Friday, 2 December 2011


The strife among the Princes of the House of Finwë went back into the long Years of the Trees in Valinor, but it was nursed by Melkor, the father of lies, who went at will about the land ere his devices were laid bare, and he could be subdued again. When Fëanor went into exile from Valinor with his Seven Sons, a greater part of the Gnomes went with him, but by no means all were willing to march under Fëanor 's banner; for many, having still a love and reverence for the Valar, went with the host of Fingolfin and Finarfin, the half-brothers of Fëanor, bearing with them treasures, a solace and a burden on the road; but all fell under the Doom of Mandos. When the host of Fëanor came to the shores of Middle-earth, and at the bidding of Fëanor burned the ships of the Shoreland Pipers at Losgar, Fingolfin descried the flames from the Araman and knew that he was betrayed, and so attempted the dread passage of the Helkaraxë about the girdle of Arda, which none had dared save the Valar only, and Ungoliant. No love had any in the host of Fingolfin for the House of Fëanor when they met again in Mithrim, but the waters of Mithrim divided their camp. Thus was the assault upon Angband stayed, even as the Sun rose flaming in the West and filled the servants of Morgoth with fear. But Maedhros, son of Fëanor, Morgoth had chained to the sheer walls of Thangorodrim.

Thus spake Ælfwine of England, who found the Straight Road into the West:

Thus because of the curse that lay upon them the Gnomes achieved nothing, while Morgoth hesitated, and the dread of light was new and strong upon the Orcs. But Morgoth arose from thought, and seeing the division of his foes he laughed. In the pits of Angband he caused vast smokes and vapours to be made, and they came forth from the reeking tops of the Iron Mountains, and afar off they could be seen in Mithrim, staining the bright airs in the first mornings of the world. A wind came out of the east, and bore them over Hithlum, darkening the new Sun; and they fell, and coiled about the fields and hollows, and lay upon the waters of Mithrim, drear and poisonous.

Then Fingon the valiant, son of Fingolfin, resolved to heal the feud that divided the Gnomes, before their Enemy should be ready for war; for the earth trembled in the Northlands with the thunder of the forges of Morgoth underground. Long before, in the bliss of Valinor, before Melkor was unchained, or lies came between them, Fingon had been close in friendship with Maedhros; and though he knew not yet that Maedhros had not forgotten him at the burning of the ships, the thought of their ancient friendship stung his heart. Therefore he dared a deed which is justly renowned among the feats of the princes of the Gnomes: alone, and without the counsel of any, he set forth in search of Maedhros; and aided by the very darkness that Morgoth had made he came unseen into the fastness of his foes. High upon the shoulders of Thangorodrim he climbed, and looked in despair upon the desolation of the land; but no passage or crevice could he find through which he might come within Morgoth's stronghold. Then in defiance of the Orcs, who cowered still in the dark vaults beneath the earth, he took his harp and sang a song of Valinor that the Gnomes made of old, before strife was born among the sons of Finwë; and his voice rang in the mournful hollows that had never heard before aught save cries of fear and woe.

Thus Fingon found what he sought. For suddenly above him far and faint his song was taken up, and a voice answering called to him. Maedhros it was that sang amid his torment. But Fingon climbed to the foot of the precipice where his kinsman hung, and then could go no further; and he wept when he saw the cruel device of Morgoth. Maedhros therefore, being in anguish without hope, begged Fingon to shoot him with his bow; and Fingon strung an arrow, and bent his bow. And seeing no better hope he cried to Manwë, saying: ''O King to whom all birds are dear, speed now this feathered shaft, and recall some pity for the Gnomes in their need!''

His prayer was answered swiftly. For Manwë to whom all birds are dear, and to whom they bring news upon Taniquetil from Middle-earth, had sent forth the race of Eagles, commanding them to dwell in the crags of the North, and to keep watch upon Morgoth; for Manwë still had pity for the exiled Elves. And the Eagles brought news of much that passed in those days to the sad ears of Manwë. Now, even as Fingon bent his bow, there flew down from the high airs Thorondor, King of Eagles, mightiest of all birds that have ever been, whose outstretched wings spanned thirty fathoms; and staying Fingon's hand he took him up, and bore him to the face of the rock where Maedhros hung. But Fingon could not release the hell-wrought bond upon his wrist, nor sever it, nor draw it from the stone. And therefore in his pain Maedhros begged that he would slay him; but Fingon cut off his hand above the wrist, and Thorondor bore them back to Mithrim.

There Maedhros in time was healed; for the fire of life was hot within him, and his strength was of the ancient world, such as those possessed who were nurtured in Valinor. His body recovered from his torment and became hale, but the shadow of his pain was in his heart; and he lived to wield sword with left hand more deadly than his right had been. By this deed Fingon won great renown, and all the Gnomes praised him; and the hatred between the houses of Fingolfin and Fëanor was assuaged. For Maedhros begged forgiveness for the desertion in Araman; and he waived his claim to kingship over all the Gnomes, saying to Fingolfin: ''If there lay no grievance between us, lord, still the kingship would rightly come to you, the eldest here of the house of Finwë, and not the least wise.'' But to this his brothers did not all in their hearts agree.
(J.R.R Tolkien, The Silmarillion, Chapter XIII).


  1. So Elves and Gnomes are interchangeable?

  2. No, only the Noldor are ''gnomes,'' and Tolkien stopped using the term sometime in the 1930s. I use it because of the connotation of ''wisdom,'' (cf. ''knowledge''), and I think the term only survived in The Silmarillion in Baran's name for the Exiles, Nomin, which means wise.

    The quote I just gave is from The Silmarillion, but I have personally substituted the name Noldor (singular, Noldo) for Gnomes.