20 October 2015

Hellehinca, or Morgoth the Lame



Fingolfin's Challenge, © John Howe




Readers of The Silmarillion will recall Fingolfin's hopeless challenge of Morgoth to single combat in Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin (153-54), and how, beaten down at last, Fingolfin struck one final blow:
.... Therefore Morgoth came, climbing slowly from his subterranean throne, and the rumour of his feet was like thunder underground. And he issued forth clad in black armour; and he stood before the King like a tower, ironcrowned, and his vast shield, sable on-blazoned, cast a shadow over him like a stormcloud. But Fingolfin gleamed beneath it as a star; for his mail was overlaid with silver, and his blue shield was set with crystals; and he drew his sword Ringil, that glittered like ice. 
Then Morgoth hurled aloft Grond, the Hammer of the Underworld, and swung it down like a bolt of thunder. But Fingolfin sprang aside, and Grond rent a mighty pit in the earth, whence smoke and fire darted. Many times Morgoth essayed to smite him, and each time Fingolfin leaped away, as a lightning shoots from under a dark cloud; and he wounded Morgoth with seven wounds, and seven times Morgoth gave a cry of anguish, whereat the hosts of Angband fell upon their faces in dismay, and the cries echoed in the Northlands.  
But at the last the King grew weary, and Morgoth bore down his shield upon him. Thrice he was crushed to his knees, and thrice arose again and bore up his broken shield and stricken helm. But the earth was all rent and pitted about him, and he stumbled and fell backward before the feet of Morgoth; and Morgoth set his left foot upon his neck, and the weight of it was like a fallen hill. Yet with his last and desperate stroke Fingolfin hewed the foot with Ringil, and the blood gashed forth black and smoking and filled the pits of Grond. 
Thus died Fingolfin, High King of the Noldor, most proud and valiant of the Elven-kings of old .... Morgoth went ever halt of one foot after that day, and the pain of his wounds could not be healed.... 
(Silmarillion 153-54)

Now the first time I ever read this I was reminded of the Greek God, Hephaestus, who was lame because Zeus had hurled him down from Olympus. But, though Hephaestus also had a hammer, he was in no way evil. Of course the Vala he most closely resembles is Aulë, who was like him a smith. And yet the image of Hephaestus cast down from heaven still made me think of the fall of Lucifer as in Milton, or Isaiah 14:12:
'How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!'
Then this morning I was looking up something else in Bosworth-Toller and spied an entry for hellehinca, which it defines as 'the hell-limper, -hobbler, the devil lamed by his fall from heaven.' Which made me think of Morgoth once more. So I looked up the passage cited for the word, and found more interesting words:
Þa for þære dugoðe     deoful ætywde,
wann ond wliteleas,     hæfde weriges hiw.
Ongan þa meldigan     morþres brytta,
hellehinca,     þone halgan wer
wiðerhycgende,     ond þæt word gecwæð

Andreas 1168-72
Then before that band the devil appeared,
Black and unlovely, he had the look of a monster.
He then began, the prince of murder,
The hell-lame, to accuse this holy man,
With evil intent, and said these words...
The word weriges in line 1169, which I have translated 'monster,' comes, not from werig -- 'weary' -- as I thought at first glance, but from wearg/h -- 'a monster, a malignant being, an evil spirit.' In line 1170 I have rendered morþres as 'murder,' but it comes from morþor, which can also be more abstract -- 'mortal sin, great wickedness, torment' etc.

Morþor is of course the source of Mordor, and wearg of warg, which is nothing new to say. What is intriguing, however, is that hellehinca is quite a rare word (only one citation in Bosworth-Toller), and it records an equally unusual attribute of the devil, both of these in close proximity to words of significance for Tolkien. So it may be that this is the origin of Morgoth's limp,



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