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XIII - Of Maeglin - Child of Darkness

Ah, Maeglin. My second-favourite skinny elven traitor with a black sword. He wasn't always that way, though, which is why the Sil devotes an entire chapter to his screwed-up upbringing.

Hidden away in Gondolin, Aredhel the Huntress gets bored. Her elder brother Turgon protests that her leaving the valley would mean having to spare his most trusted allies as guards to ensure Gondolin's location stayed secret, but eventually caves and tells said guards to try and persuade her to go to their eldest brother's hall.

Aredhel, of course, is having none of it, and sets off to seek out her cousins Celegorm and Curufin, the Fëanorians most fond of killing things. Unsurprisingly, her attempt to shortcut across Thingol's realm is thwarted: the border guards do tell her of the fastest path eastward, however, and take great pains to mention the ferocious beasts and giant spiders (I picture the Sindar guards giving the Noldor ones a huge smirk at this). Aredhel rides off at once.

After a couple of days on the trail, the party quickly draws the attention of more of Shelob's bigger and uglier siblings than it can handle: Aredhel, riding out ahead, gets so thoroughly split up from her guards in the confusion that each presumes the other to have been eaten by giant spiders. The guards return sadly to Gondolin to break the news, whilst Aredhel goes on to Celegorm's holdings minus a retinue. She's recognised and taken in all the same, but Celegorm himself is away with his brothers. Impressed with the wild country, Aredhel conceeds to await his return there, riding out daily to hunt and explore.

Just across the ridge in Nan Elmoth the last star-tree forest, dark as sin and older than the sun, there dwelt an outcast Sindar blacksmith who disliked sunlight and would talk to dwarves. It's been speculated by the fandom that Eöl was albino, and though I certainly hope not given this reread has clarified what an utter psychopath he is, there's a possibility that this is a marker of elven wariness towards disabled individuals, something hinted at with Maedhros' slight loss of status subsequent to losing a hand.

Anyway, Eöl sees bright Aredhel riding in "his" forest and decides this shiny thing must be his. Casually turning to the black arts, he mazes her so that she is unable to leave and keeps prey and the few sources of clean water from her reach until the Huntress is starved and exhausted (not to mention gaslighted to heck and by now doubting her own senses), then straightens the path to lead her to his hall. She's a little ("not wholly") unwilling to share his bed on so little aquaintance with her 'rescuer', but Eöl somehow manages to charm her into a hasty bond of marriage.

He seems to have convinced her to avoid her cousins' retainers, too, since she accepts - apparently out of love, since they then concieve a child, though possibly out of shame for her hasty decision - Eöl's demands that she only go out at night, preferably with him, and have no contact whatsoever with her kinfolk. It's of note that Tolkien's first sketch of this relationship was a straight up boy-meets-girl, boy-kidnaps-girl-to-keep-in-his-torture-cellar. However, having established that the link between (pro)creation and spirit in elves was fundamental and that rape would damage the victim's (and perpetrator's, if also an elf) soul/self to the point that it would kill Aredhel before she could carry a child to term, he had to do a rethink. The mode of Maeglin's conception, however, born literally of possessiveness, manipulation and lies, was always explicitly pathological: myth-wise, this kitten was a Wrong Thing from the start.

Eöl doesn't really know what to do with a baby, and doesn't bother to name his son for twelve years (3-4 in human years), whereupon he settles on Maeglin ('sharp-glance'), ostensibly because the child is better with detail in their twilight forest world (apparently Eöl has vision issues [sadface]) though it may be significant that it's also possible to translate (a little roughly) as 'deathglare'. Why is your toddler deathglaring at you, Eöl? And why is it noted that Maeglin is seemingly driven to choose a favourite parent, as though they're opposed, and that he chose his mother?

I suspect/speculate this might be down to the logical conclusion of Catholic worldbuilding elements: Tolkien's notes state that the elven breeding urge, though passionate, generally settled down after one or two children except in cases of massive excess of spirit. Biologically, this is very similar to big cats, who won't mate unless the previous offspring is out of the den (or dies). Eöl seems to consider his family his possessions, and so won't let Maeglin out of his reach, but doesn't seem to have lost his desire for Aredhel, they don't die horribly, we can presume she is not raped, but as she produces no more children despite being kept close we can probably also presume that whatever love she has for Eöl doesn't extend to being sexually receptive. Eöl, as previously illustrated, isn't adverse to trying to take a thing he wants, though Aredhel as shown likewise, does not back down; I suspect kitten-Maeglin probably saw his parents engaged in at least one frustration-driven knock-down drag-out fight (and between a seasoned spideybeast-killer of Finwë's bloodline and a Sindar blacksmith nearly twice her size, those would be some pretty epic fights). A situation, an outsider might observe, in which something has to break.

At any rate, Maeglin considers this state of affairs normal, and fails to realise why his mother never talks about her family or places outside the woods with daddy around. This leads to him asking Daddy himself why they don't go visiting on one of their friendly bonding trips to places like dwarven mines and active industrial forges (which Eöl has taken him on since the boy was old enough to travel, just in case his mother thought of taking him on a friendly bonding trip somewhere else. Or that he wasn't willing to harm/kill her kitten should she not be there when he came back). Eöl is "wrathful", tells Maeglin he's no Noldor scum to care about such things and threatens to put him in chains for another word. Maeglin says nothing. It's not mentioned what Eöl has to say to Aredhel when he gets back. It is noted that subsequently Maeglin starts refusing to be parted from her, and Eöl starts focusing his suspicions on the kid.

He still has to trade to work, however, and make trips. Possibly a little distrustful of her son's loyalties after the above incident, whilst Eöl's away Aredhel goes through a strange performance of having Maeglin ride up to the edge of the forest with her every day until he finally asks 'why don't we make a break for it?' of his own accord (and, heartbreakingly, offers to protect her, as though the kind of kitten-puffing between her and harm that occasionally worked on Eöl might work on giant spiders).

Eöl, coming home to a lack of wife and son and his paid servants' reports that they'd gone to visit Curufin, grabs his weird black sci-fi metal armour, loads up on weapons and hies after them like an angry freight train. He manages to be polite to Curufin, who holds him at spearpoint and suggests there is something very fishy when a favourite cousin gets married in a rush then drops off the map, and that one excuse is all it'll take for him to kill Eöl, but the lady has headed west anyway. Eöl backs off, but continues an unsleeping pursuit once out of earshot, realising they're headed for Gondolin.

Due to bad luck and poor clothing choices (and possibly Doom) Eöl manages to spot Aredhel high in the mountains when she's heading for the secret dry-river pass. Aredhel herself knows nothing of this until amidst the celebrations of friends and kinfolk who'd thought her eaten by giant spiders there's news of a large angry stranger caught entering the pass. Turgon has him brought up and tells Eöl that no, Aredhel is not going back, and because this realm needs to be secret as per visions from Ulmo, he can either stay and live peaceably with her, or be executed like any other random wanderer.

Eöl: "Well if you've 'claimed' your sister too, keep the Noldor bitch. The boy is mine - here, boy!"
Maeglin: "..."
Eöl: "Here. Boy."
Maeglin: [not moving or looking at him] "..."
Turgon: "The Noldor are the reason you're not speaking Orcish. I'm doing my sister a favour here - will you grow manners and settle down, or die?"
Eöl: [looking at them all] "..."

Amongst several trained warriors, Aredhel is the only one who catches the moment he's about to go off (Maeglin is presumably still looking at the floor, unwilling to call on a fight). She goes down under the spear intended for Maeglin - then it is noted that Maeglin turns that sharp glance on his father, stock-still as Eöl is dragged away by half a dozen guards and Turgon's servants hasten to stretcher Aredhel to help.

It could be anything in that opaque yet piercing stare, unaccompanied by word or other reaction (Maeglin doesn't really talk) but I read it as one of the hardest realisations there is to make when it comes to blood: that his father absoloutely meant to kill him. In my experience, there's always a part of you that sort of wants their sickness to be your fault, that there's some magic way to behave that'll make them stop hurting you. There isn't, though.

Aredhel, thinking she might recover, doesn't seem to have shared this realisation and begs Turgon to spare her lover. She dies of poison by evening, and Turgon disregards her plea. Eöl is executed by kicking off a crag forming part of the city walls, and curses Maeglin with his dying breath ("-here may you yet fail of all your hopes...and die like me."). Maeglin just watches, and says nothing.

Hilariously - just because it is absoloutely logical but so harsh to anyone used to the thought-patterns of an empathic society - Maeglin's cousin Idril, upon learning that her long-lost cousin (considered the same as siblings in elven society, by all evidence) is developing a huge crush on her, decides not to introduce him to any of her friends, or get him peer-level help with settling in after seeing both his parents brutally killed in front of him in about the worst way possible. Instead, because he's cursed and messed up and alone she decides the best action is to shun him. It's perfect sense, it's harsh.

The last few paragraphs note how damn hard Maeglin struggled to ignore the curse in reaching adulthood and working for Gondolin, doing his best to gain all he set his hopes on and avoid even the faint temptation of treason. That and how his incestuous heart was a seed of evil within the City of White Trees.

Long post is long. I didn't even get onto thoughtspeak and Maeglin's verbalising issues...
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