The Darkness Will Never Pass Away – Gwindor reflects on his life

by Jan 5, 2003Stories

The Darkness Will Never Pass Away

‘And Beleg the Bowman embraced him there,
and learnt his lineage and luckless fate,
how thrust into thraldom in a throng of captives,
from the kindred carried and the cavernous halls
of the Gnomes renowned of Nargothrond,
long years he laboured under lashes and flails
of the baleful Balrogs, abiding his time.
A tale he unfolded of terrible flight
o’er the flaming fell and fuming hollow
o’er the parchéd dunes of the Plains of Drouth,
till his heart took hope and his heed was less…’
-The Lay of the Children of Húrin, lines 918-924 (The Lays of Beleriand pg. 44)

My life is a concatenation of toils and woe. All my valour, honour, fatuous glory and victories amount to naught. The Dark Lord only grows stronger, as our Lords fall under his barbed, steel fist. My life is as nothing.

O, it began well, yes, and remained such for a while. The splendour and wealth of Valinor could light the heart of any darkened soul. Yet in my pride I forsook it, desiring freedom from the tutelage of the Valar, to storm the gates of Morgoth’s stronghold, to avenge the death of King Finwë.

But I did not suspect how desperate we had become to leave. As beasts we slew our kin at the quay of Alqualondë, and raping their ships sailed to the North, through water stained with blood. For though the Valar had forbidden the forging of weapons in Aman, the Noldor wrought and hoarded weapons in secret. Therefore the Teleri were overcome, armed with only slender bows. I said that I knew not what I did, that a fey rage was upon me as I stained the white shores of Aman with the blood of its dwellers, but it was not so. Sickened I was at first, but when Fëanor urged us on, I remembered only the lands awaiting us in the East, visions coming to me of wide unguarded lands, and I heard not the despairing cries of those I slew.

We sailed their ships toward Araman, and there our own brethren betrayed us, so thick was the deception and evil that day. Fëanor and his accursed sons stole the ships, and left us to die in the Ice, or come crawling back to the Valar, pleaing for pardon. Nay! I would not turn back though death take me! I followed my Lord Finrod over the Helcaraxë, where many of our people were lost to the Grinding Ice.

With lessened company Fingolfin stepped upon the westernmost shore of Middle-earth. Then the Moon rose for the first time, and it shone down upon our shields and hair as a sign of hope and beauty. And then it was that I felt my life began. For many Great Years I was held captive under the Valar, but my life began with my new freedom, I deemed. The liberty of wide, open lands, the liberty to avenge the Great Enemy, the liberty to rule ourselves under the vassal-ship of Elven-Lords, not Ainurin-Gods; to roam the wilds of Middle-earth: and all these I now had.

It was only the beginning of my life of torment.

Yet it did not begin as such. We lived in Mithrim to the North of the Lake with the High King Fingolfin. But Finrod, my Lord, was far-sighted, and knew that a stronghold would be needed for the Noldor against the Dark Power. Therefore he established the great city of Nargothrond, hewn into the mountains and caves surrounding the river Narog, and my heart rejoiced, for I, the son of Guilin, became a prince of this great realm, and I gave counsel to the great lords, planning attacks on Morgoth.

My brother Gelmir and I led many raids up the River Narog and east as far as Amon Rûdh, and west as far as the Sea, seeking the companies of orcs that ravaged the land. I loved the blood and glory, and I sang as I slew. My blood-splattered sword and armour held my glory, and my wounded body my honour. But wounds only heightened my skill and awareness, and weakened my complacency and frivolity in battle. My mind grew and body strengthened as the years passed; I grew in love for my people and King, and grew to find peace as a rare and sacred thing, to cherish it. But the flame of my passion against Morgoth burned fiercer. And it felt more victorious to spill the black blood of the vile orcs than the pure red blood of the Teleri, I remembered with a shudder of horror, for it was not fair voices crying out for pity and mercy that were silenced, but black hateful cursing voices. I felt more justified in killing orcs, for I felt so guilty for the Kinslaying.

Yet during the destruction of Dorthonion in the Dagor Bragollach, Gelmir was captured by the Dark Powers, and taken alive to Angband. I can still hear his screams in my mind, “Gwindor! Gwindor, torninya! áni eterúna!(1)” I tried to get to him, to cut my way through the orcs to where he was being carried off still fighting, but as I struggled his voice faded in the distance. I called to him in desperation, “Gelmir! Torninya! Túlan!(2)” But he was gone. Then the flame of my passion burned exceedingly, and did not fade, for I longed to avenge my brother’s imminent torment and death.

Soon after, King Finrod gave up his crown and left Nargothrond to the Stewardship of his brother Orodreth to fulfill an oath to the Man Beren of the House of Bëor. And for Beren Finrod gave his life in the dark torment of Thû in Tol-in-Gaurhoth, which he himself had built. I did not understand Finrod’s sacrifice, though I loved him all the more for it. For Fírimari are brief, dying after a short span on the Earth, as a match being lit that flames exceedingly for a second or so, then goes out. Whereas Elves are as a candle that burns steadily to the extent of the wick, flaming throughout the Ages until the End of the Earth.

Then Orodreth forbade us to go forth openly to war, for Morgoth’s power was strengthening. Thus in stealth and secrecy we patrolled the gates and forests of Nargothrond, shooting enemy trespassers with swift and silent arrows. This angered me, for I saw not the wisdom of Orodreth, but thought him weak, and I was yet sorrowful for the loss of my brother. But my life was not hateful, and I found great love in Finduilas, daughter of Orodreth, to whom I gave the tender name of Faelivren(3). We were betrothed, yet not wed, for a great battle was unfolding in the North(4), in which Morgoth, it was said, if not overthrown, would bear great loss to the wrath of the Noldor. Maedhros and his brethren should come from the east, and Fingon and Turgon with Húrin of the Edain from the west up the Fen of Serech.

At these new tidings, my hate and wrath against Morgoth burned within me, and against the will of Orodreth and the pleas of Finduilas I rode forth to the war with all the company I could muster. For I longed to avenge my fallen brother.

For that evil choice I shall never forgive myself.

We came to the Fen of Serech and joined the hosts of Turgon and Fingon the High King. We waited there behind the hills beyond Eithel Sirion and Rivil for the host of Morgoth to strike first. We would not be drawn out until the awaited word from Maedhros came in the east. But Morgoth, I suppose, desired to draw us out against our wisdom, and therefore set to cruelly bate us.

He sent emissaries from Angband to the river, but not across it, dragging behind them a creature gross and distorted, and he had been blinded. But I could see it was no orc, nor any servant of Morgoth. And as they came closer, I gazed upon his features and form, hoping to find any sign of recognition. And now I wish to all the Blessed Realm that I had not — for it was my brother Gelmir.

My mind and heart ached with hatred for the Dark One and fathomless sorrow for one so dearly loved, and so horribly ruined, for memories of our childhood in Valinor, of our shared archery and swordsmanship lessons, of raids in the night fighting side by side. I longed to leap forth, slay the beasts that dragged my dear brother, not needing to be bound for his helplessness, once a great warrior and prince of Nargothrond. But he was not my brother. How could he be? His deer coloured locks had been shorn to the skin, a high disgrace to one of the Eldar. A mere shadow of what he once was, his back was bent and he bore a great hump below his neck from labour unceasing. He was stooped so his withered arms nearly touched the ground. He stumbled along, guided by the orcs’ rough pushes and sneers. His hands were gnawed to the bone and twisted by years of tortuous labour(5). I saw no emotion on his face. No hint of recognition when I gasped his name. Perhaps he is deaf, too, I thought. No, he was not deaf. He was not my brother Gelmir. He was a ruined and mutilated form of life, blessed life scarred by the Darkness and haunted forever.

I did not understand all of that then.

Looking to my left I saw Fingon at the head of the ranks on his white horse. His eyes of steel were laced with pity and compassion, for he knew my sorrow, Do not go forward yet, they told me. I turned back to the wretched form of my brother, who had been led right before the hills where all the Elves could see, though we were hidden from their sight. And the herald cried out, in a voice cruel and cold, “We have many such at home,” he said, pointing to Gelmir, “but you must make haste if you would find them; for we shall deal with them all when we return even so.”(6) Then I watched in horror as they cut off Gelmir’s hands, and then his feet. He stumbled forward, but did not cry out. Perhaps all the years of torture had numbed him of pain. They hewed off his head, and his body, broken and scarred, lay in its own blood on the ground. The heralds laughed viciously and left the body there to rot in shame and dishonour.

I could not stand this. I burst forth on my horse from the mountains, and my company followed me, ill-prepared but willing. Crossing the river I slew the tormentors and drove forth into the main host. My burning wrath had at last overflowed. I cut my way through across Anfauglith and came even to the gates of Angband the Hell of Iron, and slew the surprised guards who stood there. I banged open the gates and stood in the very tunnels of Angband, and called out to Morgoth in my fury. It is said that Morgoth trembled in his halls upon hearing my onslaught. But that matters little to me now.

To my right I saw an elven lad fall. I looked behind me in horror, for my company had all been slain or separated. Where was Fingon? The main host had rushed forth right after me, for my fire had kindled them, but I was now cut off from the main host. Three more Elves fell beside me. I stood alone, but I would not give in! The orcs that menaced me with an evil lust fell one by one. My passion surged, and I fought.

But it was not strong enough. I was overcome. I was overcome and was not sorry to face death, not after what I had seen and what I had given my life to avenge. Perhaps Gelmir and I could find peace in the Halls of Mandos together.

But they did not slay me. Instead they dragged me down the dark tunnels of Anband, and I fought them with my bare hands, for they had taken my weapons away, but there were so many of them, oh so many.

And thus began my enslavement, that which shook the very roots of my being to the nethermost tendril. Mines there were, deep mines and forges in the eternal darkness of the dungeons. As a Noldo I had great skill in craft, and they forced me to form things for the Great Enemy with the very same hands I had used to hew them down, so long ago. The same fingers, once long and strong wielding a bow, were gnarled and torn, worn almost to stubs.

I had heard of the utter darkness. Yea, I had even seen what it could do in the form of my brother, yet I could not know what it would be to experience it myself, to know the feeling of my heart sinking so low that it would not rise again, that I would die from grief. But my captors would not let me die. I have heard of such things from mortals. For for Eldar memory is sometimes painful, but dreams are the sweet mead which soothes the soul, bringing hope for the morning. Túrin told me of nightmares in such utter despair that there seemed to be no morning, yet always, in the farthest glimmer of consciousness, there was hope for dawn.

But I had no glimmer of hope, for the nightmare was real, not just a intangible distortion of thought. For even my fair elvish dreams were disturbed by the agonized screams of the tormented, the smell of burning flesh, the pain and fear that haunted even my oneiric journeys. I found no rest. The darkness was interminable, so that I lost count of days and months and years. It was just an endless chain of despair: I had always been there, I would always be there; there was nothing else. Only the screams, the terror, the torment, and the darkness. Memories comforted me little, for they were unreal, a frail façade over what really was. The power of Darkness was greater than I could ever have imagined. It enveloped me, consumed even my thoughts.

When I had not, therefore, been a slave for very long, I tried to escape. But the twisting labyrinth was too much for me. I lost my way, and stumbled into a small orc, that I could have killed with my bare hands. But many more came right behind him, and before I could do anything they discovered my truancy. It was their favourite entertainment, to watch their worst enemy being beaten, helpless, and they laughed while the Balrog’s fiery whip cut and burned me until I was knocked unconscious. Then they threw me in a pile of vile filth in a dungeon so my wounds swelled with infection and pus. And they forced me to work thus, for they sneered that my folly had caused it, so I must pay the price. Yet I dared not strike back, in hand or tongue, lest my suffering increase. For to what would it avail if I did?

Years passed, maybe ages. I do not know. But it was my fate to escape, I suppose. For it was always in my thoughts, plans and outlines. But I knew they would do naught if I attempted them alone. I had to wait for the proper time…

I was forging a sword, another sword, which I did not care was sharp or well-welded, for the black demons of my living nightmare. It almost bit my hands, so much I loathed my task. There were only two orcs on duty. They strode up and down across the forge, cracking their whips into the air, sometimes allowing it to meet flesh for their perverted enjoyment. They smiled evilly at their power over us, we who would gladly have coated our swords with their black gore; but they had torture on their sides, and fear. I had already been whipped uncountable times. But that day I saw my chance to escape. I had looked carefully around the winding tunnels, seeking an opening to the outside world, where the sky opened above me. O! The Stars! I had forgotten what it was like to see them, to know that the shone on my head, guiding my way, hope for the darkness of Beleriand.

So I spoke to the elf next to me that we should each of us take an orc, for I knew that by the time I killed one, the other would raise the alarm and be upon me. But he shook his wizened head. “As much as I desire it, I cannot.” He pointed to his feet. I looked down to behold crippled feet, mangled and half the size they should have been. I nodded to him sadly. I didn’t want to know how it happened, and he didn’t seem to want to share. I turned to my left where a stronger-looking elf stood.

“I heard what you said,” he whispered.

“Hey! Get back to work there!” the guard snarled. A whip cracked close to my ear, and a foul smell lingered behind my shoulder as I bent back to work. The guard moved away to his station, glowering over the fair heads bent over the work tables.

The elf spoke to me again, this time in thought. I am Gilmith of Hithlum(7). Your desire is also mine. These miserable orcs boil my blood.

Well met. I am Gwindor. I thought back. There are two guards. With these scalding brands we could overtake them.

No, no, not the brands — the hammers. He stopped pretending to work and searched my eyes.

Hammers… I looked at the one that I held, its heaviness shaping my fate as I weighed it in my hand. I looked back at Gilmith. I’ll distract the one by the far wall-

“Hi! You lazy slaggards! I thought I told you to get back to work!” The orc brought down his whip behind us. This time it slashed Gilmith’s back. I saw his bright eyes flash, and he turned with rage and with a crack smote the orc on the head with his hammer. Its skull made a sickening crack as it fell to the ground, dead.

The other guard by the wall, seeing the commotion, loped over. “What’s going on over h-” The smash of my hammer silenced him forever. Then I ran. I dared not call out to the others to follow, but I heard their quiet feet follow me a little behind, around the corner, up the stairs. I had memorized the path, up to a point. Right, left, left, right, right- But then I halted. The road split to the right and left. I had never been farther than this before.

I heard the feet still pattering behind me, not yet caught up with me. I looked back and saw Gilmith following me down the tunnel, but suddenly from out of a door in the side wall, a group of orcs stepped out into his path, looking at him, blocking his path from me. “There he is! And the others, too!” An orc croaked, and pointed at Gilmith. I didn’t wait to see what happened, I just turned and bolted down the left corridor. I didn’t know if it was the correct passage or not. I almost didn’t care. I had to get out of there before they saw me. I had to escape.

It must had been the will of Ilúvatar that I escape; perhaps it was my fate pre-ordained. For after what seemed hours of endless running, stumbling through the labyrinthine catacombs of Angband, my mind blind with fear and numb with desperate urgency, I emerged to the outside world. And for the first time in years, I smelled air not saturated with the halitus of blood, heard the silence uninhabited by screams of torment, and felt the winds of freedom.

I emerged on the western side of Angband, and the cloud of darkness that covered the land aided me. I crept along shadowed by the darkness, my woodcraft protecting me, and I was not caught. Anfauglith was a barren wilderness, a choking wasteland of dust, ash, and fire. I did not care; I was used to such hauntingly horrible conditions. I was free from thralldom, and I only wanted to go back home to Nargothrond, to see my fair Faelivrin’s radiant smile and hear her kind voice; to sit once again in my room underground, feeling a soft feather pillow beneath my head, knowing that I shall never again be called from my restless slumber to the Halls of Torment.

And I thought that I was held captive by the Valar in Aman!

I struggled south through the choking desert, not really knowing the way. My feet were blistered and torn, and I left a trail of blood behind me on the cold rock and ash. But as I travelled it got warmer, so I knew I was going the right way. I don’t know how long it was; time does not seem to pass in the Dark Lord’s Realm. No sun, moon, or stars guided my path my day or night. But the dark cloud above me became less and less until I could at last see the stars for the first time in years. And I entered a hilly area that I did not know, but I felt I was getting closer to civilization. If I had known I was entering the dark realm of Taur-nu-Fuin, I might have turned back to wander in Anfauglith.

Dorthonion was the land of the Beorings until Dagor Bragollach when it was completely destroyed, its people wiped out, with nothing left but the charred remains of a civilization extinct, burned with black scorched trees and marshes, endless marshes of sickening, noisome oozing black streams, poisoned water. The divers trees were strewn endlessly in a dazzling fainting maze. They were twisted and scorched as if a great burning hand had roughly grabbed them and bent and twisted them for their torment. But when Sauron was defeated by Lúthien and fled Tol-in-Gaurhoth, he inhabited the demented land, and it was called Taur-nu-Fuin, because of the evil he brought there.

His spirits haunted the forest, and I was visited by disturbing dreams and could not rest. There was no one else there, no one but the dark phantoms that dwelt in the wood. I got desperately lost, and wandered for days, going in circles, following paths that led to another midge-infested bog, or copse of black haunted trees. I thought I would never escape. I would wander in this ghostly land of haunting ghouls until the end of Arda, or until I lost my mind.

I stopped to rest under a tree, for I wearied easily then, and its naked branches dripped eerily with slime. I heard a loud ruckus through the trees; the clanking of chains, and the cursed voices of growling orcs, arguing together, of course. I stood my ground, and peered through the trees, waiting to see as they cut through the land, frightened themselves of what it might do.

The orcs were not alone. They dragged with them a tall Elf, I thought, strong and unwilling to be mastered by those he bitterly hated. He struggled against them, and so strong was he that I thought he might burst his bonds. But obviously the orcs had had experience with his strength before, and they had him bound fast, with a gag about his mouth. But that did not stop the death glances that he gave to his captors that seemed to burn them. My heart reached out to him in compassion. He would be taken to Angband, alive, either to be tortured and cruelly put to death, if he was lucky, or enslaved, as I had been.

Pity welled in my heart, and I thought to follow him. But what good would that do? I bore no weapon, I had no chance or means to free him. All I would succeed in doing is getting myself captured, and brought again to Angband to face torment and thralldom once more. Even the thought I could not face. My body shook in haunted memory. No, I could not follow him. I must try to get out of this accursed forest, which was as hopeless as being ensnared once again by Morgoth…

It was in this condition that Beleg found me, or rather stumbled onto me in the darkness.

“Fair greetings, my kinsman,” he said in Sindarin. “I am Beleg Cúthalion of Doriath. Who are you, and how have you come to be in this wretched place?”

“I am Gwindor Guilinion of Nargothrond,” I replied. “In the Nirnaeth Arnoediad I was taken captive to Angband, and made a thrall… ” The compassion and concern on his face made me spill out my whole story. I was so relieved to have found another person, anyone, with whom I could speak. And he spoke so kindly to me! It had been so long since I had heard soft or soothing words spoken. Beleg listened with rapt attention and understanding, and horror on his face. He also gave me some lembas from Queen Melian, and it greatly sustained and encouraged me, for I had not had wholesome sustenance for… well, a long time.

“I am glad I have stumbled upon you, my friend. Taur-nu-Fuin is no pleasant place to wander alone.” He gave a little shudder. “I am searching for my friend,” he continued, “a tall man with dark hair, strong and proud.”

My eyes widened and I suddenly felt guilty for caring so much about myself that I had not even asked this kind elf why he was wandering alone in Taur-nu-Fuin. “Yes! I have seen him.” I said, “A great company of orcs passed a little while ago burdened by such a one.”

Beleg laughed at my use of the word burden. “That was Túrin, alright. A fine Man, and proud.”

“A Man, you say?” I asked.

“Indeed. The son of Húrin Thalion. He dwelt in Doriath as a boy after his father was taken to Angband alive and never seen again. Túrin is a valiant warrior, like his father, more greatly skilled than many an elf. But I will tell you his story as we go on, for I mean to follow him.” I guess I looked surprised, for he said, “That is, if you wish to come with me.”

My mind was frantic for a moment. “You cannot go!” I cried, “lest you wish to share in his torment in the deep tunnels of Angband! I know! For I have been there!” Beleg looked sadly and compassionately at me, for my eyes were filled with terror and my fists clenched with fear. For I was a shadow of what I once was, my back bent and stooped, my hands gnawed to the bone, my body twisted and contorted, just as my brother’s had been. But I had not lost my mind, as I fear Gelmir had, and Beleg had seen that. He answered softly that he would not abandon Túrin, no matter his own fate, and he persuaded me to follow him, and not remain lost in the winding maze.

So I went with him, and despite my own fear I was glad. At last, a companion! I didn’t care if I wandered in Taur-nu-Fuin until the End now. A kind friend was all I needed. I had been so desperately alone for so long.

We travelled through the haunted forest, Beleg leading the way, for he was a very skilled woodsman, and aptly followed the orcs’ tracks. Meanwhile, he told me about his and Túrin’s friendship.

“We patrolled the land of Dimbar, on the north-western borders of Doriath. And after some years and many trials he was taken captive on Amon Rûdh, when our hideaway was revealed. I was grievously wounded, but was healed, and have followed Túrin and the orc trail here.” I marvelled at his tale, and my heart reached out to him, who loved his friend so deeply that he would put himself in such dire straights to save him — a mortal. He reminded me of King Finrod, whom I had betrayed in fear so long ago. I must not betray Beleg, I thought.

We reached the orc camp the next night, and it was a very dangerous plight. There were hordes of orcs, all lying in a drunken stupor about the ashes of a fire. At first I laughed to myself. In their inebriation they had left no watch. But when Beleg silently drew out his bow of yew, I saw them: great wolves of massive girth, with glittering eyes of malice and slavering maws, their white teeth gleaming. I looked around more carefully for Túrin, and when I saw him I stiffened.

He was tied cruelly to a tree, so tightly that blood was seeping out from his wrists and ankles. All about his body on the tree were stabbed black knives that the orcs had thrown. He was asleep in an almost unconscious state of exhaustion. My blood boiled with a surge of hatred, but I remained silent and motionless.

For Beleg, with immeasurable archery skill, was shooting the wolves. No one stirred. The only sound was the quiet whoosh of Beleg’s arrow, finding its way to its final rest in a wolfish skull. When all were dead, we stole out in great peril and cut the ropes that bound Túrin to the tree, carefully carrying him over into the thorny brakes out of sight to cut the bonds around his hands and feet, for it was too dangerous to do it in the open, and we could not carry him very far, for he was heavy.

A storm began to brew in the sky. The deep clouds gathered and threatened to strike with rain and lightening. Beleg cut the chains from Túrin’s arms with Anglachel, the black sword of Doriath, and as he cut the bonds on his feet the blade slipped, and slightly cut Túrin’s foot.

Then Túrin awoke, and seeing one bending over him with unsheathed blade in the darkness, he thought it to be the orcs come back to torment him. And he grappled with Beleg Cúthalion in the darkness, and he took Anglachel and slew him. And at that moment, a great strike of lighting flashed, and Túrin beheld what he had done, and the sight of his face, flickering in the lightning, filled with insurmountable pain and grief, made me cower and look down.

The storm began to rage as if in great anger, and the orcs nearby were aroused, and cried out in fear, for they thought that the Lords beyond the Sea were bringing their wrath upon them. And they saw that Túrin was gone. So I cried out to Túrin, telling him of our utmost peril, but my voice was lost in the roaring of the wind and the falling sheets of rain. Still, it would not have availed, for he sat silent as stone, unmoving, un-weeping, staring at the lifeless face of his dearest friend in the world.

But the will Ilúvatar was with us, maybe, for the orc company, deeming their captive absconded far away, and in terror of the storm, moved on northwards, and came back to Morgoth empty-handed. But still Túrin sat, and said nothing. And when morning came the storm passed, and I rose to aid Túrin in the burial of Beleg. He walked as one that is asleep, and did not seem to notice me as we lay Beleg in a shallow grave, setting beside him Belthronding, his bow of yew. I took Anglachel, saying it were better to take vengeance upon Morgoth that let it rot in the earth.

A new strength and hope then surged within me. I led Túrin from the woods of Taur-nu-Fuin for the path was laid straight to me, and he followed me south down the mountains of Ered Wethrin, still silent as one who walks in his sleep. He did not speak to me, and his eyes looked as if they saw things far away that had no meaning, and he walked as one without purpose, and indelible grief was graven upon his face.

I brought him to the pool of Ivrin, which I had longed to see, and it sparkled gold in the sunlight. The power of Ulmo had always been strong there, keeping it undefiled and breathtakingly beautiful. Its pulchritude and power to heal and give comfort was renown, and it healed my hurts and sorrows, and my strength was renewed, and I was given hope and perseverance to return back to my home in Nargothrond. So I spoke to Túrin, who stood with glazed eyes, motionless by the water: “Awake, Túrin son of Húrin! For at the pools of Ivrin are found endless laughter. Her spring comes from Ulmo’s crystal fountains that never fail, and which he wrought in days of old.”

So he bent down to drink, and upon receiving the water his tears were at last released, and they flowed as a great deluge from an opened dam, and he wept bitterly for a long time, and was released from the bonds of madness that had gripped him.

Then he looked up at me with seeing eyes for the first time. “Who are you?” he said.

“I am a wandering elf, who escaped the dungeons of Angband, and whom Beleg Cúthalion befriended. Yet once I was Gwindor son of Guilin, a lord of Nargothrond.”

“Then have you seen Húrin son of Galdor of Dorlómin?”

“No, but rumour in Angband says that he still defies Morgoth, and Morgoth has put a curse upon him and his kin.”

“That I believe,” he said.

We left Eithel Ivrin and followed the eastern bank of the River Narog down to the hidden gate of Nargothrond between Narog and Ginglith, for I wished to return home, and Túrin desired to go with me, and to that I was not averse at all, for a great friendship had grown between us. The archers of Nargothrond, whom I once led through the woods, intercepted us, and would not let us pass. “Yet, behold!” I said, “I am Gwindor, lord of Nargothrond, whom ye loved and served in years past!”

But they seemed bewildered and brought us to the palace before the seat of Orodreth bound as prisoners. Yet none knew me, save only one. I had left a lord of Elves, tall, strong and valiant, with bright eyes and fiery spirit, and had returned as one aged of mortal men, my spirit quelled, the light in my eyes burned out. I looked into the eyes of Finduilas, my fair Faelivrin whom I had loved so dear, and whose shining smile I so longed to see again in my dark days in Angband. Gazing into my eyes, she alone recognized me(8), for she had loved me before the Nirnaeth, and had despaired at the tidings of my capture. She was angry that I had been led in bound as an enemy, and she welcomed me as a lost warrior returned, and gave me great honour. And for my sake Túrin was welcomed to Nargothrond.

I thought that returning home might heal my ailments, being light to my gloomy heart, for the darkness was still heavy on me. But I seemed destined to live a troglodytic existence. Not even my own people knew me; my body was too weary and toil-ridden to go scour the woods with the archers, and my mind was not the same. I was not insane, but darkness and pain deeply engraved may fade a little in time, but it shall leave indelible scars and memory. I mostly kept to myself and stayed in my room; I no longer had any taste or desire for social interaction or communion. Finduilas visited me often, though my melancholy weariness pained her, and I knew that she wept and had much sorrow over my pain, and the change that had come over me. I was not the Gwindor that she once knew.

Perhaps that is why it was not so hard for me to bear when her heart turned to Túrin. She did it not willingly, and she grew paler and more sorrowful as the days past, and fell silent, for she had loved me, she had wanted so desperately to be my wife and bear my children; but because of the vast change in me, her heart had chosen for her, and pulled her towards one like the love she had once known. Túrin had grown in favour with all of the Elves of Nargothrond, especially in the eyes of Orodreth, and they named him Adanedhel, Elf-Man, because he was more fair of face than any other of the Edain, being the son of Morwen Eledhwen, and he was refined to the ways and customs of the Doriathrin Elves.

But I sat alone in shadowed thought, and brooded over my golden maiden, torn by love and grief. Thus when Finduilas came to see me, I spoke to her about it plainly. I told her that though Morgoth had lain my life to ruin, I loved her still; but that she should let her own love guide her. “But beware!” I cautioned her, “For if one of the First-born marry one of the Second-born, much grief will their life entail, for they are brief, and pass quickly from the World, leaving us widowed while it lasts. And this Man is not Beren, for a great doom lies upon him.”

She looked at me with eyes brimming with sorrow, the joyful light in her eyes quenched, and they stabbed my heart more than all my years of enslavement, when I wished for her in my torment, and begged that I could hold her one last time.

So I was left alone. Even in the counsels I was shunned, being a great warrior no more. Túrin sat at the right hand of Orodreth, and Orodreth listened deeply to his counsel. And very soon Túrin ordered things as he wished, for he was a born leader, I could see that, but his decisions were often brash and proud. He ordered the building of a great bridge over the River Narog, which led to the Gate of Nargothrond, the Doors of Felagund. Now for years our strength had been in secrecy and hiding, for Morgoth knew not yet exactly where Nargothrond lay. Nonetheless Túrin delighted in open battle, and thought nothing could be accomplished against the enemy save in open war, and I suppose that is yet another difference between the two Kindreds. For their life is brief, and they would spend their bright flame valiantly against Morgoth while they can, but the Eldar would live for many years and preserve what they have ere Morgoth could overcome it. Thus a great bridge was built, and magnificent as it was, it was the bane of Nargothrond, for now they went openly to battle, and our place of hiding was at last laid bare.

A shadow followed Túrin wherever he went, and I rue that I ever brought him to Nargothrond. The Battle of Tumhalad went awry, for Morgoth’s forces were by far the greater, and they were led by Glaurung the Golden, the Great Worm, who caused a great burning over the plain of Talath Dirnen. And we were utterly defeated.

For who shall deny the counsels of Ulmo?(9) Who has seen into the depths of the thought of he who has walked in the Deeps, which none other has seen, who came from without before the wheels of Time began to turn and who joined in the Great Music of the World? Only the most proud and haughty would dare, and many must fall into darkness with them. And though Ulmo’s warnings were scorned(10), and we went arrayed in glory to war, I picked up my long-idle sword and bow, and strapped a quiver of arrows onto my bent back, and joined the forces of Nargothrond that once I led, for I would not be left to linger in empty halls with women and children in shame and dishonour, though our armies be victorious or no. For I had nothing left; nothing else to live for. My love was gone, and my life was broken in ruin, and Morgoth’s forces would overcome all our valour in the end.

That was my last battle. I could no longer fight with my body marred, bent, and weary, and I was fatally wounded. I lay on the ground panting, blood gushing from my many wounds, as my foe stood over me to strike his final blow, when Túrin appeared in the fray, and thrust his way through, and our enemies fled before him(11). He carried me away with arms like steel bands, and brought me out of the fighting away beneath some trees. He was sorrowful, seeing my many wounds, and began to tend them. But I said, “Alas, son of Húrin! I am wounded to the death. Naught can save me now, neither do I desire it. But do not tarry! Go save Finduilas! For though I love you, I rue the day I saved you from the orcs, for you have taken away all that I once held dear, and Nargothrond is fallen. Hurry now, and save the only thing that remains to me that once I held dear.” Then he looked at me with sad eyes, softly touched my arm, and turned away, vanishing into the trees.

Thus I died, and was glad to go. As my fëa left the broken vessel of my body, I looked down below to the blood-strewn valley and ruin of Nargothrond, and up to the North where unpierceable shadows hovered, to spread and cloak the whole world in darkness, and as the sorrowful shore grew small to my view, my spirit passed into the West. And here I sit in the Halls of Mandos, and though I do not see them, one by one my friends join me, and Finduilas came soon after I. Slowly time passes here, time in which I can only reflect on my past life and its darkness. Mandos has judged that I stay here for a time. I do not know how long, neither do I care, for I do not desire to leave. I desire not to walk in a body on the golden streets of Valinor while the Dark Power prevails over the Hither Lands. For still his power grows, and Doriath has fallen, and soon Gondolin will fall, for it cannot withstand the brutal storm of Morgoth’s hatred. There is no hope for those in Middle-earth, save death only. Yet death was no boon for me, who so long desired it, for my torment lives on; I only no longer have a body to be battered by the toils of the world. The darkness has fallen upon us, and none can escape it; nay, not even the dead. And its power shall spread, for who but I has seen so intimately the terrible power of the Dark One? Who hath known the depths of the thought of the greatest one Ilúvatar made? He shall prevail, and darkness will fall; yea, it is already upon us, for even the might of the Valar and Aman cannot withstand him.

I can almost hear his cruel voice echoing in the Halls, tormenting even my dead broken spirit, “Ullumë autuva i mornië.”(12)

(1) Quenya, means “my brother! Save me!” I used Quenya because I figured the two Calaquendi brothers would speak their native tongue together, rather than Sindarin (even though it was outlawed by Thingol at that time).
(2) Quenya, means “my brother! I’m coming!”
(3)means ‘the gleam of the sun on the pools of Ivrin’
(4) Elves were not accustomed to marrying before going to war. See ‘Laws and Customs of the Eldar’, Morgoth’s Ring Volume X The History of Middle Earth
(5) Eight-teen years had passed since the Dagor Bragollach
(6) Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad, The Silmarillion p. 191 (published by Houghton Mifflin Co.)
(7) “Many of the Noldor and the Sindar [of Hithlum] they took captive and led to Angband, and made them thralls, forcing them to use their skill and their knowledge in the service of Morgoth.” Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin, The Silmarillion p.156
(8) “For Finduilas daughter of Orodreth, to whom Gwindor had been betrothed, alone of his people knew him again after the torments of Angband.” The War of the Jewels Volume XI, pg. 83
(9) ” ‘Hear the word of the Lord of the Waters!’ said they [Gelmir and Arminas] to the King… ‘ “Say therefore to the lord of Nargothrond: Shut the doors of the fortress and go not abroad. Cast the stones of your pride into the loud river, that the creeping evil may not find the gate!” ‘ Of Túrin Turambar, The Silmarillion p.212
(10) “But Túrin mistrusted the messengers, and he said in scorn… ” Appendix of Narn I Hîn Húrin, Unfinished Tales p.168 (Ballantine Books)
(11) “And in a grim mood he [Túrin] found also in the armouries a dwarf-mask all gilded, and he put it on before battle, and his enemies fled before his face.” “But Túrin came to his [Gwindor’s] aid, and all fled before him” Of Túrin Turambar, The Silmarillion p. 210, 212
(12) Quenya, means “The Darkness will never pass away.”

Time-line of events (in Sun Years):
1 — Rising of the Moon; Fingolfin leads host of Noldor to Middle-earth
455 — Dagor Bragollach; Gelmir taken captive to Angband (and many other Noldor of Hithlum)
465 — Finrod Felagund’s death in Tol-in-Gaurhoth
472 — Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Unnumbered Tears; Gwindor taken captive to Angband, Fingon High King of the Noldor slain, Húrin taken captive to Angband
489 — Gwindor escapes from Angband and is found by Beleg in Taur-nu-Fuin, Beleg slain, Gwindor leads Túrin away
490 — Túrin is healed at the pools of Ivrin, and Gwindor leads him to Nargothrond
495 — Battle of Tumhalad; Gwindor is slain; fall of Nargothrond.

Sources from: The War of the Jewels, Volume XI, The Grey Annals


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Found in Home 5 Reading Room 5 Stories 5 The Darkness Will Never Pass Away – Gwindor reflects on his life

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