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illustration by Tom Loback
The Children of Húrin
In the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, Beleg is a major character who appears in numerous books, tales and poems about the First Age of Middle-earth such as The Silmarillion, The Lays of Beleriand and the Children of Húrin.
Beleg's name means "great" or "mighty" in Sindarin. He is further known as Beleg Cúthalion, or Beleg Strongbow. The nickname (epessë) was bestowed for his skill as an archer and is the same in both cases, one being in Sindarin and the other in Common Speech (cú means "bow" and thalion means "strong" or "steadfast").
Life and battles in Doriath
Beleg was a Sindarin Elf who served in the army of King Elu Thingol of Doriath. He "followed no man", and "could not be restrained". Together with Mablung he is one of the great captains of Thingol. He describes himself with the following verse:
"I am the hunter Beleg - of the hidden people;
the forest is my father - and the fells my home."
Beleg conducts the defence of the realm of Doriath leading smaller companies in actions along the borders as Chief of the Marchwardens. He has larger commands such as the battle in Brethil against a Legion of Orcs as Captain commanding the axe-armed Sindar with Halmir and the Haladin archers. He leads the front line scouts in the battle against Boldog's Orc-host on the North March. Beleg, along with Beren, Thingol, Mablung and Huan, is a member of the party in the legendary hunt of the great wolf Carcharoth. He later defeats Orcs invading Dimbar. Beleg serves in battles of the wider struggle beyond the borders of Doriath fighting in the Fifth Battle. He is said to be unequalled in woodland skills of stalking, hunting and tracking.
Friendship with Túrin
After the catastrophe of the Fifth Battle, the Nírnaeth Arnoediad, the boy Túrin is sent to Doriath for protection from Morgoth's special enmity for the House of Húrin. Beleg becomes the mentor, steadfast friend and brother-in-arms of Túrin Turambar. The two fight together in defending the north marches of Doriath from the Orcs of Morgoth. When Túrin is accused of murder, Beleg searches out and produces at the last moment a witness who can testify to extenuating circumstances. When Túrin pridefully leaves Doriath after the affair, Beleg receives permission from Thingol to follow him into exile and is granted the sword Anglachel to help in this endeavour. Beleg long seeks Túrin. In the forests West of the River Sirion he is captured and tortured by Túrin's men, until Túrin returns and releases him. Although Beleg beseeches Túrin to return to Doriath, where he has been pardoned and would be welcomed, Túrin still pridefully refuses and Beleg loyally chooses to stay with Túrin. Together, with Túrin wearing the Dragon-helm of Dor-lómin, they lead a band of men against the invaders of Morgoth. The land where the "Two Captains" dwell becomes known as Dor-Cuarthol, the Land of Helm and Bow, but the small realm was destroyed two years later.
When Túrin is captured by Morgoth in a treacherous ambush, Beleg is grievously wounded. Yet with the strength of a great Elven warrior and his extraordinary healing skills, he recovers swiftly and tracks the Orcs. In the deadly land of Taur-nu-Fuin Beleg meets the elf Gwindor, recently escaped from Morgoth's thraldom, and together they rescue Túrin, with Beleg performing an heroic feat of bowmanship, slaying numerous wolf sentinels in the dark. After they carry Túrin from the Orc-camp, while removing Túrin's bonds, Beleg accidentally cut Túrin with his sword. Túrin awakes and does not recognize Beleg in the darkness, mistaking the shape over him with a blade as an Orc. In a sudden rage of self-defence, he wrests the sword from Beleg and kills him. When he recognizes the truth of his friend's loyalty and bravery and his own fatal mistake, Túrin is so overcome with grief that he walks in a daze for weeks, being led out of danger by Gwindor. After returning to himself, Túrin takes Beleg's sword Anglachel, renaming it Gurthang ("Iron of Death"), and wields it in further battles against Morgoth's forces for the rest of his life. Years later, Túrin himself dies upon the sword Gurthang when his tragic life becomes too hard to bear, and the sword is thus avenged for the death of Beleg.
After a time in grief and in honour of his friend, Túrin made and sang the Laer Cú Beleg, the Song of the Great Bow.
Skills and weapons
He is master of the bow, axe, sword and spear, having considerable magical skills with weapons. His bow, Belthronding, is made of black Yew, strung with bear sinew and can only be drawn by Beleg's might and magic; an arrow called Dailir can always be found unsought. He wields the sentient, magic sword, Anglachel and hones it with a song of sharpening.
He is stated to be a master of healing. Much is said of him, his character and his individual heroic feats and deeds in the various versions of the tales of Túrin and The Lays of Beleriand in particular.
- While thalion is generally rendered "strong" in the epessë of Beleg, it is rendered "steadfast" in the epessë of Húrin Thalion or "Húrin the Steadfast".
- History of Middle-earth, Vol. III, p.111
- History of Middle-earth Vol. IV, p. 113; History of Middle-earth, Vol. III, p. 313
- In The Lays of Beleriand, The History of Middle-earth, Vol. III, p.25, Christopher Tolkien notes curious statements and a mystery about Beleg. Quoting from The Lays, Beleg is "a son of the wilderness who wist no sire", "ageless". Beleg himself states, "the forest is my father" and it is said "whose father was the forest". These statements strongly suggest that Beleg is not an Elf born of parents. Only Elves of the original Awakening have no parents. That Beleg may be one of these is also supported by the "ageless" description, and his phenomenal undiminished recuperative ability. Beleg may be the only named, awakened elf known, other than the original six: Imin and Iminyë, Tata and Tatië, Enel and Enelyë. If this is so, then Beleg's sacrifice for Túrin was dear indeed.
- Anglachel is said to have been forged by Eöl, in The History of Middle-earth Vol. IV, p. 125, The Quenta the sword is said to be made of iron from a fallen blazing star.
- "Beleg". Tolkien Gateway.