Well, it's more fun than the Cliff Notes…
Seriously, it was forged out of a combination of several consecutive retellings of the story, set into the wider Arda Mythos context on the fly, to younger, teenage Tolkien fans who had either not read Silmarillion or not lately; several particularly inane Usenet statements and a general tone of obliviousness cluelessness as to character motivations; and a free morning when I didn't feel like cleaning the house…
It had started as nothing more than the cartoon which accompanies it, the mental exercise of imagining how the throne room scene would appear if one were actually there to witness it having caused me too many fits of giggles not to inflict it on — er, share it with — others. Unfortunately, the rest of the scene insisted on playing itself out, and thus The Script was born…
Then, although it was only conceived as a one-off short sketch, I was urged repeatedly to keep going, which didn't happen until I finally figured out how to do this — it truly is a very complicated architectonic and stylistic construction, and not a simple matter of translation at all. Then a way to make it work, as a unified drama, occurred to me, and the madness went on…
Here I show you the ropes and pulleys, the gaffers and grips, making it all happen — that is to say, the textual citations, in-jokes, obscure/obligatory references, and terrible puns, along with interpretations & interpolations of Canon — and ultimately the answer to "Why?" such a project at all…
List of Abbreviations Employed Throughout:
Now, as far as The Script goes, overall I'm following the story and Canon as set forth in the 1977 Silmarillion, which as far as I can tell from subsequent reading is close to, if not quite identical with, the unpublished 1930 Silmarillion for the story of Beren and Luthien. However, I also have made massive recourse to the Fragments of the Lay of Leithian, written out in the last half of the '20s, mostly, and found in The Lays of Beleriand together with the earliest version of The Lay of the Children of Hurin, which I will refer to as LL1 and LL2, the latter being a revision of some of the cantos begun ca 1950. Generally speaking I will take the Lay Fragments as primary, though not always, when there are differences.
I have also utilized where I have found them relevant facts and information from elsewhere in the History of Middle Earth, where sometimes a small sentence or aside will provide vast insights into the connections or complications of the story. And, of course, there is the whole question of variations internally, which I treat by a) picking the versions I like best; b) acting as though the writings are actually translations of pre-and post-Atalantaean works recovered by Professor Tolkien, which have been mucked about with and partially mangled and partly forgotten and often rewritten, just like The Song of Roland and other real epics and romances of the Primary World. So The Script is, on one level, an attempt to harmonize these various rescensions of Canon, just as it is on another level an attempt to make the obscurer parts comprehensible to a modern audience.
Three things are important to remember: first, the Silmarillion version of Beren & Luthien is complete in length, but not in detail; secondly, the LB versions are not complete in length (what I would not give for the lost 3.5 cantos!) but much fuller in detail; thirdly, there are hints and crucial elements developed in the adjunct notes and summaries jotted down as Tolkien developed the plot more fully. But the LB is very hard to work with, due partly to the typeface and partly to the masses of interpolated scholarly commentary, which are useful on one level, but do not make for easy or fluid reading. And it's poetry in a high-medieval style, like that of the famous "Ubi Sunt" — which goes like this in part:
Were beth they biforen us weren,
Houndes ladden and hauekes beren
And hadden feld and wode?
The riche levedies in hoere bour
That wereden golden in hoere tressour
With hoere brightte rode…
…Were is that lawing and that song,
That trayling and that proude gong,
Tho havekes and tho houndes?
which is not a style natural to us these days, (or most of us, at least) and requires some adjustment to be readable as a novel is to us. But oh, it has some grand stuff in it, and I at least enjoy "the character of its hero," and do not find it merely "a treasure chest of trivia," as the blurb on the back cover calls it.
He grew afraid
amidst his power once more; renown
of Beren vexed his ears, and down
the aisléd forests there was heard
great Huan baying.
Why did I choose to render it in a pseudo-Shakespearean format, modeled on Henry V with the device of the Narrator, Gower the medieval poet-historian, on loan from that play? Partly because it's fun to do neo-Elizabethan verse (at least for me) and partly because it allows me to add commentary and make connections past what information would be available to the characters at any given scene. And because it bridges well the divide between the epic story and the flippant modern style I've adopted, and provides an almost-plausible (I hope at least) framework with which to counteract the synapse-shorting dichotomies — in Henry V, Gower exists "outside time," speaking to the audience directly from the context of the theater group which is thus acknowledged to exist and to be merely portraying the events, and so the artificiality of the play-world is thus dissipated by recognition, and anachronisms and historical differences are likewise obviated.
In other words, Gower can talk about computer screens, and it isn't "wrong" any more than when he asks us to imagine that "this wooden O" is the battlefield of Agincourt or the hall of the King—
The title of course refers to the traditional story "An Appointment in Samara" with its invocation of Fate and the ironic consequences of elaborate precautions to avoid it. It is told in Silmarillion how Elu Thingol, King of Doriath, in justifiable apprehension of the consequences of having scads of ambitious, powerful, talented, troublesome relatives and their entourages grabbing up territory on all sides, refused to open his borders to the returning Noldor and warned them against displacing the native peoples of Beleriand.
We are also told that he had had premonitions in prophetic dreams of doom and destruction concerning mortal Men and the future of Doriath, and so unlike others of the lords of the Eldar, refused to allow Men into his kingdom or into his service at all. Read the Silm. chapter "Of the Coming of Men into the West" to get a lot of backstory on the political situation of Beleriand (which is a lot more interesting than modern Earth politics, since we don't have Oracles and acknowledged Powers involved in the affairs of nations these days) and the foreshadowing of Doom in the conversation on all this between Melian and her apprentice, Finrod's little sister Galadriel…
Act I, being very brief, is really a quite straightforward take on the scene as presented in Silm. and LL1, my own interpolations and emendations being limited to two (besides the fact that I've "translated" the dialogue into the modern style) of significance.
The first is the presence of Mablung and Beleg at the Court — although they are not specifically mentioned, and given the rather unregimented style of Doriath could well have been anywhere in the realm, I chose to include them for several reasons. The foremost is to provide a foreshadowing/unifying to the end of the story, as they are, so to speak, "in at the kill" and involved deeply along the way — also, introducing them as ancillaries to the scene allows for a slightly less entangled version/vision of events than is available to any of the participants, including Daeron, whose wierd behavior we are told has been noted, if not understood, by other people in the community.
The second is assuming that the description of Beren in LL1 as making his dramatic exit and farewell to Luthien so abruptly before the thrones of King and Queen is more bardic traditional than historically literal — I consider it justifiable artistic license to give them a longer and semi-private leave-taking, as the Doriathrin aren't monsters nor is saying goodbye anywhere else in the story ever shown to be quick or easy any more than for lovers today — "There isn't enough room for all the truth in songs," is a saying I've heard, and any comparison, or simple consideration, of the needs of narrative compression will prove this.
"brainwashed slave" — this refers to one of the major security concerns in Silm. ("Of the Return of the Noldor"), where it is described as Morgoth turning the power of his eyes on any of the Eldar he could take alive, and so daunting them "that they needed chains no more, but walked ever in fear of him, doing his will wherever they might be." This fact features majorly in the Nargothrond interactions, when the sheer number of freed thralls, and the fact that they're escorted home by Huan, makes it darn hard to ignore them or turn them back at the borders. It also features not insignificantly in the Gondolin story… It's my assumption that one of the uses of such victims, in addition to the canonical use as spies, would be as assassination attempts, (perhaps unwarranted and caused by too many viewings of Manchurian Candidate, but I doubt it.)
"different for us" — referring to the story of Thingol's meeting with Melian and their subsequent marriage as related in Silm. and LL1. Er, it wasn't that different, really.
"labyrinth" — Thingol does threaten to trap Beren in the maze of the Girdle, and hence avoid technically breaking his promise to Luthien, which Beren calls him on, (whether it would have worked or not, now that they knew he was there, is an open question), comes from LL1. Beren's compulsive mouthing-off to powerful people who mean him no good is Canon from Silm, but even more amplified in LL1.
Again, pretty obvious, I tend to think. For amendation, only the assignment of the suggestion/reminder to seek out Finrod Felagund for assistance to Luthien is really mine. Beren is certainly no fool, but the creative genius of the pair is Luthien, and particularly considering the stressfulness of the recent scene, it isn't a stretch to think her cool-headed enough to make the association for him.
"low-impact lifestyle" — what, you think that's funny? That is exactly what he's been doing, and no more. (—Okay, it is supposed to be funny…)
I get the impression that Luthien never talked about her family because she just assumed everyone in Doriath knew who she was, and that Beren assumed she was on her own completely, until the fateful moonlit evening when she says, "My parents want to meet you…"
"—You have parents? —Here?"
"my parents' dilemma" — Emeldir, called "Manhearted", would rather have stayed and died fighting in the defense of their homeland at the side of her husband and son — yet duty compelled her to take the last survivors of Dorthonion out of the war zone to shelter with her mother's side of the family in Hithlum. Included among those were her two nieces, Morwen and Rian, who will later marry Hurin and Huor of the House of Hador; they and their children of course are famous and infamous in their own rights; qv. the stories as told in Silm. of the Children of Hurin, and The Fall of Gondolin.
I wrote this before I was aware that there was a statement anywhere in HOME that fifty was the ordinary age for getting married right away, as early twenties in the present day and mid teens in past centuries — being aware that Elves age slower than mortals to begin with, and simply looking to find a fraction of millennia+ that would be equivalent to "too young" — and absurd given that Luthien is almost a millenium and a half old; so I should possibly change this. However, that is for Aman, after all, and might not be the same in Middle-earth.
"Fell" — this entire exchange refers to both the continual assaults on the outskirts of Doriath beyond the Girdle which accompanied Morgoth's unresulting efforts to see past Melian's defenses, and the horrible mutative effects which occurred along the northern borders where the residual traces of Ungoliant's time there not only corrupted the environment but interacted with Melian's power and created, we are told, still more hideous things which only grew worse as time went on. (They weren't half so bad a few generations ago when Haleth led her people through to Brethil, for example.) I don't know that any of them were multi-headed monsters, but in the vague descriptions of the half-seen creatures of Dungortheb it is implied that they had more eyes than creatures should, and not all of them were spiders…
The Captains of Doriath have had some encounters with mortals — Beleg, for example, took a relief force to help the Haladin during the aftermath of the Dagor Bragollach into Brethil some seven or eight years prior to this occasion, when Tol Sirion fell to Sauron — but as the Haladin live outside Doriath proper (obviously) and keep to themselves, even as the people of Doriath, at this point in time it is unlikely that they would be terribly familiar with Men, unlike the Elves of Fingolfin's House and of Nargothrond.
"Twenty-five" — Beren's age is never given in the stories themselves, and only according to early and rather doubtful chronologies is any mention made, from which it is said that he was thirty when he began the quest. However, according to the Silmarillion, the sixth generation of the Edain was not yet fully grown, when the Dagor Bragollach erupted, and as far as I can work out it is ten years, between the battle and Beren's arrival in Doriath — two years after the battle when Tol Sirion falls to Sauron, and Emeldir takes the children and other women left into the western mountains; four years after that when Sauron is sent in to personally deal with the Dorthonian Rebels, and Barahir is killed with his men; four more years that Beren wages a lone war against the Enemy, and then about a year and a half that he lives in Doriath, from his arrival after the winter crossing of the mountains to seeing Luthien for the first time in the summer, to the following spring when they meet, up to the end of summer when they are betrayed.
Hence I give his age as "about twenty-five" because that would make him fifteen at the Dagor Bragollach — any older, and I cannot see any reason why he would not also go with the muster to the Leaguer, like his cousins — and that would make the explicit statement that Finrod recognizes him without need of token an irrelevance not worth mentioning; obviously the King would recognize someone he'd met before. "About" because after living so long in the wilds without human companionship, no communal events or celebrations, calendars would be essentially irrelevant to him, and similar seasons flow together.
Beren's remarkable outdoorsmanship is repeatedly invoked in the Lay — he is described as being "elf-wise in wood" as well as "tireless on fell, light on fen," — and there is a supernatural aspect hinted at, in that he is protected by the trees, the free beasts and birds, and even by the obscure spirits of the place that inhabit the rocks and wilds of his homeland. This is of course something that deserves a great deal more consideration, and comparison to the archetypes both of folktale and mythology; but for the present I will only remark that for him to remain unobserved, though granted in a deserted border region of Doriath, for several seasons, and to be uncaught even when his presence is revealed by Daeron and the King sends search parties to arrest him, until he arrives voluntarily with Luthien at court, indicates that there is no exaggeration and that he is at least the equal of an Elven Ranger.
Doriath really does run in this rather informal way — after all, they have enjoyed an impenetrable security system for centuries upon centuries — and in the story of Turin it is related how Beleg would spend time at any of various lodges he had around the kingdom, or staying with friends, while in the account of the Nirnaeth it is told that after Thingol refused to send troops to the war where they would be serving alongside the House of Feanor, both Mablung and Beleg object that they can't just stay on the sidelines of history, so he says to the effect of "Oh, all right — just make sure you march with some other commander, okay?"
Luthien's final speech is not a throwaway line. Remember this bit: it will come back to haunt everyone.
(Some of the detail here is far clearer in the full-resolution version for printing, which will open in a new window, and is about 900 KB.)
This is the heart of it all — the original scene that endeavored to explain why, just possibly why, on the most basic level, Thingol and Melian might not have been entirely thrilled over their daughter's choice of prospective husband. Your brilliant, talented, grown-up daughter it never occurred to you not to trust on her own, shows up with a (significantly!) younger guy, who just happens to be homeless, jobless, broke, and living in your woods for the past year. The fact that for the past half-dozen years and more he's been a guerrilla warrior and besides owning no other property than the armor and weapons he's wearing, has no other skills to offer besides killing monsters is just going to be added insult — most parents are not going to be leaping ecstatically up to welcome him into the family, regardless of race and immortality issues, oracular forebodings, or anything else. Not in my experience, at least…
This sketch is a little rougher than the ones which followed, as it was only a dashed-off idea, essentially, and I'd never done a cartoon at all. But the intent is to convey the organic and woodland style of Menegroth, together with its brightness and glory, contrasted with the utter scruffiness of Beren and how far out of place he is there — at least superficially. And you may notice a slight ancient-classical influence in Melian's costume, as in Luthien's — this is deliberate, and refers to the archetypal antecedents of women of divine origin met in groves of nightingales and offering wisdom and song, or taking earthly lovers. Remember, JRRT was a trained and practicing Classicist before devoting his life to other projects…
Tulkas, of course, is the Power you want on your side when you need someone pounded but maybe not necessarily to go into too much detail about why — the Wrestler is loyal, brave, enthusiastic, but he's not terribly much interested in the finer ins and outs of theory and so forth!
And yeah, Luthien does pretty much start out thinking that simply meeting Beren will be enough to convince her family of how wonderful he is — I wouldn't call her dumb, myself, though, but rather that she expects the best from the people she loves, the same high standards they've raised her to believe in, and is sadly disappointed…
This section gave me a double problem to resolve throughout.
Typically in fairy tales, fantasy and science fiction, there is a viewpoint character to reveal the tale's Wonders to us, the Ordinary Fellow, who witnesses them vicariously and reacts to them as we would. (C.S Lewis also addresses this at length in an essay on sf which has lots of fascinating revelations about the different kinds of speculative fiction and how they work.) And ordinarily, this is how a story of a mortal hero wandering into the Land Beneath The Hills would work — how most folk tales work, indeed, whether he be prince or a weary soldier returned from the wars, or the youngest son of a poor widow — or she be the merchant's youngest daughter, indeed!
But — Beren is anything but an ordinary guy by this time — not that he ever was, being "being born in charmed hour" under a great Doom to a house of Elf-friends and extraordinarily motivated (not to say driven) and duty-bound people devoted to Powers they'd never met. So his reactions are not going to be the same as someone from a developed nation who's never spent years being hunted through the woods with a price on his head, four of them entirely apart from human companionship, let alone been chosen as the True Love of the immortal daughter of a demigoddess — which brings me to the singular irony of the Elven realms.
Namely, that they are far closer to our age, and our developed world, than anything Beren would have known even in peacetime. For the lifestyle in peace of the Men of Beleriand is only a little removed (if at all) from the pioneer experience, which people tend to forget when they think "Middle-earth = Medieval" — Kate Elliott in her Crown of Stars series is the only contemporary author I know of who seems to be aware that Europe even as late as around 1000 years ago was essentially a jungle, mostly covered with dense old-growth forest full of wild animals through which, and around which, people cut clearings and eked out a living and fought to tame. Hence in the Exeter Book the Anglo-Saxon riddle about the plough calls Men "the wood's old foe" bringing axes and fire to the forest.
After five generations of settlement, the Northlands would be somewhat tamed, but still rather in the mode of the old Highlands, or the hill-and-forest-clearing fields of New England before the rise of the mills and mass transport. No shopping malls, no mass-production — and not even great Fairs, like in the high Middle Ages, because no walled cities and roads to carry goods on. Small farms, small communities like those of the Viking sagas, mostly independent, not tightly organized nor "feudal" in the image we tend to have from movies. And this is a dangerous way to live when being invaded, as the ordeal of the Haladin earlier in Silm. portrays, but it is the way that independent and self-motivated types have historically chosen to live.
Thus, the Nargothrond sequence, with its centralized government, organized services, modern conveniences and assumptions of what a proper lifestyle entails, is in a real sense us — magic indistinguishable from technology and vice-versa, if sufficiently advanced — revealing another world and lifestyle to our sensibilities in their reaction to Beren.
I've made the dialogue of Nargothrond more formal and archaic, slightly, than that of Doriath, as a consideration of their more sophisticated historical background and more unified culture. Again, see the ROTK Appendices for a detailed discussion of the employment of different modes and dialects to convey meaning in Tolkien's own words.
We are told that Beren was received with great courtesy (despite the fact that he looked like a bum) as he was arrested on his careful and public entry into Nargothrond. Given that for five generations previously his family had not only sent troops to the Leaguer but sent squires to Nargothrond of whom some remained there like Bëor, who gave over the headship of his tribe and ended his days in service to the King, I imagine that there would be considerable deja vu among the native Nargothronders (though not necessarily for the recent influx of Feanorian partisans) and most especially among surviving veterans of the Leaguer, on encountering Beren.
This scene is indeed my own, but should not be seen as contrary to Canon but simply gapfilling: how in detail might Beren's welcome and arrival play out, how would Nargothrond react, what political and personal complications are already existing there and what might they look like? Obviously, something had to happen during all those hours; I'm just taking a stab at, possibly, what. Could any or all of the other characters present in the City have encountered Beren? Sure! What would their likely reactions and interactions have been, given what we know of their personalities? relationships? —That's all.
Oh, and it provides a useful way of indicating just how much unlike your typical fantasy hero Beren is, which is something [else] that tends to get lost in the usual summaries and renderings of the tale. Not only is he not just some random warrior, which I emphasize by the use of his title in formal exchanges; — Conan "Dark Lord killed my family? Constant fighting? Giant spiders? Piffle!" the Barbarian he ain't. (No more than he is "Bond —Whoops, did I lose another girlfriend there? —James Bond".) Even before he leaves Dorthonion one step ahead of the death squads, he is already practically the poster child for PTSD. He isn't even your modern typical commando dude who can count on being extracted from enemy territory and taken home to first-world luxury and safety at mission's end. He doesn't even have the support structure of a Rebel Alliance to give some assistance and comfort while being hunted from system to system. It's hardly surprising that he is described while in Doriath as being
—"as wild and wary as a faun
that sudden wakes at rustling dawn,
and flits from shade to shade, and flees
the brightness of the sun, yet sees
all stealthy movements in the wood"—
even when no one is actually out to get him.
And things just keep getting worse…
manchets: round loaves of white bread; subtleties: pastries, desserts (often in decorative shapes); viands: meats (by derivation main dishes).
wolf, wolf's head are traditional Old English terms for outlaw.
Indis: Feanor's stepmother, Finrod's grandmother and Curufin & Celegorm's step-grandmother — a Silm. reference to the line "the sons of Indis" from the Morgoth-sponsored rivalry between the sons of Finwe.
Before forks became popular, everyone did bring their own knives to the dinner table.
Being a vegetarian in a pre-industrial war zone would have been a lot of work, and indicate a tremendous amount of stubborness and ingenuity as well as idealism. This is, by the way, straight canon from Silm. and amplified in Lays, where it's made clear that before his companions were wiped out he was a hunter of great renown (and thus, one assumes, bore tremendous responsibility for helping to provide for his people which would increase as farms and communities were destroyed by the war.)
It is remarked in Letters that Elven illusion would have been used for amusement and as art.
Tengwar was the Quenya alphabet; cirth the runes invented long ago by Daeron, Beren's rival for Luthien's affections.
Thanks are due to Finch for reminding me that Finduilas' lost lover who returns with Turin to Nargothrond is defined in Silm. as the lord of Nargothrond whose brother was lost in the Dagor Bragollach and proven to have been a POW as he is brutally slaughtered in front of the armies of Maedhros' alliance, to provoke them into premature and reckless attack. (In the earlier LCH this is not the case, though the story is still tragic enough.) This required reworking of the scene and of the subsequent Act III, but allowed for more irony and angst in referring of course to the future tragedies of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad and fall of Nargothrond. It also made for some interesting dramatic possibilities given that a new significance is lent to Gwindor's statement that Turin is no Beren — no longer an abstract remark but a personal comparison by someone who knew them both.
Thanks to NovusSibyl for taking part in clarifying discussions on the question of whether or not the battlefield survivors would have had any awareness that Gelmir was a POW, which is usually assumed by readers but not warranted in my opinion either by canon or by Primary World accounts of the experiences of war…
"Fair were the words of Narog's king
to Beren, and his wandering
and all his feuds and bitter wars
recounted soon. Behind closed doors
they sat, while Beren told his tale
of Doriath; and words him fail
recalling Luthien dancing fair
with wild white roses in her hair,
remembering her elven voice that rung
while stars in twilight round her hung.
He spake of Thingol's marvellous halls
by enchantment lit, where fountain falls
and ever the nightingale doth sing
to Melian and to her king.
The quest he told that Thingol laid
in scorn on him; how for love of maid
more fair than ever was born to Men,
of Tinuviel, of Luthien,
he must essay the burning waste,
and doubtless death and torment taste."
I have endeavored to do justice here not only to the texts but to the whole backstory that leads to this meeting and exchange "behind closed doors."
main-wrought: "hand-made," with overtones of "cobbled together" and "brute force"; my own coinage. —Hey, if Shakespeare could do it…
Huan: I've taken the artistic liberty of introducing Huan to this scene, as to the previous, for several reasons. It's never stated that he wasn't present, after all, so this isn't a contradiction of Canon. But it is stated several times in LL1 that Huan is a friend of the King, and given Huan's attraction to people of good alignment and his independent behavior, throughout the story, it's plausible to me that he would have wanted to hang out with them. (It's also plausible to me given my experience with ordinary mortal dogs, who make friends without their owner's permission.) There's another reason for making Huan present now, but I'll cover that when we get there.
Researching this I discovered that not only was that assumption incorrect, so too the assumption of similiar coloration for her son. According to notes in HOME, though Emeldir was born in Dorthonion, of the tribe of Beor, her mother was of the ruling house of Marach, and her father was also of matrilineal Hador descent. (Stories there, for anyone who wants to explore First Age peacetime life, the journeys and meetings and daily experiences of the Edain…) So Emeldir is blond like her great-nephew Tuor, and her son inherits lighter brown hair and is taller than Barahir his father, and we can gather that she too is both tall and robust, very likely taller than her husband. And an extremely good fighter, given that she successfully got a party of women and children through two sets mountains full of Orcs to safety in her ancestral homeland.
There are a few other elements upon which I draw: first of all, that Beren is not Turin. Granted, there are many ways in which one could not be like Turin, but taken into combination with what we do know of Beren's character, this makes it easy to shade in the portrait — in any given circumstance, not dealt with in the extant texts, a good many responses can instantly be ruled out this way? i.e., "How would Turin react? Ok, that wouldn't happen here, then." Nor, despite his long years as a solitary rebel warrior, does he become a psychopath like Turin's outlaws. This says two things to me: very strong moral fibre, and a very good upbringing.
And so I can't help but see Emeldir of Dorthonion as someone highly principled, absolutely uncompromising when it comes to demanding the best from herself and everyone around her, considered a bit eccentric in peacetime but not concerned with people's opinions of her (only whether they're deserved or not), willing to give her all and sacrifice her own wishes to duty, and — when the menfolk are off at the War — the Lord as well as Lady of the place, just as in medieval and frontier times. And, equally naturally, her son's first teacher and example during those those years. Was she a good and loving person as well as a brave, strong, and dutiful one? Just look at how her son turned out…
And the relationship between his parents?
Well, Beren is neither threatened by, nor resentful of, a woman stronger than he. (Absolutely terrified that she'll end up like Eilinel as a result of her association with him, but that's only natural.) And that says more to me than almost anything else…
It's even more interesting that his uncle Bregolas died alongside Finrod's brothers in the fighting — Angrod and Aegnor had been the lords of Dorthonion as vassals of their brother the King before the land was given to the Beorings, who took the defense over from them, and with whom they still defended the frontier of that country. The connections and parallels are more complex and deeply woven than at first sight…
"two noble kinsman": an ObRef to a play cowritten by Shakespeare and John Fletcher, based on the tale found in Chaucer's Knight's Tale, a classics-inspired story of rivalry and broken faith and a battle for the hand of a lady…
Elwe/Elu: Who does, and who doesn't, bother to use the modernized version of Thingol's name, is not random. People from Aman will know of him first as Elwe, people born in latter days won't even know there was another way of pronouncing it necessarily, and the Sons of Feanor aren't going to give him even symbolic deference in absentia.
Caranthir: perhaps I read too much ancient history and political intrigue, but I can't escape the conclusion that for some reason, the Haladin found their rescuer even more scary, and the thought of his active involvement in their lives a worse prospect, than Orcs. One doesn't become refugees for no good reason, particularly just after having fought a hard war. Add that to the chroniclers' asides as to Caranthir's insolence, arrogance, hideous temper, and later actions — and it adds up, for me, to a picture of someone charismatic, dynamic, charming, and violent, whom you don't ever, ever want to tangle with if you have any sense… He is after all a Son of Feanor too.
Haleth: It's been at least three generations since the legendary Chieftain of the Haladin led her people to a new homeland in the western forests, and for most of us, fifty years ago is — a long time. A hundred years ago is a long time. A hundred-fifty years ago is a long time…two hundred a really long time… Intellectually we may even know that, realize that compared to say "geological time", it's nothing, but on a basic personal level — it's all "a long time ago." Even for those of us who really know history and study family lore, there's a certain cognitive dissonance involved in keeping the relative scale present. I do think that this would be the case for Beren, who never even had the opportunity to achieve the level of accustomed familiarity that his older relatives had with Elvenkind in the Leaguer — and that it would trouble Finrod, divided as in Canon between loyalty and prudential considerations.
Luthien older than Finarfin's children: Thanks to Finch for supplying this fact, which, though not appearing to make a whole lot of difference, affects a lot of things when the implications are drawn out.
Burning Brier, Sickle: the Seven Stars of the constellation we the Great Bear or the Big Dipper, or of old in England, Charles' Wain — a sacred symbol to the Elves, who called it the Valacirca, the Sickle of Elbereth which she placed in warning and challenge to Morgoth in the northern sky, and to the Edain as well, who named it additionally the Burning Brier, which evokes the idea of a thorn-hedge/spear-wall of defense against Anband. It's particularly meaningful to Beren, according to the Texts…
the ring of Finarfin: this is the second time I discovered I had in fact correctly intuited The Professor's intentions, which is a bit disconcerting. Any time you take something past a sketch or an outline you have to make all kinds of nitpicky decisions, from stage direction to set design — and hence consider the text and implications in far more careful detail than, say, for an essay test. One thing I found myself wondering was — when and why did Finrod give back the ring to Barahir's son? Since it has to remain in the family for the later descendents in Numenor to bring it back to Middle-earth, so that it becomes the signet of the Kings of Gondor.
Because — for me, at least — implicit in the notion of a pledge is the fact of the exchange: the token is given the first time as the visible sign of the vow, and then returned in the claiming of it. So although it's nowhere explicitly stated that Beren gave the King back his ring, it's still there, unless contradicted. And lo and behold! in LB there is, it turns out, a marginal note in one of the manuscripts that at some point Finrod should give the ring back to Beren. —Disconcerting, but also a bit of a morale-lifter for a scriptwriter. Obviously it's my call here, but I think (hope) not implausible.
"vassal": this exchange isn't just here to clarify something that tends to be obscure to modern readers, especially fellow Yanks — there's a critical plot point going on here that gets borne out later, namely — when, why, and under what circumstances is it not only permissble but required to "betray" one's alliegiances, and is it even properly treason at that point? What legitimate mechanisms exist, morally speaking, to permit transfer or withdrawal of loyalties? So that one is not simply obligated to follow orders, however ethically unsupportable they may be, nor even permitted to "stand idly by and see injustice done"?
Because Huan can't simply leave Celegorm and follow Luthien because she's "the damsel in distress," nor help her and Beren against his lord because they're cooler people than the Sons of Feanor. He has too much character and integrity for that — nor, in fact, does he. It takes him a while to decide, remember?
This is the problem of Antigone, by-the-by, which is answered pretty definitely in the same way by Aeschylus: Justice and the general moral imperatives trump all earthly laws, and political obligations. Of course Huan's situation is even more complicated in that he's already disobeyed one divine mandate as less binding than an earlier one: by taking part in the flight of the Noldor, but given to Celegorm as liege-dog by Orome. Huan is a very angsty character, and the complicated development of the plot outline involving his decisions in the versions and notes to the story is well-worth considering. But more on this in Act III.
Here's where I really get going with the compare-contrast-equate business of Elven-Mortal/Modern-Archaic cultural assumptions. Again, I don't consider this counter-Canonical, simply interstitial — not that I ever consider anything of my supposing to be Canonical in the sense of reflecting The Professor's intentions (unless some obscure note discovered proves it so) but simply that I try to make things plausible as I render them in more detail — what happens in the "meanwhiles" and "elsewheres," is all.
The overwhelming material prosperity and high standard of living of Nargothrond is one thing I wish to convey, but another, which is in fact more significant even, is the difference between even our Age and society, and Elvendom — that is, the relative time-scales and the inability to get past them. (And yet — we tend to be rather isolated, don't we, both on a personal and national basis, the concerns of our own lives overriding the sense of what is happening elsewhere, until it comes home to us somehow…)
The fact that the last remaining companions of Beren in Dorthonion and the ten warriors of Nargothrond who accompanied Finrod into exile were all at the Fen of Serech is Canon. I've simply drawn out and made plain what is only implicit in the originals, yet perhaps all the more powerful for its subliminality: the realization of the parallels buried throughout — but only scarcely covered! — Silmarillion and HOME has been one of the unfolding delights of venturing into the regions I once thought of as arid background material…
Another is that the Fall of Nargothrond dates from this point — it takes a while for the collapse to become total, but the foundations are blasted in this time. And why not? It isn't just that Orodreth is not as good a ruler as his brother. The combined forces of expiation and revenge and the fact that morale and leadership have been repeatedly shaken are powerful factors in the actions of the Nargothronders at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, and afterwards. Turin's coming is like the echo that starts the avalanche — but the careless climber didn't cause that buildup of thousands of tons of snowpack up above.
What about the gap left by the loss of those who went with the King? This is surely no small factor either. They would not have been nonentities, random losers whose absence would make no difference to the life of the City, to be able alone of all the realm to disregard the danger, the Oath, and the overwhelming popular opinion against them — though not all, necessarily, of high political rank or standing (no more than a certain gardener in another Age) and thus I have taken the artistic liberty of sketching roles for the Ten, "who had ever fought/wherever his banners had been brought", and whose names, unlike those of the Beorings, are not given, save one. This is not an accident, though what it says about Arda may be a little disconcerting: the Silmarillion is the Elven history of Middle-earth. —They know who they are.
"short enough": unlike Turin or Tuor, Beren is never once described as "tall" in any of the texts that I can remember. He is described in a note in HOME as taller than the norm for the Beorings, again an inheritance from his mother's Hador side with his lighter hair, but the fact that the other legendary heroes are as tall or taller than most Elves being so frequently mentioned leads me to think that Beren wasn't. Also, though this is not conclusive without a security tape of the event, the way the incident with Curufin trying to shoot Luthien plays out leads me to this as well — the angles could have been so as to contradict this, but with Curufin shooting to kill, I assume he's aiming for her heart, and when Beren jumps in front of her to take the arrow, he gets it in the shoulder. —Just another for the visual image of someone Totally Unsuitable For Her…
"summon kings": ObRef to the fact that Celebrimbor was vitally instrumental in the making of the Rings of Power, so important in the Third Age. —Sorry, I couldn't resist this one.
"cavalry": the Valinorean horses were brought over by Feanor's partisans in the stolen ships, and after the rescue of Maedhros and the reconciliation between the branches of the family, Maedhros ceded up a large number of their herd along with the overlordship of the Noldor to Fingolfin.
"Amrod-and-Amras": this is a reference to an obscure latter development in HOME where it's chronicled that Amras, the youngest of Feanor's sons, was lonely for Valinor and spent the night that they landed before marching on aboard one of the ships. Feanor decided to burn them lest any think of turning back, and forgot to do a head-count first. Yet in Silm. it is said that the twins stayed together in Middle-earth and ruled jointly over their region, and were finally killed in the same battle. Which story is true? Well, in a world that has Balrogs and Barrow-wights and the Grey Company, it doesn't have to be an "either/or" question… This also makes use of various HOME remarks on the possibility and effects of possession in Arda. I don't know that Beren's cousins were twins, too, but given that they do run in families and the sons of Elrond being twins, it's not a random interpolation.
"Danger he sought and death pursued
and thus escaped the doom he wooed,
and deeds of breathless daring wrought
alone, of which the rumor brought
new hope to many a broken man.
They whispered 'Beren', and began
in secret swords to whet, and soft
by shrouded hearths at evening oft
songs they would sing of Beren's bow,
of Dagmor his sword: how he would go
silent to camps and slay the chief,
or trapped in his hiding past belief
would slip away, and under night
by mist or moon, or by the light
of open day would come again.
Of hunters hunted, slayers slain
they sang, of Gorgol the Butcher hewn,
of ambush in Ladros, fire in Drûn,
of thirty in one battle dead,
of wolves that yelped like curs and fled,
yea, Sauron himself with wound in hand.
Thus one alone filled all that land
with fear and death for Morgoth's folk;
his comrades were the beech and oak
who failed him not, and wary things
with fur and fell and feathered wings
that silent wander, or dwell alone
in hill and wild and waste of stone
watched o'er his ways, his faithful friends."
LL2: The legends and ballads of Beren's heroic one-man stand against Morgoth are chroncicled in brief here, as well as the inspiring but ultimately useless effect they had on their hearers. Beren's sword is identified as bearing the name "Dagmor," which has to break down as "Dark Battle" [dag~, dagor = battle, mor~ dark/black] but which since only two swords actually of black metal are ever spoken of in Middle-earth, and their forging is a singular event (Turin's blade Anglachel, and its twin, by Eol) I assumethat the name has the appropriate significance of "ambush" or "sneak attack" or "night fighting" or all of the three.
This is my play with the problem of canonicity, and which versions of a story are the "right" one — the changing and exaggerating of legends, the loss of some details and the inclusion of others. I recommend that everyone read JRRT's essay "On Fairy-stories" where he discusses this at some length in regard to the identification of various "legendary" stories with various historical figures, and what this means about human beings.
"wolfskin": concealing the out-of-place and distinctive smells of plastic and metal as well as breaking up outlines and killing reflections are very much concerns of modern hunters, and iron has an even stronger smell than steel. But it's also foreshadowing…
"mail that wouldn't rust": while Beren's hauberk is never explicitly said to be of mithril, it's described as dwarf-work and resistant to arrows and blows, and hence I think it a reasonable guess. As to where the House of Beor would have acquired Nogrod-manufactured armour, it seems obvious to me that it would have come from their liege lords. The circumstances are of my own devising, but not fabricated at random: I want to recall the facts of the Beorings' historical connection not with Finrod alone but with all his House, and the political ramifications thereof for the keeping of the Northern Boundaries. And assigning the gift to the Canonical deeding of Ladros — a province whose description is intensely evocative of the Highlands in Silm. — allows for a reminder of Third Age connections as well. Names no more than words come out of nowhere…everything's got a history.
One thing that is important and seems to be overlooked, perhaps as a consequence of taking the Geste in isolation from the rest of the history of the First Age, is how deep, in fact, the debt is that is owed to the House of Beor. There is this tendency I've noticed to look at it alternately as indeed I show Orodreth doing in the next scene, as a vastly disproportionate sacrifice — or as an example of irrational pride and devotion to an arrogant "honor" on Finrod's part. I hope I have succeeded in showing that it is a bit more complicated than that…Certainly the Elvish historians think so, at least.
"The sons of Finarfin bore most heavily the brunt
of the assault, and Angrod and Aegnor were slain; beside them fell Bregolas lord of the house of Beor,
and a great part of the warriors of that people. But Barahir the brother of Bregolas was in the fighting
further westward, near to the Pass of Sirion. There King Finrod Felagund, hastening from the south,
was cut off from his his people and surrounded with small company in the Fen of Serech; and he
would have been slain or taken, but Barahir came up with the bravest of his men and rescued him, and
made a wall of spears about him; and they cut their way out of the battle with great loss."
—Silmarillion,"Of the Ruin of Beleriand"
"Their names are yet in elven-song
remembered, though the days are long…
For these it was, the chosen men
of Beor's house, who in the fen
of reedy Serech stood at bay
about King Inglor in the day
of his defeat, and with their swords
thus saved of all the Elven-lords
(LL2: Inglor/Ingoldo are variants of Finrod's mother-name.)
Hathaldir is called "the young" in Silm., and hence like Beren for the reasons previously stated I have judged that likewise he (and perhaps others) might not actually been at Serech and yet still be part of the collective group, and known as one knows colleagues' family members by conversation. Beren's dogs are nowhere named, so I have given them traditionally-inspired mastiff names, but that he and his father had hounds, and loved them, and that he talked about them is Canon — Luthien discusses this with Huan during her enforced hospitality at Nargothrond later.
The fate of Beren's cousins, from LL2:
"since the black shaft with venomed wound
took Belegund and Baragund,
the mighty sons of Bregolas…"
"the Singers": though called the Nandor, the ones who turned back, by those who went on to Aman, the Green-Elves, or Laiquendi, of Ossiriand called themselves Lindar, and were known as the greatest of singers among all Elves, despite their primitive lifestyle and lack of sophistication. The connections and implications of the various ethnic tensions among Elven groups is deserving of a much longer exploration than I have time for here. (Thanks to Ardalambion [http://www.uib.no/people/hnohf/] for this piece of information.) But it is Canon that they were upset by the coming of the Beorings and asked Finrod to get these tree-killing people out of their territory, which of course is what happened — see Silm., "Of the Coming of Men into the West" for details. Later on, after the final meltdown of civilization in the First Age, there were "back-to-nature" movements among the surviving Elves and though merged with other elements, Green-Elven culture did become dominant once again, but none of that could have been predicted at this time.
High Faroth: According to some rescencions, in the very vague and indefinite hints of Beren and Luthien's second life, one of the places they stay for a time is this upland region — which puts a very eerie significance to Beren's Canonical sighting of it through the rainstorms.
Dungortheb: "not least among the deeds" of Beren, according to Silm., and tremendously evoked in Canto III in flashback. But he wouldn't ever talk about it in detail, for the reason stated.
It's stated that there was never anywhere as beautiful as Menegroth, where Melian reigned, and which indeed was like a living woodland underground — not like a mortal palace at all. Although Finrod patterned Nargothrond on Thingol's city, it isn't said to be the same in its design, and I tend to think the "outdoors" elements of Menegroth would have appealed very much to Beren.
Taliska — the native language of the Beorings, of which a partial grammar is said to exist but has not ever been released. (Thanks to Ardalambion for this information.) It might also be of interest to the reader that, according to a note in HOME, the only reason that any of it survived at all was due to the interest and efforts of Luthien: Beren didn't see any point in preserving the lore of a dead nation, when in his view Sindarin was a far more beautiful language. She, however, thought she ought to learn his as well, since she had given up on her home in turn. More of this in Act III, however.
"I saw this thing once" — this is a dead literal translation of the pattern that begins many of the great Anglo-Saxon Riddles, like the one about the Iceberg, which take some everyday thing and redefine it in mysterious terms which are nevertheless completely accurate. All three of these amplified kennings, however, are mine, so don't blame the Anglo-Saxons for any lapses here. But there really is a constellation in Arda called the Butterfly — Wilwarin — though your guess as to why Varda put it up is certainly as good as my own.
Ic þa wiht geseah on weg feran
I saw this thing on the wave faring
heo waes wraetlice wundrum gegierwed
it was well-wrought wonderfully crafted
wundor wearð on wege waeter wearð to bane
wonder went on waves water went to bone
—Exeter Book, Riddle LXVIII
chronometer: what use, really, would the agrarian frontier lifestyle of the Edain have for sophisticated metrical devices? But as Reall Cool Works of art, they have historically have had an appeal far outweighing any practical application. The one I have given Celebrimbor is inspired, ever so faintly, by the Great Clock of Wells Cathedral, where the Moon watches over all and knights joust and a messenger rings a bell — as well as by the latter inventions of clocks from the Renaissance and Baroque eras that look like palaces and fountains and wedding cakes and not like our mundane devices at all.
"that project of your grandfather's": ObRef to the story that Feanor created the palantiri — whether he actually made them, or simply designed them, is not certain. That they don't show up in Middle-earth until they're given by the Elves of Aman to the Numenoreans, is certain.
Again, mostly just painting out the truth behind the songs — realities of logistics and terrain and the Arts of War, assumed common knowledge, assumed as default in the epics and chronicles and hence not requiring explication. I've conjectured and translated — but you will find no real anachronisms here, no more than anywhere else. The archaic custom of sword-bonding does, for example, equate to a safety-catch on a modern weapon — though peace-strings serve more for an accidental going-off of the user, than the weapon itself…
Alquantar: Quenya plural, "swans." The temptation to conflate with alae, a "wing" of cavalry from Roman tradition, was irresistable — and the research necessary to find the plural of swan yielded up one explanation for the idea-linkage of swans and cavalry in Middle-earth, a tradition I am assuming here goes far back before Dol Amroth's founding. The word-root of "swan" in the Elvish languages is "rushing" — which also invokes the wonderful Anglo-Saxon Riddle from the Exeter book about the silence of swans in the water and the singing ruckus of swans aloft in headlong flight. Add to that the wedge-shape of waterbird flocks and the intimidating size and ability to do damage of an angry swan, combined with their grace and the arched necks of horses, and it becomes an almost inevitable equation.
And yes, that does make for a pun there in the original Elvish…
My assumptions in regard to Beren's likely riding experience are derived from:
Hence I tend to think that he would have had early experience with horses, using the term very loosely, probably never have seen a full-size ancestor of the mearas before getting nearly run over by Celegorm, and given the combination of his ranger skills, empathy with animals, and low intimidation factor, wouldn't have taken very long to not only regain his earlier riding ability but to be at ease with a steed easily twice as tall and much faster than anything he would have ever ridden before.
The Plan as conceived in full detail: I don't believe that Finrod would have neglected to work out a plausible, essentially practical scheme for recovering the Silmarils, but this mission is entirely my own invention. I hope that it is essentially a practical one:
Would it have worked? The critical and unplannable part, what happens after scaling the gate-tower-mountains and breaking in, remains just that. A highly-coordinated and determined force of experts led by one, probably two, Noldor kings, prepared far more than they were ten years ago even merely psychologically for nasty surprises and taking full advantage of their own surprise and deception tactics and the resulting confusion among the Enemy of "This can't be happening!" — hard to say. (After all, they wouldn't have had Luthien with them…) But it would have been spectacular, successful or not, is my guess—
We go up in fame
or we come down in flame
but nothing can stop
the Army Air Corps
—as my people used to sing…
The text of the Oath derives from The Lays of Beleriand, from an early fragment of a poem from about 1925 which describes the scene after the Treeslaying and contrasts ominously the three hosts of the Eldar as they react to the Darkness, the Foamriders wondering what is going on by the piers, forshadowing the ship-taking later that evening, and the earlier carefree day of the Vanyar giving a concert for Varda at her home on the holy mountain, together with the imagery of Fëanor challenging the Host to follow him with blazing torches in hand as he declaims his fiery rhetoric.
"Sparkly" is the literal translation of Finduilas' nickname, Faelivrin, referring to the effect of sunlight on water.
Also the fact of the social fragmentation and uncertainty in Nargothrond following the Defeat is in part inspired by the events chronicled in Sil and the rest taken from my own observations of history and group interactions. I can't imagine that someone as cruel and cynical as Curufin would have failed to make use of Beren as an object lesson in his rhetoric, either…
The bit about the fault-lying in the failure of the Leaguer is particularly audacious, given that we're told in Silm. that the Sons of Feanor were chief in those objecting to any offensive action, against the High King Fingolfin's recommended tactics, because of the inevitable casualties caused by taking the battle to the Enemy. Of course, in the end, keeping him locked up only resulted in more casualties.
And the "jewel/girl" line is an ObRef to the actual text of Celegorm's Curse as given in full in the Lay:
"Farewell," cried Celegorm the fair.
"Far get you gone! And better were
to die forhungered in the waste
than wrath of Fëanor's sons to taste
that yet may reach o'er dale and hill.
No gem, nor maid, nor Silmaril
shall ever long in thy grasp lie!
We curse thee under cloud and sky,
we curse thee from rising unto sleep!"
—It's a doozy, all right.
Those banners come to bribe or threaten
Or whisper that a man's a fool
Who when his own right king's forgotten
Cares what king sets up his rule.
If he died long ago
Why do you dread us so?
There in the tomb drops the faint moonlight
But wind comes up from the shore.
They shake when the winds roar
Old bones upon the mountain shake.
The canonical interchange over the succession is my warrant for assigning the role of King's Steward to Edrahil, described as the "foremost among the ten" and based on my own experience that people tend to use idioms natural to them and familiar from their own work. (Not to mention that there is no greater position of trust and responsibility, when you come right down to it.)
Yes, I actually used "weird" in a statement about Fate. So the sentence works in both Old English and Modern English, because if you replace the word with its original, "wyrd," which means simply "Doom" or "Fate," it's also a correct and perfectly reasonable, if rather tautological, Anglo-Saxon declaration. I should probably pay a forfeit for macaronic (multilingual) punning, but it is an established tradition from the Middle Ages. Refers to Silm., the end of the chapter "Of the Noldor in Beleriand".
I have to think that "Your mother wears combat boots" would fall rather flat addressed to the son of a Shieldmaiden of the North.
"To me" — a traditional battle cry, but also evoking the shepherd's call to his herd dog — "Away to me," meaning circle around widdershins and come to a down-stay at heel. The continual equation of Beren, like Cuchulain of the Celtic sagas, to a loyal hound is not at all mine, but The Professor's, by the by.
nerhneta - the discussion of Noldor tactical survivals and terminology is found in Unfinished Tales, "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields," where, pinned down in a swamp by superior forces, Isildur's forces cannot use a flying wedge to break out but instead must form sandastan (Qu) or thangail (Si,) the thorny hedge of spears projecting from a staggered shield-wall which can be tightened up into a circle — and I imagine the formation employed in the Fen of Serech.
Morgoth's Parole - referring to the sowing of discord and seduction to rivalry carried out undercover by Morgoth after his release from prison following his first attempt to destroy all light in the world, when he was allowed to go about freely just as though he'd never done anything treacherous before and all was forgiven.
gambeson - a padded undertunic worn beneath mail for protection
The healing effect of water and water's sound is a common theme in Middle-earth, and like the protective aspect of water against Darkside influence derives from the presence of the Lord of Waters, the Vala Ulmo, who as the "Loyal Opposition" continues to actively meddle in the doings of the Elves after the Rebellion and the Ban, most overtly in the Tuor-Gondolin situation, but always and everywhere as he explains to Tuor. (See also FOTR.)
My own invention, but I assume that the Elven cultures would have had far more complicated and subtle and beautiful tunings and scales than even we have, of which there are far more than merely "major" and "minor" though this fact is often concealed like forbidden lore from beginning music students. And that, since they gave grammatical forms cool names, their musical modes would have cool appropriate names too.
Moving the discussion of whether the Oath somehow works on its own in the world from the prior discussion between Beren and Finrod is my one significant variant (as opposed to filling in detail) from canon: artistic license taken for dramatic balance, and not significantly affecting the story — in fact, I indicate that they've talked, as per canon, about the SOF problem already before the scene opens.But thinking about this in detail just made me start seeing parallels to the working of the Ring in the Third Age, and I wanted to give it its own particular emphasis.
"thing made by craft": what Beren said in contempt about Thingol's demand for dowry, rating the Silmaril against Luthien, presumed here to be recollected from his earlier recounting of events.
Bereg: one of two rebels among the Edain who were tempted by Sauron-in-disguise to reject the Eldar and return back East across the Blue Mountains. Amlach of the House of Hador tumbled to the fact that he was being used and had, and returned to the war against Morgoth with renewed fervor, but Bereg of House Bëor led a group of discontented partisans back East, where they disappeared from recorded Middle-earth history. See Silm., "Of the Coming of Men into the West," for details; particularly invoked is his line, "Let the Eldar look to it! [ie, the Leaguer] Our lives are short enough."
The presumption that Finrod might have been not completely thorough in his account of the Revolt of the Noldor is based on the fact that he and his family didn't happen to mention it to their hosts Thingol and Melian until forced to, and his and his siblings' reluctance to speak ill of others, as well as the wretchedness of the past events. And that Beren might well have not paid a lot of attention to that part of the Lore as a kid comes from the common response of a lot of us, apparently, to that part of the History — that troubled combination of Eeeegads! and What???
"lands beyond Gelion": as eventually this is exactly what Beren does; I provide this here as foreshadowing, inspiration, unifying of themes, any or all of these. The fact that some of the inhabitants of Ossiriand are of the same tribes that historically have been allied with Doriath, whose king and royal house died coming to the rescue of Doriath in the days before Melian set the Girdle about it, and who gave up on warfare and involvment in the war thereafter is merely one more link in a very complex mesh of implications.
Finrod's song, apart from the obvious invocations of the Arda Mythos, is modeled in part on the Canticles in the Hebrew Scriptures of Daniel and some of the Psalms, in part on G.M. Hopkins' Pied Beauty, and in part on the Anglo-Saxon Metrical Verses from the Exeter Book which begin "Cyning sceal rica healden," contain the line "orthanc entea geweorc," and are often aka "the Gnomic Verses" pronounced of course 'Nomic' — and thus I am both repaid in kind, and justified in my punning by the highest authority…
The epithet "Unburning" derives from the symbology of Ghanian traditional reincarnatory monotheism, where the idea of that which burns eternally without being consumed or destroyed is used as one of the ways to describe the Divine; it is also evocative of the Stoic belief in Fire as the Element underlying the universe, and the essential nature of the soul.
The discussion re darkening their armor (reference LL1, Canto VII) both invokes the canon of Elven magic being a natural, not a supernatural process, and the entire question of what's "magic" being confusing to them (FOTR, the conversation with Galadriel in Lothlórien) — and various exchanges I've had over the years regarding technologies that more sophisticated people don't even question, such as polarization, after which explanations I tended to go away thinking "Yup, — magic."
I just tend to think that the SOFs are the sort of people who wouldn't be able to resist coming down to gloat, even if, for prudential reasons, discreetly.
And Huan, who we are told in LL1 loves the King, would surely also be there to say goodbye.
(Some of the detail here is far clearer in the full-resolution version for printing, which will open in a new window, and is about 1.2 MB.)
The three tile designs behind the throne represent three sigils used by Finrod in Middle-earth — the first two are traced directly freehand from JRRT's own designs, and the third is my interpretation based on textual description of a device that I have not seen any authoritative rendering for as yet but only verbal descriptions.
The uppermost and central design is the emblem of House Finarfin, with golden sun rays which also evoke Egyptian lilies in their termini. As Finrod is in the peculiar position of having taken up the overlordship of his group after his father's conscience will no longer allow him to go on, and in a sense is the vicarious king of his people here in Middle-earth, it seems fitting to me that he would employ the heraldic device of his father's House, just as Fingolfin, as High King of the Noldor after Maedhros' relinquishment of the right of the Eldest, bears his father Finwë's symbol of the Sun-in-Splendour for his own.
The left sigil is Finrod's personal badge representing his role as liege-lord of Bëor: the symbols of a harp and blazing torch on a green field are invocative of the history recounted in Silm., wherein Finrod is inspired to wander off on his own while hunting with his kinsmen and discovers the first of the clans of the Secondborn, who have crossed the mountains to find peace and hope to discover the Valar, based on tales and rumors from the Avari who taught them in the East. There he took up the harp of their leader, Balan, as they slept, and began to sing to them of the story of the making of Arda, and the Marring, and the High-Elven lore, and both they and he found that he could understand their thoughts and convey his meaning to them with his music, and thus they were able to work to a common linguistic understanding. After convincing them that he was not in fact a Vala, Finrod assumed the role of protector and teacher and became ultimately their King, and Balan received the accolade of Bëor, which is translated as 'vassal,' and Finrod got the often thankless job of mediating between the other Elven kindreds and the influx of Mortals from beyond the mountains, those who became the Edain. The Harp and Torch are therefore both historically literal and symbolically figurative.
The rightmost symbol is the device found also on the ring given to Barahir by his King after the Battle of Sudden Flame: Finarfin's personal badge of obscure origin, showing two golden serpents beneath a crown of flowers, that "one upholds and one devours" — in this instance I've made the device rendering in a more Indo-European style, reminiscent of the protective serpents rendered in exquisite goldwork knotted through jewelry from the height of Classical Greece and Rome. This design fit the area better than the alternative, a cadeuceus-style layout, as well as fitting the text.
The Nauglamir design is entirely and hubristically my own, but inspired by the fact that it's described in a term that I have only heard used of the kinds of great gemmed collars such as the ones made for Tutankhamen — both graceful and weightless-seeming on whomever wore it. The weight and balance of the Egyptian collars and the exquisite detail and technical skill employed in crafting them does in fact seem magical. But in additon to the agrarian themes of the original collars, with their gem-crafted Seeds and Flowers, and the wings of the sacred birds, I've worked in the common world mythic elements of the Sun and Moon and Stars, the Indo-European symbols of Salmon and Wave and Beech Leaf, and the bird opposing the Eagle is the Swan which is mighty in Celtic lore as well, and in the center is the flame representing the Secret Fire, the Flame of Anor, which the wearer serves. I've attempted to do the idea of it justice…
For the design style of Nargothrond, as opposed to that of Menegroth, I've employed a form of the Industrial Design version of Art Nouveau, of which Christopher Dresser is one of the more famous workers — it seems with its splintering rays and angles that could be light, could be leaves, could be mathematical paradigms, (could be birds' wings, too, for that matter) to be particularly appropriate for the Noldor. However you'll note that the more organic Sindarin style is employed as well where apt, and that every individual's gear and costume is different and unique — neither mass-production nor conformity being particularly characteristic of Elven society! (And, consistently, Beren's own sword-belt is held together with knots — replacement buckles, and blacksmiths, being no doubt hard to come by under the New Regime in Dorthonion.)
A caccia is a hunting song, related to the modern words "catch" in both senses, the verb and the song, and so appropriate in multiple ways — first there is the story's theme of following, followed by the trapping and holding of the heroine, and second the medieval (perhaps older) use of "the hunt" as a metaphor for pursuit in love — and hence thirdly as a play on the Lays of Beleriand. "At bay" of course refers to a game animal held encircled by the hounds which summon the huntsmen to finish the job, and by extension refers to anyone forced to a confrontation largely one-sided.
(I almost feel like I'm cheating, in writing this act — essentially I'm just riffing straight off the Lay of Leithian fragments, whence come such insights as Luthien's altered time-sensibilities and lots of illuminating dialogue…)
As Act II had several purposes and points of focus, Beren's character, the Oath and the Silmarils, the unfolding of the War against Morgoth, and the relationship between the Noldor and the Edain, so too Act III. It is Luthien's turn, and part of that is the exploration of the Return of the Noldor as it affected those born in Middle-earth: instead of contrasting the situations of Elf and Man, I attempt to contrast the differences between the native and emigree Elven cultures.
In both acts, as throughout The Script, I also endeavor to make clear the connections with Third Age events and persons. Any such apparent references to LOTR are, in fact, intentional, just as before.
There are two ways of considering the character of Lúthien — I'm tempted to be flippant and say: one is to read the texts, the other isn't — but that isn't terribly helpful, so I'll try to clarify. The first, and to my mind oddly) most common way I've encountered is to assume that she is no different from the "traditional" fairy tale princess (who is in fact not traditional at all) coming to us courtesy of Disney and Co., ignorant, naive, and just waiting for some chap to say "Let me show you the world", so to speak.
The other way, which may seem a bit simplistic (at first at least) is to assume that when Aragorn calls his many-times great-grandmother "wise" in his ballad, he's merely speaking plain truth. After all, he's met at least two people who knew her personally and had ample opportunity to converse with them — the Lady and Lord of the Golden Wood, as well as who knows how many remain of Doriath's refugees in their company.
You can assume that someone older than most of the Returnees, growing up in not only one of the great cultural centers of Middle-earth, but the cultural center for most of that time, as much a crossroads and confluence of different ethnic groups as Rome, and under continual siege for, again, most of that time, is completely oblivious to the harsher realities of life (despite being both a trained healer and a trained mage in an embattled capital) and incapable of making rational decisions — but I'm not sure why anyone would.
So — what does one discover when one looks at the relevant texts? And further, into the archives and chronicles of Middle-earth? The answer is, surprisingly perhaps, someone rather scary. Not because of her intrinsic, inherited power — but because of her uncompromising principles and force of will (which long predate the self-discovery of her abilities as the most powerful telepath ever to walk Middle-earth — and that includes Melian), and the fact that she doesn't just do things randomly and without forethought. So that when she does make a decision, you have a better chance of turning aside a tidal wave than stopping Tinúviel. The only thing more intimidating than a wild-eyed idealist is — a cool-headed, logical, dispassionate idealist, wouldn't you say? And when that icy rationalism is combined with passion, the result is absolutely terrifying.
Everything in here derives either from a comprehensive reading of the Silmarillion, and a consideration of the connections and implications, or from the Lay of Leithian fragments. Relevant quotes will of course be supplied along the way. (Occasionally I have also had recourse to the oldest form of the story, the "Tale of Tinuviel" from The Book of Lost Tales, vol. I, for insights and images, when helpful.)
Again I have made the usage of dialogue reflect background, to some extent, and Luthien speaks with a less formal idiom to reflect the changing and much-influenced Sindarin culture of Doriath as opposed to the more static, and archaic society of the Returnees from Aman. Ardalambion has an amusing essay on how language becomes simpler and faster when you're fighting Orcs and all…
Luthien's appearance comes straight from the Lay of Leithian fragment 1, as do the rest of the quotes in this act unless otherwise noted:
"Far from her home, forwandered, pale,
she flitted ghostlike through the vale;
ever her heart bade her up and on,
but her limbs were worn, her eyes were wan…
…down she let slip her shadowy cloak,
and there she stood in silver and white.
Her starry jewels twinkled bright
in the risen sun like morning dew;
the lilies gold on mantle blue
gleamed and glistened…"
This is clearly the same overgarment she wore the previous winter when Beren saw her dancing in the ice, compared in LL1 to the Northern Lights overhead:
"Her mantle blue with jewels white
caught all the rays of frosted light.
She shone with cold and wintry flame…"
For her ragged and barefoot state further textual evidence is found in Canto X, where she is described as
"worn, unshod, roofless and restless."
Ronia, the Robber's Daughter is an excellent, bittersweet YA novel by Astrid Lindgren, more famous for her creation of another spunky heroine; Trina Schart Hyman's cover illustration for it is perfect, as are all of her illustrations; she was a great influence on my visual imagination from my adolescence.
"In Nargothrond the torches flared
and feast and music were prepared.
Luthien feasted not but wept.
Her ways were trammelled; closely kept
she might not fly. Her magic cloak
was hidden, nor did answer find
her eager questions. Out of mind,
it seemed, were those afar that pined
in anguish and in dungeons blind
in prison and in misery.
Too late she knew their treachery.
It was not hid in Nargothrond
that Feanor's sons held her in bond
who Beren heeded not, and who
had little cause to wrest from Thu
the king they loved not and whose quest
old vows of hatred in their breast
had roused from sleep. Orodreth knew
the purpose dark they would pursue:
King Felagund to leave to die,
and with King Thingol's blood ally
the house of Feanor by force
or treaty. But to stay their course
he had no power, for all his folk
the brothers had yet beneath their yoke,
and all yet listened to their word.
Orodreth's counsel no man heard;
their shame they crushed, and would not heed
the tale of Felagund's dire need."
Taking this as my theme and inspiration for the understanding of Lúthien's own sojourn in Nargothrond, I've built on the very gothic themes of this canto to make a dark mystery story of the unfolding revelations of the situation, past and present. I don't think I'm going out unwarrantedly, though, in this — it isn't specified how long it took for that which "was not hid" to become completely clear, and the indication that Nargothrond is in severe denial creates for me an atmosphere of extreme surreality in which the one sane person appears, inevitably, mad.
I've used, and will use throughout, ballads mostly from the Anglo-Appalachian tradition to represent the songs of Dorthonion — partly because they have so many apt quotations and applications, partly because I know them best, having grown up hearing them, and partly because they fit, for me, with the "hick" aspect of Dorthonion, Beren's remote back-country accent which so annoyed and horrified Elu Thingol, which I had deduced before I actually discovered that in HOME there's a reference to that fact. That Lúthien has not sung until it becomes necessary to her escape, combined with the ideological decision to learn the Bëorings' ancient language as a rejection of her own family's rejection of them, is my motivation for having her employ the folksongs of the Edain, common across Hithlum as well as Dorthonion, which would be in the then-Common Tongue of Sindarin as spoken in the North.
Curufin spake: "Good brother mine,
I like it not. What dark design
doth this portend? These evil things,
we swift must end their wnderings!
And more, 'twould please my heart full well
to hunt a while and wolves to fell."
And then he leaned and whispered low
that Orodreth was a dullard slow;
long time it was since the king had gone,
and rumour or tidings came there none.
"At least thy profit it would be
to know whether dead he is or free;
to gather thy men and thy array.
'I go to hunt' then thou wilt say
and men will think that Narog's good
ever thou heedest. But in the wood
things may be learned; and if by grace
by some blind fortune he retrace
his footsteps mad, and if he bear
a Silmaril — I need declare
no more in words; but one by right
is thine (and ours), the jewel of light;
another may be won—a throne.
The eldest blood our house doth own."
It's clear that they do care for popular opinion, and that equally, they care nothing for the truth…or murder.
As far as Orodreth's characterization, that too derives from the Lay fragments as much as from consideration of the entire history of House Finarfin as told in the Silmarillion, but the source texts must wait upon the proper time for their presentation.
Yes, the Sons of Fëanor did in Canonical fact pretend to be merely "Lords of Nargothrond" as well as acting like it was all news to them, that they'd never heard the name Beren before; qv. LL1, Canto VIII. (In other words, Lúthien isn't a fool, she didn't not know that they were hereditary enemies of her House and prattle away to them cluelessly. She just didn't recognize them as the Sons of Fëanor — not like there are tabloids and publicity shots in Middle-earth, after all.) It's my assumption that they would have used the less-familiar mother names of Aman naming convention, and have constructed for them the Sindarin forms used here.
"…O lady fair, wherefore in toil
and lonely journey dost thou go?
What tidings dread of war and woe
In Doriath have betid? Come tell!
For fortune thee hath guided well;
friends thou hast found," said Celegorm,
and gazed upon her elvish form.
In his heart him thought her tale unsaid
he knew in part, but naught she read
of guile upon his smiling face.
"Who are ye then, the lordly chase
that follow in this perilous wood?"
she asked; and answer seeming good
they gave. "Thy servants, lady sweet,
Lords of Nargothrond…"
..........…Sign nor word
the brothers gave that aught they heard
that touched them near…
This scene, of the seduction of Finduilas to the aid of Curufin's plotting, has a dual purpose: to illustrate Curufin's skilll with words and half-truths, how the Sons of Feanor hold sway without need for violence, as per LL1,
"…for all his folk
the brothers had yet beneath their yoke,
and all yet listened to their word,"
and to set the stage for the upcoming scenes between Luthien and Finduilas.
I have tried not to be too unfair to Finduilas throughout — though we know that she will abandon Gwindor for Turin, she is more than a stock "fickle woman" in the originals, and so I have, while using her as a foil for Luthien, tried to draw her as someone not particularly recollected, very conventional without understanding or caring for the philosophical principles behind the conventions, and much attached (as are many of the Returnees who suffered through the Helcaraxë, q.v. Gondolin, not only poor Salgant) to comforts and "the good life," though not as the Socratics understood it. She holds positions and views like wax — that is to say, in perfect detail until replaced by another, stronger impression, hard yet brittle until softened for a new stamp. —She is, sadly, a composite of many real characters I have known in my life.
Of Huan's crisis of conscience in LL1:
Ahead leaped Huan day and night,
and ever looking back his thought
was troubled. What his master sought,
and why he rode not like the fire,
why Curufin looked with hot desire
on Luthien, he pondered deep,
and felt some evil shadow creep
of ancient curse o'er Elvenesse.
His heart was torn for the distress
of Beren bold, and Luthien dear,
and Felagund who knew no fear…
It's interesting — to me at least — how Beren's gifts and abilities so closely mirror Celegorm's. Oromë, after all, is the Lord of the Hunt, the Vala most fiercely devoted, historically, to hunting Morgoth's fell creatures and minions, and the one who taught Celegorm the language of beasts as well as giving Huan to him. Beren, however, not only hasn't had it quite so easy — I would say that besides coming by his gifts the harder way, he's also been doing Oromë's work far more seriously for longer instead of the rather dilettantish way Celegorm's been going about the work of monster-slaying. —Even before any other ethical challenges presented themselves. (And yes, I do include House Feanor's performance in the Leaguer in that description.)
For this reason (as well as reasons of style, character distinction, and humour) I've given Celegorm the idiom of the "huntin', shootin', fishin' " aristocrat of British literary tradition, the sort of chap who in Jane Austen's delightful parodies of popular romance is willing to break off his engagement when he discovers that the day set for the wedding is also the first day of "the Season"—!
As I cannot come up with a single instance of a Teler or Sindar historical figure who uses the Noldor conventions of mother- and father-names, but only a single personal name and an epesse, or aftername — and in some instances only aftername seems to be employed — it's my conjecture that the use of two personal names in childhood is a convention developed in Valinor. This may be a mistaken impression, but I haven't found any notes to contradict it. Luthien's comment on the rationale is, of course, sheerest speculation on my part.
This should have been easy, since I'm only reworking LL1, cantos III-V in the first person, essentially, combined with the putting of the worst possible construction on the events of those cantos, to reconstruct the sorts of messy, unpleasant and endless conversations we are told that Lúthien had with her family before they gave up on her and took the avoidant route. It actually turned out to be rather brutal to write, because it is so easy to put the worst possible construction on their romance, and so the challenge was to write something emotionally trying to the characters without being too unpleasant on the reader. Hopefully I've succeeded at it, and so far the responses have been positive, so I'm pretty satisfied with this part now.
Orc-raids targetted at Lúthien: this is true — q.v. Canto VII — though I'm assuming for the sake of the story that this has been de-emphasized for well-meant reasons, until such time as it might be useful in turning her to the path of prudence and away from the insanity, as her family sees it, of planning to go looking for Beren on her own. In fact, it's a critical plot point, and one of several ways in which the Lay of Leithian manages to weave archetypal myth and folklore elements in with the most unromanticized, unromantic of war/espionage tropes in a merge that still continues to amaze me. The fact of information lacks, lags, and gaps on both sides leading to confusion and catastrophe is something all too familiar to those familiar with the real military, and not Hollywood's rendering of it — that is after all why it's called "Normal" as well as having an acronym…
In the oldest rescension, the musician Daeron [also spelled Dairon] is her older brother. In HOME he has become the renowned polymath genius of Middle-earth, whose invention of the cirth (runes) and association with Elu Thingol goes back to at least the time of Lúthien's birth. Hence I see it as rather a Little Dorritt situation — except that unlike Little Dorritt, Lúthien wasn't drooping about hoping he'd finally, eventually, someday notice that she was All Grown Up and waiting there for him to realize it. She has a life, and the last thing she's waiting for is someone to come take care of her. Snow White she isn't, nor Dierdre of the Sorrows (though there are closer parallels to Dierdre than to Snow White in her story, by far.)
This does a very good job of explaining Daeron's bizarre behavior — because there is no way that Daeron can be considered anything but neurotic, as I have Luthien point out. If all this past millenium and almost-a-half he's seen her as "little" Lúthien — and this is not only plausible, but common, not simply to older friends, but to parents as well, the inability to recognize that children do grow up and don't stay three-year-olds — then to suddenly realize that she is indeed an adult, not merely intellectually but having it inescapably presented to him, is going to be jarring, to say the least. And in that jarring, he too gets his "first sight" of her — which doesn't happen until he sees her, as it were, through Beren's eyes.
Because the people who have grown up with her, all her life, don't see her until circumstances are drastically changed. (This includes her parents, most definitely.) They are incapable of perceiving her true strength and potential power, because they take her for granted as their little girl. (There is also the complicated, and oft-missed, fact that in the Arda Mythos, "beauty" is among other things a metaphor for moral strength, the reasons for which are made rather clear in the essay "On Fairy-tales." This is not of course sufficient and complete: the ways in which this is used and abused within the histories provide ample warrant for the Canonical necessity of trusting one's feelings as well…But this is a topic probably outside the scope of these Notes.)
So add to Daeron's cognitive dissonance not only the fact that now he realizes that Lúthien is an adult, is not a child, and is not only old enough to fall in love, and has done so, but that she is desirable as an adult, and desired — and that he didn't notice at all, and does now, and at the same time has the image of her as child and practically younger relative, and you have the combination calculated to send even the most intellectual and rationally-governed of Elves (or Men) round the bend. Mix of shame/embarrassment over feeling that these feelings have to be inappropriate, self-reproach over lost opportunity, conviction that "Hey! I should have dibs! I've known her longer!" and back to the inappropriateness and forfeited opportunites, plus the automatic older-relative-protective mode, and realization that that isn't appropriate for him, her being a competent adult, either—
—Way easier just to blame the interloper for it all. (Which I suppose is better than blaming Lúthien, but not much more rational.)
Further warrant for this interpretation is found in LL1 in the fact that the issue at court is that Beren is a stranger in Doriath (not supposed to happen) and worse yet, of a class entirely forbidden (this was always the case, even in the oldest version of the story, where instead of being Mortal he was a Noldor lord displaced in the War and the grievance against him was the hereditary association with the Kinslaying) and the fact of Daeron's subsequent shame: there's no self-righteousness after he gets caught, he's morbidly guilty right from the start, even though he keeps hoping throughout the Throne Room Scene (guiltily) that Beren will be executed. Doesn't stop him from doing it again, out of (ahem) the best of motives — or from being ashamed yet again — the old saying about the path paved with good intentions seems to be illustrated here in hellish detail.
"a tender goddess" — homage to P.G. Wodehouse, of course. The favorite descriptive phrase of Bingo Little, known for sudden, frequent, complicated and embarrassing crushes that entangle all his acquaintances as well.
By Middle-earth standards, Lúthien is a fully-qualified paramedic, with ample opportunities for honing her skills. Things were pretty messy in Beleriand for quite some time before the Return, (Silm., "Of the Sindar") and in LL1 it's stated that being able to do this is just one of the ordinary domestic skills of an Elven-lady of Doriath — not unlike that of a medieval Lady, who also couldn't simply dial the ambulance service. Lúthien has advantages of inherited power as well as incentive, but this should give pause to those who would dismiss either her or all Wood-elf maidens as dainty and decorative, but no more. Unless you're up to (as I've remarked elsewhere in another venue) crawling out of the wreck of a kidnapping attempt to negotiate a truce with the hostage takers, and when the truce breaks down, shrugging off attempted murder to deal with one's partner's downing and performing field surgery to remove large-caliber ammunition in a wilderness situation. I've never had to do anything like it, stitches make me personally a bit ill and though I'd certainly do my best if I had to, just the thought of trying to get a broad-head arrow out of someone makes me go green. (I'd be a bit better at using the Angcrist as a machete to make a shelter, and I sort of know how to start a fire with flint and steel and build it so it doesn't smother out. But I wouldn't want to depend on my survival skills if I didn't have to, either.)
blackbirds: in Britain, the equivalent of the American mockingbird — though the one that sang outside my window mornings in the brief time I sojourned in London had a song so clearly melodic in the Ionian mode that it was several days before I was sure it was a bird, not the postman whistling. Instantly, when I realized its source was the grackle-sized bird in the tree out front, I realized that all the poems that talk about blackbirds were not in the slightest exaggeration. If I were a composer I would set that melody into a composition — I can whistle it to this day; Dvorzak might have used it in another morning-song.
The LL1 story from Canto III about Melian's hair vs. the Silm. story… the two don't necessarily rule each other out — life, and the self-edited versions of it we tell ourselves, and our friends and relatives, are often rather complicated. How relevant is the story of Melian and Thingol to the story of Lúthien and Beren? Is this something I'm constructing that isn't meant to be read this way? Well, several cantos of the Lay begin with historical references to something else in the Arda Mythos. We have, in addition, the Oath of Fëanor, Maedhros on Thangorodrim, the Siege of Angband, the Dagor Bragollach (including Fingolfin's Ride and the Fen of Serech), the Valar Oromë, and would have had Morgoth's theft of the Silmarils had the Lay been completed. Every single other invocation has a direct bearing on the subsequent events which immediately follow as well as on the backstory and conditions surrounding the action as a whole. So, no, I'm not stringing together fancies here unintended by Tolkien.
"Swarn" is a real Green-elven [Nandor] word, thanks again to Ardalambion [http://www.uib.no/people/hnohf/], and it does mean obdurate, intransigent, and just plain mule-stubborn, without any connotations of darkness or evil involved; probably pronounced with a hint of a "ch" in the initial consonant cluster as it descends from the primitive form squarno. It's my guess that the Laiquendi would have applied it to the Returnees. (With a word like that just given away, how could I pass it up? I've been waiting for a chance to use it for a long time.)
Thanks to loyal beta NovusSibyl for the line "he just wanted to be sure" which came up in a plot-mulling session, (and who is also responsible for the much-lauded casting of James Marsters as the Brothers Fëanorion.)
horn-mad: crazy as a mad bull, used in The Comedy of Errors, where Adriana of the much-tried patience mistakes it for an accusation of retributory infidelity against her Antipholus by the unfortunate Dromio of Ephesus.
This is my hubristic effort at recreating in part a letter Canonically known to have been so awful that it not only incited the mobilization of Doriath, but actually made Lúthien's father think somewhat (note, only somewhat) better of Beren, as in — All of the Sons of Feanor for sons in-law (however many of them are actually still alive at this point) is definitely worse. They really have no clue what they almost bring upon themselves. (There's an AU that boggles the mind.)
Curufin's empire-building ambitions, the Canonical motive of consolidating all Elven-realms under one House Feanor rule before going after the Silmarils, combined with his rising paranoia and the willingness to destroy anyone who thwarts him, bear to my mind suspicious resemblence to Someone Else's behavior in Arda…This is how I reconcile the earlier version, written before it was established that Curufin was Celebrimbor's father, with the latter, where it says that Curufin looked "with hot desire" on Lúthien as well, which although it could make for an interesting dramatic rivalry/rift between the brothers, doesn't work that way in either the older or the latter Canon, so alas I can't warrant doing it — thus Celegorm desires Lúthien for her beauty and attractiveness, Curufin as a political pawn and key to power. Neither one of them sees her as a person in her own right, and both of them have incredible self-esteem issues tied up in getting what they want. Achilles has nothing on the Sons of Fëanor.
go critical: this is not really an anachronism, despite appearances; in foundry-casting of elaborate sculptures with many deep undercuts and small extensions, it's necessary to force the metal to sort of explode out into the farthest reaches of the mold, so that you don't have to make patches and weld them on, which is less stable. The famous Renaissance artist Benvenuto Cellino in his Autobiography describes getting up from having the 'flu to supervise the casting of the giant Perseus with the Gorgon's Head, and having to sacrifice all his silverware to push the molten alloy to the critical point where it would boil over and fill the entire mold, except for a small part on one of the feet, which he'd already expected he'd have to fix. (This is, by the way, the same statue that features so prominently in Lois McMaster Bujold's excellent Renaissance Italian fantasy The Spirit Ring.)
Gower is, of course, referring to Banquo's appearance in Macbeth.
As with most things, I don't see Celebrimbor's subsequent rebellion against his House and deliberate alignment with Orodreth related in Silm. as coming out of the blue — events, like cars, don't just "come out of nowhere." Hence I have chosen to illustrate his conflicted struggling between moral duty and the easier way of doing nothing. (There are — of course — ulterior motives of story and reference as well, which shall become clearer in subsequent exchanges.)
The story of the heraldic device of Finarfin is my own devising, but the notion of apotropaic serpents (er, sorry, that is to say, protective & beneficial — too many archeology books at an impressionable age) is both Egyptian and Indo-European, and elegant metalwork snakes, both jewelry and freestanding sculptures, can be found in Graeco-Roman art, as well as the royal emblems of the pharaonic tradition. (Serpents are also associated with the oracular in both traditions.) And wreaths of flowers, worn by the lords and ladies of the ancient world, may be seen in murals of festivals from Amarna and elsewhere. The explicit connection of the implicit relationship between ancient High-Elven (and later, Numenorean) cultures and Egyptian/Near Eastern civilizations is found in Letters, bearing out the subtler indications given in ROTK and Silmarillion. I don't know that this is the association behind the emblem, of course, but since it's nowhere explained, and very mysterious, I thought I'd venture a history for the enigma.
As far as how, in Primary World history, real heraldic devices came to be chosen — many are much odder than this. Puns abound (William of Islip, whose escutcheon bore an eyeball and a shouting man falling out of a tree, "eye" + "slip" = "I slip!") along with instances of people taking insults and turning them to their own interpretation, as well as the more common adoptions of mythic or conventional symbology — but how in the days before myth and symbol had become tradition? One historical instance of a totemic animal being chosen after witnessing an incident which was taken as oracular exists in the story of the pioneering settlers of Tenochtitlan, presently known as Mexico City: the emblem of the hawk battling the snake which has endured for millenia.
subtlety: an elaborate dessert, often representing something else (like a gingerbread castle or marzipan fruit.)
"poison": a reference to Hamlet. More than one kind can be administered by ear — this was, after all, Morgoth's favorite ploy, to start rumours, make insinuations, raise doubts, and then let them grow and run wild on their own. After all, one can always find evidence for one's suspicions…
I don't know what art form Finduilas would have favored — blown and worked glass is my own assignment — but it's important to remember that all Elves were artists, that centuries of life allow for even more exploration of talents than we can achieve (and some of us manage to cover a wide range, though few reach the level of a da Vinci) and so the popular idea of the idle, untalented and utterly boring lady of high degree is no more accurate for Middle-earth than it is for our earth's Middle Ages. And the symbolism seemed apt as well…
(As a side note, I highly recommend that everyone read the works of Frances and Joseph Gies, historians who make medieval Europe come to life with authentic quotes from firsthand sources and often darkly-hilarous details. Life in a Medieval City, for example, brings us the image of an angry Abbess leading her retainers in a local war against papal demolition crews, while Life in a Medieval Village provides coroners' reports to demonstrate why Alcohol and Crossbows Don't Mix.)
tafl, or "table", also known as "king's table" and "king-stone" (cyningstan) after the key piece, is the Scandinavian board game similar to chess, but offering an interesting challenge. The form of it I have used here is the Finnish version called "tablut," which uses an 8 - 16 ratio instead of the more common 12-24, and thus allows for such a use as I have made of the common gameboard setup. The source for the rules and layout of the game I found here, with citations from early texts and archeological references [http://www.vikinganswerlady.org/games.htm]; the applicability is, I hope, obvious.
I am perhaps taking some artistic liberties here in assigning Primary World board games to Arda, as I cannot immediately recall or provide any citations regarding either chess or draughts (checkers) in Middle-earth (the apparent citation, of "amber chessmen" in the endnotes in LB is not in fact by JRRT, but a suggested, unused, stanza by C.S. Lewis, so I don't accept it). But as such games of strategy and skill are common in the epic tradition and throughout the world as well as across the ages, I feel warranted in using the device here, upon the assumption that someone in Beleriand would surely have devised some such game, especially with the artistic opportunities that the pieces provide, and that other peoples would have mucked about with the game and made their own versions. (Given their long-standing occupation with both warfare and artistry, it's entirely possible that such a game would have been invented by the Dwarves first — though that would probably pique certain factions of the Eldar no end!) One may simply assume that as with the Red Book of Westmarch, the Middle-earth game has been "translated" into an equivalent form here•
As for the rationale behind the rules of tablut, that is my own, but I think it plausible, though I will stand corrected if any Scadians have better information and/or combat experience, of course. The use of chess in both life and literature as an opportunity for political and romantic metaphors is well attested. (Plus there's just something apropos about using a Lapp form of the game, given that Tolkien was so inspired by the Kalevala as to learn Finnish in order to be able to read it in the original!) Battles for incredibly high stakes — not only property, but spouses, and even one's self, abound in Indo-European folklore — unfortunate addicts to the ancient Irish version called "fidchell" occasionally made the mistake of playing for keeps against wizards and ended up trapped in animal form as well.
"our mothers": neither Feanor's wife Nerdanel nor Celebrimbor's wife approved of the Return, and chose to remain behind in Aman. We know that there was a long history of trouble between Curufin's parents, but the details of his own marriage as far as I know were never written down.
One significant element is the entire creation of Nargothrond, which exists, in great measure, and as it eventually is revealed, not only because of Turin's destiny. From a fall-back secondary base camp dating from the breaking of the Leaguer it becomes a great and ancient City — and Finrod becomes its King and founder — because Beren must go there. By the time of the writing of LL1 circa 1926, it is established that Orodreth was not the original ruler, but the third and youngest brother of the King (this is when Finarfin was named Finrod, and it had not been established yet that "Felagund" was an aftername, and before Galadriel was known to be their sister) and that the Sons of Fëanor are guests (in fact DPs and refugees) of their cousins.
However, in some of the earlier summary outlines, Celegorm was the original founder and rightful King of Nargothrond, who had become indebted to Beren's father, and so the conflict was both more and less complex: the Oath binding him from whole-hearted assistance, he nevertheless sends a warband with Beren; and following their capture, when he takes Lúthien prisoner it is less cynical, more pathetic: he explains that he has already sent his troops with Beren and cannot send more, and though he does hope that Lúthien will turn to him instead, he eventually lets her go when she appeals to his conscience.
So the sense that he still retained some better nature that could be appealed to, which was not necessarily overridden by either passion or the Oath I have chosen to allow in the shading-in of Lúthien's captivity in Nargothrond.
Hamlet also provides us with the line "A hit, a very palpable hit" — and an example of a friendship betrayed.
"invisibility cloak": there are many forms of invisibility — sleight of hand, the ability to go unnoticed in various circumstances, camouflage — and being able to put watchers and attackers into a dreaming trance would certainly also qualify. Are there disquieting parallels to the One Ring inherent here in the story of Lúthien's "tarnkappe" that I'm trying to emhasize here? You bet. (No more so, of course, than to that other famous fairy-tale trope, the story of Tattercloak and the variants, where being a ragged and unkempt eccentric conveys a certain amount of invisibility on the heroine at court — with the signal difference that Luthien doesn't have any animals killed to make her cape.)
Doriath: although the specifics of Green-elven and Grey-elven cultural borrowings and differences are my interpretation, this building of Doriath's atmosphere is straight extrapolation and often straight lifting, from the source texts. (Remember that Turin's name is cleared of Murder One in the Saeros incident when Mablung finds a witness? Who just happens to be a loner of a young lady who hangs out in trees?) The rich ethnic compostion, dense politics and layered history are all set out in Silmarillion. I've just tried, again, to shade in the sketches. As for any perceived similarities between the Wood-elves and tribal American life — I've always found it difficult to understand how so few others seem to notice this. Even before I found JRRT's own statement that, after Scandinavian stories of dragons and battles, his favorite books as a kid were stories of North American Indians, since they had almost everything he wanted in them — primeval forests, bows and arrows, and other, ancient, languages — it was obvious to me, at least, right in LOTR. (Just like the illuminating similarities — and differences — between the Rangers of Ithilian and the inhabitants of Sherwood Forest in TT.) And are the parallels with Third Age Lothlorien either unwarranted or accidental? —I at least don't think so, in either case…
Denethor: the first known to bear this name was the King of the Green-elves of Ossiriand, who came though severely outmatched to the rescue of Doriath before Melian closed it to invaders, and was killed by the Orcish army together with his heirs and household in the battle before Thingol could join up with him. Subsequently some of the Lindir chose to stay in Doriath, while others returned to Ossiriand, where they refused, for reasons unspecified, to choose another leader, and for obvious reasons never went to open war again. Most of the Third Age names of the Dúnedain are Elvish in origin, though not all.
"war-orphan": this is my conjecture regarding the fact that Beleg (and Mablung too, for that matter) only use afternames. (Remember, the Silm., being translated into English from Quenya, gives the Sindarin name and the Quenya meaning after in English, as with Legolas Greenleaf in LOTR.) In LHH Beleg is called "the hunter of the hidden people," and "the son of the wilderness who wist no sire." Now in mortal terms that could as well be an implication of bastardy — yet given the standard permanence and honesty of Elven affections, that really makes no sense. However, the highly unsettled state of affairs in Beleriand during the centuries before Melian and Thingol were able to consolidate and lay the Girdle about Doriath resulted in many displaced families and casualties. I don't think it's a stretch to consider Beleg as a foundling and survivor from some early catastrophe — and that would also be reason for a close personal identification with the fatherless Turin in later years.
Another possibility — there are always other possibilities — is that for prudential reasons the native Elves of Beleriand only used a common name in public, given the magical controls possible through names, just as the Dwarves did. But my remark on legitimacy still holds, either way.
Brethil: Just to help keep the chronology straight — two years after the Dagor Bragollach wound up, more or less, in early Spring (although it had a definite opening there was never a clear end to the offensive), is when Orodreth, who was in charge of the garrison at Minas Tirith, abandoned it before Sauron's invading forces, retreating back to Nargothrond. This had a cascade effect all across northern Beleriand, some of which has been outlined in Act II. This was another consequence, related in Silm. as well.
"summer-snow": literal translation of a Quenya word, "lairelossë," which is the name of a kind of tree. (Thanks to Ardalambion once again.)
"mutant boar": in the Lay of Leithian it's told how the Outlaws of Dorthonion were harrassed by Morgoth over the years, before Gorlim's betrayal,
"…and wolf and boar
with spells of madness filled he sent
to slay them as in the woods they went…"
I don't think it's an unwarranted assumption that similarly "enhanced" wildlife might have been sent out against other disputed borders as disposable drones. (This also put me in mind of Mononoke Hime when I read it.…)
Losgar: the location where Fëanor burned the beached ships, leaving the rest of the Noldor to their own devices — which if not solely responsible for the catastrophe of the Grinding Ice, since certainly Finarfin and a significant element did choose to return and apologize for the rebellion, was at least a huge and necessary factor. This was forgiven, at least on the surface, by the followers of Fingolfin and Finrod, at the Feast of Reconciliation which transpired after Fingon's rescue of Maedhros from Angband — but Curufin was ringleader in backing up his father, and Celegorm, unlike Maedhros, didn't either object or try to dissuade him from burning the Teler flotilla.
Gower here invokes T. S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral, where many trenchant observations on the nature of power may be summed up in the following quote—
"King, emperor, bishop, baron, king :
Uncertain mastery of melting armies,
War, plague, and revolution,
New conspiracies, broken pacts;
To be master or servant within an hour,
This is the course of temporal power."
—a rather eye-opening thing to encounter as a teenager trying to understand the facts, foundations, and myths of authority in the Primary World, requiring a lot of mental wrestling with concepts rather contrary to popular assumptions.
The company that rides to the Nirnaeth Arnoediad under Gwindor's command in the name of the House of Finarfin, does so against Orodreth's will. Everything starts somewhere…
For the use of music for accompaniment of moods as well as their alteration in Shakespeare, see Twelfth Night.
I've known a few "mouthy" hand-holders. It's kind of sweet…and kind of messily inconvenient. One so hates to hurt their feelings.
"your City": ObRef to "when in Rome," of course. —One actually does
have to do as the Romans when in Rome, to a certain extent, no matter how
against the grain and one's upbringing it goes. (Then of course, stateside
again, one has to unlearn such potentially dangerous Roman traits as crossing
traffic with glorious abandon whilst disregarding the perpetually-red crossing
lights, tossing one's trash onto the pavement because there are no visible
barrels beneath the trash, shoving through to the counter instead of waiting
for a queue to form, expecting to find nice homey inexpensive places to
stay, expecting to be able to buy excellent coffee and decent fast food
at any hour pretty much anywhere for reasonable prices, &c.)
"adage": Another Macbeth ObRef — a play much concerned with loyalty and its reverses.
Celegorm seems like the sort of person to me who would deal with emotional stress by activity, not introspective thought.
The hounds do answer to Huan. The chain-of-command is thus made somewhat complicated, and has serious metaphyical underpinnings, but becomes all too practical later on in the story.
"gild the gold day lily" : Gower's epigram refers to the collapsed quote taken from King John, Act IV.ii, which is known in the phrase "gilding the lily", but in the original goes "as well gild refined gold, paint the lily" — and refers to the addition of a second royal title upon a first by conquest and/or marriage. The play dealing with the matter of France and England, the symbolic lilies in which form such a theme throughout the play would in any case have been gold, the heraldic fleur-de-lys of the ancien regime. (Shakespeare's prediliction for queenly brunettes found most prominently, but not only, in the Sonnets, makes the contrasts and parallels still more apt.)
"ceremony": ObRef to Henry V, of course. (Act IV, scene I — "thou idol ceremony" — a very appropriate passage in all ways.)
This scene is foreshadowing and reference to the information in HOME that Celebrimbor, in addition to helping to build the Gates of Khazad-dum and forging the Three Rings of Elven power, was tragically enamored of Galadriel in the Second Age. I see a spiritual kinship in art as well as troubled idealism laying the path — instead of falling for the lady's picture, as is common in old romances, more likely for one of the Eldar to fall for her painting instead.
"auguries": ObRef to Sonnet 107, which opens:
"Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
can yet the lease of my true love control,
supposed as forfeit to a confinéd doom…"
I wanted this scene to convey a certain air of "Powhattan's daughter in London," the sense of a "barbarian princess" both fascinatingly exotic and at the same time unconsciously patronized. It seemed to me likely that a great part of her mystique would be her role as Melian's daughter, and that people would be extremely curious about her parents' relationship; while the outré nature of her escape would also have a certain fascination and gossipworthiness. The trick of course is making it plausibly outrageous without complete caricature; the most appalling rudeness (and the most entertaining from outside) is that which is committed completely obliviously.
As far as Lúthien's defensiveness in regards to her homeland, I've derived that from the ambiguity of her own words and feelings in the Lay:
"My heart is glad when the fair trees
far off uprising grey it sees
of Doriath inviolate.
Yet Doriath my heart did hate,
and Doriath my feet forsook,
my home, my kin. I would not look
on grass nor leaf there evermore
without thee by me…"
—as well as from the fact that it would be pretty hard not to have absorbed the same attitudes as her father across four hundred years and more of being snubbed and/or verbally threatened by two of the three Houses of the Returnees.
The superior attitude of the "Easterners" and to a lesser extent the original citizens of Nargothrond is inspired largely by Fëanor's words to Olwë: "Yet you were glad to receive our aid when you came at last to these shores, faint-hearted loiterers, and wellnigh empty-handed. In huts on the beaches would you be dwelling still, had not the Noldor carved out your haven and toiled upon your walls." (Silm., Of the Flight of the Noldor)
I also wanted to carry a bit of the historical contrasts with the "Home Front" inevitably seen in any war — life goes on, oddly, and people don't worry and mourn all the time, if they aren't actually under siege. I modeled the atmosphere partly on the decades of WWI reading I've done, fact & fiction, modern and contemporary, and partly on the Second World War, as depicted in the classic film The Cruel Sea. Back again to the verse:
"In Nargothrond the torches flared
and feast and music were prepared.
.........................…Out of mind,
it seemed, were those afar that pined
in prison and in misery."
"Especially after we saved you…" — The subsequent conversation refers to both Dagor-nuin-Giliath, (Silm., Ch. 13, Of the Return of the Noldor) and on Lúthien's part, the First Battle of Beleriand (Silm., Ch. 10, Of the Sindar.) This was the one which took place centuries before the Return and resulted in the creation of Doriath and massive political reorganization sub-continent wide. It didn't get a memorable name like "Under Stars" or "The Glorious" or "Sudden Flame" or "Countless Tears," presumably because it was the first, as with the Great War; possibly because of cultural differences between Sindar and Noldor. (Any similarities to occasionally-heard Primary World statements which might indicate a dig at certain of my compatriots' attitudes are, of course, purely intentional.)
"language": The initial pack-your-bags-and-get-out-of-my-sight reaction from Thingol on learning of the fact that his relatives had not had the nerve or the consideration to tell him about the Kinslaying and the Exile feels very much like the genuine emotional reaction that would follow such revelations. For a comparable scenario, imagine discovering that the charming colleague from the overseas office was, in fact, a political terrorist personally responsible for several car bombings, and that a trusted friend hadn't told you this, on the grounds of mutual friendship and the fact that, well, that was all in the past, he'd put it all behind him and didn't engage in such activities any more. One might well be too angry for civil conversation, for the moment.
The subsequent injunction against the use of Quenya in Beleriand, however, has more the feel of a deliberate and considered measure, opportunely taken. One cannot think that the defender of the Sindar would have been overjoyed at seeing their ways and cultures lost and overwhelmed in the tide of the invaders, any more than he liked the thought of them being dispossessed from their hereditary lands. (I do not, however, have any hard proof of this conjecture.)
Now King Thingol welcomed not with a full heart the
coming of so many princes in might out of the West, eager for new realms…[He] hearkened to the words
of Angrod; and ere he went he said to him: 'Thus shall you speak for me to those that sent you. In
Hithlum the Noldor have leave to dwell, and in the highlands of Dorthonion, and in the lands east of Doriath that
are empty and wild; but elsewhere there are many of my people, and I would not have them restrained of
their freedom, still less ousted from their homes. Beware therefore how you princes of the West bear yourselves;
for I am the Lord of Beleriand, and all who seek to dwell there shall hear my word…"
—Silmarillion, "Of the Return of the Noldor"
(It was in response to Angrod's delivery of this message that Caranthir Fëanorion publicly referred to Thingol as a "Dark-elf," which attitude I've chosen to see as coloring all the following of Fëanor, and not obliterated by a mere decade of contact with the Nargothronders.)
"enhancement": —Did Lúthien know what she was doing in her unprecedented project? Going by the text, one has to say yes, whatever the Noldor expert might have thought. Canto V of the Lay of Leithian describes this process in great detail, which in part is excerpted here:
"Now Lúthien doth her counsel shape;
and Melian's daughter of deep lore
knew many things, yea, magics more
than then or now know elven-maids…
…A magic song to Men unknown
she sang, and singing then the wine
with water mingled three times nine'
and as in golden jar they lay
she sang a song of growth and day;
and as they lay in silver white
another song she sang, of night
and darkness without end, of height
uplifted to the stars, and flight
and freedom. And all names of things
tallest and longest on earth she sings:
the locks of the Longbeard dwarves; the tale
of Draugluin the werewolf pale;
the body of Glómund the great snake;
the vast upsoaring peaks that quake
above the fires in Angband's gloom;
the chain Angainor that ere Doom
for Morgoth shall by Gods be wrought
of steel and torment. Names she sought
and sang of Glend the sword of Nan;
of Gilim the giant of Eruman;
and last and longest named she then
the endless hair of Uinen
the Lady of the Sea, that lies
through all the waters under skies.
Then did she lave her head and sing
a theme of sleep and slumbering,
profound and fathomless and dark…"
Note that some pretty strong stuff is invoked there, and not all of it "nice". (Glómund is an earlier form of Glaurung, by the by.) The principle of sympathetic magic is that similar things are metaphysically connected and may be substituted for, or invoked, to affect each other.
bindweed: wild form of morning-glory, with white flowers. For some reason it thrives along railroad tracks — you can see it growing along the lines into London.
"bowstrings": this is an homage to the Icelandic saga of Burnt Njal, well worth reading, in which this practice is a crucial plot point.
prisoners-of-war: this countermeasure to Morgoth's practice of subverting captives' will with delayed commands, cited earlier in the Script (and dating back even to the earliest version in The Tale of Tinuviel) is spoken of as preceding this time-period — which means that indeed, Finrod would have been responsible for such decisions. If that gives the reader pause — it should. Both military commanders and heads of state have to make harsh decisions which they would prefer not to, and which will not be popular: it takes more than niceness to build and administer the largest single territory in the Known World.
"But ever the Noldor feared most the treachery of
those of their own kin, who had been thralls in Angband, for Morgoth used some of these for his evil purposes,
and feigning to give them liberty sent them abroad, but their wills were chained to his, and they strayed
only to come back to him again. Therefore if any of his captives escaped in truth, and returned to their own people,
they had little welcome, and wandered alone and desperate."
—Silmarillion, "Of the Ruin of Beleriand"
The Hall of Maps is based on a real place that I found in Rome. It's part of the Vatican Museums/Library complex and is incredibly cool — no other word for it, I'm afraid. They go all the way up to the ceiling, they're divided with ornate gold borders, so that when you walk in you're not sure if they're tapestries or not — except that tapestries don't have that intense cerulean blue and jade green to them. The semi-topographical nature with the realistic color makes it much more like a fly-over shot than a conventional map — which I find more useful than the artificially-colored and ruled maps that used to predominate atlases. And the place-names are lettered in gold… I don't remember how old it is, but it's at least two centuries, and possible quite a few more. (And I want one of my own — but I don't own this building, so I can't make one…)
There should be a distinct Helen of Troy atmosphere in this scene: despite the fact that it was at least as much Paris' fault, and subsequently his father the King, and their counsellors who chose to back the Prince and not the law, it was Helen who got all the blame from the people of Troy for their downfall. (This was a topic for discussion and debate through classical times as well as returning again through the present.)
"straw out-burneth": Gower makes a deliberate contrast to the seventh poem of the sequence "The Passionate Pilgrim," in which complaint is made of the lady's fickle love, burning as bright and as quickly consumed as dry grass.
"up high": a reference to Luthien's preferred place for solitary meditation, LL1, Canto V:
"A tree she climbed, till the bright air
above the woods her dark hair blew,
and straining afar her eyes could view
the outline grey and faint and low
of dizzy towers where the clouds go,
the southern faces mounting sheer
in rocky pinnacle…"
Barad Nimras: this is the fortress that Finrod built on the south coast of Beleriand to guard against the possiblity of Enemy attack by sea; which did not however take place. I threw this in as a reminder first of Valinor and the West, and secondly of how much their power has been diminished and their dominion hemmed in since the Bragollach, and doubly so since the loss of Tol Sirion.
Lord Gwindor's projected involvement with the government of Nargothrond doesn't come out of nowhere. He is engaged to Orodreth's daughter, which under ordinary circumstances usually indicates some level of familiarity, particularly given the small-town atmosphere and long acquaintance of the Returnees; he is also of high rank, with a reputation for military valour well predating the Nirnaeth. He has enough authority to override Orodreth and lead his own command to the League of Maedhros against orders. All this indicates to me that he was no mere brainless cavalier or court butterfly, but someone with deep connections and functions in the realm, despite his impulsive and passionate nature. I see him as rather the Harry Hotspur of Narog, a fierce ideallist, — and one of those described in the Lay of Leithian thus:
"And even such as were most true
to Felagund his oath did rue,
and thought with terror and despair
of seeking Morgoth in his lair
with force or guile…"
Moreover, it seems plausible that in such desperate times, the Regent would rely most heavily on those closest to him, and put such responsibilities and authority as he still controlled into trusted hands — all of which would contribute to the ongoing meltdown of Nargothrond with subsequent developments.
The entire sequence of the sortie at Thangorodrim took on added impact for me when I put it together with the Geste: Gwindor has an extremely personal stake after his brother is made example of by the enemy, but for the rest of his company to take part with the same demented berserker rage in the assault on the Gates speaks to me not only of vengeance but of atonement as well: —This time—
It also is strongly indicative to me of later events in the Silmarillion, most particularly his dying words to Turin, but also the latter's ascendence in Orodreth's affections and counsels — and Finduilas'. Turin can be seen as Gwindor's doppelgänger. Consider: Gwindor returns from captivity in bad enough shape to seem as an elderly mortal, while the son of Morwen the Elven-bright, tall, black-haired, raised among Elves, and an implacable warrior against Morgoth, has to have seemed almost Gwindor himself come back from the past. Thus the royal house can't help but fall for him, and so the Noldor lord can't hate him, despite Turin co-opting his life and the destruction caused by his rashness: "As you were, I once was, and as I am shall you become."
The discussion between Lúthien and Celebrimbor is not only intended to introduce and foreshadow the battle for the "spoken keys" of Tol Sirion, but as a quiet reminder that Fëanor's grandson was not only responsible for making the three Elven-rings and inadvertently aiding Sauron's rise through the creation of the One, but also assisted with the fashioning of the Gates of Khazad-dûm on the Hollin side.
"miss the mark": Hopefully it's obvious — but not too blatant for the irony value — that more is going on with Celegorm's testing of bows than merely the obnoxiousness of the brothers unscrupulously making free of Finrod's belongings.
"Her ways were trammelled; closely kept
she might not fly…"
This sequence is another homage to the original premise that she would leave with Huan, but without her cape, requiring subterfuge and infiltration instead of direct action to lure out and overpower the foe. Also, though without access to it her powers were greatly diminished, still her knowledge and essential skills wouldn't have been forgotten. The preceding verse indicates to me at least that she did try to escape, if she had to be thwarted and prevented — which is only logical, considering previous events.
Gower's speech is a reference to Sonnet 65, which opens:
"Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
but sad mortality o'ersways their power,
how with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
whose action is no stronger than a flower?"
"spin this tale… and warp it too": as noted earlier, people tend to use metaphors familiar to them from their own life experience. It also, together with the cut about time, serves as a reminder of how much Luthien's perspective has changed from her fellow Eldar: the three days it took her to make her gear seemed "long."
"How long": Is it really plausible that the most arrogant and acquisitive and contentions of the sons of Fëanor would be permanently content to live on as "poor relations" of their youngest cousins, no matter how lavishly treated — any more than it's likely they wouldn't have already been resentful of the fact that the largest Noldor kingdom in Middle-earth wasn't theirs? Frankly, I don't think so for an instant. It was only a matter of time: Beren just happened to be the catalyst.
Structurally, I needed a way to get the whole tale retold without spending unnecessary (for the audience) screen time on the retelling. Hence the cut; however this also serves the purpose of reinforcing the dual facts of the ambiguousness of the citizenry of Nargothrond, to be strongly in the forefront later, and of the complications and messiness surrounding the House of Finwë in Aman, though that should hardly be necessary…
…and equally, this scene recalls the long duration of the connection between the families of Orodreth and Luthien.
"the Necromancer's aura": The atmosphere of horror which facilitated Sauron's taking of the fortress is described in the Silmarillion in terms nearly identical to the scenario of the Lord of the Nazgûl's assault on the second Minas Tirith at the end of the Third Age. Coincidence? I highly doubt it. One might remember as well that two factors seem able to counter the Black Breath, as recounted in ROTK: the first is divine origin, the second already being so used to functioning under depression as to be essentially immunized to further assaults. Lúthien shares to a degree in both.
"listened to Melkor": I don't think that Morgoth necessarily tempted him (explicitly!), because the poisoned atmosphere of rivalry leading up to the slaying of the Trees would have been more than enough to encourage envy, though it's certainly possible — but I think the fact that once again, their elders' sins are being played out, would have hit Orodreth hard, once it was pointed out to him.
sickening indoors: this belief is the reason for the elaborate and difficult scheme Thingol and his counselors concocted regarding the house in Hírilorn, as described in LL1, Canto V:
…In angry love and half in fear
Thingol took counsel his most dear
to guard and keep. He would not bind
in caverns deep and intertwined
sweet Lúthien, his lovely maid,
who robbed of air must wane and fade,
who ever must look upon the sky
and see the sun and moon go by.
Black, black, black is the color
of my true love's hair,
His face is something wondrous fair,
The purest eyes and the bravest hands,
—I love the ground whereon he stands
(Another version, speaking of a female beloved, has the refrain, "—She of the wondrous hair.")
Oh yeah, it featured prominently in an episode of Twilight Zone…
Appalachian song of English derivation,
learned from the version as sung by Joan Baez on the
Vanguard recording In
Concert 1. (Amazon link, no audio clip avail.)
A midi of a version similar to this may be found here at The Contemplator.
Name magic: in Primary World lore, it's been used to control and bind, hence the use of secret names as well as masks for protection against hostile supernatural forces in shamanic traditions. Power can be held over someone by the fact of knowing an identity without any magical control as well, as in the case of espionage agents, or as described in "Narn i Hîn Húrin" (Unfinished Tales) when Nienor defiantly and catastrophically reveals herself to the dragon. Hence the secrecy with which Aragorn conceals himself, until ready to challenge Sauron with his presence.
Another use of what might be termed "name magic," is in self-definition and revelation. In Arda this is manifested in the "names of insight" or prophetic mother-names given among the Noldor, and in the "afternames" which are chosen or conferred throughout one's life, such as the many names of Strider. In the Primary World we only fortuitously encounter names which afterwards seem to have been given prophetically, though we do choose names that are meaningful and inspiring for our children. However, the giving and/or taking of names of usage is a huge part of growing up, and the rejecting of nicknames, alteration of spellings, using of middle names, and return to old forms all can be ideological and deliberate processes of self-identification.
The theme of identity, both as part of a family, and as a self standing apart from one's family, is also one of the many constant themes found in Middle-earth. All of these factors being active in Lúthien's situation, it seems plausible that she might very well make an issue of being recognized as she chooses to be, by her enemies-and-relations, and
Gower is referring to the vow Lúthien gave her father when Thingol tried to get her to promise not to run away:
He sent for Lúthien, and said:
'O maiden fair, what hath thee led
to ponder madness and despair
to wander to ruin, and to fare
from Doriath against my will,
stealing like a wild thing men would kill
into the emptiness outside?'
'The wisdom, father,' she replied;
nor would she promise to forget
nor would she vow for love or threat
her folly to forsake and meek
in Doriath her father's will to seek.
This only vowed she, if go she must,
that none but herself would she now trust,
no folk of her father's would persuade
to break his will or lend her aid;
if go she must, she would go alone
and friendless dare the walls of stone.
In angry love and half in fear
Thingol took counsel his most dear
to guard and keep…
The Trees They Do Grow High
English ballad said to be inspired by a true story which took place as I recall in the 1400s.
Link to Cantaria page with full version MP3 and sheet music.
ObRef to the famous sonnet by Sir Thomas Wyatt, which I think fits rather well:
Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, hélas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest cometh behind.
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore,
Sithens in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I may spend his time in vain.
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.
Luthien's twitchiness about beetles comes from the oldest rescension, The Tale of Tinúviel. There it's noted as a personal quirk of hers, in addition to disliking spiders (as evoking Ungoliant) like every normal Elf — while, however, unlike many humans, being a normal Elf she is perfectly fine with such other bugs as moths, which tend to be attracted to her. I've kept that because I thought it rather a charming weakness in one willing to confront Dark Lords, albeit not one I myself have (though it would seem to be shared by LOTR film actor Bernard Hill, as per his vivid description in interview of the Fell Beasts as resembling airborne stag beetles!)
On the other hand, it's impossible to imagine the same person who both felt sorry for Carcaroth and faced him down being either reduced to complete incompetent hysterics or demanding immediate squishing of the same…
"jaw kicked in": in the wild, this happens to bad-mannered stallions who ignore both rejection signals and warnings. Fatalities resulting from a broken jaw have been documented among mustangs, making it a pretty recessive behavior.
Celegorm —infatuation, implausible, or inescapable?
There's something of a fashionable trend to dismiss Lúthien as nothing more than a pretty face, and Tolkien by extension for writing characters who fall in love with mere beauty. Let us leave aside the fact that this requires ignoring a personality that, as written, for sheer stubbornness easily rivals Fëanor, to which add the combination of ingenuity, technical smarts and sheer nerve to follow through. —There's simply no getting around the fact that when the sons of Fëanor came upon Lúthien in the woods, she was not looking at her best, not after first roughing it for weeks and then having just been chased furiously through the woods "like a butterfly" by a hungry bird (LL1). It wasn't the beauty of a fashion-model impeccably painted and groomed for a photo-shoot, nor even of a Grace Kelley or Jackie Kennedy or Princess Diana at a state affair, that left the brothers dumbstruck. Like Yeat's description of a dangerously-beautiful lady as "Pallas Athena in a railway station," or the traditions surrounding Cleopatra, the most compelling beauty is that sort which is not merely symmetry and conventional prettiness — may indeed break all the conventions of the same — but which is informed by a dynamic personality and spiritual vibrance.
It is this — this charisma, technically termed — which Lúthien possesses in spades; and this being Arda, where myth is history, there are further metaphysical dimensions. She has a supernatural aura which manifests itself not only visibly in her physical appearance, but in her talents as well. (Before dismissing her singing ability, one ought to consider well what song means in the Silmarillion. Mock singing, —and one disses the universe itself.) From her divine parentage comes a link into the primal forces of Creation, and from her earthly parentage the Elven unity with nature that gives an entirely different kind of power and comprehension. It isn't that she's "only half-Maia," but rather that she combines both sets of qualities into something different — and more powerful — than either. (The question of whether or not Melian realized her own destiny was not simply to protect, but to raise up a peaceful weapon, so to speak, in the person of her daughter, and set her free to follow a like path — and willfully (if passively) turned away from this duty, is one which can never be answered conclusively, but is worthy of much consideration.)
So on the one hand Celegorm, meeting Lúthien, who manifests the Light of Valinor untainted by Rebellion and Downfall, can't help but be as drawn as Beren, or Huan, or, in turn, Morgoth. Mortal, Elf, Principality or Power — everyone wants Lúthien. The question is, whether they see her as a treasure to be kept, accquired, confiscated and locked up — or as a person whose free companionship, under whatever circumstances and at whatever costs, is the real prize. (Any parallels which may be drawn or discerned with certain jewels of divine and Elvish origin can scarcely be coincidental.)
Aside from foreshadowing future events, the introduction of the Gondolin connection, and the Black Sword, serves not only to reinforce how the past carries through all actions, at all times, but also as reminder of the eternal historian's problem of who knew what when, and whence. Receiving history in prefabricated lumps neatly edited into narrative, we tend to forget that on the one hand, this is not how it happened, and on the other, it is not how it is learned. The inchoate mass of happening is ongoing and not organized into compartments, however the outlines and chapters in schoolbooks might make it seem. It is important to bear in mind that the Silmarillion, being a chronicle of imaginary history, is just that — compiled after the fact by several chroniclers from many varied sources after the fact, attempting to put events into perspective and track down origins and prior influences which would not have been apparent at the time to those living them scattered across the country.
Trying to figure out what information would have been available to which persons at which times and by what means is one of the challenges of the diligent student of the past — but it can be a most rewarding one, filled with unexpected delights as well as disappointing revelations. For an example — not entirely unrelated to this present project — there is no single complete manuscript of the Iliad existing from ancient times: the oldest complete copy of it is medieval. Hence we do not have the same Iliad that Alexander supposedly carried around at all times and read before going to sleep each night, either in the particular physical copy or in the substance of the text, let alone "the Iliad of Homer." Yet before one dismisses the extant Iliad as invalid it's crucial to consider the many fragments themselves, the known provenance and history of the epic — and the fact that it's quoted and referenced in scores of existing pop-culture works from antiquity, from political debates to fanfiction parodies of the myths and epics, and these all shed light on the validity of the Venetus manuscript. And that's where it gets fun, tracking down things like these. —At least, I think so.
(Obviously, the "who knew what when whence" question is a driving concern (or should be) for the fanfiction author as well.)
Even with the change of which brother is obsessed with Lúthien, it still seems quite plausible that Huan might have had occasion to bare his teeth at Curufin as well:
Nought said Huan; but Curufin
thereafter never near might win
to Lúthien, nor touch that maid,
but shrank from Huan's fangs afraid…
"Hence and spurnéd hither:" in other words, kicked out. Gower's elegant phrasing comes from The Comedy of Errors, where a luckless lackey compares himself to a football as he's sent back and forth with unwelcome messages.
Celebrimbor, unlike the rest of his family and most of the following of House Fëanor, does in fact break free of the Oath to follow his own destiny. I've chosen to mirror the future loyalty-triangle of Denethor–Faramir–Mithrandir as part of the explanation of why Curufin's son broke with his father, the problem of parental possessiveness which refuses to give affirmation, yet resents a child seeking that affirmation elsewhere. —It may also be part of the explanation of later, fatal, vulnerabilities in Eriador.
If there are echoes in this scene not only of Morgoth's original subversion of the Eldar in Aman but also Sauron's many subsequent manipulations of the folk of Middle-earth through the ages — there should be.
"smile and smile": Gower invokes Hamlet's words (Act I.v) on learning that his uncle murdered his father, declaring that "one may smile and smile and yet be a villain."
"bloodshed": I'm assuming that Lúthien does, generally, have a pretty good idea of her parents and the way they think and will react, with the usual blind spots that we all have about situations we are too close to — and this is exactly what happens, almost.
A free John Donne reference for good measure:
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those, whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. From rest and sleep, which but thy picture be, Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee do go, Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery. Thou'rt slave to Fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell, And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well, And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then ? One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And Death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
The Queen of Hearts (second & third verses for obvious reasons)
This song goes back reportedly to the late 1600s, though I have not been able to track down an exact reference.
As learned from the version sung by Joan Baez on the Vanguard recording In concert 2. (Amazon link, no audio clip available.)
Come All Ye Fair And Tender Maidens (first & second verses)
As learned from the version sung by Joan Baez on the Vanguard recording Live at Newport. (Amazon link, Real Audio clip.)
"crazy": in Shakespeare's Hamlet, the Prince feigns madness to lull his enemy into confidence that he has no suspicions (in the original Danish legends, he does so in order that his uncle will not kill him as a potential threat.) Using adversarial overconfidence, feints, and apparently mad plans against their enemies is something that all the successful heroes in Middle-earth do, and not just Lúthien — q.v. The Council of Elrond, and the assault on the Black Gates, in LOTR, for just a few examples.
House Carpenter (last verse)
This story of a demon lover luring a young woman away from home and family, while in the original version not workable for First Age Middle-earth without much modification (which I have not bothered to attempt for the present) due to its maritime theme, would nevertheless have resonated strongly in its essential plot with the inhabitants of Doriath, irony surely not missed by Lúthien.
Link to midi file of the melody, gracefully arranged by and hosted courtesy of Melanie Ebener. (Site alas 404'd.)
"Sindarin-style record keeping": among the several things going on in this scene is the intention of emphasizing what gaps of knowledge may result from the loss of oral traditions, based directly on statements made in the Silmarillion ("Of the Sindar"):
"Of the long years of peace that followed after the coming of Denethor there is little tale. In those days, it is said, Daeron the Minstrel, chief loremaster of the kingdom of Thingol, devised his Runes; and the Naugrim that came to Thingol learned them, and were well-pleased with the device, esteeming Daeron's skill higher than did the Sindar, his own people. By the Naugrim the Cirth were taken east over the mountains and passed into the knowledge of many peoples, but they were little used by the Sindar for the keeping of records, until the days of the War, and much that was held in memory perished in the ruins of Doriath."
"Leaguer" is actually a very accurate analogy of the situation, given the way it turns out.
Huan was a battle-hound as well as a hunting dog, and in LL1, Canto VIII we are told:
Alone of hounds of the Land of Light
when sons of Fëanor took to flight
and came into the North, he stayed
beside his master. Every raid
and every foray wild he shared,
and into mortal battle dared.
Often he saved his Noldor lord
from Orc and wolf and leaping sword…
Ergo he must have been actively involved on that mid-winter night when the Pass of Aglon was forced and the brothers with their followers (and their guest and cousin Orodreth) were compelled to evacuate Himlad — presumably down the same unpleasant road along the northern edge of Doriath followed in past centuries by the Haladin and Aredhel (since if they'd been able to go around the southern marches, there's no obvious reason for them not to have joined up with Caranthir and the twins down at Ramdal by Amon Ereb across from Ossiriand.) Huan would no doubt have been a tremendous asset in keeping off giant spiders and other sorcerously-mutated creatures.
Ten Thousand Miles
Folk song popular in both Britain and North America with a large number of variations.
In one of the outlines where Lúthien and Huan go off without her cape, the Nargothronders return it to her via Huan after he returns with the liberated captives, out of shame and guilt. This says to me that a lot of people were aware on some level of the situation as it was playing out. Moreover it's said in LL1 that "Huan alone" was never enchanted by Lúthien's power, either deliberately or otherwise, which also indicates to me that she tried with the people of the City, (as is only to be expected.)
There Were Three Ra'ens (slightly altered to fit Middle-earth circumstances)
English ballad arranged and published by the famous Thomas Ravenscroft in 1611 and possibly written by him as well.
Originally learned from the version as sung by Burl Ives on a very old recording of Folksongs for Children which I have not been able to track down online.
Once I Knew A Pretty Girl (last verse)
This version of the "Rejected Lover" ballad is used with intentional irony, since the rest of the song is about a fickle girl who sends her sweetheart away, but later changes her mind again, to which the rejected lover says, "No thanks."
Learned from the tune as sung by Joan Baez on the Vanguard recording Joan Baez 2 (Amazon link, no audio clip avail.)
"Lord of Misrule": Gower refers to the custom of appointing a Master of Ceremonies responsible for arranging all the holiday entertainments and revels during Yuletide at the courts and larger organizations of late medieval England, whose authority over such matters as music selection, pageants, party themes, charades, drama productions and banquets was real, and who held court and was given homage as part of the game.
"lasting storm": the imagery of this speech of Gower's is derived from the words of Marina, Princess of Tyre, whose plight in Pericles has some points in common with Lúthien's situation.
Mourners on the tomb: these statues, called "pleurants" or weepers, were designed for the tombs of the Dukes of Burgundy, Philip the Bold and his son John, by the sculptor Claus Sluter; a so-so image (large file) can be found here until I scan in a better one from an art book.
North Country Maid (as sung; slightly altered for Middle-earth)
An old broadside ballad I learned originally by ear, and only the first verse; when I decided to adapt it and see if there were other verses I found it even more appropriate than I had at first thought.
Midi file of the melody from the Digital Tradition collection.
The Hart Round
This tune comes from a very old songbook I used to have, which was published in the first decades of the last century. This was described as an old English round, but I know no more of its provenance than that.
Midi file of the melody generated by myself via abc (transcribed by ear.)
Some of this (and all of Lúthien's disputes with her Noldor kin) comes from the conflict between Amroth and Nimrodel (the tragic couple mentioned in LOTR) which is described in Unfinished Tales, where it is stated that
"…she would not wed with him. She loved him indeed, for he was beautiful even for one of the Eldar, and valiant and wise; but she was of the Silvan Elves, and regretted the incoming of the Elves from the West, who (as she said) brought wars and destroyed the peace of old. She would speak only the Silvan tongue, even after it had fallen into disuse among the folk of Lórien, and she dwelt alone beside the falls of the river Nimrodel to which she gave her name."
I have ventured to presume that the outspoken and self-assured Grey-elven lady to some degree resembled her predecessor, and have thus dared to ascribe her opinions to Lúthien as well.
Could there have been something between Lúthien and Celegorm, if he'd bothered to show up and make himself agreeable four-hundred-odd years earlier? I doubt it not. He's brave and handsome and charming with the legendary family charisma. The tragedy of House Fëanor is that they all had so much potential for good, and threw it away with both hands, and having done so did at least as much damage to Middle-earth in the long run as Morgoth and his armies. What would have happened if the sons of Fëanor, post-Kinslaying, had nevertheless been at least civil to the rulers of Doriath, and what would have happened if Celegorm had married Lúthien, and then the murders had been revealed? Well, there's an AU for the imagining.
—But he didn't, and continued to demean the Teleri and pursue the path of arrogance and greed, and so the last trace of divine favour leaves his House with the gift of his patron, and passes to his rival.
In the final encounter between Lúthien and the sons of Fëanor, she doesn't even acknowledge their existence — which is saying something considering that Celegorm's just tried to run Beren over and through and Curufin has flung her across his saddle-bow in their foiled kidnapping attempt. The way she cuts them dead is staggering; the equation with Orcs is found there too. Essentially, they don't exist for her now — they aren't even worthy of her anger. I wanted to indicate some kind of final closure which would make any further communication both irrelevant and impossible, as well as to suggest what could finally have pushed Huan over the edge into acting against the master for whose sake he had accepted the Doom of the Noldor, alone of all the other Hounds of Oromë's gift.
"monuments": ObRef to several Sonnets, where the themes of love, mortality, Time and memory are woven together, most particularly numbers 55,
"Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme,
but you shall shine more bright in these contents
than unswept stone, besmear'd with sluttish time,
when wasteful war shall statues overturn…"
"When I have seen by Time's fell hand defaced
the rich proud cost of outworn buried age;
when sometime lofty towers I see down-razed,
and brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
when I have seen the hungry ocean gain
advantage on the kingdom of the shore…"
as well as 81,
…from hence your memory death cannot take,
although in me each part will be forgotten.
Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
though I, once gone, to all the world must die:
the earth can yield me but a common grave,
when you entombéd in men's eyes shall lie.
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
which eyes not yet created shall o'er-read,
and tongues to be your being shall rehearse,
when all the breathers of this world are dead…
and the conclusion of 107,
"And thou in this shall find thy monument,
when tyrants' tombs and crests of brass are spent."
"this time it's true": that was the excuse Lúthien gave to everyone when they got worried about her not communicating during the three days she was otherwise occupied:
And now was her labour but begun:
long was she spinning, long she spun;
and though with elvish skill she wrought
long was her weaving. If men sought
to call her, crying from below,
'Nothing I need,' she answered, 'go!
I would keep my bed, and only sleep
I now desire, who waking weep.'
These are, by-the-by, two of the most common and distinctive symptoms of depression.
She Moved Through The Fair (first verse)
A tragic love story from Ireland of the "ghostly bride" class, first collected by Padraic Colum and Herbert Hughes & published in 1909.
Link to midi file of the melody from the Digital Tradition collection.
Not merely angst, I hope, but conveying the reality (Primary World as well as Arda) that the events which have significant impact on history are not all measurable in simple cause-and-effect equations, but follow more complex patterns of interaction whose terms may never be fully definable. Reducing the causes history to an either-or debate which is cast as exclusively either strong individuals or broad societal forces ignores the fact that society is made of nothing but individuals, and the small decisions made each day for good or ill by said individuals is what builds up to movements, disasters, wars, reclamation projects, and the like. The top-down impact of authority figures on morale and a society's tenor is matched from beneath by countless examples of behavior and leadership on lesser scale, neither of which are separable from the other. The grand gestures and major events rest on a foundation of very minute actions and choices.
It is this reality which is behind the sense that fate can descend on a civilization for the deeds of its leaders, not unjustly, but because by action or inaction the group chooses to allow and approve those deeds, as played out in the ancient tragedies of Oedipus and Antigone.
Telemnar: I needed a masculine High-elven name and chose this one for the feckless Lieutenant based on the fact that many of the names of the Kings of Gondor are both Quenya and historical, and that Telemnar ("silver-flame") unlike some has no specific connotations of role or alliegiance or craft (i.e., Arciryas = "shiplord") and isn't similar enough to any other names to occasion confusion. No maligning of any actual First-Age Telemnar, if he existed, is intended by it.
The depiction of Lúthien's Working in action is, of course, entirely gapfilling: the Lay cuts from Huan's bringing her the cape to the engagement at Tol Sirion, and the actual escape is left to our imagination, as is his retrieval of the spell-cloak. But I have derived it from the earlier escape which is recounted in detail in Canto V:
Of cloudy hair
she wove a web like misty air
of moonless night, and thereof made
a robe as fluttering-dark as shade
beneath great trees, a magic dress
that all was drenched with drowsiness,
enchanted with a mightier spell
than Melian's raiment in that dell
wherein of yore did Thingol roam
beneath the dark and starry dome
that hung above the dawning world.
and now this robe she round her furled
and veiled her garments shimmering white;
her mantle blue with jewels bright
like crystal stars, the lilies gold,
were wrapped and hid; and down there rolled
dim dreams and faint oblivious sleep
falling about her, to softly creep
through all the air. Then swift she takes
the threads unused; of these she makes
a slender rope of twisted strands
yet long and stout, and with her hands
she makes it fast unto the shaft
of Hírilorn. Now, all her craft
and labour ended, looks she forth
from her little window facing North.
Already the sunlight in the trees
is drooping red, and dusk she sees
come softly along the ground below,
and now she murmurs soft and slow.
Now chanting clearer down she cast
her long hair, till it reached at last
from her window to the darkling ground.
Men far beneath her heard the sound;
but the slumbrous strand now swung and swayed
above her guards. Their talking stayed,
the listened to her voice and fell
suddenly beneath a binding spell.
as well as from the fairy-tale that provides (like Rapunzel) a "negative inspiration" for this theme in the Geste — the image of the Castle being overwhelmed with enchanted sleep not to imprison the Princess, but in this case to ensure her escape. Stretching the parallel? Consider these earlier lines:
Again she spake: 'Now go, I pray,
to Melian the queen, and say:
"thy daughter many a weary hour
slow passing watches in her bower;
a spinning wheel she begs thee send." '
and after commissioning her loom from Daeron,
…This Dairon did and asked her then,
'O Lúthien, O Lúthien,
What wilt thou weave? What wilt thou spin?'
'A marvellous thread, and wind therein
a potent magic, and a spell
I will weave within my web that hell
nor all the powers of Dread shall break.'
Then Dairon wondered, but he spake
no word to Thingol, though his heart
feared the dark purpose of her art.
(It almost seems as though she's giving him one last chance to redeem himself, by this vague answer — not enough information that anything could really be made of it, and no specific statement of plan — daring him not to betray her one more time, in such a way that outraged innocence could retort with perfect honesty, "Yeah, I told him I was going to see if it was possible to weave a protection spell into cloth — is there something wrong with that? Is counting leaves the only thing I'm allowed to do now?")
The "take back the night" theme which is resumed at the conclusion of LOTR is particularly strong in Leithian: the assertion that not even darkness is originally or rightfully under the control of evil, and is being reclaimed like a stolen territory by the just authority of the Powers through Melian and her daughter. Lúthien, in fact, does "own the night" — making Morgoth's defeat all that more ironic.
This setting is, I fervently hope, immediately recognizeable as Ard-galen at the Dagor Bragollach, which forms the subject of many lines throughout the Lay of Leithian: introduction of such past history into the story is by no means my own invention. Here is the opening of LL1, Canto XI:
Once wide and smooth a plain was spread,
where King Fingolfin proudly led
his silver armies on the green,
his horses white, his lances keen;
his helmets tall of steel were hewn,
his shields were shining as the mon.
There trumpets sang both long and loud,
and challenge rang unto the cloud
that lay on Morgoth's northern tower,
while Morgoth waited for his hour.
Rivers of fire at dead of night
in winter lying cold and white
upon the plain burst forth, and high
the red was mirrored in the sky.
From Hithlum's walls they saw the fire,
the steam and smoke in spire on spire
leap up, till in confusion vast
the stars were choked…
One of the points of this cut-scene is to serve as a reminder that Celebrimbor too is a warrior no less than an artist, who will eventually be overcome and destroyed by the same adversary they are presently refusing to face. (See also Unfinished Tales.)
Huan's authority over the other hounds is revealed in Canto X, when after the final irreparable breach caused by the assassination attempt on Lúthien,
"Thereafter never hound was whelped
Would follow horn of Celegorm
More gapfilling — but there had to be considerable consternation, recrimination and embarrassment following the discovery. I've just tried to envision it plausibly and in character.
The presence of Celebrimbor in this scene is not only intended as foreshadowing of his break with the House of Fëanor, but also of much later events. As outlined in UT, he and his own followers become involved with the dominion of Galadriel and Celeborn in Eriador during the Second Age, in which under the sway of the disguised Sauron they rebel against the authority of the Lord and Lady. I've tried to reinforce the fact that despite internal conflicts Curufin's son is proud and decisive, with strengths that can be turned against him, but not passive or without critical facilities — a very typical Noldo, all in all.
Gower's epilogue: No, the equation of Lúthien with Fingolfin in his duel with Morgoth isn't mine. I made the Éowyn – Eärnur – Fingolfin linkage on my own, but I rather had to be hit over the head with this one before I began to suspect it: after all, the story of the King's duel with Morgoth only occupies a prominent place in two Cantos! But this was verified in a remark I encountered in, I believe, The Shaping of Middle Earth, where it is noted that Elven sages long debated which of the two was most valiant, going up against the Lord of Fetters. (After all, Lúthien not only went in unarmed, she acknowledged her name to the Enemy! But countered to this was the fact that she was, after all, half-Maia, and Fingolfin only a Noldor warrior, after all. So it was adjudged to be a draw.) Thus I think it's equally valid to make the comparison between one legendary hero riding up alone to the gates of the fortress, and the other.
(Yet another parallel is the arrival of the Eagles following the contest of wills: the fact that the Eagles got there in time to actually save them — thanks to Huan — is yet more validation of my frequent argument that the singlemost critical factor in taking on Dark Lords is reliable backup. (See also Solo, Cpt. Han)
I also wanted to point up the fact that Lúthien was never under any self-deceiving illusions that she was (at least by any outward measure) the ideal person for the job — simply the only one willing to take it on.
Lúthien wept not for very pain,
and when he ceased she spoke again:
'My friend, I have a need for friends,
as he who a long dark journey wends,
and fears the road, yet dare not turn
and look back where the candles burn
in windows he has left. The night
in front, he doubts to find the light
that far beyond the hills he seeks'
And thus of Melian's words she speaks,
and of her doom and her desire
to climb the mountains, and the fire
and ruin of the Northern realm
to dare, a maiden without helm
or sword, or strength of hardy limb,
where magic founders and grows dim…
Part of the phrasing in this speech was inspired by Sonnet 60:
Like as the waves make to the pebbled shore,
so do our minutes hasten to their end,
each changing place with that which goes before,
in sequent toil all forwards do contend…
along with the aesthetic device used elsewhere by Shakespeare of building a rhythm of consecutive similar phrases, as in Sonnets 66 ("Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,—") and 91 ("Some glory in their birth, some in their skill") to rise to a crescendo of themes followed by counterpoint.
I know it's a cardinal rule of fanfiction not to create "songfics" for many good and sound reasons; I also couldn't write this Act any other way. Hopefully the "authentic" nature of the ballads employed and their application made up for breaking this rule not once, but eleven times, on the principle that if one is going to do so, let it be on a grand scale.
Editorial decisions were made after the fact — that is, I didn't sit down and think, "I need verses, which ones can I appropriately use?" but rather, while listening or singing throughout the day, would observe, "Wow, that fits far too well — but 'London' in the second line just doesn't work." Hence the first verse of Queen of Hearts was dropped partly because it wasn't as evocative in the story — but even were that not the case, would still have been ruled out due to the intrinsic reference to card games, which I at least cannot justify in First Age Middle-earth. ("To the Queen of Hearts is the Ace of Sorrows…").
Lesley Nelson's site, The Contemplator, has a great deal of information about the traditional ballads of the British Isles and North America. I find the midi files rather over-orchestrated and too heavy on the piano, obscuring the tunes, but at least it gives a gist of the melodies. (ETA: DON'T HOTLINK THE MIDIS! It's just as bad as for graphics.
This German site, 20,000 Volkslieder, has a lot of traditional songs, though without the provenances and background information, but the midi files, when available, are less overworked.
The Digital Tradition collection has huge numbers of tunes, many with midi files and sheet music, but the provenances are iffy and there's little-to-no background information. The midi files, however, are usually clean and uncluttered. I prefer this mirror site as easier to load.
The Internet Renaissance Band doesn't have as many ballads, of course, but the arrangements are excellent and any of the midi files here will give an excellent idea of the richness of pre-classical music and introduction to the world of Early Music at no cost. "Elslein, liebes Elslein" is a particularly fine one, and were I not limiting myself to English songs for practical reasons (I'm not confident of being able to make a singable translation of anything) I would have found a way to use this in the Script somehow: "So sein zwei tiefe Wasser wohl zwischen dir und mir—" There lie two deep Waters, parting thee and me—
abc is a music language which can be used in a variety of computer applications, some of which are freeware, others shareware — but I myself use it most as a shorthand for jotting down melodies without music paper. It uses only basic ASCII characters and is extremely flexible — and you can actually sight-read it! Learn all about it at the page of Chris Walshaw, the inventor.
Finally, I cannot recommend the old recordings by Joan Baez highly enough. It isn't simply that they are historical artifacts of the beginnings of the reclamation of traditional music in recent decades — they are spectacular renderings of the old songs, cleanly and clearly performed. (The one danger is that they will likely make you impatient of sloppy vocallists with indistinct articulation and poor quality-control.) Growing up hearing these around the house helped to create mental linkages between "real life" and the mythopoeic that are not without a great deal of responsibility for what you are currently reading — her versions highlight the story of the ballads and the drama that is created through the combination of simple dialogue and stock imagery.
(Some of the detail here is far clearer in the full-resolution version for printing, which will open in a new window, and is about 900 KB.)
The setting, and the window-like murals I've devised, are intentionally evocative of the betrayal scene in LL1, where Luthien climbs one of the tallest trees in Doriath to look at the distant mountains of the north, while Daeron has gone directly to her father after assuring her that he will help her in her aim. Also note the Eagles in the distance — a deliberate reference to future events, and not just there to fill such blank space.
Lúthien's costume is taken straight from the description of her escape in LL1, Canto V, and modeled in part on the illustrations of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema; Finduilas' gown has overtones of the Art-Nouveau Medieval styles inspired by William Morris' Arts and Crafts movement (and everyone knows such dresses are held up by magic.)
The fact that Lúthien's haircut hides her ears is not accidental, either, any more than the invocations of Lothlórien in the visual design of the set.
There are two (perhaps three) reasons for dealing with the main actions of the Geste in this roundabout fashion. The first, most basic one is simply that there's no way (for me at least) to do it, that the contrast between the subject matter and the tone is too great.
Part of this, and possibly a separate reason in its own right, is the difficulty noted by The Professor in "On Fairy-stories" intrinsic in converting fantasy to drama. Logically, it would seem that this difficulty would forbid the existence of the Script itself; but in fact there is very little that is fantasy, strictly speaking, about it. Aside from Huan's presence, the special effects are minimal, and mostly peripheral — could be largely done away with with very little rewriting and recasting into narrative chorus. It is character-driven drama, and the parts of it that are fantastic and not mundane, derive (or should) from the dialogue itself, and the images that those words invoke in the imagination of the audience. Little more disbelief should require suspension, either by work of stagecraft or by (heaven forfend) the audience, than in presenting a production of The Misanthrope or The Cocktail Party, were the Script somehow to be put on. By far the greatest part of the budget would be devoted to the sets instead of the effects; and even those could be sketchily evoked by a skilled production team, as I have seen done with an excellent student production of the Winter's Tale.
But that would not be possible, attempting to dramatize the several battles at Tol-in-Gaurhoth, or the Anfauglith with its transformation scenes, or the wizards' duel between Morgoth and Lúthien, or the Eagles, or the Hunting of the Wolf — those episodes are the imagery, and unless storyboarded,* simply cannot be presented in a scripted format. And so like Shakespeare in Henry V, I leave it to the combined skill of the Narrator and the audience's imagination to make "this glassy square" the contested places of Beleriand, whether the struggles be magical or mundane.
Finally — the ultimate reason for the Script's existence is to bring out that which is hidden, and thus illustrating the ramifications of the Geste, and the widening repercussions of the waves created by it, seems to me the most appropriate way of treating these episodes.
*No. Don't even start. That includes you, NovusSibyl.
This is the center of my characterization of Orodreth — this scene as drawn in both of the Lay fragments, each version of which has its own dramatic delights. Again, I feel rather badly, since I can't compare with the originals, which I'm simply translating out here with minimal invention: all the work is essentially done for me, I'm just filling in the gaps.
Very simply, Orodreth has to be the same person who on the one hand didn't argue strongly on his brother's behalf and who lost an undamaged command to the Enemy…yet who for centuries held a castle which was not simply a remote garrison but the capital of a province which controlled the only north-south corridor in Western Beleriand, through which all friendly traffic for much of the First Age was compelled to travel (the alternative being going across Ard-galen, down through Aglon, south through the east side of the subcontinent, then west along Doriath's southern borders to the seacoast, or the reverse — not very practical at all), who enjoyed a friendly relationship with the traitors prior to the coup, — and who, when presented a second time with the alternative of passive non-resistance to the status quo and cathartic violence, held against both strong influences with these words:
"The kingdom now
is mine alone. I will allow.
no spilling of kindred blood by kin,"
"Let us slay these faithless lords untrue!"
the fickle folk now loudly cried
with Felagund who would not ride.
In the second fragmentary version of the Lay, this scene is even more fully developed:
To Nargothrond no more he came
but thither swiftly ran the fame
of their dead king and his great deed,
how Lúthien the Isle had freed:
the Werewolf Lord was overthrown,
and broken were his towers of stone.
For many now came home at last
who long ago to shadow passed;
and like a shadow had returned
Huan the hound, though scant he earned
of praise or thanks from Celegorm.
There now arose a growing storm,
a clamour of many voices loud,
and folk whom Curufin had cowed
and their own king had help denied,
in shame and anger now they cried:
'Come! Slay these faithless lords untrue!
Why lurk they here? What will they do,
but bring Finarfin's kin to naught,
treacherous cuckoo-guests unsought?
Away with them!' But wise and slow
Orodreth spoke: 'Beware, lest woe
and wickedness to worse ye bring!
Finrod is fallen. I am king.
But even as he would speak, I now
command you. I will not allow
in Nargothrond the ancient curse
from evil unto evil worse
to work. With tears for Finrod weep
repentant! Swords for Morgoth keep!
No kindred blood shall here be shed.
Yet here shall neither rest nor bread
the brethren find who set at naught
Finarfin's house. Let them be sought,
unharmed to stand before me! Go!
The courtesy of Finrod show!'
In scorn stood Celegorm, unbowed,
with glance of fire in anger proud
and menacing; but at his side
smiling and silent, wary-eyed,
was Curufin, with hand on haft
of his long knife. And then he laughed,
and 'Well?' said he. 'Why didst thou call
for us, Sir Steward? In thy hall
we are not wont to stand. Come, speak,
if aught of us thou has to seek!'
Cold words Orodreth answered slow:
'Before the king ye stand. But know,
of you he seeks for naught. His will
ye come to answer, and to fulfil.
Be gone forever, ere the day
shall fall into the sea! Your way
shall never lead you hither more,
nor any son of Fëanor;
of love no more shall there be bond
between your house and Nargothrond!'
'We will remember it,' they said,
and turned upon their heels, and sped,
saddled their horses, trussed their gear,
and went with hound and bow and spear,
alone; for none of all the folk
would follow them. No word they spoke
but sounded horns, and rode away
like wind at end of stormy day.
I hardly had to do anything. It's all there in the original, and a little consideration of the geopolitics and alternatives, (along with first- and second-hand experience of sibling and group dynamics) unfolds the whole messy interpersonal aspect of the setup of the situation, leading stage by stage inescapably yet not with absolute inevitability to the prophesied Doom.
This scene, like the next, I had to build, and not merely re-present in modern unrhymed form; but the scene itself is merely gapfilling. The outlines of the unwritten cantos in LB describe the "meanwhiles" in Doriath, the sorrow at the flight of Lúthien, how "Thingol's heart was hardened against Beren despite words of Melian," and relate how during the unsuccessful search for Lúthien, Daeron splits off from the rest of the seekers and disappears, with only rumors left through history of him wandering far in the East, where his flute might yet be heard. Celegorm's embassy shows up, and the letter, and the ambassadors, are so obnoxious, stating that "Beren and Felagund are dead, that Celegorm will make himself king of Narog, and while telling him that Lúthien is safe in Nargothrond and treating for her hand, hints that she will not return," and also warning him against troubling the matter of the Silmarils, that "Thingol is wroth — and is moved to think better of Beren, while yet blaming for the woes that followed his coming to Doriath, and most for loss of Dairon." And so he prepares an army to invade Nargothrond.
Subsequently, however, things get even more complicated."Melian says she would forbid this evil war of Elf with Elf, but that never shall Thingol cross blade with Celegorm." The army sets out, but before they get too far they hit another invading Orc-host, sent out by Sauron in hopes of catching Lúthien, as the rumors of her wandering have reached the Enemy. Thingol's forces are victorious, and the King slays the Orc-chieftain himself, fighting with Mablung at his side.
(It is not clear whether it was the leader of the first Orc-raid, as in the completed portion, or the second raider captain, who was to be finally named Boldog, as in the outline; I'm going by the former, as that's the only instance where the enemy commander's name is relevant. I'm also going with the assumption that there were two raids, and that these were but the latest of many attempts on Doriath, not only on the basis of the LL fragments but also of the Lay of the Children of Hurin, where it is said of Sauron,
Thû who was thronéd as thane most mighty
neath Morgoth Bauglir; whom that mighty one bade
'Go ravage the realm of the robber Thingol,
and mar the magic of Melian the Queen.'
I also find it logical that these would be chronic attempts over the First Age, but significantly stepped up in the past decade following the breaking of the Leaguer and most particularly the acquisition of the Gaurhoth as forward regional command.)
"Though victorious Thingol is filled with still more disquiet at Morgoth's hunt for Lúthien. Beleg goes forth from the camp on Doriath's borders and journeys, unseen by the archers, to Narog. He brings tidings of the flight of Lúthien, the rescue of Beren, and the exile of Celegorm and Curufin."
This sentence is what I've expanded into the second scenelet of the Enteract — though much of the matter of it has indeed been made present already in Act III through Lúthien's warnings regarding the likelihood of such actions. It shows a far greater level of maturity, both in terms of strategy and restraint, than was shown by the Noldor under Fingon at Alqualondë, despite outrageous provocation — exactly what one would expect of a successful leader with many embattled centuries of experience — as well as the quality and loyalty of his people. There's no sense that there is anything terribly exceptional (aside from the fact that it would likely be impossible for any one else in Beleriand) about Beleg ghosting into the heart of potentially-hostile territory and staying long enough to hear all relevant facts so that Thingol will be informed enough to act as prudently as possible: he's "the chief of his scouts," it's simply his job.
Even though the Lay does not set out the familial connections between the House of Finwë and the sovereign of Doriath (which may well not have been fully defined at the time of its inception) the outlines make it clear that it is both offenses, and not merely that against Lúthien, nor the personal insult of it, which put Elu quite literally up in arms. "He is roused to wrath by the hints of the letter that Celegorm will leave Felagund to die, and will usurp the throne of Nargothrond," and there is an intimation of weregild in the demand for "recompense," in addition to material support in efforts to locate Lúthien, that was later sent to Maedhros et al as Thingol's considered response to the news. This is quite in keeping with the ancient views of kinship whereby siblings' children were (in ideal at least) considered to be no different from one's own; q.v. Théoden's adoption of his niece and nephew in LOTR. Plainly the friendly relations between the two Elf-kings, revealed in detail in Silm., (where after the revelation of the Kinslaying has blown over, as Thingol said it would, Finrod not only has his friendship, but the ability to persuade him against his inclinations and better judgement in the matter of the Haladin) are background, even as the Kinslaying, from the earliest development of Nargothrond as a City proper.
The increased demoralization of Doriath, which began with Daeron's revelation and the assigning of the Quest, and Lúthien's subsequent contagious despair, is inevitable, given the succession of losses and bad news; it also is in keeping with the interconnection of leadership and populace, and the complicit responsibility for bad decisions and consequent Fate in the ancient worldview.
Finally, Thingol's closing words are not incompatible with the statement in the outlines that "He renews his vow to imprison Beren for ever if he does not return with a Silmaril, though Melian warns him that he knows not what he says," in harking back to the earlier part of the Lay, when his first inclination is to execute Beren, and only the reluctant recollection of his promise prevents him. It is also in line with the ancient patterns of bad decisions progressively interfering with the ability to heed or perceive divine warnings, despite all best intentions, seen equally throughout the Silmarillion as the works of Aeschylus.
So while the specifics of the dialogue are my own devising, the substance and the scenario are entirely canonical.
This third is the most conjectured, but no less necessary or grounded in canon. It is noted in HOME (I think it's in Shaping of Middle-earth) that Morgoth was mocked behind his back by the Orcs after his loss, and given the caustic and sullen attitude of the rank-and-file in LOTR towards Sauron, it isn't much of a stretch, I think, to guess how it would have sounded. It's also possible thus to reconcile the apparently contradictory statements in Silm. that no songs were made about Fingolfin's Fall on either side, with the Lay's that "Orcs would after laughing tell" of the Duel, the answer being, —only when there was no chance of him overhearing! Dark Lords tend not to be the sort of easy-going commanders willing to turn an indulgent eye to such things as "morale checks" [a one-fingered salute] or the ribald songs that even Julius Caesar tolerated from his armies.
As for the substance of the griping — there's no guesswork about that at all. It's horribly yet hilariously clear that Sauron didn't make anything like a full, free, and frank disclosure of the circumstances surrounding the loss of his command. What he left out, and what he did say, can be reconstructed from the events that followed and the words of the Lay:
Then his heart with doubt and wrath was burned:
new tidings of dismay he learned,
how Thû was o'erthrown and his strong isle
broken and plundered, how with guile
his foes now guile beset; and spies
he feared, till each Orc to his eyes
was half suspect. Still ever down
the aisléd forests came renown
of Huan baying, hound of war
that Gods unleashed in Valinor.
Then Morgoth of Huan's fate bethought
long-rumoured, and in dark he wrought.
Fierce hunger-haunted packs he had
that in wolvish form and flesh were clad,
but demon spirits dire did hold…
From these a whelp he chose and fed
with his own hand on bodies dead,
on fairest flesh of Elves and Men,
till huge he grew and in his den
no more could creep, but by the chair
of Morgoth's self would lie and glare
nor suffer Balrog, Orc, nor beast
to touch him…
There deep enchantment on him fell,
the anguish and the power of hell;
more great and terrible he became
with fire-red eyes and jaws aflame…
Him Carcharoth, the Red Maw name
the songs of Elves. Not yet he came
disastrous, ravening, from the gates
of Angband. There he sleepless waits
where those great portals threatening loom…
and none may walk, nor creep, nor glide,
nor thrust with power his menace past
to enter Morgoth's dungeons vast.
So, the reports — sent from a safe distance by airborne courier — clearly contained no mention whatsoever of Lúthien, and quite possibly none of Beren, but plenty about disguised Noldor warrior-mages, and most of all about Huan. After all, which sounds better?
"We apprehended a dozen hostiles attempting to infiltrate the DMZ disguised as our troops, and following routine processing discovered that the mission was comprised of not only one of the four top enemy commanders-in-chief but also that rebel human we thought had been napalmed a year ago. Subsequently the Valinorean Wolfkiller arrived on scene in company with Target Number Two and the two of them proceeded to sucker all my elite guard into an ambush and forced me to surrender at fangpoint, following which she used the self-destruct codes I had to give her to buy my life to demolish the base. We haven't yet determined if the two events were in any way connected, or what the adversaries' rationale for the attacks was. Please furnish more troops and a new HQ,"
"An elite enemy strike team led by the CIC of Nargothrond, disguised as one of our own units, and supported by the Valinorean Wolfkiller, made a stealth assault in an effort to retake the fortress. We took heavy casualties and although I swiftly detected their presence, successfully negated their mind-control attempts and survived personal combat on both physical and magical levels, I was unable to maintain control of the area and was forced to take steps that ensured the complete destruction of the base, thereby denying it to our adversaries. Unfortunately none of the Noldor unit survived for interrogation, but we are reviewing the after-action data and scrutinizing it to determine the rationale and timing of the attack. I am presently reorganizing my remaining forces in a secure location and will personally report to you as soon as I have avenged my honor and made the enemy pay for this."
The second summary is a whole lot more plausible-sounding, in every sense, and in Primary World terms as well, as anyone with any close experience of actual (non-Hollywood) military matters will aver. It's amazing what can be finessed in reports in terms like "routine replacements" or "inadvertent contact" — though the consequences, if and when the facts get out, can be far more unpleasant than owning up in the first place.
And this coverup worked both for and against Morgoth, because nobody outside Angband had any idea that Carcaroth had been rapidly force-grown as a fail-safe defense against the Hound of Valinor, which made for an extremely nasty surprise when discovered — but Morgoth had no idea that the most dangerous part of the equation was in fact that scared, unarmed, 1300-something Elven singer he'd been trying so long to acquire for personal as well as political reasons. Another example of the danger in getting what you've wished for…
And now we come to the closure and the summation of the whole bizarre project, the resolution that made all the preceding continuations possible, because I couldn't figure out a way to make it work at first until I realized that I could tell it in retrospect and completely change the tone and focus without it being inappropriate (at least in theory.) Some readers have understood the subtitle, and have been horrified at the prospect, to which the only answer I have been able to make is, "Yeah, me too."
There are a few brief remarks that need to be made at the outset. First of all, there are a few devices in the technical sense that allow this to work, which are not strictly canonical. The dedication at the opening, to Lucian and TSE, is not thrown in for looks. In fact, those who know those authors well might feel some trepidation at those lines as much as at the "disclaimer" that follows them. Eliot invited the Furies home to dinner after a disastrous vacation cruise in The Family Reunion, and Lucian needs to be more widely read throughout the science fiction and fantasy world for having gone far above and beyond in his pursuit of mythological accuracy, visiting Hades to interview Charon and his passengers, ascending to Olympus to interview Zeus himself, and sailing beyond the Gates of Hercules to find Homer himself on the Blessed Isles and ask him that that burning question in an attempt to solve the great literary controversy — what deep meaning was there in the opening lines of the Iliad, "Sing, goddess &c"—?
As Homer, in the True History of Lucian's impossible journey, replies over a glass of nectar, that it just happened to pop into his head, you can gather that his take on the myths in these metafics is somewhat less than ponderous. Riddled with bad puns and biting social commentary, you do not want to read Dialogues with the Dead or Dialogues with the Gods while eating or drinking anything. And Fishers, where the great Philosophers are given a travel-pass by Hades so that they can come up from the Underworld and beat Lucian up for parodying them in his Auction skit, is both hilarious and a great consolation to any student afflicted by academic pomposity.
What has all this to do with Arda? Well, aside from Lucian being practically the patron saint of fanfiction, there's a more than good chance that Tolkien was familiar with his work, being after all a classicist. In fact, it's quite possible that C. S. Lewis who makes use of one of Lucian's devices and refers to him in The Great Divorce, was introduced to his work by JRRT. And the alternation of flippancy and earnestness is very similar to the tone of Farmer Giles of Ham, or the dry asides and comments on the foibles of Shire-folk. But it is not mere mockery, his parodying, because it provides not only a refreshingly unponderous take on the classical myths, but also in doing so provides insights into those very legends and distant figures. —What would it have been like to be Hera, coping with having Ganymede around the palace, or Paris, being bribed by three Immortals to fix the judging of a beauty pageant, or the Gatekeeper of the Underworld, dealing day after day with clueless arrivals who haven't yet realized that being a famous sports hero Upstairs doesn't mean anything now?
In his interview with Zeus, Lucian notices a complicated amplification system built into the King of the Gods' study, which proves to be a sort of prayer-filter, through which the petitions of mortals can come to his attention. This, and the subsequent discussion of which pleas are answered, and how, has its reflection in my own device of the Loom. As a device, it serves a more important purpose than merely being a humorous modernism — it allows for information to be conveyed in the context of the story both plausibly and without endless expository dialogues, making it possible to get to what (I think) are the more important problems. Other solutions throughout (no specifics for spoiler reasons) which may seem no less dubious, are also borrowed from Lucian , but can at least be justified if not proven. (Surely you didn't think the Norns wove with ordinary wool? nor even a rayon-silk blend.)
But the most important things (and many of the minor ones as well) can all be backed up with HOME textual citations — even some of the more surprising ones. (All of which will be marked in these Notes as appropriate.)
You may also have noticed that there is an homage to old movies, of which I am a long-time fan, in the noir setting, and the casting of the Powers. As always, I cast by voice and presence — performers who have and thus can convey the necessary ranges of strength and nuance, not merely pretty faces; though again, as always, these are merely my own choices, and as with any play other casts might be assembled. Obviously this episode is impossible to stage — though if it weren't, this is where the special-effects budget would go — and so can only exist in the interface between "this glassy square" and the readers' imagination. But if it were to be done (and likewise the entire Script) ideally it would be animated by a collaboration of the greatest animators, (personally I favor Leiji Matsumoto and Hiyao Miyazaki) working under the direction of, yes, a Disney artist — the late, incomparable Kay Nielsen.
It's true: the renowned illustrator — and set designer! — was for a time employed at Disney's studios, though the only surviving work of his which actually made it to the screen was the very brief scene at the end of Fantasia, where candlebearers process into a cathedral to the "Ave Maria" a sequence which instantly made me think of Nielsen when I first saw it, without knowing he was actually responsible for it. He had, however, been working on sketches for a "Ride of the Valkyries" sequence — and a Little Mermaid feature length film which would not in any way have resembled the one which was eventually released. Alas, they didn't happen. But we can imagine what might have been, and since Nielsen was responsible for popularizing "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," I'd like to have him helm this production too. (Coincidentally, the famous "Sorcerer's Apprentice" sequence in Fantasia is taken from an episode in one of Lucian's narratives, brooms and all.)
Finally, — does it work? It may prove to be an impossibility which should not have been attempted. this endeavor to steer between the Scylla of mawkishness and the Charybdis of buffoonery, whilst evading the Clashing Rocks of Canonicity and Artistic License. Nevertheless — Excelsior!
Oh, and the title? It comes from Lúthien's own description of Beren, to his face, in a moment of extreme exasperation — the point at which he is just about to set off on his own to infiltrate Angband, when she and Huan have finally caught up to him. That passage, from Canto XI of the first Lay of Leithian fragment, is key — to understanding not only Lúthien's character, and not only the Lay itself, but also the entire Arda mythos. And I don't think I'm exaggerating.
"this glassy square" — Gower's speech recalls the intrusive reminder of the physical setting of the play during the narration of Henry V, in which the theatre is called "this wooden O" and the audience requested to imagine the fleets of sea-going ships, the cannons being loaded, the horses and royal panoply of war which 16th-century special effects units couldn't provide — which, by making such an acknowledgment, that this is only a play, and a mere homage to events, and nothing really like, allows the process of suspending disbelief to proceed with an untroubled subconscious.
"Ainulindalë" and "Valaquenta," in the vernacular: I make no real apology for the informality and down-to-earth characterization of the Valar, jarring though it undoubtedly is. After all, the formality and reverential tone in which their doings are recorded is a necessary aspect of celestials' doings being apprehended by younger, more limited beings — but that doesn't mean that that is how they appear to themselves. On the contrary: the glimpses we get of them "up close and personal" together with remarks like that in Ainulindalë to the effect that it's useless going to Tulkas for advice, since he's preoccupied by the present and doesn't take the long-range view at all, suggest a lively and somewhat uninhibited bunch, far from stodgy, who don't necessarily behave in the way that younger races would consider appropriate for deities.
It isn't just that their own original language, invented for use in a material dimensions, was considered harsh and "like the glitter of swords" by the Elves of Aman, who endlessly refined theirs to make it more melodious. After all, the one Power we get to know quite well in Tolkien's writings is pushy, impatient, sarcastic, appreciative of good food — and drink! — and lamentably given to practical jokes, like leaving "Burglar for hire" signs on the doors of unsuspecting homeowners, or making terrifying pyrotechnic special-effects to shake up a tipsy bunch of partygoing townsfolk…
The reference to the Eagle is a dual one — yet I think the secondary reference must have been intended by the author as well, and not really original to me. In the original texts from which the published Silmarillion narrative of the Geste was harmonized, it is mentioned (HOME:Lost Road & Shaping) that there were stories that she came alive to Mandos, either by crossing the Ice alone, herself, westwards (!) or that her mother had summoned one of the Eagles to carry her while she was dying over the Sea in a belated gesture of unselfishness, in the hopes that her daughter might be saved there; however these possibilities were discounted as unlikely even by the tellers, and the most probable that Lúthien in fact actually died, "fading" in the words of the various versions, out of grief, and went to Mandos in the usual manner, "down those dark ways that all must tread alone." (LT2, "The Tale of Tinúviel")
The reference to her travelling west via Eagle, however, is oddly reminiscent of another particular class of European folk-tales, most famously represented by "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," with which Tolkien was of course quite familiar. One of the sequences in this variant of the "Mastermaid" stories is the heroine's journeying through rugged mountainous lands, finding unexpected assistance, and when confronted with the need to make an impossible journey to the ends of the earth, across the sea, is aided by either the Winds themselves or by the King of the Eagles, who carry her to her destination and the rescue of the ensorcelled, sleeping, prince who is her long-lost husband. (There is something oddly familiar about that last, isn't there?)
So I have played with, or paid homage to, both sources with the suggestion that Lúthien must in fact struggle to reach the abode of the dead — and this too is not mere supposition on my part, based on world mythology and the preceding texture of the story, which has been far from easy on our heroine, as in one of the outline-drafts for the "lost cantos" of the Lay of Leithian, it speaks, following the lines, "the meeting and farewell of Beren and Tinúviel beneath Hirilorn. Burial of Huan and Beren," of the "Fading of Lúthien. Her journey to Mandos." (Emphasis mine.)
That it is described as a journey, and intended to warrant a descriptive section in the canto, indicates to me that it was not an easy jaunt. Eagles and other great birds have always been seen as spirit-messengers and bearers of the dead to the realms of immortality (q.v. the sculpted images of various Roman emperors being shown in apotheosis) in every culture around the globe; while the idea that Lúthien's Maiar side might take over while she was unbodied, leading to all kinds of distractions, has its inspiration in part in the distractibility of immortals by the natural world demonstrated by Voronwë in UT, "Of Tuor and his coming to Gondolin" — which would, as Silm. describes and Act IV shows, be exacerbated for those who are not only immortal but Immortal. That the Eagles, being who they are, great Maiar serving Manwë as messengers, exist in both the Seen and the Unseen realms is hardly to be questioned.
"More frail were Men, more easily slain by weapon or mischance, subject to ills, or grew old
and died. What befell their spirits the Eldalië knew not. The Eldar said that they went to the halls
of Mandos, but that their place of waiting was not that of the Elves, and Mandos under Ilúvatar
knew alone whither they went after the time in his wide halls beyond the western sea. They were
never reborn on earth, and none ever came back from the mansions of the dead, save only Beren
son of Barahir, who after never spoke to mortal Men. Maybe their fate after death was not in the
hands of the Valar."
(HOME: Shaping of Middle-earth)
Yes, Huan is present. (Of course he's present — where else would he be?) But this is not mere conjecture, nor this artist's sense of "fittingness," nor sentimentality, that puts the faithful Hound waiting in the Halls with his beloved master for their liege lady. In those outline-drafts for the unwritten parts, after the line, "The wolf-hunt and death of Huan and Beren," follows the line, "The recall of Beren and Huan." So — he was always intended to be at Beren's side in Mandos, and after all, what would else would you expect of him? What he did there, and what followed that joint recalling, are sadly left to our imaginations: this is the result of mine.
Considering that the Valar, in no recorded chronicle, are shown to have acted in haste and without deliberation, that there was a prolonged and widening discussion before ever Námo appealed to Manwë for assistance in solving the dilemma, (which as the mortal Bard reminds us was not solely the Doomsman's decision) is not completely implausible.
Tulkas & Nessa, respectively, are the patrons of Husband and Wife (note that they are not the patrons of couples, in the collective, which honor belongs to a different pair of demiurges) as well as being known for fighting (or rather, indeed, brawling), friendship, good cheer, and lively athletics. They are not famous for hard-headed logic or technical skills. This description of them, and the detailed story of Tulkas showing up out of the blue to the rescue during the primordial wars against Melkor and his subsequent marriage to Nessa may be found in Silm., "Valaquenta: Of the Valar" and "Of the Beginning of Days."
Finrod: The Grey Annals, the chronicles of Beleriand kept by the folk of Doriath, relate (among other details of the Quest) that Finrod was not long in the Halls of Mandos. Bearing in mind that "not long" does not necessarily mean the same thing for Elves as for mortals, it is still a very significant remark — for it inevitably leads to the question, How did they know? The Grey Annals being what they were, unless the notation is a "later scribal interpolation" it must necessarily predate the War of Wrath — which is the only point in the First Age after the Flight of the Noldor when corporeal, surface-traversing travellers arrive out of the West.
This means there are only two possible sources of this information. The first, least likely, is via the Eagles, who travel freely between the continents — but there is not much indication that they spend a great deal of time bringing news to people in Beleriand, or dealing with any save the people of Gondolin on a regular basis; nor would there be any probable way for the news to arrive from Gondolin between the Geste and the fall of Doriath, since the only significant egress from the Hidden Kingdom was during the disastrous expedition to the battle that would become known as the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, and there was not a lot of time for chatting and catching up for Turgon at that debacle, and the already shattered state of communications and travel in Beleriand post-Bragollach became a nightmare of Enemy occupation. So, barring a post-fall-of-Gondolin rewrite at the Havens, when the survivors of Gondolin united with the remnants of Doriath and Cirdan's following (or even later revision), there is one probable answer — and that is Beren and Lúthien themselves, upon their final return to Menegroth.
Now, this could, logically, have merely been conveyed to them; they might have only asked, and/or been told the news — that, perhaps, he had already been released. My reasons for taking a different tack are again, not mere sentimentality, but as with Huan's presence, a way of exploring a huge number of ramifications, implications, and cultural aspects of Valinorean history in a natural and dramatic manner. Because, after all, if he were still there — does anyone seriously think he wouldn't be meddling, too?
Amarië: the facts of the case are few, but significant: we know that she was Finrod's true-love; we know that she was of the Vanyar, like his grandmother; we know that she did not go with him to Middle-earth, but remained behind in the West, at her family's wishes. From this, and from a few other things, we can however deduce a good bit more. Being of the Fair Elves, she would indeed be "pious and godsfearing" — but in the rarified, heady way almost of archangels themselves, not any sort of benighted folk-supersition, because the home of her people is literally right down the hill from Taniquetil, and so they walk among the gods most of all of the Eldar, and have the greatest and most direct knowledge of them, since they and their lord Ingwë were the first and most ready to join the Valar — and, since they are most concerned with music and understanding, in a mystical sense, unlikely to sympathize much with the desire for or interest in things, whether as collectibles or as technology, and even less likely to sympathize with rivalry, strife, and instability.
So much for generalizations. In specific, one can safely say that her family took a dim view of the proposed union, since it was in obedience to their objections that she did not join Finrod in the Return — and that she was extremely angry with him as well, because she obeyed them. If they had not had such misgivings, it is unlikely, given the deep reluctance displayed to break up or block even the most ill-advised of lovers in Aman, Finwë and Indis, that they would have been so forceful about it. It is essential to remember that Elenwë, the wife of Turgon, who died in the course of the Crossing, was Vanyar as well. (Why might they have objected to Finrod, one might ask, who after all is part-Vanyar himself? There is a very good answer in the fact of his extremely contentious extended family, who by this time were deeply embroiled in feuding and had been for quite a few years.) And if Amarië herself had not been furious with him, it is unlikely, given the generally-intractable nature of the Eldar, male and female, who feature in the chronicles of the First Age, that any parental disapproval would have sufficed to restrain her from going. (Again, I point to the example of Elenwë.)
Why furious? Well, Vanyar or not, the Eldar are proud. Rejection isn't something they deal with well at all, as the stories indicate. And to be set second, below either (in less-rational moments) mere things, like treasure and vengeance, or (in more cool-headed recollection) other people, Noldor friends and relatives, all of whom have forsaken peace and gratitude and cooperation for greed and self-aggrandizement — or worst of all, the lure of far-off lands and strangers, quite incomprehensible to the Vanyar, content to dwell where they are and needing no more from life than what they have — is a hard thing for a relationship.
And, of course, she ought to be a match for Finrod — in the medieval sense, that is, where the concept of mate included the notion that both parties were equally matched and appropriate for each other on many different levels — unless of course one takes the view that it was an ill-advised, youthful folly, and they were neither of them suited for each other at all, which is a bit hard to justify, given that Finrod at least was over a hundred at the time of the Return: not exactly a smitten young fifty-year-old with no experience of judging character, his own included. If they are really soul-mates, then Amarië is bound to be just as intelligent, perceptive, good-willed, and energetic as her would-be consort. (Which is rather a frightening thought, actually: not one, but two of them, working in tandem?) But a messy break-up, and four-hundred-sixty-plus years to brood about it, and the conviction of unshakable moral superiority, is a very bad situation to start over from.
—In other words, they're Doomed. (Think Nargothrond, and Finrod's response to rejection before the assembled folk there. Mirror it. —Take cover.)
"daughter of twilight" — Amarië's epithet is actually merely the literal meaning of her given name, Tinúviel, being the etymology of the word for nightingale. The situation becomes particularly ironic if it is borne in mind throughout that Lúthien is the daughter of one of the Ainur.
garment of hair: as well as recognizing the fact that there is something definitely outré about Lúthien's "magic," this is an invocation of later events in Doriath, and the insulting joke that Saeros — a relative newcomer to that realm, as well as seriously lacking in tact and judgment — makes to Túrin about the women of Dor-lomin. If Túrin had only waited a moment longer before hitting Saeros, someone else (once the stunned disbelief had worn off) would very likely have done it for him.
"in trouble" — the idea that Finrod and his staunchest supporters would be a significantly disruptive force in the Halls of Awaiting is based on the ceaseless energy that the King displayed in his lifetime, from taking charge of the March over the Helcaraxë to maintaining a vast communications network and overseeing it personally, and the sense that death, and Mandos itself, doesn't automatically change a person or individual personality. The hazards of having a relentlessly-inquisitive, adventurous, well-meaning speculative metaphysician famously known for underground building projects — and ten martial companions absolutely committed to him — on the premises also make for an amusing contrast with all the descriptions of the Halls in prose and poetry as a place of stillness, profound quiet, tranquility and meditation. (It also provides me at least with a great deal of diversion, considering the problems posed by the existence of a genuine, honest-to-goodness Philosopher King.)
There should be a noticeable difference between the attitudes of the Ten (with individual variation, of course) now and in their interactions with Beren back in Act II, which were characterized by admiration, respect, and affection, but with a certain reserve — which is now entirely vanished. They have journeyed, fought, been POWs, suffered, and died together; he is no longer an honoured, but essentially-alien ally, nor is their respect for him due to the storied deeds of a stranger, nor their affection secondhand, so to speak, the inheritance of his father and kin.
Meássë: in LT1, she's named as one who brings mead to the guests in the hall of Tulkas, and a warrior-goddess — in other words, she's a valkyrie. Tulkas, however, is no Odin, and Nessa nothing like Erde, so it only makes sense that their followers would also be of more cheery disposition.
Fëanor: nowhere does it say that Finwë's eldest son was kept in solitary confinement — what it does say is that "he comes no more among his kin," which could be a poetic way of saying that he can't — but since any number of his kin have also been in the Halls of Mandos during subsequent Ages, and given the usual understanding of a phrase like "So-and-so never comes to visit", a reasonable conclusion is that his isolation is voluntary, though not unconnected with the reasons that he will be there for the forseeable future. (It is also imporant for fellow HOME junkies to bear in mind that at this juncture the Second Prophecy concerning the Dagor Dagorath has not been made: Túrin is still a small child and Tuor not yet born, far less his son Eärendil — and Morgoth not yet exiled to the Void, far less his future return predicted.) Whether it is for reasons of remorse, denial, pride, or combinations of all three, the implication is that until the War is ended, he will not be ready, or willing, or able, to break free of what the Vedic authors call maya, self-maintained illusions about the world and one's role in it, and attain dharma, the state of righteous harmony characterized by clarity of vision and purpose untainted by selfishness.
Glaurung: this is of course an invocation of LOTR:FOTR, "A Long-Expected Party," and just as that sequence has deeper and darker resonances, so too this, since that "golden worm" will ultimately conquer Orodreth and hold power as the last King in Nargothrond.)
Roch: as subsequent lines hopefully make clear, this is just Sindarin for horse.
"Healers" — any reader of Silm. who doesn't think Lúthien's handling of the situation merits awe hasn't spent much time dealing with trauma while violence is still on-going — or thinking about it (or even taking people to the emergency room.)
Beren's comment about the left-over gouges from Fingolfin's duel with Morgoth now some twelve years back come from the Lay of Leithian and the outlines, where the "pitted plain" is specifically noted as they approach the guarded Gates of Angband.
"under Morgoth's seat" — Note what two pertinent facts Beren has omitted, as he describes their infiltration attempt.
Beren's description of the great hall of Angband, Lúthien duelling with Morgoth, the account of the Iron Crown falling like a wheel of thunder, Beren frantically trying to pull the stone off, then remembering the knife, its subsequent breaking, their panicked flight, forgetting their disguises, and getting cornered by Carcharoth in the hallway, all come from LL1, Canto XIII.
"fireballs" — all this sequence, as described by Beren, is actually canonical, coming from an outline for the unwritten Cantos (the bracketed words are somewhat smudged in the penciled original and conjectural):
"Carcharoth goes mad and drives all [orcs] before him like a wind. The sound of his awful howling causes rocks to split and fall. There is an earthquake underground. Morgoth's wrath on waking. The gateway [falls] in and hell is blocked, and great fires and smokes burst from Thangorodrim. Thunder and lightning. Beren lies dying before the gate. Tinúviel's song as she kisses his hand and prepares to die. Thorondor comes down and bears them amid the lightning that [stabs] at them like spears and a hail of arrows from the battlements. They pass above Gondolin and Lúthien sees the white city far below, [gleaming] like a lily in the valley."
Yup, they were those Eagles — old Thorondor and his two kids Gwaihir and Landroval. For some reason still obscure to me, Christopher Tolkien decided that having them be the same as in LOTR was somehow wrong, and edited out their names from the published Silm., along with other small asides, important and less-so. (The story-within-a-story about Lúthien's tears falling to the ground during their flight and causing a spring to well up, a legend of Beleriand which might be true, evocative of various classical myths, is charming, but not crucial; the bit that refers to the Eschaton is not the first, but definitely the latter.) This rescue-under-heavy-fire is more than deserving of a DFC, I should think.
His being trapped in an unpleasant dream-world is also described in the Silmarillion, but earlier in LL1, Canto X, he has had a similar experience, if much shorter, during the night when he was being healed of the arrow-wound by Lúthien:
The shadows fell from mountains grim.
Then sprang about the darkened North
the Sickle of the Gods, and forth
each star there stared in stony night
radiant, glistering cold and white.
But on the ground there is a glow,
a spark of red that leaps below:
under woven boughs beside a fire
of crackling wood and sputtering briar
there Beren lies in drowsing deep,
walking and wandering in sleep.
Watchful bending o'er him wakes
a maiden fair; his thirst she slakes,
his brow caresses, and softly croons
a song more potent than in runes
or leeches' lore hath since been writ.
Slowly the nightly watches flit.
The misty morning crawleth grey
from dusk to the reluctant day.
Then Beren woke and opened eyes,
and rose and cried, 'Neath other skies,
in lands more awful and unknown,
I wandered long, methought, alone
to the deep shadow where the dead dwell;
but ever a voice that I knew well,
like bells, like viols, like harps, like birds,
like music moving without words,
called me, called me through the night,
enchanted drew me back to light!
Healed the wound, assuaged the pain!
Now we are come to morn again,
new journeys once more lead us on—
to perils whence life may be won,
hardly for Beren; and for thee
a waiting in the wood I see,
beneath the trees of Doriath,
while ever follow down my path
the echoes of thine elvish song,
where hills are haggard and roads are long.'
And they pick up fighting right where they left off the day before… (Beren's arguments to her as he has reported them to the Ten, as to why they cannot just camp out in the woods forever are almost exactly as they are given in the following verses of the Canto, by the way.)
chaos in Doriath: this is described tersely but clearly in the outline-drafts:
"The embassy meets the onslaught of Carcharos who by fate or the power of the Silmaril bursts into Doriath. All perish save Mablung who brings the news. Devastation of the woods. The wood-elves flee to the caves."
This is followed by the note that the three travelers find the woods eerily silent and empty as they proceed towards Menegroth.
The story of Beren aiding Finrod in the earlier verbal combat with Sauron derives from LL1, Canto VII, where (since "Detect Alignment" isn't infallible in Middle-earth) the arrested Eldar are commanded by a suspicious junior Dark Lord to swear a terrible oath of fealty to Morgoth which curses all life and creation along with the Powers in a primal two-minute-hate — something which if they were true minions they would not balk at, but which they cannot bring themselves to utter even literally to save their lives (remembering that words have binding force in Arda) — so Beren leaps into the breach, so to speak, by mouthing off to the Lord of Wolves in a diversionary attempt at FUJIGMO:
'…Whom do you serve, Light or Mirk?
Who is the maker of mightiest work?
Who is the king of earthly kings,
the greatest giver of gold and rings?
Who is the master of the wide earth?
Who despoiled them of their mirth,
the greedy Gods? Repeat your vows,
Orcs of Bauglir! Do not bend your brows!
Death to light, to law, to love!
Cursed be moon and stars above!
May darkness everlasting old
that waits outside in surges cold
drown Manwë, Varda, and the sun!
May all in hatred be begun,
and all in evil ended be,
in the moaning of the endless Sea!'
But no true Man nor Elf yet free
would ever speak that blasphemy,
and Beren muttered: 'Who is Thû
to hinder work that is to do?
Him we serve not, nor to him owe
obeisance, and we now would go.'
Thû laughed: 'Patience! Not very long
shall ye abide. But first a song
I will sing to you, to ears intent.'
Then his flaming eyes he on them bent,
and darkness black fell round them all.
Only they saw as through a pall
of eddying smoke those eyes profound
in which their senses choked and drowned.
And the battle begins in earnest…
"Great Chief" — the "name" Boldog which causes so much confusion in the examination of the draft versions and outlines of the Lay in LB may not actually be a proper name at all, but a title, like Khan or Imperator, and thus might not have been intended to refer to any one orc-chieftain, but to whichever of them was acclaimed leader (no doubt after surviving rounds of challenge first, like Uglûk in LOTR:TTT) of the battle-group instead. This solution (another "yes" to an-either or, I'm afraid) occurred to me after finding the word means "powerful" + "slayer" which strongly evokes a ritual epithet, rather than a personal name, (though it could of course be both.) Thus, the Boldog sent to capture Lúthien after Morgoth discovers rumours of her flight, and who is killed in combat by Thingol while the Northern forces are destroyed by the army of Doriath on its way to Nargothrond, doesn't have to be the same Boldog whose was earlier killed testing Doriath's borders, the lack of current information concerning which event caused such disastrous results.
letter: that the infamous missive concerning not only Lúthien but Beren and Finrod sent to Thingol by Celegorm and Curufin was afterwards returned to Orodreth by his great-uncle, is found in the outlines; the method, that there was a river path along Esgalduin that was a regular line of communication between the two kingdoms, is mentioned in UT, "Narn i Hin Húrin," where Morwen, threatening to attempt her own crossing of Sirion, is taken to it by Mablung:
"Will you not return?"
"No!" she said.
"Then I must help you," said Mablung, "though it is against my own will. Wide and deep here is Sirion, and perilous to swim for beast or man."
"Then bring me over by what ever way the Elven-folk are used to cross," said Morwen, "or else I will try the swimming."
Therefore Mablung led her to the twilight meres. There amid the creeks and reeds ferries were kept hidden and guarded on the east shore; for by that way messengers would pass to and fro between Thingol and his kin in Nargothrond.
It is an irony that doubtless did not much amuse her parents, that while they were looking for her, and after they had given up hope of finding her, Lúthien was in fact inside the borders of Doriath, fending not only for herself but the convalescent Beren, with Huan's help.
Beren's wretched Sindarin accent grating on Thingol and conveying the impression of deliberate disrespect is not only to be found in HOME but intriguingly mirrors a conversation reported in Letters between Professor Tolkien and an officer from New England during WWII — the young Yankee rather obstreperously challenged JRRT's British accent as phoney and put-on, and was somewhat surprised to learn that not only was it quite unaffected, his own "normal" American accent sounded, to his interlocutor, equally affected, as if he were deliberately trying to sound uncouth. (They also had a bit of a heated discussion on the matter of feudalism, not too surprisingly.) After this eye-opener (if such can properly be used of a matter strictly aural) however, the American became much less obnoxious, according to JRRT, and willing to look at such subjective impressions from a more objective and technical light, and they parted on good terms. (Myself, I wonder where in the Northeast the kid was from: up in the northern hills and to the west, the accent is surprisingly "southern," being part of the original Appalachian farming culture — this is undoubtedly how Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, from Maine, was able to convince a group of Southern soldiers he was one of their officers, and so escape capture during the Civil War. But some of the Boston-area dialects are so gruesomely distorted as to cause physical pain in out-of-state listeners: if you get the for-me-many-years-incomprehensible joke, "I'm outta here like a bald guy," you will begin to gather why.)
Daeron: it's unlikely that they would have learned about the bard slipping off during the chaos of the initial searches for the escaped princess, though remotely possible that Huan might have heard from his avian contacts. My assumption is that everyone had more pressing things on their minds than wondering about someone presumably safe at home.
Melian & Thingol honeymooning in Dorthonion is mentioned almost at the very beginning of the second Lay fragment, in what is surely not a coincidence, as well as in Silm., "Of Beren and Lúthien," — "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."
Beleg: as Thingol's chief Ranger, and given his exploits at infiltrating Nargothrond to bring back the news of Lúthien's further flight and the exile of the sons of Fëanor, he would be the most likely candidate for such an intelligence mission.
That Carcharoth was intended and put in place as an anti-Huan device is not in question — post-disaster (at least from Morgoth's viewpoint it was a disaster) investigations indicating the presence of Huan at the debacle of Tol Sirion, a panicked Dark Lord took quick and urgent steps in the following weeks to set up an effective (hopefully) defense system against Giant Sentient Invincible-Except-By-Prophecy Hounds of Valinor. This is stated in the rough drafts: "Morgoth…thinks it is Huan and fashions a vast wolf—Carcharas—mightiest of all wolves to guard his door," and in slightly different wording,
"Morgoth hears of the ruin of Thû's castle. His mind is filled with misgiving and anger. The gates
of Angband strengthened; because of the rumour of Huan he
fashions the greatest chooses the fiercest wolf from all the whelps of his packs, and feeds him on flesh of Men and Elves, and enchants him so that he
becomes the most great and terrible of all beasts that ever have been— Carcharos."
Canto XII goes into it at some length, detailing the rationale behind it and the morbid processes by which one force-grows a super-werewolf, which I will quote here again:
Then came word
most passing strange of Lúthien
wild-wandering by wood and glen,
and Thingol's purpose long he weighed,
and wondered, thinking of that maid
so fair, so frail. A captain dire,
Boldog, he sent with sword and fire
to Doriath's march; but battle fell
sudden upon him: news to tell
never one returned of Boldog's host,
and Thingol humbled Morgoth's boast.
Then his heart with doubt and wrath was burned:
new tidings of dismay he learned,
how Thû was o'erthrown and his strong isle
broken and plundered, how with guile
his foes no guile beset; and spies
he feared, till each Orc to his eyes
was half suspect. Still ever down
the aisléd forest came renown
of Huan baying, hound of war
that Gods unleashed in Valinor.
Then Morgoth of Huan's fate bethought
long rumoured, and in dark he wrought.
Fierce hunger-haunted packs he had
that in wolvish form and flesh were clad,
but demon spirits dire did hold;
and ever wild their voices rolled
in cave and mountain where they housed
and endless snarling echoes roused.
From these a whelp he chose and fed
with his own hand on bodies dead,
on fairest flesh of Elves and Men,
till huge he grew and in his den
no more could creep, but by the chair
of Morgoth's self would lie and glare,
nor suffer Balrog, Orc, nor beast
to touch him. Many a ghastly feast
he held beneath that awful throne,
rending flesh and gnawing bone.
There deep enchantment on him fell,
the anguish and the power of hell;
more great and terrible he became
with fire-red eyes and jaws aflame,
with breath like vapours of the grave,
than any beast of wood or cave,
than any beast of earth or hell
that ever in any time befell,
surpassing all his race and kin,
the ghastly tribe of Draugluin.
Him Carcharoth, the Red Maw, name
the songs of Elves. Not yet he came
disastrous, ravening, from the gates
of Angband. There he sleepless waits;
where those great portals threatening loom
his red eyes smoulder in the gloom,
his teeth are bare, his jaws are wide;
and none may walk, nor creep, nor glide,
nor thrust with power his menace past
to enter Morgoth's dungeon vast…
There is moreover a weird parallel between the clash/combination of Light and Dark powers in Melian versus Ungoliant, which results in the blighted area between Dorthonion and Doriath, the "Mountains of Terror," where the "poison of Death" that was in the Spider-demon and her lethal aura which has corrupted that region wars and merges with the healing, life-giving power of the Maia who was once part of the original domain of Lórien and a companion of the Vala of renewed life, Vána — and the situation of Carcharoth-plus-the-Silmaril. On the one hand, the entire physical being of Carcharoth is so corrupted on so many levels that contact with the Varda-blessed jewel sears him, just as it did Morgoth; yet on the other hand, containing the primal life-energies, undiminished, of the universe, it gives him inordinate power even as it burns him, so that he is maintained in a permanent state of destruction and renewing. In a way, he is but another casualty of the war, like Nan Dungortheb itself, since whatever pride and attraction to violence lured him to follow Melkor, this fallen Ainu can hardly have had any notion what he was getting himself into: if he weren't mad to begin with, such a grisly ordeal would certainly have made him so.
Melian telling Lúthien that Beren is still alive but captive, for,
'The Lord of Wolves hath prisons dark,
chains and enchantments cruel and stark,
there trapped and bound and languishing
now Beren dreams that thou dost sing'
is found in LL1, Canto V, when she asks the Maia what has become of him and gets the bad news. (There's so much elegant, understated sensuality in the Lay of Leithian fragments that I'm surprised they're not more widely known; I guess it's the understatement.) The differing attitudes towards sex, implicit and embodied in the fact of Elves celebrating the date of conception, not of birth, as age-marker, follow naturally from the greater unity with the natural world that is theirs (including body-mind, which makes conception a controllable and voluntary action on the part of parents) and spiritually Unfallen state (unlike mortals, their Fall is the rebellion of the Noldor, a much more limited corruption, though certainly no less devastating in its consequences.)
A reverential but entirely neurosis-free and non-aggressive attitude towards reproduction is the natural result — "seldom is told of any deeds of lust among them" — and although Beren coming from a much more "primitive" society as well as one whose culture is heavily influenced by Eldar beliefs and attitudes (and being for all practical purposes a devout pantheist) would be far less afflicted by the neuroses of "modern civilization," there is still a world of difference between regarding something as Mystery and therefore not casually or irreverently spoken of, and not regarding it as any different from the rest of everyday life at all. The affectionate teasing his comrades subject him to, born of their incomprehension of his embarrassment, is intended not only to point up this fact (and contrast it with contemporary attitudes in our world), but to illustrate the confusion that mortals in turn experienced while dealing with the Eldar, the apparent contradiction between their vast knowledge and sophistication, and the apparently-childlike "naiveté" which doesn't understand (as Men see it) the seriousness of things ("Athrabeth") — whereas to the Elves it appears that Men are both troubled and troublesome, and the recipients of "strange gifts." (Silm., "Of the Beginning of Days.")
It's not entirely unrelated to their differing approaches to the Powers, as well, and the cognitive dissonance that Beren has mentioned earlier when trying to cope with statements like "And then I asked Varda…" which also follows from the difference of their respective backgrounds, which only gets worse the more deities he encounters.
The Nargothrondish scholar's theory (it is safe to assume she is the same one who didn't end up helping Lúthien in Act III) about mortals being lesser spirits incarnated by Morgoth is a variant of a common Gnostic tradition: the idea that the spirit world alone is the creation of God, and the physical world that of Lucifer; this form of Duallism necessarily requires that procreation, and life (as we think of it, organic and biological) itself, be regarded as intrinsically evil, since both serve to imprison pure souls in a corrupt material plane.
The going-to-ground of Carcharoth as described in Silm. and the Tale of Tinúviel represents the big-game hunter's worst nightmare — even apart from sentience and demonic ferocity plus enhanced, off-the-scale size, to have a wounded, angry, invisible predator lurking in impassible territory as the sun goes down is one of those situations that no one trying to deal with a maneater ever wants to find one's self in.
"Then Mablung took up a
knife and ripped up the belly of the Wolf; and within he was wellnigh all consumed as with a fire,
but the hand of Beren that held the jewel was yet incorrupt. But when Mablung reached forth to
touch it, the hand was no more, and the Silmaril lay there unveiled, and the light of it filled the
shadows of the forest all about them. Then quickly and in fear Mablung took it and set it in Beren's
living hand; and Beren was aroused by the touch of the Silmaril, and held it aloft, and bade Thingol receive it.
'Now is the Quest achieved,' he said, 'and my doom full-wrought'; and he spoke no more."
"tarrying" — There are several different ways to tarry, and in a place where one isn't technically supposed to be. One can do so loudly, challengingly, demanding of one's rights, and asserting of them — which sometimes works, but isn't pleasant for anyone involved, whether it works or not. Or, one can do so unobtrusively, not making an issue of it, for as long as possible; this will often be overlooked, and sometimes not even noticed, by the earthly powers-that-be. (This is different from hiding, note, which only works as long as it is successful, since once discovered the authorities will take an extremely dim view of further tarrying.) How do I know about staying in places technically off-limits? Erm … Ahem. All we are told by the texts is that Beren — unlike any other known mortal, before or since — tarried there as per Lúthien's instructions, so we must imagine for ourselves what said tarrying would be like. Given his behaviour in Neldoreth, I tend to the second option as most likely — and followed by the same utter stubbornness that outstayed welcome in Dorthonion for eight years; though nonviolently, as it seems highly unlikely to me that the policy strictly maintained by the Valar of non-coercion and non-interference would suddenly be changed.
"wrath of Ossë" — that mercurial and hot-tempered deity is usually the one responsible for ocean storms and deadly waves, but there is at least one notable exception in the chronicles.
dew: excess energy from Telperion (in essence, small amounts of raw starlight) saved up in liquid form illuminates the Halls according to one legend.
That Beren was "reserved for torment" after Finrod's death is found in the Lay and the outline-drafts, as well as being implicit in the warning Sauron gave them, that if no one gave in, the last one would be tortured (in cruder, less psychological ways, that is) until he broke. However, since Finrod had accidentally given away their identities already while trying to convince Beren that it was a futile idea for him to think that he could save Finrod by turning himself in, and Sauron had already dismissed Beren as not knowing enough to be worth keeping alive, the only obvious remaining motive is vengeance, which is a pleasure the Lord of Wolves is willing to put off, while dealing with the present ongoing disturbance at his gates.
This casual disregard of the mortal as mere muscle, and not any longer a major player with Dorthonion effectively "pacified," is of course fortunate (and not indeed too uncommon in so-called intelligence services today, who all too often overlook key figures in conspiracy) as what would have happened, subsequently, had Sauron known, when Lúthien arrived, that it was her own true love he had in the dungeon, does not bear thinking about.
"Wild Man" — although there is no reference to the Druedain in the published Silm., this does not mean that they were not present in Beleriand, as is revealed in UT, where we find that they, although few, shy and solitary, were beloved by the Elves who encountered them for their gifts of mirth and laughter, and also were honored and in demand for their skills as trackers and ferocious enemies of the Orcs. (Readers may recall that in Act II, the sons of Fëanor have mockingly suggested that Beren might be one of them.) However, they (prudently, perhaps) preferred to keep to themselves, by and large, although there is a story about one shaman of the Woodwoses who protected the family of a close friend among the Haladin, at considerable cost to himself; this story, "The Faithful Stone," is interesting as well in that we find yet again in Arda the concept of imbuing an inanimate object with one's essence, to focus (in this case remotely) one's power so as to be effectively in two places at once.
Like everyone else in Beleriand, they were driven south by the successes of Morgoth and eventually forced to resettle in the eastern, remaining parts of Middle-earth after the Dark Lord's defeat. However, some of them even took advantage of the gift of the Valar and journeyed to Númenor, where they lived until that realm began its decline, returning to Middle-earth with the cryptic (yet prophetic) statements that the place was no longer stable. (Now there are potential stories that would be interesting to tell, and hear, about those adventurous deep-woods tribesfolk crossing the Sea and living on what would become Atalantë!)
Halmir: this was originally the name of a son of Orodreth killed by Orcs (as mentioned in LB, "The Lay of the Children of Húrin," Canto III) who disappears out of the later versions, though not it must be said necessarily out of history. I didn't include him in The Script because I felt that it would be too much of a distraction, too diffusive of the familial and social energies already at play in Nargothrond, and would weaken the dynamic of the Finduilas-Gwindor-Turin triangle. However, it would certainly be possible to do a fanfic set in Nargothrond, which would include the unfortunate Prince, and could quite effectively use, as is implied in LB, his capture and death while out on patrol as further reason for Orodreth's unwillingness to engage in offensive measures, and could also make quite effective use of his loss as yet another son-replacement factor in Turin's instant adoption as Young Champion of the King, against all rational probability. (If I were to do it, I would follow the friendship of Gwindor and his brother with the Prince's children, and emphasize Gwindor's role as a first son-substitute, after his friend Halmir's killing, in Orodreth's affections — which would make his defiance and subsequent loss at the Nirnaeth all the bitterer to Orodreth and make even more inevitable his own displacement by the Adanedhel as tanist. I don't have that story to write, myself, unfortunately, poignant though it would be.) But I have given his name to a fallen warrior of Nargothrond in tribute.
Beren saying he should have died and been buried with his dad comes from LL2, the Canto X fragments, where just before getting run down by the exiled sons of Fëanor he and Lúthien are having a heated argument over what they are going to do next:
"My word, alas, I now must keep
and not the first of men to weep
for oath in pride and anger sworn.
Too brief the meeting, brief the morn,
too soon comes night when we must part!
All oaths are for breaking of the heart,
with shame denied, with anguish kept.
Ah! would that now unknown I slept
with Barahir beneath the stone,
and thou wert dancing still alone,
unmarred, immortal, sorrowless,
singing in joy of Elvenesse.'
To which she, unimpressed, returns:
'That may not be. For bonds there are
stronger than stone or iron bar,
more strong than proudly spoken oath.
Have I not plighted thee my troth?
Hath love no pride nor honour then?
Or dost thou deem then Lúthien
so frail of purpose, light of love?
By stars of Elbereth above!
If thou wilt here my hand forsake
and leave me lonely paths to take,
then Lúthien will not go home—"
Considering this exchange in the light of what they've both just been through, here is all the warrant needed (if it should be needed) for the characterizations of Beren as a guilt-ridden depressive and Lúthien as sarcastic, impatient, and absolutely indomitable. (Also the Elven habit of swearing by the Stars.)
"reborn" — somewhat predictably, an affirmative answer for the rehousing-or-rebirth? controversy over Elvish reincarnation. It seems to me that the decision of those peoples who elected to stay behind in Middle-earth could be respected, allowing them to return there in the (to us) traditional mode of reincarnation, being reborn among their own kindred (even descendents, making it quite possible to be one's own grandparent) and eventually recalling their past experiences, thus adding layers of knowledge and understanding over time, like Vedic sages and heroes in the Mahabharata or the heroines of Celtic legend — or as it is said in the Quenta (HOME:Shaping of Middle-earth):
"Immortal were the Elves, and their wisdom waxed and grew from age to age, and no sickness or pestilence brought them death. But they could be slain with weapons in those days, even by mortal Men, and some waned and wasted with sorrow till they faded from the earth. Slain or fading their spirits went back to the halls of Mandos to wait a thousand years, or the pleasure of Mandos according to their deserts, before they were recalled to free life in Valinor, or sometimes were reborn, it is said, into their own children…"
Those who chose to come to Aman, on the other hand, and their descendents, not having the complicating problem of the almost-impassible Sea barrier, could be reincarnated right there, as soon as they were ready to return to the world, and pick up more or less where they left off. This would be a rather workable and fair system, but like any system would get bollixed up by intractable and anomalous cases, like that of someone who didn't want to be reincarnated at all regardless of what it meant to her family and friends, or who wanted to change his ethnicity to match his friends…
"Normal Use" — this is the modern military expression for requiring replacement of gear, or parts, indicating that they've either worn out or gotten broken in expected ways. I have it on extremely good authority that this can be (and invariably is) stretched to cover unauthorized (but done everyday) use of tools for purposes which they are not (at least by by the books) intended to be used for, such as using specialized cleaning implements as prybars and replacing the skid of a helicopter which the C.O. had managed to intersect with the top of a tree… Given the literate, record-keeping society of the Noldor, contrasted with the intractable, independent nature of the Eldar generally, something like this is bound to happen (when it doesn't become overt non-compliance, as illustrated in Act III.)
The unfortunate (for everyone) Lieutenant Telumnar we have encountered already, in Act III, via the documents left behind by Finrod, outlining his discussions with the Captain over promotions, which Orodreth belatedly has discovered. The idea that good commanders know what they need, and don't need, to know about, is applicable to many situations, from parenting to organizing a business — though the opposites, at both extremes, are more obviously to be found. (One example of a leader who fails to grasp the fact that not everything needs to be micromanaged, and not every minor infraction sought out and punished, is to be seen in The Caine Mutiny, where the compulsive Captain Queeg makes "strawberries" into a byword for overkill.)
An-the-deep-minded: another nod to the sagas, and the terrifyingly-competent Icelandic folk heroine who endured so many losses but was known during, as well as after, her own lifetime as Unn-the-deep-minded. (Laxdaela Saga)
waterfall: the healing aspects of water, and particularly the sound of running water, are a constant theme in the Arda mythos, as in the experience of the Fellowship after Moria, beside the banks of the Nimrodel, (LOTR:FOTR, "Lothlórien") or in Túrin's healing at Eithil Ivrin after his accidental killing of Beleg. (Silm., "Of Túrin Turambar")
Edrahil's explanation of their ghostly state as discussed and determined by the Noldor intelligentsia is actually a quick summation of the notion of the Forms, or Ideal Versions of Things, put forward in Platonic philosophy. (The phenomena they are attempting to explain also go along with classical mythology, and subsequent takes on the afterlife, but mostly with Graeco-Roman tradition. —Was Sysiphus rolling a real boulder in his punishment, or merely a virtual boulder? Regardless, it was "real" enough for living visitors to Hades to note and comment on it.)
As always, thanks are due to Ardalambion, for their easy-to-use online linguistic resources, allowing some creative use of vocabulary drills. (The ban on the use of Quenya in Beleriand proclaimed by Thingol would hardly be relevant to them at that point, regardless of ethnicity, given the terminal nature of their situation.) Beren's "cobbled-together" word Atandil means "mortal-friend," while Edrahil's retort, Atandur, indicating that he's just doing his job, signifies "mortal-servant." The reference to the "taste" of words is derived from the Quenya word lámatyávë or "sound-taste" which refers to an individual's sense of what words and combinations of sounds "feel right" when spoken aloud.
No, Edrahil's song isn't mine. I'm not that good: I just borrowed from a source very familiar to JRRT as well. (The grayed-out lines are those which I didn't include in the excerpt for this scene, and the ones in brackets are not my own translation.)
Oft him anhaga are gebideð
wraþra wælsleahta winemæga hryre
['Often the solitary man enjoys
oft ic sceolde ana uhtna gehwylce
swa ic modsefan minne sceolde
—Oft should I, alone each dawn,
So should I oft my soul make safe—
wenede to wiste wyn eal gedreas
þonne beoð þy hefigran heortan benne
He minds him ever ^how all joy is broken,
Then all the heavier be heart's wounds,
|for þon ic geþencan ne mæg geond þas woruld
for hwan modsefa min ne gesweorce
þonne ic eorla lif eal geondþence
hu hi færlice flet ofgeafon
modge maguþegnas swa þes middangeard
ealra dogra gehwam dreaoseð and fealleþ
for þon ne mæg weorþan wis wer ær he age
wintra dæl in woruldrice Wita sceal geþyldig
ne sceal no to hatheort ne to hrædwyrde
ne to wac wiga ne to wanhydig
ne to forht ne to fægen ne to feohgifre
ne næfre gielpes to georn ær he geare cunne
Beorn sceal gebidan þonne he beot spriceð
oþ þæt collenferð cunne gearwe
hwider hreþra gehygd hweorfan wille
For this I may not in this world think|
of aught that my heart might darken not
when I name noble lives all gone thence,
[how they suddenly have left their hall]
brave horsemen and vassals. So Middle-earth
and all upon it daily fades and fails.
For this a warrior may not name him wise
who has not dwelt winters in that worlds-realm.
[A wise man must be patient, not too hasty
in speech, or passionate, impetuous
or timid as a fighter, nor too anxious
or carefree or too covetous of wealth;
Nor ever must he be too quick to boast
Before he's gained experience of himself
A man should wait, before he makes a vow,
Until in pride he truly can assess
How, when a crisis comes, he will react]
ongietan sceal gleaw hæle hu gæstlic bið
—Such a one knows how soul-shaking shall be
There is a lot more of this poem which I haven't translated or transcribed, but which is well-worth reading, as it contains, for example, the lines "where now the horse, where now the rider?" and other trenchant meditations on hubris, mortality, and the transience of status and good fortune.
This is among other things an homage to the great swashbucklers of the 1930's: The Prisoner of Zenda, Robin Hood, Captain Blood, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and all the rest of those films which managed to combine action, adventure, romance, drama, intrigue, special effects, great costuming, superb cinematography and well-turned dialogue, products of an art which appears to be largely lost these days.
Gower's speech reflects the frequent comparison of true love as more permanent than the sturdiest earthly monuments, both in essence and in memory, such as stone buildings and cast bronze statues, in Shakespeare's sonnets, q.v. the Notes to Act III. The addition of trees is a recognition of the culture of Arda.
the Loom: much of what I have done in this Act is based on the following statement:
"Vairë the Weaver is his spouse, who weaves all things that have ever been in Time into her
storied webs, and the Halls of Mandos that ever widen as the ages pass are clothed with them."
But it is often overlooked that Aulë is patron of weavers and embroiderers as well as smiths and artisans, and co-patron (with Yavanna, naturally) of farmers. (Silm., "Of the Beginning of Days.") Into his purview fall the arts-and-crafts, and the abstract sciences as well as the applied ones, and we are told that he and Melkor had most in common, and there was an intense rivalry stemming from Melkor's unwillingness to acknowledge anyone else his equal — but Aulë's efforts are all creative, and not destructive. (Silm., "Valaquenta")
Since it is also under his aegis that the Noldor invented and refined letters, there is a happy fusion of interests in Vairë's living-history recording project, and I consider it not unlikely at all that Aulë would have both been involved in the creation of it, and that at the counsels of the Valar their interaction would have taken the form of oblivious tech-speech, impenetrable to outsiders…
"the last crisis" — i.e. the flight of the Noldor. Not a chance reference.
The decorative flames are present because the effects of light and water feature in Tolkien's writing (q.v. Gandalf's fireworks in Hobbiton) — and also in an allusion to LOTR:TTT, "The Passage of the Marshes" which is probably not in the best of taste, but oh well.
That Angrod and Aegnor were well-known to Lúthien follows naturally from their visits to Menegroth to see Galadriel. That she would be severely put out with them for harassing Beren at such a time (or any other) is probably an understatement.
"Black is the color" — this traditional English folksong has already appeared earlier, in Act III.
Irmo, being (along with Estë his wife — note that the Powers nearly always work in pairs) the Maia principally concerned with healing and spiritual understanding, was both the Power into whose care Miriel was given — and, one might assume, most deeply affected by their inability to save her from her suicidal depression.
Tilion: the pilot of the Moon, and doubtless the source of the expression "mooning about someone," as his hopeless, unrequited love for Arien, the pilot of the Sun, and their non-romance a subject of the chronicles — and for good-natured teasing, as is shown in the lore of the Shire, q.v. LOTR:FOTR, "At the Sign of the Prancing Pony." His intense psychic bond with the late Tree Telperion together with his defensive skills as a hunter made him the obvious choice for the job, as Arien's own communing with Laurelin and her combination of fearlessness and intelligence made her the automatic choice for hers; but Tilion's efforts to impress Arien by racing her and continued attempts to hang out with her, regardless of her own wishes, combined with his easy distractibility, have had a strong negative impact on his performance. The question of replacing him has not been recorded as coming up, however.
Eöl: It's highly unlikely that anyone outside Gondolin would know about this situation, (q.v. Act III) given the isolation of the City — and given his previously-displayed behavior, I doubt very much that he would have suddenly changed his ways merely by virtue of being dead. It's all too easy to imagine him demanding his wife back from the Lord of the Halls in the same way that he challenged the Noldor lords in Beleriand…
Beren's recognition of Irmo reflects the fact that in life, he has had a "prophetic dream," the warning of danger which preceded the dream-vision message given to him by Gorlim.
Bereg: the "black sheep" of the Bëorings, he has been mentioned earlier in Act II, and was the one who, together with Amlach of House Marach, convulsed the early Edain with a dramatic rift. (It also seems plausible that Sauron, or another minion, was involved in the scandal — but I tend to think Sauron myself, not simply because of the apt symmetry, but also because the message was entirely in the style of his later successful efforts to seduce Númenor.) Here, because it is so pertinent, is the story in full, taken from Silm., "Of the Coming of Men into the West":
But many Men remained in Estolad, and there was still
a mingled people living there long years after, until in the ruin of Beleriand
they were overwhelmed or fled back into the East. For beside the old who
deemed that their wandering days were over, there were not a few who desired
to go their own ways, and they feared the Eldar and the light of their
eyes; and then dissensions awoke among the Edain, in which the shadow of
Morgoth may be discerned, for certain it is that he knew of the coming
of Men into Beleriand and of their growing friendship with the Elves.
The leaders of discontent were Bereg of the house of Bëor, and Amlach, one of the grandsons of Marach; and they said openly: 'We took long roads, desiring to escape the perils of Middle-earth and the dark things that dwell there; for we heard that there was Light in the West. But now we learn that the Light is beyond the Sea. Thither we cannot come where the Gods dwell in Bliss. Save one; for the Lord of the Dark is here before us, and the Eldar, wise but fell, who make endless war upon him. In the North he dwells, they say, and there is the pain and death from which we fled. We will not go that way.'
Then a council and assembly of Men was called, and great numbers came together. And the Elf-friends answered Bereg, saying: 'Truly from the Dark King come all the evils from which we fled; but he seeks dominion over all Middle-earth, and whither now shall we turn and he will not pursue us? Unless he be vanquished here, or at least held in leaguer. Only by the valour of the Eldar is he restrained, and maybe it was for this purpose, to aim them at need, that we were brought into this land."
To this Bereg answered: 'Let the Eldar look to it! Our lives are short enough.' But there arose one who seemed to all to be Amlach son of Imlach, speaking fell words that shook the hearts of all who heard him: 'All this is but Elvish lore, tales to beguile newcomers that are unwary. The Sea has no shore. There is no Light in the West. You have followed a fool-fire of the Elves to the end of the world! Which of you has seen the least of the Gods? Who has beheld the Dark King in the North? Those who seek the dominion of Middle-earth are the Eldar. Greedy for wealth they have delved in the earth for its secrets and have stirred to wrath the things that dwell beneath it, as they have ever done and ever shall. Let the Orcs have the realm that is theirs, and we will have ours. There is room enough in the world, if the Eldar will let us be!"
Then those that listened sat for a while astounded, and a shadow of fear fell on their hearts; and they resolved to depart far from the lands of the Eldar. But afterwards Amlach returned among them, and denied that he had been present at their debate or had spoken such words as they reported; and there was doubt and bewilderment among Men. Then the Elf-friends said: 'You will now believe this at least: there is indeed a Dark Lord, and his spies and emissaries are among us; for he fears us, and the strength that we may give to his foes.'
But some still answered: 'He hates us, rather, and ever the more the longer we dwell here, meddling in his quarrel with the Kings of the Eldar, to no gain of ours.' Many therefore of those that yet remained in Estolad made ready to depart; and Bereg led a thousand of the people of Bëor away southwards, and they passed out of the songs of those days. But Amlach repented, saying: 'I now have a quarrel of my own with this Master of Lies, which will last to my life's end'; and he went away north and entered the service of Maedhros. But those of his people who were of like mind with Bereg chose a new leader, and they went back over the mountains into Eriador, and are forgotten.
"seen your father angry" — this is a reference to Galadriel's brothers getting thrown out of Menegroth upon the revelation of the Kinslaying and their prolonged silence on the subject. (Silm., "Of the Noldor in Beleriand") I've taken the (minor) liberty of assuming that they visited, like any proper heads-of-state in peace time, with an entourage, and that this royal train might well include high-ranking members of the court. Given that one of the Lay outlines speaks of the words of power being "wrung" from Sauron, this is an accurate guess on his part.
"What does he know about fire?" — this is referring to the fact that the Maia known to history as (among many other things) Olórin is in fact a fire-spirit, but one who "walked among them unseen, or in form as one of them." (Silm., "Valaquenta: Of the Valar.")
"ere Tilion's embarcation" — a reference to the dark deserted streets between the Flight and the Moon, as for that time (which may have extended for several years duration, though I am not certain of the chronology there) that the orbiters were under construction there was no natural light source in Arda except for the stars. This is a fact which, together with its full implications, seems to escape notice frequently, when the cataclysm is considered — which should not be the case. (It is admittedly difficult for those of us who have never experienced a cataclysmic natural darkness, such as following a volcanic explosion, during a blizzard, or in a hurricane, or even the perfectly-natural and brief one of a full solar eclipse, to do so — I myself have only ever experienced a 3/4 solar eclipse, which was extremely strange — but it needs to be attempted, or else the magnitude of the disaster of the Treeslaying, and the concommitant psychological disruption and effect on the populace, will continue to elude the reader.)
And yes, this would be a very raw bit of guilt-tripping, too.
Amarië: yes, one more "yes" answer to an either-or question: that of whether or not she and Finrod were married at the time of the Darkening of Valinor. In at least one place, she is referred to as his wife; but elsewhere, as in the published Silm., it seems as though they were not. The idea that that they might have gotten as far as exchanging public vows and rings, in keeping with Valinorean tradition, but not as far as the actual physical consecration of those vows, neatly allows for a gray area in which, depending on how one looks at it, they could be considered married, or equally, not. At any rate, they were definitely committed to each other, and so of course any apparent or actual rejection and betrayal is going to be infinitely worse…
jilting: this also serves as a nod to the Border Ballad tradition, "Young Lochinvar" and so forth, and the Scottish romances so popular beginning in the 19th century, though some of the atmosphere also harkens to the Icelandic sagas. That there would have been such strife among the Bëorings from time to time is implicit in the following passage:
"But it was said afterwards among the Eldar that when Men awoke in Hildórien at the rising
of the Sun the spies of Morgoth were watchful, and tidings were soon brought to him, and this
seemed to him so great a matter that secretly under shadow he himself departed from Angband,
and went forth into Middle-earth, leaving to Sauron the command of the War. Of his dealings
with Men the Eldar indeed knew nothing, at that time, and learnt but little afterwards; but that a
darkness lay upon the hearts of Men (as the shadow of the Kinslaying and the Doom of Mandos
lay upon the Noldor) they perceived clearly even in the people of the Elf-friends whom they first
knew. To corrupt or destroy whatsoever arose new and fair was ever the chief desire of Morgoth;
and doubtless he had this purpose also in his errand: by fear and lies to make Men the foes of the
Eldar, and bring them up out of the east against Beleriand…"
(Silm., "Of the Coming of Men into the West")
Tafl, the game I have used as "mortal chess" in Act II, also called cyningstane (kingstone), has simpler rules and more difficult play than what we think of as chess today. (And yes, chess did exist in Middle-earth, or some board-game translatable to "chess," at least, as Gandalf refers to it in LOTR:ROTK, "Minas Tirith," saying to Pippin, "The board is set, and the pieces are moving…But the Enemy has the move, and he is about to open his full game. And pawns are likely to see as much of it as any…" This doesn't of course guarantee that it existed in the First Age, but it gives me some warrant, at least, beyond mere probability.)
The reason for its presence and emphasis here is not only continuity with the earlier parts of the Script: it will become clearer, but the secret of tafl is that it embodies the "song of staying" described in LL1, Canto VII. If you haven't read the Lay of Leithian fragments yet — what are you waiting for?
No, Elu wasn't acting on his own — this was a well-discussed and collective solution to the Lúthien problem, and she's justifiably angry at everyone who was involved, either actively or tacitly, by not standing up for her.
"In angry love and half in fear
Thingol took counsel his most dear
to guard and keep…"
I have moreover made the presumption that the emissaries sent to Himring to demand restitution and help in finding Lúthien from Maedhros would include some of the most senior of the kingdom's counsellors.
kingstone: one of the several ways that tafl or cyningstane differs from modern chess is that you take as many pieces as are bracketed by your troops, like the games Othello or Pente.
"doesn't look like" a Bëoring: this remark is a comment on Beren's atypical appearance, the fact that he was a bit taller than was typical and had blue eyes and sandy-blond hair — perfectly legitimately, since his mother was a near relative of Hador "the Golden" and he in fact had Dor-lomin ancestry on both sides.
The fact that Ingold, meaning "Wise," is Finrod's mother-name, taken together with the fact that amilesse are believed to be prophetic, makes the fact that the Bëorings, who were initially convinced that he was one of the Valar they were seeking, subsequently conferred on him the name Nóm, which also means "Wisdom," particularly interesting. (Silm., "Of the Coming of Men into the West.")
That Mablung was distraught at Beren's death is found in Silm., (since most unfortunately the extant fragmentary Lay itself does not go so far) where it is said that "Mablung and Beleg came hastening to the King's aid, but when they looked upon what was done they cast aside their spears and wept."
For the purposes of providing a different perspective on life before the cataclysm in Valinor, I have, as is now revealed, made the Captain and his family to have been faithful retainers of Finarfin's House, and not formerly of any great influence or renown, save among their own organization and friends. The idea that his sister also might be a huntress, goes automatically with the consideration of who in a great household might be Galadriel's handmaid, and what favored pursuits, given that lady's attested "amazon disposition" and her cousin Aredhel's delight in hunting. One might think of them not as, in those days, merely a gracious court of poets and musicians like Eleanor of Aquitaine's, but also like Diana and her maidens and favoured hunters — or indeed that medieval Queen and her contemporaries — riding far and wide with bow and spear exuberantly through the woods of Aman.
The Steward, on the other hand, is now shown to have come from a much "higher station" initially than his friend, and not the nearly co-equal status they now possess, from a much more "typical" Noldor background, and from a much more stressful family situation as a result. (Note that nobody has any doubt that rebel or not, the Captain's relatives will welcome him back with rejoicing, while his friend is not sure he still has a home to go back to.) By assigning him to the following of Mahtan, he is in a perfect position to be completely torn between parents who expect him to become a great artist — in the visual arts, and his own musical yearnings, pulling him equally towards the more skilled and prestigious grandson of Mahtan, and his much-junior, less-renowned, but far more congenial cousin and his multi-ethnic family. Which latter friendship itself will strain ingrained assumptions and snobberies to the breaking point, ultimately, but not without a great deal of personal turmoil in the meantime.
"The Terrible" — I don't think it as unlikely as some authorities that Sauron would himself employ the name by which he was known in Middle-earth, in any of the forms of it (Thû, Gorthaur) throughout history, since he was, after all, the leading commander of a dictator, viceroy left in charge of the war in his soveriegn's absence, sent out to pacify insurgent regions, sieze key strategic positions, and deal with troublesome rebels. Being known as "the abhorred one" or "the dreadful" isn't an image problem for a warlord, really — or as the ancient saw goes, "Let them hate, so long as they fear me."
The notion of some sort of casting of lots derives initially from the mere fact that of the twelve captives, Beren and Finrod were left for last — and is validated not by a line of the authors, but by the crossing out of a line. In the outlines, it says:
"…they come upon the werewolves, and the host of Thû
Lord of Wolves. They are taken before Thû, and after a contest of riddling questions
and answers are revealed as spies, but Beren is taken as a Gnome, and that Felagund is King
of Nargothrond remains hidden. They are placed in a deep dungeon. Thû desires to discover
their purpose and real names and vows death, one by one, and torment to the last one, if they
will not reveal them. From time to time a great werewolf
Thû in disguise
comes and devours one of the companions. …at last only Felagund and Beren remain. It is
Beren's turn to be devoured…"
and in another draft,
"They go and seek to break into Angband disguised as Orcs, but are captured
and set in chains, and killed one by one. Beren lies wondering which will be his turn.
by the Lord of Wolves, and set in bonds, and devoured one by one."
The combination of these facts, one positive, one subtractive — the removal of the line which states that he wondered when his own time would come — strongly indicates that it was no accident that Beren outlives the Ten. The idea of a form of lot-casting, for fairness, follows from that not unnaturally; the idea of a verbal form comes from the technical difficulties of drawing lots while immobilized and in complete darkness, and the fact that in the Elvish languages, as in many earthly ones, the same characters were used for numbers as for letters. And, of course, a system that works by the choosing of letters whose order of precedence depends on a word as yet unannounced by the leader could be foiled by someone able to guess, or know, what that word was going to be.
Beren's complaint about the seeming-uselessness of everything when the end result of all good intentions and works is the same defeat and destruction is a very trenchant one, and not unrelated to the objection put forward by the Lord of the Halls to his own King as related in Silm., "Of the Sun and Moon," when the idea that good may ultimately result from it is put forward in answer.
The interactions between Finarfin and the Captain reflect the problem that all the Noldor had lives before, and knew each other, and not only marriages and families would have been broken in the Flight, but also friendships and working relationships — so, now what? It should be pretty clear now that for the most part, the Host of the Noldor were a bunch of rebellious young kids who ran away to sea to seek their fortunes, even if they thought they were completely competent and quite able to take care of themselves, in any situation they might encounter. And to a large degree they did, and were, and to a greater degree they weren't, and trying to establish a new set of ground rules and boundaries for all of them in their interactions now would, I think, be one heck of a challenge.
Enedrion: this is the name given to the foremost follower who insists that a successor must be publicly acclaimed before their exile from Nargothrond in the Grey Annals, where elsewhere the name Edrahil is given, the latter being the form which Christopher Tolkien went with for the published version of Silm. I am not being merely equivocal in my Elvish answer of "yes" to the question of which one is correct: following the form established for naming conventions, Enedrion is a patronym, not a proper name, so both may be quite true. Enedrion itself seems as if it must derive back to Enedir, which breaks down to something like "the world's brightness," but this is only a conjecture on my part, for the purpose of more easily illustrating the prior, present, and changing social situations in post-cataclysm Aman.
Edrahil's making a virtue of necessity and putting a different cast on the strictures of Mandos (which are based in part on the old idea that the summoned dead must speak the truth) to take the moral high ground against Finarfin in their clash is technically called "mental reservation," and is the reason why witnesses in court are adjured to tell "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." (Emphasis mine.) How far this form of ommiting can be stretched in various circumstances while remaining within ethical bounds is a matter for much debate, revolving around motivation and the moral authority of the questioner; the advisability of doing so is a different problem entirely.
Araman: "Above-Aman," that region of sub-arctic tundra where the marching Host of the Noldor and the accompanying Fëanorians aboard the surviving ships were told to cease-and-desist and return to face justice for the Kinslaying, by it is believed, the Doomsman himself, speaking for Manwë. (Silm., "Of the Flight of the Noldor.") The fact that there is some doubt about this is also interesting. Finarfin turned back, with a minority of his followers; the rest continued, with Finrod and Galadriel emerging as the de facto leaders of the March.
Nerdanel: this Noldor lady, coming from a high lineage in her own right, her family being distinguished for its close connections with Aulë (as well as their unique auburn hair), is one of the more tragic characters in this series of "dark and difficult legends." Fëanor her husband studied with her father, the master-smith Mahtan; she was an sculptress equally capable of extreme realism and flights of abstract art. They had seven children, the largest known family among the Eldar, to whom "she bequeathed her mood" only in part, and only to some, they taking after their father for the rest, unfortunately for the world. We are told that she was wise, and the only person who could reach Fëanor and get through to him to make him see sense in his paranoia — but that eventually he stopped listening to her as well, something which would appear to correlate with his increasing attentiveness to then-Melkor.
She, however, unlike the vast majority of the Noldor, was not swayed by his charisma against her better judgment and when he stopped heeding her counsel, she went her own ways. Even before their separation, this independence was demonstrated in her friendship with her husband's step-mother, a sign of open-mindedness as well as autonomy, (but which undoubtedly made Finwë's son conclude that everyone was out to get him, that his father's second wife had succeeded in taking even his own wife's loyalty away from him — instead of judging, as a reasonable person would, that perhaps since even Nerdanel liked her, Indis might not be a totally worthless person after all.) After the Flight of the Noldor, Nerdanel moved in with her mother-in-law, and that is the situation which we find at present.
She is also possessed of a certain degree of the Sight, and while trying to convince Fëanor to leave at least the two youngest children behind, while he in turn dared her to prove her love for the family by joining them in the Flight, warned him that one of them at least would never make it to Middle-earth regardless — which foretelling is borne out in the story that their youngst son was sleeping on board the ships from homesickness when Fëanor burned them to prevent defections and forestall any chance of competition from his other relatives in Middle-earth.
So I have tried to show her as wise, independent-minded, indomitable, and an artist/technocrat, as she is described in the various source texts — "firm of will, but more patient than Fëanor, desiring to understand minds rather than to master them" — and someone with a tremendous burden of sorrow, who still keeps going and uses her own experiences to help her in that quest to understand others (which is a significant component of wisdom, after all.)
Her presence comes from the need to have a foil worthy to match words with Finrod from among those who remained behind, but not as closely or as personally tied to him, with the attendant emotional complications — obviously, it would not be possible to find anyone among the great houses of the Eldar with no connections to the Finarfinions! That is, she can say things that Finarfin and Amarië can't, won't, or won't say without a discrediting overlay of resentment and anger.
heresy: this is a reference to the cosmic reinterpretation of existence which occurs to Finrod in, as he believes it to be, a prophetic vision of the Eschaton, as related in the "Athrabeth" (of which more later) — and since it goes directly against everything previously believed by the Eldar about their own limited nature and confinement to the Circles of the World, both in dimension and duration, for the existence of Arda, and since it's being put forward by someone whose standing is dubious at best, I can't imagine it would be particularly well-received, especially at first — but by the same token, it would certainly be highly-controversial in the time before people in Valinor at least became used to the notion enough to include it as a possible alternative in "Ainulindalë," where it appears in the following lines (emphasis mine):
"Never since have the Ainur made any music like to this music,
though it has been said that a greater still shall be made before
Ilúvatar by the choirs of the Ainur and the Children of Ilúvatar
after the end of days.
Then the themes of Ilúvatar shall be played aright, and take Being in the moment of their utterance, for all shall then understand fully his intent in their part, and each shall know the comprehension of each, and Ilúvatar shall give to their thoughts the secret fire, being well pleased."
There, in a nutshell, is the entire notion of Arda Envinyanta, the idea that the universe will be made new again, and the still-more radical notion that all the Children will help by contributing in its creation, not just the celestial demiurges. That phrase "though it has been said" when examined carefully reveals one thing and raises the question of another: that the scribe setting down their mythology in the "Ainulindalë" had some doubts about the matter, personally — and who, exactly, was it who was saying this, now? Working "within the fiction," I can imagine Pengolod going over the traditions and writings of Rumil, and thinking to himself in some great library in Tirion, "It all seems so very orderly and rational…but then there are those strange ideas that Turgon's cousin has put forward, which also sound so compelling when you hear him. Of course he's quite mad, but…"
"—Yes, but I'm right, too" says Finrod genially, replacing a borrowed scroll. And the scribe shakes his head, and keeps writing… (The idea that complete, unrestricted communication is at least in part the key to universal peace and harmony also should not be too surprising, given The Professor's great love of languages.)
launching the Sun: the processes by which Aulë and his followers, Eldar and Ainur, built the celestial orbiters out of the remnants of the Trees' life-energies and got them airborne (a process which some texts suggest took several of what would be later reckoned as years, which is not entirely unreasonable for getting a space-program going from scratch, even for demiurges) is literally unimaginable and at the same time intriguing beyond description — and must have been an incredibly fraught process, given that there wasn't any alternative to fall back on, if they blew it. The passages which describe that first lift-off, even seen from a vast distance, and its potent results, are among the grandest in the whole mythos.
"traditional methods" — these being of course riddles, chess (or dice) matches, and three questions, all of which are fraught and not exactly the sort of information-sources one can well rely on.
Couplesday, sixes: I wanted to point out several facts here: that on the one hand some Mannish culture and traditions survived, even after the Edain were so long and greatly influenced by the Eldar, and that on the other hand such basic things as counting systems and words for reckoning can indicate cultural differences. Beren, being not only mortal but Bëoring, which is to say, belonging to the tribe "most like to" the High-elves in thought, is actually fairly flexible in his thinking, as well as possessed of a very Elvish curiosity, however untrained and rustic his mind may be, due to the disadvantages of his civilization getting obliterated in his youth. (The exact words are "eager of mind, cunning-handed, swift in understanding, long in memory, and moved sooner to pity than laughter" — Silm., "Of the Coming of Men Into the West.") He can step outside, to a great extent, his own limited experience, and consider it, and others, abstractly — which will come to the fore as the Act unfolds.
Another thing to consider is the distilling or filtering effect which the accidents of history have in what words and systems become common usage, and which are forgotten or left behind. One thing which must have been the case is that a different set of names for the days of the week would have been used before the Darkening, as the current Elvish system used in one form or another throughout Middle-earth reflects that event, memorializing the Trees in their own day, and commemorating the Sun and Moon in others. And, in fact, poking about in the Etymologies (HOME:LR) proves this to be true. "Couplesday" was the day dedicated, interestingly enough, Aulë and Yavanna, as joint patrons of matrimony. (This makes me wonder if they were perhaps the first of the Valar to pair off, while the two most powerful brothers were both courting Varda and Tulkas was still a nobody.)
However, in the First Age, and especially given the separation of the different fiefdoms and domains across Beleriand, it is entirely possible that some of the Noldor would have continued to use the old calendar, and that the new system developed slowly — or even that it was a Valinorean creation of the Eldar there, and only brought to Middle-earth in after years. Or it might well have been, given the progress of events, the one in use in Gondolin, which through its peculiar mix of colonists, their preservation of Quenya lore, and the subsequent consolidation of the surviving refugee populations under the predominance of its ruling family, had a strong and lasting influence on the cultures which followed in Middle-earth. Just as the months and day-names we use today are similar to, and related to, those used in Roman times, but not identical, it's possible that the systems Beren was familiar with were not the same as those employed in the Second and Third Ages, either.
salt: the equation of that mineral and honesty — often unwelcome — is to be found elsewhere than in the New Testament: it shows up, for instance, in the folk version of King Lear (happy ending) where the virtuous princess compares her filial piety not, as her sisters do, to honey or expensive spices, but to the humble, bitter-tasting condiment. This refusal to play the game of course wins her only exile, a fate which is karmically returned upon her unwise parent. When at long last her impoverished father arrives on the doorstep of the kingdom her wisdom and goodness have won for her, she commands the household to prepare every dish without salt. When he complains about the revolting blandness of it, and comments on the need for something to give the meal savour, the recognition of both the value of directness and the survival of his faithful daughter overwhelm the old, exiled king in a very emotional reunion.
Finarfin learning the complete story of his son's Doom only now does not only serve as a source of angst and emotional drama, but is intended to point up not only the questions of communication, and whence information, and when — but also how much any decision, action, and speech is founded in that present, limited knowledge, and how it may take on new, possibly horrifying, significance in the light of subsequent revelations.
Aredhel & Eöl: if Saeros/Orgof, provoking Turin from malice, was due many centuries in Mandos to reflect and grow beyond his arrogance (LB, "The Lay of the Children of Húrin," Canto I ) then certainly Eöl would merit no less. Aredhel is of course under the Doom of the Noldor. What the two of them would have been doing over the past decades, and if they would have made any psychological progress or not, is anyone's guess.
galvorn: the black alloy that Eöl invented and used for his own special lightweight suit of armor (Silmarillion, "Of Maeglin") — which, however, did not protect him from the vengeance of his wife's kinsmen after her killing. (It is amusing, but not particularly likely, to think that it might have been an early form of kevlar.)
Kinslayer: it is again mere conjecture that Aredhel was also (like Fingon) in the forefront, and joined in the attack on Alqualondë out of a misconception that the Teleri had attacked first (hence the lines "tragic misunderstanding"); but I have based it on her documented long-standing friendship and spiritual affinity for the sons of Fëanor, principally Curufin and Celegorm.
armour: this is yet another dual reference, to Aredhel's fate, daring to face down her alienated spouse without any protection other than injured dignity and righteous wrath, and the presence of guards, none of which are sufficient to cope with the suicidally-violent (as retold in Silm., "Of Maeglin,") — and to LOTR:FOTR, "The Ring Goes South," with Bilbo's giving of his mithril vest to Frodo, to be worn secretly under the outer garments, thereby saving the life of the wearer.
The Captain's remark concerning the making of weapons in secret refers to the events related in Silm., "Of the Silmarils," where it is told that:
"…when Melkor saw these lies were smouldering, and that pride and anger were awake among the Noldor, he spoke to them concerning weapons; and in that time the Noldor began the smithying of swords and axes and spears. Shields also they made displaying the tokens of many houses and kindreds that vied with one another; and these only they wore abroad, and of other weapons they did not speak, for each believed that he alone had received the warning. And Fëanor made a secret forge, of which not even Melkor was aware, and there he tempered fell swords for himself and for his sons, and made tall helms with plumes of red. Bitterly did Mahtan rue the day when he taught to the husband of Nerdanel all the lore of metlawork that he had learned of Aulë."
threnody: a sad or melancholy song; a dirge. This and similar obscure musical terms are a semi-humorous answer to the question of what the gods might swear by.
"avenged upon the lot of you" — an ObRef to Twelfth Night, where a humorless control-freak is made the target of an elaborate comic revenge plot, and vows at the end to get his own back as he storms off in high-dudgeon.
The idea that the more-warlike Powers might practice fighting to keep up their skills and in hopes of a rematch with Morgoth and his minions, however unlikely such a chance might seem to them at present, doesn't seem too far-fetched to me. There is, however, a world of difference between being champion of the All-Valinor Valarin Fencing Club and having successfully fought for one's life — and others — for over four centuries.
Ringil: the name of Fingolfin's blade is found first in LL1, Canto XII:
"Fingolfin like a shooting light
beneath a cloud, a stab of white,
sprang then aside, and Ringil drew
like ice that gleameth cold and blue,
his sword devised of elvish skill
to pierce the flesh with deadly chill.
With seven wounds it rent his foe,
and seven mighty cries of woe
rang in the mountains…"
in which it is also told that Grond was the name of Morgoth's mace, the war-hammer of the underworld — a name that will infamously return to haunt Middle-earth again. (It is, I should say, a signal of how much superior the technology of First Age Noldor artisans was to subsequent levels of smithing, that the High King's weapon is recorded as having wounded Morgoth eight times, (on the final stroke permanently laming him), without losing its strength, whereas the Númenórean blade wielded against the Captain of the Nazgûl dissolves on contact with the Ringwraith, as Aragorn indeed had warned would happen should such a stroke occur.)
"By your Lady" — in keeping with the swashbuckling theme, a turn on the medieval exclamation frequently encountered in the old Robin Hood stories, "By'r [Our] Lady," adapted for Arda.
"Endless Whirlwind" — a Dante ObRef, to the circle outside the Inferno proper, where the traveler meets famous lovers from history who destroyed themselves for the sake of each other, there swept in a continuous tumult like leaves on the wind, always together and never at rest.
The conflicts, large and little, which are apparent or implicit in the Geste are all stated and expounded in this Scene, and given context, hence its length.
Gower's words invoke not only the frequent references to truth vs. "sooth" in Shakespeare's writings, and the difficult valuing of honesty and directness set against the popularity of flattery, and the ease of self-deception ("When my love swears that she is made of truth/I do believe her, though I know she lies…") but also revelations of the devastating kind (often inadvertently-so) like the final words of Mablung to Túrin which moved the latter to self-execution.
"our beer it is brown": this Yuletide carol is the "Gloucestershire Wassail," which is datable back to the 1700s but in melodic feel sounds much older to me, due to its smooth linear progressions and mellow intervals, which resemble those of prior centuries like "Lo How A Rose E'erblooming" and "Of the Father's Love Begotten" rather than the popular music of the 18th. Each of its many verses hails another member of the landholder's household — even the four-legged ones. (This is, after all, a drinking-song foremost.)
Lines 1096 - 1103 of LL1 suggest, though allowing room for dispute, that the Ring given to Beren's father was originally made by Finrod's own father, though it is possible that "the badge…that Felagund his son now bore" only refers to the heraldic device, (of the pair of emerald-eyed golden snakes eating a crown of flowers) and not to the signet itself.
There's only one canonical, named, Silm. character this can logically be. Do not worry if you can't guess it, everything will be made clear by the end of the play.
Chess-playing kings staying up late in the old stories (and occasionally gambling away vast fortunes, or worse, on the outcome of the match) make it clear that Solitaire and its variants would have been welcomed in former centuries.
The story of the forgery of the brooch reflects my thought that it is plausible that there were early forays of Easterling entrepreneurs — traveling traders, explorers looking for resources of various sorts — to bring back the news of those wealthy countries beyond the mountains which lured more enterprising colonists to follow once the political disarray of the hot-war made for likely opportunities.
Technically the Seneschal of Formenos might also be speaking in an antiquated dialect, having been offed even before the Feast of Reuniting, (by which point everyone was speaking Sindarin as the "lingua franca" of Beleriand, Silm., "Of the Return of the Noldor") but for dramatic simplicity I chose not to do so; presumably, being very image-conscious, and having been there quite some time, he would equally quickly have adapted his manners to those of newer arrivals so as not to seem out of date or identified with the ancien regime.
—I have included these "extras" for the simple reason that someone very like them must have been there, given the enormously high casualties taken in Beleriand by the Noldor, and their chronological and demographic distribution. Not only does their presence add an element of conflict, but furthermore a firsthand presentation of different perspectives, untempered by the regrets and allegiances of the retellers.
ruel: the word is an antiquarian's in-joke, so to speak: it word comes up in the Middle-English usage "ruel-bone," and is employed by Tolkien as well. In the original contexts as well as later usage, it means some kind of ivory, but what kind no one is quite sure of. Because of the suggestive similarity between "ruel" and "rowel" in sound, meaning twisted, I tend to think of it as narwhal horn, which was a valuable commodity provided by Scandinavian mariners to continental Europe in the Middle Ages. Thus my conceit of the mysterious animal "ruel" as unicorns, — and thus solving the question of why they are not in Middle-earth: they are among those creatures never seen outside Valinor, (Silm., "Of Eldamar") though there might have been a perished population of them naturalized on Númenor as well. (And yes, wart-hogs are quite friendly and sociable animals and their keepers become very fond of them in zoos.)
Fëanor made the Silmarils in secret, not asking permission of even Yavanna before seeking to preserve and contain the Light of the Trees in some indestructible format — but his work was approved afterwards upon their revelation. (Silmarillion, "Of the Silmarils.") This did not stop him from hoarding them, dragon-like, or coming to regard them as exclusively and originally "his."
The question of past and future livelihoods reflects very real problems for those coming back from some long, life-changing experience, whether it be war, hospitalization, or anything else, which would not be fundamentally all that much different even in Valinor. The issues — new, old, and complicated — are going to be there, and must be dealt with. Or, as a much later hero would shrewdly put it, talking of happy endings and characters in the old tales, "And where will they live? That's what I often wonder." (LOTR:FOTR, "The Ring Goes South.")
"conniptions" — the native languages of the Edain are rather strange and abrupt and not "Middle-earthlike" at first glance, though deep digging into the etymologies and a more structural look at them reveals the root similarities. I've used this peculiar folk idiom to stand in place of the lost Taliska expression for throwing a fit…
Manir & Suruli: these spirits of air, like those who inhabit water, Maiar who dwell in the skies or oceans, reveal similarities in their nature to the kami of traditional Asian animism as well as to the sylphs, nymphs and water-gods of classical mythology. (Lúthien's dancing before Morgoth is said to have excelled that of the dancers of the air of the court on Taniquetil, which also brings to mind the Hindu mythos' apsaras, the sylphlike maidens of the heavens.) We also meet one of them in LOTR:FOTR, who comes to the rescue when invoked by those who have the right to do so — the river Bruinen. Since it seems that the Powers, greater and lesser, who inhabit these elements take their shape from them when they choose to manifest their consciousness in a visible and tangible form, the problem of being dead — and what that means among people who don't normally necessarily have bodies — gets sort of complicated in Arda.
The aesthetics discussion is not really implausible, given the nature of the participants. (Even in our world, and as late as WWII, Prof. Tolkien was called upon by a British officer who was a participant in a heated debate (upon which some significant mess-room bet was riding) to solve the question as to the correct pronunciation of the 18th-century poet Cowper's last name.)
The Sea-Mew has been part of the story, as a ghostly presence (so to speak) since Act II was begun. She is, of course, the one obliquely referred to in the exchange re farewells between Finrod and Edrahil after the Council and coup; as a member of Olwë's tribe her situation allows for a not-entirely-disinterested outsider's perspective on the dynastic struggles of the House of Finwë. I meant for her to provide a reminder of the kinship connections between the three clans of the Eldar, and to illustrate the problems of division and strife which far predated the Kinslaying and attitudes which so ably were exploited by Melkor which allowed that event to happen. I also was strongly caught by the idea of someone not knowing that a loved one had been caught up in the Kinslaying until their reunion in the Halls of Mandos, and the theme of good intentions rendered meaningless which is summed up so powerfully in the line, "all good deeds were made in vain," through the undercutting of Edrahil's spiritual renunciation and selflessness in assuming her to be happy — and better-off — without him, forever, by that revelation.
Quite late in the day, I realized that I had created an OFC who also happens to be the romantic interest of a canon character…! (And now yet another layer of significance is added to the word-game towards the end of Scene II.)
The documented envy of the Secondborn aroused by Melkor in the Noldor plays a significant role throughout this scene —as it did in the history of the Eldar. More on this later.
Beren's blaming himself for everything both follows from his self-castigating remarks in the Lay fragments, and is a response to the criticisms made by readers on Usenet and elsewhere in this vein — Really? All right then, let's take this to its logical extreme…
This section incorporates a small homage to Fabergé, whose studios managed to create both the tacky and the sublime, not infrequently combining both into the tackily sublime (or sublimely tacky), such as the comic or realistic animals crafted from the precise shades of gemstones to match their natural coloring.
Helka & Ringil were the two pillars of the original Lamps, sometimes
described as being made of ice, which Melkor subverted and destroyed after
successfully infiltrating Arda during the distractions of Tulkas and Nessa's
wedding party. This fact gives Fingolfin's crystal sword the nature of
a sacred symbol, named in honor of that long-destroyed supporter of Light.
(However, they are also described in terms which make it seem as if they
were mountains. Before trying to determine which they were — and
I am not being mischievously Elvish here merely — one has to consider the
question of what matter would vessels containing enough energy to
both light a continent, and to destroy vast sections of it when released
by catastrophic failure, be constructed of — let alone be supported on,
when created by godlike beings of superhuman intelligence and ability capable
of "singing" a material universe out of nonbeing and potentiality into
physical actuality? It's likely the answer would be as incomprehensible
to us as the first alien description of a functioning hyperdrive will be:
"All composed of supercooling micro-accelerated particulate fields with a reversed matrix of indented parallel wavelengths, see?"
"—Ah. Yes. Of course." —It works by magic—really advanced magic…
Beren endeavoring to tell Finarfin what his kids have been up to is not included merely for humorous effect, but also to point up the sheer magnitude of the task, and the difficulty of trying to convey events to someone interested in them, when both parties have only partial knowledge of both the circumstances and the players, and no direct experience of the events at all.
"Going to stake out a realm" — a not-so-kind reference to their shared pasts as would-be colonists in Beleriand and the hubris of the Noldor invoked as well as inflamed by Fëanor's rousing words after the Treeslaying.
"Fly pride, quoth the peacock" — ObRef to The Comedy of Errors, an exquisite farce rife with mistaken identity, verbal and physical humour, and rhyme. This expression is the equivalent of "the pot calling the kettle black," due to the legendary vanity of peafowl — which has some basis in observed fact, as it is possible to keep peacocks in the open but in a central area by hanging a mirror outside: the males spend inordinate amounts of time displaying before this tireless rival, just as Siamese fighting fish will.
The tall and beautiful Nürnburg-style harps often seen in medieval art are, according to archaeologists, fairly fragile, extant examples of the instrument often showing breaks in the neck that were repaired in its original useful lifetime. Edrahil's travel-harp should be imagined more like the Irish harps, such as the one famously called Brian Boru's. Aegnor is playing nastily on old insecurities, in a reversal of the usual direction of snobbery, invoking the superior innate talents of the Sea-taught Teler at music, versus the Noldor skill at the "objective" arts of metal and stone working.
That there was strong friendship as well as kinship between the two sets of brothers is attested in "The Quenta," HOME: Shaping, where it is remarked that Angrod and Aegnor were close friends with the sons of Fëanor (and not merely in agreement with their father about the Return.) Moreover, if Angrod and Aegnor were friends and longtime neighbors with Celegorm and Curufin, both in Aman and in East Beleriand, Aegnor is bound to have known Huan pretty well. And vice versa.
The incidents, er, surrounding the fountain hearken back to the discussion in Act II regarding mortal forms of humour before the Council. The constant references to water, and employment of it for various purposes, have a deeper meaning (sorry!) and while on the one hand reflecting simply geology and personal experience — I live in a land of old mountains and bedrock, and driving along the road it is possible to see the fresh water welling through and pouring down the surfaces of the granite cliffs, (which in the winter form most dramatic columns and sheets of ice) and every quarry becomes a tarn without constant pumping-out, because the water is there beneath the earth and must come through somehow — it also refers to the water-symbolism omnipresent in the Arda mythos and the immense (though hidden, patient, and subversive) power of the Lord of the Deeps.
Regarding Beren's challenge to Aegnor not to walk away from their issues — avoidance does seem to be a hallmark of the Exiles' way of dealing with things, given events both subsequent and prior.
"Tree toads" — an ObRef to some actual Fabergé artworks, crafted of gemstones. (This Russian art history site has a photograph of one of the Fabergé flowers, a life-size pheasant's-eye narcissus set in a vase of rock-crystal, filled with rock-crystal water.)
"Thargelion" — the joking about "mountain passes" and "rolling countryside" derives from the following Elvish linguistic associations: súma: hollow concavity, bosom, i.e., cleavage; the equation of territorial elevations with female breasts transcends culture and language (as seen in the range from Scotland, "The Paps," to the New World's "Uncanoonuc," which by local legend memorializes an ancient Abnaki noblewoman) so I have extended the parallel to Elven cultures as well. (But without the attendant human self-consciousness.)
palúre: the surface of the land, as in the expression "the bosom of the earth" (equated with the English root "fold" as in Westfold) and the source of an alternate name of Yavanna, Palúrien.
"Rank hath its privilege," always stated in such archaic form, is a saying eternally current to describe the inequities of the military, though a modern acronym has of course been constructed from it, RHIP. I have no idea how old it is or what the original source: like Greensleeves, it's always referred to as just "old."
"see," "perceive" etc. — there is a technical problem for metaphysicians in the fact that the words we are obliged to use to describe non-physical situations, and which are used universally so far as I can tell, regardless of language, all come from physical situations. "Understand," "back up," "past," "grasp" — all of these terms with their directional or action sources, are used by analogy — yet so automatically that this fact can be itself difficult to realize. Given that we are physical entities, cannot be otherwise, and the signal lack of success of projects in the past century to create new philosophical languages devoid of any confusion or overlapping of terms, I suspect this is inherent to corporeal sentients (though of course this cannot be checked until we encounter an alien sentient race similar enough for us to communicate with) — but would not be the natural case for a group of naturally-immaterial telepathic entities for whom even language is a makeshift invention used for dealing with the material world and the corporeal creatures who inhabit it.
Both the equine and canine dragging of logs comes from Primary World experiences, both firsthand and secondhand. (It could be that I've only known some very eccentric horses, but several people have recounted tales of dogs mysteriously drawn to hauling objects nearly as large as themselves, apparently for the sheer challenge of it. James Thurber, American humorist and dog lover, had one who tried to bring home abandoned furniture found in alleyways — in the middle of the night, naturally!)
The world of espionage, and how much of it depends on not standing out, and as well on the fact that people generally don't tend to question, or even to notice things, that are outside their own interests, is quite fascinating — as are the small, dumb little things that historically have given away agents, many of which seem due more to chance (favorable or evil, depending on one's perspective) than to any systematic investigative or watch efforts. Former agent John LeCarre does a good job of conveying this in his novels, but other examples from the news include the story of the Zimmerman Telegraph in WWI, the use of the Brompton Oratory (a High Baroque church in London) as a drop-point for microfilms in the late 1980s, and pop singer Josephine Baker's experiences working for the Resistance in WWII.
"small people" — I do hope that all readers would have guessed who the Apprentice is by now! More on his presence later — but recall that it is said in Silm. that he learned patience and pity of Nienna, — who in turn is said to spend most of her time counselling the inhabitants of the Halls of Mandos.
Edain: "Now Atani, the Second People, was the name given to Men in Valinor in the lore that told of their coming; but in the speech of Beleriand that name became Edain, and it was there used only of the three kindreds of the Elf-friends." (Silm., "Of The Coming of Men into the West.")
"wanted to be an Eagle" — not only an ObRef to later events, but intended to point up both the striking affinity of all three independent Immortal agents: both Huan in the First Age and Mithrandir in the Third work together with the Lords of the Eagles in their complicated efforts to influence the destiny of Arda for the better. (It also is a play on the not-uncommon wistful imaginings of being a fighter pilot or pioneering aviator, which (as C.S. Lewis once used in analogy) is very different in reality from the romantic ideas of it. Thorondor and his family also have jobs to do, as well as lives to lead, and despite being autonomous in the field, can't simply give up their duties of trying to watch Morgoth's activities, watch over Gondolin, and report back to Taniquetil in order to go exploring somewhere off south, say.)
It also serves to point up the fact that the Ainur chose what they were going to be in Arda, and when they were going to join in. Not everyone was interested in making Eä at once, and not everyone arrived at the same time once the world was made. The Ainur aren't regimented, despite the urges of fans to organize them so: the Timeless Halls aren't Orwellian in nature. Power and authority are fluid, and come as much from within as from any Eru-conferred roles. Recall (since "Ainulindalë" is a bit long to retype, I haven't put it all here, but I commend rereading it) that the only Valar whose status as such we actually see taking place in the story are Melkor and Tulkas, who end up exchanging places. Melkor opts out of a universe he can't control; Tulkas shows up out of nowhere, starts slugging, and becomes the new member of the core leadership group. The Song begins slowly, with a lot of "tuning-up" — that is, each Ainu must discover his or her own voice — and this takes place very slowly for some, and quicker for others, and it is never rushed by the One nor is self-knowledge forced on any of the Powers-to-be — and then from that, awareness of each other, and then the delight of small spontaneous jam sessions slowly grows into a comprehension of Music on a grand scale, and the potential for something really spectacular…
This is actually somewhat abridged from the original MS, which is available in HOME: Shaping, "The Quenta," and has a lot more of the interpersonality of the Ainur in the Before-Time worldbuilding. There it's remarked that Melkor's music was forceful, though chromatically dull, and had the effect of either drowning out the quieter voices or leading them to follow his dominant monotonous tune — in fact, the whole story is very resonant to anyone with any experience of playing in groups of various sizes. The idea of each performer learning to make his or her own music, not being forced into "the box", and this being the foundation for building the symphony, attuned to the strengths of the individual soloists, is idyllic and utopian, (though not impossible when considering celestials at play) but it also does reflect the reality of many successful groups whose sound is utterly unique and yet which changes over time as new members enter and old ones depart, and such spontaneity and individuality is also the hallmark of such folk groups as jazz ensembles, swing bands, Celtic and Cajun "sessions," medieval and renaissance consorts, and innumerable parallel ethnic traditions from around the world.
Except then there's a rebellion, and the woodwind section leader wants everyone to play his improvisation as if it were the only possible elaboration on the given line, and manages to convince most of the section to join in his vision of how the symphony should go, and gets a crew playing "Twinkles" very, very loudly on rackets (industrial-strength renaissance kazoos) — and whether you want to or not, it's very hard sometimes to stick with your own line if you have a loud, piercing voice right next to you, and especially if they tend to do the line wrong-but-easy…
I've also had the personal advantage of observing different conducting styles over the past dozen years, from the obsessed, manically-up-tight control freak whose band resembles nothing so much as a pen of deer-in-headlights trapped behind their music stands, to the completely indiscriminating, approving-of-everything leader who benignly waves the baton over a cacophony which the discerning audience, after much struggle, may finally be able to identify without recourse to the programme — to the generally laid-back, affirming director who makes sure the timid people get solos and aren't abandoned to finger silently or whisper for fear of making mistakes, and lets people improvise and brings those variations into the final version if they work with the piece as a whole, and doesn't leap all over someone who mangles a key phrase by accident — but doesn't hesitate to step in and address the issue when timing gets out of control or someone just won't stop adding in excessive tremolo after repeatedly being advised that it isn't appropriate to gargle on every note…and maybe gives that grand solo not to the metronome-perfect ten-year student, but to the two-year neophyte, still a little rough around the edges, a little uncertain, who leaps in with fiery enthusiasm and brings the piece to life.
Tirion: this brief portrait of the "present-day" capital of the Noldor derives from Silm., "Of Eldamar," and serves to remind the reader, as well as the characters, of that wider world out there, and the context of all actions, events, and personalities, even in Aman.
The symbolism of the odd task described is I hope obvious, and comes from two very different rituals I am aware of, on vastly-separate parts of this earth: the feast of Divali, in India, wherein tiny clay lamps, about 3 cm tall, are lit and placed along the edges of window-sills and rooftops, filling the towns with a warm golden glow far beyond what such a tiny flame would seem capable of generating, singly or in groups; and the kindling and exchanging of the Paschal flame in Roman rite Catholic churches during the Easter vigil. The style of the task, and all others implied or related, comes from the two mythic examples I am aware of in which a high-ranking female celestial has the tutelage of an earnest young male whose enthusiasm is not always equal to the study; one of which may be found in the Hebrew Scriptures, and the other in Chinese epic literature. (More on these parallels later.)
"witless and redeless" were Huan's actual words to Beren, as given in LL1, Canto XI, when he berates him for dashing off in this crazy, ill-advised way that is bound to get him killed, or worse.
The working-songs of Dorthonion are an idea inspired in part by the Scots Gaelic songs of this nature which I have heard sung, which like such songs all over the world are used to make easier and more mentally-interesting the boring repetetive tasks of agriculture and materials preparation, and also from the English tradition of change-bell ringing, in which complex mathematical patterns are played, and may be sung by the bell-ringers in practices or where bells are unavailable, and which ideally all return to the same original note simultaneously — something I've heard once for real, and a very eerie, impressive experience it was. (Change-ringing is prominently featured in what many consider to be Oxonian Dorothy Sayers' best mystery novel, The Nine Tailors.)
melisma: an ancient musical term meaning "honey-sweet," referring to a single syllable being run up and down across many notes. (A well-known example is the gloria refrain of the carol "Angels We Have Heard On High.")
The question as to whether or not Lúthien could have messed with Beren's mind — and would have been so tempted — seems inevitable to me, given her efforts to convince him by lawful means…and the prior and subsequent events where her willpower and strength of purpose to protect Beren enabled her to befuddle and overwhelm a lesser demon, a greater demon, and the archfiend of Arda himself. The incentive is unquestionable, the ability equally so — put them together with Galadriel's words in Lórien concerning the difficulty of coercing and otherwise swaying minds, and the temptation to do so for the good of those individuals, and their shared familial history, and the question of the moral right to use "magic" to push people into doing the right and safe thing for their own sakes inevitably starts becoming something more than an abstract debate between friends and relatives late at night over the wine-cups on the terrace…
As to why she wouldn't have done so, despite inclinations and ability — see Act III for likely reasons.
Huan: the Lord of Dog's role, and his Doom as one of the Noldor by virtue of following the sons of Fëanor, is something that (quite evidently) has fascinated me — as noted before, I do not concur with Michael Martinez' stated belief that had Tolkien only done further revisions of the Geste, he would have made it less "fantastic," more "naturalistic," and done away with the figure of the giant talking dog. Not only is there no evidence of this — Huan being present from the outset and in each further revision gaining an expanded role rather than a reduced — but in a world where there are also giant talking demon-wolves, and giant talking seraphic eagles, and Green Men with sacred charges, and sentient horses, and sentient trees, one more non-humanoid sentient demi-divine character is not going to strain a belief already given to the Ardaverse. There are many, many parallels between Huan's role in the Geste and the deeds of Gandalf in the Third Age, beyond the fact that both of them are known as "grey"; the fact that there is a prophecy surrounding him makes him part of a grand tradition of doomed characters in our history as well as Arda's; and his particular fate, entangling him in the Doom of the Noldor, and the ethical dilemmas of his conflicted loyalties make him one of the great tragic heroes of the legend.
—Who just happens to be a dog as well.
One of the reasons I have made Huan so very doggish is that he is, even in the leadership role and narrow time frame in which we get to see him during the Geste. (This should not surprise, given the authentically-doggy personality of Garm, that canine Sancho Panza, in Farmer Giles of Ham.) Throughout the Lay, Huan enjoys his work, hunting the Werewolves of the Enemy with a gusto and enthusiasm which owners of working animals (not simply hunting hounds) will well recognize; he is eager to do what he thinks should be done, as the comment in the Lay mentioned in the last Act notes, running ahead and looking back to see what's keeping his master; he is perceptive, which even ordinary dogs are, of the strains and stresses between his people, and easily depressed by it; but his affections are not given or withheld in accordance with his owner's priorities — also very canine behaviour. His creative interpretation of commands like "Stay!" is all too familiar to any dog-owner, and his protective behaviour and autonomous intelligence while in advance of, in very much in line with real experiences of Newfoundlands and other large, loyal breeds of dog told not simply in legend, like that of Gelert and the hound of Odysseus, but also in fact.
"You do not ride Shadowfax: he is willing to carry you —
or not. If he is willing, that is enough. It is then his business to see that
you remain on his back, unless you jump off into the air."
(LOTR:TTT, "The Palantir")
There are also interesting parallels between Gandalf's steed, and the Lord of Dogs, who understands spoken language, and is so proud and unique that his carrying of Lúthien is a matter of some amazement in the chronicles, but nevertheless remains one of the kelvar in his daily life. Like the Lord of the Eagles, who is unashamedly a Large Bird of Prey who makes no bones about snacking on stray cattle when opportunity presents itself, despite the armed objections of their owners (The Hobbit), this nobler kinsman of Garm is also mirroanwë — a full incarnate, who abides by the rules of Earth even when he transcends them by virtue of his nature; and unlike Sauron he cannot "cheat" and escape death by morphing into another shape: every time he fights in defense of his friends is potentially the last time, until he meets his Wolf and walks that road alone. —Which is also not unlike the situation of a certain Maia in the distant future.
Q-P shifts: one of the hallmarks of the linguistic changes wrought by time and geographical separation among the Eldar, this is in our world found in the different branches of Indo-European, and can be seen very clearly in the diverging words for "horse" where the Latin is "equus," the Greek "hippos" and the Celtic horse-goddess is named Epona.
Thingol's Sight warning him against humans before the coming of the Secondborn and leading him to forbid entry to all mortals, even to Finrod's servants, is described in Silm., "Of the Coming of Men Into the West," — along with Melian's private prophecy to Galadriel that one of the Bëorings will do so regardless.
The problem of the Elves going to Valinor in the first place is a complicated one: Ulmo thinks it's a terrible idea, and his conviction is the Author's, as revealed both throughout the text in the embedded (if subtle) commentary and the outcomes of the decision to bring them to Aman — and "outside the fiction," in various letters of JRRT. But at the same time, hindsight is always perfect, and the reality of making decisions based on what is presently known and likely based on that known information and past experience is never simple. And the desire to keep keep children safe and prosperous, to help one's friends and loved ones, is in itself good — and fraught with perils. "Call no man happy until he is dead," was the Greek sage Solon's advice on trying to assess "success" in someone else's life, meaning that until the full story of someone's life has unfolded, what is a good situation and who is fortunate, or happy, cannot be determined from the outside. How many millionaires have looked "happy" until their bubble bursts, revealing fraud and crime, marital strife, spiritual emptiness and substance abuse?
In the same way, what is a "good" decision or an imprudent one, cannot always easily be decided without considering the circumstances at the time each judgment call is made. This too is presented by the Professor in the course of the story, and while readers tend to oversimplify, one recurring theme in Silm. is that every action has both good and bad consequences. (Like Finwë's remarriage, for one.) Consider one alternative history of Arda: the Powers return to Middle-earth and remain there with the Eldar. Morgoth comes up for parole, concealing his malice, and successfully incites division and rebellion among the Elves. When his misdeeds are exposed (in whatever form it should take in this timeline) and he flees, he doesn't have anywhere near as far to go, and all his secret stash of superweapons (i.e. Balrogs) are ready for instant recall to go up against the forces of the Ainur presently dwelling on this side of the Sea.
The War of Wrath takes place centuries earlier in a fully-inhabited Middle-earth, on the eastern side of the Blue Mountains, with the same havoc that previous battles between gods and demigods always result in, like stray mountain-ranges and sinking rifts, and the Eldar are for all intents and purposes wiped out — along with the Dwarves, and Men as yet unborn. Endor is split into two new continents, Beleriand to the West and on the other side of a wide mediterranean sea, the remnant portion beyond the Misty Mountains, across which the handful of traumatized survivors are scattered. Eriador down to Isen no longer exists. The Gap of Rohan is the Gulf of Rohan leading up to Anduin, Fangorn an Everglades, Rohan a Camargue — except that there isn't any population left to give those areas names. All of civilization, and potential civilization, being in one restricted area, nothing of future history happens in any way resembling the known timeline of Arda. There's no Belegost, no Nogrod, no Long Peace, no Edain, no Gondolin — and no Aman as we know it; no cultural and material reserve to rebuild a Númenor after the Terrible Battle, so there's no Mordor, no Gondor, no Erebor, and also no Shire. Nothing happens as it would otherwise have unfolded.
—Would this have followed, if the Eldar had not removed in part to Valinor? No way of telling. Could it have happened? The maps say yes.
Remarks concerning the futility of keeping the future existence of the Secondborn classified forever are a reference to the alternate story of Galadriel's wishing to go East to explore even before the Darkening (UT), which whether considered apocryphal or not, is nevertheless in keeping with the long-standing tradition that Finrod, while not hungering for power and dominion, was nevertheless also lured by the thought of far-off lands to explore, and can be taken to indicate that such a return movement for benign reasons would eventually have come forward in Valinorean society, regardless of the Silmarils. The palantiri are of course one of the improvements in scrying technology mentioned in the argument. The non-release of this information, and its leakage by Melkor, was one of the main factors in creating the rift between the Noldor and the Valar (and everyone else in the world, ultimately.)
Storytelling: this scenelet is devoted to the problems of how and when does information get from one place to another, and what effect does it have on those who receive it. It doesn't just transmit itself, magically, though we tend to feel that way given the amount of uncredited, generalized information to which we are exposed from an early age through school and the media. But intelligence has to come from somewhere — or rather, someone — and at particular times, and through particular real routes, and it doesn't all arrive at the same rates, nor is it known to all persons everywhere at all instants, and in the same degrees, and the problems of bias are not simply that of ideology, but of perspective, access, and interests. This is on the one hand, the problem of history, and the honest historian, and on the other hand the problem of anyone who has to make command decisions in any area, based on what is currently known.
(It's also an homage to LOTR generally, and TTT, "Flotsam and Jetsam" specifically, where the telling of tales itself is as integral to the story as the recounting of the adventures themselves.)
The idea that the years between Maedhros' capture and rescue by Fingon, a time of rivalry and strain between uneasy neighbors-across-the-lake, might have contained other efforts at negotiating with or spying on the Enemy is entirely mine (but the Noldor of the followings of Fingolfin and Finrod had to be actively pursuing any number of political options during that time in which they recuperated from the Crossing). However the fact that the Fëanorians' treaty was not attempted in good faith and that both sides meant to ambush the other and take hostages, but Morgoth sent the big guns and won, is a long-standing part of the Silmarillion, as is the fact that Turgon's group assimilated first and fastest into the native Sindar population.
(This, combined with his early removal from the general landscape of Beleriand had the interesting effect of making Gondolin bilingual when Quenya was banned in the world outside: the Noldor, Sindar and "Gray-Noldor" of his domain being already one united people, no special stigma was attached to the language of Aman, regardless of whether or not the news of Thingol's prohibition ever reached them before Aredhel's return. Which in turn had ramifications for the subsequent history of Middle-earth, in that there was a significant portion of those few who escaped the fall of Beleriand who possessed and were at ease with the ancient knowledge, thus aiding in preserving what little did survive and bequeathing it to Númenor.)
Doriath: I wished here to point up several things, one of them being the immense age and power of the forest, something that could be as daunting to Elves as to mortals, (recall that in LOTR:TTT, Legolas — a Wood-elf even — is intimidated somewhat by Fangorn) which is owing to the accellerated growth it receieved from the presence of one of the Powers of growth and healing. (Nan Elmoth's shadow and powers of holding also are attributable to the fact that it was the place where Melian stayed during her visit to Beleriand, and where for long years she and Elu Thingol stood lost in each other's dreams.) Another fact is that it was, indeed, a Long Peace — that we only see it by and large in the moments of crisis, for as the chroniclers of Silm. note, stories are most interesting when things are awful and chaotic. Another point is the parallel between Doriath in the First Age and before, and Lothlórien in the Third Age, both in its political role and function in the War, and in its internal arrangements. It's possible to add to the picture of Doriath at peace by studying the realm governed by those who learned ruling there — that is, the images of Lórien in LOTR:FOTR. (One element of which, it may be recalled, is the coming to flower of an unlikely friendship.)
Ingold: being Finrod's amilessë, or matronym, it's not impossible that he would be best known among his mother's people thus.
Galad(h)riel: that her name, meaning "maiden crowned with a bright garland" & referring to her hair worn braided and pinned round her head to keep it out of her way during sports events, was a gift to her from Celeborn and that in this Sindarin form it was sometimes identified with the word for "trees" by her own people comes from UT. This punning equation would surely have occurred to a natural linguist, and an older sibling wouldn't be too daunted to make a joke out of it no matter how proud this youngest Prince of Finarfin's scions might be…
Celeborn: the silver hair of Galadriel's husband described in LOTR:FOTR, "The Mirror of Galadriel", is a particular trait of Lúthien's father's family, one which he shares with Finrod's mother Eärwen, and comes to him through his grandfather Elmo, the brother of Elwë and Olwë about whom nothing else is recorded. (It is also said in HOME that Nimloth, who married the son of Beren and Lúthien and was also killed by the sons of Fëanor, was Celeborn's niece, the daughter of his brother Galathil.)
When exactly did Galadriel and Celeborn leave Doriath and go East? No precise time-frame is ever given, and many readers assume that they were present during the events of the Geste and afterwards. I think this is implausible for a great many reasons, geopolitical and psychological as well as textual — and there is textual warrant for my supposition: she tells the Fellowship (LOTR:FOTR, "The Mirror of Galadriel") that they came to this part of Middle-earth "long" before the Cities of Beleriand fell. If Galadriel considers it a long time, it probably wasn't just a decade or two. And this makes sense given both the established story of the War, that they would have left during the Long Peace, not while east Beleriand was in chaos and being overrun, and their friends and relatives in danger, but would have gone on a well-equipped, well-prepared, sizeable expedition.
One indication of why (beyond, that is, the lure of distant far off lands and strange peoples which she shared canonically with her eldest sibling) is given in the varied sketches from UT, in which it is noted that they took a company, containing no small number of Noldor followers as well, beyond the mountains because it seemed to her dangerous to keep themselves penned up in the subcontinent, all one's eggs in one basket so to speak, and that they needed to spread out more: a forewarning of danger, vaguer than the ones her brother and cousin received, perhaps borne only of her own strategic understanding — but it's also certainly possible that she too received some form of message of her own while in Doriath. Ulmo was a particular friend of Thingol and Melian, and the Girdle was extended so as to enclose a section of Sirion within its boundaries, for the purpose of maintaining that contact between them. I don't say it did happen, but it could have.
"magic" — if Galadriel, who has had a wide experience of the chaotic realm of Middle-earth crossing three Ages of the world, has a hard time determining in her own mind exactly what mortals are thinking of when they use the word, it's guaranteed to be even less comprehensible to the Valinorean Eldar. (It's also an opportune way for Beren to get a little of his own back in the verbal combat department, needling his friends about things they don't know how to begin to explain.)
"Green Throne" — this outdoor seat of authority reflects old stories of European kings holding court at the foot of oak trees, but Thingol's place of power is at the base of the tree traditionally sacred to the Lady.
"But Thingol marvelled, and he sent
for Dairon the piper, ere he went
and sat upon his mounded seat—
his grassy throne by the grey feet
of the Queen of Beeches, Hirilorn,
upon whose triple piers were borne
the mightiest vault of leaf and bough
from world's beginning until now.
She stood above Esgalduin's shore,
where long slopes fell beside the door,
the guarded gates, the portals stark
of the Thousand echoing Caverns dark."
These lines from LL1, Canto IV, herald Daeron's first betrayal, and Lúthien's first impassioned defense of Beren, as Thingol seeks to discover the reason behind the "spell of silence" that the great musician's jealousy has cast over Doriath. It is not, I think, coincidental that Oromë is mentioned in the lines which follow:
Then Thingol said: 'O Dairon fair,
thou master of all musics rare,
O magic heart and wisdom wild
whose ear nor eye may be beguiled,
what omen doth this silence bear?
What horn afar upon the air,
what summons do the woods await?
Mayhap the Lord Tavros from his gate
and tree-propped halls, the forest god
rides his wild stallion golden-shod
amid the trumpets' tempest loud,
amid his green-clad hunters proud,
leaving his deer and friths divine
and emerald forests? Some faint sign
of his great onset may have come
upon the Western winds, and dumb
the woods now listen for a chase
that here once more shall thundering race
beneath the shade of mortal trees.
Would it were so! The Lands of Ease
hath Tavros left not many an age,
since Morgoth evil wars did wage,
since ruin fell upon the North
and the Gnomes unhappy wandered forth.
But if not he, who comes or what?'
And Dairon answered: 'He cometh not!
No feet divine shall leave that shore,
where the Shadowy Seas' last surges roar,
till many things be come to pass,
and many evils wrought. Alas!
the guest is here. The woods are still,
but wait not; for a marvel chill
them holds at the strange deeds they see,
but kings see not — though queens, maybe,
may guess, and maidens, maybe know.
Where one went lonely two now go!"
Is it a coincidence that Thingol happens to wonder if it is Oromë's return which has caused this hush over the land — or that when he learns of a trespasser, demands,
"How walks he free
within my woods amid my folk,
a stranger to both beech and oak?"
— when elsewhere these particular trees are named as Beren's comrades? It would take a much longer space than this to go into all the tree-symbolism, mythic archetypes and stories of Oak-Heroes and Kings of Summer and Winter that seem to play beneath the surface here.
Melian: her innate power, and her adventurous and flamboyant nature are to be found in the source texts for Silm., in greater detail (if under different names) than in the published edition. In "The Tale of Tinúviel" (LT2), an Elf who knew her answers the question of what she was like in the following words:
'Slender, and very dark of hair,' said Vëannë,
'and her skin was white and pale, but her eyes shone and seemed deep, and
she was clad in filmy garments most lovely yet of black, jet-spangled and
girt with silver. If ever she sang, or if she danced, dreams and slumbers
passed over your head and made it heavy…
'…but now the song of Gwendeling's nightingales was the most beautiful music that Tinwelint had ever heard, and he strayed aside for a moment, as he thought, from the host, seeking in the dark trees whence it might come. And it is said that it was not a moment he hearkened, but many years, and vainly his people sought him, until at length they followed Oromë and were born upon Tol Eressëa far away, and he saw them never again. Yet after a while as it seemed to him he came upon Gwendeling lying in a bed of leaves gazing at the stars above her and hearkening also to her birds. Now Tinwelint steping softly stooped and looked upon her, thinking, "Lo, here is a fairer being even than the most beautiful of my folk" — for indeed Gwendeling was not elf or woman but of the children of the Gods; and bending further to touch a tress of her hair he snapped a twig with his foot. Then Gwendeling was up and away laughing just softly, sometimes singing distantly or dancing ever just before him, till a swoon of fragrant slumbers fell upon him and he fell face downward neath the trees and slept a very great while.
'Now when he awoke he thought no more of his people…but desired only to see the twilight-lady; but she was not far, for she had remained nigh at hand and watched over him. More of their story I know not, O Eriol, save that in the end she became his wife…"
"She dwelt in the gardens of Lórien, and among all his fair folk there were
none more beautiful than she, nor more wise, nor more skilled in songs of magic and
enchantment. It is told that the Gods would leave their business, and the birds of
Valinor their mirth, that the bells of Valmar were silent, and the fountains ceased
to flow, when at the mingling of the light Melian sang in the gardens of the God
of dreams. Nightingales went always with her, and she taught them their
song. She loved deep shadow, but she was akin, before the World was made,
unto Yavanna, and often strayed from Valinor on long journey into the Higher
Lands, and there she filled the silence of the dawning earth with her voice
and with the voices of her birds.
Thingol heard the song of the nightingales of Melian and a spell was laid upon him, and he forsook his folk, and was lost…"
(HOME:LR, "Quenta Silmarillion.")
So we have an adventurous, independent, powerful-yet-mischievous demigoddess who wanders the dark corners of the world on her own until she meets the love of her Immortal life, the young chief of a primitive, newborn people, and goes off to tame a savage and dangerous land with him by her side… and doesn't know how to cope when their daughter takes after her parents. (I particularly like the image of Melian like a gypsy Queen, clad in sparkly transparent black dancing outfits, and the attendance of singing birds is an old Celtic attribute of divinity — Aengus is the most famous of the Celtic god-heroes, but there are others as well.)
She's a fascinating character, who like most epic figures raises more questions than are or can be ever answered, but it's intriguing to think about them. —What was she supposed to do, in Middle-earth, and what might have happened if she hadn't been so ambivalent about her daughter's destiny? (In one of the earliest rescensions, the second betrayal is not simply by Daeron (who is still her brother at this time) but partly accidental — Lúthien is trying to get her mother to help by pleading with Thingol to get an army together, after being told of Beren's captivity, and in one version she does help, but in the other Melian says — "No help wilt thou get therein of me, little one, for even if magic and destiny should bring thee safe out of that foolhardiness, yet should many and great things come thereof, and on some many sorrows, and my rede is that thou tell never thy father of thy desire" — just as the latter happens to be coming into the room, and says — Tell him what?
Which makes things so much worse that she wishes she'd never even talked to her mother; but — does Melian say this by accident, really, or not? And does she counsel Lúthien not to speak about it as advice to give up, or to do it on her own? All along, her role is strangely ambiguous — or is it? Your only daughter wants to go off and challenge your mortal enemy, the most powerful ruler in the known world, against whose defenses Elven armies have come to ruin, on behalf of someone who isn't going to stick around in this life or the next, and she wants your help to do it, and to take her side against your husband, and there are already strains in your relationship because of the situation …but on the other hand, there is your nature, your calling, the task you took up Ages ago to guard the Land, and the fact that by birth and training your daughter has a right to the name you gave her, Sorceress —
Some days it doesn't pay to get up in the morning, as the saying goes.
Daeron: His status as greatest of the three greatest musicians of the Eldar is found in the first Lay fragment, Canto III:
"…and when the stars began to shine,
unseen but near a piping woke,
and in the branches of an oak,
or seated on the beech-leaves brown,
Dairon the dark with ferny crown
played with bewildering wizard's art
music for breaking of the heart.
Such players there have only been
thrice in all Elfinesse, I ween:
Tinfang Gelion who still the moon
enchants on summer nights of June
and kindles the pale firstling star;
and he who harps upon the far
forgotten beaches and dark shores
where western foam forever roars,
Maglor, whose voice is like the sea;
and Dairon, mightiest of the three."
Maglor being of course the second of Fëanor's sons; I don't know anything about Tinfang Gelion (also known sometimes as Tinfang Warble) — neither ethnicity, place of origin, nor gender, nor even preferred instrument (though "Warble" would indicate vocalist primarily) — who always appears as one of the three foremost but who seems to have been lucky enough not to have gotten famous for anything else in history. (The status of Daeron and Tinfang in fact predates the inclusion (or final name) of Maglor, going back to the Tale of Tinúviel.)
"absent friends" — in our continuum this is a traditional toast made in honor of dead comrades among military veterans; I employed this particular phrasing both because it is a memorable one and ambiguous in its unsentimentality (hence its appeal) and in hopes that the double appropriateness of it stemming from this association might possibly work its way into the reader's awareness, consciously or not; appropriate in this story, because the one who has occasioned it is also a casualty of the War, though unbeknownst to those who recall her overseas.
Elemmirë: a Vanyar Elf renowned for "The Lament for the Two Trees," about whom no more is known because this composer is evidently so famous as to be a household name in Valinor — and although the name endings aren't a 100% indicator of gender, known trends make it probable that the author of the "Aldudénië" is female, given the terminal -ë; "Elemmirë" (star-jewel) is also the name of an Arda constellation or first magnitude astral body.
Teler: that the third clan of the Eldar were reknowned for their musical ability particularly as well as for their affinity with water, having been taught by the Powers of the Sea, is present from far back in the development of the mythos. Perceptive readers may have discerned a compounding element of the romantic difficulties in this ethnically mixed couple in that fact.
Caranthir: this son of Fëanor, who has been mentioned (always with trepidation) now and again from Act II onward, is called the most grim and harsh of the seven (his name reflects the fact that his face was often red with anger, reflecting the darkness of his temper) and unlike his elder siblings is never said to have had any particular friendships with any of his cousins.
Impromptu horse-races among happy warriors on a journey are a Beowulf ObRef, like cups stolen from dragons' hoards…
Philosophical battles over which arts and occupations are "nobler" go back as far as recorded argument, and undoubtedly long predate any written records, with carvers of mammoth ivory claiming that their work was better because it was more difficult than painting, and three-dimensional just like a real aurochs, and wall painters answering back that no, it was more of a challenge to make a flat surface look like an animal, and the flint knappers retorting to both of them that making good blades was the greatest art, because without it none of theirs would be possible…
The fear of the Sea among the first two hosts of the Eldar is canonical, and attested in Silm., "Of the Coming of the Elves":
"At length the Vanyar and the Noldor came over Ered Luin, the Blue Mountains, between Eriador and the westernmost land of Middle-earth, which the Elves after named Beleriand, and the foremost companies passed over the Vale of Sirion and came down to the shores of the Great Sea between Drengist and the Bay of Balar. But when they beheld it great fear came upon them, and many of them withdrew into the woods and highlands of Beleriand…"
—As is Ulmo's continuing concern for all the Eldar, regardless of ethnicity, and efforts to help them throughout the course of the War.
The First Age employment of the sorcerous equivalent of electrified restraints is attested in both the Lay of the Children of Hurin:
"Then hung they helpless Húrin dauntless
in chains by fell enchantments forged
that with fiery anguish his flesh devoured
yet loosed not lips locked in silence
to pray for pity…"
as well as in the present context in LL1, Canto VII:
"…to dungeons no hope nor glimmer know
where chained in chains that eat the flesh
and woven in webs of strangling mesh
they lay forgotten, in despair."
"Children of Aulë" - ObRef to The Hobbit, "An Unexpected Party":
"Well, your father gave me this to give to you; and if
I have chosen my own time and way for handing it over, you can hardly blame
me, considering the trouble I had to find you. Your father could not remember
his own name when he gave me the paper, and he never told me yours; so
on the whole I think I ought to be praised and thanked! Here it is," said
he, handing the map to Thorin.
"I don't understand," said Thorin, and Bilbo felt he would have liked to say the same. The explanation did not seem to explain.
"Your grandfather," said the wizard slowly and grimly, "gave the map to his son for safety before he went to the mines of Moria. Your father went away to try his luck with the map after your grandfather was killed; and lots of adventures of a most unpleasant sort he had, but he never got near the Mountain. How he got there I don't know, but I found him a prisoner in the dungeons of the Necromancer."
"Whatever were you doing there?" asked Thorin with a shudder, and all the dwarves shivered.
"Never you mind. I was finding things out, as usual; and a nasty dangerous business it was. Even I, Gandalf, only just escaped. I tried to save your father, but it was too late. He was witless and wandering, and had forgotten almost everything except the map and the key."
"We have long ago paid the goblins of Moria," said Thorin; "we must give a thought to the Necromancer."
"Don't be absurd! He is an enemy far beyond the powers of all the dwarves put together, if they could all be collected again from the four corners of the world. The one thing your father wished was for his son to read the map and use the key. The dragon and the Mountain are more than big enough tasks for you!"
It should be immediately apparent that the reference is entirely and utterly apt (surprising though this may be to those who have neglected The Hobbit in the mistaken belief that it is merely a light children's book, undeserving of attention.)
Chronology of the Geste:
(taken from the Silmarillion, the Lay of Leithian, and the Grey Annals)
455/56 The Dagor Bragollach takes place at midwinter, winding down somewhat
in spring of '56. Of the lords of
the northlands, Fingolfin, Hador Lórindol, Angrod, Aegnor and Bregolas are all killed, with massive allied
casualties and loss of territory. Finrod saved by Barahir, joined by Orodreth, with Celegorm, Curufin,
Celebrimbor, and surviving followers driven from Aglon and Himlad, regrouping in Nargothrond.
458 Tol Sirion lost. (The Haladin protect
Doriath and Húrin and Huor are separated from their cousins, then
rescued and taken to Gondolin by the Eagles.) Subsequently the situation in Dorthonion worsens; Lady
Emeldir takes surviving civilians westward in search of safety — no exact time frame given.
459 (Húrin and Huor are given special conduct to leave Gondolin and return home to Hithlum via Eagle.)
460 Sauron comes to settle the rebels in person.
Gorlim captured; Barahir and the other Outlaws killed.
Beren continues his personal war alone.
462 (Morgoth attacks Eithel Sirion, Húrin's father Galdor killed there. Cirdan brings a fleet to Fingon's rescue.)
463 (Easterlings arrive en masse in East Beleriand, ally with Maedhros, Maglor and Caranthir.)
464 Beginning quarter, during winter,
Beren leaves Dorthonion, crosses the dead zone and enters Doriath,
taking up residence in the northeastern quadrant of Neldoreth. (Also in the early part of the year, in
Dor-lomin, Húrin marries Beren's cousin Morwen.)
Around midsummer Beren sees Lúthien for the first time and is smitten.
(Towards the end of the year, Túrin is born in Dor-lomin.)
autumn and winter Beren haunts Neldoreth, occasionally catching sight or
sound of Lúthien, but
unable to approach or talk to her.
464/5 At midwinter Beren sees Lúthien celebrating in the snow.
arrives, and the "spell of silence" on Beren is broken. Through the next
few months their relationship
develops, overwatched unknown to them by Daeron.
midsummer Daeron betrays them to Thingol. Beren is assigned the Quest and
for Nargothrond. Lúthien mourns at home and gives her family the silent treatment.
autumn he arrives Nargothrond, the coup takes place, and "on an evening
of autumn" Beren, Finrod,
Edrahil and the other nine leave the City in the divided possession of Orodreth and the sons of Fëanor.
indefinite days of travel northward, they are picked up at the border of
Anfauglith and taken back
to Tol Sirion by Sauron's patrols. Duel, defeat and imprisonment.
in Doriath, by psychic means, Lúthien discovers the truth and plans
to attempt a rescue.
Betrayed to her father again by Daeron and imprisoned in Hirilorn for indefinite days before escaping.
Arriving environs Nargothrond is intercepted and taken hostage by Celegorm. Escapes with Huan after
indefinite days imprisoned there. Arrives Tol Sirion late autumn/early winter.
battle and defeat of Sauron, rescue of Beren and other Elvish slaves employed
at Tol Sirion. Burial
of Finrod there. Ex-thralls travel to Nargothrond with Huan, while Beren and Lúthien wander around for
an indefinite while sightseeing and arguing about what to do next, heading generally towards Neldoreth.
Nargothrond, counter-revolution results in the eviction of the sons of
Fëanor. Their eastward route
between Nan Dungortheb and Doriath intersects with Beren and Lúthien's trail north of Brethil. Attempted
shooting of Lúthien, Beren shot, Huan defects to their side. The following day after Beren's healing they
begin a debate/journey back to Doriath, taking an unspecified number of days.
in Doriath proper, Thingol receives Celegorm's "offer of alliance" and
responds with an
army, but en route is obliged to detour to cope with an invasion of Orcs, and after taking care of that,
sends Beleg in to Nargothrond to infiltrate and gather intelligence. Learning that Lúthien is gone
who-knows-where, and that the sons of Fëanor have been sent packing, he gives up on that attempt
and returns to Menegroth to plan new rescue efforts. No exact timeline for these events.
early a.m. Beren sneaks off on Curufin's horse and rides back west and
north to the Anfauglith.
Later same day Lúthien convinces Huan to take her along, they detour briefly south to Tol Sirion, pick
up Huan's stashed trophies and go north to catch up to Beren at the border of noman's-land at nightfall.
(Could have been not that same day but the next — but maybe not, given the fact that the steeds were
respectively a proto-meara and an Immortal.) Huan leaves to go talk to Thorondor and other lawful
animal species, after scolding Beren. That night Lúthien transforms them, at midnight they begin the
crossing of the burnt plain.
two days travel broken by rest periods to get to the Gates of Angband (midnight
following day and night, arriving at the foothills of Thangorodrim the next morning, and the road that
led through the rough tailings to the Gate where they rest through the afternoon before continuing down
it to arrive at the Gates by evening) followed by the attempted infiltration of Angband and The Duel,
followed by the removal of the gem, the messed-up escape plan, Beren's maiming, and the extraction
from before the Gates by Thorondor, Gwaihir and Landroval, with evacuation to the starting point in
northern Doriath where Huan is waiting.
466 Through the end of winter Beren is
comatose, cared for by Lúthien and Huan. Meanwhile Carcharoth
is rampaging madly around the northeast, as much a menace to Morgoth's own forces as to anyone
else, and Thingol has sent an embassy to demand damages and assistance in finding Lúthien from Himring
but the emissaries are intercepted and slaughtered by the Wolf, with only Mablung surviving the attack.
arrives, Beren recovers consciousness but not hope. Return to Menegroth
end of spring/beginning
of summer. The hunt of the Wolf. Beren & Huan killed.
467 Lúthien dies, no season of year given, and goes to Mandos to appeal on Beren's behalf.
468 Maedhros decides he could
certainly do a better job than they managed and starts planning his own
invasion of Angband.
469 Beren & Lúthien
return to Middle-earth, no season of year given, and after an unspecified
Menegroth, wander for a while, and end up in Ossiriand. Sometime in the next five years Dior is born.
Sulilotë: "windflower;" Quenya, constructed name, after the fashion of Ninquelotë.
Finrod's brothers refer in their self-critical remarks to the statements in Silm. that they were eager to be off and among the first to step forward at Fëanor's behest — not surprising, if they were close friends to his sons and presumably close in temperment as well.
Finrod on the other hand is invoking the family issues of the preceding generation as a negative model and reproach, reminding them of the destructive consequences of their uncles' sibling rivalry for their grandfather's attention and approval — not a comparison which would be at all welcome, particularly given their centuries'-long role as elder guardians of mortals.
His attempt to console Aegnor and the latter's response connect with the matter of the "Athrabeth," Aegnor being no more willing, in this envisioning, to accept such a tenuous hope than his true-love was.
Time problem: the discussion of how time is measured and defined, and even perceivable, has been a hotly-debated philosophical as well as scientific issue for as long as people have been watching the stars and noting the regularity — and variation — of their movements. The need to abstract one' self from assumptions, to consider scientifically what is taken for granted (that is, the present standards of measurement, both on a small and a large scale) and the difficulties thereof are something I have personally experienced when trying to reassure high-school students as to the mystic-non-significance of "Y2K" and the reasons for not believing in it: one tool I used was an old Chinese New Year card made by Hallmark, which did very concretely what chalkboard diagrams of the solar system had not succeeded in doing — conveying the fact that a "year" is a segment of time whose start and stop are determined by people, not the Universe itself, and when we choose to do so entirely arbitrary and variable.
Crossings of Teiglin: the place where the southern road which leads from Tol Sirion towards Nargothrond traverses the river Teiglin; this is the particular location the Haladin were specifically charged to guard against Enemy incursions as the "rent" for Brethil forest by King Thingol — which at the time of its granting was hardly a heavy challenge (or foreseeably so), given the amount of allied traffic that must have traveled this main north-south corridor between the domains of the Noldor, the Fortress standing squarely athwart that road, and the Leaguer serving to maintain a perimeter even farther north. For most of the Long Peace it must have been a very busy locale, as well as a slightly inconveniently-splashy one in times of heavy traffic, given that it was after all a ford.
"not very biddable" — Maiwë is referring here to their shared Valinorean past, and one of Melkor's main arguments in seducing the Noldor to strife and rebellion: the idea that Men, according to the will of the Valar, "might come and supplant them in the realms of Middle-earth, for the Valar saw that they might more easily sway this short-lived and weaker race, defrauding the Elves of the inheritance of Ilúvatar. Small truth was there in this, and little have the Valar ever prevailed to sway the wills of Men, but many of the Noldor believed, or half believed, the evil words." (Silm., "Of the Silmarils.") It is also noted rather dryly earlier in the same passage by the chronicler that "little he [that is, Melkor] knew yet concerning Men, for engrossed with his own thought in the Music he had paid small heed to the Third Theme…" — an oversight which would cost him dearly, but which he would swiftly move to rectify, with not insignificant success.
bastard: one important theme in this act (as in the Silmarillion itself) is that of communication — what are the basic assumptions, cultural contexts, and inherent traits that shape our understanding, so that language itself can become an obstacle, as well as what potential lies in overcoming such barriers. A thoughtless (to most of us, at least) insult serves as one way of illustrating the vast gulfs of understanding not simply between Men and Elves, but between the cultures which have been separated now for almost half-a-millenium, and whose experiences have diverged so radically.
Since Elves (with the world-shattering exception of Finwë) bond with a single partner, and conception follows from a voluntary act of the parents' will, bastardy cannot be an Elven concept in its origin; there is no way for it to enter the vocabulary except through contact with mortals, as the observation of nature would only yield the fact that different kinds of creatures follow different rules for social organization, including those concerning mating. Not until encountering sentients so similar in outward appearance and yet so different on very fundamental levels would, it is reasonable to assume, such a thing even occur to the Eldar — and, it is equally reasonable to deduce, be very troubling to think about. (Angrod and Aegnor, having been in close contact with Men for so long, understand the word superficially at least, enough to use the insult with meaningful intent.)
Nerdanel, however, being as wise, is likely to cut right through the social confusion following the faux-pas of the unmeant corrolary of such an insult (i.e., her presumed infidelity) and to see the crucial facts of such a psychic difference, and their implications for recent events.
"a good thing" — Nerdanel's somewhat disturbing remarks (since encompassed in them is the fact of his death) follow naturally enough from the view that it is better to suffer wrongs than to do them.
Beren's amusement at their eviction from the Powers' discussion refers both to Beren's own experiences and those of House Finarfin not simply in Nargothrond but also in Doriath previously.
Miriel's death indeed preceded the release of Melkor, q.v. Silm., "Of Fëanor," where it is stated that while Indis' sons were still growing up, Melkor came up for parole and was released from Mandos after his case was considered.
The Sea-Mew's reaction would likely be typical of Elves to Lúthien's imprisonment, given its anomalous character and the amply attested independence of the Eldar both in Aman and in Beleriand, and not merely the result of youthful empathy.
"defensive perimeter" — this dark-humoured remark is an allusion both to Leaguer and to the Guarded Plain protecting Nargothrond, where Beren was observed and arrested on his approach.
Again, more invocation of Montague-Capulet interactions in this section.
"minion" — a reference of course to their disguising themselves as Orcs.
The problem of interior mental attitude and moral guilt is not an abstract question, nor a matter of airy metaphysical speculation, as I have heard declared in college ethics classes, but a very real and material one: it is the difference between manslaughter and Murder One, and between different classes of assault even when no death results, and even when no assault is successfully carried through — with vastly different sentences corresponding to each.
And no, I don't think that there would be any Hollywood moment for Maiwë here, no "my hero!" exclamation and dazzlement overwhelming all rational doubts and self-interest at an act of violence undertaken (at least in part) on her behalf, given who she is, the culture she comes from, and what happened to her.
The interaction between Nerdanel and the Fëanorian lords reflects the fact that, as members of her husband's following, they would of course have been known to her before the rebellion, and in fact answerable to her as Lady of the House before the couple's separation.
"damnéd archers" — the problem of archers taking all the fun out of battle, so to speak, and levelling to a much greater extent the playing field, so that mere physical brawn and swordsmanship (or spearmanship) and courage no longer were the only elements (along with Fate) which determined the outcome of a battle, goes back at least to the Iliad and probably earlier. (This is the same problem which the samurai found themselves confronting in the Renaissance, leading to the outlawing of firearms at a time when artillery and ballistics were being refined in Europe; this equalizing effect can be seen demonstrated in Kurosawa's incomparable epic The Seven Samurai, where a primitive musket is employed against a ravaging warlord's forces with demoralizing results, despite its inefficiency.)
chess: Maiwë's query reflects the fact that I think it highly unlikely that chess originated in Valinor (though remotely possible.) Personally I suspect it to have been originally a Dwarvish invention, and modified first by the Elves and subsequently by mortals to add new elements of challenge (or alternately to reflect reality more closely.) It is in my opinion equally probable that it was first introduced to Doriath by the Dwarven architects and artisans who worked there, and from there brought to the other Noldor realms via the Finarfinions, as that it might have been "discovered" by Finrod first while working with the Dwarves on Nargothrond and thereby introduced to his cousins — who might have replaced archers with cavalry to give it a shape more familiar to us at present. Or it could just be that the tafl style version, with all players equal in ability, as if on foot and armed only with hand weapons, was the original and the elaborations and specializations we are used to might be the later developments of the game.
Melkor's parole: Nienna (who was at that point thought of as the sister of Manwë and Melkor, not of Namo and Irmo) taking his part is mentioned in HOME:LR, "Quenta Silmarillion", as is the fact that Tulkas and Ulmo didn't trust him despite his display of benevolent reform, Tulkas clenching his fists whenever the pardoned rebel went by.
Before Cirdan was introduced into the mythos (or rather, his existence uncovered by the historian), Finrod (then known in the texts as Inglor, if you weren't confused enough already) was in fact posited as King and overlord of the coastal Teler as well as of Nargothrond, so his father's question is not entirely unwarranted, nor the idea implausible. ("The Quenta," HOME:Shaping). In the absence of a strong leader of their own, the folk of the Havens might well have adopted this outgoing, efficient young kinsman from the West who helped them build up their defenses and improve their shipyards, just as many of the Elves of Beleriand made his cousin Turgon their lord.
That there was an expression of familial rivalries on a very low-key level between the branches of the House of Finwë, in the unusual extent of each family, is entirely my own suggestion; the HOME timelines indicate a wide spacing of the children of Finarfin and Eärwen, (some sixty-odd years overall, but whether these are Valinorean years, which differ from Sun-years rather in the way that a "year" is not the same on every planet, or have already been converted to current dates, I'm still not sure), but I have not found any corresponding dates for the Feanorions or Fingolfinions to verify this conjecture. It isn't entirely improbable, though, I think.
That having more children than one's sibling would be understood more in the nature of being a prolific artist — and a collaborative one, at that — rather than in any notion of male sexual prowess, comes from HOME: Morgoth's Ring, "Laws & Customs" where it's made clear that according to Elven thought, having children is one among many skills and talents, like painting, sculpture, writing, fibre arts, music, and so forth; that it's one complete process, throughout which both parents are fully involved (if in different ways) and that the father's part doesn't begin and end in bed, nor the mother's part begin in pregnancy (take that, Aristotle!) and that one has no business indulging in the begetting if one doesn't plan to stick around for the childrearing part. Though like all analogies this is a limited one, because the Elvish sages also believed that while parents contribute psychic energy to the developing offspring (one reason why fathers need to be around, literally lending psychological support) the newcomer is not in any way "part of" the parents' souls, but a unique and different person, independent of others, not a mere extension of the family, certainly not property — even, or especially, in the case of those who are reincarnated.
The contrasts between present-day chess and tafl are used here, as in Act III, to make a point, but now the emphasis is slightly different, not on the fact of the unequal contest and difficulty as a metaphor for the struggles against the Enemy in Beleriand, and specifically equating Finrod to the namesake kingstone, but instead more strongly on the contrasting ways in which the two games are won or lost.
The complex and dynamic questions of how life shapes language shapes thought shapes sentient life are barely beginning to be systematically explored in a dispassionate way (i.e., not to "prove" cultural superiorities) by cognitive science researchers uniquely suited, by virtue of their own multilinguality, to ask the right questions.
Finrod's kingdom was not limited in its height to merely the capitol and its environs. All those lands held in vassalty by his brothers, and in turn let by them to their own lieges, belong to him as surely as the Shire belongs to Gondor. Thus the whole of the Sirion Valley and the northern border up to the Pass of Aglon is his, forming an L-shape or shallow "C" around Doriath, leaving the east side to the apathetic rule of House Fëanor and the largely uninhabited south uncertain as to what alliegiance, if any, was acknowledged by its nomadic inhabitants. (It also encircled, though unawares, the compact realm of his cousin, Turgon, along with the dead zone of Nan Dungortheb between Doriath and Dorthonion.)
The political importance was even greater, as was the "sphere of influence," because of the fact that Finrod alone communicated with all the Free Peoples of Beleriand, serving as the bridge between the factions of his family in the northeast and northwest, with the Teler of the seacoast and the Sindar of Doriath, (and safeguarding the renewed contact previously broken by Morgoth between them), with the wandering tribes of the Lindar in the East, and with those who were entirely Other as well, the Dwarf-Lords and mortals. Nargothrond controlled the main north-south traffic corridor, the Sirion valley, and also had what no other Noldor house had — a safe, quick, route east and west through Doriath, and a vast source of free information through Elu's messengers. No other Elven King had the same level of access to places and news, not because of pre-eminence of birth or military power, but because of interest and involvement — no one else was a xenophile, to put it another way. Family connections only get you so far, and nowhere at all with people who aren't related to you in any degree. The rapid disintegration of what remains of organized resistance in Beleriand after Finrod's exile cannot all be ascribed to the military might of the Dark Lord, nor should it be facilely ascribed to the curse of the Silmarils, as if dooms operate in a vacuum, rather than working on, and through, the available materials.
Elu's counselor refers both to the sons of Finarfin being kicked out over the Kinslaying revelation, and the later situation with the Haladin described in Act II:III, as well as other unknown arguments which may safely be presumed to have taken place over the centuries on matters from politics to advanced theology, given the respective parties involved.
Regarding Finrod correcting himself before speaking of Glaurung by kind: somewhat patronizingly, perhaps, but also considerately, he doesn't assume that people here are familiar with what he's talking about that is outside of their direct experience.
The Warden of Aglon's words echo Caranthir's to Angrod and Aegnor:
But Caranthir, who loved not the sons of Finarfin, and was the harshest of
the brothers and most quick to anger, cried aloud: 'Yea more! Let not the sons of Finarfin run hither
and thither with their tales to this Dark Elf in his caves! Who made them our spokesmen to deal with him? And
though they be indeed come to Beleriand, let them not so swiftly forget that their father is
a lord of the Noldor, though their mother be of other kin.'
(Silm., "Of the Return of the Noldor")
"birdcage" — this jibe invokes the speech of Fëanor in the great square of Tirion, where with flaming torches in hand he proclaims, as recorded in a fragmentary poem, where his hot words are forebodingly uttered against the background image of the frightened Sea-elves wandering on the beaches or huddled on the ships, calling for each other and wondering what catastrophe has darkened their world:
"…the Gods' jealousy, who guard us here
to serve them, sing to them in our sweet cages,
to contrive them gems and jewelled trinkets,
their leisure to please with our loveliness,
while they waste and squander work of ages,
nor can Morgoth master in their mansions sitting
at endless councils. Now come ye all,
who have courage and hope! My call hearken
to flight, to freedom in far places!"
(LB, "The Flight of the Noldoli From Valinor")
along with the fact that Valmar, the city of the Vanyar, was known for its golden architecture and its many bells whose notes filled the air around it.
Aglon's slightly ribald remark provoking the Barad Nimras comment in return refers to the statements in Silm., "Of Beleriand and its Realms," about the Enemy never invading from the Sea. This is, in retrospect, obvious given the antipathy between the Powers of Water and Morgoth, but of course hindsight is always perfect, and neglect of defenses based on assumptions a dangerous thing.
yearsick: literal translation of Engwar, "the sickly ones", an epithet conferred by the Eldar on mortals, refers to sickness caused by the passing of time, rather than pestilence or injury.
"twilight" — harking back to her people's time on Tol Eressëa, of which it is said, "There the Teler abode as they wished under the stars of heaven, and yet within sight of Aman and the deathless shore; and by that long sojourn apart in the Lonely Isle was caused the sundering of their speech from that of the Vanyar and the Noldor," (Silm., "Of Eldamar") and in another rescension, "Ossë followed them, and when they were come near to their journey's end he called to them; and they begged Ulmo to halt for a while, so that they might take leave of their friend and look their last upon the sky of stars. For the light of the Trees, that filtered through the passes of the hills, filled them with awe." (HOME:LR, "Quenta Silmarillion".)
"quarter Noldor" — this is in fact the case, as Finarfin is half Vanyar, and Eärwen presumably entirely of Teler descent.
the Ex-Thrall's story. it's extremely possible that there were female POWs at Tol Sirion, given that Morgoth was an equal-oportunity enslaver, and that the bastions of the Noldor were not merely forward military base camps, but fortified installations of long-standing, like the Roman castrae, or medieval castles. Given what it says about Elvish gender roles in "Laws and Customs" (HOME: Morgoth's Ring), she would not have been impossible nor even implausible, far less so than the very real aristocratic women who went into the field in WWI driving ambulances, and were occasionally casualties there. (This is reflected in the fictional account of the narrator's lost, enigmatic mother in Brideshead Revisited; but that such drivers were not only courageous but also known at home for being somewhat reckless of speed limits, and sometimes came back from the War with decorated, titled husbands met in such chaotic circumstances, comes firsthand from the non-fiction pages of a crumbling 1919 newspaper in my personal possession.)
"two years" — to cross-reference, it will be recalled that this is when the situation in Dorthonion becomes untenable, and the extraordinarly-dangerous step of removing surviving civilian population willing to leave across that now-enemy-held area, through the mountains, is undertaken by their Lady.
Little Ease (& other horrors): her ordeal is not as "modern" as it seems, in large part because Tolkien himself anticipated many of the horrors of the 20th century years before they became fact, which in turn reflects the fact that the totalitarian excesses of the last century were but the outgrowth of those which preceded them, the police state well-known throughout 19th and 18th century Europe, the labour camps of Siberia merely continuing the traditions of the Czarist regime, the actual and virtual slavery of disenfranchised laborers, whose protests put down with such violence on the continent resulted in so many emigrations to the New World, and the infamously-hellish working conditions of mill and factory which have only moved to places where there is less regulation and oversight (or enforcement) these days. Angband's work environment is described in LL1, Cantos XII-XIII:
"They woke, and felt the trembling sound,
the beating echo far underground
shake beneath them, the rumour vast
of Morgoth's forges…
…the thunderous forges' rumours grew,
a burning wind there roaring blew
foul vapours up from gaping holes.
Huge shapes there stood like carven trolls
enormous hewn of blasted rock
to forms that mortal likeness mock;
monstrous and menacing, entombed,
at every turn they silent loomed
in fitful glares that leaped and died.
There hammers clanged, and tongues there cried
with sound like smitten stone; there wailed
faint from far under, called and failed
amid the iron clink of chain
voices of captives put to pain."
And of course the systematic employment of brutality to control one's fellow-sentients, and by those who by innate temperment and/or bad upbringing find it an enjoyable diversion, is at least as old as recorded history. The confinement of political prisoners in an enclosure too small to lie down or stand up in was known to the jailers of Elizabethan England as "Little Ease," and the "divide and conquer" method of dealing with resistance well-known to the Romans. However Orwellian it might seem, this sequence is actually inspired more by Dante and the sources from antiquity that he drew on (along with the Lay itself, obviously.)
How bad could it have been? There is a tendency among fans to mistake reticence for naivete on the part of Tolkien, (which does not seem to take into account the facts of the Great War, for one thing) based on contemporary decades' explicitness in describing fictional torture and atrocity, often with a tone which indicates relish rather than real horror on the part of the authors. (Eddings, Jordan, Goodkind all leaping to mind.) But in one of the rescensions of the Fall of Nargothrond, when the dying Gelmir commands Túrin, he orders him to go and rescue Finduilas if he can — or kill her, if he cannot. Gelmir knows what he's talking about — if he, a veteran of four centuries' worth of warfare and the Crossing of the Ice, thinks the Halls of Mandos are a better alternative to surviving as a thrall, we can be sure that it was every bit as bad as anything described by Solzhenitzen or other survivors — and worse: after all, the thugs of 20th century labour camps and prisons were not supervised by telepathic Darkside overlords. The following description of Húrin's "softening-up" in Angband dates from around 1926:
Said the dread Lord of Hell: 'Dauntless Húrin,
stout steel-handed, stands before me
yet quick a captive, as a coward might be!
Then knows he my name, or needs be told
what hope he has in the halls of iron?
The bale most bitter, Balrogs' torment?
Then Húrin answered, Hithlum's chieftain—
his shining eyes with sheen of fire
in wrath were reddened: 'O ruinous one,
by fear unfettered I have fought thee long,
nor dread thee now, nor thy demon slaves,
fiends and phantoms, thou foe of Gods!'
His dark tresses, drenched and tangled,
that fell o'er his face he flung backward,
in the eye he looked of the evil Lord—
since that day of dread to dare his glance
has no mortal Man had might of soul.
There the mind of Húrin in a mist of dark
'neath gaze unfathomed groped and foundered,
yet his heart yielded not nor his haughty pride.
But Lungorthin Lord of Balrogs
on the mouth smote him, and Morgoth smiled:
'Nay, fear when thou feelest, when the flames lick thee
and the whistling whips thy white body
and wilting flesh weal and torture!'
Then hung they helpless Húrin dauntless
in chains by fell enchantments forged
that with fiery anguish his flesh devoured
yet loosed not lips locked in silence
to pray for pity. Thus prisoned saw he
on the sable walls the sultry glare
of far-off fires fiercely burning
down deep corridors and dark archways
in the blind abysses of those bottomless halls;
there with mourning mingled mighty tumult
the throb and thunder of the thudding forges'
brazen clangour; belched and spouted
flaming furnaces; there faces sad
through the gloom glided as the gloating Orcs
their captives herded under cruel lashes.
Many a hopeless glance on Húrin fell,
for his tearless torment many tears were spilled.
This scene — with the emphasis of helplessness and anticipation being employed as simultaneously the stripped, brutalized Edain leader is set up for an example to the other prisoners (mostly Elven) and their hopeless state kept in front of him to make sure that he knows there is no way out — and the following, wherein Morgoth plays good-cop next, offering Húrin not only healing from from his burns and floggings, but a high place of rank in his armies—
"I am a mild master who remembers well
his servants' deeds. A sword of terror
thy hand should hold, and a high lordship
as Bauglir's champion, chief of Balrogs…"
—if he will only betray Gondolin's King to him, follows classic past and present interrogation tactics.
Add to that the fact that those Elves on whom the Dark Lord expended direct effort to break, remained pyschically broken thereafter, and — yeah, it would have been that bad. (Think of the mindflaying power of the Great Eye in LOTR.) The worst accounts of Primary World abuse always involve a level of consent, of the tyrant (small scale or large scale) forcing the victim to cooperate in their own degradation, and particularly by betraying companions, which both is the political end in itself, a way of maintaining the hold over the mind in absentia — and just plain fun for the kind of person who willingly gets involved in these activities. And yes, they're real, and they're not few, and they're far scarier than the hyped-up, eroticized serial killers of popular fiction, and they're not limited to any nationality or chronological period. You've probably encountered them in school already. All they need is organizers willing to use them against their enemies, and you have the Mob, the classic "police state" — or Angband.
Nerdanel's remark about hounds loving to sing reflects both Primary and Arda traditions; the lore of hunters talks of the sweet voices of the pack, and having a clear and beautiful call (as such things are reckoned) is a desirable trait in a hunting hound — but it is also present in the etymology of Huan's name (which is indeed a title as well — he is The Dog, like a Scots laird's honorific) from the root "khug" meaning to bark or to bay. It's his job, so to speak! (It also happens to be the simple truth, that it's canine nature to make loud noises.)
Aulë's reluctance to go to war is described here:
"Oromë tarried a while among the Quendi, and then
swiftly he rode back over land and sea to Valinor and brought the tidings
back to Valmar; and he spoke of the shadows that troubled Cuiviénen.
Then the Valar rejoiced, and yet they were in doubt amid their joy; and
they debated long what counsel it were best to take for the guarding of
the Quendi from the shadow of Melkor. But Oromë returned at once to
Middle-earth and abode with the Elves.
Manwë sat long in thought upon Taniquetil, and he sought the counsel of Ilúvatar. And coming then down to Valmar he summoned the Valar to the Ring of Doom, and thither came even Ulmo from the Outer Sea.
Then Manwë said to the Valar: 'This is the counsel of Ilúvatar in my heart: that we should take up again the mastery of Arda, at whatsoever cost, and deliver the Quendi from the shadow of Melkor.' Then Tulkas was glad; but Aulë was grieved, foreboding the hurts of the world that must come of that strife…"
(Silmarillion,"Of the Coming of the Elves")
The suggestion that he might have been reluctant to do so for fear that it would harm the unawakened Dwarves follows naturally from the concerns of the Valar in the earlier Ages that their battles might injure or destroy the Children they knew of from the Song, but whose place of Awakening was unknown to them:
"In the confusion and the darkness Melkor escaped, though
fear fell upon him; for above the roaring of the seas he heard the voice
of Manwë as a mighty wind, and the earth trembled beneath the feet
of Tulkas. But he came to Utumno ere Tulkas could overtake him; and there
he lay hid. And the Valar could not at that time overcome him, for the
greater part of their strength was needed to restrain the tumults of the
Earth, and to save from ruin all that could be saved of their labour; and
afterwards they feared to rend the Earth again, until they knew where the
Children of Ilúvatar were dwelling, who were yet to come in a time
that was hidden from the Valar. Thus ended the Spring of Arda…"
(Silm.,"Of the Beginning of Days.")
"And it is said indeed that, even as the Valar made war
upon Melkor for the sake of the Quendi, so now for that time they forbore
for the sake of the Hildor, the Aftercomers, the younger Children of Ilúvatar.
For so grievous had been the hurts of Middle-earth in the war upon Utumno
that the Valar feared lest even worse should now befall; whereas the Hildor
should be mortal, and weaker than the Quendi to withstand fear and tumult.
Moreover it was not revealed to Manwë where the beginning of Men should
be, north, south or east. Therefore the Valar sent forth light, but made
strong the land of their dwelling."
(Silm., "Of the Sun and Moon.")
The validity of such concerns is shown by looking at the map of Beleriand in conjunction with the passages which follow the first quotation given above — or by comparing the map of Beleriand with that of Third Age Middle-earth.
Ossë: this Maia of the oceans was lured to rebellion against his own lord, Ulmo, by Melkor (for whom the uncontrollable quality of the Sea was a challenge and a threat) but through the good efforts of his wife Uinen and family friend Aulë was redeemed and remained thereafter a passionate defender of law and order (while paradoxically remaining a fan of chaos, responsible for destructive storms) — which lawfulness even more paradoxically brought him into occasional conflict with that lord in a later Age when the situation grew more complex. (Silm., "Valaquenta," & UT.)
One remarkable implication of all this is the fact that Arda Renewed will not be Arda as it would have been without the Marring, as if Morgoth had never rebelled, any more than it is simply a patched-up version of this present universe. Another is what it says to possibly contradict the Elven certainty that unlike mortals, their lives are limited to this world only, with no hereafter — the Professor's dramatic re-envisioning of an old European folk-belief, which, unexamined, simply declares that the deathless ones of the land and sea, Fair Folk and mermaids, have "no souls." This belief, which is what the Eldar traditionally hold, and which is the meaning of the "sundered fates" and the tragedy of mortal-Elven love (and equally, of Ainur-Elven love), is revealed to mortals in the Athrabeth, a complicated philosophical work set like a Socratic dialogue or Anglo-Saxon debate (but unlike most 20th century philosophy) into a "real-world" context of individuals and problems personal, societal, and metaphysical.
The Athrabeth cannot be understood without considering it in the context of the Geste. It doesn't make sense apart from the full stream of events retold in Silm., neither for its irony nor for its implications. It isn't something tacked on to the mythos, either, as some have declared, but the natural outgrowth of the issues which the Geste, and the other three central stories of Elven-Edain interaction, the Narn, Gondolin, and Earendil, create and embody, but do not examine. They are, after all, stories — there is room for some reflection in them, but not much, without stopping the action dead. But during all those long years before, after, and during the crises which get stories told about them, the characters of the Silmarillion were thinking and talking and writing about what was going on around them and how they were reacting to it. It's just that most of the lore, as we are repeatedly told throughout Silm., of the First Age was lost in the course of the War and subsequent disasters. Athrabeth is one fragment which wasn't.
The setting, which in the context of the Athrabeth only unfolds gradually, and is revealed as the argument progresses, (significant spoilers, I'm afraid) is sometime not long before the Dagor Bragollach, of which coming disaster Finrod has vague premonitions, sharing with his brothers the certainty that containment of Morgoth is not the best strategy, but with no more knowledge than that future warfare is the inevitable result of the present stalemate. And a little while longer ago, one of his younger brothers, Aegnor, fell in love with a noblewoman of the Bëorings' tribe, and wasn't able to deal with it. Knowing that not only was she going to become old and feeble, but also that after she died they would be separated for eternity, he took the classic commitmentphobe's way out and stayed away from her for the rest of her life. The Athrabeth itself is the discussion of mortality, immortality, and Eternity by Finrod and the now-elderly, embittered mortal sage Andreth, wherein and both of them learn surprising things even after all these years about each other's peoples, and Finrod is hit with another vision, in which he starts seeing how these contradictory impressions and beliefs about the universe might actually all fit together and work out ultimately.
It's long, it's complicated, it touches on high-level metaphysical issues that Plato, Aristotle, the Vedas, Anselm of Canterbury, Dame Julian of Norwich, the Talmud and Lao Tzu all wrestled with, to name a few, and taken together with the Second Prophecy and the Second Music, undoes one of the most devastating facts of the Arda mythos, the idea that Elrond and Galadriel and all their people will just cease, as if they had never really mattered at all, except as preparation for human beings, and that this is somehow balanced out, as the Elven sages believed, by their own earthly immortality. It needs to be read in full, not once, and like every serious work of metaphysics I've ever encountered, can't be summed up simply, or understood the same way on each reading.
But a few things stand out from it, which can be easily remarked on (aside from the signal fact that Finrod will shortly die for one of Andreth's nephews aiding and abetting a relationship which he once considered fundamentally ill-advised): that he is willing to consider the worst possibilities — namely, that Evil is ultimately stronger than Good — while rejecting that claim; that he himself is at ease with the thought of his own finiteness, his own ultimate mortality, though grieved for the parting of friendships between their races; that only a "Great Doom" will make a mortal-Elven relationship work (which if you think about it, is really the same as saying that they have to be very unusual people to overcome the obstacles); the unpleasant consideration of those obstacles, not only the ultimate tragedy of separation, but the mundane and wretched problems of one spouse aging, the other not, and the fact that the Eldar don't think it's good to have children when the father is likely to be away or at risk in war, because of the importance of parental, not merely maternal, nuturing in early years; that the Eldar are not willing to risk things any more, and prefer to take the safe route of permanence over the harrowing risks of the future; that both the Firstborn and the Secondborn are meant to teach, enrich, and heal the other.
Thus the counter-arguments of his perturbed compatriots — that Finrod is grasping for everything (as would the Dark-seduced Numenoreans in the Second Age), or that he therefore doesn't regard suffering and destruction as serious in consequence, or that he's being hubristic to claim that he, a mere Elf, has glimpsed what is beyond the ability of even the Valar to know — are for the most part invalidated by the Athrabeth, valid though such objections are against some (or many) Eschatalogical arguments which I have read. The concept of Arda Envinyanta is unfathomable, but it doesn't simply dismiss past traumas as irrelevant compared to future goods, any more than Arda as it is is held up as "the best of all possible worlds." It isn't a wish for personal continuation that underpins Finrod's struggles to formulate his theory, but a conviction of the universal Justice as guiding force in the universe, that ultimately Good is, and cannot be destroyed — as a Greek poet put it, "—if the gods are evil, they are not the gods—" The role of the Followers in recreating the cosmos isn't just an adopted parent's enthusiatic belief in his own protegés, but implicit in the very Themes themselves.
—Whether or not claiming to know better than the gods themselves how the Song goes overall is arrogant, is one of those internal states of mind which can't be judged from outside — but it's a dead certainty it would look that way to most people. It is entirely in keeping, however, with his historical connection to Ulmo (more on that below). —Note, however, that the Powers themselves are depicted in Act IV as singularly blasé about ranting Eldar uttering defiant, radical, irreverent claims (or apparently-defiant, radical, irreverent claims) that others might think impious or blasphemous, which also comes from the Silmarillion and elsewhere. That the Weaver is more worried about damage to her house and tools, and her husband more worried about her being upset, isn't just for humorous effect. —After all, it isn't as though Finrod is doing anything wrong (being annoying doesn't count), like, oh, cutting down trees for no good purpose…
ice: this example of Melkor's earliest efforts to thwart the power of Water in the conceptualization process of the Elements, and his inability to do so, is found in Silm., "Ainulindalë".
myth: Beren and Amarië are referring to the subject matter of Silm., "Of Aule and Yavanna." I think one's attitude towards myths would be rather different if one were personally acquainted with the deities involved in them.
Concerning the arrival of the Edain in Beleriand, incorrectly believing that Aman was somewhere in Middle-earth — the reader may have guessed already what it is that Finrod (vainly, as it will turn out) is trying to keep from coming out about that event.
The only known time wherein Finrod actually loses control to an extent due to anger is the moment of Exile in Nargothrond, where he slams down his crown before the people and challenges any of them to follow him, so these others are my conjecture, containing as this example does elements of personal betrayal, attack, and danger to those under his protection in some degree. This comes from the fact that mere personal hostility is demonstrably not enough to get the eldest Finarfinion to reply in kind, when clarity is lacking, as demonstrated in the circumstances surrounding their temporary exile from Menegroth. Thus the Doriathrin counselor is understandably shocked to witness this outburst coming from Finrod, not Angrod.
Beren speaking of their last words is referring to Finrod's lines in Silm., "…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" — from which "may" I originally took the conceit of this Act, and the implicit possibility of its alternative, before I knew about the existence of the Athrabeth — but which was followed by, in the version of the Quenta from which CT edited this redaction, the line "Yet perchance even that sorrow in the end shall be healed" — ! (HOME:LR, emphasis mine.)
In the original version of the Silm., as in the Geste itself, the seed of hope, that doubt of the ultimate futility of everything, was always intended to be there: even as Finrod believes himself bound for a long stay in Mandos, the poet of the Lay and chronicler of Doriath who tell of it know that he is already free in Valinor; even as it seems that his friend's love is doomed to be eternally unfulfilled, he affirms that tenuous certainty which their unhappy kindred rejected in Athrabeth. This time around, the Elven lover dares to grasp heartbreak, the mortal lover to keep faith, and they do change the ending of the story.
One reason Amarie is so particularly annoyed with Finrod over this matter of visions is that she is Vanyar, and he's only quarter-Vanyar, and her people are the ones who all along were closest to the Powers in terms of friendship and affinity, way before the malice of Melkor started turning the Noldor against the gods, so there's a bit of rivalry in operation going on here on top of everything else, a bit of spiritual jealousy at this passing-over (if it's really real) for a rebel who's hardly Vanyar at all!
banshee: a regrettable but irresistible joke, due to the fact that it is literally true — banshees are not ghosts, nor evil spirits, as is commonly believed, but only mourning female relatives of the soon-to-be-deceased, who happen to be immortals. "Ban" is Gaelic for woman, "shee" the phonetic rendering of "Sidhe" — the Fair Folk, those who dwell "beneath the hills" and within the woods. So it exactly describes the current situation, since the traditional banshee keens for the mortal scions of her own house, whose existence is due to just such long-ago romances.
Islands: see Silm., "Of the Sun and Moon," for the story of the defensive screen of islands and time-trapping web of dreams (similar to the Girdle around Doriath) set up to protect the coast of Aman against a renewed invasion from Middle-earth (along with the expansion of the mountain-barriers and the maintenaince of a round-the-clock watch on the only pass to the interior of the continent) which actually ended up catching those Noldor sailors who succeeded in getting that far in defiance of the Ban.
"Not before you're ready" — the obvious explanation for this, and all the exchanges referencing this fact about the Halls, would be that it comes from "Laws and Customs," and specifically the "Statute of Finwe and Miriel;" however, I didn't actually read the Statute until this scene was finished, and only once, briefly, skimmed the earlier parts of L&C before writing Act IV to this point. The simple basis for it is the high priority placed throughout Tolkien's other writings on personal liberty, the value set on individuality, and healing — the fact that regardless of power or authority, no one can coerce another's will and still be a good guy. And that no one is compelled to do what they ought, regardless of how "practical" it would seem — that even self-binding via oaths to a good cause is discouraged, for instance, by Elrond; and that those who do not wish to come to Aman are not forced to do so by Oromë.
So it wasn't really surprising at all that the problem of those who wish to remain however inconveniently dead may do so for as long as they wish, and ideally should be free of pressure from family members to hurry up and make the decision (whichever way), so that a significant length of time is mandatory and must elapse before any permanent commitment can be made. No one is forced to return to life who does not wish to, and no one is allowed to compel another either to leave before their healing is complete, or to stay there so that the spouse of a deceased Elf can remarry. The rights of the Dead are forcefully upheld by Námo and Vairë, even when they consider the decision to be a bad one, as in the case of Miriel.
(The rights of the individual to self-determination is specifically upheld by the Weaver, who denies the beliefs of the other Valar that poor Miriel didn't know what she really wanted and was rushed into things by Finwë (who was a selfish lout for giving up on her so quickly) and wasn't up to making the decision, even after all those years had gone by for her to reconsider: Vaire points out that she's worked with Miriel for a very long time now, knows her pretty well, and since it's a safe bet that Finwë also knew his soul-mate very well, it's also safe to assume that he knew what Vairë has noticed about Miriel — that she's one of the stubbornest people in Arda, and not weak-minded or weak-willed at all. —Oh, and before you guys go slamming Finwë, wait till one of us Valier leaves you here, stuck with the Children to mind, and you've got to go through the rest of Time all alone…!)
But it was pleasant, I admit, to discover that the issues had been discussed in detail and so articulately, and that Námo was just as adamantly fair-minded as I had assumed the Lord of Justice to be, and that the Weaver has canonically a tart manner when she gets ruffled.
(It can be seen by this that Amarie is seriously pushing the limits, here — technically she hasn't done anything "wrong" by asserting that she just doesn't want to have anything to do Finrod for the next hundred-forty-four years, but she and everyone else knows perfectly well that she's breaking the spirit of the law against telling your spouse to stay dead…)
Ulmo: his role as Finrod's patron is longstanding, and comes from the sequence wherein Finrod and his cousin and close friend Turgon are travelling along the Sirion together, and receive simultaneous but separate dream-warnings to seek out and reinforce safe havens for their followings, which inspiration results in the building of Nargothrond and Gondolin. What exactly this means, and why the other powers find it so exasperating, comes from his role as Loyal Opposition in the Ring of Doom (when he bothers to come at all — he doesn't find it easy to limit himself to the kind of material, land-bound form that his fellow demiurges enjoy) and elsewhere, arguing against the idea of bringing the Eldar to Valinor in the first place, and constantly working to counteract the power of Morgoth — and the doom of the Noldor — throughout Middle-earth wherever his power over water is not completely overwhelmed by pollution.He finally gets a chance to explain in full what he's trying to accomplish and how, to Beren's as-yet-unborn cousin Tuor, the one who in Beleriand most clearly hears his call and is willing to help, and does so to an extent that no one else in Beleriand, Man or Elf, has shared, as he commissions the mortal as his prophet before sending him to warn Turgon and the Noldor of impending crisis. (All of which is set forth in the fragmentary chronicle, "Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin," UT.) But, in brief, it's his job to argue, defy, and subvert, because monolithic unanimity without dissenting opinions isn't good for any ruling body, celestial demiurges or not. After all, he's the Power of the Deeps, and that's what water does, as well as to heal, purify, provide easy communication and transport, quench thirst, and sooth the soul…
—But if it weren't the case that Ulmo had chosen Finrod to carry out his work in Middle-earth first, then it would be very natural to assume that Tulkas was his particular patron, (rather than Aulë by default of his Noldor heritage.)
Taliska: as remarked in earlier acts, this, the native language of the Bëorings, was derived like that of the people of Hithlum and Brethil from the Elven dialects of the eastern Moriquendi who befriended the ancient Edain and taught them, but these dialects, which survived in part to become incorporated in what would become eventually Westron, are very different from both Quenya and Sindarin. That Finrod could intuitively comprehend their speech and learn it by first mindspeaking with the tribe of Balan is indicative of his unusual abilities in this area (due no doubt in part to the fact that unlike most in Aman, he came from a bilingual family to begin with.)
"Barbarous" is a linguistic joke, but also fairly apt: the word barbarian refers to those foreigners who did not speak Greek as their native tongue, and thus were obviously "not from around here" nor civilized. (Literally, it means people who go "bar, bar, bar," instead of speaking "real" words; the nearest American equivalent to this Classical jibe would probably be "spic.") Thus, what his friend (who earlier, recall, did not say "there's nothing wrong with your accent," but "you can't help your accent," which isn't the same thing — but the Dead must speak truthfully) in essence says is —Yes, you're a hick, and you talk funny — now, are you going to let that stop you?
Námo is the avatar of Justice in Arda. Justice is not sentimental. (Nor is giving consolation the proper function of that office.) The fact that other people have and will continue to fall down on the job does not in and of itself make it so that Beren's not failing in his own duty ought to be rated higher in consequence. (Justice doesn't grade on a curve, so to speak.) The Doomsman is not mean. He's just not nice.
Regarding the attempted rescue of other Silmarils: in fairy-tale terms, it's inevitable — that whatever it is that shouldn't be done, which will arouse the guards of the sought-for entity on the quest, will happen. Prince Ivan takes the gorgeous bridle, not the rope halter, because it is more fitting for the finest horse in the world, and the spell of sleep is broken in the quest for the Firebird. Murphy's Law is always operative, such stories would seem to remind us. But the specific rationale is not my own invention. Although this complaint has bothered me ever since I encountered it on Usenet, and the obvious corollary never seeming to be asked — so, having come this far, with all the history lying behind, you'd just leave the others there without trying? Really? (And if so, what's wrong with you?) — the two key words themselves are there in the original texts: save, and free:
"Again he stooped and strove afresh
one more of the holy jewels three
that Fëanor wrought of yore to free.
But round those fires was woven fate:
not yet should they leave the halls of hate…"
in the first rescenscion, and in the second,
"Behold! the hope of Elvenland,
the fire of Fëanor, Light of Morn
before the sun and moon were born,
thus out of bondage came at last,
from iron to mortal hand it passed.
There Beren stood. The jewel he held,
and its pure radiance slowly welled
through flesh and bone, and turned to fire
with hue of living blood. Desire
then smote his heart their doom to dare,
and from the deeps of Hell to bear
all three immortal gems, and save
the elven-light from Morgoth's grave.
Again he stooped; with knife he strove;
through band and claw of iron it clove.
But round the Silmarils dark Fate
was woven: they were meshed in hate,
and not yet come was their doomed hour
when wrested from the fallen power
of Morgoth in a ruined world,
regained and lost, they should be hurled
in fiery gulf and groundless sea,
beyond recall while Time should be…"
That the Silmarils are alive, and in some sense yearn for their native elements, derives from Silm. itself:
"Yet that crystal was to the Silmarils but as is the body to the Children of Ilúvatar: the house of its inner fire, that is within it and yet in all parts of it, and is its life. And the inner fire of the Silmarils Fëanor made of the blended light of the Trees of Valinor, which lives in them yet, though the Trees have long withered and shine no more. Therefore even in the darkness of the deepest treasury the Silmarils of their own radiance shone like the Stars of Varda; and yet, as were they indeed living things, they rejoiced in light and received it and gave it back in hues more marvellous than before."
They can be described in a sense as being "cuttings" of the Two Trees, in that they are independent of the parent organisms the way that botanical life can reproduce (though not in a natural manner), and capable of surviving (so to speak) thus detatched; but there is a sense in which they are more like artificial seeds, since, imprisoned in their unbreakable crystal shells, they do not grow and change the way the Trees did, but remain perpetually limited and in potentia, while beautiful in themselves.
So — greed and stupidity, or foolhardy selflessness? Your call — but read the words. But it's clear from the texts that it isn't a punishment, (as I have read one essayist declare), a sort of divine cause-and-effect wherein the Valar hit Beren with the loss of his hand as a penalty for the arrogance of trying to take all of them. (For one thing, the Powers don't have that kind of clout, quite apart from whether they would.) It's just destiny — which is a fancier way of saying "stuff happens, bad and good, and sometimes things work out and sometimes they don't."
revenge: the pledge to avenge Barahir if it took him to Angband itself, mentioned in Scene II, as recounted here in LL2, Canto III:
"There Beren laid his father's bones
in haste beneath a cairn of stones;
no graven rune nor word he wrote
o'er Barahir, but thrice he smote
the topmost stone, and thrice aloud
he cried his name. 'Thy death,' he vowed,
'I will avenge. Yea, though my fate
should lead at last to Angband's gate.'
And then he turned, and did not weep:
too dark his heart, the wound too deep.
Out into night, as cold as stone,
loveless, friendless, he strode alone.
—which is significant not simply for being fulfilled in a way the maker never could have imagined, but for the fact that Beren's response to his father's death is described in the exact terms of his later emotional state following Finrod's killing.
Endymion, Tithonus & Utnapishtim: these three mythical characters are very much present in the audience, nodding knowingly from the gallery at the arguments and counterarguments. Both of the first two were Classical figures, mortal men who were loved by celestial women, and whose situations are not exactly enviable. Utnapishtim was a Mesopotamian folk hero who received immortality and found it a very ambiguous gift. Endymion is the most famous, but his fate hinges on that of the less fortunate Tithonus, a royal scion of Troy, who caught the fancy of Eos, goddess of morning, (made famous by Homer as "the rosy-fingered dawn.")
Eos apparently was cursed, by none other than the inconsistent Aphrodite, for helping Ares to cheat on her (with whom the goddess of love was cheating on her husband Hephaestus.) Her doom? To always fall in love with mortals, whom she was thus bound to lose. One of these was the well-known hunter-hero Orion. Tithonus never got a constellation, because technically he isn't dead — after a number of these short-lived love affairs, Eos had the brilliant idea of asking Zeus to give her latest inamorato the gift of endless life.
Unfortunately, it didn't occur to them that endless life and endless youth are not the same thing, until it was too late. Tithonus got older and more decrepit until Eos couldn't stand to be around him any longer, though he remained living (such as it was) in luxury in her palace for centuries. Eventually Prince Tithonus grew so bent and withered that he was changed into a grashopper, and became an Olympian cautionary tale against falling in love with mortals.
Selene, the sister of Eos and charioteer of the moon — who may or may not be supposed to be identical with Diana in this story, being real mythology, it isn't very clear all the time — also spotted a handsome young man asleep on a hillside one night while she was doing her rounds. This was Endymion, who was either a shepherd, a king, or both, and who received a slightly different, but no less ambiguous gift, from the moon-goddess. Remembering the Tithonus disaster, Selene asked Zeus to give him a sleep of eternal youth, thus ensuring that he would always be handsome, healthy — and, as it happens, helpless to leave, argue, or complain. The ideal dream-lover, so to speak; true, he can't do much, but Selene had thought out the pros and cons before making her decision and factored it all in…
Utnapishtim was the Mesopotamian "Noah-figure" of their Flood story — which differs somewhat from the Biblical version in that people aren't in trouble because they've done anything specific like engaging in continuous warfare, but simply because they're noisy and get on the nerves of the Elder Gods. (It also differs in that the Elder Gods are a bunch of drunks, who frequently get each other snockered as a way of pulling fast ones on each other, and many of the inherent flaws of humanity are due to the fact that the rival goddesses who shaped people were doing shots at the time.) However, the counter-agent-figure of Mesopotamian mythology, who doesn't agree with the plan of wiping out people, and finds a sneaky way around the classifcation order, is none other than Enki, Lord of the Waters, who tells the plan not to his friend Utnapishtim, but to the walls of Utnapishtim's house. The construction of a huge ship and Flood follow, Men survive, the other Elder Gods relent, and Utnapishtim receives immortality as the due of his wisdom and efforts.
However, this turns out to have been a dubious gift — if it was meant that way at all. Gilgamesh, seeking immortality himself, encounters Utnapishtim in his wanderings, as an ancient, decrepit figure all alone, having outlived all his family, and eternal life not being able to counteract the natural aging process of mortality. —Not a pleasant prospect. (I say nothing, nothing at all of bread nor insufficiencies of butter—)
Thus, when later another mortal hero gets in trouble for busting the wing of the West Wind, and Enki tells him to answer the summons to the Gods' mountain, but also how to get out of the charge with a successful defense, he counsels Adapa against eating or drinking anything there, because it will cost him his mortal life.
Now there are two ways of looking at it: Enki (aka Ea —!) is an ambivalent god, generally benevolent, but unpredictable or at least jealous enough of divine status to try to cheat Adapa out of what is offered him by lying to him that he will die if he sups with the Gods. —Or, alternately, he saw what happened to Utnapishtim and realized that eternal continuation without eternally-renewed strength is not something that is good for anybody. The myths, of course, don't say one way or the other. Most commentators on the Adapa story interpret it the first way — but none of them seem to consider the myths as a unity, in the light of both the friendship of the Lord of all Waters with the Ark-maker and Gilgamesh's encounter with his ancient progenitor. Taken all together, it becomes far less simple and clear-cut.
(And yes, JRRT was familiar with Near Eastern mythology, too.)
Question of mortality passing faster, or seeming to go faster, in Aman: this comes up much later, in the growing determination of the descendents of the Edain to "have it all," challenging the Eldar over their faith in mortals' eternity and demanding that they be allowed to sail West as well as east. Whether or not, as the chronicles speculate, the too-powerful ambiance of Valinor would overwhelm mortal physiology and cause Men to burn out faster there, or whether it might merely seem that way, due to the fact of there being no "time markers" such as we are used to in a harsher climate and history, that a mortal lifespan would seem to fly by like no time at all, the problem of being the only sentients which aged in an ageless paradise is a real one. Would there be less resentment, or more? These future events chronicled in Silm., "Akallabeth," play as strongly into this scene and themes of this act as events of the First and Third Ages and the Before-Time of the Song.
"Fëanor himself, maybe, wrought them, in days so long ago that the
time cannot be measured in years."
(LOTR:TTT, "The Palantir")
The need to convert times points up the fact that everything was different in the Time of the Trees, in a way which can hardly be comprehensible to someone born under and knowing only the Years of the Sun — and vice versa. The Sea-Mew, killed in darkness, has never seen either the sun or moon, or experienced time as it now runs, "swiftly," in the world outside the Halls, and has no frame of reference by which to make an equation; Beren, who has never known anything but the present state of things, also has no way of understanding the relative measurements, so it must fall to one of the returnees who has experienced both modes to render it comprehensible for both of them (or rather, to give Maiwë the equations necessary for her to be able to do so.)
Gildor: that Gildor of the Outlaws was named after the same Gildor Inglorion who speaks to Frodo on the road in LOTR:FOTR is not a far-out assumption. Gildor the Elf is one of those from Aman, originally part of Finrod's following. The Edain names are all either known to be those of real Elves, or of Elvish derivation linguistically, and it isn't unlikely that Gildor, Barahir's mortal follower, was named after another notable of their common overlord — perhaps for a friend or comrade of the man's father or grandfather, from whom the name was borrowed. This exchange also points up one way that Gildor-met-in-the-Third-Age might have plausibly gotten to the lands east of the Ered Luin before that time, though there could be others — but more importantly, that niggling little historical fact that everything has to get from one point to another somehow, some concrete how, (though it may be lost to us) whether it be name or object or news or person.
cousin: there's no way of knowing how many living cousins Beren had during his own lifetime, given the number of siblings his parents had, and the tribal connections of the Edain, but as in the earlier story I have taken the liberty of positing interactions in peaceful years with those two younger ones unfortunate enough to be known to history. Morwen and Rían had to learn their wilderness survival skills somewhere to begin with, after all.
hamsoken: a medieval English legal term reflecting the conviction that it is worse to come onto someone else's property and attack them in their own home than to simply get in a fight in a public place or commit highway robbery — adding insult to injury, as it were.
Eldar: Per Silm., Orome called all the Elves at Cuivienen "Eldar," the People of the Stars. Some of them later decided that it only applied to those of them who'd gotten to Aman. I feel pretty sure that the rest of the Umanayar, the people who didn't get to Aman, would have strongly disagreed with that attempt to corral the name and lay claim to the symbolic stars thereby, and that the Valar, for whom language and names were clumsy things necessary for interfacing with material dimensions, would have thought it all pointless and silly divisiveness.
Beren's demand for answers, and The Meaning of Life is, of course, a re-envisioning of the climactic scenes of another work of literature — The Book of Job. It also comes completely out of the Silmarillion: if his words are familiar, that's because he's invoking, somewhat consciously, but even more so without conscious recollection, Fëanor's words to the Powers at the Darkening, and voicing as well the unconfronted doubts of Bereg, which continued to simmer even among the faithful Edain, voiced in later generations by Andreth and Morwen. That the dangers in demanding direct revelation from the gods come not from the likelihood of being zapped with a thunderbolt for "impiety" but in the problem of not being able to cope with that much unshielded creative power can be found in myths like that of Semele, or the accounts of seers being left catatonic after encounters with the Divine; that the consequence of getting what you demand from the reluctant gods can be a cautionary tale shows up in Aesop, and elsewhere. "He who asks questions cannot escape the answers," goes an old African proverb, tellingly.
(If it isn't screamingly clear why he's managed to finally set off Námo's fuse, after all this time — and why Oromë is (barely) resisting the urge to belt him one — I'm afraid it will have to wait a little while before everything is made clear.)