Most of Ecthelion's early life is unknown, though he may have lived in Aman and as one of the followers of Fingolfin. It is known that he passed through the dangerous Helcaraxë and lived. After surviving the grinding ice, he fought in the Battle of Lammoth, and later, following Turgon, in the Dagor Aglareb. As a follower of Turgon he settled in Vinyamar in Nevrast before moving to Gondolin in FA 116. He later became lord of the House of the Fountain.
Two hundred years after Gondolin was wrought, Ecthelion, Glorfindel and Egalmoth, along with the White Lady of the Ñoldor left the Hidden City due to Aredhel's yearning for the freedom she once had in Valinor. Their orders were to lead her towards Hithlum, where she would meet her elder brother Fingon. When coming upon the Ford of Brithiach, Aredhel ordered them to turn south, for she desired to see the Sons of Fëanor. Thus, Ecthelion and his companions sought admittance to Doriath, but the wardens refused them entrance inside the Girdle of Melian. Having no other choice, they took the dangerous road between the haunted valleys of Ered Gorgoroth. Near Nan Dungortheb, the Valley of Dreadful Death, the riders were caught in a mesh of shadows and they were lost from Aredhel. In vain, they sought her afterwards, but the fell offspring of Ungoliant that dwelt in that place pursued them. Barely escaping alive, the three lords returned to Gondolin without the princess, where they were received in sorrow.
A Lord of Gondolin
Twenty-three years after Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Tuor and Voronwë of Gondolin traveled towards the Hidden City. After being led by Elemmakil through the Seven Gates, Ecthelion appeared before them as Warden of the Great Gate.
And high and noble as was Elemmakil, greater and more lordly was Ecthelion, Lord of the Fountains, at that time Warden of the Great Gate. All in silver was he clad, and upon his shining helm there was set a spike of steel pointed with a diamond; and as his esquire took his shield it shimmered as if it were bedewed with drops of rain, that were indeed a thousand studs of crystal.
—Unfinished Tales, Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin
Ecthelion initially denied passage for Tuor but when Tuor made a reference towards Ulmo, the Lord of the Waters, Ecthelion eventually allowed him entry.
He was the leader of the House of the Fountain, one of the Twelve Houses of the Gondolindrim. His people were fond of diamonds and silver, and their array was beautiful to the sight. In FA 510 during the Fall of Gondolin, Ecthelion led his house into battle accompanied by the music of their flutes and great were the damages caused to the enemy by their long, bright swords.
Warcry of the Eldar
In the battle over Gondolin, Ecthelion and his forces made their entrance from the South part of the city, after previously being held in reserve. So terrible was his voice when commanding the drawing of the swords and the killings, which followed, that his name became a terror among the enemy and a Warcry to the Eldar. Valiantly fighting side by side with Tuor and his House of the Wing, they drove away the orcs until almost the Gate was regained. As Dragons reinforced Morgoth's army, Ecthelion killed three Balrogs and his sword did "hurt to their fire". Outnumbered, they had to retreat. When doing so, Ecthelion's left arm was wounded and his shield fell to earth. Tuor carried him away as they joined the remaining leaders in the Square of the King.
In that place, the great Fountain of the King stood and Ecthelion regained his strength by drinking from it. As seven dragons lead the enemy's forces towards the Square, the remaining army of Gondolin began retreat. All but Ecthelion, who remained near the fountain in a stand, which was remembered as the most valiant "in all the songs or in any tale". It was there that he faced Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs.
Bane of Gothmog
Tuor tried to stand in the way of Gothmog, but he was thrown aside. Then Ecthelion, fairest of the Ñoldor, but whose face now had the pallor of grey steel, dueled him. Losing his sword due to a wound received he was unable to protect himself. Just as Gothmog was about to deliver the finishing blow, Ecthelion jumped and wrapped his legs around the demon, driving the spike of his helmet into Gothmog's body. This caused Gothmog to lose his balance, and they both fell into the Fountain of the King, and drowned.
Later, a young Eärendil asked about him, saying that he wished Ecthelion were there, "to play to me on his flute, or make me willow whistles! Perchance has he gone on ahead?" After he was informed of Ecthelion's death, he "wept bitterly" and said that he cared no more to see the streets of Gondolin.
There are three different sources that offer a translation of Ecthelion, and they differ substantially.
- In The Book of Lost Tales Part Two Appendix, it is said that the name derives from the Quenya ehtelë ("issue of water, spring"), a reference to his title as Lord for the House of the Fountain.
- In the etymologies of The Lost Road and Other Writings, his name is composed from ehtë, ("spear") and thela, ("point") (of spear). Put together they would translate as "Spear-point" or "Spear-head".
- In The War of the Jewels, which seems to be the last matter J.R.R. Tolkien wrote on it, the name is derived from aeg, ("sharp") and thel, ("intent, resolve"). This would translate "one of sharp resolve".
Other versions of the legendarium
Perhaps the earliest full tale of J.R.R. Tolkien's, The Fall of Gondolin, was written during a leave of absence from the World War I, in the year 1916. It is in that story, published posthumously by Christopher Tolkien in the volume The Book of Lost Tales Part Two that Ecthelion first appears. Thus, he is one of the first characters Tolkien ever created.
However, from a chronological point of view, the first account of his presence is the chapter Of Maeglin from The Silmarillion. The events described here took place more than one hundred and fifty years before those of Gondolin's fall. Along with Glorfindel of Gondolin and Egalmoth, he was assigned by Turgon as Aredhel's escort on her ill-fated journey. Though no name is mentioned, only that "Turgon appointed three lords of his household", an explanatory note in the volume The War of the Jewels, chapter called Maeglin, sheds light on the escorts' identities.
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Afrikaans||Ecthelion van die Fontein|
|Albanian||Ecthelion nga Burimi|
|Amharic||ዐችትሀሊኦን ኦፍ ትሀ ፎኡንታኢን|
|Arabic||ايكثيلييون صاحب النافورة|
|Belarusian Cyrillic||Эктелион оф тhе фантана|
|Catalan||Ecthelion de la font|
|Cebuano||Ecthelion sa Tuburan|
|Corsican||Ecthelion di la Fontana|
|Czech||Ecthelion od fontány|
|Danish||Ecthelion af Springvand|
|Dutch||Ecthelion van de Fontein|
|Esperanto||Ecthelion de la Fonto|
|Filipino||Ecthelion ng Paunten|
|French||Ecthelion de la Source|
|German||Ecthelion des Brunnens|
|Greek||Εκθέλιον της Κρήνης|
|Hausa||Ecthelion na Fawuntin|
|Hawaiian||Ecthelion o ke Kumuwai|
|Hindi||एक्थेलिओन ऑफ़ द फाउंटेन|
|Hmong||Ecthelion ntawm Tug ciav|
|Hungarian||Ecthelion a Szökőkút|
|Icelandic||Ecthelion af Uppsprettunni|
|Indonesian||Ecthelion dari Air Mancur|
|Italian||Ecthelion della Fonte|
|Kurdish||Ecthelion ji Kaniya (Kurmanji Kurdish)|
|Latvian||Ecthelion no Strūklakas|
|Luxembourgish||Ecthelion vun de Sprangbuer|
|Maori||Ecthelion o te Puna|
|Malay||Ecthelion mata air|
|Nepalese||एच्थेलिओन को यो छहरा|
|Norwegian||Ecthelion av Fontenen|
|Portuguese||Ecthelion da Fonte|
|Romanian||Ecthelion de Fântâna|
|Serbian||Ецтхелион оф тхе Фоунтаин (Cyrillic) Ehtelionov Fontane (Latin)|
|Slovenian||Ecthelion od Vodnjaka
|Spanish||Ecthelion de la Fuente|
|Swahili||Ecthelion ya Chemchemi|
|Swedish||Ecthelion av Fontänen|
|Tajik Cyrillic||Ечтҳелион аз Фонтан|
|Tamil||எகிப்தேளின் ஓபி தி போவுண்டைன்|
|Telugu||ఏసీతెలియన్ అఫ్ ది ఫౌంటెన్|
|Ukrainian Cyrillic||Ектеліон оф тге фонтану|
|Urdu||چشمہ کے اکٹہیلیون ?|
|Yiddish||עקטהעליאָן פון די פאָנטאַן|
|Yucatec Maya||Ecthelion le Fuente|
- The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter XVI: "Of Maeglin"
- The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter XX: "Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad"
- The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 2: The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, III: "The Fall of Gondolin"
- The History of Middle-earth, Vol. XI: The War of the Jewels, Part Three: The Wanderings of Húrin and Other Writings..., Chapter III: "Maeglin"