But Lúthien heard his answering voice, and she sang then a song of greater power. The wolves howled, and the isle trembled. Sauron stood in the high tower, wrapped in his black thought; but he smiled hearing her voice, for he knew that it was the daughter of Melian. The fame of the beauty of Lúthien and the wonder of her song had long gone forth from Doriath; and he thought to make her captive and hand her over to the power of Morgoth, for his reward would be great.
(The Silmarillion, 174)
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This post continues my chapter-by-chapter walk through of The Silmarillion. This time, I examine the second part of the 19th chapter of The Silmarillion, "Of Beren and Lúthien". You can see all the posts in this series by clicking here. You can also find other Silmarillion resources here.
Having been sent to obtain a Silmaril from Morgoth’s Iron Crown, Beren must first make his way through the lands governed by Sauron. This, of course, proves its own great challenge.
- Finrod Joins Beren: Beren’s father had heroically saved Finrod’s life in the Battle of Sudden Flame and thus earned Finrod’s eternal gratitude and loyalty. Thus, Finrod chooses to accompany Beren on his mission.
- Battles with Sauron: Finrod does battle with Sauron in song. Finrod responds to Sauron’s music of betrayal and treachery with songs of escape, release, and heroism. Ultimately though, Sauron recalls the kinslaying, and Finrod is defeated.
- Sauron Defeated: With Finrod and Beren imprisoned by Sauron, Lúthien arrives and through song breaks the power of the prison. With the help of the Valinorian wolf-hound Huan, she defeats Sauron and sends him fleeing. Finrod though is slain defending Beren from a werewolf.
- The Oath’s Shadow: The oath of Fëanor essentially cursed the Silmarils so that they ensnare and trap those who would seek to possess them. This cursed oath seems to come to life with Thingol’s mission for Beren.
- Elf-maiden’s Best Friend: Huan is a wolf-hound of Valinor that had been given to Celegorm by Oromë. However, he switches allegiances when Celegorm and Curufin attack Lúthien.
- Lúthien’s Power: Lúthien’s song has the power to break prison walls. This of course recalls the creative power of the Music of the Ainur, and leads to the consideration that music may by the most powerful force in Middle-earth. It is also the first great eucatastrophic moment in the tale.
- Finrod’s Doom:
But Felagund heard his tale in wonder and disquiet; and he knew that the oath he had sworn was come upon him for his death, as long before he had foretold to Galadriel . He spoke then to Beren in heaviness of heart. ‘It is plain that Thingol desires your death; but it seems that this doom goes beyond his purpose, and that the Oath of Fëanor is again at work. For the Silmarils are cursed with an oath of hatred, and he that even names them in desire moves a great power from slumber; and the sons of Fëanor would lay all the Elf-kingdoms in ruin rather than suffer any other than themselves to win or possess a Silmaril, for the Oath drives them. And now Celegorm and Curufin are dwelling in my halls; and though I, Finarfin’s son, am King, they have won a strong power in the realm, and lead many of their own people. They have shown friendship to me in every need, but I fear that they will show neither love nor mercy to you, if your quest be told. Yet my own oath holds; and thus we are all ensnared.’ (169)
- Good-Hearted Dog:
But Huan the hound was true of heart, and the love of Lúthien had fallen upon him in the first hour of their meeting; and he grieved at her captivity. Therefore he came often to her chamber; and at night he lay before her door, for he felt that evil had come to Nargothrond. Lúthien spoke often to Huan in her loneliness, telling of Beren, who was the friend of all birds and beasts that did not serve Morgoth; and Huan understood all that was said. For he comprehended the speech of all things with voice; but it was permitted to him thrice only ere his death to speak with words. (173)
- The Harrowing of Hell:
Then Sauron yielded himself, and Lúthien took the mastery of the isle and all that was there; and Huan released him. And immediately he took the form of a vampire, great as a dark cloud across the moon, and he fled, dripping blood from his throat upon the trees, and came to Taur-nu-Fuin, and dwelt there, filling it with horror. Then Lúthien stood upon the bridge, and declared her power: and the spell was loosed that bound stone to stone, and the gates were thrown down, and the walls opened, and the pits laid bare; and many thralls and captives came forth in wonder and dismay, shielding their eyes against the pale moonlight, for they had lain long in the darkness of Sauron. But Beren came not. Therefore Huan and Lúthien sought him in the isle; and Lúthien found him mourning by Felagund. So deep was his anguish that he lay still, and did not hear her feet. Then thinking him already dead she put her arms about him and fell into a dark forgetfulness. But Beren coming back to the light out of the pits of despair lifted her up, and they looked again upon one another; and the day rising over the dark hills shone upon them. (175)
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this chapter in the comments below.
Want to learn more about The Silmarillion? My book Tolkien's Requiem explores the stories of Middle-earth's First Age through the prism of Tolkien's most personal tale: Beren and Lúthien. It's designed to work as a "back door" approach for those who struggle to get a start on The Silmarillion. Click here to learn more!
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