|Ecthelion of the Fountain|
|Titles||Lord of the House of the Fountain|
|Death||F.A. 510 |
- "And high and noble as was Elemmakil, greater and more lordly was Ecthelion, Lord of the Fountains, at that time Warden of the Great Gate. All in silver was he clad, and upon his shining helm there was set a spike of steel pointed with a diamond; and as his esquire took his shield it shimmered as if it were bedewed with drops of rain, that were indeed a thousand studs of crystal."
- ― Unfinished Tales, Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin
Ecthelion was an Elf-lord of Gondolin, leader of the People of the Fountain and slayer of Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs. He was also at one point Warden of the Great Gate of Gondolin. Ecthelion had the most beautiful voice and greatest musical talent with the flute of all the people of Gondolin. He led a wing of Gondolin's forces during the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, "The Battle of Unnumbered Tears".
History and creation
Perhaps the earliest J.R.R. Tolkien writing, The Fall of Gondolin was written during a leave of absence from the World War I, in the year 1916. It is in that story, published posthumously by Christopher Tolkien in the volume The Book of Lost Tales Part 2 that Ecthelion first appears. Thus he is one of the first characters Tolkien ever created.
However, from a chronological point of view, the first account of his presence is the chapter Of Maeglin from The Silmarillion. The events described here took place more than one hundred and fifty years before those of Gondolin's fall. Along with Glorfindel and Egalmoth, he was assigned by Turgon as Aredhel's escort on her ill-fated journey. Though no name is mentioned, only that "Turgon appointed three lords of his household", an explanatory note in the volume The War of the Jewels, chapter called Maeglin, sheds light on the escorts' identities.
Two hundred years after Gondolin was wrought, Ecthelion, Glorfindel and Egalmoth, along with the White Lady of the Ñoldor left the Hidden City due to Aredhel's yearning for the freedom she once had in Valinor. Their orders were to lead her towards Hithlum, where she would meet her elder brother Fingon. When coming upon the Ford of Brithiach, Aredhel ordered them to turn South, for she desired to see the Sons of Fëanor. Thus Ecthelion and his companions sought admittance to Doriath, but the wardens refused them entrance inside the Girdle of Melian. Having no other choice, they took the dangerous road between the haunted valleys of Ered Gorgoroth. Near Nan Dungortheb, the Valley of Dreadful Death, the riders were caught in a mesh of shadows and they were lost from Aredhel. In vain they sought her afterwards, but the fell offsprings of Ungoliant that dwelt in that place pursued them. Barely escaping alive, the three lords returned to Gondolin without the princess, where they were received in sorrow.
Lord of Gondolin
In the year F.A. 472 Ecthelion fought alongside Turgon in the battle Nirnaeth Arnoediad, leading a wing of Gondolin's forces. Upon the defeat of the Ñoldor, he defended a flank as Turgon retreated. Surviving the disastrous battle, Ecthelion returned towards the Hidden City where he next appeared as Warden of the Great Gate in the unfinished tale Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin.
Twenty-three years after Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Tuor and Voronwë traveled towards the Hidden City. After being led by Elemmakil through the Seven Gates, Ecthelion appeared before them. In a short description he is portrayed as great and lordly, all clad in silver and having a bright glance. Upon his helm there was a spike with a diamond point which shimmered as "a thousand studs of crystal". At first denying passage for Tuor, he allows it after the later makes a reference towards Ulmo, by saying that the Lord of the Fountains will not oppose the Lord of the Waters.
The House of the Fountain was one of the Twelve Houses of the Gondolindrim whose leader was Ecthelion. Its people found delight in diamonds and the silver of their arrays was most beautiful to the sight. In the Fall of Gondolin, Ecthelion led them into battle accompanied by the music of their flutes and great were the damages caused to the enemy by their long, bright swords.
Warcry to the Eldar
In the battle over Gondolin, Ecthelion and his forces made their entrance from the South part of the city, after previously being held in reserve. So terrible was his voice when commanding the drawing of the swords and the killings which followed, that his name became a terror among the enemy and a Warcry to the Eldar. Valiantly fighting side by side with Tuor and his House of the Wing, they drove away the orcs until almost the Gate was regained. As Dragons reinforced Morgoth's army, Ecthelion killed three Balrogs and his sword did "hurt to their fire". Outnumbered, they had to retreat. When doing so, Ecthelion's left arm was wounded and his shield fell to earth. Tuor carried him away as they joyned the remaining leaders in the Square of the King.
In that place the great Fountain of the King stood and Ecthelion regained his strength by drinking from it. As seven dragons lead the enemy's forces towards the Square, the remaining army of Gondolin began retreat. All but Ecthelion, who remained near the fountain in a stand which was remembered as the most valiant "in all the songs or in any tale". It was there that he faced Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs.
Slayer of Gothmog
Later, a young Eärendil asked about him, saying that he wished Ecthelion were there, "to play to me on his flute, or make me willow whistles! Perchance has he gone on ahead?" After he was informed of Ecthelion's death he "wept bitterly" and said that he cared no more to see the streets of Gondolin.
There are three different sources that offer a translation of Ecthelion and they all differ substantially. In The Book of Lost Tales Part 2, Appendix, it is said that the name derives from the Quenya ehtelë, "issue of water, spring", a reference to his title as Lord for the House of the Fountain. In the Etymologies, volume The Lost Road and Other Writings, his name is composed from ehtë, "spear" and thela, "point" (of spear). Put together they would translate as "Spear-point" or "Spear-head". In The War of the Jewels, which seems to be the last matter J.R.R. Tolkien wrote on it, it is derived from aeg, "sharp", and thel, "intent, resolve". This would translate "one of sharp resolve".
- The Silmarillion, Of Maeglin
- The Silmarillion, Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad
- The Silmarillion, Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin
- Unfinished Tales, Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin
- The Book of Lost Tales Part 1, The Coming of the Valar and the Building of Valinor
- The Book of Lost Tales Part 2, The Fall of Gondolin
- The Lost Road and Other Writings, The later Annals of Beleriand
- The Lost Road and Other Writings, Quenta Silmarillion
- The Lost Road and Other Writings, The Etymologies
- The War of the Jewels, Maeglin