An encyclopedia of Middle-earth and Numenor
Nargothrond was the underground fortress
of Finrod Felagund and the surrounding realm
in West Beleriand. It was one of the great strongholds of the Elves in
Middle-earth during the First Age. Nargothrond was conquered by Glaurung
in 495 and its inhabitants were all slain or driven away.
Geography (see also the map below):
Nargothrond was a network of caverns in the steep western bank of the Narog where the river passed through a deep gorge in the western end Andram, the Long Wall. The wooded highlands of High Faroth were on the west side of the Narog around Nargothrond. Just north of Nargothrond, a rushing stream called the Ringwil flowed into the Narog.
The entrance of Nargothrond faced east onto the Narog and was barred by the Doors of Felagund. The Narog formed rapids as it flowed through the gorge and could not be crossed at that point. The closest point where the Narog could be crossed was at its juncture with the Ginglith north of Nargothrond.
Amon Ethir, the Hill of Spies, was built by Finrod as a guardpost one league east of Nargothrond across the Narog. To the north was Talath Dirnen, the Guarded Plain. Finrod posted watchmen in hidden towers in the hills bordering the Guarded Plain and archers roamed stealthily through the fields and woods. No one could approach Nargothrond without being seen and Morgoth could not discover its location.
The Realm of Nargothrond stretched east to the Rivers Teiglin and Sirion and west to the River Nenning. To the south, Finrod's domain reached as far as the Mouths of Sirion, and to the north it extended to the Ered Wethrin where the Narog rose from the Pools of Ivrin. Finrod became the leader of all the Elves of West Beleriand except for the Elves of the Falas on the coast of the Sea. His realm was the largest of all the Noldor.
Finrod also controlled the Pass of Sirion. Before the construction of Nargothrond he built the watchtower of Minas Tirith in the pass on Tol Sirion. The South Road led from Minas Tirith to the Crossings of Teiglin and then onto the Guarded Plain to Nargothrond.
East of the Realm of Nargothrond
was the Forest of Brethil, where the
Men of the House of Haleth dwelled. Adjacent to Brethil was the great woodland
realm of Doriath which was ruled by Finrod's
kinsman Thingol. The Elves of Nargothrond and Doriath sent messengers back
and forth across the Sirion by way of ferries that were kept hidden on
the east shore of the Meres of Twilight.
The Caverns of Narog were originally discovered by the Petty-Dwarves before the beginning of the First Age. The Petty-Dwarves were Dwarves who had been banished from the great Dwarf cities. They delved and expanded the caverns and named their underground halls Nulukkhizdin.
In the year 50 of the First Age, Finrod and his friend Turgon were sent dreams by Ulmo, Lord of Waters, urging them to find hidden strongholds to defend against Morgoth. Turgon later established Gondolin. In the year 52, Finrod visited Doriath and was impressed by the halls of Menegroth. He wanted to build a similar underground stronghold, and King Thingol told Finrod about the Caverns of Narog.
Dwarves from Belegost and Nogrod in the Blue Mountains helped Finrod expand the caverns deep underground. Finrod paid them with treasures he had brought from the Undying Lands. The Dwarves gave Finrod the name Felagund meaning "cave-hewer" and they made the Nauglamir for him.
The Dwarves of Belegost and Nogrod drove out the Petty-Dwarves from the caverns. Some Petty-Dwarves continued to live in caves beneath Amon Rudh, a hill near the eastern edge of the Realm of Nargothrond, but they resented being expelled from their home.
Nargothrond was completed in 102 and many Elves came to live there. Finrod relocated to Nargothrond from the watchtower of Minas Tirith on Tol Sirion, which he left in the care of his brother Orodreth.
To celebrate the completion of the stronghold, Orodreth and Finrod's other siblings Angrod, Aegnor, and Galadriel attended a feast in Nargothrond. At this time, Finrod told Galadriel that he would not marry, saying: "An oath I too shall swear, and must be free to fulfil it, and go into darkness. Nor shall anything of my realm endure that a son should inherit." (Sil., p. 130)
In 310, Finrod journeyed to Ossiriand and encountered the Men of the House of Beor who had just crossed the Blue Mountains into Beleriand. Beor became Finrod's vassal and in 311 he accompanied Finrod back to Nargothrond where he lived until his death in 355.
In 390, the Men of the House of Haleth settled in the Forest of Brethil, which King Thingol of Doriath considered to be part of his realm. Finrod persuaded Thingol to let Haleth and her people stay on the condition that they would guard the Crossings of Teiglin against Morgoth's forces.
At the Battle of Sudden Flame in 455, Finrod's life was saved by Barahir, a descendant of Beor. Finrod swore an oath of friendship and aid to Barahir and his kin and he gave him his ring which became known as the Ring of Barahir. After the battle, a number of Sindarin Elves took refuge in Nargothrond.
In 457, Sauron captured Minas Tirith and Orodreth and his people fled to Nargothrond. Also around this time, Celegorm and Curufin - two of the sons of Feanor - came to Nargothrond after being driven out of Himlad. Curufin's son Celebrimbor may have accompanied them. According to one story (HoME XI, p. 54), Celegorm and Curufin helped Orodreth escape from Minas Tirith.
A legion of Orcs came down from the Pass of Sirion in 458 with the intention of invading West Beleriand all the way to the Mouths of Sirion. But the Men of the Forest of Brethil and the Elves of Doriath defeated the Orcs, and for many years afterwards Morgoth's forces did not dare to cross the Teiglin. The Realm of Nargothrond was at peace for a time and they mustered their strength.
In 465, Barahir's son Beren came to Nargothrond with the Ring of Barahir as proof of his identity. Beren requested Finrod's help to steal a Silmaril from Morgoth in order to win the hand of Thingol's daughter Luthien. Finrod felt compelled to fulfill his oath to Barahir and he agreed to accompany Beren, leaving Orodreth in charge of Nargothrond.
Celegorm and Curufin spoke against Finrod. Their father Feanor had made the Silmarils and they believed that only they and their brothers had the right to possess them. They also hoped to seize power in Nargothrond for themselves. Curufin convinced many of Finrod's people that Morgoth would destroy Nargothrond if they undertook the quest. Only ten Elves including Edrahil went with Finrod.
Celegorm and Curufin encountered Luthien on her way to help Beren and learned from her that Finrod and his companions had been captured by Sauron on Tol Sirion. They imprisoned Luthien in Nargothrond, hoping that Finrod would die in captivity. They also hoped to force a marriage between Luthien and Celegorm, thereby increasing their power. But Luthien escaped with the help of Celegorm's hound Huan. She rescued Beren, but Finrod and the ten Elves who had accompanied him had already been killed.
Other Elves who had been imprisoned by Sauron returned to Nargothrond bringing news of Finrod's death. The people of Nargothrond turned against Celegorm and Curufin when they realized what had happened and Orodreth commanded the brothers to leave. Orodreth became the second King of Nargothrond and the people gave him their loyalty.
Orodreth's policy was one of stealth and secrecy rather than open opposition to Morgoth. In addition, many of his people recalled Curufin's warnings about the destruction of Nargothrond and they were afraid. Nargothrond became closed off from outsiders, even their own kinrdred.
Orodreth refused to send troops from Nargothrond to the Battle of Unnumbered Tears in 472 because the armies opposing Morgoth had been organized by Maedhros, the brother of Celegorm and Curufin. But a prince of Nargothrond named Gwindor, whose brother Gelmir had been captured at the Battle of Sudden Flame, took a small force into battle against Orodreth's orders. Gwindor was provoked into launching a premature attack when Morgoth's forces brought forth Gelmir and executed him. The battle was lost and Gwindor was taken prisoner.
A Man named Turin and a band of outlaws came to live in the caves under Amon Rudh in the late 480s. Amon Rudh was the home of Mim the Petty-Dwarf and his sons. Turin was joined by Beleg, an Elf of Doriath, and together they defended the surrounding area from the enemy. The lands between the Teiglin and the edge of Doriath became known as the Land of Bow and Helm after Beleg's bow Belthronding and Turin's Dragon-helm.
Because of the deeds of the Two Captains, Orcs feared to pass the Crossings of Teiglin onto the Guarded Plain. Some Elves of Nargothrond wanted to join forces with Turin and Beleg, but Orodreth still refused to wage open war on Morgoth. He told Turin to keep the fighting away from Nargothrond but he offered to help him in other ways.
In 489, Mim betrayed Turin to a company of Orcs and Turin was taken captive. Beleg pursued the Orcs and met Gwindor who had escaped from Angband. Beleg freed Turin, but Turin mistook his friend for one of the enemy and killed him.
Gwindor brought Turin to Nargothrond in 490. At first, Turin concealed his identity from Orodreth. The smiths of Nargothrond reforged Turin's black sword which he renamed Gurthang. Turin joined the patrols on the Guarded Plain and he became known as Mormegil, the Black Sword of Nargothrond.
Orodreth's daughter Finduilas fell in love with the newcomer though she was betrothed to Gwindor. Gwindor revealed Turin's identity to Finduilas and warned her that a dark doom lay upon him.
Orodreth honored Turin when he learned the truth and he increasingly relied on Turin's advice despite Gwindor's opposition. Orodreth agreed to build a bridge over the Narog to the Doors of Felagund to allow passage of troops and arms. Turin convinced Orodreth to abandon his policy of secrecy and stealth and instead wage open war against the servants of Morgoth.
The Elves of Nargothrond drove the enemy from the surrounding lands and took back control of their realm north to the Ered Wethrin, west to the Nenning, and east to the Teiglin. But Morgoth became aware of the location of their stronghold and he planned to destroy it.
In the spring of 495, Cirdan sent two messengers named Arminas and Gelmir to Nargothrond. They told Orodreth that Morgoth was amassing an army in the Pass of Sirion. They also brought a warning from Ulmo that the bridge over the Narog should be cast down and the Doors of Felagund should be shut. But Turin refused to consider destroying the bridge and Orodreth agreed despite his misgivings. Soon afterwards, Orcs attacked the Men of the Forest of Brethil and captured the Crossings of Teiglin.
An army led by Glaurung the Dragon launched an attack on Nargothrond in the autumn of 495. Glaurung defiled Eithel Ivrin, the source of the Narog, and he burned the Guarded Plain. Orodreth led forth an army with Turin at his side but they were greatly outnumbered and only Turin with his Dragon-helm could withstand Glaurung's presence. The Elves were driven back and they were trapped on the field of Tumhalad between the Narog and Ginglith.
Orodreth and many other Elves were slain in the Battle of Tumhalad. With his dying breath, Gwindor asked Turin to save Finduilas. But when Turin returned to Nargothrond, Glaurung had already passed over the bridge and had thrown down the Doors of Felagund. Orcs plundered the halls of Nargothrond. Some of the women including Finduilas were taken captive. The remaining Elves were slain or driven off. A few survivors later made their way to Doriath and the Mouths of Sirion.
Turin confronted Glaurung but he fell under the Dragon's spell and could not move as Finduilas was taken away. Glaurung convinced Turin to seek his mother Morwen and sister Nienor instead of following Finduilas. Finduilas was killed by her captors while Turin was delayed in a fruitless search for his family.
After Turin left, Glaurung broke the bridge and burned the surrounding land. He sent away the Orcs and kept all the treasures, which he piled in the innermost hall of Nargothrond to lie upon. The Dragon gave off a terrible stench, and the bones of the dead remained scattered throughout the halls. Nargothrond became a place of darkness and horror.
In 496, Morwen and Nienor came to Nargothrond seeking Turin. Their guide Mablung left them with a company of guards on Amon Ethir while he went ahead to scout. Glaurung emerged from the gate and slithered across the Narog, causing a disorienting fog to arise from the waters. Mablung crossed the ruined remains of the bridge and entered the dark halls of Nargothrond and searched in vain for Turin.
Morwen and Nienor and their guards became scattered and separated in the mist. Nienor came face to face with Glaurung on the summit of Amon Ethir and he cast a spell of forgetfulness on her so she could not remember her name or identity. Nienor fled and was found by Turin who had never seen his sister before and did not know her. Turin called her Niniel and they were married.
Glaurung remained in Nargothrond for several years. He gathered Orcs to him once more and he ruled Nargothrond and the surrounding realm as a Dragon-King. In 498, Glaurung sent Orcs from Nargothrond to attack the Men of the Forest of Brethil, but Turin rallied the Men to defeat the Orcs.
In the spring of 499, Glaurung left Nargothrond to seek Turin in the Forest of Brethil. Turin slew Glaurung, but before he died the Dragon revealed that Turin and Nienor Niniel were brother and sister and both of them committed suicide.
After Glaurung left Nargothrond, Mim the Petty-Dwarf came there and claimed the halls and the treasure. Mim was the last of the race who had originally delved the Caverns of Narog. For a time, no one else came near because of the memory of Glaurung.
But around 502, Turin's father Hurin came to Nargothrond and killed Mim because he had betrayed Turin. Hurin took the Nauglamir from the hoard of treasures and left. The halls of Nargothrond stood empty and the Elves never returned. Nargothrond was lost when Beleriand was destroyed in the War of Wrath at the end of the First Age.
Note: There is no definitive chronology of the First Age. In particular, there are several conflicting chronologies of the 500s of the First Age. These dates are based on "The Grey Annals" and "The Tale of Years" in The History of Middle-earth, vol. XI, The War of the Jewels. Other chronologies differ.
Finrod is sent a dream by Ulmo urging him to find a place of hidden strength to defend against Morgoth.
Finrod visits Doriath and admires the underground halls of Menegroth. Thingol tells Finrod of the Caverns of Narog and Finrod goes there and begins the construction of Nargothrond with the help of Dwarves from Belegost and Nogrod.
Nargothrond is completed.
Finrod travels to Ossiriand and encounters the Men of the House of Beor.
Beor becomes Finrod's vassal and accompanies him back to Nargothrond.
Death of Beor.
Finrod persuades Thingol to let the Men of the House of Haleth live in the Forest of Brethil on the condition that they guard the Crossings of Teiglin.
Barahir saves Finrod's life in the Battle of Sudden Flame. Finrod promises friendship and aid to Barahir and his kin. After the battle, some Sindarin Elves take refuge in Nargothrond.
Sauron captures Minas Tirith on Tol Sirion. Orodreth and his people flee Tol Sirion and come to Nargothrond. Celegorm and Curufin arrive in Nargothrond around this time, possibly with Orodreth.
The People of Haleth and the Elves of Doriath defeat a legion of Orcs near the Forest of Brethil. The Orcs do not attempt to cross the Teiglin for many years afterwards and Nargothrond is at peace for a time.
Finrod agrees to accompany Barahir's son Beren on a quest to steal a Silmaril from Morgoth. They are captured by Sauron and Finrod and the ten Elves of his company die in his dungeons. Beren is rescued by Luthien. Celegorm and Curufin plot to take over Nargothrond but Orodreth expels them when it is learned that they knew about Finrod's captivity and did nothing.
Orodreth does not send troops to the Battle of Unnumbered Tears but Gwindor takes a small company from Nargothrond. Gwindor is captured and imprisoned in Angband.
Turin and Beleg establish the Land of Bow and Helm east of Nargothrond. Orodreth refuses to join forces with them but offers to help in other ways.
Gwindor escapes from Angband and meets Turin.
Gwindor brings Turin to Nargothrond.
Spring: Cirdan sends two messengers to Nargothrond with a warning from Ulmo that Morgoth is amassing an army and that Orodreth should break the bridge across the Narog. Turin convinces Orodreth to leave the bridge standing. Orcs attack the Men of the Forest of Brethil and capture the Crossings of Teiglin.
Autumn: Glaurung leads an army to attack Nargothrond. Orodreth, Gwindor and many other Elves are killed in the Battle of Tumhalad. Turin falls under Glaurung's spell and fails to save Finduilas who is slain by her captors. Glaurung occupies Nargothrond.
Morwen and Nienor come to Nargothrond seeking Turin. Glaurung casts a spell of forgetfulness on Nienor. She meets Turin in the Forest of Brethil but they do not know they are brother and sister.
Nienor and Turin marry. Glaurung sends Orcs from Nargothrond to attack the Men in the Forest of Brethil.
Spring: Glaurung leaves Nargothrond to find Turin in the Forest of Brethil. Turin slays Glaurung. With his dying words, Glaurung reveals that Turin has unwittingly married his sister Nienor. Nienor and Turin kill themselves.
Mim the Petty-Dwarf comes to Nargothrond.
Hurin comes to Nargothrond and kills Mim and takes the Nauglamir.
Beleriand is destroyed in the War of Wrath.
Names & Etymology:
The name Nargothrond means "fortress of Narog" in Sindarin. The word othrond means "fortress or city in underground caves" from ost meaning "fortress, walled city" and rond meaning "cave." The river name Narog is derived from the root narak meaning "tear, rend" and naraka meaning "rushing, rapid, violent" apparently in reference to the torrential rapids of the river as it passed Nargothrond.
The Petty-Dwarves originally called their halls Nulukkhizdîn, which may include the root Kh-Z-D meaning "dwarf." In The Silmarillion it is misspelled Nulukkizdîn.
The caves were also called the Caverns of Narog before the construction of Nargothrond began.
The Silmarillion: "Of the Return of the Noldor," p. 114-15; "Of Beleriand and Its Realms," p. 120-22; "Of the Noldor in Beleriand," p. 126, 130; "Of the Coming of Men into the West," p. 140, 142, 147; "Of the Ruin of Beleriand," p. 151-52; 156-57, 160; "Of Beren and Luthien," p. 168-73, 176, 184; "Of the Fifth Battle," p. 188, 190-92, 195; "Of Turin Turambar," p. 204-5, 207-18, 220-22, 225; "Of the Ruin of Doriath," p. 230-31, 233; "Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin," p. 238, 240; "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age," p. 286
Unfinished Tales: "Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin," p. 25, 34, 38, 40-42, 54 notes 17 and 21; "Narn I Hin Hurin," p. 87, 92, 100, 108-9, 111-14, 116-20, 124-29, 135, 144, 146, 148 note 16, 153-62; "Aldarion and Erendis," p. 189; "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn," p. 228, 235
The History of Middle-earth, vol. V, The Lost Road and Other Writings: "The Etymologies," entries for NARAK, OS, and ROD
The History of Middle-earth, vol. XI, The War of the Jewels: "The Grey Annals," p. 5, 35, 38-39, 44, 52, 62-63, 65-67, 70, 72-73, 77, 82-89, 92-94, 96-103, 125; "The Later Quenta Silmarillion," p. 180, 182 (map), 184 (map), 223; "The Wanderings of Hurin," p. 254-58; "Aelfwine and Dirhaval," p. 313; "The Tale of Years," p. 347, 350, 352, 354-55; "Quendi and Eldar," p. 414-15
The History of Middle-earth, vol. XII, The Peoples of Middle-earth: "The Shibboleth of Feanor," p. 352
The Children of Hurin: "Introduction," p. 23-24; "The Battle of Unnumbered Tears," p. 53, 55-56; "Turin among the Outlaws," p. 109; "Of Mim the Dwarf," p. 121, 129; "The Land of Bow and Helm," p. 142-43, 145; "The Death of Beleg," p. 152-58; "Turin in Nargothrond," passim; "The Fall of Nargothrond," passim; "The Coming of Turin to Brethil," p. 194-95; "The Journey of Morwen and Nienor to Nargothrond," passim; "The Coming of Glaurung," p. 221-24, 226-27; "Appendix," p. 270-72
The Fellowship of the Ring: "A Journey in the Dark," p. 330; "The Mirror of Galadriel," p. 372
Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings: "The Tale of Years," p. 363
Khuzdul - The Secret Tongue of the Dwarves
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