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Old 07-25-2021, 09:43 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
I take your broader point about entry into faerie as not being a journey made alone in all cases (though I think that Tolkien's own journey is better characterised as alone than as with companions and that that is relevant here, given that Smith is somewhat autobiographical*) but now it is my turn to quibble, because I do not think Beren and Lúthien supports that point at all: Beren enters faerie alone and never does quite return to the realm of Men. Lúthien is, after all, of faerie herself.

*Actually, given the autobiographical elements of Smith is it perhaps a wistful comment on Tolkien's own children that none of them--including Christopher--have received the Star?
Well, I am going to have to disagree with you about Beren and Luthien.

Largely because I was referring to the entire concept of Beren and Luthien, that started with "The Tale of Tinuviel" which we have in BOLT 2. The evolution of the narrative is fascinating. Beren is originally an elf--well, "gnome", or Nordor elf. In Christopher Tolkien's index, under Beren, there are five listings for Beren as man or elf.

In the index to John Garth's "Tolkien and the Great War", there are 10 listings for "Beren (Elf, lover of Tinuviel" and on for Beren as mortal, as befits his extensive analysis of Tolkien's early writing, pp. 261-265.

Ultimately of course Tolkien went for "mortal". But central to the narrative, throughout its evolution, is the essential aspect of the male being enchanted by the elf maid. This is a constant in fairy tales, starting with Thomas the Rymer, whose gift of prophecy is link to his talents as a poet. (This personage and the story belongs to legend, pseudo-history, and medieval verse romance.) Thomas is carried off by the Queen of Elfland but eventually returns to the mortal world with her gift. The story also borrows motifs from the fairy tale Rapunzel, as well as Greek mythology.

What specifically happens through the iterations of their story changes to suit Tolkien's narrative purpose, but the place of the lovers within traditions of fairie remains constant. SoWM seems to pick this up with Smith's dancing with the elf queen. What was one of the astounding developments in the evolution of the tale of Beren and Tinuviel was the increasing strength and power and agency of Luthien, from passive elf girl to woman who is not afraid to use her powers. But that Luthien seems to have disappeared from SoWM and we have Smith alone, who quite surprisingly is given the job of iron monger, as task not previously depicted in the Legendarium as an elvish skill.

But as to the question of autobiographical elements or allegory, it is worth while to recall what Tolkien wrote to Christopher after Edith's death, in Letter #340.

For if as seems probable I shall never write any ordered biography – it is against my nature, which expresses itself about things deepest felt in tales and myths

So perhaps in SoWM Tolkien was moving away from the very personal aspect of the Beren and Tinuviel narrative and more towards his influences in literary art. I note also that Niggle is a single male while Parish is seen as encumbered with a wife.

There is a new biography of Edith Bratt coming out I think in September from Walking Tree Publishers, "The Gallant Edith Bratt", which provides fascinating new evidence for the influence Edith had in Tolkien's early years of writing.
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