|Place from J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium|
|Other names||The Guarded Realm,
The Hidden Kingdom
|Founder||Elves of the First Age|
|Lord||Thingol & Melian|
In J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional Middle-earth, Doriath is a realm of the Sindar in Beleriand ruled by King Thingol and his queen Melian. Along with the other great forests of Tolkien's legendarium such as Mirkwood, Fangorn and Lothlórien it serves as the central stage in the theatre of its time, the First Age. On this stage many of the notable characters and events appear such as: The Tale of Beren and Lúthien from The Lays of Beleriand, parts of The Children of Húrin and, of course, The Silmarillion. It is called the 'Fenced Land' because of a girdle of enchantment Melian put about it, allowing none to enter the kingdom without the leave of her or Thingol.
Doriath was a land of forests adjoining the great River Sirion and its eastern tributaries: Mindeb, Esgalduin, Celos, and Aros. Within it were the forests Neldoreth or Taur-na-Neldor, the northern beech forest, Nivrim, the West March, an oak forest, Region the main forest, and Arthórien between Aros and Celon. Additionally, the forests of Brethil and Nan Elmoth were held as part of Doriath; these last two lay outside the Girdle of Melian. Though Elu Thingol, lord of the Sindar, saw all of Beleriand as his realm, from the Gelion to Belegaer, after the return of the Noldor to Middle-Earth Doriath was the center of his power. It is said that of all Kingdoms of Beleriand in the legends "the most mighty and the longest free was Thingol of the Woods."
In the midmost part of Doriath was a natural feature, a vast hill with many caves. Towards the end of the Ages of Melkor's captivity, Melian counselled Thingol that the peace of his realm would not long endure and so he endeavored to turn these caves into a wondrous citadel called Menegroth, the Thousand Caves, which became Thingol's capital city and principal fortress. The Dwarves of Belegost and Nogrod were contracted to build the halls of Menegroth. Its gates were carved into a rocky hill alongside the Esgalduin river, and the vast caverns beneath were considered one of the finest works of the Elves of the Elder Days in either Middle-earth or Valinor. Dwarves were employed in its construction as they had far more experience in building underground. Its halls were carved to look like a beech forest, complete with birds and animals. The great tree Hirilorn, wherein Lúthien was placed by Thingol to prevent her from meeting Beren, was outside the front entrance of Menegroth. A great stone bridge across the river Esgalduin was the only access to the gates.
Long before Doriath was founded, during the march of the Elves from Cuiviénen, the Vanyar and the Noldor passed through its woods on the Great Journey. Finwë and the Noldor dwelt there for a time before they were ferried across the Great Sea on Tol Eressëa. Shortly after the third group of the Elves, the Teleri, arrived in Beleriand their lord Elwë became lost in the forest of Nan Elmoth upon becoming enamored with the Maia Melian. When Ulmo returned to take the Teleri to Valinor, a part of that people remained behind to continue their search for their lord. Those Teleri who did jounrey to Valinor were led by Elwë's brother Olwë, and became the Sea-elves, or Falmari, of Alqualondë. Those who remained in Beleriand called themselves the forsaken, and originally called Doriath Eglador, meaning "Land of the Forsaken". Happily for them, Elwë eventually returned, revealed as a lord of great reverence, and accompanied by his queen Melian. He became known as Elu Thingol, the king of the Teleri of Middle-earth, and ruled his people from Doriath, though they were widespread throughout Beleriand. His people became known as the Sindar, Elves of the Twilight, or Grey Elves.
In the last years before the Noldor returned to Middle-earth the Orcs assailed the Sindar of Beleriand. After that Battle, the first of many in the Wars of Beleriand, Melian fenced the forests of Neldoreth, Region, and Nivrim with unseen walls of shadow that would prevent any from entering without the consent of her or the king. Thingol also formed a defence of his realm with companies of archers that guarded the borders called March Wardens. With the help of Dwarven smiths, he built an army of Elves armed with axes, long spears and swords and armoured coats of scale-mail and shields. Thingol then summoned all the wandering Sindar to Doriath, but many remained in the wild. After the First Battle of Beleriand, many Laiquendi, Green Elves or Nandor as well as some Avari removed to Doriath, establishing themselves as the 'Guest Elves' of Arthórien.
When the Noldor returned to Middle-earth at the beginning of the First Age, they were initially welcomed in Doriath. But upon learning of the first Kinslaying at Alqualondë, the victims of which were the people of his brother Olwë, Thingol was outraged. Judging the Noldor's language to be that of the kinslayers, Thingol forbade it to spoken by or to the Sindar, leading many Noldor to adopt Sindarin for their own use. Furthmore, he barred the Noldor that followed the sons of Fëanor from entering his realm, but allowed entry those of the Houses of Fingolfin and Finarfin. The former he judged had atoned for their part in the Kinslaying through their crossing the ice of the Helcaraxë, while the latter had taken no part in the slaying, and furthermore their lords were his kin through their maternal grandfather Olwë. Finarfin's daughter Galadriel, even came to live in Doriath, and there fell in love with and married the noble Sinda Celeborn.
When in later years Men arrived in Beleriand, they are also refused entry in Doriath, as Thingol felt a foreboding at their arrival and what it meant for the future of his realm. But at Finrod's request the Haladin were allowed to live in Brethil as vassals to Thingol charged with the protection of the Crossings of Teiglin. Despite the ban on Men entering Doriath, Melian foretold that a Man would indeed break her girdle and enter Doriath, being driven by a doom greater than her power.
This proved to be Beren, son of Barahir and lord of the First House of Men, who, being driven from his home in north by war, passed through the Girdle and arrived in Neldoreth. There he met Thingol's daughter Lúthien and they fell in love. Their forbidden love sparked the quest to steal a Silmaril from Morgoth, in which they succeeded, but through great suffering. At the end the quest, the great Wolf, Carcharoth, also breached the Girdle due to the power of the Silmaril he had swallowed. The Wolf posed a grave threat to the realm but Thingol, Beren, Huan the hound and Thingol's captains Beleg and Mablung hunted and killed the beast, cutting the Silmaril from its gut, though Beren was slain in the act. Luthien died of grief shortly thereafter, and her death brought great sorrow upon Doriath and its king. Afterwards Luthien and Beren were allowed to return alive to Middle-earth, but to achieve this she had forsaken her immortality, and thus left Doriath forever. The Silmarill she and Beren had stolen from Morgoth's crown remained with Thingol.
In later years Thingol softened his heart towards Men, and Túrin, son of Húrin and Morwen, was allowed to come to Doriath for his protection, and lived there until he came of age. Thingol regarded Turin as his foster son, and he became a skilled warrior, and hero of Doriath, through fighting the Orcs on its northern borders with Beleg and his March Wardens. However, he was forced to flee the kingdom after a deadly quarrel with an elf named Saeros, a high councillor of Thingol, which ended in Saeros' accidental death. Later Turin's mother and sister, Morwen and Nienor were harboured in Doriath, until they left to search for Túrin and were lost.
After the death of his wife and children, Húrin visited the ruins of Nargothrond, and afterwards brought the Dwarven necklace Nauglamír to Doriath. Thingol then engaged the Dwarves of Nogrod to combine the Silmaril of Beren and Lúthien with the Nauglamír. The Dwarves finished the deed, but caught in a spell of lust for the Silmaril, and desire for the ancient Dwarven necklace, they murdered Thingol, stole the treasure and fled. They were pursued, and most slain, and the necklace was returned. However, Melian, in her grief, departed from Middle-earth, thus ending her protective girdle around Doriath. Upon hearing of the death of their kin, the Dwarves of Nogrod mustered an army and perpetrated the first Sack of Doriath, all but destroying the realm.
Doriath was briefly restored under Beren and Lúthien's son Dior, but within a few years Doriath was again attacked, this time by the sons of Fëanor, who desired the Silmaril Dior possessed. This event became known as the Second Kinslaying and second Sack of Doriath; in it Dior perished and his kingdom utterly destroyed. However, the sons of Fëanor failed to take the Silmaril, as it was saved by Dior's daughter Elwing. Afterwards, Doriath was abandoned and the remnants of its people fled to the Havens of Sirion. The land itself was eventually broken and sank into the sea along with much of the rest of Beleriand, after the War of Wrath .
- New York Times Book Review, The Hobbit, by Anne T. Eaton, March 13, 1938, "After the dwarves and Bilbo have passed ...over the Misty Mountains and through forests that suggest those of William Morris's prose romances." (emphasis added)
- Lobdell, Jared . A Tolkien Compass. La Salle, IL: Open Court. ISBN 0-87548-316-X. p. 84, "only look at The Lord of the Rings for the briefest of times to catch a vision of ancient forests, of trees like men walking, of leaves and sunlight, and of deep shadows."
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1984), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Book of Lost Tales 2, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, pp. 43, 251, ISBN 0-395-36614-3
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (2007), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Children of Húrin, London: HarperCollins, p. 118 "unbridged and unforded", ISBN 0-007-24622-6; Tolkien, J. R. R. (1985), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Lays of Beleriand, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Lay of the Children of Húrin, p. 59, lines 1457-1471, ISBN 0-395-39429-5
- Though this serves as a summary of these events, note that some editorial additions of the fall of Doriath in The Silmarillion constitute a very difficult issue with respect to the final intent of the author.
- Tolkien in the land of Arthur: the Old Forest episode from The Lord of the Rings. Mythopoeic Society, 2006. An article discussing the significance of forests in Tolkien's work, in particular, the Old Forest with comparisons to other myths and romances.
- Doriath at the Encyclopedia of Arda