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One of the most tragic stories in The Silmarillion is that of the Kinslaying at Alqualondë. But we are given very few details about it, which is unfortunate, considering how important the episode was in shaping the course of future events in Arda. Much of the history of this world was a result - direct or indirect - of the slaughter at Alqualondë.

The account Tolkien provides in The Silmarillion leaves much to our imaginations, and many things we might want to know are not revealed. The text does mention a lament written by Maglor, son of Fëanor, called the Noldolantë, or "The Fall of the Noldor", which was based on the incident and penned by an active participant in the killings.

However, I have had no luck in trying to find the actual content of the Noldolantë.

Does this song even exist? That is to say, did Tolkien ever write the lament, or does it only exist in Middle-earth?

Bonus question: If the Noldolantë does not exist, is there another version of the account of the Kinslaying at Alqualondë, preferably one that provides more detail than the version in The Silmarillion? I'm especially interested in learning who took part in the Kinslaying and who didn't.

  • Never mind, its fan work. God, I'm dumb. – Mac Cooper Jun 16 '15 at 7:45
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    There might be something partial in The Lays of Beleriand, Book 3 of The History of Middle-Earth. Don't remember offhand. – Matt Gutting Jun 16 '15 at 10:39
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Does Noldolantë exist?

Not exactly. Christopher Tolkien remarks on this on The Shaping of Middle-earth, in relation to an earlier draft of the Quenta Silmarillion:

The reference to 'song of the Flight of the Gnomes' may be to the alliterative poem The Flight of the Noldoli (III. 131 ff.), though that was abandoned at the Fëanorian Oath: perhaps my father still thought to continue it one day, or to write a new poem on the subject.

History of Middle-earth IV The Shaping of Middle-earth Chapter 3: "The Quenta" Commentary on the Quenta

There's a footnote at the end of that line, which leads to the bottom of the page:

Later this becomes a reference to 'that lament which is named Noldolantë, the Fall of the Noldor, that Maglor made ere he was lost' (The Silmarillion p. 87); but I have found no trace of this.

History of Middle-earth IV The Shaping of Middle-earth Chapter 3: "The Quenta" Commentary on the Quenta

"The Flight of the Noldoli", the poem mentioned by Christopher Tolkien, is included in The Lays of Beleriand. As he notes, however, it ends well before the Kinslaying; the final verses go:

'Be he friend or foe or foul offspring
of Morgoth Bauglir, be he mortal dark
that in after days on earth shall dwell,
shall no law nor live nor league of Gods,
no might nor mercy, not moveless fate,
defend him for ever from the fierce vengeance
of the sons of Fëanor, whoso seize or steal
or finding keep the fair enchanted
globes of crystal whose glory dies not
the Silmarils. We have sworn for ever!'

Then a mighty murmuring was moved abroad
and a harkening host hailed them roaring:
'Let us go! yea go from the Gods for ever
on Morgoth's trail o'er the mountains of the world
to vengeance and victory! Your vows are ours!

History of Middle-earth III The Lays of Beleriand Chapter 2: "Lays Early Abandoned" (i) The Flight of the Noldoli

Three "roughly-written lines" present in the earliest draft, but not taken up in this one, conclude everything Tolkien did on this poem:

But Finweg cried Fingolfin's son
when his father found that fair counsel,
that wit and wisdom were of worth no more:
'Fools

History of Middle-earth III The Lays of Beleriand Chapter 2: "Lays Early Abandoned" (i) The Flight of the Noldoli

Christopher Tolkien hesitantly dated it to 1925, making it the second-earliest version of this tale; notable is the Oath of Fëanor and the warning of caution from the house of Fingolfin, both of which first appear in this poem.

Are there other versions of the tale, and who was involved in the Kinslaying?

There are many other versions; Tolkien has a version of this tale for every revision to the mythology. Although initially all of the Noldor (or at least, all those who went with Fëanor) were involved in the Kinslaying, later versions of the tale introduce some dissent in the ranks.

In particular, the host of Finarfin and some of the host of Fingolfin were not present at the Kinslaying, having lagged behind the rest.

The Book of Lost Tales

The first version of the story appears in a very long manuscript of Tolkien's, dated to somewhere between 1914 and 1923. I'm not going to reproduce the whole tale here (not in the least becase that manuscript in its entirety provides material for two volumes of History of Middle-earth), but only the relevant part of the Kinslaying (here the Kinslaughter or Battle of Kópas Alqalunten). When reading this, remember two things about the early draft:

  • The Solosimpi are the Elves who would later be called the Teleri. Confusingly, at this stage "Teleri" refers to what would later become the Vanyar
  • The Noldor (or Noldoli) are Gnomes here, although they're still related to the Solosimpi nd counted among the Eldar

"Never shall these thieves leave the Haven in our ships", and all those of the Solosimpi that were there ran swiftly atop of the cliff-wall to where the archway was wherethrough that fleet must pass, and standing there they shouted to the Gnomes to return but these heeded them not and held ever to their course, and the Solosimpi threatened them with rocks and strung their elfin bows.

Seeing this and believing war already to be kindled came now those of the Gnomes who might not fare aboard the ships but whose part it was to march along the shores, and they sped behind the Solosimpi, until coming suddenly upon them nigh the Haven's gate they slew them bitterly or cast them in the sea; and so first perished the Eldar neath the weapons of their kin, and that was a deed of horror.

History of Middle-earth I The Book of Lost Tales Part One Chapter 7: "The Flight of the Noldoli"

Based on this, it appears that none of the Noldor are blameless of the Kinslaying; the Elf-princes who we get so used to later (Fingolfin and Finarfin and such) don't yet exist, and we don't have the element that would be introduced later of Fëanor abandoning the host of Fingolfin; in this version, as the text goes on to recount, all of the Noldoli venture north and cross the Helkaraksë (the Grinding Ice; later the Helcaraxë).

The Earliest Silmarillion

This version of the story, believed to have been written before 1930, is really only a sketch of the mythology. Nonetheless it includes some details that were are new in the first version, that lets us answer the question a little better:

There is a vast concourse on the square on the summit of Cor1 about the tower of Ing, lit by torches. Fëanor makes a violent speech, and through his wrath is for Morgoth his words are in part the fruit of Morgoth's lies. He bids the Gnomes fly in the darkness while the Gods are wrapped in mourning [for the destruction of the Trees], to seek freedom in the world and to seek out Morgoth, now Valinor is no more blissful than the earth outside. Fingolfin and Finweg2 speak against him. The assembled Gnomes vote for flight, and Fingolfin and Finweg yield; they will not desert their people, but they retain command over a half of the people of the Noldoli.

The flight begins. The Teleri will not join. The Gnomes cannot escape without boats, and do not dare to cross the Grinding Ice. They attempt to seize the swan-ships in Swanhaven, and a fight ensues (the first between the races of the Earth) in which many Teleri are slain, and their ships carried off. A curse is pronounced upon the Gnomes, that they shall after suffer often from treachery and the fear of treachery among their own kindred in punishment for the blood spilled at Swanhaven. They sail North along the coast of Valinor. Mandos sends an emissary, who speaking from a high cliff hails them as they sail by, and warns them to return, and when they will not speaks the 'Prophecy of Mandos' concering the fate of after days.

The Gnomes come to the narrowing of the seas, and prepare to sail. While they are encamped upon the shore Fëanor and his sons sail off taking with them all the boats, and leave Fingolfin on the far shore treacherously, thus beginning the Curse of Swanhaven. They burn the boats as soon as they land in the East of the world, and Fingolfin's people see the light in the sky.

History of Middle Earth IV The Shaping of Middle-earth Chapter 1: "The Earliest Simarillion" Paragraph 5

Although only a rough outline, this seems to also indicate that all the Noldor (including the people of Fingolfin) were present and culpable at the Kinslaying. However an added note after the description of the Kinslaying itself reads:

Finrod3 and his sons were not at Swanhaven. They leave Tûn4 reluctantly, and more than the others carry away memories of it, and even many fair things made there by hands.

History of Middle Earth IV The Shaping of Middle-earth Chapter 1: "The Earliest Simarillion" Paragraph 5

So it appears as though it was only Fëanor and Fingolfin's people who were guilty of the Kinslaying, but the people of Finarfin (named Finrod in this draft; he only met up with the rest of the fleeing Noldoli after the burning of the swan-ships) were not.

The Qenta Noldorinwa

This is a more narrative version of the story, dated to about 1930ish by Christopher Tolkien. This version has a more detailed description of who, exactly, was involved in the Kinslaying. The setup is essentially the same, so I'll skip ahead a bit:

Now it is told that the hosts of Fëanor marched forth first along the coast of Valinor, then came the people of Fingolfin less eager, and in the rear of this host were Finrod and Felagund5 and many of the noblest and fairest of the Noldoli. Reluctantly they forsook the walls of Tûn, and more than others they carried thence memories of its bliss and beauty, and even many fair things made there by hands. Thus the people of Finrod had no part in the dreadful deed that then was done, and not all of Fingolfin's folks shared in it; yet all the Gnomes that departed from Valinor came under the curse that followed. When the Gnomes came to the Haven of the Swans they attempted to seize by force the white fleets that lay anchored there. A bitter affray was fought upon the great arch of the gate and upon the lamplit quays and piers, as is sadly told in the song of the Flight of the Gnomes.

History of Middle-earth IV The SHaping of Middle-earth Chapter 2: "The Quenta"

Here again we see that Finarfin's (here Finrod) people were blameless in the Kinslaying, but now we've added in some of Fingolfin's as well. Interestingly it seems as though they just narrowly missed the battle here; while in the last version the host of Finarfin only joined with the rest long after the Kinslaying, here they all set out at the same time, but some missed the battle because they were going too slowly (or the host of Fëanor was marching too fast, depending on your perspective).

Later versions

There are two more versions of this tale from later developments in the story, but they don't change the information being asked for so I'm not going to describe them in detail. For any who are interested, I'll list them here:

  • Tolkien's last draft of Quenta Silmarillion before he began The Lord of the Rings, dated to 1937. Published in The Lost Road and Other Writings
  • Tolkien's revised Silmarillion, after The Lord of the Rings was completed, dated to 1951. Published in Morgoth's Ring. The slight difference in this version is that Finarfin (still named Finrod here) was so disgusted when he learned of the Kinslaying, since his wife as a Teleri and his father-in-law was King at Alqualondë, that he opted to turn back and return to Valinor with some of his people.

1 I believe this is a reference to what is more usually spelled "Kôr", the mountain upon which stands the capital of the Gnomes in Valinor. The name is later changed to Túna, which the one used in the published Silmarillion.

2 Later Fingon, son of Fingolfin

3 Later Finarfin; Finarfin's sons were Finrod, Angrod (grandfather of Gil-Galad) and Aegnor. His daughter was Galadriel, though I'm not confident she exists yet at this stage

4 Another early form of Túna, which shows just how much later this note was added

5 Later known as Finarfin and Finrod

  • Interesting. +1. Is there a longer account of the Kinslaying to be found anywhere else? – Wad Cheber Jun 16 '15 at 20:54
  • You beat me to it. Should I look for its coming at first light on the fifth day? – Wad Cheber Jun 16 '15 at 20:54
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    @WadCheber Updated, and only in a few hours. The later versions of the story don't change any significant details, so I didn't feel the need to craft a detailed answer around them. Might do the published Silmarillion if I get bored later – Jason Baker Jun 17 '15 at 1:00
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    Jason Baker gave the most encompassing and detailed answer that I couldn't hope to compete with, so I'll just add that you should definitely get hold of the first two volumes of the History of Middle-Earth (called The Book of Lost Tales) and be prepared for the cornucopia of detail, engaging storytelling, and immersive atmosphere that was sadly lost in the subsequent versions and in the published Silmarillion. – Maksim Jun 18 '15 at 21:18
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It´s not much information but in Tolkiens latest account it is said that Galadriel was fighting against Feanor.

'she fought fiercely against Feanor in defence of her mother's kin'

1968 :Shibboleth of Feanor

I often wonder how they fought and if she fought Feanor directly or if that just means that she was somehow fighting against his people and how she was able to travel with the other Noldor, wouldn´t they have a grudge? Or maybe they didn´t noticed, with all that stuff that was going on.

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