Perhaps the most popular card draw effect in our game, Daeron’s Runes alludes to an alphabet devised during the First Age of Middle-earth. The Elvish loremaster Daeron was the minstrel of Thingol King of Doriath and, as we will see later, a lovesick puppy who never got his bone.
Daeron was one of the Sindar, a Grey-elf who didn’t go to the Undying Lands of Valinor like the Noldorin High-elves. Daeron is best known for his “elaboration and extension” of the ancient alphabet of the Grey-elves (Sindar) after being exposed to the Tengwar script brought to Middle-earth by the return of the High-elves (Noldor) from Valinor. The Dwarves working in Thingol’s palace were so “well pleased” with Daeron’s runes that they adopted them for themselves. From there, Daeron’s runes continued to be diffused and adapted by the Dwarves over the Blue Mountains, into Eregion, and eventually to Khazad-dûm in Moria where several millennia later Gandalf is able to read them inscribed on Balin’s tomb in the company of the Fellowship.
I have to admit that despite being a self-proclaimed “master of lore”, I’ve not yet fallen down the rabbit hole of studying any of Tolkien’s languages so I can’t go into too much more detail on this point other than to say that one of the main reasons The Lord of the Rings is awesome, in my opinion, is that Tolkien’s background in philology serves as the basis for all his history, geography, and characters. This grounding gives his world-building a phenomenal depth based on not one, but several invented languages that work and are related according to scientific principles of linguistics. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to suggest that the brilliance of this feat may never be achieved by any other single author working alone. Tolkien’s narrative of the First Age in The Silmarillion, among other things, is an experiment in creating a variety of languages and alphabets first and then writing a fictional history that could have given rise to such a complex sundering of peoples and tongues. As Tolkien wrote: “The invention of languages is the foundation. The ‘stories’ were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse. To me a name comes first and the story follows.” Amazing!
Returning to our alphabet-making minstrel Daeron then, it should be noted that revising runes is not his only role in the history of Middle-earth. Daeron’s name literally means “shadowy” or “hidden” in Sindarin and the story that follows this name can be found in Tolkien’s most treasured tale — “Of Beren and Lúthien”. In this story, Daeron is a jilted lover who betrays the legendary couple not once but twice. When Daeron is introduced to the story, we are first told that he “also loved Lúthien”. Like the latecomer Beren, Daeron finds Lúthien’s beauty to be the inspiration for his greatest feats. Daeron “made music for her dance and song” in which he “set all of his thought of her”.
But when Daeron “espie[s] her meetings with Beren”, he runs off to tell her daddy, King Thingol. Thingol is less than amused that the mortal Beren has not only sneaked into his kingdom without permission but also started dating his daughter. No doubt to Daeron’s satisfaction, Thingol essentially sentences Beren to death by accepting his vow to wrest a Silmaril from the Iron Crown of Morgoth in order to prove his worth and win Lúthien’s hand.
When Beren’s quest goes awry and Lúthien learns that he has been captured by Sauron and thrown into a pit within the Dark Lieutenant’s Isle of Werewolves, she appeals to Daeron for help. Perhaps seeing his chance to permanently separate his muse from her mortal lover, Daeron once again runs to King Thingol and gives away Lúthien’s rescue plan. Afraid that Lúthien will try to save Beren, Thingol grounds Lúthien in Doriath, building a treehouse for her in the tallest beech of his realm “from which she could not escape”. Of course, Lúthien does escape, proving to be more than an idle muse but a clever spy and powerful warrior able to free Beren and complete his quest through epic confrontations with Sauron and Morgoth that result in the successful recovery of the Silmaril and the first union of Man and Elf in the history of Middle-earth.
If this sounds like an incredible adventure, but you’d rather play it in The Lord of the Rings LCG than read The Silmarillion, check out Ian’s custom First Age expansion from Tales of the Cards because he based his scenarios on this story. It’s awesome! And it’s a happy ending for everyone. Everyone except Daeron, that is. While Lúthien is gone to rescue Beren, she is presumed dead and Daeron “stray[s] from the land, and [is] seen no more”. As his final reference in The Silmarillion states:
But seeking for Lúthien in despair he wandered upon strange paths, and passing over the mountains he came into the East of Middle-earth, where for many ages he made lament beside dark waters for Lúthien, daughter of Thingol, most beautiful of all living things.
And so, despite being “the greatest of all the minstrels of the Elves east of the Sea” and a loremaster who created the runes used by countless generations of Elves and Dwarves, Daeron spent most of his life in lonely lament because his boss’s daughter, the Elf-girl of his dreams, fell for a mortal Man. Perhaps the next time you draw two cards for Daeron’s Runes, you can say “she loves me”. And as you discard one away in despair of using it, say “she loves me not”. Tolkien may have been a professor of philology and a prolific poet. But at least in the story of Daeron and Lúthien, it should be noted that making alphabets and pretty songs doesn’t get girls. Fighting Sauron in wolf form does. Now go play Ian’s First Age expansion!