Reader deep thought: The Elven definition of a jolly good story is far out. This is the tale of Beren and Lúthien, which has been set into the fairest of Elven song: the Lay of Leithian, Release from Bondage. Just as the chapter on her folks’ courting was the shortest, Lúthien’s romance went the other direction; but it’s not the longest, having been edged out by that angsty tale of a guy related to her Man.
“Among the tales of sorrow and of ruin that come down to us from the darkness of those days there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures. And of these histories most fair still in the ears of the Elves is the tale of Beren and Lúthien. Of their lives was made the Lay of Leithian, Release from Bondage, which is the longest save one of the songs concerning the world of old; but here the tale is told in fewer words and without song.”
Picking up the thread of the twelve Men of Barahir wandering the highlands of Dorthonion from chapter 18, with focus on Beren, ultimately the sole survivor.
Now the forest of Dorthonion rose southward into mountainous moors; and in the east of those highlands there lay a lake, Tarn Aeluin, with wild heaths about it, and all that land was pathless and untamed, for even in the days of the Long Peace none had dwelt there. But the waters of Tarn Aeluin were held in reverence, for they were clear and blue by day and by night were a mirror for the stars; and it was said that Melian herself had hallowed that water in days of old.
To the lake Barahir withdrew, and set up the old outlaw shoppe. Morgoth could not find his lair; certainly he couldn’t stop the stories about twelve Men defying him spreading. So Sauron was ordered on the seek-and-destroy mission of his existence.
Among the twelve was Gorlim, son of Angrim, whose great love Eilinel his wife, went missing from their home during the Dargor Bragollach. Hoping that she lived still, often he returned to his destroyed home, even after joining Barahir’s band of outlaws.
Bad habit, and of course bad habits have consequences. He was ensnared and captured one autumn night on such a visit. Where torture alone did not make him betray Baharir, the hope of seeing Eilinel piled on to the rigours of interrogation turned him in the end.
Then straightway they brought him into the dreadful presence of Sauron; and Sauron said: ‘I hear now that thou wouldst barter with me. What is thy price?’
And Gorlim answered that he should find Eilinel again, and with her be set free; for he thought that Eilinel also had been made captive.
Then Sauron smiled, saying: ‘That is a small price for so great a treachery. So shall it surely be. Say on!’
Now Gorlim would have drawn back, but daunted by the eyes of Sauron he told at last all that he would know. Then Sauron laughed; and he mocked Gorlim, and revealed to him that he had seen only a phantom devised by wizardry to entrap him; for Eilinel was dead. ‘Nonetheless I will grant thy prayer,’ said Sauron; ‘and thou shalt go to Eilinel, and be set free of my service.’ Then he put him cruelly to death.
An Orc ambush killed the whole band and that was that. Except Beren was away, on espionage duty. The guilt-ridden Gorlim’s ghost did a visitation and urged him to warn the band, but he hurried back to base only to find the aftermath of the ambush. After burial, an oath of vengeance, Beren set off in pursuit of the murdering Orc contingent. Going all Rambo/Predator, he got close to their camp at Rivil’s Well above the Fen of Serech.
There their captain made boast of his deeds, and he held up the hand of Barahir that he had cut off as a token for Sauron that their mission was fulfilled; and the ring of Felagund was on that hand. Then Beren sprang from behind a rock, and slew the captain, and taking the hand and the ring he escaped, being defended by fate; for the Orcs were dismayed, and their arrows wild.
Thereafter, Beren continued on his own in in Dorthonion with a highly successful Lone Ranger act.
Thereafter for four years more Beren wandered still upon Dorthonion, a solitary outlaw; but he became the friend of birds and beasts, and they aided him, and did not betray him, and from that time forth he ate no flesh nor slew any living thing that was not in the service of Morgoth. He did not fear death, but only captivity, and being bold and desperate he escaped both death and bonds; and the deeds of lonely daring that he achieved were noised abroad throughout Beleriand, and the tale of them came even into Doriath. At length Morgoth set a price upon his head no less than the price upon the head of Fingon, High King of the Noldor; but the Orcs fled rather at the rumour of his approach than sought him out. Therefore an army was sent against him under the command of Sauron; and Sauron brought were-wolves, fell beasts inhabited by dreadful spirits that he had imprisoned in their bodies.
So dire the lands of Dorthonion became that finally, even Beren had to abandon his stomping grounds. And of all places, he hit on the unlikely notion to try his luck with Doriath, which he sighted upon the slopes of Ered Gorgoroth.
Using awesome lifer skills of the era, like scaling the the sheer precipices of Ered Gorgoroth, and eluding the scions of Ungoliant marauding the dubious depths of their feet, skulking past Dungortheb, “where the sorcery of Sauron and the power of Melian came together, and horror and madness walked”, staying clear of monsters that “wandered there that were born in the long dark before the Sun, hunting silently with many eyes”, enduring haunted hostile terrain where there was no sustenance for neither Elves or Men, he made his way south and made it in one piece. But not without consequence.
That journey is not accounted least among the great deeds of Beren, but he spoke of it to no one after, lest the horror return into his mind; and none know how he found a way, and so came by paths that no Man nor Elf else ever dared to tread to the borders of Doriath. And he passed through the mazes that Melian wove about the kingdom of Thingol, even as she had foretold; for a great doom lay upon him.
So affected by his journey he was “grey and bowed as with many years of woe”, as he stumbled about Doriath. And then one fateful summer’s night, in the Forest of Neldoreth he saw her; Lúthien, daughter of Thingol and Melian, native-born, dancing “upon the unfading grass in the glades beside Esgalduin” beneath the new-risen moon. As Thingol did in his love-at-first-sight encounter with Melian, Beren fell into an enchantment at the sight of the most beautiful of all the Children of Ilúvatar.
What a vision!
Blue was her raiment as the unclouded heaven, but her eyes were grey as the starlit evening; her mantle was sewn with golden flowers, but her hair was dark as the shadows of twilight. As the light upon the leaves of trees, as the voice of clear waters, as the stars above the mists of the world, such was her glory and her loveliness; and in her face was a shining light.
And what an impact! She vanished, and literally dumbstruck, he wandered the woods looking for her through autumn and winter, but could not get near her. He called her Tinúviel, Nightingale, daughter of twilight.
Then on a pre-dawn on the cusp of spring, Lúthien performed a magical sing-and dance.
Keen, heart-piercing was her song as the song of the lark that rises from the gates of night and pours its voice among the dying stars, seeing the sun behind the walls of the world; and the song of Lúthien released the bonds of winter, and the frozen waters spoke, and flowers sprang from the cold earth where her feet had passed.
Then the spell of silence fell from Beren, and he called to her, crying Tinúviel; and the woods echoed the name. Then she halted in wonder, and fled no more, and Beren came to her. But as she looked on him, doom fell upon her, and she loved him; yet she slipped from his arms and vanished from his sight even as the day was breaking….
It might have been well if the dalliance ended there but no.
…. Then Beren lay upon the ground in a swoon, as one slain at once by bliss and grief; and he fell into a sleep as it were into an abyss of shadow, and waking he was cold as stone, and his heart barren and forsaken. And wandering in mind he groped as one that is stricken with sudden blindness, and seeks with hands to grasp the vanished light. Thus he began the payment of anguish for the fate that was laid on him; and in his fate Lúthien was caught, and being immortal she shared in his mortality, and being free received his chain; and her anguish was greater than any other of the Eldalië has known.
Beyond his hope she returned to him where he sat in darkness, and long ago in the Hidden Kingdom she laid her hand in his. Thereafter often she came to him, and they went in secret through the woods together from spring to summer; and no others of the Children of Ilúvatar have had joy so great, though the time was brief.
Unrequited love makes the spurned do things, even then. Daeron the minstrel, and avowed Lúthien fan, ratted on her and her Man to Thingol. Naturally, he got upset, for he loved and placed his daughter “above all the princes of the Elves”, and had no use at all for Men. Only with his promise to do Beren no harm did Lúthien shared about her love, who was just about found and being led into Thingol’s court as a criminal. But Lúthien pre-empted them and presented Beren as an honoured guest herself.
Interestingly, while Thingol was questioning him, Beren was so dumbstruck with Menegroth’s splendour he could not speak. Only a chance meeting of the eyes with the (thus far) silent Melian stiffened his resolve.
Then Beren looking up beheld the eyes of Lúthien, and his glance went also to the face of Melian; and it seemed to him that words were put into his mouth. Fear left him, and the pride of the eldest house of Men returned to him; and he said: ‘My fate, O King, led me hither, through perils such as few even of the Elves would dare. And here I have found what I sought not indeed, but finding I would possess for ever. For it is above all gold and silver, and beyond all jewels. Neither rock, nor steel, nor the fires of Morgoth, nor all the powers of the Elf-kingdoms, shall keep from me the treasure that I desire. For Lúthien your daughter is the fairest of all the Children of the World.’
Then silence fell upon the hall, for those that stood there were astounded and afraid, and they thought that Beren would be slain. But Thingol spoke slowly, saying: ‘Death you have earned with these words; and death you should find suddenly, had I not sworn an oath in haste; of which I repent, baseborn mortal, who in the realm of Morgoth has learnt to creep in secret as his spies and thralls.’
Then Beren answered: ‘Death you can give me earned or unearned; but the names I will not take from you of baseborn, nor spy, nor thrall. By the ring of Felagund, that he gave to Barahir my father on the battlefield of the North, my house has not earned such names from any Elf, be he king or no.’
His words were proud, and all eyes looked upon the ring; for he held it now aloft, and the green jewels gleamed there that the Noldor had devised in Valinor. For this ring was like to twin serpents, whose eyes were emeralds, and their heads met beneath a crown of golden flowers, that the one upheld and the other devoured; that was the badge of Finarfin and his house. Then Melian leaned to Thingol’s side, and in whispered counsel bade him forgo his wrath. ‘For not by you,’ she said, ‘shall Beren be slain; and far and free does his fate lead him in the end, yet it is wound with yours. Take heed!’
That didn’t reduce Thingol’s peeve. But he did pause to take stock of the situation.
‘I see the ring, son of Barahir, and I perceive that you are proud, and deem yourself mighty. But a father’s deeds, even had his service been rendered to me, avail not to win the daughter of Thingol and Melian. See now! I too desire a treasure that is withheld. For rock and steel and the fires of Morgoth keep the jewel that I would possess against all the powers of the Elf-kingdoms. Yet I hear you say that bonds such as these do not daunt you. Go your way therefore! Bring to me in your hand a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown; and then, if she will, Lúthien may set her hand in yours. Then you shall have my jewel; and though the fate of Arda lie within the Silmarils, yet you shall hold me generous.’
So once again, the Fëanor effect manifested, and Thingol tangled himself in the webs of the Doom of the Noldor.
‘For little price,’ he said, ‘do Elven-kings sell their daughters: for gems, and things made by craft. But if this be your will, Thingol, I will perform it. And when we meet again my hand shall hold a Silmaril from the Iron Crown; for you have not looked the last upon Beren son of Barahir.’
Then he acknowledged both the still silent Melian and Lúthien, and left.
Finally, Melian addressed her husband: “‘O King, you have devised cunning counsel. But if my eyes have not lost their sight, it is ill for you, whether Beren fail in his errand, or achieve it. For you have doomed either your daughter, or yourself. And now is Doriath drawn within the fate of a mightier realm.’”
But Thingol trusted the task’s difficulty to keep Beren away permanently, and indeed he had no intention of holding up his end of the bargain even if the Man succeeded.
But Lúthien was silent, and from that hour she sang not again in Doriath. A brooding silence fell upon the woods, and the shadows lengthened in the kingdom of Thingol.
So began the doom and gloom of the Hidden Kingdom.
Beren arrived in Nargothrond, by way of
- the region of the Twilight Meres, and the Fens of Sirion in Doriath
- a climb up the hills above the Falls of Sirion
- (turning west) Talath Dirnen, the Guarded Plain, stretching between Sirion and Narog
- the highlands of Taur-en-Faroth that rose above Nargothrond
Brandishing his father’s ring to keep from getting shot, he was intercepted by the Elves of Nargothrond who, by cover of night, took him past the intersection of Ginglith and Narog and into Finrod’s presence.
… Felagund heard his tale in wonder and disquiet; and he knew that the oath he had sworn was come upon him for his death, as long before he had foretold to Galadriel. He spoke then to Beren in heaviness of heart. ‘It is plain that Thingol desires your death; but it seems that this doom goes beyond his purpose, and that the Oath of Fëanor is again at work. For the Silmarils are cursed with an oath of hatred, and he that even names them in desire moves a great power from slumber; and the sons of Fëanor would lay all the Elf-kingdoms in ruin rather than suffer any other than themselves to win or possess a Silmaril, for the Oath drives them. And now Celegorm and Curufin are dwelling in my halls; and though I, Finarfin’s son, am King, they have won a strong power in the realm, and lead many of their own people. They have shown friendship to me in every need, but I fear that they will show neither love nor mercy to you, if your quest be told. Yet my own oath holds; and thus we are all ensnared.’
So Finrod’s promise in the Dagor Bragollach had come exacting payment. Finrod asked for volunteers, and in response, Celegorm warned anyone who think to aid in any venture that obstructed Fëanor’s sons from the Silmarils, sounding much like his father did in Tirion.
So great a fear did he set in their hearts that never after until the time of Túrin would any Elf of that realm go into open battle; but with stealth and ambush, with wizardry and venomed dart, they pursued all strangers, forgetting the bonds of kinship. Thus they fell from the valour and freedom of the Elves of old, and their land was darkened.
And now they murmured that Finarfin’s son was not as a Vala to command them, and they turned their faces from him….
But the curse of Mandos was woken in Fëanor’s sons, and they thought to get Finrod to depart alone, to his death, and seize Nargothrond for their own, righteous in their claim of being “the eldest line of the princes of the Noldor.”
So Finrod cast down his crown and abdicated, choosing to keep his oath to Barahir. Among the miserly ten who stood with him, Edrahil picked up the crown and gave it to a steward for safekeeping. Finrod appointed Orodreth regent in his stead, while Celegorm and Curufin smirked.
Thus Finrod departed his own realm with Beren on an autumn night.
… they journeyed beside Narog to his source in the Falls of Ivrin. Beneath the Shadowy Mountains they came upon a company of Orcs, and slew them all in their camp by night; and they took their gear and their weapons. By the arts of Felagund their own forms and faces were changed into the likeness of Orcs; and thus disguised they came far upon their northward road, and ventured into the western pass, between Ered Wethrin and the highlands of Taur-nu-Fuin. But Sauron in his tower was ware of them, and doubt took him; for they went in haste, and stayed not to report their deeds, as was commanded to all the servants of Morgoth that passed that way. Therefore he sent to waylay them, and bring them before him.
Then Finrod strove against Sauron in spell-casting, the former to keep their disguises and the later to dispel them, in songs of power that was described in the Lay. Finrod was skilled but Sauron had the greater mastery. Stripped of their disguises, Sauron threw them into the dungeons of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, but without discovering their names or purpose.
In the dungeons the group was slowly culled, one by one, fodder for were-wolves.
Meantime, Lúthien sensed the danger Beren was in and seeking her mother’s help, pin-pointed his location. She asked Daeron, her tale-carrying admirer, to help her leave Doriath. The result was house-arrest, for Thingol “was filled with fear and wonder; and because he would not deprive Lúthien of the lights of heaven, lest she fail and fade, and yet would restrain her, he caused a house to be built from which she should not escape.” She was kept in a tree-house in the branches of Hírilorn, a mighty beech in the Forest of Neldoreth. But nothing could get in the way of LOVE. Lúthien did some hocus pocus and a Rapunzel, and left Doriath in a cloak of stealth anyway.
As it happened, Celegorm and Curufin were out hunting wolves, which were common on the Guarded Plain, courtesy of Sauron.
Now the chief of the wolf-hounds that followed Celegorm was named Huan. He was not born in Middle-earth, but came from the Blessed Realm; for Oromë had given him to Celegorm long ago in Valinor, and there he had followed the horn of his master, before evil came. Huan followed Celegorm into exile, and was faithful; and thus he too came under the doom of woe set upon the Noldor, and it was decreed that he should meet death, but not until he encountered the mightiest wolf that would ever walk the world.
…nothing could escape the sight and scent of Huan, nor could any enchantment stay him, and he slept not, neither by night nor day.
… he comprehended the speech of all things with voice; but it was permitted to him thrice only ere his death to speak with words.
Huan it was who caught her while the hunting party was resting near the borders of Doriath. Lúthien, thinking she found friends, declared herself and threw off her cloak. And Celegorm was smitten. Promising aid, Celegorm kept her in Nargothrond against her will. The plans of the brothers now had an added detail: force Thingol to give Lúthien’s hand to Celegorm.
Thus they would advance their power, and become the mightiest of the princes of the Noldor. And they did not purpose to seek the Silmarils by craft or war, or to suffer any others to do so, until they had all the might of the Elf-kingdoms under their hands. Orodreth had no power to withstand them, for they swayed the hearts of the people of Nargothrond; and Celegorm sent messengers to Thingol urging his suit.
Huan, who had taken to Lúthien, kept her company during her incarceration, listening to her wax lyrical about her Man. He was also depressed at what was transpiring in Nargothrond. Finally, he devised a plan and helped her escape one night (remembering to fetch her cloak in the process). He spoke for the first time too, and “he humbled his pride and suffered her to ride upon him in the fashion of a steed, even as the Orcs did at times upon great wolves”, bearing her swiftly and far away.
At this time, in the dungeons of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, all but Beren and Finrod had been devoured. Sensing Finrod to be a Noldo of importance, Sauron’s next target was Beren.
But when the wolf came for Beren, Felagund put forth all his power, and burst his bonds; and he wrestled with the werewolf, and slew it with his hands and teeth; yet he himself was wounded to the death. Then he spoke to Beren, saying: ‘I go now to my long rest in the timeless halls beyond the seas and the Mountains of Aman. It will be long ere I am seen among the Noldor again; and it may be that we shall not meet a second time in death or life, for the fates of our kindreds are apart. Farewell!’ He died then in the dark, in Tol-in-Gaurhoth, whose great tower he himself had built. Thus King Finrod Felagund, fairest and most beloved of the house of Finwë, redeemed his oath; but Beren mourned beside him in despair.
Lúthien had reached the island at this time. She sang a song that penetrated buildings, and reached Beren. He sang a song in response and passed out. Hearing his song, she sang a more potent song that made the island tremble and the wolves howl. Sauron was in glee, though, thinking her a great prize to please his Master, for Lúthien’s beauty and singing ability had spread far and wide.
He sent wolf after wolf for her, all of which Huan slew.
Then Sauron sent Draugluin, a dread beast, old in evil, lord and sire of the werewolves of Angband. His might was great; and the battle of Huan and Draugluin was long and fierce. Yet at length Draugluin escaped, and fleeing back into the tower he died before Sauron’s feet; and as he died he told his master: ‘Huan is there!’ Now Sauron knew well, as did all in that land, the fate that was decreed for the hound of Valinor, and it came into his thought that he himself would accomplish it. Therefore he took upon himself the form of a werewolf, and made himself the mightiest that had yet walked the world; and he came forth to win the passage of the bridge.
He was so terrible in form that Huan sprang aside, and he grabbed at Lúthien. She fainted from the horror of his gaze and his halitosis. But even in swooning, she managed to cast up a corner of her cloak that caused him a moment’s sleepiness. He stumbled and in that moment Huan took a chance and leapt at him. A terrific battle ensued between Wolf-Sauron and the Hound of Valinor. But Sauron could not best Huan, and dismay was felt by Sauron’s watching minions. He forsook his body, after failing to escape Huan’s grip on his throat, even after shape-shifting to serpent and then his usual Mannish form.
Lúthien forced him to yield or be sent back to Morgoth fleshless, “‘there everlastingly thy naked self shall endure the torment of his scorn, pierced by his eyes, unless thou yield to me the mastery of thy tower.’”
Then Sauron yielded himself, and Lúthien took the mastery of the isle and all that was there; and Huan released him. And immediately he took the form of a vampire, great as a dark cloud across the moon, and he fled, dripping blood from his throat upon the trees, and came to Taur-nu-Fuin, and dwelt there, filling it with horror.
In her mastery, she declared her power, and the dread tower collapsed. “… many thralls and captives came forth in wonder and dismay, shielding their eyes against the pale moonlight, for they had lain long in the darkness of Sauron.” But Beren was not among them. So she sought him with Huan, and found him so distraught over Finrod’s body he was motionless. So upset by his seeming death, Lúthien herself fell into a faint embracing him, which woke him, and he in turn woke her.
Upon a mound on Tol Sirion Finrod, “fairest of all the princes of the Elves” was buried by the lovers. And his resting place remained inviolate until Beleriand itself was no more.
So Beren and Lúthien were reunited, and spent a comfortable winter together, and “flowers lingered where Lúthien went, and the birds sang beneath the snowclad hills.” But Huan went back to Celegorm, and things were not the same between them.
In Nargothrond there was unrest, for the released thralls from Tol-in-Gaurhoth brought home the news. Finrod’s death was mourned and there was amazement at Lúthien’s feats. And the people rued their betrayal of the House of Finarfin, realising the passivity of Celegorm and Curufin was motivated by treachery, not fear. They had Orodreth’s back, and he was unwilling for “spilling of kindred blood by kin would bind the curse of Mandos more closely upon them all”. Therefore he expelled them. Huan went with Celegorm as they set out intending to look for their kin eastward, but none other of their people went with them “for all perceived that the curse lay heavily upon the brothers, and that evil followed them”; even Curufin’s son Celebrimbor repudiated him and remained in Nargothrond.
The brothers rode pass Dimbar, intending to swing through the north marches of Doriath and thereby reach Maedhros in Himring swiftly. But while at the borders of Doriath, they chanced upon Beren and Lúthien. She was making him choose between running away or seeing his promise to Thingol through, but in neither with her by his side. As Celegorm tried to run Beren down, Cururfin snatched Lúthien up onto his horse.
Then Beren sprang from before Celegorm full upon the speeding horse of Curufin that had passed him; and the Leap of Beren is renowned among Men and Elves. He took Curufin by the throat from behind, and hurled him backward, and they fell to the ground together. The horse reared and fell, but Lúthien was flung aside, and lay upon the grass.
Beren would have strangled Curufin if Celegorm had not charged him once again. But Huan spooked Celegorm’s horse into swerving aside, and broke his service under the proud son of Fëanor. Then Beren relieved Curufin of his weapons, including Angrist and took his horse, for Lúthien forbade Beren from killing him. After some choice words from Beren, Celegorm took the shamed Curufin up on his horse. But vengefully, Curufin shot at Beren twice. Huan caught the first arrow, but Beren stopped the second with his chest when it threatened to hit Lúthien. Huan gave chase, and then returned with an herb Lúthien used to heal Beren.
So healed, Beren left her one morning in Huan’s care and left again on his quest. At the Pass of Sirion, on the borders of Taur-nu-Fuin where the peaks of Thangorodrim could be seen across the waste of Anfauglith, he dismissed the horse of Curufin, and bade it run free inSirion. Then he made the Song of Parting, “in praise of Lúthien and the lights of heaven; for he believed that he must now say farewell to both love and light.”
Lúthien fast upon his trail with the aid of faithful Huan, heard him. Huan had taken down ghastly wolf-hame of Draugluin, and the bat-fell of Thuringwethil, and using their forms, he and the elf-woman had passed through Taur-nu-Fuin unmolested. Thus the lovers were reunited again. And Beren rued his oath.
Then for the second time Huan spoke.
‘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—hopeless, yet not certain. Further counsel I cannot give, nor may I go further on your road. But my heart forebodes that what you find at the Gate I shall myself see. All else is dark to me; yet it may be that our three paths lead back to Doriath, and we may meet before the end.’
Finally the penny dropped for Beren. Now he took the wolf-form and with the bat flitting around him, they advanced.
At last they reached Angband’s gate where a terrible warden of which none beyond te Northlands have heard was watching the way. Apparently, Morgoth had heard rumours of things going on with the princes of the Elves. Coupled with the ringing of Huan’s baying “down the aisles of the forest”, which reminded him of the doom of Huan. In anticipation, he hand-reared a cub from Draugluin’s race, which grew like a shoot in summer, huge and ever ravenous.
There the fire and anguish of hell entered into him, and hebecame filled with a devouring spirit, tormented, terrible, and strong. Carcharoth, the Red Maw, he is named in the tales of those days, and Anfauglir, the Jaws of Thirst. And Morgoth set him to lie unsleeping before the doors of Angband, lest Huan come.
Carcharoth was bewildered to sight Huan for rumour had been swirling that Draugluin was dead. The wolf stopped the trio, but “suddenly some power, descended from of old from divine race, possessed Lúthien, and casting back her foul raiment she stood forth, small before the might of Carcharoth, but radiant and terrible.” And she put him to sleep.
Then the lovers entered Angband and there performed the greatest deed of Elves and Men.
For they came to the seat of Morgoth in his nethermost hall, that was upheld by horror, lit by fire, and filled with weapons of death and torment. There Beren slunk in wolf’s form beneath his throne; but Lúthien was stripped of her disguise by the will of Morgoth, and he bent his gaze upon her. She was not daunted by his eyes; and she named her own name, and offered her service to sing before him, after the manner of a minstrel. Then Morgoth looking upon her beauty conceived in his thought an evil lust, and a design more dark than any that had yet come into his heart since he fled from Valinor. Thus he was beguiled by his own malice, for he watched her, leaving her free for a while, and taking secret pleasure in his thought. Then suddenly she eluded his sight, and out of the shadows began a song of such surpassing loveliness, and of such blinding power, that he listened perforce; and a blindness came upon him, as his eyes roamed to and fro, seeking her.
Even Morgoth himself was not beyond the guiles of the Elf. He slid to the floor and his crown where the Silmarils shone rolled away. Lúthien woke Beren, and shedding off his disguise, he cut off one of the Silmarils from the iron crown with Angrist. The jewel shone through his hand, but did not harm him. As the notion of bearing away the other two Silmarils as well, Angrist broke and a flying shard almost woke Morgoth in grazing his cheek.
The the lovers knew panic, and fled with just the one jewel. At the Gate their way was barred by the now conscious Carcharoth. He attacked. Lúthien had no strength to stop him, but Beren brandished the Silmaril. Bad call. Like Ungoliant way back when, the sight of the Silmaril awoke hunger in the Wolf, not quell him. He bit off Beren’s hand with the jewel still in it. But he could not contain the jewel, and it burned him from the inside so terribly he went mad, and burst forth, and rampaged into Beleriand, the most dreadful of terrors visited upon the land, for he was fueled by the power of a Silmaril.
Beren lay unconscious for Carcharoth’s bite was venomous. But Lúthien drew the poison out with her lips as Angband stirred. But help was at hand. Huan had alerted the creatures thereabouts and Thorondor himself and two of his eagles swooped in and bore them away. Thunder, lightning and earthquakes shook the land, and even the Elves in Hithlum were afraid. But Thorondor flew high and found his way to Tumladen, passing over Dor-nu-Fauglith, and Taur-nu-Fuin quickly.
Below them was Gondolin, but the Eagles continued and brought them past the Encircling Mountains and set them down in the same dell where the lovers’ quest started. Then the Eagles went home to Crissaegrim, but Huan came and helped Lúthien tend the near-death Beren.
It took some doing but finally in spring he awoke. And was known as Erchamion, the One-handed ever after. They dawdled.
Lúthien indeed was willing to wander in the wild without returning, forgetting house and people and all the glory of the Elf-kingdoms, and for a time Beren was content; but he could not for long forget his oath to return to Menegroth, nor would he withhold Lúthien from Thingol for ever. For he held by the law of Men, deeming it perilous to set at naught the will of the father, save at the last need; and it seemed also to him unfit that one so royal and fair as Lúthien should live always in the woods, as the rude hunters among Men, without home or honour or the fair things which are the delight of the queens of the Eldalië. Therefore after a while he persuaded her, and their footsteps forsook the houseless lands; and he passed into Doriath, leading Lúthien home. So their doom willed it.
In Doriath things had not been well. There was only grief and silence where there was song and gladness before. Daeron, greatest of all the minstrels of the Elves east of the Sea, deemed even before Maglor son of Fëanor, despaired of ever seeing Lúthien the inspiration for all his great songs, wandered far afield out of Doriath into the East where “he made lament beside dark waters for Lúthien, daughter of Thingol, most beautiful of all living things.”
Thingol was not able to get Melian to give him ideas. She told him “the doom that he had devised must work to its appointed end, and that he must wait now upon time.” Still, he had news of Lúthien, firstly from Celegorm (and Thingol’s intention to make war on Nargothrond was only averted by the discovery that she had fled and the brothers expelled). Then he sent messengers to Himring, instead of making enemies of all the seven sons of Fëanor at once, to ask for help with finding her. Only Mablung survived the contingent’s encounter Carcharoth, for even the Girdle was no barrier against his madness.
Even as Thingol was hearing the bad news, the lovers returned to great reception and were brought before him. Beren led his daughter, and he was surprised but none too pleased to see the Man alive.
But Beren knelt before him, and said: ‘I return according to my word. I am come now to claim my own.’
And Thingol answered: ‘What of your quest, and of your vow?’
But Beren said: ‘It is fulfilled. Even now a Silmaril is in my hand.’
Then Thingol said: ‘Show it to me!’
And Beren put forth his left hand, slowly opening its fingers; but it was empty. Then he held up his right arm; and from that hour he named himself Camlost, the Empty-handed.
Finally, Thingol was moved. With Beren and Lúthien seated before his throne, he heard their tale fo the great Quest, and finally he saw the light.
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 their doom might not be withstood by any power of the world. Therefore at the last he yielded his will, and Beren took the hand of Lúthien before the throne of her father.
But there were still loose ends. Beren knew he had to settle the issue of Carcharoth.
Therefore, since daily Carcharoth drew nearer to Menegroth, they prepared the Hunting of the Wolf; of all pursuits of beasts whereof tales tell the most perilous. To that chase went Huan the Hound of Valinor, and Mablung of the Heavy Hand, and Beleg Strongbow, and Beren Erchamion, and Thingol King of Doriath. They rode forth in the morning and passed over the River Esgalduin; but Lúthien remained behind at the gates of Menegroth. A dark shadow fell upon her and it seemed to her that the sun had sickened and turned black.
They found the Wolf “in a dark valley, down the northern side whereof Esgalduin fell in a torrent over steep falls”, by his howling as he drank to slake his unending thirst. But he also saw them and hid into a “deep brake”.
They staked the Wolf out, Thingol with Beren by his side. But soon Huan went off on his own, impatient to ferret out the Wolf. Carcharoth evaded him, and sprang at Thingol. Beren stepped in with a spear but Carcharoth swept it aside and bit Beren in the chest.
…. In that moment Huan leaped from the thicket upon the back of the Wolf, and they fell together fighting bitterly; and no battle of wolf and hound has been like to it, for in the baying of Huan was heard the voice of the horns of Oromë and the wrath of the Valar, but in the howls of Carcharoth was the hate of Morgoth and malice crueller than teeth of steel; and the rocks were rent by their clamour and fell from on high and choked the falls of Esgalduin. There they fought to the death; but Thingol gave no heed, for he knelt by Beren, seeing that he was sorely hurt.
Huan died by Beren’s side, and the third time he spoke was in farewell to Beren. Mablung and Beleg arrived, and the former cut open Carcharoth’s belly, where they witnessed Beren’s hand disintergrating to reveal the Silmaril. Beren was revived by the touch of the jewel that Mablung set in his hand. After passing it to Thingol and declaring his oath fulfilled, Beren passed out.
Both Beren and Huan were carried back, and Lúthien met them under Hírilorn. After seeing her the last time where she bade him wait for her in the Halls of Mandos, Beren died indeed. Thus ended the Quest of the Silmaril.
But Lúthien’s tale wove on. For Beren loitered in Mando’s Halls as she asked. She wasted away and finally died too. And Thingol was devastated.
But in the Halls, where “those that wait sit in the shadow of their thought”, Lúthien’s “beauty was more than their beauty, and her sorrow deeper than their sorrows; and she knelt before Mandos and sang to him.”
The song of Lúthien before Mandos was the song most fair that ever in words was woven, and the song most sorrowful that ever the world shall hear. Unchanged, imperishable, it is sung still in Valinor beyond the hearing of the world, and listening the Valar are grieved. For Lúthien wove two themes of words, of the sorrow of the Eldar and the grief of Men, of the Two Kindreds that were made by Ilúvatar to dwell in Arda, the Kingdom of Earth amid the innumerable stars. And as she knelt before him her tears fell upon his feet like rain upon the stones; and Mandos was moved to pity, who never before was so moved, nor has been since.
So moved was Mandos he summoned Beren and allowed them to reunited. But he could not change the fates of the two Kindreds and so brought the matter before Manwë.
Lúthien was given two options. One was to live in Valimar until the end of time, but she could not have Beren with her, or to return to Middle-earth with Beren, and live out a mortal’s lifespan with him.
Needless to say she chose the latter. And became the only Eldalië to truly die. And in her choice was the mingling of the Two Kindreds, a long line of Kings of Men and the Half-Elven.
What a show of force by the Power of Love. Come to think of it, though there was no Vala of love and affection, it’s highly suspect somebody had been playing cupid in the most sneaksy way.
(Relevance: read-along schedule)