|Tolkien's legendarium character|
Beren (also known as Beren Erchamion, "the One-handed", and Beren Camlost, "the Empty-handed") is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. He appears in The Silmarillion. He is a human, and his love for the elf maiden Lúthien is central to the Tolkien legendarium.
The Battle of Sudden Flame occurred during Beren's youth, bringing about the ruin of his kingdom. Thenceforward the young Beren lived with his father and ten loyal followers in the highlands of Dorthonion, at Tarn Aeluin, and they performed many acts of bravery, to the great frustration of Morgoth, the Dark Lord of Angband. After the ruin of the Outlaws of Dorthonion, Beren exacted revenge on the murderer of his father Barahir, and led the life of a solitary outlaw, with the aid of animals, until he had established such a high reputation that the price on his head was equal to that on Fingon, high king of the Noldorin Elves. Beren had also recovered the ring of Barahir, a present given to his father by Finrod Felegund, who offered the ring as a symbol of his aid to Barahir and all of his descendants for Barahir's rescue of Finrod when he was surrounded. This ring was passed down eventually to Aragorn. Beren was forced from the land of his birth by Sauron and Draugluin as they completely defiled Dorthonion. He crossed a path of terror, passing an impenetrable boundary by the will of fate, into Doriath, where he saw and fell in love with Lúthien, princess of the Sindar and daughter of Thingol and Melian.
Thingol haughtily refused to give Lúthien's hand in marriage. He said that he would only allow the marriage if Beren recovered one of the Silmarils, the three hallowed jewels which the Noldorin Elves had lost to Morgoth, from the Iron Crown of Morgoth. The task was intended to be impossible, but Beren and Lúthien, with the aid of Finrod of Nargothrond and Huan the Hound of Valinor (both of whom died protecting Beren), braved many perils (even besting Sauron, then Morgoth's most powerful lieutenant) and finally reached Angband and came before Morgoth. Beren was able to capture a Silmaril when Lúthien had made the Dark Lord fall asleep through her singing. He then attempted to take another Silmaril from Morgoth's crown, but the tip of his dagger Angrist splintered and a shard pierced the cheek of Morgoth. As they fled from Angband, the great wolf Carcharoth attacked them. Beren held out the Silmaril, hoping that its radiance would avert the beast, but he was mistaken. Carcharoth bit off his hand swallowed it and the Silmaril (thus Beren was called Erchamion, One-hand), and proceeded to run rampant through Beleriand, and eventually reaching Doriath. Lúthien and the unconscious Beren were rescued by the Eagles of Manwë. They eventually returned to Thingol, where Beren claimed that he was holding the Silmaril in his hand; when he showed the king the stump of his arm, the king was moved to compassion for Beren, and he was wed to Lúthien. Beren participated in the Hunting of the Wolf, in which Carcharoth was slain and the Silmaril recovered; the quest was accomplished, but Beren was mortally wounded.
Lúthien's love for Beren was so strong that, hearing of his death, her spirit fell into darkness and fled to the Halls of Mandos. There, she sang a song of such grief and beauty that Mandos was moved to pity for the first and last time. He therefore gave a choice: that of going to Valimar, healed of all memory of her grief, and to let Beren pass beyond the Circles of the World. The second choice was that they should both return to Middle-earth for a time, and then both should die and their fëar pass finally out of the world forever. This second choice she chose, forsaking her kindred and her immortality for her love. Thus Beren and Lúthien lived again, and dwelt on Tol Galen in the middle of the river Adurant in Ossiriand. There they stayed apart from other mortals; Beren was involved with the events of the First Age only one further time, when he waylaid a group of Dwarves who had destroyed Doriath and stolen the Nauglamír in which the Silmaril was set.
Lúthien bore Beren a son, named Dior, Thingol's heir, considered to be one of the fairest beings to ever live, for in him flowed the blood of Men, Elves and Maiar (Ainur). Through his descendants, the blood of Beren and of Lúthien was preserved among the Eldar and the Edain.
Beren and Lúthien dwelt together for thirty-seven years more. In the year 503, the Green-elves sent to Dior the Nauglamir in which was set the Silmaril, and he knew that Beren and Lúthien had died. But it is not known where they passed, nor where their final resting place was.
|Half-elven family tree|
The BBC Radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings includes a scene from The Fellowship of the Ring in which Aragorn summarizes the story of Beren and Lúthien for Frodo Baggins and his companions. Frodo later comes to realise the connection between their story and that of Aragorn and Arwen.
The animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings includes a similar scene in which Aragorn is relating the story of Beren and Lúthien for the Hobbits, but here there is no connection made between the two to Aragorn and Arwen, since the latter does not appear.
The special extended edition of Peter Jackson's movie version of The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) contains a brief mention of the story. During the journey from Bree to Rivendell Frodo hears Aragorn singing quietly to himself one night and asks who the woman is of whom he is singing. Aragorn replies that he is singing of Lúthien. When Frodo asks what happened to her Aragorn replies, "she died". This is true enough, and can be seen as a reflection of Aragorn's concern over Arwen's renunciation of immortality for his sake.
Concept and creation
The story of Beren and Lúthien, though mentioned only briefly in The Lord of the Rings, was a central part of the legendarium. Tolkien once referred to it as "the kernel of the mythology". He went on to say that it "arose from a small woodland glade filled with 'hemlock'", which he visited while serving in the Humber Garrison in 1918 (during World War I).
It is widely believed that the story and the characters were largely inspired by the young Tolkien's romance with Edith Bratt, his future wife, who danced for her husband in the woodland glade.
The surname Tolkien derives from the German Toll-kühn meaning "Foolishly brave" . The name Beren also means "brave" in Sindarin and it is possible this was intentional by the author.
The tale of Beren and Lúthien also shares an element with folktales such as the Welsh Culhwch and Olwen and others— namely, the disapproving parent who sets a seemingly impossible task (or tasks) for the suitor, which is then fulfilled.
It may also have real-life parallels: some sources indicate that Edith's Protestant family strongly disapproved of Tolkien's Catholic Faith. In addition, Tolkien's guardian, a priest of the Birmingham Oratory, forbade him from having any contact with Edith until he turned 21. Tolkien's guardian clearly feared that his young charge was in danger of losing the Faith. Tolkien obeyed to the letter, but telegraphed Edith on his 21st birthday. Although she was engaged to another man, she returned the ring and announced her engagement to Tolkien instead.
The Tolkien grave
Edith and J.R.R. Tolkien lie in Wolvercote Cemetery (North Oxford). Their gravestone shows the association of Lúthien with Edith, and Tolkien himself with Beren. The stone reads:
- Beren and Lúthien are Flown to Safety as illustrated by Ted Nasmith
- Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #165, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
- see note and references in the article on J. R. R. Tolkien
- Carpenter, Humphrey (1977), Tolkien: A Biography, New York: Ballantine Books, p. 56, ISBN 0-04-928037-6