Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Geste part 4

A very different kind of Book Spoiler....

From the Geste of Beren and Luthien:

Imagine the scene... a ragged, forlorn, weary Beren chances upon a maid, dancing on a hillock... and is lost.

Of finding, (lines 687 to 700):

"The wind dies; the starry choirs
leap in the silent sky to fires,
whose light comes bitter-cold and sheer
through domes of frozen crystal clear.
A sparkle through the darkling trees,
a piercing glint of light he sees,
and there she dances all alone
upon a treeless knoll of stone!
Her mantle blue with jewels white
caught all the rays of frosted light,
She shone with cold and wintry flame,
as dancing down the hill she came,
and passed his watchful silent gaze,
a glimmer as of stars ablaze."

... and then in lines 1210 to 1223 after Beren is banished from Doriath;

of losing:

"The murmurs soft awake once more
about the woods, the water roar
past the great gates of Thingol's halls;
but no dancing step of Lúthien falls
on turf or leaf. For she forlorn,
where stumbled once, where bruised and torn,
with longing on him like a dream
had Beren sat by the shrouded stream
Esgalduin the dark and strong,
she sat and mourned in a low song:
'Endless roll the waters past!
To this my love hath come at last,
enchanted waters pitiless,
a heartache and a loneliness.'"

What are your thoughts on the passages? Any comments are welcome.

A couple of thoughts about Beren falling in love with Luthien. (these mostly come from a friend of mine who's walking me through his favourite passages bit by bit - it's really thanks to him that you get these posts at all, I haven't got a copy of the Lays of Beleriand yet.. *hangs head in shame*)

on falling in love:

And now his heart was healed and slain
with a new life and with new pain.

Lines 555/6

I like that interpretation of Love.. exquisite pain, that brings life and slays
at the same time.

He gazed, and as he gazed her hair
within its cloudy web did snare
the silver moonbeams sifting white
between the leaves, and glinting bright
the tremulous starlight of the skies
was caught and mirrored in her eyes.

It's good to remember, at this point, that Tolkien chose to have the names Beren and Luthien engraved upon his tombstone, beneath his own name and the name of his wife.

I am reminded of a comment made by Thomas Hardy of Tess Durbyfield...

"She influenced me..."

And yet, she was his own creation!

It testifies to the amazing power that words have, and how majorly a created world can affect its creator.

JRRT said (like many authors) that his characters

just took over. Remember his comment about Strider?

"But I met a lot of things on the way that astonished me. Tom Bombadil I knew already; but I had never been to Bree. Strider sitting in the corner at the inn was a shock, and I had no more idea who he was than had Frodo. The Mines of Moria had been a mere name; and of Lothlórien no word had reached my mortal ears till I came there. Far away I knew there were the Horse-lords on the confines of an ancient Kingdom of Men, but Fangorn Forest was an unforeseen adventure." ~ Letters 163 #216-7

it's almost as if he was the one on the adventure...


At November 10, 2004 at 12:30 PM, Blogger jesusandME said...

RE your last point:

Ursula LeGuin says that the story often comes from places within "that the writer did not even know existed until he or she sat down to write." I love that idea, that a story and characters take on a life of their own, and the writer - if he or she is any good - will get out of the way and allow them to tell their story.

Tolkien was wise enough to allow this. In addition to Strider being a surprise, when Faramir appeared, Tolkien reported to his son that "I am sure I did not invent him, I did not even want him . . . but there he came walking into the woods of Ithilien . . ." He did not foresee Gollum's development either. That's why we feel such a sense of mystery and wonder as we read the book. The author felt it too.


At November 10, 2004 at 12:31 PM, Blogger jesusandME said...

I'd agree with that.

I often imagine that the emotions we feel when we read a book are intensified if the writer was feeling it too as he/she was writing.

Even though the writing style may not change at all, you can tell when the writer is feeling excited, or when they have a great joy in what they are describing. And it really carries you along with it.

I guess partly I did get that from reading about Strider. I was captivated by his appearance in the Prancing Pony, and terrified and excited at the same time because you really had no idea if he was safe! When I found out that Tolkien felt just the same, it just made me even more sure that this is true.

At November 10, 2004 at 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm reading the Lays now.
And I actually managed to tear myself away from Túrin and Beleg long enough to read about Beren and Lúthien. *dreamy sigh* So beautiful...

I love the idea of Tolkien finding the stories rather than creating them. It's sad how much I wish they were real! I also think putting "Beren" and "Lúthien" on the Tolkiens' tombstone is incredibly romantic. My fiancé thinks it's corny and a little nuts. :-(

This is my favorite picture of Lúthien, I think. The moonlight shifting through the trees is so magical, she hardly looks to be there at all.

At November 10, 2004 at 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your point that love brings to life and love slays. Though I would say that love awakens a deep, inherent thirst in mankind for something more, something beyond the everyday, beyond everything we've every known; a thirst for something of epic proportions. The pain comes from that new awakened longing. I believe love can only slay our apathy and ocntentment with the mundane. At least, it does so with me, and a few others that I know well, but we may just be a bit strange! (Hopeless Romanitcs Anonymous, anyone?)

anyway, the Lay of Beren and Luthien is one of the most beautiful things I've every encountered. and Luthien is the coolest elf ever!


At November 10, 2004 at 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the way JRRT plays with words and the patterns they make: 'on turf or leaf. For she forlorn' for example. Lovely picture too!

Greenwood Hobbit

At November 10, 2004 at 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm always so moved and overwhelmed with the Lay of Luthien... the entire story of Beren and Luthien is so bitter-sweet. I'm always amazed with how beautifully Tolkien sets the mood and the surroundings... then he carries us into the moment, always embedded with history and fate.

This is beautiful Amatire :) Thank you so much...


At November 11, 2004 at 12:07 AM, Blogger Roger R. said...

Tolkien was buried in Wolvercote Cemetery (North Oxford) and this name appears on the stone


The name of Luthien also appears on the stone


(Just thought you'd like to know)...

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