Of Beren and Luthien by <a href="http://ullakko.deviantart.com/art/Of-Beren-and-Luthien-288945051" target="_blank">ullakko on DeviantArt</a>

The Silmarillion Recaps: Of Beren & Lúthien, Werewolves, and Half-Goddesses

Part 2
Dagor Bragollach by randolfo on DeviantArt

Dagor Bragollach by randolfo on DeviantArt

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Now, there are a lot of battles in The Silmarillion because it takes place over thousands of years and the elves keep on trying to storm Morgoth’s fortress. I’m not going to name them all here because it would never end. However, the Dagor Bragollach is one of the most epic and terrible of the battles and Morgoth soundly beats the Noldor with pesky little things like Glaurang the dragon, balrogs, and poisonous, volcanic gases and fire. The various elf hosts are unable to unite and it’s a major defeat. It also destroys several of the lands of Men who become wanderers, hunted by the enemy. Including Barahir and his son, Beren of the House of Beor.

As they are wandering, fighting orcs and trying to stay ahead of Morgoth, Beren’s companions and father get killed. Beren is hounded by the agents of Morgoth and ends up spectacularly lost and has to overcome several dark experiences including Nan Durgotheb, the “Valley of Dreadful Death.” This place is where Ungoliant hid and bred many giant spiders. Where it meets the Girdle of Melian it makes a kind of net of shadowy horrors that drive anyone who encounters them mad. Somehow Beren makes it through before stumbling into Doriath and getting ensnared in the enchantment of the Girdle. He wanders the forests for a long time sick and hungry, lost and alone.

Then, one night, he stumbles upon Lúthien dancing and singing in a clearing. After months of nothing but war, horror, and death, she’s like a vision of otherworldly beauty and grace. He doesn’t know her name so he calls her “Tinúviel” which means “nightingale”. He reaches out for her but she runs away, having never encountered a wild dude in the woods before and is understandably freaked out.

Beren searches for her and encounters her again awhile later, and this time things go a little better, although he does get put under a spell and goes to sleep when he touches her. She frees him from this coma, though, and finds that she loves him back. They begin to meet in secret because this is definitely forbidden love territory. Unfortunately their spot is eventually blown up by a fellow elf who’s in love with Luthien and has a bit of a Nice Guy moment and turns them in.

Beren and Luthien by Alkven on DeviantArt

Beren and Luthien by Alkven on DeviantArt

Thingol is pretty much not having any of this “gross mortal man loves my half elf, half goddess daughter” thing and so gives Beren an impossible task before he will allow them to marry. Melian, who is one smart lady, warns him that this is an exceptionally shit idea and will set things in motion he won’t be able to take back. But Thingol is all, whatever, I’m an elf king, I do what I want! This kind of hubris never goes well.

The task Thingol sets for Beren is to cut and bring back a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown. Not only is this clearly meant to be a death-sentence, it now entangles Thingol and everyone else in Doriath with the curse of the Silmarils and the Oath of Fëanor. Oops.

Beren takes up the quest because he’s a hero in love and that’s what they do. After he leaves Lúthien has a disturbing vision and she goes to her mom who is like, yeah, your lover is in deep shit. Thingol locks up Lúthien because he’s a patriarchal d-bag (and yeah, okay, also a worried dad but still, uncool). But don’t worry, Lúthien doesn’t put up with that noise. Apparently Thingol forgot that his wife was a Maiar and his daughter is more than just an elf.  She grows her hair super long and turns it into a magic cloak that can enchant and put people to sleep. She gets the hell out of elf Dodge and goes after her beloved.

Meanwhile, Beren heads over to Nargothrond, one of the secret elf kingdoms ruled by Finrod Felegund, a friend of his dad’s. Barahir saved Finrod’s life during the Dagor Bragollach and the grateful elf gave Barahir his ring, which was later passed down all the way to Aragorn. Because Barahir saved him he swore an oath to help a bro out at some later date. Finrod is one of those elves who was just a straight up decent dude (also, Galadriel’s brother). He was not fond of Fëanor or his son’s and unlike some of his kin, didn’t have a problem with men just because they weren’t as pretty as elves and died a lot sooner. He made the effort to get to know them, learn their languages, and befriended quite a few over the years.

Unfortunately, while Beren and Finrod are on their way to Angband with a small group of loyal elves, they get captured. They’re whisked away to Tol-in-Gaurhoth or the “Isle of Werewolves”. Oh, yeah, it’s about to get real up in here, folks.

Of Beren and Luthien by RohanElf on DeviantArt

Of Beren and Luthien by RohanElf on DeviantArt

Tol-in-Gaurhoth is Sauron’s current stronghold. He puts the group in a pit and sends werewolves to eat them, one by one. Which they do until only Beren and Finrod are left, having to watch/listen to their companions getting devoured. Finrod then wrestles the biggest werewolf to the death, killing it but dying himself in the process. Beren is pretty pissed but can’t figure out what to do.

Meanwhile, Lúthien is trying to get to them but runs into the sons of Fëanor who mislead her and one of them thinks it would be super neat to try and force her to marry him. They take her to Nargothrond and she’s getting really fed up with people trying to tell her what to do. While there she befriends one of the son’s great hounds, Huan, and they get the hell out of there because Huan is awesome and uses one of only 3x he’s allowed to speak to advise and help her. They make it to Tol-in-Gaurhoth where Huan proceeds to kill every werewolf there and kicks Sauron’s now wolfy butt with Lúthien’s help. Lúthien then forces Sauron to leave the stronghold and frees everyone including Beren, then razes it to the ground. Sauron runs away because she’s just that scary.

But because these two can’t catch a break, they get attacked by Fëanor’s obnoxious brood again and Beren gets seriously hurt. Lúthien saves him with love and magic because she rules. Then Lúthien takes on the form of a giant vampire bat while Beren takes on the form of the giant wolf that almost ate him. They go to Angband and manage to get in with only a few hitches.

Lúthien then stands before the worst Vala, the enemy of enemies, the Biggest Bad, and sings a song so beautiful it puts him and his court to sleep. Beren goes and cuts a single Silmaril from his crown. Unfortunately, as he’s trying to cut the others off a bit of the knife breaks, hits Morgoth in the face, and he wakes up. Not the best time to be clumsy.

They are set upon by the werewolviest of werewolves, Carcharoth, who bites off Beren’s hand with the Silmaril still in it. It starts to burn him from the inside and makes him completely mad from the pain.

Beren and Lúthien escape in the chaos and get back to Doriath to tell their tale of woe and sacrifice. Thingol gets a slight grip and decides it’s cool if they get married. Which, let’s face it, he should have figured out a lot sooner.

Unfortunately, Carcharoth ends up in Doriath, cutting a swath of destruction because he’s still being burned from the inside out by the Silmaril he ate. Huan and Beren hunt him down and while they do manage to kill him, they both are mortally wounded in the process. Beren’s dying act is to hand the Silmaril, cut from Carcharoth’s corpse, to Thingol. Like, here’s your bloody rock dude, I hope it was worth it.


fate of Beren and Luthien by breathing2004 on DeviantArt

As it turns out it was totally NOT worth it because Lúthien dies of grief and ends up in the Halls of Mandos. So in trying to protect his daughter Thingol managed to do the opposite, because pride. In her despair, Lúthien sings her story, how she and Beren can never be together again because his soul was mortal and not tied to the earth but hers will remain here, forever, alone. Mandos is so moved by this that he grants her mortality and recovers Beren’s soul. The two lovers return to Middle Earth but go off on their own because they’re seriously over it. They eventually have a son and their line goes on to include some folks you may know like Elrond. Years later they die and leave the confines of the world together.

For them, at least, the drama is over. Sadly, for those left behind, it’s about to get worse.

Thingol now has a Silmaril and Fëanor’s sons want it back. He’s not into that and is pretty self-righteous for someone who got himself involved in this debacle even though everyone warned him it was a seriously bad idea. Elves start fighting each other again, there’s more kinslaying, and basically everything goes to hell in a hand basket.

The coveting of the Silmaril eventually gets Thingol killed when he tries to get it set into a necklace called the Nauglamír, made by the dwarves and grabbed from the now abandoned Nargothrond. They aren’t too keen about Thingol’s attitude since the necklace was originally theirs, plus once they see the Silmaril they’d like to keep it. Thingol gets pissy and they kill him. This leads Melian to forsake her earthly body and head back to Aman. This leaves Doriath utterly unprotected. It’s later sacked and thus endeth one of the great realms of the elves.

The story of Beren and Lúthien is rather obviously mirrored in Aragorn and Arwen’s relationship in LoTR, although you’ll need to read The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen in the Appendices of Return of the King to get the full deal. The tragiromance of sacrificing immortality for love is one I find very moving, especially in the context of Tolkien’s work where it’s more about understanding that “forever” is a really long damn time to go without any significant emotional attachment or experience. And that immortality unto itself isn’t necessarily “good” or meaningful just because you don’t die. I get the impression Tolkien felt that life had more meaning because it was fleeting and finite.

And on that note, that’s the Tale of Beren and Lúthien the (sort of) shorter version. Next up we’ve got Húrin, Túrin, and a serious Greek Tragedy of a recap. Stay tuned!

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