Poetry Monday: The Tale of Tinuviel by J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy had a HUGE impact on me.  I read them the first time at age eleven, and it was a qualifying question for my boyfriends when I began dating:  “Have you read LOTR?” (At the time we met, my husband had read it seven times — more than my mere four times.)

Yes, I am a geek.

For today’s poem I decided to refresh my memory of the tale of Tinuviel and Beren, son of Barahir.  It’s been many years since I read the trilogy, and I was a little surprised to find how much poetry Tolkien had included in the first half.  You can hardly read twenty pages without finding another verse.

The tale, as it appears in The Fellowship of the Ring, is told in an abreviated form by Strider as he and the Hobbits camp on Weathertop.  Beren escaped the disastrous battle with the Great Enemy where his father was killed and came to the hidden kingdom of Thingol, where he saw Tinuviel.

Enchantment healed his weary feet
That over hills were doomed to roam;
And forth he hastened, strong and fleet,
And grasped at moonbeams glistening.
Through woven woods in Elvenhome
She lightly fled on dancing feet,
And left him lonely still to roam
In the silent forest listening. . . .

Beren looks for her everywhere, and then in the spring he sees her again.

Again she fled, but swift he came.
Tinúviel! Tinúviel!
He called her by her elvish name;
And there she halted listening.
One moment stood she, and a spell
His voice laid on her: Beren came,
And doom fell on Tinúviel
That in his arms lay glistening. . . .

I like this tale despite the usual aura of loss that surrounds Elven/mortal pairings.  The hoary old romantic trope of (one-sided) love at first sight works well here.  Beren’s sorrowful heart is lifted at the sight of the beautiful Tinuviel, and though he doesn’t know her, he faithfully searches for her until they’re reunited.  Initially relucant, Tinuviel softens when he calls her Nightengale in the elvish tongue.

. . . Tinuviel the elven-fair,
Imortal maiden elven-wise,
About him cast her shadowy hair
And arms like silver glimmering.

Though it’s not included in the poem, Tinuviel later rescues Beren, and together they do what armies failed at, casting down the Great Enemy and recovering one of the three Silmarils.  Yet even in their triumph, tragedy strikes, and Beren is killed.  They have to wait for the afterlife for their Happily Ever After (but not, aparently, for the consumation of their love, since Aragorn and Elrond both are descended from them).

. . . And long ago they passed away
In the forest singing sorrowless.


Filed under poetry

2 responses to “Poetry Monday: The Tale of Tinuviel by J.R.R. Tolkien

  1. Have you read the version called “The Lay of Leithian” in The Lays of Beleriand (the third volume of the History of Middle-Earth series)? It’s not perfect, by any means, but it does tell their complete story up to the escape from Angband. It isn’t actually 200 pages long, either — half of that is notes-n-commentary.

    And when they actually take the Silmarils from the crown, it’s an all the more effective Crowning Moment of Awesome, as TV Tropes would call it, for the build-up to it. Plus getting to see Luthien pwn Sauron on-stage — yes, THAT Sauron.


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