While every character plays an important role in a story, some literally change the book when they arrive on the scene. This is certainly the case with Luthien and Beren. Since their story is a long one (roughly 30 pages in my edition of The Silmarillion), the next few weeks will focus on manageable chunks of their story.
Part I (Chapter 1)
Part II (Chapters 2-3)
Part III (Chapters 3-4)
Part IV (Chapters 5-6)
Part V (Chapter 7)
Part VI (Chapter 8)
Part VII (Chapter 9)
Part VIII (Chapter 10)
Part IX (Chapter 11)
Part X (Chapter 12)
Part XI (Chapter 13)
Part XII (Chapter 13 cont.)
Part XIII (Chapter 14-15)
Part XIV (Chapter 16)
Part XV (Chapter 17)
Part XVI (Chapter 18)
Part XVII (Chapter 18 cont.)
Quenta Silmarillion: Chapter 19 part 1
After Dagor Bragollach (The Night of Sudden Flame — the huge surprise attack by Morgoth), Elves and Men banded together to fight back. One of the notable trios mentioned are Finrod, Barahir, and Beren.
King Finrod is one of the many Elven kings in the area, and the most friendly to the Edain (Men). For this reason, it’s no wonder that he gladly fights alongside Barahir and his son Beren, descendants of Beor, the first of the Edain that Finrod met. Barahir and Beren are known for being two of the most valiant Edain out there, and they prove it over and over again. It’s no wonder that Finrod took their family and the rest of the Edain under his wing so long ago.
However, they don’t spend their whole lives fighting alongside Finrod literally. By the beginning of chapter 19, the war has changed and they now are fighting with what is left of their original posse. Now, the number is down to 14, including Barahir and Beren. They are considered outlaws. Everything has been taken from them: their village is burned, their people are dead or have fled, and their companions have fallen one by one. Needless to say, they gladly destroy any of Morgoth’s servants who dare to cross their path. This infuriates Morgoth, but he can never quite stomp them out because he can never quite find their lair… until one day.
One of the men in this posse, Gorlim, has an especially hard time dealing with his loss. Before the war began, he and his wife were madly in love and lived very happily in their village. In his sorrow, he leaves their hideout and visits the ruins of the village, looking for his beloved Eilinel. Morgoth’s forces, led by Sauron himself, happen to notice this.
During one fateful visit, he hears her voice inside of their destroyed home and runs inside. There she is, sitting with her back to him, crying. As he reaches for her, though, he finds that he’s surrounded by enemy soldiers. They drag Gorlim outside and, under Sauron’s direction, torture him for his posse’s location. At first, Gorlim refuses. Then, they make him a deal: If he gives them the information they want, he’ll be reunited with Eilinel. The promise of being with his wife again is too much for him. After all, she’s just inside the house within earshot from him. So he agrees and tells Sauron exactly where Barahir, Beren, and the rest of their group is hiding. Gorlim anxiously waits for his wife to emerge from the house so that he can join her, but she doesn’t. And Sauron lets out an evil, stomach-turning laugh as he reveals the truth. Eilinel is dead. What Gorlim saw inside was a decoy. And Sauron gladly reunites them with a swing of his sword.
Back at the hideout, Barahir sends Beren out for some reconnaissance. While Beren’s gone, though, he has a very strange dream. Gorlim warns him that Sauron is coming for Barahir and the others, and he dreams that they all are dead. When he wakes, he hurries back to the lair where his nightmare has come true. Beren is a lone outlaw now, and he promises to avenge his father.
He starts by hunting down the army responsible for his father’s death. He knows he’s found the right group because one of the leaders is showing of Barahir’s hand, still bearing the emerald ring with the two serpents and flowers that Finrod gave to Beor years ago. Unconcerned for his own life, he dives in the middle of the army, grabs his father’s hand, and kills everyone in his wake as he escapes.
For four years, Beren lives alone in the forest. While Morgoth wants him dead, all of the Orcs are too afraid to go after him. In the end, Morgoth sends Sauron himself to do the deed. Because the situation is dangerous, Beren decides to head towards Doriath — Thingol and Melian’s kingdom.
As Aredhel learned a few chapters ago, this region between Morgoth’s stronghold and the forests protected by Melian are a hazardous place. Once Sauron’s magic is thrown in the mix, it’s a nightmare. However, somehow, Beren escapes the giant spiders (descendants of the one and only Ungoliant) and other unnamed horrors and finds himself in the protected realm of Doriath. He’s the first mortal to set foot here, and it’s about to change everything.
While hiding out in these forests, he lays eyes on the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. Or perhaps anyone has ever seen, since she’s said to be the most beautiful of the Children of Ilúvatar. Luthien. Thingol and Melian’s daughter. She’s dancing in the forest and singing, and she leaves Beren spellbound.
He doesn’t see her again for a while afterwards, but the next time that he does, she spots him, and they fall in love. He calls her Tinúviel (Elvish for Nightingale), and she secretly visits him throughout the spring and summer.
One day, though, the secret is revealed. An Elf named Daeron loves Luthien as well, and he happens to find her with Beren. He immediately goes to King Thingol, her father. Needless to say, Thingol is ticked off. Not only did a mortal sneak into his protected kingdom, but now his daughter is flirting with him!
When Thingol orders his men to bring Beren to him, Luthien manages to find Beren first and presents him to her father as though he were an honored guest. Thingol isn’t amused, and Beren is a bit afraid until Luthien and Melian (non-verbally) encourage him. Then he reveals his lineage: He’s a descendant of Beor, favored by King Finrod, has the emerald ring with the serpents from Finrod himself. And he loves Luthien.
Thingol is appalled, but he decides to do something clever. Beren can marry Luthien. Sure. But only if he brings “in [Beren’s] hand a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown” (Tolkien 197).
Beren, most likely with a raised eyebrow, agrees and heads off.
Once he and Luthien are gone, Melian breaks her silence. She warns Thingol that he’s gotten himself in over his head. Now that he wants one of the Silmarils — the ones that doomed the Noldor and cost his kin in Valinor their lives — he is now tied to their fate. Whether Beren succeeds or fails, either he or their daughter Luthien is doomed.
While the Elves generally seem clever, Thingol just doesn’t get it.
He has no idea what asking for a Silmaril is about to do to them, both in the rest of this chapter and in the rest of their part in The Silmarillion.
Next week, Beren has a showdown with Sauron, everyone wants to marry Luthien, and Luthien proves she’s no damsel in distress.