Unfinished Tales: The First Age: Of Tuor and his coming to Gondolin
When the first glimmers of day filtered grey amid the mists of Dimbar they crept back
into the Dry River, and soon after its course turned eastward, winding up to the very walls of
the mountains; and straight before them there loomed a great precipice, rising sheer and sudden
from a steep slope upon which grew a tangled thicket of thorn-trees. Into this thicket the stony
channel entered, and there it was still dark as night; and they halted, for the thorns grew far
down the side of the gully, and their lacing branches were a dense roof above it, so low that
often Tuor and Voronwë must crawl under like beasts stealing back to their lair.
But at last, as with great labour they came to the very foot of the cliff, they found an
opening, as it were the mouth of a tunnel worn in the hard rock by waters flowing from the heart
of the mountains. They entered, and within there was no light, but Voronwë went steadily
forward, while Tuor followed with his hand upon his shoulder, bending a little, for the roof was
low. Thus for a time they went on blindly, step by step, until presently they felt the ground
beneath their feet had become level and free from loose stones. Then they halted and breathed
deeply, as they stood listening. The air seemed fresh and wholesome, and they were aware of a
great space around and above them; but all was silent, and not even the drip of water could be
heard. It seemed to Tuor that Voronwë was troubled and in doubt, and he whispered: 'Where
then is the Guarded Gate? Or have we indeed now passed it?'
'Nay,' said Voronwë. 'Yet I wonder, for it is strange that any incomer should creep
thus far unchallenged. I fear some stroke in the dark.'
But their whispers aroused the sleeping echoes, and they were enlarged and multiplied, and
ran in the roof and the unseen walls, hissing and murmuring as the sound of many stealthy
voices. And even as the echoes died in the stone, Tuor heard out of the heart of the darkness a
voice speak in the Elven-tongues: first in the High Speech of the Noldor, which he knew not; and
then in the tongue of Beleriand, though in a manner somewhat strange to his ears, as of a people
long sundered from their kin.
'Stand!' it said. 'Stir not! Or you will die, be you foes or friends.'
'We are friends,' said Voronwë.
'Then do as we bid,' said the voice.
The echo of their voice rolled into silence. Voronwë and Tuor stood still, and it
seemed to Tuor that many slow minutes passed, and a fear was in his heart such as no other peril
of his road had brought. Then there came the beat of feet, growing to a tramping loud as the
march of trolls in that hollow place. Suddenly an elven-lantern was unhooded, and its bright ray
was turned upon Voronwë before him, but nothing else could Tuor see save a dazzling star in
the darkness; and he knew that while that beam was upon him he could not move, neither to flee
nor to run forward.
For a moment they were held thus in the eye of the light, and then the voice spoke again,
saying:'Show your face!' And Voronwë cast back his hood, and his face shone in the ray,
hard and clear, as if graven in stone; and Tuor marvelled to see its beauty. Then he spoke
proudly, saying :'Know you not whom you see? I am Voronwë son of Aranwë of the house of
Fingolfin. Or am I forgotten in my own land after a few years? Far beyond the thought of
Middle-earth I have wandered, yet I remember your voice, Elemmakil.'
'Then Voronwë will remember also the laws of his land,' said the voice. 'Since by
command he went forth, he has the right to return. But not to lead hither any stranger. By that
deed hi right is void, and he must be led as a prisoner to the king's judgement. As for the
stranger, he shall be slain or held captive at the judgement of the Guard. Lead him hither that
I may judge.'
Then Voronwë led Tuor towards the light, and as they drew near many Noldor, mail-clad
and armed, stepped forward out of the darkness and surrounded them with drawn swords. And
Elemmakil, captain of the guard, who bore the bright lamp, looked long and closely at them.
'This is strange in you Voronwë,' he said. 'We were long friends.Why then would you set
me thus cruelly between the law and my friendship? If you had led hither unbidden one of the
other houses of the Noldor, that were enough. But you have brought to knowledge of the Way a
mortal man - for by his eyes I perceive his kin. Yet free can he never again go, knowing the
secret; and as one of alien kin that has dared to enter, I should slay him - even though he be
your friend and dear to you.'
'In the wide lands without, Elemmakil, many strange things may befall one, and tasks
unlooked for be laid on one,' Voronwë answered. 'Other shall the wanderer return than as he
set forth. What I have done,I have done under command greater than the laws of the Guard. The
King alone should judge me, and him that comes with me.'
Then Tuor spoke, and feared no longer. 'I come with Voronwë son of Aranwë, because
he was appointed to be my guide by the Lord of Waters. To this end was he delivered from the
wrath of the Sea and the Doom of the Valar. For I bear from Ulmo an errand to the son of
Fingolfin, and to him will I speak it.'
Thereat Elemmakil looked in wonder upon Tuor. 'Who then are you?' he said. 'And whence come
'I am Tuor son of Huor of the House of Hador and the kindred of Húrin, and these
names, I am told, are not unknown in the Hidden Kingdom. From Nevrast I have come through many
perils to seek it.'
'From Nevrast?' said Elemmakil. 'It is said that none dwell there, since our people departed.'
'It is said truly,' answered Tuor. 'Empty and cold stand the courts of Vinyamar. Yet thence
I come. Bring me now to him that built those halls of old.'
'In matters so great judgement is not mine,' said Elemmakil. 'Therefore I will lead you to
the light where more may be revealed, and I will deliver you to the Warden of the Great Gate.'
Then he spoke in command, and Tuor and Voronwë were set between tall guards, two before
and three behind them; and their captain led them from the cavern of the Outer Guard, and they
passed, as it seemed, into a straight passage, and there walked long upon a level floor, until a
pale light gleamed ahead. Thus they came at length to a wide arch with tall pillars upon either
hand, hewn in the rock, and between hung a great portcullis of crossed wooden bars, marvellously
carved and studded with nails of iron.
Elemmakil touched it, and it rose silently, and they passed through; and Tuor saw that they
stood at the end of a ravine, the like of which he had never before beheld or imagined in his
thought, long though he had walked in the wild mountains of the North; for beside the Orfalch
Echor Cirith Ninniach was but a groove in the rock. Here the hands of the Valar themselves, in
ancient wars of the world's beginning, had wrested the great mountain asunder, and the sides of
the rift were sheer as if axe-cloven, and they towered up to heights unguessable. There far
aloft ran a ribbon of sky,and against its deep blue stood black peaks and jagged pinnacles,
remote but hard, cruel as spears. Too high were those mighty walls for the winter sun to
overlook, and though it was now full morning faint stars glimmered above the mountain-tops, and
down below all was dim, but for the pale light of lamps set beside the climbing road. For the
floor of the ravine sloped steeply up, eastwards, and upon the left hand Tuor saw beside the
stream-bed a wide way, laid and paved with stone, winding upward till it vanished into shadow.
'You have passed the First Gate, the Gate of Wood,' said Elemmakil. 'There lies the way. We
How far that deep road ran Tuor could not guess, and as he stared onward a great weariness
came upon him like a cloud. A chill wind hissed over the faces of the stones, and he drew his
cloak about him. 'Cold blows the wind from the Hidden Kingdom!' he said.
'Yea, indeed,' said Voronwë; 'to a stranger it might seem that pride has made the
servants of Turgon pitiless. Long and hard seem the leagues of the Seven Gates to the hungry and
'If our law were less stern, long ago guile and hatred would have entered and destroyed us.
That you should know well,' said Elemmakil. 'But we are not pitiless. Here there is no food, and
the stranger may not go back through a gate that he has passed. Endure then a little, and at the
Second Gate you shall be eased.'
'It is well,' said Tuor, and he went forward as he was bidden. After a little he turned and
saw that Elemmakil alone followed with Voronwë. 'There is no need more of guards,' said
Elemmakil, reading his thought. 'From the Orfalch there is no escape for Elf or Man, and no returning.'
Thus he went on up the steep way, sometimes by long stairs, sometimes by winding slopes,
under the daunting shadow of the cliff, until some half-league from the Wooden Gate Tuor saw
that the way was barred by a great wall built across the ravine from side to side, with stout
towers of stone at either hand. In the wall was a great archway above the road, but it seemed
that masons had blocked it with a single mighty stone. As they drew near its dark and polished
face gleamed in the light of a white lamp that hung above the midst of the arch.
'Here stands the Second Gate, the gate of Stone,' said Elemmakil; and going up to it he
thrust lightly upon it. It turned upon an unseen pivot, until its edge was towards them, and the
way was open upon either side; and they passed through, into a court were stood many armed
guards clad in grey. No word was spoken, but Elemmakil led his charges to a chamber beneath the
northern tower; and there food and wine was brought to them, and they were permitted to rest a
'Scant may the fare seem,' said Elemmakil to Tuor. 'But if your claim be proved, hereafter
it shall richly be amended.'
'It is enough,' said Tuor. 'Faint were the heart that needed better healing.' And indeed
such refreshment did he find in the drink and food of the Noldor that soon he was eager to go
After a little space they came to a wall yet higher and stronger than before, and in it was
set the Third Gate, the Gate of Bronze: a great twofold door hung with shields and plates of
bronze, wherein were wrought many figures and strange signs. Upon the wall above its lintel were
three square towers, roofed and clad with copper that by some device of smith-craft were ever
bright and gleamed as fire in the rays of the red lamps ranged like torches along the wall.
Again silently they passed the gate, and saw in the court beyond a yet greater company of
guards in mail that glowed like dull fire; and the blades of their axes were red. Of the
kindred of the Sindar of Nevrast for the most part were those that held this gate.
Now they came to the most toilsome road, for in the midst of the Orfalch the slope was at
the steepest, and as they climbed Tuor saw the mightiest of the walls looming dark above him.
Thus at last they drew near the Fourth gate, the gate of Writhen Iron. High and black was the
wall, and lit with no lamps. Four towers of iron stood upon it, and between the two inner towers
was set an image of a great eagle wrought in iron, even the likeness of King Thorondor himself,
as he would alight upon a mountain from the high airs. But as Tuor stood before the gate it
seemed to his wonder that he was looking through boughs and stems of imperishable trees into a
pale glade of the Moon. For a light came through the traceries of the gate, which were wrought
and hammered into the shapes of trees with writhing roots and woven branches laden with leaves
and flowers. And as he passed through he saw how this could be; for the wall was of great
thickness, and there was not one grill but three in line, so set that to one who approached in
the middle of the way each formed part of the device; but the light beyond was the light of day.
For they had climbed now to a great height above the lowlands where they began, and beyond
the Iron Gate the road ran almost level. Moreover, they had passed the crown and heart of the
Echoriath, and the mountain-towers now fell swiftly down towards the inner hills, and the ravine
opened wider, and its sides became less sheer. Its long shoulders were mantled with white snow,
and the light of the sky snow-mirrored came white as moonlight through a glimmering mist that
filled the air.
Now they passed through the lines of the Iron guards that stood behind the Gate; black were
their mantles and their mail and long shields and their faces were masked with visors bearing
each an eagle's beak. Then Elemmakil went before them and they followed him into the pale light;
and Tuor saw beside the way a sward of grass, where like stars bloomed the white flowers of
uilos, the Evermind that knows no season and withers not ;
and thus in wonder and lightening of heart he was brought to the gate of Silver.
The wall of the Fifth Gate was built of white marble, and was low and broad, and its parapet
was a trellis of silver between five great globes of marble; and there stood many archers robed
in white. The gate was in shape as three parts of a circle, and wrought of silver and pearls of
Nevrast in likeness of the Moon; but above the Gate upon the midmost globe stood an image of the
White Tree Telperion, wrought of silver and malachite, with flowers made of great pearls of
Balar . And beyond the Gate in a wide court paved with marble,
green and white, stood archers in silver mail and white-crested helms, a hundred upon either
hand. Then Elemmakil led Tuor and Voronwë through their silent ranks, and they entered upon a
long white road, that ran straight towards the Sixth Gate; and as they went the grass-sward
became wider, and among the white stars of uilos there opened many small flowers like
eyes of gold.
So they came to the Golden Gate, the last of the ancient gates of Turgon that were wrought
before the Nirnaeth; and it was much like the gate of Silver, save that the walls was built of
yellow marble, and the gold and parapet were of red gold; and there were six globes, and in the
midst upon a golden pyramid was set an image of Laurelin, the Tree of the Sun, with flowers
wrought of topaz in long clusters upon chains of gold. And the Gate itself was adorned with
discs of gold, many-rayed in likeness of the Sun, set amid devices of garnet and topaz and
yellow diamonds. In the court beyond were arrayed three hundred archers with long bows, and
their mail was gilded, and tall golden plumes rose from their helmets; and their great round
shields were red as flame.
Now sunlight fell upon the further road, for the walls of the hills were low on either side,
and green, but for the snows upon their top. and Elemmakil hastened forward, for the way was
short to the Seventh Gate, named the Great, the Gate of Steel that Maeglin wrought after the
return from the Nirnaeth, across the wide entrance to the Orfalch Echor.
No wall stood there, but on either hand were two round towers of great height, many-windowed,
tapering in seven storeys to a turret of bright steel, and between the towers there stood a
mighty fence of steel that rusted not, but glittered cold and white. Seven great pillars of steel
there were, tall with the height and girth of strong young trees, but ending in a bitter spike
that rose to the sharpness of a needle; and between the pillars were set seven cross-bars of
steel, and in each space seven times seven rods of steel upright, with heads like the broad
blades of spears. But in the centre, above the midmost pillar and the greatest, was raised a
mighty image of the king-helm of Turgon, the Crown of the Hidden Kingdom, set about with
No gate or no door could Tuor see in this mighty hedge of steel, but as he drew near through
the spaces between its bars there came, it seemed to him, a dazzling light, and he shaded his
eyes, and stood still in dread and wonder. But Elemmakil went forward, and no gate opened to his
touch; but he struck upon a bar, and the fence rang like a harp of many strings, giving forth
clear notes in harmony that ran from tower to tower.
Straightway there issued riders from the towers, but before those of the north tower came
one upon a white horse; and he dismounted and strode towards them. And high and noble as was
Elemmakil, greater and more lordly was Ecthelion, Lord of the Fountain, at that time Warden of
the Great Gate . All in silver was he clad, and upon his
shining helm there was set a spike of steel pointed with a diamond; and as his esquire took his
shield it shimmered as if it were bedewed with drops of rain, that were indeed a thousand studs
1: In The Silmarillion nothing is said specifically concerning
the speech of the Elves of Gondolin; but this passage suggests that for some of them the High
Speech (Quenya) was in ordinary use. It is stated in a late linguistic essay that Quenya was in
daily use in Turgon's house, and was the childhood speech of Eärendil; but that 'for most
of the people of Gondolin it had become a language of books, and as the other Noldor they used
Sindarin in daily speech'. Cf. The Silmarillion: after the edict of Thingol 'the Exiles
took the Sindarin tongue in all their daily uses, and the High Speech of the West was spoken only
by the lords of the Noldor among themselves. Yet that speech lived ever as a language of lore,
wherever any of that people dwelt.'[<-]
2: These were the flowers that bloomed abundantly on the burial mounds
of the Kings of Rohan below Edoras, and which Gandalf named in the language of the Rohirrim (as
translated into Old English) simbelmynë, that is 'Evermind', 'for they blossom in
all the seasons of the year, and grow where dead men rest'. (The Two Towers III 6). The
Elvish name uilos is only given in this passage, but the word is found also in Amon
Uilos, as the Quenya name Oiolossë ('Ever-snow-white', the mountain of
Manwë) was rendered into Sindarin. In 'Cirion and Eorl' the flower is given another Elvish
3: In the Silmarillion it is said that Thingol rewarded the
dwarves of Belegost with many pearls: 'These Círdan gave to him, for they were got in
great number in the shallow waters about the Isle of Balar.' [<-]
4: Ecthelion of the Fountain is mentioned in The Silmarillion as
one of Turgon's captains who guarded the flanks of the host of Gondolin in their retreat down
Sirion from the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, and as the slayer of Gothmog Lord of Balrogs, by whom he
himself was slain, in the assault on the city. [<-]
Songs and tales from J.R.R. Tolkien's work.
This site is maintained and copyrighted (c) 1996-2002, by Cirdan.
All rights reserved. Hosted by cro.net.