Niënor, also known as Níniel (pronounced [ˈni.ɛnɔr ˈniːnɪ.ɛlʲ]), is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium, appearing in the Narn i Chîn Húrin told in full in The Children of Húrin and briefly in The Silmarillion. Early versions of the story are Turambar and the Foalókë and The Lay of the Children of Húrin.
Appearance and history
Nienor was the third child of Húrin Thalion, Lord of House of Hador, and Morwen Eledhwen of the House of Bëor. Her elder brother was Túrin, but her sister Lalaith died of a plague four years before Nienor's birth. Nienor "was tall, and her eyes were blue, her hair fine gold, the very likeness in woman's form of Húrin her father."
She was born in the beginning of the year following the disastrous Battle of Unnumbered Tears. By that time her father was taken captive during the battle and cursed together with his family by Morgoth the Enemy. His homeland of Dor-lómin was invaded by the Easterlings, who oppressed and enslaved the remnants of the Folk of Hador. Morwen then sent Túrin away to the Kingdom of Doriath, but did not venture the perilous road herself, being pregnant and proud.
Soon she gave birth to her daughter and called her Nienor, which means "Mourning" in Sindarin. Morwen was feared by the Easterlings and was not enslaved, but lived in poverty together with her daughter and a few old thanes, aided by Aerin. Nienor grew to a beautiful lady, and Lorgan, chief of the Easterlings, heard the rumour and plotted to take her as wife by force. The road to Doriath meanwhile was cleared of enemies by the prowess of Mormegil, a lord of Nargothrond, and when Nienor was 21 years old, she and her mother at last decided to journey to Doriath.
They were well received there, but found no tidings of Túrin except that he fled from the land and was rumoured to have been captured by Orcs five years before. Morwen with daughter remained as guests in the keeping of King Thingol and Melian, until after they heard a rumour that the mysterious Mormegil was actually Túrin, but his fate was not known after the fall of Nargothrond. Morwen set out to gather news of her son, with a small escort of Elves under Mablung, but against Morwen's wish Nienor followed them.
Unfortunately, the dragon Glaurung sensed their approach and issued from his lair in the ruined halls of Nargothrond. He caused a cloud of mist and foul vapour to rise from the river Narog, and the party's horses panicked; Morwen was lost, and Nienor was separated from the rest. When she ascended the Spyhill, unawaringly she stared into the eyes of Glaurung lying hidden, and though "she was strong in will", Nienor at last yielded to his enchantments and Glaurung put her in a state of total amnesia and dumbness. The amnesiac woman was found by Mablung, who intended to take her back to Doriath, but their company was attacked by Orcs near Nivrim. Nienor suddenly regained her feelings though not memory, and fled away in fear, tore off her clothes and ran naked through the woods until she fainted near the Forest of Brethil.
Her brother Túrin, who at that time hid his past under the pseudonym Turambar, found her lying on Haudh-en-Elleth, the grave of an Elf Woman from Nargothrond who had loved him; Finduilas. Because Nienor did not remember her identity and Turambar had never met his second sister, he named her Níniel which means "Tear-Maiden" and brought her to the dwellings of the woodfolk at Ephel Brandir. Níniel fell sick having seen the Ravines of Taeglin from the Rainy Stair, but Brandir the Chieftain of the Men of Brethil tended her and taught her to speak, secretly falling in love with her; Níniel, however, loved Turambar. Brandir restrained her from marriage, foreboding evil doom, but after two years Turambar promised Níniel to go never again to war and at midsummer they were wedded.
By the next spring, when Níniel was two months pregnant, Glaurung left Nargothrond intending to devastate Brethil. He was slain by Turambar at the ravine of Cabed-en-Aras, but the venom from the Dragon's wound and his final malice made Turambar faint. Níniel feared for her husband, and waited for tidings by Nen Girith. When it became apparent to men that Turambar failed, Brandir purposed to lead her away from the forthcoming ruin of Brethil. Níniel, however, was unwilling to be parted from her beloved even after his death, and fled away, followed by Brandir.
She was frightened by the sight of Haudh-en-Elleth, and turned back to Cabed-en-Aras. There she found Turambar, deemed him dead and cried his name aloud; but she was answered by Glaurung, who lived yet. He revealed to her the truth of her kinship with Turambar and their cruel fate, and with the death of the dragon the spell of forgetfulness was lifted from Nienor. Distraught with woe and horror, she mourned for Túrin: "Farewell, O twice beloved! A Túrin Turambar turún' ambartanen: master of doom by doom mastered! O happy to be dead!" Nienor fled then from Brandir urging her to wait and killed herself:
|“||Swiftly she came to the brink of Cabed-en-Aras, and there stood and looked on the loud water crying: 'Water, water! Take now Níniel Nienor daughter of Húrin; Mourning, Mourning daughter of Morwen! Take me and bear me down to the Sea!' With that she cast herself over the brink: a flash of white swallowed in the dark chasm, a cry lost in the roaring of the river.||”|
The curse of Morgoth came to its fulfilment when shortly after Túrin slew himself on his sword by the brink of Cabed-en-Aras. A grave was then raised for him, and upon it was set the Stone of the Hapless with carvings in Cirth:
|TÚRIN TURAMBAR DAGNIR GLAURUNGA
But the body of Nienor was not there, "nor was it ever known whither the cold waters of Teiglin had taken her." Later Morwen was also buried there, and the grave survived the Drowning of Beleriand upon the isle of Tol Morwen.
Other versions of the legendarium
In the original story of Turambar and the Foalókë it was said that after their deaths "Túrin and Nienóri entered into Fôs'Almir, the bath of flame, ... and so were all their sorrows and stains washed away, and they dwelt as shining Valar among the blessed ones", but this idea was later discarded.
Tolkien later intended to simplify the narrative of the last part of the Tale, sketching a plot according to which Nienor regained her memory at the moment of Glaurung's death when still waiting by Nen Girith. Túrin returned at that very moment, and before his and Brandir's eyes Nienor cast herself into the falls of Celebros. This story, however, never reached a finished form.
Descent of Nienor Níniel
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (2007), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Children of Húrin, London: HarperCollins, ISBN 0-007-24622-6
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1980), Christopher Tolkien, ed., Unfinished Tales, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Narn i Hîn Húrin, ISBN 0-395-29917-9
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1977), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Silmarillion, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Ch. 21 "Of Túrin Turambar", ISBN 0-395-25730-1
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1984), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Book of Lost Tales 2, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Turambar and the Foalókë, ISBN 0-395-36614-3
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1985), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Lays of Beleriand, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, The Lay of the Children of Húrin, ISBN 0-395-39429-5
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1994), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The War of the Jewels, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, The continuation of the Grey Annals, p. 256, ISBN 0-395-71041-3
- The War of the Jewels, pp. 163-5.
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