The Geste part 6
Someone, I can't remember who, asked if we could look at the moment when Beren
receives his quest. So here it is:
A treasure dear I too desire,
but rocks and steel and Morgoth's fire
from all the powers of Elfinesse
do keep the jewel I would possess.
Yet bonds like these I hear thee say
affright thee not. Now go thy way!
Bring me one shining Silmaril
from Morgoth's crown, then if she will,
may Lúthien set her hand in thine;
then shalt thou have this jewel of mine.'
Need a little exposition? Ok... Lúthien, or 'Lúthien Tinuviel', as Beren called her (Nightingale, daughter of twilight in Sindarin), was the fairest of all elven maids and dwelt in Beleriand, in her father's kingdom of Doriath during the First Age. Her father, Thingol (also known as Elwë Singollo star-man. Thingol basically means grey-cloak) discovers that Beren has wandered into his kingdom uninvited. Not only that, but the mortal has seen and fallen in love with his daughter. Thingol swears not to harm him but demands that Beren come to speak with him. The King has no desire to permit Beren to take his beautiful daughter away. And thus sets him what appears an impossible task. As the speech above describes. If he succeeds, Lúthien will be his, but if he fails, Beren will leave empty-handed (hehe - sorry, empty-handed? *snert* Erm... never mind). And as insurance, the fair elven maid is locked away in Doriath by her mother Melian. (Melian was a maia like Gandalf and Saruman, the story of how she meets Thingol is truly beautiful, but that's for another time).
Why is this such a difficult task? Well, Morgoth lived in a dark underground fortress kingdom called Angband. It was a mighty fortified citidel that would make Barad-dur look like a holiday camp. Balrogs and supernatural werewolves prowled about it, the Encyclopedia of Arda gives its chambers the name "Hells of Iron" Someone better versed than me will be able to tell you if that was a title Tolkien himself created. It wouldn't surprise me! This is a basic description for you::
"Angband was primarily an underground fortress, it had many hidden underground chambers and vaults far beneath the earth. Its main features above ground were the three peaks of the Thangorodrim, mighty towers of ash and slag raised above Angband's gates. The peaks of Thangorodrim were hollow, and from them channels and chimneys ran down to the deepest pits of Angband. So, Morgoth could produce poisonous clouds and vapours,"
The Lay of Beleriand says of Angband:
"The wolf howls. The ravens flee.
The ice mutters in the mouths of the sea.
The captives sad in Angband mourn."
Indeed it is so impenatrable that the Noldor held an unbroken seige against it for 400 years! Not a description that fills one with hope and confidence!
As for the Silmarils themselves, they were held in an Iron Crown that Morgoth had fashioned himself and never removed. The jewels were fused into the crown by the same evil magic that made Melkor powerful enough to torment Middle-earth for so many years.
All this I hope will add weight and force to Beren's response to the Sindarin King's request:
Then Beren laughed more loud than they
in bitterness, and thus did say:
'For little price do elven-kings
their daughters sell--for gems and rings
and things of gold! If such thy will,
thy bidding I will now fulfill.
On Beren son of Barahir
thou hast not looked the last, I fear.
Farewell, Tinúviel, starlit maiden!
Ere the pale winter pass snowladen,
I will return, not to thee to buy
with any jewel in Elfinesse,
but to find my love in loveliness,
a flower that grows beneath the sky.
He must have been in love...!