Break Every Chain

Mar 10, 2023 | Articles, by Luke Walker, Marrow Ministries Free Content

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien is a compilation of short stories from the deep past of his sub-creation, Middle-Earth. My personal favorite selection from this volume—the tale of Fingon and Maedhros (MAY-thross)—is found in chapter 13, “Of the Return of the Noldor.”

The elves of old battled Morgoth over the long centuries of the First Age of Middle-Earth. As they laid siege upon Angband, his ancient fortress, their king Fëanor was killed. What is more, his firstborn son Maedhros was taken captive by a host of Balrogs, to be kept alive and tortured by Morgoth who, writes Tolkien, “took Maedhros and hung him from the face of a precipice upon Thangorodrim, and he was caught to the rock by the wrist of his right hand in a band of steel.”[1] Morgoth promised to release their brother if the other sons of Fëanor withdrew. But they knew he would never release their brother, no matter what they did.

In these early days of Middle-Earth, neither the sun nor the moon had yet appeared in the sky, but it was at this very hour when the sun rose for the first time ever in its virtuous orb-splendor. As it did so, it shone upon an army of marching elves. Fingolfin and his troops had appeared from over the sea to help their kin. Shining in the sun’s young rays, “Fingolfin unfurled his blue and silver banners and blew his horns, and flowers sprang beneath his marching feet, and the age of the stars were ended.”[2]

They joined the remaining sons of Fëanor and drew up to the foul gates of Angband. The blasts from their elvish horns shook the fortress, but it was no use. The orcs now lie hidden underground from their newfound enemy, the sun (its rays, full of goodness, were hurtful to their corrupted nature). The voice of Maedhros, crying out for his kinsmen, was lost among the cliffs and crags of his rocky torment chamber.

Our kinsman redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, has dared to rescue us from sin and death at the cost of His own life. He has outdone the valor of Fingon, for He has saved us by trading places with us. Share on X

Yet among the ranks of Fingolfin was a young prince named Fingon (it was, in fact, his son). When he heard what had befallen his childhood friend Maedhros, he “dared a deed which is justly renowned among the feats of the princes of the Noldor: alone, and without the counsel of any, he set forth in search of Maedhros.”[3]

The lone elf moved unseen amid the smoke and cloud of that terrible land and among the cliffs he searched for his friend. But he could not find him. Finally, he produced his harp (never leave home without it) and struck a tune in that hope-forsaken place. In the very shadow of Morgoth, Fingon sang out a song from his youth, vibing forth the magic and beauty of Ilúvatar (who created the world through song). “And his voice rang in the mournful hollows that had never heard before aught save cries of fear and woe.”[4] Bold move! But how will it turn out?

Soon he heard a voice high above him, singing back to him the words of the song. “Maehdros it was, that sang amid his torment.”[5] Fingon climbed as high as he could toward his friend, but he could not reach him—though they could now address one another. Maedhros begged Fingon to strike him with an arrow so that he might be freed from his torture (which, for an elf, may go on practically forever). Finally, Fingon reluctantly fit an arrow to his bow and uttered a prayer to Manwé, Lord of all birds, asking him to “speed now this feathered shaft” to its terrible mark.[6]

Manwé did hear, and more than expected. At that moment he sent Thorondor, Lord of the eagles. He was the mightiest bird who ever lived and had been keeping watch upon Morgoth from his lofty eyries in the North. He appeared immediately and bore Fingon up to Maehdros. But, struggle as he might, he could not free his friend from the cruel device. Maedhros again begged for death, “but Fingon cut off his hand above the wrist, and Thorondor bore them back to Mithrim.”[7]

The clans of the Noldor rejoiced upon seeing Maehdros’s miraculous reappearance and hearing the tale of Fingon’s noble doing. The wondrous deed healed many wounds between the kin and unified them. As for Maedhros, in after times he “became hale,”[8] and more deadly with his left hand than he had been with his right. In addition to this, his sufferings (which he always remembered) had given to him great compassion of heart, and therefore, great wisdom. And Fingon the valiant was praised in song for his bravest and lovingest of deeds, which saved his friend and brought some peace to the clans of the Noldor.

This fictional tale displays epic themes in our mind’s eye: treachery, cruel evil, love, loyalty, sacrifice, and salvation. And it all lands closer to home than we might think. Are we not pinned to the precipice of sin by nature, unable to free ourselves from its terrible death grip? It is only too true. But our kinsman redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, has dared to rescue us from sin and death at the cost of His own life. He has outdone the valor of Fingon, for He has saved us by trading places with us. He hung in our place so that we might be freed. He now bears the scars of our salvation on His wrists, and His suffering love will be the theme of our song and the source of our gladness and peace forevermore.

Praise the Lord!

[1] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion 108.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 110.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., 111.

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