Session 7-10: The Nirnaeth Arnoediad

MithLuin

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Edit: Our next session will be held on Thursday March 14th at 10 PM Eastern Time.

Our topic will be planning the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, the war that will take place over the final 4 episodes of season 7.

We need to come up with the plan that the Union of Maedhros has - what do they think and hope will happen during this war? And how does that plan evolve over the course of the season with the developments?

...and then what are we going to actually show on screen? Because the Nirnaeth Arnoediad didn't go according to plan, and we need to hit the audience with ups and downs as the chances of the war shift. Leading to the death of amdir, but the birth of estel.

There are three main aspects of this to pay attention to.

The Dorthonion campaign will happen first, prior to the main engagement. This will feature the Dwarves and the dragon Glaurung.

The Western front will have the unexpected arrival of the massive army from Gondolin. And while they're waiting for the Eastern front to get their act together, there will come the taunt with Guilin's murder, and Gwindor's charge. Boldog and the balrogs will be in the Western front.

The Eastern front will have the most massive deviation from the planned battle attack. The betrayal of Uldor and his loyal supporters will destroy the siege equipment, delay the armies from moving into place, and sow general chaos, culminating in actually attacking the elven army.

And.....go!

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Could I just confirm the date on this? I have Thursday March 7th in my notes - March 1st is a Friday and has been noted for the S7E01 script discussion.
 
Could I just confirm the date on this? I have Thursday March 7th in my notes - March 1st is a Friday and has been noted for the S7E01 script discussion.
Oops! I'm sorry, mixed up the dates. You're right, and I've corrected it now.

So Glaurung is put out of action for the Nirnaeth?
Yes.


Schedule for March, subject to change (updated 3/7):
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So Glaurung is put out of action for the Nirnaeth?
He will be having his showdown with Azaghâl in SilmFilm, as per the book.

Edit: oh, I see now. I can't recall the discussion around him being wounded in Dorthonion, and if that is replacing the book version. I do recall that there's a difference between the Dwarves who take Azaghâl's body off the battlefield, and those that are working with the siege equipment. @MithLuin can you clarify?
 
So, we are combining two things.

In Tolkien's story, the retaking of Dorthonion happens prior to the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. It is strategically important to retake Dorthonion, so that Morgoth cannot trap the elven armies in a pincer move coming out of Angband and down from the highlands of Dorthonion at the same time.

Also in Tolkien's story, Glaurung leaves the field of battle after his encounter with Azaghâl. Azaghâl is killed and Glaurung is wounded, and both the Dwarves and the dragon retreat.

And so...we are putting these things together. In our story, Glaurung inhabits Dorthonion and is turning it into Taur-na-Fuin, Forest under deadly Nightshade. And so it is doubly important to confront the dragon and retake Dorthonion prior to the main engagements of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. We are having the Dorthonion campaign be the first part of the War. During this time, Glaurung is wounded, and he retreats (most likely to Rivil's Well, where his young hatchlings are living). So, therefore...Glaurung will be wounded and will not take part in the later parts of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad.
 
The idea from Session 7-8 was to have a 'dragon trap' that would keep Glaurung confined during the battle. At the very least, it would delay his arrival on the battlefied. So, the trap would happen before the battle, and then the confrontation with the Dwarves would happen during the battle in the Eastern front after Glaurung escaped the trap. In Session 7-9, we combined those two incidents into one, so that now the attempt is not to trap the dragon, but kill him. And while the mission is not wholly successful, it is does manage to wound Glaurung badly enough that he doesn't return to battle...though there would be a question about how *certain* they are that the dragon won't reappear.....

We can keep that idea of a 'dragon trap' for an earlier version of the plan, prior to the involvement of the Dwarves.

So, earlier in the discussions, the assumption might be that they can't kill the dragon, so distracting or trapping the dragon is the best chance. They can discuss the plans to make a dragon-trap, and there can be some doubt about how effective that would be. There might be either reluctance to be part of that plan, or daring enthusiasm to undertake that quest. Either way, it may be considered a weak point in the plan that needs more work. Because they have to do *something*!

So, initial plan: Maedhros says "let me worry about that" whenever anyone brings up the dragon. Making it clear that we know it's an issue...and one they don't have an obvious solution to, as Glaurung was devastating during the Dagor Bragollach, and impossible to remove from Keep Helevorn afterwards.

At the Summit, the first idea for a 'dragon-trap' can be floated. Lure him in with treasure, and then trap him so he cannot escape. The discussion there can be all over the place...maybe the Nauglamír can even be mentioned as bait? When it is clear that Nargothrond is out, and Doriath is out, there can be some question as to what forces can be spared from the battle plan to manage the dragon. And then, we would get volunteers? Handir, Rhogrin, perhaps the Fëanoreans themselves? Maybe that's where Beleg and Mablung express interest, as the dragon in Dorthonion seems too similar to the rampaging of Carcharoth, and a closer threat than Angband itself.

Then, once the Easterlings and Dwarves are brought on board, there is a new plan for the dragon. The Dwarves of Belegost are convinced they can slay the dragon, not merely trap him. And they too are convinced that the dragon is a bigger threat than Angband. Dorthonion is where they want to invest their efforts.


So, the campaign in Dorthonion will precede the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, but rather than be a separate event, it will merely be the beginning of the war, which will have multiple engagements. Dealing with the dragon first seems necessary for any of the rest of the plan to have any hope of success. As the Dwarves march into battle, the other armies are mustering, prepared to follow up their attack with their own war. They're waiting for some indication that the dragon is taken care of....which means, there's probably a backup plan for if the Dwarves should fail, right?
 
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Gwindor's charge (start of the battle on the Western front):

Gwindor is going to make it to the Gate of Angband, and his immediate band may even break through the gate (we'll see how we plan this out). It's going to look like madness, but be fairly hopeful....except...not. There should be grief over what happens to Guilin, and we know that Boldog is only doing this to draw out the Elves and start the battle before the Eastern forces are ready. So, when Gwindor responds to the bait, we know it's a bad decision. We should suspect that this is not going to end well for anyone. But, despite this ominous and grief-filled start....it *is* successful. At first.

I cannot help but think of Pickett's charge during the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War in 1863. The "Highwater Mark of the Confederacy" is where they broke through the center of the Union line on Cemetary Ridge. Armistead was able to breach the low stone wall at the Angle, but...he was unable to hold the position. The perhaps 250 soldiers who came with him were either killed, wounded, captured, or fled. There was unfortunately (for the Confederates) about a mile of open fields between the Confederate position on Seminary Ridge and the Union position on Cemetary Ridge, and while the charge was preceded by about a 2 hour bombardment with cannons....the Union troops were not out of cannonballs. They continued to fire on the advancing infantry, causing massive casualties.


Gwindor's charge should have a similarly tragic feeling to it, though of course no one has cannons or bayonets in this battle. And it will be the "Highwater Mark" of the Noldor attacking Angband prior to the War of Wrath.
 
Before I present an alternative, I want to state that I am not caught up on all six seasons of Silmfilm, so I may make a few mistakes concerning continuity.

Arriving at Barad Eithel, Maedhros is going to rekindle his friendship with Fingon. The two are the primary planners of the Union of Maedhros. Hithlum and the March of Maedhros anchor the position of the Free Peoples in the west and east respectively. Dorthonion, in the center, is the cause for concern. It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, as has been stated. This is, perhaps, the most pressing problem for any potential union. Maedhros needs a concrete solution to present at the Council of Tol Sirion. He cannot simply say, “I have something on the stove, let me cook.” Such a statement is not going to encourage participation from Nargothrond or Doriath.

I think that Maedhros must have seriously considered this problem prior to approaching Fingon at Barad Eithel. The solution that Maedhros presents to Fingon helps to persuade him of the Union’s potential. Fingon is going to work on convening a council at Tol Sirion. Maedhros is going to send a messenger to Himring. Is it wise to have any other son of Fëanor at the Council? Maybe Maglor. Considering the events of season six, Maedhros must know that having Curufin, Celegorm, or Caranthir at the Council is not a wise decision. Instead, Curufin and Celegorm are sent to Belegost to convince the dwarves to join the Union. Why Curufin and Celegorm? Any chance for the Council to succeed may be contingent on their absence. Furthermore, Curufin is a master smith that may contribute to the construction of siege engines. Celegorm, I believe, partook in Fingon’s charge against a young Glaurung. This experience might be of use. The dwarves, fearing that Glaurung may seek to sack Belegost at some point, are already preparing for that possibility. Upon being informed of the Union, Azaghâl agrees to join without much convincing. A messenger, possibly one of the named dwarf characters, is dispatched from Belegost to the Council of Tol Sirion. The messenger arrives before the conclusion of the Council, and the news from Belegost is an encouraging sign for those that have not stormed off.

Alright, what is the actual plan? Glaurung is exceedingly intelligent. I am not convinced that he would fall for a trap involving a suspect trove of treasure. Furthermore, I find it to be simply too silly in the context of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. I assume that there are also numerous orcs in Dorthonion. We want to convince the audience to have amdir in the potential success of the Union of Maedhros. To achieve this end, I suggest that a massive amount of momentum characterize the campaign in Dorthonion. It should be a swift invasion where the Union has numerical superiority. How many dwarves are there? Four, five thousand? Fëanorian cavalry and archers supplement the heavily armored dwarven infantry. Over the course of a day (?), the orcs are defeat in several skirmishes and driven out of Dorthonion.

Once that is done, how is the dragon going to be dealt with? The account in the published Silmarillion states, “But the Naugrim made a circle about him when he assailed them, and even his mighty armor was not full proof against the blows of their great axes…” I suggest that over the course of the second day, Glaurung is systematically hunted and hemmed in. Celegorm, commanding a flexible force of Fëanorian cavalry, steers Glaurung toward a predetermined, prepared location. Azaghâl and an immense amount of dwarven infantry form a tightening perimeter around Glaurung. The dwarven lines are a few ranks deep. The frontmost rank is equipped with broad shields and great axes. The rear ranks are equipped with tremendously long pikes. Perhaps, these pikes were specifically designed to pierce the scale mail of a dragon. Having encircled or cornered Glaurung, the plan is to prod him to death. If Glaurung is cornered below a cliff, the dwarves could engineer a rockfall in an attempt to crush him.

Glaurung is growing desperate. There are simply too many dwarves to deal with. In a last effort, Glaurung launches himself at the dwarven center. Dozens of dwarves are either engulfed in flames or crushed beneath him in his onslaught. Azaghâl, his body broken, drives a knife deep into the belly of the beast. The black blood of Glaurung spills out of the stab wound, tarnishing his armor and burning him. Having sustained so severe a wound, Glaurung retreats to Rivil's Well. The Fëanorian cavalry harries him all the way there. The dwarves of Belegost exit the field bearing the body of Azaghâl. Celegorm goes to inform Maedhros of all that has happened. Until the death of Azaghâl, the Dorthonion Campaign exceeded expectations of success. That said, the exit of the dwarves is deemed acceptable considering that the threat of Glaurung is ended.
 
In session eight, there was a discussion of the Dragon Helm of Dor-lómin. The consensus was that while we wanted Húrin to wear the helmet in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad it presented too much of a problem. What would be the benefit? The following excerpt is from the end of The Departure of Túrin. “Often Hador, and Galdor after him, had borne it in war; and the hearts of the host of Hithlum were uplifted when they saw it towering high amid the battle, and they cried: ‘Of more worth is the Dragon of Dor-lómin than the gold-worm of Angband!’” Has this been shown in previous seasons?

The significance of the helmet as a symbol of the House of Hador would be strengthened were Húrin to wear it. It is not simply a dusty old helm that everyone seems eager to dispose of. I imagine that Húrin and the Men of Dor-lómin are the first out on Anfauglith following Gwindor’s charge. Húrin slays Boldog, and the Men of Dor-lómin shout, “Of more worth is the Dragon of Dor-lómin than the gold-worm of Angband!” This statement is made more significant because Glaurung was nearly slain in Dorthonion the previous episode.

There may be an alternative that was not mentioned in session eight. Might Húrin give the Dragon Helm of Dor-lómin to Gil-galad at the Fen of Serech? It is plausible that Húrin, as the Lord of Dor-lómin, knows Gil-galad, who holds a position of some prominence in the court of Fingon. He is the emissary sent to Doriath. Gil-galad is at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. He is a member of a company that voluntarily comes from Doriath. At least three of these volunteers survive the slaughter: Mablung, Beleg, and Gil-galad. To my knowledge, how these three escape has not been decided.

The easiest answer seems to be south through the Pass of Sirion. The Gondolindrim retreat along this same route. The rear of the retreat is secured by the stand of the Men of Dor-lómin in the Fen of Serech. Fingon has been slain. Gil-galad may be among the few ranking elves of Hithlum that remain. It stands to reason that, in defeat, you would want to enable the escape of any volunteer soldiers that have a home to return to. The Men of Dor-lómin “did not wish in their hearts to leave the Northlands, and if they could not win back to their homes, there they would stand to the end.” Were the Men of Dor-lómin to secure the retreat of the Sindar, in addition to the Gondolindrim, it would elevate the significance of their sacrifice even more.

Consider the conversation between Húrin and Morwen concerning whither she should flee were the Free Peoples to be defeated. “‘My heart does not lean to Thingol,’ said Húrin. ‘No help will come from him to King Fingon; and I know not what shadow falls on my spirit when Doriath is named.’” At the Fen of Serech, Húrin is faced with the fact that he was wrong. Voluntary help has come from Doriath to King Fingon. Húrin’s sacrifice is going to be their salvation. This heightens the sense of obligation that Thingol has to Húrin’s family.

Húrin commends the Dragon Helm of Dor-lómin to the care of Gil-galad. This shows his acceptance of the situation. He has no more amdir. The Day has not come, but the Day shall come again. Túrin, his son, shall take up the Dragon Helm, and so the memory of the Men of Dor-lómin shall survive. Gil-galad is to get the Dragon Helm to Túrin. Having a change of heart, Húrin may hope that Morwen flees from Dor-lómin to Doriath. He may know the likelihood of the Dragon Helm going to Doriath indefinitely because it shall be inadvisable that Gil-galad leave. Were this to happen, it would serve to remind Thingol of the debt that is owed to his family.

Beleg is witness to this exchange. This elevates the scene where Beleg saves Túrin on the marches of Doriath. I want to pause for a moment. One may be forgiven for thinking that that encounter was eucatastrophic, but it is portrayed as a dyscatastrophe. “There they came near to death, for winter came cold from the North; but not so light was Túrin's doom.” This sentence is saying that starving to death, as a child, in the cold wilderness is too good for Túrin.

It must be acknowledged that there is a price to every adaptational decision. This is not a necessary deviation, but I believe it has its benefits. The main cost is that it changes the scene between Morwen and the messengers from Doriath. Another cost is Húrin’s disdain for helmets. To maintain some semblance of this, Húrin may say, “I would now look on my foes with my true face,” having given the helmet to Gil-galad. I think that this statement in itself is indicative of estel. In choosing not to wear a helmet, he accepts and commends himself into the hands of chance.
 
This session will be held on Thursday March 14th at 10 PM Eastern time (in one week)
 
Of the Edain, I realize that Maedhros can't really say "trust me, there's a plan" and expect people to trust him. It is possible that he can alude to a plan without stating it on screen for the viewer, though, to build anticipation for what the plan is. Not for too long, but it's dangerous to spell it out too soon, because then it will feel like we're dragging it out too long. So, having him tell Fingon that he's got the dragon situation handled, but not show the viewer what his plan is, doesn't mean he's not told Fingon the plan.


We do want to be very careful about how and why the Dwarves decide to join this alliance. We've had Maedhros wooing them for some time, trying to get them aboard when it was the Leaguer, with...limited success. The Dwarves are fine with selling weapons to the Noldor, and fine with assisting them with construction projects and similar. But when it comes to manning an outpost or marching off to war? They're not interested. They don't want to risk their own lives to fight someone else's battles.

A few things change at this time. For one, they understand that the dragon would be devastating to a dwarven city. Belegost may be more-or-less safe from Angband at this time, but the dragon got very close when it was holed up at Keep Helevorn...and what was to prevent Glaurung from going towards Belegost from there? It was only luck that drew him away. So, they have a heightened concern over the dragon.

But more importantly, they recognize that the Fëanoreans are 'all in' in their offensive. So, after the decisions are made at the Summit meeting, then the Dwarves can do the math and realize that the Union of Maedhros, win or lose, is going to be a decisive action. If they win, great, Angband is dealt a serious blow or even defeated! But if they lose...what will become of Beleriand? And how safe will Belegost be after that defeat? Realizing that the decision has already been made by the elves and humans, the Dwarves decide to aid the war efforts rather than sit this one out.


In other words, we don't want this to be a case of the Fëanoreans reaching out to the Dwarves, and the dwarves being quickly persuaded to join. There is resistance to the idea, and in the end, it is the Dwarves who reach out to the elves and proclaim that they are on board. I am fine with having Maedhros send his brothers to Belegost as emissaries, but I think it would be a mistake to have the dwarves declare their willingness to fight so early in the season. That would be a diplomatic victory for Maedhros, sure...but it would not feel like a decision the dwarves have made for their own reasons.
 
Alright, I want to amend my previous proposal, accounting for what MithLuin has written.

Maedhros proposes the Union. Fingon asks what shall be done about the dragon in Dorthonion. Maedhros has a plan in mind, but he does not want to mention any specifics until the support of the dwarves is assured. He requests that Fingon have faith in him. Because of their friendship, Fingon agrees to this request and the Union. It is from the message Maedhros sends to Himring that the audience first learns that the dwarves are central to his plan. Maedhros must know that having Curufin and Celegorm at the council is not a wise decision, so the two are sent to Belegost to convince the dwarves to join the Union.

I originally suggested that “the dwarves, fearing that Glaurung may seek to sack Belegost at some point, are already preparing for that possibility.” It is not that the dwarves are quickly persuaded to join the Union. The audience simply is not privy to the debates that precede the decision. This is because the Fëanoreans enter in the middle of things. Therefore, the timing of their arrival in Belegost is eucatastrophic and adds to the growing estel among the elves. I understand the desire to show these debates.

That said, the Fëanoreans must have begun full mobilization, for the dwarves to recognize the magnitude of the offense. Where is the proactivity in solving the problem that Dorthonion, and the dragon therein, present? I also think that the sudden arrivals of both Belegost and the Easterling are too similar.

Here is the amendment. Curufin and Celegorm convince Azaghâl that the Union is a unique opportunity. Azaghâl must convince the cabal of capitalists that this is the correct course. Curufin and Celegorm remain in Belegost as an intermediate link. A message is sent to Maedhros at the Council of Tol Sirion. It simply states that the dwarves are slowly coming around. This gives Maedhros the confidence to reassure those that remain at the council of his plan. He may mention that dwarves are a part of the plan. He does not elaborate because the dwarves must be consulted concerning the details. Maedhros does say that the lighting of a beacon shall signal that Dorthonion has been taken. This is, I believe, a necessary deviation from the book where said beacon was a signal for Fingon to commence his assault. It is not until the council has concluded and preparations are being made that Azaghâl succeeds in mustering support from the majority of Belegost.
 
I have finished listening to the session and have some input. It is right that the elves did take into account a live dragon and make a plan to deal with it. What I find difficult to imagine is that the elves did not take into account balrogs and make plans to deal with them as well. Their offensive seems to fall apart when the balrogs take the field. The elves have plenty of experience fighting balrogs and they know how formidable they are. Let's add balrogs to the elves' plan and have them work out a way to handle them and maybe even kill one of them. If they did not have a plan or a chance of killing balrogs going into the battle then they come across as foolish. The plan will of course fail and the best way to make it fail is through treachery, of which there is not enough of in the whole battle. The developments in the course of the battle seems to be very much dependent upon fortune and circumstance. We seem to have lost the emphasis that Tolkien makes of Morgoth having spies among the elves and of him knowing exactly what the elves were planning and of Morgoth or Sauron's hand in the Easterling betrayal. In he end I am afraid that the defeat of the elves will come down to bad luck rather than they were walking into a trap.
 
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