Battle of Sarn Athrad

From Tolkien Gateway
Battle of Sarn Athrad
Date: F.A. 503
Place: Sarn Athrad and the slopes of the Blue Mountains
Outcome: Victory for the Elves of Ossiriand


Dwarves of Nogrod


Beren Erchamion

Lord of Nogrod[note 1]



Unknown, but was depleted heavily from their last battle



Completely destroyed[1]

The Battle of Sarn Athrad was a battle fought on F.A. 503 between the Dwarves of Nogrod and Elves of Ossiriand led by Beren. The battle occurred after the Battle of the Thousand Caves and the sack of Menegroth by the Dwarves.


Main article: Battle of the Thousand Caves

In F.A. 502[2] King Thingol of Doriath had asked Dwarves from Nogrod to remake the Nauglamír and set in it the Silmaril he had received from Beren. Dwarven craftsmen from Nogrod performed this task but in secret, they were determined to possess the finished work and carry it off to their mountain home. When Thingol was ready to place the completed necklace about his neck the Dwarves challenged his right to own it. He rebuked them and they slew the king. The Dwarves took the necklace and fled eastward. All but two were killed, the Nauglamír was retaken, and was brought back to Queen Melian. However, the two Dwarves who escaped went to Nogrod and spread a false tale that Thingol had had the Dwarves killed in Doriath to cheat them of their reward for fashioning the necklace.

The wrath of the Dwarves was kindled by the false report and long they plotted vengeance. Aid was sought from the Dwarves of Belegost but they denied it and tried to dissuade the Dwarves of Nogrod from their purpose.[1] Their attempt did not avail; in F.A. 503[2] Nogrod issued a great host that marched on Doriath. In the meantime, the grieving Melian left Middle-earth, which withdrew the Girdle of Melian that had long protected the realm. There was thus no hindrance when the Dwarves swept into Menegroth, fought and killed many Elves, and took the Nauglamír and other plunder.[1]



Word of the host of Dwarves in war gear heading west had come to Beren and Lúthien, then dwelling on Tol Galen. Soon a messenger from Doriath came and revealed what had befallen. Beren, his son Dior, and a host of Green-elves of Ossiriand journeyed swiftly north to the river Ascar, which emptied into the Gelion near the Dwarf-road crossing at Sarn Athrad.[1]


Unaware of any peril, the reduced host of Dwarves burdened with the spoils of Doriath entered the ford. As they climbed up Gelion's banks the air filled with the sound of elven-horns and the shafts of arrows. Beren slew the Lord of Nogrod[3] and took from him the Nauglamír. Although most of the Dwarves were killed in the ford, some escaped and fled towards the mountains. However, as they climbed the slopes of Mount Dolmed, Ents came forth and drove the Dwarves into the forest, from which none escaped.[1]


This was Beren's last battle. As the Lord of Nogrod was dying he cursed all of the treasure taken from Doriath. Beren took the Nauglamír, washed it of blood, and took it back to Tol Galen for Lúthien. The rest of the treasure though was cast into the Ascar, which from then on carried the named Rathlóriel, the Goldenbed. Dior left his parents and took up the kingship in Doriath. After his parents died the recovered Nauglamír came to Dior. Eventually, news of the necklace and its Silmaril came to the sons of Fëanor who assaulted and destroyed Doriath.[1]

Other versions of the legendarium

An early version of the battle is told in the Tale of the Nauglafring.[4] Both versions play out similarly however there is more importance to the characters Beren and the Dwarven king Naugladur. The latter offers the Nauglafring in exchange for leaving unharmed but Beren rejects and they have a personal duel that is said to last three hours.

The prelude of the battle plays out differently as well. Beren was given news of what had befallen in Menegroth from Huan[note 2] and he led a host of Elves to meet the Dwarves. Meanwhile Ufedhin who was one of the main instigators of the death of Tinwelint and sack of Menegroth was captured by Beren’s rangers. Ufedhin had recently fled the camp of the Dwarf host that was returning to Nogrod and feigning to be from Artanor gave information about the array of the Dwarves to Beren. From this new knowledge Beren decided to halt his pursuit of the Dwarves and move swiftly to intercept them at the crossing of the river Aros.

In later writings Tolkien changed who was ambushing the Dwarves from Beren to Celegorm and Curufin.[5] In The Tale of Years it documents the many revisions that Tolkien made for the event, the first notable entry being:

503. Birth of Earendil in Gondolin.
The Dwarves invade Doriath. Thingol is slain and his realm ended. Melian takes Nauglamir to Beren and Luthien and then returns to Valinor. Celegorm and Curufin destroy the Dwarf-host at Sarn-athrad in Rath-loriel; and are wroth to find the Silmaril not there. Dior goes to Doriath.

Christopher noted that this was a major change to the story which has remained the same in all versions.[5] The latest version of The Tales of Years written in typescript the entry goes:

503. The Dwarves of Belegost and Nogrod invade Doriath. King Elu Thingol is slain and his realm ended. Melian escapes and carries away the Nauglamir and the Silmaril, and brings them to Beren and Luthien. She then forsook Middle-earth and returned to Valinor.
Curufin and Celegorm, hearing of the sack of Menegroth, ambushed the Dwarves at the Fords of Ascar as they sought to carry off the Dragon-gold to the mountains. The Dwarves were defeated with great loss, but they cast the gold into the river, which was therefore after named Rathloriel. Great was the anger of the sons of Feanor to discover that the Silmaril was not with the Dwarves; but they dared not to assail Luthien. Dior goes to Doriath and endeavours to recover the realm of Thingol.

Ultimately Christopher settled with the earlier versions of Beren ambushing the Dwarves when piecing together the complicated story of the Ruin of Doriath for The Silmarillion.[5]

Tolkien explained in Letter 247 that after Beren's return from the dead, he only showed himself once more among the mortals. And that was to intercept the dwarf-army that had sacked the realm of Doriath and had slain King Thingol, carrying off the treasury, including the Silmaril. On the participation of the Ents, who aided Beren against the Dwarves, he wrote, "Beren, who had no army, received the aid of the Ents - and that would not make for love between Ents and Dwarves."[6]


  1. In Tolkien’s earlier writings it was Naugladur. In The Silmarillion he is unnamed.
  2. Gwendelin was considered to have informed Beren instead but this idea was rejected.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Ruin of Doriath"
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Three. The Wanderings of Húrin and Other Writings not forming part of the Quenta Silmarillion: V. The Tale of Years", p. 346
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "IV. The Nauglafring", p.225
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "IV. The Nauglafring"
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Three. The Wanderings of Húrin and Other Writings not forming part of the Quenta Silmarillion: V. The Tale of Years"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 247, (dated 20 September 1963)