Gondolin was the elven city of King Turgon’s people, built in secret in the valley of Tumladen early in the first age. Surrounded by mountains, the Eschoriath, the lone entrance to the city was an unmarked gate known as the “hidden way”, where the bed of a dry river entered the encircling mountains.
This gate the inhabitants guarded heavily, and the secret location of the city was kept close, and for many, many years the secret location of Gondolin was a mystery even to Morgoth, the Dark Lord, who sought in vain for its whereabouts.
The “hidden way” was safeguarded by seven gates, all of which were under constant guard. They are, in order from outermost to innermost:
- Gate of Wood
- Gate of Stone
- Gate of Bronze
- Gate of Writhen Iron
- Gate of Silver
- Golden Gate
- Gate of Steel
According to The Silmarillion, the Vala Ulmo, Lord of the Waters, revealed the location of the hidden vale to Turgon in a dream.
Turgon took his people from Nevrast, where they had dwelt in the seaside residence of Vinyamar, to the vale of Tumladen, where they built Gondolin.
Gondolin was built of gleaming white stone on Amon Gwareth, the “Hill of Watching” which sat dead in the center of the valley of Tumladen. It was patterned after the Noldorin city of Tirion in Arda, and came to rival that city in beauty.
The city was originally named Ondolindë in the Noldorin tongue, meaning “rock-hidden”, and according to Tolkien Gondolin is a Sindarin version of the same name.
Turgon brought his people forth only once during the long years of the city’s existence, when he and ten thousand of his people marched forth to the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. But they were able to escape from the slaughter and return to their hidden city undetected, preserving the hope of the Noldor yet a while longer.
Shortly thereafter, after the arrival of the mortal Tuor, the city was betrayed to Morgoth by Maeglin, Turgon’s nephew, who was taken prisoner by orcs and deceived by his own jealousy of Tuor and Morgoth’s treacherous promises.
The most complete tale of Tuor’s coming to Gondolin is told in Unfinished Tales.
In year 511 of the First Age, the hosts of Morgoth with its hoards of orcs, dragons, and Balrogs sacked Gondolin and destroyed the city, and Turgon and many of the great lords of the Noldor perished.
Tuor, his wife Idril, and their son Eärendil escaped with the remnants of Turgon’s people to Nan-Tathren, the “Land of Willows”.
Eärendil will yet play a key role in the future of the peoples of Middle Earth.