Thread: Thuringwethil
View Single Post
Old 01-10-2018, 04:08 AM   #16
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
Huinesoron's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2017
Location: The Fair City of Nargothrond
Posts: 513
Huinesoron is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Inspired by comments on this thread, I've just gone looking for a thread on vampires, and this seems to be the closest the Downs has had. So... what did Morgoth's vampires actually look like? Quote collection time!

Originally Posted by Silm: Of Beren and Luthien
And immediately [Sauron] took the form of a vampire, great as a dark cloud across the moon, and he fled, dripping blood from his throat upon the trees...
Originally Posted by Silm: Of Beren and Luthien
[Huan] took thence... the bat-fell of Thuringwethil. She was the messenger of Sauron, and was wont to fly in vampire's form to Angband; and her great fingered wings were barbed at each joint's end with and iron claw. Clad in these dreadful garments... Lúthien....
Originally Posted by Silm: Of Beren and Luthien
By the counsel of Huan and the arts of Lúthien he was arrayed now in the hame of Draugluin, and she in the winged fell of Thuringwethil. Beren became in all things like a werewolf to look upon, save that in his eyes there shone a spirit grim indeed but clean; and horror was in his glance as he saw upon his flank a bat-like creature clinging with creased wings. Then howling under the moon he leaped down the hill, and the bat wheeled and flittered above him.
Originally Posted by Silm: Of Beren and Luthien
casting back her foul raiment [Luthien] stood forth, small before the might of Carcharoth, but radiant and terrible.
Originally Posted by Silm: Of Beren and Luthien
Lúthien was stripped of her disguise by the will of Morgoth
Originally Posted by Lay of Leithian: Canto X
A vampire shape with pinions vast
screeching leaped from the ground, and passed,
its dark blood dripping on the trees;
Originally Posted by Lay of Leithian: Canto XII
the other was a batlike garb
with mighty fingered wings, a barb
like iron nail at each joint's end -
such wings as their dark cloud extend
against the moon, when in the sky
from Deadly Nightshade screeching fly
Sauron's messengers.
Originally Posted by Lay of Leithian: Canto XII
His dreadful counsel then they took,
and their own gracious forms forsook;
in werewolf fell and batlike wing
prepared to robe them, shuddering.
An elvish enchantment Lúthien wrought,
lest raiment foul with evil fraught
to dreadful madness drive their hearts;
and there she wrought with elvish arts
a strong defence, a binding power,
singing until the midnight hour.
Originally Posted by Lay of Leithian: Canto XII
a look of horror as he sees
a batlike form crawl to its knees
and drag its creased and creaking wings.
Then howling undermoon he springs
fourfooted, swift, from stone to stone,
from hill to plain - but not alone:
a dark shape down the slope doth skim,
and wheeling flitters over him.
Originally Posted by Lay of Leithian: Canto XII
upon its back there folded lay
a crumpled thing that blinked at day.
Originally Posted by Lay of Leithian: Canto XIII
and o'er it batlike in wide rings
a reeling shadow slowly wings.
Originally Posted by Lay of Leithian: Canto XIII
But what is this that crawls beside,
slinking as if 'twould neath thee hide?
Though wingéd creatures to and fro
unnumbered pass here, all I know.
I know not this. Stay, vampire, stay!
I like not thy kin nor thee. Come, say
what sneaking errand thee doth bring,
thou wingéd vermin, to the king!
Small matter, I doubt not, if thou stay
or enter, or if in my play
I crush thee like a fly on wall,
or bite thy wings and let thee crawl.'
Originally Posted by Lay of Leithian: Canto XIV
a form bat-wingéd, silent, flew
Originally Posted by Lay of Leithian: Canto XIV
thou foolish, frail, bat-shapen thing,
Originally Posted by Lay of Leithian: Canto XIV
Slow-wheeling o'er his iron crown,
reluctantly, shivering and small,
Beren there saw the shadow fall,
and droop before the hideous throne,
a weak and trembling thing, alone.
Originally Posted by Lay of Leithian: Canto XIV
'Liar art thou, who shalt not weave
deceit before mine eyes. Now leave
thy form and raiment false, and stand
revealed, delivered unto my hand!'

There came a slow and shuddering change:
the batlike raiment dark and strange
was loosed, and slowly shrank and fell,
quivering. She stood revealed in hell.
What does all that tell us? It's abundantly clear that Luthien takes the form of a large, iron-clawed bat; her form, flight, and raiment are all described as 'batlike'. (Amusingly, the wings are also described as a dark cloud... #DoVampiresHaveWings.) Tolkien paints a clear picture of her 'creased and creaking wings', the screeching cry of the vampire (Morgoth calls Luthien 'thou shrieking waif'), and the pitiful, crumpled shape of her. She also has trouble with daylight.

(Incidentally, I had forgotten just how beautiful the Lay of Leithian can be - and how much Luthien and Huan tell Beren off when they catch up with him. ^_^)

There is no indication in either text that the vampires (Sauron, Thuringwethil, or Luthien) ever take a non-bat vampire form - on the page. But there do seem to be hints that they can. The bat-fell is repeatedly described as 'raiment', ie, clothes; moreover, Luthien has to take steps to counter its evil effects, lest it drive her to 'dreadful madness'. This could be purely the fact that it's the skin of an evil creature (and the same is said of Draugluin's fell, which we have no indication is anything other than his skin), but it gives us space to wonder.

The next indicator is the description of Thuringwethil herself: she 'was wont to fly in vampire's form to Angband'. That suggests that she had another option - and Morgoth kind of supports this. (I know, I know - who looks to Morgoth's words for evidence?!) He is very clear that Luthien should remove her 'form and raiment false' - two separate items. Yes, it could be poetry - but it could also indicate that she had to use the transformative power of the bat-fell, and then take the thing off.

Staying with the testament of the evil powers: Carcharoth doesn't recognise 'Thuringwethil', and neither does Morgoth, who instantly knows she's lying about who she is. Unfortunately, this is only attested in the Lay, where Thuringwethil's name doesn't appear until Luthien uses it - it may be an invention of hers. But if we can assume that there was also a vampire named Thuringwethil, then Carcharoth's claim that he knows all the vampires means that Luthien's bat-guise looks different to Thuringwethil's.

Another point: when Morgoth's power removed Luthien's bat-raiment, it 'slowly shrank and fell'. Fell is obvious, but shrank? Unless we are to assume Morgoth's word has dessicatory powers, I think the logical assumption is that it also earlier grew to cover Luthien - and that indicates some kind of innate enchantment, not merely a flayed skin.

Finally: there is a previous instance of elves disguising themselves as the enemy - Finrod. The Silm says this:

Originally Posted by Silm: Of Beren and Luthien
they came upon a company of Orcs, and slew them all in their camp by night; and they took their gear and their weapons. By the arts of Felagund their own forms and faces were changed into the likeness of Orcs
The Lay is even more explicit:

Originally Posted by Lay of Leithian: Canto VIII
The poisoned spears, the bows of horn,
the crooked swords their foes had borne
they took; and loathing each him clad
in Angband's raiment foul and sad.
They smeared their hands and faces fair
with pigment dark; the matted hair
all lank and black from goblin head
they shore, and joined it thread by thread
with Elvish skill. As each one leers
at each dismayed, about his ears
he hangs it noisome, shuddering.

Then Felagund a spell did sing
of changing and of shifting shape;
their ears grew hideous, and agape
their mouths did start, and like a fang
each tooth became, as slow he sang.
Finrod and company didn't wear their enemies' skin: they took their weapons and armour, and tied the Orcs' hair into their own. But for the rest, they used face-paint to darken their skin, and enchantment to change their appearance. Shape-shifting by what could almost be called sympathetic magic - using just enough of the creature you want to become to support the change - is the clear pattern here. (Also: Professor, what exactly do 'hideous' ears look like? Do you just... have a thing about ears?)

So: there is at least some support for the idea of shapeshifting vampires. But what form do they shift into? For that, we have absolutely no evidence. The simplest conclusion might be that a 'vampire' is actually anyone who has worn a bat-fell long enough to be driven to evil madness by it (shades of the Nazgul here, which could be evidence in support), but on the other hand, that isn't exactly Morgoth's style. On the other other hand... the only forms of shapeshifting fully attested in Middle-earth are a) Ainur (mostly Sauron), and b) elves wearing their enemies' kit and using magic to disguise the rest of them. If we want a shapeshifting vampire, then the most 'canonical' form she can take is a woman who dons batlike raiment and flies from Taur-nu-Fuin to Angband, darkening the moon and striking terror into the hearts of Elves and Men.

Huinesoron is offline   Reply With Quote