The Geste of Beren and Lúthien

For our second excerpt from ‘The Geste’ we find Beren and Lúthien in Doriath before the King Thingol and his consort Melian. (Lines 1,012 to 1,055)

Then Beren looked upon the king
and stood amazed; and swift a ring
of elvish weapons hemmed him round.
Then Beren looked upon the ground,
or Melian's gaze had sought his face,
and dazed there drooped he in the place,
and when the king spake deep and slow;
'Who are thou stumblest hither? Know
that none unbidden seek this throne
and ever leave these halls of stone!'
no word he answered, filled with dread.
But Lúthien answered in his stead;
'Behold, my father, one who came
pursued by hatred like a flame!
Lo! Beren son of Barahir!
What need hath he thy wrath to fear,
foe of our foes, without a friend,
whose knees to Morgoth do not bend?'
'Let Beren answer!' Thingol said.
'What wouldst thou here? What hither led
thy wandering feet, O mortal wild?
How hast thou Lúthien beguiled
or darest thus to walk this wood
unmasked, in secret? Reason good
'twere best declare now if thou may,
or never again see the light of day!

Then Beren looked in Lúthien's eyes
and saw a light of starry skies,
and thence was slowly drawn his gaze
to Melian's face. As from a maze
of wonder dumb he woke; his heart
the bonds of awe there burst apart
and filled with the fearless pride of old;
in his glance now gleamed and anger cold.
'My feet hath fate, O king,' he said,
'here over the mountains bleeding led,
and what I sought not I have found,
and love it is hath here me bound.
Thy dearest treasure I desire;
nor rocks nor steel nor Morgoth's fire
nor all the power of Elfinesse
shall keep that gem I would possess.
For fairer than are born to Men
A daughter hast thou, Lúthien.'

Elu, more commonly known as Thingol, was the King of Doriath and High King of the Sindar. Born Elwë during the first years of the Eldar, he was the older brother of Olwë and Elmo. He was also a good friend of Finwë, High King of the Noldor. Thingol would become a central figure of The Silmarillion, instigating the Quest for the Silmaril, the greatest victory of the First Age, but ultimately the cause of his own doom.

The Geste of Beren and Lúthien

(For our first excerpt, the first 22 lines of the Geste, that, C.S. Lewis praised in it’s first draft, as “melodious movement”, a description of Thingol and his dwelling, the Thousand Caves, in the forests of Doriath).

Book I.
A king there was in days of old:
ere Men yet walked upon the mould
his power was reared in cavern's shade,
his hand was over glen and glade.
His shields were shining as the moon,
his lances keen of steel were hewn,
of silver grey his crown was wrought,
the starlight in his banners caught;
and silver thrilled his trumpets long
beneath the stars in challenge strong;
enchantment did his realm enfold,
where might and glory, wealth untold,
he wielded from his ivory throne
in many-pillared halls of stone.
There beryl, pearl, and opal pale,
and metal wrought like fishes' mail,
buckler and corslet, axe and sword,
and gleaming spears were laid in hoard —
all these he had and loved them less
than a maiden once in Elfinesse;
for fairer than are born to Men
a daughter had he, Lúthien.

Of Beren & Lúthien

Lúthien, called 'Lúthien Tinuviel' by Beren (Nightingale, daughter of twilight in Sindarin), was the fairest of the elven maids of Beleriand, and lived in the First Age of the Sun before the War of Wrath. Her story and fate is tied inevitably to Beren son of Barahir, with whom she fell in love when he wandered into Doriath. Lúthien Tinuviel was daughter of the great King Thingol of Doriath, greatest of the Teleri elves, who would not give his daughter freely, especially to a mortal man. So, Upon Thingol's discovery of Beren's presence in his land, he sent for him and, having sworn not to harm the man, set before him a quest to recover a Silmaril from Morgoth's iron crown. Upon the successful completion of this quest, Beren would be allowed to marry Lúthien, as they desired.

So, Beren set out upon his quest while Lúthien, imprisoned by Melian the Queen of Doriath to stop her from following Beren into hell, devised a means of escape from her prison in order to follow her love. Beren travelled to Nargothrond and there gained the help of King Felagund while gaining strong enemies in the Sons of Feanor. Beren and the party left Nargothrond and travelled north disguised as orcs until they came to Wizard's Isle and were imprisoned by Thu (Sauron), Lord of Wolves. Lúthien flees Doriath to help Beren and, with the help of Haun, great hound of the Valar, they destroy Wizard's Isle and free Beren (Felagund and his companions had died in captivity at the hands of Thu's wolves).

Beren and Lúthien wander until they approach Doriath and Beren steals away from Lúthien while she sleeps and goes to Angband to fulfill his quest. Before approaching Thangorodrim Lúthien and Huan once again find him and, with the help of Lúthien's elvish magic, they approach Angband in the guise of a werewolf and bat. They enter Angband and steal a Silmaril from Morgoth's crown while he is enchanted by Lúthien. Beren loses the stone, however, when the great wolf Carcharas bites off the hand of Beren that holds the Silmaril. It is regained, however, in Doriath, when Carcharas is killed by Huan and Beren in the end fulfills his quest to Thingol.

For a week or two, I thought I might run a few lines of JRRT's epic Beren & Lúthien poem... The The Lay of Leithian. Here first, is the synopsis.

Lewis's Cathedral

"It's fun laying out all my books as a cathedral. Personally I'd make Miracles and the other 'treatises' the cathedral school: my children's stories are the real side-chapels, each with its own little altar."

C.S. Lewis

Williams on Adam and Eve

They had what they wanted. That they did not like it when they got it does not alter the fact that they certainly got it.

Charles Williams -– ‘He Came Down From Heaven’

“Father Adam, come in; here is your child,
Here is the Son of Man, here is Paradise.
To-day everything begins again”

[ADAM goes down to the door of the stable]

Mary [meeting him and genuflecting]:
“Bless me, father: see how to-morrow is also now”

Adam [Making the sign of the Cross]:
Under the Protection!
Peace to you, and to all; good will to men

[They go into the stable]

Charles Williams -– ‘Seed of Adam’

Pride, a Billionaire and C.S. Lewis

A little while ago, the London Sunday Times published an article on the effect that reading C.S. Lewis had on the life of American billionaire, Thomas Monaghan.

Thomas Monaghan founded ‘Domino’s Pizza’, one of the world's largest pizza chains. Yet material success did not bring Monaghan satisfaction. A friend gave him C. S. Lewis’s ‘Mere Christianity’ to read. In his chapter on ‘The Great Sin’ in that book, Lewis writes that Pride leads to every other vice. Lewis calls Pride “the essential vice, the utmost evil… the complete anti-God state of mind”.

Monaghan realised that night that he was the proudest person he knew, nor did he like this thought. Reading C.S. Lewis that evening, set in train events that were to lead Monaghan to divest himself of many of his material trappings, to his selling off 90% of his business empire and his donation of this vast sum to good causes, culminating in the late 1990s with the selling of what now has become the world’s largest pizza delivery chain for an estimated $1 billion.

Williams on 'Exchange'

Charles talked and wrote a great deal about the practice of 'exchange'. It was one of the root rules of the Company. One made a pact and picked up the other person's fear or grief or pain and carried it oneself. This was the theory at any rate. The trouble was that, while the theory was irrefutable, the practice was apt to be dubious.... but how, I asked myself, was I to "present myself shyly to Almighty God in exchange for..."?

Letters to Lelange (Kent State UP), Page 54

C.S. Lewis on Walt Disney

A young American writer, Jane Douglass, had written to C.S. Lewis about making a dramatization of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe but was turned down. Lewis did, however, extend an invitation to Ms. Douglass to stop by and visit if she were ever in Oxford. Undaunted, she headed across the Atlantic to pay him a call:

“He repeated his dread of such things as radio and television apparatus and expressed his dislike of talking films. I said I quite understood this, and that nothing would distress me more than that he should think that I had in mind anything like the Walt Disney shows; I hoped nobody had suggested the book to Mr. Disney. This seemed to relieve Mr. Lewis to such an extent that I thought perhaps Mr. Disney had been after the book, but of course I did not ask. And in his usual generous way, Mr. Lewis said, "Too bad we didn't know Walt Disney before he was spoiled, isn't it?”

Jane Douglass, "An Enduring Friendship", C.S. Lewis at the Breakfast Table (1979)