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Old 08-08-2014, 03:51 AM   #1
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Ancalagon the Black

A couple of questions regarding this dragon (and some other stuff):

I. Gandalph said than not even Ancalagon could melt One Ring. But... 1) how could he know for sure? 2) while One Ring is ther greates Sauron creation, Ancalagon was arguably the greatest Melkor creation. And Melkor >>> Sauron in terms of power/

II. How could half elf, even in airship, kill the dragon who made Valar army flee and was so huge that broke several mountains when fall? And giant eagles... I doubt that they were more powerful than felbeasts, yet somehow managed to take down ancient, most powerful dragons (maybe they swarmed them though).

III. Why was Gandalph so sure that Smaug was dangerous because we would be willing to align with Sauron? Sauron in that time was not really strong, he could not otder dragon not being his master, and Smauh hardly would be interested in anything Sauron could offer to him (since he was more than happy to sleep in cave full of treasures).

IV. Why did Melkor lose? I mean, it was obvious that he should lose being a bad gut, but still... what led to his fall in War of Wrath? What strategical/tactical mistakes hi commited in his conquest of Arda? Overspread forces, relied too much on quantity, something else?..
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Old 08-08-2014, 05:35 AM   #2
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Eärendil cannot be dismissed simply as an half elf as if he were a lesser creature. He is the scion of arguably the noblest and most valiant lines of Elves and men, he has a Silmaril, and he is instrument of divine will within the cosmology of Arda. Ancalagon is greatest of dragons. But I think he had more than met his match. Anyone on foot is going to be at a major disadvantage from aerial assault. Ancalagon's size would be a disadvantage in a dogfight against a nimbler aircraft.
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Old 08-08-2014, 07:38 AM   #3
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Welcome, Aster!

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Originally Posted by Aster View Post
I. Gandalph said than not even Ancalagon could melt One Ring. But... 1) how could he know for sure? 2) while One Ring is ther greates Sauron creation, Ancalagon was arguably the greatest Melkor creation. And Melkor >>> Sauron in terms of power/
What exactly dragons were, and how they stood with respect to their "spirits" is debatable. Be that as it may, Sauron was a divine angelic being, powerful even among that class of creature. While Morgoth was certainly a greater power than Sauron, a "creation" of his would have been inferior to Sauron, just as the Nazgūl were less powerful than the Istari.

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III. Why was Gandalph so sure that Smaug was dangerous because we would be willing to align with Sauron? Sauron in that time was not really strong, he could not otder dragon not being his master, and Smauh hardly would be interested in anything Sauron could offer to him (since he was more than happy to sleep in cave full of treasures).
Gandalf was looking forward to what he saw as the inevitable return of Sauron as the major power of evil in Middle-earth. Samug would have been attracted to that evil, and Sauron could have offered him opportunities for plunder, as well as the simple joy of killing.

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IV. Why did Melkor lose? I mean, it was obvious that he should lose being a bad gut, but still... what led to his fall in War of Wrath? What strategical/tactical mistakes hi commited in his conquest of Arda? Overspread forces, relied too much on quantity, something else?..
Morgoth had destroyed a good part of the Noldor and Edain, and after he accomplished the sack of Gondolin, he was convinced there would never be any assault on him from the West. It was really only that, brought about by Eärendil (an unforeseeable event from Morgoth's perspective) that brought his downfall.
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Old 08-08-2014, 07:47 AM   #4
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1. I believe when Gandalf says "nor was there any dragon, not even Ancalagon the Black, who could have harmed the One Ring," I would argue that he is speaking figuratively. He observes that "dragon-fire could melt and consume the Rings of Power" but the One Ring, strictly speaking, is not one of the Rings of Power per se but rather a related artefact with similar but not identical properties. The same is true of the Elven-Rings. By saying not even Ancalagon could destroy it, I think it's an elaborate way of saying "it's indestructible (save at Mount Doom)." Note Gandalf's caveat about why Ancalagon could not destroy it: "for that was made by Sauron himself." It was not in the nature of the One Ring to be destroyed in that fashion. It was, after all, "a thing of surpassing potency." (Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age)

Just skipping over 2 and 3 for a bit, the answer to the "Melkor>Sauron" question lies in the answer to:

4. Why was Morgoth defeated in the War of Wrath? The answer, I would argue, is that it is because by the end of the First Age his power was spent. Morgoth "squandered his strength in violence and tyranny" (Valaquenta) and was best understood as "a tyrant (or central tyranny and will), + his agents." (Morgoth's Ring) Morgoth's power was diffuse: in the shadow corrupting Arda, in his extremely large number of servants, and in the vast projects of war and industry in which his realm was occupied. By the end of the First Age, many of his greatest servants, like Gothmog and Glaurung, were dead, and despite overall victory against the Noldor vast armies under his control had been destroyed. Melkor has originally been very great indeed, and he was still able to muster at the very end a weapon - Ancalagon's dragons - that was so powerful it could drive back the Host of the Valar, which was probably composed mostly of Vanyar, who were extremely mighty in themselves. But when that failed he had nothing left. Morgoth might have waited and recovered his power, but in his endless campaigns of war against his enemies there was never time.

I think this also explains why the One was indestructible even by Morgoth's most powerful servant. Unlike Morgoth, who partitioned his power everywhere, Sauron concentrated it in this one object. Of course it seems that by the end of the Third Age Sauron had been forced to start spending what remained of his own power in the same way, even just to manifest a body for himself, having lost two in the space of about a hundred years at the end of the Second Age.

I think Mithalwen has got 2 covered, so I'll end with:

3. Smaug being "used" by Sauron doesn't necessarily mean actually having Smaug in his army (although Gandalf nonetheless evidently considered it a possibility). Sauron was not "not really strong" during Smaug's time. He was very strong - not in the West perhaps, but Rhūn and Harad were under his sway, and while he may not have found his Ring, his enemies had not found it either. He had nonetheless corrupted Mirkwood and infested the Misty Mountains and the Grey with Orcs (the War of the Dwarves and Orcs halted this, but not indefinitely). But it comes back to this issue of areas under control. Gandalf "was troubled in mind by the perilous state of the North; because he knew then already that Sauron was plotting war, and intended, as soon as he felt strong enough, to attack Rivendell. But to resist any attempt from the East to regain the lands of Angmar and the northern passes in the mountains there were now only the Dwarves of the Iron Hills. And beyond them lay the desolation of the Dragon. The Dragon Sauron might use with terrible effect." The point was not even using Smaug as a weapon as such, but rather that as long as Smaug was there any defence against invasion from Rhūn would be impractical. The chief threat (fortunately averted in the actual war) was that Sauron would be able to unite forces from Dol Guldur and Rhūn, conquer Rhovanion and the Misty Mountains, and destroy the remaining refuges of the Elves.

That's how I see it, at least.

Crossed with Inzil but I believe we've drawn complementary conclusions!
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Old 08-08-2014, 09:07 AM   #5
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Thank you for answers!

1. But Orodruin was hardly "more powerful being" than Sauron, and its flame was hardly hotter than that of Ancalagon... yet it managed to melt One Ring just because "it was forged there"
And were Nazgūl really less powerful than the Istari? If so, it is strange that Gandalph, for example, never really attempted to destroy them... You may say that he was forbidden to use greatest part of his power - yet he used it against Balrog...

2. Even is airship was much smaller, it is hard to believe that it could withstand massive amount of flame (and Ancalagon was thre greates living flamethrower ever, no doubt) during their loong battle, yet alone penetrate his armour (remember how tough was Glaurung scale). Well... I guess it is more of legend than militray chronicle after all)

4. But why he concentrated so hard on building orcish armies (orcs, even though they were created specifically for war, were bad warriors - took horrible casualties even when thyy did manage to beat elves with the help of Balrogs/etc.)? He did not seem to pay much attention to quality (did trolls ever do something impressive? No other formidable monsters were created...except Balrogs which could not be "mass produced" though) as well, until it was too late. Hmm.

P.S. Is it mentioned anywhere precisely whether Valar themselves fought in War of Wrath or not?
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Old 08-08-2014, 01:13 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Aster
P.S. Is it mentioned anywhere precisely whether Valar themselves fought in War of Wrath or not?
I don't have the sources at hand, but I can tell you in general terms that in the earlier writings, the Valar themselves were indeed explicitly said to be present at the War of Wrath, but in later writings they are rather clearly implied not to be, and the host was led by Fionwe/Eonwe.
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Old 08-08-2014, 03:27 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aster View Post
1. But Orodruin was hardly "more powerful being" than Sauron, and its flame was hardly hotter than that of Ancalagon... yet it managed to melt One Ring just because "it was forged there"
I think, like Galadriel's mirror, it had something to do with his own work upon it, not necessarily it being able to destroy the Ring because of what it was aside from Sauron's manipulations. Unmake it from whence it was made. No craft less than Sauron's could undo it. When we read of the forges of Sauron it is said of them:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rotk, Bk. 6, Mount Doom
He was come to the heart of the realm of Sauron and the forges of his ancient might, greatest in Middle-earth, all other powers were here subdued.
Quote:
And were Nazgūl really less powerful than the Istari? If so, it is strange that Gandalph, for example, never really attempted to destroy them... You may say that he was forbidden to use greatest part of his power - yet he used it against Balrog...
Yes, but that does not necessarily make them weak beings.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FotR, Bk. 2, Many Meetings
On foot even Glorfindel and Aragorn together could not withstand all the Nine at once.
Quote:
Originally Posted by FotR, Bk. 2, Council of Elrond
For even the Wise might fear to withstand the Nine, when they are gathered together under their fell chieftain.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gandalf fights the Nine on Weathertop
They drew away from me, for they felt the coming of my anger and they dared not face it while the Sun was in the sky. But they closed round at night, and I was besieged on the hill-top, in the old ring of Amon Sūl. I was hard put to it indeed: such light and flame cannot have been seen on Weathertop since the war-beacons of old. At sunrise I escaped and fled towards the north
From the last quote you will note that they are indeed formidable as a group and that their weakness in the Sun helped Gandalf at one point. However, at night he was hard pressed and escaped them when light came again.

Quote:
2. Even is airship was much smaller, it is hard to believe that it could withstand massive amount of flame (and Ancalagon was thre greates living flamethrower ever, no doubt) during their loong battle, yet alone penetrate his armour (remember how tough was Glaurung scale). Well... I guess it is more of legend than militray chronicle after all)
I'm not sure if he had the greatest flames of all the dragons ever, although Gandalf did mention him not being able to melt the One, "not even Ancalagon the Black" [FotR, Bk. 1, The Shadow of the Past]. It appears to me that Ancalagon was mentioned specifically as the mightiest of that winged host that issued from Angband in the final assault and not necessarily as the greatest of all the dragons.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silmarillion; Of the Voyage of Eärendil
he [Melkor] loosed upon his foes the last desperate assault that he had prepared, and out of the pits of Angband there issued the winged dragons, that had not before been seen <...> Eärendil slew Ancalagon the Black, the mightiest of the dragon-host
You mention the dragon scales. When Glaurung was young he was more vulnerable because his scales were not so tough.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silmarillion; The Return of the Noldor
Glaurung, the first of the Urulóki, the fire-drakes of the North, issued from Angband's gates by night. He was yet young and scarce half-grown, for long and slow is the life of the dragons <...> Fingon prince of Hitlum rode against him with archers on horseback <...> Glaurung could not endure their darts, being not yet come to his full armoury, and he fled back to Angband
However, you must remember that Dragons do have a weak underbelly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by the Hobbit; Inside Information
"I have always understood that dragons were softer underneath, especially in the region of the - er - chest; but doubtless one so fortified has though of that."

<...>

"I am armoured above and below with iron scales and hard gems. No blade can pierce me."

<...>

what he [Bilbo] thought inside was: "Old fool! Why there is a patch in the hollow of his left breast as bare as a snail out of its shell!"
This was displayed by Smaug, and by Glaurung. I think one can assume that Ancalagon was probably hit there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silmarillion; Of the Fifth Battle
with his last stroke Azaghāl drove a knife into his belly, and so wounded him that he fled the field
Quote:
Originally Posted by Silmarillion; Of Tśrin Turambar
he drew Gurthang, and with all the might of his arm, and of his hate, he thrust it into the soft belly of the Worm, even up to the hilts. But when Glaurung felt his death-pang he screamed
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Hobbit; Fire and Water
The great bow twanged. The black arrow sped straight from the string, straight for the hollow by the left breast where the foreleg was flung wide. In it smote and vanished, barb, shaft and feather, so fierce was its flight.
It can be seen that a good place to get at a dragon would be his belly. However, this is not so easy as it may seem, because two of the 3 guys who wounded a dragon in this way were killed. Tśrin was poisoned by Glaurung's blood and died. Azaghāl was struck down by Glaurung before stabbing him, and Bard probably got him from the safest distance with his arrow. Although it seems even their armour was not completely impenetrable as the Dwarves put some hurting on Glaurung with their axes.

Quote:
No other formidable monsters were created...except Balrogs which could not be "mass produced" though) as well, until it was too late. Hmm.
The Balrogs, like Gandalf, and Sauron were Maia. In the fall of Gondolin they are numerous and less powerful. But then they became lesser and stronger, seven at most.

Quote:
P.S. Is it mentioned anywhere precisely whether Valar themselves fought in War of Wrath or not?
No, the Elves of Aman [excluding the Teleri who really just lent their ships to the host] lead by Eönwė a Maia.
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Old 08-08-2014, 05:19 PM   #8
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Did Ancalagon the Black ever exist? Gandalf said to Frodo, ''Nor ever was there such a dragon''.
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Old 08-08-2014, 05:38 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Moonraker View Post
Did Ancalagon the Black ever exist? Gandalf said to Frodo, ''Nor ever was there such a dragon''.
Yes, read the Silmarillion. Eärendil defeated him and he fell upon Thangorodrim.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FotR, Bk. 1, The Shadow of the Past
It has been said that dragon-fire could melt and consume the Rings of Power, but there is not now any dragon left on earth in which the old fire is hot enough; nor was there ever any dragon, not even Ancalagon the Black, who could have harmed the One Ring
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Old 08-08-2014, 05:50 PM   #10
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Yes, read the Silmarillion. Eärendil defeated him and he fell upon Thangorodrim.
I have never got past about 10 pages of the Silmarillion, it bored the hell out of me back in my student days. I should give it another go now that I am older at wiser (and Russell Group university educated).

Thanks for the correction anyway.
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Old 08-09-2014, 03:47 AM   #11
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Thank you for answers!

1. But Orodruin was hardly "more powerful being" than Sauron, and its flame was hardly hotter than that of Ancalagon... yet it managed to melt One Ring just because "it was forged there"
And were Nazgūl really less powerful than the Istari? If so, it is strange that Gandalph, for example, never really attempted to destroy them... You may say that he was forbidden to use greatest part of his power - yet he used it against Balrog...

P.S. Is it mentioned anywhere precisely whether Valar themselves fought in War of Wrath or not?
I don't see how you are so convinced that Ancalagon's fire is hotter than a volcano. Is their any textual evidence that counteracts the implication of Gandalf's words that it isn't. How ever impressive the dragon's flame it isn't the same as the constant heat of a furnace. At the risk of sounding certifiable, within Tolkien's cosmos, dragons are presented as "real" flesh and blood creatures albeit with special powers. They breed, need to eat, may be slain and once slain stay dead and so different in nature to the other fiery creatures, balrogs who are corrupt maia.

Don't forget that Sauron himself was literally hot, much hotter than a normal house fire such at Bag End (which is not without its dangers). That couldn't even warm the ring but it remained hot for quitesome timeafter removal from Sauron's hand and the implication from Isildur's scroll is that Gil-galad was pretty much incinerated by contact with Sauron. So while I don't want to disparage Ancalagon, I don't agree with you.
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Old 08-09-2014, 07:06 AM   #12
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Don't forget that Sauron himself was literally hot
Not likely to forget that.
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Old 08-09-2014, 12:51 PM   #13
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And were Nazgūl really less powerful than the Istari? If so, it is strange that Gandalph, for example, never really attempted to destroy them... You may say that he was forbidden to use greatest part of his power - yet he used it against Balrog...
Gandalf was forbidden to match power against power versus Sauron. The Balrog was not in Sauron's control, and was out of the ken of all the Fellowship but Gandalf; therefore, in order to assure the Fellowship continued their quest, Gandalf alone met this danger from the 1st Age.
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Old 08-09-2014, 01:12 PM   #14
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Balrogs as Maia are of the same order of beings as Gandalf, and indeed Sauron himself. Nazgul well they have a devolved power and some major weaknesses eg being water funks. Glorfindel is more than a match for half of them together and he isn't a Maia.... though quite possibly the greatest of the Eldar would equal or exceed some Maia in inherent power. The main weapon of the Nazgul is fear...and surprise..and a fanatical devotion to Sauron of course
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Old 12-11-2014, 02:19 PM   #15
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One last question.

What do you think would have happened, had Melkor won the last great batlle of War of Wrath?
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Old 12-11-2014, 02:28 PM   #16
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What do you think would have happened, had Melkor won the last great batlle of War of Wrath?
I would think the result similar to that posited by Gandalf supposing Sauron was victorious in the Third Age, but to an even greater extent
The Free Peoples would either have destroyed or enslaved, with little likelihood of ever being able to oppose Morgoth militarily. It would have taken a "miracle" (as in the event happened with Eärendil's errand) to have brought him down.
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Old 12-11-2014, 04:31 PM   #17
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Umm... I forget the mind of Melkor as expounded on in Morgoth's Ring, but I think maybe he'd have destroyed most everything.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Myths Transformed
Morgoth would no doubt, if he had been victorious, have ultimately destroyed even his own 'creatures', such as the Orcs, when they had served his sole purpose in using them: the destruction of Elves and Men.
That would be highly improbable, Melkor winning, since he was so spent of his innate powers. His servants are not him. Although with his servants all-together they sort of had a semblence of Melkor as he was collectively, but since his hosts could be dealt with easier than with Melkor you take them out and he's no problem as he once was. When I consider Melkor I think of some terrible power, terrible, like just consider what he did expending his nature into everything in M-E. He actually became a taint within the sphere of the world. Finrod I think thought that maybe Melkor had to some degree changed the bodies of the COI. I suppose this in some way accounted for the fading where the body of the Eves could not keep up with their spirits and were eaten away.

As mention in MR, he'd have gone on raging against existence and the existence of others, but in the end unable to really destroy completely what he sought to. He knew he could not utterly destroy Elves and Men, their spirits, but he was pleased with destroying their bodies.
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Old 12-12-2014, 01:08 AM   #18
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Part of the problem in this discussion is talking about "strength" as if it's a quantitative attribute, like something from an RPG: "Gandalf has strength X and the Witch-King has strength Y with a +15 Will of Sauron bonus; roll 3d8."

It just doesn't work that way.

Is a tank "stronger" than an infantryman? What if the infantryman has an antitank rocket? Were French knights "stronger" than English archers? For that matter, was Luthien "stronger" than Morgoth? Everything is situational.

And Tolkien generally avoided describing strength-on-strength contests directly. He carefully avoided having Gandalf fight the Witch-King or confront Sauron. We know nothing of the episode in Orthanc save that Gandalf felt that resistance was futile (a pox upon PJ's wizard-fu!). The fight with the Balrog comes closer but even that is told in retrospect and in very general terms. By the time we get to the Silmarillion, much of it is distant and mythological (and in keeping with T's affectation of provenance, would have to be, since all the Elves knew of Earendil's fight with Ancalagon was distant report and long sight- "But then Vingelot and the Great Eagles came, and there was a big fight in the sky, and then Ancalagon fell on the mountain!"

(Were I to get a rewrite, I'd take up the revised Second Prophecy of Mandos and have Turin fight from the boat while Earendil drove it, Iliad-style).
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Old 12-12-2014, 06:01 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Belegorn View Post
Umm... I forget the mind of Melkor as expounded on in Morgoth's Ring, but I think maybe he'd have destroyed most everything.



That would be highly improbable, Melkor winning, since he was so spent of his innate powers. His servants are not him. .
Well, he made a mistake of separating his armies so that landed valars defeated them one by one. And yet dragons almost made the whole invasion force flee in panic... Assuming that they were more successful/Melkors commandment was more clever, what would have happened after his victory?..
I agree that he could not destroy everything, sure. He himself became part of Arda.
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Old 12-12-2014, 08:40 AM   #20
denethorthefirst
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Originally Posted by Aster View Post
Well, he made a mistake of separating his armies so that landed valars defeated them one by one.
Maybe the winged dragons weren't ready at the time of the invasion? I also thinks it's very likely that Morgoths insanity diminished his competency as a general/leader. It's also possible that the ensuing erratic behavior led to low morale and infighting among his "staff" and the wider leadership (high ranking umaiar) - Sauron didn't even fight in the War of wrath, he hid himself away and watched the whole spectacle from the sidelines!
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Old 12-12-2014, 09:01 AM   #21
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Assuming that they were more successful/Melkors commandment was more clever, what would have happened after his victory?..
I agree that he could not destroy everything, sure. He himself became part of Arda.
This is another interesting question. I think we can see two ambitions composing Morgoth's character at the end of the First Age:

1) the desire to be an incarnate King/Tyrant over Middle-earth if not all Arda.

2) "nihilistic madness": his irrational hatred of all life and matter.

"Morgoth had no 'plan': unless destruction and reduction to nil of a world in which he had only a share can be called a 'plan'." (Morgoth's Ring)

So I think he would have tried to conquer Arda, find himself unsatisfied and then try to destroy it, but the matter of dealing with the Valar is obviously a substantial one. He could perhaps have waited and re-absorbed a lot of his dissipate potency into himself, which I believe Professor Tolkien speculates he could have done, and then attacked Aman, but I feel as if the failure of the Host of the West might still have only resulted in an ongoing stalemate if it didn't result in a direct confrontation between Morgoth and the Valar in which Arda would be severely damaged if not destroyed.
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Old 12-12-2014, 09:34 AM   #22
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Melkor can't achieve either of those goals, so in that sense, he can't "win". The most he can hope for is some kind of stalemate/Cold War. But even if he somehow repelled the Host of the Valar: the Valar can just rehouse their fallen elven soldiers ad infinitum can't they? At that point the conflict becomes a war of attrition that Melkor will surely lose. The only question would be if the High-elves would have the stomach for the necessary decades long carnage, but considering that the actual War of Wrath went on for roughly 40 years (!!!) I guess that's not a problem. We also have to remember that the Valar restrained themselves to limit the damage and didn't actually participate in the war; if the initial invasion fails they may reconsider that approach and go all in.

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