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Angband ('Iron Prison' or 'Hell of Iron'; ang = iron, band = prison, duress) was a mighty fortified citadel originally constructed by Melkor in the earliest days of the world as an outlying fortress to his northern stronghold of Utumno. Utumno was destroyed by the Valar, and Melkor imprisoned in Valinor for three ages, but on his return to Middle-earth, he took Angband as the seat of his power, and raised the towers of Thangorodrim above its gates.
Angband was beseiged by the Noldor during the early part of the First Age, but the Siege of Angband was broken at the Dagor Bragollach. It was finally destroyed by the forces of the Valar at the end of the First Age, in the War of Wrath.
Origins and History
Melkor built Angband during the Years of the Trees, originally as an outlying fortress and armoury to his great northern citadel at Utumno. It was commanded from its first construction by Sauron, the chief of Melkor's servants. Angband was built near the northwestern shores of the Great Sea in the range of the Iron Mountains, as a first defence against any attack on Melkor's realm from the Valar in Aman. When the Valar captured Melkor and took him in chains back to Valinor, Angband was largely destroyed and lay in ruins for many thousands of years, although beneath the ruins lay many hidden chambers in which some of Melkor's servants escaped the Valar's assault. Sauron was one of these, and the Balrogs lay hid with him in Angband's deepest vaults.
Angband re-entered history when Melkor escaped Valinor with the stolen Silmarils: he chose the ruined fortress as his new capital, and rebuilt the Hells of Iron as a base for the dark reign he intended for the lands of Middle-earth.
Soon after the Return of the Noldor to Beleriand, Morgoth took Maedhros Fëanor's son by deceit and trickery, and hung him by the wrist from the towers of Thangorodrim above Angband. He was rescued by Fingon and Thorondor, but lost his right hand.
The third of the great battles in the Wars of Beleriand, the Dagor Aglareb, had profound consequences for Angband. Until that time (about the year 75 of the First Age) Morgoth sent out hosts of Orcs in the hope of taking the Noldor by surprise. The Noldor, though, chased these Orcs back to the very gates of Angband, and slew them to the last creature. From then until the Dagor Bragollach in I 455, a period of almost 400 years, Angband was surrounded by the Noldor; this is the time known as the Siege of Angband.
Appearance and Construction
Angband was primarily an underground fortress, at least after its initial destruction by the Valar in the Years of the Trees. Like its prototype, Utumno, it had many hidden underground chambers and vaults far beneath the earth. Its main features above ground were the three peaks of the Thangorodrim, mighty towers of ash and slag raised above Angband's gates. The peaks of Thangorodrim were hollow, and from them channels and chimneys ran down to the deepest pits of Angband. So, Morgoth could produce poisonous clouds and vapours, as indeed he sent against the Noldor in Mithrim during the first days after their Return.
Ever the sheer cliffs rose beside,
where birds of carrion sat and cried;
and chasms black and smoking yawned,
whence writhing serpent-shapes were spawned;
until at last in that huge gloom.
heavy as overhanging doom,
that weighs on Thangorodrim’s foot
like thunder at the mountain’s root,
they came, as to a sombre court
walled with great towers, fort on fort
of cliffs embattled. to that last plain
that opens, abysmal and inane,
before the final topless wall
of Bauglir’s immeasurable hall,
whereunder looming awful waits
the gigantic shadow of his gates.