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.

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3 responses to “The Silmarillion Recap: Luthien and Beren’s Showdown with Morgoth

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