Middle-Earth Profiles: Morwen
This is a psychological profile on a Middle-earth character from the family of Hurin; his wife, Morwen. I'm still using the Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin as a basis.
Life on the Run
Though sharing similar backgrounds, Morwen is the opposite of her husband in almost every way. A noble woman of the eldest of human royalty, the House of Beor, she is from the human kingdom of Dorthonion. Her formative years were spent during the Dagor Bragollach war and her land, along with the Elf kingdom they were assigned to protect were the first to fall. For awhile, her family and other surviving warriors fought a guerrilla campaign against Morgoth’s invading army.
Fighting was hard and so was survival. Most of her relatives were killed and eventually, the conclusion was reached to send the surviving women and children away to Dor-lomin in the west which had not been conquered. The road there turned out to be just as brutal as the fighting had been, but the refugees survived and eventually arrived to safety.
Her trials during the Dagor Bragollach and as a refugee shaped Morwen’s personality as an adult woman. This also influences her later decisions and her children’s’ choices as well.
Picture Galadriel being much more reserved and hostile to those she doesn’t know and you’ll get Morwen.
Where Hurin was ever hopeful and extroverted, Morwen was very introverted and has an unfriendly disposition. She appears to not make close bonds easily and has a reputation for bluntness and being cold, despite her famed attractiveness. She is not a cold-hearted woman, but rather very steely. She guards her emotions tightly, even with her husband whom she is devoted to.
If we were to compare this to real world, war time refugees, you could argue she, like her cousin Beren, suffers from a form of PTSD. Morwen learned that open emotions do not increase your chances for survival and are often pointless. The few times she is shown to show some affection are generally in private, such as when Lalaith died during a plague and also when her son, Turin left for Doriath, where she cried only after he was gone. Or when she sends Turin his family’s war helm to him in Doriath. And later in her final moments, she despairs with her then-newly, returned husband at the gravestone of her children.
Beyond that, her typical face is that of a beautiful, yet stern and powerful woman who is not interested in friendship, but demands to be taken seriously at all times. Picture Galadriel being much more reserved and hostile to those she doesn’t know and you’ll get Morwen. Indeed this hardened persona can be so intimidating that even the invading Easterlings who the entered Dor-lomin would not come near her.
Accompanying her sternness was also a stubbornness that even exceeded her husband’s, who also had a reputation of being strong-willed. However Hurin also had a steadier mind that often helped him balance out his aggressive traits. Morwen did not. In her own reserved way, she is more extreme than Hurin. When she is counseled to leave Dor-lomin after the defeat at Nirneath Arnoediad, she refuses.
Though this is rationalized by being in her third pregnancy at the time, in her mind, Morwen simply does not want to leave the home she shared with Hurin. It is only when circumstances again became so dire for her and her newborn daughter, Nienor that forces Morwen to once again take up the path of the refugee.
Her stubbornness also comes from the fact that while an exile, she is still of noble blood. Prouder still because of the legends of her cousin, Beren, who was now famous for stealing one of the Silmarils from Morgoth himself: an act that Elven armies and angelic Valar could not achieve in all their centuries of war. Morwen is aware of this legacy, but hides her pride beneath a stern mask, coming out in implication of the respect she silently commands.
War time experience also plays a part in her sternness and contrasts that of her husband’s experiences. Hurin also fought in the Bragollach and experienced loss, but retained most of his family and his home. Morwen lost everything and endured the suffering and humiliation of the life of a refugee. Her mood may serve as a shield, a reservoir of pride in the face of such grief. If victory made Hurin extroverted, defeat made Morwen introverted and who knows how she may have been had Dorthonion not been destroyed?
Thanks to her refugee lifestyle as a young girl, Morwen is also fatalistic. She shares none of Hurin’s hope for eventual victory against Morgoth, though she often keeps this to herself. Her mind always gravitates to what can go wrong and she can be excused for doing so because she has lived it. She too had seen once proud Elven armies go off to war, before like Hurin, only to be annihilated. And even afterward, her family retained hope of victory against the invading Orcs when fighting as guerrillas and that also had turned to nothing. Even in the safety of Dor-lomin, Morwen still suffered loss when her second child, Lalaith died before the Nirneath Arnoediad war had even started.
In contrast of Hurin’s faith in Elven power, what faith Morwen has is watered down by the knowledge that their Elf-lords are themselves exiles, refugees under a curse from the Valar who remain in the far West. She almost mentions this fact to her willfully, ignorant husband while debating with him but doesn't press it further.
When a young Turin, questions her about what happened to, Lalaith, Morwen tells him straight away that she died and does not soften the blow. She does not share in her son’s hope of Hurin returning after the war. Morwen’s fatalism takes the form of a survival-at-all-costs mind frame. She has no faith of victory, and the best Elves and Humans can hope for in Middle-earth is to hide or maintain a defensive measure against Morgoth’s armies.
Rather they just accept each other as they are and move on with their own private, though non-malicious agendas while somehow retaining a love for each other, if flawed.
Despite having such a negative disposition, Morwen is also very faithful, and when it comes to Hurin, even submissive. This maybe due to her noble upbringing back in Dorthonion, as Humans at this time were rigid when it came to tradition. While she does debate with him about the war, Morwen eventually yields to his hope, though quietly inferring that she will make up her own mind if the war goes bad. When leaving the safety of Doriath to find Turin years later, she tries to leave Nienor behind for her own safety. And finally, she spends decades searching for Turin and Nienor, only to find that by that time, they died long ago, unaware of their cause of death.
I would not call this a balanced marriage, as both spouses don’t graft the advice of the other to their personal choices. Rather they just accept each other as they are and move on with their own private, though non-malicious agendas, while somehow retaining a love for each other, if flawed.
I wonder if Lalaith, whom was known for bringing laughter and joy to those around her, had that affect on Morwen. Did her laughs make her laugh? Did she smile at Lalaith’s innocence to the evil that was on their door step?
A True Survivor
For all her faults, Morwen is also arguably the strongest of her entire family. She developed her personality traits this way because she needed to be strong in order to endure. The result being she is the only adult in her family to have not committed suicide or give into despair: Something even Hurin, the greatest mortal warrior to have existed, eventually succumbed to. Any negativity that can be found in her and her choices cannot be traced to greed or wanting to be cruel, needy, or stuck up, but rather out of necessity. She did not have the luxuries of victory and security that Hurin did, and if she had, maybe she would have been a different woman.
Moreover, so strong are Morwen’s personality traits that it is what forms the predominant core of her childrens' own personalities. She passes her mental toughness on to them and it shows in the events of their own lives. All three people display a remarkable stubbornness in the face of all odds, even when it is foolish. If her side of the family has one motto, its:
‘By hell or by water’.
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Jamal Smith