August 2017

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So Urloth on Tumblr asked, "What if Celegorm had managed to kill Luthien when he shot at her?" and requested the first of May, so here I am.

Two ways come to my mind as approaches to this question. First is to think about how such a narrative choice by Tolkien would have affected the overall theme of the Legendarium. Such a decision would have profoundly altered the larger theme, to say the least. Just tonight, I posted to the SWG [personal profile] heartofoshun's biography of Barahir. The whole essay is worth a read, but the final paragraph is particularly lovely and salient to my point here as well:

This sense of devastating loss, which also echoes the dark fatalism of the Norse epics of which Tolkien was so fond, is certainly central to The Silmarillion and most particularly evident in its Chapter 18, "Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin."25 We move from a world wherein the shaky balance between the forces of light and darkness is directly threatened and, to steal the words from the poet W. B. Yeats, "[t]hings fall apart; the centre cannot hold; [m]ere anarchy is loosed upon the world, [t]he blood-dimmed tide is loosed. . . ."26 And yet within that smoke-blackened and terrifying world, where the center no longer holds, there remain unwavering heroes like Barahir, with his determination and his hard-won family heirloom, who project hope down through the Ages and into the eucatastrophe of The Lord of the Rings.

As I put it, more or less, in a comment to Oshun on this subject, Barahir is a cog in the larger eucatastrophic machinery: His story is unrelentingly tragic, but we are to understand that his existence ensures defeat of Darkness in the far future. Therefore, the tragedy is acceptable. If he's a cog, Lúthien is a whole clockwork unto herself. If ever there is an emblem of literal and figurative light in the midst of darkness, here you have her, and destroying her in such an ignoble way by a character depicted as all but incorrigible would hamstring the theme of eucatastrophe.

The second approach is to think about how the story would change in an AU scenario where Lúthien dies at this crucial point, prior to recovering the Silmaril. (Because I don't care who was holding the knife: Lúthien totally scored the goal on that one and Beren had the assist.) Most obviously, the Silmaril would not have been recovered, and the existence of key characters like Elwing, Elrond, and Elros would have been rubbed out. If ever you needed to see a scary albeit fictional example of how a single action can completely rearrange history, here you have it in imagining the Second and Third Ages without the peredhil.

Before I get ahead of myself, without Elwing, there is no delivery of the Silmaril to Aman, no war against Morgoth, and Beleriand is not destroyed.

But it's perhaps more interesting to imagine the more immediate consequences of such an act.

I imagine Thingol--already no fan of the Fëanorians and crushed by his daughter's death--waging all-out war against them. This is not a crisis that even the most skilled diplomacy and brother-wrangling of Maedhros could avert.

What of Beren? Unlike Thingol, we get no suggestion that he is a vengeful character. I mean, he's a vegetarian for Pete's sake. It could be that Tolkien, to preserve that innocence and goodness, would have kept Beren's hands unbloodied and allowed him a death of grief.

But in a world (use your movie trailer voice if you want) where eucatastrophe has been essentially erased as a driving principle, what need is there to preserve Beren's goodness? Perhaps he would have become vengeful, ironically healing the rift between himself and Thingol in the interest of pursuit of a common enemy.

Because we also would not have had the second and third kinslayings--no Silmarils to slay over, remember?--I think Lúthien's death would have shifted the focus from the war on Morgoth to a civil war among the Free Peoples of Middle-earth. Now that is a scenario with modern relevance: the inability to unite against a common enemy because of infighting among one's own kind. (We do see hints of this in the refusal of Thingol and Orodreth to send forces to fight alongside the Fëanorians against Morgoth but nothing so overt as actual civil war.)

It may be that there is no line to continue into the Second and Third Ages. It may be that the Fëanorians prevail and become the heroes of those ages. Or it may be that eucatastrophe reasserts itself, and from the grievous loss of Lúthien, a new and unseen source of hope arises.

If there's a topic you want me to ramble about, there's still plenty of slots open in the ramble meme!

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-02 02:43 am (UTC)
ladybrooke: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ladybrooke
It seems to me that Fingon's role would also be crucial here - after all, would he bow to political pressure and not react in defense of Maedhros if Thingol launched a war? And if he did that, would Turgon still come with troops if Fingon and the Fëanorions did manage to launch some version of the battle that Orodreth refused to send troops to in the books?

If I ever get time, do you mind if I use this as a jumping off point for fanfic? There's ideas in here I want to poke at as far as First Age politics go.

Though I agree with you, unless there was some way to turn it into an acceptable tragedy (I'm not sure how, unless Beren later dies and his sorrow convinces the Valar to send aid to Middle-earth in spite of the lack of a Silmaril bribe), it wouldn't keep with Tolkien's general theme.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-10 11:17 pm (UTC)
ladybrooke: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ladybrooke
Thanks! I'm saving it in my inbox to do something with. :D

Interesting! He'd essentially take Luthien's role.

He would! Except without the advantages that Luthien probably had with the Valar, imo, which means it'd be interesting for me to explore Námo's. After all, Luthien is the daughter of a Maia (so connected to the Valar) and her father was one of the three elves chosen by them to go to Valinor first, so she's likely more important to the Valar personally than Beren the nobody is. Plus, who knows what old Mannish legends had survived for Beren to have heard about Mandos. :P

Don't get me wrong, I love Luthien, but I also love characters with fewer advantages doing things.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-02 07:47 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)

Interesting speculations! I like that bit about Luthien being a whole clockwork of eucatastrophe!

I'm not so sure that Thingol would emerge from Doriath even for such a campaign of vengeance, although no doubt the Sindar would start shooting any Feanorian who got within shooting distance of the borders.

Beren may not be the vengeful type as such, but just at that point he's almost strangled Curufin in retaliation for his attack and it was Luthien who stopped him. Vegetarian diet doesn't entirely preclude vengeance in his case, I suspect. (Beren also takes vengeance on Baragund's killers, not that I would call that being particularly vengeful, in his situation.) In the Lay of Luthien, Luthien is given an interesting speech when she stops Beren from killing Curufin--which shows more political insight than she's allowed to do anywhere else and warns both that infighting will only help Morgoth and that such enmity goes back to the ancient curse. If Luthien was killed right after saving Curufin's life in this way, Beren would almost certainly go back to trying to kill him, although he might well not survive the attempt.

It's sort of beside the point, for these considerations, but one should perhaps note that in the published Silmarillion it's actually Curufin who shoots at Luthien, although it's Celegorm in the Lay of Leithian.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-02 07:48 am (UTC)
hhimring: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hhimring
D'oh. That anonymous comment was me - I forgot to log in.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-12 06:49 am (UTC)
hhimring: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hhimring
I found myself thinking about this episode when I wrote a ficlet about Curufin and Angrist. It's an unusually complicated action scene, for Tolkien, and I had to read up on all the details.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-02 12:45 pm (UTC)
rhapsody: (Fëanor's mighty seven)
From: [personal profile] rhapsody
"Dawn, Dawn." Celegorm shook his head and tucked away that pretty little knife. "I am a hunter, does it look like I would 'whoops' kill such a creature that fair?"

[rare muse pounce here]

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-05 08:20 pm (UTC)
independence1776: Drawing of Maglor with a harp on right, words "sing of honor lost" and "Noldolantë" on the left and bottom, respectively (Default)
From: [personal profile] independence1776
The thought of a civil war is chilling and one that is utterly believable. It would draw in everyone eventually… and Morgoth would sit back on his throne with popcorn watching the Free Peoples do his work for him. I suspect when everyone had finally grown weary enough of the civil war to make a truce or peace, Morgoth would swoop down and finish off the rest, possibly bringing in any surviving leaders as slaves.

Tolkien being Tolkien, I think eucatastrophe would reassert itself, but in a much different form than what we have in canon.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-10 11:28 pm (UTC)
ladybrooke: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ladybrooke
I agree with the civil war too! I don't think I mentioned that in my original comment. It's just not something I'd write, because I know the comment section would end up full of Thingol hate, and he's one of my favorite characters.

The only reason that I like moving Beren into Luthien's role is because, I'll admit, I deeply resent that out of all the elf-human unions we see in the books, the only ones that end happily are either Idril and Tuor (so Turgon's daughter, who was apparently one of the Valar's favorites) and then the descendants of one of the Maia, because I can't see myself in either Idril or Luthien that well. I like both of them, they're just not the characters I connect with.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-10 11:47 pm (UTC)
independence1776: Drawing of Maglor with a harp on right, words "sing of honor lost" and "Noldolantë" on the left and bottom, respectively (Default)
From: [personal profile] independence1776
I think it's a really interesting concept, albiet not one I'd write. I'm not exactly in the mood for a dystopia at the moment. (I like these discussions up until the point where I mentally hiss at everyone for daring to be wrong and then go curl up with my ideas like a dragon. The line between fun and hissing is practically nonexistant and subject to change depending on mood.)

Yep. It's also a sound strategy: why waste people and supplies when your enemy will do it for you?

I dunno. I'm very much a "no one can take Lúthien's role" woman, but I adore Lúthien to no end. I don't know what the eucatastrophe would be like; I think it would be one of those things that I'd have to write the story to figure it out.

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