Ecthelion of the Fountain

Ecthelion of the Fountain (or "Lord of the Fountain") is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. He was a High Elf and one of the greatest warriors of the First Age.

One of the first of Tolkien's characters to be created, he first appears in "The Fall of Gondolin", part of "The Book of Lost Tales", the earliest version of his "mythology" and histories. "The Fall of Gondolin" was, according to Tolkien's recollections, the first to be written — in 1916 or 1917. His name was then reused for the later "The Lord of the Rings" for different characters.

After Tolkien's death, his son Christopher edited and published "The Silmarillion", where Ecthelion and a "much compressed" account of the Fall of Gondolin appears.

Ecthelion also appears in "Unfinished Tales" in Tolkien's unfinished rewritten version of "The Fall of Gondolin", called in the book "Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin" — written in the 1950s. In this version, his title becomes "Lord of the Fountains".

Since "The Fall of Gondolin" was completed long before Tolkien's aborted rewriting, not all details derived from it may reflect the author's final intent.

The name "Ecthelion" itself has the connotations of "spear", or "sharp-point". However, it does not accurately translate into anything.


Ecthelion was one of the lords of the city-kingdom of Gondolin, ruled by Turgon; he led the House of the Fountain, one of the city's twelve noble houses. In "Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin", Tolkien makes him a guard of the last of Gondolin's seven gates. In "The Fall of Gondolin", Tolkien writes that he had the most beautiful voice and greatest musical talent of all the people of Gondolin. In both early and late versions he wears a helmet adorned with a silver spike.

He led a wing of Gondolin's forces at the disastrous Nírnaeth Arnoediad (Battle of Unnumbered Tears) and defended a flank as Turgon retreated. He fought valiantly in the defence of the city when it was finally attacked and taken by Morgoth's armies.

It was he who fought Gothmog, the Lord of Balrogs in single combat: standing alone defending a wounded Tuor, he slew and was slain by Morgoth's mightiest captain.

In "The Fall of Gondolin", Tolkien has him slay three Balrogs before his final duel, but lose the use of his shield arm in the process; however, this is one of the elements in the story that are at odds with Tolkien's later ideas. Christopher Tolkien comments that at this stage, Balrogs were "less terrible and certainly more destructible than they afterwards became". "The Fall of Gondolin" also elaborates on his death: Ecthelion loses the use of his sword-arm as well. Weaponless, he drives his helmet's spike deep into his enemy's breast, and they fall into the fountain together, entangled.

In "The Fall of Gondolin" Tolkien states that his name thereafter became a warcry of the Eldar, and a terror to the Orcs.

ee also

*Ecthelion I
*Ecthelion II

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