In the chapter "Of Beren and Luthien", we're told that, when Morgoth discovered Luthien in Angband, he

"conceived in his thought an evil lust, and a design more dark than any that had yet come into his heart since he fled from Valinor."

Now, what could be worse than what he has done up to this point, starting a war in which probably hundreds of Elves have already died or been tortured? In the other versions Tolkien isn't any more specific:

"Nay," saith Melko, "such things are little to my mind; but as thou hast come thus far to dance, dance, and after we will see," and with that he leered horribly, for his dark mind pondered some evil.- Book of Lost Tales vol.2

Then Morgoth laughed, but he was moved with suspicion, and said that her accursed race would get no soft words or favour in Angband. What could she do to give him pleasure, and save herself from the lowest dungeons? He reached out his mighty brazen hand but she shrank away. He is angry but she offers to dance.- Commentary to the Lay of Leithian (The Lays of Beleriand)

And she beguiled Morgoth, even as his heart plotted foul evil within him; and she danced before him,-The Quenta (Shaping of Middle Earth)

Seems to me that Tolkien never came up with anything concrete about the punishment. Some people think Morgoth planned to rape her, though I find that idea quite weird. Well, thoughts?


4 Answers 4


Some people think Morgoth planned to rape her, though I find that idea quite weird.

But that's basically it. Tolkien was extremely old-fashioned, practically Victorian when it came to sex and women (Éowyn nonewithstanding).

Lúthien was the fairest, most beautiful and pure creature that ever lived on Arda. Raping her was thus the darkest, most evil thing imaginable - often called a fate worse than death in Victorian times. So evil in fact, that you wouldn't spell it out; hinting at it was bad enough. Part of the same parcel was ascribing sexual motives where it didn't even make sense (such as to an immortal spirit being).

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    But still, he was more explicit when Celegorm and Curufin wanted to rape her, that's why I don't understand why that passage was so obscure: "...they purposed to let the King perish, and to keep Lúthien, and force Thingol to give her hand to Celegorm." (Silmarillion) "...why Curufin looked with hot desire on Luthien" "...thereafter never near might win to Luthien, nor touch that maid" (Lay of Leithian) Or here: "and he ravished Arie, desiring both to abase her and to take into himself her powers." (Morgoth's Ring) Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 22:37
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    I always thought Tolkein was pretty progressive when it came to his depiction of women. Galadriel is arguably the most powerful entity in Middle Earth and she was basically a former rebel leader. Eowyn behaves in a righteous manner by concealing her gender and riding into battle. Considering that Tolkein was actually born and raised in the Victorian Era (and immediately after it), his treatment of women seems pretty forward thinking. Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 16:36
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    As to the question, "dark design" definitely seems like a euphemism for rape (especially considering the context in which it was written) - but I think you will be very hard pressed in finding Tolkein admitting that anywhere. Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 16:38
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    @Taylor17387 The reference to Celegorm and Curufin is a good one. Maybe "dark design" literally means that: re-designing Luthien. We know that Morgoth and Sauron have a penchant for corrupting things and turning them into base creatures. Perhaps Morgoth literally wanted to corrupt Luthien into something new and evil. Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 16:47
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    "ascribing sexual motives [...] (such as to an immortal spirit being)." Luthien's mother was also an immortal spirit being.
    – Yorik
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 20:55

I think he wanted to corrupt her and use her powers for his purposes. From The Silmarillion we know that he enslaved many elves just by looking into their eyes (some form of mind control) and profited from their skill and work as slaves (and these are Noldor we're talking about, greatest craftsmen in the world besides the dwarves). Having as a servant basically half-Maia would be even more useful for him. She was more powerful and unique than any other elf. Sauron while considering to capture Luthien at Tol-in-Gaurhoth thought that his ,,reward would be great", she must have been of big importance for forces of evil. She had much knowledge from her mother and was the only known child of an Ainur, who knows how this would benefitted Dark Lord? Maybe he wanted to change her and from goodness turn her into dark to be his loyal follower, to explore her capabilities.

What Luthien was capable of? In the very moment of her birth a new kind of flower came into being, her songs weaved enchantments superior to any other elf, she caused things to happen (like tearing down the fortress :), she brought hope and healing. Imagine how those skills could have been used for evil purposes, twisted into tools of subjugation and conquest.

Morgoth's "lust" is the same as in case of silmarils. He desired beauty and light for expanding his own glory. He enjoyed to pervert something pure into his likeliness, to posess and hoard things, having slaves to do his bidding.

Valar and Maiar when assuming physical shape can indulge in bodily pleasures (eating and drinking for example, also making love) but I doubt that it was the only thing Morgoth would have in mind. He was an evil overlord :) conceiving war strategies, constantly plotting intrigues, spreading lies, commanding and devising new weapons, managing thousands of slaves and soldiers. His mind was always at work, active in achieving his goals (no less than ruling the whole creation) such trivialities as pleasures of body would be secondary to him (but I don't exclude them entirely).

That's how I see it.

  • That's interesting. Certainly Luthien had extraordinary powers (not to say, that her capture could be used to blackmail Thingol and surrender Doriath). I also agree that Valar and Maiar were capable of sex when in physical form. Melian was, certainly, but in her case, she was in love, so it's just normal that she would want to give a child to Thingol. (Sorry for the shamefully late reply) Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 17:46

Bear in mind Morgoth's ravishing of Arien; an act "not to produce fiery offspring....". Morgoth is Melkor is a VASTLY diminished form, but with remnants of the same cosmic-scaled ambitions. Corruption of ERU's purpose and 'getting back' at ERU is his intention. To despoil the pure and good and bend it to his own purpose (which by this time is nihilistic madness with no other end in sight than to lay waste to all creation save his own being). Morgoth's intention towards Luthien is to wreck her and the destiny of which she is part-and-parcel. Look at Luthien's decendants. Melkor - as the greatest of the spirits within Ea (nb: 'within'), who has a share in the gifts of all the other Valar (cf: Mandos) may have had an inkling, at least, of the future that ERU had set out using her, and therefore knew something of Luthien's strategic importance. Morgoth's intewntion would have been (as I understand it) to corrupt Luthien - by whatever means - and therefore destroy her destiny under ERU.

ps: In this - as in all things - Morgoth/Melkor could only fail. In his madness he could elevate himself in his own mind to contend with Eru, but in reality his very rebellion and fall have been taken into Eru's hands and he is nothing more than a cog in a huge, cosmic purpose which he can mar, but not alter.

  • I'm not sure if I agree with the "getting back at Eru" part. Melkor is an element of the song of Eru, discord is his purpose. Is there anything that supports that he was directly intending to challenge Eru rather than just fulfilling his role as essentially "evil"? Thanks! Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 19:52

Rape and/or enslavement are horrible. But that may only have been part of it.

What was the worst thing Morgoth had done up to that point?

But of those unhappy [elves] who were ensnared by Melkor little is known of certainty. For who of the living has descended into the pits of Utumno, or has explored the darkness of the counsels of Melkor? Yet this is held true by the wise of Eressä, that all those of the Quendi who came into the hands of Melkor, ere Utumno was broken, were put there in prison, and by slow arts of cruelty were corrupted and enslaved; and thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orcs ... And deep in their dark hearts, the Orcs loathed the Master whom they served in fear, the maker only of their misery. This it may be was the vilest deed of Melkor, and the most hateful to Illúvatar.

Silmarillion, Of the Coming of the Elves

So: nobody really knows the plans ("counsels") of Melkor, but, probably, the worst thing that he had done was to torture and breed elves into orcs.

Now how can he top that? Well, again, nobody really knows his plans. But, Lúthien could be the first of a new race!

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