Places in Middle-earth
Region: Beleriand & North
Meaning: Cleft of the Eagles
Other Names Eagles' Cleft; Cristhorn in HoMe 2, The Book of Lost Tales 2. An earlier version of the name was Kirith Thoronath in HoMe 4, The Shaping of Middle-earth.
Location: In the northern reaches of the Echoriath, the Encircling Mountains ringing Gondolin.
The pass was accessed by a secret way built at the behest of Idril; this exit was on the north side of Gondolin, "north of Amon Gwareth."
Description: Cirith Thoronath is a narrow cleft running through the Echoriath north of Gondolin. On one side, the walls are high and sheer; on the other, there is a jagged drop culminating in the rapids of Thorn Sir. Due to the elevation and extreme northern latitude, Cirith Thoronath is cold year-round, and snow falls there even in summer.
The path running through Cirith Thoronath is very narrow; during the exodus from Gondolin, the refugees, led by Tuor, had to string out single file. It was in this pass that Glorfindel fought the Balrog and fell to his death.
"Thus were they come to Cristhorn, which is an ill place by reason of its height, for this is so great that spring nor summer come ever there, and it is very cold. Indeed while the valley dances in the sun, there all the year snow dwells in those bleak places, and even as they came there the wind howled, coming from the north behind them, and it bit sorely. Snow fell and whirled in wind- eddies and got into their eyes, and this was not good, for there the path is narrow, and of the right or westerly hand a sheer wall rises nigh seven chains from the way, ere it bursts atop into jagged pinnacles where are many eyries. ... But of the other hand is a fall not right sheer yet dreadly steep, and it has long teeth of rock up-pointing so that one may climb down -- or fall maybe -- but by no means up. And from that deep is no escape at either end any more than by the sides, and Thorn Sir runs at bottom."
Source: "The Fall of Gondolin," The Book of Lost Tales II.
Contributors: Zimraphel. 7-6-2003, Lyllyn 10-29-03; added Eagles' Cleft: Elena Tiriel 7.2.04