Nirnaeth Arnoediad: The Battle of Unnumbered Tears
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The fifth battle of the War of Beleriand was the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, translated "Tears Unnumbered" and "Unnumbered Tears". It was also referred to simply as the Nirnaeth.
Maedhros had seen by the example of Beren and Luthien that Morgoth
was not unassailable and assembled forces for a great union and
assault, lest they all be destroyed separately, but the results of the
Oath of Fëanor intervened causing much to go awry. King Orodreth of
Nargothrond refused to aid any son of Fëanor, but Prince Gwindor led a
valiant company and came anyway under the badge of Fingolfin to march
under the blue and silver banner of Fingon, for Gwindor's brother,
Guilin, had been lost in the Dagor Bragollach.
Doriath did not come, as King Thingol held a Silmaril bought at great
price by Beren and Luthien, which he would not surrender to the
Fëanorians, some of whom had vowed to kill him; yet he allowed
and Mablung to go, as they would serve in the hosts of Fingon.
The Union of Maedhros had aid from Dwarves and Men, yet also
treachery of Men who were deep in the counsels of the Fëanorians. The
Dwarves of Nogrod and Belegost made great store of weapons and sent
armed forces. To the Union came the Men of Bor and Ulfang, bringing
more from the east, and the Men of the house of Hador in Hithlim, and
the people of Haleth from the forests of Brethil ruled by Haldir.
Maedhros struck before his plans were complete, clearing away the
Orcs for a time, yet warning Morgoth so that he had time to prepare
forces and send spies and workers of treason.
Maedhros gathered his forces of elves, men, and dwarves to draw out
Morgoth's forces on the morning of Midsummer, intending to use a great
fire beacon in Dorthonion to signal Fingon to come from the side
through the passes of Hithlim and catch Morgoth's armies between them
as hammer and anvil. Unlooked for, King Turgon brought his forces from
hidden Gondolin to aid his brother, Fingon, adding to their hopes.
Unknown to Fingon, the traitor human Uldor misled Maedhros with
false warnings of an assault from Angband so that he did not set out at
the intended time.
Morgoth, trusting to the delay against Maedhros' armies, sent a
great force towards Fingon's armies in Hithlim, camouflaged until
fairly close, but Hurin held back the hot hearts of the Noldor so that
they were not pulled too early into battle, intending to let them come
off the plains and break in an assault upon the hills. But the Captain
of Morgoth in the west had orders to bring out Fingon's forces early,
so he brought out the captive elf, Gelmir, and dismembered him in front
of the forces. Gelmir's brother, Prince Gwindor of Nargothrond, went
mad and attacked, his company going with him. The Noldor were set on
fire by his charge that carried powerfully into the host of Morgoth and
Fingon led the rest into battle. At Fingon's organized assault,
Morgoth's plan was almost undone as his forces were almost destroyed
before planned reinforcements could arrive, and Fingon's forces with
Gwindor at the forefront came to the very doors of Angband. But
Gwindor's small company was trapped at the door, separated from Fingon,
and only Gwindor survived, taken into captivity. Fingon's forces were
beaten back from the walls, as his army had never been intended for
such an unreinforced assault. They retreated back across the plains
towards the hills with terrible losses. Haldir and most of his Men of
Brethil fell as the rearguard. On the fifth day, still far from the
hills of Ered Wethrin, Fingon's forces were surrounded by Orcs. On the
sixth morning, the heavily armored and well-equipped forces of Turgon
of Gondolin arrived, for they had not been drawn out of the their
station as guard of Pass of Sirion. Then in the third hour of the
morning, the forces of Maedhros arrived. The Orcs wavered, some turning
to flight. Morgoth loosed his last strength, emptying Angband, sending
wolves and wolfriders, Balrogs, dragons, and Glaurung who was now
great in strength and terror. Glaurung managed to separate the forces
of Maedhros and Fingon.
Yet, the Union of Maedhros would still have won the day then, but
for treachery as the plots of the Man, Ulfang, came into play. Many
Easterlings fled, filled with lies and fear. The sons of Ulfang turned
suddenly on the rear of the forces of the sons of Fëanor, in the
confusion coming near to Maedhros' standard. But Maglor slew Uldor who
had led the treason, and the sons of Bor slew Ulfast and Ulwarth before
going down. But more of Uldor's men attacked out of the eastern hills
on three sides so that the force of Maedhros was scattered. The wounded
sons of Fëanor drew together, gathering a remnant of Noldor and Dwarves
and hewed a way out escaping towards Mount Dolmed in the east.
But of Maedhros' eastern force, the Dwarves of Belegost stood firm,
with armor that withstood Glaurung's flame, and surrounded him. But for
them, Glaurung and his brood would have withered those left of the
Noldor. In rage, Glaurung struck down Azaghal, Lord of Belegost, but
was in turn wounded badly by him with a knife in his belly, so that
Glaurung fled and all his beasts fled in dismay with him. The dwarves
raised Azaghal's body in funeral pomp and slowly left the field singing
a dirge in their deep voices, and none dared to stop them.
Meanwhile, Fingon's forces were surrounded by one three times their
size. It was led by Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs, high-captain of Angband,
and he ran a wedge between the elven-hosts, surrounding High King
Fingon and pushing aside King Turgon and Hurin's forces towards the Fen
of Serech. Fingon was alone with his dead guard but fought off Gothmog
until another Balrog caught him from behind with a whip of fire, and
Gothmog killed Fingon with a black axe. The field was lost.
At the Pass of Sirion, the remnant of the house of Hador's Men of
Dor-lomin, led by Hurin and Huor, stood firm with Turgon and the forces
of Gondolin, and the remnants of Fingon's host that Turgon gathered.
Hurin and Huor told Turgon that he must leave, letting the Men hold
back the enemy so that Gondolin would be kept secret, and so that, as
Huor stated, "from you and from me a new star shall arise." This was
the foresight of near-death, referring to Earendil who would indeed
become a star. Maeglin, nearby, heard the prophecy as well. Turgon's
captains, Ecthelion and Glorfindel (yes, that Glorfindel), guarded the
flanks to left and right as Turgon's and Fingon's people retreated
hidden back to Gondolin. Since Hurin and Huor could not return alive to
their homelands in the north, and did not desire to take a new home,
and stood to the end. For Men, "thus was the treachery of Uldor
All of the human defenders died, save valiant Hurin who was captured.
ended Nirnaeth Arnoediad, as the sun went down behind the sea. Night
fell in Hithlim, and there came a great storm of wind out of the West."
--"Of the Fifth Battle", Silmarillion
"Of the Fifth Battle"
mentions in "Of Turin
mention in "Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin".