|Conflict: War of the Jewels (Fifth Battle of the Wars of Beleriand|
|Date: F.A. 472|
|Outcome: Decisive victory for Angband due to treachery, depopulation of Hithlum with replacement by Easterlings, occupation of much of Beleriand|
100,000-120,000 Noldor and Edain warriors of Dor-lómin, 10,000 Gondolindrim under Turgon, a company of Elves from Nargothrond, company of the people of Haleth from Brethil, and 1-2,000 Dwarves of Belegost, the Easterlings from House of Bór
Huge and crippling to the Noldor, Men of Dor-lómin wiped out except Húrin, thousands of captives
Heavy early in the battle, but ultimately moderate
The Nírnaeth Arnoediad or Battle of Unnumbered Tears was the disastrous Fifth Battle in the Wars of Beleriand. Its name was taken from the first words of the Doom of Mandos: "Tears unnumbered ye shall shed...".
Events Prior to the Battle
In the year 473 of the Years of the Sun in the First Age, Maedhros decided that taking the offense against Angband might help the Noldor regain their former lands. In the almost two decades since their defeat in the Dagor Bragollach, the Noldor had lost control over the entire north of Beleriand, and were for the most part reduced to refugees dwelling in Hithlum and Nargothrond. Gondolin was shut up and unknown.
Opposing Forces and Strategy
Under the Union of Maedhros all the Elves of Beleriand, as well as the Edain, Dwarves, and the newly arrived Easterlings were invited to combine in arms and fight Morgoth. The Union first cleared Beleriand and Dorthonion of Orcs, and then gathered to assault Thangorodrim.
The plan was for Maedhros's host in the east to assault and draw out the army of Angband, after which Fingon's host would attack from the Ered Wethrin, taking the offensive in the west, crushing Morgoth's forces between them.
Under Fingon in the west were gathered the Elves and Men of Hithlum, the Elves of the Falas, the Haladin of Brethil and the companies sent from Nargothrond and the two elves of Doriath, Beleg and Mablung.
Because of the evil deeds of Celegorm and Curufin, two of Maedhros's brothers, Nargothrond would send only a small company of Elves under Gwindor. From Doriath, where Thingol had sworn never to fight beside any son of Fëanor, came only Mablung and Beleg, who did not wish to remain behind. However, Turgon unexpectedly came forth with over ten thousand Elves from Gondolin, doubling the force of the west.
But Morgoth through his spies had learned of the battle plan, and his spy Ulfang, who betrayed the Noldor, delayed Maedhros' attack. Meanwhile a small force of Orcs sallied forth from Angband, provoking the western host. Within sight of the Ered Wethrin, Gwindor's brother Gelmir, captured during the Dagor Bragollach, was brought forth, and brutally slain. Enraged, Gwindor broke ranks, and with him most of Fingon's troops. Their rage was so great that they nearly destroyed the western Orc host and foiled Morgoth's plans.
It is said that Morgoth trembled as Gwindor's company pounded at his gates. They burst through, and slew the guards on the steps of Angband. But alas, they were surrounded by hidden forces, and all were slain or taken. From hidden gates around Angband thousands of Orcs erupted, driving back the host of Fingon from the walls. The Elven army was driven back with great slaughter, and many Haladin fell fighting in the rearguard.
Turgon, who had withheld his host from the reckless charge, now came upon the Orc host. The phalanx of Turgon broke through the Angband lines, and met with the guard of Fingon. The meeting of the two brothers in the middle of the battle was joyous.
Finally Maedhros arrived, but before he could make junction with Fingon and Turgon, Glaurung the dragon and Gothmog lord of Balrogs intercepted him. Union forces could yet have prevailed, but Uldor, son of Ulfang and a traitor, turned ranks and attacked Maedhros in the rear, while more of his kin came down from the mountains and attacked from the east. Under assault from three sides, the eastern host was scattered, and only the valour of the Dwarves of Belegost helped them escape, as their lord Azaghâl and his forces held off Glaurung, allowing the sons of Fëanor to escape into Ossiriand.
Azaghâl and his army fought with fierce iron masks on, and they were able to resist the fire far better than any Elf or Man. Then Glaurung trampled Azaghâl beneath his feet, but Azaghâl ran a dagger through Glaurung's stomach, and the dragon fled in pain, screaming. With him fled many of the host of Morgoth. In a solemn ceremony the Dwarves picked up their fallen leader, forgetting about the battle, and they marched him home, in a great procession. Their wrath was so great that none troubled them.
All this had not helped the western host, who were attacked by many Orcs under Gothmog. Fingon fell under his might, and Húrin begged Turgon to retreat back to Gondolin. Huor and Húrin and the remaining Men of Dor-lómin formed a living wall across the Fen of Serech, buying time for Turgon to escape with most of the surviving Elves of the north. Acting as a rearguard, these Men were almost all slain – Huor fell when his eye was pierced by a poisoned arrow, but his brother Húrin was captured alive by Gothmog after he was pinned under a mountain of slain Orcs and Trolls.
Order of Battle
Hosts of Angband:
Aftermath and Repercussions
Morgoth's victory was near complete, as he had destroyed all the people of Hithlum and had scattered the sons of Fëanor away from Himring. Morgoth's Orcs razed all of Beleriand except for Doriath, which was still protected by the Girdle of Melian, and sacked the havens of the Falas.
Morgoth betrayed his servants the Easterlings, shutting them in Hithlum under penalty of death, and denied to them the fertile lands of Beleriand. Still Morgoth knew fear, for Turgon, now High King of the Ñoldor after the death of Fingon, had survived, and his city Gondolin was still unknown to Morgoth. To be sure, the Union's attack inflicted grievous losses on Morgoth's forces, and it would take some time for him to rebuild his armies back to their former strength. But this was largely irrelevant, compared to how utterly Morgoth had broken the power of so many of his enemies in the battle.
Nírnaeth Arnoediad is Sindarin for "Tears Uncountable".
Note that the "oe" of "Arnoediad" is not the Sindarin diphthong "oe", but rather the single umlaut vowel "œ", better represented with a digraph.
|Wars of Beleriand|
|First Battle · Dagor-nuin-Giliath · Dagor Aglareb · Dagor Bragollach · Nirnaeth Arnoediad · War of Wrath|