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Gates of Summer

A festival celebrated in Gondolin

A celebration held each year in the city of Gondolin, and perhaps elsewhere,1 to mark the end of spring and the coming of summer. The festival began at midnight, and through the dark hours the people of the city would remain silent until the first summer Sun rose over the eastern mountains of the Echoriath. As the Sun rose, the Gondolindrim would lift their voices in ancient songs of greeting as summer began.

The celebration of the Gates of Summer in I 510 marked disaster for the people of Gondolin. As they awaited the red light of the Sun rising in the east, instead they saw a fiery glow coming over the mountains to the north: the approaching armies of Morgoth. Having discovered the city's location by treachery, the Dark Lord had sent a surprise assault against it. Though a few survivors escaped the calamity that followed, the city of Gondolin was destroyed and its King, Turgon, was lost in the city's Fall.


The Silmarillion gives us little specific information about the festival, but its history goes back to the Book of Lost Tales, the earliest iteration of Tolkien's stories, and there we're given rather more detail. Its Elvish name is given there as Tarnin Austa, and it was said to be the second of the two spring festivals of Gondolin (with the first being Nost-na-Lothion, the Birth of Flowers). The people of Gondolin would hold silent vigil on the walls of the city, and choirs of Elves would greet the Sun as it rose, heralding the coming of summer.


Notes

1

It is not obvious whether the Gates of Summer was a celebration unique to the people of Gondolin, or whether it was practiced by other Elves. The festival is never mentioned except in connection to Gondolin, but it was said to have dated back 'for years uncounted', and the dawn was greeted with 'ancient songs'. These references (from volume 2 of The History of Middle-earth, which is also the second volume of the Book of Lost Tales) seem to imply that the Gates of Summer predated the founding of Gondolin, but this is a very early source, and its implications may not apply to later iterations of the story.

See also...

Eärendil

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About this entry:

  • Updated 12 September 2018
  • Updates planned: 1

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