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War of Wrath

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War of Wrath
Per Sjögren - War of Wrath.jpg
Conflict: War of Wrath
Date: F.A. 545 - 587
Place: Beleriand
Outcome: Decisive victory for the Host of the Valar

Host of the North

Host of the Valar


Måns Björkman - Morgoth design.pngMorgoth
John Howe - Icon Mordor 1 small.pngSauron

Måns Björkman - Finarfin device.gifFinarfin
Ingwion[note 1][1]
Måns Björkman - Eärendil device.gifEärendil


Unknown, "whole power of the Throne of Morgoth"[2]





"I remember well the splendour of their banners," he said. "It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand, so many great princes and captains were assembled. And yet not so many, nor so fair, as when Thangorodrim was broken, and the Elves deemed that evil was ended for ever, and it was not so."
Elrond in The Fellowship of the Ring, The Council of Elrond

The War of Wrath, or the Great Battle, was the final conflict in the Wars of Beleriand fought between the Host of the Valar (or Host of Valinor) and the forces of Morgoth. The devastation caused by the two sides clashing left Beleriand mostly destroyed and at the end most of the land sank beneath the waves.

Due to its brief description in The Silmarillion one could easily deduce that the conflict lasted for a short period of time. However according to The Tale of Years it lasted for more than four decades (F.A. 545 - 587), meaning that the campaign lasted for many years where both sides suffered victories and losses.[3]



After more than five centuries since the rising of the sun, Morgoth had become mighty in Middle-earth. He had defeated his enemies in the war and the majority of the Elves and Men of Beleriand were captured in droves and enslaved in the pits of Angband. The few that remained outside his grasp lived around the Mouths of Sirion or elsewhere in the woods and mountains.

Following the Fall of Gondolin, the few survivors protected by Ulmo had escaped the city, among them was Eärendil son of Tuor and Idril and he later married Elwing the daughter of Dior and Nimloth and became the lord of the people living in the mouths of Sirion. With the aid of Círdan the shipwright they built the vessel Vingilótë and Eärendil sailed the sea hoping to find the last shore.[2]



While Eärendil was returning from his voyages the sons of Fëanor attacked the havens when Elwing refused to yield the Silmaril to them and she cast herself to the ocean with the jewel. The Silmaril was not lost as Ulmo bore her up from the sea and she took the form of a great white bird and reunited with Eärendil. Eärendil then sought to look for Valinor once more and wearing the Silmaril on his brow he traversed pass the enchantments of the sea and he came to Valinor, the first with even a drop of mortal blood to set foot there. He was brought before the Powers of Arda and he delivered the 'errand of the Two Kindreds', begging the Valar for pardon for the Noldor and to deliver them from Morgoth.[2]

The Valar were moved by Eärendil's plea and his prayer was granted. Thus the host of the Valar prepared for battle joined by many Maiar, along with the Vanyar and Noldor that were in Valinor, riding in the ships of the Falmari. Still bitter about the First Kinslaying, the Teleri did not participate in the war.[2]

Meanwhile Eärendil and Elwing were given their judgement, as it was decreed by Mandos that no mortal should set foot in Aman and live, yet Eärendil is also of Elf lineage. Thus Manwë forbade punishment for the two trespassing as Eärendil came out of love of the Two Kindreds while Elwing came out of love for him, but they would never return to Middle-earth ever and they were given a choice to choose which kindred their fate shall be judged together. Elwing chose to be counted among the Eldar and Eärendil chose alike, then the Valar took Vingilótë, hallowed it and bore it away to the edge of the world through the Door of Night and Eärendil was at the helm with the Silmaril bound upon his brow.[2]


The Host of Valinor landed on Beleriand in F.A. 545 and the 'whole power of the Throne of Morgoth' was gathered, the arrayed armies of Morgoth were uncountable, and the mountains rang underneath the boots of the Valar; the entire North was aflame with war, which subsequently caused heavy damage to the land by the colossal exchanges of power from the combatants.[2]

Eventually the forces of Morgoth were defeated in the field, the Balrogs were destroyed, save a few who fled and hid themselves in the depths of the earth, and the armies of the Orcs perished like straw in a great fire or leaves before a hot wind. While the Three Houses of the Edain fought with the forces of Valinor, many other Men fought and died alongside Morgoth, which led to their scorn by the Elves. As the War carried into its final years Morgoth faced defeat, and so unleashed his last desperate assault, the winged Dragons, which had never been seen in Middle-earth before. The Host of Valinor was taken by surprise and overcome by the devastation the dragons brought, and were driven back across the region. The greatest of these dragons was Ancalagon the Black, the largest and most powerful dragon in the history of Arda, and the damage his dragon horde inflicted on the Valar was grievous. The skies erupted with lightning and flame at the dragons' arrival, and Morgoth's hosts repulsed the host of the Valar, pushing them away from Angband.[2]

John Howe - The Doors of Night

As the situation grew dire for the Valar, Eärendil came with his sky-ship Vingilótë, along with Thorondor and a great flocks of birds and the Eagles, and they fought the dragons. Eärendil slew Ancalagon, after a fight lasting a full day and Ancalagon broke the towers of Thangorodrim in his fall. With Ancalagon slain, morale was renewed, and the host of the Valar retook the ground that had been lost. The majority of Morgoth's other forces were soon defeated, survivors driven to the depths of the world and to places far underground. Soon Morgoth's power was dispersed entirely, and Angband alone remained his only possession.[2]

Morgoth fled to the deepest dungeons of Angband, where he was caught. By this point, Morgoth's power had weakened considerably, and rather than challenge his foes, he demanded peace and parley, but his feet were hewn from under him and Morgoth fell upon the floor. He was bound with his old chain Angainor; the two Silmarils still in his possession were taken by the Maia Eönwë and guarded. In the end the Valar thrust him "through the Door of Night, beyond the Walls of the World, into the Timeless Void".[2]


Countless slaves were freed from Angband after his defeat and they looked upon a world that had changed greatly, for the fury of both sides in the war had wreaked havoc on much of the land. The northern areas were torn asunder, rivers formed or destroyed, mountains and hills changed. The wreckage of the war was immense indeed; most of the land west of the Ered Luin, as well as a large part of the central part of the mountains, was laid waste and soon after sank beneath the waves.[2]

Eönwë, the herald of Manwë, summoned all the Elves of Beleriand to depart Middle-earth and go to Valinor which most of the Noldor and Sindar do but a number of them did not comply and went east such as Galadriel and Gil-galad. Maedhros and Maglor sent word to Eönwë to yield the Silmarils to them but replied that they no longer have any right to them due to the deeds wrought from their oath . Despite this the two sons of Fëanor stole the jewels from Eönwë's camp, one for each son and as they held the jewel it burnt their hands. Great was the pain that Maedhros cast himself and the Silmaril into a chasm of fire and Maglor cast his jewel into the sea, thus the Silmarils found their homes in the high heavens, earth and deep waters.[2]

The Edain were rewarded for fighting with the Valar in the war and were given a new land to dwell in that was neither part of Middle-earth or Valinor but in the Western Sea. The land was called Andor, the Land of Gift, but the Edain named it Elenna and later Númenórë.[4] The Men that fought with Morgoth fled east.[5]

The Dwarven cities Nogrod and Belegost were ruined when Ered Luin was broken forcing their populaces to flee.[6]

The servants of Morgoth that survived escaped and fled east, Sauron the chief lieutenant of Morgoth, surrendered to Eönwë. He was ordered to return to Valinor to receive judgement, instead fled and hid in Middle-earth.[2][5]

Other versions of the legendarium

The first fragments of what would be the War of Wrath appears in notes and outlines related to The Tale of Eärendel, a story that was never written by Tolkien. The pretext of the battle was vastly different when Tolkien started writing the Mythology compared to later writings. In the Lost Tales version there is no mention of Eärendel's plea to the Valar on behalf of the Two Kindreds, in fact the notes suggest that his voyage to Valinor was in vain. Instead the Elves of Valinor receive tidings from the birds of Gondolin about its fall. The news angers the Elves and they march to the Great Lands against the will of the Valar whom are opposed to the Elves intervening in the affairs of the Great Lands.[7]

The Silmarillion and its early drafts covers the War of Wrath succinctly in the text, even when comparing them side by side they are very similar bar a few differences such as Eönwë being the son of Manwë (known as Fiönwë in the earlier writings)[8]. As Tolkien was developing the story he also produced another set of texts the Annals which at first were used as a supportive document to help put a chronological structure to the story but later grew in scope and detail that it became another 'proper' account of the Silmarillion akin to the quentas. The Annals of Beleriand covered the history of the Elves in Beleriand and it introduces new elements to the battle that are absent in the other texts.

The Battle of Eldorest (later Eglarest > Eglorest) was the opening battle of the conflict,[9] Eldorest (known as Eglarest in The Silmarillion) was the haven city of Círdan which was laid to ruin by Morgoth's armies after the Nirnaeth Arnoediad.[10] In the battle Ingwiel (or Ingwil) makes landing with his Elves and defeats the Orcs on the shore.[11] Ingwiel was the leader of the Light-elves (early name for Vanyar) in the host.

In the later Annals of Beleriand there is a new element where the host of Fiönwë and Morgoth contest the river Sirion. Both hosts encamp on either side of Sirion[9] and fight bitterly for control of the passage, this may explain why the conflict was prolonged as it also states that the war lasted 'fifty years from the landing of Fiönwë'.[11] Sirion was a mighty river that ran through the north of Beleriand to the south and marked the boundary of west and east[12] and was wide and swift with few crossings; the pass at Eithel Sirion where Fingolfin built Barad Eithel,[13] the Ford of Brithiach and the guarded bridge in the western border of Doriath.[14] Aelin-uial was impassable by foot[15] so Thingol used ferries to carry people across in secret,[14] Beren bypassed the marshes by climbing the hills above the Falls of Sirion.[16] The most direct route for the host of Valinor to take to Angband would be through the Pass of Sirion, as it was accessible enough for large armies to pass, hence why it was a strategic location to control, the Noldor recognised this and Finrod built a tower on Tol Sirion to guard it.[13] It is possible that other crossings may have been destroyed or fortified thus any assault would be detrimental to the attackers, though it is still unknown if there was any attempted crossing on them.[note 2] The camp of Fiönwë is likely a reintroduced element from the Lost Tales, where the Elves of Kôr encamp in the Land of Willows or Tasarinan which is Nan-tathren in The Silmarilion.[17]

In The Silmarillion Morgoth did not personally involve himself in the conflict and never left Angband but in the Annals of Beleriand he indeed came forth from Angband, [11] although it is unclear if Morgoth fought or just commanded his armies from afar. The only other mentioned Vala to have taken part in the conflict was Tulkas in the Lost Tales where he defeated Melko in the Pools of Twilight in what is known as the battle of the Silent Pools.[17]

The conflict had a number of different names in the drafts. It was known as the Terrible Battle or Last Battle[18]. The Battle Terrible or Battle of Wrath and Thunder.[19][20]

Portrayal in adaptations

The album Nightfall in Middle-Earth by Blind Guardian opens with a track with a conversation between Sauron and Morgoth during the War of Wrath.

External links


  1. In the published Silmarillion, Ingwion has disappeared, and only Finarfin is named as a leader of the armies of the Elves. In The Shaping of Middle-earth, Christopher Tolkien suggests that this omission may have been an error, and Ingwiel should have remained in the text as joint commander of the Elves of Valinor.
  2. A diagram map of the battle in The Atlas of Middle-earth suggests the host of Valinor concentrated their assault solely on the Pass of Sirion


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Two: Valinor and Middle-earth before The Lord of the Rings, VI. Quenta Silmarillion"
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Three. The Wanderings of Húrin and Other Writings not forming part of the Quenta Silmarillion: V. The Tale of Years"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Akallabêth: The Downfall of Númenor"
  5. 5.0 5.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "Durin's Folk"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "V. The Tale of Eärendel"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "III. The Quenta: §17 in the Q II version"
  9. 9.0 9.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "VII. The Earliest Annals of Beleriand: [The first version of The Earliest Annals of Beleriand (Text AB I)]"
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad"
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Two: Valinor and Middle-earth before The Lord of the Rings, III. The Later Annals of Beleriand"
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Index of Names"
  13. 13.0 13.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Beleriand and its Realms"
  14. 14.0 14.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Children of Húrin, "The Journey of Morwen and Niënor to Nargothrond"
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Coming of Men into the West"
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Beren and Lúthien"
  17. 17.0 17.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "VI. The History of Eriol or Ælfwine and the End of the Tales"
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "II. The Earliest 'Silmarillion' (The 'Sketch of the Mythology')"
  19. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "III. The Quenta: [Section] 18"
  20. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "III. The Quenta: §18 in the Q II version"

Wars of Beleriand
First Battle · Dagor-nuin-Giliath · Dagor Aglareb · Dagor Bragollach · Nirnaeth Arnoediad · War of Wrath