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The last full chapter I read is “Of the Coming of Men Into the West” and it introduces us to Beor the Old, who is called The Old because he lives to be ninety-three – years, not centuries. Can you imagine it? They aren't unintelligent, either – when Felagund found their little drove they were speaking with each other, though strangely, and one of them had a “rude harp” for making music. They are a little like Elves, if Elves were a little like mayflies.

And when he lay dead, of no wound or grief, but stricken by age, the Eldar saw for the first time the swift waning of the life of Men, and the death of weariness which they knew not in themselves; and they grieved greatly for the loss of their friends. But Beor at the last had relinquished his life willingly and passed in peace; and the Eldar wondered much at the strange fate of Men, for in all their lore there was no account of it, and its end was hidden from them.

It's such a huge difference between the two peoples, and so understated. Humans don't go to Valinor after they die; they're just gone. Even their own experience of death in battle or death by exhaustion is no help in understanding what human death is. If they have their own spirit home, they don't seem to know anything about it. They're alive, just like the Elves, and tell stories and make songs, and stare at campfires and make toys for their children, only one day they just stop. Why? What is that like? The Elves don't know. Even the Men don't know. It's just a part of them and it always has been.

Felagund makes friends with these Men and generations of them grow up with him. They die and he doesn't, and their children grow up impossibly fast and shrink into old age and go out like candles. Maybe after a while he gets used to it? The chronicler doesn't say. One day, after a very long time for Men and not nearly enough for Felagund, Morgoth attacks. It happens without warning: rivers of lava from the mountains, and then the army he's spent centuries buildings: Balrogs burning across the landscape with their giant strides, a dragon named Glaurung the Golden (which is a perfect name for a dragon even if everyone was too terrified to notice at the time) and a massive infantry “such as the Noldor had never before seen or imagined.” It tears Beleriand to pieces in a matter of hours and goes right on tearing.

There King Finrod Felagund, hastening from the south, was cut off from his people and surrounded with small company in the Fen of Serech; and he would have been slain or taken, but Barahir came up with the bravest of his men and rescued him, and made a wall of spears about him; and they cut their way out of the battle with great loss.

These guys – mortal Men for whom death is an unknown darkness – risk their lives to save a guy for whom death is a long vacation with friends and family. He's lived for centuries and they have barely a breath to draw on the earth before they turn to dust. But they ride into the middle of the battle and cut him free. I don't know why that got me all misty-eyed, but it did. Good old Men! Maybe living so close to death made them brave, or maybe they would have done it anyway, mortal or not, because they had known Felagund longer than any of them could remember. It's just goddamn poigniant is what it is. I was not expecting to choke up over this book, but there you go.

Also in this chapter: Fingolfin being awesome. He rides straight up to the gates of Morgoth's fortress Angband, pounds on the door, and starts shouting to everyone in earshot that Morgoth is a coward if he doesn't come out and accept the challenge of SINGLE COMBAT. Fingolfin! What are you doing? The greatest thing is, Morgoth only comes out in the first place because he's worried about looking bad to his subordinates. Oh, Morgoth :( :( :( That's the saddest thing I've ever heard.

This is The Great Enemy of the World, Most Powerful of the Valar, a guy/god/whatever who can bend the elements to his will, and he has a giant hammer that whomps magma pits in the ground wherever it comes down, but DAMNED IF FINGOLFIN DOESN'T MAKE LIFE DIFFICULT FOR HIM for an embarrassingly long time. Morgoth kills Fingolfin, but not before he's been wounded so badly he has a permanent limp and pain for the rest of his days. Poor Morgoth. YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE TRIED TO KILL EVERYONE. >:(

There's more to the chapter (Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin) that I haven't read yet, and a few more things from the previous chapter I haven't mentioned yet (like Haleth! Haleth is great) but I will leave them for next time, I think. Fingolfin, you did ok! Felagund, I hope you go on being a friend to humans! Melian, I hope you're prepared for A LOT of refugees in your secret kingdom! Well, we'll see what happens. Maybe Morgoth can nurse his wounds for a while and stop harrowing the countryside? Morgoth, I hope your debilitating foot wound will be an encouragement to relax (but I guess I won't be holding my breath).


blase ev

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