Of Beren and Lúthien

Prior chapters told of how Barahir of the House of Bëor would not forsake Dorthonion, and he hid in the wilds of Tarn Aeluin with his twelve companions, and Morgoth could not discover them. Of those companions, one was called Gorlim, who had joined the company after discovering that his beloved wife Eilinel had been killed or taken by Morgoth. Gorlim persisted in the hope that his wife might still live, and he returned to their homestead, and this was discovered by Sauron. Sauron’s hunters captured him and tried to learn the location of Barahir, but he would not succumb to the torment, until at last, they promised to return Eilinel to him, and he faltered and told all that he knew, only to discover that Eilinel was dead. In keeping his “promise,” Sauron killed Gorlim also.

Sauron’s servants then found and killed Barahir’s company save one: Beren his son, who was far away on another mission. Visited by the wraith of Gorlim, Beren learned of the treachery and returned to warn his father but was too late. He pursued the Orcs and came in secret to their fire, witnessing their captain holding aloft his father’s hand as a trophy, bearing the ring of Felagund. Beren slew the captain and took the hand with the ring, managing to escape before the Orcs could kill him.

For four years after, Beren wandered the wilds of Dorthonion, until evil things became so thick there that the good departed, and he fled into the Mountains of Terror (Gorgoroth) and decided to descend into Doriath, amid much peril, and found his way also through the enchantment that Melian had set about Doriath.

Wandering in Doriath, he first found Lúthien, daughter of Thingol, dancing beneath the moon, and he was enchanted with her. She disappeared from his sight, but he pursued her until spring came and her song awakened flowers and melted the frozen rivers and Beren called to her, calling her by the name Tinúviel (nightingale) that he had given her, knowing no other. She halted then, and he came to her, and she loved him and was then ensnared in his fate, for he was mortal though she was not, and her anguish would be greatest of the Elves. She returned to him often, in secret, through the spring and summer, and their joy—though brief—was greatest of any of the Children of Ilúvatar.

Daeron the minstrel also loved Lúthien, and he betrayed her secret meetings to Thingol, who was dismayed as he would not even take mortals into his service—much less trust to one his beloved daughter—and he demanded answers of her, though she would not give them. He sent his servants to return Beren to Menegroth, but Lúthien brought him first before her father as an honored guest. Thingol demanded for Beren to answer for his deeds, and Beren made known his desire for Lúthien, for which Thingol thought a blasphemy worthy of death. Beren presented the ring of Felagund, but Thingol was swayed by neither his deeds nor those of his house and demanded that Beren bring to him a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown; then, if she desired, Lúthien would be his. Doriath, then, was drawn into the curse of Mandos and the fate of the Noldor. Melian saw ill portents in Thingol’s actions, and Lúthien would not sing again in Doriath, and the realm fell into dark silence.

Beren went to Nargothrond and—holding aloft the ring of Felagund—was brought before Finrod Felagund. Finrod had long ago made an oath of friendship and aid to Beren’s father Barahir, and his oath called him. Likewise, the sons of Fëanor, Celegorm and Curufin, dwelt in Nargothrond, and their oath to regain the Silmarils would likewise call them. Finrod spoke to the people of his oath and the journey that he would take with Beren, but Celegorm and Curufin spoke also and awakened fear of war in the hearts of the people of Nargothrond. Also, the curse of Mandos came upon them, and they thought that by Finrod going to certain death, they would usurp the reign of Nargothrond. Of all the citizens of Nargothrond, only ten came forward to aid their king, and the crown was trusted to Finrod’s brother Orodreth.

The company of Beren and Felagund went to the north, slaying Orcs and taking their disguise. Sauron, though, noticed their odd behavior from the tower of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, and they were brought before him, and Sauron and Felagund battled together in a duel of song, in which Felagund fell when Sauron invoked the memory of the Kinslaying at Alqualondë, and their disguises fell away, though none would tell Sauron their names or purposes. He cast them then into a dark pit, and at times, two eyes would kindle in the darkness, and one of the companions would be devoured by a werewolf, but none quailed and betrayed Finrod.

When Beren was cast into the pit, Lúthien perceived it and learned of the truth from her mother Melian. She resolved to aid him herself and sought the aid of Daeron, but he again betrayed her to Thingol, and Thingol had a house built high in the trees, and she was imprisoned there. Using her powers of enchantment, Lúthien caused her hair to grow to great length, and she wove from it an enchanted cloak and long rope, both of which contained spells of sleep, and using these, Lúthien escaped Doriath.

At this time, Celegorm and Curufin were hunting the wolves that Sauron had sent into the Elven realms, followed by Celegorm’s faithful hound Huan. It had been prophesied that Huan would die in Middle-earth—though he was a creature of Valinor, from before the Noldorin rebellion—in a battle with the greatest of wolves to walk upon the earth. It was Huan who found Lúthien and brought her to Celegorm and Curufin, and Celegorm became enamored of her and offered her help, if she would return to Nargothrond. Celegorm did not admit that he knew already of Beren’s quest or its importance to him. But the brothers betrayed her, imprisoned her, and took her cloak, and Celegorm sent word to Thingol that he intended to wed Lúthien, for that would make him the most powerful of the princes of the Noldor, if he ruled Nargothrond and was tied also through marriage to Doriath.

Huan, though, also loved Lúthien and befriended her, and he stole back her cloak and helped her to escape Nargothrond, and she rode him swiftly into the north, to Morgoth’s realm. By this time, only Beren and Finrod remained of the companions, and Sauron perceived that Finrod was a Noldo of great power and intended to save him for last, for he perceived that he held the secret of their errand. A wolf then came for Beren, but Finrod summoned all of his powers and broke his bonds, slaying the werewolf with hands and teeth, though he was also wounded and died in the pit to save Beren.

In the same hour, Lúthien came to Tol-in-Gaurhoth and sang a song of power, which Beren answered. Sauron heard it also and intended to take her captive, but the wolves he sent were slain by Huan, as was the beast Draugluin, who died at Sauron’s feet and reported that Huan was there. Meaning to make good on the prophecy concerning Huan, Sauron took on the disguise of a wolf, and he battled with Huan and Lúthien, until Lúthien took mastery of his island and all that lay there. She opened the walls and the captives of Sauron were released but Beren—grieving the death of Finrod—did not come forth, and Lúthien found him and their love resumed.

Many of the released captives returned to Nargothrond, and the treachery of Celegorm and Curufin was discovered, and the loyalty of the people returned to the House of Finarfin. Orodreth cast the brothers from his realm, and none would go with them, even Celebrimbor, son of Curufin, only Huan, who had returned to his master. While riding to their brother Maedhros in Himring, they saw from afar Beren and Lúthien, and Curufin tried to take her, but Beren throttled and nearly killed him. Huan betrayed Celegorm then in service of Lúthien. Lúthien would not allow Curufin to be killed, but Beren took his horse and his weapons from him, including Angrist, made by the dwarves, that would cleave iron. As the brothers rode away on Celegorm’s horse, Curufin used his brother’s bow and tried to kill Lúthien; two arrows he shot, and one was caught by Huan and the other hit Beren, but he was healed by Lúthien and they returned to Doriath. Trusting her again to the care of Huan, he decided to fulfill his quest in regaining a Silmaril, and left her while she slept.

As Beren pondered his quest and the distant peaks of Thangorodrim, he sang a song to Lúthien, and she returned to him, disguised as a bat, again upon the back of Huan, disguised as a wolf. They cast aside their disguises, and Beren sought to dissuade her, but their fates could not be divided, and he took on the disguise of the werewolf while Lúthien took the disguise of a bat, and they came to the Gates of Angband, guarded by the wolf bred and raised by Morgoth and called Carcharoth. Carcharoth waylaid them, but Lúthien put a sleep upon him, and they passed through the gate and into Angband. Coming before Morgoth, Lúthien’s disguise was stripped from her, but she offered her service to Morgoth, and in the pleasure of thoughts of his evil desires, she disappeared from his sight and sang a song that cast all of his servants into slumber and quenched the fires of Angband, and the Silmarils blazed with luminance and bowed Morgoth’s head with their weight, and Lúthien threw her cloak of enchantment before his eyes, and he fell prone upon the floor, his crown with the Silmarils falling from his head.

Lúthien roused Beren, and he cut a Silmaril from the crown with Angrist, and the Silmaril bore his touch and filled him with the desire to bring all three gems forth from Angband. But Angrist broke upon the crown, and a shard hit Morgoth’s face, and he stirred in his sleep, as did his servants. In terror, desiring only to again see light, Beren and Lúthien fled then, but Carcharoth had awakened and sprang upon them. Beren held forth the Silmaril against him, but Carcharoth bit off Beren’s hand at the wrist. The terrible burning of the Silmaril then filled him, and all living things both good and evil fled before him because, in a madness of pain, he killed them all.

As Lúthien healed Beren with the last of her fading power, the servants of Morgoth awakened, but three Great Eagles soared from the sky and bore them away from Angband and back to Doriath, and though Beren’s wound was grave, he was revived by the love of Lúthien. Beren persuaded Lúthien to return to Doriath, where darkness had fallen in her absence, the people searching for her and Daeron—the minstrel who had loved her—straying forevermore from his people.

Thingol had sent word to Maedhros, asking for help in finding Lúthien, but his messengers were all killed when the rampaging wolf Carcharoth came to Doriath, all except Mablung. At the same time, Lúthien and Beren came before Thingol, and Beren claimed that a Silmaril was indeed in his hand and named himself “Camlost,” the Empty-handed. Feeling at last sympathy for Beren, hearing their tales, he consented to give the hand of his daughter.

But Doriath was still not safe, for Carcharoth roamed ever closer to Menegroth, and Thingol, Beren, Mablung, and Beleg—in the company of Huan—led a hunt against him. Carcharoth was hidden, but Huan pursued him, and Beren was gravely injured while Carcharoth and Huan fought to the death. Huan triumphed but was poisoned and died also, beneath Beren’s hand, and Mablung cut open the wolf and recovered the Silmaril, placing it into Beren’s hand. They bore him back to Menegroth, and Lúthien met them and told Beren to wait in the halls of Mandos for her to come to him and say her last farewell, and Beren looked last upon her eyes before he died. Her spirit also fled her body and came to Mandos, and she sang before him, a song that wove both the sorrow of the Eldar and the grief of Men. Moved to pity, the spirits of Beren and Lúthien were allowed to meet again, and Mandos went to Manwë, to seek the will of Ilúvatar in this matter.

Lúthien was given two choices: to dwell among the Valar, forgetting the grief of her life, or to return to life and Middle-earth with Beren, but they would both be mortal and suffer a second death. It was this choice that she made, and through her choice, the kindreds of Elves and Men were joined.

<< Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin   |   Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad >>

Return to the Silmarillion Chapter Summaries home.