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Raised after the founding of Nargothrond in I 102; destroyed at the end of the First Age
On the plain of Talath Dirnen, one league eastward from the Doors of Nargothrond
Other names


About this entry:

  • Updated 12 May 2023
  • This entry is complete

Hill of Spies

The guard-hill of Nargothrond

Map of the Hill of Spies

Amon Ethir, the artificial hill raised by Finrod Felagund eastward of his stronghold of Nargothrond, as a watch on the wide Guarded Plain of Talath Dirnen. Its most important part in history came after Nargothrond's loss, since it was here that Túrin's sister Niënor encountered the gaze of Glaurung, and lost all memory of her former life.

When Finrod Felagund established Nargothrond in I 102, he constructed his great underground fortress by excavating the existing caverns beneath the hills of the High Faroth. It was Finrod's intention that his stronghold should be as well concealed and defended as possible, and so he built no bridge before his Doors. Instead, the Doors of Nargothrond opened onto the banks of the river Narog, and could only be approached along a narrow way beneath the cliffs behind.

To further defend his new city, Finrod established defences on the plain beyond its Doors. The entire region between Narog and Brethil became Talath Dirnen, the Guarded Plain, ringed by hidden watchtowers and concealed sentries. Closer to Nargothrond itself, Finrod raised a great artificial hill a league (three miles) eastward of the river Narog. This was Amon Ethir, the Hill of Spies (or the Spyhill). It was made to appear as a natural hill, with trees growing on its flanks, but from its bare summit Finrod's guards could see far across the plain and along all the ways that led to Nargothrond.

This policy of guarded secrecy continued throughout Finrod's long reign, and no foe approached Nargothrond during that time. Matters changed, however, after Finrod was slain in Tol-in-Gaurhoth. Eventually Túrin arrived in the city and took control of its military policy. He raised a bridge before the Doors of Nargothrond and marched out to war on the plain beyond, thus revealing Nargothrond's location to Morgoth. The Dark Lord sent Glaurung the Dragon with a horde of Orcs to capture the stronghold, and this army defeated the Elves of Nargothrond at the Battle of Tumhalad before marching on Nargothrond itself. If any watchers remained on the Hill of Spies at this time, they could have done no more than observe as the Dragon entered their city and began its Sack.

Though Nargothrond was lost, the Hill of Spies had one more part to play in history. Thingol of Doriath sent out a squadron of warriors to investigate the coming of Glaurung. These soldiers, led by Mablung, were accompanied by Morwen, who had heard that her son Túrin had been in Nargothrond before its fall. Morwen's daughter Niënor disguised herself and also accompanied the band, and when they reached the Hill of Spies, Mablung left the mother and daughter there with a guard of his warriors. Mablung then went on to dare the sacked halls of Nargothrond to discover what he could.

Mablung's plan to keep his charges safe on the Hill of Spies failed when Glaurung emerged from Nargothrond. The Dragon sent up a foul reek and fog that blinded the Elves and sent their horses into a panic. Niënor found herself left alone on the hilltop, and there she encountered the beguiling gaze of Glaurung. She fell under the Dragon-spell and was robbed of her memories. This would have a profound effect on her life and that of her brother Túrin, who she would later unwittingly wed, far away in the Forest of Brethil. Those events lay in the future, but at this time, Glaurung withdrew from the Hill of Spies, leaving Niënor dazed on its summit, and returned to his treasures within sacked Nargothrond. Niënor was led away from that place by Mablung, and after their departure the Hill of Spies disappears from the histories of Beleriand.

See also...

Amon Ethir, Spyhill


About this entry:

  • Updated 12 May 2023
  • This entry is complete

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