Half-Elven Part III: Those Denied the Choice

The first individual to be a blend of Elf-kind and mankind was Dior Aranel, the son of Beren and Lúthien. Despite his important heritage, Dior isn’t discussed much in the legendarium and little is known about him. Because he had the blood of three different raises flowing through his veins, he was called “the beautiful.” Aranel translates to “royal Elf,” an appropriate title since he was the heir of Thingol.

Similarly shadowy figures are Elurín and Eluréd, Dior’s sons. Eluréd is the elder; his name means “Elu’s heir” (Peoples of Middle-earth, 369). Elurín’s name translates to “remembrance of Elu” (Peoples of Middle-earth, 372). It’s striking how much Dior emphasized his relation to the King of Doriath, his grandfather. Dior not only called himself Eluchil, “heir of Thingol,” but he also made the relation clear in the names of all of his children (although less so with Elwing, his daughter).

Tragedy

The reason little is known of these three characters is their tragic fate. After Thingol died and Melian left Middle-earth, Dior moved his family to Doriath and took up kingship of Thingol’s people. (Because of his name, I presume that Elurín was born after Thingol’s death, although I don’t believe this is positively stated anywhere.) Some years afterwards, Beren and Lúthien also died and Dior inherited the Silmaril. When the sons of Fëanor demanded that he hand it over to them he refused. In the second Kin-slaying, the sons of Fëanor attacked Doriath and killed Dior.

The most heinous act of that Kin-slaying–and possibly the worst act ever committed by an Elf–was the abandonment of Eluréd and Elurín, who were still children. Some unnamed servants of Celegorm left the children to starve in the forest, presumably as revenge for Celegorm, whom Dior killed.

The Puzzle

Because they were never given the choice between mortality and immortality, the case of Dior, Eluréd and Elurín is an interesting one. One wonders whether they, too, like their kin, would have been granted the choice. Were they mortal or immortal? It’s a difficult puzzle to solve.

On one hand, it seems that Dior and his children were counted among the Elves. After Thingol’s death, Dior took his family to Menegroth and the people of Doriath welcomed him with joy. It’s difficult to believe that Dior would be accepted as king if the Elves of Doriath didn’t consider him to be one of them. Of course, there is also the people’s love for Lúthien and admiration for Beren, not to mention the fostering of Túrin, which might have softened Doriath’s perspective on men. Accepting a mortal as king would have been revolutionary, particularly among the people of Doriath who were mostly sheltered from the wars with Morgoth. To vow loyalty to an individual who could rule for no more than a few decades would probably have been inconceivable for Elves.

The name “Aranel” also implies Dior’s kinship, since it translates to “royal Elf.” I presume that Aranel is an amilessë (“mother-name”) given by Lúthien. If this is true, then Lúthien more than likely believed that her son would be counted among her people and not among mortals. Nor was Lúthien the only one to assume this. Dior married Nimloth, a kinswoman of Celeborn. No special note is made of their union, nor is it ever (to my knowledge) listed among the unions of mortal and Elf-kind. Admittedly, nothing is known of Nimloth save her name and her kinship to Celeborn, but one can presume that Nimloth also assumed that Dior was of her kind.

Although Dior’s nature is not explored thoroughly, there is an interesting passage in The Quenta, which is an early version of The Silmarillion.

Slain or fading their [Elves’] spirits went back to the halls of Mandos to wait a thousand years, or the pleasure of Mandos according to their deserts, before they were recalled to free life in Valinor, or were reborn, it is said, into their own children. And of like fate were those fair offspring of Elf and mortal, Eärendel, and Elwing, and Dior her father, and Elrond her child (Shaping of Middle-earth, 121, emphasis added).

This clearly lumps Dior among his Elven kin and not mankind.

All of this sounds well and good. However, based on the research I’ve done for this series (research which I’ll delve into more in future posts), the “default” state for the Half-Elven seems to be mortality, not immortality. By this I mean that, without the direct intervention of the Valar in the case of a child born of an Elf and a man, that child will die as a mortal.

In addition, The Quenta was written in 1930, very early on in the conception of Middle-earth. It was written before Tolkien established (or probably even thought about) the “rules” for the half-Elven. The story of the First Age of Middle-earth (before the other Ages were ever even thought of) was still maturing. In fact, The Quenta was the first version of the story of Beren and Lúthien in which Beren was definitely a man! (Tolkien debated for some time about whether he should be a man or an Elf.)

Elwing, whom I will discuss in more depth in a later post, was given a choice by the Valar: mortality or immortality. Since she was given this choice, it is only logical to assume that her brothers would have been given the same choice, had they not been left for dead as children. Whence would this choice come? Clearly not through Nimloth, who was a full-blooded Elf. It must have been through their father, the first of the half-Elven.

One must also look at Dior’s parentage. Beren was undoubtedly a mortal (once the story reached its maturity, that is). In The Silmarillion, Lúthien and Beren both die and meet again in the Halls of Mandos. Lúthien moves Mandos to pity and she is given a choice: to dwell in Valinor with no remembrance of her sorrows or to return to Middle-earth with Beren, “there to dwell again, but without certitude of life or joy. Then she would become mortal, and subject to a second death, even as he…” (Silmarillion, 187, emphasis added). If Lúthien returns as a mortal and Beren is a mortal, shouldn’t their child, conceived and born after their return to life, be a mortal also?

The Belief

What is the ultimate answer? It is unlikely that anyone at the time knew the answer. Dior was, at the time, an utterly unique individual. There was no precedent for him. Nor did his life last long enough to learn what his final fate would have been. It would appear that those around Dior chose to believe that he was immortal. Was that only wishful thinking?

More importantly than what others thought, what did Dior believe? The only character trait that Dior is described as having is pride, which he certainly had in abundance. Not only did he pack up his family and move to Menegroth as soon as his grandfather died, but he immediately took kingship (admittedly with the blessing of the people). To take it even further, he “set himself to raise anew the glory of the kingdom of Doriath” (Silm, 236). Certainly a tall order, since at least half of Thingol’s power came from his Maia spouse, which Dior certainly did not lack. In addition, as soon as the Silmaril came to him, he began to wear it openly. He was just begging for the sons of Fëanor to come after him–almost taunting them. Thingol’s death had certainly proved that Menegroth was not impenetrable; indeed, it was even more vulnerable now without the Girdle of Melian. What was Dior thinking?

It’s difficult to picture the son of Beren and Lúthien as an arrogant jerk who doesn’t consider the consequences. This makes me wonder–is his overblown pride a coverup? He stood alone among a people who knew their own fate. He had no idea how long he would live or even where his spirit would go after he died. He had no idea what fate he was bequeathing to his children. When he considered these questions, it must have caused a lot of confusion and concern. What better way to bury those emotions than to emphasize your lineage not only in your nickname for yourself, but also in the names of all of your children, and then to step into your grandfather’s shoes as soon as you get the chance?

This is part of an in-depth series on the half-Elven:
The Choice of the Half-Elven
Half-Elven Part II: The Choice of Lúthien
Half-Elven Part III: Those Denied the Choice
Half-Elven Part IV: The Union
Half-Elven Part V: The Children of Choice
Half-Elven Part VI: The Last Ones
Half-Elven Part VII: Concluding Thoughts on Mortality

Photo Credit: Stuart Madden

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