Beren (also known as Beren Erchamion, "the One-handed", and Beren Camlost, "the Empty-handed") is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. He appears in The Silmarillion. He is a human, and his love for the elf maiden Lúthien is central to the Tolkien legendarium.
|Book(s)||The Silmarillion, Beren & Lúthien|
Beren was the son of Barahir, the lord of Dorthonion.
During his youth, the Battle of Sudden Flame destroys his kingdom. Afterward the young Beren lives with his father and ten loyal followers as outlaws in the highlands at Tarn Aeluin, and they perform many acts of bravery, to the great frustration of Morgoth, the Dark Lord of Angband. One of the group betrays the others to Sauron, Morgoth's lieutenant, and they are all killed by orcs except Beren who is away scouting. Beren tracks down the orcs and kills the murderer of his father, and recovers his father's ring. After this, Beren lives as a solitary outlaw, with the aid of animals, until he has established such a high reputation that the price on his head is equal to that on Fingon, high king of the Elves. Beren is finally forced from Dorthonion by Sauron's army. He crosses a path of terror, passing an impenetrable boundary by the will of fate, into Doriath, where he sees the elf maiden Lúthien, princess of the Sindar dancing on a green hill surrounded by hemlocks, and falls in love with her instantly.
Thingol, Luthien's father, says he will only allow the marriage if Beren recovers one of the Silmarils from the Iron Crown of Morgoth. Thingol intends the task to be impossible, but Beren vows he will return with a Silmaril in his hand. Lúthien follows Beren and together, with the aid of Finrod and Huan the Hound of Valinor (both of whom die protecting Beren), they brave many perils, and finally reach Angband and come before Morgoth. Lúthien makes the Dark Lord fall asleep through her singing, and Beren pries a Silmaril from his crown. He then attempts to go beyond his vow and take another one, but the tip of his dagger Angrist splinters and a shard strikes the cheek of Morgoth. As they flee from Angband, the great wolf Carcharoth attacks them. Beren holds out the Silmaril, hoping that its radiance will avert the beast, but his plan fails. Carcharoth bites off his hand and swallows it along with the Silmaril. The wolf, burned by the holy jewel, proceedes to run rampant through Beleriand. Lúthien and the unconscious Beren are rescued by the Eagles of Manwë.
Beren and Lúthien return to Doriath, where Thingol demands to know why Beren has returned. Beren claimes that his oath was fulfilled, saying "even now there is Silmaril in my hand." When he showes the king the stump of his arm, the king is moved to compassion for Beren, and allowes him to wed Lúthien. But Carcharoth is still wreaking destruction throughout the land, so Beren then participates in the Hunting of the Wolf, in which Carcharoth is killed and the Silmaril recovered, but Beren is mortally wounded.
Lúthien's love for Beren is so strong that, hearing of his death, her spirit falls into darkness and flees to the Halls of Mandos. There, she sings a song of such grief and beauty that Mandos is moved to pity for the first and only time. He therefore gives Lúthien a choice: either she would go to Valmar, healed of all memory of her grief, and let Beren pass beyond the Circles of the World, or she and Beren would both return to Middle-earth for a time, and then both should die and her spirit, unlike that of all other Elves, would pass out of the world forever. She choses this second choice, forsaking her kindred and her immortality for her love. Thus Beren and Lúthien live again. Theirplace of residence is called r Dor Firn-i-Guinar: the "Land of the Dead that Lived". There they stay apart from other mortals; Beren is involved with the events of the First Age only one more time, when he waylays a group of Dwarves who have destroyed Doriath and stolen the Nauglamír in which the Silmaril was set.
Beren and Lúthien dwell together for thirty-seven more years after being returned to life.
The BBC Radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings includes a scene from The Fellowship of the Ring in which Aragorn summarizes the story of Beren and Lúthien for Frodo Baggins and his companions. Frodo later comes to realise the connection between their story and that of Aragorn and Arwen.
The animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings includes a similar scene in which Aragorn is relating the story of Beren and Lúthien for the Hobbits, but here there is no connection made between the two to Aragorn and Arwen, since the latter does not appear.
The special extended edition of Peter Jackson's movie version of The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) contains a brief mention of the story. During the journey from Bree to Rivendell Frodo hears Aragorn singing quietly to himself one night and asks who the woman is of whom he is singing. Aragorn replies that he is singing of Lúthien. When Frodo asks what happened to her Aragorn replies, "she died". This is true enough, and can be seen as a reflection of Aragorn's concern over Arwen's renunciation of immortality for his sake.
Concept and creationEdit
The story of Beren and Lúthien, though mentioned only briefly in The Lord of the Rings, was a central part of the legendarium. Tolkien once referred to it as "the kernel of the mythology". He went on to say that it "arose from a small woodland glade filled with 'hemlock'", which he visited while serving in the Humber Garrison in 1918 (during World War I).
It is widely believed that the story and the characters were largely inspired by the young Tolkien's romance with Edith Bratt, his future wife, who danced for her husband in the woodland glade.
The tale of Beren and Lúthien also shares an element with folktales such as the Welsh Culhwch and Olwen and others—namely, the disapproving parent who sets a seemingly impossible task (or tasks) for the suitor, which is then fulfilled.
It may also have real-life parallels: some sources indicate that Edith's Protestant family strongly disapproved of Tolkien's Catholic Faith. In addition, Tolkien's guardian, a priest of the Birmingham Oratory, forbade him from having any contact with Edith until he turned 21. Tolkien's guardian clearly feared that his young charge was in danger of losing the Faith. Tolkien obeyed to the letter, but telegraphed Edith on his 21st birthday. Although she was engaged to another man, she returned the ring and announced her engagement to Tolkien instead.
The Tolkien graveEdit
Edith and J.R.R. Tolkien lie in Wolvercote Cemetery (North Oxford). Their gravestone shows the association of Lúthien with Edith, and Tolkien himself with Beren. The stone reads:
- "Beren and Lúthien and the hemlock glade". Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
- Beren and Lúthien are Flown to Safety as illustrated by Ted Nasmith Archived January 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
- Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, #165, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
- see note and references in the article on J. R. R. Tolkien
- Christopher Tolkien (1989), The History of Middle-earth, The Lost Road, p.352; ISBN 0-395-45519-7
- Carpenter, Humphrey (1977), Tolkien: A Biography, New York: Ballantine Books, p. 56, ISBN 0-04-928037-6