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Destroyed at the end of the First Age
On the north side of Amon Gwareth within the Encircling Mountains
Beneath the northern walls of Gondolin
Important peaks
Apparently 'dark spike'1


About this entry:

  • Updated 16 July 2017
  • This entry is complete


The precipice beneath Gondolin

In the middle of the hidden valley of Tumladen rose the rocky prominence of Amon Gwareth, and on that hill was built Turgon's secret city of Gondolin. On the northern side of the hill, a high precipice of black rock fell away steeply to the valley floor, and this cliff face was known as the Caragdûr, which translates as something like 'dark spike'.

The Caragûr was used as a place of execution on at least one occasion.2 After Turgon's sister Aredhel returned to Gondolin with her son Maeglin, her estranged husband Eöl followed her back to the Hidden City. He was captured and brought before the King, and in the trial that followed Eöl attempted to take Maeglin's life, but instead struck Aredhel with a poisoned javelin. In punishment for her death, Eöl was cast out from the Caragdûr and fell to his death far below.

Eöl's death was mirrored long afterward by that of his son Maeglin. Captured by Morgoth, Maeglin betrayed the location of Gondolin, and in the confusion following Morgoth's attack he attempted to make off with Turgon's daughter Idril. He was stopped by Tuor, and the two fought on the walls of Gondolin before Maeglin too fell to his death, plunging down the cliffs of Amon Gwareth into the flames surrounding the city.3



Our only direct description of the Caragdûr is as a 'precipice of black rock' (Quenta Silmarillion 16, Of Maeglin), which seems to imply a sheer cliff-face rather than a spike of rock. However, carag is explicitly interpreted as 'spike, tooth of rock', so it seems that the precipice of the Caragdûr must have included at least one such jagged spike extending out from the cliff's face. The 'dark' element of the name (Elvish dûr) refers specifically to the darkness of night or of shadow, and presumably referred to the fact that, lying on the northern side of Amon Gwareth, the rock would have been in almost constant shade.


The death of Eöl is our only reference to the use of the Caragdûr as a place of formal punishment, so it remains unclear whether the precipice was regularly used for this purpose, or this was a singular execution devised for the Dark Elf. Indeed, life in the Hidden City of Gondolin seems to have been generally ordered and peaceful, and so it is perfectly possible that this was the only time Turgon pronounced a sentence of death. The use of cliffs as places of execution certainly has precedent in antiquity. The shining cliffs of the Phaedriades above Delphi or the Tarpeian Rock in Rome, along with many other examples, were used as a means of capital punishment in ancient times.


It's unclear whether Maeglin specifically fell from the Caragdûr - indeed, the fact that the name is not mentioned implies that he probably did not - but the symbolically similar deaths of father and son are nonetheless notable.

See also...

Eöl, Gondolin


About this entry:

  • Updated 16 July 2017
  • This entry is complete

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