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Leithian by Himring

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THE LAY OF LEITHIAN, THAT IS, RELEASE FROM BONDAGE

 

It could be physical escape, like Luthien doing her Rapunzel act and sliding off the beech tree on her own hair. There are plenty of places in the tale to want to escape from:  Dorthonion, Nan Dungortheb, Doriath, Tol Sirion, Nargothrond, Angband, even the whole of Beleriand. All of them were beautiful places once, before things went sour as they do—even Angband, the ancient outpost of the Fortress of Hell.  And people... Who would you need to escape from more urgently, Thingol or Sauron?

Easy to answer: whichever of the two was holding you captive at the moment...

It could be mental escape, like Beren who forgot all about having lost Barahir and the rest of them to death and betrayal and most of his sanity to the subsequent isolation, when he dashed out of the bushes and tried to gambol after Luthien. Am I the only one who doesn’t entirely credit this, in any of the versions of the tale? Sublimely ridiculous, it is an inner moment turned outside, almost crudely, a metaphor made too concrete, yet none the less haunting and powerful for that.

Maybe you’re just envious....

Probably I am...

It could be death, which in this story acts much like a revolving door. Return fare to Namo’s halls, anyone? It swings open to let Finrod to escape the dungeons and the werewolves and deposits him beside his father in Aman. It swings open and takes Luthien and Beren from Doriath and sends them into Ossiriand. Why? Not a clue, but strange things happen in Ossiriand...

Haven’t you skipped something there?

So I have, but never mind.

Who says it’s just First-Born and Followers that need release? It could be Huan the hound, slipping the leash of his silence three times, one after the other... It could be the future evening star released from the iron by the cut of the knife...

Getting fanciful there...

Yes, of course!

But do we know that the title refers to what is in the Lay at all? Maybe it’s not the content, maybe it’s what it’s meant to do. Release Aragorn from being just another chieftain of the Rangers dying unnoticed in the North, release Frodo from the burden of being the Ring-bearer, at least for a while...

Are you sure you’ve got the chronology right?

I’m sure I haven’t and I’m sure it doesn’t matter...

...release John Ronald from the trenches, free John and Edith to marry each other...

Isn’t this rather personal and biographical?

So what? Didn’t he invite it?

Even more so—maybe it’s me and you, kneeling among the hemlocks, waiting for spring to thaw the bitter winter of our blood...

Really?

There’s nothing real about any of this!

Then what is it we are waiting for?

Leithian. The sob of the nightingale. Release from bondage.

 




Chapter End Notes:

My memory of the wording of Christopher Tolkien's note was not quite right: see the etymological note quoted in her notes on her Leithian story by Russandol. However, as far as the point of this story goes, it still applies.




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