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Archive for June 30, 2022

Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Of Beren and Lúthien, Conclusion

They came at last to the gates of Menegroth, and a great host followed them. Then Beren led Lúthien before the throne of Thingol her father; and he looked in wonder upon Beren, whom he had thought dead; but he loved him not, because of the woes that he had brought upon Doriath. But Beren knelt before him, and said: ‘I return according to my word. I am come now to claim my own.‘”

Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we pick up right where we left off. Beren and Lúthien survived the battle with Sauron and were in the outskirts of the forests of Doriath.

Celegorm and Curufin found them there and attacked them, thinking of kidnaping Lúthien and taking her as a bride of the Noldor, when a familiar face came to their rescue:

Then Beren throttled Curufin; but Death was near him, for Celegorm rode upon him with a spear. In that hour Huan forsook the service of Celegorm and sprang upon him…”

With the help of Huan, the sons of Fëanor were subdued and yielded to Beren and Lúthien, but revenge was in the Noldor hearts. Curufin shot a bow as they retreated, intending to kill Lúthien, but Beren dove in front of his love and took the arrow to his chest.

Huan gathered herbs after chasing off Curufin and Celegorm, and “with that leaf she staunched Beren’s wound, and by her arts and by her love she healed him; and thus they returned to Doriath.”

But Beren couldn’t take the thought of failing on his quest twice, so in the middle of the night, when Lúthien slept, he left to pursue the Silmaril.

When Lúthien woke, however, she saw that he was gone and sang her song to Huan for help. “Huan, consenting once more to be her steed, had borne her swiftly hard upon Beren’s trail.” Huan took the guise of Draugluin, Sauron’s wolf captain, and Lúthien took the guise of Thuringwethil, who “was the messenger of Sauron, and was wont to fly in vampire’s form to Angband.”

In these disguises, they caught up with Beren. Beren is quiet at first, hoping to shield Lúthien from “the shadow of Morgoth,” but Huan speaks up: “From the shadow of Death you can no longer save Lúthien, for by her love she is now subject to it. You can turn from your fate and lead her into exile, seeking peace in vain while your life lasts. But if you will not deny your doom, then either Lúthien, being forsaken, must assuredly die alone, or she must with you challenge the fate that lies before you.

Encouraged, Beren decided he could no longer deny Lúthien and donned the werewolf disguise; Lúthien put on her vampire bat costume and found their way to Angband.

Meanwhile, Morgoth, aware the Huan was near, “chose one from among the whelps of the race of Draugluin; and he fed him with his hand upon living flesh, and put his power upon him.

This whelp grew to enormous size and became Carcharoth, the Red Maw.

Carcharoth stationed himself in front of the gates, so when Beren and Lúthien came upon him, he stood tall before them, but it was Lúthien who threw off her disguise and stood “small before the might of Carcharoth, but radiant and terrible.” She cast a spell over him with her song and sent him into a deep slumber.

Disguised, the two made it to Morgoth’s chambers, but Lúthien’s disguise didn’t fool Morgoth. “Then Morgoth looking upon her beauty conceived in his thought an evil lust and a design darker than any that had yet come into his heart since he fled from Valinor.”

There is only inference to what he had in mind, but the way Tolkien writes him, there is some terrible sexual connotation which is supposed to indicate the level of evil Morgoth has become. But, of course, the world Tolkien grew up in was one of war, so physical damage might not indicate being evil, only a means to an end. Still, sexual torture and unnecessary damage to “the fairer” sex shows just how deep a level of moral poverty is in Morgoth.

So how do you counter that? By having Lúthien trick him and cast a spell upon him to make him fall asleep and fall from his throne, “The iron crown rolled echoing from his head.” I’ll post the passage in the postscript if you want to read it, but it shows Lúthien is the real hero, despite building Beren up at the beginning of the chapter. She was able to stand up to the horrible abuser and put him into his rightful place, without fear but with determination.

Beren took up his knife, Angrist, and cut off a Silmaril from the crown, but the blade snapped before he could take more.

The two lovers fled the hall, meaning to escape from Angband before Lúthien’s spell wore off, but Carcharoth had already risen and was blocking the gate, sealing them in. The two fierce warriors battled the beastly wolf, but when it saw the Silmaril, he bit for it and took Beren’s hand at the wrist, Silmaril and all.

Lúthien again healed Beren’s wounds, but they tarried too long, and the host of Angband had awoken. All seemed lost, but Huan again came to the rescue. He saw that Carcharoth had fled Angband and caused devastation upon his path, so Huan called for Thorondor, the King of the Eagles, and they flew to Angband and lifted Beren and Lúthien to the woods bordering Doriath.

Thingol was surprised to see the two lovers because of the tales he had heard. He was ready to attack the sons of Fëanor because of rumors that Curufin killed Beren and the Celegorm was to wed Lúthien, but Beren one-handed, and Lúthien appeared before Thingol and Beren gave his speech which started this essay.

Thingol asked for the prize, and Beren held out his stump. Then, understanding, Thingol’s demeanor softened towards Beren: “And it seemed to Thingol that this Man was unlike all other mortal Men, and among the great in Arda, and the love of Lúthien a thing new and strange; and he perceived that any power of the world might not withstand their doom. Therefore, at last, he yielded his will, and Beren took the hand of Lúthien before the throne of her father.

It seemed as though the chapter should end because the lovers were married, and all parties were happy, yet Carcharoth was ravaging the north, “And Beren, hearing of the onslaught of the Wolf, understood that the quest was not yet fulfilled.

They formed a hunting party with Huan, Mablung of the Heavy Hand, Beleg Strongbow, Beren, and Thingol to go and end Carcharoth. Upon finding him, there was a significant battle, but one last time, Huan came to the rescue and killed the Red Maw. Carcharoth had one final blow and poisoned Huan to Death: “Beren spoke not, but laid his hand upon the head of the hound, and so they parted.”

They cut open Carcharoth’s stomach, and Beren held the Silmaril aloft, stating, “Now is the quest achieved.”

When they returned to Doriath, Lúthien sang a song of love and sorrow to Mandos the Valar so that she and Beren could stay together in their passion.

These were the choices that he gave to Lúthien. Because of her labours and her sorrow, she should be released from Mandos, and go to Valimar, there to dwell until the world’s end among the Valar, forgetting all griefs that her life had known. Thither Beren could not come. For it was not permitted to the Valar to withhold Death from him, which is the gift of Ilúvatar to Men. But the other choice was this: that she might return to Middle-earth, and take with her Beren, there to dwell again, but without certitude of life or joy. Then she would become mortal, and subject to a second death, even as he; and ere long she would leave the world for ever, and her beauty become only a memory in song.”

This doom she chose.”

Beren and Lúthien lived to the end of their days, mortal and happy, and this opened the door to all others who love and told they shouldn’t, including Aragorn and Arwen.

The world of Beleriand is in turmoil, and there is another battle on the horizon.

Join me next week as we delve into “Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad.”

Post Script:

Then suddenly she eluded his sight, and out of the shadows began a song of such surpassing loveliness, and such blinding power, that he listened perforce; and a blindness came upon him, as his eyes roamed to and fro, seeking her.

And his court were cast down in slumber, and all the fires faded and were quenched; but the Silmarils in the crown on MOrgoth’s head blazed forth suddenly with a radiance of white flame; and the burden of that crown and of the jewels bowed down his head, as though the world were set upon it, laden with a weight of care, of fear, and of desire, that even the will of Morgoth could not support. Then Lúthien catching up her winged robe sprang into the air, and her voice came dropping down like rain into pools, profound and dark. She cast her cloak before his eyes, and set upon him a dream, dark as the Outer Void where once he walked alone. Suddenly he fell, as a hill sliding in an avalanche, and hurled like thunder from his throne lay prone upon the floors of hell. The iron crown rolled echoing from his head. All things were still.”