3. How Lúthien Stole the Silmaril
The Queen sank into a rich velvet chair in her lovely, sun-lit quarters in the King's House. Around her were many treasures brought from Rivendell: elegant Elven-crafted furniture, luminous golden lamps, and most precious of all, her mother's tapestries of the First Age: The Trees in flower, Fëanor forging the Silmarils, the beauty of Aqualondë before the flight of the Noldor.
With a happy sigh she picked up the blue-bound volume from the table beside her and opened it on her lap, looking for her favorite, the tale of Lúthien as Bilbo had heard it from Beorn. She took her time, slowly leafing through the splendid pages, and lingered for a moment over Bilbo's rendering of the tale of Beren and the Troll-hag. Smiling, she thought that she just might recommend it to Faramir, as sound advice for a nervous husband on the eve of his nuptials.
How Lúthien Stole the Silmaril
Lúthien was the fairest child of Middle-earth there ever was, or ever will be. So great was the beauty of her song that the trees followed her in dance, and remained in their graceful positions when she ceased.
Now, when Thingol her father sought to prevent Lúthien from fleeing to find Beren her lover, he built a house among the branches of a huge tree, and there locked up his daughter. Lúthien pretended obedience, but secretly she plotted her escape, and beguiled the guards to bring her wine and herbs. With her magic she made a brew, and as she bathed she chanted the words of power. Her black hair clove to her body; she fell to the floor on all fours, her eyes narrowed to pale green slits, and as a cat she crept silently down the tree and passed unnoticed by the unwary guards.
Like a shadow in the night Lúthien ran through the deep forests and swam the rivers. She caught small birds and mice to eat, and curled up under soft brown leaves to sleep. For many days she journeyed, seeking always the fortress of Thangorodrim, the stronghold of the Dark Lord where Beren was held in thralldom. At last, creeping through the thorny underbrush, she saw the black towers looming ahead. Carefully she cleaned herself all over, licking the dirt from her dainty feet, and rolled in a bed of wildflowers to catch their scent.
Then, confident she looked her best, she strolled up the black stone road to the great door, her tail held high and sinuous, and sat upon the doorstep. "Miaow! I wish to serve the Lord of the World."
Tevildo, the Prince of Cats, came to question her. His green and red eyes flashed with anger, his needle-sharp whiskers bristled, and he lashed his tail. "Unworthy one, why should I admit you to our Lord?"
"Great Prince, I am meek and small, but I will frighten the mice from under his chair and keep his lap warm in the cold evenings."
And indeed, when Lúthien approached Morgoth's great throne, three mice were there a-playing, and she pounced upon them and shook them in her pointed teeth until they died.
Greatly pleased, Morgoth ordered that she should be a guest of honor in his house; her duties were to keep his quarters free of vermin and to amuse him when he required it. In his bedchamber she had a golden cushion sewn with pearls and rubies on the edges, and a dish made of mithril for her cream, and they were placed at the side of the great table that bore Morgoth's crown with the three shining Silmarils, for he took it off only when he slept.
"Small one, what is your name?"
"Great Lord, I am called Nightingale for my sweet voice." And she sprang upon his lap and sang to him with soft miaows. As she sang she rubbed her soft head on his powerful hands and curled up upon his lap.
"And that is not all, Mighty One. I can dance, too." And she leaped from his lap onto the rich carpet. Waving her tail, she undulated and frisked about, and her feline form began to grow. She rose upon her hind legs, reaching her pretty paws in the air. Her black fur turned to soft cloudy hair and creamy skin. And she was naked, and as she swayed in ecstatic dance, Morgoth forgot everything but the beauty before him. For such was the power of Lúthien's beauty that even the most powerful of the Valar succumbed to her enchantment.
When he slept, she took his knife and cut a Silmaril from the crown and fled. Through the dark passageways she ran, down the endless stairs to the dark and smoky kitchen where her love was made to serve as a scullion. As he washed the pots and pans Beren saw a small black cat creep under the table. "Begone, demon of hell," he said, for he thought all cats served Tevildo, the Prince of Cats.
"Tis I, Lúthien," she hissed. "Crouch on the ground, as I do."
Astonished, he fell to the floor and saw Lúthien's shining eyes in a midnight black face, the gleaming Silmaril between her paws. He touched her soft black head as she again spoke the words of power. And as two sleek black cats they fled, Lúthien bearing the Silmaril in her sharp teeth.
Together they crept through the gloomy passages. But Morgoth had discovered Lúthien's deception, and with a howl of rage that shook the very foundations of the fortress, he commanded Sauron to find the thief at all costs. And so Sauron unleashed his Orcs and with deadly blades and hideous cries they pounded down the stairs to seek the traitor.
The two cats darted like swift shadows across his path. They tangled their lithe limbs in his feet, and with a yell Sauron tumbled on his face, and all the Orcs behind fell on top of him. And Lúthien and Beren escaped from the impregnable stronghold of the Great Enemy.
But they were not yet safe. Creeping through the gloom they sought a place to hide from their pursuers, and at last they found a den dug into the earth. "I must stay a cat," said Lúthien, "for as a woman I am naked and will be cold."
Then a deep voice said, "Who is it that comes into my house?" And a huge she-bear lumbered to the mouth of the den and looked down upon the two small cats at her door.
"Mother Bear, will you not help us?" Lúthien cried. And when she had told the bear her story, and showed her the Silmaril in all its magical glory, the bear took pity on them and invited them into her den. And she gave them her fur coat to warm them, and underneath the thick brown pelt Beren and Lúthien as man and woman celebrated their reunion.
For her kindness and generosity the Valar gave to the bear a great gift: to transform at will between bear and woman. And she became the foremother of all the Beornings.
Painting by greywing. Click here for a larger image.
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