Lúthien and Edith

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Duiel 20/May/2006 at 06:03 AM
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I know that a lot of the features of the character Lúthien Tinuviel are based on Tolkien’s wife, Edith, but I have not read that much on the subject. So, I wanted to ask: to what extent are the two women similar? Or to what extent did Tolkien use her as this "inspirtation?" And where else can (and if we can) see Edith in Tolkien’s writing?
Nieliqui Vaneyar 20/May/2006 at 06:30 AM
Bowmaster of Lothlorien Points: 8191 Posts: 8480 Joined: 14/Feb/2003

If one is to go beyond Edith, I would guess it would take some stretching of the imagination (and that is not particularly well-received here on the plaza), but since I have an active imagination as some can attest to, I believe there are several motifs (I think that’s the right word) that seem to suggest multiple possibilities.

One is dancing, alone, to no heard music.   We know that Beren first saw Luthien like that.  We also know that Aragorn saw Arwen like that.  And we have Goldberry also dancing alone to no music. And Tolkien relates that he and Edith would go to the woods and she would dance for him.

Another is dark hair.  We know that Luthien had dark hair.  Also Arwen had dark hair.  And they were considered the two most beautiful women of the First Children (altho of course Luthien has half Maia, and Arwen was considered Half-elven).  Morwen (Turin’s mother) who had dark hair, was also called the most beautiful woman of the 1st Age of the 2nd Children.  And we know that Edith had dark hair. I would guess Tolkien is saying in his opinion, women with dark hair can be quite beautiful.

Finally, and this is a big stretch.  Perhaps Earwen who was Teleri and so had dark hair, and gave her husband 4 sons and then the youngest, a daughter, where Edith gave J.R.R. Tolkien 3 sons and then a daughter. But it’s still a stretch for many other reasons.

And of course every one of these fictional characters in all the paragraphs above were quite positive characters.

Nieliqui Vaneyar 20/May/2006 at 05:31 PM
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Goodness, while I’m with this imagination thingie, it occurred to me that Imrahil and his wife (whoever she was), actually did have 3 sons and the youngest child was a daughter, matching Tolkien’s family size and distribution.  However we know very little about the brothers and especially the mother, other than that most of the nobility of Dol Amroth seemed to be tall and (like Edith) have dark hair. Oh, well, just another thought.
Hithlum 21/May/2006 at 03:33 AM
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Nieliqui - Maybe this last thing is just pure coincidence? I mean, we have many family trees, some at last equally noble as the line of Dol Amroth (Noldor, Lords of Ardunie, Kings of Gondor,.. ), so it would be normal that at least one of them would match Tolkien’s family
Nieliqui Vaneyar 21/May/2006 at 08:41 AM
Bowmaster of Lothlorien Points: 8191 Posts: 8480 Joined: 14/Feb/2003

Hithlim, you’re absolutely right.  It could be a coincidence.  Please note, I did say in my original post that it was ’ a stretch’ (which to me means speculation), and in my second post, I used the word imagination.  However, I suppose if you could find a family with father, mother with dark hair, and 4 children, 3 sons and 1 daughter, where the youngest wasn’t a daughter, that would go far to support the ’pure coincidence’ possibility.

I just thought it interesting that here were two families of upstanding nature, where it was 4 sons and a younger daughter, and especially 3 sons and a younger daughter, both with a mother with dark hair.  Since Duiel was looking for inspiration, and I had covered the ’dark hair’ and ’dancing’ possibilities since those are the two most prominent, I was just searching for other possibilities in the ’mothering’ vein, for I don’t really know if there would be much more.

geordie 22/May/2006 at 02:15 PM
Hugo Bracegirdle Points: 20570 Posts: 14087 Joined: 06/Mar/2005
I hope no-one will mind if I give a [fairly large] quote from a post of mine in another thread - [plighting troth]. This will I hope show some if the similarities and dis-similarities between Ronald’s life with Edith, and Tolkien’s fictional world.

Now, what does this have to do with Tolkien’s world? There have been some interesting comparisons between Tolkien the man and his fictional creations. For example - Ronald’s father died when Ronald was three; his mother died when he was twelve. Brought up by a kind but strict guardian. When still young, before making his way in the world, Ronald fell in love with a girl older than he. They were living in the same lodgings.

Her name was Edith. She had grey eyes and raven hair, and a lovely voice, and she could dance. The two young lovers were forbidden to see each other again until Ronald had ’become of age’. Edith [who was also an orphan, with a strict guardian] was sent to Cheltenham; a town with family connections for her.

On his twenty-first birthday, on the stroke of midnight, Ronald wrote to Edith, asking to see her again. She replied that she’d become engaged to another young man! Ronald sped to Cheltenham [by train] and persuaded her to give up this young farmer, and to marry him - a newly graduated chap, just about to go into the Army; with very little income or prospects. Edith’s guardian did not take kindly to this idea, but he gave his blessing, and the young man’s family, while displeased at first, came to accept the situation.

Ronald and Edith were married at Warwick; ’Kortirion among the Trees’, and spent a night at the Plough and Harrow inn at Edgebaston before Ronald’s embarkation for France and the Somme.

When he was invalided back to Blighty, Ronald was posted to Roos in Yorkshire. He and Edith took a walk in the hemlock-woods, where she sang for her returned soldier, and _danced_. The tale of Beren and Luthien was born.

In 1971, Luthien died and left Beren ’indeed one-handed’ he wrote ’and _I_ cannot plead before the inexorable Mandos’. He had the name ’Luthien’ added to her headstone, and visited the grave every Sunday for his remaining two years, until he joined her, and the name ’Beren’ was added.

Troth- plighted while still young, they shared over fifty years of marriage. A luvly cuple, by all accounts; and to me it’s no great wonder that certain themes re-occur throughout Tolkien’s writings!

Turien Silverleaf 10/Jun/2006 at 06:58 PM
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 Tolkien actually used his love for Edith and symbolized this as Beeren’s love for Luthien. They were so deeply in love, that Tolkien showed this in his books. He even said that he is like Beren and Edith like Luthien. Even though their physical traits are not identical, there love was just the same. Did you even know that Luthien was written on Edith’s tomb, and Beren on Tolkiens?
geordie 11/Jun/2006 at 02:07 AM
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Did you even know that Luthien was written on Edith’s tomb, and Beren on Tolkiens?

Yes! I wrote about it, and your other points [and a little more] in my post, immediately above yours.

Except of course that Professor and Mrs Tolkien do not have separate headstones, as they share the same grave.