May 3, 2000
The headlines of the story of Huan, the hound of
are told in the Silmarillion,
but quite a few enriching details are to
found in the "Lay of Leithian" (HME III).
Huan was born in Valinor as the hound of Oromë, and then given to Celegorm:
In Tavros’ friths and pastures green
Had Huan once a young welp been.
He grew the swiftest of the swift,
And Oromë gave him as a gift
To Celegorm, who loved to follow
The great God’s horn o’er hill and hollow
Huan followed Celegorm into exile to Middle-Earth
and thus became part of the doom of the Noldor. But his was a special
fate, that was “known to all”:
No wizardry, nor spell, nor dart,
No fang, nor venom devil’s art
Could brew had harmed him; for his weird
Was woven. Yet he little feared
That fate decreed and known to all:
Before the mightiest he should fall, before the mightiest wolf alone
That ever was whelped in cave or stone.
“Nothing could escape the sight and scent of
Huan, nor could any enchantment stay him, and he slept not, neither by
by day”. (SIL: 203) Thus it came that Luthien, escaping unseen by all
father's prison in Hirilorn, was yet spotted by Huan and brought to
When it became clear that Celegorm was corrupted and meant to betray
Huan devised a plan for the aid of Luthien:
Thus Huan spoke, who never before
Had uttered words, and but twice more
Did speak in elven tongue again:
“Lady beloved, whom all Men,
whom Elfinesse, and whom all things
with fur and fell and feathered wings
should serve and love- arise! Away!
Put on thy cloak! Before the day
Comes over Nargothrond we fly
To Northern perils, thou and I.”
And ere he ceased he counsel wrought
For achievement of the thing he sought.
There Luthien listened in amaze,
And softly on Huan did she gaze.
Her arms about his neck she cast –
In friendship that to death should last.
Huan and Luthien then set out for the rescue
of Beren and Felagund from Tol-in-Gaurhoth. And when Beren sang
song in praise of the Valacirca, Luthien answered with a song of power.
wolves howled, and the isle trembled” (SIL: 205). And Sauron knew
was there. Then he sent wolves to captivate her. But one by one the
wolves were slain by Huan.
Then Sauron sent Draugluin, sire of the werewolves of Angband. After a fierce battle with Huan, Draugluin escaped to die at the feet of Sauron, whispering: “Huan is there!”.
Now Sauron knew quite well the fate decreed on Huan, and set out to fulfill the prophecy himself. Thus he came to Luthien and Huan as the mightiest werewolf that had yet walked the earth. But Luthien cast a spell on him, and Huan sprang, and Huan took his foe by the throat and pinned him down. And Sauron was forced to yield the mastery of the tower to Luthien.
Thus Beren and Luthien became free, and after burying Felagund, they walked the woods. But Huan returned to Celegorm to fulfill duty and doom.
For in the forest of Brethil, Celegorm and Curufin came upon Beren and Luthien and assailed them. Then Huan forsook the service of Celegorm and rescued Beren from Celegorm's spear. Celegorm cursed him “but Huan was unmoved”:}. The evil brothers, pursued by Huan, then fled in fear. But Beren once more departed to fulfill his quest, leaving Luthien in the care of Huan.
But when Luthien heard Beren's great Song of Parting, she went after him. Then Huan clad himself in the wolf-hame of Draugluin, and for Luthien he got the bat-fell of Thuringwethil, and “all things fled before them”. Thus they overtook Beren, but Beren himself was tormented by doubt. For he would not bring Luthien with him to the dangers of Thangorodrim, but neither would he forsake his oath to Thingol.
Then Huan spoke for a second time, explaining the paths of fate and doom: of Beren, of Luthien and also of himself. And:
“His voice was like the deeptoned bells
That ring in Valmars citadels”
Freed from doubt, Beren and Luthien then set
out to fulfill the quest for the Silmaril.
Meanwhile Morgoth had heard all about the actions of the hound of the Valar and, knowing the fate of Huan, nurtured in secret the terrible wolf Carcharoth, the Red Maw, who is Anfauglir, the Jaws of Thirst. And at that time Carcharoth guarded the gates of Angband.
And when Beren and Luthien – clad as Draugluin and Thuringwethil - approached Angband, Carcharoth met them with irony: for well he knew that Draugluin was dead.
We then witness Luthien in her finest hour, laying a spell upon Carcharoth, speaking the unforgettable words: "O woe-begotten spirit, fall now into dark oblivion, and forget for a while the dreadful doom of life”. (SIL 212)
Beren and Luthien then fulfilled their quest, and succeeded in cutting a Silmaril from Morgoth's crown.
But Carcharoth was then awakened and bit off the hand of Beren, holding the Silmaril, and swallowed it. Then Carcharoth, mad with rage and pain, ravaged the land. And by the power of the Silmaril inside him, the terror of the onslaught of Carcharoth was the greatest that ever came to Beleriand.
A fine host then set out for the Hunting of the Wolf. “To that chase went Huan the hound of Valinor, and Mablung of the Heavy Hand, and Beleg Strongbow, and Beren Erchamion, and Thingol King of Doriath” (SIL 218)
When this host came at last upon Carcharoth in the dark vale of Esgalduin, Carcharoth avoided Huan and assailed Thingol. Beren cast himself before Thingol, but is felled by the wolf. At that moment Huan leaps…
What happens next is described so beautifully by Tolkien that an excerpt is uncalled for.
“and no battle of wolf and hound has been like it, for in the baying of Huan was heard the horns of Oromë and the wrath of the Valar, but in the howls of Carcharoth was the hate of Morgoth and malice crueller than teeth of steel; and the rocks were rent by their clamour and fell from on high and choked the falls of Esgalduin. There they fought to the death; but Thingol gave no heed, for he knelt by Beren, seeing that he was sorely hurt.Annotations
Huan in that hour slew Carcharoth; but there in the woven woods of Doriath his own doom long spoken was fulfilled, and he was wounded mortally, and the venom of Morgoth entered into him. Then he came, and falling beside Beren spoke for the third time with words; and he bade Beren farewell before he died. Beren spoke not, but laid his hand upon the head of the hound, and so they parted.”
1. Why was Huan given to Celegorm of all people (elves:})? I
think Huan was sent by the Valar to contribute to the fall of Morgoth
to lift - as far as possible - the doom of the Noldor. As the story
us, by being with Celegorm Huan was able to be at the right place at
right moment. Thus Huan could help Beren and Luthien in fulfilling
2. Was Huan a maia? Difficult question to answer. The spirit that inhabited Huan clearly knew the future of many things, the doom of many people. And he mastered Sauron – whatever form Sauron tried to take! We may assume that he could only have such deep insights if he had participated in the Music of Making – or had intimate knowledge of it. We may also assume that his status is comparable to the later Istari: a maia with a mission from the Aratar. If not a maia, Huan is to be considered an enigma:}.
3. Where then did Huan go after death? Back to the Blessed Realm we would assume, but in his draft of the unfinished Cantos of the Lay of Leithian, Tolkien mentions the “recall” after death of Beren and… Huan! Comment of Christopher Tolkien: “in which case my father must have intended to have Huan returned from the dead with Beren” from the halls of Mandos. In the tale of the Nauglafring Huan returned to Beren and Luthien in the land of Guilwarthon after the fall of Menegroth. Huan would have liked that:}.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion, Chr. Tolkien (ed.), The Lays of Beleriand, Vol. III of the History of Middle Earth.
: Huan and Luthien escaping from Nargothrond. Artist Ted Nasmith.