Talking Tolkien: The Lay of the Nauglamir

Talking Tolkien: The Lay of the Nauglamir

Today in Talking Tolkien, it’s a long-term project I work on every so often. The story of the Nauglamir (The Necklace of the Dwarves) may well be my favorite story in all of The Legendarium. It was the subject of my very first Tolkien essay.

Last year, I read The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun. I really liked that book. I also read part of The Story of Kullervo, though the layout and non-Tolkien commentary didn’t work nearly as well for me (it was not a Christopher Tolkien effort). Tolkien was an expert in this area. The names of the dwarves in The Hobbit came from the old Noridc legends.

If your knowledge of Norse mythology comes from Bulfinch’s – or Marvel comic books – you’re going to find these are VERY different. But I liked reading the old sagas (and no wonder The Silmarillion is so depressing – those old Nordic sagas make Platoon look like a light-hearted romp).

And the Sigurd book got me a bit inspired.

I sketched out the entire history of the Silmaril which was fashioned into Nauglamir, and began creating an epic poem about it (NOT an ‘Epithon,’ for you Nero Wolfe fans out there…). I’m not into metering, so it doesn’t qualify for some definition of verse or form. But it still reads like a poem to me.

It’s 90 lines so far, with a lot more to go. The scope of the Nauglamir Silmaril is truly amazing, and fraught with tragedy. I’ll add more the next time I go into Tolkien mode. It’s the first time I’ve done anything like this (except for a Solar Pons poem I wrote, summarizing “The Unique Dickensians”).

I can put together a haiku on the fly:

Source of joy and woe
Light of Yavanna shining
Pride of the Noldor

This, however, is well outside of my writing zone. But it’s fun.



From the Undying Lands did the Noldor set out
In pursuit of vile Morgoth and his stolen treasure
Not only Feanor and his oath-swearing sons
But also his brother, even-tempered Fingolfin
Came with him his children as well
Among them fair Finrod, and gleaming-haired Galadriel.

Yearning for the freedom of new lands
Grudgingly did Finrod follow Feanor’s pride
Looking back at the light of Tirion
Slaying not kin at Alqualonde
Still did the Doom of Mandos
Fall upon him

Jewels he brought from the West
The most fair in all of Beleriand
Save for the silmarils
Cruelly stolen by craven Morgoth
In a dream did Ulmo come to Finrod and Turgon
Bidding them create secret havens from Morgoth’s evil

Thingol’s realm Finrod most admired
Glittering caves, hidden from malice
Standing later in the caverns of Narong
He fashioned deep halls and armories
Aid did he receive from the dwarves of the Blue Mountains
The petty dwarves evicted from their home

Great jewels did he give the dwarves
And friendship grew among the two races
As the elf kingdom thrived
Fair Nargothrond a bastion of good
Felagund did the dwarves call him
The Hewer of Caves

With jewels of Valinor
The dwarves of Nogrod and Belegost
Crafted a necklace unsurpassed
Nauglamir – ‘dwarf jewel’ – was it named
Gems almost unnumbered it bore
But weighed no more than flax

To aid Eldar and Edain came Finrod
In the Battle of Sudden Flame
Cut off, the fairest elf lord was to be lost
When Barahir of Beorn’s line saved him
The blood of men staining the soil red
Their spears cutting Finrod free

An elven oath sworn to aid his house
Abiding friendship between elf and man
Elf lord gave man a treasured ring
To seal the vow
With this Ring of Barahir
Arwen would become Aragorn’s betrothed.

Came calling Beren
For pledge redeemed
Though Finrod saw his doom
With Beorn’s kin he went
In his departure his kingdom mayhaps lost
From the malice of Feanor’s sons

For Beren sought a silmaril
In trade to Thingol for Luthien’s hand
Though disguised as Orcs
They were captured by Sauron
The twelve become two
Only Finrod and Beren still alive

In Sauron’s dungeons
The tower raised by Finrod himself
Did they languish
Finrod, breaking his bonds
Killed the werewolf sent to slay
But mortally wounded was he


Later to Nargothrond came Glaurung
First of the great worms
Crossing Turin’s Folly
The bridge over the Narond
He burst the Doors of Felagund
The unassailable kingdom ravaged by Orcs

Nauglamir just a trinket in the dragon’s horde
No slender elven neck did it grace
Briefly would Morgoth’s beast rule
Seeking Turin in Brethil
The cursed man would have his revenge
Nargothrond now masterless


Mim, last of the petty dwarves
Did betray Turin and his men
Now homeless he reclaimed the caves of Nargothrond
To his door came Hurin
Mercy was begged for, but not granted
The father slew him in the broken halls

Only one treasure did Hurin take
Jewels of Valinor left to the dark
The once mighty kingdom he left abandoned
Never would it be rebuilt
Finrod’s dream
Utterly destroyed in the Wrathful War

Prior Talking Tolkien entries:

Talking Tolkien – A New series at Black Gate!
Joe Bonadonna – Religious Themes in The Lord of the Rings
Ruth de Jauregui – The Architects of Modern Fantasy, Tolkien and Norton
Fletcher Vredenburgh – Of Such a Sort Should a Man Be – Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary
Anglachel – Tolkien’s Evil Magic Sword
David Ian – A Magical Tolkien Celebration
Gabe Dybing – Tolkien and Middle Earth Role Playing (MERP)
James McGlothlin -A Tolkienian Defense of Monsters
Thomas Parker – The Rankin-Bass Hobbit
Rich Horton – The Tolkien Reader
Joe Bonadonna – Philosophical Themes in The Silmarillion

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Bob Byrne’s ‘A (Black) Gat in the Hand’ made its Black Gate debut in 2018 and has returned every summer since.

His ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate from March, 2014 through March, 2017. And he irregularly posts on Rex Stout’s gargantuan detective in ‘Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone.’ He is a member of the Praed Street Irregulars, founded (the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’) and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes.

He organized Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series, as well as the award-winning ‘Hither Came Conan’ series. Which is now part of THE DEFINITIVE guide to Conan. He also organized 2023’s ‘Talking Tolkien.’

He has contributed stories to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Parts III, IV, V, VI, XXI, and XXXIII.

He has written introductions for Steeger Books, and appeared in several magazines, including Black Mask, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, The Strand Magazine, and Sherlock Magazine.

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John E. Boyle

“those old Nordic sagas make Platoon look like a light-hearted romp).”

You said it, Mr. Byrne. Some people say that Tolkien’s work is flawed by modernity; I think rather that the cold, bleak shadows of the Northern Sagas had more of an effect on his writing than anything written after the fall of Constantinople.

Fascinating post. Thank you.

John E. Boyle

I must agree about the Silmarillion being depressing, so much so that I’ve never been able to even start reading the Children of Hurin book. Fingolfin is a GREAT character and I would have liked to see more of him but I guess I should be satisfied with what we did get.

Would like to see that poem when you finish it.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x