The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire: Sansa & Lúthien 

Bluetiger’s commentary on LML’s latest essay, before Q&A livestream on Sunday, August the 8th, 2018

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire standalone essay: Sansa & Lúthien 

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photo by BT


In Sansa Locked in Ice you’ve quoted this conversation between Sandor and Mountain’s Men:

The northern girl. Winterfell’s daughter. We heard she killed the king with a spell, and afterward changed into a wolf with big leather wings like a bat, and flew out a tower window. (George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords)

It turns out that this passage might be yet another reference to Tolkien’s The Silmarillion – one of many, as I’ve explained in my two essays about parallels between ASOIAF and The Legendarium a.k.a. ‘Tolkien Mythos’.

And this one sentence guided me to the discovery of more similarities between Sansa’s arc and one of Silm. tales, the one Of Beren and Luthien.

***

We see that many names from this story make an appearance in ASOIAF. I’ll highlight those names as we go. First, Beren – we have Berena Stark, daughter of Lord Beron Stark and Lorra Royce (The She-wolves of Winterfell era), and in ASOIAF proper: Berena Tallhart née Hornwood and her son Beren. As you know, I have theorised that the North parallels the Northern Dúnedain realm, Arnor (Barrow-lands/downs, Bombadil/Coldhands, White Wolves/Direwolves, being the hidding place of the True King who has yet to return, and all others I discuss in The Song of the Sun and the Moon section The North: Arnor). Thus, it’s nice to see those northern homages to the Edain like Beren, as the Dúnedain of Arnor are descendants of the First Age Edain houses.

But I forget myself. This thing was supposed to be short.

Lúthien (Sindarin for Daughter of Flowers) was the most beautiful elven woman of the First Age, and many comsidered her the fairest woman to ever live. Arwen, who was her descendant, was called the Evenstar of the Elves, for she lived when the Elvenkind was dwindling. Luthien was their Morningstar. (I discuss this Venus related symbolism in my second essay).

Luthien’s father was Thingol (Greycloak) of Menegroth, The Thousand Caves, King of Doriath and liege lord of the Grey Elves (The Sindar). Her mother was Melian, of the Maiar. The Maiar are also Ainur – angelic beings – but lesser then the Valar, Powers of Arda and ‘gods’ and ‘goddesses’. This was the only case when one of the Maiar married an Elf and had a child.


Usually, the Ainur are incorporeal and their visual appearance is like a veil or robe they wear. But sometimes, they chose to be bound to the material world – to fulfill a mission, like Gandalf (Olorin) or Saruman or Radagast, Alatar and Pallando. Or because the Ainur in question desired to dominate the world like Sauron. Or simply because he ‘used up’ his power to empower his minions, like Morgoth did with dragons and other beasts. Melian’s case was exceptional, as she bound herself to a physical body because of love. (I guess the Istari/Wizards were also motivated by love, but of a different kind – for all Elves and Humans, and in Radagast’s case, for animals and plants)


Thus, Luthien inherited some of her mother’s power and skills we would call magic, but which were natural among the Maiar – enchanting, songs of power, spells. (GRRM might be referencing Queen Melian in ASOS when ‘Lady’ Meliana of Mole’s Town appears. Mole’s Town is located mostly underground, just like Menegroth of Thousand Caves).

Luthien’s best friend was Daeron the minstrel… Think of Dareon of the Night’s Watch, and this name appears in House Targaryen as well: we have the Young Dragon himself, and Daeron II from Dunk & Egg. The Silm. index of names speculates that this name is related to dae – Sindarin for shadow.

This Daeron fell in love with Luthien, but she felt nothing more than friendship for him. When he found out that she’s been meeting a mortal man, Beren son of Barahir, Daeron was so jealous and angry that he turned them in to King Thingol.

At this point in time Thingol was anti-human.


Later he changed, and even fostered Turin as his ward and treated him like a son. But now, he was furious that any mortal even dared to look at his daughter. The Edain (who allied themselves with the Noldor) have entered Beleriand only few generations ago. Some Elves didn’t trust them, not understanding human death, believing that Eru Iluvatar the God made them immortal, and they’ve angered him so much that he took eternal life from them… and even worse, some human tribes were on Morgoth’s side. Also, Thingol was not a great fan of beings who entered Beleriand without asking his leave… for centuries, only the Sindarin Grey Elves lived there and he was its High King… and all of the sudden, he has Morgoth coming back from Valinor, the Noldor pursuing him and estabilishing their own realms in Beleriand… and then, even mere mortals dared to infest his land. That was too much for Thingol.


So to get rid of Beren, he gave him an impossible task. ‘Of course, you can marry my daughter, just bring me a Silmaril’. Three Silmarils, ‘the fire of the gods’, stolen from Feanor Brightflame in Valinor were embedded in Morgoth’s Iron Crown, and to get near them one would have to venture into the heart of Dark Lord’s realm, to his cavernous throne room in Angband, The Hells of Iron, deep below the triple volcanic peak of ash and rock called Thangorodrim… never mind countless legions of orcs, dragons, werewolves, beasts and Balrogs…

Yet Beren accepted this quest and left Thousand Caves. But instead of going straight to Angband, he traveled to the Noldor kingdom of Nargothrond, as King Finrod (Galadriel’s brother) was the greatest friend the Edain had among Elves. And Beren’s father Barahir saved the king’s life in battle, and Finrod gave him his ring as a token of eternal friendship between their houses. This Ring of Barahir became the heirloom among Beren’s descendants, and Aragorn used it when he and Arwen were betrothed.

Now Beren stood in the throne room of Nargothrond and asked King Finrod for help… but two Sons of Feanor – Celegorm and Curufin – were present as well. They were afraid that with Finrod’s help Beren might really succeed, and their rights to Feanor’s Silmarils will be contested. And besides that, these very fine people decided that they like the Kingdom of Nargothrond and it’d be cool to take over it.

Because of their machinations, people of Nargothrond rejected their king, and in the end Finrod joined Beren on his quest with only ten loyal companions, not an army. Before they even reached Angband their small party was intercepted by Sauron, Morgoth’s principal lieutenant. They were taken to his seat at Tol-in-Gaurhoth, Isle of Werewolves. Ironically, it was once a Noldor fortress Finrod had built to guard the marches. It’s original name was Minas Tirith – The Tower of Guard. Minas Tirith of Gondor was named in its memory.

There Sauron locked them in a dungeon and sent his wolves to devour them one by one. In the end, only Finrod and Beren remained. The King sacrificed his life, fighting a great werewolf with his bare hands. He won, but was mortally wounded.

Meanwhile, Luthien was worried about Beren, as there were no news of his fate. She planned to leave Doriath and search for him, but Daeron was spying on her and again told the king. Thingol had a house built among the branches of the enormous beech tree Hírilorn, which had three trunks like the weirwood of Highgarden. There he imprisoned Luthien (Hey King Baelor!).

She still managed to escape, but while traveling in the woods near Nargothrond, Feanor’s sons Celegorm and Curufin accidentally found her while hunting. The captured her and took to the kingless Nargothrond. There they conspired to force Luthien to marry Celegorm, and hold her as hostage, which would force King Thingol to support their takeover of Nargothrond.

But Celegorm had a hunting dog named Huan and called The Hound of the Valar. This immortal greyhound was the size of a small horse, and capable of speech, though only thrice in his life. Oromë, the Vala of woods and hunt, gave the hound to Celegorm as a gift, and the faithful dog followed his master when the Noldor were exiled from Valinor. But now the Hound decided that he’s had enough of Celegorm’s foul deeds and abandoned him, escaping with Luthien.

In ASOIAF we have the Hound who abandons his evil master Joffrey.

They traveled to Sauron’s fortress, where the Hound killed all werewolves and beasts guarding the tower and dueled Sauron himself, when the future Dark Lord came forth in the form of a monstrous wolf. With a spell Luthien broke Sauron’s power over Minas Tirith and freed the prisoners. The Hound held Sauron with his jaws, even as he skinchanged into various foul beasts. In the end, Sauron escaped but was so ashamed that he was afraid to return to Morgoth and thus the Dark Lord knew nothing of Beren and Luthien’s quest until it was too late.

Then Sauron yielded himself, and Lúthien took the mastery of the isle and all that was there; and Huan released him. And immediately he 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, and came to Tar-nu-Fuin, and dwelt there, filling it with horror. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion)

Apart from Beren, Luthien freed many prisoners and as they returned to their realms, the treachery of Feanor’s sons and King Finrod’s death were revealed. Orodreth who was Finrod’s high steward (and the son of his late brother Angrod) was proclaimed King of Nargothrond and his first act was to exile Celegorm and Curufin.

Later they came across Beren and Luthien, and there’s this scene that reminds me of Viserys’ attack on Dany in AGOT, where Jorah the Dothraki stop him. The Hound defended Beren and Luthien even as his former master cursed him. Beren took their weapons and Curufin’s horse, and then the Hound chased them off, two riding on one horse.

Then Beren lifting Curufin flung him from him, and bade him walk now back to his noble kinsfolk, who might teach him to turn his valour to worthier use. ‘Your horse,’ he said, ‘I keep for the service of Lúthien, and it may be accounted happy to be free of such a master.’ (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion)

Then Beren & Luthien set off on the final part of their quest. The Hound used his speech for second time and advised them to disguise as Morgoth’s creatures and infiltrate Angband unnoticed. That’s where we get the parallels with Sansa-as-a-wolf-bat:

Long he [the Hound] had pondered in his heart what counsel he could devise for the lightning of the peril of these two whom he loved. He turned aside therefore at Sauron’s isle, as they ran northward again, and he took thence the ghastly wolf-hame of Draugluin, and 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 Huan and Lúthien ran through Taur-nu-Fuin, and all things fled before them.

Beren seeing their approach was dismayed; and he wondered, for he had heard the voice of Tinúviel, and he thought it now a phantom for his ensnaring. But they halted and cast aside their disguise. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion)

And later Beren himself skinchanged into the werewolf:

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.

They passed through all perils, until they came with the dust of their long and weary road upon them to the drear dale that lay before the Gate of Angband. Black chasms opened beside the road, whence forms as of writhing serpents issued. On either hand the cliffs stood as embattled walls, and upon them sat carrion fowl crying with fell voices. Before them was the impregnable Gate, an arch wide and dark at the foot of the mountain; above it reared a thousand feet of precipice. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion)

Compare with:

We heard she killed the king with a spell, and afterward changed into a wolf with big leather wings like a bat, and flew out a tower window. (George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords)

Then Beren and Lúthien went through the Gate, and down the labyrinthine stairs; and together wrought the greatest deed that has been dared by Elves or Men. For they came to the seat of Morgoth in his nethermost hall that was upheld by horror, lit by fire, and filled with weapons of death and torment. There Beren slunk in wolf’s form beneath his throne; but Lúthien was stripped of her disguise by the will of Morgoth, and he bent his gaze upon her. She was not daunted by his eyes; and she named her own name, and offered her service to sing before him, after the manner of a minstrel. Then Morgoth looking upon her beauty conceived in his thought an evil lust, and a design more dark than any that had yet come into his heart since he fled from Valinor. Thus he was beguiled by his own malice, for he watched her, leaving her free for awhile, and taking secret pleasure in his thought. Then suddenly she eluded his sight, and out of the shadows began a song of such surpassing loveliness, and of such blinding power, that he listened perforce; and a blindness came upon him, as his eyes roamed to and fro, seeking her. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion)


All his court were cast down in slumber, and all the fires faded and were quenched; but the Silmarils in the crown on Morgoth’s head blazed forth suddenly with a radiance of white flame; and the burden of that crown and of the jewels bowed down his head, as though the world were set upon it, laden with a weight of care, of fear, and of desire, that even the will of Morgoth could not support. Then Lúthien catching up her winged robe sprang into the air, and her voice came dropping down like rain into pools, profound and dark. She cast her cloak before his eyes, and set upon him a dream, dark as the outer Void where once he walked alone.

Suddenly he fell, as a hill sliding in avalanche, and hurled like thunder from his throne lay prone upon the floors of hell. The iron crown rolled echoing from his head. All things were still.

As a dead beast Beren lay upon the ground; but Lúthien touching him with her hand aroused him, and he cast aside the wolf-hame. Then he drew forth the knife Angrist; and from the iron claws that held it he cut a Silmaril.  (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion)


That’s basically Petyr Baelish plans to do with Harrold ‘Arryn’. Sansa comes to the Eyrie, and strangely, Morgoth’s seat is an eyrie as well – the Great Eagles were sent to keep watch over Morgoth by the Valar, and for some time they made their nest upon the peaks of Thangorodrim. Petyr tells Sansa to charm and bewitch Harry – that’s what happens with Morgoth – and might happen with Littlefinger himself.

“I dreamt of a maid at a feast with purple serpents in her hair, venom dripping from their fangs. And later I dreamt that maid again, slaying a savage giant in a castle built of snow.”

“Suddenly he fell, as a hill sliding in avalanche, and hurled like thunder from his throne lay prone upon the floors of hell”

Azor Ahai is perfect Morgoth, as both stole ‘the fire of the gods’ and caused a Long Night (that’s the term Tolkien uses for the long period of darkness that followed the destruction of the Two Trees of Valinor by Morgoth and Ungoliant the spider). And they’re both inspired by Lucifer.

Morgoth is a savage giant as well:

Therefore Morgoth came, climbing slowly from his subterranean throne, and the rumour of his feet was like thunder underground. And he issued forth clad in black armour; and he stood before the King like a tower, iron-crowned, and his vast shield, sable on-blazoned, cast a shadow over him like a stormcloud. But Fingolfin gleamed beneath it as a star; for his mail was overlaid with silver, and his blue shield was set with crystals; and he drew his sword Ringil, that glittered like ice. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion)

Luthien defeated Morgoth, will Sansa defeat Littlefinger?

Petyr tells Sansa that life is not a song… but mayhaps hers is, the Lay of Beren and Luthien.


* Note how Huan the Hound can speak only three times in his lifetime, making him effectively mute, while Sandor the Hound most likely becomes the silent gravedigger of the Quiet Isle.

** Luthien’s epithet Tinúviel means ‘Daughter of Twilight’, and is poetic name of the nightingale. Luthien the Nightingale was the most beautiful woman of Arda, and in ASOIAF we get this from Arya in Braavos:

To Sam she said, “If they ask who is the most beautiful woman in the world, say the Nightingale or else they’ll challenge you”


For more see: The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire, Episode I and The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire, Episode II: The Wayward Moons of Planetos and Arda by Bluetiger, Signs and Portals Episode II: Sansa Locked in Ice by LML of The Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire and the follow-up livestream aired on August the 12th, 2018 – the Persansephone QnA Livestream. My Sansa & Luthien research is featured around 1 hour 7 minutes mark (link). Thanks LML!

BluetigerBySanrixian

Bluetiger by Sanrixian

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3 thoughts on “The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire: Sansa & Lúthien 

  1. Thingol had additional reason to distrust the Men. He had a troubling dreams about them and since Elves are often gifted with real foresight of the future (if sometimes vague and unclear) then it may be actually understandable. In general nice analysis, Sansa always loved such stories :), it might be that in a crossover she would love the story of Beren and Luthien, the Lay of Leithian or in form as the one Aragorn sang (in verse mode of ann-thennath). Middle-earth would be much better place for her to live in though 🙂 hehe. In some ways both Luthien and Sansa are the more ‘feminine’ heroines, but Luthien though is a woman of steel, used to hardship, traveling, strong-willed and capable to take care of herself, gifted with great power and magic skills, she may not be typical amazon warrior (like the Haleth or Eowyn) but she is independent strong woman and rebellious princess 🙂 that does not fear to face danger. Sansa is slowly becoming more hardened due to her sorrow and experiences. Both are also famed for their beauty, but also have strong character.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These are some interesting details. I would just alert you to the fact, that I wrote on Beren and Luthien an the connection to Jon Snow and Sansa Stark already in march, and I think that you miss most of the parallels if you do not look at the connection of Jon and Sansa. If you see at the Beren-Jon connection and the Sansa-Luthien connection, the similarities become even more striking.
    You can find this here (part 1) https://fedonciadale.tumblr.com/post/171421443425/tolkien-and-grrm-the-tale-of-beren-and-luthien
    here (part 2) https://fedonciadale.tumblr.com/post/171456774760/tolkien-and-grrm-the-tale-of-beren-and-luthien
    and here (part 3) https://fedonciadale.tumblr.com/post/171595236550/tolkien-and-grrm-the-tale-of-beren-and-luthien

    Liked by 1 person

    • With all respect, I personally dislike the San-Jon theory. And while Jon has many paralles with Beren, I believe it’s because GRRM’s archetypal ‘Last Hero’ figure * his 12 companions + dog are at least partially based on Beren + Barahir and his band of outlaws/Felagund & his twelve faithful retainers who did not abandon him when he announed that he’ll help Beren on his Quest.

      Sansa has numerous parallels with Luthien, and I have some ideas on the purpose of those, sadly I don’t have enough time to write it all down in a cohesive way. This essay is just an abridged version of my Luthien research. Basically, in August 2018, my friend LML of The Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire podcast asked me for a summary of my ideas concerning Luthien and Sansa, as he wanted to mention them during his livestream that very evening. I was on holidays, with just my phone, so I quickly wrote down some ideas, added some quotes, and well, that’s this ‘essay’ above.

      There are numeous other paralles I have not included in this text for the sake of being concise. Some of those can be found in my Advent Calendar posts from December 2017 (nearly all references to Beren and Luthien which I have listed in this essay were first featured in that post), and my old threads at WesterosOrg forums. If you want to, you can check out my ‘Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire Episode II Chapter III’ for dozens of other references to the Edain, Dunedain, Numenor, Arnor, Gondor and various other JRRT concepts and ideas.

      Indeed, there are many Sansa-Luthien and Jon-Beren connections. But when you reach the conclusion that those are hints of some future Jon-Sansa romance, you got – in my opinion – too far.

      Jon has Beren paralles because he’s a Last Hero figure, and at some point in his writing process GRRM realised that his ‘Last Hero’ is quite similar to Beren, so he imbued his ‘Beren’ – Jon – with symbolism based on Beren’s.

      And he decided that Sansa plays a similar role in his story to Luthien, so he gave her Luthien symbolism and references. But this is not supposed to lead us to the conclusion that Jon will marry Sansa or sth like that.

      They’re both of Stark descent, and GRRM decided that the North will be his equivalent of the northern realms of Tolkien. Thus we have references to Arnor, Beleriand, Barrow-downs etc. in the North. This is too show that First Men = Westeros’ Edain and Dunedain, not to hint at some Jon-Sansa romantic relationship.

      (If you read https://theambercompendium.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/the-tolkienic-song-of-ice-and-fire-episode-ii/#partIII you will see why in my opinion GRRM wants us to associate the Northerners with the Edain and Arnorians, and the Southerners (like House Hightower and House Dayne), with the Dunedain of Gondor). By the way, are you familar with my research concerning parallels between the Hightower of Oldtown and Minas Tirith? [ https://theambercompendium.wordpress.com/2018/08/21/the-tolkienic-song-of-ice-and-fire-minas-tirith-and-the-hightower/ ]

      But of course, that’s just what I think the evidence points to, and you may very well be correct. I just think the reason as to why GRRM made so many references to Beren and Luthien which I have presented makes more sense then the one you propose, that it’s all about Sansa and Jon falling in love in the future.

      If I were you, I’d check out the really numerous references to Turin and Nienor in ASOIAF if I wanted to find evidence supporting a theory on Jon falling in love with his sister/relative (if he’s truly Rhaegar’s son) Sansa. But if you say Beren and Luthien references in ASOIAF point to this conclusion, I believe you’re wrong. Please, take no offence, as I’ve said that’s just my opionion which I’ve reached after analysing all Beren&Luthien stuff I found in ASOIAF. If you want to present any counter-arguments, please do, and who knows, maybe you’ll be able to convince me you’re right.

      Like

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