22 August 2011

365 Days of Middle-earth ~ Day 53: Gondolin

Gondolin by Ted Nasmith

Gondolin was the most beautiful of the Noldorin city-kingdoms founded in Middle-earth during the First Age, and also the longest enduring. It was completed in the second century (between FA 52 and 104) of the exile of the Noldor by King Turgon, the first Elf to walk in the hidden valley of Tumladen. 

The easiest entranceway into Gondolin was the Way of Escape, which was difficult to find, and heavily guarded by Gondolindrim. The city itself was built of white stone on Amon Gwareth, and modeled on Tirion, which it soon came to rival in beauty. 

For four hundred years it stood in the hidden valley of Tumladen, signifying the last hope of the Noldor in mortal lands. Blessed by Ulmo and protected by the ever-vigilant Eagles, few passed outward (until the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, three and a half centuries later) and only four who had not entered with Turgon at the realm’s founding – Maeglin, Eöl, Húrin, and Huor – were allowed to pass inward. For a time, Gondolin prospered, ignoring the affairs of the outside world, and keeping out of Morgoth’s sight.  

The city of Gondolin became stronger and more beautiful as time went on, as Turgon never ceased to add to it. He built high towers which were slender, graceful, and proportionate, and mighty walls which shone in the sunlight. 

For some time, Morgoth guessed that Gondolin was somewhere in the mountains west of Dorthonion, as Húrin had inadvertently revealed to him the location of Gondolin upon his release from Angband, and Maeglin later betrayed the secrets of its passes, having been promised Lordship and Turgon’s daughter, Idril. 

In FA 511, Gondolin was overwhelmed by a horde of Orcs, Balrogs, wolves, and dragons; as Morgoth had no other foes left in Middle-earth, he was able to strike with all the forces available to him. Turgon was slain, as was Ecthelion, who slew and was slain by the mightiest of the Balrogs. Tuor killed Maeglin the Traitor, and with his wife Idril and their son Eärendil, fled the city. Through them, the Line of Gondolin lived on. 

Gondolin was the last of the Elven realms of Beleriand to suffer the Doom of the Noldor, and its downfall marked the final victory of Morgoth in the War of the Great Jewels.


Etymology

Sindarin ‘Hidden-rock’ or ‘Rock-hidden’

From the Quenya Ondolindë ‘Stone song’

References

Foster, R. (2001). Gondolin. In The complete guide to middle-earth: from the hobbit through the lord of the rings and beyond. New York: Del Rey. 

Tyler, J. (1976). Gondolin. In The complete Tolkien companion. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

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