Fingolfin duels with Morgoth at Angband's gates
Event Type: Military/Strategic
Age: 1st Age
An event in the aftermath of the Dagor Bragollach; see that entry for an overview:
Now news came to Hithlum that Dorthonion was lost and the sons of Finarfin overthrown, and that the sons of Fëanor were driven from their lands. Then Fingolfin beheld... the utter ruin of the Noldor, and the defeat beyond redress of all their houses; and filled with wrath and despair he mounted upon Rochallor his great horse and rode forth alone, and none might restrain him. He passed over Dor-nu-Fauglith like a wind amid the dust, and all that beheld his onset fled in amaze, thinking that Oromë himself was come: for a great madness of rage was upon him, so that his eyes shone like the eyes of the Valar. Thus he came alone to Angband's gates, and he sounded his horn, and smote once more upon the brazen doors, and challenged Morgoth to come forth to single combat. And Morgoth came.
That was the last time in those wars that he passed the doors of his stronghold, and it is said that he took not the challenge willingly; for... alone of the Valar he knew fear. But he could not now deny the challenge before the face of his captains; for... Fingolfin named Morgoth craven.... Therefore Morgoth... issued forth clad in black armour; and he stood before the King like a tower, iron-crowned, and his vast shield, sable unblazoned, cast a shadow over him like a stormcloud. But Fingolfin gleamed beneath it as a star; for his mail was overlaid with silver, and his blue shield was set with crystals; and he drew his sword Ringil, that glittered like ice.
Then Morgoth hurled aloft Grond, the Hammer of the Underworld, and swung it down like a bolt of thunder. But Fingolfin sprang aside, and Grond rent a mighty pit in the earth.... Many times Morgoth essayed to smite him, and each time Fingolfin leaped away...; and he wounded Morgoth with seven wounds, and seven times Morgoth gave a cry of anguish, whereat the hosts of Angband fell upon their faces in dismay, and the cries echoed in the Northlands.
But at the last the King grew weary, and Morgoth bore down his shield upon him. Thrice he was crushed to his knees, and thrice arose again and bore up his broken shield and stricken helm. But the earth was all... pitted about him, and he stumbled and fell backward before the feet of Morgoth; and Morgoth set his left foot upon his neck.... Yet with his last and desperate stroke Fingolfin hewed the foot with Ringil, and the blood gushed forth black and smoking and filled the pits of Grond.
Thus died Fingolfin, High King of the Noldor, most proud and valiant of the Elven-kings of old. The Orcs made no boast of that duel at the gate; neither do the Elves sing of it, for their sorrow is too deep. Yet the tale of it is remembered still, for Thorondor King of Eagles brought the tidings to Gondolin, and to Hithlum afar off. And Morgoth took the body of the Elven-king and broke it, and would cast it to his wolves; but Thorondor came hasting from his eyrie among the peaks of the Crissaegrim, and he stooped upon Morgoth and marred his face. The rushing of the wings of Thorondor was like the noise of the winds of Manwë, and he seized the body in his mighty talons, and soaring suddenly above the darts of the Orcs he bore the King away. And he laid him upon a mountain-top that looked from the north upon the hidden valley of Gondolin; and Turgon coming built a high cairn over his father. No Orc dared ever after to pass over the mound of Fingolfin or draw nigh his tomb, until the doom of Gondolin was come and treachery was born among his kin. Morgoth went ever halt of one foot after that day, and the pain of his wounds could not be healed; and in his face was the scar that Thorondor made.
Great was the lamentation in Hithlum when the fall of Fingolfin became known....
The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 18, Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin
Earlier Versions of the Story
In that vast shadow once of yore
Fingolfin stood: his shield he bore
with field of heaven's blue and star
of crystal shining pale afar.
In overmastering wrath and hate
desperate he smote upon that gate,
the Gnomish 1 king, there standing lone,
while endless fortresses of stone
engulfed the thin clear ringing keen
of silver horn on baldric green.
His hopeless challenge dauntless cried
Fingolfin there: 'Come, open wide,
dark king, your ghastly brazen doors!
Come forth, whom earth and heaven abhors!
Come forth, O monstrous craven lord,
and fight with thine own hand and sword,
thou wielder of hosts of banded thralls,
thou tyrant leaguered with strong walls,
thou foe of Gods and elvish race!
I wait thee here. Come! Show thy face!'
Then Morgoth came. For the last time
in those great wars he dared to climb
from subterranean throne profound,
the rumour of his feet a sound
of rumbling earthquake underground.
Black-armoured, towering, iron-crowned
he issued forth; his mighty shield
a vast unblazoned sable field
with shadow like a thundercloud;
and o'er the gleaming king it bowed,
as huge aloft like mace he hurled
that hammer of the underworld,
Grond. Clanging to ground it tumbled
down like a thunder-bolt, and crumbled
the rocks beneath it; smoke up-started,
a pit yawned, and a fire darted.
Fingolfin like a shooting light
beneath a cloud, a stab of white,
sprang then aside, and Ringil drew
like ice that gleameth cold and blue,
his sword devised of elvish skill
to pierce the flesh with deadly chill.
With seven wounds it rent his foe,
and seven mighty cries of woe
rang in the mountains, and the earth quook,
and Angband's trembling armies shook.
Yet Orcs would after laughing tell
of the duel at the gates of hell;
though elvish song thereof was made
ere this but one — when sad was laid
the mighty king in barrow high,
and Thorndor, 2 Eagle of the sky,
the dreadful tidings brought and told
to mourning Elfinesse of old.
Thrice was Fingolfin with great blows
to his knees beaten, thrice he rose
still leaping up beneath the cloud
aloft to hold star-shining, proud,
his stricken shield, his sundered helm,
that dark nor might could overwhelm
till all the earth was burst and rent
in pits about him. He was spent.
His feet stumbled. He fell to wreck
upon the ground, and on his neck
a foot like rooted hills was set,
and he was crushed — not conquered yet;
one last despairing stroke he gave:
the mighty foot pale Ringil clave
about the heel, and black the blood
gushed as from smoking fount in flood.
Halt goes for ever from that stroke
great Morgoth; but the king he broke,
and would have hewn and mangled thrown
to wolves devouring. Lo! from throne
that Manwë bade him build on high,
on peak unscaled beneath the sky,
Morgoth to watch, now down there swooped
Thorndor the King of Eagles, stooped,
and rending beak of gold he smote
in Bauglir's face, then up did float
on pinions thirty fathoms wide
bearing away, though loud they cried,
the mighty corse, 3 the Elven-king;
and where the mountains make a ring
far to the south about that plain
where after Gondolin did reign,
embattled city, at great height
upon a dizzy snowcap white
in mounded cairn the mighty dead
he laid upon the mountain's head.
Never Orc nor demon after dared
that pass to climb, o'er which there stared
Fingolfin's high and holy tomb,
till Gondolin's appointed doom.
Thus Bauglir earned the furrowed scar
that his dark countenance doth mar,
and thus his limping gait he gained;
but afterward profound he reigned
darkling upon his hidden throne;
and thunderous paced his halls of stone,
slow building there his vast design
the world in thraldom to confine.
The Lays of Beleriand, HoME Vol 3, Ch 3, The Lay of Leithian, Canto 12, Lines 3537-3639
§ 155. Now Fingolfin, King of the Noldor, beheld (as him seemed) the utter ruin of his people, and the defeat beyond redress of all their houses, and he was filled with wrath and despair. Therefore he did on his silver arms, and took his white helm, and his sword Ringil, and his blue shield set with a star of crystal, and mounting upon Rochallor his great steed he rode forth alone and none might restrain him. And he passed over the Anfauglith like a wind amid the dust, and all that beheld his onset fled in amaze, deeming that Oromë himself was come, for a great madness of ire was upon him, so that his eyes shone like the eyes of the Valar. Thus he came alone to Angband's gate and smote upon it once again, and sounding a challenge upon his silver horn he called Morgoth himself to come forth to combat, crying: 'Come forth, thou coward king, to fight with thine own hand! Den-dweller, wielder of thralls, liar and lurker, foe of Gods and Elves, come! For I would see thy craven face.'
§ 156. Then Morgoth came. For he could not refuse such a challenge before the face of his captains. But Fingolfin withstood him, though he towered above the Elven-king like a storm above a lonely tree, and his vast black shield unblazoned overshadowed the star of Fingolfin like a thundercloud. Morgoth fought with a great hammer, Grond, that he wielded as a mace, and Fingolfin fought with Ringil. Swift was Fingolfin, and avoiding the strokes of Grond, so that Morgoth smote only the ground (and at each blow a great pit was made), he wounded Morgoth seven times with his sword; and the cries of Morgoth echoed in the north-lands. But wearied at last Fingolfin fell, beaten to the earth by the hammer of Angband, and Morgoth set his foot upon his neck and crushed him.
§ 157. In his last throe Fingolfin pinned the foot of his Enemy to the earth with Ringil, and the black blood gushed forth and filled the pits of Grond. Morgoth went ever halt thereafter. Now lifting the body of the fallen king he would break it and cast it to his wolves, but Thorondor coming suddenly assailed him and marred his face, and snatching away the corse of Fingolfin bore it aloft to the mountains far away and laid it in a high place north of the valley of Gondolin; there the eagles piled a great cairn of stones. There was lamentation in Gondolin when Thorondor brought the tidings, for... many of the people of the hidden city were Noldor of Fingolfin's house. Now Rochallor had stayed beside the king until the end, but the wolves of Angband assailed him, and he escaped from them because of his great swiftness, and ran at last to Hithlum, and broke his heart and died. Then in great sorrow Fingon took the lordship of the house of Fingolfin and the kingdom of the Noldor.
The War of the Jewels, HoME Vol 11, Part 1, The Grey Annals
1 Gnomish Noldorin.
2 This text is from one of Tolkien's early drafts; the name is an earlier version of the proper name as published in The Silmarillion.
3 Corse archaic variant of corpse.
"corse." Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 7 Sep. 2008.
Elena Tiriel 7Sep08, 19Sep08, 14Mar10