Gil-Galad was the sixth and last High King of the Noldor, but many people don’t know how exactly has he died. But don’t worry, in this article, we will explain key details about his life and his death.
Gil-Galad died receiving severe burns from “the heat of Sauron’s hand”, and so he passed on to the Halls of Mandos.
Gil-Galad was one of the most powerful characters in the Lord of the Rings (Middle-Earth) mythology. He and Elendil formed the Last Alliance and with a great host of Elves and Men, they marched to Mordor. For seven years, they lay siege to Sauron’s stronghold. At the end, Gil-galad and Elendil were killed and Sauron was overthrown.
But, let us start this tale from the beginning, as it should be.
Gil-galad was most likely born in the fifth century of the First Age and was still young during the times of the battles of the Dagor Bragollach and Nirnaeth Arnoediad. He was the son of Fingon, tying him into the House of Fingolfin. He lived in Nargothrond until its fall and escaped, and eventually came to the Mouths of Sirion.
After the death of Turgon during the Fall of Gondolin, Gil-galad received the Kingship of the Ñoldor. When the Sons of Feanor committed the Third Kinslaying, Gil-galad received word of the sacking of the Havens, but he and his host arrived too late to stop the Sons of Feanor, who fled after the battle was over. However, the survivors of Sirion joined with Gil-galad and went with him to Balar, where they told him of Elrond and Elros’ captivity. After the War of Wrath, the remaining Sons of Feanor vanished out of history. Maedhros committed suicide while Maglor disappeared without a trace, leaving Elrond and Elros alone. Therefore at some point, Gil-galad welcomed Elrond into his ranks after the latter chose to be one of Elf-kind.
In year 1 of the Second Age, Gil-galad remained in Middle-earth and established Lindon, which was strong and secure against its enemies. At its height, his realm extended eastward as far as the Misty Mountains and the western parts of Greenwood the Great, though most of the Eldar remained in Lindon and in Elrond’s refuge of Rivendell.
Gil-galad had an alliance with the Men of Westernesse, especially with Tar-Aldarion (the Mariner), The Faithful, and Elendil. Gil-galad reigned as High King of the Ñoldor throughout the Second Age. During this time Gil-galad was given the seeds of mellyrn, or mallorn, trees by Tar-Aldarion, who was, during this time, High King of Numenor. But the seeds wouldn’t grow in his land so he gave them to Galadriel before she left Lindon. She carried these seeds for a long time, finally planting them in Lindórinand. When they grew in the land, it was renamed Lothlórien, Lórien of Blossom. At some point, Gil-galad and Elrond were approached by a stranger called Annatar, who called himself the Lord of Gifts. Fair seemings were his words and offerings, but Gil-galad perceived that this Annatar was not what he seemed. Therefore he refused to have dealings with him and sent word abroad to all the Elves that they should shun this stranger.
However, Annatar was received in Eregion, where he taught the Elves how to make the Rings of Power. But Gil-galad’s distrust was proven correct, as Annatar was Sauron in disguise, and the rings were tools for his wicked plans to dominate Middle-earth. Later on, Gil-galad was entrusted by Celebrimbor with the Elven Rings Vilya (Ring of Air) and Narya (Ring of Fire), two of the Three Rings, which he passed on to his herald Elrond and his lieutenant Cirdan prior to his demise at the Siege of Barad-dûr.
For a long time, Gil-galad waged war with Sauron. But the High King was aided by the Numenoreans, then ruled by Tar-Minastir, which hindered Sauron’s forces. Sauron, who barely escaped with a bodyguard, returned to Mordor, where he laid low, gathering his strength, plotting vengeance against the Dunedain. He was later confronted by the Numenoreans and brought back as a prisoner to their homeland, leaving Gil-galad free to rule Middle-Earth in peace. In Sauron’s absence, Gil-galad’s power grew to the point where Sauron was dismayed when he returned from the ruin of Numenor. Yet the survivors of Numenor, known as the Faithful, arrived in Middle-Earth and established their kingdoms. They retained their friendship with the Elves, and both Elendil and Gil-galad took counsel as to how they should deal with Sauron. At length, they decided to gather all of their hosts and attack Sauron before he could recover his strength.
How Did Gil-Galad Die In The Lord Of The Rings?
With the emergence of Sauron, Gil-galad joined forces with the King Elendil to defeat the might of Mordor, reborn again with the return of Sauron. Their large, well-trained, united forces engaged Sauron’s armies multiple times in the conflict known as the War of the Last Alliance. Gil-galad’s famed weapon was a spear named Aeglos – which meant “Icicle”; none could withstand it. Finally, towards the end of the war, the Elves and Men passed through into Mordor and laid siege to Barad-dûr, where Gil-galad and Elendil dueled Sauron himself. During their struggle, Gil-galad and Elendil inflicted enough mortal wounds on the Dark Lord to destroy his body, though they received terrible wounds in return. This sacrifice allowed Isildur to sever the Ring from the Dark Lord’s hand. But Gil-galad received severe burns from “the heat of Sauron’s hand”, and so he passed on to the Halls of Mandos. He was not known to have a wife, nor any children, so the kingship of the Ñoldor ended in Middle-earth and Círdan was from then on the Lord of the Grey Havens and Lindon.
Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing;
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the Mountains and the Sea.
His sword was long, his lance was keen.
His shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven’s field
were mirrored in his silver shield.
But long ago he rode away,– From The Fall of Gil-galad, as translated by Bilbo Baggins
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
in Mordor where the shadows are.
We learn of Gil-Galad’s fate during the Council of Elrond. According to Isildur’s chronicle of the battle with Sauron, Gil-Galad was burned to death by Sauron’s hand.
What evil it saith I do not know; but I trace here a copy of it, lest it fade beyond recall. The Ring misseth, maybe, the heat of Sauron’s hand, which was black and yet burned like fire, and so [with which] Gil-galad was destroyed;– The Fellowship of the Ring: The Council of Elrond
And from The Silmarillion, we have a third-party account. Sauron was facing two enemies and managed to kill both but was knocked down in the process.
But at the last the siege was so strait that Sauron himself came forth; and he wrestled with Gil-galad and Elendil, and they both were slain, and the sword of Elendil broke under him as he fell. But Sauron also was thrown down, and with the hilt-shard of Narsil Isildur cut the Ruling Ring from the hand of Sauron and took it for his own.– The Silmarillion: OF THE RINGS OF POWER AND THE THIRD AGE
There’s a nice concept art image from the recent Peter Jackson film that illustrates what (probably) happened.