The Death of Beleg
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The Death of Beleg is the ninth chapter of The Children of Húrin.
When Beleg could not find the body of Túrin amongst the fallen on the summit of Amon Rûdh, he knew the orcs of Morgoth had taken him; so after he was healed he took to the heels of the enemy and followed their tracks northward beyond Brithiach.
In the heights of Taur-nu-Fuin and the Pass of Anach, he came upon the shrunken form of an elf. Gwindor it was who had only recently escaped from the evil mines of Angband – the very elf who had fought in the Battle of Unnumbered Tears and had been taken at the doors of Morgoth.
There Beleg and Gwindor witnessed a horde of orcs swarm northward and in their midst was Túrin, chained and whipped. The evil soldiers took camp, guarded by wolves in a deep vale; and Beleg came silently with his great bow and shot each wolf dead so that he could steal into the heart of the encampment. There he seized Túrin and took him away.
Now Beleg cut Túrin’s bonds with the sword Anglachel; but misfortune was amongst them and the blade slipped and pricked Túrin’s foot. In rage, thinking he was to be tormented by orcs, Túrin leaped forth, and swiftly taking Anglachel, he slayed his attaker, only too late to see it was his friend Beleg.
There Túrin stood as stone in shock; for his friend lay dead before him.
He was roused only by Gwindor to help in burying Beleg, and the mighty bow Belthronding was laid upon his breast; but dark Anglachel Túrin took himself to take vengeance on Morgoth.
Then Gwindor took Túrin in his grief and they passed away westward to the calm and holy Eithel Ivrin where Túrin shook off his grief and was healed of his madness. There he sang the Laer Cú Beleg, the Song of the Great Bow, in memory of his friend.
Southward then they passed to Gwindor’s realm until the elven scouts of Nargothrond took them as prisoners.
This chapter marks the greatest evil of the fate of Túrin thus far: his murder of his closest friend.
This doom struck Túrin deep.
His grief and madness lay heavy about him for many days; indeed this dark and terrible event had a deep authority over his future choices. The very action of his keeping Anglachel to take vengeance on Morgoth sets the tone of his later life; it is one more step in an effort to counter the enemy.
The breadth of Tolkien’s world, his imagination of depth, and his use of entangled fates is demonstrated very simply through the reappearance of Gwindor. Such an event knits together Tolkien’s broad web of stories; they ground his tales in established lines of ancestry; and help support the passing centuries through familiarity and the development of key figures and their families. They also force the reader to engage with the story: What would have happened if Morgoth had not taken Gwindor prisoner? Would Túrin have been taken to Angband? Would Beleg now be dead? Would Túrin now be lost in the Pass of Anach, mantled in the grief of Beleg’s death? Would Túrin never come to Nargothrond?
The sword Anglachel rises forth here as a dark character in its own right, becoming the tool of retribution for Túrin; this also demonstrates the intricate web of Tolkien’s saga, for this is Eöl’s blade, forged of iron from the sky and tempered with the darkness of Eöl’s heart. His use of named weaponry with a developed heritage continues to add richness and a delicate intricacy to Middle-earth.