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The Dagor Dagorath (S. Battle of all Battles), also known as the Second Prophecy of Mandos or simply the Last Battle, is an apocalyptic event prophesied by Mandos. According to Christopher Tolkien, the Dagor Dagorath as a Prophecy of Mandos was abandoned by Tolkien.
In the published version of The Silmarillion, the Dagor Dagorath is only mentioned as the Last Battle on three occasions:
...and that he declared to their Fathers of old that Ilúvatar will hallow them [the Dwarves] and give them a place among the Children in the end. Then their part shall be to serve Aulë and to aid him in the remaking of Arda after the Last Battle.
—Quenta Silmarillion, "Of Aulë and Yavanna"
...Many other of the ancient stars she gathered together and set as signs in the heavens of Arda: [...] and Menelmacar with his shining belt, that forebodes the Last Battle that shall be at the end of days.
—Quenta Silmarillion, "Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor"
But Ar-Pharazôn the King and the mortal warriors that had set foot upon the land of Aman were buried under falling hills: there it is said that they lie imprisoned in the Caves of the Forgotten, until the Last Battle and the Day of Doom.
But not until the End, when Fëanor shall return [...]; not until the Sun passes and the Moon falls, shall it be known of what substance [the Silmarils] were made.
—Quenta Silmarillion, "Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor"
No other information about the End of the World is given in The Silmarillion except the few mentions of the Second Music of the Ainur, which can be deduced as to be sung after the Battle. The only mention of the Dagor Dagorath by name is given in a note concerning the origin of Gandalf:
From all this information it can be deduced that Arda will come to an end with a last battle against Morgoth. After the Battle, Arda will be rebuilt, the "lands that lie under the wave will be lifted up again" and a new world will begin with the Song of Ainur and Men before Ilúvatar.
The metaphysical implications of the remaking of the world after the Battle belong to the discussion about Arda Healed.
Omission of the Second Prophecy
All the versions of the Quenta Silmarillion Tolkien ever finished close with Mandos describing the Battle in a prophecy, tagged at some point as the Second Prophecy of Mandos (the first being the Prophecy of the North), but Christopher deliberately omitted it for his edition. This decision was due to a passage of the Later Quenta Silmarillion, which states that
Those words were taken literally by Christopher, deducing that his father would remove the Second Prophecy in the final version. Instead, he used those words as the own closing of his published Quenta Silmarillion. This decision is questioned among the fandom and the canonicity of the Second Prophecy is a popular debate. However, the publications after the 1977 version of The Silmarillion give a better understanding of Tolkien's final vision and the necessity of an apocalyptic event is manifest, as Verlyn Flieger states: «Tolkien wrote that the Legendarium ends with a vision of the end of the world, its breaking and remaking, and the recovery of the Silmarilli and the "light before the sun". [...] It would be strange if he had not envisioned such an end, for the mythologies on which he draws most heavily, Judeo-Christian and Norse, both included remaking and renewal in surprisingly similar terms.» Here Flieger is citing the Letter to Milton Waldman, where Tolkien himself summarized his Mythology, including the vision of the Last Battle. Ironically, Christopher included this letter in the introduction to the 30th Anniversary edition of The Silmarillion (2007), having removed the referred text.
Other versions of the legendarium
The Book of Lost Tales
Tolkien did not finish The Book of Lost Tales, so it is unknown if he would conclude with a Prophecy of the End of the World, but there are many mentions of a Great End throughout the tales. The earliest description of the event was written in an unclear date and it is not mentioned as a prophecy:
For 'tis said that ere the Great End come Melko shall in some wise contrive a quarrel between Moon and Sun, and Ilinsor shall seek to follow Urwendi through the Gates, and when they are gone the Gates of both East and West will be destroyed, and Urwendi and Ilinsor shall be lost. So shall it be that Fionwë Úrion, son of Manwë, of love for Urwendi shall in the end be Melko's bane, and shall destroy the world to destroy his foe, and so shall all things the be rolled away.
This early idea soon included Túrin, who was an essential character in all later versions. Concluding the Tale of Turambar, it is described how he and his sister Nienóri will be purified after death and will live in Valinor as Valar, but "Turambar indeed shall stand beside Fionwë in the Great Wrack, and Melko and his drakes shall curse the sword of Mormakil". This is the only version that mentions any of the Morgoth's creatures participating in the Battle.
However, the earliest mention of the battle told as a Prophecy is in one note, where it is said:
If Men help them, the fairies (Elves) will take Men to Valinor, fight a great battle with Melko in Erumáni and open Valinor. Laurelin and Silpion will be rekindled, and the mountain wall being destroyed then soft radiance will spread over all the world, and the Sun and Moon will be recalled. If Men oppose them and aid Melko, the Wrack of the Gods and the ending of the fairies will result, and maybe the Great End.
Many other versions are given in this chapter that also concern the "Rekindling of the Magic Sun" (an obscure matter about the recovery of the Light of Valinor) or the vanishing of the Elves, so the prophecy here is associated with abandoned conceptions and is not related with the End of Arda.
The Earliest 'Silmarillion'
The Earliest 'Silmarillion' (also known as the 'Sketch of the Mythology') concludes with a description of the last battle, introducing a structure that will be expanded in later versions, although many of the concepts will be transformed. There is still no mention of it being a prophecy uttered by Mandos:
When the world is much older, and the Gods weary, Morgoth will come back through the Door, and the last battle of all will be fought. Fionwë will fight Morgoth on the plain of Valinor, and the spirit of Túrin shall be beside him; it shall be Túrin who with his black sword will slay Morgoth, and thus the children of Húrin shall be avenged. In those days the Silmarils shall be recovered from sea and earth and air, and Maidros shall break them and Belaurin with their fire rekindle the Two Trees, and the great light shall come forth again, and the Mountains of Valinor shall be levelled so that it goes out over the world, and Gods and Elves and Men shall grow young again, and all their dead awake.
The participation of Eärendel is also included: explaining how he sails in the heavens, watching upon Morgoth with his Silmaril upon his brow, "until he sees the last battle gathering upon the plains of Valinor. Then he will descend."
The Quenta Noldorinwa
The Quenta, being the only finished version of The Silmarillion, is the first version that includes a properly named Prophecy of Mandos, declared in Valmar at the judgement of the Gods. It follows closely the version of the 'Sketch of the Mythology', although there are some remarkable changes: Morgoth destroys the Sun and Moon (related with the version of "The Hiding of Valinor" cited above); Tulkas is the chief antagonist of Melko, with Fionwë on his right and Túrin on his left; the Earth is broken and re-made, and the Silmarils are recovered; Eärendel yields up his Silmaril; Fëanor gives the Silmarils to Yavanna and she breaks them; the dead of the Elves arise and the purpose of Ilúvatar concerning them is fulfilled. It is specified that the Prophecy doesn't speak about the Men, except of Túrin, who is named among the "sons of the Gods" (cleary related with the version of the Lost Tale).
The same text, with a few amendations, was later used for the manuscript Quenta Silmarillion made in 1937. Christopher later mentions this version is introduced by the subheading The Second Prophecy of Mandos.
The Later Quenta Silmarillion
Tolkien rewrote the Quenta Silmarillion in 1958 in what is called the Later Quenta Silmarillion, and the last chapters are so similar to the last version mentioned, that Christopher only gives the changes with notes. However, due this is the last version of the Prophecy, the text is reconstructed here in full, following those notes:
Thus spake Mandos in prophecy, when the Gods sat in judgement in Valinor, and the rumour of his words was whispered among all the Elves of the West. When the world is old and the Powers grow weary, then Morgoth, seeing that the guard sleepeth, shall come back through the Door of Night out of the Timeless Void; and destroy the Sun and Moon. But Eärendil shall descend upon him as a white and searing flame and drive him from the airs. Then shall the Last Battle be gathered on the fields of Valinor. In that day Tulkas shall strive with Morgoth, and on his right hand shall be Eönwë, and on his left Túrin Turambar, son of Húrin, returning from the Doom of Men at the ending of the world; and the black sword of Túrin shall deal unto Morgoth his death and final end; and so shall the children of Húrin and all Men be avenged.
Thereafter shall Earth be broken and re-made, and the Silmarils shall be recovered out of Air and Earth and Sea; for Eärendil shall descend and surrender that flame which he hath had in keeping. Then Fëanor shall take the Three Jewels and he will break them and with their fire Yavanna will rekindle the Two Trees, and a great light shall come forth. And the Mountains of Valinor shall be levelled, so that the Light shall go out over all the world.
In that light the Gods will grow young again, and the Elves awake and all their dead arise, and the purpose of Ilúvatar be fulfilled concerning them. But of Men in that day the prophecy of Mandos doth not speak, and no Man it names, save Túrin only, and to him a place is given among the sons of the Valar.
—The War of the Jewels, "The Last Chapters of the Quenta Silmarillion", The Second Prophecy of Mandos
In addition to the change of names, the main changes are: Túrin coming back from the dead and Fëanor himself breaking the Silmarils. The last two sentences are here crossed out, as Tolkien marked them with a large X in the margin of the manuscript. There is also a marginal mention of Beren Camlost near Túrin, without direction of its insertion.
Douglas C. Kane notices that Tolkien made the specific edit of rejecting the last sentences, making no effort at all to remove the part of the prophecy regarding Túrin or the remaking of Arda. This would indicate that he had the intention to retain them. The continuity of the Prophecy in the legendarium is tied up to the complicated transition of The Silmarillion from Elvish to Mannish lore, as it is explained below.
Following Christopher's deduction, it is quite clear that the Second Prophecy of Mandos was incompatible with Elvish lore, but later texts point out that the concept could have evolved to a Mannish legend. In the last major revision of his Mythology, Tolkien decided that The Silmarillion should be of Mannish affair. More specifically about the End of the World is a note of Tolkien commenting the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth:
The Elves expected the End of Arda to be catastrophic. [...] The End of Arda is not, of course, the same thing as the end of Eä. About this they held that nothing could be known, except that Eä was ultimately finite. It is noteworthy that the Elves had no myths or legends dealing with the end of the world. The myth that appears at the end of "The Silmarillion" is of Númenórean origin; it is clearly made by Men, though Men acquainted with Elvish tradition.
Therefore, the expectation of the End of the World among the Elves no longer came from revelation or stories, but their deduction after contemplating the world (this is one of the major topics in the Athrabeth). On the other hand, we are told that Men did have traditions concerning the catastrophic end. Christopher confirms that "the myth that appears at the end of the Silmarillion" is a reference to what was the Prophecy of Mandos. There is even one piece of evidence of these Mannish prophetic traditions:
The language of the Folk of Haleth was not used, for they had perished and would not rise again. Nor would their tongue be heard again, unless the prophecy of Andreth the Wise-woman should prove true, that Túrin in the Last Battle should return from the Dead, and before he left the Circles of the World for ever should challege the Great Dragon of Morgoth, Ancalagon the Black, and deal him the death-stroke.
These words refer to the War of Wrath, but Christopher noticed that the relation with the Second Prophecy is clear, so it can be another sign that closing the "Númenorean Silmarillion" with a prophecy was not discarded.
Dagor Dagorath is Sindarin, a combination of dagor ("battle"), with its own class-plural dagor-ath ("all battles"), therefore: "Battle of All Battles". This name is only attested in a manuscript about "The Istari".
In Norse mythology, Ragnarök is an apocalyptic battle mentioned in both Eddas. The most famous version is prophecied by a völva in the Völuspá, which was always an important inspiration for Tolkien. He even wrote his own version of this prophecy in the beginning of his New Lay of the Völsungs, which has a reinterpretation of Sigurd very similar to Túrin in the Last Battle, as Christopher notices.
If in the Day of Doom
one deathless stands,
who death hath tasted
and dies no more,
seed of Ódin,
then all shall not end,
nor Earth perish.
—The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, "Völsungskviða en nýja", Upphaf v.14
However, although Tolkien himself recognized the influence of Ragnarök, he explained that the last battle of his Mythology "is not much like it": Ragnarök tells the destruction of both giants and gods, and the Nordic conception of the world implied a the beginning of a new cycle, so the final victory of Good against Evil of the legendarium is closer to the Christian Apocalypse. In the Book of Revelation is explained how there will be a great battle between Michael and his angels versus Satan, called "the dragon" (vv. 12:7-9), resembling the War of Wrath. The dragon will be cast down, bound and expel into the abyss for a thousand years (vv. 20:1-3), just like Morgoth was thrust to the Void. At the end of the thousand years (a Jewish symbol of a very long time), Satan will be released and deceive the world, and make war on God. Then he will be cast down again, this time permanently (vv. 20:7-10); similarly, Morgoth is defeated for last time. After the old heaven and earth had been destroyed, a new and definitive world will be made (vv. 21:1ss).
- Why Did Tolkien Leave Out the Second Prophecy of Mandos? by Michael Martinez
- Short fanfilm by Willow Productions
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Three. The Later Quenta Silmarillion: (II) The Second Phase: The Valaquenta", p. 204
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Istari", p. 395
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "Many Partings", p. 981, farewell of Galadriel to Treebeard
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"
- Verlyn Flieger, Splintered Light (Revised Edition), 19. "Filled with Clear Light", pp. 160-1
- J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 131, (undated, written late 1951), p. 149
- "The Silmarillion. Deluxe Edition 2007", TolkienBooks.net (accessed 22 March 2020)
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, "IX. The Hiding of Valinor", p. 219
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "II. Turambar and the Foalókë", p. 116
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "VI. The History of Eriol or Ælfwine and the End of the Tales", pp. 285-6
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "II. The Earliest 'Silmarillion': Commentary on the 'Sketch of the Mythology'", p. 74
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "II. The Earliest 'Silmarillion' (The 'Sketch of the Mythology')", p. 40-1
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "III. The Quenta: Commentary on the Quenta, [Section] 19", p. 205
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Two: Valinor and Middle-earth before The Lord of the Rings, VI. Quenta Silmarillion", p. 333
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Two. The Later Quenta Silmarillion: The Last Chapters of the Quenta Silmarillion", p. 247
- Douglas Charles Kane, Arda Reconstructed: The Creation of the Published Silmarillion, 24. "Of the Voyage of Eärendil", p. 237
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Five. Myths Transformed", "[Text] I", p. 370
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Four. Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth: Author's Notes on the 'Commentary'", p. 342
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Four. Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth: Notes [on the 'Commentary']", p. 359, note 19
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "XII. The Problem of Ros", p. 374, note 17
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Appendix: II. The List of Names", p. 405
- J.R.R. Tolkien; Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, "Commentary on Völsungskviða en nýja", "Upphaf", pp.?