In J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional legendarium, Beleriand was a region in northwestern Middle-earth during the First Age. Events in Beleriand are described chiefly in his work The Silmarillion, which tells the story of the early ages of Middle-earth in a style similar to the epic hero tales of Nordic literature, with a pervasive sense of doom over the character's actions. Beleriand also appears in the works The Book of Lost Tales, The Children of Húrin, and in the epic poems of The Lays of Beleriand.
|J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium location|
|Locations||Arvernien, Doriath, Falas, Nargothrond, Nevrast, Ossiriand, Taur-im-Duinath|
|Period||Start of Years of the Trees to end of First Age|
Tolkien tried many names for the region in his early writings, among them Broceliand, the name of an enchanted forest in medieval romance, and Ingolondë, a play on "England" when he hoped to create a mythology for England rooted in the region. The scholar Gergely Nagy has found possible signs of the structure and style of Beleriand's poetry in the prose of The Silmarillion.
Events in Beleriand are described chiefly in the second half of the Quenta Silmarillion,[T 1] which tells the story of the early ages of Middle-earth in a style similar to the epic hero tales of Norse mythology. Beleriand also appears in the works The Book of Lost Tales, The Children of Húrin, and in the epic poems of The Lays of Beleriand.[T 2]
The land is occupied by Teleri Elves of King Thingol from the east, who found the city of Menegroth in the forest realm of Doriath. Other Elves, the Vanyar and Noldor, cross the Belegaer sea to Valinor. The Noldor of Kings Finrod of the realm of Nargothrond and Turgon of Gondolin return, resented by the Teleri. Later, Men arrive from the east, fleeing from an encounter with the satanic Vala Morgoth. Morgoth gathers a great army of Orcs, Balrogs and other monsters in his fortress of Angband beneath the Thangorodrim mountains in the north of Beleriand, and attacks the Elves repeatedly. Despite the threat, Thingol refuses to fight alongside the Noldor. One by one, the realms of Doriath, Nargothrond, and Gondolin all fall to assaults, assisted by betrayals and disputes among Elves, Men, and Dwarves. Finally, the Valar of Valinor ask the creator, Eru Ilúvatar, to stop Morgoth. Ilúvatar ends the War of Wrath and the First Age of Middle-earth by destroying Angband and banishing Morgoth. Beleriand's inhabitants flee, and much of Beleriand sinks into the sea.[T 3] Only a small section of the eastern edge of Beleriand survives, including part of the Ered Luin (Blue Mountain) range and the land of Lindon, which became part of the far northwestern shore of Middle-earth.[T 4]
Beleriand is a region in the far northwest of Middle-earth, bordering the great sea, Belegaer. It is bounded to the north by the Ered Engrin, the Iron Mountains, and to the east by the Ered Luin, the Blue Mountains.[T 5]
|Arvernien||The southernmost region of Beleriand, bordered on the east by the Mouths of Sirion. It contained the birch forest of Nimbrethil, mentioned in the poem "Song of Eärendil", which Frodo hears in Rivendell: "Eärendil was a mariner / that tarried in Arvernien; / he built a boat of timber felled / in Nimbrethil to journey in; ..."[T 6][T 7]|
|Doriath ("Land of the fence", i.e. the Girdle of Melian)||The realm of the Sindar, the Grey Elves of King Thingol.[T 5][T 8]|
|The Falas ("shore")||The realm of Círdan the Shipwright and his Sindar Elves in the years of Starlight and the First Age of the Sun. They lived in two havens, Eglarest at the mouth of the River Nenning, and Brithombar at the mouth of the River Brithon. The Havens were besieged during the First Battle of Beleriand. When the Havens were destroyed, Círdan's people fled to the Mouths of Sirion and the Isle of Balar.[T 9]|
|Gondolin ("hidden rock")||A hidden city of Elves in the north of Beleriand, founded by Turgon, and hidden from Morgoth by mountains.[T 10]|
|Hithlum ("mist-shadow")||The region north of Beleriand near the icy Helcaraxë. It contains Mithrim, where the High Kings of the Noldor had their halls, and Dor-lómin, later a fief of Men of the House of Hador. Hithlum was cold and rainy, but fertile.[T 5]|
|March of Maedhros||The northeastern border region of Beleriand. A great fortress was built on the hill of Himring, the chief stronghold of Maedhros, from which he guarded the area.[T 5] It was the only fortress to survive the Dagor Bragollach, the Battle of Sudden Flame; the forces of Angband captured it in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, the Battle of Unnumbered Tears.[T 11] After the Drowning of Beleriand, the peak of Himring remained above the waves as an island.[T 12]|
|Nargothrond ("underground fortress on the river Narog")||Built by Finrod Felagund, delved into the banks of the river Narog in Beleriand.[T 13]|
|Nevrast ("hither shore", as opposed to Aman)||A coastal region in the north of Beleriand; its city is Vinyamar.[T 5] It was the centre of Turgon's Elven kingdom until people left for Gondolin.|
|Ossiriand ("land of seven rivers")||The most easterly region of Beleriand during the First Age, between the Ered Luin and the river Gelion. It is a green and forested land.[T 5]|
|Dor Daedeloth ("Land of the Shadow of Dread")||Far to the north, the area around Morgoth's fortress of Angband under the peaks of Thangorodrim, and the Ered Engrin, the Iron Mountains.[T 5]|
Beleriand had many different names in Tolkien's early writings, including Broceliand, the name of an enchanted forest in medieval romance, Golodhinand, Noldórinan ("valley of the Noldor"), Geleriand, Bladorinand, Belaurien, Arsiriand, Lassiriand, and Ossiriand (later used for the easternmost part of Beleriand).[T 14]
One of Beleriand's early names was Ingolondë, a play on "England", part of Tolkien's long-held but ultimately unsuccessful aim to create what Shippey calls "a mighty patron for his country, a foundation-myth more far-reaching than Hengest and Horsa, one to which he could graft his own stories." Tolkien's aim had been to root his mythology for England in the scraps of names and myths that had survived, and to situate it in a land in the northwest of the continent, by the sea.
A sense of doomEdit
Shippey writes that the Quenta Silmarillion has a tightly-woven plot, each part leading ultimately to tragedy. There are three Hidden Elvish Kingdoms in Beleriand, founded by relatives, and they are each betrayed and destroyed. The Kingdoms are each penetrated by a mortal Man, again all related to each other; and the sense of doom, which Shippey glosses as "future disaster", hangs heavy over all of the characters in the tale.
|Man who penetrates
Shippey writes that the human race seen in Beleriand in the First Age did not "originate 'on stage' in Beleriand, but drifts into it, already sundered in speech, from the East [the main part of Middle-earth]. There something terrible has happened to them of which they will not speak: 'A darkness lies behind us... and we have turned our backs upon it'". He comments that the reader is free to assume that the Satanic Morgoth has carried out the Biblical serpent's temptation of Adam and Eve, and that "the incoming Edain and Easterlings are all descendants of Adam flying from Eden and subject to the curse of Babel."
The Tolkien scholar Gergely Nagy writes that Tolkien did not explicitly embed samples of Beleriand's poetry in his prose, as he had done with his many poems in The Lord of the Rings. Instead, he wrote the prose of The Silmarillion in such a way as to hint repeatedly at the style of its "lost" poetry. Nagy notes David Bratman's description of the book as containing prose styles that he classifies as "the Annalistic, [the] Antique, and the Appendical". The implication of the range of styles is that The Silmarillion is meant to represent, in Christopher Tolkien's words, "a compilation, a compendious narrative, made long afterwards from sources of great diversity (poems, and annals, and oral tales)".[T 4] Nagy infers from verse-like fragments of text in The Silmarillion that the poetry of Beleriand used alliteration, rhyme, and rhythm including possibly iambics.
This applies to the Ainulindalë, Tolkien's account of the godlike Ainur:
|Ainulindalë,[T 15] with Nagy's emphasis||Nagy's commentary|
and they built lands and Melkor destroyed them;
|Prose adapted from poetry, with "rhetorics" and "stricter syntactic patterns"; parataxis and balanced clauses "bearing a structural and thematic similarity"|
It applies, too, to the narrative of Elves and Men in the Beleriand landscape, in the Quenta Silmarillion:
|Poem-like prose[T 16] with Nagy's emphasis||Nagy's commentary|
But there was a deep way under the mountains
|"Alliteration and rhythm are beautifully seen together"|
In a few places, it is possible to relate the adapted verse in the prose to actual verse in Tolkien's legendarium. This can be done, for instance, in parts of the story of Túrin. Here, he realizes he has just killed his friend Beleg:
|"Adapted verse lines"[T 17] with Nagy's emphasis||The verse Túrin (1273–1274)||Nagy's commentary|
Then Túrin stood stone still and silent, staring
stone-faced he stood standing frozen
|"Nearly all the alliterating words, together with the alliteration pattern itself, doubtless derive from the poem; the imagery and to some extent the very phrasing of this very moving central scene ... [are] virtually unchanged."|
- This list identifies each item's location in Tolkien's writings.
- ^ Tolkien 1977, chs. 13–24
- ^ Tolkien 1985, Preface
- ^ Tolkien 1977, ch. 24 Of the Voyage of Earendil and the War of Wrath
- ^ a b Tolkien 1977, Foreword
- ^ a b c d e f g Tolkien 1977, ch. 14 "Of Beleriand and its Realms"
- ^ Tolkien 1954a, book 2, ch. 1 "Many Meetings"
- ^ Tolkien 1977, "Index of Names", "Arvernien"
- ^ Tolkien 1977, "Index of Names", "Doriath"
- ^ Tolkien 1977, ch. 10 "Of the Sindar"
- ^ Tolkien 1977, "Index of Names", "Gondolin"
- ^ Tolkien 1994, "The Grey Annals", p. 77
- ^ See The Treason of Isengard, p. 124 and note 18, and Unfinished Tales, note on map in Introduction.
- ^ Tolkien 1977, ch. 13 "Of the Return of the Noldor"
- ^ Tolkien 1986, "Commentary on Canto I"
- ^ Tolkien 1977, Ainulindalë
- ^ Tolkien 1977, ch. 15 Of the Noldor in Beleriand
- ^ Tolkien 1977, ch. 21 Of Túrin Turambar
- ^ Shippey 2005, pp. 324–328
- ^ Gardner, John (23 October 1977). "Book Review: The Silmarillion, The World of Tolkien". The New York Times.
- ^ Tritel, Barbara (24 May 1984). "Book Review: The Book of Lost Tales, Language and Prehistory of the Elves". The New York Times.
- ^ Crace, John (4 April 2007). "Book Review: The Children of Húrin by JRR Tolkien". The Guardian.
- ^ a b c d Shippey 2005, p. 268.
- ^ a b c Shippey 2005, pp. 287–296.
- ^ Garth 2020, p. 65
- ^ a b Fimi, Dimitra (2007). "Tolkien's 'Celtic type of legends': Merging Traditions". Tolkien Studies. 4: 53–72. doi:10.1353/tks.2007.0015. S2CID 170176739.
- ^ a b Shippey 2005, pp. 349–351.
- ^ a b c d e f Nagy, Gergely (2004). "The Adapted Text: The Lost Poetry of Beleriand". Tolkien Studies. 1 (1): 21–41. doi:10.1353/tks.2004.0012.
- Garth, John (2020). The Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien: The Places that Inspired Middle-earth. London: Frances Lincoln. ISBN 978-0-7112-4127-5. OCLC 1181910875.
- Shippey, Tom (2005) . The Road to Middle-Earth (Third ed.). HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0261102750.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954a). The Fellowship of the Ring. The Lord of the Rings. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. OCLC 9552942.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1977). Christopher Tolkien (ed.). The Silmarillion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-395-25730-2.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1985). Christopher Tolkien (ed.). The Lays of Beleriand. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-39429-5.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1986). Christopher Tolkien (ed.). The Shaping of Middle-earth. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-395-42501-5.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1994). Christopher Tolkien (ed.). The War of the Jewels. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-71041-3.
- Parma Endorion: Essays on Middle-earth (3rd edition) by Michael Martinez