The Tale of Beleth, Huntress of Ithilien

by Dec 6, 2003Stories

In the last days of the Second Age of Middle Earth, in the forest of Mirkwood, in the kingdom of Thranduil, King of the Silvan elves, there lived Aze, Thranduil’s sister. Aze was regarded as a marvel among her people, for she was of the Sindarin race and bore the beauty of the Eldar.
Aze wedded with Orophin of Lothlorien, but he was slain in battle by orcs, and Aze mourned for her husband. As her days passed on, her sorrow grew even greater, for Orophin had given her no child. So Aze prayed to Elbereth every day for a child, and Elbereth heard her prayer. She spoke of Aze’s request to her husband, Mandos, and he looked upon the sorrow of Aze with great pity; and so by the grace of Elbereth, Aze gave birth to a daughter, and she called her Aure, after herself.
Aure grew to be wise and beautiful like her mother, and her face and hair and eyes shone like the stars, for she carried the light of the Vala. She often wandered the paths of Mirkwood and sang to the trees and the creatures, and her voice brought joy to all who heard it; and she was loved by Thranduil and his people, and by her mother. Though she never knew her father, she wore around her neck an opal in the shape of an arrowhead, which had been an heirloom of the house of Orophin. This she treasured above all else.
As the years of the Third Age went on, the forces of Dol Guldur arose in Mirkwood, and they threatened the borders of Thranduil’s kingdom. Orcs and other servants of the Dark Power began roaming through the woods, and many skirmishes were fought between them and the elves. One day as Aure and her mother were walking through the forest, a company of orcs came upon them. They slew Aze, but Aure they took as a prisoner.
Thranduil sent out hunters to search for Aure and her captors, but the orcs eluded them, and they carried Aure south, to the fortress of Barad-dur in Mordor. There she remained for many years, and the orcs used the dark sorcery of Morgoth to torment her, attempting to make her as one of them. But Aure possessed the strength of her father, Orophin, and the will of the Vala was buried deep within her soul; and she resisted the sorcery of Morgoth. As the power of Sauron began to increase, the orcs soon busied themselves with other matters, and Aure was all but forgotten. And the years passed, and she ceased to weep for her mother; and as she became more accustomed to the darkness, the light went out of her skin and eyes and hair, and she forgot her love for growing things. But her mind was keen, and as her guards grew more negligent, Aure grew more watchful.
Then came the day that she was left unguarded, and she broke the lock on her door, for it was rusted, and picked up an old black cloak made in orc-fashion, and by the grace of the Vala, she fled from Barad-dur and Mordor with a band of orcs. Little more is known about her days in Mordor, for to those who later asked, she said, “Some stories are not meant to be told.”
After escaping Mordor, Aure went to the land of her father, to Lothlorien, to Caras Galadhon, the elven-kingdom of Celeborn and Galadriel. And in their wisdom, Celeborn and Galadriel permitted her to dwell in Lorien, and it was there that she beheld her reflection for the first time since she had been taken to Mordor. She stared long at herself, for though her features remained elf-like, there was now nothing fair in her appearance. Her hands had grown rough, her skin tan; her hair that had been the golden color of sunlight was now the brown of dry dust, and her eyes once blue as the sea had turned to a murky grey. And as she turned away from her reflection, she said, “From this time forward I shall be known as Beleth, for I have faded from that which I was into that which I now am.”
And Beleth dwelt in Lothlorien for a time, but she found no joy there, and no smile ever graced her lips, and she sang only woeful songs of sorrow and suffering. The Black Speech still haunted her, and sometimes she awoke screaming in the night. And many of the elves grew curious when they heard her songs, but most of them feared her, for it was rumored that she had come from Sauron.
Galadriel visited Beleth frequently, and they walked together, and Beleth learned much wisdom from her. But as she beheld the dismay of Galadriel’s people, her sadness increased. And Elbereth mourned the change of the child that she had sent to Middle-earth, and she gave to Beleth the choice of the Half-elven, for it was plain that she no longer desired immortality.
And so in the year 2999 of the Third Age, Beleth bid farewell to Galadriel and Lothlorien and set out for the land of Ithilien, an abandoned city in the kingdom of Gondor, which lies on the borders of Mordor. And upon her departure, Galadriel gave to her the hunting knife of her father, Orophin.
In Ithilien Beleth dwelt alone, and she fashioned for herself clothing in hues of grey and brown after the hunting style of Mirkwood; and she made bows and arrows, and a spear with which to protect herself, for Ithilien was being roamed by orcs as they went on errands elsewhere. And she took up companionship with a wolf that she raised from a pup. The wolf she called Araw after Orome, the great hunter.
And soon she became swift and comfortable with her weapons, and she no longer waited for the orcs to find her; but instead she sought them out, and she and Araw killed many of them, and it is due to their efforts that Ithilien remained fair when the lands around it fell under the shadow of Sauron. In that time, Beleth aided Faramir, captain of Gondor and the Gondorian rangers, who made passes through Ithilien to battle the orcs. And she became the ally of that company, and they called her Athedhel, for it seemed to them that she looked and felt and moved as a shadow.
And during the War of the Ring, Faramir sent for her, and she went with him to Gondor, and she and Araw fought with Faramir and his men in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. After Sauron was defeated, Beleth returned to Gondor to celebrate the victory. And on the day of the coronation of King Elessar, the maidens of Minas Tirith dressed her in garments of gold and cream. And she stood in the center of the city with Araw at her side, and the opal of Orophin glistened at her neck, and many who beheld her there wondered at her beauty and air of tragic dignity.
Among them was Elrohir, son of Elrond Half-elven, brother of Elladan and of Arwen Undomiel. And when he saw Beleth standing tall and queenly in the midst of the milling crowds, the sun shining on her hair and glinting in her fierce, grey eyes, he thought that surely she bore the mark of the Vala. And he ran toward her and cried out, “Elbereth Gilthoniel!” And he knelt before her, and would not look at her until she bid him to. And as he did, their eyes met, and Beleth’s heart softened toward him, for he had recognized in her the look of the Vala even after the shadows of Mordor had broken her spirit. Then she asked his name, and he told it to her; and she said, “I am not the One whose name you speak, Elrohir Peledhil, but may She light your path always.” And then she turned to walk to the place of the ceremony, and Araw followed after her. As Elrohir rose, he called out to her, “Lady, if I was mistaken about your identity, then I would know your true name, so that with your permission, I may find you again.” And Beleth granted her permission and replied, “I have been called many things, but in this place I am known as Athedhel.” Then she took her leave of him.
But Elrohir stood in that place long after she left him, and he marveled at her as a great and beautiful mystery and began to inquire about her among the crowds. And they could only tell him of her deeds in battle and that she was a friend of Captain Faramir.
Also on that day, after the king of Gondor was crowned, Legolas, the son of Thranduil and prince of the Silvan elves of Mirkwood, beheld Beleth in the city, and he recognized the jewel that she wore; and he approached her and rebuked her, calling her an imposter and demanding to know the fate of Aure, his kin. Then Beleth told her story from beginning to end, and when she had finished, she wept for the first time since she had left Mordor; for it had been long since she had claimed the name of Aure, and now that she had, she felt that she was no longer Beleth.
And Legolas was filled with pity and sadness by her tale, and he took her hand and led her to his father, King Thranduil, who had also come to celebrate the victory of Middle-Earth. There Legolas told the story of Beleth to his father, and Thranduil saw the callousness that suffering had borne into her character and the beauty of Aure that was apparent even in her shadowed appearance. Then his heart was grieved, for he knew that this was certainly his niece, but that she would never again be a fair elf-maiden of Mirkwood. And in his despair, Thranduil asked Beleth what it was that she desired, swearing that if it were in his power, he would make it so. And she replied, saying, “I wish for that which I was to meet that which I am, to be known among my people as Beleth, who was once Aure.”
And then Thranduil had her kneel before him, and he stood and placed on her head a small crown of silver, which was embedded with a single ruby. This had been the crown of her mother, Aze. And Thranduil said, “Henceforth, let it be known that this is Beleth, Huntress of Ithilien, who was once Aure, Lady of Mirkwood, and let this also be written in the records of the Silvan people.” And then as she rose, Beleth smiled.
And in that smile, the fullness of the beauty of her former self was restored for a moment, and all who beheld her at that time were struck with awe, for she was bright like a star, and a blue light laughed in her eyes. Indeed, even as the light waned, a new beauty was seen in Beleth, for songs of joy had begun to hum in her soul once more.
Elrohir of Rivendell saw all of this, and he was silent, and his wonder increased at the knowledge of who Beleth had been and was, and at what she had passed through in her life.
After the merriment in Gondor had ended, Beleth journeyed back to Ithilien to prepare for the arrival of Faramir, Steward of Gondor and his bride, Eowyn, the White Lady of Rohan. And she was accompanied by Araw and, by her consent, Elrohir Peledhil; and Beleth and Elrohir were given the task of readying the gardens of the home of the prince. There Beleth nurtured in her heart a love for flowers and trees, and she sang once again songs of growth and prosperity, and her laughter was heard throughout the gardens, clear as a spring of the Anduin. And Elrohir sang also, and in those days of newfound hope and joy across Middle-Earth, a great affection grew between the hearts of those two. And in the summer of that year, Elrohir Peledhil wedded with Beleth, Huntress of Ithilien, in those very gardens.
Prince Faramir gave them quarters in his court at Ithilien, and they dwelt there for many years, and sometimes they hunted, and sometimes battled orcs that had strayed into Ithilien after the War of the Ring, and Beleth aided Prince Faramir in the making of a map of the land of Mordor and the fortress of Barad-dur; but much of their time was spent filling the woods and gardens with elven-song. They were loved by those who dwelt in Ithilien, and they were called Athedhel and Peledhil; and they were accompanied ever by Araw, who lived long past his time. And in that day, Ithilien came to be known as a land of special fairness and enchantment. And they remained there until the passing of Faramir and Eowyn. Then they traveled to Lothlorien, to see the great mallorn trees, and to Rivendell, for Elrohir desired to see the last homely house one last time, and to show Beleth the land of his father; and then they went to Mirkwood to see King Thranduil. And Thranduil’s heart was glad, for the trees rustled once more under the song of Aure, now Beleth, and he also saw the love that she and Elrohir shared.
After dwelling in Mirkwood for a time, they made a last journey to Fangorn, for both had heard tales of the Ents, and they greatly desired to see them and learn from them. And that is the last that is known of Beleth, Huntress of Ithilien, and of Elrohir, her husband. They were both of the Elven race, and both had the choice of the Half-Elven, to journey over the sea and dwell ever in Eldamar, or to be given the gift of man and die a mortal in Middle-Earth. But the sea-longing rarely awoke in either of their hearts, and they loved dearly the earth that had borne their pain, and grief, and love. And so it is believed by most that they dwelt long with the Ents and then made their graves together there in the roots of the trees of Fangorn, in the last days of the wakeful trees.


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