Nirnaeth Arnoediad: The Battle of Unnumbered Tears

by Varda-(Valar)
December 31, 2007

Articles > Elves > Events > Battles of Beleriand

    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 Beleg 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 redressed".
    All of the human defenders died, save valiant Hurin who was captured.

    "Thus 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 Maeglin"
        "Of the Fifth Battle"
        mentions in "Of Turin Turambar"
        mention in "Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin".