War of Wrath

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=War of Wrath

date= First Age, Y.S. 545–Y.S. 587
place= Eglarest, mid-Beleriand, Anfauglith, Thangorodrim
result=Decisive victory for the Host of Valinor
combatant1=Host of Valinor [J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien editor, "History of Middle-earth", Vol. V, (1987), p. 328, "march of the host...in his "armies"..."indicates that a host is made up of two or more armies. Also, in J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien editor, "Unfinished Tales", (1980), p.258, the "great army of Oropher" and the "lesser army of Malgalad" are joined to form the "host of Silvan Elves".The Host of Valinor consists of the armies of the Vanyar, the army of the Noldor of Aman, and the fleet of the Teleri (described in the Annals as a 'host'; a 'multitude' of ships). There are also contingents of the Eldar and the Edain and other peoples of Beleriand; and the great birds of heaven. As a base line number for general estimates of the size of an Elven army within a Host, the army of Turgon at the Fifth Battle, Nírnaeth Arnoediad, is unequivocally stated as ten thousand strong in numerous texts and over time: J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien editor, "Children of Húrin", (2007), p.53; J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien editor, "The Silmarillion", (1977), p.190; J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien editor, "History of Middle-earth", Vol.XI, (1994), Grey Annals, p.72. ]
combatant2=All the hosts of Morgoth [The hosts of Morgoth included Orcs, Men, Balrogs, Dragons and Wolves. "History of Middle-earth", Vol.XI. pp. 15-17; "Silmarillion", p.96, 106-107. These passages describe a "great army" sent from Angband that divides into an "eastern host" and an "Orc-host in the West"; later, the western host that marched north is described as: "...the armies...that had passed south...". The attack on Fëanor is described as "the host of Melkor, orcs and werewolves"; "the host of Morgoth". From this it's possible to discern that: a great army of Orcs is made up of hosts, that a host is made up of armies. Both Vol. XI, p.57 and "Simarillion", p. 157, later described a lesser formation that attacks Brethil, an Orc-legion. This and many other citations show that a basic Orc military structure consists of: Orc-bands that make up Orc-companies; Orc-companies that make up an Orc-legion; Orc-legions that make up an Orc-army; Orc-armies that make up an Orc-host; Orc-hosts that make up a Great Army or a Great Host or a Great Force.]
casualties1=Unknown, but probably severe
casualties2=Nearly all the forces of Morgoth: Balrogs, Orcs, Dragons and others

In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, the War of Wrath, or the Great Battle, was the final war against Morgoth at the end of the First Age.

Elrond, at his Council, makes comparison to the Last Alliance of Elves and Men of the Second Age in "The Lord of the Rings" saying,

"I remember well the splendour of their banners ... It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand, so many great princes and captains were assembled. And yet not so many, nor so fair, as when Thangorodrim was broken..."." ["Lord of the Rings", 1954-5: I, p.256]
In the Tale of the Years [ J.R.R. Tolkien, "Lord of the Rings", III, (2nd edition 1966), p.363 Appendix B] it is called the Great Battle and the army, the Host of Valinor. The best known and most poetical account is in "The Silmarillion", [(1977), pp. 250-252; the work published posthumously by the author's son and literary executor, Christopher Tolkien.] itself closely drawn from the earlier "Quenta Silmarillion". [J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien editor, "History of Middle-earth" Vol. V, (1987), pp.326-331, 336; the poetical "Silmarillion" account is derived almost word for word from "Quenta Silmarillion" of the mid 1930's, the main changes are to the later versions of names, e.g.: Fionwë to Eönwë, Lindar to Vanyar, etc.] The most detailed account of the course of the war is in "The Later Annals of Beleriand". ["History of Middle-earth" Vol. V, pp.143-144, 153, the "Annals" are nearly contemporary and complementary to the "Quenta Silmarillion", not an alternative draft of these events, but the Sindarin view as differentiated from the Noldorin view of the Quentas. Christopher Tolkien states that this version "only came to light very recently" (p.125), perhaps 10 years after he published "The Silmarillion".] Other accounts and fragmentary details about the war are scattered, appearing in the earliest versions of the legendarium. [ written from the 1915 through the 1930s and published posthumously in the "History of Middle-earth" series 1983-1996, Vols. I, II, IV, especially, as well as later volumes.]

The experience of distance to the War of Wrath is greatest in "Lord of the Rings", drawing nearer to it in "The Silmarillion", closer still in the Annals and Quentas of the "History of Middle-earth" and closest, in aspects, in "The Lost Tales".

"The Silmarillion" account

As it is told in "The Silmarillion", five centuries after the rising of the sun, Morgoth has defeated all who opposed him and becomes mighty and uncontested in Middle-earth. The mariner Eärendil, by the light of the Silmaril on his brow, searches and comes to Valinor, on behalf of the two kindreds (that of Elves and Men), asking the Valar to pardon and aid the enthralled Elves and Men of Middle-earth.

The Valar are moved by Eärendil's plea and prepare a great armament. The armies of the Vanyar and the remaining Noldor are sent from Aman to Middle-earth in a mighty host. At the behest of Elwing, their kinswoman, the Teleri carry the host on their ships, but they remain on their ships for they would not land. The Host of Valinor marches through Beleriand and meets the forces of Morgoth.

The Host of the Valar completely defeats the Orc armies of Melkor and destroys most of the Balrogs. While the Three Houses of Men, the Edain, fought for the Valar, many other Easterling Men fight for Morgoth and are either destroyed or flee to the far eastern parts of Middle-earth. The Host of the Valar marches north to Angband in pursuit of the remnants of the hosts of Morgoth. There Melkor releases his last and greatest force, the fleet of winged dragons, that had never been seen before, and they drive the Host of the Valar back. Then Eärendil comes with his ship Vingilótë, along with the Eagles of Thorondor, Lord of Eagles, and there they contest with the dragons in the air, slaying most of them. Eärendil throws down the mightiest of dragons, Ancalagon the Black, whose fall breaks the towers of Thangorodrim. Morgoth is captured and he is bound again with the chain Angainor. His iron crown is beaten into a collar and the two Silmarils are taken by the Maia Eönwë, the herald of Manwë. Finally, the Valar imprison him in the Void.

The wreckage of the war is immense. The River Sirion is destroyed. Much of the north of the land west of the Ered Luin is laid waste and sinks into the sea. The surviving Elves of Beleriand [J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien editor, "History of Middle-earth", Vol II, (1984), p.196, at the end of Tolkien's pivotal and foundational tale "The Fall of Gondolin" the surviving folk of Gondolin that sail West numbered just 320 males and male children and 260 females and female children.] are bidden by Ëonwë to return with him to the lands of Aman. Most of them do so, but others refuse the summons and instead journey eastward where they become lords of the remaining Noldor and Sindar, as well as others in the east such as the Silvan Elves. Galadriel and Celeborn are among these, as was Gil-galad.

After Morgoth's defeat, those men of the Edain, who fought for the host of the Valar are granted the island land of Andor. Following Elros as King, they found the realm of Númenor. [J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien editor, "History of Middle-earth", Vol.XII, (1996), p. 145 describes Elros' fleet of some 150-300 ships carrying 5,000 to 10,000 people. This remnant is smaller in number to the Edain that first arrived in Beleriand, see p.307, Vol XII, where Bëor's following alone has 2,000 adult men, the Folk of Hador are three times that size, and those of Haleth about the same as Bëor, some 10,000 grown men, not counting their women and children.] Morgoth's chief servant, Sauron, surrenders to Ëonwë and is summoned to Valinor to receive judgement by the Valar. However, he is unwilling to face the Valar and flees to the east, as do some Dragons, Balrogs and Orcs to trouble the Men and Elves through later ages.

"The History of Middle-earth" accounts

"The Silmarillion" account closely follows the "Quenta Silmarillion" and is in agreement with it on the events of the war varying mostly in nomenclature.

Nearly contemporary to the "Quenta Silmarillion" are the "Annals of Beleriand", a complementary, separate account with a different point of view. The two main versions, early [J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien editor, "History of Middle-earth", Vol. IV, (1986), pp. 309-310,] and late, of the Annals are in agreement with the events but are at variance with nomenclature and dates. They provide a good deal of incidental detail otherwise lacking in the various parallel versions of the Silmarillion. The "Later Annals" are the final version of the War of Wrath in this form. There are versions of events and aspects of the war in the "Annals" that are in conflict with those in "Quenta Silmarillion" beyond minor inconsistencies in nomenclature and dates. Most notably, the "Annals", in contrast to the "Silmarillion" [In what Christopher Tolkien, "History of Middle-earth", Vol. IV, calls the earliest 'Silmarillion' and the early Quenta, where in a most powerful image, Morgoth issues forth and fights in front of Angband with all his Dragons, in the later versions of these Morgoth fearfully hides in Angband, but not in the "Annals".] and "Quenta" traditions, hold that Morgoth leaves Angband passing over Taur-na-Fuin to contest the passage of Sirion.

Other details do not conflict with the "Silmarillion", because of the difference in mode between "Annal" and "Quenta" some are just not present in the "Quentas". The landing of Ingwë's son and his victory in the Battle of Eglarest is a significant example. ["History of Middle-earth", Vol. IV, p.313: Eldorest>Eglarest>Eglorest - while there is considerable vacillation about the place-name, there is no dithering about the place itself; Círdan's former haven, or the event: the landing and battle.] The "Later Annals" provide additional details about the battle including the driving of the Orcs from the shore and then entire Host of Valinor driving both Orcs and Balrogs across Sirion followed by the long struggle of the hosts of the West and North for passage of the River Sirion which lays between the Hosts.

It is only in the "Annals" versions and the earliest "Quenta" that Eönwë is stated to be leader, or captain, of the Host of the West and that Ingwion is captain of the Vanyar. In "The Silmarillion", Eönwë is called 'the Herald of Manwë'. [Christopher Tolkien mentions, editorially, in the index, p.328, that Eönwë "is the leader...". Prior to the Post War "Later Quenta Silmarillion" the name of this character is Fionwë. C. Tolkien notes the Fionwë>Eonwë change at around 1958. So too, Ingwiel>Ingwion. These changes of character names, important in other respects, have no particular effect on the role that character plays in the War of Wrath.] As captains, "The Silmarillion" mentions Finarfin leading the Noldor of Aman and Thorondor "captain of the great birds of heaven". ["History of Middle-earth", Vol. V, p.14, the first version of the "Fall of Númenor" has the unique statement, referring to the captains of Angband, that after the battle "Morgoth and "many of his captains" were bound...".] "Lay of Leithian" speaks directly of Balrog captains leading Orcs:

"the Orcs went forth to rape and war, and Balrog captains marched before.". [ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien editor, "History of Middle-earth", Vol III, (1985), p. 281]

The "Later Annals of Beleriand" expand on detail and reintroduce the encampment of the Host beside the River Sirion ["History of Middle-earth", Vol. V, p.144, "he camped beside Sirion"] that goes back to the earliest fragments of the story. [J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien editor, "History of Middle-earth" Vol. II, (1984), pp.278, 280, from the 'schemes' for the "Tale of Eärendel", "encampment in the Land of Willows of first host."; "The camp in the Land of Willows". The "Land of Willows" is Tasarinan, a Qenya and Quenya cognate for Nan-tathren, 'Willow-vale' or 'Land of Willows' "The Silmarillion", index, p.342. ] There a camp is made in Tasarinan, Land of Willows, the place mentioned in Treebeard's song in the "Two Towers", "the willow-meads of Tasarinan". [ J.R.R.Tolkien, "Lord of the Rings", Vol. II, (2nd edition, 1966), p.72] Further, some subsidiary battles to the campaign of the Great Battle are mentioned there briefly, as well as in the tale of "The Fall of Gondolin" where the Battle of Tasarinan is described as a surprise attack by the Goblins on the Noldor of the Host. [ "History of Middle-earth" Vol. II, p154. the Noldor, at this literary stage, are still called Gnomes. The battle is also mentioned by name in "Turambar and the Foalókë", p.70.] Another battle is that of the Silent Pools, or Twilight Pools which is Umboth Muilin, or Ailin Uial. Here it is suggested that the Easterling Men of Hithlum descend from the north and attack the flank of the Elves. The early traditions for this battle are in some serious contradiction at points with the later tales in that it is held here that Tulkas and Morgoth and other Valar are present whereas later only the Maiar, Eönwë for the Host of the West, and the Balrogs, for the Hosts of Angband, take the field. [It is interesting to note from the standpoint of literary development of the War of Wrath that, over time, the Valar are progressively moved, figuratively and physically (in the case of Morgoth, in distinct stages) away from the actual fighting, until in the latest versions its held no Vala engages in combat.]

Throughout all the varied stories and time the terrain over which the War of Wrath is fought remains remarkably the same, in particular, the River Sirion. The course of the river is never changed on the maps and its character stays consistent. It is the mighty river that divides East and West Beleriand. As early as the "Lays of Beleriand" until the "Children of Húrin" it is described as uncrossable [J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien editor, "Children of Húrin", (2007), p.118 "unbridged and unforded"; "History of Middle-earth", Vol.III, "Lay of the Children of Húrin", p.59, lines 1457-1471] on foot except at a very few places: far north at Eithel Sirion, at the ford of the Brithiach, over the Guarded Bridge [J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien editor, "Unfinished Tales", (1980), p.120, "the guarded bridge near the inflowing of Esgalduin"; J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien editor, "Children of Húrin", (2007), p. 211] near the tributary Esgalduin and over the land bridge of the Andram above the Gates of Sirion. This makes Sirion a formidable obstacle to an army trying to cross it in the face of opposition. Without the further use of the ships of the Telerin fleet the Host of the Valar cannot be ferried to East Beleriand flanking the line of Sirion in the south but must fight their way across at one or more of those crossings. Advancing north west of Sirion does not allow a northern flanking of the line of Sirion as there is only a ford near Eithel Sirion and only a couple of easily defended and widely separated passes through the mountains of Ered Wethrin. [There is mentioned that there is a pass above the source of the stream Lithir, J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien editor, "History of Middle-earth", Vol. XI, (1994), p. 261,"one of the ancient passes...". And only one pass the length of the southern face of Ered Wethrin over the shoulder of the mountain, Amon Darthir, "Unfinished Tales", pp.68, 69 "steep pass"; "there was no other pass". J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien editor, "Children of Húrin", (2007), p.67, "He (Morgoth) trusted that Ered Wethrin was a wall insurmountable...against assault from the south; and indeed there was no other pass..."] This explains the long deadlock of bitter conflict between Eonwë leading the Host of the West and Morgoth's Host of the North described in the "Annals" and "the Tale of the Years" ["History of Middle-earth", Vol.XI, pp.345-6] as lasting over forty years.

Impact on popular culture

There are several musical adaptations taken from the War of Wrath:

*The power/epic metal group Blind Guardian, in their album Nightfall in Middle-Earth (based fully upon "The Silmarillion"), recorded a track in which is performed a short conversation between Morgoth and Sauron at the end of the War of Wrath. The track's name is, exactly, "War of Wrath".
*The epic/gothic metal group Battlelore, a Finnish band whose every song deals with Middle-earth, in their album Sword's Song have a track entitled "The War of Wrath". The lyrics tell the tale of Morgoth's demise.


ee also

*Armies and Hosts of Middle-earth warfare

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