Túrin runs afoul of a band of Men, outlaws who prove to need his skill more than they need any treasure they think they can pull from him. By killing one of the best among them, Túrin is able to take his place, claiming the first of his many false names: Neithan. By the same means, within the year he becomes their captain.
Beleg continues his pursuit of Túrin, rightly marking his passage in the stories he hears of the Wolf-men and their proud leader who stands apart from them. Túrin’s outlaws become aware they’re being pursued by one they cannot shake.
In the midst of this, the Orcs become aware of the outlaws, hunting those who in turn are hunting them. In hiding from Orcs while Túrin is off scouting, Beleg catches up to the outlaws. By the time Túrin returns a couple of days later, Beleg is trussed up and beaten. Túrin immediately frees him and will listen to his side of the tale first, which angers Túrin. And as is his way, that anger turns inward on himself because as we know from The Silmarillion, Túrin is the biggest drama queen in the whole of Tolkien’s Legendarium. He turns upon his outlaws, blaming them for being needlessly cruel. He says that, for his part, he will raise arms no more against Elves or Men, for “Angband has servants enough.” (I love that line.) Would the outlaws follow him, they will do the same, otherwise he will go it alone. Beleg replies that he will not be alone and reveals that he has been pardoned, that all is well. Túrin shows no joy in this, and his opposite number in the outlaws, Andróg, is bitter at Beleg for these tidings. Proud as he is, Túrin will not return to Doriath, claiming that he should pardon rather than be pardoned and receive the pity of Thingol and his people.
Beleg’s words that Men and Elves “should not or meddle” prove a lasting riddle. That Tolkien spells it out in exactly those terms leads me to believe it has echoes into the Last Alliance of Elves and Men and beyond that into the War of the Ring. Even if I’m reading into that too much, it’s because Tolkien taught me to do that, though I don’t think I’m wrong. That’s the same feeling I got with The Silmarillion as well. The presentation difference, however, makes it seem different, which may be why the version of these tales as presented here are unfinished. The Silmarillion, being of a more Biblical style as befitting the histories of the Elves, gives it more weight than the narrative as written here. This, I think, is where the scales fall from my eyes, allowing me to understand more fully what Tolkien did, and why he did it as he did. It doesn’t make me appreciate these Unfinished Tales any less, but it does mark it all better as the difference between “what really happened” at ground level vs. the elevated recordings of history. It’s a separation I’ve understood all along, but it seems to resonate deeper with me now.
The timing of this comes not long after reading Madeline Miller’s novel Circe and comparing and contrasting it with Homer’s “originals.” I see the same kind of thing marked between the Arthurian legends, between Chrétien de Troyes, Sir Thomas Mallory, and the sheer number of more modern renditions. Comparing Tolkien’s First Age on the scale of our own literary history becomes more rewarding all the time.
It truly is all connected. All of it.