The mix of amusement and sympathy in the Queen's voice aroused Faramir's suspicions, but he could not believe any mischief of so refined a lady.
Then he opened the book to a most shocking illustration: A fierce eagle with golden wings stooped upon a group of young men, all naked and engaged in, if truth be told, no innocent game. From the eagle's talons dangled a beautiful youth with long golden tresses, who appeared to be screaming with horror. "The Passions of Manwë" was written in ornate letters across the top. What could it mean? Legolas might know.
Perhaps the Queen had not seen that picture, Faramir thought doubtfully. In any case, no lessons for new husbands were to be had there. He leafed through the book in growing astonishment until, with some relief, he came to a picture of a happy wedding.
Beren and the Troll-Hag
Once there was a brave and noble hero named Beren. He was the son of the king and a valiant warrior, renowned across the land in the wars against the great Enemy, Morgoth. One day he and his companions ran into a band of cruel Orcs, and every man but Beren was killed. Wounded, hungry and sad, Beren wandered for days, until he was lost in a land of illusions. Strange voices spoke from the air, an eerie music played, and beautiful forms took shape before him, only to melt away when he reached out. Trapped in the mists, he cried out for help.
A great Elf-king mounted on a splendid horse rode toward him. His helm was of gold, his eyes bright as stars, his hair like silver.
"What are you doing in my lands?" the king demanded angrily. "Mortal men are forbidden here."
"I lost my path, great king," said Beren. "If you would show me the way out, I would gladly leave."
"You ask a favor I have never before granted," said the Elf-king. "Why should I allow you to live when so many others have forfeited their lives for this trespass?"
"Ask whatever price you wish," said Beren. "My people will gladly pay it."
"You have nothing I desire," said the Elf-king scornfully, and he drew his sword.
"So be it," said Beren, and he prepared to die.
"But there is a boon you could do me," said the king. "And for that I will spare your life."
"Anything within my honor to perform, I will do," Beren said.
"It is this: in a year and a day you must return here and marry my daughter."
Surprised, Beren answered, "It is a great honor you ask of me, lord king. I will return in a year and a day and marry your daughter."
"If you fail to appear at the appointed time, I will know that you and all your kind are cowards and liars," said the king sternly. "And my knights will hunt you down and slay you." And with that, the mists abruptly vanished, and Beren saw that he was only a little way from his home village.
His people greeted him with great joy, and for a while they knew a time of peace. But Beren was a man who kept his word, and he knew he must return to the Elf-king's land. Would he be given the princess's hand in marriage? Or would he be slain? At the appointed time he went to the place where he had last seen the Elf-king and called out, 'Great king, I am come to marry your daughter,' and at once before him appeared an enormous, multi-towered palace. Elves greeted him and brought him to the king seated on a golden throne, a crown of emeralds upon his head.
"Mortal, why have you come?" demanded the Elf-king in a great voice.
"I am here to fulfill my vow, great lord," said Beren. "I will marry your daughter."
Then the Elf-king laughed, and he made a sign to his guards. "Open the gate!" he commanded.
A gate that Beren had not before noticed swung open, and there stood a hideous Troll hag. She was nine feet tall and stank like a fetid swamp. Her dull eyes oozed; her thick, flat lips opened to reveal a black tongue; upon the tip of her knobby nose stood a monstrous wart. Her flesh hung in bulbous wrinkles on her thick, shapeless body, her scant, dirty hair drooped on her shoulders.
"Behold my daughter!" shouted the Elf-king. "Today she will become your wife."
Beren swallowed hard, but he was a courteous man, and he bowed to the king and the princess. "With great pleasure will I wed this lady," he said.
The celebration was long and merry. Beren strove mightily to keep a smile on his face and to speak pleasantly to his new wife, but she only grunted in return as her shovel-like hands stuffed whole roasted lambs between her yellow teeth. Bloody slaver dripped from her mouth as she chewed.
Night came at last, and Beren and his new wife were led to a fine chamber where a great bed covered with satin cushions stood. The Troll hag laid herself upon the bed.
"Dear husband," she croaked, "now you must embrace me."
Beren was sweating by now, but again his courtesy demanded that he obey. He cautiously approached the bed and planted a small kiss on his wife's ugly cheek.
The Troll hag vanished, and in her place lay an Elf-maiden of astonishing beauty. Her hair flowed about her on the bed, her eyes sparkled like the moon, her sweet lips were as red as roses.
"Do not be amazed," the Elf-princess said. "For many, many years I have been under a curse, and only a man's willing kiss could end the spell. And you, dear husband, have done it. Now I must ask you to make a choice, for the spell is only half-broken, and I can hold my real form for only twelve hours out of the day. Would you wish me to be beautiful during the day, when you can stand by my side before the King's court, or during the night, when we may sport ourselves as we please?"
"Dear wife," said Beren, who was bedazzled by the Elf-maiden's loveliness, "I leave it to your wise heart to choose."
Then the Elf-princess laughed, and she threw her arms about Beren's neck. "You have broken the spell at last," she cried. "That was the right answer. Now I will be beautiful all day and all night." And she kissed him till his breath was taken away.
She told him that her name was Lúthien, and the wicked werewolf from Morgoth's fortress had cursed her with a hideous Troll's form until a man willingly married her, kissed her, and gave way to her wishes in all things. Only Beren had proved able to fulfill the destiny. They lived happily ever after and had many children.