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Tolkien’s Legendarium is one of the biggest, most popular and most interesting fictional universes we have. It is – in a way – the epitome of a fantasy-based universe and served as a prototype for all later similar universes that are part of the fantasy genre. Tolkien’s universe has a lot of mysteries and while some of them are unclear, there are some that are solved but need further clarification. One of the latter is the story of the Elf-maiden Lúthien and Morgoth, the first Dark Lord in the Legendarium. How are they connected and what is their story? Keep reading to find out.
Lúthien was an Elf-maiden who, with her beloved, the mortal Adan Beren, tricked the Dark Lord Morgoth so that Beren could steal a Silmaril from his Iron Crown. Beren needed to do that to get the approval of Lúthien’s father to marry her.
In today’s article, we are going to tell you who Lúthien and Morgoth were and what their exact roles in the Legendarium were. You’re then going to see how their stories are connected and what Morgoth initially planned for the Elf-maiden before the managed to escape. We have prepared a lot of information for you so keep reading until the very end!
Who is Lúthien?
Lúthien, also known as Lúthien Tinúviel, is a fictional character created by J.R.R. Tolkien that appears in stories from his Legendarium. She is an Elf-maiden and the only daughter of Great King Thingol of Doriath, and Melian, a Maia. She was the first Elf to marry a mortal, Adan Beren. The principal source for her story is the tale “Beren and Lúthien”, whose earlier versions appeared in other works, as well as in verse.
Lúthien met Beren in the woods of Doriath and they immediately fell in love. Unfortunately, Lúthien’s father did not want to leave his daughter to a mortal. To reject him without betraying his oath not to harm Beren, he asked the latter to obtain one of the three Silmarils from Morgoth’s Iron Crown. Lúthien was locked up so that she could not help Beren, but when she learned that he had been taken prisoner at Tol-in-Gaurhoth, she managed to escape to confront Sauron and rescue Beren, with the help of Huan, the Hound of Valinor.
Thanks to Lúthien’s powers, they passed through the gates of Angband after she put the great werewolf Carcharoth, who guarded the gates, to sleep. They surrendered to the throne of Morgoth and Lúthien succeeded, through her dancing and singing, in putting Morgoth and all his servants into a deep sleep, allowing Beren to remove a Silmaril from the Iron Crown. But, as they fled, Carcharoth manages to bite off Beren’s hand, which was holding the Silmaril, and swallow it; burned by the power of the gem, it wreaked havoc throughout Beleriand, as far as Doriath, where he was killed during the Wolf Hunt.
However, during this hunt, Beren was also killed; dying, he offered the Silmaril to Thingol, thus fulfilling his promise. Lúthien’s spirit then fled to the Mandos Caves and pleaded with Mandos himself for permission to revive Beren. It was the most beautiful song ever sung in Arda, and it moved Mandos to the point of granting Beren a second life, provided that Lúthien herself became mortal. They lived then for some time in Doriath, before settling in Tol Galen where they had a son, Dior. With Dior, all the kings of Númenor descend from Lúthien.
Who is Morgoth?
Morgoth, formerly Melkor, is a fictional character from Tolkien’s Legendarium, one of the principal antagonists of the series. Originally, Melkor was part an Ainur; brother of Manwë, he was the most powerful of the fifteen Valar but he turned to evil. After stealing the fabulous gems called the Silmarils, he was later nicknamed Morgoth Bauglir, the “Black Foe of the World” by the Elf Fëanor. Morgoth was the main antagonist during the time of the Silmarillion, and his influence would remain in Middle-Earth long after his expulsion from Arda, notably through the actions of his servant Sauron.
Melkor was, originally, of the same rank as Manwë and yet the most powerful of the Valar until his exile. Very early on, he turned against the work of Ilúvatar out of his desire to bring forth his own creations and to rule over them. As one of the Ainur, he allowed discordant sounds to flow into the Great Creation Music (Ainulindale) and thus laid the foundations for the dark sides of Middle-Earth. As the master of heat and cold, he used his powers, not to shape the world, but to try to subdue it.
When he did not succeed in doing this through the resistance of the other Valar, he became bitter and from then on tried to destroy or corrupt all the works of the others. At that moment, he was exiled.
On Arda, he frequently destroyed the works of the other Valar and raised many of the evil beings that Elves, Dwarves, and Men would confront in the ages that followed. As a result, Melkor lost the ability to create something new, so that he could only imitate and falsify what had previously existed. Many Maiar, Elves and Men were seduced by him or forced into his service through oppression.
At the end of the First Age, after the War of Wrath, Melkor is chained by the Valar and banished to the Timeless Void. In Middle-Earth, however, many of his servants and creatures remained and continued to carry out his will; Sauron was one of them. One prophecy says that Melkor will return at the end of all days and presumably in the Dagor Dagorath will be finally destroyed.
The story of Lúthien and Morgoth
As said, the story of the Elf-maiden is – in a way – connected to the first Dark Lord’s story, as Beren was given the task to bring the maiden’s father a Silmaril from Morgoth’s Iron Crown. This was perceived to be impossible, but Beren and his maiden managed to trick Morgot and get their hands on one of the jewels. This is how Tolkien described the scene in The Silmarillion:
“Then Beren and Luthien went through the Gate, and down the labyrinthine stairs; and together wrought the greatest deed that has been dared by Elves or Men. For they came to the seat of Morgoth in his nethermost hall that was upheld by horror, lit by fire, and filled with weapons of death and torment. There Beren slunk in wolf’s form beneath his throne; but Luthien was stripped of her disguise by the will of Morgoth, and he bent his gaze upon her. She was not daunted by his eyes; and she named her own name, and offered her service to sing before him, after the manner of a minstrel. Then Morgoth looking upon her beauty conceived in his thought an evil lust, and a design more dark than any that had yet come into his heart since he fled from Valinor. Thus he was beguiled by his own malice, for he watched her, leaving her free for awhile, and taking secret pleasure in his thought. Then suddenly she eluded his sight, and out of the shadows began a song of such surpassing loveliness, and of such blinding power, that he listened perforce; and a blindness came upon him, as his eyes roamed to and fro, seeking her.
All his court were cast down in slumber, and all the fires faded and were quenched; but the Silmarils in the crown on Morgoth’s head blazed forth suddenly with a radiance of white flame; and the burden of that crown and of the jewels bowed down his head, as though the world were set upon it, laden with a weight of care, of fear, and of desire, that even the will of Morgoth could not support. Then Luthien catching up her winged robe sprang into the air, and her voice came dropping down like rain into pools, profound and dark. She cast her cloak before his eyes, and set upon him a dream, dark as the outer Void where once he walked alone.
Suddenly he fell, as a hill sliding in avalanche, and hurled like thunder from his throne lay prone upon the floors of hell. The iron crown rolled echoing from his head. All things were still.
As a dead beast Beren lay upon the ground; but Luthien touching him with her hand aroused him, and he cast aside the wolf-hame. Then he drew forth the knife Angrist; and from the iron claws that held it he cut a Silmaril.
As he closed it in his hand, the radiance welled through his living flesh, and his hand became as a shining lamp; but the jewel suffered his touch and hurt him not. It came then into Beren’s mind that he would go beyond his vow, and bear out of Angband all three of the Jewels of Feanor; but such was not the doom of the Silmarils. The knife Angrist snapped, and a shard of the blade flying smote the cheek of Morgoth. He groaned and stirred, and all the host of Angband moved in sleep.
Then terror fell upon Beren and Luthien, and they fled, heedless and without disguise, desiring only to see the light once more. They were neither hindered nor pursued, but the Gate was held against their going out; for Carcharoth had arisen from sleep, and stood now in wrath upon the threshold of Angband. Before they were aware of him, he saw them, and sprang upon them as they ran.”– The Silmarillion, Chapter XIX, “Of Beren and Lúthien”
The continuation of this story was described in Luthien’s section of this article, so we are not going to repeat it here, as you already know what happened next. We wanted to give you the precise section from the book so that you could see how exactly it happened for yourselves, in case you have not read the book itself.
What was Morgoth’s “dark design” against Lúthien?
There is a sentence in the above-quoted paragraph – “Then Morgoth looking upon her beauty conceived in his thought an evil lust, and a design more dark than any that had yet come into his heart since he fled from Valinor.” – which raised a lot of questions among fans, since Tolkien never explicitly told us that Morgoth’s “dark design” was. Well, although we do not have an official confirmation, we can say that we have an answer we believe is almost certainly correct.
Namely, the main issue is what could have been darker than the things Morgoth had already done, and he did a solid number of pretty vile and horrible things. So, what could he have done to the Elf-maiden that would’ve been perceived as being the worst thing he did during his life? Well, you have to take two facts into consideration here. First of all, the Legendarium was inspired by medieval lore and the representations of certain characters are quite similar to their representations in medieval literature, especially female characters who are perceived to be fair and innocent. The second thing relates to Tolkien’s own, personal views on women. He had a very old-fashioned, almost Victorian perception of women and considered them to be special (if not even sacred) in a way. He also had very old-fashioned stances on sex, which is why we think that our explanation makes sense. And here it is…
We think that Morgoth’s intention was to rape Lúthien, especially since Tolkien himself states that he was taken over by “an evil lust”. Since Lúthien was perceived to be the fairest among the maidens, a character of such purity and beauty that Morgoth’s mere presence defiled her character, it seems pretty obvious that Morgoth raping her would be a truly “dark design”. If we relate that to the context of the works, as well as Tolkien’s views on sex and women, it’s not illogical to deduce that he would consider the rape of such a fair maiden to be the darkest thing Morgoth did, had he actually done it.
And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we helped solve this dilemma for you. See you next time and don’t forget to follow us!