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Among the tales of sorrow and of ruin that come down to us from the darkness of those days there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures. And of these histories most fair still in the ears of the Elves is the tale of Beren and Lúthien. Of their lives was made the Lay of Leithian, Release from Bondage, which is the longest save one of the songs concerning the world of old; but here is told in fewer words and without song.
It has been told that Barahir would not forsake Dorthonion, and there Morgoth pursued him to his death, until at last there remained to him only twelve companions. Now the forest of Dorthonion rose southward into mountainous moors; and in the east of those highlands there lay a lake, Tarn Aeluin, with wild heaths about it, and all that land was pathless and untamed, for even in the days of the Long Peace none had dwelt there. But the waters of Tarn Aeluin were held in reverence, for they were clear and blue by day and by night were a mirror for the stars; and it was said that Melian herself had hollowed that water in the days of old. Thither Barahir and his outlaws withdrew, and there made their lair, and Morgoth could not discover it. But the rumor of the deeds of Barahir and his companions went far and wide; and Morgoth commanded Sauron to find them and destroy them.
Now among the companions of Barahir was Gorlim son of Angrim. His wife was named Eilinel, and their love was great,ere evil befell. But Gorlim returning from the war upon the marches found his house plundered and forsaken, and his wife gone; whether slain or taken he knew not. Then he fled to Barahir, and of companions his he was the most fierce and desperate; but doubt gnawed his heart, thinking that perhaps Eilinel was not dead. At times he would depart alone and secretly, and visit his house that stood amid the fields and woods he had once possessed; and this became known to the servants of Morgoth.
On a time of autumn he came in the dusk of evening, and drawing near he saw as he thought a light at the window; and coming warily he looked within. There he saw Eilinel, and her face was worn with grief and hunger, and it seemed to him that he heard her voice lamenting that he had forsaken her. But even as he cried aloud the light was blown out in the wind; wolves howled, and on his shoulders he felt suddenly the heavy hands of Sauron's hunters. Thus Gorlim was ensnared; and taking him to their camp they tormented, seeking to learn the hidings of Barahir and all his ways. But nothing would Gorlim tell. Then they promised him that he should be released and restored to Eilinel, if he would yield; and being at last worn with pain, and yearning for his wife, he faltered. Then straightaway they brought him into the dreadful presence of Sauron; and Sauron said: 'I hear now that thou wouldst barter with me. What is thy price?'
And Gorlim answered that he should find Eilinel again, and with her be set free; for he thought Eilinel also had been made captive.
Than Sauron smiled, saying: 'That is a small price for so great a treachery. So shall it surely be. Say on!'
Now Gorlim would have drawn back, but daunted by the eyes of Sauron he told at last all that he would know. Then Sauron laughed; and he mocked Gorlim, and revealed to him that he had only seen a phantom devised by wizardry to entrap him; for Eilinel was dead. 'Nonetheless I will grant thy prayer,' said Sauron; 'and thou shalt go to Eilinel, and be set free of my service.' Then he put him cruelly to death.
In this way the hiding of Barahir was revealed, and Morgoth drew his net about it; and the Orcs coming in the still hours before dawn surprised the men of Dorthonion and slew them all, save one. For Beren son of Barahir had been sent by his father on a perilous errand to spy upon the ways of the Enemy, and he was far afield when when the lair was taken. But as he slept benighted in the forest he dreamed that carrion-birds sat thick as leaves upon bare trees beside a mere, and blood dripped from their beaks.
Then Beren was aware in his dream of a form that came to him across the water, and it was a wraith of Gorlim; and it spoke to him declaring his treachery and death, and bade him make haste to warn his father. Then Beren awoke, and sped through the night, and came back to the lair of the outlaws on the second morning. But as he drew near the carrion-birds rose from the ground and sat in the alder-trees beside Tarn Aeluin, and croaked in mockery. There Beren buried his fathers bones, and raised a cairn of boulders above him, and swore upon it an oath of vengeance. First there for he pursued the Orcs that had slain his father and his kinsmen, and he found their camp by night at Rivil's Well above the Fen of Serech, and because of his wood craft he came near to their fire unseen. There their captain made boast of his deeds, and he held up the hand of Barahir that he had cut off as a token for Sauron that their mission was fulfilled; and the ring of Felagund was on that hand. Then Beren sprang from behind rock, and slew captain, and taking the hand and the ring he escaped, being defended by fate for the Orcs were dismayed, and their arrows wild.
Thereafter for four years more Beren wandered still upon Dorthonion, a solitary outlaw; but he became the friend of birds and beasts, and they aided him, and did not betray him, and from that time forth he ate no flesh nor slew any living thing that was not in the service of Morgoth. He did not fear death, but only captivity, and being bold and desperate he escaped both death and bonds; and the deeds of lonely daring that he achieved were noised abroad throughout Beleriand, and the tail of them came even into Doriath. At length Morgoth set a price upon his head no less than the price upon the head of Fingon, High King of the Noldor; but the Orcs fled rather at the rumor of his uproach than sought him out. Therefore and army was sent against him under the command of Sauron; and Sauron brought werewolves, fell beasts inhabited by dreadful spirits that he had imprisoned in their bodies.
All that land was now become filled with evil, and all clean things were departing from it; and Beren was pressed so hard that at last he was forced to flee from Dorthonion. In time of winter and snow he forsook the land and grave of his father, and climbing into the high land of Doriath. There it was put into his heart that he would go down into the Hidden Kingdom, where no mortal foot had trodden. Terrible was his southward journey. Sheer were the precipices of Ered Gorgoroth, and beneath their feet were shadows that were laid before the rising of the Moon. Beyond lay the wilderness of Dungortheb, where the sorcery of Sauron and the power of Melian came together, and horror and madness walked. There spiders of the fell race of Ungoliant abode, spinning their unseen webs in which all living things were snared; and monsters wandered there that were born in the long dark before the Sun, hunting silently with many eyes. No food for Elves or Men was there in that haunted land, but death only. That journey is not accounted least among the great deeds of Beren, but he spoke of it to no one after, lest the horror return into his mind; and none know how he found a way, and so came by paths that no Man nor Elf else ever dared to tread to the borders of Doriath. And he passed through the mazes that Melian wove about the kingdom of Thingol, even as she had foretold; for a great doom lay upon him.
It is told in the Lay of Leithian that Beren came stumbling into Doriath grey and bowed as with many years of woe, so great had been the torment of the road. But wandering in the summer in the woods of Neldoreth he came upon Lúthien, daughter of Thingol and Melian, at a time of evening under moonrise, as she danced upon the unfading grass in the glades beside Esgalduin. Then all memory of his pain departed from him, and he fell into an enchantment; for Lúthien was the most beautiful of all the Children of Iluvatar. Blue was her raiment as the unclouded heaven, but her eyes were grey as the starlit evening; her mantle was sewn with golden flowers, but her hair was dark as the shadows of twilight. As the light upon the leaves of trees, as the voice of clear waters, as the stars above the mists of the world, such was her glory and her loveliness; and in her face was a shining light.
But she vanished from his sight; and he became dumb, as one that is bound under a spell, and he strayed long in the woods, wild and wary as a beast, seeking for her. In his heart he called her Tinuviel, that signifies Nightingale, daughter of twilight, in the Grey-elven tongue, for he knew no other name for her. And he saw her afar as leaves in the winds of autumn, and in winter as a star upon a hill, but a chain was upon his limbs.
There came a time near dawn on the eve of spring, and Lúthien danced upon a green hill; and suddenly she began to sing. Keen, heart-piercing was her song as the song of the lark that rises from the gates of night and pours its voice among the dying stars, seeing the sun behind the walls of the world; and the song of Lúthien released the behind the walls of the world; and the song of Lúthien released the bonds of winter, and the frozen waters spoke, and flowers sprang from the cold earth where her feet had passed.
Then the spell of silence fell from Beren, and he called to her, crying Tinuviel; and the woods echoed the name. Then she halted in wonder, and fled no more, and Beren came to her. But as she looked on him, doom fell upon her, and she loved him; yet she slipped from his arms and vanished from his sight even as the day was breaking. Then Beren lay upon the ground in a swoon, as one slain at once by bliss and grief; and he fell into a sleep as it were into an abyss of shadow, and waking he was cold as stone, and his heart barren and forsaken. And wandering in mind he groped as one that is stricken with sudden blindness, and seeks with hands to grasp the vanished light. Thus he began the payment of anguish for the fate that was laid on him; and in his fate Lúthien was caught, and being immortal she shared in his mortality, and being free received his chain; and her anguish was greater than any other of the Eldalie has known.
Beyond his hope she retuned to him where he sat in darkness, and long ago in the Hidden Kingdom she laid her hand in his. Thereafter often she came to him, and they went in secret through the woods together from spring to summer; and no others of the Children of Iluvatar have had joy so great, though the time was brief.
But Daeron the minstrel also loved Lúthien, and he espied her meetings with Beren, and betrayed them to Thingol. Then the King was filled with anger, for Lúthien he loved above all things, setting her above all the princes of the Elves; Whereas mortal Men he did not even take into his service. Therefore he spoke in grief and amazement to Lúthien; but she would reveal nothing, until he swore an oath to her that he would neither slay Beren nor imprison him. But he sent his servants to lay hands on him and lead him to Menegroth as a malefactor; and Lúthien forestalling them led Beren herself before the throne of Thingol, as if he were an honoured guest. Then Thingol looked upon Beren in scorn and anger; but Melian was silent. "Who are you",said the King, "that come higher as a thief, and unbidden dare to approach my throne?"
But Beren being filled with dread, for the splendour of Menegroth and the majesty of Thingol were very great, answered Therefore Lúthien spoke, and said: "He is Beren son of Barahir, lord of Men, mighty foe of Morgoth, the tale of whose deeds is become a song even among the Elves."
"Let Beren speak!" said Thingol. "What would you here, unhappy mortal, and for what cause have you left your own land to enter this, which is forbidden to such as you? Can you show reason why my power should not be laid on you in heavy punishment for you insolence and folly?"
Then Beren looking up beheld the eyes of Lúthien, and his glance went also to the face of Melian and it seemed to him that words were put into his mouth. Fear left him, and the pride of the eldest house of Men returned to him; and he said: "My fate, O King, led me hither, through perils such as few even of the Elves would dare. And here I have found what I sought not indeed, but finding I would possess for ever. For it is above all gold and silver, and beyond all jewels. Neither rock, nor steel, nor the fires of Morgoth, nor all the powers of the Elf-kingdoms, shall keep from me the treasure that I desire. For Lúthien your daughter is the fairest of all the Children of the World."
Then silence fell upon the hall, for those that stood there were astounded and afraid, and they thought that Beren would be slain. But Thingol spoke slowly, saying: "Death you have earned with these words; and death you should find suddenly, had I not sworn an oath in haste; of which I repent, baseborn mortal, who in the realm of Morgoth has learnt to creep in secret as his spies and thralls."
Then Beren answered: "Death you can give me earned or unearned; but the names I will not take from you of baseborn, nor spy, nor thrall. By the ring of Felagund, that he gave to Barahir my father on the battle field of the North, my house has not earned such names from any Elf, be he king or no."
His words were proud, and all eyes looked upon the ring; for he held it now aloft, and the green jewels gleamed there that the Noldor had devised in Valinor. For this ring was like to twin serpents, whose eyes were emeralds, and their heads met beneath a crown of golden flowers, that the one upheld and the other devoured; that was the badge of Finarfin and his house; Then Melian leaned to Thingol's side, and in whispered counsel bade him forgo his wrath. "For not by you," she said, "shall Beren be slain; and far and free does his fate led him in the end, yet it is wound with yours. Take heed!"
But Thingol looked in silence upon Lúthien; and he thought in his heart: 'Unhappy Men, children of little lords and brief kings, shall such as these lay hands on you, and yet live?' Then breaking the silence he said: 'I see the ring, son of Barahir, and I perceive that you are proud, and deem yourself mighty. But a father's deeds, even had his service been rendered to me, avail not to win the the daughter of Thingol and Melian. See now! I too desire a treasure that is withheld. For rock and steel and the fires of Morgoth keep the jewel that I would possess against all the powers of the Elf-kingdoms. Yet I hear you say that bonds such as these do not daunt you. Go your way therefore! Bring to me in your hand a Silmaril from Morgoth's crown; and then, if she will, Lúthien may set her hand in yours. Then you shall have my jewel; and though the fate of Arda lie within the Silmarils, yet you shall hold me generous.'
Thus he wrought the doom of Doriath, and was ensnared within the curse of Mandos. And those that heard these words perceived that Thingol would save his oath, and yet send Beren to his death; for they know that not all the power of the Noldor, before the Siege was broken, had availed even to see from afar the shining Silmarils of Feanor. For they were set in the Iron Crown, and treasured in Angband above all wealth; and Balrogs were about them, and countless swords, and strong bars, and unassailable walls, and the dark majesty of Morgoth.
But Beren laughed. 'For little price,' he said, 'do Elven-kings sell their daughters: for gems, and things made by craft. But if this be your will, Thingol, I will perform it. And when we meet again my hand shall hold a Silmaril from the Iron Crown; for you have not looked the last upon Beren son of Barahir.' Then he looked in the eyes of Melian, who spoke not; and he bade farewell to Lúthien Tinuviel, and bowing before Thingol and Melian he put aside the guards about him, and departed from Menegroth alone.
Then at last Melian spoke, and she said to Thingol: 'O King, you have devised cunning counsel. But if my eyes have not lost their sight, it is ill for you, whether Beren fail in his errand, or achieve it. For you have doom either your daughter, or yourself. And now is Doriath drawn within the fate of a mightier realm.' But Thingol answered: 'I sell not to Elves or Men those whom I love and cherish above all treasure. And if there were hope or fear that Beren should come ever back alive to Menegroth, he should not have looked again upon the light of heaven, though I had sworn it.'
But Lúthien was silent, and from that hour she sang not again in Doriath. A brooding silence fell upon the woods, and the shadows lengthened in the kingdom of Thingol.
It is told in the Lay of Leithian that Beren passed through Doriath unhindered, and came at length to the region of the Twilight Meres, and the Fens of Sirion; and leaving Thingol's land he climbed the hills above the Falls of Sirion, where the river plunged underground with great noise. Thence he looked westward, and through the mist and rains that lay upon those hills he saw Talath Dirnen, the Guarded Plain, stretching between Sirion and Narog; and beyond he descried afar the highlands of Taur-en-Faroth that rose above Nargothrond. And being destitute, without hope or counsel, he turned his feet thither.
Upon all that plain the Elves of Nargothrond kept unceasing watch; and every hill upon its borders was crowned with hidden towers, and through all its woods and fields archers ranged secretly and with great craft. Their arrows were sure and deadly, and nothing crept there against their will. Therefore, ere Beren had come far upon his road, they were aware of him, and his death was nigh. But knowing his danger he held ever aloft the ring of Felagund; and though he saw no living thing, because of the stealth of the hunters, he felt that he was watched, and cried often aloud: 'I am Beren son of Barahir, friend of Felagund. Take me to the King!' Therefore the hunters slew him not, but assembling they waylaid him, and commanded him to halt. But seeing the ring they bowed before him, though he was in evil plight, wild and wayworn; and they led hi northward and westward, going by night lest their paths should be revealed. For at that time there was no ford or bridge over the torrent of Narog before the gates of Nargothrond; but further to the north, where Ginglith joined Narog, the flood was less, and crossing there and turning again southward the Elves led Beren under the light of the moon to the dark gates of their hidden halls.
Thus Beren came before King Finrod Felagund; and Felagund knew him, needing no ring to remind him of the kin of Beor and of Barahir. Behind closed doors they sat, and Beren told of the death of Barahir, and of all that had befallen hi in Doriath; and he wept, recalling Lúthien and their joy together. But Felagund heard his tale in wonder and disquiet; and he knew that the oath he had sworn was come upon him for his death, as long before he had foretold to Galadriel. He spoke then to Beren in heaviness of heart. 'It is plain that Thingol desires your death; but it seems that this doom goes beyond his purpose, and that the Oath of Feanor is again at work. For the Silmarils are cursed with an oath of hatred, and he that even names them in desire moves a great power from slumber; and the sons of Feanor would lay all the Elf-kingdoms in ruin rather than suffer any other than themselves to win or possess a Silmaril, for the Oath drives them. And now Celegorm and Curufin are dwelling in my halls; and though I, Finarfin's son, am King, they have won a strong power in the realm, and lead many of their own people. They have shown friendship to me in every need, but I fear that they will show neither love nor mercy to you, if your quest be told. Yet my own oath holds; and thus we are all ensnared.'
Then King Felagund spoke before his people, recalling the deeds of Barahir, and his vow and he declared that it was laid upon him to aid the son of Barahir in his need, and he sought the help of his chieftains. Then Celegorm arose amid the throng, and drawing his sword he cried:'Be he friend or foe, whether demon of Morgoth, of Elf, or child of Men, or any other living thing in Arda, neither law, nor love, nor league of hell, nor might of the Valar, nor any power of wizardry, shall defend him from the pursuing hate of Feanor's sons, if he take or find a Silmaril and keep it. For the Silmarils we alone claim, until the world ends.'
Many other words he spoke, as potents were long before in Tirion the words of his father that first inflamed the Noldor to rebellion. And after Celegorm Curufin spoke, more softly but with no less power, conjuring in the minds of the Elves a vision of war and the ruin of Nargothrond. So great a fear did he set in their hearts that never after until the time of Turin would any Elf of that realm go into open battle; but with stealth and ambush, with wizardry and venomed dart, they pursued all strangers, forgetting the bonds of kinship. Thus they fell from the valour and freedom of the Elves of old, and their land was darkened.
And now they murmured that Finarfin's son was not as a Vala to command them, and they turned their faces from him. But the curse of Mandos came upon the brothers, and dark thoughts arose in their hearts, thinking to send forth Felagund alone to his death, and to usurp, it might be, the throne of Nargothrond; for they were of the eldest line of the princes of the Noldor.
And Felagund seeing that he was forsaken took from his head the silver crown of Nargothrond and cast it at his feet, saying: 'Your oaths of faith to me you may break, but I musty hold my bond. Yet if there be any on whom the shadow of out curse has not yet fallen, I should find at least a few to follow me, and should not go hence as a beggar that is thrust from the gates.' There were ten that stood by him; and the chief of them, who was named Edrahil, stooping lifted the crown and asked that it be given to a steward until Felagund's return. 'for you remain my king, and theirs,' he said, 'whatever betide.'
Then Felagund gave the crown of Nargothrond to Orodreth his brother to govern in his stead; and Celegorm and Curufin said nothing, but they smiled and went from the halls.
On an evening of autumn Felagund and Beren set out from Nargothrond with their ten companions; and they journeyed beside Narog to his source in the Falls of Ivrin. Beneath the Shadowy Mountains they came upon a company of Orcs, and slew them all in their camp by night; and they took their gear and their weapons. By the arts of Felagund their own forms and faces were changed into the likeness of Orcs; and thus disguised they came far upon their northward road, and ventured into the western pass, between Ered Wethrin and the highlands of Taur-nu-Fuin. But Sauron in his tower was ware of them, and doubt took him; for they went in haste, and stayed not to report their deeds, as was commanded to all the servants of Morgoth that passed that way. Therefore he sent to waylay them, and bring them before him.
Thus befell the contest of Sauron and Felagund which is renowned. For Felagund strove with Sauron in songs of power, ad the power of the King was very great; but Sauron had the mastery, as is told in the Lay of Leithian:
He chanted a song of wizardry, Of piercing, opening, of treachery, Revealing, uncovering, betraying. Then sudden Felagund there swaying, Sang in a song of staying, Resisting, battling against power, Of secrets kept, strength like a tower, And trust unbroken, freedom, escape; Of changing and shifting shape, Of snares eluded, broken traps, The prison opening, the chain that snaps. Backwards and forwards swayed their song. Reeling foundering, as ever more strong The chanting swelled, Felagund fought, And all the magic and might he brought Of Elvenesse into his words. Softly in the gloom they heard the birds Singing afar in Nargothrond, The sighting of the Sea beyond, Beyond the western world, on sand, On sand of pearls on Elvenland. Then in the doom gathered; darkness growing In Valinor, the red blood flowing Beside the Sea, where the Nolder slew The Foamriders, and stealing drew Their white ships with their white sails From lamplit havens. The wind wails, The wolf howls. The ravens flee. The ice mutters in the mouths of the Sea. The captives sad in Angband mourn. Thunder rumbles, the fires burn- And Finrod fell before the throne.
Then Sauron stripped from the their disguise, and they stood before him naked and afraid. But though their kinds were revealed, Sauron could not discover their names or their purposes.
He cast them therefore into a deep pit, dark and silent, and threatened to slay them cruel, unless one would betray the truth to him. From time to time they saw two eyes kindled in the dark, and a werewolf devoured one of the companions; but none betrayed their lord.
In the time when Sauron cast Beren into the pit a weight of horror came upon Lúthien's heart; and going to Melian for counsel she learned that Beren lay in the dungeons of Tol-in-Gaurhoth without hope of rescue. Then Lúthien, perceiving that no help would come from any other on earth, resolved to fly from Doriath and come herself to him; but she sought the aid of Daeron, and he betrayed her purpose because he would not deprive Lúthien of the lights of heaven, lest she fail and fade, and yet would restrain her, he caused a house to be built from which she should not escape. Not far from the gates of Menegroth stood the greatest of all the trees in the Forest of Neldoreth; and that was a beech-forest and the northern half of the kingdom. This mighty beech was named Hirilorn, and it had three trunks, equal in girth, smooth in rind, and exceeding tall; no branches grew from them for a great height above the ground. Far aloft between the shafts of Hirilorn a wooden house was built, and there Lúthien was made to dwell; and ladders were taken away and guarded, save only when the servants of Thingol wrought her such things as she needed.
It is told in the Lay of Leithian how she escaped from the house in Hirilorn; for she put forth her arts of enchantment, and caused her hair to grow to great length, and of it she wove a dark robe that wrapped her beauty like a shadow, and it was laden with a spell of sleep. Of the strands that remained she twined a rope, and she let it down from her window; and as the end swayed above the guards that sat beneath the house they fell into a deep slumber. Then Lúthien climbed from her prison, and shrouded in her shadowy cloak she escaped from all eyes, and vanished out of Doriath.