The great Hidden City of Turgon was concealed from friend and foe alike during the First Age by the Encircling Mountains, and guarded from trespassers by the Eagles of Thorondor.
In the fifty-third year of the First Age, Turgon journeyed from his halls in Nevrast with his cousin Finrod. Ulmo guided him to the hidden valley of Tumladen, and there he began the building of Gondolin. The city was completed in I 116, and Turgon's people who had dwelt in Nevrast travelled there secretly.
The city was inviolate for almost four hundred years; Turgon did not break his secret leaguer until the time of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad in I 471, and even after that disastrous battle he was able to return in secret to the city with the aid of Húrin Thalion.
Morgoth's servants finally discovered Gondolin through the treachery of Maeglin, and it was sacked in I 510. Turgon was lost in the Fall of the city, but some few (including Tuor and Idril, with their child Eärendil) escaped the destruction and dwelt as Exiles at the Mouths of Sirion.
The Building of Gondolin
The round valley of Tumladen, within the Encircling Mountains, had originally been a lake, and in its centre stood a hill that had once been an island: Amon Gwareth. It was here that Turgon decided to found his Hidden City, as a memorial to ancient Tirion that lay beyond the Great Sea.
The first building of the city took fifty-two years to complete. After this time, the people of Turgon, a great number of Noldor and Sindar, travelled from Nevrast, where they had dwelt, and secretly entered the valley of Tumladen. Turgon gave his city the name Ondolindë (Quenya for 'The Rock of the Music of Water', because of the fountains of Amon Gwareth), but in Sindarin this was rendered Gondolin, the Hidden Rock.
After their arrival in the new city, the Gondolindrim continued to labour in its building, until it was said to rival even Tirion itself. Its walls stood high and white above the plain, and its most prominent feature was the great Tower of the King, where, among the fountains, Turgon himself made Glingal and Belthil, trees of gold and silver made in memory of the Two Trees of Valinor.
There followed two centuries of happy peace: Morgoth was besieged in the far north of the world, and the people of Gondolin lived undisturbed by the events outside their fair city. At last, though, a seed of discontent appeared: King Turgon's sister Aredhel determined to leave the city, much against Turgon's wishes, and journey into Middle-earth.
Soon after her departure, her guards returned, and reported that they had lost her in the dark and sorcerous region to the southeast of the city, known as Nan Dungortheb.
More than twenty years1 then passed, and then suddenly Aredhel returned. With her was one who she claimed to be Maeglin, her son by Eöl the Dark Elf of Nan Elmoth. This Maeglin accepted Turgon as lord, but his father Eöl had followed his wife and son to Gondolin and been captured at the entranceway. He was brought before Turgon. Eöl refused to submit to Turgon's authority, and instead chose death for himself and his unwilling son. He threw a poisoned dart to slay Maeglin, but instead struck Aredhel, who fell ill with the poison and died. The body of Eöl was broken on the Caragdûr for this.
Maeglin, though, had had no part in these evils, and Turgon accepted him, and he grew to be among the great in Gondolin, wise in council, cunning in smithcraft and mighty in battle.
Two Great Battles
For more than a hundred years after the deaths of Aredhel and Eöl, Gondolin again had peace. The time was coming, though, when Morgoth would break the Siege of Angband, and the unstoppable doom of the Elves would fall upon them. One winter's night, the fires of Angband destroyed the leaguer of the Noldor: the Dagor Bragollach. In this disaster, the people of Gondolin played no immediate part.
They were drawn into the events of those years, though, when two young brothers of the race of Men, Húrin and Huor, were cut off from their army and became lost amid the feet of the Crissaegrim. Thorondor brought them to Turgon. At the bidding of Ulmo, Turgon accepted them, and they remained in Gondolin for almost a year, when they returned to their homes. In this kindly act were the first seeds of Gondolin's destruction, more than fifty years later.
Turgon now devised a new policy for the salvation of the Elves: he began secretly to send his people out westward across the great sea, to seek the land of the Valar and ask their pardon and aid. None of his mariners succeeded, but this was a wise course, though Turgon never knew it: he was lost long before his grandson Eárendil, aided by a Silmaril, finally succeeded in this task.
As time passed since the destruction of the Dagor Bragollach, the Elves of Beleriand began to arm for a counterstroke, and Turgon secretly began his own preparations. Fourteen years after the breaking of the Siege of Angband, and some three hundred and fifty since the completion of Gondolin, Turgon rode for the first time to war. Unknown and unbidden by his kin, he rode to their aid with an army of ten thousand. This was to be the great battle that was to become known as the Nirnaeth Arnoediad.
The published Silmarillion doesn't specify exactly how long Aredhel was away. The Later Annals of Beleriand (The History of Middle-earth vol V, The Lost Road, III 3) do give a definite figure, though: twenty-one years. These Annals are in many ways quite incompatible with the extant Silmarillion (for example, Aredhel is there called Isfin, and does not return to Gondolin with Maeglin), but this value seems to fit well with the surviving structure of the story.
Aelin-uial, Aman, Amon Gwareth, Anghabar, Anguirel, Ar-Feiniel, Aranwë, Aranwion, Aredhel Ar-Feiniel, Arvernien, Axe of Tuor, Belthil, Biter, Caragdûr, Cirith Ninniach, [See the full list...]
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