Who are Beren and Luthien, and why are their stories so familiar?
The journey from The Prancing Pony in Bree, through Weathertop and to Rivendell’s fairy kingdom It is a dark and dangerous road. In Peter Jackson’s 2001 film adaptation of Lord of the Rings, Aragorn led four hobbits through the Midgewater Marshes, a damp and foul-smelling place capable of darkening anyone’s spirit. So Aragorn lit a fire to keep watch, and sang to himself, a beautiful song in fairy words, which Frodo overheard. When asked who he sings about, Aragorn, who is much older than the Hobbits and wanted to reassure them, announcing to his friend “It was the Lay of Luthien, a fairy who gave her love to Beren, a mortal man.”
So who are Beren and Luthien, and what is it about the story that they feel timeless in their familiarity? Interestingly, to understand these two characters, they have a journey that occurs during the First Era of Middle-earth, about 6,500 years before the events of the Middle-earth. Hobbits and Lord of the Rings, audiences need only look at their descendants in the Third Age: Aragorn and Arwen.
Aragorn, who has an unusual history, was a descendant of the line of Beren, who was said to be the king and staunch defender of the land against the Dark Lord of the time, Morgoth. When he first met Arwen, wandering through the gardens of Rivendell had just returned from a visit Lothlorien with her mother’s men, he likens her, as many have said, to Luthien, the famously beautiful fairy from whom she is in fact his descendant.
In the parallels between the story of Arwen and Aragorn, and the story of Beren and Luthien, we have a sense of timelessness, as if this were a story that had been repeated countless times over thousands of years. The fact that Aragorn and Arwen are both distant descendants of Beren and Luthien’s lineage, shows that their love is so. It wasn’t just a man and an elf maid, it was the reunion of a noble and powerful bloodline that had been divided years before.
The story of Beren and Luthien, like the story of Arwen and Aragorn, is the story of two lovers whose fates are divided, but always find their way back together in the end. Throughout most of the trilogy, Aragorn fights in the War of the Rings, while Arwen disappears in Rivendell. In spite of descriptions of various elves in books and moviesThis demise of Evenstar and her immortality remains consistent in both. The same can be said of Beren and Luthien, who were also separated by war and imprisoned, after Luthien’s father sent Beren on an impossible mission to retrieve a Silmaril from his crown. demon Morgoth, to receive his marriage blessing. Daughter.
the theme of capture and escape is an important reoccurrence throughout Middle-earth, as can be seen by Gandalfs torment on the tower of Orthanc, and Eowyn’s fear of a cage, and noble Beren was no exception as he was held captive by the dark lord and his assistant Sauron, who later became One Ring creator. Luthien, having seen her love, rushes to his rescue, lulling the enemy into a deep sleep with her beautiful voice. She is then able to rescue him from her cell, and together they go to the great hall to cut a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown.
In doing so, they inadvertently awaken him, and he places his wolf on the brave hero. Beren suffered a fatal wound when the beast bit off his arm, devouring the Silmaril with it, and they were rescued by giant eagles and returned to safety. Seeing the bravery Beren went through for the love of her daughter, Thingol blessed them and allowed them to marry. However, Beren soon met a tragic end in another battle, and Luthien, desperate to save him, gave up her immortality to bring him back to life. They enter a world of their own, where two lovers who are neither dead nor alive have raised a son and spent the rest of their days there.
This is an ending similar to that of Arwen, who gave up his own immortality to be with Aragorn, the love of her life. They also had a son, who later took over the throne as king of Gondor, and lived a long life together before dying when they were ready. It’s a story as old as time, with influences from works like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and even going back to the Roman Middle Ages of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
It’s the presentation of love that survives in the face of real evil, the idea that “there is some good in the world and it’s worth fighting for” no matter how bad the bad things may seem, made stories like Beren and Luthien, Arwen and Aragorn, and indeed of Lord of the Rings generally, very related to time, regardless of how long ago they were said.
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