The Fall of Gondolin Summary & Study Guide

J.R.R. Tolkien
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The Fall of Gondolin Summary & Study Guide Description

The Fall of Gondolin Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on The Fall of Gondolin by J.R.R. Tolkien.

The following version of this book was used to create this lesson plan: Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fall of Gondolin. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2018. Hardcover.

The novel begins with an introduction from Christopher talking about his father, J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing and his love for the world he created. Christopher says that he compiled all of Tolkien’s documents on his short story The Fall of Gondolin into one book as Tolkien would have wanted. Then, after another short introduction by Christopher detailing when the piece was written and some clarifications, the prologue begins many years before The Fall of Gondolin. It details the battle between Morgoth, the Lord of Darkness, and the Valar, god-like beings who live in the city of Valinor. After the first race of Middle-earth the Eldar are created, the Valar are compelled to invite them to Valinor to protect them. While the Eldar all travel to Valinor, they are split into three groups based on the type of Eldar they are; Noldoli, Quenti, and Teleri. The Noldoli become impeccable crafters in Valinor, and it is here that the red fire gems called the Silmarils are made. However, when the Valar imprison Morgoth in Valinor, he manipulates the Noldoli with lies about the outside world which leads to a majority of the Noldoli being banished from Valinor. Then, Morgoth, with the help of the gloomweaver Ungoliant corrupt the Trees of Light and steal all the gems they can from the exiled Noldoli. This eventually leads to the first war between the Eldar as the exiled Noldoli convince their brethren to leave Valinor and they kill the peaceful Teleri for their swan ships. Meanwhile, Morgoth places a Silmarils in his crown and suffers from eternal burning as he builds and army of Orcs and Balrogs.

Then, after another short introduction, the story titled The Fall of Gondolin begins. Years after the prologue, a man named Tuor is compelled by Ulmo to seek out the Great Sea. Once there, Tuor develops an intense desire for the powers of Ulmo and water which drives him to find Turgon and the hidden city of Gondolin to deliver a message from Ulmo himself. With the help of a Noldoli named Voronwë, Turgon enters the city and tells the king, Turgon, that Ulmo wants him to prepare for battle to destroy Morgoth before his corruption destroys them all. However, Turgon is hesitant to leave Gondolin, for he believes the city can protect them and refuses to fight. While Tuor is disappointed by the king’s stubbornness, he remains in Gondolin and becomes a well respected citizen. Eventually, he marries the king’s daughter, Idril, and has a son named Eärendel.

However, unbeknownst to them - aside from Iril who has dreams of Gondolin’s fall - the king’s half-nephew Meglin becomes jealous of Tuor. After being caught by a band of Orcs, Meglin convinces them to take him straight to Meglin where he tells all of Gondolin’s secrets in exchange for his life and an eventual marriage to Idril upon Tuor’s death. After removing Meglin’s ability to feel happiness or love ever again, Morgoth sends Meglin back to Gondolin to act out their plan to destroy the city. Meanwhile, Idril convinces Tuor to build a secret tunnel from their home to the outside of the city and ensure that Meglin does not find it, as she is convinced he will betray them.

Seven years pass before Morgoth’s army, filled with Orcs, Balrogs, Goblins, and fearsome creatures made of fire, attack Gondolin. While Turgon and the Lords consider an evacuation, Meglin convinces them to defend their home, claiming that they cannot leave their weaponry and treasure for the enemy. The various Lords of the city gather their armies and attempt to ward off Morgoth’s army at the northern gate. However, between Meglin’s meddling and the force of Morgoth’s army, many are killed. Tuor rushes home to find Meglin attempting to kidnap Idril and kill Eärendel. However, after Eärendel bites Meglin, Tuor is able to save them both and throw Meglin out the window and to his death. Tuor then leaves his family with a small band of guards and returns to the battle. Eventually, all of Gondolin’s soldiers are forced to the King’s Square where they use the sacred fountain to kill both the Balrog General and one of the great fire drakes. However, this dries up the rest of the water in the fountain, leaving them without any source of Ulmo’s power. Upon seeing this, Turgon decides to remain in the castle and draw the armies attention while Tuor escorts the survivors out of Gondolin. Tuor reluctantly agrees to leave the king behind and escorts whoever he can find to the secret tunnel.

Once the survivors are outside of the city, they are forced to cross a narrow pathway called Eagle’s Cleft looking over a steep drop. When an army of Orcs manages to find them, Thorondor the King of Eagles defends the group. An eldar named Glorfindel sacrifices himself to defeat a Balrog that tries to kill the women and children. Due to his heroism, the group makes it to the mouth of the Sirion River where they are protected by Ulmo. They rename themselves as Lothlim and mourn the loss of Gondolin. From here, Christopher includes two smaller texts that retell the same story in a much more condensed form. It is here that the reader learns that Meglin is a child of a forced marriage between Turgon’s sister, Isfin and a dark-elf named Eöl. Despite being treated like Turgon’s own son, Meglin plotted to overthrow Turgon much earlier than his meeting with the Orcs.

The next document is a detailed story of Tuor’s life and journey to Gondolin. It reveals that Tuor was raised by the Eldar after his mother left to find his father, Huor, during the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. At 16 years old, Tuor is captured and made a slave of one of Morgoth’s followers, but escapes three years later. From there, Tuor develops a life of solitude before he is compelled by Ulmo to seek out the Great Sea. After meeting Ulmo face to face, Tuor agrees to deliver a message to Turgon in Gondolin despite not knowing how he is going to get into the city. This is when he meets Voronwë, a messenger from Gondolin who sailed the Great Sea for seven years. Voronwë agrees to lead Tuor back to Gondolin, as he believes in Ulmo’s message. The two face many dangers while traveling in the winter, but are protected by Ulmo’s cloak. Once they arrive, the guards of Gondolin tell Tuor that he cannot leave alive after learning of the secret message. Both Tuor and Voronwë convince them to take them into the city as they believe Turgon will want to hear Tuor’s message. Once there, the Lord of the Fountain Ecthelion proclaims Tuor to be a true messenger of Ulmo. The document ends here, but Christopher reveals that his father has notes of the ride into the city on horseback, the meeting with Turgon, and an unknown reason why Gondolin does not have a queen.

In the end, Christopher attempts to consolidate all of Tolkien’s notes on the The Fall of Gondolin, including pieces that did not make it into the final draft. He wonders why Tolkien stopped writing Tuor’s story when he did. He believes that Tolkien became frustrated because he had written so much on Middle-earth after the Lord of the Rings and publishers refused to release it the way he wanted it. Because of this, Tolkien struggled to write anything else. Christopher says that The Fall of Gondolin is the story of a journey that impacted all of Tolkien’s world. The last document, while incomplete, is an example of Tolkien’s intricate world-building and shows how much he cared for Middle-earth. Christopher tries to bring together all of Tolkien’s writing and explain Tolkien’s reasoning for both writing and giving up on them when he did. Every character has a purpose, and every version of the Fall of Gondolin connects in some way. Tolkien’s notes also include many detailed descriptions of the world, including Gondolin, Valinor, and the Valar.

In the conclusion, Christopher says that the Fall of Gondolin was meant to be a prequel to the Lost Tale of Eärendel which Tolkien never wrote. Despite this, the story of those who survived the fall of Gondolin is essential to the history of Middle-earth and influences much in the future, including the Lord of the Rings. Christopher then includes the conclusion of the sketch of mythology. As Tuor grows old, Eärendel is said to have defeated Ungoliant before returning to the Sirion, left desolate as he is sent out to Sea to find their new dwelling. It is here that Eärendel finds the Lonely Isle from the prologue and finds the entrances to Valinor.

The narrator then says that Fionwë and his men destroy the Balrogs, defeat the Orcs, and destroy all but two of Morgoth’s dragons. They overthrow Morgoth and rescue the Silmarils, but the world itself is broken by the struggle. The men are then released form Hitlum and allowed to travel where they want. A man named Maidros begs Fionwë for one of the Silmarils, but Fionwë refuses unless they seek judgment form the Valar. However, Maglor steals one and is burned so fiercely that he throws it into a fiery pit, leaving one Silmaril in the sea and one in the earth.

The Valar then judge the earth and declare that the earth is for men and the Elves must sail to the Lonely Isle. While the Orcs and Dragons will continue to damage the earth, the Valar say that they will one day be destroyed by men. Morgoth is imprisoned again, but the lies he spread among the Eldar cause destruction and chaos for centuries. The narrator says that Morgoth will return when the gods are weaker and fight in a final battle. Fionwë will fight Morgoth at Valinor with the spirit of Túrion and his black sword by his side. The Silmarils will be recovered and broken to revive the Two Trees and bring light back into world from Valinor. The last SIlmaril was given to Eärendel, and he keeps watch over Morgoth until the last battle begins.

In a second conclusion, this time of the Quenta Noldorinwa, we see Ulmo asking the Valar to aid and forgive the Elves. However, the Valar are unconvinced as they require someone to speak for both man and the elves. Meanwhile, and old Tuor built a great ship and sails to the West with Idril while Eärendel becomes lord of the people of Sirion. Eärendel has two sons, Elrond and Elros, but Eärendel feels compelled to sail throughout Middle-earth. While he wishes to find his parents and Valinor, he is unsuccessful and sent back to the Sirion. Before he returns, however, the sons of Fëanor, Maidros, and Maglor attack the survivors of Gondolin for the Silmaril and destroys them. Elwing, who had tried to protect the survivors, throws herself into the sea where Ulmo turns her into a great white bird with the Silmaril on her chest. She seeks out Eärendel and turns back into a woman once she finds them.

While they fear that their son Elrond is dead, the narrator reveals that Maidros loves him like a son and feels dread over what they did. Eärendel heads to Valinor with the Silmaril leading them there. When he arrives, nobody agrees to follow him into Valinor as they fear the gods. Eärendel is dismayed to see Kôr and Tûn empty. However, he is summoned before the gods and speaks for both the elves and men asking the gods to forgive both. An army is raised from Valar with Eärendel as their guide as the Gods build him a tower near the sea. His wife, Elwing, spends much of her time as a bird and they create a magical ship together with the help of the Silmaril. The army marches north and engages in the Great Battle (or the Battle of Wrath and Thunder). Many men arrive to aid the Elves as Eärendel arrives with a fleet of birds, slaying the dragon Ancalagon. They destroy Morgoth’s hold over Angband and free all the thralls.

The army then marches west, but Maidros and Maglor ask Fionwë for a Silmarils, but he refuses because of the evil curse still upon them. However, they decide to invade the camp and steal two of the Silmaril. However, it burns both of them with unbearable pain, and one throws his into a fiery pit while the other throws it into the sea. The army then returns to Valinor while some Gnomes and dark-elves settle in the west and on the Lonely Isle. The gods declare that the outerlands are for Mankind, but only the Elves can return to Valinor if they choose. Eärendel keeps watch over Morgoth as the Valar send him through the Door of Timeless Night where they seal Morgoth away. A prophecy declares that Morgoth will return while the Valar are weak, but Eärendel will return with him and all men will be avenged. The Silmarils will be recovered and the Two Trees will be reborn as Valinor is leveled to allow the light to spread throughout the world.

Christopher ends this novel with a list of names related to The Fall of Gondolin and the entire saga of Middle-earth, as well as a few more notes from Tolkien. He also includes a genealogy of both Tuor and Finwë’s family, and a hand drawn map of the portions of Middle-earth important to The Fall of Gondolin.

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