A Journey in the Dark

Chris Seeman: PO Box 1213 — Novato, CA 94948, USA

Do not be afraid!” said Aragorn. There was a pause longer than usual, and Gandalf and Gimli were whispering together; the others were crowded behind, waiting anxiously. Do not be afraid! I have been with him on many a journey, it never on one so dark; and there are tales of Rivendell of greater deeds of his than any that I have seen. He will not go astray — if there is any path to find. He has led us in here against our fears, but he will lead us out again, at whatever cost to himself. He is surer of finding the way home in a blind night than the cats of Queen Berúthiel.”

A Journey in the Dark” (The Fellowship of the Ring: 325)

Much of the power in Tolkien’s narrative comes from its ability to create the illusion of depth by means of lacunae — such as the mysterious cats of Queen Berúthiel, to which Aragorn makes allusion in the brooding darkness of Moria. As we wait with the Fellowship in that darkness, our thoughts linger on this cryptic remark. We begin to ponder who this Berúthiel might be, and in our mind’s eye we imagine her world unfolding before us and around us like some unfathomable abyss of time and space. We are tempted to step into that world, and to look upon that abyss with eyes of the blind night. We prepare ourselves for a journey… in the dark.


One of the reasons that people bother to role-play in Middle-earth stems from their desire to explore these suggestive openings in Tolkien’s stories, and the purpose of this essay is to offer some ideas to prospective adventure writers on how to do this. At the same time, this is not meant to be a discussion of theory”; rather, we want to demonstrate how one might go about turning lacunae into adventures by focusing on the concrete instance of Berúthiel. If our presentation seems overly exhaustive” to some, then this is meant to show the potential richness of even the minor fragments of the world that Tolkien has left us to enjoy.

It is not our intention to offer here a fully fleshed-out background for adventures involving Berúthiel or her cats; instead, we seek to synthesize what is known about this enigmatic character and — like Sherlock Holmes — push the evidence as far as it will stretch without creating too many blank spaces to fill in. The method we use to investigate the legacy of Queen Berúthiel involves not only the officially” published materials, but also the process which led to the development of their finished” form. Much of this has become possible only recently with the History of Middle-earth” series, but much still remains to be uncovered and many mysteries lie unanswered. All the better for an imaginative referee!

Were it not for the unceasing labors of Christopher Tolkien, we might have been left completely in the dark about his father’s thoughts on Berúthiel. And indeed we were, until the publication of Unfinished Tales of Núménor and Middle earth in 1980. In a footnote to the essay on the Istari, Christopher reveals to us — in part by quotation, in part by way of summary — J.R.R. Tolkien’s last recorded reflection on the Queen and her cats:

Even the story of Queen Berúthiel does exist, however, if only in a very primitive’ outline, in one part illegible. She was the nefarious, solitary, and loveless wife of Tarannon, twelfth King of Gondor (Third Age 830 – 913) and first of the Ship-kings’, who took the crown in the name of Falastur Lord of the Coasts’, and was the first childless king (The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, I, ii and iv). Berúthiel lived in the King’s House in Osgiliath, hating the sounds and smells of the sea and the house that Tarannon built below Pelargir upon arches whose feet stood deep in the wide waters of Ethir Anduin’; she hated all making, all colors and elaborate adornment, wearing only black and silver and living in bear chambers, and the gardens of the house in Osgiliath were filled with tormented sculptures beneath cypresses and yews. She had nine black cats and one white, her slaves, with whom she conversed, or read their memories, setting them to discover all the dark secrets of Gondor, so that she knew those things that men wish most to keep hidden’, setting the white cat to spy upon the black, and tormenting them. No man in Gondor dared touch them; all were afraid of them, and cursed when they saw them pass. What follows is almost wholly illegible in the unique manuscript, except for the ending, which states that her name was erased from the Book of the Kings (‘but the memory of men is not wholly shut in books, and the cats of Queen Berúthiel never passed wholly out of men’s speech’), and that King Tarannon had her set on a ship with her cats and set adrift on the sea before a north wind. The ship was last seen flying past Umbar under a sickle moon, with a cat at the masthead and another as a figure-head on the prow (401−402).

It is evident that this is indeed an unfinished” tale, as some of the most fundamental questions are left unanswered: Why was Berúthiel such an unsavory character in the first place? Who was she really and why was she so unceremoniously expurgated from the official memory of Gondor? What were the dark secrets of Gondor” and what was her motive for seeking them out? Finally, what manner of creatures were her cats and how were they enslaved” by the Queen? All of these are essential issues for any referee wishing to creatively exploit this lacuna for gaming.

One might have liked Christopher to have presented the full text of this unique manuscript,” rather than abridging” it with his own summary, as the few quoted sections which do appear are tantalizingly rich in color and possibilities. To the best of my knowledge, the text of this manuscript is held neither by the Bodleian in Oxford nor by the Marquette University archives in Wisconsin, which means that it is (at least for the present) unavailable for further investigation. But the inquisitive need not despair over this, because there are other existing fragments about Berúthiel which, in many ways, provide far more significant clues for decoding the origin and identity of this enigmatic figure.

The Evolution of Berúthiel in Tolkien’s Thought

Berúthiel first made her appearance around the latter half of 1940, during which time Tolkien was composing the first draft of Book 2 of The Lord of the Rings (see Carpenter, 1977: 194). In the chapter then titled The Mines of Moria” (published posthumously by Christopher Tolkien in The Return of the Shadow Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1988), we find the most primitive version of the allusion:

…Gandalf was guided mainly by his general sense of direction: and anyone who had been on a journey with him knew that he never lost that by dark or day, underground or above it: being better at steering through a tunnel than a goblin, and less likely to be lost in a wood than a hobbit, and surer at finding the way through night as black as the Pit than the cats of Queen Berúthiel (454).

The following editorial note appears in conjunction with this passage:

This sentence was changed in the act of writing, the successive stages not being crossed out: than any cat that ever walked’, than is the cat of Benish Armon’, than the cats of Queen [Tamar > Margoliantë Berúthiel’ — both these names being left to stand (464, note 26).

Before commenting on this passage, we should note that the allusion had already been anticipated by Tolkien in his Sketch of the Mines of Moria chapter,” which Christopher believes immediately preceded the writing of the chapter itself. The relevant segment runs as follows: Their adventures must be made different from Lonely Mountain. Tunnels leading in every direction, sloping up and running steeply down, stairs, pits, noise of water in the darkness. Gandalf guided mainly by the general sense of direction” (The Return of the Shadow. 442). Christopher also notes that the sketch “…is a very striking example of an important narrative passage in The Lord of the Rings at its actual moment of emergence. Here as elsewhere many of the most essential elements were present from the first…” (ibid: 433).

The reference to Berúthiel” thus appears to have emerged spontaneously as decoration for this otherwise premeditated passage about the difficulties in navigating the labyrinth of Moria. The footnote cited by Christopher strongly resonates with his father’s later recollection that the character of Berúthiel just popped up” (see Castell interview below). The identity of the comparison metamorphoses swiftly from cats in general to the cat of Benish Armon” — which sounds to me more like a place name than anything else — and finally to the cats of a queen whose name undergoes similarly rapid evolution.

This leaves us with little sense of what this Berúthiel or her cats are like, but the name Margoliantë” contains within it the (Quenya?) form “-liantë,” which may or may not suggest for Tolkien overtones of the dark feminine (cf. the form Ungoliante/​c in Letters: 180 and The Shaping of Middle-earth: 155, 265, 288). The reference to the cats being able to find their way through night as black as the Pit” in the final (draft) version of the passage may be alluding to Moria itself (S. Black Pit), but it may also contain evil associations. Sauron’s eye, we will remember, is at one point described as a black pit, a window into nothing” (The Fellowship of the Ring: 379). And let us not forget the Pits of Utumno.

At any event, this darkly suggestive allusion obviously called for attention” (see Castell below). Some fourteen years after the original draft was composed (1954), the final text of the passage — with the spelling now altered to Berúthiel” — appeared in The Fellowship of the Ring. But a few years after its publication, Tolkien claimed to have no further thoughts on the matter and to have written no independent material on the cats:

…These rhymes and names will crop up; but they do not always explain themselves. I have yet to discover anything about the cats of Queen Berúthiel.
 — letter to WH. Auden (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: 217) 7 June, 1955.

I do not think that anything is referred to in The L. of the R. which does not actually exist in legends written before it was begun, or at least belonging to an earlier period — except only the cats of Queen Berúthiel’.
 — letter to Lord Halsbury (The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien: 228) 10 November, 1955.

…all these things are more or less written. There is hardly any reference in The Lord of the Rings to things that do not actually exist* on its own plane (of secondary or sub-creational reality): sc. have been written.
 — letter to an unidentified reader (The Letter of J.R.R. Tolkien: 231) 14 January 1956. 

* The cats of Queen Berúthiel and the names and adventures of the other 2 wizards (5 minus Saruman, Gandalf, Radagast) are all that I recollect.

From these excerpts it is clear that Berúthiel remained an enigma for some time after the completion of The Lord of the Rings. The appendices, which contained the character of Tarannon Falastur with whom Berúthiel was to become associated, were probably already published before he gave further thought to the matter (though the problem of explaining Tarannon’s childlessness may have been one of the motives for attaching the figure of Berúthiel to him, as we shall sec). The initial connection must have been made at some point between 1956 (when the last letter referring to his ignorance about Berúthiel appeared) and 1966.

Just over a decade following the publication of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien was interviewed by Daphne Castell concerning various aspects of his writings. In the course of this interview, Tolkien disclosed some fascinating clues about Berúthiel, many of which were to make their way into the manuscript summarized by Christopher in Unfinished Tales. This — presumably — earlier oral telling of the story, however, contains some critical elements which later disappear from or become submerged in the written version (at least as Christopher has reported it). Here are J.R.R. Tolkien’s words quoted in full:

…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 Jotunheim.

Well, Berúthiel went back to live in the inland city, and went to the bad (or returned to it — she was a black Númenórean 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 should very much have liked to hear more about Queen Berúthiel, who sent a pleasant grue down my spine — it is not often you have the chance to listen to an entirely new story from your favorite storyteller.

But, as Professor Tolkien had said, he did not really know much more to tell me …

— Daphne Castell — The Realms of Tolkien” (New Worlds: 147 – 148) November, 1966. [reprinted in Carandaith (1969) 1/2: 10 – 15,27]

Let us first take these words as they stand. Tolkien has fleshed out Berúthiel by associating her with one of the ship-kings of Pelargir” (we cannot be sure that Tarannon is meant here but, for reasons that will become dear shortly, we believe him to be the most likely candidate, even at this stage of Tolkien’s conception). In the interview, Tolkien also draws upon an episode from The Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson, to which he compares Berúthiel. Finally, we are told that Berúthiel was of Black Númenórean origin — if our mouths are not already hanging open in amazement, then let us consider for a moment the supreme paradox of this statement: A Black Númenórean as the queen of Gondor?! How could such a thing come to be?

Already our minds are probably racing with this lynchpin to re-read the story as it is told in Unfinished Tales, trying to make sense of our heretofore unanswered questions about Berúthiel — but we are still left in the dark concerning a good many things. Moreover, since this clement of her identity seems to be absent or unspoken in the final manuscript, we must take a step back to ask ourselves whether or not this absence implies rejection on Tolkien’s part — did he change his mind in the end? Unless some newly discovered letter or manuscript turns up, we will probably never know for sure, but we can venture an educated guess. In what follows, we shall attempt to do just that— first, by examining the Skadi myth and secondly, by doing some close detective work on the Black Númenórean hypothesis.

The Marriage of Skadi and Njördr as a Parallel to Berúthiel

Tolkien’s telling of the Skadi myth reminds us of his own story Aldarion and Erendis,” which was composed around 1965, along with the map of Núménor and (we might surmise) the annals of the line of Elros (see Unfinished Tales of Núménor and Middle-earth: 7 — 9) — not more than a year before the Castell interview presumably took place, perhaps significantly, these stories of Berúthiel and Aldarion both seem to be emerging from problems raised by Appendix A” (i.e. Tarannon’s childlessness, the circumstances of the change in the law of succession under Aldarion). Could it be that Tolkien is preoccupied during this period of his life with resolving and expanding upon the lacunae developed in the writing of The Lord of the Rings?

Whether or not this is the case, the question still remains — why, out of all of the possible connections he could have made between the Berúthiel passage in A Journey in the Dark” and the rest of his mythology, did Tolkien choose to associate Berúthiel and her cats with the Ship-kings? The answer may very well lie in the myth of Skadi and Njördr, as we shall presently make dear. To begin with, we quote this tale as it is told in the Edda:

Loath were the hills to me,
I was not long in them
Nights only nine;
To me the wailing of wolves seemed ill,
After the song of swans.

Then Skadi sang this:

Sleep could I never on the sea-beds,
For the wailing of waterfowl;
He wakens me, who comes from the deep —
The sea-mew every morn.

—Snorri Sturluson: The Prose Edda (Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, trans.) New York: The American-Scandinavian Foundation 1916:37.

Now Skadi, the daughter of the giant Thjazi, took helm and birnie and all weapons of war and proceeded to Asgard, to avenge her father. The Æsir, however, offered her reconciliation and atonement: the first article was that she should choose for herself a husband from among the Æsir and choose by the feet only, seeing no more of him. Then she saw the feet of one man, passing fair, and said: I choose this one: in Baldur little can be loathly.” But that was Njördr of Nóatún.
 — Snorri Sturluson: The Prose Edda (Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, trans.) New York: The American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1916: 91 – 92.

…Njördr has to wife the woman called Skadi, daughter of Thjazi the giant. Skadi would fain dwell in the abode which her father had had, which is on certain mountains, in the place called Thrymheimr; but Njördr would be near the sea. They made a compact on these terms: they should be nine nights in Thrymheimr, but the second nine at Nóatún.
But when Njördr came down from the mountain back to Nóatún, he sang the lay below:

Here we find the opposition between land and sea that appears in Aldarion and Erendis,” but more importantly, we find a curious philological correspondence (which Tolkien would surely have been aware of). Nóatún, the dwelling place of Njördr the sea-god, is a name of Indo-European origin which means Enclosure of Ships” (for a discussion of this, see Georges Dumézil: Gods of the Ancient Northmen Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973: 77). It would be difficult to miss the affinity in meaning between Pelargir (S. Garth of Royal Ships) as the central focus of the Ship-kings, and Snorri’s Nóatún as the home of the god whom Skadi marries.

It is unnecessary to speculate about the possible influences of this tradition on Tolkien’s original conception of Pelargir (which first emerges sometime late in 1944 during the writing of Book 5); what is important is that at some point between the publication of The Lord of the Rings in 1954 — 1955 and the Castell interview in 1966, the problem of Tarannon’s childlessness and the cats of Queen Berúthiel were linked via this myth into a single story, which was obviously still evolving in Tolkien’s mind at the time of the interview.

What can this tell us about Berúthiel that we do not already know from Unfinished Tales? In what way was she rather like Skadi?” To answer these questions, let us examine more closely the two explicit points of correspondence between them, and how Tolkien translates” those elements from the nameless north of the Edda to his own imagined world of Middle-earth.

According to Tolkien, Berúthiel’s resemblance to Skadi stems from: 1) her hatred of the sea, and 2) her withdrawal inland. Both of these moments in the narrative relate to this opposition between land and sea — between two modes of existence. Snorri accounts for this mutual antagonism in part by the conflicting natures of the couple: Njördr is one of the gods of Asgard (although originally of the Vanir), while Skadi is of the race of giants.

This racial or species” difference is an important narrative clement in the failure of their marriage, hence Tolkien’s concern in the interview to transpose it into an analogous opposition in Middle-earth. He achieves this by identifying Berúthiel as Black Númenórean — the moral and spiritual opposite of the Faithful. This thematic parallel to the Skadi myth appears to lend weight to the importance of Berúthiel’s origin as articulated by Tolkien in the interview.

The Black Númenórean Queen of Gondor

On the assumption that she was indeed of Black Númenórean origin, there are three fundamental questions which must be answered before Berúthiel can be incorporated into the background of a Middle-earth game: 

  1. Where did she come from? 
  2. What were the initial circumstances of her marriage to Tarannon? 
  3. What caused her to be expelled from Gondor? 

Certain aspects of these questions cannot be dealt with here, because they necessarily involve speculation — which is the job of the referee seeking to develop this material in an adventure or campaign context.

To begin with, it is axiomatic that Berúthiel would have been of high Númenórean race, because that was a prerequisite for royal status among Faithful and King’s Men alike. To designate Berúthiel a Black Númenórean may, at first glance, not seem all that helpful in pinpointing her place of origin (since the descendants of the King’s Men who survived Akallabêth were scattered all over the coastlands of Middle-earth south of Belfalas Bay); but, despite its currency in Middle-earth gaming circles today, the exact expression Black Númenórean” occurs only once throughout the entire corpus of Tolkien’s writings. To the best of my knowledge, the only other time those words are reported to have passed Tolkien’s lips is in the text of the Castell interview with reference to Berúthiel. The unique literary reference occurs in Appendix A with respect to a discussion of the inhabitants of Umbar:

The great cape and land-locked firth of Umbar had been Númenórean land since days of old; but it was a stronghold of the King’s Men, who were afterwards called the Black Númenóreans [my emphasis], corrupted by Sauron, and who hated above all the followers of Elendil.
 — Gondor and the Heirs of Anarion” (The Return of the King: 325).

Afterwards called Black Númenóreans” — after what? And by whom? Since there is no evidence of this expression with reference to the King’s Men recorded in Akallabêth” or other Second Age sources, we suggest that afterwards” means after the Downfall of Núménor. The epitaph black” is anything but complimentary, so it is highly unlikely that the expression would be one of self-definition. We are therefore left with the (most likely) alternative: that Black Númenórean” was what the Faithful in Gondor called the inhabitants of Umbar after the Akallabêth.

The Black Númenóreans were led by lords” who were driven from that haven by King Eärnil in the year 933 of the Third Age (ibid). These lords still served Sauron gladly” in Middle-earth even after the Downfall (The Silmarillion: 293). After the fall of Sauron their race swiftly dwindled or became merged with the Men of Middle-earth, but they inherited without lessening their hatred for Gondor. Umbar, therefore, was only taken at great cost” (The Return of the King: 325).

One internal” piece of evidence to support Berúthiel’s Umbarian origin is the story of her expulsion from Gondor. Her ship was said to have been last seen flying past Umbar under a sickle moon.” Seen? By whom? We must remember that this incident took place before Eärnil’s conquest of Umbar, and that no person in Gondor would have been able to see where Berúthiel’s fate had taken her. In fact, the entire tone of the expulsion narrative has something of a legendary” or folkloric” character to it, making its claims rather dubious. Nevertheless, it may have emerged as a popular expression of where the inhabitants of Gondor believed her to have come from.

Perhaps the most telling bit of circumstantial evidence in favor of an Umbarian origin is the historical context itself. It was Tarannon who first extended the sway of Gondor along the coasts west and south of the Mouths of Anduin” (The Return of the King: 325). It is probable that the southward expansion would have brought him into contact and conflict with Umbar — he was the first Gondorian king to do so. Tarannon was king from 830 to 913, and this is the time of Berúthiel’s presence in Gondor. All of a sudden, Eärnil began building a great navy with which to besiege Umbar, directly following Tarannon’s death (ibid).

Exactly how Berúthiel’s presence and expulsion relates to all of this is up to the referee to decide, but the evidence militates in favor of the view that she was originally from Umbar because: 1) the unique occurrence of Black Númenórean” in Tolkien’s writings is made with reference to Umbar; 2) the expulsion narrative implicitly associates Berúthiel with Um-bar; and 3) Tarannon is the first Gondorian king to have had contact with Umbar, and Berúthiel’s presence is followed by Eärnil’s conquest.

If it were the case that Berúthiel was a Black Númenórean from Umbar, how did she ever manage to become the queen of Gondor? Black Númenóreans were the ultimate expression of evil in the imagination of the Faithful after the fall of Sauron, and Umbar was the physical manifestation of that abomination which lingered on into the Third Age of the world. The only logical solution to this problem which we have been able come up with is that her origin was initially unknown to Gondor — her expulsion would then, perhaps, indicate that her true identity had been revealed at some point (sec Excursus One below for how Pat Wynne’s theory of the name Berúthiel” might contribute to this view). The expulsion itself would also support the Black Númenórean hypothesis, since to have one’s name erased from the Book of the Kings would imply more than a condemnation of mere personal depravity (Castamir, for example, probably committed more offenses against his own people than any of his line, but his name was retained in the Book of the Kings despite this fact).

Another problem that presents itself with respect to the circumstances of Berúthiel’s marriage to Tarannon is its initial purpose or motivation. Again, all we have are isolated facts waiting to be turned into a coherent story by the referee. What do we know about the Black Númenóreans in Umbar at this time? We are told that they harbored an undying hatred for Gondor, but we also hear that the purity of their bloodline was diminishing.” How might a marriage between one of the last pure lineages of Umbar and the line of Elendil figure in such a milieu?

A final note relating to the issue of both the motive and plausibility of Berúthiel’s marriage to Tarannon is Tolkien’s remark to Castell that, following her return to the inland city” (presumably Osgiliath), Berúthiel went to the bad (or returned to it…).” Either option leaves room for complex or multiple motivations, and in any event opens up the possibility that her initial presence in Gondor was not due to exclusively malicious or premeditated reasons — indeed, the structure of the Skadi myth implies that things do not turn out as they are expected or hoped for by the characters.

Perhaps the most important question to address is what went wrong — what event or events ultimately led to Berúthiel’s expulsion? Of course, there are the cats; but her motive for sending them out to do evil is again unknown to us. What exactly is meant by all the dark secrets of Gondor?” Surely, Berúthiel is not merely some undercover agent sent to gather intelligence for the lords of Umbar. But what kinds of dark secrets” would a Black Númenórean be interested in? Perhaps some legacy of Westernesse holding the promise of deathlessness? Due to the fragmentary nature of the evidence and the constraints of this essay, such inquiry raises more problems than it solves.


At the end of our quest, we still find ourselves for the most part in the dark. Queen Berúthiel’s is an unfinished tale in every sense of the word, which makes it ideal material for a game setting; and by surveying the development of this character over time, we have identified certain tendencies in her evolving story which could easily be exploited. In truth, the only way to learn the answers is to go beyond what has been presented here and invent them through one’s own imagination — this is what role-playing is all about.

Excursus One: The Meaning of the Name Berúthiel”

A discussion has taken place in the pages of the journal of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship concerning the meaning of the name Berúthiel.” I have included this discussion for the convenience of the reader who wishes to dwell on this matter. Pat Wynne’s theory that the name is a corruption of the more regal Berethiel” may be quite appealing to those who believe that the Queen’s true identity was initially concealed during her sojourn in Gondor.

Berúthiel (FotR:325: ITT: 401 – 2, 423): This name really puzzles me. Shall we see in that name a connection with bereth’ queen’? Is it a negation? And is –thiel connected with Lúthien or with Thurin secret’ or with Thingol? So Ber/​ú/​thiel should be Queen/​not, without, less/​?’. Help!

Berúthiel — ber’ Ilk. valiant man, warrior (emphasis mine); bes-, besu’ dual, husband and wife, p.352. uthiel could be a negation of SEL-D (LR:385) N. iell poetic sell and girl, maid”; warrior un-maid. Perhaps the Elven form of the English slang The old-battle-axe”? — T.L.] (Ed. (J.Q.) —J.R.R. Tolkien stated in an interview that Berúthiel was of Black Númenórean descent.)
 — Tom Loback, item 4 in Essitalmar” (Vinyar Tengwar 5: 10) May 1989. 

Berúthiel: My pet theory is that this name was originally Berethiel Queen’s daughter” or Queenly maiden,” and that as the unsavory personality of Tarannon’s wife became apparent (see UT 401 — 2, note 7) it became habitual to punningly alter the name to Berúthiel. after Sindarin rûth anger”. This altered form then was the name by which she was ever after remembered.” — Pat Wynne, Essitalmar” (Vinyar Tengwar 6: 10) July 1989.

Ruth could also be a pun for Rûth ire” altered from Bereth + iel (cf. Belegur/​Belegurth (Melkor); The Silmarillion 340).

Or perhaps JRRT just liked the sound.
—Tom Loback?, Essitalmar”? (Vinyar Tengwar 7: 12) September 1989.

Excursus Two: Iron Crown’s Treatment of Berúthiel

ICE has been cautious to avoid offering a speculative interpretation of the evidence which would seal off other equally legitimate readings, but they have apparently been unaware heretofore of her Black Númenórean identity. The reference to her is included here as an example of one possible interpretation of Berúthiel in terms of MERP/​Rolemaster game mechanics.


Aka: Daughter of the Queen;” Black Queen (S. Morbereth” Q. Mornatari”).

A Lvl: 25 Dúnadan Mystic/​Mage, Berúthiel was the Queen of Gondor during the reign of the first Ship-king Tarannon (T.A. 830 — 913). Spiteful and reclusive, she shunned the sea that her husband held so dear, and refused to live in the palace he erected over the river Anduin. Instead, she stayed secluded in undecorated chambers in the otherwise opulent King’s House in Osgiliath. Hideous sculptures adorned her bizarre gardens, leading most of the members of the King’s Court to believe she was insane. 

Tarannon’s people despised her, suspecting Berúthiel of heinous nocturnal machinations. Indeed, the Queen spied on her subjects, communicating through her ten intelligent cats (one white and nine black). No one dared bother the creatures, who wandered the streets of the capital as Berúthiel’s eyes” and ears.”

King Tarannon abandoned his love for her and eventually seized her evil cats and put them to sea in a drifting ship that was last seen off the coast of Umbar. 

Berúthiel abhorred beauty and decoration, although she was herself quite gorgeous. She dressed only in black or silver.

Read LotR III 405; UT 401 – 2.


Lvl 25

Hits 72

AT No/​2

DB 30

Sh N

Gr N

Melee OB 80da

Missile OB

M 20

Notes: Dúnadan Mage/​Mystic,

Queen of Gondor

— Peter C. Fenlon, Jr. The Mannish Races (Lords of Middle-earth Volume 2) Charlottesville, Virginia: Iron Crown Enterprises, 1987: 50, 51.


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