LOTR: If Beren Hadn't Recovered A Silmaril

This question was asked in the JRR Tolkien birthday thread and someone suggested that it be made a separate thread of its own, so voila!

What would have happened had Beren not recovered the silmaril from Morgoth’s crown? Say Elwë hadn’t objected to Beren’s intention to marry Luthien. Or say Beren simply failed in the quest.

My take on it is that it would leave Thingol alive and ruling the Sindar through the time of the LOTR (as opposed to his murder by the Dwarves for the Nauglamir with the silmaril on it).

This would be a moot point, however, since it would also leave Morgoth to rule Beleriand and Middle-Earth for the lifetime of Arda. Without the silmaril in the possession of Thingol’s heirs, there is no successful attempt by Ëarendil to pierce the enchantments isolating Valinor from the rest of Arda, and so there is no Great Host to come and remove Morgoth from the world and defeat his armies.

The sons and nephews of Fëanor are picked off one by one as Morgoth’s armies creep across the lands around Beleriand. Eventually, even Beleriand itself will fall, since Melian’s enchantment has the strength of a single maia, no matter how wise in magic she might be, while Morgoth has his own Vala-level strength as well as multiple maiar on his side (including Sauron).

I see a refugee scenario, the Sindar and the remainder of the surviving Noldor fleeing into Eriador and, eventually, over the Hithaeglir, creating separate nations in the forests of which Mirkwood/Greenwood was a remnant, and perhaps preventing the rest of that primeval forest from being destroyed with their greater might and power than the sylvans had.

But the eleventh-hour rescue by the hosts of the Valar, the Teleri and the Vanyar, never happened because there was no silmaril.

Also no planet Venus.

Well: no submersion of Beleriand, no Numenor, no Gondor or Arnor. As squeegee notes, if no Earendil, no planet Venus (Wingelot with the Silmarillion mounted to the mast became the Morning Star).

I take exception to one of jayjay’s assumptions – the Girdle of Melian would not have failed (presuming Thingol to have lived indefinitely). It’s rather difficult to assign potency to magic in the LOTR style, but one thing that can be confidently said is that “good” magic is effective beyond what its wielder might reasonably be expected to be able to accomplish when used purely defensively. Galadriel, a mere Elf (though the last surviving Royal Noldor in Middle Earth) was able to fend off Sauron, a Maia, from Lorien indefinitely, and even Elrond, a mere Perethil, half Man and only half Elf, did likewise for Imladris (Rivendell) even when faced with the full onslaught of Sauron’s power (cf. War of the Elves and Sauron, 2nd Era).

But aside from a few beleaguered Elf-realms, yes, most of the world would fall under Morgoth’s power. But Eru Iluvatar is inscrutable. HE would not allow that sort of imbalance to go on indefinitely uncorrected. What He might do, within the constraints of the LOTR-verse, is probably an unanswerable question, with the best we cn do towards figuring it out being to note that Tolkien himself, in the real world, was a devout Catholic.

I disagree with your scenario (though it’s not one I’m willing to lay my life on the line for), if only because the Girdle held mostly because Morgoth’s attention was occupied with the House of Finwë in the lands surrounding Beleriand. Once the Noldor were picked off (and eventually they would be completely eliminated), Doriath would be the last center of resistance in the western region of Middle-Earth. With vampires, werewolves, dragons, balrogs and Sauron, along with Morgoth’s personal attention, I think Melian would be overmatched. It would be only a matter of time. Even with the Girdle at full power, the single silmaril that Carcharoth had swallowed along with Beren’s hand allowed him to pierce it and enter Doriath. With all three silmarilli intact in his crown, I think it would have been very little work for Morgoth to break the Girdle.

This was my first reaction. The One (which, in this context, could be either Eru or JRRT) would not permit his creation to fall utterly under the domination of evil. Even with all three Silmarils still firmly lodged in Morgoth’s iron crown, sooner or later the Valar would rise from the thrones, come east and defeat him.

What would be the immediate cause for that? Some other mariner pure of heart and stainless in motive, perhaps Earendil himself but without a Silmaril, could sail into the West and plead his case. Maybe Ulmo would bring back some particularly troubling report from his journeys along the coastline that would cause the Valar to bestir themselves. Or maybe the laments of a particularly poetic Elf slain by Morgoth’s hordes would rise from the Halls of Mandos and be heard by Manwe, and move him to action under Eru’s guidance.

And with no Numenor, Ar-Pharazon’s never attempts to conquer the Undying Lands, so the world is never changed and remains flat and no new continents are made. And Numenor never sinks (because there was no Numenor), so there are no Atlantis legends today.

On the other hand, the Valar do not lay down their guardianship of the world. So they’d be butting in all the time.

Not necessarily. ISTM that they would probably remain pretty (or thereafter entirely) hands-off to encourage responsibility and free will among the peoples of Middle-earth. They’d only have intervened against Morgoth because of the terrible imbalance between good and evil which had resulted from a demigod forcing his will on a world full of non-demigods.

The word “mere” is exceptionally inapropriate in both cases. Galadriel was not a “mere” anything, and Elrond was not a “mere” anything. She is just badass without any qualifications. Meanwhile he is so badass he held rulership over most of the most badass elves around - and it ain’t because he lacked anything or because his daddy was a badasss: he legitimately had the know-how himself. He wasn’t “mere” compared to anything short of a semidivine being. I mean, his brother founded Numenor, and he said, “Screw this Elf-stuff, I’m going mortal, baby!”

Historians differ on whether he said this while wearing and orc-leather coat and riding a growling Hellsteed stolen from Morgoth’s own stable. But all agree he was dual-wielding mithril greataxes and listening to Guns N Roses.

Now, in saying this, we must accept that the true great badass of all LotR was actually Cirdan. But that’s a story for another time.

It should also be remembered that Galadriel had Nenya to help hold off the Darkness. That’s significant.

And that Elrond wasn’t just an Elf. He was part maia, part Elf and part Human. The maia blood counts for a lot. Also, he had Vilya, which, again, increased his power by a significant amount.

… and Elrond had a little trinket on his finger that helped out, too …

Plus, they were working against Sauron, who was a maia, not a Vala. And who had weakened his personal power considerably by forging the One Ring.

I still maintain that the Girdle would not have held long against Morgoth, a full Vala in his full power, giving it his undivided attention and the undivided attention of his armies.

Plus 3 Silmaril’s in his crown – yep, I agree.

Only later on. She held Sauron off without the use of the ring from 1650 SA (when the ruling ring was forged), until 3261 SA when Al-Pharazon came along and kicked his butt. It wasn’t until the third age that she could begin to safely use the ring. She had plenty of mojo all on her lonesome.

Except he was hardly a full Vala any longer. He had already sent most of his power out into the world, that whole Morgoth Element thing. And he would remember well what had happened in his duel with Fingolfin. No way he comes out to face Melian and Thingol. So he and the Silmarils would remain safely in his throne room.