|Book(s)||The Fellowship of the Ring (1954) |
Unfinished Tales (1980)
Mention in Lord of the Rings
The Cats of Queen Berúthiel were at first mention used as a cognitive estrangement device in an off-hand remark in the Lord of the Rings. In The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn uses Berúthiel's cats as a byword for navigation in the dark:
|“||[Gandalf] is surer of finding the way home in a blind night than the cats of Queen Berúthiel.||”|
This suggests that Berúthiel and her cats have passed into popular legend by the time of the War of the Ring.
Story in Unfinished Tales
Outside of the brief reference in Lord of the Rings, Berúthiel was first described in Unfinished Tales. She was of Black Númenórean origin, from "the inland city", somewhere south of Umbar. Her marriage to Tarannon Falastur, the King of Gondor from T.A. 840 to 913, is believed to have been arranged for political reasons. She is described by Tolkien as "nefarious, solitary and loveless", and she and Falastur never had any children. Queen Berúthiel had ten cats. The cats were her slaves whom she used as spies. Queen Berúthiel was feared and reviled in Gondor, and at last her husband the King banished her from the realm. She was last seen aboard a ship, with all her cats, sailing away into the southern seas.
|“||She had nine black cats and one white, her slaves, with whom she conversed, or read their memories, setting them to discover all the dark secrets of Gondor, so that she knew those things 'that men wish most to keep hidden', setting the white cat to spy upon the black, and tormenting them. No man in Gondor dared touch them; all were afraid of them, and cursed when they saw them pass.||”|
Eventually, Falastur separated from her and sent her into exile, at which point she returned to her original home. It may well have been her continual intrigues that led Falastur to expel her. Her name was removed from the Books of the Kings (but not from the memory of Men), and Falastur had her sent out to sea in a ship with her cats:
|“||The ship was last seen flying past Umbar under a sickle moon, with a cat at the masthead and another as a figure-head on the prow.||”|
The cats of Queen Berúthiel were mentioned by Tolkien in a 1956 letter as only one of the two references (besides the names of the Blue Wizards) in the whole Lord of the Rings that did not "actually exist, on its own plane (of secondary or sub-creational reality)" (that is, Tolkien himself had not developed a story for them within the fictional universe). Before the publication of the Unfinished Tales in 1980, the cats were (in the words of Christopher Tolkien) "hitherto wholly mysterious."
In an interview Tolkien had in 1966 he added the following information on her:
|“||Well, Berúthiel went back to live in the inland city, and went to the bad (or returned to it—she was a Black Númenórean in origin, I guess). She was one of these people who loathe cats, but cats will jump on them and follow them about—you know how sometimes they pursue people who hate them? I have a friend like that. I'm afraid she took to torturing them for amusement, but she kept some and used them: trained them to go on evil errands by night, to spy on her enemies or terrify them.||”|
Many things have been written about the cats of Queen Berúthiel. Tom Shippey says in J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century:
|“||Tolkien spent years creating his world, and it shows, in what he reveals and also what he merely hints at. For instance, there are the famous 'cats of Queen Beruthiel', the subject of an off-hand comment by Aragorn—we never find out anything more about the cats or their mistress, but just the mention of them suggests that there is a world outside the story.||”|
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), chapter "A Journey in the Dark", ISBN 0-395-08254-4
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1980), Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, note 7 to The Istari, ISBN 0-395-29917-9
- "Cats of Queen Berúthiel". Encyclopedia of Arda. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1980), Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Introduction, ISBN 0-395-29917-9
- "The Realms of Tolkien". originally published in New Worlds in November 1966, reprinted in Carandaith in 1969 and again in Fantastic Metropolis in 2001.[permanent dead link]
- Shippey, Tom. J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century. (London: Harper Collins, 2000; Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001).