Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators
How Beren Fulfilled His Vow
Excerpted from "Of Beren and Lúthien," Chapter 19 of The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
To prove himself worthy of the beautiful elf-maiden Lúthien Tinúviel, whom he desperately loves, the valiant mortal Beren swore an oath before her father, King Thingol of Doriath. Beren vowed that when next he presented himself in Thingol's palace, he would be holding in his hand a Silmaril a holy and primeval jewel cut from the iron crown of the malign being Morgoth. These pages include two scenes from the Quest of the Silmaril, the first relating what happens after Beren and Lúthien penetrate Morgoth's fortress of Angband, the second revealing the ingenious way Beren convinces Thingol that he has fulfilled his vow. As we pick up the story, Beren and Lúthien have just disguised themselves, our hero taking the shape of the wolf-demon Draugluin, his lady assuming the bat-form favored by the vampiric shadow-woman Thuringwethil. Approaching Angband, the lovers are denied entry by Drauglin's offspring, the immense werewolf Carcharoth, but Lúthien causes the guard to fall into a sleep, allowing her and Beren to enter Morgoth's stronghold . . .
Beren and Lúthien went through the Gate, and down the labyrinthine stairs; and together wrought the greatest deed that has been dared by Elves or Men. For they came to the seat of Morgoth in his nethermost hall, that was upheld by horror, lit by fire, and filled with weapons of death and torment. There Beren slunk in wolf's form beneath his throne; but Lúthien was stripped of her disguise by the will of Morgoth, and he bent his gaze upon her. She was not daunted by his eyes; and she named her own name, and offered her service to sing before him, after the manner of a minstrel. Then Morgoth looking upon her beauty conceived in his thought an evil lust, and a design more dark than any that had yet come into his heart since he fled from Valinor. Thus he was beguiled by his own malice, for he watched her, leaving her free for a while, and taking secret pleasure in his thought. Then suddenly she eluded his sight, and out of the shadows began a song of such surpassing loveliness, and of such blinding power, that he listened perforce; and a blindness came upon him, as his eyes roamed to and fro, seeking her.
All his court were cast down in slumber, and all the fires faded and were quenched; but the Silmarils in the crown 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, of fear, and of desire, that even the will of Morgoth could not support. Then Lúthien catching up her winged robe sprang into the air, and her voice came dropping 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 of hell. The iron crown rolled echoing from his head. All things were still.
As a dead beast Beren lay upon the ground; but Lúthien touching him with her hand aroused him, and he cast aside the wolf-hame. Then he drew forth the knife Angrist; and from the iron claws that held it he cut a Silmaril.
As he closed it in his hand, the radiance welled through his living flesh, and his hand became as a shining lamp; but the jewel suffered his touch and hurt him not. It came then into Beren's mind that he would go beyond his vow, and bear out of Angband all three of the Jewels of Fëanor; but such was not the doom of the Silmarils. The knife Angrist snapped, and a shard of the blade flying smote the cheek of Morgoth. He groaned and stirred, and all the host of Angband moved in sleep.
[Tolkien spends the next three pages of Chapter 19 recounting the ordeals that Beren and Lúthien endure as they attempt to bear the holy jewel back to Thingol. In the most significant such episode, the werewolf Carcharoth clamps his jaws around the hand in which Beren holds the Silmaril, biting it off at the wrist. Carcharoth swallows both hand and jewel. Lúthien heals Beren's wound, and eventually the lovers continue on their way.]
Then Beren led Lúthien before the throne of Thingol her father; and he looked in wonder upon Beren, whom he had thought dead; but he loved him not, because of the woes that he had brought upon Doriath. But Beren knelt before him, and said: "I return according to my word. I am come now to claim my own."
And Thingol answered: "What of your quest, and of your vow?"
But Beren said: "It is fulfilled. Even now a Silmaril is in my hand."
Then Thingol said: "Show it to me!"
And Beren put forth his left hand, slowly opening its fingers; but it was empty. Then he held up his right arm; and from that hour he named himself Camlost, the Empty-handed.
Then Thingol's mood was softened; and Beren sat before his throne upon the left, and Lúthien upon the right, and they told all the tale of the Quest, while all there listened and were filled with amazement. And it seemed to Thingol that this Man was unlike all other mortal Men, and among the great in Arda, and the love of Lúthien a thing new and strange; and he perceived that their doom might not be withstood by any power of the world. Therefore at the last he yielded his will, and Beren took the hand of Lúthien before the throne of her father.
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(from The Silmarillion
by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien, Houghton Mifflin, 2001, second edition, pages 180181 and 184185)
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