Beleg's Doom: Or, Definitely Not The Lay Of Turin
As I wander through the Halls of Mandos, I have nothing but my memories to amuse me. For the most part, my good and virtuous life has been dull -- a long series of forest patrols that now seems almost as endless as these Halls; so, I find myself dwelling on the only tale that stands out -- the tale of my Doom.
It all had to do with the strange race of Men.
I believe I speak for most of the people of Doriath when I say that the first Man any of us ever paid any real attention to was one Beren, son of Barahir. Not that we did not ignore even Beren, at first: after all, he was just another victim of Luthien's charms, nothing out of the ordinary. Half the creatures in the forest were obsessed with her at the time, including the trees.
Now, I was not one of those creatures, for reasons that will soon become clear. This might be why Thingol considered me one of his most trusted warriors: for Thingol, quite naturally, disapproved of all those creatures making eyes at -- or dropping leaves on -- his daughter. Not that all the creatures were aware of his displeasure, since, curiously enough, he considered yelling at plants below his royal dignity. Still, Beren was animal rather than plant, and so Thingol felt quite free to express himself forcefully. When we, the people of Doriath, heard our King shouting at the mortal, we were not surprised.
We were, however, slightly shocked when Beren took the King's suggestion so deeply to heart. But then, I suppose that he could not have known that sarcastic comments about the Silmarils were one of Thingol's little habits. I can still hear him. "Sure, Beleg, you can have a better sword. I'll give it to you just as soon as you bring me, in your hand, a Silmaril!" "Sure, Mablung, I'll pass you the salt -- if you pass me a Silmaril from Morgoth's crown!" When in a good mood, he'd even try to say it in a Noldorin accent, and call it his Feanor impersonation. And then Saeros would stand there cringing at all the esses for some incomprehensible scholarly reason.
Really, it was all rather odd and embarrassing.
At any rate, Beren astounded us all by actually setting out to find a piece of Feanor's accursed jewellery. Then Luthien astounded us all even more by supporting his decision and claiming to love him, and a melancholy wind swept through the trees. As the strange matter was discussed throughout Doriath, I first heard the whispers that were the first harbingers of my Doom:
"I suppose it is really true, then, what they say about male Men."
Now, I had, by that time, heard quite a statements about male Men -- that they were squat, and hairy, and that their lives were nasty, brutish, and short -- but none of these things seemed complimentary enough to fit the situation. You see, I was very naive back then. It's only to be expected: after all, the deeds (and organs) of lust are seldom discussed among my people, even within the bounds of marriage. Indeed, Mablung, who was my usual authority on matters of lore -- as I was his -- had long claimed that the King and his Queen communicate by means of lyrical yet passionate notes written on scented beech-tree bark torn from the Hirilorn. But even Mablung could not tell me what it was that 'they' said, in this instance.
We did consider asking Luthien, maybe by tying a beech-bark note to an arrow and shooting it up into her tree, but we soon dismissed the idea as tactless. And then, by the time Beren surprised us beyond all reason by returning, and not as an utter failure, at that, there were many other things at hand, demanding my immediate attention.
With Beren gone, the question of what it is that they say about male Men slumbered deep within my mind. It was to awaken only when, during a routine hunt, I encountered the tracks of three other Men. Driven by curiosity as much as by duty, I followed them; and this is how I first encountered Turin son of Hurin.
What can I say about Turin? His courage and pride were obvious from the moment he met my eye, even while the other two men stood hunched with what I though was fear. Then I realized that they were bent with age, and he a mere child, but still I thought him an exceptional Man. Thingol, too, saw something in him, even beyond his high birth, and named him a foster-son.
(Of course, many thought that this was yet another instance of the odd behaviour Thingol had been displaying ever since Luthien's departure, but they were wrong. They had forgotten that our King had always been rather peculiar.)
As Turin grew, my initial, favourable impression of him was only confirmed. True, he did not seem particularly skilled at the arts of the forge -- but then, I have always considered an excessive enthusiasm for forging a decadent Noldorin custom. I was pleased to note that weapons, and their uses, intrigued him greatly, and that he showed great promise as a warrior. He spoke little, which is a characteristic I have always admired in my companions, especially when stalking shy game. And then, he disliked Saeros, and this forged a bond between us, since I, myself, have loathed Saeros ever since he told me I was not his type.
No, that came out all wrong. I've disliked Saeros ever since he asked me whether that big bow was meant to compensate for something. Misunderstanding, I patiently explained that Belthronding had a mighty draw and offered to let him try it out sometime. And that was when he made that 'not my type' comment, smirking all the while.
The fact that this all left me completely confused is just one more example of how naive I was before my Doom fully came upon me.
At any rate, as I got to know Turin, his dislike of Saeros seemed, to me, yet another proof of the Man's sterling quality. Ah! He had courage, strength, and grace, and taste; and, beyond that, he presumably had that mysterious quality that human men are said to have. How could I not call him friend?
Ironically -- actually, I am not sure whether it was ironic, really, being a warrior and not a scholar, but I do not know whom to ask about it here -- anyway, possibly-ironically, it was Saeros who finally dispelled the mists of my ignorance. He chanced upon Mablung and me while we were lost deep in a discussion of the matter of The Thing That Is Said Of Men, for perhaps the six-hundredth time. Mablung supposed that it was something to do with the eventual fate of their souls, while I was of the opinion that it was a physical matter -- perhaps an unusual tolerance for strong liquor. I realize now how ridiculous both these spiritual theories must have sounded to Saeros, but then he has always enjoyed an opportunity to demonstrate superior knowledge. So, he enlightened us. At first, he used long, sophisticated words; then, he switched to short, simple ones. He drew us a few pictures -- in the dirt, as there were no beech-trees nearby -- and even explained that it was a sort of joke.
"You know, like that thing they say about bowmen," he said.
"That they reload faster."
Now, I have a confession to make. In spite of my death-given wisdom, the point of that particular jest eludes me still. I did not get it then, I do not get it now. It is certainly true that we reload faster than all those accursed orcish crossbowmen, but rapid orc-killing, while rather entertaining, is a serious business and not a topic for jokes. I have even questioned Mandos on the subject, but he just asked why I am still here, when he has repeatedly informed me that I am free to leave. But that is neither here nor there.
To return to my story, Saeros' words and pictures left me feeling completely shocked and appalled, and I told him so quite freely.
Then, I started to wonder whether that statement about Men was true.
For some reason I could not understand, this question weighed heavy on my mind -- yet not unpleasantly so, for I found that, whenever I pondered the problem, my own member (a word I had learned from Saeros' explanations) would inexplicably grow in sympathy. And, having lived long, and knowing my war-trained body well, I was quite capable of handling that particular development. Many were the nights I spent alone under the stars, lost in pleasant thought and activity. I did consider discussing this new reaction of mine with Mablung, but I could not find any beech-tree bark close by, and, anyway, I did not consider it necessary. I knew that Turin was now full-grown, and that bad news from home had kindled his desire for battle. Thus, aware that Turin would soon be fighting beside me, and sleeping in the same war-camp -- sometimes even in the same tent -- I felt fairly confident that all my questions would soon be answered.
Sadly, my confidence was misplaced. I had forgotten to account for the many discomforts of war, which include a general lack of clean clothing to change into. As a result, when we bathed (which was rare enough -- another one of war's discomforts) we would bathe clothed, so as to wash our clothes and our bodies both as efficiently as possible.
I did, at one point, attempt to rescue the situation by telling Turin of the time-honoured Elven custom of exchanging trousers with one's friends after each victorious battle, but Mablung ruined it all by giggling and claiming ignorance of this ancient rite. Which was not surprising, as I had just made it up, but still, I had been expecting more of an old friend.
This impasse lasted three whole years, ending only when Turin returned to Menegroth for some much-needed armour repair and a fresh change of trousers. A day after he left, I realized that this was my big chance; soon, I, too, was making for home.
When I finally got there, I heard a very strange tale: I heard that Turin had been banished after chasing Saeros naked through the woods. Immediately, a familiar feeling stirred in my breast, as well as in my yet-unexchanged trousers, and I ran out among the trees, seeking witnesses who might describe the scene to me in greater detail. I soon encountered Nellas, and learnt, to my piercing disappointment, that only Saeros had been naked. This saddened me, and I despaired of ever learning the truth.
Still, Nellas' tale had some uses, since it showed plainly that Saeros had been the one at fault: and, when I shared the tale with Thingol, he not only pardoned Turin, but fully supported me in my decision to search for the Man.
I will not speak here of the many perils I encountered as I sought Turin in vain far across Beleriand, for they were mostly repetitive and boring. There are only so many ways one can run afoul of orcs and wild beasts, and I had long exhausted them all. At long last, I came across some Woodmen, who are, well, a type of Men who live in the Wood, but who, compared to Turin, seem short, ugly, and disgustingly humble. Although, come to think of it, so do almost all other Men I have ever met. Perhaps that is why, when these Woodmen spoke of a Man who was tall, lordly, proud, and attractive, I immediately knew that they spoke of my friend. I pressed them for the rest of their tale.
While I did understand a little of their language, having learnt it from my friend, most of the words I knew had to do with the basic business of life: scouting, and hunting, and orc-slaying. So, of their story, I understood only this: that Turin had killed a Man when defending a female Man -- a Man-maid, I suppose -- from some horrible fate. The exact nature of that fate was confusing to me; and when I questioned them further, they acted very strangely, laughing and gesturing with their hands in a most peculiar way. At last, seeing my continued puzzlement, they led me to an enclosure containing some sheep. Into this enclosure, they introduced a fine ram.
It took only a few moments, and soon my thoughts were flying just as swift and true as my arrows. I watched the ram at work, and remembered how I had often noticed similar behaviour in various creatures of the forest. Could it be that Men were prone to such actions as well? And what of Elves? I knew well enough that such animal games led to the production of offspring, and we Elves certainly do have offspring, even if it is rare and happens only within the bounds of marriage. Luthien, for example, is the daughter of Melian and Thingol.
The thought that Melian and Thingol could not possibly ever have acted like the ram and the sheep held me back for a while. Indeed, it still embarrasses me to even recall the images my mind would conjure as I pondered the matter. Still, ponder it I did, even as the Men talked on. Armed with my new wisdom, I soon understood that, while the Man-maid had not cared for the Man who would play the ram with her, she had shown some interest in Turin. Interest he had not returned.
But why should he have? Indeed, why should she have sought it? Why had Luthien and Beren sought marriage? How could Melian and Thingol... Such were the questions that now roamed my mind.
Well, Mablung had always claimed that animals enjoy their little games. Now that I thought about it, he would usually look rather wistful when he said it, as if he envied them. Me, all I knew is that I had never felt any desire to tangle thus with a female of my own kind. Or of any other.
And then, it struck me: in rejecting this woman, Turin had acted exactly as I might have done. Turin was like me! The idea filled me with hope, which grew when the Woodmen told me where Turin might now be found, living among rough company.
Skilled hunter that I am, I found the tracks of Turin's new friends easily enough. At the end of the trail, however, I found only disappointment and discomfort: for Turin was away from the camp, and the other Men decided to welcome me
by tying me to a tree and asking me a lot of questions about what I wanted with their leader. Since I was not, at that point, certain of my intentions myself, I refused to answer. In revenge, they deprived me of sustenance.
Still, I must admit that I came to be quite grateful for such treatment, in the end, for it provided me with a great excuse to collapse into Turin's arms the moment he returned and cut my bonds, as I had known he would. He even took me into his own tent and, once there, he changed in front of me, into the new trousers I had thoughtfully brought out of Doriath: and thus I found out that the Elven theories about Men are quite true.
One might even say that they are an understatement.
Unfortunately, my luck ran out right there. Turin, for all his fine qualities, was never a subtle man, and so my careful hints whizzed past his ears like ill-aimed arrows. When I complimented him on his impressive size, he said, "Thanks -- I have been lifting heavy weights." When I asked him to loosen my clothing, he did so -- but in entirely the wrong places. When I reached out for him, he thought I was maddened with fever. And yet -- and yet he asked me to remain by his side.
"If I stayed beside you, love would lead me, not wisdom," I told him.
But his self-absorption was such that he ignored even this blatant declaration of my interest. Considering what I had so recently found out, such behaviour seemed almost calculated to drive me mad with frustration. Indeed, it was so bad that, when he could not remember Nellas at all -- he even asked me "What would I want with an elf-maiden?" -- I was barely cheered at all. I spoke to him quite sharply.
"There are other griefs in Middle-earth than yours, and wounds made by no weapon," I said, speaking of my painful disappointment. "Indeed, I begin to think that Elves and Men should not ever meet or meddle."
We parted then, and I traveled back to Doriath, hoping that distance would ease the frustration. And yet, it did not, and neither did bathing in every icy brook in the forest, or killing every orc I encountered. My aim grew erratic; during a routine hunt, I shot a deer in the neck instead of in the eye. My friends worried for me. Mablung even asked if there was anything he could do to ease my troubles, but I could think of nothing.
Then, on one particularly gloomy day, I encountered the lady Galadriel, and she asked me if I wanted her to read my fortune. Or, rather, if I wanted her to read my fortune *again*: for gazing into the future and speaking in a spooky voice is her favourite pasttime, and none of us feel like we can refuse her, with her being the King's kinswoman and a rather strong-willed person besides. Now, until that day, all of her fortunes had always been rather... predictable. "The blood of orcs will flow," she would tell me, or, "Orcs will fall to your arrows", or, "You will lose at poker." However, this time was very different, for this time she said,
"Beware of Turin son of Hurin, for he will pierce you with a mighty sword."
I stared at her, and it seemed to me that her lips kept moving even after the sound had died, mouthing the words "in bed". And then I understood her subtle metaphor, and rejoiced, and made plans to seek out Turin again.
When Thingol heard that I would be helping his son, he was so touched that he asked me if I wanted a boon without subjecting me to any embarrassing Feanorian impersonations. Since all this talk of swords had reminded me that I did not myself own one, I asked for -- and got -- a very fine blade. Melian added a gift of lembas; and I was happy, for lembas increases stamina.
However, my happiness lessened when I reached Turin, for I found him living in rather cramped quarters. One could hardly move about that dwelling without bumping into a Man, or stumbling over a Dwarf; and so, we were never alone. Still, I remembered Galadriel's prophecy, and bid my time, clinging to hope as I hoped to, one day, cling to Turin. It was difficult, though, all the more so since I had serious suspicious as to the chief Dwarf and his intentions, for he seemed to be a most convenient size.
And then, it turned out that I had been right to doubt him, even if I had been mistaken about the reasons: for the accursed creature betrayed us, and we were overcome by a large crowd of orcs that poured into our very dwelling. I was wounded, Turin -- taken, his companions -- slain. Not that I missed them. Remembering how much Luthien had gained by rescuing Beren, I set out to rescue Turin alone.
While following the trail of the foul beasts, I came upon a half-dead Elf, an escaped thrall of Morgoth's. I permitted him to join me, thinking that it would be wise to have someone around to keep watch while Turin and I reunited. Even Luthien had had Huan for a companion, and, now, I had Gwindor of Nargothrond.
As we traveled, Gwindor told me many tales of his city, and even of Beren, who had stayed there briefly. I was particularly struck by his description of the Baths of Nargothrond, fed by a warm spring, where he had once bathed with the Man. By his account, Beren had, in fact, been rather unimpressive. But, by this point, I knew well that Turin was a giant among men, in so many ways.
Of course, Gwindor was no longer the Elf he had been back in Nargothrond. His ordeal had left him deeply scarred, as I could tell from the many strange looks he gave me as we spoke. So, when we finally found the orcs' encampment, I thoughtfully set him on anti-orc watch while I retrieved Turin myself.
Oh, the moment when I had finally carried my friend to safety was a moment of pure joy. We had not been alone in so long. He was unconscious, of course, but I knew just the way to rouse him. I laid him down on the grass and cut his bonds. As I moved my weapon towards the tie of his trousers, all the irrelevancies -- the orcs, Gwindor, even my bow -- seemed to fade away, until there was nothing left in the world but Turin, me and the fulfillment of Galadriel's prophecy. I had never been so excited in my life.
Perhaps that is why my hand quivered, and why my blade pierced his skin.
Turin was an excellent swordsman, with a swordsman's reflexes. He moved the sword from my hand to my chest in one fluid, graceful movement. Everything faded away then, even Turin. Even me.
Thus ends the story of my Doom. It is a sad story. I never achieved my purpose; and now I never shall, not even if I leave these halls and return to the Blessed Isle, for Turin has passed beyond this world, as is ever the fate of Men.
I think I must have misheard you.
You say that there is a mortal Man living there, among my people? Tuor, son of Huor? Then he is a kinsman of Turin's! Perhaps there is some family resemblance.
Not much, you say? But who are you to judge? Such things are often hidden.
Excuse me, now. I believe the exit is that way...
0. Beleg's utter cluelessness is a result of a rather over-enthusiastic interpretation of the Laws and Customs of the Eldar. "Seldom is any tale told of deeds of lust among them" becomes "The deeds of lust are seldom discussed among my people."
1. In the Tale of Beren and Luthien, Thingol tells Beren to "Bring to me in your hand a Silmaril from Morgoth's crown".
2. The bit about the esses is... an incredibly geeky reference to the fact that Feanor liked to lisp, just to be contrary. It's true; check out the Shibboleth of Feanor.
3. The Hirilorn is the giant beech tree under which Thingol and Melian hold court.
4. "If I stayed beside you, love would lead me, not wisdom" -- yep. Beleg really says this, in the Narn I Hin Hurin. Also, this: "There are other griefs in Middle-earth than yours, and wounds made by no weapon. Indeed, I begin to think that Elves and Men should not ever meet or meddle."