|High Elves, Deep Elves,
'The Wise', The Loremasters
|Founder||Tata and Tatië|
In the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, the Noldor (also spelled Ñoldor, meaning those with knowledge in Quenya) are Elves of the Second Clan who migrated to Valinor and lived in Eldamar. The Noldor are called Golodhrim or Gódhellim in Sindarin, and Goldui by Teleri of Tol Eressëa. The singular form of the Quenya noun is Noldo and the adjective is Noldorin. They were the Second Clan of the Elves in both order and size, the other clans being the Vanyar and the Teleri. Like the Teleri, they typically had grey eyes and dark hair (except for those who had Vanyarin blood, most prominently the members of the House of Finarfin).
According to Elven-lore, the clan was founded by Tata, the second Elf to awake at Cuiviénen, his spouse Tatië and their 54 companions. The fate of Tata and Tatië is not recorded. It was Finwë who led the Noldor to Valinor, and became their King.
The Noldor are accounted the most skilled of all peoples in lore, warfare and crafts; they are therefore called the "Deep Elves". In Valinor "great became their knowledge and their skill; yet even greater was their thirst for more knowledge, and in many things they soon surpassed their teachers. They were changeful in speech, for they had great love of words, and sought ever to find names more fit for all things they knew or imagined." They were beloved of Aulë the Smith, and were the first to discover and carve gems. On the other hand, the Noldor were also the proudest of the Elves; and, by the words of the Sindar, "they needed room to quarrel in". Their chief dwelling-place was the city of Tirion upon Túna. Among the wisest of the Noldor were Rúmil, creator of the first writing system and author of many epic books of lore. Fëanor, son of Finwë and Míriel, was the greatest of their craftsmen, "mightiest in skill of word and of hand", and creator of the Silmarils.
The Noldor spoke Quenya in Valinor. Later the Exiled Noldor who returned to Middle-earth used Sindarin, the language of the Sindar - Elves who undertook the journey to Valinor but remained in Middle-earth.
The Noldor earned the greatest anger of Melkor, who envied their prosperity and, most of all, the Silmarils. So he went often among them, offering counsel, and the Noldor hearkened, being eager for lore. But Melkor sowed lies, and in the end the peace in Tirion was poisoned. Fëanor, having rebelled against Fingolfin his half-brother, was banished, and with him went Finwë his father. Fingolfin remained as the ruler of the Noldor of Tirion.
But Melkor had yet other designs to accomplish. Soon after with the aid of Ungoliant he slew the Two Trees, and coming to Formenos he killed Finwë, stole the Silmarils and departed from Aman. Fëanor then, driven by the desire of vengeance, rebelled against the Valar and made a speech before the Noldor, persuading them to leave Valinor, follow Melkor to Middle-earth and wage war against him for the recovery of the Silmarils. He swore a terrible oath to pursue Melkor and claimed the title of the High King; but though the greater part of the Noldor still held Fingolfin as King, they followed Fëanor to be not separated from their kin.
Exile to Middle-earth
The Noldor led by Fëanor demanded that the Teleri let them use their ships. When the Teleri refused, they took the ships by force, committing the first kinslaying. A messenger from the Valar came later and delivered the Prophecy of the North, pronouncing the Doom of Mandos on the Noldor for the Kinslaying and rebellion and warning that if they proceeded they would not recover the Silmarils and moreover that they all will be slain or tormented by grief. At this, some of the Noldor who had no hand in the Kinslaying, including Finarfin son of Finwë and Indis, returned to Valinor, and the Valar forgave them. Other Noldor led by Fingolfin (some of whom were blameless in the Kinslaying) remained determined to leave Valinor for Middle-earth. Prominent among these others was Finarfin's son, Finrod.
The Noldor led by Fëanor crossed the sea to Middle-earth, leaving those led by Fingolfin, his half-brother, behind. Upon his arrival in Middle-earth, Fëanor had the ships burned. When the Noldor led by Fingolfin discovered their betrayal, they went farther north and crossed the sea at the Grinding Ice which cost them many lives. With the Two Trees destroyed by Melkor, the departure of the Noldor out of the Undying Lands marked the end of the Years of the Trees, and the beginning of the Years of the Sun when the Valar created the Moon and the Sun out of Telperion's last flower and Laurelin's last fruit.
Fëanor's company was soon attacked by Morgoth. When Fëanor rode too far from his bodyguard during the Battle under Stars, he was attacked by several Balrogs including their Lord Gothmog, who had issued forth from Angband, the enemy's fortress in the north. Despite a valiant fight, Fëanor was mortally wounded and would have been captured and taken to Angband had it not been for the swift arrival of his sons. However Fëanor died whilst being taken back to his own people.
Because Fëanor had taken the ships and left the Noldor led by his half-brother on the west side of the sea, the royal houses of the Noldor were feuding, but Fingon son of Fingolfin, saved Maedhros, son of Fëanor, from Morgoth's imprisonment and the feud was settled. Maedhros was due to succeed Fëanor, but he regretted his part of the Kinslaying and the abandonment of Fingolfin and left the High Kingship of the Noldor to his uncle Fingolfin because he was the eldest, who became the first High King of the Noldor in Middle-earth. His brothers did not agree to this, and began to refer to themselves as the Dispossessed, because the High Kingship had passed them by. It should be stressed that after the fall of Fingolfin that there is little evidence that the Fëanorians respected the command of his successors.
In the north-west of Middle-earth the Noldor made alliance with the Sindar, the Elves of Beleriand, and later with Men of the Three Houses of the Edain. Fingolfin reigned long in the land of Hithlum, and his younger son Turgon built the Hidden City of Gondolin. The Sons of Fëanor ruled the lands in Eastern Beleriand, while Finrod Finarfin's son was the King of Nargothrond and his brothers Angrod and Aegnor held Dorthonion. Fingolfin's reign was marked by warfare against Morgoth and in the year 60 of the First Age after their victory in Dagor Aglareb the Noldor started the Siege of Angband, the great fortress of Morgoth. In the year 455 the Siege was broken by Morgoth in the Battle of Sudden Flame, in which the north-eastern Elvish realms were conquered. Fingolfin in despair rode to Angband and challenged Morgoth to single combat. He dealt Morgoth seven wounds but perished, and he was succeeded by his eldest son Fingon, who became the second High King of the Noldor in Beleriand.
In the year 472, Maedhros organised an all-out attack on Morgoth and this led to the Nírnaeth Arnoediad, the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. Betrayed by the new-come Easterlings, and surrounded by the forces of Morgoth, the Noldor, Sindar and Edain were utterly defeated. Fingon the Valiant was slain by Gothmog and other Balrog; he was succeeded by his brother Turgon.
Morgoth scattered the remaining forces of the Sons of Fëanor, and in 495 Nargothrond was also overthrown. Turgon had withdrawn to Gondolin which was kept hidden from both Morgoth and other Elves. In 510, Gondolin was betrayed by Maeglin and sacked. During the attack Turgon was killed; however, many of his people escaped and found their way south. Turgon had no sons, so Gil-galad, son of Orodreth, became the fourth and last High King of the Noldor in Middle-earth.
Finally the Valar came to Middle-earth and in the years 545-583 the War of Wrath was fought and Morgoth was cast into the Void. But Beleriand sank into the sea, except for a part of Ossiriand (Lindon), and a few isles. The defeat of Morgoth marked the end of the First Age and the start of the Second.
Second and Third Ages
Most of the Noldor sailed back to Aman at the End of the First Age; but some, like Galadriel (daughter of Finarfin) or Celebrimbor (grandson of Fëanor), refused the pardon of the Valar and remained in Middle-earth. Gil-galad founded a new kingdom at Lindon, and ruled throughout the Second Age, longer than any of the High Kings except for Finwë. He was also accepted as High King by the Noldor of Eregion. But after a while Sauron had replaced his master Morgoth as the Dark Lord. With the aid of the Ruling Ring he fortified Mordor and began the long war with the remaining Elves. He attacked Eregion, destroying it, but was withstood in Rivendell and Lindon. With the aid of the Númenóreans, the Noldor managed to defeat him for a time.
However, in the year 3319 of the Second Age Númenor fell due to Ar-Pharazôn's rebellion against the Valar, in which Sauron had a great part. When Elendil with his sons escaped to Middle-earth and established the realms of Arnor and Gondor, Sauron tried to conquer Gondor before it could take root. Both Elendil and Gil-galad set out for Mordor in the Last Alliance of Elves and Men and defeated Sauron in the Battle of Dagorlad and finally in the Siege of Barad-dûr. There Gil-galad perished, and so ended the High Kingship of the Noldor. No new High King was elected, as no one claimed the throne; for this reason, the High Kingship of the Noldor was said to have passed overseas, to the Noldor of Valinor, ruled by Finarfin, the third son of Finwë who had never left. In Middle-earth of the descendants of Finwë only Galadriel and Elrond Half-elven remained (and the Númenórean Kings through Elrond's twin brother Elros).
In the Third Age, the Noldor in Middle-earth dwindled, and by the end of the Third Age the only big communities of Noldor remaining in Middle-earth were in Rivendell and Lindon. Their further fate of fading utterly from the World was shared by all Elves.
High Kings of the Noldor
- In Valinor:
- Finwë, first King of the Noldor
- Fëanor, eldest son of Finwë; he claimed the title after his father's death, although a significant number of Noldor disapproved
- Finarfin, third son of Finwë; rules the Noldor remaining in Aman
- In Middle-earth:
- Fëanor, nominally High King for a few months until he was killed in the conclusion of Dagor-nuin-Giliath; his eldest son Maedhros was captured at the same time, and the kingship was not resolved until his rescue.
- Fingolfin, king upon Maedhros renouncing his claims
- Fingon, first son of Fingolfin
- Turgon, second son of Fingolfin.
- Gil-galad, son of Fingon, son of Fingolfin, the last High King of the Noldor in exile.
In Valinor the Noldorin monarch was simply titled King of the Noldor: the title High King (as applied to Elves in Valinor) was reserved for Ingwē, the Vanyar monarch. The Noldor monarchs assumed the title High King in Middle-earth.
It is not known exactly how Finwë became King: he may have been a descendant of the Noldorin primogen "Tata", or simply have been accepted as leader based on his status as ambassador to the Valar. The Noldor had many princely houses besides that of Finwë: Glorfindel of Gondolin and Gwindor of Nargothrond, while not related to Finwë, were princes in their own right. These lesser houses held no realms, however: all the Noldorin realms of Beleriand and later Eriador were ruled by a descendant of Finwë.
The Mannish descendants of Elros (the Kings of Arnor) later claimed the title High King, although there is no indication that this referred anything other than a High Kingship over the Dúnedain. As descendants through the female line Elros and his brother Elrond were not considered eligible, and Elrond indeed never claimed Kingship.
It is perhaps notable that Galadriel, the last of the House of Finwë in Middle-earth (other than the Half-elven) and Gil-galad's cousin, likewise never claimed a royal title let alone the title of High Queen. Indeed, the only known Elven Kingdom in Middle-earth after the Second Age was the Silvan realm of Mirkwood, ruled by the Sinda Thranduil.
The Noldor were very tall and of muscular build. Their hair colour was usually very dark brown (according to Tolkien, Elves did not have absolute black hair), but red and even white ("silver") hair exist among them too. Their eyes were usually grey or dark.
The most distinctive thing about Noldorin culture was their fondness for the crafts. This ranged from jewelry to embroidery to the craft of language. They had great pride in this art; the unfortunate side effect of this was an arrogance that plagued the Noldor and later caused them great suffering.
The Noldor were also more fond of living in and building big cities than the Vanyar, Teleri and Avari. Their cities were usually located in deep mountain valleys, as opposed to the shore and woodland homes of the Teleri and the Vanyar's sharing of the homes of the Valar.
House of Finwë
Other versions of the legendarium
In the early versions of Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium (see: The History of Middle-earth), the Noldor were most often called Noldoli or Gnome. They were still called Gnomes in early editions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Their language, then called Noldorin or Gnomish, ultimately became Sindarin of later versions.
As the Elven realms of Beleriand were destroyed, virtually all the Noldor were enslaved by Morgoth as his thralls, working in the mines of Angband. They developed a tongue called múlanoldorin. Those who escaped were mistrusted by other Elves.
In these early works, Morgoth is able to dominate the minds of the Elves wherever they go, by instilling his fear in them. Even the escaped thralls are thus not truly free.
- J. R. R. Tolkien in his later works usually employed the spelling Ñoldor, with a tilde over the first letter. This was his notation for the pronunciation of the name in the First Age as [ˈŋɔldɔr] (beginning with the final sound of English sing); in the Third Age it was simply [ˈnɔldɔr], so in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion the spelling Noldor was introduced.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1977), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Silmarillion, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, "Of Eldamar and the Princes of Eldalië", ISBN 0-395-25730-1
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1994), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The War of the Jewels, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Quendi and Eldar, p. 381, ISBN 0-395-71041-3
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1977), The Silmarillion, George Allen & Unwin, ch.9 pp.82 & 84; ISBN 0 04 823139 8.
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1977), The Silmarillion, George Allen & Unwin, ch.13 p.111; ISBN 0 04 823139 8.
- The published Silmarillion states that Gil-galad is the son of Fingon, but Christopher Tolkien would later categorically state in The Peoples of Middle-earth that this was an error and he is the son of Orodreth, who in turn was the son of Angrod, not of Finarfin.
- e.g. J. R. R. Tolkien (1977), The Silmarillion, George Allen & Unwin, ch.5 p.60 & ch.9 p.79; ISBN 0 04 823139 8.
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1977), The Silmarillion, George Allen & Unwin, ch.5. p.62; ISBN 0 04 823139 8.
- Robert Foster (1978), The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, Unwin Paperbacks, p. ISBN 0-04-803001-5.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, "Changes Affecting Silmarillion Nomenclature", Parma Eldalamberon 17, p. 125