Op. 47 - Beren and Lúthien, The Silmarillion Part Two
Artwork by kind permission of Ted Nasmith
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Tolkien’s writings on the subject of Beren and Lúthien are many and complex, and go back to the very earliest days of his work on the mythology. There is a very early Tale (one of the Lost Tales) which maintains very little of the tone or content of the later development (in it, indeed, Beren is an Elf and not a Man) and this is of no use whatsoever in the context of the musical cycle. The main development of the legend then took place through The Lay of Leithian, a very long narrative poem which Tolkien wrote at intervals during the 1920s and then extensively revised (especially in the early stages) during the early 1950s. From this were derived a number of prose redactions which formed the main basis of the published Silmarillion text, but there were also additional passages inserted into that text which derived from the Grey Annals. Finally, there was another prose version of the beginning of the story, clearly written after the revised Lay of Leithian and forming in many places a paraphrase of the poem. This, as will be seen, not only furnished some material for the text in the first two scenes, but also formed a model for later redevelopment of the poetic material in later scenes. I must express here my thanks to Christopher Tolkien who took time to read through the proposed redrafted material and furnish some of Tolkien’s own unpublished drafts for comparison where comparisons were possible, and the drafts actually existed. The final form of the text is however my own, and has no warrant other than that.
It may be asked why it was necessary to make paraphrases of the original verse at all. There were a number of reasons, some purely practical and others stylistic. In the first place, the verses did not all lend themselves to setting without some reduction, and cutting eliminated the rhymes altogether; there were also places where the ends of lines, and the rhymes, consisted not of direct speech but phrases such as “quoth he”, and elimination of these again eliminated the rhyme. Secondly, I wished to import some passages from the Silmarillion text, and once this was done the prose passages stuck out rather baldly in the midst of the surrounding verse. Thirdly, the verse Lay of Leithian gives out before the story is completed, and therefore willy-nilly the end of the drama would have to be in prose: in fact, in some of the most beautiful and haunting prose that Tolkien ever wrote.
Even more importantly, there was the matter of tone. Certain passages, such as the verses which formed the three love duets for Beren and Lúthien (one in each triptych), were eminently suited to music as they stood and could be left virtually untouched. But other passages, and most notably the whole of the speeches allocated to Sauron and Morgoth, also were in verse; and it seemed inappropriate that the evil should express itself in the same manner as the good. It is noteworthy that in his unpublished paraphrase of the verse, Tolkien gives the speech of the Orc-leader who kills Barahir (a passage cut altogether from this musical setting) a much more vicious and “orcish” tone than in the verse, although the general content of the passage is almost identical. It seems very likely that he would have taken a similar line with the passages for Sauron and Morgoth later in the Lay; as, indeed, he does in the short passages for Sauron and Gorlim which do exist both in verse and prose forms. It therefore became desirable to speculatively render some of the verse passages into a prose form, and this was done throughout the Sixth and Seventh Scenes. Other scenes—the end of Scene Six, the whole of Scene Three and the greater part of Scene Eight—were left in verse form, although in some cases passages were transposed from the older drafts, and two whole poems were imported from similar situations in The Lord of the Rings where the Lay of Leithian lacked material or was incomplete.
The prologue material is drawn entirely from the published text of The Silmarillion, with some minor paraphrase turning indirect into direct speech. The first scene, the interrogation of Gorlim by Sauron, exists in full in the unpublished paraphrase, and in places this itself contradicts the text in The Silmarillion deriving from other versions of the story drafted at the same time. I have conflated the various sources in a manner which I hope is found convincing, although it may perhaps be doubted that Sauron’s final words would have taken the form I give them in a final version made by Tolkien himself; The Silmarillion and its constituent texts have “and thou shalt go to her, and be made free of my service” while the unpublished paraphrase (deriving in turn directly from the revised Lay of Leithian) says “and thou shalt to Eilinel, and lie with her, and know no more of peace or war.”
The phrase and lie with her draws attention to one very interesting point about the whole tale of Beren and Lúthien; it is the only work by Tolkien, I think, in which overt sexual and erotic passion plays a major part. Not just in the love story which forms the central part of the tale; Morgoth’s infatuation with Lúthien, his willingness to spare her and listen to her song, is in all versions of the story attributed to sexual desire. So it seems only appropriate that Sauron, in telling Gorlim that his wife is dead, should light upon a phrase with immediate and obvious sexual overtones. I make the point here, purely because it is something very unusual in Tolkien (other treatments of love elsewhere in Tolkien are dealt with in an entirely different manner) and because it does not appear to have been observed by any other commentators, especially those who accuse Tolkien’s writing of being sexless.
Again in the second scene recourse is made to the unpublished paraphrase, but Gorlim’s speech as a wraith is left in the original verse. Beren’s opening “aria” is derived from verse given in the Lay of Leithian, much later in the story, to Lúthien, and this does not exist in any version by Tolkien himself; Christopher Tolkien made one suggestion for the form of the prose in this passage, which I have gratefully adopted; the remainder of the paraphrase is my own. The description of the manner in which Beren perceives Gorlim’s wraith (given to the chorus) is derived from Tolkien’s own paraphrase. Beren’s second “aria” (in fact a development of the first, almost a cabaletta following the middle section formed by Gorlim’s warning!) is left in its original verse, but again transposed from indirect to direct speech; the following passage for the chorus begins as verse from The Lay of Leithian, and transforms itself progressively into prose deriving from The Silmarillion.
The third scene is something unique in the whole of the cycle: a single poem enclosing a number of short scenes, the poem sung by the chorus and the short scenes by the soloists. The symphonic nature of the whole is emphasised by the repetition of musical phrases in extenso, including a sort of simultaneous recapitulation before the last verse of the poem, and by the fact that the text of the poem is set in a ballad fashion to a repeated melody which does not occur elsewhere. The poem itself is the song sung by Aragorn under Weathertop in The Fellowship of the Ring: a poem specifically about Beren and Lúthien, and centred on the scene which is now being enacted. This is Tolkien’s own work, a ballad continually reworded and refined until its publication in The Lord of the Rings. As such it is left entirely unaltered. Lúthien’s verse in Elvish is that given in the revised Lay of Leithian (including its distinct and different metre); I have attempted to set it, not just as a fragment of Elvish in an unknown tongue, but as a living song reflecting the meaning of the words menel (heavens), ennorath (star-kindler), and so on, much of this derived from Tolkien’s own published glosses on the Elvish in The Lord of the Rings given in his useful appendix to Donald Swann’s song-cycle The Road goes ever on.
Beren’s first “scene” is a straight setting of a later passage in The Lay of Leithian, but when Lúthien responds with her invitation to the dance, the verse passage is too short to be satisfactory. Fortunately C S Lewis’s criticism of the early drafts of The Lay of Leithian provides a useful expansion of this very passage, which Tolkien later cut. For the sake of balance it was necessary to delve into the author’s waste-paper basket and salvage the original version of the verse. Beren’s second “scene” again derives from The Lay of Leithian, now reverting to the original version since Tolkien’s own 1950s revision comes to a halt just before this point.
The text for the fourth scene which opens the Second Triptych is drawn in its entirety from the published Silmarillion, with very little cutting or other alteration. Beren’s opening remarks to Finrod in Scene Five are drawn from another passage of The Lay of Leithian: in fact, Lúthien talking to Huan the wolfhound (who, singing dogs not generally being found in this all too mortal world, can find no place in the context of dramatic staging), paraphrased to fit in with its context; the remainder of the scene again draws from the published Silmarillion, but the repeat of the Oath of the Sons of Fëanor uses the same text as in its original appearance in Fëanor itself.
The sixth scene takes us away from the published Silmarillion text to a far greater extent. The opening colloquy between Sauron and the supposed Orcs “Dungalef” and “Nereb” in The Lay of Leithian has been extensively reworked into prose, although the original material is left largely undisturbed. When the chorus enters to tell of the contest in wizardry between Sauron and Finrod, the published Silmarillion quotes a section of the poetic Lay; and so, entering the same narrative mode, does the chorus. The following scene between Finrod and Beren, with Sauron interrupting their discussion, again draws from the Lay, and again is rendered into prose. The passage of Finrod’s death comes from the published Silmarillion.
The text then goes on to tell of the song sung by Beren in praise of the stars, which Lúthien overheard and answered, frustratingly enough not given even in the Lay (where it would seem to be extremely apposite!). At first it was my intention merely to omit the song and proceed directly to Lúthien overhearing Beren below (although exactly what she would have heard would have been problematical); and it was only at a very late stage that it occurred to me that there was a passage elsewhere in Tolkien where one person was searching for another imprisoned in a tower, sang a song of hope (which actually mentioned starlight), and heard a response which led them to what they sought. The one person was, however, as far removed from Lúthien as it would be possible to imagine: Samwise Gamgee, the hobbit searching for his master Frodo in the Tower of Cirith Ungol. At first the idea of using Sam’s song for Beren and Lúthien seemed impossible; but, as Sam observed, they were all really part of the same story. And Sam’s song does seem to fit, with one small alteration: Sam’s merry finches are metamorphosed into Lúthien’s nightingales. In this context, Lúthien sings the first verse and Beren replies; it is this reply that brings Lúthien to him.
In the original tale (through all its various manifestations) Lúthien overcomes Sauron by the intervention of the wolfhound Huan. Huan, as has been observed earlier, could only have been rendered onstage by being rendered absurd; so Sauron rises to meet Lúthien and capture her, and is then next seen conquered. He keeps his poetic apostrophe to the powers of darkness (in the Lay of Leithian this came earlier, as a vow imposed by him on his servants) in its most powerful original verse. And the original verse remains also when Lúthien finds Beren and they sing of their love for each other: the second “love duet”, which closes the second Triptych. The final words of the duet are, however, in prose; the first passage, for Beren, comes from the text of the published Silmarillion; Lúthien’s reply is also from the same source but uses transposed words originally given to Huan.
Having said that the wolfhound Huan would be absurd onstage, it next falls to the composer to defend the onstage appearance of the giant wolf Carcharoth at the beginning of the Third Triptych. There are only limited defences available: it was possible (just) to do without Huan, but it was not possible at all to do without Carcharoth, who bites off Beren’s hand and later kills him: and Carcharoth does not have to do anything except appear and attack, unlike Huan who has to react with the other characters and speak to them. Like Glaurung in The Children of Húrin, he is kept to the back of the stage, hopefully only semi-visible; any producer who makes a point of stressing the presence of either does so in defiance of the composer’s intentions. The same applies to Morgoth, when he appears; a dimly glimpsed shadow is far more effective than any all too tangible monster.
When Morgoth does appear, his words and Lúthien’s replies are drawn entirely from The Lay of Leithian, but again for the reasons already given are transposed into prose. The passage following Lúthien’s dance describing the bewilderment of Morgoth, given to the chorus, are taken direct from the published Silmarillion; the short verse passage for Lúthien as she rouses Beren comes from the Lay, and the final section of the scene reverts once more to the prose Silmarillion text.
At this point Tolkien’s verse for The Lay of Leithian gives out (except for one short fragment, which will be referred to later). The scene where Beren and Lúthien meet again in the spring therefore lacks any text. Resort is therefore made to an earlier passage in the Lay, where Beren leaves on a solitary quest leaving Lúthien asleep, and her response when she finds him again: that she will follow wherever he goes. The meaning here is different, for Beren is to die and Lúthien is to follow him to death; but the sentiments are almost identical, and this therefore provides the third “love duet” which forms the bulk of Scene Eight. The final words of the scene come from the published Silmarillion text again.
One of the most haunting passages in all Tolkien is his prose description of the Halls of Waiting whither Lúthien comes in search of Beren. This forms the opening of Scene Nine. The passage has its echoes in the fragment, referred to in the previous paragraph, which Tolkien sketched at the end of the Lay of Leithian as “a fragment from the end of the poem”. Lúthien’s song before Mandos is nowhere given, but the haunting “fragment” gives a glimpse of what might have been. The final words of the work however return to Aragorn’s song under Weathertop, and to the music of the end of the First Triptych, binding the whole into a musical as well as dramatic unity.
PAUL CORFIELD GODFREY
3 Flutes (1st Flute also on stage, 3rd Flute doubling Piccolo)
3 Bassoons (3rd Bassoon with extension to play low A)
2 Tenor Trombones
Three Percussion Players (Side Drum, Tenor Drum, Bass Drum, Tabor, Tamborine, Cymbals, Triangle, Gong, Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Vibraphone, Wind, Thunder)
Pianoforte (doubling Celesta)
12 First Violins
12 Second Violins
6 Double Basses
Valar and Maiar:
MORGOTH (Bass), the Enemy
SAURON (Bass), his servant
MANDOS (Silent), Lord of the Realm of Death
MELIAN (Mezzo-soprano), Queen of Doriath
THINGOL GREYCLOAK (Bass), King of Doriath
LÚTHIEN TINÚVIEL (Soprano), daughter of Thingol and Melian
FINROD FELAGUND (Lyric Tenor), King of Nargothrond
BEREN (Lyric Baritone) son of Barahir
GORLIM (Character Tenor) son of Angrim, one of his followers
Mixed chorus of Unseen Voices and followers of the sons of Fëanor
Prior to the events of this installment, during the Elves initial journey across Middle-Earth after their awakening, the Elf Thingol comes across Melian, a powerful spirit in physical form known as a Maia, and the two fall in love. Her magic keeps him hidden from the rest of his kin and he stays behind in Middle-Earth to wed her. Thingol and Melian create the kingdom of Doriath and Melian uses her magic to protect the realm so that none can enter without permission. Many years later the second born children of Illúvatar start to awaken, the Race of Men. Morgoth attempts to corrupt them to his cause but many resist and join forces with the Elves to try and rid Middle-Earth of his influence.
The Battle of Sudden Flame. (Prologue)
In the Battle of Sudden Flame, the Dagor Bragollach, the long siege of Angband is broken by Morgoth; the Elvenking Finrod Felagund is saved by the intervention of the mortal Beren son of Barahir, to whom he gives a ring and swears an oath promising him assistance in the event of any future need.
The Death of Gorlim. (Scene One)
After Finrod returns to his kingdom of Nargothrond, Sauron the servant of Morgoth captures Gorlim, one of Beren’s followers. He promises to release his wife from captivity if Gorlim will betray the whereabouts of Beren. The information is given, but Sauron nevertheless has him killed.
The Wraith (Scene Two)
Beren is in hiding near the lake of Tarn Aeluin. He is visited by an apparition of the ghost of Gorlim, who warns of his betrayal urging him to flee. Beren vows vengeance, and escapes into the wilds.
The Nightingale (Scene Three)
Beren’s journey comes to an end in the woodlands of Doriath. A distant flute is heard in the woods as the elven princess Lúthien begins her dance. The sudden appearance of Beren startles her, and she flees into the forest. Beren is abandoned, but she soon reappears and invites him to join in her dance. Beren gradually approaches her, calling her Elvish name, Tinúviel (Nightingale) and as the distant flute is heard once more she sinks into his arms.
The Vow (Scene Four)
The couple come to the court of Thingol, Lúthien’s father. The latter challenges Beren to explain his presence, but learning that he desires the hand of his daughter threatens him with death. Thingol’s immortal wife Melian warns him that he may not kill Beren, whose fate is wound with his; and Thingol declares that he will only yield Lúthien to Beren if the latter will bring him a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown. After Beren has agreed and left on his apparently hopeless quest, Melian observes that Thingol has doomed either his daughter or himself.
The Promise Fulfilled (Scene Five)
Beren seeks the assistance of Finrod Felagund, who describes the dangers that are involved in his quest. He seeks the aid of his people, but the sons of Fëanor repeat their Oath of vengeance on any who seeks to withhold a Silmaril from them as the rightful owners of the jewels; and none of the Elves of Nargothrond will follow their king. Finrod abandons his throne and sets forth with Beren.
The Rescue (Scene Six)
Sauron confronts Finrod and Beren, who are disguised as Orcs, asking them for information. He strips their concealment from them in a contest of enchantments and confines them in a dungeon. There Finrod is killed by a wolf as he tries to protect Beren. He dies, bidding Beren farewell. Beren hears the distant voice of Lúthien who has come to rescue him. She overcomes Sauron and banishes him; and then, finding Beren, declares that she will undertake his quest alongside him despite the dangers.
The Dark Throne (Scene Seven)
Beren and Lúthien make their way to Angband using Lúthien enchantments to conceal themselves as servant of Morgoth. At the gates they encounter Carcharoth, the Wolf of Angband, and cast him into slumber. They descend to confront Morgoth, who conceives in his heart a desire for Lúthien. She dances before him, but then casts a spell over him and his court rendering them unconscious. Beren cuts a Silmaril from Morgoth’s iron crown, but the roused Carcharoth then bites off his hand and swallows both that and the jewel.
The Escape (Scene Eight)
Beren and Lúthien, aided by the eagles, flee Angband and return to Doriath. The mortally wounded Beren bids farewell to the earth and to his love, but Lúthien tells him that she will follow him wherever he goes. Thingol enters to seek his prize, but Beren succumbs to his wounds.
The Pity of Mandos (Scene Nine)
Without her love Lúthien withers, dies and her soul passes to the Halls of Mandos. She sings a song of such sorrow and beauty before him that he grants both her and Beren a return to life for the duration of their mortal spans.
The Return to Life (Epilogue)
The lovers return to Middle-Earth to start their renewed lives together.
Text by J R R TOLKIEN
extracted from The Silmarillion, The Lays of Beleriand (edited by C R Tolkien) and The Lord of the Rings
used by kind permission of the estate of the late
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and HarperCollinsPublishers
PAUL CORFIELD GODFREY ©2021
The Battle of Sudden Flame (Prologue)
The Curtain rises into a scene covered in dense mist
Dagor Bragollach, the Battle of Sudden Flame!*
Fires erupt through the mist, at first spasmodically and then in increasing brightness. As dark shadows against the flames, shapes move: an army, bent on conquest.
Slowly, like a cloud, the Shadow rolled from the North.
On the proud, that would not yield, the vengeance of Morgoth fell;
to death or thraldom all the North was doomed beneath his ghastly hand.
His hosts he armed with spears of steel and brands of flame,
and at their heels the wolf walked and the serpent crept with lidless eyes.
In the near foreground a group of warriors stand alone, isolated against the ghastly forces of Morgoth that surround them. At their head is the Elvenking Finrod Felagund, and by his side stands the mortal man Beren son of Barahir with twelve companions, among whom is Gorlim.
Now forth leaped his ruinous legions, kindling war in field and forest and fenland.
And in the fen of reedy Serech stood at bay Finrod
with a small force in the day of defeat;
and Beren son of Barahir with his people came up
with the bravest of his men to rescue him.
And they cut their way out of the battle with great loss.
The forces of Morgoth are driven towards the back of the stage. Finrod comes to Beren, who stands leaning on his sword.
An oath I shall swear, of abiding friendship and aid in every need;
and this oath I shall freely fulfil, even if I go down into the darkness.
He gives Beren his ring in token of this promise, and leads his Elvish forces away to the back. The front of the stage vanishes into total darkness. Finrod turns at the summit of the hill towards the back and raises his arm in salute,
before he too vanishes into the mist and gloom.
* THE BATTLE OF SUDDEN FLAME (or DAGOR BRAGOLLACH): One of the great battles of the war against MORGOTH who broke a long siege of his stronghold of ANGBAND by sending out massive rivers of flame into the forces of ELVES and MEN, with great loss of life and the destruction of almost all of the HOUSE OF BËOR.
The Death of Gorlim (Scene One)
The fires die down, and below at the front of the stage a deep pit is slowly revealed.
Thus Felagund escaped, and returned to his dark fortress of Nargothrond*;
and there abode, unconquered still and defying the sleepless hate of Morgoth.
But Gorlim was enslaved, his house plundered and forsaken;
and he was brought into the dreadful presence of Sauron, the Dark Lord.
Gorlim is now seen, chained and fettered to the sides of the pit at the front of the stage. Above the pit is seen a dark and brooding form, that of Sauron.
Wouldst thou forsake thy life,
who with a few words might win release for Eilinel** thy wife,
and go in peace and dwell forever forsaking war?
Eilinel, Eilinel! I cannot forsake you.
I cannot linger, cold and loveless as a barren stone!
So thou wouldst bargain with me?
What is thy price?
That I may find my Eilinel again, and with her be set free.
That is a small price for so great a treachery. So shall it surely be. Say on!
Where may the rebel Beren now be found?
He advances to the very edge of the pit. Gorlim recoils in his fetters, but is drawn to look into the daunting eyes of Sauron who stares grimly into his face.
Thou base and cringing worm!
Now drink the cup that I have sweetly blended for a fool!
Thou art deluded by a phantom, made to snare thy lovesick wits.
Thy Eilinel is long since dead, food for worms less vile than thou.
Nonetheless I shall grant thy prayer; and thou shalt go now unto Eilinel,
and lie in her bed and be set free of my service, and be released from pain and war!
He signs to his creatures, who descend to Gorlim in the pit. They close in on the chained man, and then one holds up his head. Sauron smiles. Sudden darkness.
* NARGOTHROND: FINROD FELAGUND has constructed a great underground fortress as a defence against MORGOTH where he rules as King of a mighty realm.
** GORLIM AND EILINEL: GORLIM, one of the followers of the exiled BEREN, has fallen into the power of MORGOTH’s servant SAURON after being enchanted by a vision of his wife EILINEL whom he believes is also being kept captive.
The Wraith (Scene Two)
Mists begin once more to swirl across the scene.
But still there remained in hiding cold Beren, once a prince of men,
of land bereft and lordship shorn,
now lurking as an outlaw in the grey woodland.
Through moor and marsh, by tree and briar
he wandered under leaves alone and sorrowing.
Shadows of trees standing by the shore of a stagnant lake are thrown through the mists.
I hear rumour of the strength of Morgoth, and my food is nigh spent.
Gorlim in the woods is now astray or dead.
I wandered long in shadows deep where the dead dwell;
already hill and dale are shaken.
The hunt is up, the prey is wild!
And Orcs and phantoms prowl and peer from tree to tree,
and every shade and hollow is filled with terror.
The road is long.
He falls unconscious by the border of the lake.
A great darkness of sleep came upon him,
and it seemed to him that he came up out of the deep waters
as a man that is drowning.
Beside the lake, carrion birds sat thick as leaves in the naked trees upon its brink,
and blood dripped from their beaks.
Then he was aware of a shadow that came towards him across the water.
A red glow glimmers in the distance; and in the ghastly illumination a wraith-like form drifts slowly across the surface of the lake.
Gorlim I was, but now a wraith of will defeated, broken faith, traitor betrayed.
Go! Stay not here!
Awaken, son of Barhir, and haste!
for Morgoth’s fingers close upon your throat;
he knows your paths, your trysts, your secret lair.
The fires suddenly go out, and the wraith vanishes. A cold daylight fills the stage, in which the dead trees hang desolately in the mists by the lake shore. Beren rises.
Thy death I will avenge, even though my fate should lead at last to Angband’s gate!
No more shall hidden bowstring sing, no more shall shaven arrows wing!
No more my hunted head shall lie upon the heath beneath the angry sky.
In winter’s night the houseless North he left behind,
and stealing forth the leaguer of his watchful foe he passed;
a shadow on the snow, a swirl of wind, and he was gone.
The Nightingale (Scene Three)
The mists have once again covered the scene in darkness.
Southward he turned, and south away
through valleys woven with deceit and washed with waters bitter-sweet
dark forces lurked in gulf and glen, where horror and madness walked;
and spiders spun their unseen webs in which all living creatures were ensnared,
and monsters wandered there that were born in the long dark
before the coming of the Sun, hunting silently with many eyes*.
Slowly moonlight, clean and wholesome, begins to filter from above. A woodland glade, heavy with the scent of spring, is slowly disclosed. Hemlocks lie across the edge of the glade, and swift waters run through it.
The leaves were long, the grass was green, the hemlock-umbrels tall and fair,
and in the glade a light was seen of stars in shadow glimmering.
A movement through the trees is suddenly seen as Lúthien runs into the moonlight. She pauses for a moment, listening; and the voice of pipes like the sound of distant nightingales fills the air as she begins to dance.
Tinúviel** was dancing there to music of a pipe unseen
and light of stars was in her hair and in her raiment shimmering.
Ir Ithil ammon Eruchín menel-vîr síla díriel
The Father raised the moon and the white-shining infinite heavens
si loth a galadh lasto dîn!
and the blossoms here beneath the leaves of the trees!
A Hir Annun gilthoniel,
O Queen of the West who kindled the stars,
le linnon im Tinúviel!
I sing to you here like a nightingale!
Another movement is seen through the trees, this time towards the front. Beren, weary and hardly able to stagger along, blunders into the edge of the glade and stops suddenly as if enchanted.
Enchantment healed his weary feet that over hills were doomed to roam;
and forth he hastened, strong and fleet, and grasped at moonbeams glistening.
Beren starts towards the dancing elf-maiden in the glade, but she with sudden movement eludes him and vanishes into the trees.
Through woven woods in Elvenhome she fled on lightly dancing feet,
and left him lonely still to roam in the silent forest listening.
Slowly the sundering flood rolls past!
To this my long way comes at last:
a hunger and a loneliness, enchanted waters pitiless.
The trees begin to move; and in their movement Lúthien is then and again glimpsed, sometimes near and sometimes far, but ever dancing.
He heard there oft the flying sound of feet as light as linden-leaves,
or water welling underground in hidden hollows quivering.
Her mantle glistened in the moon, as on a hill-top high and far she danced,
and at her feet were strewn the mists of silver wavering.
Come, dance now Beren, dance with me! the wild and headlong maze
they dance who dwell beyond the ways that lead to the ways of men;
teach the feet of Lúthien!
Beren starts after her into the forest, and the glade remains empty. As if lifted from the enchantment of spring, a sudden winter descends on the scene.
Now withered lay the hemlock-sheaves, and one by one with sighing sound
whispering fell the beechen leaves in the wintry woodland shivering.
Beren once more emerges into the glade, but the winter landscape remains.
He sought her ever, wandering far where leaves of years were thickly strewn,
by light of moon and ray of star in frosty heavens quivering.
Where art thou gone? the day is bare, the sunlight dark, and cold the air!
Tinúviel, where went thy feet?
O wayward star! O maiden sweet! O flower of Elvendom, too fair for mortal heart!
The woods are bare! Ere spring were born, the spring hath died!
Lúthien suddenly emerges into the glade, and halts half in amazement and half in desire, looking intently at Beren; then, suddenly, she turns to run once more into the trees.
Again she fled, but swift he came.
He called her by her Elvish name, and there she halted listening.
Lúthien remains as though transfixed as Beren moves Slowly towards her.
One moment stood she, and a spell his voice laid on her; Beren came,
and doom fell on Tinúviel that in his arms lay glistening.
The spring sights, sounds and scents once more fill the forest.
As Beren looked into her eyes within the shadows of her hair,
the trembling starlight of the skies he saw there mirrored shimmering.
Tinúviel the elven-fair immortal maiden elven-wise
about him cast her shadowy hair and arms like silver glimmering.
Darkness enshrouds them as they fall into a long embrace.
The Curtain falls very slowly.
* BEREN ENTERS DORIATH: BEREN crossing the borders of DORIATH and GIRDLE OF MELIAN without the knowledge of THINGOL or MELIAN is the fulfilment of a prophecy that “one of Men shall indeed come; and the Girdle of Melian shall not restrain him, for doom greater than my power shall send him. And the songs that shall spring from that coming shall endure when all Middle-earth is changed.” In Scene Two of The War of Wrath, which is set many years before this scene, we witness MELIAN receiving this foresight.
** TINÚVIEL: The ELVEN word for “nightingale” and a name given to LÚTHIEN.
The Vow (Scene Four)
The moonlit glade, as before. Thingol is enthroned on high to the right of the stage with Melian at his side. Before him stand Beren and Lúthien, hand in hand.
Who are you that come hither as a thief,
and unbidden dare to approach my throne?
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! 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 your insolence and folly?
My fate alone, 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 would possess for ever.
Neither rock, nor steel, nor the fires of Morgoth,
nor all the powers of the elven-kingdoms, shall keep me from the treasure I desire.
For Lúthien your daughter is above gold and silver and beyond all jewels.
There is a stunned silence; the courtiers surrounding Thingol make a convulsive movement, and then remain still.
THINGOL [in a cold tone]
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.
Death you can give me earned or unearned;
but the name I will not take from you of baseborn, nor spy, nor thrall.
By the ring of Finrod Felagund that he gave to me on the battlefield of the North,
my house has not earned such names from any Elf, be he king or no.
He takes the ring of Finrod from his hand and holds it up before the court. Melian leans in haste over to Thingol.
Forego your wrath; for not by you shall Beren be slain.
Far and free does his fate lead him in the end, and yet it is wound with yours. Take heed!
THINGOL [looking at Lúthien, to himself]
Unhappy men, children of little lords and brief kings,
shall such as these lay hands on you and yet live?
[to Beren] I see the ring, son of Barahir,
and I perceive that you are proud and deem yourself mighty.
But deeds alone avail not to win 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 the powers of the elven-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 the earth lie within the Silmarils,
yet you shall hold me generous.
For little price do Elvenkings sell their daughters; for gems, and things made by craft.
But if this be your will, I shall perform it.
And when we meet again my hand shall hold a Silmaril from the Iron Crown;
for you have not looked the last on Beren son of Barahir.
He turns and leaves through the forest, while Lúthien looks in fear after him. Then the other elves lead her away in the opposite direction, and Thingol and Melian descend from their thrones into the centre of the glade.
O king, you have designed 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 doomed either your daughter, or yourself.
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 Doriath,
he should not have looked again upon the light of heaven, though I had sworn it.
* THINGOL’S OATH: The oath THINGOL mentions here refers to one he made to his daughter just prior to this scene: not to slay BEREN for entering DORIATH without his leave, but to allow him plead his case to the King.
** THE IRON CROWN: Upon returning to ANGBAND after the theft of the SILMARILS, MORGOTH forges a crown and sets the three gems into it. Due to the magic of ELBERETH this process leaves his hands horribly burnt and this is why he is sometimes referred to as “The Black Hand”.
The Promise Fulfilled (Scene Five)
In the upper stage Finrod is seen seated upon his throne in Nargothrond; before him as a suppliant stands Beren, the ring of Finrod held up before him.
My lord, I have a need of friends,
as one who treads a dark journey and fears the road,
yet dares not turn and look back on the lights he has left.
There is naught but night before me,
and I doubt to find the light I seek far beyond the hills.
It is plain that Thingol desires your death;
for not all the power of the elves has ever availed
even to see from afar the shining Silmarils of Fëanor.
For they are set in the Iron Crown, and treasured in Angband above all wealth;
and spirits of flame are about them, and countless swords, and strong bars,
and unassailable walls, and the dark majesty of Morgoth.
And they are cursed with an oath of hatred,
and he that even names them in desire moves a great power from slumber.
Yet my oath also holds; and thus we are all ensnared.
The sons of Fëanor* now become visible, standing in revolt before the throne of the King
Be he friend or foe or foul offspring of Morgoth Bauglir,
be he mortal dark that in after days on earth shall dwell,
shall no law nor love nor league of powers nor might nor mercy nor moveless fate,
defend him forever from the fierce vengeance of the sons of Fëanor.
Whoso seize or steal or finding keep the fair enchanted globes of crystal
whose glory dies not, the Silmarils, is cursed forever!
Finrod stands and, taking his crown from his head, casts it down before his feet.
Your oaths of faith to me you may break, but I must hold my bond.
Yet, if there be any on whom the shadow of our curse has not yet fallen,
I should find at least a few to follow me,
and should not go forth as a beggar that is thrust from the gates.
But the people of Nargothrond turn from him and depart; Beren alone remains, and turning he raises Finrod’s crown from the ground.
O King, to leave this realm is now our fate, but not to lose your rightful lordship.
For you remain my king, and theirs, whatever may betide.
Finrod turns and places his crown above the vacant throne. The upper stage once more is shrouded in darkness.
* THE SONS OF FËANOR: At this point the SONS are still on their quest to retrieve the SILMARILS by waging war against MORGOTH. This places them as uneasy allies with the NOLDOR and SINDAR, which is the reason why some of their number are present in NARGOTHROND.
The Rescue (Scene Six)
Fires begin to blaze at the back of the scene and evil shapes appear to move through the darkness. A sudden blaze like a searchlight freezes and catches Beren and Finrod in the centre of the stage; they pull their cloaks about them to hide their identities*, but the shadow of Sauron appears lowering above them. Both cower.
Where have you been, and what have you seen?
We have seen tears and distress,
burning fires and flowing blood;
the ravens sit and the owl cries where we have been.
Tell me then, what befalls in Elvenesse?
Who reigns now in Nargothrond, if you dared enter that realm?
Only its borders, where King Finrod Felagund rules.
Then heard you not that he is gone?
Then Orodreth sits upon his throne.
Sharp and swift are your ears, to get tidings of realms you did not enter!
And what of that domain where robber Thingol and his outlaw folk
cringe and crawl beneath the forests of drear Doriath
Have you heard nothing of the fair Lúthien?
Morgoth would possess that fair white body.
But your captain looks fierce, his face is grim!
Why is he troubled to think of his master crushing Lúthien in his hoard,
that what once was clean should be foul,
and that what once was light should be darkened?
Who is Sauron, to hinder our work?
We serve you not, nor owe you obedience; and we now would go.
Patience! you need not abide very long; but first you shall hear me.
He advances towards the centre of the stage and unveils his cloak. Finrod and Beren shrink back in dread.
He chanted a song of wizardry, of piercing, opening,
of treachery, revealing, uncovering, betraying.
Finrod suddenly throws aside his disguise and advances to meet Sauron.
Then suddenly Felagund there swaying sang in answer a song of staying,
resisting, battling against power,
of secrets kept, strength like a tower, and trust unbroken, freedom, escape.
Beren, turning in terror from the contest of Finrod and Sauron, creeps backwards into a dark pit which opens at the front of the stage.
Backwards and forwards swayed their song.
Reeling and foundering, as ever more strong the chanting swelled,
Felagund fought. Then the gloom gathered; a vast smoke rushed forth,
and Finrod fell before the throne.
Mists have veiled the whole scene, including the form of Sauron. All that is dimly visible is the pit, with the shapes of Beren and Finrod huddled in despair.
It would be little loss if I were dead; and I am minded all to tell,
and so perchance to save your life.
I set you free from your old oath,
for you have endured more for me than ever was deserved.
O Beren, Beren! have you not learned that Sauron’s promises are frail as breath?
From this dark yoke of pain shall neither of us ever escape with Sauron’s consent,
whether he learn our names or no.
And we should drink yet deeper of torment,
if he knew he that the son of Barahir and Felagund were his captives;
even worse, if he should know our dreadful errand.
The voice of Sauron is suddenly heard from the blackness above.
True, true the word I heard you speak!
It would be little loss if he were dead, the outlaw mortal.
But the undying Elvenking could suffer much that no man might endure.
Perchance, ere all is done, I shall know your errand also.
The wolf is hungry, the hour is nigh; Beren need not wait for death.
A large grey wolf suddenly appears out of the darkness and advances on Beren. Finrod with a mighty effort advances to meet it, and struggles with the monster. With his bare hands he succeeds in breaking the wolf’s neck; but with a dying lunge the wolf buries its teeth in Finrod’s chest and he falls back into Beren’s arms dying.
Farewell, my friend and comrade!
I go now to my long rest in the timeless halls beyond the seas and the mountains.
It may be that we shall not meet again in death or life,
for the fates of our kindreds** are apart. Farewell!
He dies. Beren lowers his head over his body in grief; darkness covers the pit. Sauron alone stands shrouded in gloom in the middle of the stage; then a distant voice is heard from above.
In western lands beneath the Sun the flowers may rise in Spring,
the trees may bud, the waters run, the nightingales sing.
Or there maybe ’tis cloudless night and swaying beeches bear
the Elven-stars as jewels bright amid their branching hair.
Beren raises himself in defiance.
Though here at journey’s end I lie in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high, beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun, and stars forever dwell.
I will not say the day is done, nor bid the stars farewell.
LÚTHIEN [appears above, listening]
I hear a song far under welling, far but strong; a song that Beren bore aloft.
I hear his voice, as I have heard it often in dreams and wandering.
Ah, little Lúthien! what brought this foolish fly into my web?
Morgoth! my reward will be great when to thy hoard this jewel is added.
A sudden blaze of golden light descends from above; Lúthien is seen to stand with arms raised above the form of Sauron cowering on the ground***.
O dark phantom, wrought of foulness, lies and guile!
Here shalt thou be stripped of thy raiment of flesh,
and thy ghost be sent quaking back to Morgoth;
there everlastingly thy naked self shall endure the torment of his scorn,
pierced by his eyes, unless thou yield to me the mastery of thy tower.
May darkness everlasting old that waits outside in surges cold drown law,
and light, and Moon and Sun!
May all in hatred be begun, and all in evil ended be,
in the moaning of the endless Sea!
He rises in a sudden burst of dark evil; then the light consumes the darkness, and he fades as an impotent shadow. Lúthien comes forward and finds Beren crouched over the lifeless body of Finrod.
Oh, Beren, Beren, almost too late have I thee found?
Alas! in tears that we should meet, who once found meeting passing sweet!
O Lúthien, Lúthien, more fair than any child of men!
O loveliest child of Elvenesse,
what might of love did thee possess to bring thee here to terror’s lair?
O lissom limbs and shadowy hair, O flower-entwined brows so bright,
O slender hands in this new light!
He embraces her, and then turns with equal fierceness away from her.
Thrice now I curse my oath to Thingol, and I would that he had slain me in Doriath,
rather than that I should bring you under the shadow of Morgoth.
From the shadow of death you can no longer save me,
for by my love I now am subject to it.
You can turn from your fate and lead me into exile,
seeking peace in vain while life lasts.
But if you will not deny your doom, then either I forsaken must surely die alone,
or I with you must challenge the fate that lies before you: hopeless, yet not certain.
She moves towards him as if to embrace him, but he moves away from her violently. When she would embrace him again, he points with a grim gesture to the mangled body of Finrod lying at the front of the stage. She recoils.
* DISGUISED: FINROD and BEREN have disguised themselves as ORCS in an attempt to enter ANGBAND unnoticed. To enter that land they need to pass by the stronghold of SAURON.
** THE FATES OF THE KINDREDS: The spirits of slain ELVES pass into the HALLS OF MANDOS where they await the end of the world. The spirits of MEN who have perished pass through the HALLS OF MANDOS before moving on beyond the world.
*** THE POWERS OF LÚTHIEN: Due to her parentage LÚTHIEN is only half ELF, her mother is one of the MAIAR and as such she is unique. Whilst many of the ELVES possess powers of enchantment LÚTHIEN has the potential to be much more.
The Dark Throne (Scene Seven)
The halls of Morgoth in Angband. Vast heights and pits suggested on all sides. Asleep on the upper level of the stage before the Gate lies the great wolf Carcharoth*.
A sable hill, gigantic, rampart-crowned under a gleaming sky,
on whose dark ground stand stony chiselled pillars
of the vault with shaft and capital of black basalt.
There slow forgotten days for ever reap the silent shadows, counting out rich hours,
and no voice stirs; and all the fretted towers black,
hot and soundless, ever burn and sleep.
Beren and Lúthien in disguise** appear at the back above, and start back in horror when they see the wolf .
What grievous terror and dread guard has Morgoth set
to bar his doors against all entering feet?
Long ways we have come at last to the very maw of death
that opens between us and our quest!
Yet hope we never had. No turning back!
He advances boldly to meet the wolf and rouses it from sleep.
Who is this hungry upstart whelp that bars my way?
Aside! for I must in; or go, and swiftly announce my coming!
The wolf bares its teeth and makes to attack him, but Lúthien coming swiftly forward bars its way with upraised hand.
O woe-begotten spirit, fall now into dark oblivion,
and forget for a while the dreadful doom of life.
Carcharoth falls unconscious at her feet; Beren and Lúthien turn to each other in rejoicing when a voice rises from below.
Shadow, descend! and do not think to cheat mine eyes!
In vain seek to hide from thy Lord’s gaze.
None may defy my will;
there is no hope nor escape for those that unbidden pass my Gate.
Beren and Lúthien proudly descend to the lower stage. Here at last is the Throne of Darkness, with Morgoth seated upon it. He appears as a great shape of shadow, crowned with iron and wearing the three Silmarils set within the carcanet. Beren sinks in horror to the ground, but Lúthien advances proudly, wrapping her cloak about her as a shadow.
A lawful errand brought me here from Sauron’s mansions
to stand before thy mighty seat.
Thy name, thou shrieking waif, thy name!
thou foolish, frail, bat-shapen thing, and yet not bat within!
Sauron sent word but short while since. Why now send such a messenger as thou?
Thúringwethil am I, who cast a shadow over the ghastly face of the sallow moon
in the doomed realm of shivering Beleriand.
Liar art thou, who seeks to weave deceit before mine eyes!
Now leave thy false form and raiment! stand revealed, and delivered to my hand!
Lúthien casts her cloak aside and stands revealed before him.
So, Lúthien! like all Elves and Men a liar!
Yet welcome to my halls! I have a use for every servant.
What news of Thingol, lurking shyly like a timid vole in his refuge?
What folly fresh is in his mind, that he cannot keep his offspring from straying thus?
or can design no better counsel for his spies?
The road hither was wild and long,
but Thingol sent me not; nor does he know where his rebellious daughter has gone.
Yet every road and path will lead at last to the North;
and here of need I trembling come to bow before thy throne.
And here of need thou shalt remain now, Lúthien, in joy or pain:
which is the fitting doom for all rebels, thieves and upstart slaves.
Why should ye not share in our fate, of woe or of travail?
Or should I spare torment to slender limbs and frail bodies?
Of what use here is thy babbling song and foolish laughter?
Minstrels strong are at my call.
Yet I will give a respite brief, a little while to live,
to the fair Lúthien, though dearly purchased.
In slothful gardens many a flower like thee
the amorous Powers are used honey-sweet to kiss,
and cast then aside underfoot, losing their bruised fragrance.
But here we seldom find such sweetness among our long and hard labours;
and who would not taste with their lips the honey,
or crush with their feet the soft cool tissue of pale flowers,
to ease the slow dragging of time?
Lord! every minstrel hath his tune, and some are strong and some are soft;
but Lúthien hath cunning arts for solace sweet of kings.
She begins to dance.
And all the fires faded and were quenched.
But the Silmarils on Morgoth’s head
blazed forth suddenly with a radiance of white flame;
and the burden of that crown and of the jewels bowed down his head,
as though the world were set upon it laden with a weight of care and of desire.
Then Lúthien catching up her robe sprang into the air,
and her voice came dripping down like rain into pools profound and dark.
She cast her cloak before his eyes,
and set upon him a dream dark as the Outer Void where once he walked alone.
Suddenly he fell, as a hill sliding in avalanche,
and hurled like thunder from his throne lay prone upon the floors.
The iron crown rolled echoing from his head. All things were still.
Morgoth lies motionless upon the floor, his crown almost at Lúthien’s feet. She looks briskly around and sees Beren, cast in a sleep upon the floor. She runs rapidly to him and rouses him.
Come forth, come forth! the hours have knelled,
and Angband’s mighty lord is felled!
Awake, awake! for we two meet alone before the aweful seat.
Beren raises himself slowly and painfully from the ground; then, reaching for his knife, he cuts a Silmaril from the Crown***. There is a sudden crack of thunder; Morgoth stirs, and Beren and Lúthien flee. But the wolf Carcharoth has roused and now bars their way. Lúthien, spent and faint, draws back; but Beren, holding the Silmaril high in his hand, advances to meet the wolf.
Get you gone, and fly! for here is a fire that shall consume you, and all evil things.
He thrusts the Silmaril into the mouth of the wolf. There is a great howling, and the wolf bites off Beren’s hand before it curls back as the jewel sears its flesh. Turning madly, it flees before them; Lúthien throws her cloak about the reeling Beren and hurries him away. Fires and earthquakes rise from below, and then darkness covers the scene.
* CARCHAROTH: A wolf bred by MORGOTH, the greatest and most powerful of his kind. He is the guard of the gates of ANGBAND.
** IN DISGUISE: LÚTHIEN has used her power to create the illusion that she is THÚRINGWETHIL, a vampiric creature who is the servant and messenger of SAURON.
*** BEREN AND THE SILMARIL: There is an inconsistency here with the HALLOWING OF THE SILMARILS, in that BEREN, a mortal, should not be able to hold the gem without it burning him. The timing is inconsistent in the original texts, as some are burned instantly and with others it takes time. For the purposes of this version we assume that because BEREN is not evil then the effect would be a lot slower than if he was.
The Escape (Scene Eight)
Slowly the light begins to return. The scene has returned as if in a dream to the forest glade as in Scene Three. It is dawn and it is spring again. Beren lies dying upon the grass; Lúthien is seated beside him.
Farewell now here, ye leaves of trees, ye music in the morning breeze!
Farewell now, blade and bloom and grass that see the changing seasons pass;
ye waters murmuring over stone, and meres that silent stand alone!
Farewell now, mountain, vale and plain!
Farewell now, wind and frost and rain
and mists and cloud, and heaven’s air, ye stars and moon so blinding-fair,
that still shall look down from the sky on the wide earth,
though Beren die; though Beren die not, and yet deep,
deep, whence comes from those who weep no dreadful echo,
lie and choke in everlasting dark and smoke.
Farewell, sweet earth and northern sky, for ever blessed, since here did lie
and here with lissom limbs did run beneath the moon, beneath the sun,
Lúthien Tinúviel more fair than mortal tongue can tell.
O proud and fearless hand and heart,
not yet farewell; not yet we part!
Not thus do those of elven race forsake the love that they embrace.
A love is mine, as great a power as thine,
to shake the gate and tower of death with challenge weak and frail that yet endures,
and will not fail nor yield,
unvanquished were it hurled beneath the foundations of the world.
Beloved fool! escape to seek from such pursuit; in might so weak
to trust not, thinking it well to save from love thy loved, who welcomes grave
and torment sooner than in guard of kind intent to languish, barred,
wingless and helpless him to aid, for whose support her love was made!
They embrace passionately.
BEREN and LÚTHIEN
Though all to ruin fell the world and were dissolved and backward hurled
unmade into the old abyss, yet were its making good, for this:
the dusk, the dawn, the earth, the sea, that love for a time might be.
Another long embrace. Full daylight. Thingol and Melian enter with their court; Beren looks up at them with pain in his eyes.
I have returned according to my word. I come now to claim my own.
What of your oath, and of your vow?
It is fulfilled. Even now a Silmaril is in my hand.
Show it to me!
Beren holds up his severed wrist. Thingol looks at him a long time in silence.
Now is my quest achieved, and my doom full-wrought.
He dies; Lúthien bends down over his body and kisses his lips. A winter falls, and the light fades.
The Pity of Mandos (Scene Nine)
A cold unearthly light filters slowly from above; the scene is out of place, out of time. The Guardians are seen, or glimpsed, seated in a semicircle about the centre of the scene.
And Lúthien came to the Halls of Mandos*,
beyond the mansions of the west upon the margins of the world,
where those that wait sit in the shadow of their thought.
But her beauty was greater than their beauty,
and her sorrow was greater than their sorrows;
and she knelt before Mandos and sang to him.
Lúthien stands as if transfigured in the centre of the semicircle; Beren is at her feet.
Long are the paths, of shadows made,
where no footprint is ever made, across the hills, across the seas!
Far, far away are the Lands of Ease,
but the land of the lost is further yet, where the dead wait, while ye forget.
No moon is there, no voice, no sound of beating heart;
a sigh profound alone is heard.
Far, far it lies, the Land of Waiting,
where the Dead sit in their thought’s shadow, by no moon lit.
Mandos, a shrouded figure at the centre of the semicircle, raises his hand. Beren rejoins Lúthien in life.
* THE GRIEF OF LÚTHIEN: For LÚTHIEN to have reached the HALLS OF MANDOS, she has to have died herself from the grief of losing BEREN. It is her spirit that is presented in this scene, singing to MANDOS. The clemency he grants in returning both her and BEREN to life is not without its limits. They both return as mortals to live and die in the normal manner for the RACE OF MEN. Their children become classed as the first of the HALF-ELVEN, although they are only one quarter ELF, the other lineage coming from the MAIA MELIAN.
The Return to Life (Epilogue)
The light slowly fades. There is no movement.
Long was the way that fate them bore, o’er stony mountains cold and grey
through halls of iron and darkling door and woods of nightshade morrowless.
The Sundering Seas between them lay, and yet at last they met once more,
and long ago they passed away in the forest, singing, sorrowless.
The curtain falls very slowly.
Many of the themes which are familiar to audiences in Fëanor recur in Beren and Lúthien and the subsequent parts of the cycle. Reference is made to these themes by the numbers assigned to them in the musical analysis of Fëanor.
The work opens with a brief and violent prologue in which events prior to the story are detailed. Following Fëanor’s invasion of Middle-Earth in pursuit of Morgoth, there occurs (some 450 years later in Tolkien’s original mythology, but this can be imagined as a much shorter space of time in the context of the cycle here) Dagor Bragollach, the Battle of Sudden Flame; and the work opens with these words declaimed unaccompanied by the male chorus:
The resemblance of the opening of this phrase to 4, the theme of Morgoth, is of course no accident. There follows a brief orchestral passage depicting the battle itself, which consists of three elements: a series of sharp discords in woodwind and brass,
a rushing series of chromatically altered scales in the strings,
and, underpinning it all, a repetitive rhythm which derives from the latter part of 57:
The chorus, now with its female members added, enters with a description of the battle and the forces summoned by Morgoth. Among these are mentioned wolves and serpents, and the music winds itself into a chromatic phrase:
It will be noted that this phrase is once again underpinned by Morgoth’s augmented-fourth harmonies (see, for example, 28) and it will later become the theme of Morgoth’s lieutenant Sauron.
Finrod is involved in the battle; his characteristic 22 sounds through the texture. He is overwhelmed by force of numbers and the mortal men Beren now appears to rescue him. Beren has a characteristic phrase which recurs in many guises, but its initial appearance is brief:
With his help, the forces of Sauron and Morgoth are driven back and Finrod is rescued. A sprightly theme characterises his heroic deeds:
Finrod swears an oath (22, with 62 in the bass) to Beren that he will aid him in any future need (hints of 61), and departs from the battlefield. 63 subsides into a rocking bass as 59 finally dies away.
The chorus sing of Finrod’s retreat to his fortress of Nargothrond, and a characteristic figure (which will recur often) in the bass underpins their narrative:
There is a brief reference to 4 as the chorus turn to the unfortunate Gorlim (who has been seen as one of Beren’s followers in the battle) and his capture by Sauron. Gorlim’s characteristic theme is initially given out by the woodwind:
and Gorlim is brought before Sauron (61, with 60 on the bass drum). The captive Gorlim is approached by Sauron: 61 appears insinuatingly beneath his words. Sauron aspires to Morgoth’s monotone (itself an aspiration to the Elder King’s one note) but whereas Morgoth in his most powerful mode nearly attains Manwë’s single note, Sauron, tugged around by his chromatic theme, rarely achieves more than a vocal line which moves one semitone at a time. That is the case here. Gorlim (whose 65 continually accompanies his words) is tormented by thoughts of his lost wife, Eilinel:
and eventually he allows himself to be daunted by Sauron. The theme of Daunting is at first heard in isolation by itself:
but eventually it will become combined with the rhythm of 60 and take on an independent existence. There is one other theme associated with Sauron, and it is the theme of Enchantment, his power not merely to dominate but also to insinuate thoughts into the minds of others. Sauron explains to Gorlim that he has been deluded by a phantom, for Eilinel (66) his wife is already dead:
This theme, like 61, derives ultimately from my earlier work on The Lord of the Rings (where they represent respectively Sauron as the Dark Lord and the Ring itself), but in the form they take in The Silmarillion they also occur in the piano rondo Akallabêth. It is easier in this context to forget the Lord of the Rings context, although the use of the same themes here is not inconsistent with their use elsewhere. Sauron has the treacherous Gorlim executed. 67 rises up through the texture, is succeeded by a reference to 16 and 30 as the Orcs close in on the chained prisoner, and is then abruptly truncated to be succeeded by rapid repetitions of 61.
The scene changes to the shores of a desolate lake in the highlands where Beren (the choral line refers to 62) wanders as an outlaw. The lake itself has a drear and misty theme, full of open fourths and fifths in the harmonies:
and this theme remains largely unaltered, without additional harmonisation or any modulation, as the chorus sings of Beren’s life of wandering. Beren himself now sings for the first time, of Gorlim astray or dead in the forest (65) and of his weariness and loneliness. A new theme, over the same dragging and persistent bass, underlines his words. The opening interval and first three notes of the theme echo Beren’s own 62:
At the end of Beren’s “aria” a new melody extends itself in the highest register of the strings over the persistent repetitions of 70, like a vision of peace:
and 70 itself peters away into nothingness.
The textures darken, as the chorus describe Beren falling into unconsciousness. Repetitions of.69 lead to the return of 65 as the wraith of Gorlim appears to him; apart from one brief reference to 4, Gorlim’s words are entirely accompanied by variants of 65 in varying rhythms while his words are sung to a developed version of 67. As he vanishes, 69 reappears in the double-basses. Beren rises, and proclaims his desire for vengeance:
and then frantic repetitions of 62 accompany his words as he sings (to the melody of 70):
No more shall hidden bowstring sing,
no more shall shaven arrows wing!
No more my hunted head shall lie
upon the heath beneath the angry sky.
The chorus take up the theme as they sing of his departure from the North, and references to 4 die away into misty chromatic scales. The interlude which follows opens with 62 followed immediately by 72 as the chorus sing of the perils of Beren’s journey southwards; fleeting reference to 69 leads suddenly and unexpectedly to an fff restatement of 27 from Fëanor; it is Ungoliant and her progeny who are hunting the fleeing mortal. A reference by the chorus to the long night before the coming of the Sun brings back 7, but this is again overwhelmed by 27, now rising to ffff and largamente molto.
There is a sudden change of atmosphere, as the woodland glade in Doriath is revealed. A solo flute onstage plays delicate arabesques, at first over held string chords:
and then unaccompanied:
As has already been remarked, the scene of meeting between Beren and Lúthien is a closed form of its own. The chorus sings, at first unaccompanied:
and then with the flute weaving arabesques around more sustained harmonies:
as Lúthien runs into the glade and begins to dance. Her words are accompanied by a delicate filigree on the harp:
and the references in her song to Ilúvatar (1), Elbereth (3), Doriath (10), the Elves (8) are all accompanied by the appropriate themes repeated from Fëanor; the only new theme which is heard is that of Lúthien herself:
which is suddenly interrupted by 62 as Beren stumbles into the glade. As he stops as if enchanted the two themes of Beren and Lúthien, 77 and 62 are combined into a new melody:
before the chorus resumes the refrain of 75. Lúthien flees into the forest, and Beren is left lonely still to roam in the silent forest listening; a new theme now appears, that of Beren’s desire:
which is repeated twice before the solo flute brings back a wistful echo of 73.
With sudden liveliness the chorus takes up its refrain 75 again over an accompaniment of whirling flute and pizzicato strings as Beren sees Lúthien dancing beneath the moon on a distant hilltop. At the climax of the verse a new theme emerges con slancio on the full orchestra:
and this theme continues to sound as Lúthien calls to Beren to join her in the dance. As Beren starts after her into the forest, a sudden chill descends on the music, but the dance themes continue to be heard in bassoons and strings:
The chorus returns to its refrain of 75 but this is now much slower as Beren wanders through the shivering forest in search of Lúthien. 62 returns and this in turn leads to another new theme, sung by the chorus to the words
He sought her ever, wandering far
where leaves of years were thickly strewn:
Beren calls to Tinúviel through the forest, as 83 wells up in the orchestra and then gives way to other themes (3, 8 and 52) before 83 returns ppp as Beren sings:
The woods are bare!
Ere spring were born, the spring hath died!
and 79 reappears as Lúthien returns to Beren’s side, forming an accompaniment to the chorus’s 75. The still quiet restatement of that refrain is accompanied by rustling strings and wind, with 62 forming a shifting bass line beneath. This in turn gives way, still to the accompaniment of rustling strings, to a full restatement of the solo flute theme from the beginning of the scene (74) over two statements of 80.
The music quivers with ecstasy as 75 re-emerges in the chorus, now very slow and delicate, and accompanied by statements of 62 and 77 drifting in the violins, flowing woodwind arpeggios and the ever-rustling strings. As the chorus bring their final statement of 75 to a close, and darkness enshrouds the scene as the lovers fall into a long embrace, 71 returns, again in the highest register of the violins, accompanied by the gentle movement of 70 and hints of 77 flecked in the harp. The curtain falls very slowly as 70 turns from the minor to the major for the final chord.
The prelude to the second act is a complete and full restatement of the whole of the Doriath melody 10 with the solo flute strongly featured. Thingol, the King of Doriath and Lúthien’s father, now appears and interrogates Beren to a descending series of chords:
to which Lúthien (78) responds. Her reference to Beren’s many brave deeds bring back a reference to 63; indeed, it may be noted here that, after the profligate use of new melodic material in Scene Three, Scene Four confines itself with much greater circumspection to the use of existing themes. Thingol’s angry response to Lúthien uses 62, 10 and 84; Beren’s reply takes up the melody of 80 and contains references to 27, 8 and 78 before 80 returns; there are then further references to 63, 24, 8, 62, 78, 77 and 79 as Beren declares before Thingol his love for Lúthien. At that moment there is a sudden convulsive theme hammered out by the full orchestra:
as Thingol, in a cold tone, declares Death you have earned with those words; and indeed this theme is the theme of Death. Beren is undismayed (63); he holds up the ring of Finrod Felagund (22) and reminds Thingol of his service on the battlefield of the North (57). Melian leans hastily over to Thingol:
and warns him that Beren’s fate is entwined with his. But Thingol can think only of his daughter (78, followed by 85). He acknowledges Beren’s deeds (22 and 63); but these avail not to win the daughter of Thingol and Melian (78 entwined with 84 and 86). He has a price to extract, and 26 hints already at what this might be; his oblique references to the fires of Morgoth (24) and the powers of the Elvenkingdoms (8) which do not daunt you (63) leads back to a restatement of 26 accompanied by the rhythms of 60 molto grandioso on the full orchestra. He demands a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown, whereupon Beren may claim Lúthien as his bride (79 and 80), even though the fate of the earth lie within the Silmarils (reference back here to the end of the first triptych of Fëanor with 19). Beren laughs, and promises to perform Thingol’s will, as 26 becomes a new phrase with the addition of 62:
A complex web of 26, 87, 77, 78 and 84 accompany Beren as he departs on his quest; but the phrase which emerges from this is Melian’s 86 as she warns Thingol that he has doomed either your daughter or yourself. Thingol’s reply is unwavering: I sell not to Elves (8) or Men (42) those whom I love and cherish (78) above all treasure (26). One final muttering of 62 is heard over an extended restatement of 10, which again brings back the solo flute from the prologue, now brooding and dark. The reference here is to the legend of the flautist and minstrel Daeron, who went into exile from Doriath in Tolkien’s original myths.
The scene changes to Nargothrond, where Beren appears before Finrod. The whole of this scene consists of already heard musical material: Beren’s plea for aid is accompanied by 62, 22, 72, 85 and 80; Finrod’s reply acknowledging his debt and his oath and explaining the guards that Morgoth has set about the Silmarils is accompanied by 64, 26, 23, 4 and 53 culminating in an exact quote of 26 from the first triptych of Fëanor where the Silmarils were first seen. Finrod goes on to refer to the Oath of Fëanor and his sons (39) which conflicts with his own oath (22). There then follows a choral restatement of the Oath of Fëanor recapitulating the material from the second triptych of Fëanor but now the timpani chords which originally accompanied the Oath are replaced by a full orchestral accompaniment. Finrod stands and takes his crown from his head (22, followed by a turbulent variation on 64); he laments the shadow of our curse (49) before 22 is haltingly but loudly blasted out by the full orchestra. Beren (62) reaffirms Finrod’s rightful claim to the crown (22 and 64) as the scene ends.
There now follows a turbulent orchestral interlude which takes as its basis 10 but combines it in rapid and kaleidoscopic counterpoint with 8, the latter part of 6, and 4 finally culminating in a downward chromatic slide reminiscent of 61 as Sauron captures Finrod and Beren (this material was originally written as part of the development section of the Third Symphony). He interrogates them to a heavy statement of 61 simultaneously stated at normal speed and at half-speed a fifth below. This counterpoint continues beneath Finrod’s evasive replies, referring to tears and distress (4), burning fires and flowing blood (24). Finrod expresses ignorance of what has transpired in Nargothrond (64 and 22), even denying his own abdication. Sauron is unimpressed (14) but goes on to ask after the fair white body of Lúthien (77 in the highest reaches of the oboe, accompanied by 60 and the harmonies of 14). This enrages Beren, and his grim expression arouses Sauron’s suspicions. 67 returns in a fragmented form on muted trumpets and horns; Beren attempts to deflect suspicion (62) but Sauron advances towards them and unveils his cloak (61, as before in counterpoint at the fifth).
The contest of wizardry between Sauron and Finrod is told in verse, as in the fragment of The Lay of Leithian introduced into the published Silmarillion, and is given to the chorus. 67 now takes on a new form, using the rhythm of 60, as the chorus sing
He chanted a song of wizardry,
of piercing, opening, of treachery:
Finrod’s theme soars higher above the chorus (22) but Sauron’s 61 in increasing agitation overwhelms it. Finally Finrod falls before the Throne and 22, 61 and 62 subside before a massive eruotion of wind and thunder. Beren and Finrod are seen in their dungeon. Beren offers to tell all to Sauron to save Finrod’s life (22 and 62), releasing him from his oath; but Finrod (8) warns that neither of them would ever escape from Sauron’s clutches (62, 61 and 4) if once he knew their quest (26). But Sauron has overheard their words (61, again in counterpoint at the fifth), and while declining to save the outlaw mortal (42), resolves to save the undying Elvenking (22 and 8) who could suffer much that no man might endure. The rhythm of 60 thunders out as a wolf appears and advances on the prisoners:
Finrod breaks his bonds and struggles with the wolf (61, 89, 62 and 22 in violent opposition) and breaks its neck; but he falls mortally wounded in the fight. As he falls back into Beren’s arms a new theme is heard:
Those familiar with Donald Swann’s settings of Tolkien in The Road Goes Ever On will recognise this phrase as being one written by Tolkien himself as part of his setting of Namárië, Galadriel’s farewell to the Fellowship of the Ring on their departure from Lothlórien. Its use here is deliberate, for this is a theme of farewell. Finrod dying (22) tells Beren (62) of his departure to his long rest in the timeless halls beyond the seas and the mountains (8). The orchestra refers to the theme of Mandos (17) before a solo violin and cello whisper a last farewell (90) and Finrod dies (85).
A voice is heard from above; Lúthien sings of the wonders of nature and of the Elvenstars. The music for this song originated in a separate setting of Sam’s song in The Lord of the Rings but a number of alterations were made. 85 returns at the end of the verse as Beren raises himself in defiance. At his words
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
a new phrase will subsequently recur:
The phrase of Namárië (90) continues to recur around the gentle restatements of 85 as he brings the song to an end on the word farewell. The orchestra at once take up again the opening phrase of 91, Lúthien’s voice responds with the second phrase:
I hear a song far under welling,
and Beren’s own 62 recurs again as she hears his voice. But Sauron too has heard her (61, yet again with counterpoint at the fifth) and seeks to confront her. She overwhelms him by the power of light (77 and 78 rising above 61); she threatens him with annihilation (68, stated both as a sequence of notes and as a simultaneously sounded chord). Sauron rises in defiance:
and 68 forms both the melody and (at eight times the speed) the harmony to his apostrophe to the powers of darkness, which terminates with a restatement of 92 and a final dying whisper of 68.
Lúthien comes forward to find Beren, crouched over the body of Finrod; a memory of 22 precedes 62, and then a new theme:
This theme will continue to dominate the remainder of the scene; a love theme for the reunited Beren and Lúthien. After Lúthien has sung it, Beren repeats the long melody; a brief reference to 4 at the phrase terror’s lair hardly interrupts the extended outpouring. But when Beren contemplates his oath to Thingol (26) and the thought that he has brought Lúthien’s life into peril (85), he wishes that he had been slain. Lúthien reassures him (91); 93 returns as she sings of her love which has made her subject to his doom (87, 85 and 26). A final restatement by the orchestra of 93 is interrupted as Beren points to the body of Finrod (22) and Lúthien recoils (61 and 68). Further fff statements of 22 and 78 bring the second triptych to an end—the longest single musical span so far in the whole of the cycle.
The third triptych starts with a sinister choral setting describing the fortress of Morgoth in Angband, with vast heights and pits suggested on all sides. Over a bass drum roll the solo trombone blares forth a desolate phrase derived from 9:
and this is taken up by the chorus. Sinister rumbles in the timpani and vague suggestions of 4 hardly disturb the atmosphere of oppression. As the chorus comes to a conclusion the texture suddenly clears as a chilly phrase appears, the upper part on piccolo and flutes and the lower part, four octaves below, on bassoons:
The long phrases coil and wind round one another in changing and different registers as Beren and Lúthien appear across the desert plains before the Gate of Morgoth. Suddenly they see the doorwarden, the giant wolf Carcharoth (89 returned). A rapid patter of 60 and a disjointed series of 62 accompanies 89 as Beren challenges the wolf, but 89 it is which rises higher and higher as the wolf seeks to attack him. Suddenly Lúthien stands forward with upraised hand, and her cloak of darkness and sleep ready to overcome the wolf:
This new phrase, repeated in several different registers, is accompanied by rapid figurations based on 77 and a deep slow bass line based on 78. 89 also joins in the cacophony, but suddenly falls in a descending chromatic line as Carcharoth falls unconscious at Lúthien’s feet and dies away in a series of rapid reiterations of the opening four notes of 89 (which are also, by no coincidence, the notes of 61). The voice of Morgoth is heard from below, and 4 rises up in a newly elevated form:
which pierces through any attempt to hide from thy Lord’s gaze (96). As Beren and Lúthien descend to the Throne of Darkness, heavy statements of 12 rise through the orchestra, as the harmonies of minor seconds and diminished fifths conjure up the vision of Morgoth before the eyes of the horrified Beren and Lúthien.
Lúthien adopts the form of a bat in the original text (by covering herself with the skin of Thúringwethil); in this context she does not change form, but Morgoth refers to her flitting... as a bat and she still assumes the identity of Thúringwethil. 96 illustrates the deception which she seeks to practice; but Morgoth thunders out his demand for her real name:
Lúthien puts aside her disguise, and Morgoth gloats over his prize (96 and 4). He asks why Thingol cannot keep his daughter secure, and Lúthien represents herself as in rebellion against her father and seeking refuge in Angband. Morgoth’s reply is much softened (98 in gentle strings) and shortly 97 (itself a transformation of 4) is itself transformed into an almost caressing melody:
Morgoth sings (now totally forsaking his blasting monotones and becoming almost human in the shape of his melodic line) of the Bliss of Valinor and the delights of the flesh. A new theme laps around his voice as he sings of the honey-sweet blossoms which he has lost:
before 98 returns in an even more heightened lyricism. Lúthien offers her services before him as a minstrel (to a similarly caressing variant of 96 over 99 and followed by a rocking rhythm founded on 77) before she begins her dance.
The dance of Lúthien is an extended orchestral fantasy on a number of themes already heard—96, 77, 78, 81 and 82 all figure—before a new theme, almost capricious in its delicate cross-rhythms, forms a trio to the dance:
and 81 and 82 return in greater frenzy before a sudden quiet descends. The chorus gently re-enters as Morgoth and his court are enchanted into sleep: the themes of the first part of the dance return almost as a gentle lullaby, and as Morgoth’s head droops and his crown falls to the floor 94 is heard in the lowest depths of the orchestra. All is still as Beren cuts the Silmaril from the crown (26 and 62 in harmonisation). But Morgoth’s court is roused: 16, 17, 31 and 97 rise above an ever-more insistent 98. The wolf Carcharoth menaces Beren and Lúthien as they make their escape (89) and Beren tries to menace him with the Silmaril clasped in his hand (26); but the wolf bits off the hand together with the Silmaril it holds, and Beren and Lúthien flee desperately into the darkness. In the original story they are rescued by the Eagles whose intervention plays such an important part at such junctures in all Tolkien’s tales from The Hobbit through The Lord of the Rings to several similar instances in The Silmarillion, but for reasons of staging I decided to suppress the perhaps rather too obvious overtones of the deus ex machina. But the theme of the Eagles (which I had formerly used in my drafts for The Hobbit) does recur here, and again at a later point in The Fall of Gondolin where the Eagles played a part, so the deus ex machina is present in spirit if not in the flesh:
The eighth scene opens in a forest glade back in the Hidden Kingdom of Doriath. The plunging flight theme of 102 gives way to a gently undulating theme which rises from the lowest depths of the basses:
and this in turn engenders a slowly moving theme sung by Beren to the words
Farewell now here, ye leaves of trees,
you music in the morning breeze!
Beren lies near to death, and his gentle song of farewell to the earth and to Lúthien is founded entirely around this new theme. When Lúthien responds, it is with words of hope, because she sees and proclaims that death is not the end of the story of their love. A new theme emerges as she sings
Oh bold and fearless hand and heart,
not yet farewell! Not yet we part!
to an extended harmonisation of 77. 20, a theme heard in Fëanor on a few occasions as an adjunct to the theme of Mandos as the Lord of Death, now rises ever higher in the orchestra, its final phrase moving the music ever into more exalted keys, as she sings
Beloved fool! escape to seek
from such pursuit:
and then, as the two lovers embrace to the words
Though all to ruin fell the world
and were dissolved and backward hurled
unmade into the old abyss,
yet another new theme, as the real “love duet” of the work reaches its climax:
Thingol and Melian enter the glade (to a combination of their themes, 84 and 86). Beren looks up at them with pain in his eyes (104 weaving its way in counterpoint with itself) and explains that a Silmaril is indeed in his hand (26), holding up his severed wrist in evidence. 84 becomes more sombre as he lies back dying, saying that his doom is full-wrought. As he sinks into death 85 sounds gently through the orchestra, and Lúthien sinks down upon his breast.
The scene is still. The harmonies of the theme of Mandos himself (19) return, heard for the first time since Fëanor, and now 20 instead of rising out of the theme and developing into new keys, is almost lost as the spirit of Lúthien comes to the realm of the dead seeking for Beren. The chorus sing gently of her beauty which moves even the Powers (2) where those that wait sit in the shadow of their thought. Lúthien sings to Mandos, and 105 rises in gentle spirals ever higher as she sings of the Lands of Ease and the lands of the lost. Mandos raises his hand, and Lúthien dies upon the body of Beren; but, again, she and Beren are rejoined in life, as 85 undergoes a mystical translation:
The light slowly fades, and there is no movement as the unseen voices of the chorus quietly murmur the final words of the legend to the return of 75 (not heard since the scene of the lovers’ meeting):
The Sundering Seas between them lay,
and yet at last they met once more,
and long ago they passed away
in the forest, singing, sorrowless.