The Silmarillion Recap: War Is in the Air (Again)

Sorry this week’s recap is a day late. Yesterday, I was up to my eyeballs in papers to grade. Now that the pile is back down to a manageable level, it’s time to dive into the fun stuff!

Want to catch up on The Silmarillion so far? Check out the Silmarillion Recaps page here.

After six weeks (believe it or not) of following Luthien and Beren’s story, it’s time to explore its aftermath. No one can face Morgoth and beat the other impossible odds they did without everyone taking notice.

Quenta Silmarillion: Chapter 20 part 1

As promised last week, Luthien and Beren make a quick appearance at the beginning of this chapter. After all that they have gone through, they are finally back in Middle-earth, where they can enjoy their lives together. One of the first places they visit is Doriath, the realm of Luthien’s parents. Seeing Luthien again is a relief to poor Thingol, her father, who’s been grieving over her and Beren. However her mother, Melian, is completely heartbroken. Because of Luthien’s fate, Melian knows that she won’t spend forever in Valinor with her daughter anymore, and she is most keenly aware of this because she is a Maia, one of the servants of the Valar, so she knows things the others around her can’t imagine.

In any case, Luthien and Beren make their home in Dor Firn-i-Guinar (Land of the Dead that Live), and there they have a child named Dior. Don’t worry. There will be plenty more about Dior, often known as Thingol’s Heir, later.

It’s not long before rumors of Luthien and Beren’s return spread far and wide. Among those who hear of it: Maedhros, one of Fëanor’s sons. It’s been a while since Maedhros has received a mention in The Silmarillion. My first impression of him was that he had been the most grounded son of Fëanor. You know, one that didn’t have his father’s bent towards greed. However, years of hoping to reclaim his father’s Silmarils have apparently worn him down, so he seems to be just as difficult to work with and obsessive as his father and other brothers.

When Maedhros hears how Luthien and Beren broke into Morgoth’s fortress of Angband, put him to sleep, and stole a Silmaril out of his crown, he gets the crazy idea to attack Morgoth. After all, if a Man and Elven princess (basically) can go in alone and survive, maybe this is the opportune moment to strike.

With this, he gathers as many of the Elves as he can. While many do come, there are two particular realms who refuse to help.

The first: Nargothrond. Remember how Finrod was the king there until he left to help Beren retrieve one of the Silmarils? And how Maedhros’ brothers, Curufin and Celegorm, refused to help Finrod and then left Nargothrond in shame when everyone found out Finrod had been killed? Well, the Elves of Nargothrond wanted nothing to do with any of Fëanor’s other sons, and especially not Curufin and Celegorm, who were sure to be helping their brother in the battle.

A handful of Elves, however, are given permission by the current king of Nargothrond, Orodreth, to tag along. Leading them is Gwindor, whose brother was captured during the last major fight against Morgoth, Dagor Bragollach. If there’s any chance for him to save his brother, he wants to take it.


It may not be Dagor Bragollach’s battlefield, but it is one from the Civil War.                                              S.B. Roberts 2014

The second realm that refuses to help: Doriath. Of course, things may have gone better for Maedhros’ messengers if the conversation didn’t start with, “Hey, better give back that Silmaril you have. By the way, want to come fight with us?”

In all seriousness, though, Thingol has good reason to want nothing to do with Fëanor’s sons. Curufin and Celegorm had kidnapped Luthien and then attacked her and Beren out in the forest. Now, to add insult to injury, Maedhros is demanding for the Silmaril to be returned. After all that Luthien and Beren endured to retrieve it, it is far too valuable.

Very importantly, though, there’s one more reason Thingol doesn’t want to return the Silmaril. As much as he doesn’t want to admit it, he’s growing obsessed with it. The same accursed greed that killed Fëanor is now eating away at Thingol, but no one is aware of it yet.

When Thingol refuses to help, Fëanor’s sons are ticked (but what’s new there?). In fact, Curufin and Celegorm tell Thingol that, if they make it out of the war alive, they’re coming back to kill him when it’s all over.

Only two Elves from Doriath leave to aid in the battle: Mablung and Beleg. (They will show back up later, which is why they deserve a mention now.) They don’t want to be a part of Thingol or Fëanor’s sons’ drama. They just want to do what’s best for Middle-earth.

In addition to Elves, Maedhros is joined by the Naugrim — the Dwarves — as well as many of the Edain and other Men who have come to the western regions of Middle-earth over the years. Most notable among the Edain: Húrin and Huor. As mentioned before, these two brothers are very important to some of the upcoming chapters.

Together, they all prepare for the next major assault on Morgoth. But don’t think that Morgoth isn’t plotting as well…

Next week, Gwindor finds his brother, a dragon joins the party, and it’s revealed why the next battle is named, in English, Unnumbered Tears.

A Date with My Impulsive Side

They say confession is good for the soul, and I have a confession to make. I’m a pretty impulsive person sometimes. Yesterday afternoon, my blog suffered the consequences of it.

When I hopped on yesterday afternoon to see if there were any new posts to check out, I also went to my blog. And sighed. I think I’ve had the same scheme for two years now. While that isn’t a bad thing, it also means that it was doomed to change sooner or later. Everything deserves a fresh face once in a while, right?

Thus the itch began. I could sit on the idea for a few days, but I knew it was for naught. No matter how long I waited, I would probably make the same decision unless someone talked some sense into me. That’s how it always works.

As soon as I gave in, my fingers were ready. I found myself scrolling down the different themes, hunting for one that fit me. Not that the other one didn’t. That little flourish in the corner and the color scheme was very me, but it is time for something new. Like a new haircut. And like just the right haircut or a wedding dress (because you really can just put one on and know that it’s the one — I did), sometimes you just know the right one when you stumble upon it. And its name, “Elegant Grunge,” certainly didn’t hurt either.

Now, ink smudges and all, I have a new look.

Fortunately, it’s not as drastic as some of the other things my impulsive side has driven me to do. Like completely rearrange all the furniture in the house. Or cut my hair too short to braid. Or run a half-marathon with my mother…

What’s the last impulsive thing you did?

The Silmarillion Recap: Luthien and Beren’s Fate

Want to catch up on The Silmarillion so far? Check out the Silmarillion Recaps page here.

Last week, Beren and Luthien showed what they were made of as they stole one of the Silmarils. Of course, everything didn’t quite end up according to plan, leading to the climax of their story (which we’ll finally reach today).

Quenta Silmarillion: Chapter 19 part 6

After taking one of the Silmarils and losing it (and Beren’s hand) to Carcharoth (Wolf of Angband), Beren heals under Luthien’s care and they spend quite a while living out in the forest. All they really want is to be with each other anyways, so Luthien doesn’t care that she’s completely abandoned the palace she used to call home to live in the forest like a hunter. However, Beren doesn’t feel so great about it. He did make a promise to King Thingol (Luthien’s father), and it only seems right to face him, even if he’s sure that Thingol won’t be so happy to see him.

What Beren doesn’t know is that Thingol and Melian (Luthien’s mother) aren’t the only ones back in Doriath who miss Luthien. The whole kingdom has fallen under a melancholy shadow. Since she left, Thingol had been listening to rumors of Luthien’s whereabouts. Last he’s heard, Beren and King Finrod are dead, and Luthien has been captured by Celegorm (who isn’t such a great guy). In case that isn’t bad enough, Carcharoth — the dreaded Wolf of Angband — has been ravaging the countryside and has now somehow broken through Melian’s magical barrier and is roaming through Doriath, his own kingdom.

S.B. Roberts 2014

S.B. Roberts 2014

It’s at this moment — when everything seems to be falling apart — that Luthien and Beren show back up in Doriath. Obviously, Thingol is thrilled to see his daughter, though he’s not so keen on this Beren guy. If it hadn’t been for Beren, there wouldn’t have been so much sorrow in his happy kingdom. Still a bit miffed, Thingol asks Beren for that Silmaril. After all, that’s what he was supposed to bring back in return for marrying Luthien.

And this is where it gets good. Like Macduff’s surprise for Macbeth good. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you have to read Shakespeare’s Macbeth… and think of Eowyn and Merry from The Return of the King as you do. After all, Macbeth was an inspiration for several of Tolkien’s ideas, including the Ents. “Biram Wood comes to Dunsinane…”)

Beren simply tells Thingol that he did fulfill the quest, and “even now a Silmaril is in my hand.” (218) Then he shows where Carcharoth bit off his hand, which had the Silmaril in it.

I would dare to say that Thingol is impressed. His animosity for Beren diminishes, and he does allow Beren to marry Luthien, as promised.

But that’s not the end of the story because the quest still isn’t finished. Carcharoth is still out in Doriath’s forests, and they need to take him out and save the Silmaril once and for all. Thingol and Beren join the hunt, leaving Luthien behind. Again.

It’s not long before they find Carcharoth, soothing his burning insides with some of the enchanted waters. Huan (hound from Valinor) doesn’t hesitate to attack, and Beren charges in after him. Within moments, Beren is badly wounded. Thingol drops everything to tend to him.

Meanwhile, the two hounds fight it out until both are mortally wounded. Carcharoth dies, and Huan limps to Beren’s side, where he collapses. Since Huan is only able to speak three times before his death and he has only spoken twice so far, he uses his last time to bid farewell to Beren. Beren rests his hand on Huan’s head, and the brave hound dies.

One of the Elves cuts Carcharoth open, finding Beren’s whole hand and the Silmaril still wrapped in it. He quickly takes the Silmaril and lays it in Beren’s good hand. At this, Beren, who’s been in and out of consciousness, offers it to Thingol and then slips back into darkness.

The Elves quickly bring Beren and Huan back to the palace. Before they can reach it, though, Luthien meets them. She wraps her arms around Beren, knowing that he’s fading fast, and tells him to wait for her “beyond the Western Sea.” Then he dies.

But this isn’t the end of the story either. Beren does indeed wait for her in the Halls of Mandos, which is a place where the dead live in Valinor. It doesn’t sound like mortals usually hang out there for long (or at all), but Beren does. And, after a time, Luthien finally arrives there as well. It’s not clear exactly how she accomplished this, but Tolkien spends no time explaining it, so I’m not worrying about it.

When she arrives, Luthien immediately enthralls everyone with her beauty and sorrow. Mandos (the Vala in charge of the dead) notices her and listens as she sings “the sorrow of the Elves and the grief of Men” (221). This song is so incredible that others later sing it as well, and it is still sung in Valinor.

For the first and only time in history, Mandos is moved. So moved, in fact, that he hurries to Manwë (the head Vala) and asks if there’s anything that they can do. Manwë speaks in turn with Iluvatar, who reveals his will.

Luthien has two choices. She can either live among the Elves over the Sea forever, but without Beren. Or she can give up immortality, her kinship with the Elves, and any assurances of a long, happy life and be returned to Middle-earth with Beren. She chooses the second, and she and Beren are reunited. (How could she not, after fighting so hard to be with him and help him with the quest?) They both will face a “second death” (222), but they will be together.

And while this is the end of the chapter, it’s not quite the end of Luthien and Beren’s story. There’s a little more about them both at the beginning of the next chapter and towards the end of the “Quenta Silmarillion.” But here ends the beginning (and the most exciting) part of their tale.

Next week, it’s time for another war against Morgoth, spurred on by one of Fëanor’s sons.

Writing History

Every time I begin reworking anything in my novels (especially Novel #1), I find myself thinking about things I never considered before. I suppose it shouldn’t be any wonder that it’s been a 15+ year adventure.

Anyways, my most recent musings have mostly centered on history. It’s probably thanks, in part, to reading The Silmarillion. Of course, that should be no surprise. Many of Carrick’s overhauls as a world have come from analyzing the techniques of other writers, especially Tolkien.

In any case, Tolkien’s world – and the worlds of most fantasy authors – are very old. Thousands upon thousands of years. Perhaps it’s in part because our world has thousands of years of history to its name so we’re very familiar with it, or just because it’s the perfect breeding grounds for epic events to grow to mythical proportions.

In either case, for whatever reason, it’s not the road I ended up on so far. The original histories I started to compose in high school only account for 516 years of Carrick’s history. Of course, there’s more to it: a time before the monumental mistake that changed the world completely, but I don’t know much of it. How long was it? What was life like before it? How much have things changed? I used to dodge the question because I would deal with it later. But that’s starting to change. I need to establish this now, before I get in too deep.

This whole musing makes me think of conversations I’ve had with my students lately. As we discuss King Arthur, we’ve talked about what the real man who inspired King Arthur might have been like and how the story could have changed over the years. But this inflation to legendary status doesn’t just happen to stories that are over a thousand years old. After all, the United States has only been in existence for less than 250 years, but George Washington and many of the other Founders are usually thought of with a similar mystique: many people know some facts about them but some things have become more like legends. (George Washington and the cherry tree, anyone?) So there’s plenty of opportunity for anything to grow to legendary proportions, even if it’s only been a few hundred years. Right?

In any case, it’s just one more thing to ponder in this never-ending adventure.

What are your thoughts on writing histories for stories?

The Silmarillion Recap: Luthien and Beren’s Showdown with Morgoth

Want to catch up on The Silmarillion so far? Check out the Silmarillion Recaps page here.

Last week, after Beren was rescued from Sauron, he decided to leave Luthien behind, for her own safety, since he knows that he will surely be killed in his quest to bring back one of the Silmarils “in his hand.” But leaving alone won’t be that easy…

Quenta Silmarillion: Chapter 19 part 5

Beren has left Luthien in a safe place, back in the forests by her home. She has already proven herself to be heroic and selfless, but she’s already endangered herself enough by confronting Sauron to save him. His original quest — the one that he still hasn’t been able to fulfill yet — is his alone. He won’t risk her.

So Beren leaves her sleeping in the forest and heads back towards danger. As he does, though, he sings a parting song for the world and for his beloved Luthien. Since he knows he’s going to die, he sings it loud and proud. But he never considers that Luthien, who has seemingly magical senses, will hear him, grab Huan (a hound from Valinor), and chase after him.

When Luthien and Huan leave the safety of Doriath — her parents’ homeland — she disguises herself and Huan. She gives Huan the appearance of Draugluin, the hound that tried to kill him back when they saved Beren. Then she takes on the appearance of Sauron’s messenger, Thuringwethil — who is apparently a vampire. (And this is the first and last mention of vampires that I’ve found in Tolkien’s works).

It’s in these disguises that they finally find Beren. He’s dismayed, but Luthien quickly throws off the façade, revealing that it’s just her. Even though he’s upset that she’s in danger (again), he’s happy to see her.

It’s in this moment that Huan (who has the gift of speaking three times during his life) speaks a second time:

From the shadow of death you can no longer save Luthien, for by her love she is now subject to it. You can turn from your fate and lead her into exile, seeking peace in vain while your life lasts. But if you will not deny your doom, then either Luthien, being forsaken, must assuredly die alone, or she must with you challenge the fate that lies before you — hopeless, yet not certain. Further counsel I cannot give, nor may I go further on your road … yet it may be that our three paths lead back to Doriath, and we may meet before the end. (Tolkien 211)

With that, Beren and Luthien continue on their way alone. Luthien resumes her previous disguise while Beren is given the shape of a werewolf. (Seems a little bitter after Finrod and Beren’s companions were killed by one…)

They make it all the way to the Gate of Angband without being discovered. There, though, they’re confronted by Carcharoth, a monstrous beast of a hound that Morgoth himself has tended, hoping to one day have the chance to kill Huan. (Everyone wants this, don’t they?) Before Carcharoth can do anything, Luthien puts him to sleep, and they slip into Angband.

Inside Morgoth’s on fortress, Luthien and Beren reach the throne room unhindered. There, Beren creeps under Morgoth’s throne, still safely in werewolf form. Luthien, however, is stripped of her disguise and Morgoth sees her exactly for who she is: this radiant, beautiful girl. He’s enthralled by her and is even more so when she offers to sing to him. As she does, she slips on her cloak that makes her like a shadow, and Morgoth continues to listen in fascination to her voice as he tries to find her again.

What Morgoth doesn’t know is that her song has a magic in it that’s able to put his entire court to sleep. Then she slips her cloak over his eyes, and he dozes off as well. As he does, the slumps out of his throne and his crown with those three precious Silmarils falls to the ground.

Beren acts fast, drawing his knife and wrenching one of the Silmarils out of it. As he finishes, he hesitates. Maybe he should remove the other two, just for good measure. After all, Morgoth shouldn’t have them. However, as he starts work on the second, his knife breaks, hitting Morgoth’s cheek which makes him stir and the rest of the court shift in their sleep. Luthien and Beren are so startled that they take the one Silmaril and run for it, without disguises or much thought of what they’ll find further up the stairs.

That’s not a good thing because Carcharoth is still there, waiting for them. Luthien wants to fight him off, but all of the power she’s used has left her weary. So Beren holds up the Silmaril, hoping the blinding light will help.

Carcharoth isn’t fazed. Instead, he does one of the most awful things imaginable. He lunges forward, gets Beren’s hand and the Silmaril in his mouth, and chomps down.

Immediately, Carcharoth regrets this. The Silmaril burns his insides, and he launches into a fury, attacking anything and anyone that gets in his way. In his madness, he leaves Luthien and Beren alone at Angband’s Gate.

When Luthien examines Beren’s wound, she discovers that it’s bad. Really bad. Carcharoth’s bite has poisoned him, he’s barely clinging to life, and she doesn’t have much power left to help him.

Fortunately for them, though, Huan has already set all of the birds and beasts around on high alert to watch for Luthien and Beren. And before long, Thorondor — King of the Eagles — and his posse show up to whisk Luthien and Beren away.

They’re returned to the safety of Doriath, and Luthien and Huan nurse the badly wounded Beren back to health. But, alas, they have no Silmaril to show for their efforts.

Next week, Thingol learns the importance of semantics.

The Silmarillion Recap: Everybody Hates Celegorm and Curufin

What a week! All of my writing time has been sucked up by playing car mechanic’s assistant to my husband. (Here’s hoping our precious 20-year-old Corolla doesn’t finally bite the dust.) I plan to catch up on the blogs I normally read this weekend, but I couldn’t wait any longer to slip in this week’s Silmarillion Recap. So, without further ado…

Want to catch up on The Silmarillion so far? Check out the Silmarillion Recaps page here.

Last week, Luthien and Huan (the hound from Valinor) saved Beren from Sauron himself. This week, the unexpected consequences for Celegorm and Curufin.

Quenta Silmarillion: Chapter 19 part 4

Now that Beren has been rescued from Sauron’s tower, he and Luthien are thrilled to be reunited. And, seemingly, they forget all about Thingol’s quest to take one of the Silmarils from Morgoth’s crown for Luthien’s hand in marriage for the time being. They are just happy to be back together.

While Huan (that great hound from Valinor) would surely have preferred to stay with Luthien and Beren, he is still faithful to his master, Celegorm, and decides it’s time to return home to Nargothrond. When he does return, though, he’s not as fond of his master as he once was. How could he be after seeing how cruelly Celegorm and his brother, Curufin, treated Luthien, kidnapping her and locking her up?

Not long afterwards, things begin to change in Nargothrond. When Finrod first left to help Beren, Celegorm and Curufin were the favorites, and everyone in the realm listened to them over their own king, Finrod. (After all, they are the sons of the famous — or should it be infamous? — Fëanor.) Now, though, Elves who have long been Sauron’s prisoners are free once more since Sauron gave it up to free himself. With these former prisoners come stories of Luthien and how she bravely faced Sauron. Something that Fëanor’s sons weren’t brave enough to do.

Needless to say, that not only ruins Curufin and Celegorm’s reputation, but it also turns everyone against them. So, with those sneaky smirks, they decide to leave Nargothrond to spend some time with their brother, Maedhros. They don’t need those people in Nargothrond anyways. And, since he’s a faithful hound, Huan follows Celegorm.

On their way, they come across the last two people they expected to find: Luthien and Beren. Finally, a chance for revenge.

Curufin grabs Luthien while Celegorm attacks Beren. But nothing can stop Luthien and Beren from protecting each other, so Beren overpowers Celegorm and then hops onto Curufin’s moving horse. While the moment feels like it’s brushed over, it obviously is quite the impressive jump because it becomes known as the famous Leap of Beren, and it’s never been matched.

While Beren is strangling Curufin, Celegorm tries to help his brother, but Huan — his own hound — has turned against him and won’t let him anywhere near Curufin, Beren, or Luthien.

Finally, Luthien tells Beren to stop. Curufin isn’t worth killing. Instead, they strip him of his gear and his horse and let Curufin and Celegorm continue on their way.

Before leaving, though, Celegorm pulls out his bow and looses two arrows at Luthien. The first, Huan catches in his mouth. The second hits Beren as he protects Luthien. Then Curufin and Celegorm head off, leaving the badly wounded Beren with Luthien and Huan.

Fortunately, Luthien is an Elf and is skilled in healing, so Beren ends up being just fine. As he recovers, he remembers his quest, and he decides it’s time to finish it. He and Luthien had been talking about it just before Celegorm and Curufin showed up, and Luthien had insisted on going with him, but he doesn’t want her to. She’s already risked her life for him. He doesn’t want that to happen again. So he slips away in the middle of the night, leaving Luthien with Huan.

Beren knows that he’ll probably die, but at least Luthien will be safe.

Next week, it’s do or die time in Morgoth’s stronghold.

Wait, My Favorite Novels Have Been Banned? – Banned Book Week 2014

A couple of days ago, I found out that this week is Banned Book Week. I’ve seen some posts about it in my reader over the past two weeks, but since there’s been so much grading to do and there were so many posts, I hadn’t paid much attention to it.

Over at Cindy Grigg’s blog, she has a list of 19 frequently challenged books. Many are ones that I read and enjoyed: The Great Gatsby and Brave New World among them. (Seriously, if you’re in late high school or an adult, Brave New World is a must. It’s an eye-opener.) They both have adult content, so I understand why they would be inappropriate for younger age groups. But banned outright?

The one I was most surprised to find on the list was Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Needless to say, I had to do some research into why. But once I did, it was obvious. I had a firsthand experience with the reasoning during my senior year of high school.

I dual enrolled in some college courses that year, and one of them was speech class. At 7:30am, the class was a mix of 19 year olds, 20-somethings, and adults returning to earn a degree. It was a small, community college class, so I ended up becoming acquainted with some of the people, including one of the adult men. I don’t remember his name anymore.

For one speech, the professor allowed me to use The Lord of the Rings as my topic. I was so excited to pull that speech and PowerPoint presentation together. It was a breeze since I already knew so much about all things Middle-earth and had a collection of pictures from the movies saved on my computer.

After giving the speech, I was pulled over by the aforementioned man who asked something to the effect of, “You like Tolkien and you’re a Christian?”

I was puzzled. How could those things possibly be at odds?

He presented his reasoning — the same reasoning I found while researching. It has wizards in it. And magic. And that Dark Lord, Sauron. Christians can’t like that, can they? Isn’t it dark and full of, you know, witchcraft?

But anyone who says that obviously knows nothing about Tolkien or the books. He was a devout Catholic, and his works contain themes that are reflective of the Bible. None of it’s allegory (because he, understandably, detested it), but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t correlations between the two. I could go on and on with the research I did around that time, but suffice to say, I don’t believe that any of it conflicts with my faith. If anything, I believe that the books compliment it. After all, as Tolkien would say, “God is the Lord, of angels, and of men — and of elves.”

This is why I would argue that people should read and research things for themselves before jumping on a bandwagon. And that doesn’t just apply to books. :)

Have you read any of the books on the banned/challenged lists?


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