Silmarillion 14-18: Kindergarten

Aiya, nildor, today we get to cover a grandiose FIVE chapters. Why? Well because normally this would be split into 14-16 / 17-18…but at the kindergarten level, chapters 14-16 aren’t really relevant to the major overall plot. Chapters 14 and 15 describe the locations of the major kingdoms of the elves, and also the discovery by Thingol (the king who stayed behind) that the Noldor murdered a bunch of his Teleri kin when they stole the white ships to sail to Middle Earth. Cue massive displeasure, to where Thingol refuses admittance to his kingdom to any of the Noldor, and bans their language (Quenya) from his hearing. Which is why most elves in Middle Earth (and in Peter Jackson’s movies) speak Sindarin instead. Chapter 16 describes the fact that Turgon’s sister was abducted and basically raped by another elf while she was wandering in the woods, and had a kid named Maeglin. Eventually Maeglin and his mother escaped their abductor, made their way back to Gondolin, Turgon’s hidden city in the hills, and Turgon was very happy to see them again. Maeglin saw his cousin and thought she was super cool and wanted to marry her, but she didn’t really like him all that much, and besides which, he was…well, her cousin. So that was kind of squicky.

Chapter 17 describes the coming of Men into Beleriand. Some were good and helped the Elves, some were bad and helped Morgoth, and some just thought they could be left alone while Morgoth and the Noldor fought over the fate of the entire world. Finrod of the cave-by-the-river was best buds with some of the Men, particularly a fella called Barahir, who pinky-swore eternal friendship.

Chapter 18 is the real meat of this section of the book. The Elves have had Morgoth locked up in his volcanic mountain for several hundred years. He tries and tries but can’t break free — it’s like when you’re playing tag, and It is lurking right outside the base and won’t leave, and every time you try to run off the base they’re RIGHT THERE and you have to just run back home. Very frustrating.

And then, suddenly, Morgoth wakes up and realizes something : “I’m hiding…IN A VOLCANO”…the most destructive weapon nature has at its disposal, and I’ve got one. So he pushes the big red button, his volcano erupts, and lava asplodes everywhere, killing a whole bunch of elves. Morgoth takes advantage of the ensuing confusion to empty his base and massive legions of orcs, balrogs, and dragons wreak mighty destruction. It’s not a good day for the elves : there are more Heroic Last Stands On Hilltops in this chapter than I can count on one hand. Notably, Finrod gets cut off and it looks like he’s about to go down, when his Man-buddy Barahir takes a squad of pikemen, cuts his way through to Finrod, and helps him escape. Finrod is super-grateful that that pinky-swear actually amounted to anything, and gives Barahir his ring to signify that eternal friendship is not a one-way street. Finrod’s ring becomes a key heirloom of Barahir’s family, passes through all sorts of crazy happenings, and eventually winds up…on Aragorn’s finger, in LOTR. If you have the extended version of The Two Towers, Wormtongue describes this ring to Saruman upon his arrival at Isengard, who refers to it as “the ring of Barahir” — and thus identifies Aragorn’s true identity.

The Battle of Sudden Flame goes poorly.

I think we can safely say that their daddy had some messed-up genes.

Several leading elves are killed here, but the most dramatic ends up being Fingolfin, Feanor’s half-brother and High King of the Noldor. When he sees that Morgoth’s people are running rampant all over the place, and that he has no hope of catching them all, he decides he doesn’t so much want to play tag anymore, and charges up to the doors of Morgoth’s still-smoking volcano and challenges Morgoth to single combat. Suicidal recklessness runs in the family, I guess. At any event, Morgoth accepts because he doesn’t want to look like a wimp in front of his men, especially after Fingolfin specifically labels him, in everyone’s hearing, a coward. Them’s fightin’ words, you know? So Morgoth comes out, they have a fight, and as you might expect from a mere mortal fighting a godlike entity, Morgoth totally wins, and crushes Fingolfin’s head with his foot when they’re done. Fingolfin does manage to get a few good hits in, sufficiently so that Morgoth never comes out of his mountain again for the rest of the story. But as he’s about to throw Fingolfin’s body to the wolves, the eagles come, pick up his body, and carry it away to his second son Turgon. So Fingolfin’s first son, Fingon, becomes High King now in his place. And the sons of Feanor are still really PO’ed that their spokesman Maedhros passed their claims of high king-ship over to Fingolfin’s people, because now it’s like they’ve been passed over TWICE. And where’s the justice in that? Grumble.

It’s worth noting in the postscript here that the Elves did manage to recover a fair amount of the land that they lost in the initial onslaught in the following years. Not all of it, but enough to make it obvious that Fingolfin’s despair and suicide-run were a mite hasty. Them’s the breaks.

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