The Duel in the Sky
Stories > Authors > Ancalagon-(V)'s tales
Elsewhere it is said that little is recorded of the march
of the Valar in the War of Wrath, for the Elves that came to their aid
from Valinor returned thither with them. But indeed on the side of the
Valar valiant men of the Edain also fought, and those that returned
brought with them the tale of the great duel in the sky fought between
Eärendil the Mariner and Ancalagon the Black.
At first the Valar had the upper hand, for their
host's coming out of the West was unlooked for by Morgoth, and he shook
in fear in the depths of Angband. But he was not beaten yet, and he had
long been secretly preparing new weapons for his wars with the Noldor.
Of these weapons, the winged dragons were the most terrible, and these
he unleashed upon the hosts of the Valar, who scattered before the
dragons’ scorching breath.
The greatest of these beasts was named Ancalagon the
Black, the Rushing Jaws, and he slew many, devouring Elves and Men
whole. Before him the Vanyar broke, and the Edain fled, for his fiery
breath laid waste to the earth in huge swathes. Almost by the black
dragon’s fury alone was the assault of the Valar stayed.
But ere long a star out of the Western sky
descended, and it was Eärendil himself in his great ship,
Vingilot, bearing the Silmaril upon his brow. And seeing the
destruction before him he called out a challenge to Ancalagon, and the
mighty dragon flew up to meet him. Ancalagon soared above the sails of
Vingilot and hovered there. Long they glared at one another, the dragon
and the mariner, daring each other to make the first attack. But
neither had the full measure of their enemy.
At length Ancalagon grew impatient, and screeched in
rage at the great ship before him. And he swooped down suddenly, hoping
to take it one surprise strike. But Eärendil was too crafty at the
ship’s wheel. Immediately Vingilot dove, and the dragon flew harmlessly
by. He whirled round in anger, driving him to rashness. Again and again
Ancalagon rushed at Vingilot, and each time Eärendil cleverly
But the black dragon would not relent and seemed
never to tire. For hours the battle in the sky played on. The two
combatants forgot all that transpired beneath them, so focused were
they on their nemeses. But far below, upon the very feet of the peaks
of Thangorodrim, the hosts of the Valar and of Angband paused. They had
suddenly come to the realization that their battle meant little against
the clash of their champions high above. Whoever proved mightier in
that dire contest would, they believed, shape the outcome of the entire
war. Long they watched, and waited.
At the helm of Vingilot, the mariner Eärendil
began to tire. His hands on the tiller slowed and, each time he evaded
Ancalagon’s attack, the dragon’s sharp claws and vile teeth came a bit
closer. At the last, his raking talons caught Vingilot’s mainsail, and
the great ship nearly floundered. Seizing his opportunity, Ancalagon
reared up in the sky, and prepared his final attack.
But when the dragon was about to unleash his fiery
breath, to the certain doom of Eärendil and his proud vessel,
still he did not lose hope. And in that instant the Silmaril upon his
brow, Eärendil’s Star, which Beren had taken from the crown of
Morgoth himself, Ancalagon’s evil master, flared to sudden life. The
light that came forth from that jewel, being indeed the light of the
two trees of Valinor ere their demise, shone full on Ancalagon’s face.
So bright and pure was that light that the dragon was blinded, and in
his panic his head snapped upwards and his flame went wide.
Immediately Eärendil turned his ship about, and
the prow of Vingilot tore through the dragon’s left wing. Ancalagon
screeched in such pain and rage as the vessel pierced the sinews of his
leathery wings that the hosts far below covered their ears, and
crouched in terror.
And as he passed Eärendil smote the dragon a
deadly blow that nearly severed the head from his long neck.
Ancalagon’s broken body fell slowly back to earth. The armies of
Morgoth scattered beneath it, and were rounded up by the Vanyar and the
But the dragon would play his last part in the world
for good, and not for ill. For his corpse crashed upon the very peaks
of Thangorodrim and, in his ruin, broke them. Thus the entrance to
Angband was laid bare at last.