High King of the Noldor

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The Realms of the Noldor and the Sindar by Christopher Tolkien

If there lay no grievance between us, lord, still the kingship would rightly come to you, the eldest here of the house of Finwë, and not the least wise.

The High King of the Noldor was the head of the House of Finwë in Middle-earth. Its bearer was the nominal overlord of all the Noldorin realms, but had little practical authority due to the disunity of the Noldor. The House of Fëanor acknowledged the Kingship but paid it little heed, following their own agenda under the general leadership of Maedhros.

Earlier Kings

Main article: King of the Noldor
Refusal - Maedhros by Marya Filatova

The founder of the House of Finwë and first King of the Noldor was Finwë, the lord of the Tatyar who led his people in the Great Journey from Cuiviénen into the West to dwell in Valinor. He was slain by Morgoth at Formenos.

His eldest son Fëanor succeeded to the Kingship and led the Rebellion of the Noldor to Middle-earth to avenge his father's death and recover the Silmarils from Morgoth.[1] Fëanor died before establishing a realm, and the claim to the kingship passed to his eldest son Maedhros, who was captured by Morgoth.

Fingon, son of Fingolfin, rescued Maedhros from his captivity in a daring raid on Thangorodrim. Out of gratitude to Fingon, and regret that Fëanor had abandoned the other Noldor in Araman, Maedhros surrendered his house's claim to the Kingship to Fingolfin. At that time, Maedhros said: "If there lay no grievance between us, lord, still the kingship would rightly come to you, the eldest here of the house of Finwë, and not the least wise." Thus the Kingship passed from the House of Fëanor to the House of Fingolfin, fulfilling the Doom of Mandos that the Sons of Fëanor would become the Dispossessed, and the two Houses made peace. However, not all of the seven Sons of Fëanor accepted this in their hearts.[2]


First Age

Fingolfin became the first High King of the Noldor, ruling from Hithlum as the "King of the North," mostly during the Siege of Angband. When Morgoth broke the leaguer in the Dagor Bragollach and slew many Noldor, Fingolfin rode in wrath to the gates of Angband and died in single combat with Morgoth.[3]

Fingolfin was succeeded by his eldest son Fingon, whose short reign was consumed by endless war. He and Maedhros formed an alliance that brought together all the realms of the Noldor to make a final assault on Morgoth. The attempt ended in the slaughter of the Noldor and Fingon's death at the hands of Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs.[4]

Fingon's brother Turgon succeeded him, but he was High King in name only, as it was not possible for the "Hidden King" to rule the other Noldor from his Hidden City, the location of which was unknown even to his own kin. When Maeglin betrayed this secret to Morgoth, the city swiftly fell and Turgon with it.

Gondolin was the last of the Noldorin realms in Beleriand and Turgon was the last son of the House of Fingolfin. With his death, the Kingship passed to the House of Finarfin, which was by this time reduced to a single dynast: Ereinion Gil-galad, the young son of Orodreth. Gil-galad had been sent to take refuge with Círdan after the fall of Minas Tirith in the aftermath of the Dagor Bragollach, and thus survived the ruin of the Noldor. Gil-galad was acclaimed High King when news of Turgon's death reached the Isle of Balar, to which he and Círdan had fled from the fall of the Falas.[5] Gil-galad lived to see the end of the War of the Jewels and held the Kingship throughout the Second Age, far longer than any of his predecessors.

Second Age

After the cataclysmic War of Wrath that ended the First Age and destroyed Beleriand, the surviving Noldor who did not depart for the Undying Lands established the realms of Lindon and later Eregion in northwestern Middle-earth. In Lindon, Gil-galad was acknowledged as the "High King of the Elves of the West".[6] He was the chief enemy of Sauron in the Dark Years, at the end of which he appointed Elrond as his vice-regent in Eriador.[7]

After the Downfall of Númenor, Gil-galad and Elendil formed the Last Alliance of Elves and Men to destroy Sauron. In the ensuing war Gil-galad commanded the Elven forces, save for the host of Silvan Elves under Amdír and Oropher. After the Last Alliance broke into Mordor and besieged Barad-dûr for seven years, Sauron personally came forth and fought Gil-galad and Elendil. The battle ended in the deaths of all three, but Sauron's spirit and malice endured through the power of his One Ring.[8]


Gil-galad was the last High King of the Noldor, for he fathered no children. With his death, the House of Finwë was extinguished in the male line in Middle-earth. The only living descendants of Finwë remaining in Middle-earth at the dawn of the Third Age were Galadriel, Celebrían, Elrond, and the descendants of Elros, who were counted among the race of Men.[9][note 1]

List of High Kings

  1. Fingolfin reigned F.A. 7 to 456 (449 years)
  2. Fingon reigned F.A. 456 to 472 (16 years)
  3. Turgon reigned F.A. 472 to 510 (38 years)
  4. Ereinion Gil-galad reigned F.A. 510 to S.A. 3441 (3,521 years)

Other versions of the legendarium

In the published version of The Silmarillion, Gil-galad is said to be the son of Fingon.[10] However, in some of Tolkien's later notes, Gil-galad is said to be the son of Orodreth and thus a junior member of the House of Finarfin,[11] and Turgon's closest living relative in the male line (excluding the dispossessed House of Fëanor). Turgon's claim to the title of High King would be problematic if Gil-galad were descended from Fingon, but the issue is resolved through descent from Orodreth, which may explain the change.

See also


  1. Maglor's fate is unknown, so he may have been alive during the Third Age. Even if so, he was not seen again after end of the First Age.