The Battle of the Thousand Caves (F.A. 503)

The Battle of the Thousand Caves

- The Sack of Doriath -

Now it came to pass that during the Years of the Trees, long ere the rising of the Moon, Melian the Maia, wife of Eru Thingol, with great foresight counselled her husband that the Peace of Arda would not endure forever. And so he sought the aid of Dwarves of Belegost, and for the price of many fair pearls - chief of which was Nimphelos - and the teaching by Melian of much that they were eager to learn, they aided him in delving the great mansions of Menegroth, 'the Thousand Caves', deep in the earth of Doriath in Beleriand. And so it is written:

[...] Elves and Dwarves together, each with their own skill, there wrought out the visions of Melian, images of the wonder and beauty of Valinor beyond the Sea. The pillars of Menegroth were hewn in the likeness of the beeches of Oromë, stock, bough, and leaf, and they were lit with lanterns of gold. The nightingales sang there as in the gardens of Lórien; and there were fountains of silver, and basins of marble, and floors of many-coloured stones. Carven figures of beasts and birds there ran upon the walls, or climbed upon the pillars, or peered among the branches entwined with many flowers. And as the years passed Melian and her maidens filled the halls with woven hangings wherein could be read the deeds of the Valar, and many things that had befallen in Arda since its beginning, and shadows of things that were yet to be. That was the fairest dwelling of any king that has ever been east of the Sea.1

And long thereafter was there peace in the realm of Doriath.

Now elsewhere is recorded the story of Beren Erchamion and Lúthien Tinúviel, daughter of Thingol, and their quest to recover a Silmaril from the Iron Crown of Morgoth during the First Age; and this jewel of Fëanor was kept behind the doors of the inmost treasury of Thingol. But Thingol's thought became bound to it, and when Húrin Thalion, Lord of Dor-lómin, in the last years of his life brought to Thingol the famed Nauglamir from Nargothrond, it came into his mind that it should be refashioned, and in it should be set the Silmaril so that he might bear it with him always. And thus he declared his desire to the craftsmen of Nogrod whom had lately come into Doriath, and long was their labour.

[...]  and Thingol went down alone to their deep smithies, and sat ever among them as they worked. In time his desire was achieved, and the greatest of the works of Elves and Dwarves were brought together and made one; and its beauty was very great, for now the countless jewels of the Nauglamír did reflect and cast abroad in marvellous hues the light of the Silmaril amidmost.2

But when Thingol made to take the carcanet, they refused him it saying, 'By what right does the Elvenking lay claim to the Nauglamír, that was made by our fathers for Finrod Felagund who is dead? It has come to him but by the hand of Húrin the Man of Dor-lómin, who took it as a thief out of the darkness of Nargothrond.' Yet this was but a ruse, for in truth they had coveted the Silmaril from the beginning, and Thingol saw their true intent and with demeaning words he bade them depart ever from Doriath.

Then the lust of the Dwarves was kindled to rage by the words of the King; and they rose up about him, and laid hands on him, and slew him as he stood. So died in the deep places of Menegroth Elwë Singollo, King of Doriath, who alone of all the Children of Ilúvatar was joined with one of the Ainur; and he who, alone of the Forsaken Elves, had seen the light of the Trees of Valinor, with his last sight gazed upon the Silmaril.3

And so the Dwarves of Nogrod fled eastwards from Menegroth, but they were pursued and slain and the Nauglamír returned to Melian; but in her grief she withdrew from Doriath to Valinor, and the Girdle of Melian was no more.

Now two dwarves survived to return to their home in Ered Luin and told the untrue tale that Thingol had betrayed them and murdered their kin.

Then great was the wrath and lamentation of the Dwarves of Nogrod for the death of their kin and their great craftsmen, and they tore their beards, and wailed; and long they sat taking thought for vengeance. It is told that they asked aid from Belegost, but it was denied them, and the Dwarves of Belegost sought to dissuade them from their purpose; but their counsel was unavailing, and ere long a great host came forth from Nogrod, and crossing over Gelion marched westward through Beleriand.4

Without Melian's protective enchantment, they passed unhindered into Doriath; for outnumbered, the Sindar captains scattered in the face of the great dwarven host.

[...] and there befell a thing most grievous among the sorrowful deeds of the Elder Days. For there was battle in the Thousand Caves, and many Elves and Dwarves were slain; and it has not been forgotten.5

And so the halls of Menegroth were ransacked and plundered, and the Nauglamír and Silmaril retaken; but tidings of this misdeed were swiftly spread to the Elves of Ossiriand and to Beren and Lúthien in Tol Galen. And with Dior his son, Beren led the Laegrim and they ambushed the Dwarves nigh Sarn Athrad on the River Gelion, and there Beren slew the Lord of Nogrod who cursed the treasure of Doriath; and so it was cast into the River Ascar which was named Rathlóriel thereafter, but the Nauglamír Beren brought to Lúthien in Tol Galen.


            This account was compiled by Angollon son of Ioriston
            In the Scholar's Stair Archives of Bree in Eriador
            On the 64th day of Rhîw T.A. 3018

A copy of this document may be found in the Istari Nalmë Archive of Lore within the Scholar's Enclave in Duillond.

1. The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 10, Of the Sindar
2. The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 22, Of the Ruin of Doriath
3. Ibid
4. Ibid
5. Ibid