Welcome to the last week of our Silmarillion read-along! In the month of March, we read and discussed J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. For an in-depth weekly reading schedule, head over to my announcement post.
Disclaimer: All cited passages were taken from The Silmarillion unless stated otherwise.
Week 5: Shadow and Deception
With the Silmarillion coming to an end, the people in Middle-earth face many changes. Not least of all is the replacement of Morgoth by his servant Sauron as the dark lord in Middle-earth. Deceptions, however, does not decrease. Yet, hope also does not cease to exist and surfaces in unexpected ways.
Deception Leading to the Tragedy of the Children of Hurin
During what turned out to be the last centuries and decades of Morgoth in Middle-earth, his power and malice manifested itself tragically in the life and death of Túrin Turambar and all those that crossed his path. When Túrin gets send away for his protection, a brief passage foreshadows the events to come and reveals how his life is doomed by deception:
“Therefore in the autumn of the Year of Lamentation Morwen sent Túrin forth over the mountains with two aged servants, bidding them to find entry, if they could, into the kingdom of Doriath. (Of Túrin Turambar)”.
Lamentation, the constant fleeing from place to place and a continuous deception of his true identity haunted Túrin until the very end. Now, of course, the tragedy of Túrin and his sister Nienor falling in love by mistake is one of Morgoth’s greatest acts of malice and deception. However, all of Túrin’s relationships were tainted by deceptions and misunderstandings long before that.
Deceived by exhaustion and darkness, Túrin mistook Beleg for an Orc and slew him. Again and again, deception, so it seems, becomes a shadow on the mind of a person. Unable to perceive the truth, as in the case of Nienor’s loss of memory, characters in The Silmarillion are easily lead into the Morgoth’s and Sauron’s darkness.
Yet, most interestingly, shadows cannot come into being without light. Thus, it seems, as if the entire tragedy of the Children of Hurin, alongside many other tragedies in The Silmarillion, were bound to happen. As if it were part of Iluvatar’s music all along. Maybe the purpose and fate of Arda and everything in it not so much the question why tragic events occur or why so many have to suffer, but how each creature in Middle-earth reacts in the face of tragedy. Or as Gandalf explained to Frodo:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “so do all who have to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what we do with the time that is given to us”. (FOTR, “Shadow of the Past”)
Deceit and the downfall of Númenor
Towards the end of the novel, the downfall of Númenor is one of the most dire examples of the effects of deceit. Despite all their wealth, material or otherwise, the Numenorian’s are lead astray by Sauron’s lies into their own doom. Through Sauron’s deceptions and lies, the Númenóreans not only began to worship Morgoth, they also began to fear death and their own mortality. In their desire not to die, they ended up spending an increasing amount of time, devoting their lives to death:
“[…] the power of Sauron daily increased, and in that temple, with spilling of blood and torment and great wickedness, men made sacrifice to Melkor that he should release them from Death […] But for all this Death did not depart from the land, rather it came sooner and more often, and in many dreadful guises” (Alkallabëth).
Yet, as we all know, Sauron’s deceit went even further. With the creation of the rings of power Sauron’s deceit set in motion a series of events with which we all too familiar with.
Thank you very much for this read-along! I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did whether you were able to read the Silmarillion or not. Moreover, I hope that certain themes or motifs are now much clearer to you.
I would really appreciate it if you could leave a brief comment with some feedback in regards to the organization or structure of this read-along. What did you like? What did you dislike? Anything I could’ve done different? Any constructive criticism is most welcome!