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Huan, the Tale of a Hound  by Nerdanel


“But Huan the hound was true of heart...”
-Of Beren and Lúthien The Silmarillion

I know some laugh at me for choosing to be always a dog; for where, says Ossë, is the joy and power in being always at the heel of another master, called off to the hunt or to the fireside, always at the behest of others? Or where, laughs Arien, is the delight in skulking in the narrow woods when I could have the free open airs always at my call? But my joy was never in such mastery, never in such wide open spaces and battles for power. My delight was always in letting others whom I loved and trusted choose for me; to hear from them which trail was the right, and which horn was of the timber to follow.

I was young in the Music when it began; and I sang but little, knowing not which tune to follow, and drawn always away by the Discord that I could not quench, but neither could drown out by my own singing. My Voice was never so strong as Varda’s, as Oromë’s, or as deep as the sorrow of Nienna’s. And it was with her that I came at last to Eä, desiring neither dominion nor power, but only to protect, to serve, to heal, if I could, the hurts that the Discord had wrought, not only in the world, but in my own thought.

For it was not the lure of Melkor’s Music that led me astray; but rather the tendency to distraction, to leaving behind what I had thought I knew and moving to something new, that sounded wiser, but maybe had not the sound timbre of true Music. But Sorrow called me to her; and to me sorrow has always been stronger than power, stronger than freedom, stronger than the desire for any dominion. And so I tried to help heal the hurts of the world that Melkor had Marred; for I could See that no one thing would bring the World back to as it was, or how it should have Been: for that lies in some Power beyond Time that we cannot yet See.

But my aid to heal was never enough; I fell often in despair, distracted by a broken chord here, a tuneless note there, and could never See the whole, or encompass the needs of Arda into one tuneful Music.

Then the Children came. I knew at once that there was where I belonged: with them. When Tavros returned from the wilds with Nahar my friend, I heard of the First Born with great wonder, and wished only to see them, to serve them. But very soon that proved needful. For the bringer of Discord had woven his song around all the Middle-earth, so that soon some of the Children came to my Mistress and her brother, destroyed by the corruptions of the Marrer and seeking refuge from his lordship in Mandos’ halls. I learned of their griefs; I hearkened to them, wondering to hear of that world I had never experienced as they had, and at a loss for how to comfort them in their need if I could not see as they did. And I wanted so to See!

Then the Children came from over the Sea; and I beheld them, whom I before had only glimpsed in the visions of Ilúvatar. I marveled at their bodies, that were one and part of their souls, but separate. And I saw how I could understand them at last.

I think I always knew that I wanted to be a dog, because of my nature: I never wished to rule, to choose my own way. I wanted to follow others and hearken to the right horn. And so Tavros took me as his own, for I knew that he knew the Children best. He had been with them in their Darkness, and had brought them to Aman and to the Light. He had seen their needs in Middle-earth, been under the threat and Shadow of Melkor, and was determined to fight it.

I chose to follow his horn. I remember waking new born from the womb of a great swollen dam, my littermates at my side, unable to open my eyes at first because of the brightness of the new world around me. And I felt – for the first time I felt, what I had only seen but never understood: the uniting of flesh to spirit. And I gloried in it. Not now doomed to roam without determined shape through the world, wandering with lack of purpose and resolution, wanting to aid in the healing of the world, but knowing not how. And Tavros cleaned my fur and led me to the milk I was yet too young to find for myself. I was only one of many among that litter: but the bright, fair-haired boy chose me among all the others, though I was more wobbly at first on my legs than the rest, and learned late the using of my bark. But though his tall elder brother strove for another and stronger than I; still my young master would have no other than I.

I loved him, as I had loved my Mistress before him. His mind was pure and his heart was free: he loved the wild woods and the lees where no foot had yet trod, as his mother and father before him. And he and his brothers were always in my heart. I loved to jump at their heels in playful attention when we ran among the fields; to bark in solemn adjuration when we gathered about the fire at night and I waited for my share of the kill; to frisk and howl in delight when I loped up from the stream, and shake to wet all about me with the droplets from my coat, for which they always scowled, but laughed after. And my fair-haired master grew in that land of plenty and of joy, even as I, until darkness came upon the Spirit of Fire and north to Formenos we went, away from the pleasant fields and lakes where together we had run and hunted with the rest of Tavros’ pack. But I did not regret my separation from the Lord of the Hunt; for my master Tyelkormo needed me more than he. I could see his sorrow at his father’s disgrace, and yet his pride grew with it. But it was not my duty to judge as I hound. Instead it was my place to whuff in his ear when he bent tiredly over a bow he had been trying to mend, or paw and whine at his knee when he had received his father’s rebuke, or lie curled up by his side with worried eyes and a slowly wagging tail when he sat by the hearth, wearied by the contention of his parents and uncles, and the shadow that spread slowly over all of Valinor.

And when the Darkness came, I did not think of rights and wrongs, of the certain justice of this party or that. That was for wiser minds to decide. By the side of my fair-haired master I stayed, out of the Blessed Realm and into the Darkness beyond: for if there were any time that he needed me, was it not in that land of Discord and Shadow? But then the red suffused the black; the stones of the Sea Haven were stained with a scarlet that could not be effaced: and I stood by, while my master and his brothers and the Spirit of Fire slew the windy mariners. Why did I not aid then, if it was my duty to protect and heal? I can not say. Ashamed I am, indeed, that I stood by, and, though I did nothing to harm, still approved the deed by my inaction. But I made a choice, in that day: to stay by that fair Child that I had taken as my own - though all the others of Tavros’ pack returned to his side - in the day of his need (for in that Darkness I could see the pain that tore his spirit – of the death of Grandfather, the slaying of Light, and the destruction of all that which he held dear), or to abandon him to a fate of grisly death in the land of the Marrer in the East. It was not my place to judge my own actions, only to follow the horn of the master I had chosen; much less, then, was it my place to judge that master himself.

I still saw my master Tyelkormo as the little boy I had first known when he picked me from among the litter: I could see the love and gentleness inside him that still existed despite his crimes, as we boarded the stolen ships and sailed together across the wide Ocean to the Middle-earth. I remember coming up to him, head down and tail slightly wagging to rub against his leg as he stripped off his garments which were stained red with blood, and which would never again be clean, throwing them in the fire along with his brothers’ clothes as they all put on new raiment. That was the time that a part of the old Tyelkormo, the boy that picked me from among the litter and ran bright-eyed playing hide-and-seek with me among the trees of Valinor, died within him and never rose again; although there were times that I saw still within him part of that old being that was no more, and knew then that it had always been there, but only overcrowded with the Marring that had stolen over his heart.

Then, when we came to the new lands, I had again that joy and freedom of the woods and the hunt in the days of my youth in Valinor. But in the Marred lands there were wargs, and orcs, and fell beasts to fell and destroy, and my master felt once again the freedom he had so missed, as well as I, in our exile in the northern stronghold. And with that freedom all new griefs were forgotten; for the betrayed followed after us over the freezing tundra and they forgave us our treachery, when my master’s tall brother gave the leadership of his people to his uncle. We travelled then to great lands in the East, around a great mountain pass where Celegorm and his favourite brother, the Crafty one, guarded the way south against the Black Foe. Until the day of the Flame, when once more we were driven from our homes, and I led the pack to new woods and fields surrounding the cavernous halls. There the golden-haired Singer welcomed us and I soon found joy again, chasing the deer in the vales of Narog and howling upon the wind while the other hounds followed my scent.

But it was then that the Tyelkormo I knew died entirely, and only Celegorm remained: a heart of stone so marred that I no longer recognized it. For he and his Crafty brother plotted behind closed doors when there came to the city of caves a spirit I seemed to have known since the earliest chords of the Music, but had never seen, never really met. And yet, it was impossible that I knew him: for was not this lord mortal, and one of the Secondborn Children, one such as I had never met? He came in need, desperate and weary, lacking every comfort and necessity that one requires for survival: and yet, still, his spirit burned with a fire that could not be quenched, and nearly blinded me with its brilliance and its beauty. He had lost all he had, and more: his land, his lordship, his family, his people, his liberty, and, finally, his lady, if he could not fulfill a task impossible of accomplishment. And the golden-haired Wisdom gave his aid, but my master and his brother rose against him, and took what was not theirs, but only given to them through mercy and love, and sent the wise singer to his death, and the mortal lord with him.

I grieved, yes. But what were counsels and decisions of kingship and jewels to a hound such as I? My call was to follow the horn of my master through the fields, to chase the boar and the deer of the wood, to slay the orc and wolf in glen and dale. When Wisdom threw down his crown at the feet of the usurpers, I did not so much as raise a paw for his aid, though with yelp and whine of grief, aye, I made protest. Long I stood at the gates and howled until those twelve brave souls disappeared into the woods north, and I could see them no more.

Until the day that I sensed a shadow in the woods: but a shadow of light, of sleep and of dreams of peace, not the evil shades of the Dark One’s hordes; and I brought the Nightingale, who put to sleep all the other of the hounds with her dark cloak, to my master and his brother. And she, unafraid and trusting, now that she knew she had found other foes of her Foe, told them with a naïve and innocent openness all her tale. When I heard her I was heartened, for I knew at last who this flitting shadow was: the lady and true love of that brief but strong spirit whose nature was so akin to mind, and I was glad, for I knew now that we could help them.

But my fair-haired master rode so slowly back to the City, even calling the dogs back if I ran too far ahead, that I did not understand and grew worried. And my tail began to drag as I heard he and the Crafty one speaking softly together even as she rode along beside them, wan and pale-faced with anxiety, eager to help he whom she loved so well, and relying upon them whom they could not trust. And my worry only grew as the days passed. The Crafty one took away her cloak, under the pretense of wishing to study its properties, and my master fell in love with the Nightingale, so that he felt he was justified in doing anything to “protect” her. And yet, what is love or happiness without danger and grief? Being a hound does not exempt one from the sorrows of loving too much.

Then the Nightingale told me of her mortal lord, though I felt I knew him already: a true follower of Tavros and Yavanna Kementári, lover of birds and beasts and all things that grow, how he had given up eaten all flesh for his love of living things, how he had found her singing in the enchanted woods, how his flame, though brief, was also eternal in her heart and in the world around her. But my master did not hearken. He cared nothing for her sorrows, he cared nothing for her joys and griefs. While she sat weeping in her locked chamber, he and his brother laughed at her behind her back, sang and went to parties, hunted and rode together on the plains, made engagement rings and plotted their rise to power in their chambers. He wanted only to possess her for his own pleasure and power, and this, alas, I saw, loathe though I was to acknowledge it. For she languished in that prison of stone, who had always fared free in the wild woods and the air. Nightingales should not be caged.

But it was on the day that my master took her arms and would not let her go, when he pressed his mouth against her own unwilling lips, when he sought to bend her to his will despite her own, that I leapt before him and threatened, aye, my own master with bared teeth, raised hackles and fierce growl. Her sorrow was deeper than their sorrows: her anguish was deeper than their anguish. And what must a hound do, when he no longer knows which is right and which the wrong? when he can no longer trust to follow the horn of the lord he has chosen? How shall he choose for himself?

I knew that calling deep within me: the call that sang strong even before the Children came. The song that I had seen within the mortal lord and now within his lady. For her music was stronger than those who came from over the Sea. What was a hound’s duty, if not to protect those who need protection, and comfort those who sorrow?

I lay and slept before her door, and when my fair-haired master came to her again, I would not let him pass in. Then after, when the Crafty one followed, he would not move me with his honeyed words or the meat he tossed aside to distract me from my purpose. Nor would I even let him call through the door to torment her yet more.

My poor master – for I do pity him yet, though all is changed – I knew had needed me for those many years, ever since we had been pups together. But now I found others who needed me more. Alas, how shall a simple hound choose?

But I was not a simple hound. I was more than a hound, as I remembered at the last.  And so I chose to free the Nightingale, and rescue her mortal lord that their song perish not forever from the dark world.

I did not regret my deed – though I sorrowed indeed for the grief that had come between my master and me for my disobedience. For I loved him still. And so, once I knew the Nightingale and her lord were safe once more, I returned to him. But now he treated me with less love than his boots or his gloves, or any other possession for which he could find a use. No longer did he brush my long coat until it gleamed, but let the burrs and stickers burrow into the fur until they chafed the skin; no longer threw me bones or choice of meat, but left me to scavenge for my own kill; no longer laughed in merry jest at my capers, and shoved my head away when I tried to comfort his spurnéd spirit, and kicked my muzzle with his boot when I followed him with lowered head and sagging tail to the call of the hunt.

But it was when he strove with barbéd shaft and spear against the ones I loved that I forsook him forever; for there was nothing Elda left in him. He was not the master I once had loved. He was something cold and cruel that had become marred in the Marring of all of Arda; and I mourned for him.

Yet my love for those new masters I had taken, of the Nightingale and her lord, gave me joy to supplant the misery for the loss of my fair-haired master, and I battled for them bravely, though I knew that through it I should meet my Doom. But when does a hound forsake his love and duty, even if it means his own pain or even destruction? And I fought for them: the Long-Tailed father of wolves I slew, and even the Lord of Wolves himself fell under my tooth and claw. And though I slew the Red Maw, I failed them: for Beren could not fight those iron jaws, or free himself from the deadly poison that was coursing through his veins. All I could do was to put my nose beneath his remaining hand, whimpering and crying, and curl up by his side to warm him as his flesh slowly turned cold, and the light faded from his eyes.

“You have not failed,” Nienna tells me. But I do not know. I can not See it.

Then he went to the Halls of Mandos, and I with him. And there I cared for him until the Nightingale came to him, and they went out into the world again; but this time I was not there to protect them.

Still, I am a dog. And when a dog has done his duty for love, why should he mourn? I can not lament their loss, even though I shall not see them again; for their Music lives on, and shall until the world’s End.

And here too I shall wait in Mandos; for I also am under the Noldor Doom. But I shall serve again my Mistress, to aid those who come here from the tangled world of woven trees for healing and for rest. And soon, maybe, my fair-haired master will come, and – perhaps – he will let me comfort him and mend his darkened spirit. And some day, perchance, I may run again through the green fields of Valinor, and sound my bark to Tavros’ mighty horn.

For my Music, I know not whither it shall tend. But when the End comes, I know that the One shall have no complaint against me. Maybe, if the Song is ever made anew, I will know my final part in it at last.


Author’s Note: I have always seen Celegorm (Tyelkormo) as having fair hair, ever since I read a note in The Shaping of Middle-earth stating that he was called “the Fair” because of the colour of his hair (i.e. similar to Caranthir “the Dark”).

I must thank Philosopher at Large, the author of A Boy, a Girl, and a Dog, for the idea that Huan was originally of Nienna’s following. I also want to thank her for her wonderful script, which was the inspiration for this tale. Please read it here:



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