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Leithian Script: Act III: 68. Notes - Scenes I through XVII


Tinuviel at Bay: A Caccia of Beleriand

A caccia is a hunting song, related to the modern words "catch" in both senses, the verb and the song, and so appropriate in multiple ways - first there is the story's theme of following, followed by the trapping and holding of the heroine, and second the medieval (perhaps older) use of "the hunt" as a metaphor for pursuit in love - and hence thirdly as a play on the Lays of Beleriand. "At bay" of course refers to a game animal held encircled by the hounds which summon the huntsmen to finish the job, and by extension refers to anyone forced to a confrontation largely one-sided.


(I almost feel like I'm cheating, in writing this act - essentially I'm just riffing straight off the Lay of Leithian fragments, whence come such insights as Luthien's altered time-sensibilities and lots of illuminating dialogue...)

As Act II had several purposes and points of focus, Beren's character, the Oath and the Silmarils, the unfolding of the War against Morgoth, and the relationship between the Noldor and the Edain, so too Act III. It is Luthien's turn, and part of that is the exploration of the Return of the Noldor as it affected those born in Middle-earth: instead of contrasting the situations of Elf and Man, I attempt to contrast the differences between the native and emigree Elven cultures.

In both acts, as throughout The Script, I also endeavor to make clear the connections with Third Age events and persons. Any such apparent references to LOTR are, in fact, intentional, just as before.


There are two ways of considering the character of Luthien - I'm tempted to be flippant and say: one is to read the texts, the other isn't - but that isn't terribly helpful, so I'll try to clarify. The first, and to my mind oddly) most common way I've encountered is to assume that she is no different from the "traditional" fairy tale princess (who is in fact not traditional at all) coming to us courtesy of Disney and Co., ignorant, naive, and just waiting for some chap to say "Let me show you the world", so to speak.

The other way, which may seem a bit simplistic at first at least) is to assume that when Aragorn calls his many-times great-grandmother "wise" in his ballad, he's merely speaking plain truth. After all, he's met at least two people who knew her personally and had ample opportunity to converse with them - the Lady and Lord of the Golden Wood, as well as who knows how many remain of Doriath's refugees in their company.

You can assume that someone older than most of the Returnees, growing up in not only one of the great cultural centers of Middle-earth, but the cultural center for most of that time, as much a crossroads and confluence of different ethnic groups as Rome, and under continual siege for, again, most of that time, is completely oblivious to the harsher realities of life (despite being both a trained healer and a trained mage in an embattled capital) and incapable of making rational decisions - but I'm not sure why anyone would.

So - what does one discover when one looks at the relevant texts? And further, into the archives and chronicles of Middle-earth? The answer is, surprisingly perhaps, someone rather scary. Not because of her intrinsic, inherited power - but because of her uncompromising principles and force of will (which long predate the self-discovery of her abilities as the most powerful telepath ever to walk Middle-earth - and that includes Melian), and the fact that she doesn't just do things randomly and without forethought. So that when she does make a decision, you have a better chance of turning aside a tidal wave than stopping Tinuviel. The only thing more intimidating than a wild-eyed idealist is - a cool-headed, logical, dispassionate idealist, wouldn't you say? And when that icy rationalism is combined with passion, the result is absolutely terrifying.

Everything in here derives either from a comprehensive reading of the Silmarillion, and a consideration of the connections and implications, or from the Lay of Leithian fragments. Relevant quotes will of course be supplied along the way. (Occasionally I have also had recourse to the oldest form of the story, the Tale of Tinuviel from The Book of Lost Tales, vol. I, for insights and images, when helpful.)

Again I have made the usage of dialogue reflect background, to some extent, and Luthien speaks with a less formal idiom to reflect the changing and much-influenced Sindarin culture of Doriath as opposed to the more static, and archaic society of the Returnees from Aman. Ardalambion has an amusing essay on how language becomes simpler and faster when you're fighting Orcs and all...

Luthien's appearance comes straight from the Lay of Leithian fragment 1, as do the rest of the quotes in this act unless otherwise noted:
            "Far from her home, forwandered, pale,
        she flitted ghostlike through the vale;
        ever her heart bade her up and on,
        but her limbs were worn, her eyes were wan...
         ...down she let slip her shadowy cloak,
        and there she stood in silver and white.
        Her starry jewels twinkled bright
        in the risen sun like morning dew;
        the lilies gold on mantle blue
        gleamed and glistened..."

This is clearly the same overgarment she wore the previous winter when Beren saw her dancing in the ice, compared in LL1 to the Northern Lights overhead:
       "Her mantle blue with jewels white
        caught all the rays of frosted light.
        She shone with cold and wintry flame..."

For her ragged and barefoot state further textual evidence is found in Canto X, where she is described as "worn, unshod, roofless and restless."



Scene I.
        "In Nargothrond the torches flared
        and feast and music were prepared.
        Luthien feasted not but wept.
        Her ways were trammelled; closely kept
        she might not fly. Her magic cloak
        was hidden, nor did answer find
        her eager questions. Out of mind,
        it seemed, were those afar that pined
        in anguish and in dungeons blind
        in prison and in misery.
           Too late she knew their treachery.
        It was not hid in Nargothrond
        that Feanor's sons held her in bond
        who Beren heeded not, and who
        had little cause to wrest from Thû
        the king they loved not and whose quest
        old vows of hatred in their breast
        had roused from sleep. Orodreth knew
        the purpose dark they would pursue:
        King Felagund to leave to die,
        and with King Thingol's blood ally
        the house of Feanor by force
        or treaty. But to stay their course
        he had no power, for all his folk
        the brothers had yet beneath their yoke,
        and all yet listened to their word.
        Orodreth's counsel no man heard;
        their shame they crushed, and would not heed
        the tale of Felagund's dire need."

Taking this as my theme and inspiration for the understanding of Luthien's own sojourn in Nargothrond, I've built on the very gothic themes of this canto to make a dark mystery story of the unfolding revelations of the situation, past and present. I don't think I'm going out unwarrantedly, though, in this - it isn't specified how long it took for that which "was not hid" to become completely clear, and the indication that Nargothrond is in severe denial creates for me an atmosphere of extreme surreality in which the one sane person appears, inevitably, mad.

I've used, and will use throughout, ballads mostly from the Anglo-Appalachian tradition to represent the songs of Dorthonion - partly because they have so many apt quotations and applications, partly because I know them best, having grown up hearing them, and partly because they fit, for me, with the "hick" aspect of Dorthonion, Beren's remote back-country accent which so annoyed and horrified Elu Thingol, which I had deduced before I actually discovered that in HOME there's a reference to that fact. That Luthien has not sung until it becomes necessary to her escape, combined with the ideological decision to learn the Beorings' ancient language as a rejection of her own family's rejection of them, is my motivation for having her employ the folksongs of the Edain, common across Hithlum as well as Dorthonion, which would be in the then-Common Tongue of Sindarin as spoken in the North.



Scene II.

               Curufin spake: "Good brother mine,
        I like it not. What dark design
        doth this portend? These evil things,
        we swift must end their wanderings!
        And more, 'twould please my heart full well
        to hunt a while and wolves to fell."
        And then he leaned and whispered low
        that Orodreth was a dullard slow;
        long time it was since the king had gone,
        and rumour or tidings came there none.
               "At least thy profit it would be
        to know whether dead he is or free;
        to gather thy men and thy array.
        'I go to hunt' then thou wilt say
        and men will think that Narog's good
        ever thou heedest. But in the wood
        things may be learned; and if by grace
        by some blind fortune he retrace
        his footsteps mad, and if he bear
        a Silmaril - I need declare
        no more in words; but one by right
        is thine (and ours), the jewel of light;
        another may be won-a throne.
        The eldest blood our house doth own."

It's clear that they do care for popular opinion, and that equally, they care nothing for the truth...

As far as Orodreth's characterization, that too derives from the Lay fragments as much as from consideration of the entire history of House Finarfin as told in the Silmarillion, but the source texts must wait upon the proper time for their presentation.



Scene III.

Yes, the Sons of Feanor did in Canonical fact pretend to be merely "Lords of Nargothrond" as well as acting like it was all news to them, that they'd never heard the name Beren before; qv. LL1, Canto VIII. (In other words, Luthien isn't a fool, she didn't not know that they were hereditary enemies of her House and prattle away to them cluelessly. She just didn't recognize them as the Sons of Feanor - not like there are tabloids and publicity shots in Middle-earth, after all.) It's my assumption that they would have used the less-familiar mother names of Aman naming convention, and have constructed for them the Sindarin forms used here.

            "...O lady fair, wherefore in toil
        and lonely journey dost thou go?
        What tidings dread of war and woe
        In Doriath have betid? Come tell!
        For fortune thee hath guided well;
        friends thou hast found," said Celegorm,
        and gazed upon her elvish form.
        In his heart him thought her tale unsaid
        he knew in part, but naught she read
        of guile upon his smiling face.
           "Who are ye then, the lordly chase
        that follow in this perilous wood?"
        she asked; and answer seeming good
        they gave. "Thy servants, lady sweet,
        Lords of Nargothrond..."
                       ...Sign nor word
        the brothers gave that aught they heard
        that touched them near...



Scene IV.

This scene, of the seduction of Finduilas to the aid of Curufin's plotting,
has a dual purpose: to illustrate Curufin's skilll with words and half-truths,
how the Sons of Feanor hold sway without need for violence, as per LL1,
           "...for all his folk
        the brothers had yet beneath their yoke,
        and all yet listened to their word,"
and to set the stage for the upcoming scenes between Luthien and Finduilas.

I have tried not to be too unfair to Finduilas throughout - though we know that she will abandon Gwindor for Turin, she is more than a stock "fickle woman" in the originals, and so I have, while using her as a foil for Luthien, tried to draw her as someone not particularly recollected, very conventional without understanding or caring for the philosophical principles behind the conventions, and much attached (as are many of the Returnees who suffered through the Helcaraxe, q.v. Gondolin, not only poor Salgant) to comforts and "the good life," though not as the Socratics understood it. She holds positions and views like wax - that is to say, in perfect detail until replaced by another, stronger impression, hard yet brittle until softened for a new stamp. -She is, sadly, a composite of many real characters I have known in my life.




Scene V.

Of Huan's crisis of conscience in LL1:

        Ahead leaped Huan day and night,
        and ever looking back his thought
        was troubled. What his master sought,
        and why he rode not like the fire,
        why Curufin looked with hot desire
        on Luthien, he pondered deep,
        and felt some evil shadow creep
        of ancient curse o'er Elvenesse.
        His heart was torn for the distress
        of Beren bold, and Luthien dear,
        and Felagund who knew no fear...



It's interesting - to me at least - how Beren's gifts and abilities so closely mirror Celegorm's. Orome, after all, is the Lord of the Hunt, the Vala most fiercely devoted, historically, to hunting Morgoth's fell creatures and minions, and the one who taught Celegorm the language of beasts as well as giving Huan to him. Beren, however, not only hasn't had it quite so easy - I would say that besides coming by his gifts the harder way, he's also been doing Orome's work far more seriously for longer instead of the rather dilettantish way Celegorm's been going about the work of monster-slaying. -Even before any other ethical challenges presented themselves. (And yes, I do include House Feanor's performance in the Leaguer in that description.)

For this reason (as well as reasons of style, character distinction, and humour) I've given Celegorm the idiom of the "huntin', shootin', fishin' " aristocrat of British literary tradition, the sort of chap who in Jane Austen's delightful parodies of popular romance is willing to break off his engagement when he discovers that the day set for the wedding is also the first day of "the Season".



As I cannot come up with a single instance of a Teler or Sindar historical figure who uses the Noldor conventions of mother- and father-names, but only a single personal name and an epesse, or aftername - and in some instances only aftername seems to be employed - it's my conjecture that the use of two personal names in childhood is a convention developed in Valinor. This may be a mistaken impression, but I haven't found any notes to contradict it. Luthien's comment on the rationale is, of course, sheerest speculation on my part.



Scene VI.
This should have been easy, since I'm only reworking LL1, cantos III-V in the first person, essentially, combined with the putting of the worst possible construction on the events of those cantos, to reconstruct the sorts of messy, unpleasant and endless conversations we are told that Luthien had with her family before they gave up on her and took the avoidant route. It actually turned out to be rather brutal to write, because it is so easy to put the worst possible construction on their romance, and so the challenge was to write something emotionally trying to the characters without being too unpleasant on the reader. Hopefully I've succeeded at it, and so far the responses have been positive, so I'm pretty satisfied with this part now.



Orc-raids targetted at Luthien: this is true - q.v. Canto VII - though I'm assuming for the sake of the story that this has been de-emphasized for well-meant reasons, until such time as it might be useful in turning her to the path of prudence and away from the insanity, as her family sees it, of planning to go looking for Beren on her own. In fact, it's a critical plot point, and one of several ways in which the Lay of Leithian manages to weave archetypal myth and folklore elements in with the most unromanticized, unromantic of war/espionage tropes in a merge that still continues to amaze me. The fact of information lacks, lags, and gaps on both sides leading to confusion and catastrophe is something all too familiar to those familiar with the real military, and not Hollywood's rendering of it - that is after all why it's called "Normal" as well as having an acronym. . .



In the oldest rescension, the musician Daeron [also spelled Dairon] is her older brother. In HOME he has become the renowned polymath genius of Middle-earth, whose invention of the cirth (runes) and association with Elu Thingol goes back to at least the time of Luthien's birth. Hence I see it as rather a Little Dorritt situation - except that unlike Little Dorritt, Luthien wasn't drooping about hoping he'd finally, eventually, someday notice that she was All Grown Up and waiting there for him to realize it. She has a life, and the last thing she's waiting for is someone to come take care of her. Snow White she isn't, nor Dierdre of the Sorrows (though there are closer parallels to Dierdre than to Snow White in her story, by far.)

This does a very good job of explaining Daeron's bizarre behavior - because there is no way that Daeron can be considered anything but neurotic, as I have Luthien point out. If all this past millenium and almost-a-half he's seen her as "little" Luthien - and this is not only plausible, but common, not simply to older friends, but to parents as well, the inability to recognize that children do grow up and don't stay three-year-olds - then to suddenly realize that she is indeed an adult, not merely intellectually but having it inescapably presented to him, is going to be jarring, to say the least. And in that jarring, he too gets his "first sight" of her - which doesn't happen until he sees her, as it were, through Beren's eyes.

Because the people who have grown up with her, all her life, don't see her until circumstances are drastically changed. (This includes her parents, most definitely.) They are incapable of perceiving her true strength and potential power, because they take her for granted as their little girl. (There is also the complicated, and oft-missed, fact that in the Arda Mythos, "beauty" is among other things a metaphor for moral strength, the reasons for which are made rather clear in the essay "On Fairy-tales." This is not of course sufficient and complete: the ways in which this is used and abused within the histories provide ample warrant for the Canonical necessity of trusting one's feelings as well...But this is a topic probably outside the scope of these Notes.)

So add to Daeron's cognitive dissonance not only the fact that now he realizes that Luthien is an adult, is not a child, and is not only old enough to fall in love, and has done so, but that she is desirable as an adult, and desired - and that he didn't notice at all, and does now, and at the same time has the image of her as child and practically younger relative, and you have the combination calculated to send even the most intellectual and rationally-governed of Elves (or Men) round the bend. Mix of shame/embarrassment over feeling that these feelings have to be inappropriate, self-reproach over lost opportunity, conviction that "Hey! I should have dibs! I've known her longer!" and back to the inappropriateness and forfeited opportunites, plus the automatic older-relative-protective mode, and realization that that isn't appropriate for him, her being a competent adult, either-

-Way easier just to blame the interloper for it all. (Which I suppose is better than blaming Luthien, but not much more rational.)

Further warrant for this interpretation is found in LL1 in the fact that the issue at court is that Beren is a stranger in Doriath (not supposed to happen) and worse yet, of a class entirely forbidden (this was always the case, even in the oldest version of the story, where instead of being Mortal he was a Noldor lord displaced in the War and the grievance against him was the hereditary association with the Kinslaying) and the fact of Daeron's subsequent shame:  there's no self-righteousness after he gets caught, he's morbidly guilty right from the start, even though he keeps hoping throughout the Throne Room Scene (guiltily) that Beren will be executed. Doesn't stop him from doing it again, out of (ahem) the best of motives - or from being ashamed yet again - the old saying about the path paved with good intentions seems to be illustrated here in hellish detail.



"a tender goddess" - homage to P.G. Wodehouse, of course. The favorite descriptive phrase of Bingo Little, known for sudden, frequent, complicated and embarrassing crushes that entangle all his acquaintances as well.



By Middle-earth standards, Luthien is a fully-qualified paramedic, with ample opportunities for honing her skills. Things were pretty messy in Beleriand for quite some time before the Return, (Silm., "Of the Sindar") and in LL1 it's stated that being able to do this is just one of the ordinary domestic skills of an Elven-lady of Doriath - not unlike that of a medieval Lady, who also couldn't simply dial the ambulance service. Luthien has advantages of inherited power as well as incentive, but this should give pause to those who would dismiss either her or all Wood-elf maidens as dainty and decorative, but no more. Unless you're up to (as I've remarked elsewhere in another venue) crawling out of the wreck of a kidnapping attempt to negotiate a truce with the hostage takers, and when the truce breaks down, shrugging off attempted murder to deal with one's partner's downing and performing field surgery to remove large-caliber ammunition in a wilderness situation. I've never had to do anything like it, stitches make me personally a bit ill and though I'd certainly do my best if I had to, just the thought of trying to get a broad-head arrow out of someone makes me go green. (I'd be a bit better at using the Angcrist as a machete to make a shelter, and I sort of know how to start a fire with flint and steel and build it so it doesn't smother out. But I wouldn't want to depend on my survival skills if I didn't have to, either.)



blackbirds: in Britain, the equivalent of the American mockingbird - though the one that sang outside my window mornings in the brief time I sojourned in Wimbledon had a song so clearly melodic in the Ionian mode that it was several days before I was sure it was a bird, not the postman whistling. Instantly, when I realized its source was the grackle-sized bird in the tree out front, I realized that all the poems that talk about blackbirds were not in the slightest exaggeration. If I were a composer I would set that melody into a composition - I can whistle it to this day; Dvorzak might have used it in another morning-song.



The LL1 story from Canto III about Melian's hair... the two don't necessarily rule each other out - life, and the self-edited versions of it we tell ourselves, and our friends and relatives, are often rather complicated. How relevant is the story of Melian and Thingol to the story of Luthien and Beren? Is this something I'm constructing that isn't meant to be read this way? Well, several cantos of the Lay begin with historical references to something else in the Arda Mythos. We have, in addition, the Oath of Fëanor, Maedhros on Thangorodrim, the Siege of Angband, the Dagor Bragollach (including Fingolfin's Ride and the Fen of Serech), the Vala Oromë, and would have had Morgoth's theft of the Silmarils had the Lay been completed. Every single other invocation has a direct bearing on the subsequent events which immediately follow as well as on the backstory and conditions surrounding the action as a whole. So, no, I'm not stringing together fancies here unintended by Tolkien.



"Swarn" is a real Green-elven [Nandor] word, thanks again to Ardalambion  [http://www.uib.no/people/hnohf/], and it does mean obdurate, intransigent, and just plain mule-stubborn, without any connotations of darkness or evil involved; probably pronounced with a hint of a "ch" in the initial consonant cluster as it descends from the primitive form squarno. It's my guess that the Laiquendi would have applied it to the Returnees. (With a word like that just given away, how could I pass it up? I've been waiting for a chance to use it for a long time.)



Thanks to loyal beta NovusSibyl for the line "he just wanted to be sure" which came up in a plot-mulling session, (and who is also responsible for the much-lauded casting of James Marsters as the Brothers Feanorion.)



Scene VII.
horn-mad: crazy as a mad bull, used in The Comedy of Errors, where Adriana of the much-tried patience mistakes it for an accusation of retributory infidelity against her Antipholus by the unfortunate Dromio of Ephesus.



This is my hubristic effort at recreating in part a letter Canonically known to have been so awful that it not only incited the mobilization of Doriath, but actually made Luthien's father think somewhat (note, only somewhat) better of Beren, as in - All of the Sons of Feanor for sons in-law (however many of them are actually still alive at this point) is definitely worse. They really have no clue what they almost bring upon themselves. (There's an AU that boggles the mind.)



Curufin's empire-building ambitions, the Canonical motive of consolidating all Elven-realms under one House Feanor rule before going after the Silmarils, combined with his rising paranoia and the willingness to destroy anyone who thwarts him, bear to my mind suspicious resemblence to Someone Else's behavior in Arda...This is how I reconcile the earlier version, written before it was established that Curufin was Celebrimbor's father, with the latter, where it says that Curufin looked "with hot desire" on Luthien as well, which although it could make for an interesting dramatic rivalry/rift between the brothers, doesn't work that way in either the older or the latter Canon, so alas I can't warrant doing it - thus Celegorm desires Luthien for her beauty and attractiveness, Curufin as a political pawn and key to power. Neither one of them sees her as a person in her own right, and both of them have incredible self-esteem issues tied up in getting what they want. Achilles has nothing on the Sons of Feanor.



go critical: this is not really an anachronism, despite appearances; in foundry-casting of elaborate sculptures with many deep undercuts and small extensions, it's necessary to force the metal to sort of explode out into the farthest reaches of the mold, so that you don't have to make patches and weld them on, which is less stable. The famous Renaissance artist Benvenuto Cellino in his Autobiography describes getting up from having the 'flu to supervise the casting of the giant Perseus with the Gorgon's Head, and having to sacrifice all his silverware to push the molten alloy to the critical point where it would boil over and fill the entire mold, except for a small part on one of the feet, which he'd already expected he'd have to fix. (This is, by the way, the same statue that features so prominently in Lois McMaster Bujold's excellent Renaissance Italian fantasy The Spirit Ring.)



Scene VIII.

Gower is, of course, referring to Banquo's appearance in Macbeth.


As with most things, I don't see Celebrimbor's subsequent rebellion against his House and deliberate alignment with Orodreth related in Silm. as coming out of the blue - events, like cars, don't just "come out of nowhere." Hence I have chosen to illustrate his conflicted struggling between moral duty and the easier way of doing nothing. (There are - of course - ulterior motives of story and reference as well, which shall become clearer in subsequent exchanges.)


The story of the heraldic device of Finarfin is my own devising, but the notion of apotropaic serpents (er, sorry, that is to say, protective & beneficial - too many archeology books at an impressionable age) is both Egyptian and Indo-European, and elegant metalwork snakes, both jewelry and freestanding sculptures, can be found in Graeco-Roman art, as well as the royal emblems of the pharaonic tradition. (Serpents are also associated with the oracular in both traditions.) And wreaths of flowers, worn by the lords and ladies of the ancient world, may be seen in murals of festivals from Amarna and elsewhere. The explicit connection of the implicit relationship between ancient High-Elven (and later, Numenorean) cultures and Egyptian/Near Eastern civilizations is found in Letters, bearing out the subtler indications given in ROTK and Silmarillion. I don't know that this is the association behind the emblem, of course, but since it's nowhere explained, and very mysterious, I thought I'd venture a history for the enigma.

As far as how, in Primary World history, real heraldic devices came to be chosen - many are much odder than this. Puns abound (William of Islip, whose escutcheon bore an eyeball and a shouting man falling out of a tree, "eye" + "slip" = "I slip!") along with instances of people taking insults and turning them to their own interpretation, as well as the more common adoptions of mythic or conventional symbology - but how in the days before myth and symbol had become tradition? One historical instance of a totemic animal being chosen after witnessing an incident which was taken as oracular exists in the story of the pioneering settlers of Tenochtitlan, presently known as Mexico City: the emblem of the hawk battling the snake which has endured for millenia.


subtlety: an elaborate dessert, often representing something else (like a gingerbread castle or marzipan fruit.)


Scene IX.

"poison": a reference to Hamlet. More than one kind can be administered by ear - this was, after all, Morgoth's favorite ploy, to start rumours, make insinuations, raise doubts, and then let them grow and run wild on their own. After all, one can always find evidence for one's suspicions...


More illustration of the mess that has to have been made of Nargothrond's social structure - and a reminder that there were significant fault lines underlying long before Beren's arrival, owing to the presence of a huge contingent of Feanorian partisans arriving in the wake of the Dagor Bragollach...and the shock to morale and society of the battle itself, which would have been the largest single loss of life since the Return, quite apart from it ending in defeat and a barest stalemate/retrenchment scenario.


I don't know what art form Finduilas would have favored - blown and worked glass is my own assignment - but it's important to remember that all Elves were artists, that centuries of life allow for even more exploration of talents than we can achieve (and some of us manage to cover a wide range, though few reach the level of a da Vinci) and so the popular idea of the idle, untalented and utterly boring lady of high degree is no more accurate for Middle-earth than it is for our earth's Middle Ages. And the symbolism seemed apt as well...

(As a side note, I highly recommend that everyone read the works of Frances and Joseph Gies, historians who make medieval Europe come to life with authentic quotes and often darkly-hilarous details. Life in a Medieval City, for example, brings us the image of an angry Abbess leading her retainers in a local war against papal demolition crews, while Life in a Medieval Village provides coroners' reports to demonstrate why Alcohol and Crossbows Don't Mix.)


Scene X.

tafl, or "table", also known as "king's table" and "king-stone" (cyningstan) after the key piece, is the Scandinavian board game similar to chess, but offering an interesting challenge. The form of it I have used here is the Finnish version called "tablut," which uses an 8 - 16 ratio instead of the more common 12-24, and thus allows for such a use as I have made of the common gameboard setup. The source for the rules and layout of the game I found here, with citations from early texts and archeological references [http://www.vikinganswerlady.org/games.htm]; the applicability is, I hope, obvious.

I am perhaps taking some artistic liberties here in assigning Primary World board games to Arda, as I cannot immediately recall or provide any citations regarding either chess or draughts (checkers) in Middle-earth (the apparent citation, of "amber chessmen" in the endnotes in LB is not in fact by JRRT, but a suggested, unused, stanza by C.S. Lewis, so I don't accept it). But as such games of strategy and skill are common in the epic tradition and throughout the world as well as across the ages, I feel warranted in using the device here, upon the assumption that someone in Beleriand would surely have devised some such game, especially with the artistic opportunites that the pieces provide, and that other peoples would have mucked about with the game and made their own versions. (Given their long-standing occupation with both warfare and artistry, it's entirely possible that such a game would have been invented by the Dwarves first - though that would probably pique certain factions of the Eldar no end!) One may simply assume that as with the Red Book of Westmarch, the Middle-earth game has been "translated" into an equivalent form here . . .

As for the rationale behind the rules of tablut, that is my own, but I think it plausible, though I will stand corrected if any Scadians have better information and/or combat experience, of course. The use of chess in both life and literature as an opportunity for political and romantic metaphors is well attested. (Plus there's just something apropos about using a Lapp form of the game, given that Tolkien was so inspired by the Kalevala as to learn Finnish in order to be able to read it in the original!) Battles for incredibly high stakes - not only property, but spouses, and even one's self, abound in Indo-European folklore - unfortunate addicts to the ancient Irish version called "fidchel" occasionally made the mistake of playing for keeps against wizards and ended up trapped in animal form as well.


red and white: modern readers may not be aware - as I was not prior to reading a Sayers novel involving an antique chess set - that in ancient times the traditional colors were white (stone or bone or walrus ivory, as in the Lewis chessmen) and dark red, which is an easily obtainable color from iron oxide, permanent, non-fading, and unlike black allows finely carved details to be easily seen.


Scene XI.

"our mothers": neither Feanor's wife Nerdanel nor Celebrimbor's wife approved of the Return, and chose to remain behind in Aman. We know that there was a long history of trouble between Curufin's parents, but the details of his own marriage as far as I know were never written down.


I intend here to pay homage to Primary World history in the developing storyline of The Geste here - how it evolved might be surprising to some, both what changed and what did not, and I don't pretend to either have all the elements, or to understand how they all fit together chronologically and artistically, though I do understand many of the reasons for inclusion and rejection, the various artistic tensions and narrative demands warring over the final plotline.

One significant element is the entire creation of Nargothrond, which exists, in great measure, and as it eventually is revealed, not only because of Turin's destiny. From a fall-back secondary base camp dating from the breaking of the Leaguer it becomes a great and ancient City - and Finrod becomes its King and founder - because Beren must go there. By the time of the writing of LL1 circa 1926, it is established that Orodreth was not the original ruler, but the third and youngest brother of the King (this is when Finarfin was named Finrod, and it had not been established yet that "Felagund" was an aftername, and before Galadriel was known to be their sister) and that the Sons of Feanor are guests (in fact DPs and refugees) of their cousins.

However, in some of the earlier summary outlines, Celegorm was the original founder and rightful King of Nargothrond, who had become indebted to Beren's father, and so the conflict was both more and less complex: the Oath binding him from whole-hearted assistance, he nevertheless sends a warband with Beren; and following their capture, when he takes Luthien prisoner it is less cynical, more pathetic: he explains that he has already sent his troops with Beren and cannot send more, and though he does hope that Luthien will turn to him instead, he eventually lets her go when she appeals to his conscience.

So the sense that he still retained some better nature that could be appealed to, which was not necessarily overridden by either passion or the Oath I have chosen to allow in the shading-in of Luthien's captivity in Nargothrond.


Scene XII.

Hamlet also provides us with the line "A hit, a very palpable hit" - and an example of a friendship betrayed.



"invisibility cloak": there are many forms of invisibility - sleight of hand, the ability to go unnoticed in various circumstances, camouflage - and being able to put watchers and attackers into a dreaming trance would certainly also qualify. Are there disquieting parallels to the One Ring inherent here in the story of Luthien's "tarnkappe" that I'm trying to emhasize here? You bet. (No more so, of course, than to that other famous fairy-tale trope, the story of Tattercloak and the variants, where being a ragged and unkempt eccentric conveys a certain amount of invisibility on the heroine at court - with the signal difference that Luthien doesn't have any animals killed to make her cape.)



Doriath: although the specifics of Green-elven and Grey-elven cultural borrowings and differences are my interpretation, this building of Doriath's atmosphere is straight extrapolation and often straight lifting, from the source texts. (Remember that Turin's name is cleared of Murder One in the Saeros incident when Mablung finds a witness? Who just happens to be a loner of a young lady who hangs out in trees?) The rich ethnic compostion, dense politics and layered history are all set out in Silmarillion. I've just tried, again, to shade in the sketches. As for any perceived similarities between the Wood-elves and tribal American life - I've always found it difficult to understand how so few others seem to notice this. Even before I found JRRT's own statement that, after Scandinavian stories of dragons and battles, his favorite books as a kid were stories of North American Indians, since they had almost everything he wanted in them - primeval forests, bows and arrows, and other, ancient, languages - it was obvious to me, at least, right in LOTR. (Just like the illuminating similarities - and differences - between the Rangers of Ithilian and the inhabitants of Sherwood Forest in TT.) And are the parallels with Third Age Lothlorien either unwarranted or accidental? -I at least don't think so, in either case...



Denethor: the first known to bear this name was the King of the Green-elves of Ossiriand, who came though severely outmatched to the rescue of Doriath before Melian closed it to invaders, and was killed by the Orcish army together with his heirs and household in the battle before Thingol could join up with him. Subsequently some of the Lindir chose to stay in Doriath, while others returned to Ossiriand, where they refused, for reasons unspecified, to choose another leader, and for obvious reasons never went to open war again. Most of the Third Age names of the Dunedain are Elvish in origin, though not all.



"war-orphan": this is my conjecture regarding the fact that Beleg (and Mablung too, for that matter) only use afternames. (Remember, the Silm., being translated into English from Quenya, gives the Sindarin name and the Quenya meaning after in English, as with Legolas Greenleaf in LOTR.) In LHH Beleg is called "the hunter of the hidden people," and "the son of the wilderness who wist no sire." Now in mortal terms that could as well be an implication of bastardy - yet given the standard permanence and honesty of Elven affections, that really makes no sense. However, the highly unsettled state of affairs in Beleriand during the centuries before Melian and Thingol were able to consolidate and lay the Girdle about Doriath resulted in many displaced families and casualties. I don't think it's a stretch to consider Beleg as a foundling and survivor from some early catastrophe - and that would also be reason for a close personal identification with the fatherless Turin in later years.

Another possibility - there are always other possibilities - is that for prudential reasons the native Elves of Beleriand only used a common
name in public, given the magical controls possible through names, just as the Dwarves did. But my remark on legitimacy still holds, either way.


Brethil: Just to help keep the chronology straight - two years after the Dagor Bragollach wound up, more or less, in early Spring (although it had a definite opening there was never a clear end to the offensive), is when Orodreth, who was in charge of the garrison at Minas Tirith, abandoned it before Sauron's invading forces, retreating back to Nargothrond. This had a cascade effect all across northern Beleriand, some of which has been outlined in Act II. This was another consequence, related in Silm. as well.



"summer-snow": literal translation of a Quenya word, "lairelossë," which is the name of a kind of tree. (Thanks to Ardalambion once again.)



"mutant boar": in the Lay of Leithian it's told how the Outlaws of Dorthonion were harrassed by Morgoth over the years, before Gorlim's betrayal,

                       "...and wolf and boar
        with spells of madness filled he sent
        to slay them as in the woods they went..."

I don't think it's an unwarranted assumption that similarly "enhanced" wildlife might have been sent out against other disputed borders as disposable drones.


Losgar: the location where Feanor burned the beached ships, leaving the rest of the Noldor to their own devices - which if not solely responsible for the catastrophe of the Grinding Ice, since certainly Finarfin and a significant element did choose to return and apologize for the rebellion, was at least a huge and necessary factor. This was forgiven, at least on the surface, by the followers of Fingolfin and Finrod, at the Feast of Reconciliation which transpired after Fingon's rescue of Maedhros from Angband - but Curufin was ringleader in backing up his father, and Celegorm, unlike Maedhros, didn't either object or try to dissuade him from burning the Teler flotilla.


Scene XIII.

Gower here invokes T. S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral, where many trenchant observations on the nature of power may be summed up in the following quote-

    "King, emperor, bishop, baron, king :
    Uncertain mastery of melting armies,
    War, plague, and revolution,
    New conspiracies, broken pacts;
    To be master or servant within an hour,
    This is the course of temporal power."

-a rather eye-opening thing to encounter as a teenager trying to understand the facts, foundations, and myths of authority in the Primary World, requiring a lot of mental wrestling with concepts rather contrary to popular assumptions.


The company that rides to the Nirnaeth Arnoediad under Gwindor's command in the name of the House of Finarfin, does so against Orodreth's will. Everything starts somewhere...


Scene XIV.
For the use of music for accompaniment of moods as well as their alteration in Shakespeare, see Twelfth Night,


I've known a few "mouthy" hand-holders. It's kind of sweet . . . and kind of messily inconvenient. One so hates to hurt their feelings.


"your City": ObRef to "when in Rome," of course. -One actually does have to do as the Romans when in Rome, to a certain extent, no matter how against the grain and one's upbringing it goes. (Then of course, stateside again, one has to unlearn such potentially dangerous Roman traits as crossing traffic with glorious abandon whilst disregarding the perpetually-red crossing lights, tossing one's trash onto the pavement because there are no visible barrels beneath the trash, shoving through to the counter instead of waiting for a queue to form, expecting to find nice homey inexpensive places to stay, expecting to be able to buy excellent coffee and decent fast food at any hour pretty much anywhere for reasonable prices, &c.)


Scene XV.

"adage": Another Macbeth ObRef - a play much concerned with loyalty and its reverses.


Celegorm seems like the sort of person to me who would deal with emotional stress by activity, not introspective thought.


The hounds do answer to Huan. The chain-of-command is thus made somewhat complicated, and has serious metaphyical underpinnings, but becomes all too practical later on in the story.


Scene XVI.

"gild the gold day lily" : Gower's epigram refers to the collapsed quote taken from King John, Act IV.ii, which is known in the phrase "gilding the lily", but in the original goes "as well gild refined gold, paint the lily" - and refers to the addition of a second royal title upon a firstby conquest and/or marriage. The play dealing with the matter of France and England, the symbolic lilies in which form such a theme throughout the play would in any case have been gold, the heraldic fleur-de-lys of the ancien regime. (Shakespeare's prediliction for queenly brunettes found most prominently, but not only, in the Sonnets, makes the contrasts and parallels still more apt.)


white roses: these have strong sentimental importance for the lovers, q.v. the Notes to Act II, Scene III. Probably should be envisioned as small, coin-sized, possibly single-petaled, much like the roses of heraldry - and much more fragrant than modern long-stemmed roses; driving through the wooded countryside not far from here I smelled an amazing breeze of rose-perfume, looked around for a large garden set back from the road - and found only a single large bush of quarter-sized (franc-sized) pale-pink dog roses growing wild in the trees.


Beren's objection in HOME centers on Doriathrin Sindarin being so much lovelier a language, he can't fathom why she wants to learn his.


Scene XVII.

"ceremony": ObRef to Henry V, of course. (Act IV, scene I - "thou idol ceremony" - a very appropriate passage in all ways.)


This scene is foreshadowing and reference to the information in HOME that Celebrimbor, in addition to helping to build the Gates of Khazad-dum and forging the Three Rings of Elven power, was tragically enamored of Galadriel in the Second Age. I see a spiritual kinship in art as well as troubled idealism laying the path - instead of falling for the lady's picture, as is common in old romances, more likely for one of the Eldar to fall for her painting instead.

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Last Update: 16 Aug 14
Stories: 7
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Created By: helenjones


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Story Information

Author: Philosopher At Large

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 1st Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 01/25/03

Original Post: 08/16/02

Go to Leithian Script: Act III overview