J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien: The Fall of Gondolin


Presented for the first time as a stand-alone work, the epic tale of The Fall of Gondolin reunites fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with Elves and Men, Balrogs, Dragons and Orcs and the rich landscape and creatures unique to Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

This audio production features Samuel West, voicing J. R. R. Tolkien’s original writings, and Timothy West, reading the editorial commentary by Christopher Tolkien.

Gondolin, beautiful but undiscoverable, is central to the enmity of two of the greatest powers in the world.

Morgoth of the uttermost evil seeks in vain to discover the marvellously hidden city of his Elven enemies, while the gods in Valinor refuse to support Ulmo Lord of Waters’ designs to protect it.

Into this world comes Tuor, cousin of Túrin, and guided unseen by Ulmo he sets out on the fearful journey to Gondolin to warn them of their coming doom. Then Morgoth learns through an act of supreme treachery all that he needs to mount a devastating attack on the city, with Balrogs and dragons and numberless Orcs.


John Howe: Ulmo and Tuor — Alan Lee: Gondolin — Tuor’s arms (source) — Ted Nasmith: Tuor — Steamey: Tuor and Voronwë — Ted Nasmith: Tuor reaches the Hidden City Gondolin — John Howe: The Fall of Gondolin

Ñoldor of Gondolin: Turgon (source), the half-Ñoldo Maeglin (source), Ecthelion (by SaMo-art), and Glorfindel (by Magali Villeneuve)

After the fall of Nargothrond and Menegroth, only one of the hidden cities of the Elves remained at the end of the First Age: Turgon’s Gondolin.  And Morgoth redoubled his efforts to find it, as he knew that his dominion over Middle-earth would not be secure as long as even one Elven realm — particularly: one realm of the warrior-like Ñoldor — remained in existence.

In fact, much as Ulmo had done for Nargothrond, the Vala also had taken care, in FA 495, to send a messenger to Gondolin to warn Turgon to abandon his city and to take his people southward along Sirion towards the sea.  The messenger in this instance was Tuor, whose father Huor and uncle Húrin had spent several years in Gondolin in their youth, at the end of which time Turgon had only allowed them to leave after they had vowed never to disclose to anyone the city’s location. — Yet, Turgon loved his city too well to be prepared to abandon it, so he just strenghened its guard and closed it off completely from the outside, but he did stay put and dismissed Ulmo’s warning as conveyed by Tuor.

Still and notwithstanding Turgon’s additional measures, Morgoth almost struck lucky when Húrin, newly-released from Thangorodrim (and closely-watched by Morgoth with just this thought in mind), had approached the Echoriad (“Encircling Mountains”) in the middle of which, he knew, Gondolin was to be found.  Now, however, the entrance to the secret path leading up to Gondolin through the mountains from the gully of a dry river that had once fed into Sirion was blocked; and after all of Húrin’s calls to the Gondolindrim and his appeals to remember the services he had rendered to Turgon in the Nírnaeth Arnoediad had gone unresponded-to (though Turgon was in fact aware of Húrin’s presence, but dared not respond, correctly suspecting that Morgoth was on the alert), he had eventually left again, disappointed, despairing, and alone. — But his failed attempt had at the very least told Morgoth in what part of Beleriand to look for Gondolin: all he needed to know now was its exact location, and where and how best to access the city.

Visualization of the Fall of Gondolin, as described (only) in the
 1916 account contained in The Book of Lost Tales, Part 2

(graphics by Narfil Palùrfalas; source HERE):

First distribution of the Twelve Houses of Gondolin

The northern gate falls and Tuor confronts M[a]eglin

The north part is lost and Tuor goes to help

Western walls are broken and
the House of the Fountain comes in aid

Sequel not shown in graphics:
Eventually all defending Houses are driven back into the
Square of the King (central square), where they make
their final stand.  Ecthelion kills Gothmog.  Turgon advises
his people to flee, led by Tuor.  The Tower of the King is 
brought down; Turgon dies in its ruins.

This final bit of information at last came to Morgoth from Turgon’s foster son Maeglin, the son of Turgon’s sister Aredhel and the Dark Elf Eöl.  Though raised by Turgon with full princely honors, Maeglin’s jealousy was quickly aroused; and ever since the arrival of Huor’s son (Húrin’s nephew) Tuor, he had envied the Edain the great favor the latter had earned with both Turgon and his daughter Idril, whom Maeglin wanted to marry himself, even though they were first cousins.  So when Maeglin was captured, by chance, by Morgoth’s Orcs and pleaded to be brought before their lord, Morgoth quickly realized that he had found his way through the city’s guard: He promised Maeglin rule of the city under his (Morgoth’s) vassalage and possession of Idril in return for information about the city’s location and access ways (while having of course no intention to actually keep that promise); and having obtained the knowledge he had sought for such a long time, he let Maeglin go again.

Although Maeglin, after his return to Gondolin, had of course not breathed a word about his captivity and encounter with Morgoth, Idril knew him well enough to mistrust him, and the friendlier he appeared the more suspicious she was.  So she talked Tuor, who in the interim had become her husband, and with whom she had a son named Eärendil, into creating a new secret way out of the city. — A year passed, and nothing happened.  The Gondolindrim prepared their sun festival, the Gates of Summer, one of the festive highlights of the year.

However, instead of seeing the sun rise in the east, they saw the light of a huge fire rising above the walls of the Echoriad in the north, produced by Morgoth’s dragons and Balrogs: Maeglin had told Morgoth that the access route to Gondolin from the dry gully near the banks of the river Sirion was an exceedingly long and narrow, in parts impossibly steep mountain path leading through a hidden ravine named Orfalch Echor (“High Cleft of the Outer Circle”), which moreover was secured by no less than seven gates, all manned by armed guards, whereas the mountains to its north were considered enough of a bar in and of itself and were — even now — not as heavily-guarded and inaccessible as the secret path leading to the city’s main gate in the southwest. 

So it was from the north that Morgoth’s forces attacked.  They quickly and without much resistance crossed the Vale of Tumladen, at the heart of which Gondolin lay, and while they had trouble scaling the smooth walls of the Amon Gwareth (“Hill of Watching”), the elevation on which Gondolin had been built, they besieged the city with dragons, Balrogs, wolves, and Orcs, and eventually gained access from the north and, some time later, from the west.  Once they had entered the city, it quickly turned into an inferno of fire, blood, and corpses, in which almost all of its defenders died; including Turgon himself, when at last the Tower of the King was brought down, as well as the Warden of the Great Gate of Gondolin, Ecthelion of the Fountain, in a duel to their mutual death with Gothmog, the leader of the Balrogs.

Maeglin attempted to exploit the chaos of the battle in order to abduct and rape Idril and kill her and Tuor’s son Eärendil; however, Tuor arrived in time to stand by his wife and son.

When it was clear that the city was lost, Tuor, Idril, Eärendil, and a small band of Ñoldor faithful to them left the city, crossing Tumladen hidden by the fume and mists of the city’s meltdown and ruin, and made their way to the secret escape route devised by Idril, along a narrow and dangerous path, flanked by near-vertical walls on one side and a yawning, sheer drop into an abyss on the other side, that led through the Cirith Thoronath (“Eagles’ Cleft”) pass through the northern part of the Echoriad: Idril’s calculation had been that the part of the Echoriad most directly facing in the direction of Angband would be the least-watched and therefore, despite its natural dangers, still the least risky.  In this assumption she would turn out correct insofar as the lower egress of the path through the Orfalch Echor was guarded and anyone trying to flee that way was mercilessly slaughtered.  But Tuor, Idril and their company suddenly found their way blocked as well; by a host of Orcs led by a Balrog, no less.  From this monster they were saved by Glorfindel, lord of one of Gondolin’s noble Houses and captain of the city, who took on the Balrog alone on a precipice, from which at last they both fell to their death.  Then the Great Eagles came to the refugees’ aid, attacked the Orcs and drove them away or into the abysss.  The escapees eventually made it down from the mountains into the Vale of Sirion, where the path along Cirith Thoronath ended.  Meanwhile, the Eagles bore Glorfindel’s body up from the abyss, and he was buried in a mound near the path (and later granted reincarnation by the Valar, to fulfill a mission similar to that of the Istari).

Following the course of the river Sirion, the survivors of the Fall of Gondolin found their way to the Havens of Sirion, where Eärendil would later meet Beren and Lúthien’s granddaughter Elwing.  However, Morgoth’s aim had been achieved: there was no Ñoldorin realm left in Middle-earth — and as it would soon turn out, the four remaining sons of Fëanor, in their blindly relentless quest to fulfill their father’s oath, would come very near to doing him the favor of exterminating the surviving Sindar, Falathrim, and Edain still remaining in Middle-earth (as well as almost bringing about the end of their own house in the process), almost without any need for Morgoth to take a direct hand in the events himself.


Source: https://lotr.fandom.com/wiki/Edain

The Realms of the Ñoldor and the Sindar and their rulers (map by Sirielle)

Karen Wynn Fonstad: Gondolin


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