Monday, February 3, 2020

Beren and Lúthien


Christopher Tolkien, son of Lord of the Rings creator J.R.R. Tolkien, opens this book with a preface explaining he could have produced tons of books about Middle-earth’s history, noting this to be a heroic-fairy romance. It also serves as a cross-examination of Beren, Felagund, and their companions, disguised as Orcs by Thû the Necromancer, later known as Sauron. It also marks the earliest appearance of Tevildo, the Prince of Cats, with the purpose being generally different from that of the multivolume The History of Middle-earth, the tale of Lúthien being analogous to the elder Tolkien’s wife.

In the following introductory section, the younger Tolkien discusses the Elder Days, to which the Lord of the Rings trilogy somewhat alluded, when Morgoth was in his origin, and termed the first and mightiest of the Valar, who was before the world. When Treebeard carried Pippin and Merry through the woods in The Two Towers, he sang about the great country of Beleriand, which was destroyed in the tumults of the Great Battle at the end of the Elder Days. The Elves appeared in the world in the distant land of Palisor, beside a lake called Cuiviénen, the Water of Awakening.

The origin of the elder Tolkien’s attempt to write legends of his own to fit his private languages was the tragedy of Kullervo in the Finnish Kalevela, with a centerpoint of The Book of Lost Tales being the story of a seafarer named Eriol who, sailing west across the ocean, came to Tol Eressëa, the Lonely Isle, where Elves dwelled who had left the Great Lands, later called Middle-earth. The Tale of Tinúviel was not the earliest of the Lost Tales, with its other brethren shedding light upon it. Tolkien conflicted on his use of the term Elves, with Silmarils fundamental to the legend of Beren and Lúthien.

After the introductions finally comes The Tale of Tinúviel itself, with Tinúviel and Dairon being children of Tinwelint, the former beautiful and the latter strong and joyful, being a skilled musician, the two scion of a fay, daughter of the Gods. Beren takes to following Tinúviel in secret throughout the woods, and when he finds himself before the king, he is embarrassed, whilst in awe at Queen Gwendeling’s stateliness. Huan, chief of the hounds of Celegorm, asks Tinúviel about Beren, with Tevildo having a desire to capture the lovers and slay Huan.

After the text, Christopher Tolkien describes a passage from the ‘Sketch of the Mythology,” which indicates the power of Morgoth is spreading. Throughout the remainder of the book, he presents an epic poem with rhyming couplets called the Lay of Leithian, which describes the treachery of Gorlim the Unhappy, who betrayed Morgoth the hiding spot of Barahir and his companions, as well as the aftermath of doing so. He then moves on to the Quenta Noldorinwa, the only full version of the Silmarillion the elder Tolkien achieved, which occurs during the time of the Siege of Angband.

The Lay of Leithian, the younger Tolkien notes, is a compressed form of the story from the Quenta, and following another passage from the epic poem is another segment of the Quenta, where Lúthien learns by the sight of Melian that Beren has fallen captive of Thû. In response, Mandos gives Beren and Lúthien long lifespans, the two wandering into Beleriand and disappearing from history. Next comes the narrative of The Lay of Leithian to its termination, after which Christopher Tolkien tells of how his father, after finishing the poem, turned to a new prosaic version of the history of the Elder Days.

In the final story of the return of Beren and Lúthien to Doriath, the most notable change, according to the younger Tolkien, is the method of their escape from Angband’s gates after Carcharoth wounds Beren, whose father was at first Egnor the Forester, who was of the Elvish people known as the Noldoli, translated into English as Gnomes. Then did the elder Tolkien change Beren to be the son of Barahir, a chief of Men, and the leader of rebels seeking refuge from the tyranny of Morgoth. After this is a brief discussion on an occurrence known as the Choice of Fate.

The book turns afterward to the return of Beren and Lúthien according to the Quenta Noldorinwa, beginning with Mîm the Dwarf finding unguarded the halls and treasure of Nargothrond, of which he took possession, with the cursed dragon gold’s enchantment falling upon Doriath’s monarch, and the Dwarves stricken with avarice, consequentially plotting treachery. The offspring of Fëanor would not gain a prized Silmaril, with their faithful servants would flee whilst taking with them Elwing, the daughter of Dior, who escapes, bearing with them the Nauglafring, afterward arriving at the mouth of the river Sirion, by the sea.

Then comes an extract from the lost story of the Nauglafring, with several parties arriving at the river Ascar, among them being armed Dwarves, who bore the treasury of Glómund; and Naugladur, who sat astride Tinwelint’s horse. In the following battle, called Sarn Athrad, the Green Elves surprised the Dwarves, slaying their chieftains. After this, Gwendelin sought refuge in the woods and received healing, then faring back to the land of Lórien and disappearing from history. Eärendel fails to find Tuor, and was driven by winds back East, coming afterward to the havens of Sirion, unwelcome.

The final section of the main text focuses on the sorrow of Eärendil and Elwing due to the ruin of the havens of Sirion, the captivity of their sons. At the bidding of the Valar, Eönwë travels to the shore of Aman, where Eärendil’s companions remain, and takes a boast to the East. When Vingilot was to sail the seas of the heavens, a star rises that the inhabitants of Middle-earth term Gil-Estel, the Star of High Hope. Ending the book are appendices, footnotes, and a glossary of names and terminology native to the book, which clears up some confusion readers may have.

Overall, this was a worthwhile text that fans of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien will definitely appreciate, although it feels somewhat fragmented, given things such as the alternation between the text of The Lay of Leithian and intermediary sections. It’s not as enjoyable as The Children of Húrin, which was a far more cohesive, finished work that imitated the elder Tolkien’s style, although his son definitely did his best in assembling the various stories his father had left behind. The backstory on Middle-earth and other regions in the world of the Lord of the Rings will undoubtedly appeal to fantasy buffs.

No comments:

Post a Comment