Tomorrow, Hall of Fire will examine what is arguably the most enigmatic of Tolkien’s three great unions of elves and men — the story of Idril and Tuor.
In those days Tuor felt old age creep upon him, and ever a longing for the deeps of the Sea grew stronger in his heart. Therefore he built a great ship, and he named it Eärrámë, which is Sea-Wing; and with Idril Celebrindal he set sail into the sunset and the West, and came no more into any tale or song. But in after days it was sung that Tuor alone of mortal Men was numbered among the elder race, and was joined with the Noldor, whom he loved; and his fate is sundered from the fate of Men.
The enigma of Idril and Tuor
Set against Beren and Luthien, Idril and Tuor offer an interesting contrast. They don’t make the same vein of heroic strike against Morgoth. Tuor — due to the intransigence of Turgon — is in fact unable to save Gondolin from its doom.
Yet their renown must be more than “merely” their famous offspring? Is it that Ulmo chooses Tuor as his personal messenger? Is it Idril’s foresight in digging the secret escape? Is it their care of Gondolin’s ragtag of survivors on the long journey to the mouths of the Sirion?
And what of their ultimate fate? Tolkien himself wrote in Letter #153:
Túor weds Idril the daughter of Turgon King of Gondolin; and ‘it is supposed’ (not stated) that he as an unique exception receives the Elvish limited ‘immortality’: an exception either way.
Immortality and Mortality being the special gifts of God to the Eruhini (in whose conception and creation the Valar had no part at all) it must be assumed that no alteration of their fundamental kind could be effected by the Valar even in one case: the cases of Lúthien (and Túor) and the position of their descendants was a direct act of God.
What are we to make of this exception — the reverse of Luthien’s divestment of her immortality? Perhaps it is, after all, just a story?
Join us in the Hall of Fire on Saturday April 13 at 6pm EDT (New York time) as we discuss the enigma of Idril and Tuor!
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