Tolkien fact 16 – Queen Berúthiel

[Originally posted March 18th, 2015]

Almost everything in Tolkien’s work has a very in-depth history and backstory. Every little name or event or place mentioned in LotR has a reference in the deep sources of his immense collection of writings. It is said that only two things mentioned in the main fiction did not exist in some other place when the LotR was published: one item is the Blue Wizards and the other is Queen Berúthiel and her cats. Aragorn uses the quote:

“[Gandalf] is surer of finding the way home in a blind night than the cats of Queen Berúthiel…”

when questioned with a concern of being lost in Moria. Mentioned only in the chapter “A Journey in the Dark” in the Fellowship, the origins of the cats of Berúthiel were unknown even to Christopher Tolkien, JRR’s son and literary executor after his death. In the post-humously-published Unfinished Tales, a small piece of information is given:

“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.”

She was sent by ship into exile by the King and the last mention of her is this:

“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.”

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