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Some Thoughts on the "Tale of Tinuviel"

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Some Thoughts on the "Tale of Tinuviel"

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Yesterday, I finally finished The Tale of Tinuviel. Because the HoMe summaries are coming along so slowly, and I really want to move ahead with my research projects, then I've been trying to catch up on the essays and HoMe books that I haven't read yet. Currently, I'm wading through The Book of Lost Tales 2. As with BoLT1, I love it. The relative whimsy of the BoLT compared to The Silmarillion makes it a lot of fun, and the level of detail is simply astounding. And, as Christopher Tolkien takes care to reiterate every now and then, it's not so much that many of these details were rejected from The Silmarillion as they were condensed to make many long stories into a single book of a manageable length. And so every detail that seems intriguing and hasn't been rejected elsewhere in the canon suddenly takes on the possibility of becoming canon itself. And as one who loves her canon as messy and complicated as possible, the idea of this delights me to no end.

Despite the fact that many Toklien fans adore the story of Beren and Luthien, and despite the fact that J.R.R. Tolkien himself adored the story of Beren and Luthien, I've never been much of a fan of that chapter in The Silmarillion. I always feel a little guilty about this. After all, if a story I wrote was to serve as the core of my mythology both in terms of plot and symbolism, and if I loved that story enough to have the protagnonists' names engraved on Bobby's and my headstones, I wouldn't want my readers sneering at that story as I have observed fans doing. Okay, I'll be honest: as I've been known to do myself. And fans of the Beren and Luthien chapter in The Silmarillion talk of it with such breathless wonder that I can almost feel the magic that they see in that story. And I have read it over and over again, trying to find that magic, without much success.

So I'll admit that I wasn't looking forward too much to The Tale of Tinuviel. Of all the "chapters" in the BoLT, it is probably the one I wanted to read the least. I was really surprised, then, when I became thoroughly engrossed in the precursor of a story that I've never liked much.

It feels to me, though, like it fits better in the BoLT than it does in The Silmarillion. "Of Beren and Luthien" has always felt to me like it was written separately from and then inserted into the rest of The Silmarillion. Through most of The Silmarillion, the use of magic is subtle and portrayed (I think) as a mere fact about the world being presented rather than anything particularly notable. Feanor's ability to imbue stones with starlight, Melian and Elwe gazing at each other for years uninterrupted in Nan Elmoth, Celegorm's ability to speak to all beasts, Melian's protective girdle around Doriath, the unlight that Ungoliant creates, Ulmo's visits to Finrod and Turgon in dreams ... all of these things contain a degree of magic, yet they are dealt with largely without fanfare or in any great detail. And we see plenty of instances--for example, the helplessness of the Valar following the Darkening, Feanor on his deathbed, Fingolfin's fall ... literally--when very powerful characters suffer and die in instances where magic would be a convenient way to let the good guys win. So while "magic" exists on Arda, it is not a panacea.

But in "Of Beren and Luthien," the magic portrayed is spectacular and abundant ... and I have always thought, too heavy-handed and much too convenient. Luthien needs to escape her treehouse, so she makes a magic cloak from her hair that puts everyone to sleep. She heals Beren "by her love," how many times? Three? (Well, she isn't wholly successful on the last, but she does manage to move even stalwart Namo into pleading on her behalf for an exception to the laws of fate, so in that way, she is perhaps more successful than before.) Magical disguises as bats and werewolves fool even the most discerning eyes. Dogs talk to Beren and Luthien.

Of course, I'm not naive to the symbolic purpose of the ease with which Beren and Luthien seem to wield such power. But in a story where perhaps the greatest King of the Noldor in Middle-earth dies by tripping and falling, it nonetheless feels a little out of place to me.

In The Tale of Tinuviel, though, the use of magic feels less out-of-place. Why? The hair cloak, love-induced healing, talking dogs, and magical disguises are present in even more florid detail than in "Of Beren and Luthien."

But in the context of the BoLT, this chapter makes better sense to me. BoLT is a story full of magic in a way that The Silmarillion is not. Children wander the Path of Dreams to come to Tol Eressea, houses shrink their occupants, and stars "go blue and bright" to the sound of magical flute music. While the magic of The Silmarillion usually serves a specific point in moving the plot forward, magic decorates the BoLT like icing on a cake: pretty to look at but certainly not foremost functional.

And I'd say also that the level of detail with which magic is dealt in The Tale of Tinuviel compared to "Of Beren and Luthien" actually helps the magic feel more natural. In a footnote to his commentary, CT mentioned Professor T.A. Shippley's discussion of the condensed aspect of "Of Beren and Luthien" The Road to Middle-earth:

'In "Beren and Luthien" as a whole there is too much plot. The other side of that criticism is that on occasion Tolkien has to be rather brisk with his own inventions. Celegorm wounds Beren, and the hound Huan turns on his master and pursues him; "returning he brought to Luthien a herb out of the forest. With that leaf she staunched Beren's wound, and by her arts and her love she healed him...." ... In The Silmarillion it appears only to
be dismissed in two lines, while Beren's wound is inflicted and healed in five. Repeatedly one has this sense of summary...' This sense is eminently justified! In the Lay of Leithian the wounding and the healing with the herb occupy some 64 lines. (Cl. my Foreword to The Silmarillion, p. 8.)

But I think that, for me, the brevity of description surrounding Luthien's most impressive feats contributes a feeling that it just *happens.* One line of The Silmarillion is devoted to the growth of Luthien's hair, her spinning, and her weaving a cloak of it. In The Tale of Tinuviel, more than a page is devoted to the same, with details given on the "lengthening spell" as well as her inspiration by the Valar, the procurement of supplies to make the spells and cloak, and the actual spinning and weaving. It feels like a labor, and one can better appreciate the wisdom and skills Luthien needed to achieve it.

Then there is, as Shippley mentioned, the issue of "too much plot" in "Of Beren and Luthien." I will admit that I felt a bit redeemed to read this: that an expert on Tolkien's mythology felt the same as I with regards to the breakneck speed of "Of Beren and Luthien." The Tale of Tinuviel is, of course, much less involved than the published version in The Silmarillion, and one might argue that the most important elements--the Nargothrond story and Beren's mortality, particularly--are missing. Nonetheless, pacing-wise, I find The Tale of Tinuviel far superior. I had the chance to get immersed in the plot, enjoy the characters more, and marvel at the places JRRT takes us alongside the heroes rather than feeling as though I was being jerked from one life-threatening situation to another.

I never thought I'd recommend this, but I think "Of Beren and Luthien" would have worked far better as a longer portion of The Silmarillion with separate chapters devoted to each of its major components. As it is, I feel that much has been lost between the BoLT and The Silmarillion, and the story has suffered for it.

Finally, there is the issue of characterization. "Of Beren and Luthien" takes a lot of criticism for serving as "the original Mary Sue" in that Luthien is the most beautiful woman in the world, instantly enchanting of the handsome hero, endlessly resourceful and talented, and possessed of powers that no other character can begin to approximate. I have always agreed with this criticism. It has always been my preference that my characters possess some flaws. Neither Beren or Luthien have any in The Silmarillion, and they don't seem human for it.

Which, I know, is part of the point. Since I argue that Tolkien's works to be read as pieces of historical lore rather than a complete account by an ominscient and omnipresent narrator, then I can't escape here without mentioning how this approach would have affected the story. I wholly acknowledge that "Of Beren and Luthien"--much of which occurred without the witness of anyone save our intrepid heroes and a handful of bad guys--was probably largely the invention of a loremaster taken with the history and prone to embellishment. At times, I think it might be fun to write a Beren and Luthien story as it might really have been, but I get over that pretty quickly. The idea of developing at least a novella around my least favorite Silmarillion chapter and then enduring the inevitable whining about how I have effectively destroyed the magic of the original does not appeal to me for long.

But however fitting "Of Beren and Luthien" might be as a historical account, it makes it no less satisfying for me as a reader, even if it is not a shortcoming of the author so much as the form in which he has chosen to write. I was quite surprised, then, to find that I did not immediately dislike Beren or Luthien. Actually, I now feel a tentative affection for their early Tale of Tinuviel characters. They are young and sometimes foolish. They make decisions without much of a clue how they will turn out. And they do regretable things:

Lo, the king [Thingol] had been distraught with grief and had relaxed his ancient wariness and cunning; indeed his warriors had been sent hither and thither deep into the unwholesome woods searching for that maiden [Luthien], and many had been slain or lost for ever, and war there was with Melko's servants about all their northern and eastern borders ...

As I read this, I couldn't help but to think of the families of the warriors lost and how they felt to forsake their husbands, brothers, sons, and fathers to secure the love of two lovesick teenagers, and before I knew it, the plotbunnies were nibbling.

I laughed at the thought of Luthien squatting on the ledge where Beren could more easily hear her voice and I wanted to smack Beren for his stupidity in jumping in front of her and offering the Silmaril (and his hand) to Carcharoth when Luthien possessed the power to enspell the wolf. I thought it was really cute when she and Daeron play together in the woods, and she hides in the grass and teases Beren from inside her father's halls. The characters come alive in this early story in a way they never have for me in "Of Beren and Luthien," try as I might to love them as some do (as JRRT did), when they feel more like mythical figures than real humans worth empathizing with.

It was with some reluctance that I recently acquired HoMe 3, The Lays of Beleriand, mostly because I have the e-books for the entire HoMe and so feel ethically obligated to purchase all of the books as well. I am slowly finishing up my collection, and Lays--I will admit--was something I assumed I'd read for the HoMe reading, then forget about. After all, its crucial component is the Lay of Leithian, I'm not very fond of poetry, and not fond of "Of Beren and Luthien" either. So a poem about the same ...? Yet somehow, I find myself looking forward to reading it a bit more now.
  • Well said! HoME is full of wonders, not least the earlier (often more detailed) tellings of the major stories in the Silm. (My own personal favorite is the Fall of Gondolin.) What a pity Professor Tolkien was never able to rework those old chapters into a final, coherent form. Granted, it would have meant a Silm that was 1500 pages long, but what a marvelous 1500 pages those would have been!
    • Marvelous indeed! :) Though a nice consolation prize, for me, is at least having access to all of this information and getting to sort through it and have fun with putting the pieces together.

      I'm excited about The Fall of Gondolin. I've read pieces of it (for research) but never the whole thing. If I had read "chapters" in the order that I wanted, that probably would have been first, but I took a more disciplined approach and read the book in the proper order. ;)
  • I might be strange, but I did not like BoLT I. At all. Okay, in all fairness, I did not like the parts I read; I had to stop reading at some point. I've tried more than once, figuring that I couldn't get into it the first time because I hadn't read The Silmarillion. Not so. Maybe I'll try again sometime...

    That's interesting that the Tale of Tinuviel is much better than Beren & Luthien. If I had ever gotten as far as BoLT II, I'd most likely have skipped it out of hand. I might consider glancing at it, now.

    Still, it doesn't address the Mary Sue issue enough (from your description, at least) for me. She's only half Maia and she can pwn Sauron and put Morgoth to sleep, whereas the Host of the Valar have to work to defeat him and pretty much destroy all of Beleriand in the process. Hmmm...

    Unfortunately, I'm forced to buy it. Not buying the story would change too much of the subsequent events. But, if you ever write a "realistic" version, I'd be interested to read it. I like the "loremaster prone to embellishment" theory.
    • The "loremaster prone to embellishment" theory is the only way I can personally make sense of the Beren & Luthien story. Granted, I am far from an expert on this particular chapter of the story--not even a casual fan--but for much of the story, they are alone or with 1) baddies or 2) people/dogs that end up kicking the bucket. They then live out the rest of their days pretty much alone on an island. If we are supposed to buy The Silmarillion as a record of our lost history, then who was there to record what happened? Sure, some of it was doubtlessly transmitted back to Doriath by Dior based on stories his parents told him and spread from there, so maybe there was a bedtime-story aspect to it as well. ;) Do I think about these things to much or what? ;)

      On the Mary Sue issue, I find the BoLT Luthien easier to bear not because she lacks in powers but because 1) those powers are treated more completely, feeling less like "Poof! It happened!" to me and more like an actual endeavor and 2) BoLT Luthien is more flawed. She is afraid and considers abandoning her quest and almost abandons Beren and spends a few minutes squatting awkwardly on a ledge. I don't object to powerful characters per se but I want to believe in those characters at the same time. I've never believed in Silmarillion Luthien, but BoLT Luthien feels more fully realized to me (and therefore, far less annoying!)

      I can see how BoLT wouldn't appeal to some (or most) people, even Tolkien fans. As it is, I love archaic, obscure language and love even more than that to see how the ideas in The Silmarillion (and TH and LotR as well) evolved from the first drafts written by a twenty-something. That gives me hope, too, in a way. :)
      • but for much of the story, they are alone or with 1) baddies or 2) people/dogs that end up kicking the bucket

        "No survivors? Then where do the stories come from, I wonder?" :D

        Hey, I think about this stuff (in general) way too much too. Waaaaaay too much. In fact, I was noticing that the only Man-Elf pairs that worked out, so to speak, were female Elves with male humans...no male Elf/female human pairs (unless there's one I don't know of/am forgetting??)...

        BoLT Luthien is more flawed.

        Gasp! Shock! Awe! I can't pass more judgment on it, but I also realize that characters whose strength comes from more overt magic generally turn me off compared to those who have strength of character with no magic ever mentioned, if that makes sense.

        I can see how BoLT wouldn't appeal to some (or most) people, even Tolkien fans.

        My friend gave it to me when she moved. I wonder now if she hated it as much as I did...;)
        • In fact, I was noticing that the only Man-Elf pairs that worked out, so to speak, were female Elves with male humans...no male Elf/female human pairs (unless there's one I don't know of/am forgetting??)...

          There is Aegnor and Andreth, if you count that as canon. She was the wise woman with whom Finrod spoke in Anthrabeth; she and Aegnor were in love, but he never really acted on it. It's been a while since I read Anthrabeth to remember a whole lot beyond that, but I remember that I found the story moving (it's just been shoved out of my head by more recent and pressing Tolkien research, mostly BoLT-related! :^P)

          I also realize that characters whose strength comes from more overt magic generally turn me off compared to those who have strength of character with no magic ever mentioned, if that makes sense.

          It does. I don't mind the use of magic in fantasy at all, but I think (for me) it is how it is used. (After all, in my original fantasyverse, my Elves are inherently "magical" and one of my main characters is a sorcerer! So clearly magic per se is not the problem for me ...)

          I don't like when magic feels like an escape from having to devise a more creative or logical solution to a dilemma. That was one of my problems with "Of Beren and Luthien" because it feels like they have a problem and--Poof! Magic is done that solves everything!! "Tinuviel" uses a lot of magic too, but that it is discussed in greater detail and shows more the effort it took in wielding it, then it felt less like JRRT was thinking, "Crap! I've painted myself into a corner here!" then using magic to avoid more sensible storytelling.

          I suppose (and I am going to sound so unbelievably geeky here) that I prefer magic in stories to work more like magic in Dungeons and Dragons, where the success of magic is not necessarily guaranteed (though highly advanced characters can, of course, wield simple spells with all but a guarantee of certainty) and each use takes its toll on the character in some way, i.e. reflects a certain amount of reasonable effort. This puts magic more in line with just about everything else in the world. (For example, even a really great sword-fighter is eventually going to be tired from fighting a bunch of beginners wielding sticks and certainly from performing a great feat of skill. Why wouldn't mages/sorcerers/wizards be the same?)

          A nice example, too, is Harry Potter, where we see the effort it takes to wield, say, a Patronus spell.

          Just my opinion, of course, but I wish that this element had made it more into the published "Of Beren and Luthien." I would probably like it more. :)
          • There is Aegnor and Andreth, if you count that as canon.

            That's why I added "didn't work out". I think that Aegnor never acting counts as "didn't work out". ;) Now, had they ever gotten together, perhaps things would've been different, but as it stands...if you're a male elf falling in love with a mortal woman, you're screwed!

            I suppose (and I am going to sound so unbelievably geeky here) that I prefer magic in stories to work more like magic in Dungeons and Dragons, where the success of magic is not necessarily guaranteed (though highly advanced characters can, of course, wield simple spells with all but a guarantee of certainty) and each use takes its toll on the character in some way, i.e. reflects a certain amount of reasonable effort.

            I've never been into D&D, but I like this "view" (I can't think of a better word right now) of magic. I don't mind magic in fantasy - it's kind of inherent to the genre - but like you said, in Beren & Luthien, it was like a quick fix out of sticky situations, where in the rest of the Silmarillion, it was never really present at the forefront. I liked the use of magic in LotR. And I apparently like the D&D version, where it's not failsafe and takes a toll on the person. I think that the story of Beren and Luthien might be better as a story on it's own, and not really part of the rest of the events of the Sil (which is, of course, impossible). Which is what Tale of Tinuviel sounds like, in a way...

            Okay, rambling....;D
  • I am very very fond of the earlier HOME books, as you might know for this reason. I find it interesting to see how the works changed over time, especially when the prof tried to fit this tale in the larger mythos. I saw the same happening with the darkening of the trees for example (as you might know) where a lot has been changed to beef up Yavanna and Vána & Irmo are neglected later on. Since I followed the earlier home books for Vána in Requiem, I received criticism because I should only pay attention to the later books. Yet I did take everything into account regarding this, yet I hear people say, but you based that on this and such so it [insert reason].

    I always loved the story of Beleg and Turin and like you, never paid that much attention to Beren and Luthien. I can't put my finger on it, but that hunky Beleg always made me wanna read him and quickly read through the other story LOL

    Only when Celegorm decided to well, become a permanent muse, I took out the books and read everything I could get my hands on, and yeah Beleg still wins when it compares to Luthien and Beren (I am a lost cause I think). I am glad that your opinion changed regarding this bit of the Silmarillion mythology, it makes the read and writing of the summary much more pleasant. And oh, thanks for writing this beautiful post, it was such a pleasure to read.

    ETA: HOME3 and HOME 4 (The shaping of Middle-earth) are both very intriguing books with lots of interesting things, I think you will like it a lot!

    Edited at 2007-11-16 09:04 am (UTC)
    • You're welcome! And thank you for the thoughtful comment! :) *hugs*

      It's kind of funny because, before I really got into the HoMe books (aside from reading the prereqs for a Feanorian writer: L&C, "Shibboleth"), several people told me that I'd probably like the HoMe versions better, and I didn't believe them. Now, I find myself liking the detail, even if I like some of the plot changes in The Silmarillion more. (Like the addition of the whole Feanor-Fingolfin subplot, for example, and the realization of the Sons of Feanor as more complete characters.)

      I love the account of the Two Trees in BoLT! Not only am I a shameless Irmo fan, and he gets lots of screen time, but for my ne'er-ending essays on the use of light in Tolkien's works and Elven death/afterlife/"fading," there is so much material there that points to my theories that I literally get giddy sometimes. Yes, I am a hopeless nerd. ;)

      On writing based on BoLT details ... well, my way of thinking of it is that Tolkien wrote these stories intending them to be taken as historical accounts. So "canon" is nebulous to start, and like any historical account, different historians will have different perspectives. Since Aelfwine/Eriol "wrote" BoLT while Pendolodh largely "wrote" The Silmarillion, it is reasonable to me that each wanted to highlight different things, had learned different versions, and had different reasons for expressing the story as he did. It makes me wonder what about Eriol's world might have made him want to portray to his people Olore Malle or the afterlife of Men that stand is such stark contrast to the "canon" that we know in LotR, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion. For example, The Silmarillion makes it plain that death is a "gift" to Men, while BoLT includes, in places, concepts more closely aligned with certain Christian denominations portrayals of heaven, hell, and purgatory. To me, it makes sense that a Man might want to portray the latter (to encourage good behavior, for example) while an Elf the former (to lessen guilt over his own immortality and the deaths of mortal friends).

      So depending on how you view and interpret canon, I think that even "discarded" bits could have a place. :)

      Which is part of why I love Tolkien's canon so much, but I am probably drawing close to getting yelled at by LJ for too long a comment, so I will ramble at you about that some other time. ;)
  • I couldn't read BoLT I (mine is horribly beat up, because I kept carrying with me everywhere I went for months, hoping I would read it on the subway or a bus), so I never made it to BoLT II. Maybe I should try again starting at a different point. Also, a little magic usually goes a long way for me.

    I'm one of those readers who've never really liked Beren and Luthien--bored me to tears and Beren got Finrod killed and Luthien blew off Celegorm. I should be ashamed. I just today posted a long whine on another site about how only a few people like the stories I write that I really love and I get thousands of page clicks on the ones I don't like as much.
    • I regret not like B&L more because I, too, understand the agony/annoyance of having everyone swing on what I think is a subpar story while ignoring my magnum opus. ;)

      But I don't regret not liking the story for the story because I think it is flawed in places, and I think "Tale of Tinuviel" stands as proof (to me) that it could be a much better story. At the same time, I get hollered at a lot for writing too lengthy of stories, so I also understand why it had to be squished as the plot grew in complexity.
      • Speaking of the need for squishing--I was just working on the last chapter of A New Day when I got this. It is getting longer and longer, as I try to make sure I didn't miss anything in this novella before moving onto the next!

        " I get hollered at a lot for writing too lengthy of stories," --never from me, dear. There are only good stories and bad stories. As far as the world of fanfiction goes, with a few notable exceptions, the stories are almost always too short.
        • It's not so much my fanfic where I get hollered at as my o-fic. Actually one of the really refreshing things about fanfic is that people don't shy away from a story because it's long, and word count matters less. For example, I have next to no hopes of ever seeing my Green Knight novella in print, but fanfic novellas like "The Tapestries" and BtLoR have proven quite popular.

          The one o-fic criticism that makes me grit my teeth every time is "This is too long for a horror/fantasy/whatever story." Grrrrr ... I think I've only been told once that my word count was too high on a fanfic and the person hadn't even read 10% of the story so might not have been making an informed judgment.

          The last chapter ... I can't wait! But I will be a good girl and finish with Seven first. (Do you want me to send what I have so far since I'm taking so terribly long, as usual?)
          • I'd love anything. By the way, you can always send me bits and pieces. I work in bits and pieces...
  • I found the Tale of Tinuviel to be far more engaging than Of Beren and Luthien for many of the same reasons that you cite: characters with more dimension, "magic" (whatever that may be) that is not so easily accomplished, and the addition of - dare I say it - whimsy. The scenes of Telvido and his gourmandizing cats are quite funny and tickled me enough to incorporate the love of good food and drink into a particular canon character on whom I have focused.

    The idea of developing at least a novella around my least favorite Silmarillion chapter and then enduring the inevitable whining about how I have effectively destroyed the magic of the original does not appeal to me for long.

    Yes, let's be careful out there. You might unravel the rainbow as per Keats' complaint about Sir Isaac. ;^)

    Edited at 2007-11-16 01:24 pm (UTC)
    • Yes, let's be careful out there. You might unravel the rainbow as per Keats' complaint about Sir Isaac. ;^)

      Ah, I wondered if you would pick up on that particular past topic of discussion! ;) Yes, I think we have both been guilty of such in the past. (And you more than me, oh seeker of the secrets of immortality! ;)

      Tevildo is so interesting ... and entertaining! Part of me simply loves the cat-and-dog battle between Tevildo and Huan. It is indeed whimsical (and the relative lack of whimsy in B&L in The Silmarillion is, I think, one of its primary failings.) Plus the idea that the precursor of Sauron was a pussy with a 'tude ... irresistible! And the nerd in me is seriously entertained to note all the germs of the later story, like Beren's stolen kitchen knife as an early Angrist.
  • (Anonymous)
    Hello! :)

    Just a small comment about "Lays". I thought I wouldn't like it as much as other HOME books, and I thought it wouldn't be so interesting to me, because I am not very fond of poetry either. But I was surprised how much I liked it! It was special, and different from any other poetry I've read. So, you might discover it will be a surprise for you too. :p

    Bye, big hug,

    • Hi, Ellynn! Thanks for stopping by! *hugs*

      I think I'll like HoMe3 too. :) Since acquiring it, I've devoured "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and Beowulf and loved both ... and I know for a fact that the Turin chapter of Lays was done in the same verse as Beowulf, so I think I'll like it too. ;) I suppose I'm less keen on the more abstract, modern poetry because I like concrete images and I have trouble understanding many modern poems. So that might explain my initial trepidation with Lays, but since reading the epic medieval poems that Tolkien himself studied--and loving them--I've revised my opinion on this a bit. :)
  • (Anonymous)
    I'm Alquawende by the way. I just don't have an LJ.

    Dawn, I couldn't believe that you didn't like 'Of Beren and Luthien' until you read BoLT. I loved reading 'Of Beren and Luthien' even if it's a bit sad for me since my favorite character dies. After reading this I might just give Turin's story another chance.

    To be honest, I never enjoyed the original ones too much. I like the idea of mythological heroes too far away to reach, and also like it when the characters have more emotion, but mythology has this mystery that makes it appealing to so many. I agree, many might not enjoy the Tale of Tinuviel because they feel some elements are missing and that is what I felt when I read it for the first time which made me not want to ever read it again.

    After I read your arguments on why you hadn't enjoyed the story, I am finally able to understand a bit more on why some people wouldn't enjoy it. Luthien, I admit is definitely a Mary Sue in 'Of Beren and Luthien' but I never knew that she teased Beren in her father's halls. It may be because I didn't read BoLT thoroughly enough.

    I'm glad Dawn that you gave this story another chance. It really is a magical one. The Lay of Leithian is really well done. I hope you enjoy it even if you don't like poetry or 'Of Beren and Luthien' that much.
    • Hi, Alquawende! Thanks for stopping by! :)

      Dawn, I couldn't believe that you didn't like 'Of Beren and Luthien' until you read BoLT.

      I'm still not sure how much I'm going to like the Silmarillion version, even after reading "Tinuviel." :^/ Hopefully, some of the feeling of "Tinuviel" will carry over, or I can mentally fill in the blanks in certain places (like when Luthien makes her hair-cloak; I love the amount of detail in "Tinuviel" that I thought the published version suffered for lack of.) But, I think that your next point is the reason why some of us love B&L and some of us dislike it, and neither side can understand why the other feels that way ...

      I like the idea of mythological heroes too far away to reach

      See, I think I'm exactly the opposite. :)

      I love characters who feel human to me; who are flawed and do stupid things that I can imagine that I might do in the same situation. For this reason, my first and primary love in The Silmarillion has been the Feanorians because I see them as such psychologically complex characters; they are not bad guys (in the same sense as Morgoth) but they are not flawless heroes either. They represent, to me, more of a normal human: We have best intentions in mind, but our emotions and biases and, yes, tempers sometimes make us do stupid things. Like swear oaths, choose exile, and murder our kinsmen. ;)

      Of course, I don't in any way advocate that this is the "proper" way to look at characters. :) I sometimes wonder how much of my view of good characterization comes from the fact that I came rather late to the fantasy genre but was "trained" as a literary/mainstream writer, where the plots of the stories are rather ordinary but the characters and their realness and complexity are what bring the stories to life. I've certainly seen the sentiment expressed by fantasy fans that these sorts of characters can ruin a story for them. Once, I remember reading on theOneRing.net a column where the author spoke of picking up a national bestseller ... and hating it because the "hero" was so ordinary and despicable. She would have preferred Aragorn, in all of his impossible perfection and those few hours of escapism, and believing that such heroes can exist in the world.

      Thanks again for stopping by and feel free to chime in again if ever my dorky blatherings are of interest! ;) Also, I saw you posted something new on SWG and I really look forward to reading it! *pets namesake* ;)
  • That's quite a LJ entry, Dawn; I'm in awe of the clarity and organization of your points.

    I haven't read BoLT, but were Luthien and Beren really as young as teenagers? That wasn't the impression given in the Silm, but maybe the other version changed things.

    Silm-Huan spoke three times, not all the time, if I remember correctly.

    I personally love the tale of Beren & Tinuviel, but then I'm not a huge fan of the Kinslayers (except I like the relationship of Maglor and Maedhros to Elwing's sons); and enjoyed reading about Beren and Luthien's heroics. I really found it a lovely concept that this incredibly beautiful and powerful elven princess chose a wandering, homeless human man to be her consort, on the virtue of his courage and integrity and strength. And the idea that two heroes, male and female, inspired by their love, prized the Silmaril that others who sought it out of revenge (however justifiable) could not retake, is appealing.

    But that's just me.
    • Hi, Raksha! Thanks for stopping by! :)

      That's quite a LJ entry, Dawn; I'm in awe of the clarity and organization of your points.

      To be fair, most of my "journal" entries are currently written over the course of several days in WordPad while I'm at work. I can't access LJ there, so it lets me take a lot more time than I would have before putting together coherent entries, which I then post at home. (And also keeps me out of trouble for posting while angry and unintentionally ruffling feathers!)

      But thank you! :)

      I haven't read BoLT, but were Luthien and Beren really as young as teenagers?

      I don't recall that their ages were ever stated, but they certainly seemed more childlike in this version. For example, we meet Luthien while she's playing with Daeron (her brother at this point in the story's development) in the forest; he later expresses regret that Beren's arrival has ruined their play.

      Also, Beren is an Elf! I didn't know if you knew this, but I found this really intriguing (though JRRT was waffling even at this point about whether he wanted Beren to be a mortal or an Elf, so his Elvishness was short-lived.)

      Silm-Huan spoke three times, not all the time, if I remember correctly.

      You do. I seem to recall also that he was only allowed to speak three times.

      He speaks constantly in "Tinuviel."

      I personally love the tale of Beren & Tinuviel

      I seem to recall that we've discussed this on the HA list before! ;)

      I know that there is a huge fanbase of B&L fans. Not necessarily in the circles I run in, but I think it may have been tarion_anarore who told me that the Silmarillion Facebook comm is primarily B&L fans. It almost feels to me sometimes like there are B&L fans and Feanorian fans, and neither understands the appeal of the other. I wonder how much of this has to do with the sort of characterization we each prefer. I blathered about this more to Alquawende in the comment above yours, so I won't retype it all here. But this might make interesting research sometime.

      And like I told Alquawende, I can understand why people feel this way about B&L; for me, the appeal of a story largely rests in the psychological complexity of the characters and whether I can see them as actual people, but this probably reflects more than anything that I came late to fantasy and never learned to appreciate "larger-than-life" heroes. I certainly don't think that there is any "correct" way to look at the stories or at characterization in general.

      I've always wished that I could enjoy B&L more since it meant so much personally to JRRT; I'm hoping that my enjoyment of "Tinuviel" might translate over to The Silmarillion B&L as well, but the jury's still out on that one. :)
      • I can certainly appreciate your desire for complex characters - I never loved fairy tales because, I think, the characters were somewhat flat. I've been exposed to mythology and fantasy since grade school, and just kept on reading. I remember my delight at the multi-faceted characters in Homer's Iliad - how Achilles may have been the greatest warrior on either side, but acted like a spoiled mama's boy most of the time (Agamemnon's rather a jerk, Paris verges on cowardly, Diomedes is vicious and presumptuous, no one is perfect, though many act with great strength and/or valor). And the gods themeselves are very 'human'.

        Of course, I found many of Tolkien's characters to be interesting - Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, Merry, Pippin, the men of Gondor, Eowyn, Aragorn (at times), etc.. The Elves in the Silm are far more intriguing than the ones in LOTR, though Elrond will always be my favorite, aren't they?

        And yet I find the tale of Beren and Luthien quite moving and powerful. It's because I see the story as a tale of great passion as well as a great quest - they embark on this dangerous and terrible quest not because taking a Silmaril from the dark lord is a noble thing to do, but because it is a means to an end - they love each other and to be allowed to be together, they have to accomplish the deed. And they can't do it alone; they need each other. Tolkien's heroes rarely need women; so I loved it that Beren needed Luthien to accomplish his quest; and Luthien needed Beren; without him, life wasn't worthwhile. This is probably the strongest concession to romance and passion made in Tolkien's work. There's a single-mindedness to at least Luthien's side of the story that's almost frightening at times, though she does seem to allow Huan into her little world of Beren-and-Luthien, if only as a useful helper.

        And I'm a sucker for the mythic resonances with the Orpheus story; what with Luthien successfully reclaiming her love from death...
  • Okay........I've been wanting badly for the past couple of months to come back into the fandom because I've missed it so much. When I saw this post from you I devoured it. Now I must read "The Tale of Tinuviel" (I don't believe I have read it before). I have been a fan of the "Beren and Luthien" chapter in the Silm, taking the odd, out-of-place stuff with a grain of salt because I knew that the Silm was put together by a bunch of hacks Christopher Tolkien in a hurry, probably on orders from the publishers to "get it out there, quick--money is to be made", and that the HoME series contains much more of what JRR probably wanted to include in his published works.

    I would love to read anything written by you about the characters in this chapter. In fact...I have an idea.

    *rushes quickly to latest post on Xmas fic requests*

    Also-sorry for soccer icons-they are all I have at the moment*blushes*
    • I've missed you in fandom too. ;) Though of course, you certainly had very good reason for taking some time off!

      I'm glad that you enjoyed the post. (I'm also glad that it was well received generally and has generated so much great discussion!) I'd have to say that "Of Beren and Luthien" was my least favorite chapter in The Silmarillion. It was certainly the one I dreaded the most while writing the summary. (And "Turin" but just because "Turin" is so ridiculously loooong!)

      I have been a fan of the "Beren and Luthien" chapter in the Silm, taking the odd, out-of-place stuff with a grain of salt because I knew that the Silm was put together by a bunch of hacks Christopher Tolkien in a hurry

      I'm interested to read later drafts of the story to see how it evolved into what it became in The Silmarillion. In not sure how much JRRT himself cut; I know his general process for putting together The Silmarillion was this wonderfully detailed BoLT that was cut down to basically summary form and slowly built up again from there. But because B&L has never been an interest of mine, then I'm not entirely certain of its particular evolution.

      Gah. So much research and so little time!

      Since I know you've used stuff from BoLT in stories in the past, you'd probably really like "Tinuviel." I'm just saying ... ;)
  • You know, I always felt the story of Beren and Luthien - while certainly beautiful and romantic - to be a little jarring within the "narrative tradition" tradition but could never really put my finger on the fact why I felt this way. I think you've put it very well, and for probably the first time I've realized what made me think so. In fact, you just said what I wasn't really able to put in words! :)

    I have to disagree on the Lost Tales, though. I didn't really like them a lot, though that was probably not for the fact of them being unlikeable but because I became so detail-obsessed on a "But how is it in the published - as in the Silm - version?" - level (It was the same when I read LotR the first time after seeing the movies... I became so obsessed with the changes made to the screenplay that I began compiling lists! O.o By now I know that adaptations of literature are not meant at all to be watched like that, but then... oh my.). Anyway, this made reading the book quite tedious to me, and really, I know it's silly but I have some major problems with those parts of HoMe that are at odds with the published Silm! ;)
  • I agree completely about the use of magic in the Silm, particularly Luthien's singing - for heaven's sake, singing! - to Mandos. That annoys me considerably, because none of the Valar (I have a suspicion Manwe was behind some of this) lifted a finger to stop any of the slaughter, until Earendil risked his life - twice! - to go and plead with them. And then they sent out the armies, and it was all fine and dandy, but Eru forbid they should actually be proactive and make some attempt to chain Morgoth of their own accord, before he caused (all right, contributed to) such ruin!
    I understand not being able to release Feanor or his sons, but why should Mandos take pity on anyone - even if she is half Maia? I mean, this is the Vala of the dead. Maybe I've been reading too much Pratchett here (entirely possible) but I was under the impression he wasn't allowed to take crap from anyone, i.e. no exceptions.
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