War of Wrath
|War of Wrath|
|Conflict: Wars of Beleriand|
|Date: F.A. 545 - 587|
|Place: The lands around Angband|
|Outcome: Decisive victory for the Host of the West|
Forces of Morgoth
Unknown, "whole power of the Throne of Morgoth"
Near utter annihilation
Unknown, presumably substantial
- "I remember well the splendour of their banners," he said. "It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand, so many great princes and captains were assembled. And yet not so many, nor so fair, as when Thangorodrim was broken, and the Elves deemed that evil was ended for ever, and it was not so."
- ― Elrond in The Fellowship of the Ring, The Council of Elrond
The War of Wrath, or the Great Battle, was the final conflict in the Wars of Beleriand fought between the Host of the West and the forces of Morgoth. The devastation caused by the two sides clashing left Beleriand mostly destroyed and in the end most of the land sank beneath the waves. According to The Tale of Years it lasted for more than four decades (F.A. 545 - 587).
After more than five centuries since the rising of the sun, Morgoth had become mighty in Middle-earth. He had defeated his enemies in the war and the majority of the Elves and Men of Beleriand were captured in droves and enslaved in the pits of Angband. The few that remained outside his grasp lived around the Mouths of Sirion or elsewhere in the woods and mountains.
Following the Fall of Gondolin, the few survivors protected by Ulmo had escaped the city, among them was Eärendil son of Tuor and Idril. He later married Elwing, the daughter of Dior and Nimloth, and became the lord of the people living in the mouths of Sirion. With the aid of Círdan the shipwright they built the vessel Vingilótë and Eärendil sailed the sea hoping to find the last shore and beseech for aid.
While Eärendil was returning from his voyages, the sons of Fëanor attacked the havens when Elwing refused to yield the Silmaril to them, and she cast herself into the ocean with the jewel. But Ulmo bore her up from the sea, and taking the form of a great white bird she reunited with Eärendil. Eärendil then sought for Valinor once more and, wearing the Silmaril on his brow, he traversed past the enchantments of the sea and came to Valinor, the first of any living mortal to set foot there. He was brought before the Powers of Arda and he delivered the "errand of the Two Kindreds", begging the Valar for pardon for the Noldor and to deliver them from Morgoth.
The Valar were moved by Eärendil's plea and his prayer was granted. So, the host of the West prepared for battle, joined by some of the Maiar, along with the Vanyar and Noldor that were in Valinor, riding in the ships of the Falmari. Still bitter about the First Kinslaying, the Teleri sent mariners to sail the ships, but did not participate in the war.
Meanwhile, Eärendil and Elwing were given their judgement, as it was decreed by Mandos that no mortal should set foot in Aman and live. But Eärendil was also of Elf lineage, so Manwë forbade punishment for the two, as Eärendil came out of love of the Two Kindreds and Elwing came out of love for him. However, they would never return to Middle-earth again and would be given a choice of which kindred they should be counted among. Elwing chose to be counted among the Eldar and Eärendil chose alike. Then the Valar took Vingilótë, hallowed it, and bore it away to the edge of the world through the Door of Night with Eärendil at the helm and the Silmaril bound upon his brow.
The host of Valinor landed in Beleriand in F.A. 545 and the "whole power of the Throne of Morgoth" was gathered to fight against them. The arrayed armies of Morgoth were uncountable, and the mountains rang with the sound of the host of the West; the war raged across the entire North.
Eventually, the forces of Morgoth were defeated in the field, the Balrogs were destroyed (save a few who fled and hid themselves in the depths of the earth) and the armies of the Orcs perished. While the Three Houses of the Edain fought with the forces of Valinor, many other Men fought for Morgoth, which led to their scorn by the Elves. As the War carried into its final years Morgoth faced defeat, and so unleashed his last desperate assault, the winged Dragons, which had never been seen in Middle-earth before. The greatest of these dragons was Ancalagon the Black. The forces of the West were taken by surprise and overcome by the devastation the dragons wrought, and were driven back across the region. The skies erupted with lightning and flame at the dragons' arrival, and Morgoth's hosts repulsed the hosts of the Valar.
As the situation grew dire for Morgoth's enemies, Eärendil came with his sky-ship Vingilótë, along with Thorondor and flocks of great birds, and they fought the dragons. After a battle in the skies lasting a full day, Eärendil slew Ancalagon, and in his fall Ancalagon broke the towers of Thangorodrim. With Ancalagon slain, morale was renewed, and the host of the Valar retook the ground that had been lost. They destroyed the pits of Morgoth and descended into Angband.
Morgoth fled to the deepest dungeons of Angband, where he was caught. Rather than challenge his foes, he asked for peace and parley, but his feet were hewn from under him and Morgoth fell upon the floor. He was bound with his old chain Angainor; the two Silmarils still in his possession were taken and given to the Maia Eönwë to be guarded. In the end, the Valar thrust him "through the Door of Night, beyond the Walls of the World, into the Timeless Void".
Countless slaves were freed from Angband after Morgoth's defeat. The world had changed greatly, for the fury of both sides in the war had wreaked havoc on much of the land. The northern areas were torn asunder, rivers formed or destroyed, mountains and hills changed. The wreckage of the war was immense; most of the land west of the Ered Luin sank beneath the waves, and Beleriand was destroyed. The sea broke through the Ered Luin and formed the Gulf of Lhûn.
Eönwë, the herald of Manwë, summoned all the Elves of Beleriand to depart Middle-earth and go to Valinor. Most of the Noldor and Sindar did so, but a number of them did not and instead went east, such as Galadriel and Gil-galad. Maedhros and Maglor sent word to Eönwë to yield the Silmarils to them, but they received the reply that they no longer had any right to the Silmarils due to the deeds wrought pursuing their oath. Despite this, the two sons of Fëanor stole the jewels from Eönwë's camp. But the Silmarils burnt their hands. So great was the pain that Maedhros cast himself and the Silmaril into a chasm of fire and Maglor cast his jewel into the sea; the Silmarils found their homes in the high heavens, earth, and deep waters.
The Edain were rewarded for fighting with the Valar in the war and were given a new land to dwell in that was neither part of Middle-earth nor of Valinor: the land was called Andor, the Land of Gift, but the Edain named it Elenna and later Númenórë. The Men that fought with Morgoth fled east.
The surviving servants of Morgoth fled east. Sauron, the former chief lieutenant of Morgoth, came out to sue for Eönwë's pardon. He was ordered to return to Valinor to receive judgement; instead he fled and hid back in Middle-earth. Morgoth himself remains in the Void, brooding in his hatred. According to legend and prophecy, he will one day break through the Doors of Night and come upon Arda in great wrath, laying it to waste. In this apocalyptic battle, the Dagor Dagorath, it is said that he will be slain forever, and afterward the world will be remade in perfect form by Eru.
Other versions of the legendarium
The first fragments of what would be the War of Wrath appear in notes and outlines related to The Tale of Eärendel, a story that was never written by Tolkien. In the Lost Tales version there is no mention of Eärendel's plea to the Valar on behalf of the Two Kindreds, and the notes suggest that his voyage to Valinor was in vain. Instead, the Elves of Valinor receive tidings from the birds of Gondolin about its fall. The news angers the Elves and they march to the Great Lands against the will of the Valar, who are opposed to the Elves intervening.
The Silmarillion and its early drafts cover the War of Wrath. As Tolkien was developing the story he also produced another set of texts – the Annals – which at first were used as a supportive document to help put a chronological structure to the story, but later grew in detail such that it became another "proper" account of the Silmarillion akin to the quentas. The Annals of Beleriand cover the history of the Elves in Beleriand and introduce new elements to the battle that are absent in the other texts.
The Battle of Eldorest was the opening battle of the conflict. Eldorest (known as Eglarest in The Silmarillion) was the haven city of Círdan which was laid to ruin by Morgoth's armies after the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. In the battle Ingwiel (or Ingwil) – leader of the Light-elves, later Vanyar – makes landing with his Elves and defeats the Orcs on the shore.
In the later Annals of Beleriand there is a new element, where the host of Fiönwë and Morgoth contest the river Sirion. Both hosts encamp on either side of the river and fight bitterly for control of the passage. This may explain why the conflict was prolonged as it also states that the war lasted "fifty years from the landing of Fiönwë". Sirion was a mighty river that ran through Beleriand and was wide and swift with few crossings. The most direct route for the host of Valinor to take to Angband would be through the Pass of Sirion, as it was accessible enough for large armies to pass, hence why it was a strategic location to control. The camp of Fiönwë is likely a reintroduced element from the Lost Tales, where the Elves of Kôr encamp in the Land of Willows or Tasarinan which is Nan-tathren in The Silmarillion.
In The Silmarillion, Morgoth did not personally involve himself in the conflict and never left Angband, but in the Annals of Beleriand he indeed came forth from Angband, although it is unclear if Morgoth fought or just commanded his armies from afar. The only other mentioned Vala to have taken part in the conflict was Tulkas in the Lost Tales, where he defeated Melko in the Pools of Twilight in what is known as the battle of the Silent Pools.
According to a prophecy of Andreth, a Wise-woman of the House of Bëor, Túrin Turambar would return from the Dead and slay Ancalagon in the War of Wrath. For more information, see the Mannish legend of the Dagor Dagorath.
Portrayal in adaptations
1998: Nightfall in Middle-Earth:
- The album Nightfall in Middle-Earth by Blind Guardian opens with a track with a conversation between Sauron and Morgoth during the War of Wrath.
- 1 September: A Shadow of the Past:
- How was Beleriand destroyed in the War of Wrath? by Michael Martinez - A speculation on how the War destroyed the western lands
- In the published Silmarillion, Ingwion has disappeared, and only Finarfin is named as a leader of the armies of the Elves. In The Shaping of Middle-earth, p. 196, Christopher Tolkien suggests that this omission may have been an error, and Ingwiel (early name of Ingwion) should have remained in the text as joint commander of the Elves of Valinor.
- 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. 326
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"
- 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
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Akallabêth: The Downfall of Númenor"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "Durin's Folk"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "V. The Tale of Eärendel"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "III. The Quenta: §17 in the Q II version"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "VII. The Earliest Annals of Beleriand: [The first version of The Earliest Annals of Beleriand (Text AB I)]", p. 309
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad"
- 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, III. The Later Annals of Beleriand", p. 144
- 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", p. 278
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "II. The Earliest 'Silmarillion' (The 'Sketch of the Mythology')", p. 39
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "III. The Quenta: §18 in the Q II version", p. 157
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "XII. The Problem of Ros", Note 17, pp. 374-375
|War of the Great Jewels|
|First Battle · Dagor-nuin-Giliath · Dagor Aglareb · Dagor Bragollach · Nirnaeth Arnoediad · War of Wrath|