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Concerning Hidden Realities and Human Destiny

The Silmarillion - A Beginner's Guide (Redux) - Part 21 - Of the Coming of Men into the West

John Carswell | Wednesday, November 22, 2017

'A darkness lies behind us,' Bëor said; 'and we have turned our backs upon it, and we do not desire to return thither even in thought. Westwards our hearts have been turned, and we believe that there we shall find Light.'
(The Silmarillion, 141)

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This post continues my chapter-by-chapter walk through of The Silmarillion. This time, I examine the seventeenth chapter of The Silmarillion, "Of the Coming of Men into the West". You can see all the posts in this series by clicking here. You can also find other Silmarillion resources here.

Finrod and the kindred of Beor

"Finrod and the kindred of Beor" by rysowAnia © 2008 - 2017.

We knew Men were coming, and now they have entered into Beleriand. We learn about the beginnings of their relationship with the Elves, and what an Edain is. By the way, this is last relatively calm chapter in The Silmarillion. The stage has been set, and a lot of adventure, war, and destruction is about to be unleashed.

download Getting Started on The Silmarillion

Key Figures

  • The Edain: The men who enter into Beleriand and become “elf-friends” are known as the Edain. The leaders of these 3 houses are Bëor, Marach, and Haldad. Though many more Men exist elsewhere, these are the only 3 groups that really establish any presence in Beleriand.
Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien

Key Events

  • Finrod & Bëor: Finrod discovers the house of Bëor while riding in the wilderness of Beleriand. He sneaks into their midst as they sleep and plays beautiful music for them that harkens to the wonder and bliss of Valinor. Finrod and Bëor become such friends that Bëor becomes a vassal in Nargothrond.
  • Bereg’s Rebellion: Bereg, one of Bëor’s descendants, questions the motives of the Elves and thus leads some Men out of Beleriand and back over the Blue Mountains into Eriador. Amlach, his partner in rebellion, repents and stays in Beleriand.
  • The Suffering of the Haladin: The House of Haldad suffers greatly at the hands of Morgoth. Though some survive, they find a home in a safe part of Beleriand and choose to essentially stay out of the way.

Key Takeaways

  • Morgoth’s Song: From the beginning, Morgoth has been the sower of lies among allies and friends. From even before the arrival of the Edain in Beleriand he is working to sow the seeds of suspicion between Men and Elves.
  • Mortality: Elves are not used to the idea of death by old age, so the natural deaths of Men are a mysterious and frightening thing for them.
  • Thingol, Hypocrite: Thingol, that upstart who took a Maia as his spouse, forgets his roots and looks down with disgust upon Men. While other Elves seek to befriend the Edain, Thingol bars them from Doriath.

Key Quotes

  • Of Morgoth's Designs:
    But it was said afterwards among the Eldar that when Men awoke in Hildórien at the rising of the Sun the spies of Morgoth were watchful, and tidings were soon brought to him; and this seemed to him so great a matter that secretly under shadow he himself departed from Angband, and went forth into Middle-earth, leaving to Sauron the command of the War. Of his dealings with Men the Eldar indeed knew nothing, at that time, and learnt but little afterwards; but that a darkness lay upon the hearts of Men (as the shadow of the Kinslaying and the Doom of Mandos lay upon the Noldor) they perceived clearly even in the people of the Elf-friends whom they first knew. To corrupt or destroy whatsoever arose new and fair was ever the chief desire of Morgoth; and doubtless he had this purpose also in his errand: by fear and lies to make Men the foes of the Eldar, and bring them up out of the east against Beleriand. But this design was slow to ripen, and was never wholly achieved; for Men (it is said) were at first very few in number, whereas Morgoth grew afraid of the growing power and union of the Eldar and came back to Angband, leaving behind at that time but few servants, and those of less might and cunning. (141-142)
  • Of Elvish Lies:
    Amlach son of Imlach, speaking fell words that shook the hearts of all who heard him: ‘All this is but Elvish lore, tales to beguile newcomers that are unwary. The Sea has no shore. There is no Light in the West. You have followed a fool-fire of the Elves to the end of the world! Which of you has seen the least of the Gods? Who has beheld the Dark King in the North? Those who seek the dominion of Middle-earth are the Eldar. (144-145)
  • Of Men and Death:
    The years of the Edain were lengthened, according to the reckoning of Men, after their coming to Beleriand; but at last Bëor the Old died when he had lived three and ninety years, for four and forty of which he had served King Felagund. And when he lay dead, of no wound or grief, but stricken by age, the Eldar saw for the first time the swift waning of the life of Men , and the death of weariness which they knew not in themselves; and they grieved greatly for the loss of their friends. But Bëor at the last had relinquished his life willingly and passed in peace; and the Eldar wondered much at the strange fate of Men, for in all their lore there was no account of it, and its end was hidden from them. (148-149)

download Getting Started on The Silmarillion

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this chapter in the comments below.

Tolkien's Requiem Concerning Beren and Lúthien by John CarswellWant to learn more about The Silmarillion? My book Tolkien's Requiem explores the stories of Middle-earth's First Age through the prism of Tolkien's most personal tale: Beren and Lúthien. It's designed to work as a "back door" approach for those who struggle to get a start on The Silmarillion. Click here to learn more!

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