The Silmarillion Recap: Luthien Saves the Day (Or Hell Hath No Fury…)

First, an update. When I first started these recaps, I had no idea that there would be so many of them. So, instead of linking back to all of them in each post, there’s a new page, “The Silmarillion Recaps,” that has links to all of them in one place. Things I wish I’d thought of earlier…

Last week, Beren and Finrod teamed up to take one of the Silmarils from Morgoth so that Beren can marry Luthien. That plan didn’t go so well, though. Sauron found them and threw them in prison. He might not know who they are, thanks to Finrod’s enchantments, but he can kill them off one by one…

Quenta Silmarillion: Chapter 19 part 3

Ever since Beren left on the impossible quest to take a Silmaril from Morgoth, Luthien has been anxiously waiting for his return. Her father, Thingol, might not like it, but she wants to marry him and would do just about anything to be with him.

The same day that Beren and Thingol are captured, Luthien has a terrible feeling. She asks her mother, Melian, about it. Since Melian is one of the Maia, she knows what’s happened and tells her daughter that Beren’s been captured and is in danger.

Some girls would lay in bed and cry for days, but not Luthien. Instead, she plots a way to leave her home and save Beren. At first, she asks for help from Daeron, a minstrel who’s secretly in love with her. But Daeron tricks her into trusting him and then reveals her plans to Thingol, who is both befuddled and angry with his daughter.

Not wanting her to risk her life anymore, he chooses a typical fairytale punishment for his daughter: he has a special house built up in the trees that she can’t escape from where his most trusted guards keep an eye on her.

But he’s underestimated Luthien and fairytale clichés used to escape such imprisonment. Through her own enchantments, she grows her hair so long that she’s able to make both a rope and a cloak out of it. (To clarify, she does cut the hair off first.) She also includes two special enchantments on the cloak: it can put others to sleep and keep others from noticing her, like a shadow. Once both are ready, she tests her sleep-inducing hair cloak on the guards and makes her escape into the forest alone.

Also in the forest are Celegorm and Curufin. The last time we saw these two, they were usurping Finrod’s authority in Nargothrond. Now, they’re out hunting Orcs and other evil creatures.

With them is Celegorm’s hound, Huan. This hound is unlike anything in Middle-earth. He originally came from Valinor and has the gift of speaking (like a human) three times during his life. When the Noldor left Valinor, Huan followed his master but was placed under his own curse: he will die after meeting the mightiest wolf in the world. To this point, he has neither spoken nor met the mightiest wolf, so he still has his life ahead of him.

While Huan is in search of Orcs, he happens across Luthien. She might be hidden in her hair cloak, which would throw anyone else off her trail, but Huan is more deft than most and sees right through the enchantments. Luthien has no choice but to follow this enormous, menacing dog back to Celegorm.

Once they find Celegorm, Luthien removes her hair cloak, revealing herself as more than a shadow. Celegorm is immediately enamored with her beauty and sees how valuable she could be to his plots against Finrod and Beren. After all, he knows everything about Beren’s quest to find the Silmaril since he was right there when Finrod presented Beren’s problem to the other Elves in his realm. If he can help it, Celegorm will ensure that the Silmaril never ends up in anyone’s hands but his own. And, on top of that, he could try to force Thingol into letting him marry her, increasing his power over Finrod’s.

So, he plays it smooth and tells Luthien that he’ll help her save Beren. To do that, though, they have to go back to Nargothrond. You know, for reinforcements. As soon as they reach the gates of the city, though, Celegorm has Luthien imprisoned. (Again.)

Understandably, Luthien is upset. Every time she tries to help Beren, something stops her. As she sits in her cell, Huan the hound comes by, and she tells him the whole story of her and Beren. Unlike his master, Huan has a good heart, so he uses the first time he can speak to give her advice on how to escape. Then he finds her hair cloak, breaks her out, and they sneak out of Nargothrond together.

Meanwhile, a werewolf lurking in the shadows has been killing all of Beren and Finrod’s companions. Twelve of them had left Nargothrond, but now it’s only Beren and Finrod. Sauron (the one who captured them) plans to leave Finrod for last. He still can’t figure out who they are, thanks to Finrod’s enchantments, but he’s going to have fun trying to find out.

On this fateful day, the werewolf returns, obviously ready to attack Beren. Before it can, though, Finrod uses a burst of magic (which I assume he’s been conjuring for a while) to break out of his chains and leap to Beren’s rescue. I’m not sure what an Elf vs. werewolf fight looks like, but it’s obviously intense. The werewolf is killed, and Finrod is left fatally wounded. Before dying, Finrod manages to free Beren from the chains. Then he dies in Beren’s arms.

Beren has a hard time with this. Finrod has been there for his family since the beginning. He showed kindness to Beor when he found him out in the forest. He stuck up for them when the other Elves didn’t want anything to do with them. They had even fought together against Morgoth when Beren was young. And now, he’s dead. Hopeless and heartbroken, Beren mourns.

At this moment, Luthien and Huan arrive at the bridge to Sauron’s fortress. Luthien sings “a song that no walls of stone could hinder” (Tolkien 205) in hopes of finding Beren. And, fortunately for her, he hears her. He thinks it’s just a dream of their first days in the forest, but he still sings back before basically fainting from sorrow and fatigue. This is all that Luthien needs to hear. She starts singing a greater song of power, this time aimed at Sauron himself.

I don't have a picture of a nightingale (Tinuviel, in Elvish; Luthien's nickname), but I do have this...

I don’t have a picture of a nightingale (Tinuviel, in Elvish; Luthien’s nickname), but I do have this…

Now, Sauron has heard rumors of Luthien and her voice, and he’s thrilled that she’s come. Surely he would receive a great reward if he captured her and presented her to Morgoth. So he sends a wolf out to get her. When the wolf doesn’t come back, he sends another. Then another. And another. Finally, not sure what’s going on, he sends out the greatest wolf he has in his arsenal.

When this wolf (Draugluin) trots out onto the bridge, it has no idea what it’s facing. The other wolves haven’t returned because Huan has effortlessly taken each one down. This wolf recognizes Huan but still fights him. However, the wolf is defeated and limps back to Sauron’s feet where it dies. But not before whispering the name, “Huan.”

Now Sauron is very excited. Not only could he capture Luthien but he could also turn into a werewolf and kill Huan, as the curse foretold. So he does just that. He turns himself into a werewolf and hurries to the bridge. There, Luthien gets her cloak over his eyes before being overcome by his power. Since Sauron can’t see, he’s no match for Huan, who quickly pins him down. Panicking, Sauron turns into every other form he can think of, but he’s not able to escape Huan’s grip. He realizes that there’s only one way out: to abandon his body. But he’s very reluctant to do so.

Luthien, who’s regained consciousness, realizes Sauron’s predicament, so she gives him a choice. “[In Morgoth’s fortress] everlasting thy naked self shall endure the torment of [Morgoth’s] scorn, pierced by his eyes, unless thou yield to me the mastery of thy tower” (Tolkien 206).

Sauron grimaces. Either give up his body and be humiliated in front of Morgoth or give up his tower and fight another day. But with Huan locked onto his neck, there’s no real choice. He gives up the tower, and Huan lets him flee.

Immediately, Luthien uses a command to open all the gates and set everyone in the tower free. She expects Beren to be among the rescued captives, but he’s not. So she goes looking for him. And when she finds him, he’s next to Finrod’s body… and he seems dead. She takes him in her arms and mourns him, but eventually Beren wakes. Fortunately, it doesn’t sound like a very gushy reunion, but they are relieved to find each other again.

Before continuing with the quest, they bury Finrod. And, as the chapter says, Finrod now walks with his father Finarfin “beneath the trees in Eldamar” (Tolkien 207).

Next week, Celegorm does what his father (Fëanor) and some of the Noldor do best: seeks revenge against Luthien and Beren.

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6 responses to “The Silmarillion Recap: Luthien Saves the Day (Or Hell Hath No Fury…)

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