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What Doesn’t Make Sense About the War of Wrath and the Breaking of Beleriand

04.20.09 | Kunochan | 4 Comments

There are two things about my all-time favorite novel, The Silmarillion, that always bothered me.

The first was that Túrin Turambar was such a dick. In the original Silmarillion version of “Of Túrin Turambar,” I always felt Túrin was an entirely unsympathetic character, less Oedipus and more Percy Wetmore, doomed by his own belligerence and stupidity. I hated him, and rooted for Glaurung.

But the Túrin we meet in The Children of Húrin is quite different. By expanding the story significantly, Christopher JRR Tolkien creates a likable Túrin whose eventual doom feels orchestrated by Morgoth, rather than by Túrin himself.

The other problem is something important that I feel was left out, leaving the story incomplete. And I don’t mean an origin for Iarwain Ben-adar. Or an explanation for how Hobbits split off from Men. Or the story of Amroth and Nimrodel, which would have been nice, as it’s central to the life story of Galadriel. Or how about those damn cats?

I mean Chapter XXV of Quenta Silmarillion, “Of the Exodus to Eriador.”

As we know, after Melkor gets his ass handed to him in the Dagor Aglareb, things turn ill for Elven- and Man-kind. Sauron takes (the original) Minas Tirith; Glaurung takes Nargothrond; the Seven Sons of Fëanor sack Doriath, doing Melkor’s work for him; and Melkor’s army ravages the Falas, and finally takes Gondolin. The Elvish and Mannish kingdoms are decimated and scattered.

This finally gets the Valar off their asses. The Host of Valinor comes over the sea, joins up with the Edain and attacks Melkor directly. The Host of Morgoth is utterly defeated, and Melkor is banished from Arda for the remainder of Time. Hooray!

They also remember to capture Sauron, because he could cause a lot of trouble — oh, never mind.

Unfortunately, the War of Wrath is so wrathful that the Beleriandian (is that a word?) sub-continent is almost completely destroyed, and sinks below the sea. This is very bad news for all the people who still live there, whether Noldor, Sindar, Edain or other Men.

The Valar invite all the Elves to Valinor, but lots of them refuse — Galadriel, Celeborn, Círdan, Elrond, Gil-galad, Celebrimbor and many more. The Edain follow Elros to Númenor, but lots of Men are left behind in Beleriand.

So.. how did all the surviving Elves and Men get to Eriador? How close were they to being destroyed in the Breaking of Beleriand? Who led them East? Did they have any adventures?

Tolkien was hardly one for just teleporting his characters from one place to another. He fully described how the three tribes of the Eldar got to Aman, and how the Dúnedain got to Númenor. So how did the refugees from the War of Wrath make it to Eriador?

Am I missing something? Did Tolkien scribble something relevant on the back of an old copy of Perelandra, and Christopher published it in volume XXXIV of The History of Middle Earth?

As far as I can tell, this is something that Tolkien not only did not write about, but didn’t even consider. Am I wrong?

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