Evolution of 'The Tale of Tinúviel'

 

 

  From The Tale of Tinuviel, c. 1917. As Light as Leaf on Linden-tree, c. 1923. From The Lay of Leithian, c, 1925. From The Lord of the Rings, 1938. From The Quenta Silmarillion, 1937/ed. 1974.
0 Now it was the delight of Dairon and Tinuviel to fare away from the cavernous palace of Tinwelint [Thingol] their father and together spend long times amid the trees. There often would Dairon sit upon a tussock or a tree-root and make music while Tinuviel danced thereto, and when she danced to the playing of Dairon more lissom was she than Gwendeling [Melian], more magical than Tinfang Warble neath the moon, nor may any see such lilting save be it only in the rose gardens of Valinor where Nessa dances on the lawns of never-fading green. In the Lay of Leithian,   Release from Bondage
in linked words   has long been wrought
of Beren Ermabwed,   brave, undaunted;
how Luthien the lissom   he loved of yore
in the enchanted forest   chained in wonder.
Tinuviel he named her,   then nightingale
more sweet her voice,   as veiled in soft
and wavering wisps   of woven dusk
shot with starlight,   with shining eyes
she danced like dreams   of drifting sheen,
pale-twinkling pearls   in pools of darkness.
    And songs were raised   for sorrow's lightening,
a sudden sweetness   in a silent hour,
that 'Light as Leaf   on Linden-tree'
were called -- here caught   a cadent echo.
In sunshine and in sheen of moon,
with silken robe and silver shoon,
the daughter of the deathless queen
now danced on the undying green,
half elven-fair and half divine;
and when the stars began to shine
unseen but near a piping woke,
and in the branches of an oak,
or seated on the beech-leaves brown,
Dairon the dark with ferny crown
played with bewildering wizard's art
music for breaking of the heart
....
'I will tell you the tale of Tinúviel,' said Strider, 'in brief - for it is a long tale of which the end is not known; and there are none now, except Elrond, that remember it aright as it was told of old. It is a fair tale, though it is sad, as are all the tales of Middle-earth, and yet it may lift up your hearts.' He was silent for some time, and then he began not to speak but to chant softly: Among the tales of sorrow and of ruin that come down to us from the darkness of those days there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures. And of these histories most fair still in the ears of the Elves is the tale of Beren and Lúthien. Of their lives was made the Lay of Leithian, Release from Bondage, which is the longest save one of the songs concerning the world of old; but here is told in fewer words and without song.
           
1 Now the place that they loved the most was a shady spot, and elms grew there, and beech too, but these were not very tall, and some chestnut trees there were with white flowers, but the ground was moist and a great misty growth of hemlocks rose beneath the trees. On a time of June they were playing there, and the white umbels of the hemlocks were like a cloud about the boles of the trees, and there Tinuviel danced until the evening faded late, and there were many white moths abroad. Tinuviel being a fairy minded them not as many of the children of Men do, although she loved not beetles, and spiders will none of the Eldar touch because of Ungweliante -- but now the white moths flittered about her head and Dairon trilled an eerie tune, when suddenly that strange thing befell. The grass was very long and thin,
  The leaves of many years lay thick,
The old tree-roots wound out and in,
  And the early moon was glimmering.
There went her white feet lilting quick,
  And Dairon's flute did bubble thin,
As neath the hemlock umbels thick
  Tinuviel danced a-shimmering.
Now it befell on summer night,
upon a lawn where lingering light
yet lay and faded faint and grey,
that Luthien danced while he did play.
...
Then clearly thrilled her voice and rang;
with sudden ecstasy she sang
a song of nightingales she learned
and with her elvish magic turned
to such bewildering delight
the moon hung moveless in the night.

The leaves were long, the grass was green,
  The hemlock-umbels tall and fair,
And in the glade a light was seen
  Of stars in shadow shimmering.
Tinúviel was dancing there
  To music of a pipe unseen,
And light of stars was in her hair,
  And in her raiment glimmering.
 

But wandering in the summer in the woods of Neldoreth he came upon Lúthien, daughter of Thingol and Melian, at a time of evening under moonrise, as she danced upon the unfading grass in the glades beside Esgalduin.
           
2 Never have I heard how Beren came thither over the hills; yet was he braver than most, as thou shalt hear, and 'twas the love of wandering maybe alone that had sped him through the terrors of the Iron Mountains until he reached the Lands Beyond.
Now Beren was a Gnome, son of Egnor the forester...Now the lies of Melko ran among Beren's folk so that they believed evil things of the secret Elves, yet now did he see Tinuviel dancing in the twilight, and Tinuviel was in a silver-pearly dress, and her bare white feet were twinkling among the hemlock-stems. Then Beren cared not whether she were Vala or Elf or child of Men and crept near to see; and he leant against a young elm that grew upon a mound so that he might look down into the little glade where she was dancing, for the enchantment made him faint.
The pale moths lumbered noiselessly,
  And daylight died among the leaves,
As Beren from the wild country
  Came thither wayworn sorrowing.
He peered between the hemlock sheaves,
  And watched in wonder noiselessly
Her dancing through the moonlit leaves
  And the ghostly moths a-following.
And this it was that Beren heard,
and this he saw, without a word,
enchanted dumb, yet filled with fire
of such a wonder and desire
that all his mortal mind was dim;
her magic bound and fettered him,
and faint he leaned against a tree.
Forwandered, wayworn, gaunt was he,
his body sick and heart gone cold,
grey in his hair, his youth turned old;
for those that tread that lonely way
a price of woe and anguish pay.
And now his heart was healed and slain
with a new life and with new pain.

He gazed, and as he gazed her hair
within its cloudy web did snare
the silver moonbeams sifting white
between the leaves, and glinting bright
the tremulous starlight of the skies
was caught and mirrored in her eyes.
...

There Beren came from mountains cold,
  And lost he wandered under leaves,
And where the Elven-river rolled
  He walked alone and sorrowing.
He peered between the hemlock-leaves
  And saw in wonder flowers of gold
Upon her mantle and her sleeves,
  And her hair like shadow following.
 

Then all memory of his pain departed from him, and he fell into an enchantment; for Lúthien was the most beautiful of all the Children of Ilúvatar. Blue was her raiment as the unclouded heaven, but her eyes were grey as the starlit evening; her mantle was sewn with golden flowers, but her hair was dark as the shadows of twilight. As the light upon the leaves of trees, as the voice of clear waters, as the stars above the mists of the world, such was her glory and her loveliness; and in her face was a shining light.
           
3 So slender was she and so fair that at length he stood heedlessly in the open the better to gaze upon her, and at that moment the full moon came brightly through the boughs and Dairon caught sight of Beren's face. Straightaway did he perceive that  he was none of their folk,...wherefore Dairon dropped his instrument and crying "Flee, flee, O Tinuviel, an enemy walks this wood" he was gone swiftly through the trees. Then Tinuviel in her amaze followed not straightaway, for she understood not his words at once, and knowing she could not run or leap so hardily as her brother she slipped suddenly down among the white hemlocks and hid herself ...

Then Beren was sad, for he was lonely and was grieved at their fright, and he looked for Tinuviel everywhere about, thinking her not fled. Thus suddenly did he lay his hand upon her slender arm beneath the leaves, and with a cry she started away from him and flitted as fast as she could in the wan light, in and about the tree-trunks and the hemlock-stalks. The tender touch of her arm made Beren yet more eager than before to find her, and he followed swiftly and yet not swiftly enough, for in the end she escaped him, and reached the dwellings of her father in fear; nor did she dance alone in the woods for many a day after.

There magic took his weary feet,
  And he forgot his loneliness,
And out he danced, unheeding, fleet,
  Where the moonbeams were a-glistening.
Through the tangled woods of Elfinesse
  They fled on nimble fairy feet,
And left him to his loneliness
  In the silent forest listening.
Lo! all forgetting he was drawn
unheeding toward the glimmering lawn
by love and wonder that compelled
his feet from hiding; music welled
within his heart, and songs unmade
on themes unthought-of moved and swayed
his soul with sweetness; out he came,
a shadow in the moon's pale flame--
and Dairon's flute as sudden stops...
'Flee, Luthien!', and 'Luthien!'
from hiding Dairon called again;
'A stranger walks the woods! Away!'
But Luthien would wondering stay;
fear had she never felt or known,
till fear then seized her, all alone,
seeing that shape with shagged hair
and shadow long that halted there.
Then sudden she vanished like a dream
in dark oblivion, a gleam
...
Then stared he wild in dumbness bound
at silent trees, deserted ground;
he blindly groped across the glade
to the dark trees' encircling shade,
and, while she watched with veiled eyes,
touched her soft arm in sweet surprise.
Like startled moth from deathlike sleep
in sunless nook or bushes deep
she darted swift, and to and fro
with cunning that elvish dancers know
about the trunks of trees she twined
a path fantastic. Far behind
enchanted, wildered and forlorn
Beren came blundering, bruised and torn:
Esgalduin the elven-stream,
in which amid tree-shadows gleam
the stars, flowed strong before his feet.
Some secret way she found, and fleet
passed over and was seen no more,
and left him forsaken on the shore.
...

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 tightly fled on dancing feet,
And left him lonely still to roam
  In the silent forest listening.
 

But she vanished from his sight; and he became dumb, as one that is bound under a spell, and he strayed long in the woods, wild and wary as a beast, seeking for her.
           
4 This was a great sorrow to Beren, who would not leave those places, hoping to see that fair elfin maiden dance yet again, and he wandered in the wood growing wild and lonely for many a day and searching for Tinuviel. By dawn and dusk he sought her, but ever more hopefully when the moon shone bright. Still hearkening for the imagined sound
  Of lissom feet upon the leaves,
For music welling underground
  In the dim-lit caves of Doriath.
But withered are the hemlock sheaves,
  And one by one with mournful sound
Whispering fall the beechen leaves
  In the dying woods of Doriath.
A summer waned, an autumn glowed,
and Beren in the woods abode,
as wild and wary as a faun
that sudden wakes at rustling dawn,
and flits from shade to shade, and flees
the brightness of the sun, yet sees
all stealthy movements in the wood.
The murmurous warmth in weathers good,
the hum of many wings, the call
of many a bird, the pattering fall
of sudden rain upon the trees,
the windy tide in leafy seas,
the creaking of the boughs, he heard;
but not the song of sweetest bird
brought joy or comfort to his heart,
a wanderer dumb who dwelt apart;
who sought unceasing and in vain
to hear and see those things again:
a song more fair than nightingale,
a wonder in the moonlight pale.

He heard there oft the flying sound
  Of feet as light as linden-leaves,
Or music welling underground,
  In hidden hollows quavering.
Now withered lay the hemlock-sheaves,
  And one by one with sighing sound
Whispering fell the beechen leaves
  In the wintry woodland wavering.

In his heart he called her Tinúviel, that signifies Nightingale, daughter of twilight, in the Grey-elven tongue, for he knew no other name for her.
           
5 At last one night he caught a sparkle afar off, and lo, there she was dancing alone on a little treeless knoll and Dairon was not there. Often and often she came there after and danced and sang to herself, and sometimes Dairon would be nigh, and then Beren watched from the wood's edge afar, and sometimes he was away and Beren crept then closer. He sought her wandering near and far
  Where the leaves of one more year were strewn,
By winter moon and frosty star
  With shaken light a-shivering.
He found her neath a misty moon,
  A silver wraith that danced afar,
And the mists beneath her feet were strewn
  In moonlight palely quivering.
...
By dawn and dusk he seeks her still;
by noon and night in valleys chill,
nor hears a sound but the slow beat
on sodden leaves of his own feet.

The wind of winter winds his horn;
the misty veil is rent and torn.
The wind dies; the starry choirs
leap in the silent sky to fires,
whose light comes bitter-cold and sheer
through domes of frozen crystal clear.

A sparkle through the darkling trees,
a piercing glint of light he sees,
and there she dances all alone
upon a treeless hill of stone!
Her mantle blue with jewels white
caught all the rays of frosted light.
She shone with cold and wintry flame,
as dancing down the hill she came,
and passed his watchful silent gaze,
a glimmer as of stars ablaze.

He sought her ever, wandering far
  Where leaves of years were thickly strewn,
By light of moon and ray of star
  In frosty heavens shivering.
Her mantle glinted in the moon,
  As on a hill-top high and far
She danced, and at her feet was strewn
  A mist of silver quivering.

And he saw her afar as leaves in the winds of autumn, and in winter as a star upon a hill, but a chain was upon his limbs.

           
6 Indeed for long Tinuviel knew of his coming and feigned otherwise, and for long her fear had departed by reason of the wistful hunger of his face lit by the moonlight; and she saw that he was kind and in love with her beautiful dancing.

 

She danced upon a hillock green
  Whose grass unfading kissed her feet,
While Dairon's fingers played unseen
  O'er his magic flute a-flickering;
And out he danced, unheeding, fleet,
  In the moonlight to the hillock green:
No impress found he of her feet
  That fled him swiftly flickering.

And snowdrops sprang beneath her feet,
and one bird, sudden, late and sweet,
shrilled as she wayward passed along.
A frozen brook to bubbling song
awoke and laughed; but Beren stood
still bound enchanted in the wood.
Her starlight faded and the night
closed o'er the snowdrops glimmering white.

When winter passed, she came again,
  And her song released the sudden spring,
Like rising lark, and falling rain,
  And melting water bubbling.
He saw the elven-flowers spring
  About her feet, and healed again
He longed by her to dance and sing
  Upon the grass untroubling.

There came a time near dawn on the eve of spring, and Lúthien danced upon a green hill; and suddenly she began to sing. Keen, heartpiercing was her song as the song of the lark that rises from the gates of night and pours its voice among the dying stars, seeing the sun behind the  walls of the world; and the song of Lúthien released the bonds of winter, and the frozen waters spoke, and flowers sprang from the cold earth where her feet had passed.

           
7 Then Beren took to following Tinuviel secretly through the woods even to the entrance of the cave and the bridge's head, and when she was gone in he would cry across the stream, softly saying "Tinuviel," for he had caught the name from Dairon's lips; and although he knew it  not Tinuviel often hearkened from within the shadows of the cavernous doors and laughed softly or smiled. At length one day as she danced alone he stepped out more boldly and said to her: "Tinuviel, teach me to dance." "Who art thou?" said she. "Beren. I am from across the Bitter Hills." "Then if thou wouldst dance, follow me," said the maiden, and she danced before Beren away, and away into the woods, nimbly and yet not so fast that he could not follow, and ever and anon she would look back and laugh at him stumbling after, saying "Dance, Beren, dance! as they dance beyond the Bitter Hills."

And longing filled his voice that called
  'Tinuviel, Tinuviel,'
And longing sped his feet enthralled
  Behind her wayward shimmering.
She heard as echo of a spell
  His lonely voice that longing called
'Tinuviel, Tinuviel':
  One moment paused she glimmering.

A night there was when winter died;
then all alone she sang and cried
and danced until the dawn of spring,
and chanted some wild magic thing
that stirred him, till it sudden broke
the bonds that held him, and he woke
to madness sweet and brave despair.
He flung his arms to the night air,
and out he danced unheeding, fleet,
enchanted, with enchanted feet.
He sped towards the hillock green,
the lissom limbs, the dancing sheen;
he leapt upon the the grassy hill
his arms with loveliness to fill:
his arms were empty, and she fled;
away, away her white feed sped.
But as she went he swiftly came
and called her with the tender name
of nightingales in elvish tongue,
that all the woods now sudden rung:
'Tinuviel! Tinuviel!'
And clear his voice was as a bell;
its echoes wove a binding spell:
'Tinuviel! Tinuviel!'
 

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.

Then the spell of silence fell from Beren, and he called to her, crying Tinúviel; and the woods echoed the name.

           
8 In this way they came by winding paths to the abode of Tinwelint, and Tinuviel beckoned Beren beyond the stream, and he followed her wondering down into the cave and the deep halls of her home. And Beren caught that elfin maid
  And kissed her trembling starlit eyes,
Tinuviel whom love delayed
  In the woods of evening morrowless.
Till moonlight and till music dies
  Shall Beren by the elfin maid
Dance in the starlight of her eyes
  In the forest sorrowless.
His voice such love and longing filled
one moment stood she, fear was stilled;
one moment only; like a flame
he leaped towards her as she stayed
and caught and kissed that elfin maid.

As Beren looked into her eyes
  Within the shadows of her hair,
The trembling starlight of the skies
  He saw there mirrored shimmering.
Tinúviel the elven-fair,
  Immortal maiden elven-wise,
About him cast her shadowy hair
  And arms like silver glimmering.

Then she halted in wonder, and fled no more, and Beren came to her. But as she looked on him, doom fell upon her, and she loved him;
           
9 ...

Yet said Mandos to those twain: " Lo, O Elves, it is not to any life of perfect joy that I dismiss you, for such may no longer be found in all the world where sits Melko of the evil heart -- and know ye that ye will become mortal even as Men, and when ye fare hither again it will be forever, unless the Gods summon you indeed to Valinor." Nonetheless those twain departed hand in hand, and they fared together through the northern woods, and oftentimes were they seen dancing magic dances down the hills, and their name became heard far and wide.

Wherever grass is long and thin,
  And the leaves of countless years lie thick,
And ancient roots wind out and in,
  As once they did in Doriath,
Shall go their white feet lilting quick,
  But never Darion's music thin
Be heard beneath the hemlocks thick
  Since Beren came to Doriath.
...

And thus in anguish Beren paid
for that great doom upon him laid,
the deathless love of Luthien,
too fair for love of mortal Men;
and in his doom was Luthien snared,
the deathless in his dying shared;
and Fate them forged a binding chain
of living love and mortal pain.

Long was the way that fate them bore,
  O'er stony mountains cold and grey,
Through halls of iron and darkling door,
  And woods of nightshade morrowless.
The Sundering Seas between them lay,
  And yet at last they met once more,
And long ago they passed away
  In the forest singing sorrowless.

...Thus he began the payment of anguish for the fate that was laid on him; and in his fate Lúthien was caught, and being immortal she shared in his mortality, and being free received his chain; and her anguish was greater than any other of the Eldalië has known.

Beyond his hope she returned to him where he sat in darkness, and long ago in the Hidden Kingdom she laid her hand in his. Thereafter often she came to him, and they went in secret through the woods together from spring to summer; and no others of the Children of Ilúvatar have had joy so great, though the time was brief.  

All texts reproduced without permission for purposes of discussion on TheOneRing.net, April 2005.