Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Of Turin Turambar, part 3
“But as he stood, finding himself free, and ready to sell his life dearly against imagined foes, there came a great flash of lightning above them; and in its light he looked down on Beleg’s face. Then Túrin stood stonestill and silent, staring on that dreadful death, knowing what he had done; and so terrible was his face, lit by the lightning that flickered all about them, that Gwindor cowered down upon the ground and did not raise his eyes.”
Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we continue to see how Túrin progressed, along with a few more tragedies he had to endure.
We left our heroes betrayed by the Dwarf Mîm. Mîm showed the agents of Morgoth to his home where Túrin, Beleg, and the Outlaws were hiding. Unfortunately, the Orcs took them by surprise, slaying most of them and kidnapping Túrin. We start this week with Beleg, after shunning Mîm for his betrayal, set out to track the orcish horde who had kidnapped his friend.
He never lost the track, “and not even in the dreadful woods of Taur-nu-Fuin did he swerve from the trail, for the skill of Beleg was greater than any that have been in Middle-earth.” and he came upon an injured Elf laying at the foot a great dead tree.
This Elf was Gwindor, son of Guilin, who we last saw captured in Nirnaeth Arnoediad by Morgoth and imprisoned to work, forging, and mining gems. But by “secret tunnels known only to themselves the mining Elves might sometimes escape.”
Gwindor saw the group of Orcs pass and saw Túrin with them, chained. Gwindor tried to persuade Beleg not to follow, but nothing could stop Beleg from his quest, so they followed the trail to Thangorodrim. It is here we see the true glory of Beleg Strong Bow.
“When all the camp were sleeping Beleg took his bow, and in the darkness shot the wolf-sentinels, one by one and silently. Then in great peril they entered in, and found Túrin fettered hand and foot tied to a withered tree.”
They snuck in, gathered Túrin, and carried him to a nearby dell, and Beleg took out Anglachel, that cursed blade forged by Eöl the Dark Elf, to cut his bonds. “But fate was that day more strong, for the blade slipped as he cut the shackles, and Túrin’s foot was pricked.”
After being beaten and enslaved, he was not in his right mind, and he only knew that someone was hurting him again, but he was free from his bonds, so he lept up “and grappling with him in the darkness, he seized Anglachel, and slew Beleg Cúthalion thinking him a foe.”
We then get the opening quote for this essay. A great storm arose at the death of Beleg and wiped the trail of Túrin and Gwindor, and the Orcs left empty-handed and returned to Morgoth. The man and the Elf buried Beleg there with his bow.
“Thus ended Beleg Strongbow, truest of friends, greatest in skill of all that harboured in the woods of Beleriand in the Elder Days, at the hand of him whom he most loved; and that grief was graven on the face of Túrin and never faded.”
When Tolkien calls this story a tragedy, this is the heart of it. We experienced a story of love and heroism with Beren and Lúthien, and this tale is the other side of the token.
Much of Tolkien is about good versus evil. The battle for the nature of the world. But when the world becomes corrupted, what does it mean to win? The Lord of the Rings has little snippets of these tragedies, but The Silmarillion is unfettered with the need or desire to hold a traditional narrative; thus, Tolkien can show his true intentions.
Tolkien lived and fought through World War One, and where his tales are not allegories, they mirror his experience. In war, you have two similar people; one comes out with what they desired, and one does not. The point is the struggle and how they hold themselves through the process. Of course, the lives of individuals go deeper than this generalization, but the fact is valid.
This tale is a tragedy, and the Beren and Lúthien tale is the book’s heart.
The whole book has a melancholy feel to it. From the first page, you can feel the horrible things coming, and that transcends the entire history (at least so far), but what Tolkien does so well is the infusion of hope in the most desperate times.
At this point in history, Morgoth has won. Over half of Beleriand is his, and he is killing more of the residents. What’s worse is the agents of Morgoth either kill or actively work to drain spirits. Only these few heroes like Turin and Beleg keep the hope alive.
So Túrin walked the lands with Gwindor, grieved and seemingly lost, until they came to the River Sirion and he lay in the waters, and the Love of Ulmo allowed him to release his pain, “and his tears were unloosed at last, and he was healed of his madness.”
He and Gwindor head to Nargothrond to continue the fight and the journey.
The people of Nargothrond welcomed Gwindor with open arms, and they accepted Túrin because he was traveling with the Elf. In time, he grew to be respected, primarily because of his appearance. The Elves knew he was the son of Húrin and Morwen, but he also knew the speech and language of Doriath so that “even among the Elves he might be taken for one from the great houses of the Noldor; therefore many called him Adanedhel, the Elf-Man.” Though we know that being associated with the Noldor isn’t always the best thing.
The smiths in Nargothrond reforged Anglachel to rid it of its horrible connotation, and Túrin renamed it “Gurthang, Iron of Death.” He proved himself to those Elves and became known as Mormegil, The Black Sword. He was considered invisible, so they gave him Dwarven hewn armor and a “dwarf-mark all gilded.”
When Gwindor and Túrin made it back to Nargothrond, Gwindor picked back up with Finduilas, daughter of Orodreth, the current King. Gwindor loved Finduilas to his fullest extent (and is insinuated that he always had), but the curse of Túrin followed even this Elf who broke his bonds. Finduilas fell in love with Túrin and out of love with Gwindor.
Finduilas could not help her love, even after being told that “this man is not Beren.” insinuating that Beren was a once-in-a-lifetime person who could hold onto the love of an Elf and make it work. But the heart wants what the heart wants.
Túrin, taken by surprise, did not return the love, honoring his friendship with Gwindor; but that relationship had turned. Gwindor approached Túrin, and the man tried to plead his case, but Gwindor spoke words no more factual said:
“The doom lies in yourself, not in your name.”
Join me next week as we continue the journey of Túrin!