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“About the Nature of Legends”
“Whisperings of a Ghost”
Who was Queen Berúthiel?
This is a difficult question.
The facts history has left us are the following: King Tarannon – who took on the name “Falastur” on coming to the throne in 830 to commemorate his victories – was born in the year 654 and died in the year 913. He was the first childless king. There were documents in the old archive of Osgiliath which proved without doubt that Tarannon was married and that his wife was called “Berúthiel”.
However, those documents were lost at the end of the Third Age when Osgiliath was taken by the enemy. In “The Book of Kings” no queen called “Berúthiel” is mentioned. On the marble walls in Rath Dínen which bear inscriptions giving the dates of birth and death for every king and queen of Gondor, there is no inscription for a queen called “Berúthiel” either.
Maybe this is only historical coincidence and had no meaning at all. Maybe King Tarannon and his Queen loved each other so dearly that he could not bear to see the fact of his loss recorded anywhere at all. Maybe the pages where her death was recorded in “The Book of Kings” were lost, maybe the marble bearing the inscription of the dates of her birth and death cracked, was removed and never replaced, due to some negligence on a steward’s part. Maybe her name and the dates of her birth and death have been erased from “The Book of Kings”. Maybe there never was an inscription of the dates of her life carved into the white marble walls of Rath Dínen.
Whatever the reason, the facts of her life and the dates of her birth and death are lost.
Who was Queen Berúthiel?
If history cannot explain this mystery, perhaps legends can. Although now there are no valid historical sources left to prove that Queen Berúthiel ever existed, her name has not been forgotten in Gondor. There are several different versions of a legend about the Queen Berúthiel and her cats are even kept alive in an often used proverb.
The reason for the continued interest in Tarannon and his queen is, of course, easy to perceive. King Tarannon “Falastur” was the first childless king. This was a shocking occurrence for the people of Gondor and needed to be explained. Therefore it can be assumed that the legends about Berúthiel were made up even during the lifetime of King Tarannon.
Looking at the explanations given in tales and legends, it has to be kept in mind that they are necessarily of another nature as the explanations sought by the student of lore and history.
A historian will look for clues which might prove that Tarannon was simply infertile, or that he loved his wife so much that he never remarried or that for some reason he never married at all. A storyteller, however, looks at the question “Who was Queen Berúthiel?” with the eyes of an entertainer, looking for dark secrets and deep passions.
This has to be taken into account when analyzing the legends about the Queen Berúthiel in the endeavour to answer the question of who she was. Most of the time legends will mingle fantasy and fact in a way that makes it impossible to separate truth from myth.
In Gondorian folklore, Queen Berúthiel is known as the wife of King Tarannon Falastur.
She is described as “nefarious, solitary, and loveless”, because she bore Tarannon no child. Sometimes she is also called the “black Witch Queen of Gondor”. She is said to have had nine black cats and one white cat. The cats are supposed to have been her slaves and the tale is told that she could talk to them and read their minds. Legend says she sent them out to discover the secrets of Gondor, perhaps to betray them to the enemies of the realm, perhaps out of spite. The white cat she presumably used to spy upon the black cats and it is said she tormented them horribly. No man in Gondor dared to touch them; all were afraid of them, and cursed when they saw them pass.
The legends say that her husband loved her nevertheless and honoured the holy vows that bound them in marriage for a long time, even though he remained without an heir of his body to inherit his crown and his realm. Only when it became certain knowledge that she had cursed him to childlessness, he divorced her and set her adrift in a boat with her evil cats. The ship was last seen flying past Umbar under a sickle moon, with one cat nailed to the bow and another to the stern of the boat.
Because of her evil deeds her name was subsequently erased from “The Book of the Kings” and no inscription was made for her to grace the walls of Rath Dínen. However, not even these measures were strong enough to break the curse she had put on the king. King Tarannon stayed forever without an heir of his body.
While the name “Berúthiel” has become a curse for evil and deceitful women, her cats are remembered in a Gondorian proverb for their unerring ability to find their way home.
That is the explanation Gondorian folklore offers in answer to the question “Who was Queen Berúthiel?”.
Who was Queen Berúthiel?
History does not know her and legends – even if they were partly based on historical facts once – do not seek the truth.
To find the truth of the mystery surrounding the figure of the Queen Berúthiel, we would have to be able to ask her dead spirit.
But where would we find the ghost of a dead queen?
And who would want to listen to her?
And would she tell the truth?
My name was erased from the Book of Kings.
But they still remember my name.
No history of Gondor contains my name.
No inscription in the House of Kings bears my name.
He has made it so that nothing remains to prove my birth, my life or my death.
As if I never existed at all.
But they still remember my name.
My name has become a synonym for evil and deceit.
My death has become a legend to frighten children in their beds at night.
But they still remember my name.
Before my spirit drifted into this dim eternal twilight, my name was Berúthiel. I was Queen of Gondor and wife to King Tarannon.
This is the story of my life as I remember it.
I was born as the youngest daughter of the Duke of Pinnath Galin, a great lord of Gondor and Councillor of the King in Minas Tirith.
My father chose my name, which is unusual in Gondor. Normally it is the mother who names the daughters, and the father who chooses the name of his heirs. But I had three elder brothers and three elder sisters. I was the child of my father’s age, and he held me dear. So he gave me the name Berúthiel, which means ‘queenly lady’ and he told me I was destined for great things.
I had a happy childhood, although I was often alone. My sisters and brothers were much older than I was, all of them married with children of their own by them time I was ten, and none of them lived in Pinnath Galin.
My mother was worn and tired from many years of raising four children and managing a great household. She was kind with me and caring, but she was always a bit distant, not really close to me in any way. I was the last child she had to bear, and she was happy for it. In that time even noble women often died in childbed, and many children of nobility never lived to see adulthood. My mother had been lucky, she had survived to see her old age, and only two of her children were remembered by small white stones in the Hall of Dead at the Palace of Pinnath Galin.
I did not lack for love or affection, though. My mother had chosen a woman of low birth but great kindness as a nurse for me. And whenever my father was at home, he took the time to walk with me and talk with me and play with me. The first years of my life were peaceful times, and my father did not have to travel to Minas Tirith very often anymore. The king had grown old, and his rule was wise and patient.
I was chubby child, with golden hair and rosy cheeks, good-natured and well-behaved. If I was told to go and play by myself, I would run into the sunny gardens of the palace and play with my kittens. I loved all animals, but most of all I loved cats. My father thought it sweet how I cared for them and tried to teach them small tricks, so he gave me a new kitten whenever he found one. By the time I was ten years old, I had nine black cats and one white cat , and I loved them with all my heart, and they loved me.
They were well-behaved and friendly with each other, which is rare for cats not from the same litter. But I gave them elvish names and prayed with them, much the same as my mother and my nurse would pray with me each evening before I had to go to bed. When my mother prayed with me, I always had to ask the One to make me a good little girl, who obeyed her elders and fulfilled her duties and ask the Valar for their blessings, too. My nurse had me ask the Valar for their blessing and pray to the One to keep my heart pure and free from evil. That was the prayer I used with my cats, and I firmly believed that the prayer was heard.
Those happy days of love and play passed soon, and I grew into a lovely, slender girl. My sisters had taken after my mother, who had brown hair and green eyes, but I looked like my father. I grew to be tall and slender, with bright golden hair and grey eyes , and father called me ‘Princess of the heart’.
When I turned thirteen, I became a woman. Once a month I was sick and tired, my stomach and my back ached horribly and I felt as if I would die. But my father smiled at me with pride in his eyes and said he would have to find me a prince that was worthy of his princess.
At that time the old king felt that the end of his life was finally approaching.
His eldest son, Prince Tarannon, was not yet married, and the old King told his son that he did not want to die without knowing that his line would continue. Prince Tarannon was to marry before the year was out.
The Prince, who was a grown man of forty-three years, resented the King’s order, but if he wanted to claim the throne as was his right by birth, he had to obey. Prince Tarannon had been born to rule. He was an excellent soldier, and had valiantly fought against the corsairs of Umbar and the wild tribes of the East, and the orcs of the Black Country feared him greatly. He was also smart and cunning. He knew the laws of Gondor by heart; he spoke many languages and was well versed in history. But he also studied the ancient lore of wizardry, such as it is preserved in the writings kept in the great library of Minas Tirith, the secrets of the Dark Númenoreans, or so it was said. Perhaps it was the darkness he found in that lore that shaped him, or he was as he was from the beginning. I cannot tell. But he became proud and stern with his knowledge, and greatly admired by the people of Gondor, if not loved.
During the year of Prince Tarannon courtship all the great families of Gondor and many from Rohan flocked to Minas Tirith, presenting their daughters to the King and the Prince.
As did my father. My mother was opposed to it, because she said I was too young and she did not like the Prince. But my father said I was destined for great things, and my mother had only been two years my senior when they had married long ago – and hadn’t I become a woman a year ago?
It was not often that my father was so set on an objective he would not be swayed by my mother’s counsel. But in this case he would not be moved.
He wanted for me to be Queen.
No other fate would be good enough for his pride and joy.
So we went to Minas Tirith, when May had come, and all the land was green and fair. The orchards were dripping in white blossoms and the air smelled sweetly of the blessing of spring. I had never left Pelargir before, and thought that my heart would burst with the beauty of the land. I knew that we were going to meet the King and the Prince, and I had been told that the Prince was looking for a wife. I was to young and innocent to imagine that I should be presented to the Prince as a possible wife. But I was old enough to dream of one of the fairy-tales my nurse had told me when I was younger to come true for me.
And alas, which girl would not dream of becoming Queen? I was presented to the King and to the Prince on a sunny evening at the end of May. The day had been warm, and the air was still balmy. A feast was held out of doors, the Place of the Fountains beneath the White Tower was decked out with garlands and many bright lanterns. There was music and dancing, and when we walked up to the thrones, which had been placed in front of the great doors of the towers, the sun shone golden into my face.
I must have looked lovely that night, a golden haired girl with pure white skin and large shining eyes of a silvery grey. Lovely and young, more child than woman, innocent of the ways of the world and the ways of men.
Prince Tarannon was tall and good looking. He had long dark hair and grey eyes under slanting brows. But his face was grim, and I was so in awe of him that I could not speak, but only politely incline my head and blush, when he kissed my hand and drew me up from my curtsy to welcome me in Minas Tirith.
He must have liked what he saw, for he danced with me that night, and brought me glasses of golden, sparkling wine and told me the names of the stars, which shone so brightly in the sky of night. And I liked what I saw in him that night, too. My heart was racing, and my knees were weak, and I thought I would faint as he whispered explanations and poetry in my ear.
He asked my father if he could take me out riding the very next day. And my father was glad and allowed it joyfully.
The day after that Prince Tarannon called on my father to ask to show us the White Tower. The following day he begged to visit the royal menagerie with me. Within a week everyone in Minas Tirith knew that the Prince had decided who is bride should be. He conducted his courtship expertly, seducing me with his charm and many precious gifts. Always he seemed polite and kind, and I was delirious with happiness.
My father glowed with pride, and even my mother’s worries were soothed.
When a month of chaperoned rendezvous, rides and picnics, dances and parties had passed, Prince Tarannon called on my father and asked for my hand.
I was not yet fourteen, so the betrothal was agreed to last one year. I was to be married on my fifteenth birthday, and I could not believe that I would ever be unhappy.
My eyes were swimming with tears, when we left Minas Tirith at the end of June, and I clasped Prince Tarannon’s token, a golden locket that contained a single strand of his dark, silky hair to my breast.
How I wished that the year of waiting was already over! How I wished that I was on my way to Minas Tirith as a bride!
At first the days seemed to pass with agonizing slowness, and I spent many nights sitting at my window, dreaming of my Prince, yearning for the golden future I was sure would be mine. But then we had to prepare my dowry, and I was too busy to spin romantic dreams. Instead I took the finest silk that could be had and embroidered leagues of soft white sheets with the tiniest stitches imaginable. I even fashioned white silken ribbons adorned with subtle white needlework for my black cats, and one in pink for the white cat.
So the year went by with many hours spent on patient labour as befits a young woman waiting to be a bride.
Then, one morning in May I looked at myself in the mirror, my heart beating like drum, so excited was I. I was dressed for travelling. The dowry, all of its one hundred and forty four items was carefully wrapped and packed in great leather trunks.
The time had come to say farewell to Pinnath Galen, the home of my childhood.
I was leaving for Minas Tirith.
In a month I would be married.
In a month I would be queen.
The wedding was magnificent, as befits a future King and Queen. All the great lords and all the great ladies of Gondor and Rohan had come. There were even ambassadors of the Elves and the Dwarves, carrying precious gifts and congratulations from the leaders of their people.
We exchanged the vows in the Great Hall of Minas Tirith, in front of the Throne of the King. Then the crown of the Queen was placed on my head, and suddenly I felt a cold fear in my stomach, and the weight of the crown was heavy on my heart.
But then the moment of anxiety passed, and we went to greet the people of Gondor, and as we went to stand on the Embrasure of the Citadel of Minas Tirith, great cheers rose from all around us and from all the rings of the city.
The day passed in a blur of celebration: music, dances, speeches, eating and drinking, more music and more dancing. There were artists and singers, jugglers and wizards, and when the night fell, fireworks of such splendour as I had never seen before.
Then it was time for my new husband and his young queen to retire and to consummate the marriage. My mother had told me what to expect, so I was not afraid. I loved the Prince with all my young innocence and not for a moment the thought entered my mind that he might not be what he seemed.
He was gentle with me that night. In the morning I woke filled with bliss, and I was sure that my days would be filled with joy and happiness to the day that I’d die.
The day of our marriage was followed by a fortnight of celebrations and parties. Each day seemed to be more cheerful and brighter than the day before; the sun was shining all day, and the moon was bright at night. Prince Tarannon was kind and caring and never left my side. My parents, my brothers and sisters and their families had all been invited to stay in the palace, and we spent happy hours playing and talking, singing and dancing.
After two weeks, the celebrations were finally over, and the guests departed.
The moon had waned and the night was dark and there were no stars.
That was the night when I learned why my husband had been late to marry. It was not, because he had waited for love, as I had dreamed and as he had bidden the minstrels to sing.
It was because Prince Tarannon did not care for love.
He cared for pain.
He came to my room that night, as he had come every night before, and I turned to him, smiling brightly with anticipation of tenderness and soft words in the dark. But his eyes were dark and cold, and in his hand he carried a whip.
In moments my world of light and love was destroyed.
In moments my world was remade into darkness and pain.
But he was skilful, and he was careful. He never hit my face, my cleavage or my arms, or any part of my body, which would be exposed during the day. He had chosen my handmaidens with care. He had made sure that there would never be witnesses to support a plea for divorce.
And who would have believed me anyway?
And even if anyone had believed me, what could they have done?
He was the heir to the throne, and before the year was gone, the old King had died, and Tarannon was made King of Gondor, and the people of Gondor were full of joy, because he promised to be a good king, a strong king.
The first year of our marriage was over, and there was no child.
People started talking.
He chained me to the bed for two weeks, claiming my body every hour, every day. After that I tried to lock my room, so I would have some peace. He told the servants I was sick after he had punished me. And I was, for my right leg was broken, and the many welts that covered my thin body were inflamed. But I was young, and so I recovered, after many months of lying in my bed, unmoving, and screaming at every sound.
It was then that I started to hear my cats talking. It was then that I began to understand their speech, for they were still with me and they were my only friends. They cried for me in their high sweet voices. They pitied me. They asked me how they could help me.
But I did not know what to say. I thought by then not even the One or the Valar could help me.
So many nights I had prayed.
So many nights he had returned to me.
How could small cats help me in my bitter plight?
But they did, they did!
They spied on my husband, and warned me of his approach. I could not hide, I could not bar my rooms, but by then I had realized what aroused him, and what didn’t, what angered him, and what bored him. If I was docile and passive and made no noise, but only whimpered softly and defeated, he soon grew tired of his games and left me, to staunch my bleeding wounds in loneliness.
I could endure that life; the pain was over fairly quickly and then I was alone, to spend my day embroidering or playing with my cats. Not that I did much embroidering anymore, my fingers trembled too hard to thread a pin, and badly healed breaks made playing hard on my body.
At first I had some ladies of gentle birth as companions. But after a few months one after the other asked to leave my service. I did not dare to ask them for the reason, afraid of what they would tell me. However, I heard the reason eventually, whispered by servants, who thought I did not listen.
It was Tarannon’s doing, of course.
He was angry at my passive resistance to his desires.
He had started spreading rumours about me.
I was a witch, he told them.
I was evil, he told them.
I was nefarious, he told them.
I had cursed him with childlessness, he told them.
The people of Minas Tirith began to fear me.
The Witch Queen, they called me, and pitied Tarannon.
They did not know me.
And how could they know me?
The only time they saw me was from afar at state functions, or when I was allowed to step out on the balcony of my apartments in the evening.
And what would they see then?
A pale woman with burning eyes, clothed in black.
A woman who never came to the city.
A woman who would not become pregnant.
A woman who only talked to her cats.
A lonely woman.
A loveless woman.
A nefarious woman.
No wonder they were afraid.
If I could have been weak, it would have been better.
If I could have died of the injuries he so enjoyed to inflict and behold, it would have been better.
But I was too young.
I was too strong.
I lived on.
But I did not get pregnant.
And from the day I first heard the rumour that I had cursed Tarannon with childlessness, I included this curse in my nightly prayers.
I kept praying, night after night after night.
I kept my faith as my father and mother had taught me during the happy, golden days of my childhood. I prayed.
But my prayers were not heard.
And I lived.
But as the years passed, his fury and his cruelty grew beyond measure.
And still I was not pregnant. And hurting me did not give him the pleasure it had given him when I was only a girl and innocent.
Then he noticed that I was talking to my cats.
How I wished that I had never talked to them!
How I wished that I had drowned them myself, after that fateful first night of pain!
How I wished that I had killed them and myself, a long time ago!
He cut off their tails.
He cut off their ears.
He ripped off their claws.
He broke their teeth.
He made me eat their tails.
But he did not kill them.
And they still loved me, and purred for me.
Had he known that, he would have killed them.
But he did not know, and he did not kill them.
But he removed all knives and forks from my rooms. I was not allowed on my balcony anymore. All my windows were locked.
I was mad, he told the servants.
I was evil, he told the servants.
I had tormented my cats myself, because they had displeased me, because they had failed to discover the secrets of Gondor. I wanted to kill him, and rule in his stead, he said. And he was too good and too kind hearted to ever break the holy vows binding us together.
The servants did not want to come to my rooms anymore.
Only one old crone remained and a burly man with cold eyes and an even colder heart.
Perhaps Tarannon still hoped to get me with child.
I cannot think of any other reason why he kept me imprisoned in my rooms. For I was his prisoner. He never allowed me to leave my rooms now.
I was mad, I was sick, he told them.
And I was.
Darkness was in my mind.
And many days I did not remember my name.
Perhaps I was truly mad.
Perhaps I had always been mad.
I don’t know. And there was no one I could ask. I was all alone. Only my mangled, tortured cats were with me, faithful as always.
Tarannon did not come for me again in a long time.
I do not know for what reason.
I prayed that he had simply grown tired of me.
I prayed that he had not turned to another poor woman, to torment and torture into insanity.
Yes, I prayed.
I still prayed.
The black Witch Queen of Gondor prayed.
In that time the legend was born that is still remembered today, when my name has been erased from the Book of Kings and no history of Gondor will tell of my life.
The legend of Queen Berúthiel, the black Witch Queen of Gondor and her nine cats. The cats are supposed to be servants, whom I cursed and thus made into cats, because they annoyed me. They say that I forced the cats to do my bidding, spying and slinking and committing evil deeds. And they say I punished the cats, when they were not successful on their evil missions. They say I was vile enough to cut off their tails and their ears, to rip off their claws and break their teeth. They say that the cats only returned to me because I held the keys to their eternal souls. If they would not return from where ever I sent them, they could never be released from my curse until the end of time.
He came and told me that legend and he smiled, when I cried. He left me to my tears and my prayers.
Prayers and tears were all that was left of my life. And all the time I prayed, and my poor broken cats purred, giving me what comfort they could.
I grew old before my time.
And when my husband perceived that I could never bear him a child, he took me and my cats to the coast.
He put me into a small boat and towed me far away from the coast.
He killed my white cat and nailed her to the bow of the boat.
He killed the smallest black cat and nailed him to the stern.
I looked at my husband in the waning light of a sickle moon.
He was pale and his eyes were dark and cold, as they always had been after the first two weeks of our marriage.
“Why do you hurt me so?” I asked him.
“Because I can,” he said.
“Will you kill me now?” I asked him. “And why did you wait so long?”
“I hoped for a child,” he said. “But now I see that your curse is stronger than mine. And I will not kill you. I will free the Kingdom of Gondor from the Witch Queen and her evil ways. I leave you with your demon cats out on the ocean. I will offer you to the mercy of the Valar and the One. I will take a new wife, and she will give me the heir Gondor needs.”
“No,” I said, relieved that at last the hour of my death was near, and all my fright was gone. “Eru and the Valar will have mercy on my soul. And never shall you have a child of your body, nor shall you touch anyone, be it man or woman again in lust or love. Wither you shall, and never rise again! For I never did anything evil in my life, but kept my faith and was always true in spite of all you did to me. If any God exists at all, my words shall be true.”
And finally, as the hour of my death drew nigh, I felt the sigh of the Eru and the Valar up in heaven, and I knew that I had indeed spoken true. He paled and I could see that for the first time in his warrior’s life, Tarannon Falastur was frightened.
He cut off the ropes that had tied my small boat to his great ship.
Swiftly the waves carried me away into a dark night. There were no stars in the sky, and the moon was but a pale silver sickle, veiled with mists. There were no oars in the boat and no sail. My limbs were gnarled from many breaks and weak from spending long years in closed rooms.
My life was spent; in darkness, loneliness and pain.
But I would die in freedom, with my remaining eight cats purring to comfort me and warming my body. I offered a last prayer to the One and the Valar, and thanked them for their mercy.
At long last my faith would be rewarded.
I would die in freedom and in peace, surrounded by friends.
And so it was.
History does not know me: King Tarannon erased my name in the Books of Kings and no inscription of the dates of my birth and my death was carved into the white marble walls of Rath Dínen, where the Kings and Queens of old lie in eternal slumber.
Legends lie about me: Of my life and my death nothing remains but a lie about a mad and nefarious woman who left her loving husband childless and grief-stricken. Of my valiant cats nothing remains but a proverb linked to their faithfulness.
However, one thing is sure: King Tarannon remained childless all his life and the legends say that after my death he could not bear the touch of any other woman or man for as long as he lived.
The line of Kings was broken.
They have forgotten my birth.
They have forgotten my life.
They never knew my pain.
They remember my death.
They remember my name.
A synonym for evil and deceit.
But they remember my name.
I wish they would forget my name, too.
But the whisperings of a ghost die away unheard in the grey twilight of the Halls of Waiting. And if those whisperings were heard, would anyone believe them at all?
Perhaps it is interesting to note that the Gondorian legends about the nefarious and loveless Queen Berúthiel are not the only ones that deal with a queen set afloat in a small boat with her cats. Far to the South, where the stars are strange there is a tale of a boat coming out of the North one night, many hundreds of years ago.
They say it was a small boat without oars or sails that was carried south on a dark, dark night, with no stars and only a pale sickle of a moon.
The boat held a dead queen and her cats, a young woman who had grown old before her time and must have suffered greatly, for her body was broken many times and her cats had been mutilated in a horrible manner as well. The night was very dark, they say, but suddenly there was a blazing light, and the Goddess of the Stars herself appeared. They say that the Goddess picked up the boat in her hand and carried it far away into the west.
They maintain that the queen had been imprisoned during a war, and had been tortured by enemies to betray her people. They say that she kept her faith and never spoke until she died. They say that her courage and her faith were rewarded and that she lives on in the Uttermost West, made whole in spirit and body. They believe that her cats return to this world, to help those who are lost and searching for a way home.
But this legend is not told in Middle-earth, and I don’t know if it is true.
A/N: This story refers to the legend of Queen Berúthiel as it is related in the footnote 7 of the chapter “Istari” in “Unfinished Tales”, to the information given about King Tarannon in “The History of Middle-earth XII”, chapter VII, “The Heirs of Elendil” and the proverb mentioned in “The Fellowship”, p. 418, of the HarperCollins paperback edition in three volumes.
In real history we often find that unusual occurrences are explained in legends. Sometimes there are very different legends concerning the same incident, with each legend presenting a very different point of view. All too often truth remains elusive and open to interpretation even with various valid historical sources.
Originally I simply wanted to redeem cats in Middle-earth, portraying them not as demonic minions of an evil queen, but as valiant and faithful friends. In the end, I wrote much more about just how difficult it is to find truth in history and legend and how, perhaps, not even the whisperings of a ghost would help to find the truth.
I hope the story offers an interesting connection between the legend of Queen Berúthiel, the historical facts as given in HoME and the proverb as used by Aragorn in Moria.