Friday, September 17, 2004

Geste a little more....

another extract from the Ballad of Beren and Luthien

This is a spectacular moment, full of terror and excitement. During this part of the story, Beren, disguised as a wolf, slinks into the halls of Angband, to steal the silmarils from Morgoth's crown...

Morgoth sleeps after a battle of words, wit and song with Lúthien desguised as a bat. But Oh! as our hero levers one silmaril from the crown, his blade breaks and flicks at Morgoth, thus awaking him! Alas, rather than flee, Beren's greed prevails, and he tries to take another...

About him sat his awful thanes,
the Balrog-lords with fiery manes,
redhanded, mouthed with fangs of steel;
devouring wolves were crouched at heel.
And o'er the host of hell there shone
with a cold radiance, clear and wan,
the Silmarils, the gems of fate,
emprisoned in the crown of hate.

Lo! Through the grinning portals dread
sudden a shadow swooped and fled;
and Beren gasped—he lay alone,
with crawling belly on the stone:
a form bat-wingéd, silent, flew
where the huge pillared branches grew,

Then comes Carcaroth, the Red Maw, the Werewolf of werewolves who attacks Beren...

I don't know if you remember a few weeks ago I posted some information about Anglo-Saxon traditions. A warrior was expected to take on the wiles of a wolf: its bravery, its cunning, its wild nature, its hunting spirit, and even, if you were so fortunate, become so like a wolf that you were transformed into one.

I always find it fascinating that Tolkien used a wolf as his disguise here.

What grabs you about the poem? How does it compare with the story in the Silmarillion?

Just a brief comment on last weeks portion from one of the poem's biggest fans:

"The description of Lúthien has been too often and too justly praised to encourage the mere commentator in intruding".

You can read the rest of C.S. Lewis' review at the beginning of the book of "the Lays of Beleriand" if you wish to know more.


At September 17, 2004 at 12:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just a question about phrasing

"About him sat his awful thanes,
the Balrog-lords with fiery manes,
redhanded, mouthed with fangs of steel; "

When I first read this passage, I thought the fangs of steel belonged to the wolves. But now I see the semicolon there, and wonder if it is the Balrogs that have the fangs of steel.


At September 17, 2004 at 12:04 PM, Blogger jesusandME said...

at first glance (and because of the semi-colon) I would have said that the fangs of steel belonged to the Balrogs. But it does look as though they could belong to either. Perhaps that was the point? (if you pardon the pun..)

You'd have to ask someone a little better at poetry analysis than I to know for sure.

At September 23, 2004 at 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful, Amatire!

Geez, Tolkien is so powerful! To your question of what grabs me about this is the desperate darkness... you can feel the evil.

Thank you... so thought provoking...


At September 23, 2004 at 7:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been meaning to ask-

where can you get the full version of the Lay of Leithien. I read the summary in the Sil and would like to read the poem as well

Rhiandra Took

At September 23, 2004 at 7:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Lays of Beleriand is the title of the third volume of the so-called "History of Middle-earth". You've heard of the "Book of Lost Tales"? Those are the first two volumes, and are prose versions from 1918-21 of the tales that would become The Silmarillion.

In the mid-20s, Tolkien amused himself by writing long epic poems about the same material. One of these was the "Lay of Leithian". This is familiar to us as the "Tale of Beren and Luthien", which Amatire is so wonderfully bringing before us.

So: if you want to read the whole thing (something I'm doing in bits and pieces since last week's Amatire post), get the third volume of HoME, "The Lays of Beleriand."

My feeling about the first stanza is that it is the Balrogs who have red hands and fangs of steel. The semicolon is definite, and although the balance would seem better if the wolves got the third line and the steel fangs, certainly wolves do not have hands.


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