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Beren and Lúthien, Page 2

J. R. R. Tolkien

  Of Beleriand

  When Treebeard strode through the forest of Fangorn carrying Merry and Pippin each in the crook of his arm he sang to them of ancient forests in the great country of Beleriand, which was destroyed in the tumults of the Great Battle at the end of the Elder Days. The Great Sea poured in and drowned all the lands west of the Blue Mountains, called Ered Luin and Ered Lindon; so that the map accompanying The Silmarillion ends in the east with that mountain-chain, whereas the map accompanying The Lord of the Rings ends in the west, also with the Blue Mountains. The coastal lands beyond them on their western sides were all that remained in the Third Age of that country, called Ossiriand, Land of Seven Rivers, in which Treebeard once walked:

  I wandered in Summer in the elm-woods of Ossiriand.

  Ah! the light and the music in the Summer by the Seven Rivers of Ossir!

  And I thought that was best.

  It was over the passes of the Blue Mountains that Men entered Beleriand; in those mountains were the cities of the Dwarves, Nogrod and Belegost; and it was in Ossiriand that Beren and Lúthien dwelt after they were permitted by Mandos to return to Middle-earth (p. 235).

  Treebeard walked also among the pine-trees of Dorthonion (‘Land of Pines’):

  To the pine-trees upon the highland of Dorthonion I climbed in the Winter.

  Ah! the wind and the whiteness and the black branches of Winter upon Orod-na-Thôn!

  My voice went up and sang in the sky.

  That country came afterwards to be called Taur-nu-Fuin, ‘the Forest under Night’, when Morgoth turned into ‘a region of dread and dark enchantment, of wandering and despair’ (see p. 107).

  Of the Elves

  The Elves appeared on earth far off in a distant land (Palisor) beside a lake named Cuiviénen, the Water of Awakening; and thence they were summoned by the Valar to leave Middle-earth, and passing over the Great Sea to come to the ‘Blessed Realm’ of Aman in the west of the world, the land of the Gods. Those who accepted the summons were led on a great march across Middle-earth by the Vala Oromë, the Hunter, and they are called the Eldar, the Elves of the Great Journey, the High Elves, distinct from those who, refusing the summons, chose Middle-earth for their land and their destiny.

  But not all the Eldar, though they had crossed the Blue Mountains, departed over the sea; and those who remained in Beleriand are named the Sindar, the Grey Elves. Their high king was Thingol (which means ‘Grey-cloak’), who ruled from Menegroth, the Thousand Caves in Doriath (Artanor). And not all the Eldar who crossed the Great Sea remained in the land of the Valar; for one of their great kindreds, the Noldor (the ‘Loremasters’), returned to Middle-earth, and they are called the Exiles.

  The prime mover in their rebellion against the Valar was Fëanor, maker of the Silmarils; he was the eldest son of Finwë, who had led the host of the Noldor from Cuiviénen, but was now dead. In my father’s words:

  The Jewels were coveted by Morgoth the Enemy, who stole them and, after destroying the Trees, took them to Middle-earth, and guarded them in his great fortress of Thangorodrim. Against the will of the Valar Fëanor forsook the Blessed Realm and went in exile to Middle-earth, leading with him a great part of his people, for in his pride he purposed to recover the Jewels from Morgoth by force.

  Thereafter followed the hopeless war of the Eldar and the Edain [the Men of the Three Houses of the Elf-friends] against Thangorodrim, in which they were at last utterly defeated.

  Before their departure from Valinor there took place the dreadful event that marred the history of the Noldor in Middle-earth. Fëanor demanded of those Teleri, the third host of the Eldar on the Great Journey, who dwelt now on the coast of Aman, that they give up to the Noldor their fleet of ships, their great pride, for without ships the crossing to Middle-earth by such a host would not be possible. This the Teleri refused utterly.

  Then Fëanor and his people attacked the Teleri in their city of Alqualondë, the Haven of the Swans, and took the fleet by force. In that battle, which was known as The Kinslaying, many of the Teleri were slain. This is referred to in The Tale of Tinúviel (p. 42): ‘the evil deeds of the Gnomes at the Haven of the Swans’, and see p. 130, lines 514–19.

  Fëanor was slain in battle soon after the return of the Noldor to Middle-earth, and his seven sons held wide lands in the east of Beleriand, between Dorthonion (Taur-na-fuin) and the Blue Mountains.

  The second son of Finwë was Fingolfin (the half-brother of Fëanor), who was held the overlord of all the Noldor; and he with his son Fingon ruled Hithlum, which lay to the north and west of the great chain of Ered Wethrin, the Mountains of Shadow. Fingolfin died in single combat with Morgoth. The second son of Fingolfin, the brother of Fingon, was Turgon, the founder and ruler of the hidden city of Gondolin.

  The third son of Finwë, the brother of Fingolfin and half-brother of Fëanor, was in earlier texts Finrod, later Finarfin (see p. 104). The eldest son of Finrod/Finarfin was in earlier texts Felagund, but later Finrod; he, inspired by the magnificence and beauty of Menegroth in Doriath, founded the underground fortress-city of Nargothrond, for which he was named Felagund, ‘Lord of Caves’: thus earlier Felagund = later Finrod Felagund.

  The doors of Nargothrond opened onto the gorge of the river Narog in West Beleriand; but Felagund’s realm extended far and wide, east to the river Sirion and west to the river Nenning that reached the sea at the haven of Eglarest. But Felagund was slain in the dungeons of Thû the Necromancer, later Sauron; and Orodreth, the second son of Finarfin, took the crown of Nargothrond, as told in this book (pp. 109, 120).

  The other sons of Finarfin, Angrod and Egnor, vassals of their brother Finrod Felagund, dwelt on Dorthonion, looking northwards over the vast plain of Ard-galen. Galadriel, the sister of Finrod Felagund, dwelt long in Doriath with Melian the Queen. Melian (in early texts Gwendeling and other forms) was a Maia, a spirit of great power who took human form and dwelt in the forests of Beleriand with King Thingol: she was the mother of Lúthien and the foremother of Elrond.

  In the sixtieth year after the return of the Noldor, ending many years of peace, a great host of Orcs came down from Angband, but was utterly defeated and destroyed by the Noldor. This was called Dagor Aglareb, the Glorious Battle; but the Elvish lords took warning from it, and set the Siege of Angband, which lasted for almost four hundred years.

  The Siege of Angband ended with a terrible suddenness (though long prepared) on a night of midwinter. Morgoth released rivers of fire that ran down from Thangorodrim, and the great grassy plain of Ard-galen that lay to the north of Dorthonion was transformed into a parched and arid waste, known thereafter by a changed name, Anfauglith, the Gasping Dust.

  This catastrophic assault was called Dagor Bragollach, the Battle of Sudden Flame (p. 106). Glaurung Father of Dragons emerged from Angband now for the first time in his full might; vast armies of Orcs poured southwards; the Elvish lords of Dorthonion were slain, and a great part of the warriors of Bëor’s people (pp. 105–6). King Fingolfin and his son Fingon were driven back with the warriors of Hithlum to the fortress of Eithel Sirion (Sirion’s Well), where the great river rose in the east face of the Mountains of Shadow. The torrents of fire were stopped by the Mountains of Shadow, and Hithlum and Dor-lómin remained unconquered.

  It was in the year after the Bragollach that Fingolfin, in a fury of despair, rode to Angband and challenged Morgoth.



  IN A LETTER of my father’s written on the 16th of July 1964 he said:

  The germ of my attempt to write legends of my own to fit my private languages was the tragic tale of the hapless Kullervo in the Finnish Kalevala. It remains a major matter in the legends of the First Age (which I hope to publish as The Silmarillion), though as ‘The Children of Húrin’ it is entirely changed except in the tragic ending. The second point was the writing, ‘out of my head’, of ‘The Fall of Gondolin’, the story of Idril and Earendel, during sick-leave from the army in 1917; and by the origin
al version of the ‘Tale of Lúthien Tinúviel and Beren’ later in the same year. That was founded on a small wood with a great undergrowth of ‘hemlock’ (no doubt many other related plants were also there) near Roos in Holderness, where I was for a while on the Humber Garrison.

  My father and mother were married in March 1916, when he was twenty-four and she was twenty-seven. They lived at first in the village of Great Haywood in Staffordshire; but he embarked for France and the Battle of the Somme early in June of that year. Taken ill, he was sent back to England at the beginning of November 1916; and in the spring of 1917 he was posted to Yorkshire.

  This primary version of The Tale of Tinúviel, as he called it, written in 1917, does not exist—or more precisely, exists only in the ghostly form of a manuscript in pencil that he all but entirely erased for most of its length; over this he wrote the text that is for us the earliest version. The Tale of Tinúviel was one of the constituent stories of my father’s major early work of his ‘mythology’, The Book of Lost Tales, an exceedingly complex work which I edited in the first two volumes of The History of Middle-earth, 1983–4. But since the present book is expressly devoted to the evolution of the legend of Beren and Lúthien I will here very largely pass by the strange setting and audience of the Lost Tales, for The Tale of Tinúviel is in itself almost entirely independent of that setting.

  Central to The Book of Lost Tales was the story of an English mariner of the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ period named Eriol or Ælfwine who, sailing far westwards over the ocean, came at last to Tol Eressëa, the Lonely Isle, where dwelt Elves who had departed from ‘the Great Lands’, afterwards ‘Middle-Earth’ (a term not used in the Lost Tales). During his sojourn in Tol Eressëa he learned from them the true and ancient history of the Creation, of the Gods, of the Elves, and of England. This history is ‘The Lost Tales of Elfinesse’.

  The work is extant in a number of battered little ‘exercise books’ in ink and pencil, often formidably difficult to read, though after many hours of peering at the manuscript with a lens I was able, many years ago, to elucidate all the texts with only occasional unsolved words. The Tale of Tinúviel is one of the stories that was told to Eriol by the Elves in the Lonely Isle, in this case by a maiden named Vëannë: there were many children present at these story-tellings. Sharply observant of detail (a striking feature), it is told in an extremely individual style, with some archaisms of word and construction, altogether unlike my father’s later styles, intense, poetic, at times deeply ‘elvish-mysterious’. There is also an undercurrent of sardonic humour in the expression here and there (in the terrible confrontation with the demonic wolf Karkaras as she fled with Beren from Melko’s hall Tinúviel enquires ‘Wherefore this surliness, Karkaras?’).

  Rather than awaiting the conclusion of the Tale I think it may be helpful to draw attention here to certain aspects of this earliest version of the legend, and to give brief explanations of some names important in the narrative (which are also to be found in the List of Names at the end of the book).

  The Tale of Tinúviel in its rewritten form, which is the earliest form for us, was by no means the earliest of the Lost Tales, and light is shed on it by features in other Tales. To speak only of narrative structure, some of them, such as the tale of Túrin, are not very far removed from the version in the published Silmarillion; some, notably the Fall of Gondolin, the first to be written, is present in the published work only in a severely compressed form; and some, most remarkably the present Tale, are strikingly different in certain aspects.

  A fundamental change in the evolution of the legend of Beren and Tinúviel (Lúthien) was the entry into it later of the story of Felagund of Nargothrond and the sons of Fëanor; but equally significant, in a different aspect, was the alteration in the identity of Beren. In the later versions of the legend it was an altogether essential element that Beren was a mortal man, whereas Lúthien was an immortal Elf; but this was not present in the Lost Tale: Beren, also, was an Elf. (It is seen, however, from my father’s notes to other Tales, that he was originally a Man; and it is clear that this was true also in the erased manuscript of The Tale of Tinúviel.) Beren the Elf was of the Elvish people named the Noldoli (later Noldor), which in the Lost Tales (and later) is translated ‘Gnomes’: Beren was a Gnome. This translation later became a problem for my father. He was using another word Gnome, wholly distinct in origin and meaning from those Gnomes who nowadays are small figures specially associated with gardens. This other Gnome was . . . from a Greek word gnōmē ‘thought, intelligence’; it barely survives in modern English, with the meaning ‘aphorism, maxim’, together with the adjective gnomic.

  In a draft for Appendix F of The Lord of the Rings he wrote:

  I have sometimes (not in this book) used ‘Gnomes’ for Noldor and ‘Gnomish’ for Noldorin. This I did, for to some ‘Gnome’ will still suggest knowledge. Now the High-elven name of this people, Noldor, signifies Those who Know; for of the three kindreds of the Eldar from their beginning the Noldor were ever distinguished, both by their knowledge of the things that are and were in this world, and by their desire to know more. Yet they in no way resembled the Gnomes either of learned theory or popular fancy; and I have now abandoned this rendering as too misleading.

  (In passing, I would mention that he said also [in a letter of 1954] that he greatly regretted having used the word ‘Elves’, which has become ‘overloaded with regrettable tones’ that are ‘too much to overcome’.)

  The hostility shown to Beren, as an Elf, is explained thus in the old Tale (p. 42): ‘all the Elves of the woodland thought of the Gnomes of Dor-lómin as treacherous creatures, cruel and faithless’.

  It may well seem somewhat puzzling that the word ‘fairy, fairies’ is frequently used of Elves. Thus, of the white moths that flew in the woods ‘Tinúviel being a fairy minded them not’ (p. 41); she names herself ‘Princess of Fairies’ (p. 64); it is said of her (p. 72) that she ‘put forth her skill and fairy-magic’. In the first place, the word fairies in the Lost Tales is synonymous with Elves; and in those tales there are several references to the relative physical stature of Men and Elves. In those early days my father’s conceptions on such matters were somewhat fluctuating, but it is clear that he conceived a changing relation as the ages passed. Thus he wrote:

  Men were almost of a stature at first with Elves, the fairies being far greater and Men smaller than now.

  But the evolution of Elves was greatly influenced by the coming of Men:

  Ever as Men wax more numerous and powerful so the fairies fade and grow small and tenuous, filmy and transparent, but Men larger and more dense and gross. At last Men, or almost Men, can no longer see the fairies.

  There is thus no need to suppose, on account of the word, that my father thought of the ‘Fairies’ of this tale as filmy and transparent; and of course years later, when the Elves of the Third Age had entered the history of Middle-earth, there was nothing ‘fairylike’, in the modern sense, about them.

  The word fay is more obscure. In The Tale of Tinúviel it is used frequently of Melian (the mother of Lúthien), who came from Valinor (and is called [p. 40] ‘a daughter of the Gods’), but also of Tevildo, who was said to be ‘an evil fay in beastlike shape’ (p. 69). Elsewhere in the Tales there are references to ‘the wisdom of fays and of Eldar’, to ‘Orcs and dragons and evil fays’, and to ‘a fay of the woods and dells’. Most notable perhaps is the following passage from the Tale of the Coming of the Valar:

  About them fared a great host who are the sprites [spirits] of trees and woods, of dale and forest and mountain-side, or those that sing amid the grass at morning and chant among the standing corn at eve. These are the Nermir and the Tavari, Nandini and Orossi [fays (?) of the meads, of the woods, of the valleys, of the mountains], fays, pixies, leprawns, and what else are they not called, for their number is very great; yet must they not be confused with the Eldar [Elves], for they were born before the world, and are older than its oldest, and are not of it.

p; Another puzzling feature, appearing not only in The Tale of Tinúviel, of which I have found no explanation, nor any more general observation, concerns the power that the Valar possess over the affairs of Men and Elves, and indeed over their minds and hearts, in the far distant Great Lands (Middle-earth). To give examples: on p. 78 ‘the Valar brought [Huan] to a glade’ where Beren and Lúthien were lying on the ground in their flight from Angband; and she said to her father (p. 82): ‘The Valar alone saved [Beren] from a bitter death’. Or again, in the account of Lúthien’s flight from Doriath (p. 57), ‘she entered not that dark region, and regaining heart pressed on’ was later changed to ‘she entered not that dark region, and the Valar set a new hope in her heart, so that she pressed on once more.’

  As regards the names that appear in the Tale, I will note here that Artanor corresponds to later Doriath and was also called The Land Beyond; to the north lay the barrier of the Iron Mountains, also called the Bitter Hills, over which Beren came: afterwards they became Ered Wethrin, the Mountains of Shadow. Beyond the mountains lay Hisilómë (Hithlum) the Land of Shadow, also called Dor-lómin. Palisor (p. 37) is the land where the Elves awoke.