Glaurung ~ First of His Kind
“Here not long since was the Great Worm of Angband, most fell of all the creatures of the Enemy!”
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Glaurung was the first of the Urulóki, the Quenya name for the great fire-drakes, which translates directly as ‘fire-serpent’. He was named the Great Worm, the Worm of Morgoth, the Dragon-king, the Great Worm of Angband and the Gold-worm of Angband. The first of the worms of Middle-earth and by most accounts the mightiest of his kind. He was also described as the Father of Dragons, though it is uncertain whether or not he sired the rest of his kind. However, it is said in the writings of the Silmarillion, that Glaurung’s ‘brood‘ accompanied him in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad and after his death were present during the Fall of Gondolin, by which time they had become “many and terrible”.
“Morgoth’ loosed upon his foes the last desperate assault that he had prepared, and out of the pits of Angband there issued the winged dragons, that had not before been seen.”
Some take this to mean that Glaurung was indeed the father of all dragons and that they carried his seed within them. Though it is likely they were bred with other beasts and so became the winged fire-drakes of which Smaug was a spawn.
Glaurung first emerged from pits of Angband in the year 268 of the First Age, though how old he was at this time none now know for certain. It is said that Melkor/Morgoth was unable to create beings of his own making and thus took the natural beasts of Middle-earth and by means of dark sorcery perverted them and bred them in unnatural ways, to create monsters of unspeakable evil. It was likely, that Glaurung came into being in this way deep within the pits of Angband.
Glaurung was the mightiest and foremost of the lieutenants of Morgoth in the First Age of Middle-earth. His assault pushed the Noldor from Ardgalen, which he took and defiled, to Dorthonion and the Ered Wethrin. This victory was short-lived, however, and Glaurung was forced back to Angband when Fingon rode against him with a company of mounted archers. Morgoth was not pleased that Glaurung had revealed himself while still immature, and did not allow any more forays from Angband for some two hundred years.
Morgoth’s counter-attack came in the First Age around the year 472, when the Union of Maedhros marched in force against Angband in the decisive battle of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, the Unnumbered Tears. Glaurung and his brood entered the battle in the early hours of the third morning, when Morgoth loosed his last strength against the combined forces of Fingon, Turgon and Maedhros.
The strength and terror of Glaurung was now great indeed, and Elves and Men withered before him; and he came between the hosts of Maedhros and Fingon and swept them apart.
But the Dwarves of Belegost with their great war masks withstood him. Surrounded and hewed at him with their axes, Glaurung was driven into a rage and slew Azaghâl the Lord of Belegost. But with his last stroke the Dwarf-lord dealt Glaurung a grievous wound to the belly and the dragon and his brood fled back to Angband, leaving the final victory over the Union to Gothmog and his balrogs.
In the autumn of 495 Glaurung whould exact his revnege. At Morgoth’s command he led an army of Orcs against Nargothrond. He passed over Anfauglith and first assailed the north Vales of Sirion, then coming south laid waste to Eithel Ivrin and Talath Dirnen. His advance was checked by the Mormegil, Túrin Turambar, who led the forces of Nargothrond out to meet Glaurung in the Battle of Tumhalad. The Elves were utterly defeated; King Orodreth was slain, and although Túrin attempted to rally the survivors to a last defence of Nargothrond itself, Glaurung came there first. The dragon passed swiftly over the bridge over Narog and destroyed the Doors of Felagund.
As Glaurung’s orcs were sacking the city Túrin arrived and cut his way to the captives. As he did so Glaurung emerged from the doors and put him under his spell. Túrin was transfixed by the gaze of dragon as the captives, among them Finduilas, were led away. Then Glaurung spoke to Túrin and convinced him not to go after Finduilas but to return to Dor-lómin and rescue his mother Morwen and sister Niënor (when in fact they had already fled to Doriath). After weaving the first strand of his plot to bring doom to the children of Húrin, who Morgoth had cursed, he drove away his orcs and made his abode in Nargothrond, casting down the bridge and, in true dragon fashion, laying down to sleep on the great hoard he had plundered.
The following year, First Age 496, Glaurung’s slumber was disturbed. Hearing of the fall of Nargothrond a small party from Doriath, including Morwen and Niënor, was sent to seek tidings, especially of the fate of Túrin. His keen sight quickly detected them and, as they approached his dwelling, he issued forth into the Narog and created a steam and reek that scattered the spies in confusion. Glaurung then crept swiftly towards Amon Ethir where he meant Niënor, alone, and placed her under the same spell he had her brother Túrin. But this time rather than subtle deceits he used his power to completely obliterate Niënor’s memory and left her to wander in the wild.
For the next several years Glaurung ruled as the ‘dragon-king’ of what was once the Realm of Nargothrond, gathering many Orcs to him. Meanwhile Niënor escaped from Mablung’s care and wandered into Brethil. There she was found by Túrin, now living amongst the Halethrim, who named her Níniel. Neither knew that they were brother and sister, the two fell in love and were married. Glaurung began to send his orcs against Brethil, and thereby forced Túrin to reveal himself. Soon after the Great Worm came there himself, but was caught by an ambush before he could reach the Halethrim’s dwellings at Ephel Brandir: Túrin lay in wait in the gorge of Cabed-en-Aras.
Though we are uncertain of his origin, we do know that his life was taken in the summer of 498 of the First Age at the hands of Túrin, who pieced him with his black sword named Gurthang, as he tried to cross the gorge. Though he lay dying, Glaurung was able to fulfill his curse upon the Children of Húrin. After thrusting his sword deep into the underbelly of Glaurung, Túrin was rendered unconscious by the dragons noxious blood and when Níniel came upon the scene, she thought Túrin was dead. With his last breath, the dragon revealed his secret plot, and as he died his spells were undone, so Niënor Níniel regained her memory. In her despair, she leapt to her death into Cabed-en-Aras, and when Túrin awoke and learned the truth from Brandir, he cast himself upon his own sword. Thus the curse upon the Children of Húrin was fufilled.
When the great fire-drake first emerged from the pits of Angband, his coming was like a storm…
There after, there was peace for many years, and no assault from Angband, for Morgoth perceived now that the Orcs unaided were no match for the Noldor; and he sought in his heart for new counsel.
Again after a hundred years Glaurung, the first of the Urulóki, the fire-drakes of the North, issued from Angband’s gates by night. He was yet young and scarce half grown, for long and slow is the life of the dragons, but the Elves fled before him to Ered Wethrin and Dorthonion in dismay; and he defiled the fields of Ard-gelen. Then Fingon prince of Hithlum rode against him with archers on horseback, and hemmed him round with a ring of swift riders; and Glaurung could not endure their darts, being not yet come to his full armoury, and he fled back to Angband, and came not forth again for many years. Fingon won great praise, and the Noldor rejoiced; for few foresaw the full meaning and threat of this new thing. But Morgoth was ill-pleased that Glaurung had disclosed himself oversoon; and after his defeat there was the Long Peace of well nigh two hundred years.
From The Silmarillion in the chapter ‘Of the Return of the Nolder’