Heraldic device of Beren the Renowned, a character from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.
Known primarily as the author of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien also created a number of original illustrations for his works. Among these illustrations were heraldic devices for several of his characters. This device belongs to Beren, one of the most iconic figures in Tolkien’s works and whose story is a partial stand-in for the author himself.
A mortal man descended from an ancient but functionally extinct line of nobility, the most famous aspect of Beren’s story was his love for the Elvish princess Lúthien, considered the most beautiful being ever seen in the world. Lúthien’s father, who disapproved of the couple, set Beren a task that was considered impossible before he would give his consent for them to marry. Although Beren completed the task, he died soon afterwards, and Lúthien later passed away from grief. Although they were permitted to return to life, Lúthien was forced to sacrifice her immortality, and the story of the star-crossed lovers became an enduring tale in the later ages of Middle-Earth.
Beren and Lúthien were famously inspired by Tolkien's relationship with his wife, Edith Bratt. Orphaned by the time he was 12 and raised by a succession of guardians, Tolkien fell in love with Edith as a young man, but his guardian at the time – a Catholic priest – initially forbade the union; they were both too young to marry and Edith was not Catholic. The union was later permitted after Tolkien had turned 21 and Edith had converted, and the experience had a lasting impact on Tolkien’s work and life. This link was so strong that the names “Beren” and “Lúthien” are inscribed on their joint headstone.
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