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Nirnaeth Arnoediad

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Nirnaeth Arnoediad
Alan Lee - The Battle of Unnumbered Tears.jpg
Conflict: War of the Jewels (Fifth Battle of the Wars of Beleriand)
Date: F.A. 472
Place: Anfauglith
Outcome: Decisive victory for Morgoth, partly due to treachery: depopulation of Hithlum with replacement by Easterlings, occupation of much of Beleriand

The Union of Maedhros, consisting of an alliance of the Noldor, Edain, Easterlings, and Dwarves

Creatures of Morgoth, Glaurung, Gothmog, Easterlings

Måns Björkman - Fingolfin device.gifFingon
Måns Björkman - Turgon device.gif

Noldor and Edain warriors of Dor-lómin, 10,000 Gondolindrim under Turgon[1], a company of Elves from Nargothrond, company of the people of Haleth from Brethil, and Dwarves of Belegost, the Easterlings from House of Bór

Multiple hosts consisting of Balrogs, Orcs, and trolls; supplemented by turncoat Easterlings


Huge and crippling to the Noldor, Men of Dor-lómin wiped out except Húrin, thousands of captives


The Nirnaeth 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..."



Main article: Union of Maedhros

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.

In the year F.A. 473, Maedhros decided that taking the offense against Angband might help the Noldor regain their former lands.

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 Maedhros in the east were gathered the remainder of the sons of Fëanor, the Elves and Men of Himring under Maedhros and Bór, and the men of Amon Ereb under Caranthir and Ulfang.

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.

The Battle

But Morgoth through his spies had learned of the battle plan, and his spy Ulfang, who betrayed the Noldor, delayed Maedhros' attack. A small host of Orcs sallied forth from Angband to provoke the Western host to attack. 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. The Orcs was swiftly defeated, and the sudden charge of Fingon's army nearly foiled Morgoth's plans; the forces of Gwindor and Fingon pushed forth, reaching Angband itself.

It is said that Morgoth trembled on this throne as Gwindor's company pounded at his gates. They burst through, and slew the guards on the steps of Angband. They were then ambushed with hidden forces set about Angband; all of Gwindor's company was slain and Gwindor himself was captured. From clandestine gates around Angband thousands of Orcs erupted suddenly, repulsing the host of Fingon from the walls. The Elven army was driven back in great slaughter, and many Haladin fell fighting in the rearguard.

Joona Kujanen - The Fall of Azaghâl

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.

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. Maglor slew Uldor in single combat, but could not turn the tide of the battle. 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. Many of Morgoth's forces retreated with him. In a solemn ceremony the Dwarves picked up their fallen leader, abandoning the battle, and 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. Gothmog cut a path to Fingon and fought him in single combat. 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. His brother Húrin fought ferociously to buy his allies time to escape, fighting until his axe withered away. Morgoth had ordered him to be taken alive, however; he killed no fewer than seventy Orcs and Trolls before he became pinned under their corpses, and was later taken prisoner by Gothmog.

Aftermath and Repercussions

Jenny Dolfen - Nirnaeth Arnoediad - Unnumbered Tears

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.

Ted Nasmith - The Hill of Slain

Morgoth betrayed his servants the Easterlings, shutting them in Hithlum under penalty of death, and denied to them the fertile lands of Beleriand. Morgoth's destruction was not entirely complete, however, for Turgon, now High King of the Ñoldor after the death of Fingon, had evaded capture, and his city Gondolin was still unknown to Morgoth. While the Union's attack inflicted fairly heavy losses on Morgoth's forces, this was largely irrelevant compared to how utterly Morgoth had broken the power of so many of his enemies in the battle. His armies would take time to regain their former strength, however, and thus he remained dormant once more for some time, seeking out the hidden city of Gondolin and the last bastion of his enemies. Gwindor himself was one of few prominent survivors of the battle, and was enslaved in Morgoth's mines for fourteen years before finally escaping. He returned and warned the King of Nargothrond that Ulmo had advised against fighting open war with Morgoth; the King did not heed his advice, however, and at the Battle of Tumhalad, followed by the Sack of Nargothrond, the Elves there were completely eradicated.

The Ñoldor ultimately recovered from the battle, but remained hidden within Gondolin away from Morgoth's wrath, where they stayed clandestine and defensively rebuilt their forces. It wasn't until some 38 years after Nirnaeth Arnoediad that Morgoth obtained the location of Gondolin, and besieged it in order to finalize his annihilation of the Ñoldor and to cement his domination of Middle-earth.

Morgoth had personally laid waste to Ard-galen, turning it into a dust-choked wasteland of fire and poisonous gas, known from then on as Anfauglith. It was here that many Elves and Men were slain and thrown into great piles on a hill in the midst of the desolate landscape; referred to as the Hill of Slain by the Elves, grass grew on that hill long after the battle but nowhere else in Anfauglith.


Nirnaeth (or Nírnaeth) Arnoediad (or Arnediad) is Sindarin for "Tears Uncountable".[2][3]

Note that the "oe" of "Arnoediad" is not the Sindarin diphthong "oe", but rather the single umlaut vowel "œ", better represented with a digraph.[4]

See also

Wars of Beleriand
First Battle · Dagor-nuin-Giliath · Dagor Aglareb · Dagor Bragollach · Nirnaeth Arnoediad · War of Wrath


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Index"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Index of Names"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Three: The Etymologies"