It was through thickets and wide barren spaces that our proto-fellowship was tramping. They were marching east from, and staying south of the main road. It was their second day out from Weathertop.
Thoughts on the Passage – Book I, Chapter 12 (p199, 50th Anniv. Ed.)
What I don’t want to do is just give a synopsis of the Beren and Luthien story. If you’ve read Lord of the Rings, this tale is in there, though much abbreviated from the Silmarillion version.
Instead, I’d like to figure out why Strider selected this specific tale to tell. He and the hobbits were sitting around the fire, trying to keep their minds off of the Nazgul, which were gathering below them. Merry asked Strider to tell the story of Gil-galad, but Strider didn’t seem all that interested (since it involved Mordor).
It was Sam who suggested that he “tell us some other tale of the old days … a tale about the Elves before the fading time.” Before the telling, Strider explained that it was sad, “as are all the tales of Middle-earth, and yet it may lift up your hearts.”
This was certainly one reason that Strider would choose this. It was a romantic tale, full of intrigue and action. Like any such movie or Spanish soap opera, it took the minds of the spectators off of their present troubles. It was sad, but in the end, it would lift their spirits.
Tolkien makes no mention of Strider seeming sad or longing, but just before Merry asks him to tell them a story, he was sitting “a little apart, drawing thoughtfully at his pipe.” Perhaps the story of Beren and Luthien Tinuviel was on his mind.
If so, it wouldn’t be the first time he had found himself alone in the wilderness singing this song. In “The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen,” Tolkien wrote that “Aragorn walked alone in the woods, and his heart was high within him […] For Aragorn had been singing a part of the Lay of Luthien which tells of the meeting of Luthien and Beren in the forest of Neldoreth.”
That was when he first saw Arwen, and he was so wrapped up in the Beren and Luthien story that he began to call to her, “Tinuviel, Tinuviel!”
The Silmarillion tells how an incredibly exhausted Beren wandered in the woods and discovered Luthien, the daughter of an Elf and a Maiar, “as she danced upon the unfading grass in the glades beside Esgalduin.” All the pain and exhaustion he was feeling was immediately forgotten “for Luthien was the most beautiful of all the Children of Illuvatar.”
Beren was dumbstruck and Luthien was gone! She had seemed to simply vanish. Beren then “strayed long in the woods, wild and wary as a beast, seeking for her. In his heart he called her Tinueviel, that signifies Nightingale, daughter of twilight, in the Grey-elven tongue, for he knew no other name for her.” It would many months before he saw her again.
Wishing to avoid such an inconvenience, Aragorn, wrapped up in the Lay of Luthien, and not knowing that her name was Arwen, called out “Tinueviel, Tinueviel!” And then rather than disappearing, Arwen turned to him and asked why he called her that.
“Because I believed you to be indeed Luthien Tinueviel of whom I as singing. But if you are not she, then you walk in her likeness.” Aragorn, you see, was quite the charmer.
Of course, both stories have their differences, but there were enough similarities and ties that it would be almost surprising if Strider was not thinking of his Arwen when he was on Weathertop. His heart, like the hobbits’, needed lifting.
Strider told the hobbits that the line of Luthien still existed, and that Elrond of Rivendell was her great-grandson. Being, at this point, only known to the hobbits as Strider (and not Aragorn), he left out the bit that he was also related to her through Elrond’s brother, the first Numenorian King, Elros.
A Few Notes:
- Arwen was worried (or at least mentioned) that her “doom” might be like Luthien’s. There’s so much to explain here that I’m going to give it its own post. Tomorrow.
- With the published Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion, this is what we know to be true. But while Tolkien was writing it, how much was figured out before hand? I think I’ll take up that task soon. It’s complex and I still need to connect some dots.
About the Photo
I don’t really know if the ground over which our hobbits are trodding was littered with boulders, but otherwise, this could be it. Yes, a photo taken in a forest would be much more appropriate to the subject matter, but as it turns out, though I’ve got over 800 photos on my flickr account, not one of them is of a forest. I tend not to like forests (and we’ve got some great ones in Washington). I should probably change this.
- Day 55
- Miles today: 5
- Miles thus far: 266
- 194 miles to Rivendell
- 1,513 miles to Mt. Doom
Today’s stopping place: Still south of the East Road, southeast of Weathertop (map)