According to the legendarium

It was a tradition under the Eldar and Edain that they [Idril and Tuor] arrived in Valinor, and that Tuor alone of Men was counted among the Eldar, immortal as other Elves.

but also, after Beren's death

[In Mandos] [Luthien] sang a song of woe before the throne of Mandos Lord of the Dead... As a result he summoned Beren from the houses of the dead.


Even Manwë could not change the fate of Men, and so he presented Lúthien with the [] choice [] to return to the land of Middle-earth together with Beren as a mortal herself, accepting the Doom of Men and sharing in whatever unknown fate awaits them outside the Circles of the World.

According to the citation on Tolkien Gateway, Tolkien confirms that Tuor being granted immortality was a unique exception by the special will of Ilúvatar himself - Eru being the only one capable of taking/giving the the gifts of Mortality and Immortality, which were gifts from Eru to the Eruhini - in Letter #153.

But then we have the Valar recalling Beren's spirit and bringing it back to life (for a limited time) and giving the 'Gift/Doom' of Mortality to Luthien, without any hint of intervention by Eru.

Is there any info in Tolkien's letters or in any other publications regarding this?

How were the Valar able to take away Luthien's immortality and give her mortality, when apparently that's the purview of Eru alone? (How did Beren's dead soul turn up in Mandos, when he should have suffered the Doom of Men and how did the Valar have the authority to send it back to ME even on a temporary basis?)

Edited to add the cases of Luthien and Beren as well, because this all seems extremely related and possibly one question.

  • Aren't they the children of Turgon (an elven king) would this not be the reason? (I'm not so certain of their tale, so I'm not too sure).
    – ZenLogic
    Jul 30 '14 at 18:27
  • Idril was the daughter of Turgon, yes. But Tuor was 100% Edain, with no Elvish stock in his blood.
    – Shisa
    Jul 30 '14 at 18:29
  • 1
    Can I know why this question may be considered unclear?
    – Shisa
    Jul 31 '14 at 0:02

I was able to dig up an actual copy of the referenced Letter 153 and the text of the letter makes many things clear.

1. Tuor becoming Immortal is only a supposition, and not fact.

... my legendarium, ... is based on my view: that Men are essentially mortal and must not try to become 'immortal' in the flesh.(Since 'mortality' is thus represented as a special gift of God to the Second Race of the Children (the Eruhíni, the Children of the One God) and not a punishment for a Fall...)

... 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.

So, Tuor becoming immortal could be true, but could also just be something Noldor in ME believed without definitive proof of truth, as per Tolkien's emphasis. Since this information is supposed to be coming to us from the beliefs of the Noldo stuck in ME and the trip to Valinor is a one way trip, accurate knowledge transfer from Valinor to Middle-Earth presumably doesn't happen.

If the myth is, in fact, untrue, one source of this belief could be the rare case of Glorfindel's return to ME. One would have to make multiple assumptions (fortunately, all of them things debated but not settled by Tolkien himself) - that Glorfindel of Rivendell was indeed a re-embodied re-incarnation of Glorfindel of Gondolin; that Glorfindel returned to Middle-Earth sometime in the Second Age; and that while Aman does not stop mortals from dying, it can extend their life to the fullest, so that Tuor was indeed still alive at the point when Glorfindel left the Blessed Lands - and that this was the piece of news that gave rise to the idea of Immortal!Tuor amongst the Noldo Eldar and Edain in ME.

2. Luthien's exception is referred to in similar terms as Tuor's exception

In the primary story of Lúthien and Beren, Luthien is allowed as an absolute exception to divest herself of 'immortality' and become 'mortal' — but when Beren is slain by the Wolf-warden of the Gates of Hell, Lúthien obtains a brief respite in which they both return to Middle-earth 'alive'.

Though of course, Luthien's fate is considered more 'factual' than Tuor's. Presumably the difference is that Luthien's death, return and final death was something the Noldo in Middle-Earth could corroborate - and if Glorfindel could share news of the life of Tuor, he could certainly convey the news that Luthien had not returned to the Halls of Mandos after her demise.

3. Tolkien answers "As for 'whose authority decides these things?'"

The immediate 'authorities' are the Valar (the Powers or Authorities): the 'gods'. But they are only created spirits – of high angelic order we should say, with their attendant lesser angels – reverend, therefore, but not worshipful; and though potently 'subcreative', and resident on Earth to which they are bound by love, having assisted in its making and ordering, they cannot by their own will alter any fundamental provision.

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.

4. The Reason for Luthien and Beren being allowed to come back to life is given

Eärendil is Túor's son & father of Elros (First King of Númenor) and Elrond, their mother being Elwing daughter of Dior, son of Beren and Lúthien: so the problem of the Half-elven becomes united in one line.... The view is that the Half-elven have a power of (irrevocable) choice, which may be delayed but not permanently, which kin's fate they will share.

... The entering into Men of the Elven-strain is indeed represented as part of a Divine Plan for the ennoblement of the Human Race, from the beginning destined to replace the Elves.

It doesn't definitely answer why Tuor and Luthien were given special dispensation to join their spouses' ultimate Doom (and why the solution was different for both couples), but we can assume this was as reward for folks whose love (and resultant procreation) was an important part of the Divine Plan, instead of the 'punishment' that eternal sundering might have been to them.

Rob answers the 'Why was Beren in the Halls?' part of things very correctly, and also explains how Manwe was able to confer the choices to Luthien. The spirits of Men seem to make pitstop in Mandos before leaving the confines of the World as is their Doom.

It was to the Halls of Mandos that the spirits of Elves and Men were gathered to await their different fates**, and so Mandos was given its name of the Halls of Awaiting. After a time, the immortal Elves could be re-embodied, and return from the Halls to their kin in Aman. Men had a different fate, a fate which, even among the Lords of Valinor, only Mandos and Manwë truly understood. No one, however, not even Morgoth could escape the Halls without Mandos' permission. [wiki src]

Beren extended his stay on Luthien's request.

"For the spirit of Beren at her bidding tarried in the halls of Mandos, unwilling to leave the world, until Lúthien came to say her last farewell upon the dim shores of the Outer Sea, whence Men that die set out never to return."

And Mandos was able to gain counsel on what to do from Illuvatar himself.

"Manwe sought counsel in his inmost thought, where the will of Iluvatar was revealed."

  • 1
    One of the Palantari saw into Valinor so information did get back.
    – Joshua
    Jan 21 '19 at 17:28

The answer is in the Silmarillion. In "Of Beren and Luthien," we read that Beren lingered in Mandos' halls after death, at Luthien's insistence. Luthien, on her death, also comes to Mandos and sings her song. Mandos, moved by her song, sought the advice of Manwe, who "sought counsel in his inmost thought, where the will of Illuvatar was revealed." After that meditation, Luthien is granted the choice of Elvish longevity in Aman, or mortality with Beren in Middle-earth. Silmarillion, "Of Beren and Luthien", pp. 186-187 (1st American ed. 1977). Thus, as with Tuor, it is the will of Illuvatar as the acting force from which Luthien's choice flows. Here is the pertinent text (paragraph breaks removed):

For the spirit of Beren at her bidding tarried in the halls of Mandos, unwilling to leave the world, until Lúthien came to say her last farewell upon the dim shores of the Outer Sea, whence Men that die set out never to return. But the spirit of Lúthien fell down into darkness, and at the last it fled, . . . . and she knelt before Mandos and sang to him. The song of Lúthien before Mandos was the song most fair that ever in words was woven, . . . . and Mandos was moved to pity, who never before was so moved, nor has been since. Therefore he summoned Beren, and even as Lúthien had spoken in the hour of his death they met again beyond the Western Sea. But Mandos had no power to withhold the spirits of Men that were dead within the confines of the world, after their time of waiting; nor could he change the fates of the Children of Iluvatar. He went therefore to Manwe, Lord of the Valar, who governed the world under the hand of Iluvatar; and Manwe sought counsel in his inmost thought, where the will of Iluvatar was revealed. These were the choices that he gave to Lúthien. . . .


The Ainur - both Maiar and Valar - are bound to Arda, to the world that they made as part of the song. Their power and their mandate end at the ends of the earth. Elves, likewise, are bound to the fate of Arda, and doomed (in the sense of "fated", not necessarily pejoratively) to be reborn again and again, taking parts in the affairs of Arda.

But Men were different. Their lives were brief, and at their end they go outside the bounds of Arda and their fate is not known by the Valar. Eru knows, for Eru knows all, but it is not part of the world given to the Valar, so they cannot know or affect what happens outside.

Now, back to the question. We have two distinct cases here. The first is mortals being granted immortality, namely Tuor. Since he is of Man, his doom lies outside of Arda. The Valar can't touch that. They can't affect his destiny since it lies outside their purview. But if Eru intercedes, he can allow him to share the fate of the Eldar.

The second case, though, is local. Immortals who want to forsake the realms of the Valar and head outside. What will happen to Arwen and Luthien there? The Valar know not. But they have the power, inside Arda, to let the Eldar leave.

As for your question on Beren - I seem to recall it written, somewhere, that Men also go to the Halls of Mandos, briefly, before they leave Arda completely. I can't find it right now, and I may be confusing them with the dwarves.

  • Can you source your idea that any immortal can choose to become mortal and embrace the Doom of Men (as opposed to having an extended stay in Halls of Mandos?) I had assumed that the reason Arwen and other half-elven got the choice at end of First Age, was because of the split in natures between Mortal and Immortal, which wouldn't apply to Luthien since she was Maia and Elf, both halves immortal and bound to Arda by Eru.
    – Shisa
    Jul 30 '14 at 23:56
  • It's mostly an extrapolation based on the limits of power of the Valar. My original thought was also that the mortal blood was the reason for the choice, but that doesn't explain Luthien. Jul 31 '14 at 4:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.