Of Beren and Luthien

I’m afraid that for the sake of honesty, I shall once again incur the disdain of those of you who worship Tolkien as a god. I’ve been anxiously awaiting the story of Beren and Luthien for some time now, and from what others (Jonathan for example) have mentioned I’ve been expecting it to be a real pleasure. True, this more focused character-narrative was a pleasant break from the grander, more distant narrative of the rest of the story, and I did find it engaging and fascinating at times, but it certainly wasn’t the kind of love story I was expecting. And, in the end, I must honestly say that I find the story of Beren and Luthien unconvincing and not what Tolkien promised in the opening paragraph of the chapter. He writes: Among the tales of sorrow and of ruin that come down to us from the darkness of those days there are some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures.”

Now when a story contains joy and light for only two of the characters and naught but death, destruction, devastation, and an overall worsening of the condition of everyone else in the epic tale, how the heck are we supposed to believe that this is a happy story in even the least bit? The story is well-told, but it is a horrible one: Barahir and his fellow outlaws are discovered via torture and betrayal, and are put to death; Felegund and ten other brave souls from Nargothrond die at Sauron’s hands; the sons of Faenor are further estranged from the other Noldor; Thingol, by naming the Silmarils, “wrought the doom of Doriath and was ensnared within the curse of Mandos; Huan’s fate comes to fruition and he dies; and “of all the terrors that came ever into Belariand ere Angband’s fall the madness of Carcharoth was the most dreadful.” All this as part of the tale that is supposed to be one in which there is joy and light enough to be the fovorite of future generations to tell? Correct me if I’m wrong, but the only genuinely good thing that comes from this story–aside from Beren and Luthien getting to live the rest of their lives together–is that Sauron was defeated for a spell and the prisoners of Tol-in-Gaurhoth set free: but that’s not even the focus. I also find the statement that Luthien’s sorrows were greater than all others in the halls of Mandos a bit offensive. All the mothers whose children had been slain, all others who had lost true loves, of all the suffering that others had experienced, her sorrow at the loss of Luthien was greater? I find that terribly insensitive.

Part of me really likes the story of Beren and Luthien. A story of sacrifice and super-human (or super-elven) deeds for a true love will always be a sweet one, one of joy and light even, but sometimes the trail of devastation is so great it becomes practically sinful to let the little happy part outweigh the evil it caused.

Of course Beren and Luthien couldn’t help themselves they and their deeds were bound by “fate”: another element in the story that I dislike. Everything is so much bound by this doom or that fate that I’m at a loss to see anyone actually responsible for anything.

till next time,

keep thinking.