the Elves of Nargothrond but Glaurung finds him and holds him mesmerized with his hypnotic eyes. Glaurung then taunts Túrin about the fate of his mother and sister (whom he mistakenly believes is still in Hithlum). Alarmed, Túrin returns to his village of Dor-lómin (in Hithlum) and kills some of the Easterling oppressors. He doesn’t find his mother and sister but is relieved to learn that they had departed months earlier for Doriath in search of him. Túrin decides to leave his mother and sister in safety in Doriath and returns to Nargothrond to look for survivors. He then discovers that the Orcs have killed their Nargothrond captors (including his Elf suitor Finduilas). Mourning for those people whom he had unintentionally led to disaster, Túrin ends up living with woodmen under the name of Turambar, Master of Doom.

Shortly thereafter, Morwen and Nienor finally depart Menegroth (Doriath) in search of Túrin. As they approach Nargothrond, Glaurung uses his flame to cause a mist to rise to confuse Morwen’s party. Morwen becomes lost from her Elf-guard and disappears. Nienor runs into Glaurung, and when the dragon learns that she is Túrin’s sister, he steals her memory and wits and she eventually becomes a wildling, lost in the forest. Túrin – now Turambar – eventually comes across her and, neither recognizing the other, they fall in love. Turambar renames her Níniel and three years later they are wed.

The destructive armies of Glaurung and his Orcs soon expand into the realm of the Turambar’s woodmen. Túrin embarks on a mission to strike at Glaurung’s belly while the dragon leaps over a gorge. Túrin manages to score a mortal blow but is then frozen by the dying Glaurung’s hypnotic glance once again and falls into unconsciousness. Nienor goes in search of Turambar and finds Glaurung in his last moments. Glaurung restores her memory and she subsequently drowns herself when she realizes that Turambar is her brother Túrin. When Glaurung heaves his last breath, the spell over Túrin is also broken and he eventually learns the full truth of his doom. Alone, he takes his own life by falling on his own Black Sword.

Chapter 23. The Fall of Menegroth

Morgoth releases Húrin from captivity at Angband, and Húrin soon after accidentally reveals hints to the location of the still-hidden Gondolin to Morgoth’s spies. Near Nargothrond, Húrin finds his wife Morwen at the site of Túrin and Nienor’s deaths (just moments before Morwen’s own life flickers out). At Nargothrond, Húrin kills Mîm the Petty Dwarf, whom he had earlier observed betraying his son Túrin to the Orcs (during his time in Morgoth’s chair). He retrieves the Nauglamír (a necklace originally created by the Dwarves as a gift to Finrod) and brings it to King Thingol in Menegroth as a gift. When Thingol has a Silmaril (earlier recovered by Lúthien and Beren) placed in the Nauglamír, the desirous Dwarves kill King Thingol, creating a rift between the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains and the Sindar Elves of Doriath. Queen Melian returns in sorrow to Valinor (leaving Doriath without her Girdle of Protection), after which the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains attack and loot Menegroth.

Beren and his Elvish friends intercept and destroy the Dwarves on their return journey to the Blue Mountains and Lúthien’s son Dior returns to Menegroth to rule in Thingol’s stead. He eventually dons the Silmaril himself. Fëanor’s descendants become jealous of Doriath’s possession of the Silmaril and they attack Menegroth, resulting in the final fall of Doriath and the death of both the leaders of Fëanor’s people and King Dior. The Silmaril however escapes Menegroth’s sacking when it is taken south to the Vale of Sirion by Dior’s daughter Elwing. Galadriel and her husband Celeborn also escape Menegroth and head eastwards for Eriador beyond the Blue Mountains.

Chapter 24. The Fall of Gondolin

Tuor, a cousin of Túrin’s (son of Huor, Húrin’s brother) meets the Vala Ulmo on the Western shore and is tasked with warning Gondolin of danger and to urge them to migrate south. The Elf Voronwë escorts him towards Gondolin (during the journey they glimpse of Túrin leaving the ruins of Nargothrond and heading towards Hithlum, but do not call his attention). At Gondolin, Turgon decides to ignore Ulmo’s warning and tells Tuor that, now that he knows where Gondolin lies, he is forever forbidden to leave the hidden realm. Forced to remain, Tuor eventually marries Idril Celebrindal and they have a son named Eärendil. Maeglin (son of Eöl and Aredhel and rejected by Idril in his earlier advances) becomes jealous, and when he is captured by Morgoth during a scouting trip, he betrays the secret location of Gondolin. A great force of Orcs, Balrogs and dragons mount an attack on the city and lay waste to it – King Turgon is killed. Gothmog the leader of the Balrogs is killed by the gate keeper Ecthelion, but Ecthelion also dies from his wounds. After executing Maeglin, Tuor and his family escape through a secret passage (the great Warrior Elf Glorfindel dies while protecting them from a surprise Balrog attack). Tuor, Idril and Eärendil find refuge with the Elves at the Vale of Sirion, where King Dior’s daughter Elwing had earlier arrived after the fall of Menegroth. With the death of Turgon, Fingon’s son Gil-galad becomes the new High King of the Noldor.  

With Nargothrond, Doriath and Gondolin now all fallen, the dominance of the Elves in Middle-earth is over forever. Morgoth rules Middle-earth essentially unopposed for the next 90 years.

Chapter 25. The Voyage of Eärendil

Tuor’s son Eärendil and Dior’s daughter Elwing eventually wed and the Half-Elven Elrond and Elros are born to them. Eärendil makes many sea journeys westwards towards the Undying Lands, hoping to find a way to seek the Valar’s help against Morgoth, although the Valar’s enchantments make Valinor’s discovery impossible. While Eärendil  is away, Maedhros and Maglor (the remaining sons of Fëanor) become obsessed with the Silmaril in Elwing’s possession and attack Sirion. Elrond and Elros are made prisoners and Elwing - wearing the Silmaril – throws herself into the sea. Ulmo feels pity for her and transforms her temporarily into a great bird so that she can fly to Eärendil’s ship. After their reunion, Eärendil uses the Silmaril to forge through the barriers around the Undying Lands in order to land on Valinor. They find and convince the Valar to help Middle-earth, but Eärendil and Elwing are forbidden to return. Manwë also decrees that going forward their children and descendants (Elrond and Elros) must each declare him or herself as either an immortal Elf or a mortal Man. Barred from Middle-earth, Eärendil explores the voids of space on his boat Vingilot, while the Silmaril he wears on his breast provides a light which floats across the heavens as Gil-Estel, the Star of High Hope. His wife Elwing frequently transforms herself into her bird form to meet with Eärendil in his travels.

Chapter 26. The War of Wrath: Morgoth Destroyed

Six centuries after Morgoth’s theft of the Silmarils from Valinor, the Powers (and Elves) of Valinor return from the Undying Lands and in the Sixth Battle - the War of Wrath - they attack Morgoth’s stronghold Thangorodrim in Angband. When the Valar destroy his Balrog and Orc forces, Morgoth unleashes his dragons, which the Valar had until then never encountered before. The Valar are temporarily driven back, but Eärendil arrives in Vingilot, bringing with him aid from the Great Eagles. Eärendil himself slays Ancalagon the Black (the greatest of the dragons) and Ancalagon’s falling carcass lands on and destroys the towers of Thangorodrim. The other dragons are also (mostly) eradicated and Morgoth is cast out into the Void, with Eärendil forever patrolling the heavens against his return. Despite the Free Peoples’ victory however, Beleriand is mostly destroyed from the war and this western region of Middle-earth begins to sink beneath the waves.

Fëanor’s sons Maedhros and Maglor learn that the Valar have retrieved the remaining two Silmarils from Morgoth’s Iron Crown, and eventually steal the great Jewels from the Valar before the Valar depart Middle-earth. However, Maedhros’ hand is burned by the power of his Silmaril and throws it (and himself) into a volcano chasm. Maglor, burned by the third Silmaril, throws his gem into the sea, forever bequeathing it to the deeps.

With the Saga of the Silmarilli now finished, the Valar invite the Elves of Middle-earth to return to the Undying Lands and are offered the off-shore Isle of Eressëa to settle on (also known as Avallónë). Most of the Elves depart west, but some Elves elect to remain in Middle-earth, including Galadriel (last of the Noldor who had departed Valinor with Fëanor), Celeborn of Doriath (her husband), Círdan the Shipwright, Gil-galad the High King of the Noldor, and the Half-Elven sons of Eärendil and Elwing, Elrond and Elros. 



Volume IV. The Downfall of Númenor

Summary: Men of Middle-earth are given their own continent of Númenor in return for their aid in the War of Wrath. Beleriand, the former region of Middle-earth ruled by the Elves sinks. East of the Blue Mountains, Sauron tricks the Elves into forging the Rings of Power, ultimately giving him great power. The Númenóreans arrive and take Sauron back to their realm as prisoner, but Sauron tricks his captors into defying the Valar and causing the destruction of Númenor. This narrative is derived from “AKALLABÊTH”, or “The Downfall of Númenor”, found in The Silmarillion.

Chapter 27. Men Settle on Númenor (The Second Age Begins)

The defeat of Morgoth ushers in the Second Age of Middle-earth. The Valar Ossë, Yavanna and Aulë create a new landmass in the Western Sea between Middle-earth and the Undying Lands and name it Númenor. In return for their aid in the fight against Morgoth, the Men are gifted with Númenor by the Valar. Elros (Eärendil and Elwing’s son) embraces his birthright and mortality as a Man and becomes the first King of the Númenóreans (renaming himself Tar-Minyatur). Eärendil’s other son Elrond chooses to accept his immortal Elvish heritage and remains in Middle-earth, eventually settling in Lindon. After some time, the Elves of Avallónë (the Elf haven off the eastern coast of Aman) create the palantiri seeing stones and gift them to the Númenóreans.

Chapter 28. The Migration East

As Beleriand gradually sinks into the Western Sea, Lindon becomes the new west coast of Middle-earth/ The encroaching waters force the remaining Elves and Men of Middle-earth to migrate east to Lindon or beyond the Blue Mountains. Gil-galad, the High King of the Noldor, bases his people in north Lindon (Forlindon) and the Grey Havens. The Noldor Galadriel and the Sindar Celeborn oversee south Lindon (Harlindon). Dwarves begin to create strongholds at the Misty Mountains in the east (Khazad-dûm, later called Moria). Further east past the Misty Mountains, the Sindar eventually establish forest kingdoms in the forest of Greenwood (later led by Thranduil when renamed as Mirkwood).

After half a millennium of hiding, Sauron, Morgoth’s second in command, begins to rebuild power in the East. The Númenóreans begin to make expand beyond their own continent and make exploratory trips to the west coast of Middle-earth. Over the centuries, Galadriel and Celeborn also move eastwards, and they help establish Eregion, located just west of the Misty Mountains. There, the great Elvish craftsman Celebrimbor (a descendant of Fëanor) and his followers become known as the Elven-smiths of Eregion. They ally with the nearby Dwarves of Khazad-dûm to mine mithril.

Chapter 29. Aldarion And Erendis, The Mariner’s Wife

In the 8th Century of the Second Age, the Númenórean crown prince Aldarion spends much of his time at sea, as well as visiting the mainland of Middle-earth and befriending the Elves remaining there. His marriage to the more rural Erendis becomes estranged despite the birth of their daughter Ancalimë. Near the end of the 9th Century, Aldarion returns from North Lindon, passing on to the Númenórean leaders a request for help to guard against the possible return of Morgoth or one of his disciples. Eventually Aldarion ascends to the throne, at which point he returns to Middle-earth and helps lay down the groundwork to prepare for Sauron’s return hundreds of years later. These events are derived from Unfinished Tales.

Chapter 30. Sauron Forges the Rings of Power

Throughout the first half of the 2nd Millennium of the Second Age (1000-1600) Sauron continues to grow in power using discretion and subterfuge to avoid alerting the Valar or the Elves. In Mordor (southeast of the Misty Mountains) he begins building the Dark Tower of Barad-dûr, and from there he gathers an army of Orcs and other creatures. He also recruits Men from war-like lands further east and south of Mordor (the Easterlings and Haradrim).

A few centuries into the new millennium, Sauron befriends Celebrimbor and the Elven-smiths of Eregion under the false name of Annatar (‘lord of gifts’). Galadriel, suspicious of Annatar’s true motives, is eventually forced to go further east beyond the Misty Mountains to Lórinand (later known as Lothlórien), which is populated by the Silvan Elves under King Amdír. Celeborn elects to remains behind in Eregion. Sauron (as Annatar) eventually tricks Celebrimbor and the Elven-smiths of Eregion into helping him craft the Rings of Power, which are distributed among the leaders of the Elves, Dwarves, and Men. Sauron then returns to Mordor and forges the One Ring for himself in Mount Doom (Orodruin), giving it power over the other Rings of Power and the ability to enslave whomever wears them. However, in order to impart this much power into the One Ring, Sauron is forced to pour most of his “essence” into it (which will later turn out to be his “Achilles Heel”). In any case, when he slips the One Ring on his finger, the Elves immediately sense their danger and realize they have been betrayed. In 1693 the War of Sauron and the Elves begins, lasting for 8 years.

Chapter 31. Sauron Defeats the Elves

Celebrimbor gives Nenya, the White Elvish Ring of Power, to Galadriel in Lórinand  so that she can use its presence to help preserve Lothlórien’s beauty against Sauron’s oncoming storm in the east. The Red and Blue Rings of Power (Narya and Vilya) are sent west to King Gil-galad in Lindon.

When Sauron’s army openly attacks Eregion, Lindon’s King Gil-galad sends Elrond to give Celebrimbor aid. Unfortunately, Elrond is too late and Sauron kills Celebrimbor, gaining possession of the Rings of Power assigned to Men (and most of the 7 Dwarf Rings as well). When Elrond arrives, he also faces defeat, but temporary relief comes with the arrival of the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm as well as an Elvish force from Lórinand  (led by the Sindar King Amroth). Nonetheless, Sauron’s army is too great and too well-prepared to be turned away, and Elrond is forced to retreat north to find refuge in Imladris (later known as Rivendell). The Dwarves are driven into the underground remains of Eregion and rename their fortress Moria (the ‘dark chasm’). Victorious at Eregion, Sauron has some of his forces go north to lay siege to Elrond at Imladris. However, he sends his main invasion force westwards towards Lindon, hoping to obtain the two Elvish Rings of Power held by King Gil-galad.

Chapter 32. The Númenóreans Drive Sauron Back to Mordor

When Sauron’s main force reaches and attacks the Elves in Lindon, the outnumbered Elves look upon defeat. However, a fleet of Númenórean ships suddenly appears off the coast of Lindon (in response to an earlier request for aid sent by Gil-galad to the Númenórean King Tar-Minastir). Facing both the Elves of Lindon and the Númenóreans, the Sauron’s army is repelled and driven back towards Mordor. Eventually they are cornered and destroyed at the mouth of the Gwathló (Greyflood) at the Battle of the Gwathló. Shortly afterwards Sauron’s siege army surrounding Imladris is also destroyed when caught between the Elves and the Númenóreans.

Chapter 33. Rivendell

With Sauron held at bay, peace follows for the following century. Gil-galad passes Vilya, the Elvish Blue Ring of Power, on to Elrond so that he can use it to vitalize a permanent Elvish stronghold at Imladris. Galadriel and Celeborn bring their daughter Celebrían there and she marries Elrond. Eventually Galadriel and Celeborn depart Imladris to make a new home in Belfalas and Dol Amroth.

Chapter 34. Sauron Tricks the Númenóreans

As the centuries pass, the Númenóreans begin to grow more and more aggressive. Under auspices of their ambitious King Tar-Ciryatan, so-called “Black Númenóreans” begin taking lands on the southeastern coast of Middle-earth and establish colonies at Umbar and Pelargir. Under the reign of Tar-Ciryatan’s successor, Tar-Atanamir the Great, the Númenóreans grow jealous of the Eldars’ immortality and begin to question the Ban of the Valar (the Valar do not permit the Númenóreans to  journey further west to the Undying Lands). Learning of the Númenóreans’ ambitions, the Eldar from Avallónë cease their visits to Númenor. The Númenóreans who remain “Faithful” are known as the Elendili and they eventually become ridiculed and oppressed by the Valar-defying “King’s Men”. Some of the Faithful find refuge in Pelargir in Middle-earth.

Meanwhile to the east, Sauron recruits a new generation of barbarian Easterlings and southern Haradrim tribes of Men. He uses the 9 Rings of Power for Men to create the Nazgûl (Ringwraiths), and they become his chief servants. Three of the Nazgûl are created originally from Númenóreans. Around a century passes, and after a civil war the war-like Tar-Calion (also known as Ar-Pharazôn the Golden) becomes King of Númenor. When Ar-Pharazôn hears of Sauron’s growing claims to be the King of All Men and of his desire to humble Númenor, he sends a Númenórean fleet to Umbar which then marches to the gates of Mordor. Unprepared for a long siege, Sauron decides on a course of subterfuge and allows himself to be captured and brought back to Númenor.

Chapter 35. The Númenóreans are Destroyed, Arda Reshaped

Poisoned by Sauron’s influence, the Númenóreans begin to worship the memory of Melkor and to further rebel against the Valar’s teachings. Released from bondage, Sauron builds a great temple where he makes human sacrifices out of the Faithful (those who still follow the Valar). Fearing Ar-Pharazôn’s ambitions, one of the Faithful (Amandil) sails alone into the West hoping to find and ask Manwë and the Valar for aid – unfortunately he is never heard from again. Amandil’s son Elendil has the Faithful find refuge on nine ships anchored off the coast of Númenor, waiting for aid from the Valar.

Eventually Ar-Pharazôn launches his fleet westward towards the Undying Lands, defying the Ban of the Valar. His forces encounter a warning in the form of a vision of a giant eagle, obscuring the sunset, and lightning spears drop from the sky to destroy some of the Númenórean ships. Nonetheless, Ar-Pharazôn reaches the shores of the Undying Lands and tries to lay siege to the Eldar’s cities. His hand forced, the omniscient Eru Ilúvatar causes a great chasm to open in the sea between the Undying Lands and Middle-earth, swallowing the Ar-Pharazôn’s invasion fleet as well as the continent of Númenor itself. Ar-Pharazôn’s landing forces on Aman are destroyed by earthquakes.

Sauron is surprised by Eru’s destruction of the entire continent, as he had only expected the Númenórean fleet’s destruction. His corporeal “fair form” is destroyed in the collapse of his temple on Númenor, but his spirit form escapes back to Mordor. Elendil and his sons Isildur and Anárion lead the surviving nine off-shore ships of the Faithful to Middle-earth, aided by a great wave and wind (likely induced by Eru or the Valar). In their flight, they are able to save the nine Elven-created palantiri.

Eru’s dramatic reshaping of Arda is known as the ”Change of the World”, in which the world is transformed from a disc shape into a globe. Those from Middle-earth trying to sail west seeking the Undying Lands now find themselves returning to their point of origin (sailing around the globe). They eventually realize that a “straight road” leading to the Undying Lands must exist but is now forever unavailable to the Men of Middle-earth.



Volume V. The Shadow Over Middle-earth

Summary: The survivors of the sinking of Númenor arrive in Middle-earth and become known as the Dúnedain ("Men of the west"). With the help of the Elves, they take vengeance on Sauron and cut the One Ring from his hand. Afterwards, the Dúnedain divide the western half of Middle-earth into Arnor in the north and Gondor in the south. In the northwest, Sauron’s Ringwraith Black Captain (known there as the Witch King of Angmar) conducts an offensive campaign against Arnor. The people of Arnor are eventually scattered, although the Witch King is later driven back to Mordor by the arrival of the Men of Gondor from the south. This narrative is derived from the Appendices in The Return of the King.

Chapter 36. Elendil and the Arrival of the Dúnedain

In 3320 of the Second Age, Elendil and his Faithful Númenórean Men arrive in Middle-earth and eventually become known as the Dúnedain (Men of the West) in exile in Middle-earth. Elendil and his ships arrive by way of the river Lhun and after passing east of the Blue Mountains (Ered Luin) they found Arnor in the north (in the region called Eriador between the Blue and Misty Mountain ranges). Elendil’s sons Isildur and Anárion however are blown southwards, and their ships arrive in Middle-earth near the Bay of Belfalas. They move inland on the river Anduil and establish Gondor in the south, which includes the settlements Osgiliath, Minas Ithil (Isildur’s Tower of the Rising Moon), Minas Anor (Anárion’s Tower of the Setting Sun, later renamed Minas Tirith) and Isengard.

Chapter 37. Sauron Defeated: The Last Alliance of Men and Elves

In Mordor, Sauron gathers a new army made up of “Black Númenóreans” (Númenórean colonists who had earlier captured Umbar) and the southern Men known as the Haradrim. When he sees Gondor settle Osgiliath near the border of Mordor he becomes angered and attacks Gondor, successfully capturing Minas Ithil and burning the White Tree planted there. Isildur heads north to seek aid from his father Elendil, while his brother Anárion maintains the defense of Minas Anor and Osgiliath.

After hearing of Sauron’s attack on Gondor, Elendil meets with the Noldor King Gil-galad in Lindon. They forge an Alliance of Men and Elves to fight Sauron, forming the greatest army on Middle-earth since the War of Wrath and Morgoth’s destruction. After passing the Red Elf Ring Narya on to Círdan the Shipwright, Gil-galad heads south for Gondor with the great army of Men and Elves (including Elrond and Círdan). In the Battle of Dagorlad, Sauron is defeated by the Alliance, and is driven back to the Dark Tower. King Amdír of Lórien dies from wounds suffered at the battle and Amroth becomes the new King of Lórien.

The Alliance lays siege to Barad-dûr for the next 7 years. Near the end of this period Anárion is slain on the field. When Sauron engages the Alliance in a final desperate battle at the foot of the Dark Tower, Elendil and King Gil-galad are both slain, but Isildur uses his father’s sword hilt-shaft to cut the One Ring from Sauron‘s hand, immediately erasing his power and corporeal form. With Sauron’s forces routed, Elrond and Círdan advise Isildur to destroy the One Ring in Mount Doom, but he decides to save it, hoping to use its power for more benevolent causes.

Chapter 38. Rise of Arnor and Gondor (The Third Age Begins)

The Last Alliance’s victory over Sauron ushers in the Third Age of Middle-earth.  With King Gil-galad slain at Barad-dûr, Círdan assumes guardianship over Lindon from the Grey Havens. Elrond returns to Rivendell with the Blue Elf Ring Vilya and weds Celebrían, daughter of Galadriel and Celeborn. Eventually Elrond and Celebrían have a daughter whom they name Arwen Undómiel.

With Elendil dead, Isildur is chosen to take over Arnor in the north, while Gondor is passed to Anárion’s surviving line. Unfortunately, the newly-kinged Isildur is ambushed and killed by Orcs while heading north towards the Misty Mountains (the Battle of Gladden Fields) and the One Ring is lost in the Anduin River. After Isildur’s death, Valandil becomes the new ruler of Arnor, and under his reign the northern realm of the Dúnedain becomes split into three provinces: Arthedain (northwest Arnor), Rhudaur (northeast Arnor), and Cardolan (south Arnor). The shattered remains of his Elendil’s sword Narsil are recovered from the Gladden Fields and sent to Elrond for safe-keeping in Imladris. Aside from this episode, the first half of the new millennium is fairly peaceful, as the Dúnedain kingdoms settle in.

With the coming of the second half of the millennium, Gondor begins to encounter raids from Easterling barbarians. They push back against the invaders and begin to annex the Eastlands, driving the Easterlings as far back east as the Sea of Rhûn. As the centuries pass, Gondor also builds a great navy with which it captures further regions in the south, including Umbar (formerly ruled by the Black Númenóreans before Sauron’s defeat at Mordor). In the next century Gondor also subjugates the people of Harad and reaches the height of its power.

Chapter 39. Sauron Gathers Power in Mirkwood

After a thousand years of silence, Sauron quietly resurfaces in southern Greenwood (the forested realm of the Silvan Elves).  From his hidden fortress of Dol Guldur (Hill of Dark Sorcery) he begins to once again look for the Rings of Power. His evil presence causes dark forces to emerge and flourish in the forest, and Greenwood is renamed Mirkwood (although Thranduil’s Silvan/Woodland Elves hold the evil at bay in the north). In Valinor, the Valar sense the return of the Shadow and recruit Maiar to go to Middle-earth as Wizards (the Istari) in order to help organize resistance to the growing influence of Sauron. The Wizard Gandalf in particular becomes close to the Elves, and at the Grey Havens Círdan the Shipwright gives the Red Elf Ring Narya to Gandalf to help him in his mission.

Around this time, strange “halflings” called Hobbits begin to appear in the region between the Misty Mountains and Greenwood Forest. They eventually migrate westwards and settle in Eriador in the region of Bree. When Gandalf learns of them, he is fascinated and begins following their progress. In the next two centuries many migrate further westward past the Brandywine River to the Shire (Year 1 in the Hobbit calendar of Shire Reckoning).

Chapter 40. The Witch-King of Angmar Attacks Arnor

A few centuries after arriving in Mirkwood, Sauron sends his Ringwraiths north in order to mount attacks against Arnor’s provinces. The Ringwraith Black Captain bases his attacks out of Angmar (northeast of Arnor) and assumes the title “Witch-King” in order to prevent suspicion of Sauron’s return. Arthedain is greatly weakened by the raids and Cardolan is essentially destroyed, its people driven to the Barrow Downs (where their descendants will eventually be killed off by the Great Plague in 1636). Weathertop hill is also destroyed, although its valuable palantir is rescued and taken to Fornost. Arnor’s third province, Rhudaur, is conquered by Angmar’s allies the Hillmen and their people are enslaved by the Witch-King. When Círdan and Elrond learn of this new threat they rally their forces and manage to contain Angmar to the north for the next few centuries.

Chapter 41. Gondor’s Kinstrife War

In Gondor, the remaining southern realm of the Dúnedain, King Minalcar’s son Valacar marries a Northman ally of the Easterlings. They have child named Eldacar and his mixed parentage causes a disagreement when he claims the throne. This results in a civil war (the Kinstrife War, 1409-47), during which time the tower of the Dome of Osgiliath is destroyed and its palantír is lost. The Kinstrife finally ends when King Eldacar’s critics are driven south to Umbar, although for the next few centuries these rebels and their descendants continue to harass Gondor as the Corsairs of Umbar.  

Chapter 42. The Great Plague and Wainriders From the East

For the next few centuries Sauron continues to wear away at the Dúnedain from behind the scenes, surreptitiously inflicting disease and inspiring invaders from the east. A Great Plague decimates the Men of Arnor and Gondor (as well as Rhovanion) from 1634 to 1736. However, after a period of recovery, in 1810 Gondor successfully retakes Umbar from the Corsairs. Unfortunately, this victory is followed a few years later by a new enemy in the form of Wainriders (Men from the east), who conquer eastern and southern Rhovannion (bordering Gondor). In the mid-19th Century Gondor begins to drive the Wainriders out of Rhovannion, and a hundred years later, at the Battle of the Camp, Gondor decisively defeats the Eastern invaders and drives them into the Dead Marshes.

Chapter 43. Arnor Destroyed, the Witch-King Driven Off by Gondor

In the year 1945 of the Third Age, the Witch-King of Angmar finally captures Fornost, the last stronghold of Arnor. The surviving northern Dúnedain become a scattered people, some later becoming known as “Rangers”. Three decades later Gondor finally comes north and forms an alliance with Círdan’s Elves from the Grey Havens and Lindon in order to wage war against the Witch-King. Together, they drive the Witch-King out of Fornost, and when his capitol in Angmar is also destroyed the Witch-King flees back to Mordor to rejoin Sauron.

Towards the end of the millennium, the Dwarves of Moria accidentally waken a Balrog, forcing them to abandon Moria and take refuge in the Grey Mountains. Later, King Thráin I arrives at Erebor (the Lonely Mountain) and founds a dwarf-kingdom ‘under the Mountain’. Also, in the last decades of the millennium, Lothlórien’s King Amroth falls in love with the Elf-maid Nimrodel. Unfortunately, after they become separated while journeying to the western shore (intending to ultimately journey further west to the Undying Lands) Amroth drowns and Nimrodel is lost. The Noldor Galadriel and her Sindar husband Celeborn return to Lothlórien (from Belfalas) to rule as guardians, where they maintain the Elvish tree-city as a bulwark against Sauron’s encroachment west of the Anduin.



Volume VI. The War of the Ring

Summary: Sauron and his Ringwraiths attempt to invade the south, but the Men of Gondor prevail (aided by new allies the horsemen of Rohan). Sauron searches for his lost One Ring and learns that Hobbits from the Shire (in the northwest) have found it. With guidance from agents of the Valar (the Istari, or Wizards), the Hobbits, Elves and Men of Middle-earth are able to destroy the One Ring in the War of the Ring, freeing Middle-earth from the tyranny of Sauron forever. The remaining Elves depart for the Undying Lands, leaving Middle-earth to Mankind, as Eru had always intended. This narrative is derived from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but primarily from the Appendices in The Return of the King.

Chapter 44. The Witch-King Attacks Gondor, Gollum Finds the One Ring

The 2nd Millennium opens with Sauron essentially foregoing further disguises and allowing news of his return to spread. On the border of Gondor, the Nazgul Black Captain captures Minas Ithil (the Tower of the Moon) and renames it Minas Morgul (Tower of the Wraiths), in the process also gaining control of the Tower’s palantír. Alerted to Sauron’s influence in Mordor, Gondor renames Minas Anor (Tower of the Setting Sun) into Minas Tirith (Tower of Guard). The Witch-King of Morgul soon captures (and probably kills) Eärnur, the last King of Gondor and from this point forward Gondor is led by the Ruling Stewards of Gondor. Gandalf drives Sauron out of Dol Guldur (in Greenwood) and for the next four centuries (“the Watchful Peace”) Sauron and his Ringwraiths are contained behind the Morgul Vale by the Istari and the High Elves. However, by 2460 Sauron again secretly returns to Dol Guldur. Around the same time (2463) the White Council is formed, led by the Istari Wizard Saruman.

Meanwhile, a “River-Hobbit” (later known as Gollum) comes across the One Ring by accident in the Anduin (near the Gladden Fields where it was lost by King Isildur nearly 25 centuries in the past). The One Ring begins to poison his mind almost immediately and seven years after leaving his people he ends up roaming the Misty Mountains alone. Shortly thereafter, Sauron sends Orcs to Eriador and they begin infiltrating the Misty Mountains as well (possibly due to Sauron sensing the One Ring’s presence there).

Chapter 45. Rohan Comes to Gondor’s Aid

In 2510 Sauron again begins to orchestrate attacks on Gondor from Dol Guldur, and he eventually has an army of Orcs and Balchoth (Easterling Men based in Rhovannion) march towards Gondor in force. In the Battle of Field of Celebrant, Eorl’s people, the Éothéod of the Vale of Anduin, come to Gondor’s aid, and together they successfully repel Sauron’s forces. The Éothéod are given the lands of Rohan (Calenardhon) to settle in as a reward and eventually become known as the Rohirrim (Horse-lords).

Chapter 46. Gondor and the Long Winter

Sauron uses the next few centuries to rebuild once again, but in the meantime the arrogant Rohan Steward Helm Hammerhand insults and kills Freca, the king of Dunland in Gondor’s west. This impulsive slaying invites an alliance of Easterlings, Southrons, Corsairs and Dunlendings to retaliate against Edoras and Rohan. Helm retreats to Helm’s Deep (and Dunharrow), while the peoples of Eriador and Rohan are weighed down by a Long Winter and further harassed by coastal attacks from Umbar and Haradrim in the south. Eventually Helm dies of exposure, the Long Winter ends, and Helm’s nephew Fréaláf organizes a new army to successfully retake Edoras from the western Dunlendings. Restored to power, Fréaláf then repays Gondor’s debt to the Rohirrim by helping Rohan defeat further sea attacks from Umbar and the Haradrim.

Also, around this time Saruman takes up residence at Isengard in Gondor’s northwest, and the Elves of Lothlórien begin to migrate west to the Undying Lands for the final time.

Chapter 47. Dragons Drive the Dwarves Out of the Mountains

In 2770, a few dragons who have escaped destruction in the War of Wrath (at the end of the First Age) drive the Dwarves out of the Grey Mountains in the north. The fire-drake Smaug attacks the city of Dale and the Lonely Mountain (Erebor), driving most of the Dwarves to find refuge in the Iron Hills. Erebor’s Dwarf King Thrór gives his Dwarf Ring of Power to his son Thráin. Unfortunately , 20 years later Thrór is slain by the Orc chieftain Azog in Moria. The War of the Dwarves and Orcs begins. At the Battle of Azanulbizar (Battle of Nanduhirion) in Dimrill Dale (outside the eastern gates of Moria), Thráin’s son Dáin (Thrór’s grandson) finally slays Azog, avenging his fallen grandfather. However, due to the threat of the Balrog still dwelling in the depths, the Dwarves decide not to reclaim Moria.

A century and a half passes, after which Sauron captures Thráin and obtains the last of the Dwarf Rings of Power. Gandalf finds Thráin in Dol Guldur (although he does not then recognize him) and is gifted with the key to the secret entrance to the Lonely Mountain. Shortly thereafter, the White Council (including Saruman, Elrond, Galadriel and Círdan) meets and Gandalf urges an attack on Dol Guldur, suspecting Sauron’s return. Saruman overrules him  and orders no action to be taken, since he secretly desires the One Ring for himself, and hopes that with Sauron’s return the One Ring will also resurface. Saruman begins to search for the One Ring near the Gladden Fields.

Chapter 48. Gondor Resists as Sauron Rebuilds

After helping to drive the Haradrim from Rohan, Gondor ends up fighting a series of border wars with Harad. In the east, newly-mutated Uruk Orcs created by Sauron raid Ithilien. As a precaution, the secret refuge of Henneth Annûn is built behind a waterfall. In the ensuing decades under its various Stewards, Gondor and Eriador survive another long winter, defend against Wolf raids, and suffer through Great Floods. Meanwhile at Imladris (Rivendell), Aragorn son of Arathorn II, the true King of Gondor is born. Not inclined to rule over the Dúnedain, he is raised as an ordinary Man by Elrond.

Chapter 49. The One Ring and the Hobbit

With Saruman declining to have the White Council take formal actions to oppose Sauron, Gandalf acts on his own. In 2940, concerned that Sauron might discover and recruit Smaug, the last surviving fire-drake, Gandalf encourages Thorin Oakenshield to regain the Dwarves’ throne in Erebor, the Lonely Mountain (and now Smaug’s lair). Gandalf also takes this opportunity to involve a Hobbit in this mission, and Bilbo Baggins joins their Company. Almost as if by destiny, Bilbo encounters the now-mutated Gollum in the Misty Mountains and accidentally comes into possession of the One Ring (which Gollum had dropped in the darkness). Eventually the Company reaches Erebor and penetrates the treasure cellar of the mountain, but they also wake and incur the wrath of Smaug. In a fit of fury, Smaug attacks the nearby human settlement of Esgaroth where he is slain by the arrow of an archer named Bard.

With the death of Smaug at Esgaroth, the riches of Erebor are contested by the Dwarves, the Men of Esgaroth and the Wood Elves of Mirkwood. In the ensuing Battle of the Five Armies (involving the Dwarves of the Iron Mountains, the Men of Esgaroth, the Elves of Mirkwood, Sauron’s Orcs and their allies the Wargs) Thorin Oakenshield dies from wounds sustained in battle, and Dáin II becomes King of the Dwarves in Erebor.

At the same time as Thorin’s journey to Erebor, the White Council (including Saruman, Elrond, Galadriel and Círdan) is finally convinced to action and they drive Sauron out of his fortress Dol Guldur in southern Mirkwood. With Sauron confined to Mordor, Saruman hopes that it will be easier to find the One Ring for himself. Meanwhile, having lost his “Precious” One Ring and with no idea of where it might be, Gollum turns towards Mordor. Unbeknownst to all parties, the One Ring is carried back to the Shire by the Hobbit Bilbo.

With Smaug disposed of, Gandalf continues to provide guidance to the Elves. Aragorn grows into a man and, under the name “Thorongil”, leads a strike against Umbar in order to help Gondor prepare for Sauron’s eventual return. Later he returns to Lothlórien where he becomes betrothed to Arwen, Elrond’s daughter. Around this time, he also accepts the chieftainship of the Dúnedain in the north. However, he refrains from revealing his full birthright and Gondor remains under the Stewardship of Denethor II. Denethor begins using the palantír of Anárion (found in the White Tower of Minas Tirith) and eventually becomes poisoned by its connection with the Sauron’s palantir at Minas Morgul.

Chapter 50. The War of the Ring

At the beginning of the 3rd Millennium of the Third Age, the Hobbit Bilbo gives the One Ring to his nephew Frodo in the Shire and retires to Rivendell. In the ensuing years Gollum is eventually captured by Sauron while skulking about Mordor, alerting Sauron to the rediscovery of the One Ring and its possession by a Hobbit. Sauron sends the Nazgûl (Black Riders) west to search for the One Ring among the Hobbits. Gollum escapes Sauron but is then intercepted by Aragorn, after which Gandalf learns that Bilbo’s ring is almost definitely Sauron’s fabled (and cursed) One Ring. Gandalf instructs Frodo to take the One Ring away from the Shire to put it out of reach of Sauron’s Black Riders (and to spare the Shire from invasion).

When Gandalf consults with Saruman alone at Isengard, Saruman reveals his true intentions and imprisons Gandalf at his tower Orthanc. Gandalf eventually escapes with the aid of the Great Eagle Gwaihir, who takes him to Rivendell. Realizing that Gandalf will expose his ulterior motives to the White Council, Saruman decides to wage open war on Middle-earth and unleashes his Uruk-hai army of mutated Orcs. However, Frodo’s Hobbit friends Merry and Pippin later recruit the Ents into the struggle and they and their cousins the Huorns destroy Saruman’s army.

Outside of the Shire, Frodo and his company of Hobbits are joined by Aragorn, and the Ranger helps them elude the Black Riders to reach Rivendell. There, the Fellowship of the Ring is formed, and Frodo is tasked with destroying the One Ring in Mount Doom, where it was originally forged. Heading south, the Fellowship are forced to navigate through the bowels of Moria, where they encounter Orcs and the Balrog which dwells in its depths. Gandalf eventually destroys the Balrog and is forced to return to Lothlórien to recover from the ordeal.

With the recovery of the One Ring in sight, Sauron has his forces from Dol Guldur attack the Elvish strongholds of Mirkwood and Lothlórien. In the north many Dwarves and Men take refuge in Erebor when they are besieged by Sauron’s Easterling forces. A massive army is sent out of Mordor to attack Gondor but is repelled with aid from Rohan and Gondor’s southern allies, led by Gandalf and Aragorn. Afterwards, Gandalf and Aragorn lead a diversionary force to Morannon, the Black Gates of Mordor in order to distract Sauron’s attention from events in Mordor. This strategy is successful as Frodo and his companion Sam successfully make their way into the heart of Mordor without Sauron’s detection and the One Ring is destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom (partly with the help of the seemingly-ubiquitous Gollum). With the One Ring unmade, Sauron’s presence is banished forever from Middle-earth. On other battlefields raging around Middle-earth the tide also turns as Galadriel and Celeborn drive Sauron’s forces out of Dol Guldur (once again), and news of Sauron’s defeat allows the Men and Dwarves to rout the demoralized Easterlings surrounding Erebor.

With the One Ring destroyed, the three Elf Rings of Power also lose their vitality. The remainder of the Elves in Middle-earth led by Elrond, Galadriel and Círdan make final plans to depart for the Undying Lands. Shortly after the defeat of Sauron, Aragorn is made King Elessar of Middle-earth. Saruman tries to take refuge in the Shire, but Frodo and his friends rout his forces and Saruman is executed by his underling Wormtongue.

In the year 3021 of the Third Age (1421 Shire Reckoning) the Keepers of the Elf Rings (Gandalf, Galadriel, and Elrond) sail to the Undying Lands on the Last Ship to the West, taking with them the Hobbits Bilbo and Frodo. 120 years later Aragorn dies, after which the remaining members of the Fellowship of the Ring also depart Middle-earth into the western sea, presumably to join their friends and the Valar in Valinor. The history of the world from this point forward is molded solely by the hands on Men.



Notes on Tolkien's Letter to Milton Waldman (1951)

The most recent editions of The Silmarillion also include a lengthy summary Tolkien wrote as a letter to his publisher. Below are my notes condensed from this letter relating to the history of Middle-earth.

The First Age: History of the Elves, or the “Silmarillion”
QUENTA SILMARILLION: The Elves are God’s “First-born”. The Men are the “Followers“. The Doom (fate, gift) of the Elves is to be immortal, and to teach mortal Man to “grow up”, while they themselves fade away. The Doom of Men is mortality, freedom from an infinite cycle of time.

The Fall of the Elves: The chief artisan of the Elves (Fëanor) captures the Light of Valinor (from the Great Trees) in three supreme jewels, the Silmarilli. When the Great Trees are destroyed by the renegade god Morgoth, their Light lives on only in these Silmarilli gems. The Fall of the Elves is triggered by Fëanor and his sons’ obsession over these gems. When Morgoth steals the Silmarilli, Fëanor and his sons’ vengeance leads to violence (including the slaying of Elves by Elves) and they are exiled from Valinor (Paradise) to Middle-earth, where they continue their fight with Morgoth (who has mounted the three Silmarilli in his Iron Crown).

One tale, the Story of Beren and Lúthien the Elf maiden, describes a unique bond, developed between a Man and an Elf, and leading to the first marriage of mortal and immortal. Together, they recover one of the Silmarilli from Morgoth. Later, Lúthien hands down the recovered Silmaril gem to her daughter Elwing. Children of Húrin describes the tragic tale of Túrin Turambar and his sister Níniel. The Fall of Gondolin describes the fall of the chief Elvish stronghold Gondolin to the forces of Morgoth.

Eventually the Man Eärendil heads out to sea in order to journey to Valinor. He hopes to persuade the Valar (the gods) to help Middle-earth defeat Morgoth. In the meantime, the sons of Fëanor (who still seek after the Silmarilli) attack Eärendil’s home, forcing Elwing  – Eärendil’s wife - to cast herself into the sea in order to save the Silmaril. However, the jewel’s power  allows Eärendil and Elwing to eventually reunite and then successfully journey to forbidden Valinor (although for their boldness they are barred from returning to Middle-earth).

The Valar and Maiar return to Middle-earth and destroy Morgoth forever in the War of Wrath. The remaining two Silmarils are retrieved from Morgoth’s Iron Crown by the last two sons of Fëanor but are eventually lost. The ship of Eärendil - adorned with the last Silmaril - is set in heaven as the brightest star. So ends the Silmarillion and the tales of the First Age.

The Second Age
After the War of Wrath, the exiled Elves (originally led to Middle-earth by Fëanor) are encouraged to return to the Undying Lands where they will dwell in the Lonely Isle of Eressëa (off the coast of Valinor). Most of the Elves return. The Men of Middle-earth who had helped in the fight against Morgoth are gifted with the new continent Númenor. However, Morgoth’s disciple Sauron escapes the Valar’s wrath and begins building his own power in Middle-earth.

The Rings of Power: The 2nd Fall (error) of the Elves: Some Elves decide to remain in Middle-earth, preferring to remain above the mortals of Middle-earth rather than being refugees forced to live on an island off Valinor (although ultimately they are doomed to witness themselves fading away as the Men rise). The Elves eventually establish refuges in Lindon (under Gil-Galad), Imladris (Elrond) and Eregion (Celebrimbor). Sauron tricks the Elven-smiths of Eregion into creating the Rings of Power, which allows him to control all of Middle-earth with the One Ring.

Downfall of Númenor (AKALLABÊTH): When Sauron is captured by the Númenóreans, he tricks the Númenóreans into betraying the Valar. Númenor is destroyed and the world is remade into a globe (so that no matter how far west the Men sail, they will only return in the east). However, the Númenórean Elendil and his sons survive the cataclysm and migrate to Middle-earth where the Númenórean (Dúnedain ) people continue to thrive.

In the Last Alliance, Elves and Men lay siege to Mordor and Sauron loses the One Ring. The One Ring lays at the bottom of the Anduin river until Gollum comes across it in the Third Age.


A Selected History of Tolkien's Works

1915: The Story of Kullervo (see 2015)
1925: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (see 2006)
1925: Roverandom (see Tales from the Perilous Realm 2008)
1926: Beowulf (translation, see 2014)
1930: The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun (see 2016)
1930s: The Fall of Arthur (see 2013)
1930s: The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun (see 2009)
1936: Beowulf: The Monsters and The Critics (lecture, see 2016)
1937: The Hobbit
1937: Farmer Giles of Ham (see Tales from the Perilous Realm 2008)
1939: Leaf by Niggle (see Tales from the Perilous Realm 2008)
1939: On Fairy-Stories (see Tales from the Perilous Realm 2008)
1920-42: Letters from Father Christmas (see 1976)
1944: Sir Orfeo (see 2006 Sir Gawain)
1953: The Homecoming of Beortnoth Beorthelm's Son (see 1966 The Tolkien Reader)
1954-1955: The Lord of the Rings
1962: The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (see Tales from the Perilous Realm 2008)
1964: Tree and Leaf (On Fairy-stories, Leaf by Niggle, see 2006, Tales from the Perilous Realm 2008)
1966: The Tolkien Reader: The Homecoming of Beortnoth Beorthelm's Son (1953)
1967: The Road Goes Ever On (song cycle, words from LotR, etc, music by Donald Swann)
1967: Smith of Wootton Major (see Tales from the Perilous Realm 2008)
1974: Bilbo’s Last Song (poem to secretary 1966)
1976 (1920-42): The Father Christmas Letters (Letters from Father Christmas)
1977: The Silmarillion
1979: Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien
1980: Poems and Stories (see Tales from the Perilous Realm 2008)
1980: Unfinished Tales
1981: Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
1982: Mr. Bliss (1930s)
1982: Finn and Hengest (Essays)
1983-1996: The History of Middle-Earth (Christopher Tolkien, Ed.)
  • The Book of Lost Tales, Part I (1983)
  • The Book of Lost Tales, Part II (1984)
  • The Lays of Beleriand (1985)
  • The Shaping of Middle-earth (1986)
  • The Lost Road and Other Writings (1987)
  • The Return of the Shadow (The History of The Lord of the Rings Volume 1) (1988)
  • The Treason of Isengard (The History of The Lord of the Rings Volume 2) (1989)
  • The War of the Ring (The History of The Lord of the Rings Volume 3) (1990)
  • Sauron Defeated (includes The History of The Lord of the Rings Volume 4) (1992)
  • Morgoth's Ring (The Later Silmarillion Volume 1) (1993)
  • The War of the Jewels (The Later Silmarillion Volume 2) (1994)
  • The Peoples of Middle-earth (1996)
2006 (1975): Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (translations, also Pearl, Sir Orfeo)
2006 (1983): The Monsters and the Critics (7 Essays)
2007: The History of The Hobbit (John D. Rateliff, Ed.)
2007: The Children of Hurin
2008 (1997): Tales from the Perilous Realm
  • Roverandom
  • Farmer Giles of Ham
  • The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
  • Leaf by Niggle
  • Smith of  Wootton Major
  • On Fairy-Stories
2009: The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun (orig. 1930s)
2013: The Children of Húrin
2013: The Fall of Arthur (orig. 1930s)
2014: Beowulf (Translation from 1920-26, Lectures)
2015: The Story of Kullervo (orig. 1915)
2016: The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun (from 1930)
2017: Beren and Lúthien
2018: The Fall of Gondolin