We have reached the end of the Lay of Leithian now, and in all honesty, I am relieved. As beautiful as I think this story is, I have dragged it on a bit. I can't remember exactly when I started it, November I think, but it took a while since I believe that to truly appreciate the legends of the Elder Days, it behoves us to read them in verse, or better still to hear them sung in verse, just as the Hobbits heard them sung aright in the House of Elrond, but this just isn't going to happen. I imagine that the chief legends of the Elder Days, when sung in full in Elrond's House, must have sounded like sung Office. When Tolkien chanted Galadriel's lament for a researcher, he noted that it sounded a bit like Gregorian Chant...I don't think I shall treat the other chief Tales (those of Húrin and the Fall of Gondolin) in this manner - it is, afterall, supposed to be a ''synopsis.''
Mablung and Beleg came to the King's aid, but when they looked upon what had happened, they cast aside their spears and wept. Mablung took a knife and cut open the belly of Carcharoth, and sure enough, there was the Silmaril, and his innards were blackened and burned as with a consuming fire, but the hand of Beren was yet incorrupt. But when Mablung reached for the Silmaril, Beren's hand was no more, but the light of that holy jewel filled the shadows of the forest. Then Mablung, with great fear and haste, took the Silmaril and placed it in Beren's hand, and quickened for a moment by the touch of the jewel, he held it aloft, saying: ''Now is the Quest fulfilled and my doom full-wrought,'' and he spoke then no more.
They bore back the body of Beren upon a bier of branches with Huan the valiant, and night fell ere they reached Menegroth. Lúthien met them at the feet of Hírilorn, the great beech of Doriath, and she put her arms about Beren and kissed him, and bade him wait for her beyond the Western Sea, and ere his spirit left him, he looked into her eyes.
Upon the dim shores of the Outer Sea the spirit of Beren indeed tarried, unwilling to leave the Circles of the World, until Lúthien should come to say her last farewell. And the spirit of Lúthien fell then into a great darkness of grief, and fled her body, and her beautiful body lay as a flower upon the grass that is newly cut off. And a winter, as it were, the hoar age of mortal Men, fell upon Thingol, but Lúthien coming at last to the halls of Mandos, that place in the far West where are the appointed places of waiting for the Elves and where they sit in the sorrow and shadow of their thoughts, besought Mandos to mercy, and she sang to him, that inexorable Vala who never was so moved to pity upon the sorrow of the Elves and the grief of Men.
As she sang before him, the fairest and most beautiful song that ever in words was woven (and which is sung still in Valinor, to the sad ears of the Valar), her tears fell upon his feet like rain upon stone, and Mandos was moved. And so he summoned Beren, and they met at last in his sad halls beside the Outer Sea. But Mandos, although Judge under Eru, had no power or authority to withhold Men beyond their time of waiting, nor to change the doom of either kindred, and so he sought the counsel of Manwë, who praying hard, delivered this judgement. Because of her labours and her sorrow, Lúthien could leave the Halls of Mandos and dwell forever among the Valar, forgetting all ties and all grief, until the World's End. Thither Beren could not come, for none of mortal Men were permitted to dwell among the Valar, nor could Death be withheld from him. Or she might return to Middle-earth, and to take up her life again with Beren, without certitude of life or happiness. Then she would become mortal even as he, and be subject to a second Death, and her beauty would then become merely a memory in song.
This last choice she chose, forsaking the Blessed Realm and the kinship of the Elves, and thus was her fate joined to Beren's beyond the Circles of the World, and alone of the Eldar she has died indeed and left the world long ago.
Art: Ted Nasmith.