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Old 02-26-2005, 07:50 PM   #1
Tuor of Gondolin
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Sting Battles of Beleriand

Following the example of a thread by Rumil discussing battles of the
late Third Age I thought I'd start one on other battles. The general
guidelines to that thread:
"In each case I'd like to discuss the 'facts' we have, and speculate on terrain, size and armament of forces and the course of the battle. Obviously this is easier in some cases than others due to lack of information!"
seem a good guide for this one.

So what of the First Battle of Beleriand (which actually merges with the
Second Battle (Dagor-nuin-Giliath), but can initially be considered seperately.

This is an interesting battle, showing Thingol in an active light, and which
goes to explain some of his resentment to the elvish "newcomers" since he
did a good bit in blunting Morgoth's first aggressions. It's helpful to
consult not only the Silmarillion and its maps but also The Atlas of Middle-earth , By Karen Wynn Fonstad.

Morgoth sent two strong forces around Menegroth. The Eastern force was
caught in an elvish pincer movement (showing Thingol's ability in both military
and diplomatic ability in involving Denethor's elves). Presumably neither side
had cavalry(?). Had Morgoth suceeded on both fronts and there had been no
Noldor intervention, he would presumably have virtually seized control of
Beleriand, and most of Middle-earth(?).

Note that the silvan elves don't seem to learn from their military mistakes,
unpreparedness, since at the much later War of the Last Alliance they were
also relatively militarily inferior to other good guys, and bad guys.

Was Morgoth also militarily an amateur here? Why would the orcish forces
have been taken by surprise by Thingols forces? Fonstad suggests: "The Orcs, beset on two fronts, must have turned back-to-back to counter" [attacks by Tingol and the Green Elves].

Even though Thingol was successful in the east, might a better strategy have
been for the Green Elves to withdraw to the Ossiriand rivers and the Taur-im-Duinath (reminiscent of the Russian use of the Pripet Marshes in World War II), with Thingol also harassing the orcs with sorties from Menegroth,
while Thingol sent the bulk of his forces west to help Cirdan?
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Old 02-28-2005, 10:03 AM   #2
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Even though Thingol was successful in the east, might a better strategy have
been for the Green Elves to withdraw to the Ossiriand rivers and the Taur-im-Duinath (reminiscent of the Russian use of the Pripet Marshes in World War II), with Thingol also harassing the orcs with sorties from Menegroth,
while Thingol sent the bulk of his forces west to help Cirdan?
I would say that no matter what Thingol or anyone else had done, Morgoth would have taken either the east or the west. The question then is which you would rather yield. My view is that if Morgoth had taken the east, he would have cut off the trade routes that had recently been established from Eriador beyond the mountains, through Nogrod and Belegost, and to Doriath. This would have isolated the Sindar and cut them off from the metalwork of the Dwarves. Of course, no one could have foreseen the imminent arrival of the Noldor.

I like the idea of considering each of the battles of Beleriand in turn. I wonder, though, if you might also include those battles that did not warrant a number - some of them are quite important. I mean, for example, the Battle of Lammoth, the attack of the Orcs on Hithlum from the north, the Battle of Tumhalad, the Fall of Gondolin, etc.

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Old 02-28-2005, 04:50 PM   #3
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"I like the idea of considering each of the battles of Beleriand in turn. I wonder, though, if you might also include those battles that did not warrant a number - some of them are quite important. I mean, for example, the Battle of Lammoth, the attack of the Orcs on Hithlum from the north, the Battle of Tumhalad, the Fall of Gondolin, etc."
-----------------------
That works for me, if there's sufficent interest. Of course, it will take a little time to
work out a sequence, and I believe somewhere (in HoME?) there is more
detailed descriptions of battles, such as the Fall of Gondolin. I have at least some
of them, but haven't really read much.
----------------------

As for the First Battle of Beleriand, does anyone have any sources for
the numbers and composition of the forces?
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Old 02-28-2005, 05:29 PM   #4
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Hi Tuor,

congratulations on taking the plunge and starting the First Age Battles!

Off the top of my head (note to self - re-read the Sil ASAP!) I seem to remember that Tolkien stated that one of the reasons for the defeat of Denethor's silvan elves was their lack of warlike gear ie armour and combat weapons rather than hunting weapons. This shows that the orcs, even at this very early date, were reasonably well equipped with armour and weaponry forged at Angband.

As for numbers I'm afraid we're even more in the dark than in the Third Age battles, orcs - lots, elves - fewer, must be the closest we can come.
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Old 02-28-2005, 06:01 PM   #5
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Boots This is going to be a painfully obvious observation...

...but I feel it is important to actually say it.

There would have been more elves present in these battles than would have been in arms at any time in the Third Age.

Now, it may seem silly to say this, but there is a point I'd like to make. I think that the battles described so briefly in these early chapters were at least as large as Pelennor and other familiar battles of the Third Age.
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Old 03-01-2005, 09:11 PM   #6
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About numbers of the elves:

Michael Martinez wrote an interesting (and as he admits, very speculative)
essay on that subject:
http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/tolkien/54681

Part of it that seems relevant here is:
======================
"But 362 Years of the Trees, that gives us another 8 rounds of expansion. In total, we end up with 19 generations of Noldor, Vanyar, and Amanyar Teleri (but not 19 generations of Elves). The Noldor, at the time of their rebellion, could have numbered around 130,000. Ten per cent of them (13,000) refused to go into exile. Another unspecified number under Finarfin turned back. Just for the sake of being presumptious, let's say that approximately 1/2 of the rebellious Noldor followed Fingolfin and that 1/4 followed Feanor and the remaining 1/4 followed Finarfin.

Suppose Finarfin and half his people turned back? That would leave 7/8 of the rebellious Noldor (minus their losses in battle and storm) to continue the flight into exile. Of course, almost any set of numbers would work, but it seems likely that if there were 130,000 Noldor at the beginning of Feanor's rebellion, fewer than 100,000 would have reached Middle-earth.

There in Beleriand they would find the Sindar (the Mithrim, Falathrim, and Iathrim) and the Green-elves outnumbered them (by some ridiculous amount not worth calculating, since these populations would by this time also have suffered casualties through Morgoth's invasion).

Over the next 500 Years of the Sun (appproximately) the Noldor would continue to increase their population, suffering occasional setbacks. They would end up with a population of well over 1,000,000 Elves.

Of course, by the time you get up into the hundreds of thousands of Elves, people start raising their hands and saying, "Excuse me! What about Turgon's ten thousand?" That is, Turgon led ten thousand soldiers to the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. And he supposedly took a third of Fingolfin's people with him when he founded the city of Gondolin. Ten thousand soldiers doesn't seem like very many given the huge numbers of Elves we're looking at.

But where does it say that Turgon brought all of his warriors out of Gondolin? Did he really strip the city of all its defenders? My feeling is that Gondolin was still well defended. The Noldor had already suffered grievous losses in the Dagor Bragollach. Dorthonion had been lost, the Vale of Sirion had fallen, and the sons of Feanor had been driven out of their lands for a while. Maedhros ended up taking back the lands which had been lost, but he didn't have all the Noldor on his side. Orodreth refused to join the Union of Maedhros, and Orodreth supposedly still had one of the largest if not the largest kingdom in Beleriand. So Turgon's ten thousand soldiers don't really imply there were fewer than 1,000,000 Noldor by the time of the Nirnaeth.

Well, the numbers are about as bogus as one can get and still call it a discussion of Tolkien and Middle-earth. But no matter how you work your way through the generations, the Noldor end up with a huge population in Beleriand, and the Sindar must be even more numerous. So when Tolkien has Morgoth turn the tables on the Eldar and his legions of Orcs go streaming across the countryside, the devastation is worse than anything prior to the Napoleonic wars in true history. Perhaps it's even worse than the Napoleonic wars themselves. What the Eldar achieved in Beleriand seems fragile because we have only the one map done by Christopher Tolkien, and it names fewer than a dozen cities.

But think of a map of Europe where at most two dozen cities are named. How sparse and empty the countryside would seem to someone looking at that map. And yet we know better. Whether there were many more cities than are named in the stories, there were a lot of Elves. It shouldn't seem strange at all that Earendil would be so desperate as to abandon his wife and children to spend years seeking for a way across the Sea so that he could deliver the prayer of Elves and Men to the Valar.

And Morgoth's accomplishment also comes across as that much more horrifying and awe-inspiring. He wiped out at least a couple million Elves."
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Old 03-02-2005, 05:51 AM   #7
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A good observation that has been made is how much reliance the Sindar must have had on the armoury and weaponry of the dwarves, especially during the earliest contacts between the two peoples; although I believe that the Sinadr also were well capable of making their own gear once they had learned the craft from the dwarves of Nogrod and Belegost. Hence, they were better prepared to face the iron-shod orcs than the (seemingly) rustic Green Elves.

An attack from the east would have made more sense because the orcs were able to cross through the Gap and come down on extensive plains. There were no difficult river crosssings that they had to make either.
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Old 03-04-2005, 07:05 AM   #8
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Hi Tuor, good to see you've started this ambitious and facinating thread.
The First Battle, as Rumil has already pointed out...
Quote:
shows that the orcs, even at this very early date, were reasonably well equipped with armour and weaponry forged at Angband
Agreed, they were also revealed to be great in number and disturbingly well motivated for War, Silm.:
Quote:
Now the Orcs that multiplied in the darkness of the earth grew strong and fell, and their dark lord filled them with a lust of ruin and death
Quote:
...a great army came into Beleriand and assailed King Thingol
Quote:
Orcs, who were shod with iron and iron-shielded and bore great spears with broad blades
We can discern that they posed a genuine threat not just to Thingols realm, but to all Beleriand, so just how were the vastly outnumbered Sindar able to realistically engage such well prepared foes? Well before Morgoth had even returned to Middle Earth, on the basis of prescient Dwarfen warnings about 'evils of the North' that had not been rooted out, the Silm states:
Quote:
Thingol took thought for arms...and these at first the Naugrim smithied for him
therefore
Quote:
Thingol's armouries were stored with axes and with spears and swords, and tall helms, and long coats of bright mail
As Tuor said earlier in the thread, Thingol is shown in an active light by his actions and preparedness. The Dwarves are also invaluably active at this time, they provide the Elvenking not only with excellently wrought weaponary, but also with intelligence on enemy movements and an elite auxilliary force to contain any Orcish retreat or Eastern expansionism.
Tuor
Quote:
Was Morgoth also militarily an amateur here? Why would the orcish forces have been taken by surprise by Thingols forces?
Morgoth may have been testing the strength of Beleriand and found it to be more than he expected, particuarly that of Naugrim-armed Doriath. I would also assume that the Orcs were taken by surprise for two reasons. Firstly, the forces of Denethor and Thingol (which must have included his mighty Captains Beleg and Mablung) knew the terrain infinately better than the Orcs did, thus allowing for swift and concealed deployment at an optimum location for ambush. Secondly, the Elves would most likely have engaged the enemy with arrows in the first instance - the onset of which would deliver sudden shock to the enemy and maybe result in the errosion of Orcish command and control.
As we well know, primarily due to their lack of sophisticated military equipment Denethors host was all but destroyed, however the sheer size of the Orcish army must also have been a crucial contributary factor in his defeat as the Silm. declares:
Quote:
Thingol came upon the rear of the Orcs and slew them in heaps
In this grim statement, 'heaps' is a visually evocative word and it offers a dark insight into Denethors last stand on Amon Ereb. I envisage that after the first few salvos of arrows were loosed, the iron shod Orcs simply overwhelmed his light-armed Elves of Ossiriand through force of numbers.
However, in the aftermath of the Eastern battle - and utterly contrary to Morgoths designs, Doriath was in fact stronger and far better guarded from anything overtly military that Angband could now throw at it, for Thingol bolstered his forces by accepting many of the Ossiriand Elves into his realm, yet more importantly still:
Quote:
Melian put forth her power and fenced all that dominion round about with an unseen wall of shadow and bewilderment: the Girdle of Melian, that none thereafter could pass against her will or the will of King Thingol
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Old 03-04-2005, 08:47 AM   #9
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Excellent point by Numenorean about the importance of the dwarves,
throughout the history of Beleriand, and not just in the First Battle. Indeed,
it seems it wasn't the Sindar unwitting persecution of the Petty Dwarves but rather Thingol and the Nogrod dwarves desire for a silmaril that caused resentments only healed with Legolas and Gimli.

The Belgrod dwarves ready (and vital) assistance to Thingol against Morgoth is partially explained by their nature. As Robert Foster summarizes in The complete guide to Middle-earth:
Quote:
Intended by Aule to endure the power of Melkor, Dwarves were short (four and a half to five feet tall), stocky, strong, resistant to fire, and hardier than any other race. Unswerving and proud, Dwarves could not be dominated by evil and never forgot a wrong or a debt; they went to war frequently and wielded axes.
It's interesting that Morgoth did not try an initial foray against the dwarves,
despite the description of goblins in The Hobbit as nearly as skilled as dwarves at underground tunnelling and fighting.
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Old 03-04-2005, 10:12 AM   #10
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Morgoth was probably only dimly aware of them and what they were like. They were probably entirely out of his experience.
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Old 03-04-2005, 03:43 PM   #11
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This raises another question that I've wondered about: what were the relative strengths of the Noldor arriving in M-E with Feanor and Fingolfin, and the host of the west in the War of Wrath.

It seems that in accordance with the Michael Martinez quote cited earlier, that of the Noldor in Aman at the time of the Death of the Trees:

1/4 refused to leave or turned back with Finarfin

1/4 died fighting the Teleri, in storms, and particularly crossing the Helcaraxe

1/4 arrived in M-E following Feanor

1/4 arrived in M-E following Fingolfin (although he started with a larger host, many died crossing the Helcaraxe


The 25% of the Noldor following Feanor won the Dagor-nuin-Giliath by themselves. Furthermore, they were outnumbered, but won largely because the orcs could not withstand the light of Valinor which had not yet dimmed in their faces.

In the War of Wrath, the Teleri only provided transport, and did not fight. The Noldor who had remained in Aman did, as did the Vanyar. None of the elves of M-E participated in the War of Wrath. The few of the Edain who remained fought on the side of the elves, but this couldn't have been more than a token force.

So in the War of Wrath, the Vanyar (let's say there were half as many Vanyar as Noldor at the death of the Trees) and the 25% of the Noldor who didn't leave Aman, were the only ones fighting, plus some Maiar (it's unclear how many, but it seems that if the Valar wanted to overpower Morgoth by using Ainur, they would have come themselves).

Now, there was some increase in numbers of the Noldor and Vanyar in Aman in the intervening 600 years, but it doesn't appear that the military force in the War of Wrath was overwhelmingly larger than that of the Noldor exiles when they first arrived, and certainly not at the time of the Dagor Bragolach.

What was the differencein outcomes? Well, not having a curse helps! Also, the host of the West still had the light which the orcs couldn't withstand, and they had some backing from Maiar to help dealing with Dragons, Balrogs, etc. Finally, it seems that in defeating the Noldor, Morgoth had embarked on an arms race that severely weakened his own power and ability to control his armies. That seems to be what Tolkien seems to imply in his statement the Sauron was effectively greater in the Second Age than was Morgoth at the end of the First Age.

I'm sure there's a lot of room for discussion here... :-)
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Old 05-04-2005, 07:31 PM   #12
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Sting

You are also implying, with the numbers put forth, that every Elf fought in every battle. This doesn't make sense for a few reasons;
1) You have to assume that at least half of the Noldor present in Middle Earth were female, as it was not an army leaving Aman, but rather the migration of a people, or kindred.
2) Tactically, there is a reserve in every battle. Even in the Battle in which Fëanor was slain, the existence of a reserve is implied. "There he would have perished, had not his sons in that moment come up with force to his aid..." -Silm. p107. Thus, not every elf INVOLVED in the battle would have participated in the actual fighting.
3) Also, the slaying of millions of elves is unfeasible, in my opinion. It oft says that elves were slow to reproduce, and did not have many children, and did not marry until late. I mean honestly, Thingol stood in the woods with Melian for like, a thousand years holding her under the stars... if it took all elves that long to reproduce there wouldn't be very many of them at all, to say the least. I highly doubt that there could have even been millions of elves (of all the kindreds combined) in Beleriand at all, much less millions to slay.

On another note, does anyone know anything about the composition of forces in the First/Second Battle? The equipment of certain companies, their leaders, and their doings and happenings? I know in The Book of Lost Tales 2, the account of the Fall of Gondolin is very in depth and detailed in that matter... is there anything of that sort pertaining to the first two battles under the moon?
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Old 05-30-2005, 10:16 AM   #13
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I'm not sure Thingol and Melian could really qualify for normal elvish mating practices.

Millions might be a stretch but I think somewhere in the area of maybe one million (maybe a little more) for a total elven population in Beleriand is reasonable (including all kindreds and realms). Less than this and you begin to have a hard time picturing how their kingdoms managed to survive and function at all, especially considering the amount of territory they had to cover.

I have always assumed that the population of Men in Beleriand was always much less than the elves. The population of Dwarves in the mountains is also difficult to estimate although clearly it would be less than the elves.
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Old 06-14-2005, 09:09 AM   #14
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For a while I can only get to the intrnet sporadically, I need a new one to use the high-spee connection, but here's some observations on the Second Battle of Beleriand, Dagor-nuin-Giliath, Battle-Under-Stars.
This was actually a curious battle in that neither side had good intel about the
weapons and capabilities of the other. Also, Feanor's lads were actually virtual
novices, their only significant action being pushing around the outarmed Teleri.
After "Sonny" Feanor's (you can't do business with that hothead ) hastiness
(what would Treebeard have thought) the Noldor initially prevailed due to their "potent swords" and the daunting effect on the nassty orcsees of the Light
of Aman undimmed in their eyes. So the orcs were surprised by the Noldor abilities, and then the Noldor were taken unawares by the Balrogs.
Having just seen a cable tv program discussing requirements for (defensive, in this case) battles featuring Kursk and a German World War I defensive, it's
remarkable how much the Noldor and Morgoth's lads totally ignored the importance of recon and intel collection, and that both sides did later improve their efforts, recall the Noldor even sending patrols north of Angband.

Speculation: if Feanor was less hasty and survived the Dagor-nuin-Giliath,
would that have been a plus? He was a creative guy, but probably would have made Noldor reconciliation (not to mention with Doriath) rather problematic.

Also: thanks for P.M.s. I'm poor at figuring out how to send them, may get around to doing so.
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Old 07-28-2005, 11:03 AM   #15
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Dagor Aglareb

The Third battle seems to feature another example of poor intel
reconaissance by Morgoth while the Noldor (aided by Ulmo) appear
to be thinking several steps ahead of M.- Turgon and Finrod being
inspired to begin their search for refuges while M.'s spies misread
the situation in Beleriand, believing that the Noldor are "wandering
abroad with little thought to war". Morgoth tries to use shock and
awe (volcanoes and earthquakes) and then sends raiding parties east
and west with the main effort in Dorthonion. But good Noldor intel and
preparation (prior planning prevents poor performance ) leads to
Noldor special forces eliminating the orc raiders while the nassty
orcsees in Dorthonion are destroyed.

However, a glaring planning error of the elves seems to be their
neglecting to plan for an effective siege and seizing of Angband
(and how else will they get back the Silmarils?

As for Morgoth, in the Dagor Aglareb he seems remarkably
unimaginative. Both elves and Morgoth here seem in somewhat of
a World War I mentality, not thinking creatively For example,
ignoring tactical implimentation failures, Churchill with
tanks and the Dardanelles ploy).

However, Morgoth does seem to learn from his errors. He significantly
upgrades his intel, both through more effective use of spies and a form
of "brainwashing" of captured elves, and his developing new weapons
systems.

And by the by, why were Noldorin elves deterred by ice and snow north of
Angbad, when you recall Leggy's walking on snow at Caradhras, and
being uneffected by the cold?
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Old 08-31-2006, 09:38 PM   #16
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Concerning the war of wrath. It is said that the war broke the land and sunk beleriand into the sea, leaving only Forlindon and Harlindon. is it possible that the valar participated in the battle as well? can the host of noldor and vanyar alone wield enough power to sunk a continent?
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