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Topic: Migration from Beleriand

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Thorin Oakenshield - Rank 6
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Date: Nov 17, 2010
Migration from Beleriand

One thing I have often pondered was the manner in which the migration from Beleriand during/prior to its sinking took place. After the War of Wrath Beleriand sank under the sea but somehow many Elves, men and other peoples, not to mention Sauron and Shelob and the remaining Balrog, managed to enter Lindon and Eriador and beyond. How did the sinking occur?

From the Silmarillion:

"For so great was the fury of those adversaries that the northern regions of the western world were rent asunder, and the sea roared in through many chasms, and there was confusion and great noise; and rivers perished or found new paths, and the valleys were upheaved and the hills trod down; and Sirion was no more."

So how did this occur? If Beleriand was rent apart because of the scale of the conflict, how could the peoples in Beleriand have survived, including those from Valinor? How was there time after the battle for Maeglin and Maedhros to steal the Silmarils? How could Sauron etc have fled?


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Loremaster Elf of Mirkwood - Rank 4
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Date: Nov 17, 2010

Sadly I do not have the book, "The Lay of Beleriand" close at hand. Perhaps there might be some more clues in there. But the quote you gave from the Silmarillion might be suggestive. It does say "and there was confusion and great noise."

Many noncompatant may have already sought refuge south and east of Beleriand. It is not hard to picture Sauron fleeing in self preservation. Evil he was indeed but also I can picture him as being a cowardly bully as well. Courage would not be in him to stand and fight. He would slink away rather then face the wrath of the Valar.

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Fundin, Lord of Moria - Rank 5
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Of possible interest here, there's a manuscript Tale of Years (essentially a fair copy with fuller entries of an earlier pre-Lord of the Rings version). In this Tolkien wrote:

540 'The last free Elves and remnants of the Fathers of Men are driven out of Beleriand and take refuge in the Isle of Balar.
547 The Host of Valar comes up out of the West (...)
550-597 The last war of the Elder Days, and the Great Battle, is begun. In this war Beleriand is broken and destroyed. Morgoth is at last utterly overcome (...) and the last two Silmarils are regained.
597 Maidros and Maglor, last surviving sons of Feanor, seize the Silmarils. (...)
600 The Elves and the Fathers of Men depart from Middle-earth and pass over Sea. (...)'
In version B however, the coming of the host of the Valar was moved to 545, and the dates of the last war of the Elder Days were changed to 545-587

Unfortunately, due to the complexities of the subsequent versions, it's hard to tell how these specific entries, if indeed abandoned, were going to read in revision. Using 'what there is' however, it looks like we have 42 years with respect to the dates for the Last War.

And we also seem to have Elves and Men upon the Isle of Balar before the War.


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Anarion, Son of Elendil - rank 8
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That is very interesting. So the War of Wrath took 42 years. That definitely alters how I imagined the battle.
As to the sinking of Beleriand - is it possible it took multiple decades before it went down? So the people could flee over time to the regions further east in Middle-earth. Didn't the Edain sail to Numenor in 32 S.A. from the coasts of western Beleriand?

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Fundin, Lord of Moria - Rank 5
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Yes I think we could have a matter of compressed history here with Quenta Silmarillion.

It is sometimes the case that Silmarillion readers are quite surprised at the actual timeline envisioned in the Annals (Aman and Grey) or the Tale of Years -- Maedros hanging by the wrist being another example that comes to mind.

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Anarion, Son of Elendil - rank 8
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Is there any indication as to the time between the fall of Beleriand and the Edain sailing to Numenor?

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Fundin, Lord of Moria - Rank 5
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Hmm, Appendix B notes that the Edain reach Numenor in year 32 of the Second Age. In a passage in the Description of Numenor (a passage not included in Unfinished Tales however, but in The History of Middle-Earth series): '(...) but the whole process of migration appears in fact to have occupied at least fifty years, possibly longer, and finally ended only when Cirdan (no doubt instructed by the Valar) would provide no more ships or guides.'

And choosing a date for the fall of Beleriand (which one to choose? 587?), the First Age appears to have ended in SY 590.



-- Edited by Galin on Sunday 21st of November 2010 03:34:13 PM

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Thorin Oakenshield - Rank 6
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These are interesting replies. So the sinking of Beleriand was a gradual process taking tens of years giving the people time to depart, in theory. I certainly did not get that impression from The Silmarillion.

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Fundin, Lord of Moria - Rank 5
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What's very interesting too (well to me anyway) is the idea still seemingly present in The Silmarillion that I'll call the pre-Lord of the Rings version (late 1930s generally speaking). Tolkien never substantially altered the end of Quenta Silmarillion here, and the unedited version contains some interesting things...

section 19 'Then Men, such as had not perished in the ruin of those days, fled far away, and it was long ere any came back over Eredlindon to the places where Beleriand had been.'

section 26 (...) 'In those days there was a great buidling of ships upon the shores of the Western Sea, and especially upon the great isles which, in the disruption of the northern world, were fashioned of ancient Beleriand.'

section 28 '... and some [Eldalie] lingered many an age in the West and North, and especially in the western isles and in the Land of Leithien.'

The Land of Leithien was... (drum roll) England or Britain! Well, I should say at least in earlier texts it was. In the only complete Silmarillion JRRT ever made, the Qenta Noldorinwa of 1930, Tolkien even changed Leithien to Britain in one spot. 

Even much later JRRT didn't alter this -- though he made no substantial revision to the conclusion of the now 'older' Silmarillion (for The Lord of the Rings took a long time from start to publication), he did make some revisions to it, but not to Leithien.

Of course I suspect it simply slipped his notice when he looked over it quickly and jotted some changes one day -- one of which was to section 26 above in any case, where he took out the word especially.  Christopher Tolkien edited the Land of Leithien out of the 1977 Silmarillion obviously... but as I say, interesting! 

The destruction of Beleriand seems one of those misty matters that never really got Tolkien's full attention -- revision wise -- in the years following the writing and publication of The Lord of the Rings.

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Soldier of Beleriand - Rank 3
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I never really thought of the matter very carefully, though what struck me from the very beginning was the length of the War of Wrath. The way it's described in 'The Silmarillion', it looks like a sudden battle, with the Valarin troops disembarking in Beleriand and marching towards Angband, there to vanquish Melkor's resistance once and for all.

Indeed if we look at the relevant passages in 'The Silmarillion', we have strong indications to a short and violent battle, with no clue of a war taking 42 years, which anyway, is absurd. A war cannot last that much unless the powers are evenly matched, or if we talk about a siege, which 'The Silmarillion' does not at all suggest. We are told that:

"But the host of the Valar prepared for battle [...] Few of the Teleri were willing to go forth to war, for they remembered the slaying at the Swan-haven, and the rape of their ships; but they [...] sent mariners enough to sail the ships that bore the host of Valinor east over the sea. Yet they stayed aboard their vessels, and none of them set foot upon the Hither Lands." Tolkien, The Silmarillion, "Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"

And also:

"But at the last the might of Valinor came up out of the West, and the challenge of the trumpets of Eönwë filled the sky; and Beleriand was ablaze with the glory of their arms, for the host of the Valar were arrayed in forms young and fair and terrible, and the mountains rang beneath their feet.
The meeting of the hosts of the West and of the North is named the Great Battle, and the War of Wrath. There was marshalled the whole power of the Throne of Morgoth, and it had become great beyond count, so that Anfauglith could not contain it; and all the North was aflame with war.
But it availed him not. The Balrogs were destroyed, save some few that fled and hid themselves in caverns inaccessible at the roots of the earth; and the uncounted legions of the Orcs perished like straw in a great fire, or were swept like shrivelled leaves before a burning wind.
" Tolkien, The Silmarillion, "Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"

And finally:

"Then, seeing that his hosts were overthrown and his power dispersed, Morgoth quailed, and he dared not to come forth himself. But he loosed upon his foes the last desperate assault that he had prepared, and out of the pits of Angband there issued the winged dragons, that had not before been seen; and so sudden and ruinous was the onset of that dreadful fleet that the host of the Valar was driven back, for the coming of the dragons was with great thunder, and lightning, and a tempest of fire.
But Eärendil came, shining with white flame, and about Vingilot were gathered all the great birds of heaven and Thorondor was their captain, and there was battle in the air all the day and through a dark night of doubt. Before the rising of the sun Eärendil slew Ancalagon the Black, the mightiest of the dragon-host, and cast him from the sky; and he fell upon the towers of Thangorodrim, and they were broken in his ruin.
" Tolkien, The Silmarillion, "Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"

In the first quote regarding the Teleri, it seems quite absurd for them to wait for 42 years on the shores of Middle-earth, without once getting off their ships, until the others ended the war. In the second quote, the metaphors used for the destruction of the orcs convey a meaning of swiftness, as straws burn very fast, and also leaves are blown mercilessly and also very easily by a strong wind. In the third quote, if the terrible battle with the mightiest dragon host that the world ever saw only lasted less than a full day, then the rest of 15,500 days in this war must have been relatively uneventful.

Also the ruin of Beleriand always seemed to me a physical impossibility (that's perhaps why I never paid it much heed, only taking it as an artistic way of expressing a devastating event - not that Beleriand did not really sink, but this is just a story: in reality, not even our modern wars can hope to sink a land of that size, not if we put all our nuclear weapons to it; so how could this be achieved only with swords and bows?). The way it's described in 'The Silmarillion', the sinking of Beleriand is acceptable, but once we look in the Annals and see the battle ranging for an endless time, we are struck by this inconsistency.

If Tolkien had gotten to it, I think he would have tried to address the issue and make everything more credible, but unfortunately he did not get to it.

-- Edited by John Wain on Tuesday 15th of February 2011 09:39:21 PM

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Samwise Gamgee - rank 9
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Indeed the Silmarillion does portray a very hurried account of the battle. Perhaps Galin could shed some light on this as well?

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Tom Bombadil
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The war of Wrath was from 545 to 587. I am just now starting on that chapter in the Sil. I hope to glean some fighting scenes from it to use in our RPG, since you want to fight Orcs after we eat, wash and break camp.

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Fundin, Lord of Moria - Rank 5
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Hmm, well the War of Wrath is put into a notable framework within QS...

'Of the march of the host of the Valar to the north of Middle-earth little is said in any tale; for among them went none of hose Elves who had dwelt and suffered in the Hither Lands, and who made the histories of those days that still are known; and tidings of these things they only learned long afterwards from their kinsfolk in Aman.'

I think QS gives one not only the 'highlights' here, but highlights drawn poetically by people who weren't actually there.

When this section was written (1930s) Elfwine was still in place, learning the histories from Eressea and turning them into his tongue, but within the later frame not only was this not to be a first hand Elvish account, but the Silmarillion becomes a largely Mannish affair, now passing through Numenorean minds and hands -- on to Gondor, Arnor, Rivendell (Bilbo) over the many years.

Concerning this matter specifically, I think it's possible Tolkien was aware of the comparison that might be made. Although the Annals seemingly began to grow out of mere Annals and essentially merge with the Quenta Silmarillion tradition... what then took over was the Tale of Years.

The Silmarillion is not exactly 'modern history'. It might be better compared to a collection like the Black Book of Carmarthen for instance, or other ancient collections. One way to look at things perhaps: in poetic prose of course the orcs perished like straw! because that mirrors an ultimate truth of their defeat as well as being the poetic truth. 

Arguably the memory of the kinslaying was important historically to the Elves of Aman, and this was given prominence in oral transmission by way of the truth that the Teleri stayed aboard the ships while others disembarked for war... while other more mundane details were lost or purposely not heeded (like whether they really never set foot on land the whole time).

Or maybe one might take the path that the Teleri in question were mariners after all, and 40 something years isn't nearly as long to Elvish minds as it might seem to mortal readers. Or something else!

Although Tolkien never truly updated this section, I think he might have liked the comparison of variant traditions or accounts -- very especially here at least, because of the distance he would give between the event and those recording it (arguably adding a dash of poetic license and a notable brevity into the mix) .


Or something smile 


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Soldier of Beleriand - Rank 3
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Insofar as 'The Silmarillion' goes, I can well understand the decision of the author to write about the battle with brevity, because it is after all the ending of an age, and what the reader needs now is a quick pace of the narrative. The same happens in the Akallabeth, with the sinking of Numenor seemingly a matter of minutes.

It seems peculiar that, of what I've read so far about Tolkien's works, much is said about textual history, variations between extant versions, or attempts at explaining inconsistencies, etc. When it comes to the text that we have in front of us, as it was published (without consideration to 'unpublished' material), almost nothing is said about the style of the work, about the narrative in itself. Whenever I studied a literary work in school, almost everything we did was related to the stylistic methods - the metaphors, the allegory, the tone and the meanings, the use of words, etc. When discussing poetry, understanding the rhyme, rhythm, and especially the poetic license was paramount. With Tolkien, this aspect of his work is greatly overlooked.

It is as if commentators forget that he wrote, after all, literature, not real history. Tolkien had the possibility to write anything he wanted, in whatever way he wanted - he was not constrained by real fact, because what he wrote is an invention. As such, he can use exaggeration in some parts, or create villains just to further the plot of the story, and there are innumerable examples even in 'The Silmarillion', which is less like a classic novel in structure (because it does not focus on a main character, because it spans such a large period, etc.)

The thing is that in 'The Silmarillion', using all these literary methods of creating the mood and the pace of the story is absolutely normal. However in the Annals, the format of the work demands a certain rigidity, because even if fictitious, this is presented as a chronicle of events. While in 'The Silmarillion' we can understand whatever we wish from the narrative in regards to how long the War of Wrath lasted, or how Beleriand sunk, in the Annals 42 years means 42 years no matter how you try to look at it, and suddenly the sinking of Beleriand must be seen not from a mythical but from a more scientific point of view, and so this is where consistency with what we know to be a physical impossibility is lost (how could Beleriand sink?) If we try to explain it in geological terms, then all literary license is thrown to the winds.

Now my point is that if we only read 'The Silmarillion', which I stress again, is literature, we can let our imagination roam freely and imagine whatever scene the author chose to present. If however we are familiar with the events 'as they happened' from the Annals (which while still literature, are passed on as 'fact'), then Tolkien's effort from 'The Silmarillion' to create the atmosphere is wasted because of this inconsistency. If you are forced to fit a war, which is implied to last only days, to a framework of 42 years, it's almost impossible to do it.

This is why I think Tolkien, had he revised this, may have chosen to alter it - after all he was fully aware of suspension of disbelief and how hard it is to do it if the story simply is not credible.

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Fundin, Lord of Moria - Rank 5
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'() If however we are familiar with the events 'as they happened' from the Annals (which while still literature, are passed on as 'fact'), then Tolkien's effort from 'The Silmarillion' to create the atmosphere is wasted because of this inconsistency. If you are forced to fit a war, which is implied to last only days, to a framework of 42 years, it's almost impossible to do it.'

I can't agree John. And I think in this case it's arguable that Tolkien thought this acceptable within his World.

'This is why I think Tolkien, had he revised this, may have chosen to alter it - after all he was fully aware of suspension of disbelief and how hard it is to do it if the story simply is not credible.'

Although Tolkien never truly updated the end of Quenta Silmarillion (the cursory corrections aside here), this doesn't mean he felt its language was too much at odds with the chronology of the Tale of Years -- at least not in the problematic measure that you appear to find it, anyway. 

Based on the following Annals from The Lost Road, I would suggest that JRRT would not necessarily have felt the need to revise either QS or TY in the 1950s or later -- revise either concerning the matters at hand of course.


'Here the host of Fionwe was seen shining upon the sea afar, and the noise of his trumpets rang over the waves and echoed in the western woods. Thereafter was fought the battle of Eglorest, where Ingwiel son of Ingwe, prince of all the Elves, made a landing, and drove the orcs from the shore.'

'Great war came now into Beleriand, and Fionwe drove the orcs and Balrogs before him; and he camped beside Sirion, and his tents were as snow upon the field. He summoned now all Elves, Men, Dwarves, beasts and birds unto his standard, who did not elect to fight for Morgoth. But the power and dread of Morgoth was very great and many did not obey the summons.'

'Here Fionwe fought the last battle of the ancient world, the Great or Terrible Battle. Morgoth himself came forth from Angband, and passed over Taur-na-Fuin, and the thunder of his approach rolled in the mountains. The waters of Sirion lay between the hosts; and long and bitterly they contested the passage. But Fionwe crossed Sirion and the hosts of Morgoth were driven as leaves, and the Balrogs were utterly destroyed; and Morgoth fled back to Angband pursued by Fionwe.'

'From Angband Morgoth loosed the winged dragons, which had not before been seen; and Fionwe was beaten back upon Dor-na-Fauglith. But Earendel came in the sky and overthrew Ancalagon the Black Dragon, and in his fall Thangorodrim was broken.

'The sons of the Gods wrestled with Morgoth in his dungeons, and the earth shook, and gaped, and Beleriand was shattered and changed, and many perished in the ruin of the land. But Morgoth was bound.'

'This war lasted fifty years from the landing of Fionwe.'



Granted, this account arguably 'reads longer' than Quenta Silmarillion, but it's still a relatively brief account in which the host of Morgoth were, for example: 'driven as leaves'.

Yet who reading even this account would have guessed that the span is 50 years? 'Long and bitterly' might suggest something beyond the suggestion of QS of course, but even if one granted 8 years for that alone, at this point the battle is already 8 years longer than the seemingly last number written by Tolkien.


We already have a tradition that, while fuller than QS, in my opinion hardly speaks to fifty years if read without the numbers; yet the account and the number of years go hand in hand here -- they exist together, Tolkien considering this an acceptable fusion and not a problematic undermining of his subcreation.

Later, when 42 years seems to be the number, did JRRT think this too problematic considering the language of QS? I'm not sure that he did, even though he never got around to a true 1950s revision. One thing that might 'catch his attention' was that he had had the sons of the Gods battling Morgoth -- and sons of gods are arguably still essentially 'gods', but Tolkien certainly revised that much for the later Quenta Silmarillion.


The comparison of the Annals (or TYs) might draw focus to the brevity and the poetic nature of the QS text, but I would not agree QS is made the lesser for it. 



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Tom Bombadil
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Well, I read that Chapter plus the one on Eärendil, but there were no good up close fighting scenes. Does any of your have resources that describes up close battles and fights?

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Fundin, Lord of Moria - Rank 5
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Not that I recall Arwen. JRRT did intend to write an updated long prose version of the Fall of Gondolin (and started this, as we know), titled: Narn e·Dant Gondolin ar Orthad en·Êl *Tale of the Fall of Gondolin and the Rising of the Star, but for myself, I doubt it was to extend into the War of Wrath (Earendil must be the star here I would say).

Just to note it, Tolkien did at least consider that a battered Beleriand might survive the War of Wrath, only to be drowned later with the Change of the World (the removal of Aman at the Downfall of Numenor).

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