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Leithian Script: Act III: 70. Notes - Scene XLIV through end

Scene XLIV

The depiction of Luthien's Working in action is, of course, entirely gapfilling: the Lay cuts from Huan's bringing her the cape to the engagement at Tol Sirion, and the actual escape is left to our imagination, as is his retrieval of the spell-cloak. But I have derived it from the earlier escape which is recounted in detail in Canto V:

                                 Of cloudy hair
        she wove a web like misty air
        of moonless night, and thereof made
        a robe as fluttering-dark as shade
        beneath great trees, a magic dress
        that all was drenched with drowsiness,
        enchanted with a mightier spell
        than Melian's raiment in that dell
        wherein of yore did Thingol roam
        beneath the dark and starry dome
        that hung above the dawning world.
        and now this robe she round her furled
        and veiled her garments shimmering white;
        her mantle blue with jewels bright
        like crystal stars, the lilies gold,
        were wrapped and hid; and down there rolled
        dim dreams and faint oblivious sleep
        falling about her, to softly creep
        through all the air. Then swift she takes
        the threads unused; of these she makes
        a slender rope of twisted strands
        yet long and stout, and with her hands
        she makes it fast unto the shaft
        of Hirilorn. Now, all her craft
        and labour ended, looks she forth
        from her little window facing North.
               Already the sunlight in the trees
        is drooping red, and dusk she sees
        come softly along the ground below,
        and now she murmurs soft and slow.
        Now chanting clearer down she cast
        her long hair, till it reached at last
        from her window to the darkling ground.
        Men far beneath her heard the sound;
        but the slumbrous strand now swung and swayed
        above her guards. Their talking stayed,
        the listened to her voice and fell
        suddenly beneath a binding spell.

as well as from the fairy-tale that provides (like Rapunzel) a "negative inspiration" for this theme in the Geste - the image of the Castle being overwhelmed with enchanted sleep not to imprison the Princess, but in this case to ensure her escape. Stretching the parallel? Consider these earlier lines:

           Again she spake: 'Now go, I pray,
           to Melian the queen, and say:
           "thy daughter many a weary hour
           slow passing watches in her bower;
           a spinning wheel she begs thee send." '

and after commissioning her loom from Daeron,

            ...This Dairon did and asked her then,
           'O Lúthien, O Lúthien,
           What wilt thou weave? What wilt thou spin?'
           'A marvellous thread, and wind therein
           a potent magic, and a spell
           I will weave within my web that hell
           nor all the powers of Dread shall break.'
           Then Dairon wondered, but he spake
           no word to Thingol, though his heart
           feared the dark purpose of her art.

(It almost seems as though she's giving him one last chance to redeem himself, by this vague answer - not enough information that anything could really be made of it, and no specific statement of plan - daring him not to betray her one more time,  in such a way that outraged innocence could retort with perfect honesty, "Yeah, I told him I was going to see if it was possible to weave a protection spell into cloth - is there something wrong with that? Is counting leaves the only thing I'm allowed to do now?")

The "take back the night" theme which is resumed at the conclusion of LOTR is particularly strong in Leithian: the assertion that not even darkness is originally or rightfully under the control of evil, and is being reclaimed like a stolen territory by the just authority of the Powers through Melian and her daughter. Lúthien, in fact, does "own the night" - making Morgoth's defeat all that more ironic.

This setting is, I fervently hope, immediately recognizeable as Ard-galen at the Dagor Bragollach, which forms the subject of many lines throughout the Lay of Leithian: introduction of such past history into the story is by no means my own invention. Here is the opening of LL1, Canto XI:

        Once wide and smooth a plain was spread,
        where King Fingolfin proudly led
        his silver armies on the green,
        his horses white, his lances keen;
        his helmets tall of steel were hewn,
        his shields were shining as the moon.
           There trumpets sang both long and loud,
        and challenge rang unto the cloud
        that lay on Morgoth's northern tower,
        while Morgoth waited for his hour.

        Rivers of fire at dead of night
        in winter lying cold and white
        upon the plain burst forth, and high
        the red was mirrored in the sky.
        From Hithlum's walls they saw the fire,
        the steam and smoke in spire on spire
        leap up, till in confusion vast
        the stars were choked...

One of the points of this cut-scene is to serve as a reminder that Celebrimbor too is a warrior no less than an artist, who will eventually be overcome and destroyed by the same adversary they are presently refusing to face.(Unfinished Tales.)


Huan's authority over the other hounds is revealed in Canto X, when after the final irreparable breach caused by the assassination attempt on Lúthien,

           "Thereafter never hound was whelped
           Would follow horn of Celegorm
           or Curufin."

Scene XLV

More gapfilling - but there had to be considerable consternation, recrimination and embarrassment following the discovery. I've just tried to envision it plausibly and in character.

The presence of Celebrimbor in this scene is not only intended as foreshadowing of his break with the House of Fëanor, but also of much later events. As outlined in UT, he and his own followers become involved with the dominion of Galadriel and Celeborn in Eriador during the Second Age, in which under the sway of the disguised Sauron they rebel against the authority of the Lord and Lady. I've tried to reinforce the fact that despite internal conflicts Curufin's son is proud and decisive, with strengths that can be turned against him, but not passive or without critical facilities - a very typical Noldor, all in all.

Gower's epilogue: No, the equation of Lúthien with Fingolfin in his duel with Morgoth isn't mine. I made the Éowyn - Eärnur - Fingolfin linkage on my own, but I rather had to be hit over the head with this one before I began to suspect it: after all, the story of the King's duel with Morgoth only occupies a prominent place in two Cantos! But this was verified in a remark I encountered in, I believe, The Shaping of Middle Earth, where it is noted that Elven sages long debated which of the two was most valiant, going up against the Lord of Fetters. (After all, Lúthien not only went in unarmed, she acknowledged her name to the Enemy! But countered to this was the fact that she was, after all, half-Maia, and Fingolfin only a Noldor warrior, after all. So it was adjudged to be a draw.) Thus I think it's equally valid to make the comparison between one legendary hero riding up alone to the gates of the fortress, and the other.

(Yet another parallel is the arrival of the Eagles following the contest of wills: the fact that the Eagles got there in time to actually save them - thanks to Huan - is yet more validation of my argument that the singlemost critical factor in taking on Dark Lords is reliable backup.)

I also wanted to point up the fact that Lúthien was never under any self-deceiving illusions that she was (at least by any outward measure) the ideal person for the job - simply the only one willing to take it on.

            Lúthien wept not for very pain,
           and when he ceased she spoke again:
           'My friend, I have a need for friends,
           as he who a long dark journey wends,
           and fears the road, yet dare not turn
           and look back where the candles burn
           in windows he has left. The night
           in front, he doubts to find the light
           that far beyond the hills he seeks'
           And thus of Melian's words she speaks,
           and of her doom and her desire
           to climb the mountains, and the fire
           and ruin of the Northern realm
           to dare, a maiden without helm
           or sword, or strength of hardy limb,
           where magic founders and grows dim...

Part of the phrasing in this speech was inspired by Sonnet 60:

        Like as the waves make to the pebbled shore,
        so do our minutes hasten to their end,
        each changing place with that which goes before,
        in sequent toil all forwards do contend...

along with the aesthetic device used elsewhere by Shakespeare of building a rhythm of consecutive similar phrases, as in Sonnets 66 ("Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,-") and 91 ("Some glory in their birth, some in their skill") to rise to a crescendo of themes followed by counterpoint.

The Songs:

I know it's a cardinal rule of fanfiction not to create "songfics" for many good and sound reasons; I also couldn't write this Act any other way. Hopefully the "authentic" nature of the ballads employed and their application made up for breaking this rule not once, but eleven times, on the principle that if one is going to do so, let it be on a grand scale.

Editorial decisions were made after the fact - that is, I didn't sit down and think, "I need verses, which ones can I appropriately use?" but rather, while listening or singing throughout the day, would observe, "Wow, that fits far too well - but 'London' in the second line just doesn't work." Hence the first verse of Queen of Hearts was dropped partly because it wasn't as evocative in the story - but even were that not the case, would still have been ruled out due to the intrinsic reference to card games, which I at least cannot justify in First Age Middle-earth. ("To the Queen of Hearts is the Ace of Sorrows...").

Lesley Nelson's site, The Contemplator, [http://www.contemplator.com/] has a great deal of information about the traditional ballads of the British Isles and North America. I find the midi files rather over-orchestrated and too heavy on the piano, obscuring the tunes, but at least it gives a gist of the melodies.

This German site, 20,000 Volkslieder, [http://ingeb.org/folksong.html] has a lot of traditional songs, though without the provenances and background information, but the midi files, when available, are less overworked.

The Digital Tradition collection [www.mudcat.org] has huge numbers of tunes, many with midi files and sheet music, but the provenances are iffy and there's little-to-no background information. The midi files, however, are usually clean and uncluttered. I prefer this mirror site [http://sniff.numachi.com/~rickheit/dtrad/]
as easier to load.

The Internet Renaissance Band [http://www.csupomona.edu/~jcclark/emusic/index.html] doesn't have as many ballads, of course, but the arrangements are excellent and any of the midi files here will give an excellent idea of the richness of pre-classical music and introduction to the world of Early Music at no cost. "Elslein, liebes Elslein" is a particularly fine one, and were I not limiting myself to English songs for practical reasons (I'm not confident of being able to make a singable translation of anything) I would have found a way to use this in the Script somehow: "So sein zwei tiefe Wasser wohl zwischen dir und mir-" There lie two deep Waters, parting thee and me-

abc is a music language which can be used in a variety of computer applications, some of which are freeware, others shareware - but I myself use it most as a shorthand for jotting down melodies without music paper. It uses only basic ASCII characters and is extremely flexible - and you can actually sight-read it! Learn all about it at the page of Chris Walshaw, the inventor: http://www.gre.ac.uk/~c.walshaw/abc/.

Finally, I cannot recommend the old recordings by Joan Baez highly enough. It isn't simply that they are historical artifacts of the beginnings of the reclamation of traditional music in recent decades - they are spectacular renderings of the old songs, cleanly and clearly performed. (The one danger is that they will likely make you impatient of sloppy vocallists with indistinct articulation and poor quality-control.) Growing up hearing these around the house helped to create mental linkages between "real life" and the mythopoeic that are not without a great deal of responsibility for what you are currently reading - her versions highlight the story of the ballads and the drama that is created through the combination of simple dialogue and stock imagery.


The setting, and the window-like murals I've devised, are intentionally evocative of the betrayal scene in LL1, where Luthien climbs one of the tallest trees in Doriath to look at the distant mountains of the north, while Daeron has gone directly to her father after assuring her that he will help her in her aim. Also note the Eagles in the distance - a deliberate reference to future events, and not just there to fill such blank space.

Lúthien's costume is taken straight from the description of her escape in LL1, Canto V, and modeled in part on the illustrations of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema; Finduilas' gown has overtones of the Art-Nouveau Medieval styles inspired by William Morris' Arts and Crafts movement (and everyone knows such dresses are held up by magic.)

The fact that Lúthien's haircut hides her ears is not accidental, either, any more than the invocations of Lothlórien in the visual design of the set.

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Last Update: 16 Aug 14
Stories: 7
Type: Reader List
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

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