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The Dagor Dagorath (Sindarin for Battle of Battles) is a fictional battle described in the legendarium of J. R. R. Tolkien. As Tolkien's works were conceived as a fictional "forgotten history" of the world, the Dagor Dagorath represents the coming End of the World, and is often referred to as simply "The End". As Tolkien originally wrote it, The Silmarillion ends with a prophecy by Mandos about the end of the world. The published Silmarillion ends instead with the last paragraph of Valaquenta. This was due to the fact that Tolkien had abandoned the idea of the "second prophecy of Mandos", and the Valaquenta text, much later, contradicted it openly. However, references to the final battle remain in the published Silmarillion, such as a statement at the end of the Akallabêth that Ar-Pharazôn and his mortal warriors who had set foot on Aman were buried by falling hills, imprisoned in the Caves of the Forgotten until the "Last Battle and Day of Doom". Christopher Tolkien sees the account as similar to the Nordic legend of Ragnarök and J. R. R. Tolkien also made this connection in some of his letters.
According to the Second Prophecy of Mandos, included in The Shaping of Middle-earth and similar versions in later volumes of the History of Middle-earth series, Morgoth (the source and personification of evil in Tolkien's Middle-earth universe) will discover how to break the Door of Night, and will destroy the Sun and the Moon. For the love of these, Eärendil will return from the sky and shall meet Tulkas, Eönwë, and Túrin Turambar on the plains of Valinor.
There the forces of the Valar shall fight against Morgoth. Tulkas will wrestle with him, but it will be by the hand of Túrin that finally death and destruction will be dealt to Melkor. Túrin will run his black sword Gurthang (Iron of Death) through Melkor's heart, thus avenging the Children of Húrin and all Men. Then the Pelóri Mountains will be levelled, the three Silmarils will be recovered from the Earth, sea, and sky, and Fëanor's spirit shall be released from the halls of Mandos to give them to Yavanna, who will break them and rekindle the light of the Two Trees. The battle will end and renew Arda's existence: all the Elves shall awake and the Powers will be young again. Also, according to Dwarven legends, they will help their maker Aulë recreate Arda in all its glory again. It is also thought that at that time, the substance that was used to create the Silmarils will be revealed.
Following this, there will be a Second Music of the Ainur. This song will sing into being a new world. The Children of Ilúvatar (in the published Silmarillion, this is only certain for the Men, while the Elven fate is unknown) will sing it with the Ainur. It is unknown what the fate of the old races, or of the old world, will be in the new one. Even the Ainur do not know anything of the second world or the Second Music. All the Ainur know is that the Second Music will be greater than the First Music.
In some of his later writings Tolkien made changes which might indicate that no Vala had definite knowledge of what would happen at the end of the world, beyond that a Last Battle would be fought between the forces of Light and Darkness.
Development and references in Tolkien's works
Christopher Tolkien removed the prophecy from The Silmarillion based on a 1958 version of the Valaquenta wherein his father wrote that none of Mandos' dooms had declared whether the Marring of Arda would ever be repaired (Christopher Tolkien adopted this passage and used it to close the Quenta Silmarillion).
The published Silmarillion contradicts the Second Prophecy in places. Whereas the Second Prophecy explicitly states that the Elves and Valar shall be renewed after Dagor Dagorath and that the fate of Men is unknown, The Silmarillion states that Men will participate in singing the Second Music, and that it is the fate of the Elves that is unknown, and nothing is said of the fate of the Valar. This fact occurred because the published Silmarillion uses later versions of the Quenta Silmarillion (included in Morgoth's Ring and The Peoples of Middle-earth).
There are also two references to the final battle in the text of the essay about the Istari included by Christopher in Unfinished Tales. Explaining the insertion of the term in one poem included there Tolkien states that Manwë will "descend from Taniquetil" in order to confront Morgoth, an event that is foreshadowed in "Myths Transformed", one text published in Morgoth's Ring.
Who was "Gandalf?" It is said that in later days (when again a shadow of evil arose in the Kingdom) it was believed by many of the "Faithful" of that time that "Gandalf" was the last appearance of Manwë himself, before his final withdrawal to the watchtower of Taniquetil. (That Gandalf said that his name "in the West" had been Olórin was, according to this belief, the adoption of an incognito, a mere by-name.) I do not (of course) know the truth of the matter, and if I did it would be a mistake to be more explicit than Gandalf was. But I think it was not so. Manwë will not descend from the Mountain until Dagor Dagorath, and the coming of the End, when Melkor returns.
It must be mentioned here that "Dagor Dagorath", the name properly said, was not used by Tolkien in The Lost Road or in The Shaping of Middle-earth. All the occurrences of the term in these books were in the editorial notes of his son. The canonical mentions of the name are only in Unfinished Tales. Christopher Tolkien included the name in The Shaping of Middle-earth because the first mention of the Second Prophecy of Mandos was placed there but Tolkien did not mention the existence of a Prophecy in the text published in Unfinished Tales. The manner with which the name appears in Unfinished Tales suggests that there are some kind of "foretelling" of The End but does not state that it comes from one of Mandos' prophecies.
In his last writings about Middle-earth Tolkien substituted the Prophecy of the Last Battle (Dagor Dagorath) by another prophecy made by Andreth, probably about a different "Last Battle", the War of Wrath (the end of the Elder Days). In this prophecy Túrin was the destroyer of Ancalagon, the dragon, instead of Eärendil.
The next paragraph quotes Tolkien's words in The Problem of Ros, the others are the comments by Christopher Tolkien:
The language of the Folk of Haleth was not used, for they had perished and would not rise again. Nor would their tongue be heard again, unless the prophecy of Andreth the Wise-woman should prove true, that Túrin in the Last Battle should return from the Dead, and before he left the Circles of the World for ever should challenge the Great Dragon of Morgoth, Ancalagon the Black, and deal him the death-stroke.
This remarkable saying has long roots, extending back to the prophecy at the end of the old Tale of Turambar (II. 115-16),(...)
Another reference is found in the Annals of Aman (X. 71, 76), where it is said of the constellation Menelmakar (Orion) that it 'was a sign of Túrin Turambar, who should come into the world, and a foreshowing of the Last Battle that shall be at the end of Days.
In this last reappearance of the mysterious and fluctuating idea the prophecy is put into the mouth of Andreth, the Wise-woman of the House of Bëor: Túrin will 'return from the Dead' before his final departure, and his last deed within the Circles of the World will be the slaying of the Great Dragon, Ancalagon the Black. Andreth prophesies of the Last Battle at the end of the Elder Days (the sense in which the term 'Last Battle' is used shortly afterwards in this text, p. 371); but in all the early texts (the Quenta, IV.160; the Annals of Beleriand, IV.309, V.144; the Quenta Silmarillion, V.329) it was Eärendil who destroyed Ancalagon.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, Commentary on the lay of the Völsungs p 185
- "Dagor Dagorath". kulichki.com.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1977), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Silmarillion, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Chapter VII - Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor, p. 58, ISBN 0-395-25730-1
- "The Last Battle". valarguild.org.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1980), Christopher Tolkien, ed., Unfinished Tales, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Part IV, The Istari, p. 395, ISBN 0-395-29917-9
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1996), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Peoples of Middle-earth, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Late Writings, XII. The Problem of Ros, ISBN 0-395-82760-4