Author

Archive for August, 2022

Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Of Túrin Turambar, Part 5

And with the beginning of spring Túrin cast off his darkness, and grew hale again; and he arose, and he thought that he woudl remain in Brethil hidden, and put his shadow behind him, forsaking the past. He took therefore a new name, Turambar, which in the High-elven speech signified Master of Doom; and he besought the woodman to forget that he was a stranger among them or ever bore any other name.

Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we conclude the tragedy of Túrin Turambar.

Last week we left off with Túrin heading back to Dor-lómin, ignoring Gwindor’s dying wish. This week we pick up with Túrin finding his home but also finding that his mother and sister were gone, so he stopped by the house of Brodda the Easterling. This event is where Túrin completes his transition and becomes Darth Vader (forgive the crossover). The Easterlings tell Túrin that Morwen fled, and the shock of the knowledge opened his eyes, “and the last of Glaurung’s spell were loosed.” In a fury at his loss and stupidity, “he slew Brodda in his hall, and other Easterlings that were his guests.” Once again, becoming a hunted man, only this time by the people of his birth.

And yet Túrin justifies these murders and, in fact, every transgression of his life: “then those deeds wrought are not evil to all. And where else might I have better bestowed my kin, even had I come sooner? For if the Girdle of Melian be broken, then last hope is ended. Nay, it is better indeed as things be; for a shadow, I cast wheresoever I come. Let Melian keep them! And I will leave them in peace unshadowed for a while.” Morgoth will follow his movements because he is an incredible warrior and ignores all else. His youth and hubris show again to justify murder.

So Túrin left to search for Finduilas but found some men in the woods who told him an orc brigade killed her. They showed Túrin the body of the elf-maiden, and he went into a pang of great sadness. The opening quote of this essay comes at this point, making a turning point where Túrin accepts that he is “the Master of Doom.”

Tolkien takes us back to Doriath, where the word that there were some survivors out of Nargothrond, and Morwen, Túrin’s mother, decides she will go and find her son. Unable to stop her in this quest, Thingol bids Mablung go and protect her, but Nienor, Túrin’s sister, disguises herself to go along as well. This is the beginning of a disturbing parallel to the Beren and Lúthien tale. Remember all the times Lúthien disguised herself to go after Beren? Here we have Nienor, whom Túrin hasn’t seen for many years, and in that time, has grown into a woman, sneak out to go help find him, disguised much like Lúthien.

So this group rides out to Nargothrond, only to find Glaurung, so they retreat in haste, but in confusion, Nienor falls from her steed. She gets caught in the gaze of Glaurung, and he understands who she is through his magic. He wipes her memory and personality and turns her into a vegetable.

Mablung finds her and brings her with him, but Orcs assail them in the wild, and in the intervening traveling, Nienor has begun to gain her wits, if not her memory. Finally, the Elves kill the orcs, but Nienor was spooked, and she ran as swift as a horse and got lost in the wilds.

Nienor wandered through the forest; “Nothing did she remember save a darkness that lay behind her, and a shadow of fear; therefore she went warily as a hunted beast, and became famished.” Then she passed into Brethil.

Terrified and alone, she lay down on Haudh-en-Elleth, the burial mound of Finduilas – Gwindor’s prophesy was coming home to roost.

Túrin finds her there and brings her home, comforting her. She cannot even remember her name or that Túrin is her brother.

She had to be taught things “as to an infant” because Glaurung’s magic was that strong, but she learned and became a clan member. Many people had fallen for her, but it was Túrin who asked her hand in marriage, “but for that time she delayed despite her love.” Which was undoubtedly a familial love, not romantic love.

It took three years and a promise not to go to battle if she would marry him, and finally, she did, but even this oath Túrin forsook.

Orcs came and attacked Brethil, and Túrin stayed back at home for a while but eventually took up his black sword and met the orcs in battle. Because of his abilities in battle, word got out that the Black Sword was in Brethil.

Glaurung set a plan and got another army ready to march to Brethil, but he let those plans leak so that the people knew about their fate ahead of time. Terrified, they went to Túrin for advice, “and he counseled them that it was vain to go against Glaurung with all their force” and that he should try to go against the great dragon himself to trick him.

Túrin set off after the dragon, but Nienor was scared to be left behind, so she set off with a company of men after her husband/brother.

Túrin finally found Glaurung sleeping and, through the perils of getting to him, ended up reaching the dragon alone, the few men with him killed.

Túrin, undeterred, found Glaurung still sleeping. “Then he drew Gurthang, and with all the might of his arm, and of his hate, he thrust it into the soft belly of the Worm, even to the hilts.

Glaurung was grievously injured, but he gazed into Túrin’s eyes and paralyzed the hero.

Meanwhile, Nienor heard Glaurung’s mighty cry and the people of Brethil thought that the dragon was killing the men who went forth, so she left to find him with Brandir, who loved her. He tried to lead her away, but Nienor told him,”‘The Black Sword was my beloved and my husband. To seek him only do I go. What else could you think?” But Brandir suspected the truth; Túrin and Nienor were brother and sister. What’s worse is now they are expecting a child. So Brandir only wanted to protect her.

But being part of the curse of Túrin, she left Brandir and went to find her Husband. When she finally did, lying on the ground seemingly dead, she wept until Glaurung lifted his head and saw her.

Using the last ounces of his life, Glaurung removed the spell, and Nienor suddenly remembered who she was and what she had been doing for the last number of years. She felt the child in her belly, and “she ran from him distraught with horror and anguish, and coming to the brink of Cabed-an-Aras she cast herself over, and was lost in the wild water.”

We see the parallel in the foreshadowing of Saeros at the beginning of this chapter, coming to fruition here.

Túrin woke with Glaurung’s passing and came back to Brethil. He should have been a hero, but when he heard that his wife was dead, and he learned that Brandir had come back to camp telling everyone that Túrin and Nienor (or Níniel as they called her in the base) were dead because of Túrin, what was Túrin to do? Why, what he always did! He killed Brandir in a fury of emotion but soon learned that Brandir was telling the truth and the only exaggeration was that he thought Túrin was dead when he saw his unresponsive form.

Overwhelmed, Túrin felt there was only one more thing to do. So he pulled his sword, Gurthang, and asked it, “Wilt thou therefore take Túrin Turambar, wilt thou slay me swiftly?

And his sword responded, “Yea, I will drink they blood gladly, that so I may forget the blood of Beleg my master, and the blood of Brandir slain unjustly. I will slay thee swiftly.”

Túrin threw himself on Gurthang, and Gurthang kept his promise and immediately took Túrin’s cursed life.

He died a hero and lay under carven runes in Doriath from then on, a hero despite his curse, and Nienor’s name was on the marker, “but she was not there, nor was it known wither the cold waters of Teiglin had taken her.”

This quote is how Túrin’s tale ends, an ultimate Shakespearean tragedy. But before I let you go, I want to note two things. The first is when Túrin speaks to his sword; not only does Gurthang respond to him, but they both speak in almost biblical language. I think this is Tolkien’s way of indicating Ilùvatar’s influence on the humans, despite his seeming indifference. Just a theory, but the language change has been happening more and more, so I’m going to keep track of when it happens.

The second item is, despite the horror and despair throughout this tale, as in all Tolkien, there’s a measure of hope at the core. Túrin was a great hero, and sometimes heroes need to be formed by adversity. Glaurung had terrorized Beleriand for hundreds of years and was near unbeatable, yet this man, cursed or not, was able to singlehandedly slay the scourge of Beleriand.

It should indicate hope moving forward despite the next chapter’s title: “Of the Ruin on Doriath.”


Blind Read Through: J.R.R. Tolkien; The Silmarillion, Of Túrin Turambar, part 4

And Túrin hastened along the ways to the north, through the lands now desolate between Narog and Teiglin, and the Fell Winter came down to meet him, for in that year snow fell ere autumn was passed, and spring came late and cold. Ever it seemed to him as he went that he heard the cries of Finduilas, calling his name by wood and hill, and great was his anguish; but his heart being hot with the lies of Glaurung, and seeing ever in his mind the Orcs burning the house of Húrin or putting Morwen and Nienor to torment, he held on his way, and turned never aside.”

Welcome back to another Blind Read! This week we continue on the journey of Túrin as Beleriand takes another turn towards the horror and desolation of Morgoth.

We left off last week with Túrin coming to Nargothrond with Gwindor, then soon after with Finduilas, Gwindor’s love, falling in love with Túrin.

Despite this perceived betrayal, Gwindor didn’t hold it against Túrin. He just considered it part of Túrin’s curse, and over time Túrin came to great glory in Nargothrond. They took his council and “built a mighty bridge over the Narog from the Doors of Felagund, for the swifter passage of arms.” They built up a vast store of arms, and “Then the servants of Angband were driven out of all the land between Narog and Sirion eastward, and westward to the Nenning and the desolate Falas.”

Gwindor spoke out against the council of Túrin, but “he fell into dishonour and one heeded him.” The problem was the curse of Túrin. The Noldor of Nargothrond thought no one was making a concerted effort to push back against Morgoth, so they heeded Túrin and moved from guerilla tactics to open warfare. The tactics worked initially, but Morgoth turned his full might against Nargothrond’s insurrection.

While the Noldor were active in the war against the evil of Angband, messengers came from the south from Círdan the Shipwright. “The Evil of the North has defiled the springs of Sirion, and my power withdraws from the finger sof the flowing waters.” So Ulmo told Orodreth, the Lord of Nargothrond, that he could not protect them in this open battle, surreptitiously telling Orodreth to return to hiding.

Yet Túrin again convinced the Noldor that they should continue the fight. “And in the autumn of that year, biding his hour, Morgoth loosed upon the people of Narog the great host that he had long prepared; and Glaurung the Urulóki passed over Anfauglith, and came thence into the north vales of Sirion and there did great evil.

The host of Nargothrond went out to meet the armies of Angband in battle, “and none but Túrin defended by his dwarf-mask could withstand the approach of Glaurung…On that day all the pride and host of Nargothrond withered away; and Orodreth was slain in the forefront of the battle, and Gwindor son of Guilin was wounded to death.” but before Gwindor died, he told Túrin:

Let bearing pay for bearing! But ill fated was mine, and vain is thine; for my body is marred beyond healing, and I must leave Middle-earth. And though I love thee, son of Húrin, yet I rue the day that I took thee from the Orcs. But for thy prowess and thy pride, still I should have love and life, and Nargothrond should yet stand a while. Now if thou love me, leave me! Haste three to Nargothrond, and save Finduilas. And this last I say to three; she alone stands between thee and thy doom. If thou fail her, it should not fail to find thee. Farewell!”

You may have noticed the overwhelmingly biblical way of speech Gwindor uses when he doesn’t sound like this earlier in the story. I think that’s because this is Tolkien’s way of foreshadowing what is to come.

Túrin is a reckless youth, and death and bad luck seem to follow him. This cavalcade of events is the true tragedy of his story because he is such a good warrior, leader, and influencer, but his youth, temper, and impetuosity get in his way. He is very much Hotspur from Hamlet. He is too quick to anger and fist.

From Saeros to Mîm, to Beleg, then Gwindor and beyond, Túrin caused their deaths because of his Hubris and impetuousness. One might look at Beren and think he had the same qualities, but Beren took precautions before he did anything. Túrin wants to meet the world head-on and take it by the throat, and has since he was a youth. An illustration of this example is below.

Túrin ran back to Nargothrond, but because he advised Orodreth to build that bridge over the Narog, the armies of Angband marched into Nargothrond without issue, and “the dreadful sack of Nargothrond was well neigh achieved.”

Túrin stood alone as Glaurung came out of the tunnels and stood before him “and opened wide his serpent-eyes and gazed upon Túrin. Without fear Túrin looked into them as he raised up thew sword; and straightaway, he fell under the binding spell of the lidless eyes of the dragon, and was halted moveless.”

Instead of trying to help the captives and free people as Beren would have done, Túrin decided to take the whole army of Angband by himself. Glaurung, knowing this about the man, merely held him with his magical gaze while the Orcs took Elven women and children, Finduilas among them screaming for Túrin to help her, away to be thralls in Angband.

Glaurung then tells Túrin that Morwen, his mother, and all his kin in Dor-Lómin are going to be killed by agents of Angband:

Haste thee now, son of Húrin, to Dor-Lómin! Or perhaps the Orcs shall come before thee, once again. And if thou tarry for Finduilas, then never shalt thou see Morwen again, and never at all shalt thou see Nienor thy sister; and they will curse thee.

Here we get the opening quote of this essay, as Túrin strives to find Dor-Lómin and his family. He may have still been under Glaurung’s spell when he made this decision, but it honestly matches his attitude.

He ignores all others’ advice and goes out on his own to do what he thinks is best without all the information, while only a few days before, his friend Gwindor told him he would be doomed for the rest of his life if he didn’t go after Finduilas. However, he ignores her cries because of an offhand comment from a dragon who only wanted him gone so it could horde the gold of Nargothrond to make its bed (in the shadow of Smaug from the Hobbit).

This tale is a tragedy in the Shakespearean manner because these terrible events could have been avoided if Túrin would listen to others and not run off on his own.

But what end would come to Túrin? Join me next week as we conclude, Of Túrin Turambar!