An encyclopedia of Middle-earth and Numenor
Maedhros on Thangorodrim by Ted Nasmith (see full image)
Maedhros was the eldest son of Feanor. He and his brothers swore an Oath to reclaim the Silmarils made by their father which were stolen by Morgoth. The compulsion to fulfill his Oath was so great that Maedhros took part in the Kinslayings despite his remorse for attacking his own people. In the end, Maedhros gained possession of one of the Silmarils but it caused him so much pain that he threw himself into a fiery chasm and perished.
Maedhros was born in the Undying Lands during the Years of the Trees. His father Feanor was the eldest son of Finwe, the King of the Noldor. His mother was Nerdanel. He had six younger brothers: Maglor, Celegorm, Caranthir, Curufin, Amrod, and Amras. Their home was in the city of Tirion, though Feanor and his sons often traveled throughout Valinor. Maedhros was not married.
Maedhros was tall and well-formed. He had reddish-brown hair with coppery tints which he inherited from his maternal grandfather Mahtan, and he wore a copper circlet around his head.
In 1450 of the Years of the Trees, Feanor made the Silmarils - three jewels that held the light of the Two Trees of Valinor. Morgoth coveted the Silmarils, and in order to cause dissension among the Elves he spread a false rumor that Feanor's half-brother Fingolfin wanted to usurp Feanor's place as their father's heir. Feanor threatened Fingoflin with a sword and was banished from Tirion.
Maedhros and his brothers and their grandfather Finwe followed Feanor into exile. They settled in the stronghold of Formenos in northern Valinor. Maedhros had been friends with Fingolfin's son Fingon, but they became estranged.
In 1495, Morgoth killed Finwe and stole the Silmarils and took them to Middle-earth. Feanor vowed to reclaim the Silmarils at any cost, and his sons swore the same Oath. They set out for Middle-earth accompanied by many of the Noldor.
Feanor led his followers to Alqualonde to obtain ships from the Teleri, but when they refused he attacked them. Maedhros and his brothers took part in the Kinslaying - the first time that Elves killed other Elves. Mandos appeared before the Noldor and warned them that they would be exiled if they did not turn back and repent and that their quest to regain the Silmarils would lead to further tragedy.
"On the House of Fëanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also. Their Oath shall drive them, and yet betray them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue. To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever."Feanor's other half-brother Finarfin turned back, but Feanor vowed to continue onward, and his sons stood by him. There were not enough ships to carry all of them to Middle-earth, so Feanor and his sons seized the ships for their followers and abandoned Fingolfin and his people.
The Silmarillion: "Of the Flight of the Noldor," p. 88
In 1497, they landed at Losgar in the Firth of Drengist. Maedhros wanted to send the ships back for his friend Fingon and the others, but Feanor ordered the ships to be burned instead. Maedhros did not join his brothers in setting fire to the ships.
Feanor's followers entered Hithlum and camped on the northern shore of Lake Mithrim. Soon they were attacked by an army sent by Morgoth, but the Elves were victorious in the Battle-under-Stars. Feanor pressed on to Angband, but he became separated from his forces and he was attacked and mortally wounded by Balrogs.
The Balrogs retreated to Angband as Maedhros and his brothers arrived with reinforcements. They carried their father back towards Hithlum. Crossing the pass near Eithel Sirion, Feanor made his sons promise to uphold their Oath to reclaim the Silmarils, and then he died.
Morgoth sent emissaries to the sons of Feanor claiming that he would return one of the Silmarils to them as victors. Maedhros was suspicious, but he hoped to gain the upper hand against Morgoth, so he attended the parley accompanied by a large force. But Morgoth sent a larger force and Maedhros was ambushed and captured.
Morgoth demanded that the Noldor cease their war against him and withdraw from northern Middle-earth in exchange for Maedhros, but they refused because of their Oath and because they knew Morgoth to be deceitful. In 1498, Maedhros was chained by his right wrist to a pinnacle of Thangorodrim above Angband.
Fingolfin and his son Fingon and their people crossed the Grinding Ice and arrived in Middle-earth at the beginning of the First Age. They marched to Angband and Maedhros cried out to them but they could not hear him. Fingolfin returned to Hithlum and settled on the north shore of Lake Mithrim while the sons of Feanor and their followers relocated to the south shore because of the dissension between their peoples.
Fingon learned that Maedhros had been taken prisoner, and in the year 5 of the First Age he set out alone to rescue his friend. He climbed onto Thangorodrim but was unable to find a way into Angband. Fingon sang a song of defiance and Maedhros heard him and joined in, alerting Fingon to his location high on the pinnacle.
But Fingon could not reach Maedhros, and Maedhros begged his friend to kill him and end his torment. Fingon prepared to shoot an arrow and called upon Manwe to guide it, but instead Thorondor, King of Eagles, appeared and carried Fingon up to Maedhros. Fingon was forced to cut off his friend's right hand to release him. Thorondor took them back to Mithrim.
Maedhros recovered and learned to wield a sword with his left hand. He asked to be forgiven for his role in abandoning Fingolfin's people, and he waived his claim to succeed his father as the leader of the Noldor. Fingolfin became the High King of the Noldor in Middle-earth. The other sons of Feanor were not all pleased with this development.
The Noldor held a council in the year 7. Angrod, son of Finarfin, brought a message from King Thingol of Doriath warning the Noldor not to encroach on the lands of the Sindarin Elves of Beleriand. Caranthir lost his temper with Angrod. Maedhros intervened and restrained his brothers, but many of the Noldor became concerned that the sons of Feanor would be difficult to deal with.
Maedhros decided that it would be best if he and his brothers relocated to East Beleriand to put some distance between them and the other Noldor. He also realized the importance of guarding the exposed region between Dorthonion and the Blue Mountains against invasion by Morgoth from the north. That region came became known as the March of Maedhros.
Maedhros built a citadel on the summit of the cold Hill of Himring. Celegorm and Curufin lived in Himlad south of Himring. Maglor settled between the Little Gelion and Greater Gelion south of the gap between Himring and the Blue Mountains that was named Maglor's Gap. Caranthir had a stronghold on Mount Rerir east of the Gap. Cavalry patrolled the March of Maedhros.
Maedhros maintained relations with Fingolfin and the other Noldor and took counsel with them from time to time. He gave horses to Fingolfin as reparations for what his people had lost in the crossing to Middle-earth. In the year 20, Maedhros and Maglor attended the Feast of Reuniting held by Fingolfin at the Pools of Ivrin. Representatives of the Noldor, Sindar, and Green-elves also came to the feast.
In the year 60, Morgoth launched an invasion of Beleriand. Orcs attacked Dorthonion and entered Beleriand through the Pass of Sirion in the west and Maglor's Gap in the east. Fingolfin and Maedhros were prepared, and they defeated the Orcs in the Glorious Battle. Afterwards, the Elves began the Siege of Angband, keeping watch on Morgoth's stronghold to prevent him from sending forth an army. But because of the Iron Mountains they were unable to completely surround Angband, and Morgoth was able to dispatch spies and small companies from the north.
At some point, Maedhros rescued Azaghal, the Lord of the Dwarves of Belegost, who was waylaid by Orcs on the Dwarf-road in East Beleriand. Azaghal gave Maedhros the Dragon-helm in gratitude. Maedhros later sent the Dragon-helm to Fingon and it eventually came into the possession of Turin.
Morgoth broke the Siege of Angband in 455 in the Battle of Sudden Flame. An army led by Glaurung came through Maglor's Gap and another army broke through the Pass of Aglon on Himring's western flank. Celegorm and Curufin fled from Himlad and Caranthir was forced to abandon Mount Rerir.
But Himring did not fall to Morgoth's forces. "Maedhros did deeds of surpassing valour, and the Orcs fled before his face; for since his torment upon Thangorodrim his spirit burned like a white fire within, and he was as one that returns from the dead." (Sil., p. 152) Maglor joined Maedhros on Himring along with other Elves from Dorthonion and the east marches. They regained control of the Pass of Aglon. The invaders of East Beleriand were finally stopped by Thingol of Doriath, and those that fled northwards were dealt with by Maedhros.
In 463, Men from the far East of Middle-earth came to Beleriand. Maedhros realized that his people needed all the help they could get in order to counterbalance Morgoth's superior numbers, so he offered friendship and alliance to the two greatest Easterling chieftains, Bor and Ulfang. Bor and his sons joined Maedhros and Maglor, while Ulfang swore allegiance to Caranthir. Ulfang was secretly in league with Morgoth, but this was not discovered until it was too late.
Maedhros decided that the time had come to form a united front to defeat Morgoth, and he created the Union of Maedhros in 468. He was in part inspired by Beren and Luthien's successful quest to steal a Silmaril from Morgoth. His allies included Fingon - who had succeeded his father Fingolfin as High King of the Noldor - as well as the Dwarves of Belegost and Nogrod, the Men of the Houses of Hador and Haleth, and the Easterlings led by Bor and Ulfang.
But some Elves refused to join the Union of Maedhros because they distrusted the sons of Feanor. Orodreth blamed Celegorm and Curufin for attempting to seize power in Nargothrond which led to the death of his brother Finrod Felagund. Thingol of Doriath was angry with Maedhros and his brothers because they demanded that he hand over the Silmaril that Beren and Luthien had stolen. Maedhros did nothing when Thingol refused, but Celegorm and Curufin threatened to kill Thingol and his people after the war with Morgoth if he did not comply.
In 469, Maedhros tested Morgoth's defenses by driving the Orcs out of Beleriand. But Morgoth became aware of the Union of Maedhros and he sent out spies who liaised with the traitorous Easterlings who were secretly in his service.
Maedhros planned an assault on Angband for midsummer of 472. His intention was to march openly onto Anfauglith with an army from Himring in order to draw Morgoth's forces out of Angband. Then he would give the signal for Fingon to launch an attack from Hithlum on the enemy's flank.
But Maedhros and the eastern army were delayed in setting out by the treachery of Uldor, son of Ulfang, who falsely claimed that they were about to be attacked from Angband. Meanwhile, an enemy force moved stealthily across the desert to Hithlum, where they provoked the western army into a premature attack by executing an Elf prisoner.
The Battle of Unnumbered Tears began as Fingon and the western army advanced across Anfauglith to Angband. They were driven back with great losses and were surrounded. An army from Gondolin led by Fingon's brother Turgon came to their aid, and then Maedhros and the eastern army finally arrived and attacked the enemy from the rear.
It appeared that the tide of the battle had turned, but Morgoth unleashed the rest of his forces, and Glaurung drove Maedhros and Fingon apart. Then the sons of Ulfang switched sides to join the enemy. They tried to reach Maedhros' standard, but Uldor was slain by Maglor and Ulfast and Ulwarth were killed by the sons of Bor, who remained faithful. But more Easterlings in Morgoth's service came and attacked from three sides, and Maedhros and the remnants of his army retreated.
In the end, the Battle of Unnumbered Tears was a crushing defeat for the allies of the Union of Maedhros. Maedhros abandoned Himring and went south to live on Amon Ereb. His brothers were scattered and their power was diminished.
The sons of Feanor learned around 505 that the Silmaril stolen by Beren and Luthien was in the possession of their son Dior in Doriath. They had not dared to claim the jewel while Luthien had it. Maedhros restrained his brothers from marching to Doriath immediately and they sent a message instead. But Dior did not reply, and Celegorm urged his brothers to take the Silmaril by force.
At Yule of 506-507, the sons of Feanor attacked Doriath in the Second Kinslaying. Celegorm, Curufin, and Caranthir were all slain. Dior and his wife Nimloth were killed, and Celegorm's servants took their twin sons Elured and Elurin and abandoned them in the woods. Maedhros felt remorseful and he searched for the boys but never found them. Some of the Elves of Doriath escaped with Dior's daughter Elwing and the Silmaril and they settled at the Havens of Sirion.
Maedhros discovered the location of the the Silmaril around 512, but he did not act because he felt guilty about his role in the ruin of Doriath. But by 527, his Oath had begun to torment him and his brothers, Maglor, Amrod, and Amras. They sent a message to the Havens of Sirion offering friendship but demanding that the Silmaril be given to them. Their demand was refused.
In 538, the remaining sons of Feanor attacked the Havens of Sirion in the Third Kinslaying. Some of their own people turned against them and refused to take part and some even defended the Elves of the Havens of Sirion. In the end Maedhros won the battle though Amrod and Amras were slain. Yet Maedhros did not regain the Silmaril because Elwing took it and jumped into the Sea and found her husband Earendil in his ship Vingilot.
Earendil sailed to the Undying Lands to seek the help of the Valar to defeat Morgoth. The Valar agreed, and Earendil and his ship were placed in the heavens so that the light of the Silmaril could be seen in Middle-earth. When they saw the Star of Earendil, Maedhros and Maglor realized that one Silmaril was forever out of their reach. Two still remained in the crown of Morgoth.
The Host of the Valar defeated Morgoth in the War of Wrath from 545-587. At the end of the war in 587, Morgoth was captured and the Silmarils were taken by Eonwe, the herald of Manwe. Maedhros and Maglor still felt compelled by their Oath and they asked Eonwe for the Silmarils. Eonwe told them their rights to the Silmarils were forfeit because of the terrible deeds they had committed, and he ordered them to return to the Undying Lands to face the judgment of the Valar.
Maglor wanted to comply, but Maedhros convinced him that they were bound by their Oath and that this was their last chance to fulfill it. They entered Eowne's camp at night and killed the guards and each of them took a Silmaril. The jewel burned Maedhros' hand with unbearable pain. He realized that Eonwe was right, and in his despair he killed himself by jumping into a fiery chasm, and the Silmaril was lost deep beneath the earth.
Note: There is no definitive chronology of the Years of the Trees or the First Age. In particular, there are several conflicting chronologies of the 500s of the First Age. These dates are based on "The Annals of Aman" in The History of Middle-earth, vol. X, Morgoth's Ring and "The Grey Annals" and "The Tale of Years" in The History of Middle-earth, vol. XI, The War of the Jewels.
One year during the Years of the Trees is equivalent to 9.582 solar years.
Years of the Trees:
Birth of Feanor.
Morgoth is released from captivity.
Feanor makes the Silmarils.
Feanor is expelled from Tirion after drawing a sword on Fingolfin. Maedhros and his brothers and their grandfather Finwe follow Feanor into exile.
Morgoth kills Finwe and steals the Silmarils and takes them to Middle-earth. Feanor leads the Noldor in pursuit of Morgoth. Feanor and his sons and their followers attack the Teleri in the Kinslaying at Alqualonde and take their ships.
Mandos tells the Noldor that they must turn back or face exile. Feanor and his sons and many others continue onward and fall under the Doom of Mandos.
Feanor abandons Fingolfin's people and sails to Middle-earth and burns the ships despite the objections of Maedhros. Feanor and his followers settle on the shores of Lake Mithrim. Morgoth sends Orcs over the Ered Wethrin but the Noldor defeat them in the Battle-under-Stars. Feanor drives forward to Angband and is killed by Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs. Morgoth captures Maedhros during a parley.
Morgoth hangs Maedhros from the pinnacle of Thangorodrim.
Fingolfin and his followers cross the Grinding Ice to Middle-earth.
Fingolfin and his followers complete their journey across the Grinding Ice and arrive in the far north of Middle-earth.
Fingolfin's people settle on the north shore of Lake Mithrim, while Feanor's sons and followers relocate to the southern shore.
Fingon frees Maedhros from the precipice of Thangorodrim with the help of Thorondor. Soon afterwards, Maedhros waives his claim to succeed Feanor, and Fingolfin becomes High King of the Noldor.
At a council in Mithrim, Angrod brings a message from Thingol warning the Noldor not to encroach on the lands of the Sindar. Caranthir loses his temper with Angrod. Maedhros decides that he and his brothers should relocate to East Beleriand. Maedhros establishes a stronghold on Himring.
Fingolfin hosts the Feast of Reuniting at the Pools of Ivrin. Maedhros and Maglor attend as representatives of the sons of Feanor.
Morgoth sends an army to invade Beleriand. The Elves led by Fingolfin and Maedhros defeat them in the Glorious Battle. The Siege of Angband begins.
Maedhros and Maglor go hunting with Finrod Felagund. Finrod continues on his own into Ossiriand and encounters the first Men to enter Beleriand.
Bereg and Amlach hold a council of the Edain in Estolad. Morgoth sends a false image of Amlach to speak against the Elves. Bereg and others decide to leave Beleriand but Amlach repents and joins Maedhros.
The Battle of Sudden Flame. Glaurung leads an army into East Beleriand but Maedhros holds Himring. Thingol stops the invading army and Maedhros deals with the survivors who flee northward.
Easterlings come to Beleriand. The Easterling chieftain Bor forms an alliance with Maedhros. Ulfang swears allegiance to Caranthir while secretly in league with Morgoth.
Beren and Luthien steal a Silmaril from Morgoth.
Maedhros forms the Union of Maedhros to oppose Morgoth.
The Union of Maedhros drives the Orcs from Beleriand.
The Battle of Unnumbered Tears. Maedhros plans a two-pronged attack on Angband, but he is betrayed by the sons of Ulfang, and Morgoth's forces are victorious. Maedhros abandons Himring and goes to live on Amon Ereb.
The sons of Feanor send a message to Dior staking a claim to the Silmaril but receive no reply.
At Yule, the sons of Feanor invade Doriath to obtain the Silmaril. Doriath is ruined and abandoned. Deaths of Celegorm, Curufin, and Caranthir. Dior and Nimloth are killed. Their sons Elured and Elurin are abandoned in the woods, and Maedhros searches for them unsuccessfully. Elwing and the Silmaril are saved and are taken to the Havens of Sirion.
Maedhros learns that the Silmaril is at the Havens of Sirion but does not act at first out of guilt for the ruin of Doriath.
The remaining sons of Feanor feel tormented by their unfulfilled oath to regain the Silmaril.
The Havens of Sirion are attacked by the sons of Feanor. Deaths of Amrod and Amras. Elwing escapes into the Sea with the Silmaril and finds Earendil's ship.
The Host of the Valar defeats Morgoth in the War of Wrath.
Eonwe confiscates two Silmarils from Morgoth. Maedhros and Maglor steal the Silmarils but the jewels cause them great pain. Maedhros jumps into a chasm of fire with one Silmaril and Maglor throws the other into the Sea.
The name Maedhros is composed of the Sindarin words maed meaning "shapely, well-formed" and ros meaning "red-haired, copper-colored." (HoME XII, p. 366) Tolkien wrote an essay entitled "The Problem of Ros" about his difficulties reconciling the name Maedhros with the name Elros in which he intended the element ros to mean "foam, spray, spindrift." (HoME XII, p. 367-76)
An earlier definition of Maedhros given in "The Etymologies" (HoME V) was "pale glitter" from mad meaning "pale" and ros from rus meaning "flash, glitter of metal."
He was called Maedhros the Tall.
Spelled Maidros in earlier versions.
Maedhros' father-name, given to him by Feanor, was Nelyafinwë signifying that he was third in the line of succession from his grandfather Finwe. The word nelya means "third" in Quenya. (HoME XII, p. 352)
Maedhros' mother-name, given to him by Nerdanel, was Maitimo meaning "well-shaped one" in Quenya. (HoME XII, p. 353)
Russandol was an epesse - an after-name or nickname - for Maedhros used by his brothers and kin. It means "copper-top" in reference to his reddish-brown hair. (HoME XII, p. 353)
Family tree of Maedhros:
The Silmarillion: "Of Eldamar," p. 60, 62; "Of the Silmarils," p. 69, 71; "Of the Flight of the Noldor," p. 83-90; "Of the Return of the Noldor," p. 106-13, 115-16; "Of Beleriand and Its Realms," p. 119, 121-24; "Of the Coming of Men into the West," p. 140, 145; "Of the Ruin of Beleriand," p. 152-53, 157; "Of Beren and Luthien," p. 176; "Of the Fifth Battle," passim; "Of the Ruin of Doriath," p. 236-37; "Of the Voyage of Earendil," p. 246-47, 250, 252-54
The History of Middle-earth, vol. V, The Lost Road and Other Writings: "The Etymologies," entries for MAD and RUS
The History of Middle-earth, vol. X, Morgoth's Ring: "The Annals of Aman," p. 119-20, 126; "The Later Quenta Silmarillion," p. 292-95, 298
The History of Middle-earth, vol. XI, The War of the Jewels: "The Grey Annals," p. 18, 29-34, 36, 38, 46, 49, 53, 59-61, 64, 69-72, 74-75, 114-17, 132, 165-68; "The Later Quenta Silmarillion," p. 176-77, 219, 221; "The Wanderings of Hurin," p. 255; "The Tale of Years," p. 345, 348-49, 351-54
The History of Middle-earth, vol. XII, The Peoples of Middle-earth: "Of Dwarves and Men," p. 318; "The Shibboleth of Feanor," p. 352-53, 355, 365-66 note 61, 366 note 65; "The Problem of Ros," p. 367-68, 372 note 2
Unfinished Tales: "Narn I Hin Hurin," p. 58, 75, 147 note 5
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