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Silmarillion Discussion, Chapter 19: Of Beren and Luthien: Love, etc.
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CuriousG
Valinor


Jun 23 2013, 2:08pm

Post #1 of 344 (2018 views)
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Silmarillion Discussion, Chapter 19: Of Beren and Luthien: Love, etc. Can't Post

Welcome to Beren & Luthien!

These chapter discussions are open to everyone -- all you need is to have read the book and have an opinion, question, and/or comment. This is absolutely not for experts only - everyone's participation is welcome, whether you are a veteran of the Reading Room or brand-new, and whether you've commented on other chapters or not. Feel very free to jump right in.

I like this chapter partly because Tolkien liked it so much himself that he clearly labored over every word and nuance. It also seems to be the culmination of many of his themes about the nature and destiny of Middle-earth, neatly packaged in a Romeo & Juliet story. Where else but Arda can both heroes die and still live happily ever after?

Synopsis (chronological):
  • Beren flees from his rebel life in Dorthonion and accidentally discovers Luthien in Doriath. It's love at first sight for them as individuals, while Doom surrounds them on a larger scale.
  • Thingol loves his daughter, hates Beren, and tries to thwart their marriage by naming the impossible bride-price of a Silmaril.
  • Beren, undaunted by the hopeless nature of the quest, travels (there's lot of traveling in this tale) to Nargothrond, calls in the debt owed to him by Finrod, and they venture north, but are captured by Sauron at Minas Tirith.
  • Luthien escapes her father's captivity and follows Beren's trail to Nargothrond, only to be held captive there by those icky Sons of Feanor, Celegorm and Curufin.
  • Huan the hound from Valinor helps Luthien escape and takes her to Minas Tirith, where they defeat Sauron and liberate Beren. (They're too late to save Finrod.)
  • They return to Doriath's borders, are ambushed by C&C, and narrowly survive.
  • They set out for Angband disguised as evil creatures, and thanks to their joint heroism and abundant uses of Luthien's cleverness and magic, they briefly capture a Silmaril, only to have Morgoth's wolf (Carcharoth) bite off Beren's hand that was holding it.
  • Rescued by Thorondor and whisked back to Doriath, the couple recuperates, and Thingol accepts them at last, but the wolf invades Doriath, and Huan and Beren are killed while battling Carcharoth.
  • Luthien's spirit follows Beren's to Aman and she secures a second life for both of them, though it means she'll become mortal. They settle in the extreme southeast of Beleriand (barely on the map) and start a hybrid race which Legolas says (in LOTR) will never die out.
I struggled to divide this discussion up into chronological chunks, but kept coming back to themes that crossed the chapter, so that's where we're headed. Here's the schedule, but PLEASE don't hold back on any question/comment you have that looks like it should wait on the schedule. Our conversations here are organic, and best to bring up your thoughts when the moment is ripe.

June 23: Love and Magic
June 26: Politics and Fate
June 30: Race, class, gender, family
July 3: Everything else

Now for some fun--count the man-swoons! I came up with six times that Luthien had to revive Beren. Do you agree?
  1. When he first sees her in Doriath, he goes into a trance, which she ends by song.
  2. In Minas Tirith, she revives him in the dungeon from a swoon.
  3. After the attack by Celegorm and Curufin, Luthien the Nurse revives Beren from an arrow wound (I'm assuming he swooned).
  4. In Morgoth's throne room, she has to wake him up.
  5. After Carcharoth bites off his hand, she nurses him back from a coma.
  6. After Beren dies, Luthien travels all the way to Mandos to revive him. (I'm counting death as a swoon.)



CuriousG
Valinor


Jun 23 2013, 2:50pm

Post #2 of 344 (852 views)
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Love: dare we question it? [In reply to] Can't Post

This is a perfect love story, and literally, a fairy tale romance. Or so it seems to me. Do you see anything imperfect in it, or is it love the way you wished it would be?

We see them disagreeing about how to get a Silmaril, but can you imagine them having a marital spat about who has to clean the kitchen? Doesn't it seem alien to the story to try to conjure up mundane images of how they live their daily lives?

There's surprisingly little dialogue between Beren and Luthien. When they speak, it's usually to someone else. Does that leave you wondering if these two spend their private time staring rapturously and wordlessly into each other's eyes, or does it seem that their dialogue is very intimate, something that the rest of the world isn't privy to or wouldn't understand?

There seems almost no motivation for their love. They just look at each other and it happens. There's not even a first date where they try to get to know each other. But I'm still going to ask the "why" question. Does Beren love Luthien mainly because of her celestial beauty? Why does she love him?

Love and trauma: Luthien has led a sheltered, innocent life. Beren is a guerrilla warrior, a loner, an orphan, and has recently been betrayed by a fellow soldier and driven from his homeland, forced to travel through a nightmarish land. He sees Luthien, and he falls in love. Is it her innocence in solitude that appeals to his wounded soul, or would he fall in love with her if he were a rich and peaceful King of Dorthonion and they met at a large banquet?

The meeting of Beren & Luthien seemed a common fairy tale and mythic motif to me: the prince espies the magic princess/goddess in a forest glade and is awestruck. On first read, I didn't know that Tolkien based their meeting on a personal moment where his wife played the part of Luthien. JRR and Edith's tombstones say "Beren" and "Luthien" on them. How does knowing his personal background for the story affect your perception of it? "Sentimental" has acquired a pejorative connotation in modern criticism. Is this story too sentimental for you?

Reader reaction to a love story written by a man: how does your gender affect how you view this chapter?


CuriousG
Valinor


Jun 23 2013, 3:06pm

Post #3 of 344 (811 views)
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Lust [In reply to] Can't Post

A clear distinction exists in this chapter between love and lust. Beren and Luthien start out with a spiritual connection that we'd call love. At no point are we told that Beren was physically aroused by her, though since they later have a son, we can trust that happens.

Lust arises for other characters:
  1. Celegorm, when Luthien was revealed to him, "became enamored of her," and he lusts for both her beauty and her kingdom. He shamelessly lies to her to take her home and hold her captive. (Does anyone remember Eol and Aredhel? Didn't Curufin disapprove of Eol in that arrangement?)
  2. Morgoth's lust for Luthien puts him off-guard, enabling her to outsmart and bewilder him.
  3. Daeron: I'm not sure if it's lust for him, but at best it's unrequited love, and he betrays Luthien rather than help her.
Compare the staggering accomplishments resulting from Beren & Luthien's love vs. how things backfire for the lusters. Are the lusters even capable of love, or does being so selfish and unethical mean you just don't get it?


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Jun 23 2013, 3:24pm

Post #4 of 344 (807 views)
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Man swoons :) [In reply to] Can't Post

A bit like "man-flu"?
"I didn't faint at the sight if blood, it was a man swoon."
Smile

Is Lúthien the only heroine cool enough to have a "swoon song" instead of a "swan song"?

Some more serious thoughts soon (not swoon)

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Jun 23 2013, 3:26pm)


CuriousG
Valinor


Jun 23 2013, 4:17pm

Post #5 of 344 (805 views)
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When you kiss a fairy princess... [In reply to] Can't Post

There's a whole lot of magic in this chapter, more than any other, and that's not just because of its length. I think most people read fantasy stories because they want some magic, and I think LOTR showcases magic sparingly. Here it abounds:

  1. Gorlim, companion of Beren, is tricked by Sauron into believing he's seen his lost wife, "a phantom devised by wizardry to entrap him."
  2. Gorlim's ghost comes to Beren in a dream to warm him (too late) that Barahir and the others have been betrayed.
  3. Beren recovers the hand of his father (wearing the ring of Felagund) from a group of orcs and "he escaped, being defended by fate."
  4. Beren is first smitten by a spell when he sees Luthien, and she later undoes it while singing a song that "released the bonds of winter...and flowers sprang from the cold earth where her feet had passed."
  5. "By the arts of Felagund" the party from Nargothrond is transformed to look like Orcs.
  6. Finrod and Sauron duel in songs of power
  7. Trapped in a tree-house, Luthien "put forth her arts of enchantment" to create a magic robe and rope that conceal her and make others fall asleep. Rapunzel-like, she climbs down from her prison with the rope made from her hair--that's amazing hair! What would Gimli do with it?
  8. Minas Tirith: Luthien sings a song that travels down to Beren's dungeon, his song returned to her, "and she sang then a song of greater power. The wolves howled, and the isle trembled."
  9. Sauron takes both wolf and serpent form in his fight with Huan; he scares both Elf and hound with his wolf-form, but Luthien's magic cloak accidentally gives him a drowsy moment that gives Huan a chance to best him. Then Sauron becomes a vampire and flies away.
  10. After winning mastery of Tol Sirion from Sauron (I'm never sure exactly what that means), Luthien "declared her power" and the great fortress collapses.
  11. Luthien turns herself into a vampire and Beren into a wolf to sneak into Angband.
  12. Luthien vs Carcharoth at the gate of Angband, Round 1. I'm quoting since it's reminiscent of Fingolfin's description there not long ago (and foreshadows Eowyn vs the Nazgul): "some power...possessed Luthien, and casting back her foul raiment she stood forth, small before the might of Carcharoth, but radiant and terrible." She puts him to sleep not with her robe but with a command, and I wonder if that has anything to do with Gandalf's word of Command in Moria.
  13. Luthien re-disguises them magically, then is stripped of that disguise "by the will of Morgoth."
  14. That doesn't matter, because her song puts the entire room to sleep. [I think that was from magic, not boredom. And does anyone notice that Luthien uses sleep as her weapon of choice?]
  15. Luthien's tears as they fly over Gondolin create a fountain of healing. [though not in the published Silmarillion; Chris Tolkien admits he should have left that in in The Lost Road, p. 301--thanks Voronwe!]
  16. Luthien's singing, which just can't be taken as non-magical, heals Beren after he was poisoned by Carcharoth's bite.
  17. Luthien's song after their deaths, which is still sung in Valinor, moved Mandos "to pity, who never before was moved, nor has been since."

Given this abundance of magic, would you have liked to see it more in other chapters, or is this enough?

Is this chapter the most magical because it's "the love chapter" and love is magical, or did it just make the plot work?
Plot: I raise that point because every time our lovers are in over their heads, it's magic (or a magic dog) that saves them. Was Tolkien the writer creatively backing his characters into a corner each time to highlight their helplessness and hopeless plight, then cheating by bailing them out with magic? (I don't think so, but wanted to ask.)

Now trust me, I'm on the right side here, but Galadriel tells Sam she doesn't understand the word "magic" in Westron, because it applies to both Elven enchantment and "the deceits of the Enemy." Isn't Luthien repeatedly using her magic for deceit? If good and bad magic are so different, why do Finrod, Luthien, and Sauron all perform similar transformation spells?

The extent of Magic: How much of Luthien's magic comes from her mother's side? Could Thingol have done any of the things she did? Finrod could sing power songs and transform people into Orcs: how widespread was that ability?


(This post was edited by CuriousG on Jun 23 2013, 4:17pm)


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Jun 23 2013, 5:39pm

Post #6 of 344 (792 views)
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Magic good and bad - letter #155 helps a bit [In reply to] Can't Post

In letter #155 (beginning by the Prof charmingly saying "I am afraid I have been far too casual about 'magic' …") , he says magic

Quote
Neither is, in this tale, good or bad (per se), but only by motive or purpose of use.


Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


CuriousG
Valinor


Jun 23 2013, 5:58pm

Post #7 of 344 (758 views)
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Thanks for finding that! [In reply to] Can't Post

It's what I inferred from reading Tolkien, but I take that line from Galadriel seriously because she goes out of her way to say it, which makes me think she's speaking directly for JRR. It's good to know he's officially neutral about it and instead focuses on motive and use.

The other use of magic for deceit I can think of is Gandalf going "disguised" into Dol Guldur to find out the identity of the Necromancer. I don't think that disguise was just a new haircut and some fake tattoos; it had to be magical and deceitful, and Galadriel would have known about it. Maybe her point was all about different motives and not different techniques.


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Jun 23 2013, 8:30pm

Post #8 of 344 (760 views)
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A bit more #155: the prof digs himself further into a hole [In reply to] Can't Post


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I suppose that, for the purposes of the tale, some would say that there is a latent distinction such as once was called the distinction between +magia+ and +goeteia+. …The Enemy's operations are by no means all goetic deceits, but 'magic'that produces real effects in the physical world. Pbut his magia he uses to bulldoze both people and things, and his goeteia to terrify and subjugate. Their magia the Elves and Gandalf use (sparingly): a magia producing real results (like fire in a wet faggot) for specific beneficent purposes. Their goetic effects are entirely +artistic+ and not intended to deceive: they never deceive Elves (but may deceive or bewilder Men) since the difference is to them as clear as the difference to us between fiction, painting, and sculpture, and 'life'

Quote
So +magia+ in Sarumans bomb at Helms Deep, or Gandalf lighting wet wood
+goeteia+ in illusions - Beren & Co appear to be orcs under Finrods spell, but are not actually orcs.

Which goes to highlight that in +this+ tale (as opposed to LOTR, being described in the letter), both Finrod and Lúthien do use goeteia to deceive, and do so successfully (including tricking other elves).

The Song-battle between Finrod and Sauron seems different again: more of a psychological battle of wills. Except for Aragorn (sings a song over the hilt of the Morghul blade), I can't think of other song magic (am I missing something? Usually am).

I like all the magic in this chapter, but I agree it would tire quickly: whatever trouble they get into, Lúthien or her magic anti-warg will have an app for it.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Jun 23 2013, 8:47pm

Post #9 of 344 (827 views)
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Not a Disney movie: Beren is pretty much Lúthien's sidekick [In reply to] Can't Post

At first sight this is a traditional tale in which the active knight-errant wins the passive princess. But actually Beren is pretty much Lúthiens sidekick throughout (with help from the magic dog to talk him out of the notion of protecting her by taking her home).

Lúthien certainly is the exception to the pattern we discussed in "Of Maeglin" (where daring males do well, but daring females come a cropper).

By co-incidence, I was reading Tam Lin earlier today - another story where the hero is the lady, rescuing her fella, despite what her family would have her do.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Jun 23 2013, 9:01pm

Post #10 of 344 (759 views)
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"winning mastery of Tol Sirion from Sauron " [In reply to] Can't Post

I read it as simply meaning he was the King of the Castle till she set her dog on him and beat him up Smile (Well he did start it, with his fell gaze and super-halitosis). Now she's captured the castle - has the mastery.

Does anyone else think that Lúthiens threat to Sauron sounds like the Witch King threatening Éowyn:

Lúthien to Sauron:

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There everlastingly thy naked self shall endure the torment of his scorn, pierced by his eyes…


Witch King to Éowyn


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He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.


Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Jun 23 2013, 9:06pm)


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Jun 23 2013, 9:04pm

Post #11 of 344 (763 views)
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Random question "Release from Bondage"? [In reply to] Can't Post

We're told the tale of B&L comes from a song "Release from Bondage".An odd title (and not only for the snigger reason) : who or what gets released, do you think?

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


CuriousG
Valinor


Jun 23 2013, 9:06pm

Post #12 of 344 (783 views)
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That's the surprise in this story [In reply to] Can't Post

It reminds me of feminist literature where a male-dominated story is bluntly rewritten to feature the women as the central heroes, only Tolkien was hardly a late 20th-century feminist. Traditional princesses in stories look pretty, fall in love, and need to be rescued. So, isn't that what Beren does? His first act in the quest isn't to march off to Angband all alone, Fingolfin-style. Instead he gets some help (Finrod). Not just help, but Finrod does all the work, including saving Beren's life by sacrificing his own. Then when Beren is about to die, his girlfriend and her dog show up to save him. She saves him repeatedly throughout the story, and SHE gets the jewel that Beren is SUPPOSED to get so he can marry her. OK, technically he carved it off the crown, but only after she'd immobilized the Enemy. If the Eagles hadn't shown up, the poor girl would have had to carry him all the way home to Menegroth.

I'm joking, as usual, but it's remarkable how Luthien comes up with the ideas and takes the action. There is nothing to fault Beren for, since he's a Man who's in over his head in the world of Elves and Ainur. It's significant that no other humans enter the story after he meets her--ever. He has to rely on the greater power and wisdom of the immortals around him.

He proves he's brave: jumping in front of arrows to save Luthien, shoving his Silmaril-hand in Carcharoth's face (who could guess that would backfire?), and jumping in front of Thingol when the wolf attacks. But it's really Luthien who's the hero/heroine. I guess I think a masculinist should rewrite this story where the man is the hero who makes the decisions and does all the heavy lifting while the passive beautiful female waits for rescue. What are impressionable young men supposed to think after reading this story? Tolkien is just so biased against Men it's frightening. Shouldn't this book be banned from schools?


CuriousG
Valinor


Jun 23 2013, 9:12pm

Post #13 of 344 (748 views)
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Release from Bondage [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, it sounds naughtier than it is.

I had a friend who did his PhD thesis on the meaning of that book, and he had a complicated explanation for what the release was which I can never remember and didn't find plausible anyway. To me, it was that the man (forget the name) spent his life worrying so much that people disliked him for his stumpy leg that his preoccupation was what really drove people away, and when he was able to see it in perspective, he was "released." It's been a long time, but I think either the movie or book has one of his wives say something like, "People notice it when they first meet you, then they tend to forget about it." Though he had other issues, and that was only one. I think the release was getting over all his issues that held him back in life.

But I must say, beyond his shortened leg (that he was born with) and Beren's wolf-bitten-off hand, I'm not sure what the connection would be.


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Jun 23 2013, 9:13pm

Post #14 of 344 (756 views)
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Gorlim's ghost and Beren's dream [In reply to] Can't Post

Beren has a dream of ravens, then sees Gorlim's ghost. I didn't read this as a warning coming too late; rather that it warns Beren, and causes him to return to base cautiously.

Gorlim's ghost comes over water, which gives us the option to think "Ulmo at work".

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


CuriousG
Valinor


Jun 23 2013, 9:18pm

Post #15 of 344 (745 views)
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Luthien with the original Nazgul threat--yes, I think that every time! [In reply to] Can't Post

And she must be scarier than a Nazgul, because it worked for her, or Sauron was wimpier than Eowyn. It's a role reversal that Sauron was cowed by the threat in the First Age, but in the Third Age he was going to be the one doing the devouring of naked helpless minds.


CuriousG
Valinor


Jun 23 2013, 9:29pm

Post #16 of 344 (739 views)
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Ulmo or not [In reply to] Can't Post

It was another not-useful prophecy since it came too late. And to the wrong person--why didn't Gorlim warn Barahir instead, since Barahir was the target? Ulmo sends tsunamis my way when I pester him with questions like that.

The lake of the outlaws, Tar Aeluin, had a tie-in with Beren's in-laws. "Melian herself had hallowed that water in days of old." Not a lake she kept up her Girdle, however. And actually, that tie-in seems to me a little forced as "the hand of fate." Granted, Melian could wander around in Beleriand before she met Thingol and hallow any water that she wanted to, but what are the odds she'd hallow this out-of-the-way lake that her future son-in-law's outlaw band would take their last refuge by? [Would that make a good music band? "Beren the Empty-Handed and the Outlaw Band." Maybe Luthien fell for the rogue guitarist persona he suavely manifested.]


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Jun 23 2013, 9:48pm

Post #17 of 344 (780 views)
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Add to that the "meet the parents" scene… [In reply to] Can't Post

…which Lúthien has set up by presenting her new boyfriend rather than allowing time for him to be arrested. Poor boyfriend is tongue-tied till he looks at Lúthien and Melian. You could read this as him simply drawing strength, or as L magically assisting or speaking through him.

But it doesn't read to me as a Victorian era ("traditional") story (passive female/active male) passed through a transform which simply flips the genders (and so becomes predictable once you've figured what the transform is).

By referring to Tam Lin, I meant to bring up that some traditional tales can have very active heroines. Tam Lin also needs rescuing, and the poem ends with the Elf Queen being a sore loser about losing him to the brave Janet.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


squire
Valinor


Jun 23 2013, 9:56pm

Post #18 of 344 (764 views)
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Tolkien never explained the title, so it's up to you the reader [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know about any non-Tolkien song or book called "Release from Bondage", from which the tale of Beren and Luthien might come. The only source I've ever heard of for this tale is, primarily, the "Lay of Leithian", which is the long epic poem about Beren and Luthien that Tolkien wrote in the 1920s. (More anciently, the poem is itself a retelling of one of the original Lost Tales from back in the 10s. That is the original story of Beren and Luthien but is significantly different in some ways from this more recent version.)

Anyway, as the title of the poem, Tolkien wrote:
The GEST of BEREN son of BARAHIR and LUTHIEN the FAY called TINUVIEL the NIGHTINGALE,
or the LAY OF LEITHIAN Release from Bondage

The first title seems self-explanatory; the second or alternate title is a little more mysterious. Christopher Tolkien gives us this commentary on the odd word and phrase at the end.
My father never explained the name Leithian 'Release from Bondage', and we are left to choose, if we will, among various applications that can be seen in the poem. Nor did he leave any comment on the significance -- if there is a significance -- of the likeness of Leithian to Leithien 'England'. In the tale of Ælfwine of England the Elvish name of England is Lúthien (which was earlier the name of Ælfwine himself, England being Luthany), but at the first occurrence (only) of this name the word Leithian was pencilled above it (HoME II.330, note 20). In the 'Sketch of the Mythology' England was still Lúthien (and at the time Thingol's daughter was also Lúthien), but this was emended to Leithien, and this is the form in the 1930 version of 'The Silmarillion'. I cannot say (i) what connection if any there was between the two significances of Lúthien, nor (ii) whether Leithien (once Leithian) 'England' is or was related to Leithian 'Release from Bondage'. The only evidence of an etymological nature that I have found is a hasty note, impossible to date, which refers to a stem leth- 'set free', with leithia 'release', and compares Lay of Leithian. ('The Lays of Beleriand', History of Middle-earth III, pp. 188-189).
To all this Tolkieny erudition I would add that the phrase "release from bondage' is a common one in the English language, associated with everything from slavery to imprisonment to apprenticeship to sin, and should not be supposed to be an exotic reference to any one instance of such release in history or literature, without a further clue.




squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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CuriousG
Valinor


Jun 23 2013, 11:28pm

Post #19 of 344 (728 views)
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Oh, I was thinking of Somerset Maugham [In reply to] Can't Post

"Of Human Bondage." Which is like "Of Beren and Luthien" and all the other chapters in this book, so I muddled Wiz's point.

Having de-muddled that from "Lay of Leithian/Release from Bondage," I am certain that it was not a random name and had some purpose behind it that readers were meant to find. To me, it's Luthien's release from bondage to Arda which allows her to follow Beren wherever he goes. He, having the Gift of Iluvatar, has nothing to be released from.


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Jun 24 2013, 9:50am

Post #20 of 344 (699 views)
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Release from bondage - speculation [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you Squire for that interesting & learned post! Sounds like we'll never know for sure, short of the discovery of the sandwich wrapper or early draft on which Tolkien wrote something helpful.

My money (like CuriousG's, I think) is on the idea that death is discovered to be at least occasionally negotiable (special offer, subject to status, terms and conditions apply, your mileage may vary, one application per household).

Unlike poor Orpheus, Luthien at least gets to keep the partner she's bargained for, at the cost (if it is a cost as opposed to an additional reward) of sharing his mortal fate (whatever that is).

Easy to invent other options, for example:
  • One Silmaril is released from bondage in Morgoth's Iron crown
  • Luthien is released from being a good little elf princess and knitting socks (or whatever they do) until married off
  • Finrod is released from his oath, having taken truly every possible step to assist Beren


Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Jun 24 2013, 9:56am

Post #21 of 344 (742 views)
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There seems almost no motivation for their love [In reply to] Can't Post

Fate, fate and doom! There's a strong feeling of this all being set up to fulfill higher purposes. They just can't help themselves. Marriage made in heaven, but an arranged one.
Since a subthread about Fate and Doom is coming later, I'll save up for that one.

Seems to me that everything is very much at full volume in this Chapter - much more of everything (fate & doom, love, oaths, mean tricks, magic) than in yer standard Tolkien chapter. It's almost like a mini-work of its own.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowimë I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Lothwen
Rivendell

Jun 24 2013, 11:38am

Post #22 of 344 (706 views)
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The fairy tale chapter [In reply to] Can't Post

For me, this chapter had a distinct "fairy tale" mood. Maybe it was the talking dog (being able to do something only three times, such as talk, is often in fairy tales) or the seemingly excessive use of magic. On the other hand, one felt less...distant to the characters than in the previous chapters.

If the other chapters had had as much magic in them, they would have been a lot less believable and real. They'd be more like myths and legends than the "recorded history of old" atmosphere. I can imagine the Elves of Rivendell telling Of Luthien and Beren as a story of romance and magic, rather than history!

The extent of magic... I somehow got the feeling (not based on facts) that the singing magic was a skill belonging to "elves that had been to valinor", descendants of those elves, and of course, the maiar. Luthien would have inherited it from her mother. This is just a theory though; I could be utterly wrong.Laugh


CuriousG
Valinor


Jun 24 2013, 12:43pm

Post #23 of 344 (697 views)
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Same impressions [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree with you. While the magic in this chapter is great fun and satisfying, having it to the same degree in every chapter dilutes the historical feel. I also think the songs of power came from the same groups you list. Somehow, I don't see Cirdan dueling in a song of power. Daeron is a possibility, since he was the best singer ever, but that's still very uncertain.


CuriousG
Valinor


Jun 24 2013, 12:52pm

Post #24 of 344 (728 views)
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Fate, and the single chapter [In reply to] Can't Post

Remember my plea for not holding back! My other posts are about how their relationship has so many facets. Fate is a big one. Beren is less aware of it, but as soon as Luthien meets him and falls in love with him, she realizes her fate, and it sends her reeling. I like your comment that it was arranged in heaven. That's a point about free will vs fate that I see in this. Would they have loved each other without Fate getting involved, or loved each other less?

Stand-alone chapter: Now that I've read letter #131, Tolkien confirms a feeling I've always had, that this chapter can stand on its own in many ways. When friends have asked if they should read The Sil, I refer them to this one, and say don't get bogged down in the funny names and all the places they go, just focus on the feel of it, because it's a great overview of Tolkien's writing and can be read as a mini-novel.


CuriousG
Valinor


Jun 24 2013, 12:56pm

Post #25 of 344 (698 views)
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Cool idea [In reply to] Can't Post

Never thought of the Silmaril being released from bondage, but that's a profound part of the story.

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