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Middle-Earth Profiles: Lalaith
Welcome to the fourth profile in my project of exploring the personalities of characters from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. If you are not familiar with the books, The Silmarillion or The Children of Hurin, I do suggest a brief glance through them before reading this. The last three profiles covered three members of Hurin’s family: Hurin, Morwen, and Turin. Today I will be profiling a member who has very little written about her but whom I feel still has importance to the family’s history: Lalaith.
An Unusual Child
The young girl known as Lalaith was the second child born to Hurin and Morwen. And like her older brother, Turin, was born in the peace between the end of the Dagor Bragollach and the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. She also died during that period when a plague from the north swept through Dor-lomin, killing many children. What is known about her was that she was a very happy child and though she died from the plague that came out of the north, did experience a lively childhood.
Lalaith’s love of life was very unusual within Hurin’s family and what later became of them. She more than likely inherited her extroverted sense of adventure from her father, as well as his blonde hair. In fact, she doesn’t seem to display any sign of her mother’s temperance, unlike Turin and later her sister, Niniel.
Her joyous attitude was infectious and it was said she brought happiness to all who saw her, especially the young Turin. She often tried to get him to play with her, but Turin often refused, preferring to protect her rather than play with her. Her joyous nature was likely the early expression of her father’s charisma, as Hurin was also known to spread optimism and hope to those around him despite their doubts.
There are no records of Lalaith’s relationship with Hurin specifically. It stands that they probably got along very well given their similar dispositions, but he was often away from home. Though often treated as a footnote to the history of Hurin’s family, Lalaith actually is very important to it.
The family’s story is often considered tragic, being the result of a curse placed on Hurin by Morgoth after the Nirnaeth Arnodiad. They become grim, extreme, introverted, and stubborn. However Lalaith never fell within these parameters. Though still a child’s optimism, she enjoyed life in a way that her family never had, even Hurin and during times of peace. One could argue that this was because of that very peace she was born into, but then again so was Turin. And Turin, though also extroverted in his youth, is never really regarded by others as being a happy kid like Lalaith was.
But perhaps her importance to the family can best felt like her father’s: through her absence.
When Lalaith dies, the family appears to be irrevocably affected. Nothing is mentioned of Hurin’s reaction but both Mowren and Turin retreat into themselves. Lalaith’s loss is like the road not taken. What could and should have been.
Her joy is should have continued to be her family’s joy rather than the stern countenance they were later known for. Her encouragement to share her joy with her family should have been Hurin’s love being more engaging than it was. Her laughter should have been her mother’s laughter rather than her inability to express emotion and the steel armor she wore about herself. Her openness and kindness should have enhanced Turin’s own kindness instead of the close-minded and rage-fueled man he became. And her curiosity for life should have been Niniel’s, instead of the fearful dread she had of her past that she kept running from.
Lalaith is everything her family could have been and that, you could argue is the real tragedy of her early death. She was the potential never realized and taken away too soon.
"It is said that Turin when he matured would appear as an elf-lord himself. If he could appeared so, then what about Lalaith, who already had a natural fascination of the natural world?"
Psychological Presumption: Alternate Future
This presents the question of what she would have been like had she survived and more interestingly, what affect this would have had on an older Turin. Hurin would still have been captured and Dor-lomin still would have been conquered, but would her joy have endured the loss of her father? It maybe that the affect would have been not as sever on her given Hurin’s constant absence. Would her curiosity become a wariness of the invaders enslaving her people? She definitely would not be as explorative and may have become frustrated from the restriction and situation of her people.
How about when Morwen sends Turin away to Doriath? Lalaith would have been old enough to travel by that point and its likely Morwen would have sent Lalaith with Turin. Would she be as stubborn as Turin was against leaving their mother? And later, would Turin have left Doriath the way he did if she had been there with him, or at all? Part of his motivation for leaving was his sense of loss and that was only eased by letters informing him of his family’s safety. The other reason why he left was the insult hurled at him by a prejudiced elf of King Thingol’s court, that enflamed the young man’s pain onto open rage.
Lalaith would have been right there with him and that presence may have provided greater ease on Turin’s loss, and therefore not being as angry at the insult. And given her exploratory nature, Lalaith may have even flowered under the elves of Doriath, who were renowned for being the most in tune with Middle-earth than their other kindred. It is said that Turin when he matured would appear as an elf-lord himself. If he could appeared so, then what about Lalaith, who already had a natural fascination of the natural world?
The Path Not Taken
Of course these are all hypothetical what-if’s and it can be said that there’s no real point to indulging them. However I don’t see it as a waste of time. The joy and curiosity of Lalaith could have served as a buffer from the family’s darker tendencies and a reminder of the hope that still existed in Middle-earth. While their eventual, individual choices were still there own, Lalaith may have tempered those choices to ends other than what they were. Her death became the pebble that allowed the snowball to become an avalanche.