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The Fall of Gondolin (chapter)

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The Fall of Gondolin by John Howe

Introduction & History of the Writing

The "Fall of Gondolin" is the name of one of the original Lost Tales which formed the basis for a section in Tolkien's later work, The Silmarillion.

"The Fall of Gondolin" tells of the founding of the Elven city of Gondolin (built in secret by Turgon and his people), of the arrival Tuor, a prince of the Edain, of the betrayal of the city to Morgoth by Turgon's nephew Maeglin, and of its subsequent destruction by Morgoth's armies.

Tolkien actually began writing the story that would become "The Fall of Gondolin" in 1917 in an army barracks on the back of a sheet of military marching music. It is more or less the first traceable story he wrote down on paper about the Middle-earth legendarium.

Because he was constantly revising his First Age stories, the narrative Tolkien wrote in 1917 (published posthumously in the Book of Lost Tales) remains the only full account of the fall of the city. The narrative in The Silmarillion was the result of the editing by his son Christopher of various different sources.

A partial new version of "The Fall of Gondolin" was published in the Unfinished Tales under the title "Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin". Actually titled "Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin", this narrative shows a great expansion of the earlier tale. It can be surmised from this text that Tolkien would have rewritten the entire story, but for reasons that are not known he abandoned the text before Tuor actually arrives in the city. For this reason Christopher Tolkien retitled the story before including it in Unfinished Tales.

The Fall

"there are Tolkien's latest thoughts, his best thoughts, and his published thoughts and these are not necessarily the same." — Tolkien's Legendarium
This article is non-canon.
Eriol listened in the Cottage of Lost Play as Lindo and others told tales of old. Then Ilfiniol, called Littleheart son of Bronweg, was asked by Lindo to tell of the Fall of Gondolin. And he did.



Now there was a man who dwelt in Dor Lómin named Tuor. And he was both a singer and a hunter, and played on a rough harp of wood and bear-sinews. He eventually departed from his people to lonely places, where he learned the speech and lore of the Noldor from wanderers there.

Later, it is said, magic and destiny led him one day do a cavernous opening through with a hidden river flowed from Mithrim. And he entered the cavern, curious. But the waters forced him futher and further down, until he could not force his way back into the light. And it is said that Ulmo had a hand in this. Then came Noldorin elves to Tuor, and guided him until he came out into the light again, and saw the river flowed swiftly in a ravine of great depth with sides unscalable. Then Tuor did not wish to return, but went ever forward, the river leading him to the west. And he called it the Golden Cleft, or the Gully of the Rainbow Roof, which was in the speech of the Noldor Glorfalc or Cris Ilbranteloth.

He continued on, drinking the water of the river and eating the beautiful fish of the stream. One day a long time after he heard a cry, and could not decide what it came from.

"It is a fay-creature," he said. But after a while he said "Nay, 'tis but some small beast that waileth among the rocks." But then it seemed to him as an unknown bird with a voice new to his ears and strangely sad. And on the next day he heard the same cry over his head, and looking up saw three great white birds, Gulls of Ossë.

At last Tuor found a spot where he could scale the cliffs surrounding him. A fresh wind touched his face, and he said "This is very good and like the drinking of wine", but he did not know he was near the Great Sea. Then he came to a narrow neck, where the river rumbled angrily. Then Tuor saw the sea for the first time, and he was afraid. He found himself in a country bare of trees and swept by winds of the west. Some have said he was the first of the men to see the sea and feel the desire it brings.

He took up his abode there, dwelling in a cove sheltered by black rocks. And he marvelled at the wonders there; the seaweed and the tide pools and the sea-fowl. He adorned the cave in which he dwelt with figures of birds and flowers, and beasts and trees. But chief among them was that of the swan, which he loved more than all others.

Once he saw three swans flying high and from the northward. And he followed them, heading south. Tuor bearing his harp and spear followed. After a great day's journey he came back into a region of trees; a rugged land. Yet he still followed the swans, even through the winter. At last he came to a southern land more kindly, of sandy spits and many new piping birds. And Tuor lost sight of the swans, and he never saw them again. And the Noldor came to him at night, and he arose from sleep. Then he followed them inland, and came to the land of Arlisgion, the "place of reeds". And he rested by the Sirion that spring. He called it the Land of Willows, and the birds there were unequalled in all the world. And here there was the sweetest grass and many aged willows, and Tuor was loth to depart, and he tarried in the morn.

Here he saw the first butterflies. And as summer came he still lingered, and gave names to all things, and sang new songs on his old harp.

Ulmo's message

Then Ulmo feared that Tuor would dwell forever in the Land of Willows. Therefor he leaped upon his chariot drawn by a narwhal and a sealion, fashioned like a whale, and amidst the sounding of great conches sped up from Ulmonan. And he came to Tuor, blowing on his great instrument, to which Tuor hearkened. And Ulmo spoke to him.

"O Tuor of the lonely heart," he said, "I will not that thou dwell for ever in fair places of birds and flowers; nor would I lead thee through this pleasant land, but that so it must be. But fare now on thy destined journey and tarry not, for far from hence is thy weird set. Now must thou seek through the lands for the city of the folk called Gondothlim or the dwellers in stone, and the Noldoli shall escort thee thither in secret for fear of the spies of Melko. Words I will set to your mouth there, and there you shall abide awhile. Yet maybe thy life shall turn again to the mighty waters; and of surety a child shall come of thee than whom no man shall know more of the uttermost deeps, be it of the sea or of the firmament of heaven."

Then Tuor continued up the river, but he heard the conches of Ulmo calling him until he died.

A day came when he was weary, and he slept until it was almost night again. And the Noldor came to him and guided him. Now Tuor wandered with them, but the elves became ill at ease. And they told him of Morgoth, and what would happen if they were betrayed. And so they left him, though he wandered still in the hills. But it was said to Morgoth that there was a man there, and Morgoth doubted his own craft and watchfulness.

Search for Gondolin

But despite the desertation of Tuor by the elves out of fear, one elf named Voronwë, or Bronweg remained with Tuor. Now Tuor was sitting wearily by the stream, considering returning to the sea. But Voronwë came up to him, and said "O Tuor, think not but that thou shalt again one day see thy desire; arise now, and behold, I will not leave thee. I am not of the road-learned of the Noldoli, being a craftsman and maker of things made by hand of wood and of metal, and I joined not the band of escort till late. Yet of old have I heard whispers and sayings said in secret amid the weariness of thraldom, concerning a city where Noldoli might be free could they find the hidden way thereto; and we twain may without a doubt find the road to the City of Stone, where is that freedom of the Gondothlim."

Long did Tuor and Bronweg seek that city, and after many days they came to a deep dale amid the hills. Here went the river over a very stony bed with much noise and rush, and it was curtained by alders; but the walls of the dale were sheer. Then Voronwë found a gate concealed by bushes and foliage, and they passed through it into deep tunnels. They heard echoes and footsteps behind them, and feared it was orcs. After a long time they came to a second gate. Then they passed through into the sunlight, and for a while they could not see anything. Then they were suddenly surrounded by warriors in steel. And even as they stood there they beheld Gondolin and the valley of Tumladen.

Then Voronwë spoke with the guards, as did Tuor. The guards received them gladly, saying "We are the guardians of the issue of the Way of Escape. Rejoice that ye have found it, for behold before you the City of Seven Names where all who war with Melko may find hope."

Then Tuor asked "What be those names?"

"'Tis said," replied the chief of the Guard, "and 'tis sung: 'Gondobar am I called and Gondothlimbar, City of Stone and City of the Dwellers in Stone; Gondolin the Stone of Song and Gwarestrin I am named, the Tower of Guard, Gar Thurion or the Secret Place, for I am hidden from the eyes of Melko; but they who love me most greatly call me Loth, for like a flower am I, even Lothengriol the flower that blooms upon the plain.'" But he added that usually they just called it Gondolin.

Then Tuor and Voronwë asked to be brought thither. The chief of the Guard told them that the Guard must stay at their posts, but they could go themselves without a leader, for it was plain to see against the sky.

Therefor they marched across Tumladen, and into Gondolin. Tuor was awestruck by the city, with its fountains and stairs, and high towers. A throng followed him, wondering at his rough clothes (for at this stage in the legendarium Tuor did not receive armor at Vinyamar). Tuor was taller even than the elves, for the Gondothlim were short, slender, and lithe.

But the guard pushed back the crowd and demanded their names. Voronwë called himself Bronweg, ordered by Ulmo to guide Tuor. But Tuor said "I am Tuor son of Peleg son of Indor of the house of the Swan of the sons of the Men of the North who live far hence, and I fare hither by the will of Ulmo of the Outer Oceans."

Then the guardsmen led them before King Turgon, Lord of Gondolin, who dwelt within a beautiful palace. The king was robed in white, wearing a golden belt and a crown of garnets. And he called out to Tuor, who replied with the message, Ulmo giving power to his voice.

"Behold, O father of the City of Stone," he said, "I am bidden by him who maketh deep music in the Abyss, and who knoweth the mind of Elves and Men, to say unto thee that the days of Release draw nigh. There have come to the ears of Ulmo whispers of your dwelling and your hill of vigilance against the evil of Melko, and he is glad: but his heart is wroth and the hearts of the Valar are angered who sit in the mountains of Valinor and look upon the world from the peak of Taniquetil, seeing the sorrow of the thraldom of the Noldoli and the wanderings of Men; for Melko ringeth them in the Land of Shadows beyond hills of iron. Therefor have I been brought by a secret way to bid you number your hosts and prepare for battle, for the time is ripe."

To be continued. You can help Tolkien Gateway by completing this article

The Siege

The Breaking of the Gates

This book states that in the eighth year of Eärendil, son of Tuor, plain riders came to the city crying "Melko is upon us." Then all were afraid, but the squares of the city were filled with the mustering of the companies (see Gondolin for a list). Tuor was in command of the twelfth company, the Folk of the Wing. Idril herself arrayed herself in mail, and sought Eärendil, who wept in fear because of the red lights dancing on the walls of his chamber. And she gave him a small coat of mail to put on, and this he did and feared no more.

Turgon called a council, and though Tuor and others counselled him to fight out in the plain in the hope that they could break through and escape, Turgon listen to the counsel of Maeglin and Salgant, and remained in the city to guard his treasures and the work of his hands behind strong walls.

Upon the reaching of the city by Gothmog and his army, the archers of Gondolin poured unavailing arrows upon them. All feared, but hope returned to them when it was found that the snakes of fire could not climb the hill for its steepness and glassiness, and because of the waters that poured down its sides. But they lay about the feet of the city and rose up such heat that all in the city panted and were weary, and all fountains save those of the king grew hot.

Then Gothmog gathered all things of iron and piled them upon the North Gate, and at last the gates broke. Then did the catapults and engines of the king pour down darts and boulders, but they bounced off the heavy bodies. Then the orcs poured through the gates.

But Rog and Galdor with the House of the Hammer of Wrath and the House of the Tree leaped forward, while the Folk of the Swallow and of the Arch poured down arrows. The orcs fell like leaves, but because of their might the Gondothlim were pushed back into the city until the orcs held the northernmost part of the city.

The Death of Maeglin

Tuor was at this time leading the Folk of the Wing through the turmoil, and at last he won his way to his house, and found that Maeglin had been there first. Now Maeglin intended to escape the sack and have his revenge by first throwing Eärendil from the wall and then forcing Idril to lead him to her secret passage out of the city. But when he confided his task to Salgant, the elf-lord fell into such a quaking that he became sick and lay in bed.

Now Tuor had come to this house to say farewell to his wife and son, and sent a bodyguard with them to the secret passage, but found the House of the Mole about the door, and these the grimmest and least good-hearted in the city. Then Tuor saw Maeglin, who had Eärendil in his arms and Idril by the hair upon the battlements, but encumbered by the child and because Idril was fighting him he moved slowly, cursing as he went. Then Tuor gave such a shout that the orcs far away wavered, and the Folk of the Wing threw themselves upon the Folk of the Mole, and Tuor pushed past. Maeglin seeing Tuor drew a knife, and would have stabbed Eärendil, but the boy bit his hand, and the blow came down not solidly, bouncing off the mail coat. Then Tuor caught him up by the hand that held the knife and wrenching it broke Maeglin's arm. Then he lifted Maeglin up by the middle and hurled him out from the wall, and thrice did his body smite the slope of Amon Gwareth, until if fell into the flames.

But then the Folk of the Mole came at Tuor, and they were put to blows. Yet none could stand before the wrath of Tuor, and they flew before him. Then Tuor and his men were forced to return to the gate, but Tuor left Voronwë and several swordsmen to guard Idril in his absence.

The Valor of the Hammer of Wrath

Back at the gate the battle was evil, and Duilin was stricken by a bolt from a balrog, and fell from the walls and perished. The balrogs continued to shoot darts of fire and flaming arrows like small snakes into the sky, and these fell upon the roofs and gardens of Gondolin until all the trees and gardens were burnt, and the walls blackened. Worse still it was when the demons climbed upon the coils of the serpents of iron and thence loosed unceasingly from their bows and slings till a fire began to burn in the city to the back of the main army of the defenders.

Then Rog of the House of the Hammer of Wrath cried out "Who now shall fear the Balrogs for all their terror? See before us the accursed ones who for ages have tormented the children of the Noldoli (Noldor), and who now set a fire at our backs with their shooting. Come ye of the Hammer of Wrath and we will smite them for their evil." Then he lifted up his long-handled mace, and the people of the Stricken Anvil followed him, running like a wedge, and they were in a great rage. Many of the orcs were borne backwards, and they leaped even upon the coils of the serpents and came at those Balrogs and smote them greviously. A number of the balrogs were slain, and they were sung as heroes ever after.

But Gothmog fell upon them, and at the last Rog was slain, and all the folk of the Hammer of Wrath with him, and in those streets there perished also Penlod and many of the House of the Pillar and of the House of the Tower of Snow.

Battle within the City and at the Breach

The orcs held the gates, and many of the archers of the House of the Swallow and of the House of the Heavenly Arch were thrust to doom, but they had won a great space reaching nigh to the center of the city, even to the Place of the Well that adjoined the Square of the Palace. Then came Ecthelion and the House of the Fountain, whom Turgon had till now held in reserve. And they fell upon the orcs with such fury that ever after "Ecthelion!" was a warcry of the Eldar.

Now Tuor and the Folk of the Wing arrayed themselves beside Ecthelion's company, and by their valiant blows pushed the orcs almost all the way back to the gate. Then there came a quaking, for the dragons were beating a path up Amon Gwareth and casting down the walls of the city, and already there was a gap. Little bands of the House of the Swallow and of the Arch fought bitterly amid the wreakage, but even as Tuor came one of the brazen snakes smote the western wall, and a great mass of it shook and fell. Behind came a creature of fire and Balrogs upon it. Flames shot from its mouth, clearing the streets, and the wings of the helm of Tuor were blackened.

Then the orcs returned, though Tuor slew Othrond, the Lord of the Orcs, and Balcmeg and Lug, and Ecthelion slew the champion Orcobal. At last the twain reached the balrogs, and Ecthelion alone slew three of them, and his sword (which might have been Orcrist) smote through their iron. But they feared Tuor's axe Dramborleg even more, and five went down before it.

Then at last Ecthelion was wounded, and Tuor would not leave him, though the feet of the beast were like to trample them. But Tuor hewed at the foot of the creature so that flame spouted forth, and the beast screamed and lashed its tale so that many orcs and Noldor were killed by its blows. Then Tuor lifted up Ecthelion and with his last remnant escaped the drake, but the Gondothlim were sorely shaken.

Tuor reached the Square of the Folwell by way of the north, and found there Galdor denying orcs the entrance by way of the Arch of Ingwë, and but few of the men of the Tree were left. It was then that Galdor saved Tuor's life, for Tuor tripped over a dead body in the dark and the orcs would have caught him had not Galdor leaped forward and hurled them back single-handedly.

Defense of the King's Square, and the Death of Ecthelion

Gradually the remaining companies seeped out of the Place of the Well, and went to the more defensable Square of the Palace. Thus was the last gathering, and many among them were wounded, and Tuor was tired. Even as he led his battalion in via the Road of the Arches there arose a noise, for Glorfindel and the last of the House of the Golden Flower returned, having fought a terrible conflict in the Great Market on the east side of the city, and Glorfindel only barely escaped.

Turgon had sent the House of the Harp to their aid, but Salgant concealed this bidding from his soldiers, saying that they were to garrison the square of the Lesser Market to the south. But they resisted Salgant and came before the king's hall, timely enough to save Glorfindel and push the enemy back into the market, though many perished there.

Tuor drank from the fountain, and gave the swooned Ecthelion a drink, so that he woke. Then Egalmoth came, for he had gathered some of the Arch and Swallow about him, and cast away his bow. They went about the city dealing blows where they met the enemy, and men were glad to see him, for they had thought him dead, and he was a kingly lord. The women and children had been brought into the palace, and a few survivors from each company had made it there, save that of the Hammer of Wrath, and the House of the King was untouched. Long they resisted the press of foes around the Square of the Palace, but at last a drake broke through the line on the north, destroying the Alley of Roses. Tuor stood in the way of the beast, but was seperated from Egalmoth, and became weary. Then Gothmog came, and beat him down. But Ecthelion, who rose on weak legs, strode over Tuor's form. But when he thrust his sword at the balrog he recieved a wound on his sword-arm, so that he dropped the sword, and Gothmog was unhurt. As Gothmog raised his whip for a final blow, Ecthelion leaped forward, and drove the spike of his helm into the evil breast of the balrog. And he entwined his legs about the balrog's thighs, so that they both fell into the Fountain, and Gothmog's fire was quenched, for the fountain was very deep. And Tuor wept.

Then came the soldiers of the House of the King, and they threw themselves upon the enemy with such vigor as to slay two score (forty-eight) balrogs, and even pushed one of the Fire-drakes into the Fountain of the King, destroying it. But a vast column of vapor rose, and many killed each other in the confusion. One thing notable about this is that this, while happening to the fire-drake, did not occur when Gothmog fell in. Despite the many deaths they rallied in a last stand beneath Glingal and Belthil, the trees in the court.

Last Words of the King

Then said King Turgon "Great is the fall of Gondolin", and the elves about him shuddered, for such were the words of Amnon the prophet. But Tuor spoke wildly for ruth and love of the king.

"Gondolin stands yet, and Ulmo will not suffer it to perish!" he cried. But Turgon responded:

"Evil have I brought upon the Flower of the Plain in despite of Ulmo, and now he leaveth it to wither in the fire. Lo! hope is no more in my heart for my city of loveliness, but the children of the Noldoli shall not be worsted for ever." Thus he spake.

Then the Gondothlim clashed their weapons, and Turgon spoke again. "Fight not against doom, O my children! Seek ye who may safety in flight, if perhaps there be time yet: but let Tuor have your lealty." But Tuor said: "Thou art king;" and Turgon made answer: "Yet no blow will I strike more."

Then Turgon cast his crown at the roots of Glingal, the Golden Tree, and though Galdor who stood near picked it up, Turgon would not accept it, and bare of head he climbed to the topmost pinnacle of the White Tower. There he shouted in a voice like a horn blown among the mountains: "Great is the victory of the Noldoli!" It was said to be the middle of the night at this time, and the orcs yelled in derision.

Then they spoke of a sally (that is, a sortie from the city). Many held that it was impossible to burst through, nor might they even get over the plain or through the hills, and that it was better therefor to die about the king. But Tuor at last revealed to them Idril's Secret Way. The plan seemed desperate, due to the narrowness of the tunnel and the great amount of people, but that was their only choice. But Turgon refused.

"Let Tuor," he said, "be your guide and your chieftain. But I Turgon will not leave my city, and will burn with it." Then again they urged him: "Sire, who are the Gondothlim if thou perish? Lead us!" But again he responded, "Lo! I abide here." And when again they urged him for a third time, he cried "If I am king, obey my behests, and dare not to parley further with my commands." After that they sent no more and made ready for the forlorn attempt. But the folk of the royal house that yet lived would not budge a foot, and gathered thickly about the base of the king's tower. "Here," said they, "We will stay if Turgon goes not forth." And they could not be persuaded.

Retreat through the City

Then Tuor's heart was split between love for the King and love for Idril and Eärendil. But even as he hesitated the last onslaught was being prepared, and he made his choice. Hearing the wailing of the women he at last gathered all his company, and they moved southward by way of the Road of Pomps and the Way of Running Waters. But fire-drakes came, some of the largest, and Tuor forced the company on at a run. But Glorfindel held them off at the rear, and many more of the House of the Golden Flower fell there. But even as they ran on Tuor halted at Gar Ainion, where he and Idril were married. And there stood Idril before him, and beside her Voronwë. But Idril did not see him, for she gazed back at the palace of her father. Then all halted and looked back, and saw that a drake was coiled upon the very steps, and defiled their whiteness. Orcs were rushing about, dragging out the innocent and forgotten, the women and children who had not made it to the palace, and murduring them or making captives of them. The trees were withered, and the tower was besieged. Even they could see the king upon the topmost tower, standing tall.

"Woe is me whose father awaiteth doom even upon his topmost pinnacle; but seven times woe whose lord hath gone down before Melko and will stride home no more!" cried Idril.

"Lo! Idril, it is I, and I live," said Tuor, "yet now will I get thy father hence, be it from the Hells of Melko!" With that he would have gone down the hill alone, maddened with grief, but Idril coming to her wits grasped his heel, crying "My lord!" But even as she spoke thus the tower fell, and Turgon was buried.

Then Idril said heavily "Sad is the blindness of the wise."

"Sad too is the stubbornness of those we love," replied Tuor, and he kissed his wife, for he loved her more than all of the people of Gondolin, but still she wept for her father. Then Tuor turned to the captains, saying: "Lo, we must get hence with all speed, lest we be surrounded."

Then they moved quickly, and met only scattered bands of plunderers. But every now and then they met a woman or child, and they joined them, though Tuor allowed them to take nothing but a little food.

Then Voronwë told Tuor of how Idril had waited before the door of her house, and how she wept for lack of tidings of her husband. At length she sent most of her guard with Eärendil down the secret way, and girding up a sword went about the city gathering up the women and children and sending them down the tunnel.

Then they reached the house, and found it thrown down. The exiles said farewell to Gondolin, and went down into the tunnel.

The Tunnel and the Splitting of the Company

The tunnel was hot and stuffy, for the dragons above caused it. Many boulders were loosed by the trembling above, and not a few were crushed. The fumes caused their torches and lanterns to go out, so that they were in darkness. They found to their horror bodies of those who had gone before, and Tuor feared greatly for his son. They were in that tunnel two hours, until at last they reached a basin where once water had been, but was now full of bushes. There was gathered much of the folk that had gone on before, but Eärendil was not among them, and Tuor and Idril were in great anguish.

"Now," said Galdor, "We must get as far hence toward the Encircling Mountains as may be ere dawn come upon us, and that giveth no great space of time, for summer is at hand." But a dissension rose, for a number said it was folly to make for Cristhorn, as Tuor had proposed.

"The sun," they said, "Will be up long ere we win the foothills, and we shall be whelmed in the plain by those drakes and those demons. Let us fare to Bad Uthwen, the Way of Escape, for that is but half the journeying, and our weary and wounded may hope to win so far if no further."

But Idril spoke against this, and pursuaded the lords that they trust not to the magic of that way that had aforetime shielded it from discovery: "for what magic stands if Gondolin be fallen?"

But nonetheless a large body of men and women left Tuor and went to Bad Uthwen, and were destroyed by the jaws of a dragon that stood there at the order of Morgoth, as Maeglin had proposed. But those in Tuor's company were led by Legolas Greenleaf, who knew all the plain by night or day, and could see well in the dark.

Return of Eärendil

They made much speed despite their weariness, and a mist fell upon them. This was a marvel, for never before had mist come, and they fared away in safety until they were too far away for any to see them from the hill or ruined walls.

The mists lifted at last late in the day, but Gondolin was still enshrouded. But at the edge of the clearing of the mist, but a few furlongs off, a knot of Noldor on foot were fleeing a strange cavalry of orcs mounted on wolves, carrying spears.

"Lo! there is Eärendil my son," cried Tuor. "Behold his face shineth as a star in the waste, and my men of the Wing are about him, and they are in sore straits." Then he chose fifty of those that were least weary, and leaving the main company fared over that plain swiftly as they could, and Tuor shouted to the soldiers below to stand and flee not, for the wolfriders were scattering them and killing them off, and the child was seated upon the shoulders of Hendor, a house-carle of Idril's. Then they stood back to back, with Hendor amidmost, but Tuor soon came up, though all his troop was breathless.

The wolfriders numbered only a score, and only six men remained alive about Eärendil. Then Tuor arranged his men into a crescent of one rank, and hoped to envelop the riders, so that none could escape. Only two broke out, and these were wounded and without their mounts, so that tidings came too late to the city to be of any use.

Eärendil was glad to see his father again, and said: "I am thirsty, father, for I have run far — nor had Hendor need to bear me." Then his father said nothing, for he had no water, and was thinking of the needs of his company. But Eärendil spoke again: "'Twas good to see Maeglin die so, for he would set arms about my mother — and I liked him not; but I would travel in no tunnels for all of Melkor's wolfriders." Then Tuor smiled and set him upon his shoulders. Then the main company came up, and Tuor gave the child to his mother, who was in great joy, but Eärendil would not be borne in her arms.

"Mother Idril, thou art weary," he said, "And warriors in mail ride not among the Gondothlim, save it be old Salgant!" Idril laughed amid her sorrow. "Nay, where is Salgant?" Eärendil asked. Salgant had told him quaint tales or played drolleries with him at times, and the child had much laughter of the old Noldoin those days when he came many a day to the house of Tuor (loving the good wine and fair repast he there received). But none could say where Salgant was; he probably perished in the flames or was made a thrall.

Passage of the Encircling Mountains

They came to the foothills and it was full morning, but still grey, and there night to the beginning of the upward road folk stretched them and rested in a little dale finged with trees and hazel-bushes. Many slept, for they were greatly exhausted. Tuor, however, kept strict watch.

Eärendil, meanwhile, quenched his thirst and played beside a little brook with his mother. Then he said to her "Mother Idril, I would we had good Ecthelion of the Fountain here to play to me on his flute, or make me willow-whistles! Perchance he has gone on ahead?" But Idril said nay, and told him the fate of that lord. Eärendil wept, and said that he wished never to see the streets of Gondolin ever again. And Tuor responded that he would not. "For Gondolin is no more," he said.

At sunset they rose again, and they wound about through the hills. They turning saw Gondolin for the last time, and then the sun disappeared, and they saw it never again.

The Pass of Cristhorn, which is the Eagle's Cleft was dangerous going, and the host would not ventured it by dark, with no light to guide them, and many women, children, and sick, had not their fear of Melkor's scouts been greater. Darkness gathered, and they were forced to string out into a long straggling line. Galdor and a party of spearmen went ahead, and Legolas with them. Then came the least weary women and children supporting the sick that could go on foot, after which walked the House of the Wing. After the House of the Wing was Egalmoth leading the slower women and children, as well as the sick. At the back was the House of the Golden Flower of Glorfindel.

Glorfindel and the Balrog

As they came to Cristhorn, dark shapes that had lain hidden even from the eyes of Legolas leaped forward, and Galdor's men were beset. Tuor thought that they had fallen in with one of Melkor's ranging companies, and feared no more than a sharp brush in the dark. But he sent the women and sick rearward and joined with Galdor in the fray. But rocks fell from above, and it looked as if the battle would go ill for the Gondothlim. And with the enemies was a Balrog.

Then Tuor realized that it was a trap, and now Galdor and Glorfindel held back the assault, and many of the orcs were stricken into the abyss. And Thorondor rose with his people, the Thornhoth, and they fell upon the orcs, and the battle turned.

Suddenly the Balrog leaped across the chasm, and came among the women and children, lashing his great whip of flame. But Glorfindel was there, and long they fought. His mail defended him from whip and claw, and they fought on a high rock which all could see. Glorfindel had hewn off the Balrog's whip arm, but the balrog leaped forward, and though Glorfindel stabbed forward only the shoulder it found, and for a while they swayed upon the crag-top. Then Glorfindel drew a dirk, and pierced the Balrog's belly, which was up to his face. But even as the Balrog fell with a shriek it grasped Glorfindel's long golden hair, and both descended into the abyss.

Then the orcs fled, and Thorondor bore back up the body of Glorfindel, but the Balrog remained down in the abyss in the water of the Thorn Sir, and it was black for many a day after.

And so they raised a cairn over the body of Glorfindel, and the yellow flowers grew there ever after. Thorondor would not allow orcs to come near from that moment on.

The Coming to the Land of Willows

After much suffering the exiles came at last to the Land of Willows, where once Tuor had dwelt, and Tulkas had fought Melkor. And there they healed themselves, and there their wounds were healed, and their women and maidens grew fair again. But they did not smile any more.

All that remained of the Gondothlim was three hundred and twenty men and boys, and two hundred and sixty women and children. And they dwelt at the Mouths of the Sirion, and they took up the name Lothlim, that is the People of the Flower, for no longer would they be called Gondothlim. And Eärendil grew great among that people, and there the tale of Tuor ends.

And Littleheart said "Alas for Gondolin." And no one in that room spoke or moved for a great while.


The Fall of Gondolin was the first of the stories to be written in the Book of Lost Tales and was conceived when Tolkien was recovering in field hospital after the Battle of the Somme during the First World War. This influence can be seen in a 'secret weapon' of Morgoth's that Tolkien describes:

"Melko assembled all his most cunning smiths and sorcorers, and of iron and flame they wrought a host of monsters such as have only at that time been seen and shall not again be until the Great End."

These "monsters" take the form of vast iron machines forged in the likeness of the dragons which also assault Gondolin. They act as an all terrain vehicle and troop transport during the battle. "But now Gothmog...gathered all his things of iron that could coil themselves around and above all obstacles"; "...and their hollow bellies clanged...Then were the topmost opened about their middles and an innumerable host of orcs...poured there from the breach".

While Tolkien often uses words such as 'iron' and 'brazen' in relation to monsters (particularly dragons) Christopher Tolkien confirms in the commentry that "the language employed suggest that some at least of the 'monsters' were inanimate 'devices'." Some (such as John Garth in 'Tolkien and the Great War') have suggested that with these 'iron serpents' Tolkien was inspired by the tanks which made their debut in the Battle of the Somme, a parralel to the real life battle he had just survived.

See also