Just in time for the deadline of Travisimo’s “Fall of Gondolin” Writing challenge, I have completed my entry! I was drawn to the character of Rog mainly by the editorial comment that “The name Rog, in earlier writings Rôg, seems curious as a name for an elf-lord of Gondolin: it means “demon”, and no other one-syllable names appear in other writings. As this was early in the evolution of Middle-earth, if another writing had been created later in Tolkien’s life this name would probably have been changed.” Changed? I decided that, no, there must be a perfectly good reason for a Lord of Gondolin to be named “Demon.” And the fact that it was his house that slew many of the Balrogs in the battle made an interesting connection with his name to explore. (Furthermore, his being considered the strongest of the Noldor, yet only the third greatest in valor, put me in mind of the lesson I did with Latin 2 last week on Achilles and Ajax – the latter, biggest and strongest of the Greeks, yet forever second best to Achilles. Ajax can’t help it if Achilles had a goddess for a mother and all the advantages of birth that come with that…So I kind of had Ajax Telamon in mind as I wrote about Rog, but I’m not sure how much that came through.) So, anyway, here you have my interpretation of Rog and the House of the Hammer of Wrath!
Fall of the Hammer:
Rog and the Balrogs
One, two. One, two. Swing, and fall. Swing, and fall, the song of the hammer on the anvil had rung out. Just yesterday Rog’s forges had been filled with the sound, the steady rhythm of the hammer’s blows as armor was mended, reshaped, polished to shining newness in preparation for the festival today.
For the festival: For elves in full panoply, armor and swords gleaming in the moonlight upon the walls of Gondolin, to greet the dawn of summer. Yet no golden dawn had met them this day, but the red glow of fire in the North. Rog stood grim and solid upon the wall and met the sight without fear. There would be no songs of summer this day, only the cries of war and the ring of sword upon sword. Swing, and fall.
The Lords of the Twelve Houses of the Gondolindrim gathered in council of war, but no opinion was asked of Rog. Nor was there need. Master of the blacksmiths, his vote had been cast over the years with every weapon forged upon his anvil. Glamdring, upon which the High King now rested his hand, frowning as he heard out Tuor’s plan for a sally upon the plain of Tumladen; Orcrist, swinging at Penlod’s side as the lord of the Houses of the Pillar and the Tower paced the council chamber; the curved sword of Egalmoth, and Dramborleg the axe of Tuor; none knew better than Rog the strength of the Gondolindrim. Strong and secure were the walls and towers of the hidden city, and the Elves of Gondolin would not falter behind the sturdy shields that Rog’s house had made. He nodded to himself when the King determined to remain in the city and defend it.
At the Main Gate, Rog chafed silently behind his heavy iron shield as the archers opened fire upon the hosts of Morgoth beneath the walls. Vast in number were the hordes swarming at the feet of Amon Gwareth, and the green plain of Tumladen was dark with Orcs. Yet the city’s walls were high and strong, and too steep the hill proved for the beasts of Morgoth to climb. The archers could long keep them back from the western gate, and in the meantime Rog hefted his great mace, waiting at the gate, impatient to see combat. One, two, the mace swung and fell again at his side.
Then from the north a messenger came running. “Balrogs!” he cried. “The North Gate is assailed. The Balrogs have come!”
At the word a fire kindled in Rog’s breast to match the fire with which those demons of Morgoth, the Balrogs, ever burned amidst their shadow. He glanced across the King’s Way to where Galdor stood with his people, the House of the Tree. Galdor raised his club in salute. “What, is the Main Gate too splendid for the wretches to bear the sight of it? Come then, let us take the battle to them! The North Gate shall not fall!” With a smile and a nod, Rog signaled to his own people, the House of the Hammer of Wrath, and led the way through the silent city to the northern gate.
A mighty noise rang out from the gate as the two houses approached it, a massive resounding booming as if Aulë himself were laboring at his forge right outside the city. Rog set his elves in position behind the gate and then climbed up to the top of the wall where the archers were loosing volley after volley. The sight that met him there struck his heart as the hammer upon the anvil. The Balrogs had come, and at their head marched Gothmog, High-captain of Angband. With them came legions of Orcs, and still more of the foul creatures poured forth from bizarre contraptions of iron, made as it were in the semblance of great drakes or some such beast. In vain had these beasts of iron sought to scale the steep slopes of Gondolin’s hill, but now Gothmog sent them flying up the road to the North Gate. Under the unhalting rain of arrows from the walls, the iron monsters slammed one after another into the great gates. Orcs leapt out of the beasts then, right up under the shelter of the walls where few arrows reached them, and began piling the twisted iron monsters up against the gates. And those gates, those mighty gates, shuddered and bent under the pressure, the sheer weight of the metal driven against them. Rog saw that they would not hold much longer, and descended from the wall to stand with his house.
With a groan of stone upon stone, like the bellow of a wounded dragon, the North Gate gave way at last. Orcs poured into the city, but they met a wall more unyielding than the gates, as the houses of Rog and of Galdor fell upon them. One, two. Swing, and fall. Mace and club swung side by side as the lords of the Tree and the Hammer of Wrath led their people against the foe. With every swing of Rog’s mace, another Orc fell; yet ever there were more Orcs to leap up in turn, and it was all the Elves could do to hold the enemy there at the gate. And then the Balrogs came.
Dread seemed to precede them like the shadow of which they were made. In the darkness of their approach the rising Sun seemed to be veiled, and the red light of fire gleamed upon Elven shields. Many an Elf fell then, stricken by the demons’ fiery whips. Ever so it had been, in all the wars of the Noldor against Morgoth; against those whips and that shadow, who could stand? Anger welled up in Rog’s heart as he remembered the last battle in which the Gondolindrim had fought. It was in the year of Tuor’s birth, that Man who now lived among the folk of Gondolin as if he were himself an Elf, that Turgon had finally led out his armies, ten thousand strong, from their hidden city to the aid of their brethren. It was in that battle – Nírnaeth Arnœdiad, Tears Unnumbered – that Rog had earned his name, more than a nickname, for even the long memory of the Elves had neglected to keep in memory what he was called before they named him Rog, Demon, for the fury with which he had fought in that battle. He had borne that name ever since, and borne with it a hatred of the demons of Morgoth. Ever it was the same: No Elf nor Man could withstand their shadow and their flaming whips, not even High King Fingon, slain in the Nírnaeth Arnœdiad by Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs; not even High King Fëanor himself, mortally wounded by that same Gothmog when first he came with the Noldor exiles to Beleriand. Now Rog burned within at the memory of those deaths.
Then a cry arose upon the wall beside the broken gate: Duilin, swift archer, Lord of the House of the Swallow, had fallen, struck by a Balrog’s fiery bolt even as his own arrow flew from his bow. At this the Elves began to falter. Who could withstand the demons of fire?
But Rog stood his ground and raised his mace high. Though he was ever an Elf of few words, yet in that moment words came unbidden and he cried out to the warriors of his house: “Shall fire and shadow fall upon our city? You are Elves of valour, with strong steel in your hands! Did not even the Balrogs retreat from the Sons of Fëanor when they came to their father’s aid? To me, Gondolindrim! Let the Hammer of Wrath fall upon these vile creatures! Drive them forth from the gate and we shall smite them as hammer on anvil!”
His house, heartened by the words of their leader, rallied about him and began to advance, pressing forward over the fallen bodies of Orcs that lined the street, leaving still more of the fallen in their wake. Rog led the charge to where the nearest Balrog was cutting a path with its fiery whip through the green tabards of the House of the Tree. As the demon turned toward the newcomers and drew back the whip to strike again, Rog rushed in with his shield raised. The whip snapped towards him; he did not duck or fall back, but took the lash upon his shield, then leapt towards the Balrog, swinging his mace. “Let the Hammer fall!” he cried again, and from every side the Elves of his house ran in with maces swinging. The Balrog roared and swung its whip again and again. Rog’s people were scarred with burns as it fell upon them, knocked aside as it snapped out at them, but still they swarmed upon the Balrog like sparks flying from the anvil. Again and again their maces struck. Swing, and fall. The fiery whip slowed and finally fell still, and at the Elves’ feet, the mighty demon’s fire slowly dwindled to embers.
A hush fell over friend and foe alike then, as both the Gondolindrim and the hosts of Morgoth realized what had happened. Never before in any battle had a Balrog been slain by the hand of Elves or Men. Yet they were, after all, not indestructible, when met with the wrath of the hammer that Rog wielded.
“Let the Hammer fall!” Rog roared again, and his house took up the battle-cry as they charged forth once more. Orcs fled from their advance now. The Balrogs stood their ground and strove to band together even as the Elves had done, but the folk of the Hammer of Wrath divided themselves to fall upon the demons in groups and thus keep each one apart from its fellows. Hammers fell, sparks flew, and one by one the demons faltered. The armies of Morgoth were driven back through the gate, out onto the plain of Tumladen once more.
There mighty deeds the Elves wrought. Dread came upon the hosts of Morgoth as his Balrogs fell to the Hammer of Wrath as they had never before fallen to Elf or Man. But their captain Gothmog, not dismayed, called forth his forces yet held in reserve. Orcs swarmed around the Elves of the Hammer, and Rog looked around to find that their charge had carried them too far out from the city, and the horde had slipped in between the Elves and the gate. With the Orcs came Fire-drakes, and striding through his armies came the mighty shadow of Gothmog himself. All around Rog stood the Elves of his house, faithful and valiant to the end, but few remained of those who had followed him out of the gate, fewer still of those who had donned their armor new-polished in the night to greet the Sun upon the walls this morning. Mighty they were – but now too few.
Gothmog drew near, face to face with Rog. With a bellow, the mightiest of Balrogs rushed upon the lord of smiths, strongest of the Noldor. Rog stood tall and firm and met the attack with shield and mace. Around him his warriors met the renewed attack of the Orcs, and though they strove mightily, before such numbers, cut off from hope of rescue, they were hard pressed.
“Enough of your Hammer,” the Balrog snarled, a sound like the crackling of fire in the night. He came at Rog with his whip and his sword both lit with the same grim fire that lurked within his shadows. Rog took a blow of that great sword upon his shield, but the whip caught him about the ankle and he was swept from his feet. Quickly he leapt up again and dove towards the Balrog, his mace battering against the creature’s sword arm so that it dropped the weapon with a cry of rage. Rog pressed the attack, but with his leg still smarting from the whip’s first blow he stumbled and only swift shield-work protected him as the whip lashed out again. He stood his ground, but he stood it alone now as the Orcs drew away the rest of his house to their separate defeats. Gothmog’s whip struck again and again, and ever Rog found it harder to dart within its reach to land a blow of his mace upon his foe. Then at last came a lash he could not avoid, and he fell before the Balrog and did not rise again.
“So falls the Hammer of Wrath,” Gothmog sneered, retrieving his sword. “So falls Gondolin.”
But even as the fiery sword came down to send his spirit to the halls of Mandos, as Rog breathed his last, he uttered these words: “Yet Balrogs too may fall, and so shall you, Lord of Balrogs, when you enter my city again.” And with that he perished, and all his house with him; yet their deeds that day were a marvel ever after to the hosts of Morgoth and to the free peoples, for the Hammer of Wrath gave hope that even the greatest evil may fall.