Lúthien

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Lúthien
Tolkien's legendarium character
Aliases Tinúviel
Race Maia / Elf
Gender Female
Book(s) The Silmarillion, Beren & Lúthien

Lúthien Tinúviel (Y.T. 1200–Y.S. 503; died aged 3377) is a fictional character in the fantasy-world Middle-earth of the English author J. R. R. Tolkien. She is an elf, daughter of Thingol and Melian. She appears in The Silmarillion, the epic poem The Lay of Leithian, the Grey Annals section of The War of the Jewels, and in other texts in Tolkien's legendarium. Her story is told to Frodo by Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings.

Character overview[edit]

Lúthien is a Telerin (Sindarin) princess, the only child of Elu Thingol, king of Doriath, and his queen, Melian the Maia. Lúthien's romance with the mortal man Beren is one of the greatest stories of the Elder Days and was considered the "chief" of the Silmarillion tales by Tolkien himself. Her character is revered even at the end of the Third Age and honoured still by the likes of Aragorn and various other peoples of Middle-earth. The legacy that Lúthien left behind can be most clearly seen throughout the later ages in those who stem from her ancestry, including the Royal Family of Númenor, being the line of Elros of which Arathorn and his son Aragorn were descended, and Elrond Half-elven who was Lúthien's great-grandson. She is described as the Morning Star of the Elves and as the most beautiful daughter of Ilùvatar, a term meaning not only that she was the most beautiful of all her people at the height of their glory, but even that she was potentially the most beautiful creature ever existed in Middle Earth. In contrast, Lúthien's descendant Arwen is called Evenstar, the Evening Star of the Elves, meaning that her beauty reflects that of Lúthien Tinúviel. Lúthien is also first cousin once removed to Galadriel; as Galadriel's mother, Eärwen of Alqualondë, is the daughter of Thingol's brother.

Her skin was fair and her very long hair was very dark like shadows with eyes of grey, like all the elves. Whilst not remarked as particularly tall in original writings, her stature would have been tall as her father was Thingol Greycloak, a very tall Telerin elf, whilst her mother was an angelic spirit who took a bodily form to match her mate.

At the time in which Beren first sees Luthien she is dressed in blue. Later she encases herself in her own hair as she escapes from the tree house in which she has been imprisoned. She has many uncanny powers, including ability to cast sleep over others, to sing songs of enchantment and slumber, to change her form (to a vampire at one point) and that of her lover and use these shapes to enable efficient transport, as well as the power of healing and the power to cast off her body and go to the halls of the dead and plead for her lover to be returned.

Etymology[edit]

The name Lúthien appears to mean "daughter of flowers" in a Beleriandic dialect of Sindarin, but it can also be translated "blossom".[1] Tinúviel was a name given to her by Beren. It literally means "daughter of the starry twilight", which signifies "nightingale".

Internal biography[edit]

Background Information[edit]

Lúthien is half-elven royalty through her father Elu Thingol and half-divine (of the race of the Maiar) through her mother Melian the Maia. She was born in the year 4700 of the Years of the Trees according to the Grey Annals. But although this is given as her date of birth in the text, it is actually unknown exactly when she came into the world, meaning that this is an approximation. At her birth, the white flower niphredil is said to have bloomed for the first time in Doriath.

She fell in love with Beren, a Man of the House of Bëor. Their first meeting was in the forest of Neldoreth, which lay within the guarded realm of Doriath, hidden kingdom of Lúthien's father Elu Thingol and his Queen Melian. The kingdom was fenced by a barrier known as the Girdle of Melian which was formed by the power of Lúthien's Maia-mother and barred the entry of any save those granted access by the King and Queen. This meant that none except that privileged minority could find and even see the secret and hidden lands sheltered within. Their relationship was doomed from the beginning as Lúthien was not just the cherished only daughter of Thingol, the first and most powerful Elven-king in Beleriand, but also the daughter of a Maia, who had existed since before time and creation itself. Beren on the other hand, was a mortal man on the run from the Dark Lord Morgoth and an outlaw, without father and exiled from the land of his kin. Whilst Lúthien had lived for thousands of years in the world already, Beren was young even by human standards.

The Meeting of Beren and Lúthien[edit]

Initially it was Beren who saw Lúthien dancing from afar under moonrise beside the Glades of Esgalduin in her father's forest. From the moment he saw her with his eyes he loved her, for she was the most beautiful of all Elves and Men, the fairest of all the Children of the World. Because of this he revealed himself in the shadows wishing to be near enough to Lúthien to touch her, but Daeron her companion, noticed Beren and believed him to be a wild animal. Thus he shouted for Lúthien to flee, but at first she stood there unmoving, as she had never experienced fear or pain in her life and was confused. Then she saw Beren's shadow and was disturbed, making her dash away quickly. But as she hid in the foliage Beren reached out and touched her arm. To this Lúthien ran away in shock, believing indeed it to be an animal stalking her in the woods. As a result, he was unable to voice his love for her, since a chain was on his limbs and he was so enchanted by her loveliness. So instead he longed for her in his heart calling her Tinúviel, an Elvish (Sindarin) name which means "Daughter of Twilight" signifying Nightingale and searched for her. Then after a period of watching her from afar, it happened that one day in summer when Lúthien was dancing on a green hill surrounded by hemlocks, she started singing and the sheer beauty of her voice awakened Beren from his enchantment. Then he ran to her out of the shadows and again she turned and tried to escape in fright but he called to her crying "Tinúviel" since he did not know any other name for her, and when Lúthien gazed upon him for the first time she reciprocated his love and was thus chained with his curse and burdens. He kissed her on the lips, but she slipped away from him and he fell into a deep sleep of grief and bliss. But in his hour of despair, when he was groping to see the light of her countenance once more, she appeared before him, and in the Hidden Kingdom set her hand in his and cradled his head against her breast. From then on they met secretly and conducted a clandestine relationship, and none before or after were as happy as they were, walking through the woods together hand-in-hand.

The Quest of the Silmaril[edit]

However this joy did not last. Daeron, an elf and childhood friend of Lúthien, who was her partner in music and dance, espied her meetings with Beren and reported this to her father. This was not out of spite, but because he also loved Lúthien but his love was not reciprocated. Secondly he cared greatly for her, thinking that this mortal man would bring her into trouble, possibly even death. Furthermore, it was forbidden in Doriath for any Elf to have contact with mortal Men, let alone the King's beloved daughter, and never before had mortal and immortal fallen in love.

Though Melian warned her husband against it, Thingol was determined not to let Beren marry his daughter, and set a seemingly impossible task as the bride price: Beren had to bring him one of the Silmarils from Morgoth's iron crown. He did not kill him outright since he had promised Lúthien that he would spare his life, and because of his renown. Beren left Menegroth immediately and Lúthien remained grieving.

The Vision and Imprisonment of Lúthien[edit]

Afterwards Lúthien had a vision in which she saw Beren lying suffering in the hellish pits of the Lord of Wolves, and horror weighed upon her heart. She sought the counsel of her mother who told her that Beren was indeed captive in the dungeons of Sauron, the Dark Lord's evil Regent. Because of this Lúthien decided that she must risk her life to save him, and face Sauron herself. She asked her friend Daeron for help, who, thinking it was best for his beloved, betrayed her secret to Thingol. To keep her safe, the King had her locked and guarded high in the branches of the great beech tree of Doriath. Daeron was filled with remorse. Lúthien forgave him, and devised a plan to escape. From her mother, a Maia (angelic being), Lúthien inherited great magical power. She enchanted her long locks into a cloak that lulled her guards to sleep, and she ran out of her prison.

Lúthien's Captivity and the defeat of Sauron[edit]

On her way to rescue Beren, she was found by Huan, the Hound of Valinor, and taken to his master Celegorm and his brother Curufin. Celegorm, enamoured of her unmatched beauty and coveting her family's status, plotted to force her to marry him. Concealing his passion, he offered to help her quest, asking her to first follow him to Nargothrond. When she arrived, they held her hostage and forbade her to talk to anyone else. Huan took pity on her and, betraying his master, freed her. He was granted the power to speak only three times in his life, but he spoke to her on this occasion, and together they escaped from Nargothrond.

They came to Sauron's Isle, and Lúthien sang a call to Beren. He answered, thinking it was only a figment of his imagination. Sauron, also hearing her song, sought to catch her as a delectable prize for his master Morgoth. He sent wolf after wolf to slay Huan, but each time the hound killed them, even his most powerful werewolf Draugluin. Finally going himself, Sauron transformed into the most powerful of all werewolves. Huan flinched, but Lúthien smothered Sauron's lunge in the folds of her enchanted cloak, giving Huan an opening to grapple him. The two fought for long, with Sauron changing into different shapes, but Huan bested him. Finally Lúthien forced the defeated Sauron to surrender the keys of his tower, before he fled shamefaced in the shape of a vampire.

Lúthien destroyed the Tower and freed its prisoners. Finding Beren lying beside the dead body of Felagund, she thought him dead also. She fell down beside him in grief, but with the rising sun he awoke to find his lover, and they were reunited. They buried Finrod Felagund on his Isle. Huan returned to his master Celegorm, and the lovers walked the woods once more in joy.

Of Celegorm, Curufin and the dance of Lúthien before Morgoth[edit]

Beren, mindful of Luthien's high estate as an Elvish princess, pleaded with her to return to her father. Lúthien refused and confessed her undying love for Beren, but just before their embrace, there appeared Celegorm and Curufin, the Sons of Fëanor. Lúthien's escape from Nargothrond had led to the brothers' exile. Seeking revenge, the brothers fought Beren, and Huan again forsook his master and fought on the side of Lúthien. Finally Beren defeated and shamed them, though he spared their lives at Luthien's command. Beren stole one of their horses, but as they fled, Curufin aimed a shot of his bow at Lúthien. Beren jumped in front of the arrow and took the blow. Huan chased the brothers until they vanished and came back to aid Lúthien. By Lúthien's magic and love Beren was restored to life. As she slept, he gave her into the care of Huan and went in quest of Angband.

When Lúthien discovered Beren missing, she and Huan disguised themselves as Thuringwethil the vampire servant of Morgoth and Draugluin the Werewolf. She found Beren and joined his quest. Luthien as vampire and Beren as werewolf came to the gates of Angand and its sentinel the mighty werewolf Carcharoth. Lúthien, possessed by the ancient angelic power in her blood, forced him into a deep slumber. Together they reached the Throne of Morgoth, and here the Dark Lord saw through Lúthien's disguise. She declared herself and offered to sing for Morgoth, and, filled with an evil lust, he accepted. But in listening, he laid himself open to Luthien's enchantment, which glamoured Morgoth and his entire court into a deep sleep, sealed with her cloak over Morgoth's eyes. She awoke Beren, and he cut a Silmaril from Morgoth's crown using Angrist. However, as he tried for another Silmaril, his blade broke, struck Morgoth's cheek, and awakened him, though his whole army still slept. When Luthien and Beren fled as far as the gates, Carcharoth attacked them. Beren, wanting to protect the weakening Lúthien, thrust the Silmaril into the wolf's face, but the wolf bit off the hand and swallowed the Silmaril. The hound fled in terror, leaving Lúthien cradling a mortally wounded Beren in her arms, with the hosts of Angband on their heels. The Wolf's fangs were poisonous and so Lúthien sucked out the venom and with her failing power tried to restore him. But just when all hope seemed lost, the Eagles of Manwë snatched them into the sky away from the angry hordes. They had come at the summons of Huan, and they carried the two to safety in Doriath.

The Return to Doriath and the death of Beren[edit]

Here Lúthien waited by Beren's side and healed him. Then together they entered Doriath and stood before the throne of Lúthien's father. Beren told Thingol that the quest was, indeed, fulfilled, and that he held a Silmaril in his hand. When Thingol demanded to see it, Beren showed him his stump. When he heard their story he was amazed and thought Beren to be above all other mortal men. Because of this he allowed them to marry, and they did so before his throne that day. But at this time Carcharoth was ravaging all living beings on the borders of Doriath, in a crazed fit because of the burning jewel in his stomach. And so Beren, Thingol, Huan the Hound of Valinor, Mablung of the Heavyhand and Beleg Strongbow went out with other Elves to defeat the beast. In this Beren was assaulted by the wolf. Huan then leaped to his aid and killed the beast, but died soon after from mortal wounds, by his friend Beren's side. Then Beren was carried to Doriath where he died in Lúthien's arms, after she bade him to await her by the great sea in the afterlife.

Lúthien becomes mortal for Beren[edit]

In grief, Lúthien lay down and died as well, going to the Halls of Mandos, where the spirits of the dead await re-embodiment in Valinor (for Elves) and departure from the circles of the world entirely (for Men). There she sang a song of woe before the throne of Mandos Lord of the Dead, of the tribulations and suffering of both Elves and Men, the greatest ever sung, so touching that Mandos was moved to pity for the only time. As a result, he summoned Beren from the houses of the dead and Lúthien's spirit met his once again by the shores of the sea. Lúthien knew that this would be their final meeting, since Beren could not remain on the earth beyond his time and she was thus faced with the prospect of eternal widowhood. Mandos consulted with Manwë, King of Arda. Even Manwë could not change the fate of Men, and so he presented Lúthien with the only choice possible: to live in the immortal land of Valinor, where she could forget all her grief and enjoy eternal happiness along with her people and the Gods (Valar) but without Beren, or to return to the land of Middle-earth together with Beren as a mortal herself, accepting the Doom of Men and sharing in whatever unknown fate awaits them outside the Circles of the World. She chose this latter option. With this she accepted death, and although it was not the fate of her race, she relinquished everything for Beren and became a mortal woman.

Together in their new bodies they returned to Doriath and released the winter of Thingol, who had been in grieving ever since his daughter's death. But Melian could not look at first into her daughter's eyes, since she could see the doom of mortality written in them and she knew that Lúthien would be parted from her forever and leave the material world behind with Beren, when the time came for her to die. Melian on the other hand would exist forever until the end of Arda, as Lúthien should have if she had not become mortal for her husband. By nature she was still Elven, and was so in everything except eternal life, meaning that her child would still have immortal blood through her.

Return to Life, and Death[edit]

After returning to life, they dwelt together in Ossiriand as husband and wife until after the sack of Menegroth. They had a son, Dior, called Eluchíl — the Heir of Thingol.

Years later, Thingol received the Nauglamír from Húrin the Steadfast in payment for the fostering of Húrin's son Túrin, as well as for the care of Húrin's wife Morwen and daughter Niënor. Húrin had recovered the Nauglamír from the ruins of Nargothrond following the departure of Glaurung the dragon. Thingol decided to unite the greatest work of the Dwarves with the greatest work of the Elves, and recruited Dwarf smiths from the city of Nogrod to complete his plan. Thingol was murdered by the Dwarves after he insulted them, and a false tale told by the escaping Dwarves led to the sack of Menegroth. The Dwarves plundered Thingol's treasuries and took with them the Nauglamír. However, Beren and an army of Green Elves and Ents waylaid the returning Dwarf army (this was the only recorded event of the First Age in which the Ents actually took part). While the greater part of the treasure of Doriath fell into the river Ascar, Beren reclaimed the Nauglamír, and Beren and Lúthien kept the necklace and the great jewel until the end of their lives. It is said that the beauty of Lúthien combined with the splendour of the gem and necklace was to make her home of Tol Galen the fairest land ever to have existed east of Valinor, but that the Silmaril hastened Beren's and Lúthien's end, since Lúthien's beauty with the Silmaril around her neck was too bright for mortal lands to bear. Lúthien Tinúviel gave up her life along with her husband Beren in the fair, green land of Ossiriand where their son and grandchildren had been born. The Elves never recovered from her death, since she alone of the Quendi had left the world, the fairest and bravest of their race.

The Nauglamír was delivered to her son Dior Eluchíl. While Lúthien wore the necklace no one dared assail her, but when Dior took it up the Sons of Fëanor, motivated by their unholy oath, ransacked the kingdom of Doriath and slew Dior and his wife Nimloth.

Elrond the Half-elven and Arwen Evenstar are descendants of Lúthien, as is Aragorn a descendant of Elrond's brother Elros. According to legend, her line will never be broken.


Earlier versions[edit]

In the various versions of The Tale of Tinúviel, Tolkien's earliest form of his tale, as published in The Book of Lost Tales, her original name is Tinúviel (Lúthien was invented later). Beren is, in this earlier version, an Elf (specifically a Noldo, or Gnome), and Sauron has not yet emerged. In his place, they face Tevildo, the Prince of Cats, a monstrous cat who is the principal enemy of the Valinorean hound Huan. However Tolkien initially created the character of Beren as a mortal man before this in an even earlier but erased version of the tale.

The story is also told in an epic poem in The Lays of Beleriand, upon which most of the finer details of her life and relationship to Beren is extracted from in this article, since The Silmarillion provides only a generalization of the tale.

Inspirations[edit]

In a letter to his son Christopher, dated 11 July 1972, Tolkien requested the inscription below for his wife Edith's grave "for she was (and knew she was) my Lúthien."[2] In a footnote to his letter, Tolkien added "she knew the earliest form of the legend...also the poem eventually printed as Aragorn's song." Particularly affecting for Tolkien was Edith's conversion to the Catholic Church from the Church of England for his sake upon their marriage; this was a difficult decision for her that caused her much hardship, paralleling the difficulties and suffering of Lúthien from choosing mortality.

The name may be derived from the Old English word lufian, which means love. 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.

The Tolkien grave[edit]

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:

Grave of J. R. R. Tolkien and Edith Tolkien


+
Edith Mary Tolkien
Lúthien
1889–1971
John Ronald
Reuel Tolkien
Beren
1892–1973

References[edit]

  1. ^ Noel, Ruth S. "The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-earth", page 166. Houghton Mifflin, 1974
  2. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #340, ISBN 0-395-31555-7 

External links[edit]