Unhappy Gorlim Picture

Gorlim, son of Angrim, is brought before Sauron in Tol-in-Gaurhoth, where he reveals the hiding place of his lord Barahir and their kinsmen.

The betrayal of Gorlim is looked on more sympathetically than Maeglin's betrayal of Turgon in later years. both were motivated by love, but in Maeglin's case it was a love that shouldn't be, that wasn't returned, and was woven with bitterness against Turgon and jealousy toward Tuor. Gorlim on the other hand loves Barahir and their fellows, has lived and fought and bled with them for ten years of hardship without much hope and likely would have continued to do so, but the belief that his long-lost wife lives, the fear at the thought of her in Sauron's hands, the thin hope that they might be reunited, and no doubt his own terror before the dark lord and his servants - it's all too much for him. how can he really be blamed? how could a man be blamed? that's the other big difference, and I think an important one as to why one betrayal might be more easy to treat with sympathy; Maeglin is one of the Eldar, he should know better. One of the most compelling (and strangest, when you think about it) aspects of the Silmarillion is that in it, far more clearly than in the Lord of the Rings, we are offered what seems to be Tolkien's proposition of where our kind, Humanity, fits in the myths of old; how our species might have appeared to the eyes of all these ancient demigods that we have so long told stories about - angels and demons, elves and dwarves, goblins and dark lords, not just as they exist in Tolkien's mythos but in all mythos - what these mythic "others" might make of us. What the angels might. What God might, or Satan. The portrayal seems a crystallized version of how mortal man usually comes off in ancient mythology, including and especially the Christian myth to which Tolkien was deeply devoted; a race of good but weak beings, young in the world, unwise, unlearned, small children among mighty ancients - some of those good and some evil - caught up in and inheriting their struggle. We don't always do right; we falter in our courage, in our judgement, in our morality. We are the middle-most people of Middle-Earth, and its perpetual moral wildcards.

Gorlim is not one of the transcendent heroes of the men of the elder days, he doesn't love one of the immortal fairie race and isn't granted any special dispensation of fate like Beren, Tuor or Earendil, and he isn't built to hold up indefinitely against the forces of evil like Hurin. He's a man, like Androg, in whom we get to see what a Man is in Tolkien's estimation; brave but not endlessly so, good by nature but able to be used for evil, pulled by love, fear, guilt, hope. The cruelest moment of his torment comes when Sauron - an immortal angel turned to evil, looking down at new-emerged mankind and what motivates their hearts like a cat toying with a mouse - insults the modesty of Gorlim's price to his face, knowing with complete confidence that he's got him anyway. It's a sad loss that the magic of old eventually departs the world leaving mankind to inherit it, but in a sense it's a great relief as well; we were over-matched.

part of the 'Weekly Tolkien Sketchblog'
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