Lay of Leithian Canto II

From Tolkien Gateway
Lay of Leithian cantos
  1. Canto I
  2. Canto II
  3. Canto III
  4. Canto IV
  5. Canto V
  6. Canto VI
  7. Canto VII
  8. Canto VIII
  9. Canto IX
  10. Canto X
  11. Canto XI
  12. Canto XII
  13. Canto XIII
  14. Canto XIV

This Canto of the Lay of Leithian tells of how Barahir and his band lived as outlaws. It tells of the snaring of Gorlim the Unhappy by a phantom of his lost wife fashioned by Thû, and how under torture he revealed the secret lair of Barahir before being slain, and how Gorlim's ghost appeared to Beren, Barahir's son, away on reconnaissance, and told him of his treachery. Beren upon returning found his father and all his outlaw companions dead. He marked the grave of his father with a cairn of stones, swore an oath to avenge his death, and then, following the slayers, recaptured the Ring of Barahir from an orc-captain who boasted of killing Barahir and lying to Sauron in order to keep the ring for its gold. The Canto ends with Beren leaving Dorthonion in an attempt to reach the Elven Lands of Beleriand.

Concerning the Canto

This canto may be considered one of the darkest and most morbid cantos, with first a vivid description of the horrors of Morgoth, one of the most famous paragraphs in the Lay.

There sat a king: no Elfin race
nor mortal blood, nor kindly grace

Then comes the hope of Barahir, and the stumbling of Gorlim the Unhappy.

But still there lived in hiding cold
undaunted, Barahir the bold
of land bereaved, of lordship shorn
who once a prince of Men was born

The carrion-crows add to the effect of horror, and the sense of panic and hatred is full. Then comes the curse and despair of Beren, and when in the last he leaves the grave of his father, and heads south. Finally, the famous lines:

Beleriand, Beleriand
the borders of the faëry land

end the Canto and leave its tragic spell hanging.