When Turgon son of Fingolfin first arrived in Middle-earth, he settled with his followers in the northwestern region known as Nevrast. This land was already peopled with native Sindar, who accepted Turgon as their lord. Soon after his arrival, Turgon discovered the valley of Tumladen hidden within the Encircling Mountains, far to the east of Nevrast, and began the secret building of a city there. That city was Gondolin, and once it was completed, Turgon brought all his people there, Noldor and Sindar alike. Their old home of Nevrast was left a deserted and empty land.
What little evidence we have suggests that the Elves of Gondolin lived in a somewhat stratified society. The lords of the city seem to have been primarily from the Noldorin stock, and in the royal house the ancient language of Quenya was spoken. The lower ranks in the city spoke Sindarin in their daily lives, in common with most of the Elves of Beleriand.
The secrecy of the Hidden City was paramount to its survival, and written into its highest laws. Few ever left the city, or entered from outside, but there were exceptions. Turgon's wilful sister Aredhel set out to explore Beleriand, but later returned with a son, Maeglin. The brothers Húrin and Huor also entered the city, carried over the mountains by Eagles, and stayed in the city for a year before returning to their homes.
In all the city's history, the Elves of Gondolin only marched to war once, when Turgon led his army to join the other Elf-lords in the immense and dreadful battle that would become known as the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. That battle turned to ultimate victory for Morgoth, but Turgon and his people were able to escape down the Vales of Sirion, and return unseen to the Hidden City.
After the Nirnaeth, hope seemed lost for the Elves and their allies. In desperation, Turgon chose some of the Elves of Gondolin to sail into the West and seek the pardon and aid of the Valar. None of these voyagers succeeded, but one, Voronwë, was wrecked on the coasts of Turgon's old land of Nevrast, where he discovered Tuor. Tuor bore a message from the Vala Ulmo, and Voronwë agreed to guide him back to the city of Gondolin.
Ulmo's message to Turgon was a stark one: a prophecy of Gondolin's destruction, and a warning to abandon it before Morgoth could strike. Turgon refused, but permitted Tuor to remain in the Hidden City. There, he wedded Turgon's daughter Idril, and they had a son, Eärendil. Seven years after Tuor's arrival, Ulmo's prophecy came true: Gondolin was revealed to Morgoth and overrun by his creatures. Many of the Elves of Gondolin were lost in the sack, including Turgon the King. Idril and Tuor led many more out through a secret way, and escaped with hardship through the Encircling Mountains.
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