Beruthiel, daughter of the Black Numenoreans, wife of King Tarannon Falastur, Queen of Gondor and (aside from a few eight- legged dames) Tolkien's only Bad Girl (and by bad girl I of course mean paranoid personality disorder and torturer of small animals)
I figured it was about time for me to take on a Middle-earth female, (all the largely interchangeable fair, pure, virgin mary-like elf maidens are something of a bore, frankly) and Beruthiel always stood out from the rest; a Black Numenorean noblewoman chosen by the King of Gondor for his wife, probably in an attempt to end the blood feud between Gondor and Umbar, who instead turns out to be a frigid sourpuss with sadistic tendencies (fucking black numenoreans, what can you do with 'em)
I liked the Idea of the exiled Numenoreans in Umbar as a ruling class of pale, racially exclusive, sort of castillian people amid the otherwise mostly arabic/north african-type population of Near Harad, so naturally keeping their women heavily covered up and out of the sun to preserve their pallid complexion would have been of great importance (as it was for medieval noblewomen)
I see Beruthiel here as being quite young, at the start of her (short lived) tenure as queen - like all those sixteen-year-old princesses put into arranged political marriages in the middle ages - and actually quite beautiful in her youth, but due to spoil quickly. "Bloody Mary" Tudor was a partial inspiration, and the robes and jewelry were largely taken from moroccan styles. The crown is pretty solidly frankish court design (replacing the traditional fleur de lis with the gondorian seabirds wings)
*as a point of interest "Beruthiel" is not her real name, but a title in Sindarin, meaning "angry queen." I'd love to know what her real name was (probably one of those wonderfully fierce Adunaic names, heavy on Z's and R's)
"...Most of the allusions to older legends scattered about the tale, or summarized in Appendix A are to things which really have an existence of some kind in the history of which 'The Lord of the Rings' is part.
"There's one exception that puzzles me—Berúthiel. I really don't know anything of her—you remember Aragorn's allusion in Book I (page 325) to the cats of Queen Berúthiel, that could find their way home on a blind night? She just popped up, and obviously called for attention, but I don't really know anything certain about her; though, oddly enough, I have a notion that she was the wife of one of the ship-kings of Pelargir. She loathed the smell of the sea, and fish, and the gulls. Rather like Skadi, the giantess, who came to the gods in Valhalla, demanding a recompense for the accidental death of her father. She wanted a husband. The gods all lined up behind a curtain, and she selected the pair of feet that appealed to her most. She thought she'd got Baldur, the beautiful god, but it turned out to be Njord the sea-god, and after she'd married him, she got absolutely fed up with the seaside life, and the gulls kept her awake, and finally she went back to live in Jötunheim.
"Well, Berúthiel went back to live in the inland city, and went to the bad (or returned to it—she was a black Númenorean in origin, I guess). She was one of these people who loathe cats, but cats will jump on them and follow them about—you know how sometimes they pursue people who hate them? I have a friend like that. I'm afraid she took to torturing them for amusement, but she kept some and used them—trained them to go on evil errands by night, to spy on her enemies or terrify them."
I also love reading your comments, you have such wonderful analysis of the books and its characters!
I would love to read the books in original english, and i did begin, but i found it, firstly, too advanced for my second language english, and secondly, i think im too young to fully appreciate the style in which it is written. But i have always loved the movies and i love the fantasy farytale like world of Tolkien, so i hope someday i will have the patience to finally read them!
I would (of course) recommend reading tolkien's books at some point, and certainly in english, especially as, being a professor of old-english, the english language and cultural identity was very important to Tolkien, and a big part of his fictional stories.
Thanks again, hope you keep watching!
I recently got Alan Lee's book with original sketching for the movies, and I love it. Most of my art since I was little has been inspired by the movies and the mythology of the stories, and even though I know they aren't as good as the books, it really has had a great influence on me, so I understand fully what you're talking about. And I will most certainly keep following your work.
I know I will read the books in the future. I actually started The Silmarillion earlier this fall, and even though it's a tough language for me, I think it's intriguing to read his work. I also aspire to write fantasy novels based on northern European mythology, so I hope to find inspiration in Tolkiens world!
Thank you for the reply!
I do like your unsympathetic/realistic portrait of the queen, who comes across as a fascinating but distant and unhappy person. It seems like Tolkien had a story idea, but stopped after her character sketch. I would say the marriage was made when Beruthial was yet young, not a teen but not yet thirty, which the Dunedain felt was the age of maturity.Her training as a sorceress might have been well established by then, and not something she would willingly renounce, Given that the marriage to Falastur was politics as part of a treaty while he fortified Gondor's coastline against her kinsmen, Beruthial's lot in life was probably not a happy one. So your portrait's sour expression is suitable. So is the cool, calculating gaze, as if she was trying to decide which chess piece the viewer represents, and how best to use it. Depending on her assessment, you might be followed by a black cat one night.... The clothing was well chosen, and looks area-appropriate and character-appropriate.
yes i like the idea of her being married off to tarannon at a young age (though as you remark not a teenager, that would be too young, given the longevity of the numenorean people) I've always been fascinated by the black numenoreans because they, unlike the barbarous haradrim or easterlings (or even the rohirrim) they are inheritors of the blood and illustrious history of numenor, just like the gondorians, but being the decendents of "kings men" (supporters of Ar Pharazon) they have an entirely different perspective on things, and in them we get to see the other half of the numenorean character (great teachers and friends to the people of middle earth on the one hand, conquerors and enslavers on the other) and they posses the same capacity as the gondorians for greatness, but usually veering more toward "great and terrible", like the mouth of sauron or the three originally numenorean nazgul, having risen tremendously in power by dark arts and (probable) morgoth-worship. i will definitely be doing more work on them in the future.
I had the black numenoreans in mind when doing this piece [link] (it's not strictly tolkien related, although it could easily be saruman, or one of the great dark sorcerors of umbar for that matter)
No cat though ? It could have been good to identify her. I love the crown, really realistic. You learned me something on her name
My turn :
"I liked the Idea of the exiled Numenoreans in Umbar as a ruling class of pale, racially exclusive, sort of castillian people amid the otherwise mostly arabic/north african-type population of Near Harad, so naturally keeping their women heavily covered up and out of the sun to preserve their pallid complexion would have been of great importance (as it was for medieval noblewomen)"
If I like the idea (to explain some traditions kinda Islamic without using Islam) this statement is wrong :/ Tolkien explicitely said that the Black Numenoreans didn't mind about their blood as much as early Gondorians did and they mixed with the local population kinda fast. The "racially castillian" people were the Gondorians until the reign of Valacar. Strangely the really racist Castamiri maid later an alliance with the really open BN, based on their common hate for Anarion's line.
I don't have my books around but you can find this information in the Appendix of The Return of the King. That also explain why the corsairs, despite being southrons, have some BN blood and are their last representants in the late TA (except the Mouth of Sauron).
And again : really nice work (cause my remarks have nothing to do with the drawing)
well, right you are about the Black Numenoreans; as I was reading your post I remembered having read that once, but I forget sometimes that in middle-earth the blood purists are usually the good guys, and mingling with the blood of lesser people is considered something regrettable (that's a REALLY unpopular disposition in post-WW2, post-nazi regime western literature - where the bad guys are usually the racial purists, like the the malfoys with their anti-halfblood prejudice in harry potter - but was a regular part of the ancient sagas whose style tolkien was emulating)
I didnt bother giving her a cat for three reasons, firstly because everyone draws/paints beruthiel with her cats, secondly because I'm not that good at drawing cats and didnt feel like looking up a reference ;D (I'm not all that good at drawing women usually either, but I sort of lucked out on this one) and lastly because I wanted to portray her as a more serious historical figure, rather than the, basically, children's nursery rhyme character she was reduced to centuries later; the downgrading overtime of what was originally the stuff of history (and legend) like heroes, kings, epic quests, elves and trolls into child friendly, grimm brothers-style versions of their former selves was a lifelong subject of professional fascination for Tolkien, and aragorn's quick reference to "the cats of queen beruthiel" has such a folk tale sound to it. it is, I think, like bilbo's nursery rhyme-riddles as compared to gollum's grim, ancient sounding ones, another case of this same process occurring in middle-earth. for this drawing I wanted to reverse the process, and do a take on Beruthiel as a more serious figure (one who undoubtedly did not spend all her time with cats)
Glad you like it
Like in the Third Age : you have Aragorn who is a pure Dunadan, coming directly from the line of Elendil by the male first-born at each generation. In the same time, if you go even before, he is a mix of the three families of the Edain, the three Elven clans and a Maia. Same for Arwen.
Gondorians were "racist" but in the same time when they began to mix with the Northmen (with Eldacar), Tolkien specified that it didn't do any harm to them. In the opposite the Castamiri, who refused to have a king from 'lesser blood' are the bad guys of the Gondorian Civil War.
It's kinda complicated : Tolkien is mixing medieval theories on quality going through blood and his own beliefs. But he's not applying them in a racist way, even if I understand how it can be choking sometimes
And I totally agree with your reason for not giving her cats !
I like all the versions of Galadriel history. She is a really political figure so I like the idea that she herself tell different version of her own story given to which one help the most at one time : Among the Noldor she was a leader of her people, going with them into the Desert of Ice. But amon the Sindar and the Nandor she is a rebel princess who fought on Teleri's side against the Noldor and protected their ships.
Both versions can be true. I think the second one make more sense cause it's difficult for me to imagine soemone of Thingol's blood, like Celeborn, in love with one of the Noldor who murdered their kindred. Still it's giving a really tough and cynical vision of this character.
On bloodline I think it's more of a symbol for Tolkien : If Elendil is only a descendant of a lesser branch he had no legitimacy above the other Numenoreans Lords in ME (like Imraz˘r), that's why he had to be legitimate on the throne. Same for Aragorn, it's a part of his character : he his described as "a King of the Ancient Times", a giant among dwarves. A friend of mine explained me how Tolkien is making a patchwork of different influences and different litteracy periodes : Aragorn and Arwen are tragic characters, Arwen is a really tragic figure (in the former meaning : mythy) like Penelope, while Aragorn is kinda like The Cid adding mental and physical virtues ("Et j'aurais trop de force, ayant trop de coeur" - "And I'll have too much strength, cause I have too much heart"). In the same time you have Eowyn and Faramir : a foot in greek tragedy, a foot in modern novels : beautiful but unperfect, with a deeper personnality (the suicidal Eowyn and the "bluesy" Faramir). That's why each of them marry the other Aragorn couldn't be with Eowyn (even if Tolkien thought about it) cause they don't belong to the same world, it's not only bloodline, it's personnality.
As for Elendil's inheritance, I agree that he should definitely be (following the drowning of numenor) the Heir of the line of Elros, and certainly the senior-most branch, if there are any others still alive (whether Imrazor and the princes of dol amroth are in anyway decendents of elros is not specified) but I think it was sort of overkill to make him and his forebears (the lords of Adunie) basically the "cheated-out-of-the-throne" true senior line that aught to have been the kings. Tolkien didnt feel the need to do that with the dwarves: (in whom I think he was considerably less emotionally invested than in elves or men) when Thorin and his nephews die, dain becomes king, and it doesnt diminish his legitimacy that his grandfather had been the younger brother of the line, nor did it diminish the legitimacy of the decendents of Anarion, when they ruled gondor for millennia, before that line failed. But I think tolkien, being an extremely (by 20th century standards) old school monarchist, wanted to get all his ducks in a row with aragorn and his descent. I'm not exactly complaining; certainly that kind of romanticism preserves a sense of legend in the work that more attemptedly "gritty" fantasy like the "song of fire and ice" books are lacking, but those charts that map out the geneology leading to Eldarion are just so damn clean
I think Adrahil (I was wrong : Imraz˘r lived in 2000 TA) is described as being from the same line that Elendil but I may be wrong. At least he seems to be under him cause Elendil gave him the title of Prince.
But I think for Tolkien what is important is not monarchy 'per se' but the respect of traditions. That's why the Shire is partly democratic : it's like that since the beggining. In France we like to define Tolkien as a conservative anarchist, I don't know if it makes sense for you, it will not be like libertarians, neither like left/socialist-anarchist.
Here the Queens in Numenor are not legitimate cause they are not in the traditions of the island and the tradition was changed for bad reasons (couple's fight between Aldarion and Erendis). If you look at it each Queens of Numenor is causing problems while on the throne (not cause they are women but cause they don't fit the tradition).
I just put up an attempt at a numenorean armor to go with the Karma designs, see what you make of it (and thanks again for the tip about the Roman legionary arsenal)