I feel the terrible need to write a fic about post Dagor Bragollach Maedhros.
Maybe because too often I see only one side of Maedhros’ character explored, the one of the doomed kinslayer, which incidentally, it is the one I find the least fascinating. Maybe mainly because it is too often the only one explored (and abused), and this, in my opinion, is a shame! Because there is so much more to him than an easy fodder for angst!
Besides I’m starting to somehow dislike the depictions that would have him only seen as a strange loner, mainly because I see them as wildly inaccurate, and even those where other Noldor are wary of him and do not trust him, for the same reason. One doesn’t lead so many soldiers from the sidelines of politics, or while being socially shunned.
After the Bragollach, for example, he must have been hailed as a hero. Think about it: he was the only one who managed to stand against Balrogs, Dragons and rivers of lava on the most difficult part of the border, when all others either fell or had to retreat. Himring sheltered the people running from the destroyed realms of Maglor, and Aegnor and Angrod, and, after the war, Maedhros started reconquering the lost territories instead of running south or sinking into despair.
I’m not saying he would have been happy after the end of the battle, not at all. Still he would be the leader, the beacon of strength and determination his people need to survive, to endure the siege, and afterward, to start building anew despite the losses.
Of course, the situation would have been very dire, but he was the proof there was still something amidst the chaos to cling to, that there could there still be order and the people could endure without hiding, but banding together and facing the enemy even where the blow fell the strongest.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying anyone, of the enemies of Melkor, saw that battle as a triumph, that would be just silly. Still, there are many ways to loose a battle, and Maedhros, in my opinion, was the one who managed to “loose the best”.
Of course, I perfectly understand how easy it is to polarise characters and make them into “greek tragedy’s masks” of sorts, that express and exasperate only one side of their characterisation, particularly when faced with books like the Silmarillion, that aim to resemble a history book written centuries later.
Yet the Bragollach is the one of the moments where we see why Maedhros, despite the kinslayings, is still somehow considered a hero of his people or, at least, is still treated way better than his brother by the (biased) narrative.
Not only because he saved many lives with his choices and created new alliances, but also because he was a cornerstone of the defences against Angband even when all others wobbled, because he saved and sheltered the refugees in need, and, ultimately, because without him the Noldor would have definitely fallen sooner. Since having the whole easter border open would have been a blow they wouldn’t have recovered from.
Personally, what I like the most about the characters is how he managed to take a traumatic event, something that would have shattered someone else and build a new strength from it. I sincerely doubt he would have managed to keep so much of a level head though the Bragollach hadn’t it been for his captivity in Angaband. He would have probably fallen into despair like Fingolfin.