The Stuff of the Earth
A tale of Arda Marred, as derived from the Annals of Beleriand, as translated by J. R. R. Tolkien
Eru did not give the Kelvar souls.
The Eruhini are not fully of Arda – though their bodies be matter, the tainted stuff of Arda Marred, their fear, their essence, their souls, is of Eru, beyond this world. Touched may the soul be by that taint of the body, it is ultimately a pure thing, God-given, and the shadow cannot claim it.
So that when the fragile Elf-woman shrieked out her soul in agony, and her child, his child, tumbled forth from her womb still and cold and dead, he turned to the Kelvar.
They moved, and they ate and drank, and they slept, breathed, made sounds, perhaps they felt pain also. Surely they felt the heat in the deep caverns of his fortress, and surely something made them moan and run, and go wild, trying claws, beaks and hooves against the walls. But they had no souls – no inner fire. And the walls held captive their bodies, the tainted stuff of Arda.
The sight of their suffering gave him no pleasure. 'Twas not as if it mattered.
They were the stuff of the earth, and his to do with as he pleased, so the world was in its entire, will be, once the souled ones died, one their pure taint was gone. His, and in the meantime, these would have to serve.
The Elf-women died, in death they took also their half-bred children.
Their children, whose fear the shadow could not touch, not through his fires, not through his seed.
It was a strange gift.
He was the stuff of the earth – thus he could not take them. This drove him to anger, anger and hate. That they had within them some purity, some life that was denied him still. How frail, how tainted their bodies, testimony of his will, that they were abandoned, that they were cursed, in this world of shadow. But neither he nor his servants could take them, not in this way. Not with the fear.
But who had decided that filthy light was needed?
So he watched in satisfaction at the whining she-wolf with her moonlight eyes wide, her red jaws open. Soulless terror in her gaze, she was nigh buried beneath Draugluin's great bulk, as the wolf-skinned Maia bit into the scruff of her neck and set her down. If she resisted, the movement was lost, and she had no hope in the first place.
The stuff of the earth. That ancient, great seed tainted so.
Nay, he thought, not tainted.
In giving birth she died, the cubs tearing their way out of her womb, bloodthirsty already, Or desperate perhaps. They knew what they were – oh, but they had to know. The blood, the ancient blood, must have burned them from within.
If they had fear, he did not know.
He fed the beast with his own burned and blackened hands, it learned to love well the taste of metal-pierced flesh. They held staring contests for days at end, and more than once did he realize her was looking for a flicker of understanding in those fathomless yellow eyes. Was it an animal, and nothing besides? Or has he triumphed?
It did not speak – it made no attempts to. Draugluin kept his world-skin to quarrel and bite with it. The rest they had together put to death, the three of them, snapping small necks and crushing small skulls, so much smaller than its own. Maybe there was some other fire inside of it, if not the one he sought, the one he wondered after. Maybe some new fire, different, his.
It grew large; it grew cunning and cruel.
But it lay at his feet, its head on its paws, it slept undisturbed by the roaring of fires. It sought neither freedom nor company, nor as a souled Maia, not as a wolf of the pack.
He had begun to vaguely fear it when the news came.
At first the tales of her brought back no memory. It lay at his feet at all times and drew no attention to itself, a lump of fur and flesh, yawning at times with its red maw gaping. Her birth seemed a marvel to her father's kindred, as if they recognized no bond between them and her mother's folk through the gift of the One to the both of them. Her mother, so he knew, then gloating, bound herself fea and hroa to the tainted stuff of the earth to birth her. Thinking of it, he realized it could be no other way.
Of this he did not tell to Draugluin.
Yet he found his thoughts turning to her more and more as the beast at his feet grew larger, and with it came envy, terrible as the flaming mountains. What had her mother have that he did not? But truthfully, he knew, and found naught but more hatred in the knowing. That the stuff of the earth adhered so to purity, that here ended the power of his taint. This new grace of the souled, and he could never. Not their souls, who were not of this world.
Many Elf-women died ere another thought came to him.
His was this world, though they would fain deny it. The stuff of the earth, touched by him and his, and not even she was wholly free. Souls! But he laughed at them, stroking the great gray head laid by his feet. He still did not know it if had a soul.
So he sent it forth, hearing of her coming to his gates, of all his creatures and servants and beasts. He sent it running as a foul wind, foam at its maw and its eyes red. It sped upon the earth of Arda Marred, its earth, fearless to the battle she had no hope of waging against it. Souls or no souls, He was very far now, the One, and He had no more gifts for her.
So he laughed deep in his iron halls, and it ran through fire and dark places, hungry, swift, with their fear nor thought. Dare she may to come to the gates, trusting to that power that she had, she alone firstborn of the old void and the stuff of the earth, and Carcharoth grinned as it came.
Not the first.
Kelvar– Elven "animals".
Eruhini– the Children of Eru, Elves and Men.
Fear– souls, singular fea, as opposed to hroa, body.
Concerning animals in Arda: I can't recall precisely where it was stated that animals have no "souls" as do the sentient beings in Arda, but since they aren't counted among the Children of Iluvatar, I'm pretty sure that's the case. Please don't eat me, I love animals myself, this is an evil POV I'm writing from.
Concerning Draugluin as a Maia and Carcharoth's nature: Animals in Tolkien's world cannot speak, that is what distinguishes them from the Eruhini (such as the Quendi, "who speak with voices"). Therefore, speaking beasts such as Draugluin (and Huan, for the matter) are quite probably Maiar clad in animal forms. If I recall correctly, this is only decidedly canon with Thorondor and Gwaihir, but it does not contradict canon in any way.
Concerning chronological problems: Yes, I do know that we are told Morgoth raised Carcharoth to slay Huan, and therefore much after Luthien's birth, but one of the loveliest questions in Sil.-based fanfic is "was that really the reason?" If that doesn't sit well with you, consider this tale a slight AU.