Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Elf of the First Age

I've always loved artificial women - a strange statement out of mouth of anyone, yet even stranger when it comes from a girl (many of my gamer friends pondered upon my declared inability to play male characters; I truly don't enjoy that at all, don't know why).

Lord of The Rings story lacks outstanding female characters (there's Eowyn and Galadriel, and that's about it; and don't get me started about Arwen!), while The Hobbit has none - apart of course the legendary Luthien. And along with Luthien, other Tales fortunately do mention some outstanding females (Morwen comes to mind), but never warriors. Come to think of it now, this makes Eowyn truly unique, she's the only female (to my knowledge) mentioned by Tolkien that held a blade and fought.

Fortunatelly, Turbine didn't take lack of female warriors in Tolkien's work as a bane on them, but rather as a lack in description, and did introduce some remarkable female characters in their stories. One of them has dominated the story of Shadows of Angmar (Amathriel/Naruhel), the other had a role far less visible, but still of great importance both story- and lore-wise.

Glathriel, female elf warrior whom players meet deep in the Rift of Nurz-Gashu and with whom they try to stop an awakening Balrog, whom she guarded for centuries.
We know little about her, apart from what we can gather from her brief tale: she took part in the War of the Valar at the end of the First Age (Gorrem in his brief description of the design writes: An Elf from the 1st age of Middle-Earth. that means she's REALLY old.), to which she refers at "the breaking of Thangorodrim", when The Mountains of Oppression were destroyed as Ancalagon the Black - a dragon bred by Morgoth to be the greatest and mightiest of all dragons, and the first of the winged 'fire-drakes' - crashed upon them as he died. That's when she first engaged Thaurlach , one of Morgoth's Balrogs - in fight, and followed him east to the lands that would later become Angmar. The Balrog than hid somewhere in the land he turned to wasteland with his fire and Glathriel couldn't find him, but she waited for him to awake.

If what she says is true, she tried to pin him down for the whole Second Age, as - by her account - when Thaurlach has awaken, she defeated him "with the aid of the wizards". She also mentions that this happened when "the Dark Power rose again". This would mean that he stayed in slumber while Saurons rise to power during The Second Age and during his War with Elves, if - naturally - we take the wizards she mentions as the Istari (who arrived in the Middle-Earth in the Third Age when Sauron formed a new army and began to command from Dol Guldur -hill of dark sorcery- in southern Mirkwood). Gandalf seems to confirm that, saying that saying that "two others of my Order, who have since vanished into the East, aided her in imprisoning the Balrog". Those would be the Blue Wizards, vaguely mentioned in Tales. The wizards "deemed Thaurlach should be imprisoned where he could await his judgment at the end of days", but Glathriel feared that the Balrog might sought to escape, and she chose to stay and guard him. Her foresight, as it is revealed when the players find her, was true - they arrive just in time to see Thaurlach break free.

When, after an epic battle, Thaurlach is finally thrown down, Glathriel accompanies players to Rivendell where she meets with Gandalf and Glorfindel. There seems to be one problem here though: Gandal says that the chain the Balrog was chained with, named Angithron, "was forged when this world was young" - well it was not quite young at the beginning of the Third Age... Nor could Thaurlach have awoken "by his master's call", as his master was Morgoth, who was defeated in The War of the Valar. Maybe Gandalf ment Sauron, who - as Morgoth's successor - could potentially become Balrogs' new master? Still, world would not be young when Thaurlach was chained, as it seems to be during the Thrid Age when the Istari came, and his true master's call could never have awakened him, as the master was no more. Unless we assume that the Blue Wizards were sent to Middle-Earth much earlier...

It is there in Rivendell where, I think, Glathriel's origins are revealed - she seems close to Glorfindel, a sword-mate for sure. They couldn't fight together at the Thongorodrim, as Glorfindel died during the Fall of Gondolin, and king Turgon's armier left the Hidden City only once before, and barely interacted with other elves during the brief and Tragic Battle of Unnumbered Tears. Judging by this, and by the fact that her battle-cry is "For Gondolin, for Nargothrond!" I would like to assume that she is from Gondolin as well, one of the House of Golden Flower like Glorfindel, who managed to escape after he perished in his clash with Balrog. And if you look at the original design by Gorrem more closely, you'll see that her armor is decorated with many aquatic ornaments - the shell on her belt, the wave-like design of the plates... Nodlor of Gondolin lived under blessing of Ulmo, King of the Sea and Lord of Waters.

At first Glathriel desires to stay in Middle-Earth and fight on against The Shadow, but Glorfindel tells her that this is no longer the deed of the Eldar, as their time is fading and "the duty of great deeds has fallen to others", she than leaves for the Grey Havens and on to the West, to find her peace.

Transcript of the story of Glathriel as revealed in LotRO I've posted before in this post.

Original image can be found here.


  1. It's Glathirel, isn't it?
    And the chain needn't have been forged immediately before it was used.
    Otherwise, a nice bio.

  2. Nice post!

    I believe that Sauron had indeed inherited Morgoth's dominion over all evil creatures in Middle-Earth, including Balrogs.

    Also, according to Wikipedia, Tolkien made some late revisions as to when the Blue Wizards arrived in Middle-Earth, meaning they could have been present during the important period in the Second Age.

    Turbine are only allowed use material mentioned in LoTR, and I can't remember exactly what is said about the Blue Wizards in there. I'm guessing the details are vague enough to have allowed Turbine a little leeway.

  3. Actually Robert, its Glathlirel, I've just checked in the very link I've given to the transcript of what she says before the fight and after the chain hand-in.

    About the chain - yes, I tought about it too. But as i belive every word in those short dialogues matters, this would mean that the mention of the chain should also be important and point to some important fact. Where could the chain be forged than, by whom and for what purpose?
    A wild guess would be that it has been forget in the West and was first a chain of Morgoth, but how would it find it's way to Middle-Earth, for what purpose and to what extreme odds did it appear exactly when needed to chain a Balrog? Maybe the Vala haveforseen it and sent the chain with the Blue Wizards...
    Or maybe a Nodlor lord has ordered it to be made before one of the great battles, hoping to imprison one of the slaves of Morgoth, or maybe even in his pride, the Morgoth himself? My imagination runs wild now!

    unwize, Sauron was indeed Morgoth's highest liutenant, but the problem with inheriting rule over Balrogs is that after the War of the Valar most of them were destroyed and those who who were not, went into hiding (like Rift and Moria ones). Sauron did not know they have survived, or at least he could not locate them [precisely], they were hidden from all foresight, even Galadriels. Note how Angmar was in his dominion for ages, but he did not free him.

    But I agree, the story most probably relates to Sauron out of the sole fact that tehre was no other dark lord after War of the Valar than he. Though still I am convinced that Sauron did not have power over Balrogs after Morgoth's demise; he most probably would gain it if he could get in contact with one.

    About the Blue Wizards, I share your point of view and I agree, the details of the arrival of the Istari were not very precise and the only thing we know for sure is that they were in the Middle-Earth already when Sauron began to regain power in Dol Guldur. Could they have arrived during the Second Age, at the peak of his power? I'm not that much learned in the Lore of the Tales, but to my knowledge, there's nothing forbiding that theory.

  4. My understanding is that the Balrogs would very much sense the growing power of Sauron, and would react accordingly.

    I'm pretty sure Tolkien addresss all this somewhere, but I'm damned if I can remember where! :)

  5. ...and than you have to consider if he changed his mind later or not ;)