Myth Outlines and Discussion Questions  
for The Silmarillion
Beginnings and First Age

The Music of the Ainur

  • The three themes of Illúvatar; Melkor's challenge, and the final chord
  • The Vision of Arda offered, then taken away
  • The Valar enter the world to make it.

                       Valaquenta--the naming of the Valar

Manwë

King of the Ainur; delights in air, wind, sky, height

Melkor

"He who arises in might." also Morgoth-Dark Lord of the World

Varda

also Elbereth; Lady of the Stars

Ulmo

Lord of Waters--seas, rivers, fountains, lakes

Aulë

Lord of substances; earth, rock, etc. Craftsman

Yavanna

also Kementári; Giver of Fruits-delights in growing things

Mandos

also Námo; keeper of the Houses of the Dead

Vairë

Weaver of Time

Lórien

also Irmo; Master of visions and dreams

Estë

Healer of hurts and sorrows

Nienna

Sorrow; Lamenter of griefs

Tulkas

also Astaldo; delights in strength and contests.

Nessa

Delights in dance and racing

Oromë

also Aldaron; Hunter of monsters and evil creatures

Vána

Delights in birds and flowers

Ilmarë

Handmaid of Varda

Eönwë

Standard-bearer of Manwë

Ossë

Master of Seas

Uinen

Lady of Seas

Melian

Tended flowers in Middle-earth; Spouse of Thingol

Olórin

also Mithrandir, Gandalf; defender of the Free Peoples

Sauron

Thrall of Morgoth

 

Discussion Questions

  1. How does Tolkien's creation myth compare with other creation myths, esp. the biblical one?
  2. How would you characterize the Ainur/Valar? What makes them similar to or different than myths of pagan gods?
  3. Likewise, how do they compare to Christian notions about angels?
  4. What does the music of the Ainur reveal about Iluvatar and predestination?
  5. What kind of mythic flavor or response does Tolkien's Valar invoke?

The Beginning of Days

I. The Great Lamps

  • The Two Great Lamps are raised in Middle-earth.
  • The Spring of Arda
  • Melkor builds Utumno and casts down the Lamps.

II. Valinor and the Two Trees

  • The Valar depart Middle-Earth for Aman and raise Valinor.
  • The Two Trees of Valinor--Telperion (Older, dark green with silver) & Laurelin (Younger, light green with gold)
  • Aulë's making of the Dwarves
  • Yavanna seeks the creation of the Tree shepherds (Ents).
  • Sauron placed by Melkor over Angband.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the purpose of the Lamps and Trees narratively and mythically?
  2. Is Aulë's making of the dwarves a critique of subcreation? Has he sinned?
  3. What does the interchange of Aulë and Yavanna reveal about them?
  4. Is it possible for one of the Ainur to be neutral in regards to Eru's purposes? Why or why not?

The Coming and Summoning of the Elves

I. The Awakening of the Elves

  • Varda makes new stars, esp. the Sickle of the Valar.

  • The Firstborn awake by Cuiviénen, the Water of Awakening, and call themselves the Quendi--"ones who speak with voices."

  • Oromë discovers the Elves; their resulting dread and joy; Melkor's lies among them

  • Melkor's kidnapping of Elves and the breeding of Orcs

  • The Valar war with Melkor

  • The Chaining of Melkor and his imprisonment for three ages in the Halls of Mandos

Discussion Questions

  1. How does Oromë discovery of the elves exemplify certain goods or virtues? What makes this a meaningful moment?

  2. What does Melkor's creation of the orcs reveal about the nature of evil?

  3. Why is speech so important to the elves? To Tolkien?

II. The Summoning of the Elves

  • The Summoning of the Quendi to Valinor

  •  The Vanyar, lead by Ingwë, and the Noldor, lead by Finwë, journey all the way, while the Teleri, lead by Elwë and Olwë, linger along the way.

  • Lenwë breaks from the Teleri and leads the Nandor away south.

  • Elwë (Thingol) falls under the enchantment of Melian the Maia and is lost to the Teleri.

  • Thingol awakens to rule the Sindar (the Grey Elves) and establish the kingdom of Doriath in Beleriand.

  • Ulmo ferries the Vanyar and Noldor to Valinor upon an island.

  • The Teleri become lovers of the sea; some eventually remain under Cirdan the Shipwright.

  • The majority of the Teleri eventually settle on Tol Eressëa, the Lonely Isle within sight of Aman.

  • The building of Tirion upon Túna by the Vanyar and Noldor and Alqualondë on the Bay of Elvenhome within sight of the Pass of Light

Discussion Questions

  1. Is the Summons something that Eru would have wanted to happen? Why or why not?
  2. Characterize the various responses of each group to the Summons. What do they suggest about this theme?
  3. What does Tolkien feel about cities? Light? The sea? What is their particular mythic flavor?
  4. How does Thingol's enchantment compare with Beren's later on?

 

Response

Important Qualities

Vanyar

First; all went to Valinor and stayed

Smallest group and closest to the Valinor

Noldor

Second; all went to Valinor, but many returned to Middle-earth following Fëanor

Lovers of craft and knowledge; deep interest in know-how

Teleri

Third wave; More hesitant, often stopping along the way; they were fragmented into various groups

Many became seafarers and learned to love ships and the oceans.

     Sindar

Those Teleri who remained in Beleriand

Grey-Elves, especially associated with Thingol and Doriath

     Nandor

Those Teleri who remained east of the Misty Mts.

Lovers of living things; suffered much from Morgoth's invasions

     Laiquendi

Those Teleri who settled in Ossiriand

Green-Elves; not given to large groupings or kingdoms; not trusting of outsiders

Avari

Those who refused the Summons

"Turned evil and savage in the wild."


Fëanor and the Silmarils

I. Birth, Creation, & Division

  • The birth of Fëanor and the death of his mother Míriel
  • Finwë takes Indis the Vanya as second wife; birth of Fingolfin and Finarfin
  • Melkor is pardoned and released from prison.
  • Melkor befriends many of the Elves; he spreads lies about the Ainur.
  • Fëanor creates the Silmarils, Varda hallows them, and Melkor lusts for them.
  • Melkor spreads slander between the House of Fëanor and Fingolfin.
  • Fëanor rebels against the Valar, threatens Fingolfin in council.
  • Fëanor exiled for 12 years; Finwë goes into exile with him.

Discussion Questions

    1. Why must Míriel be "burnt" up by Fëanor?
    2. What is Tolkien saying about marriage with the remarriage of Finwë? (cf. Laws and Customs Among the Eldar HoME vol. 10)
    3. Compare and contrast Fëanor's creativity to that of Aulë and Melkor.
    4. Must Fëanor's rebellion happen?

II. The Destruction of the Trees & The Theft of the Silmarils

  • Melkor and Ungoliant destroy the Two Trees.
  • Fëanor refuses to give up the Silmarils to restore the Trees.
  • Melkor steals the Silmarils and slays Finwë; Finwë curses Melkor as Morgoth.
  • Ungoliant turns on Morgoth; Morgoth raises Thangorodrim about Angband and forges an iron crown with the Silmarils in it

Discussion Questions

  1. Characterize Ungoliant as compared to Morgoth or Sauron. What makes her evil different than theirs?

  2. What are the motives of Fëanor's refusal to give up the Silmarils? Why is this dramatically such an important moment?

  3. Why must Morgoth make the pretense of being a king?

III. The Departure of the Noldor

  • Fëanor rouses the Noldor to leave for Middle-Earth.
  • Fëanor and his sons take the Oath.
  • Manwë warns Fëanor and exiles him from Valilnor.
  • The Kinslaying of the Teleri and the taking of the white ships
  • The Prophecy of the North/ Doom of the Noldor; Finarfin repents and returns to Valinor and receives a pardon.
  • Fëanor and sons take the ships and leave Fingolfin's people.
  • The burning of the ships at Drengist
  • Fingolfin's people cross the ice at Helcaraxë.
  • The Assault on Morgoth
  • Fëanor is mortally wounded alone; his death speech.

Texts of the Oath

The Flight of the Noldoli
(HoME vol 3. ca. 1925)

The Lay of Leithan
 
(HoME vol 3. ca. 1925-1931)

 

Be he friend or foe  or foul offspring
of Morgoth Bauglir,  be he mortal dark
that in after days  on earth shall dwell,
shall no law nor love  nor league of Gods,
no might nor mercy,  not moveless fate,
defend him for ever   from the fierce vengeance
of the sons of Fëanor,  whoso seize or steal
or finding keep   the fair enchanted
globes of crystal  whoso glory dies not,
the Silmarils.  We have sworn for ever!

 

 

Be he friend or foe, or seed defiled
of Morgoth Bauglir, or mortal child
that in after days on earth shall dwell,
no law, no love, nor league of hell,
not might of Gods, not moveless fate
shall him defend from wrath and hate
of Fëanor's sons, who takes or steals
or finding keeps the Silmarils,
the thrice-enchanted globes of light
that shine until the final night.

The Silmarillion, "Of the Flight of the Noldor" (Chapter 9 )

Then Fëanor swore a terrible oath. His seven sons leapt straightway to his side and took the selfsame vow together, and red as blood shone their drawn swords in the glare of the torches. They swore an oath which none shall break, and none should take, by the name even of Illúvatar, calling the Everlasting Dark upon them if they kept it not; and Manwë they namds in witness, and Varda, and the hallowed mountain of Taniquetil, vowing to pursue with vengeance and hatred to the ends of the World Vala, Demon, Elf or Man as yet unborn, or any creature, great or small, good or evil, that time should bring forth unto the end of days, whoso should hold or take or keep a Silmaril from their possession.

Discussion Questions

  1. How does the Oath haunt the rest of The Silmarillion? What is the substance of its nature?
  2. How does the first of the Kinslayings destroy shalom among the elves?
  3. Why is the burning of the ships so horrible?
  4. Is Fingolfin's crossing heroic? What else is it?
  5. How should we see the sum of Fëanor's life?

Coming of the Dwarves

  • Coming of the Dwarves (The Naugrim) into Beleriand; the Great Kingdoms of the Dwarves
  • Dwarves enter into friendships with the Noldor and Thingol.
  • Dwarves build Menegroth, the 1000 Caves, for Thingol.
  • Daeron the Minstral of Thingol devises the runes, which the Dwarves adopt.

Discussion Question: It is sometimes argued that the dwarves seem an afterthought in The Silmarillion. Would you agree and/or disagree? Why?


The Creation of the Sun and Moon

  • Yavanna is able to sing a single leaf from Telprion and a single flower from Laurelin; with these she creates the Sun and Moon.
  • Arien is chosen to pilot the Sun (Anar, Vása) and Tilion the Moon (Isil, Rána); Tilion keeps irregular course with the Moon.
  • Moon first rises as Fingolfin marches into Middle-earth.
  • Morgoth withdraws at first rising of the Sun.
  • The Hiding of Valinor; the raising of the Pelóri about Valinor

Discussion Question: What is the aesthetic and narrative purpose of the sun and moon?


The Coming of Men

  • Humans awaken in the east in Hildórien at the first rising of the Sun.
  • They soon encounter Morgoth in another form, a great tragedy occurs, and they spread rapidly in the world. (Compare with Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth and "The Tale of Adanel" HoME vol. 10.)
  • Many come west fleeing a great darkness and are in search of the light.
  • Finrod Felagund first encounters the House of Bëor, sings among them.
  • The Haladin arrive soon after, and the House of Marach the year after.
  • The Green Elves are suspicious of men, as is Thingol, so Finrod takes them in, and Bëor serves Finrod.
  • Disagreement breaks out among the council of Men as to whether to serve the Elves; Amlach discovers that he was impersonated by a servant of Morgoth.
  • Caranthir saves the People of Halath from an orc raid. Other human houses enter the service of the Elves.
  • The Elves first encounter natural death at Bëor's passing.

Discussion Questions

  1. Compare and contrast the coming of men with that of elves.
  2. How are the costs of division seen in the Houses of Men?
  3. What are the lessons of death by old age as revealed in men?

 

Key Figures

Location, Associations

House of Bëor

Bëor, Barahir, Boromir, Amlach, Andreth

First of the Edain; located in the Estolad, then Dorthonion; fealty to Finrod Felagund; mostly destroyed by Morgoth

The Haladin

Haldad, Haldar, Haleth

Second of the Edain; located in southern Thargelion; ended up in Forest of Brethil ; allied to Doriath; defeated in War of Unnumbered Tears; fought under Túrin for a season

House of Marach

Hador, Marach, Húrin Túrin

Third of the Edain; located east of south of Bereliand; some in fealty to Fingolfin

Bór's People

Bór, Borland, Borlach, Borthand

Faithful Easterlings; stayed allied to Maedhros and Maglor

Ulfang's People

Ulfang, Ulfast, Ulwarth, Uldor the Accursed

Unfaithful Easterlings; secretly in service to Morgoth; occupied Hithlum after the War of Unnumbered Tears.


Return of the Noldor (events involving Wars of Beleriand)

  • Thingol refuses to open Doriath to the Noldor.
  • The Noldor settle in various lands in the Beleriand.
  • Fingolfin's Feast of Reuniting
  • Ulmo instructs Finrod and Turgon in a dream to found two hidden realms.
  • Finrod builds Nargothrond.
  • Turgon discovers the hidden valley of Tumladen and founds Gondolin. Ulmo warns him that he will still not escape the Doom of Mandos, but that many years will pass first.
  • Melian discovers the truth of the Kinslaying from Galadriel. Thingol learns the truth, and the discovery spreads among the Sindar. Thingol confronts the sons of Fëanor and refuses to allow Quenya to be spoken in his realms.

Discussion Questions

  1. Characterize Thingol, Turgon, and Finrod. What are their traits as leaders?
  2. Why does Galadriel reveal the kinslaying? How she compare as a character with her later self in Lord of the Rings?

Aredhel and Ёol, Maeglin

  • Aredhel leaves Gondolin , is turned away from Doriath, and loses her companions in the evil region of Nan Dungortheb.
  • Aredhel dwells with Curufin and Celegrom for a year.
  • Ёol the Black Elf draws Aredhel to himself and marries her.
  • They give birth to Maeglin. Maeglin is raised in their home.
  • Aredhel and Maeglin flee to Gondolin.
  • Ёol follows them to Gondolin, challenges Turgon for the return of Maeglin, and slays Aredhel in the process. He is executed by Turgon's people.
  • Maeglin falls in love with his first cousin Idril, who senses his attraction and rebuffs him.

[The remainder based on C. Tolkien and Kay's suppositions from the Annals of Bereliand HoME volumes 4 & 5.]

  • Tuor weds Idril; they sire Eärendil. Maeglin and Tuor clash in council.
  • Maeglin is captured by the Orcs and taken to Morgoth. Maeglin is offered Gondolin as a vassal state, which he agrees that he might have Idril.
  • Tuor rescues Idril from Maeglin and slays him during the sack of Gondolin.

Discussion Questions

  1. How does Ёol compare with other harsh characters such as Thingol, Curufin, Húrin, and Mîm?
  2. Is Maeglin racially suspect? Is he a racist character?
  3. How does Maeglin's betrayal compare with others?

Beren and Lúthien

I. The Meeting of Beren and Lúthien

  • Only Beren survives the slaughter to Barahir's outlaws after Sauron tortures and deceives Gorlim into revealing their whereabouts.
  • Beren rescues from the Orcs his father's hand and ring of fealty to Finrod .
  • Beren, surviving Dungortheb, makes his way into Doriath; there he sees Lúthien, daughter of Thingol and Melian, dancing for the first time and calls her Tinúviel.
  • Lúthien eventually falls in love with Beren, but their meetings are revealed to Thingol.
  • Thingol gives Beren the task of stealing a Silmaril in exchange for his daughter's marriage. "Bring to me in your hand a Silmaril from Morgoth's crown."

Discussion Questions

    1. Why is this the most important of myths to Tolkien?
    2. Why the three-fold pattern of quest and rescue?
    3. What other myths do the Beren-Lúthien myth compare with?
    4. What is the purpose of Beren's task/quest?

II.The First Part of the Quest (Struggle with Sauron)

  • Beren comes to Finrod to claim the loyalty between his father and Finrod. His quest is made known and the sons of Fëanor swear by the Oath against it, but Finrod agrees to go with Beren.
  • Beren, Finrod, and their company (disguised as orcs) come to Sauron's realm.
  • Sauron and Finrod fight a greater battle of magic and wills, until Sauron unmasks them, but he can still not uncover their identities. He leaves them in his pit.
  • Lúthien learns of what has befallen them. Thingol places her in a house set in the trees, but she grows her hair long and escapes.
  • Huan, the great hound of Celegrom, discovers her and brings her to Celegrom, who tries to kidnap her. Huan helps her escape.
  • Finrod dies in warring with Sauron's werewolf.
  • Lúthien and Huan rescue Beren from Sauron's keep; Huan battles with Sauron the werewolf.
  • Beren rescues Lúthien from Curufin, assisted by Huan, and they return to Doriath.

Discussion Questions

  1. Trace the theme of loyalty in this myth.

  2. Compare and contrast Morgoth and Sauron's response in the two parts of the quest.

  3.  Why is the Rapunzel myth included as part of this story?

  4. What is the purpose of Huan? Does he contribute or detract from the larger myth?

  5. What role does glory play in this story, especially in regards to Beren?

III. The Second Part of The Quest (Seduction of Morgoth)

  • Beran returns to the quest. Lúthien follows him. They go in disguise as a werewolf and great vampire bat. Huan joins them.
  • They come to Angband; Carcharoth, the Red Maw, is put to sleep by Lúthien at the gate.
  • Lúthien sings before Morgoth, puts him to sleep, and she and Beren escape with a Silmaril.
  • Carcharoth awakens and bites off Beren's hand with the Silmaril. The gem's fire burns his insides, and he goes mad racing through Bereliand.
  • Beren the One-Handed appears before Thingol: "It is fulfilled. Even now a Silmaril is in my hand."
  • Thingol softens, realizes Beren is a person of destiny, and gives Lúthien to Beren.

Discussion Questions

  1.  What role and function does Carcharoth serve in the story?

  2. Compare and contrast Beren with Frodo.

IV. The Third Part of the Quest (Hunting Carcharoth & Hall of Mandos)

  • Beren undertakes hunting down Carcharoth to complete the quest.
  • Huan and Beren slain in taking Carcharoth. The wolf is cut open and the Silmaril recovered.
  • Beren goes to the Hall of Mandos; Lúthien dies of grief and sings before Mandos, which moves him to pity; Mandos goes to Manwë, who seeks the council of Illuvatar.
  • Lúthien and Beren are allowed to return to life, but Lúthien is now mortal.

Discussion Questions

  1. Is Lúthien enacting the Orpheus (Sir Orfeo) myth here? Why or why not?

  2. Why are they allowed to return to life?

  3. How do the three parts of the quest parallel one another?

V. Tol Galen

  • The two dwell together in Tol Galen, the green isle. Their son, Dior Aranel, becomes the ancestor of the Half-elven.

[The remainder based on C. Tolkien and Kay's suppositions from the Annals of Bereliand HoME volumes 4 & 5.]

  • After the Dwarves slay Thingol and take Doriath, Beren and Dior lead a raid to recover the Silmaril and the necklace Nauglamír.
  • Lúthien wears the necklace, though many say this causes her to die early since her beauty burned so great with it upon her.
  • Dior becomes ruler of Doriath.

Discussion Questions

  1. Is their end anti-climatic?
  2. Do Beren and Lúthien seem like the same characters in this last portion of the myth? Why or why not?
  3. Why does Lúthien wear the Silmaril in beauty? Why is she allowed to?
  4. How do kin and family become a more important role in this portion of the myth?
  5. What are your global conclusions about this myth? How does it relate to the larger Silmarillion? To Tolkien's other fiction?
  6. Compare and contrast Beren and Lúthien with Aragorn and Arwen.

The Children of Húrin/ Túrin Turambar

I. Túrin in Doriath

  • Túrin is born to Húrin and Morwen; His first sister, Lalaith, dies at age three from a plague out of Angband.
  • After the War of Unnumbered Tears, Morwen holds out in Dorlómin, pregnant with Nienor. She sends Túrin to Thingol.
  • Years later, Túrin goes to war when messages from Morwen stop. For three years, he fights careworn, then returns to Doriath.
  • Túrin casts a drinking cup at Saeros for insulting him. Later Saeros assaults Túrin, who slays him in turn. Túrin flees fearing for his life and soon leads a troop of outlaws. He calls himself Neithan -“The Wronged.”
  • Thingol extends his pardon to Túrin and sends Beleg to tell him, but Túrin refuses to return, so Beleg, with Thingol's leave, stays to watch over him.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why so much tragedy? Is this the result of fate, free will, the curse of Morgoth, or something else?
  2. Why does Túrin accidentally or deliberately kill others?
  3. How is Túrin both a man under authority and yet one not under authority?
  4. What does the importance of family to Túrin reveal about him, his culture, the larger myth?

II. Túrin and Mîm

  • Beleg brings with him Anglachel, a black sword crafted by Ёol, though Melian warns him of its dark design.
  • The outlaws under Túrin capture the petty-dwarf Mîm and slay his son. Mîm leads Túrin to his stronghold, and Túrin offers a ransom for the loss of Mîm's son. Beleg returns to Túrin.
  • Túrin takes the name Gorthol, the Dread Helm. Morgoth realizes his identity and captures Mîm, who leads the orcs to the outlaws. Túrin is captured.
  • Beleg and Gwindor, a recent escapee from Angband, rescue Túrin, but Túrin mistakenly slays Beleg in the dark.

Discussion Questions

  1. How do weapons form an important theme in this section of the myth?

  2. What is the significance of the Petty Dwarves?

  3. Compare Mîm's betrayal to Maeglin's.

  4. What is the purpose of Túrin's various names? (see below)

  5. What purpose do Beleg and Gwindor serve in saving Túrin?

Names of Túrin

Circumstances

Neithan - “The Wronged” or "One who is Deprived"

Túrin becomes captain of the outlaws after fleeing Thingol's realm.

Gorthol – “Dread Helm”

Túrin becomes a captain in Dor-Cúarthol. Morgoth realizes it is he.

Agarwaen, Son of Umarth – “Bloodstained son of Ill-fate”

Túrin's name for himself at Nargathrond; after the accidental slaying of Beleg.

Adanedhel -- "The Elf-Man"

Name given Túrin by the elves of Nargathrond

Mormegil – “The Black Sword”

Túrin's name on the field of battle as he fights with the sword Gurthang, "Iron of Death"

Wildman of the Woods

Túrin goes to live with the Men of Brethil after the siege of Nargothrond.

Turambar – “Master of Doom” 

 

After Túrin's foreboding at the news brought by Dorlas and his new resolve to make a stand in Brethil as a lone outlaw.

Túrin Turambar Dagnir Glauringa

The inscription on Túrin's tombstone notes he is "the slayer or ruin of the dragon Glaurung."


III T
úrin in Nargothrond

  • He learns of Morgoth's curse on the children of Húrin; Gwindor brings him to Nargothrond. Túrin calls himself Agarwæn son of Úmarth (Bloodstained, son of Ill-fate).
  • Finduilas falls in love with Túrin; Gwindor reveals Túrin's identity to her in hopes of swaying her heart, as well as warning her of Túrin. Yet Túrin does not return her love.
  • Túrin convinces Orodreth (king after death of Finrod) to go to war openly and build a great bridge from the hidden realm. Túrin is now called Adanedhel (Elf-Man) and Mormegil (the Black Sword). Túrin takes to wearing a dwarf-mask in battle.
  • Meanwhile, Morwen and Nienor search for Túrin in Doriath.
  • Morgoth's forces descend through the Pass of Sirion .
  • Ulmo sends warnings to Círdan to tell Orodreth to close the doors and take down the bridge, but Túrin argues otherwise.
  • Glaurung the dragon and a host of Orcs overrun Nargothrond.
  • Túrin arrives too late and is cast into a spell by Glaurung. Glaurung deceives Túrin into believing that Morwen and Nienor are slaves in Dor-lómin. Túrin learns the truth too late.

Discussion Questions  

  1. Why does Túrin not return Finduilas' desire?

  2. What are Túrin's character flaws?

  3. Characterize Glaurung. Compare and contrast him with Smaug.

IV. Túrin and Nienor

  • He learns that the remaining female captives from Nargothrond, including Finduilas, were tortured and slaughtered by orcs. He swoons and is taken to Haleth's people, where his new name is Turambar, Master of Doom.
  • Morwen and Nienor learn in Doriath what has happened and seek out Túrin. They are waylaid by Glaurung, who casts a spell on Nienor so that she forgets her very identity.
  • She runs mad and naked in a storm and is found by Túrin, who names her Níniel.
  • After three years, they marry and conceive a child.
  • Túrin learns that Glaurung is to attack the lands near Teiglin. Níniel and Brandir follow Túrin.
  • Túrin slays Glaurung, who in his death throes poisons Túrin and reveals to Niniel her true identity.
  • Nienor commits suicide. Brandir tells the people that Túrin is dead and who Niniel is. Túrin alive, arrives and slays Brandir for lying, esp. about Niniel.
  • Túrin learns the truth from the Elves of Doriath, and he casts himself on the black blade.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why include the incest/violation of a taboo myth?

  2. What kind of character is Nienor/ Níniel?

  3.  Is Túrin's slaying of Glauring heroic? Why or why not?

  4.  What is the relationship of Túrin's story to the larger context of the War of Unnumbered Tears?

  5. How does Túrin compare with the Finnish Kullervo myth?


The Ruin of Doriath [based on C. Tolkien and Kay's suppositions from the Annals of Bereliand HoME volumes 4 & 5.]

I. Húrin and the Nauglamir (compare with The Wanderings of Húrin  HoME vol. 11)

  • Húrin is released by Morgoth after 23 years. He is shunned by others as he journeys.
  • Turgon refuses to admit Húrin into Gondolin, but Húrin's cries clue Morgoth to where the hidden city is.
  • Húrin meets Morwen at the tombs of Túrin and Nienor; Morwen is at the time of her death.
  • Húrin slays Mîm in Nargothrond and takes the Nauglamir--the Necklace of the Dwarves--to Thingol in Doriath.
  • Húrin casts himself in the western sea.

II. Thingol and the Dwarves of Nogrod

  • Thingol desires to set the Silmaril in the Nauglamir and takes it to the dwarves of Nogrod. They take it, but refuse to return it to Thingol.
  • The dwarves slay Thingol, fleeing with the Nauglamir, but they are slain and the necklace returned to Melian.
  • The Girdle of Melian is taken away, and Melian goes to Valinor after looking on Lúthien one last time.
  • The Dwarves of Nogrod raise a host and take Menegroth, the halls of Thingol.

III. The Second Kinslaying

  • After the Dwarves slay Thingol and take Doriath, Beren and Dior lead a raid to recover the Silmaril and the necklace Nauglamír.
  • Lúthien wears the necklace, though many say this causes her to die early since her beauty burned so great with it upon her.
  • Dior becomes ruler of Doriath and takes the Silmaril to himself.
  • The Second Kinslaying: Celegorm, Curufin, and Caranthir attack Dior and his family. Curufin and Caranthir and Dior all die. Celegorm leaves the sons of Dior, Eluréd and Elurín, to starve in the wilderness.
  • Doriath falls, but Elwing, Dior's daughter escapes with the Silmaril.

Discussion Questions

  1. How does Húrin's release create a narrative catalyst for later events?
  2. What are Thingol's motivations for the Silmaril? How should we evaluate them?
  3. Why does Mellian leave after Thingol's death?
  4. Why introduce a second kinslaying here? Why do the elves act so cruely?
  5. Is the possession of the Silmaril a good, evil, and/or neutral act? Explain your answer.

The Fall of Gondolin [based on C. Tolkien and Kay's suppositions from "Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin" (Unfinished Tales) and earlier versions in the Book of Lost Tales .]

I. Tuor Comes to Gondolin

  • Tuor, son of Huor brother of Húrin, is enslaved by the Easterlings; three years later he escapes to wander along as an outlaw.
  • Ulmo chooses Tuor as his ensign to Gondolin to warn Turgon of the coming doom and to flee the city.
  • Tuor is opposed in council by Maeglin, and Turgon refuses to leave
  • Idril comes to love Tuor, and they marry--the second marriage of Elf and men. They give birth to Eärendil.
  • Idril prepares a secret way of escape from Gondolin.

II. Maeglin Betrays Gondolin

  • Maeglin reveals the location of Gondolin to Morgoth in exchange for Idril.
  • In the sack of the city, Tuor rescues Idril from Maeglin, and they escape with others by the secret way.
  • Glorfindel battles a Balrog to the death to allow Idril and Tuor to escape.
  • Idril and Tuor go south and join with Elwing's people at the mouth of the Sirion.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is Tuor an envoy of Ulmo?
  2. Compare Tuor and Idril with Beren and Luthien. What important roles do the former play as saviors of their people?
  3. Why is Glorfindel's sacrifice an important part of the story?

Eärendil the Wanderer

I. Eärendil's first journey

  • Eärendil marries Elwing and rules over the havens at Sirion, uniting the remnants of Doriath and Gondolin.
  • Eärendil takes Vingilot, the white ship, in search of Tuor and Idril, as well as to find a way to Valinor.
  • Eärendil does not succeed the first time, but is warned in a dream to return.

II. The Third Kinslaying and Eärendil's Second Journey

  • The Third Kinslaying: Maedhros and Maglor, driven by the Oath, attack the havens of Sirion.
  • Elwing casts herself in the sea, is changed into a white bird by Ulmo, and is brought to Eärendil's ship.
  • Eärendil and Elwing find their way to Valinor by virtue of the power of the Silmaril.
  • They come at time of festival; Eärendil beseeches the Valar to come and assault Morgoth.
  • Vingilot is set as a new constellation in the heavens, and the Silmaril is a star, Gil-Estel

III. The War of Wrath

  • The Valar accompanied by the Valar and Noldor reach Beleriand and are joined by loyal men.
  • Morgoth cowers in Angband and releases the full extent of his forces.
  • The dragons of Morgoth, lead by Ancalagon the Black, force back the Valar.
  • Eärendil arrives with the great Eagles. Eärendil slays Anacalgon.
  • The Valar destroy Angband and break Morgoth's power decisively. The remaining two Silmarils are recovered by Eõnwë.

IV. The End of the Simarils

  • The reminder of the elves in Middle-earth are summoned to Valinor.
  • Maedhros and Maglor still attempt to fulfill the Oath; they steal the Silmarils.
  • They are so burned by them, that Maedhros casts one and himself into the fire, while Maglor casts the other into the sea.
  • The curse is laid to rest; most Elves return to Valinor, but some stay--Cirdan, Celeborn and Galadriel, Gilgalad, Elrond and Elros.
  • Morgoth is thrust through the Door of Night by the Ainur, to be cast out forever.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is Eärendil a wanderer? A seafarer? A child of an elf-human marriage?
  2. What does the heritage of Eärendil and Elwing, as well as the course of their descendents suggest about the centrality of their marriage to Tolkien's mythology? (cf. family trees pp. 368-370)
  3. Is Eärendil a Christ-figure? Why or why not?
  4. What is the mythic significance of Elwing's becoming a bird and flying to Eärendil on the ship?
  5. Why must Maedhros and Maglor end their lives the way they do?
  6. Is the ending of The Silmarillion a eucastrophy?

Global Discussion Questions

  1. Does The Silmarillion cohere as a literary unity, story, legenderium? Why and/or why not?
  2. Are portions of the mythology more effective than others? Explain.
  3. How do the various parts of the mythology relate?
  4. How important are geography and political spaces to The Silmarillion's themes?
  5. What are the most important myths, themes, or moments in the story?
  6. How does The Silmarillion relate to Tolkien's other works, e.g. The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, etc.?
  7. What does The Silmarillion mythology as a whole reveal about Tolkien's views of and tastes in myth?
  8. Was Christopher Tolkien justified in creating chapters 22-24? Why or why not?

 

Realm/Rulers

Location

Importance

Morgoth

Far North

Angband,

The central problem for the Elves--why they must raise the Siege of Angband

Sons of Fëanor

Maedhros

Maglor

Celegorm Curufin

Caranthir

Amrod & Amras

Northeast/ East

Himring

Gelion

Aglon, Himlad

Mt. Rerir , Thargelion

Southern hills

 

 

Act as defense for the northeast and east regions of Beleriand. Caranthir's realm also functions as a buffer zone between the Elves and Dwarves.

Sons of Finarfin

  Angrod

Aegnor

Orodreth

North Central

Dorthonion

 

Pass of Sirion

 

Operates in the forefront of keeping watch on Angband. Pass of Sirion central attack point for Morgoth's forces.

 

Fingolfin

Fingon, son

Northwest

Hithlum

Dor-lómin

 

Operates in the forefront of keeping watch on Angband

Círdan

Coastlands Falathrim,

Becomes one of the refuges near the end; also a point of siege/western operations for Morgoth's forces early on

Thingol

Central

Doriath, Brethil

The Girdle of Melian makes Doriath the key power-player through much of the Wars. Doriath's early founding and location determines where the rest are located.

Green-Elves

Southeast

Ossiriand

Their fear forces men to move into and ally with established Elven kingdoms.

Naugrim

The Blue Mts. Eastern edge

Forms the eastern limit of the Beleriand and acts as both foe and ally of the Elves in the period

Turgon

Gondollin

Tumladen Valley

Hidden realm--last to fall. The savior Eärendil comes from Gondolin

Finrod

Nargothrond, along Sirion R.

Hidden realm-- carries on fight against Morgoth after the War of Unnumbered Tears

 

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding