Thursday, February 18, 2016

Luthien and...Sam Gamgee?

It was just another regular day.  I was walking down the sidewalk trying to avoid the puddles of melted snow on my way to the library.  Of course I was listening intently to everything Tolkien Professor Cory Olsen and the rest of the "Silmarillionairs" had to say about The Sil.  The podcast of the day was Silmarillion Seminar 22, the third in a series about the chapter Of Beren and Luthien which involved discussion about the dangers of oath breaking in Middle-earth and a few mentions of the overall character of the Sons of Feanor which was riveting as usual.

But that all changed when Elizabeth, one of the wonderful participants in the audio interface which makes up each podcast, jumped in and began talking about Beren and Luthien and their connections with Frodo and Sam.  By the time she was done I had made up my mind that she was a genius and also that I needed to share with you how she connected them.

First off, I feel the need to insert the Elrond facepalm meme here because I totally should have noticed this earlier.  Sam Gamgee almost explicitly points out the connection in the Tower of Cirith Ungol (which I read today!).  He says to Frodo:

"Beren now, he never thought he was going to get that Silmaril from the Iron Crown in Thangorodrim, and yet he did, and that was a worse place and a blacker danger than ours. But that’s a long tale, of course, and goes on past the happiness and into grief and beyond it - and the Silmaril went on and came to EƤrendil. And why, sir, I never thought of that before! We’ve got - you’ve got some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales never end?"

Here Sam clearly connects Frodo and his journey with that of Beren and Luthien, remarking that they are part of the same tale.  But, the connections grow...

As Elizabeth outlines:

In both quests, the Silmarils are intrical
As I just pointed out above, the Silmarils are extremely important to both quests: Beren and Luthien are on a mission to recover a Silmaril and Frodo and Sam are using the Light of Earendil (which is, indirectly, the light of a Silmaril).

In both quests, there is a precious item
It is actually a trope in medieval literature to have the protagonists set off in pursuit of some object which is often very symbolic, such as The Quest for the Holy Grail.  Tolkien rethought this idea with his protagonists going off to destroy something in The Lord of the Rings, the One Ring.  But in Beren and Luthien's story, they set off to retrieve a pair goes off to find a treasure, another to destroy one.

Both involve someone refusing to be parted with their companion
Clearly there is nothing romantic about Sam and Frodo's relationship, but in similar ways, Sam refuses to part with Frodo at the Breaking of the Fellowship and insists on going along.  Luthien refuses to part with Beren when he tries to leave to go find the Silmaril.  Both of these characters want to press on out of love (albeit different kinds of love!) and eventually, they do.

Both involve towers and song-rescues
Frodo was trapped in Cirith Ungol on the very top of the tower.  Sam sang a song, "moved by what thought in his heart he could not tell" to which Frodo replied and Sam was able to rescue him.  Beren was kept beneath Minas Tirith (not the one in Gondor, the one in Beleriand) and Luthien sang a song which Beren responded to and Luthien was able to rescue him.

Both involve mutilation
Frodo the Nine Fingered bears a striking parallel to Beren One Hand.

Both harm Sauron
Luthien's song of power disbands Sauron from Minas Tirith (again, in Beleriand) and obviously Frodo and Sam ban Sauron's spirit from Middle-earth.

Both pairs are rescued by Eagles
Sam and Frodo are rescued by Gwahir and Co. after the eruption of Orodruin (Mt. Doom) and Beren and Luthien are rescued by Thorondor after the eruption of Thangorodrim.

Both involve exceptional fates
Just how Luthien was allowed to become a mortal (very exceptional) Frodo was allowed a significant favor (and Sam after him), going to Valinor.

Sam remarks after the journey:
'What a tale we have been in, Mr. Frodo, haven't we?' he said. 'I wish I could hear it told! Do you think they'll say: Now comes the story of Nine-fingered Frodo and the Ring of Doom? And then everyone will hush, like we did, when in Rivendell they told us the tale of Beren One-hand and the Great Jewel. I wish I could hear it! And I wonder how it will go on after our part.'

And Theoden asks in The Two Towers:
“Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?'
A man may do both,' said Aragorn. 'For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day!”

Frodo and Sam had no idea they had a part in the great tales, tales like Beren and Luthien's until after the fact.  Maybe we are, just like Frodo and Sam, all part of one of the great tales that will pass into legends.

landscape, nature, grass


  1. Oh my goodness! *facepalm* that's so true! I never noticed that before! Wow, I'm mind blown. Thanks for sharing! :)

  2. When people say that Sam is stupid and boring. I must remind myself forcefully that Tolkien would not like me to harm anyone.

    1. That is one of the great trials of my life ;)

  3. I saw the title of this post and I was like what? Luthien and Sam? Now it makes sense though. Interesting and very cool. :)